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

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Oh, to be a fly on the wall

A busy afternoon on old Sam Adams's calendar tomorrow. The Portland city commissioner has a 1:30 with Homer Williams, the city's largest consumer of real estate developer welfare. Civic-minded Homer wants to talk about the Burnside-Couch couplet. There must be some more tens of millions of our tax dollars in that one for him somehow.

Oh, well. He doesn't have Neil the Fixer yanking Vera's chain for him any more. Nor can he whisper sweet tax abatement talk in her ear over dinner at Paley's. These days Homer has to deal with a cup of lukewarm Boyd's in Adams's office. I wish I could be there when the commish looks at his watch about 15 minutes into it.

As if that's not enough of a scene, at 2:30 Sam the Tram gets a visit from one Gianna Lupo. This is the realtor who had the 10 meals on the public tab with then-PDC director Don "the Don" Mazziotti, all purportedly to discuss the emergence of a Little Italy district, perhaps in Old Town.

According to Adams's calendar, Ms. Lupo has "prospective business" she wants to talk about. No doubt.

And at 1 on Friday, lame duck OHSU prez Peter "Kilowatt" Kohler stops by with a posse to "check in" on the aerial tram [rim shot]. That's as in, check in your wallet.

Happy holidays, Lars!

I can't believe how the tighty righties are attacking anyone who would have the nerve to wish them happy holidays instead of a merry Christmas. Especially the umbrage they're taking about the tree being called a holiday tree. The tree belongs to Christmas, they're insisting. If you call it a holiday tree, you're violating my First Amendment rights as a Christian, and blah blah blah.

Really? Do you think baby Jesus was born under a canopy of Doug firs? Wrong, my friends. He was born in the desert, and he probably looked a lot more like Osama bin Laden than like Lars Larson. I'm looking in my New Testament for references to the tree -- hmmm, can't seem to find them at the moment...

So now the nattering nabobs of the right are going to spend the next four weeks using the word "Christmas" as a weapon. Let's spend the season brooding about our political differences. What a pitiful group.

Another PDC deal craters

Lost in the turkey coma of holiday weekend news was word that developer Tom Kemper has pulled out of the proposed Killingsworth Station development along Interstate Avenue. And so another Portland Development Commission project for north and northeast Portland hits the skids, there to join Vanport Square and the agency's many other big-talk-no-action plans for the Idaho side of the river.

When it's time to slap up condo towers and "luxury apartment" bunkers on prime real estate, running roughshod over established neighborhoods in the process, there's no stopping the PDC. But when it's time to help sagging neighborhoods on the east side, these guys pull out their crying towels and whine about "how hard these deals are to do." They can't get anything going even when they're literally buying the property and giving it away. The best they can come up with is a handful of cats-and-dogs storefront rehabs, while the big bucks pile up (literally) in places like SoWhat and the Pearl.

For $200 million a year, and 19 cents of every dollar of property tax collected by the city, this is the best we can do?

A kitty's best friend

One of the great "cat ladies" of Portland is packing it in.

Patty Davies of the Animal Rescue & Care Fund has announced in the group's latest newsletter that she's "taking a break" from animal rescue starting in January. She's been doing it for more than 20 years.

When we first got our two pet cats nearly 10 years ago, we had all sorts of questions and concerns, some of them quite urgent, and we were lucky to discover Patty and her organization. She spent large amounts of time with us on the phone, and the advice she dispensed was invaluable. In the past year, Animal Rescue has taken more than 500 such phone calls, placed more than 250 cats in new homes, and provided complete vet care for more than 60 strays. They are great promoters of spaying and neutering, mailing out more than 200 discount coupons for such services this year. They've got a remarkable network of vets with whom they work to make life better for hundreds of animals, nonstop.

Other volunteers will try to take up the slack, but there's no replacing Patty. Let's hope she gets a great rest for a year or so, and then decides to come back and resume helping our remarkable feline friends as only she can.

Is this thing on?

We had a long outage overnight and into this morning. The server on which this blog resides has been sick.

Thanks for your patience. Regular blogging will resume shortly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Last week we picked up on a column by Steve Duin of The Oregonian, in which he lambasted the Archdiocese of Portland for what appeared to be its suggestion that children who were sexually abused by priests were themselves guilty of "sexual misconduct." Duin quoted from a court brief filed by the archdiocese's lawyers in the pending bankruptcy case involving the church and the victims of abuse.

In my post, I wondered if Duin could possibly have been quoting that brief correctly. But then I got a copy of the brief, and sure enough, it said just what he said it did. I posted the entire document and highlighted the quotation in question:

C. Even If There Were a Third Party Exception, the Tort Claimants Are Not Third Parties. The TCC has never established that the tort claimants here are third parties or strangers to the Church. Indeed, the evidence is the opposite. After reviewing complaints by 206 sexual misconduct claimants, Margaret Hoffman testifies that "[i]n every single one of these Complaints, the claimants assert that, at the time of their alleged sexual misconduct, they were members of or associated with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily through attendance at a Catholic school and/or parish church within the Archdiocese." Sec. Hoffman Decl. at ¶ 2. This, too, constitutes evidence that was not before the Spokane Court when it articulated a "third party" exception to the Church Autonomy Doctrine that the tort claimants had never impliedly consented to Catholic Church Doctrine or polity. [Emphasis added.]
Readers suggested that the word "their" might have been an error, or that it referred only to the priests and not the victims. The mistake theory was pretty hard for me to buy, especially since the offending phrase was actually said to be a quotation from another court "declaration" made by another one of the church's many lawyers, Margaret Hoffmann. I might be able to accept that one set of lawyers made a mistake, but two? And as for the "their" meaning the priests, its placement in that sentence made that an impossible reading.

Well, today I finally got hold of the Hoffmann declaration, and it turns out that she did not say what the brief said she said. I've posted the entire declaration, dated Nov. 7, 2005, here. And here is the passage in question:

Attached to this Declaration are copies of the Complaints that 206 tort claimants previously filed in various state circuit courts, alleging sexual misconduct by agents of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. In every single one of these Complaints, claimants assert that, at the time of the alleged sexual misconduct, they were members of or associated with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily through attendance at a Catholic school and/or parish church within the Archdiocese.
As you can see, the brief misquoted Hoffmann. She said "the alleged sexual misconduct," not "their."

That's a relief. So much of what the archdiocese has done in connection with these sexual abuse claims has been deeply troubling to me. At least the sickest comment attributed to the church elders so far turns out to be an apparent misunderstanding.

Flatfoot rhubarb

Living under the jurisdiction of the Multnomah County commissioners is like eating lunch in a middle school cafeteria in a rough part of town. You're sitting there trying to consume your burger and fries in peace, when all of a sudden somebody yells, "Fight!" and you turn around and a couple of the bad kids are wrestling and throwing the plastic chairs at each other.

Today's instigator of fisticuffs is Commissioner Lisa Naito, who, reminiscent of Helen of Troy, has sicced former County Sheriff Dan Noelle on current Sheriff Bernie "the Intervenor" Giusto. As best I can tell, Giusto wants a bunch of money out of the commissioners for jail beds, but Naito brought in Noelle to say it's a bad idea.

It didn't stop there. Noelle basically yelled "Yo mama" at Bachelor Bernie by pointing out that his plan would cost the county big bunches of money in overtime, and that's just what the officers' union wants. Then Noelle threw in a comment about how the union had dumped a bunch of dough into Bernie's campaign coffers the last time he was running, and he pretty much came right out and said that the sheriff was in effect bought and paid for.

"Was not!"

"Were too!"

"Come over here so I can kick your a*s."

"No, you come over here."

"Like ths?"

"Say your prayers, punk."

Meeeeooowwwww! Maybe they can go upstairs and settle this, man to man, amid the wildflowers on the eco-roof.

Loving Portland despite City Hall

Interesting little throwaway piece in the O this morning about the latest official survey that shows that Portlanders continue to appreciate their city, but their opinion of local government continues to slide downhill.

In a display of extremely shallow analysis, O reporter Anna Griffin decides that the dichotomy is all just a "marketing" problem. Here's the lead of her article:

The city of Portland needs some marketing help.

Portlanders, it seems, love their city. In the annual customer satisfaction survey conducted for the city auditor's office, three out of every four residents rate the city's livability as good or very good.

Yet when asked whether city government was doing a good or bad job, nearly a third of those polled said neither, the statistical version of shrugging their shoulders. About 16 percent said bad or very bad -- double the figure from a decade ago.

How silly. Ms. Griffin, it's not a matter of "marketing." It's a matter of the commissioners not doing their jobs in a manner that furthers the goals of the residents who elected them.

Sure, Portland's a great city, but how much of that greatness is thanks to the people on the Portland City Council over the last decade, or even the last two decades? I think many of those polled agree with me: Not much.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Public to PDC: Leave Saturday Market alone

The Portland Development Commission has posted all the comments it has received over the internet about the proposal to move Saturday Market to make way for a condo tower with a snooty "public market" attached.

The clearly expressed view of the majority of commenters is to leave the market where it has been for the last 30 years.

Now we'll see what impact that has -- if any.

The whole 43-page pdf file is here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Jungle juice in the 'Couv

I saw a story on the tube the other night about the upset neighbors of the new methadone clinic that's about to open in the Salmon Creek area of Clark County, Washington. The clinic will bring scores, if not hundreds, of heroin addicts -- all supposedly recovering, but some not -- into the neighborhood in the dark hours of the early morning most days every week. There the clients will drink their daily doses of methadone, a synthetic opiate that is highly addictive and fatal if misused, under supervision. The joy juice lets them function without heroin. (It's not to be confused with meth, which is another drug entirely.) They're also supposed to get counselling, but just ask them -- it's mostly about the juice.

The opening of the Clark County clinic is good news for Portland's Buckman neighborhood, which for years has unwillingly hosted hundreds of Washington State heroin addicts on their daily methadone runs. Back in 1986, the Clark County commissioners passed an ordinance that prohibited methadone clinics from operating within its borders. Thus, many addicts had to come to Portland from as far away as Central Washington State if they needed methadone. From 1986 to 2004, the nearest methadone clinic north of Portland was in Tacoma.

I know about this because I lived in Buckman when a private, for-profit methadone clinic sneaked into a Belmont Street storefront there over Christmas of 1997. I was among the neighbors who, like the neighbors of the soon-to-open Clark County operation, set up a picket line to show how displeased we were with our new neighbors. In our case, the siting of the methadone dispensary was particularly galling, because the neighborhood was given no notice at all of the relocation of the clinic from the Hollywood district, which was all too happy to see it go. The city washed its hands of the matter; I remember the Scone coming down and making his pained face for us one day, but he didn't do anything to help us. Multnomah County (which funds much of the methadone treatment) quietly promoted the site (I believe Mr. Lolenzo Poe was in on that one); and the State of Oregon growled a little but didn't want to stop it, and couldn't as a practical matter.

Anyway, I moved out of there a year later, and my long protest story isn't worth retelling in its entirety here. (Suffice it to say there were several outrages besides the stealth siting, including a medical director who was a raging alcoholic with an obscene monetary conflict of interest.) Methadone wasn't the only thing that prompted the move out of Buckman, anyway.

What's noteworthy now is that the opening of the new Clark County clinic is exactly what I and my then-neighbor Mark Senffner urged the Clark County commissioners to bring about when we testified before them in the spring of 1998. Senffner and I drove up to the 'Couv one weekday morning to urge the local solons to repeal their ordinance which made it illegal for anyone to operate a methadone clinic in Clark County.

Because of the Clark County ordinance, at that time an estimated 160 drug addicts journeyed to Portland on a daily basis to take methadone -- about 60 of them on county welfare funds. Dozens of them came to the clinic on Belmont, which brought an estimated 400 addicts overall into the neighborhood. (And Buckman hosted a second one on Burnside Street, too.) Many of them showed up in taxis, and the number of cars of all kinds with Washington plates that pulled up to that place was astonishing.

The Clark County commissioners politely told us they would have their mental health advisory panel look into the possibility of changing their ordinance. The stated reasoning behind the county law was that Clark County did not have a heroin problem, and that it did not support methadone as a means of treatment. With the growth of the Vancouver area, and a rise in heroin use there, these circumstances had clearly changed. Anyway, as far as I know Clark County never did get around to changing its ban.

But Washington State officials in Olympia strongly supported a push to open a clinic in Vancouver and stop the daily flow of drug addiction problems across the river to Portland. In 2001, the Washington legislature made it illegal for counties to ban methadone within their borders; at that point, the Clark County ordinance became void.

The first Clark County methadone clinic opened a little over a year ago. And now a second one is going to happen. Good for Washington State taxpayers, good for Clark County, and good for Portland neighborhoods.

Bad for the Salmon Creek neighbors. Not as bad as they think it will be, but very unsightly, and very sad. Methadone's supposed to be the treatment of last resort, because it's so addictive. There are other treatment options that are supposed to be tried first. But methadone's relatively cheap, if you don't have to taxi people all over the state to get it, and it's the easy way out. Private clinic operators make a nice living keeping people hooked on it. State and local social workers love it, as it makes their lives much easier.

Most of the methadone patients lie very low on their way in and out of the clinics. They hate being there (as Neil Young once sang, "She hates her life and what she's done to it"). And some of them are there on the major QT -- they would lose out big time, career-wise or socially, if word got out that they were reformed junkies. They'll creep in and out of the 'hood very quietly at 4 and 5 in the morning.

