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

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August 2007 Archives

Friday, August 31, 2007

City screwup may mess with triathlon schedule

LND has the poop here.

Have a great holiday weekend

Con man's got company

A reader writes:

Like your blog.

Anyway, in December, 2004, days after I separated from my wife (when she said, "As far as I'm concerned, this relationship is over"--Merry Christmas), I would console myself by going to the Old Lompoc.

One night, feeling especially sorry for myself and seeing Christmas lights, a man came up to me.

His truck broke down. He was trying to get back to Welches. They stole his tool box. Give me your e-mail address. Have some faith in humanity.

Um, and so on.

Line for effing line.

I gave the bastard $40 and congratulated myself on finding someone more miserable than I was. By God, I was a Good Samaritan.

Six months later, I see and hear the guy in front of the downtown Nordstrom, speed-rapping his way through the spiel with a yuppie couple who had kids in tow.

Until that moment, I thought that the guy was legit.

I walked up to them and said, "This guy is a con artist. Run!" or something like that.


Are you familiar with the little old lady in front of Nordstrom? She, too, is particularly insidious. She looks like your perfect little gramma with cookies baking not far away. VERY sincere.

Another one bites the dust.


But you can't hide

Runners do the craziest things. Here are a couple who behaved enough like terrorists that they got themselves locked up.

The guy knew coffee

Alfred Peet

Way too much Rick White for TRP

The Seattle Mariners' new manager is making some bad choices in pitchers lately, and it's got this fan a tad cranky.

You don't say!

Doggone it. Homer, Dike, Gerding and the boys got your neighborhood's transportation money. Especially shafted: Southeast and outer Northeast Portland. Thanks, Sam and Vera.

Next they'll be stealing it for the Burnside-Couch couplet and the east side streetcar. Enjoy those unpaved streets in Cully, and the new parking meters on Hawthorne. The fat cats will be laughing it up at Bluehour, and the joke's on you.

LeLo makes the newspaper

And rightly so -- she's quite a newsmaker this week.

Bringing back General Custer

We know the chances are good that we are going to dislike greatly whomever the Chimp nominates to be the next attorney general. But Slade Gorton? Wow, that would really be up there on the old detestation scale. I tend to give 80-year-old geezers the benefit of the doubt, but not that guy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Larry Craig's arrest interview

What a creep.

Return favor

Dave's going on Oprah. It's about time. (Via Bean.)

And another one gone, another one gone

More free muni wifi plans onto the scrap heap. A Portland big idea that, surprise, just doesn't work.


I can't say I was paying all that much attention, but here's something I didn't know about.

No interest, no payments 'til Christmas 2008!

On your gall bladder operation.

Portland needs a "small business impact statement"

The Portland City Council has noticed that small businesses are having a hard time with all the red tape and other hassles they have to deal with at City Hall. Lately the council's taken a few steps here and there to make life easier for the little entrepreneurs that give their passions and ambitions a shot in the Rose City. And it's a smart move -- small business plays a big part in making Portland Portland.

But the saga of Fireman Randy's new spray paint lockup ordinance -- did it pass yesterday? -- shows that the city still has quite a way to go to become truly small-business-friendly. The idea of requiring hardware stores and other retailers to keep all spray paint locked up, and to get and record identification from everyone who buys it, is supposed to reduce graffiti in the city. But the merchants, particularly the smaller ones, have howled, saying that the burden on them outweighs any likely public benefit.

I'm an enemy of graffiti taggers -- they're all mentally ill, in my view -- and so I tend to sympathize with any effort to combat that particular form of vandalism. But I can also understand the hardware stores' concerns. Look at it from their perspective. They'll have to make some fairly significant physical renovations of their stores to get the paint locked up, and all the ID checking and other folderol that will now come with selling a can of paint is going to eat up employees' time and attention. While they're busy jotting down information from some grandmother's driver's license so that she can pick up a can of Rustoleum for that garage sale patio table, some kid in the back of the store is going to be stealing the place blind. So what are the shopkeepers supposed to do, hire more help just for the spray paint rigamarole?

In this case, it would have been quite helpful for the council (and the public) to have a decent estimate of just how much, in hard dollars, the hardware store folks are going to have to spend to come into compliance with the proposed new rules. And as best I can tell from where I'm sitting, that data was never compiled; at least, it was never publicized. Could it be that city had no solid estimate of the costs of the program -- much less any ascertainable estimate of the reduction in tagging that the ordinance is supposed to bring about?

I think the city should have to compute and publicize the private costs of laws like these before the vote on them is taken. The same for actions taken by city bureaus, for that matter. And there's a perfectly good model for requiring the municipal government to do that. It's a longstanding federal law regarding the environment. Before any "major federal action" is taken that might have a deleterious effect on the environment, the agency that's about to do the hacking has to prepare an "environmental impact statement," in which it is required to predict just how much damage to Mother Nature the proposed program is going to inflict.

There ought to be a similar law in place on behalf of small business in the City of Portland. Before the city plows ahead with something like the spray paint lockup ordinance, it should have to prepare and publish a "small business impact statement," showing how much the proposed law is going to cost small businesses in town. Defining what a "small business" is isn't that difficult, and figuring out what a "major city action" affecting such businesses might be is another manageable task. If the city fathers are really serious about nurturing entrepreneurs, the least they could do is quantify the hurt they're about to put on the little guys and gals when they pound the gavel on their latest groovy idea.


It was exactly one year ago this morning, right about this time, that this blog disappeared as part of a fiasco with my extremely crooked web host at the time. Since then, we've gotten back on our feet, but that was a morning I don't think I'll ever forget. Thanks again to everyone who was around back then and pitched in to help resurrect everything.

We gotta fight the powers that be

Don't forget to drop by Congressman Blumenauer's office over by Lloyd Center from noon to 2 today for the weekly pro-impeachment picketing. Let him know that we're not going to let him go all Brian Baird on us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Portland in the news

And this time, the news ain't good.

Farewell to the Northwest Music Millennium

The famed house of sounds on NW 23rd Avenue in Portland closes Friday, but not without a nice sendoff. Lots of memories in there. We must redouble our resolve to spend some dough every now and then in their surviving store, on East Burnside just outside the Laurelhurst gate.

More dirty Clinton money

Remember Johnny Huang? This time around his name is Norman Hsu. Hillary's literally got fugitives running around raising cash for her.

Yeah, that's going to win the Presidential election. America doesn't mind the crookedness. Sure.

Bitches stick together

I am not making this up: Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog. (Via TaxProf Blog.)

Making love work

Here's a man with the right idea.

Whole Foods credit rating takes a hit

They're borrowing a lot of dough to buy Wild Oats. Is that a limb they're going out on?

Free wi-fi idea is falling apart already

The City of Chicago has blown up its plans to install free wi-fi service around the Windy City. It seems that the private providers of such municipal systems have wised up, and realized that they're not viable unless the city promises to front a bunch of dough up front. Cities aren't willing to do that, and so the whole concept appears doomed.

Portland, of course, got in on the action before this realization occurred. The problem for us -- besides the fact that the technology we picked doesn't work for most people -- is that the company providing our service, MetroFi, is playing out an untenable business plan. Today's Willy Week reveals that troubles have arisen between MetroFi and the city, over MetroFi's demand for discounted electrical power.

Look for those weird wireless nodes on top of Portland's traffic signals to be turned into fuchsia planters real soon.

Another one bites the dust

First telegrams went away. Now the Time Lady.

Thank goodness you can still call this guy.

Mmmmm... antimicrobial film

Scientists (including some at Oregon State, which Nike founder Phil Knight did not attend) are working on developing edible films and powders that will be spread over the foods we buy. The films and powders will fight mold, kill pathogens, and extend shelf life. They might even add flavor.


Drugs in Portland's Old Town: Everybody knows, nobody cares

As told by Larry Norton on the O's Old Town blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Portland Wet Sox? Gross!

I see that the Portland Beavers minor league baseball team has narrowed down potential new names for the team to a handful. They're all lame. In a survey that was posted here (and sure didn't last long), they listed these electriftying options:

• Green Sox
• Sockeyes
• Thorns
• Wet Sox
• Beavers

Ick! They must be joshing us. Inertia's got something to be said for it. Go, Beavers. (Via the OregonLive Beavers blog.)

Memo to the Hillary camp

If you have the dirt on Obama, please get it out on the table now. Don't wait until after he's got the nomination nearly sewed up to start slinging the mud. If the guy's got baggage that needs to be aired, let's get it done now. For the sake of the party. Please, please don't blow this.

The ultimate punishment

Here's a bad guy who was sentenced to using Windows.

Flamebait extraordinaire

Sic him!

E Street Band tour!

But alas, no Pacific Northwest stop, this year at least. There's a Friday night show in Oakland, Oct. 26; it's a one-nighter, like the whole schedule released today. Tickets for that one go on sale two weeks from Saturday.

Rumor: Please confirm or deny

Is it true that the Portland City Council is going to vote on Fireman Randy's spray paint lockup ordinance tomorrow, with only three council members present?

Man, if a Burnside Bridgehead Home Depot store doesn't put the little hardware stores out of business, goofiness like this will. If it results in even a slight reduction in tagging in Portland, I'd be shocked. And how many city bureaucrats can we afford to pay to enforce it?

Coming up next for Portland: Crisco by prescription only. It's bad for you!

Did you catch any of the lunar eclipse?

I did. It was eerie, just as they said it would be. The earth's shadow passed over the moon's surface, bathing the entire orb in a reddish-orange glow. It was a little clumsy peering at it through a thick filter so that I didn't go blind, but I got quite a good look at it.

I tried to take some photos of the event with my ancient digital camera, but they all came out pretty poor. Here's a Photoshop-enhanced version of a shot I took from our back deck around 4 o'clock:

Not much, eh? But just so that readers of this blog don't feel deprived, here is a high-powered computer simulation of what it actually looked like:

Awesome stuff. But I'm still feeling a bit tingly.

Earth to Baird: "You screwed up, my friend"

Brian Baird, the Vancouver congressman, is getting his chops royally busted by many of his constituents for his recent declaration that the United States needs to keep a large force in Iraq for a long time. I'm not the least bit surprised. Those of us who rejoiced at the election of a Democratic Congress last fall are getting mighty restless waiting to see some results, on just about anything having to do with the war. So far, we're hearing one excuse after another about why we can't come to our senses and get on with the inevitable bloodbath in Iraq, without first wasting time with a decade-long (or longer) half-a*sed occupation. If Democratic representatives were smart, they'd either get with the program that the party voters clearly want, or go into hiding. Baird hasn't been smart enough to do either.

Somebody, somewhere in our federal government needs to be working on a plan that starts a serious withdrawal now, and gets it done with the minimum amount of damage (which will be substantial nonetheless). America needs to get ready to see the dancing in the streets by the terrorists, and to take the months of insults from around the world about what losers our war makers turned out to be. We need to do what we can to help contain the chaos that's coming, but as for losing, it's going to happen, and let's face it, given whom we put in charge, we pretty much deserve it.

Baird's still engaged in the extreme delusion that we're going to "win" something in Iraq:

"I have to believe that there is a quiet majority of people out there who think the war has been a terrible mistake, but they sure don't want to see us lose," he told The Columbian editorial board earlier Monday.
Brian, Brian, Brian. It's not that we are going to lose. We have already lost. The whole thing was doomed from the start. The goals were fake, and when they were revealed as such, no realistic goals ever replaced them. A stable central government in Iraq is never going to happen, unless we make it the 51st state. Meanwhile, the kids just keep coming back in coffins. Bloody, ugly, embarrassing defeat is coming sooner or later -- why not today?

The sudden intransigence on the part of the entire Democratic "leadership" on this issue has many voters boiling over with anger. I suspect Messrs. Blumenauer and DeFazio are going to hear some of the same loud catcalls if they don't get off their bike pants and get something done in the direction of a pullout pretty soon. Then there's Hillary, whom so many people would pay good money to heckle, just on general principles.

Want to screw up the 2008 Presidential election? The Democratic Party is well on its way. Another Nader fiasco could be right around the corner.

We all love good Times

What was supposed to be a quick trip to the curb with the weekly recycling turned into a bit of a diversion, as we stopped to read several interesting items we encountered in yesterday's New York Times:

- An extensive backgrounder on Fred Thompson -- especially his days as a Capitol Hill lawyer during Watergate. Compared to now, those were the days.

- A full-page display ad accusing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of killing more animals than Michael Vick -- with a link here. I have no idea what to make of the accusations.

- An op-ed piece about the difference between classified information and secret information. Which contains the sobering revelation that even some Times op-ed pieces get vetted by the CIA before publication. We Americans brag about our freedom of the press, but there are some glaring exceptions.

- A story about a California pedophile, recently moved down there from Washington State, who's now looking for a new state in which to live because of restrictions placed on him down south. He's been legally enjoined from, among other things, publishing pictures of little girls. Now that the internet has made publishers out of so many of us, that prohibition really means something.

- Finally, a musical note. A big bucks New York law firm had its promotional song leaked into (and ridiculed in) the blogosphere, and it's not happy about it. But its reaction didn't exactly put out the fire.

Bring back Ashcroft!

Next to the alternative, he's starting to look pretty good.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Photo of the Day

Cousin Jim offers up an image of pure beauty. The interplay of light and object captures his Polish ancestry (same as mine) perfectly.

Fellow moonbats, join me

Tonight at 3. Ah-ooooo!

On a roll

It's been a heck of a day for the Republican Party.

I hope Sam the Tram doesn't find out about this

Please don't tell him.

Mouthing at the foam

The City of Portland's nabbed one of the kids who get their funnies throwing detergent into the fountain across from Keller (a.k.a. Civic) Auditorium. It's something of a tradition, but it's expensive to correct, and the city wants to put a stop to it. So they're publicizing the heck out of the apprehension of this guy.

