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

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October 2009 Archives

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Holiday message

Red flag goes up at OHSU

The new chief financial officer at OHSU has quit after just two weeks on the job. Apparently it has something to do with family issues, but given all the turnover in management on Pill Hill lately, the situation bears scrutiny. As Muddy Waters used to say, "that's the stuff you gotta watch." The most recent interim CFO can't come back under PERS rules; he's been gone for a couple of months already.

The announcement came on a Friday, no doubt timed so that it could be lost in the weekend, and of course the O's editors were sure to oblige on that score. We'll come back to it on Monday. Go by aerial tram [rim shot]!

Mopping up

The Beaverton City Council has scheduled a meeting for Monday afternoon to finalize the termination of its development negotiations with the Paulson family over a proposed $60 million minor league baseball stadium. Under its preliminary contract with the Paulsons, the city will return Don Mazziotti to the Paulsons' payroll, and they will return to the city its $200,000 deposit.

Steve Janik, attorney for the city in the negotiations, has been traded to Clackamas County for two red light cameras and an assistant district attorney to be named later.

In other action, the council is scheduled to launch a new building code enforcement initiative, with "zero tolerance" for violations of municipal ordinances. City inspectors will visit properties in alphabetical order by owners' names, starting with names beginning in "Big-."

How to get a raise without working

Former State Sen. Vicki Walker, whose paying gig at the state parole board ended before it started (and without a plausible explanation) has landed on her feet in a cushy federal job. It's hard to tell what all she'll be doing, but apparently it entails handing out federal pork to farmers. Her new salary will be $133,170 a year -- the parole position was going to pay $97,020.

The new setup sounds even sketchier than the previous one. I hope she stays out of trouble.

Campaign pitch: new taxes, for the children

Why is this guy even bothering with this?

End of an era

Readers with a nostalgic interest in San Francisco, take note: They're closing the former Jack Tar Hotel today, so that they can knock it down for a hospital building.

New Blazer feature: Rate-a-Nate reader poll

Our readers have spoken, and the Oden-ometer will not be coming back this season. But since we're hearing a lot of chatter about whether Blazers coach Nate McMillan is really the right man to lead Portland to a pro hoops championship, we've decided to institute a new feature, Rate-a-Nate. Every so often, we'll ask readers how they think Coach is performing this year. 1 is the lowest rating (he's terrible), and 10 is the highest (he's the greatest). We'll average out the picks and post a running rating somewhere on the blog, after we have a decent sample. And we'll crank up a new round of the poll every couple of weeks or so.

So here's our first round on the subject:

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best and 1 being the worst), how well is Nate McMillan performing this year as the coach of the Trail Blazers?
pollcode.com free polls

UPDATE, 6:02 p.m.: Based on the first 66 responses:

We'll update further later.

UPDATE, 11/1, 1:58 a.m.: Through 85 votes, he's at 5.6. For a more current figure (updated currently), see our upper left sidebar, or click here.

Welches con man still at it

I was thinking of taking down my sidebar about David Wilson, the "Welches" con man, this weekend, when along comes a reader sighting of him last night at West Third and Burnside. He didn't seem too pleased when the reader interrupted his phony sales pitch to tell him about his notoriety on the internet. The reader also suggested, "Let me run in and get my camera, I want your picture," which was an especially sweet way of getting rid of him.

DIY and you could DIE

Please, people! Leave the biofuel production to the experts.

Petal to the metal

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm no Duck fan -- far from it. But I dislike USC even more. And I am a big fan of fine art. Which is why I love this creation by the folks at Flowers by Dorcas:

That's enough to make even me root for the U of O this afternoon (so long as they lose to Stanford and Oregon State later).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Have a great weekend

Strike 2 for Little Lord Paulson

He's out of Beaverton.

Now what? There's still time for a shared use of PGE Park with portbale bleachers, but that would make too much sense. How about a $100 million stadium in Molalla?

The limits of PC

In some places, they're not letting the kids wear masks for Halloween any more. But that's no excuse for this.

No fun pranks with the youngsters this year

It makes no sense. Here it is the creepiest holiday of the year, and Portland's scary mayor leaves the country for a week. Another one of those all-important trade junkets, on which he and one or more of his dubiously qualified staff members act like they're doing something to help the local economy.

But unlike some, I wasn't surprised at the news of the trip. I knew he'd be heading over there soon, once I saw that the Japanese planners are currently working on the kind of fantasy project that gets our mayor really excited.

A wakeup call from Wyden

Oregon's fearless senior senator is acting like a Democrat this week. He's actually calling for a scale-back of some of the crazy domestic spy powers that were given to the government in the aftermath of 9/11:

While there are several controversial provisions in the USA Patriot Act, the coming debate is likely to center around the "business records" provision. Prior to 9/11, if the FBI or another government agency was conducting an intelligence investigation and wanted to obtain an individual's personal records from a bank, hospital, library, retail store or whatever institution was holding them, the government had to have evidence indicating that the person whose records were sought was a terrorist or a spy. The Patriot Act changed the law to authorize the government to collect any records deemed "relevant to an investigation."...

I have served on the Senate Intelligence Committee for eight years, and I have yet to see evidence -- classified or otherwise -- that has convinced me that revising the business records provision to include a less intrusive standard would be harmful to U.S. national security. Yet as Congress considers whether to reauthorize this standard -- written in a rush to judgment eight years ago -- some will undoubtedly argue that Congress should just trust that the provision is essential and blindly sign-off on reauthorization. I disagree. While "just trust us" has passed as informed national security debate in this country for eight years, it hasn't resulted in good national security policy....

While the Obama Administration has taken laudable steps to release some information about how certain provisions of the Patriot Act have been used, more needs to be done for Congress to have an informed debate on this issue. Specifically, there is classified information that the public and the majority of my colleagues have not seen that, in my judgment, is essential to understanding the full scope of this issue. I and other senators have raised this problem with the Executive Branch in classified correspondence, and I hope that this information will be declassified soon. If it is not, however, I believe that the Senate should debate it in closed session to ensure that all senators are fully informed before casting their vote.

Of course, with Congress blowing every available minute on the health care reform juggernaut, it's not at all clear that any such thing will happen. A rushed examination of the key issues seems much more likely.

And then there's the question whether the current occupant of the White House will act like a Democrat on this. At least he can pronounce "terror."


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Internet advisory

If you don't like ugliness, it might be best to stay away from internet discussion of the Blazers for a couple of days. In tonight's loss to Denver, Greg Oden had two foul shots with less than five seconds left in the game and the Blazers down 1 point.

He missed both free throws.

For a minute or so late in the fourth quarter, Coach Nate had pulled Andre Miller and substituted Steve Blake. The Blazers gave up 6 points during that short stretch, at which point Miller was reinserted in the lineup.

Between the Oden-bashing, the Nate-bashing, and the Blake-bashing, it's not going to be a pleasant few days for Blazer fans on the old intertubes. They play the patsies of Houston again on Saturday evening.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Our PC got sucked into the Windows Update Dead Zone for a while this morning. Something called "Vista Service Pack 2" invaded it. So far, so good, but if you never hear from us again, you'll know what happened.

Be part of the circus

Portland's mystery layer of government, Metro, is still out there asking folks how mass transit between Lake O and Portland should be improved -- add a few more buses onto the Tri-Met 35 line on Route 43, or build a streetcar. These meetings have been going on for years now, and there's a new round in the offing.

As a big fan of comedy, I enjoy this joke. Like they haven't already decided on the shiny train set. And all the condo madness that will follow, all up and down Macadam Avenue. Never mind what it will do to auto traffic, which along that street is already screwed up. Never mind how much cheaper and easier the bus alternative would be. It's all about the developer weasels, and that means it's all about the streetcars. This is what the Goldschmidt lieutenants at Metro do -- they make the millions for the old boys of Portland real estate.

That's bad enough. But after a while, the whole "public input" charade gets offensive.

Did you know Portland had a "resurgent retail core"?

Now, that's the kind of fantasy journalism that endears our local daily to all of us.

This latest wad of malarkey was tossed at us in a brief story about the city's new park, downtown where the Nordstrom parking lot used to be. Across from where the Aero Club used to be, and Hamburger Mary's, and the Vat, and Alligator Records, and the IHOP. Up the street from where the Virginia Cafe used to be. Across from where the abandoned construction pit is now.

The new place isn't really a park by any traditional standards. It's a granite and concrete plaza with the mandatory glass roof over part of it. Kind of like Pioneer Courthouse Square, only smaller, and with a multi-story parking garage underneath. Decidedly not green.

But maybe all green-ness is not lost. Many years ago, when I used to park my car on that lot, the parking lot attendant used to sell pot out of the little shack he worked in. The deal was that you gave him the money in the morning, along with your parking fee, and the herb would be in your glove compartment when you picked up the car in the afternoon. Given the climate downtown these days, maybe similar activity will be observed on the property.

Paulson takes a hit from the south

A wise old columnist on a San Diego paper sees Beaverton making a big mistake on the Paulson baseball stadium -- the same blunder that San Diego made with the Beavers' parent team, the Padres, a while back.

Tri-Met hacks away again -- at bus service, of course

Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention, but I haven't seen any publicity yet on this new set of service reductions in some popular Tri-Met bus lines. Most, if not all, of these lines are labeled "frequent service," but at 17 minutes apart, that's starting to become a bit of a stretch of the English language.

The purposeful degradation of downtown-centered bus service in favor of goofball streetcars and trains to nowhere marks a real decline in mass transit in Portland. It's too bad. We had a great thing going there for a while. How the people responsible for this -- people like Earl the Pearl and Crocodile Fred Hansen -- pass themselves off as champions of transit is beyond me. Champions of pork and condos is what they are.

Somebody ought to ask the candidates for governor whether they like what's happening at Tri-Met. After all, the new gov will eventually be appointing new bobbleheads to run that agency.

Nothing but Bull from the city

The City of Portland says it's turned off its groundwater well pumps (out by Costco in far northeast) for another year. For the rest of the winter, the plan is to go with pure Bull Run water, unless things get too dry, or so stormy that the water up there gets too stirred up and cloudy.

I don't remember the city's army of p.r. types ever telling us that the wells were being turned on for the season, but now they say that was on September 28. Some folks around town say they can taste the difference in what comes out of their taps when the groundwater gets mixed in. Personally, I don't notice any difference. I wish we were getting less chlorine, but it beats the alternative, I guess.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cheating ref throws serious grenades at NBA

He confirms that NBA referees manipulate games all the time, and for some less-than-savory reasons. He names names and tells some shocking stories. Excerpts are here. [Via Dwight.]

More official lies about Portland population growth

The City of Portland has passed its exciting climate change plan -- don't eat meat, don't drive, etc. It's all pretty harmless, but it's distressing that the plan appears to be based on faked population projections. And of course, the sheep that the O sends out to cover it goes right along with the fakery:

In Portland in 2050, the population will be almost double what it is today.... By 2030, 60 percent of Portland's 1 million people will be driving electric vehicles, said Susan Anderson, director of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
The City of Portland population is currently about 586,000. It is growing at an annual rate of less than 1.4%. At that rate, in 2030 the population will not be 1 million. It will be around 785,000. And in 2050, the population will not be "almost double" what it is today. It will be around 1,036,000, which is about a 77 percent increase.

And gee whiz, folks, in 500 years the population will be a zillion! So we should stop eating now?

(Rail)road to ruin

Tri-Met's WES train is proving to be a disaster on every level.

Portland seeking new investigator in Chasse case

Portland City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade has just posted a request for outside firms to bid on the contract to take yet another look at the police bureau's conduct in the infamous James Chasse killing. The document calls for a preliminary report in April, and a final report in June. By then, of course, a jury may have issued its own findings -- and the city will likely be paying many millions to Chasse's family.

Reader poll: Bring back the Oden-ometer?

Remember our Oden-ometer from last year's Blazers? We charted Greg Oden's progress in each game, with a Walton for a good game, a Bowie for a bad one, and a Natt for a so-so.

A couple of readers have suggested that we bring this feature back for Oden's second season, which began with a Natt last night. Keeping up the meter is a bit of a chore, but it's worth it if readers want to see it. We seem to recall that a few readers hated it. So what do you think?

Should we bring back the Oden-ometer for another year?
pollcode.com free polls

You know it don't come easy

We pause this morning to express our sympathy for Little Lord Paulson. Not only is yet another one of his endless stream of fake deadlines about to come and go -- the City of Beaverton can't seem to find a suitable site for his proposed new $60 million*† minor league baseball stadium -- but now it seems clear that a majority of the City Council out there is starting to see the handwriting on the wall. There will be no need for a petition drive to put the city's $50 million of bonds for the project up for a public vote -- it seems the council will itself refer the matter to the city's voters.

A stadium bond election in the middle of a historic recession -- won't that be dandy? What if it's close -- will we need a recount?

Then, if the bond measure passes, the city will have to find someone who wants to buy the paper -- presumably Paulson cronies, as the family claims to have all sorts of friends with oodles of cash to lend for the deal. Meanwhile, the city will need to stockpile smelling salts to revive taxpayers who faint when they hear the interest rates and other terms on the mortgage.

Then Paulson and the boys will have to get all the necessary permits for the construction. Oh, those many, many permits. They have The Don on the inside now to grease things, but still, that's going to take a while.

They'd better hope they don't pick a site with environmental issues -- and nowadays, what site doesn't have some? The latest scuttlebutt is that they're talking to two owners, but it's all top secret who and where they are. Nothing like weeks in a smoke-filled room to get the public on your side.

All in all, if the Beavers do move to Beaverton, I'd bet they won't be playing there until 2012. Where they'd play in 2011, after they're booted out of Portland to make way for "major league" soccer, nobody knows. Maybe this thing will drag out long enough that the soccer league will fold before baseball gets its permanent new home.

* - So far.
† - Plus parking.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keep on 'doggin'

It's time for another week of fun in our pro football charity underdog pool. The favorites pretty much did their thing last weekend, shutting out all but two of our 21 players. Let's see how things go this week:

17 OAKLAND at San Diego
14 CLEVELAND at Chicago
13 SAN FRANCISCO at Indianapolis
10 SEATTLE at Dallas
10 CAROLINA at Arizona
10 ATLANTA at New Orleans
9.5 ST. LOUIS at Detroit
3.5 BUFFALO vs. Houston
3.5 MIAMI at NY Jets
3 DENVER at Baltimore
3 MINNESOTA at Green Bay
3 JACKSONVILLE at Tennessee
1 NY GIANTS at Philadelphia

Don't forget, picks are due by Saturday midnight, and entry fees are due by this Friday, Oct. 30. I am still waiting on Annie, Dan, Mark, and Mojo in that department. Don't get me in a collection mode if you know what's good for you.

