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Friday, July 31, 2009

Look Out, the Socialists Are Comin' to Kill Granny!

It looks harmless enough: Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon has stuck an amendment into the health care reform bill that would let Medicare reimburse doctors

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 12:20 PM

It looks harmless enough: Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon has stuck an amendment into the health care reform bill that would let Medicare reimburse doctors for giving patients counseling about end-of-life care.


To hear Republicans in Congress tell it, though, the Blumenauer amendment means the black helicopters will soon be swooping down on the lawn to carry Granny off to the crematorium.

As quoted by Media Matters for America, Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the House minority leader (not to mention three-time winner of the Mr. Hawaiian Tropic title), warned that the Blumenauer amendment "may place seniors in situations where they feel pressured to sign end of life directives they would not otherwise sign. This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law. ...

"With three states having legalized physician-assisted suicide, this provision could create a slippery slope for a more permissive environment for euthanasia, mercy-killing and physician-assisted suicide because it does not clearly exclude counseling about the supposed benefits of killing oneself."

On the Huffington Post site Blumenauer has compiled an amusing collection of other Republican loony-toon comments about his amendment, including a claim by Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina that it would "put seniors in the position of being put to death by their government!"

In contrast to these horrific GOP visions, "In fact, [Blumenauer's] bill is written to allow senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor who will provide them with any information they might need - regarding will preparation, medical power of attorney, and, yes, end of life decisions. These counseling sessions are not mandatory, they are simply made available to those who wish to use the service because they are unable to receive the information from another source," Media Matters explains.

Incidentally, as reported by Willamette Week, those disciples of death, the American Medical Association and the Oregon Medical Association, both support the Blumenauer amendment.

Of course, John Boehner (appearances to the contrary notwithstanding) is not a complete idiot (we reserve comment about Ms. Foxx) and he knows quite well that the Blumenauer amendment is not going to lead America down treacherous paths and slippery slopes to the Fourth Reich.

So why are he and other Republicans acting like their heads are about to explode? It's obvious, isn't it? Get Americans to oppose health care reform by confusing and frightening them - even it takes a string of bare-assed lies to accomplish it.

Fifty-five years ago, disgusted with the tactics of Joseph McCarthy, Army Counsel Joseph N. Welch famously asked the Wisconsin senator: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

There seems no point in asking John Boehner the same question today. The answer already is clear.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Been Down So Long That Flat Looks Like Up to Us

Happy days are here again! Well, perhaps not "here," but somewhere. Maybe.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 1:04 PM

Happy days are here again! Well, perhaps not "here," but somewhere. Maybe.


The lead story of this morning's New York Times trumpeted the news that the Case-Shiller Index of home prices has stopped falling for the first time in three years. The composite index of prices in 20 major urban areas showed an uptick in eight cities. Overall, the index showed prices nationally were flat.

"We've found the bottom," proclaimed Mark Fleming, chief economist for First American CoreLogic, a data firm.

Many places, though, appear to be still groping for the bottom. The cities where the boom was biggest, such as Las Vegas and Phoenix, continue to show declining home prices.

Another one of them was Portland, where home prices fell 16.3% in May, according to Case-Shiller. That's the 17th consecutive record monthly decline, and the biggest monthly decline for Portland in the 22-year history of the index.

If the picture is grim in Portland, the one in Bend is downright scary. We don't have Case-Shiller data for Bend, but the Central Oregon Realtors Association has just released its numbers for the second quarter of 2009. According to the Portland Housing Blog, Bend's average sale price for the second quarter of 2009 was $253,400, down 32% from the same quarter in 2008. Since the market's peak in the third quarter of 2007, Bend home prices have plunged 43%.

Are our toes touching bottom yet? The Eye says no. There's still a huge backlog of unsold homes built on spec back in the zany bubble days, especially at the higher end of the market.