Tipping point

Snow in September?

I was more than willing to give Portland Mayor Tom Potter the benefit of the doubt on his whole "vision quest" project, in which he said he would find out what the city's residents really want, and lay out plans to make it happen. Lots of people had misgivings, especially about the cost, but I reasoned that this is what new CEOs do all the time -- commission a big-picture project to lay out a mission statement into which they can plug in their agendas. Usually the agendas are pre-formed, but there's a chance that a survey of the masses might pick up a useful idea or two.

Well, Potter's not "new" any more. Heck, we're all already speculating who the next mayor's going to be. And so it's past time for Grampy to get the vision in front of the people. And yet down at City Hall they're still talking about the "preliminary" results of the vision questionnaire, as if we're nowhere near knowing how we're going to bring about the direction they suggest.

Sadly, there are some alarming signs emerging that the whole exercise is going to turn out to be a snow job for more business as usual out of City Hall -- basically, more soulless condo bunkers eating into the fabric of the city's neighborhoods. The Trib had an interesting article last week about how the "vision quest" has been turned over to the city's bloated planning bureau to be turned into action.

Preliminary results are consistent with previous surveys that show many residents value the region’s environment and want good schools, safe streets and equal opportunities for all.

But they also show deep concern over perceived threats to future livability, especially the need to build the equivalent of five new South Waterfront-size developments over the next 25 years to house all the additional people projected to move to Portland.

"A deep concern over the need to build five more SoWhat developments." What does that sound like to you? Do the people want that to happen -- or not want that to happen? Hmmmm, it doesn't say. Notice, though, the "need" is stated as a given. Oh, there's definitely a "need," but you wimps can't handle it.

Although I'm as big a fan of comedy as anyone, I hope they aren't going to try to twist this into a finding of some supposed public desire for more particle-board-and-concrete condo jungles. If you ask the average guy or gal in Portland what the city really needs, is he or she going to say "I'm worried there aren't enough condo towers"? Come on, Mayor, you're not going to even try that one, are you?

Especially since the initial reports out of the city were that the questionnaires turned in included quite a few that hated the SoWhat district, and the nine figures in tax dollars that were handed to the developers to build it. But give it a year or so, keep spinning it, and lo and behold, the people say they want more condos? Lord, one hopes we're not about to see that level of arrogance.

You know the fibbin' is a-startin' in when the Portland State urban planning geniuses (Motto: "A 'mixed use village' out by the airport, under the flight path") start coming out front and center to "facilitate" our understanding:

“This is serious stuff, and people need to pay attention,” said Ethan Seltzer, director of Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning.
When you don't tell the condo people what they want to hear, it must be because you aren't paying attention.

If all the "vision" huff and puff turns out to be a setup for a warmed-over version of the Vera Katz-Homer Williams love fest, with the time and energy of the people of Portland being used as a front, history will not be kind to Potter. He's supposed to say whether he's going to run for re-election about a week before the "vision" documents come out. Whatever his decision about the future, I hope the official results of his "vision quest" are at least truthful. It's coming from the planning bureau, though -- they're mostly planning the developers' cushy retirements these days -- and so don't bet on anything of the sort.

Want impeachment? Tell Earl the Pearl yourself

A small group of folks has been hanging out in front of Congressman Earl Blue-Man-Hour's office on Thursday lunchtimes demanding impeachment of the Chimp and Cheney. If you agree with them, they ask that you join them this Thursday from noon to 2. The office at which they demonstrate is at 729 NE Oregon Street, over near the Convention Center.

"Us, too!"

We killed our paid subscription to The Oregonian a while back. Nowadays everything we've ever wanted out of the paper we can get for free on line, and without the recycling duty. It's not quite as convenient as the dead-tree version, but it doesn't take long to get through the editorial content of the O. That's money well saved.

To our surprise, however, the cancellation of our paper didn't stop the delivery on our front porch, yesterday mid-afternoon, of this item:

It's the latest edition of what used to be called Ultimate and now is Ultimate Northwest -- a slick, glossy mag produced by the O. We blogged about this publication almost exactly a year ago, shortly after the first issue came tucked in our Sunday paper -- back in the days when we were paying for that pile of pulp. It was weak then, and it's weak now. Journalism lite, laid out amidst the color advertisements in such a way that it's not possible to see where the ads end and the editorial content begins. Even if I open my codgerly mind as far as it will go, it's still truly painful to flip through it. Somebody named Jamie Francis has some nice photos in there, but the whole look and feel of the thing had me in such a hurry to put it down that I didn't get to appreciate them fully.

This product sure looks to us like a reaction by the waning O empire to Portland Monthly (which is also not my cup of tea). It doesn't take much imagination to put yourself in the conference room at the O the day the idea was first bounced around. "Hey, somebody else is making a living selling ads for the city's shallowest businesses and getting them in front of customers. How come we aren't getting those ads? We've got to get in on that." I don't think they could ever reasonably expect to make this venture even come close to breaking even, but I suspect they wouldn't mind cutting into the competition's revenue stream.

This is not the first time our prize-winning daily has made this kind of derivative move. First there was A&E -- a ripoff of the back half of Willamette Week. Then came InPortland -- funny thing, right after the Portland Tribune took hold. Now this.

All the way down to the circulation plan. Ultimate has a $4.99 cover price on it, but that's as fake as the budget for the eastside streetcar. They're literally throwing this baby up on people's porches on Sunday afternoons, people. Much the same way that Portland Monthly is apparently mailed for free to every doctor and lawyer in town -- perfect for the waiting room.

Once upon a time, a quick and dirty rule was that the price readers paid for their copies of a publication covered the expenses of the editorial department, and advertising income covered everything else. In the new math, it looks like advertising has to carry the whole enterprise, because any customer who pays retail for one of these mags is a fool. (But exactly the kind of fool that the advertisers want, of course -- "Luxury in the Pearl (Ignore That Falling Wall).")

Memo to the O, and indeed to the entire Newhouse newspaper chain: If you want to survive over the long haul, you are going to have to come up with a fresh product sometime soon. And this most decidedly is not it.

How was your Hood to Coast?

For a couple of state troopers, it was eventful.

What's wrong with the way this woman looks?

A lot, apparently. (Via UtterlyBoring.com.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Political calendar filling up

Barack Obama will be in Portland a week from Friday. John Edwards is coming to town on October 9. Where's Hillary (formerly known as Hillary Clinton)? I'm sure she'll be coming through as soon as her mourning period for Leona Helmsley is over.

Big Brother at the Portland Central Library?

A reader writes:

The main library downtown has video cameras that keep an eye on what people are doing. This isn't too unusual -- in the world of Homeland Security etc. What does seem unusual is that they are secretive about it. But if they see someone doing something wrong, they use those videos to prosecute. I heard this story from someone who was caught hiding cd's or dvd's or something like that. Which is fine -- they should catch him -- but shouldn't they also be required to warn the rest of us that surveillance is in progress? We already know they track every web site and probably every email you send from their computers -- but if you're going to videotape people in a public building, aren't you required to say so?
I don't know whether the law requires it -- I doubt that it does -- but wouldn't it be a good policy to advertise the cameras? One would think that it would have a deterrent effect.

Must read

Another good example of why blogs were invented.

Tempus fugit

Here's one way to watch it roll by:

On to Iran!

You know we're going.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

New rock 'n' roll cafe: You'll only go once?

Brandon over at Welcome to Blog popped in there unannounced, and he doesn't get it.

The darkest place in the universe

Thoughts from a wise man.

Teenage beauty pageants are obscene

As this video clearly shows.

In Bush's war, no room for honesty

They're tougher on snitches than the street gangsters are.

Court blesses Whole Foods-Wild Oats; 30 stores could close

The takeover of Wild Oats by Whole Foods has been cleared by a federal appeals court. Equally interesting news is that one of our latest entries about the deal somehow made the Wall Street Journal article on the topic (scroll all the way down).

A new (to us, at least) tidbit can be found in the Wall Street story -- Whole Foods has already sold off 35 of the Wild Oats stores:

The merger will create a more formidable foe for conventional grocers. Still, the companies are relatively small. They would have about 300 stores combined, compared with more than 2,000 at large rivals Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co. Whole Foods also reached a deal to sell 35 of the Wild Oats stores once it closes the acquisition.
But according to this piece, the 35 stores that have been sold go by the names Sun Harvest and Henry's Farmers Markets:
Aside from reaching an agreement to sell 35 of Wild Oats’ Sun Harvest and Henry’s Farmers Markets stores to private equity firm Apollo Management LP, Whole Foods has not disclosed how many or which stores it will close.
Which Wild Oats stores will close in our area thus remains unknown. Information accidentally leaked last week states that about 30 Wild Oats stores are up for closure. I imagine nothing official will be announced on that score until after the finalization of the merger, which could come next week.

The government filing that contained the 30-store news had some fascinating other material in it, as reported here:

- The opening of a Whole Foods store can cut revenue 30 percent or more in nearby Wild Oats stores.

- Whole Foods set "ground rules" barring suppliers from selling directly to Wal-Mart. "It wants Wal-Mart to have to go through distributors because that raises Wal-Mart's costs," the document said.

- Company documents labeled "Project Goldmine" predicted that buying Wild Oats and shutting down certain stores would increase revenue 85 percent to 90 percent at nearby Whole Foods stores.

- Education is key to the site selection for a new Whole Foods store. "As a company, we look at college graduate density. That's one of the single most important things," the government quoted a company official as saying.

- The takeover will send as many as 80 percent to 90 percent of Wild Oats shoppers to Whole Foods stores, according to Whole Foods documents cited by the government. "As a result, they will unambiguously be worse off," because of increased prices, the FTC argued.

Finally, calls keep coming in for Whole Foods head man John Mackey to step down after it's been revealed that he spent several years posting about his company on Yahoo message boards under the pseudonym "rahodeb." The latest is from the Houston Chronicle:

That's something for Whole Foods' board to keep in mind when it begins searching for a new chief executive officer. If that's not on the board's post-merger agenda, it should be....

For its part, Whole Foods' attorney argued that because the judge didn't even mention the rahodeb masquerade, it proves the issue is a "sideshow."

Maybe for the merger, but not for investors....

The incident has sparked an inquiry from the Securities and Exchange Commission, and company directors have begun their own probe....

Shareholders have reason to be concerned. Whole Foods' stock has been, to use rahodeb's term, floundering. It's trading at about half what it was in January 2006. Last year, it was the best-performing stock on the Standard & Poor's 500. So far this year, it's down 3 percent.

Mackey may have engaged in his ruse because he believed in his company, and he may have believed what he was saying, but he said it behind the shroud of a screen name, and in doing so, undermined his own integrity.

He resorted to the tactics favored by penny-stock promoters and small-time Internet scammers, and he now finds himself under scrutiny from the SEC.

Whole Foods shareholders deserve better, especially now that the Wild Oats deal appears to be going through.

Meanwhile, Mackey's at least temporarily pulled the plug on his own blog, here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Have a great weekend

They won't let me embed this one, but click on the screen below and enjoy.

Room for lots of "mixed use" towers

Here's a spot that the proponents of infill will doubtlessly be pouncing on in the near future.

Nuke creeps never sleep

Yet another Hanford nuclear waste scam is in progress. This environmental rape has been going on for 60 years. Hanford is just up the Columbia River from us in the Tri-Cities. Even if you burned out on Hanford bashing a long time ago (as I did), you may want to wake up again for the latest round of public comment.

And where, pray tell, are Wyden and Smith? I assume they'll be out in Troutdale Monday evening raising Cain about this. Their predecessors were particularly good at it.

Fourth time's a charm?

I keep forgetting to mention that it appears there's a new restaurant going to go in where the old Nature's was, at NE 24th and Fremont in Portland, near blog headquarters. There's a liquor license notice on the door, with the applicant listed as something called Lucca LLC. That LLC appears to have been recently formed, and someone named Sue Davidson is listed on the state records as being its legal agent.

Ever since the venerable Marco's came to this location to establish an outpost of its Multnomah Village operations, it's been unsuccessful as a restaurant venue. Three operators have tried and failed there. The most recent attempt was something called Aja Pacific Kitchen, which underwhelmed us in our single visit shortly after it opened in March 2005. Before that it was the Dining Room.

When last we looked the building was owned by a company that appears to be linked to Stan Amy, the former Nature's guy who was instrumental in the founding of New Seasons. I'm sure those folks will be glad to have the rent coming in.

As for the new restaurateurs, we'll repeat what we said when Aja showed up: "We still miss the grocery store, but we welcome the newcomers and hope they can make it." It didn't help much last time, though.

Unspeakable B.S. of the Year (So Far)

About the Portland Convention Center Hotel scam:

[T]he financing model under consideration for a headquarters hotel will require the hotel to pay for itself. A hotel industry consultant has projected the hotel will generate $11 million per year in net operating income, starting in the hotel’s first stabilized year of 2014.
Now there's the pure, unadulterated version of bovine manure. It is unsullied with any filler of truth. And it was part of a larger pile. Our friend Mr. Stanford, to whom it was addressed, calls it like it is here.

More on the Easy Rider Fireman

Yesterday we noted the story in the Trib about a Portland firefighter who fled rather than talk to a police officer who stopped him for allegedly speed racing on a motorcycle out by the Doug Fir the other night. Today the O has some more details. Not only did he run from the cops, but when Hillsboro police went to his house out there a few hours later he wouldn't come out and talk to them. And now his lawyer says he committed no crime and is going to fight tooth and nail.

It's enough to make one want to ask Fire Chief Sprando not to send this particular firefighter if there's an emergency at one's house. Who wants an emergency responder around who doesn't know how to cooperate with police?

