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

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September 2008 Archives

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thoughts on the economic disaster

Why should we care about the crisis on Wall Street?

There are a couple of angles here. One is that the current troubles are beating the heck out of the values of our retirement funds and savings for our kids' education. That's ugly news, but it's not unexpected. Stock prices have been inflated for a long time now, and it was just a matter of time before they started coming down to where they belong.

The other bad side to all of this is that if no one can get a loan from a bank -- for education, for housing, or to run their business -- people are going to start losing their jobs. Except for undertakers, seemingly no one would be immune from unemployment if things got bad enough. If enough folks wind up out of work, the depressing effect on the economy would cascade across many companies and industries. We could all wind up on bread lines together.

Thus, the ability of creditworthy people to take out loans on reasonable terms seems to be a key value, if not the key value, here. But banks are hoarding cash and won't lend it out, even to each other. Witness the announcement by Legacy Emanuel Hospital that it's pulling the plug on a building project that it's already started, because it can't get a loan to finance the construction. What can the government do to get the sources of debt capital to loosen up?

One step that's being discussed is to bolster the federal deposit insurance system. With greater maximum insurance coverage over any account, depositors would presumably be less likely to withdraw savings from banks and use them to buy Treasury bonds. With less of a threat of a run on the banks, the banks might be more willing to lend out cash.

The key word there being "might." Who knows what's motivating the world's "funding sources" these days, other than fear? And unless the object of their fear can be correctly identified, it can't be adequately addressed. Cranking up the maximum bank balance that's insured may help ease the credit crunch a little, but probably not much.

Here's a different idea that we've been mulling over for the last couple of days: If the banks won't stop hoarding cash, it may be time for the government to step in and do the banks' jobs for them. For $700 billion, why doesn't the federal government just start a direct loan program, making loans to worthy homebuyers, students, and businesses?

Of course it would involve a new government bureaucracy; of course the loan criteria would have to be a lot stricter than the laughable "standards" that have prevailed in the lending game in recent years; and of course establishment of such a program would violate the Republican Party's free market catechism. But if these are really such desperate times, then radical action is needed.

Let's not hand Paulson and Bush our kids' future so that they can give it away to the Masters of the Universe. Let's take the credit crunch by the horns, and not filter the solution through the greedy hands that have wrecked the economy. The top bureaucrat running the program could make around $200,000 a year, instead of $20 million.

But now these days are gone, I'm not so self-assured

This happened to me last year, too: For the first few weeks of the season, it's not that hard to pick an underdog to win its pro football game outright, but after that, the prospects get much more muddled. Oddsmakers have a lot more information to work with than they did when the season was in its infancy, and so the calls for us gamblers become tougher.

'Dogs that are playing at home are always intriguing, and this week there are five of them. But on the whole, after last week's dud (Atlanta), I haven't got a clue as to which of these might pull out an upset (underdogs in caps):

10 KANSAS CITY at Carolina
7.5 SEATTLE at NY Giants
6.5 MIAMI vs. San Diego
5 WASHINGTON at Philadelphia
4.5 PITTSBURGH at Jacksonville
3.5 DETROIT vs. Chicago
3.5 HOUSTON vs. Indianapolis
3.5 SAN FRANCISCO vs. New England
3.5 MINNESOTA at New Orleans
3 BALTIMORE vs. Tennessee
3 TAMPA BAY at Denver
1 BUFFALO at Arizona

No lines are available yet for Cincinnati at Dallas or Atlanta at Green Bay (the latter being a good candidate for your Crummy Game of the Week).

So help me out! As usual, all theories are welcome, but remember: The team I pick has to win its game outright. The point spread is relevant only in determining how many points in the season-long contest I win if I'm right. I've now dropped to fourth place, 11 points behind the pacesetter, but with most of the long season still ahead of us.

Last week, a commenter named Geek Squad pronounced the Redskins over Dallas the value pick of the week, and doggone it, that was right on the money. Steve had Cleveland over Cincy, which was also right on. I heard Atlanta from several helpers, but like me, they were all wet.

Let's go, readers -- this is the part of the season when champions are made.

UPDATE, 10/1, 12:46 p.m.: Here's a biggie to add:

17.5 CINCINNATI at Dallas

No bailout without a securities transaction tax

We heard the 'Couv's congressman, Brian Baird, on the radio this evening. The talk was all about the bailout package, which failed yesterday despite his yes vote. The show's hosts were being super-deferential to the guy -- it sounded as though he was a frequent guest of theirs -- but at one point they asked him a question that wasn't an underhand toss: Why not impose a securities transaction tax as part of the means of paying for the bailout?

A 0.25 percent securities transaction tax would raise $100 billion a year. Many other countries have one.

At that point, Baird went on the defensive. In theory, he supported such a tax as part of the package, but Wall Street opposes it, it would never get through the Senate and the White House, politics is the art of what's do-able, yada yada yada.

No. Congressman Baird, stop shoveling horse manure. It's really simple. No bailout without a securities transaction tax. If it's not in there, you vote no.

E-mailing your congressperson?

Maybe tomorrow.

Bluff called

The stock market's back up 4 or 5 percent today, despite the failure of Congress to hand over the nation's future to Goldman Sachs and the Bush administration's financial wizards. Guess the sky isn't falling after all.

The latest proposal is to increase federal bank deposit insurance, which presumably would help stop the banks from hoarding all their cash. Hey, it's worth a try.

Meanwhile, the Boy Who Cried Wolf keeps telling us that based on his latest intelligence, it's do or die right now. The nation's reaction so far is sort of like the Saudis' reaction when he stomped his foot and cried for oil -- a good laugh.

That pioneer spirit

Twin sisters from Portland make waves on the seedy side of the Big Apple.

Change you can't hardly believe

From Dumb and Mean to Mean and Dumb.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Out of gas, and everything else

Today was the first I heard that there's a severe gasoline shortage currently plaguing the southeastern United States, especially around Atlanta. Here in Portlandia, however, we have a different problem: not enough hydrogen filling stations.

He fought the law and... he won

The guy who won the staring contest with the Oregon Legislature over the latter's alleged copyright on the state's statutes was written up in this morning's Times.

ORblogs is back!

Or at least, somebody's making great headway in restoring it.

Special prosecutor to go after Rove and Gonzales

Did the politicization of the Justice Department sink to the level of a crime? How about the cover-up? Looks like we're going to find out.

Gee, political firings and stonewalling. Who's big on that?

County sheriff arrests King of Jungle

He was booked and released on his own recognizance.

Don't underestimate Palin in the debate

She's working hard to get ready.

Bailout vote: No

And funny thing, hours later the world hasn't ended yet.

Consumer alert

Check the contents of your coffee filter before drinking the coffee. This is especially true for people in Portland.

It isn't all bad

This isn't a balanced headline.

Measure 59, yet another attempt to make all federal income taxes deductible on one's Oregon income tax returns, would indeed benefit high-income taxpayers disproportionately. But there's a principle behind it that makes a lot of sense: You can't pay taxes to the state out of the money taken from you by the federal government. Failure to allow full deductibility amounts to a state tax on a federal tax, and at the moment that double tax is being paid only by the relatively rich.

Now, I'm not saying that there wouldn't be serious effects on the state budget if the measure passes without some other source of revenue being identified to replace the lost revenue. But news coverage ought to give the merits of the initiative a fair statement.

Another trip to the well

Interesting piece in the Trib today about the latest City of Portland bond drama. Now a bunch of adjustable-rate economic development bonds that were used to build up the Portland State University empire are about to go postal, and the city's going to try to refinance them on PSU's behalf. You couldn't pick a worse moment to try to borrow money, I would think, but unless somebody's willing to lend the city and PSU a few tens of millions at, say, 6 or 7 percent, the interest rate is reportedly going to go to 9 percent. Times are so tough now that the insurance company that backed the original bonds, in 2003, is reportedly threatening to invoke a "market disruption" clause that triggers the interest rate jump.

At least these bonds are not the city's responsibility. They're payable solely from money collected from PSU and its affiliated entities.

Movin' fast hopin' times will last

On a trip to the Oregon Coast over the weekend, my friend and I saw quite a few log trucks rumbling around with full loads. Given the economic doldrums we're currently in, we wondered why there was so much logging activity. Is it that the timber operators, sensing that it's very near the end of Bushtime, are getting as much wood out as they can while the getting is good?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Google bait: Collider has secretly opened a black hole

A friend of mine suggested that I use my internet powers to start a baseless rumor, just to see what happens. So here goes: The Large Hadron Collider project is being terminated permanently because in its initial power-up phase, it already began a small black hole that will grow steadily but uncontrollably until it destroys the entire earth.

The boys in blue are lookin' for you

A big speed trap operation is currently in progress on I-5 in the Terwilliger Curves. As of about an hour ago, three unmarked cars were working northbound and one working southbound. The most traffic enforcement you'll see around Portland in a long while.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Instant collector's item

When it comes to comedy, nobody beats the City of Portland. They just mailed out hundreds of bumper stickers with the message "I Only Drink Tap Water." You only drink it -- you don't also wash in it? Ewwww.

Has somebody got a used copy of Strunk & White to send to these people?

One of the greats

On and off the silver screen.

I close my eyes, then I drift away

Nothing like a long night's sleep to purge one's brain. Last night I dreamed I was inside some sort of military installation from which they were launching missiles. To launch the missiles, a couple of Army generals would grab onto a big lever sticking out of the floor, about five feet tall, and pull it down and back toward them with all their might. To get it to go, they had to pull so hard that they wound up on the floor. But they were pulling away.

Amidst all this, Obama walked by me, headed for a door behind which the actual launching was apparently taking place. These doors were like the doors inside submarines that you used to see in the movies. The handles were big wheels in the middle of the doors that you turned a couple of times around to open.

As he was about to go through one of these, Obama, clad as ever in his politician suit, looked back at me. Or more accurately, he looked right past me. He had a grim and determined look on his face. He was there for something, and he had gotten there a few minutes ahead of everyone else to prepare.

Then I woke up to a gorgeous day.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Have a great weekend

Tellin' it like it is

You ''good values people'' have had the country for eight years, and done an unbelievably s---ty job. Let's find some bad values people and give them a shot, maybe they'll have a better take on it....

McCain said, ''The fundamentals of our economy are strong'' and ''Our economy is at risk.'' One was at 9 a.m., the other was 11 a.m. Our joke was, ''You can be strong and at risk, too. Like, a muscleman who wouldn't wear a condom. What's the worst that could happen?''...

We were in this huge credit crisis, out of money. Then the Fed goes, "We'll give you a trillion dollars," and all of a sudden Wall Street is like, ''I can't believe we got away with it!'' Can you imagine if someone said, ''I shouldn't have bought that sports car because it means I can't have my house,'' and the bank just said, ''All right, you can have your house. And you know what? Keep the car'.' [He throws up his arms joyfully and shouts] ''Yeaaaaah, I get to keep the car! Wait, do I have to give the money back?'' ''No, it doesn't matter.'' ''Yeah, I'm gonna get another car! I'm gonna do the same thing the same way, except twice as f---ed up!''

Whistling past the graveyard

Just as the Iraq War is a million miles away from many of us, so too the financial crisis. Yesterday the bank in which my kids and I have a fair amount of money failed. My paycheck is supposed to be deposited in there next week. There's no crowd outside the defunct bank -- another bank is buying it. And even if another bank didn't, there is still, at least for the moment, enough money in the federal deposit insurance fund to cover all of us depositors at that particular savings institution.

So it's just another Friday, at least on the surface.

Deep down, though, I'm ready to get clubbed by a baseball bat. This country has lived in an obscene fantasy world these last seven years, and in just a moment the soft, seductive lights of that illusion are going to go out. Some pretty harsh fluorescent lights are about to be turned on in their place.

Tax cuts during wartime -- yeah, that worked.

Please don't do this to our country

Palin's unblinking certitude gave way at other times in the interview to a striking imprecision, as when she struggled to respond to Couric's suggestion that the $700-billion bailout might be better funneled through middle-class families instead of Wall Street firms.

"That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in . . ." Palin began, before meandering off in fruitless pursuit of coherence.

But I'll let the governor speak for herself:

" . . . where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh -- it's got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Put *that* in your breathalyzer

You have the right to remain silent -- but not silent and deadly. (Via Volokh.)

Can the Beavers hold on?

They are leading No. 1 USC, 21-7, late in the third quarter.

UPDATE, 9:27 p.m.: They did it!

Instant karma

A friendly reader writes:

Here's a nice story for you...

Yesterday morning, my husband and I were getting into our jeep when a
homeless man had a seizure in our front yard while gathering cans. He
fell hard, and cracked his head open. We called 911, and I stayed with
him as he seized... rolled him onto his side in case he vomited... and
held his hands so he wouldn't hurt himself. The ambulance and fire truck
came in less than 5 minutes, and took the gentleman to the hospital.

That evening, my husband picked me up at the bus stop, as I needed to go
to the store before going home. A couple of hours later, another
homeless gentleman knocked on our door and asked if I had lost my purse.
He held it up to the window, and it was indeed mine. It had fallen out
of the grocery bag beside the jeep. I was so grateful to him for
returning it to me. I gave him what money I had in my purse, along with
3 big bags of cans. I asked him if he wanted more, and he said, "No.
Just know there are honest people out there."

