E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

E-mail me

[What is this?]


Personal blogs

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

« April 2011 | Main | June 2011 »

May 2011 Archives

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Afraid of the Portland police? You must be paranoid.

The former police recruit who has accused several Portland officers of wrongdoing has been attacked by a city-hired shrink as having "paranoid personality disorder," in part because she's a "perfectionist" and "inordinately suspicious" of others. Given what everyone knows about the wild and mean streaks in the city's police bureau, that's not a bug -- it's a feature.

Esplanade closure seems mostly about bikes

This afternoon brought some more clarity about why the City of Portland has had to close off part of the Eastbank Esplanade. The rising river has created a nasty bump where the land path meets the floating trail. The BikePortland folks snagged a good illustrative photo here, and the O got one here.

A cyclist trying to cruise over that bump is going to get hurt.

But a pedestrian moving at a normal pace, alerted to the bump by clear warning signs, should be able to handle what the photos show. Joggers should be able to deal with it as well. Does the path really need to be closed to everyone? Is there more to the closure than just this bump?

Maintain "calm, tranquility, and reverence" for The Man, or else

Is this your America? It isn't mine. Jefferson's rolling over in his grave so fast he's screwed his way to Boston by now. The worst part? "You can't videotape the police." Thuggery loves secrecy.

"Demonstrating without a permit" -- is that like speaking without a permit?

May there be many, many more dances.

The Don takes Beaverton out on a limb

Don "the Don" Mazziotti, the Neil Goldschmidt pal who as head of the Portland Development Commission presided over the financial debacle known as the South Waterfront (SoWhat) District, has landed on his feet in Beaverton. And he's up to the old tricks that he and Mother Vera used to pull in the big city. Public money is being spent to buy property that will eventually be handed to developers for a song, so that they can live out their financial dreams with their ghastly condo and apartment bunkers.

If I lived in Beaverton, this would be the scariest photo I've seen in a long time. But apparently the folks out that way are fine with it, and so they will get what they deserve.

I don't hate the Heat

The final round of the American pro basketball playoffs starts tonight, with the Dallas Mavericks in Miami facing the Heat. The talking heads in the mainstream media keep telling us that the Heat are the most hated team in the league, and that everybody except people in Miami wants them to fail, but I'm not buying that. Sure, Lebron James is an egotistical jerk at times, but we the fans enable that sort of behavior. And yes, the stockpiling of three superstars in James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh makes for an uneven matchup against the vast majority of other teams, who will never have the money or the cache to attract such a trio. But that's what the Lakers did, and that's what the Celtics did, and that's what's going to win in the NBA (if there is an NBA after the upcoming lockout or strike).

One aspect of the Miami triumvirate that some folks don't like is that the players put it together, using their rights as free agents, rather than the team owners doing it through trades. To me, that's not a reason to hate the players -- they're just doing what they have the right to do.

I still like Dwayne Wade as a basketball player and as a public figure. And Pat Riley will always be a favorite. I will not be disappointed at all if the two of them get another ring.

Then again, there's a lot to like on the Dallas squad. Dirk Nowitzki is a force of nature these days, throwing up shots that back on the playground we used to call "assy," yet they are all falling through the net. He's now teamed up with Shawn Marion, a quirky guy to whom I was introduced a few years ago when I had him on a highly successful fantasy roster. He was a statistics machine back then, and he's still a great player now.

The third of the Dallas Medium 4 is Jason Kidd, a wily veteran point guard who's not exactly lovable, but an icon on the court. His newly found long-range jump shot devastated the Blazers, and the Mavericks will need some of that in a few of the games ahead if they expect to overcome Miami. The other Jason, Jason Terry, is technically a bench player, but he cranks out starter numbers, including 16 points a game -- 17 a game in the playoffs.

Either way this series goes, we're good. Let the games begin.

A question that will get you shouted down

Are cell phones safe?

Just the mention of the possibility that they aren't, invariably brings a bunch of folks out of the woodwork, screaming that there's no proof that holding a radio transmitter next to your head all day causes cancer.

But there's no proof that it doesn't, either. And some scientists continue to ask the question.

Eastbank Esplanade fails for Rose Festival

It was bound to happen. Just as the Graggmeister was waxing poetic about the Eastbank Esplanade as one of the crowning achievements of Zsa Zsa of the parks bureau, along comes news that part of it's closing because the floating trail doesn't work in the high water we're having. It's expected to stay closed for a week and a half. There'll no doubt be a whole lot of busy work for parks and transportation crews setting up a detour. Plus, will someone patrol to make sure folks stay off the closed section?

We love the Esplanade, but the whole idea of it was that it would work even when the water was high. Indeed, it's functioned well in high water in previous years. What gives this time?

More than 18% of jobs in Oregon are government

We paid a little more attention than we usually do to the most recent employment figures. Oregon's unemployment rate is now officially pegged at a "mere" 9.5%, which is an improvement compared to the double-digit territory in which it has been living for a couple of years.

A couple of articles that accompanied this news got into the question of how government jobs are doing. The numbers of those have been declining recently, but not by a whole lot. Looking for a bigger picture, we wondered just how much of Oregon's employment is in government -- because it feels like a lot more than ever before.

According to this story, there were 303,500 government jobs in our fair state last month; this tally had it at 297,100. Given the many shadowy agencies in the state that are public sometimes but private when it's convenient for them, it's not surprising that there's a 6,400-job discrepancy.

Anyway, according to that second link, which comes straight from the state, overall nonfarm employment in Oregon was 1,624,500. Which as you math majors out there will immediately see, leads to the conclusion that of all the jobs in Oregon, somewhere between 18.29% and 18.68% are in government.

It's not much different elsewhere on West Coast. Based on data from here and here, we've got Washington State at 19.68% and California at 17.3%.

At the risk of sounding Reaganesque, that's a lot of government -- probably too much.

A boring video -- and may it stay that way

The operator of the nuclear meltdown site at Fukushima has done the Japanese media one better, and after months of delay has set up a live video feed of the four trashed reactors. It is here. Alas, there's no apparent way to embed it on this blog.

But if you head over to that site, it's a decent view. From left to right, you've got reactors 1 to 4. Reactors 5 and 6, which are not nearly as bad off but still have issues, are behind the camera.

Having watched the scene for quite a while, we're pleased to report that nothing of interest has shown up on it despite the tropical storm that has been passing through there. And let's hope that nothing will.

The operator, Tokyo Electric, has been anything but transparent all through the ordeal so far, however. And so if anything frightening should appear on the screen, you've got to wonder if they'd actually show it. The only other live video feed is a telephoto shot from many miles away, here. It's often obscured by clouds and fog.

The real problem at the moment doesn't appear on any camera. It's all the radioactive water they're creating trying to keep the reactors and waste pools cool. The spillage to the ocean (to the left from this viewpoint) appears to be out of control, and heavy rains won't have helped any.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Might as well face it, they're addicted to nukes

We'll be living downwind from disaster for a long time. We do better when the breeze is blowing the other way.

It's Memorial Day

So have a wonderful day,
and remember.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Hang On Sloopy" -- the lost verse

You learn something new every day. This afternoon we were listening to Radio Bojack on last.fm while we were puttering around the house doing chores and hobby stuff. After a while, the McCoys' chestnut "Hang On Sloopy" came on -- a bittersweet tune for us. We once were given a big moment at a jam session with real musicians, but when asked to sing that one, we found out the hard way how key-sensitive a tune it was for our vocal range. If only we had another crack at it...

Anyway, today as the recording moved along, we were stunned to hear a second verse that had been edited out of the single version that played on our radio in the fall of 1965 and on our stereos and music gadgets ever since. We stopped what we were doing and turned it up to hear Rick Derringer croon:

Sloopy wears a red dress, yeah, as old as the hills.
But when Sloopy wears that red dress, yeah,
You know it gives me the chills, oh, oh.
Sloopy when I see you walkin', walkin' down the street,
I say, "Don't worry, Sloopy, girl, you belong to me."
And so I sing out...
Then there was another chorus, and then the guitar solo and right back to the familiar "Come on, come on" bit that works its way up to the glorious crescendo toward the end. But wow, a verse about a red dress. Who knew?

Government far too cushy with nukes

It's that way in Japan, and it's that way in America, too.

Two peas in a pod

Randy ♥ [heart] Zari.

They worked about as well as WES

Tri-Met has abandoned its odd experiment to have a robotic voice on the outside of its buses automatically announce each turn the bus makes. Apparently they had the squawk boxes hooked up to the steering wheel of the bus, set to go off on a full turn of the wheel, and the system couldn't tell whether the bus was turning or just pulling in or out of traffic.

It is not surprising that that didn't work. But assuming that one thinks it's a good idea, why not hook it up to the turn signal? The little lever that the bus driver uses to illuminate the signals could have two stops in each direction -- the first one without the announcement, and the second one with.

Of course, that would require the drivers to use the signals, and even learn new devices, which might defeat the purpose. Part of the original system seemed designed to warn pedestrians and cyclists even when the driver was screwing up -- as one did with horrible results in the incident that initiated the latest flap about dangerous turns.

In any event, we think the robots, which were on some of Tri-Met's lines for about three months, should get a week to say goodbye. Every time the wheel turns, they could say something in the nature of a valedictory. Like "I'm retiring with free medical care for life." Or "So long -- this bus route won't be here much longer, either." Or "As you could tell, I never liked dealing with you, but the pay was great."

Then they can be re-deployed on other government vehicles -- the mayor's pickup truck, Earl the Pearl's SUV, and Fireman Randy's flotilla of custom-built fireboats, to name a few.

Fuku news gets no worse

The typhoon that is bearing down on Japan has been downgraded to a lesser level of tropical storm, but it's already dumping buckets of rain on that country and is expected to bring six or seven inches of precipitation over two days to the meltdown site at Fukushima. The winds won't be gale-force, but they'll be hitting buildings that have already taken major shots with the big earthquake, the tsunami, and hundreds of sizable aftershocks. The next 48 hours could turn out to be a crucial time.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric claims that it has restored some sort of organized cooling systems to the spent fuel pools in the four trashed reactors -- an improvement which, if true and lasting, is a significant step back toward normalcy. But at this point, the reports are being taken with a grain of salt -- a new poll shows the Japanese public highly distrustful of the company, with 73% saying they don't trust it. It's also been revealed over the past few days that the company lied about what its president was doing when the tsunami hit. It turns out he was on a pleasure trip, not business, at the time, and it took him quite a while in the chaos to take the reins on the crisis.

Beware of cyclists toting gas cans

People that conflicted are likely to have issues.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In agreement

We see that Dave Lister, who would have made an excellent Portland city commissioner, has posted his take on the defeat of the Portland school tax bond measure, and he echoes our sentiments almost exactly. But in complaining about Tri-Met's Mystery Train to Milwaukie, Dave says we're going to blow a half billion dollars. That seems low. Maybe he's just talking about the part that's not Magic Federal Money™ coming via Earl the Pearl.

Crickets chirping on the PERS front

Public employee pensions are bankrupting state and local government in Oregon, as they are in many places. Are our legislators doing anything about it? Apparently not, which is a crying shame.

Why do they need to meet every year, to do more nothing?

Help us name the Sam Adams world tour

Portland's extra special mayor is off on another absurd international junket. This time he and a staffer are headed to Brazil for a conference on climate change. He's allegedly a featured speaker there, although what useful information he has to offer the world on the subject is microscopic. Apparently he's going to regurgitate what some kid in the planning office told him about "eco-districts," the up and coming "green" boondoggle.

That is, if he shows up for the meetings.

A reader has suggested that someone should design a tour T-shirt for fans of the mayor, like the big rock bands have. But most rock tours have a title, or a theme, often based on the name of a recent album. What should we call the Adams tour? And does anybody have the complete list of cities he's traipsed off to since he lied his way into the mayor's office?

Over on the right

My soon-to-be-former colleague and erstwhile U.S. Senate candidate Jim Huffman has started up a political site called Northwest Free Press, which says it features "political news and commentary for moderates and conservatives." Among the contributors is former gubernatorial candidate Jack Roberts and my current and future colleague Tung Yin. If they don't succumb to blog burnout, it should be quite a read.

Just what they don't need

But you knew it was coming -- a typhoon is headed toward Tokyo and the nuclear meltdown scene at Fukushima. Even if the reactors and fuel pools hold up, heavy rains are going to wash a lot more radionuclides into the ocean.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Have a great holiday weekend

Fairmont Boulevard as an OHSU park-and-hike?

We get all sorts of email messages from fascinating people. Here's one that came in from a reader yesterday:

I'm a cyclist who can't deal with Portland's overreaching cycling policies. I'm also a hiker who is driven nuts by the city's development of trails, which inevitably will result in restrictions.

I attended a meeting Wednesday evening where the city was asking for input on a series of trails being developed in the OHSU area. Would you believe the budget for the project is $740,000, with the initial project plan weighing in at $971,500? These are trails, for god sake. 10,000 feet of trails.

Furthermore, one trail (#9 on the map) was proposed primarily to provide a "commuting" option for OHSU types who might park up on Fairmont and hike the trail to work.

The city's taking comments until June 8th, not on the validity of the expense, but which trails to prioritize to fit within the "budget."

2007 Prelim Report
Public Information Plan
Trail Assessment

The concept turning a toney West Hills neighborhood into an OHSU parking lot strikes us as one of the funniest to come out of City Hall in a while. When the brahmins who live up that way get wind of this one, we imagine that old "Legend" Saltzman's phone's going to be ringing off the hook.

In search of chemistry

Cirque du Soleil is coming back to town in a few weeks -- but instead of setting up a big tent in the SoWhat District, they're going to play in the Rose Garden. Is this part of the Blazers' ongoing front office shakeup?

Rimai in Cincy: liked, but not well liked

The new money VP at Remax Portland State apparently riled up quite a few people in Cincinnati in her brief time as a honcho at the university there. Among the disgruntled were the jocks when she got in the middle of firing the basketball coach. They even accused her of practicing law in Ohio without a license (which she later got). It's also revealed in one of the stories about that flap that she had once before applied, unsuccessfully, for the gig she just landed in Portlandia.

What China wants

Don't think they won't be coming for it in America eventually. And with all those U.S. Treasury bonds they're holding, they may get it! Keep borrowing and spending, folks, but teach your kids to speak Chinese.

Eye in the sky

Sometimes I get the feeling that Google knows me too well. For example, look what popped up as the ad box for this blog when I called it up on my browser:

I don't think my tin foil helmet is working.

Gatsby's got a secret

Sen. Ron Wyden says that federal prosecutors are secretly twisting the meaning of the Patriot Act. This isn't the first time that he's complained about this, but he's being coy about the specifics. Gee, if it's that bad, couldn't he just accidentally leave it out on the kitchen counter of his Portand condo, where a realtor could find it?

Meanwhile, the hideous "homeland security" law continues to be extended, with President Change Agent leading the charge for the status quo. He's going to use a robot to sign the bill, which seems entirely appropriate. In contrast, the Bill of Rights was signed in person by real people.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Game over

It's been a while since we had the car radio on. Today we hit button no. 4 and discovered that the sports talk on 95.5 FM, formerly known as "the Game," has been terminated in favor of music. We're so out of it -- what happened, and when?

The Ducks' secret stash

The rebels at the University of Oregon are wondering why their school's fundraising foundation can be so closed with information while other states are opening theirs up for public view. Why indeed.

Who votes for these people?

Look no further, Pop -- the answer is here.

LaVonne wants power

Specifically, Portland's city auditor wants to be able to hire and fire some of the people on her staff at will -- take away their existing civil service protection. But we're not talking about the little people -- she wants the city ombudsman, the manager of the police review board, and the director of audit services among those serving at her pleasure.

For an office that's supposed to be utterly scrupulous and above politics, that's a bad move indeed. It didn't take Ms. Griffin-Valade to take after her friends on the City Council. At last report, the change was to be made on the "consent agenda" of yesterday's council meeting; no doubt it glided right through.