We're also a little skeptical that the national "rebound" indicated by the Case-Shiller data represents more than a dead cat bounce. Some experts are saying that what's driving the rebound isn't ordinary folks buying homes, but investors (i.e. vultures) snapping up foreclosures and bank-owned properties in hope of turning them over for a quick profit.

"Brad Hunter, chief economist for Metrostudy, a research firm, said the new home numbers appeared to illustrate less a return of [ordinary] buyers [and] more a resurgence of investors and speculators," The Times wrote. "Metrostudy's own data showed that the number of buyers during the second quarter who actually moved into their new house declined 2.6 percent.

"'Investors are turning right around and putting the houses on the market for sale or for rent,' Mr. Hunter said. 'What appears to have been an absorption of excess inventory can be just a changing of ownership of that inventory.'"

In other words, instead of a rerun of "Happy Days," we could be watching a rerun of "Flip That House."

What troubles us most about the situation both nationally and locally, though, is this question: Where the hell are people going to get money to buy houses? They've seen the equity in their previous homes (if they had any) vaporize, their other investments have gone belly-up, and many of them have lost their jobs or fear they soon will. It takes money to fuel a home-buying boom, and we just can't see where it's going to come from.

Looks like we're going to be treading water in the local real estate pool for quite a while yet.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kill the OLCC, Governor. Kill It Now.

As you approach the end of your final term in office, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, I would like to urge you to take an action that

Posted By on Sat, Jul 25, 2009 at 11:58 AM

As you approach the end of your final term in office, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, I would like to urge you to take an action that will make future generations bless your memory and secure your legacy as one of the great governors of Oregon history:


Fire the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Fire the whole damn agency. Fire every single one of 'em, from the commissioners themselves down to the guys who clean the lavatories. And replace them with people who, collectively, have an IQ approaching triple digits.

What brought on this tirade was an experience at a popular local restaurant yesterday evening. (I won't name it, but I can mention that it's in the Old Mill District.) My wife and I had just sat down and ordered a couple of cocktails from the friendly server - she a martini, me a gin and tonic.

The drinks arrived and the server asked us if we'd like a few minutes to look over the menu. Shortly he returned and we placed our orders. I told him I would like a glass of Syrah to go with my entree.

"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't serve you two drinks at a time," he said. "It's an OLCC rule."

My initial reaction was an increase in blood pressure to approximately 380 over 250. My next reaction was to say, rather loudly, "What???" I might have added a couple of words after "What???" for emphasis.

"I'm sorry, sir, but those are the rules," he continued. "As long as you have the gin and tonic on the table, I can't bring you the wine."

Okay, I was thinking at this point, the kid is young and probably confused. Maybe he came here recently from another state. Maybe he doesn't really know the rules. I'll check with the manager.

The manager, appearing slightly annoyed, confirmed that such was, indeed, the OLCC rule. "If that's the rule, it's a goddamned idiotic one," I gently remonstrated.

"That may be, sir, but it's the rule and we have to follow it."

Now, I have been eating and drinking in Oregon restaurants for almost 25 years and nobody, in Bend or anywhere else, has ever mentioned this insane rule, much less enforced it. You go into a place, you sit down, you order a drink to enjoy while you engage in a little conversation and peruse the menu, you order dinner and some wine, the dinner and wine arrive while what's left of the cocktail is still on the table, you eat your dinner and drink your wine and, maybe, finish the cocktail.

This does not result in any Bacchanalian orgies, people stripping naked and copulating on the tables, vomiting all over the floor and urinating in the potted plants. At least not in the places where I generally hang out.

One of the many oddities of this policy is that I could, theoretically, have as many drinks as I want as long as I had them one at a time. My wife and I could have had a magnum of champagne brought to our table and drunk it all by ourselves - the equivalent of two full bottles of wine, or about six drinks apiece - and the OLCC would be cool with that. But a G&T and a glass of wine on the table at the same time? Horrors!

The Wandering Eye has written before about the imbecilic policies of the OLCC, a Prohibition relic that evidently exists for the sole purpose of writing dumb-ass rules and enforcing them, and has called for reform of the agency.

