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

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November 2009 Archives

Monday, November 30, 2009

'Dog pool standings unchanged from Thursday night

The Patriots fell to the Saints this evening, and so there was no winner in our charity pro football underdog pool. That leaves our standings as follows:

Doug - 28
Bad Brad - 20
genop - 18.5
Gordon - 16
Rick - 16
Dan - 15
Mark - 14.5
Hank - 13.5
Kevin - 13
Gary - 10.5
Michael W. - 10
Robert - 10
genop's mom - 9.5
jmh - 9.5
George - 7.5
Michael K. - 3
Andy - 0
Annie - 0
Flynn - 0
Sidney - 0

We've got another Thursday night game this week -- the Jets at Buffalo, starting at 5:20 Pacific time. We'll have our weekly lines posted tomorrow evening or Wednesday morning. Remember, we play all the way through the playoffs, and so this thing ain't over yet -- not by a longshot.

Saltzman heads back to his hidey-hole

Portland commissioner Dan Saltzman never ceases to provide amusement. Today he "brokers" a "deal" with the police union: He'll drop the suspension of one of the city's most gratuitously violent police officers, Christopher Humphreys, "in exchange for" the union not releasing the results of their no-confidence vote in Saltzman and the police chief. As if there was any doubt what those results would be. And as if Portlanders cared.

Since when do we let a politician's public relations problem determine the proper level of police discipline?

At least Humphreys is still off the streets, in a desk job, at least for the moment. Let's hope he stays there. Maybe after the city is held liable this spring for millions on account of his killing of James Chasse, he'll take the disability pension and get a gig somewhere else.


Here we go again. Another Oregon ballot measure about taxes is pending in January, and another letter just showed up in our mailbox from a small business owner urging us to reject the tax increases:

This time it's signed by a dairy farmer out in Tillamook. But the words were no doubt carefully drafted by a political consultant. We've seen this movie before.

Perhaps most curious about this latest missive is the return address on the envelope: 3421 Del Webb Ave. NE, Salem, Oregon 97303. According to Google, that's a BedMart Mattress store. Whatever it is, it ain't a dairy farm. Leuthold's farm is southeast of the town of Tillamook, down by the Trask River.

New forest debate

It's all about sucking up carbon.

A poster child for health care reform

He's from Sheridan, Oregon.

Sizemore indicted for tax evasion

Bill Sizemore and his spouse have been indicted by a Marion County grand jury on tax evasion charges regarding the last three taxable years, according to a press release this morning from state Attorney General John Kroger. The grand jury charges that the couple failed to file state income tax returns for those three years. The indictments are here and here.

Vote of confidence

Holiday shopping? Can't go wrong with jewelry.

Check out these gems. They are sure to send a heartfelt message to that special someone in your life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The latest poop on Portland water

The City of Portland has lifted the boil-water notice that it posted yesterday, and so now west side residents are free to do whatever they like with their tap water.

The question remains why, if preliminary tests showed E-coli contamination on Thursday, nothing was said to the public until Saturday afternoon. Granted, there is always the possibility of a false positive reading, and the city's entitled to retest before shutting down an entire reservoir. But there's no reason that the test results be withheld from public view until the confirming test results are in. Especially given the coterie of p.r. flacks that the water bureau has sitting around dreaming up bumper sticker contests and reviewing Fireman Randy's Caesar salad recipes, those results should be posted in real time, every single time. Let the public decide for itself whether it wants to drink what's coming out of the tap.

Wheeler takes a spill

Update:  broken back (2 disks), broken shoulder, slight facia... on Twitpic

Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler reports on Twitter that he had a pretty serious skiing accident today: "broken back (2 disks), broken shoulder, slight facial lacerations... Full recovery expected. Don't worry." Yuck. [Via the Trib.]

UPDATE, 4:23 p.m.: It's contagious! Out on an afternoon jog, daydreaming about what kind of holiday season Ted's going to have, I managed to overlook a mesh bag of bark chips strategically placed near a storm drain to block fallen leaves. Bam! Next thing I know, I'm on all fours, letting loose a loud old-man yelp. Fortunately, the four-point landing drew but a mild road rash. Ask me for the final verdict in 48 hours, though.


Hot new toy for the holidays

Here's a plaything that you wouldn't buy your kids for Christmas. OK, maybe if they have ambitions to grow up to be Portland police officers...

Looking good on Facebook?

It could cost you.

A second helping of 'dogs

Here are today's picks in our charity pro football underdog pool:

11.5 TAMPA BAY at Atlanta - Andy
11 CHICAGO at Minnesota - Sidney, Dan, Rick
4 HOUSTON vs. Indianapolis - Mark, genop's mom, jmh, Gordon
3.5 JACKSONVILLE at San Francisco - George, Bad Brad
3 CAROLINA at NY Jets - Gary
3 NEW ENGLAND at New Orleans - Michael K.

Recapping Thursday's action:

13.5 OAKLAND at Dallas (not a winner) - Flynn, Annie
10.5 DETROIT vs. Green Bay (not a winner) - Robert, Hank
6.5 DENVER vs. NY Giants (winner) - Kevin, genop, Doug

I see no pick anywhere from Michael W. this week. Which leaves these orphan 'dogs:

14 CLEVELAND at Cincinnati
14 KANSAS CITY at San Diego
9 WASHINGTON at Philadelphia
3.5 BUFFALO vs. Miami
3 ST. LOUIS vs. Seattle
3 ARIZONA at Tennessee
2 PITTSBURGH at Baltimore

Enjoy the games, folks.

UPDATE, 1:22 p.m.: The Bucs tantalize (as did my Redskins), but disappoint in the end. No pool winners in the early games -- because nobody took Buffalo.

UPDATE, 8:00 p.m.: No pool winners the rest of the day, either. We have one player with the Pats tomorrow night -- otherwise, a long football weekend is winding down.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Alleged Oregon eco-arsonist busted in China

His time on the lam has come to a close.

Boil your tap water in Portland

Apparently they've found E-coli in water on the west side.

Having lost all faith in city government, I can't help but suspect that this is part of a concerted p.r. effort to justify covering or disconnecting the city's open reservoirs -- or maybe to justify arming Fireman Randy's water militia. But whatever it's about, pass the bottled stuff, please.

Tax Deadbeat of the Week

It's Ahnold!

If I'm ever trapped in the driver's seat of an Escalade...

... please don't try to free me by busting out the back window with a golf club.

Thanks for trying to help, though.

Game report: Grizzlies 106, Blazers 96

Just when we thought it was safe to stop worrying about the Blazers, they turn in a horrendous performance that raises a whole spectrum of issues. They fell by 10 to the Memphis Grizzlies in a game that wasn't that close for most of the way.

The Blazers simply weren't ready to play. They stepped onto the court full of turkey, and full of themselves after a resounding win over New Jersey. They played as if they were hung over, which they probably were. The visitors, meanwhile, came out showing no signs of turkey coma following what was no doubt a nice hotel Thanksgiving dinner, topped off by whatever their assistant coach, Damon Stoudamire, was able to score them for the after-dinner party.

Memphis shot something like 62% in the first half, to the Blazers' 35% or so. The Griz outhustled the Blazers and dominated the rebounding. At one point they scored 21 unanswered points. They were ahead 42-17 in the second quarter. They played tough defense, to which the Blazers responded by morphing back into a Euro jump-shooting team most of whose shots weren't falling. Memphis roughed up any Portland players who went inside, and the Blazers kept looking for whistles that the referees weren't blowing. What foul shots they got, they missed quite a few of, particularly in the first half.

Steve Blake was a disaster. Joel Przybilla looked as though he's sick or injured. Rudy Fernandez couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Andre Miller went down with a hip pointer early in the game and moved around pretty gingerly when he returned to the court. Overall, the Blazers' defense was porous.

Memphis looked quite like a playoff team. O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and this giant guy Hasheem Thabeet from Connecticut are going to pose matchup problems for a lot of opponents, even in the Western Conference. They are big and strong. The Grizzlies also added by subtraction in a major way by parting ways with Allen Iverson. (At halftime, we chatted briefly with Bill Schonely, who remarked that A.I.'s departure was "like a dark cloud lifting" for Memphis.) The Blazers had better hope that they don't encounter these guys in the first round of post-season play.

We found a comfortable seat in one of the cafes on the concourse and had a leisurely couple of beers with some friends while the third quarter droned on. By the time we got back to our seat in the arena, the Blazers were attempting to mount a comeback, but they had dug themselves too deep a hole. It never got closer than 8 points.

After the debacle, the Blazers jumped on a plane to Salt Lake City, where they get to play at altitude this evening against a Jazz team that will be rested after beating the Bulls on Thanksgiving. Let's hope the Blazers sleep off whatever was in their systems last night.

So lackluster was the performance by the players that our mind drifted to other matters when we should have been looking for photo opportunities. We've decided that the redhead is the cutest dancer, and here's our obligatory bad game photo. It's Andre Miller going up for a nice basket, and I believe this was the play on which he got hurt:

Somebody else's flash went off at the same instant, and we've tried to doctor the photo up as best we could. Miller's way under the hoop and looking straight up in the air. He wound up getting his feet knocked out from under him and landing on his right bottom.

This was a game in which the Blazers' high hopes got taken down by a substantial margin. Except for Martell Webster, who hit a bunch of 3 pointers, the Portland players simply didn't show up. And the scary part is, even if they had, they would have had a fair amount of trouble with a team as fast and as physical as Memphis was last night.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Portland announces new sister city

It's Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Mayor Sam Adams made the announcement this morning from his undisclosed holiday vacation locale -- he is helping downtown Portland merchants by staying far away from the city and not scaring off shoppers.

"I'm proud to announce that we are entering into a relationship with Dubai," the mayor said. "Our two cities have many things in common, especially on the financial side. We're overextended just like they are. It's important that we show solidarity in these tough times. Believe me, I know all too well the meaning of the term 'default.'" Adams and an entourage of a half dozen pompous but good-looking twenty-something know-nothing aides will be visiting the Arab nation early next year, he said.

In this interlude

Thanksgiving sure was tasty. Our hosts carved up both a whole roasted turkey and a smoked turkey breast, and the fixin's were spectacular. I had read an article about regional Thanksgiving menus earlier in the day, and it had me thinking about pecan pie. Sure enough, one of our fellow guests brought along just such a pie -- divine.

Oh, and there was quite a bit of wine sloshing around. Mostly it was fine Oregon pinot noir, but I sneaked in a bottle of Washington merlot, another of northern Cal zinfandel, and a French chardonnay for the white wine drinker at the table. For dessert, we had folks try this stuff, which to me is dangerously good.

We didn't take leftovers home with us, but not to worry, we're going to stage our own turkey dinner rerun here this afternoon. Somewhere in there, maybe we should go for a run. A walk, at least. Thankful? How could we not be?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Early bird 'dogs

In our charity pro football underdog pool, Robert and Hank have chosen Detroit to upset Green Bay. It's 10.5 points if they're right.

UPDATE, 1:20 p.m.: The Pack is back. Meanwhile, Flynn and Annie have chosen Oakland over Dallas (13.5 points) in the second game. Now, that's a longshot.

UPDATE, 11/27, 3:43 a.m.: We slipped into holiday dinner mode before the last game of the day started. And in that game, Denver beat up on the New York G-Men, for a 6.5-point pickup for three of our players: Kevin, genop, and Doug. Doug widens his lead over the pack, and genop moves into third place. But 13 of our players will get a chance to score for the week on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Game report: Blazers 93, Nets 83

Tonight was a turning point in our Blazer fandom. Until tonight, we fretted over the team's starting roster, substitution patterns, and chemistry. But after watching the Blazers take apart the injury-depleted New Jersey Nets tonight, we're convinced that none of what we've been worrying about is going to matter much as the season, still young at this point, wears on. The Blazers are so loaded with talent, and they've gotten off to such a good start this year, that the performance of individual players and the luck of the bouncing ball are going to play as big a role as anything else.

