The culture that is Portland?

I don’t want to make light of domestic violence, but I will make light of how this news story was written:

Portland man gets probation after stabbing ex-girlfriend’s pet fish

A 27-year-old Southeast Portland man who beat his ex-girlfriend and then stabbed her pet fish and left it impaled in her apartment has been sentenced to two years of probation and a psychological evaluation.

An attorney for Donald Earl Fite III said he didn’t want to talk about the details of the assault, but that stabbing the fish was “a very low point” in his client’s life.

“He is absolutely mortified and ashamed about what he did to the fish,” said attorney Tom MacNair today in Multnomah County Circuit Court. […]

According to an affidavit filed with the court, [his ex-girlfriend] had broken up with Fite, but returned to her East Burnside Street apartment in Portland last July 25 to find Fite lying on her bed. Fite wanted to get back together, but [she] didn’t.

When she told him she had plans that evening, [she] refused to let her leave the room she was in, the bathroom, according to the affidavit. She tried to push past him. He threw her against a wall. She again tried to leave, punching him in the nose to get by. He grabbed her by the hair and threw her against the bathtub – ripping out her hair extensions and causing her to hit her head.

My emphasis is in italics. The paper’s emphasis — and perhaps the perpetrator’s too — is all about the fish, whose family will hopefully be comforted by the outpouring of remorse over its untimely demise. What the hell, Oregonian?

Fortunately the court appears to have had better priorities, restraining the man from being around his ex-girlfriend but allowing him continued access to pet shops. No, I am not making that up.

[Thanks to Jonathan Blanks, who’s as confused about this as I am!]


Jumping the anti-gay shark

Man, what is with gay people these days? Forming long-lasting relationships, opening small businesses with their partners, raising young children in loving households. Next thing you know they’ll want to get married and grow old together. It’s a good thing the American Family Association is keeping an eye on them and putting a stop to their anti-family agenda.

Do click through and view the Campbell’s soup ad that is getting AFA all lathered up. It’s difficult to imagine how bigoted one must be to be offended by it. It makes no mention of legal rights, marriage, or any political issue. Not that there’s any hope for getting the people at AFA to come around, but when even the Campbell’s brand has become too liberal for them they might consider it time to re-evaluate their priorities.


It could be worse

As bad as things seem now in the midst of a financial crisis and an election in which two power hungry statists are vying for the reins of executive power, it’s worth being reminded of how good we’ve really got it. This story about two Cuban soccer players who escaped their handlers before a match in Washington, DC is truly touching:

It was Thursday, early evening, and the team had just returned from practice. They were milling around the lobby, waiting for dinner, and the coaches walked into the gift shop. Alcantara got up from a sofa, walked down a hallway, found a service door, checked over his shoulder, stepped outside and sprinted toward freedom.

He ran, and ran, and ran. Six to eight blocks. At full speed, looking over his shoulder the whole way, worried that someone would snag him and deliver him back to the Cuban delegation. Finally, when he realized nobody was chasing him, Alcantara stopped at a corner, caught his breath, and flagged down a taxi.

He speaks very little English, but he used what he knew when he got into the taxi cab. “Drive me far,” he told the driver, motioning with his hand. “Go far, far, far.”

Read the whole thing.


Aztek: The Ultimate Car

The Aztek has been out of production for two years, but it’s still tearing up the sales charts. 25 cars sold in 2007! That probably ties it with back issue sales of the equally strange-looking Aztek: The Ultimate Man comic. Clearly, Aztek is a name with branding issues.

I’m a proud member of the group AutoBlog describes as those “who appreciate the practical design of the Aztek’s interior layout, smooth ride and the world’s best built anti-theft device (i.e. its looks).” Its humor value is also a big bonus.

Hat tip: Courtney, closet Aztek lover.

The Aztek that should have been
A car that makes children cry


Praise for the hometown

Cato’s Randal O’Toole praises Houston in the Chronicle:

Houston is the freest major city in America, with no zoning and only moderate government intrusions into how property owners use their land. This freedom has made Houston the most affordable major city in America, with housing costs that are less than half of most other major urban areas. This freedom has also created an innovative and growth-friendly environment that is creating tens of thousands of new jobs each year.

Read the whole thing here.


Why I am not a lawyer

Chad links to an interesting article in the NYT about the relative decline in prestige and fulfillment accruing to law and medicine. A number of reasons for the growing dissatisfaction are given, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that it misses an important one: doctors and lawyers are both heavily protected by professional associations and state licensing laws.

