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

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September 2007 Archives

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sam Adams won't take "clean money"

Why should he, when he'll have all the condo developers' money? But only $500 apiece. And $500 from each of their spouses. And their corporations. And their kids. And the secretaries of all the above.

Oh, and this is comical: It would create an appearance of a conflict of interest if he participated in "voter-owed elections," because he voted for it. Hear that, Richie Rich? He says you look like a crook!

Dead horse

Free municipal wi-fi, which has been so underwhelming in Portland, has now been shown to be a flop just about everywhere it's been tried. In other words, a not-so-hot idea.

Who says I'm not hip?

Hey, I discovered this Portland-based publication. It's cool.

Zimmerman Messenger Service

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Down to the wire

The baseball drama continues into the last day of the regular season, tomorrow. There are still four teams vying for two playoff spots in the National League, and it's possible that neither of the two berths will be settled tomorrow.

The Mets won (big time) and the Phillies lost today. If one wins and the other loses tomorrow, the winner advances to the playoffs and the other is out. If both lose, it's off to a special showdown game to see who makes the playoffs. If both win, there's that special showdown game, and potentially more.

Meanwhile, the Padres lost and the Rockies won (big time) today. If the Padres win tomorrow, the Pads advance. If the Padres lose, one or more showdown games may be needed. (The Cubs and the Diamondbacks are already in the playoffs.)

The most interesting possibility is this one:

If Colorado, New York and Philadelphia win Sunday and San Diego loses, all would finish 89-73. New York and Philadelphia would play the NL East tiebreaker Monday; the loser would play a three-team, two-day, wild-card tiebreaker with Colorado and San Diego on Tuesday and Wednesday. In that scenario, Colorado (the team with the best head-to-head record among the three teams in the wild-card tiebreaker) would get the choice of having a bye on Tuesday or playing both games at home.
Regardless of whether you can keep it all straight (here's the full list of scenarios), our cannibalized widget for tomorrow's games gives us this:

Shockingly, national TV doesn't appear to have any of these games live. Sunday pro football, you know. Seems un-American, if you ask me.

UPDATE, 9/30, 3:25 p.m.: The Mets are out (thus the Phils are in), and San Diego and Colorado play a one-game tiebreaker tomorrow.

Beat the crowds

It's supposed to rain hard tomorrow, and so you could have the great food, drinks, tradition, and entertainment of the Portland Polish Festival all to yourself:

Goin' back

The downtown Portland Meier & Fra -- er, Macy's will reopen in about a month. And as much as they'd like to curtail the practice, it looks as though they will indeed be sending around discount coupons to get you in there.

The coupons don't do much for me. The fine print on the back usually excludes whatever I'm in the mood to go to Macy's for. But come holiday shopping time, I can't imagine not making the pilgrimage to Fifth and Morrison.

Polarizing Portlandia

It's amazing how early people choose up sides on political campaigns these days. Here in Portland, we're 13 months away from picking a new mayor, but already it's clear where some of the local media stand.

Willamette Week clearly supports Sam the Tram, throwing his chief opponent under the bus a couple of weeks back. Meanwhile, the semi-weekly Trib is pecking at the Trammeister at every opportunity.

It's fun to speculate about why these two free publications are already lining up as they are on The Sam. WW loves the youth, the gayness, the devotion to Condo Tower Portland. The Trib probably hates all three of those things. Is it a question of reader demographics and advertisers? In some ways, it seems like the difference between under-employed grads of high-priced colleges and the parents who are still supporting them several years longer than they wanted to.

I have no use for Sam Adams and the wasteful, plastic Portland that he's creating. The place is going broke, and mercilessly chasing real businesses and middle-class families out. Sam is a driven man who will surely leave the population in a severe civic neurosis after even one term as mayor. But until there's a viable candidate to oppose him, there's no sense in blowing a gasket, as the Trib appears to be doing. The wisest course appears to be to lie back and enjoy the experience.

Another one for your Darth Vader collection

We've already showed you this one. But somebody just pointed me to another one to go with it.

John Edwards goes with "clean money"

Looks like our favorite candidate for the White House is going to take taxpayer matching funds to get him through the primaries. In exchange, he agrees to limit what he spends.

It's a bold move, and on its face, a principled one. Or perhaps it's a desperate one. Certainly it's an abrupt change of position from what Edwards and his advisors had been saying previously. In any event, the smartest pundit I know thinks it's a bad sign, because even if Edwards gets out of the early primaries alive, he could easily run out of money down a stretch run.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Baseball update

The baseball playoff picture is a little clearer tonight than it was 24 hours ago. In the National League, the Cubs and the Diamondbacks have made the tournament, and the Brewers are out of the race. Either the Phillies or the Mets will get the third berth (the Phils edged ahead this evening as they won and the hapless New Yorkers lost); the fourth team will be the Phils, Mets, Rockies (who lost, first time in 12 games), or Padres (who won). The Padres are looking pretty good; the only way they could be eliminated would be in a showdown game next week, as they will be at least tied for a playoff spot when the regular season ends on Sunday.

The cannibalized widget that we posted in the wee hours of this morning as a "ticker" worked pretty well, and so here's another one for tomorrow's (Saturday's) games (times are Eastern; Fox will be showing some of the action):

In the American League, there was not much suspense today, and there won't be much until the playoffs start. The matchups are Cleveland vs. New York and Anaheim vs. Boston.

I hope this guy stays home...

Have a great weekend

Our green, sustainable airport

It's such a gem. Let's make it bigger, noisier, and more polluting.

Gordon goes after hate crimes

The guy's nothing if not an excellent politician.

Movable Scam moves back

As predicted here, the council of Metro, our regional government and slush fund, did not kill the Portland Convention Center hotel project yesterday. Indeed, they took a step in the opposite direction. Suddenly Metro is back to saying that the city will have to subsidize the white elephant even more than it already has. Oh, and get this: Multnomah County should also scratch around in its sofa cushions and come up with a subsidy:

First, Metro officials will talk to potential partners about sharing some of the development costs. The discussions will involve members of the Portland City Council, the Multnomah County Commission, the Oregon Legislature and businesses and property owners that might benefit from the construction of the hotel.

“We are not going to build this hotel without the financial commitment from all partners vested in the economic development of this region,” said Councilor Rod Park, who is heading up research into the project of the council.

Paging Ted Wheeler: You slashed your budget and told us all to get real. Please get Rod Park on the phone right now and let him know what a complete nonstarter that is.

Paging Mark Rosenbaum: I think the folks at Metro are a little hard of hearing on this one. Give old Rod a call and tell him the bank is closed.


Oden has talked often with teammate Darius Miles...

Big time brew

Today the Times opines that "Maine has grown into a hub of craft brewing, a smaller-scale East Coast answer to Oregon."

Portland: A city deep in hock

For more than a year now, I've had on my to-do list to take a good look at the credit card bills being racked up by the City of Portland. Our municipal government's always borrowing money -- for urban renewal, for the Big Pipe project, to pay pensions, for all kinds of purposes -- and frankly, I'm worried that it's getting us taxpayers in way over our heads.

For months, I've been dragging around with me the city's last two big, fat annual financial reports -- something called CAFRs -- but they're so long-winded, detailed, and full of jargon that it's hard to make heads or tails of them. Moreover, it takes forever for them to come out. For instance, the report for the municipal fiscal year ended this past June 30 -- that was three months ago -- won't be made public for another four months. If you're trying to get a current picture out of that document, it's hopeless, because the snapshot it provides is always seven months old or more.

But determined to find something more current, yesterday I scoured around a bit, and I believe I landed on exactly what the doctor ordered. It's this document:

I happen to know a bit about what this is, because in my time as a corporate lawyer, I drafted a couple of these. It's the "preliminary official statement" for some bonds that the city is now in the process of selling. In this case, the city's peddling 20-year bonds (i.e., borrowing money) to the tune of about $12 million to buy a "condo interest" in part of a new Portland State University building that will house the city's new archives. The bond sale is scheduled to go down next Tuesday.

Unlike the fat annual reports, the "POS," as it's known, has to be written in plain English. It's essentially a sales pitch, but by law, it must disclose all the material facts that an investor would reasonably want to know in deciding whether to invest in the city's IOU's. Financial institutions that buy bonds (i.e., lend big bucks) don't want hundreds of pages of hide-the-ball data, which is what the CAFRs seem like to me. No, they demand the straight skinny.

And so now we're ready to find out: Just how much debt is the City of Portland really in?

First, the latest number on the unfunded actuarial liability of the police and fire pension and disability fund. As of July 1, it's $1,802,394,343. That's $1.8 billion, with a "b."

Then there are the bonds, and they come rolling in at some high numbers:

- Unlimited tax general obligation bonds: $67,850,000
- Self-supporting bonds paid and/or secured by the general fund: $652,101,460
- Revenue bonds: $1,706,844,666 (including roughly $1.2 billion for sewer, $272 million for urban renewal, and $201 million for water)
- Total: $2,426,796,126
That's $2.4 billion, again with a "b."

The grand total of the police and fire pension and disability liability and all the bonds: $4,229,190,469. That's roughly $4.2 billion of long-term debt that the city is staring at.

Is it anything to be concerned about?

It is if you look at it this way: They can talk all they want about what each debt is secured by, pots of money, dedicated revenue, etc., but the plain truth is that taxes get paid by people. Even corporate taxes get passed on to consumers, and a landlord's property taxes get passed on to the tenants. According to the POS, the population of the city is currently 562,690. If our debt is $4,229,190,469, at that population level it works out to $7,516.02 per resident.

Thus, the average man, woman or child living in Portland right now owes around $7,500 in long-term debt to individuals and corporations who own the city's bonds. And so it's time to get the old debt clock up on this blog:

Of course, it doesn't stop there. Metro is listed in the document as having $122 million of "property-tax backed debt" outstanding; Multnomah County another $256 million; Portland Community College another $113 million; the Portland school district another $472 million; and Tri-Met another $94 million. I don't have the populations of all those taxing jurisdictions handy, but it looks to me as though you can easily add another $1,000 a head for those bonds.

Yep, every resident in Portland owes something like $8,500 on account of local government debt. If you've got four people in your household, as I do, that's $34,000.

Not counting the state. Not counting the feds.

There are lots of additional fascinating details in the POS. I'll blog some more about them in the near future. But everyone who's interested in city government should download it (before it disappears) and look for themselves. Did you know that city tax collections for 2006-07 were actually down slightly from the year before? That the city has $172 million of short-term notes and lines of credit floating around? That 13.7 percent of all wages in the metropolitan area went to government workers?

Meanwhile, get ready to pay your 8,500 bucks. Plus interest, of course.

Free fallin'

This is the last weekend of the regular season in pro baseball, and there's a spectacular story in progress back east. The New York Mets, who not too long ago were absolutely dominating their division, now find themselves on the brink of not making to the playoffs. Their primary nemesis (if you don't count themselves) is the pesky outfit from Philadelphia known as the Phillies.

If you like sports drama but you don't have all summer to follow the baseball version of it, here's a story you can catch over just a few days. In the National League, where the Mets and Phils play, there are seven teams still alive for four playoff berths. The Mets and the Phils will get one of the berths, and maybe even two. The other teams are the Chicago Cubbies(!), the Milwaukee Brewers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Diego Padres, and the Colorado Rockies (who have won 11 straight games to come back from the dead). There could be a head-to-head one-game showdown on Monday. Indeed, in one scenario, there would be four days of crazy showdown games before the "regular playoffs" start. Or it could all be sorted out by tomorrow.

San Diego and Milwaukee will be televised this afternoon at 5; Fox will have that same matchup tomorrow afternoon at 12:55, but they'll also be trying to cover the Phils (vs. Washington) and the Cubs (at Cincinnati) at the exact same time. Sunday is pro football day, and I don't know which, if any, baseball contests will wind up being covered.

Here's a widget that I've cannibalized to see if we can get a live "ticker" going here for this afternoon and evening (times are Eastern). No warranties on whether it will work. (There's also a scoreboard of sorts, with final scores only, way down the right sidebar of our main page.)

Calling Sebastian

I badly need your pro football betting advice... here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Joe Camel, constitutional scholar

The mindscrew from the tobacco companies just won't quit. They've got a lot of money to spend on obfuscating what's really at stake with the pending Ballot Measure 50 here in Oregon, and the latest diversion arrived in the mail today:

Wow, how subtle. Measure 50 -- which would increase cigarette taxes and dedicate the new revenue to state-financed health care programs -- is a threat to the Constititution. And look at that graphic! Not just the Constitution -- but the Bill of Rights!

What hogwash. Measure 50 has nothing to do with the Bil of Rights, and the tobacco companies who created this flyer know that darn well.

But do they want the voters to focus on what's really at stake? A couple of weeks back we blogged about the first flyer they sent out -- in which there was only one reference to "tobacco," buried way down where you had to look hard to find it. In this new beauty, it's the same deal. You have to hunt it down, but "tobacco" is in there exactly once.

Oh, and get this -- a vote for the cigarette tax is a vote for a sales tax!

I'm not sure Measure 50 is a great idea, but when I see the Merchants of Cancer working from their usual lying script, it makes my blood boil. Yes, let's put a tobacco tax in the Oregon Constitution. If it turns out to be a bad idea, we can take another vote and pull it back out. Just like we're now doing with Measures 37 and 49.

If you think Philip Morris could give a darn about your rights, here, have a "light" cig.

Party at Szczepanowski's

It's that time of year again. The Polish Festival rocks the house at St. Stanislaus Church on Interstate Avenue in North Portland this weekend.

Important notice

I don't normally bore readers of this blog with any of the dozens of Internal Revenue Service rulings and announcements that I encounter every year in my work. But this one may be of interest to a broad cross-section of the public.

Not so fast, Batman

Willamette Week returns to some familiar themes this week. Jeff Merkley -- bad. Erik Sten -- crusading genius. (Now that he lives in the West Hills, he's even more so.) Downtown business owners -- very bad. Homer Williams -- selfless patriot.

The Sten story is interesting. Opie* wants to take property taxes from the Pearl and use them to help the David Douglas School District. A couple of problems with that. First, didn't the city float bonds to pave the streets of gold in the Pearl? If we use the property taxes to help David Douglas, doesn't that stretch out the life of those bonds? Given the crippling police and fire pension obligations that are going to be coming due pretty soon (they're at $1.8 billion currently), shouldn't we get that debt cleared up before we start in on any more Great Ideas?

Second, isn't there a legal problem with what's being proposed? I seem to recall that the Oregon Tax Court says that cities and counties can't levy property taxes to help schools if the schools have already hit their property tax limit under Measure 5. If David Douglas is already maxed out under Measure 5, isn't it illegal for the city to float it more property tax dollars?

*- New nickname pending. Too young for "Jed Clampett." Maybe "Jethro"?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mission accomplished -- on to Iran!

