As of Dec. 18, the Republican-controlled House has thrown up another roadblock to completing important legislation before the end of the calendar year. And in my eyes this fits a pattern whereby the Republicans in the House and in the Senate — by virtue of the rule they invoke requiring 60 votes to proceed to an up-or-down vote even on a presidential appointee — share the bulk of responsibility for Washington not working. That's a fact.

The present issue is extension of the payroll tax cut for working families, which expires at the end of December. I would figure this is an easy call to make except when I read a letter from a trucker who defends not asking the richest 1 percent to pony up a bit to help out working families. Wow.

President Obama has accomplished a great deal in his four years, as the article in Sunday paper demonstrates. But as long as Republicans and the tea party control the House you will see ever more gridlock and resistance to balancing out austerity cutbacks with measures to increase revenue and create jobs. The tunnel vision of cuts and deregulation doesn't add up to growth. — Steve Haskell, Ashland

My husband and I just finished watching the PBS Ken Burns documentary, "Prohibition." The tragedy of dealing with the inevitable use of mood-enhancing substances through criminal sanctions was vividly portrayed.

What makes things worse is that marijuana is so much less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. For parents, the fear of arrest and incarceration is much greater than the fear of using marijuana itself.

After 42 years, there are many entrenched institutions that depend on the drug war. With federal money flowing to local and state jursdictions, many otherwise reasonable people don't want to see things changed — it would mean their jobs.

When the masses of people that use marijuana finally have the courage to speak out about this travesty, there might be some chance of change — but the threat of arrest continues to be a powerful silencer. — Claudia Little, Ashland

On the front page of your Dec. 13 issue you featured a story about the Mexican cartels' marijuana plantations and the garbage they leave behind after the county sheriff closes them down. It's an evironmental hazard, according to the sheriff, that is going to hurt fish.

Well, he's done nothing to clean up these hazards! Isn't he as culpable as the cartels?

Your article quotes the sheriff as saying they've been too busy and "didn't have time to haul out the garbage." In this time of high unemployment, surely the government can find some healthy young people at a minimum wage to go up and clean up these things. So, who else is going to get the job done? — John Emanuelson, Medford

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