But there will be a few wise a*ses in the crowd. A few will sit on your lawn while the methadone buzz kicks in. A few will head from the clinic every day straight to the nearest convenience store, and down a 40-ounce malt liquor on top of the juice. A noticeable percentage will not really be off illegal drugs just because they take methadone. Most of them drive in and out, which really makes you wonder about safety, since methadone is a powerful drug. They park illegally. And as heroin users, they're all admitted felons.

They're there nearly every day. The Belmont shop was (and still is, for all I know) open Monday to Saturday (at least they knocked off right after lunch). Few patients got take-home doses, a situation which led to the sustained daily traffic flow. You don't know which is worse -- the clean-cut ones, who you suspect could get off smack with something less destructive, or the long-time veterans, whose bodies are ravaged.

The neighbors up north are right to be wary. And if you ask me, some picketing in the early days of the clinic's operation is actually a healthy thing for everyone involved. But get used to it, folks. As long as there are clients, that clinic is going to stick to that location like glue. Put a smile on your face and live with it, or do like we did and call your realtor.

As for the methadone clinic operators in Portland, who will lose even more paying customers -- well, it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

Out on a limb

Over on Portland Commissioner Sam "the Tram" Adams's blog, he actually has a thread going on what would happen if the city pulled out of the aerial tram project [rim shot] between OHSU and the SoWhat district.

A pretty gutsy move on his part. Recent news accounts of the ever-expanding budget for this monstrosity ($45 million and counting, and that's for construction alone -- who knows how much it will cost to run the thing) have many of the city's taxpayers asking the same question. Recent revelations that there isn't much biotechnology being built in SoWhat despite the sales job, and that the first "OHSU" building down there won't be owned by the university, but rather by a private, "nonprofit" association of rich doctors, aren't helping the p.r. situation much, either.

So (1) how did the city get into this mess, and (2) what would happen now if it pulled out?

Adams's responses can be boiled down to this:

(1) Don't blame me. Though I was Mayor Katz's economic development expert at the time, I had nothing to do with it. It's all Jim Fracesconi's fault -- he was the transportation commissioner.

(2) Walking away from the project would force the city to pay extensive damages and wreck the city's credit rating.

Have some grains of salt ready and read the whole thing here.

UPDATE, 8:35 p.m.: The gods must be following this thread. A sign from heaven, Portland!

And while you're doing your tram reading, don't miss this.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Victor and vanquished

Set the alarm clock (or more likely, the Tivo or VCR) for the Nick Fish talk show "Outlook Portland" tomorrow morning. His guest will be Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, Fish's rival in last year's brutal, expensive council election.

The Fish tells me that the topics of the interview (recorded earlier -- even Nick probably doesn't get up that early on a Sunday) include "the tram, charter review, school funding, public power, Wal-Mart, Tom Potter, Vera Katz, tax relief, and the cell phone tax." I wonder if they'll be any on-air mention of Adams's floating some of his gobs of campaign cash to help Fish pay off his campaign debts -- an odd, if magnanimous, gesture.

It starts at 6:30 a.m. on WB (cable channel 3 around here).

Friday, November 25, 2005

A whole new ballgame?

The debate over whether Portland should have major league baseball is heating up again, with news that the owners of the Florida Marlins team (halfway decent, National League East) are saying that they would like a new home.

When last we left this saga, the State of Oregon had enacted a financing package whereby the state would put up around $115 million, paid for out of income taxes on the players' salaries, toward a new public stadium in Portland. About another $235 million would be needed, and the city and local baseball fans have roughed out a financing plan that would come up with the rest out of a 10 percent ticket tax, special licensing fees on businesses within the stadium district, a tax on stadium concessions, a reallocation of the some of the local hotel tax, rent paid by the team on the stadium, and some assorted additional odds and ends.

The state part is a done deal, having been adopted by the Legislature in 2003. The city part is so far just a brochure with some smart, energetic, and influential supporters. City Commissioner Randy Leonard's loosely on board with the baseball types, although he's still holding out to put the stadium out along I-205, which seems unlikely. Mayor Tom Potter has sent out some decidedly negative signals on the whole idea, and the other three commissioners are anybody's guess, with two of them up for re-election and the third trying to distance himself from his former boss, ex-Mayor Vera Katz, who was enchanted with the major league baseball idea.

Everybody's got an opinion on this, of course. I personally think it would be a great addition to the city, well worth the public investment.

Certainly a better investment than a convention center hotel that will be mostly empty, most of the time.

Certainly a better investment than a traffic-worsening light rail line running from Union Station to PSU, a route which already has the most extensive bus connections imaginable.

Certainly a better investment than a streetcar down lower MLK Boulevard.

Certainly better than a re-do of a transit mall that would get along fine with some new bricks and some spit polish on the existing bus kiosks.

Certainly better than a condo-and-chi-chi-public-market complex that will wreck the Saturday Market.

Certainly better than spending tens of millions to turn West Burnside into a one-way street.

Certainly better than spending $1 million or more a year to pay for TV ads for politicians' campaigns.

Certainly better than paying $3.3 million an acre for contaminated industrial land, so that it can be a park for million-dollar-condo dwellers in the SoWhat district.

And of course, certainly better than paying to build and operate (and constantly worrying about) an aerial tram [rim shot] to some rich doctors' private offices and the latest Homer Williams apartment ghetto.

Bruce and me, cont'd

When I was reminiscing about my early days of Bruce Springsteen fandom last week, I posted some photos from the mid-'70s and early '80s of Bruce, me, and some others. But in a hurry I was unable to come up with all the photos I had of that era. I've got boxes and boxes of memorabilia, and like the memories they evoke, they're not all that well organized.

Never say die, though. When something old is misplaced, you say a prayer to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, and keep looking. The other night, while avoiding work, I decided to take another look through some of those boxes, and lo and behold, a few more Bruce photos, which I had taken, emerged.

Here's how close we got to the Boss on Halloween night 1975 in Oakland. This was in the Paramount Theater on Telegraph Street. There was an orchestra pit in front of the stage, and we were in the front row (through the magic of mail order Bruce concert tickets). The show started right on time, because it was a Bill Graham show. We walked down the aisle about 15 seconds into the first song.

The first or second number was "Sprit in the Night," and there's a stop about two thirds of the way through (at "Killer Joe gone, passed out on the lawn"). At that point Springsteen dives into the pit, the lights all go black, and he disappears. After a couple of seconds, he pops up on the other side of the wooden rail right in front of me, and a spotlight quickly finds him. We were actually too close to take a decent picture with my little Kodak flash camera. But I did manage to click off one shot, and this is it:

When he appeared about six inches from my face, here is the guy he saw. Remember, it was Halloween, I was out with the boys, and I was trying my best to be in the costume of a Jersey Shore greaser:

Yep, that's the same t-shirt I was wearing in Winona, Minnesota a year and change before.

Bruce wore his bowler hat for the first few songs, but those sunglasses stayed on for much longer than that. They may have been the same shades I saw him in at Kean College a year or so before. Later on, when the show got to the sweaty parts ("Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)," "Devil With a Blue Dress On," etc.), off came the leather jacket, leaving us with this:

The other photo I was glad to find was one I took at the Performing Arts Center in San Jose on June 29, 1978. This was when "Darkness on the Edge of Town" had just come out, and we got a new, clean-shaven Bruce, whose dream had been realized, as he was finally a star:

After that show, my buddies and I from the Stanford campus radio station got backstage, where I ate a piece of the band's pizza (drawing puzzled looks from "Miami" Steve Van Zandt, as he was then known) while we waited for our brief audience. And it was there that my second and final Bruce handshake took place. It was a fan's dream.

One thing I've thought about in the week since my other post was that I neglected to mention Springsteen's main sidekick, the saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Also known as "the Big Man," Clarence was a perfect foil to the little skinny Bruce. He was black, big and beautiful, and the two of them clowned around gloriously while they were on stage together. There was a subtle racial harmony message there that resonated with some of us. I've blogged about Clarence before, but it's about time I got his picture in the mix here, also from San Jose, as he and Bruce were playing off each other:

When I moved to Portland six weeks later, I had a few of the pictures from San Jose blown up by a fellow who had a photo shop on the south side of East Burnside, around 29th -- upstairs from where the thrift shop is now. His business was called "Sometimes the Magic Works." It was well named. He was helpful, and he seemed like a nice man.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"You know you love it"

There was an interesting article in The New York Times a couple of weeks back (gone now, unless you're a subscriber), about how parents of college freshmen are often disappointed, if not rudely surprised, when their sons and daughters come home for a break around Thanksgiving. Often the parents' plans and visions for several days of family togetherness are quickly and unceremoniusly dashed by their newly emancipated offspring, who want no part of it:

At the core of the conflict are often-unspoken expectations on both sides. Parents are still aching over their child's departure as well as the sense that the nurturing stage of their lives is over. To allay that sadness, they focus on Thanksgiving's reassuring rituals -- the elaborate meal, the hang-out time, the late-night leftover pig-out. But students, who have spent the past three months exploring new intellectual and social terrain and reveling in the freedom of dorm life, often find it impossible to step back into their old roles.
Reading this reminded me of my first Thanksgiving dinner back home after I left to go to school. It was a memorable one.

I lived at home all through college, and so I didn't move out until I was 21 years old and in law school. In the first year of law school, I was too broke to go cross-country for Thanksgiving, and instead I spent some quality time with my mother's sister and her wonderful family down in L.A. But in my second year, I did head back east, for interviews with law firms in New York City as well as a long weekend with the folks over in Jersey.

And I had my new girlfriend in tow.

This was one of the hottest romances that had ever been seen on the planet, and it had been that way for several months. We were joined at the proverbial hip, rarely apart and determined to stay fused together forever.

Oh, and were we ever the idealists. She was a vegetarian, and of course I had become one, too. "Lips that touch meat will never touch mine," was her statement. We both laughed, but she was only half-joking. And so I had become a strict veggie as well.

This was quite a sacrifice. I was living in a frat house, where I was the resident assistant that year, and just about the only nourishment among the items that passed for food in the dining room there was meat. Oh, there were vegetables, all right, but never the kind that had any protein in them. Moreover, the house cook was from the south, a wonderful lady, but she boiled every last vitamin out of those vegetables long before they made it to your plate. I dropped a good 10 pounds in no time, and it wasn't as though I could afford it. I think I bottomed out in the 130's somewhere, on a frame of 5 feet 10.

Mary's and my dietary code allowed us to eat dairy products and eggs, but "nothing that had eyes." And so it was that we headed over to my Aunt Margaret's for Thanksgiving dinner, which included us two law students, my dad (who was separated from my mom at this point), Margaret and her husband Andy, and maybe a couple of others.

I forget exactly when it was during this event that we broke the news, but I remember that it had not been announced beforehand. Our refusal to eat the turkey, the gravy, or the stuffing was, shall we say, not well received. We were used to explaining ourselves to the many heathen non-vegetarians among our acquaintances and friends -- we had the whole "animals are people, too" rap down, along with the observation that raising animals for slaughter was an inefficient use of land. We delivered it with our trademark sincerity.

But my father and his sister, both raised during the Depression in Down Neck Newark, were having none of it. Particularly from me. They didn't care that much if the girlfriend would starve herself out of goofy sympathy for animals, but what the h*ll had gotten into Jackie? "You're kidding," they kept saying. But I wasn't. Finally, Dad put a steaming Polish sausage in front of me, horrifying my new amour, and with widened eyes, he commanded: "For chrissakes, Jackie, eat the kielbasi! You know you love it!"

That romance made it only until the following summer, but I stayed the vegetarian course for almost two years. I finally broke the ice with some nice fish at a restaurant called Chez Jay in Santa Monica. When I got to Portland, it was on to chicken, and eventually back onto the hard stuff, red meat.

Anyway, Pop, Buggsy, wherever you are: Yeah, I knew I loved it. But at the time, I loved her more.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The accident

The four-plex I grew up in on the east side of Newark (in the Ironbound, or "Down Neck," section) had an alley behind it. Along the alley were the American Legion post (which used to be a blacksmith's shop), a big empty lot that belonged to the post (and used to belong to my grandfather), and a half dozen or so houses.

In one of the houses across the alley from us lived a working-class couple with a son who was a little older than my brother and I. The father of the house, who was a blue-collar guy just like the rest of the neighbors, always had a nice car, and he always took really good care of it. You'd see him out there all the time, with the bucket and the hose, keeping a clean machine. He'd also get involved under the hood. "He takes better care of that car than he does of his kid," the folks at our house used to say. We didn't really know if that was true, but it sounded good to say. Unlike many of the folks who lived around there, that family kept to itself.

One year back around 1960 or so, the Man Who Took Better Care of His Car put up for sale his current auto, a black 1951 Ford. I don't remember the model -- it might have been a Custom -- but I distinctly recall it being in great shape. My dad jumped on the chance to buy it, for 100 bucks, or maybe 200. The Bogdanskis, then a family of four, put the car right into heavy usage.

At that point, the car's days of being pampered were over. It was parked out every night on the sandlot along the alley now, instead of being safely in the driveway of the MWTBCHC. The signs of two spirited young boys began to appear in its upholstery. But it was reliable as all get-out. Compared to other vehicles my father had owned, it ran like a dream. In those days, the dads would let the kids sit on their laps in the driver's seat while the car was moving, pretending to steer. My brother and I both got a few turns at the wheel in that ritual.