To make matters even more interesting, the fellow's apparently an arson investigator, which makes him sort of a police officer. Maybe we ought to address our concerns to the mayor.

Transit-oriented gangbanging?

More fun and games along the east side Blue Line. Mass transit takes credit for all the good stuff that happens near it; to be fair, perhaps it ought to take responsibility for some of the bad stuff as well.

Meet me at the wrecking ball

Photo courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.

A lot can be said for improving North Interstate Avenue in Portland. Parts of it are way too funky, even with the Max line running through them. But the current plan to turn the street into a strip of "mixed use" buildings -- that's slick planner talk for tall condo bunkers with Subway sandwich shops, Cricket cell phone showrooms, Starbuckses, and Radio Shacks on the ground floor -- doesn't turn me on much.

Many of the people who live in normal houses near there aren't exactly thrilled about nine-story apartment towers being thrown up literally next door. Some of the grittier businesses that line the street now aren't happy, either, that they'll soon be out of place.

But the condo weasels are hovering, and the fix is in. The place is going to be rezoned, after a suitable period of fake public input now and through this fall. If all goes the way the Portland Development Commission and the city Planning Bureau want it, the place will be another Pearl District within a few years. It may not in fact go as planned, but the city's fervent hope is that in a little while you won't recognize the place.

The story's told pretty well in this morning's Trib.

One aspect of the article that catches my eye is how the changeover will supposedly help existing business:

Some business owners have been forced to spend thousands of dollars changing their zoning just to expand existing operations.

Developers planning the mixed-use buildings that the PDC now advocates also can’t move ahead without applying for zoning changes.

“We’re getting a lot of folks who want to locate their businesses here, but they’re not finding the zoning to open up their shops,” said Kevin Cronin, the PDC’s senior project coordinator for Interstate Avenue rezoning.

Really, Mr. Cronin? A lot of businesses want to locate on Interstate, but the zoning is blocking them? First of all, name one. Second of all, why doesn't the city just expedite zoning changes for the existing businesses? You, know, eliminate the "thousands of dollars" in expense.

Portland bureaucrats, make it easy for existing businesses? Ha! Ha!

This is all about the condos, people. That's Portland. If you like the feel of that neighborhood now, better head over there and spend the next few months taking it in. It will be gone soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More bliss in the Pearl

Ah, the good life.

Your tax dollars at work

The top bureaucrats at the Oregon "lottery" (state-run diversified gambling business) are doing o.k. They're getting raises to make their pay more compatible with people in the private sector.

They try harder

Looks like the Portland Fire Bureau is working to top the city's Police Bureau as the home of the baddest boys in uniform. Now that the human drop kick has been dealt with, we move on to late-night speed racing on a motorcycle and running away from the cops.

These fellows need to start their own pin-up calendar.

One's suspended, the other one's too scared, and the rest...

This town says it was able to keep abreast of public safety concerns despite a shortage of police officers.

You're in good foam with Allstate

Here's an insurance company that's taking a proactive approach to insuring those McMansions.

Executive privilege has got nothing on this

Funny how Congress knows how to circle the wagons, too.

You think Michael Vick is bad

These folks take it to the next level.

Nowhere to run

Driving home with a buzz on? Be careful how you relieve your munchies.

Another success story for Golovan

Everything he touches turns to placki.

How to win them over

If the farmers down the Willamette Valley insist on burning their fields and letting smoke pour into Eugene, they'd get a lot less grief by letting these guys go first.

Something you never see

I know it's the middle of the night and all, but I can't believe it -- at the moment, Google is down!

It's actually kinda scary.

UPDATE, 4:18 a.m.: O.k., the outage is over now. But that was a good 10 minutes. We could have been the victim of a terror attack during that time, and no one could look anything up to help us fight back. Whew.

Houze never lets up

I love this one. A dentist and anesthesiologist who's reportedly hopped up on three different mind-bending drugs darn near wipes out a family of pedestrians with his car, and his lawyer's tugging at our heartstrings over how the wacked-out driver's family must feel:

Haymore — a Portland-area dentist and anesthesiologist — struck the family as they walked down the sidewalk on Salamo Road in West Linn, according to police reports. The crash came after Haymore smacked into a van in the nearby Starbucks parking lot and ran over a tree. Haymore told police that he was using a combination of Ambien, Prozac and Demerol at the time of the collision, said Bryan Brock, deputy district attorney in Clackamas County....

Haymore is still out of state in a residential treatment program, said Stephen Houze, Portland criminal defense attorney representing Haymore.

“This is a very trying time for all the family,” Houze said.

Ya know what, Steve? It's bad news having someone with drug problems in your household, but at this particular time, I'm gonna save my sympathy for somebody else -- like the people the doctor almost killed.

Barrels of blood either way

The Chimp says that if we pull out of Iraq, there will be untold death and destruction.

And exactly how will that be different from what's going on there now, except that we won't have American kids dying and being maimed along with the locals?

There will never be another stable central government in Iraq, other than a dictatorship. "Free Iraq"? Please, Bush, stop proving what a sick liar you are. Sooner or later, there will be a bloodbath in that land far beyond what we've seen so far. It's inevitable. You moved it up by about 30 years. Rather than bankrupt the United States any further, you should just let it happen and get it over with.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

If you're going to be a fool, now's the time

Those of you who, like me, pay the stupidity tax from time to time, take note: Saturday's Powerball jackpot will be $300 million. The cash option should pay about half that, right? Which would be $150 million.

The odds of winning the big prize are 146,107,962 to 1. And so for once, they're paying decent odds, if you're the only one with the magic numbers come this time Saturday night.

If you do win, remember that you read about it here. I'll cover any gift tax that you owe on what you flip my way.

You know you got it when you're going insane

Brandon at Welcome to Blog reviews the recent Ted Nugent concert at the Oregon Garden. And he's got a link to more, here.

Meet your new lender (or partner): the PDC

The Portland Development Commission's touting a new small business loan program called "near equity." They've got $550,000 of city general fund money to lend out to small businesses. According to their website:

This new loan fund is a flexible hybrid between equity and debt financing and was created to address the gap between project cost or working capital and private financing. Unlike PDC’s other loan programs, which are primarily restricted to bricks-and-mortar projects within urban renewal areas, the Near-Equity program is citywide and meant for direct business support such as working capital and equipment purchase, rather than for real estate-related transactions. Each eligible business could borrow up to $50,000.
Interesting concept. Anybody got the fine print on the "flexible hybrid... near-equity" terms? Sounds a little linchpin-ish. Who gets to say whether it turns out to be a loan or a partnership in the end? The PDC? The borrower? And isn't there some sort of constitutional provision against Oregon cities investing in equity in private corporations?

Portland certainly does need to do more to help its homegrown businesses. This could be a small piece of a larger solution to the city's anti-business reputation.

Free lunch ending

Google's going to start running ads on the screen on top of your favorite YouTube videos.

Overnight sensation

The day after Hardy Myers announced his impending retirement as Oregon attorney general, his former partner (and mine) formally announces his candidacy to succeed him.

Fed probe into Whole Foods reaches New Seasons

A commenter on this blog entry of ours this morning notes that it has.

UPDATE, 12:07 p.m.: Our commenter is definitely onto something. Check out this document on the Federal Trade Commission website. New Seasons has clearly been dragged into the fray.

Bloggers vs. the MSM in the Emerald City

A correspondent who watches over things to our north sends along an interesting story:

The P-I reports on story but makes big deal about not publishing pictures.

The blogsters go nuts and put in links to pictures.

Day 2, almost all other media print story and pictures.

And things are a little tense.

And the P-I goes off its rocker!!!

Then admits it is stupid!

Best quote:

"It's amazing to me to think that, in this internet era, the [paper] is arrogant enough to think that they can 'hide' something from the public. By not publishing the pictures, they are making themselves less relevant -- additionally, through the controversy, they are making the story bigger than it would be otherwise. This is a perfect example of why newspapers, and big media in general, is losing readers by the thousands."

Neither the Seattle Post-Intelligencer nor the rival Seattle Times is the gatekeeper of information in the greater Seattle area anymore, if they ever were. Neither are any of the local TV news stations. There are just so many news outlets and distributors now -- cable networks, websites of out-of-town papers, and blogs -- that no matter what the Seattle Post-Intelligencer did, the people of Seattle were going to see these photos.

We live in amazing times.

Escalation of hostilities

The little brouhaha with the police chief down in Sherwood just got uglier -- they canned the guy.

Some of that Guantánamo karma, perhaps?

What's it to Zhou?

Here's a guy who doesn't get it. But he doesn't have to. Since they own us now, I guess it's up to us to play nicey-nicey. Thanks, Bush.

The Whole Foods-Wild Oats saga continues

The proposed takeover of Wild Oats by Whole Foods continues to be tied up in court. On Monday the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit left the deal on hold while it considers additional legal arguments in the case. Federal Trade Commission regulators are trying to block the merger, saying that it would create too big a market force in Whole Foods, hurting consumers. Whole Foods says its offer will stay open until Monday, but it's not clear whether the court will have an answer by then. (Some wonder whether the Bush folks would be so upset if this were Safeway and Kroger, or Wal-Mart and Target. Are they just picking on the hippies?)

Meanwhile, the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, is turning out to be quite a character. Apparently he sent around some e-mails to his board of directors touting the upcoming merger as a way of stopping price competition between the two companies. According to Reuters:

The FTC had shown the judge e-mails that Mackey sent to the Whole Foods board of directors in which he said the deal would prevent a price war between the two organic grocers. In one message, Mackey said eliminating Wild Oats would head off new competition "forever, or almost forever."
The lower court judge hearing the case said the e-mails didn't matter, and that the deal was not anticompetitive enough to be blocked. But the appeals court has now vacated that decision and temporarily stopped the transaction from proceeding.

Mackey's been a busy guy on the internet. For quite a while there, he was apparently posting on Yahoo message boards about his company -- and about Wild Oats -- using the pseudonym "Rahodeb." His comments about Wild Oats were interesting. He ran the company down in the period preceding the Whole Foods takeover bid. The lower the Wild Oats stock price, of course, the sweeter the merger price for Whole Foods. And that's got some folks crying foul.

As the Times recently reported:

In the court document, F.T.C. lawyers cite a remark that Rahodeb wrote about Wild Oats to bolster its case. “Whole Foods is systematically destroying their viability as a business — market by market, city by city.”

When the merger was announced in February, Mr. Mackey said he had previously tried to acquire Wild Oats about six years earlier but the deal fell through. About that time, in April 2001, Rahodeb had this to say about Wild Oats: “I find it simply amazing that some investors continue to have faith in this company.”

Rahodeb added later in the same posting, “The ‘emperor has no clothes’! Am I the only one who sees this?”

Whole Foods’ public relations staff declined to comment yesterday, and Mr. Mackey was not available for comment.

On the company Web site, Mr. Mackey wrote on Wednesday night that his online postings were simply for fun and that he never disclosed proprietary company information. He said he often took contrary positions for the sake of argument.

“Rahodeb’s postings therefore do not represent any official beliefs, policies or intentions by either Whole Foods Market or by me,” Mr. Mackey wrote.

David Gardner, co-founder of the Motley Fool and a longtime champion of Whole Foods stock, said it would be difficult for Mr. Mackey to continue leading the company since its code of conduct and ethics warns against such activities.

The code reads: “Team members have a primary business responsibility to WFM and are expected to avoid any activity that may interfere or have the appearance of interfering with the fulfillment of this responsibility.”

“You look at this and say it looks like he acted in violation of his own code,” Mr. Gardner said. “I clearly think he should step aside for a while.”


Anyway, until the legal battles are concluded, we won't know whether the two companies are actually going to combine. And if it turns out that they are, it will probably be a while longer before we hear which Wild Oats stores are going to be closed.

"War on poor," my eye

One lesson I've learned from the infamous con man incident is: Never, never give money to a stranger. Up in Seattle, however, the rubes (of which I was one) are still debating the subject.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

World-class question

Seattle's got a major property crimes sweep under way right now, with more than 100 arrests already and more to come. It's all about meth addiction, police there say.

Any chance of getting something like that going down here? You know, in between streetcar meetings?

How to tell when the Blazers are back in town

Here's a real breakthrough in science, courtesy of the School That Phil Knight Didn't Go To.

Sad, sad, sad

Even if there is no advisory in effect, officials recommend avoiding swimming in the ocean within 48 hours after a rainstorm.
It's gotten that bad.

Turnover time

Hardy Myers announced his impending retirement as Oregon attorney general today. That leaves the door open for this guy and this guy to go at each other, and then take on whoever the Republicans nominate. (This guy again? I don't follow that club much.)

And always thoughtful, in his announcement today Hardy sent a shout out to Multnomah County D.A. Mike Schrunk:

"My decision is second the result of the conviction that the department of justice deserves and benefits from regular change in its highest leadership with the result of the infusion of new energy and perspectives," he said.
Amen, bro.

The original linchpins

Great profile of Bud Clark in the Trib today. It includes the tale of how his first establishment was run out of its old neighborhood by the first wave of urban renewal -- which produced the hideous South Auditorium "district" of brutal high-rise ugliness.

Now there was a chasing of the regular joes if ever there was one. At least with SoWhat and the Pearl, the city didn't force too many people out of their homes. Sure, it ran a tram over some of them, but those folks didn't need their privacy, anyway.

Like Bud Clark, small business owners in other inner Portland locales had better watch their backs. The condo weasels are salivating. You listening, central east side?

You wanna piece o' da Bing?

This blogger hasn't posted for a while. Maybe he's trying to get a group together to bid on this.

