Minneapolis may need a philosophical shift

The Star Tribune Editorial Board argues that its preferred DFL Minneapolis mayoral candidate will pursue an agenda that will improve the lives of the city’s most disadvantaged citizens (“Betsy Hodges for Minneapolis mayor,” Oct. 27). Perhaps. But, take a moment to reflect on some ugly realities.

The Economic Times reports that the average net worth of black American families is $4,955 — less than 5 percent of the white household average of $110,729. Even during the darkest days of apartheid South Africa, black net worth was 6.8 percent that of white families. While that despicable regime did nothing to alleviate black poverty, we have spent more than $5 trillion to help needy Americans of every color since the advent of our War on Poverty half a century ago.

The sad fact is that the highest concentrations of poverty among black Americans remain in major urban centers that have been largely under Democratic government control for decades, including Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and New Orleans. Wherever it has been tried, the Democrats’ expansion of the numbers of citizens dependent on government has proven disastrous for our most economically and socially challenged. A conservative agenda focused on limited free markets, competitive tax rates, schools demanding superior performance from both teachers and students, and robust private support for families in need might not be more effective. But, given the lifelong hardships many of these folks may endure, perhaps it is time that we try a different approach here.

MARK H. REED, Plymouth

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The Star Tribune Editorial Board cited Mark Andrew’s “close affiliations with unions representing teachers, police and firefighters” as the main reason it didn’t include him among its top three candidates for Minneapolis mayor. Does the board think that to be supported by unions representing some of our most dedicated public servants means that the candidate in question is “owned” by the unions in question? Does it likewise think that Betsy Hodges is “owned” by the Sierra Club, which has endorsed her? I certainly hope not.

It is extremely troubling that the Star Tribune views union support as such a black mark against a candidate. I do not know who I am voting for yet, but I certainly consider the endorsement of public-sector labor unions as a reason to vote for, not against, Mark Andrew. I wonder if the Editorial Board would think that Hubert Humphrey, perhaps the greatest mayor our city ever had, similarly compromised his integrity and independence when he gained the support of labor unions?




Alienating the world long before Obama

In claiming the world is turning against us because of President Obama’s policies, an Oct. 28 letter writer was evidently unaware that the monitoring of foreign leaders was begun years ago (Angela Merkel in 2002) and that despite howls and protestations, all nations practice surveillance to the extent they are able. To better understand why many countries mistrust or even hate us, search “CIA atrocity timeline.” Start reading at about 1953. You won’t have to read very far before you’ll begin to understand why that worldwide apology tour President Obama was falsely accused of undertaking might be a good idea after all. There has hardly been a country in whose internal affairs we haven’t meddled, in many cases causing great harm.

“My country, right or wrong” jingoism is just wrongheaded. We need to stop being so full of ourselves and get a decent mirror. Then maybe we can fix things.




Let’s fix America before thinking boycott

Russia’s laws regarding homosexuality may be oppressive, but they aren’t that different from those here. Ellen J. Kennedy cites a poll that found “almost half of Russians believe gays should not have the same rights as heterosexuals” (“U.S. must boycott next Olympics,” Oct. 25). She writes this in a country where only 14 of 50 states allow marriage for same-sex couples. She points out that Russia penalizes those who demonstrate or advocate homosexuality. Yet, the United States repealed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy only two years ago.

By no means am I condoning or excusing Russia’s discriminatory laws. However, to compare these practices to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany minimizes the horror of the Holocaust. Besides, maybe we’re not that much better.




Why resource use requires regulation

Reading articles from the Oct. 27 editions of the Mankato Free Press and the Star Tribune (“Forests in state give way to farmland”) reminded me, again, of our society’s difficulty in dealing with the natural resources that we hold in common, water and air.

The market mechanism is a remarkably efficient instrument for meeting society’s economic goals, but only when all input costs are private in nature. Resources such as water in our aquifers and clean air are part of our common heritage. Those who can profit by exploiting the commons have an economic incentive to do so.

A case may be made for allowing private use of resources that are a part of the commons. But society cannot rely on an unregulated market to determine how the commons should be used. Whether we are talking about pollution associated with extracting fracking sand in southern Minnesota or about irrigation of potato farms in northern Minnesota, it is essential that the public have a voice in how scarce resources are used.

PAUL THOMPSON, Mankato, Minn.



Can we treat passing with due respect?

Call me old-fashioned, but I think funerals and burials deserve respect (“Want to be a tree after you die?” Oct. 26). Most traditional believers worldwide practice respectful funeral and burial rites as part of their faith.

Unfortunately, the National Funeral Directors Association annual convention, a gathering of 5,800 people from 50 countries, is promoting more creative ways to “dispose of” bodies beyond the “boring old funeral.” Remains can be made into jewelry or a fertilizer packet for a tree, or launched on a weather balloon or sent to the moon. There were even 1,300 entries in a competition to determine possible “crazy stuff or the weirdest thing,” apparently to energize the movement and create demand for new ways to deal with grief.

We can only hope that this movement does not break the boundaries of good taste, respects the sensitivities of traditionalists and is not the material of a media heyday.