John Laird: Voters wonder: Who are those masked mega-donors?

By John Laird July 15, 2012 6 a.m.

Whether you're conservative, liberal or independent, you should be glad to know the following: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has donated $1 million to support the charter schools initiative that is expected to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot. To that same cause, almost a half-million dollars was donated by the parents of founder Jeff Bezos. Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings chipped in $100,000.

John Laird: Summer sounds, flagrant falsehoods and twisted taxes

By John Laird July 8, 2012 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while harrumphing at the 180 performed by both Democrats and Republicans since the Bush administration over a president's use of executive privilege:

John Laird: When campaigns heat up, so does the bridge rhetoric

By John Laird July 1, 2012 6 a.m.

Now that political campaigns are intensifying for the Aug. 7 primary and the Nov. 6 election, radical rhetoric about the Columbia River Crossing is rising to flood levels. So it's time to review the Top Five Delusions about replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge. First, though, let's start with three basic principles:

John Laird: Attention, candidates! Here are your marching orders

By John Laird June 24, 2012 6 a.m.

Next month, Clark County voters will receive ballots by mail, featuring varying combinations of 119 candidates, including 41 Republicans, 29 Democrats, several hybrid and offshoot affiliations and numerous candidates running in nonpartisan races. It's not too soon for voters to start doing their research.

John Laird: To revitalize your love of Clark County, try traveling

By John Laird June 17, 2012 6 a.m.

Three long trips in five weeks implanted powerful reminders that Clark County is the best place in the world. I often wonder if the grumpiest people around here are the folks who don't travel much. When you hunker down in your comfort zone, you lose a point of reference. Slowly, the nest becomes not so comfortable, and complaints come too easily. Traveling allows comparisons.

John Laird: Wasted votes, radical ideologies and clanging bells

By John Laird June 3, 2012 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering why many people who are screaming for a public vote on light rail are also screaming against a public vote on a tax levy to pay for parks:

John Laird's Jazz: Brass are Republicans; woodwinds are Democrats

By John Laird May 27, 2012 6 a.m.

Americans would be better served if Congress were run like a jazz big band. Popularity ratings of our national ruling body would soar from the current all-time low to the heights of approval enjoyed by countless jazz big bands that have decorated American music for nine decades.

John Laird: Yes, CRC costs are high, but don't ignore the benefits

By John Laird May 20, 2012 6 a.m.

Any way you slice it, $3.1 billion is a lot of money. That's the projected cost of the Columbia River Crossing, replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge and extending light rail two miles from the Expo Center in Portland to Clark College in Vancouver. Add the estimated annual upkeep of light rail in Vancouver (about $2 million or more), and the overall financial burden intensifies. It's easy to see why some people insist the CRC is just too expensive.

John Laird: Banishing Boldt, distrusting drones and pushing peace

By John Laird May 6, 2012 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering why Rush Limbaugh spends so much time insisting he’s not “a racist, bigot, sexist, homophobe”:

John Laird: Technology 2012: Smile! You’re on Government Camera

By John Laird April 29, 2012 6 a.m.

Every technological advance -- gunpowder, cameras, cars, airplanes, the Internet -- has brought both benefits and detriments. Combining two technologies seems to magnify the best and the worse. A car with a GPS increases navigation, but driving and texting can be deadly.

John Laird: Hit the road, Jack; take your camera and hiking boots

By John Laird April 22, 2012 6 a.m.

Welcome to the first day of spring. Yeah, I know, the calendar insists the first day of spring was a month ago, March 20 to be exact. And we’re weeks into the blossoming and bulb-bursting showcase. But for many of us, spring doesn’t really arrive until we stop using the weather as an excuse for avoiding yardwork.

John Laird: Romney has an uphill battle trying to close gender gap

By John Laird April 15, 2012 6 a.m.

Two words of advice to Republicans who are trying to figure out women: Stop digging.

John Laird: Building bridges, fighting fires and catapulting clichés

By John Laird April 8, 2012 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering -- since Republicans castigate the Hilton Vancouver Washington as a repulsive monument to government waste -- why did they hold their county convention there?

John Laird: Surviving in the impersonal world of tweets and texts

By John Laird April 1, 2012 6 a.m.

Lewis and Clark are properly credited for conducting one of the most consequential journeys in the history of exploration. They opened the American West to development by people of European ancestry. Miraculously, they managed to do this without tweeting OMG every five minutes along the way.

John Laird: Another example of what makes Clark County great

By John Laird March 25, 2012 6 a.m.

Nine years ago this month, I barely knew Mill Plain from Fourth Plain. But I knew Clark County was where I wanted to live, work and play.