The Senate voted 76-22 today to start throwing stuff at Iran:

It is the sense of the Senate--

(1) that the manner in which the United States transitions and structures its military presence in Iraq will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, in particular with regard to the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region, the prospects for democracy for the people of the region, and the health of the global economy;

(2) that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi'a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq;

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;

(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and

(6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively.

Lots of cowardly Democrats voted aye, including Hillary the Polarizer and Patty Murray. Obama stayed away, and Wyden was smart enough to vote no.

UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.: A commenter suggests that the bold language set forth above was taken out of the amendment before it was passed. That seems entirely possible, as the amendment set out above was passed "as modified," and that modification no doubt could have taken place on the Senate floor today. So maybe this one is not as bad as it first appeared.

It's still not so good.

UPDATE, 10:41 p.m.: The commenter was right (as usual). The two bold paragraphs were indeed deleted.

Portland Public Market dumps Union Station idea

They're going to that big federal building on Broadway facing the Greyhound Station. It's so nice that that sweet Melvin Mark fellow will make a few bucks off the deal.

Meanwhile, the group trying to get the market going is gearing up for a big foodie event this weekend. It's a heck of a week for chow around here, and I'm still hungry.

I don't say it often enough

I really, really love my brother.


Speaking of food in Portland, here's a colorful character.

Portland gets Davis Cup tennis final

There's supposed to be a big announcement today at 1:

The United States Tennis Association (USTA), Oregon Sports Authority, Portland Arena Management and Global Spectrum, operators of the Rose Quarter, will make a major announcement regarding the host city of the Davis Cup Final, scheduled for November 30 – December 2.
Since the announcement will be made at Portland City Hall, I don't think they'll be announcing that it's Barcelona.

The crazy thing is, apparently it's going to be in the Coliseum.

Dirty Dan and Ma Anand Sheila

A bit of Portland nostalgia today over at Dingleberry.

On your mark, get set...

Scuttlebutt here on more candidates for Oregon attorney general. On the Republican side, we're told, "two GOP attorneys with past governmental experience [are] considering getting into the race." I figure one is Mannix; who's the other? Jack Roberts?

Killing Woody

There's always a lot of legal red tape around an execution.

Even when the subject is a canine.

Eat it up

Big splash in the Times this morning about Portland restaurants. It's making me hungry!

Hellhounds on my tail

It's the fourth week of pro football, and we're back in search of an underdog team that can pull an upset, winning its game outright. The point spread matters only in that the bigger the upset, the more points I score if I picked it in the pool in which I'm playing. Here are the games, with the underdogs in caps. Who are the show dogs in that lowly pack?

12.5 ST. LOUIS at Dallas
11.5 KANSAS CITY at San Diego
9.5 DENVER at Indianapolis
8 CINCINNATI vs. New England
6 ARIZONA vs. Pittsburgh
4.5 CLEVELAND vs. Baltimore
4 OAKLAND at Miami
3.5 BUFFALO vs. New York Jets
3 DETROIT vs. Chicago
2.5 ATLANTA vs. Houston
2.5 NEW YORK GIANTS vs. Philadelphia
2 SAN FRANCISCO vs. Seattle
1.5 MINNESOTA vs. Green Bay

UPDATE, 10:21 p.m.: Added this evening:

3.5 TAMPA BAY at Carolina

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Horrible news for Measure 49 fans

We cancelled our subscription to the O a while back. Haven't missed it at all. But the way the O's web site is set up, the columnists and the editorials are not displayed anywhere near as prominently as they are in the hard copy, and we must confess, we usually don't get to them any more unless a reader or something in the blogosphere points us to that part of the O's web pages. Breaking news and daily stories? Sure. Latest views from the chief Newhouse lackeys in Portland? Not a priority.

Today they threw a dead-tree version of the paper up on our porch. Whether they were working off an old subscriber list, or were trying to get our business back, or just screwed up, we'll never know. But we flipped to the editorial page, and there we saw some disheartening news: The O is endorsing Ballot Measure 49. Given how out of touch with the electorate they are, that's a bad omen.

New Mount Tabor plan "does it all"

This just in from our spies in the Portland Parks Bureau:

From: Stites, Nancy On Behalf Of Santner, Zari
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 4:27 PM
To: Parks - Parks and Rec All
Subject: Mt. Tabor Resolution

Tomorrow, September 26, at 10:30 a.m., Portland Parks & Recreation and the Mt Tabor community will jointly go before the City Council with a
resolution that didn't seem possible a few months ago. Through extensive
mediation, PP&R staff and the community have forged a partnership to
update the Mt Tabor master plan, which will include the 20 acres that
house the Central Maintenance Yard, the Horticultural area, and the long

If Council passes the resolution, we will then seek the funds to update
the master plan, keeping the Central Maintenance Yard and Horticultural
elements in place at Mt Tabor. We will look at how, through design, we can
improve efficiencies, honor the historical significances of the site,
incorporate safety measures, and sustainable practices. Also through the
design, we may have room for other features, such as a south entrance into the park.

I want to assure you that a public and staff involvement plan is in place
as part of the update and you will be involved if you wish. Expect to
hear more about this plan soon.

Zari Santner
Portland Parks & Recreation

A fun ride to the Poor Farm

Finally, one thing the Bush folks and I can agree on: Streetcars are largely a waste of money. Buses are more effective and cheaper, and they better serve the "masses" that "mass" transit is supposed to serve.

The answer back from Portland's streetcar fanatics is that the shiny toys spur high-density development in inner city cores, and somehow buses don't do that. But assuming that high density is a good thing, is that really true? Sure, when they first hit town, Portland's streetcars helped sell condos in the Pearl. But that era is now over -- way over, and it's probably not coming back. The novelty of the trolleys has worn off. Isn't it time to come to our senses and spend our scarce transit dollars as prudently as possible?

The core of the extremely soft reasoning behind streetcar mania is encapsulated well in this morning's O piece on the subject:

Through the Small Starts program, Congress directed the federal bureaucracy to give streetcar proposals credit not just for moving people efficiently but for spurring growth nearby in the form of restaurants, shops, apartment and condominium buildings. Bus routes, which can easily change, do not show such corollary development.
I'm having a lot of trouble believing the cause and effect that's being offered so uncritically here. How often are bus routes changed in Portland? Rarely or never. So permanence can't be much of a plus for streetcars. The only appeal of fixed-rail trolleys appears to be their novelty. Could the same level of "sex appeal" be generated with some sort of innovative electric, alternative fuel, or hybrid vehicle, which would be more nimble, cheaper to operate, and far more flexible? Of course.
Blumenauer introduced the Community Streetcar Development and Revitalization Act in 2002 to create a federal program to help other cities use streetcars the way Portland does. He points to neighborhoods like the Pearl District and South Waterfront, where developers say the streetcar has helped make possible a dense mix of housing and businesses.
Geez Louise, Earl. So far, SoWhat is not a "dense mix" of anything but construction mud, apartments, the OHSU health club, and people looking for a parking space. If that's your example of streetcar nirvana, you're not going to convince too many people of the wisdom of your position.
If the Eastside Streetcar is built, about 4,537 housing units would be added along the route, compared with 1,105 without it, according to estimates for TriMet by economic consultant Eric Hovee of Vancouver.
Whoa, stop the presses -- some guy hired by Tri-Met says the streetcar is our salvation. Break out the checkbook for another $100 million based on that?

If what is desired is a smart-growth, planned city, it can easily be achieved without extravagant, slow streetcars. Please, let's get real.

More changes afoot

City of Portland officials announced today another street renaming project to go along with its recent establishment of Rosa Parks Way where Portland Boulevard used to be, and the pending change of Interstate Avenue to Cesar Chavez. In a move designed to celebrate further the city's ethnic diversity, the city is planning to redesignate SW Fairmount Boulevard on Council Crest as SW Malcolm X Drive, in honor of the fallen civil rights leader, who was assassinated in 1965. The name change will be taken up by the City Council at its meeting tomorrow.

"This is a great opportunity to honor a courageous American who gave his life in the cause of racial equality," said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who has spearheaded similar drives on the east side of the Willamette River. "It's important that wherever in the city we live, we keep in mind that all human beings deserve to be treated equally."

Flanked by County Commissioner Jeff Cogen, Saltzman also announced the opening of a new methadone clinic on nearby SW Patton Road. The clinic will service 200 recovering heroin addicts, with plans to expand to an eventual patient population of 500. "We know that people will be a little nervous about the clinic," said Cogen, "but after a while, they'll hardly notice it. And in the end, we know the people in the West Hills will be glad that they opened their hearts to the less fortunate among us."

Must be nice

You're not the only one getting a kicker from the State of Oregon:

The state has about 60 department heads who will get raises of 21 percent to 24 percent over the next two years, Kulongoski announced Monday. Nearly 4,800 state managers will see their salaries rise 11 percent to 16 percent.
Plus, don't forget, a generous pension and oh, the fringe benefits!

Like baloney?

Here's some choice sandwich loaf for you: The taxpayer-financed Portland Convention Center Hotel project is "on life support" and "[i]If the [Metro] council is not willing to approve the additional time and money Thursday, the concept of a publicly financed hotel probably will die."

Now, that's comedy. The thing has stunk to high heaven for 18 years, and still somehow has never been killed off, but this Thursday, we really mean it, this could be the end?

In your dreams.

They'll just keep putting it off, putting it off... Sooner or later the public will get sufficiently distracted that the Metro gang will make one of the Old Boys even richer on the little taxpayer's dime by building this white elephant. The people who stand to make their millions off the project -- old Hank Ashforth, one of the architecture dandy firms, and probably Hoffman Construction -- they know how to keep hanging around. Unlike the regular people who have to give up a chunk of their lives to sit in endless meetings in order to fight irresponsible junk like this proposal, for the proponents it's just all in a day's work.

Or a year's.

Or a decade's.

The city that keeps polling you (ouch!)

If there's one thing you can say for Portland Mayor Tom Potter's "vision quest" survey, it was inclusive. They paid to translate the survey questionnaire into seemingly every language imaginable. You have to wonder how many forms they got back with responses in Laotian, though.

Now that the city in that one instance cast out its questions to a broad cross-section of the population, is every survey it ever undertakes hereafter, no matter how slanted, going to be credited automatically as truly reflective of the overall population? Take this story from today's Trib. Hearkening back to the Potter "vision quest" survey, the unnamed reporter accepts at face value the city's contention that the vast majority of its residents support new carbon taxes on businesses, taxpayer subsidies for businesses that recycle and reduce emissions, and even taxpayer subsidies for rain barrels.

Apparently some well connected pollster outfit came to these stunning conclusions after polling 500 city residents. Before I believed a word of it, I'd love to see the questions, and hear how the 500 interviewees were selected. I'm sure one or both of those aspects of the poll would be quite amusing.

And what does the latest poll have to do with the "visioning" process? The city has spun the results of the original survey to something that most Portlanders would never vote for. Gone and long forgotten are the many, many responses that expressed strong disagreement with the city's wasteful "urban renewal" projects. Whatever "visioning" might have meant when it was undertaken, its great champion has announced his retirement and seemingly lost interest in it. And so now it's going to be used as a new wrapper for an ever-growing bundle of half-truths.

Larry sees the light

It's always amazing to me how rich, self-righteous "law and order" types, who spend their whole lives fighting meaningful remedies for breaches of ordinary people's civil rights, suddenly discover the Constitution shortly after they themselves are caught red-handed in filthy, low-level crimes. Once they're off the hot seat, though, they quickly go back to their old ways. Their born-again liberalism is temporary, lasting only as long as it takes to keep them in their sordid little positions of power.

The latest example of this hypocrisy is Larry Craig -- a man who obviously keeps the "ho" in Idaho. But of course, he's hardly a groundbreaker. Rush Limbaugh comes immediately to mind, and there's the catalog of similar creeps listed here.

I see that the ACLU is taking the high road and helping old Larry withdraw his guilty plea after soliciting sex in an airport men's room. More power to them, but in this case -- forgive me -- I hope they lose. Old Larry pleaded guilty and waived his First Amendment rights. Time for him to assume some of that "personal responsibility" that he and his many fans have been carping on relentlessly for 30 years now.

The littlest dog

Good news for me in this past weekend's installment of the Underdog Pool, in which I and some others try each week to pick an underdog that will win a pro football game: I picked Dallas over Da Bearss on Sunday, and I was right, earning 3 points in the season-cumulative standings. However, there were two other underdog winners -- Tennessee and Green Bay -- who earned more points (4.5 each), and so I have dropped behind a gang of four who are currently tied for the lead, a point and a half ahead of me.

The amazing part of this is that I know next to nothing about the game, and am relying mostly on the wisdom of readers of this blog. If I hadn't chickened out and gone with Dallas, I was ready to pull the trigger on Tennessee, and I should have. The Pack over San Diego was kind of daring, but readers had me well aware that it might happen. To those who have been steering me in the right direction, I'm most grateful.

We'll talk about next weekend's games tomorrow or Thursday.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Next career stop for Bush

Operations manager for this outfit down in Houston.

Kicks, and scratches

Looks like Mark Lindsay's Rock & Roll Cafe and the Yaw family are already in court. The Yaws claim they never did close a deal consenting to the use of their name at the new Sandy Boulevard eatery. In their defense, the Lindsay group claims that they were ready to sign a contract with the Yaw family, but were prevented from doing so when they could not find a place to park.

Letter from Joe Camel

The mailman brought a lot of junk mail today, but mixed in with the ads that went straight to the shredder bin came a personal letter from a fellow educator:

Wow, what a guy, to take time out from all his work as a teacher to write me a personal letter about an important issue. Hey, if a teacher doesn't give a darn about something that will raise money for health care for kids, I probably shouldn't, either. Plus, they're trying to amend our constitution -- that's dangerous, isn't it?

Hey, where's this guy's school? I want to send him a thank you note. Let's look at the return address on the envelope:

I've never been to that school, but it must be in quite a building. It also houses the Healthy Forests Alliance, someone named Mark Nelson, Public Affairs Counsel, Inc., the Oregon Public Retirees Litigation Fund, the Oregon Committee for Recycling, Oregonians Against the Blank Check, and something called Public Direct Ltd. I hope the children have enough room to play.

How to blow a huge advantage

When the dust settles in November 2008 on a new Republican president and a split Congress, pundits will no doubt tear their shirts and declare that no one could have predicted it. But all the signs are there right now. It's unfortunate, but the Democratic Party leadership looks as though it's going to squander the gains it made last year.

Few in the party seem capable of telling it like it is. Even Earl the Pearl, Portland's fair-haired bow-tied son in the safest job on earth, can't bring himself to look the camera straight in the eye and tell the truth. He got an earful from Big Bradach and the impeachment crowd last night, and he deserves it. When the party nominates Hillary the Polarizer or Osama Baraka next summer, and then they move even further to the right to try to win the election, the faithful will stay away in droves. Meanwhile, somebody like Fred Thompson could very well drawl his way to the White House.

