Three presidential vetoes already threatened. God forbid we actually have a debate on the issues. The vetoes are threatened in hopes that Republicans will not offer up bills to be signed. This way the media and the White House control the debate.

It is imperative that the House and Senate draft bills, pass them and send them to the president. This is how the legislative branch is supposed to work. The media will have to cover the bills, the issues, the differences of opinion. Senators will actually have to take votes, make decisions, create a record. As will the president.

Then, if we can find a way to get our young people (ages 18 to 35) engaged and involved, this country just may have a chance of coming back from the brink.

Tim Miller, Lino Lakes

It's easy to snipe, but there's more to it

I was quite disappointed in the Jan. 13 editorial passing judgment on President Obama for not attending the rally in France. While it is easy for us armchair quarterbacks to opine on him not attending as being shameful, one should think of the larger picture. You only need to look at a photo of the gathering to realize what a logistical security nightmare it would have been. How would the Secret Service protect him in a crowd of that size? Perhaps there were threats against his life should he attend. Without proper advance time, maybe the Secret Service said "no way."

None of us are privy to those details. Yes, other leaders were there, but none represent a country that terrorists call the "Great Satan." I'm sure the price on Obama's head is far greater than we imagine. I'd rather our president be safe than dead. By the way, our U.S. ambassador to France attended the rally. By definition, an ambassador is the accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country.

Meredith Hoffman, Maple Grove

• • •

I agree that the United States should have had a higher official representation in Paris. However, there is difference between demonstrations and action. Time will tell if the "united" world leaders actually do anything. For years, the United States has borne the burden of fighting the major battles against extremists of all kinds and has felt the brunt of their focus. These countries that are newly "united" against Islamic terrorists too often did nothing in the past. For example, I lived in Belgium for five years in the late 1980s and early '90s. It was reported that Belgian officials were allowing terrorists to travel through their country as long as they did not create problems. Today, Belgium has a major issue with Islamic extremists.

Many of these same countries did nothing to stop Hitler in his early quest for world domination. Let's hope this time that action is taken beyond locking arms and yelling, "Je suis Charlie."

Ray Meifert, Edina

• • •

When more than 40 nations can hold hands firmly against violence and intolerance, must the United States once again be at the visible forefront to promote its founding principles of human values and justice?

A unity of purpose across nations is achieved even when our exceptional nation elects — with little explanation — to take the lowest profile in Paris. That is honorable.

Steve Watson, Minneapolis

Sorry, but moderates have an obligation

To Ahmed Tharwat ("I am Ahmed: nonterrorist," Jan. 13): I understand you. I even agree with many of your points. What I have no idea of is what mainstream Muslims are actually doing to prevent, dissuade or stop radical Muslims such as those who have committed more than 27,000 attacks on non-Muslims since Sept. 11, 2001.

It would be far preferable for those of a shared faith to prevent attackers from carrying out their plans, and this is true for Islam.

Dave Terry, Frisco, Texas

• • •

As a religious moderate who would prefer to ignore the extremists at either end of my religion, I sympathize with Tharwat when, as the commentary's summary states, he feels "tired of having to explain the actions of extremists as if they are associates." Yet it is vital that he do so, loudly and clearly. Silence implies consent, if not agreement. If extremists are the only Muslims that Westerners know about, it is inevitable for Westerners to lump all Muslims together.

Having lived in a Muslim country, I know that Muslims differ as much in their religious beliefs as Christians differ in the West, and that Islam shares more values with Christianity than most Westerners appreciate. Effective democracy demands participation on everyone's part, including making one's views known publicly, not just privately in the voting booth.

Craig Shulstad, Minneapolis

Dissecting nonprofit's policies, compensation

I don't doubt Alyce Dillon's commitment as executive director of Head Start in Minneapolis ("Director of Head Start tops salary cap," Jan. 10). What is amazing is that the "nonprofit" business model allows employees to roll over and cash in significant amounts of unused vacation or sick time. There isn't one business in the private sector that could survive on this business model. As taxpayers, we should all be horrified at this use of our money. (Head Start/Parents in Community Action is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the state of Minnesota and Hennepin County.) Additionally, we should be asking why there is a persistent achievement gap when this agency receives grant money of more than of $25 million. Other public and/or private programs are also spending millions on early childhood education. Clearly, throwing money at the achievement gap isn't coming close to solving the problem.

Margaret McInerny, Minneapolis

• • •

The article about executive pay at PICA/Head Start is an example of the media being titillated by the violations associated with Community Action of Minneapolis and looking to widen its net, painting all nonprofits with the same brush. To his credit, the reporter acknowledges what everyone associated with PICA and Alyce Dillon knows; she runs the best Head Start program in the nation. She oversees a $25 million organization with multiple program sites, serving several thousand underprivileged preschool children. She manages a staff of several hundred, and from a program aspect and a staffing aspect, it is the most diverse agency in the Upper Midwest.

Were we talking about a for-profit program of similar size and complexity, there would be no issue with her $181,000 salary and $250,000 total compensation. Especially if it were the most successful program of its kind. Why would anyone think a program serving underprivileged children should have less competent leadership?

Dan Cain, St. Louis Park