Occasional comments about business and politics in Portland, Oregon, mixed in with stories from our city's colorful if not always compliant past.
"The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly." -- Touchstone
When Washington voters last month legalized the recreational use of marijuana, I can't have been the only one struck by the delightful irony that they did so seven years after they voted to make many public places, and some private homes, smoke-free.
Japanese authorities believed Sogen Kato, 111, to be Tokyo's oldest man. When they went to his family home to check on him, they saw his daughter and son-in-law (a couple in their 80s) and their two fiftyish children. Mr. Kato himself had no comment; what was left of him was lying on his bed, where he had apparently died some 30 years ago. "Grandpa," one of his grandchildren said, "was a very scary man."
I don't understand the nanny state. Amtrak's Coast Starlight route has a lounge car, called the Pacific Parlour Car, for passengers who book sleeper service. It hosts a wine tasting in the afternoon, and according to the information on the train, children aren't permitted in the lounge car during the wine tasting. On a recent trip, Amtrak's personnel (uniformly friendly) welcomed the Laquedemitasse to the wine tasting, and plied him with extra cheese and non-alcoholic apple cider, despite the rules. On the other hand, he wasn't allowed to buy potato chips at the snack bar without parental supervision.
Do you recall Portland's experiment with placing yellow bicycles around town, available for anyone to ride free from place to place? They didn't last very long.
The New York Timesreports that an entrepreneur tried a similar idea in Paris, placing rental bicycles around town, available for one euro (about $1.40) per half-hour, in exchange for being permitted to erect billboards and rent them out. The Parisians aren't treating their bicycles much better than we treated ours. Vandals have bent and broken some. Others get fished out of the Seine, and a few have been found on ships bound for North Africa. Our old yellow bicycles led more humdrum lives, but they were also a lot less expensive than the Parisian versions.
Back on June 22, I wrote that if I had pleaded guilty to a mail fraud in a case that cost investors $355 million, I'd be embarrassed to have the Wall Street Journal report that my family spent $2000 to buy a dog. I'd be even more embarrassed if it were reported (as the Oregonian did on Saturday) that although we could spend $2000 to buy a dog with a pedigree, we were now 10 months behind on our mortgage payments for our house in Green Hills. Admittedly, those mortgage payments are $33,000 a month, so the dog (a purebred something-fancy-or-other) cost only about two days' worth of that family's mortgage payments. The one pet I have was free, a gift from Youngest Sister, but then my mortgage payments aren't anywhere near $33,000 a month either, and I'm current.
If I had pleaded guilty to mail fraud in a case that cost investors $355 million, and spent two years in a federal prison because of it, I'd be reluctant to have the Wall Street Journal print on its front page last Saturday that the family dog cost $2000.
The justice system will eventually come to a conclusion about the tragedy in Silverton last week, in which a police officer shot and killed a young man who had beaten on the wrong door. Others have commented on whether the officer was justified. The thought that struck me, as I read the story, was that 20 years ago it might have been a story about a police officer named Hanlon who shot an illegal alien named Gonzalez; but last week the story was of a police officer named Gonzalez who shot an illegal alien named Hanlon.
Shaquanda Cotton, the 15-year-old girl from Paris, Texas who was serving an indeterminate sentence of up to 7 years for shoving a hall monitor at school, was released this weekend by the Texas Youth Commission after spending a year behind bars for the offense. The Chicago Tribune, which brought her story to national attention, reports her release here in a story by its reporter Howard Witt. My previous post about her case is here.
The Tribune story notes the curious fact that the Texas Youth Commission, the agency which runs the state's juvenile justice and detention system, is itself being run by a specially-appointed conservator because of allegations that prison officials coerced incarcerated children into having sex. It also notes that prison officials extended her sentence because they found contraband in her cell -- an extra pair of socks. Meanwhile, the federal Department of Education is looking into charges that the Paris school district imposes harsher discipline on blacks than on whites.
The TYC's conservator, Jay Kimbrough, is apparently a man of action: the Texas senate confirmed his appointment on Thursday, reviewed her case Friday morning, and ordered her released Friday afternoon. Hurrah!
The case of the two McMinnville schoolboys who are facing juvenile charges for slapping the rears of their female classmates has sparked a fair amount of discussion. Some think that the school, not the court, should be handling the matter; others think that the serious adult response is the right one.
It's instructive to compare McMinnville's decision with a recent case in Paris, Texas, in which a 14-year-old girl was accused of shoving a hall monitor when she wanted to get into the school building before the school day started. Although the good people of Paris were known for being soft on crime outside the schoolhouse -- a man convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the deaths of two persons got probation, and a 14-year-old who burnt down the family home also got probation -- the same Lamar County judge, Chuck Superville, who handed down those two sentences of probation gave the 14-year-old who shoved the hall monitor 7 years in prison. She'll be locked up until she's 21.
Why do the arsonist and the killer get probation while the hall monitor shover gets 7 years in prison? Oh -- I forgot to mention that the arsonist and the killer are white (the killer's victims were black), and the shover (whose name is Shaquanda Cotton) is black. But that couldn't have had anything to do with Judge Superville's decision in these three cases, could it? Of course not -- not even in Texas.
Last month I mentioned that an exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry referred to white scientists and inventors by their full names or their last names, and a nearby exhibit in the same room referred to black scientists and inventors by their first names. For example, after the first reference, Albert Einstein was called "Einstein" and George Washington Carver was called "George." You can check it out in the Physics Hall, just off the Turbine Room.
This week I noticed an exhibit in the Turbine Room itself that described progress toward computers and programming, mentioning the accomplishments of Charles Babbage and his good friend Ada Byron, who after her marriage became Lady Lovelace. After first reference, the exhibit referred to Charles Babbage as "Babbage," and to Ada Byron as "Ada." It's time for OMSI to find some Liquid Paper correction fluid and bring these exhibits up to date, perhaps adding Bette Nesmith Graham to the list.