We were blessed with courtside seats -- third row, literally at midcourt, opposite the benches. My friend, who scored the tickets, was sitting on the other side of the halfcourt line from me, in the next seat. From this vantage point, the spectator is quite close to the game. The players' heads are above the fans. If you shout something to the players, they hear you. If they shout something to each other, you hear them. You're so low down in the stands that you can't see the giant screen up above -- but if you're paying attention at all, you won't need to.

The Blazers are so thick with hoop skills that fully two thirds of the league won't be able to keep up with them. Greg Oden, the team's leading scorer with 18 points, is a serious force on both ends of the floor. He still commits too many fouls, but when he's on the court, he eliminates the inside game for the smaller players on the opposing team. Tonight he played 25 minutes, and even when he racked up his fifth foul, Coach Nate left him in the game. All to the good.

The other amazing guy out there in the Rip City uniform is Andre Miller. Man, what a high basketball IQ this man has, and he's not shy about sharing it with his teammates. There's no doubt that he's the quarterback when he's out there. On every offensive possession, he's calling out plays and directing traffic. On defense, he's yelling out picks and waving wayward Blazers into position. He's making amazing passes, and he's got the rest of the team thinking along the same lines. LaMarcus Aldridge had 4 assists to go with his 12 points and 8 rebounds. We attribute that to the influence of Miller.

Brandon Roy is Brandon Roy. If everything else breaks down, you can just hand it to him and get out of the way. Given how all the Blazers' parts are clicking right now, however, there's less need for that than ever, and one just hopes he doesn't get rusty not having to carry the team on his back every night. There will be games in which Roy is Portland's only hope down the stretch. We need him in a position to shine when those moments arrive.

Martell Webster has grown up. He's starting, he's getting minutes, and he's contributing. We hate to wish injury on any player, but the absence of the wounded Travis Outlaw and Nicolas Batum have simplified matters considerably at Webster's position, and that's also for the good. Martell is the small forward, and when the other guys get healthy, it will be his job to lose. That's a relief.

Rudy Fernandez finally looks like he belongs here. Sure, he'd rather be starting, but he's in with a phenomenal bunch, and he's contributing on a couple of different levels. He's joined in the passing festival, and tonight he nailed a few three-pointers that got the crowd revved up. He hit one in the second half with the clock running down that he seemed to pull out of his derriere. He turned to the crowd with a smile, as if to say, "That's what I do."

It wasn't much of a game. The Blazers never trailed, but the Nets did tie the score in the low 50's with about 6 minutes to go in the third quarter. New Jersey's only bright spot was Brook Lopez, who had 32 points. When Oden was out and Joel Pryzbilla was in at center for the Blazers, the Nets went to the hole with impunity.

Steve Blake hit a couple of threes and muddled through his usual game, but at this point, there's no need for him to do much more than keep Roy happy and turn in a workmanlike performance. Even at 25 minutes a game, off the bench, it is Miller who will take the Blazers to the next level.

Newcomer Dante Cunningham played 17 minutes, and he looked solid. We roll our eyes when Coach plays too many guys -- Jerryd Bayless is still on the floor, for no good reason -- but Cunningham looked like a true baller tonight. So a 10-man rotation it is.

This is going to be a remarkable season for Portland. When we get through the incredibly easy stretch of the schedule that November has presented -- and especially when we get into March and April -- this city is going to be going nuts.

On the personal side, we had a fun time at the Rose Garden. We spent a few minutes with our blogging colleague Dwight Jaynes, and even a few minutes with Fred Kerber, who covers the Nets for the New York Post. Freddy and I go back 43 years, and it's always a tonic to shake his hand and catch his take on the world.

As ever, we've got some amateur photos from our vantage point. Here are the Blazers during the national anthem. Roy is in the line, and so John Canzano, go soak your big fat irrelevant head:

Here's Andre on the attack in the second half:

Mr. Oden goes to the office:

We'll get another look at the Blazers Friday night against Memphis, who despite their terrible record have the potential to make trouble for Portland. In the meantime, we'll be eating our turkey content in the knowledge that the Blazers are in great shape for the season -- maybe even a historic season. It's quite possible.

Have a great holiday weekend

A guy with guts

If I'm not mistaken, that's Representative Lew Frederick in the back row on the left in this photo of today's demonstration against police violence in Portland.

Well, everybody's heard about the bird

And if you haven't already, now you have.

Fish on cops: "Please don't expect me to do anything"

Here's a bold statement from a guy who never wants to have a real job again.

The least they can do

America may be on the verge of getting a stock market transaction tax. It's about time. But get ready to hear the Wall Street weasels who stole our kids' future scream loud and long about it.

The other people

Now that the Portland police union has made its big show of solidarity in support of one of its most violent members, some folks on the other side of police brutality are planning what will likely be a much smaller demonstration outside the Justice Center at 11:30 a.m. today. The Albina Ministerial Alliance has announced a news conference to protest the Humphreys beanbag incident, and its leaders have invited others who are concerned about the incident to join them there.

An e-mail alert they sent out yesterday served as a reminder that the latest instance of questionable use of force by Portland police is just one in a line of such cases:

The AMA took the lead in organizing protests after the killings of Kendra James (2003) and James Jahar Perez (2004), and the tasering of 15-year-old Sir Millage (2006), and have been shoulder to shoulder with the Justice for Jose Mejia Poot Justice Committee (2001) and the Mental Health Association of Portland in efforts on the James Chasse case.
They left out "Squeaky" Young, who was shot to death by a police lieutenant in violation of bureau policy on Jan. 4, 2006.

Anyway, it might be worth part of one's lunch hour on a holiday eve to go over there and stand with the people who hunger and thirst for justice.

Just deserts

Anti-spam technology has come a long way in recent years. No longer does spam clog our inboxes (and blog comments) with unwanted commercial junk. Still, the scars from the days when the spam plague was rampant in cyberspace are still quite visible. Which is why this story is so gratifying.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kroger goes after Minnis

Pass the popcorn -- this is getting good already.

Turkey 'dogs

Here is the lineup of pigskin action for this week in our charity underdog pool. An important note to our players: There are three Thursday games, and remember that I must have your pick of any of them by kickoff time (listed below). Also, please note that Thursday is Thanksgiving, and you may get distracted. For the other games, the usual 11:59 p.m. Saturday deadline applies.

See any 'dog here who can win its game outright? As usual, advice from any and all quarters is welcome.

14 CLEVELAND at Cincinnati
14 KANSAS CITY at San Diego
13.5 OAKLAND at Dallas (1:15 PM PST Thursday)
11.5 TAMPA BAY at Atlanta
11 CHICAGO at Minnesota
10.5 DETROIT vs. Green Bay (9:30 AM PST Thursday)
9 WASHINGTON at Philadelphia
6.5 DENVER vs. NY Giants (5:20 PM PST Thursday)
4 HOUSTON vs. Indianapolis
3.5 BUFFALO vs. Miami
3.5 JACKSONVILLE at San Francisco
3 ST. LOUIS vs. Seattle
3 ARIZONA at Tennessee
3 NEW ENGLAND at New Orleans
2 PITTSBURGH at Baltimore

The current standings of the players are here.

Alert the FTC

Less than a week before the new federal rules take effect that require bloggers to disclose free stuff they get to review on their sites, along come a couple of nice bottles of wine from Troon Vineyard down in Grants Pass:

Even though these slipped in under the wire, we're happy to report their arrival. Not since the Pie-Off has the blogosphere been so good. We'll crack one open and report back momentarily. Here's lookin' up your domain!

I'm not against planning, but...

... how much money must we blow on making it so pretty?

Stacey Augmon was a noble gas

I did not know that, until today. [Via Bust a Bucket.]

Lincoln High soap opera heats up

Some truly wild goings-on in the David Adelman drunk driving trial -- including an appearance by Adelman's famous dad. Steve Duin has the details, here.

More computer woes for City of Portland

Last week a tipster told us that the City of Portland's new computer system, which as we recall rolled out in earnest about a year ago, was having some problems. The switchover of personnel functions, which started over the summer, was not going well, we were told, vis-a-vis the police bureau. Apparently, police officers who work shifts other than daytime have not been getting their pay processed correctly. The source said that although members of the force were royally angry about it, they had been ordered not to say anything publicly or risk their jobs.

Yesterday's apology e-mail from the police chief to the rank and file over the Humphreys beanbagging case seems to confirm the existence of these problems. She wrote in part: "You have had to endure the stresses of a new payroll system."

Meanwhile, the bobbleheads at City Hall keep telling us about all the prizes that the computer is winning. Too funny.

Blue Oregon

Down at Oregon State, they take that phrase quite seriously.

Chief Rosie to union bullies: "Please don't hurt me"

It's so Portland. After a rare moment of even mild candor about apparent police brutality, the police chief rushes to apologize for saying anything. Now, we must have the requisite drawn out, secret investigation, after which the "thumper" cop will go right back out on the street. No doubt with retaliation against the whistleblower. Nothing to see here, people -- go about your business.

Row of dominoes

Portland's commercial real estate woes continue, with John Beardsley putting his large real estate holding company into bankruptcy. It's obvious that the company's broke, but the bankruptcy is kind of an odd story. Beardsley says the move is necessary because he doesn't want to lose the old Jazz de Opus building in Old Town -- a building he loves so much that he's got it rented out to a strip joint and a tattoo parlor.

The O article on the bankruptcy, by the adoring Ryan Gragg-Frank, also points out that Beardsley's the guy behind SeaPort Airlines, the startup local airline that touts in its ads that there's no TSA security on its flights. From the company website, it appears it also flies out of Memphis, Tennessee. Beardsley just fired the CEO and says he'll run the airline himself, without pay. Good luck with that.

Just deserts

Anti-spam technology has come a long way in recent years. No longer does spam clog our inboxes (and blog comments) with unwanted commercial junk. Still, the scars from the days when the spam plague was rampant in cyberspace are still quite visible. Which is why this story is so gratifying.

Monday, November 23, 2009

'Dogs leashed for another week

Tennessee's victory over Houston tonight gave Bad Brad his fourth straight winner, and Hank his third winner of the season. That leaves the standings in our charity pro football underdog pool as follows:

Doug - 21.5
Bad Brad - 20
Gordon - 16
Rick - 16
Dan - 15
Mark - 14.5
Hank - 13.5
genop - 12
Gary - 10.5
Michael W. - 10
Robert - 10
genop's mom - 9.5
jmh - 9.5
George - 7.5
Kevin - 6.5
Michael K. - 3
Sidney - 0
Flynn - 0
Andy - 0
Annie - 0

We'll have next weekend's lineup tomorrow evening or Wednesday morning.

Colleague: "Get Humphreys and Nice off the streets"

A fellow officer reportedly accuses superiors of "dereliction of duty" for allowing the two Portland police officers involved in the killing of James Chasse to work stressful details with high potential for confrontations. "Am I the only one that sees the potential for disaster in this equation?" he asks. Of course not. But tell that to your union pitbulls, officer.

Mowing the weeds

The NBA sure handed the Blazers a candy-ass schedule for the month of November. And it continues this week. Tonight they host the Bulls, who are on their annual, always hideous Circus Road Trip, on which they lose five out of every six games. Then the 0-13 Nets and the hapless Grizzlies are here, on either side of Turkey Day. Right after the Griz, though, the Blazers get on a plane and fly to the soccer capital of the world, Salt Lake City, for a legitimate opponent.

With all these wimps on the schedule in the early part of the season, one intuits that there are going to be some brutal stretches toward the end of the season. Which may account for many knowledgeable Blazer fans' uneasiness about the team's progress so far. They're 10-5, but against some terrible competition. Their competition so far have a combined record of 64-82. Counting the next three games, it's 71-101.

Macho man

We've talked for a while about Fireman Randy needing an intervention. The need seems to be growing more intense by the week.

