Thursday, February 25, 2016


 Homeless, or what we now are told to refer to as houseless people, are now a major part of the Portland landscape. Tents and vehicles and sleeping bags and shopping carts and piles of stuff are under every overpass and also lining the sidewalk in sections of many neighborhoods. It's very sad, for sure. It's also very frustrating.
How and why did this happen? What should the city government do about this? Is this really how we want people to live who are down and out? Is this really what we want to see every day, everywhere we go in our once beautiful city?

In some ways, Portland is a mecca for people who are houseless. I talked to a woman recently who lives in a tent near the river and asked her why she is living outside. She said that she really doesn't want to live outside like this, and that she has been on the housing list for over three years. She also told me that when she has traveled, people all over the country say that they want to go to Portland because we are so nice here and don't hassle them the way other cities do. Great.

It is actually unlawful to camp on public property (sidewalk, street, park) in Portland, which includes in a sleeping bag, tent or vehicle. At least it was until last week, when our mayor and City Council instituted a new "temporary" measure allowing people to sleep on the sidewalk, but not with a tent, during nighttime, as long as their stuff is gone during the day. The city will also be identifying properties where people can set up their tent and live, and the city will provide some kind of toilet facilities, lockers for personal belongings, and maybe even showers. Camping in city parks is also unlawful, but a lot of people do it anyway, and it seems that this is also being condoned.

We have a tent city in Portland that has been occupying an empty lot downtown, with the owner's permission, for a few years. This camp is known as Right to Dream, Too (R2D2), and is self-regulated by the people who live or shelter there. They have rules, including no drugs or alcohol, there is a kitchen, there are lockers and toilets. People can stay for up to 12 hours, which is unlike any other shelter; although some people have lived there full-time for 3-4 years. The city has now voted to move the camp to a city-owned property in the eastside industrial district, and the city will provide toilets, showers, power and etc.

Tent cities - modern Hoovervilles. Is this Portland's answer to houselessness? It is Portland's temporary solution, we are told, until a better solution is in place. Great. And what is the better solution? I'm actually not sure.

In the meantime, Portland is in the midst of an incredible apartment and house building boom. Huge apartment buildings are springing up like fungi all over town. New homes are springing up in every neighborhood. The problem is that the rents and purchase prices are almost the highest in the nation. People working low-wage jobs can't afford these apartments. The new homes being built are in the $600,000 - $800,000 range, not what one would call starter or affordable homes. And a lot of these are being built where older, smaller houses have been bought and demolished by big development companies.

With all the new construction, you would think the city would require a certain percentage of affordable houses and apartments. But this isn't the case. In fact, Oregon and Texas are the only two states in America that, by law, prohibit local governments from requiring a percentage of affordable units. That sucks big time.

So we have a choice here in Portlandia, love it or leave it. Some businesses have decided to leave it and closed. Some people like us are trying to think about where to go.

The police are stymied, by the way. They are powerless to do much in this situation except try to ask people to be reasonable and use good behavior and try not to be in the way. A friend of ours who owns a restaurant nearby has to put up with a man living in one of the three doors to her restaurant. He sleeps in the covered doorway every night, and leaves his loaded shopping cart and other junk on the sidewalk next to the door all day. The cops have been out many times, but are helpless to do anything about it.
Around the corner from our home at a local restaurant. He was sleeping in on this day.
As for the how and why - well, this is a topic of discussion every day with everyone we know. The recession. Reagan booting people out of mental health care facilities and closing them. The list is long. But my aha moment recently was this, the reason we now have so many people living on the streets of America is the Republican-controlled Congress. Every measure that would help people stay off the streets has been defeated or discontinued. Funding has been cut for social welfare programs, health care, education and many other things. Yes, unemployment is down, but that is only a measure of the people who are looking for work, not those who have given up and are now living under a bridge or in a doorway.

I won't get into my rant about politics, politicians, big money interests, and this election cycle. But you know what I would say if I said it, don't you?