I'd love to see a woman or an African-American be President, but you'd have to find someone in either category who can appeal to middle America. Otherwise, you're going to lose.

The city that won't shut up

The City of Portland's hard, hard sell for a gas tax increase knows no bounds. We've had direct mail, robo-phone calls (despite being on the do not call list), newspaper inserts... Over the weekend I noticed a big sign tacked to a pole, for southbound traffic on NE 33rd Avenue to see, advertising the latest "open house" to discuss the city's sudden "transportation crisis." Interesting that folks so dedicated to traffic safety would want to distract drivers.

I support the gas tax boost, but the relentless campaign is a wasteful joke. Somebody really should have to tell us how much all the different come-ons are costing city taxpayers. Probably enough to fix quite a few potholes.

Way to go

You'll never guess what Craig over at MTPolitics has been up to.

Start the week out right

With a reassuring story about import safety.

Think I'll Pass

Here's a great service. Not only will they tap your phone calls, but they'll also push ads at you based on what you're talking about. Several aspects of the greatness of our era rolled into one.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quake in or near Portland?

Was that a little earthquake I just felt about four minutes ago? Or did somebody downstairs just drop a book?

UPDATE, 11:37 p.m.: No book -- quake. Reportedly 3.2, down by the Wheatland Ferry, near Gervais. Thanks, commenters.

UPDATE, 9/24, 12:17 a.m.: It's been upgraded to a 3.6.

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Dyzcko tells it like it is

One of my favorite figures in all of football is Hall of Fame legend Mike Ditka, the retired tight end and coach of the Chicago Bears.

Last week Mike went before a U.S. Senate committee looking into pro football's anemic disability benefit system, which is becoming ever more significant as scores of retired players discover that they've been permanently injured by the violent game they played. As usual, he left a strong impression without make a jerk of himself. His remarks, some of which are recounted here, are well worth considering.

More on Friday night's east side MAX riot

At least, a little more, from KGW. The police were out in force last night at the scene of the 150-person brawl, at 162nd and Burnside, which shut down the 160th MAX station Friday night.

She don't mean a thing 'cause she ain't got that swing

If the Democrats want to win the White House, they're going to need to win swing states like Ohio and Missouri. And guess what: Hillary can't do it.

Mum's the word

I've got nothing to say about this.

Just ask the axis

Here's a disturbing story about nukes in everybody's favorite part of the world.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Chimp finally checks his bank statement

They must have adjusted Bush's meds. Now suddenly he's a fiscal conservative. Of course, all the country's current and impending financial disasters are the fault of those "tax and spend Democrats."

Even the wingnuts on the right aren't buying that one. For years, the real problem has been "Borrow and spend on death to prove that my dad and I are both manly men."


Looks like Emilie Boyles is planning a comeback to Portland. (Via b!X.)

Was there a riot last night at 160th and E. Burnside?

This comment indicates there may have been. Is anyone in our crack mainstream media on this story?

UPDATE, 1:52 p.m.: Ah, I see that KGW had a little something about it.

UPDATE, 9/23, 2:15 p.m.: A large show of police force kept things orderly last night. An update, and room for further comments, are here.

Over the swamps to Gotham

Longtime readers of this blog know that I've got a soft spot in my heart for the Pulaski Skyway, America's first "superhighway," which runs high above the Hackensack Meadowlands between Newark and Jersey City. That massive old hunk of steel and concrete, on whose roadway and in whose shadow I spent my youth, has never been the world's safest place to drive, and it's slated to be replaced someday not too far off. But in its birth time, it was a wonder.

I had never heard the history of the construction of the skyway, other than to know that more than a dozen men died building it. Now there's a book that tells that story in a pretty engaging manner, and it paints a vivid picture of Jersey City politics at the time to boot. It's called The Last Three Miles, and it's by a New Jersey writer named Steven Hart. Not a lengthy read at just under 200 pages, the book is a fine piece. If you're a fan of history, of engineering, of organized labor or its opponents, or of dirty politics, it's worth your tracking down. (Hint: The copy I've had checked out of the Multnomah County Library is going back soon.)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Perfect example

I wrote a while back about how the real problem with graffiti in Portland is not the free availability of spray paint, but rather growing fatigue on the part of property owners with the very necessary process of promptly removing or covering up graffiti tags.

If you want to see what I'm talking about, just head over to Five Star Cleaners at NE Broadway and 14th. There you'll find an egregious display that could have -- should have -- been covered up quickly. What we need is to have the city get those business owners to do the job, and make them feel appreciated when they do it. Leaving that mess up as it stands now would set back anti-graffiti efforts in that neighborhood quite a bit.

Chain chain chain

Have you heard the rumor about the rumor about the rumor monger?

Have a great weekend

Who needs cops and traffic lights?

Crazy idea? Shockingly high projected infrastructure costs? Obvious environmental issues? A six-figure tab just to start "studying" it?

But it might help Homer, Joe, and the boys make a bundle off some more high-rise apartments?

Stand back, everybody, and let Portland City Hall come a-runnin' with the checkbook. Faster than you can say "public-private partnership."

Transit-oriented gangbanging, cont'd

It's one thing for a blogger like me to raise an eyebrow at the crime wave currently under way on the east end of the MAX rail line out Gresham way. But when a Portland police sergeant confirms the trend in no uncertain terms, it's time for everyone to sit up and listen. From yesterday's O story about "Felony Flats":

The East Precinct's Sgt. Kim Preston attended but hardly buoyed spirits. After listening to testimonials of theft, vandalism, beatings and intimidation, Preston said there's little likelihood police will increase patrols in the area any time soon.

Even with more money, he said, pending retirements will outpace efforts to hire and train officers. What's more, he said, the light-rail extension to Clackamas along nearby Interstate 205 will probably bring more crime and spread police even thinner.

"The MAX has been a living nightmare for us," Preston said. "I would not ride it at night -- and I'm armed all the time. There are massive fights, guns displayed, stabbings, people being threatened and bullied."

Wow. That's a police sergeant talking.

If the new light rail lines are just going to make the crime problem worse, then why are we building them? It seems to me that without an adequate security plan, expanded light rail is not just an expensive amenity, but a downright bad idea.

Snatching failure from the jaws of success

I don't think Yogi Berra has ever visited the Mount Hood National Forest, but his way of thinking is very much in vogue there. While reading yesterday about the latest proposed changes to campgrounds on the mountain, I was reminded of Yogi's famous line, "Nobody goes there any more; it's too crowded."

"Maybe more people would come to our campgrounds if we provided electrical hookups," said Malcolm Hamilton, who manages recreation for the forest.
Yoo hoo! Malcolm, old buddy. That's exactly why you would never want to put them in. People go camping to get away from crowds of other people. And so particularly in a place that's suffering from overcrowding, like Portland, you don't want to attract too many people to the nature spots that are still relatively out of the way. Got it?

If they want to watch TV in their RVs or YouTube in their tents, they can go to a KOA.

Divining rod needed

We're still brooding about this week's pro football underdog pool. There's still time for everyone to give us some sage advice on which team that's favored to lose is going to pull off the upset. Can you smell one? Sound off here -- especially you, Sebastian.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keep the Canadian pennies -- throw away the U.S. ones

A while back I got into it a little with a Bush supporter who was prattling on in our comments about how swell the economy was doing compared to that of all the other Western industrial nations. I've heard a lot of bullpuckey from apologists for the Chimp over the years, but even I was a little taken aback that anyone would be so foolish as to suggest such a thing.

Today another reader, far more alert, pointed out to me a deeply disturbing fact. Are you ready for this? Brace yourself:

The U.S. dollar is now worth the same as the Canadian dollar.

The Canadian dollar! You know, the one we've spent our whole lives making fun of?

Eat, drink, and be merry, friends. We are doomed.

That which we call SoWhat, by any other name would still smell

We've had a lot of fun calling Portland's South Waterfront district "SoWhat." But today a reader suggested that maybe we should give that joke a rest. After all, "SoWhat" is based on people's reactions to the latest condo jungle, and by now everyone's had ample chance to see it for what it really is and react accordingly.

Now we're moving into a new phase, where condos can't be sold and the city's already tapped itself out on infrastructure. We haven't even started to deal with the sewer issues or the greenway, and there's no money, we're told, for a lot of the goodies that were originally promised.

Why not, the reader suggested, rename the whole district "Bankruptcy Village"?

It would take a while to catch on with the People, but the more they hear about this scam, the more obvious it will become. If someone out there already thought of it, give them the credit. I googled it and nothing came up. If Seattle can have a tram called SLUT, we have to do better with our names. "Bankruptcy Village": Think about it.

Sticker shock

The great Movable Scam -- the proposed taxpayer-financed Portland Convention Center hotel -- will not die, but it sure gets uglier and uglier. Now the Goldschmidt Boys at Metro who are pushing the thing are actually coming out and admitting that the facility won't pay for itself -- not even close. Indeed, here we are still in the preliminary stages of "planning" the hotel -- the time when everybody knows all the projections are rose-colored lies -- and already the revenue is going to be nearly $8 million a year short of what it will take to get a mortgage to build it. But don't worry! Somehow, eight years after the hotel opens, we can predict that there will be a sudden surge in tourism in Portland, and magically all the financial troubles will disappear. And if it doesn't? The taxpayers can pick up the difference.

If this is what Metro is peddling before they rubberstamp the backroom deal that was made on this project years ago, can you imagine what a sober assessment of the truth would be? A $10 million annual shortfall? $12 million? $20 million? Remember, as they say, "All figures are estimates until the hotel's builders provide a guaranteed price." Uh huh.

Meanwhile, a new slice of baloney has been added to the steaming pile that's already been generated on this deal: Without the hotel, Metro now says, the Convention Center will "fail." Gentlemen, get serious. The Convention Center has never done anything but fail since the day Bud Clark built it. It doesn't attract big conventions, and it never will. It's going to be, at best, a decent but overbuilt facility that hosts a nice roster of regional and local confabs. It's always going to lose money. That's why the voters voted not to expand it, but Vera, Opie, and Sam the Tram knew better. Which is how we got to the losing condition that we find the facility in now.

And the Convention Center's not going to forfeit 15 percent of its existing business to places like Spokane just because it doesn't have a big hotel attached. It's a pretty safe bet that the Greater Western Oregon Quilters Weekend and the Oregon Chess Federation are staying in Portland. That threat is about as valid as the promise that somehow that bottomless pot of money known as lottery funds will miraculously make this stinker pencil out.

One way that Metro's proposing to make money magically appear is to refinance the currently outstanding bonds on the Convention Center, presumably stretching out the term of those bonds and lowering the annual debt service on them. The lighter payments on those bonds could then free up hotel-motel tax dollars to go for the headquarters hotel scam. Borrow from Peter to pay Paul -- sound like good fiscal policy to you?

I'm sure there's more smoke waiting to come blasting out of the Metro p.r. machine before this one's over. We haven't heard "green and sustainable" yet, and of course, there's always "for the children." But a better tack would be for all the Metro suits to splash some cold water on their faces and get a grip. It's time for somebody in the Network to buy Hank Ashforth a nice set of golf clubs and a case of great pinot and break the news to him that we're sorry, but we can't put this one over.

Sing around the Maypole with Homer and Dike

Big news this week for the SoWhat Poodle Poop Park -- the Shangri-la that's already cost the City of Portland well north of $7 million (probably more like $9 million) just to get 2 acres of flat land down where the unsold condos are slowly morphing into unrented apartments. The park is now one step closer to becoming something more than a patch of plain grass where the perfectly good storage place used to be. Under increasing pressure from the new denizens of the parking-starved construction zone from hell exciting emerging neighborhood, the Parks Bureau is now asking interested parties to bid on creating designs to construct an actual park. No official word on how much more it's all going to cost, or where the dough is going to come from, but the fantasy is to have it ready for the urban pioneers to enjoy by mid-2009.

The city's invitation to bid doesn't say much about what should go into the facility -- that's being left largely up to the designers who submit proposals. All that's specified is that the new park continue the Park Bureau's recent track record of design excellence. There's some talk of a water feature, but that's about the only hint we get of what our additional millions are going to buy by way of an exercise yard for the inmates in the Bay Area refugee towers.

Hey, how about a playground for -- you know -- kids? Ha! Ha! Only kidding, this is SoWhat. Kids will probably be shot on sight. Given all the out-of-place skyscrapers that are going to surround the park, I suppose that real grass is also out of the question. Maybe some kind of artificial turf made out of the leftovers from canola diesel production?

If it were up to me, I'd have a paintball range set up down on the end where the aerial tram [rim shot] goes over.

One interesting revelation in the city's latest announcement: among the infrastructure frills that we're mortgaging our future for down there are some fancy-schmancy street lights that will be appearing after a while. "Wooden poles providing lighting for the site currently are also temporary and will be removed during actual park construction, to be replaced with permanent lighting fixtures that promote the Marine/Industrial image of the District." Thank heaven! I'd hate to see just plain old street lights.

Anyway, if developing parks is your thing, the city's official announcement is here. If you sign up for it, you can get the whole 48-page proposal. If you're not that interested, feel free to sit this one out for now. It's just a matter of time before Randy Gragg pops up in Portland Monthly to explain to us all how things ought to be down there. You can read about it in the checkout line at the Safeway.

Second shoe drops

My colleague, John Kroger, announces this morning that he's running for the Democratic nomination for Oregon attorney general. He'll take on my former partner, Greg Macpherson, in the primary. The winner will doubtlessly face an as-yet-unnamed Republican challenger in a bid to succeed the incumbent, another former partner of mine, Hardy Myers.

No, I still can't get my parking tickets fixed.

Reports say that Kroger will have Fireman Randy and Opie Sten in his corner, while we already know that Macpherson's in with Merkley and the Democratic Party establishment. It looks like it's the Bus kids against the Old Boy Network once again. We know who wins that one in Portland these days, but in a statewide race, things will be more complicated and a whole lot more interesting.

Don't ask me which way I'm leaning. At least, not yet. Given my track record with candidate endorsements, I'm expecting calls from both sides begging me to back the other guy.

See how they run

It had been a while since I last checked in on my friend Steve Stark's blog Presidential Tote Board 2008, but I just went over there and noticed that Steve's on a roll. Romney's slipping, Hillary's gained back tons of ground on health care, Obama's blowing it by being too wonky, Newt's getting ready to jump in -- all smart stuff from a smart guy who was on the inside when a guy named Jimmy Carter won the grand prize. It's past time to make Stark a daily read.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Patently offensive

I've written here previously about the federal government's recent practice of issuing patents for tax-saving tactics. It's a bad idea, on a couple of levels.

First, it encourages tax avoidance. Nearly a century of experience with our current tax system proves beyond a doubt that there is already adequate incentive for people to minimize their taxes, and for tax professionals to help them do so. There's no need to start awarding monopoly franchises to encourage that kind of behavior -- it's already rampant. In particular, the U.S. corporate income tax has already become a sick joke. We don't need tax patents to make matters worse.

