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

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August 2008 Archives

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Clip and save

From what I've been reading, this may soon be a collector's item:

Maybe she and Harriet Miers can go out for drinks sometime and compare notes. For the rest of us, it's time to practice spelling "Pawlenty."

Indeed, maybe old Grandpappy McCain himself will go down over this. Romney-Pawlenty?

UPDATE, 12:02 p.m.: Here's another oddity: Why didn't the hospital where the baby was supposedly born show it on their public newborn-baby-photo website? Did the sitting governor of the state not want her baby's picture on the internet?

Meanwhile, the other trophy gives us a nice chuckle for a Sunday morning.

UPDATE, 12:55 p.m.: The mainstream media is waking up. The London Times now at least mentions the "utterly unfounded internet rumours" about the baby. Who will be the first mainstream journalist in the United States to dig into this? After the John Edwards incident, I'm sure quite a few are tempted.

On a brighter note, at least this year's Presidential election now has an official theme song:

UPDATE, 9/1, 2:32 p.m.: More here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pie are squared

Seven squared, to be exact. Forty-nine pies were entered in today's inaugural Portland Pie-Off, held at the Elephant House in Washington Park in Portland. I had the honor, along with fellow blogger Gary Walter and serious pastry chef Kir Jensen, of judging the competition, which meant taking at least one bite of each of the 49. When close calls appeared within the various categories, multiple bites were required. Then there were the pairings, each of which involved a taste of a beverage (beer or wine, as it turned out) along with the baked goods.

There were some incredible entries, and the cliché about the judges having to make impossible decisions was true in several categories. The tomato savory pie won the top prize, but it could have as easily been the monster Catalunyan mixed nut pie, or the strawberry balsamic cream, or several others. We had to choose between a crazy Dr. Pepper pie and a fine root beer float pie. The peach melba cheesecake topped with fresh raspberries was the best-looking entry, and the best made entirely out of local ingredients. There was a true meat pie and a veggie sausage pie, both of which were simply excellent. Have you had the Israeli carrot pie? Now I can say that I have.

And the fruit pies! More than 20 of them. Apple, berries, peach, rhubarb, lemon, key lime, even grapefruit. All but a few would have been welcome additions to our dining room table.

Thanks to the organizers for the invitation, to the volunteers who made the event such fun, and to the entrants and spectators, who showed saintly patience as we worked our way through all of the offerings. This contest was initially hatched on the internet, and it wouldn't have been any better if it had been set up any other way. Now I'm really looking forward to my next piece of homemade pie.

On Thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy Amber Case.

UPDATE, 8:28 p.m.: Lots of great photos here.

UPDATE, 8/31, 1:37 p.m.: And here.

Tighty righty panic?

Never before in six years of blogging have we been so besieged by hot comments from right-wing readers as we have been since yesterday's announcement of the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. Things were heating up during the historic Democratic Party convention, but they've really boiled over in the last 24 hours.

Why? Is it because the conservatives perceive (rightly or wrongly) that they have now lost the election? Whatever the cause, it's easy to see that the next few months are going to be one giant flame war in the blogosphere. Let's just hope the ending is happy.

The countdown is on

We're talking pie here, folks -- and eating it.

So you think you know pro football

It's football time again. There's a college game on in the background as I type this. And starting next week, the "big daddies" of the NFL will be back into their regular season.

Last year we had a good time following the pro teams through the season as we played in a unique underdog pool. The object of this game is to pick an underdog team that wins its game outright. Each participant picks just one game a week. Merely beating the point spread isn't enough -- the team picked has to win the game outright. But the point spread isn't completely irrelevant -- pool participants who pick a winning underdog earn the number of points by which the underdog was favored to lose. A running tally is kept of the weekly point winnings, and the participant who wins the most points over the entire season wins the grand prize, awarded after the last playoff game.

The pool is recruiting new players for this year. The entry fee is $20 for the season, and if more than 20 people sign up and pay to play, there will be a second prize and a third prize in addition to the grand prize. So far, we're told, we're pretty close to having the 20. If you are interested in playing, shoot us an e-mail here and we'll get you in touch with the poolmeister (who isn't us, BTW). As they say, you'll never watch pro football the same way again!

Here are the official rules, released by the pool's organizer today:

Continue reading "So you think you know pro football" »

Friday, August 29, 2008

Paging Bill McDonald

Sarah Palin is running for vice president. The blogosphere needs your insights.

Why a good blog has died

Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners.

Have a great holiday weekend

Tomorrow, all the pie I can eat!

I'm really looking forward to being one of the three judges of this contest.

I've flown around the world in a plane

"I assume you watched the speech?" a friend asked last night.


As wonderful and historic as the moment was, I couldn't bear to watch.

A bad ending to this story will be too much to take, and part of me can't allow myself to get too close to it. I'll be happy if he wins, but my badly depressed views of our country will go off the charts on the low end if we have to live with McCain. America can't be that stupid, can it?

Don't answer that.

The last two Presidential campaigns have sucked the life out of me. This is a real danger for the Democratic Party. We should be dancing in the streets right now, but we aren't. We know what happened last time, and the time before that. And how dark and bleak and awful it's become around here. We need to be excited -- to wake up the sleepers and get their votes -- but there is a dread among too many of us that's palpable.

I'll watch Obama's victory speech -- every single word. If he gets to give one.

First photo of McCain with running mate

A formidable pair.

McCain finds his Ferraro

Wily old John McCain -- he's got a female running mate.

O.k., all you Hillary supporters -- run right over. Who needs reproductive rights, anyway?

The cops according to Fireman Randy

Interesting piece in the O about Portland commissioner Randy Leonard's draft report on the city's police bureau, which from all appearances he's about to take over.

Most striking is Leonard's conclusion that Police Bureau managers too often treat recommendations and suggestions from city staff, community members and their own officers with "defensiveness, suspicion and distrust."

"In conducting my research for this report, I was forced to draw the same conclusion when the reaction from the Police Bureau management to my inquiries and observations was defensive, and in some cases, obstructive," Leonard wrote.

The local media is doubtlessly going to roll this into the continuing soap opera of the feud between Leonard and Police Chief Rosie Sizer. But the important aspect of the story, of course, is that the Fireman's right. When criticized, the Portland police are, and always have been, extremely defensive and obstructive.

And he left out "mean."

Will the frank remarks in the draft remain in the final report? And can Leonard do anything to change these attitudes as he takes over the bureau? Only time will tell.

Among the rattlers

The Three Rivers development in Central Oregon got the royal treatment in yesterday's Times. The big draw: You have to make your own electricity.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

There goes my Saturday night, I go without a fight

Our Maytag Neptune washing machine died in its sleep last week. It was approaching its 10th birthday.

We called Sears repair, and their guy came out today with the news. Apparently something called a motor control panel went out, and the only way he could fix it was to replace that panel, the motor itself, and some other doohickey whose name I didn't catch -- my eyes had glazed over by that point in his spiel. The repair job would cost north of 500 bucks, and we'd have to wait six to eight days for parts. The end.

If the control panel is bad, why must we replace the whole motor? Why doesn't Sears have the parts nearby? Why did I have to talk to someone in Asia to have a local repair man come to the house? Forget it, Jake -- it's Chinatown.

I never liked this washing machine. It was conveniently front-loading, water-efficient, and energy-efficient -- but man, it wrinkled everything that came out of it, and I mean badly. At times it was impossible to tell which type of clean clothing article you were withdrawing from the chamber until you shook out some major creases. Whatever energy we saved with the washer, we used in ironing. Ironing jeans. Ironing sheets and pillowcases. Ironing synthetic garments that shouldn't need ironing, ever. The Maytag Neptune was a serious wrinkle machine. Not only did the ironing burn energy, but it also burned time, which at our place is even more valuable. We will not be reliving that experience if we can at all help it.

What we're trying to determine now, as we shop for a new machine, is what aspect or aspects of the Neptune caused all the wrinkling. Was it the "high efficiency" water features, the fact that it was front loading, the size of the drum? We are willing to pay for more water if it saves us time, and we'd rather use energy washing than ironing.

We're inclined to stay away from Sears now, and the Neptune experience has killed off whatever cachet the Maytag name might have had around our place. Recommendations are welcome -- and we'll be asking Jake at the Appliance Blog to chime in as well.

What she said

Here's the Multnomah County counsel's opinion that we alluded to the other day -- the one that says that in order to be sheriff, a candidate must be an experienced law enforcement officer. As we noted and as the opinion itself acknowledges, other legal minds disagree -- including one of the county's own deputy district attorneys.

Special guest

Interesting night last night. We had a bat in the house. The kids stayed pretty calm, but the Mrs. and I went into, shall we say, a stated of heightened awareness.

She: "Aaarrgh! There's a bird in the house!"

I: "What?"

She: "There's a bird or something flying around in the -- aaarrgh! How did it get in here?"

I, from behind a door that was open just a crack: "I think it's a bat! Open some windows and the doors! Try to get him to fly out!"

She: "I just took my contacts out!"

I: "Well, you better put 'em back in."

After a few minutes of spastic movements on my part (mostly ducking and hiding), the Mrs. finally shooed the poor thing out the back door with a broom.

Geez! A dang bat!

I remember a time years ago when we were visiting the headwaters of the Metolius, and I stopped in the park men's room there for a potty break. I was seated in the stall in a compromising position when under the door came limping an extremely sick bat, which apparently had been roaming around the nearby campground in broad daylight. I screamed bloody murder and, forgoing some of the fundamentals of personal hygiene for the moment, scrambled out of the building. A crowd of onlookers outside thought it was pretty funny.

Freakin' bats.

Old school

Yesterday I had another one of those dead-tree media moments. Out of my usual routine, I grabbed a stray hard copy of a paper, and wound up getting stuff out of it that the online version wouldn't match. Particularly from the ads.

I was over at the Convention Center Burgerville enjoying a Diestel turkey burger -- truly one of the best sandwiches around. (No cheese, hold the mayo, add onions.) Finding nothing in the front section of the O worth reading, I picked up a copy of the Portland Observer. The eclectic news coverage was interesting, but there were a couple of full-page ads that caught my attention even more.

One was a pretty effective ad from the union for several categories of workers at Legacy Emanuel Hospital. It complained that the cheapskate wages being paid to union members are making it hard to retain good help and diminishing the quality of care that patients receive at that institution. I had no idea.

Then there was an ad from the Portland Development Commission telling the world that that agency does indeed provide loans, grants, training and contracts to minority businesses, and inviting said businesses to come on down and get theirs. It was all pretty vague -- as I understand it, there hasn't ever been much love between the PDC and the African-American community at whom the Observer is targeted -- but hey, it's a nice gesture.

Can blind people read your website?

Word is out that Target Corp. has agreed to pay $6 million in damages and make its website fully accessible to blind customers as part of a class action settlement. Blind people can use specialized keyboards and software to translate websites into speech or Braille, but the technology can't do its thing if a site is improperly coded, which the lawsuit said was the case with Target.com. Some background on the issue is here.

