There has been so much terrible news locally, nationally and internationally that we all need a short break. To that end, go to the Guthrie Theater as soon as feasible, even though it's the holiday season. And I am not talking about the obvious — "A Christmas Carol." Treat yourself to two and a half hours of virtually nonstop laughter by seeing "The Cocoanuts." Yes, you may miss some of the rapid puns and double entendres, but you may miss some simply because you'll be laughing so hard. And the music and dance numbers are entertaining as well. Go. Enjoy. We deserve this.

Paul Waytz, Minneapolis

PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD

Insignificant, or an awesome, glorious future for all?

The Paris climate summit is history. As with previous such summits, in my opinion, not much of significance happened.

Two salient points about the pact: First, the carbon emission reduction pledges are not legally binding on any of the countries. Second, there is no penalty for noncompliance — other than maybe a "shame on you" from the United Nations. Reminds me of a typical New Year's resolution!

It has long been my thought that this human-caused apocalyptic climate-change scare was more about U.N.-forced redistribution of wealth than saving the planet. After the results of the first five-year review are published, it will be interesting to see how many of the developed and developing countries lived up to their pledges.

I predict those countries will be more concerned about growing their economies than complying with the feckless pact.

Bob Jentges, North Mankato, Minn.

• • •

If you think the transistor, Silicon Valley, or our own Medtronic and "Medical Alley" were and are good for the economy, just watch as the biggest business innovation run we will ever see really takes off! With the clear declaration from Paris equivalent to President John Kennedy's call to land on the moon — combined with a simple pricing hint to businesses in Minnesota, the U.S. and the world — we will have thousands of companies creating innovation, jobs and wealth.

While the moon landing is a source of national pride, the transition to a low-carbon economy generates new jobs, wealth and a few bonuses. Cleaner air and water, less of your money flowing to unstable parts of the world, and fewer triggers for war.

George Shultz and the nonpartisan Citizens' Climate Lobby call for a carbon fee and dividend, with all of the fee returned to each household every month. (So it's not a tax!) Independent economic-forecasting company REMI says this means millions of new main-street jobs and 50 percent less CO2 per year. That is a clear signal to business, with no regulation and no favorites — I can't wait for our checks!

Tom Evans, Edina

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Is anybody interested in truly leading the nation?

Just listened to the final Republican presidential debate of 2015. I do not understand our politics today. We are surrounded by a blast furnace of hate and fear, coming almost entirely from the Republican side. Congress is locked in the politics of "no." Republicans will kill anything Obama endorses and even try to kill his already-booked accomplishments, but lack an agenda of "yes." Where are the alternatives? Or is the goal simply to emasculate the effectiveness of our government?

The Democrats don't fare a whole lot better. When you are under attack, you fight back, but while what we have is not silence, it is something close to it. Obama's presidency, in my view, has been quite consequential and will be recorded as such by posterity despite the powerful roadblocks he faced. Start with completely turning around the economic train wreck he inherited and move on to an admittedly limited reform of the health care system, one limited primarily by the perverse medical insurance system with which we are burdened and move on to the ownership of our politics by the health insurance industry.

What I understand even less than our politics is the willingness of Americans to buy into the politics of fear and hate. Why? What do they think they'll gain? Do people think we'll be more secure by beefing up an already-bloated military and putting "boots on the ground" in places where we're already hated? Do they think we'll be safer by blocking entry into our country for Muslims? The 9/11 attackers had legal visas. One of the attackers in San Bernardino, Calif., was born here.

The bottom line? Hate and fear breed hate and fear, exponentially. Our politics and the public forum are diseased. Our government is no longer a democracy. It's an oligarchy, ruled by money. Our media are owned by the oligarchs, and they govern what the public hears and sees. If this doesn't change dramatically, we may well find ourselves as victims of crypto-Nazis like Trump. Make no mistake. We are in extremely dangerous territory.

John F. Hetterick, Plymouth

• • •

I noticed that the gun violence in the U.S. was not asked about or addressed at Tuesday's debate by either the candidates or CNN. What's up with that? Does the NRA have the same amount of power as ISIL?

Janet Barum, Minneapolis

• • •

The presidential debates are the best thing on television. They have drama, suspense and comedy.

David M. Blank, Fridley

• • •

Hillary Clinton, during her visit to Minnesota on Tuesday, used an interesting choice of words regarding terrorism in the U.S.: "Americans are going to have to act with courage and clarity" — precisely what Clinton and President Obama have not done to date.

Larry Sorenson, Arlington, Minn.

• • •

I'm surprised by Brian Lambert's response to President Obama's lackluster, measured, slow-walked response to his role as consoler-in-chief in the wake of the recent mass shootings ("From the president, we expect miracles?" Opinion Exchange, Dec. 16). Anyone who works with the public knows that to seal the deal, you have to sell the sizzle as well as the steak. "I will carpet-bomb them until the sand turns to glass" may not sound like someone with any real plan to fight Muslim extremism, but it is a lot more reassuring than "our plan is working," or "no fly, no buy." On Tuesday, I skipped Clinton's speech and the GOP debates, and followed the announcements leading up to the 1/4-percent rate hike by the Federal Reserve. This decision will have a much greater effect on how I live my life than any "there-there" consolation from any presidential want-to-be, or for that matter, used-to-be.

Benjamin Cherryhomes, Hastings

BIRDS AND LEAD

Fishing is a threat as well

I agree with Scott Lanyon and Deborah Reynolds that lead shot is harmful to birds ("It's time for the DNR to ban toxic lead shot," Dec. 14), but that is not the only threat to birds involving lead. Many jigs, sinkers, and other fishing tackle contain lead, and they are harmful to waterfowl if ingested. I am an enthusiastic fisherman, and it is easier than you think to find lead tackle substitutes. Eliminating both lead shot and lead tackle would help our ecosystems and animals like our state bird.

Jonathan Wilson-Thieroff, St. Paul

HIGHWAY SAFETY

Congested minds think alike

It is finally happening! After watching huge buses blast by using the right freeway shoulders (legally), ordinary motorists are now doing the same thing (illegally). Who can blame them? If it is safe for buses, it should certainly be safe for the rest of us. An additional traffic lane, just like that!

Bob Copeland, Wayzata