Humanity still exists during these tumultuous times.

Bailout bolloxed up, WaMu being Chased

Just another lovely day in the free market.

Train whistles disturbing your sleep?

If you live in the Pearl District, the City of Portland will fix your problem, and pay for it out of your property taxes. If you live in a different Portland neighborhood, try these.

OMG! City of Portland decides against borrowing money!

The "sale-leaseback" (equity loan) that the City of Portland had been discussing for its "smart" parking meters (which turn out to stay "smart" for only about five years, then become stupid) has apparently been killed.

White House moves dissected

Pundits all over the world are offering detailed analysis of President Bush's address to the nation yesterday and the emergency meetings he has called for today.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States

What's going on with McCain's eyes?

I just noticed yesterday that something's screwed up:

The left and right eyes are different shapes and sometimes pointing in slightly different directions. Is this something new? Is he ever going to let people actually copy his medical records?

UPDATE, 12:54 a.m.: Here is yesterday's canned speech as recorded by Reuters. McCain hangs in there looking o.k. for about a minute and a half, but check out the left eye after that. At 1:35, it's really bugging him. By the end of a full debate, I'd bet it would be completely closed.

UPDATE, 1:19 a.m.: Apparently, this isn't something entirely new. People were noting an eye problem last winter and spring as well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New dogs added

For those interested in this week's pro football underdog pool, a couple of additions to pick from: Chicago a 3-point dog at home against Philly, and Baltimore a 7-point dog in Pittsburgh. Here's the revised list:

11.5 WASHINGTON at Dallas
10 KANSAS CITY vs. Denver
9 OAKLAND vs. San Diego
8 ST. LOUIS vs. Buffalo
7.5 HOUSTON at Jacksonville
7 BALTIMORE at Pittsburgh
7 ATLANTA at Carolina
6 SAN FRANCISCO at New Orleans
3.5 CLEVELAND at Cincinnati
3 MINNESOTA at Tennessee
3 CHICAGO vs. Philadelphia
2 ARIZONA at NY Jets
1 GREEN BAY at Tampa Bay

Dave's not happy

Echo in here?

Yesterday we used the phrase "Eat my shorts." When was the last time you heard that one? Then today, it's here. Co-inky-dink?

GOP takes economic platform to the streets

Their new advertising campaign highlights their plans for the nation's troubled money system.

The Chimp puts a gun to your head

Warning that "a long and painful recession" could occur if Congress does not act quickly, Mr. Bush said the consequences could play out in "a distressing scenario," including potential bank failures, job losses and inability for ordinary Americans to borrow money to buy cars or send their children to college.
Hmmmm, let's see. A "long and painful recession" is coming -- was that news? It's been coming for quite a while, and the bailout isn't going to stop it. "A distressing scenario"? Yes, I'd say the last several years have already been that.

"Potential bank failures"? Well, of course. There have already been some actual ones, and there will be more. There have to be, if our economy is to have any chance of surviving. "Job losses"? A Bush hallmark -- what's so special about it now all of a sudden? And finally, "inability for ordinary Americans to borrow money to buy cars or send their children to college"? That sure sounds bad. But if it goes along with inability to run up ludicrous credit card debt and sign up for impossible mortgages, maybe we'll need to accept it. Make the old car run a little longer, and Junior might have to take a year off after high school and put away a few thousand bucks.

If it comes down to that or giving Henry Paulson and his Hamptons friends a trillion dollars out of my kids' future, I know which way I'm leaning.

Who needs Will Shortz?

This blog now has its own crossword puzzle.

Phish alert

If you get this e-mail, don't fall for it!

And he is quitting chewing gum until further notice

Remember how Bush couldn't come to the convention because he was too busy sitting home waiting for the hurricane to hit Louisiana? Now McCain can't debate Obama on Friday because he has to get back to D.C. for the bailout.

Tow truck scoundrels reach new low

There will be a special place in the eternal furnace for these guys.

Healthy skeptics

If, like I, you find it extremely difficult to believe that Sarah Palin is the biological mother of Trig Palin, you will be encouraged to know that a childbirth coach and her husband who also don't buy that story have set up a nice website documenting the many, many unanswered questions. God help the poor people with the hate mail they will be getting, but my hat is off to them. Their site is here. They continue to work on it daily.

I don't have whole lot to add to the story at this point, and I most assuredly am not interested in any more of our right-wing brethren's insights or opinions about it. But it's nice to see that someone continues to seek out the truth.

One of the more interesting developments is the apparent disappearance of Palin's doctor, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson. She's no longer listed on the staff of the hospital at which Palin says she gave birth to the child, and where she once was on staff. And of course, like Palin, Baldwin-Johnson is not available to the media for any questions at all.

Is the PDC a gigantic waste of money?

The Portland city auditor has issued a new audit that blasts the Portland Development Commission for lax oversight over city tax dollars. According to the O:

The Portland Development Commission doesn't follow its own policy for monitoring contracts with private builders, so the agency can't tell if affordable housing and other urban renewal projects are meeting city goals, a new audit says.

"To me it raises a major doubt whether the PDC is accomplishing much with all these public dollars," said City Auditor Gary Blackmer.

This time around, the PDC top brass are sassing Blackmer back, but they are all essentially Tom Potter appointees whom Mayor-elect Sam the Tram will be disposing of shortly -- I'd predict before Super Bowl Sunday. At least the head honcho, Bruce Warner, will be getting a nice severance package.

As for Blackmer's larger, more important question about the agency's effectiveness, I'll wager that it will soon be forgotten once Warner and a few others clean out their desks. Too bad.

It's "for the children," but is it legal?

It's time to get cracking on the ballot measures for the upcoming election. Let's start with what should be an easy one -- the proposed continuation of the City of Portland "children's initiative," under which property taxes are collected by the city and dedicated to programs for kids. Here's the actual language of the provision, Measure 26-94:

Pursuant to Section 7-112 of the Charter of the City of Portland, the Council shall levy for each of five successive years commencing with the fiscal year 2009-10, at the time taxes are levied for the payment of expenses of the City, a special tax at a rate of $0.4026 per thousand dollars of assessed value, on all property in the City of Portland not exempt from taxation. The proceeds from such levy shall be placed in a special fund to be designated as the Children’s Investment Fund. The money in this fund shall be expended only for purposes of cost effective, proven early childhood programs, child abuse prevention and intervention, programs targeted at foster children, and after school, summer and mentoring programs for children. No more than 5% of the fund may be spent for expenses associated with administering the fund. The fund shall be subject to annual audit. An Allocation Committee, composed of at least five members, shall make recommendations regarding the expenditure of funds from the Children’s Investment Fund to the Portland City Council. This local option levy is specifically authorized, and it shall not be counted as within the limitation provided in Sections 11 of Article XI of the Constitution of the State of Oregon. This levy shall, however, be subject to proportional reduction under Section 11(11)(c)(B)(I) of Article XI of the Constitution of the State of Oregon. This special tax hereby authorized shall be in addition to all other taxes that may be levied according to law.
Measures like this one always amuse me greatly. The city wastes tons of dough on needless frills, then comes begging for an extra handout "for the children." Well, there doesn't seem to be any opposition serious enough to stop this at the ballot box, and there's no sense resisting the inevitable.

But I have just one question: Is this measure legal under state Ballot Measure 5?

Now, trust me, I have no special expertise about Measure 5, the property tax initiative passed by Oregon voters in 1990. But I do know that around the same time that Portland started its children's fund in 2002, the City of Eugene tried to do something quite similar, and the Eugene tax levy was held to have run afoul of Measure 5. The Oregon Supreme Court case on the issue, Urhausen v. City of Eugene, was decided on Aug. 31, 2006, and it is available here.

Under the court's ruling, most of the Eugene levy was classified as going to the "school system," and thus it was limited by Measure 5's specific limits on overall levels of property tax being used for "educational services." The special school tax went down in flames as a result, and there were lots of hard feelings about it.

I see that the Portland measure currently before the voters declares that "[t]his local option levy is specifically authorized, and it shall not be counted as within the limitation provided in Sections 11 of Article XI of the Constitution of the State of Oregon" -- that being Measure 50. Can the city override the state constitution that easily?

How is the Portland deal different from the Eugene deal? The Eugene tax was also passed by the city's voters, so that can't be a distinction. One key difference may be that a lot of the Portland money goes to private nonprofit organizationss, but still, a fair amount of it is spent on, or at least in, public schools. A spreadsheet showing last year's expenditures is here. At least some of that would appear to be "school system" money under Urhausen.

Anyway, I hope someone out there who understands the arcane worlds of school funding and Measure 50 can fill us all in.

Hothead McCain: Fire the SEC chief

Forget about 3 a.m. -- I don't even want him answering the phone at 3 in the afternoon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Feminist summit

Pictured here are a couple of champions of women's rights, exchanging notes on the proper relationship between government and the female body.

And now, a public service announcement

"We support the bill, but we are opposed to provisions on executive pay," said Scott Talbott, senior vice president for government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, a trade group. "It is not appropriate for government to be setting the salaries of executives."
Mr. Talbott, I think I speak for tens of million American taxpayers when I say: EAT MY SHORTS!

This has been a public service announcement from bojack.org. We return you now to our usual programming.

C a K9 U like?

We had a nice weekend in the pro football underdog pool. Heeding the advice (in all caps, no less!) of Larry K, backed up by Steve, we chose Jacksonville, who squeaked out a win at Indianapolis. A nice 5.5-point pickup on our part.

This puts us in second place in the pool as we head into the fourth weekend -- still ahead of the crazies-like-foxes who somehow called a Miami win over New England, and behind the overall leader in the pool by a mere half-point.

This week's games feature three home 'dogs with big point spreads, which should be tempting for some people. At this hour, there are no lines yet established for Philadephia at Chicago or Baltimore at Pittsburgh; I assume this means that the spreads, if any, on those games will be small.

But spreads be darned, what we're looking for in this pack is an underdog team (in caps) that will win its game outright. See any in here?

11.5 WASHINGTON at Dallas
10 KANSAS CITY vs. Denver
9 OAKLAND vs. San Diego
8 ST. LOUIS vs. Buffalo
7.5 HOUSTON at Jacksonville
7 ATLANTA at Carolina
6 SAN FRANCISCO at New Orleans
3.5 CLEVELAND at Cincinnati
3 MINNESOTA at Tennessee
2 ARIZONA at NY Jets
1 GREEN BAY at Tampa Bay

Boy, nothing's jumping out at me here. Maybe Cleveland? It's still too early in the season for any 1- or 2-point chip shots. I suppose that for the long points (if my underdog wins, I get the number of points they were predicted to lose by), the Lambs or the Niners would be fun, but neither is probably worth the gamble. Is it?

UPDATE, 9/25, 1:22 a.m.: More games for the week added here.

Why not throw these into the package?

While we're completely rewriting the rules of American capitalism -- or more specifically, erasing all the rules and handing the pencil over to the Secretary of the Treasury, here are a few new provisions I'd like to see considered:

1. It shall be unlawful for any employee of any company whose securities are traded on a public securities market to receive from that company or any of its affiliates in any 12-month period compensation for personal services that totals in the aggregate more than $1,000,000.

2. It shall be unlawful to buy or hold any future, forward, option, swap, or other derivative contract, except to the extent that (a) the underlying asset to which the contract pertains is also owned by the holder of the contract, or (b) holding the contract is reasonably necessary as a hedge against risks that would otherwise be incurred by the holder in the conduct of his ongoing trade or business.

Way too drastic? Can these problems be addressed effectively with different rules?


People keep asking me if I can find any bright spot in our nation's precipitous plunge into second-class status (or worse). That one's easy. In one sense, our longed-for dream has come true: George Bush is no longer President. He's turned his power over to Henry Paulson, who wants all that and more. They even skipped Cheney, which is also a good thing. Thank your lucky stars.

Alaskans, meanwhile, can also be gratified that Sarah Palin is no longer their governor. State business is now being conducted by members of the McCain campaign staff. Some of them may even have a decent education, moderate religious views, and a working knowledge of the federal government. Another plus!

Take it from me, a glass-half-full kind of guy. The Republicans are bringing us good times. As is God's will.

That was then

An old law school classmate of mine has unearthed a slew of photos he took in the mid-'70s. Here's one of me and a friend having a beer after completing a road race, circa '78. Yikes.

Wonders and signs

These are truly extraordinary times.

What, us worry?

Who's looking out for regular Americans?