This situation is out of control. People should not be living on the street. This should not be the new normal in America, but it is.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Here is an interesting list concerning presidential elections in the United States:

1980 - George H. W. Bush elected Vice President
1984 - George H. W. Bush elected Vice President
1988 - George H.W. Bush elected President
1992 - William J. Clinton elected President, defeating George H.W. Bush
1996 - William J. Clinton elected President
2000 - George W. Bush elected President
2004 - George W. Bush elected President
2008 - Hillary R. Clinton was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President
2012 - 
2016 - Hillary R. Clinton is seeking the nomination as a candidate for President; John Ellis “Jeb!” Bush was a candidate seeking the nomination for President

There have been 10 elections in the past 36 years. There was a Bush (3 people) or a Clinton (2 people) running or elected in 9 of these 10 elections. 

In other words, two American families have dominated American national politics for almost the past 40 years! Only one word describes this phenomenon: dynasty. (The Bush family also includes senators and governors; and Barbara Pierce Bush, wife of George H.W. Bush, was a cousin of the 14th President of the USA, Franklin Pierce.)

Is it any wonder that American voters are rebelling against these established rulers? The success so far of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are certainly partially due to the Bush/Clinton fatigue many voters are experiencing. 

The American political establishment is supported by the American economic establishment, and this has become the rallying cry of the disaffected. Think about it; Hillary Clinton is supported by the large financial institutions, among others, and Donald Trump is supported by a multi-billionaire - himself. 

This rebellion is breaking two ways. On the Republican side we have a member of the 0.1% in terms of wealth, who has never really been very active in the Republican Party and has never held political office, poised to win the nomination as the Republican candidate. On the Democratic side, we have a Democratic Socialist who has won elections to the House and Senate as an independent, who now has a shot at being the Democratic nominee. Wow!

On the Republican side of things, we see people who are angry about their situation in the world, and are eager to blame it on “big government,” the Establishment Republican Party, minorities, immigrants, non-Christians and other “others.” They trend way to the right, and are lead towards nationalism and fascism by Trump, Cruz and Rubio. The establishment candidate, and member of the Bush Family Dynasty, Jeb! Bush, dropped out of the race due to a lack of traction with voters. This gets uglier daily. 

On the Democratic side, a battle is waging between the establishment and dynastic candidate, Clinton, and the interloper Sanders. The battle for votes here is between establishment, business-as-Obama-usual politics versus - gasp - socialist themes and values. Some of the rhetoric, especially on-line, is getting ugly; however, it is not based on the fear and hatred in which the Republicans are wallowing. 

There is another interesting, and quite amazing, actually, facet to this race. The remaining candidates include: a woman, a Jewish socialist, two Cuban-Americans, an African-American, a white man, and a white man with a bizarre hairdo. We’ve never seen a group of candidates like this. 

I think, actually I’m hoping that this is the end of the Bush and Clinton dynasties in America, It is time to move on. This election is, in my opinion, a critical point in modern American politics. Do we swing way right or more left? I don’t think there is a middle ground possible any longer. 


Tuesday, February 23, 2016


I assume that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.

1. Michael Bloomberg decides not to jump in as an independent.
2. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee becomes the actual nominee.
3. Donald Trump wins the election for President of the United States by 15 percentage points. 
4. About half of the population of adults in the United States, those who have measurable intelligence, flee the country, seeking asylum in Denmark as political refugees.
5. Canada and Mexico build the border walls for President Trump to keep out the political refugees fleeing the United States, claiming "We don't want all those f-ing socialists!" 
6. The Danish socialist system collapses under the weight of all the overweight American refugees.
7. The United States of America continues to devolve into a polluted country with crumbling infrastructure, masses of people living on the street in Portland, Oregon, and all people who are not white Christians living in detention camps.  
8. President Trump and Vice President Hugh Hefner have weekly orgyistic galas attended by the upper 0.1% class. 
9. (Note: at this point, my prognostication becomes too cloudy to see.) 
10. sigh


President Obama announced today a plan to move the remaining prisoners from the infamous Guantanamo facility and close the jail. Republicans in Congress are already bloviating that they will never allow these prisoners on U.S. soil. Oy!

A facility to house these prisoners has not yet been identified. I volunteer the Wapato Jail in Portland, Oregon, owned and not operated by Multnomah County.

The Wapato Jail was built in 2003 at a cost of $58 million raised by a bond measure passed by voters. A part of the ingenious plan for this jail was to not figure out where to get the money to operate it, and so it has never been used to house criminals. It has been used occasionally to film movies or TV shows. The County spends between $300,000 to $400,000 per year to maintain the empty jail. Since 2003 that amounts to somewhere between $3,600,000 and $4,800,000. Are you astounded? I am.