Until one rainy Thanksgiving Eve in the early '60s. I was at home with Mom while Dad was off on some errand or other. I believe my younger brother was with him, although I might be misremembering. I recall clearly that there was a junior Bogdanski in the car, but it might have been my cousin Timmy from upstairs.

It being the night before Thanksgiving, they might have been headed off to pick up some last-minute dinner items for the next day -- maybe bread from Pechter's Bakery over in Harrison, or a kielbasa from somewhere. (No holiday meal in a Polish household Down Neck would be complete without the kielbasa.)

They were headed west on Fleming Avenue, passing by the Catholic grammar school we attended. Just as they were crossing Freeman Street, a car came speeding down Freeman headed north. Although Fleming was paved with asphalt, Freeman was a cobblestone street. Everyone who lived around there, and all the drivers who worked at the Ballantine brewery, which dominated the street, knew that it got extremely slippery when wet. You had to take it slow on Freeman when it was raining. But the driver zooming down Freeman that night wasn't from the neighborhood -- he was from one of the nearby towns. Irvington maybe, or Bloomfield. Anyway, he couldn't stop for the stop sign, and he plowed into the front of our Ford, on the driver's side.

Nobody was hurt in our car, but the two vehicles were in pretty bad shape, especially the Ford. Although it was built like a tank, it was totalled. Somehow my dad and brother (or cousin) got home -- maybe they walked to a pay phone and called my father's brother to come pick them up in his car, or maybe they just walked the third of a mile or so back to the house.

My father was pretty calm about the whole thing. He told Mom and me that the driver of the other car had had his two sons in the car with them. One of them might have suffered a bump or two. They were Italian-American, I remember -- the grownups in that neighborhood always identified each other by nationality before anything else. And apparently there was some indication that the driver of the other car had been drinking beforehand. Back then, that wasn't seen as a criminal offense, even if a property-damage accident ensued. It was the night before Thanksgiving, after all; of course he had had a couple. No blood, no foul.

The guy had insurance, and we got the book value of the car. But its loss really hurt. We had gotten such a good deal on it, and "it always started right up." It was worth way more to us than what the insurance paid.

Our next car, as I recall, was a Buick of similar vintage. Black again, of course. It was o.k., but it wasn't as good as the car we bought from that guy across the alley. "Jackie, that guy took better care of that car than he did of his kid."

Jerk of the Month

This month, there was a clear winner. Nobody comes close to this.

Amanda makes it

Portland City Council candidate Amanda Fritz has announced that she has gathered all 1,000 individual $5 contributions needed to qualify for taxpayer financing of her campaign to unseat Commissioner Dan Saltzman. She's planning to file them with the city on Monday. Apparently this means that she'll get $150,000 out of the city's coffers to pay for political advertising and other campaign needs between now and the May 16 primary election.

It was harder to get that many checks than Fritz first estimated, and I'm not hearing that any of the other candidates who hope for public financing under the "clean money" system are anywhere close to getting the 1,000 contributions they would need. Saltzman is not taking the "clean money," and neither is Ginny Burdick, who's challenging Commissioner Erik Sten for his seat.

And so if Sten doesn't take the "clean money," Fritz could wind up being the only candidate who gets it. And I do mean only, because repeal of the "clean money" system will also likely be presented to the voters in May, on the same ballot as the local income tax for schools. Now there's an interesting juxtaposition. It's still early, but if I had to predict, I'd say that for better or worse, "clean money" and the tax are both heading for defeat. (Via Also Also.)

Hard times on the lobster shift

In the newspaper business, the midnight-to-8-a.m. shift is known as the "lobster shift." Nobody knows why for sure, although there are several theories. Whatever the real etymology may be, back in my reporter days I would sometimes draw lobster shift duty in the summers, when the regular denizens of the dark were on vacation. There was a little extra in your paycheck for working those hours. Under our union contract, it was called the "night differential."

I still do work that shift, but there's no differential in it for me any more. Observant readers of this blog have noted on occasion that the time stamps on the posts here are often during the wee and not-so-wee hours of the morning. And I've been known to fire off a flurry of e-mails just before calling it a night, which hit the inboxes of the people I work with in New York just as they're sitting down to start their workday.

Anyway, it's been a rough lobster shift this morning on the server that hosts this blog. It's been up and down all night like a newborn baby. If you've been trying to get through and couldn't, be assured that the crack technical wizards at my web host are on the case trying to uncrash the thing. And if that bad case of the e-hiccups should recur the next time you're trying to get here, please don't give up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hell freezes over

Set the Tivo, kids: Oprah's going to be on Letterman next week.

Down the primrose path

The Portland Development Commission is inviting folks who are interested in the Saturday Market and surrounding area to go on a walking tour a week from Saturday (Dec. 3). According to the press release, the walk (and a meeting the following Monday) are --

opportunities for members of the public to learn about and discuss the opportunities and constraints involved in revitalizing this historic area. Some discussion topics include:

- Potential redevelopment sites

- High number of surface parking lots

- Public safety issues

- Old Town's distinction as a national historic district

- Diversity of residents, businesses, service providers, retail and cultural amenities

- Portland Saturday Market's need for a permanent home

- Idea of a new "market district"

- Proposals to add a food-oriented Public Market to the area and other private redevelopment suggestions

- Proposed residential redevelopment of the current Fire Station #1 site

The PDC ought to publish a thesaurus. It's amazing how many ways they have discovered to say "condo towers."

Another Blazer bum walks

It looks as though thug Ruben Patterson doesn't want to play on the Blazers any more. He and new coach Nate McMillan aren't seeing eye to eye, and Ruben's been kicked off the team, at least temporarily.

So long, guy. Don't let the door hit you.


I wrote about it here and here. I've got nothing more to say about it this year, but I'll never forget.

Priest-child sex -- the child's "misconduct"?

The Monday night recycling ritual always turns up something interesting in the newspapers. I quickly scan the ones I haven't gotten to all week long, before I plop them into the yellow bin and put them out for the dedicated waste management boys. (They come by without fail, every Tuesday morning except Christmas.)

This week on my peregrination to the parking strip I belatedly caught a red-hot Sunday column by Steve Duin of The O, who shares my disdain for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland's ongoing bankruptcy maneuvers. Like me, Duin is flabbergasted that the church would try to avoid paying full compensation to the many victims of priestly sexual abuse, many of whom were victimized when they were children.

The column is mostly about the archbishop's sudden "discovery" that parish real estate is not really the archdiocese's property, but rather being held in a hitherto unpublicized "trust" for the members of the congregation. That's not the most powerful point that Duin makes, however. In the course of leafing through a recent brief prepared by members of the archdiocese's army of bankruptcy lawyers (who have racked up $5 million or $6 million in fees to date), Duin says he found a quotation which, if he's accurately portrayed it, deepens my disgust. He wrote:

That brings us to the most cynical part of the Archdiocese's brief. Even if the First Amendment allowed exceptions to the church autonomy doctrine, the brief insists, that doesn't apply to the abused. Why? Because every claimant asserts that "at the time of their alleged sexual misconduct, they were members of or associated with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily through attendance at a Catholic school and/or parish church." [Emphasis added.]
Dear Lord, has it come to this? Now are we to believe that when a priest has sex with a child, it's the child's "sexual misconduct"?

I hope and pray that Steve Duin is misquoting that brief. Because if that's really the position of Archbishop John Vlazny, then our spiritual leader is one sick, sick man.

UPDATE, 12:26 p.m.: Here is the paragraph in question, taken from a brief signed by the archdiocese's lawyers, in Portland and Colorado Springs, and filed on November 7:

C. Even If There Were a Third Party Exception, the Tort Claimants Are Not Third Parties. The TCC has never established that the tort claimants here are third parties or strangers to the Church. Indeed, the evidence is the opposite. After reviewing complaints by 206 sexual misconduct claimants, Margaret Hoffman testifies that "[i]n every single one of these Complaints, the claimants assert that, at the time of their alleged sexual misconduct, they were members of or associated with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily through attendance at a Catholic school and/or parish church within the Archdiocese." Sec. Hoffman Decl. at ¶ 2. This, too, constitutes evidence that was not before the Spokane Court when it articulated a "third party" exception to the Church Autonomy Doctrine that the tort claimants had never impliedly consented to Catholic Church Doctrine or polity.

Margaret Hoffmann is a partner in the Schwabe Williamson law firm, which also represents the Archbishop.

I've posted the entire brief here.

UPDATE, 11/29, 12:30 p.m.: Hoffmann was misquoted by the other church lawyers. She never said "their." See my followup post here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Get in the mood

The countdown is on.

A tale of two watch repair shops

I'm a cheap watch kind of guy. The batteries in both my cheesy Timexes were gone, and so I headed out to get them replaced. I always go to the Meier & Frank at Lloyd Center for this, and so off I dutifully went.

They've taken all reference to the watch repair operation off the store maps and directories in that place, but I just went to the spot I always go, on the top floor, and it was still there. In charge on this particular day was a young woman who didn't exactly look like a watch repair person. She was working with a wooden mallet on something, and studiously avoiding any eye contact with me or the two other middle-aged white guys who were waiting for her. Not so much as an "I'll be with you in a moment." After at least five minutes of that (tick tock), she finally emerged to hear my request for assistance. She took one look at the first of the watches and informed me that the battery simply could not be replaced, since the back of the watch could not be removed.

Of course, that was totally wrong -- there was a replacement battery number printed right on the back of the watch -- but why argue? I wasn't going to let this person open it, anyway. Out of the mall I strolled.

After brooding about it for a while, I headed over to the Hollywood Fred Meyer jewelry store. There a very watch-repair-looking guy took one look at the timepieces and informed me that a new battery could be installed in each for 10 bucks apiece. Agreed. In 10 minutes it was a done deal. I paid him in cash and was out of there.

Neither of these watches is worth much more than 10 dollars, but I'll be darned if I'm going to throw them away when all they need are batteries. And I'll be darned if I ever set foot in that Meier & Frank watch repair shop again.

BREAKING NEWS: b!X is back!

But he says he's off the politics. Here's his new blog. Whatever he writes about, his return after two or three months away is most welcome.

Comedy gold, or just boullion?

Last week I asked readers to write a joke punchline with this news story as the set-up: "China is going to vaccinate all of its 5.2 billion chickens against the avian flu." Some good ones came in, but none hit the jackpot.

Now I realize that the news story ought to be part of the punchline, rather than the set-up. Something like this:

"Man, things are really going downhill in Chinatown. I was over there yesterday and I saw a guy in an alley behind a restaurant, vaccinating his chicken."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Saturday Market move: A done deal?

Here in Portland, when the politicians and bureaucrats ask what you want, there's always that nagging feeling, borne out by countless experiences, that the question you're spending all your energy arguing about has already been decided. Some rich guys are going to get richer, and something you love about the city is about to disappear in the process.

For example, there's been a lot of discussion, here and elsewhere, about the proposal to move the Portland Saturday Market out of its 28-year home under the Burnside Bridge. The Portland Development Commission last week solicited our votes on possible new locations for the weekend craftsfest, with leaving it in its current location one of the options we could vote on.

But is that really an option? The last newspaper story I saw on the market last week made it sound as though the move was a foregone conclusion. It described the situation this way:

The committee, which met Thursday, was formed to find a permanent home for the crafts market, which is currently held most weekends on a patchwork of leased land under the Burnside Bridge. The Saturday Market must move to make room for new development along Northwest Naito Parkway.
I'm not sure whether to trust the O's story. For one thing, I thought that the development that's being talked about for the market site -- condos and a 7-day-a-week public market of some kind -- would be along Southwest Naito, not Northwest.

But on the more important question of whether the move is to take place, perhaps the reporter got it right. Perhaps some PDC or city staffer was being uncharacteristically honest about the current status of the project. With all the talk of leaving the market in its current place, the reality may be that the decision has already been made to uproot it. In that case, the remaining discussion is the usual window dressing of fake public involvement.

That would certainly be consistent with the PDC's modus operandi on the Burnside Bridgehead project, where public process was an obvious sham. It would also be consistent with the City Council's process on the South Waterfront/OHSU Aerial Tram scam, which appeared to have been decided in favor of the developers in a back room long before the final votes were cast in City Hall.

For what it's worth, the official propaganda received from the PDC this week hints that the market will move either across Naito to Waterfront Park, or into a new configuration that somehow combines part of the current location with some space in the park. A block near the Greyhound bus station and Union train station is still being studied, albeit to a lesser extent, as is space under the Morrison Bridge. And oh yes, staying in the current location is still on the official list:

More than 400 Portland residents and Saturday Market visitors and vendors took time to offer their ideas and concerns regarding the seven sites being considered. Your comments have been reviewed and summarized and will be posted on the PDC and Saturday Market websites next week. This input was also presented to a Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) on November 17. The SAC relied heavily on the public input in making its recommendation to narrow the study from seven to three sites: Waterfront Park (D), at or near the Current Location (E), and an option looking at a combination of D and E. The SAC included two additional sites that they want to investigate further: U & R Blocks (A) and Morrison Bridge Blocks (F).
The map is here.