Just for kicks

This (way down at the bottom) is probably not news to the local cognoscenti of fútbol, but today's the first I've heard of it.

A reply to Rusty

Rusty (the artist formerly known as Pieman) takes me to task today for my coverage of the Portland police officer whose roommate was allegedly running meth out of the officer's house. I tried to leave a comment over there, but Blogger wouldn't seem to take it, and so here's my response to Rusty:

He may not be guilty of a crime, but if he isn't, he's not very bright. If I were a cop and my wayward roommate from my kid days was running meth out of my house, I think I'd know about it, and I'd kick his a*s back out on the street. Enabling druggies is not a virtue.

My main gripe about this story all along has been the extreme slowness and paucity of press coverage. If it were not for my blog, there may very well have been no coverage at all. But that's over now.

I see your friend has gotten out of the restaurant business, which is probably a good thing for his career. But just from what he's got posted on the internet, he seems awfully eager to moonlight. Too much money-hunger is not a good thing in a police officer.

A good day from mornin' 'til night

That hap'nin' L.A. guy, Tony Pierce, had himself a fine day yesterday.

The times they are a-changin'

Remember the good old days when the kids at the U of O were giving Nike a hard time about "sweatshop conditions" overseas? Man, I'll bet them days are over.

Wonder how Bean is voting on the port tax

It's an election day up in the 'Couv.

Chapter (11) and verse

The tab is in for the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland bankruptcy. According to the O, the bankruptcy lawyers made $18.8 million, and that's not counting the estimated $15 million in contingency fees that the child sex abuse victims' attorneys got out of the settlements of the victims' claims.

This is the cue for the lawyer-haters out there to come in a-bashing the profession for its greed. You'll get no defense of that charge here, but it's worth noting that the lawyers were just doing their jobs.

What's more important is what the archbishop did. He spent $18.8 million on a legal maneuver that didn't get him too far in the end. The archdiocese wound up settling most of the cases for a pretty penny; some others are still out there awaiting resolution; and the church was forced to disclose at least some of its secret files about what went on at headquarters over the years when accusations against priests came in. And what was in those files was immoral and revolting.

It was not a wise use of money. $18.8 million would have bought a lot of the "healing" that the church claims it wants. The bankruptcy seemed to be, more than anything else, a deadbeat stall, a bullying, and an attempt to keep the truth at bay. Obviously, there was plenty of money and property and insurance around to pay the claims; they're all being paid. The part where every Catholic in the archdiocese was made a nominal defendant in the case was a pitiful ploy, leading nowhere.

The honorable thing would have been for the church to take its lumps in open court and pay the resulting judgments. That wasn't done.

At our house we're talking about whether Catholicism is still the right thing for our family. We shopped around among Christian denominations a few years ago, but the Catholic traditions in which I was raised brought me back around to where I grew up. I wish we could reform the church, rather than give up on it, but it's structured in such a way that that's not possible. You have to look the other way when the leadership says and does hurtful things -- and that's not infrequently these days. It's tough when the preachers are the bad guys.

The one thing I really am having a hard time with is giving them any more money. For the guys who run the organization, it's all about the money. And it shouldn't be.

Can't say as I blame him

Here's a heartfelt argument in favor of Measure 49 by blogger Brian Hines down in south Salem.

Mmmm, words taste good

Yesterday we posted an entry (which we just removed) about the use of official City of Portland computers to make changes to various entries on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. We noted that there have been quite a few such incidents -- and there have been -- coming from the IP address, which is city property.

But we also complained that they were all coming from "torridjoe," a.k.a. Mark Bunster of the Fire Bureau, who often posts internet offerings from a city computer during working hours. When Bunster posts comments to this blog, that's the IP address he comes in from.

It has been pointed out to us by a thoughtful third party that in fact one can't tell from the IP address which city employee it is -- that many city employees' postings would have that same IP address. We did not realize that. (Not every comment coming from a city employee onto this blog has come through that address.) And therefore, who knows which city employee or employees are posting to Wikipedia about such topics as the Beatles, Howard Stern, the Eastbank Esplanade, Vera Katz, and Tom Potter? It could be Bunster or any one (or more) of hundreds of other people.

If we were wrong about the authorship of those posts -- and the odds are that we were -- we're deeply sorry to Bunster and to anyone else who took offense at the error. We don't like the guy, but it's not right to accuse him without better evidence than we had.

However, we do stand on our observation that a city employee's promoting or opposing a political candidate or ballot measure during working hours violates state law (ORS 260.432(2)). And that's true regardless of whether you also play around on Wikipedia.

In any event, whoever's been editing the Wikis, they've been having fun. Last week somebody from the city threw in a nasty little dig at Vera Katz -- worth checking out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Grow some funk of your own, amigo!

A neighbor of ours is selling some live tobacco plants on craigslist. I understand that you can cook with this stuff as well as wreck your lungs with it. Go for it if you're so inclined.

"Interesting thing happened today"

This headline in the Trib caught me a little off guard. I've been as critical as anyone of the officer involved, but to call the victim a "motorist" is a bit bland. For openers, the car he was driving was stolen...

New way to die

Can't wait 'til this fad comes to Portland. We're slow out here, so it might take a year or two...

China syndrome

All the stories about toxic products coming from China have me hopping mad. And you know me -- always wanting to take action and fight back.

O.k., the obvious reaction: Boycott everything that comes from China! But come on. In this day and age, it doesn't seem possible.

I do think I have the right to know if a product is produced in that country or contains material from that country -- especially a food item. Insuring that I get that information would be a nice step for Uncle Sam to take on my behalf.

But as a practical matter, how can we help the situation and still live relatively normal lives?

Gimme shelter

The world is such a harsh place. Time to take a late summer break and grab a quick look at the sports pages.

Let's see. Oh, that pro football star who's accused of running a dogfighting operation? His former friends, with whom he has declared eternal bonds in the past, are ratting him out. They reportedly say that said star personally participated in hanging and drowning dogs who didn't fight well for him. Great.

Over in pro basketball, the crooked ref allegedly was betting on NBA games (including games that he officiated) for four years, not just two. Meanwhile, the story coming from one of the defense lawyers in the case appears to be that maybe the ref didn't try to influence the outcomes of the games -- maybe he just sold the gamblers inside information, like which refs were going to officiate which games, and which refs had which kinds of relationships with which players.

Uh huh. He had money riding on the games he was officiating, but he didn't make calls to help himself win. And after the games, monkeys flew out of his butt?

Gosh, the sports pages aren't much comfort today. Let's try the stock pages... or maybe the Portland weather forecast...

How can I help you?

The news that Netflix has opened a large call center in Hillsboro made quite a splash in the local news last week, after the Times reported on it. They chose the Portland area because we're so darned polite up here. Seriously! Way cool.

A little lost in the hubbub locally was another aspect of the story: Netflix has moved telephone support up to being its members' first option, encouraging it rather than shuttling folks off to e-mail for customer service. Indeed, the company has reportedly pulled the plug on e-mail customer service queries altogether. Now there's a radical shift backward, at least in chronological terms. Especially with American workers, that's an expensive call.

But hey -- I applaud it! Maybe I ought to start watching movies again...

Wyden blocks a shot

I've been ragging on the Democratic Congress for not doing enough to stand up to the Bush White House. But at least once in a while they do a little something.

Friendly fire

As close as it can get.

Will the Big One go off in Portland this week?

The military and the fun folks over at Homeland Security are planning a computerized disaster simulation in Portland this week -- reportedly including a run-through of a terrorist detonation of a nuclear weapon, maybe even right here in the Rose City.

Given the fact that such an event would be the best thing to happen for the Republican Party in years, and given that you cannot put anything past the spooks in D.C. these days, this is discomforting news, to be sure. Unlike some, I don't think anything bad is really going to happen, despite reports of "coincidences" between past drills and real attacks such as London, Madrid, and even 9/11. But a lot of things I thought I'd never see have come to pass under the current bunch running the country. There are new mind-blowers every day.

Take look at this pdf document -- particularly page 10. Creepy. And some of the software that Homeland Security's using is apparently a hometown product. Yay, Little Beirut!

It looks as though our local officials are perfectly fine with the whole thing. I'm not sure whether that's a good sign or a bad one. Meanwhile, the O editorial board likes it -- which really makes me nervous.

I'm looking forward to this thing being over and done with, without incident.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

How the other half lives

The reality show House Hunters, on the Home & Garden TV cable network, ran another episode out of Portland last night. This one was quite a bit different from the one we wrote about on Tuesday.

It was the difference between having $200,000 to spend on a house, and having five times that much.

In the latest episode, a young couple had moved to close-in Northwest Portland from Washington, D.C. a short time earlier. They bought and fixed up a nice Victorian, which they flipped for a handsome profit indeed. (I could be way wrong, but this may be the place.) The idea was that they were going to take their Portland bucks and move back out of town. But then they decided to stay, and with the closing getting ever closer, they had only about a month to find another house.

A tough situation, but since they had a budget of $800,000 to $1 million, it could have been much worse.

As usual, on the show they cruised around with a realtor and narrowed the choices down to three houses, this time all in the Westover Heights area. This is up in the West Hills, where you must remember to keep your pinky in the air as you're sipping your pinot. The husband talked for a while about the beauty of walking to work or to the groovy NW 23rd scene from their current house, but it was hard to see that being quite so convenient from the new 'hood they were checking out. There was definitely some elevation gain there.

The first two houses were grand old Portland things, built around 1913. They both had great views, with the first having a better layout and better yard. (These guys had two puggy dogs who needed some room to yipe around in.) Its only drawback was the kitchen, which was not the spacious modern oasis that the wife wanted. Having endured a blowout of the home they just sold, a kitchen tearout was not something they wanted to deal with again for quite a while.

The second house had some funky rooms, and a couple of bathrooms that were a bit scary, and so it didn't impress them.

But the third house really showed how far Portland had fallen. New construction. Some kind of hotsy totsy hardwood floor, but you just knew there was particle board lurking under every surface. Massive modern kitchen -- the wife was deliriously happy with it -- and grand room, but then a dinky dining room, stuffy little bedrooms, and a small yard that was dominated by a pointless, giant waterfall that promised to make nothing but noise and expense until it fell apart (probably in a couple of years). Adding to the faux-ness of the whole thing was a fake fireplace that appeared to be a display screen playing a video of a fire -- shades of the Yule log on TV, only with no other channels. You saw the realtor with the remote in his hand. Hideous.

The couple chose the first house, and did a few cosmetic things to help the kitchen. At the end of the show, they were seen enjoying their view after they both had driven home from work, and then entertaining friends. Nobody in the picture looked much more than 30.

You often hear Portlanders wonder, "Who are these people who can move in here and afford these places?" Well, here they were. I came in a little late, but nowhere did I hear a peep about where they got their dough.

They were just kids. It must be nice.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Looks awfully familiar

First we had this. Now we also have this.

And what a time it was

We had our second and final yard sale of the summer today. The whole Portland garage sale tradition is a wonderful thing, and it was fun (in a tiring sort of way) to participate in it.

This one was a real milestone. Down the driveway went the last vestiges of babyhood in our household. We had been trying for a while to unload the double jogging stroller and the crib (neither of which had been used much); today they glided away with ease.

There are a few boxes of leftovers for Goodwill, but that's pretty much the end of our infant days. It's worth stopping to think about. We've got so many wonderful moments ahead, but already we're a little wistful about the times we miss with our two spectacular newborns. We had thought we knew what parenthood was all about, having watched our friends and family do it. But until your own baby breathes her first breath in your presence, you have no idea.

Last night we had the Media Player running through some Randy Newman -- dark stuff, in part because Randy shows you every time that he's experienced the light, too. The last track that played before we called it a night was "Ghosts." To us it seemed not a little like Dickens's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Part of it goes like this:

Out in the street
There's little colored kids playing
Where my own little boy used to play
So I sit in this chair
And I ache with the gout
And I talk to myself
'Cause I'm scared to go out
And I just want to know
What was it all about
God bless our baby days, and the days ahead.

Web Search of the Day

A web surfer came here today looking for this. Can anyone out there fill us in?

Truly incompetent

The Democratic Congress, that is. Not as dumb as Bush, but the margin is not too wide.

August in Oregon

The kids are asking for hot chocolate.

Not pathetic

This is some pretty serious writing from someone named Jeannie Gaiser Stevenson. The whole blog's cool, in fact.

"I think I would have kept the half-dead tree"

There's no urban forester anywhere quite like my cousin Jim back in North Jersey.


Some details are emerging about the Portland police officer whose home was raided by a drug squad way back on March 9. His roommate is now accused of possession of meth with intent to sell. The officer says he didn't know what was going on -- too busy being a policeman and moonlighting as a restaurateur.

Nice to get some information about the case after all this time.

Why bother?

I keep getting these breathless e-mails from Howard Dean and pals urging me to start putting in time and sending in money for the big '08 election. Gotta get rid of demons like that Gordon Smith, you know?

But then you read this, and you realize, this country is screwed, permanently.

The same drivel's coming from DeFazio, who recently wrote a constituent:

Thanks for your most recent message. I appreciate hearing from you.

As I mentioned in a prior response to you, and as I believe I explained at the Corvallis town hall meeting, everything people want to impeach the President for -- Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detentions, torture etc. -- Congress has authorized him to do via legislation. I do not believe that it is a high crime and misdemeanor for the President to carry out policies that Congress has authorized.

As I also explained, that does not mean I agree with these policies. In fact, I voted against them. I understand your frustration. But I believe the focus should be on changing the policies by passing legislation and overriding vetoes if necessary. If you go with impeachment, which will fail, then all you will have done is waste the next year and a half with nothing to show for it. I don't think that makes any sense when we have a reasonable shot at forcing changes in policies via legislation.