John Laird: Civil discourse of 2012: ‘La la la … I can’t hear you’

By John Laird March 18, 2012 6 a.m.

As Americans become increasingly polarized politically, it seems we’re losing our capacity to listen. We’re too busy interrupting each other to consider opposing views, too insecure in our own ideologies to believe other ideas might be more compelling.

Laird: Remember Congress before all the partisan paralysis?

By John Laird March 11, 2012 6 a.m.

Trivia question: What do Richard Nixon, Paris Hilton and the BP oil firm have in common?

John Laird: ‘Puppet’ accusations don’t always hold up to scrutiny

By John Laird March 4, 2012 6 a.m.

Many liberals in Southwest Washington are quick to label Jaime Herrera Beutler as a puppet of the Republican establishment. That characterization is untrue, as you’ll see a little later. But first, let’s examine the charge for exactly what it is.

John Laird: Dallas rip-offs, Gregoire’s plans and a February flop

By John Laird February 26, 2012 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering why union-hating conservatives and corporation-hating liberals can’t get together and agree on restricting large campaign contributions:

Laird: Remember, Mr. Paul, electors (not voters) matter most

By John Laird February 19, 2012 6 a.m.

Ron Paul found another wrong tree to bark up Thursday afternoon in downtown Vancouver, and his idolators turned out in full force. Hundreds were turned away from a capacity crowd at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

John Laird: Trust the Hounds to keep howling about mail voting

By John Laird February 12, 2012 6 a.m.

Tuesday will bring yet another manifestation of our marvelous mail voting system. Actually, this year’s proof has been evident for two weeks as 84,274 Clark County voters have researched ballots they received by mail. As of Friday, 25,714 of those ballots had been returned. That’s a participation of about 30.5 percent so far, and County Auditor Greg Kimsey is projecting a final turnout of about 45 percent.

Laird: Partisan crowds at political rodeos love their cowboys

By John Laird February 5, 2012 6 a.m.

Give ol’ Don Benton credit. This is one persistent cowboy. Up in Olympia this year, Buckaroo Benton was dustin’ himself off and climbing back onto the English-only bronco. The state senator from Clark County follows this mangy cayuse from rodeo to rodeo, searching for that elusive eight-second ride that will allow Benton to declare English the official language of the state. His Senate Bill 6053 didn’t impress the judges enough to make it out of committee this year.

Laird: 104 miles is not so far when there’s a spring in your step

By John Laird January 29, 2012 6 a.m.

When does a march become a strut? The short answer: Feb. 9. That’s when several organizations will gather at Vancouver First United Methodist Church to begin a seven-day, 104-mile march for marriage equality. Destination: the state Capitol.

Laird: Forecasts, forgiveness and fighters

By John Laird January 22, 2012 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering how many people noticed last week that Oregon’s 8.9 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since November 2008, and Washington’s 8.5 percent jobless rate is the lowest since December 2009:

Laird: Some conversions begin in the heart

By John Laird January 15, 2012 6 a.m.

Have you ever noticed how flip-flopping is always what the other guy does? But never you. Oh, no! What you do is update your status.

Laird: Logical solutions are being ignored

By John Laird January 8, 2012 6 a.m.

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.

Laird: What say we loosen up a little in 2012?

By John Laird January 1, 2012 6 a.m.

Sorry, but I’ve got bad news for the dwindling yet cacophonous group of Clark County introverts who are afflicted with PAS (Portland Aversion Syndrome): 2012 is shaping up as your worst year ever.

Laird: It’s the time for ‘something really nice’

By John Laird December 18, 2011 6 a.m.

Cousin Eddie had no money to buy Christmas presents. But when Clark Griswold offered to pick up the tab, Cousin Eddie became flushed with yuletide glee, and he murmured tenderly, “Oh boy, this is a surprise, Clark. This is a real nice surprise … yeah, just a real nice surprise. Here’s a little list. Alphabetical, starting with (his wife) Catherine. And if it wouldn’t be too much, I’d like to get something for you, Clark. Something really nice!”

John Laird: Amateur sleuths, myths and rivalries

By John Laird December 11, 2011 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering if Jon Huntsman should become the GOP presidential nominee simply because he was the first of many candidates smart enough to bypass the Donald Trump “debate”:

Laird: Gerrymandering? No, it’s sovereignty

By John Laird December 4, 2011 6 a.m.

The telephone ring sounded all too familiar. Amboy recycler Hubcap T. Hamslockner was calling to complain again about local politics. “C-Tran gerrymandered me out of my right to vote in the Nov. 8 election!” he shouted.

We all hate tax increases (or we don’t)

By John Laird November 20, 2011 6 a.m.

Americans’ resistance to tax increases during an economic crisis remains as immutable as Gibraltar, or so we’re led to believe. But on closer examination, this conventional wisdom might not be so accurate.