But after last night, I have decided the OLCC is too far gone for reform. It is terminally stupid. It must be razed and rebuilt from the ground up. It must be extirpated. It must be destroyed, root and branch.

Governor Kulongoski, fire up your chainsaw.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Killing Kids for Jesus

When Ava Worthington was born, she was an apparently healthy, good-sized baby girl, weighing 10 pounds - putting her in the top 95% of weight

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 11:01 AM

When Ava Worthington was born, she was an apparently healthy, good-sized baby girl, weighing 10 pounds - putting her in the top 95% of weight for newborns. When she died 15 months later, she weighed only 16 pounds - in the bottom 5% for children her age.


If Ava Worthington had not had the misfortune to be the child of two members of a bizarre religious cult called the "Followers of Christ," she very likely would be alive today. Instead, she died of a series of treatable illnesses over the course of a year while her parents refused to get medical care for her, instead relying on prayer, laying on of hands, dabbing her with olive oil, giving her sips of wine and similar mumbo-jumbo.

Dr. Dan Leonhardt, a pediatrician who testified for the prosecution, said Ava Worthington developed a cyst on her neck at the age of three months that interfered with her breathing and set her up for the other health problems, including pneumonia, that eventually killed her. Her parents got her no treatment for the cyst or any of her other medical problems.

Dr. Leonhardt also testified that Ava could have been saved at almost any point during her ordeal, even after she stopped breathing on March 2, 2008. Her parents didn't call 911. They didn't administer CPR. Instead they kept praying and dribbling the olive oil.

Ava Worthington's parents, Raylene and Carl Worthington, were the first to be prosecuted under an Oregon law that covers such cases - a law that the legislature was inspired to pass after it came to light that an unusual number of children of the Followers of Christ appeared to be dying.

According to a report in Time magazine in 1998, those deaths might be only a small fraction of the national toll. A study in the professional journal Pediatrics, Time reported, "documented 140 child deaths 'from religion-motivated medical neglect' between 1975 and 1995, attributed to 23 religious denominations in 34 states." The co-author of the study, Texas pediatrician Seth Asser, said he believed hundreds of other such fatalities go unreported. "This is Jonestown in slow motion," he said.

What happened to Ava Worthington was a crime. What happened in the courtroom yesterday was also a crime. Instead of getting convicted of manslaughter, Carl Worthington was found guilty of criminal mistreatment - a misdemeanor punishable by only a year in jail. His wife was acquitted.

Judging by some of the quotes reported in The Oregonian, the jurors in the case appear to have been almost as idiotic as the defendants. Even after Ava stopped breathing on a Sunday, jury president Ashlee Santos seemed to think there was no particular urgency in getting medical care: "It might be that a reasonable person might wait until Monday to take their kid to the doctor."

How atrocities like the death of Ava Worthington can not only happen but go virtually unpunished in a supposedly civilized country is mind-blowing. If you had a sick dog or horse and you refused to give it any medical care you'd probably be hauled up on animal cruelty or neglect charges. Do the same thing to a child in the name of religion, though, and the law lets you skate.

Defenders of the Worthingtons and their fellow cultists like to paint this case as an issue of religious freedom. But this isn't about religious freedom. It's about child abuse, period. Children are not property, and religious beliefs don't give parents the right to subject them to pain and death.

It's curious how our peculiar American style of religious bigotry plays into this case too. If there was a bunch of nut cases calling themselves the "Followers of the Great God Juba-Juba" and they attempted to heal their sick children by having shamans rattle chicken bones over them, you can bet your ass some of them would end up in the state pen. But because the wackos in Oregon City do their thing in the name of "Christ," we cut them more slack.

Meanwhile, the Clackamas County DA isn't through with the Followers of Christ yet. Raylene Worthington's parents, Jeff and Marci Beagley, face a charge of criminally negligent homicide for letting 16-year-old Neil Beagley die last June of an untreated urinary tract blockage.