Bus kid makes good, again

Congratulations to Alex Dewar, a Portlander who's just been named a Rhodes Scholar. A Lincoln High grad, Dewar is currently the student body president at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, where he's majoring in political science and working on the campus radio station, among other pursuits. He's worked for 1000 Friends of Oregon and Trout Unlimited as well as for the Oregon Bus Project. At one point he headed to Uganda on a project for the Foundation for Sustainable Development. He's been a Udall Scholar, a Truman Scholar, and now the big enchilada itself -- the Rhodes. Nice going.

"They didn't have to say anything"

What an image. Deepest condolences to that family.

On another somber note, this blogger's taking a week off.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ethics problems in Salem

Years ago, I was a member of an advisory group that reported directly to the U.S. commissioner of internal revenue. It was quite a learning experience, and I think my colleagues on the panel and I contributed to improving tax administration in the federal government.

One of the things that was going on within the IRS at the time was a program in which the top managers of the agency were taking a basic course in ethics, taught by Michael Josephson, a noted guru on the subject. One of the big lessons in that program was a list of ethical fallacies -- a series of rationalizations that people typically use for unethical behavior. I learned that when you hear yourself saying or thinking any of these things, you're on the road to ruin.

All this came to mind on Friday as I read The O's excellent article on the practice among Oregon legislators of putting their family members on their legislative payroll, regardless of whether they actually do meaningful work to justify their pay, or whether they even show up in Salem during the legislative session. One nepotist has on his staff his wife, who lives in Las Vegas year-'round and doesn't leave there to perform her work as the legislator's aide. Outrageous.

But these practices, which have long been common knowledge, have never caused much serious uproar until the recent flap about Rep. Kelly Wirth, whose trials and tribulations include alleged meth possession and serious injuries after being mowed down by a car driven by the girlfriend of an alleged lover of Wirth. Wirth, whose mother was on her House office payroll, tried to spend the last of her clerical budget by giving her mom a huge raise just as Wirth was resigning her House seat in scandal and disgrace.

Many legislators with family members on the pad are hoping the whole matter will die down now that Wirth is gone. But the justifications they offer for allowing their employment practices to continue are straight off the list of ethical no-no's that Josephson warned the IRS about:

"I've got it coming to me." The state solons all say, and it's probably true, that they don't make enough while they're in Salem as part-timers to keep food on the table, clothes on their backs, and roofs over their heads. They put their loved ones on the payroll so that they can make ends meet while their paying, private-sector jobs are on hold.

Here's what Josephson says about that:

People who feel they are overworked or underpaid rationalize that minor "perks" -- such as acceptance of favors, discounts or gratuities -- are nothing more than fair compensation for services rendered. This is also used as an excuse to abuse sick time, insurance claims, overtime, personal phone calls and personal use of office supplies.
As the grownups told us over and over when we were kids, two wrongs don't make a right.

"It doesn't hurt anybody." The legislators note that the practice of paying family members for work they don't do doesn't hurt the state overall, because their families make enormous sacrifices on behalf of the state. That won't fly with Josephson:

Used to excuse misconduct, this rationalization falsely holds that one can violate ethical principles so long as there is no clear and immediate harm to others. It treats ethical obligations simply as factors to be considered in decision-making, rather than as ground rules. Problem areas: asking for or giving special favors to family, friends or public officials; disclosing nonpublic information to benefit others; using one's position for personal advantage.
"Everybody's doing it." This one's all over the Oregonian story. Paying one's spouse or other relatives for work that can't be accounted for (and in some cases, that doesn't exist) is said to be "a time-honored" tradition in the state Capitol. Josephson says:
This is a false, "safety in numbers" rationale fed by the tendency to uncritically treat cultural, organizational or occupational behaviors as if they were ethical norms, just because they are norms.
No-show jobs for legislators' families, and jobs in which they don't have to account for themselves, are unethical. They send the wrong message to managers throughout state and local government, and they set a horrible example for the rest of the state's residents, particularly younger ones. If the legislators are underpaid, they need to have the guts to vote themselves an above-board raise. If their family members are state employees, they need to fill out timecards and be accountable for real work that is assigned to them -- just as any other employee would.

The current "system" is just another Kelly Wirth waiting to happen -- or more likely, another Kelly Wirth that's already been happening for a long time, but is yet to be uncovered. It's... well, shabby.

Lesson learned

This quarter's regular poker game, held at the Bogdanski Hut, wrapped up a couple of hours ago. A great evening, as usual, with six of the Magnificent Seven on hand. I managed to come out slightly ahead again -- and am happy to be on a roll of not losing.

The biggest reward, of course, is catching up with the guys and enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune together. Last time we played at my place, a straight flush appeared, but its arrival proved to be a bad omen for its holder in the realm of subsequent poker results. Tonight we surmised that the curse would not be broken until another straight flush appeared -- and just minutes later the same guy drew a royal flush. It didn't turn him into an overall winner on the night, but at least the hex is gone... we think.

Nothing evokes pearls of wisdom like a couple of hours around a card table with a familiar crew. The quote of the night by far came from one gambler, who in the course of a tough game which included his losing twice with a full house, offered this advice, to himself as much as anyone else:

"Never try to out-think an idiot."


Friday, November 18, 2005

Wooden expression

An alert reader wonders what sorts of thoughts are harbored by the writer of this headline in Time magazine.

Here's a couple of ideas

The city of Portland has $450,000 available to support environmentally sustainable projects. The city's Office of Sustainable Development is accepting grant applications as part of its Green Investment Fund. The competitive grant program supports projects that reduce waste and toxins, conserve water, manage stormwater, conserve energy and promote the use of renewable energy. The maximum grant amount for a single project is $225,000. Industrial, residential, commercial and mix-use projects are eligible and private organizations may apply. -- News story in Portland Business Journal.


Project title: "Pave Dirt Roads in Residential Neighborhoods"

Location: Numerous streets throughout NE, SE and SW Portland.

How project meets program goals: Paving the streets that have been left unpaved for years will eliminate numerous instances in which suspension systems of autos are damaged by large potholes and badly rutted dirt roads, thus lessening consumption of environmentally irresponsible replacement parts. Paving will also eliminate cleanups of clothing of pedestrians who are splattered by mud from passing vehicles, and repeated washing of vehicles that must slog down mud paths to reach drivers' homes.

Paved roads will encourage additional pedestrian and bicycle traffic through affected rights-of-way, thus promoting healthy lifestyles. Increased consumption of Gatorade will reduce reliance on Bull Run water supply. Elimination of stress of living near bad roads, plus sweating from increased walking, will release built-up toxins in local population. Pickup of droppings from pets will be facilitated by smooth pavement. Flat surfaces will reduce wear and tear on recycling bins, and encourage composting of fallen leaves in autumn.

Additional public benefits: Improved roads will encourage desirable in-fill on every available five-foot-square parcel currently left uncovered, thus promoting Metro density goals. Paved streets will also encourage biotechnology boom, open up new routes for streetcar expansion, attract real estate speculators from California, and enable members of creative class to live in affected neighborhoods without fear of ruining their Rockport oxfords. With all dirt alleys finally eliminated, city will resemble Barcelona and Vancouver, B.C.


Project title: "Reopen Police Stations at Night and on Weekends"

Location: All police precincts other than Central Precinct.

How project meets program goals: Having police stations open at night and on weekends will shorten drive times for residents who are fleeing from violent crimes after business hours, as well as eliminate unnecessary driving for felons who are seeking to turn themselves in after precincts currently close. Open precincts will also encourage officers to warm up and stay dry in central locations, rather than unnecessarily idling their patrol cars throughout their shifts.

Open station houses will enhance community policing, lessening tensions between residents and officers, and thereby reducing unnecessary shootings, which release biohazards (mostly, blood) into environment. Noise pollution from gunshots will decrease. Reduction in number of police inquests will reduce amount of energy and paper consumed in compiling reports concluding that event was tragic but unavoidable. Reductions in number and severity of anti-police protests will minimize releases of pepper spray into ambient atmosphere.

Additional public benefits: After-hours interactions between citizenry and public safety officers will decrease officers' isolation and accompanying alienation, thus lowering number of stress disability retirements. Number of property owners who suffer cardiac arrest upon reading fine print on property tax statements will also decrease.

You're not welcome

In rooting around in various boxes of memorabilia this week, I stumbled upon this lovely card, which came along with Christmas greetings some years back:

Thursday, November 17, 2005

'Zup at the Double Dub

Today's Willamette Week has a note from publisher Richard Meeker in it. Apparently this is an annual feature, but I don't recall reading it before this time around.

It's revealing in a couple of ways. First, it confirms that Craigslist is putting a major hit on WW's classified ad department. Meeker notes a few moves that WW has taken to counteract this, but it's obvious the paper is still smarting from the growth of the free online classified giant. He doesn't miss the opportunity to point out: "No wonder eBay has bought a piece of the company and has been snapping up similar free online classified systems all over the globe." Beware the military-industrial-free advertising complex!

In other news, they're moving their offices out of downtown! They've got a building project going at NW 22nd and Quimby. That's just a stone's throw from Good Sam Hospital, which will make things easier some day if Neil wants to summon Nigel to his deathbed for one final warning.

Classic joke set-up

"China is going to vaccinate all of its 5.2 billion chickens against the avian flu."

O.k., all you would-be Lettermans and Lenos, what's the next line?

A. Colonel Sanders advised customers in the United States to just wear a condom.

B. I've been vaccinating my chicken for years.

C. A half hour later, they'll be sick again.

It's a work in progress. Fill in your own punchline in the comments.

Men in white, men in black

A couple of stories we've written about here are on the front page again this morning. First, Kaiser and OHSU have now told reporters they'll "voluntarily" report malpractice claims against them and their doctors to the State of Oregon, despite their earlier assertion that the requirements for such reporting do not apply to them.

The O rightly pats itself on the back for bringing about this change of practice, but it shouldn't stop there. The state's other main doc shop, Legacy, is clearly exempt from the disclosure rules under current law, and they're not saying yet whether they'll report. And the other two are not admitting that they are fully subject to the current reporting rules.

Our solution was outlined here earlier. The reporting rules should apply to all doctors practicing medicine in the state -- and indeed, to all licensed professionals. And the information reported belongs on the internet. The current law and "voluntary" disclosure are not enough to serve the public's strong interest in having this information.

Elsewhere, the Archdiocese of Portland has offered $40 million to the victims of past priestly sexual abuse -- many of whom were children when the abuse occurred. The victims oppose letting the archbishop off the hook for that amount; they claims they've been damaged to the tune of a much larger sum.

We'll see how the bankruptcy judge rules, but I suspect that there are at least a few plaintiffs in the group who will never accept anything but a full, public trial. They want the world to see what the priests, and their complicit supervisors, did to them. To the abuse victims, unlike the church elders, it's not all about the money.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Time to recharge

Now and then, we need to stop burning the candle at both ends. This is such a time. See you in the morning.

UPDATE, 11/17, 9:20 a.m.: There, now. All re-set.

Where we swore, "Forever friends"

There's a ton of Bruce Springsteen nostalgia hype in the air this week. They've put out a special 30th anniversary edition of his famous "Born to Run" CD (just in time for Christmas shopping for your favorite geezer), and the stories about the recording of the album and Bruce's early career are glutting the media.

So I guess it's as good a time as any to tell the tale of Bruce and Me -- my own "boring stories of glory days." (You youngsters who don't appreciate such things, better move on.)

It goes back, way back, before hardly anyone outside of New Jersey had ever heard of the Boss. He had a couple of albums out, but they weren't big hits, and his audience, though devoted (even passionate), was relatively small. He was still working obsessively on the recording of "Born to Run," and the record was far from finished yet -- hardly even started, in fact.

It was 1974.

I was a year away from finishing college, attending on the "five-year plan," since I had dropped out to become a newspaper reporter and was taking the last half of my degree at night. In July, in the middle of one of those seminal Jersey Shore summers, two of my good friends had a proposition for me. They wanted me to go with them to this new nightclub in Greenwich Village in New York City called the Bottom Line, to see this guy from Asbury Park named Bruce Springsteen play. My best buddy Jim (right) was the prime mover. He and I shared a taste for Motown and other soul music, and he thought Springsteen was one of the most soulful white performers around. I had never heard of him, but if Jimmy thought I'd like his stuff, I probably would. We knew each other so well.

So he and I and George (left) headed over to the city (in my yellow '72 VW bug, as I recall) and stood in line outside the Bottom Line to catch the show. It wasn't a very big club -- it sat maybe 400 or 500 people -- and you got a great view and a good listen for a $4 cover and a couple of New York-priced drinks. I had never before heard so much as a single Bruce song at that point. I had done nothing to prepare myself for the show; I hadn't given it Thought 1 ahead of time. One of those shot-in-the-dark concert experiences.

I was floored -- floored. Here was a sound that mixed Curtis Mayfield with Dylan, a guy who could cover Gary U.S. Bonds and "Then (S)he Kissed Me" by the Crystals, and then lay out a dozen or so of his own songs, many of which were riveting, multi-part, rock opera affairs. In addition to wonderful music, Springsteen had an onstage charisma that was almost scary.

Today, there are many Bruce fan sites that document just about every minute of his career, and the song lists from that engagement (he did shows over three days -- I think we were there for the early show the middle night) -- include numbers from his first two albums, which were already well known to many in the audience. He also performed a couple that few if any had heard before: "Born to Run" and "Jungleland," which are two off the album that's causing all the nostalgic hoopla this week.