45th anniversary

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Up in the 'Couv, government is in a slump


"Honey, it's Wally"

Here's a great story of loss and discovery.

Don't nobody bring me no bad news

The deterioration of the news media in this country seems to be accelerating. Now it looks as though strapped news organizations may start to bail on their memberships in the Associated Press, which if taken to an extreme could threaten the AP itself. Once it's gone, blogs absolutely would not be able to replace it. America without a strong free press would turn into a truly scary place.

Race in America

It is so, so difficult.

Portland TV journalism at its finest

KOIN apparently doesn't know what the Oregon Secretary of State looks like:

Mark your calendar

Saturday, September 6 is SoWhat Day in Portland. All afternoon we'll huddle in the concrete canyons formed by the ghastly condo towers and look up with wondrous gaze at the foreclosures. It will be worth the traffic hassles to see where the city's financial future went.

A Glock for Grandma

When the Thanksgiving turkey coma wears off in South Carolina, it's a great time to head out and buy yourself a gun. That's because the state has a special sales tax holiday on guns scheduled for November 28 and 29, the Friday and Saturday of that weekend. No better way to start the Christmas season than to purchase some deadly weapons for yourself and those special people on your gift list. [Via Don't Mess with Taxes.]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Almost there

As we were leaving the Statute of Liberty, the question became whether we wanted to take in Ellis Island, too. There was plenty left of this hot day, and so we thought, sure, why not?

The boats that take you from Jersey City and Manhattan to Liberty Island also loop through Ellis Island, and so it was an easy connection. And it's a good thing we took advantage of it, because in some ways Ellis is even more of a trip than the statue.

Through these portals passed 12 million people moving to the United States from Europe between 1892 and 1924. Some never made it through. For one reason or another -- sickness, lack of money, a criminal past, perceived mental deficiency -- they were sent back to their countries of origin. A cruel fate, considering how nasty, unhealthy, and otherwise hazardous a trans-Atlantic sail was in those days. Still others eventually made their way into America, but only after being detained on the island for extended periods of time. Although the exhibits we saw didn't discuss it, I'm sure that many a would-be immigrant died there.

When I walked the same steps that the immigrants did, I felt a glow that I experience only once in a great while. A little shining. It was a bit like the first trip we took to Edgefield, years ago when it first opened as a hotel. The ghosts were definitely watching.

They may not have included my kin. All eight of my great-grandparents came from Europe to New York, but it's not clear to me that they all came through Ellis Island. That facility opened in 1892, and my grandparents were all born shortly after that. Their parents, the immigrants, may have come through an earlier station on the Battery in Manhattan, but conditions there were probably similar in some respects.

Only part of Ellis Island has been restored, and it's a real shame that the rest of it hasn't been, but you get a fairly clear picture of what life was like there from the exhibits, which are quite good. Throughout the place are listening stations, where you pick up a replica of an old-fashioned telephone receiver and hear the voices of Ellis immigrants telling their stories many years later. Boffo stuff, even if you're not the biggest fan of history.

The buildings are truly impressive. You can imagine what an "immigrant processing station" would look like if the federal government built one today -- probably a compound of glorified double-wide trailers with a barbed-wire fence around it. But for Ellis, the architects and construction folks pulled out all the stops. It's a grand old set of buildings -- one that sent all sorts of strong messages to the immigrants, to our own citizens, and to the rest of the world.

Seeing what the less fortunate of the newcomers were subjected to was fascinating, and it prompted some serious reflections about immigration -- what it was then, what it is now, and what it should be now. There are no easy answers, but an hour or two on Ellis Island will have you asking yourself many of the right questions, at least.

God rest our immigrant ancestors. And God bless our children, who took in the sights on the island with us; when it's time for them to figure out what kind of country they want to present to people who want to move here from other parts of the world, may their memories of this place help guide them.

New theory

The Whole Foods guy must be sweating bullets. Rocked by the recession, he's now going to try to lure thrifty shoppers into his stores. As if! Tonight they sent someone around our neighborhood hanging coupons on people's front doors. Fifty cents off on a can of tuna at Whole Foods. Wow! With the savings, you can buy a third of a lemon.

More strangeness for Multnomah County

First we couldn't figure out whether it's legal for the county to spend the car rental tax on something other than roads. Now we can't figure out whether you need to be a law enforcement officer in order to be elected sheriff. State lawyers say one thing, county counsel says another. What a goofy place sometimes.

Not much of a story

I have only one personal Kevin Duckworth story. It was the heyday of the Drexler Blazers, and I sat at the next table from Duck at a fancy Sunday brunch -- I believe it was in the restaurant at the then-still-pretty-new Riverplace Alexis Hotel.

The guy was huge. He was there with a young gal of about the same age, whom he absolutely dwarfed.

In those days, I ate and drank all I could at any sort of all-you-can-eat deal, and that midday meal was no different. Duck, however, seemed a little out of place, and as I recall he wasn't chowing down very hard at all. He was quiet, and the rest of the hoops fans in the place were like us -- we left him and his guest to their food.

A lot of geezers like me talk about how great the Blazers would have been if they had been able to get Arvydas Sabonis out from behind the Iron Curtain while he was still in his prime. "They would have beaten Isiah and Jordan. They would have had three rings." But we had Duck -- close, but no cigar.

That's a lousy place in history for a guy to wind up. Today's a day for thinking about the Blazers that were, not the ones that could have been. The runs that the team had in Duck's era were magical, and the team has not been the same since. Sports fans should leave it at that, and let the guy's friends and colleagues help us remember and mourn the person rather than the stat sheet.

The O has some photos posted here, but the guy who knows more than any of us about the story sums it up here.

Your tax dollars at work

We blogged recently about the City of Portland's call for bids to sell the city a variety of promotional items -- all manner of swag, from t-shirts to coffee mugs to umbrellas to bookmarks that turn into plant starts to esoteric mountain climbing gear. Why fix the streets when you can give away cool city stuff?

As it turns out, the bid process by which a vendor of such junk will be selected is showing signs of being as crazy as the giveaways themselves. Already the city has amended the original bid solicitation twice. Yesterday the second addendum went up on the web, and it is strong evidence that some folks at City Hall have entirely too much time on their hands.

Here is the second addendum, in all its glory. Check it out, and compare it to the first addendum, which was released last Tuesday. You will see that all they changed yesterday was a single dollar amount in the sample pricing form that they want bidders to submit. Instead of "B. Reusable Coffee Mug, ceramic, approx. $8 charge after min. qty level discount," the sample form now reads "B. Reusable Coffee Mug, ceramic, approx. $3 charge after min. qty level discount."

But hey, wait a minute! The document that they went out of their way to amend yesterday is just an example of the form that the prospective vendors are supposed to use. When they submit their forms, they'll use their own prices, whatever they may be. The mugs might be priced at $3, or $8, or any other amount -- it's up to the vendor. The documents are very specific: "Use your own quantity levels and pricing as well as discounts off of list price, this is only an example."

So let me get this straight: We drafted an addendum, with an accompanying memo, and posted it to the web yesterday, just to change the dollar amount in an example on a sample form -- and the vendors are all going to change the dollar amount as a matter of course? That, ladies and gentlemen, would be bureaucracy at its finest. Let's hope I'm missing something.

Was Obama born in Africa?

I gave McCain a hard time a while back for being born outside of U.S. territory -- calling into question whether he is a "natural born citizen" of the United States and thus eligible to be President. Here's someone who accuses the Democratic Presidential nominee of having a more serious eligibility problem.

Don't let the door hit you

"[I]f I had to base my vote on how his supporters have treated us, I'd be voting for McCain."
How bitter and selfish. How very, very Clinton.

Monday, August 25, 2008

You end up like a dog that's been beat too much

We missed the U.S.-Spain basketball game in the Olympics the other night -- too busy getting re-acclimated to moldy Portland after our summer trip to the east coast. It sounds as though we missed a heckuva game.

It's gratifying that some of the best players from the American pro league showed up this time around for the Olympics and took the gold. For a while there, ingrates like Shaq were making a big deal about how they wouldn't represent our country in the Games -- too much risk of injury, and therefore of losing some of the megabucks that they were so busy making. "Dead Presidents, bling bling, cut the check, it's a business," blah blah blah. We should all think just a little more highly of the stars who made the trip to Beijing in the red, white, and blue uniforms.

An interesting aspect of the finals victory was that the sonic backdrop for the American celebration that took place on the court after the last buzzer sounded was a blast of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." Here it is 25 years after it was written, and people still don't get what that song is about.

The lyrics are here.

It is not a celebration of America -- indeed, it's pretty much the opposite.

Most likely, the playing of this track as the game ended was just the result of the music-chooser's lack of attentiveness to Springsteen's message. Reagan tried playing this recording as a campaign anthem for a while, until its author pointed out how ludicrous that was and asked him to stop.

Wouldn't it be something if in this case it wasn't shallowness, but rather a knowing statement about our country by our Asian hosts?

On the nose

It was a game of charades, with two teams -- the adults against the kids. Most of the kids were just learning how the game is played. Their player picked out of a kitchen colander the words that he needed to get his teammates to say.

"Two words!"

"Movie title!"

"First word!" He points to the pattern of the holes in the old metal colander. "Stars!"

He nods vigorously.

"Second word!" He holds one arm out and puts the other hand up to his eye, both thumbs pointing upward and both index fingers pointed outward, like a rifle.

Immediately, one of the boys on the team yells, "George Bush!"

The 411 on the 911 in the 'hood

Here's an interesting service to help you see what's been going down in any given neck of the woods.

I missed it

Here I haven't been keeping up with my blogroll, and lo and behold, Chantel Williams moved to San Francisco about a month ago. I called that city home for six months, many years ago. It was the best of times, the worst of times. Good luck to Ms. Williams, who's definitely off in a new direction.

Here we go again

Look what's starting up Thursday evening.

Reader poll: Whither Hillary?

Now that she won't be part of the national ticket, we've got to wonder what the future will hold for Hillary Clinton. Except as a stepping stone to the White House, the work of a United States senator can't really hold her interest. And she's about as much of a New Yorker as Ron Wyden is. She's got another four years and change to go on this, her second term in the Senate, but something tells me she won't hold onto the seat that long.

Maybe President Obama has a nice appointment for her. Supreme Court justice sounds pretty good, but then Bubba would have to be silenced for the most part -- hard to visualize. Even if there's nothing in an Obama administration that she would want, is she really going to slog through four more years on Capitol Hill? I'm sure her supporters will swear that she's a true blue Yankee fan who will got the distance for the Empire State. But I'm skeptical -- how about you?

Will Hillary still be a U.S. senator from New York four years from today?
pollcode.com free polls

Try to remember, and if you remember

There's quite a buzz going around the Lilac City.

You got a fast car

I see the City of Portland is wondering whether it needs more taxis -- and our friend and sometimes commenter Frank Dufay is at the helm of the latest examination of that subject.

