Some years ago, the New Yorker had a cartoon in which a woman was saying to her seemingly unhappy husband: "Just because you're declining doesn't mean Western civilization is declining."

I thought of this when I read "Americans offer glum appraisal of U.S. condition" (Jan. 21). Is it possible that the aging of our citizens is making us more pessimistic?

We do have many problems, but there are many good things happening in America. A realistic view shouldn't ignore them.

Richard W. Duncan, Minneapolis

Commentary? Fail. Cover photo? Fail.

Regarding "A helpful translation of Obama's foreign-policy initiatives" (Jan. 22): I'm surprised at Bloomberg News for allowing this kind of writing — and at the Star Tribune for printing it.

Not only are members of the GOP Congress overstepping protocol by inviting Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to speak to them ("Boehner raises stakes over Iran," Jan. 22), but we must read Josh Rogin's interpretation of one of the finest State of the Union addresses. I guess it's smart to jump on the anti-Obama bandwagon, but to most of us it is fearful, because such criticism and anti-peacemaking rhetoric could bring us to another war. These critics never give Obama credit for trying to keep us out of war and trying to settle problems diplomatically. They would rather ridicule for political gain regardless of where their ideas would lead us. The future is frightening.

Connie Metcalf, Fridley

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If anyone ever doubted the power of imagery to drive a narrative, they need look no further than the front-page picture (Jan. 21) of the president during his State of the Union address. The Star Tribune could have picked a picture in which both Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner were standing and applauding. It could have used a picture where they were both sitting and listening. It could have used a picture with Biden scratching his forehead in the background. But instead, it used the picture of Biden standing and applauding and Boehner with his eyes closed. Come on — really? How about a picture of President Obama with his eyes closed?

Dave Conklin, Victoria

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In his State of the Union speech focusing on middle-class economics, President Obama did an outstanding job of describing some of the hurdles and hardships people encounter in trying to get ahead and his suggestions for helping them. He also suggested that we levy higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans and reduce taxes for the middle class.

The one thing he left out that would have tied everything together is that the wealth accumulated at the top came from the middle class and the poor. Some of it was in the form of modest, fair profits, but more of it came from unfair banking fees and swipe fees, lower taxes on investment income than on earned income, excessive profits on a whole range of electronics and PDAs, price-fixing, union-busting, unconscionably low wages and monopolies. (Add your own suggestions here.) So, it's not fair to call it a transfer of wealth to adjust the tax rates as he suggested. It's a return of what was unfairly taken. And it's about time.

Mary McLeod, St. Paul

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How's this for a contrast to the Star Tribune's Jan. 21 editorial ("Raising the stakes on inequality"): Obama's plan is nothing other than redistribution of income via edict.

Free community college. Laughable! There is nothing free. Pay for it by taking from others is what it is all about.

He's a socialist liberal, and he proved it again Tuesday night.

He got his head handed to him in November 2014. However, his ego won't let him acknowledge it, since his main objective is his legacy.

Advice to conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats: Flood him with all those bills — more than 300 that never got to the Senate floor because of then-Majority Leader Harry Reid's blocking.

Just inundate Obama with bills. Maybe then he'll have to spend more time in the Oval Office. His desk may then seem somewhat cluttered, for in every other picture you see of his desk, it is without paper of any kind.

Final comment: Obama owns the left-wing liberal press, and the editorial referenced above is once again proof-positive.

Jim Farrell, Bloomington

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Most of us have played the game of "Monopoly." It is interesting how the game mirrors our current lives in the United States. The goal of the game, of course, is for the players to capture money and property until one person has it all. The game ends, and several players walk away broke and disheartened.

This appears to be the destiny of poor and middle-class citizens as the very rich progressively capture most of the available wealth.

Are most of us going to walk away broke and disheartened, or are the very rich going to even the score a little?

Donovan Robinson, Elk River

Events illustrate why it should be elected

There have been many opinions expressed about Gov. Mark Dayton's appointment of a new chair for the Metropolitan Council. This position should be an elected position, as should the other members of the board. The communities governed by the Met Council would be better served with members being elected rather than appointed.

John T. Bower, May Township (Washington County)

Palestinians do take nonviolent measures

A Jan. 21 letter writer wondered why the Palestinians do not practice nonviolent resistance in the manner of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The Palestinians do practice nonviolent resistance in a hundred ways every day, but the Israeli reaction is quite different from that in the United States. This is epitomized in the Academy Award-nominated film "5 Broken Cameras," in which the Palestinian residents of the village Bil'in are nonviolently protesting the Israeli barrier wall encroaching on their village. In the film, there is a scene in which two Israeli soldiers hold a nonviolent protester while a third Israeli solder casually, in cold blood, shoots the protester in the leg. This is a typical Israeli reaction to nonviolent protesters, along with tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and live ammunition.

Just recently, the Palestinians applied for membership in the International Court (a nonviolent protest). Israel immediately, and illegally, began to withhold taxes collected by Israel to be paid to the Palestinian Authority, as well as threatening a number of other severe retributions.

Donald Empson, Stillwater

Unlike other media, it is an honest broker

Steve Sack can criticize the Fox News Channel all he wants (editorial cartoon, Jan. 22), but it remains the most watched and most reliable news source available. It doesn't "manufacture" news like the regular media do, and it owns up to any factual errors when they happen. Just because the network isn't complicit with the Obama administration, the regular news sources hate it.

Larry A. Sorenson, Arlington, Minn.