Licensing restricts entry into the professions and raises the returns on education for the people who practice them. But by putting up barriers to entry, they also allow the gatekeepers to subject aspirants to arduous training often disconnected from their true needs. For lawyers, this means an imposing law school entrance exam, three years of difficult, stressful, expensive study, tests that have little to do with lawyering, an even more difficult bar exam, and then, for many, years of tedious work as an associate. The med school education of doctors is probably more worthwhile, but it’s followed by extremely stressful and arguably dangerous (for patients) years of internship and residency in which lack of sleep is practically a form of hazing. Without the protection of licensing and groups like the ABA and AMA, I very much doubt that these forms of education would persist.

In other words, these professions still earn good money but are now largely composed of people who have self-selected as willing to put up with years of mandated drudgery. Is it any wonder that self-expressive work and entrepreneurship now hold so much more cachet?

This, anyway, is my uninformed outsider’s opinion. My many friends who have recently or will soon graduate law school are welcome to step up and defend the system.


Ufology tips for the candidates

You’ve probably heard by now about Dennis Kucinich’s odd debate moment regarding his UFO siting. He is, however, in surprisingly good company:

When Chris Matthews, in a post-debate interview on MSNBC, asked Richardson what he thought of Kucinich’s response to the UFO question, Richardson smiled, giggled a little and explained that as governor of a state that depends on the UFO-enthralled tourist dollar, he was not in a position to criticize. (Though, he hastened to add, he has never personally seen a UFO.) He also said it was time for the government to “come clean” on the Roswell matter…

According to numerous media accounts, when Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia in 1973, he filed a report with the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City claiming that he’d seen an unidentified glowing object four years earlier in Leary, Ga. He said later that he did not believe the object to be an alien craft, and some “ufologists,” as specialists call themselves, think he saw a halo around the planet Venus.

Ronald Reagan believed he had seen UFOs at least twice — once on the coast while driving to Hollywood with his wife, Nancy, and once, as governor of California, while flying on a plane near Bakersfield. In “Landslide,” their 1988 book about Reagan’s second term, journalists Doyle McManus, The Times’ Washington bureau chief, and Jane Mayer, now of the New Yorker, wrote that Reagan’s staff worked hard to keep the UFO sighting stories under wraps.

Kucinich is careful to stress the “unidentified” part of unidentified flying object, distancing himself from the appearance of belief in extraterrestrial visitors. As a service to him and any other presidential candidates with their eyes on the skies, I suggest carrying around my elementary school list of things that might be mistaken for UFOs.

[Via Tobias.]

Whatever happened to Grandfather Twilight?


John Cusack says anything

My old coworkers used to make fun of me for never having seen a John Cusack movie, just one data point in my cinematic cultural illiteracy. But according to this interviewer, Cusack himself doesn’t find his movies worth talking about, so maybe I’m not missing anything after all. What Cusack does want to rant on is the war in Iraq and the Cato Institute:

“Do you think all these people work at the Cato Institute?” he continues. “No. Even the people who work at these places, I’ve met them. They don’t have any monopoly or insight into anything. Where does their intellectual or moral clout come from? Nowhere. The guy’s talking in front of a camera, reading from a teleprompter, bitching at people. I know enough to be intimidated by serious men and women, but I won’t be cowed by people like that.”

Three questions. Does Cusack actually think Cato is pro-war? Has he ever looked at the institute’s website? And where do we hide the teleprompters?

Tom Firey and Michael Cannon respond at the Cato blog.


Baristas in the news

I wasn’t really following the story of six American University students who protested Karl Rove’s speech at the school until I noticed a name yesterday: one of the six is none other than my friend and old barista coworker Joel Gardner!

In what’s being called the “Moon Rover” incident, Joel passed by the scene and spontaneously mooned Karl Rove. Now he and five others have warrants out for their arrests for crossing a police line during the protest. I don’t know the details of the case, but Joel’s a super nice guy, so I hope he’s able to get out of this without serious consequences. (You might also remember Joel from the night David and I caused the coffee roasting disaster, but he bears no blame for that!)

His brother is writing about the case here and here, and posts this image in support:

Moon Rover


Houston’s underground

Until the Times covered it today, I had no idea downtown Houston’s tunnel system was thriving with so many businesses or so extensive. It’s also almost entirely private:

It was not centrally planned; it just grew, inspired by Rockefeller Center in New York. But it is not connected to a transit network. And, befitting Texans’ distrust of government, most of it is private; each segment is controlled by the individual building owner who deigns to allow the public access during business hours — and then locks the doors on nights and weekends. Some parts, like those belonging to the former Enron buildings now leased by Chevron, are closed to outsiders altogether.