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Letter to the Editor May 6, 2013

City should revisit burn rules

It’s Friday, May 3, a gorgeous day.  

I’m home, thinking about the attention the yard needs. I plan on grabbing my shovel and doing a little flowerbed maintenance.  

The house is stuffy, also a great day to open up the windows and air out the winter doldrums. 

I head outside to get busy and I’m  hit by the smell of burning garbage.  You know that smell is not just a pile of leaves, but someone burning their trash.  

Call the fire department?

 Well, the wind is blowing, so all I can tell is the smoke seems to be coming from the north and since I live on the south side, it could be coming from anywhere.  

I have to go back inside, close up the open windows and forget about working in the yard today.  

P.U.

When is Baker City going to ban burning within the city limits?  I would love to see the City Council take up this issue again.  

We are but a few cities (last I knew) in the state that still allow people to burn and it’s not just yard debris they are burning.  

And, I think we all know the health risks involved to everyone.

Next time you see a City Councilor,  let them know how you feel about burning inside the City limits. 

Gail Duman

Baker City

 

Law not needed to teach respect for flag, nation

When I was in elementary school in the 1970s we recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, but one line always confused me.

Not the “under God” part.

My family wasn’t a churchgoing one — except for Easter — but I sort of implicitly understood about God.

He, or it, was up there, in the sky or possibly above it, and so obviously we, people and dogs and everything, were below, which is to say under, God.

The concept seemed to me quite logical.

For a long span of years, though, I didn’t fully understand the “republic for which it stands” phrase, and in particular what it had to do with the flag.

I came to recognize later that my trouble was that I took things too literally.

This is hardly uncommon among kids, of course — precious few 8-year-olds have moved past the most common definition of any word, if indeed they’ve gotten that far.

When I heard “stands” I could envision a person standing, or even an inanimate object like a house, but I couldn’t conceive why a flag would be standing for a republic.

Most of the flags I saw were flapping about in the wind.

Also I was a trifle foggy on what a “republic” is.

So far as I can remember, though, my uncertainty about the details of the pledge didn’t prevent me from detecting the solemnity of the exercise, or from taking comfort in what seemed to me its inclusiveness.

This was of course from the simplistic viewpoint of a child — I don’t mean to suggest that I grasped the notion of patriotism.

Yet I began to see that the flag and the pledge were symbols of America and that all of us, my classmates and the teacher and the principal, were connected by the significant bond of being Americans.

The pledge, like the flag and other powerful symbols, occasionally is employed for partisan political maneuvers, and from both ends of the spectrum.

The Oregon Legislature has taken up the pledge in a big way this year.

Recently the House, by a 42-16 vote, passed House Bill 3014, which would require public schools to put an American flag in each classroom, and to set aside time each day during which students could recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

As I said I like the pledge, and it pleases me to hear a bunch of little voices repeating its majestic phrases.

But I don’t care for this bill.

I don’t see that the government ought to be enshrining in law an activity that’s not prohibited anyway.

I understand that the pledge isn’t nearly so common in public schools now as it was when I was a student, but I don’t believe this is because the Legislature has failed to patrol our classrooms with sufficient diligence.

If lawmakers are truly troubled by the rarity of a daily recitation of the pledge then they should approve a resolution or some other non-binding document which expresses their concern, and which encourages schools to reinstitute the noble tradition.

But passing a law is an altogether different sort of approach, and in my view it’s the wrong sort.

Proponents of the bill emphasize that although schools would be required to make time for the pledge, the actual recitation would be optional for students.

But this ignores the inherent problem with the very idea.

By making any activity a matter of law the government strongly suggests that to do otherwise is to go against what your nation thinks is the proper course. And although I’m no whiz with a map and compass I prefer going it alone, even if I sometimes lose the trail, to being forever nudged toward the prescribed course by a government which thinks it knows better than I do what defines love of country.

That the Legislature’s call for conformity is not mandatory in no way diminishes its fundamental flaw.

The true measure of America’s greatness, it seems to me, is not what our government does to enable or even to encourage patriotism, but rather what it does to ensure that no one’s beliefs, however unconventional, are tainted because they seem to conflict with the government’s preferences.