It sure seems like nobody:

The rhetoric of the two presidential candidates about the crisis has been filled with pious outrage about the abuses of Wall Street and short on actual solutions. John McCain and Barack Obama know, after all, who funds their campaigns. The financial industry has given $22.5 million in the current election cycle to Obama and $19.6 million to McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And the financial industry has come around to collect. Two of the biggest financial groups in Washington, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Mortgage Bankers Association, have been holding meetings with McCain and Obama's economic advisers. They are working with the campaigns to protect the unregulated power of financial industries and at the same time to shift bad debt to taxpayers. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Financial Services Roundtable, made up of the very banks and firms that got us into this mess, has developed draft legislation. The Roundtable has called a meeting this week with the chief executives of more than 50 banks, brokerages and insurers. The three-day meeting includes private, closed-door sessions on Thursday with Obama economic adviser Ian Soloman and McCain adviser Ike Brannon. Those hovering around Obama—economists like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers and Laura Tyson—bear as much responsibility for the dismantling of government regulation as those advising McCain.
Times like these call for a John Edwards -- but alas, he's now just a punchline.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cousin Jim says ix-nay on the ailout-bay

Deep suspicion and skepticism about the Bush administration's rush-rush bailout plan are not just a partisan matter. Check out what Cousin Jim has got to say:

I have worked on more than a few transactions involving significant sums of money, and the details of those transactions have always been damned near mind boggling. And yet, here we are, asking a bunch of goddamned legislators (most of whom, in both parties, are absolutely clueless and some of whom are part of the problem) to pass on possibly the biggest transaction in American history – one that has been put together in a matter of days!

Look, you can’t do a proper job of buying or selling even a goddamned luncheonette in this amount of time. Even with the buying or selling of a luncheonette, the devil is always, always in the details. Doing a transaction that is worth possibly a trillion dollars in such a short time is begging for trouble.

Indeed. Part of me thinks that the boys in Washington all know that a catastrophic collapse is coming, and nothing they do is going to stop it. They're all posturing around with solutions that they know won't work, just so that later they can say, "I tried."

God help America.

Nigel Jaquiss, check your facts, please

The current scheme involves the City of Portland using its AAA credit rating to issue debt to finance the project (most recent price tag: $247 million), but... a number of significant challenges remain.
Even the Pulitzer winners repeat bunk sometimes. I am not sure how many times I have to write about this before the mainstream media people "get" it, but here I go again:

Portland's credit rating is not AAA or Aaa. Repeat -- not. Particularly not when it's issuing "urban renewal" bonds or "limited tax revenue" bonds, which is what the Convention Center hotel paper would almost certainly be. Only the city's general obligation bonds have an Aaa rating, and you can be 100 percent sure that the hotel bonds will not be of that variety. For example, the bonds currently outstanding on the 2001 Convention Center expansion are rated Aa1, which is below Aaa. Convention Center-area "urban renewal" bonds are rated Aa3 -- quite a bit below an Aaa rating.

This has all been laid out this blog several times before, but we repeat it here in the hopes that Jaquiss and others in the local Fourth Estate will eventually read and understand it:

The city lists the ratings of all of its bonds here. It has about $100 million of "Aaa" bonds outstanding -- that's the highest rating. But that's $100 million out of nearly $3 billion in outstanding debt (not counting unfunded police and fire pension liability, another $2 billion). All the other bond issues of the City of Portland carry lower ratings. The old PGE Park bonds have a rating of Aa1, which would be very good but not excellent. Some of the city's recent "urban renewal" bonds are at the Aa3 level, which is the low end of very good; other "urban renewal" bonds come in at A3, which would be considered good but not very good. Some of the city's bonds would have even lower ratings were it not for bond insurance, which used to guarantee an Aaa rating but now gets you up only to an Aa3, which is very good bordering on good.
I am glad that Jaquiss sees the folly of the Convention Center hotel project. But if he thinks the city still has AAA credit, or can even buy its way up to that rating with insurance, he's mistaken.

Convention Center hotel scam extended to Christmas

Sooner or later, they'll find a moment when nobody's looking. Or maybe they're just hoping the sane people who call the project what it is -- garbage, under any and all economic conditions -- will all die off or move away.

Notice, too, that Sam the Tram is now fronting for the thing. What a guy. What a town.

After the paint dries

You can watch this:

Video clips at Ustream

DeFazio: "We won't be rolled"

The Oregon congressman calls it exactly right.

September surprise: an economic crisis

For the gaming tables to be closed and the money paid out, the losers must be bailed out -- Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, A.I.G. and who knows what to come? This is the only way to solve the problem of how companies that already have paid out their revenue to their managers and stockholders instead of putting it in reserves are to collect their winnings from insolvent debtors and insurance companies. These losers also have paid out their income to their financial managers and insiders (along with the usual patriotic contributions to the political candidates on the key committees in charge of deciding the nation's financial structuring).

This has to be orchestrated well in advance. It is necessary to buy politicians and give them a plausible cover story (or at least a well-crafted set of poll-tested euphemisms) to explain to voters just why it was in the public interest to bail out gamblers. Good rhetoric is needed to explain why the government should let them go into a casino and let them keep all their winnings while using public funds to make good on the losses of their counterparties.

What happened on September 18-19 took years of preparation, capped by a faux ideology crafted by public-relations think tanks to be broadcast under emergency conditions to panic Congress -- and voters -- right before the presidential election. This seems to be our September election surprise. Under staged crisis conditions, Pres. Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson are now calling for the country to come together in a War on Defaulting Homeowners. This is said to be the only hope to "save the system." (What system is this? Not industrial capitalism, or even banking as we know it.) The largest transformation of America's financial system since the Great Depression has been compressed into just two weeks, starting with the doubling of America's national debt on September 7 with the nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (My computer's spellchecker will not permit me to use the euphemism "conservatorship" that Mr. Paulson applied to bailing out the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fraudsters.)

Economic theory used to explain that profits and interest were a return for calculated risk. But today, the name of the game is capital gains and computerized gambling on the direction of interest rates, foreign currencies and stock prices -- and when bad bets are made, bailouts are the calculated economic return for campaign contributions. But this is not supposed to be the time to talk of such things. "We must act now to protect our nation's economic health from serious risk," intoned Pres. Bush on September 19. What he meant was that the White House must make the Republican Party's largest group of campaign contributors whole-- Wall Street, that is -- by bailing out their bad gambles. "There will be ample opportunity to debate the origins of this problem. Now is the time to solve it." In other words, don't make this an election issue. "In our nation's history there have been moments that require us to come together across party lines to address major challenges. This is such a moment." Right before the presidential election! The same guff was heard earlier on Friday morning from Sec. Paulson: "Our economic health requires that we work together for prompt, bipartisan action." The broadcasters said that half a trillion dollars was discussed for this day's maneuverings.

Though a bit of a rant, the whole thing is definitely worth reading.

Oh, and we American taxpayers are going to bail out the foreign banks, too.

I'm all right, Jack, keep your hands off of my stack

We blogged last week about some pretty low-looking annual salaries being paid to Oregon's governor ($93,000), and secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, and labor commissioner ($72,000 each). Since then, we've also noticed that the state's attorney general makes only $77,200 a year, and the state treasurer is also in there at $72,000. (Also, the governor's salary is apparently $93,600, which is $600 higher than what we reported.)

Over the weekend, though, the O clued us in on some other state officials' salaries, which are way on the other end of the scale: corrections and lottery directors, $174,000 each; transportation director, $165,000; revenue director, $158,000; and fish and wildlife and environmental quality directors, $136,000 each.

Something is definitely out of whack here. And I don't even want to think about what this guy and this guy are pulling in.

Yeah, they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles

As we all wonder what the collapse of our economy means to us, Americans can take heart. At least our "banksters" are getting $2.5 billion in bonuses, while their English counterparts aren't getting anything. Don't tread on me!


This coming weekend -- Portland's Polish Festival.

A matter of trust

They're not lined up on the sidewalks yet, but people definitely seem ready to get their cash out of America's financial institutions and stuff it in a mattress. Consumers reportedly pulled $89 billion out of money market funds last Wednesday alone, part of a week in which investors of all kinds withdrew $210 billion from those funds. The week before, it was $173 billion.

And they're jerking their dough out of banks, too:

By Wednesday, banks sensed a run on their accounts. They started stockpiling cash in anticipation of withdrawals.

Banks, which usually keep an average of $2 billion in excess reserves earmarked for withdrawals, pumped that up to an astounding $90 billion by Wednesday, Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrighton ICAP, told The Journal.

The banks are also worried that now that the feds are guaranteeing money market funds, people will pull funds out of the banks and head over there. And so, acting once again on the fly with no public process, the feds announced yesterday that the new "temporary" guarantees won't apply to money that wasn't in the money market accounts by last Friday.

A historic moment like this calls for a level-headed, intelligent, trustworthy national leader to get on the airwaves and calm things down.

Wish we had one.

There used to be a ballpark right here

They played the last game of baseball at Yankee Stadium tonight. As usual, money trumps everything in professional sports, particularly in New York.

The Yankees didn't make the playoffs this year. Coincidence? I doubt it. The ghosts who haunt the place obviously don't approve.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Palin throws Alaska into constitutional crisis

But hey, don't worry, she won't let politics get in the way of her upholding the U.S. Constitution.


What next?

The level of sleaze in the Presidential campaign sinks lower and lower by the day. Now someone's hacked into Obama's g-mail account.

Why be a responsible person?

Why stick to a personal budget? Why pay your bills on time? Why manage your borrowing wisely? Why save for retirement? Why cut square corners on taxes?

It's become pretty obvious over the past few weeks that tens of millions of Americans who have acted responsibly their whole lives are now going to pay -- and pay dearly -- for the mistakes and deceptions of those who didn't. And it's not the less fortunate we're cleaning up for here -- many of them are laughing all the way to their vaults. Notice how the banks aren't going to go into bankruptcy before the government buys all their dud loans -- no, they're going to be allowed to dump the sludge onto the American taxpayers and stay in business, with the CEOs raking in the millions, same as ever.

Meanwhile, what about the real estate weasels who built junk towers like those in Portland's SoWhat district, with hundreds of unmarketable condo units in them? Once the federal government owns those loans, will greedy developers like Homer Williams be allowed to walk away from their debts, keep their eyesore buildings, and order another bottle of Dom Perignon at Bluehour? When it happens, remember that you read it here first.

The leaders of both parties are hoping nobody notices what's really going on. "Oh yes, we must act now! To prevent a crisis in the global financial markets. God forbid that Goldman Sachs [Henry Paulson's former firm] should go down."

How are we going to pay for this? For one thing, forget Social Security if you have a private pension -- it's now officially toast. Every dollar of pension you stored up is one less dollar you'll get back from all that Social Security "insurance" you were supposedly buying. You should have blown those 401(k) contributions on trips to Vegas -- you might have done better, and couldn't have done worse, than what you'll net from those investments now.

They may even tax the money you've put away before you get your hands on it. So as you look at the hole that Wall Street's ripped into your future this month, get ready for the government to make it bigger.

And for those starting out in their working lives now, either income taxes are going to have to go way up, or else the feds are going to have to print tons of money to pay off all the debt it's running up. The moment the Chinese government decides to cash in some of its $500 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds instead of lending us a billion more every month, there will be nowhere else to turn for more money -- except you or the printing press. At some point, either you won't be able to afford a $3 loaf of bread, or you'll have plenty of dollars but the loaf will cost $25.

I wonder how long the Chinese are going to toy with us before they take us down.

In the meantime, wait 'til we get a ways into the coming winter of $4 heating oil and equivalent natural gas prices. Something tells me that before too long, there's going to be some stuff going on in the streets about all this. See you out there.

Sunday morning coming down

So I think what we're looking at here is an attempt -- really, like a drunk will feel better and get over his hangover better sometimes just by having more liquor. And I think what we're seeing with the actions of the Federal Reserve Board is the people who are the arsonists, the people who pumped it all up, who blew up the bubble are now racing to show up in firemen's hats and say, "We're gonna solve it. We're gonna take care of all this. Oh, and by the way, we're gonna keep pumping in the gasoline that we pumped in before that made a good flame."
The whole thing is here.

Is this what you want from your U.S. senator?

The campaign, however, does not publicize Smith's schedule. "It's often fluid," Gilbride said. And Smith often doesn't allow reporters into his events. An example is an economic roundtable he hosted Friday in Portland. It was invitation-only and off limits to the news media.
Smith got himself where he is by selling himself as a Hatfield-Packwood moderate Republican. But neither of those guys would ever have held campaign events in a hidey-hole. It's time for the voters to explain to old Gordo how that was supposed to work.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sleeping with the fishes in the Deschutes

The O has an odd story up at this hour. It goes on and on about how bloggers in Bend are speculating wildly about the untimely deaths of three real estate speculators. But of course, this is the first we've read of the three deaths, which makes us think that the bloggers are at least right in their assertion that the mainstream media around here aren't covering the current real estate disaster in a thorough way. From the story:

First, the undisputed facts: Douglas Sokol, 57, a Sisters developer, died June 24 after falling from a height. Lynn McDonald, 58, a former emergency-room physician who had invested in a huge development called The Shire, disappeared July 6 and was found the next day in the Deschutes River. Jay Audia, 48, of Bend, who had recently purchased a 38-acre tract out of foreclosure, shot himself in the head July 19 at his home.
Real estate advertising is currently the life support machine for the nation's failing newspapers, and it's understandable that there's a temptation for them to present current events in a rosy light. What's not understandable -- or forgivable -- is their giving in to that temptation.

End of the world delayed

Of course, this thing doesn't work. Perhaps that's good, since it if it did, hackers would probably take it over.

Last call for underdog advice

I've narrowed this puzzle down to three: Jacksonville, Carolina, or the Jets. Experts out there?

Another mindscrew from the GOP

Get this: Dick Cheney says the office of the vice president "is not part of the executive branch of government."

