Democracy in action. (But a tainted form?)


As a Minnesotan with deep Wisconsin roots, it pains me to watch my beloved neighboring state be torn apart by the divisive politics endured there for 18 months. Yet the recall campaign, whatever the outcome, was a true expression of democracy and should serve as an inspiration to people who believe that the citizens of a state should have a say when radical changes are made to the state government.

People from all over Wisconsin drove for hours to Madison to protest not only an unnecessary attack on unions, but also policies designed to disenfranchise voters, cut funding for schools, cut funding for health care to the needy, thwart plans for high-speed trains from Minnesota to Chicago, and other radical decisions that affect their lives.

Wisconsinites who were proud of their tradition of clean government and pragmatic compromise saw that being destroyed, and they responded with peaceful protests, a grass-roots recall and the chant: "This is what democracy looks like." Whatever the outcome of today's election, the recall was in the highest tradition of democracy.


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Certainly it's legitimate to ask whether the recall election is any way to run a democracy (editorial, June 2), but questioning the use of power sets democracy apart from more authoritarian systems of rule.

As such, the recall is at the heart of why democracies came about in the first place: Enough people in the American colonies were convinced that their natural rights had been trampled by a monarch, so they revolted. Conversely, when people sit mute and cowed by unjust authority, as in Nazi Germany, real democracy gives way to bully rule.

A far more serious question is: Is our democracy now up for sale to the highest bidders? Are we experiencing a more subversive abuse of power? Does all of our heady talk of rights and the Constitution all become meaningless when steamrolled by the billions spent on propaganda and an endless blitz of political ads? Everyone claims to hate the deluge of attacks, but they nearly always work.

It's past time for meaningful campaign reform that could actually help ordinary Americans take their government back. Don't expect the media to lead the way when it benefits so from the current charade.


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Here's what motivates us against foreclosures


A recent Star Tribune article ("Foreclosure protest puts city officials in a tight spot," June 1) shed light on the monthlong occupation of the Cruz family home in south Minneapolis by Occupy Homes activists and supporters.

The article appeared after a week of intense face-offs between police and activists during which 23 people were arrested. What it did not shed enough light on is the larger picture of why so many activists and community members put their bodies on the line defending the home.

This fight is not just about one house, or one family. It is about standing up to the corrupt system that continually allows banks to profit by taking people's homes.

Many families fall into foreclosure because of unfortunate circumstances that are out of the homeowners' control. The Cruz family, which had always made regular monthly payments, entered foreclosure after a glitch in an online banking system prevented a payment from going through and the family could not pay the two months' payment the bank demanded as punishment.

The unjust system that allows this to happen must be changed. And that change is starting here in Minneapolis on the steps on the Cruz home.


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No reason to tolerate fraud or carelessness


I am amazed at how our various welfare agencies dole out our tax dollars with such lax accountability on the recipients ("Food stamp fraud targeted," June 2). Rather than continually replacing stolen or lost Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, at some point we may wish to administer some tough love and make such recipients wait until the next month for their cards.

Who knows -- as taxpayers, we may just get changed behaviors! I believe there is a biblical phrase that refers to teaching folks how to fish rather than just giving them fish. In addition, those who play by the rules would be "incentivized" to continue to do good.


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Food stamp fraud is costing $750 million on the federal level. Another reason to require photo ID? Hmm?


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Voters sent message; Obama ignored it


President Obama would like to blame his failures on a "do-nothing Congress." What he fails to recognize is that the midterm elections in 2010 were a strong message by the American people that they wanted him to change course. He could have embraced the message, moved to the middle and worked constructively with the new Congress. He chose not to. The consequences belong to him.


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A generation with a lack of wanderlust


As a senior in high school, the thought of tuition for college had started to overwhelm me. Then I inherited $4,000. I thought the money would be a nice down payment on the first semester at St. Olaf, but then a teacher brought up a subject that I had never truly thought about -- that my generation had no wanderlust.

I began to think of all the possibilities that a three-month summer vacation held. I decided to go vagabonding across the country and interact with members of my species.

The young generation has so many more opportunities to explore than any before, yet all we want to do is sit at home and play videogames. I invite everyone to join me this summer for an education that no school can teach.