Better view of a distraction

An alert reader has posted on YouTube a lightened and zoomed-in version of the security video showing the beanbag shooting of a 12-year-old girl that resulted in Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphreys being removed from street duty last week. It is here; draw your own conclusions.

This latest incident is an interesting distraction -- tempers are boiling over from it -- but the real story is the fact that the city is looking at a sensational trial and a huge verdict in the killing of James Chasse at the hands of Officer Humphreys in 2006. No matter what was said and done on that Max platform, history is about to be made in the Chasse case, just a few months from now.

I repeat

Let them filibuster.

Reader poll: Have confidence in Portland police union?

The Portland police union is holding a big, bad "vote of no confidence" against the police chief and police commissioner this week -- all because they had the nerve to take Officer Christopher Humphreys, notorious as one of the bureau's most violent employees, off the street before he killed someone else.

It's mildly amusing to watch the union huff and puff like this. Humphreys has essentially been pronounced guilty by Fireman Randy, and the union has already called for Mayor Creepy's resignation. As they now go after Big Pipe Saltzman, they're setting up bad blood with a majority of the City Council. Can a job action be far behind? Never a dull moment in the collective nervous breakdown known as the Adams administration.

It's a fascinating time to watch Saltzman, who's made a career out of keeping his head down. The Goldschmidt mafia made him out to be a courageous hero when he voted for their absurd aerial tram [rim shot]. Let's see if they stand behind him now that he's showing some guts on matters of life, death, and the little people.

In any event, we agree with the union that at a time like this, it's important that everyone's level of confidence be thoroughly aired, and so we invite you to join the conversation by participating in the following reader poll:

Do you have confidence in the Portland police union?
pollcode.com free polls

Dateline Portland

The op-ed page of The New York Times isn't a bad place to have one's writing published. And that's where this Portlander finds himself this morning.

On the sunny side

Here's a publication that we stumbled upon yesterday at the grocery store:

It says it's issue no. 7, which means this monthly has been going for a while. Good for them, especially in these tough times.

For those readers who find this blog too cynical, may we suggest that you find yourself a copy of the Portland Upside and cheer up. Or just check out their website, here. They're nice to people, so we don't have to be.

We'll resist commenting too extensively on the fact that they're based in Damascus, Oregon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Not just another aerial tram

When you get to the top, no hospital smell.

Scenes from a power failure

When we awoke to find our power out this morning, it took a few minutes to sort out what we could and couldn't do.

In the Could category: We could use our iPhone to call the power company and check out where things stood. Our laptop still had some juice left in the battery, and the Personal Telco connection a couple of blocks away was still functioning for internet connectivity, so nothing was missing there. We could use the gas stove, but we had to use a match to light it. There was enough daylight in between rain showers to read by.

In the Couldn't category: We couldn't watch football on the telly. We couldn't make coffee, because we grind our own beans and the grinder is electric. We'd have to wait to run the dishwasher, and it was time. Lounging around in light clothing was not feasible, because it was 60 degrees in the house. Not having any electric clocks other than the digital variety, we couldn't tell precisely when the power had gone out. We'd have to postpone the leisurely shower, and ration out the door openings on the refrigerator.

Since one of the kids was away at a sleepover, we wanted to make sure our telephone land line was functioning, but our cordless household phones require AC power. Have no fear -- we dusted off our early-'80s model telephone out of storage, and it functions fine on the tiny amount of power that comes through the phone line off the telephone pole:

The computerized call system at Pacific Power was pretty impressive. It asked us for the phone number on our account, confirmed the house number, and then told us that there were about 3000 other customers around our neighborhood in the same boat with us. The source of the problem: "Trees." The system predicted that power would be restored by 10:00, and it asked us for a number that it could call back to confirm that everything was o.k.

The power came back on at 9:59, and the robot callback came at 10:06. Not bad.

Quiet morning around here

And cool, too -- our power's out. Apparently, a tree somewhere around here didn't make it through last night's gusty winds.

Woofers and tweeters

Here are our players' picks for today's games in our charity pro football underdog pool:

11.5 TAMPA BAY vs. New Orleans - jmh
11 WASHINGTON at Dallas - George, Sidney
10.5 NY JETS at New England - Annie
10 OAKLAND vs. Cincinnati - Robert, Mark
9.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Arizona - Dan, Flynn, Gordon
8.5 BUFFALO at Jacksonville - Doug, genop's mom
6.5 SAN FRANCISCO at Green Bay - Michael W., Rick, genop, Gary, Andy
6.5 ATLANTA at NY Giants - Kevin
4.5 TENNESSEE at Houston - Hank, Bad Brad
3.5 CLEVELAND at Detroit - Michael K.

To win the points listed for players who picked it, an underdog (in caps) must win its game outright.

Nobody took these 'dogs:

11 SEATTLE at Minnesota
10.5 KANSAS CITY vs. Pittsburgh
3 MIAMI at Carolina (Thursday; Miami won)
3 CHICAGO vs. Philadelphia
1 BALTIMORE vs. Indianapolis

The current standings of our players are here. Good luck, and enjoy the Big Daddies, everyone.

UPDATE, 1:25 p.m.: No winners from the Sunday morning games. Kansas City prevailed, but nobody in our group was smart enough to see that one coming.

UPDATE, 4:37 p.m.: Oakland's victory means it's Mark's second winning week in a row, and Robert gets on the board. Gotta love that double-digit home 'dog. No one's got tonight's game, but Hank and Bad Brad have Tennessee tomorrow night. Everybody else in the pool will be rooting for Houston, no doubt. Updated standings when that one's over.

Like a poem I meant to write

We live in one of those Portland neighborhoods that are well connected enough, and enjoy enough street trees, to have the city come by and sweep up our fallen leaves every autumn. This is of fairly limited utility to our household, as we have just one street tree, a wonderful dogwood that doesn't make much of a mess. Our neighbor has two awful, dangerous gum trees, which don't drop their leaves until almost Christmas, and so the city service doesn't help much there. At least the cursed plums on the other side of us do their drop in a way that coincides with the city intervention. In any event, it's nice that City Hall cares enough about us to pick up what Mother Nature has deposited, on not one, but two, weekends each fall.

We had our first leaf sweep-up of 2009 yesterday, and for those who think the city shouldn't be doing it, we have good news: They're barely doing it. They used to come through in several passes, using at least two different types of machines, and by the end of the process you could eat off the street. This year, for the first time, they made one pass to sweep up the big stuff but left behind a coating of ground-up leaves that makes quite a mucky mess on every car passing through the 'hood.

What they did will no doubt help in preventing storm drains from being blocked, and those urban lakes from forming, at intersections around us. But as far as being a convenience to the neighbors, don't over-estimate it. We'll still be out there with a rake and a broom during a few "sun breaks" during the month of December. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Reader poll: Who will win the Civil War game?

Well, the gods of football fortune have spoken, and it will indeed be Oregon vs. Oregon State for the trip to Pasadena. Oregon State crushed Washington State, and Oregon escaped with an overtime win in Arizona. (In other news, Stanford lost to Cal.)

The biggest Civil War game ever will be held on Thursday evening, Dec. 3, in Eugene. Who will win?

Who will win the Civil War and go to the Rose Bowl?
Oregon Ducks
Oregon State Beavers
pollcode.com free polls


I just got my first senior discount.

Today's big pigskin menu

It's going to be a major day for college football on the West Coast today -- the biggest I can remember for Oregonians. The lineup of games, and the times (Pacific) as best I can tell, are:

2:00 - Oregon State at Washington State
4:30 - Cal at Stanford
5:00 - Oregon at Arizona

The big Ducks-Arizona showdown will be telecast on ABC. For the other two games, it appears to our untrained eye that there's no live TV or easy-to-access live internet video stream. That would leave radio, and streaming internet audio. The Beavers' radio stations are here. For the Stanford-Cal Big Game, I'd try Stanford campus radio, KZSU (on which my buddies and I used to hold forth 30-some years ago) -- the live stream is here.

Readers who have other ways of accessing the games, please let us all know in the comments. In particular, is there a live internet audio stream available of either the Ducks or the Beavers?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Disaster in Oakland

The Blazers dealt themselves a hideous, no-excuses loss to the lowly Golden State Warriors this evening. Even more distressing than the final score was the spectacle of Coach Nate essentially benching Andre Miller. Miller had 14 points but played less than 19 minutes. Steve Blake played 37 minutes, and had 6 points and 5 assists.

Whenever you see Jerryd Bayless on the court, at all, it's a sure sign that there's something very wrong in Portland. The guy should be riding the pines.

This Blazer team, under this coaching staff, is not going to next level of anything other than frustration. Maybe next year.

Take it or leaf it

I thought Mayor Creepy said that Portland wasn't going to have leaf depots this year. Now we are. Whatever. It's good that they're going to be open, at least on a couple of Saturdays. The beauty of our street trees becomes a bit of a chore this time of year.

Have a great weekend

Oooh, that smarts

That new digital "smart" meter that the electric company's installing on the side of your house may be a little too smart, and a little too loose, for many people's liking. For one thing, it's going to enable the folks at the power company to figure out a lot more about you than they've ever known before:

"Instead of measuring energy use at the end of each billing period, smart meters will provide this information at much shorter intervals," the report notes. "Even if electricity use is not recorded minute by minute, or at the appliance level, information may be gleaned from ongoing monitoring of electricity consumption such as the approximate number of occupants, when they are present, as well as when they are awake or asleep. For many, this will resonate as a 'sanctity of the home' issue, where such intimate details of daily life should not be accessible."
And to whom will the power company turn this data over? The police? The highest bidder?

Of course, with every wireless communications device, there's going to be a security risk. What's to stop a hacker from cruising a neighborhood and figuring out which homes are temporarily unoccupied because the electricity usage is unusually low?

Perhaps the biggest casualty of the new devices will be jobs. An alert reader who's been asking questions of PGE about this copied us on an e-mail message in which a company spokesperson told him: "While new jobs will be created, approximately 120 positions will be affected. To date, more than half of those have been successfully placed in new positions in and outside of PGE, or have retired. PGE will continue to need meter readers until August 2010, and we continue to provide ongoing career transition support for the employees who have not yet found other opportunities." Uh huh.

Untapped potential

From South America, an idea on how to cure the recession and eliminate obesity at the same time.

Another great moment on Tri-Met

Wherein a poorly maintained MAX train very nearly leads to disaster for a three-year-old boy. Way to go, Crocodile Hansen!

Dump Geithner

Rep. Peter DeFazio is, like many of us, sick of watching our children's future being looted by Goldman Sachs and their cronies at the Federal Reserve. He sees the current Treasury Secretary as a big part of the problem. He's right.

I wish DeFazio was going to be the next governor, instead of Doctor No.

Clap off! State police pay to settle malicious prosecution claim.

We all had a good laugh nearly five years ago when right-wing Oregon talking head Gregg Clapper was busted on a drug-related charge in connection with an animal poaching investigation targeting another local tighty righty, motelier Mark Hemstreet. The hunting charges were dropped, but Clapper did wind up getting a citation for the evil "residue" in the four marijuana pipes that the police seized when they raided his place.

Clapper and Hemstreet sued the state police for malicious prosecution in the hunting case, and their lawsuit made for a nice payday. The state settled for $295,000 in cool cash earlier this month. No one admits liability when they settle civil suits like this, but it's obvious that the troopers stepped way over some lines. (They did make hunting charges stick, however, against three people targeted by the same investigation.)

Clapper's been pretty insistent that everyone who reported the original charges now be sure to report that he's been cleared. He's been sending out e-mail messages all over the place. (Funny thing, the state attorney general's office, which defended the civil lawsuit, hasn't included the latest on the Clapper matter in its daily barrage of press releases.) I asked Clapper to send along a photo of himself to illustrate my post on the settlement, and he gladly obliged. That's him on the left, and Hemstreet on the right, blissfully interacting with nature:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rogue cop at it again

"Thumper" Humphreys, the Portland cop who brutally killed James Chasse, has just been yanked off the street after shooting a 12-year-old girl with a beanbag gun at close range.