As for investigations, Congress is ALREADY investigating the administration. You don't need impeachment hearings in order to investigate.

As for your other points, I have long tried to follow the code established by former Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, my political hero. He said, "I will exercise an independence of judgment on the basis of facts and evidence as I find them on each issue. I will weigh the views of my constituents and my party, but cast my vote free of political pressure and unmoved by threats of loss of political support if I do not do the bidding of some pressure group."

Thanks again for writing. Please keep in touch.

Why get worked up? Don't you know? Congress authorized torture. Just vote for Commander-in-Chief Hillary, and everything will be all right.

I get the sick feeling that the Democrats are going to lose the White House race again. In our country of losers. You can't blame the kids for throwing their votes away on people like Nader.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Have a great weekend

Fighting panic with panic?

Looks like the Fed is becoming as volatile as the market. Hope it works.

Guess who's too important for jury duty?

Hint: Think "arrogant jerk."

The next fiasco: the east side streetcar

Maybe I need to get my tinfoil helmet adjusted, but there's something about the way the City of Portland is pushing the east side streetcar extension that doesn't seem genuine. If I didn't know better, I'd say the people who run the city aren't so hot on the idea after all.

Granted, there's the big public show going on, with a lot of the trappings of a classic Portland snow job. The public-private (i.e., nonaccountable) corporation that runs the streetcars is out front and center, with city commissioner wannabe Chris Smith and his newfound buddy Mike Powell ready to drive the first platinum spike for the trolley rails. The buzzwords are flying. "It will spur $700 million in private investments," linchpin bellwether yada yada. "The route is expected to attract 2.4 million square feet of development and 15,000 new jobs, while reducing congestion and global warming..." Fifteen thousand new jobs? Don't tell me -- biotech jobs.

Pardon me while I lose my breakfast.

There's even a trumped-up deadline for a federal funding application, which we're told means that a decision has to be made wiki-wiki. No time for serious public discussion of the many other things we're sacrificing to build this, folks -- we've got to get going! (So much for "visioning," I guess.)

The developers are lining up with their apartment tower dreams along the route of the thing. Joe Weston's already shown us a monster that he's going to construct over the by the Lloyd office towers, and he's licking his chops over the land across NE Broadway from the Rose Garden, where he'd like nothing better than to punch out a couple of similar skyscrapers.

Did somebody say "Joe Weston's money"? Well, then, the deck has probably been stacked. Over on Amanda Fritz's blog, she says the streetcar's a done deal, and old Smith is right there, figuratively rubbing her back the whole time.

But there are a few features to the current campaign that are different from previous go-rounds, and they all scream "Don't do this!" Interestingly, the warnings aren't all coming from the usual anti-transit wingnuts. Many of them are emanating from the mouths of the public officials themselves.

First, they're actually laying out big, fat cost figures for public scrutiny. The current liars' budget says that the new line will cost $147 million to build. At four miles of new streetcar (and I think it may be less mileage than that), that would come to $36.8 million a mile. As Jim Redden lays it out in the Trib today:

The council is scheduled to vote Sept. 6 on whether to commit $27 million in urban renewal funds to the project, currently estimated at $147 million, including $75 million from the Federal Transit Administration and $20 million from the Oregon Lottery....

City Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams briefed the council on the streetcar project Tuesday morning. He said the council needs to commit $27 million in urban renewal funds by early next month to secure $75 million in Federal Transit Administration money for the extension.

According to the budget presented to the council, the rest of the project would be funded with $20 million in Oregon Lottery bonds, $15 million from property owners along the line, $6 million from system development charges assessed against new projects in the area and $3.7 million in federal funds administered by Metro.

As we've pointed out on this blog time and time again, those magical, mysterious "urban renewal funds" are property taxes. Nearly 20 cents of every dollar of property tax collected by the City of Portland goes toward "urban renewal." So that's $27 million from taxpayers citywide, plus another $21 million from folks old and new somewhere near the project route. Forty-eight million very local clams.

But wait, the dollars get bigger. This time, they've unveiled not only a construction budget, but also an operating budget. Now here's where this extension is starting to look different from the previous ones. You never, ever heard a peep in the media about the operating budget, which requires a heavy city subsidy, in planning discussions surrounding previous streetcar extensions. And on this one, the subsidy's a doozy: $2.2 million a year, split half-and-half between the city and Tri-Met.

A million-plus a year in city money to run the thing? Come on. The city's annual subsidy of the entire streetcar system up to this point is reportedly something like $1.6 million. This single extension is going to increase that by 68.75 percent? Gee whiz.

Capitalized at 5 percent, the present value of $1.1 million a year in perpetuity is $22 million. And so the local cost share, in present value terms, just went up from $48 million to $70 million. That's taxpayer money. From Portland. (Not to mention another $22 million from Tri-Met, which survives on payroll and self-employment taxes from throughout the tri-county area.)

Second, everyone's admitting that the preliminary budget figures that are being thrown around have at best a tenuous link to reality. They're likely to go up, and that's putting it mildly. The City Council heard this week that the budgeted figures are "low confidence estimates." Well, of course, they are -- we all know that infrastructure construction budgets are always understated. Always always always. When this project is being built, surely we'll watch that $147 million break $175 million -- it's virtually guaranteed. (Indeed, in March 2005, they said the cost was going to be "only" $85 million. It's nearly doubled in the last 29 months.) But to have someone from the city government actually come forward and rub people's noses in that fact at the outset -- well, that's new.

An amusing example of this phenomenon came this week, when even the operating subsidy suddenly shot up by 10 percent in the blink of an eye. Tri-Met had signed on for an annual $1 million cough-up, but the Portland bureaucrats jacked it up to $1.1 million for the City Council meeting without telling anyone in advance. Tri-Met boss Fred Hansen wasn't too happy about it.

Anyway, when the streetcar costs skyrocket, as we know they will, who will pay the overruns? In this case, who else is there but taxpayers -- and probably only Portland taxpayers?

Third, they've allowed comparisons to the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] to be passed around in public discourse on the streetcar extension without refutation. "Isn't this another aerial tram?" the mayor asked (perhaps not in so many words) earlier this week. You would think the streetcar pushers would have an organized, bullet-point answer to that one ready. But they don't.

There's one difference that's easy to spot, of course. This time there's no OHSU standing by waiting to chip in more bucks for this if and when it starts to go all weird. There's just us Portland folks, and maybe we can beg a few more bucks from our good buddies in the Bush administration or from the lottery.

Fourth, a few key players in the bureaucratic machinery are voicing serious misgivings about the project, particularly the way it's being financed. Earlier this month the chair of the ever-weakening Portland Development Commission wondered aloud at a hearing whether the streetcar extension would gobble up everything in the PDC budget other than transportation and housing funds. He didn't sound pleased. The Tri-Met folks don't seem to be clicking their heels over this. The mayor's raised his eyebrow pretty high as well.

Continue reading "The next fiasco: the east side streetcar" »

Pardon me, boy

Tri-Met's looking for a name for the new commuter rail line that's being built between Beaverton and Wilsonville. The agency's sponsoring a naming contest -- first prize is a one-year transit pass and a sneak preview ride on the train.

Given that Sheriff Giusto is the secretary of the Tri-Met board of directors, I'm thinking "Bernie" would be a nice gesture. Especially given the shape of the cars. But surely readers here can go me one better.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Con man's friend: "Show some compassion"

At the risk of turning this blog back into "All Con Man, All the Time," I thought I'd reprint this e-mail message, which I received this morning from one Darcy Cameron:

I know everything there is to know about “David”, and have read everything posted, you people are all cruel and I hope that you never are addicted to drugs! This guy is one of many who has been hijacked by his addiction problems, and is finding a way to get the money he needs to do it. I know his background and why he is what he is today. Most of the information that you have is inaccurate, and overblown. The vibe I get from people scammed out of money, is that they feel “stupid” and look “silly” to whoever reads this stuff… who cares? This is a man who is suffering from an illness… an illness that there is no cure from… it’s called addiction! The reason this is so out there for everyone to have a comment on, isn’t because this guy needs help, it’s because you all think you look “foolish.” Well, you know what people…..WHO CARES WHAT YOU THINK! You people are the ones that so freely GAVE him the money. Why not try supporting the city council who want to fund the programs that are needed to help get these people the help they really need. There are many, many, many more “David’s” out there people, but most of them are: stealing your identity, breaking into your cars, taking your luggage at the airport, the list goes on and on…. At least give this guy credit for being clever if nothing else… He’s got a problem that he is trying to deal with, unfortunately, it’s being dealt with this way, he is in a lot of pain right now. Now, are you trying to tell me that no one else in the city of Portland has ever been dishonest??? No cheating on your spouse? No cheating on taxes? No taking stick it pads home from work? No fudging on your expense account? Before you bring in the morality hit squad, I think that everyone out there should cleanup their own side of street first. Look at this as a learning experience and show some compassion… what can you do to help more people like this?

From a very good friend of “David’s”… someone who knows the real guy, and what he is really like…

I wrote her back and told her that the best thing that could happen to David right now is a nice long stretch in jail. I hope he gets it.

If you'd like to write her back, well, that's what blog comments are for...

Other shoe drops

The Portland cop who shot "Squeaky" Young to death in January of 2006 has been fired, according to reports.

Kind of like chicken

I knew that Mitt Romney's got his dog problems, but I hadn't heard about this.

Tech notes

We've been pretty busy with the technical side of blogging this week. First, we're pleased to announce that we have finally restored all the comments that were lost temporarily in the catastrophic crash of this blog nearly a year ago. Other than perhaps a day's worth of comments, which alas have disappeared for good, they have all been put back where they belong. There were many hundreds of comments, mostly applicable to posts from July and August of 2006. It was interesting scanning through them as we restored them, one post at a time. Our readers are the best.

Second, and more importantly, we're moving to a new server tomorrow evening. The move will give us greater control over the software and hardware that brings this blog to the world. With more than 5,000 entries and around 45,000 comments to keep tabs on, the mechanics of it all have gotten, shall we say, interesting. The good news is that the move puts us squarely in the hands of Jake Ortman, the famous Bend blogger and tech guru without whose generous help this blog never would have recovered from last summer's debacle.

For our readers, the move should not be too disruptive. It will mean that comments will be turned off temporarily tomorrow night, and we'll be taking several hours off from posting. There might even be a short time when the blog is unavailable. But we're confident that the time and hassle saved in the future by having the server in Jake's capable hands will more than make up for lost time with incremental blogging goodness. Wish us luck.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled rants...

Bean busts out

My buddy Chris Snethen of the 'Couv has emancipated himself from the OregonLive stable and now holds court at a cool-lookin' new blog called The Vig. So? Go.

Wheeler gets into it with the PDC

I'm liking Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler more all the time. Now he's got the nerve to start asking questions of the Portland Development Commission about the tax giveaways that the PDC doles out -- including abatements of county tax revenues over which Wheeler has little direct control.

Unfortunately, the precise handout that Wheeler's currently busting chops about affects relatively low-income people as well as fat cat developers, and that makes it easy to portray him as the bad guy, which of course the apologist crowd at the O is all too eager to do. (Reporter Sulzberger's sure getting the hang of that University Club spin -- he must not be ready to go back to New York yet.) But demanding that the city be able to answer some simple questions about the cash it throws around is in fact a great move on Wheeler's part. Let's see more of that from the county in the years ahead.

On a related note, it looks as though the PDC has finally succumbed to the browbeating it's taken, on this blog and elsewhere, about its failure to comply with ORS 457.460. That is a state law that requires each urban renewal agency to present an annual financial analysis of the impact of its urban renewal plans on tax collections for all the taxing districts whose revenue it messes with -- such as the county. For years, the old management of the PDC refused to release any figures about this, saying it couldn't be done, whereas other cities such as Lake Oswego did it with ease.

In the most recent PDC financials, lo and behold, there are actually dollar amounts given for the amount of "each Taxing District's Levy that is Allocated for Urban Renewal." They're on the last page of this pdf document. I don't know exactly what to make of those numbers -- do they include abated taxes, or just taxes that are actually collected but steered away from everyone else and over to the PDC? But in any event, there's nearly $14 million listed there as coming out of the county's pocket in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2006. I'd say that's a big enough figure to give Wheeler the right to demand some coherent answers about where it's going.

There are some other fascinating figures in the PDC report that deserve a post or two of their own. The amount of money that the city owes to various lenders for its urban renewal projects topped $500 million as of mid-2005 (see page 4). (According to this story, it appears the debt is now more than $600 million.) In other words, the city's seriously in hock for urban renewal -- the debt is more than $1,000 per city resident. The interest alone on that debt for the year ended June 30, 2006 was more than $21 million. Maybe the continuing boom in condo prices is going to pay all those bonds off? Uh huh.

And that's just the bill for urban renewal. Then there are the billions we still haven't socked away for the cop and fire pensions. Enjoy your aerial tram rides [rim shot] while ye may, people.

But I digress. You go, Ted!

Stock market implosion in the morning?

Things ended badly on Wall Street yesterday, and our good, good friends in Asia are having a bad Thursday. Ah, what the heck. Just tack a couple of years onto your wage slavery, and thank Bush.

Bush's finest moment

He's had so many achievements, it's hard to pick one. But X-ray surveillance of your bedroom has to be right up there. (Don't worry -- Clarence Thomas is watching out for your constitutional rights.)

To our children: I'm sorry, kids. Some of us tried to speak out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

David's still at it

A reader writes:

Hi. This morning (8/15/07) this dude approached me asking if I was familiar with Welches. He said he was in construction and his truck got stolen. He was becoming very aggressive with me, putting his hands on my car. I ended up leaving, unharmed. I didn't realize that he was a wanted man. I saw him at NE 10th and Couch, near lower Burnside.
Since no one in authority cares about this story, there's a bad ending forthcoming. It's just a matter of time.