I’m sure that in any classroom where the pledge is said now, the vast majority of students participate, and likely all of them, and I think this is a good thing.

But it’s those few kids, who for whatever reason might decline to join in, that I’m worried about, and I don’t believe the government should adopt laws which make their plight more difficult.

I don’t mean to imply that any citizen has a fundamental right to never feel that he’s an outcast, or different.

This is plainly impossible in anything resembling a free society, and can in fact be achieved only in the kind of oppressive regime where everyone feels the same, which is to say equally oppressed, and bad.

House Bill 3014 could become state law, I suppose — certainly my objection to it matters not a whit.

And this wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

I find some opponents’ claims about the bill exaggerated, and a little silly.

Referring to the pledge, state Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, said: “To require little children to do this every day…is very sad and very frightening.”

Notwithstanding that the law wouldn’t require children to do anything, I don’t see anything frightening in the prospect.

Unnecessary, even a trifle patronizing, but not frightening.

Nor do I agree with Rep. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, who derides the bill as “all about posturing and preening. It’s all about getting videos of ourselves being patriotic.”

Too often, it seems to me, people instinctively equate patriotism with jingoism. It’s as if there’s something inherently wrong with demonstrating pride in our country by way of a group ritual.

Other critics argue that cajoling kids to repeat words they probably don’t understand in effect turns students into automatons, diminutive political pawns.

Except repetition is an integral part of education — the pledge, in a sense, is little different from the way kids learn to read, or to write. In the same first-grade classroom where I first said the pledge I also had to print each of the 26 letters, lower-case and capital (or rather, little and big) dozens of times until I could replicate, with some success, the letters rendered perfectly on a strip of paper that stretched above the blackboard.

Anyway, verbal expressions of affection, which the pledge certainly is, aren’t necessarily diminished by frequency.

My younger daughter usually says “I love you” when I tuck her into bed. And although sometimes she recites this in a sort of rote fashion that suggests she’s half asleep, the words never ring hollow in my ears, never fail to reach my heart. 

In the end I suspect more good than ill will come from the Legislature’s debate about the Pledge of Allegiance.

But if the bill becomes law I suspect I will always remember, when I’m visiting my kids’ schools, one clause in particular.

In addition to the flag and pledge, the bill would require public schools to allocate time each week when students could salute the flag.

The bill reads: “Students who do not participate in the salute provided for by this section must maintain a respectful silence during the salute.”

I think saluting the American flag is a fine thing to do.

And I’m all for students being silent and respectful. 

But I always figured teachers were quite capable of enforcing those standards, without assistance from the government.

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.

 

Letters to the Editor May 3, 2013

We need to get to work making Baker City beautiful

We’re ready! We’ve all donated our dollars — you have more coming! But enough of articles, pictures and city council discussion of the issue.

Talk is cheap and we’re not getting the job done as the city we love and care for is not moving along.

Some people can and will, while others can’t and won’t, so it’s on our backs to step up and do it all. Since we’ve “all” donated to this task, then I want my money put to work on any and all repairs whether they chip in or not.

Our beautiful city is an eyesore to us and our visitors. Shame!

Shirley Schurman

Baker City

Elect Ogan and McKim to the Baker School Board

This upcoming school board election is incredibly important. With two open seats, our votes will either put members in place who will continue the board’s longstanding problems, or greatly improve 5J for our children.

 After attending this week’s candidate forum, it seemed to us that two very qualified new voices have emerged from pack: Mike Ogan and Rich McKim. We need to elect both, not just one of these candidates, in order to see a substantial change at 5J.

 Both men are independent thinkers. They have young children in our school system, unlike most of the other candidates. The decisions they make will affect their own children, just like they affect our children. Mike Ogan has a particularly strong financial and business background, and has attended five times more board meetings than his competitor. Our school board desperately needs his kind of conservative values and analytical intelligence. Rich McKim has organizational and leadership skills from his years in the military. Like Ogan, he also stated distinct fiscal and organizational goals.

 We’ve also been impressed to see both these candidates reach out to the public at community events instead of just attend obligatory candidate forums. They’re busy talking with parents rather than lobbying the district. They aren’t personal friends or recruits of current dysfunctional board members or 5J administration. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with them both, and believe them to be the most focused on representing and involving the public they would serve. They have the clearest ability to handle serious educational issues. They have the courage and honesty to solve the problems at 5J.

