So the mayor, a councilman and a billionaire walk into a bar…

by Steve, October 14th, 2010

Geo. W. Bush and Henry Paulson

If you know me, or if you’ve read this blog from time to time, you’ve got some inkling what I think of Merritt Paulson, ultra-rich scion of former Goldman Sachs CEO and Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. (If you don’t know me, and don’t want to follow the links, here’s what I think: he’s a spoiled rich kid playing sports team owner and an annoying little twit.)

After a bizarre series of attempted deals with the Mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, and the shadow mayor, Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard — who tried like hell to figure out a way to build the Paulsons two stadiums on the public dime, but ran into tenatious opposition from veterans, architects, urban planners, neighborhood activists and historic preservationists — poor wittle Merrit only got one stadium and had to sell his wittle baseball team for lack of a suitable playground.

(His daddy is a partner in his minor league sports empire, by the way, so it’s a wonder he wouldn’t put up more cash to build a stadium if it’s such a sure fire financial win to invest in sports stadiums as is frequently claimed. But I digress….)

The excavators are already busy at PGE Park (nee Civic Stadium; the Paulsons get the dough on the naming deal), ripping out part of the $38.5 million renovations done in 2001. These renovations, that Portland is still paying off, were done to make it a better venue for baseball, including a retro, manually-operated scoreboard. It’s a long story. Cutting to the chase: they’re re-renovating nine years later as a soccer-specific venue, to the exclusion of baseball.

Today comes the news that the Portland Beavers have been sold as expected, and are officially moving to Escondido, California.

I generally avoid the crappy comments section at OregonLive, the crappy Web partner of our crappy daily The Oregonian, but today I couldn’t resist jumping in to the Soccer v. Baseball war when somebody posted an invitation to a “Timbers Army/Sam Adams joke contest.” Here’s my entry, edited here in a vain attempt to punch it up a little:

A mayor, a councilman and a billionaire walk into a bar. A couple sleepy customers are watching a baseball game on the screen behind the bar. Bartender says, what’ll it be, boys? Mayor says, whatever my friend here wants, it’s on the house. Bartender says, no way pal, hit the road.

Next thing you know, a bunch of drunken, middle-aged, white man-children wearing scarves are flooding through the front door, knocking over tables and singing vulgar songs…. pretty soon the sleepy baseball fans are out on their ears, there’s a soccer game on the TV, the billionaire’s behind the bar with his hands in the till and the bartender’s getting beat up by the councilman.

The mayor takes out his phone and tweets: “This is a great day for Portland. #timbersarmy #mls”

Yeah. It’s a joke, but it’s not very funny.

Do me better. What’s your Portland/Sam Adams/Merritt Paulson/Randy Leonard/Timbers Army/Beavers joke?

Wounded mayor defeated by nerds

by Steve, April 21st, 2009

A wounded Sam Adams, aided only by an army of man-child soccer fans and erstwhile enemy Randy Leonard, has failed to “get things done” vis-a-vis demolishing the Memorial Coliseum to make way for patrician Merrit Paulson’s stunted sports dreams.

At one point, Adams said he would resign if he could no longer be effective. We’ll never know if this failure had anything to do with his peccadillo, or everything to do with the fact that the whole plan is insanely rushed and involves the almost humorously cocky scion of George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary issuing ultimatums about our civic property.

But this is only the latest failure for the guy who boasted to his friends “I get things done.” Remember, Adams ran on an education platform. He also wanted an “iconic” bridge to Vancouver, Wash.

Perhaps his quixotic attempt to shovel city-backed loans to one of the richest guys on the planet will be his undoing. Having been defeated by a handful of modernist architecture lovers (with support from pissed off veterans and a few nostalgic hockey fans), he’s gone back to the drawing board to find another piece of city-owned land to hand over to Paulson.

Let’s see if he can get things done after all.