Envy, batting averages and big dogs

By John Laird November 13, 2011 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, while trying to remember the third reason Rick Perry ran for president: More Puget Envy: Again we hear the hackneyed complaint that Seattle “stole the election” or Puget Sound “got its way one more time” or the eastern half of the state “was totally ignored.” (Example: The failure of the anti-tolling initiative was determined by only 12 of 39 counties, nine of which abut Puget Sound). This lament is just silly. Folks in Seattle and around Puget Sound will never apologize for their role in the democratic process. Ironically, many people afflicted with Puget Envy are strict Constitutionalists, and that particular document affirms the one man, one vote concept.

GOP’s best hope doesn’t stand a chance

By John Laird November 6, 2011 6 a.m.

While Clark County folks eye the finish line for Tuesday’s election (don’t forget to vote), let’s review the latest developments on the national political scene.

Ignore hit-and-run campaign tactics

By John Laird October 30, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

The best government money can buy

By John Laird October 23, 2011 6 a.m.

Conservatives, are you angry that one big factor in whether President Barack Obama is re-elected has nothing to do with his policy positions or leadership skills? That this factor, instead, is whether he can raise $1 billion (with a “b”) to conduct his campaign? Are you frustrated that in 2008 he broke the record with $745 million? Yes, Republicans, do you resent the fact that, when a Washington governor negotiates contracts with state-worker unions, she or he could be sitting across the table from some of the largest campaign contributors, and that there’s no one representing you and other taxpayers at that table?

The best kind of election: nonpartisan

By John Laird October 16, 2011 6 a.m.

Local ballots for the Nov. 8 election will be mailed to registered voters on Wednesday. If you don’t receive yours by Oct. 26, call the elections office: 360-397-2345. Anyone looking for an opportunity to flex their fiercely loyal partisan muscle (whether Republican or Democrat) will likely be disappointed in this election. Of the 141 people running for various offices around Clark County, only two are identified by political party. (Democrat appointee Sharon Wylie and Republican challenger Craig Riley are running for state representative in the 49th Legislative District.) But if you’re what Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post describes as “staunchly moderate,” this is definitely your kind of election, refreshingly free of party affiliations. Instead of partisan candidates who veer crazily toward radical ideologies in order to impress their base and advance to the general election, candidates this fall are folks who simply want to serve their communities in low-paid (if at all) elected offices. Good for them. Too bad there are so few. Those 141 candidates might look like a large field, but 81 percent of school board races across the county are unopposed, as are 31 percent of city council races.

Laird: Rough arts, red lights and reductions

By John Laird October 9, 2011 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering if Chris Christie’s decision not to run for president might have been different if he thought he had a chance of winning: Line up for handouts — Why, you ask, are Clark County commissioners considering a public contribution to the rough arts (the Yakima Bears baseball team) but not a public contribution to the fine arts (say, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra)? As a musician and former sports writer, I find that question interesting. Here’s my answer:

Ponder the lessons of Lewis and Clark

By John Laird October 2, 2011 6 a.m.

One of the most significant sites in U.S. history remains remotely detached from today’s Americans. Lemhi Pass on the Montana-Idaho border marks the first step by Meriwether Lewis over the Continental Divide. As such, it is the fountainhead of all that was good and bad about Manifest Destiny. In accordance with many other historic mountain passes, Lemhi Pass ought to be traversed today by a busy highway. But because Lewis was more lost than found when he crossed Lemhi, the pass at an elevation of 7,373 feet today offers no utility to modern travelers. It is reached only by a steep and winding dirt road.

Every headline should have six words

By John Laird September 11, 2011 6 a.m.

Brevity is the new norm. For that, we can thank Twitter’s 140-character limit. Another communication straitjacket is the increasingly popular six-word maximum. The best arbiter for this is Smith Magazine, which has published several books with six-word memoirs. For details, visit In the magazine’s “work” category, creative contributors described their jobs and offices in exquisite brevity, each with just six words. Examples: “Beware the ears of the watercooler.” And: “Billing always brings the best casseroles.” Plus my favorite: “Italian company: NEVER criticize your boss!”

Circular sublimity in Salmon Creek

By John Laird September 4, 2011 6 a.m.

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!

Some day, everyone’s vote will count

By John Laird August 28, 2011 6 a.m.

Spectators of the “Arab Spring” reform in the Middle East are cheering the supposed drift toward democracy in one of the world’s most undemocratic areas. This clumsy but promising transformation is understandable because the human spirit naturally yearns for popular rule. And when that spirit is empowered by the new social media, green shoots of democracy rise to the sunlight. Meanwhile, here in the United States, a relatively obscure step in that same direction took place recently in California. Earlier this month Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that affirmed California’s enlistment in the National Popular Vote movement. Washington state earlier passed similar legislation, which essentially declares: In presidential elections, all of a state’s electoral votes will be given to the leading vote-getter nationally. This would keep a runner-up in the national vote count from becoming president, as has happened four times in our nation’s history, most recently in 2000.

