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

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July 2008 Archives

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Anthrax suspect reportedly commits suicide on eve of prosecution

His name was Bruce Ivins, and it's reported that he was about to prosecuted for the crimes.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could be confident that we're going to learn the truth about this now? Alas, in this country nowadays, it's hard to be.

UPDATE, 8/1, 12:07 a.m.: If he did it, this story from 2004 is pretty creepy. Here's a 2006 story that's also pretty chilling. The government agency that did the first investigation into the attacks was something called USAMRIID, where Ivins worked.

Here's another brick in the wall. Look at what one smart observer said six years ago. And Greenpeace of all people appears to have called it right away.

Stink to resume in Idaho

Field burning is back in action in the Spud State. A touchy-feely truce, of sorts, has between declared, for now, between the farmers who make more money taking the easy way out of their waste problems and the segment of the population that enjoys breathing. They'll be back at each other's throats within a couple of years, we're sure.

One bright light: The field burning permit process has been taken away from the state Ag Department and placed where it belongs, in the DEQ. Oregon should have done that a long, long time ago. Still could, if the people in the Legislature had any guts. Ha! Ha! That's funny.

You can check out any time you like

When you read that the Usual Suspects are about to start a big hotel project on the edge of the Pearl, you have got to hope that there is no public money involved. Because you couldn't pick a stupider time to build a hotel than now.

The day the music died

The newspaper business continues to collapse, with big chunks falling off this week. The Newhouse newspapers have announced that large numbers of staff people will have to take buyouts, or else. Apparently, or else what has not been announced in all cases, but today at the Newark Star-Ledger, they said they would sell the paper unless the news staff was cut by a third. No doubt a similar threat hangs over the O and all other Newhouse papers. (They also announced this week that they're closing their bureau in Washington, D.C.)

Meanwhile, there's serious trouble a-brewing at the Portland Tribune, where the paper version's been cut to a weekly and marching orders have been issued to pump out more material daily on the internet, but with fewer resources. Confirmation of some prominent personnel changes is reportedly just around the corner. (Indeed, the big one was made official this afternoon, but there is likely at least one more in the works.)

My first real job in this world was as a reporter for a Newhouse newspaper in New Jersey, The Jersey Journal (still there, but probably doomed now). I learned more about writing, and life in the real world, in that three-year period than at any other time in my life. It was during that time that I decided to get out to the West Coast, to see what was there, and to go to law school. The original plan was to stay media-connected -- either as a lawyer for journalists or as a journalist covering law. That program faded, but I never lost my affection for the men and women who deliver information to the public. As much as I may disagree with their editorial positions from time to time, it pains me to see them out of their jobs.

Who killed their industry? Bill Gates started it with his infernal computer in people's houses. Whoever got this World Wide Web thing going accelerated the process. After a while, the public decided it could get information delivered to their desks for "free" -- so long, of course, as they paid their monthly tribute to Comcast, Qwest, or AT&T. Paid newspaper readership has been on a steady decline after that change in attitude. Kids today are simply never going to subscribe to a newspaper.

But Craigslist was probably the real death knell. Without the huge nickel-and-dime revenue that the papers got from people selling houses, cars, and garage sale junk, and from people looking for employees or employment, suddenly you can't keep the lights on at a newspaper.

Other industries have it coming. Higher education is holding out, but it won't be able to do so forever. It may come after my career, but a lot of graduate school is going to be on the internet, like it or not.

This week, it's the newspaper folks hearing the bad news. My heart goes out to them and their families as they figure out what they are going to do next.

Crossroad blues

If you think those green bike boxes on Portland streets are strange, check out what's happening in Holland. (Slightly NSFW material possible on part of the page.)

The bike rage thing, according to Elaine

I’ll tell you this much: the next time you slam your hand on the hood of my car (with Baby G present) while I’m trying to pull out of Trader Joe’s (after an awkward conversation with Austin) because I pulled out of the driveway during rush-hour because it was the only way to enter traffic, I will hunt you down and use every tactic I learned in my girl-power self-defense class to beat the living s**t out of you.

GOD, that felt good!

The woman is on a roll lately (no pun intended). Check her out here.

Way to call 'em, Chief

Let's see, lying about your weight-loss surgery gets you fired -- but killing a guy while violating department rules gets you a 30-day suspension. That's the Portland police!

Introducing: Bojack comment bingo!

Dear Comcast

They say that Comcast is reading blogs these days, and so here's my little question for the big, bad boys of the emerging bandwidth cartel: Before you start maintenance work on your system, which is going to screw up all your customers' internet access in a given area for several hours, would it kill you to send them an e-mail a few hours ahead of time so that they could plan accordingly?

In exchange for the customers', say, $160 a month, is that asking too much?

Routinely pulling the plug on people without warning is, as the kids say, craptastic -- or in your case, Comcraptic. [Posted via a wireless signal stolen from a neighbor who is smart enough to get internet service from someone else.]

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

East side MAX stations to get fences

Even on a very bad day, the O got the story.

Retirement Day

A dedicated servant leaves us in the morning. Under the City of Portland's new refuse rules, the 95-gallon roll cart that we have used for many years to hold yard debris will be taken away, having been replaced by a smaller cart that arrived earlier this month. We called our garbage hauler to see if we could keep the bigger one, but apparently that's verboten. If we can't fit everything into the new cart, we'll have to put the rest out as an "extra." We have the perfect can for that purpose, but still, we'll miss the rugged old big boy. His lime green replacement is a wimp by comparison.

Remnants of so many great growing seasons wound up in that bin. Some cast-off Christmas branches and Halloween pumpkins, too. Plus, it's the last remnant of the excellent Dave's Sanitary from up in the 'Couv, the hauler we had when we first moved into this house; the route was sold when Dave retired a while back. His son still drives the route for the new owners, the Heibergs, but it was always cool to have a yard debris cart with "Dave's" on the side.

The one bright spot in the story is the superb reception we got when we called Heiberg earlier today to ask about the resolution of the duplicate carts. It must have been Heiberg himself who answered, but whoever he was was friendly, patient, and knowledgeable, not only about what's allowed and not allowed under the new city regime but also about our account in particular. As maddening as all the city's garbage and recycling gyrations have become this year, it's nice to know that the small business that's doing all the heavy lifting is on the ball and eager to help.

Cop who shot Squeaky reinstated

Apparently a series of direct breaches of bureau rules that result in a death is worth only 30 days off in Portland. The arbitrator appears to have bought the offending officer's version of the events in its entirety. Congratulations to the cop on his all-important "six figures."

Hot ticket for August

They'll be lining up for this thrillfest.

What a hypocrite

It's easy for Al Gore to talk about making sacrifices to save the planet -- he's rich enough that he doesn't have to worry.

Reader poll: Should Peterson's stay or should it go?

A few things are becoming pretty clear about the City of Portland's order evicting Peterson's convenience store in the SmartPark garage across from the Galleria. One is that the mayor is hellbent on getting them out of there. The downtown business "leaders" (you know, the Pioneer Courthouse Square ice skating rink people) are, too. Commissioner Saltzman is trying to work out a deal where they can stay. The downtown neighborhood association wants to keep the place open. Fireman Randy is passing the buck to the mayor.

As good a time as any, I guess, to consult with our readers:

Should Peterson's be evicted?
pollcode.com free polls

Taurean Green odd man out, again

The Blazer draft pick just got shipped by Denver to the Knicks, and then waived.

Oregon's vulture investor buddy in the news again

The State of Oregon has more than $1 billion invested with this guy, who's now throwing a flimsy-looking life preserver to Merrill Lynch.

A perfect fit

Next up for financially struggling San Diego: a Gerding Edlen City Hall shangri-la. Linchpin, baby.

Hard choices

Leave it to Fox News to stir things up, but even "progressive" folk will admit that "death with dignity" can lead to some wicked ethical problems, particularly in times when health care is expensive and money is tight.

15 months for the cheating ref

The one they busted, at least.

Portland has its Convention Center...

... but it's not the only white elephant around. The Clark County Amphitheater over in the 'Couv is turning out to be a dud, too. The mainstream media accounts of the latest developments in this disaster story are here, here, and here. Bean boils it down here, and the hardcore local politics of it is blogged about here.

Another "public-private partnership," down the tubes. Although private money built the place, the county took title to it and immediately borrowed against the rent to build some other stuff. Now the rent's been cut, and it looks as though the taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

I think part of the problem is that the outfit running the place is called Quincunx. As with the venue itself, let's not even go there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A reprieve for Peterson's?

According to the kids at the Merc, Portland commish Dan "Big Pipe" Saltzman is doing some "due diligence" before letting stand the impending eviction of Peterson's convenience store from the SmartPark garage across from the Galleria. He'd better be both diligent and quick, because the place is slated to be boarded up just over two weeks from now.

An interesting wrinkle in the story is the back-and-forth between the Merc and city spokesperson Mary Volm, the gal who was allegedly whacked off her motor scooter earlier this month after thumping some guy's limo in a road rage incident.

The wheels are coming off the Republican Party

Amazing. "The guy who's running against Merkley" is just one of many members of the GOP who are staying away from the party's convention -- presumably, to avoid having anything rub off Bush and onto them.

Let's hope it's much too late to avoid that.

Radio Bojack interference clearing up

Last week, we noted that our homemade internet music radio station had been hacked and was pumping out music that we had never heard of -- including some pretty scary death metal, in Polish! (I am not making that up.)

Anyway, the problem appears to have rectified itself over the last couple of days, and we are now cautiously, optimistically pronouncing the station safe for your listening pleasure. It is available here.

In-filling somebody's wallet

We've been blogging for more than a year now about the wretched condo bunker that's slated to go in at NE 15th and Hancock in Portland. The final bureaucratic showdown on the project is coming up in less than two weeks, and the operator of the historic inn next door now has a web page up seeking to rally the opposition.

Coolness has its limits

Watch the warm welcome Critical Mass receives from the New York City police.

Whole Foods - Wild Oats deal may still get unwound!

Hot off the presses from a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

Good luck, bar examinees

It's bar exam day across this fair land of ours. On the East Coast, the agony has just begun; here out west, there's another hour or two of angst before the questions are opened and the long-awaited answering starts.

It's been 30 years since we underwent the ordeal ourselves. We still believe in the law, and in lawyers. Taking the test today are some people who will, during their careers, change the world for the better. Good luck to them.

Reader poll: Randy or Rosie?

It's all over the local media today that Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard can't work with Police Chief Rosie Sizer. The situation appears to call into question Mayor-elect Sam Adams's previously announced plan to put Leonard in charge of the Police Bureau. Assuming that the frosty relationship between Leonard and Sizer does not improve, what should Adams do?

What should Sam Adams do about the Randy Leonard - Rosie Sizer feud?
Put Leonard in charge of the police; fire Sizer
Don't put Leonard in charge of the police; keep Sizer as chief
Put Leonard in charge of the police; keep Sizer as chief; and make them work things out
Don't put Leonard in charge of the police; fire Sizer anyway
pollcode.com free polls

Monday, July 28, 2008

OHSU docs strike out big time in Tax Court

Twenty-six of them owe the IRS a ton of dough in back taxes and penalties over their 2001 donations of stock in their anesthesiology practice to OHSU. The Tax Court's decision, released last week, is subject to appeal, but the trial judge who heard the case was seriously unimpressed with the values that the docs claimed for their stock.

