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

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July 2007 Archives

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Do I dare believe my eyes?

The state AG's office digging into one of the weekly scams at the Portland Development Commission? Unheard of.

OMSI debt cancellation may not go through

That controversial raid on weatherization funds to benefit the Portland science museum is drawing some unfavorable scrutiny.

The new projects

Whenever the City of Portland hosts a "design competition," it seems like another piece of the city's character is about to be sacrificed. Well, they're at it again. But this time, maybe the end product will be a bit more benign.

This time, Opie and the boys want to know how you can make inner-city high-density "courtyard" housing attractive to people with kids. Oh, and it has to be "sustainable," affordable, and "respect neighborhood character." Sound do-able? Maybe for families who don't need space, privacy, or quiet. If you think you've got the magic bullet, maybe you can win the prize.

Monday, July 30, 2007

You get what you pay for

YouTube seems a bit stuck at the moment. And there are a couple of YouTube "embeds" on the main page of this blog right now. Easy come, easy go! Please be patient.

Great Moment in Oregon Political History

Pork over priniciple

Ole Chuck Schumer sure knows how to act like a Republican every now and then.

It can't happen here

Can it?

Uh oh

The chief justice had a serious-sounding medical event today.

Mean girl out

Wanna be a Multnomah County commish? Here's your chance. No "clean money" for you, however.

Will Ikea pay property taxes?

A reader points out that Ikea is sitting on land leased to it by the Port of Portland. Is there some mechanism whereby the store will pay property taxes, directly or indirectly? Or will it have freedom from taxes as an advantage over its taxpaying competitors?

The O loves Gordon

Big banner headline today. "Smith... moderate," all on the same line, screaming across the top of the paper. Any doubt they'll endorse him for November '08?

Just what we need

A reader writes:

Perhaps you noticed that downtown is a bit torn up -- streets closed, traffic snarled, chaos galore. So it's clearly a perfect time to close three blocks of Sixth Avenue just south of Pioneer Courthouse Square for a few weeks for a massive Red Bull promotion! The city's not getting anything out of this, of course, other than the honor of taking part in the promotion. My favorite lunch cart vendor, who gave me the skinny on this, is none too pleased. I understand this is the doing of your favorite Commissioner, Sam Adams.

I try to avoid driving downtown at all, and either bike or take the bus in, but lately even walking around has been an activity fraught with peril and aggravation.

Anyway, I just thought you could add that anecdote to your catalogue of downtown woes.

Duly noted.

More creepy Catholicism

I don't know what's more depressing -- these clowns writing it or the O publishing it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ramping up

One of the new Portland City Hall reporters for the O has wasted no time in starting blogging on the new beat. Amanda's already kissing up impressed.

LeLo feels the love in NoPo

And how sweet it is.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's a jungle out there

Here's another scam that a guy needs to watch out for.

Like Tony Soprano, only a lot dumber

We all know that George Bush needs a psychiatrist. Here's a volunteer.

When you're stuck with your condo...

... it's particularly maddening that your developer is making it impossible for you to get rid of it. All you SoWhat "urban pioneers," enjoy!

Change of venue

David the "Welches stolen truck" con man, who told police he was giving up his thieving ways, may not be playing on downtown streets any more. But a reader notes that he was seen this morning in North Portland:

Hey there. Just wanted to first say, good for you for bringing everyone's attention to this con artist. I just saw him in North Portland this morning talking to someone. No doubt giving him the usual story. I confronted him and let him know I knew who he was and so did many others. I doubt he has stopped his tricks yet.... Wanted to wish you luck on finding him. If you speak to detectives, let them know he has been spotted over here.
Why am I not surprised?

They keep the Hood in Hood River

Looks like the constabulary out in the Gorge have been having an interesting summer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Have a great weekend

Un-Saif at any speed

I see that the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that Saif, the quasi-governmental (a.k.a. quasi-accountable) workers' compensation agency, is "private" enough to be sued for alleged violations of people's federal constitutional rights. As it should be.

Could this be a harbinger of where the court's going on the OHSU liability limit lawsuit? Only time will tell. The Legislature didn't do a darn thing with that one, as far as I can see. I'm sure the old boys and girls on the hill are hoping the court will let them off the hook without having to go groveling before the legislators in the upcoming special session.

The precise legal issues in the cases are different, but the moral and policy issues are the same. These vaguely defined pork pots that the Goldschmidt crew have created want things both ways -- public when you try to sue them, but private when you want to watch over what they're doing. The new Saif decision strikes a blow against that.

A community builder on his birthday

Paul Caron, a beloved professor at the law school at the University of Cincinnati, turns 50 years old today. Like me, Caron is a tax professor; also like me, he's way into the whole internet thing. Here he is on "vacation," working from the front porch of his in-laws' beach place, where the wi-fi reception's better:

In addition to winning prizes for his teaching, and drawing prestigious gigs as a consultant, Caron is an accomplished publisher of information about law in general, and tax law in particular. When not busy authoring a raft of articles and books, he serves as the series editor for a couple of lines of books by other writers -- one telling the stories of historic legal cases and the other teaching advanced courses in tax law. On the internet, he edits several electronic journals; perhaps more importantly, he owns and moderates a blog and an e-mail discussion group where professors and professionals get to compare notes on what's going on in the ever-changing tax system.

Last weekend, posting on his TaxProf Blog about another writer's work, Caron took a personal turn and explained why he blogs: "My goal with this blog and companion email discussion group is to enhance the feeling of community among tax academics, practitioners, and government officials. My hope is that the tax world is a more interconnected place as a result of these efforts."

Without question, it is.

Caron's written some other things recently as well. We blogged about one of them here. He may be a tax nerd, but he is one with a huge heart.

So best wishes to Paul as he celebrates this major odometer turn. Just think -- by the time he hits the next milestone this big, he will be eligible to receive distributions from an entity described by Section 4974(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, without incurring the additional tax specified in Section 72(t) thereof. Have a great day, friend.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pathetic Politician of the Month

Now that Farhad "Fred" Monem, the Oregon prison food bribery dude, has waltzed away and gone on the lam after six months of playing footsie with federal authorities, state Attorney General Hardy Myers (a.k.a. Hardly Matters) has woken up and gotten around to filing a lawsuit against him for racketeering.

That's pitiful. If I were Myers, I would be hiding my face in my PERS account and not calling attention to my appallingly bad performance in this and so many other cases of official corruption in the Beaver State.

The end

The Seattle psychologist with the hidden camera in the ladies' room of his office -- a big player in the Catholic priest sex abuse scandals up that way -- has taken his own life.

Gearing up to bomb Iran

That's what this post would have us believe.

Cops have a chat with the "Welches" con man

Portland police tell KGW they have confronted David, the "Welches stolen truck" con man, and told him he had better cease his fraudulent activities on the city's streets. Apparently he has told them he was going home and changing his ways.

I hope they didn't actually buy that. But at least, their talking to him is a start.

Keep your eyes peeled, readers. I'm sure he'll be back in business soon.

A new hazard in downtown Portland

A reader writes:

The last couple of weeks downtown I've seen the transit security using Segways... not just a couple, but numerous. Wondering where the cash came for those... and why? Downtown is all torn up... there are makeshift bridges across 5th and 6th where they are putting in the tracks... and the temporary transit mall and Max stops are much too crowded during peak commute times to be scooting in and out of people. I saw one guy yesterday just flying down the sidewalk in front of Tiffany's. Do they apprehend riders??

Which one's lying?

The Attorney General of the United States? Or the director of the FBI?

Doesn't matter much. The Chimp will pardon whichever one it is.

"On American soil"

These are the new code words being bandied about by the only hope for the Republican Party: the Cheney-Bush Fear Machine. Mike "Katrina" Chertoff and other suits of the G.O.P. persuasion keep talking about these premonitions they've been having of a spectacular "terist" attack in the United States before the year is up. Of course, this gets everybody's tin foil helmets on, and you can read the wingnuts on both sides pretty easily with a simple Google search.

I will say this: I do not trust anything called "homeland security" for a New York second -- the time it takes to implode an office building.

SoWhat fantasies already starting to crumble

There's a hysterical piece on the Oregonian website (or whatever the heck it is) about Portland's SoWhat District. "Early growing pains" is what the spin doctors at the O are calling the emerging situation.

That's an interesting way to put it. Suddenly the gullible folks who decided to locate their businesses in SoWhat are discovering that there's nowhere for anybody to park, and that the street "system" is laughable compared to the traffic burden it's now being expected to bear. "Parking seems to have been an afterthought," the one retailer says. "That really surprised us."

Wrong, buddy. It was a non-thought. Everybody's supposed to "go by streetcar!" You must have missed that meeting.

Too funny.

Then one of the architecture dandies on the city Design Commission starts mouthing off about how the poodle poop park down there isn't being built fast enough:

Michael McCulloch, a member of the Portland Design Commission, which enforces city height regulations in the urban renewal area... thinks the Bureau of Parks & Recreation has waited too long to plan improvements for a two-acre grassy patch to be known as South Waterfront Neighborhood Park.
Hey, Mikey, nice job on the "design" down there -- especially, great "enforcement" of those height restrictions. The "view corridors" are really something. The buildings turned out like the teeth of a fine-tooth comb, just like you promised. Reminds me of Vancouver, B.C. and Barcelona. They're absolute linchpins. Plus an aerial tram [rim shot].

But I digress. As for the timetable on the park, let's see... the city forked over $7 million in cold cash to condemn those two acres -- seven freakin' million. Then somebody had to pay to (a) get rid of the tenants who had storage lockers there; (b) knock down the storage facility; (c) clean up toxic waste in the ground, and (d) plant the grass that's currently there for the SoWhat hotties' lhasa apsos to relieve themselves on. Nobody's ever reported what all those additional, post-acquisition costs came to exactly, but let's be conservative and say $2 million.

That's $9 million of public money spent on that little neighborhood park, and counting. Of that, $1 million was raided on an emergency basis from the parks bureau's budget, and at last report there was another $800,000 slated to be steered away from the city's other worthy park projects for the SoWhat patch of green. If you and your pals have to wait a little while longer for us to burn another multi-million-dollar bundle so that you can turn that lot into another Randy Gragg fantasy moonscape, that's life. Pipe down about it.

Meanwhile, remember those hot condo sales? "We sold the whole tower out in a day!" yada yada. Well, that's all history now. Old Homer Williams was crying the blues about it in Tuesday's O, under some fake cheery headline or other:

Williams says they sold 30 to 50 condos a month when they started. "That wasn't sustainable," he says. "A lot of it was investors, speculators."

Now, Williams says they sell three to four a month. Given the slowdown, Williams says the next riverfront condo tower likely won't start construction until late 2008. Williams says he isn't worried about the slowdown. He expects the market inventory to level out in the next six months or so. But right now, Williams says of condos: "You wouldn't want any more."

I've been saying that for years, chief. Finally, we see eye to eye.

SoWhat doesn't have "growing pains." SoWhat is a pain, you know where. And no surprise in these quarters, the pain is growing every day.

Gordon courts the tribes

The junior U.S. senator from Oregon introduced a bill the other day that would give tribal governments essentially the same power that states have to issue bonds (i.e., borrow money), the interest on which would be exempt from federal income taxation when collected by the bondholders (lenders). The measure's been shipped over to the Senate Finance Committee, where both he and the senior senator from Oregon are members.

The measure is co-sponsored by the chair of that committee, Max Baucus (D-Montana), and the same measure has been introduced in the House by Xavier Becerra, who also doesn't sound too Republican to me. That old Gordon sure is a smoothie.

Maybe "courts" is the wrong word, since many Oregon tribes have already endorsed him without even knowing who his opponent might be. "Pays back," perhaps?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Apologies to Darius

I took a cheap shot at Blazer Darius Miles today. Given his antics over the years, it's not totally undeserved.

But then someone told me something about him that I didn't know. Click this and scroll down. Maybe he's not such a bad guy to have around after all. In any event, this ain't the time to beat on him. My apologies.

