Whom do we blame? Start with Congress

Rep. Erik Paulsen's March 20 commentary attempting to exploit public outrage about the AIG bonuses is typical of how this sideshow has merely helped to distract blame from where it really belongs: Congress.

The money AIG paid in contractually obligated bonuses is a mere drop in the ocean of bailout funds taxpayers have transferred to AIG and other institutions to save them from their own risky trading practices. The real scandal, as President Obama has pointed out, is that those practices were made entirely legal in the first place by Congress itself.

The 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act removed the legal barrier separating banks from insurance companies, and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 exempted credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations from government regulation.

Forget the distraction provided by the likes of Paulsen and Rep. Michele Bachmann working themselves into a lather of rage over the AIG bonuses. What taxpayers and voters really need to know is whether they will get equally worked up about supporting the sensible new regulations the new administration will be proposing to make sure that this entire financial and economic meltdown cannot happen again. Paulsen's ridiculous insistence that the real problem here is the government becoming "more and more involved in private enterprise" does not instill confidence that our current congressional delegation will represent our interests any better than the crowd that sowed the deregulatory seeds of this catastrophe a decade ago.

JASON MCGrath, Minneapolis

The aig bonuses

Try giving the good bonus news some ink

There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding bonuses. Citizens are outraged over the fact that executives from AIG are receiving bonuses after AIG had received federal stimulus money. But I'm wondering if we will ever hear about Wal-Mart recently awarding $2 billion in bonuses to its hourly paid employees. If the media are going to cover the bad side of the news, how about maybe just a little coverage of the good news?

MIKE MCLean, Richfield


History and facts argue it won't work here

An article in the March 8 Star Tribune extolled the prospect for high-speed rail to Duluth. The editorial that same day was encouraging about high-speed rail to Chicago. This optimism flies in the face of facts well known outside Minnesota.

The most popular postwar Duluth trains, the Great Northern's "Gopher" and "Badger" -- twice a day, two hours and 15 minutes, never covered their costs of operation from their inauguration in the late '40s to their discontinuance in 1971. Amtrak followed with a single train (kept alive by a Minnesota subsidy) that also quickly failed due to poor patronage.

Since then, an essential railroad drawbridge that connected Superior directly to Duluth has been removed. No other suitable direct route exists.

Building a substitute requires a very large investment in 10 to 20 miles of completely new track. For these reasons, it makes sense to strive to fund necessary improvements on the first section of the eventual Duluth route to support commuter service -- north from Coon Creek Junction to Cambridge -- and then later extend the commuter service to Sandstone and Superior (and possibly Duluth) using existing BNSF track. Later, with very expensive improvements, this track could be re-railed to support 120 miles-per-hour service. Total rebuilding to support high-speed rail wouldn't make sense due to poor patronage prospects.

The probability of construction of a true high-speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Chicago in the next 25 years is equally dismal. All Illinois officials from the governor on down -- in both political parties -- favor a line to St. Louis over a line to the Twin Cities.



She and her family paid their penances

I thought that the March 20 Steve Sack editorial cartoon was sick, sick, sick. It depicted Sara Jane Olson returning to her St. Paul home from her California prison, walking over the grave of the murder victim of her terrorist crimes of long ago.

Like most readers, the association of her past despicable history was unknown to me until she was exposed. I have followed her case with only curious interest. However, it appears to me that Sara Jane Olson and her family have paid retribution for her crimes through her confinement in a California prison for seven years. This sentencing was done legally through the laws of our country by judge and jury.

Isn't it time for the media to stop negatively hounding this woman and allow her to return to the useful life that she led as a St. Paul citizen before she was found out? Isn't it time for forgiveness from the rest of us?



A walking, talking lesson on good sportsmanship

Thank you, Star Tribune, for seeking a story about a real role model. I was pleased to see Gail Rosenblum's column on Curby Rogers ("This referee champions competition, not obsession," March 19). It is long overdue.

My husband and I have been coaches for our two children, who have participated on sports teams in Minneapolis Park and Rec leagues for many years. Every time we walk into the gym or onto the playing field, it is with the high hopes that Curby might be the referee, because if he is, we know it's going to be an entertaining game.

Curby embodies what true sportsmanship means. As the column described, he engages everyone involved in the game. He playfully instructs the youth in the proper rules of the game, and when he can he shows them the skill they need to improve. His good-natured and creative nicknames for the kids are always a blast to hear.

Curby might not ref in the NBA, NFL or NHL, but, in our book, he's a real champion. Keep these kinds of stories coming!