We the jury smell manure

Here's a hilarious story out of San Diego: A county grand jury down there has pronounced the proposed new City Hall construction project a scam:

San Diego city officials exaggerated the costs of staying at the current City Hall to justify spending nearly $300 million on a new civic center, the San Diego County Grand Jury said in a report released Monday.

The grand jury’s report runs counter to the city’s contention that the construction project would be cheaper than renovating the complex and leasing downtown office space for overflow office space.

"The city can have a safe City Hall that will be functional for many years without borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars that provide no new services," the report says.

And who's been down there promoting this mixed-use boondoggle? Hint: They're from Portland. And they're very, very green.

You're only dancing on this earth for a short while

The news from the triple meltdown at Fukushima has been getting worse by the day -- Greenpeace is screaming about radiation it's finding the ocean, for example -- but here's a story that's really heavy: A number of retired Japanese engineers are volunteering to go back to work to try to seal off the damage caused by the nuclear disaster. They know that whoever takes the job may wind up dying from it, and they'd rather have it be them than folks who have their whole lives ahead of them. May heaven bless them and help them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Portand cops on beatings: "We do things different"

Former police recruits have been telling all about the corrupt culture of the Portland Police Bureau in this week's trial of a federal whistleblower lawsuit brought by one of them. The ex-recruit, who says she was fired in retaliation for reporting misconduct, and two others have told some hair-raising stories about their erstwhile supervisors, including present Police Chief Mike Reese. Maximum Maxine Bernstein at the O has been taking it all down:

[Plaintiff Lindsay] Hunt accused [Officer Quency] Ho of repeatedly taking goods without paying for them from a Northeast Portland convenience store; pulling a gun on an unarmed suspect and barging into an apartment without probable cause; telling a citizen to get rid of a knife used in a crime and urging Hunt to alter her police report on the matter.

When Hunt told Ho she wouldn't take anything from the 7-11 Store off Northeast Weidler, he replied, "Come on, we're the effing police. Nobody cares. It's fine," [plaintiff's attorney Dennis] Steinman told jurors....

Her first field coach, Officer Leslie Pintarich, called her later that day, and told her it's not her job "to police the police," Hunt testified. Pintarich also relayed a message that [Officer Bill] Hubner wanted to meet with her again.

They met at Starbucks on Sylvan. Seated outside, Hunt said Hubner started, "So they can't go to 7-11 anymore. You know you really pissed a lot of people off at Northeast. You started a rebellion." He told her the officers at the Northeast precinct don't want to work with her, she testified.

"Are you telling me I'm not going to get backup?" Hunt said she asked. Hunt said he confirmed that, and called her a coward when she voiced her safety concerns....

Lewis said she observed Officers Matthew Delenikos, Matthew Manus and her field training coach Darrell Bill Shaw beat suspects. The force occurred while Mike Reese, now chief of police, was Central Precinct commander....

"Any problems with that?" Shaw, Lewis' field training coach, asked her afterwards, Lewis testified. She said no.

"He said, 'Good, we do things at Central different," Lewis recounted, and told her he could justifiy anything with the bureau's policy manual....

Lewis also testified about two occasions in which her field training coaches would look at a call holding, and decide not to assist another officer based on how they felt about that other officer. They'd say, Lewis testified, "nah, that person's lazy, or that person hasn't backed me up before ...we're not responding to that."

It's alarming, depressing, but alas, not surprising. Click on the links to see what's gone down so far, and stay tuned for more.

Schnitz to suck up a street?

Portland's performing arts center wants to eliminate the public right-of-way on a block of Main Street downtown for an exhibit hall, a kitchen, and bathrooms. This is supposed to revitalize downtown as well as giving Hoffman Construction more public make-work.

Hold onto your wallets, Portland taxpayers. Not only are you going to lose a street, but surely City Hall will have you paying for the new building. It will be an economic linchpin, don't you know, not to mention a catalyst and iconic.

WW government p.r. exposé leaves out big fish

Willy Week continues to do great work in exposing the government public relations juggernaut that is draining the Portland area's tax coffers dry while poisoning impressionable minds with bureaucratic propaganda. But in its listing today of flacks at the Port of Portland, it left out Tom Imeson, the ultimate Goldschmidt crony, who when last heard from was raking in a good load of cash as the Port's "director of public affairs." That's a p.r. job, isn't it? At least a good part of the time.

The fact that Imeson didn't make the WW roster shows that if anything, the numbers of flacks and amounts of salary portrayed in the weekly's series understate the problem. And it remains to be seen what is going to be done about it. Certainly at a minimum, candidates for public office ought to start hearing questions and comments about it at every turn. Government in these parts has devolved to a constant and expensive flow of hot air, with little or no substance.

"Kicker" checks getting the boot

The opponents of Oregon's income tax "kicker" laws, whereby excess tax revenue collected by the state gets refunded to the taxpayers, have won an important victory. Unless Governor Bluejeans vetoes it, a law has been passed that turns the biennial "kicker" check into an income tax credit.

Eliminating the checks is being billed as a way of saving administrative costs, which is true, but it's also a first step toward getting the "kicker" repealed. Everybody understands a check, but when you start talking to the average taxpayer about credits, his or her eyes immediately glaze over. The credit program will garner little of the enthusiastic support that the "kicker" checks enjoyed. The next time the voters are asked about it, they may be sufficiently apathetic that the "kicker" may be eliminated once and for all.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

NBA Finals shaping up as Dallas at Miami

Mavericks fans are learning to speak German.

As we predicted before the pro basketball playoffs began, the Miami Heat is about to become Eastern Conference champion, as the Big Three have done as expected and revved it up in the post-season, with great help from their role players. They lead Chicago 3 games to 1 after a big overtime win in Florida last night. Can the Bulls take three in a row? No. They've met their match.

Out in the West, where we foolishly said the Blazers were going all the way, the Dallas Mavericks try tonight to close out the Oklahoma City Thunder, in another 3-1 series. Dirk Nowitzki is playing out of his mind, and with Jason Kidd's newfound long jumpshot and Shawn Marion's clawing defense and constant energy, the Dirkster's given the kids in Oklahoma more than they can handle. Can the Thunder win three games straight, including two in Dallas? Nuh uh.

The league finals, in which I believe Miami will have the home-court advantage, should be a slugfest. Miami has more weapons and should take home the trophy, but it will surely be entertaining to see Dirk at work with the title on the line.

Remember the SoloPower hype: 500 jobs

The sweetheart deal that's bringing a solar panel manufacturing plant to somewhere in north Portland -- they're apparently still not saying where -- goes before the Portland Development Commission board today. Here's the car-hating PDC CEO's report on the city's part of the transactions. It's interesting how "at least 140 permanent full time positions" quickly morphs into "will create an estimated 481 jobs," and when the guy really gets going, he conveniently rounds it all off to "up to 500 jobs."

We hope the dreams come true, but if the past performance of the city on economic development is any indicator, something quite modest is about to happen here, at significant public expense.

We also wonder what the environmental impact of this manufacturing plant is going to be. It may be producing "green" energy for the world, but it will fascinating to see what it produces for its neighbors, whoever they may turn out to be.

Branding malarkey at the Portland housing bureau

We lamented a while back that the City of Portland was spending mucho consultant dinero trying to generate a "brand" for its public housing for the poor. Well, who knows how much they spent, but they've come up with a sexy new name for the housing authority. Henceforth it will be called "Housing Forward."

Isn't that special?

UPDATE AND CORRECTION, 2:04 p.m.: City Commissioner Nick Fish responds that the city did not pay for this rebranding, and that the Housing Authority of Portland is not a city bureau. Fascinating, and we regret our error. But that begs a couple of additional questions that we'll have to work on: Just what is the Housing Authority of Portland, and what ever became of the actual housing bureau's "strategic planning" effort?

New honcho at "Let's Make a Deal - Portland State"

The real estate development company formerly known as Portland State University has a new financial vice president. Her name is Monica Rimai, and she comes to Portlandia from the State University of New York, where she was the chief operating officer. She was at SUNY for just a year and a half; she was reportedly making $325,000 a year there, along with (for a while) a $60,000-a-year housing allowance, which apparently she gave up after a nasty flap arose about how much she and some other bigwigs were being paid. She also reportedly had a company car and, get this, a hired driver! Rimai reportedly earned $300,000 a year in another brief stint, as acting president of the University of Cincinnati. No word yet on what she'll make at PSU. Perhaps she'll go by streetcar.

Interestingly, she's not a lifelong bean-counter -- she's a University of Michigan-trained lawyer. In her spare time she climbs mountains. At one point she was a federal prosecutor. Given the way money sloshes around in Portland real estate circles these days -- with Portland State right in the thick of it -- that latter experience could come in mighty handy.

Businesses to Portland City Hall: Cut the crap

The folks in the central eastside industrial district are telling the Tweeting bureaucrats at the Portland Development Commission that they don't want a bunch of p.r. hoo-ha, they want the city to stop nickel and diming them to death.

Hey, come on, businesses. Earl the Pearl has given you a streetcar. Put a bird on it.

Can't get next to U

We blogged yesterday about the Portland fire bureau's new "U" signs, which it places over the doors of buildings to warn firefighters not to go inside in case of a fire. A reader who works in the Multnomah County Courthouse asks if public buildings qualify for the signs, because as everyone knows, the courthouse is seismically unfit. Apparently, they do qualify, because as another reader pointed out yesterday, one of the buildings listed as unsafe is the Portland Police Mounted Patrol Unit headquarters, 1362 NW Naito Parkway.

Of foxes and henhouses

Ever wonder how a national financial meltdown, like the one the United States suffered in 2008, can happen? It takes greed and dishonesty, to be sure, but it's also helped along considerably when the federal regulators are just one step away from cushy jobs in the very industries that they're supposed to be keeping an eye on. Here's a report that turns over some rocks at the Securities and Exchange Commission, exposing some ugly critters underneath.

Coming soon to your tap water?

Mmmmm... lithium.

Meltdown ooze dripping lower at Fukushima

As of this morning, the radiation levels outside the reactor vessel at Fukushima unit 1 -- in the "drywell" that surrounds the vessel -- have hit 215 sieverts an hour (2.15E+02 means 215). That's an outrageous amount of radiation -- enough to kill a person standing next to it in just minutes. It's been that way for 16 hours straight, after readings at about that level started being picked up on Sunday.

And so corium, the radioactive lava from the meltdown, has presumably penetrated the reactor vessel wall and is now in the drywell. Below the drywell is a concrete pad, and below that are earth and groundwater.

They're still dousing the heck out of the reactor to stop the deadly glop from eating through the concrete, hitting groundwater, and possibly causing a major explosion. Let's hope they succeed, but the radioactive water they're creating will have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is going to have to be the Pacific Ocean. They're out of places to store the runoff, and despite announced plans, they're many months away from decontaminating it. Better eat your fill of seafood this year. Meanwhile, a bunch of the water is being turned into radioactive steam, which you definitely wouldn't want to breathe.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A new kind of traffic trap

We're all familiar with speed traps in hamlets like Dundee. But just down the road in Amity, they've got another kind of trap -- a stop sign trap for bicyclists blowing through town on an organized charity ride. On this one, we declare complete neutrality.

Hail, hail, the gang's all here

Tri-Met is opening a new MAX station in Rockwood just in time for Memorial Day weekend. They're having a ribbon-stabbing ceremony on Friday.

Malware reaches the Mac

A fake program called MacDefender has begun infecting Apple computers. Welcome to our world.

Two months later, truth is told at Fukushima

The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric are finally breaking the news to people that three reactors melted down at Fukushima back in March. There really was no other logical explanation for what happened, but they withheld what they knew for a long time, and the world's mainstream media let them get away with it.

Today's stories also admit that molten radioactive waste has left the reactor vessels and oozed into other parts of the reactor system. There are holes in all three of the reactor vessels. Once the hot lava, known as corium, leaves the vessel, it likely enters the space around the reactor core known as the drywell, and then the suppression chamber, sometimes known as the torus. If the nasty lava eats through those, there's a concrete pad underneath them (the green in this drawing). Then there is the earth, and then there is groundwater. One threat is a possible steam explosion if the corium makes it to the water table.

It's easy to blame Tokyo Electric and the Japanese regulators, but don't forget who built these plants: General Electric, as American as Mom and apple pie. There are dozens of them with the same design still operating in the United States. The federal government is routinely extending their permits beyond their design lives. Wonder how they'd hold up in, oh I don't know, a tornado.

Would you be mine?

We see that the lovely suburb of Tualatin is moving to formalize neighborhood associations. It's being portrayed as a recognition of the importance of citizen involvement, but tightly organized groups can also be a way for politicians and bureaucrats to manipulate neighborhood egos and steer the outcomes of some debates. Depending on the neighborhood involved, it could go either way.

Be thankful I don't take it all

Here's one for you fellow tax nerds out there: The IRS has compiled old income tax forms going all the way back to 1864. Just head over here and start clicking for some nostalgic tax fun.

I know what you're going to say -- "Look at how much simpler the forms were, back in the day." Yeah, but the simplicity often came at a cost. Check out the tax rate tables from 1959, for example:

And you wondered why Reagan hated taxes? Look at the rates he paid in his movie star years!

Portland's new scarlet letter

The Portland fire bureau has been putting red signs with the letter "U" over the front doors of buildings that it believes are unsafe. Supposedly this is to alert firefighters who might respond to a fire in these buildings, but the signs have got to be darn unnerving for everybody else who might walk through those portals.

If the buildings are so hazardous as to merit these signs, should they be inhabited at all? And if they aren't that bad, couldn't the firefighters be alerted some other way -- such as, oh I don't know, by the new $15 million 911 dispatch computer?

Here are the addresses that have picked up the signs, according to the DJC, and apparently there are more to come:

221 NW Third; 421 NW Third; 510 NW Third; 930 SW Third; 205 NW Fourth; 403 NW Fifth; 1100 NE 21st; 938 E. Burnside; 510 NW Glisan; 7400 SW Macadam; 7410 SW Macadam; 4122 NE MLK; 1362 NW Naito; 303 NW Park; 7525 SE Powell; 12415 SE Powell; 733 N. Russell; 3041 N. Williams; 9236 SE Woodstock; 915 SW Second – Rodeo Building; 105 NW Third – Sinnott Building; 228 NE Broadway – Broadway Furniture; 88 NW Davis – Globe Hotel; 6615 SE Foster – Phoenix Building; 726 NW Glisan – Harlow Building; 218 SW Jefferson – Pendleton Building; 1117 SW Jefferson – Jefferson West Apartments; 2037 SW Morrison – Kingston Building; 521 SW Park – Cornelius Hotel; 1300 N. River St. – River Street Storage Building; 8333 NE Russell – USA Athletic and Sports Center; 418 SW Washington St. – Oregon Pacific Building

Wow, the Kingston and the Lotus both made the list. You wonder whether Jeld-Wen Field will eventually get one.

Anyway, if you ask us, those signs are a little Kafka-creepy. This city's government, it seems, never misses a chance to remind you who is in charge.

Tweaking the City of Portland debt clock

We've just updated some of the base figures on our meter of the long-term debt of the City of Portland, in the left sidebar on this blog. The city's total outstanding long-term bonds and interim financing have come down a little in the past couple of months, although the trend over the past year is still an increase of around 7%. Our current roundup of all of the city's bonds and interim financing shows an outstanding balance earlier this month of $3,276,852,000 -- nearly $3.3 billion -- and we're using a conservative growth rate of 5% a year on the meter to watch that continue to climb.

As for the city's pension and retiree healthcare liabilities, those are hard to call with reasonable certainty, because the city dares to publish those figures only about once every two years, and when it does it likes to change its assumptions, making precise predictions impossible. Our clock, which currently shows the total unfunded retiree liability at more than $3.12 billion, is based on a 6.5% annual growth rate. Actual mileage may vary, but it would come as quite a shock if the hard numbers came in at $3 billion or less as of today. The $3.12 billion is our honest best guess.