I'll tell you what the Rose City needs: more taxi drivers who speak English. Late Saturday night at the airport, we got a middle-aged, Russian-looking cabbie in a green van. When he got out from behind the wheel, I asked him, "Can you fit four passengers, plus our luggage, in there?" He looked at me as if I were speaking Klingon. Actually, I might have done a little better with Klingon. Hard-working guy, and we gave him a large tip, but hey, you talk about a stranger in a strange land. (He also has not yet learned the art of wearing a seat belt.)

The other party to this comedy was the airport employee in the bright vest who was apparently supposed to be fulfilling some role relating to taxi dispatch. This young man was leaning up against a post, staring blankly at the terminal, in the opposite direction from the long line of idle cabs. (You would think they'd have better places to be on a Saturday night.) And not only did he not do a thing to solve the communication barrier between us and the driver, which occurred within clear earshot of him -- he refused to so much as look at us. What the Port is getting in exchange for that kid's paycheck is way beyond me.

So there's a little input for ya, Frank. Good luck with the rest of it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lifelong viewer, first-time visitor

I lived just a few miles away for 21 years, and I've been back in the area many times in the decades since, but for some reason I never made it out to Liberty Island to get up close and personal with the fabulous lady. We could see the back of it from our high school grounds, and of course, there's a darned good look at the statue from the Staten Island Ferry, but we never took in the view from the base.

Part of the reason for this is that back in the day, there was no easy way to get out there from our Jersey environs. All that's changed now, and has been for many years since a couple of old-timers from Jersey City created a park out of a dump. Visitors to Liberty State Park have an easy tour boat ride to both Liberty and Ellis Islands. On our recent east coast swing, we were fortunate enough to take that ride and see both of those national monuments.

Along the way, my daughters asked me to explain how the statue got there. The way I told it to them, the heart of it was that Americans didn't want to live under a king, and neither did the French, and we fought the revolution to get out from under King George in England, and that showed the French people how to do it, and so then they got rid of their king, and they were so grateful to us for showing them what to do that they wanted to give us a present. I'm not even sure that was what it was all about, but I just kept pouring out the story as I remembered it, so deeply honored to have the chance to play that role for my very own kids. God is great.

Late sleepers that we were, we didn't get a chance to climb around inside the statue -- the line to do that seemed pretty awful, even for those who got there early enough to score passes to do so -- but we did spend a goodly amount of time walking all around the base with hundreds of other admirers from around the world. Very little English was being spoken.

The exhibits told the story of the gift well, and quite a bit of attention was paid to the folks on both sides of the Atlantic who imagined, financed, and built it. Factoids: An early idea was to fill the interior of the thing with bags of sand. Fortunately Eiffel was available to fashion a steel frame instead. Newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer was a big cheerleader for the project, and lots of little folks threw nickels and dimes to make it work. I'm sure there were plenty of naysayers around grumbling, "Why can't they just fix the potholes?" but their side of it is missing from the official version on display.

There was some security theater for us to go through getting on the boat, but nothing more than what you get at the airport. A couple of the young guys working the X-ray line asked me, out of the blue, what it was like when the country had a military draft. I felt pretty funny explaining it to them -- shouldn't they already know? But of course, why should they? They weren't even a twinkle in anybody's eye back when they picked my lottery number out of the hat. It was my day to teach history.

Times change, and man, downtown Jersey City sure has. Bombed-out blocks of cold-water flats have disappeared, replaced by gleaming condo and office towers -- which make sense, since they're a two-minute train ride away from lower Manhattan. The guys who were smart enough to buy up those derelict properties in the '70s and '80s doubtlessly made out well -- but probably not as well as the developers to whom they later sold out. It's hard to argue with any of them, though -- they did alleviate blight and bring the land up to its highest and best use.

The only blue note on our fantastic trip to the statue was the view. Oh, it's a great look at the world's greatest city, all right. But many of us who remember what it looked like just seven years ago can't help but see, and feel, what's no longer there. There'll always be a scar.

If I were a Beaverton taxpayer...

... which I'm not, I'd be asking why my local police are hanging around the State Fair in Salem busting people for selling fake Rolexes.

A sandwich with Bruce

Here's a weird Portland connection to the dead anthrax suspect. But hey, what about that case isn't weird?

Was the new Portland baby elephant circumcised?

I used to know the guy who had that job at the zoo. The pay was lousy, but the tips were huge.

Solutions to travel puzzle

Our readers are always on the ball. We were indeed at the Statue of Liberty (innards designed by Gustave Eiffel, financed by the public as egged on by Joseph Pulitzer), which we accessed from the New Jersey side via Audrey Zapp Road, named after a local visionary who made Liberty State Park happen.

The second leg of the trip was to Sag Harbor, Long Island, which is directly adjacent to the oh-so-toney Hamptons. One of the fathers of the town was a fellow named John Jermain, whose dreams of wind power, we hear, were way ahead of their time. There is a wonderful museum in town dedicated to whaling, which was big doings there until the mid-1800's.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chasing paper, getting nowhere

More clues as to our recent destinations:

Locale no. 1: Another Pulitzer prize.

Locale no. 2: Andre and Steffi had a function near here recently.

I will kiss you, Mother Earth

Some more clues about our recent whereabouts:

Locale no. 1: People thought Audrey was crazy. Now there's a street named after her.

Locale no. 2: Thar she blows.

Every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be

For the better part of two weeks now, we have been on the road having a lovely family vacation. As we glide back to Portlandia, we give our readers the usual chance to figure out where we've been.

There are two separate locales this time around. Here are a couple of hints:

Locale no. 1: Gus did the insides.

Locale no. 2: The windmill story is germane.

We'll check for good guesses tonight after we're back home.

Maybe they're counting the canary

The O made its employee buyout program -- long a matter of public knowledge -- official yesterday. Lots of experienced staff will be leaving, but will it be the cream of the crop, as opposed to the dead wood? Time will tell.

An interesting sidelight to this disturbing story are the readership numbers the newspaper now gives for its products:

The Oregonian is the largest daily news outlet in the Northwest, reaching more than 700,000 readers in print every day and more than a million unique viewers through OregonLive.com every month.
When last we heard, the paid circulation of the daily O was just over 300,000 and heading steadily downward. How does that translate into more than 700,000 readers? Do they figure that the average copy passes under the eyes of 2.33 people before being trashed or recycled? That number seems high.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Have a great weekend

For richer, for poorer...

... through the first Tasering, and the second...

Hopeful spending

Although federal funding for building the thing won't come through until the end of the year -- if at all -- the City of Portland is blowing more millions on designing the infernal east side streetcar. Another $6.3 million will now flow out of city taxpayers' pockets via the "urban renewal" pork barrel -- probably never to return.

"The feds just really haven’t been supporting work around the country so there’s a pretty significant slowdown," said Mark Dorn, a senior project manager with URS Corp., the engineering firm overseeing the project. "We’re hoping a new administration will pump money into transit."
Nice to get that unbiased view. And how nice for Mr. Dorn, whose firm will now make its millions regardless of whether Mike Powell's real estate dreams come true.

Leaving a footprint

Here are some photos that will be making the rounds -- Earl the Pearl driving what appears to be an SUV.

Dwight lands a zinger

(editor’s note: She is not the first woman to use "strikes me" when talking about Jason Kidd)

In the slammer

Another hardened criminal whose life may not be worth saving.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Text Message of the Year, So Far

Received by a friend, who didn't know who it was from, at first:

"Put me down for underpants."

More on the Lents Park scam

An alert reader notes that the impending surrender of Lents Park to a minor league baseball stadium could negatively affect the Lents Little League, which is being pushed off its current field for an apartment development, courtesy of the Portland Development Commission, and was promised that it could move its operation to Lents Park.

Why the $1 coin will be a big hit in the Rose City

Because the Andrew Jackson face looks vaguely like that of a confused Portland "creative class" slacker waking up after a long, hard night capped off by too many Voodoo Donuts.

We have a winnah

Looks like the City of Portland has figured out who it's going to buy those indestructible police car laptops from. It's an outfit called Feeney Wireless, which has an installation in Eugene. They're going to rake in a $750,268 "annual amount," but it's not exactly clear what for. The city talked about needing to replace around 325 computers, but it's not clear how many years and how many $750,268's that's going to take. In any event, it should make for some excellent World of Warcraft play!

Buy a bulletproof vest and a helmet

Bobby King -- the Portland cop union chief who never saw a dead suspect who didn't deserve to die -- may be back in a real police job soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lock them up and throw away the key

The latest poster children for Measure 11.

More Portland park land in jeopardy

Now it's Lents Park, which would be converted into a professional baseball stadium. Gee, we did so well with PGE Park, let's blow another eight figures and screw up a nice residential neighborhood to boot. And we hear that Don "the Don" Mazziotti has got a piece of this one -- isn't that special? (Looks like old Don's time with the Schnitzers was rather short.)

Bottoms up

Here's some fascinating news: Every liquor license in Portland north of Burnside Street is up for renewal at the end of this year. That's better than a thousand licenses. The city's encouraging neighbors who have issues with particular booze-selling establishments to speak up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thick and rich

When the City of Portland overpays nearly 1,000 police and fire pensions, including those of the mayor and a city councilman, to the tune of more than $3 million, what's the story in a nutshell? "The system is working."

No kidding.

Drove my Chevy to the levy

I remember that for a while there, the legal drinking age in New Jersey was 18. Indeed, I turned 18 just two weeks after they lowered it from 21 to 18 in that state. Before that, we Jersey teens had to head over to the Big Apple, where the age was 18 and phony ID was easy to pass.

Anyway, these memories returned today after I read this.

With or without duct tape

This might make a good Portland summer event.

Who's really derailing gay marriage in Congress

Of course, there's big money involved.

Happy ending

Here's a story from up 'Couv way that has the classic plot: port commissioners and developer weasels in the back room, and some concerned citizens outside, armed with open meetings laws, guts, and persistence. Good for them.

Sound off

A number of concerned readers have alerted us to the impending demise of Pandora, the wildly popular internet radio station, which is being run out of business by recent jackups in copyright royalties. I'm a Last FM man, rather than Pandora, but I've also spent some time with Radio Paradise, which is similar, and it would be a crying shame if the news is true.

Most sadly, you can just see where in a year or two some monster like Google will do the exact same thing that Pandora's doing now, and bully the record companies into dealing with it, the way they're doing now with video content and its owners over YouTube. Indeed, Last FM is now owned by CBS, which most assuredly won't be fretting too much over copyright issues. Why can't little guys ever catch a break?

By no stretch of the word

Here's an interesting way to host a dinner party: Hire a servant to do the work and get your neighbors to pay. But to call that a "potluck"? Only in the O.

Reader poll: Who will be Obama's VP?

By this time tomorrow, we may know. What do you think today?

Who will be Obama's running mate?
Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana
Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia
Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York
Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas
Someone else
pollcode.com free polls

Monday, August 18, 2008


Old Mike Erickson certainly is busy with his humanitarian projects. Driving damsels in distress to doctor's appointments, delivering food to needy countries -- the guy's a male Republican Mother Teresa, ain't he?

"I never smoked a whole cigar" -- too farookin' funny. And of course, he never inhaled.