The Wapato Jail is in a fairly remote location, as shown below. It is surrounded by the Smith and Bybee Lakes Natural Area in the Rivergate Industrial District of north Portland.

I don't think Wapato is classified as a maximum security jail, but it could certainly be modified to meet that classification for a lot less money than what the Multnomah County tax payers are spending now. In fact, if the County offered the facility to the Defense Department, federal money would likely be used to modify and operate it.

This sounds like a win-win to me. I'm going to make a few phone calls and encourage my elected officials to lobby for this.


Monday, February 15, 2016


Son One, Wife and I were talking politics this morning (how unusual!) and Son One stated that, in his opinion, most voters do not want to hear details about policy. Instead, he continued, most voters respond to candidates based on personality traits, style, and broad statements of vision. He used Al Gore and John Kerry as examples of the wonky, intellectual detail guys, and Reagan and G.W. Bush as examples of the likable, vision guys (someone to get a beer with). 

I was thinking about this, and discussing it again with Wife over lunch. I came to the following conclusion: the candidate debates are like Facebook. 

Here is why. Most Facebook users don't spend much time on any single post - there are simply too many posts to scroll through every time one opens Facebook to dwell very long on any single post. Sure, we all click on something and watch a video (if it is short), or maybe look at an article (if it is short). But generally, I think we just want to see what our FB friends are talking about at any specific time, and move on. 

Answer this question honestly about yourself: how often do you click on a link in someone's post and read a lengthy article? And if you do that, how often do you click links in that article and read deeper and deeper on the topic and related topics? 

I imagine that, for many voters - perhaps a majority? - when they watch a candidates debate, they aren't interested in the details of a policy question, they simply want to hear a sound byte from each candidate, and then respond in a positive or negative way to the candidate's style and demeanor, and whether or not they "got" the other candidate(s) with a memorable zinger. If a candidate goes too deeply, that is, starts clicking on links to get more and more into the topic, voters probably start to nod off, roll their eyes, look at their get the idea. 

In this year's Democratic candidate debates, I hear and read criticisms of Sen. Sanders that "he doesn't have any policies; he never gets into the details; he doesn't go into how he will accomplish all the things (visions) he keeps spouting off about." And from Sec. Clinton supporters I hear that "she really knows her stuff; she has the details; she actually has policies and talks about them." I assume, and I would be surprised if I'm wrong, that the Sanders campaign strategy for the debates is to be more like Facebook, and less like a real policy and details debate. They know that voters, particularly younger people, are social media users, and will likely respond better to scrolling through the issues than stopping and doing a lot of clicking. 

I spend more time on Facebook than maybe I should. One reason is that I do a lot of clicking. Some of my FB friends post very interesting things, and I take the time to read articles, watch extensive interviews, etc. I have watched a number of the debates (both Dem and Rep), but I don't count on learning very much from those. And so I have spent time clicking around and reading the details on the Sanders and Clinton websites. The policy and issue details are there, if anyone cares to actually look for and read them. 

One other comment about the Facebook analogy - the Republican debates. These so-called debates are also very much like Facebook. Few, if any of the "posts," i.e. candidate statements, get into the details - a lot of it is meant to be adorable puppy dog and kitty cat pictures. Although, very little of it is what I would call adorable! And then there is also the on-line ALL-CAP shouting, WITH DONALD TRUMP LEADING THE WAY WITH INSULTS, SHOUTS OF "YOU'RE A LIAR," SHOUTS OF FIRE IN A CROWDED THEATER (THE MEXICANS/ARABS/MUSLIMS/TERRORISTS ARE COMING TO KILL US AND RAPE OUR WOMEN AND TAKE ALL OF OUR JOBS!!!!) 

I don't expect the typical American voter to look for the details, to do a lot of clicking deeper and deeper into a policy topic. Maybe I'm wrong - I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so. I think many of my friends and relatives do look more deeply into issues; however, my circle likely encompasses people who are by nature more intellectually curious than the average American voter. (Maybe I'm being a progressive snob here - I would like to know if I am.)