The editorial opposing the nomination of the unworthy George Tsunis to be American ambassador to Norway rightly urges a better nominee, but it ignores the fact that the United States has a career Foreign Service from which our best ambassadors are named (“Uff da! Obama’s misguided pick for Norway,” June 11). Indeed the law — Section 304 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 — states clearly that ambassadorial positions “should normally be accorded to career members of the Service.” Unfortunately, administrations and senators from both parties, currently including Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar in their statements opposing Tsunis, too often ignore the law. And so the United States, alone among advanced countries, continues a diplomatic spoils system.
There is also, too often, a belief that a U.S. ambassador should come from the ethnic or religious background of the country to which he or she is being sent. But while a Norwegian- or Scandinavian-American should certainly not be excluded from consideration for the Oslo embassy, a U.S. ambassador does not represent a constituency but our entire nation.
The career Foreign Service serves the United States both faithfully and fearlessly. I lost four friends and colleagues to terrorism and two others were kidnapped. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya, was a member of our service. From all reports, he was happy to serve there. But why should such an able officer not serve as ambassador to a key ally like Norway?
Peter Bridges, Arlington, Va.
The writer retired from the Foreign Service after serving as ambassador to Somalia in 1984-86.
Unhappy with caucus system? Get involved
In an election year, someone can always be counted on to complain about caucuses and endorsements — and get it wrong.
A letter writer (Readers Write, June 18) claims that people who can’t get to caucuses can’t be delegates. In my party, you don’t have to be there — you can run for delegate by sending a letter. The writer also erroneously claims that parties do not encourage “we the people” to select candidates. In my party, we “activists” (aka your volunteer neighbors) make active attempts to get people to the caucuses, engage them in volunteering and encourage them to vote.
The problem with caucuses and endorsements is not the smoky room, it’s the empty room. Details about caucuses are widely publicized, yet only hundreds out of tens of thousands bother to show up. Even fewer become delegates and quite often delegate seats go unfilled. The notion that a few people decide who gets endorsed is undoubtedly true, but that’s apathy, not “activists.”
As to whether wealthy individuals and groups make parties less relevant (“In primary fights, Minnesota parties fight for relevance,” June 16), I’ll just note that parties are you and me. Outside money is spent entirely to influence (or fool) you and me, meaning that the voter, at least in states without voter suppression efforts, still holds the power. If voters want to counter big money, they need to show up, work for and vote for candidates who represent the people. Believe me, the “activists” in my party would be thrilled.
George F. Greene, Brooklyn Park
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Another excellent story by Rachel Stassen-Berger about the political campaigns’ efforts to raise money (“Dayton out front in cash dash,” June 18). The PACs and superPACs and individuals make the news about the huge amounts flowing into the various campaigns. I have a different question. Where does all that money go? When a PAC runs a TV ad, I get it that the stations get paid for the time, but who did the production? Where? And not just media buys, but what about other expenses?
In short, how much of that outside money flowing into campaigns helps the local economy, specifically, in the case of U.S. House and legislative races, how much money is paid to local businesses?
Carl Brookins, Roseville
Look at the benefits compared with oil
One million barrels of oil per day from North Dakota is certainly a notable achievement benefiting the country’s economy as well as our national security (“N.D. oil production tops 1 million-barrels-a-day milestone,” June 18). After refining, that oil will provide about 21 million gallons of gasoline to U.S. consumers that should help to lower gasoline prices. What many people don’t realize is that for the first time, North Dakota crude has exceeded the production of ethanol, which was 972,000 barrels per day. Ethanol does not need additional refining, and therefore resulted in more than 40 million gallons of gasoline replacement. Not only is ethanol renewable, but it has an octane rating of 114, allowing the production of a lower-octane gasoline blendstock. North Dakota crude benefits the state of North Dakota. Ethanol production benefits the economies of all Midwestern states, while reducing our carbon footprint and crude-oil imports.
Larry Johnson, Cologne
An elevated rail line — now there’s the ticket
The letter “If only the green line were a subway instead” (June 17) struck a cord with me. Actually, it really would have been easier — less expensive than a subway but more expensive than the surface line — to build it on an attractive elevated right of way as is the Skytrain in Vancouver, British Columbia. A three- or four-track right of way could have permitted both local and express service, as has been done for more than 100 years on Chicago’s North Side elevated line. The express line could have sped Woodbury and northeast suburban passengers to the University of Minnesota, downtown Minneapolis and Target Field, while the local could have served as it does now. Now the Green Line is irrelevant to northeast and east-metro commuters, who must still put up with noisy, rough-riding express diesel buses — and those only during rush hours. Worse yet, there is no midday connecting express service to the Green Line between the Maplewood and Woodbury transit centers. What a wasted opportunity.
Russ Isbrandt, White Bear Lake
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I had to laugh when I read about the new electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle (“Electric Hog has a muted growl, but it’s a Harley,” June 20). The company’s marketing guy said it would sound “like a fighter jet landing on an aircraft carrier.” He added: “When you hear it go by, you say, ‘Wow. That’s cool.’ Well, not so fast. With all of the motorcycle noise pollution out there, I suspect that when nine out of 10 people hear it go by, they will say, “Wow, what a jerk!”
Ross Hoffman, Burnsville