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
At least, that's what I make of Safeway marketing an Oroweat product described as "Jewish rye bread" with a sticker that suggests using it to make sandwiches of ham and cheese. Gastronomically it's a fine idea, but theologically it leaves something to be desired.
As Congress often inadvertently provides comic relief to the public, and comes in for a full meed of satire and derision, it's remarkable to see two conservative Congressional candidates brave enough to advertise their campaigns by doing stand-up political comedy. This unusual event (the promoters say it's the first time ever that candidates have tried to raise funds by being intentionally funny) happens tomorrow evening at Harvey's Comedy Club, under the name of Standup for the Constitution. James Buchal (Republican candidate for the Third District, running against Earl Blumenauer, shown in this video) and Jason Yates (Republican candidate for the First District, running against Suzanne Bonamici). I don't know Rep. Bonamici's sense of humor, but Rep. Blumenauer's ability to be self-deprecatory might give Mr. Buchal some challenges to equal; some years ago when Rep. Blumenauer was on the ballot three times in one year he cheerfully used the slogan "Vote Earl, Vote Often."
I will believe what happens next in videos. I won't know which "Lord of the Rings" or "50 Shades of Grey" character I am. No one will suggest posts to me. I will have to find my own pictures of acrobatic cats. And I'll have to find my own good deals on car insurance.
I recently applied for the TSA's Global Entry program, which for a small fee will allow me to keep my shoes on when I go through airport security. At the end of a short interview with a very pleasant and professional TSA agent at the airport, he told me that I would receive an e-mail in a few minutes with the approval, and in fact I received an approval eight minutes later.
If you enrolled in Global Entry, you may begin using the kiosk immediately. Global Entry cards are only issued to Global Entry members who are U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents or Mexican Nationals (who are not current SENTRI members). Global Entry cards are not valid at the Global Entry kiosks.
I was gratified to learn that I can begin using the kiosk immediately, but bemused to read that Global Entry cards are not valid at the Global Entry kiosks. Where, then, would they be valid, if not with the agency that issues them? I've thought about trying to use mine to ride the streetcar.
Wanting to download Google Earth to my computer, I used Google to find the website. Picking one on the first page, I clicked to obtain the download. As all good sites do, this one asked me to read and click-sign a licensing agreement. Here's a portion of the licensing agreement that Google offered me, obscurantist even by my high standards::
إليهما معًا بالاسم "بنود الخدمة"). تتم الإشارة في هذه الاتفاقية إلى برنامج Google أو أي جزء منه باسم "البرنامج".
1. استخدام البرنامج؛ القيود
استخدام البرنامج. بالنسبة لمستخدم نهائي بمفرده، يتاح البرنامج من أجلك كما يمكن لك استخدامه فقط للاستخدام الشخصي وغير التجاري وفقًا لبنود الخدمة هذه ولوثائق البرنامج. بالنسبة للمستخدمين النهائيين من المؤسسات أو الهيئات الحكومية، يجوز استخدام البرنامج بواسطتك أو بواسطة موظفيك للاستخدام الداخلي وفقًا لبنود الخدمة ووثائق البرنامج هذه (يتم الإشارة إلى المستخدمين النهائيين من الأفراد والمؤسسات والهيئات الحكومية في هذه الوثيقة بالاسم "أنت"). القيود. باستثناء الأمور التي اختصتك Google بترخيص القيام بها، لا يحق لك استخدام هذا البرنامج فيما يتعلق بأية منتجات أو أنظمة أو تطبيقات مثبتة أو متصلة بشكل آخر، أو ترتبط بمركبات تستخدم أو ذات صلة بما يلي:
(أ) التوجيه المتزامن على الطريق (بما في ذلك، على سبيل المثال وليس الحصر، التوجيه التفصيلي على الطريق وعمليات التوجيه الأخرى المُمكّنة من خلال استخدام جهاز استشعار)؛
ب) أية أنظمة أو وظائف للتحكم الآلي أو الذاتي في حركة المركبات؛ أوالسعة أو الموجزات المجمعة للإحداثيات الرقمية لخ
As is our custom, we celebrate Tax Day with a reading, usually drawn from the British lawyer, novelist, and humorist A.P. Herbert, best remembered for his series of Misleading Cases in the Common Law. Today's reading comes from his report of the case of Rex v. Puddle, in which, relying on information from that pertinacious litigant Albert P. Haddock (the author's alter ego), prosecuted a tax collector for blackmail. As Mr. Justice Trout, the judge in Mr. Herbert's story, gives his instructions to the jury, he says:
The prisoner in the dock, a Collector of Taxes for the district of South Hammersmith, stands charged with the odious crime which is commonly described as blackmail. That expression dates from very early times, when it was the custom to pay tribute to men of influence who were allied with certain robbers and brigands for protection from the devastations of the latter. The practice was made illegal by a statute of Queen Elizabeth's time, and ever since it has been classed by our Courts among the most contemptible and dangerous offences. A person, who, knowing the contents, sends or delivers a letter or writing demanding with menaces and without reasonable cause any chattel, money, or other property, commits felony and is liable to penal servitude for life. * * *
Now Mr. Haddock, the prosecutor in this case, received a letter from the prisoner demanding money. The letter was printed in ink of a bright red colour, and that is a circumstance which you may will take into account when you come to consider the intention of the letter and the effect which it may have had upon the mind of the recipient. For red is notoriously the colour of menace, of strife, of bloodshed and danger; and it is worthy of note that the prisoner's previous communications to Mr. Haddock had been printed in a quiet and pacific blue. The letter was as follows:
Previous applications for payment of the taxes due from you * * * having been made to you without effect, DEMAND is now made for payment, and I HEREBY GIVE YOU FINAL NOTICE that if the amount be not paid or remitted to me at the above address within SEVEN DAYS from this date steps will be taken for recovery by DISTRAINT, with costs.