The standings so far:

7.5 - Gary, George
0 - Everyone else

And as always, advice and wisdom on this slate of games, from players and nonplayers alike, is greatly appreciated. Which underdog (in caps above) is most likely to win its game outright, without benefit of the point spread?

Hung out to dry

We wrote a while back about clotheslines. They continue to receive attention among the big boys and girls in the Times.

The genius that is The Oregonian

Not sure I want to take safety tips from these folks:

Oregon unemployment rises

Here's another lost job in Salem.

We're number 3!

Portland's ranked third-safest in the country by Forbes, based on rates of violent crime, workplace deaths, fatal crashes and natural disasters.

The judge, "he ain't no pervert"

So said his lawyer, and the jury agreed.

Any day now

Heard any Christmas music yet? I suspect it's less than a week away.

We're number 8!

Portland and Salem have made the Top 10 places in the country for "green" jobs. The two cities together are listed in the eighth spot on this list.

It sounds great until you notice that New York City-northern New Jersey is number 3. L.A. is no. 2, and the Bay Area is no. 1. Not as green as Newark, or Compton, or Oakland?

High-end groceries will roll toward the sea

The New Seasons store that is slated to go in where the Daily Grind used to be, on the south side of Hawthorne between 40th and 41st, has raised a lot of concern about traffic and parking. The parking's going to go on the roof (wherever he is, Mr. Fred G. Meyer must be smiling), and the big question has been whether the ramp will spill out onto 40th or 41st.

Originally, New Seasons said 41st, but now, after a pretty extensive (and expensive-looking) traffic study, they've flipped the ramp over to the 40th Avenue side. The full lowdown is on the company website, here.

This apparently means a whole lot of customers making turns onto and off of 40th from Hawthorne, avoiding the bicycles that the city has steered onto 41st. But it also means a truck loading zone on 41st, which means that the bigger trucks -- which, unlike cars, won't be turning around -- are going to be using 41st, Clay, and 42nd to get back onto Hawthorne. Too bad for the folks on Clay and 42nd.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

You had better if you want to sue eBay.

You were expecting purple and yellow?

The folks backing the upcoming ballot measures on Oregon tax increases -- government employees' unions, especially -- have launched their new graphics:

Hmmmm, let's see... blue for Democratic Party, check... green for sustainability, check... state is on the left, check... But wait! No children! We must have children! Where are the children?

There, that's better.

Can't wait to see what the opponents come up with. We're expecting something along these lines:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blazer lineup shakeup

Nic Batum won't be starting. He won't even be playing. He's going to have shoulder surgery. Which means we get more Travis Outlaw, I guess.

Only one 'dog brings points to players

Just two players in our pro football underdog pool scored points this past weekend: Gary and George, who each took Buffalo at Carloina. (No one in our group took Arizona at the New York Giants, the only other upset of the weekend.) And so the standings at the end of our first week are:

7.5 - Gary, George
0 - Everyone else

Next weekend's lines will be posted here tomorrow evening or Wednesday morning. Congratulations to our point-getters, but we've got a long way to go.

UPDATE, 9:43 p.m.: I see I've made a typo with "Carloina," but I kind of like the sound of that.

New captain for the Titanic

The O's official paid weekday circulation has dropped below 250,000, and continues to fall. Both it and the paper's paid Sunday circulation (teetering close to the 300,000 mark) are down 12 percent from last year.

Into this gloom comes a new publisher. A guy named Chris Anderson, a native Oregonian who spent many years running the Orange County Register, is coming to Portland to preside over the city's daily. One of his early duties will be to start laying off people who for many years were told not to worry, they'd never be laid off. Good luck to him.

Let the children use it

Here's an album that I want for Christmas. If not sooner.

Runaway child, running wild

Medford, of all places, makes the national news on that one.

Leaving room for the Holy Ghost

Our population control program for the guppies continues. This past weekend we moved three fish from the female tank to the male tank. A month ago, we could have sworn that these fry were female, but as they grew it became apparent that they were boys -- at least, if our current visual assessment is accurate. We've been wrong about this before.

We're told that guppies can change from one sex to another if necessary to reproduce in a given group. Maybe that's what happened with these fellas. In any event, we'll be chaperoning them for a while.

A $6.45 million slush fund for Sam the Tram

This looks like trouble waiting to happen: The City of Portland's transportation bureau, managed by our illustrious mayor, is going to set up a list of folks that the bureau can call on and toss some work to from time to time. The nature of the work, the amount of money that the jobs will entail, and just what it takes to get on the list, are all pretty mysterious. But they are advertising for proposals, and here is the document they're showing around.

Some highlights, if they can be called that:

PBOT anticipates that over the next three years, certain projects will require miscellaneous professional services. Projects include those with currently undefined scopes and generally include work with short deadlines, scopes that may need to be developed quickly, and/or requiring expertise currently unavailable in-house. Individual projects will be assigned to successful Proposers as project needs are identified under these flexible service contracts. The scope of work, schedule and compensation for each project will be consistent with the proposal.... The intent of these on-call contracts is to target smaller projects, however, PBOT may choose to use these on-call services contracts for projects up to $75,000 per Work Order ($250,000 for Street Design Contracts) or may choose to issue a stand-alone RFP for the project. There is no guarantee that there will be any work performed under these contracts and PBOT has no obligation to order work under these contracts.

The City has not determined the anticipated cost for the requested services, but may award up to 32 contracts for a total dollar value of $6,450,000.

In other words, we may not want to put this work out to bid. Get on our list and we'll send you work without ever looking around for someone cheaper or better... if we feel like it.

The areas in which these "friends and family" lists will be set up run the gamut of bureau work:

There's no way of knowing at this point who will wind up getting these contracts, but I'd bet a dollar that some of these hundreds of thousands will be put aside for some unqualified sweet young things whom Mayor Creepy takes under his wing. Particularly under "transportation planning." Wink, wink! It's the Portland way.

I wonder if our city auditor thinks this is a good way for city bureaus to do business. If she does, she may be in the wrong job.

"Urban renewal" passes cop pensions on Portland tax bills

We got our property tax bill the other day -- and so it's time to take a look at what happened. The overall tab went up 5.97%. The City of Portland portion went up 9.40%. The "City of Portland Bonds" line jumped 16.28%, and the wicked "Urban Renewal - Portland" line increased by 13.66%, over last year.

And for the first time since we've been watching these things carefully, "Urban Renewal" has now passed "Portland Fire/Police Pension" as the second nastiest chunk of the City of Portland taxes on the bill. "Urban Renewal" now soaks up more than a quarter of every property tax dollar that I pay to the city -- and I don't live in or around an "urban renewal" area. Another quarter or so goes to the police and fire pensioners; less than half of the city taxes I pay goes toward covering everything else that the city needs to do. What a town.

The tax for police and fire pensions grew only 2.11% over the past year -- a welcome sight, but it's not clear why the rate of growth slowed so much. The city hired new actuaries last year, and they softened somewhat the grim assessment of the state of the police and fire pension system. Maybe that had something to do with the slowing increase there.

Elsewhere on the bill, the lavish bond issue for more bricks and mortar at Portland Community College makes its debut, with a 62.56% increase in taxes for PCC. Metro dumped a 15.90% increase in taxes onto the bill for bond payments, presumably for the zoo. And whatever the East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District does, it sure knows how to jack up taxes; another 16.90% boost this year -- a compound increase rate of 48.79% a year over the past three years.

Here's our annual report:

And just to pre-empt an obvious comment exchange:

Red: "How can property taxes go up when the value of my house went down?"

Blue: "You can thank Bill Sizemore for that one."

Red: "If it weren't for Bill Sizemore, I would have been taxed out of my house a long time ago."

You can take it from there.

The two Oregons

The mutual fondness that the Association of Oregon Industries and the state's moribund Republican Party have for each other has never been more apparent. Check out AOI's scorecard of the best and worst members of the Legislature: It breaks down quite clearly along party lines. Their worst nemeses? Diane Rosenbaum in the Senate and Ben Cannon in the House, both from Portland. Their faves? Larry George (Sherwood) and Chris Telfer (Bend) in the Senate, and Sal Esquivel and George Gilman (both from Medford) in the House.

Those lists are definitely clip-and-save material. They draw a pretty good picture of the political spectrum in Salem these days.

Guess what's coming to the Oregon State Prison

Would you believe, a marijuana farm?

"The fact that the feds are backing off is going to allow changes that are going to make it more accessible," said Bill Morrisette, a state senator in Oregon and chairman of a committee that oversees the state's medical marijuana law. Mr. Morrisette said he expected a flurry of proposals in the Legislature, including a plan already floated to have the state grow the marijuana crop itself, perhaps on the grounds of the State Penitentiary in Salem.

"It would be very secure," he said.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Whose music was used as torture?

We already know that the Gitmo folks have used Prince's "Raspberry Beret," among other tunes, to drive prisoners nuts. But the complete torture playlist is still classified. Some of the lefties in the music world want to force the government to let them see the whole thing.

If you want to take me out, I think about three playings of Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know?" ought to do the trick. Or just two of Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight."

Move over, Vancouver, B.C. and Barcelona

Now Portland's posing as the new Copenhagen.

Counsel, submit your briefs -- ewww, not those

Here's a lawsuit story that isn't safe for work. It may not even be safe for other places. Mostly it's just gross.

How governments go broke

They sign up for "great deals" with Henry Paulson and his pals.

First week's 'dog picks are in

We've now got 21 players in the underdog pool, and they've made their choices for this week's games. Here they are:

7.5 BUFFALO at Carolina - Gary, George
7 CLEVELAND vs. Green Bay - Gordon, Robert, Michael K.
7 MIAMI vs. New Orleans - Michael W., Rick, Flynn, Sidney, Doug
7 WASHINGTON vs. Philadelphia - Annie, Mark
6.5 OAKLAND vs. NY Jets - Bad Brad
5.5 KANSAS CITY vs. San Diego - Dan
4 MINNESOTA at Pittsburgh - Kevin, jmh
3.5 ATLANTA at Dallas - Andy, Mojo
3 SAN FRANCISCO at Houston - Hank

Nobody wanted these 'dogs:

15 TAMPA BAY vs. New England
13.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Indianapolis
7 ARIZONA at NY Giants
1.5 CHICAGO at Cincinnati

I didn't hear a word from genop or genop's mom, and so unless they can show that I somehow overlooked a legit communication of their picks, they sit out this week.

Enjoy the games, everybody.

UPDATE, 4:52 p.m.: There has been only one underdog winner after all of the day's action: Buffalo over Carolina. Congrats to Gary and George on the 7.5-point pickup. Still to play: Washington vs. Philadelphia, tomorrow night, for Mark and Annie.

The ultimate indignity

You go to jail for possession of bong water.

Blah, blah, Blazers

If you're a Trail Blazer follower in the mood for a large plate of appetizers for the season that's about to begin, here's a l-o-o-o-o-ong review and preview by a TV station web guy down in Medford. He says a lot of things that make sense to me. For example, he thinks Andre Miller should be starting instead of Steve Blake, and he thinks Rudy Fernandez should be starting instead of Nicholas Batum or Travis Outlaw. These are not important issues in October, but by the first of the new year, they will be. I, too, would hope that Miller and Fernandez will indeed be starting with Roy, Aldridge, and Oden, and the sooner the better. That puts the Blazers' best team out on the floor at the start of the game, as everybody but Coach Nate thinks it should be.

Speaking of Coach Nate, the Medford guy also boldly wonders aloud whether he can get the team out of the first round of the playoffs:

Don't misinterpret what I'm saying. McMillan has been nothing but a class act. He always says the right things. He's the consummate professional, respected in the community, respected by his players, by his peers. He was chosen, along with Mike D'Antoni, to serve as an assistant coach to Mike Krzyzewski on the U.S. Basketball Team's trip to the Beijing Olympics. That's no small task. I'm questioning whether the Blazers can win a title with him at the helm. I'd say the answer is no.
Parts of his post are painfully long-winded, but he did turn up one fact that I hadn't ever focused on: When the Blazers drafted Martell Webster, they passed on Chris Paul. Ouch.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nice day for a walk

Blazers' season will start with questions

Coach Nate seems to be saying that Brandon Roy and Andre Miller can't play well together. So why did the Blazers go get Miller?

There are so many questions swirling around Coach's lineup decisions right now that the Blazer faithful is going to have to be content to sit back and watch. They all howled when I suggested last spring that Nate's not capable of taking this team to the next level. This year, we're going to see. I hope I was wrong.

Yes, it's nice to have Miller coming off the bench -- if he comes. But he's not going to like doing that, and so you have to wonder whether he will.

Phil Knight keeps dumping

We blogged the other day about how Phil Knight has been selling a huge fortune in Nike stock lately. Yesterday he sold a bunch more, bringing his total sales in the past eight days to almost $300 million worth.

Something tells me that the second down leg of our deep recession is near.

I wish I knew where he was going to park all that cash. I want a teeny, weeny piece of that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Have a great weekend

I heart Joe Biden

Especially when he tells it like it is.

Talkin' the dogs

Maybe it's because we've started our own charity underdog pool, or maybe it's because this week's post about the pool had so much preliminary stuff in it that it downplayed the ballgames themselves, but we haven't had as much chatter from readers about which pro football underdogs look good. So let's give it another try, just for discussion's sake. Readers, which of the following underdogs (in caps) do you think can win its game outright (without the benefit of the point spread) this weekend?

15 TAMPA BAY vs. New England
13.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Indianapolis
7.5 BUFFALO at Carolina
7 CLEVELAND vs. Green Bay
7 MIAMI vs. New Orleans
7 WASHINGTON vs. Philadelphia
7 ARIZONA at NY Giants
6.5 OAKLAND vs. NY Jets
5.5 KANSAS CITY vs. San Diego
4 MINNESOTA at Pittsburgh
3.5 ATLANTA at Dallas
3 SAN FRANCISCO at Houston
1.5 CHICAGO at Cincinnati

Dear Harry Reid: Call the bluff

It appears that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is willing to push a public option in the health care reform bill, but because of some "centrist" Democrats, he won't have the 60 votes he needs to break a Republican filibuster.