I didn't know they had outlawed it

At least not if you didn't tie yourself up or anything...

Fly in the ointment

Blazer fans: Don't get those playoff hopes up too high just yet. Word has it that Darius Miles is still very much with the team. If he's around the locker room and on the bench, he may have Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge shot in a strip club parking lot by Christmas.

Q & A

A reader writes:

Have you parked in the garage near the airport recently? I was there yesterday and each spot has a sensor installed above it with two lights -- red for occupied, green for empty. And each row has a readout at the end of how many spaces are available in each. Seems like a lot of money for the Port to spend on this gadget. Can't people be smart enough to know how to navigate a parking garage anymore?
Dear reader:

We checked with the Port, and we are assured that those lights were actually installed for free by Bechtel in exchange for development rights on the Ikea lot. The original plan was for the lights to be strung on condo buildings in the "urban village" during the holidays, but of course the tragedy of 9/11 ruined all that.

An interesting but often overlooked feature is that the lights are programmed to blink continuously for 30 seconds as each batch of meatballs becomes available.

The installation in the airport garage is part of an ongoing pilot project. If the system works there, similar lights will soon be installed over each pothole in the City of Portland, alerting motorists as to whether there is already a vehicle fallen into the hole.

Above the law

I wish I were making this up. It looks as though two of the Chimp's best people are going to be held in contempt of Congress. But he doesn't care, because he'll just have Rove order Gonzales to order the U.S. attorney in D.C. not to pursue the charges.

He's doing such a great job, I think they ought to cut our leader some slack.

Just checking

You know all that money the City of Portland has borrowed to build all the pretty infrastructure in the Pearl and SoWhat districts? It's all going to be paid out of increased property taxes as values keep rising.


And if there's a problem with that, we'll figure out something.

His name is David

Thanks to Kyle Iboshi at KGW, Margie Boulé at the O, and especially the readers of this blog, we now know more about Portland's "Welches stolen truck" con man than we ever dreamed of knowing.

It turns out that our visions of a wily scam artist who's amassing a fortune out of his clever sob story do not entirely match the reality. Indeed, except for his unusual tactics and stunning skills, it's a sadly familiar tale. As told by more than one reader, it goes like this:

The con man's name is David. He's an Oregon native in his early 40s. He has a very common last name, which isn't really important unless you're a police officer or a mental health worker who wants to get involved -- and if you are, just e-mail us and we'll give it to you. David is a personable, intelligent man who had a legitimate life going for a while.

Then, according to our readers, he got into drugs and trashed everything. Nowadays apparently he's homeless, at least in the summer, and he goes in and out of rehab when it gets too cold to sleep under a bridge. He'd rather con than work. Much of the cash he gets from rubes like me on Portland streets, they say, goes for drugs.

There's lots more, but why go into it? The real question now is, "So what? Homeless guy with a drug habit, stealing to get what he craves. That ain't much of a story." And there ain't much that The System is going to be able to do to help a guy like that, especially if he doesn't want help.

In this case, though, it's such a waste. Such a waste.

Last week, we wanted this guy locked up, and the key thrown away. Given the silence we're hearing from the authorities about his case, we seriously doubt that anything like that is going to happen. Nor is our slipshod mental health "system" likely to be of much avail. The next chapter? We wish we knew.

The story probably isn't going to have a happy ending. A reader pointed out that he was still out there, telling his canned lie word for word, by the Safeway downtown last night just before midnight.

At least we can all refrain from playing any further part in the tragic outcome. Don't give David the money he wants to destroy himself any further.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Welches" con man on KGW News tonight!

I have it on good authority that a KGW News camera crew followed the infamous "Welches stolen truck" con man around downtown for a while today, just a few blocks from where I met him a week ago. They asked him for an interview, and he declined. The long version of the story is apparently slated for the 6:00 news this evening.

Meanwhile, Margie Boulé's column on the story this morning has brought out numerous additional victims and sightings. Even a few sketchy leads as to the guy's identity.

According to some readers, he is not a high-rolling swindler but a much lower life form with some bad habits.

But he's famous now, and his con game may be just about over. This is just too good. Thanks to everyone who's been helping shut him down.

UPDATE, 6:06 p.m.: The KGW story and video are here. That's him on the video, all right. Classic.

UPDATE, 7:15 p.m.: Several readers have supplied a name (they corroborate each other), but we do not yet have an address.

Opportunity knocks

Have you ever wanted to oversee the giveaway of hundreds of thousands of scarce local tax dollars to pay for politicians' campaign flyers, lawn signs, robo-phone calls, push polls, office rent, and pizza for volunteers? If you said yes, here's your chance to become a Portland citizen campaign commissioner.

It's a great gig. Rest assured you won't be wasting your valuable time checking to see if people are lying to you before you give them their "clean money." Nor will you be drafting language for a ballot measure to let the city's taxpayers decide whether they'd rather spend this money fixing broken traffic signals and crumbling streets. More likely, you'll be making adjustments to the system, which you will find is "still working" while you're "tweaking" it.

You'll become a tweaker.

Be famous. This time around, the election's going to be truly historic: Sam Adams will take Mayor McPothole's job, and Randy Leonard will coast to re-election. See there? The new blood and diversity that "voter-owed elections" are all about.

Actually, there will be one wide-open City Council race with a full slate of candidates, most or all of whom will likely have their hands out to the taxpayers for six figures apiece. Probably several of the usual suspects from last time, plus the new guy in the floating bus. Maybe we can break a million bucks, and wind up with someone who shares Sam the Tram's bold new visions of streetcars that run without using energy. You do want to be on the inside for that, don't you?

Let's see, whom will they put on this board? Chris Smith will be tied up running for something, so he's out.... Probably one or two union people, a Bus kid, a long-time city bureaucrat, and maybe a true believer from a nonprofit that's all ga-ga about campaign finance reform. Skeptics on the commission? Don't hold your breath.

Another "Welches stolen truck" con man sighting

A reader writes:

I work downtown in a convenience store, and I saw your guy tonight. He was even wearing the same shirt. (Sun club?) While he looks familiar, I don't recall a particular run-in with him. He took one look at me, said "Oh s**t, you're working," and started to leave. Then he asked for four quarters, and I obliged. He was packing $40-$50 that I saw. He was hanging out with one of the regular crackheads, and they didn't stay out front very long.

Sadly, he is one of many that pull this type of thing on a daily basis... On the east side, most folks of this ilk carry a gas can or a diaper bag, and use that as their prop.

I just wish I could remember why *I* make him nervous...

Happy hunting.

Hot coals

It's the day that so many have waited so long for -- the semi-annual bar exam, here in Oregon and all over the country. Good luck to all the test takers out there who are undergoing the ordeal today and tomorrow.

Fight clubs, slave tunnels, and gambling dens

The Lents urban renewal area? No, Portland as a whole 100 years ago -- "the most dangerous port in the world." See it all on cable.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The bad shepherds

Fascinating piece in the L.A. Times this weekend about how covering the Catholic priest child sex abuse scandals wrecked one reporter's own faith. A poignant moment comes at the very end of the article, where he tells his Portland story.

As another writer puts it today: "The church I loved was an international conspiracy for the abuse of children and the protection of their abusers...."

You know you want one

A puppy!

Life is mysterious

A reader who doesn't like the five-building condo project going in at NW 24th and Westover in Portland writes us to complain. Construction activity has seemed nonexistent for weeks now, she says, and yet the sidewalk remains blocked off, and now parking has been prohibited across the street. What is going on over there? she asks.

I have no idea.

Outsourcing, Salem-style

The State of Oregon hired a Boise, Idaho law firm to defend it in the priest sex abuse lawsuits involving former inmates at the MacLaren youth jail. The legal tab has run north a million bucks so far.

O.k., that's pretty outrageous. But it gets better: The guy running the show on the case at that Boise law firm had just left the Oregon Justice Department before his firm took the cases:

Retracing the reasons for hiring outside lawyers, state officials said it made sense to contract with the Boise firm because of Tharp's prior knowledge and experience about the Sprauer lawsuits.

Tharp worked for the DOJ as a state assistant attorney general when the original lawsuits were filed in 2003-04. They wound up on his desk, and he performed much of the initial work on the state's defense.

In 2005, Tharp stepped down from the DOJ and joined the Boise firm of Greener, Banducci and Shoemaker.

Tharp's former bosses then scooped him up as a special assistant attorney general, hired to work for the state on a contract. His hourly billing rate: $215.

The Statesman-Journal does a bang-up job with the story, all of which can be found here.

Portland: We're geezer-ific

The Rose City has just made the new AARP list of the five best places in the country to live (and retire):

European charm meets environmental nirvana in this environmentally progressive city. 50-plus residents love the miles of safe bike lanes and the revitalized Pearl District.

I'm glad I don't live in Newark, N.J....

... most days.

34 candles

Happy birthday to "that woman."

Donaghy and the Blazers

Pro basketball fans all over the country are now looking back to see how their favorite teams fared in games refereed by Tim Donaghy, who's resigned from NBA officiating while under investigation for allegedly gambling on, and fixing, games. The most significant of his games -- and the most questionable -- was last season's crucial Game 3 in the playoff series between the Spurs and the Suns. It was one of the most bizarre refereeing jobs ever seen, and now perhaps it's not so hard to understand why.

So what about the Blazers? Donaghy officiated three of their regular season games last year -- two in Portland and one on the road. The Blazers were 0-3 in those games, and so the home team was 1-2. The favorite won all three games, beating the spread two out of three times. The home team beat the spread in the one game that it won; the visiting team was 1-1 against the spread. In the over-and-under betting (where the refs can really have an influence), it was 2 over to 1 under.

The first game, my daughter and I attended. It was at the Rose Garden, November 12 against the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas was favored to win by 6, and in fact won by 7. The over-and-under point for the game (gamblers bet on whether the total points scored in the game will be more or less than that amount) was 188; the final score totaled 199 (over). There were 48 personal fouls and 2 technical fouls called.

The second game was again in Portland, with the Blazers facing the Orlando Magic on December 1. Orlando was favored to win by 4; it won by 2. The over-and-under was 189; the final score, 180 (under). There were 41 personal fouls called.

The third meeting was January 29 in Oklahoma City, the Blazers visiting the Hornets. The "home" team was favored by 5.5; it won by 12. The over-under was 179; the final score, 194 (over). There were 39 personal fouls called.

Not much of a pattern emerging anywhere there, that I can see. But hey, who knows which other referees we might be looking up once the depth of the scandal is revealed?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A linchpin too tall

There are more fun and games going on in Portland's sister city to the south -- San Diego. Looks like they have an eight-member municipal government ethics commission turning over some rocks these days.

Wonder what would happen if we had one of those up here...

Here's the "Welches stolen truck" con man!

An alert reader has photographed the infamous con man who has talked Portlanders out of untold thousands of dollars in "cab money" on the streets over the last four years. (See prior posts here and here.) He was giving his spiel (same one he gave me on Tuesday afternoon) last night when the reader popped out his camera:

The reader writes:

He started his story down on the corner of NW Couch and Broadway around 11PM.

I almost started laughing when he uttered his first question, "Are you guys familiar with Welches, OR?" As my friend listened and actually started going for his wallet, I quietly pulled out my camera phone and took his picture. Enjoy.

We will indeed -- especially on Monday morning, when we call the cops.

This guy has committed theft by deception dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands, of times. He is a complete fraud. DO NOT GIVE MONEY TO HIM UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!

And if you can tell us who he is and where he lives, we've got a $60 cash reward -- all information about you to be kept confidential. Just drop a dime by e-mailing what you know here.

UPDATE, 7/24, 7:18 p.m.: Several readers have supplied a name (they corroborate each other), but we do not yet have an address.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rename the Portland Beavers?

As one of the 17 people watching the Portland minor league baseball team on television tonight, I was treated to a discussion of the question whether the team should change its name. It seems there's too much potential confusion between the Portland Beavers and the Oregon State Beavers (two-time college national champs), and the new owners of the pro team are thinking about changing its name.

