Are the members of Congress who signed no-new taxes pledges engaging in a criminal conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United States because President Obama is black? That's the theory put forward by Calvin O. L. Henry, president of the Oregon Assembly for Black Affairs, in a July 5 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

In his letter, Henry requests that the U.S. Department of Justice open a criminal investigation into the 274 Republican and three Democrats who have signed the pledges circulated by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and his organization, Americans for Tax Reform.

'The undue influence of the Americans for Tax Reform and Grover Norquist and the signed pledges by 274 of the 289 members of the United States Congress reveal a sinister and open conspiracy to overthrow the Constitution of the United States by trying to cause President Obama to fail,' wrote Henry, who describes himself as a black American who served as an elections official in the Oregon secretary of state's office.

Schumer's argument fits Portland

Supporters of the controversial plan to replace Portland's open reservoirs with new underground storage tanks frequently point to New York City as proof the city has no choice. New York is also being forced to comply with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirement, even though it will cost the city about $1.6 billion compared to about $400 million for Portland.

But now New York U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is objecting to the mandate, in large part because of the cost. Echoing the arguments of open reservoir supporters, Schumer says New York should be exempt because it has a history of delivering clean, safe water to its customers.

'Clean water systems are not one-size-fits-all and New York City should not be made to comply with rules that are unduly onerous or costly and not based on the best available data,' Schumer wrote in a recent letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Election clock is ticking

With all the attention focused on races for Portland City Council and Oregon's 1st Congressional District, it's sometimes hard to remember how many other offices are up for election in 2012.

Of course, president is the biggest one. But so are the offices of Oregon attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer, all congressional seats, half the state Senate, all of the Oregon House, most district attorneys (including Multnomah County), three Metro Council seats, three Multnomah County commission seats and numerous smaller offices in cities and counties.

Few candidates have announced so far, even for seats presumed to be open.

Perhaps the most significant entrant so far is Oregon State Bar Association Disciplinary Counsel Kellie Johnson, who is running for Multnomah County district attorney. Incumbent Mike Schrunk is expected to retire.

Then again, 13 people ended up running for Portland mayor in 2004, including Extremo the Clown, otherwise known as Scot Campbell.

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