Harry, all you need is 50 votes and Obama. If the filibuster starts and "centrists" like Gatsby Wyden stand with the Republicans hour after tedious hour, their constituents will start to see them for what they really are. And that's the last thing they want.

Show them the big spotlight they're going to be under, Harry. Go for it.

Everything you know is wrong

If you haven't bought gold bars, canned tuna fish, and ammo yet, this story may change your point of view: They're thinking of downgrading U.S. Treasury bonds below AAA status, because the country's in so much debt that its promises are no longer risk-free. In every finance talk I've ever heard, this was unthinkable. Now it's just another day at the ever-crumbling office. But hey, look! It's balloon boy! Jon and Kate! Swine flu!

At least he wasn't texting

Here's a DWI bust for the books.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Kill, Onions, kill!"

How many times did we sit in front of our little black-and-white TV set, tuned to Channel 5 from New York, and laugh and laugh at this guy until we nearly wet our pants? More than we can count now. He had so many classic routines. Wicked comic sensibility. A seemingly endless stream of over-the-top characters, almost all of whom were played by the same two guys -- the star and this man. And never, ever were they more than a half step on this side of complete bedlam.

At our house, there were dozens of his lines that we could all rattle off at each other by heart. And yes, I can still dance "the mouse." If your folks get bugged, do it in the hall.

It turns out, I'm scheduled to do a little comedy routine tomorrow night at a charity benefit. I know who I'll be praying to for inspiration -- wherever he is.

Randy goes rogue on Chasse

The Fireman speaks out, three years too late, on the senseless police killing of a harmless, defenseless man.

I'm not sure why he's doing it, but I do know enough about human nature to deduce that he's not suddenly sharing his "feelings" out of an uncontrollable outpouring of genuine concern that justice be done in the case. Two strong possibilities are (a) the obvious story, that he's pouting over failure to get his way with his latest egocentric spending proposals, or (b) equally plausible to me, that his comments are part of a strategy by the city (or the meanies in the police union) to avoid a civil trial and prevent the most damaging facts about the case and the police officers from being made public.

There has never been a statement by anyone in city government about the Chasse case that was not accompanied by a strong odor of rat, and this one is no different.

I just hope and pray that unlike the Fireman, the victim's family isn't in this for money or ego. Making all the facts about the case public is far more important than any slap fight among the city commissioners over turf.

Get your kicks on Measure 66

They finished up the ballot titles and explanatory statements in Salem yesterday for the two tax increase ballot measures that we Oregonians will be voting on in late January. These are Measure 66, on individual income taxes, and Measure 67, on corporate taxes. The folks who are opposed to the measures are griping about how this week's drafting went, and now they'll get the chance to make their arguments to the state Supreme Court. It could have been worse for them, but there are a few things to complain about.

Probably the biggest complaint heard so far is that both titles contain the statement that the measure "maintains funds currently budgeted for education, health care, public safety, other services." The opponents say that even if the measure fails, the regularly scheduled "special" session of the legislature could come up with other ways of funding those categories of services, and so it's unfair to threaten service cuts indirectly in the ballot title. Maybe, but will that be enough for the court to throw the titles out?

I have a different, perhaps more nitpicky, objection: The Measure 66 title and statement say that the new, higher tax brackets being imposed on the wealthy will kick in a certain high levels of "household income." But Oregon income taxes are imposed on taxpayers, not households. Married couples and registered domestic partners are allowed to file jointly, and if they do, their income is pooled. But other households -- such as those with domestic partners who aren't married to each other -- don't file jointly and don't pool their incomes. And so the reference to "household income" is technically inaccurate.

Turning from the ballot title and statement to the substance of Measure 66 itself, first of all, as best I can tell, this is the actual bill that we're voting on. In addition to imposing new 10.8% and 11% percent tax brackets on upper-incomers, the bill reduces the amount of federal taxes that the rich will get to deduct on their state tax returns. Under present law, Oregonians get to deduct up to $5,500 of their federal taxes from their taxable income for Oregon purposes, but under Measure 66, if one's adjusted gross income is $125,000 or more ($250,000 on a joint return), the deduction for federal taxes is cut back -- and if adjusted gross income is $145,000 or more ($290,000 on a joint return), the federal deduction is lost entirely.

I loathe that provision, on three levels. First of all, it adds a layer of complexity when the tax laws scream out for simplification. Second, the only theoretically defensible way to handle federal taxes on a state return is to make them completely deductible, without a cap of $5,500 or any other amount. You can't pay state taxes out of the part of your income that was grabbed by Uncle Sam under the federal tax laws. And since income taxes are supposed to be based on one's ability to pay, that's just wrong.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, "phase-outs" such as the one being employed here are just sneaky ways of jacking up the top marginal tax brackets without people noticing. The legislature has us all looking at those new 10.8% and 11% brackets, but for some the "phase-out" of the deduction for federal taxes will put them in a higher marginal tax bracket.

For example, picture a single taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of $124,999, and taxable income of $110,000. Her marginal Oregon income tax rate is 9%. But now watch what happens under Measure 66 if she makes another $20,001: Her adjusted gross goes up to $145,000, a $20,001 increase, but her taxable income goes up to $135,500, a $25,501 increase, because of the loss of the deduction for federal taxes. That $25,501 will be taxed as follows: 9% on the first $15,000, and 10.8% on the rest. When you work it all out, if I've done the math right, she pays $2,484 of additional tax on the extra $20,001 she made, and that, friends, is a tax rate of 12.42%.

As I say, it's sneaky.

The other thing they've thrown into Measure 66, and deemed it so important that it made the ballot title, is an exemption for the first $2,400 a year of unemployment benefits a taxpayer receives. The proponents of the tax bill are confident that this will help the measure's chances for success in January.

Several points about this: First, it's merely conforming Oregon tax law to a new federal tax law which, for the first time, excludes the same amount of unemployment from income tax in 2009. If Oregon had taxed it when the feds didn't, there would have been loud howls of protest, and so this feature of Measure 66 is not the bold action that the proponents might have you believe.

Second, if you're living on unemployment, welfare, gifts, savings, or any of the above, you may not have been taxable in Oregon, anyway. Oregon income tax allows an exemption credit of around $170, which at low levels of income is like an exclusion of around $3,000 of income. And so exempting unemployment may not cut recipients' tax bills all that much. Even at 9%, the exclusion saves a big $216 in Oregon tax, and if you itemize your deductions, you'll lose that much deduction on your federal return.

And finally, the law as drafted seems flawed. The Oregon exemption is determined by "the amount allowable as a deduction under section 85 of the [federal] Internal Revenue Code." Section 85 does not allow a deduction. It provides for an exclusion from gross income. The two things are definitely not the same. And so unless a generous Department of Revenue honors what the legislature tried to say rather than what it actually said, unemployment might be taxable in Oregon even if Measure 66 passes.

Speaking of which, will it pass? Hard to say. Most taxpayers won't be affected by it at all. And for that very reason, in a world where people sing, "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that man behind the tree," it's got a shot. But as the failed cigarette tax of a few years ago proved, the fact that only a small minority is being taxed is no guarantee of success.

I've often said that late January is a heck of a time to try to get people to vote in favor of tax increases of any kind. They're all broke from Christmas. There's going to be some serious money thrown in both directions on these two, that's for sure. It will be interesting to watch -- but the ads will no doubt be quite tiresome by the time the votes are counted.

Measure 67, the corporate tax increase bill, poses some interesting tax policy questions, too, and on that one, everyone probably will pay, because corporate taxes are most often passed on to consumers. But we've played our tax lyre long enough for one afternoon. We'll take up Measure 67 in a post of its own.

Lew in the House

The former TV news reporter and ex-Portland City Council-Multnomah County Commission candidate will be heading down to Salem on his new gig. Good for him. And keep your eye on Karol Collymore, who lost the county commissioners' vote by the narrowest of margins. She'll be back in the public eye, and probably soon.

The City That Doesn't Work

The City of Portland's hokey "commission" form of government seems more like a failure all the time. While we all brood about how a single bull-headed commissioner could take over nearly every city function imaginable under a single bureau -- and the water bureau, at that -- we also see what gets cut in city government when the economy gets soft. In the case of the bureau of "development services" (which used to be known as the building permit office), since they're not collecting any permit fees these days, they say they have to pull the plug on these services:

-- Elimination of live phone coverage for the BDS Enforcement Hotline (503-823-CODE) for reporting complaints. -- Elimination of Nuisance Abatements, except for the most severe Fire/Life/Safety and Health/Sanitation cases. -- Suspension of investigations for disabled vehicles on private property and zoning inspections for passenger vehicles and recreational vehicles. -- Suspension of investigations and abatements for storage of Non-trash items and debris. -- Increased timelines to investigate assigned cases. -- Suspension of investigations and abatements for tall grass and weeds and overgrowth along property lines.
Guess the neighbors will have to settle those kinds of matters the old-fashioned way. Maybe the new armed water militia can respond to the resulting gunfire.

If Portland wants to stay "livable," it can't go on this way. Nuisance abatement programs shouldn't rise and fall with the economy -- quite the opposite -- just as the water bureau shouldn't be getting into police work or real estate development. The whole system just doesn't work -- and of course, the (ahem) colorful people it's been attracting to elected office aren't helping matters.

You can keep talking about recalling this one or that one, but what's really needed is serious charter reform. But when you bring that up, the money to oppose reform comes flying out of every corner -- especially from the union heads and development tycoons who have a pretty cushy thing going at City Hall just the way it is now.

An inconvenient truth

Some of the folks who are opposed to having a public option as part of health care reform like to call into talk radio or log on to the internet and rant about how the people of America simply don't want it. These polls, however, clearly indicate otherwise.

You wonder if guys like Sen. Wyden (R-N.Y.) are paying attention. Wyden will be quick to tell you that in his heart, he might be for a public option, but not the kind of public option that anyone has proposed so far. And since no one has proposed an ideal system, he'd rather have you be required by law to buy private insurance from an insurance company. You'd get to pick from two or three. "Consumers will get a real choice. That's how I'm standing up to the special interests." Whoopee.

I'm not at all optimistic about where this is heading. And worst of all, Congress continues to blow week after week messing around with it. There are so many other things that the party of change was supposed to do, and it's wasting its chance to do just about any of them. Next year will be a congressional election year, when change is going to be way harder than it was this year.

Meanwhile, the media would rather distract us with other things. Swine flu! Swine flu! Forget about the rape of the economy by the robber barons of Wall Street. O.k., maybe we'll make the guy running Bank of America give back half of his $40 million annual pay. He'll only make $20 million. That will teach him. Feel better?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Words I don't like to hear together

"Viral" and "toilet tissue."

A deal for LaMarcus Aldridge

It will be good for the Blazers to get that settled before the season starts next week.

Where annoying happens

They haven't shot the piano player. The NBA is going to be running its relentless "Where Amazing Happens" ads during pro hoops telecasts again this year. For some reason the league sent me links to three of them today. They are here, here, and here. Start building up your immune system now, I guess.

At least Brandon Roy shows up in that second one.

The polling before the poling

It appears Beaverton residents are getting another phone call from His Lordship Henry III's p.r. people about the new $59 million minor league baseball stadium that the city's going to build. They'd better get their numbers before the neighbors find out where they plan to site the thing.

Fireman Randy going for blackmail?

We remarked earlier today that the cannon known as Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard has become looser and looser by the week. As if on cue, the good Fireman piped up with a stunning pronouncement at this morning's City Council meeting. Arguing for his wild plan to turn his water bureau minions into an armed posse, he seemed to imply that he had nonpublic dirt on the police bureau in the James Chasse homicide case that he would reveal to the world if the police didn't keep quiet about their misgivings about his water militia proposal. From the kids at the Merc:

"I have had experience of the bureau from being asked to conduct a study by Mayor Sam Adams, last year," said Leonard. "They have been insular and hostile to any suggestions. I could never ask a question or offer a suggestion, or propose an alternative. If, theoretically, the police bureau were running security at the Bull Run, and some incident occurred that I wanted a quick resolution of, and I hit a wall, as we have with the three-year inquiry into Mr.Chasse's death, it would be unconscionable to me."

Leonard said that's why he brought up Chasse's death today. "If the police commissioner and the police chief want to maintain their stance next week, I would be happy to expand on what I said today."

When people lose touch with reality, they can be dangerous. We've known for a long time that this was the case with Mayor Creepy. Unfortunately, it's rubbed off on a colleague, who now insists on putting his worst personal attributes on display on a regular basis.

(Legal) tender is the night

You don't have to be a tax nerd to find this one interesting: "Living on $500,000 a Year -- What F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tax Returns Reveal About His Life and Times." [Via TaxProf Blog.]

Utterly out of control

It seems Portland's water bureau really does have way too much time on its hands. And the Fireman really is reaching the point at which he needs an intervention. Amanda, you're the psychiatric nurse -- you tell him.

And Mother always told me, "Be careful who you poke"

One click on Facebook, and you could end up in the slammer.

And while you're at it, watch what you tweet.

Avel signs on to Recall 2.0

Add former State Senator Gordly to the roster with the Potters, Tim Boyle, and Ron Tonkin.

And if you needed a reason to want to show Mayor Creepy the door sooner rather than later, check out this story, in which he trolls for federal handouts with Edlen and the Scone. Thought we got rid of the Scone? Guess again. That sucking sound you hear is what's left of Portland being funneled to the marsupials who led us down the SoWhat and PGE Park paths a decade ago. Around here, we find it quite difficult to learn anything. About anything.

Altogether ooky

The fellow who wrote this tune (and this one) has left us at the age of 93. Those numbers were very, very good to him, as he was the first to admit. "Two finger snaps and you live in Bel-Air." Rest in peace, our clever friend.

Boing Boing will not be bullied

They give the Ralph Lauren suits a well deserved earful on this one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First underdogs listed for our charity pool

It's that time, folks. The lines are out for this, the first week of our charity pro football underdog pool. We've got 17 participants lined up, each ready to pick one and only one underdog (in caps below) who he or she thinks will win its game outright this weekend -- without the benefit of the point spread. The point spreads are relevant only in that they determine how many points a player who picked that team will win if the chosen underdog prevails. We'll repeat this process every weekend through the playoffs, and the three players with the highest point totals at the end of the season will each get to name a favorite charity as recipient of part of the entry pool. All proceeds will go to charity. Winning players here will get nothing but bragging rights and a rosy glow. We'll all get a new way to watch pro football.

