We are delighted to see the Pillsbury flour sign and water tower lit again (“Delighted it’s relighted,” Nov. 3), but hope the owners will follow the example of the Guthrie Theater and turn the signs off at about 10 or 11 p.m. to allow neighbors to sleep. This gesture would also save energy and reduce the light pollution that harms birds and animals, as well as humans.

Pat Schaffer, Minneapolis


Did Afghanistan at least give us a receipt?

A Nov. 3 front-page article reporting that we built a nearly useless $43 million natural-gas service station in Kabul described the over-the-top cost of this reconstruction project in Afghanistan and an inability to get answers about the project from the Pentagon and the State Department.

The questions being asked likely will result in a similar presidential and congressional accounting given to questions about the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars paid in bonuses to no-bid contractors for work they failed to perform during the Iraq war a decade ago. There were no answers. Heads did not roll. The corporations involved did not give the money back to the Treasury. Nearly all involved probably continued getting federal contracts.

This spectacular fiasco also should raise questions about our other reconstruction efforts — past and present. For example: How much have taxpayers paid corporations and contractors over these 14 years in Afghanistan, and what do we have to show for it? How many of the 27,000 contractors and dozens of corporations will be out of Afghanistan when troop levels drop from more than 9,500 to 5,500 next year? Also, this may be a bit late to ask, but why did we start reconstruction efforts during a war when historically (until Iraq), and by definition, reconstruction starts when a war is over?

Carl Lee, Minnetonka

• • •

Headline, Nov. 3, Page A4: “Here are some ideas to fix Social Security.”

• “Work longer.”

• “Get less.”

• “Pay more.”

• “Change the COLA” (cost-of-living adjustment).

Jump headline, Nov. 3, Page A7: “$43 million gas station in Afghanistan called ‘colossal waste’ of tax dollars.”

Hmmm …

Don Eisenschenk, Minnetonka



It’s a question of private vs. public good

In recent articles and responses on the topic of college student debt, one important perspective has not been very visible. To what extent is an individual’s college education more than a private benefit? To have young people so heavily in debt before they marry, buy a house or have children will have a profound impact on the national economy and culture. Will graduates delay marriage, children and consumption due to their need to pay off debt? In the 19th century, we had the Homestead Act, which enabled people to obtain public land for free. It was believed this would serve the nation’s interest in settling the West and also allow citizens to participate in the economy more completely. Inasmuch as today’s college degree is equivalent to yesterday’s high school degree, why not free college education? Certainly, the students would benefit, but so would society from their fuller participation in the national economy.

Michael Kopp, Minneapolis

• • •

My theory as to why students have to borrow substantial amounts of money (in some cases more than what you could pay to buy a good new or late-model car) to pay for their postsecondary educations is that there is not enough financial support from the institutions themselves. Two of the reasons I have come up with are too much money going to athletic programs rather than academic ones and limited government support. How do we solve these problems? Simple: Encourage colleges and universities to reduce financial support for athletic teams even if it means selling the teams to private entities and contacting our elected representatives to ask that they support measures that help reduce, if not eliminate, student debt. If the people of this fair state can raise their voices demanding change, then we can solve the student debt problem rather than just merely talking about it.

Dan Wicht, Fridley

• • •

Regarding the Nov. 3 counterpoint by Melissa Staudinger about student debt (“Don’t be so dismissive of student loan crisis”), I do understand and believe that the government should indeed create a program to help individuals like her. It should come up with a procedure where (1) the money that she and others like her borrowed to further their education be discharged — a “dishonorable discharge” — and (2) all rights and privileges accruing to whatever degree or certificate that was received as a result of the education in question be revoked. This means that, under this scenario, had you received a law degree, you are no longer a lawyer; you are a secretary or a receptionist in a law office.

Stephen Prescott, Minneapolis



Yes, but we must also remain sensibly wary of extremism

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, in his Nov. 3 commentary “Minnesota must meet Islamophobia head-on,” made a salient point that needed to be made: That religious discrimination of any kind is intolerable and indefensible. Like Luger, I, too, met Muslims through my work, including imams, at their mosques and initiated new friendships. However, there is a distinct difference between Islamaphobia and judicious concern over radical Islam.

We need to have free discussion, frank conversation and unrestricted education regarding the Islamists who kidnap school girls, torture, rape, demolish ancient relics, recruit our young men for war, and behead Christians and even other Muslims who don’t share their belief in sharia law.

Those among the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Boko Haram are equal in their racist, malicious, violent fanaticism to the Nazis of World War II. Both groups are systematically taking a violent, bloody path toward their goal of creating a society based on sharia law, which would cover all facets of their followers’ lives. Women would be subjugated in all aspects of life; the abrogation of the Qur’an would allow for the most violent teachings to become the standard; democracies and Jews would always be enemies, and those who spoke in public or in private against their Islamic leaders would be summarily put to death in very unkind ways.

Public lashing, stoning and beheading would be common, and education would be reserved for boys. As we have seen in Iraq, any art that does not glorify Allah or his prophet would be seen as idolatry and would be reduced to ashes or rubble depending on its medium. The list goes on, and the list is frightening. While we don’t need to fear Islamic extremism, we do need to heed its message of hatred, call it by its real name and steel our country firmly against its gaining any foothold on American soil.

The First Amendment protects both freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It’s important to name radical Islam for what it is and differentiate it from the Muslim faith. Both our country’s leaders and citizens need to speak with confidence and conviction against radical Islam without fear of being labeled religious bigots. The idea of our country being attacked by radical Islamists and our citizens being afraid to name them out of some distorted sense of political correctness is both ridiculous and pathetic.

Richard Greelis, Bloomington