But what would they change it to? Sometimes the minor league teams take the name of the major league team with which they are affiliated. These days, Portland is linked to the San Diego Padres. Back when they were affiliated with the Colorado Rockies, they were called the Portland Rockies.

Some teams go with a slight variation of the major league team name. For example, tonight Portland's playing the AAA team in the Arizona Diamondback organization -- they're called the Tucson Sidewinders. And so rather than call themselves the Portland Padres, perhaps they could go with a synonym for "Padres." The Portland Pedophile Priests?

Anyway, to make your views known on the change-vs.-no-change issue, you can go here.

Doctors break bad news to Bush

"No, we didn't find any WMDs."

Just say no

Look who Bush wants to put on the Third Circuit.

Give me a break.

You knew it all along

A tiny brain is no barrier to working for a government tax agency. (Via TaxProf Blog.)

I hate spoilers

They wreck it for people who wanted to read it for themselves.

Nice shot

There's a pretty darn good news photo attached to this story.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Memo to David Stern

You need to spend more time with your family.

Quotation of the Week

The United States has fought the war in Iraq as if history, strategy, maneuver, preparation, foresight, fact, integrity and common sense did not exist.

Have you heard the Wal-Mart flip-flop story yet?

It's making the rounds. I can believe it.

Roughing it

Interesting story in the latest Portland Water Bureau newsletter. Last week something went wrong up on Council Crest, and people in 24 West Hills homes had to have their domestic servants boil water for them for a day or so.

Vick's been nixed by Nike

Nike has pulled all its Michael Vick products from its online store. But for now you can still see a few of them in Google caches.

Take one last look.

Bush gets Couric-ed

We would be remiss if we didn't mention that the Chimp will be undergoing the old colonoscopy again tomorrow, with Nasty Dick serving as acting president for at least a few hours. As a two-time veteran of this exam, I am well aware of why it is necessary -- particularly in Bush's case, since they did find a small and inconsequential growth the last time he had the procedure five summers ago.

Actually, the prep for the test is worse than the test itself. Tonight Bush will be drinking some wicked stuff that will.... Let's put it this way: This is the only time he will emit even more unstable cr*p than at his press conferences.

Have a great weekend

Is the NBA fixed?

People rag on me when I say that professional sports officials deliberately affect the outcomes of games. But apparently the FBI shares my views.

Qwest cable TV coming to Portland?

That's the plan, apparently. Can't imagine that competition with the current monopoly could be a bad thing for consumers. More details are here.

End of an era

I got a new debit card in the mail the other day, which means that it's time to cut up my old one. And since the institution that issued the cards has changed its name, I'm about to destroy the last one I'll ever have with the old name:

I remember what Portland Teachers was like when I first signed up as a member, 20 years ago or more. You had to have a bona fide connection to employment at a school in the Portland area to become a member. Interest rates on savings accounts were high, interest rates on loans were super low, and the place was run on the cheap so that every last dollar of benefit could be squeezed out on behalf of faculty, administrators, and staff at educational organizations. It was a place where a school janitor could get a cheap line of credit and scare up a few thousand bucks for a year or two if needed. Sure, it was inconveniently located and the systems were primitive, but it was an institution at which little guys could find a deal. It was popular.

That era is most definitely over. Interest rates on savings are scandalously low, interest rates on loans aren't that much better than you'd get at a bank, and the last time I checked the CEO was raking in a cool $1.6 million a year in compensation. Oh, and if you dare to speak up and challenge him and his board about it, they're as nasty as nasty can be. You riffraff stay in your place.

Anybody can join any more, but now why would you want to? They're not as bad as the thieves at most of the banks, but they're just a very thin cut above. The place that had the good deals for little guys is just now a weird little form of bank. Ain't that America.

Freedom to flick your Bic

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are funny, but they can't hold a candle to the comedy that comes out of the Cheney-Bush administration every day. The latest: The airport security people are going to start letting you bring cigarette lighters on airplanes again, because you could have always lit a bomb with matches or batteries, anyway. Besides, few of the TSA attendants smoke, and so there's no sense in their taking your lighter off you.

I don't smoke, but I may start bringing a lighter on board so that I can dump out the highly flammable material before heading to the airport and smuggle in some drinking water.

A guy named Kip Hawley, assistant secretary for the Transportation Security Administration, is quoted today as saying of the old prohibition: “Taking lighters away is security theater. It trivializes the security process.”

Similarly, scratching one's rear with a palm frond trivializes the gluteal itch abatement process. Kip, my man, what about the rest of it? Like the day a few months ago when they confiscated my three-year-old's play dough. We wouldn't want to trivialize that, huh, Kip old buddy? Getting out of the Denver airport a few weeks ago, the line was so long -- literally hundreds of fat, shiny Americans shuffling back and forth in the switchbacks waiting to take their nasty sweatshop tennis shoes and belts off -- it was like something out of the old "Outer Limits," only in color and smell-o-vision. I felt so much better to see that they were making the suicide bombers take their video cameras out of the cases.

The whole Cheney-Bush administration has been one big "security theater." We made bin Laden pour out his latte.

Bad sign

"Don't worry, folks. It's not terrorism. It's just our infrastructure falling apart some more."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

$100 in rewards for the "Welches stolen truck" con man

The other day I blogged about being conned out of a few bucks by a sharp-talking guy who purported to be the victim of a truck theft. Something about needing cab fare so that he could get back to Welches. The post is here.

It turned out, I'd been had. This guy has been pulling this con around Portland -- particularly around transit stops -- for many years (two readers were victimized by him in separate incidents four years ago). Unbeknownst to me, Margie Boulé had written a couple of columns about the dude back in February 2006. Among other things, she pointed out that what he was doing then (and is still doing now) constitutes the crime of theft by deception. She urged people who are approached by the man to take his photo with their cell phone cameras and send it in. Somehow my dedication to reading Boulé columns lapsed during that critical juncture, and my ignorance cost me some hard cash the other day on the transit mall.

O.k., live and learn. But tonight, as I'm jogging home from Lloyd Athletic Club, what to my wondering eyes does appear but the con man himself, strolling south along NE Ninth between Weidler and Broadway. I couldn't believe it! I confronted the guy -- demanded my money back and called him a bunch of names that he richly deserves. I also told him that I was going to use the internet to put his sorry self out of business.

He looked at me with a stoned-out mug and told me he didn't have my money to give back to me.

Now, the temptation to take a swing at this guy's face was about as strong as I've ever felt. But I decided that I didn't need that aggravation, and besides, I wanted to finish my run. Energized by the jolt of adrenaline, what had begun as a tired workout became a livelier one as I made my way home. I cussed him out loudly as long as he was within earshot. He just crossed Weidler, heading south, no doubt ready to pull his act on some unsuspecting rube at a nearby Max stop. I'm sure he's laughing at me right now in some bar.

But I'm not through with this guy. I'm calling on all readers of this blog to help me carry through on my vow to bring him down. I'm offering a cash reward of $50 for an accurate identification of the con artist -- real name and address -- and another reward of $50 for just a photo of decent enough quality that an identification might at some point be made. I suspect there's already a photo of this creep in police files somewhere -- no doubt taken when he was booked for some sort of fraud. Maybe an internet sleuth could pick it up.

He looks like he's in his mid- to late 30s, around 6 feet tall. He's got a gut on him -- he eats well off the stolen money -- and so I'd put his weight at around 190 to 200. Not grossly obese, but not slight of build by any means. He's got a solid brown beard, closely cropped but running all the way down his neck. He wears a baseball cap. Tonight he had on a blue T-shirt that said "Sun" something or other -- maybe "Sun City." He's had a pained expression on his face the whole times I've seen him.

He should be easier to catch than apparently has proven to be the case. His spiel is just about the same every time. He's a flooring contractor from Welches (or Zigzag). His truck was just stolen, and his wallet was in it. The cops won't come out to help him because there was no bodily harm or accident. He has his truck keys to show you. He can get as far as Sandy on the bus, but to get from Sandy to Welches, he needs $25 for cab fare.

To make nailing the guy easier, it seems that he may frequent the same locations to pull his con. The very first commenter on the post the other day told of being swindled by this fine fellow at the corner of NE Ninth and Broadway. Where I saw him this evening was less than a block from there. He's worked the Portland State area pretty hard, at least for a while. Other commenters placed him at the Max station at 60th and Sandy; at the QFC at 55th and Burnside; and at NE Broadway and 23rd. In the Boulé columns, he was working SW Second and Stark on at least two occasions; NE Broadway and Lloyd Center were also mentioned there. When he got me earlier this week, he was doing his thing along SW Third near Pine.

Reports also came in to Boulé from folks who were conned at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, on Northeast Grand Avenue, near Laurelhurst Park, on NW 23rd, in Milwaukie, in Vancouver, in Lake Oswego, on NE Sandy, near the Safeway in downtown Portland, and at Southeast Milwaukie and Bybee. (If you want to read those columns and have a Multnomah County Library card, you should be able to do so by going here and figuring out a few more clicks.)

He's got little embellishments. With me, he started with "Are you from this area?" and "Do you know where Welches is?" and he ended with "I just moved up here from California." In the Boulé column, he started with "Do you know where NW 23rd is?" He's pretty dang convincing, but when confronted, he appears to be just a smart aleck with a drug or alcohol problem to go with his neuroses.

Nothing would please me more than to use this blog to remove this vermin from our streets. Somebody out there has got to know who this guy is. Make yourself a quick fifty or hundred -- legitimately. All information about you will be kept confidential.

And if anyone has got any additional description of this crook or his game, please let us have it in the comments.

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: A reader has pledged to kick in another $20 toward the rewards. So it's now $60 for a photo and $60 for an accurate identification. Send your information here.

UPDATE, 7/22, 4:05 a.m.: We now have his photo.

UPDATE, 7/24, 7:17 p.m.: Several readers have supplied a name (they corroborate each other), but we do not yet have an address.

Bully for you, chilly for me

Don't believe everything you read on the internet.

Myth America

Here's an interesting idea that could be of great value, if it's kept ideology-free (a vain hope, perhaps).

Shape of things to come

Apropos of yesterday's post about Portland's financial future is this story from our neighbors to the south.

Cooperating with the inevitable

Guess who's talking about going condo in Seattle.

A Vietnam victory at the airport

Maybe an Ikea store and a light-rail line out by the Portland airport aren't a complete disaster. But let's face it, the 10 years of "urban village" planning malarkey regarding development in that area was nothing but unadulterated methane being blown by Vera, Charlie Hales, Opie, Big Pipe, and all the Goldschmidt boys and girls at the Port, at Tri-Met, and at the PDC.

"It was all going fine 'til 9/11.... Nobody noticed that it's too noisy out there for people to live.... Nobody noticed that retailers wanted more space than we were going to let them have.... The retail market changed unexpectedly...." Sure.

This is "planning"?

But what the hey, looks like Bechtel made out. And Neil got his fees, of course. That much was never in doubt.

Maybe they thought he was Cat Stevens

This story is troubling.

Let the sunshine in

Wow, the U.S. House of Representatives brings us three great developments in a single day -- can't remember the last time that happened (probably decades ago). Today's BNA Daily Tax Report tells us:

1. In a surprise move quickly welcomed by the tax community, the House Judiciary Committee approved language to prohibit patents of tax planning methods.

2. The House Ways and Means Committee votes 23-18 to kill IRS's private debt collection program...

3. The Ways and Means Committee unanimously approves a bill (H.R. 3046) aimed at curbing identity theft by limiting the sale and display of Social Security numbers. The measure, approved 41-0, would prohibit businesses from selling or purchasing Social Security numbers, except in limited cases, including for tax purposes and ensuring the accuracy of credit and insurance underwriting information.

All three welcome moves by the House. Tax patents; the IRS handing out people's tax information to private collection agencies; people selling your Social for $75 -- it's all insanity, and it should have done away with long ago. As the kids at BlueOregon say, elections matter.