There is still time to sign up and play. The rules for entering are here. To enter, just shoot me an e-mail message here to that effect.

If we stay at 17 players, there is going to be $340 in the pot, and the winners will designate the following amounts: first place, $250; second place, $60; third place, $30. If our final pot is more or less than $340 (the pay deadline is a week from Friday, Oct. 30), we'll adjust those amounts accordingly.

Players out there, do you know how to submit your entries? The details of that are here, but let me reprint the pertinent rules:

Your pick can be made in any of three ways: (1) by e-mail to me at jackbogsblog@comcast.net; (2) by posting a comment on this post; or (3) only in case of an emergency, by phone (see below). Picks posted on the blog are readable by everyone; picks sent to me by e-mail or phone won’t be revealed until the week’s deadline has passed, and at that point other players’ picks can’t be added or changed. It would probably be to one’s tactical advantage not to post the pick on the blog much before the deadline, but how you play is up to you.

DEADLINE: ***YES, I WILL ENFORCE THIS.*** The deadline for getting your pick in is midnight Pacific time on Saturday night/Sunday morning. There is a grace period -- if you have the pick in by the time I post the picks early Sunday morning, you got away with your tardiness. But if I post the picks and you desperately try to e-mail in a pick afterwards, tough. It's an unfair advantage to make your pick after seeing everyone else's pick, so I do enforce this rule. So -- seriously, don't mess with the grace period. Do it by Saturday midnight.

If you're picking a Thursday or Saturday game, obviously, that pick has to be to me before that game kicks off.

If you don't send in a pick, you sit out the week. There is no "default underdog." No pick, no points.

In the event you're having computer trouble, feel free to phone in your pick to me at the number listed here, but by the deadline, please.

If you're not playing in the pool, of course you're free to chime in, in the comments section of this post. But if you are playing, please be sure that you send me one, single, unambiguous designation of your pick before the deadline. Side chatter on the blog is permitted, so long as I have a clear pick from you by the deadline.

O.k. enough with all the preliminaries -- here are this week's games. Good luck, players!

15 TAMPA BAY vs. New England
13.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Indianapolis
7.5 BUFFALO at Carolina
7 CLEVELAND vs. Green Bay
7 MIAMI vs. New Orleans
7 WASHINGTON vs. Philadelphia
7 ARIZONA at NY Giants
6.5 OAKLAND vs. NY Jets
5.5 KANSAS CITY vs. San Diego
4 MINNESOTA at Pittsburgh
3.5 ATLANTA at Dallas
3 SAN FRANCISCO at Houston
1.5 CHICAGO at Cincinnati

No Buffalo at Carolina yet (probably Trent Edwards's injury). We'll keep looking until Thursday, and if there's no line by then, it'll be off the board. UPDATE, 10/21, 9:53 p.m.: Buffalo at Carolina has been added.

And last but not least, here is the list of players so far. If you're not on this list and want to be, just sign up as indicated earlier. And if you're on here but would rather be identified differently, just send me an e-mail message to that effect:

Continue reading "First underdogs listed for our charity pool" »

A change you won't believe

This one's truly rich: If you Episcopalians are disgusted with what's going on within the hierarchy of your church, the Pope himself invites you to come on over to the Catholics, where the leadership really has its act together. And making the announcement to the world? I am not making this up -- it's a bishop who presided over some of the sex abuse scandal shenanigans here in Portland.

Is Phil Knight starting a space program?

He's reportedly dumped $185 million worth of Nike stock onto the market in the past week.

Get ready for a long wait at the gold coin store over on Hawthorne if he's heading over that way to make a purchase.

How much will it cost to put a roof on PGE Park?

Now would be a good time for Portland taxpayers to ask.

Get your flu shot, or else

The Great Flu Shot Flap of 2009 rages on, with some folks steadfastly refusing to get vaccinated despite being urged constantly to do so. I guess Bill Maher melted down over it last week, and a couple of the dim bulbs of the right are also urging their lifeless audience to skip the shots.

Closer to home, a reader who works at OHSU up on Pill Hill wrote me the other day to complain that everyone who works at that fine institution is being pressured to get flu shots, even if he or she doesn't work around patients. Reportedly, every employee is being asked to sign a document stating that they have been vaccinated, or affirmatively refuse. If one refuses, apparently the requirement is to wear a mask in clinical areas of the institution. It's not clear whether the refusers will also be required to wear some sort of other identification. Perhaps a badge with a fat swine on it?

A recent e-directive reportedly sent around to managers up there explained:

Employees will be asked to complete and sign an Immunization Election/Declination Form whenever possible at the immunization site where vaccines are being given, once the period for tracking declinations is determined by the Influenza Planning Cabinet (IPC). Employee Health will collect and retain this information.

Managers will receive regular reports indicating each of their employees' vaccination status for both seasonal and H1N1. It is each manager's responsibility to follow up with any employee for whom no form or vaccination is recorded by Employee Health and remind the employee to either get vaccinated or return the form declining vaccination. The timeline for securing completed Immunization Election/Declination Forms will be communicated as determined by the Influenza Planning Cabinet (IPC).

Employees who wish to decline vaccination may complete and sign a form and send directly to Employee Health at any time. A separate form must be signed for each type of vaccine the employee is declining.

* Immunization Election/Declination Form - Seasonal [pdf 35k]
* Immunization Election/Declination Form - H1N1 [pdf 35k]
* Vaccine Information Statement

If employee refuses to sign form declining vaccination:

1. Note refusal to sign form in the presence of a witness.

2. Advise employee that refusal to sign does not release employee from compliance with wearing a mask. Inform employee that refusing to comply will be considered insubordination and may be subject to disciplinary action, including immediate termination. Repeated failure to comply may also result in discipline, up to and including termination of employment.

3. Document Immunization Election/Declination Form as follows: "Form delivered. Employee refused to sign. Compliance expectations explained." Sign and date the form, have witness sign and date, and send to Employee Health.

The reader adds:

I’m finding the whole thing rather panic-driven and faintly double-speak, given all of the emphasis upon HIPAA requirements... all of a sudden, they’re collecting health data on each and every employee, to which departmental managers will have access. The implication is that decliners will be "tracked"... whatever that means.

I’m frankly puzzled, and a bit alarmed, as a civil libertarian. But maybe I’m be alarmist....

I’m not a big fan of influenza vaccinations in that they tend to treat the viral source from the prior year. Viruses mutate quickly. By the time a vaccine is developed, a new virus has usually arisen. The people who benefit the most, so far as I can tell, are the pharmaceutical companies involved in developing and producing vaccines in a panic.

I don’t think *every* employee at OHSU desperately needs to be vaccinated. I think we can be a whole lot more judicious in our application of a very limited resource, especially in the case of the H1N1 vaccine… if it ever arrives in time.

I don't know. At a hospital it's probably better to be safe than sorry. And if they ever develop a vaccine against arrogance or stupidity, I'd like to see this kind of program instituted at City Hall. Get the shot or wear a gag mask.

Meanwhile, my big challenge, having skipped a couple of opportunities to get the ball rolling, is figuring out who's got seasonal flu shots available this week.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Night team update

Followups on a couple of stories from earlier today:

First, the legislative committee writing the tax increase ballot measure titles and explanations played it fairly straight. Here's 66, and here's 67. No mention of puppies.

Second, the "Made in Oregon" sign shutdown has an easy solution. The City of Portland will simply buy the sign! And change it to say whatever Fireman Randy thinks is cool. It will go nicely with his neon rose sign, defiling an architectural landmark. The deer probably needs to be earthquake-proofed, too. We'll find the money somehow. Who needs police precincts and housing inspectors in times like these, anyway?

Merry Christmas, kids. Rudolph is dead.

Nothing like that union boss diplomacy to make everybody happy. Another Portland City Hall success story.

Underdog charity pool play starts tomorrow

Don't forget -- our underdog pro football pool starts this week, with the games that will be played this weekend. Readers are invited to try to pick winning NFL underdogs for weekly points, with the player who has the most points at season's end designating the lion's share of the entry fees ($20 a player, $280 so far) to charity. Second and third place will also get to steer much smaller amounts to their own favorite charities. All proceeds will be donated to nonprofits.

This week's lines will be posted tomorrow evening, or Wednesday morning at the latest.

Details about our pool are here. There's still time to enter. If you play, you'll never watch the pro gridiron game the same way again, and you'll be helping a good cause.

As for my own performance picking underdogs this past weekend? Forget it. My team made it to overtime, but there it fell. It's a good thing I'm running a charity pool here -- my chances of winning anything in the other pool have dropped to virtually naught with a 0-6 start.

Who intimately lives with rain

I love trees. And most of the time, I'm glad to live in a city that looks after them well. The whole heritage tree program is neat -- every Portlander should take a walk or a ride and check out the heritage trees nearby.

On Friday the city sent around a notice that's a little bit puzzling. It reminded us that the bureaucracy has been working for a couple of years now on a package of clarifications and improvements to the many city rules about trees. And yes, they're still working on it, with a draft of a new version of the rules coming out... well, at some point. So what else is new?

Another thing that was a bit off-putting was this:

This project was identified in the City's Urban Forest Action Strategy as a high priority item to enhance the urban forest canopy through development and redevelopment.
Why does everything in this town -- including saving the danged trees -- have to revolve around "development and redevelopment"? We need a City Council that will get the city out of the real estate business, which, let's face it, has been mainly a failure.

Biofuel, indeed

If they ever come up with a car that runs on beer, they'll encounter a lot of resistance from beer drinkers who don't want to see their favorite beverage wasted as a motor fuel. This system seems to offer a better solution.

More babble about "job creation"

It's been a while since I studied math, but I'm having some real trouble with this one:

So far, the stimulus cash has "created 116 full-time and part-time jobs at OHSU, with more hires expected in the future," said OHSU President Joe Robertson. "We are pleased that these federal funds will assist us in growing Oregon's work force and supporting other local businesses during these tough economic times."

The university has only spent about $1.3 million of the funds, creating the equivalent of about 41 full-time jobs. As the rest of the money is allocated, more jobs will be created, but the scope of additional job creation hasn't been determined, said OHSU spokesman Jim Newman.

It's also interesting that OHSU has received $51.5 million and spent only $1.3 million. Hey, Joe! How about repaying the Portland taxpayers for some of those broken promises in the SoWhat District?

The long arm of old Portland dough

It reaches all the way down to Vegas -- but alas, not always with a happy ending.

Echo in here?

Did I hear somebody say "poster child," yesterday?

We're no. 6

Portland is the city with the sixth-largest hotel room price cuts in effect, according to this site.

Sneak preview

The regular game of fighting over ballot measure titles is starting up in Salem again. Depending on how you word a ballot title, you can get some people to vote for just about anything.

This time, it's the two Oregon income tax increase measures that will be up for a vote at the end of January -- Measures 66 and 67. The legislature's going to have a few busy days this week writing the ballot titles and summary statements for the two measures. The whole thing could be wrapped up by Wednesday, and must be done by next Monday, but as of this hour, there's still no hint of what language they're going to propose.

They're supposed to show a draft around at 9:00 this morning. If you want to comment on what they come up with, you'll have three minutes to show up in Salem and testify between the time they show it to you and 5:00 tomorrow afternoon. Oh, and be sure to bring 25 copies of any written materials you're submitting. Or stay in your armchair -- you can e-mail your comments here.

And then whatever words they settle on will be appealed straight to the state Supreme Court.

Are you like me -- do you figure the legislators have had pollsters out there trying out various wording to see how many yes votes they can get? Don't be surprised if the first draft reads something like this:

Measure 67

Saves children; eases global warming; provides tools for investment, fiscal sustainability

RESULT OF "YES" VOTE: "Yes" vote imposes teeny, weeny, hardly noticeable increase of income taxes on greedy, evil corporations doing business in Oregon, who are lucky we even let them in here.

RESULT OF "NO" VOTE: "No" vote will result in layoffs of police and firefighters, paving over of open space, drastic increase in global warming, decreases in funding for enforcement of civil rights, deferred maintenance of bike paths, widespread swine flu, bankruptcy of public employee retirement funds, and other harms too numerous to mention.

SUMMARY: Oregon taxes are ridiculously low, particularly for corporations. Some corporations pay only shockingly small amounts of Oregon income tax, and they are permitted to pay them by returning deposit bottles and cans. This measure enhances fairness by imposing modest increases to corporate minimum taxes, thus lessening the tax burden on hard-working individual taxpayers who read the voter's pamphlet.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's not a tax, it's a "tool for investment"

Portland's regional government, Metro -- formed decades ago because Oregon cities and counties couldn't be trusted with land use planning -- is making noises about levying a new tax on the residents within its boundaries. So that in addition to federal, state, county, transit, school, port authority, and city taxes, we can have a Metro tax, too.

And I'm sure they'll "invest" the money wisely, in whatever Hoffman Construction is in the mood to build next, plus a streetcar to get you there.

Something for everyone

We made a rare journey to the Music Millennium store this afternoon -- there to pick up this, this, and this. With our six-year-old assistant in tow, we saw the store with new eyes, noticing how much merchandise they have in there that has nothing to do with music. You want wind-up sushi toys? No problem. Eyeball bandages? They're on it. How about a corn dog air freshener, or some of that Violet scented candy we used to use to try to disguise the various no-no's on our breath? Whatever it takes to keep a music place alive, we're for it.

Big letdown

My congressman, Earl the Pearl, makes the front page of the Times today as the poster child for the frustrated left. In that, he's representing me well. Why I would ever lift a finger to help the Democratic Party again is beyond me.

The Road to Rio

The terrorists are no doubt marking their calendars.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Word to the wise

I was just browsing through some stories on nj.com, the Oregonian's parent company's website for New Jersey news, when my Firefox browser was overtaken by some malware. It appeared to be the same program that I encountered on The New York Times website a few weeks ago, only it seems even more vicious. At the moment, I can't run Firefox at all, on account of this piece of shinola. I don't know if OregonLive is similarly infected, but I'm not heading over there to find out for a while.

Que syrah, syrah

This evening we went out and bought a bunch of wine, both for our house and as a gift for some friends. We made sure the State of Washington was represented, because they have some fantastic reds going up there. Tonight we read of the passing of this gentleman, to whom much is owed in that regard. May he rest in peace.