Since this was the Big Apple, there was the obligatory heckler. Unlike in a large hall, where a performer could ignore such people, in the smallish Bottom Line, that nagging voice was right in your ear. Everybody on the stage and in the audience obviously heard the guy. "It sounds like Van Morrison," the voice kept saying, referring to the guitar, piano and sax combination that both Springsteen and Morrison emphasized at the time. At one point he added, "Why don't you just play 'Domino'?"

Springsteen, who is not a physically imposing man by any means, looks down at the heckler and says, "Why don't you just play 'Like a Rolling Stone'?" At which point, I nearly shot beer out my 20-year-old nose. Everybody let out a little gasp. This guy was not only good, he was real.

A Bruce show in those days was a rollercoaster ride. It went from really high highs to really low lows, and back again, at the drop of the hat. "The Nijinksy of rock," The New Yorker called him shortly thereafter. You never knew what was coming next.

After the performance, which ended with a bang and left us all sweaty and limp, I thanked my friends for "turning me on," as we then used to say, to something fantastic. "I can't get over the characters in his songs!" I raved to them as we headed home through the Holland Tunnel. "It's like 'West Side Story'!"

"The songs are all on the records," Jimmy explained. "Just get those and you can listen to him sing about those characters all you want. And there are some other ones, too."

And so I did.

A month later, I turned off the stereo and headed west on a road trip with a couple of other Jersey City friends. They were moving; I was just along for the ride. It was the first time I had been west of Philadelphia in my entire life. Everywhere we went, I told folks about the new musical hero I had discovered. The Jersey transplants we visited took note, and a few months later, after they had checked Bruce out for themselves, the verdict was unanimous. "It's just like when I lived in Jersey City," one friend reported from her Milwaukee digs. "When I put on that album ['The Wild, the Innocent...'], it's like sitting on my old fire escape in the summer and looking down onto the street."

That road trip changed everything for me. Nixon quit while we were camped out high above (in more ways than one) the Mississippi River in Winona, Minnesota, Dylan-land. (That's me, right, at just about the moment the President of the United States was resigning. We had been out in the woods for a day and a half and had no clue.) After we left Minnesota, I saw Rushmore, and Yellowstone, and Vegas, and L.A., and the Arizona desert in 110 degrees. By the time I flew back to Jersey in a new pair of cowboy boots, around Labor Day, I knew that if I could get a decent situation in California, I was going to give the West a serious try.

The enormity of this realization was still dawning on me a couple of weeks after I got back, when another invitation came along, this time from George. Did I want to go to hang out at Kean College with him and his girlfriend this weekend for a kegger?

That guy Bruce Springsteen was supposed to be playing.

Continue reading "Where we swore, "Forever friends"" »

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ron, Gordon, and Gitmo -- Part Two

The Senate has passed what they are calling a "compromise" amendment to last week's vote to deny access to U.S. courts for prisoners at our military prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba. The vote on the amendment was 84-14, with the entire Northwest delegation, including both Oregon senators, voting in favor this time.

Thirteen Democrats and Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) voted no.

The "detainees" will get access to the federal courts to raise some issues, but not others, surrounding their confinement. Here's the text of the language on court access. I doubt that many civil libertarians will find it a "middle of the road" approach at all:

(d) Judicial Review of Detention of Enemy Combatants.--

(1) IN GENERAL.--Section 2241 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

"(e) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien outside the United States (as that term is defined in section 101(a)(38) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(38)) who is detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.".


(A) IN GENERAL.--Subject to subparagraphs (B), (C), and (D), the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of any decision of a Designated Civilian Official described in subsection (b)(2) that an alien is properly detained as an enemy combatant.

(B) LIMITATION ON CLAIMS.--The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit under this paragraph shall be limited to claims brought by or on behalf of an alien--

(i) who is, at the time a request for review by such court is filed, detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and

(ii) for whom a Combatant Status Review Tribunal has been conducted, pursuant to applicable procedures specified by the Secretary of Defense.

(C) SCOPE OF REVIEW.--The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on any claims with respect to an alien under this paragraph shall be limited to the consideration of--

(i) whether the status determination of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal with regard to such alien applied the correct standards and was consistent with the procedures specified by the Secretary of Defense for Combatant Status Review Tribunals (including the requirement that the conclusion of the Tribunal be supported by a preponderance of the evidence and allowing a rebuttable presumption in favor the Government's evidence); and

(ii) whether subjecting an alien enemy combatant to such standards and procedures is consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(D) TERMINATION ON RELEASE FROM CUSTODY.--The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit with respect to the claims of an alien under this paragraph shall cease upon the release of such alien from the custody of the Department of Defense.


(A) IN GENERAL.--Subject to subparagraphs (C) and (D), the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of any final decision rendered pursuant to Military Commission Order No. 1, dated August 31, 2005 (or any successor military order).

(B) GRANT OF REVIEW.--Review under this paragraph--

(i) with respect to a capital case or a case in which the alien was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more, shall be as of right; or

(ii) with respect to any other case, shall be at the discretion of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

(C) LIMITATION ON APPEALS.--The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit under this paragraph shall be limited to an appeal brought by or on behalf of an alien--

(i) who was, at the time of the proceedings pursuant to the military order referred to in subparagraph (A), detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and

(ii) for whom a final decision has been rendered pursuant to such military order.

(D) SCOPE OF REVIEW.--The jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on an appeal of a final decision with respect to an alien under this paragraph shall be limited to the consideration of--

(i) whether the final decision applied the correct standards and was consistent with the procedures specified in the military order referred to in subparagraph (A); and

(ii) whether subjecting an alien enemy combatant to such order is consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The "compromise" label will allow Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden enough cover to emerge from behind his giant sacks of money and explain his wrong-headed vote from last week. As many leftie pundits have complained, when the chips were down, he was absent.

The net effect of the new provision is that some, but not all, of the rights that the Supreme Court recently found applicable to the Gitmo prisoners will now be denied. Not something the senior senator from the Beaver State ought to be bragging about the next time he comes around.

The fact that the United States is operating a prison camp in Cuba is one of the strangest things I've ever heard. The flap over the prisoners' rights just adds to the surreal nature of it all.

Wisdom from the Far East

I don't know much about his politics, but Troutdale Councilor Robert Canfield has a good blog going. Today he enlightens us about some of the secrets of political speech. He's also after some public money that he suggests has been misspent. Blog on, dude!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Your chance to vote on Saturday Market

Dieselboi over at Metroblogging points out that the Portland Development Commission has designated six potential sites for the proposed move of the Portland Saturday Market. They're asking people to pick their three top choices, and keeping the market where it is is one of the seven options in the mix. The PDC site is here: http://www.pdc.us/ura/dtwf/satmkt.asp. Scroll down to vote; they say they need the input by tomorrow!

Meanwhile, a city insider tells me that one of the reasons that the Saturday Market's location is in play is that it can't afford to pay for the Skidmore Fountain Building, which it purchased, and that it needs some sort of PDC bailout. He writes:

Paul Verhoeven from Saturday Market has been closely involved in all of these discussions. The inertial path is troubled by the inability of Saturday Market to meet its payments on the Skidmore Fountain Building. We had reached an informal understanding with PDC that they would need to step in and help Saturday Market with the payments on the building, or their vision for the plaza would never be realized. It's always been understood, I believe by everyone involved, that Saturday Market needs a good outcome. I've always assumed they would be either where they are now, or very close to it. There are lots of things to sort out, of course.

I suspect that with Bill Naito's heirs taking up the lead role on the Old Town properties, discussions with them will be easier than they were with Verne. Anything that involves the use of the park would also need a lot of process.

Rising star

Just when I thought I had become my family's version of a celebrity, my nephew upstages me. The scary part is, this kid will have himself set for life by the time he's 30. Meanwhile, I'll be telling tax jokes to students 'til my false teeth are falling out and I'm 80 -- and that's if I'm lucky.

The answer

In various media interviews I've done about blogging, the question "Why?" has always been front and center. Why do people write, and read, these things?

Well, here: This is why.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tough love

What would you think of a high school basketball coach who talks to his players like this?

That USA Today that came out today, that says you're the number-two team in the country? Get a copy, go home and wipe your a*s with it!
* * * * *
This is the new f*cking world? You made the mistake and you're giving me the tilted head? You gave me the tilted f*ckin' head? Are you sh*tting me? Who made the mistake? Me?
* * * * *
I'm 56 years old, and when I can't kick anybody's a*s in this building, I'll be 70. Just know something: I don't drive up to practice every day saying to myself, "Gee, I hope Barney's ready to play today." It never registers in my head, because Barney better be f*ckin' ready to play. If he's not, then another child is going to play. Because what am I going to do? I'm going to coach whoever is here. So get a drink of water, and get your a*s back out here ready to be coached. Or get your sh*t and start running so I don't put a size 12 up somebody's a*s right now.
Just to complete the picture, the coach is a 56-year-old white guy, and the players are, with one exception, all African-American.

Is that a good coach?

Well, as it turns out, it's one of the best. It's Bob Hurley of St. Anthony High School of Jersey City, N.J., father of former pro hoops star Bobby Hurley. Hurley Sr. is not only the winningest high school basketball coach anyone's ever seen, but also the savior of quite a few of his players' lives. Because without Hurley and his basketball program, there would be no St. Anthony High, and many of his kids would fall victim to the tough, tough streets of the ghetto.

And even as those streets get tougher and tougher, and the kids' problems grow bigger and bigger, their attitudes drifting from bad to worse to even worse, those who are lucky enough to play for Hurley usually graduate, often get into colleges that they otherwise never would have even known about, and sometimes thrive. Yes, they chafe under the verbal assaults that they must endure, but they learn basketball better than they could under virtually any other teacher. They learn about discipline and hard work and responsibility. And Hurley opens doors for them to worlds outside of inner-city Jersey.

That he does all this at St. Anthony High -- and sweeps the floor of the court himself, thank you -- is beyond remarkable. The school, down by the Holland Tunnel in a hard part of a hard city, is forever on the edge of financial collapse. It has no gym -- that's right, none. The basketball team practices at a nearby charter grammar school, or the Polish White Eagle Hall, where the court isn't even regulation length and the trainer tapes up sore ankles in a food pantry. And yet year after year, St. Anthony wins the state championship (or comes close) with its tight execution, uncanny intelligence on the floor, athleticism, conditioning, and unflappable will.

Which means its players get to go to college on some sort of scholarship. A few even make it to the pro's.

Hurley hardly gets paid to do this. His day job is as a probation officer in Jersey City, and he also works in the municipal recreation department. There he sees what's happened to that town since he grew up on its streets in the '50s and '60s. He sees how the increasing poverty, despair, drugs, and violence of the place can easily take a good kid's life nowadays. He's determined not to let that happen to the 15 or 20 that he works with at the school.

This dedication comes at a significant cost. Hurley's been offered huge coaching contracts at major colleges -- places where he would have been set for life years ago -- but he's not interested. His heart is the heart of that high school, and separating the two would likely kill them both.

Hurley's story has come to my attention via a recent book by sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski of the Bergen Record. It's called The Miracle of St. Anthony, and it follows Hurley's team, the Friars, through its tumultuous 2003-04 season. It was, by consensus, one of the most troubled and troubling teams that Hurley had ever faced coaching. The story of its highs and lows, and the perspectives it provides on the character and tenaciousness of its future Hall of Fame coach, are riveting.

I'm a sucker for basketball stories, particularly those about Catholic high school ball in Jersey City. I was the student manager of the basketball squad at my old school, St. Peter's Prep, in that city for a couple of years back in the late '60s, and so the story of the St. Anthony kids hits extremely close to home. But this book is more than a nostalgia trip; it's got an impressive message for the current era. At a time when sports at all levels have become so corrupted by money that their ties to character and education are laughable; when the players seem like spoiled gangsta wannabes who have had everything in life handed to them; when there are so few people who spend their whole lives giving their all for one noble thing, this is an inspiring story.

A side benefit is getting to know most of the players, some of whose names will become better known as they now work their way through the college ranks. Like this guy (cheerleader mom problem notwithstanding), and him, him, him, him, and him. (Sebastian Telfair even gets a cameo mention or two, although he was playing over in the Big Apple.)

Not everyone will come away from this book loving Bob Hurley. But you're going to have a real hard time getting him off my list of heroes, anyway.

Here we go

As long-time readers of this blog know, the holidays wipe me out. By New Year's Day, I'm typically a weeping, emotional basket case. Noticing this a while back, I have it on my to-do list to get some quiet domestic time in around mid-November, when the craziness starts.

Too late this year. The madness has already begun.

Now, I'm not talking about the idiotic Portland radio station that's been playing nonstop Christmas music for a week or more. That's so absurd that it has no effect. No, I'm talking about the stuffing that the calendar's getting: two birthday parties and two other social functions this weekend; the quarterly poker game (with recovery day following) next weekend; then Thanksgiving, of course; likely visits from both of the kids' grandmas in succession; a visit to Santa somewhere in there; the whole shopping and shipping thing; and who knows what on Christmas itself. And that's just what we know about already. It's only November 13.

I'm practicing my deep breathing already. Wish me luck this year, and I'll do the same for you.

News filter

You see a news story like this, and it doesn't matter much. After a while, you become immune to such tales. These things happen all the time. You take a quick glance at the headline, and move on.