Another problem is the one facing taxpayers who just want to do what the law requires, which is report their finances accurately on their tax returns. Let's say that the tax law provides that if you do A, B, and C, then tax consequence X results. Assume that a particular taxpayer has indeed done A, B, and C during the year. If someone holds a valid patent on A-B-C as a tax-savings "process," the taxpayer won't be able to report tax consequence X on his or her tax return unless he or she negotiates and pays a royalty to the patent holder. That's bad policy -- especially since the taxpayer would be liable for patent infringement even if he or she didn't even know the patent existed.

Although quite a few tax patents have already been issued, the day on which such practices end may be in sight. There's now legislation pending in both houses of Congress that would put a stop to the patenting of tax-saving techniques.

It's interesting to note that one of the people partly responsible for trying to patent one tax-saving device is none other than the chief economic advisor to the White House, Edward Lazear. The official story is that he won't be profiting from the patent, but his signature as "co-inventor" was required in order for the patent application to be filed. And filed it was, and so somebody will make some dough off the patent if it is issued. Just another Republican patriot in our midst.

Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick

A couple of stories in the paper today about public schools in and around Portland are sure to touch some nerves out in the community. One is about using Mexican textbooks, and the other about an outspoken high school principal who sees the issues at her school very much in black and white terms.

Finally, something NOT "for the children"

Looks like that Whole Foods-Wild Oats deal may cost some local schools some money.

A shout out to Starbucks executives!

Alan over at Blue Hole points out that his post about the Renee Mitchell-Starbucks controversy drew a visit to his site from Starbucks corporate headquarters the other day. And hey -- it looks like they went there on a link from this blog!

Proud to be of service.

They really ought to hire that manager back, with a slap on the wrist.

Praising with faint damn

Another apparent hit piece in WW today -- this time, on the Portland streetcar. It comes on as a hard-hitting exposé of Earl "the Pearl" Blumenauer's streetcar shenanigans, but in the end he and the condo-selling transit toys both come out smelling fine. It's hard to believe that the author and editors at that publication wanted it any other way.

The "lede" of what they published is deeply buried. At one point way down in the story, somebody calls out the board of the goofy private company that gets to spend all the tax money to build and run the trolleys for an obvious conflict of interest:

Gustafson is not paid for his role as PSI’s director. But the nonprofit has awarded his firm, Shiels Obletz, at least $2.3 million in consulting contracts, according to a May 2007 tally by the city.

Principals at the firm—including Gustafson—have given nearly $27,000 to Blumenauer and his PAC since 1996.

Outsiders might find it odd, and possibly sticky, to have a nonprofit award large contracts to its director’s firm. “It’s a potential conflict of interest,” says Andrew Svitek, a Portland nonprofit lawyer. He adds, “It only becomes a problem if you can show that somebody got preferential treatment.” That’s a difficult thing to show.

Others use stronger language. “It stinks to high heaven,” says Laura Otten, director of the Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University in Philadelphia. She says a nonprofit director’s company benefiting from contracts with the organization is “one of the biggest red flags you can wave.”

“The board has the right to say, ‘We have a bid process,’” Otten says, “but there isn’t a person whose eyebrows aren’t going to be raised.”

So many details about the streetcar are left out. The facts about the proposed east side extension -- which is the big streetcar issue these days -- aren't discussed in the story. For example, the heavy burden on taxpayers, local and citywide, from construction, and especially operating, costs is not covered. The curtailing of existing bus service to pay for the thing is not mentioned. Instead it's all "Look! Federal pork!"

The Double Dub spends most of its ink:

- reminding everyone that Earl (probably the individual with the greatest job security on the planet, and who could run a winning campaign on a quarter) is the person most responsible for the shiny toys, with the first six paragraphs positively glowing with praise;

- "exposing" the fact that he and his congressional buddies have taken a bunch of campaign contributions from the usual suspects who benefit from the thing; and

- quoting vague attacks on the streetcar structure generally (with Jonathan Charles the only local there to make the case against -- I guess Lucifer wasn't available).

In the end, so little dirt is dug up that the targets of the purported hit are actually the winners, much like the Sam Adams intern story two days ago.

The kids who read Willy Week are going to come away from this piece more enamored of the streetcar than ever. All their heroes get their adorable quotes in there -- Chris Smith, Erik Sten, Mike Powell... even Dan Saltzman, another WW hero whose sister is in on the streetcar scam. (As usual, Dan says he's got questions, but he's voting aye.) Meanwhile, the opponents are fronted by Charles and some faceless policy wonks from back east. Whoopee.

In a smart paper like that, rarely are the effects of its articles unintentional. If this story ends up being a net boost for the streetcar -- "See? The opponents, like us, have found nothing credible to complain about" -- one would have to assume that it was meant to be that way.

Now where was I?

After burning the candle at both ends and wearing myself down, last night I had the opportunity to undertake one of my patented Rip Van Winkle sleep sessions, wherein I catch up on lost Z's. In these long slumbers, the dreams roll out one after the other. When I finally come to, everything's grounded and clear. Just like this cool, blue day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

'Doggin' it again

We're feeling all cocky after picking a big winner in last week's pro football underdog pool. The object of this game is to pick an underdog team each weekend that you think will win their game outright. The point spread matters only in that the bigger the upset, the more points you score; best cumulative score at the end of the season wins the pool.

I couldna done it last week without the advice of our sage readers, and so here are the games this week, with the underdogs in caps. Which one of them can come out on top? Commenters, help me out:

16.5 BUFFALO at New England
8.5 SAN FRANCISCO at Pittsburgh
8 ARIZONA at Baltimore
6.5 DETROIT at Philadelphia
6 HOUSTON vs. Indianapolis
4.5 GREEN BAY vs. San Diego
4.5 TENNESSEE at New Orleans
4 ATLANTA vs. Carolina
4 NEW YORK GIANTS at Washington
3.5 ST. LOUIS at Tampa Bay
3 CINCINNATI at Seattle
3 CLEVELAND at Oakland
3 MIAMI at New York Jets
3 DALLAS at Chicago
2.5 MINNESOTA at Kansas City

Never made the schoolmother happy

Remember Springsteen's Al Pacino Period? Times have changed. Now it looks as though he's heading into his Keith Richards Phase.

Wrong from the get-go

There are so many reasons not to like Portland's streetcars. Extravagant, slow... plus, they don't have a cool name.

Life after Grampy

What a fascinating 24 hours for politics and print journalism in Portlandia. First Willy Week publishes this story on the internet. It starts out sounding like another exposé by Pulitzer Jaquiss of alleged sexual misconduct with a minor by a high-ranking official in Portland. And hey -- this time it's alleged gay sexual misconduct with a teenaged intern! And it's being brought to light by the official's political rival, who's also gay. Holy moley, it's that man-on-man character assassination action we've all been hankering after.

But you read on for a while, and you realize that old Nigel's got nothing but the rumors, the scurrying around by the subjects of said rumors, and the denials. And that seems awfully curious. Over the years, I've learned that the Double Dub doesn't write or do much of anything unless it serves an agenda. So you've got to wonder, what's behind this one?

As Macchiavelli once said, "When you strike at a king, you must kill him." The boys at WW know that well. When they're preparing an assault, they know how to get the death blow all lined up before they tip their hands. If they were really after the public official in question in this case, they wouldn't have run with the story at this point. So they must be doing something other than making him look bad.

It doesn't take too much reflection to realize that they're doing just the opposite. There's only one possible purpose here, and that's to get the denials out at the same time as the rumors, while simultaneously making the accuser look bad. That must be it: it's a clever hit piece on the accuser.

Then the O jumps in, sending Anna Griffin out on a callback mission to City Hall that ends up with nothing much more than what was on the WW website earlier in the day. Did she do a hurried rewrite, or was she working on the same story and just got scooped by a half-day? (WW does appear to have some well placed moles at the O, among several other places in town.)

In the daily, the spin is the same, but much more transparent -- the accuser is definitely the bad guy. Bad bad bad.

Rounding out the comedy are Fireman Randy, who gets a chance in both stories to growl to the bad guy that thanks to enforcers of justice like the Fireman, the bad guy's through in this town (gee, even I haven't gotten that speech yet); and Vera, still a "towering figure" in Anna's eyes, who's just appalled that anyone would attack her fair-haired former aide. After all her hard work and example showing him how to gather the love from every corner, she'd hate to see anyone try to smear his name.

In both versions of the story, we get a peek into the innerworkings of the public official's office that are actually more interesting to me than whatever happened over candlelight at the Lotus Cafe after that late First Thursday dinner. Such as: Some former staffers really, really don't want their ex-boss to advance to the mayor's office. Others who work for him see it as part of their duties to keep young gay men from throwing themselves at the commish, and those staff members appear free to talk about such incidents with the media afterward. Moreover, these matters are discussed around the office "in a joking, locker room-like way." The boss "allows and even encourages aides to give him a hard time about the details of his personal life, from his fashion sense to his love life."

Oh, the next five years are going to be so entertaining around these parts. Should be a nice diversion from the fiscal collapse that's coming.

Anyway, even before this ugly episode, the accuser in this case never had a chance to be mayor. Against the guy he's attacking, he'd get beaten 2 to 1, and that's without this week's implosion. Unless he receives a last-minute reprieve in the form of some hard evidence of the sexual misconduct he's been sort-of-reporting, his political career now qualifies for a visit from the Death with Dignity people.

But I'll tell you one thing for sure: If you were writing this as a Hollywood script, you couldn't do better on the character name for the intern than Beau Breedlove.

Monday, September 17, 2007

And a federal prosecutor to boot

Here's one example of how lawyers can get a bad name. Yuck.

Everything's up to date in Kansas City

Including the Wild Oats store situation there. "The Mission store is scheduled to close Oct. 28 and will be replaced with a new store with[in] 15 to 20 miles." Oh, that'll be convenient.

Another indication that when the condo/apartment bunker Whole Foods goes in on Sandy, the Burnside and Fremont Wild Oatses will be toastes.

Another soul-ectomy in North Portland

A reader writes:

Thought you would like to know about an old Typewriter shop at 7433 Lombard (Ace Equipment). I have been looking for an old manual typewriter for about a month now when I stumbled along the reference to this shop. I called and asked if they had ones in stock and then took the trek from Newberg to NE PDX. The shop was great. It had the smell of a place that had mechanical things in it for 50 years. I found a beautiful 1940 Royal typewriter with all the bells and whistles 1940 could provide. I paid with cash because he doesn’t take cards (of course he doesn’t).

As I left, I commented on his great shop. He told me to keep the receipt because the shop was being torn down in a month but he would still have the phone number. His father had ran the shop since the 1950’s or 60’s and had rented the whole time. I asked why they were tearing it down. “Condos” is all he said. I shook his hand and got in my truck.

On the bright side, I love the typewriter and the sound it makes when punching the keys. As a old newspaper man, I thought you would like to hear there is a place you can still get those things. At least for another month.

Only in America

Look out, Graceland.

Not your average soccer mom blog, revisited

On Friday, I posted a link to a fine blog by a Portland-area mom who's far from your average blogger. But there was a technical problem: the link I offered was not functional -- all my fault. Anyway, if you tried to click through last week and failed, here is where I was trying to send you. It's worth another try.

$12 billion cash, no receipts

Here's a story that's so outrageous, it must be true.

"The bright green stalks, their buds sticky to the touch with mind-altering resins..."

Something tells me this reporter in Roseburg knew a little bit about the subject of her article. There's more than hint of longing in that turn of phrase.

Get a piece of the rock

Believe it or not, they're auctioning off a piece of the Willamette Meteorite. And therein lies a tale, including a twist involving the late saxophonist Michael Brecker.

They still don't get it

A year after the police brutally killed an unarmed, skinny, mentally ill guy on a Portland street for no good reason, they're still telling the public that we don't understand.

Their problem, of course, is that we've understood all too well, all along.

People are already talking about how the Potter administration will go down in history. The mayor's failure to reform the bad attitudes held by a number of officers in the police bureau, and its crass union leadership, will surely be among the facts noted.

Be careful what you whine for

Columnist S. Renee Mitchell of the O has got herself caught between a rock and a Starbuck. First she wrote an outraged column (which has since conveniently rolled off the newspaper's pitiful website) about an alleged racial stereotype on a blackboard at a Starbucks downtown. Starbucks responded by firing the manager responsible. Now Mitchell's decided that the manager didn't deserve to be fired. But commenters on her blog aren't buying that for a minute. For an O blog, these are some pretty interesting threads -- here and here. Alan over at Blue Hole also gives Mitchell a piece of his mind, with a very revealing photo, here.

Mitchell's back-pedaling furiously, but her original column pretty clearly labeled the drawing "racist" and an act of "bigotry." She received an accurate explanation -- that the drawing was actually a caricature of a white worker at the store -- but she refused to accept it because there was a word written near it that may have been Ebonics. Immediately the author of the writing was branded a racist, when in fact she's more the opposite -- just careless.

As somebody who's had the "r" word flung at him not too long ago, I'm with the outraged readers on this one. Mitchell needs to write something in her print column that qualifies as an apology. So far all she's done is tried to look sympathetic toward the person whose life she's wrecked. As for Starbucks, if they don't hire the manager back with a slap on the wrist, I hope she sues their butts off.

Hood before the snow flies

Our friend Doug was back up on the north side of Mount Hood yesterday. Doug's our go-to guy on all mountaineering questions (which we ask only occasionally, and from the comfort of our armchair), and he gave us some good inside stuff last December when the three guys were busy dying up on that part of the mountain.

He sends along this photo from yesterday's visit:

Doug opined that the glacier has retreated quite a bit over the last decade. As for the lost climbers, he notes, "[T]hey went up the glacier and then climbed the north face direct on snow and ice over what is now the nearly vertical rock bands. There were 50+ searchers up there last week looking for them, but no luck. We actually didn’t go all the way to the upper edge of the glacier, but that’s likely where they’ll be found (if at all)."

Damn the torpedoes

There's a big flap going on in Australia right now over some highly sensitive naval operations.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's getting colder up north

You can tell when somebody comes through here on a Google search for these.

Every day he has them

Mr. Riley B. King turns 82 today.

Semantical question

How many times can you "announce" something that was already "announced" a month and a half ago?

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: We just got a robo-call from this guy at the house. We have a "no solicitors" announcement in place on our phone, but their computer pays no attention to that. Caller ID is blank. There's a strike against him.

Greenspan: Bush is a loser

Cut taxes, make lots and lots of expensive war, pay off the drug companies. It's a recipe for disaster, as a wise old owl explains.