All our current ciphering puts the city's long-term debt per resident at just over $10,833 at this writing. For a household of four, that's $43,332.

While we were examining the city's debt levels, we thought we'd take a closer look at the city's oft-repeated boast that it has a triple-A credit rating. Only two types of bonds that the city has outstanding get that rating: its general obligation bonds, and the bonds that have a first lien on the water system. (The water bonds used to be rated lower, but we just noticed that they got a boost when Moody's changed their bond rating system a while back.)

Now, our count of the balance on the general obligation bonds is around $85 million, and we've got the first lien water bonds at $324 million. The city's interim lines of credit aren't rated, but if you give them the benefit of the doubt, they add another $123 million of top ratings. And so all told, at most, only $532 million of the city's debt is triple-A rated. The rest of the debt -- $2.75 billion -- is rated lower. Another way to put it is that only about 16% of the city's debt carries the top rating; about 84% does not.

If the city had only $1 of AAA-rated debt, would you call that its overall "credit rating"? Probably not. Is 16% of its debt enough to justify that label? Think about it.

Forget Bangalore, try Beaverton

If you dial a call center in India and the person answering says his name is Bob, pretty soon he might not be lying.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Paul Allen fires another one

An unexpected hot news day for Blazer fans: Owner Paul Allen fired Rich Cho, the team's general manager. Team president Larry Miller just finished a press conference in which he exhibited some pretty seriously closed body language, and now they're holding an emergency session of "Talkin' Ball" on cable TV. Dwight's got a baby blue crew-neck sweater on that's worth tuning in just to see.

But anyway, if I ever start talking about going to work for Paul Allen, have me committed.

Charlie Hales for mayor? Nah.

Here's a fellow who was part of the City Council that set Portland onto its current path to oblivion -- he sat alongside Mayor Vera and gave the place away to Homer Williams. The South Waterfront fiasco was conceived and locked in under his watch. Since then, Hales has made a living literally hawking streetcars across the country. He's on record as wanting Portland to be "the best European city in America."


He may not be a pathological liar with a teenage lover in his closet, and he'll talk a good line about economic development, but he wouldn't change things much. He's all about the condos. There's got to be a better candidate out there.

Guy from Salem makes killing at blackjack

A guy from Salem has made national headlines with his incredible success at the game of 21 at casinos in Atlantic City.

Seattle's Hillary

Here's more about the little guy with the big carpetbag.

They say he's "losing his district" to redistricting. But it's not as if he's been declared extraterrestrial (although at times that might seem appropriate). Why doesn't he just run against the incumbent in whatever district his fake home winds up in?

Anyway, he's not getting a warm reception from the party leadership where he's set his sights.

If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat

Lake Oswego has come up with a new way to pay for schools -- essentially a sales tax on electricity, natural gas, and garbage service. Let's hope Portland doesn't get any ideas. Meanwhile, we're sure the folks in L.O. will smile as they fork over the extra dough. It's for the children, after all.

The 411 on LGPI

Last week, we noted that the City of Portland was hiring an outfit called Local Government Personnel Institute (LGPI) to help with the city's negotiations with the firefighters' union. We asked some pointed questions about what kind of organization this LGPI was. This state has way too many unsupervised pots of public money, and we were concerned that we had stumbled upon another one.

We sent an e-mail request to Diana Moffat, the head honcho of LGPI, asking for its basic organizational documents and any financial statements it might have. She promptly sent them along, and they're pretty sleepy. Here is the intergovernmental agreement under which it operates, and its last two audited financial statements are here and here.

Apparently, LGPI has been around since 1971, although the agreement we received was dated in April of 2005 and shows that it was revised in December of 2004. It is described by its auditors as a joint venture between the League of Oregon Cities and the Association of Oregon Counties. The latter two organizations describe themselves in the agreement as joint "departments" of the state's cities and counties, who are authorized to create them by Oregon Revised Statutes 190.010 and following.

LGPI had annual revenue last year of about $615,000, the same as two years before; the year in between saw revenue of about $650,000. Its biggest expense is for personal services -- $515,000 last year, up from $467,000 two years before. It had $96,000 in the bank last June 30, and no long-term debt.

Its auditors say that LGPI is not subject to the state's local budget law. But its employees do get PERS pensions, and some level of health care benefits.

A rare sound

A Democrat in the United States Senate actually talking like a Democrat.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

The Indy 500 is just days away, and all over Portland, kids are getting psyched.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fuku blues, weekend edition

The bad news keeps gushing out of the Japanese nuclear meltdown site like highly radioactive wastewater to the sea. Now internal radiation exposure is being found in thousands of that nation's nuclear plant workers -- even some who "visited" Fuksuhima only briefly after the earthquake. It's scandalous that they haven't yet started checking local residents, who have been exposed to the bad air and soil for much longer. When they do, the results will likely be grim indeed. There is going to be an awful lot of cancer in Japan in the next few decades, not to mention birth defects in the coming months.

They keep finding really nasty items among the debris outside the blown-up reactors. Here's a story about a pile of something on the ground outside reactor 3, that's throwing a sievert an hour of radiation off its surface. Lord knows what you'd find if you dug into it.

Meanwhile, back on our side of the Pacific, according to this report, translated from French, there was a spike of airborne plutonium in California on March 24. This is about the time that the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric were denying the reality of the triple meltdown. Plutonium is particularly toxic if inhaled.

Never mind -- reader was drunk

A few hours ago, we posted a photo and report from a reader who was at last night's Timbers game. He reported that some seats that hadn't been covered in previous games this season were covered last night. But now he recants that observation, and this photo, if you look really carefully, seems to prove that the seats were covered in previous games as well.

It's an interesting question why those seats haven't been available for sale, but any statement that they had been occupied in the last few games seems to have been false.

Portland becoming gangster shooting gallery

They're coming two a night now. Guess it's the new normal under the City of Portland Value System™. Maybe the mayor will make another speech: "Turn in your neighbors." But thank goodness, we have nice, shiny streetcars, and we're getting more.

A 4.6 quake off the Oregon coast

It was about 135 miles off Coos Bay, at 12:21 a.m. So far, nothing in the mainstream media about it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pure Nacional, baby

We have latent yuppie tendencies that manifest themselves from time to time. Like that coffee they call Panama Esmerelda. We sampled a little in Peet's one day, amused by the fact that they were charging $25 for a half pound of coffee beans. But it was so good, we bought a bag for a friend as a Christmas gift, and another for ourselves. We had some of it over the holidays, and it tasted so fine we had a second cup. We were up until around 4 in the morning.

But it was worth it.

Then one day a while back, we read this article, about some rare cocoa trees discovered in Peru. The beans were so exquisite that the author raved about them. If only we could try some! Then we saw that Portland's own Moonstruck had bought up a bunch and were making chocolate bars out of them. We mentioned to the Mrs. that we'd have to get over there and buy one.

Our to-do list is long, however, and the whole thing had slipped our mind until one day last month when the Mrs. came home and presented us with a bar.

Twelve bucks, she said it cost. We opened it carefully, broke off a tiny sliver, and popped it into our mouth.

Holy cow. They were right. Fruit, nuts, coffee -- it's all there, but in the chocolate itself. Here's to the Peruvians! And we've gone back and nibbled, one awesome little square at a time, and been wowed every time.

And so, along with our boast of sometimes drinking $50-a-pound coffee, we now can say that we sometimes eat $100-a-pound candy bars. Hey, life is short.

Unusual scene at Japan meltdown site

Something funny happened at Fukushima reactor no. 4 last night (Saturday night Japan time). One of the many folks who have been watching the live video feed from the site recorded this sequence. The action starts at about 1:05 into the video. Reactor 4 is on the right (south) side of the screen. There's a little white blink of light above the right side of the trashed reactor roof, and then a mess of smoke and steam comes spilling out that appears to envelop the entire site.

Reactor 4 was shut down for refueling when the March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit. It nonetheless exploded or otherwise burned a few nights later, and its spent fuel pool is reportedly in danger of collapsing. Exactly what (if anything) the plant operators at Tokyo Electric were doing overnight to cause all the radioactive fog is not known.

Hot and cold running fraud

Here's an interesting story out of Texas about hanky-panky with drinking water. The state's department of environmental quality knowingly fudged test results that showed unsafe levels of radiation in water. This enabled local water systems to avoid acknowledging violations of federal law, which would have triggered massive improvement costs -- and to avoid having to tell customers what was in the water coming out of their taps.

Gunshots on the couplet

It's been a wild and woolly 24 hours for shootings in Portland. The media has this one happening late yesterday afternoon and this one happening this morning. Given the mayor's new gun control rules and his skill at running the police bureau, it's a mystery how these incidents can keep occurring. Especially so close to the wonderful new Burnside-Couch couplet.

It's a war zone out there -- be careful.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Have a great weekend

51 apartments, no parking

The apartment bunker boys have set their sights on the lot next door to the Hollywood Theater. The hardy businesses that are trying to make the area work aren't happy about what's being proposed.

L.O. budget panel: "Stop the streetcar insanity"

A couple of different readers have alerted us to the humorous news that the Lake Oswego citizen budget advisory committee voted last night to recommend that the city stop spending money studying the proposed Portland streetcar boondoggle. Like all advisory committee recommendations with which the politicians (here, a slim majority of the City Council) disagree, it will be reversed, of course, and L.O. will go full steam ahead for the latest Homerscam. But in a few years, when the hundreds of millions have been spent and all the city got was some lousy condos, the public down there can't say they weren't warned.

"My street is a bike ho"

Where are all your tax dollars going, Portlanders? A note we got the other day from a reader on Clinton Street provides at least a partial answer to that question:

My street is a bike ho.

It all started back when. We got speed bumps because we were a "designated bicycle route."

Last summer, it was resurfaced, even though most residents living along it knew not why.

Then, my street, she became a corporal in the street corps.

Then, this week... Tuesday, it was, a six person crew with three stepvans installed important new additions to the bicycle route.

Frills to the signs. Like this.

I walked the street. They are on each "Clinton St." sign.

Evidently different bicycle type designs... at least three.

Basketed, ten-speed, banana-seat... some already obscured... all in dayglo colors.

Then, I got to Cesar Chavez Boulevard... Lime green, of course. But that wasn't the biggest new attraction....Oh, nooooo.....

That was overhead. That's right... About 12 to 15 feet up the city's light standard, PDOT installed a dayglo cherry and lime half bicycle.

I'm not sure why.

Particularly in light of their desire to jack up my water rates and jam their grubby little hands deep into my pockets on the behalf of construction contractors and flim-flam artists.

They've made my street into a bike ho.... all tarted out in dayglo colors, waving a half bicycle on a major crosstown thoroughfare.

Leave it to Portland to put a new spin on an old profession.

Streetcar pushes cars off Lovejoy

It's just the beginning. Couplets and streetcars go hand-in-hand, at least until the bankruptcy gets here. Feel the power of Blumenauer.

WW shines light on government public relations juggernaut

We've been griping for some time now about how much money government in Oregon spends on public relations officers, or "flacks" as they're known in the media trade. But rather than just whine about it, Willamette Week has started asking some hardball questions, and what they've found is just as we suspected:

We looked at the biggest local public agencies in the Portland area—the City of Portland, Metro, Multnomah County, Portland Public Schools, Oregon Health & Science University, TriMet and Portland State University. All told, they have a total of 84 PR reps on the public payroll. Together, they make a combined yearly salary of more than $6.2 million. That's an average of more than $75,000, taking into account several part-timers.
And of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg. First of all, those numbers are what the bureaucrats are admitting to -- who knows how many other staffers are crafting propaganda and calling it "planning" or "administration" or some such other name? And second, there are many other public agencies in these parts that have just as much p.r. pork, if not more. Part of the problem with Portland is that there are too many agencies -- too many unsupervised pots of money -- and there's public relations fat in just about every one.

The timing of the WW expose is a little odd: Its news editor and our friend, Hank Stern, recently quit to take a flack job at Multnomah County. But that's no reason not to love the story. May they expand it and whip it good in the weeks ahead.

City of Portland's head money guy steps down


Ken Rust (left), the chief administrative officer of the City of Portland, is quitting. Rust has headed up the city's management and finance office for just under five years. The reasons given for his departure are vague -- he wants to pursue other interests in what appear to be his mid-fifties -- but he's the second top officer leaving a bureau headed by the mayor in 2011. Transportation chief Sue Keil is also gone, having recently retired.

There has been a substantial amount of turnover in the city finance bureau over the past three years. The city has changed its chief financial officer, treasurer, and debt manager in that time. Not to mention the city auditor, and now the chief administrative officer. The debt manager became the treasurer, but the rest of the names at the top of the finance bureau masthead are new.

Replacing Rust will be Jack Graham (right), who's been the chief administrator at the fire bureau. No word on whether any sort of organized search was conducted, but surely none is necessary when one of Fireman Randy's men is available.

The mayor's statement on the personnel change was accompanied by repetition of the highly misleading assertion that the city has an AAA bond rating. Like so many things the mayor says, that's true as far as it goes. The city's general obligation bonds do carry such a rating, but at $60 million, they are a drop in the sea of $3.2 billion in bonds that the city has outstanding. The vast, vast majority of those bonds carry ratings below AAA -- some far below.

Anyway, good luck to Graham and his cast of newcomers with keeping the city afloat while it's being run by the Twins.

UPDATE, 2:42 p.m.: A reader notes that in the past year or so, the city's controller and head of budgeting have also retired. Having everyone who knows the money secrets disappear all at once is not a good sign.

UPDATE, 5/24, 5:29 a.m.: We just noticed that due to a recent change in the way Moody's rates municipal bonds, the city's first lien water bonds also get an AAA rating these days. Still, only at most about 16% of the city's bonds are top-rated; the rest are AA1 or lower. Details here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Days of miracle and wonder, cont'd

A former Oregon State baseball player stands, in the hope that legions of others will follow.

City of Portland 911 board says it can meet in secret

The flap about problems with the city's expensive new 911 computer system is now degenerating to the junior high school student government level.

"Can't come in!"

"Can too!"


Not a good junior high school, either.

And another thing...

Not only did Portland public schools get whacked at the polls this week, they also earned "Rogue of the Week" dishonors. It's become increasingly clear that most bureaucrats in this town don't think, don't care, or both.

A blogger to be reckoned with

Former Columbian and Spokesman-Review editor Pamela Fitzsimmons has started a blog, and right out of the box, it's a humdinger. For example:

For Portlanders who want more racial and ethnic diversity, there is a solution: Move. That’s what I did. For two years, I lived in Oakland (and not the hills, either) where I discovered that the most racist and sexist people were young, black American males. For two years I lived in Los Angeles, and another 14 years in San Bernardino, a melting pot always on simmer.

If moving out of state is not an option for Portlanders upset about the Census 2010 statistics, how about trading places with one of those black families who were pushed out to the suburbs? They could live in your house, and you could live in theirs surrounded by "people of color."

Still not an option? Do something that is very Portland: Head to Powell’s, buy a book and read. Try Shelby Steele’s "White Guilt."

Have your bookmarking finger poised, and hope she keeps going.

Birds, bees about to be disturbed

If you're a user of the back areas of Tryon Creek State Park in southwest Portland, you'd better enjoy the scenery while you can. It looks as though Portland sewer crews are going to be ripping the place up pretty soon.

They're calling it a "sewer protection" project. It looks like a major deal, and no doubt some will complain that not all of it seems to be strictly concerned with the sewer. On this page, the city reports that the project will "enhance in-stream habitat for fish in Tryon Creek State Natural Area. The project also includes significant stream bank regrading, revegetation, and wetland/floodplain reconnection." Great stuff, but shouldn't state park funds be doing some of that? This isn't more mission creep with city revenue from sewer bills, is it?

