Gary Joachim’s May 12 commentary “Minnesota River murkiness predates modern agriculture” cites entries from the journals of travelers in the early 1800s. Here are several additional journal notes to consider (zizania is wild rice, and unios are mussels):

• “[A] most delightful country, abounding with all the necessaries of life, that grow spontaneously. … Wild rice grows here in great abundance; and every part is filled with trees bending under their loads of fruit, such as plums, grapes, and apples.” (Jonathan Carver, 1766.)

• “[We found] the water beautifully transparent, and the unios stuck in countless numbers in pure white sand, so that I could, by baring my arm, select them as we went along.” (George W. Featherstonhaugh, Sept. 26, 1835).

• “[W]e paddled away at the rate of four or five miles an hour … when the otters were seen swimming amongst the zizania. … The musk-rats were already at work building their conical houses on the marshy grounds, with mud and straw of the wild rice, against the approach of winter. As we advanced through these low rice-grounds, clouds of wild ducks rose on the wing, and we killed them at our leisure from the canoe.” (Featherstonhaugh again).

• In 1917, 2,054 tons of shells were harvested from the Minnesota River and almost 5 tons from the Pomme de Terre. (De Lestry, 1918).

 

It is important to understand that wild rice and mussels need very clear and clean water to flourish. It is obvious that the Minnesota River before modern agriculture was a slow-moving paradise for wildlife. And it was the source of a world-class mussel-to-buttons industry until the river became too polluted.

Howard Markus, Woodbury

LIGHT RAIL

‘Social engineering?’ No, good urban planning, with precedent

I’ve responded in the past to negative views of light rail in the Star Tribune, and after reading “So, then, it’s social engineering” (Readers Write, May 10), I felt it worth defending again. To someone who once took light rail every day on the East Coast and who has taken the bus system in Minneapolis every day to work downtown (and as someone who grew up in a small town and never saw traffic), a rail system is not social engineering. Proper urban planning — yes. There is not a city with the corporate, industrial and population presences of the Twin Cities that has not done something around rail. And before anyone has an opinion about rail, I want to ask them if they have consistently used it. If you look at the train stations in places like Fairfield, Conn., Carrollton, Texas, and Burlingame, Calif. — you see vibrancy. Each city received rail at three very different times over the last 100 years. This topic is worth discussing with facts, figures and experience.

Now move to the opposite side of the conversation. Ask anyone in Houston why they hate the city. The answer is traffic. And it is too late to build rail downtown there at any reasonable price. Don’t say that Houston opposes rail transit because it is the center of the oil industry. I asked a lifelong friend and executive in the oil industry there which he would rather have — a Suburban stuck in traffic or predictable train commute — and he would take the train.

What also makes the Twin Cities metro area interesting compared with others is our layout and growth patterns. Seattle and Denver are locked in specific directions because of water and mountains. We are flat (mind you, with a lot of lakes and water) and growing in all directions, with no slowdown in sight. The longer we take to consider alternatives to a car, asphalt and pollution, the lower the quality of my kids’ futures will be.

Tom Rieger, Minnetonka

 

THE TEACHING ‘PIPELINE’

Public scorn hasn’t exactly made the profession inviting

In response to the May 11 editorial begging that the professional pipeline to teaching be improved: What bright, ambitious, talented and dedicated young person in their right mind — given the current bitterly negative descriptions of public schoolteachers today, would opt to enter that field?

Given that we all know remuneration in the public-school teaching realm has never been adequate, scurrilous attacks on teachers, their unions and on the education system itself must cease! Attracting the best of our young people to this critical field will not happen unless the media, and society in general, change the tone of the discourse.

Beth Dhennin, Coon Rapids

 

TRADE AUTHORITY

Not just an economic threat, but an obstacle to recourse

The May 11 front-page article “Obama faces stiff wind on trade deal” mentioned Sen. Charles Schumer’s fear that the fast-track Trans-Pacific Partnership legislation would hasten middle-class decline, but didn’t touch a more serious threat to our democracy.

Under the TPP, multinational corporations could sue groups (e.g., trying to protect the environment) or taxpayers for “potential” lost profits, to be decided by a three-person, corporate-lawyer/judge tribunal. Contrast that with what’s transpired here, after the quite conservative Supreme Court appointees from two Bush administrations. “Standing” in lawsuits has been changed, with people having to suffer actual losses before involvement in a lawsuit. Then there are the several layers of our court system to navigate.

It’s as if we’ll be bending the knee to even a phantom Golden Calf. That’s morality turned on its head, like the analysis of World War II Germany by scholar/reporter Hannah Arendt.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats blocked a motion to begin debating the bill to give Obama trade promotion authority. Congress must be able to amend this trade bill, which it is insisting upon in the Iran nuclear energy situation.

Diane Steen-Hinderlie, St. Louis Park

 

NATIONAL GUARD

So it shells out for recruiting. Obviously, there’s no draft.

A bigger issue lurks behind the fact that the National Guard Bureau paid for advertising at pro sports events for recruiting (“Guard paid $2M to pro teams,” May 9). It needs to get people to join! So does every private company that pays to advertise and recruit, and marketing specialists always point their clients to where the targeted audience frequents. That the Guard must recruit, however, is an unintended consequence of the national folly of ending the draft. Not only are the ranks not being filled by those who preferred an alternate service to their state and country but, worse, ending the draft took the influence of “Mom” out of White House calculations and the halls of Congress. With mothers scrutinizing every action that might affect her serving son or daughter, Washington would be far more reticent to invoke the threat of the use of our military in other peoples’ civil and religious wars.

Having served when there was still the draft and long into the all-volunteer force, I can assure you that the conscript army was better — more variety and quality among the troops in the ranks. The National Guard benefited likewise from the draft. I hope everyone will support our National Guard, which is our state and local security blanket. It deploys to help us in disasters and tragedies. Let us not criticize and shortchange what we need.

Tim Hunt, Fergus Falls, Minn.

The writer is a retired colonel, U.S. Army (Infantry).