 Ballots will be mailed out this Friday, May 3. Please join us in voting for Ogan and McKim.

David and Kerry McQuisten

Baker City

Cassidy, Abell are my choices for Baker School Board

Two new 5J School District Board members will be elected on May. In a typical special district election in Baker County, only about 30 percent of registered voters exercise their right to vote. I strongly urge you to vote for the candidates of your choice!

My choices are Kevin Cassidy for Position 3 and Rosemary Abell for Position 4. Kevin Cassidy’s candidacy was inspired by the legacy of his grandfather, Duane Cassidy, who loved serving on the 5J School District Board in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Kevin told me that he always knew that he wanted to follow his grandfather’s example, and realized that “now is the time.” Kevin’s voluntary service on many boards and his professional ODOT budgetary and contract negotiation skills provide a rich background in listening to and working with others whose viewpoints vary. Kevin is a quick study and a conscientious worker.

Rosemary Abell has a long career in education, working at all levels from classroom teaching to working in testing and special assessments for cognitively disabled students at the state and federal level. Rosemary has worked as a trainer for Baker County’s the Ford Institute for Community Building Leadership Program. Also, with her husband Larry, she continues the ongoing restoration of the historic Pythian Castle building, which provides a home for additional thriving downtown businesses. Rosemary’s skills provide invaluable resources for the improved education of all Baker 5J students and best use of our existing facilities.

Voting for Kevin Cassidy and Rosemary Abell will help ensure that our board will contain two dedicated, experienced members who are anxious to listen to their constituency and to collaborate with the other board members and staff of the 5J School District.  

Kata Bulinski

Baker City

Republican Committee backs Ogan, McKim for school board

Nothing is more important than the education of our children. Therefore, the Baker County Republican Party is pleased to announce our official endorsement of conservative candidates Mike Ogan and Rich McKim for position numbers 3 and 4 on the Baker 5J School Board.

As Republicans, we embrace and promote conservative values at a grassroots level within our community. Mike Ogan and Rich McKim clearly embody these values. We are convinced their blend of fiscal experience, leadership skills and honest desire to serve the public is sorely needed at 5J. They are dedicated to public transparency, parental involvement, decisions that benefit teachers and students, and financial common sense.

It is time to stem the liberal tide that has flooded our school system, and return to strong, traditional American principles.

We look forward to joining with fellow Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Tea Partiers, non-affiliates, and all voters of a conservative mindset to create the best educational environment possible for our children. Please cast your votes for Mike Ogan and Rich McKim.

Submitted by Suzan Ellis Jones, chair, on behalf of the Baker County Republican Central Committee

Abell stands head and shoulders above other 5J candidates

As a resident of Baker County I am well aware of the importance of the upcoming 5J School Board election. Educating the young people of our community is such a critical issue. In reading the information provided by each candidate running for the two open positions, in the May 1 issue of the Baker City Herald, one thing really jumped out at me. There is one candidate who stands head and shoulders above the rest because of her qualifications in the field of education. Our school district would be so enriched by what Rosemary Abell would bring to the table. What a missed opportunity it would be if Rosemary were not elected to the school board! I know that she is going to get my vote! A vote for Rosemary is a step in a very positive direction for our children and our educators. 

Liz Starkey

Baker County

 

Letters to the Editor for May 1, 2013


Rosemary Abell would greatly benefit Baker School Board

Rosemary Abell did not grow up in Eastern Oregon so she does not have the connections some of the other candidates for 5J school board have. What she does have is an outstanding record of leadership and involvement in education.

Besides her own impressive educational background, she has worked in several positions at the state level, including a science assessment specialist for the Oregon Department of Education.

 On the national level, she has worked as a peer reviewer of state plans addressing both the Approving America’s School Act and No Child Left Behind. Since 2001, she has worked on national, state, and district projects as an educational consultant. I have known Rosemary for several years, but the more I have learned about her involvement and hard work, the more I am amazed that we have a local person with such a record who is willing to serve our community on the local school board.

