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Home arrow Opinion arrow Columns

Obama’s perch on the fence might be the best place for America

President Obama, as I understand the situation, is too cautious as a war leader to suit conservatives, yet too bellicose to gain the favor of liberals.

This puts the president pretty near where I’d like him to be.

Quite a lot of Obama’s critics have accused him, since his speech last week, of that most overused metaphor. He’s sitting on the fence, they say, unwilling or unable to commit to one course of action.

Well I don’t think there’s anything much wrong with fences, or with sitting on one when you want to get a look around from a slightly elevated vantage point.

I happen to believe the president is correct in concluding that America’s military has vital work yet to do in Afghanistan, and that some of those tasks, once completed, will help to protect Americans.

For instance, we ought to afford the Afghans a chance to reward themselves with those gifts we cannot give them no matter how many lives or dollars we sacrifice on their behalf: a stable government and a society that is sterile ground for the likes of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.


Why bother with toys? A simple tree captures a toddler’s attention

Went to the woods Saturday to saw down the year’s Christmas tree, and by Sunday afternoon the house was infused with the pleasantly earthy scent of fresh fir.

So was a little girl’s blonde hair.

We expected of course that Olivia would be intrigued by the sudden appearance of a 7-foot conifer in her living room.

She is, I should mention, 2 1/2.

And at 2fi your sense of cynicism is so stunted that pretty much everything that happens to you is intriguing.

Olivia raises the alarm when she notices irregularities much less conspicuous than a tree — a single cracker crumb on the kitchen floor, for instance.


Mad at the police? Wise to confine your fighting to the courtroom

Some people seem to think police officers should be capable of feats that would amaze David Copperfield and Doug Henning.

I just want cops to arrest, as quickly and painlessly as possible, anybody who poses a threat to innocent people.

People like me, for instance.

Not everyone is satisfied with that simple standard, though.

They expect police to not merely apprehend suspected lawbreakers, but to always do so in a way that doesn’t look, you know, violent when you see it on a grainy black-and-white videotape.

That is a pleasant thought.


The ultimate Beatles collection; and some ducks get their due

I’m something of a Beatles aficionado and so it causes me considerable shame to admit the following:

For a lamentably large number of years I believed the group’s last album was “Let it Be.”

I am not at all consoled by the fact that I recognized this error before I was old enough to drive.

Nor does it lessen my embarrassment that my mistake, besides being a common one among Beatles fans, is not, in a semantic sense, even wrong.


Misleading maps: For travelers who get around afoot, not all miles are equal


The place where we hunt elk lacks certain amenities, including, rather unfortunately, elk.

I don’t really mind, though.

A rifle is no great burden, slung over a shoulder, and I enjoy getting out in the clean air and having a look around the country on the cusp of winter.

Besides which, elk could enter the picture at any time. In theory, if not always in reality. Every hunter will tell you the elk are out there; it’s just that “there” is never where I happen to be. At least not when I have a hunting tag in my wallet.

And even if, say, a six-point bull does wander into view, it’s apt to vacate the premises before I can bring my scope to bear. Which is just as well, since I’m a lousy shot.

I don’t care what the wildlife biologists say — elk can disappear. And I mean literally disappear, not merely step behind the camouflage of a Douglas-fir. I’m talking about different dimensions, or astral planes, or whatever.


The scene of childhood bliss looks different after so many years


There is something uniquely sad about the sight of a certain sort of barnyard on the gray morning after a hard autumn rain.

This affliction does not affect outfits which have enjoyed a long and consistent run of bountiful harvests. The prosperity of such enterprises is easy to gauge from the well-tended lawn and the freshly painted buildings and the general absence of disorder and neglect.

Even these farms are not immune to grime — it’s awfully hard to grow anything edible without the occasional appearance of mud — but the mess is in the main confined to the fields. The public face of the place, what passers-by see from the road, must at all times and in all weathers present a picture of constant care.


A perfect time for chocolate; and the importance of stopping leaks

The recall is over, and I suggest everybody eat a piece of chocolate.

Except for dogs, who can’t tolerate the confection.

Halloween is nigh, so the availability of chocolate ought to be at its highest level since Mother’s Day.


A story about hunters, private property rights, and one bull elk


I suspect that most every elk hunter who habitually pursues the wily animals (and it is a habit, much like smoking, and for some equally addictive) can tell you about the one shot they yearn to have a second chance at.

The arrow that nicked an unseen limb.

The bullet nudged off course by a sudden gust.

I’m referring, obviously, to shots that missed the target.

But there are other cases, albeit of extreme rarity, when the hunter’s aim was true but he wishes, given time to reflect, that he had not pulled the bowstring or the trigger.


A major mountain range that gets no respect from the mapmakers

Mountain ranges, it seems to me, ought to be depicted on maps as something more noteworthy than a handful of the highest summits.

The ranges tall enough to cast shadows across most of a valley should, at the least, have names.


Wolf policy changes needed

On Good Friday morning three generations of Jacobses got to experience firsthand the havoc two wolves could wreak. Just a two-minute jaunt from our sleeping households, four of the five documented wolf attacks occurred on what we call the “Home Ranch,” a 640-acre chunk of farm and pastureland, just a part of what we make a living on in this high desert country.

From that day in April until today, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and Animal Damage Control confirmed 29 lambs, a pet goat and one calf killed on two ranches. This act stirred and spread the hotbed of debate in our small ranching community of Keating Valley to the Legislature in Salem and beyond.


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