Let's hang on

We are slipping into late August, which for us is usually a bittersweet time. The days are still pretty long, the sun is still relatively high, and late summer bounty is all around. Tomatoes. Corn. Cucumbers. Still some stone fruit around. Footballs are starting to fly around the sunflowers. We've had some time now to celebrate our good fortune, and the party's pretty much in full swing.

But there's no mistaking the fact that what once was bursting out of every bloom is now beginning to wane a little. There are beautiful days ahead -- momentous days, special days, when the light of August may seem like it's going to shine for years -- but it's hard not to look back a little wistfully at what has just passed. It's important now to drink up what's left of the summer, and to do so with appreciation, even reverence. It will be a long road back to here.


We were visiting some friends whose Linksys wireless router was causing frustration, and I got it into my head to play with it and try to fix the problem. The situation was this: The internet into the house via cable modem was working fine, and everyone's laptops were getting a strong, unsecured signal from the router, but when you went to browse the internet or pick up e-mail, no data would come through.

From past experience on the phone with some nice young guy in India, I knew that you could "talk'" to the modem with your computer and change various settings, and after Googling numerous sites with various suggestions about the issue, I decided to give that a try. You send the browser to, and you should be able to log in and access the router settings. When I first attempted this, however, the user name that I tried didn't work. On my router, the proper user name is [none], and the password is admin. (I had written all of this down in my Palm Pilot during a previous tech support episode, with my own setup.) Some more Googling revealed that on some Linksys models, both the user name and the password are admin. When I gave that a try, voila! I was in.

I figured out a way to reset, via the laptop, all the various router settings to the way they were in the factory -- and I held in the reset button on the back of the router, which I think did the same thing. Still nothing.

After a few hours of playing around, getting nowhere with the various solutions that the internet suggested, I thought I'd try changing the Wireless Network Name that the router was giving off. Straight out of the box, the network is named "linksys," and it occurred to me that my laptop already had connected to one or more wireless networks with that name. Maybe the laptop was trying to use settings that it had established while connected to the other networks with the same name, and that was screwing things up. If it was, it wasn't just my laptop doing that -- several folks had tried and failed at getting to the internet out of this particular router. Anyway, just for kicks, I changed the name to "linksys2." The laptop saw it, I connected to it, and I reconnected the router to the cable modem.

And at that point, dear readers, that little rush of tech-geeky endorphins was felt throughout the house. Part of a lovely day.

East Portland pool: $1 million plus just for architects

The City of Portland has become an absolute Architect Welfare agency. This week the City Council will vote to throw another $75,600 at SERA Architects "for design and construction administration services for an aquatics facility addition to the East Portland Community Center." This will bring the total tab for said services to $1,054,734. Geez, people, that seems like way too much for that. No wonder we need to sell out and sell off the old parks to pay for the new ones. But it's going to be green! Sustainable! Platinum LEED! So I guess it must be o.k.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Catching on

"It was a poorly disguised effort to obtain pubic support for previously made decisions," said Jannuzzi who attended the workshop. "They aren’t particularly interested in what you or I think. But now they can say they held a public meeting."

No problems on this blog

We're fair and balanced -- right?

Why Johnny can't read

The school district has other things to spend money on.


Belinda Carlisle is 50 today.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Follow-up test

Homer Williams and Dike Dame tried, but they couldn't find anyone dumb enough to fork over $500,000 for a two-bedroom condo at 22nd and Belmont in southeast Portland. So now they're trying to see if anyone wants to pay $3,175 a month -- to rent one! The worst one-bedroom in the place will set you back "only" $1,275 a month.

Let's see, $3,175 a month -- at 6.5% interest, that's the equivalent of a $502,317 mortgage -- but of course, with none of the tax benefits of ownership. I guess old Uncles Homer and Dike are just checking to see if you're really stupid. But hey, if you need methadone, there's a lovely clinic for that less than four blocks away. Enjoy! [Via PDX Apartments.]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Have a great weekend

Rotten to the core

The unwinding of the John Edwards love child story drags on and on, but at this point it doesn't matter. As a vocal one-time supporter of his, it pains me to say it, but I would never vote for him for anything now, or ever again, even if he's suddenly telling the truth, which I doubt. The only thing that would rekindle my interest in that fellow would be if they prosecuted him for committing some sort of crime in connection with his cover-up. If they threw his sorry butt in jail for a little while, I'd feel a lot better. Nasty words like "idiot" and "scum" are used far too often on the internet, but there are rare times when their use is appropriate.

Condos, good! Anything standing in their way, bad!

When there's a snow job in progress in Portland, you can count on the O to help it along. Now the SmartPark garage at 10th and Yamhill has officially become "much maligned." Really -- by whom, other than the downtown real estate maneuverers who want to make big bucks by taking it over and knocking it down, and the friends of said developers at City Hall and the city's daily newspaper? There's urine in the stairwells. O.k., and the remedy for that is to knock the whole place down? Oh, and now all of a sudden there's a problem with the farookin' elevator shafts?

Retailers and theater owners prize SmartPark's spaces but loathe its poorly designed elevator shafts and stairwells smelling of urine.
Can someone please tell me what's wrong with the shafts, and how they're any worse than the shaft that the city's taxpayers are about to receive?

The other piece of baloney being served up with the latest official pronouncements on this dubious project is the assertion that the $30 million subsidy that the condo developer is going to get from the city is merely the same amount that the city would have to pay to rehab the existing garage. What nonsense, and how lame of the O to regurgitate it back exactly as dictated by the city flacks. The city is currently rehabbing four other highly similar SmartPark garages downtown at an estimated total cost of $4.9 million. For a few million more, you could make the 10th and Yamhill garage shine, and hire security to keep the wee-wee hobos away around the clock. But no.

I know that when the O gets rid of half its reporters, a lot of them will have to take p.r. jobs. But some days, it seems like they have them already. At least there are a few critical thinkers left in the city's journalistic core -- but not many.

Crisis with Russia!

I'm so glad Bush is still President. He'll do a heck of a job with this.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Old media becomes new

Operating a newspaper on the cheap is almost as much fun as keeping up a blog. We don't need no stinkin' editors!

Powell Butte is a diverse wildlife area with bike and horse trails that also holds a 50-million-gallon underwater reservoir, maintained by the city water bureau.

Did bicycling screw up Brandon Roy's knee?

A reader raises an interesting question.

New Oregon biathlon

Cycling and fighting.

"Linchpin" alert! Peterson's garage to go 30-story condo tower

Hard to believe that they're still saying the "L" word over at the Portland Development Commission, but there it is. They'll cut 200 parking spaces out of downtown permanently, take 800 out of commission for a good long time (sending the frustrated shoppers over -- cha ching! -- to Tom Moyer), and of course, the taxpayers are on the hook for around $30 million in the preliminary liars' budget for the condo tower. Just what we need -- more condos! Another stunning economic development coup for the city government.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Blazer curse continues

Guess who else needs knee surgery.

Ultimate Usual Suspect joins PDC board

In a rare show of government efficiency, Portland Mayor-elect Sam the Tram has put Scott Andrews, a president in the Melvin Mark real estate empire, on the Portland Development Commission board. Taxpayers' money will now stream to wealthy real estate interests with even greater speed and less resistance than under the Grampy administration. The enhanced flow of cash to the West Hills will also create a useful drag for the OHSU aerial tram, thus improving fuel efficiency and sustainability. A honcho at the Portland Business Alliance, the MAC Club, etc., you can bet Andrews will be there to help cut the ribbon at the new Convention Center hotel we're all going to pay for. Oh, the places we're about to go.

The big question: Arlington Club, University Club, or both?

Pinkies up in the new downtown park

Out of town for a late-summer vacation? Distracted by the heat? Bored between local elections? Ah, it's the perfect time for the City of Portland to sell off or give away parts of its park system. Grimwad the Destroyer has spoken: The new park block in Moyerville, covering the highly lucrative parking garage which was what it was all about in the first place, will be not a Burgerville, not Elephant's Deli, but rather an outpost of Roux. Of course -- the toniest of the three options. Real people need not attend.

Meanwhile, over at Waterfront Park, what seemed like a continuing discussion just two days ago is now a done deal. Not unexpectedly, the bike repair shop and restaurant option won out over the "tribute to cities" museum, which sounded dreadfully dull. Hippie burritos, dreads, and bike helmets seem a lot more like Portlandia.

If it all sounds a little commercialized, hold onto your seats, Portland. You ain't seen nothing yet.

Chávez Boulevard: Grand, 39th, or Broadway?

Those are the contenders, according to today's Willy.

Guy-who's-running-against-Merkley bails on McCain

It's kind of hard to tell what he is nowadays. Maybe soon unemployed.

Look who's blogging

Welcome to the blogosphere, Dwight Jaynes.

Just what we need in Waterfront Park

The project is one of several under way along the Willamette River as part of city efforts to bring more visitors to the waterfront. One development in the embryonic stage is a 600-foot tower that could include an observation deck and restaurant at the top.

A band-aid for the Sellwood Bridge

They'll be closing the Sellwood Bridge in Portland for evening and night work starting Friday -- 6:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. weeknights, for six nights, they say. It won't save the rotting span, but in theory it will slow down the inevitable. I dunno -- sometimes these minor projects reveal scarier stuff. Maybe it's the beginning of the end.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Gatlin Brothers, brought to you by Metamucil

"The guy who's running against Merkley" isn't the only one taking a pass on the Republican convention.

Nothing to complain about

The Portland "urban renewal" establishment says that some worthy development projects are going to be delayed or terminated because of the pending legal challenges to the City Council's latest actions -- setting up a supposed "satellite district" to build a school on the outskirts of town, and expanding the supposed "blight" in the area that includes the toney Pearl District.

Where should we send the thank-you note?

Another great moment on Google Street View

I'm glad you can't see me when they went by our place.


Sometimes saying "we're sorry" just isn't enough.

Portland street renaming: Trib has some of it wrong

Interesting story in the Trib today about the Douglas Adams street renaming proposal here in Portland. Interesting, but not entirely accurate.

The story states:

According to city policy, any group that wants to change a city street name must collect at least 2,500 signatures of support from city residents 16 years of age or older. Three-quarters of the signatures must be from people who live along the street to be renamed. The groups have until February to gather their signatures.
That's not what the city code says. It plainly states:
The applicant shall, after filing a completed City Engineer’s application form and paying any applicable fees:

1. Obtain a minimum of 2500 signatures in support of the proposal from legal residents of the City at large or signatures of at least 75% of the abutting property owners along the street proposed for renaming on the petition forms supplied by the City Engineer....

The quoted language does not require that 75 percent of the 2,500 signatures come from property owners on the affected street. Instead, it requires either 2,500 signatures from anywhere in the city, or from 75 percent of all the property owners on the affected street. Big difference.

The Trib piece also states that "[t]he groups have until February to gather their signatures," referring to both the Adams group and the Chávez group. That, too, appears to be erroneous. As we explained yesterday, the Chávez group's deadline may in fact be later, because it does not appear that they have yet properly qualified to begin collecting signatures. Until the street they seek to rename is identified, it does not appear that the city engineer should have given them an application kit and set them loose to gather signatures. Any signatures they gather before submitting the requisite preliminary "evidence" supporting the renaming of an actual street -- which would necessarily entail identifying the street in question -- would seem to be invalid.