Or you can stand at a freeway ramp and beg

Here's a heck of a part-time job posting on Craigslist. Sub-minimum-wage pay, and they don't take any taxes out, so you may have to pay extra into Social Security. No fringe benefits, obviously. Sheesh, can they spare it?

Underdog charity pool shaping up nicely

We've now got 14 players signed up for our pro football underdog pool, all the proceeds of which will go to charity. That's a $280 pot, and the winner will get to designate which charity gets the lion's share of it when the playoffs end. The action kicks off with next weekend's games, and so there's still time to check out the pool and join us. Details of the pool are here -- and if you want to warm up with tomorrow's games, the weekly slate is here.

"He walked!"

Ah, the rule in basketball against traveling with the ball. It's come a long way since the old days of the set shot. In the U.S. pro league, the boys get to go a lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong way after they stop dribbling -- and the more famous they are, the more they get away with.

From our friend Matt comes news that they're changing the league's rule on traveling to conform more closely with the current reality. They now admit that you can take two steps at the end of a drive. Blazer fans can only hope that this year's union-busting "replacement" referees hold Kobe, D-Wade, and Lebron to just two.

Meanwhile, the always-thoughtful league has just set up a video rule book to help fans sound more articulate when they complain that "We wuz robbed!"

A trillion here, a trillion there...

... pretty soon you're talking real money.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stop making sense

Here's a search engine that runs only in reverse.

Have a great weekend

Death watch in Spokane

The federal bank regulators have been closing banks on a weekly basis for quite some time, but now they're also more or less identifying future shutdowns in advance. Who will get the carcass of Sterling for Christmas? Will it be Umpqua Bank?


It's too funny. Little Lord Paulson's ambassadors of damage control on the rapid unwinding of his tortuous stadium deals include former Portland Mayor Vera Katz. This is the same former mayor who signed taxpayers up for the disastrous earlier baseball-oriented remodel of the very same PGE Park that Paulson wants to renovate once again, this time for "major league" (by U.S. standards) soccer.

Katz put the city in hock to the tune of about $35 million for the last rehash, in 2001. There is still more than $26 million to be repaid on the city's bonds for that deal, and the people who were supposed to pay the rent that would service that debt have long since folded their tents and moved out of town. Now we have Paulson and his new soccer deal, which will involve the city borrowing $11 million from bondholders (found by Paulson cronies) and another $11 million from Paulson himself, and we find Katz whispering paid-for nothings into Randy Leonard's ear. I'd write more commentary about this, but we have clearly already crossed the line into pornography.

Why you have to let people smoke in bars

If you don't, they won't lose as much money gambling.

Stop the mindscrew

God help America. Here I am watching late-night TV, and they keep running ads urging people who are already on anti-depressant drugs to "talk to your doctor" about adding yet another one to your system. "Side effects may include death." Any deal to change health care in this country ought to include getting these awful, awful prescription drug ads off the airwaves.

With a B

One of the beauties of the internet is the way it helps us visualize things.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

From forest to fascist

The mission of the Portland water bureau sure is getting crowded, what with the cute stickers, contests, Caesar salad recipes, blogs and all. Now apparently it's going to have its own armed police force as well.

Do you think maybe somebody's starting to feel just a wee bit too important?

Leonard, phoning in from Palm Springs on Wednesday, where he was attending a public safety pension conference...
That, my friends, pretty much says it all.

Animal (tax) shelter

Not one, not two, but three readers sent me links to this story, about a proposed income tax deduction for money spent on household pets. It's one of those ideas that you might just laugh about at first, but if you think about it, it makes at least as much sense as some other federal giveaways we've seen lately. Not only would it put money in the hands of American households, but it might also relieve some of the intense pressure that animal shelters feel during hard times. Sure, having a pet is a personal choice, but so is having a child, borrowing money for a house or for college, making gifts to charity, and lots of other activities that the tax system subsidizes. This one's worth more than a dismissive chuckle.

Riches of a city

Sincere congratulations to the winners of this year's Spirit of Portland Awards. Whatever one might think about the government in these parts, it's hard to deny that our community includes many talented, energetic, public-minded people who make great things happen.

The list of this year's winners (alas, confusingly illustrated with photos of previous winners) is here.

Add to your blogroll

This gal is off to a rolling start. I hope she keeps it going.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of YouTube

In Finland, they know their rights -- to broadband. Time for the Sam-Rand Twins to head over and take a look, no doubt.

Paulson goes into cornered-rat mode

The continuing saga of the Paulson family and their two spendy sports stadium projects took a wild turn the other night when His Lordship Henry III got up in front of the Beaverton City Council and said that unless and until he gets a firm deal on a new minor league baseball stadium somewhere, he won't bring "major league" (by U.S. standards) soccer to Portland.

This bombshell, which was clearly news to the rubes at Portland City Hall who have already promised the Paulson boys yet another hopeless renovation of PGE Park for soccer, came on the heels of some other fascinating news: Even if the Beaverton council cuts a deal with the Paulsons for a new $60 million baseball stadium, the voters of that 'burb are going to put it on the ballot. And the prospect of the project winning a majority vote of the city's electorate is far from a sure thing.

Let's take a closer look at these stories in reverse chronological order. First, His Lordship's announcement:

At Tuesday night's meeting, Beaverton City Councilor Cathy Stanton questioned whether Paulson has secured an agreement to buy and operate the pro soccer franchise beginning in 2011, requiring a $31 million renovation to Portland's PGE Park.

"Yes," Paulson responded. "But it's conditional on finalizing the deal with Portland. And if I don't get a baseball deal done, I'm not going to finalize the deal with Portland. So MLS will not come to Portland unless I do a deal for a new baseball park."

This is the same ploy the Paulson folks tried when they were attempting to railroad a new pro baseball stadium into Lents Park in Portland. "If I don't get my way with you, I won't do the soccer deal. And then all my soccer fans will blame you." The residents of Lents had the intestinal fortitude to show them the door anyway; it's not clear that the Beaverton folks will react the same way.

Meanwhile, outside the city government, the citizenry of Beaverton has discovered that it should be easy to force any stadium deal onto the ballot. Given the relatively small population out there, they don't need a huge number of signatures to require a public vote on any bond measure that would pay for the new minor league stadium. From the Beaverton Valley Times on Tuesday afternoon:

Opponents of the plan to build a stadium, who showed up in loud numbers at the council meeting on Oct. 5 and demanded that the issue be put to public vote, can make that request a reality if they choose. A bond decision can be forced to public vote if 5 percent of the electorate signs a petition within 60 days. That would be about 2,200 people, city officials say.
And from the opponents:
Wilson said her group has no money and is only loosely organized. But she said there would be "no problem" getting enough signatures for a vote.

"If the citizens of Beaverton want this, we will accept that," she said. "But we don't know that."

Cities hate bond elections. They make the Wall Street types nervous, and they slow things down considerably. One of Paulson's primary tactics is the short deadline -- the guy's a veritable font of deadlines, most of which aren't real -- and a bond election takes a while. And if the outcome of the election is negative, His Lordship finds himself back to Square 1 on baseball.

Now he says he'll be back to Square 1 on the soccer stadium, too.

The drama on the Paulson deals never stops. If ever there was adequate warning about the stability and business acumen of a private enterprise that the politicians are going to bank eight or nine figures of public money on, this is it.

Nuke bunny poop story is all over

Yesterday our topic of the other day got substantial play in the nation's newspaper of record.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Game report: Suns 110, Blazers 104

It was an offer we couldn't refuse. Tickets to the Blazer game -- even an exhibition game -- for under $20, and it was being held in the old Memorial Coliseum, as a nostalgia deal. We bought four and took the whole crew.

We love the old Coliseum, and a visit to the place, with an actual pro hoops game on tap, was a real tonic. Every seat in the place is a good seat. All the pretention of the luxury boxes and the courtside waiters and the showing off of one's wealth was absent. They had the curtains down, and you could actually see from your seat through the glass walls to the world outside. It was a wonderful effect, in a building that's definitely worth saving.

Blazer great Terry Porter was around, shooting everybody's lights out in a halftime game of "horse," along with Bobby Gross. Bill Schonely called the second half on the radio. Even the old Blazer organ player ground out a couple of battle cheers for old time's sake. There were breakdancers representing the '80s, and all that was missing was Chain Saw Bill, whose Oregon backwoods act used to intimidate East Coast teams, even those with hardened ghetto players on their rosters.

The concession lines were bad, and by that we mean really bad. Upon arrival, after waiting a full 20 minutes in line for hot dogs, we were about ready to head back to the garage and head home, but the Mrs. calmed us down and got us all to our seats.

There was no video screen, and only a bare-bones scoreboard, which made for little information flow. But the good news was that the night was all about the basketball on the floor, and not about whatever dopey thing was on a Jumbotron.

The Blazers didn't look that good. The fans are obviously ready for big, big things -- the roar of the crowd in the Coliseum is always loud, but tonight there was a note of serious expectation in that sound -- and there will no doubt be some great moments in the season ahead. But tonight, it seemed that there is still a lot of work to be done.

The Blazers' new point guard, Andre Miller, was impressive. The man is a stone-cold baller, that's obvious. With him leading the Blazers on the floor, lots of guys are going to have banner seasons. LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be fed down low, and let's hope he takes advantage of it. Miller is always going to be looking for Greg Oden, too. And Miller and Martell Webster shared some excellent plays at the start of the game (or at least, the part we saw after we finally got to our seats with the infernal hot dogs).

Miller wanted to run with the ball, but unfortunately from a fan standpoint, several of the Blazers seem to have no interest in running with him. Webster was ready to run, and so was Aldridge, but Brandon Roy and Oden are never going to be fast-break players, and so it remains to be seen how much the run will accomplish for Portland. The other thing we noticed about Miller is that he seemed a little banged up. Especially in the second half, he was moving around pretty gingerly, and we couldn't tell what that was all about.

When Miller isn't finding the open man, he's making plays for himself. He shot 60% for the night and finished with 25 points. The only question is what Miller's production is going to mean for Roy, who is obviously Portland's franchise player. Roy had a bad night, shooting just 4 for 13 and taking only four foul shots. He and Miller don't have spectacular chemistry going so far, and that could be a real concern if they don't find one.

Rudy Fernandez hardly played, looked flat, and seems sure to be traded at an early opportunity, unless one of the other Blazer shooters gets hurt. Oden looked better than he ever has, but he's still slow and a little clunky. Amare was not afraid to go head-to-head with him, and if Oden can stay out of foul trouble and out of the hospital, Portland is about to witness some epic big-man battles this year.

The Blazers didn't play much defense against Phoenix. Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, and Amare Stoudamire put up big numbers. Nicolas Batum played terribly on the defensive end, and of course Travis Outlaw, who saw a fair number of minutes, wasn't much help. The Blazers had Ime Udoka and Juwan Howard on the bench -- those two probably could have done more to stop Phoenix than Batum and Outlaw.

The "replacement" referees took some razzing from the crowd, and a few of the players (including Channing Frye, formerly of the Blazers and getting a lot of minutes tonight with the Suns) seemed incredulous at a few of the calls. But actually, I thought the refs called a good game -- no worse than you would get from Bennett Salvatore, and without all the histrionics.

On the way home early (school night), we caught a few minutes of the Schonz calling the end of the game. That voice is missed. They ought to bring him back for a game every year.

And with that, the throwback game is in the books. From here on out, the look is to the future rather than the past. Tonight we saw that future, and barring injury, his name is Andre Miller.

Our charity underdog pool: Ten players and counting

I'm excited to report that we have 10 players signed up to play in our pro football underdog pool. All proceeds go to charity, and so that's $200 so far. The winner in the pool, which will run through the playoffs, will get to designate the charity to which the lion's share of the pot goes -- and if we get some more action, we may let the second and third place players play charity Santa with a little of the pot, just to keep things interesting.

There is plenty of room for more players. The object of the game, the way to play, and details about entering are here. Think about giving it a shot for $20. You'll help a good cause (or causes), and it will give you a new way to watch the big daddies of the NFL on Sunday. Think bragging rights.

We start officially with the games of the weekend of the 25th, but for a good warmup, check out this week's slate of games, here.

Daddy dear, you know you're still number 1

The guy who played Cyndi Lauper's pop in her most famous video has left us. They broke the mold on that one.

It isn't just Tri-Met

Now the bus service up in the 'Couv is taking a big hit. As the lines are whittled down because of the recession, you wonder if they'll be built back up in any eventual recovery. Something tells me that our region may have hit "peak bus." The Vancouver version of the streetcar can't be far off.

Controversy? There's an app for that.

Pepsi's new iPhone application for young guys out on the prowl is getting quite a reaction.

Collector's item

Here's this year's holiday gift for the music lover who already has everything.

Today's internet search

If anyone has the link to the YouTube video of this, please share it with the rest of us.

Another crumbling rock

How bad is the current "recession"? Even the beautiful old U.S. Bank building in downtown Portland is upside down on the mortgage.

Do sushi bars do celebrity endorsements?

Thanks to all the alert readers who wrote in to update us on the guppy love guy. He got probation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I double-dog dare ya

Last week, I made another excellent prediction in the pro football underdog pool in which I play. I said, "I think there are going be four or five upsets this weekend." And I was right -- there were five! (They were Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Atlanta, and Miami.)

Unfortunately, I didn't pick one of the winning underdog teams. I went with Houston, who dug themselves a huge hole and couldn't quite pull themselves out. I'll spare you the lurid details. For me, that's five whiffs out of five picks so far this season. Ouch!

Several readers recommended the Ohio teams, both of which would have paid off handily. I thought pretty hard about Cleveland, but never would have been convinced that Cincy was going to come through. Thanks anyway for trying to steer me straight, folks.

Well, another week of heavy concentration is upon us already. This week's slate of games has been released -- see an underdog (in caps) in the list below that can win its game outright, without help from the point spread? The points listed matter only in that they determine how many points I get if I pick a winning 'dog.

If you've enjoyed our weekly festivities with the pool and would like to get involved yourself, here's your chance. As announced yesterday afternoon, we're starting our own version of the underdog pool, with each player putting up $20 and all proceeds going to charity. The player with the most points at the end of the playoffs gets to designate a charity that will receive the pool of entry fees. That, and enjoy serious bragging rights, of course. Please consider signing up. It's for a good cause -- maybe your favorite cause!