Shut the Eff up, Merrit Paulson

by Steve, April 15th, 2009

hockeyMerit Paulson, millionaire son of Bush Treasury Secretary and former head of Goldman Sachs Hank Paulson, wants to tell us to do with our Memorial Coliseum.

Isn’t that cute.

Besides being insanely rushed, there are many reasons to oppose this absurd deal.

The Coliseum is a modernist masterpiece, with its square glass curtain walls enclosing a simple, graceful sweep of the arena bowl. It also happens to be a very functional (if run-down) mid-sized spectator venue in the center of our city, providing year-round family entertainment, with fantastic sight lines for the game of hockey.

Paulson cites a figure of losing $500,000 a year, the amount dedicated from the city’s spectator fund (money from parking revenue and ticket surcharges) to do maintenance at the Coliseum. But he coliseum actually provides income to its contracted management firm (Paul Allen), and could make money for the city if they transferred management to the Winter Hawks, who might also be amenable to a public-private partnership to renovate the old glass palace in return for good terms on a long-term lease.

You guys on city council want to make a deal with a millionaire? How about ringing up Alberta oilman Bill Gallacher, owner of the Winter Hawks.

Such a renovation could include facilities for public recreational skating opportunities (the Winter Hawks have expressed an interest in starting a youth hockey program), revenue-producing suites, an improved ice plant and surface, and updated mechanical systems. A restaurant/bar could be added, which, combined with recreational skating, could draw significant use and income for the city-owned facility.

Merrit Paulson’s plan for our city property would be extremely costly and would see use fewer than six months out of the year. It would offer no public recreational use.

Portland policy makers for years have failed to address the future of the Coliseum, and have let it fall into a sorry state of disrepair. But even a total renovation would be less expensive than tearing it down and building a new facility. Portland has a demonstrated, ongoing need for a spectator venue of this size, it can be easily configured to offer public recreation, and it is an architectural treasure.

So, Randy Leonard: as a fellow hockey fan, I’m disappointed in you. Sam Adams, I’m not at all surprised. But you should be ashamed of yourself.

And Merrit Paulson, just because daddy’s rich, doesn’t mean you can ride into town and tell us what to do with our treasured civic property. Why don’t you take your sports dreams somewhere else and leave our Coliseum alone.

Atheists, welcome. Socialists? Not so much.

by Steve, January 20th, 2009

politicsI should be thrilled, as an atheist, to be on President Obama’s short list: “Christians and Muslims. Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.” Seriously. For all the God goin’ around today (some of it a tad — ahem — intolerant), I was surprised to get an atheist shout-out. (As for my Sikh, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, Confucianist, Shintoist, Jainist, Bahá’í, and agnostic brothers and sisters, they may not feel so special being grouped in with us non-believers.)

Less surprising was President Obama’s ode to the market and its “power to generate wealth and expand freedom.”

Well, it’s sure provided the idle rich with a lot more wealth and freedom over the past 30 years, but any student of economics knows the market doesn’t create wealth. It merely distributes wealth, which is created from capital and raw materials by human labor. The market has proven itself very adept at the upward redistribution of wealth from those who create it to those who finance it.

Obama’s proposed trillion dollar (we all know it’ll get there) stimulus plan is a bastard child of New Deal-style public works investment and Reagan-era trickle down (better-termed “shovel up”) economics.

Them rich capitalist bastards don’t need any damned retro-active tax breaks. In fact, we need to levy a wealth tax on their accumulated capital, and use it to finance even more public investment. The kind that not only builds roads and schools, but also reinforces our tattered social safety net with universal cradle-to-grave health care.

Don’t get me wrong, folks. I’ve been doing the happy dance all day, ‘cuz George W. Bush went riding off into the sunset today, and the election of Barack Hussein Obama II is undoubtedly one of the most important milestones in our nation’s history. His suspension of the kangaroo court at Gitmo is a significant ray of hope, even as he continues the jingoistic talk of being “at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”

(The notion of a “war on violence” is more ironic than a “war on terror” is risible, and equally absurd, isn’t it?)

