A couple of weeks ago I was asked what I thought of the GOP presidential debates. I responded that I did not watch them; I don’t have cable and I don’t get CNN in the comfort of my home. The surprise gasp I thought I would hear did not happen. Instead, I got an understanding nod.

It’s 2015, and apparently a lot of people have opted out of cable. There are even terms for us — those who have had cable and then stopped are “cord cutters.” The “cord nevers” are people who have yet to pay a cable bill. According to a March 29, 2015, PBS “NewsHour” report, over the past five years 3.8 million homes have opted to cancel their cable subscriptions. Millennials constitute a significant percentage of this group, and elderly individuals are also part of the cord-cutter demographic. When one is on a fixed income, letting the cable bill go when things get tight is a no-brainer.

The Democratic debates are happening Tuesday evening. I wonder if any of the candidates will address the fact that sitting on a couch in front of the television to see the debate is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have. The situation so clearly reflects the growing wealth disparity in our culture and the limited opportunities for middle-class and low-income folks to engage in our nation’s political dialogue. I wonder if this situation will influence how candidates respond to questions. But then it might not be on their radar. I’m thinking that none of the candidates has had to think about whether he or she can afford the cable bill.

Julie Risser, Edina

COLUMBUS DAY

When it comes to these cultural changes, let the voters decide

The Oct. 12 Star Tribune had a story on changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day (“St. Paul among cities to ditch Columbus, recognize Indians”), in Opinion Exchange, an article on Italian Americans being miffed by this change (“Italian-Americans need inclusion, respect too”) and in the Variety section, an article on the need for Asian inclusion in the conversation of American history (“Asian inclusion”).

Apparently, in order to recognize one group, the exclusion of another will happen. I guess it depends on which group you talk to. As with the name change of Lake Calhoun, it brings out both sides of the conversation with provocative questions and comments. In the end, this is always determined by a handful of city, state or federal officials. These items are never up for public vote, which should be a consideration. On a November ballot, I would rather have a vote on an issue like this, rather than reading over mind-numbing choices, like water works commissioner or judges whom I have never heard of until seeing the ballot.

By allowing citizens to vote on issues such as these gives us all a sense of participation — in our favor or not — in determining changes such as these. We are in an age when citizens are feeling more alienated by government intrusion into our lives, without a voice in the process. Participation would go a long way toward giving people a sense of empowerment on issues that affect them and their cultural history. In a democratic society, let’s bring back the adage that the majority rules.

Ty Yasukawa, Burnsville

 

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE

A few suggestions offered for innovative leadership

The Star Tribune Editorial Board endorsing Paul Ryan and John Kline for the speaker position (“Nation needs either Ryan or Kline to serve,” Oct. 10) is as outlandish and absurd as the current chaos unfolding in Washington. What has happened is that a third party has elbowed its way into Congress. They run as Republicans, but they are actually anarchists with a radical right-wing agenda not far ideologically from the Taliban or the ultraorthodox Jewish extremists who cause equal amounts of trouble elsewhere. These verbal bomb-throwers like Mike Huckabee openly speak about violence: “ … It’s about burning the corrupt Washington political machine to the ground and rebuilding our country.”

As if this were simply another day at the office, we watch as our nominal two-party system stops functioning and we approach debt-ceiling votes and other basic government business decisions that affect our economic health, not to mention actual health care. It is amazing that grown men and women have abandoned any sense of service to the larger community for the sake of their extreme personal agendas.

Instead of a speaker, we need a nanny to wipe their backsides and teach them some manners, including how to get along with others. I know several good candidates, and I daresay members of the Editorial Board could nominate more than one grandmother with the right stuff for this job. An outsider to be sure, but someone who won’t take any more nonsense from Ted Cruz and his ilk. The country deserves better than these sad clowns.

George Hutchinson, Minneapolis

• • •

I have been especially impressed by the unique collaborations between Democrat Rep. Tim Walz and Republican Rep. Tom Emmer. I have been very impressed by what those two have done for the people of Minnesota. I propose that the House elect Tom and Tim as co-speakers. Is there a better idea?

Arnie Bigbee, Edina

• • •

Americans who love crass and zany antics, slapstick comedy and reckless, irresponsible behavior have two basic choices today: They can rent the National Lampoon movie “Animal House” and laugh uncontrollably as John “Bluto” Blutarsky fills his cheeks with mashed potatoes, smashes them with his fists, then shouts, “I’m a zit,” as the potatoes fly all over the room.

Or an equally outlandish experience would be to watch Republicans attempt to find anyone who is insane enough to become Speaker of the House, while members threaten to shut down the government, default on the nation’s debt or insist that President Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya.

The first is a perfect example of stupidity-based comedy. The second, of stupidity-based politics. One is harmless humor; the other is democracy-shattering behavior.

Tom Hammond, Woodbury

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

Paul Douglas, important voice

Paul Douglas deserves a lot of credit for being one of the leading meteorologists to speak out on climate change (“Paul Douglas: Talking about climate change ‘not good for my television career,’ C.J., startribune.com, Oct. 12). We are in a race to convince people to care about climate change before the weather becomes so extreme that we are all forced to care about climate change. Meteorologists could be playing a significant role in educating the American people on the facts surrounding climate change and the impacts that it will have on our communities. Unfortunately, few meteorologists have shown Douglas’ courage and determination to speak out on this critical issue.

Mark Mesle, Chicago

• • •

As a native Minnesotan, I’m a lifelong Paul Douglas fan, but his weather commentary on Oct. 10 missed the mark when he referred to climate change in Minnesota as a “net positive” (“Big swing from 80s to a frost in one week?”). The Star Tribune has done important reporting on the consequences of climate change in Minnesota, and I don’t think there is anything positive about losing our iconic wildlife, watching our forests struggle and experiencing increases in disease. Paul has a unique opportunity to educate people about what he’s seeing in the data — and we need him as a voice in this conversation — but I hope he reconsiders calling climate change, which will likely change the landscape of Minnesota as we know it, a “net positive.” Many of us are still fighting hard to sustain the places and features that make Minnesota great, but are threatened by climate change.

Kristin Johnson-Waggoner, Seattle