With all of the digital technology and cutting-edge creativity that guides Americans these days, it should be easy for us to enact nonpartisan solutions that would correct three flaws in the way we govern ourselves. Sadly, it won't happen in my lifetime.
Voters in the 1928 presidential election were warned by a campaign leaflet: "Bootleggers and harlots will dance on the White House lawn if Al Smith is elected president!"
Oh, my! Poor Al carried only eight states and lost to Herbert Hoover by 17 percentage points. Some say it was because the turnout was so low among the rumrunners and floozies. More likely, it was because Republicans rode the crest of the Roaring '20s and Smith was a Democrat and a Catholic.
Confronting danger with confidence and aggression is a hallmark of modern journalism. Such was my valor Thursday as I approached the Salmon Creek traffic roundabout that had opened the day before. As I drove closer, the air became filled with blood-curdling screams, the sounds of crunching metal, sirens and public mayhem. Then I discovered my car radio was on the wrong station.
As I drove into the new intersection at Northeast 10th Avenue and Northeast 136th Street (behind the Fred Meyer store), it occurred to me why many people detest roundabouts, which are becoming more prevalent in America. These people simply cannot stand the thought of yielding … to anyone or anything. They don’t mind stopping at a red light and idling for 60 seconds in the middle of the night at a deserted intersection. But yield? They’d sooner be waterboarded!
Curiosity and commerce are two distinguishing traits of the American character. When it comes to exploration and trade, no one does it better than our great nation.
In Clark County, these two American traits first coalesced on Nov. 3, 1805, when Lewis and Clark arrived here. But a lesser-known date that was vital to this region was Jan. 18, 1803, when President Thomas Jefferson secretly asked Congress for $2,500 to pay for the expedition.
Conservative columnist David Frum, a former speech-writer for President George W. Bush, penned a piece for cnn.com last Monday that carried this headline: "I was wrong about same-sex marriage."
Frum acknowledged that he had been "a strong opponent of same-sex marriage" when he debated the issue 14 years ago, but now, "I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state's vote to authorize same-sex marriage -- a vote that probably signals that most 'blue' states will follow within the next 10 years."
You're probably wondering why I bothered to write a column for the day after the world ended. But as a hard-working professional, I can weather the greatest adversities. After work on Friday evening, I decided to sneak in a quick nine holes of golf since the world was ending the next day, and I gotta tell you, I was putting like there was no tomorrow.
This latest doomsday story gained momentum in recent months as the national media focused on Harold Camping, 89, a preacher in Oakland, Calif., who leads an evangelical nonprofit called Family Radio. I'm not sure why it's called a nonprofit. This outfit raised $100 million over the past seven years and, according to the Contra Costa Times, Camping's crew owns 66 radio stations and was worth more than $72 million in 2009.
Somewhere between the lovers and haters of light rail resides the truth. Infatuated supporters think light rail is the best thing since the invention of the wheel, while ferocious foes quickly excoriate the fiscal waste and criminal dangers of the Crime-Train Loot-Rail Victims-In-A-Box CrimeMet system over in Pagan Portland.
In search of that middle-ground truth, three years ago I rode the MAX Blue Line for 66 miles from Gresham to Hillsboro and back. It wasn't the most exciting afternoon of my life, but the Blue Line seemed to be an effective transportation alternative ... a choice. None of the passengers complained that light rail was "shoved down our throats" or that we were "forced out of our cars." As the light rail debate intensifies on this side of the river, a couple of telephone calls seemed in order last week. The premise: "How's that light rail stuff workin' out for ya?" For answers, I contacted two politicians whose re-electability rides partly on how well they deal with light rail.
One recent evening as I walked through our den, an explosion coming from the TV sounded like Bill Mazeroski just hit a walk-off home run in the ninth inning to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates past the New York Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series. This could not be true, I knew, because all of that happened back in 1960 when I was in the seventh grade. But it sure sounded like that.
Of course, the TV screen showed nothing of the sort. All I saw on that screen was a bunch of women shrieking at a wedding dress being shown to them by a designer who had dollar signs where his eyes were supposed to be. I don't know how anyone can get that stoked about seeing a dress they knew all along would be white and worn only once. But there are a lot of things I don't know about weddings.
Vermont last week became the latest state to join the drive for a popularly elected president. The little state with just three electoral votes approved a measure that would assure the top vote-getter of becoming the most powerful person in the world.
Our state did the same thing two years ago, and now seven states have enlisted in a crusade that would not replace the Electoral College (that would require amending the Constitution) but would make the antiquated system subject to the will of the people.
Here's proof that calendars lie: Wednesday will mark one month since spring officially arrived on March 20. Yeah, right. And again this year, I urge readers to stop cursing spring for its tardiness and look on the bright side of our local weather. That bright side should arrive any day now.
In 2003, I fled the desert (after breaking Moses' wandering record by 14 years) and sought asylum in the Pacific Northwest. Recently, one of my friends back in the badlands told me it hasn't rained there in 70 days. Grass fires are consuming the prickly pear. I also know winters here are milder than in many parts of America. So you won't hear me complain about spring arriving late -- no, sir. No amount of moss and mildew will make me forget that -- from Easter to Thanksgiving -- Clark County serves up seven months of super weather and spectacular sights.
Condolences to all former husbands and former wives whose marriages have been ruined as the encroachment of gay rights erodes the institution of marriage. I know all of you would still be married today if it weren't for the rise of civil unions and the fall of "don't ask, don't tell." These ghastly trends toward tolerance certainly boost the divorce rate much higher than, say, adultery, alcoholism, spousal abuse, financial hardships, bowling leagues and poker parties.
Last week, I went searching for explanations of how the American way of life is being torn asunder by these trends. I was drawn to a story in The Washington Post on Monday that began: "Congressional Republicans -- still seething from last year's repeal of the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy -- are hoping for a progress report Thursday from the military's top service chiefs about training programs designed to inform the rank and file about ending the ban on gays (serving openly) in the military."
Confession time has arrived. It was probably going to get out sooner or later. Yes, the rumor is true. I have actually attended a Tea Party rally ... and on my own volition.
Well, it wasn't a rally as such. And it wasn't the Tea Party, just a lower-case tea party. The 3-year-old hostess didn’t much care about her guest’s political failings. As soon as Grampa Johnny agreed to put down the remote, he got invited to Eleanor’s tea party.
Obviously, the American people want more tax-supported public golf courses in Clark County. OK, so maybe it's not the American people per se. And OK, maybe it's just my foursome on the golf course. And if you insist on details, maybe our vote wasn't unanimous. Maybe it was just 75 percent of us, because before I polled the group Bubba had announced he was quitting golf for good and walked off the course leaving one golf ball and five craters in an unraked sand trap.
But that won't stop me from claiming to represent "the American people" in my crusade for more local golf courses.
The other day while I was turning my compost pile and mixing in some steer manure and coffee grounds, I got to wondering what it takes to be classified as an "elitist." That particular term is snarled frequently these days during political discussions, usually by people who don't get their way or can't get their politicians elected.
Naturally, each of us wonders with great trepidation: "Am I an elitist?" Or even more frantically: "Could I be an elitist and not even know it?"
Trivia Question: What does Jack Ely of Terrebonne, Ore., have to do with a column about Portland? (Answer below.)
Next month marks the eighth anniversary of my move to Clark County, and my only regret is that it didn't happen 30 years earlier. Blessed is the man who lives in the best community in the best state in the best country in the world.