In the upcoming impeachment trial, senators should vote on the merits of the case, namely, whether former President Donald Trump's words and behavior were free speech or the incitement of an insurrection, speech not protected by the First Amendment. To acquit Trump on the basis that he is already out of office essentially will create a window of invulnerability for all future lame-duck presidents, a time period from late December through Jan. 20 when they can commit high crimes and misdemeanors against the United States, its people and the Constitution with impunity without even fearing that they might disqualify themselves from running for office again.

I'd much rather allow future representatives of the House to impeach ex-presidents out of spite and trust that frivolous articles of impeachment will be dismissed by future senators. In the country I want to live in, no one should be above the law, not even for 20 days in January.

Bill Kaemmerer, Edina

NUCLEAR WEAPONS

START treaty is indeed just that

The Star Tribune in its Feb. 2 editorial ("U.S.-Russia treaty on nukes is critical") gives the Biden administration along with Russian President Vladimir Putin measured congratulations for reaching a last-minute agreement to extend the New START Treaty shortly before it was set to expire.

But much more work is needed on nuclear arms cutbacks to make the world safer. I heartily agree with the Star Tribune Editorial Board's conclusion that "New START [is] ... the beginning, not an end, of controlling and eventually ending the threat of nuclear weapons." As pointed out in the editorial, President Joe Biden must reverse former President Donald Trump's reckless actions that pulled the U.S. out of other arms control treaties (such as the "Open Skies" treaty and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty).

Finally, the U.S. must take a significant new step toward making nuclear arms extinct. It should lead among the nuclear states on the path toward all of them joining the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which recently became international law. Biden and the U.S. Senate could greatly legitimize the TPNW by signing and ratifying it. The U.S. would join over 80 countries that have signed the treaty and over 50 that have ratified it.

Anti-nuke groups and TPNW countries can use campaigns similar to others that won universal bans for several other categories of weapons through international treaties: chemical weapons, biological weapons, land mines and cluster munitions.

All in all, dedicated advocacy on eradicating nuclear weapons may make this goal not only plausible but maybe inevitable.

Bill Adamski, Minneapolis

MINING NEAR THE BWCA

Risk of ecological disaster is too high

The commentary "Buy American? Block Minnesota mining? Choose one" by Lisa Rudstrom (Opinion Exchange, Feb. 4) was informative yet provocative. As she noted, "Once we put the rhetoric and the politics aside, we can more clearly see that we're really vying for the same things — a robust domestic supply chain of critical resources in support of Biden's Made in America efforts, a transition to a low-carbon economy, sustainable communities, and continued protection for our state's beloved natural resources. We can have all those things and mine too. Let the science prove it."

Unfortunately, while science can indeed provide many answers — witness our national response to the coronavirus pandemic — it has yet to confirm that precious metal mining is without pollution. All we can say now is, show us where such a mine has operated in our nation for 10 years without dire pollution issues and once closed for 10 years has shown no pollution from runoff acids. Because of this uncertainty, it's foolish to place or condone mining so near the Boundary Waters, a natural resource unlike any other. And that point trumps her argument.

Richard C. Struck, Grand Marais, Minn.
• • •

Rudstrom defines the Editorial Board's "series of pronouncements" as dizzying yet offers no support for the assumption of self-contradiction and "huge" intellectual leaps, attempts at self-qualification notwithstanding.

Identifying the resource value as a percentage of mineral resource reserve is not, in and of itself, justification for approval of state authorization to conduct mining. Further, using the notion of national economic security and reduction in reliance on foreign mineral reserve resources is not sufficiently adequate justification for approval. Other questions need to be asked: Who will refine this copper and nickel? Where will it be refined? In Minnesota? In America? Or elsewhere? Outside of the United States? How much of the comprehensive mining revenue will stay in Minnesota?

Though there may be "long-established laws and regulatory processes already in place to ensure the BWCA remains untouched and pristine," these do not offer any certain guarantees. Can we rely on these laws and regulations? Or can and will they be changed over time? It has happened before.

It does not matter whether the Twin Metals project is inside or outside the BWCA. The potential for groundwater contamination and for contaminants bleeding off into the surrounding watershed is still a real environmental threat.

Identifying the mining industry as highly regulated is one thing; rigorously enforcing it over time is another. The only way to protect the future environment of northern Minnesota from potential irreparable damage is through agreement for huge sums of money to be placed in escrow for that potential inevitability. Offshore companies like Antofagasta and Glencore have a history of failing to perform once their mines have closed, often through bankruptcy protection, which will leave all of us holding the tab for remediation. Butte, Mont., is a good example. Long after the Berkley Pit has been closed, environmental and health problems continue to exist. As the saying goes, "Money talks and B.S. walks." Where will we be when the music stops?

Sanford Sackter, St. Paul
• • •

The Feb. 4 counterpoint parrots tired industry talking points and tries to inflame an urban-rural divide. Mining proponents who claim to be "insulted" by actions to protect the Boundary Waters and the surrounding National Forest from copper mining's destruction do not reflect majority views. Polling shows consistently that northern Minnesotans favor a ban on mining near the Boundary Waters by a wide margin (most recently, by 15 points in July 2020).

The Boundary Waters belongs to all Americans — not just the few who would risk the wilderness for a foreign company that seeks to mine the low-grade Twin Metals deposits from public land on the wilderness's edge. The metals would be sold on the world market, not reserved for America's use.

The only peer-reviewed independent economic study on the subject shows that banning copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters would result in more jobs and more income for Minnesotans over a 20-year period measured from opening a hypothetical mine.

Preserving the great 4.3 million-acre Quetico-Superior ecosystem must be a key component of President Joe Biden's plan to protect 30% of our nation's lands and waters. This action will help us all avoid the worst consequences of the climate and extinction crisis. It will support habitat and natural processes for adaptation and resilience for countless species, including humans.

Allowing the nation's most toxic industry to set up shop in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters would be a profound dereliction of duty by our society.

Becky Rom, Ely, Minn.

The writer is national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

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