Behind closed doors with Nasty Dick

The super-duper-top secret list of people who met with the 2001 energy task force run by the megalomaniacal psychopath also known as the Vice President of the United States is now finally public, thanks to a leak. It was mostly all oil people, of course, with some environmentalists herded in for window dressing toward the end. Nobody's surprised. All the secrecy was apparently for its own sake -- to show everybody who the boss was.

Great job you've done with the country and the world, boss! Nothing but right calls on energy and the environment ever since. America's future is rosier than ever. Fred Thompson for President!

But hey -- interesting sidelight: One of the people who was granted an audience with the wizard was Bill Nesmith of the Oregon Department of Energy. That office has always creeped me out. The whole Oregon House delegation was in there at one point, too. Earl -- you devil!

All rise

You'd think that after the whole Keizer traffic post episode, they would have stayed away from this theme...

Presidential bumper stickers

Edwards's "almost seems insane and daring." But Rudy's "is the best of them all."

Read the whole thing here. (Via Manage This.)

I don't think Darius will be going with him

The grapevine says that Portland hoopster Ime Udoka is about to be let go to be signed by the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

Bad break for the governor

Only kidding, of course. Best wishes for a successful procedure and quick recovery for Ted K.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Get close to power

BlueOregon is looking for an intern. Yuks aside, at $400 a month to surf and blog, on behalf of good people, it's a great gig. (Note to self: See if they require an in-person interview.)

More on the Spokane torture shrinks

We've blogged about this before. This week Vanity Fair has an update.

Comforting news

Just when everybody's noting how dangerous Al Qaeda's become once again, thanks to our good buddies running Pakistan and the excellent strategery coming from the White House, along comes a new executive order to make us all feel safer.

Think the wording's a little overbroad? Tell it to Tony Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- ha ha! No, really. We're at war. We're fighting ter. Don't say anything.

Guess who got away

The Oregon prison food scam guy. When it comes to cleaning up public corruption in these parts, you'd have to say the feds are doing a heck of a job.

The Sicko effect

Here's an interesting story about the tremendous impact that Michael Moore's latest flick is apparently having.

Tick tick tick

We're starting to see the seams of the City of Portland's finances. The city's in a transportation crisis -- without new taxes, Sam the Tram tells us, our roads will be ever more dangerous and people will die. Meanwhile, the city continues to borrow tens of millions after tens of millions to slap up new infrastructure for the condo jungles. It also finds multi-million-dollar "surpluses" to spend on frills while holding workshops about the lack of funds for basic functions.

How long will it be before fundamental financial problems become apparent? It seems to me that it will come soon -- soon after the next mayoral election, perhaps. You can only play games with your debt for so long before it comes home to bite you. And there's a clear trend emerging toward stricter accountability in municipal finance -- which is bad news for spendthrift cities like Portland.

We've already blogged here about a new set of rules under which the city will have to report more squarely its future obligations to pay for retirees' health care. Commenters pointed out that Portland actually doesn't provide too much in that area, and so maybe that's a bullet dodged.

But since that post, another set of rules has been unveiled that could change radically how the city reports its massive pension liabilities to police and firefighters. As in, change it from denial to stark reality. The city's voters recently voted to put a band-aid over this gushing artery, but if the true picture starts to show up prominently on the city's financial statements, watch out. The new rules, known to the bean counters as GASB 50, are effective for the fiscal year that just began a couple of weeks ago. That means you won't actually see the impact on the financials until the June 30, 2008 set, which won't be released until after the new mayor is sworn in in early 2009.

Today comes another brick in the wall -- the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission is telling Congress that municipal finance reporting is currently so scary that the board which regulates that field -- the Government Accounting Standards Board -- needs to be given new powers.

The City Hall types around the country are screaming just the opposite. They want the GASB disbanded altogether. They don't like an oversight board telling them how to prepare their books. They do like borrowing money, though -- there is something like $2.4 trillion in municipal bonds outstanding these days (no joke).

I do hope that Congress is smart enough to heed the SEC chief's warnings. And I can't wait for the day when the average person in Portland realizes what's been done, and continues to be done, to the city's finances. I'm sure Sam the Tram will have somebody else to blame it on -- probably someone who will be dead by then.

What does Hillary stand for?

Besides Hillary. If anything.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Banished to the real estate section

I see that the O is bouncing their Portland City Hall reporters off that beat. In fact, all sorts of writers at that paper are reportedly having their jobs re-defined -- again.

Like most Advance (Newhouse) newspapers, the O is always shuffling its reporters around. Just when they start to learn the subjects on which they've been writing for a few years, off they are sent to some new, unfamiliar, and often heaven-forsaken assignment. One day you're covering Portland City Hall, the next day you're writing up the doings of the Gresham fire department. One day you're covering First Thursday, the next day you're an urban renewal expert. It's like term limits for politicians, only a lot shorter and less predictable.

Why do they do this? I have several theories. First, it keeps everyone in the organization constantly on the edge of their seats, thankful that they have a job in the wonderful Newhouse family, and ever mindful of what can happen if they don't do as they're told. Thoughts like "You want a start a union?" are replaced by "Do your kids eat a lot?"

Second, the constant, mindless rotation ensures that the reporters are never smarter about their beats than their editors, which effectively prevents the writers from developing their own angles and perspectives on stories for a long time. If the folks in the field don't know what they're doing, they'll have to call for help from the mothership on Broadway, which will always feed the approved spin.

And third (a related point), it enables the local political and business leaders to pull the wool over the newly reshuffled reporters' eyes. This comes in especially handy when the writers are about to identify the fallacies in the positions adopted on the publication's editorial page.

Overall, the game of musical beats keeps the paper nice and dumb, which is the way the Advance organization seems to like it best. Our sympathies to all the journalists who are being needlessly displaced -- and misplaced.

I'm like a magnet for this stuff

I'm such a rube. I must have "Gullible, has money" tattooed on my forehead.

Today I'm downtown waiting for the no. 4 bus when along comes this guy in a baseball cap, t-shirt, and jeans. Bearded, fairly clean cut, looks like he's had a shower in the last 24 hours. Maybe he's in his late 30's. Here's his sob story: He's from Welches. He was doing some floor refinishing work in Northwest Portland this morning when someone stole his truck. The cops won't come out to help him. All he's got on him is his truck keys (which he's showing me).

He can take a bus from the downtown mall to Sandy, but to get from Sandy to Welches, he'll need to take a cab, and that's going to run him 25 bucks. So could I help him out with 25 bucks?

Something about the guy tells me he is for real. I've also got the Good Samaritan gospel rattling around in my brain from just two days prior.

I give him some dough, but not 25 bucks. He says, "Thank you. Give me your e-mail address -- I'll pay you back." I tell him that maybe the best thing would be for him to help somebody else out some day. "You know, I just moved up here from California," he says, "and I don't help people out. Maybe I should."

And on he goes down the street, hitting up some other old white guys on the next block.

Have I been had? Or what?

UPDATE, 7/22, 4:05 a.m.: We now have his photo.

Important correction!

Yes, Greg Oden's tonsils were yanked in the 'Couv. But if you tried prowling through the dumpster here for a souvenir, you went to the wrong place.

Reader poll: Another term for Grampy?

Today's Trib says he's told at least one person that he's probably not running. Certainly that's what this guy is banking on. Meanwhile, other Portland commissioner wannabes are sitting on the sidelines awaiting a clear signal, which may be a couple of months away.

What do you think?

Will Portland Mayor Tom Potter run for re-election?
pollcode.com free polls

When a water tank is just a water tank

The City of Portland's idea to open up space around some of its municipal water tanks for park usage is apparently leading to some confusion... and apparently, a new fence or two.

Bring your crayons

You can't make this stuff up. Fresh from his hastily convened workshops to figure out which kinds of new taxes the City of Portland needs before it can attend to basic transportation needs like fixing potholes and traffic signals, Sam the Tram is now holding another event. This time, everybody gets to fantasize about all the cool new streetcar lines we need to build:

In addition to learning more about the current and future plans for streetcar corridors, participants will be able to roll up their sleeves and work with friends, neighbors, City of Portland planning staff and Commissioner Sam to discuss where future streetcar corridors could occur....

10:15 AM Streetcar System Small Group Exercise: Workshop participants divide into small groups and work together with maps, trace paper and markers to discuss and diagram what a future streetcar system would look like (note: if you're coming from outside the City of Portland, please bring maps of your location).

No mention in the agenda of how we're going to pay to operate the new lines, each of which costs the city around a quarter of a million bucks a year to run. That's because that money falls from the sky.

Anybody for ring toss?

Although probably not work safe, this is funny.

Don't tell Opie...

... but several countries are considering a tax on plastic grocery bags.

Portland parents in the news

When it comes to innovative child care trends, nobody's ahead of us moms and dads in the Rose City:

The truth about the cops

Here's a story that I doubt you'd ever read regarding Portland.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hang my chads

Something tells me I'm going to enjoy the next 16 months:

Start small, think big

Here's an attractive ad campaign for one of our banks.

Bull Run salmon protection tab: $95 million

A week and a half ago, I wondered aloud what was going on over at the Portland Water Bureau with all the sudden talk in the press about saving the salmon around the city's Bull Run reservoir system. Already the city's been letting water out of the system to help the little anadromous creatures get around in the streams near their birthplaces, and recent news stories have alluded to unspecified "other measures" that the public was going to find out about over "the next few months."

That worried me. With as important a natural resource as Bull Run water under discussion, what was with the delay in getting the outlines of the plan out to the public? I fretted that the city was up to one of its classic backroom deals.

David Shaff, the administrator of the bureau, wrote in to assure me that my fears were groundless. Talks between the city and federal environmental regulators on the subject have been going on for years, he said, because the city's required to come up with a fish habitat conservation plan under federal law.

Among his comments were these:

Portland is blessed to have the Bull Run watershed under its stewardship. It is a very productive and high quality water source. How much of that water we should release for fish is part science and part negotiation with our regulators. The federal services that enforce the Endangered Species Act would probably like for the city to release more water than it has agreed to provide. However, over the last five years we believe we have identified flow levels that are adequate to provide habitat and spawning conditions for fish without causing conflicts with municipal demand. We now have a five-year track record in which there have been no fish v. human water conflicts on the Bull Run and the federal services have, so far, agreed that these flow release levels are adequate. If the [conservation plan] is adopted and enacted, the city will gain certainty through a contractual relationship that these flow releases will be adequate for the next 50 years.
Late last week, I received an e-mail from Shaff that got down a little further toward the real nitty-gritty of the conservation measures. The full draft of the city's conservation plan runs more than 650 pages at the moment, and there's no executive summary ready yet. Meanwhile, federal regulators are drafting an environmental impact statement, which should be finalized around the same time as the city's plan -- in a couple of months.

Shaff did send along an interesting little one-pager (doc file) about how much it's going to cost to save the salmon. The current estimate is around $95 million over 50 years. He points out that that's less than $2 million a year "on average," but the precise timing of the expenditures within that period is not specified, and if most of the costs are incurred up front, that average could be misleading.

About half of the $95 million would be spent in the Bull Run watershed itself -- as Shaff explains it, "flow release commitments, stream temperature management and habitat restoration projects (such as gravel or large woody debris placement) on the lower Bull Run River. For the last couple of years we have been operating the system as if the proposed measures were in place to ensure that we can comply with [a conservation plan] and still meet our human customers' demands. There are times when that is a real balancing act, but we are confident that we can meet the needs of fish and humans." Another 27 percent would go toward "habitat restoration projects planned for other high priority streams in the Sandy River Basin," and the last 23 percent would be spent on "monitoring, research and adaptive management," which Shaff describes as "work the city is required to do to document the effectiveness of its efforts and to make adjustments in its approach if necessary."

Apparently, there will be lots of opportunity for anyone who's interested to see all the details and speak their minds when the draft documents are formally released (and summarized for mere mortals) in September. I might even get my hands on a preview copy of the 650 pages of light reading before then. In the meantime, if you have a faucet in Portland, you may want to keep our aquatic vertebrate friends in mind.

