John Laird: Cockroaches, taxes, grammar and other despicable topics

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

Published:

 

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering how the gas-tax haters propose we pay for new roads and bridges:

What are they worried about? Too much congestion relief? — Last week's column snarkily assigned bulletproof cockroach status to the discredited belief that a third bridge will solve all problems related to our too-narrow, too-old and too-dangerous Interstate 5 Bridge. Another misguided yet immortal belief is that we shouldn't build a new bridge because it will only expedite traffic to the Rose Garden bottleneck and make matters worse there.

That's like saying the new Salmon Creek interchange (under construction at 139th Street) is a boondoggle because it will only facilitate traffic to the bottleneck down at the I-5 bridge. (The 139th Street interchange project and the Rose Quarter each happen to be about six miles from the Interstate Bridge.)

Using this warped logic, many transportation upgrades would never be built because they would only expedite congestion to other choke points. The fact is, Oregon officials are planning (albeit too slowly) to widen I-5 at the Rose Quarter. If completion of the CRC project worsens that bottleneck, well, maybe it will spur ODOT to slap some giddyup on the I-5 widening project at the Rose Quarter.

Taxed to the gills — Folks in Washington state are overtaxed, right? Well, not according to one comparison with other states. The Tax Foundation of Washington, D.C., last month ranked our state 28th out of 50 in percentage of income paid in state and local taxes in 2010. This means one of two things: (1) The Tax Foundation is a bunch of gun-grabbing Marxists who hate America and are intentionally trying to destroy it. (2) Some of the anti-tax cacophony in Washington state might be just crocodile tears.

Democrats and Republicans, of course, process numbers differently. "Twenty-eight out of 50 is midrange. We would rather be lower," said Republican state Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville in a story in The Olympian. "We think that leaving more money in citizens' pockets is better than having it in government's pockets." Dang tootin'! Preach it, Mark!

Then again, Democratic state Rep. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle said, "We are in a race to the bottom to be a low-tax, low-service, low-quality-of-life state." Indeed.

As for the pain of paying taxes, "There is pain when you double tuition," Carlyle said, "pain when you have a pathetic, humiliatingly low high school graduation rate … resentment when you have to close state parks … anger when you have insufficient, inadequate access to day care." Amen!

The newest endangered species is grammar — Alas, some wonderful words are dying slow deaths. We freedom lovers who cherish our right to bear "whom" are left despondent by a Megan Garber column in The Atlantic: "Articles in Time magazine included 3,352 instances of 'whom' in the 1930s, 1,492 in the 1990s, and 902 in the 2000. … In 1984, after all, the Ghostbusters weren't wondering, 'Whom you gonna call?'"

I realize this is great news for many of you, but it's sad news for those of us who worked so hard to learn the difference between subjects and objects, and when to use "who" and "whom."

Our grief will deepen in coming years. Garber quoted Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty: "I'd put my money on 'whom' being mostly gone in 50 to 100 years." By then, I suppose, Hemingway's inquiry about bells and tolling also will be obsolete. (Hey! Did he just mention tolling?)

Thank you, Sweden — Another Garber column notes Google's official objection to the rising popularity of "ogooglebar," a Swedish word that translates to "ungoogleable." Garber calls it "one of the best words that has ever graced this planet." The Swedish language is a mother lode of great-sounding words, Garber adds, "among them smorgasbord, sliddersladder ('gossip') and kackerlacka ('cockroach')."

No country for old men — Finally, I have figured out why people look surprised and then sympathetic when they meet me. That column mug shot is 10 years old, and it's been a tough decade.