 Baker 5J would benefit greatly by having Rosemary Abell on our local school board.

Maryalys Urey

Baker City

Food and farm guide benefits growers, consumers

As a small farmer in Baker County, I have really benefited from the Eastern Oregon Food & Farm Guide. This guide helps connect consumers to local food producers like me. It helps connect farmers, ranchers and gardeners to the local products and services they need. The guide is a print and online directory and guide to local eating and good living and this year there will even be an interactive PDF for iPad!

Oregon Rural Action publishes the guide each year in June to promote local food production and consumption. This year, with funding support from the Oregon Department of Ag Specialty Crop Grant program, the guide is expanding. Now folks from across Eastern Oregon (not just NE Oregon) will be included.

ORA is hoping to reach at least 100 listings of farmers, ranchers, food processors, bakers, canners, restaurants, wineries, schools, hospitals, community gardens, farmers markets, grocery stores, farm stands, caterers and others who grow, make, sell or serve locally produced food and farm products. Dedicated volunteers and interns are calling, visiting and contacting folks to sign up. Anyone can be listed just by joining ORA at a basic membership of $30 per year. This membership supports the over $3,000 printing cost for the guide and the organization.

Sign up online to be listed in the farm guide at www.tinyurl.com/oraffd2013 or call 541-975-2411. More info is at www.oregonrural.org.

Valerie Tachenko

Baker County

Obamacare: Propping up the paper industry all by itself

Obamacare is now the law of the land, we are reminded. From its inception, it has been remarkably controversial, with some people swearing that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, while others demand its immediate repeal. But Obamacare has had one positive effect, one which no one else seems to have commented on.

Think it through. In its final form, the legislation setting up Obamacare ran to well over 2,000 pages. But the Department of Health and Human Services probably issues 100 pages of implementing regulations for every page in the legislation. So thousands of copies must be printed and distributed of the thousands and thousands of pages of Obamacare regulations. Now think about how much paper is used to publish all of this. And think about how many trees must be grown to provide the wood pulp to manufacture all that paper! So how much carbon is being removed from the earth’s atmosphere every year from the printing of all that regulation? Tons of the stuff!  Obamacare is obviously helping in the fight against global warming!

This is why we need more Democrats in government, for they are the ones who love to churn out regulations by the ton, arranging all the aspects of our lives in mind-numbing detail, from the greatest to the least. The more regulations our Democrats produce, the more paper is consumed in printing them out, and the more carbon is taken out of the earth’s atmosphere.

We only need to take care that they don’t overdo it, and remove so much carbon that it will trigger another ice age. 

Pete Sundin

Baker City

Proposed smoking ban smells of government overreach

If the phrase “government overreach” means anything to our city councilors, they should decline to take up smoking-in-the-park as an issue. 

I’m not a smoker. But this isn’t about smoking. It’s about the city not being able to keep its nose out of anything.

There’s no financial benefit to the city in taking up the issue. Smoking is on the decline these days, and there are already (unenforced) littering laws on the books to deal with smokers who toss their butts on the ground.

The new councilors probably think it’s a great “feel good” issue to get behind. Someone needs to remind them that, in government, doing nothing is always better than doing something for no good reason.

One of the councilors has opined that simply banning smoking seems too harsh. So the idea of marking off designated smoking areas has been floated. Now, common sense says that these areas will have to have signs and there will have to be butt cans and the dumping of same, and clean up on a regular basis. This “feel good” issue becomes a dead loss to taxpayers.

If not for the make work project of an intern, this issue probably wouldn’t have been brought up. But now it has the dreaded momentum. It’ll probably become an ordinance. Of course, enforcement is another story. Chief Lohner won’t have his officers do anything extra, so it will be left up to citizens to confront other citizens. That conversation will probably go something like this: “Hey, jerk, you can’t light up here! It’s the law!”

The current conversation, by the way, is probably something like this: “Excuse me, sir. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t smoke here. My pregnant wife and kids are picnicking, so if you don’t mind....”

In the end, nothing will have changed except that Baker residents will have become a little less tolerant of each other. And the council will have wasted time and money to jump on the anti-smoking bandwagon (the parade for which passed a couple of years ago, in case you weren’t paying attention.)