This just in

Here's Portland journalism at its finest.

Portland bike rage profiled in Newsweek

Good thing we got our licks in before the spandex gang in Seattle upstaged us. But remember, the Oregonian says everything's fine.

St. Tropez it ain't

Today's story of a 74-year-old nude sunbather at Rooster Rock State Park who allegedly attacked a guy just for showing up with his clothes on and his kids and noisy dogs in tow, reminds me of the time that the Mrs. and I headed out there for some nakedity of our own. I don't know what we were expecting, but what we found was a small group of really creepy old guys, in the buff, lurking in the weeds and staring into space like zombies. We decided to move over to where there were normal people with bathing suits on.

Who's minding the store? No one

Today all the media jump on one of the big downsides of the City of Portland's much-touted "public-private partnerships": Nobody on the "public" side is keeping any sort of watch over the "private" side to see that they're living up to their end of the "partnership" agreement. Even if the handouts to the real estate sharpies are for a good purpose (usually a dubious proposition), no one in government knows or cares whether the taxpayers are being swindled. Nick "the Sardine" Fish says he's going to jump in and start up some sort of accountability, millions of dollars later. Coverage is here, here, and here.

Welcome to Fresh Week

The level of discourse in the reader comments at the Portland Tribune has sunk sufficiently low that they've instituted a new comment moderation system over there. You have to include a valid e-mail address with your comment or it won't show up. (The e-mail address isn't published, but in order to have the comment posted, you have to let the Trib have a working address for you.)

Comments on a website are a tricky thing. After a while, the attitudes and positions of the commenters can be confused with those of the site host -- particularly if the commenters hammer the same points home over and over, week after week. The tenor of many of the comments that have been posted lately on the Trib site didn't speak well of the Trib. I applaud the management's efforts to clean things up, at least a bit.

I've been feeling some comment angst myself lately. As much as I love the readership of this blog, every now and again I notice that I'm reading the same comments from the same people. In the past I've dealt with this by instituting comment-free weeks, where I turned comments off entirely to try to get a fresh start, but that seems kind of drastic. This week, I'm going to try something else -- moderating comments aggressively so that the repetitive points that commenters make don't appear.

If you are a new commenter, you are especially welcome this week. If you are a regular poster commenting this week, be sure to say something new, or at least figure out a new way to say what you've said here before. If your comment disappears, it's my way of telling you to give it a rest. Or find a friend who agrees with you to come over and say it in your place.

As a long-range matter, perhaps we should assign numbers to various posts made repetitively by regular commenters, so that they can save us all some time, and me some bandwidth, by simply posting the numbers rather than republishing the old points.

Sweet Pea and Jack

A couple of months ago, we did something we don't usually do -- pulled the car over and made a cell phone call trying to win concert tickets in a radio station contest. Mirabile dictu, we won! Caller no. 5, baby. It was the Lyle Lovett show at Edgefield last night, sponsored by KINK. Our luck continued to run strong as we landed our highest-end babysitter at the last possible moment, and so on out to Troutdale we drove.

Lovett played for 2½ hours with his large band -- not a big band, mind you, as there are no horns in it, but definitely large. At various times there seemed to be a dozen or so instrumentalists at work, and not one but two gospel choruses joined in at the beginning and end of the set. Lovett recruits local groups to play this role, and on this evening, the choir from the Mount Olivet Baptist Church here in town was joined by a group called the Hurd Ensemble that came down from Seattle after three Lovett shows up there and in B.C.

Along with a handful of seasoned string players from his beloved Austin and many others, Lovett brought Russ Kunkel from L.A. on drums, which in and of itself put enough Grammy power on the stage to light a small city. But all of the side men were upstaged by the background singers who stood to the star's immediate right. What to my wondering eyes did appear -- two of them were from the earth-shaking front line of Was (Not Was), who knocked our socks off (as we knew they would) at the Wonder a while back. Sure enough, it was Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens! Next to them was bass singer Willie Greene Jr., whose voice knows no bottom and whose bottom, along with the rest of him, moved smooth as silk in synchronicity with Sweet Pea and Sir Harry.

We hadn't been to Edgefield in years, and hadn't attended a show there since shortly after the place first started holding them many years ago. It was pretty much the same layout we remembered from ye olde days of Nanci Griffith, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Los Lobos, but like everything else in Portland, the venue has gotten bigger, taller, and not necessarily better. Instead of free-for-all seating on the lawn for everyone, now there is a reserved seat section with folding chairs right in the sweet spot in front of the stage. The plebeians in general admission class are shunted off to the rear and to the sides. I remember being sorely put off by this two-tiered system in my one and only visit to the Mount Hood Jazz Festival in the early '90s, and it was only slightly less annoying at Edgefield last night, where at least the chair section was kept to a reasonable size. At the Jazz Festival, the poor saps who waited all day with their lawn chairs and blankets were banished 50 yards or more from the stage -- here it wasn't quite so bad, but the whole caste thing still marred the proceeding.

One marvel of the event was the efficiency with which the McMenamin machine pumps food and especially alcohol into a large-ish crowd. At premium prices, of course, but there isn't much waiting around for your drink or meal. Surprisingly, Jack Daniel's whisky had a sponsorship presence on the scene, and we succumbed to the suggestion to kick the proceedings off with a Jack on the rocks. We also entered into a raffle for Jack swag in which they swiped the barcode on your driver's license as your entry. There's no shortage of ways in which we'll probably regret letting them do that, but it was nice to know that Dick Cheney would be able to trace our movements if somehow our cell phone pings went down.

Oh yeah, the music. Lyle Lovett is a nice man with a droll sense of humor who writes and performs understated songs that draw on many rich streams of American music. There's some Texas two-step, there's some Nashville, some sensitive 70's singer-songwriter stuff, some bluegrass, and that oh-so-glorious gospel. It is performed as tightly and cleanly as one could imagine. Lovett honors and appreciates the many traditions from which he borrows, and he is also quite attentive to the large entourage of musicians with whom he travels around. His on-stage monologues and "interviews" with the players are highly entertaining. In our mind and heart, though, his work never seems to total more than the sum of all the parts he puts together. A lot of the time, not having much familiarity with his songs, we don't quite "get" what the big deal is. Obviously, his throngs of fans see it differently.

Anyway, it was a show worth seeing and hearing, and hey, the price was right. Thanks to KINK, to the babysitter, to Mr. Daniel, to Sweet Pea and Sir Harry, and especially to the wonderful Mrs., for a fun night.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Phrase o' the Day

Uttered by Rob Kremer on the radio this morning: "the guy who's running against Merkley."

Comcast is reading your blog

You want people to read your blog -- don't you?

An easy way to beat the new Portland grocery bag tax

Mayor-elect Sam the Tram's resurrection of a 20-cent city tax on grocery bags calls up all the insanity of the Green Distraction Party currently ruling the City of Portland. The City Council can't manage any of the things that it was elected to do, and so it's going to make itself busy managing your personal life.

And there's never a tax that Sammy didn't like. Remember all the inane "open houses" about his "safe, green, streets" tax? That went nowhere. Now he's going to start his Hillary-like "conversation" about whether the city should get to tag you for $1 because you brought your five bags of groceries home in bags that the store supplied rather than your own cloth bags with the Whole Foods logo on the side.

Most retailers will already spot you a nickel for using your own bag, and so there's already an incentive to avoid and reuse bags. But the city doesn't get any money out of that arrangement, and since it's an optional practice the city commissioners don't get that glow that they get when they tell you how to live, and so that's not enough.

If the city does in fact pass this tax, stores and customers will find ways to work around it. One way would be to have the stores sell individual disposable grocery bags off their shelves for a nickel apiece. When the customer got to the checkout, he or she could buy the bag for a nickel, and then instruct the clerk to put the rest of the customer's order in his or her "own" bag -- the one he or she just bought. That would put all parties right back to where they are today, and the city wouldn't get its 20 cents to spend on streetcar operators' salaries.

Of course, shoppers near the Portland city limits could simply do their shopping outside those limits and avoid the issue altogether.

Under our radar, at least

Here's some Portland news that we don't remember reading anywhere until we stumbled across it in this morning's New York Times:

[T]o many people, carbon neutrality is a hollow concept, because the only way to get there currently is to buy offsets, credits sold by an entity pledging to, say, plant trees in another country or invest in renewable energy....

Offsets can be meaningful. The College of the Atlantic weighed options for a year before settling on a project in Portland, Ore., that manages traffic signals to reduce idling time. The changes are expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 189,000 tons over 10 years — the equivalent of taking more than 34,000 cars off the road for a year. For a contribution of $22,570, the college can offset 2,488 tons of its emissions.

The college's own website says the project is being sponsored by something called The Climate Trust. That outfit has an explanation here, which says that there's been a contract with the city since 2002 for what was supposed to be a 10-year project.

Apparently the actual work has been going on for quite a while. According to this site --

The City of Portland has optimized traffic signal timing at 135 intersections on 16 streets in Portland. This optimization work has resulted in saving motorists over 1,750,000 gallons of gas each year. This reduction in gasoline consumption is equivalent to 15,460 tons of CO2 each year.
Huh? Re-timing the lights at 135 intersections saved 1,750,000 gallons of gas last year? Forgive us if our b.s. detector goes haywire on that one. You wonder whether the college had its scientists and engineers hit it with a stick before writing the check.

We're all for better-timed traffic lights, but skeptical of the degree of environmental benefit. And even if it works, the fact that we have to take some college students' tuition money in Maine to make this happen is a pretty sad statement about our city. Maybe we should say that fixing potholes saves gas, and hire another guilt merchant organization to scare us up some asphalt money from some other eco-sensitive Yankees.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bush or Batman?

It's hard to tell.

Summing it up

I don't follow New Jersey politics as closely as I once did. Which means that, alas, I missed this headline.

McCain discusses his war strategery

Earlier this week, he was nattering on about the situation along "the Iraq-Pakistan border."

Hate the ethanol in your gas?

You have to look around, but you can still find gasoline without ethanol. To make it easier to locate, the State of Oregon has actually published a list of dealers of "clear gas." It's here. [Via The New York Times.]

While we were out of town...

... it looks like the people who are most responsible for ruining Portland's older neighborhoods had a party and reminded each other how wonderful they all are. The photo's kind of small, though -- you can't see the strings on the marionettes, or Gerding, Weston and Homer Williams pulling them.

Then there are the ever-present architect weasels:

He said the medium-density developments could be slipped into existing neighborhoods along major thoroughfares and include housing, retail and community spaces. "Let’s try," McCulloch said. "Let’s risk (it). Let’s find places for that."
Yes, let's risk Portland and see if we can make more of a Fake New York out of it. Go by streetcar!

Bike rage spreads to Seattle

This time it's a gang of spandexers against a guy in a car.

You think you had a rough week at the office?

Quit your whining.

There but for the grace of God go I

This is why I own neither a lawn mower nor a firearm.

