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Letters to the Editor for Sept. 29, 2014

Time for change in D.C.: Vote for Monica Wehby

As election time rolls around again, it’s time to give some thought to the direction you want your local, state and national politics to follow.

After having sent 33 letters to Senator Merkley since 2009 on many different  issues from global warming to unemployment benefits, I find that the response to my concerns is curiously consistent with someone who has no interest in the needs of his constituency.  He has returned the following response to almost every single contact or query I have sent to him. “While we may disagree, I value knowing your views on this important matter and appreciate the opportunity to share my perspective.”

 I think it’s time for a major change in our representation in Washington, D.C. It  would be quite a pleasant change to have someone who shares some of our common values. I have heard some people have expressed concerns about Dr. Wehby’s  stance on some social issues. No one person can be 100 percent acceptable to all people, but I can say that she follows more of my personal beliefs than anyone else running for the position. Dr. Wehby has spent hundreds of hours visiting, talking to and learning about local issues.

When was the last time you sat down to a casual breakfast or social gathering with Senator Merkley? I’d be willing to bet the answer is “never.” I have personally spent many hours at events here in Baker County where Dr. Wehby has spent her time getting to know the needs of Eastern Oregon on a one-to-one basis. She listens and does not ignore the people.              

Vote for Dr. Monica Wehby for U.S. Senator.

Jim Longwell

Baker City

School bomb threats aren’t the real danger

Both the Baker County Press and the Baker City Herald have editorials about the recent threat of a bomb in school and have invited comments. I have a few.

The problem doesn’t seem to me to be one of out-of-control juveniles but rather one of over-controlling nanny state adults who are thinking-challenged.  Let’s take a few facts and look at them. I guess you could call a bomb threat an act of terrorism or at least it is treated as such with police responses, shutdowns and lockdowns and all the new terms of the new nanny state where people can’t think anymore without asking somebody in “authority.”

First fact, serious terrorists fly planes into buildings, bomb buildings, shoot people etc. and then take credit afterwards. They don’t leave a note saying this place is going to blow up.  In all the thousands of school bombing threats nationwide over the past several years none have happened.  There have been millions spent on police overtime and lost school time but no explosions.  

In the local case I would make the assumption that the teachers and everyone else involved had a damned good idea who made the threat, probably knew the kid couldn’t make breakfast let alone a bomb but still opted to go through the “let’s pretend we have a threat” scenario.  

  What should have happened is the kid should have been called to the principal’s office. Remember the old days when going to the principal’s office was a real threat?  

With real threats in the world like ISIS, and the open borders it’s time to grow up and refocus. School policy should be to ignore bomb threats.  I know, scares the hell out of you but you will get used to it and things can return to normal after a while.

Steve Culley


Don’t let billionaires take over our elections

Have you seen all those slick Richardson and Wehby signs that have sprouted up around town? As Dan Martin noted in his recent letter, Koch and ALEC have come to town! That is Koch brothers’ money and ALEC’s agenda have landed in little ol’ Baker County.

The famous Koch billionaires have been providing primary funding for the campaigns to replace our two people’s representatives, Gov. John Kitzhaber and Sen. Jeff Merkley, with their corporate representatives. And then implement ALEC’s mission to replace laws and regulations by and for the people with those by and for the corporations.

Kitzhaber and Merkley are working for a people’s agenda that includes among other needs supporting the middle class with living wages and affordable higher education, getting corporate money out of politics, providing affordable health care for all.

ALEC wants to replace Kitzhaber as one of four governors who stand in the way of implementing their state legislative agenda throughout the 50 states. They want to replace Merkley to gain control of the Senate so that their agenda for corporate control is implemented at the federal level. Merkley has stood in the way of ALEC’s pursuit to destroy medicare and social security.

Are we going to let out-of town-money and greedy corporate interests defeat our two excellent people’s representatives? Get registered! REGISTER and VOTE. Vote to protect the people’s interests and let the corporatists know that our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.” 

Ramon Lara

Baker City

Forest Service comes to its senses on media

Some officials from the U.S. Forest Service seem to believe that photographs in a newspaper, or video segments on a TV program, could sully the pristine nature of America’s wilderness areas.


We are too.

Or, rather, we were perplexed until the Forest Service’s chief, Tom Tidwell, issued a belated but welcome press release Thursday that makes a lot more sense than some of his underlings’ recent statements.