The other bright note is that, according to news reports, the Followers of Christ are no longer accepting any new members, which means that in time this disgusting cult probably will die out. Unfortunately it's impossible to predict how many children will suffer and die needlessly before it does.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

A New Move in Bend's Medical Turf War

Judging from the tone of the front-page story in yesterday's Bulletin, you'd assume St. Charles and local physicians have come up with the magic cure

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 12:15 PM

Judging from the tone of the front-page story in yesterday's Bulletin, you'd assume St. Charles and local physicians have come up with the magic cure for what ails our local health care system.


The doctors and St. Chuck's have joined forces "to adopt a shared vision for improving health care in Central Oregon," the story reads. "The group of physicians, known informally as the Physician Alliance, and the board of directors of Cascade Healthcare Community, the parent company of St. Charles hospitals, have committed to working together to create an integrated health care delivery system that would enhance care, reduce costs and improve the health of the community."

Reading between the lines of this syrupy rhetoric, it's easy to see what's really going on here: St. Charles has made a shrewd strategic move in its ongoing war against Bend Memorial Clinic.

"I think our community is sick and tired of the rancor in the medical community that has been so evident," said Dr. Michel Boileau, a leader in organizing the physicians' group.

"Rancor" is a bit of an understatement; BMC and St. Charles have been going at each other like the Crips and Bloods for years, battling over the medical turf of Central Oregon. The results have not been healthy for the innocent bystanders (patients) -duplication of services, lack of cooperation and communication among doctors and facilities, unnecessary and expensive and sometimes redundant testing.

With its latest move, St. Charles has thrown down the gauntlet to BMC's doctors: Either join in our effort or look like you're against better medical care.

"We have a chance to build something new here, and all physicians who agree with the philosophy are invited to join," Boileau said.

Mike Bonetto, a spokesman for Cascade Healthcare Community, was considerably more blunt:

"What we've put out there is mom and apple pie. If you're not aligned, you're going to have to explain why. You're going to have to defend that decision to your patients."

It will be nice if this initiative succeeds in ending the regional medical turf war. But in the long run we think it's going to fail, because it doesn't address the root problem: our profit-based, competition-driven medical care model.

Under that model, doctors are, in effect, piece-workers; they get paid for each patient they see or procedure they do, rather than being on a salary (unless they work at the Mayo Clinic or a few other unusual establishments). So their financial incentive is to shuttle patients in and out of the office door as fast as possible.

Because the present model puts hospitals and clinics in competition with each other, each competitor feels it has to have the same high-tech gizmos its rivals have. If one of them has a CT scanner, the others have to get CT scanners too or risk losing business to the competition. If one has an MRI machine, they all have to have an MRI machine.

Since that hardware is too expensive to just sit there, doctors have to make sure it gets used - the more often the better. And as a further motive to make sure it gets used, the doctors themselves often are part-owners of the facilities that do the CT scans and MRIs.

The "free marketplace" model of competition and profit maximization supposedly is what made America great, and in many ways it has. But in the area of medical care, that model has failed totally. Whether America's political leaders have the imagination, or the balls, to replace it with something that makes more sense remains to be seen.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Overcome by the Muse (and the Scotch) in Bend

While sadly pondering Bend's economic troubles yesterday, as I often do, I hit upon an inspiration: What this town needs is a poet laureate.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 4:23 PM

While sadly pondering Bend's economic troubles yesterday, as I often do, I hit upon an inspiration: What this town needs is a poet laureate.


The immediate source of the idea was a poem by William McGonagall that had been e-mailed to me. Some years ago I discovered the work of McGonagall, a Scot of the Victorian era who in his lifetime was widely considered The Worst Poet on Earth and is a leading contender for the title of Worst Poet of All Time. I was so impressed by McGonagall's remarkable abilities that I subscribed to a website that sends me one of his gems every week.