Missed out

How come I never had a science teacher like this one? He "bring[s] his chemistry friends to class with him"? When I was in school, the "chemistry friends" on campus were selling acid.

We've got the Sheriff

They've got this guy.

No charges in 'Couv killing

The police officer involved in the deadly June shooting up in the 'Couv has been cleared by prosecutors of any criminal wrongdoing. The controversy over the shooting does not appear to be over, however.

Circle game

It was 29 years ago today that I arrived in Portland in my yellow VW bug, with all my earthly belongings stuffed into it somehow. I had set foot in this town only once before, for a couple of days. It was all new.

It was to be a one-year stint, and then off to Los Angeles I would go. But I found some things here that I wanted to hold onto. And here I still am.

My first Portland abode was house-sitting a new-ish ranch house along the Rock Creek Country Club out near 185th and West Union Road. In those days, if you walked out from the golf course to West Union, there was nothing but agricultural land to the north of you and the west of you. Just wide-open Oregon, all the way to the sunset coast.

The people who owned the house were holding it until it became worth more than $100,000, at which point they were going to sell it. It did, and they did, the following spring.

Many memories were made that year. It snowed just before Thanksgiving; later that winter, we skated through a patented Portland "silver thaw." There were fistfights two nights a week at the Rock Creek Tavern; I saw most of them, stayed out of all of them. I played jazz records on KBOO in the middle of the night. Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, and Ron Carter performed together one night at Portland State. I interviewed Monte Ballou, who used to live just off Belmont, for a KBOO special.

Every day a guy named Ron Roman stood on the corner where Pioneer Courthouse Square is today, preaching away; back then it was a Meier & Frank parking garage. Where Pioneer Place is now, there was an ancient building with a Fred Meyer store, Dave's Deli, and the Harvester Bar, where mushrooms grew in the carpet. There was a daily farmer's market of sorts where Saks is now. The Greek Cusina guys had their first hole in the wall, on Yamhill just east of Fourth. The place to go at night downtown was the Last Hurrah, a nightclub in the basement of a building on Alder; or maybe Sachs Front Avenue, down at Yamhill and what is now Naito. A band called Slowtrain was among the top dogs. Native son Jim Pepper would come through once in a while. One time he played at Artquake, the arts festival that used to take over downtown streets on Labor Day weekend; I remember him playing "Polar Bear" on a riser right there in the intersection of Alder and Broadway.

I heard "The Oogum Boogum Song" for the first time. I celebrated passing the California Bar. There was a total solar eclipse one morning. I blew the engine on the Volks and it took me a couple of months to come up with the dough to have Kurt at Esquire Motors rebuild it. The Oregon State men's basketball team was a national force. The Blazers, just recently world champs, were suddenly over the hill. Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve beer was on something like bottling no. 5. I learned how to cross-country ski and backpack.

There was way more ahead of me than there was behind me. Here in Portland, the whole world seemed to be opening up in a way that it never had before.

Life in a dying industry

It just gets weirder and weirder.

This visit was timely

Over the years I've questioned the timing of the visits (always unannounced in advance) to our neighborhood of the City of Portland street sweeping machines. But given the nasty plum situation in front of our house, the appearance of one such contraption on our block this morning was a welcome sight. The fact that the driver paused to let us clear the curb before he brushed away the mess was an added bonus. A tip of the hat to him.

Eau yeah

One of the many things to love about Portland is the Clear Creek Distillery -- as today's New York Times discovers. (The apple's even better than the famous pear.)

Also mentioned today -- Portland rock band The Antecedents.

My kinda guy

Here's an irate taxpayer who got some satisfaction for his money. (Via TaxProf Blog.)

You've been to bojack.org...

... but have you been to bojac.org? Oy.

NBA ref cops a plea

Guilty of wire fraud conspiracy.

Another child porn bust at computer repair

Yesterday we pointed to a case out of Pennsylvania. Today a reader sends along another one, from Alaska. This time the defendant is a lawyer -- former co-chair of the state's Green Party.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's going so well in Iraq

Let's invade Iran!

Please don't call it a "quagmire"

That word no longer does it justice.

Thank God we did the "surge" -- it really turned things around, didn't it?

Worth tapping into

Hey, bloggers, want tons of traffic? Sign up as a member of Reddit on OregonLive, submit a post from your blog every so often, and if the post makes it to the coveted "Hottest" position, you'll be high up on the front page of OregonLive for a while. Then watch the hits come rollin' in -- I can tell you from sweet experience. You know how they call the readership surge resulting from a link on Instapundit an "Insta-lanche"? Well, check out the "Reddit-lanche."

The "hot" rating comes from member votes for and against particular posts. Right now there are only a relatively few members, and one of them mysteriously gets four points for everything he submits, but as more folks get involved, the voting should become less suspicious. Signing up may kill some of your precious time, but there's a goldmine of readers out there waiting for you -- or for your favorite blogger (hint, hint).

Better living through condo development

It does so much good for so many.

Cue Johnny Paycheck

Reliable sources report that workers are leaving the Portland parks bureau in droves to go work for Metro. Houston, do we have a problem?

Here we go again, again

A police officer named Humphreys kills an allegedly fleeing, allegedly unarmed suspect, and serious questions are raised. The officer's been through this before.

Sound familiar?

UPDATE, 2:38 p.m.: The police union is now quoted as saying that the suspect had grabbed the officer's Taser and shot him with it.

Is there some kind of siege going on in NE Portland?

There's enough helicopter noise over here right now to film an episode of "M*A*S*H."

That kid's from Burns, Oregon

And he's starting to make a name for himself.

Holy cow

Another voice from my youth has been stilled. I'm too young to remember seeing "the Scooter" play the game, but he brought us hundreds -- indeed, thousands -- of broadcasts of the Yankee contests we loved so much. Condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

A very, very, very fine house

The Mrs. and I celebrated a warm but subdued wedding anniversary yesterday, and toward the end of the evening we found ourselves hanging out with our daughters watching the tube. First I got to see the second half of the Mariners' ballgame, which ended in storybook fashion. That was kind of cool, as it jacked up the girls' interest in the national pastime from nonexistent to faint.

Then we switched over to the Home & Garden Network, where the national House Hunters show came to Portland! It featured a first-time-homebuying young couple looking to drop around $225K for a slice of heaven. They showed some stock footage of downtown Portland, but that was misleading, because at that price all the action was taking place on the outer west side. The featured couple passed on a beat-up thing in Aloha and an oddly designed house in Hillsboro in favor of a nicer spot in St. Helens.

It was interesting watching them juggle their priorities as the realities of the marketplace set in. They were really keen on staying close to Aloha, where the wife's family lives; and on having a big yard for the dog, a music room for the husband, and a kitchen roomier than the broom closet they were living with in their rental townhouse. In the end, they got what they wanted, except for the location -- it's 45 minutes away from the folks. (The director showed a little Highway 26 traffic, moving not so swiftly, for effect.)

They wound up making a "backup offer" after somebody else snagged the St. Helens house ahead of them. But the other deal fell through, and they got the place.

The Mrs. and I agreed that they made the right choice. We also agreed that we made the right choice 13 years ago last night. All was right in the world, and off to do the weekly recycling chores we could go.

Fright night

I like to stay up late and catch the news stories of the morning as soon as they're posted, shortly after midnight. But after reading this column by Nick Budnick of the Trib, I have likely wrecked any chance of a good night's sleep.

Which is scarier?
Mike Schrunk for another four years
District Attorney Lisa Naito
pollcode.com free polls

UPDATE, 8/17, 1:51 p.m.: I am reliably informed that although Budnick's e-mail address appears at the end of that column, the Trib's "Sources Say" feature is co-written by a number of different staffers.

Before taking your computer in for service...

... you might want to take the kiddie porn off your hard drive.

Life after Washington

With Karl Rove stepping down at the end of the month, the President and the First Lady are reportedly beginning to consider their options for after the inauguration of the next occupant of the White House, in January 2009. Their preliminary list of retirement locales includes one in the Pacific Northwest.

Such a deal

The folks at OHSU are running free aerial tram rides [rim shot] this weekend. They seem a little desperate for riders all of a sudden -- putting up flyers on the hospital campus and all.

But hey, as a Portland taxpayer who's chipping in to pay debt service on upwards of $8 million to build the thing, plus another few hundred thousand a year to run it, let me be the first to say "Welcome aboard." You'll be whisked in non-climate-controlled midsummer luxury high above a lovely old neighborhood that you can rest assured hates your guts. After your breathtaking ride to the top, you'll be at -- a hospital! Fun! On the way down, marvel at the empty condo towers, with more to come. Chuckle at the thought of the 10,000 biotech jobs that were supposed to arrive shortly after the tram -- sorry, not a one in sight.

And be my guest -- go by streetcar! By the time you get back home, you will have killed an entire day doing not much.

Remember, it's all free.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Part of the problem

In thinking about why mortgage lending is in trouble these days, don't overlook this phenomenon.

Earth to Ryan

Since time began in Portland, Old Town has been that rough patch in the crook of downtown where the Willamette River makes its northwest turn. It's been home for the rowdy men of the forest and shipyards and, in recent years, drug pushers who've kept their street corner grip even through downtown Portland's renaissance.
Downtown Portland... recent years... renaissance?

Standing pat for now

It was a close call, but a plurality of readers suggests that we leave up the warning box about the "Welches stolen truck" con man in the left sidebar of this blog. Since the fellow was still working his act last week, I'm going along with that suggestion. If we can go a couple of weeks without hearing reports that he's still at it, we'll reconsider.

Rove is resigning!

End of the month!

With friends like me, foes of 49 don't need enemies

I see that this blog has found its way onto the blogroll -- indeed, to the very top of the blogroll -- of a blog that bitterly opposes the upcoming Measure 49 here in Oregon. Measure 49 is the state legislature's proposed revision (or correction or fix or rollback or however one needs to sell it) of the "property rights" thigh-slapper formerly known as Measure 37. Measure 37 is the misguided law that's putting a bad subdivision and a bunch of billboards along seemingly every road in the state.

The inclusion of a link to my blog atop a pile of No on 49 screeds is humorous to me, because I strongly support Measure 49.

Ah, those tighty righties. If I'm their top link, they've got problems. Just another thing they've got wrong. Let's see how long it takes them to catch on...


It's just a matter of time before some reader asks us about this story. Let's pre-empt the question with this observation: We know several of the lawyers involved, and we don't know enough about the facts to form an informed opinion about who's right and wrong. But if what was in the paper yesterday is accurate, that is one hot and nasty case they've got there.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Here am I floating in my tin can

I get a lot of grief for this, but I'm tired of human space flight. What could they possibly be doing up there that we couldn't do just as efficiently, more cheaply, and with way less risk to human life, if we just sent computers and robots?

Now when we send astronauts up there, we spend half the time worrying about whether they're going to get back down in one piece. When it comes to the price of arrogance, it seems that we rarely learn our lessons.

Would Hillary or Obama keep paying for "Star Wars"?

Either they would, or they don't have the guts to say they wouldn't.

The things we do for law

So there I was, throwing away the plastic bag from the pack of English muffins:

And I noticed this:

What lawyer dreamed that one up? It's almost as if they're just waiting for the FDA to pounce on them. Do they have English muffins that aren't "Health Claim"? Does the label on those say "Noncommittal"? Are there other products, less healthy products that are labeled "You're On Your Own"?

And what next? On the sides of SUVs: "Manliness Claim Vehicle"?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What a difference a decade makes

From 1994:

More bad news for SoWhat

The market for large mortgages has suddenly dried up.... Jumbo mortgages are most important in areas with high home prices, most notably on the East and West coasts. "In California, it has shut down the purchase market," said Jeff Jaye, a mortgage broker in the Bay area. "It has shut down the refi market."

Google Search of the Day

Sometimes one marvels at what goes on in cyberspace.

What have we come to as a nation?

The demise of the Weekly World News is just horrible. What am I going to read while waiting in line at the supermarket checkout? Now if I want to laugh at shameless fabrications and fake photos, my only option will be this.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Asher Abrams, author of the interesting (albeit neocon) blog Dreams into Lightning, has left Portland after seven and a half years, and moved back to San Francisco.

That was quick

Earlier today, I was starting to think that the folks running things up in the 'Couv were pretty smart.

But then I read this.

Justifiable violence

I don't blame her a bit.

Have a great weekend

Ole Man Hotel, he jes' keep rollin' along

The next performance of the Portland Convention Center Hotel Kabuki will take place next week, as Metro holds a public meeting in the dead of midsummer to act like it hasn't already decided to throw nine figures of public subsidies at building the stupid thing. Good money after bad.

Nothing new there. But please make a note: The official buzzword for the project has been changed from "linchpin" to "watershed."

Cold comfort for Oregon renters

Under a new Oregon law, if your building goes condo, they have to give you four months' notice before they throw you out.

Loaded questions

That City of Portland survey form arrived in the mail at our home today. If you're interested, we've posted it here.

Empty-handed again

Portland completely missed the boat on biotechnology (although we built an aerial tram on the pretense that we were pursuing it). Now it looks as though we are a little late to the party for biodiesel. And guess who was quicker on the uptake -- The 'Couv!

I think we're almost finished with our Y2K preparedness plan, however.

A blog to watch

A guy named Craig Thompson, who appears to be a Portland-area cartoonist, has a site going called Doot Doot Garden Blog, which seems pretty interesting.

More on the University Club teen boxing spectacle

While we were on the subject of teen boxers the other day, someone pointed out that a bill signed into law in Oregon earlier this summer restricts one form of teenage fighting. It prohibits people under the age of 18 from being licensed as professional "mixed martial arts" fighters in the state. "MMA" is the new form of "ultimate fighting" that allows the contestants to mix in all sorts of moves beyond boxing. It can get pretty brutal.