It's a good thing he didn't kill someone else. It's been known for years that he's got issues that put lots of people's well being in jeopardy. Will this be the end of his career as a policeman? Don't be silly. The union will probably give him another prize.

Of course, they're probably only busting him now to try to soften the multi-million-dollar verdict they're looking at after a sensational trial in the Chasse civil case. This town is so sad sometimes.

All bricks, all the time

We got our first closeup look at downtown Portland's new Director Park today. It beats the parking lot that was there before, but we must say, it's about as sterile a public space as has ever been created in this town. It needs a fountain. Or some planters. Or something.

And it doesn't have curbs, which is a little disarming at first. It's just a matter of time, we suspect, before some out-of-town grandma on a cell phone figures out a way to drive right up to where she isn't supposed to be.

Feeling the love from the creatives

You'll be pleased to know that Tri-Met is a blip, hard, the bomb, diggity dank, and like, totally deck.

What he wanted to hear

A reader writes:

I love the BBC. Their reports all always true and fact filled. This study comes at just the right time of year, holiday season.

See there? It's working!

I see that Portland's massive investment in streetcars and condo towers is already beginning to show important benefits.

Wii pray to the Lord

Lord, have mercy.

Portland dusting off the plastic for another binge

The City of Portland hasn't staged a bond issue in a while. The whole rigamarole in which the bureaucrats publish a formal offering document and go out and borrow millions from some bank or other robber baron outfit -- the last one of those that I've seen was way back in July. That was when the city borrowed about $27.8 million to help the inadequate cash flow in its cancerous police and fire retirement system.

Four whole months without running to Wall Street for another eight-figure fix? My goodness! The city's long-term indebtedness appears to be stalled at a mere $2.9 billion!

But don't you worry, debt fans. On closer inspection, it becomes clear that the city's borrowing machinery is still in good working order, and we'll be cracking the coveted $3 billion level in no time.

There are several reasons for this prediction. First, although I'm not the world's greatest expert in this area, I think that the lawsuit over the city's abuses of the "urban renewal" processes was a big part of the temporary debt slowdown. And that lawsuit has now been bought off. Indeed, the big homeless hotel and spa down by the Greyhound station, which the lawsuit so famously stalled, is going to have its groundbreaking tomorrow. This is confirmation that a big obstacle to further reckless borrowing has been removed.

Second, don't think that the city can't slither out and borrow tens of millions just because it hasn't gone through the formal bond process. As we've highlighted on this blog in the past, the city has several sizeable letters of credit outstanding, and when it needs dough without a lot of hoopla and public process, it just draws on them. No muss, no fuss, no City Council discussion, no public vetting of what the money's being borrowed for. Eventually, the city pays off the line of credit with permanent bonds, but by that time the money's been spent, and as a practical matter, there's no way to say no to the bonds. So much for public input.

And since the first of the year, the city has been tapping those hidden lines of credit with great gusto. According to figures we received earlier this week from Eric Johansen, the city's debt manager, the outstanding balances on the lines of credit increased by nearly $21 million between January 1 and November 1. The breakdown of where it went is here; the biggest line items are $10.1 million for the city's "enterprise business solution" computer system (from all appearances, a classic bureaucratic money pit), and another $5.3 million for whatever is going on with "urban renewal" out in Lents.

Third, there are going to be some additional bonds sold between now and year-end. According to Johansen, "[t]he City expects to sell about $19 million in limited tax revenue bonds in December for the Public Safety System Revitalization Project and the Enterprise Business Solution Project (financial system)." Cha-ching. Not to mention the permanent financing for the homeless tower; that's going to involve another $36 million mortgage. I presume that those bonds get sold next spring; in the meantime, we tap another line of credit, I guess.

Finally, there's plenty of new debt on the horizon for 2010 and beyond. The city recently announced that it's looking for a new consultant who will certify the "feasibility" of new "urban renewal" borrowing. This consultant will apparently be hired to swear on a stack of IOUs that building more junk apartments will sufficiently jack up the tax base that big property tax dollars can be corralled in the future to pay off money that's being borrowed now and handed to Fireman Randy's real estate pals.

Anyway, in the document requesting bids for that consulting gig, here's what the city said about the looming "urban renewal" credit card spree:

Is everybody o.k. with upping the ante like this? At our house, when we start running low on cash for basics, we go easy on the toys for a while. Not in Portland. No, sir. In this town, when in doubt, you put it on plastic -- it's like getting stuff for free.

No wonder the city's looking for a new CFO. A debt workout specialist would be good -- pretty soon, we're gonna need one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shunned by BlueOregon

It took a couple of months for me to notice, but I see that I'm no longer blue enough to be listed as a "Lefty Blog" by the boys and girls over at BlueOregon. Apparently I was defrocked on September 14.

Was it something I said?

Oh, well. Those of you who go over there regularly, please do let me know when things worth reading show up on that site. It's kind of like the Merc -- I can't bring myself to check it too often.

City tries out new lie in Chasse case

The "leaders" of the City of Portland are such bullies sometimes. And when they're wrong, they won't own up to it. They'll throw up one desperate lie after another, rather than face the truth. It's a cause for real civic shame, for every one of us who lives here.

I'm really surprised that Fish and Fritz are sitting by and watching this happen. What they think they're achieving by letting it go on is truly mystifying. It doesn't take long to be brought over to the dark side, I guess. Nick, Amanda, you're losing your souls. Is it really worth it?

Frohnmayer's folly

We interrupt the relentless flow of stories of the financial disaster at OHSU with a flash from Dave Frohnmayer: He thinks the murky, semi-autonomous, nonaccountable "governance" model on Pill Hill is so wonderful that it ought to be extended to the state's other big universities.

Yes, let's replicate the kind of boondoggles perpetrated by Peter Kohler and the rest of the Goldschmidt crew systemwide. Let's make the U of O public when it wants to be, and secretive when it wants to be, just like OHSU. It's working so well.

And of course, the Scone, a Goldschmidt man from way back, thinks it's a wonderful idea.

Just think: Maybe the U of O will soon be opening a research campus in Florida.

A night on the Palouse

Chewbacca got handsy.

City of Portland population growth rate drops to 1.08%

New population estimates for Oregon and its cities and counties have been released by the head-counting gurus at Portland State. They say that the City of Portland's population as of July 1, 2009 was 582,130 -- just 1.08% higher than the 575,930 PSU estimate for the same date a year before.

Over a three-year period, population growth within the city limits has slowed to a compound annual rate of under 1.28%, down slightly from the more than 1.29% three-year rate computed a year ago. Over the last five years, the city's population (as estimated by PSU) has grown at a compound annual rate of only 1.12%. At that rate, the city's population will double in 63 years -- in the year 2072 -- not at the much earlier time that the city's planning cabal will tell you whenever it suits the pushers of the latest real estate swindles.

As we have noted here before, the U.S. Census Bureau does not necessarily buy the Portland State numbers. Census estimates of the city's population are lower. For example, the Census' July 1, 2008 number for Portland was 557,706 -- 18,224 fewer people, or 3.16% lower, than PSU's figure on the same date.

We've tweaked our City of Portland debt-o-meter, in our left sidebar, according to the new PSU number and the latest resulting three-year compound annual growth rate. [Via the O.]

You gotta fight... for your right... to bandwidth

Spain joins Finland in giving folks a legally protected right to internet service at a regulated price.

Streetcar insanity, D.C. style

Buying the bogus propaganda from Portland, our nation's capital has acquired three streetcars. They've owned them for three years. Problem is, they don't have any tracks, and so they're paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to store them in the Czech Republic.

The best way to encourage vandalism

Report on it in the media, with photos.

Spotlight on Earl the Pearl

From CNN.

Boss Randy, Part II

"[What] my experience has taught is the more you fall into matrixes and following rules, [that] is where you get into trouble."

Translation: I am the law.

This is dangerous stuff, people. Take it from a guy from Newark.

Where is our fearless state attorney general?

Let them filibuster

I can't believe that the Democrats in the U.S. Senate are scrambling to avoid a filibuster to block health care reform. For Pete's sake, let the Republicans filibuster -- and let the Democratic senators who are with them stand in the harsh glare of the media spotlight the whole time. Most voters will come down squarely against the filibuster types, so let them play their little game and pay the price.

Sometimes you just have to duke it out with people. Health care reform can be achieved with 50 Senate votes, and guts. It should have, and could have, been done several months ago.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another week gone to the 'dogs

Here's this week's lineup in our charity pro football underdog pool. Lots of double-digit possibilities here for our players. Which of these 'dogs (in caps) do you think can win its game outright?

11.5 TAMPA BAY vs. New Orleans
11 WASHINGTON at Dallas
11 SEATTLE at Minnesota
10.5 KANSAS CITY vs. Pittsburgh
10.5 NY JETS at New England
10 OAKLAND vs. Cincinnati
9.5 ST. LOUIS vs. Arizona
8.5 BUFFALO at Jacksonville
6.5 SAN FRANCISCO at Green Bay
6.5 ATLANTA at NY Giants
4.5 TENNESSEE at Houston
3.5 CLEVELAND at Detroit
3 MIAMI at Carolina (Thursday)
3 CHICAGO vs. Philadelphia
1 BALTIMORE vs. Indianapolis

Players, please be sure that your pick reaches me by Saturday at 11:59 p.m. -- or if you're taking Miami, by kickoff time on Thursday, 5:20 p.m. on the West Coast. If you send your pick by e-mail and request a receipt, I will gladly send you one. Picks can also be left in the comments to this post if you wish (although then other players will see them). If you need to consult our current standings, they are here.

May you have better luck than I have had this season. I may have to abandon my recent methodologies in favor of an older technique. As always, advice and kibitzing are welcome.

UPDATE, 11/20, 11:06 p.m.: None of our group picked Miami, and they won, earning a phantom 3 points. No oddsmakers are posting a point spread for Denver and San Diego, and so by our rules, that game is off our board this week.

Wiki + maps = too much fun

Some of us are going to find it hard not to burn too much time playing with this.

Giggle of the Day

Here's one that graced our e-mail inbox this afternoon. Stop me if you've heard this:

Two men are heading to a ski lodge in a blinding snowstorm. They see a house and figure they had better pull over. They knock on the door and a woman answers. They explain their predicament. She says that she is recently widowed, and it wouldn't be appropriate for two strange men to stay in her house, but they're welcome to stay in the barn and leave the next day. They say thanks and head to the barn.

Flash forward nine months.

One of the men (call him Joe) gets a letter from the woman's lawyer, reads it, and calls his friend (call him Frank).

Joe: Do you remember the time we stayed in that woman's barn nine months ago?
Frank: Yes.
Joe: Well, did you happen to leave the barn and visit the woman that night?
Frank: As a matter of fact, I did.
Joe: And did you happen to give her my name instead of yours?
Frank: Yes, I'm afraid I did. I knew I wasn't behaving properly, and I was embarrassed by my actions, so I gave her your name. I know that wasn't right of me. I'm sorry. But why do you ask?
Joe: Well, it turns out that the woman just died and left me all her money.

Where that disgruntled ex-employee is going to hit back

The former employer's computer system looks like a prime target.

A glimpse into the future

I see the death panels are starting early.

Who says a pro sports stadium should cost $60 million?

Here's one that went for 1 percent of that.

Rage, rage against the PERS

Folks who get all worked up about what ridiculously good pensions government workers receive will get a jolt from this site. It sure would be interesting if someone set up a similar web page up here in the Beaver State. Hey righties, how about it?

No Coke -- Pepsi

I love that the folks at Costco stick up for us members. They've told the demons at Coca-Cola to take a hike because their prices are too high. Awesome.

Meanwhile, the Costco folks have started carrying this stuff -- containing 16 or 18 percent actual fruit juice, and cane sugar instead of the hideous high-fructose corn syrup. I can drink one every now and then with far less guilt. Know-it-alls, please don't spoil it for me.

