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Mascot morass: The role of offended by proxy


I’m inclined to dismiss the debate over sports teams’ Native American mascots as a trivial matter except for this:

The issue raises apparent contradictions, as well as questions about the context of words, that fascinate me.

I write “trivial” not to insult anybody.

My point, rather, is that if as a society we’re truly worried about Native Americans then we ought to focus on something other than the logo painted on football helmets and embroidered on the backs of cheerleaders’ sweaters.

The academic progress of kids who grow up on reservations, for instance.

Or the persistent problem of alcoholism among some tribes.

 

Behind the SUV bids


Often as not when Baker City government buys a vehicle, the “buy local” debate is revived.

The city’s recent decision to purchase a pair of SUVs wasn’t especially contentious compared with past cases.

But it did remind us that city councilors can, and in some cases should, consider factors other than price when choosing a dealer.

Councilors decided to buy two Ford Explorers from DJ Anderson in Sandy for $44,544. That dealership is among those that have negotiated contracts with the state through what’s called the Oregon Cooperative Procurement Program.

 

Letter to the Editor for Oct. 30, 2013


Federal policies threaten Baker County’s economy

As if destroying the timber industry a few decades ago through its bogus science protection of the spotted owl was not harmful enough, the federal government is on the verge of administering a death blow to many ranchers in our western states. Worst case, that will include the state of Oregon and our county of Baker. Once again prostrating themselves on the altar of junk science our federal “partners” now propose to close off literally millions of acres of grazing land in order to protect the sage grouse. I’m not a rancher but many of my good friends are.  They depend on grazing allotments on federal land for their livestock.  Much of that federal land, some here in our county, has been labeled sage grouse habitat.

 So focused are the misguided feds on implementing the UN’s Agenda 21 that they intentionally ignore the numerous studies conducted by reputable scientists that show, clearly, that sage grouse actually thrive on properly managed grazed land. But, no, to the feds ranchers are the enemy of the clean environment they allegedly are so committed to “protecting.” The federal government, though you certainly couldn’t tell it by watching the current administration, exists to promote the “common good.” Last time I checked producing livestock for the marketplace, and doing so in the responsible manner typical of Baker County ranchers, is a huge chunk of the common good in our region.  

 The federal government is out of hand. Closing public access to the public’s land, and now recommending the closure of public land to responsible grazing are but two of the many steps this administration is taking to collapse our economy and force socialism upon us. If that happens we will be nothing better than a third world country which, I suppose, will make the current occupier of the White House very happy.  Wake up people before it is too late if not for us then for our children and grandchildren. Vote out the current, rotten crop in Congress and replace them with real Americans.

Jerry Boyd

Baker City

 

Good news on grouse?


The specter of the sage grouse has haunted Baker County’s ranching industry for more than a decade, as federal protection for the bird could restrict grazing on public lands. The latest development, though, might be cause for optimism rather than worry.

Yes, the federal government is proposing to list as threatened sage grouse populations. But those are in Nevada and California.

We find this encouraging because it shows that federal officials aren’t necessarily bent on imposing one-size-fits-all strategies for protecting the species.

 

Letters to the Editor, Oct. 28, 2013

America can’t ignore the cost of Medicare

Gary Dielman loves Medicare and thinks that everyone should be enrolled in some similar program. But he leaves out some important information in his hymn of praise for that program — its long range prospects. They are not so rosy.

Medicare already spends more each year than it takes in. This will only get worse as more and more baby boomers retire. As things stand, Medicare will be bankrupt in about a decade. Worse yet, it has an unfunded future liability of $30 trillion. The program’s own officials say that Obamacare does nothing to correct this situation.

European countries are learning that the cornucopia of government goodies does have a bottom, and several of them already are getting awfully close to it. Greece is the poster child for out-of-control entitlements, and has narrowly escaped national bankruptcy only by being bailed out by other countries. We are on that same path, just not as far along as Greece.