McGonagall lived near the city of Perth and wrote many odes in praise of it, such as the following, from last week's e-mail:

Of all the cities in Scotland, beautiful Perth for me, For it is the most elegant city that ever I did see, With its beautiful woodland scenery along the river Tay, Which would make the tourist's heart feel gay, While fishing for trout on a fine summer day.

There, the angler, if he likes to resort For a few day's fishing, can have excellent sport, And while he is fishing during the day, He will feel delighted with the scenery along the river Tay.

And the fish he catches will drive dull care away, And his toil will be rewarded for the fatigues of the day.

There's much more, but I think you get the general feel of it.

Now, over the years Bend has hired many talented advertising copy writers to persuade the world that our city is indeed a paradise for either the visitor (or "tourist," as McGonagall called him in his archaic language) or the would-be resident. But none of them, in my opinion, has been truly touched by the muse; none had what I'd consider anything even close to the real McGonagall flair.

So I thought maybe I'd have a go at it. After knocking back seven or eight shots of Scotch to get the poetic juices flowing, as it were, I churned out this:

Ah, fair city of Bend, wherethrough runs the sparkling river of Deschutes, and where the realtors and developers with the politicians are in cahoots, and the rainbow-hued trout they do sport and play, and also the sleek cougars may be seen at the end of each day, as they prowl the local bars in search of their prey!

Ah, fair city of Bend, situated on the verdant banks of the Deschutes, where often the fisherman does wade after putting on his hip boots, while the real estate scam artist in his elegant Mercedes Benz reclines, chatting on his cell phone to the next victim whom he shall rob blind!

Okay, it needs a little polishing, but I think it kind of captures the essence of Bend, don't you? So if City Hall can find a pittance in its budget to hire a poet laureate, I'm willing to work cheap. A pint of Scotch a day should cover it.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Those "Disturbing" Kids Downtown

Remember how a few months ago our downtown merchants were in a dither about the horrible panhandler problem? That worry seems to have faded, but

Posted By on Sat, Jul 18, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Remember how a few months ago our downtown merchants were in a dither about the horrible panhandler problem? That worry seems to have faded, but now they've got a new one: young people creating a "disturbance."


Chuck Arnold of the Downtown Bend Business Association and several downtown merchants and landlords spoke about this ominous menace at Wednesday night's city council meeting.

It wasn't exactly clear what they wanted the city to do. One idea was to leave a cop car (sans cop) parked downtown. Another was to move all the city's street corner vendors into the Mirror Pond Plaza, which (I guess) supposedly would have the effect of driving those "disturbing" young people away from that area.

It wasn't exactly clear, either, what the young people are doing that's so disturbing - other than just existing. There weren't any reports of criminal activities. Apparently nobody has been mugged or raped or stabbed. There wasn't even any mention of vandalism or graffiti.

(This morning's Bulletin, however, did make mention of Arnold walking through the downtown streets early in the morning checking for graffiti, picking up litter and setting "knocked-over flower pots right-side up." Yep, sounds like a real crime wave we got goin' here.)

Okay, some young people can be obnoxious. So can some middle-aged and old people, as far as that goes. But somehow it's always the young folks who take the rap for causing the "disturbance."

Why? Our guess is that old people simply find something ... well, disturbing about young people. They dress different. They talk different. They have tattoos and rings through their noses. Their hair may be weird colors. Their personal grooming habits (in the eyes of their parents' and grandparents' generations) leave something to be desired.

And so when some old folks encounter young people, they can sometimes feel frightened. (I've been frightened by old folks sometimes myself, especially when they're driving - but that's another story.) The young people aren't necessarily doing anything scary; they're just ... being young people.

So if the city wants to move the vendors into the Plaza, that's cool - it can't hurt, and it might be fun. But I hope this isn't the beginning of a campaign to hassle young people and anybody else whose appearance, manner, or general presence might be deemed "disturbing" to the worthy burghers of Bend.