More thumbs down for "close to perfect" 911 computer

Despite protestations from Portland commissioner Amanda Fritz, the city's expensive new 911 dispatch computer continues to be panned by users, today in the O. But of course, you read it here first a couple of weeks ago.

Wine and cheese with Gatsby has been cancelled

Sen. Ron Wyden (R-N.Y.) showed his true colors yesterday. His right-hand man, Josh Kardon, has taken a gig with a notable Portland law firm, Tonkon Torp, which -- funny thing -- is suddenly getting into the federal lobbying business. Not only is it obvious that Kardon will rake in all sorts of fees getting his long-time ex-boss' ear on behalf of paying customers, but the law firm also made the big mistake of proudly telling the world that it would wheel Wyden in for a reception marking the firm's new practice specialty.

That was too much even for Willy Week, which despite loving all things Wyden plastered the whole story on its website, reception invite and all. Within a few hours, Wyden announced he wouldn't be attending. Apparently that's supposed to take care of all possible ethical issues. But even if you buy that, it was an embarrassing moment for all involved.

Speaking of Wyden, does anybody know if the pending sale of his condo by Washington Park has closed yet? He just voted from that address on May 10. Wonder where he'll "move" to next.

Reality check on PERS

Portland's City Club -- a sleepy watchdog, if ever there was one -- has taken a new look at the Oregon government employee system. And a committee of the club says that despite the reforms resulting from bloody battles a few years ago, the system is still way too generous, and benefits need to be cut back, even if a court battle ensues. The full report is set to be released later today.

These City Club reports have a way of being tossed into the politicians' bottom file drawers, particularly when they involve third-rail topics like government pensions. We recall the club's 2006 take on the Portland police and fire retirement system, which currently represents an unfunded liability in the $3.1 billion range (not a typo). Tom Potter was mayor. Despite the shrill whistleblowing, a small bandage was placed on the financial equivalent of a severed carotid artery, and life went on as though there was nothing more to worry about. We doubt the report on the state system will get even that much action, but it's always good when somebody's speaking truth to power.

When the big waves hit

Tokyo Electric, a.k.a. Tepco, has released a slideshow of some newly released photos of the March 11 tsunami coming ashore and trashing the company's Fukushima Daiichi nuke plant. Like all of the imagery of that day's horrible events in Japan, it's pretty disturbing. There's no way those reactors should ever have been built there.

We humans are so small and fragile.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another little shaker at Hanford

Just a 1.0, at about 9:30 tonight, but right across the river from our region's disgusting nuclear wasteland. That's three earthquakes in the same place in less than three weeks. If a big one hits up there, there'll be hell to pay from all the nuclear waste that's sitting around in old tanks and spent fuel pools.

Reverse 911 failure: bureaucratic error

When the City of Portland's reverse 911 system failed to call out to residents near a toxic chemical spill, we wondered whose fault it might have been. Now the answer has been revealed: It's Portland's goofball system of government, with its various politicians running a Byzantine collection of city bureaus on an amateur basis and using them to feather their own political nests:

A city analysis of the incident released Wednesday showed that the dispatcher was not aware that the city had changed its so-called reverse 9-1-1 system two years ago. It had originally required notification of the Portland Police Bureau to activate the system. The city subsequently contracted with the private FirstCall company for the service, however. Since then it can only be activated by the Portland Office of Emergency Management and the Portland Water Bureau.

This is what silo government gets us. Why do we have an office of emergency management, run by Mayor Creepy, and a bureau of emergency communications, run by Nurse Amanda? And why in heaven's name is the water bureau authorized to trigger reverse 911, but the police and fire bureaus aren't? The water folks have gotten way out of control with Admiral Randy at the helm; if there's any raw power to be exercised, you know who'll be pushing to the front of that line.

It would also be interesting to consider how much the city is paying a private company for a notification system that nobody knows how to use.

Not to be outdone

The U.S. Navy has passed on the name "USS 39th Avenue."

To all the bummed-out Portland public school parents

O.k., so it looks like the school tax construction bond measure went down in flames, despite the gajillion dollars and countless volunteer hours that were spent pushing it. You brought your kids onto our front porches and had them ring our doorbells, even. But it was too much money to ask the public for, and at a bad time, and it appears to have failed.

The condition of the schools really is a disgrace. The facilities are getting more rundown by the year, and they need work. So what's to be done?

Here is what we suggest: Open your eyes and see that there already are tens of millions of tax dollars sloshing around Portland for all sorts of public make-work projects. We're about to build a billion-dollar mystery train to Milwaukie and a wildly extravagant streetcar to Lake Oswego, all with tax dollars. The funds come from every level of government -- federal, state, and local. The local dough usually comes through "urban renewal," which robs from schools and public safety to promote condominium projects.

If you really want to fix the schools, tell your elected representatives that you want the money that's being earmarked for trains and streetcars spent on schools instead. Call Earl Blumenauer, Mr. Bike and Rail, and tell him that you want federal stimulus money spent on school upgrades, not real estate scams. Call your Jefferson Smith or Jackie Dingfelder-type rep in Salem and tell them you don't want to spend a quarter-billion of lottery money on Milwaukie MAX when your local school is crumbling. (Call the governor, too, although getting his attention may be difficult.) Call your Portland city commissioner and tell them that their priorities are all wrong -- that they need to stop with the "urban renewal" which is diverting revenue from the schools. Call county chair Jeff Cogen and tell him and his colleagues you don't want a Convention Center hotel, you want basic repairs in your schools.

They'll tell you it's impossible, that there are different colors of money, that light rail money can't be spent on schools, yada yada. Hey -- it's all taxes. The colors of money game was invented by the politicians, and it can be undone by the politicians. And if they don't want to do it, then you need to pay attention come the next election and vote them out of office.

If you're unwilling to do that, then all the work you put in over the last few weeks really was a waste of time. It's up to you to decide what becomes of it.

Remember the Bill of Rights?

Not many do, apparently.

We're Graggalicious

The architecture dandies love us! They really, really love us!

But if course, like so many outsiders, they're missing the heart and soul of the place.

Tri-Met looking ever more pitiful

Tri-Met is apparently admitting that despite all the payroll taxes it collects from area employers, it can't keep its MAX light rail system clean or safe. An alert reader sends along an e-mail message from his state representative, Jefferson Smith, which includes this news:

We can't maintain what we have, but we're building more? Wow. Just wow.

Look out, DNA, here they go

They're sending more brave souls into a melted-down reactor at Fukushima, Japan today. Crews are heading into unit 2 to check radiation levels in the plant. Apparently there are no working remote sensors to do the work, so human beings have to go in. Given the extreme radiation levels found in the building housing reactor no. 1, it's not likely that the workers will be dawdling.

Meanwhile, there's been some interesting nuke news closer to home. U.S. nuclear power plants use the same types of vents and valves that failed in Japan, causing the explosions that sent the airborne radioactivity all over the Northern Hemisphere. It can't happen here? Don't kid yourself.

And here in the Pacific Northwest, the never-ceasing battle over how much nuclear garbage the federal government can import into the Hanford Nuclear Reservation heated up a bit last night. Hanford, on the banks of the Columbia River in south central Washington, is already the site of some of the worst radioactive contamination anywhere on the planet. Given that it's messed up beyond restoration, the temptation is great to bring in and dump more nasties that other folks don't want. The latest proposal is for shallow burial at Hanford of nuclear waste that's charitably known as "greater than Class C," coming mostly from nuclear power plants but also from some medical facilities. It's highly radioactive garbage -- way worse than the "low level" waste that's already shipped into Hanford on a routine basis by commercial outfits from all over.

All the usual huffing and puffing that comes with plans to dump nuclear waste anywhere are being revisited at Hanford, with the same old arguments being heard on both sides that have bounced around town hall meetings on the subject for many decades now. If the feds stick the GTCC waste at Hanford, a lot of it will be cruising on Portland freeways at high speeds as it rolls into the region from points south. If it gets into the groundwater under the dump site, it will soon be found in the Columbia River.

Hanford and its neighbors have already suffered enough from the radiation that place has already produced. To bring in more hazards would be the exact opposite of fairness. But when it comes to the nuclear industry, it's all about convenience, and money of course. Fairness isn't anywhere to be found on the template.

Portland school construction bond election tightening up

While the population sleeps, Multnomah County election results inevitably shift to the left, and the Portland school tax construction bond election is no exception to the rule. Just after 3 a.m., some new results were posted by the county elections bureau, and they show the race getting closer. The no votes are still ahead, but by far less than they were a few hours ago. The margin for the no votes is now only about 1.5%, whereas just after midnight it was about 5%. Here are the latest numbers:

Construction bond, Measure 26-121
$2 per $1,000

That's a margin of only 1,513 votes. It's not clear at this late hour how many more votes are to be counted; if last November is any indication, it could be weeks before the final tallies are available. Multnomah County is not promising any further updates until about 4:00 this afternoon. Our earlier comments on the apparent outcome of the election are here.

UPDATE, 6:46 a.m.: The O is reporting now that "nearly 85 percent" of the votes have been counted. That would leave about 18,000 votes left to be counted. They'd have to be about 54.5% yes to 45.5% no for the bond measure to pass. Seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

Portland school construction bond losing, operating levy passing

The "polls" have been closed in Oregon for nearly five hours now, and the counting of the ballots cast on the Portland school tax bond measures has been proceeding apace. The construction bond is trailing, 47.5% to 52.5%, and the operating levy is winning, 55.6% to 44.4%. As of 12:13 a.m., here are the results [all figures updated as of 1:49 a.m.]:

Construction bond, Measure 26-121
$2 per $1,000
Operating levy, Measure 26-122
$1.99 per $1,000

The current operating levy is $1.25 per $1,000, and so the school district is getting a 59.2% increase in its operating levy for the next five years.

Meanwhile, down in Clackamas County, the $5 vehicle registration fee for the replacement of the Sellwood Bridge in Portland is being shellacked. The current vote tally is 22,612 yes to 38,774 no.

If they continue through the final count, these results are encouraging. Even the sheeple voters of Portland area are smart enough to see that priorities are skewed and government is overreaching. Whether it's a reliable trend is unclear, but between the rejection of "clean money" elections last November and now the defeat of the school construction bond, there may be hope for the place yet.

Especially gratifying would be the defeat of a heavily financed propaganda campaign run by "Winning" Mark Wiener. Are we ever weary of that guy and his direct mail election porn.

UPDATE, 1:53 a.m.: At this hour, the Portland school construction bond is behind by 3,269 votes. It's always hard to figure out how many votes are still to be counted, but Multnomah County shows 144,495 ballots turned in, and 112,674 counted so far. That would leave more than 31,000 votes yet to be counted -- but not all of the county is in the Portland school district. The most recent batch of votes released in Multnomah were in favor of both school tax measures.

UPDATE, 7:00 a.m.: We have an update on the election results here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Please make a note of it

A Portland City Hall glossary alert: They're no longer bicyclists, they're "vulnerable road users."

How government works

You give the corporate types what they want, and then you go work for them.

It's similar to what happens in mainstream media in Portland: You "cover" the politicians for a while, then go work for them.

Rinse and repeat.

The Pride of Payette

The news that former Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins star Harmon Killebrew has died sent me into a reverie about my first visits to Yankee Stadium as a young boy. The very first game I attended there, a night game in late August of 1960, was an epiphany. Having previously seen most of the stadium only on black-and-white television, my brother, my cousin, and I were stunned by the colors of the place. The grass was the greenest grass we had ever seen. A young pitcher by the name of Bill Stafford threw a complete game shutout, and the Yankees won, 1-0.

At the end of the game, we exited through the big doors out by the monuments in center field. In those days they actually sent fans onto the field, and around the warning track on the periphery, to exit tunnels under the bleachers. Ushers and cops were standing on the edge of the grass to make sure that the attendees stayed on the track. When we got around past the left field foul pole and were walking past the bullpen gate toward center, we boys couldn't stand it any longer. The three of us ran onto the outfield grass, leaping and acting out dramatic, game-saving catches with the baseball gloves that we had all brought with us, hoping to catch a foul ball. We were running on the same grass as Mickey Mantle!

Our dads were aghast, and a policeman shooed us back to them, and I think we were all in trouble for a few minutes. But these days, I can't believe that they weren't secretly smiling at us.

The next time we showed up at the stadium, in June of 1961, Uncle Bill's don't-ask connections had scored us some excellent box seats on the rail behind third base. A doubleheader, it was, against the recently rechristened Twins. Of course, we got there super-early, so as not to get hung up in New York City traffic and definitely wanting to soak up all the action we could. The tickets were something like $3.50 apiece -- might as well get our money's worth. Our moms had dutifully packed lunches, which were still unopened on the blue-green wooden seats.

The three of us boys immediately started hanging over the rail, gawking at the visiting team's players as they warmed up on the sidelines. Right in front of us was Harmon Killebrew. There was no mistaking him -- a bull of a guy, wearing jersey no. 3. We started yelling to get his attention. "Hey Harmon!" we shouted in unison. "Hey Harmon!" Over and over. The players in those days did their best to act as though you weren't there -- in fact, I believe they were forbidden to speak to fans from the field -- but after about a dozen hey-Harmons, he got exasperated and looked over at us. "Whaddya want?"

At this point, we didn't know what to say. We were so giddy that we were so close to the field that we just wanted verification that we weren't dreaming. We didn't really want anything from Harmon Killebrew except for him to be real. There was an awkward silence. Then "Sign our scorecard!" one of us finally volunteered, dubiously. "Can't sign," replied Killebrew, going right back to playing catch with one of his teammates (Zoilo Versalles, perhaps). The statement was made without malice. It was just a matter of fact. Can't sign.

Killebrew was from God's country -- Payette, Idaho. As a kid he milked cows. If he hadn't joined pro baseball right out of high school, he would have attended the U of O. He played in the outfield mostly, but he could also play third base, and I believe he also showed up at first base from time to time. He hit 573 homers in the majors. By all accounts, he was a straight shooter and a sweet guy. Even the little kids from Newark who didn't get his autograph never held it against him. God rest his sluggin' soul.

Amanda's "close to perfect" 911 computers: the cat fight

"You're not on the board, so be quiet."

"Am too!"

"Are not!"

MAX on the Mall

It's wonderful, isn't it? That bus mall re-do was worth every penny.

Say goodbye to Barbur

Currently a high-traffic thoroughfare that works quite well for buses and private motor vehicles, Barbur Boulevard is about to be Blumenauered into oblivion. The Portland city planners are starting the process of "visioning" a very different road, with a $135,000 consulting contract:

The City of Portland, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) is seeking proposals from individuals, firms, teams or consultants... to assist the City in the development of a Concept Plan for the Barbur Corridor from Portland’s Central City to the Tigard city boundary. The focus of the Concept Plan is threefold:

* Identify potential transit station areas with the greatest development and placemaking opportunities;

* Develop a vision for Barbur Boulevard, a highway ‘orphaned’ when I-5 was built; and

* Evaluate alternative transit station areas against watershed health goals and existing investment strategies.

Sounds awful enough -- and then the planner psychobabble begins in earnest. It's like something out of a bad science fiction movie:

The project will evaluate existing land use, circulation, and urban watershed and accessibility patterns within a public-involvement framework to determine the locations of potential station areas with the greatest capacity for development, connectivity, ridership and responsiveness to watershed health. The purpose is to optimize urban land use patterns and engage the community within a multi-agency long-term planning process. Commencing the Concept Plan project prior to the multi-modal transportation and transit infrastructure planning is crucial in ensuring the success of two concurrent projects: the I-5/Barbur Corridor Refinement Plan and the Southwest Corridor High Capacity Transit (HCT) Alternatives Analysis. The corridor refinement plan is tentatively scheduled to begin in mid 2011 and the Alternatives Analysis in late 2011/early 2012. The Concept Plan will set the framework for future comprehensive and zoning map amendments, transportation infrastructure improvements, and watershed management strategies.