We have already had a warning shot across our bows. For the first time in history, our bond rating has been downgraded from AAA to AA. The reason given? It’s the huge unfunded liabilities of our country’s entitlement programs. We will not be upgraded back to AAA until Medicare and our other entitlement programs are restructured and put on a more financially sound basis.

We must get that situation corrected as quickly as possible. Otherwise, our legacy to our children and grandchildren is going to be one of crippling debt.

Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has submitted a plan to Congress which would do just that. Current retirees would continue under the present Medicare program, but future retirees would have the option to choose some other financially sound health care program. But Democrats are officially in a state of denial. They assert that Medicare has no long term problems, and they adamantly refuse to consider any significant changes to the program. They are content to continue kicking the can down the road, leaving future generations to clean up the mess they will left behind.

Pete Sundin

Baker City

 

Letters to the Editor Oct. 25, 2013

Be careful what you post on Facebook

In most households, one or more members regularly use Facebook, revealing personal information to the entire cyber world. An avid Facebook user myself, I’m at times amazed what people will post. The following story might make you think twice about what you post on Facebook. As it should!

For the most part, I have a rule against posting personal information on social sites. However, recently I posted information after having surgery. The thought process was to thank my many friends for supporting me with their prayers and comments. At first, it seemed a great idea, and much easier than sending 2,300 thank-you notes. Many posted their get-well wishes, and my heart was filled with joy.

A friend ask if I needed anything. “A huge bottle of Tylenol” I replied. The next thing you know, I was holding the biggest bottle of acetaminophen I’d ever seen! The whole neighborhood must have heard my laughter. I could not keep this to myself! I posted a picture of the bottle with a note stating “Well, I ask for a bottle of Tylenol, lol!” The comments started pouring in. “I hope he gave you something better than that, just out of surgery,” one man replied. This is where I turned stupid.

“Yes, he did,” I replied. “He gave me Oxycodone 5mg, but, they make me feel disconnected.” The very next day four people knocked upon my door. Two of whom I did not know, one neighbor, and one person whom I had spoken to briefly as he passed the house. One even sent his mother the next day! I heard every excuse for why, “If I could only spare a couple” how much better their life would be. One claiming cancer.

It was at this moment I learned a valuable lesson. Posting personal information on Facebook could have dangerous consequences! Those folks who showed up, they could have robbed and/or killed me; all for narcotics! Addiction is a powerful thing. It brought total strangers to my home. And, there are perverts and criminals lurking on all these sites! What are you or your children posting? Is this the feedback you want?

Stephanie Kinzel

Baker City

Former HBC director responds to newspaper story

First of all, I haven’t left the area ... as a matter of fact, I spent about an hour in the Herald office today, just chatting ... 

Second, I wasn’t fired. It is this very sort of reporting without checking facts that has made it untenable to work here. If I were associated with the Herald, I would check with Clair Button and several others why HBC had to spend money it should not have had to  spend. Get the facts straight or don’t bother reporting it.

Kate Dimon

Baker City

Get rid of smartphones and I’ll go back to a muzzle loader

I just read a letter to the editor from a lady from Portland — where else? — saying that we should completely ban guns. Maybe she is right. I’m sure that human nature has changed since the Founders divided government into three competing branches and had a Bill of Rights guaranteeing our freedoms. Evidently we can completely trust government now. 

She does make a point. At the time of the founding of the nation we just had muzzle-loading rifles. Now the government we trust has fully automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines. Along the lines of the urban liberal thoughts about those first weapons we should remember that the means of communication at the time was pen and ink and a printing press. So if you will give up your television, radio, smartphones, computers and the Internet I will go back to a muzzle loader.

Steve Culley

Richland

 

Teeing up the ideas

Baker City CPA Bruce Nichols asked the City Council Tuesday to consider having an existing nonprofit, City Golf Club, manage the city-owned Quail Ridge Golf Course.