Want more? Go here.

Cubs win

And make the playoffs. Way to go, Sweet Lou.

Consumer quiz

What's been easier to buy in Portland over the last few weeks?

A. Heroin.

B. 64-ounce jug of Odwalla Super Protein drink, original flavor.

Recipe for trouble

Tase on each side until down, then repeat.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Not live, but beautiful anyway

I totally missed this when it happened on Sunday. So tonight, when I stumbled upon a replay of the game on the Chicago cable station, I had no idea what I was watching. Nor did I know how it would come out. Great moment.

Have a great weekend

You are so right, Mr. Warner

"Projects like Old Town Lofts would not happen if not for PDC."

Lunching on crow at the Free Market Café

The folks who like to tell us how wonderful the free markets are -- and how they mustn't be interfered with -- are nowhere to be seen on a day like today. The federal government just banned short-selling of bank stocks, and announced an ad hoc federal insurance program for money market funds. It's all to try to stave off the panic that we all know is inevitable. (I'm just hoping that the weather will be good the day I'm lined up outside the bank as if it were a soup kitchen.)

Remember all the talk about how "government is the problem"? We've been going with that mantra since Reagan. Twenty-eight years later, the verdict is in: He was wrong.

The other mantra was that "world trade is good for America." I believe that was Bill Clinton's favorite. Well, now that every industry worth a darn has left America, all we have left is finance. Oops -- all we had left, until now.

Your tax dollars at work, cont'd

Nothing gets my blood pressure up quicker than an expensive piece of government propaganda in our mailbox. Yesterday it was this brag piece from the Portland School Board:

The mailer measures something like 9½ by 27 inches, folded into thirds. Full color, two-sided, glossy, card stock. Professional portraits and high-end graphics, fancy graphs and tables -- pardon me for being a grouchy old coot, but how the heck much did this thing cost? One of the banner headlines in it reads "Spending Where It Counts: In the Classroom." The document itself speaks to the contrary.

I support our public schools, but Super Carole, do us all a favor -- next time send us a small black-and-white postcard with a link to a website. Go with cheapo tables. Skip the photographers and the graphic designers.

Take the savings and hire a teacher.

The spirit of Portland

Yesterday we reported with derision the Portland Parks Bureau's plea for donated furniture for the new park in the SoWhat District. And we laughed at the city's call for "furniture stewards" -- citizen volunteers who would come and lock the new chairs and tables down every night.

Leave it to Portlanders to prove us wrong, though. Yesterday, several potential volunteers called on Robin Grimwade of the Parks Bureau at his office to inquire about the "steward" gig. City officials now believe that by the time the park opens, they'll have enough unpaid caretakers to cover the facility 365 days a year.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The vibration is great, but...

... you still shouldn't carry your Treo too close to your duo.

When Randy Gragg's sensibilities are aroused

This is what it looks like.

What's the deal in Yakima?

Eastern Washington has some great wines. So how could something like this happen?

Guess who's throwing money at the PCC bond issue

Now, who would want the area's beleaguered taxpayers to come up with $374 million, plus interest at heaven-knows-what rate in this day and age, to build lots and lots of groovy new buildings for Portland Community College?

Hold on to your seat...

Wait for it...

Here it comes...

I know, you can't stand it...

Continue reading "Guess who's throwing money at the PCC bond issue" »

Every breath you take

What's happened to journalism? It's starting to blend into the science fiction horror genre.

"There's gonna be other wars"

How are a post-traumatic hothead like Senator McCain and his newfound Governor from Nowhere going to handle unstable tyrants like these guys? Peacefully? Or World War III?

SoWhat Poodle Poop Park begs for donated furniture

I am not making that up. What's more, the city is looking for unpaid volunteers to lock and unlock the tables and chairs daily because it can't afford staff to do it.

Is the Parks Bureau the city's worst managed agency? Is it starved for funds because the city's too busy paying off "urban renewal" debt that has been siphoned into the pockets of the condo tower weasels?

Either way, begging for freebies with basics like park benches is a sad statement indeed. What next, a bake sale for a cop down there? And who's going to pick up the shi tzu doo that the beautiful people from the John Ross are too important to scoop? I can see it now: "Be a ca-ca steward."

Meanwhile, the latest excuse for the delay in building the greenway down in SoWhat is that they suddenly have to do more testing for water pollution. The fact that they have, like, $0 to build the thing apparently has nothing to do with it.

Did you see them?

The Freewayblogger was in town yesterday. I saw one of his signs on my evening commute. Apparently he'll be back at it today.

Devil's in the e-mailbox

Presidential campaign time sure can get ugly. These guys must have thought they were making a political point, but now they ought to go to jail for it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Colwood Golf Course saved!!!

A major, major victory for the neighbors at the Portland City Council tonight. And a stunning upset for the property owners and the Port of Portland.

It won't be finally over for another month or two, but it looks as though the greenspace is going to be preserved. Congratulations and big thanks to these folks and to the Council. They got it right.

Elaine visits Jiffy Lube

And of course, comes home to blog about it.

Only if it's done right

Here's a headline: "Proposed strip club frustrates Tualatin residents."

Well, of course. That's the whole point of those places, isn't it?

You know you want one

The Mrs. and her friend are working on some encaustic art -- fusing images onto wooden blocks with beeswax. Here's one that caught my eye right away. What do you think?

Cobra Puppies: $40

A lot of it is not safe for work, but "khraigslist" definitely has its moments.

Attics of his life

Here's a nice photo blog from Madras. Its author, "Gr8ful Ted," has a fine eye, a steady hand, and a spirit of sharing. He's been at it for quite a while, but this is the first I can remember seeing his blog. Go, Ted.

It's Hank Williams's birthday

So live it up.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

While we all sit nervously awaiting the Presidential election and using our internet browsers to scout out nice communities in Canada to move to next year (if we have to), we ought to start thinking about the ballot measures that we Oregonians will be voting on in November as well. When you turn to the Oregon Secretary of State web page on the subject, holy cannoli, there are 12 of them. And Multnomah County has a few more for us.

The state has the preliminary version of the voters pamphlet up here. The arguments for and against the local measures are on the county site here.

In the 48 days we've got left, we'll try to touch base on all of the measures that will affect Portlanders. And the candidates, too, of course, to the extent that there's anything left to say.

McCain on the collapse of the U.S. economy


But he did invent the Blackberry.

Wake me when she says something that's actually true

Governor Palin on taxes and energy.

My recommendation to guys

Do the dishes once in a while.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In the Mean Girl tradition

Somebody open a window. There's a bad odor in here.

UPDATE, 9/17, 2:35 a.m.: Get an even stronger whiff here.

Nothin' but the dog in ya

In the Underdog Pool this week, all but one of the 'dogs -- Green Bay -- are the visiting teams. That's not a good omen for any of the gamblers, but we shoulder on. Here are the lines, with the underdogs in caps:

13.5 CINCINNATI at NY Giants
12.5 MIAMI at New England
9.5 OAKLAND at Buffalo
9.5 ST. LOUIS at Seattle
9 NY JETS at San Diego
5.5 KANSAS CITY at Atlanta
5.5 NEW ORLEANS at Denver
5.5 JACKSONVILLE at Indianapolis
5 HOUSTON at Tennessee
4 DETROIT at San Francisco
3.5 CAROLINA at Minnesota
3 ARIZONA at Washington
3 TAMPA BAY at Chicago
3 PITTSBURGH at Philadelphia
3 GREEN BAY vs. Dallas
2.5 CLEVELAND at Baltimore

Unlike the first two weeks, which had some easy picks, this lineup doesn't have anything in it that jumps out. Something brash like a Jets or Raiders win is possible, but hey, not likely. Should we try to make a modest 3 points with Carolina or Arizona?

Readers, I wait on your wisdom. I'm still in second place, but without a win this week, I will likely sink quite a ways in the pool standings. Remember, the underdog that I pick has to win its game outright, without the help of the point spread.

Hanging tough

Some people don't know how to behave gracefully when they're caught being up to no good. Charlie Rangel is one such person. Now his inevitable fall will be even harder.

Fireman Randy and the Colwood deal

This morning's Trib informed us that the Portland Bureau of Development Services was telling the public that the proposed paving-over of the vast majority of acreage in the Colwood Golf Course in Northeast Portland would create jobs. According to the Trib story, "proponents of the change argue that rezoning would help fill a regional shortage of industrial land. The Portland Bureau of Development Services said it could lead to the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs."

I read this as an indication that Commissioner Randy Leonard, who runs a tight ship at that city bureau, must be at least leaning toward supporting the Colwood rezoning proposal. He informs me, however, that the story is inaccurate, or at least misleading.

Indeed, in a string of e-mails on which I have been copied, Leonard has asked BDS staffers who might have said such a thing to the Trib reporter, Nick Budnick. These e-mails concluded with no one at the bureau owning up to making any such statement. In an e-mail message to Leonard this afternoon, with a copy sent to me, Rebecca Esau of the bureau wrote:

I checked here with Susan McKinney and Sheila Frugoli, and we have not spoken to the Tribune about this. The 2,000 job estimate did not come from us.

The article says, "The Portland Bureau of Development Services said it could lead to the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs." I can only assume the press got this information by reading the BDS staff report which cited the applicant's statements. The application included an economic impact analysis by Leland Consulting Group (LCG). The LCG report states that on average, Portland industrial sites provide 17 jobs per acre. The LCG report then estimated the number of industrial employees one could expect on a site this size. They assumed there would be 115 gross developable acres which would achieve 1,955 jobs. This info is all part of the applicant's proposal and application, and this type of info is included in the staff report.

We haven't, and would not, enter into a public debate about a case that is going to be decided by City Council. Our role is just reviewing the proposal and doing the initial staff report and recommendation to the Hearings Officer, based on the facts of the case, and then once the Hearings Officer report comes out, presenting the facts of the case, the Hearings Officer's report, and the issues to the City Council, for them to make their decision.

If no one at the BDS advanced the jobs-creation theory to the Trib, then any tea-leaf prophecies about Leonard's likely vote on the matter were premature.

"Oregon Reality" is Robert Canfield

The person who hosts the heretofore anonymous blog "Oregon Reality" -- and who recently wrote vicious, hate-filled, and untruthful posts about my family and me -- is Robert Canfield, a city council member in Troutdale. Canfield also posts on other internet sites as himself, as "Oregon Reality," and apparently as "wob" or "wobboh," using a Verizon account.

So now we all know.

This morning at 5 a.m., he revealed his own identity on his other blog -- the one on which he signs his name. He also made a speech there in his own defense, which I leave for you to judge.

Last evening, one of the three hurtful and offensive posts about me on the "Oregon Reality" blog was removed, and a correction was posted a few hours later, just after midnight.

At this writing, however, the other two posts remain, including one that contains a false and defamatory statement about my competence as an attorney. I will have to take that one up with Canfield, along with other issues, at another time in another forum. So far, he has not communicated directly with me at all. I have never met him.

There are many interesting aspects of Canfield's behavior, but perhaps the greatest irony is a feature of his second blog. It boldly states on its masthead: "Anonymous comments and ad hominem attacks will be deleted." Uh huh.

Colwood neighbors, meet Goliath

The folks who want to keep the Colwood Golf Course a greenspace are about to find out what really talks at Portland City Hall. It's green, all right, but not as in "sustainable." It's green, as in money.

Today Nick Budnick of the Trib breaks some serious bad news for the park advocates: The owners of the property, who want it rezoned so that they can sell a bunch of it off to the Port of Portland for an airport expansion, and most of the rest to unnamed "industrial" interests, have hired Steve Janik to represent them. Janik, a one-time colleague of mine, is a highly skilled attorney, and the ultimate Portland City Hall fixer. He has been pulling strings and mowing down neighborhood opposition to development projects since the late 1970s. He is to advocacy for real estate types what I try to be to blogging: smart, hard-driving, and relentless.

The "Hollywood West" Fred Meyer store? Wouldn't have gone in without Janik. The huge parking garage across from the Schnitz? Ditto, Janik. There are many, many more. Janik manipulates local politicians like a master puppeteer with a collection of colorful marionettes. A few years back, he used to let Jim Francesconi use office space in his law firm to dial for campaign dollars. Lightweight Sarah Palin types like Sam Adams will see things Janik's way, have no doubt.

Janik joins a growing raft of lobbyists who have been enlisted to get that land over to the Port, and to the other paradise-pavers who think a blue heron is a drug to stay away from. As noted here last week, Mike Lindberg is on board, and we now see that "developer Roland Haertl and consultant Trina Whitman, a former aide to Congressman Earl Blumenauer," are also in on the action.

Who's paying for all that arm-twisting? It's got to be costing a fortune. Janik alone has got to run $500 an hour, or more. Are the golf course owners really willing to throw that much dough around? Something tells me that there are some other West Hills dudes with a stake in this -- a big construction company, maybe, and of course some developers -- and a master plan for the whole place has already been sketched out on the QT. The deal has doubtlessly already been quietly wired at the Port -- it usually is -- and so Portland City Hall is the last piece left on the board for the money boys to capture. The whole thing has serious Arlington Club musk wafting off it. And of course, the Port has a bottomless pit of money to play with. Are Port tax dollars going into the fight with the neighbors? One way or another, I'll bet they are.