I'd resubscribe to the O...

... if they started doing stuff like this.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More MetroFi mediocrity

A reader writes:

Today, while walking toward Powell's downtown, I saw a large truck slowly cruising along NW Couch, painted with ads for MetroFi and with a huge flat-screen TV on the side with ads playing. There are just so many things wrong with this: the traffic congestion in an already busy area, the pollution (hopefully the truck runs on biodiesel), the ugly ads, the big animations distracting drivers in areas with high pedestrian traffic, and the fact that they have to do so much selling of this service which, if it had been done right, would have caught on through word of mouth just like the Personal Telco Project's nodes did. And aren't most of those things explicitly on the city's list of things they want to eliminate?
Yeah, Opie, what's the deal? Give old MetroFi a call -- tell them this ain't San Jose.

Better call quick, though. Pretty soon they'll be call-forwarding to Redmond, Washington...

High-rise condo-mania heads south

It's deja vu all over again. "Mixed use" downtown, with condos, apartments, and a hotel. The city awarded part of the deal to Beam, but most of it to another group. The negotiations between them are a mess. The city will have to subsidize the project heavily, and build parking. Existing businesses and nonprofit groups will be moved out of their current digs, which will be razed for condo bunkers. They won't be able to afford the rent in the retail space in the new development. The lead developer's predicting a grocery and a movie theater, but nobody's signed up for those yet.

And nobody has any idea how much the whole thing is going to cost.

Sound familiar? Introducing the new Linchpin City, baby -- it's Eugene.

MetroFi strikes out in Anchorage

The caribou said they wanted really free wi-fi that worked.

You think Bush's approval rating is low

Check out Congress'.

Ten years of blogs

The Wall Street asked some people it knows for their assessment of the blogosphere as it enters its second decade.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Leave it to the internet!

No sooner does Blazer rookie Greg Oden have his tonsils removed, somebody's got an operating room photo posted already.

The archbishop's shrink

Just when you thought the Catholic Church child sex abuse scandals couldn't get more embarrassing, they do. Did you hear about the sicko psychologist in Seattle who's accused of planting peep cams in the women's room of his office? Guess who his favorite client was.

Soul brothers vs. the Man

Forty years ago this weekend, the city in which I was growing up -- Newark, N.J. -- was rocked by brutal race riots that went on for nearly a week. The death and destruction took place "uptown" -- in the black neighborhoods on the other side of the railroad tracks from where we lived, particularly along a shopping street called Springfield Avenue. By the time the rioting was over, 26 people were dead, 725 were injured, and close to 1,500 were arrested. Property damage exceeded $10 million, which was a considerable chunk of change in those days.

We lived on the east side of town, in the melting-pot Ironbound section, where things remained fairly calm. A half-block from our house, there were public housing "projects" which were mostly black, and the folks on our all-white street, who watched the projects warily all the time anyway, were really watching them closely that hot week. But nothing much happened in our neck of the woods. I think one storefront around the corner had its display window broken, but that was about it within a mile or two of our place.

Not so elsewhere in Newark. Scores of white-owned businesses in the central part of the city were looted and burned to the ground. Jewish merchants were particularly targeted by the rioters' rage. Indeed, entire blocks were destroyed, adding to the devastated landscape that had already been created by the "urban renewal" process of razing dilapidated buildings and leaving the lots vacant. Black-owned businesses painted the words "soul brother" on their shop windows to avoid being cleaned out and then torched. City police, state troopers, and National Guard troops marched through the streets with machine guns. Martial law was in effect. Mail delivery was suspended citywide. Two of the drawbridges across the Passaic River between Newark and the much whiter town of Harrison were left up all night to stop the havoc from spreading. The Portuguese immigrants on the east side of Penn Station posted signs daring the "soul brothers" to bring the action down to their neighborhood, but the mayhem never got past the tracks.

When the violence got too intense, my parents suddenly whisked us three kids off to my mother's sister's house in the Philadelphia suburbs for the weekend. But we got back to Newark in time for me and my high school buddies to sit out on the front stoop on Ferry Street, where we used to while away each and every sweet, romantic teenage summer night, and watch the troops as they pulled out of Newark in an eastbound convoy. It was the afternoon of the day after the riots.

I'll never forget the sight. That long line of vehicles, many wrapped in barbed wire and most loaded with heavily armed troops, seemed to go on forever. The uniformed military men, mostly white, were filthy and exhausted. But they were quite comfortable with, even boastful about, the number of black people they had taken down. Several vehicles sported handmade signs proudly noting how many "soul brothers" that particular group of Guardsmen had killed.

History has a way of placing events like this under an amber glass, like the Declaration of Independence, where it all seems so neat and tidy. Look at the Wikipedia entry -- hardly anyone remembers, it seems, or even cares. "Maybe it should be merged with the Plainfield riot entry" -- sheesh.

This was a civil war, played out in our own America. All hell broke loose. Many men on both sides of the color line behaved like animals. Cops and troops opened fire on people for looting a case of beer. The uniformed men shot first, and asked questions later (if at all). Most of the casualties were African-American civilians. Organized groups of black snipers shot at the lawmen from upper-story windows. Kids were hit by bullets from both sides. A firefighter was shot dead off a ladder as he investigated an alarm. At least one hospital was fired upon. The dam of hatred built by years of injustice broke open, and vengeance flowed.

That was pretty much the end for Newark. It had already been on a decline, and the riots sealed its fate. Businesses never rebuilt, most of the remaining white residents ran as fast as they could, and the conditions of the poor African-American community never improved much. For years, they had nowhere to shop, because the shops had all been burned down. Then came AIDS, and crack, and the gangs. Heroin had always been there, and it never left. The local government was, and still is, fundamentally corrupt -- rotten to the core. There are some pockets of modest prosperity in the city, but not where the riots were. If you're smart, you won't go into those neighborhoods, ever, under any circumstances. You wonder if the city could ever really stage a comeback.

What did it all prove, besides how much people had grown to hate each other? Nothing.

As a teenager, I never fully grasped what I had witnessed that afternoon on the front porch on Ferry Street. The friendly messages that were pouring out of our stereos from Motown artists and other black performers provided a nice distraction from the realities that had rolled past my friends and me that day. Pretty soon there were other stories. Vietnam started showing up on the TV news, and Woodstock, and Kent State. We lived in Newark five more years after the riots; then yet another war, inside our own house, forced my mom and us kids to move over one of those drawbridges. By the time of Watergate and Nixon, the events of July 1967 had faded into a misty haze.

But the older I get, the more I think back in horror about what I saw with my own eyes. And how far have we come in the intervening four decades? Not far enough. God help the human race.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Have a great weekend

1 too many

Today's rumor has the Blazers re-signing point guard Steve Blake, whom they let go last year. They need another point guard like a hole in the head, and so it's obvious that one of its current crop is trade bait. I'm still thinking they're going to trade Jarrett Jack, a move with which I would disagree. But so goes it.

New home for a grand old gal

While we're on the topic of desecration of a nice inner Portland neighborhood by a totally out-of-place condo bunker, a reader sends along a photo of that beautiful house that used to sit on the southeast corner of 26th and Division before the greed-blind developer wrecked that location. I believe it was a store called The Clay Rabbit.

The reader reports that the house is now at 3339 SE 28th Place:

Glad to see it's survived. Pretty big for that tiny lot, but it lives on. Meanwhile, back at the old site, more unspeakable garbage. Thanks, City of Portland!

The neighbors are right, as usual

I see that The Oregonian, normally a bastion of fairness, now calls people "NIMBYs" in the headlines of its "news" stories. It's ragging on the folks who have the nerve to think that maybe a new, six-story condo bunker in the Irvington neighborhood, where even the existing high-density apartment buildings tend to top out at three floors, is just too tall and bulky.

Since the insane City of Portland zoning of the property, at 15th and Hancock in the historic district, allows a building 75 feet tall, apparently the O thinks it's wrong for anyone to object to anything up to that size.

In reality, the people who drew up that zoning and approved it should be taken out and shot. Let me guess: some bureaucratic hacks in Portland Planning Bureau along with esteemed members of the City Council. I understand Michael Harrison was a big player at the time -- the city's chief planner. Is that same guy who later went on to work for Jim Francesconi and Earl Blumenauer, and now lurks in that shadowy Portland satellite office of a firm called Parametrix? The people that "facilitate public involvement" for sterling projects like the aerial tram [rim shot]. I don't know all the history, but isn't Portland Planning where old Don Mazziotti also got his start? Good times.

But I digress. Bad call on this one, Mike. Another underwhelming product of that special Portland State urbanism.

Here's what the site looks like now. Not pictured is the beautiful historic bed and breakfast just next door, obscured by the trees on the right in this view:

Granted, the lot ain't much to look at. But does it really need a six-story building, with 18 condo units, built out to within a foot or two of the sidewalk? Here's how they say it will look with the condo bunker on it. Note that this simulation was reportedly furnished by the Lake Oswego sharpie developer, and so it's the rosiest possible view you can make of it. It makes the power lines sort of disappear in places, and it views the building from such an angle that you can't see the top floor of condo tackiness, which to its credit is at least set back a little bit:

Don't let the computer fool you -- check out the top of that power pole compared to the building height. This monstrosity is going to be so tall, you wouldn't be able to see the top of it in the "before" picture.

Superimposing the "before" over the "after," I come up with something like this:

Of course, it could be worse. The condo dude could be proposing more of the garbage that was built about two blocks away at 16th and Broadway. But just because his building's more ornate than a wart doesn't make it appropriate.

Six stories is out of place for that property; it's wrong to put that much housing there. If that's the zoning, then the zoning needs to be challenged, any way the neighbors can. (Of course, the developers could simply back off from their obsession with money, but that's not going to happen.) Here's to the challengers.

And raspberries to the O. Reporter (or columnist or whatever he is) Stephen Beaven seems to have a little attitude thing going about neighborhoods. Guess he's fixing to be the new Randy Gragg. Maybe they should have him stick to what he's good at.

It's that time again

Are you friggatriskaidekaphobic?
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Operation Phantom Progress

Editor at Large documents it.

Those GOP dignitaries

Ya gotta love those Republican protectors of American values. Like Giuliani's South Carolina campaign chairman. And McCain's Florida campaign co-chair. True leaders.

Count your blessings

You know who doesn't matter so much any more? This guy. That's a relief.

What to do with McCall's?

The Portland Parks Bureau is shining a spotlight on the old McCall's Restaurant in Waterfront Park downtown, and asking, "What should be done with this building?" As usual, they're not showing their cards -- not by a longshot -- but they've obviously got something in mind. Somehow design students from the U of O are involved.

One idea that was floated a while back is to make it a sort of changing station for bikers and athletes who use the park. That actually sounds like a decent idea if it can be done without a giveaway to some huge corporation or unctuous developer. As this is in a Portland park, however, that remains to be seen. I keep expecting Randy Gragg to show up any minute.

We're losing the wider war, too

A reader sends along this photo taken by his brother, who's spending some time in Malaysia:

Beyond sad.

Meanwhile, out in left field...

Have you seen this thing yet? What the heck is it really about? The Bill O'Reilly picture is not helping me focus.

Our diverse region

Government-subsidized economic development doesn't have to smell bad. Up in Yakima, it has the opposite effect.

And now for something completely different

I wonder if they use enough salt to satisfy Jim Dixon.

About those solar panels on county buildings...

We blogged a while back about Multnomah County's plan to put solar panels on a bunch of its buildings. The announcement, by Commissioner Jeff Cogen, explained that the units would be owned by a group of private investors, who would sell the power they generated to the county for 10 years. The investors would get to take a bunch of tax credits for solar power devices on their tax returns. At the end of the 10 years, the county would take over the units, and keep all the power that they produced for itself.

Aside from the greater societal benefits of solar energy in general, there are potentially two advantageous aspects of this plan for county taxpayers. But I stress the word "potentially."