Internet obsession, and Eugene’s torrid summer

In the dim and distant past, before man had Tweeted, before the culinary magicians had impregnated pizza crust with not only cheese but cheese and bacon, I lived a simple life.

Simpler, anyway.

It occurred to me the other evening, when I very nearly ruptured a neck muscle reaching for my smartphone to check a football score while I was in bed, that my obsession with the Internet’s instant information is not altogether healthy.

And not only for my trapezius.

My complaint is a common one, of course, in these days of wi-fi ubiquity and powerful computers smaller than one of those Casio calculator watches the smartest kid in your high school was always fiddling with during algebra II.

Letters to the Editor for Sept. 24, 2014

Back Kitzhaber, Merkley to restore victory for common man

“We all do well, when we all do well.”  This is how master filmmaker Ken Burns encapsulates the core insights and beliefs of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor in his epic documentary “The Roosevelts.”  (If you missed it, it’s online on PBS.org through Sept. 28.)

“We all do well, when we all do well.” These seemingly simple words are profoundly inspiring if we let them enter our hearts and inform us. And they can breathe life and hope into even the most cynical and despairing among us, as we recall how almost everyone prospered during 1950s and 1960s, when the results of the Roosevelts’ phenomenal leadership reached full fruition. 

And, yes, the words should also jolt us awake, as we compare our country today with the way we were back then. In the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, one wage earner could provide for an entire family; we built the interstate highway system; tuition at our state colleges was virtually zero; we instituted Medicare; and there was the promise of even better things to come for future generations. Top marginal income taxes on the wealthy were over 90 percent, but most everyone prospered as those taxes were converted into beneficial spending and economic growth.

Today, government has stepped back, as jobs have been shipped overseas or automated; wages have stagnated for 35 years, and the profits have gone to the top one percent who pay minimal taxes. Predatory mortgage loans and credit cards have bankrupted many; unregulated big banks triggered the Great Recession; and college tuition and user fees have skyrocketed.

Even so, one of our great political parties, led by ideology and wealth, is advocating even greater sacrifice and loss, as evidenced by the front-page interview of Monica Wehby in the Record-Courier on Sept. 18, in which she twice emphasized the need to “get government out of our lives as much as possible.”

Let us, together, restore the victory for the common man won by the Roosevelts. Google “Governor John Kitzhaber on the issues” and Google “U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley working for the middle class” to learn more.

Marshall McComb

Baker City

The slippery slope of insurance coverage exemptions

I read, with interest, Pete Sundin’s letter re: The Little Sisters of the Poor doing good works and being required to comply with the mandate to provide to all its employees health insurance including the provision of birth control. First and foremost, employers do not have the right to know how their employees use the health care they are provided. That information is only for doctors and their patients to know; NOT the employers. 

Secondly, if the Affordable Health Care act restricts coverage to any medical problem, then birth control will lead the insurers to not provide coverage for a broken leg, a heart attack, or a cancerous nodule. The insurance companies are very interested in taking our money while they are not as enthusiastic about paying money out to someone who needs medical care.

Give ’em an inch, they’ll take a mile. 

Iva M. Mace

Baker City

NFL gets too much attention


The National Football League has gotten as much attention recently for its players’ alleged crimes than their touchdowns.

This isn’t altogether a bad trend.

The blizzard of publicity that followed the release of a video showing Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé in an elevator, knocking her unconscious, cast a bright light on the horrors of domestic violence.


Letters to the Editor for Sept. 22, 2014

Obamacare hurting, not helping, downtrodden

At the 62nd National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama said, “Our faith teaches us that in the face of suffering, we can’t stand idly by, and that we must be the Good Samaritan.” The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic charity, is certainly one organization which is acting as the Good Samaritan. This group of women “offer to the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family, and accompanied with dignity until God calls them home to himself” (quoting from the charity’s mission statement).

Yet the Obama administration insists that this charity must comply with the mandate to provide to all of its employees health insurance including contraceptives and abortifacients or face annual fines of around $2.5 million. This places the Little Sisters in a terrible dilemma.  They cannot in good conscience do as ordered, yet an annual fine of that magnitude would seriously impede their ability to relieve suffering among the elderly poor.