Meanwhile, back at the Trib, there's the matter of "stationary" vs. "stationery." This is what happens when a news organization is being run so extremely on the cheap that a copy editor and a news editor are nowhere to be found when you need them.

Tough run continues for Whole Foods

Karma seems to have caught up with Whole Foods -- perhaps not instantly, but fairly quickly. Since the company's grand poobah John Mackey was outed as an internet troll and it took a major flyer on the Wild Oats chain, things have gone downhill. The FTC is back to investigating the alleged anti-competitive nature of that acquisition; Whole Foods' earnings and stock price are way down; and now comes the last thing they need -- an E. coli recall for ground beef sold at Whole Foods stores in a number of states (although apparently not out our way). As Granny used to say, "God don't punish with a stick."

Monday, August 11, 2008


Do people who file their taxes electronically cheat more? In Canada, apparently they do. [Via TaxProf Blog.]


A reader who believes in omens isn't too happy about this development last week:

Bike rage, seen through New York eyes

It's not just in Portland.

The Gorge, 1867

Here's a photo and some history to go with it.

They also make great judges at your secret prison camp

Here's a story suggesting that Australians raise more kangaroos, rather than sheep and cattle, for food.

Portland street renaming proposals: Chávez group is behind

As noted here Saturday, there are now two street renaming proposals floating around in Portland -- one to rename NE and SE 42nd Avenue after fantasy writer Douglas Adams, and another to rename a street that has not yet been identified for César Chávez. It would be shocking if the City Council didn't eventually reject the Adams proposal, which it will likely deem frivolous, and accept the Chávez proposal, which it was planning to do last fall before the affected folks on N. Interstate Avenue raised a big enough stink to kill the deal. Although it's theoretically possible that both renaming ideas could pass, they are in one sense in competition with each other, as the city code states that only one application can be processed at a time.

This time around, in contrast to Chávez Round 1, the boys on the City Council are strutting around making a big deal about how yessir, they are going to do things by the book. Late last week, the city's crown prince-elect, Sam the Tram, proudly proclaimed on his website: "Portland City Council To Follow Existing City Code for All Street Renaming Applications." Sad to say, that proposition is actually big news.

But is it true? Already the more paranoid among us see potential signs of favoritism. For example, Commissioner Sam states:

At the moment the Office of Transportation has received two renaming proposals. One proposes to rename NE 42nd Avenue for author Douglas Adams. The other seeks to rename a street to be determined for Cesar Chavez. Transportation has received each proposal, and the renaming advocates are now responsible for completing the application process, which includes review by a Historian Panel and the Planning Commission. Once each step has been completed Council will make a final determination. The documents attached here explain this process in greater detail.
He makes it sound as though the two initiatives are currently at the same stage in the process, doesn't he? But is that correct? The Adams Boulevard proposal actually appears to be at least one major step ahead of the Chávez Boulevard proposal at this point, because until the Chávez folks have identified the street they're after, under the City Code it appears that they haven't done anything of any legal significance.

Here is what the code says about getting the ball rolling on a street name change:

17.93.030 Application Procedure and Fees.

The applicant must conform to the following procedure in applying to rename a City street:

A. The applicant shall submit evidence to the City Engineer that the street renaming proposal is in compliance with Section 17.93.010 A. 2. and A. 3., and Section 17.93.020 B. and C. If the City Engineer determines the submittal does not comply with these sections, the applicant will be so advised and the City shall take no further action. If the submittal is in compliance with the above referenced sections, the City Engineer shall issue the application materials described in Subsection B.

And what is the "evidence" referred to in the first sentence of part A supposed to show? There are four conditions. Here are the first two (from section 17.93.010):

A. Any individual or organization may apply to the City to rename a City street. City streets may only be renamed after a prominent person. Such prominent person must be:

* * * * *

2. a real person; and

3. a person who has been deceased for at least five years.

Both camps are obviously in compliance there. But here's what else the city engineer must be shown before anything else happens -- that the proposed change complies with these two additional conditions (from section 17.93.020):

B. The street proposed for renaming must start and terminate entirely within City boundaries.

C. The name of any street shall be the same for its entire length. Renaming only portions of a street shall not be permitted.

Until the Chávez folks come forward with the street that they wish to rename, it seems that they haven't "submitted evidence" that their proposal "is in compliance with" these last two criteria. Note that they must show that their proposal "is" in compliance -- not that it will be if and when they reveal the street that they want.

And if they haven't "submitted" proper "evidence," then the city engineer should not be "issuing application materials" (petition forms, an application form, and instructions) to them yet. Indeed, it would seem that until the "evidence" is "submitted," any signatures obtained in support of the proposal would be invalid. Moreover, to their benefit, their 180-day deadline hasn't started running yet.

Assuming that they have "submitted" their "evidence" and duly received their application materials, the Douglas Adams folks are now off and running to collect signatures -- under the 180-day deadline. But the Chávez folks don't seem to be there yet, and they apparently won't be until they show their hand as to which street they want to rename, and submit the requisite evidence that it complies with the four conditions specified by the code.

If our reading of the code is wrong, we hope someone will jump in and straighten us out. Because if, as Commissioner Sam promises, these two proposals are going to be done by the book, then let's all be clear on what the book says.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More computer corruption of language

One of the advances of the computer age is the spell-checker. Great for cleaning up typographical mistakes and helping us avoid flubbing the tough words, it's nonetheless a bit of a mixed blessing. Many young people simply don't bother to learn to spell well, because they think the box will do it for them.

More amusing is when spell-checker and other word replacement programs inadvertently change a word without an author's noticing. When Olympic star Tyson Gay started being referred to as Tyson Homosexual, you could almost feel the tentacles of the computer.

Some of the related devices that come with spell-checkers can wreak havoc. For example, some word processors come out of the box with default settings that change (c) to ©; for a lawyer (like me) writing about statutes that have lots of subsection (c)'s in them, that can be maddening. Ditto for the features that automatically turn the letters in ordinals, like "8th," into superscript letters, as in "8th." If you don't want to do that, it's a pain (at least at first) to figure out how to turn it off.

When composing for the internet, things can get even screwier. Every web page comes with a set of character codes -- for instance, this site uses one called UTF8 -- and if the word processing program thinks you're operating in another one, the resulting web page can have a bunch of gobbledygook in it where punctuation marks ought to be.

One gadget that causes problems in some contexts is usually dubbed "smart quotes" or some such. This feature of a word processor decides which way the quotation marks you're typing ought to "point." Instead of leaving neutral marks like these -- " " -- the program converts them into opening and closing quotation marks, like these -- “ ‟. Typically it will do this with single quotation marks as well as double.

It's the single quotation marks that create the most grief. When a mark is being used to denote that something has been omitted -- as in contractions like isn't and don't -- if it's going to point in either direction, it should curve around with the tips facing the left, or tilt with the top leaning right, like this -- ´. That's true even if the mark is at the start of the word, as when we abbreviate for a year -- for instance, '08 as short for 2008. The problem arises when the smart quotes program thinks that any mark at the start of a word must be opening a quotation, and so it automatically points it so that it curves around with the tips facing right, or with the top leaning left, like this -- `. Many an editor of an alumni magazine at an institution of learning has been burned by this. He or she types "John Doe '85"; smart quotes changes the mark in front of the numerals in the wrong direction; and the editor hears choruses of derision from his or her English Department and other members of the "gotcha" brigade. You can find alumni donor lists with page after page of marks -- legions of them -- all pointing the wrong way.

I noticed this glitch the other day in all of the graphics in the video on my spoof Presidential candidacy, and I figured oh well, it's all in fun. But when The New York Times succumbs -- on the front page on a Sunday, no less -- well, it's clear that the computer's going to win:

One of these days, `08 (with the apostrophe curving or leaning the wrong way) is going to be acceptable usage, because it's easier to let the machine do it that way. In the meantime, those of us who want to get it right have to figure out how to turn the smart quotes feature off, at least temporarily. I just worry that soon I'll hear a voice come out of the speakers saying, "I don't think I can do that, Dave."

Don't eat the Whole Foods burgers

There's a recall on.

UPDATE, 9:51 p.m.: The recall has spread to some Fred Meyer stores, and now apparently not all Whole Foods stores are affected.

Shut yo mouth

Isaac Hayes has left us. There'll be lots of talk of "Shaft" and "South Park," but more importantly, the man co-wrote dozens of songs for Stax and Volt when those labels were bringing us the exquisite Memphis soul sound. These included "Soul Man" and most of the rest of what so many of us know by heart from the Sam & Dave catalog. He was truly inspired.

Olympics Lite

After a wildly successful day at the annual family yard sale, we kicked back last night and through half-opened eyes watched the Olympics. Well, not exactly -- we watched part of the part of the Olympics that they show on NBC.

TV coverage has come a long way since Roone Arledge and the boys hung out hour after boring hour at the games with the cameras rolling, catching everything or nothing as it happened. Nowadays the mainstream network presentation is a tightly edited mini-documentary series about the U.S. teams. No other country's athletes matter much, except as a foil for the Yankees. The poor Hungarian guy who took the silver in the 400-meter medley, placing between the American beauty boy and the other American contestant? He might as well have been Uncle Fester. Actually, he looked a little bit like Fester. The point is, this is a highly selective and obviously biased coverage of the games. Ain't that America.

The results of the actual events are almost secondary. The whole human-interest-story thing is what these shows are about. The U.S. swimmer guy was raised by a devoted single mom. The U.S. swimmer gal is really old to be an Olympian, and a new mom herself. George Bush likes the U.S. women's beach volleyball players in the skimpy bikinis. Henry Kissinger was there, sitting next to his colleague Radovan Karadzic. And now a word from Michelob -- owned by an outfit in Belgium these days, but expect no coverage of the Belgian teams. In a rare show of ecumenism, NBC actually interviewed an Australian woman swimmer for a minute or so after her victory -- mostly because she speaks English and, well, is kinda hot. But if you're staying up late to catch a translated interview with one of the monster Chinese male gymnasts, you will be waiting forever. And while you wait, don't forget that you really, really need a Visa card, because nothing says American debt like the Chinese Olympics.

Of course, in these days of the intertubes, true fans of the real games don't have to settle for this, and many of them don't. They're finding all sorts of interesting feeds on line, many from non-U.S. outlets without the red-white-and-blue focus. Naturally, YouTube is also in on the act. NBC guard dogs are reportedly shutting unauthorized U.S.-based pages down right and left, but as the Times explained yesterday, it's a continuous game of whack-a-mole as new sites spring up faster than NBC can kill the others.

Parts of the NBC program last night were so weak as to be downright comical. Anchor Bob Costas spent about 20 seconds non-covering the story of the American visitors who were murdered at the Olympics. He informed the audience the American volleyball coach won't be coaching the next game because, well, one of his inlaws was murdered in Beijing the other day, and another inlaw gravely wounded. End of story. "We'll be back with more bikini volleyball after this message." Poor Jim McKay is already rolling in his grave.