In any event, already the big bucks are paying off. Now the City Council has suddenly decided that it won't be ruling on the zoning change until November. Will that be the day before Thanksgiving, so that the news can be conveniently lost by the local media? Or how about the day after Election Day, amidst either a massive Obama party hangover or alternatively, the talk of Oregon seceding from the United States?

And of course, delay greatly helps the developer and Port interests, whose minions get paid by the hour while the hapless unpaid neighborhood activists watch months, and then years, of their lives get burned up trying to hang in there. Eventually in such cases, the neighbors tend to give up. Some move away. The rest stick around and resent the city government for the rest of their lives. It happens all the time. Go ask the folks in Buckman, as just one example.

Meanwhile, it looks as though Fireman Randy's already been convinced to give the Port what it wants. Suddenly today a city bureau under his command is touting the rezoning as a jobs-creation vehicle. Budnick reports: "Meanwhile, proponents of the change argue that rezoning would help fill a regional shortage of industrial land. The Portland Bureau of Development Services said it could lead to the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs."

Oh, boy. Say goodbye to the grass, people. Nobody at BDS says boo without Fireman Randy giving it the o.k. He's obviously ready to play ball with Janik and Lindberg.

Lindberg, who was a big seller of the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot], is still talking "win-win" at Colwood. That's a special code in Portland. It means "my way."

UPDATE, 7:42 p.m.: The city says the Trib got it wrong. More here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Was train wreck engineer text messaging?

Dear Lord, what have we become?

"Oregon Reality" pulls one of three offensive posts about me

The worst of the three offensive, hurtful, and untrue posts about me on the blog "Oregon Reality" -- "Moonbat Jack Bogdanski's blog per diem" -- has disappeared from that site this evening. The other two remain at this hour.

Don't forget to come back tomorrow at noon to see who "Oregon Reality" is, if he doesn't reveal himself before then.

UPDATE, 9/16, 4:14 a.m.: Just after midnight, "Oregon Reality" posted this "correction" of the one post that had been removed several hours earlier. The other two posts remain.

And after all we're only ordinary men

R.I.P. Richard Wright

Strange orange light

The sky had an odd look this afternoon. Is something burning south and west of Portland?

Another burglary

Probably done by meth fiends. Why can't we make a dent in the property crime problem?

A busy guy

And he says he's headed our way.

Comcast getting its throttle ready

In our inbox this afternoon:

Dear Comcast High-Speed Internet Customer,

We appreciate your business and strive to provide you with the best online experience possible. One of the ways we do this is through our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). The AUP outlines acceptable use of our service as well as steps we take to protect our customers from things that can negatively impact their experience online. This policy has been in place for many years and we update it periodically to keep it current with our customers' use of our service.

On October 1, 2008, we will post an updated AUP that will go into effect at that time.

In the updated AUP, we clarify that monthly data (or bandwidth) usage of more than 250 Gigabytes (GB) is the specific threshold that defines excessive use of our service. We have an excessive use policy because a fraction of one percent of our customers use such a disproportionate amount of bandwidth every month that they may degrade the online experience of other customers.

250 GB/month is an extremely large amount of bandwidth and it's very likely that your monthly data usage doesn't even come close to that amount. In fact, the threshold is approximately 100 times greater than the typical or median residential customer usage, which is 2 to 3 GB/month. To put it in perspective, to reach 250 GB of data usage in one month a customer would have to do any one of the following:

* Send more than 50 million plain text emails (at 5 KB/email);
* Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song); or
* Download 125 standard definition movies (at 2 GB/movie).

And online gamers should know that even the heaviest multi- or single-player gaming activity would not typically come close to this threshold over the course of a month.

In addition to modifying the excessive use policy, the updated AUP contains other clarifications of terms concerning reporting violations, newsgroups, and network management. To read some helpful FAQs, please visit http://help.comcast.net/content/faq/Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-Excessive-Use.

Thank you again for choosing Comcast as your high-speed Internet provider.

An ex-judge with no judgment

Some people need to switch to decaf.

Bucks not deluxe

Should the governor of Oregon make more than $93,000 a year? Should Oregon's secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, and labor commissioner earn more than $72,000?

These folks think so.

How not to solve Tri-Met's problems

Fewer fare inspectors, more supervisors. Oh, and check out how understaffed the transit police reportedly are.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday will never be the same

As predicted here, there were lots of signs of the implosion of the U.S. financial markets today: Lehman Brothers in bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch taken over in a government-brokered deal. And this:

The American International Group is seeking a $40 billion bridge loan from the Federal Reserve, as it faces a potential downgrade from credit ratings agencies that could spell its doom, a person briefed on the matter said Sunday night.
Heck of a job, Bushie. More deregulation! More tax cuts during wartime! Four more years!

UPDATE, 11:03 p.m.: Asian markets are closed tomorrow -- it's a holiday. We will see whether something hits the fan in Europe, however.


Behind this web page no doubt lurk some extremely unhappy tech types.

UPDATE, 10:21 p.m.: The link is to the front page of SiteMeter, the web statistics site. Earlier today, when one went to that page, it noted that the big switchover that the site had implemented yesterday to a new software system has been suddenly aborted. They had pumped out the hoopla about the change, but it appears to have gone over like a lead balloon. Mostly it seemed designed to get us free SiteMeter users to fork over money for a "premium" version. Reminds me of the "new" Coca-Cola.

Notes on a 'dog day afternoon

The pro football underdog pool is great fun. But it has one drawback: You get to pick only one underdog, and then in all the other games, you wind up rooting for the favorites. My basic orientation is always to root for the underdog, and cheering on the predicted winner in game after game just feels wrong.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Who's been saying those bad things about me? Find out Tuesday noon

As many of you know, since I raised questions about Sarah Palin's fitness to hold national office, I have been the target of a series of particularly vicious personal attacks on an anonymous Blogspot blog known as "Oregon Reality." The latest of these posts, "Moonbat Jack Bogdanski's blog per diem," contains a statement that accuses me of dereliction of duty in my employment, which is untrue and defamatory. Given the previous two posts on that blog, it is a safe assumption that the statement was made maliciously.

The two previous posts, here and here, are also hurtful and offensive, and intentionally so. (By the time you click on the links, I suspect these posts will be gone, but you can see a Google cache of the first and last of them here and here, and I include their full texts at the bottom of this post. I also have copies of the pages, and screenshots.)

Now, the author of "Oregon Reality" has made a mistake that is common these days: He actually believes that his identity cannot be found out. But it can, and indeed, I have established to a high degree of certainty what it is. Surprisingly, it is a name that many in the Portland area will recognize, and someone whom I have never met.

My plan is to reveal this individual's identity at noon on Tuesday. Between now and then, he can do whatever he likes to try to correct the damage he has done, including the damage that will be done to himself when his identity is made public. Here are my suggestions to the author of "Oregon Reality":

1. Take down the three posts and accompanying comments.

2. Identify yourself.

3. Apologize with sincerity, in writing, to me and to my family.

Of course, he can do whatever he likes, but for his own sake, continuing to rant around behind what he thinks is the cloak of anonymity is probably not a good idea.

See you Tuesday at noon, if not before.


Here are the texts of the offending posts on "Oregon Reality":

Continue reading "Who's been saying those bad things about me? Find out Tuesday noon" »

No party tonight

The life of a football placekicker is not a happy one -- particularly on days when he misses late-game field goals that could have won the game for his team. Just ask this kid, who had such a chance but couldn't get it done.

A rough night

Here's a blog about the nasty goings-on in Texas.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Have a great weekend

Lars Larson works Gordon Smith over

In the senator's case, I would say from this audio clip that the base is not energized.

Dumb principals, cont'd

Here's the grammar school insanity story of the day.

How they'll sell off Portland city park land

The city has actually developed a policy for "asset disposition," and they'll be talking about it at a meeting next Thursday evening. Of course, we can't find the policy posted on the city's website anywhere. It's hard to see how anyone could comment meaningfully on it five seconds after they've seen it for the first time. But we wouldn't be surprised if that's supposed to be the drill. Anyway, the news was broken earlier today on Amanda Fritz's blog.

52 years young

In case you missed it (as I almost did), here's a miraculous story out of Bend.

A bad traffic bottleneck may get worse

As poor traffic flow goes, you can't beat westbound vehicles on NE Fremont Street in Portland Between NE Seventh and North Vancouver Avenues. A lot of the traffic is trying to make a left and go south on Vancouver to get onto the Fremont Bridge, and now that North Mississippi Avenue is happening again, there are also a fair number of travelers heading further west on Fremont into NoPo. Throw in a Tri-Met bus or two, and you've got a serious traffic load during the day.

The problem comes with cars trying to make that left turn onto Vancouver. There's no turn lane, much less a turn arrow, and the traffic just backs up as turning cars wait for eastbound traffic on Fremont to pass. Try it sometime during the morning rush -- you'll sit there for multiple cycles of the Williams and Vancouver signals, and maybe two for MLK too -- and lately it stays pretty ugly all day.

Of course, we don't expect the leading lights at City Hall to fix, or even notice, problems like this any more. They seem too busy with streetcars and bike boulevards to worry much about the misguided souls who still use cars and freeways to get to and from work or school, or to run personal errands. City action on problems like this one is usually deferred until a serious disaster develops.

Well, a mess of epic proportions is beginning to unfold at this intersection. Yesterday dieselboi reported that New Seasons may be putting a new store in on that corner. Yikes! Add the construction, and later all that additional traffic, to the mix -- including shoppers from Northwest Portland -- and the sticky situation through this stretch of Fremont will become epoxy.

While bad goes to worse, we offer this one reminder in hopes of helping the situation: Remember that you can legally make the left turn off Fremont onto Vancouver against a red light if the coast is clear. In Oregon, left turn on red is o.k. if you're turning onto a one-way street.

Loose cannon

The October Surprise may be beyond our control.

Tell me on a Sunday

The recent pattern of emergency moves by the federal government to prevent one of our teetering financial institutions from keeling over and crashing markets all over the world has tended to involve big announcements on Sunday. This, as I understand it, is designed to get things settled before Asian markets open for the week.

So, will the Lehman Brothers deal be announced this Sunday, or next Sunday? I'm betting next Sunday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Good night, 9/11

Well, actually, not so good.

Not a second time

Last time around, I voted for Gordon Smith. He seemed like a level-headed, moderate guy, and his opponent's campaign was so weak that it didn't speak to me at all. And so I flexed my independence muscles and blackened the circle for old Gordo.

This time around, I was hoping that Steve Novick would get the Democratic nomination to run against Smith, but it went instead to the Salem establishment's candidate, Jeff Merkley. After the primary, I opined that Merkley didn't have a chance -- that not enough voters knew him, he would be badly outspent, and Smith would tout so many achievements from his 12 years in office that Merkley would get lost in the brilliant halo around the incumbent's head.

It hasn't turned out that way. Smith's campaign has turned relentlessly, hauntingly negative, with TV ad after TV ad painting a black hat on his opponent. Jeff Merkley raised taxes. Jeff Merkley cut funding for home care for old people. Jeff Merkley wasted money on furniture for his office. Bad, bad, bad Jeff Merkley. After two full terms in the Senate, this is the best case Smith can make for his re-election? It's kind of creepy.

Today comes word that Smith is punking out of debating Merkley in front of the Portland City Club. And the normally staid club can't contain its outrage:

City Club of Portland is widely recognized for conducting fair, open and carefully formatted political debates. The Club is the most experienced at hosting debates of any forum in Oregon. All candidates appearing at City Club debates are treated equally and with respect. Questions to debaters are asked only by a panel of City Club members and are not allowed from the audience. No audience expressions of support or opposition are permitted. An impartial person is chosen to moderate the debate. Questions are closely timed and are prepared to be balanced and expository.

City Club believes that the race between Sen. Smith and Rep. Merkley deserves full exposure to as many Oregon voters as possible. The City Club's Friday Forum live audience usually exceeds 400 for political debates, reaches more than 15,000 public radio listeners statewide, and is distributed on cable television. As such, City Club finds Sen. Smith's decision to be disappointing and regrettable. Over the many decades that City Club has hosted political debates, it has been highly unusual for a candidate to refuse a Club debate invitation.

"Disappointing and regrettable," indeed. You can tape those labels onto Smith's entire campaign, actually. With few friends among the Republican Party leaders and many political assassins to his far left, Smith needs us folks in the middle to avoid an atrocious upset. Running negative ads all evening long and dissing the City Club aren't going to help.

How not to run a school cafeteria

Whoever's running this operation needs to be given detention for life.

Council newbies on the stadiums deal: Maybe

Jim Redden has this in today's Trib:

Amanda Fritz and Charles Lewis both told the Portland Tribune they are willing to consider the plan, provided that certain conditions are met.

“We must evaluate how many family-wage jobs will be created, compared with spending the money on other priorities such as basic infrastructure and economic development,” said Fritz, a registered nurse and longtime neighborhood activist.

“I’m willing to look at it, provided the existing debt at PGE Park is taken care of,” said Lewis, a nonprofit director. He was referring to the approximately $28.5 million in bond payments still owed from the last renovation of PGE Park.

