Article provoked, but vision was shortsighted


Greg Breining's commentary on hydraulic fracturing disappointed me ("The ickiness and stickiness of fracking," Jan. 13). Yes, natural gas produces less greenhouse pollution than does coal, but at what cost to the environment and human health? The fracking industry is exempted from the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, so much of its environmental damage is hidden. Conservation and alternative forms of energy need to gain greater prominence in our outlook, but this won't happen until we commit to weaning ourselves and our nation from dependence on fossil fuels.


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Can natural gas production provide the bridge to renewable energy production, as Breining suggests? We know that carbon dioxide production from natural gas is half that of coal-burning. Breining argues that we need a new generation of renewable technology, but that takes time. Also, being "gifted" with abundant cheap gas makes it hard for renewables to find traction in a competitive market. Americans are used to paying for garbage handlers, so why not place a fee on fossil-fuel use that pollutes? This would provide the capital for research and development of renewables, and put us on a fast track to alternative energy production.


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Plenty of blame to go around in Washington


The commentary by Rudy Boschwitz, Tim Penny and Martin Olav Sabo thoughtfully addressed one of the big issues of the day ("Debt is a big deal," Jan. 15). As America struggles to solve its budget problems, it hasn't grasped the extent to which Tea Party supporters want to control how much we spend and how we spend it. Their effort to "starve the beast" has contributed significantly to the disparity of income, produced an abundance of unaffordable health care and degraded the country's educational infrastructure. How can we allow that to happen and, at the same time, expect to remain a great country?


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In the final news conference of his first term, President Obama said, "If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America's bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans benefits will be delayed." Why take it out on seniors and veterans? He seems to blame the Republicans for everything. What he should have said at the news conference is, "If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America's bills on time, checks to the executive and legislative branches of government will be delayed."


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Does it foster respect or reflect an obvious bias?


Katherine Kersten hit the nail on the head in her recent commentary on bullying ("The real agenda behind antibullying campaign," Jan. 13). If the Legislature passes and the governor signs a bill along the lines outlined in her article, its purpose wouldn't be to prevent bullying but to bully people who don't agree with their interpretation of bullying. Such a law would likely be unconstitutional and should be challenged if it passes.


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Human dignity, respect and tolerance should be main focuses for any antibullying legislation to protect both gay and straight students. But Kersten believes the real agenda behind the antibullying campaign may be the indoctrination of kids to a state approved view of sexuality. She claims that many antibullying activists seek to use state power to impose their own beliefs on others. I'm sure that certain majority groups of the past felt the same way when challenged to reconsider their ideas about slavery, interracial marriage and a woman's right to vote.


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Spotlight on prisons shows horrible problem


Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek continues to alert us to critical mental-health issues ("Mental illness gets too much room to grow," Jan. 14). We can't let our prisons become de facto state-run mental institutions that provide no treatment. That's inhumane. Prisons should be equipped with professionals who can identify inmates with mental illness. Inmates who improve with treatment could have their sentences reduced.


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How outsiders grade them doesn't matter


A recent editorial identified several factors that led to Minnesota's receiving low grades on education reform efforts ("Take school 'grades' with grain of salt," Jan. 14). No effort can rightfully be judged by an outside source. Only results -- or the lack of them -- paint a true picture. Minnesota and its graduates are able to compete globally. So why should we take these "grades" seriously?


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Staffing questions for the Legislature and U


The recent discussion over whether the University of Minnesota is top-heavy with administrators should concern all Minnesota taxpayers ("Let's shove back at higher ed," Jan. 3). We should also be as concerned about what appears to be an overloaded staffing of our Legislature, not to mention the apparent nepotism that exists. How about the Star Tribune doing a side-by-side comparison of the administrative staffing at the U with that of our legislative bodies?


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Hold off on raises until workers earn them


There's no reason to raise the minimum wage, which was established to introduce people to the workforce. It wasn't meant to provide people a wage to raise a family. Rather, it's a wage earned by people based on their abilities to do the job for which they were hired. If they can do the job, their wages increase. That's exactly how it's supposed to operate.