This project is a planning level assessment of different land use scenarios, including mode split, trip production, and general capacity in street network, as well as a planning level assessment of Metro's transportation modeling outputs specific to the Barbur corridor. This is not a transportation study.

Whatever it is, it's... well, grotesque. Go by streetcar!

Eat your nukes, they're good for you

While we're on the subject of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, some significant stories have come to our attention. According to reports:

-- Greenpeace has been doing radiation monitoring around Japan, and it has gathered up vegetables from gardens and supermarkets that were so radioactive that in Europe, one sample would be classified as nuclear waste.

-- The Japanese government now admits that like the fuel in reactor 1, the fuel in reactors 2 and 3 may have completely melted down, because it was without water for at least six hours after the March 11 earthquake.

-- Tokyo Electric is admitting that shortly after the earthquake hit, the Fukushima plant crew deliberately shut off the emergency cooling system because they thought, based on a manual they were reading, that that would help prevent damage to the equipment.

-- New data released by the company shows that reactor 3 has entered a crisis mode since early in May, with temperatures inside the reactor pressure vessel shooting way up. Something's happening in there that's not good.

This thing is worse than Chernobyl, in so many ways, and far from over.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Playing right along

If the last two months have shown us anything about the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in Japan, it's that Tokyo Electric and the national government there don't know what they're doing, are hiding facts, or most likely both. The news that they are releasing about the conditions of the four trashed reactors gets worse by the day, and they have no credible plan to remediate the disaster other than pouring swimming pools full of water onto the reactors, which then escapes as highly radioactive pollution into the sea and groundwater. Meanwhile, serious earthquakes near Fukushima continue unabated, and the blown-out building shells of two of the plants, which hold up the spent nuclear fuel pools, look to be teetering on collapse.

And so what does the U.S. government do? Officially stop paying attention, thus providing further cover for the Japanese. If there was any doubt that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission was still a house of industry call girls, it's been removed.

Reader poll: Who will be pro hoops champs?

My buddy Dwight Jaynes is picking Miami over Dallas in the NBA Finals as the league semi-finals get under way. What do you think?

Who will win the NBA Finals?
Chicago over Dallas
Chicago over Oklahoma City
Dallas over Miami
Dallas over Chicago
Miami over Oklahoma City
Miami over Dallas
Oklahoma City over Chicago
Oklahoma City over Miami
pollcode.com free polls

Time has come today

If you're planning to vote in the Portland school tax election, now's the time to get out your ballot and a pen. The votes have to be turned in to county elections by tomorrow evening. It's too late now to trust the task to the post office, and so you'll have to drop your ballot off at the elections bureau or an official ballot drop-off spot such as a library branch. The deadline is 8 p.m. tomorrow.

Parks falling apart? Fire a few planners and fix them.

That apparently is the decision that's been made in San Diego.

Point blank

Another day, another gang killing in Portland. We have got to be on track to have a record year in that department.

Get together and call ourselves an institute

Here's an intriguing Portland City Council agenda item. The city's going to pay an outfit named Local Government Personnel Institute (also known as LGPI) up to $31,250 to --

Nothing too newsworthy there, we suppose -- Portland hires consultants like hipsters buy cart food -- but checking out the "institute" is a fascinating process. Apparently it's a spinoff of the League of Oregon Cities, which is some sort of voluntary association of Oregon's cities and counties. The League claims its tax exemption under the tax law section governing civic leagues. At one point in its life, LGPI was apparently also connected to another statewide local government association, the Association of Oregon Counties.

But although it's housed at the League offices in Salem, LGPI apparently is a separate organization of some kind nowadays. It represents a lot of Oregon municipalities -- including legal representation -- in labor matters. The PERS board requires its staff to notify LGPI before changing its rules.

But what type of organization is LGPI? The Oregon Secretary of State doesn't have it listed as any sort of registered business entity. It doesn't appear on the excellent national Guidestar registry of nonprofit organizations. And since the city attorney's office is about to enter into an "intergovernmental agreement" with LGPI, what kind of "government" entity is it? Is it subject to the local budget law and public meetings law?

More importantly, does it prepare financial statements or file tax returns or information statements with the IRS? Does the public ever get to see these documents? Readers who might know what's under the outer layers of this onion, please help us out. We'd like to see where the 30 grand is going.

Amping up on Prescott

The two big green water towers just north of blog headquarters, known as the Vernon Tanks, have a dinky playground right under them and all sorts of cell phone antennas mounted around the tanks up above. The sweethearts at AT&T have plans before the City of Portland to add quite a bit of new transmission devices to the extensive array already up there:

The upgrades will include two replacement antennas, two additional antennas, six RRH, three surge suppression boxes, one power fiber junction box, and one GPS Antenna mounted near an existing GPS antenna along with the equipment inventory being placed inside existing At&T equipment shelter.
Given how much zapping they're already getting from the equipment already mounted on the tanks, the neighbors don't seem likely to be able to do much stop the proposal -- if they're interested at all. But now that others in the area have recently stopped new towers from being installed on Fremont and Stanton Streets, the cell phone folks will likely want to load up their existing locations to the max.

Meanwhile, one wonders whether the neighbors are aware of the city's apparent plan to turn the tank into the equivalent of a hydroelectric dam. The city would sell power from a new turbine at the site to a local utility, presumably Pacific Power. Although the equipment is supposedly all going underground, the water bureau sure slipped that one through quietly.

Wonder where the money from the power sales will go. To lower your water bill? Ha! Ha! There's a belly laugh to start your week. And who gets the construction contract? A familiar name, perhaps?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thankin' the Lord for her fingers

A friend writes:

At Paul Simon's concert in Toronto last week, a fan requested "Duncan," saying that she'd learned to play guitar with that song. And so he invited her up to play it.

Why no media polls on Portland school tax ballot measures?

Here Portlanders are, voting in the largest bond election in state history, and yet apparently no one in our local media has bothered to take an unofficial poll to see how the dual bond measures are doing. Could it be that the press is just too broke to afford these kinds of straw votes any more?

With a seven-figure war chest, the proponents of the measures surely have taken a poll or two. Wonder what they've learned.

Fukushima reactor 1 back to square 1

Any hope of bringing wayward Fukushima Daiichi reactor unit 1 under control has been dashed with the news that the radiation level on the ground floor of the reactor building is 2 sieverts an hour. The current worker dose limit being used by the Japanese government -- and it's lax by international standards -- is 0.25 sieverts a year. Do the math: Any worker going into that building will get a year's maximum dose in 7 minutes and 30 seconds. They're not going to rebuild the cooling system for that reactor under those conditions, or probably ever.

This is the same reactor that Tokyo Electric was making a big show about a week or two ago when they set up an air filtration system in the turbine building that was supposed to make that part of the plant less lethal to occupy. The usefulness of that effort now seems much diminished.

Coupled with this week's news that the fuel rod section of the unit 1 reactor core has been completely without cooling water for nearly two months, the situation is not only completely uncharted territory, but also a challenge beyond the current limits of human engineering. The containment has been breached, and there's a blob of deadly, superheated, melted fuel sitting on the bottom of the reactor, covered at least to some extent by water. There's a good chance that some radioactive lava has oozed out past the steel shell of the reactor and onto the concrete pad below it. Even if it just wallows there, it has to be doused constantly with water, which has become highly contaminated and leaked into the building basement and beyond, into the groundwater and the ocean.

The groundwater under the plant has not been tested, or if it has, the results have been kept secret by Tokyo Electric and the Japanese government. But all sorts of radioactivity has clearly been detected in the ocean near the plant, and the contaminated leakage is relentless.

And that's just unit 1. Reactors 2, 3, and 4 also have serious problems -- perhaps even more serious than no. 1. Knowledgeable observers continue to fret about more hydrogen explosions like the ones that have already ruined the countryside and sent radioactive clouds around the globe -- giant dirty bombs, in effect.

The evacuation zone due to the airborne releases keeps getting bigger, but children attending school just outside the zone are being subjected to radiation exposure that is unconscionable. Meanwhile, they found radioactive cesium in tea leaves grown south of Tokyo, at Minamiashigara, which is more than 170 miles away from the meltdown. The Japanese powers would like to ignore what's happened and what's continuing to happen, but the laws of nature that have been violated aren't going to let them do that forever.

The nucle-heads in the United States are also feeling a bit uncomfortable these days, as they don't have answers for some obvious questions. There are 35 boiling water reactors currently operating in our country -- 23 of them are GE Mark I reactors like the ones that have gone kerblooey in Japan. Current U.S. rules require plant operators to have at least four hours' worth of battery power on hand to run cooling pumps in case of a disaster that causes a complete blackout of the reactor plant and wipes out the on-site diesel generators. Is four hours enough? It wasn't at Fukushima.

And however sturdy the Mark I reactor vessels might be -- they weren't strong enough at Fukushima -- the spent fuel pools in the reactor buildings are incredibly vulnerable. They keep telling us that the reactor vessel can withstand a direct hit from a fully loaded 747. The same assertion cannot be made of the spent fuel pools, and as we now know from Fukushima Daiichi no. 4, those can be a colossal headache even if the reactor isn't running when the disaster hits. Let's hope all those heavy cockpit doors work.

Reader poll: Thunder or Grizzlies?

They're going to Game 7 in the pro hoops playoffs this afternoon -- the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Kevin Durant, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies, led by Zach Randolph. Either way, it's a changing of the guard in the NBA. Which team will win and proceed to the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks?

Who will prevail today?
OKC Thunder
Memphis Grizzlies
pollcode.com free polls

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Last-minute election porn for Portland school taxes

We're just a few days away from the vote count in the Portland school tax bond measure election, and the pro-tax propaganda continues to flow like superheated corium from a failed General Electric boiling water reactor. Here's the latest election porn to show up in our snail mailbox:

Ya gotta love these direct mail pieces. There's somebody's name and picture on it, and the illusion is that this is a personal testimonial, but then you read it, and it's worded exactly the same way as all the other pitches that have been floating around:

Do you think that some guy named Neil Cooper actually wrote or said that? Come on. He may have signed it, but it was written by master manipulator Mark Wiener or one of his minions. We can't wait until Tuesday, when the flow of slick drivel from those folks is shut off for a few months.

And let's hope these bond measures go down, so that the school board can come back with something more reasonable for taxes in a recession. Four dollars a thousand is ridiculous.

Sneak preview of Portland public market

Everyone's excited about the new public market that's going to be built on property currently owned by Multnomah County at the west side of the Morrison Bridge in downtown Portland. The new facility will be named after James Beard, and apparently they're going to situate it near the MAX line. It will have all the signature features of vibrant, modern-day Portland. The city's planning consultants have come up with an interesting concept video, here. If the project pans out, it's really going to be something.

Fukushima worker dies

An employee working at the Fukushima meltdown site has died, bringing the official death toll at the Japanese plants to three. It's not clear what he died from, but it may have been overwork in brutal conditions rather than radiation. The radiation casualties will doubtlessly arrive later.

Friday, May 13, 2011

2.0 earthquake on Mount Hood

Just under Timberline Lodge, apparently, at about 4:17.

Have a great weekend

Maybe they should stop playing the 1812 Overture

Despite the recent addition of classical music, you still take your life in your hands when you get near a MAX light rail station in Portland.

Taxpayers will dig deep for "jobs"

Portland officials say they're bringing 500 "green" energy jobs to the city by putting a solar panel manufacturing plant out in North Portland somewhere. Exactly where, they're not saying yet, but what is already certain is that the deal comes at quite a cost to the taxpayers:

The approximately $57 million package includes nearly $18 million in tax abatements, $14 million in state tax credits, a $20 million state loan and $5 million in city loan guarantees, backed by Portland parking meter revenue.
That's $114,000 per job up front -- let's hope the company, something called SoloPower, actually makes it.

The City of Portland part of the deal is up for a rush-rush vote by the City Council on Wednesday.

This is the plant that was supposed to go into Wilsonville, through the wonders of "urban renewal." But as soon as there was talk of the public of that city actually getting to vote on the tax handouts, that was the end of that plan. So the next stop was Portland, where the people don't get to vote on anything meaningful, and when they do, they'll go for anything "green."

The jobs are good news, at least in the abstract. But do not overlook that they're being bought and paid for with taxes.

Japanese nuke cover-up -- literally

Tokyo Electric has announced that it is planning to cover the melted-down Fukushima nuclear reactors with plastic tents -- supposedly to contain radiation, but just as likely to prevent the world from seeing what they look like as they gradually implode. Nuclear engineers have apparently already designed one prototype, which the Japanese government is reportedly reviewing for fast-track regulatory approval.

A dubious distinction for Oregon

We now have the second highest percentage of the population on food stamps of all states nationwide. 20.1% -- second only to Mississippi!

Go by streetcar!

Save the planet! Build a seven-story office building.

Even the kids at the Merc seem to be getting it: The Oregon Sustainability Center is a waste of money, its tenants will be government or government-subsidized, and building the thing at all is the opposite of "green."

Arrests in Lloyd Center shooting

They've arrested two men in connection with the murder of a high school freshman in broad daylight at Holladay Park behind the Lloyd Center on April 18. Here's the story in the O -- curious headline and emphasis -- with the suspects' booking photos down the page a ways. If you check them out on pdxmugshots.com, you'll see they are no strangers to the police.

Clean sweep

Here's an interesting page from the Tweeters at the Portland Water Bureau, showing the semi-annual cleanout of an open-air reservoir at Washington Park. The caption is supposed to scare us into thinking that there's a contamination hazard -- the bureau says we must spent a bazillion dollars to cover the tanks -- but given that it's a 17.6 million gallon pool, that's not much debris to worry about. The reservoirs seem to be doing just fine.

Another ethical stinker in Salem

The latest scandal involves -- surprise! -- the prison system. Maybe Frank Gable did it.

Reverse 911? Don't count on it.

Was it the "close to perfect" new Portland emergency dispatch system that utterly failed in this case?

UPDATE, 9:55 a.m.: Apparently the city hires this function out to a private company, and "only two city agencies are authorized to send the alerts, the emergency management office and the Portland Water Bureau." That would be the Sam Rand Twins, of course. Jim Redden of the Trib reports on the snafu here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The 'Couv going for minor league baseball

It appears the folks just north of the Columbia are working to bring in a Class A team. Good for them! Maybe the owner won't even be from a world-class scoundrel family.

Come on, babe, on the roundabout

The kids at Portland Afoot share an interesting tidbit in their May issue: Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant was seen riding the no. 14 bus on Hawthorne one weekday afternoon last month. Got off at 30th.

Fukushima No. 1 reactor core is dry

And apparently, it has been for two months, according to the latest reports:

It appears that the entire active fuel region of the core, when in normal condition, is exposed .. i.e. not covered with water. It may not have been since nearly the start of the casualty.

Some of the fuel has very likely melted and dropped into the lower pressure vessel head area. BWR reactors, because of their power profile, would be expected to experience fuel element melt from the center outward over a span of time without cooling. TEPCO has not given a clue as to how much of the fuel is damaged, but we noted the reduction a few weeks ago in the estimated percentage from 70% down to 55% and wonder if this won't get moved back up. Perhaps higher.

Apparently the melted fuel, known as "corium," is sitting in the bottom of the reactor vessel and being cooled by whatever water they are managing to get into a puddle at the bottom. With 5-point earthquakes continuing to pop off with regularity in the vicinity, there's still the potential for a major melt through the containment. Another big dirty bomb moment is by no means out of the question.

City of Portland jacking up permit fees

A reader sends along what he or she says is an e-mail message just in from the City of Prtland:

The Bureau of Development Services (BDS) collects fees under various fee schedules to fund inspections, plan review, permit issuance, land use review, customer assistance, and other functions. Since 1988, construction-related programs operated by BDS (approximately 90% of bureau functions) have been primarily self-supporting. BDS achieves this through a combination of strategies that allow the bureau to respond to increasing costs while being innovative and proactive in meeting changing customer needs.