It has a name: It’s called government overreach.

Doug Darlington

Baker City

Everyone deserves clean and healthy city parks

I am writing in response to the April 26 opinion piece “No need for ban on tobacco.”

Baker County is currently ranked last among all counted counties in the 2013 National County Health Rankings. With nearly one in four Baker County adults smoking, we should be compelled to act. With over one third of 11th-grade boys using smokeless tobacco, we should be compelled to act. With birth mother smoking rates double that of the state and national rates, we should be compelled to act.

Prohibiting smoking indoors is a great first step, but a 2007 report from Stanford University shows comparable air pollution and health risks from outdoor and indoor smoke. Therefore, not only does outdoor smoke exposure pose a health risk to park users, but smoking and using tobacco in public places generates unsightly litter and gives children the impression that smoking and tobacco use is an accepted practice.  

Tobacco free parks are consistent with the mission of the City Parks and Recreation Department to “… enhance its natural resources, parkland, and recreational opportunities for current and future generations.”  Our parks are full of people who choose to enjoy our natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and small town life. Isn’t it then the right of every community resident to be able recreate and gather in public spaces that are clean and healthy? With a town surrounded by such physical beauty, we should be in support of community values and begin to take the necessary steps to reverse Baker County’s health trajectories. The policies and environmental change, such as the one under consideration by the City Council, will help do this.  

In the next month the city council will hold meetings to discuss tobacco free parks.  Voicing support through attendance, emails, or letters will assure them that the community supports decisions that enhance shared spaces in Baker County and healthy environments for our future generations.  

If you are ready to quit tobacco please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or go to www.quitnow.net/oregon/.

Torie Andrews

Tobacco Prevention Education Coordinator

Baker County Health Department

 

Votes that did count


It’s a comment lament around here, and sometimes a legitimate one, that our relative handful of votes don’t much matter against the urban masses.

But occasionally we can get together and exert our influence.

A recent example had nothing to do with politics, or candidates. But without a concerted effort, largely accomplished through social media, to encourage people to cast their online votes, a local group that wants to buy new, safer playground equipment for Baker City’s Geiser-Pollman Park might not have won $15,000 in a nationwide video contest.

There was considerable anxiety as the Playground Improvement Project went up against 10 other videos — the top 5 in total online votes each receives $15,000.

The Baker City video, done solely by volunteers, finished fourth.

Although the final tally wasn’t available, preliminary numbers show a narrow margin among the competing videos. Thanks, then, go to everyone who voted  — in this case each one was valuable.

We’re fortunate to live in a town that has both dedicated volunteers capable of finding creative ways to raise money for worthwhile projects, and residents willing to support those efforts.

 

Watered down wolf bill


As we expected, the Oregon Legislature has watered down a bill that would give landowners much more authority to kill wolves on their property.

The amended version of House Bill 3452 is a slight improvement over the current situation, but it’s not likely to benefit ranchers in Northeastern Oregon, where all of the state’s known wolf packs live and where all confirmed wolf attacks on livestock have happened.

The original version of the bill would have allowed landowners, on their property, to kill any wolf that is “reasonably believed by the person to have attacked or harassed, livestock or working dogs.”

That’s an attractive standard for ranchers, to be sure, but it’s too subjective to pass muster in the Democrat-controlled Capitol.

Besides which, that word “reasonably,” so beloved by lawyers, would likely lead to prolonged court battles that would more than offset any advantages the law might afford ranchers.

On the one hand, since wolves have proved that they will attack livestock in Oregon, a rancher could argue that any wolf he sees near livestock has at least “harassed” livestock, another less-than-concrete term.

On the other hand, were a rancher to shoot a wolf and then be unable to prove the animal had harassed livestock — offer up a calf with claw marks, for instance — odds are high that pro-wolf groups would complain despite the law.

The amended version attempts to strike a balance, albeit one which does little to help ranchers.

The main change from the current situation is this: A landowner who sees a wolf attacking livestock or working dogs could, if the bill becomes law, kill the attacking wolf without getting a permit from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

This isn’t likely.

Although ODFW has issued kill permits to many landowners in Wallowa County over the past several years, none has caught a wolf attacking livestock.

