Visiting Portland on a weekday some 30 years ago, my taxicab driver groused about street construction.

Broadway and other major arterials were torn up.

After listening patiently, I suggested that many other communities would be grateful to have that much investment flowing into their towns – and that included some very large cities that were then lying dormant in a recession.

Winding my way through downtown Astoria and pondering the year ahead, the memory of that cab ride returns.

I feel the need to remind myself that this is a good thing and that this investment in Astoria’s infrastructure is enviable. Any of us who drive Eighth Street regularly knows how desperately that road needs a makeover. Now Eighth will get it as part of the big sewer job.

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If a U.S. senator stays in office for more than a term, we hope that he stands for something – that he carves out a piece of ground that matters to the nation. Sen. Ron Wyden has done that in his opposition to the Iraq War 10 years ago. Reflecting on that unfortunate anniversary, Sen. Wyden offered the lessons of that war in a piece we published Tuesday.

The most basic admonition that Wyden offers is about the unforseen costs of war. He writes: “The real lesson of Iraq is that war is harder, more expensive and more time-consuming than we think.”

Another way of putting it is that war is easy to start and difficult to end. It is easy to fan the flames of war if you’ve never known it. Wyden had not served, but he grasped an essential truth – that war is not something to enter lightly.

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Maureen Dowd has a way of nailing political situations. In her column titled “Can we get Hillary without the foolery?” Dowd concludes: “The real question about Hillary is this: When people take a new look at her in the coming years, will they see the past or the future – Mrs. Clinton or Madam President?”

Her column about the Supreme Court’s approach to same-sex marriage concluded: “If this court doesn’t reject bigotry, history will reject this court.”

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Blaine Harden has written a striking book about the only person born in one of North Korea’s prison camps to escape and find refuge in the West. The most striking thing about Harden’s book, Escapee from Camp 14, is the perspective he provides on the enormity of North Korea’s gulags. “North Korea’s labor camps have now existed twice as long as the Soviet Gulag and about 12 times longer than the Nazi concentration camps.” There is considerable literature about the question of why President Roosevelt didn’t take action on the Nazi concentration camps. There is something approaching global silence on North Korea’s crimes against humanity.

Noting that anyone can see these camps on Google Earth, Harden writes that, “The biggest is 31 miles long and 25 miles wide, an area larger than the city of Los Angeles.”

— S.A.F.