Costas's deal with the devil must have run out, because his eternally youthful looks are beginning to fade noticeably. The nostrils keep getting bigger, and overall his face is starting to take on that Dick Clark look from the 1980's. Alas, I know the feeling. And what is that thing on top of his head? It looks like something off Trent Lott's dresser.

Anyway, there's lots more Olympics to come. Good luck finding it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What a good boy am I

I knew blogging would eventually take me to wonderful places. It doesn't get any better than this, folks:

Opie flips the mansion

An alert reader points out that former Portland Commissioner Erik Sten has sold his home in the West Hills, which he purchased in March 2007. The property tax records show that the house was transferred on July 14 of this year (to this guy, apparently) for $1,320,000. The same records show that Sten paid $1,285,000 for the place when he bought it last year. Sten is still listed as the owner of his former residence in the Irvington neighborhood, which he bought in 2001.

The midterm resignation, the churning of the houses, the apparent lack of any career plan -- it all seems so odd for a 40-year-old guy who not long ago was basically running Portland.

An August drive

Yesterday I found myself driving to a winery way out west of Portland for the retirement party of a long and good friend. After fighting through early-evening traffic on the Sunset Highway, I marveled at how beautiful the countryside still is on the east side of the foothills of the coast range. There were a few alarming new McMansion tracts here and there -- probably Measure 37 lands, because the developments fit into their surroundings absolutely not at all -- but by and large, the rural ways of the place have been preserved. Lots of food and feed are still being raised on either side of the roads.

On the way back to town, we spotted a couple of interesting sights off to our right. The Hillsboro air show was in progress, and we could see planes swooping around in formation, ascending straight up, dive-bombing back through the clouds. I didn't want to spoil the kids' fun, but that little cranky voice inside my head kept saying, "I hope nobody gets killed this year." I haven't heard the "Rose Festival" label attached to the event this time around -- have the two parted company?

More interesting in some ways was a scene down on terra firma. Parked on the eastbound shoulder on U.S. 26 was a white station wagon of some kind. The back hatch was open, and a guy was busy gathering up hay, by hand, off the ground to the side of the road, and shoving it into the vehicle. He had the whole back of the wagon full of hay -- loose, not baled -- all the way up to the back of the driver's seat. It looked pretty sketchy to me.

BTW, although the driving duties limited me to one glass, this wine was pretty darn good.

César Chávez or Douglas Adams? The race is on

The self-proclaimed geeks who want to rename NE and SE 42nd Avenue in Portland after the late fantasy writer Douglas Adams (right) report that the city "approved" their "initial application" for the street name change. Now, they say, they have six months to raise $1,000 and obtain 2,500 signatures from Portland residents age 16 and older.

This is no doubt an unwelcome development at City Hall, where the City Council has been busy stacking the deck in favor of renaming an as-yet unidentified street after César Chávez (left). The city code plainly states:

Only one street renaming application shall be processed at a time, and only one street name change shall be implemented per year for a major traffic or district collector street. Additional applications shall be placed on a waiting list and processed in order of submission when this criteria can be met.
From the language of the pertinent sections of the code, it appears that the 42nd Avenue proposal has not yet reached the "application being processed" stage. At the moment, the proponents have submitted preliminary evidence that the renaming would be legal, but it seems that the "application" consists of the signed petitions and the $1,000 fee. As between the Douglas Adams and Chávez groups, whoever gets theirs submitted first will knock the other one aside until after the first one is "processed."

If both targeted streets were "major traffic or district collector" streets, a successful application submitted for one would bump the other one out of "implementation" until the next year. (No word on whether that means until the next calendar year, or until 12 months after the first one is "implemented.") However, to our untrained eye, 42nd Avenue is neither a "major traffic or district collector" street; parts of it seem to be a "neighborhood collector street," a lower classification. And so the one-year waiting period would not apply, but the "one application at a time" rule would.

That is, of course, unless the City Council throws out all the rules and passes new ones to guarantee the results it wants. Stranger things have happened, and recently. [Via Bean.]

Peterson's saved

It appears that the City of Portland is backing off evicting Peterson's convenience store in the SmartPark garage across from the Galleria. Commissioners Saltzman, Fish, and Adams are reportedly ready to allow the store to continue to operate, provided that it agrees to several conditions, including not selling malt liquor or cigarettes.

The new restrictions seem kind of foolish -- the store already refrains from selling 40-ounce malt liquor, and fortified wine. But the loud voice of the public, which overwhelmingly opposes forcing the store out, has apparently won out over the shrill voices of Brooks Brothers and the other downtown businesses (including the Oregonian, which continues its biased coverage of the case today) looking for a scapegoat for the takeover of the city's core by homeless, mentally ill, and thugs:

A Brooks Brothers assistant manager put it even more directly in her own recent e-mail to Potter: "I fail to see why a disgusting store such as Peterson's is allowed to stay open.... They cater to the dregs of the streets of our city."
I've never been tempted to shop at Brooks Brothers, but they can be sure I never will after this. Meanwhile, good for Peterson's, and for the public.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Have a great weekend

Another quiet little City of Portland credit card

One of the most interesting finds in our ongoing exploration of the City of Portland's massive debt load has been the lines of credit under which the city has quietly borrowed huge sums of money for use by the Portland Development Commission. We spotlighted the $277 million line of credit from Bank of America for urban renewal projects here; we blogged about using an additional line of credit for PDC computers here. And the SoWhat District streetcar line of credit, which couldn't be paid off on time and had to be "renegotiated" back in June, caught our attention here.

But it seems that the PDC isn't the only city agency that wanders out quietly borrowing money on "temporary" lines of credit. The city's transportation bureau, known as PDOT, is also in on the act -- and those hotsy-totsy solar-powered parking meter robots out on the central city streets are behind the latest line of credit borrowing.

The PDOT angle came to our attention in connection with the recent audit report on the solar parking meters. In the midst of discussing how these gadgets are now out of warranty and will probably need serious maintenance attention in the future, the report noted that the city is planning to sell the meters to a private company and then lease them back. The private owner will take care of the maintenance, and the city will pay them for doing so as part of the lease.

We know something about sale-leasebacks, and usually they're pretty much the equivalent of slapping a mortgage on whatever goods or property are being sold and leased back. In this case, the "owner-lessor" will pay the city a chunk of dough up front, and the city will pay it back, along with a nice rate of return on the investment, over a period of years. Call it a sale-leaseback of the meters, but depending on its terms, it's likely going to wind up just another equity loan against city infrastructure -- of which there have been far too many.

But that's not what most caught our eye in the report. That honor went to this passage, in which PDOT Director Sue Keil discussed the way the city has been financing "upgrades" to the parking meters. She wrote:

Never having heard about the PDOT line of credit before, we wrote to the city's debt manager, Eric Johansen, and asked about the deal. He responded:

The City has a tax-exempt line of credit through Key Bank that funds a variety of transportation projects, including the parking meter upgrades. The non-revolving line of credit is in the amount of $13.5 million. To date, about $9.1 million has been borrowed and subsequently paid off. An additional $2.6 million has been borrowed and is currently outstanding. Finally, $1.8 million has not been drawn on the line.

PDOT drew a little over $5.7 million on the line between June 1, 2005 and June 29, 2006 to reimburse itself for previously incurred expenditures relating to the parking meter upgrades. These line of credit draws were paid off in their entirety by July 3, 2008.

As the line of credit was a direct placement with Key Bank, there was no official statement or other disclosure document prepared for the transaction.

The interest rate on the line of credit is variable. Currently, we have selected a rate option of Prime minus 15 basis points, multiplied by 65%. Based on today's Prime Rate of 5.00%, the rate on the line of credit rate is 3.15% ((5.00% - 0.15%)*65%).

It shouldn't be surprising that a city that's drunk on debt has eight-figure or nine-figure credit cards floating around in its various bureaus. The only thing that's surprising about the situation is the fact that the populace either hasn't thought, or doesn't care, about the implications of all this borrowing for the city's future. Oh well.

Time for something different

Blogging may be light for next couple of months. I've got an important political project that I'm involved in. [Via Worldwide Pablo.]

Oregon is still hap'nin'

At least, it is in The New York Times. From the front page of yesterday's Thursday Styles section:


Great time tonight, as we headed over to Couch Park in Northwest Portland for a free concert by the fabulous Stolen Sweets. Preservation, baby.

Our urban adventure instincts had us take the whole clan back and forth between Northeast and Northwest via Tri-Met, which, along with the first Thursday crowd in groovy Northwest, made for a late night for the kids. But hey, that's what summer is for, I guess.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Darn senior citizens

Always slowing things down on the freeway.

How dare he?

Here's a tax law professor who's been expelled from his post in the Republican Party for supporting Obama. [Via TaxProf Blog.]

"It don't Gitmo better..."

... than this.

SmartPark rehab: Three bidders for architect and engineer

The City of Portland has three interested fish on the line for the rehab work at the four SmartPark garages that we blogged about a while back. The firms submitting proposals were:

LRS Architects 720 NW Davis Portland, OR 97209

Kramer Gehlen and Assoc., Inc. 400 Columbia Street Vancouver, WA 98660

SDW (Sargent Design Works) 2225 NE 39th Avenue Portland, OR 97212

The city has also revealed that gas masks will be issued to all personnel using the garage stairwells.

Fifty years later

Here's an article backing up what several bloggers and some of our own commenters have been observing lately: that the rich are taking back the inner cities, and the poor are being pushed further and further to the outskirts of town. Just the opposite of the trends of 1950s.

This from a story in today's O provides corroboration:

While the trend of losses in the non-Latino white population since 2000 seems to have reversed itself in Multnomah County, Proehl said she would be cautious to assume this is true until data in the coming years become available.

If the trend has halted or is reversing, she said, it could be because housing is more affordable outside Portland, such as in Washington and Clackamas counties, and more minorities are moving there.

Portland water bills may zoom upward

The City of Portland's debt load just gets heavier and heavier. Last week the city borrowed another $79.68 million against the drinking water system. The city's debt manager, Eric Johansen, reports:

The City's water revenue bonds sold last Tuesday, July 29th. Nine firms submitted bids at the competitive sale. Goldman Sachs bought the bonds at a true interest cost (TIC) of 4.570351%. Cover bid was from Prager Sealy & Co. at a TIC of 4.573072%.

Yields on the $79.68 million of tax-exempt first lien water system revenue bonds, maturing from 2009 through 2033, ranged from 2.14% to 4.90%.

The bonds are rated Aa1 by Moody's.

An interest rate of 4.9 percent on 25-year, double-tax-exempt bonds isn't anything to write home to Mom about. And there are lots more borrowing and a lot more interest payments to come. According to the bond sales pitch, the city is planning to borrow another $72 million for water system improvements next year, and $80 million more two years after that.