You can't walk away from the price you pay

I have not shopped on Portland's Northwest Trendy-Third Avenue in a while, have you? About twice a year, I head over there to pick up some Kiehl's shaving cream -- one of the most wonderful substances on the face of the earth -- but other than that and one Christmas shopping run annually, the hassle of parking the car in that neighborhood immediately cancels out any desire to go there.

Soon, we will have another psychological barrier installed -- parking meters. Always hungry to find money for the black hole known as streetcars, Mayor Creepy is determined that the no-armed bandits are going in in Northwest. And after that, on Northeast Broadway. And after that, on Hawthorne. And after that, in every shopping district in town. Sooner or later, he thinks, you'll get rid of your car and take two buses to buy a crockpot or a cigar.

Eventually, he'd like to install a turnstile on your front door.

See you at Freddy's, at the mall, or on whatever retail street City Hall hasn't leeched onto yet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gust meets gum

Mother Nature paid our neighbor's sweet gum tree a visit over lunch hour today:

That long limb was about a foot in diameter at the base. Good thing no one was underneath. The thing fell straight onto the sidewalk.

That tree and its twin next to it really were a bad choice for street trees when they were planted, who knows how many decades ago. They were cute when they were small, but now they are big and dangerous.

Turning out the lights

Here's a grim little animation about our nation's unemployment.

Dimey, can you spare a bud?

My back's really been bugging me the last several days. Maybe I need to take a walk to the drug store.

We were talking, about the space between us all

Armchair sports pundits who have criticized the somewhat spacey play of Blazer forward Travis Outlaw are now going to get to see what the team can do without him. Travis has broken the same bone in his foot that kept Martell Webster off the court all last year, and that means no Ennio Morricone fanfare at the Rose Garden for the next two months, at least.

It will be interesting what Coach does to the lineup with one of his very favorite bench players in sick bay. And star Brandon Roy, who's been looking a little down in the mouth lately for other reasons, has one more cause for a funk; he was clearly disappointed that Outlaw, his close friend, will be missing.

After Outlaw went down the other night, Webster got only 11 scoreless minutes of play, and that's got to be a concern. One wonders whether he is still not 100% in the foot department. Which leaves Juwan Howard -- a calm and experienced veteran, but not somebody who's going to be running the fast break with Andre Miller, that's for sure. Maybe Rudy Fernandez will quit pouting and use his extra court time to become a major scoring machine. We Blazer fans can only hope.

Fifteen minutes is a long time

This would make a great campaign platform for a Portland City Council candidate. One wonders how the current incumbents would fare on the program.

Tivo would be cheating

Although I am a certified night owl, even I don't get much out of television past 1:30 a.m. But tonight it might pay for me to stay up 'til 3, to catch live college basketball action between my alma mater, the St. Peter's Peacocks, and the Monmouth Hawks. It's the least I could do -- the students are holding a pep rally at 4 a.m. their time. The crazy start time gains the schools exposure on ESPN's "24 Hours of Basketball" celebration. Go, Peacocks!

Unhappy trails to you

The use of utility easements for hiking -- and the liability of adjacent homeowners if somebody gets hurt doing it -- is turning into a true Portland City Hall snafu. It seems that Mayor Creepy's transportation bureau has been goading a nonprofit group to build trails along the easements in the southwest hills, but without getting the property owners' consent and in many cases without even getting city permits. Meanwhile, the city's been handing out maps encouraging folks to traipse along the trails, which often include stairs.

A reader who owns a home on one of these trails writes: "There have already been injuries on these trails, including one life-threatening injury that occurred to an elderly woman just below me."

It's an ugly situation, and apparently it will take action by our enlightened solons in the state legislature to straighten it out. Good luck with that.

How Goldman Sachs jerks America around

Always has, and always will -- including the next ripoff, carbon credits. At least, so says a smart guy named Matt Taibbi. He concludes:

It's not always easy to accept the reality of what we now routinely allow these people to get away with; there's a kind of collective denial that kicks in when a country goes through what America has gone through lately, when a people lose as much prestige and status as we have in the past few years. You can't really register the fact that you're no longer a citizen of a thriving first-world democracy, that you're no longer above getting robbed in broad daylight, because like an amputee, you can still sort of feel things that are no longer there.

But this is it. This is the world we live in now. And in this world, some of us have to play by the rules, while others get a note from the principal excusing them from homework till the end of time, plus 10 billion free dollars in a paper bag to buy lunch. It's a gangster state, running on gangster economics, and even prices can't be trusted anymore; there are hidden taxes in every buck you pay. And maybe we can't stop it, but we should at least know where it's all going.

Sounds about right to me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How the 'dog pile stacks up

Another Sunday of pigskin play produced some points for several players in our charity pro football underdog pool. Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and Washington pulled the upsets, leaving our standings as follows:

Doug - 21.5
Gordon - 16
Rick - 16
Bad Brad - 15.5
Dan - 15
genop - 12
Gary - 10.5
Michael W. - 10
genop's mom - 9.5
jmh - 9.5
Hank - 9
George - 7.5
Kevin - 6.5
Mark - 4.5
Michael K. - 3
Andy - 0
Annie - 0
Flynn - 0
Robert - 0
Sidney - 0

Doug and Bad Brad scored for the third consecutive week.

Since nobody's got the Monday night game, that's how things will stand when the new lines go up Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. Rest up for more deep football thoughts, players.

Forgive me for finding this so funny

Apparently this ad has been on the air for months, but I saw it myself for the first time the other night. I laughed so hard I cried:

I'm sure some little people and their friends are offended, but at least the ones on the screen got paid.

Doesn't your 'dog deserve Alpo?

The fourth week of our charity pro football underdog pool sees important action today, with our players picking these 'dogs (in caps):

9.5 TAMPA BAY at Miami - Robert, Gary
9 SEATTLE at Arizona - Flynn, Michael W., Sidney, genop's mom
6.5 JACKSONVILLE at NY Jets - Kevin, Gordon, Doug, genop
6.5 CINCINNATI at Pittsburgh - Rick, Bad Brad
6.5 BUFFALO at Tennessee - Michael K., jmh, Dan, George, Andy
4.5 WASHINGTON vs. Denver - Mark
3 NEW ENGLAND at Indianapolis - Hank

To gain the points listed, a player's choice must win its game outright.

I did not hear from Annie, and so unless I missed something, she's sitting this week out. Nobody took these 'dogs:

16.5 DETROIT at Minnesota
14.5 ST. LOUIS vs. New Orleans
11 CLEVELAND vs. Baltimore
3 CHICAGO at San Francisco (Thursday; Chicago lost, 10-6)
3 GREEN BAY vs. Dallas
2.5 PHILADELPHIA at San Diego
2 CAROLINA vs. Atlanta
2 KANSAS CITY at Oakland

The standings of our players to date are here. Enjoy the games, everybody.

UPDATE, 12:22 p.m.: Bad Brad informed me this morning well before game time that he had sent me his Cincy pick yesterday afternoon. I either didn't get it or accidentally deleted it, but have decided it's on the up-and-up.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reader poll: Who is going to the Rose Bowl?

The best team in the Pac-10 conference won another big football game today. They racked up 55 points against USC, after putting 51 on the board against the Eugene Undertakers.

I doubt they'll make it to the Rose Bowl, though. That honor is going to these guys. Don't you think?

Who will play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl?
Oregon State
pollcode.com free polls

In case you need to consult them, here are the standings. And here are the rules for breaking ties:

Pacific-10 Conference -- Rose Bowl Selection Procedures

If a Conference team is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) ranking system it shall participate in the National Championship Game designated by the BCS. If that is not the case, the following procedures will determine the Pacific-10 Rose Bowl Representative. The Pacific-10 Rose Bowl representative shall be that member's team with the best won-lost percentage record in Conference games. If, however, the records in Conference games of two or more members are identical, determination of the Rose Bowl representative shall be as follows:

a. Two-Team Tie.
The winner of the game between the two teams shall be the representative.

b. Multiple-Team Ties.
(1) When three or more teams are tied in Conference play, if one has defeated all others, it shall be the Rose Bowl representative. If that is not the case, a comparison of the tied teams' records against the other tied teams shall be made and the team having the best record against the other tied teams shall be the Rose Bowl representative. If two or more teams are still tied after this comparison, the appropriate two-team or multiple-team tie-breaking procedures shall be repeated among those teams still under consideration.

(2) If more than two teams are still tied after the process above is completed, each remaining tied team's record against the team occupying the highest position in the final regular season standings shall be compared, with the procedure continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.

When arriving at another group of tied teams while comparing records, each team's collective record against the tied teams as a group shall be used.

If at any point in the process the multiple-team tie is reduced to two teams, the two-team tie-breaking procedure shall be applied.

If more than two teams are still tied after comparing their records all the way through the Conference standings, the team among the tied teams with the highest ranking in the final BCS standings shall be the Rose Bowl representative.

If a tie remains, the teams most recently earning Rose Bowl or Bowl Championship Series automatic selection shall be eliminated.

Queen from King

Here's a Portland native making waves. Somehow I missed her -- up to now.

More blatant mass transit fare evasion

This time on C-Tran.

An easy way out for Paulson

Merritt, buddy! Go for it!

It's even got "linchpin" on it.

In the eye of the beholder

Here's a collection of stunning and disturbing photographs that is sure to lead to all sorts of widely disparate reactions. For me, it reinforces my thankfulness that I live in the United States, and it makes me want to pay more attention to where the stuff I consume comes from.

If you had a pint of moon water...

... what would you do with it?

Back in action

Friday, November 13, 2009

Have a great weekend

Where the sidewalk no longer ends

Portland's taking stimulus money and building sidewalks with it in several parts of town. I'm assuming (recklessly, perhaps) that there are no condo weasels pulling the strings on this one. But that leaves the question: Of all the places in the city that could use sidewalks, how were these locations chosen?

Next up for a bailout: the FHA

Don't sing "You're Out of the Woods" yet, folks.

Another reason to do Facebook

It provides an air-tight alibi.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zoo construction: "a train out of control"

It seems that Metro can't even run the zoo without screwing up. But the taxpayers keep handing them play money with one bond after another. Leave it to the zookeepers to be good at fleecing the sheep.

Keisling on PERS: It ain't pretty

An alert reader has sent me what appears to be a draft of a report by former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling on the future of the state's public employee pension system. And the news is most definitely not good. Keisling confirms what the O told us a few weekends ago: that more and more tax dollars will have to be poured into the maw of the bureaucrat retirement machine, and soon. Unless taxes go way up to cover the increased expenses, government services are going to face some serious cuts. And there's a bunch of outstanding debt in the picture -- bonds that, unlike most private parties' debts, have ever-increasing annual payments as the years wear on. Maybe the feds will inflate our way out of this one, but that $20 loaf of bread is going to be hard to afford.

Of course, Keisling's greatest fear is that the state pension system might some day wind up being less than 60% funded. Up here in Portland, we laugh at that number. Our police and fire pensions are 0% funded. The current unfunded liability for the cops and firefighters is more than $2½ billion, and growing every year.

When you read, you begin with $5, $10, $20

The fundraising frenzy that surrounds public schools these days sometimes goes way too far.

Sixty-four and there's so much more

It's Neil Young's birthday.

Did Uncle Cliffy really not dunk?

That's what the chart accompanying the print edition of this story says:

The table says he went "dunkless" for two of his many seasons in the league. Were either of those in Portland?

Go Beavers! Oh, and death to America.

Reporting from Corvallis, it's Al Jazeera.

But watch out for injuries

If your fantasy football team is toast, and your fantasy pro basketball team is already looking a little weak, perhaps you can salvage some respect with a good performance in this league.

Help Marysville School

Can you imagine being a kid in a public elementary school and watching the school burn down in the middle of a school day? Fortunately, life and limb was spared. The school community appears to have been well prepared for everyone's safe evacuation.

But is anyone prepared for what happens next? The students are going to be bused daily to what was once an abandoned school building five miles away. A lot of the students' and teachers' school things have been destroyed, including backpacks, jackets, and school supplies. It's going to be a hard winter for some of those young people.