Fee Increase Overview

BDS is proposing to increase most fees (except for Environmental Soils) by 8%, beginning July 1, 2011. Due to significant historical funding issues, Environmental Soils (subsurface sewage) fees will increase by 70%.

Building permits (8%)
Mechanical permits (8%)
Electrical permits (8%)
Plumbing permits (8%)
Facilities Permit Program (8%)
Site Development permits (5%)
Environmental Soils (subsurface sewage) Program (70%)
Signs Program (8%)
Zoning Program (5%)
Noise Control Program (8%)
Neighborhood Inspections (8%)
Land Use Services (8%)
Field Issued Remodel (FIR) Program hourly rate (8%)

If Fees are NOT Increased…

While BDS recognizes the impact that fee increases have on its customers, particularly in the current economic climate, moderate fee increases will be necessary in order to provide financial stability for BDS and ensure an acceptable level of services to bureau customers. Not increasing fees would have significant impact on both the bureau and our customers and stakeholders:

Service levels would remain at unacceptably low levels, hindering development at a time when it’s desperately needed.
Bureau reserves would remain at critically low levels.
Cost recovery efforts would slip.

Next Steps / For Further Information

The Portland City Council will review and listen to public testimony regarding the proposed fee increases at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 in City Council chambers. The Council will vote on the changes on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. If the ordinance is passed the fee increases will go into effect on July 1, 2011.

Multnomah County fees will also be affected, since the County contracts with the City of Portland for inspection and plan review services in the unincorporated areas within the Portland urban services boundary. The County Board of Commissioners will review the proposed fee increases on Thursday, June 2, 2011 in the County Board Room, 501 SE Hawthorne, first floor.

The proposed fee schedules are available online at http://www.portlandonline.com/bds/index.cfm?c=44589.

If you have questions about the fee increases, please contact Denise Kleim, BDS Administrative Services Manager, at (503) 823-7338 or denise.kleim@portlandoregon.gov.

Big Brother is hard at work

In case you missed it, the terrorists have won.

Hold onto your wallets, Portlanders

Here's a transaction that worries us: The City of Portland is doing some of its world-famous planning around its sewage treatment plant off Highway 43 in Lake Oswego. They're about to award a $750,000 consulting contract to CH2M Hill to revise the "facilities plan" for the plant, officially known as the Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

What's scary is that the plant is located near the "Foothills" property, where Homer Williams and Dike Dame are planning to build their latest "mixed use" condo bunkers -- the ones that the infernal streetcar is designed to sell. And Dame is already on record as saying that the sewage treatment facility will have to be shipped out. Then you look at the bid documents for the consulting contract and read passages like these:

Combine the information contained in the furnished Wastewater Collection System Master Plan Update and Technical Memoranda into a draft section of the Facilities Plan Update that addresses existing collection system conditions with an emphasis on system deficiencies that contribute peak flows to the TCWTP as a result of system Infiltration and Inflow (I/I)....

Evaluate existing physical condition of the plant and identify projects that are required to bring the plant to reliable condition.

Wait -- all of a sudden it's not "reliable"? Sounds like the decision has already been made to make some serious changes.

Why do we get the sneaking suspicion that tons of Portland sewer bill revenues are going to be spent to make Williams and Dike a boatload of money?

Like a cyclone ranger

The Portland City Hall Green Tweet Brigade is pretty funny. In their RSS feed last night, they linked to two New York Times stories that noted that post-tsunami, Japanese consumers are buying more bicycles and electric cars than before. Deep down, they seem jealous! It's almost as if they're just praying for a devastating earthquake here, so that their odd vision of how we should all live can become a reality.

We recall Earl Blumenauer's remark years ago that the Marquam Bridge was "just one major earthquake away" from collapse. He seemed to relish the prospect.

The bicycles make some sense, but people in Japan who are buying electric anything don't seem too swift. Without new nukes, they're going to be browned out, permanently.

Somebody could have died

That Portland transportation bureau equipment that was blocking a fire hydrant in Southeast Portland the other night was pretty disgusting -- especially when you consider that just after midnight, a nearby apartment complex was evacuated with fire alarms going off. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm, but the bozos from the city who parked there should be disciplined in way they won't forget. Can you imagine if it had been a real fire?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

S#*t his son writes

We just finished Justin Halpern's hysterical, true-life book, "S#*t My Dad Says." It reminded us of our own dear old dad, God rest him, who used to crack a good one every now and then himself. Now that we're done with the book, which started as a Twitter feed, we thought we'd check out young Halpern's slightly NSFW website, which isn't about his father. It's pretty good, too. A sample:

I can understand if your dog is attacking other dogs or people, but aside from that, remember this; we’re the ones who decided to own them. They’re not like babies. You didn’t get drunk one night and have sex with a woman and the next morning she’s like "I think you’re getting a dog." So, if we’re the ones choosing to have them, then we shouldn’t get to completely cramp their freakin’ style. If they want to eat poop, let them eat poop. Sure it’s gross, but I’m sure you’ve let someone you know eat Arby’s before, and you didn’t knock their roast beef sandwich out of their hand and go "NO! Nooooooo."

A shocking revelation

Those studies that say Tasers are safe enough for police use? Apparently, most of them are funded by Taser.

Shell game at the PDC?

Here's a funky agenda item from this afternoon's Portland Development Commission board meeting. They've been scrambling to comply with the government budget laws by sloshing hundreds of thousands of dollars around among various PDC pots of money to cover overdrafts somehow caused by agreements with other city bureaus. Today they're going to add a new pot to those available to be raided for these "interfund loans."

For a while they were running the overdrafts without action by the PDC board, but apparently their outside auditor blew the whistle and said that prior board authorization was required by law. You wonder how many other municipal finance laws are being broken in Portland. And take a look at the PDC board members. How many of the five of them do you think understand what is going on with the money?

Meanwhile, here's an interesting passage from the board's March 23 minutes:

Wow -- PDC is now an economic development agency, and its executive director's main goal is to find money for it to spend? How pathetic. From a taxpayer's standpoint, there's never been a better time to get rid of this turkey and set up a much smaller economic development shop somewhere in City Hall.

Portland car-o-phobia goes off deep end

The City of Portland won't let up with the constant sales pitch to not drive. We weren't paying full attention, but was that an anti-car TV ad the city ran on the Channel 8 news last night? The other day we found another full-color glossy brochure in our snail mailbox with more bike-and-walk talk. Including the latest gem: Turn your car engine off if you expect to be stopped for more than 10 seconds. That's right -- 10 seconds!

Can you imagine -- turning the car off and then restarting it at every red light? This is the city bureau that's supposed to help you get from Point A to Point B. Insane. Wait 'til the soccer moms and grandpas are doing it at stop signs.

Oh, and get this -- you'll lose six pounds a year if you ride Tri-Met. Uh huh.

Annoying Catchphrase of the Year

"We can't afford not to" has become tiresome.

The earnest mom in the pearls in the Portland school tax bond measure TV commercial: We can't afford not to jack up our property taxes for school construction.

Amanda Fritz: We can't afford not to build Milwaukie light rail.

Enough! As the President told us: Yes we can. We can afford not to. Easily.

So come to your senses, and get your hands out of our pockets.

Digging in the dirt

Today Willamette Week repeats the age-old question: With all the money Portland blows on frills, how can it still have so many neighborhoods with unpaved roads? "Stretches of our city still look more like Appalachia than Cascadia." No kidding. Go by streetcar!

Nurse Amanda: New 911 computer "close to perfect"

Don't listen to the critics -- the Portland city commissioner who's presiding over the new $15 million (and counting) emergency dispatch computer says they don't know what they're talking about:

Then again, she admits:

As with any new complex computer system, problems may surface, resulting in down time. The old CAD had over 60 incidents of problems documented from January 1, 2011 to the conversion on April 17, and crashed once. With the Versaterm system, only one intermittent problem occurred, resulting in three outages before the problem was isolated and corrected. Staff at the 9-1-1 center are trained to operate when the computer is down, under the old and new system, and no impact to services resulted from the downtime....

The new system is not the same as the one our police officers and fire fighters are accustomed to. During this initial training/orientation period, it may require police officers to pull over to read the computer screen in their car, instead of reading while driving. Police officers have radios, and 9-1-1 dispatchers give information over the radio as well as on the computer screen. The front-line users are giving BOEC requests on adjustments to the new system such as font size, and we will respond to their requests as soon and as well as we can. BOEC takes pride in providing great service to both callers and responders.

Nobody said they didn't. The issue is whether the new computer system works as well as the old one would have with a much cheaper upgrade. If not, somebody screwed up.

I realize some people find it hard to believe government can do anything right. To try to turn this success into a failure is simply wrong, and political posturing at its worst.
The critics are not the only ones who are posturing here.

Mercy, mercy me

Tokyo Electric says it thinks that maybe, just maybe, radioactive water might be leaking into the ocean from one of the destroyed Fukushima nuclear reactors.

They're dumping an Olympic swimming pool of water a day over the plant buildings, right next to the shoreline, and they think it might be winding up in the sea? Let's get real, folks -- the Pacific is the containment vessel for this accident, and it will never be the same. The nuke guys in Japan, and throughout the world for that matter, don't really have any other plan for this site but to keep dousing it.

After several typhoon seasons, if they're lucky and there hasn't been a major catastrophe, the task will likely be to entomb three or four of the reactors, Chernobyl-style. Will Japan have that kind of money? And will the jokers who are telling us today about the possible radioactive pollution, be up to the task?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Above the law, cont'd

A reader, who knows we share his concerns, writes this evening:

After a long day of paving between SE Stark and Burnside on 102nd, I guess the city workers decided that since they couldn't find enough parking for all of their equipment, they would park all night in front of the fire hydrant at my apartment complex. Sure hope there isn't a fire tonight...

Maybe the mayor, who runs that bureau, will tweet something about it.

Japan nuke mess hits Hawaiian dairies

Here's sad news: Some Hawaiian dairy farmers say they're feeding boron to their cattle to try to counteract the radioactive fallout in the grass they eat. This after Hawaiian milk has tested way over the acceptable levels for radionuclides. Safe, clean nuclear power -- it's so wonderful.

Cogen's running for something

This evening the Multnomah County chair takes a page out of the playbook of his mentor, city commissioner "Legend" Dan Saltzman: He goes stumping for the school tax bond measures. Wouldn't you know? He's "for the children" -- and "jobs"! The older homeowners in town can go live in a bunker in Tigard.

The e-mail was sent from jeffcogen.com, and apparently engineered by Kari Chisholm. That spells an active campaign to us -- presumably, for mayor.

Use your imagination

Here's a scary story out of NoPo. Two young men robbed a North Lombard Street convenience store in broad daylight and shot the clerk, even though she had opened the till. They caused school lockdowns, and they're still out there.

And the description of the guys who did this? Well, um... they're around 19 years old... that is all.

History? Who cares?

The apartment mongers in Portland sure don't.

Japan cans nuke plans

As well it should. At least until someone can figure out how to build a safe one on an earthquake fault. Which may be never.

You don't need a penny just to hang around

Speaking of travel photos, a friend sends along this world-class shot taken in the Big Easy during the recent Jazzfest:

The musicians are the TBC Brass Band.

The Scone still wants it

Another good friend of West Hills real estate money is hoping to make a comeback as mayor. Remember when this guy was on the aerial tram board?

Then there’s using the transportation infrastructure to create jobs. That means light rail; it means the tram, which my opponent opposes. OHSU is paying 85 percent of the cost. Transportation investments produce jobs.
At which point, Tom Potter cleaned his clock.

The Scone's making some calls to discuss a mayoral campaign. You have to wonder whether he spoke directly with Neil, or only with the go-between. And is Tom Moyer's secretary still feeling flush these days?

Less was more

On our return trip from the East Coast last evening, we were on a Continental 737 that was so new that it still had new plane smell. But it was also so new that it didn't have in-flight audio or video entertainment hooked up yet, either. Given that it was a six-hour ordeal, we figured that the kids on board would be going nuts without their movies, and that we'd miss the airline music.

But it turned out just the opposite. The kids were the best behaved group we've ever encountered on a long plane trip, and we did just fine with the music on our iPhone. The lack of video in your face the whole way was actually pretty soothing. Food for thought.

Dirty pool

If you're still paying attention to the worst nuclear disaster in history, and you'd like to get a look at what's going on in the nuclear waste pool at Fukushima reactor no. 3, click here for a zip file of an underwater video (mpg format), dated Sunday and supplied by Tokyo Electric.

What a mess! Normally spent fuel pools are kept pristine -- this one's full of heavy debris, and who knows how long it will even remain standing, with 5-point earthquakes popping off nearby every few hours these days. One thing's for sure -- that pool alone would cost many, many millions of dollars to stabilize, if it doesn't collapse first. We're probably talking remote-controlled submarines, and perhaps equipment that hasn't even been invented yet.

And it's not clear what's under that debris. Some well informed observers theorize that the pool went critical and exploded, in which case a whole bunch of pulverized nuclear waste went shooting into the sky. At this point, nobody knows who much might have blown up, and what's left under the wreckage. And given that the Japanese government and the plant operator are highly secretive, we may never know.

Rape of Hayden Island gets DEQ blessing

Screw the bald eagles -- the Goldschmidt people at the Port of Portland smell the money. This just in from the Save the West Hayden Island Facebook page:

DEQ let us know this afternoon that they will allow the Port to place contaminated dredge materials from Post Office Bar on WHI for the explicit purpose of preparing WHI for industrial development. We managed to stop this dumping last fall and DEQ held an extra couple of hearings this spring to "reconsider" but it never seemed anything other than a forgone conclusion. We will now proceed with litigation...
And the bad actors at Portland City Hall are playing right along, of course. "Green" hypocrites of the lowest order.

Not that it would make any difference, but maybe it's time to get in the Port commissioners' faces -- and the governor's, too -- on this one. Here's the list of the Port commission members. They all have day jobs -- three of them are union types, and a couple are in law firms. Wonder how they would feel about picket lines outside their offices.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Inside the Beltway

We just returned from a jaunt to the East Coast, where the temperatures are 10 degrees warmer and gas is 45 cents a gallon cheaper. We spent some quality time in Washington, D.C., which seems to be doing fine these days, at least on the surface. We made our traditional pilgrimage to see this guy:

The reflecting pool is all torn up for repairs, but it's still a special place.

There were some blue notes as we walked around the Mall. It dawned on us that we've reached the point that we don't trust these institutions much any more. Government at all levels has been exposed as a sorry mess, and it takes a little of the glow away.

The no-drive zone around the White House just gets bigger and bigger, and the place is now a heavily armed camp. As we walked along 17th over by the Executive Office Building, on one grassy patch a uniformed Secret Service guy in sunglasses was striking a heavy pose, openly brandishing a machine gun. Dark times indeed. A few minutes later, a hipster came tooling down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the house on a Segway -- apparently that's o.k., but for a minute there we expected his ride to be terminated with extreme prejudice.

We cruised out of the nation's capital on an Acela train, which is a wonderful thing. But our departure coincided with the start of the 40th annual National Train Day at Union Station, where huge crowds were assembled to enjoy what big signs were touting as "free fun for all." It was hard to find one's way to an actual working train.

The Amtrak people were making a big security show, with cop videos on oversized flat screen monitors, and bomb-sniffing dogs roaming the place with their keepers. Didn't bother us a bit -- the dogs are beautiful -- but it was another sign of our not-so-good times.

Housing pit still has no bottom

According to this survey, more than one out of three Portland metro area mortgages on single-family homes is currently under water. The region's 35.9% average compares to a national average of 28.4%.

Time out

Whatever one might think of the performance of Randy Leonard as a politician, this is a sad moment. Condolences from this blog are the last thing he wants, I suspect, but I'll offer them anyway.

It's the police!