And for the kids, here's a friendly word of advice from a sympathetic old fart: I don't find the f-word particularly disturbing, but a lot of other people do - so if you don't want to be harassed, try not harassing the other people downtown by saying "f---" or "f---ing" or "f---ed" or "f---er" five times in the course of every 10-word sentence.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shocker: Eckman Votes Against the GOBs!

Kathie Eckman might have jeopardized her standing in the Bend Good Old Boys and Girls Club yesterday: She cast the deciding vote to repeal the

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2009 at 1:52 PM

Kathie Eckman might have jeopardized her standing in the Bend Good Old Boys and Girls Club yesterday: She cast the deciding vote to repeal the meal exemption from the city's room tax.


Until a few weeks ago only a few hotel operators apparently knew about, and took advantage of, the exemption. It lets hotel owners deduct $10 per room when calculating the amount of room tax they owe the city if they provide a complimentary breakfast for guests.

Supporters of the loophole, such as Riverhouse owner Wayne Purcell, argued that the exemption gives them an important competitive advantage in attracting guests. But as a couple of city councilors pointed out last night, the guests often weren't getting the benefit of the exemption: Hotel owners were charging them the full tax and pocketing the exemption for themselves. Although it amounted to only about 90 cents per room per night, when you multiply that by several hundred rooms and 365 nights, it adds up.

The exemption "makes absolutely no sense, never did and still doesn't," Councilor Jim Clinton grumbled. "It's a loophole for questionable accounting" by hotel owners.

Councilors Tom Greene, Jeff Eager and Oran Teater - whose membership in the GOB&GC has never been in doubt - wanted to keep the exemption for at least another two years to see if the economy improves. Greene conceded that the exemption "probably shouldn't have been put in there then" when it was written into the law six years ago, but that eliminating it now would be "drastic" and make Bend hotels less competitive with those in the county, which has a slightly lower room tax rate and also gives a "food and activities" deduction.

The stunner came when Mayor Eckman, who had been expected to provide the fourth vote to keep the exemption in place, went in the other direction. She said she doesn't believe room tax rates really are much of a factor when people decide what hotel to book, and that if there are discrepancies between the county and city tax structures they should be dealt with on their own.

The final tally: Councilors Clinton, Jody Barram, Mark Capell and Eckman voted to eliminate the exemption, with Teater, Greene and Eager voting to keep it.

Which just goes to show, I guess, that Bend politics isn't quite as predictable as we thought. Although if this vote had been about a land use or development issue instead of a relatively trivial tax matter, this post might have had a different slant.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kroger Takes a Stand Against Pot, Moderately

Once upon a time - 36 years ago, to be exact, when Gov. Tom McCall signed a bill making Oregon the first state to decriminalize

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Once upon a time - 36 years ago, to be exact, when Gov. Tom McCall signed a bill making Oregon the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot - our state was a forerunner in the fight for sensible marijuana policies. Since then we've fallen behind, but we may have a chance to play catch-up next year.


As reported in Willamette Week, a group of pot activists is hoping to put an initiative called the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act on the ballot in 2010. If it passes, the act will create something called the Oregon Cannabis Control Commission, which would sell grass to buyers 21 and over. Ninety percent of the profits would go to the state's general fund and 10% would be earmarked for drug treatment. Supporters say the act could generate upwards of $200 million a year.

"Activists last put a legalization measure on the ballot in 1986," Willy Week writes. "It got just 26 percent support. But after decades fighting to legalize pot in Oregon, they believe the public has come around. National polls consistently track more than 40 percent support for legalization, and recent Oregon polls have shown the same."

Willamette Week took the trouble to interview some prominent Oregon politicians about pot legalization, and got some surprising responses.

One came from state Rep. Jeff Barker, who as "an ex-Portland cop and a recovering alcoholic [and] a 65-year-old conservative Democrat who represents suburban Aloha" is one of the last people you'd expect to back legalization. But he says he'd have no problem with it. "I don't mind spending money to lock up violent people, but marijuana just ain't even close," he said.