The Trib reports today that the nonprofit group Schoolhouse Supplies is collecting money and goods to help replace what was lost. We hear a lot about "for the children" this and that, but this is one case in which the validity of that claim is pretty obvious. Our readers have been known to be quite generous when reminded of a real need, and so if you're in the mood to do something that will make you feel good the rest of the day, click here:

Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo

And from the looks of things, it isn't good.

"At least they have a line to wait in''

A Medord doctor explains what's at stake in the health care reform debate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sure, we'll honor your Freedom of Information Act request

That'll be $522,886.00.

Paper or plastic?

Trouble will find you

In a sea of rosy press releases from the state treasurer's office -- "everything's wonderful, we're able to borrow all we want" -- stands an island of doubt.

Don't knock it

Let him do it.

Bigger parks for the outer east side

The City of Portland has announced that it's picked up three new parcels of land adjacent to existing parks, for park expansions. They're all on the Idaho side of I-205. The long-suffering folks out that way deserve a little love now and then, and so these appear to be good moves.

Ain't no mountain high enough

No money shortage, no labor strife is enough to stop the public relations juggernaut in our many local government agencies. Here's a 9-by-27 full-color glossy mailer that arrived at our place yesterday:

I wish they'd stop selling me the schools, and just operate them.

Forward thinker

John Kroger has given $5,000 to John Kitzhaber to run for governor again. Through a public records request, we obtained have a copy of the check:

New 'Couv mayor gives Paulson a "come hither" look

The latest round of dithering over where to blow $60 million for a new home for Little Lord Paulson's minor league baseball team has officially begun: The mayor of Vancouver, Washington wants to give it a go. Wasn't that guy running for mayor on a platform of fiscal restraint? That was quick.

Meanwhile, as noted here over the summer, the "minor" soccer league in which Paulson's Portland Timbers team plays is literally falling apart. A sobering thought as the City of Portland plunges eight figures into another goofy remodel of PGE Park for a "major" soccer league that's equally risky, only with much larger stakes.

And in other news, an alert reader points out that over here, the building permit application for the PGE Park renovation has a "cancel permit... pending" notation on it. Anybody know what that's all about?

SoWhat condo fire sale continues

They're running another "special" at Atwater Underwater this week. Even at a "mere" $230 a square foot, I couldn't imagine living there. To me, it's as awful as ever. Of course, to the investors in the project, and to city taxpayers who are hundreds of millions into the SoWhat District, "awful" doesn't begin to describe this colossal flop. Go by streetcar!

Blazers have brightest future in the NBA

So say these guys.

More on the new bad guys

Over the weekend, we noted that the p.r. firm Gallatin Public Affairs had become Portland's new Gard & Gerber, fronting for scoundrels like Merritt Paulson and the police union. In a piece by Nigel Jaquiss in today's WW, the reasons for that sudden rise to prominence become a little clearer. One of the Gallatin dudes, Greg Peden, has an inside track to Portland's new Richard Daley, Fireman Randy:

[L]ast year, when Portland Beavers and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, whose investment in Portland is far smaller than [Paul] Allen's, sought to bring Major League Soccer to Portland, Leonard championed a far greater city subsidy for Paulson than the one Allen requested earlier.

The difference is Leonard’s friendship with lobbyist Greg Peden, who represents Paulson.

Leonard says he got to know Peden in Salem in the '90s, when Peden worked for then-Gov. John Kitzhaber and Leonard served in the Legislature. Peden later became the City Hall lobbyist for the Portland Business Alliance.

Without Leonard’s loyalty to Peden, it is unclear whether MLS would ever have gained traction in City Hall.

"Greg has always been and remains a very straightforward and honest guy," Leonard says. "It was very helpful for Merritt’s cause that he first had Greg meet with me so that I could ask questions knowing I was going to get straight answers."

You can see Peden and Randy in action together earlier this year, trying to sell sell snake oil to the Lents neighborhood for Paulson, in this photo from this story.

Anyway, the Peden connection and lots more unflattering stuff about the Fireman, who's getting a divorce, losing weight, and otherwise showing signs of a midlife crisis, are in the WW story, here. Jaquiss's bottom line: "Observers increasingly worry that he wields too much power — and is accountable to nobody."

Amen. This guy needs a sports car, a new girlfriend, and a new gig to play around in while he collects a nice six figures in his two public pensions. Selling the city down the river to his buddies, and mowing down businesses that he capriciously decides he doesn't like, need to stop.

Meanwhile, Willy Week promises more dirt next week. Oh, the drama.

America's sweethearts

Who'da thunk it? Goons 'R' Us is also into bribery. These guys are almost as bad as Halliburton.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of Portland cyclists and the "Invisible Cloaks of Smugness"

From this not-entirely-safe-for-work blog from the Big Apple:

In a way what the city has done by adding all these bike lanes is sort of like dealing with the asbestos in your basement by purchasing a brand-new living room set -- in both cases you'll just be a little more comfortable before you die. Secondly, if New Yorkers start bragging too loudly then Portlanders may actually begin moving here en masse. In the short term this will result in a surge in the number of white people with dreadlocks for which New York is ill-prepared, and our city's 311 help line will be overwhelmed with complaints about things like inadequate cargo bike parking and sub-par coffee quality. In the long term, cycling casualties will skyrocket once these riders learn the hard way that they are not protected by Invisible Cloaks of Smugness as they are in Portland, New York City will abandon cycling as a result, and our hard-fought bike lanes will fall to mopeds and Vespas.

For some 'dogs, it's fourth and long

It's time for the players in our charity pro football underdog pool (current standings here) to start wracking their brains figuring out which of the following underdogs (in caps) can win its game outright, without the benefit of the point spread:

16.5 DETROIT at Minnesota
14.5 ST. LOUIS vs. New Orleans
11 CLEVELAND vs. Baltimore
9.5 TAMPA BAY at Miami
9 SEATTLE at Arizona
6.5 CINCINNATI at Pittsburgh
6.5 BUFFALO at Tennessee
4.5 WASHINGTON vs. Denver
3 CHICAGO at San Francisco (Thursday)*
3 GREEN BAY vs. Dallas
3 NEW ENGLAND at Indianapolis
2.5 PHILADELPHIA at San Diego
2 CAROLINA vs. Atlanta
2 KANSAS CITY at Oakland

Readers, feel free to chime in with suggestions.

* - This pick due by kickoff, 5:20 p.m. Thursday.

UPDATE, 11/13, 12:47 a.m.: No one took Chicago, and so everyone's still in the hunt for Sunday.

Shack attack

Portland's wide array of colorful food carts is attracting national attention. It's quite the testament to the city's entrepreneurial spirit. It's also a sign of how difficult it is to run a traditional restaurant these days. And at least a few Portlanders complain that the carts are undercutting the traditionals, who have many more rules and regulations to live by.

One reader suggested to us earlier today that "maybe lawyers can save on overhead by practicing out of carts, too." Don't laugh.

Singing a different tune

Flowers by Dorcas moved over the weekend, into part of the site vacated by the ill-fated Rock and Roll Cafe on Sandy Boulevard in Portland's Hollywood District. And with that, they are out of their downtown location on Broadway. Good luck to them in their new location in these tough times.

Your tax dollars at work

If there are two things that the City of Portland is big on these days, it's spending money on planning, and spending money on public relations. Yesterday, the two came together in our mailbox with this glossy mailer:

On the address side, the details:

Didn't we just do this whole "conversation" thing with Mayor Grampy's "Vision Quest" plan, which was translated into every language but Klingon? That was quite a charade. The people said, "Stop wasting money on condo towers and toys for rich people!" and the Portland State planning cabal twisted it into "Our diverse population, innovative businesses and forward-thinking leaders work together to ensure livability for all." So true, comrade. Too funny.

So go ahead, blow some more time with these people. If you go and tell them what they want to hear, you'll be a big hit. If you go and tell them something else, you can bet you'll be ignored.

Maybe Streetcar Smith will show you his decoder ring.

The nearer your destination, the more you're slip-slidin' away

Blogging about stuff seems to make things happen sometimes. Just after we wrote last week about the anniversary of the first retirement under Social Security, along in the mail came our own annual statement of pay-ins and projected benefits from the Social Security Administration. We've been getting these since 1998, showing our annual earnings all the way back to our first soda jerk job when we were 16.

Beginning in 2003, there's been a blue note on the benefit statement: A warning that at the rate it's growing, the Social Security fund is going to go broke, and so our chickens have not yet hatched for the counting. And it just got worse. Here's what it said last year:

This year's version says:

It seems that the retirement cottage on the beach somewhere keeps getting further away every year. Good thing we love our job.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pool pack spreads out

The last pro football underdog of the week -- Denver hosting Pittsburgh -- left its offense at the movies, and so there were no points earned tonight in our charity pool. That leaves the standings as listed below.

We'll post this coming weekend's games tomorrow evening or Wednesday morning. If I am not mistaken, there is a Thursday night game this week, Chicago at San Francisco. Players, if that's the one you're picking, we'll need your pick by kickoff time, 5:20 p.m. Thursday. All other games, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

One other note: Remember, our pool continues through the playoffs, including the conference championship games the weekend of Jan. 24. Of course, as the playoffs wear on, there are fewer games and less chance to make a move, but the final winner of the pool may not be determined until that weekend. There's a lot of football between now and then.

Dan - 15
Doug -15
Gary - 10.5
Michael W. - 10
genop's mom - 9.5
Gordon - 9.5
jmh - 9.5
Rick - 9.5
Bad Brad - 9
Hank - 9
George - 7.5
genop - 5.5
Michael K. - 3
Andy - 0
Annie - 0
Flynn - 0
Kevin - 0
Mark - 0
Robert - 0
Sidney - 0

Off the table

Don't worry, Portlanders. As much as the thrill of control over you appeals to them, city leaders will never push you into this -- it involves cars.

Dialogue, 2009

"It's the green, sustainable thing to do."

"Is not."

"Is too."

No tengo a nadie

Joining the Republicans to vote no on health care reform: Brian Baird, the Democrat from the Lars Larson Show.

Product review

We attended a double birthday party over the weekend, at which one of the honorees received as a gift an Obama Chia. He was unimpressed. "It looks more like Smokey Robinson," he said.


They took all my leftover Snickers

Halloween arrived a week late at the Rose Garden arena, as the Trail Blazers spent the weekend in the costume of a bright, young, energetic basketball team. Fast breaks, lots of running and gunning, and they even acted as if Greg Oden was supposed to be part of the offense. As a result, the Blazers beat the old fogies of San Antonio and the newborn puppies of Minneapolis, in the process greatly entertaining the Portland faithful, some of whom had begun to lose faith.

As long as the new formula produces wins, the cheers will be loud and strong. And against many teams, starting the Blazers' three main guards and breaking like there's no tomorrow will get the job done.

But there are going to be nights when the Blazers won't be able to do mostly anything that worked for them over this weekend. Not everybody's going to let you beat them on the boards and race upcourt for easy baskets. And when they don't, will we see the other Blazers -- the Steve-Blake-walk-it-up-the-floor-dribble-around-give-it-to-Brandon-and-get-out-of-the-way Blazers? That group didn't seem to know who they were in the first five games of the season. One wonders whether the confusion will get any better when they're only doing this gig on a part-time basis. They did finish the win over the Spurs in that style, but the Spurs were clearly able to get back into the game when the Blazers turned down their red hot popcorn machine.

And then there's the serious question of what's going to happen inside Brandon Roy's head. Tonight, he scored 2 points. Not a typo. A week ago, he was carrying the team on his back, and had been for a couple of years. Now, in the run-and-gun Blazer offense, he may be less of a factor than Martell Webster. It's hard to picture Roy being relegated to grabbing rebounds and handing out assists. That can't go on for too long, can it? Will he be telling the reporters at practice, "It doesn't matter how much I score, as long as we win the games"? Seems unlikely.