That is, unless you know one of the people on that plane. Welcome home to John and his crew.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sports bulletin

It's only the second quarter, but the Blazers are actually playing an inspired game against the undefeated Detroit Pistons. (ESPN, cable channel 35 in Portland.)

UPDATE, 10:08 p.m.: Almost. It's going to be a long season, but it will have its moments.

The double majority rule -- unconstitutional?

Well, the old double majority rule struck again this week. A number of tax levies in Oregon went down because, although they won a majority of those voting, the measures didn't get a turnout of a majority of those who were entitled to vote. To pass, a tax measure has to get both. State Rep. Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County) laments this in an e-mail that I got earlier today:

Oregon's "double majority" election requirement struck again this week, overturning the will of voters who passed local measures. In 1996, Ballot Measure 47 had a hidden provision creating the "double majority" voter turnout requirement for local property tax measures. Since then, the double majority rule has unfairly harmed Oregon school districts and other local governments whose residents try to implement essential measures.

In this Tuesday's election, a majority of voters in six communities passed local measures. Because fewer than 50% of registered voters returned their ballots, however, the will of voters was struck down by non-voters in those six communities.

A similar circumstance occurred in May, when the double majority voided eight measures in six Oregon counties -- including a bond passed by 61.6% of Gladstone School District voters who I represent. These measures would have provided essential upgrades to schools, fire districts, sanitation services, and jails.

Since the double majority requirement was introduced, Oregon's vote-by-mail system has been implemented so every registered voter is mailed a ballot for every single election. By having ballots at their home -- and several weeks to complete those ballots -- no Oregon voter has an excuse for missing an election.

During the 2003 and 2005 Legislative Sessions, I was chief sponsor of bills to reform the double majority rule to allow voters to pass local option and bond measures with a simple majority vote in May and November elections. A large bipartisan majority passed SJR 14 this year, but the bill was killed by House leaders without a vote.

I've always hoped someone would challenge double majority on constitutional grounds, but I've never heard anyone else even suggest the theory that I (with my limited knowledge) think might be most worth pursuing. So here it is, folks, fire away at it:

The double majority rule deprives people of their constitutional right to vote. Not those who were voting yes, though. My theory is that it deprives people of the right to vote no. If you show up and vote no, and then the measure passes, your showing up to vote no did as much to cause it to pass as it did to cause it to fail. In effect, that's depriving you of your right to vote no.

Crazy? Perhaps, but no crazier than double majority ittself. It would be worth a try. Forget the frustrated proponents of the tax measures that failed. The complaint would be filed on behalf of no voters on measures that passed.

That time again

Happy Veterans Day.

Oregon: We're goofy out here

Check out the roll call by which the U.S. Senate agreed by a 49-42 vote yesterday to an amendment to a defense policy bill that would bar suspected foreign terrorists held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from filing lawsuits in American courts to challenge their detentions.

A yes vote was a vote to add the amendment to the bill, which is expected to be voted on next week. Only five Democrats voted yes, including our own Ron Wyden. And only four Republicans voted no, including our own Gordon Smith.

Let's hope this is our guys' idea of a funny practical joke. Especially Wyden, who may be spending too much time at New York socialite parties these days. Hey Ron, if Gordon and Arlen Specter can get it right, why can't you? You are still a Democrat, aren't you?

A troublemaker leaves town

Self-proclaimed hippie lawyer Alan Graf, who has spent more than a decade busting the chops of the Portland police and other figures of authority, has announced that he's leaving Portland in a couple of months. He's heading off to Tennessee to live on a commune -- the milieu from which he came to Portland many years ago to attend law school here.

Graf's numerous projects on the Rose City leftie scene have included an active role in the local National Lawyers Guild chapter; lawsuits, protests, and lobbying against police overrreaching and in favor of greater citizen review powers; a talk show on KBOO radio known as "Law Squawk"; and loads of miscellaneous efforts on behalf of people who have little or no money to pay for the services of an attorney. He won a big case against the Portland police stemming from the pepper-spraying of protesters at various anti-W. street scenes in 2002 and 2003. And he and his Northwest Constitutional Rights Center were recently honored by the state's trial lawyers, who bestowed on Graf their annual Arthur H. Bryant Public Justice Award.

For a paying job, he's done a lot of work on Social Security issues, representing folks whose benefit claims in the Social Security system have needed attention. Graf is the co-author of the Oregon State Bar book entitled "Perfecting Your Social Security Claim," a useful primer on Social Security law.

That's not all he's written. He's got his life story, and lots more, posted on his website (hippielawyer.com) in a section called "I Inhaled." Passages like these could keep me busy for hours:

Recently, here in Portland, an activist was there with a camera, at the right place and the right time. A demonstration in support of Mumia Abdul Jamal was just winding down. This is the time in a protest, when the cops are likely to create the most mischief. The cops had just arrested one protestor who wandered off by himself for littering, that is, the protestor dropped a flower on the pavement. The Portland mounted police, surrounded this "heinous criminal" and dragged him off to jail to protect the community against such further aggression. A fellow standing by went over to question the actions of the cops. Big mistake. The mounties surrounded this second fellow and suddenly a cop on foot, sprinted from behind and grabbed this fellow's arm and twisted him to the ground.

In the process, the cop broke the protestor's arm in what is termed a spiral fracture. That's when the bones twist like a twig and snap in multiple places. The protestor screamed in pain and the cop grabbed him by the arm that was broken and dragged him off to the local dungeon.

Guess what? Some alert soul, got the whole thing on video. Unfortunately, that is the kind of stuff that you want to capture. In order to do that, you have to basically follow the cops and get a feel for which cops are the most likely to do that sort of sh*t.

If you are a protestor and you get arrested, do not resist, actively or passively. First, as the Borg once said (or will say), resistance is futile. This guys are bigger, stronger, more hopped up on testosterone, and have guns and other weapons which they won't hesitate to use, if given the excuse. Give them your name, and not anything else. Ask to call your lawyer. And write your lawyers name on your arm in indelible ink. It may be the most important thing you ever did. I guarantee that jail or prison is not a picnic. I don't care what some folks say about it being a spiritual experience. If you want a spiritual experience, go out to the woods, the trees are a hell of a lot gentler than a corrections officer.

* * * * *

We was headed towards the city, hitchhiking in from the Island.

It was me and Anne and my guitar. We hopped a ride from a friendly hippy type dude in a VW bug, Anne getting in the front and me in the back with guitar on my lap. We started to drive and suddenly this car comes out of this street all unexpected and slam, the car hits us and the next thing I know I am lying there in the back of the car and a cop is peering into the window of the VW. He looks at me and says "got any drugs on you?"---Well, I don't know why he would say such a thing. After all just because my hair was half way down my back and I had a shirt on with a big serpent in the middle of it and boots up to my knees and beads on my head and around my neck and a guitar on my lap---- its a wonder that this officer would ask me if I had some drugs on me, as I was bleeding to death internally, because my spleen had just exploded from the impact of my guitar hitting it. So, I was lying there dying and I said-"no, I don't" and he turned away to check something out which later turned out to be the driver who had flown out the window of the car and landed about twenty feet from the car.

Continue reading "A troublemaker leaves town" »

Meditation of the Day

Evangelist Pat Robertson is always coming up with new commandments for us all to follow. This week's is a real doozy:

"Don't turn to God."

What a guy.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I missed this one

Here's something I just stumbled across in Steve Duin's column last week:

"The more I look at the [convention center] hotel, the more it looks like PGE Park," Commissioner Erik Sten said: "Rosy projections on a very expensive project we don't have to have as a community, with underlying risk to the public while the private sector grabs the reward.

"If you make a mistake, you should learn from it," Sten added. "Rosy projections usually don't come true on these projects. That's why they want the subsidy. These projects are always announced as best-case scenarios, and those never happen. At PGE Park, at least the citizens ended up owning something of value, a stadium where kids can play football. A half-full hotel has no civic value."


Little lotto tax problem

The folks who won the monster Powerball jackpot came out of the closet earlier this week. They held onto their winning ticket for 20 days before coming forward. According to press reports, that was so that they could talk to tax and financial advisers. And, according to the Oregonian story (lost in the black hole of Oregon Live at the moment), the prize claim was timed so that they wouldn't receive their winnings -- more than $100 million in cash after taxes -- until early 2006. That, it was suggested, would keep the winnings off their 2005 income tax returns, and allow them to wait until their 2006 returns to report it and try to shelter it.

Don't count on that last part.

In the tax world, individuals have income when they receive it, and not until then. But there are two kinds of receipt: actual receipt, and something called constructive receipt. When the law says "constructive," it's making believe. The event in question (here, getting paid) didn't actually happen yet, but we treat it as if it did. What this means is you can have income even though you have not actually received it, provided that you have "constructively" done so.

When does a taxpayer have "constructive receipt"? The IRS has regulations out on this that are as old as dirt. They state:

Income although not actually reduced to a taxpayer's possession is constructively received by him in the taxable year during which it is credited to his account, set apart for him, or otherwise made available so that he may draw upon it at any time, or so that he could have drawn upon it during the taxable year if notice of intention to withdraw had been given.
In other words, you can't turn your back on income. You can't postpone paying tax on income that's at your disposal by simply "letting it ride."

This may sound like some esoteric tax doctrine, but its application is extremely commonplace. Take that bank account of yours that earns interest every month. If you leave the interest in the account and never go get it, does that means you don't have to report it as income until later? No, you constructively receive it as soon as it's in your account. As soon as it's there for the taking. The same is true of uncashed paychecks, reinvested mutual fund dividends, and lots of other kinds of income.

In the case of the lottery winners, their lucky numbers came out on October 19. It takes 60 days to actually receive your winnings once you turn in your ticket. So they could have had their money on December 19 if they had claimed it promptly. The IRS may take the position that that constitutes constructive receipt in 2005.

Even if there was no constructive receipt of the $110 million cash in 2005, the IRS might also argue that the winners were in actual receipt of the "economic benefit" of winning as of Oct. 20. This doctrine is a bit murkier, but one of the cases typically used to illustrate it involves underage kids who won the Irish sweepstakes. Although they couldn't collect the prize until they were 21, they were taxed when they won, because of the "economic benefit" they actually received by winning. Application of this rule to lottery winnings is not a sure thing -- there's one case out of the Midwest that suggests it doesn't apply -- but you could expect the IRS to take a run at it, at least.

Now, maybe the IRS will look the other way with the Powerball folks. Maybe they'll be able to postpone until their 2006 tax returns reporting all that money as income (by my rough calculation, triggering federal income tax of around $59,000,000, much or all of which will have already been withheld). But if I were an enterprisng IRS agent or lawyer, I'd be pushing for them to show it on their 2005 return, triggering the tax at an earlier date.

Saturday Market: Save it, move it, kill it?

The folks down at the Portland Saturday Market who don't want to move inform me that those madcap rascals of the Portland Development Commission, and their consultants, want some public comment on the plan to force the market out of the only home it's ever known. The proposed relocation, which some fear would spell the end of the quirky craftsfest, would make way for a condo tower-centered development (just what Portland needs) with a much slicker, more conventional all-week market of some kind attached. (No doubt to be run by some Whole Foods or Zupan type, fresh up from L.A., on tax-free premises.)

The PDC and their consultants will take public comment this evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Portland Building, Room C; and in the Food Court at the Saturday Market itself this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

The PDC bureaucrats say they're all ears, but it doesn't look to me like they're thinking elephant ears. In typical Orwellian fashion, they're calling this the "Saturday Market Permanent Home Open House." Excuse me, PDC underachievers, but the current location, now 28 years old, could be permanent, if you'd just let Portland be Portland and get some therapy for your severe condo fetish.

So let 'em hear it, kids. But you might want to stock up on your soap and crystals pretty soon while you've still got the chance.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Matter of opinion

Here's a noteworthy Google search on which this blog ranks highly.

Enabling Dr. Death

The O took the local medical profession out to the woodshed over the weekend. The paper started with a story about the infamous Jayant Patel, a.k.a. Dr. Death (Motto: "At Kaiser Permanente, he thrived"). But this caromed into an expose of how a state law that was supposed to put medical malpractice claims on the public record with the licensing authorities in Salem has been a complete bust. The reason: The boys and girls at Kaiser and Oregon Health and Science University read the law as not applying to them.

It was a pretty extensive pair of articles, hard-hitting and full of important details. Still, not every perspective was considered. Left out, for example, was any reminder of the fact that this is the same esteemed group that tried to sell Oregon voters Ballot Measure 35 a while back. That measure would have limited patients' rights to sue for damages for pain and suffering and other emotional distress when guys like Dr. Death ruin them for life. That sales job actually almost succeeded. You read stories like the recent ones in the O, and you shake your head wondering how that initiative almost passed.

In any event, I'm not going to pile on with criticism of the weaselly moves of the OHSU and Kaiser folks. The O story took a pretty good whack at them, and the reaction elsewhere is along the same lines. What intrigues me as much is the story line being spun out by the folks at the state Board of Medical Examiners. They're denying that they intentionally looked the other way while Kaiser failed to report the malpractice claims against its docs. No, the regulators say, it's just that they never noticed:

But the two state agencies responsible for collecting the reports and enforcing the law paid scant attention to compliance through the 1990s, an investigation by The Oregonian found. And when regulators eventually pushed Kaiser and OHSU to report, the health system and university dragged their heels and argued the laws didn't apply to them.

