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Milestones are time to reflect on mistakes

This has been, and will continue to be, quite a year for 50-year celebrations.

There’s probably a term for these, something more pleasing to the ear than “half-centennial,” but I do not know it and am too lazy to look it up.

(Which, in the era of Google, is immensely lazy indeed.)

The year 1963 was, among much else, a crucial one in the civil rights movement. Most famously, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. held much of the nation spellbound with his “I have a dream” speech on Aug. 28 in Washington, D.C.

On Feb. 11 in London, a four-man beat group recorded its first long-play album, all in a single day. These clever lads called themselves The Beatles. They had some success later.

And of course the best-known event of the entire year, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22.

The publicity for the anniversary of that tragedy will be considerable.

This torrent of reminiscing has reminded me of another milestone, one which arrives in 2014.

That year — and specifically, July 28 — marks one century since the First World War began.

This, of course, puts the event beyond the living memory of almost everyone who’s around today.

(And even those rare methuselahs would have been just kids, and thus unlikely to have been following geopolitical events with any great enthusiasm.)

Yet a compelling case can be made — indeed, many historians have made it — that the First World War was the most significant event of the 20th century.

Many of the defining characteristics of that century — chief among them the nuclear age and the Cold War — are today linked more closely with the Second World War.

But their origins date to the earlier conflict.

Beyond the obvious chronological connection — you can’t have a second world war without a first — the historical record shows that the two wars are in effect one long fight, two bloody stanzas separated by a 21-year intermission during which no grievances were settled, and another major one was sown and bore its deadly fruit.

It is no coincidence, certainly, that the cast of characters was much the same in the two wars, the major differences being that Italy switched sides in the Second World War and Japan joined the Axis (what were known as the Central Powers in the First World War).

Even casual students of history understand that Adolf Hitler — the architect, as it were, of the Second World War — was in effect a prisoner of the First.

Not only did he fight in the 1914-18 war, but the whole of his monomaniacal life after the armistice was driven by his hatred for the punitive terms imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty of 1919.

The sequence of monumental events which happened during, or soon after, the First World War seem to us, at such a distance of time, as inevitable, neatly laid out as they are in the chapters of our history books.

Yet we can’t know whether the Russian revolution, the seed of the Cold War, would have happened in 1917, or indeed at all, had that country not suffered through the calamity of the Eastern Front during the previous three years.

And, as mentioned, it is hard to imagine that, without the First World War, a minor artist from Austria would have been able, by sheer force of his charisma and psychosis, to unleash the greatest military conflict in the world’s history.

I’m sure the First World War centennial will get into the news.

But I doubt it will garner anything like the attention given to, say, King’s landmark speech.

This would hardly come as a surprise; a century is an awfully long time. 

And in some ways the First World War seems even older than it actually is. There were a lot more horses than trucks, the soldiers carried rifles that had more in common with a musket than an M-16, and the airplanes were about as technologically advanced, by today’s terms, as a push lawnmower.

Perhaps most important, America’s role in the First World War, though significant, came late in the conflict, after France, Germany, Britain and Russia had squandered much of an entire male generation.

America’s experience in the Second World War was rich in iconic events and place names. “Pearl Harbor” and “D-Day” and “Iwo Jima” continue to resonate down through the decades.

By contrast, “Belleau Wood” and “The Meuse-Argonne” seem as foreign as, well, France itself.

Perhaps it’s just as well.

I don’t see that we need to use the Somme or Verdun to remind ourselves of how inhumane humans can be. Sadly, we can use more recent disasters to illustrate the point.

Still and all, 100 years after the guns of August blasted away the notion of war as a gentlemanly pursuit, we might do well to pause briefly to acknowledge that some mistakes carry greater consequences than we could ever conceive at the time.

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald. 


Letters to the Editor for Oct.4, 2013

Demand law banning pit bulls

There doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming outrage over the pit bull death of a young boy. I blame it on the apathy drugs the government has been putting in the water. There seems to be no other explanation. 

When I was growing up on the farm it was understood that if a dog even nipped a child someone was going to take it out behind the barn and shoot it. The Oregonian refers to the differences between how things are handled as the urban/rural divide.

About 10 or 12 years ago, after a rash of pit bull attacks, there were attempts to ban them is some states and cities. They got it done in some places. In others the airheads prevailed and assured us that not all pit bulls are evil. It is only the way they were raised and you can’t judge all pit bulls by what a few outlaws do and all that — the kind of thinking you get from those with hearts bigger than their brains. 