Oregon strategic plan: Don't buy stuff

This is going to be an awfully hard sell. And if it succeeds, will the state's economy survive? Lighter garbage trucks have got to equal lighter cash registers for retailers.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blowing smoke

In 29 years as an Oregon resident, I've voted on ballot measures that covered pretty much all of the most contentious issues on the planet. Abortion. Assisted suicide. Gay marriage. Mandatory sentences for serious crimes. Medical marijuana. Legalized gambling. Pornography and nude (gynecological) "dancing." The list goes on and on.

Out here we get to vote on everything. And with our spiffy vote-by-mail system, we get to fill out our indifferent spouses' and friends' ballots, too. All they have to do is sign. Even the dead people get to vote, which is a kind of egalitarian touch.

One of the worst aspects of the constant flow of policy choices being made directly by the voters is the depressingly low level of discourse that precedes most of the elections. Often the campaigns for and against ballot measures seem designed to mislead the electorate, or at least distract it from what's really at hand.

Today in the mail I received a ballot measure campaign flyer that ranks right up there with the most obfuscatory that I have seen over those nearly three decades:

Hmmmm, what can this ballot measure be about? Something to do with law? That's supposed to be a lawyer, right? (Nice tie.)

Let's flip it over to the back and see what it says there:

Still not many clues. Something about "ignoring economics" and an "entitlement program." Sounds pretty University of Chicago to me. That grocery guy Joe Gilliam is against it -- maybe it has to do with the bottle bill, I know he hates that. And new taxes! Uh oh. Those have been dirty words since the Gipper. Still, pretty mysterious...

But hey, wait a minute. This thing opens up into a four-pager. Wow, must have cost a pretty penny. Let's see what's inside:

Continue reading "Blowing smoke" »

With friends like these...

To whoever's running the Yes on 49 campaign (if anyone):

The name-calling contained in this post -- aimed at someone who's actually trying to help you -- is very unseemly. I've got a thick enough skin not to withdraw my endorsement of your ballot measure, but you should be aware that you have some people running around, out of control, who are doing things in your name that are hurting your cause.

Jack Bogdanski

Nutritious school lunch: Graham crackers and milk (or nothing)

This is the ultimate outrage. Reynolds school board members, you should resign right now. Every single one of you.

Whole Foods: negative free cash flow

Moody's yesterday followed Standard & Poor's on this: Whole Foods' debt is now officially in junk bond territory. And the Wild Oats deal is the cause: that transaction, Moody's says, "significantly increases leverage while placing further stain on the company's [Whole Foods'] already negative free cash flow." (Maybe that was a typographical error, and they meant "strain"? Either way, not good.)

Sounds like Bush, but actually it's a different dude from Texas running this particular high-priced show.

Meanwhile, one of the former Wild Oats honchos has wasted no time landing a new gig with OfficeMax.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Commentary of the Week

This is brilliant. (Via The Vig.)

Where the blame lies

Why, oh, why did Greg Oden have to have serious knee surgery which at a minimum will keep him off the basketball court for a year? How could such a thing happen?

We offered several theories last night. But this evening as I read Howard Beck's story on this tragedy in today's New York Times, the cause became crystal clear:

In the short term... this is a devastating blow to a franchise seeking to rebuild its image and its competitive edge. The Blazers have not made the playoffs in four years, and their fan base has been eroded by player arrests and bad behavior.

The roster has been purged of its most troublesome players, and Portland has assembled a corps of good players and good citizens, led by the rookie of the year Brandon Roy. But Oden, a 7-foot, 245-pound center, is the linchpin. (Emphasis added.)

Crap! No wonder. The guy's an aerial tram.

Guess who's bailing on Iraq

Texas oil money.

Jon, Gretchen, and me

The identity of "Jon M.," the commenter who mouthed off and got himself or herself banned from this blog the other day, has been revealed. It's someone who shares an IP address (and more, one would think) with none other than Radio Gretchen!

In the course of calling me to task on her blog today for being too negative and banning Jon, Gretchen makes these constructive, life-affirming statements:

We used to enjoy Jack Bog's Blog, but lately it is really just too much negativity to take. I feel dirty after reading it, much like watching KPTV's 10:00 news....

Granted, J's post was in clear violation of Jack's comments policy, so the Blog Nazi is totally within his rights to ban us, much like the Soup Nazi can deny you from having soup. Forget the fact that I once posted the Comment of the Year So Far on Jack's blog. I guess I won't be doing that again anytime soon.

But it's for the best. Reading the Bog blog was a habit that needed to be broken.

Sheesh. For the record: The comment that got old Jon banned was tied to one of several posts I wrote relating to Greg Oden's season-ending (and maybe worse) knee surgery. Gretchen and Jon decided that I was taking pleasure in that shocking and depressing occurrence. I'm not sure how they reached that conclusion, but they did. Maybe anyone who didn't write the official "we still love Greg, he was still a great draft choice, and we'll still have a great team" pap is a bad guy in their minds. As Gretchen writes today:

That was sad news here. J was really looking forward to watching the man play. We got season tickets. Oden seems like such a good guy. How can anyone take pleasure in his pain? Well Jack Bog can...
You know, Gretchen, sometimes people laugh to keep from crying. It's not fair for you to determine how I felt about it. I hadn't run out and bought season tickets, but I'm a Blazer fan, too. I've covered more than a dozen Blazer games on this blog, with genuine enthusiasm. And what other non-sports blog in town spent as much energy on Oden this week as this one did? I changed my banner for the guy -- then changed it again to be even better. I even prayed publicly for him.

When the horrifying extent of the damage became known, yes, I implied that Oden's injury was a disaster for the Blazers, which it was and is. But that doesn't mean I like it.

Gretchen's conclusion-jumping reflects the same bad (and may I say, overly negative) attitude that got old Jon banned. Jon wrote, "While I realize the purpose of this blog is mostly to delight in the failure of others...." That goes way beyond Greg Oden, kids. I would never even think of going onto someone else's blog and leaving a comment like that. Kicking his or her sorry butt out of my house for saying that -- it was not being a Nazi. It was being a human.

I like Gretchen's blog, and it makes no sense for her not to be able to read mine. I'll reopen the portal between her glass house and this site now. We'll see how long her resolution lasts.

More air show carnage

Events in Reno provide some additional examples of the insanity of that particular form of entertainment.

Some people never learn

The next book will probably be entitled "If I Stole It."

Ronald Reagan Boulevard?

Dan over at Cafe Unknown takes an interesting look at the proposed change of the name of Portland's Interstate Avenue to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. As always, he approaches things from a historical perspective.

"For what it is worth," he writes, "the city code states that the City Council is allowed to change a streets name only to correct errors and eliminate confusion. A similarly ignored portion of the code allows street name changes only with a citizen based process that includes a petition and a panel of historians."

The whole thing is here.

Try, try again

Earlier today, I attempted a post about a mom whose blog is great and out of the ordinary. But given the way her site is constructed, you can't get there the way my links led you. It worked o.k. for me, but not for anyone else. D'oh!

My bad. Especially because her blog is so worth finding. Go here, which should work; then click on either "journal" (the blog), or "my story" (the story behind the blog).

Have a great weekend

Just another soccer mom blog?

At first glance, it may look like one.

But it isn't.

Roll up for the Magazine Misery Tour

A reader in a nearby Northeast Portland neighborhood reports something disturbing going on in her neck of the woods: a group of aggressive and suspicious "magazine salespeople" hustling around. She writes:

Don't know if you care to warn your readers, but very slick magazine salesmen from an outfit called "Omni Horizon" and a dozen other aliases are out in force. They are pushy with quite a rap but the bottom line is it is a scam and kinda scary to boot. I live in Beaumont and they have hit me up twice, even with a no soliciting sign on the door. Once I was sitting on my porch and the guy just waltzed up and sat down and started in with a long winded pitch. Anyway, just a word to the wise.
Interestingly, a blogger in West Seattle had a post with a pretty lengthy comment thread going last week on the exact same phenomenon that was transpiring up there. The comments show that the crew in question was still working in Seattle as late as Wednesday of this week.

If you head over to that Seattle blog post and click on the links, you'll find some pretty damning stuff. The Portland Tribune also had a series about this sordid industry last summer, here and here. Meanwhile, as noted here last night, a gal working a magazine con in Lake O. has been arrested; perhaps she's from the same crew. If one of these people shows up at our house, they're going to get a mighty quick sendoff.

Most cities and towns have ordinances requiring door-to-door salespeople to be locally licensed, and display official city ID. As far as I can tell, Portland has no such rules, despite countless tales of fraud and worse. Hey, City Council -- why's that? When you're through busting some restaurant's chops about trans fats in the deep fryer, how about a little consumer protection from the crooks on our front porches?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How on earth could it have happened?

What's the difference?

Gee, if the Lake Oswego cops can do this, why can't the Portland cops do anything about this?

Is Bush sick, drugged, or both?

I long ago started tuning out whenever our current commander-in-chief comes on the TV, radio, or internet. Watching a grown man struggle to read from a script, affecting a singsong intonation, incapable of thinking and reading at the same time -- it's painful and embarrassing. (And that's quite aside from the fact that his agenda has sent the country down the toilet.)

But this evening as I was driving home from Costco, right after a fun Dwight Jaynes radio commercial for tomorrow's Trib, suddenly on comes the big Presidential speech about our "partial withdrawal" from Iraq. I left it on, listening with a grim fascination akin to that of watching a slow-motion film of a train wreck.

The "content" was no surprise. Our invasion of Iraq has been so "successful" that now we can bring home about two thousand of the 168,000 soldiers we have there currently. Maybe a few thousand more by Christmas. A 4 percent pullout -- at most -- from the height of the surge. Woo hoo.

Everybody else gets to stay indefinitely, of course. It all depends on our "further" "success." And as we all know, it's to prevent another 9/11, yada yada yada. "Free Iraq."

Being in the car by myself, I had the freedom to call the Chimp every name in the book, and yell back at my radio with every sentence he stammered out, but for a lot of it I didn't. I was too busy listening to how bad he sounded. In addition to all the slurred words (about one every fourth sentence), now he's out of breath for the whole speech. At times his breathing is so labored that he's positively grunting out the words on the screen. Combined with his spoiled-boy nasal whine, it's pretty alarming.

If I didn't know better, I'd say there's something going on with the man's lungs. That, and he's on some pretty potent substances, whatever they may be. Good thing the Olympic doping police haven't quite reached the realm of politics yet.

There's no need to fear, Underdog is here

It's Week 2 of the NFL Underdog Pool. Last week I picked Baltimore to upset Cincinnati, and they kept it interesting, but in the end came up empty. (The week's only winners were Green Bay and Tennessee, especially the latter.)

Here's this week's schedule, with the underdogs in caps; the rules of the pool are summarized here. Can anyone out there find me an underdog that will not just beat the point spread, but win its game outright?

12 KANSAS CITY at Chicago
11 NEW YORK JETS at Baltimore
10.5 ATLANTA at Jacksonville
9.5 OAKLAND at Denver
9.5 BUFFALO at Pittsburgh
7.5 TENNESSEE vs. Indianapolis
7 WASHINGTON at Philadelphia
6.5 CLEVELAND vs. Cincinnati
6.5 HOUSTON at Carolina
3.5 MIAMI vs. Dallas
3 TAMPA BAY vs. New Orleans
3 SAN FRANCISCO at St. Louis
3 MINNESOTA at Detroit
3 SAN DIEGO at New England
2.5 ARIZONA vs. Seattle

I hear the Bears are overrated, but can Kansas City actually beat them? Can Tennessee do it again? Original Steve and Sebastian, I'm especially interested in your thoughts.

UPDATE, 9/17, 12:34 a.m.: The big winners of the week were Cleveland and Houston. And I had Houston -- yay! Now I'm part of a seven-way tie for first (out of 16 players). Thanks, commenters. On to Week 3.

Google Search of the Day

Try "Moffett party runway neighbors."

And now a word from Sam Bowie

Ah, the irony

A thoughtful reader points out some of the delicious new weirdness that has surfaced recently in Portland. First, what do the green, sustainable Bus kids think of the fact that their hero, Erik "Opie" Sten, has moved his family of three into a 5,000-square-foot love shack replete with a swimming pool? That's more than 1,600 square feet per person. What ever happened to "smart" living, voluntary simplicity, and infill? And is there really a cul-de-sac at the end of their street? Horrors. Next thing you know, the boy will be attending Catlin Gabel.

Looks like they're going to go slow on breaking the news to everybody on the website.

Meanwhile, there's the PGE Park Tower condo-dweller profile in the Trib. This fellow says he'll split the scene if they yuppify the neighborhood too much. He doesn't want to live in the sterility of the Pearl; he recognizes that place as just a Bridgeport Village development turned on its side.

But the funny part: The guy works in the Couv! While we're building giant, soulless condo bunkers in Portland now, the jobs are all going to Clark County! People still drive their SUVs the same distance every day, just in the opposite direction. This is the New Urbanism, I guess. Maye somebody from Portland State can explain it to me.

Here comes the recession

Time for the Chimp to find out that you can't keep kiting checks forever. The party is just about over. The Fed will screw around with the interest rates, but there's only so much they can do. Perfect timing for the '08 elections.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Put your hands on your hard drive and pray with me

Saint Roch, still very young,
you left your home and all your possessions
and you went on your mission,
much like someone dropping out of college
to save a great city from damnation.
Thank you!

Abandoned to die of plague and rescued by a dog,
you are the patron saint of knees and dogs.
Pray for us!

While following the footsteps of Christ,
you found the poor and the plague-stricken,
and you cured many.
Thank you!

By your example,
may our hearts become tender and loving
toward the suffering, the rejected, the lottery teams of this world.
And may they be freed of their losing records!
Pray for us!

By your example,
may we bear adversity
without hate, without bitterness
and without doubting Kevin Pritchard.
Pray for us!

Saint Roch, you have reached the kingdom
of peace, joy and friendship,
much like a team in the NBA Finals.
Help us to reach it too
with all those that we carry in our heart.
Pray for us!

The Lord has provided our team surgeon
with needed skill to perform a miracle on our behalf.
Pray for us that our strength and courage may not fail;
beseech the Lord, the source of all fast breaks,
that only a small amount of cartilage be removed,
and that we be deemed worthy to live in the light of our saviour
for at least 40 games this year.
Pray for us!

Also, if you could get Bennett Salvatore fired,
or at least suspended for the season, that would be a plus.

Those "Love Oregon?" signs demystified

An alert reader has tracked down the source of the "Love Oregon?" signs that are popping up around the western half of the state -- including the two that I've been seeing along I-5 at the Rose Quarter. It turns out that indeed, it's a group of "Yes on 49" supporters.

I enjoy and support Oregon's long tradition of political lawn signs during election campaigns. But by the same token, I automatically think less of a candidate or a ballot measure when supporters break the rules by posting signs on public property -- particularly where it's a distraction from freeway driving.