Less surprising was the reply of state Attorney General John Kroger, who according to WW is "firmly" against legalization. If marijuana becomes legal, he predicted, "It's going to be everywhere, literally. You're going to have people dropping by Whole Foods to buy the really expensive organic stuff."

To which The Eye's immediate response is: "So?"

In an interview with Source reporters and editors yesterday, Kroger reiterated his stand against legalization - but he didn't sound quite as adamant as he did in the Willamette Week story.

Kroger drew a sharp line between pot and truly destructive drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, saying he's "less passionate" about cracking down on the former. "It's just a different animal," he said.

While emphasizing again that he'd prefer not to see Oregon awash in pungent pot smoke, he remarked that if the legalization initiative passes "we'll live with it," even adding: "I think you can make a serious argument for [legalizing] marijuana."

Obviously, unless the social and political climate in Oregon changes drastically in the next year or so, it would be political suicide for any attorney general to support legalization of marijuana. But there's a big difference between an AG expressing mild opposition and one who mounts a full-bore campaign against it. And the impression we get is that Kroger is not prepared to go to the mattresses on this one.

Which, after all, makes sense, and John Kroger is nothing if not a sensible man. He sees as well as anybody - in fact, probably better than most - the colossal waste of time, effort and money involved in investigating, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people for possessing a substance that's far more benign than tobacco or booze, much less heroin, coke or meth.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Eyeing the Bend Summer Tourism Season

The Eye wandered downtown yesterday to take in the Bend Summer Festival. There was a huge crowd - of exhibitors, that is, who seemed to

Posted By on Sun, Jul 12, 2009 at 2:02 PM

The Eye wandered downtown yesterday to take in the Bend Summer Festival. There was a huge crowd - of exhibitors, that is, who seemed to outnumber the festival-goers.


I don't have the official numbers yet but attendance at this year's event seemed to be the thinnest I've seen in years, in spite of perfect weather and lots of attractions, including a wide variety of musical entertainment.

If our eyeball estimate was right, it doesn't bode well for a successful summer tourism season. The local visitor industry, hurting after a pitiful winter season, was hoping to play catch-up once the warm weather arrived.

Veteran downtown businessman Duncan McGeary has written repeatedly on his blog that more people seem to be walking into his shop this year, but they're not buying as much. Writing today about his Summer Festival experience, he says: "I got about 156 people in the door, less than the 200 I estimated. It may have been more, though, because it was too busy to keep an accurate count. Didn't seem very busy outside to me, but really, I couldn't tell from the small space I can scan."

McGeary also has been saying all year that he sees a lot more empty parking spaces downtown than he used to. My own experience doesn't bear this out; it seems I always have to drive around the block three or four times before I score a downtown parking space. But Dunc has more savvy about such matters, so I'll yield to his judgment.

The area that seems to be hurting more than downtown is the Old Mill District. I can find a parking space almost anyplace I want there at any time of day. A couple years ago I'd often have to park on the upper terrace (where the office buildings are) and walk down to the shops.

Taking a wild guess here, I'd say that Bend in the bubble years built a lot more retail than there was any solid demand for. Locals never had enough money to sustain all those shops, even during the boom, but tourist dollars kept them afloat. And now the locals are broke, the tourists have stopped coming in such numbers, and those who do come don't have as much to spend.

Prediction: There's going to be a big shakeout, and downtown is going to fare better than the Old Mill District or other newer shopping centers like the Forum or Cascade Village. The reason: its pedestrian-friendly scale and feel.

Downtown provides a pleasant strolling-and-browsing experience. There are lots of stores and restaurants and coffee shops packed close together; you can walk a block and visit six of them. The Old Mill Shops try to offer a similar experience but don't quite make it; the stores are too big and too spread-out. The Forum and Cascade Village don't even come close; they're basically old-fashioned enclosed malls with the roof taken off.