Councilors should discuss Nichols’ idea.

And any other plausible solution that comes to them in the wake of Seven Iron Inc.’s decision to not renew its  management contract.

A viable golf course helps the local economy.

Equally important, the city needs annual lease payments from a course manager to pay off the debt it piled up several years ago as a result of building the back nine holes (despite voters rejecting a tax levy) and  from annual operating losses at the course.

This also might be the right time to revive an old idea — selling the 15 acres the city owns adjacent to the course.

 

‘Eco-terrorism’ or ‘protest’, fires are dangerous

It’s a good thing fires never kill people.

Oh, wait — they do?

Even, sometimes, blazes that weren’t set by cretins bent on murder?

I’m feigning ignorance about the lethality of fires to illustrate what seems to me the absurdity of an argument proffered in print by a couple of professors from Linfield College. They imply, among other things in an op-ed published Saturday in The Oregonian, that people who burn ski resorts and torch SUVs have much more in common with Martin Luther King Jr. than with Timothy McVeigh.

The op-ed was written by David Sumner, an associate professor of English at the McMinnville college, and Lisa Weidman, an assistant professor of mass communication.

Their subject is Rebecca Rubin, a member of a group that caused $40 million in property damage in several incidents from 1996 to 2001, including the 1998 attempt to destroy a Colorado ski area.

Rubin, who fled to her native Canada after the crimes but later returned to the U.S., recently pleaded guilty to several charges. She has not been sentenced.

The professors acknowledge that Rubin is a criminal who deserves to be punished.

(Which is no great concession, considering she admitted as much herself, in court.)

But these educators devote most of their words to arguing that Rubin, and some of her fellow fire bugs, are getting a raw deal in two ways:

• They are routinely branded by prosecutors and the media as “eco-terrorists.”

• Some of these criminals have been given longer prison terms under the “terrorism enhancement” provision in the federal Patriot Act.

The professors contend that Rubin is a saboteur, but not a terrorist, because her crimes didn’t harm anybody and because they were committed “in defense of the natural world,” but not intended to hurt people.

I don’t doubt the latter is true.

But it doesn’t matter.

Rubin and her confederates knew, as any lucid adult knows, that when fires get started people will show up to try to put them out.

Sometimes those people get hurt.

Or killed.

Indeed, a couple of firefighters were injured while extinguishing a fire that Rubin’s group started.

The flames don’t care that your goal was to protect lynx from a ski lodge or to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from gas-guzzlers.

Flames are as apolitical as a hurricane or a tornado.

They just burn, whatever and whoever happens to be within combustible range.

The notion, as the professors put it, that people such as Rubin are less culpable than actual terrorists because they’re “philosophically opposed to hurting or injuring other living things” is the sort of flimsy, “but I didn’t mean to” excuse most commonly employed by boys who bust one of their mom’s antique crystal goblets during an impromptu game of catch in the backyard.

Once you’ve lit the match you’ve potentially endangered others’ lives, and your philosophy, your intent, become worthless drivel.

It’s not as if Rubin and her pals waited around to make sure nobody got close enough to scorch an eyebrow. They scurried away, as criminals are wont to do.

The one minor aspect about which I might agree, in one sense, with the professors is on the question of whether or not Rubin ought to be punished more severely because the word “terrorism” is attached to her crimes.

The difference is that they believe some arsonists deserve lesser punishment.

But I think all arsonists should be treated just as harshly as Rubin and her friends have been, whether the goal is to destroy a fleet of Hummers or to collect a big insurance check.

The truly appalling part of the professors’ argument, though, is their attempt to cast Rubin as a First Amendment warrior whose actions, though technically criminal, were prompted by noble causes.

The gist of their case is that America, by treating “eco-terrorists” as a special sort of criminal, infringes on our freedoms.