In this case, the offenses are ironic. For some of us, a big calling card of Measure 49 is to limit the proliferation of billboards, which clutter up the visual landscape we encounter every day. When "Yes on 49" people add to that blight -- even on a temporary basis and even for a greater good -- they look bad.

Here's an alternative to the Portland gas tax

The problem, of course, is that with guys like Sam the Tram and "Condo" Chris Smith running things, you'll probably get both the gas tax and this.

A nation deeply wounded

All the hurt and suffering of the last few years is becoming too much for some of our younger people to bear.

New pals

Did you hear Brian Baird on the Lars show yesterday? I only caught part of it, but in the segment I heard, the two of them were giving each other foot massages and cooing softly about the bright future of the central government in Iraq.

Maybe Lars will give old Brian a job as an intern after the voters up in the 'Couv turn him out.

Why you so desperately want to pay more gas tax

The other day we had a few laughs as we pondered the City of Portland's ongoing hardcore campaign for a gas tax increase. Commissioner Sam the Tram and Transportation Sue are spending lots and lots of our dough to convince us that they need to collect even more of our dough. The worst part of it all, of course, is that it's part of a massive "public involvement" charade that's going to conclude that yes, the Portland public actually wants the tax increase -- they're absolutely clamoring for it!

Why not just put it up for a public vote? Ha! Ha! More laughs.

Anyway, as I said the other day, I actually support the gas tax increase, but I sure do wish that they'd turn off the expensive snow blowers and just go ahead and do the right thing. Instead, the city's filling neighborhood newspapers like the Hollywood Star News with multi-page, multi-color inserts that reek of propaganda. The facts of the Portland's current budget situation are greatly distorted in these documents, which go on at great length about the proposed new taxes -- as if four pages of half-truths will somehow add up to two pages of truth. It doesn't work that way.

Perhaps the most disingenuous feature of the flyer is its answer to the most intelligent question that people are asking about the city's supposed transportation money crisis:

Now, there's a half-truth, at best. The fact is that the federal and state governments contribute little or nothing to the operation and maintenance budgets of the aerial tram [rim shot] and streetcars. The city pays a pretty petty into the maintenance pots of both of those wasteful, condo-marketing toys. At last report, the city subsidy of the tram is running around $400,000 a year, and the city subsidy of the streetcar is $1.6 million a year. That's money that the city could be spending on other transportation projects. And if the streetcar gets extended to the east side, you can add another $600,000 a year, or more, of city transportation money to the numbers.

Also in the Twisted Facts Department are some of the assertions about how problems with streets and traffic are affecting people. Now they're being blamed for why kids don't walk to school any more:

I know that every tax increase on earth has to be sold as "for the children," but this one's quite the stretch. There are lots of reasons that parents don't let their kids walk to school, and dangerous intersections are part of the equation in some cases. But hey, even if the streets are paved with gold and the cars can't get anywhere near the kids, most parents aren't going to let their children walk to school in this day and age. For one thing, too many of Portland's lovable "open air mental health treatment" patients are out there. For another, the schools in these parts are mostly either crumbling or closing, which leads to daily long-distance trips for a lot of students. It's too far to walk. Biking to school is inherently too dangerous, too wet, and eventually you get your bike stolen. The gas tax isn't going to change any of that.

After they get done twisting the current circumstances, the authors of the elaborate sales pitch turn to what each neighborhood will get out of the new gas taxes. Show a local benefit, they reason, and people will be delighted to pay more at the pump. But what they consider to be your "neighborhood" is pretty amusing. For example, here's part of what they're pitching to the folks in the Hollywood, Rose City, and Alameda neighborhoods:

There's a bridge at NE 21st and the Columbia Slough? Wow. I've lived in Portland for nearly 30 years, most of it in Irvington and Alameda, and I might have gone over it once. You'll have to excuse me if I don't get a rush of selfish excitement out of that one. Columbia Boulevard from 14th to 60th -- that's supposed to get my neighborhood rocks off? Man, that's a major highway. You might want to sell that one in "Portland Truckstop" magazine, but it's not doing much for me.

Next, please note that they say if they get the gas tax revenue, they'll beef up police patrols on the freeway, which will cut down on the reckless and drunk driving that's supposedly the cause of 40 percent of the traffic congestion we encounter every day:

Continue reading "Why you so desperately want to pay more gas tax" »

Hillary the Crook dirty money tally grows

We're up to $900,000 and counting.

I know -- the voters don't care about this sort of thing.

Just keep telling yourself that.

Transit-oriented crime wave draws attention

Tri-Met may have to change the colors of the MAX red and blue lines to something less gang-friendly.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Coming soon to sustainable Portland

It's just a matter of time.

The fix is always in with the Goldschmidt gang

The condemnation of the Colwood Golf Couse property in Northeast Portland and its conversion into a noisy new runway for Portland Airport is looking more and more like a done deal. In an e-mail message we got yesterday from one of the countless flacks at the Port of Portland, this beauty of a passage appeared:

Beginning this fall and concluding in spring 2010, the Port will update the airport master plan and the City will create a land use plan recognizing PDX’s role in the regional economy while managing City infrastructure and livability. The three-year process will reinforce Portland’s planning legacy, PDX’s reputation as one of the premier airports in the country, and incorporate principles of sustainability and livability.
The "sustainable, livable" airport expansion -- what a sick joke. Translation: All you poor saps in the Rose City and Alameda neighborhoods had better start trying out different types of earplugs.

I'll bite

In a couple of spots along I-5 over by the Rose Quarter, somebody has stuck lawn signs in the ground (illegally of course) that say simply, "Love Oregon?" They're really bare-bones signs -- black stencil font on white cards. They offer no clue as to their origin. Obviously, someone wants us to ask what it's about. I hereby do so.

Give credit where credit is due

Here's a fine way to say "What a great place."

Watered down

A person who I assume is a reader wrote me yesterday, noting in part that "I drive from the Couve to Poverty Pond every day." Poverty Pond? Help me, folks -- which local body of water is that? Lake Oswego?

Richard and me

Being linked to by other bloggers is a great honor. But I'll definitely have to be careful about where I brag about this one.

And now a word from Sam Bowie


Opie does guest shot on Beverly Hillbillies

Heck, he's even got one o' them there see-ment ponds now! No wonder he likes that First Lady from Arkansas so much...

Monday, September 10, 2007


Hard to believe, but guess what happened today.

It's hot out there -- everybody into the pool!

Now that Grampy's giving up being mayor of Portland to pursue other interests, and Sam the Tram is ready to scootch on over and lead the city to a collective nervous breakdown, attention turns to the Tramster's City Council seat, which is now all but officially up for grabs.

And hold onto your wallets, taxpayers, because even if Emilie Boyles doesn't come back from eastern Montana and rally her support from the Slavic community, you and I are going to spend a whole lot of money paying for a whole lot of campaign junk mail and robo-calls in the primary. You got Charles Lewis, the kid with the floating bus. You got Streetcar Smith. Amanda will be in there with her charts and graphs. Who else? Maybe Nick Fish. Probably a couple more will come out of the woodwork. They'll probably all be "clean money" candidates, costing the taxpayers six figures apiece. And there's enough of them that there will probably be a runoff, which will cost another pretty penny. Before it's over we'll blow a million or so paying political spinmeisters like Mark Wiener to mail us more of these:

Meanwhile, I feel a little sorry for the mayor. He's still got 16 months to go in office, and already he's in the past tense in the media. People say he hasn't done anything, but I disagree. He cleaned out the PDC. He killed the Fire Station condo tower boondoggle. He washed his hands of the Convention Center Hotel. He demoted the oversexed police chief and fired a killer cop. He gave pink slips to the private board that was running the aerial tram fiasco.

Sure, there have been failures, but compared to what Vera Katz did to Portland, what Jim Francesconi would have done, and what Sam the Tram is getting ready to do, Potter's been a pretty good mayor.

And his term is only two-thirds over.

Whole Foods scares off local competition

At least in this case in Tennessee, it has seemingly frightened it away.

Do you get a good vibe off Whole Foods? For some reason, I'm not getting one. It's not just this episode. Between the "libertarian" founder who's an internet troll in his spare time, its explicit goal to eliminate its competitors, and its yuppie gloss on green, it's creeping me out.

Ignore the lies, enjoy the laughs

I can't believe how much taxpayer money the City of Portland is spending to campaign among the city's residents for a gas tax increase. If the issue were already on the ballot, I believe the city would be prohibited from selling it, but since there's no ballot measure, at least not yet, the high-priced propaganda just keeps rolling along.

We've already discussed here the infamous "City Transportation is in Crisis!" direct mail piece that we all got earlier this summer. Now comes a four-page spread tucked into the middle of the September edition of the Hollywood Star (or is that the Hollywood Star News?):

This is a full-color production, with maps, charts, graphs, photos, the whole works. And that's just for "Central Northeast Portland." I'll bet they produced a separate one of these for each neighborhood in the city -- particularly the middle two pages, which are quite neighborhood-specific.

In case you haven't come across one of these in your local paper yet, let me give the executive summary: Page 1 - Portland's transportation system is in crisis. Pages 2 and 3 - There are a lot of transportation improvements we could spend money on in your neighborhood, and we want your ideas for additional projects for streets around you. Page 4 - We need a gas tax increase or else, and we've got a "stakeholders committee" studying the situation. Come kill a bunch of your time at some meetings.

Before analyzing this fascinating tabloid sheet, let me state that I'm not against some additional pennies per gallon on the gas tax. The tax should have been indexed for inflation to begin with -- if not tied to the price of gas, then to consumer prices generally -- and jacking it up a little and indexing it permanently make sense to me.

But the sales job here is quite disingenuous, full of half truths (or half lies depending on your outlook on Commissioner Sam the Tram and Transportation Sue). I'm not much on "fisking" government documents, but there are several assertions in this document that deserve a rebuttal, if not a rebuke.

First things first, though. Let's enjoy the wonderful comic moments that this piece of advertising provides. You gotta love bureaucratic pronouncements like this one:

You don't say! I was thinking that there would be more crashes in low-collision areas. Obviously, I was not cut out for government work.

Next, our bridges are falling apart, but the only one we could come up with a picture of was one that we've already fixed, and in another part of town:

Rounding out the ha-ha highlights is the inevitable revelation that yes, everyone, the gas tax increase is for the children:

Aside from being hopelessly poor syntax (maybe the gas tax should fund teaching English), that's nothing short of comedy gold.

We'll break off on that note -- too much other news to write about today -- but we'll get to the seriously misleading stuff in the insert over the next day or so. Meanwhile, let's all consider how much this huge p.r. effort is costing the city, and whether it's worth it. It appears that the gas tax boost is on its way, come hell or high water; in that light, this campaign seems more about spinning it, to limit political damage to someone or other. It's not hard to guess who.

Go, Larry, go!

Proving for the umpteenth time the natural correlation between arrogance and stupidity. A gift from heaven to the Democratic Party.

Footsoldier promoted

The West Hills Money interests in Portland, formerly presided over by The Neil, are still alive and well despite Humpty Dumpty's great fall. They run the Port, they run Metro, they run Tri-Met, and they're pretty cushy with, if they don't outright run, the medical school. Thus, it was hardly news last week when Brian Newman, a member of the elected Metro commission, suddenly quit that position and took a job as a "planning and development" (fundraising) guru at OHSU.

One would think that not only will Newman be stepping down from his Metro post, but he'll also be leaving the big planning and construction firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, where he works as a planner. "PB," as it now likes to be known, is no stranger to government pork in these parts -- it feeds at the tax trough with regularity and gusto.

I don't have much use for Metro. Don't get me wrong -- unlike some of my readers, I don't think we should abandon the land use planning that Metro does. I support creation of new parks and other nature preserves. And if we're going to have a convention center and a zoo, of course somebody needs to run them. But with city and county governments all over the region, we don't need yet another layer of local government to do that work. There may have been a time when it served a purpose, but that time is gone. Besides, like Tri-Met, the Port, OHSU, and many other semi-accountable agencies in these parts, Metro is a pot of public money that's largely unsupervised. Nobody (except a few) understands it, or even bothers to try. That's a big part of why it can do things like build a huge convention hotel with taxpayer dollars on demonstrably phony premises.

As for my opinion of the management of the med school, of course, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Anyway, a vocal anti-Metro reader who subscribes to the scorched earth school of political commentary sent an amusing "analysis" of the Newman move the other day. It brought a smile to my lips, and so I thought I'd pass it along:

Big surprise. After years of conflict of interests and official misrepresentation, Newman moves to a fat cat lobbyist job, as scheduled.

Reliable sources tell me that Newman is on board OHSU to lobby and propagandize for new public money to pay private biotech research companies to come to SoWa, and to scheme up ways to expand OHSU's mission into the private sector in hopes of generating desperately needed capital. This is part of the bailout OHSU needs having spent their $200 million Oregon Opportunity gift from the State and taking on new debt without new income. Liquidating the [Oregon Graduate Institute campus] and various millions from various SoWa schemes delay the worsening fiscal instability, but the writing is on the wall.

Seems the Tram and 100s of millions in urban renewal subsidies weren't quite the "linchpin" Katz, Kohler and the Oregonian promised.

Look for Newman to concoct various rationales for public funding bailouts cast as additional "investments" while OHSU revives plans for a OHSU hotel in SoWa, OHSU-run parking garages, OHSU-run housing and other subsidized ventures.

I wouldn't be surprised if the reader turns out to have gotten most of that right.

On beyond the con

I'm sick of looking at David, the "Welches" con man, on my blog. It's time to phase out his picture. For the record, the warning box we have been running on our left sidebar since around July 24 is over there on the right side of this post. Out of fatigue, we're taking it down. When this post rolls off our front page in a week, David will be banished to our archives.

You won't have to go to our archives to see him, though. He's still out there on the streets bilking people. He was last spotted near Powell's Bookstore one evening earlier this month. Same story as ever.

It's been an interesting experience writing about this chowderhead. When mainstream media outlets picked up on him, the Portland cops went out and chased him off the bus mall. But he didn't go far. Reports of his relentless practice of theft by deception continued to come in from all over -- Interstate Avenue, MLK, over by the Doug Fir. Mostly, but not exclusively, outside busy bars on weekend nights. Nobody in authority seemed at all interested once the TV cameras went elsewhere.

David's ability to continue to ply his trade with impunity is a good example of the lack of a real strategy for preserving our "livable" city. He can plague the local population and the city's tourists indefinitely, because law enforcement is unwilling to prosecute him. In a way, you can't blame them. They've locked David up before, but there's no jail cell to put him in, and so he was released early. The same thing would doubtlessly happen if they arrested him again.

The mental health "system" apparently can't help this fellow, either. He's reportedly been through rehab at least once, but if so, it obviously didn't cure his ills. And so conning on the street is the default outcome.