Another problem: The Old Mill seems to contain nothing but women's clothing stores. Aside from the movies, the restaurants and the Orvis shop, I can't think of any reason a man would go there - unless he was dragged along by his wife.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Take That, Pious Prius Drivers!

Oregonian blogger Jeff Mapes has noticed some strange bumper stickers showing up in Portland this summer. Their message: "One Less Prius."

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Oregonian blogger Jeff Mapes has noticed some strange bumper stickers showing up in Portland this summer. Their message: "One Less Prius."


"I figured it had to be from [a] V-8 pickup-loving, red-meat conservative scoffing at smug urban liberals," Mapes writes. "Nope. It's from an L.A. bicycle activist who says it's not good enough to just shift to a hybrid."

The bike activist, who calls himself simply "Matt," blogs that "buying a Prius and making no other changes in how one travels every day in a city is not a paradigm shift. Cars are environmentally and socially damaging in many ways beyond fuel use. The energy and resources required to build and ship them, the destruction the space created for automobiles does, the separation of being in a 2,000 pound box, etc. And many hybrids drivers use it as an excuse to just drive more often! To a cyclist, a Prius is just a small Hummer." (Italics in original.)

"Buying a Prius and not making any fundamental changes, i.e. walking, biking, public transit, etc, is easy and non-threatening," Matt continues. "What makes that worse is the smugness of hybrid drivers, as if what they are doing requires great risk or vulnerability. On my bike I risk my life every day for what I believe is the right thing to do."

Congratulations, Matt - if you give me your address I'll send you a medal. I think I have one from my high school debate team in a drawer somewhere.

I can see Matt's point, though, sort of. But wait a minute - doesn't it also take a lot of raw materials and energy to manufacture a bike and transport it to the point of sale? Doesn't it have to be lubricated with petroleum byproducts and occasionally supplied with new tires made from rubber?

Clearly, traveling on foot is the only REALLY environmentally responsible way to go. Somebody needs to come out with tiny stickers to attach to the heels of Birkenstocks that say "One Less Bicycle."

But wait a minute again - doesn't it require energy and raw materials to make a pair of Birks and ship them all the way from Germany? So I guess if we want to be really, truly, completely eco-friendly and politically correct, going barefoot is the only option. The truly environmentally aware could walk around with stickers on their heels that say: "One Less Pair of Shoes."

This could be pretty rough on the feet in Bend in the winter. But what the hell - isn't it worth the sacrifice of a few toes to save Mother Earth?

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Of Banana Republics and Republicans

Is Ted Kulongoski turning Oregon into a banana republic? If you believe a new Republican radio ad, he is.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Is Ted Kulongoski turning Oregon into a banana republic? If you believe a new Republican radio ad, he is.


The ad rips into the governor because he has not yet signed two bills that would increase corporate income taxes and personal income taxes on high-income Oregonians. The Republicans claim Kulongoksi's intentionally stalling so that opponents of what they call the "job-killing" bills won't have time to collect enough signatures by Sept. 25 to get repeal measures on the fall ballot.

"Sign the bills, governor, and give the people their rights," says the ad. "This is Oregon, not Honduras" - referring to the Central American republic where the government recently was toppled in a military coup.

"The governor is intentionally delaying the signature collection process by not signing the bills, making it very difficult to collect the necessary signatures in the required 90-day period," continues the ad, which you can read on the Oregon Catalyst site or listen to on Jeff Mapes's blog.

The ad concludes by urging Oregonians to write to Kulongoksi and tell him: "Governor, stop trying to take away our right to vote."

Of course Kulongoski isn't taking away anybody's right to vote. He legally has until Aug. 10 to sign the bills, and if he wants to engage in a little gamesmanship with the process - well, that's fair game in politics. Just as it's fair game for Oregon Republicans to attack him - but we think the Honduras comparison is a bit over the top.

That is, unless the Republicans have inside information that Kulongoski is going to call out the National Guard to prevent them from collecting signatures.

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