The Board of Medical Examiners did not learn until 2000 that Kaiser had quit filing reports nine years earlier. Kaiser's explanation for doing so, regulators now assert, was based on an erroneous reading of the law.

Nine years with no malpractice claims reported by Kaiser, and nobody in Salem noticed? Sure.

In any event, it's time for the foolishness to stop. The law should be amended, as early as possible next session, to make sure that all malpractice claims, of any size, filed against anyone practicing medicine in Oregon are reported to the state, and immediately made available to the public on the internet. The accused, of course, should be given an opportunity to respond, as people are now allowed to do on their credit reports. But the information should be there for patients' and prospective patients' review.

The loophole that outfits like Legacy enjoy, and that outfits like OHSU and Kaiser think they enjoy, should be eliminated. If there's a doctor out there who's butchering people, as Dr. Death allegedly did, the fine print on his or her employer's corporation papers should have nothing to do with how much the public learns about it.

And no, I'm not forgetting the lawyers. The same rules should apply to them. As well as to accountants, architects, veterinarians, nurses, and any other member of a profession licensed by the state. Consumers are smarter than professionals and their regulators like to admit. Giving consumers the information will eventually result in smarter choices and better practices.

Shoddy journalism

You can't trust the mainstream media (or MSM, as the kids call them). Look at the glaring inconsistencies between this version of a breaking international story and this one. On a matter that important, you'd think they'd get it right. But no.

Battle of Gresham photo gallery, cont'd

Gen. "Donny Reb" McIntire, firebrand commander-in-chief of the secessionist forces.

A Union drummer looks out over heavy casualties.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Gresham secession battle -- more photos

Gen. Randy Leonard of the Union forces,
who defeated his enemies by depriving them of water.

Sister Maria Rojo, who tended to the wounded on both sides.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Gresham secedes!

City of Gresham again considering seceding from Multnomah County -- News story.

Lon E. Roberts, field general of the secessionist forces.

Diane Linn, embattled leader of the Union forces.

All's well that ends well

Long-time readers of this blog may recall that in a fit of pique a couple of months ago, I cancelled my home delivery of The New York Times over problems with the deliveryperson. He or she kept sticking an unwanted identification label on the plastic bag wrapping my paper, and I got tired of asking for this to stop. "I'll just pick it up at the newsstand," I thought, "or maybe I'll read the copy at work or catch the basic content on line. Maybe it'll save me some money, as the home delivery subscription isn't much cheaper than the newsstand price, anyway."

In the intervening weeks, my new strategy has become tiresome. It's usually easy to find the Times -- it's in every Starbucks, which of course means it's in every neighborhood in Portland. But while I have been in there, I have always wound up buying a $1.60 cup of good old plain coffee, which has made any savings on the missed papers dwindle rather quickly. Plus, there is always the hassle of having to park the car and run into the infernal coffee shop when I'm on my way to do something more important or more enjoyable.

As I have pondered these realities, some new information has entered the picture. I was lamenting the hideous label saga to one of my colleagues over lunch one day, when he pointed out something that I hadn't heard of before: that the Times offers a discount for home delivery to college and university professors, of which I am one. I knew that a prof could get a free copy of the weekday Times if he or she could sell 10 or so subscriptions to students. But a deal on home delivery was a new one to me.

Well, I finally broke down today and signed back up. I'll have to deal with the confounded labels, and there will be some issues of the paper that I won't have time to get to. But there's a nice silver lining behind this cloud -- my subscription price has been cut substantially.

Rather than cuss out the labels, I guess I should see them as a gift from above.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Referrer spam attack! Or is it?

One of the peculiar aspects of having a blog is that you're not only a writer, but also a website administrator. If you have your own domain, you pay for bandwidth, and you allow people to come on and write whatever pops into their heads. As a result, there are things you have to watch.

And so it was with some alarm that I determined the other night that I was suddenly getting an enormous amount of traffic from a host of domains, all ending with ".listenernetwork.com/SearchWeb.asp." Before the first dot were the names of various radio stations around the country. When I went to my logs and clicked on the referral sources (or, as I've now learned, "referer" as the computer servers know it), you couldn't tell what they were searching for. But if you went to the various "listenernetwork.com" home pages, you would see that they're all a template, no doubt generated at a single location, that various radio stations use as a site for their listeners to visit. Generic and cheap, but seemingly unique at first glance. And shades of OregonLive and its sister sites in the anemic Advance Publications chain, they're all almost identical.

That was all very interesting to notice, but it didn't solve my problem. The evil hits were coming fast and heavy, and they were landing on various category archive pages on this site. After nearly three and a half years, those archive pages have gotten mighty long. And there are tons of images on them, which makes them a heavy load to send out. If that's a robot spamming me, there's going to be nothing but trouble ahead. It's going to chew up huge hunks of bandwidth, and sully my hit counter with fake traffic.

And so off I went to find a solution. Blocking the IP addresses of the visitors wouldn't work, because the hits were coming in from all sorts of different addresses, and I was sure they were all being faked. The advice I most often received was that I could keep these referrals away by making a modification to a file on my server called "htaccess." It is only with grave, grave trepidation that I mess with such things, but in the heat of yet another battle with spammers, off I went to try to set up a barrier.

Based on various highly technical posts I found on various sites, I came up with a number of different ways that it could be done. But try as I might with my limited technical skills, I couldn't keep the "listenernetwork" hits away. And so I brooded for the better part of two days about how I could save my bandwidth and keep the visits from artificially inflating my hit count.

During all this stewing, I noticed that the hostile searches all landed on the same archives on my site: Family, Food, International, National, and Nostalgia, with the last being the most prevalent. As a temporary fix, I renamed all those archives by sticking a "2" on the end of each name, and deleting the archive page that had each name on it without the "2." Sure enough, that kept "listenernetwork" referrals from making it to my hit counter -- they were still arriving, looking for, say, the "Nostalgia" archive, but instead of seeing any of my pages, they'd get a "404 - File Not Found" error. I was o.k., for now at least.

Still trickling in, though, were a smaller number of hits from various search engines, including Yahoo and a Denver newspaper's site, and on these, you could see the same bizarre search term: "What Manhattan deli served up a corned beef and tongue sandwich called 'Tongue’s for the Memory'?" While trying to figure out what to do to try to block that, it finally dawned on me that maybe that was what the listenernetwork searches were looking for, too.

Yes! Of course! It was that post I had written a while back about Hobby's Deli in Newark! Many of those search terms were in that post! And guess what? That post appears in exactly five archive categories -- the same five that were being hit by the listenernetwork searches. So the listenernetwork attack and the tongue sandwich attack were all part of one and the same evil plot, and they were all looking for the Hobby's piece.

Just for kicks, I ran the search through Google. Tons of hits, including this one as No. 1. Still no clue as to who the evil spammer is, but at last I'm getting somewhere. Then I tried running the search with the word "listnernetwork" up front, and ...

Continue reading "Referrer spam attack! Or is it?" »

I have no idea

Here's an interesting Google search that led a reader to this site one recent evening.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Welcome Dan Zanes

The Stones have come and gone. McCartney, too. But tomorrow is the concert event our family has been waiting for: Dan Zanes.

UPDATE, 11/6, 8:30 p.m.: Another great show by Dan and his friends. One of the nice side benefits is all the encouragement you get from the group to make your own music with your family and friends once you get home. Every song is a singalong -- if you let it be.

Portland was the last stop on the group's latest swing out west. By now they're on their way back to Brooklyn. Godspeed, folks, and thanks.

Old friend

I've been spending time these days converting some more of my vinyl record albums to digital. I'm concentrating on titles that are hard to come by on CD. The joy of hearing them in the revival process is matched by the satisfaction of knowing that the digital files will be there for the clicking any time I'm in the mood to play them again.

Today I'm working on an exquisite 1970 album by folk singer-songwriter Tom Paxton: Tom Paxton 6. In my view, this is Paxton's best work, and that's saying a great deal given the many fine songs he has penned over the decades. The dozen tracks on this collection have worn extremely well. The question "Whose Garden Was This?" is every bit as poignant as it ever was, and "Jimmy Newman" could be about an American soldier in Iraq as much as it was about one in Vietnam.

But the album's nowhere to be found these days. I suspect that Paxton had a falling out with the record company machinery (a label called Elektra, in those days -- who knows who owns it today), and that this title is a casualty. Perhaps to Paxton's ear, the album's overproduced. There's much fancier instrumentation than is found on most of his other recordings. Maybe he had to work with producers and musicians with whom he wasn't all that comfortable. But the end product is so very well done.

If you're a fan of this kind of sound, you must figure out a way to hear it. If you've got a phonograph to play it on, you may be able to track down a copy of the LP on eBay. That's where, miraculously, I got mine.

Friday, November 4, 2005

You can't have it both ways

My latest rant on the aerial tram [rim shot] included my strong objection to the notion that the contribution of OHSU toward the tram's construction cost should be listed as "private" money. Since OHSU is a state agency and gets most of its revenue from the taxpayers, I argued, its share of the budget should be considered as "public," just as the city's is.

As if to prove my point, along comes a new controversy involving OHSU in which that institution hides inside a cloak that says "governmental agency." This just in from State Sen. and gubernatorial hopeful Vicki Walker:

Eugene -- Senator Vicki Walker (D-Eugene) is drafting legislation in response to news she learned late last week about the injustice being served on patients at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU).

Jordaan Michael Clarke, was born at OHSU on February 20, 1998, with a congenital defect of the heart. On May 21, 1998, surgeons successfully operated to repair the defect. While in recovery in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Jordaan suffered from prolonged oxygen deprivation leading to permanent and profound brain damage. A lawsuit was then filed. According to legal briefs filed in the case, "As a result of these injuries, Jordaan is blind, quadriplegic, uneducable and totally dependent on care givers for all aspects of his daily activities and care."

OHSU admitted negligence in the case when the lawsuit was filed. Jordaan�s medical expenses are already in excess of $200,000, and the cost of his lifetime care is estimated to be more than $11 million. An expectation exists that OHSU's medical malpractice insurance would cover the claim to a significant degree. Not so. OHSU claims sovereign immunity as a state agency and skates under a little known law called the Oregon Tort Claims Act (OTCA) that limits recovery to no more than $200,000. Given that Jordaan's medical expenses exceed the recovery limit, the costs of his care now fall onto the taxpayers of the state of Washington where he currently resides.

"While Jordaan's case is an outrageous affront to the sensibilities of any Oregonian, it is not unusual," said Sen. Walker. OHSU has paid out millions in claims under the OTCA over the last decade; there are currently 5-10 cases pending at the trial court level, and at least two on appellate review challenging either the dollar limits of the OTCA, or the constitutional argument that OHSU is not a state agency. The Department of Justice was unable to confirm how many actual cases exist, because litigants are not required to notify the Department of challenges to the OTCA at the trial court level.

"OHSU exists in the same fantasyland as SAIF Corporation," said Walker. "They are public corporations created by statute, operating as private businesses, but claim state agency status when it suits them," she added. OHSU became a public corporation in 1995 when the Oregon Legislature cut it loose from the state system of higher education. Currently, OHSU receives 3.6% of its total operating revenue from the Legislature to help meet its public mission, and yet is among the bottom tier of hospitals who provide uncompensated care (36 out of 55 other Oregon hospitals have higher rates of uncompensated care).

"It is alarming to me that patients walking into OHSU's hospital and clinics are unknowingly walking into an uninsured facility," said Walker. "While OHSU continues to suck public funds for a tram that has tripled in cost before its even built, people like Jordaan Clarke and his family will live in abject poverty at the mercy of state care givers because OHSU escapes accountability under state law," Walker added.

In response to this case and others, Senator Walker has requested Legislative Counsel to draft three bills for introduction next session: one will eliminate OHSU's ability to claim sovereign immunity; the other requires all statutes regarding public bodies to apply to OHSU (currently they are excepted if not specifically mentioned); and, in the event sovereign immunity is not lifted, implement a notice provision that OHSU must notify all patients that OHSU is subject to the OTCA and thus recovery is limited by statute.

In the 2005 Legislative Session, Sen. Walker introduced SB 989 that removed sovereign immunity from state agencies in contempt actions. That bill did not receive a hearing. Sen. Walker inserted the provisions of SB 989 into SB 310, the SAIF reform bill, but when the governor threatened to veto the bill on that basis, Walker had the bill sent back to committee.

"The governor has sent a clear message that we will have an uphill battle to remove sovereign immunity from state agencies, including OHSU. If I am elected governor, I would not only push to bring justice to Oregon families and taxpayers, I would demand it," said Walker.

The Jordaan Michael Clarke case was argued before the Oregon Court of Appeals last Wednesday, October 26, 2005. For more information about OHSU�s escape from justice, see Willamette Week, "Storming up the Hill," Maureen O�Hagan, 1999.

Go get 'em, Vicki! And those of you out there who are trying to put OHSU in the "private" column for the hideous aerial tram [rim shot] budget, give me a break.


I just had a visitor come by on a referral from this site:


Of course, when I go there, I can't get in. Time for a public records request, anyone?

Welcome Paul

Yeah yeah yeah.

A couple of follow-ups

It's been a most hectic week. But now that some of the hubbub has subsided, it's time to catch up on the latest developments on a couple of topics discussed here in recent months.