We're spending all kinds of money spiffing up the transit mall and building goofball streetcars, but our streets are turned over to roving drug addicts who want to separate you from your money. We build shiny light rail, but then we surrender a mile or two of its eastern end to the gang bangers. Those fancy projects are not helping our livability much at all. A city has a human infrastructure, and ours is falling apart as surely as our physical one.

The bottom line is that there are all manner of nut cases walking the streets of Portland. They're killing themselves and harming others. And as a society, we don't really care. So be careful out there, and don't ever, ever give money to a stranger.

Bernie takes the mug shots down

Want to see the arrest photos of the convicts who are being released early in Multnomah County? For a while now, the sheriff's office has been posting them on the internet for all to see. The inclusion of names and addresses has been helpful in seeing who might be coming back to a neighborhood near you.

But now that information has vanished from the internet. According to the front page of the sheriff's website --

The Early Release website is temporarily unavailable. Please check back when our Public Access Inmate Database (PAID) comes online
The fact that they're calling the new system "PAID" -- is that supposed to indicate that folks are going to have to pay to use it?

And while the new system is being developed, why were the old mugs taken down? It seemed that there was a public interest served by posting them. If the sheriff's changed his mind about that, some public discussion of the issue might have been in order.

Getting so much better all the time

Things are starting to get a little too interesting in Pakistan.

How much bandwidth can you use before Comcast pulls the plug?

They're not saying.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Not taken with a cell phone

Check out this site, which features a very-wide-angle photo of Harlem. (Actually it's a "stitched panorama" made up of a couple thousand photos taken from the same vantage point.) Then use the tools at the bottom (especially the triangle) and zoom in wherever you like. Check out the resolution on the close-ups -- amazing considering what's in the total image. I shudder to think what technology this powerful could do in the wrong hands.

How to start getting out of Iraq

Here's an interesting piece that suggests that the only sensible way out of Iraq would be to admit American failure and ask for help and cooperation from many other nations in stabilizing the country to the degree possible:

Toby Dodge admitted that anyone arguing against immediate withdrawal has to face the “killer question: Why should American troops continue to die when the chances for success are so low?” He offered his answer “with an honest recognition that it doesn’t sound very plausible.” Dodge’s approach would bring the maximum pressure to bear on Iraqi politicians by persuading the region and the world — Iraq’s neighbors, the European Union, the United Nations — to come into the Green Zone, not as tools of American policy but as equal partners in an effort to force a political deal, not unlike the U.N.’s role in creating a government in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. This would imply an American confession of failure. Instead of pursuing more ambitious goals for democracy in the region, the U.S. would offer security guarantees to Iran and Syria in exchange for coöperation. “We then turn to the Iraqi government,” Dodge went on, “and say, ‘You’ve got to reform your government, make it more inclusive, less corrupt, more coherent, less sectarian.’ So the Iraqi government is reconstituted within a multilateral framework where the E.U., the U.N., and the U.S. are all singing from the same hymnbook.”
Or we can just keep surging, kill tens of thousands more, burn more billions of dollars, and show everybody how mule-headed we are. Gee, which course do you think Cheney and the Chimp will pursue?

Never on the invitation list

One of the bad things that human activity may be doing to the planet is messing with the bee population. Or maybe it's just Mother Nature giving them a hard time. But either way, after attending a number of late-summer outdoor events this year where food and drink have been served, I can't say that I'm missing the yellowjackets.

The original inconvenient truth

There was a time, more than a decade ago, when I fancied myself as something of an expert on nuclear waste issues. As a species, we create lots of radioactive garbage every day, and despite a bunch of malarkey to the contrary, (a) it's not safe to be around it, and (b) the vast majority of it comes from nuclear power plants.

In studying this fascinating subject, I had to learn a little bit about physics and biology, and a lot about big-bucks politics and governmental lying. On the biology side of things, among the big questions were how much radiation one's cells could absorb before they went haywire, and how radioactive a substance needed to be before it posed an intolerable risk.

One of the pioneers in the discussion of the health effects of ionizing radiation was a scientist named John Gofman. Gofman worked on the Manhattan Project, which produced the United States' first atomic bombs during World War II, and in that capacity he developed techniques for creating and capturing plutonium, which nowadays is an essential ingredient in most such weapons.

He then went on to medical school, and as a doctor he made major contributions in the understanding of cholesterol and its relationship to heart disease. In the '60s, however, the federal Atomic Energy Commission hired him to study the health effects of radiation, and it was there that Gofman and his professional partner, Arthur Tamplin, blew some big whistles. Their findings about the health hazards presented by exposure to radioactivity stunned the world, and they changed the casual way in which humans approached such radiation.

Their questioning of the safety of "low level" exposure to radioactivity made them the immediate targets of the nuclear energy and nuclear weapons industries, which embarked on a campaign to discredit them. Those guys know how to play rough. Gofman disputed their assertion that there was a safe "threshold" for exposure to ionizing radiation. He spent the rest of his life confronting the nuclear establishment, and warning the public that government reassurances that everything is fine in Nuke Land are false.

Gofman, who eventually became an emeritus professor at Berkeley, died of heart failure at his San Francisco home last month. He was 88 years old.

Nowadays I spend a lot of time wondering how passive and gullible the American public can be -- how easily it gets conned by our government and by the corporate interests that rule the world. Throughout the Bush Presidency, I have shaken my head just about daily at our folly. I'm sure none of it was a surprise to Gofman, who spent decades decrying the same phenomena in the electricity, medical, and defense arenas. But he spoke out and he kept fighting, and so he serves as an inspiration to the rest of us, who owe it to ourselves to do the same.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Potter announcement leaked: He's out

Although it's not supposed to be revealed until a press conference on Monday, an unofficial report from a source close to Portland Mayor Tom Potter is that he's decided to retire at the end of his current term, on Dec. 31, 2008. According to the source, this was a really tough decision for the mayor, who wants to see his "visioning" process molded into reality, but he has concluded that at his age, there are more important and enjoyable pursuits in life than government service.

"Tom's got a lot he wants to do while he's still fit and able to do it," the aide confided. "Just to give you an example: He recently got a call from some longtime friends who need help reconstituting their family business -- one of the family members died -- and the mayor's always looking to help out in situations like that." The 67-year-old Potter also reportedly plans a great deal of international travel as an unofficial ambassador for Portland.

On any given night, anything can happen

As famed Portland sportscaster Ed Whelan says (or is that used to say?), the Big Daddies of Football are starting their season this weekend.

And their league, the NFL, has suddenly gotten loco greedy. It's imposing all sorts of rules restricting media and internet coverage of the teams, in the hopes of driving traffic to its "official" TV channel and web site.

This is what happens to any business when you allow generic corporate types, who don't understand it, to run it. A sports league, tamping down coverage so that it can monopolize what is said about it? How Cheney-esquely creepy.

On a brighter note, I've entered a pool in which we're asked each week to pick one underdog team that we think is going to win. The team has to do more than beat the point spread being offered for it -- it has to win outright. (As I understand it, most NFL underdogs who beat the spread do in fact win outright, but to be a winner in this game, they've got to do both.)

Now, the point spread isn't completely irrelevant to this game. If your team wins, you earn the number of points by which they were favored to lose. The pool player with the most points at the end of the season wins the prize.

The objects of this pool are to have fun and pay some attention to the league throughout the season. Having proven previously via the now-defunct state-run Oregon Sports Action that I cannot pick the outcomes of pro football games with any consistency -- the league seems so maddeningly impossible to predict that I suspect that it's fixed -- I'm hoping that maybe I can excel in sniffing out just one upset a week.

I've already submitted my pick for this week, but I'd be interested in hearing whom our readers might choose. Which of this week's underdogs (in caps below) is going to beat the favorite? Please enlighten us, and explain, in the comments below.

6.5 NEW YORK JETS vs. New England
6.5 TENNESSEE at Jacksonville
6 NEW ORLEANS at Indianapolis*
6 CHICAGO at San Diego
6 TAMPA BAY at Seattle
6 NY GIANTS at Dallas
4.5 CLEVELAND vs. Pittsburgh
3 ATLANTA at Minnesota
3 BUFFALO vs. Denver
3 KANSAS CITY at Houston
3 MIAMI at Washington
3 GREEN BAY vs. Philadelphia
3 ARIZONA at San Francisco
2.5 BALTIMORE at Cincinnati
1.5 DETROIT at Oakland
1 CAROLINA at St. Louis

* This one was played Thursday night... the favorite, Indy, crushed the Saints.

UPDATE, 9/9 3:39 p.m.: The big winner of the week is Tennessee.

Yawn... more sleazebag Catholic Church bankruptcy news

They could have just paid the claims, but that would have been too honest.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Grampy poll: In or out?

We asked this one a while back, but the real-world answer is scheduled to be revealed Monday morning, and so here's a weekend quiz:

Will Tom Potter run for another term as mayor of Portland?
pollcode.com free polls

Have a great weekend

Chris Cox for U.S. attorney general?

Sounds good to me. (Via Isaac Laquedem.)

The real mystery

What is a guy like this doing playing the lottery in the first place?

The people in the back, not the front

I haven't been to church in quite a while. I've been wondering whether being a Catholic is the right thing for me. Lately it's been kind of a downward spiral on that topic.

A good friend of mine who's still very much a part of the faithful provided a ray of hope yesterday. She wrote:

Who/what is the church? A human institution constructed 500+ years after the death of Jesus based on a patriarchal political model with a limited world view? Or the people who live the Gospel message out the best they can and gather to celebrate and remember the life and challenge of Jesus as we work in our own ways to make the world a better place?

Let the boys in Rome have their squabbles and disagreements about outdated language, stupid rules and how best to cover up scandals. They can't get between me and God. And luckily when there are places of sanity like St. Phil's, it's a bit easier to live the sacramental life that means so much to me without getting caught up in the silly antics of the men in funny hats.

Between that and running into another member of the parish the other evening -- a guy I don't want to lose touch with -- maybe somebody up there is talking to me.

What "sustainable" means

As I suspected -- nothing.

When he's not playing online games at work...

... this Multnomah County corrections officer is busy posting about how he gets his rocks off beating and tasering people. Nice.

Line of the week: “We had a hosedragger lay a monkeystomping on some cat on camera and nobody said anything.”

Spreading the gospel on the taxpayers' dime

If, like me, you're a skeptic toward Portland's practice of giving away tax dollars to any real estate weasel who wants to slap up an apartment bunker along a bus line, it's a frustrating time. But I'll bet many such critics are not aware that the city is spending money developing experts in the field, who are journeying far and wide promoting the city's social engineering experiments to other municipalities. Here's a dog-and-pony show that a Portland city planner recently gave to like-minded bureaucrats in Honolulu. I hope to heaven that Portland taxpayers didn't pay the expenses to send this official over there. But I'm sure we Rose City saps paid for her time to develop, and fly over there and give, the speech. What a waste.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Area Wild Oats stores -- closing or rebranding?

Word's trickling out about which Wild Oats stores are going to be closed as a result of their acquisition by Whole Foods, and which are going to be restyled as Whole Foods locations. Portland, Maine -- closing. Louisville -- closing. Hartford -- rebranding as Whole Foods. Detailed plans have also been announced regarding acquired stores in the Boulder area. Anybody heard what's going to happen in Portland, Oregon?

Are we staging nukes for Iran?

Here's a story for you. It's either a colossal military blunder or something more sinister that's being whitewashed now that it's been discovered. Either way, heck of a job, boys.

Political Art of the Week

It's too late to buy this painting. It's not too late to think about it.

It's the sustainable thing to do

I sure hope our local taxing authorities aren't overlooking this source of revenue.


I was complaining this week that the Portland City Council is frequently insensitive to the needs of small businesses. But an alert reader directs me to this detail from a mailbox flyer from Broadway Toyota, which reveals that City Hall policies are actually stimulating some sectors of the local economy.

Rockefeller's kids

If, like me, you're a lifelong liberal who's old enough to have an AARP card (even though you may not want one), surely you remember the summer of '68. RFK shot dead. Race riots in Cleveland. A massacre in Vietnam. Anti-war riots outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. We could change the world, but many realized it might take radical action, even violence.

It was a heady time for "letting your freak flag fly."

Contrast that with the privileged kids who were part of the Republican Party. Off they went to Miami to name their creepy Presidential candidate, Richard Nixon, and his crooked vice president, Spiggy Agnew. Little spoiled Melvin Laird interns with their earnest looks.

I'll tell you one thing, I'd never trust one of those kids as far as I could throw them. If they told me they were different now, representing progressive values, I'd be very, very careful about believing any of it. Even if they had hung out around the outskirts of the Democratic Convention that year, too, just to say in their student politician speeches that they had smelled the tear gas -- I find it hard to vote for people like that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Helping America come to its senses

As a Democrat, I'm ready to send this guy money and urge him to keep fighting.

Portland Saturday Market: The end is near

When the City of Portland decides to ruin you, they do it in stages. Another small business mission accomplished.

Get your elephant ears and hippie crystals while you can, folks.

New product rollout

Grampy's grown a beard

Scott Moore reports on the latest addition to the Portland mayoral profile. Once again, however, the Merc kids get it slightly wrong. Potter's not Kenny Rogers, silly -- he's more like this guy now.

Another creative class member arrives

When I wrote about the California blogging pedophile who was moving out of state rather than dealing with his crimes down there, I just knew he was coming this way. And sadly, my intuition was right. Hope I don't see him anywhere near my family. I'm sure I'd wind up paying damages for what will be left of his camera. (Via VanPortlander, which BTW just started today.)

Blogs are "media" -- yay! (I think)

Rob Saltzman's reporting on a new ruling by the Federal Elections Commission that blogs are "media" and thus exempt from several provisions of the nation's elections laws applicable to political committees. Although this may come as a relief, I worry about it a little. How long before Congress or some bureaucrat decides that we should somehow be subject to to the fairness doctrine applicable to broadcast media?

Words that ring true

I promise you that when I am president of the United States we will not have a mine company executive who is responsible for the safety of mine workers.
Why the machinery of the Democratic Party can't seem to come together behind this candidate is way beyond me.

Breakthrough in Old Town

Blogger Larry Norton sees the Portland Police actually stop someone for something at Broadway and Flanders. They made sure to dampen his gratitude with that patented Rose City bluecoat attitude, however.

Is Hillary Opie's ticket out?

Whatever happened to Portland City Commissioner Erik "Opie" Sten? After foisting one unworkable big idea after another on the city's taxpayers for eons, he got himself re-elected easily last year (in the Defining Candidacy of our Lifetimes, according to his pals at WW), and promptly disappeared from any and all media radar screens.

Not having to counter his daily outbursts of sage Stanford-English-major policy suggestions is a relief for some of us, but the respite has given us ample time to wonder what he's up to. Perhaps he's just being a dad, enjoying life, coasting a bit -- they all seem like possibilities, but that wouldn't be the lovable, energetic tyke we've gotten to know around City Hall. Surely he's got the Next Big Thing in the works.