The best example of this was the ones who were going to rescue and rehabilitate Michael Vic’s fighting pit bulls. Some lucky dad, mom or grandpa is going to get one of these rehabs as a neighbor and will have to keep the children indoors. The press was glad to cover the rescue and rehab but I wonder if any of those rescued psycho mutts have killed any children. 

I wrote my letters to the editor. I testified in front of the City Council and urged the County Commission to ban the breed. No takers. No guts. What I said was going to happen did happen. If things follow the usual route, on Halloween night with kids congregated along Main Street there will be a couple of jackasses with some 60-pound pits on leashes in the middle of the kids. 

Enough. I call on the men of this county to get in front of the County Commission and City Council to demand they pass laws to ban these monsters. If the County Commission won’t then there is the initiative petition route.

Steve Culley

Richland

 

Pit bulls should be banned

Baker City has suffered, to my knowledge, two recent attacks by pit bulls. In one, an adult was seriously injured; in the second, a small child was tragically  murdered. Like so many others I was saddened and heart-sick at the loss of the child’s life and outraged at the suffering he experienced during the attack. 

My deepest sympathies go to the family at their loss in the wake of this unjustified death of their child. 

It is inexcusable to allow as dangerous a breed as a pit bull to reside anywhere within the city; anywhere near small children. Even more inexcusable are the comments in defense of the breed following the death of the child. 

No expression of remorse was forth-coming. How dare these individuals stand to the defense of a genetically engineered killing machine at this time immediately after this killing?

Examine the facts: Proportionally and historically small dogs have a higher rate of biting than larger dogs (USPS). Attacks by dogs are generally shows of aggression without a bite. Most dogs after connecting with a bite will break off and move away. 

Pit bulls will not usually disengage without a strong response and have been shown to ignore pepper-spray and even having bones broken with a baseball bat. Killing the dog on the spot has proven successful in many cases. These are animals that once started are very difficult to stop, and therein lies the problem. Adults have been mauled to death by pit bulls, what chance does a child have?

Worse yet, all this is well known and documented. Yet the best the pit bull lovers can offer is strident yet vague defense of the breed. Sounds pretty delusional to me.

I believe the city should enact an ordinance banning pit bulls from residing within the city limits and require caged transport for the animals when passing through the city. The same ordinance should also rescind the state’s one-bite exemption specifically as it relates to pit bulls. They are an established danger to the community. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

Raymond Reinks 

Baker City


Letter to the Editor Oct. 2, 2013

Promote congressional career for your kids

Attention Parents: “Encourage” your children to become members of Congress! It’s the only vocation where you still get paid for walking out on the job.

Karen Lewis

Baker City


The sad sight of a once-thriving enterprise

By Jayson Jacoby

Baker City Herald Editor

I often walk past the defunct Ellingson Lumber Co. sawmill, and the scene never fails to provoke a twinge of sadness.

I don’t go out of my way for these doses of maudlin.

It’s just that I live directly across 15th Street from the fence that marks the western boundary of the millsite. To avoid the place I’d have to reconfigure most of my normal routes, which strikes me as an unnecessary, albeit aerobically beneficial, hassle.

Last Sunday morning I walked along Broadway, on the north side of the property, and even the fading yellow of the rabbitbrush, a sort of farewell to summer’s palette, failed to enrich the somber scene.

If anything, the blooms accentuated the sense that something is missing here, that a site which once teemed with activity, where good salaries were earned and useful products were made, is being taken over gradually by the shrubs of the desert.

Lamenting the loss of a mill is a common refrain these days, of course, and it’s an emotion more often than not informed by the partisan politics pitting the timber industry against the environmentalists.

Yet I rarely consider that debate when I look at the barren buildings on the Ellingson parcel.

I don’t pine for a bygone era when stacks of ponderosa logs loomed over Auburn Avenue, some with butts almost as wide as the street itself.

That prosperous period could not have continued in perpetuity, at least not at the pace which marked much of the half century after the end of World War II.

In a region where a pine needs a century or more to attain such girth, there just weren’t enough trees to satisfy every saw.

Still and all, I can’t help but wonder whether this transition needed to be as abrupt it was.

I ponder whether some minor tweaking of national forest logging policy might have made it possible for this industry, which had been a mainstay of Baker County’s economy for better than a century, to survive, albeit in diminished form.

I remember interviewing Rob and Pete Ellingson after they closed the mill in 1996.