We're still rounding up players in our own pool -- seven expressions of interest and five entry fees paid so far -- and so this week is just a warmup. Our pool picks start in earnest next week. Meanwhile, given the awful straits I'm in in the other pool, I need all the advice I can get right now. And so readers, please start your sports expert engines:

14 OAKLAND vs. Philadelphia
14 CLEVELAND at Pittsburgh
13 DETROIT at Green Bay
10 ST. LOUIS at Jacksonville
10 BUFFALO at NY Jets
9.5 TENNESSEE at New England
6.5 KANSAS CITY at Washington
4.5 HOUSTON at Cincinnati
4 DENVER at San Diego
3 BALTIMORE at Minnesota
3 NY GIANTS at New Orleans
3 TAMPA BAY vs. Carolina
3 ARIZONA at Seattle
3 CHICAGO at Atlanta

Paulson soccer deal looks worse by the day

Back in June, we blogged with a smirk about the news that the "major" (by U.S. standards) soccer league that the taxpayers of Portland are being forced to buy into by the City Council was seriously considering shifting its season to the winter months, which would surely kill off any slim chance the league has for financial survival. Today other media have also taken note of that proposal.

There are so many reasons why the financially cursed PGE Park will never be anything but a terrible burden to the city's taxpayers. The real challenge is predicting the precise mode of failure this time around. A winter schedule in Portland weather would certainly be a leading candidate.

Shocking SoWhat news!

Hold onto your hats, people. You'll never believe it. The proposed pedestrian bridge over I-5 in Portland's Lair Hill neighborhood into the SoWhat District is 68 percent over budget and may not get built!

Who could ever have predicted that?

Hangin' our shirts in the dirty breeze

This story stirred up some memories. In my childhood home on the east side of Newark, there was no clothes dryer, and so all the laundry was hung out on a clothesline to dry. The pole to which the line was attached was in the back of our fourplex, and the back bedrooms of all four units were the kids' rooms, and so our moms would drag the clean, wet laundry up from the cellar (where the washing machines were) into our bedrooms, fight their way through scattered toys and other kid pickup items, and open up the window to hang the clothes out. There was a storm window and a screen on top of the regular window, and so sometimes the opening was a three-step process.

Each clothesline was looped over a couple of pulleys -- one anchored near the outside of the window and the other on the pole. You'd pin an item on the line, push it out, then add another and another, until the line was full all the way out to the pole.

Under this system, laundry chores were at the mercy of the elements. No drying on rainy days, of course, and when the weather turned from fair to rainy in a hurry -- which was often back in New Jersey -- there was a bit of a mad scramble to pull the clothes in before they got soaked. On these occasions, the clothes would have to be re-hung in the cellar, a dark place where the four coal bins were -- not exactly the best place for clean laundry to reside.

Wintertime was an especially interesting season for clothes drying. When Mom opened the back window, some wicked cold air would come rushing in, and as the clothes went out on the line, they would be steaming. After hanging out in the frigid air for a while, they would sometimes freeze solid. I don't think they ever broke when they came back into the house, but they sure were stiff and cold.

Up and down the alley that our house backed onto, all the moms did the same thing. Rows and rows of clean clothes, on multiple levels, were seen flapping in the breeze. Your wardrobe of the past week would be on full display for the neighbors. Every once in a while, a clothespin wouldn't hold and somebody's clean clothes would drop onto the ground. For the tenants on the top floor, that meant a walk down a couple of flights of stairs, and back up with the fallen item. I don't recall anything being stolen off the line, but I can't imagine that it didn't happen on occasion.

Anyway, here's to the people who want to dry their clothes on clotheslines in the open air. There's no good reason why they shouldn't be allowed to do it.

New research breakthrough from U of O student

A Facebook happiness index. [Via the Times.]

World Toilet Summit wants to hear from Portlanders

I am not making this up.

It's an exciting, new... er... thingy

A reader reports that Tanner Springs Park -- the avant garde park in the Pearl District -- now has some avant garde art to go with it:

But like so many expensive, "cool" additions to the Portland streetscape, this thing isn't too practical. Already one of its overhead glass panels has badly cracked and had to be repaired. And according to the reader, the city was none too swift in responding to reports of the problem.

This installation reminds me of the laughable bus "shelters" that have recently replaced the old ones on the transit mall. One wonders how much broken glass we've got in our future.

Pushback on PERS bottom-feeder investments

We blogged a couple of weeks ago, with slightly upraised eyebrow, about the State of Oregon's deepening involvement with a "distressed asset" flipper who makes a pile of dough buying up the IOU's of the down and out in the recession. It appears that we aren't the only one wondering how right that is.

2,500 miles and a world away

To me, the most interesting thing about this story is the difference it reveals between Ohio and Oregon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Paulson's new math: 40% of $59 million is $9 million

They've got some details now on the proposed financial deal between Little Lord Paulson and his latest rube, the city of Beaverton, over his new baseball stadium. The projected cost in the new liars' budget is $59 million, of which Paulson will put up $9 million and the city will borrow the other $50 million.

Adding a bit of priceless comedy to the proceedings is Paulson's assertion that this is somehow a "60-40 split," with the taxpayers paying 60 percent and him paying 40 percent. Even funnier is the blithe acceptance of this bit of math prestidigitation by the O, whose headline reads: "Beaverton stadium deal is $59 million -- 60 percent from taxpayers." Reporter Brad Schmidt also buys into the "60-40 split" line, as fed to him by Beaverton's mayor, Walter Brennan.

It's quite a load of malarkey, achievable only if one thinks that the 6 percent ticket tax that will be imposed on stadium events is somehow Paulson's money. The last time I checked, even well placed Republican trust fund babies did not have the authority to impose taxes in this country. And so the real "taxpayer" side of this project is 84.75 percent.

But hey, as a taxpayer of Portland, I urge Beaverton to go for it. Build him a soccer stadium, too, and get the robber barons of the Paulson family out of Portland entirely.

Parental advisory

If Bob Dylan put on a Santa suit and sat on a chair at the mall, would you let your kids sit on his lap?

Another assault on privacy

Thought your driver's license information was private? Think again.

Pick pro football underdogs for charity!

I've decided to go for it. Having had countless e-conversations with members of the blogosphere over the years about the pro football underdog pool in which I play, I've decided to take a reader up on a nice suggestion. I'm going to run an informal pool of my own here on this blog, with all proceeds going to charity, and hope that I don't get locked up over it.

Here's how the game works: Every week, players try to pick one (and only one) underdog team on the upcoming weekend's NFL schedule that the player thinks is going to win its game outright -- that is, straight up, without the benefit of any point spread. If the player picks correctly, he or she wins the number of points that his or her underdog team was favored to lose by. The player with the most points at the end of the season is the winner of the pool, and gets to designate all (or the lion's share) of the entry fee pot to charity (see below).

Example 1: Last weekend, Cincinnati was favored to lose by 9 against Baltimore. Cincinnati in fact won the game, 17-14. Players who picked Cincinnati get 9 points.

Example 2: Last weekend, Kansas City was favored to lose by 9 points against Dallas. Kansas City lost by 6 points, 26-20. Players who picked Kansas City get no points because Kansas City didn't win its game outright.

We will start in Week 7 -- the weekend of October 25 -- and go through the end of the playoffs. That gives us time to drum up more players. We'll still have a dozen weekends or so -- the NFL season is a long one. (You can use this coming weekend as a warmup.)

Here's what our pool is about: It's all for charity. If you win, you will get to direct the pool entry fees to your favorite charity, which must be a section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Depending on how many players we get, we may allow the second- and third-place finishers to designate smaller (much smaller) portions of the pot to their favorite charities. All entry fees will be paid to one or more charities.

And so basically, what's in it for you is bragging rights and the chance to be a local hero for your favorite charitable cause.

Here's how you can play:
You enter by sending me $20. Check or money order only, please. E-mail me here and I'll shoot you my snail mail address. The absolute deadline for my receipt of your payment is 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, Oct. 30.

You can enter now and pay later, so long as it's before midnight Friday night the 30th. To enter, just shoot me an e-mail message here to that effect.

Privacy: We will be posting everyone's picks and the standings of the players every week. Please be sure to let me know how you wish to be identified in those postings. Any work-safe nickname will do. If I don't hear otherwise, I'll use your first name, and if there is more than one player with the same first name, I'll use your last initial as well.

Fine print: Details about how weekly lines are set, and the rules for sending me your pick each week, are here.

UPDATE, 10/20, 11:47 p.m.: The first week's lines are up! They are here.

City says new street plan won't hurt free speech

On Thursday, we blogged about the forthcoming revision to the City of Portland's "special events" rules involving mass gatherings on the streets and sidewalks. We tried not to make it out as a major threat to free expression, although we noted that the concept of a "free speech permit" seemed mildly comical. Well, that must have hit a nerve down at City Hall, because the next day we got this e-mail message from Kathleen Butler, the regulatory division manager at the city revenue bureau:

A recent posting on your blog related to Portland Special Events code revisions was brought to my attention today. We have also received several calls with questions about this issue.

This is to clarify that the proposed program will in no way change the program's approach to free speech events. Nor will it inhibit free speech in any way.

Under the current and proposed program, planned free speech events that notify the Special Events Program receive assistance with developing a plan that encourages public safety to participants and nonparticipants alike. The proposed Special Events guidelines, such as the number of participants and application timelines, do not apply to free speech events. The Special Events Program cannot and will not interfere with the public right to assembly as it applies to the time, place and manner of an event. I have attached an updated document that we have issued to all stakeholders that I hope provides clarifications regarding the new policy.

The proposed code language regarding free speech events is intended to clarify and make explicit the current policies regarding free speech events.

Please feel free to contact me at any time if you'd like to discuss the proposal.

The "updated document" was a copy of another e-mail message, dated Thursday, and it is here. It appears that when a demonstration spills out onto the street, the "special events" program steps out of the way and turns it over to the police bureau. And when dealing with some members of that force, you'll need more than a permit.

You think your neighbor's dog is bad?

Our unruly acquaintance along the Columbia River to the northeast, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, is one of the most dangerously polluted sites in the world. It's so bad out there near the Cold War bomb factories that the wildlife on the sprawling complex drink nuclear waste and become radioactive. Their poop becomes radioactive, too. I am not making this up.

And so get this -- they just spent $300,000 of federal stimulus money picking up some radioactive rabbit droppings, assisted by a helicopter spotter. "Roger, we've got some serious plutonium-rich bunny turd at 2 o'clock, over." Only in America.

Leaf it to Creepy

Portland's mayor had a couple of announcements the other day -- he's a classic political conniver, burying the bad news on Friday night -- relating to leaf pickup. The first was that he wasn't going to try to implement a leaf pickup tax, as he ludicrously suggested last year. The second was that the city isn't going to run leaf drop-off collection sites any more.

As between those two items, the second item was far more important than the first. Indeed, the first item was a blatant attempt to distract people from the second. But of course, the Pulitzer-winning dim bulbs in the local mainstream media took the bait and ran with the no-tax part first.

Let's get down to the real news -- the fact that the leaf drop-off program is being discontinued. What kind of sense does that make? Whatever the city is saving by closing those depots is probably going to be spent several times over for overtime for city workers to clean out clogged storm drains and relieve flooded intersections. The mayor's telling Portlanders who used to use the depots to call their garbage carriers to make other arrangements -- but we all know that those arrangements are going to result in extra charges on people's garbage bills. And given the depression we're currently in, people faced with a choice between a higher garbage bill and leaving the leaves on the ground to swirl down to the nearest sewer grate are going to do the obvious.

Why can't we afford the leaf drop-off depots any more?

I guess it's because we're spending all our money on being a "multi-modal mecca." I wish every Portlander would rake up a big, black plastic bag full of leaves, drive down to the nearest streetcar stop, board a streetcar with the bag, and leave it behind. Maybe then Mayor Creepy will get the picture.

By cracky, it was bad!

Are you like me -- do you quietly humor the old-time Oregonians who keep telling us about the Columbus Day storm of 1962? I mean, it's not like I burden people on May 18 every year with my story of how close I was to the catastrophic Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. Yeah, it was a big deal, but life goes on, for the survivors.

Anyway, as I say, I'm patient with the folks who simply have to tell you about '62. I've been listening patiently for the 31 years plus that I've lived in Portland. And so it was with mild interest that I opened up some photos sent yesterday by a reader who was here for it 47 years ago today. They're from the Grant Park neighborhood, although they barely scratch the surface of the destruction from the hellacious winds:

The reader writes:

The Columbus Day storm changed the way insurance companies handled damage caused by trees. Since much of the house damage caused by limbs and other flying debris could not be traced back to the source, it became the homeowner's insurance company's responsibility to pay for the damage, not the owner of the tree. So even today, if your neighbor's tree falls on your house, don't go looking at the neighbor's insurance for reimbursement.
One fact that the reader told me, I hadn't heard in all the years of listening to the story: Around three and half weeks after the devastating windstorm, Portland had an earthquake. It was on November 5, and it registered 5.2 on the Richter scale. The epicenter? Under the 'Couv! Apparently it was the largest-ever recorded earthquake centered in our metropolitan area. It caused a fair amount of damage in its own right -- particularly crumbling chimneys. Could they all have been weakened by the windstorm? Pass the Geritol and let's think about that.

Who trashed Harry & David?

According to this story, it was these guys.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frozen taters

We Americans are an ingenious lot. Our national pastime has been booted out of the Summer Olympics, but now we're making it a Winter Olympics candidate. They're playing pro baseball in Colorado right now. It's 30 degrees.

World-class moment

Portland has one of the World's Ugliest Buildings, according to Travel & Leisure magazine. Before clicking on the link (here) to see which one it is, can you guess?

Portland wins 2009 planning award -- for 1891 plan

Finally, I can agree with something that the planning bobbleheads are saying -- Ladd's Addition is a darn fine neighborhood. But the same people who are pinning a ribbon on Ladd's will also tell you how wonderful the awful, awful SoWhat District is. I'm almost tempted to say I want some of what they're smoking, but actually, I don't.

Just sittin' diggin'all the scenes

It has been a most remarkable couple of days in our real life, and it was topped off quite nicely at the Wonder Ballroom with the Stolen Sweets and their many talented friends:

Holy cow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Now she's hit the big time

Lelo in Nopo gets some well deserved national recognition.

Just another day in Portland

A friend of ours was here from out of town this week, and the other morning he met this gal in Pioneer Courthouse Square:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Beaverton loads up cart, looks for horse

The latest on the Paulson baseball stadium quest: The City of Beaverton has ruled out four sites, including two owned by the Biggi family. And they don't have an alternate site on the drawing boards. But hey, they've got a preliminary agreement with His Lordship Henry III that they're hot to sign. Linchpin City!