But the ban affects only professional fighting, not amateur bouts. And although the original bill, introduced by State Sen. Vicki Walker and two colleagues, Alan Bates and Floyd Prozanski, also would have forbidden people under 18 from boxing professionally, that aspect of the bill was stricken over in the House before it was passed. Thus, nothing in the state's fight laws appears to stop amateur teens from going at it (no Google bait intended) as they did at the University Club last week. As far as the newly amended rules are concerned, the kids could have been cage fighting and it looks as though it would have been legal -- they were amateurs. And since what they were doing was traditional boxing, conceivably they could even have been licensed as professionals.

The only other aspects of the University Club fights that state law might have something to say about are the cigars and booze reportedly being enjoyed at the ringside tables. Didn't we just pass a state law forbidding smoking in restaurants and bars, in the name of protecting the health of the employees? Would that not apply to the U.C.? (If it does, it won't take effect until 2009.) On a quick perusal, I'm not seeing an exemption from the "smoke-free workplace" rules for a private club.

And booze being served at ringside, just a few feet from where 15-year-olds are engaged in an athletic competition? If you tried that in a dive bar in Felony Flats, it sounds like something the OLCC could get quite interested in. Maybe there's some kind of special deal for top-shelf hooch.

Why don't you ride a bike?

The City of Portland wants to know.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Love those Dittoheads

Here's a Rush fan who's enough to make the neighbors reach for the Oxycontin.

Think I'll Pass

Time for another edition of our popular feature, Think I'll Pass. Today's special: a vacation in Israel with Lars Larson.

Bush: Let the bridges fall

Anything but raise taxes. That would be the end of the world.

More shame for America. It's as if Reagan mated with a monkey.

Weird political science

Governor Ted has killed the OMSI debt bailout package passed by the Legislature. Apparently that's a change in direction of 180 degrees on his part.

Memo to area politicians

Before you buy any more Segways to boost your "coolness" quotient with the "creative class" baristas, please take note: They're so over.

City to return FEMA reimbursement

A source inside Portland City Hall reports that the city is preparing to reject the $1.6 million reimbursement that it has received from the federal government for the assistance that city water crews provided in New Orleans following the disastrous flooding there two years ago.

The city, which has differed with the Bush administration on a number of issues, including the Iraq war and the "war on terror," is apparently preparing an announcement to be made tomorrow afternoon. Earlier today, the city had announced the reimbursement with no mention of a problem, but a red flag was reportedly raised later in the morning by the city's Office of Sustainable Development as the payment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was being processed. As a result, sources say, City Council members plan to "stand on principle" and send the money back.

"Our regulations require that all checks contain a minimum percentage of post-consumer fibers, and that inks be soy-based," said one assistant vice administrator in the city's management bureau, who requested anonymity. "In this case, unfortunately that's not the case. The check stock was kind of shiny, and the ink was straight out of the bargain bin at the Dollar Store -- probably made out of lead in China."

The official also noted that routine testing revealed traces of Styrofoam on the envelope in which the check was mailed.

If you've been wondering what to get Randy Leonard for his birthday

You can stop wondering. (It's Aug. 29, BTW -- he'll be 55.)

The face that launched a thousand cons

You talk about being unreceptive to panhandlers. This lady takes the cake.

But reading her story reminds us that maybe it's time to remove the photos of David, the "Welches stolen truck" con man, from the prominent place they've occupied on this blog since we acquired them nearly three weeks ago. We see the value of alerting the unsuspecting public to his fraudulent ways -- just yesterday we got an e-mail from someone who knew him, after they discovered the photos on this site -- but seeing that mug every time we come here is starting to get old. We're considering some options, and we're hereby asking readers to help us decide:

What should we do with the warning box about the "Welches con man" that currently sits high up in the left sidebar of this blog?
Take it down
Move it further down the sidebar
Leave it up
Other (explain in comments)
pollcode.com free polls

We'll take a couple of days of readers' views, then make a decision.

UPDATE, 1:43 p.m.: If it helps you decide, he was reported back working downtown this morning.

Costly kicks: about $1,700 apiece

Robert Bedgood, the Portland fire lieutenant who lost his cool in the infamous kicking episode of last winter, has been busted down to the rank of firefighter for a year. He'll lose $5200 in salary, have to do anger management, etc. A bunch of firefighters are getting extra training to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

Bedgood's lucky that he got off without criminal charges and more serious disciplinary action. On the other hand, the public is lucky that there were security cameras rolling when he went into his macho rage, and that the tape wound up on the internet, because if that hadn't happened, he probably would have talked his way right out of it.

She's into something

As if she didn't already have enough going on, Betsy of My Whim is Law and Metroblogging fame now has a new blog up, called One Fish, Two Kids. In it she writes about her life as the mother of Drama Mama and The Mogul, and as the former spouse of "my ex." And get this -- someone's paying her to write this time. Bully for her.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Skywriting in progress over Portland


The Foster's will flow

The lucky young man who caught the Bonds home run ball is a New Yorker -- a Mets fan! -- who was in San Francisco on a layover for a flight to Australia. He says he and a co-traveler, a Yankee fan, are going to split the proceeds of the ball 51-49. They bought their game tickets at the last minute, apparently from a scalper. At last report, the ball -- worth around a half million dollars -- is "under lock and key" somewhere, and the trip Down Under is still on.

"Honey? Have you seen my...


Here's your new pickup

Have fun with the owner's manual.

Sam the Tram outdoes himself

Portland, the City That Can't Afford to Fix a Pothole, is about to spend $300,000 and up of public transportation money so that you can pay the parking meter with your cell phone.

In any real city, this would have to be a hoax.

Worth 1,000 words

The New York Times may have shrunk a bit this week, but there's still room on the front page for an excellent photo.

Jerk of the Month

It's still early, but I don't think anyone will top this guy between now and September.

Saw it coming a mile away

When it comes to representation in Salem, our family's in a goofy position. Although we live in Portland's close-in Irvington neighborhood, whose eastern boundary is something like NE 27th, we have somehow gotten gerrymandered into House District 45, which extends out past NE 140th. Here's the map -- that's us, waaaaaaaay over in that odd little nubbin on the left. What do we materialistic yuppies have in common with the K-Mart wardrobe people in the apartment farms out by Costco? Precious little. Maybe somebody can ask this guy what the heck was going on. He's on his way out, and so he might give you a straight answer.

Anyway, the other day my state representative, Jackie "Bat" Dingfelder, announced that she is going to run for the State Senate seat being vacated by our current senator, Avel Gordly. (The lines for that Senate district are just as goofy as those of our House district, if not more so.) It's a safe Democrat district, and so whoever wins the primary is in like sin.

Dingfelder's announcement is no surprise. She and Gordly, who was technically an independent, had been holding a bunch of joint town hall meetings in recent months, and it seemed like there was some grooming going on there. But if there had been any doubt previously, a week or two ago it became crystal clear that Dingfelder was making a move, because she mailed out an official-sounding "report to the constituents" flyer touting the achievements of the recently concluded legislative session:

This baby had "campaign literature" written all over it, though not in so many words. Glossy paper, greenish ink mixed in with the black, four pages in all. And it's got everything you'd want in good old campaign junk mail:

Curiously, it doesn't say "recycled paper," "soy ink," or "sustainably produced" anywhere on it -- you're slipping, Ding!

The question of the day is who paid for this thing. It's written in a slick p.r. style that political consultants charge big bucks for -- it has an almost Wiener-esque quality. It must have cost a pretty penny to produce. In the postage corner, we find this:

This couldn't have gone out on the taxpayers' dime -- could it?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bringer of light

Happy birthday to Miles Hochstein, my favorite Portland photographer and the creator of the wonderful photo blog Portland Ground. Miles's work has formed the base for many a banner at the top of this blog, and I hope that of many more in the future. He's 48 today.

When cops go bad

Here's a disciplinary measure that the Portland Police Bureau ought to try.

White House tries new "branding" approach

The President's public relations experts have come up with a new way to boost his abysmal approval ratings.

And they called it puppy love

Yesterday a reader wisely suggested that we check in on those adorable puppies that we wrote about a couple of weeks ago -- and their beleaguered mom. And so we dropped a line to their primary human caretaker, who provided a detailed update last evening:

Thanks to your help telling the story of their plight(!), they are in good shape and have found new homes. I'm going to keep them with their mama for another three weeks until they are fully weaned, and at eight weeks they get to go to their new families.

"Whiysky," the mom, has been re-named Walter (after my grandfather -- I know, I know, it's not a girl's name). She is a great new sister to my other pooch, Henry. She follows him everywhere. He is like an aged bachelor uncle to the puppies -- slightly nervous around them. And he's only three years old! My two otherwise mellow cats have been adjusting to this new squealing brood. I have been working with Walter to NOT chase the cats!

We have fixed up an outdoor pen and an indoor pen (in the garage), and we rotate the pups back and forth. We started toting them back and forth in a box, but they outgrew that and then another one, and now they have to be toted one by one.

When I found the pups and brought them home, everyone thought I was crazy and that I should surrender them to the shelter. But I just couldn't. I think I was influenced by people telling me I "couldn't" do it. Now when I look at them in their cozy little pens, with all the attention in the world, and without the chaos of the shelter, I feel especially glad I took them in. I say that about the shelter without any malice -- my dog and both my cats came from the shelter and that's the first place I would look for a pet. But I just couldn't surrender these babies!

Thanks to your blog, KOIN-TV, KPTV, and a few radio stations that told the story of Walter and her pups, as well as the email I put together, news made it around town pretty quick. Within five days I had over 150 phone calls and emails asking about the puppies, with most of the people interested in meeting them for possible adoption and some kind hearts wanting to donate to their care. Basically, my phone rang off the hook -- and that's a good thing in a case like this. I am still getting calls now -- I got one after dinner tonight in fact.

I set up three "open houses" where folks could come meet the puppies and I could meet them. I got an adoption interview form from the Oregon Humane Society and modified it.

People came out of the woodwork to offer help and support. Three are notable.

First, a volunteer foster parent from the Oregon Humane Society, Denise, came over to my house on the second night. She brought me a couple of portable pens, a ton of newspaper, and gave me some good advice. Best of all, she took the pups for the second weekend so that my boyfriend and I could keep our camping reservation down at Detroit Lake. She has been incredible. Denise takes in needy pets on a regular basis, unlike me, the accidental foster mother.

Second, the Halsey East Animal Clinic, paid a home visit--unheard of. They sent over a vet and a vet-tech to give the puppies and mom a checkup and de-worm them all. This made things so much easier. Not only did they come to my house, they donated ten bags of Science Diet puppy chow! They are coming back in a week to administer the first shots.

Third, members of the community who heard about these abandoned puppies and their mother have called and emailed me to offer support and gratitude--it has been encouraging, because did I mention my friends all thought I was crazy? And since many of these folks asked how they could help, I set up a charitable account to help pay for the medical care of the pups and a spay/neuter fund. I didn't ask how much the vet visit and shots were going to cost, I just figured we'd get it paid for. We'll use what's in the fund to cover this and the adoptive parents will split the rest. Any extra will go to Dove Lewis. Of course, I had a dream the other night that I called to check to see if there had been any donations and there was $37 in the account, so in fact I haven't called to ask because I'm afraid there won't be anything in there! Well, maybe I'll suck it up and call today.

Continue reading "And they called it puppy love" »

Cali flippers, the jig is up

Governor Ted signed a bill last week that will require tax withholding on the proceeds of all Oregon real estate sales where the seller is a nonresident of our fair state. It's to make sure that these out-of-staters pay the Oregon income tax (usually 9 percent) on any taxable gain that they realize on the sale. It looks as though the escrow agent must pull out of the proceeds, and forward to Salem in the seller's name, the lowest of three amounts: 4 percent of the value of the property; 4 percent of the net proceeds; or 10 percent of the gain included in taxable income. I don't know how a typical escrow agent could know the seller's taxable income, and so it looks as though the withholding in almost every case will be 4 percent of the price.

How will the escrow know whether the seller is an Oregon resident or not? If the seller swears that he or she is a resident, the agent can take that word as gospel and not withhold. Sounds a little loosey-goosey to me. And speaking of loopholes, the whole shebang doesn't take effect until January 1.

An idea whose time won't come

It's bad enough that we the people are burning up such huge chunks of time blogging and reading each other's blogs. Now some Joe Hill types are talking about organizing a bloggers' union!

I don't think the world is ready for that. If such an organization were ever established, it would probably turn out kind of like AAA. They'll come out and jump-start your blog when your scripts won't run, and maybe fix a busted link or two. But that's it. Group health insurance? For a group whose common attribute is spending way too much time in front of computer terminals? Doesn't seem likely.

Most importantly, if there's one thing bloggers don't seem to want to do, it's unite. The internet is a chaotic mess, and most of us seem to like it that way.

It's fun to think about the possibilities, though. If the bloggers' union went on strike, anyone who continued to post would be a scab. Daily Kos could be Jimmy Hoffa. Randy Leonard could be César Chavez. (Wait, he already thinks that...) As Mother Jones? Why, Ann Althouse, of course.

University Club teen boxing spectacle = child abuse?

A concerned reader points out that at least some of the pugilists whom Portland's hotshots got all dressed up to watch beating each other up on Friday night were teenagers. The one boxer was identified in the O story as being all of 15. "In my opinion," the reader writes, "trained child boxing is akin to dog fighting, cage fighting, etc. and is totally deplorable."