Could you possibly get more noncommittal answers than that?

Freedom of speech? Not in Mountain Park

In that part of Lake Oswego, you can't even have a political sign on the inside of your front window.

That time again

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hummin' a song from 1962

Those of us who remember the Cuban missile crisis may see a parallel in this little game. Only this time, we've got Bush instead of Kennedy responding. The nuns had us praying pretty hard 46 years ago, but in the latest round I'm going to need knee pads.

Drill, baby, drill

At the Interior Department, they take that command seriously.


It's week 2 of the annual NFL underdog pool in which I play, and once again I ask your help. The idea is to pick an underdog team that is going to not only beat the point spread, but also win its game outright. The bigger the spread, the more points I get if I'm right. Here's this week slate of games, with the underdog listed in caps:

8.5 ST. LOUIS vs. NY Giants
8 SAN FRANCISCO at Seattle
8 ATLANTA at Tampa Bay
6.5 MIAMI at Arizona
6 CLEVELAND vs. Pittsburgh
6 BUFFALO at Jacksonville
4.5 BALTIMORE at Houston
3 OAKLAND at Kansas City
3 DETROIT vs. Green Bay
3 CHICAGO at Carolina
2.5 DENVER vs. San Diego
2 MINNESOTA vs. Indianapolis
1.5 TENNESSEE at Cincinnati
1 WASHINGTON vs. New Orleans

Off the top of my head last week, I saw two good picks, but this week is a little tougher. Why not Atlanta, other than the fact that they're on the road? Da Bearss again? Maybe the Vikings or Redskins at home would be the safest choices.

Anyhow, with 9 points last week, I'm in second place, and so any addition of points would feel mighty good. Twenty-one players in the pool got nothing last week. Which reminds me -- if you'd like to make a friendly 20-buck wager for the season, and get in on the action beginning this week, you'd still be tied with 21 other people despite your missing the opening week. I posted most of the rules here. If you're interested, just let me know by e-mail, and I'll put you in touch with the game's organizer.

Bullying as a political platform

Is John McCain ready to deal diplomatically with hostile governments? He can't even deal peacefully with Ann and Nancy Wilson.

Governor Palin, your tax return, please

According to Mapquest, the distance from Juneau, the capital of Alaska, to the town of Wasilla is 817 miles. It is a 20-hour drive that crosses the Canadian border and then comes back into Alaska. Most people who need to make this trek don't drive it if they don't have to. They fly from Juneau to Anchorage; Wasilla is about 50 miles and an hour's drive from the Anchorage airport.

When Sarah Palin became the state's governor, she became entitled to live in the governor's mansion in Juneau. Palin has apparently never really moved to Juneau, however. She and her family still spend most of their time in Wasilla. For example, all of the colorful recent events involving Palin babies happened in Wasilla or thereabouts. But the various Palins often fly to Juneau so that the governor can go to work there; other times, she works out of a state building in Anchorage and stays in her Wasilla residence, which is not state property.

The trips back and forth between the two locales certainly appear to be the Palins' personal choice. They could live entirely in Juneau, but apparently they prefer the life they have in Wasilla, and so they engage in long-distance commuting. All well and good. It's a free country.

What gets interesting is the fact that the State of Alaska pays the Palins "per diem" allowances for time they spend in Wasilla, according to reports published yesterday. The Washington Post wrote:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official "duty station" is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor's daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Whether these charges were legitimate under Alaska rules and regulations, I haven't a clue. Certainly there are questions about their propriety. (Perhaps we could track down Emilie Boyles and see what she thinks.) But I do know something about the federal income tax consequences of fringe benefits, and it certainly appears to me based on the published reports that some, if not most, of these "per diems" should have been included as income on the Palins' federal income tax return. If they weren't, something's wrong.

"Per diem" allowances received by an employee can legally be omitted from her gross income if they constitute reimbursements for amounts that the employee could have deducted as business expenses had the employee paid for them out-of-pocket and not been reimbursed. Thus, for Palin, the tax question would appear to boil down to whether, had she not been reimbursed for the $60,441 of travel, meals, and lodging expenses, she could have legitimately taken business deductions for them.

It does not appear that such deductions would have been allowable for any amounts attributable to travel by her husband and children. Section 274(m)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code strictly forbids deductions for bringing spouses and dependents along on business travel unless the spouses and dependents (a) are employees of the taxpayer (here, the taxpayer is the governor), (b) are travelling for a bona fide business purpose, and (c) would otherwise be entitled to deduct the travel on their own tax returns. Unless Palin's spouse and kids are also her employees and she can show that they were away on their own businesses, their expenses would not be deductible by the governor. And therefore she cannot exclude from income any per diems attributable to any of them. (By the way, since she's the employee, the income would be required to be reported on her own return, not her kids'.)

As for her own travel, Palin could also run into tax problems. Only travel "away from home" qualifies for tax exclusion (or deduction), and for this purpose, one's "home" is generally the principal place of one's business. In this case, the governor reportedly works out of offices in both Anchorage and Juneau, but since she has only one state job, she can declare only one of those as her tax "home." If Juneau is her tax "home" (which would seem to be the case, since that's the capital), she cannot exclude or deduct meals and lodging expenses incurred in Juneau, and if Anchorage is her tax "home," she cannot exclude or deduct such expenses incurred in Anchorage or Wasilla. If she got per diem reimbursements for stays in both places, stays in only one place would appear to be excludible or deductible. And perhaps more importantly, the cost of regular commuting between one's residence and one's tax "home" is not deductible at all, no matter how long the distance between them; it is certainly possible that Palin's treks between the two locales are simply long-distance commuting for tax purposes.

I am sure our right-wing brethren will cite the questions being raised here as another "smear" on Palin. But you know what? Reporting all your income on your tax return is totally, totally relevant to one's fitness for office. I said so about Charlie Rangel just last week, and I'll say it again here with reference to Governor Palin.

And so it's time for her to produce the tax return and show us whether she did the right thing.

UPDATE, 10/5, 11:56 a.m.: The Palins' returns have been released, and they did not report any of the travel reimbursements as income. We have revised our legal analysis in an update post here, but we still conclude that a large part, if not all, of the travel money should have been included on the return.

City Hall reads bojack.org

Last Thursday, we discussed the City of Portland's bond ratings as part of a larger commentary on the proposal to borrow another $75 million to remodel PGE Park for pro soccer yet again and to build a new minor league baseball stadium in Lents Park. We provided a link to the chart that the city publishes of the ratings on its various outstanding bond issues. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but that very day the city revised the chart, and the newer version is what you get when you click on the link now.

I wish I had archived the older version for myself. It would have been interesting to do a side-by-side comparison. In any event, we're glad somebody in city government is paying attention.

Sinking into silence

Word is out that Oregonian columnist Renee Mitchell is taking the company's buyout offer and moving on. I suppose that part of me should be pleased at this development. I've had lots of issues with Mitchell's columns during her career, and in my crankier moments I've even called for her stepping down to make room for someone else.

The problem, of course, is that as she's stepping down, no one else will be there to take her place at the Incredible Shrinking Newspaper. The bottom line is one fewer voice commenting on public affairs in Portland. And that is certainly no cause for celebration.

Something new

They painted the bike boxes onto the pavement at SW Terwilliger Boulevard and Taylors Ferry Road yesterday. No green paint -- at least, not yet -- but the white markings are now in place. It's a maddeningly busy intersection, and drivers in all directions get awfully frustrated there. I see some pretty scary maneuvers by motorists at that spot as I pass through (a couple of hundred times a year). Whether the boxes will help cyclists or lull them into a false sense of security, only time will tell. But that time is starting now.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

You decide when you've had enough

Bush deficit hits $486 billion over last 11 months

That's $212 billion more than it was last year at this time. Even with an expected surplus in September, the federal budget deficit for the current fiscal year will top $400 billion.

But hey, cutting taxes during wartime was a smart thing to do. Look at how much it has helped the economy! Let's make the Bush tax cuts permanent, and spend 100 years in Iraq. It's just good sense (not to mention it being God's will).

Peace is coming

It will be here next week.

Guess who's coming to the SoWhat District

These guys should be moving in there any day now.

Mike Lindberg for sale

I see that the guys who own the Colwood Golf Course in Northeast Portland -- who want to turn it into an industrial zone, probably so that the Port of Portland can control it for more mindless airport expansion and other paradise-paving -- have hired former Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg to pull some strings and help them get it done. They're going to need help, because they've already lost at the hearings level -- the planning officer who heard the case ruled that the whole course should remain zoned for open space. The neighbors are excited about that victory, but coming up is a hearing next week before the City Council, where green space can be sold out from under the citizenry unless there's a public outcry.

When we last heard from Lindberg, he was parading around as a proud member of the private group that thought it was going to get to run the OHSU aerial tram project [press button here]. This corporation, Portland Aerial Transportation, Inc. (PATI), was modeled after the same setup that currently presides over the folly known as the Portland Streetcar. The boards of these entities were (and with the streetcar, still are) populated by real estate tycoons and their surrogates, developer types and their surrogates, plus innocent dupes like Streetcar Smith. Anyway, when incoming Mayor Tom Potter realized he was stuck with the tram even though he hated it, he had a famous lunch with Homer Williams in the restaurant at the Benson, whereat Potter told Homer to read Potter's lips. The next day, PATI was out of business (although Homer still got his tram).

Now Lindberg shows up shilling for the golf course guys, and you just know that despite its recent suspiciously benign announcement about not wanting another runway, the Port is still dying to get its hands on Colwood. The latest ploy is that they want only part of it -- they'll still leave some of it as open space. But as the kids at the Merc capably pointed out on Friday, if you look at the map, the part that would be left for a park under the "mixed use" plan is quite small -- the vast majority of the expanses of green currently used for golf would eventually be paved over for warehouses, hangars, runways, or worse.

Between this assault and the planned hacking up of Lents Park for a minor league baseball stadium and parking lot, green space on the outer east side of Portland is under assault like never before. The hearings officer in this case is right, and let's hope that level-headed council members Potter and Nick Fish see the light on this one and get one of the other commissioners to go along. (If you'd like to speak up on this issue yourself, the green space backers have some information posted here.)

As for Lindberg, his place in Portland history becomes ever more tarnished the more he shows up selling snake oil like the aerial tram and the Colwood industrial zone. Word is that the lobbying effort even involves leaning on the North-Northeast Business Alliance to change their stance against the rezoning. You know what, Mr. Lindberg? There's some money out there that you can make, but you shouldn't.

Just what we need: a hothead in the White House

While the right wingers preach to us (and that's clearly the right verb now) about John McCain's sterling character -- BTW, did you know that he was once a POW? -- people who have watched him for years have some real questions about his competence at anger management. And his foul mouth.

Way cool

Bob Borden got married.

'Couv fireworks show fizzles out

According to KGW, the legendary Fourth of July display is being cancelled for inadequate funding.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pushback on the new stadium boondoggle

An alert reader writes:

The East Portland Parks Coalition, which met last Thursday, sent a message to the Parks Bureau and Randy Leonard to the effect that any budget for a Lents stadium [for the Beavers minor league baseball team] should include the costs of acquiring a new site within Lents for, and fully developing, ball fields to replace those [in Lents Park] that would be lost to the Lents stadium.
Let's see... Long-time parks advocates, who have given many years of their lives to Portland's green spaces, versus some guy from New York who showed up a year or two ago with money to flash around and big plans for little Portland and its tax revenues. Who will win that one? (Hint: Sam Adams is going to be mayor.)

A breath of fresh air

It's been a while since I agreed with Governor Ted Kool-long about anything. But this time, I think he's right on.

Sam the Tram endorses Amanda

All the more reason to vote for Charles Lewis.

It would be interesting if someone could get old Amanda and the Chuckster on the record, specifically, about the emerging Merritt Paulson stadium boondoggle.

Don't look now, but we're invading Pakistan

A reader speculated here last week that the Republicans' October Surprise is going to be to "find" bin Laden and bring him dead or alive out of Pakistan. It doesn't sound all that far-fetched to me.

Dom Perignon, baby

Our recent trip to New York culminated with a week in the Hamptons -- the toney string of enclaves on the east end of Long Island where the rich and famous from the Big Apple hang out in the summer. We are lucky enough to know some folks in the former category (at least, mildly so), and so we were invited to head out and enjoy the many pleasures of the place.

First and foremost, it's a stunningly beautiful part of the world. Ocean on one side, sound on the other, and the space in between filled with gorgeous historic towns and rolling countryside. The beaches are fabulous, there is copious lush greenery, and most amazing of all, there is open space, and plenty of it. You talk about land use laws -- in Suffolk County, there must be the most draconian land use laws ever devised. Here they are, just a couple of hours from New York City, sitting in prime resort territory, and yet there are plentiful farms and other open space. People are running horses, growing corn and tomatoes, making wine, and leaving huge expanses undeveloped. Sure, there are a bunch of country clubs, and gobs of mansions (forget the Mc- part), but there is also good old bare land galore.

The history behind this phenomenon is probably not rooted in the environmental movement. Given the locale, there is doubtlessly an exquisite elitism about it. The folks out in the Hamptons have always been determined, I'm sure, not to let their part of the world turn into the Jersey Shore. Surely there are all sorts of folks whom they have worked hard to exclude, and it has worked.

