America is looking awfully vulnerable

The bond rating of the United States has been downgraded thanks to a small but vocal minority of legislators being led around by the nose by a small but vocal constituency.

The fault is ours, because we elected these myopic sheep who provide leadership by wetting a finger in the winds of the polls. We are only beginning to reap what we have sown: government by and of the flock, led by who brays loudest.

Don't raise my taxes, don't cut my entitlements. I long for the days of representatives willing to work across the aisle to make sausage. Those days are no more. Now we make stands on principle and sign pledges proffered by unelected, well-heeled organizations.

And this benefits our country how exactly? The sterling credit rating of the United States has been sullied. Perhaps necessary fallout for standing firm on principle. Maybe if millions of jobs would be created in the wake of this, it would be worthwhile. I'm waiting.


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Ordinarily, you would think the militants in Afghanistan would pull back so we would leave (thinking we have won) and they could grow stronger in our absence. However, they are pushing forward with a vengeance ("U.S. suffers deadliest day of Afghan war," Aug. 7).

Doesn't it look like they want our soldiers and our economy to bleed to death by staying there interminably? A case in point: "Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating of the United States for the first time ..."


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My expression of gratitude is sincere

How presumptuous of Elizabeth Samet to suggest that the greeting "Thank you for your service" is hollow (Opinion Exchange, Aug. 6).

When I thank a service man or woman for their service, I am thinking of my six uncles who served in World War II, most of whom I can no longer thank in person.

I am thinking of my partner's father, who landed on the second wave at Normandy and had trouble finding a stretch of beach to walk on without stepping on bodies.

I am thinking of the guilt I feel about Vietnam every time I hear a helicopter overhead; my number didn't come up, but many classmates and friends went over, and some never returned.

I am thinking of the many young men and women who died needlessly in Iraq in a war which never should have been fought. I may not know what each serviceperson has done, but I know the sacrifices of many and thank them all.

I'm sure I am not alone in my thinking. For many of us our gratitude can only begin to be expressed with, "Thank you for your service."


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Pastors aren't frauds for offering services

I am one of the 70 United Methodist pastors in Minnesota who will offer my services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples who are prepared for and sincere about Christian marriage.

To my Methodist friend, who states that we are "dishonest frauds" for not leaving a church we don't agree with, please allow me to set the record straight. We remain precisely because we love our church and desire to bring improvements to it.

If we have indeed sworn off any church policy that we previously agreed to, it is because our consciences now dictate that we cannot do otherwise.


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Helmets are safe, yes -- and optional

You will not get any arguments from me that wearing a helmet or wearing a lap belt are not "safer." Heck, if every morning one would don a full-length safety suit, safety shoes, eye goggles and ear plugs, there would be fewer people injured every day.

The argument here is personal responsibility and choices. How far do we want the government dictating the day-to-day events in our lives? I, for one, believe in my individual rights to make choices that may or may not be good in your eyes.

Government should make sure that the car or motorcycle one drives is as safe as it can be. From that point on, it is the driver's responsibility to operate it in a safe manner and endanger no other cars, motorcycles, pedestrians or bicyclists sharing the road. Or themselves, for that matter.

I'll ride and take my chances. I just hope my path does not intersect with an inattentive driver talking on the phone while putting on makeup, reading the latest edition of the Star Tribune and eating their Egg McMuffin because they overslept and are now late for work.


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It's not the monster that some say it is

This is in response to the recent commentary and letter slamming AARP and telling President Obama not to join. I am a longtime member of AARP. It is an organization that assists seniors, the disabled and many others. The AARP information center at the Mall of America is an excellent resource center used for this purpose.

There are classes that teach you to drive safer (which allows a 10 percent discount on car insurance in Minnesota), and teach you about Social Security, the new national health care plan and fraud prevention.

There is a free tax service for "anyone" if their taxes are simple. There are resource numbers and literature for seniors' needs, such as health care insurance counseling, grandparents' rights, home health care and vulnerable adults' rights.

AARP volunteers participate in community action such as visiting nursing homes, knitting baby hats, and collecting food and school supplies for the needy. AARP continually supports bills in the Legislature and Congress that help seniors and the poor.

Even other resource agencies confidently refer clients to AARP for assistance in helping seniors. You cannot find a better organization than AARP to help make lives just a little more comfortable.

The organization provides a telephone number to call if you do not want to be contacted about its insurance products. It is easy.