Last week's bond proceeds are set be used to help the city pay some of the $236 million of capital improvements that the water system is projected to need over the next five years. This does not include, however, the estimated $335 million of additional capital costs that will be incurred if the federal government stands firm in requiring the city to install filtering for the germs cryptosporidium and giardia, and to cover or disconnect its open reservoirs in town. The bond document explains:

Commissioner Randy Leonard has directed the Bureau to begin planning and budgeting to achieve compliance with the LT2 Rule [flitering rule] as written. This direction includes the planning and design of an ultraviolet treatment facility at the Bureau’s Headworks facility and a plan for replacing the open finished water storage at Mt. Tabor and Washington Parks with enclosed storage. In addition, Commissioner Leonard has directed the Bureau to pursue variances from the rule requirements with EPA. A variance could conceivably enable the Bureau to avoid the expenses associated with building an ultraviolet treatment facility or replacing its open reservoirs if the City can demonstrate to EPA that, due to the nature of the Bull Run source and the open reservoirs, neither action is necessary. Research, design and development of an effective data collection program is necessary for the City to submit variance proposals to the EPA, which makes it likely that an actual application for a variance will not occur until sometime in 2009. The FY 2008-09 budget includes $1.0 million to evaluate, select and develop the treatment approach to comply with the LT2 Rule and $650,000 to prepare for and request a variance to the rule. The City currently cannot predict whether it will be successful on the request for the variance.

Based on an initial screening estimate, up to $335 million in total capital expenditures over the next eight to ten years may be needed to comply with the LT2 Rule. The estimate includes 1) UV treatment capacity of up to 225 MGD and 2) construction of up to 90 MG of in-town covered finished water storage, including land acquisition, access ways, pipelines, chemical addition facilities, electrical subsystems and site restoration. When complete, the UV improvements will require an additional $3 million annually for operating expenses. The preliminary work approved in the FY 2008-09 budget will develop the next refinement of the estimates classified as "feasible concept level."

The resulting retail rate impact based on these LT2 cost estimates could be as high as 25 percent. If necessary, the LT2 cost to ratepayers could be phased in over many years, most likely during the eight to ten year construction period. The estimated rate impacts will be revised when the cost estimates are revised or refined.

Even without the costly measures that the feds are currently demanding, the projections for Portlanders' water bills are not so rosy:

(The footnotes are available on page 67 of this pdf file.)

The price of water is scheduled to increase by more than 10 percent a year indefinitely, and that's even if the city convinces the feds to back off and not require filtering and reservoir covering. If the feds won't budge, it's Katy bar the door. Watch for that $335 million grow to something much higher between now and the time construction ever starts.

In the meantime, an eco-roof for the library! Go by streetcar!

My sentiments exactly

Richard G. Rappaport, an associate clinical psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Diego, who examined the court papers at the request of The New York Times, said Dr. Ivins appeared to exhibit psychotic characteristics. It was possible, Dr. Rappaport said, that he was faking his mental ailment, in an effort to draw attention to himself. But he said he wondered why Dr. Ivins had been allowed to continue to work for so long in a high-security biodefense laboratory.
And there will be repercussions for that in the lab bureaucracy -- when?

The end is near

Check your Book of Revelations -- I'm sure this is in there somewhere.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shut your pie-hole

... if you're not going to this.

If I were really rich...

... and I had a huge backyard and I were throwing an outdoor party, I'd want one of these.

Enquiring minds want to see the cell phone photo

And here it is.

Chavez rename effort blocking 42nd Avenue proposal?

The folks who want to rename NE 42nd Avenue in Portland after the late fantasy writer Douglas Adams report that they're having trouble getting the City of Portland to process their application. First, they say, their original application may have gotten lost, and now the city's balking at processing a new one:

The Department of Transportation (the bureau over name changes) reported they aren't sure how to proceed with our application, as there is an attempt to yet again change a street to Cesar Chavez Avenue. This is an issue because, as written, the City may only change 1 street name a year. We at Rename42nd.org have asked for a special exception in this matter.


Well, because there is the possibility [our] original application was lost during the Department of Transportation's transition to a new application process (and yes, because we did not follow up as we should have). Also, we do not believe the people behind the Cesar Chavez street name are following the City Code as it pertains to street name changes.

We've already reported this week that the city is planning to spend $35,000 of taxpayer money to hire a "facilitator" to grease the skids for the Chávez name change -- something apparently never done before for anyone else. Now they are going to rule out the Douglas Adams proposal? The Chávez group hasn't even declared which street they want to rename -- how can the city favor that group over another? At some point, there is a First Amendment problem, isn't there?

A trendy place to get mugged

Million-dollar condos + hap'nin' nightlife + no police = bad situation in Seattle.

'Burb-to-city commute gets tougher

Gas prices are causing people who work downtown to rethink their decision to live in the suburbs. What's not clear is whether the workers will move further in, or the jobs will head further out. In Portland, sometimes it seems as though both trends are trying to happen at the same time.

He's been right so far

And this economist says we're in for another brutal year of recession, including hundreds of bank failures across the country.

Of bunglers and bullies

Reading about the aftermath of the overdose death of Bruce Ivins, the prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax murders, is pretty depressing stuff. First, we have one of the dead guy's friends and lab colleagues mouthing off about how he doesn't think his friend was guilty. Well, gee, buddy -- given that you used to work at the lab that's apparently responsible for one of the deadliest security breaches of all time, what makes you think that you have even a shred of credibility? Indeed, why shouldn't we ask whether you were in on it?

Where are the firings at that lab? As far as I can tell, nobody who worked there when the killings took place was canned for a lapse of duty. Didn't anyone have the responsibility of seeing that some deranged member or members of the staff didn't cook up a bunch of anthrax and unleash it on unsuspecting people? Guess not.

Then there's the pending proclamation by the FBI that the case has been "solved." Yeah, right -- the FBI couldn't possibly be wrong, could it? Their track record in high-profile cases like this is straight out of a Three Stooges movie. Let's see, we had Steven Hatfill, Richard Jewell, Wen Ho Lee, Brandon Mayfield... They even screwed up the "waddling bandit" case here in Portland, which is back in the news today.

The FBI has been busy leaking bits and pieces of its circumstantial case against Ivins for several days now. The latest is a possible motive for his wanting to kill Tom Daschle, to whom one of the deadly letters was addressed. But they can't place Ivins at the mailboxes where the anthrax letters were mailed, and without that, they haven't really "solved" the homicides.

The poor guy over in Tillamook who was wrongly accused in the "waddling bandit" case probably summed it up best. He wasn't talking about Ivins, but he just as well might have been:

"I have little or no faith in what the FBI does as far as investigating and arresting somebody," he said. "They are very good at making the innocent look guilty, and I have no idea if this guy is innocent or guilty. I know that they make up a pretty good case as soon as they arrest somebody."
Or drive them out their mind as soon as they target them.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the social worker who ratted Ivins out as a supposed homicidal maniac has an interesting rap sheet of her own. Historians documenting the decline and fall of the American empire: The anthrax case has just about everything you need to tell the story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Guess who's getting rich while we go beyond broke to "save" them

The stupidity of the American invasion of Iraq becomes more and more outrageous each day.


On the back of the Belmont Street bus, as we waited for a traffic light in the 95-degree heat, the sign flashed "15," and then, "SNOW ROUTE."

New O website "breaking news" page

It is here. In the right sidebar, the columnists get a better display than they used to get.

The problem now is that there are no fewer than three "front pages" on the O site. Where are we supposed to go first, folks -- here, or here, or here?

Sam the Tram reads his own mind

I see that Portland's crown prince-elect is planning to introduce an ordinance that would re-dedicate some utility taxes to transportation. As the Trib points out this morning, this is deja vu all over again, as the City Council did this once before years ago but then promptly raided the fund for other things. The diversion took place when Vera Katz was mayor and the crown prince-elect was her head honcho. But supposedly things are different now, because the jiffy, spiffy new ordinance is going to be "a much clearer expression of the council's intent" than the prior ordinance was.

These guys never cease to crack me up. Under Portland's arcane form of government, the same city commissioners who set the budget priorities also administer the bureaus, and so the tax money is raised, allocated, and spent all under the direction of the same people. When they "express their intent," they are essentially talking to themselves.

Maybe this time they'll listen.

The Sellwood Bridge will have to wait

We've got more important things to worry about.

Speaking of which, a friend of mine and I were wondering the other night: How big an earthquake would it take to collapse the Sellwood Bridge? 4.0? 4.5? 5.0?

Smell of burning weasel grows more distinct

Hoffman Construction, not having been paid in a while, has reportedly slapped a lien on the Waterfront Pearl condo bunker project going up near the Broadway Bridge. But hey, don't worry. Those $2.8 million condo units are sure to be snapped up quick by eager buyers -- especially when they hear that cash flow was a problem during the construction (always a sign of quality workmanship). And a new deal with the construction lender is just around the corner.

Waterfront Pearl's main lender is CPDQ Mortgage, an affiliate of a large Quebec pension fund. A subsidiary of Australia-based MacQuarie Group furnished additional financing.
Actually, it's CDPQ Mortgage, and the original loan package was reportedly for $96.8 million. Today's report is that "[d]esign changes and other factors pushed the building's price tag from slightly more than $80 million to about $91 million."

How do you say "linchpin" in French?

Bumpy road continues at OnPoint

Since late last winter, we have been reporting on the financial results of OnPoint Community Credit Union based in Portland. We are not really competent to judge the significance of all the data contained in that institution's financial statements, but we have been blogging about them here for a number of reasons. First, it's a Portland-centric money house, and so it might be seen as some indicator of how things are going in the local economy. Second, we've got a little bit of money parked there, as a long-time member. Third, we never see anyone else report about OnPoint's quarterly results, which is always a little disconcerting. And last but not least, the management over there is not real open with the nitty-gritty numbers; you won't find much hard data on its website, even if you look hard.

And so here we go with another quarter's worth, as of June 30, 2008. The full Excel file of what OnPoint reported to the National Credit Union Administration, a federal agency, is here. And here are some of the line items we've picked out that seemed interesting to our relatively untrained eye. If nothing else, they confirm the trend of ever-increasing loan delinquency:

Item9/30/073/31/086/30/08Q'ly increase9-mo. increase
Total investments$239,660,803$266,999,202$298,019,625 11.6%24.4%
Federal agency securities$97,766,028$99,580,429$153,595,59554.2%57.1%
Total reportable delinquency - total delinquent loans$3,525,641$7,289,749$9,944,78936.4%182.1%
Total reportable delinquency - indirect lending$1,659,211$3,141,885$3,736,34118.9%125.2%
Total outstanding loan balances subject to bankruptcies$4,595,702$2,047,768$6,218,843203.7%35.3%
Ratio of delinquent loans to total loans0.170.340.45    
Ratio of total delinquent loans to net worth1.563.054.09   

Delinquent loans are those delinquent for two months or more.

Year-to-date net income for the quarter ended June 30 was $10,139,886, down 18.0% from the same quarter last year ($12,364,142). For the first time since we've been watching, deposits fell during the quarter, from $2,303,473,491 to $2,278,482,461 -- a 1.1% drop.


This is just unspeakably horrible.

