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The $15 minimum wage, and ‘Monopoly’ money

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

Especially those bruise-colored $500 bills.

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

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

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

Letters to the Editor for Jan. 7, 2015

‘Needle little help’ for Earth’s climate

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

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

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

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

Gary Dielman

Baker City

A football fan caught in radio limbo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Meyer

Baker City

Police cameras: good idea

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

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

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

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

Winter blues: Planning summer backpacking trips

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

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

I’m obsessed with planning summer hiking trips.

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

Good news on groceries

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

We’ll still have two stores.

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

Freedom wins on the big screen

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

In America, freedom is more than a word.

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

For a couple weeks the thugs seemed to be right.

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

Bacon: Out of the bedroom, back to the kitchen

The bacon magicians have gone too far.

I write this with regret.

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

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

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

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

Or shouldn’t try to eat, anyway.

Letter to the Editor for Dec. 24, 2014

America must return to economic fairness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Baker’s best-ever tree?

Now THAT is a Christmas tree.

We don’t mean to disparage the donated trees that have graced Court Street Park in downtown Baker City during Christmases past.

Each was a fine and fetching tribute to the season.

But this year’s version sets a new standard.

Forestry by tape measure, not science

Environmental groups often chastise the Forest Service and other agencies for failing to use the “best science” when planning timber sales.

Yet some of these groups are employing a wholly arbitrary, and thus utterly unscientific, standard to thwart logging on public lands in Northeastern Oregon.

The dividing line is 21 inches.

Specifically, the width of a tree’s trunk about 4 feet above the ground.

About 20 years ago the Forest Service, to stave off a lawsuit from opponents of old growth logging, agreed to stop cutting live trees that exceed that 21-inch limit. This restriction was part of the so-called “eastside screens” that affect federal forests east of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington.

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