Warning: Radio Bojack has been hijacked

For more than a year now, we've had our own internet radio station of sorts going, courtesy of an outfit, based in London, known as Last.fm. This service keeps track of all the music we listen to on our various computers, and plays most of it back at random on our own personal radio station whenever we ask it to.

That is, it did.

Unfortunately, over the last couple of days, something terrible has happened at Last.fm, and when you call up our radio station at the moment, you get screaming garbage that we would never listen to. Yesterday most of it was in a foreign language. Tonight it's in English, but it's horrible.

We should have known that the acquisition of Last.fm by CBS a few months ago was the beginning of trouble. Already they appear to have screwed up a pretty good thing.

We'll monitor the situation and let you know when things are restored to normal. Until then, you may wish to approach Radio Bojack with extreme caution.

UPDATE, 4:00 a.m.: Things have cleared up for the moment, but we are advised that the problem comes and goes. For now, our disclaimer remains in effect.

UPDATE, 7/29, 4:54 p.m.: We're cautiously pronouncing the problem fixed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Travel quiz solution

More on our puzzle: The minus was indeed about the tide on Monday morning. The old treasurer was not Bob Straub, but this fellow, after whom this place is named. The Henry Gibson in question was this guy, who had a poem entitled "The Pelican" -- namesake of this brew pub. Clue No. 4 clinched it for this reader.

Have a great weekend

This is not where our recent travels led us, but it's a wonderful song, anyway:

Clue No. 4

Not many of the guests were hunky, though.

Clue No. 3

Henry Gibson would have appreciated the beer.

Clue No. 2

We were wailin' with an old treasurer.

Home, where my thought's escapin'

As discerning readers may have been able to tell, we've been faxing this blog in all week from a vacation spot with, as the kids at Microsoft say, "limited or no connectivity." It has been a blast of a week, but today we are on our way back to Portlandia. Can you guess where we've been? We'll post a few clues as the day goes on, but we won't be able to read your guesses until this evening. Here's your first hint:

The minus was a plus.

Not your average blog

Here's an interesting journal from on the ground in Afghanistan.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Google Street View a child predator's delight?

Some folks think so.

Borrowed time

It's just a matter of time before Portland hits this stage. Big Pipe, cop pensions, water system revamp, Sellwood Bridge replacement, new county courthouse, the list goes on. Not to mention what will happen if there's a big earthquake. But in the meantime, ooooooooh lookie, streetcars... shiny!

SoWhat disaster news reaches Salem

Even with the happiest spin Dike Dame can put on it, it's pretty bleak.


Here's a Portland house for sale that's recently had its asking price reduced -- by $80,000! And even the most optimistic realtors are privately conceding that there's another year or two of this ahead. Grandma, better check the fine print on those "tax increment" bonds.

Sun sun sun, here it comes

Ever have that feeling of waking up and not knowing where you were?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Portland cop fined $35 for sushi parking violation

Of course, the union will pay it -- maybe even give him a prize -- and now the bright, shiny lawyer who filed the complaint can enjoy the rest of his life as a marked man.

A reader notes: "The real stunner? The fact that more than twenty PPB uniformed officers were present for the 1½ hour trial, including: a precinct commander, at least two lieutenants, four sergeants, and at least a dozen officers. Our PPB has real priorities!"

Portland: "Everybody is in a band"

"It's totally a slacker city."

Made in Oregon

Our very own brand of Republican sleaze.

They didn't teach it in Catholic boys' high school

I am definitely not doing this right.

Pen pal

Remember John "Obama" Branam -- the Goldschmidt protegé at the Portland school district development office whose unsuccessful City Council campaign (on taxpayer "clean money") provided us with months of entertainment? Well, he's back at work, apparently sending out notices to folks. But with a Virginia return address! Here's a sample, sent to us by an alert reader (who doesn't like Mr. Branam). Somebody's selling something. Anyone know what it is?

Has all of Portland been rezoned illegally?

A comment on our Monday post about the latest bad infill abomination raises some interesting issues:

How many citizens realize that just a few years ago Portland planners sneaked through a major zoning tool that increased density in the most simplistic manner for many of our residential zoned neighborhoods? It was the allowance of two housing units per each corner lot of a block. For a typical 200 ft x 200 ft block zoned R5 (5000 sq ft=50' x100'), the number of houses for the typical block increased from eight houses to twelve-a 50 PERCENT increase in density.

But there is more. Recently the city planners have interpreted this zone change so loosely that they are allowing even stairs, sidewalks in mid blocks to be considered as "public r.o.w's, meaning that the midpoints in a block also created a "corner lot". This occurs many times in north/south west Portland and some in north/south east Portland. So this ruling effectively increased density by 100 PERCENT.

This recently happened in the Fulton Park neigborhorhood in the South Portland area.

But developers have been involved and complacent in just this one example of "rezoning" without proper public imput, besides the CoP Planners and Director Gil Kelly. This example is really a "rezoning" by definition in Title 33-Portland Zoning Code, but it did not have the required processes of public hearings for this major disaster for our neighborhoods.

Many readers of this blog have land use law expertise. Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The famous citizen-tickets-a-cop case is scheduled for trial in Multnomah County Court at 1:30 tomorrow.

Too much information

Way too much.

"That's a nice espresso machine ya got there...

... It would be a shame if sumtin' bad happened to it."

Portland creative class can't afford to hit the road

Among those who have decided to forgo vacations entirely are Winona Dimeo-Ediger, 23, a blogger in Portland, Ore., and her boyfriend, Nick Castro, 22, a barista at Starbucks.
The whole thing is here.

Raising campaign funds, virally

Here's a bright young man who's doing very well for himself by knowing how to harness the internet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

That loose cannon in the IT Department

Better keep an eye on him.

What do gin-and-tonics and global warming have in common?

They both could benefit from some lime.

Back door, please!

A new blog provides tales from Tri-Met.

The next bad-infill battleground

Ask what makes Portland great, and most folks will include in their answer its wonderful neighborhoods, particularly the oldest ones. But these collections of classic Craftsmen and Victorians are always under attack from greedy developers, who care not a whit about neighborhood character and are all about lining their wallets with retirees' money. Alas, since their plans invariably call for cramming more people into less space, and eliminating all setback and breathing room around their apartment bunkers, they play right into the "eco-density" fad touted by the current generation of planning bureaucrats (many of whom are well intentioned greenies being played by the true overlords in the West Hills).

Anyway, there are too many of these dramas to track them all, but the blogosphere steps up now and then to try to chronicle some of them. Alan Cordle's new site tells the story of an old house at NE 11th and Tillamook that's about to bulldozed to make way for a totally out-of-place condo bunker that might look swell in some places, but definitely will not in Irvington.

The house that's on the lot now (on the southeast corner of the intersection) is rundown but salvageable. Long ago it was chopped up into apartments. One of its finest features is the large yard that surrounds it. The place has a couple of nice evergreen trees on it; a rarity for this neck of the woods, during the winter months they give off an aroma that reminds passersby of eastern Oregon:

The house is doomed -- as you can see, the new owner is already gutting it -- and the yard and the larger of the trees probably are, too. What remains to be decided is what kind of building is going to replace them. Here's what the developer, a guy named Ry Koteen, is reportedly planning to erect on the site:

The neighborhood association is up in arms, and rightly so, as this design fits in with its surroundings not at all. Curiously, this is a block that Google Street View has not yet penetrated, but it is no exaggeration that the area is predominantly older homes in styles that are as far from Koteen's box as they are from the moon.

Of course, it was easy to see this coming. Several years ago, just a block away, the city allowed (probably encouraged) a guy to get rid of the historic Portland postmaster's house and slap up these things:

View Larger Map

That sent out a signal to the Ry Koteens of the world that Irvington, like all of Portland's neighborhoods really, is now up for sale. And so no surprise, here he is. It will be interesting to see where this land use dispute ends up, but then there will be the one after that, and the one after that. And after a while, maybe it won't be so interesting any more, because Portland's older neighborhoods will no longer be all that special. Go by streetcar! I hope not.

What's green and blue and won't fit in the garage?

After 15 months of talking about them, those clean, shiny new green and blue recycling rolling carts finally arrived at our house late last week, as they have all over Portland in recent weeks. They're lovely -- much nicer than the garbage bill increases that came along with them, effective July 1. The green one is for yard debris, the blue one for other recycling. We're adjusting the waste disposal rituals at our house to take advantage of the covered carts.

Already there are problems, of course. One maddening one is that they dumped off the new carts without giving us a chance to get rid of any of our old recycling gear. We are active recyclers, and we already had two yellow recycling bins and a large rolling cart for our sometimes-oversize yard debris loads, which we pay extra to have the hauler cart away. Indeed, the old yard debris cart is bigger than the new one.

We suppose they'll be telling us to use the old yellow bins for glass, which needs to be kept out of the other recycling, but we already have a nice, reused plastic bucket with a handle, which works just fine for that purpose. One or the other is going to have to go, because we don't have room for (a) a garbage can, (b) a blue recycling cart, (c) a green yard debris cart, (d) the old yard debris cart, (e) the old yellow recycling bins, and (f) the bucket for glass.

Is there going to be a program of collecting the old bins and carts? Or are we supposed to cut them up and throw them in the landfill? Yikes, how many of those old yellow recycling bins are going to wind up in the landfill?

Elsewhere, neighbors are giving the new carts a chilly reception for other reasons. It's not that they want the hauler to come and take away their old gear -- they don't want the new stuff in the first place. One resident writes:

We're having some problems with the city/haulers regarding the massive new roll carts.

We live in one of the city’s TOD (transit-oriented developments) with the small townhouses you love to hate. The garage opening is wide enough for a car, but not a car and a roll cart. Our [homeowner association] rules prohibit carts staying outside. We've called multiple city offices (Office of Sustainable Development, Saltzman’s office, Adams’s office) to say that the carts aren’t feasible in our complex (the woman across from us is in her 80s), and their response is that trying them for 30 days is mandatory before switching down to 30 gallons. They also stuck us all with 60-gallon yard debris carts, even though we have no yards. They claim everyone in the pilot program preferred the larger carts.

There are owners trying to sell their homes and realtors upset with all the carts outside. Half of the townhomes have no driveways, making this choice of cart even more inappropriate. One city higher-up told us to tell our neighbors to "chill."

OSD: "Welcome to Portland, here’s your new 60-gallon roll cart bin! (x2)"

The thought of an infill condo owner being unhappy with the City of Portland version of sustainability does warm our heart. But gee, in a city with 200 or more bureaucrat planners on the payroll, you would think that a changeover like this one would have been better... you know, planned.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Are you like me?

Do you think that a lot of librarians are hotties?

New PDX runway is dead!

So reports the Trib, quoting none other than the CEO of the Port of Portland. Assuming that the report is true (and this is not some artful dodge by the "airport futures" machine, which is all about expansion), it is good news indeed -- not just for the Cully neighborhood, but for all of Portland, and indeed, for the Earth.

Bring back federal laws against usury

So says this commentator, in the course of making several must-read points about what's happened to the U.S. financial markets.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Always has been for me

Big legal ruling this week: Sleeping is a "major life activity."

Do the mud shark, baby

Well, almost: Octopus porn.

Teach a man to fish

... and he might save somebody's life.

