'Night, darlings, and welcome to your future

Every night when I tuck my two little girls into bed, I say many things: Good night, sleep tight, I love you. It's funny that as of late, I have had to add to those good night phrases one more: Congratulations on your $700 billion mortgage. I couldn't be more proud.



Is it just me, or is the Wall Street mess that we're being asked to fix just another WMD fiasco designed to pad a few people's pockets with sacrifices from the rest of us?



Within days of major troubles in financial markets, Congress substantially agreed on a $700 billion bailout for institutions misrun by wealthy Americans. Yet for decades American families with no or poor health insurance have suffered pain, death and financial catastrophe while Congress has shied away from a "socialist" national health insurance and professed an inability to address complex issues like health care.

This situation is the logical result of lawmakers simultaneously enjoying their own generous health plans and friendships with wealthy contributors. One could not hope for a clearer demonstration of money's power in America.




Alan Greenspan, on "Meet the Press" about a year and a half ago as this financial issue revolving around mortgages was breaking, said that the solution was to find a way to help the folks who had foolishly taken variable rate loans which they now couldn't afford to pay.

True, he said, it would be enabling those who had made bad investments but it would prevent future problems. The Bush administration said no. But now it is willing to bail out huge businesses that have ... invested unwisely.

If the government would help people about to default by providing long-term, low-interest loans, thus giving them the ability to pay their mortgages and keep their houses, the loans would not go into default and the intangible variable of confidence, confidence that money would flow through the system as it is supposed to, would set things to rights.



Maybe if Pawlenty pay were tied to his results

You know things aren't going well for Tim Pawlenty when he trots out the dog-and-pony show on education. He insults us all, advocating merit pay for teachers and hiring noncertified people in the classroom. The governor wants pay tied to results.

While Pawlenty has been creating the very demographics that undermine student achievement, Minnesota kids continue to perform well, last year ranking first, nationally, in ACT Test scores. We just received news that our eighth-graders tied for second, nationally, in math test scores. Where do teachers receive this merit pay?

Meanwhile Minnesota has a 6.2 percent unemployment rate, the highest in 22 years.

Which of the above results, the teachers', or the governor's, indicate a need for replacement by noncertified, businesspeople, to improve performance?



North of Mille Lacs,

the problem is different

While some of the points raised in your recent three-part series on ATVs may cause concern, there was a disturbing lack of information regarding their scope. Most of the information in the stories related to a limited area in central Minnesota that has a lack of public land and suffers in some cases from overdevelopment.

While many think of anything north of St. Cloud as "northern Minnesota," there are hundreds of miles of diverse land between the Brainerd lakes area and the Canadian border. In the vast area north of Mille Lacs Lake, a checkerboard of federal, state, county and private land exists; more than half of the land in most counties north of Hwy. 2 is publicly owned, and there are many unique challenges as we deal with ATV use.

Working together, the DNR and local units of government have just finished an inventory of the majority of their lands and are taking an approach to ATV trails akin to what they did with snowmobile trails over 25 years ago. There are things we can do at the state level to assist them, like increasing the funding for enforcement and the penalties for offenders. More important to the extreme northern counties is dealing with the emerging issue of forest fragmentation. This fragmentation, where large tracts of private land are being sold off into smaller parcels and developed, is the greatest threat to all activities in our forests -- industry, habitat and recreation -- not just ATVs.

While I can appreciate the challenges in Central Minnesota, we must be careful that we don't take a "one size fits all" approach to ATV use in our state.



It's become mainly a global commodity

The new steel plant being built by Essar Steel in northeastern Minnesota is good news for the state. This is the third foreign steelmaker that has bought into Minnesota's Iron Range.

It's a sad commentary on American industry and finance, however, that it is mainly foreign corporations that are investing in Minnesota's iron resources.