But hey, tonight the glass is half full -- actually, a bit more than half full -- and so we're going to ignore that little grimace we saw when Webster came down hard on his bad foot, and call it a great night for the Blazers.

And on that note, it's time to wrap up our first edition of the Rate-a-Nate reader poll, which we started as the month began. In our first round of balloting, with 185 votes cast, Nate rated an average of only 5.4 on a scale of 10, with 10 being the best and 1 the worst. As previously announced, we'll run the poll again in a week or two, giving everyone a chance to vote again, and see how he's doing then. If the team keeps putting up quality wins, no doubt Coach's rating will rise.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The scoundrels' new mouthpiece

Over the years, Portlanders grew to view with suspicion the public relations firm of Gard & Gerber. This outfit always seemed to be calling the media plays for the big money in the city's West Hills when they wanted to fleece the little guys down below. PGE, OHSU, Neil Goldschmidt, and many others called upon G&G to make the ugly truth go away as quickly as possible. State Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Goldschmidt lieutenant, worked there for a while, which made her candidacy for anything immediately unpalatable to us.

These days, Gard & Gerber is no more. Gard's still out there, but Gerber has gone the way of the husband in the Mattress World commercials.

If there was a void in the Portland villain flack ranks, however, it is being filled nicely by another outfit, Gallatin Public Affairs. This regional firm, which appears to be based in Boise, is currently fronting for Little Lord Paulson on his double-barreled stadiums boondoggle, and it's even got Vera Katz on the payroll to help grease the skids.

Now comes word that Gallatin's helping the Portland police union in its efforts to deny justice in the case of the two police officers who senselessly killed Jim Jim Chasse three years ago. You go, Gallatin. You're building up quite a base of goodwill here in Portlandia.

Is that really Earl the Pearl, tweeting?

If so, he's getting a little loose with it.

That ain't natural

Got an odd orange from the store this week:

What did Big Food do this time?

Sunday at the pound

The players in our charity pro football underdog pool have spoken for another week, and here are their selections:

10.5 MIAMI at New England - Annie
10 DETROIT at Seattle - Robert, Gary, Sidney, Michael W., Andy
9 HOUSTON at Indianapolis - Flynn, Mark, Kevin, Rick, genop's mom, Gordon
5.5 TENNESSEE at San Francisco - Hank, Dan, Bad Brad, genop, Doug
3 CINCINNATI vs. Baltimore - Michael K.
3 DENVER vs. Pittsburgh - George, jmh

Remember, a player's team has to win outright in order for the player to win the points listed. This week's unwanted 'dogs were:

14 CAROLINA at New Orleans
10.5 TAMPA BAY vs. Green Bay
10 WASHINGTON at Atlanta
6.5 KANSAS CITY at Jacksonville
3.5 SAN DIEGO at NY Giants
3 ARIZONA at Chicago
3 DALLAS at Philadelphia

The standings so far:

Gary - 10.5
Michael W. - 10
Dan - 9.5
Doug - 9.5
genop's mom - 9.5
Gordon - 9.5
jmh - 9.5
Rick - 9.5
George - 7.5
Bad Brad - 3.5
Hank - 3.5
Everybody else - 0

And with that, I believe it's up to the big daddies of the NFL to take it to the stage. Enjoy the games, everybody.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sweet Saturday

Look on the bright side, Duck fans. Now you can quit whining about the BCS and concentrate on booking your plane tickets to the Poulan Weed Eater Fiesta Bowl.

Long may you run

Here's a Big Apple neighborhood fixture who'll be missed.

Reverse Midas

Paul Allen loses another one. Hey, at least the Blazers beat the Spurs.

Who says they're ignoring Sellwood traffic problems?

The "multi-modal mecca" known as the City of Portland is about to turn a main road on the east side of the crumbling Sellwood Bridge into a bike boulevard.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Have a great weekend

Where those missing pets go

A reader writes:

We just missed losing our Jack Russell terrier tonight. I let him out for his last potty break and went to my computer. Seconds later I heard him scream. I ran to the door and threw it open to find three huge coyotes in my SW Multnomah District front yard. Two ran out the gate and one jumped the fence with ease.

We checked the dog over and luckily there are no bites. But he sure is scared, and you know how fearless Jack Russells can be.

Maybe you can blog something about this, so that folks who might not be aware can avoid what might have happened to us.

Saint Al Gore, pray for us

Years ago, when I was part of a thought-provoking discussion group on ecology, a skeptic in our midst argued convincingly that concern for the earth was in essence a religion. The rest of us thought about it for a while, and then told him that we didn't care -- we still believed in living with the planet in mind.

Now we see that climate change is being designated a religion (or its equivalent) for some purposes under British law. Over in England, this means victory for global warming activists in some cases, but victory for the skeptics in others. It depends on the legal context.

What would that kind of reasoning mean here in the United States? Given our insistence on separation of church and state, it might mean that the constant sermonettes that we get from holier-than-thou governing bodies such as the Portland City Council might have to be trimmed a bit. Every time I roll out my recycling bins, I see a sticker that tells me, courtesy of Mayor Creepy and Fireman Randy, that "it's the right thing to do." I don't disagree with that, but I don't need the characters at City Hall to be preaching to me about it. If I relied on them for right vs. wrong, the afterlife would not be kind to me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New feature at the Astoria Red Lion

Outdoor swimming and diving.

The Communists were lightweights

You want divisiveness? Nothing beats MTV.

Who says there are no debtors' prisons in the United States?

An alert reader wrote us today with concern about a case in which a man was sent to prison for willfully failing to pay his company's payroll taxes, even though he argued that he didn't have the money to pay them. Jack Easterday operated a chain of nursing homes in Northern California. He always reported the company's federal payroll tax liability accurately, but he paid only part of it. The IRS came after him to collect what was owed, and it put liens on the company's assets, but eventually it filed criminal charges against Easterday -- 109 counts of willful failure to pay over the payroll taxes that the company had withheld from employees.

Easterday put on testimony at his trial that the nursing homes were losing millions of dollars, and thus couldn't pay all their payroll taxes. The judge ruled that that didn't excuse him from criminal liability, and the jury convicted him on 107 of the 109 counts. The court of appeals agreed with the trial judge that in order to prove the crime of willful failure to pay over taxes, the government need not prove that the taxpayer had the ability to pay; it ruled that the fact that the taxpayer is too broke to pay is irrelevant to that crime. This week, the Supreme Court let that ruling stand.

I have no doubt that Easterday is not a saint, but I agree with the reader that in incarcerating someone for failing to pay taxes -- taxes that he or she freely reported to the government -- we ought to ask whether the person had the wherewithal to pay. Otherwise, aren't we putting people in jail simply because they can't pay a debt?

Side effects may include

I got a flu shot this morning, and now, suddenly, I'm craving nacho cheese Doritos.


Overheard at the cllinic: someone calling it the "heiny" virus.

Trial by internet

Here's the jail booking photo. Here's the sketch of the suspect. Same guy?

Recall 2.0 sets itself up for epic fail

The group that wants to try again to recall Portland Mayor Sam Adams is making things hard for itself. Not only is the enigmatic Jasun "Kiss of Death" Wurster, who ran the doomed first effort, continuing to be prominently involved, but now they've also got a Kevin Mannix pal doing the strategerizing. Throw in a Victoria Taft live remote and daily all-caps e-mail tirades from Jack Peek, and you're pretty much dressed for failure in lefty Portland. What next -- Bill Sizemore and Loren Parks?

On beyond OnPoint

Our blog posts about the quarterly results at OnPoint Community Credit Union -- a Portland-based financial institution that we consider at least some indicator of the state of the area's economy -- have led readers from time to time to request comparisons of OnPoint results with those of other credit unions. We've resisted that invitation on a number of grounds -- mostly because we're not really an expert on financial institutions. We've been pulling numbers off the voluminous reports filed with the regulators with interested but highly untrained eyes. Besides, it's a time-consuming deal.

But the challenge has been too good to keep down, and so with the important caution that we are not expert in these matters, just for kicks we'll compare some of OnPoint's financial data with that of three other Oregon-based credit unions that readers have mentioned: Unitus here in Portland, First Tech in Beaverton, and Oregon Community down in Eugene.

One number that we've been tracking for OnPoint has been its ratio of delinquent loans (two months or more) to total loans -- the higher the number, the worse the portfolio from a delinquency standpoint. Here are the percentages for all four of the credit unions in that department:

Credit union9/30/086/30/099/30/09
First Tech0.750.961.12
Oregon Community0.531.131.87

Another ratio that we've been watching at OnPoint is delinquent loans to net worth. Here are the percentages for the whole group on that score:

Credit Union9/30/086/30/099/30/09
First Tech5.226.066.98
Oregon Community5.7612.6321.41

The side-by-side reviews turned up one curiosity: Not all of the credit unions are accounting for the industry's deposit insurance troubles in exactly the same way. OnPoint and Oregon Community both showed millions in "stabilization expenses" for the first time this year on their third quarter financial reports, whereas First Tech and Unitus had been showing that expense since the first quarter of the year.

Finally, let's take a gander at the year-to-date net income (loss) figures for the group over the first three quarters. Although given their varying sizes, we're likely talking apples and oranges, the trends are probably worth comparing:

Credit Union9/30/086/30/099/30/09
First Tech$11,004,579$15,679,047$19,083,328
Oregon Community$2,276,125($1,600,252)($1,663,273)

You wanted comparisons? Well, there you have some, folks. Obviously, of the group, Oregon Community has got the biggest delinquent loan problems, is reporting its delinquencies more conservatively than the other three, or both. Relatively speaking, First Tech appears to paint the rosiest picture of the four.

If this sort of discussion makes you want to hunt around through the credit unions' financial reports yourself, just head over here and get started. Once you have the identification number of the institution you're looking for, lots of data can be gleaned here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The latest "green" vehicle: the Ford F-150 pickup

Handing out tax money to get people to buy cars was nothing more than robbing from our children to postpone the inevitable for the auto industry. But it was easy to sell: just make it a "green" program. Conserving energy! Stopping global warming! Saving the polar bears! And the flock of sheep we've become as a nation says, "Baaaaaa."

Not only did "cash for clunkers" enable gas-guzzler motorists to buy new gas guzzlers, but the program was also rife with fraud. Much like the first-time homebuyer handouts, which are now going to be made permanent and extended to existing homeowners who want a new house. Just keep printing dollars, America. Party on.

Future to the back

Economists, ya gotta love 'em. "That suggests the recession will likely end sometime in the third or fourth quarter of 2009, he said." Nothing like "predicting" the third quarter, five weeks after it's over. I predict that the Yankees will make it to the World Series.

Primed for disappointment

Tri-Met's dismantling of urban core "frequent" bus service draws a big question mark here.

Green, (cough) sustainable (cough) Portland

Tenth most toxic area in the land, second worst in the West only to Los Angeles. [Via the O.]

Saltzman calls for discipline in Chasse case

After three years of stonewalling, the City of Portland is actually proposing that the two officers involved in the senseless killing of James Chasse be suspended for a couple of weeks. Apparently the reason is going to be failing to get him to the hospital, not for literally beating the living daylights out of him and lying repeatedly about what happened.

This admission of wrongdoing comes as the family of the victim prepares for a March trial in a lawsuit that seems likely to cost the taxpayers millions.

The news that Commissioner Dan Saltzman is showing some spine after a decade of slumber on the City Council is making headlines, but the fact that it has taken the city three years to get to this point is quite telling. If the police here mistreat you, justice will be delayed at best, and more likely denied.

Of course, the police union is "disgusted" that even relatively mild discipline is being proposed. That goes along well with its other character, "disgusting."

Catchphrase of the day

"Hotlips Pizza in Portland, Ore., where sustainability is second only to extra cheese."

Such a deal

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the first retirement under the Social Security pension system. It was a woman named Ida May Fuller, and she filed her claim in Rutland, Vermont. She got her first check a few months later, for $22.54.