They talked about multiple factors, including government-subsidized lumber from Canada that depressed prices for U.S.-produced boards.

But the most pressing problem, they said, was that they could no longer rely on the three nearby national forests to supply enough trees to augment the logs coming from the company’s own comparatively modest acreage.

The volume of timber cut on the national forests has risen a bit from its nadir in the mid 1990s, but the numbers remain trifling compared with those of previous decades.

Oregon’s congressional delegation has tried several times to craft a compromise that would get log trucks rolling in more significant numbers, but nothing has come of it.

Perhaps nothing ever will.

Or at least not until the hundreds of thousands of acres of young forests in the region have matured, and the public lands once again are best measured in billions of board-feet. 

The term “sustainable forestry” has been around for decades and although its creator was no doubt well-intentioned, his work, it seems to me, was for naught.

Our definitions of “sustainable” vary so widely as to render the term useless.

I used to believe that one apt description was that a small town which has a lot of productive forests nearby could sustain at least one sawmill, and in turn all the ancillary businesses which support it.

Moreover, I believed this could happen without our denuding those forests of the other qualities — wildlife habitat, sources of pure water, recreation — which we as a society prize.

It was not to be so in Baker City.

The city, of course, endured the loss of the mill.

I don’t mean to suggest the city’s future was ever in jeopardy. Baker City is a substantial place, and has been so for longer than most of Oregon’s cities. This is not Valsetz, nor any other town defined primarily, if not wholly, by lumbering.

Yet as the paint peels from the buildings which once housed the singing saws, as the wind blows without spreading the fresh scent of pine, I see, in my mind, the people who made careers here, the families which depended on this place, the homes and the cars and the Christmas presents which, in a sense, got their start here.

My eyes just see rabbitbrush, its luster gone again for another year. 

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald. 


Letters to the Editor for Sept. 27, 2013

Treatment for addiction can be hard, but it works

Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.  September is National Recovery Month and New Directions Northwest would like to send congratulations to all of you who are in recovery for substance misuse and abuse. This year’s theme for National Recovery Month is “Join the Voices for Recovery:  Together on Pathways to Wellness.” Recovery may not always be easy but it is worth it, it works, and it is possible. Baker County has a generous network of persons in recovery who support people during the journey through recovery. 

Addicts and alcoholics can become recovering addicts and alcoholics by seeking help, and  knowing where and how to find resources. Research has found most people who are in recovery have been through a treatment program.  Research has also found that 90 percent of those attending outpatient treatment and recovery meetings are able to maintain sobriety for extended periods of time, if not indefinitely. Lifestyle changes and supportive environments also significantly increase rates of sustained recovery.  

This year’s theme for National Recovery Month encompasses the notion that there are many unique ways people embark on their journey to recovery. Recovery from substance misuse and abuse is possible and New Directions Northwest, Inc. celebrates those in recovery as well as those who have helped them achieve success. To find out more about how you can begin living a healthy lifestyle or for more support in maintaining your recovery contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , 541-523-8364 or 541-519-5559.

Heather Cromwell

Baker County Prevention Coordinator

New Directions Northwest, Blue Mountain Addictions Program


GOP: Be patient

Just how important is it to squash Obamacare before its more far-reaching provisions have been in place long enough for Americans to judge the law’s pros and cons?

According to some Republicans in Congress, it’s important enough to force another federal government “shutdown,” a term we had hoped would be confined forevermore to the Clinton administration.

To be sure, there’s ample reason to be skeptical of Obamacare.

The health care reform law that is the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency might turn into a fiscal, indeed societal, mess.

But then it might not.

We don’t know right now.

What we’re pretty sure about, though, is that a government shutdown will cost the GOP significant political capital — perhaps enough to give the Democrats a resounding win in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Which isn’t to say that a shutdown would be disastrous.

It wouldn’t be.

But closing national parks and the like annoy people, and reinforce the notion a lot of Americans have that Congress ought to convene not at the Capitol but in a sandbox.

Republicans ought to show a little patience.

If Obamacare, as some in the GOP insist, is doomed to fail, then its shortcomings will become evident soon enough. 

If that’s the case, there’s little doubt that a large majority of Americans would back any Republican-led campaign to either significantly change Obamacare or to withhold federal money for the program.

At that point the scenario is not whether the heartless GOP will shut down the government to stop an unproven law, but whether Obama and the Democrats would defend a failed law.


Letters to the Editor for Sept. 25, 2013


Crossroads special section is a keeper

History, fond memories, hard work, community involvement, money, money, money! Lisa Britton put it all together in the Crossroads special section in last Friday’s paper.