“Rubin should be punished for her property crimes, but to call what she did terrorism is to misuse the word,” the professors wrote. “And to misuse the word is to threaten our First Amendment rights.”

Notwithstanding that the professors are on shaky semantic ground with regard to the word terrorism, they leap from that questionable claim to one that seems to me preposterous.

“The cost,” they wrote, “is to our freedom to protest the actions of other people that we feel are wrong. Where does that leave Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King and the long American tradition of civil disobedience?”

The professors also refer to “Libertarian activist Ron Arnold,” who came up with the word “eco-terrorist” in 1983. 

“If Arnold had his way,” they wrote, “sitting in at a lunch counter or blocking a factory gate would not be merely illegal, but would be terrorism.”

The obvious response here is “so what?”

Arnold has not had his way, nor is he ever likely to. He’s irrelevant.

If Rubin and her friends had merely blocked a factory gate — or in their case, say, chained themselves to heavy equipment at the ski resort site — they probably wouldn’t be in prison, and they certainly wouldn’t have been prosecuted as terrorists.

But they didn’t block things they don’t like.

They burned them.

The difference between these two tactics seems not to be a significant one for the two professors.

But then I didn’t detect much in the way of clarity or consistency elsewhere in their op-ed, either.

The professors start by arguing that Rubin is guilty of sabotage but not of terrorism.

Yet in later paragraphs the professors replace, as if by magic, “sabotage” with “protest,” as though these are synonymous in the context of Rubin’s crimes.

Then the authors stray even further down this path by implying that “vandalism” and “arson” are forms of protest — but again, neither act constitutes terrorism so long as the arsonists and vandals are “careful not to injury or kill anyone.”

In the case of fires this can be more a matter of good luck than of careful planning.

Which brings me back to Thoreau and King, who seem to have been brought in, against their will, from some wholly different discussion.

King’s career has been researched in exhaustive detail yet I don’t recall that he ever employed fires — even carefully ignited ones — to forward his righteous cause.

He marched from Selma to Montgomery, but he didn’t torch either place, nor any town between.

(Although a certain hood-wearing group that didn’t think much of Mr. King certainly didn’t hesitate to break out the lighter fluid to try to make its point.)

King did, however, possess the courage to stage his protests in the illuminated public square, to defy the unjust and to accept, with dignity, the punishment that came with his defiance.

He didn’t slink around under cover of night, lugging cans full of nasty, polluting petroleum products.

As for Thoreau, I’m sure he sparked quite a few blazes in his time.

But he can hardly be blamed for that. I imagine it got pretty cold, living in a cabin in Massachusetts before central heating.

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald. 

 

Letters to the Editor for Oct. 23, 2013


Obamacare is a small step, when we need a giant one

I completely agree with Mr. Dielman’s Oct. 16 letter about the U.S. medical care financial chaos. So-called Obamacare is a tiny and incremental improvement; but, in my humble opinion, Obamacare is more of a “welfare for insurers” program than any giant step toward a sane (i.e., single-payer) national med-care financing system.

My pretty good and dear wife of 42 years has been in various hospitals since July 30, 2013. She’s now 66 years old, so U.S. Medicare pays most of the billings. After numerous visits to several hospitals in Baker City and Boise, my already pretty high respect for RNs has gone way up. RNs are the true backbone of an otherwise chaotic U.S. med-care system; and, RNs (rather than insurance company execs and coding nerds) deserve a max share of every dollar that we pay for med-care.

MDs are OK, too; but, if every MD at some big hospital took a week off, the RNs would muddle through. If all their RNs took just one day off, by noon of that day, same big hospital’s operations would implode.

Eric Schoenfeld

Haines

We can revive economy if we just use our resources

The economic crisis is not over. This problem didn’t just happen, it was created by shortsighted, wrong-headed thinking by government officials over the last 40 years. It won’t be cured by government money manipulations or working the printing presses overtime.

First we must recognize the basic facts of life.