Too late smart

A milestone in nuclear history today: A utility in Japan is admitting that one of its plants is unsafe because of where it is located, and shutting it down at the request of the government. It's a nice gesture, but with tons of nuclear waste stored on site, no one should be sleeping too soundly over it.

Meanwhile, there was quite a bit of steam or smoke spotted coming off the trashed reactors at Fukushima on Saturday morning our time. That should be blowing over us today. And if you're buying cinder blocks at any time in the next few years, you might want to buy a Geiger counter to go with them.

So what does the Port want to ship through Hayden Island?

They swear it's not coal. Maybe it's nuclear waste, headed for a dump in Mongolia!

It's official: another City of Portland computer fiasco

You read about issues with the new 911 computer system on this blog last week. Now the Trib picks the story up, noting even more problems.

Ya gotta love the city's excuse for not simply updating its old emergency dispatch system at a small fraction of the cost: "A patch would have lasted only a couple of years." Hey, people, these are computers -- nothing lasts more than a couple of years.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Laker losers

It's been a remarkable day in sports history. Not only did the Lakers get swept by Dallas in the pro hoops playoffs, but they were blown out of the building and showed their true colors as soreheads and chumps. Phil Jackson ended the season, and likely his career, presiding over a collection of underachieving jerks, who compounded poor play with dirty play. To them and their Laker Nation faithful, we say, it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch. Dynasty over, folks.

Meanwhile, how many people around the country, particularly in Portland, will now admit to boasting a month ago that Dallas gave the Blazers the best chance of all possible opponents for a first-round upset? We thought the Lakers might be more ready for a fall, and that looks to have been an accurate assessment. Not that the Blazers were going anywhere, anyway, but they might have broken out of their role as playoff doormat.


Here are a couple of videos supplied to the public this weekend by Tokyo Electric of goings-on inside two of the trashed nuclear power plants at Fukushima. One shows an air filtration system set up inside reactor no. 1, and the other shows the spent fuel pool inside reactor no. 4. Both are designed to show us that things there aren't so bad.

Harsh spotlight on U of O jock mania

The Register-Guard is aghast at the Nikezation of the state university in Eugene. [Via UO Matters.]

Happy Robert Johnson Day

You too, Mom, but this is the 100th anniversary (as far as we know) of the birth of a master whose influence was, and is, limitless.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ding dong! It's for the children.

Now that you've read the campaign flyers, including the ones you paid for, Mark Wiener and the crew are sending the earnest OSPIRG-type kids to your front porch. They'll make $10 an hour coaxing thousands out of your wallet and into the wallets of the construction contractors and teachers' union members. Maybe if they weren't asking for the moon, they wouldn't need an army of arm-twisters.

Nonsurprise of the Year

Peter Apanel -- the guy who was most tenaciously opposed to the re-renovation of Portland's civic stadium for soccer only -- has taken in a Timbers match at the newly configured field, and guess what. He wasn't impressed:

I finally made it to a Timbers match tonight, mainly so I could see firsthand how all of those negative findings based on the MLS Guide matched up with reality. And there were no surprises.

I sat at mid-field in the bench-style seating section of the main grandstand.

Before the match started, I asked an usher why there were so many seats covered up, and he replied, "They're trying not to overcrowd the stadium. I know they're losing a lot of money by doing that."

With all of those bench-style seats measuring only 18" wide, people did not fit unless there were no-shows in their row. The lack of adequate leg room made things very uncomfortable, and it was difficult for people to move around.

The concourse was a complete zoo at halftime. It took me 12 minutes, being very aggressive all the way, in order to walk from my seating section to the Team Store at the northeast end of the stadium, a distance of about 600 feet. And at most of the restrooms and concession stands along the way the lines were ridiculously long.

At one point, there was a middle-aged couple walking behind me, and the woman said, "This is crazy, how f--ked up this is."

So, how long will it be before the media and Paulson can no longer cover up all of these problems? And how long will the non-diehard fans put up with all of this?

And if they're going to cover up 4,500 seats because the stadium's spectator facilities are inadequate, why didn't they simply widen the space allocated for each of those bench-style seats instead, which is something they could have easily done?

The other thing that really bothered me as I sat there is that it would have been so easy to come up with a renovation plan that would have made it possible to continue playing baseball there, and still create seating along the east end of the stadium for soccer.

Ah well, Peter. What's done is done. Go by streetcar.

And when you smile for the camera

When Phoebe Snow died a week and a half ago, her music went around and around in our head like not since the '70s. This lasted for a week or so -- first thing in the morning, last thing at night. It got a little scary, actually, and it's finally subsided. But our appreciation for who she was has not dimmed. Here are some reflections from no less than Donald Fagen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Have a great weekend

The false promises of "urban renewal"

Jerry Brown's idea of doing away with it in California has prompted a lot of wise commentary, including this.

Is this what Kate Brown's talking about?

The Oregon secretary of state's audit of faculty productivity in the state university system sounds a bit like this. [Via TaxProf Blog.]

Fireman Randy borrows another $26 million for you

The City of Portland's about to go out and borrow the money that voters narrowly authorized it to borrow last November. The bank's money will go for fire equipment, a fire station, and the spendy new city 911 dispatch computer that's being called into question as a $15 million waste item. The official sales pitch for the new IOUs is here.

Unlike the city's "urban renewal" debt, this bond issue is a rare "general obligation" of the city, which means that the bondholders will get paid come hell or high water, with the city promising to raise whatever property tax revenue is necessary to pay the bonds off. That gets the bonds the highest rating of AAA from the see-no-evil folks at Moody's rating service, who get paid by the city to rate its debt. Out of more than $3.2 billion in bonds that the city has out there, only $0.06 billion -- $60 million -- are general obligations, which get the high ratings. The new round will add another $25.8 million to that relatively modest pile.

There'll be plenty more borrowing by the city this summer -- it's talking about $105 million of new bonds, about $65 million of which will be refinancing of moldy old "urban renewal" schemes, and about $40 million of which will be new debt for more "urban renewal" malarkey over in North Portland. Borrow, borrow, borrow -- sometimes it leads to bad things.

Seattle stops phone book garbage

When it comes to being conscious of the environment, and taking an easy step that the majority of residents want, the Emerald City is way ahead of its sister to the south. Now the phone book publishers will sue -- sometimes you have to get sued to do the right thing -- and we hope they lose, lose, lose.

Meanwhile, what's happened to the opt-in bill down in Salem? Don't tell me -- it died in the Senate. But hey, we adopted the Code of the West -- what more do you want?

Tacoma never looked so good

Dennis Kucinich is reportedly shopping for a new place to fake-live in -- kind of like Ron Wyden in Portland. Since he's losing his job to redistricting, he's said to be looking at carpetbagging into Washington State. Hey, what about Portland? If Earl the Pearl runs for mayor, Kucinich would carry on our great tradition of weirdness -- he might even take it to the next level.

Another Wyden Democrat: Ginny Burdick

She kills or waters down one progressive bill after another that comes her way in the Oregon State Senate -- phone book opt-out, ban on driving while on the cell phone... Now she's shilling to cut income taxes on investment income. Perfect for the West Hills fat cats, but what is this Goldschmidt crony doing representing progressive Portland? The Democratic Party poses as being for the little guy, but this kind of stuff makes that a laughable proposition.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just a post before I go

A Vancouver, B.C. blogger times his last entry to come just after his last breath. [Via the O.]

A ballot box worth stuffing

A Southwest Portland playground is entered in a contest that could bring it a $15,000 grant from the Dr. Pepper people for new equipment. If its homemade video places in the top five, as determined by internet voting, it gets the dough. If you'd like to cast a vote for the home team -- you can do it once a day every day through Tuesday -- you should head over here, register, and vote for Capitol Hill Playground.

Landing on her feet

Passed over for the top job at the Portland Development Commission, economic development guru Erin Flynn has left that agency to take a gig as an "associate vice president" at the real estate development firm formerly known as Portland State University. "She is expected to oversee partnerships and efforts between the university and government agencies, school districts and private business." Her annual salary? Wait for it...


Flynn lasted four years at the PDC, having been brought in by the Potter administration. The last time we checked, she was making about $150,000 a year there. During her tenure, there was little meaningful economic development in the City of Portland, despite a lot of planning and strategizing.

Eight new Wal-Marts within Portland city limits?

And nine more elsewhere in the metropolitan region? The city says it wants to eliminate "food deserts," but barring a regime change, it's hard to believe that it will allow anything like that to happen.

Randy gets religion (again)

When he's running for re-election, Admiral Randy is known to grandstand on some principle or other that he's always guilty of violating himself. Remember his media ads when he ran for his first re-election to the City Council? "He stood up to the Pearl District developers," they had the gall to say. This was right around the time he was heading down to Las Vegas to pick up a plaque from some real estate types as their favorite local skid-greaser nationwide. And despite his posturing, since re-election he has invariably given them what they want.

Looking at re-election again next year, now he's asking the sewer bureau where they get the money to buy land to purchase an environmental feel-good zone down by the Sellwood Bridge. Coming from the Fireman, these questions are hysterical. He himself notoriously misspends water customer revenue on anything and everything he darn well pleases -- "green" houses, sign enforcement, Rose Festival facilities, you name it -- but now he's going to be the stickler.

His latest ploy likely serves three purposes: One, it gives the Commish another soundbite for his next raft of campaign ads, which are no doubt already being composed. Second, it deflects criticism of his spendthrift ways with the water bureau -- "See? Everybody does it."

Finally, it could be an attempt to make his fellow commissioner, "Legend" Dan Saltzman, look bad. Saltzman, who's currently mopping up the mess made of the city's environmental services shop, is the odds-on favorite to unseat the incumbent next year in a crowded field of mayoral contenders. The current mayor has trouble differentiating his derriere from Tom Moyer's unfinished office tower construction site, and that leaves the Fireman as the de facto mayor. If Saltzman takes the reins, those days will be over.

But of course, this is Portland -- somebody will buy just about any story line. And so the show must go on.

Bud Clark Commons could be a zoo

Here's a fascinating story about who's going to be moving into lifetime free housing at Portland's new homeless facility down by the Greyhound station. Apparently, the more messed up one is, the better chance he or she has of getting in. Alcoholism and other drug addiction are a plus for admission, as is propensity for fighting and memory impairment.

And the folks running the place are planning to allow boozing. According to the Trib, "Because of the way the tests measure vulnerability, tenants will include people who are trying out recovery living next to those still using drugs and alcohol, and those prone to violence next to longtime assault victims.... McCarley says the commons will be full of intravenous drug users, who generally scored high."

Good luck with that formula, Nick Fish.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lakers in a big hole

For the first time since the '70s, the loathsome Los Angeles Lakers have lost the first two games of a playoff series at home. The Dallas Mavericks, who dispatched the Blazers, now hold a 2-0 lead heading back to Texas for a couple of games, with no one having any answer for Dirk Nowitzki.

The Laker fans at the Staples Center booed their team tonight. Lamar Odom and Phil Jackson appeared to have had some heated words. Ron Artest took a couple of cheap shots, including one at the end of the game that may get him suspended, and certainly fined. If the wheels come all the way off, the final round out west will be Dallas against either Memphis or Oklahoma City. The league executives wouldn't be too pleased with that outcome.

Great Cooper's ghost

One of our early web projects was to assemble photos of famous guys named Jack -- and then guys named Jackie, since as a kid we were called by both names. One of the fellows in the latter group has left the planet, after one of the most enduring show business careers ever. He played both one of the original "Our Gang" kids, and Perry White in "Superman" -- worked with everyone from Wallace Beery to Christopher Reeve. It was not an easy life, but certainly one of accomplishment.

Beaver State falls short

We see that the Oregon legislature is once again passing laws concerning the dangerous practice of using a cell phone while driving. But once again, they're failing to address the real problem.

Pardon our skepticism

But this is more than a little hinky.

Obama seems to be going into full bunker mode now, reminiscent of Nixon. He's also giving the Republicans all the material they need to bounce him from the White House. Fortunately, they don't have a viable candidate, at least not yet.

Don't audit, don't audit so, don't audit so close to me

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown says she's got some ideas for "improving management of faculty workloads" in the state university system. It will be interesting to read the reaction from these folks, who in fact are among those carrying said loads. Outside help on curriculum and course assignments is not usually welcome in the groves of academe, but we'll see.

John Kroger just sent out a press release on FarmVille

Now he's working hard to make sure you don't click on something bad on Facebook.

What next? "Don't buy that oldies album on eBay -- it isn't by the original artists"?

Wish he was half as interested in the Welches con man.

Details breaking on state facilities scandal

Apparently it has to do with a sweetheart consulting contract between the Oregon facilities division and someone who used to be on its payroll as a manager.

Apparently she was not sufficiently well connected to get away with it for more than a couple of years.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What recession? Let's build more apartments with tax dollars.

Looks as though the next "urban renewal" tussle will be over the Blue Heron paper mill in Oregon City. Mixed use! Hotel! Entertainment complex! Access to the falls -- it's for the children!

It will probably wind up being condos with a Walgreen's and a Chipotle.

In other linchpin news, here's a deal that's got to make you chuckle. Multnomah County couldn't decide whether to give away money to Melvin Mark or to Mark Edlen and the Goodmans. Melvin Mark won.

The west end of the Morrison Bridge is going to be an outdoor market, no doubt with lots of bulky, ugly, money-making "built environment" around it. Given that downtown has become a most unattractive place to shop, and that food markets in the downtown core have failed even in good economic times, one wonders what these guys are smoking. It's a beautiful idea, but will it work? The taxpayers are going to find out.

Take a ride around the Fukushima reactors

We were pleasantly surprised last night to see a live video feed being posted of the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima. But just as quickly as it was posted, it was taken down. Of course. When one is dealing with the nuclear power and weapons industries, secrecy and deception are the watchwords.

But today we have a consolation prize -- an unprecedented video of a car ride inside the gates at Fukushima. If you're going to watch it, don't wait too long to do so, because like the live video feed, it will probably disappear soon:

Here is an unofficial translation, found on this site:

The guy visiting the plant is Aoyama Shigeharu from the Nuclear Safety Commission in Japan and he is allowed to enter at this stage, as several other specialists. At first he goes to the emergency control center, at the entrance is the decontamination facility and only specifically authorized staff are allowed to open the doors and allow people in and out.

The people working are mostly the staff of the nuclear power plant (NPP), and range from 20 years old to pensioners, some of which have just decided to volunteer, devoted to end the disaster.

He talks to Mr. Yoshida who is the Tepco chief engineer and as far as I can tell, he is the one running the show from the tech point of view. They walk upstairs in the control room, in this entire building the air is filtered and radiation is blocked fully (no details given). It was initially used for workers to sleep at the beginning of the disaster but because they were too many, they then did another center at the Daini NPP. They have around 600 people working in total. During the night there are approximately 240~250 people working at the control room.

They take him for a tour, initially between #2 and #3. The Tepco employees with him are not allowed to step out of the vehicle, because they will max their radiation exposure limit. He is o.k. to step out as he only stays there for a short time. Also, they are not stopping near #3, because the radiation is obviously too high. They move around #4 and further out where it shows the special resin prepared and sprayed on the ground (is that guy's face uncovered? foo...). They then move to the side facing the sea -- turbines -- showing all the wreck from the massive tsunami (nothing important mentioned that cannot be seen). The place they stop for a little is one of the trenches full of super radioactive water and is covered by massive metal slabs, while they say they are trying to remove it.

The vid moves back to Mr. Yoshida, the chief engineer, where he says 1-2-3 are getting stable and his main concern is #2 because of the large volume of contaminated water that needs to be removed. The water is mainly concentrated from the tsunami that has leaked into the plant and then got contaminated, but the process has already started and they are storing it in special tanks. He makes a strong point that if there is another earthquake followed by a tsunami, that would mean "the end." He says that Tepco is highly bureaucratic and he had to make a serious argument in order to convince them to focus on building a new "wall" to prevent this in case it happens. This process has now been approved and is progressing rapidly. As a chief engineer his abilities are limited to a certain extent, and therefore he would have not been able to do all this without receiving a lot of help from all over Japan, but also people from all over the world, participating in containing the disaster.