 I’m not surprised when Lisa is the one doing it. Besides being a talented writer, she knows how to listen to others.

 My only concern is how to preserve this special section — I know it will not go into my recycling pile!

Maryalys Urey

Baker City

Town deer are a joy to watch, and protect

Well it’s not uncommon to see mature mule deer in many or most Eastern Oregon towns. I took photographs on Sept. 20 in Baker of two bucks, one three-point and one four-point, that have rubbed summer velvet off and are now hard horn. Antler is the fastest-growing hair of animals or any beings that grow facial or body hair.

Bucks of this size are 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-year-old deer that would be considered trophies nowadays in Oregon where deer and elk numbers are low. It is well-known in the world of professional hunters, guides and taxidermists that 70 percent of the game is taken by 30 percent of the sportsmen, pretty much every year. The well-seasoned and top hunters have many years of experience and take the hunt experience very serious, and pass up small forked horn and even small three-point bucks in lieu of a respectable four-point or better trophy.

In the western states bucks’ antler points are only counted on one side, whereas in the East all points on both sides are counted. Overall scoring of a large buck or bull for Boone and Crockett rifle hunters or Pope and Young archery is a detailed and precise measuring process. This is done in inches and fractions by an official of these two respected institutions.

The taking of truly large, heavy horned trophies is very difficult, and in the upcoming fall buck season, true hunters work hard and travel to the higher elevations in the mountain ranges of our region. These true hunters also take proper care of the meat and know what they are doing. To waste such delectable wild game is not only against the game laws, but that of nature herself.

So these town deer are not only safe to stay where they are and enjoy parts of your garden, they are a joy to watch and to protect our future deer populations.

Jim Smeraglio

Baker City


Bloated special session


Now that the Oregon Legislature is convening every year, rather than every other year, you’d think there wouldn’t be any pressing need to cram a bunch of bills into the special session Gov. John Kitzhaber has called for Sept. 30.

That session, which the governor had mulled pretty much since the regular session ended in July, is supposed to deal with one main topic, the so-called “grand bargain.”

That proposal, which is a compromise if not necessarily a bargain, includes cost cuts to the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) in addition to what the Legislature did this spring, as well as $244 million in new taxes and a $43 million tax cut for some family businesses and exporters.


Airport should allow ad


We don’t share environmentalists’ concern about a bill pending in Congress that would allow logging to increase on some public forests in Western Oregon.

But we think they ought to be able to buy advertising space in Portland International Airport to plead their case.

The issue involves a campaign by several groups, including Oregon Wild and The Sierra Club, that dislike a proposal sponsored by three Oregon congressman — Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader and Republican Greg Walden — that would boost logging on about 1.5 million acres.

The groups’ campaign includes color ads with a photo of a clearcut forest and the slogan: “Welcome to Oregon: Home of the Clearcut."


Behind the numbers

To say there is room for improvement in Baker School District students’ scores on standardized tests is to state what’s not only obvious, but inevitable.

Such room will exist until every student meets or exceeds federal standards on every test.

This, of course, will never happen.

Yet we see considerable evidence that Baker 5J is making a concerted effort to better students’ performance.

And considering the challenges the district faces, we believe there is at least as much reason to applaud that effort as to criticize it.

The latest test results are hardly a cause for celebration, to be sure.

Students’ performance dropped in the 2012-13 year, compared to the previous year, in 13 of 18 categories.

Yet in seven of those 13, the decline was less than 4 percentage points.

Baker’s overall drop mirrored the statewide average, a trend school officials actually predicted due largely to students in many cases not being allowed to retake a test after failing to meet the federal benchmark.

But in several categories Baker students not only improved from the previous year, they surpassed the state average.

As for the challenges we mentioned, half of Baker’s students have family incomes that qualify them for free or reduced-price meals.

Students who live in poverty are more likely to struggle at school. Baker officials have tried to deal with that disadvantage in simple but effective ways, including offering breakfast at school.

The La Grande School District, as a comparison, has a smaller percentage of students qualifying for reduced-price mules — 46.3 percent. Yet Baker students outperformed their La Grande counterparts in half of the 18 categories.

The district has also increased the amount of training available to teachers. Critics might deride this as “teaching to the test,” but the actual purpose is to help them teach students how to better retain what they learn and, in some cases, will be tested on.

That sounds like good practice to us. Tests, however flawed they might be, still are a measurement of how much students have learned.


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