Fish out of water though we may have been, we knew how lucky we were to share such a gorgeous place, and we took full advantage. Our bathing suits got wet in several bodies of water, we battled the sun with sunscreen in several different settings, we explored the towns and rode the ferries and discovered their history as best we could in a short time, and we ate and drank like royalty.

The rap I had always heard on the Hamptons was that it was the epicenter of conspicuous consumption in the summertime, and nothing I saw refuted that. Everyone cavorted as if money was no object -- but on a New York scale, this was just an everyday place to hang out. We ordered from some menus that had numbers on them that you wouldn't even want to look at normally, and we window-shopped in some retail establishments that were utterly out of this world. One member of our party found himself in need of some swim trunks one afternoon. He checked around and found a beach gift shop that was having a 50-percent-off sale. Good for him! But the suit still set him back over a C-note.

Actually, we were told, prices were relatively low and profligate spending was down a bit this year, due to the Bear Stearns debacle and other heartaches currently being felt on Wall Street. I don't doubt it, but I am glad that we didn't have to deal with an even higher level of monetary frenzy.

The Hamptons are noted for their celebrities, and our friends had quite a few stories in that regard. Just before we hit town, one of them had sat next to Mr. and Mrs. Seinfeld in a restaurant. Another fellow's son had had a gig that weekend driving Paris Hilton around. Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf had just thrown a little fundraising party to scare up a few hundred thou for some charity or other. The closest we ourselves got to fame was brushing past Lou Reed on the street one day in Sag Harbor. I didn't even notice who he was until we were past him and a buddy told me. When I turned around, from behind he looked like an old guy eating an ice cream cone. Which, come to think of it, was what he was.

Sag Harbor itself has some great scenes, particularly its whaling museum. Whaling was big -- really big -- in those parts until the mid-19th Century, and the museum, on the main street of the quaint town, gives visitors a pretty good sense of what it was like to work on one of those ships. Bottom line: not a good gig. Across the street, there is the home of the customs master of the port from the turn of the century -- 1800, that is -- and it is also an eye-opener, for kids and grownups alike. We had some good times there.

On the beach in Southampton one afternoon, I even ran into a young man who is currently attending my old high school, several hours away in Jersey City. His mom was on the beach wearing a T-shirt proclaiming the name of our alma mater. Small world.

Oh, the beaches. The kite flew, lazily and well. We threw a football around -- can't tell you when I last did that. We got knocked around in the waves. We dodged a few jellyfish, who didn't seem to be looking for trouble. We buried the children up to their necks in the sand and took pictures. We ate the fare from the concession stand, and had some cold drinks. The kids gathered up shells and rocks to take back to science class. In other words, magic.

At heart, this trip was about family, and we got in a great deal of visiting time with the Mrs.'s side out in the Hamptons. To all be together in such a beautiful place was extremely good for the soul.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

WaMu main man gets the ax

Dear Lord, thank you for federal deposit insurance.

There there, good dog

Hey, I got the underdog pool exactly right for once! I'm on my way to a perfect record for the season.

Countdown to Oden

Here's how it looks from New York.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Into the lion's den, again

I'll try to play the lefty foil for arch-conservative Rob Kremer in the morning, 9:00 to 11:00, on KXL radio, 750 on your AM dial here in Portland.

There go the delicates, through the final rinse

Our new clothes washer arrived yesterday. Despite some misgivings on my part, we went with a front-loading Maytag that came highly recommended by Consumer Reports. The 4 cubic foot drum is supposed to mitigate the wrinkle problems that plagued our laundry lives with our old machine, now defunct.

And now for the kickbacks. Because our new addition is an energy-efficient appliance, there is a rebate from something called the Energy Trust and a state tax credit; the two add up to more than 200 bucks. Good thing, because this puppy wasn't exactly cheap.

One serious downside that I have already experienced: The new machine has a see-through front door on it. And I've already wasted way too much time watching the clothes go 'round. It's like putting your kids on a merry-go-round; you can't turn your back and walk away from the ride. Well, sort of.

It's been a week

And the number of reporters who have been allowed to ask Sarah Palin questions about anything is:


Friday, September 5, 2008

Dig deep, suckers

O.k., America, time for you and me to pay the bills run up by the unscrupulous mortgage peddler goons. That's fair. We're all rolling in dough these days. Reaganomics -- what a blessing. It is God's will.

And where are the thieves who profited off this toxic cesspool? Golly, they appear to have scrambled away. Maybe one or two will be prosecuted -- the rest will enjoy living off the little guy's money.

Whaddya say? Let's have four more years of this.

More dirt on Charlie Rangel

What a crook. Resign, Grandpa!

It's a sign!

From... er... somewhere...


This commentary hits the nail right on the head.

I'm not going to say anything more

But you need to turn on the Mariners-Yankees game.

Have a great weekend

They scan your snail mail to a web page for you

And apparently, they do it from right here in Oregon -- Beaverton, to be precise.

So what's the October Surprise going to be?

A missile attack on Iran?

The button-down mind

Today is Bob Newhart's 79th birthday.

Who will make those City of Portland tattoos

The bids are in on the infamous City of Portland swag contract. The contestants are:

No word yet on how much all the junk is going to cost.

What is Paulson peddlin'?

Merritt Paulson, the recent New York transplant who wants to reach into Portland taxpayers' pockets for at least $75 million (probably much more) to build and renovate palaces for his privately owned soccer and baseball teams, sure is giving it the old hard sell. Some of what he's saying sounds dead wrong. On the Trib website yesterday, we got this:

The Beavers and Timbers have enjoyed successful years recently, and Paulson claims the past renovation project "is almost totally paid off. ... And that was done through ticket tax – a great case study in low-impact public financing."
The past renovation "is almost totally paid off"? I don't think so.

The city borrowed $35 million in 2001 toward the massive cost of renovating Civic Stadium and turning it into PGE Park. The official statement for that bond issue is here.

As of April 2, 2008, the city still owed $28,350,000 on those bonds, at least according to page 3 of this document. No principal was scheduled to be paid off between then and now.

And so unless someone miraculously came up with tens of millions of dollars in the last six months and drastically paid down the debt, it is not "almost paid off." Indeed, it appears that the vast majority of the bonds are still outstanding, and large amounts of the debt will continue to be outstanding (at interest rates up to 7 percent) until 2023.

Paulson owes Portland taxpayers either a further explanation or a correction. And the kids at the Trib should make a few phone calls before they repeat the stuff that the sharpies tell them. Yeah, I know, it's work.

UPDATE, 12:50 p.m.: City debt manager Eric Johansen confirmed this morning that the current outstanding balance on the Civic Stadium bonds is $28,530,000.

Reader poll: So, how was St. Paul?

It's over. And?

What did you think of the Republican National Convention?
Smashing success for the GOP
Somewhat helpful to the GOP
Neither here nor there
Somewhat counterproductive for the GOP
A train wreck
pollcode.com free polls

Happy birthday, KBOO!

Before there was an internet, there was only one place the forgotten people of the Portland area could turn in the hope of being heard. And that place was KBOO, 90.7 FM, a wonderful community-owned, listener-supported, noncorporate radio station.

In the late '70s and on and off through the '80s, I played a small role as a volunteer at the station, answering phones, engineering programs, spinning records, and even filling in as public affairs director for a week or two one summer. Probably the most memorable gig was sitting behind the mike at the earliest Blues Festival broadcasts. Then there was the week that Joe Uris and I provided the local color for the Iran-contra hearings -- good times! Involvement with the station was a fabulous experience.

Today the station celebrates 40 years on the air -- a truly amazing feat. There's a street party and some other things planned. And it might not be a bad day to call in, become a KBOO member, and shoot them a few bucks. Way to go, KBOO.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has been conveniently overlooking income that he gets from renting out a villa that he owns in the Dominican Republic. He hasn't been reporting it to the IRS, and part of his excuse is that he didn't think he needed to report it.

Mr. Davis said the congressman did not realize he had to declare the money as income, and was unaware of the semiannual payments from the resort because his wife, Alma, handled the family finances and conferred with their accountant, John Viardi, on tax matters.
Come on. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee should know better.

And that committee needs a new chair. It's time for Charlie Rangel, who has also been playing fast and loose with the New York City rent control laws, to spend more time with his family.

"This election is not about issues"

At least, that's what the Republican Party wants.

Major, major loss to the Oregon blogosphere

Paul Bausch is closing ORblogs. This is stunningly bad news.

I'm shutting ORblogs down now because the site continues to grow and the job of maintaining the site at the level I feel is necessary to keep it valuable has grown with it, putting it out of the bounds of a hobby. I wasn't able to make ORblogs self-sustaining financially (let alone turn it into a job), and I can no longer devote the time to the site that it needs to grow.
I can understand where Bausch is coming from, but perhaps there is some way to keep ORblogs (or something like it) alive. It will probably take a lot of time and money, but don't we bloggers and blog readers think it would be worth it?

Got a name for the baby elephant at the Portland zoo?

If so, you may have to keep it to yourself. An alert reader sends along this update:

If you have got a clever or appropriate name for the Oregon Zoo's new baby elephant, too bad. Shortly after the calf was born, Portland media suggested that the public would be invited to submit names for him. Keepers, we were told, would then narrow the list down (adding whatever other names they had come up with) and the five final names would go on an online ballot for the public to vote.

Having submitted names for all baby elephants since Packy was born, we wanted to continue the tradition and forwarded our suggestion (Rosario - for Rose-Tu and father Tusko). We got the following response from the Zoo:

"Thanks for your suggestion, however our keepers will be suggesting names to be placed on an online ballot. We encourage you to participate by casting your vote."

When I wrote, asking why the process had changed and why local news had described the process differently, I got the following response:

"The media doesn't always get thing right, but they try. The keepers will suggest names for the ballot which reflect the elephant's range in Asia. Most names will be Vietnamese, Thai, Hindi, etc. We do have animals in our Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit which have Spanish or Portuguese names."

There go my chances. I thought the little fella should be called "Interstate Avenue."

Still vacant

Breaking news at this hour: The Burnside Bridgehead site in Portland is still a ghost town. Why the city insists on borrowing huge sums of money, buying up funky property, forcing out the business tenants, leveling the buildings, and leaving empty lots for years or even decades, is truly beyond me. You can see it all up and down MLK.

Will Fish go for the stadiums deal?

I remember when Nick Fish ran for Portland City Council in 2004. He had the election won, but after he landed a couple of big endorsements, he got complacent, and he let Sam the Tram Adams team up with Opie Sten and steal the seat away from him. Next thing you knew, the Tramster was mayor.

One of the memories from the 2004 race is Fish's television ad. He was shown standing in front of PGE Park, complaining to the camera that the extremely expensive renovation of that stadium for minor league baseball, undertaken with borrowed money at taxpayer risk and expense, was wasteful. If elected, he said, he would not let boondoggles like that one happen again.

It looks as though we'll get a chance to see whether he was telling the truth or not. As reported here yesterday, his colleagues on the present council, especially Sam and Fireman Randy, are getting ready to borrow tens of millions of dollars -- $75 million is the figure they're currently throwing around, in the first, "liars' budget" stage of the planning -- to redo PGE Park yet again. This time, it would accommodate professional soccer. The borrowed money would also be used to build a new stadium for professional minor league baseball in Lents Park, all at the behest of Merritt Paulson, the zillionaire son of Bush's Treasury secretary, who showed up out of nowhere with a fat wallet and bought the local soccer and minor league baseball teams around 16 months ago.

It's insanity. At last report, the city still owed something like $29 million on bonds issued from the last PGE Park renovation, in 2001, and a cloud has been cast over its ability to repay them partly out of county car rental taxes, which was the original promise to the lenders. As discussed here, state attorneys have questioned whether it is legally permissible to repay the bonds out of those fees. If it turns out it isn't, the city will have to find some other source of repayment -- most likely property taxes. The bonds bear interest at rates ranging from 6.5 percent to 7 percent a year; about half the $29 million of existing debt will be hanging around until 2018, and the whole bond issue won't be paid off until 2021.

In pitching the latest idea, Fireman Randy has declared that the city can just go to the bottomless well of municipal debt for the money to fix up and build the stadium for the private soccer and baseball teams:

Mayor-elect Sam Adams, currently a city commissioner, has said he won't support dipping into Portland's basic operating budget to pay for either soccer or baseball. But he and Leonard -- who's taking the lead on the issue with Adams' blessing -- have said they'd be willing to use the city's stellar credit rating to borrow the money for construction.
The whole "stellar credit rating" assertion is puzzling to me, and it's a shame (but not surprising) that the O would report it as fact. The city's credit rating is certainly good, maybe even very good, but it is not excellent.

The city lists the ratings of all of its bonds here. It has about $100 million of "Aaa" bonds outstanding -- that's the highest rating. But that's $100 million out of nearly $3 billion in outstanding debt (not counting unfunded police and fire pension liability, another $2 billion). All the other bond issues of the City of Portland carry lower ratings. The old PGE Park bonds have a rating of Aa1, which would be very good but not excellent. Some of the city's recent "urban renewal" bonds are at the Aa3 level, which is the low end of very good; other "urban renewal" bonds come in at A3, which would be considered good but not very good. Some of the city's bonds would have even lower ratings were it not for bond insurance, which used to guarantee an Aaa rating but now gets you up only to an Aa3, which is very good bordering on good.