Hold your breath

Obama's landed in Afghanistan. Let's hope he doesn't do one of these.


I see that the solar scooter "Republican" who's running against David Wu for Congress has been officially shunned by what he claims is his party. Given that both their Presidential and Senate candidates are playing up their "maverick," "bipartisan," and "independent" streaks, you'd think they'd be embracing the guy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Have a great weekend

Build it and they still won't come

When Metro builds the Convention Center Hotel and drags Portland further into fiscal calamity, they can't say they weren't warned. The astronomical air fares that are now blossoming due to the oil price crisis are already cutting into business travel, and they are going to put a serious hurt on the convention business.

But of course, nothing succeeds in Portland like expensive failure. Today the dupes or liars at the O have to pipe up with this choice tidbit of misinformation: "In the past seven months alone, the region has lost 32 conventions, and a potential economic windfall of $63 million, largely because we lack a headquarters hotel across from the convention center."

That one merits a BS alert. Rowe and Bhatia, did you fact-check those figures? Or did you just call Hank Ashforth's office and ask for some numbers?

From the archives

Here's a good one -- a quotation from 1997 from Mary Volm, the City of Portland p.r. gal who was recently whacked off her scooter in an altercation with a motorist after she smacked the limo he was driving:

"You're only a small person out there against a 3,000-pound automobile," she said. "If you go up against a car, you'll always lose."
At the time Volm said that, she worked for the city's transportation office, just like the guy who, it is alleged, purposely smashed a motorist and his car with his bike while drunk earlier this month.

Sick joke

Though Rapaport stuck to his vision, he didn’t want to sacrifice the local character of the neighborhood.... "I feel good about what we’ve given the neighborhood."
Give me a break. Here's the neighborhood, Mr. Rapaport, and here's you. From the east, a couple of two-story houses whose western exposure is completely blotted out by your monstrosity. And your lack of setback fits in real well with their front yards:

From the south, more two-story houses with setbacks, defiled by you and your shiny box from Hades:

Looking east along Division Street, one finds a nice avenue of traditional one- and two-story houses, commercial buildings and apartments, plus one sore thumb over there on the right:

Ram your shlock down Portland's throats if you must, but please don't tell us what a "neighborhood character" man you are. Not everyone is as gullible as the people who are paying you $500K for less than 1,500 square feet in that box, or the reporters who parrot back your sales spiels.

Scary News of the Week

The SEC is taking emergency action to make it harder to short-sell bank stocks.

And then maybe other stocks.

How long before they make it harder to sell your stocks at all?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wild berry jam

We just got back from a special evening at Farmer Don's. A fine scene out in the country as the full moon rose stage left. Ashleigh Flynn headlined, and she and her band were great. But for me the hit of the show was an unplugged trio who kicked the festivities off by pumping out a monster hour-long bluegrass-flavored instrumental medley that defies description.

Given the instrumentation, you would expect a little "Dawg" music, and there was some of that, but just about everything else under the sun poured out as well. Gershwin, Zeppelin, "Funky Town," Motown, classical, and more just kept coming in waves. When they took it from Beethoven's Fifth to "Paint it Black" and back again, I knew these guys were crazy. Good crazy.

Whoever you are, pickers, here's to ya.

Bike rage meltdown in Portland!



Hey, City Council! I know you're busy with the toilets and the biodiesel and all, but how's about a press conference asking people to mellow out?

You know you need it

For those of you interested in getting involved in that hot "multi-modal conceptual engineering" action with the City of Portland, here is a crucial update.


Here's the way some angry neighbors got even for having an unwanted group home for the "criminally insane" sited in their neck of the Oregon woods: They recalled the district attorney.

Breaking news

John Ashcroft doesn't think waterboarding is torture.

I wonder who he thinks the worst U.S. attorney general of our lifetimes is.


I look like this. And this.

Farewell to InMotion Hosting

Nearly two years ago, when some con artists in New Jersey who were taking my money for web hosting blew up this site, I found refuge in a better company, InMotion Hosting out of Los Angeles. But over time, InMotion became kind of a pain, too. They kept insisting that my site was using up too much resources on their server; that it was all the fault of the blogging software I use, Movable Type; and that I really needed to either switch software or start a whole new blog.

Most of that turned out to be not true. If properly configured, a server can handle the load that my blog was placing on it. But InMotion didn't know how to configure the server to make the program work, or didn't want to be bothered, or both. Once I switched to my new host, Orty.com, all was suddenly well. It was quite clear that InMotion had decided -- wrongly -- that Movable Type is too much of a resource hog and simply shouldn't be run on their equipment, period.

I didn't cancel my account with InMotion right away, even though the blog had been moved off their server. I had some non-blog-related data on their server, I had paid for a year's worth of service in advance, and so I didn't get around to moving the rest of my stuff off for several months. When I went to do so, however, I found to my horror that InMotion had unilaterally made some of my data unavailable to me, because they had determined that I was violating my contract with them by backing up some non-website-related files from my home computer to their server. After giving me a stern lecture on this subject, their tech support gal reluctantly restored the directory, but when I came back a few months later to finish copying it over, it was gone again, and this time I was told it had disappeared without a trace.

At no time did InMotion ever give me any advance notice that they were moving or erasing my data. It was only when I went to retrieve it that I was ever told there was a problem. And in each case, the tech support people who answered the phone were pretty snippy about it.

That is waaaaaay not cool.

I was kind of expecting that when my time with them was through, I'd give InMotion Hosting about a B-minus rating. But after what happened to my data, I'd have to give them a D. They need an attitude adjustment. Yeah, they answer the phone, they speak English, and they can take care of simple things quickly. But they failed me in several important respects.

You may have to do some looking, but you can do better.

County courthouse blues, cont'd

One of our pen pals regarding Multnomah County's two star-crossed courthouse projects won't be writing us any more -- at least not in his official capacity. The county's lead facilities guy, Doug Butler, fell on his sword yesterday after the East County courthouse budget hit $40 million. As recently as June 11 of this year, the number $21.1 million was being knocked around.

And if they can't get a little drive-through courthouse built in Gresham, then replacing the downtown Portland county courthouse isn't going to happen for a long, long time. Besides, the tenants of the toney office tower that's going in to the immediate west of the supposed new courthouse site downtown aren't going to let the county spoil their Mount Hood views. And the office tower developer's lapdogs on the City Council probably won't approve the necessary changes in the land use rules. Meanwhile, that $9 million that's already been borrowed for the project continues to incur interest at 6 percent, while it continues to earn a big 3 percent in the bank.

At the rate this is going, the next news will be that the bank is going under.

Fireman Randy, take the rest of the week off

Quoted in The New York Times -- every Portland politician's dream. And about toilets and puritanism!

History repeats itself

One of the strongest quotes in the book, I think, comes from Philip Zelikow, the former executive director of the 9/11 Commission, former counselor to Secretary of State Condi Rice, and a historian who teaches at the University of Virginia. He suggests in time that America’s descent into torture will be viewed like the internment of the Japanese, because they happened for similar reasons. As he puts it, "Fear and anxiety were exploited by zealots and fools."
Read the whole thing here. And think about it.

Enjoy your trip, whoever you are

Our spy software points out that yesterday we had a few visits from someone at the Yosemite Pines RV Park.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Enough is enough

Everyone expected The New York Times to be a little ga-ga in its coverage of the All-Star Game at the soon-to-be-demolished Yankee Stadium. But I think they took it a little too far in this morning's paper:

Another traffic safety comment, another assault

And once again, a Portland city employee on two wheels is involved -- this time, on the receiving end of the violence.

Liars, damn liars, and Portland "planners"

I see that the City of Portland's legion of "planners" (they plan the developers' retirement funds) are hard at work again. The sales pitch for wrecking the Interstate neighborhoods with 11-story apartment towers is that by being so tall, the towers can be "thin," thus allowing for more open space beneath them.

Hmmmm... that sounds familiar. That's the same line they gave us a few years back about the SoWhat district. Take a ride down I-5 south from downtown and look at those awful beasts on your left. Those are "thin" condo towers? Uh huh.

The only thing "thin" about the city's gross "plans" for Interstate is the correlation between the story that's being told and the truth.

American Ugly Contest, cont'd

Here's the latest entry.

Hunters for Obama

Bitterly clinging to their guns, and voting Democratic.

See how they run

It's almost as though America is holding an ugly contest, and people are jumping up to compete.

The Fifth Estate

A reader who follows the goings-on in Seattle sends us a tip on a story that will interest many blog readers. Have you heard the news of the curmudgeonly neighborhood activist guy who was killed by an assailant after blocking off the street in order to water flowers in the median? Well, when one of the Seattle papers posted this piece about the suspect, including a link to the charging papers in the case, take a look at what happened next. If you scroll down and click on "Soundoff," you'll see how P-I readers dug out the MySpace pages and criminal records of the "witnesses" in the incident, along with leaving scathing critiques of the original news accounts of the tragedy.

Our reader concludes: "It is a new digital world that newspapers and other media can no longer control!" We couldn't agree more.

Impartial news coverage? Not in Portland

When the O wonders why it's about to go out of business, it can consider how it handles news stories like the two serious bike rage incidents that have occurred in Portland in the last week and a half. There are a couple of problems with their latest offerings on that story. First, they post a video of one side of one of the incidents, without any response from the other party involved in the altercation. Second, they declare in a blaring headline, "War between bikes and cars? Not in Portland" -- a good question, but an answer that's just someone's opinion, and clearly not universally shared.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tit for tat

Here's an answer to the New Yorker Obama cover.

Anonymous commenters, take note

Your brothers and sisters in bloggy pseudonymity are making legal headlines in New York. And in more than one case!

What's the carbon footprint on that Bud Light?

I'm not drinking beer that much these days, and when I do, it's never American macrobrew. So the news that Budweiser is being taken over by some Belgian outfit doesn't faze me much.

It's pretty much just bad karma for Bud. Once they stole Rolling Rock from Latrobe, Pennsylvania and moved it to the Bud plant in Newark, New Jersey (where my late Uncle Billy used to work), the Anheuser Busch folks had it coming.

Thinking about these deals, I've been marveling that in these times of fuel- and carbon-emission-consciousness, they're actually trucking faux Rolling Rock from Newark to points across the country. A second-hand report we got the other day was from a trucker who was hauling 45,000 pounds of Rolling Rock from Newark to L.A.

I think I'll do the eco-correct thing and stick with the local brew.

Bye it now

EBay as we know it seems to be coming to an end.

Ground Zero for Nothing

View Larger Map

The other night I found myself waiting for the traffic signal at NW 11th and Lovejoy in Portlandia's Pearl District. Without a doubt, that is one of the fakest intersections in the world. It's like a bad theme park mockup of Manhattan. Vera Katz's "vision." Eddie Bauers and Starbuckses and condo bunkers. And sucking the economic life out of the city's real downtown. It would be hilarious if it weren't so sad.

Experts agree

The current financial crisis has reached the emergency stage. It's time for Congress to step in.

Money mag "Best Places" skips Oregon

Indeed, only one of the "100 Best Places to Live" this year is in the Pacific Northwest. [Via Sarah Bott.]