Screwed-up Headline of the Day

From the O sports section.

Have a great weekend

Good money after bad

With all the money the Portland Development Commission has wasted trying to get somebody to build Shangri-la in the multi-modal mecca known as the east end of the Burnside Bridge, you'd think they'd know enough to take a break from the fruitless spending.

You would think.

But no.

The consulting team will consist of Will Bruder, who teaches in the Portland State University School of Architecture, along with Group Mackenzie (architecture and transportation planning), Works Partnership Architects (architecture), Green Building Services (sustainability), Johnson Reid (market analysis), Peter Finley Fry (planning), Lango Hansen (landscape) and Architectural Cost Consulting Consultants (cost estimating).
All those hands out, and for what? If you couldn't get this project done before the economy tanked, who in their right mind thinks that anything's going to happen there now?

Maybe it's time to start shrinking the PDC for lack of anything real to do. Just a thought.

More important work at Portland Water

Essential city business is done, come rain or shine.

Get my Muse on the phone

We've been remiss in not getting our entries together in the contest to design a new masthead for the city's Portland Online website. Time is running out -- we have only until a week from Monday to come up with our perfect image capturing the essence of today's Portlandia.

Our first attempt didn't generate a lot of buzz, and as you can see, subsequent efforts are still coming up short:

These aren't quite doing it, folks. Maybe someone with better design skills can help us out here.

That sound you hear...

... is the right-wing pundits' heads exploding.

Wanna play the 'dogs for a good cause?

If you've been following my exploits in the weekly pro football underdog pool in which I play, here's a proposition for you: A reader suggests that I run a similar pool on this blog, with all the proceeds going to charity. The top readers in our pool would get to designate a portion of the pool proceeds to their favorite nonprofit organizations. There'd be nothing in it for the players individually but bragging rights and a warm glow from helping others.

The entry fee would be $20 for the season, payable up front by PayPal, and weekly entries would be by e-mail. Weekly point offerings, picks, and results would be posted on this blog. You could operate under any pen name you like, as long as you front the funds.

We could still start the pool this season, maybe two weeks from this weekend (the weekend of Oct. 25), and have about a dozen weeks to see who's got the right stuff in picking underdog teams who can win their games outright. We'd need about a half dozen players at a minimum to make it interesting. I'd pay all the PayPal fees, and so every penny of the entries would go to charity. To avoid conflicts of interest, I wouldn't play our mirror game myself (although, as ever, I'll reveal whom I pick each week in the other pool).

For more background on how the game is played, see this year's posts at any of these links: 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1. I'd post a more complete set of rules right away once we're sure we're going forward.

And so here's the question of the day: Would you be interested in throwing a 20 at charity and playing the game? Please say yes in the comments to this post if you're sure that you'd participate. Maybe we'll do this, and if we do, we'll start on Oct. 25. Thanks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let the sideshow begin

Ladles and jellyspoons, I present to you our latest candidate for governor.

Finally, a plan to pay for a new Sellwood Bridge

It's long past time to stop talking about this and start doing it. Kudos to Ted Wheeler for getting us somewhere for a change.

Portland ready to break out the plastic again

It's been a while since we've written about the huge debt load being taken on by the City of Portland. It's not because we've stopped paying attention. It's just that the city hasn't been borrowing money at the feverish pace that it did last year. There may have been a few sneaky lines of credit opened up here and there, but as far as a public, formal bond offering goes, it's been a quiet year indeed.

We've been wondering why that is. Part of the slowdown was no doubt attributable to the legal action challenging the city's abuse of the "urban renewal" finance system -- a challenge that has now reportedly been bought off. But even outside of "urban renewal," one would have expected some stray boondoggle or other to have sent the city back to Wall Street for another hit of burnable cash. And it hasn't been happening. If we didn't know better, we might suspect that fiscal responsibility has begun showing up at City Council meetings.

Whatever the reason for the quietude, it's about to be broken. The Portland Development Commission is about to ask the council to authorize around $36 million in new bonds to pay for the new one-stop homeless shelter and studio apartment building (above) that's going to go up in Old Town. The money will be paid back, with interest, with property tax dollars from the Pearl District.

It will be interesting to see what kind of interest rate the city is charged on these bonds in such hard times. Yes, the credit is the Pearl, but even Fake New York has seen brighter days financially.

Takin' it to the streets -- with a permit, of course

The City of Portland has a "special events program" whereby it issues permits for events that take place on streets and sidewalks -- runs, walks, marches, parades, bicycle races, that sort of thing. According to this report, the fees for the permits start at $70 and top off at $2,300 -- with the possibility of some extra charges -- depending on what's happening.

Now the city says it's going to shake that regime up a bit. Folks who bought a permit in the last year got this e-mail message the other day from a person in the city's revenue bureau:

Since June 2008, Revenue Bureau’s Special Events Program has been undergoing an extensive review based on feedback from event organizers, as well as feedback from community members and city stakeholders. Surveys, event and cost analyzes, and research of other municipalities have also augmented this program review.

The goal of the program review is to strike a balance between cost recovery and city service subsidies for moving events on city streets and sidewalks.

In February, the City Council granted the Revenue Bureau approval to proceed with four program recommendations:

1. Separate "free speech" permit
2. Provisions for "events within an event"
3. Routing recommendations
4. Development of an a la carte menu of city services and costs

For the past several months, the Revenue Bureau has been actively developing criteria to flesh out each of these program areas. Additionally, the Revenue Bureau has made several proposed program updates to respond to the feedback program stakeholders provided.

The Revenue Bureau is now prepared to present the proposed changes to internal and external stakeholders.

They're planning a three-hour meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss the latest developments:

The purpose of this meeting is to provide a Special Events Program policy update, including: project goals, stakeholder-identified concerns, and how the proposed program addresses stakeholder concerns. The meeting also aims to begin reviewing the proposed program changes.
Here's an attachment from that e-mail. There's a fair amount of detail included, along with the usual mind-numbing bureaucratese. The "a la carte" menu includes $63.59 an hour for a police officer -- $77.40 if he or she is on a motorcycle. We understand they are going to charge for pepper spray by the quart.

The concept of a "free speech permit" sounds mildly comical. Should make for an interesting discussion.

Daze of our lives

Here's where we are, Portland. As the local economy crashes irretrievably, downtown drifts dangerously toward failure, and local government debt continues to pile up, this is what we're all about these days:

If it really is this shallow, then we are in worse trouble than I thought.

Bailing on downtown Portland

The owners of Flowers by Dorcas said the plan reaffirms their decision to relocate to the Hollywood District.

"As a matter of fact one of the reasons we are moving is our customers complain with the lack of parking, the gridlock, and the construction. They don’t come downtown anymore," said co-owner Gerhard Watzig.

Found here, in a story about more bike lanes.

Why people vote against tax increases

As a Portland taxpayer, I wish this was a joke. But it isn't. It is how the city spends our money.

Wurster is "kiss of death" for Adams Recall 2.0

So says prominent real estate tycoon Joe Weston, a supporter of Recall 1.0, who says he won't be helping with the rerun. Indeed, so far the only person identified with the supposedly imminent second round of recall signature gathering is the same guy who ran the first round. Pop some popcorn for the show, but don't expect anything real to happen. It's a college term paper at best.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another fine moment in world trade

China may have a Great Wall, but its drywall is not so great.

Keep the four houses, skip the hotel

Not just in Monopoly, but in real life. Hotels are bad business these days, not just in Portland, but all over. Forget the Convention Center boondoggle -- we shouldn't even have built the Nines.

Give it up to save the planet

The similarities between air travel and a colonoscopy continue to multiply.

Coach cries the blues

The fired football coach at Portland's Lincoln High School has lawyered up and is protesting his dismissal after he pleaded guilty to interfering with police outside the Rose Garden following a professional fight at that arena. Police reportedly have said that he was drunk at the time.

It's kind of difficult to feel sorry for the guy over losing his $6,200-a-year coaching gig, when the school kept him on in a $25,700 security guard job. I would have thought that folks who get in the way of police officers would be less qualified to be security monitors than they are to be football coaches.

The incident that led to the firing reportedly took place on Tri-Met property in the Rose Quarter. Doesn't the transit agency have just about every square inch of that property covered by security video cameras? If so, it would be pretty interesting to see the footage of the activity in question.

Sam Adams, energy expert

We all laughed five years ago when then-Portland city commissioner Erik Sten tried to force Enron to sell the city its stock in Portland General Electric. Sten knew as much about running an electric company as your average professional wrestler did -- maybe less.

Now we find the city's self-absorbed and self-destructive mayor pontificating to PGE about what it should do with its Boardman coal-fired generating plant. He says they should close it rather than retrofit it for pollution control:

"I believe such a coal-dependent (resource plan) is a poor long-term resource strategy as carbon regulation and firm targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are implemented," Adams said in the letter.
This from a guy who can't even own a rental house without defaulting on his loan.

But wait, you say. Maybe he has smart people around him who actually do know better than PGE about how to run an electric business and respect the planet. Maybe the mayor's letter was ghost-written by, say, his sustainability policy advisor, Amy Ruiz.

Too, too funny.

You don't have to have all the answers about global warming and power generation to know that you should never take Sam the Tram's word for anything except its entertainment value. Yes, let's hope the folks at PGE do the sustainable thing -- when the mayor's letter arrives, recycle it.

Gatsby goes Hamlet

Having made sure that both the single-payer and public-option variants of health care reform are dead and buried, Sen. Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) is now publicly pouting because no one else in the Senate seems to care much for his vision for less radical change. He seems determined to establish that he's an outsider, so that the now-inevitable fizzling of real reform will not be pinned on him.

Will he vote for the Baucus bill? He won't say. He just keeps rattling off the features of his own bill, which went nowhere and apparently never was going anywhere. Heaven forbid he should do something to help the Democrats get the votes they need on the Senate floor. Heaven forbid he should act like he's helping Obama. It's all about Ron, to be or not to be.

He'll probably pull the same stunt on tax reform, which now is not scheduled to happen until next year, an election year, if at all. Wyden's got a tax bill, which has been knocking around Congress for a long time without generating any excitement. Will he join up with the White House and make some strides toward saving the middle class through the tax system? Or will he repeat his "my way or the highway" act, while the Republicans fix it so that nothing serious is achieved? I'm not optimistic.

I remember 25 years ago when Bill Bradley was in the Senate. He'd have his visions, write up his bills, and push for them, but when the time came to stop posturing and get things done, he joined in the fashioning of real reform. He didn't brood in the hallway. Which is why he achieved a lot in his political career.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Smarter than Baltimore or Austin

Portland has come in at no. 9 on a list of America's smartest cities.

Barking up the wrong tree

It was a pretty dull weekend in the pro football underdog pool in which I play. There were three winning 'dogs (Denver, Miami, and Jacksonville), but none of them earned more than 3 points, which means that a high roller like myself wasn't on them. Surprisingly, however, the guy who's leading the pool had the Jags, which means that he's a perfect 4-for-4 on the season, with a commanding 25 points. Gulp! I'm still at zero, as my wild shot in the dark, the Oakland Raiders, got seriously punked.

The slate of games for this weekend has just come out, and it's time to start cogitating about underdog teams (in caps below) who might win their respective games outright, without the benefit of the point spread. The points are relevant only in that that's how many I'll earn for the week if I pick a winner. The player with the most points at the end of the season wins dough -- actually, the top five finishers in the pool do. It's time to get serious, people. I think there are going be four or five upsets this weekend. What do you think?

16 OAKLAND at NY Giants
15 TAMPA BAY at Philadelphia
10.5 DETROIT vs. Pittsburgh
9.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Minnesota
9 KANSAS CITY vs. Dallas
9 CINCINNATI at Baltimore
6 CLEVELAND at Buffalo
5.5 HOUSTON at Arizona
4.5 TENNESSEE vs. Indianapolis
4 WASHINGTON at Carolina
3.5 DENVER vs. New England
2.5 ATLANTA at San Francisco
1.5 MIAMI vs. NY Jets

This means war

It's becoming ever clearer that the City of Beaverton is hoping to condemn private property to build the new Paulson minor league baseball stadium. And now the owners of the target property are starting to push back hard.

UPDATE, 9:40 p.m.: The mayor insists tonight that there will be no condemnation. But since the owners won't sell and there's no backup site, Beaverton is back to Square One. Meanwhile, his lordship Henry III is now talking with Clackamas County. Who's next -- the 'Couv?

Somebody's figured it out

Multnomah County has a really, really good public library, and it's been honored with the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Well deserved.

Stop the presses

Breaking news: People who eat at McDonald's aren't really influenced by signs posting how many calories are in everything. Researchers verified this by noting that no one was running out the door in horror.

Pay me my money down

Several helpful readers have steered me to this story, about the Federal Trade Commission's plan to require bloggers and others to disclose when they are being paid to say nice things about a particular product or service in their writings. I've only been paid to blog once -- the golden era of the Marqui paid blogger program -- and as I happily discharged my duties, I made it clear to readers what was going on.

I think the readers who sent me the latest tip are expecting me to react with outrage. Heck, no! Pay me to blog, people, and I'll gladly reveal it. It reminds me a little of the argument that income taxes discourage people from earning. Whoever said that isn't talking about me. Will work for income, baby! Even ordinary income. As long as it's paid in cash, I'll take care of the revenuers.

A lawsuit a week

That's the Portland police bureau these days. Here's the latest flushing of tax money down the toilet due to an abuse of power.

But hey, it's only $27,500 -- that couldn't feed many hungry people or fill too many potholes, could it? Besides, the Chasse verdict could be a hundred times that.

Recall 2.0: Who are you, and where have you been?

The effort to recall Portland's creepy mayor has bombed out, to no one's surprise. It had no money, and seemingly no one with any serious experience running a political campaign was involved. Few recognizable public figures came forward in support of it, and even the appearance of former Mayor Tom Potter on its behalf came far too late. Most significantly, the factions that control city politics -- the public employee unions, the "green" Bus kid types, the Arlington Club money types, and the gay community -- didn't make a strong statement in support of the recall, while the talk-radio fringe on the right did. That was a turnoff for many voters.