The first would be realized if the county could effectively prevent increases in its own power costs, at least to the extent of the output from the solar units, for the life of the panels. I asked Cogen about this on his blog:

What's the deal on electricity costs over the 10-year period? Someone said the county gets a lock on the current rates it pays for power. Is that true?
He promptly responded (and I'm grateful for his attention):
That is the what Energy Trust told us to expect. As you noted on your blog, we still have to do an RFP to find the company to own the solar panels (and to answer your concern, no we don't have anyone lined up - there will be a fair, open, competetive process). But the Energy Trust has done these sorts of projects before, and has experience regarding what terms we can expect, and based on their experience we are predicting stable electric rates for the 10 year term. It makes sense when you think about it: unlike gas or coal generated electricity, there are no fuel costs, which vary quite a lot. All of the costs are fixed, upfront costs associated with the purchase and installation of the panels, so the costs are predictable and stable.
A bit vague -- we're talking about a financial deal with parties that haven't been identified yet, and the benefit is a mere "expectation" rather than a promise -- but if it were to come true, great.

The second good part of the deal for taxpayers, it was said when the public announcement was made, would come at the end of the 10-year period, when the county got its hands on the units and got to keep all the power they produced. I had a couple of questions. One of them was what kind of condition the solar panels would be in after 10 Oregon winters. There was a difference of opinion among our readers about that. A few shared my skepticism that they'd be highly productive (net of repair and maintenance costs) at that point.

And it turns out that there's yet another reason to postpone scheduling a celebration: It's not clear how much the county is going to have to pay to take title to the units after the 10-year main contract period. Over on Cogen's blog, I asked him:

How much will the county pay at the end of the 10 years to take title to the units? If it's nothing, or a nominal amount, then how can the private investors be treated as the owners of the units for tax purposes?
He responded:
[W]e don't know the exact amount we would be paying at the end of the 10 year term, that is something that will be part of the RFP and subsequent negotiations. But based on other experiences, it will likely be a small amount that is factored into the payment structure all along. You are correct that it needs to be a more than merely symbolic payment, in order to be valid "consideration" for the deal and to assure that the investors can legitimately claim the tax credits. However, in other deals the amount has been relatively small, because a substantial portion of the value to the investors is in the tax credits.
It will be interesting to see where the negotiations wind up on this point. In some creative tax-oriented financings (something I actually know something about), the "end user" (here, the county) is required to pay the fair market value of the equipment, whatever it may be, at the end of the contract term. Indeed, that's often the safest way to guarantee that the "funding source" (here, the private investors) get the tax writeoffs associated with owning the equipment. If that's the deal, it's not really much of a deal at all for the county. It will have to pay whatever the appraisers say the panels are worth 10 years from now. Heck, if it wanted to pay the going price for used panels at that point, it could easily do so in the after-market, without giving anyone free access to county buildings for 10 years.

On the other hand, if the buyout price that the county has to pay is too low, the investors might not get the tax goodies. And it's completely open to negotiations what would happen in that case. If the tax credits don't materialize, will the county have to pay a lot more to the investors to make up for it? It's all part of the contract negotiations, which have not even begun in earnest.

In short, you may want to hold off on the champagne over the solar energy deal, taxpayers. This one is far from a done deal, or a good deal, just yet. As always, the devil is in the details.

Hey hey hey

Coz is 70 today.

Traveler rolls on

When Popper got popped, we wondered what the consequences would be. Now we know: Not much.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tell me who in the house know 'bout the quake

Did you feel that little Portland-area earthquake around 9:00? I missed it, but the Mrs. felt it.

How does Portland's "free" wi-fi stink?

Let Steve count the ways for you.

Maybe he'll only play in home games

The Greg Oden story gets scarier and scarier. Have you heard the latest? He's glad to take time off from playing basketball to have his tonsils removed. Because he's worn out -- from flying!

"I'm going to flush the basketball out for a couple weeks and just get ready for an 82-game season," he said.

"This summer I've traveled so much I'm actually worn out. I didn't think you could get worn out from just flying, but believe me I'm worn out."

Oh, dear.

And now another word from Sam Bowie

You thought Keizer had a problem?

That's nothing compared to what's being erected in San Diego. (Via Bean.)

Driving to Seattle next month?

No you aren't.

Bush Outrage of the Day (so far)

The Chimp is spoiling for a constitutional throwdown over executive privilege. Today he ordered Harriet Miers not to testify before Congress.

Rather than drag the country back through that awful mess, it really would be a lot simpler to start impeachment proceedings against both Bush and Cheney.

As for sweet Harriet, jail time for contempt of Congress sounds about right.

Reader poll: Pot-smoking principal

An elementary school principal out in Vernonia has been busted for smoking pot in a state park. The school superintendent says the principal has his "full support," and that of a majority of the school board. But Vernonia is world-famous for its no-tolerance policy on drugs among its high school athletes.

How long before the pot-smoking Vernonia principal is out of that job?
Less than a week from now
More than a week from now, but before school starts
After school starts but by the end of '07
Sometime in '08
No, he'll still be principal in 2009
pollcode.com free polls

And now a word from Sam Bowie

Uncle Sam buys us toys we can't afford to run

I got into it a little bit with Chris Smith, the streetcar shill and Portland City Council wannabe, over on Amanda Fritz's blog recently. There was a thread going on and on over there about how the federal government pays most of the cost for building transit facilities such as streetcars and light rail. (They were also noting how OHSU paid the lion's share of the cost of the aerial tram [rim shot].)

What nobody was even acknowledging is the fact that while the federal government pays most (but not all) of what it costs to build some of these things, it hardly ever pays a penny to help operate them. For example, the city's taxpayers get to foot at least a third of the bill for the streetcars, and they aren't cheap to operate. As I pointed out:

Even if the feds and/or the state paid the full cost of building the streetcars (which of course they didn't), they don't pay jack squat toward operating them. Those shiny little condo sales toys currently cost the city "only" $1.6MM a year, according to your blog, and now we're talking about extensions that will run the total to $2.5MM or higher.

The aerial tram is another several hundred thousand -- we never got a straight answer, but I'm guessing [the city's share is] $350,000 a year.

Millions and millions every year that could have been spent much more wisely on other things. And wait 'til the equipment starts getting old. Is Earl the Pearl going to get us federal repair funds? Dream on.

They never talk about any of this when they're on the snake oil stand. Hey, Smith, what are the projected city general fund subsidies for operating the couplet streetcar and the east side streetcars once they're built? [crickets chirping]

A little while later, Smith took the bait, sort of "responding" this way:

To Jack's question about operating funds, on the west side we have largely funded this out of increased parking revenue. Essentially the business owners downtown have agreed to have parking rates increased to pay for this (and for some of the Mall Light Rail expansion). The east side will be trickier but I think in general we'll find relatively 'local' sources of operating funding - which may include rethinking fareless square in some way.
Such a typical nonanswer to a straightforward question. See any numbers there? Of course not. All you see is the double-talk about some magic special fund that's going to appear to pay for it all.

It will be all smoke and mirrors, just as it was in the Pearl. Parking meter rates went up, and somehow it's o.k. to divert all that added revenue to the annual streetcar subsidy, because... because... well, there's no reason, just because.

Wrong. Parking meter revenues can and should be used for pressing road maintenance needs -- you know, the ones that have now gotten so bad off that we'll need a serious gas tax hike or else "more people will die"?

A $2.8 million subsidy for streetcar and tram, every year, forever, is the equivalent of $56 million in your hand right now. Even just looking at an annual subsidy of, say, $600,000 for the proposed new streetcar lines, it's like $12 million in present value.

None of these figures factor in Tri-Met's costs to run the streetcar, which are twice as high. That agency loses money with every rider; the only way it stays afloat is through payroll and self-employment taxes, which every working person in the area pays directly or indirectly, willingly or not.

So when they all pat themselves on the back for the federal funding that they got to build the new toys, remember who's going to pay to operate them as they splash through their sea of red ink year after year. It's not Uncle Sam -- it's you and I here in Portland.

Nonsurprise of the Year

Bush jerked the surgeon general around.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cool with it

The record heat in Portland made for an interesting day around our house. A potted plant that had been digging the full sun on the back porch for months suddenly decided that he couldn't take it. Even some of the light bulbs starting giving out -- one on the front porch, another on the attic ceiling.

I had been planning to go for a short run sometime today, and I didn't manage to get out there until shortly after noon, at which time the mercury was over 90 degrees and rising fast. I muddled through at a relative snail's pace, even walking for a bit toward the end, but the extreme deed was done.

Meanwhile, our house's central air threw us a curve ball. I fired it up just before noon -- or I should say, tried to -- knowing that by the end of the day, it would become a most welcome service. It was the inaugural run of the system for the summer, and there's always a little apprehension at that juncture about whether it's going to work.

The thermostat did what it was supposed to do, and the fan in the furnace unit did what it was supposed to do, but although I thought I heard the compressor out in the yard kick on, when I looked at it out the window from above, I could see that its fan wasn't turning. The air coming out of the ducts in the house was just... well, room temp.

So I called our heat and AC guy. I'm always calling him at the worst possible times. New Year's Eve 4 p.m., for example. So again here -- the day it hits 102, Bogdanski's on the phone. Unfortunately for him, we have his cell number, and I caught him at a job site. He and I both knew that a visit by him to our house today, or even tomorrow, would be a monumental pain for him, if it was even feasible at all. But we chatted amiably for a few minutes, ignoring that reality.

After a few probing questions, he suggested that the problem might be the fuses in the cutoff box on the side of the house out by the compressor unit. He sent me out there to find them.

Now, you have to understand, I attended a Jesuit boys' school, and not a very wealthy one at that, followed by a college curriculum of Latin and Greek and three years of law school. For me to get near anything like an electrical fuse on a high-voltage circuit is a big deal. But I knew that it was face it or sweat all night, and so off I boldly went. First I turned off the AC circuit breaker in the main electrical box of the house, just to be sure. Then I stepped out into the heat and opened the cutoff box. At my guy's telephone direction, I located and yanked out the additional circuit-breaking thingie in there. It had "Danger" written on it, with a lightning bolt and all, and the words "on" and "off," one of them printed upside down. I thought about closing my eyes as I pulled it out, but I was brave enough to keep them open.

It took me another minute or so to figure out how to lift the little cover over the fuses, but when I did, there they were -- two things that looked to my eye like shotgun shells. Pursuant to my guy's continuing instructions, I then pulled one of them out with a pair of pliers (I think I did hold my breath during that part) and headed off with it to the local hardware store for a replacement. I was still very foul and dripping sweat from my run at this point, but hey, it's a hardware store.

The young guy who waited on me there was careful to make sure he had identified the correct amperage (is there such a word?), which turned out to be 40. He sold me two new fuses, and at my request he even tested the old one that I had brought in. He verified that indeed, it was bad. Good news! Bad fuse! I might have cool air tonight after all. Thirteen bucks for the pair -- debit, please.

Back at the love shack, I pulled out the other old fuse, popped both the new ones in, put the "Danger" thingie back in place, ran back into the house, flipped the circuit breaker in the big box inside back to "on," and re-approached the thermostat.

I switched it to "Cool," just as I had a little while earlier. The fan in the furnace came on once again. Now for the moment of truth: Over to the window to check out the compressor...

The fan was turning. Glory be.

Within seconds, wonderfully chilled air began pouring from the ducts throughout the house. I called back our climate control guy with the good news.

It was a bear of a day, and the thing's been cranking all afternoon and evening without pause. The place is comfortable. Just as good, I did something vaguely mechanical, or even vaguely electrical, today, and I succeeded. It happens once in a while. Life is cool.

How hot is it?

It's so hot in Northeast Portland right now, I just saw a squirrel rubbing sunblock on his nuts.

About time

If there's one good thing that the Oregon Legislature did this year (and there aren't too many, as far as I can see), at least they got rid of these people. Don't let the door hit you on your way out, slimies!