Charlie Rangel, busted

Business as usual in the Big Apple. Actually, if this is all he's got going on the side, he's pretty tame for a New York politician.

When Hitchcock meets Bush

A laboratory building that contains a deadly strain of avian flu and other germs is among four that lost power for more than an hour Friday when a backup generator system failed again at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention....

The outage was due to a bird causing a Georgia Power transformer to fail.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Do you care about this?

I don't care about that.

Another Portland bike rage incident

Things have gotten just a weeeeeeee bit out of control. How long before somebody dies out there? And when they're marking off where the body fell, they won't be able to find any spray paint. Duct tape is also not an option.

Where to go for the scoop

What was written about here last Thursday, is official today.

Much ado about nothing

I see that the SEC is making a big deal out of some new regulation or other that's supposed to stop people from spreading false rumors in the financial markets and making a buck off the reaction. The problem is that given the way the securities laws have been interpreted, applied, and narrowed over the last decade or so, the new rules probably aren't going to be able to stop such activity. Plus, the first time someone was caught in the act, the Bush Supreme Court would let them off the hook, anyway.

I'm no securities lawyer, but when last I heard, fraud on the market in general wasn't something that anyone would have to suffer a meaningful penalty for committing. And although the SEC is trying to impress its friends on Capitol Hill with its big stick, the plain fact is that we're going to need an even bigger disaster before most of the toupees in Congress get off the deregulation bandwagon and actually do the smart things that were done in the '30s to weed out the crooks. Until then, it's full speed ahead with the cheating and lying.

No need to feel left out

Politics is becoming a turnoff for so many of us. But here's a political organization that will doubtlessly speak to the disenchanted.

It's a long day living in Reseda

More serious trouble for news-on-paper.

I-5 bridge? Too expensive!

We need to save our money for something important, like the Convention Center hotel.

Really, couldn't get away too soon

Did you ever try to get hold of a banker on a Sunday? Or a stock broker? Or a mortgage guy? Good luck.

How about the federal bureaucrats who used to regulate these industries, but who for about a decade now have pretty much "let them play"? Can you imagine trying to get one of those government officials on the phone between 5 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Monday? Not gonna happen.

But when they screw up big enough that they've got the whole economy teetering on the brink of disaster, they do work Sundays. They come in early and sweat the whole day figuring out new ways for the taxpayers to bail out the boys on Wall Street.

The Bear Stearns bailout was largely a Sunday deal. Then yesterday we had the feds announcing that they'll print whatever money it takes to keep Frannie Mac, or Freddie Joe or Ellie Mae or whatever their cutesy names are, afloat. The big shots who've made their fortunes off these companies will get to keep their money, but you, and especially your kids, will pay to clean up the enormous mess they've left behind.

Announced on a Sunday. How can these guys even get into the government office buildings on a Sunday? They must have held the news conference at a Starbucks.

Weren't these life-threatening crises already present on, say, Thursday? Do Bush and Bernanke go to church on Sunday morning and pray for divine guidance, then get in the limo, pick up the phone, and announce what the voices just told them?

Would it surprise you if all these maneuvers are being made on Sunday so that a select few insiders can make some calls of their own, and place their reactive bets on Sunday night, in time to give them priority over all the little folks who can't scare up a broker and try to save their 401k's until Monday morning? In fact, I'd be a little surprised if in the end that wasn't part of the deal.

When I first learned about this country's securities and banking laws 30-some years ago, I was led to believe that we had systems in place to stop that sort of thing. But that was a long, long time ago. Since then, deregulated phone companies, airlines, banks, financial markets -- the whole Ronald Reagan-University of Chicago dream has worked out so well in practice.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"And then I wrote..."

An interesting late afternoon and early evening. I met and spoke to a group of law librarian bloggers from around the country about -- what else? -- my life in blogging. They were an interesting, enthusiastic, and friendly audience, but I think they were just being polite. When it comes to our wired and unwired era, most of them are way ahead of me. Between being Twittered and Ninged, my head was spinning.

We met at the Green Dragon, which has some fine beer but not much by way of air conditioning. I gave our guests the old "At least it's a dry heat," but some BTUs (or is it SEER?) might have been more greatly appreciated.

A few of those in attendance are staying around Lloyd Center, where they got caught in the Seattle to Portland Bike Race crowd. Apparently there were some space issues with bikes on MAX today. Gee, d'ya think?

New traffic offense: DWG

Driving while gay.

Goodbye, Jumbo

Things are not looking good for our favorite pachyderm.

The Portland tea party guy

He's now doing his thing on Long Island, New York.

It ain't England

"Oregon actually is the size of Great Britain, except it has 3 million people and Great Britain has 80 million," Mr. Obama offered up in the interview. "You pick up facts like that, and you realize again how lucky we are."

The short-term bike rental scene

Here's a report from Paris.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Shades of Tricky Dick

This guy reminds me of Nixon:

But to avoid any surprises in the future, let me be crystal clear at this milestone: I will strongly oppose a final Columbia River Crossing project proposal that fails to address Portland's goals.
Authoritarian, condescending, and headed for a similar ending to Nixon's. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but I'm betting on less than four years in the mayor's office for Sam the Tram.

Mr. Kaza's opus

A reader writes:

Once in a while a person comes along who truly influences your life.

I wonder how many people who read your blog remember Eugene Kaza. He was one fantastic person.

He is the reason I can recognize Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 as well as Don Gillis' Symphony 5½. He gave me my lifelong appreciation of classical music.

While I was absolutely the worst (no talent) student he every taught, he was the best teacher I ever had during my high school years at Grant High School.

This would not be a crime on MAX

Would it?

Fool me once

You know those fake cattle guards that are just painted on the pavement to trick the cows?

Say moo.

The smart people are arriving

A warm welcome to Portland for law librarians from throughout the country, who are descending upon our fair city this weekend for their 101st annual meeting. Law librarians are kind of like tax professors -- many people picture them as a stuffy, dull group, but they're anything but. The keynote speaker is going to be David Pogue, the personal technology columnist for The New York Times, whose work I particularly admire.

For my part, I'm going to be talking to two different sessions of the group -- one about blogging and the other about teaching. A double honor and pleasure.

The conference continues through Tuesday, and so if you run into any of the attendees, please show them the kindness that Portland, despite its many changes, is still noted for.

Here come the bank failures

People are getting mighty nervous about their life savings these days. Here a letter from Chuckie Schumer touches off a run on a troubled bank, which fails within a couple of weeks.

Celebrate and help

The fifth annual LionHeart festival is today from 11 to 3 at Laurelhurst Park. Good fun, with a mission.

Iran is at it again

They are really rattling the saber now. [Via busblog.]

Fireman Randy's new gig

Looks like he's going to be running the Police Bureau come January 1. That ought to be interesting -- an-ex firefighters' union boss takes over management of the police force.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Have a great weekend

Memo to Metro: The hotel boom is long past over

Among the ironies of their forcing Portland taxpayers to pay for the Convention Center hotel is the fact that it couldn't come at a worse time.

A crying need

You know what we don't have enough of in Portland? "Multi-modal conceptual engineering."

Debt clock tweak

The City of Portland's issuing some new short-term debt next week, to tide the police and fire pension system over until property tax receipts start rolling in late in the fall. This "cash flow" borrowing has become an annual ritual. In any event, the sales document for the new bonds has some updated debt figures -- slightly different from the last batch issued a month or so previously -- and we have adjusted our debt clock accordingly. The debt per resident now stands at around $8,750, a little lower than previously calculated, but still growing.

House of cards comes tumbling down

Combine the blind deregulation-privatization zeal of the Reagan years with the incompetence of Bush Jr., and you get a collapse of the entire financial system. Hang on tight, America. We may well be going far beyond a "mild recession."

Urban renewal money for "freeway lands"?

Interesting exit interview with departing Portland Development Commission chair Mark Rosenbaum in the Daily Journal of Commerce yesterday. He takes some interesting shots at the City Council's misguided "satellite" urban renewal district move, and he indicates that the other outgoing Potter appointee to the board, Sal Kadri, feels the same way about it.

I will miss both of them on the PDC board. They were rare voices of reason within the Portland "urban renewal" "system." Mayor Sam the Tram is virtually sure to appoint less levelheaded board members to replace them.

One comment Rosenbaum made to the reporter really intrigues me:

Instead of spending $20 million on the elementary school in David Douglas, which is so badly needed, let’s take that $20 million and invest it in something like freeway lands, which could presumably be able to leverage about $100 million in private investment, and let us create an industrial tax base in outer southeast that would forever support the school system.
Huh? Is that a transcription error, or did he say "freeway lands"? PDC money to build freeways? Now, that would be an interesting prospect indeed.

I'd love to see the perp walk...

... for this guy.

Death of a curmudgeon

Portland's bike rage incident over the weekend was bad. But this is much, much worse.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why we live here

To us there's no better place on earth to spend a summer evening than Portland. Tonight we walked 10 blocks into the sunset to a great wine joint, and had some wonderful Spanish red vino with a good friend. The walk home in the unusually cool breeze was positively dreamy.

This town is blessed.

Not funny, Part 2

Whatever the Chimp's hopped up on these days, it's not helping his humor any.

Who's watching the watchers?

When we ask questions about whether the City of Portland is borrowing too much money, people like Mayor-Elect Sam the Tram always respond with some remark about the city's high bond ratings. Usually, these claims are exaggerated. The city doesn't have that great of a bond rating overall. Lately it's been borrowing tens of millions for "urban renewal" with a Moody's rating of Aa3 and interest rates higher than 6 percent.

But even if the city's ratings are relatively strong, they may not mean much. Even the Bush SEC can see that the rating agencies who pass judgment on corporate and government bonds are both understaffed and tainted by serious conflicts of interest. The pressure's on to give the borrowers the highest ratings possible, because the borrowers pick the agencies used to rate their bonds, and the borrowers pay the agencies' fees.

The SEC's report on this is pretty uncomplimentary. It's here.

Cutbacks on tap at the O

So says this website, which usually gets pretty good tips about such things.

U.S. Census: Portland State overstates Portland population

For a while now, we've been watching the population within the city limits of Portland as part of our ongoing monitoring of the frightening amount of debt per capita being incurred by the City Council. For the population figures, we have been going to the city's official source, which is a planning institute of some kind at Portland State University.

As you can see from this report (page 18), the PSU folks say that as of a year ago -- July 1, 2007 -- the city's population was 568,380. But today the U.S. Census Bureau released its own estimate, and it is only 550,396. That's a difference of 17,984, or around 3.2 percent.

Indeed, according to the Census, all of the PSU population figures for the last several years have been overstated. Here we have compiled the tale of the tape:

July 1 of YearPortland StateCensus Bureau

For debt per capita calculation purposes, we'll stick with the PSU numbers as our base, at least for now. We like the fact that the figures in our debt clock all came from the city itself. But keep in mind that the real population figure may be a little lower, and the debt per capita thus a little higher, than what's shown on the clock.

Iran: "We will destroy you...

... with Photoshop."

Izzle's Fourth

I smoked gloomily, staring occasionally with wonder at the cascading fireworks that looked sort of like Tina Turner's hair in 1987. "IT'S TINA TURNER'S HAIR FROM 1987!" I screamed. The only people that heard me either gave me glares or kind of sagged a little bit.

