Stories by John
Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering why Rush Limbaugh spends so much time insisting he’s not “a racist, bigot, sexist, homophobe”:
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.
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.
Two words of advice to Republicans who are trying to figure out women: Stop digging.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Trivia question: What do Richard Nixon, Paris Hilton and the BP oil firm have in common?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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”:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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 http://www.smithmag.net. 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!”
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!
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.
Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering how many people know that (according to cbsnews.com) 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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: http://www.sunset.com/travel/wests-best-food-towns-00418000072649/
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.
Trivia question: What historical leader said the following? “All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.” Karl Marx? Chairman Mao? Barack Hussein Obama?
Caution: Whenever a journalist starts writing about math, remain highly suspicious. Not necessarily about his views, just his numbers. Through many years of cooking adventures, I have misinterpreted countless recipe numbers and thrown away enough inedible meals to fill a dozen compost tumblers. Those culinary disasters all began with my lousy math. This flaw is also why I am allowed nowhere near a family budget.
Fellow Washingtonians, hoist your glasses high and let’s toast our state’s newest BFF: Rick Scott. Because the Florida governor bullheadedly rejected $2.3 billion in federal funding for rail improvements, Washington state is $15 million richer in our own drive for better railroads.
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.