All frills, all the time

Fireman Randy's back from Italy, and Amanda Fritz is back from Utah -- interesting contrast there -- and over the weekend they had a telling exchange on Amanda's blog about budget priorities. Amanda wanted to know how the City of Portland can be spending $10 million for fancy new archives at Portland State while Sam the Tram is out telling people we can't afford traffic lights at deadly intersections unless we jack up the gas tax or invent a new tax.

It's a darn good question, and Fireman Randy's answers, after jiving around for a while, finally settled on classic bad-priorities funny talk:

You have identified the angst of making decisions in the budget making process, Amanda. It isn't just projects east of 82nd that compete for that money, it is also the myriad requirements of residents all over Portland that includes housing, mental health care and the ability of our residents to get a good education.
And when the time comes, again and again, to choose among those priorities, what will the City Council pick?

We all know the answer: Whatever looks "cool" to the Bus kids, placates labor, and sells condos.

Ime, we hardly knew ye

Word on the street is that the Blazers are going to spend the big bucks to hang onto underachieving string bean Travis Outlaw, which means that they won't have the dough to hold onto Ime Udoka. Ime, the former Portland State standout, did yeoman's work here last year, but the roster's getting a little crowded, and he'll likely make a lot more money elsewhere. Too bad.

Now you're talkin'

A challenger who could really make a run against Gordon Smith? Today's Trib suggests that it might be this guy.

A bad sign

Big article in the Times yesterday about voters' outlook toward the '08 Presidential election. Lots of quotes from Iowa. Name not mentioned anywhere in said article: John Edwards.

The game they invented for him

Sports leagues do dumb things sometimes. But honoring this guy tonight is not one of them.

This one's gonna be fun

Kate Brown vs. Vicki Walker for Oregon Secretary of State. The Old Boys hate Vicki -- hate her for outing you-know-who, and for daring to ask questions about the Scams of Saif, the Almighty OHSU, etc. They'll die if she wins a statewide race. But Fireman Randy and Opie are in her camp already.

Here's a move that an alert reader predicts: Bill Bradbury will be persuaded to retire from the job early, and Teddy K. will put Kate in there so that she can run as an incumbent, Youlee You-style. Ooooo, that would be nasty, wouldn't it? But so typical.

Somehow we've got to get Bernie into this picture. Let the games begin -- meeeeee-ow!

Monday, July 9, 2007

New look for those Keizer shafts

The City of Keizer, Oregon is testing a re-design of those traffic barriers that people were complaining were too phallic. A city architect explains that the new layout, revealed earlier today, "uses landscape elements to soften the visual impact, while still providing the necessary margin of safety." I'm not sure the critics are going to be satisfied with the change, but at least the city is trying.

Request denied

Is it legal in Portland to fix potholes yourself?

We may find out on Wednesday morning. City Council candidate Charles Lewis and his Cully neighborhood buddies plan to patch up some axle-busters in the awful dirt streets of their neck of Northeast Portland. They also plan to speak out critically in response to Commissioner Sam (the Tram) Adams's latest whines that the city has no money for anything if it isn't an aerial gondola ride or another expensive streetcar extension.

Lewis's press release (pdf) stops short of calling things exactly like they are -- you won't catch the word "tram" or "streetcar" in there anywhere, I don't think -- but he does call Adams out, at least indirectly, on a number of issues. These include the ludicrous rush-rush summertime "public involvement" process that was hastily opened and closed before the tax increases now roll out. (Have you heard? Most Portlanders are "at least willing to consider" a gas tax increase for road maintenance. Or maybe another charge on your water and sewer bill for roads -- let's see if we can get the total bill to break $1,000 a quarter.) Oh, and that new "stakeholder" committee that's going to spend the money -- with fat cat developer John Russell and Mike "Couplet Streetcar" Powell in charge, along with those modern saints from the Port? Lewis shares my amusement at that one.

But forget all that. I can't believe the city's going to let him fix a pothole in broad daylight with the cameras rolling. They'll probably have him arrested, dig out the hole again, and go back to City Hall. Should be interesting.

You have rights -- they just aren't enforceable

In Bush World, the federal court system is fast becoming the Catch 22 system. On Friday an appeals court in Ohio (sigh) ruled that even if Bush's secret, warrantless domestic spying programs are unconstitutional, lawyers and news media folks don't have legal standing to challenge them. The only people who would be eligible to go to court and object to them, according to the Sixth Circuit, are people who can prove that they themselves are being spied on.

Of course, they can't possibly know they're being spied on, because the program is secret. Ta da! There ya go. Any questions?

This is right in line with the Supreme Court's ruling in late June that if the executive branch of the federal government tries to establish a religion in violation of the First Amendment, regular citizens don't have standing to challenge it. Therefore, in effect, it's not clear that anyone can go to court to stop the President from doing it.

It's perfect for the regime of Nasty Dick Cheney, isn't it? Of all the mindscrews that have been applied over the last six and a half years, the "concept" of constitutional rights with no meaningful remedies is likely to be the most memorable.

I wish I were making this stuff up. The religion case is particularly troublesome, because the Supreme Court has held for quite some time now that if Congress tries to establish a religion, average Joes and Janes do have standing in court to try to stop it. But to this Supreme Court, the President is different, and his or her actions don't get the same judicial review that legislative acts do.

After all, as one right-wing commenter on this blog has pointed out, the Bill of Rights says merely that "Congress shall not" do this and that -- it doesn't say anything about the President, the FBI, or the CIA. And although it's been settled law for many decades that the same rules apply to both the legislative and the executive branches, the current crop of judges, mostly appointed by Gipper, Wimp Sr., and Wimp Jr., are themselves judicial wimps, determined to nullify their own jobs and largely neutralize the judicial role in what was once known as our system of checks and balances. Soon after they reverse Roe v. Wade (three years max), they'll be after Marbury v. Madison, which established judicial review under the Constitution of the acts of the other two branches.

You don't like it? Right after these guys get done genuflecting to Pope Benedict, they'll tell you that your only recourse is to vote the rascals out. Don't expect the courts to do anything.

If you want to see what the Bush Court is really about, the signature case of the past month is this one. A suspect was convicted of murder, and a federal judge hearing his case explicitly gave him 17 days to appeal the denial of habeas corpus -- habeas being a centuries-old court procedure, guaranteed by the Constitution, which allows those convicted of crimes to appeal their convictions. The judge explicitly gave the man a 17-day deadline. And he met it, filing an appeal on the 16th day.

But oh, no. The federal statute on appeals in this situation gives you only 14 days, and so even though a federal judge told this person he could appeal until day 17, his appeal couldn't be heard.

So nowadays, when a federal judge explains the law to you, you're supposed to go back to your prison cell and make sure that he or she got it right. If you don't, and the judge is wrong, it doesn't matter what else the judge may have screwed up in your trial -- you stay in jail, or go to your death, I guess, if that's your punishment.

This is justice? It is to the Honorable Clarence Thomas, the Human Middle Finger of George Bush Sr., who's in charge of your civil rights now. He survived his "high-tech lynching," but that doesn't mean he's going to stop your real-life one.

Yes, it is scary. And there's not much that can be done about it. The oldest of the five Supreme Court justices with the hand grenade pins in their teeth are the Two Tonys: Scalia, who just turned 71, and Kennedy, who hits that age in two weeks. They're likely to be around for quite a while longer -- a decade or more -- and by the time they're done, it will be a frighteningly different legal landscape from the one we have now. The civil rights revolution has been on the run since Nixon started remodeling it in the early '70s, and now it's clearly being routed. Guantanamo is next on the High Court's agenda -- I shudder to think what's going to come out of that. Combined with increased technological intrusion into our privacy, the nation is approaching what the parents and teachers of the '60s would have told us was a police state.

What's the answer, then? Hard to say. Obviously, a Democratic President would help -- and one who's good for two terms. At least a couple of the liberal justices on the Supreme Court will no doubt be leaving us over the next eight years, and we can't let this get any worse. Can you imagine what Giuliani (another genuflecter) or Fred Cheney Thompson would do with two appointments to the Court? Or picture a couple of Romney appointees.

Meanwhile, you can also pray that Justice Kennedy comes to his senses, but I doubt that will ever happen now that the Bush Boys have his ear. It's all starting to make sense to him now.

The only realistic comfort at this point is to hope for the pendulum to swing back in 20 or 30 years. Folks my age may not live to see it. But teach your children well. It didn't have to go this way, and nothing's forever.

Tech request

This blog and the server on which it resides aren't seeing eye to eye again. If something isn't working right and you notice it, please alert me via e-mail. Thanks.

Why you can't vote for Gordon Smith

The kids at BlueOregon can't contain themselves about getting rid of Gordon Smith. Forget the fact that they don't have a viable candidate to run against him -- they're screaming bloody murder about what a bad dude he is. He's not a moderate! He flip-flops! He supports the war! He's rich! He's hiding! He's running scared! He's a hypocrite! Tell your friends! Etc.

Way too shrill, kids. Except for the blue-tofu Democrats, who already know which way they're voting, nobody's going to buy the proposition that old smoothie Smith is a right-wing nutcase. Especially not from you guys.

Here's a better pitch: You cannot vote for Gordon Smith because he is a member of the Republican Party. Over the last six and a half years, the Republican Party has set this country back at least 50 years. They have made a mess of everything, domestically and internationally. Guys like Gordon Smith had their chance to run the country, and they botched it badly. So now it's time for someone else to get a chance.

You see how easy that was?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Feed your kids artificial cow growth hormone

Don't worry -- some guy from the Hoover Institution says it's safe.

Know where your Booty comes from

From today's Times we learn that that poison Veggie Booty that we ranted about a while back got its contaminated ingredient from -- surprise! -- China. In addition to boycotting anything made by the Booty makers, Robert's American Gourmet (which had previously abused its customer base in a different way), we ought to be demanding that all food sold in this country be labeled so as to identify the countries of origin of all its ingredients. It's obvious that federal authorities aren't going to stop tainted products from reaching store shelves. But consumers should be empowered to choose which countries they want to roll the dice with.

Hey, Gatsby Wyden! Fax in a bill from the Hamptons, will ya?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Your fire at your desire

It's a great day to be an American.

"It's Time"

A friend of mine eulogizes his dad. It's worth reading through to the end.

Mitt's mutt (story) bites him in the butt

Forget the Mormon thing. Check this out. (Via Snethen.)

Pay as you go

This may seem expensive, but over the long haul, it probably pencils out cheaper than paying quarterly City of Portland sewer bills.

But they *are* kosher

Controversy on the streets of Keizer, Oregon. (Via Orbusmax.)

Miss Oregon speaks out

Someone identifying herself as Kari Virding, the new Miss Oregon, left a comment on this blog last evening defending her credentials as a true Oregonian. She seems like a nice person, but I still feel like Lieutenant Columbo with these nagging questions I have. If you can offer a thought that would help the two of us get on the same page, please leave a comment in that thread yourself. I feel as though I'm messing around with something bigger than me.

Forty years ago today...

... they released this trivial little song:

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Savior's a little rough around the edges

Greg Oden fouled out and didn't do much else in his first game in the NBA summer league -- where you get 10 fouls before you're out!

Linchpin lost

A condo project up in Yakima has hit a little bump in the road.

Sonic bust

They may have Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, but with this guy at the helm, the Sonics probably won't be a contender for years. And by the time they are, they may all be moving to Oklahoma, which should slow them down even longer.

If P.J.'s still the verbally abusive jerk he was as a college coach and in his previous NBA head coaching gigs, his time in Seattle will be a real disaster. If he's changed his ways, he probably won't know what to do now that he's the boss again. Either way, it's going to be a bumpy ride for hoops fans up north for the foreseeable future.

Maybe they should start rooting for the Blazers.


On this early morning five years ago, this blog was born. I entered a post on Blogger, and went back a couple of times to marvel that yes, it was really there. Who knew where it was going? I didn't.

Still don't, in fact. Anyway, it's been a fun five years. Thanks for being here.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Memo to KGW: Get a tailor

Who's dressing the KGW reporters these days? Tonight at 11, both the underpaid sports guy and the nerdly elf who reported on the Canby (Chicano) gang fight had on these tight little three-button suit jackets that made them look like something out of an early AC/DC concert. It's bad enough that they're giving me the feeling that my news is being delivered by frat pledge rejects. But putting them in front of the cameras in clothes that don't fit -- it shows how far Portland has not come.