The city's credit rating certainly does not allow it to borrow at low interest rates. Most recently, when the city has borrowed money for various "urban renewal" schemes, it has paid interest rates of about 6 percent. It seems highly likely that any bonds issued for new pro sports stadium projects would require the city to pay interest of about that amount. Six percent of $75 million is $4.5 million. That's a lot of money, and it's just the interest for one year.

Especially when you think that a large chunk of the debt is going to make PGE Park a soccer venue. That game is gaining in popularity, but it is no means a sure thing that a Portland franchise will necessarily succeed. Indeed, it is not a safe bet that the entire league won't go under at some point long before any new bonds were paid off.

"Major league soccer," although sounding like a contradiction in terms to some of us, is no doubt a worthy thing. And the city should let the team's owner renovate PGE and build the Beavers another stadium somewhere if he has the desire and the wherewithal to do so. But not with public money. And not in a public park.

I've already speculated here that Fish has been sucked into the craziness that permeates Portland City Hall these days. If he votes for this proposal, that will be confirmed beyond a doubt.

UPDATE, 2:44 p.m.: Dwight Jaynes gives his usual thoughtful and well informed take on the proposal here.

What they really think

Here's a beauty of a video clip, but the audio is not safe for work. As the YouTube page describes it, "Two conservative commentators on MSNBC, after they're off the air, say what they really think about the veep choice." I believe their names are Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy. The clip is apparently from yesterday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Didn't take too long 'fore I found out

It's that time again -- time for my call to you to help me make some money. Once again I am participating in a pro football Underdog Pool, the object of which is to pick one team every week that's going to win its game outright despite professional gamblers' predictions that it's going to lose.

Here's is this week's lineup. The underdogs are in caps. To the left are the number of points that they are favored to lose their respective games by. But in order to win, we have to pick a team that's going to win outright -- not just beat the spread. On the other hand, the points are not irrelevant, in that if our pick wins, we get the number of points shown for that game. The player with the most points accumulated by the end of the playoffs wins.

16.5 KANSAS CITY at New England
9.5 CHICAGO at Indianapolis
9 CAROLINA at San Diego
7.5 ST. LOUIS at Philadelphia
6.5 HOUSTON at Pittsburgh
5.5 CLEVELAND vs. Dallas
4 WASHINGTON at Ny giants (Thursday)
3.5 TAMPA BAY at New Orleans
3 MIAMI vs. Ny Jets
3 ATLANTA vs. Detroit
3 TENNESSEE vs. Jacksonville
3 OAKLAND vs. Denver
2.5 MINNESOTA at Green Bay
2.5 SAN FRANCISCO vs. Arizona
1.5 BALTIMORE vs. Cincinnati
1 SEATTLE at Buffalo

See anything there you like? Offhand, I'm thinking maybe Tennessee, Carolina, or Houston, but as I proved last year, I am talking through my hat.

And another thing

Portland talking pro sports stadium again

We didn't have any city funding for major league baseball, but it's official -- the City of Portland is now proposing to borrow and blow $75 million for major league soccer, all at risk to the taxpayers.

The fiscally disastrous PGE Park deal (which when last we checked was nowhere near being paid off) is about to be repeated. The whole town is now certifiably off its rocker. Go by streetcar!

Mmmmm... "Roundup Ready" alfalfa

It's not quite ready yet.

Et tu, Freelancer?

Talk about being shunned. Here I made a public appeal to Bill McDonald to leave a Grandma Sarah joke on this blog, and what does he go and do? Leaves one on BlueOregon instead.

Worms, anyone?

Here's a whole can. Some are small, others unbelievably fat and juicy.

Point of no return

The defunct Rock 'n' Roll Cafe in the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland, once rumored to be poised for a comeback, is apparently gone for good. Here they are trying to lease the place.

Odds and ends

Here's a place where, apparently, one can wager on whether Sarah Palin will withdraw from the GOP vice presidential nomination between now and the election. At this hour, the gamblers participating in the pool set the chances of her withdrawal at 9.5 percent.

Elsewhere, some reflections on whether, and how, it could happen.

Of course, for Palin to go away, McCain would have to have a replacement lined up. Who would be willing to take the second spot on the ticket at this point?

James Jahar Perez: $350,000

The City of Portland is reportedly ready to enter into a settlement with the family of James Jahar Perez, the unarmed man who was shot and killed by Officer Jason Sery in a "pretext" traffic stop in 2004. The city will reportedly pay $350,000 (exactly when is unclear), and the survivors will receive periodic payments over an extended period of time. Mr. Perez reportedly had lots of issues, and may have been up to no good at the time he was killed. But as the settlement shows, he didn't deserve to die.

Officer Sery is now reportedly serving as a policeman in Beaverton.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I lose

Well, heck. Here I bet a bunch of people a dollar that Sarah Palin would be off the Republican ticket by noon Alaska time today, and that time has come and gone and she's still on the ticket.

Time for me to pay up. It was God's will.

Hey, I've made the big time!

I've now been called a "liar, hypocrite, and irresponsible father" and "a hate monger and rabid left-wing blogger." Woohoo!

The person slinging this shinola around? Well, golly, they don't give their name. How special. If someone knows who it is, I'd appreciate knowing.

UPDATE, 7:41 p.m.: Here's another one, probably the same guy. Rant on, guys. I'll be here.

Still saying what I said all weekend: Sarah Palin showed extremely poor judgment flying from Dallas to Anchorage after her water broke. And the story of her pregnancy and delivery with Trig is hard to believe.

UPDATE, 9/3, 1:47 a.m.: And more love here! I am really on a roll with our right-wing brethren.

OMG! A stupidity filter

An internet browser plug-in whose time has come.

Network membership has its privileges

When you pay your shockingly increased natural gas bills this winter, just smile and remember where your money's going.

In the September Oregon Business magazine, they've got a list of the top-paid business executives in Portland for the 2007 fiscal year. And guess who's right there at No. 4? Mark S. Dodson, CEO of Northwest Natural Gas. His total compensation for the year? A cool $4,894,439 -- more than double what he brought in the year before.

Dodson is a member of the inner, inner Neil Goldschmidt circle, and it's obvious that he's parlayed his talents and connections into some serious dough. Of course, you'll forgive us when we wonder why his salary is going up more than 100 percent while our gas bills are going up only 40 percent. It doesn't add up!

Right behind him is Eric E. Parsons, the head of StanCorp Financial Group, which I believe is Standard Insurance and related companies. You may remember Parsons as one of the Portland Development Commission's board members in its last Goldschmidt network heyday -- when Don Mazziotti and Matt Hennessee were running it. Parsons's total compensation for the year from Standard? $4,621,121 -- a mere 21 percent boost from fiscal 2006.

Nice work if you can get it.

Sewer blues

Out at the coast, it's going to drive some people out of their homes. Down south, it's driving a county into bankruptcy. In Portland, will it wind up doing either or both?

Welcome, New Seasons

We are happy to announce that New Seasons Market is now a sponsor of this blog. A real honor for us.

SoWhat "facts" don't sound right

A while back, the folks at Oregon Business magazine started sending me their magazine to see what I thought of it. Not every issue is a blockbuster, but the September edition just released has some interesting stuff in it.

One article is about the current status of Portland's South Waterfront (SoWhat) district. They don't exactly come out and pronounce it a failure, but they do allow as how fulfillment of the dreams and promises that were being thrown around down there four of five years ago is going to be deferred for a looooooooong time.

Included in the article are several assertions that seem highly suspicious. One has to wonder whether they have any fact-checkers at Oregon Business, and if so, what reliable support they have for these propositions, presented as facts by the article's author, Abraham Hyatt:

The promises were big: 5,000 jobs, thousands of residents, $1.9 billion worth of development.... One thousand jobs out of the promised 5,000 have materialized....

Condo sales in the past few years were booming and so tax revenue from South Waterfront has been strong — almost three times higher than what was expected....

Homer Williams, fellow South Waterfront developer Dike Dame — of Williams and Dame Development — and former PDC executive chairman Mark Rosenbaum are optimistic about what’s going to take place in that [five-year] time period. They embody the "South Waterfront is an investment that will take years to succeed" attitude that city leaders and developers have espoused from the beginning....

Really? A thousand new jobs (not ones that were already up on Pill Hill at OHSU), triple the projected tax revenues, and no one expected the cash flow to fund additional projects for nearly 10 years after construction started? None of that sounds right to me.

One thing Hyatt wrote that does ring true is that former Mayor Vera Katz refused to be interviewed for his story. I don't blame her. She and her then-chief of staff Sam Adams are more responsible for the financial mess down there than anyone else. When talk of SoWhat comes up, she should hang her head.

Major omission

I see that the City of Portland has formed a 29-member "advisory council" on "public involvement." That's right -- a committee about committees.

It's mostly bureaucrats, but there are some civilians on board. The number of bloggers in that group? Zero. What's up with that?

Putting on my American hat

I would like to blog more about Sarah Palin's pregnancy and daring delivery this morning, but like President Bush, I am so overwhelmed with concern for the victims of Hurricane Gustav that I am suspending blogging about that until further notice.

At least all the panhandlers want is spare change

A summons to jury duty in Eugene can come in a couple of forms. They may send you a letter, or they may just have a cop snag you as you walk down the street.

Tearing out roads

Don't let Sam the Tram watch this -- they're ripping up asphalt on Mount Hood.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What if Sarah Palin were a man?

"The notion that that would bear on her capacity to be vice president of the United States is demeaning," said Steve Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s senior adviser. "I doubt you would ask that question if it was a man."


Let's say it wasn't Sarah Palin. Let's say it was Steve Palin. Steve's wife just delivered a Down's baby four and a half months ago. Steve's dealing with an unwed pregnant teenage daughter, who will give birth in December. He knows little about the federal government. He will have to preside over the Senate, and get ready to become President if McCain dies in office, all at the same time as dealing with his family's needs. Steve has been the governor of Alaska for less than two years. Before that he was the part-time mayor of a small town.

Would you think Steve is ready to be vice president of the United States?

More fun and games with Miss Congeniality

When we left the saga of Sarah Palin and her supposed fifth child, Trig, early this morning, only one of two things could have been true: Either Palin was not the boy's mother and was faking the pregnancy, or she recklessly endangered the life of the child by waiting almost a full day between her water breaking and arriving at a hospital -- choosing to fly eight hours or more from Dallas to Anchorage after her water broke.

Today we read that her daughter, Bristol, who some suspected was the actual mother of the child, is now supposedly herself pregnant, with the baby due in December. If that is true, she would have conceived in March, and could not have given birth on April 18. If that is true, scratch the theory that Trig's real mother is Bristol.

Palin has now said the right things about her daughter -- the baby is welcome, both children are loved, etc. -- things that she should have said had Trig been Bristol's child. Her "abstinence only" speeches on the stump will now look pretty stupid, as that particular policy did not work too well in her own home.

If the official story being told today is true, Bristol Palin got pregnant while she was reportedly being held out of school with an alleged severe case of mononucleosis. During part of that time, she seems to have been shipped off from Juneau, the state capital, to the Palins' hometown of Wasilla, according to reports of police records in Wasilla, where she had several traffic violations. It's interesting what she was healthy enough to do while she apparently was claiming she was too sick for school.

There is still the possibility, of course, that Sarah Palin is not Trig's mother. As we discussed here yesterday, several pictures of her before and after the birth do not appear to be those of a woman who carried a fifth child in utero. Here she is 53 days before she supposedly delivered a six-pounds-plus baby boy, her fifth child. Here she was in her first pregnancy. Between that photographic evidence and the crazy story of the delivery, it still doesn't add up.

And if Sarah Palin is Trig's mother, there is still the reality that she recklessly endangered the baby. Will she survive both the unwed pregnant teenage daughter story and the bad judgment she showed around Trig's birth, and stay on the Republican ticket? It remains to be seen.

As a member of the Democratic Party, I hope she soldiers on. She's one of the weakest picks McCain could possibly have made, anyway.

Another web page connected to the Sarah Palin scandal disappears

A funny thing has happened to the page that we linked to yesterday, on which the hospital in which Sarah Palin supposedly gave birth showed photos of the babies born there on a given date. Yesterday it showed two babies on April 18 -- neither of them the Palin baby. Now it's suddenly gone. Yahoo still has a rough version in a cache here, at least for the moment. There are still a few words of the page visible in a Google search, here.

Indeed, at this hour the hospital's entire site is gone.

And as has been mentioned here and elsewhere, all of the archived photos of Sarah Palin and her family on the State of Alaska official website are suddenly gone. Someone is working very hard to try to put a genie back in a bottle. All the more indication that someone is lying. Even if the mainstream media continues to tiptoe around the main story here, can they at least ask the state what the heck is going on with its website over a holiday weekend? And on whose orders it is being done?

UPDATE, 2:35 p.m.: More here.

Just in time for the Republican Convention

Mother Nature reminds us of some of their finest moments. And this lawyer is still in charge. He's in way over his head -- but unlike the poor people of New Orleans, only figuratively.

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