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A good Samaritan, defined

In a moment when Markeith Reese had ample reason to be thinking only of himself, he instead focused on people he had never even met.

The 21-year-old Baker City man might have saved four lives as a result.

Reese was driving home about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 3.

He had just lost his job.

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 9, 2015

Thank you, police officers,  for protecting us

Isn’t it wonderful, a pure delight, to live in Baker City — the safest city in Oregon, according to the Baker City Herald article.  

We can and should thank our Baker City Police Department, Baker County Sheriff Department and the Oregon State Police for this environmental luxury enjoyed by very few communities in the U.S. 

These dedicated individuals often work evenings missing the school functions of their children, family functions and holidays. 

I don’t know of a teacher, mechanic, lawyer, hairdresser, doctor, clerk or builder that is exposed daily to the potential danger at their jobs that a policeman experiences. 

They do not respond in kind to verbal abuse they sometimes receive nor do they choose this profession to get rich.   They are many of the finest our community has to offer.  

The detrimental actions by some towards police across the nation is heartbreaking and very disturbing.  I shudder to think of a scenario where there are not dedicated law enforcement personnel to call in times of needing help. 

Baker City is the safest in Oregon. It did not happen by accident. Thank you Baker City Police, Baker County Sheriff and Oregon State Police. 

Susan Earl Castles

Jane Earl Barrett

Pamela Busey

Daughters of a state policeman

America must deal with income inequality

Your terrific guest editorial on income inequality (Jan. 5) urges We the People to wake up, join together, and reverse the massive redistribution of wealth that is now starving the middle class. National, unified action is needed to install wage guarantees like an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), paid for by increased taxation of the wealthy.  And we must take the lead. The editorial points out that most politicians avoid this issue for fear of offending their big campaign donors.

But those fears are actually groundless. The wealthy need not sacrifice. We all do well, when we all do well. Creating more and healthier customers expands the economic pie, meaning there’s more for everyone.

Think of the prosperity of the 1950’s and 1960’s, when income taxes on the very wealthy were much higher — an effective overall rate of around 50 percent, compared to today’s rock-bottom 15 percent.  So much was accomplished under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, from free tuition at the best public universities to construction of the interstate highway system.

Today’s economic conditions are certainly different, but they still offer great promise. Computers, robotic automation, and off-shoring will continue to absorb good-paying jobs. But, remarkably, they also offer a much richer and less tedious life to us, if we create a system of job sharing supported by a greatly expanded EITC.  

Yes, we’re talking about a major change in the political rules, but, as the editorial warns, if we don’t act, things will continue to get worse. Joblessness and the struggle to make ends meet on stagnant or declining wages will increase, while the rich get richer, and “the pitchforks will eventually come out.” 

It’s time to wake up to this new, unsustainable reality and work together for a simple change in rules to benefit everyone.  We can start by watching the movie “Inequality for All” (on Netflix or library DVD) and studying the InequalityForAll.com and Inequality.org web sites. Then, we can begin the conversation around our kitchen tables and in our community, expanding it into a national drumbeat demanding that the politicians bring about prosperity and justice for all.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

The $15 minimum wage, and ‘Monopoly’ money

A government-mandated minimum wage of 15 bucks an hour sounds great, but when I see that figure I think of the stacks of money that come with a “Monopoly” game.

Especially those bruise-colored $500 bills.

It’s easy to insist that every worker should earn at least $15 an hour.

It’s also easy to plunk down $300 to buy Pacific Avenue.

In each case the money isn’t yours, and no dollar spends more effortlessly than the one you didn’t earn.

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 7, 2015

‘Needle little help’ for Earth’s climate

My son in LA sent me a link (http://chipperbound.tumblr.com/) to a former co-worker’s series of postcards built around used Christmas trees waiting at the curb for the garbageman. Beside the trees are cardboard signs with messages like, “Lost my job. Need help.” And my favorite “Needle little help.” 

Given the global warming crisis threatening mankind’s existence, maybe it’s time to quit cutting down all those trees. On the other hand, they’d probably be replaced by artificial trees made of plastic, which comes from, guess where, oil and coal. 

Oil and coal need to stay in the ground not spewed in our atmosphere as if it were a garbage dump. That’s the message of the world’s scientists and Naomi Klein’s new book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate Change.” 

If your readers don’t read the book, I suggest this New York Times book review by Rob Nixon: (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/books/review/naomi-klein-this-changes-everything-review.html?_r=0). His summarizing final sentence: “The result (of Klein’s book) is the most momentous and contentious environmental book since (Rachel Carson’s 1962 exposé about DDT) ‘Silent Spring.’ ”

Gary Dielman

Baker City

A football fan caught in radio limbo

Being an avid NFL (National Football League) fan. . . addict, I found myself in a nightmarish limbo upon moving to Baker City. First off I was denied the Dish Network due to the historic nature of my new home, a dish on the outside of the Baker tower was out of the question. We settled on cable, the only cable provider in the area?