So the Little Sisters is suing the Obama Administration, saying that their First Amendment rights of freedom of worship are being violated. And they are not alone. The HHS mandate has brought on a veritable Niagara of lawsuits from similar Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and other charitable organizations, groups which do not stand idly by in the face of suffering.

Now the Obama Administration has shown no indication that it intends to follow the letter of the law in regards to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It freely grants exceptions and issues revisions as it sees fit. But not for the Little Sisters of the Poor nor all similar groups which look after society’s losers. With these charities, the administration is adamant. They must do as directed or face the consequences.

Politicians, including our president, make a lot of noise about their concern for the poor and downtrodden, yet the current administration is acting as a huge impediment for those who actually go out and do good. Obviously something is at work here besides concern for the destitute.?

Pete Sundin

Baker City

Merkley works for people, not corporations

Gary McManus set out to smear Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (Baker City Herald, Sept. 10) by “proving” they are both Socialists, a bit of nincompoopery most famously peddled by Rush Limbaugh. Smearing is what tar brush artists do when they have no real “bullets” to smirch with.

Then he abruptly turns to attack Jeff Merkley, which shows the hand of the Koch brothers and the ALEC conspiracy, which is a real and very sinister conspiracy and not merely an election year boo word.

One way you can tell, if you have no other, if your legislator is a good one is if the ALEC conspiracy targets him. This year they have Jeff in their sights. And when you have a good one like Jeff Merkley you defend him; you don’t attack him, for Pete’s sake! He has worked like a horse for ordinary people like me and you. And even for ungrateful people who may be attacking  him. Because he doesn’t seem very expert at it, Gary’s attack on Jeff may seem like a petty pee-on-his-leg smear. But if he is singing for ALEC and the Kochs, who spend millions to destroy those politicians who work for the people instead of for the corporations, I have another and even greater reason for defending him.

Jeff has turned out to be the kind of politician we always hope to get when we go to vote. And anyone who isn’t a millionaire should be supporting him. He has been working to protect Social Security and Medicare from those turkeys who want to either abolish or privatize those services. And Jeff is front among those seeking to rein in those greedy corporate pirates who are screwing us blind every day. And he works hard as anyone for jobs. If and when we ever get a national full employment bill you will probably have Jeff to thank. He is the people’s guy, just like he says in his letters. And he was before the election season, too. So, neighbors, get registered if you need to, and be sure to vote Jeff back in.

Dan Martin

Baker City

10 years for two murders?

We weren’t shocked when Judge J. Burdette Pratt decided last week that Dillan Dakota Willford Easley, the 15-year-old Baker City boy accused of murdering his foster father and another man near Granite last October, won’t stand trial as an adult.

Easley was 14 when he allegedly shot and killed his foster father, Michael Piete, 43, and Piete’s uncle, Kenneth C. Gilliland. Both men lived in Baker City.

The killings happened at a hunting cabin near Granite, on Oct. 4, 2013.

Football field trip folly

We’re not sure what “pro-social” activities are, or are supposed to be.

What we do know is that juveniles who are on probation for such crimes as burglary and meth possession shouldn’t be getting free trips to college football games, no matter what you call it.

On Sept. 13, four employees from Washington County’s Juvenile Department escorted 12 youth offenders to Eugene’s Autzen Stadium, where they watched the University of Oregon play the University of Wyoming.

Bomb threat raises easy, and difficult, questions


A bomb threat on a school day at Baker Middle School qualifies as news under any reasonable definition of that word.

We didn’t hesitate, when we heard on the police radio scanner that officers were searching the building around 7 o’clock the morning of Sept. 9, to talk to police, gather as much accurate information as we could and then post a story on both our website, www.bakercityherald.com, and on our Facebook page.

With about 255 students affected — some already eating breakfast at the First Presbyterian Church just south of the school, and others set to show up in less than an hour — this was obviously vital information for quite a lot of local families.

Fortunately this incident ended as most of them do — there was no bomb.

Students, who had been taken by bus to Baker High School, were back at BMS by 8:30 a.m.

No one was hurt.


Paying to visit public lands

One advantage to living in Baker County, where about half of our 2 million acres are publicly owned, is that we can go to a lot of places without having to pay an admission fee.

But the federal government, which manages most of the county’s public acreage, seems to have an insatiable appetite for our dollars.

A current and troubling example is a bill in Congress we were alerted to by a fine watchdog organization, the Western Slope No Fee Coalition of Colorado.

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