Given the deafening silence, our intuition tells us that it's something outside of city government, and before his current term is up. I remember reading somewhere that his old buddy Marshall Runkel (co-genius behind the city's efficient, effective "clean money" public campaign finance system and its thriving free wi-fi program) is back on the muni payroll, no doubt being groomed to take over the Opie throne should the Stenster decide to step off. Meanwhile, something tells us, it's résumé time for the sitting commish.

Yesterday we caught a glimpse at what might be next from our man. He's become a local bigwig in the Presidential campaign of Hillary (No-Last-Name). Not too surprising -- she's obnoxious, and the two of them have friends in common. If HRC should become the next President, do you think she'd invite Opie back to D.C. to run something -- maybe a big public housing agency? I do. One of the FOH with local connections is a buddy of Sten's and mine, Rey Ramsey (a former Runkel boss). Rey's got "cabinet" written all over him, and surely he'd want a Portland visionary or two by his side.

And if Hillary called, would Opie answer? I'd bet he'd be on his way faster than you can say "MetroFi litigation."

Of course, she's unelectable -- a "canard" according to her husband, Bubba, but one that seems to have proven quite the problem when the last two Democratic Party candidates for the White House couldn't beat a simian. So don't cry for him, Albina. One way or the other, I think we're going to have Opie with us for a good long time.

How to jeopardize your job

When a guy like Larry Craig goes up in smoke, you jump right in and offer to take over his stall (figuratively, of course). Oh, how those kids on the Blue will be screeching today!

One out of four

The judge in the Portland "voter-owed elections" fraud case has sentenced Vladimir Golovan to "up to nine months" (probably more like half that) in the county jail. But the judge also indicated that he and the jurors felt that the people who hired Golovan to "pimp out" City Council candidates to the Slavic community also should have been prosecuted. That includes candidate Lucinda Tate, who turned in the same sorts of bogus signatures as candidate Emilie Boyles but was pretty much given a free pass by the local media after the crew was busted. Rounding out the judge's theoretical party of four at the Graybar Hotel would be Bruce Broussard, who was trying to run for City Council and the U.S. Congress at the same time and allegedly had Golovan lined up to help. The judge said he thought Broussard perjured himself on the witness stand in Golovan's trial.

There's still time to prosecute these other three, I think. But what do you think the odds are of that ever happening?

Meanwhile, the intensely laundered official version of the story continues to be replayed in the O: "The city rejected Tate's application for public cash because she turned in some paperwork late." Yeah, that and the fact that the reporter for the O itself, this blog, and others were screaming that her signatures, like Boyles's, were fake. Sometimes the city's stated reason is pretty obviously not the real reason -- witness Derrick Foxworth's demotion for "gossiping" -- and one would think it behooves the local media not to act too dumb to catch on.

Anyway, I never thought they'd prosecute anyone for this little fiasco, and I suppose we should all be grateful that one smooth operator will be off the church steps hustling, and faking, signatures for a while.

That is, if there's room in the county jail...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

In the big spotlight

There isn't much bigger publicity than what the University of Oregon received in this morning's New York Times: front page, across the two left-hand columns. But I don't think too many folks in Eugene are jumping up and down in delight.

And who comes in at the end, looking so much like Joan of Arc, but Vicki Walker! The only person in the whole piece who looked pretty good.

Maybe he was entrapped into quitting

I see that Larry Craig's now saying he may not resign after all. "That wasn't a resignation speech I was reading from the other day. That was just a piece of toilet paper that I had picked up."

The organization vs. the new guys

My buddy Greg Macpherson is lining up with his legislative colleague Jeff Merkley in the upcoming Democratic primaries. Macpherson is running against John Kroger for Oregon attorney general, and Merkley against Steve Novick for the the U.S. Senate. Mac's part of a group throwing a coffee of sorts for Merkley this weekend, and listed as co-sponsors are "Roger Alfred, Chris Beck, Jackie Dingfelder, John Haines, Heather and David Howitt, Jules Kopel-Bailey, Andy Linehan, Greg Macpherson, Mac Prichard, Peter Toll, and Jon McWilliams."

They sure are choosing up sides early this time around.

Reader poll: Lock up the spray paint?

Like a bear awakened from a pleasant hibernation, Fireman Randy was here this morning, forcefully roaring in defense of his latest brainchild -- the new City of Portland ordinance that requires hardware stores and other retailers to lock up spray paint and require identification from people buying it. Some retailers are dead set against the measure, arguing that it will be ineffective, and too costly for them. Somehow the good commissioner's charm (especially his "you this, you that" mode of conversation) hasn't convinced them otherwise.

It occurs to me that this might be a good time for a reader poll on the subject, and so here goes:

Do you support the City of Portland's new ordinance requiring hardware stores and other retailers to lock up spray paint, in order to reduce graffiti?
pollcode.com free polls

We encourage everyone on both sides of this issue to weigh in. It couldn't be simpler. If you'd like to leave a written comment, go here.

A plausible explanation

Old Town blogger Larry Norton continues to report blatant drug deal after blatant drug deal in his neck of the woods, with police looking the other way. Gee, Larry, if you didn't know better, you might start to think that someone in city government or local law enforcement must be taking a cut of the drug money, wouldn't you?

Nah. This is Portland. No corruption here.

What's really needed in the graffiti war

The City of Portland's new ordinance requiring that retailers lock up spray paint and record the identification of everyone buying it is a laughable way to fight graffiti. In years past, wiser city leaders grasped well the only real way to combat this urban blight: get everyone in town cleaning it up as soon as it appears. When taggers see their handiwork disappear faster than they can come back and admire it, they quickly find a new place to vandalize. After bouncing around without success, they might decide to take up a more productive habit, like narcotics.

Anyway, if the city really wants to fight graffiti, that's where it needs to focus its efforts -- mobilizing property owners and neighbors to get right on removing tags while the paint's still wet. The city has a crew that runs around cleaning up traffic signs, and a central coordinator who takes in reports and photos of some of the more egregious violations, but together they're spit in the ocean. Average Janes and Joes with cleaning fluid, solvent, buckets, and coverup paints -- they're the only hope of staying ahead of the epidemic. Otherwise, Portland goes the route of San Francisco and New York -- amateur visual garbage on every outdoor surface.

Unfortunately, from my recent unscientific cruises through the inner east side of the Rose City, I can see that the cleanup volunteers are getting tired. Several of the hot spots aren't get cleared of the vandals' work as quickly as they used to. A few property and business owners appear to have given up altogether. The Asian restaurant on the northwest corner of NE 9th and Broadway is a perfect example. The north-facing wall in the rear of that establishment has now been abandoned to the taggers, and of course the graffiti is starting to spread to other nearby walls. There's a similar story going down on 8th. It's a shame.

Now, the city has an ordinance that requires owners to clean up tags on their property within a few days of their being posted, and so there's the stick that theoretically gets the victim to remedy the crime. But how about a carrot or two? What is the city doing to reach out to the public, and help and encourage them with the awful cleanup chores?

What's happened to law enforcement? Do they do anything (other than contemplate their pensions) between 2 and 5 most mornings, when all the tagging seems to get done? It doesn't take a genius to figure out which locations are the taggers' favorites. Would it kill the Police Bureau to invest a little personpower in these locations at the appropriate hours to nab, say, a tagger a month? In these parts, they tend to be a bunch of little snitches, and so a bust or two might actually yield a good handful of spray paint cockroaches in a short time.

And what about security cams at a few of the hot spots? These devices seem to work well when they're writing out huge robo-tickets for running a red light. Put a few at SE 20th and Stark, SE 7th and Schuyler, the I-5 underpasses between the Marquam and the Rose Quarter, and move them around. If they're not too obvious, they'll record lots of tagger sickos in action. What could that cost -- a few thousand?

To ask the city's property owners to deal with graffiti week after week, the city needs to bring something of benefit to the table. It needs to show as much tenacity and stamina in promoting graffiti cleanup as it's asking the neighbors to demonstrate in the never-ending battle. Right now, the city's falling down on the job, and the neighbors are next. For the City Council to bust people's chops when they buy and sell paint is not the answer.

I'd like to think of it more as PG-13

But we'll take this:

John Elway quarterbacking the Ducks?

It's possible. (But he goes by his grandpa's name, Jack.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Circuit City receipt guy

This person's started quite a brouhaha, refusing to show his receipt to a security employee as he left a Circuit City store with a bag in hand, and then refusing to show his driver's license to the police officer whom he himself called. I'm sympathetic to complaints about intrusions into our privacy, but this fellow pushed several buttons at once. He doesn't deserve a criminal conviction, I guess, but trouble? He went looking for it.

Go home, folks, nothin' to see here

Rush to the scene of a disaster to help out? The powers that be would rather you didn't. Is that because they don't want you to see them screw up?

So we bomb the heck out of Iran

Then what? Do we know? Maybe they'll be throwing flowers at us in the streets?

They'll need lots more of it

But this must have been fun to watch.

Larry Craig: A nation reflects

"I don't have any problem with his behavior, as long as he wasn't trying to marry the guy."

Skipped ahead

Here's a 15-year-old starting classes at an Ivy League university. As someone who went through school almost as fast as this gal has, I've come around to thinking that it's not such a hot idea. It's the social side of things that presents the greatest challenges. I remember my mom driving me to the commuter college I attended for the first four and half months of school -- that wasn't cool.

Curiously, from high school on I reacted by hanging around with students who were a year ahead of me in grade -- so that everyone was two or three years older than I was. Maybe it was some sort of defense mechanism. If you're going to be the baby in the class, you might as well make it obvious.

I don't envy this student -- the program at Penn is probably going to be more rigorous than college was for me, and she's thousands of miles from home -- but I wish her well.

America is dead

Sadly, there's a lot of truth to this.

Last leg of a cheap cross-country road trip

And a memorable one -- in eastern Oregon.

Then a drive up the coast -- the same week that my family and I were there. Great video here.

Party on, Wayne... but not on free wi-fi

This story sounds familiar. Meanwhile, another source of cash has dried up for Portland's provider.

Oh, and that provider is "pushing" to "renegotiate" its deal with Portland, according to this article:

Similarly, cities that have deals that don't currently require a government investment are being asked to renegotiate existing muni Wi-Fi contracts. In Portland, Ore., MetroFi says it is pushing the city for a formal commitment to buy network services.
Hey, Opie! Don't you dare!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Stoned soul picnic

Our first DJ stint in years was a success. The block party turned out be more of a hang-out-with-your-neighbors-and-enjoy-the-day event than a get-up-and-dance party, but that was fine. We had lots of music for such an occasion.

The debut of the laptop as the central processor for the music had some bumpy moments. The infernal mouse pad was set to count multiple taps as clicks, and by taps we mean mere touches. Unwanted clicks interrupted a couple of songs -- good thing no one was up and dancing at the time. I was ready to plug in a standard mouse, but found both the USB ports filled with the stand-alone hard drives -- d'oh! I had a splitter, but there was no time to fuss with it as the party was already in progress.

Getting Windows Media Player to find and index everything on the drives (which are normally hooked to a desktop) was a far more drawn out and mysterious process than it should have been. (A good example of crummy Microsoft software.) And with the bright sun over your shoulder, reading a small laptop screen can be a bit of a challenge. On the whole, some additional planning and practice would have been beneficial.

All that said, the beautiful tunes flowed for hours, and folks seemed to enjoy them. The thanks we received felt genuine. We got some free beer, great burgers, and all kinds of other fine food out of the deal. Even better, we met cool people we didn't know before, and caught up with some old friends. And the family enjoyed an afternoon and evening out in the sun. We're going to miss summer.

One wonderful feature of letting the computer do the work is the ability to string together a playlist and walk away from the "booth" for a while. If you're lucky and all the files are on reasonably even volume levels, you can wander around and get in on the rest of the party. Alas, some of our rips of early CDs are mighty wimpy on the volume, and that meant multiple trips back to the source to level things out manually. An amplifier with a remote would have been a good idea. It goes on a list with several ideas for next time, which we hope will come before we forget them all.

Into the groove again

It's been quite a while since I last DJ'ed a party. I've got a music collection that's well suited for those of us of a certain age. If your dance music "sweet spot" is between 1965 and 1990, I'm your guy. Now that my peers and I need two days to recover from a major bash, however, the calls to come and smoke the place out with such senescent numbers as "Lookin' for a Love" (either the original by the Valentinos or the storied J. Geils remake), "Billie Jean," and "Standing in the Shadows of Love" are fewer and further between than in the past.

Today I'm slated to supply music for a friend's block party, a prospect that presents a couple of firsts for my disc jockeying career. First, I don't think I've ever done an outdoor party before. Second, for the first time I will attempt to pull off the whole thing without the use of CDs, cassettes, or vinyl. Everything's on hard drives.

The latter aspect of the plan engenders much trepidation in the Tech Department. Disconnecting and reconnecting analog stereo components is my cup of tea, but doing the same with elements of computer hardware always strikes fear in my heart. And alas, accustomed as I am to using Microsoft products, every click threatens the blue screen of death. Fortunately, the old analog equipment will be just five minutes away.

Wish me luck, and if you've got any suggestions for out there on the dance floor, please leave them in the comments below.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Weekend news roundup

Evangelize in your high school valedictory speech? Lose your diploma.

Guess what. The guys in Gitmo are rioting more than ever. Could it be they don't like the food?

Speaking of which, here's something to think about while waiting for your happy meal at Disney World.

It will infiltrate your chips...

Hard to believe, but it was 25 years ago that the "Elk Cloner" computer virus -- the first one to hit the big time -- was unleashed on the world.

The guy who created it is still around, still hacking. And blogging, here.


Oregon's going to refund 18.6 percent of your state income taxes from 2006 in the infamous "kicker" checks. Do the math -- that's a lot of dough! Way more than I can ever remember it being.

The money should roll in sometime during the upcoming holiday season. Consider it spent.

Sure signs

Fall has started showing up. The college kids are playing football. The birds have begun eating the seeds out of the sunflowers. And our dogwood tree has dropped its first leaves of the year. Time to cue up this song, I guess:

Better stock up now

The City of Portland's new ordinance requiring that retailers lock up spray paint and require customers buying it to show identification may have some unexpected consequences. A local hardware store owner writes:

We would be able to lock up the paint fairly easily, that is not the issue. It is the draconian record keeping that would take the time and hence the money to operate. I am not sure about this but I think someone would have to write a computer program to coordinate all the info as well. Who will pay for that? We would support measures that would decrease tagging, but it seems to us that the taggers should be punished, not the public.

At present what we are going to do is sell out what we have in paint. We will not be stocking spray paint at all. What we will have is a small display stating that we are no longer carrying spray paint and we will have small cards with Randy [Leonard]'s phone number and email so that our customers can contact him for an explanation.

Man, this isn't sustainable. Think of all the gas people are going to burn driving to Beaverton to score some Krylon.

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