Not funny

Politics can be an ugly business.

A pretty bad beat

My Nephew the Poker Player went down the hard way in his second day in the main event at the World Series of Poker yesterday. With two spades in the hole, the 8 and the 10 (or the T, as they say on the web), he watched as three of the five cards turned over by the dealer were spades: The ace and the 3 came over in the "flop," and the last card shown, a.k.a. "the river," was the 5.

Another guy pushed him all in, and with an A-10 flush, the nephew had to call. There were only four possible hands that could beat him.

The other guy had what's known as "the wheel" -- a straight flush of A-2-3-4-5. Ouch.

And now that it's your birthday

Remember these guys?

Here they are nearly a year later:

Why the SmartPark garages are rotting: "It's the streetcars"

In response to our story of yesterday concerning the rehab project that's needed on the crumbling Portland SmartPark garages, an alert reader points out:

The setup used to be that the operating costs of the parking garages was covered by the parking fees, which included a budgeted reserve for capital maintenance.

However, that cash flow was tapped to fund the city's share of streetcar funding. Check on it. It follows the city strategy of letting the taxpayers' assets, which we paid taxes for, rot, while the O & M money and fees are drained off for "revenue bonds," pledged with the cash flow of fees so they don't have to go to the voters, to approve the toys for developers.

Meanwhile, the streetcar juggernaut rolls on. A friend here in the 'hood sends along an e-mail message he recently received from his neighborhood association urging him to help pick yet more streetcar routes for the northeast quadrant of the city:

Please consider taking a brief survey from Portland Department of Transportation on the scope of an expanded streetcar system. Draft proposals show it all around northeast -- now is your chance to help shape the project.

The survey is at [link]; for more information look at the plan on the web at [link].

When you head over to the survey, and scroll down, you see what the streetcar is all about. And it ain't public transportation; it's developer greed:

Successful streetcar corridors need to:
1. Be a viable transit option with adequate ridership
2. Have redevelopment potential
3. Demonstrate community support to make the changes necessary for a successful streetcar corridor
There it is, right in good old no. 2 (appropriately named): In order to be successful, a streetcar has to go where there's redevelopment potential. In other words, down a bombed-out street like MLK (one of the potential streetcar routes on this map), where the city's bought up most of the property, let it go even more steeply downhill, knocked down all the buildings, and left empty lots to sit there for a decade or more. If there isn't the potential for a huge PDC handout and a quick buck for some white-shoe real estate people, a streetcar isn't a success.

Public benefit, my eye. This is all about the apartments, blatantly so.

Stand back, stand back

The car prowlers passed on the Stevie Nicks CD.

You better stop, look around... here it comes

When will the rockets' red glare begin? Probably right after McCain gets his butt whupped in the first debate, I would guess.

Aerial tram breakdown strands dozens

At the Bronx Zoo.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Miss Oregon may do belly dancing...

... but Miss Washington (NSFW) appears to have mastered sign language.

(Story here.)

Only in Portland, Oregon

Here's a story for our times in the Rose City: It's alleged that an off-duty Portland transportation bureau employee, Steven McAtee, while drunk, assaulted a driver by beating him (and the driver's car) repeatedly with McAtee's bicycle following a confrontation involving McAtee's running a red light on said bike.

The motorist on the receiving end of the blows? Colin Yates, himself identified as a long-time advocate for cycling.

I am not making this up. Maximum Maxine has the story.

It's obvious

Over on TaxProf Blog, Professor Paul Caron notes that the federal government is sending stimulus checks to the estates of the recently deceased, and he wonders: "What is the purpose for making economic stimulus payments to dead people?"

Here in Oregon, of course, we know the answer: Under our ballot-by-mail system, many people continue to vote after they have died, and the politicians are just buying their votes, the same way they're doing with those of us in the land of the living.

Bill of Rights collapsing like the WTC

I see that the wiretap law, with telecom immunity, is sailing through our pitiful Congress. Interesting, too, that Wyden voted no while Obama voted yes. It seems that Obama and Gordon Smith are doing the whole bipartisan cooperation thing again.

This is another great day for the terrorists and those others around the world who hate America's freedoms. Once again, they've won. The American system of justice is becoming something straight out of Kafka. The mark of 9/11 is permanent.

Goodbye Hawthorne, cont'd

The vultures have arrived.

Go ahead. Make my day.

D-Con isn't good enough for you punks.

Portland SmartPark garages showing their age

The city's about to let a contract for architecture and engineering work for rehabbing four of its downtown SmartPark garages, which according to this report (a quite large pdf file) are in pretty rough shape. The call for bids says that it's going to take about $5 million to fix the four of them. Not included is the 10th and Morrison garage, where the Peterson's controversy is raging -- that one's going to get radically reformed as the city continues turning that area into Moyerville.

God bless the docs

It's a good thing some of them spend Fourth of July weekend surfing.

And mountain climbing.

Portland State? Let them eat cake.

The Scone and his pals at OHSU are about to hit up the state for a quarter-billion for their SoWhat shangri-la. (Hoffman Construction is hungry.) This would no doubt mean lots less construction money for the rest of the state university system, but hey, OHSU always does such a great job staying within a budget, how could the higher ed board say no?

Is this a Jeff Merkley campaign ad?

He says it isn't:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"Save Peterson's" throwdown in the morning

You gotta fight! For your right! To Slim Jims!

From the crew trying to save Peterson's convenience store in the SmartPark near the Galleria:

Facing eviction after 23 years in the same location, Doug Peterson, founder of Peterson's Newstands, will take his case before the Portland City Council at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 9.

A rally to support Peterson's quest to remain in a location that he developed into a successful business will be held at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Terry Shrunk Plaza, Southwest 3rd Ave. and Madison St.

At the City Council meeting, Peterson will present petitions signed by over 1,800 citizens. He will testify about the contribution his store makes to the community in the form of taxes, employee benefits and lottery contributions. He also will make the point that Peterson's store provides shelter, assistance and a safe haven for the public, and particularly for riders of the MAX line that runs by the store.

"The employees at the Morrison store are the eyes and ears of the Galleria Max transit station," Peterson said in describing the value of his store to the city. "Sometimes they do more policing of the platform than the paid security firms that are paid to do so."

Peterson said has begun hiring his own security guards and has installed a video camera system that allows self-monitoring. "We will work with the City of Portland staff, Portland Development Commission, Tri-Met and neighborhood businesses to fix problems as they occur on site," he said.

Good luck, dude.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

In all the years I've been writing this blog, I've never really seen what the server on which it resides looks like. There have been quite a few over the years. Finally, through the graces of my excellent web host, I now have an image:

To give you an idea of the scale, those boxes are on the lower level of this rack:

What a world.

Technology's effect on language

Nothing has ever done more for the use of the word "moron" than the development of the internet.

A good sign

Let's hope this recurs in November.

How to clean up downtown Portland

This makes perfect sense.

Squeaky wheels

The Portland Development Commission announced a half dozen "livability" grants yesterday, for improvements to property on and near North Interstate Avenue. And guess who showed up on the list? Ethos Music Center, the kids' music nonprofit founded and run by City Council candidate Charles Lewis:

Ethos Music Center Exterior Storefront Renovation Phase II, 10 N. Killingsworth: An award of $33,563 will be used to complete storefront improvements on the Williams Avenue side of the building.
Lewis, who's made no secret of his displeasure with the PDC based on past experiences, is clearly the underdog in the November runoff election against Amanda Fritz. But you never know, he might win. I believe what the PDC is doing here is technically what's known as "insurance." Is it a coincidence that WW just reported that Lewis "has softened his attack-dog tone on the PDC"?

Also on the list, a group that was vocally opposed to the ill-fated proposal to rename Interstate after César Chávez:

Polish Library Building, 3832 N. Interstate: An award of $45,960 will be used to make exterior improvements on this historic building located on Interstate Avenue.
The other awardees of "livability" grants were the Kenton Firehouse Solar Power Project ($73,506), the Trillium Charter School Community Room ($33,267), the Disjecta Interdisciplinary Art Center ($34,980), and the Library Hall on North Ivy ($32,500). It all sounds good to me -- but mere drops in the bucket compared to the millions routinely doled out to misguided developers.

Coming soon: City of Portland carbon tax

Here's a sleeper that the Daily Journal of Commerce slipped in yesterday. One of the City of Portland's sustainability people, profiled on this blog a week ago, is putting together a plan that would impose a carbon emissions tax on residents' utility bills and have the city take over "greening" of entire neighborhoods, including both private homes and businesses. It's not entirely clear from his planner-speak, but it sounds as though the "greening" part may not be voluntary. Certainly the carbon tax wouldn't be.

The headline and lead on the DJC story make it sound like it's some sort of benign grant program he's proposing, but when you read down into the interview, the facts become much more interesting:

Osdoba: In order to have any hope of meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets, we would need to increase energy efficiency work in this city by a factor of 10 immediately and we’d need to do it for 20 years. We’re not even having that conversation right now. It’s been about how we make our existing incentives more attractive, which is important, but we shouldn’t do that to the exclusion of saying (that) maybe we shouldn’t be talking about incentives at all. Maybe we need to be talking about creating an investment fund that will pay for energy-efficiency improvements for all.

DJC: So what’s your strategy?

Osdoba: The best corollary I could give is there are energy service companies who do energy-efficiency work on big campuses and industrial facilities that use a lot of energy. They say we’ll guarantee energy savings and we’ll help work with you to finance those capital investments, which will be paid for off the savings.

That same model needs to be brought… to thinking about neighborhoods because we can’t go building by building -- it will simply take too long. We have too many barriers to making good investments in energy efficiency. Not only do people not have time, they don’t have access to that kind of capital. So we should be helping them because they’re just going to be burdened with ever more increasing energy prices. Incentives don’t quite get them over the hump.

So that’s a question we’re asking: What if we take that responsibility off them and say "we’ll do it for you?" Missoula, Montana, has a program where if a neighborhood can self-organize and get 90 percent of homeowners to sign up they’ll do it for free.

DJC: The city should be the investor in this case?

Osdoba: The city is the only entity that can draw lines on a map and say we want to do it here as a single investment for all these buildings....

DJC: So what’s the city’s role?

Osdoba: It’s going to be two things. To attract this kind of investment we need to reduce the risk to investors. And we need to build certainty that these investments are going to happen.

So having an aggressive policy that ensures we’re going to do this over the next 20 years is one step. Being able to create the institutional mechanism for financing improvements in private buildings is another step.

DJC: How would that work?

Osdoba: Hypothetically, consider what they have in British Columbia, where they have a carbon tax that goes into effect July 1 and it’s equivalent to $10 a ton (of carbon emissions), and it’s on your utility bill and has very little impact on your price, really. But in the aggregate, it raises a lot of money, and at the provincial level it’s $400 million. What the province is choosing to do is rebate that out. But if hypothetically, Vancouver, B.C., was told by the province we’re going to give you all the money that would be allocated on a per-capita basis to the city, (then) what would the city do? If you can show a return on investment of 4 (percent) to 5 percent, it wouldn’t be inappropriate for the city to use that revenue to issue bonds. And a 20-year based revenue bond would essentially give you leverage of 10 to one.

