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Last week, Oregon DEQ fined Jackson County $1,500 for a one-time wastewater coliform standard violation. The violation occurred six months previously and injured no one.

Can anyone explain who benefits when bureaucrats transfer money from one tax-supported entity to another? There is no doubt the bureaucratic expenses of the parties to this dispute far exceeded the monetary value of the fine. Would it be more appropriate to fine the county employees responsible for the violation than to fine the citizens who are already paying the salaries and expenses? — R.D. Jensen, Rogue River

I was outraged and heartsick to see people standing around, laughing and taking pictures while that magnificent cougar was being slaughtered.

Why in the world wasn't he tranquilized and taken back where he came from? While in the tree he posed no threat to the Ashland Police Department, who should have called wildlife rescue professionals who know what they are doing. Shame on all who thought this was fun, and shame on the cops who were so anxious for a kill. — Mari Morsell, Medford

Today, I'd like to share concerns that I have about U.S. foreign policy and the consequences it could have.

Those who have read my books know that I don't support absolute democracy or any mainstream politicians. Nonetheless, I enthusiastically embrace President Obama's calls for a more diplomatic stance toward the rest of the world.

But our biggest challenge, and the greatest potential threat to the American people, is not Islamic: it's Russian Orthodox. They have an arsenal not only of nuclear but hydrogen bombs that dwarf Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our government, insanely, has taken a very hard line on issues like South Ossetia. I couldn't believe it when both first-debate candidates insulted Putin (whom I don't endorse either!). We don't always choose world leaders, but we must deal with them respectfully.

It's of great importance to keep belligerent states, and al-Qaida, from getting nukes. (On that note, it's hardly time for us to turn pacifist.) Should we continue to alienate Russia, we cannot be sure their nukes will remain in sane hands. We need to reach out to their people and usher in a new era of trust and civilization. — Sean Lawlor Nelson, Medford

Our elected representatives are so steeped in government and politics they cannot determine a way to stimulate the economy and get it going again without bankrupting our next generation. They won't recognize or admit the problem originated with the poor spending habits of these lifelong politicians, as well as some private sector criminality.

I offer a solution that is equitable and just. The government should cut staff by 20 percent (why should the private sector be the only ones out of a job?), purchasing by 20 percent (goodbye pork), and taxation by 20 percent.

Taxpayers would have money to spend and be relieved of 20 percent of the support of the burgeoning government ranks. We could spend our retained money on needs and wants we can afford with no bloated overhead costs to reduce the money value. The government would be left with 20 percent less overhead liability. — Kenn Sorgatz, Talent

I am writing to express my disgust for Ashland law enforcement's recent killing of a cougar.Scientific studies show that lions naturally (and generally without problem) use riparian corridors, greenbelts and other habitat niches that crisscross humanized areas. This means that wildlife (particularly cougars) are often near humans without incident. The police that decided to kill this particular cougar were showing an outdated intolerance for this particular species; the same intolerance that eradicated American grizzly bears and wolves over the last century.

If we as a society are to continue to live among the amazing wildlife that still occupy our wildlands, we will collectively have to re-think our relationship with wildlife and accept a certain level of presence of them amongst us. For more information on cougars, top-carnivores and the failed policies of wildlife managers go to www.bigwildlife.org. — Spencer Lennard, Williams

The philosopher George Santayana once observed, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Now that Bush's reign of error is history, we'd better learn fast because we couldn't survive a repeat.

Lessons of the Bush years:

A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth (Iraq-9/11, Iraq-9/11, etc.).

Arrogance comes before a fall.

Expanding a president's power just makes him more dangerous, not more competent.

By exploiting fear, a president can get away with anything, even breaking his oath of office and violating the Constitution.

There is no war too stupid for Americans to support, as long as they aren't paying for it (just bill the kids and give me my "tax cut").

Enriching the wealthy creates a trickle-down effect, if you don't mind getting trickled on.

"Free" markets cost more than we can afford. They are as likely to regulate themselves as CEOs are to limit their own pay.

If nothing else, let's hope this blot on our history has shown us that the fetid swamp of ideology is no substitute for the free flow of ideas. — Michael Steely, Medford

My heart broke when I read the story about the deliberate killing of a young, sleeping, unthreatening cougar in Ashland a few days ago.

Once again, the APD exhibited trigger-happy, insensitive, hasty behavior because it was the "easy" thing to do. This young animal was smaller than a golden retriever, not threatening anyone, and could easily have been tranquilized and relocated to a wilderness area. The statement that he would have to be killed anyway at a later time is a lame excuse. The poor creature deserved a chance.

I thought the Ashland police had more awareness than that! The world is now a little sadder and emptier without this beautiful animal. — Barbara Keen, Ashland

The president should cut back congressional spending!

In the lending world, those who can repay get the loan (this should include companies). The financial crisis is the priority, not new indebtedness.

Little more than half the voters voted for Obama, a little less than half did not. (This is not blanket approval for programs.)

The public is hurting awaiting bailout action. I am aghast that he put programs ahead of the real fix. — Rosemary Newell, Medford

I just read an interview of Studs Terkel, author and radio commentator, who was asked what he had learned from the Great Depression. He said, "Have hope, don't blame yourself, work in your community to help others, and remember that those big guys are not so smart."

Remember that we need to tell our representatives what we need. We are all in this together. And don't forget the gorilla in the living room — the military budget — and what that does to our country. — Nona Donahue, Rogue River