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Home arrow Opinion arrow Columns

Threats of tyranny, and the role of the majority in America

I’m troubled, albeit slightly, by a federal judge’s ruling last week declaring California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

But the cause for my dismay is not that Judge Vaughn Walker sided with those people who believe gay marriage should be legal.

I happen to be one of those people.

I don’t care if two people of the same gender get married.

And it bothers me not a whit if the government deems this legal arrangement a marriage rather than a civil union or some other silly euphemism.

So far as I can tell, society would do well to encourage pairs of adults — any pair of adults — to make lifetime commitments to love one another and to raise their children in a nurturing environment.

The greater problem in this country, it seems to me, is not that too many people want to get married but that too many of us can’t stay married.


A little sleep lost: A fair price to pay for the proximity of deer

I was awakened on a recent morning, and long before dawn, by the bleating of a deer fawn, searching for its mother.

This is the sort of benign annoyance I happily endure for the privilege of sleeping so near to where deer walk.

And bleat.

Which is a slightly less happy circumstance, at least when the bleating deer happens to be bleating right outside my bedroom window at 4:20 a.m.

Nor did it improve my attitude that the fawn’s plaintive cries had frightened another youngster, this one a little girl who insisted on climbing into her parents’ bed.

I can confirm as a result that, on the spectrum of effective sleep-deprivation techniques, a whining deer falls far short of a three-year-old who kicks you in the shin every few seconds.

Or someplace more sensitive than the shin.

Although I suppose the fawn’s kick could cause real damage, what with the hard hooves.

The story apparently ended as I hoped it would, with a reunion of mother and offspring.


Tough time to run for City Council — and I hope plenty do it

What an interesting year to run for a seat on the Baker City Council.

In the same sense, you’re perhaps thinking, that swimming across the anaconda- and piranha-infested Amazon would be interesting.

I’ll concede that serving as a councilor has of late been an experience that couldn’t reasonably be described as tranquil.

In the past 14 months the Council has:

• Fired one city manager (Steve Brocato — or, to avoid potential confusion with city managers named Steve whose last name starts with “B” — Steve-1); had its top choice for his successor (Tim Johnson) first accept then reject the Council’s offer; hired a third person (Steve Bogart, or Steve-2); who announced that he’ll resign Sept. 23.

• Endured a campaign to recall from office two of the four councilors who voted to fire Brocato (Dennis Dorrah and Beverly Calder).


Pondering plastic bags, and plagued by ambivalence


I don’t hate plastic grocery bags.

I struggle in fact to muster even a respectable level of disdain for these ubiquitous totes.

Although this one time a sack, traveling alone and propelled by the desert wind, wedged into the rear derailleur of my mountain bike and mucked up one of the sprockets.

And since I was riding the bike at the time this intrusion was something of a nuisance.

But that paltry anecdote pretty well covers my personal antipathy for this category of container.

This makes me feel rather like an outcast.


How we've slunk: Kneeling before a machine, pleading for a nickel


The war is over.

And the machines have won.

This dismal outcome could hardly have been otherwise, what with the human race’s curious obsession with automation.

Curious or not, I can go along with this predilection for quite a distance.

I don’t much like the prospect of scrubbing my undershorts on a washboard, for instance.

Or anybody else’s.

And having tussled with a few grudging garage doors in my time — usually during a rainstorm — I appreciate the brilliance of the electric, chain-driven opener which hoists the door at the push of a button.

(I have averted this particular hassle for the past 15 years through the clever device of owning a home which has no garage. If I had a garage, though, it would be equipped with an opener.)


Giving voice to people who hide behind the cloak of anonymity

Gary Dielman posed the question, in a recent e-mail, why it is that the Herald allows anonymous comments to be posted on the paper’s Web site even though that practice is prohibited in the paper edition.

His question is a good one.

Timely, too, since barely more than a month has passed since we added the comment feature to our site.

My answer, in its simplest form, is that the Web page, though it shares the “Baker City Herald” moniker, is an altogether different animal.

If you’ll forgive my straining the limits of the analogy, I liken the newspaper to a lion in the zoo, and the Web site to a lion on the Serengeti.

The newspaper is a controlled environment, with its own versions of stout fences and padlocked gates.

We invite readers to tell us what they think, but we won’t publish their opinions unless they tell us who they are. And like a caged lion, their diet is limited: 350 words every 15 days.


Baker's stature preserved in stone; and what my brain's worth


You can tell a great deal about a town, I think, by having a look at its schools and its churches.

This exercise — literally, if you take a walking tour — shows Baker City to be a place of substance.

For a city which has never, during its 146 years, boasted an official population of as much as 10,000, Baker seems to me graced with an inordinate share of noteworthy houses of learning and of worship.

These are solid structures, constructed of stone and brick, heavy materials largely immune to the harsh climate of a mountain valley.

It is as if the people who designed and who assembled these buildings understood that this city, so unlike the mining boom camps that surrounded it, had real staying power, and that its constructions should reflect that persistence and prominence.

I like to believe that these craftsmen, were they ever of a philosophical bent, imagined while they were hard at their labors that a century on the quick footsteps of pupils would yet echo in the halls, that the preacher’s devotions would still wash over the penitent in their pews every Sunday.

Anyway I hope they did.


The wind blows a little piece of today into a forgotten homestead


We drove past an abandoned homestead the other day and my wife, Lisa, said that looking at the place made her feel a little sad.

I understand what she means.

It’s hard not to come off a trifle melancholy when you see a pile of weathered wood, crumbling concrete and rusted cans and realize that on some distant day children probably scampered happily around this very patch of ground.

Where today, like as not, you’d end up needing a tetanus shot if you got to messing around.

There are of course quite a number of homesteads in Baker County, and most of them could reasonably be described as abandoned.

And it’s likely that some of the people who did the abandoning were only too happy to be leaving.

This particular encounter wouldn’t have piqued my curiosity except that the homestead in question stands astride what seems to me an intriguing intersection — one which is technological and social as well as geographic.


Johnny Ballgame: Sports radio savior?

I have for the greater part of two decades lamented the inexplicable sports radio wasteland that is Baker County.

But just lately I have detected, like the ghostly whisper of a distant AM station at night, the slight sound of optimism.

It’s called the Johnny Ballgame Show.

And it is, in the estimation of the Baker City and La Grande stations that broadcast it, “Eastern Oregon’s only live and local sports talk radio program.”

I have heard nothing that refutes this claim.

The program, hosted by John Mallory, airs weekdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 1490 AM in Baker City and 1450 AM in La Grande.

Mallory graduated from La Grande High School in 1998. He earned a degree in radio/TV digital media production from the University of Idaho, where he did radio play-by-play for the Vandals and started his talk show in 2007.

I’ve tuned in a handful of times, and listened to maybe 90 minutes of Mallory’s program.

It is what it purports to be.

And it’s rather better than I expected.


I pity the fool: Moviemakers mess with a hallowed tradition


Hollywood can plunder TV until the end of days for all I care, but when filmmakers taint the legacy of Mr. T. . . . well, every man has his breaking point.

And with the arrival on the big screen of “The A-Team,” my tolerance for the movie industry’s machinations has at last been exploded into jagged fragments.

Which, now that I think about it, was the inevitable fate that awaited the lair of every bunch of haplessly stumbling bullies whom the A-Team thwarted.

And there was at least one of those per episode.

You know the type of villains I mean.

They fired more ammunition in 40 minutes of broadcast time than a band of South American mercenaries goes through in a coup attempt, yet nobody ever suffered a bullet wound.


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