With routine beheadings in Syria, genocide in Kenya and ongoing civil strife in the United States constantly on the front page of our newspaper, it takes a lot these days to find a story that really rises to a level of being more disgusting than the others. But the story of a homeless veteran found frozen to death in St. Paul is so much more than sad; it is despicable.

I not only read the Star Tribune’s March 14 article (“A sad pilgrimage to trace brother’s final days”), but I also saw a broadcast of the story on local TV. Sitting in the first church pew during services were representatives of various military service organizations. Bad enough that their appearance, suffice it to say, was sadly lacking anything approaching a modicum of military bearing, they wore their covers (hats) during the entire service. But far worse, some of the deceased’s brothers-in-arms and others said they knew the man; they had seen him in bars and knew that he was troubled. Where were they when he was alive?

One of the news broadcasters said the cost of the funeral totaled $7,000 and was all donated. Great! How many hot meals and warm nights could that poor soul have enjoyed for $7,000? But he didn’t, and now he’s gone. And the community now gathers together, slapping one another on the back in congratulations for a job well done in showing proper respect to an American who had once stepped up to defend his country. Wonderful; we should all be so proud.

I am a Marine Corps combat veteran of Vietnam and a life member of several veterans’ organizations, including the VFW and Disabled American Veterans. If I had been the one to die in that shack, I swear I would have preferred to have my frozen corpse propped up on a bench in Rice Park for all to see how a veteran was respected in life, rather than be a party to the self-aggrandizing display when it was too late.

Kim Diemand, Plymouth

YOUTH SPORTS PARTICIPATION

It’s not the basic entry cost that deters low-income kids

The March 16 article “Pay-to-play sports sideline low-income kids” totally missed the point when it states that the reason low-income kids don’t play school sports is the average $126 participation fee and the $400 equipment and travel expenses. I have been researching the high cost of youth sports for more than a year and, believe me, it’s the $8,000-to-$15,000-per-year cost of youth travel sports programs that is the great discriminator between the wealthy and the poor.

In today’s youth sports environment, if you don’t pay, you don’t play. If you don’t play on a travel team, the chances of making a high school team are practically nonexistent. In today’s youth sports world, we have the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) under-8-year-old national basketball championships in Memphis, Tenn.; kids traveling up to 30,000 miles per year to play in various tournaments scattered throughout the United States; sports camps; personal trainers, and private specialty coaches in all sports. Parents have gone overboard on giving their kids that “competitive edge” to get a college scholarship or “go pro,” even though the odds are about 1 percent of receiving a college scholarship.

Meanwhile, the marketers, equipment companies, tournament directors, travel industry, and organizations like AAU and Little League Baseball are making billions by convincing parents that this is money well-spent.

Bill Brown, Burnsville

 

TAX BURDEN

Well, since we’re talking about indirect income sources …

A March 12 editorial (“Spreading burden of state income tax”) correctly showed how Minnesota’s tax structure hits the middle and lower classes the hardest. The poorest Minnesotans pay 1.9 percent of the tax burden, while only making 0.8 of the income. Middle-income earners pay the highest percentage in taxes, even at a higher rate than the richest Minnesotans.

It did not take long for someone to complain that this analysis did not take into account the food stamps, rent subsidies, energy subsidies, nursing home subsidies, school meal subsidies and private charity received by poor Minnesotans (“Editorial failed to acknowledge complexities in the data,” Readers Write, March 14). In essence, the letter writer sought to imply that lower-income Minnesotans received additional income they don’t have to report, which would lower their overall tax burden in comparison.

Let’s be consistent, then. The owners of the Mall of America alone received $34 million in tax-increment financing for their current expansion. What about the $60 million in tax subsidies that Target received for its downtown Minneapolis store?

If we are fair and include these as well, it is clear that our tax system hits the lower and middle classes the hardest.

Marc Doepner-Hove, Mound

MINNEAPOLIS EVENTS

Credit is due for quick and stellar cleanup efforts

On Saturday morning, another delightful event was scheduled for my Mill District neighborhood in Minneapolis: The Get Lucky Run. Before 8 a.m., hundreds, maybe thousands, were gathering down 2nd Street and West River Road and across the area’s bridges. With this event, as with others of this size, comes necessary barriers, signage, comfort stopovers and trash. Before 2 p.m. the same day, my dog and I were walking across the Stone Arch Bridge and I saw that, almost magically, all of this had disappeared and the neighborhood was back in place for us everyday walkers and bikers.

How great is it to have a city that can accommodate great events and still maintain our park spaces for all. So, thank you to those responsible. I appreciate you.

Kathleen Clarke Anderson, Minneapolis

 

ANIMAL RIGHTS

Be wary of where elephant activists would lead us

After reading “Justice for elephants? The fight has just begun” (March 14), I was left wondering if the author would next be suing me for trying to evict the squirrels that live in my attic. After all, they show intelligence by continually finding new ways to get into there. And dogs feel shame when you scold them, so they must be people too, right? No. This is called anthropomorphism — attributing human rationale to animal actions.

And please stop romanticizing “natural habitat.” The “rich array of experiences and social life the wild affords” elephants includes walking a long, long way to find food and water; going without eating when times get tough; starving to death during droughts, and being hunted by poachers. If you want them to have a natural experience, then I can go down to Florida and hunt a few with my rifle. Since humans are elephants’ only natural predators, that’s “natural.”

For now, I think I’m going to go up to my attic and lay out a few rat traps before my squirrels lawyer up.

Nathan Watkins, Fridley