There’s still a lot of questions about that model… We haven’t really thought through all that yet, but what we can say is that’s a lot of new economic activity and it would create a lot of new jobs....

And one of the things that’s interesting is if you’re going to do that approach for energy efficiency, you can do the same thing for solar and the same thing for district heating and cooling infrastructures. So arguably you could be looking at districts or neighborhoods and saying let’s do it all....

DJC: Why should builders and buildings be the ones to shoulder the burden of [emissions] reductions?

Osdoba: What burden are they shouldering if someone else is paying for it? They get the benefit of a more efficient building that’s going to be more valuable in the marketplace, and it’s going to shield its occupants and owners from future energy increases. We will only see more policy activity around greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Vancouver, B.C. 's latest import is likely to provoke quite a bit of conversation -- as soon as the average person around here gets wind of what he's up to.

More Merkley killers

You talk about an uphill climb. Did you know that the Udall boys, members of a storied Democratic family and both running for the U.S. Senate, are endorsing Gordon Smith -- because he's their dang cousin? I am not making this up. Poor Jeff.

Dweebness is universal

I usually catch these internet viruses last. But in case you're slower than I, here's one you may not have seen yet:

Let the golden age begin

Beck is 38 today.

Monday, July 7, 2008

As long as it's not Bon Jovi

As an alternative to boiling you with microwaves, the cops will soon be able to beam loud noise into your head.

City of Portland repo man: We have a horse race

A while back we blogged about the City of Portland's invitation for proposals to become the city's new debt collection agency. At first, it looked as though the fix may have been in, and that the current contractor would get the award as a matter of course. But now it turns out that no fewer than eight firms have submitted bids:

United Adjustment Corporation
PO Box 147
Kentland, IN 47951-0147

MSB Government Services
6505 Airport Blvd Ste 100
Austin, Texas 78752

PMT Solutions, LLC
2330 130th Ave NE Ste 101
Bellevue, WA 98005-1756

Professional Credit Service
12204 SE Mill Plain Blvd Ste 101
Vancouver, WA 98684

Capital Credit & Collection Service, Inc
10200 SW Eastridge Ste 201
Portland, OR 97225

Penn Credit Corporation
916 S. 14th St
Harrisburg, PA 17104

Accounts Receivable, Inc
4001 Main Street, #50
Vancouver, WA 98663

Active Credit Services, Inc
PO Box 22329
Portland, OR 97269-2329

That last one, Active Credit, holds the current city contract. Any gamblers out there want to wager on whether it will prevail here?

UPDATE, 4:32 p.m.: Wow, that was quick. Just hours after posting the list of eight firms, the city announced that it had narrowed the field to three: Active Credit (surprise), Professional Credit from the 'Couv, and MSB Government Services in Texas.


We screwed up! Let's have a party!

Little Johnny doesn't like the kung pao?

Maybe some time in jail will change his mind.

Poker nephew update

My nephew has survived the first "day" of the main event at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas (which actually took four days). He came out of "Day 1" action with a little over 20,000 chips, which isn't excellent but it's pretty good. (The average stack of players remaining is around 37,000.) A lot of other players in the tournament are already what I believe they call "dead money."

He reports that he's taking a couple of days off before he goes at it again on Wednesday in the third "Day 2."

Meanwhile, though, he continues to win big dough in online poker tourneys, racking up many tens of thousands in a single day yesterday. Maybe I ought to see if he'll put me on the payroll as a publicist.

Still at it

Remember the pitch that the Portland Development Commission put out back in May for contractors to do "cultural liaison" work? Looks like there were no takers, or at least no good ones, as the PDC is back out with what is essentially a rerun of the same pitch this month.

It's interesting which groups the PDC says it needs outside help relating to:

The cultural communities that this solicitation covers are

a. African Countries, (please identify – Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, etc.)
b. African American
c. Hispanic (Mexican)
d. Hispanic (any other - please specify)
e. Native American (Oregon, NW Tribes, other Native American – please specify)
f. Southeast Asian (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, other SE Asian – please specify)
g. Eastern European (former Soviet Union Countries – please specify)
h. Middle East (please specify)
i. Youth (18-25)
j. Other groups (please specify)

What? No Klingon?

And then there are the tasks that must be performed:

1. Provide entrée to community in culturally sensitive ways:
· Train PDC staff on how best serve and engage the community identified in your proposal.
· Host dialogue on key community and PDC issues.
· Translate written material.
· Interpret interactions, speeches, conflicts, etc...

2. Production of public participation materials in language of the service area identified to include:
· Meeting notices
· Flyers
· Posters
· Project content
· Surveys (paper and electronic)
· News releases, print or other media

3. Meeting planning and facilitation with culturally diverse communities to include:
· Meeting preparation
· Community meetings
· Education on culture of the service area identified

4. Conflict Management and Mediation involving culturally diverse communities to include:
· Issue identification
· Meeting facilitation in a high stakes environment
· Conflict resolution within and between community groups

Now, I try to be as culturally sensitive as the next person, but do we really need somebody to translate PDC pronouncements into Serbian, or Native American? And what about "youth" language? Does the PDC really need a consultant to talk to "youth"? "Hey, dude, they're, like, gonna put a streetcar over by the Burgerville, man. Awesomely dank..."

Before one laughs too hard, though, consider that these are supposed to be multiple contracts of up to $25,000 each, and the whole proposal is listed on the PDC site as a "formal bid opportunity... estimated over $100,000."

So when you're paying your property taxes in November, remember, a buck or two will be for a good cause: If somebody wants to ask Homer Williams "Is that your hand in my pocket?" in Swahili, she'll have someone from Portland State there to convert it to English for him.

Only in Portland will you hear "linchpin" in several click tongues.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What a tale your thoughts could tell

This is fascinating and quite frightening at the same time.

Can I get a pass because it's summer?

The purists will kill me, but I just splashed some Hansen's club soda over some Glenlivet scotch.

It's good.

Another reader pole question

A reader writes:

I am attaching this ad from Willy Week for the Portland Highland Games.

Is it just me????

More "Gordon Smith is moderate" pap from the O

They must offer raises at The Oregonian for anyone who can help beat to death the "Gordon Smith is bipartisan" meme. Now they're even pointing out that Gordo's brother is a moderate -- this latest according to their political blogger Jeff Mapes. "Lest you stereotype Milan Smith as a right-wing Bush appointee, note that he can be as hard to pigeon-hole as his senatorial brother." Gee whiz, people, give it a rest. Even if it were true -- which it isn't -- it's gotten mighty tiresome.


Exactly six years ago, I wrote the first post on this blog. Since then, I've written more than 7,300 additional posts, drafted and then deleted hundreds of others, drawn more than 2.4 million unique visits (by SiteMeter's count), been graced by more than 66,000 online comments, and had a heck of a lot of fun.

Among many other things that have come with the blog, I've met all sorts of people whom I never would have known, been reunited with friends and family from more than half a lifetime ago, had various new and enriching experiences, gotten an occasional good deal, blown off a lot of steam, played some games, gotten answers to a bunch of questions, learned new skills, had quite a few belly laughs, cried a little, and gotten to where I've nearly broken even on the thing in money terms.

This seems as good a time as any to express my gratitude to my beautiful bride and our wonderful daughters, who cheerfully put up with this endeavor as well as with my many other quirks. I also owe a real debt to my cyberfriend Jake Ortman, who has masterfully guided the technical side of this site through all sorts of gnarly transitions.

I suppose this is the time that I'm supposed to say something like, "Readers, this blog wouldn't exist without you." But as most of you know, that would be a lie. Even when my readership was in the single digits and my old Blogger site didn't have comments (they didn't arrive until I jumped ship to my own domain in August '03), a blog fit me like a glove.

Of course, readers do play an important part in what goes on here. The other night, a fellow I was introduced to asked me, "What's your blog about?" I mumbled something about "local politics," but I should have a better answer than that ready. It's really more just what's running around my brain at any given time. Fortunately, that content is greatly expanded by tons of interesting leads sent to me by readers every single day. A lot of professional pundits wish they were so lucky.

Anyway, so much for the blogiversary observation, and on with year 7.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Proud day for America

$795,000 isn't that much money

It certainly doesn't guarantee a "good state of mind."

We'll just have to call it "EW" for short

The full name is... well, unique. Otherwise, this blog looks promising.

Legal Ruling of the Decade

This just in from England: Pringles are not potato chips. [Via TaxProf Blog.]

Getting a first-hand look

A blue note in Googleville

Google's employee day care operation is reportedly turning from a blessing into a headache, in rather short order.

Friday, July 4, 2008

They're missing

One of my Independence Day weekend rituals is to listen to "4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)," one of Bruce Springsteen's early-'70s classics. This was one that my buddies and I heard him sing live before we even owned one of his records. Every line is straight out of my own teenage years.

This year my enjoyment of that tune will be tempered, however, by the recent losses of two of its key characters. Longtime Bruce pal Danny Federici, whose accordion stylings contributed so much to the song, passed away in April. And Madam Marie, a real Asbury boardwalk psychic whose powers were stronger than those of the police, left us on Friday.

Marie was 92; Danny was 58.

Springsteen was recently inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, where he said a bunch of nice things, including this:

You get a little older and when one of those crisp fall days come along in September and October, my friends and I slip into the cool water of the Atlantic Ocean. We take note that there are a few less of us as each year passes. But the thing about being in one place your whole life is that they're all still around you in the water.
Amen, my friend.

Unfortunate Headline of the Week

For a minute there, I thought Mark Rosenbaum of the PDC had been hit by a car.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

No Winthrop vs. Canisius for me

Here's a depressing e-mail I received today:

Hello, this is Ticketmaster Customer Service with an important alert regarding your application for tickets to the NCAA Men's Championship Basketball 2009 1st and 2nd Rounds hosted by University of Oregon at Rose Garden for March 19 - March 21, 2009. Unfortunately, your application was not selected by the NCAA to receive tickets.

Your credit card will automatically be credited the full amount that you were charged and should post to your account within 7 to 10 business days.

If you have any questions, please contact us online at:


Thank you for using Ticketmaster. We appreciate your business!

Gee, I "applied" at the very first opportunity, but I guess I'm just not good enough. I remember how excited I was when the city got this event. Now? Not so much so.

Well, at least there's one silver lining: Ticketmaster got to play with my $350 from April 15 to July 3. That's gotta make you feel good.

Have a great holiday weekend

PDX expansion pitch gets louder, stupider by the day

Let's see... Air traffic is dropping to 2002 levels... Forecast even gloomier... Diesel fuel prices skyrocketing... Routes being trimmed... Carriers heading back to bankruptcy... Jet aircraft identified as a major source of greenhouse gases...

Hey, I've got an idea! Let's make the Portland Airport, which is already overbuilt, even bigger!

It would be funny if it weren't where Ted Kulongoski's cronies at the Port of Portland are taking us next. In addition to the "green, sustainable" cover for the new runway known as "Airport Futures," we are now getting events like the "PDX Air Fair," where you're supposed to bring the kiddies and have the time of your life.

Yeah, it's a regular Wildlife Safari out there.