Complainers, committees and crackpots

By John Laird August 21, 2011 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering how many people know that (according to President Obama took 61 vacation days in his first 31 months in office (as of Friday) while at similar points in their presidencies George W. Bush had taken 180 vacation days, and Ronald Reagan had taken 112:

Gov. Goodhair throws hat in ring

By John Laird August 14, 2011 6 a.m.

Molly Ivins (God rest her soul) was a liberal columnist who, prior to her death in 2007, took great delight in immortalizing Rick Perry of Texas as “Gov. Goodhair.” In tribute to Ivins, and in recognition of Perry’s announcement that he intends to become President Goodhair, I have modified my mug shot for this column to a more densely coiffed presentation. Quite presidential, don’t you think? Many of us remember how Ivins became so upset with President George W. Bush (the subject of her political biography “Shrub”) that she closed her Sept. 13, 2005, column with this prophetic warning: “Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.” Sadly, Molly’s not around to warn us these days, but I, as a Recovering Texan and a former half-century resident of the Lone Star State, can smile when reflecting on her prescient admonition.

Some rivalries never lose their steam

By John Laird August 7, 2011 6 a.m.

Remember the good ol’ days around the turn of century, when the only thing folks worried about here in quiet, content Clark County was, gosh, if we could just get Royce and Betty Sue to get along? If so, you’re losing your memory. No time has ever been quiet and content here in Clark County. But you do get credit for accurately recalling the feud between Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard and Clark County Commissioner Betty Sue Morris. Ah, yes, for more than a decade they slugged it out toe-to-toe in our own little political version of the Ali-Frazier hostilities. One characteristic of an epic feud is that, years later, you’re not sure who won. And that’s the legacy of the Pollard-Morris showdowns. We only remember that each did a spectacular job of defending turf, Pollard for his city and Morris for her county.

Boehner winces at lint on GOP tux

By John Laird July 31, 2011 6 a.m.

Here’s some advice for President Obama. Next time you play golf with House Speaker John Boehner, sneak up behind him on the tee box, and just as he starts his downswing, whisper: “Tea Party!” Boehner’ll be lucky to get the ball off the tee. That’s because Boehner (a 7.9 handicapper) knows that tempo means everything in golf. Without tempo, you fall prey to The Dreaded Triple L: Laird Lurch & Lunge. And nothing will destroy Boehner’s tempo quicker than a whispered reminder about the delinquents in his Republican Party.

Exploration: Americans must wander

By John Laird July 24, 2011 6 a.m.

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.

Men at work; that’s why there’s chaos

By John Laird July 10, 2011 6 a.m.

As American politics devolves further toward a level beneath the dignity of professional wrestling, I wonder if it’s partly because women are playing less of a role in politics. My suspicion is that women just have better things to do with their lives, although I learned long ago not to draw any conclusions about women. Their diminishing political presence is seen at federal, state and local levels. In Congress, the decline has been only slight, down from 90 women members last year to 89 in this 112th Congress. Until this year, an encouraging trend toward gender equality was in force, and another of my presumptions is that this shift gained momentum in 1981.

Are New York echoes heard in N.W.?

By John Laird July 3, 2011 6 a.m.

Conservative columnist David Frum, a former speech-writer for President George W. Bush, penned a piece for 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.”

Food fights, hounds, science and more

By John Laird June 26, 2011 6 a.m.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering how you can demand to vote on your money going to bridges and trains but I don’t get to vote on my money going to farm subsidies: Happy here, nestled between the best — Many local residents spend considerable time in both Seattle and Portland to visit family or enjoy recreation, the fine arts or superb food. We’re lucky to live between the best two big cities in America. If you agree, grab the July Sunset magazine (Living in the West) and read “Portland vs. Seattle — Which has better restaurants?” I won’t give away the winner of this “Northwest Food Fight,” but you’ll love the creative comparison of the two cities. Here’s the link:

C-W differences amplified in election

By John Laird June 19, 2011 6 a.m.

Geographically, the meandering city-limits line between Camas and Washougal follows no particular pattern. Visitors often don’t know which city they’re in. But in other ways, that boundary might as well be the Iron Curtain. West of the line, Ozzie and Harriet, Donna Reed, and the Cleavers all live idyllic lives of white picket fences and correctness in Camas. East of the line, Ozzy Osbourne is gassin’ up for the 40th annual Washougal Motocross.