Trust and loyalty have their limits

It is disappointing to see all the erstwhile liberal politicians who have suddenly turned into "good Germans," following the disclosure of the police-state snooping being conducted under the leadership of their phony hero, Barack Obama.

Maybe they have taken President Obama's words in his speeches and news conference at face value. But it is actions, not words, that matter!

Perhaps they feel that someone with Obama's heritage and party label must automatically be on the side of justice, truth, light and freedom. But it is not a person's ancestry or pigmentation, or political orientation, that determines his or her virtue, merit and morals. To suppose otherwise is fallacious at best, racist at worst.

Loyalty to one's political leader or party is a basic tenet of politics, but when the party or the president betrays, subverts and endangers the Constitution and the principles upon which our nation was founded, it is time to rise up and resist the abuses that stem from corrupting, unaccountable power.

The cloak of "classified" conceals the dagger of totalitarianism. Like the Fugitive Slave Acts, or the Alien and Sedition Acts, or the McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, it uses the masquerade of lawful authority to coerce conformity and impose tyrannical authority.

Oliver Steinberg, St. Paul

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Three facts are flashing warning signals in my head:

1)  Information is power (once it was brawn, then weapons, then money — but in our modern world, it's information).

2)  A previously unimaginable concentration of information is collecting in the hands of a relative few.

3)  Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

"Will this power be abused?" is a silly question. Even "when will this power be abused?" is a silly question — it already has been. The NSA leaks are probably the tip of the iceberg of what the government is up to, and giant multinational corporations may be up to even greater evils. It seems to me that the important question going forward is: What can we do to protect ourselves from the explosive growth of the military-intelligence-industrial complex?

Nos. 1 and 3 above are facts beyond our control, so we must focus on No. 2. Theoretically, laws could be passed restricting how much information any one corporation or government agency could control, but that's not likely to work. Our only hopes, it seems to me, are a combination of laws mandating government transparency and consumer pressure demanding global access to corporate data.

An environment in which everyone has access to who everyone else is talking to and what they're saying obliterates our traditional sense of privacy — but that's a lost cause anyway. Deflating the exclusivity of information would tend to lessen the power.

John K. Trepp, Minneapolis
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Loyalty demands undermine RCV push

I want, once again, to point out the hypocrisy of the DFL in supporting ranked-choice voting (RCV) so adamantly and at the same time demanding, upon the threat of political death for noncompliance, that all DFL candidates not endorsed by the party drop out of their particular races.

If party leaders truly want to show the strength of their endorsements, they should let all candidates run in the general election and, even with RCV, their chosen candidates should prevail.

Given that Minneapolis and St. Paul are essentially one-party towns, the DFL only does a disservice to all voters, not just party activists (sheep?) by denying them a decent choice in the election. If all but the endorsee drop out, there's often only one choice on the ballot, and that goes against everything RCV stands for.

Kevin Driscoll, St. Paul
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Statistically, this is not a problem locally

The article "Buzzed biking: Legal but potentially lethal" (June 10) focused too heavily on the issue at a national level. The author did, however, touch upon one statistic that is far more applicable to our community: In Minneapolis, bicyclists were impaired in fewer than "6 percent of the nearly 3,000 bicyclist-motorist collisions that occurred between 2000 and 2010."

This means that every year about 16 impaired bicyclists are involved in a crash with an automobile. For a city with a population approaching 400,000, I do not find this evidence sufficient to suggest that we have a problem with "buzzed biking." In addition, correlation does not equal causation. Many of those operating an automobile fail to properly acknowledge cyclists, and it is very possible that many of these accidents were the fault of the driver.

By no means do I advocate getting lit and riding a bike around town like an idiot. However, I do believe that if the proper precautions are taken (e.g., helmet, front and back lights, and sufficient knowledge and experience riding in the city), a cyclist is safe riding home after an evening out at the bar. It would be simply ridiculous to decree the same rules for piloting a two-ton automobile and riding a 20-pound bicycle under the influence of alcohol.

Gary Lussier Jr., Minneapolis
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Author responds to recent letter

I would like to thank Betty Ratner for her June 3 letter to the editor to the Star Tribune concerning Augie Ratner, her late ex-husband and the hero of my latest book, "Augie's Secrets: The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip."

As in many cultures, it is not unusual in large Jewish extended families (mishpocha) to refer to elders who are blood relations, no matter the distance of that relationship, as "Uncle," and that is how I knew him. Augie was, to clarify, my grandmother's cousin. Future editions of the book will note the specificity of that relationship. As to other aspects of her comments, a Yiddish phrase perhaps applies: In toch iz yeder tsad gerech — in families, both sides are correct.

Neal Karlen, Minneapolis