E. Puddle, Collector.
'Collector,' I may observe in passing, was in other centuries a word commonly used to denote a highwayman. But you will not allow that point to influence you unduly. * * *
You will then have to ask yourselves, Was this menacing demand for money made with reasonable cause? You will bear in mind that Mr. Haddock is not a debtor or criminal; he has not taken another's property or done any disgraceful thing. his only offence is that by hard work he has earned a little money; and the suggestion is now made that he shall give away a fifth part of that money to other people. That being his position, you might well expect that he would be approached not with brusquerie but with signal honours, not with printed threats but with illuminated addresses.
[The jury eagerly found the prisoner guilty of blackmail, and he was sentenced to penal servitude for life, and solitary confinement for ten years, the sentences to run consecutively. The Court congratulated Mr. Haddock.]
Tomorrow we will return to our usual jovial support for the social welfare state.
Metro has long advocated development to take a "compact urban form." It's rather unsettling to see the Oregonian adopt that principle by moving to a tabloid form. I've had trouble reading it for the last week, perhaps because I'm old-fashioned (my friends would say "stodgy") enough to expect publications to follow the basic principle that page A7 should always be one page after page A6.
The aftereffects of my celebration of the demise of the Columbia River Crossing took longer to wear off than I expected. I think I'm back to normal now.
Today's paper Oregonian (the story doesn't appear to be online) reports that the Oregon Department of Transportation is running out of money and likely will not be able to undertake new projects or even maintain the existing highways and bridges. The reasons are threefold. First, Oregonians are driving less and using more efficient cars, so gas tax revenues are down. Second, federal grants for state highways will stop when the federal Highway Trust Fund goes dry next year. (Yuxing Zheng of the Oregonian wrote about that on March 28, here.) Third, ODOT is making massive debt service payments of nearly $200 million/year, maxing out at $210 million/year) on the $2.5 billion in bonds it's issued to finance the road and bridge construction projects under the Oregon Transportation Investment Act of 2001 and its successors.
Declining revenues, large debts, no federal funds: what's an agency to do? The public is reluctant to raise taxes to finance even the best highway spending, and residents of low-tax areas of the state, mainly rural, don't like to contribute to funds that they see as mainly spent to help urbanites.
At the same time it must be conceded by all but the most Teaful of the Party that the state gasoline tax is cheaper now, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it's been for years, possibly since our first gasoline tax of 1c/gallon in 1919. From 1967 to 1981 the tax was 7c/gallon, from 1981 to 1984 it was 8c/gallon, increases in 1984, 1985, and 1986 brought it to 11c/gallon. From 1993 to 2011 it was 24c/gallon. In 2011 it was raised to 30c/gallon, where it is today, standing at about 9% of the pretax retail price of gasoline. In 2004 Oregon's tax of 24c was about 19% of the pretax retail price (24c out of $1.35 or so). In 1972 the 7c tax was nearly 30% of the pretax price of 25c/gallon. (The state and federal taxes brought the retail price of branded gasoline to 36c/gallon then.)
Herewith, therefore, the Laquedem Pay to Pave Gas Tax Plan. Let us vote on raising the gasoline tax to 40c/gallon, with the extra 10c devoted 95% to road and bridge maintenance (no new projects) and 5% to what the planner-types call "active transportation": bike paths, sidewalks, wheelchair ramps, and other aids to unpowered mobility (no light rail). The first Laquedem catch is that we'll tally the vote county by county, and impose the tax only in those counties that approve the measure. If you and your neighbors don't want to pay the tax to maintain your state highways, you don't have to pay it.
"Why would anyone vote for it?" you ask. That's the second Laquedem catch: ODOT will be authorized to spend the money only in those counties that approve the tax. If, for example, Curry County rejects the tax, then ODOT may not spend any money from the fund in Curry County. People who are willing to pay for paved highways can have them; people who don't want to pay for paved roads can enjoy their potholes while they salute Ayn Rand.
Not quite 50 years ago, but close: it was in 1968 or so that Portland psychiatrist H. Clagett Harding, known to his friends as Larry, taught his dachshund to ski. Dr. Harding and his family lived off NW Cumberland, and no snowy winter in Portland was complete with a photograph in the Oregonian of Dr. Harding and Schmalz skiing down a city street in the Northwest hills.
It occurred to me that the Zoobombers might be able to go in for winter sports: it's a bit of a hike from the TriMet Zoo station up to Fairview Boulevard, but then there's a nice downhill with a few challenging turns. Ski MAX? It would be a very Portlandia way to market mass transit.