First, my old law school chum Chris Cox, now the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, was being talked about in connection with the Supreme Court vacancy. He would have been a good pick. Maybe next time -- and yes, my friends, I'm afraid there will be one more next time for W.

But you know what bugs me most about Alito? He's a guy. So now we're back to playing "Where's Waldo?" on the gender front. The only woman in the country that Bush could think of who was qualified for the nation's highest court was Harriet Miers? That's so pitiful.

On a different front, my old buddies at Marqui -- who paid me and some other bloggers good money on a regular basis to mention them on our blogs last winter -- have come out with a blogging software product. It's supposed to be for corporate blogs, and they're charging a hefty fee for it, but I sure do wish they needed an individual blogger to try it out and write about it.

Oh, how I miss those checks. Every time I go by the bank branch in the Fred Meyer store, I feel the pangs of nostalgia.

(Thanks to Snethen for sending me the news about Cox.)

Thursday, November 3, 2005

A job for b!X?

Rob Truman over at Boley Blogs sends along this job posting. And we all know the perfect guy for the position.

Don't get any ideas, Sledgehammer!

While I'm on the subject of Randy Leonard today, let's hope he doesn't see this story. He might be inspired by it!

Look west

Here's a new Oregon blogger that just came onto my screen: Her name is Cynthia Price, she's in Astoria (where the Mrs. and I tied the knot in '94), and her blog is called The Daily 750. Nice writing, and some nice photos, too.

Public power in Portland -- what it would take

Fireman Randy was in the paper yesterday, going to bat for the Average Joes again. He was giving Portland General Electric a hard time over its rates. Leonard's actions on this issue (and those of his colleagues on the City Council) are entirely appropriate, and welcome. The city is using state law to force PGE to give up information to justify what it charges its customers. And the city fathers are putting Portland front and center in the recurring proceedings before the Public Utility Commission in Salem on those rates. Good for Portland.

Often during the city's failed, quixotic, and very expensive push to buy PGE, I expressed the view that the council should spend its energy advocating reform of utility ratemaking in Oregon, rather than trying to buy out the bad guys. I still think that's a good idea, and Randy (along with Erik Sten of course) is currently on the right track. Now let's hope that Governor Ted's PUC continues to get the message.

But PGE isn't the only power play of concern at present. The city also needs to keep the heat turned up on the proposed acquisition of Pacific Power by Warren Buffett's energy outfit. Here's another devotee of the almighty buck, coming to town with a cloudy agenda, and with dollar signs in his eyes. While it hassles PGE, the city needs to keep a careful eye on that other deal as well.

In the end, though, the city commissioners are never going to be satisfied until Portland has public power. The wolves will always be at the ratepayers' door, and it's going to be a constant battle with them unless a people's utility district is formed.

Quirky moves like the doomed PGE takeover will never get the city where it thinks it needs to go. There has to be a PUD election in which the PUD proponents actually win. And if the city wants that to happen, the campaign would have to be one the likes of which Portland has never seen before.

The boundaries of the district would have to encompass the whole city. Don't go beyond that, because voters in the outlying communities will be too distrusting. Don't go for less, because it looks too Mickey Mouse. If it's good for part of Portland, it's good for all of Portland.

City Hall would have to stand behind the PUD unwaveringly. (I am assuming that there's no legal problem with that, but I'm neither a utility lawyer nor a municipal government lawyer.) A management plan must be created, and a management team must be recruited, that will convince the voters that the PUD wll actually know what it's doing. None of this, "We'll find somebody to run this after we take it over, and they won't rip us off, trust us," which was the party line during the PGE takeover bid.

The people who are being offered to the voters as the directors of the PUD must all be people that the voters recognize and trust. The last time around, the proposed PUD board was a collection of bright, highly motivated people whose credentials as power company directors were, shall we say, not well established. And no one from the city lifted much of a finger to help. In that atmosphere, public power was no match for the big money that is always thrown up against it.

But picture another PUD election in a couple of years in which the city places its strong support squarely behind the initiative. Imagine a proposed PUD board with people on it like Tom Potter -- established names in whom voters have confidence. Business people like Sal Kadri. Heads of companies who rely heavily on electricity for their livelihoods. An economist. A couple of serious academics. And think of having experienced energy managers lined up, who know what they are doing and express a willingness to come work for a Portland PUD.

No offense to the smart and dedicated people who have worked hard for public power around here for decades, but get rid of the whole burned-out-hippie, anarchist image. No preaching about wind power, solar energy, and eco-roofs, and it's not a referendum on capitalism generally; if you want to win the election, you have to stifle all that for a while. Have local people who look like bankers and doctors front the whole thing. But no greasy Wall Street investment bankers or giant out-of-state law firms, please.

Then go out and do the hard work of selling the benefits to the voters. Make some promises that you know you can keep, in language that the average voter can understand. The Willamette Week looks like it would be on board. The Trib would be a tossup. The Oregonian would probably recommend a no vote, but really, who cares?

I'm a little skeptical of the benefits of public power, but I'm all ears. If done right, maybe public power could be a good thing for the city. But it would require finding first-rate help from capable industry hands, and taking the issue to the voters -- a course that our City Council seems unable, or too timid, to pursue.

The last time it was presented to Multnomah County voters, in 2003, a PUD went down by more than 2 to 1. It would be a steeply uphill battle, to be sure. It might take a couple of additional tries at the polls, and a series of external developments that push power prices up even further, to where they hurt so bad that they have everyone's undivided attention. But stranger things have happened.

One choice seems clear: Either we get a PUD, or Randy has to write op-ed pieces for a dozen more years, or even beyond. Now there's the scariest scenario of them all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Blizzard of lies

The folks on the editorial board over at The O keep me amused. Today they have this to say about the Portland police bureau's recordkeeping problems:

At City Hall, officials are poised to make Portland a national leader in cutting-edge wireless Internet networking. A sophisticated city-backed project called Unwire Portland aims to make high-speed wi-fi access available all over town.

Two blocks away, though, city police rely on technology right out of TV's old "Dragnet" show. The digital age may have begun in the previous century, but the Portland Police Bureau's criminal record-keeping is still being done essentially by hand....

Your basic last-century system, in other words. Such traditionalism might seem quaint in a Norman Rockwell sense, something akin to Portland's mounted patrols. Trouble is, the archaic record system is hurting crime-fighting in the city....

Portland's Pony-Express-style record collection no doubt helps explain some of the Police Bureau's problems....

Very perceptive comments. I liked them even better than when I wrote them here on Monday. I should send them a bill! As the kids say when they're caught in plagiarism, "Great minds think alike."

Not always, though. The editorial in Sunday's O about the "OHSU" aerial tram was full of baloney. I'm not a big one on "fisking," but a response is in order for several highly misleading points made in the editorial.

In three years, as The Oregonian's Fred Leeson reported recently, estimates of the tram's price have nearly tripled, going from $15.5 million to $45 million. Such a breathtaking increase undermines public confidence. However, it's reassuring to know that the proportion of the cost, borne by the public, hasn't grown. Currently, the public's share of the tab is less than 10 percent.
I guess the taxpayers of Oregon aren't "the public." Isn't OHSU a state university that receives a subsidy every year from the state government? Doesn't much of the rest of its funding come from the federal government? How many nontax dollars are in that tram budget? Precious few.
No money from the city's general fund -- used to support police, fire and other city services -- is going into the tram. The public's contribution will come from urban renewal dollars, flowing from the taxable value created by the South Waterfront development.
Two reactions here: (1) not true, and (2) irrelevant. First "no money from the general fund... is going into the tram." The city may be doing the accounting that way, but any property tax revenue being spent on this project takes money away from programs like fire, police, and other city services. Under Measures 49 and 50, there's an absolute maximum amount that property owners in Portland can be required to pay in property taxes every year. If it weren't for that legal limit, property taxes would be much higher. And so every property tax dollar spent on one thing means a dollar less is available to spend on something else. All the accounting smoke and mirrors that the city uses can't obscure that fact from most thoughtful observers, although apparently it's good enough to fake out the O.

Second, whether you call it "urban renewal dollars" or not, it's still property taxes. As I've noted here many times, 19 cents of every dollar I pay to the City of Portland in property taxes goes to "urban renewal." I do not live, nor have I ever lived, in an urban renewal district. You can call it anything you want, folks -- all of us who live in the city are paying for the tram, out of property taxes. The label they put on it at City Hall is meaningless, except to folks like the editors of the O.

The public's benefit from the tram is not confined to riding on it, of course. OHSU, with 11,400 employees, is one of the state's largest employers. By linking OHSU to the South Waterfront, the tram has triggered a $2 billion redevelopment of a rusted-out river front that will soon be an extension of downtown Portland.
Even if you accept this rosy picture, it all could have been done without an aerial tram. For $45 million, you could have bought a fleet of 450 stretch limos to chaffeur anyone who needs a ride up and down the hill on a moment's notice. And so far, very little of what's being built down there has anything to do with OHSU. To me, this looks like it's more about the Homer Williams condos than anything else.
Soon, the tram will be a trophy for OHSU, a tourist destination and a true transportation link.

Yes, and the O says it will be "snazzy," too -- a sure sign that it's a complete and total waste of money.

Finally, the editorial fails to call out the cost overrun on the tram for what it is -- clear evidence that the proponents of the project simply lied with their initial cost estimates. It's no surprise. In fact, scientific studies have shown that developers and transportation officials all over the U.S., and the world, routinely lie when pitching "infrastructure" projects to the dupes who pay for them.

But don't expect the O ever to say something like that about fellow members of the Arlington Club set. That's just not the way we do things in Portland.

Mkeas sesne to me

Tihs jsut in form the inetnret:

Can you raed tihs? Olny srmat poelpe can.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.

The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Amzanig huh? Yaeh, and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Buy music on CD, the spyware is free

Here's a disturbing tale about the latest bonehead move by the weasels in what's left of the music industry.


There's a potentially devastating avian flu pandemic coming our way sometime soon, and our government is far from being prepared. But the former frat president, now our President, is suddenly right on the case with one of his patented plans of action.

That's right: We have to pass a law that says if a drug company puts out a vaccine that kills or cripples you or your loved ones, you can't sue them. It's the only way to save mankind!

He's doing a heck of a job. Too bad there are only 1,175 days left 'til he's gone.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Ron's new tax code

I haven't see much about this in the local press, but one of Oregon's two senators, Ron Wyden (the Democratic one -- I think), has unveiled his proposal for a new federal income tax law, which he says is fairer, flatter, and simpler.

It's simpler, all right. And it's a little bit flatter -- rather than have six tax brackets of 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent, his plan would have only three -- 15, 25 and 35 percent. The big giveaway in the Code for capital gains (on corporate dividends and sales of many types of property) would be repealed entirely. The deduction for state and local taxes would be replaced by a 10 percent credit. The alternative minimum tax, which hits taxpayers from wealthy on down to the upper middle class (including yours truly), would get the boot.

The deductions for home mortgage interest payments and charitable contributions would be kept, but many other popular deductions would be terminated. (The mortgage deduction would apparently be limited to one home -- mortgage payments on the vacation home would no longer be deductible at all.) Workers would be taxable on many different kinds of fringe benefits (although employer contributions to health care and child care would still be tax-free), and "personal choice" and "flexible spending" accounts would be shut down.

You wouldn't be allowed to deduct work-related moving expenses, and gambling losses wouldn't be deductible, even against gambling winnings. Worker's comp and damages in personal injury cases would become taxable.

Corporate taxes would be jacked up to a flat rate of 35 percent, replacing a system of graduated rates that currently start at 15 percent.

Styled as a "flat tax," it looks a lot more like a Democrat income tax. There'd be lots of winners and losers. It will never pass. But it's worth discussing, especially as a counterpoint to the Bush blue ribbon panel's competing recommendations (which are likely to include a national sales tax or something similar). Everyone's in agreement that the tax code needs help, but there's no consensus building on what the fix is.

UPDATE, 8:10 p.m.: The Bush panel's final report came out today. More on that baby a little later.

It wasn't my idea

Well, there I am in the Tribune today. I hope this is it for my 15 minutes. I'm starting to feel like the Clarklewis restaurant -- good, but way overexposed for what it is. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and all that.

I'm afraid I'm becoming the Portland blogosphere's equivalent of Peter Frampton.

Welcome Stones

Especially Keith.

And congratulations on a spectacular new record.

"Ham?! Did you say 'low-fat ham'?!"

Remember Susan Powter, the "Stop the Insanity!" weight-loss gal from the early '90s? "A fat-free cookie is not food!" she'd scream on the infomercials in that husky voice of hers. She needs to revive her business up here in the Pacific Northwest. She could yell, "A convention center hotel paid for by the taxpayers is not economic development!"

An alert reader points out that, as Portland rushes like a lemming to build just such a heavily tax-subsidized hotel, one of our neighbors to the north has also drunk the Konvention Kool-Aid and ginned up a $79 million convention center expansion to compete with Portland. All the more reason to quit while we're behind.

Oh, and the contractor on the Spokane deal? Why, none other than Portland's Hoffman Construction, which built our own misguided convention center expansion -- this time around, in partnership with a Spokane outfit. That's gratitude for you, eh? I suppose that next they'll come back down and build the Hotel Elefante Blanco for us, too.

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