Fourth amendment shredded… by Democrats

by Steve, July 10th, 2008

Yesterday was a sad, sad day for our nation state. The Democratic-led Senate voted to completely cover up and excuse the Bush administration’s illegal wire tapping.

Leading the charge, voting for cloture (despite an earlier pledge to support a filibuster of such legislation) was Senator Obama of Illinois. Yes, that Obama.

How Much Is Health Care Worth to Bush?

by Steve, October 3rd, 2007

warAnswer: Not very much.

With a veto of a five-year, $35 billion bipartisan expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), Bush has shown he doesn’t give a rip about the health of our nation’s children.

If you think this veto is really about rejecting expansion of government or Bush being a deficit hawk, compare and contrast his weekly $2 billion spent on his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s $520 billion over five years. In other words, our children’s health isn’t even worth 6% of what we’re spending to expand the part of our government that’s blowing shit up in Iraq.

Did He Really Say That?!?

by Steve, June 21st, 2007

Did President George W. Bush really invite New Orleans musicians Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers to play at the White House, call them mediocre and then ask them to pick up the trash?

Yep, it’s true, and it’s in the official transcript. Sure, he was just being his frat-boy self, ribbing the boys. But isn’t that a bit much after, uh, that hurricane thing that happened a couple years back?

THE PRESIDENT: …I thank Tony Snow and his bunch of, well, mediocre musicians — (laughter) — no, great musicians. Beats Workin, thanks for coming. (Applause.) Kermit, come up here. Kermit, we’re proud to have you.

MR. RUFFINS: Well, thanks for having us.

THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)

MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We’re glad to be here.

THE PRESIDENT: Proud you’re here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it’s over. (Laughter.)

(Via Dan Froomkin via Wonkette)

New Merch

by Steve, June 20th, 2007

puckbush.png
Come see what’s new at the Left Coast Hockey League.

13 Ways Bush’s Goose is Cooked

by Steve, March 7th, 2007

politics-entryIt’s not a great time to be a Bush fan in America, as evidenced by near rock-bottom approval ratings (even before the Libby verdict was read). As the wheels start to fall off of the Bush administration, I thought it would be appropriate to take stock of the state of things. So here are just a few things that aren’t going so hot for our Chimp in Chief.

  1. Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former #1 confidant and adviser, is a convicted liar and obstructer of justice. Libby was one of the highest ranking and most influential members of the Bush administration, and his trial and conviction have exposed criminal corruption all the way to the top of the Bush administration. There can be no doubt, from testimony given and evidence presented, that Scooter Libby lied to take the fall for Dick Cheney and Karl Rove (and ultimately Bush). Juan Cole has an excellent illustrated history of the Cheney/Rove/Libby/Wilson affair.
  2. If congress convenes hearings about the Valerie Wilson affair, the malfeasance of all major administration figures could be cast in a most unflattering light.
  3. The White House response to the Libby verdict of continued stonewalling has brought criticism from the most unlikely of places: Scott McLellan. The man most famous for his non-answers to the Washington press corps now says this: “I would be advising the White House to get out there and find some way to talk about this in enough detail to answer some of questions that . . . are still hanging out there.”
  4. Oversight. The firing of federal prosecutors for questionable reasons (to put it in the best possible light) is just the beginning of what real congressional oversight will bring to light. That’s government working, folks.
  5. The mistreatment of wounded soldiers at DOD and VA hospitals has shown the flagrant disregard the Bush administration has for our troops. It also further exposes the lack of planning that went into the war in Iraq. All administration predictions had it ending long ago. Remember, we were going to be greeted as liberators! Flowers and candy bars! USA! USA! Somehow Bush didn’t plan on there being a little something called civil war erupting between ethnic factions once the strong man was gone. (Somehow the neocons neglected to read any history of the region before trying to remake it to their liking.)
  6. Iraq is going from bad to worse. More attacks every day in a growing civil war, and Bush remains in denial, committed to sending still more troops to fight and die in what most Americans now view as an unwinnable war.
  7. Which brings us to polls. The USA Today/Gallup Poll published Monday shows a solid majority of nearly two-thirds disapprove of Bush’s handling of his job as president.
  8. 59% of Americans believe going into Iraq was a mistake.
  9. Only 28% of Americans have any confidence the US will “win” in Iraq.
  10. Fully 84% of Americans think we need to withdraw from Iraq.
  11. One in five Americans think we should withdraw immediately.
  12. The members of our armed services have been used, abused and stretched to the breaking point. Members of the National Guard and Reserve, citizen soldiers who signed up for a weekend a month and a few weeks a year have had their lives upended with repeated and extended tours of duty in war zones. With so many communities touched in some way by this extended morass, it’s not surprising that…
  13. …only 13% of Americans think we should send more troops to Iraq.

