Richard Lugar and Edward Montgomery gave us the "Bipartisan Index" (Opinion Exchange, May 20) to measure bipartisanship of senators and representatives. Then, a May 23 letter writer assured us the "index" is unnecessary, since conservatives are the sole cause of polarization and dysfunction.
I'd like to look at this in a different way. Polarization implies changing opinions. I constructed a comparison of the world of my 20s and 30s with today, as I "linger" in my 60s. Following are some issues that conservatives and liberals argue about:
• Definition of marriage
• Abortion policies
• Voter ID requirements
• Border security enforcement
• Balanced budget
• Expressions of American pride
• Government controlling health care
• Energy independence relying on fossil fuels
• Firearm ownership
• Definition of equality
• Government's role in our lives
• U.S. world leadership
Regarding these issues, I believe positions now held by conservatives would be very much the mainstream or moderate, even majority, opinions of a generation ago. Yet, liberals accuse conservatives of "moving radically right."
We've had real cultural changes that have led to different perspectives on old issues, and some very new issues. Change isn't bad! Sometimes, even I think conservatives should set aside a traditional belief. When they don't, do I have the right to accuse them of "making a hate-filled movement to the radical right"? No! Because for the most part, they haven't changed! In fact, I think it's the liberals who have changed their opinions the most — thus creating polarization!
Steve Bakke, Edina
In the here and now, agricultural drainage leads to sedimentation
A recent commentary by Gary Joachim (May 12) and response by Howard Markus (May 13) demonstrate that opposite conclusions about the historical Minnesota River can be derived from selective citation of pioneer journals. Joachim, longtime board member of Minnesota Soybean, cites references that paint the pre-1850 river murky brown; Markus, retired from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, selects passages that paint the historical river as a wildlife paradise.
Recent analyses of ancient mud in sediment cores from Lake Pepin and Minnesota River backwaters tell a story less subject to selective citation: The amount of sediment carried by the Minnesota River to its mouth, and ultimately to Lake Pepin, has increased five- to tenfold since European settlement. Research also indicates that high sediment loads are the result of higher stream flows. Higher flows, in turn, are the result of increased agricultural drainage, changing land use and higher precipitation, in that order.
These facts are based on peer-reviewed research. The Minnesota River carries twice the volume of water and mud it did 65 years ago. Buffer strips will help. But the core issue is agricultural drainage. Until its effects are substantially modified, the rapid in-filling of Lake Pepin and unprecedented muddiness of the Minnesota River will continue.
Len Kremer, Bloomington
The writer is president of the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District.
MINNESOTA HEALTH CARE
Mayo and U are not the only players in elite cardiology
We read with great interest the May 16 commentary and critique of the University of Minnesota Medical School and hospital by Dr. Robert Wilson, a former faculty member of that institution in cardiology. We would not necessarily disagree with Wilson's assessment of the deteriorating academics and patient care situation at the university. However, we cannot at all agree with his overall characterization of elite cardiovascular care in Minnesota as confined to the Mayo Clinic (which he describes as the "varsity") and University of Minnesota (which he regretfully defines as "JV").
Somehow, completely ignored in this description is the large and pre-eminent Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. The Heart Institute has nationally and internationally recognized clinical and research programs (No. 29 in the U.S. overall and No. 2 in Minnesota) for: management of acute myocardial infarction, heart failure and transplant, valvular heart disease and surgery, electrophysiology and device therapy, advanced cardiac imaging, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Therefore, high-level cardiovascular care in Minnesota is not limited to the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota, nor has it been for the past 20 years. We would not want our thousands of current patients and countless other future patients to be confused by Wilson's glaring omission of the Heart Institute.
This letter was signed by three members of the Minneapolis Heart Institute: Dr. Barry J. Maron, director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center; Dr. Charles Gornick, director of electrophysicology, and Dr. William Katsiyiannis, chairman of cardiology.
U's reforms amount to the fox guarding the henhouse
The University of Minnesota implementation proposals, as reported by the Star Tribune Editorial Board ("Markingson case finally yields reform," May 24) and in news coverage of efforts to "radically redistribute power" ("U moves to make studies easier," May 19), are neither radical nor sufficient to provide adequate protections for decisionally impaired human-research subjects. The need is for appointment by a court of an ombudsman for all members of vulnerable populations, including those who require surrogate consent, in order to assure internal review board and researcher compliance with all federal regulations, from inception of the research to publication and archiving of reported findings and the original data on which statistical or other inferences rely. Only in this way can Minnesota citizens rest easier that everything possible is being done to protect subjects from exploitation and abuse. Common sense tells us that reforms like those being proposed that depend on the fox guarding the henhouse never work!
John H. Noble Jr.
The writer, an emeritus professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, is the co-author of a report on protecting people with decisional impairments (Journal of Disability Policy Studies, Spring 2008.)
Some perspective is in order
I am a Vietnam veteran. I am personally grateful for the many expressions of good will for my service, humble as it was. I feel that the May 25 editorial ("Re-energize for a new century") was off the mark. I am tired of speechifying and poppy remembrances. I would like to ask the people of Minnesota to consider the significant historical purposes for this country's many wars. It is fitting and proper to honor those who have served. But not all of the country's conflicts were honorable.
Norman Teigen, Hopkins
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Poppies are locally sold by our American Legion post. I am a veteran and am reluctant to purchase a poppy from the American Legion because it has taken sides in the moral values issues that divide our country instead of keeping its attention focused on the welfare of veterans. I am never sure that the funds generated by the sale of poppies is used to support veterans or the right-wing agenda of the American Legion.
Tom Ebacher, Kensington, Minn.