February second. The day after the caucuses in Iowa. By now, we know the anointed ones du jour. Before the caucuses, it was hard to say who would prevail, but now there will surely be a plethora of analyses of why and how. Did our neighbors to the south choose the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton or the prickly Democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders? Martin O’Malley is trailing, and likely did not come close to winning. My personal preference is the prickly guy. I’m reminded of “Man Against Machine” in the case of Sanders/Clinton. The title, not the lyrics.

On the Republican side, we have a smorgasbord of unusual choices. Today, we know who prevailed in Iowa. Almost certainly one of the loud and abrasive ones. The other kind have been shouted down. When I lay me down to sleep last night, I was kind of hoping it would be Trump. I have a horrified fascination at how far he will go, how far the party and the country will let his radical stream of consciousness flood our nation.

February second. The official launch of a campaign season already years old. And about that groundhog? Shadow or no shadow, there’s going to be nine more months of political posturing and fierce outdoor voices. If it were me, I’d burrow in and wait it out.

Barbara J. Gilbertson, Eagan

• • •

While reading the paper on Sunday morning, my 9-year-old son came up behind me as I was glancing at the political cartoon and synopsis of all the candidates for the upcoming Iowa caucuses. He asked, “Is that picture a part of a coloring contest?” I thought for a second and said, “Yes, it is.” I then handed him the page to color, and he promptly delegated the opportunity to his little sister by saying, “These people are like the turkey we color for the Thanksgiving coloring contest — here you go!”

Susie Valentine, Minneapolis



Was latest coverage unfair? Are e-mails an issue nonetheless?

On Jan. 30, the Star Tribune published a news story from the New York Times about the Hillary Clinton e-mails that was so misleading I’m surprised it appeared at all, much less under a front-page banner headline. The story, after four paragraphs repeatedly referring to “top secret” information in Secretary of State Clinton’s e-mails — and by then jumped to Page A8 — finally got to this statement: “The State Department said that it had upgraded the classification of the e-mails at the request of the nation’s intelligence agencies. Kirby [a state department spokesman] said that none of the e-mails had been marked at any level of classification when they were sent through Clinton’s server.”

I appreciate that you printed Clinton’s statements on Page 1 denying that there were any classified materials in her e-mails. Nevertheless, to headline such an outrageously misleading story a few days before the Iowa caucuses is inexcusable for a newspaper of good reputation.

Marjorie (Marge) Hols, St. Paul

• • •

An open letter to Hillary Clinton:

Data is a major asset of an organization. Its security is critical to success and hard to maintain — and everybody knows it.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard that as secretary of state you had your own server. The issue keeps popping up, and Republicans keep using the e-mail controversy for political gain — whether you provided everything to the committee looking into the issue and transparency, and on and on. That’s not the main point.

This is the point: Whatever were you thinking? Why did you think that you could and should have a personal server in the first place? You evaded the security procedures of the very government that you were called upon to represent, and I’m angry about it. You now call it a mistake. A mistake? It’s not a mistake. A mistake is when you misspell a word or hit “reply” instead of “reply all.” What you made was a colossal and arrogant error in judgment. And now you are asking me to support you as the top decisionmaker of our country and commander in chief of our military. I just don’t think I can do that.

Joan Barnes, Lindstrom, Minn.



Updated wheeling and dealing undermines valuable legislation

It’s deeply disappointing to learn that under pressure from the Minnesota Farm Bureau and some rural legislators, the Dayton administration is retreating from enforcement of the state’s new buffer strip requirements against private ditches (“GOP deals setback to buffer rule,” Jan. 30). Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams are a priceless legacy that sets us apart from other states as truly unique. Yet in our lifetimes we are squandering that legacy through reckless stewardship. Polluted runoff from farms is by far the biggest threat to water quality in our rivers and streams, especially in agriculture-­intensive areas of the state. The buffer strip legislation enacted last year was a visionary and far-reaching measure that holds the potential to make Minnesota a leader among states in controlling nonpoint source pollution left unregulated by the federal Clean Water Act.

This is a pivotal moment: We can begin to clean up our waterways or continue to watch them deteriorate. Now is not the time to sound the retreat on water quality. Those ditches exist for one purpose only: to carry stormwater away from farm fields and toward public waterways. They need protective buffer vegetation to filter out pollutants whether they are on private or public lands.

Brad Karkkainen, St. Paul

• • •

Farmers Union President Doug Peterson, state Rep. Kurt Daudt, state Rep. Denny McNamara and others objecting to Department of Natural Resources interpretation of the ditch buffer law are clearly wrong. As a former county attorney who dealt with ditch law in a heavily ditched county for 20 years, I can assure them that private ditches that empty into a public system are “ditches within the benefited area of public drainage systems.” To claim otherwise is either disingenuous or an admission that they lack familiarity with ditch law and failed to consult an experienced ditch lawyer.

The private ditches are “benefited” — as the term has long been applied — because they dispose of unwanted water into the public system. Rather than making a strained argument that their negotiations demonstrate legislative intent that trumps clear statutory language, they should admit that they either failed to read the bill or did not understand what they had read.

Boyd Beccue, Monticello, Minn.

The writer is a former Kandiyohi County attorney, now retired.



As with any investment loss, homeowner bailout unjustified

I bought dot-com stocks when they were hot. Then came the dot-com bust. I lost a lot of money. Boohoo! I sought and received no public relief. I invested. I lost.

People bought houses on the shores of White Bear Lake when they were hot. White Bear Lake has lost tremendous amounts of water and they have potentially lost money in property values. Boohoo! Why should the public bail them out? (“Refilling White Bear Lake: $100M,” Jan. 30.) They invested. They may lose.

Richard D. Olmsted, Vadnais Heights



Kim Graves reinstatement shows there are two Americas

What are we to make of “Judge halts demotion of VA chief” (Jan. 30)? “A twist of tragic comedy?” Really? St. Paul Veterans Affairs executive Kim Graves — found by an inspector general’s investigation to have abused her position of power by orchestrating a move from the East Coast to Minnesota and wrongly racking up $130,000 in taxpayer-paid moving expenses — could not be disciplined (or even indicted) because others who were in a position to know or committed similar fraudulent acts with taxpayer money were not similarly disciplined? That logic is circular and self-determining at best, and leaves wide open the question: How can we continue to tolerate such blatant abuses of privilege and power?

There are two Americas — those on the inside, snout firmly in the trough, untouchable, and those on the outside left to wonder what we have allowed to happen and whether there is any hope of reform. That there exists a U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, whose mission is to protect federal employees against abuses by agency management — all funded by, again, taxpayers — is the most interesting twist in this story. Not that I suggest that federal employees should not have opportunity to address actual abuses, but when a decision is so obviously blind to what are certainly fraudulent and criminal activities, that “mission” has overstepped its original intent.

Dennis Williams, St. Paul