The vid moves back in the studio showing Aoyama Shigeharu. He says that specialists are now allowed to enter the site, and this means the situation is relatively stable. Then he just explains where he went and where he walked out of the car on the plant miniature. He could also see inside the buildings, and while looking at the rubble he felt that steel structures were damaged so badly by the tsunami as if they were candies. His impression is clearly that the entire disaster is happening due to human error and bad handling, since the reactor structures were intact after the tsunami.

He points at the emergency control center and emphasizes that people come in and out following very strict instruction to the letter and they make no mistakes. He greatly admires the incredible morale and strength of the people working there, while he says their "eyes look different" than an ordinary person. Also, he admires chief Yoshida, who appears to understand the criticality of the situation very well and is doing everything humanly possible to contain the disaster.

UPDATE, 4:43 p.m.: The live feed is back, although at the moment it is showing only gray -- fog, perhaps. Let's hope it's not smoke.

Another City of Portland computer mess?

A reader identifying himself as Jim Churchill, a retired systems analyst for the City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications, has sent us this troubling report:

On Sunday morning, April 17, 2011 about 3 am, the City Bureau of Emergency Communications (assisted by the Bureau of Technology Services) turned on its new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) computer to process 9-1-1 calls for the city and all public safety agencies in Multnomah County. Also activated was a new Mobile Data System for police, fire, and emergency medical services units.

Here are some links describing the system:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

The previous Northrop Grumman CAD system was very dependable and running almost flawlessly on HP Alpha DS25 hardware, with redundancy in multiple sites. Since the cutover on April 17, the new CAD system has failed at least 4 or 5 times with downtimes ranging from 45 minutes to several hours.

User reaction is mixed. Dispatchers and supervisors at BOEC were forced to learn a completely new system and lost many customized features that had been added over the 17-year life of the previous CAD system. Police officers have been ordered to pull their cars over to run queries because it takes more than one finger push to make a query on a license plate or to look at a dispatch incident. A user-friendly command line system on the previous system has been replaced with a more complex series of push buttons.

Fire users seem to be satisfied with the new system because as soon as they are dispatched, a map of the location is instantly transmitted to the responding units.

The new system cost at least $15 million, including hiring a consultant (IE Solutions) to write an RFP and manage the implementation for a cost of $2 million. The original funding came through council budgeting $4 million per year for three years, but Mayor Adams grabbed the dedicated CAD fund and created another bond to fund this project, which of course will cost taxpayers more over the long run.

The 9-1-1 director, Lisa Turley, ordered the consultant to alter the report to recommend the implementation of a new "off the shelf" CAD system. She deliberately failed to present two viable options to the City Council which would have been considerably cheaper:

#1 Upgrade the existing Northrop Grumman system to the latest HP hardware and keep all the customizations. Cost $500,000. No training involved so overtime costs would have been non-existent. This upgrade path has been done successfully by Lake Oswego, City of Phoenix, Snohomish County, San Mateo County, and other Northrop Grumman customers across North America.

#2 Use the existing CAD system currently in use by Clackamas and Washington Counties, which is managed by the Urban Area Strategic Initiative (UASI). The goal of this group is to promote interoperability with computer dispatch and data systems. The advantage would be that misrouted calls could be entered and sent to the appropriate agency very quickly without transferring the call. Mobile data users and dispatchers would have been able to easily send and receive calls and messages to and from each other.

The cost of adding Multnomah County to the existing Clackamas/Washington CAD would probably have been about $1.5 million. As you can see by the attachment, the city completely ignored the IGA and goal of UASI and as usual "did their own thing."

Recently the BOEC User Board, consisting of representatives from all police, fire and EMS agencies, were told that the cost to maintain the new system will be $2 million per year; $400,000 to the CAD vendor Versaterm for software and $1.6 million to the City Bureau of Technology Services to manage 24-7 support of the new system. When queried about when she knew about the maintenance costs, the BOEC director lied to the User Board and said "recently," when in actuality she had known of the costs for several years.

The User Board unanimously voted to not pay the fees. User agencies pay a fee based on population and were upset they had not received advance notice so the new fees could be added to their respective budgets.

Since the cutover, the system has failed every night at midnight. There are at least 500 mobile terminals (fire, police, and medical) reporting their GPS coordinates to the new CAD system so they can be located easily on a map, or in the case of EMS, recommend the closest unit for dispatch.

The GPS data is apparently being cleared out at midnight, and the process causes the main CAD system to crash. A software fix is being worked on to be transmitted electronically "over the air" to all mobile units, but it is not known when it will be completely repaired.

Voice of rebel on tape says he's not dead

Just a day after official reports that Portland authorities had killed libertarian activist Jim Karlock, an audiotape has surfaced on which a voice purporting to be Karlock proclaims that he is still alive and continuing his war against the city's planning bureaucracy.

On the tape, which a reliable source turned over to this blog early this morning, Karlock says that yesterday's announcement "was just a lame attempt to cover up yet another of the many planner blunders in this city. The planners got themselves so deluded that they thought their paid blog trolls (and developer trolls) had driven me to hole up in a fortified bunker in the perfectly planned Portland showcase shown on the photo I am sending along with this tape."

"The bunker is actually a secret hideout for Metro and Portland officials when the populace finally realizes what the planners are really doing to livability," the reedy voice continues in the rambling statement. "We don’t know if it is currently used for anything, but one witness claims they drug some guy named Beau out of the bunker."

City Hall sources said planning authorities believe that Karlock is actually holed up in a condo in the mountainous debt region of South Waterfront -- a wasteland so vast that no one could ever track him down.

Embarrassed officials in the city planning bureau, who were celebrating Karlock's killing over happy hour yesterday, refused comment today. "We would like to examine the tape to see if it is authentic," said mayoral spokesperson Amy Ruiz. Insiders said that the mayor was preparing a statement apologizing for lying, but noting that he was afraid that people would believe untrue rumors being circulated by people planning to run against him when he is up for re-election next year.

To demonstrate that the tape was produced after the hastily convened mayoral press conference announcing his demise, Karlock read off entries from the final box score of last night's Atlanta Hawks-Chicago Bulls basketball game, in which the Hawks upset the highly favored Bulls. On the scratchy tape, the voice can be heard reading "J.J. dropped 34 on them and now D-Rose has a bad wheel."

The voice on the recording also condemned the recent publication by the city of charrette summaries that the speaker said insulted the economist Adam Smith, and it warned Portlanders of a "severe" reaction to come. Karlock urged his followers to continue to attend City Hall public involvement events and refute what he called falsehoods being preached by the city bureaucracy. "And vote no on the school tax bond measures," he added.

In the wide-ranging diatribe, Karlock also blasted traffic calming devices and transit-oriented development. "And how’s your belief in global warming doing after about ten years of stasis and recent falling temperatures accompanied by record cold winters?" he continued. "Especially after most of the major scientists in the field have gotten caught fudging data or keeping quiet about it?"

The straight skinny on Fukushima fallout

Here's an interview with a nuclear scientist who seems to have a level head on his shoulders. He's not urging panic, but he's not too reassuring either, about airborne radioactive particulates from Japan arriving by air in the United States. He's quite clear about the fact that comparing this kind of radiation exposure to chest X-rays and airplane flights is completely bogus. It's a different type of risk altogether.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Finally, a live video feed from Fukushima

It's been more than seven weeks since the earthquake, tsunami, and resulting blackout destroyed four atomic reactors at Fukushima, Japan, and unleashed a steady stream of radioactive releases to air and water. Unlike Chernobyl, whose large releases were over by seven weeks out, Fukushima is nowhere near through poisoning the air, groundwater, and ocean.

Finally, somebody has set up a live video feed from the meltdown site. At the moment, at least, it's showing the west side of, from left, reactors 1, 2, 3, and 4. Reactor 3, behind the venting tower in the center of the frame, had the most violent of the three explosions at the site; it's been giving off a constant plume of radioactive steam or smoke since it detonated. Reactor 4, on the right, likely has the worst spent nuclear fuel pool problems. Reactor 2, to the left of no. 3, still has most of its containment building intact, but the radiation inside is reportedly the worst of the four. Reactor 1 is on the far left near the other tower holding transmission lines. The turbine buildings and Pacific Ocean are just behind the reactors.

Here's the feed. The time in Japan is 16 hours ahead of ours -- or eight hours earlier, the next day:

Time in bottles

The Oregon legislature seems poised to add more containers to the list of those requiring a return deposit at the point of purchase in Oregon. "It would expand the types of items covered to include just about any glass, metal or plastic beverage container, except for those that hold milk, wine or liquor."

A couple of questions:

1. Why are milk, wine, and liquor still exempt?

2. Are they going to raise the number of containers allowed per return trip from the current 144? Or are they going to require more frequent trips to the store or recycling depot -- which doesn't sound too, y'know, sustainable?

The bill "would also increase the current nickel deposit to a dime if redemption rates fall below 80 percent two years in a row." That part's long overdue.

A renegade is brought to justice

Portland Mayor Sam Adams announced this afternoon that libertarian activist Jim Karlock has been tracked down and killed in a ranch house on the north side of Mount Tabor. The demise of the shadowy Karlock marked the culmination of a manhunt that had dragged on for many years.

"The brave forces of the planning bureau received information a few weeks ago that he was hiding in a garage with all the lights on," Adams explained at a packed press conference. "Our intelligence determined that incandescent bulbs were being used, and none of the recycling bins were being left out for the garbage hauler." Water bureau records indicated that full-flow toilets were in use in the house. Green grass and the odor of Roundup from the front yard confirmed the city's worst suspicions.

Karlock, believed to be 67, was the author of the website portlandfacts.com and one of the most despised figures among the city's 220 planners, having destroyed many expensive propaganda edifices with ruthless attacks of statistics from the last 40 years. He also commented relentlessly on blogs well into the night.

"Our sustainability stakeholders joined us in the raid early this morning," Adams said. "Mr. Karlock was waxing a gas-powered automobile. There was '50s music playing, really loud. He was surrounded, and he resisted. He was shot with solar Tasers and a barrage of chicken bones harvested from recycled food scraps collected in the Buckman neighborhood.

"Today's achievement is a testament to the greatness of our city and the determination of Portland residents. The cause of making our city sustainable is not complete, but today we are once again reminded that Portland can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history. To create and enhance a vibrant city, we combine the disciplines of planning and sustainability to advance Portland’s diverse and distinct neighborhoods, promote a prosperous and low-carbon economy, provide a forum for community engagement and education and help ensure that people and the natural environment are healthy and integrated into the cityscape. Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: Portlandia. The dream of the '90s is more alive than ever."

Although the mayor took no questions at the press conference, spokesperson Amy Ruiz told reporters off the record that after photographs and DNA sampling, Karlock's body had been ground up for worm composting. "It will later be integrated into the cityscape," a senior administration official said.

A few more minutes

They're still setting up for Sam Adams's press conference. Information is being held under wraps, but apparently something major has happened at the planning bureau.

Big news brewing at Portland City Hall

Apparently the mayor's flacks have hastily scheduled a press conference within the next hour, but they're not saying what it's about.

School tax shenanigans in Eugene even worse than Portland

This is bad, but this is criminal. Somebody down there ought to go to a judge and ask to have the whole election thrown out.

Oregonian: "Please don't read our editorials back to us"

Portland's daily newspaper gets into it with the guy who writes most of the nauseating political ads in town.

Portlanders ready to join Japanese nuke cleanup

They'll be rushing to do so once they read about this.

Thick as a brick

A reader writes:

I work downtown and ever since the mall "beautification" and "Euro-styled" toy train tracks were "gifted" upon the citizens of Portland I have seen these crews digging up the "stylish" bricks at intersections. Here is the office floor photo:

So I decided to ask the crew why they rip the bricks up in perpetuity. Crew guy informs me that the traffic load of the buses and trains move the bricks around and that, coupled with our rain, creates the problem and hence, the repairs.

I thanked the guy for the elucidation and went on my way.

As a taxpayer, I am frustrated by this waste. Why put the bricks in, when any planner could see the folly of the design and the ongoing costs associated with it? Oh wait, this is Portlandia!

I am also curious about the firm that receives the contract. Are they related to some city planner, or just lucky?

Go by toy train!!!

And we've got an additional question: What in the world is "Portland Mall Management, Inc."?

Another quake up at Hanford

This one was a 2.0, about 10 minutes ago, here. Not much of a shaker, but given the nuclear nightmare in tanks up that way, no earthquake news is good earthquake news. There was a 3.3 in just about the same place Saturday night.

Why 10:30 on a Sunday night?

The timing of the White House press conference regarding the killing of Osama sure was odd. Some folks are saying it was done to pre-empt Donald Trump's television show. Is there any other plausible reason?

A Jail Duck strikes out

Here's a student athlete in Eugene who will have plenty of time for term papers this fall.

We'll still hate them

The death of Osama bin Laden means that Lamar Odom will see more playing time in the Lakers' series with Dallas, according to Lakers coach Phil Jackson. The series tips off in Los Angeles this evening.

Japan admits hiding radiation data from public

But they'll never do it again.


Wonder what other bad news will be released today, in hopes of it getting lost in the bin Laden shuffle.

Stuck in the middle with you

Except for the fact that it was written by one of Reagan's boys, this makes a lot of sense to us:

It is obvious that the nation’s desperate fiscal condition requires higher taxes on the middle class, not just the richest 2 percent. Likewise, entitlement reform requires means-testing the giant Social Security and Medicare programs, not merely squeezing the far smaller safety net in areas like Medicaid and food stamps.

Unfortunately, in proposing tax increases only for the very rich, President Obama has denied the first of these fiscal truths, while Representative Paul D. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has contradicted the second by putting the entire burden of entitlement reform on the poor. The resulting squabble is not only deepening the fiscal stalemate, but also bringing us dangerously close to class war.

The whole thing is well worth reading, here.

Osama's ghost already on Twitter

"70 virgins left. I need a cigarette and a nap."

I think Jack Ruby was involved

The fun has just begun, folks: Osama was supposedly buried at sea.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

I feel so much safer, cont'd

Osama bin Laden is dead. This decreases the number of dangerous terrorists who want to kill us to 99,999,999.

But it does send an important message to terrorists: Once we target you, your days are numbered. Mess with us, and you'll have only 10 short years, you fiends!

They're chanting "U.S.A." at the Phillies game. God help our sick country -- maybe Hillary will bring his head to Washington on a stick. Take it on the Oprah show.

Apparent suicide mission in Fukushima

Tokyo Electric says they are sending workers into damaged Fukushima reactor no. 1 today for the first time since the March 11 tsunami and ensuing explosion of that plant. The radiation levels in that reactor building are so high that until now, they've only dared to send robots in.

Reactor no. 1 is the one they were trying to cool by flooding the containment vessel. Apparently they can't tell whether the water is getting where they want it to go, and there's no way to find that out without sending humans into the plant. The first workers will install an air scrubber to cut down on the airborne radioactive particles; there will apparently be many more to follow, installing gauges and eventually, supposedly, setting up a heat exchanger and a wastewater treatment system.

Given how farfetched that sounds, one wonders why they are bothering. Are they just trying to look busy? Are they desperate to avoid a much bigger crisis than the one over which they're already presiding?

Another great moment in Libya

America strikes again. Way to go, Earl! Way to go, Wyden! Way to go, Obama! You guys are really coming into your own.

It's just a synonym for "scam"

How can you have "urban renewal" in a rural place that's never been urban to begin with?

Spring is here, I hear

And it's a lovely day for a walk.

Please, any place but there

They had a 3.3 earthquake a few hours ago, right at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in south central Washington. This is one of the worst nuclear waste dumps in the world, if not the worst, and seismic activity is the last thing one would want to see up there.

Clicky Web Analytics