If so many lives weren’t at stake, it might be enjoyable to see the chickens coming home to roost for the Bush administration. But the shameful truth is that they tipped off a series of events that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. Millions of people will continue to be affected by the long-term devastation that the Bush doctrine has wrought.

This damage will take many years to repair. But perhaps things have bottomed out. It’s difficult to imagine things getting much worse under Bush, so maybe — just maybe — we are beginning to see signs of the pendulum swinging back in the other direction. We can only hope.

War Must End (and Thirteen Imaginings for a Better World)

by Steve, March 1st, 2007

warNote that I don’t say the war. I said War Must End. It’s the 21st century. Killing children as means to political ends can no longer be rationalized by sane humans. The future of civilization is at stake. We are at a crossroads.

There can be no disputing that the Bush Doctrine has been a complete and total disaster. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children dead, many more wounded, many, many more displaced, shattered and weary. Hundreds of billions of dollars (more than enough to insure our own nearly 50 million uninsured and fix our broken public schools) squandered on a futile war and its disastrous after-effects. And let’s not forget the equally disastrous side-effect: A recent study finds a nearly seven-fold increase in terrorism due to what it calls the “Iraq Effect”.

And right when you think it can’t get any worse, you find out much of the intelligence on Iran and North Korea is bunk, too.

The neoconservative doctrine of preemption may perhaps best be described as a cataclysmic failure of imagination.

It is time to stop the madness. All leaders who would attack another country unprovoked should be deposed. Let’s get past this bullshit and spend our treasure fixing what’s broke in our own house, not destroying our neighbor’s.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. It’s still Thursday (at least in Portland), and Thursday Thirteen has been handed off and resurrected before it even hit the ground. Thanks to Carol and all the crew over at TT central for keeping this crazy blog meme thing going. In the spirit of hope and confidence, I give you Thirteen Imaginings for a Better World.

  1. Imagine a sudden outbreak of peace.
  2. Imagine that people will no longer tolerate spending two billion dollars — that’s two thousand million dollars — every week in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. Imagine we no longer need fossil fuels. We know we are surrounded by untapped, limitless energy.
  4. Imagine we know how to tap it. Cleanly, safely.
  5. Imagine you wake up one day and know there is no war anywhere on the planet.
  6. Imagine that same day realizing that much of what you knew yesterday is wrong. The things you were most certain about: those are the things you are most wrong about.
  7. Imagine discovering, suddenly and certainly, that you are much larger than your corporeal self, and have a direct, deep and literal connection to many people on Earth you’ve never met, and some you have, as well as to the Earth itself.
  8. Imagine the entire globe as a single, living organism working together, for once and forevermore, in harmony.
  9. Imagine that power.
  10. Imagine using all that power to reforest deserts, clean up all pollution, and feed and house all of humanity comfortably.
  11. Imagine that there is no hunger, no poverty, no crime.
  12. Imagine all these things actually will happen. Put yourself there and feel it.
  13. Imagine looking up at the sky, past billions upon billions of stars, deeply into the universe, and seeing — with perfect clarity — yourself.

    Watching yourself.

    Are you doing the right thing?

And with that, I bid you Good Night.