Another aspect of the recall that bugged us was the paranoia. The promoters of the recall effort hid their identities for weeks. They actually told people to keep their cash contributions below the threshold for campaign finance reporting, so as to avoid retaliation. And in the waning moments of the doomed petition drive, the announcement was made that the collected signatures wouldn't be turned in, for the same reason. All of this cloak-and-dagger stuff was tacky in the extreme. Anyone who truly feared retaliation wasn't going to give any money or sign the petition. The secrecy seemed more an excuse to level an extra accusation at the mayor (one that couldn't be proven) than it did an honest effort to protect anybody. The many speeches about fear of reprisal got stale long before the deadline arrived.

The way in which the campaign is ending is also raising some eyebrows. Rather than destroy the signatures they gathered, the organizers of Recall 1.0 are giving them over to another group, Recall 2.0, of which the public knows virtually zero. That may not be an illegal use of the signatures, but it's not a pretty one. Now the folks who cared enough to sign will be bothered at home by a new group seeking another signature. This is sure to annoy at least some of them.

And speaking of the new group, who the heck are they, and why are they hiding? Who are their leaders? Where is their money going to come from? Unless they come forward with full transparency, and soon, they'll inspire little trust among the populace.

And where have they been the last nine months, while precious time was a-wastin'? If they are going to mount a well funded, professionally run campaign, that will be a welcome development. But even if that's what they've got in mind, they should have stepped up with it before they let the volunteer amateurs of Recall 1.0 spin everyone's wheels throughout the crucial 90-day time frame that began on July 1. Getting a recall on the ballot is going to be harder now than it was then -- and the likelihood of actually winning a recall election has gotten smaller than ever.

Those who want to remove the mayor from office had a full six months to get their act together and engineer a signature drive that would make it possible. If they couldn't get it done then, there is no reason to think they will be able to do so now. Too bad for Portland.

New numbers to watch

I like my doctor, Lou. The guy knows what he's doing, cares about his patients and shows it, and keeps up with the latest stuff. Today I had a routine physical exam, part of which is going through the results of recent lab tests, and I got an earful from the good doctor about a new way of looking at blood chemistry. I hadn't seen Lou this animated about something in a while, and so I knew I should listen up.

From time immemorial we've all heard that we need to keep an eye on our cholesterol, and a couple of decades ago we refined that down to LDL, the "bad" one, and HDL, the "good" one. If I've got this right, the numbers we've always gotten in our blood tests have measured the volumes of those substances in the blood.

But now it appears that within the realm of LDL, they're figuring out that the number and size of the particles that carry the cholesterol are what's important. As I understand it, size matters, in that big LDL particles aren't as damaging as small ones. The big ones can't get through to start messing up your arteries, whereas the little ones can. And the more LDL particles of any size there are, the worse off the patient is. Apparently, the greater the number of vehicles careening around in there, the greater the risk that one or more are going to hit something. Therefore, in addition to watching LDL and HDL in the bloodstream, it's also smart to keep an eye on one's "LDL particle number" and "small LDL particle number." You want both those numbers -- the numbers of "bad" particles floating around -- to be low. You may have a low volume of LDL, but if there are too many particles, you could still be a candidate for trouble. And on the size of the LDL particles, the bigger the better.

I hope I got that right. I probably shouldn't prattle on so much about something I don't really understand, but maybe this will get somebody who's due for a physical in to see his or her physician soon. Who knows? Maybe your "bad" cholesterol situation isn't as bad as you thought -- or maybe where you thought you were in the clear, it ain't necessarily so. Meanwhile, on my end, it's nice to watch something new while I'm watching myself get older.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Die, my pretties

Thanks to everyone who responded to our post of last night about our fruit fly infestation. We've already implemented one suggestion to remedy the problem, and it's working pretty well:

How sweet it will be

Maybe I'll see you there:

Hey, I'm gonna get you too

Gourmet magazine has folded. (Via the O, which is owned by the same people.)

Pay to flay

Justice may be blind, but she ain't cheap.

The money side of the gay marriage debate

As this article points out, being a gay couple gets pretty expensive after a while.

About that "fuel surcharge" on your plane ticket

Just another lie from corporate America.

What we're really struggling with

Europeans don’t get why Americans don’t agree that universal health coverage is a fundamental contract to which the citizens of any developed society have a right.

I don’t get it either. Or rather I do, but I don’t think the debate is about health....

Post-heroic European societies, having paid in blood for violent political movements born of inequality and class struggle, see greater risk in unfettered individualism than in social solidarity. Americans, born in revolt against Europe and so ever defining themselves against the old Continent’s models, mythologize their rugged (always rugged) individualism as the bulwark against initiative-sapping entitlements. We’re not talking about health here. We’re talking about national narratives and mythologies — as well as money. These are things not much susceptible to logic. But in matters of life and death, mythology must cede to reality, profit to wellbeing.

I can see the conservative argument that welfare undermines the work ethic and dampens moral fiber. Provide sufficient unemployment benefits and people will opt to chill rather than labor. But it’s preposterous to extend this argument to health care. Guaranteeing health coverage doesn’t incentivize anybody to get meningitis.

The whole thing is here.

Total recall

Today is the day when Portlanders will find out a lot more about whether there's going to be a recall election against Mayor Creepy. If the all-volunteer signature gathering force doesn't think it has the required number of valid signatures, it says it won't turn them in by today's 5 p.m. deadline. If it does turn in signatures, the process of having the city auditor check them over begins. If it doesn't, the recall effort is dead.

But now another group says it's going to crank up a second recall campaign if the first effort fails. And if they do, this bunch says they'll raise a pile of dough and use paid signature collectors.

The problem, of course, is that the furor over the mayor's theft of last November's election has cooled somewhat. Many people who can see in the mayor a narcissistic liar with no talent for leadership have shifted from fiery outrage to funky depression over having him in office. Then again, if most of the people who signed the first recall petition are willing to sign again, it might not take an army of paid canvassers to come up with the additional thousands of signatures needed to push the effort over the top.

Having a recall effort pending against the mayor has actually been beneficial, both to the city and to him. Over the last three months, he hasn't been busted tupping teenage boys, leaving them envelopes of cash at the City Hall front desk, driving around with his fly open smelling like beer, or smashing his truck into the rear ends of stopped vehicles. (O.k., he missed a bunch of mortgage payments, but nobody's perfect.) Another three or four months of recall mania might be a nice way of getting us all into the new year in one piece.

Meanwhile, we never did hear who it was who paid for the shady telephone "poll" that was being conducted on Adams's behalf in early July. Guess it didn't haven't to be disclosed under the election laws -- either that, or those laws were broken.

When burgers kill

Here's an article (and video) that you might not want to read (or watch) if you enjoy ground beef. The hamburger patty that paralyzed one young Minnesota woman had meat (and other stuff) in it from four different sources, including a slaughterhouse in Uruguay. Now, there's a recipe for success, eh?

The main point of the article is that while slaughterhouses say they take great precautions to keep deadly fecal bacteria out of meat, that's not always the case. Moreover, most big commercial grinding outfits take the slaughterhouses' word for it. No testing is done on the meat at the grinding plant until the meat's already been ground, at which point there's no way to tell which slaughterhouse the bad stuff came from. Which of course, is exactly how the slaughterhouses want it.

Costco actually emerges as a relative good guy in the tale.

Even proper cooking may not kill the worst of the poisons that could show up in hamburger. And so most burgers are a bit of a high-stakes gamble. God help the victims.

Fruit flies!

We've had a lot of fresh produce sitting out in our kitchen lately, and all of a sudden we've got a bunch of fruit flies. The Mrs. and I put on quite a show jumping around swatting at them yesterday, with the kids cheering us on. We picked off quite a few. But something tells me this pastime will be with us for a while.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Flipping over 5318008

I can see how censorship is necessary sometimes, especially on a computer or calculator:

The killion, as every mathematician knows, is a number so big it can kill you. Newton discovered it, and Einstein insisted that all computers be equipped with a governor which would shut off the machine if the number killion was approached.
All well and good. But this act of censorship, no doubt well intentioned and "for the children," seems way overboard.

Flu frenzy amps up with new worries about regular flu shots

A new Canadian study reportedly indicates that if you get a seasonal flu shot, it might make you more much more susceptible to the dreaded swine flu. If the study turns out to be right, what does it mean? Be sure to get your swine flu shot before your regular flu shot?

Snow in Bend

And they're not quite ready for it yet this year.

Face it

This young fellow is pretty funny.

Farmer Don and the bureaucrats

Don Kruger's farm operation on Sauvie Island -- and some of the events he holds on his property to make farming feasible -- have been getting a bit of a hassle from Multnomah County. It's good that the county is keeping an eye on the island, but some of its concerns seem more than a bit overwrought.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Goo goo g'joob, boo hoo

Tough times for the walruses.

World without end

The Portland Convention Center hotel project may be down, but it's never out. It will always be dangerous and must be vigilantly contained. Scientists from Reed College recently placed the half-life of the hotel project at 12,000 years, as confirmed in this story yesterday afternoon:

Even though the PDC will now emphasize the renewal area’s other projects, the Convention Center Hotel will likely reemerge in the future, Jacobson [Eric Jacobson, a PDC project manager] said.

The city has been stymied on the project in the past and was able to rebound. Discussions of developing a Convention Center Hotel of 500 rooms or more have taken place since the early 1990s. The city has grappled with ways to appear more appealing to the lucrative convention industry.

Williams [Rick Williams, president of the Lloyd District Transportation Management Association] said due to the longtime plans for the hotel project, he still expects it to be completed at some point in the future, even if other projects are emphasized first.

One ring to gross them all out

We wondered if the iPhone will ever be able to produce scents. Probably, some day, there will be an app for that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Have a great weekend

Contempt of Court

It's always more than a little depressing when somebody this powerful thinks so little of the enterprise that gave him everything he has.

This week's Paulson put-on

We're sure you were all sitting on the edge of your seats, but yesterday yet another deadline came and went for the City of Portland to knuckle under and do whatever Little Lord Paulson says in financing yet another wasteful renovation of the city's PGE Park. The last time a deadline for a final financing package passed without a deal was September 1. Before that it was May 14, before that April 15...

It's obvious that these deadlines are just smoke being injected up our collective outfall pipes by the "major" soccer league -- similar to the nonexistent "requirement" that baseball must be kicked out of the remodeled stadium. The plain fact is that the league will never say no to Paulson's $35 million franchise fee, no matter what kind of stadium the team is going to play in. Without that money and Portland's rabid soccer fan base, the league would look even shakier than it does at the moment.

The supposed new deadline is year-end. They probably hope that they can seal a deal over the holidays, when no one's looking. Good luck with that.

I need something in a 44

My 15 minutes of fame continue with this depiction of my recent shopping experience (by Matthew Diffee at the New Yorker).

Wyden (R-N.Y.) throws tantrum

Whatever. Hey, John Ensign loves him -- he must be doing something right.

Wyden's new pose is going to be that the failure of true health care reform wasn't his fault. You can fall for that if you want. But let's face it -- he and a few other bought-off Democrats killed it. Here the party had control of Congress and the White House, including 60 votes in the Senate, and after almost a year wasted, we got nothing. What a disgrace.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Portland cops do it again

Even in the Dark Ages, there was the idea of sanctuary. Inside a church, you were safe against attackers -- including the authorities.

Apparently this concept is lost on the Portland police bureau. Not only do they needlessly cause a commotion at the local church soup kitchen, but they also gratuitously bring along the crew from the Fox-TV show "Cops" to violate the dignity of the people who came to the church expecting a quiet meal.

Hey, Nick Fish! The homeless are your people, right? Are you going to stand up to the city's rogue police force on their behalf between now and election time? Don't expect Police Commissioner Dan the Cipher to say anything. It's up to you, Nick. Think about it before you vote seven figures to the Chasse family.

And it's way past time for the city to tell Fox that it's done filming here until the city's wayward police department gets its act together. Which means that Fox should call back to see how things are going in about 2049.

Life imitates art

One of Woody Allen's best big-screen moments is in his early classic "Take the Money and Run," when he attempts to rob a bank. He fails because the teller thinks the note says, "I have a gub," rather than "gun."

I guess you had to be there.

Or you could have been in Hillsboro yesterday.

Worldwide Pants -- keep them on

Just when he's riding the highest he's been in a quite a while, our guy Dave's career takes a bad turn.

Recall says it's still alive

The folks running the petition drive to have a recall of Portland's mayor placed on the ballot say they are close to having the number of signatures they need. I signed a petition myself just the other day. It is painless. They will keep collecting them until noon on Monday; they have only until the end of that day to turn them in.

Here's more information about how you can be heard.

Sign o' the times

We love our mail carrier. The guy has gone out of his way for us many times. But it looks as though our changing world is causing some changes to his world. In our mailbox today we found this:

We sighed and felt sorry for whoever's losing their job. Then we sat down at the computer and paid our mortgage on line.

Three whitewashes aren't enough

Yet another investigation is being scheduled in the senseless police killing of Jim-Jim Chasee in Portland three years ago. This one, paid for by the city auditor, will come on top of the initial whitewashes of this homicide by the county district attorney, the state medical examiner, and the police bureau.

"Griffin-Valade said the outside expert has not been chosen, and that the investigation will focus on the quality of the bureau's internal investigation, including why it took three years to complete. The expert will also examine how bureau's policies affected the officer's actions." Swell.

No, actually, what needs to happen is that the police officer who beat this man to death needs to be removed from the force. Anything short of that is a waste of money. Save it to pay the millions that the Chasse family are going to receive in their lawsuit. God bless them for refusing to be bought off. At least somebody in this town has principles.

Rules on trash, for your cache

As we've remarked on this blog many times, when it comes to solid waste disposal, at our house we're as happy as worms in a compost bin. We recycle like mad, compost just about all our vegetable waste, reuse lots of cast-off stuff in crafts projects, and have cut down how much we throw out quite a bit. We've gotten along well with our local waste hauler over the years, too.

And so I doubt that we'll ever have to look up the City of Portland's residential garbage rules and regulations. But if you ever do, here they are.

PERS bottom-feeding goes deeper

If you're in trouble on your mortgage, the state employee pension fund is in cahoots, big time, with a guy who may be buying up your IOU.

Finally, Burnside Bridgehead site sees action

They're using it as a construction parking and staging area for the Burnside-Couch couplet. Not a linchpin in sight.

Weekly digest

Have you burned off what you ate at the Portland Polish Festival last weekend? Good, because this weekend it's the Greeks' turn.

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