The new system worked out pretty well for Ida May. According to this source, she worked only three years under Social Security and paid only $24.75 into the system, but she lived to be 100 and wound up collecting $22,888.92 by the time she passed away. [Via Jim Maule.]

Try a book on tape

They'll sure be crowing on conservative talk radio today. "One-term President," "worm has turned," "mandate," yada yada yada.

I will say, though: It's become apparent that last year, many people in the middle were voting against George Bush more than they were voting for the Democratic Party. And if Obama knows what's good for him, he had better make hay with his majorities on Capitol Hill, PDQ.

Credit union deposit insurance still taking a beating

In performing our quarterly checkup of the financials of OnPoint Community Credit Union -- a Portland institution that we watch as a gauge of the local economy -- we picked up on some news that shows the disturbing state of money institutions nationwide: On OnPoint's third quarter profit and loss statement, it took a $3,557,068 hit for an "NCUSIF Stabilization Expense." This charge appears to be of a similar nature to the much larger loss that OnPoint took in the last quarter of 2008, all attributable to the shaky condition of the national credit union deposit insurance system. Since that system has had to bail out a few large "commercial" credit unions that got into serious trouble about a year ago, all members of the insurance pool have had to show losses on their books, and this time around, pay special premiums announced in late September.

And that's not the end of it -- the insurance folks have warned:

Further credit losses are expected for the corporates, and insurance losses will rise, but NCUA is not giving specific estimates for 2010 and beyond, largely because such information may lead to credit unions having to recognize them when they are stated.
Boy, doesn't that just say it all about our nation's financial house of cards? "We aren't going to say how bad things are, because then the credit unions would have to tell the truth in their financial statements." The same thing is going on with the banks; they're carrying commercial real estate loans on their books as "performing" even though the underlying properties are under water, with no sign of ever resurfacing. Balance sheets have never been more misleading.

OnPoint currently shows an asset with a book value of $20,093,864 called its "NCUSIF Deposit." This past spring, the book value of that class of asset was suddenly slashed by nearly 67 percent to account for the "commercial" credit union failures up to that point. The big profit that the OnPoint brass had bragged about on their shiny annual report was turned into a loss overnight. One has to wonder whether something bad like that may happen again, not just locally, but throughout the credit union system.

Aside from that alarming news, at least on paper, OnPoint appears to have muddled through the quarter without too much further slippage from where it's been left after the freefall of a year ago. Still, the picture on delinquent debt isn't pretty:

Item9/30/086/30/099/30/09Quarterly increase (decrease)12-month increase (decrease)
Total investments$246,342,512$449,482,460$431,120,688(4.09%)75.01%
Federal agency securities$140,786,482$274,981,426$267,096,828(2.87%)89.72%
Total reportable delinquency - total delinquent loans$14,302,884$26,526,766$25,324,131(4.53%)77.06%
Total reportable delinquency - indirect lending$977,090$5,096,962$5,360,2455.17%448.59%
Total outstanding loan balances subject to bankruptcies$9,979,220$13,911,518$17,031,88722.43%70.67%
Ratio of delinquent loans to total loans (percent)0.631.231.16    
Ratio of total delinquent loans to net worth (percent)5.7410.6710.05   

Delinquent loans are those delinquent for two months or more.

Over on the profit and loss side, after taking the special deposit insurance hit into account, OnPoint's year-to-date net income through the quarter ended September 30 was $21,965,019, up 34.51% from the year-to-date figures in the same quarter last year ($16,329,466). For the third quarter alone, however, net income was $3,378,247, down 45.42% from last year's $6,189,580. In the third quarter of 2009, deposits fell from $2,411,602,745 to $2,373,916,394 -- a 1.56% decrease -- after two straight quarters of increases. Deposits a year earlier were $2,221,206,727, however, and thus for the 12-month period ended September 30, deposits were up 6.88%.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Third 'dog night

It's time for another week of trying to figure out American pro football. Two weeks into our charity underdog pool, we have 11 players with points -- more than half the participants. And they'll be poring over this list of underdogs (in caps) to see which one can win its game outright, without the benefit of the point spread. The spread is relevant only in that it determines how many points the pool players get if they're right:

14 CAROLINA at New Orleans
10.5 MIAMI at New England
10.5 TAMPA BAY vs. Green Bay
10 DETROIT at Seattle
10 WASHINGTON at Atlanta
9 HOUSTON at Indianapolis
6.5 KANSAS CITY at Jacksonville
5.5 TENNESSEE at San Francisco
3.5 SAN DIEGO at NY Giants
3 ARIZONA at Chicago
3 CINCINNATI vs. Baltimore
3 DALLAS at Philadelphia
3 DENVER vs. Pittsburgh

On the administrative side, the charitable contribution that we'll be making when the playoffs are over now totals $420, which will be divvied up $300 for first, $75 for second, and $45 for third. And bragging rights among our players? Priceless.

Even if you're not formally playing, you may have an opinion about which of the 'dogs is this week's best bet. Don't be shy, now.

Drums keep poundin' rhythm to the brain

In our recent check of our property tax bill, we noticed that a Portland parks tax that was there in previous years was gone. But we should have known -- it will back again soon. Zsa Zsa says they may borrow up to another $150 million if the voters let them.

I remember the last time we voted in a bond and accompanying tax for parks. It was supposed to be for maintenance, but they used it for new capital projects.

I wish we would take the millions that the city is putting aside to run a superfluous streetcar system, dedicate it to the parks, and leave the property taxes where they are. But hey, I guess I'm just not enough "for the children."

Meanwhile, they've come up with yet another plan to turn Washington High School into a community center for the long-suffering Buckman neighborhood. You guessed it -- condos! I wish I were kidding.

How to speed up traffic on 217

Close off some of the ramps so that people can't get on or off it. Can you say "brain trust"?

OHSU guy does good

Oregon Health and Sciences University may be falling apart financially -- it suddenly lost another chief financial officer on Friday, just as we were all drifting off into a weekend-long, sports- and holiday-induced coma -- but at least some of the docs are still doing great stuff. Check out this fellow. I'm not being sarcastic -- his is a cool story, indeed. There's even an internet chat room angle.

Sellwood South

The San Francisco Bay Bridge is back open this morning after a nasty six-day closure, imposed when wind trashed a recent emergency repair job and endangered lives. And apparently another closure of that heavily traveled span will be needed soon.

We Portlanders can be grateful that we live in a place where the bridges are all relatively new and in good repair -- and that we never get strong storms.

Dad was right

He told me, "Jackie, it's not what you know, it's who you know."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Underdog race heats up

After our second week, here are the standings in the charity pro football underdog pool. Gary, our only two-week winner, is in the lead:

Gary - 10.5
Michael W. - 10
Dan - 9.5
Doug - 9.5
genop's mom - 9.5
Gordon - 9.5
jmh - 9.5
Rick - 9.5
George - 7.5
Bad Brad - 3.5
Hank - 3.5
Everybody else - 0

There's still a whole lot of football left to play. Next weekend's lines will be posted here tomorrow evening or early Wednesday.

Let it out and let it in

Go with the flow.

Nothing can be done without them

The new Sellwood Bridge would have only two lanes of vehicle traffic, but would be fitted with streetcar tracks so the city of Portland can extend streetcar service over the bridge.
How long before Sam and Randy go on TV and say: "If you don't give us the streetcar, we'll kill this dog"?

Forget that whole lawyer thing

Merritt Paulson's spouse, Heather Mahar Paulson, appears to have had her California law license suspended for failure to pay the $125 annual dues for an inactive membership. Her registration status is also listed as "delinquent" in the New York court system's attorney directory.

Is this a vote of confidence in the future of major league soccer? Apparently. A license to practice law isn't exactly like a subscription to Sunset magazine. They don't keep sending you notices begging you to renew.

History question

Last night I was grooving along to one of the many blues CDs that I picked up in a big eBay purchase over the summer. It was Jail by Big Mama Thornton -- a splendid collection of songs recorded live at prison shows. Imagine my surprise when I glanced at the back of the CD case and caught this:

Can any long-time Oregonians out there confirm that there was a "reformatory" in Eugene? Maybe she just played the U of O and thought it was a correctional institution.

Guess who

You can't make this stuff up: "We help you unravel the complexities of issues tangled in multiple layers of government." Indeed.

God speed the plow

Here's an interesting phenomenon taking place in Los Angeles: self-appointed volunteers planting greenery by night on other people's bleak, sterile urban lots.

We need this kind of movement in Portland. Maybe they could show up here one night. [Via Tony Pierce.]

The energy tax credit scandal

This story has got the right wing up in arms, and it ought to have the left wing pretty riled up, too. One of the reasons that the State of Oregon is broke is that its wonderful Energy Department deliberately low-balled -- and by a hilarious margin -- the cost of the state's reckless energy tax credit program when it was going through the legislature.

Everyone in Salem is denying that there was any willful fraud, except for one guy in the department who has owned up to the truth (a brave soul) and another one who quit the department a long time ago. One of those in the loudest denial is Governor Ted, who's shocked -- shocked! -- at the whole thing. This is the same guy who was stunned at the disgusting revelations about Neil Goldschmidt, to whom he owes his career and to whom he gave all sorts of official powers. There's always something terrible going on right under Ted's nose, and he never seems to notice until it's in the papers. Amazing.

The guv also vetoed a bill that would have fixed the problem. He won't be able to deny that.

A couple of decades ago, I saw a little bit of the state Energy Department from the inside. I was appointed by then-Gov. Barbara Roberts to a Hanford advisory committee. I concluded after a year or so that the whole thing was a charade. My name and time were being used to foster an image of public involvement that was far from the truth. The number 1 priority of the bureaucrats in Salem seemed to be keeping their own jobs, and number 2 was not making too many waves about Hanford, in case they might be looking for a job there themselves some day. There was a grand total of one guy in the place, a geologist, who was a straight shooter. The rest never looked you straight in the eye. I quit.

Salem's an odd burg, and Energy is one of the weirder corners. On this one, even Len Bergstein, another Goldschmidt pal, pops up -- flacking for one of the companies that's milking the taxpayers for all they're worth. This one ought to be a movie, with a scary soundtrack.

It's about time

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Meet me on Bong Street

You talk about your tourism opportunity going to waste. A highly alert reader just pointed out, on our blog post about the latest wasteful Portland Airport expansion talk, that there's a Bong Street out that way:

People, this is big. We could get travelers from all over the world to come to Portland -- just to have their pictures taken in front of a street sign out there!

Breaking news: Airport expansion would bring more street traffic

When they're not wasting money needlessly expanding the Portland airport, they're wasting money talking about it. Here's a boatload of dough that's been dropped to tell us that, yes, if they build more stuff at PDX, more cars will go out there.

This town is clearly going to plan its way to bankruptcy.

'Dogs to go, with everything

The players in our charity pro football underdog pool have picked these upsets; in order for them to win, the lesser-rated team (in caps) must win its game outright:

13 SAN FRANCISCO at Indianapolis - Sidney
10 CAROLINA at Arizona - Michael W.
10 ATLANTA at New Orleans - Robert, Kevin, Andy
9.5 ST. LOUIS at Detroit - Rick, genop's mom, jmh, Dan, Gordon, Doug
3.5 BUFFALO vs. Houston - George, Annie, genop, Mark
3.5 MIAMI at NY Jets - Hank, Bad Brad
3 MINNESOTA at Green Bay - Gary

Nobody wanted these 'dogs:

17 OAKLAND at San Diego
14 CLEVELAND at Chicago
10 SEATTLE at Dallas
3 DENVER at Baltimore
3 JACKSONVILLE at Tennessee
1 NY GIANTS at Philadelphia

I have no selection from Flynn, Michael K., or Mojo, and so unless they can show that I somehow overlooked a legit communication of their picks, they sit out this week. (The deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Saturday.)

The standings so far are:

7.5 - Gary, George
0 - Everyone else

Enjoy the games, everybody!

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