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Two boys from Baker

Barack Obama, as most of the world knows, took a historic oath today and became the 44th president of the United States.

Neither Bill Tebeau nor Bruce Klunder is anything close to as widely known and revered as is Obama.

Yet Tebeau and Klunder — Baker boys, both of them — each contributed something significant to the crusade for true equality in American, a quest for which President Obama’s inauguration is, in a sense, the culmination.

Tebeau, who is 83, graduated from Baker High School in 1943.

Tebeau wanted to be an engineer, so he went west, to Oregon State College (now University) in Corvallis.

He had been accepted to the school, which then, as now, was renowned for its engineering program.

Earning the money

For anyone who wondered why airline pilots make more money than most of us, the answer splashed down into the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey on Thursday afternoon.

The dilemma that confronted US Airways pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III is one few of us can comprehend.

Less than one minute after Sullenberger guided the Airbus A320 jet into the sky, with 154 passengers and crew members aboard, he radioed to LaGuardia Airport that the plane had struck a flock of birds and that both of the plane’s engines were disabled.

For a pilot, altitude is time. Sullenberger had very little of either.

And with both engines ailing, he also lacked options.

Don’t scrap cell phone law

Oregon’s law banning 16- and 17-year-olds from using cell phones while they’re driving sounds tougher than it has actually been.

Since the law took effect last year, police officers have written just a handful of tickets for the violation, according to The Associated Press.

In Portland, the state’s biggest city, officers haven’t handed out a single ticket for the cell phone offense.

Police officials point out that the cell phone ban is a “secondary” violation rather than a “primary” one. That means an officer can’t stop a teen driver just because the officer sees the driver holding a cell phone.

Lots of money, ideas about spending it

President-elect Obama’s pledge to spend close to a trillion of taxpayers’ dollars has, predictably, elicited plenty of suggestions about what to do with the money.

Obama hopes to revive the economy and create a couple million jobs.

Those are worthwhile goals, although we’re not convinced the latter, in particular, is realistic.

Rebuilding highways, replacing bridges and the like would prompt construction companies to hire workers.

But once the asphalt’s put down, the job’s done. Without a continued infusion of tax dollars — and even the biggest economy in the world can’t afford a trillion-dollar stimulus package every few months — many of the new jobs likely will be temporary.

Public should know where its money goes

The public deserves to know how many of its tax dollars Mountain Valley Mental Health has spent to defend itself in a lawsuit that two former employees filed.

Baker County Commissioners, who approved the contract with Mountain Valley to provide mental health services here, should require the nonprofit company to say how much it has doled out for the lawsuit.

Mountain Valley’s continuing silence on the matter spurs speculation about the cost. And that speculation — especially about the possibility that attorney fees are diverting money from patients who depend on Mountain Valley — exacerbates the dissension between the agency and its critics.

Clarify Web site

Oregon’s health officials claim on a state Web site that complying with the new law banning smoking in bars is, and here we quote: “easy.”

After perusing the Web site we weren’t convinced this is so.

Adhering to certain parts of the law, we’ll concede, shouldn’t severely tax tavern owners.

Putting up some “no smoking” signs and hiding the ash trays, for instance, is pretty light work.

But there’s one “easy” task listed on the Department of Human Services’s Smokefree Workplace Law Web site which, it seems to us, could cause quite a hassle for pub owners.

Under the heading “complying with the law is easy” is this:  “encourage employees who smoke to quit smoking.”

The state suggests one way by which business owners can accomplish this: “Encourage (employees who smoke) to call Oregon's toll-free QUIT LINE at 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).

Editorial from The (La Grande) Observer

The (La Grande) Observer:

It’s a funny thing about environmental groups. The more they claim to do for forest health, the unhealthier the forests become. Lawsuits and appeals of timber projects and sales go on and on, while trees die and go unharvested, while combustibles continue to pile up on the forest floors.

Legal wrestling matches drag on (and on), and conflagrations break out every year. The result? Blighted land, squandered taxpayer dollars and a wasted resource.

The controversy touched a new height in absurdity recently, when a federal district court judge effectively slapped down a U.S. Forest Service policy designed to promote work that reduces the risk of wildfires. Two local sales already evaluated for positive and negative environmental impacts were stopped dead in their tracks.

The Forest Service policy, adopted in 2003, exempts from appeal certain logging projects on 1,000 acres or fewer, and also prescribed burning on 4,500 or fewer acres. The policy is designed to allow some constructive, productive work to proceed in a timely manner.

Watching Congress on wilderness

If the Senate’s action this week foreshadows the future of public land legislation under Democratic control, that future could be interesting indeed.

And potentially disappointing for advocates — and we included ourselves among them — of an equitable federal policy.

Senators had hardly arrived at the Capitol when Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., introduced the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S.22). The act would, among many other things, designate as wilderness five areas in Oregon, totaling about 203,000 acres of public land (none of those areas is in Northeastern Oregon).

We don’t oppose creating any of those wilderness areas.

Don’t have a cow, now

The government’s getting ready to tax cow flatulence and burps.

Sure it sounds ludicrous.

But the government’s involved, a fact which makes plausible even the most hare-brained of schemes.

We certainly won’t try to convince anyone that the government’s incapable of imposing nonsensical and economically ruinous laws.

But neither do we want Baker County ranchers to worry unduly that they’ll lose their operation if they can’t teach their herds some manners.

Here’s what the government has actually done:

Last July the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced what it calls an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” regarding “potential regulatory approaches” to dealing with greenhouse gases.

City plows ahead and does its job

The great thing about snow is that it melts.

Glaciers are rather more persistent, of course, but there aren’t any of those in Baker County.

Yet the temporary nature of snow is small consolation to anyone whose car is marooned behind a chest-high wall of congealed slush.

Or to someone who lives along a street where the blacktop hasn’t been visible for a couple of weeks.

Both situations have happened this winter in Baker City.

Both have happened in plenty of winters past and, barring a radical shift in climate, both will continue to happen.

On balance, though, the snow that accumulates on our streets is more an annoyance than the near-disaster that some critics of the city’s snow-control strategy seem to believe it is.

In general the city deals with snow and ice in an appropriate and competent way.

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