Make up your own joke

KGW took a tip from a viewer and checked out the dumpster at a local Chuck E. Cheese. There they found tons of sensitive documents that would have been worth a fortune to an identity thief.

O.k., if that's not a great joke set-up, I've never heard one. Please supply a punch line in the comments below.

How many Iraqis has America killed?

I don't know. Nobody does. And that's just the way Dick Cheney wants it.

Maybe they'll drive them upstream in Smart cars

The Portland Water Bureau's doing a lot of talking about fish all of a sudden. I believe they're already releasing water somehow from the Bull Run reservoir into the Little Sandy River to help the salmon going in and out of there, and today they announced, somewhat ominously: "In the next few months, we will be telling you more about how the Portland Water Bureau is planning to step up and make substantial commitments to fish restoration for the next 50 years."

Hard to see how it isn't going to come down to Fish vs. People over water. And you already know where the old Eco-Fireman's going to come out. Should make for some fascinating conversation in the blogosphere.

He was more polite to them than I'd be

I think I'm about the last person on earth who saw this, but if I'm wrong about that in your case, take 10 minutes and check out MSNBC's Keith Olbermann in an exquisite rant against Bush and Cheney. In the end, he calls for them to resign.

I'm so jaded -- I can't take it seriously. I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but sadly, I'm finding it much too late to hope. God help America.

New honor

Just when some people were questioning the Oregon residency of the new Miss Oregon, Kari Virding, Gov. Ted Kulongoski today appointed her as a judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court. "Oregon is fortunate that this talented woman has dedicated her career to community service and seeks to serve the public in her scholarly duties," Kulongoski said in a press release. "Increasing diversity on the bench continues to be a priority for me because I believe it is important to have judges of varied backgrounds and experiences. Given her representation of two different hair color groups and experiences in two different jurisdictions, including one with many minority residents, she will enrich the Multnomah County bench and make it one step closer to reflecting the population that the Court serves.”

Round 3 of 3

A third group of bar exam crammers desperately needs my help. Their big ordeal is less than three weeks away, and there's always a good chance that it will include a grilling on tax matters. And so this time it's off to the state capital I go, there to preach the Gospel of Gross Income for another scintillating four hours.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fashion must-have

My friend Bob Miller (no, not that Bob Miller, the other Bob Miller) recently laid this gift on me:

Holiday ritual

Don't forget to sing along.

Cheney's new stooge

Fred Thompson.

Three cheers for the red, white, and blue

LeLo's got the right idea.

Greetings, WW readers

The Miss Oregon post is here.

What would the Founding Fathers think?

If the people who signed the Declaration of Independence were alive today, how would they rate our nation?
Very good
pollcode.com free polls

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Bar bar bar, bar bar review

Yet another group of crammers gets to hear me wax poetic on the federal income tax law, all morning long and then some. See you this afternoon after they unbuckle my straitjacket.

UPDATE, 5:01 p.m.: Whoa, that one tuckered me out. But I picked up a nice addition to my wardrobe along the way. Film at 11.

The party's mostly over -- for now

The comedy that is Portland's "voter-owed elections" system -- taxpayer financing of local politicians' campaigns -- has probably now reached the zenith of its hilarity with the conviction of Vladimir Golovan on 10 felony counts. Yesterday's courtroom action provided a few climactic yuks, as reported by the O's Anna Griffin:

Jurors said they didn't buy the blackmail. But they also said they were not sure whether Boyles and Broussard, who testified that they were innocent victims of Golovan's maneuverings, were telling the truth either...

"Everybody was pretty slimy," Pastene said. "We all said that, of all the characters up there, Golovan was the most trustworthy at many times."

And of course, the joke writers left room for the sequel:

Public financing will continue in the 2008 election with a few tweaks....

Candidates will not, however, be required to show proof that they raised $5,000, or evidence that the money came from individual donors.

Meanwhile, Emilie Boyles is back in eastern Montana at her just above minimum wage TV job. She still owes Portland north of $100K. The city says it will stay in touch with her about collecting it. But unless the godfathers of "clean money," Sten and Blackmer, have figured out how to get blood from a turnip, there's not much to talk to her about.

Ironically, Golovan wasn't convicted of any crime in connection with the Boyles campaign -- he was found guilty only in connection with the campaign of Lucinda Tate, which actually didn't cost the city a dime. On the Boyles case, which is the one in which the city forked over the six figures in "clean money" based on fake signatures and contributions, indeed, no one's been held responsible.

A math word problem in Portland

If a city pays a consultant $911,000 to help it streamline procurement, and the consultant's plan reduces the city's costs by only $61,000, how much money does the city save? Ryan Frank of the O digs into the calculations.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Disgrace, local edition

As shattered as my faith in our nation is, my pride in being an Oregonian isn't exactly shining today, either.

It's way past time to take it to the streets

I really don't understand. Here we have the absolute worst President in the history of our country -- an utter disgrace to the United States of America -- and we're all sitting in our houses watching "American Idol." Today it just got worse -- way worse. Back in the '60s and '70s, there would have been riots. Today? People quietly working off their student loans, I guess. Too busy heading up to the 'Couv to buy illegal fireworks.

We've got about a year and a half of this unspeakable excrement to go, and if We the People don't hurry up and get out on the streets and act up over this jerk, we as a nation are doomed. Forget November 2008 for now. By then it might be too late to save the country.

Sometimes they're half right

Portland's been named a "Fast City." Apparently this is the latest buzz term, replacing "creative class." Please make a note of it.

And leave some room for cream in my decaf.

Government advising itself

At 9:30 this morning, I received a hot e-mail from the City of Portland, inviting me to an important event to take place... well, er, it already started at 8:

This Advisory Group, consisting of two PDC Commissioners, two City Commissioners, one County Commissioner, one Planning Commissioner, and one Citizen Member will serve as the recommending body to the PDC Commission for a possible 61-acre expansion of the River District Urban Renewal Area. Stakeholders panel discussion.
Don't tell me -- the "Citizen Member" is Chris Smith or one of Homer Williams's other nephews. And I love the "stakeholders" -- they're the ones driving the stake through the city's financial heart.

You can't make this stuff up.

Portland hits the big time

The freeway blogger was here hanging signs over the weekend.

Guilty guilty guilty

It's official -- Vladimir Golovan's been found guilty on 10 charges out of 12, according to the O.

You see? The system is working!

Surprise! Office space.

Remember the months and months of anguished hand-wringing about what the Burnside Bridgehead project was going to look like, and who was going to build it? Well, it looks as though at least half of the plans have been ripped up, and the winning developers are talking about building something considerably different from what was promised back then. They suddenly realized that the city is badly condo-overbuilt (duh), and so much of the live-work blather and affordable housing malarkey in the original discussions is about to get round-filed in favor of good old Dilbert office space. The new blah-blah is "maybe a return of Columbia Sportswear." Hold onto your wallets, folks.

I asked this question back in May, and it came up again a couple of weeks ago in connection with the proposed Winkler-Naito taxpayer-built parking garage in Old Town: Shouldn't there be a stated shelf life for the approval on these deals? If they don't get built at least somewhat promptly, and at least somewhat along the lines originally advertised, then shouldn't the process reopen, or even start over? If the developers can just switch housing to office space without another round of serious new public input, what would stop them from switching back to their original scheme -- a Home Depot? The good faith of the city planning bureaucrats?

It was bad enough that the city abused the process on the original award for this project. Now the very nature of the buildings is morphing, and when that happens, it's just a short hop to aerial tram time.

Good omen

Breaking news (from last month)

Here's a cool scoop about city government waste in today's O.

Well, it's sort of a scoop...

Where your money goes

Portlanders, as Sam the Tram whines about how he's out of money for basic street maintenance, and you gasp at your astronomical sewer bills from Big Pipe and the sanitation bureaucrats, do you ever wonder where they're burning your property tax dollars?

Now it's easy. The O lets you point, click, and see where those tax revenues are going. Quite the public service. (Via Bob Miller.)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

If you don't make it in L.A....

Here is the new Miss Oregon, Kari Virding -- "Miss Portland."

And here she is just last year as Miss Covina -- not even 4th runner-up in California.

We have an aerial tram -- what more do you want?

Here's a major blow to Portland's livability.

On the back road

This is just incredibly sad.

Reader poll: What will Vladimir's jury do?

The jury continues its deliberations Monday morning in the trial of Vladimir Golovan, accused of criminal fraud in connection with the Portland City Council "clean money" campaign of Emilie Boyles last year. What do you think will be verdict?

What will the verdict be in the Golovan "voter-owed elections" fraud trial?
Guilty on some or all charges
Not guilty on all charges
Hung jury
Mistrial for other reasons
pollcode.com free polls

Among the many lost arts

A reader writes:

We grew up, as I've told you, about 25 miles and 15 years apart. I'm the older, more handsome one.

You had a nice bit a couple of months ago about Rubio's shoe repair place in deep downtown. Second, Third, maybe a block south of Burnside. I could lead you there, but I couldn't tell you the address or directions if my life depended upon it.

I liked Rubio's, and a whole lot of my "lawyer wingtips" got repaired there before I hung up my cleats.

So tonight, there I am in the garage / workshop, at the grinder, trying to sharpen scissors (three pair) plus some garden cutters. I made lots of bright, shiny surfaces, but the suckers still don't cut. Obviously, I don't know what I am doing. (Female in residence, looking over my shoulder, laughing loudly, saying "So, what's new?") I can't get an edge on the blades nor any respect.

I remember in the early-to-mid '50s in the Bronx, a fellow coming around with a truck who knocked upon all doors or rang all bells about every three months, yelling out, "Sharpen, sharpen, I fix all your knives and scissors." He parked in the middle of the block, picked up from everybody, and about three hours later returned everything really sharp.

Charged about $ 0.25 or maybe $ 0.50 per edge. A lot, in those days.

Kids loved to watch him work in his truck. A '50s-style delivery van with a big side window. Sparks came off the stone wheels that he used to sharpen stuff, and looked a little like fireworks. The wheels seemed to be powered by a foot treadle and belt works, just like our grandmothers' sewing machines. Not any electric motors.

A funny sort of scorched metal smell hung around the truck.

He had a heck of a memory or a good file system. I never knew of anybody in my extended family, or any neighbors, who didn't get back the same items they sent out.

That's another craft that seems to have just totally died. I think there was a name for those guys -- not "tinkers," which has its own meaning, but some special name.

I miss real shoe makers like Rubio's, with all those special leather smells and dye smells and polish smells. I miss the "fireworks" of the grinder / sharpener guy, too.

Heck, I remember the folks who delivered the milk and bread to my folks' summer house at Greenwood Lake. Ray Dillon was the milkman; can't remember for the life of me the dairy name -- Pompton Lakes Dairy? "Pete" Petersen -- and that was very much an "e" -sen -- was the bakery driver for Dugan's.

Funny stuff one remembers when trying to duplicate what much more skilled folks did 50 years ago with a lot less sophisticated tools.

We interrupt this winning streak...

Just when I started watching the Mariners on TV -- and they've won seven games in a row -- there comes this shocking news. Obviously, there's a lot more to the story than has been revealed so far. Too bad for us casual fans who were just stepping onto the bandwagon.

UPDATE, 8:07 p.m.: At least they won his last game for him. But what the heck is going on? Health problems? Impending scandal? "Lost my passion for the game" in mid-season sounds like "spend more time with his family." Doesn't ring true.

Did you miss us?

Yesterday afternoon, while we were deeply engaged in Life 101, the server on which this blog resides decided to conk out. By the time we noticed this, the crack support team at our web host was gone for the evening, and things didn't get up to speed until sometime this morning.

We are back now, hoping that the outage will not recur. No word yet on precisely what went wrong. Apologies for the inconvenience.

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