I know there are no fiscal conservatives within miles of the Port of Portland. But what galls me most about this is, Where are the greenies? Airport expansion should be a top target of theirs. But if they're concerned about it, they're sure being quiet.

Bouncing back

I see Streetcar Smith's still at it. Now that Earl the Pearl introduced a bill in Congress, all of a sudden the feds are going to fork over big bucks for the east side streetcar. Uh huh.

Oh, and get this -- now Tri-Met isn't going to pay any of the operating deficit of the thing. It's all going to come from the city. And where is the city going to get the money?

Smith... says no decision has been made on where the operational funds will come from.

Proponents "have a couple of years" to figure that out, he said.

Build it now, figure out if you can afford it later. This is too weird, even for Portland. And it's how you come in last in a six-way election.

That be some spendy money

The City of Portland has "priced" that $66.6 million of "urban renewal" debt that it's loading on this week for the so-called "South Park Blocks" district. And the numbers we've been given by the city's debt manager are pretty sobering:

Yields on the $34.58 million taxable Series A maturing 2009 to 2019 ranged from 4.032% to 6.081%. The true interest cost (TIC) was 6.003%.

Yields on the $32.02 million tax-exempt Series B bonds maturing from 2019 to 2024 ranged from 4.30% to 4.63%. TIC was 4.618%.

Combined TIC of 5.156%.

Wow, look at that "Series A." We're now borrowing tens of millions on a routine basis for "urban renewal" at an interest rate of 6 percent. Back in April, the city got a similar interest rate -- 6.0278 percent -- on another $50.6 million of taxable "urban renewal" bonds it sold to gussy up another part of downtown (including the county courthouse, supposedly).

The latest round of borrowing is 11-year money, and to our untrained eye, 6 percent interest does not seem like much of a bargain for that sort of debt. Six percent of $34.58 million is $2.07 million of interest a year. Given that the city hasn't identified all of the projects that the money's going to be spent on, and given that these projects typically include hefty overhead charges by the Portland Development Commission, it looks like the city may essentially be using a credit card to meet the PDC payroll.

But hey, this money stuff is all so boring, and besides, Bush is dragging our children into financial hell even faster than Sam and Randy, so we shouldn't worry about this, right? Go by streetcar!

"If you want Fluffy back...

... hand over Fido!"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Own a piece of history

Want some memorabilia that sums up the insanity of the Erik Sten Era perfectly? It's yours, here, not cheap.

NSFP (Not Safe For Parade) in Ashland

This gal promises a change of pace from the old routine.

UPDATE, 7/3, 1:43 a.m.: Looks like she'll tone down her everyday look for the parade-goers.

Renaming the Sonics

Now that the Supersonics pro basketball team has bought its way out of Seattle, it'll need a new name, since under the settlement its old one is staying in the Emerald City until Paul Allen moves the Blazers somehow a new team arrives up there. The Sonics' new home in Oklahoma City may suggest the new label. Or maybe their coach, P.J. Carlesimo, can inspire a new name. Certainly they wouldn't want to dwell on their recent performance level, which has been pitiful.

The Okie Chokies?

Nyah, nyah, I'm more polite than you

Attention, Portland motorists: When you approach an unsignalized intersection and the cross-traffic is stopping for a stop sign, if you don't have a stop sign yourself, for the love of God do us all a favor and drive through the darn intersection. When you stop needlessly and start waving the other person through their stop sign, you are creating confusion and danger when there doesn't need to be any. You may think you're proving how courteous and safety-conscious you are, but instead you're showing what a poorly trained driver you are. If you have the right of way, they don't, and they're stopping, it's your duty to go!

New Miss Oregon's belly-dancing routine

The Daily Astorian has a photo here.

Slice of Portland

I hadn't watched The Bicyclist since it started, but this episode is strangely watchable.

With Spitzer, it was high-test

In Kentucky, siphoning has taken on a whole new meaning.

Sam the Tram leaves no tax dollar unwasted

Here's just what we need... not.

Sign o' the times at the Trib

A Phil Stanford RSS feed.

Don't eat the Freddy's burgers

There's a recall on -- QFC, too.

Google this

Here's a young lady with her own special take on Street View. Meanwhile, up on Queen Anne Hill, more of a low-tech approach is employed.

Endurance contest

Here's a site, reportedly by some folks from the Horse Brass Pub, that matches up each of the 21 stages of the Tour de France bicycle race, which starts Saturday, with an appropriate French wine.

It's an institute you can't disparage

I'm feeling a little more like a dolt than usual this morning. I hadn't checked in with Bob Borden on his blog in ages. I finally poked around over there a little while ago and found this. Sweet. But as usual, I'm the last to hear.

Dear Tri-Met board of directors

Specifically, Richard Van Beveren, Tiffany Sweitzer, George Passadore, Sue Van Brocklin, George Richardson, Lynn Lehrbach, and Robert Williams:

The situation with the fare machinery on MAX has become completely intolerable. I think it may be time for someone like this abused passenger to see you in court. If I were the judge, I'd declare the entire MAX completely fareless until you got off your duffs and came up with a program that fixed the machines and kept them fixed.

You could take the costs of the repair and maintenance program out of this fellow's salary.

With friends like you, mass transit doesn't need enemies. It's time for a "MAX rider's bill of rights." If you won't draw one up, maybe our readers will.


Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thurgood Marshall.

Magnum, IT

Here's a viral tech story out of Texas. A television station there reported last week:

A new Texas law requires every computer repair technician to obtain a private investigator's license. Violators can face a $4,000 fine and one year in jail, as well as a $10,000 civil penalty.

Unlicensed computer shops will have to close down until they obtain a private investigator's license.

A private investigator's license can be obtained by acquiring a criminal justice degree or by getting a three-year apprenticeship under a licensed private investigator.

The law to which the story is referring to is reported by several sites to be this one. I am reading it, and to my untrained eye, it doesn't seem to say what the TV story says it says. Depending on what kind of work the IT geek does for a customer, it seems as though a license may or may not be required.

But hey, maybe the TV station intern who wrote the story knows better than I. Apparently the lawsuits over this have already begun flying.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Portland cops don't want Windows Vista

The Portland police are planning to replace the computers in all their 325-plus patrol cars with new Panasonic laptops -- Toughbook CF-19, MRK II's, to be exact. The bid invitation document is here. It includes these specs:

Intel Core 2 Duo U7500 1.06Ghz (Centrino)
10.4"XGA (Touch)
80GB Hard Drive
Wireless LAN 802.11a/b/g
Bluetooth® v.2.0
Integrated EVDO REV A Modem (Verizon) K
Integrated GPS II
Vista Downgrade to XP SP2
Dual Pass Thru (Upper WWAN, Lower GPS
Display film cover
Lithium Ion Battery
AC Adapter
3-year Standard Panasonic Warranty
2-year standard warranty extension – laptop (for years 4 and 5)
Looks like they're going to try to run them for five years. Seems like optimism.

In any event, the winning vendor will have to commit to a fixed price for the first year of the deal. After that, the vendor can pass along price increases from Panasonic, but the city can walk if it doesn't like the new price.

Latest liars' budget on Convention Center Hotel released

And it's $247 million. A quarter billion (and always rising) chasing convention business that's never, ever going to come to Portland, Oregon.

But hey, it's pork for Hoffman Construction, it's pork for Hank Ashforth, and so the Network Formerly Known as Goldschmidt has decided that you and I are going to pay for it. Starwood Hotels will make a $6 million profit the first year, and the construction bonds will be paid off by the tooth fairy the taxpayers (who else?).

The comment period will be mostly between now and Labor Day. What? Got other plans? How sad for you.

Mount Tabor skinnydippers revealed!

Good fences make good neighbors

Something there is in Denver that doesn't love a protest.

Don't leave it blank

As I always tell folks studying for exams, you'd be amazed what they give partial credit for.


A story about biking in Portland is sure to get lots of spin.

Portland: Vancouver's Guadalajara?

I got an e-mail this morning reminding me about an upcoming conference here in town entitled "Sustainability in the Urban Built Environment." Greenies from all over are being invited to Portland to "explore a living laboratory," namely, our city.

Alas, the deadline to apply to attend this confab was two weeks ago, and so we guess we won't be making the cut. But scrolling through the late sales pitch was interesting. We noted with interest that the City of Portland's "sustainable development" office (formerly known as "Sanitation," I think, back in the day when these bureaus had less comical names) has brought on a "sustainable economic development director," directly from Vancouver, B.C., where he was head of the Canada Carbon Trust.

Ooooo, Vancouver, B.C. The source of so much arousal in Portland's already engorged planning bureaucracy.

Anyway, this guy Tom Osdoba has been at it here in the Rose City for around a year, I believe, helping Big Pipe and Sustainable Susan make things not just sustainable, but super-duper-sustainable. Oh, and helping to keep the tax money pumping into the coffers of the likes of Gerding and Edlen, apparently.

Some of Osdoba's writings are kind of intriguing. Here's a piece he wrote a year ago while still in B.C., wherein he pretty much sums up the tenets of "eco-density":

[I]f people need to live in a denser city, we need to make the lifestyle attractive. We must design buildings and neighbourhoods to provide comfortable, pleasurable living environments, and combine that with childcare centres, libraries, community centres, and businesses for day-to-day goods and services. This challenge demands that we help people break from the traditional notion that a house on a big lot is the pinnacle of living.
Most interestingly, Osdoba was highlighted as an "urban legend" in something called Best Life magazine. He was interviewed about his then-place of employment north of the border. There's no date on the article, but it looks to have come out in the spring of 2007.

It's eerily familiar stuff. Osdoba's comments include these:

the world’s longest automated light-rail system.... It’s also quite green, owing to the fact that 90 percent of the energy comes from hydroelectric power plants.... This downtown high-rise district of modern apartments and condos... currently boasts one of the highest population densities in the world. Much of it is also a greenway (a car-free zone), which really makes it pleasant for bikers and pedestrians.... The technology here is pretty simple: Using heat-exchange principles, the city will literally suck the heat out of the main sewer line that passes nearby and use it to create a heat-and-hot-water-generating grid underneath the entire development.... This former industrial waterfront and warehouse district was rebuilt into a thriving downtown neighborhood that exemplifies what urban planners now call Vancouverism -- downtown living that fuses modern glass-and-concrete high-rise condos with recreation centers, parks, and entertainment.... [E]ven nonresidents flock here for the restaurants, microbreweries, galleries, and boutiques.
O.k., all to be expected, given the man's job description. But check out what the article said about Portland!
When a city out west doubles in population in just more than a decade, it usually leads to tract housing on hillsides, traffic jams and road rage, skyrocketing asthma rates, and, on windless, rainless days, an apocalyptic haze. Unless, that is, you’re talking about Vancouver, British Columbia. Unlike its nearby neighbors Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, it has avoided sprawl by building up, not out, and by luring residents downtown with attractive housing options (see “The West End,” below).

Portland isn't "avoiding sprawl by building up, not out"? Isn't that what Opie, Fireman Randy, Sam the Tram, and Big Pipe himself have been doing for us (or to us) for a half dozen years or more?

How dare this magazine say such awful things about our green, progressive city! Instead of hiring this guy, we should have sued him for being an accomplice to libel. The nerve!

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