No person, company or country can continue to spend more than they earn.

We need jobs and money. All new wealth comes from the ground, there is no other source. It is created when we harvest the produce and resources of the earth. It is expanded when they are processed and manufactured into more valuable productions.

In the guise of protecting the environment, government agencies have so seriously regulated these industries that many of them curtailed or shut down or moved overseas.

I have been a member of the mining industry for over 60 years and it has been seriously damaged. It is absolutely vital to the economy of this country. You cannot manufacture one single thing without using minerals directly or indirectly. 

You can advocate increased American manufacturing, but what do we make things out of? If we have to import the raw materials for our factories, the major differences in our production cost is labor, that puts us in a rough position competitively.

One hundred fifty years ago our forefathers realized that for our country to grow and prosper they had to encourage people to go out into the open land and develop farms and mines, so they passed the Homestead Act that gave people title to land they developed, and they passed mining laws to encourage miners to prospect and open mineral deposits.

The Forest Service and BLM have done everything they can to restrict this production. 

The fact is that we have regulated our country out of business.

At no government expense we could greatly stimulate our economy and jobs if we could require our agencies to recognize and obey congressional laws and relax many of the environmental restrictions that have little or no long-range benefit to the majority of the people of our country.

Kenneth Anderson

Baker City

Raffling AR-15 rifle is insensitive

While reading the Record Courier I was shocked to see the Baker County Republicans are raffling off an AR-15 for a fundraiser. After calling multiple state agencies about this raffle apparently this is legal in Oregon and multiple GOP counties are doing it. Just think of the outrage if they raffled 100 cartons of cigarettes, what sort of a reaction could we expect? Cigarettes are legal, too. This simply sends an unfortunate message.

State Sen. Ginny Burdick who has backed unsuccessful legislation that would have outlawed military-style semi-automatic rifles, expressed disgust  with these types of drawing in a recent article in the Oregonian:

“Five thousand people have been shot to death since Sandy Hook,” she said, referring to last December’s shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, “and for the Republicans to be out there with this gun as their emblem is in very poor taste.  But it is a free country.” 

I say forget the assault weapons ban, it’s time to ban guns completely. The idea that it is unreasonable to demand a complete ban on guns, while the gun lobby refuses to give an inch, is a prime example of complete right-wing denial. How is it good and proper for Oregon to prohibit gay marriage, but controlling guns would be an unconscionable limit on “freedom.” Why do people even need guns? When the founding fathers created the Second Amendment they were referencing muskets not machine guns with maximum clip sizes. Look at the thousands of people who have been shot to death since Sandy Hook and the recent shooting in Grant County that killed two people from Baker City. We need to start far more drastic measures against guns if we are going to save our children and ourselves. It is far past time to call for a total ban on guns.  And if it takes a constitutional amendment, so be it.

Regardless of where you stand on the gun debate, this AR-15 raffle is insensitive and horrible political messaging. The GOP is going to continue to lose elections unless their messaging improves dramatically.

Laura J. Link

Portland

 

Contracts reflect the economy


Baker City’s new contracts with its three labor unions are reasonable deals that reflect the economy and the city’s budget situation.

These three-year pacts with the police, fire and public works unions are quite different from the five-year contracts they replace.

And rightfully so.

The previous contracts included annual pay raises ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent. That seemed appropriate when the contracts were ratified in 2008. But when the economy went into a tailspin later that year, and many city residents in the private sector had their pay frozen or lost their jobs, those raises seemed awfully generous.

Five years later the economy has improved, but only marginally.

The city had no choice but to slow the growth of employee salaries and benefits, which account for about 70 percent of the budget. These new contracts do that, with annual raises ranging from 1 percent to 1.5 percent. The city also has switched to higher-deductible, lower-premium health insurance plans.

Unlike many cities, Baker City hasn’t had to lay off workers. These new labor contracts should help the city remain on the right side of the ledger.

 
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