But as rare as such an episode might be, it makes more sense to allow the rancher to act at that instant to protect his animals than to require that he obtain a permit that he might never have occasion to use.

 

Letters to the Editor for April 26, 2013


I’m supporting Richard McKim for school board

The election for school board position 4 is upon us.  There are several candidates. I believe Richard McKim is the most outstanding candidate and deserves my vote and yours. Richard is highly qualified and comes from a family line of school board members.  Please mark your ballot for Richard McKim.

Virginia Kostol

Baker City

Two votes for Cassidy, McKim for school board

Kevin Cassidy and Richard McKim will get our votes for Baker School District 5J board of directors.

They each have a child in the Baker schools. They are very concerned with the quality of education for our students. They have no hidden agendas. We are very pleased that they will devote their time and energy to improve and enrich the education of our young people.

John and Frances Burgess

Baker City

U.S. action on climate change is essential

On April 10 the idea that “If the U.S. shows leadership (on climate change) other nations will follow” was scoffed at because the majority of the poor world will not be able to act and it is expensive. Apparently since big poor nations can’t act, we should dismiss the issue too. The idea that the United States should not spend money on solving a global issue we created is terribly myopic.

I offer one reason why U.S. leadership can make a difference. Publicly funded American research provides affordable and often life-saving tools the entire world enjoys routinely. In fact, publicly funded research and engineering projects are a hallmark of American prosperity. Examples include the Panama Canal, modern hydroelectric and nuclear electricity, the space program, the Internet, and the human genome project. These assets paid for by the American taxpayer, continue to pay dividends today the world over. Even the extraction of the very oil that causes climate change is subsidized! 

Public funding for renewable energy is an essential investment that already offers exportable technology poorer nations cannot replicate. Technological solutions researched by America will become cheaper and more enticing once the legwork has been done. We are still known as an innovation economy. There are riches to be made and a planet to be saved in this endeavor. In this ever-changing society, I find it odd that the technologies that threaten our long-term prosperity are the same technologies that we hold so dear.

When ecosystems can no longer provide the necessary water and air filtration, food and natural resources we are accustomed to, we will see economic collapse. I urge the reader to trust the science which has long been in. Energy and emission solutions are a responsibility that comes with the privilege to exhaust an entire planet’s worth of cheap energy in 200 years. This is not a political issue, but one of equity. We are right to be concerned about our children and grandchildren. But their economic problems will stem from ecological and environmental deficits, not simply monetary ones.

Eric Layton

Baker City

 

Blunders blemish media coverage of Boston


After watching, and reading, the journalistic blunders that blemished the otherwise commendable news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, I better understand why many people distrust reports which rely on anonymous sources.

It’s a whole lot easier to accept anonymity, it seems to me, when the nameless person is at least, you know, right.

But the anonymous sources were wrong when they told multiple media outlets, both print and electronic, that a suspect had been arrested last Wednesday, two days after the explosions that killed three people and injured more than 250.

We don’t as a rule use anonymous sources at the Herald.

This isn’t to say we never will.

 

No need for ban on tobacco


Sometimes good intentions don’t make good laws.

Such is the case with a proposed Baker City ordinance that would prohibit people from using tobacco products — including smokeless chewing tobacco — in city-owned parks and recreation areas, including the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway.

The City Council is considering the idea, which was suggested by Benjamin Foster, a student at Eastern Oregon University who’s also an intern for City Manager Mike Kee.

We don’t think there’s any compelling reason to impose such a restriction on an activity that’s already banned in most buildings except private homes.

 

Letters to the Editor for April 24, 2013


Rebuttal on background checks

I’m writing this because the editor of the Baker City Herald made a grievous mistake in his April 19 column: “Sad, perplexed watching Newtown’s survivors.” After saying he was a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment he goes on to say that the right to keep and bear arms is not sacrosanct. I beg to differ.

A little information first. I’ve been writing to the local papers on the Second Amendment ever since Bill Clinton decided to go duck hunting. You see when a Democrat goes hunting or picks up a firearm you know as a gun owner you are in for it. John Kerry tried to show his love for guns on his wild goose chase and Mr. Obama was recently shown killing clay pigeons at Camp David.

 
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