My wife and I had  finally moved into the 21st century,  discarding our 1985 (200-pound) television and purchasing a brand new, 48-inch, state-of-the-art, HD (high definition) flat screen — all the bells and whistles — for our new world, therefore it should come as no surprise that we were semi-shocked when the “cable guy” informed us that HD was not available via cable in this area?

Well, OK — certainly not the end of the world — until... I discovered that the NFL network was not included in my, rather spendy, package –Yikes!

I did what any rabid football fan would do, I searched the radio waves for my Thursday night NFL football fix.. and.. Yes! I found it.. “There is a football god”.. or so I thought.

On Saturday, Dec. 20 there was a special Saturday edition of Thursday night football. I flipped on the radio and listened intently, as any true NFL fanatic would. 

It proved to be a very entertaining matchup, the Philadelphia Eagles (fighting for their playoff lives) against the Washington Redskins (nothing to play for but pride). It was back and forth the whole game, heading towards an exciting finish, anybody’s game.                              

So there I was, leaning in, listening intently to the announcers “Sanchez back to throw, scrambling” when my radio suddenly went dead.. and then.. “We welcome you to this week’s broadcast of La Grande High School girls basketball”?? And just like that — my National Football League game was gone!! , instantly replaced by La Grande girls basketball?

It was at this exact moment that I finally figured out,  “Michael, you’re not in Portland any more.”  

Mike Meyer

Baker City

Police cameras: good idea

Americans have been acutely interested recently, in the wake of highly publicized cases in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City,  in the interactions between police officers and the public.

Thousands of words, many of dubious value, have been written and uttered by people who condemn police and by people who support police.

But what we need more than words from people who didn’t even see the events happen, are pictures.

Moving pictures, in particular, which is to say video.

Winter blues: Planning summer backpacking trips

I got my flu shot this fall but I’ve been infected by a powerful seasonal virus anyway.

And no inoculation exists, so far as I know, for this affliction.

I’m obsessed with planning summer hiking trips.

That this inclination consumes me every year about this time, when our favorite trails in the Elkhorns and the Wallowas are obscured by snow and will not emerge in some cases for seven months, seems cruel.

Good news on groceries

We can’t predict the future of the grocery business in Baker City in detail, but it appears that the most important issue has been decided.

We’ll still have two stores.

Our biggest concern with the pending merger of Albertsons and Safeway is that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would require the merged company to close either the Safeway or Albertsons store in Baker City to avoid a single company monopolizing the local market.

Freedom wins on the big screen

We figured the news had penetrated even the dimmest cracks of the world, where the cretins lurk who know how to threaten but who couldn’t create a coherent argument if you gave them a script.

In America, freedom is more than a word.

Yet some anonymous people apparently believed that threats of violence could keep a movie from showing up on American theater screens.

For a couple weeks the thugs seemed to be right.

But in the end, as it almost always does in America, freedom prevailed.

Bacon: Out of the bedroom, back to the kitchen

The bacon magicians have gone too far.

I write this with regret.

(And a rill of saliva running down my chin.)

I hesitate even to suggest that anyone can love bacon too much.

Cardiologists no doubt would disagree, but those killjoys disdain all processed meats.

The problem is that entrepreneurs want to use the essence of bacon, rather than actual bacon, to sell products you can’t even eat.

Or shouldn’t try to eat, anyway.

Letter to the Editor for Dec. 24, 2014

America must return to economic fairness

Our Constitution says that a central purpose and function of our government is to “promote the general Welfare.” To me, that means setting rules that enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of economic activity — to use the common wealth for the common good. By that measure, our government is currently failing us, and that means we need to change the rules of the game.

Our great country has, over the past 35 years, become a well-oiled machine, bestowing great wealth on a very few while relegating the rest of us to increasing economic distress and poverty. This massive redistribution of wealth followed a period of rising wages and widespread prosperity after WWII, with a promise of even further upward mobility, characterized by free college tuition and other major investments in our infrastructure.

That promising American Dream has vanished. Our economic structure has shifted fundamentally, with the introduction of computer automation, off-shoring, and union-busting. Good-paying jobs were and are being lost and wages stagnating, as we compete for the jobs that are left, while the wealthy rake in the profits. (This is well-documented by the movie “Inequality for All,” featuring former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, available on DVD at the Baker County Library and streaming on Netflix.)

Meanwhile, we’ve been stymied by anti-government sentiment, personified by Ronald Reagan and a discredited “supply-side,” trickle-down theory that led to tax cut after tax cut, cascading budget deficits, and deregulation of the reckless big banks. 

We’ve let this happen. We’ve let the top one percent keep all the benefits of improved productivity, and we’ve let Big Money intimidate almost all national politicians into a virtual conspiracy of silence about raising taxes on the wealthy and boosting family incomes. 

We must throw off our lethargy and our cynicism, lay aside the anti-government drumbeat that divides us, and we must change the rules. We must cooperate in reversing the massive redistribution of wealth. We must join together to demand the fairness and equity upon which our country was founded. 

Marshall McComb

Baker City

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