The Week in Commentary
For an outdoorsy people, Minnesotans sure stay inside a lot
Konstanze Walther, a visiting journalist from Austria, notices that skyways tend to keep Minnesotans indoors, even when the weather is fine.
"Minnesota is one of the most beautiful states. It prides itself not only on its 10,000 lakes, proclaimed on every license plate, but also on its being outdoorsy. People bike and run and go fishing and water-skiing and swimming and canoeing and God knows what. But once they are in their natural habit (as in: not involved in a sporting activity), they tend to be indoors. All the time.
"The streets of St. Paul and Minneapolis are eerily ... devoid of people. In the business districts, people use skyways to get from building to building. A lot of shops and restaurants are on the skyway level. The skyways, meant to protect the populace from the very bitter Minnesota winter, are also crowded in summer.
" 'People here tend to departmentalize their lives. It is either sports and outdoors, or it is indoors,' " said a German immigrant who has been living here for 20 years. 'It is really strange,' she added.
"Agreed! It drives me crazy to sit inside with the AC on!" -- Alison H, New Brighton
"As a person who works and lives in downtown Minneapolis, I couldn't disagree more. Please walk down the Nicollet Mall during lunch, or go to the food truck area on Marquette where you will see long lines of people waiting outdoors. Visit on Thursdays during the farmers market, or on any evening when there is a Twins game. If the weather is nice, you will see thousands of people outdoors. There are countless other places where you will see many people enjoying the outdoors." -- Thomas Wright, Minneapolis
How political ads became more valuable than gold
David Lebedoff, author and attorney, imagines what the political season might be like in a few years, given current spending trends.
"Even though the Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush presidential election of 2020 is still some months away, and the outcome difficult to predict, it is clear to analysts at all points of the political spectrum that the nature of recent campaigns stems primarily from events occurring eight years ago, in 2012, though their impact on the future was not then fully foreseen. Today, of course, with the benefit of what far too many commentators coyly refer to as '2020 hindsight,' we can all agree that the Obama-Romney contest set the course that has so transformed our nation since.
"The root of the change was campaign finance. The Citizens United case, prior to the onset of the 2012 contest, permitted unlimited and anonymous expenditures in future campaigns. The effect was as if a dam had burst, and the unleashed floodwaters washed away all previous forms of campaign discourse except for television commercials, though surely not because these represented high ground. ...
"There were only seven or eight states that really mattered. All the others were safely red or blue. So the great flood swirled in only a few places, but there the waters rose to alarming levels.
"The effect of Citizens United on campaign expenditure had been somewhat foreseen, but not its impact on the economy. By October of 2012 it had become clear that no venture in America was remotely as profitable as owning a television station in a swing state."
BWCA land swap does, too, mean a loss of protection
C.A. Arneson, a retired teacher who lives on a lake near Ely, disagrees with U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack about the effects of a land swap in northern Minnesota.
"When Cravaack proclaimed in his letter, 'Importantly, this bill [H.R. 5544] would not take away a single environmental protection or regulation,' he wasn't being truthful. If Superior National Forest land outside the Boundary Waters were traded to the state of Minnesota, it would lose most of its federal protections.
"The bill would take away environmental protections by removing traded lands from federal ownership. This would allow strip-mining on lands originally purchased and given watershed protection under the Weeks Act and other laws that protect our national forests. As long as the lands are in federal hands, the Weeks Act and other laws protect the surface rights and prohibit strip-mining. Additionally, Cravaack's bill specifically nullifies NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental review, citizen input and the right to legal intervention."
"We're not talking about pollution, like people burying their waste. We're talking about acid mine drainage which can kill all life in a river for thousands of years. ... You don't have to look any further than the Flambeau Mine in Wisconsin, with a brand new 'impaired waterway' designation, to see what's in store for Minnesota." -- Matt Hannah, Minnesota
A young man with a disability makes an outsized contribution to society
Andrea Morisette Grazzini, a writer and researcher, explains how society benefits from mainstreaming people with disabilities.
"David is a crooked young man, maybe 30 years old. He wears a helmet and clearly has some sort of neurological damage. His speech is limited and comes with difficulty; his reactions are slow and labored. His gait seems clumsy and uneven. "But David is a man of passion. In the simple act of engaging his energies, David continually acts as a catalyst for many other people, producing powerful outcomes for all. It's a sight to see him in action.
"Not least because boy, can David shoot.
"His passion is basketball. But some people would never stop to watch. This is a problem, because the failure to notice gifts like David's can lead to things like budget cuts for services to people like him. ...
"What becomes clear is that David is good. Remember, he has an excellent shot. But just as unexpected is David's gift for getting people in touch with their own goodness, too.
"When they play with David, their own games become stronger, and so does their character. They notice each other more, and are more prone to pass. They're less aggressive, but less self-conscious, too. They try little things they normally wouldn't. It's as though they're thinking: 'Hey, if David can try, why can't I try, too?' "
What's the appeal in hunting or trapping a wolf?
Karin Winegar, a St. Paul journalist and author, denounces the planned hunting and trapping season on Minnesota wolves.
"Now there's a huge public howl about Minnesota's first season on wolves. Minnesota trappers and hunters will be allowed to kill 400 of our estimated 3,000 wolves starting in September. Why de-list now, I'm wondering, and who stands to gain?
"The new season is not about biological need or controlling specific problem wolves; it is a sport and trophy hunt. And the noise involves at minimum a certain sense of entitlement, a volatile and intractable mix of passion, political meddling in science, masculinity in search of itself, a residue of country-city enmity, political point-scoring with extremists, juvenile anti-authoritarianism and some ancient scapegoating. And possibly worse. ...
"What is the appeal in killing a shy creature with no detectable DNA differences from your golden retriever? How is it fair to run wolves over with snowmobiles or — as in Alaska — run them to exhaustion with airplanes and then shoot them?"
"The fact that gray wolves have been removed from the endangered species list is a good thing. It means the listing did what it was meant to do — that is, to restore wolves to viable numbers. In Minnesota our wolves went from being just about the last population in the Lower 48 in the late 1960s, with total numbers being around 300, to a healthy population of 3,000 today — the largest concentration of these animals south of Canada. ... I have no interest in killing wolves myself, but I have no objection with the state offering a controlled hunt in those parts of the state where wolves and people don't mix well." -- Gordon Hommes, Two Harbors, Minn.
"I was an avid meat hunter for decades, but do not approve of folks who keep finding excuses to kill wolves, blaming them for lack of game rather than their lack of hunting skills. I have no problem with our predators having their share and I am convinced we need them in the natural order to maintain balance." -- Jerry Colbruno, Brooksville, Fla.