The older I get, the more I hate small planes.

Bike rage in Germany

Violence erupts over sharing a park in Munich. (Poor robot translation here.)

Feet of clay

It appears that John Edwards is quickly becoming a historical footnote. A sad development, but so it goes. Special condolences to his wife and kids -- all of them.

A funny twist on the story: Tony Pierce, he of Busblog fame, is now being identified in the British press as "one of the top LA Times execs" and speaking for that publication about its refusal to cover the story. You go, Tone!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Where women glow and men plunder

They're successfully fighting off Starbucks in Australia.

I want a Planning Bureau removable tattoo

Why does a city need to buy and hand out "promotional items"? The City of Portland has just posted a bid request for someone to supply it with "promotional items," which we civilians refer to as swag (short for "stuff we all get," I think). The solicitation explains:

The City of Portland (City) is seeking proposals from qualified firms with demonstrated experience in providing Promotional Items. The City proposes to award one or more Price Agreements for Promotional items which the Contractor can provide. Examples of the types of items which have been ordered in the past include: tote bags, carrying bags, note pads, pencils, pens, bandanas (with imprinted maps or messages), leg bands, bumper stickers, umbrellas, buttons (with message), bike bells, flashlights, compass/rulers, key-chains, whistle/lights, Energy Star light bulbs, wristbands, badge-holders, reflectors, carabiners, Frisbees, yoyos, removable tattoos, mouse-pads, notebooks, water bottles, kid’s hard hats, mini-tools, stress balls, seed packets, aprons, magnets, pins (with message), coffee mugs, jar openers, T-shirts for non-City employee wear, and bookmark seed paper. Almost all of these items include some type of message or City of Portland bureau name.
I can see the city's taxpayers needing "stress balls," but what the heck is a "carabiner"? And "bookmark seed paper"?

And how much is the city spending on this junk? More work for the garbage haulers, I guess.

Your rights as a pedestrian

While Portlanders enjoy a lull in the ongoing hostilities between cyclists and motorists, an alert reader sends us a wonderful find -- a newly published book about Oregon pedestrian rights. Written by Portland attorney Ray Thomas for the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, this document has a few frank things to say about cyclists, among them (pages 61 and 62):

[B]icyclists sometimes act as if they believe they are on a higher moral plane than other vehicles and therefore do not really have to stop for pedestrians. Other riders demonstrate their trick riding skills by weaving around clusters of alarmed pedestrians....

The tension between bicyclists and other sidewalk users has led to bitter complaints by many pedestrians about unsafe and “rough” (to use a NASCAR term) riding practices. For some riders the idea of swooping down the crowded sidewalk at high speed creates the same joy as we see on the face of a dog galloping through a flock of terrified birds. Pedestrians do not appreciate the fun....

Historically, many villages and cities have identified their highest areas of pedestrian density and declared them off limits to bicycles. In Portland, the area within SW Jefferson Street, Naito Parkway, NW Hoyt Street and 13th Avenue are off limits to bicycles except in the Park Blocks and on SW Salmon Street, on bridges and multi-use paths. However, the maximum fine of $500, the fact that there are no warning signs defining the boundaries of prohibited areas, and almost universal ignorance and disregard of the law, create an uncertain environment for everyone that guarantees selective and uneven enforcement.

The whole book covers bikes vs. pedestrians in depth, as well as many other topics. It is a fascinating read, and finding no copyright notice on it, we have made it available to readers here.

No easy way out

A long-time foe of nuclear power and nuclear weapons points out that nuclear power plants have a huge carbon footprint over their lives.

Who decides, and how?

I've been following with interest the City of Portland's self-proclaimed "hit squad" of inspectors from several bureaus, organized and headed by Fireman Randy, that swoops down on businesses that are out of favor with the City Hall powers. They're currently putting the screws to the folks who own the Greek Cusina downtown, and before this it was Cindy's adult bookstore in Chinatown.

Without getting into the merits of either of those two particular cases, it seems clear that there are many, many rules and regulations on the city's books that are not regularly enforced. But when the city decides it doesn't like the way a business is operated, it pulls out every single one of them and throws the book at the targeted merchant.

Who makes the call on which establishments to torment, and what criteria does that decisionmaker use to choose a target? It reminds me an awful lot of the way things are done in places like Chicago and Jersey City -- too much so for comfort.

Chavez Boulevard, Round 2

I see that the City of Portland is going to pay a contractor $35,000 to "facilitate" the street name change process for any renaming proposal that.. oh, I don't know... just might happen to come along over the last three months of this year. No mystery what that's code for. Query: Why an outside helper now, just for this name change? Shouldn't proponents of a street name change pay for their own advisors? Has city money ever been shelled out to help such a group before? Will it ever be again?

It appears that Mayor Grampy has decided that he's going out with a flourish, don'tcha think?

While we ponder these weighty matters, time for some bets on which street will be targeted this time around. Division? Killingsworth? Sandy? It won't be on the west side, I'm sure -- we wouldn't want to disturb the people with money.

I still like renaming Fairmount Terrace for Malcolm X, but apparently that was a nonstarter.

County car rental tax blowup implicates Portland bonds

Jim Redden, one of the few soldiers still standing at the Trib, has a strong story going about the allegedly illegal use of car rental taxes by Multnomah County. State Senator Rick Metsger from East County is making a big issue out of it, and he's backed up legally by the state's legislative counsel.

Today Redden points out that some of the tax dollars that state lawyers say are being misspent have been used to pay back money that was borrowed in 2001 to expand the Oregon Convention Center, refurbish what is now PGE Park, and improve the Performing Arts Center. Indeed, according to this document (page 8 of the pdf file), part of the car rental tax was apparently pledged as security for the Convention Center bonds; the same was true for bonds for the stadium and the performing arts center (page 8 of this file).

Meanwhile, on another city debt front, all of the city's bonds that were insured by the now-troubled bond insurance companies Ambac and MBIA have been officially downgraded by bond rating agencies, as revealed in the June notices here (among others). Bonds with a top rating now represent only a small part of the city's outstanding debt.

More on the anthrax doc

While genetic analysis had linked the anthrax letters to a supply of the deadly bacterium in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., at least 10 people had access to the flask containing that anthrax, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation also have no evidence proving that Dr. Ivins visited New Jersey on the dates in September and October 2001 when investigators believe the letters were sent from a Princeton mailbox, the source said.

The source acknowledged that there might be some elements of the evidence of which he was unaware. And while he characterized what he did know about as "damning," he said that instead of irrefutable proof, investigators had an array of indirect evidence that they argue strongly implicates Dr. Ivins in the attacks, which killed 5 people and sickened 17 others.

That evidence includes tracing the prestamped envelopes used in the attacks to stock sold in three Maryland post offices, including one in Frederick, frequented by Dr. Ivins, who had long rented a post office box there under an assumed name, the source said. The evidence also includes records of the scientist’s extensive after-hours use of his lab at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases around the time the letters were mailed, the source said.

Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Peak (Whale) Oil

What we're going through with fuel these days isn't entirely new.

Logical transition

Just as we're about to be rid of a national leader who's a drug-addled trust-fund baby with attention deficit disorder and the social skills of a wet dishrag, let's go with one of the Keating Five -- a graceless old war-monger with post-traumatic stress disorder who doesn't know how to use a computer.

The rich get richer

One of the saddest aspects of eight years of the collective insanity of Bushdom has been the widening financial gap between the rich and everyone else. Here's a study that shows the nation's income inequality to be the worst it's been since 1928. This is one of many parallels we now see between the present day and the eve of the Great Depression.

Do you think the situation would get any better under John McCain, who crows at every opportunity about extending Bush's tax and economic programs?

Seems a little pat

The death of the government anthrax scientist who was reportedly about to be indicted for the 2001 anthrax murders is consistent with the FBI's theory of the case from practically the very beginning -- that the case was the work of a crazed loner. A problem, of course, was that they apparently had the wrong suspect for many years. Some people were skeptical of the whole loner theory six and a half years ago, and some still are today. Do you think the public will ever know the truth about who caused the attacks and why?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Bailing out Wall Street, letting everyone else rot

Talk about warped priorities! The government puts up $29 billion as a "sweetener" for JP Morgan but can only come up with $4 billion for Cleveland, Detroit and other urban ruins. Even the mortgage-relief bill is a tepid gesture. It basically asks, but does not compel, the bankers to act kindlier toward millions of defaulting families.

A generation of conservative propaganda, arguing that markets make wiser decisions than government, has been destroyed by these events. The interventions amount to socialism, American style, in which the government decides which private enterprises are "too big to fail." Trouble is, it was the government itself that created most of these mastodons--including the all-purpose banking conglomerates.

The whole thing, which rings quite true to us, can be found here.

"Save money -- shop at Whole Foods"

That one's going to be a really tough sell.

Portland police on Cops tonight

8 P.M. (Fox) COPS: POLICE PULLOVERS Police officers in Portland, Ore., and Palm Beach County, Fla., stop vehicles in drug-trafficking areas for the 20th-season finale of the series.
Watch real Portland felons -- with their shirts off, of course.

When biking to Wal-Mart

Wear underwear.

Straight outta (the other) Brooklyn

Coming to Portland next year, they say: hap'nin' concerts put together by an outfit called JellyNYC.

State says county is spending rental car tax illegally

And if they're right, it could be the death of the infernal Convention Center hotel boondoggle.

One can only hope.

I do not want this guy running the country

John McCain, October 18, 2001:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Er, maybe I'll try an Eckhart Tolle book

I know you're not supposed to judge people by outward appearances, but if someone said to me, "Here's your new family counselor," I'd be a little leery.

Have a great weekend

Days late, many dollars short

I see the Portland Business Journal finally caught up with the case of the OHSU docs whose tax-avoidance moves involving an ostensible charitable donation of their practice were busted by the IRS and the U.S. Tax Court. We covered it here on Monday.

The PBJ misleads readers as to the size of the case, however. It says the group of physicians who lost "are liable for more than $450,000 in back taxes and penalties." That's a fair figure for the five docs (and their CPA) who were named in the consolidated case that was tried, but as the court noted, "the parties in 20 related but nonconsolidated cases also pending before the Court have stipulated to be bound by the final decisions rendered herein. The parties in the 20 related nonconsolidated cases have stipulated to be bound by the final decisions herein on the penalties only if our holding on the penalties is the same for all consolidated petitioners." (And it was.)

In other words, it was a test case. There are 20 more OHSU docs out there with the same issue, and they all lost as well. There's no way to tell how much they had at stake, but the outstanding tab for the whole lot of them is probably well north of $1 million.

Doubly cool: solar panels powering a microbrewery

A reader sends along this new look at the Lucky Labrador Beer Hall in Northwest Portland.

No, you are not limited to just one card

Bojack comment bingo allows multiple plays.

As if anyone's going to read it

Is requiring restaurants throughout Multnomah County to post nutritional information about their menus a good idea? Maybe, maybe not.

Is limiting that rule to national chain restaurants fair? Or rational? I know a lot of local joints that are going to kill you faster than Subway.

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