She continues:

[T]he “elite” of Portland are apparently so insulated that they do not understand “abuse” unless they personally are struck physically and painfully. Those photos in The Oregonian showing the University Club members’ joy in experiencing the youngsters’ abusing each other is so, so sick… let’s keep showing those photos over and over again of those glamorous smiling women, those guys trying to be so ever so seductive while those children beat each other to a pulp.
I think the lady may actually have a point here.

UPDATE, 5:37 p.m.: There are many more comments to this post than are indicated by the total listed below. Some were temporarily lost and restored, and this throws the count off.

Where I grew up, more hard times

When I wrote a while back about the 40th anniversary of the Newark riots, I opined that the city was still in a deep hole with no apparent hope of crawling out. A couple of people from back that way wrote me to take umbrage at my comment, but I think it's accurate. Over the weekend, one of the most chilling multiple murders in the city's history took place, and the bright young fellow who's been gentrifying the mayor's office has had his honeymoon with the public cut way short.

"Hey, little heroes, summer's long, but I guess it ain't very sweet around here any more..."

Monday, August 6, 2007

I wouldn't want to live in the White House, either

Sure, you've heard of the Obama Girls. But did you know about this one?

It's dinky

The new, smaller New York Times is here:

For the record

Given what I do for a living, it's natural that readers would be asking me about the tax consequences of a fan's catching the historic Barry Bonds home run baseball. It's certainly a highly valuable piece of property, and the person who catches it will be greatly enriched by it, but is catching the ball income for tax purposes?

We went through all this when the original steroid titan, Mark McGwire, broke the single-season record for home runs. There was a great deal of speculation that the catching of the ball constituted income to the person who caught it, and that if he or she gave the ball to McGwire, it would be subject to gift tax. After being hounded about the issue for quite a while, the IRS caved in and said that neither tax would be imposed. It never fully explained why.

Later on, a couple of wise tax prof pals of mine came up with a theory of how catching the ball does not constitute income. They point out that a fisherman or fisherwoman does not have income upon catching a fish -- he or she is taxed only if and when the caught fish is sold. The same is true for farmers and their crops, and miners and their minerals. Just harvesting them is not an income-producing event. Attending a ballgame where a high-priced piece of memorabilia is about to be created is kind of like fishing, they reasoned, and so catching the prize, even if one keeps it rather than giving it back to the player, is not an income moment.

A bit strained, perhaps, but as a theory it works.

On to the gift tax. When wealthy people make huge gifts, they're subject to a tax, separate from the income tax, called the gift tax. When rich folk die and leave big wealth to their families, the tax is known as the estate tax. If an adoring fan who catches the ball gives it to Barry Bonds, is that a taxable gift?

I think so, but the IRS isn't pressing the point. The act of giving the ball to the player is not what they call a "qualified disclaimer," specifically exempt from the gift tax, because in order for a disclaimer to work, the fan couldn't say who gets the ball. By presenting it to Bonds, the fan is naming a new owner. Before it goes over the fence, the ball belongs to the home team of the game being played. And so it would seem that only transferring the ball back to the home team could constitute a tax-free disclaimer -- or so some think. But the IRS isn't going to use up the political capital to impose such a tax.

And what about Bonds? If he gets the ball back, either from the fan or from the home team, is that income to him? He seems like an artist, whose work is not taxed until it's sold. If I create a beautiful work of art and hang it on my own wall, that's clearly not taxable. For Bonds, that ball is value he created with his own efforts, and so it's what they call imputed income -- not taxed.

Thanks to everyone who's been alerting me to this pressing issue of national tax policy.

The ultimate faith-based initiative

The Pentagon.

Oh, goodie

Prison food bribe suspect spotted in Canada

Reliable police sources are reporting that Oregon authorities have been tracking Farhad "Fred" Monem, the former state prison food buyer who skipped away from authorities last month while under investigation for allegedly taking more than $1 million in bribes from vendors who sold food through Monem to the Corrections Department. According to the sources, Monem, whose last confirmed location was in Buffalo, New York about a month ago, is now currently under active surveillance in Ontario.

"The marshals and the Canadian mounties are very close to bringing Monem in," said one federal official, who requested anonymity. "Since he's from Iran, there are a couple of State Department hurdles that they have to get over, but he should be back in custody soon."

Officers familiar with the investigation report that Monem has been living under an assumed name, Jarrad "Jerry" Mehkitamil, and has purchased a Subway franchise (below right) in the Toronto suburb of Guelph. "It doesn't take much to get one of those started," said one FBI source. "Plus, with his connections, he's got a real advantage. In most of those subs, it's basically the same meat that they serve in the pen."

Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, who last week filed a civil lawsuit against Monem and his wife, told reporters that he is confident the fleeing suspect will be brought to justice. "We've already filed liens on the Pepsi machine," Myers explained in a telephone interview, "and we're waiting for the right time to make a move on the cash register. We're hampered a little bit by the exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollars right now, and the signs all say there's never more than 50 bucks in the store after dark. But we've got the situation well in hand."

Five years of blogging was enough

Barry (a.k.a. Ampersand) at Alas, a Blog says he's going to cut back radically. Alas, indeed.

"It ain't right"

We've become so fond of "reality TV." No wonder some of our nation's scariest shows these days are the documentaries.

How to squander a perfectly good Friday night

Put on a monkey suit, go to the University Club, sit at tables with white tablecloths, breathe cigar smoke, and watch people boxing.

Get off your bike and drive a car

It's better for the environment. At least, so says one guy over in England.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Yo, Yordany!

You couldn't ask for a better way to while away an afternoon in Portland. We and our good friends took in the Beavers game. Perfectly partly cloudy skies with gentle temperatures, fine food and drink, America's game played well, and just enough distractions to keep the wee ones occupied for a few hours.

The star of the show was a guy named Yordany Ramirez, who won it for the Beavers with a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth. He also knocked in a run earlier in the game in an at-bat that showcased his hitting skill. He hung in there, fouling off one pitch after another until he got the one he needed for an important base hit. Ramirez also made a nice catch of a long foul fly ball a fair way down the right field line, but he hesitated a bit with his throw as a Memphis runner tagged up from third, and the run scored. Should he have just let the ball fall foul, rather than recording the second out? Probably not, and who cares, anyway? The guy's the hero of the day.

And the Beavers are all champs in our book, the way they contributed to extending our sunny vacation outlook of the last week and a half. Even the pathetic young men on the Max train couldn't dampen it. Go Beavs.


[I]n [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act.... [T]he Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face." The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude....

-- Dwight Eisenhower
Mandate For Change

A vote of confidence for Big Brother

Our Democratic majority in Congress appears to include a critical mass of spineless individuals. Way to stand up to Bush, people.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Curse of the plums

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time: Plant plum trees along Portland streets. Not only will you get those sweet-smelling blossoms in the spring, but you'll have an abundant harvest of fruit in midsummer. Juicy, red plums -- yum!

It didn't quite work out that way. Here we are, many decades after these trees were introduced onto the parking strips, and nobody we know is doing anything useful with the plums. We're all just cussing them out.

We don't have a plum tree on our property, but the next-door neighbors do. And we have ample prior experience: We had several of them along the parking strips on our corner lot down in the Buckman neighborhood a decade ago. Every mid-July, the fruit comes on and starts to drop. The fruit is dark purple and contains a small amount of bright red pulp and juice. Unless you sit out there day and night scooping up the little golf ball-sized globes with their hard yellow pits, people walking along are going to smush them. Including you, your mail carrier, and everybody who crosses the threshold of your home. Next thing you know, the red juice is on your floors, getting ground into your rugs. Your car mats start to draw fruit flies.

The falling of the infernal crop invariably coincides with hot weather. And when the smushed plums get baked onto the sidewalk, they cling to the concrete with a tenacity rivaling that of epoxy glue. A garden hose at full blast, a half-inch from them, won't budge them. Nor will a stiff push broom, or a combination of the two. The only way to extract the baked plums from a walk or driveway is to do so with a scrub brush or one's fingers. One plum at a time. The expletives pour out along with the sweat.

One would think that making something out of all that fruit would be a thriving pastime. Not on the Portland blocks where we've dealt with the plums. Into the yard debris they go.

Except for one unforgettable neighbor down in Buckman. This elderly gal lived in an old, old Portland house a couple of blocks off Hawthorne, toward Belmont in the 20s. Her place has literally never been painted since it was built nearly a century ago. If it's been re-roofed over its lifetime, it was many decades ago. It's got a dilapidated garage that's covered in graffiti, inside and out. If you live in that 'hood, you doubtlessly know the place I'm talking about.

Now, to say this neighbor was eccentric is kind of like saying that Lindsay Lohan has some issues. She rarely emerged from that house, and never in daylight. Once in a while, she'd be out on her lawn in the middle of the night, picking dandelions (of which her yard sported many) by the light of a headlamp. Her adult son, who bore an unsettling resemblance to the Unabomber, could be seen in the afternoons, driving a derelict old truck which he'd park outside the house. But the mom hardly ever came out, and only at night.

Around 10:30 one Sunday night during the season of the dropping of the plums, our doorbell rang. It was the old woman, with whom we had never before spoken. "What are you going to do with all that fruit?" she asked. Sweep it up, scrub it off the sidewalks, and throw it away, we told her. She asked if she could come and pick some of it. By all means, we replied, take whatever you want.

And so she brought over her ladder and started picking. We wondered what she was planning to do with the plums, which at their size and mostly pit, aren't much of a taste treat. I thought that she was making wine, for sure -- she seemed like a home-winemaking kind of individual. I figured that that was where the dandelions were going, too. A few days later, she brought over some jam that she had made from the plums. I ate a little of it -- it wasn't bad -- but the Mrs. refused to touch it.

We soon left Buckman, and it was to our dismay that we realized that our new home in Irvington was also under the influence of the plums. It looks as though they lined both sides of our block at one time, before a few people got sick of them and changed them out for something else. (Can you imagine even proposing such a thing to the Portland bureaucrats today? Ha ha!) But the one next door is still there, right in our faces, its nasty little products lying in wait to wedge themselves in our modern, textured plastic soles, there to lurk, certain to show up later on a carpet.

When we got home yesterday from a fantastic week at the coast, the worst of the plums greeted us. Hundreds, in every state of decay, from the freshly dropped and ready to be tracked all over, to the caked-on, baked-on that cling to the pavement so ferociously.

This evening we attacked with buckets and brooms and detergent and brushes and fingernails that will now be stained maroon for days. Being from New Jersey originally, I couldn't help but think dark thoughts about the plums, which I'm told are of Italian origin. I muttered, "This tree is a going to have an accident soon. It's going to get very sick and die somehow. Maybe a few copper nails are accidentally going to wind up in its trunk, and it's going to go away. Then it can be replaced with a couple of nice little ornamental trees that don't drop cr*p all over."

If this was Jersey, there'd be guys that could take care of a tree like this for you. They wouldn't need no permit from the yo-yos down in City Hall, either. "Hey, can I help it if the tree got sick and died? It's da cycle of life."

Anyway, about 20 minutes after we called the job done for the day, we noticed about a half-dozen more plums, freshly dropped. If you catch them when they first hit, you can just wing them out into the street, where they're somebody else's problem. But there are so many of the darn things still waiting to do their Sir Isaac Newton act. Maybe I ought to drop by that old lady's house in Buckman, and see if she's still there. It's getting close to midnight -- this would be a good time to go.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Threatened species

It took a decade or more longer than I thought it would, but The New York Times is succumbing to the inevitable:

Of course, if you think that's bad, imagine what Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is going to look like.

Have a great weekend

On the road again

Travel day today -- very much back in the direction of reality. Alas.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Drive like a maniac, kill a bum? No biggie, here's a ticket.

There's something horribly wrong here.

Face to face at last

I finally got to meet this guy in the flesh today, over a lovely fresh shellfish dinner.

An audience with the Chimp

Lars has reportedly made it to the Oval Office.

"Welches" con man update

Margie Boulé of the O adds some details about the slick, sick "flooring contractor" who will hit you up on the street for car fare. He was in North Portland last weekend. Don't be a victim!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Reader poll: Will Merkley and Novick reach the finish line together?

Surprising no one, State House Speaker Jeff Merkley formally announced today that he's a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Gordon Smith. Merkley joins Steve Novick in the race for the Democratic nomination. One wonders whether Novick would have entered into the field had he known Merkley was going to show up. Indeed, with no record in elective office, one might have expected Novick to run for one of the many state legislative posts currently being vacated all over the Portland metro area.

Which leads us to today's question:

Will Merkley and Novick make it all the way to the primary in the 2008 U.S. Senate race?
Yes, they both will be in the primary.
Merkley will be there, Novick won't.
Novick will be there, Merkley won't.
Neither one will make it to the primary.
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Alberto wasn't lying

It depends on what your definition of "program" is.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove's going to refuse to show up and answer a congressional summons. No one's going to round these people up and lock them up, folks. Impeachment really is the only solution.

Big flame war on the internet


To laugh like a brook

Midsummer is here, and with it some family time, mostly uninterrupted by work and the internet. I don't spend enough time with my feet on the ground and my eyes looking straight into those of my wife and daughters. When I do, it sends me to another place, far beyond the moon.

Last night we cranked up The Sound of Music on the DVD and watched the whole thing. If you knew nothing else but this about the work of the songwriter Richard Rodgers, you'd still be mightily impressed. As the only person in the room who was alive when this show first appeared on Broadway (in 1959), I had much to explain. Including the fact that the film was such a smash that they trucked whole busloads of us Catholic school kids from Jersey to the Big Apple to see it.

I had forgotten that there was an intermission; I'm glad the producers of the modern digital disk left it in.

There's a lot of interesting stuff happening out there in the wider world, but it can wait.

Here's a prominent mass transit fan

Sort of.

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