“What is the ‘rule of law’?” That’s one of the 100 questions that could be asked of immigrants during the civics test they take at their citizenship interviews. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website provides four acceptable answers to this question: “Everyone must follow the law,” “leaders must obey the law,” “government must obey the law” and “no one is above the law.”
I help immigrants prepare for their citizenship interview by reviewing with them the 100 civics questions and answers. One of my favorite moments is when they correctly answer the rule-of-law question because it shows their understanding of a core American value. However, in the America presided over by President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr (“Barr reopens Flynn investigation,” front page, Feb. 15), it is increasingly difficult to assure those whom I’m helping that their answer is indeed correct.
JIM KAUFMANN, Burnsville
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
Scrutiny of Trump is the point
Reading a Feb. 17 letter about media coverage of the president, I’m truly amazed at the shallow understanding of how our democratic government and society have worked over the past 200-plus years. It’s the journalist’s job to question decisions made by our government and elected officials. This “continuous and ongoing verbal assault” of President Donald Trump, as the letter writer said, is what journalists are supposed to do!
Trump is the most powerful man on earth. Since he chose to run for president and was elected, by the design of our republic, he must endure scrutiny by the people he is governing. We can’t perform this scrutiny personally, so we must rely on people who specialize in getting accurate information. This is the same as going to a doctor when you’re sick or a car mechanic when your car breaks down. Journalists get university degrees to learn how to do this job the right way. Most journalists do the best job they can, just like the rest of us in our chosen fields. I can’t believe people think that loyalty to one man without question can be the only patriotic viewpoint in a democratic state. It’s not OK for journalists in China and Russia to criticize Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping — do we want to encourage that kind of change in our society? Classic case of shooting the messenger!
Connie Clabots, Brooklyn Center
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In the Feb. 16 Opinion section, there was a picture of the signing of the Constitution. Seated in the center of the group is Benjamin Franklin. It is rarely noted that the inclusion of a free press at the inception of our democracy was probably due to his machinations. Franklin’s history as a printer and involvement in many beneficial social institutions gave him a reputation and many friends among the other founding fathers. A free press was not usual in that era and is still not that common.
Recently, another newspaper chain has filed for bankruptcy, which sadly shows that the press is free to go broke (“McClatchy files for bankruptcy,” Feb. 14). The press is often referred to as the fourth branch of government; if that were true, it might be supported by tax money as are the other three branches. Another difference is that journalists are not appointed nor elected; they work for American businesses, watching out for the interests of the citizens. Newspapers can be the training ground for radio and TV reporters. They are also the haven for whistleblowers and the sanctuary of sources.
Large or small, the newspapers across this country are the voices of their communities; they are our insurance against government malfeasance, not by law but by custom. This writer has attended many public meetings when a member of the press was in the audience; the level of decorum was always high. (It reminded me of the police car parked along the main drag in some towns. The windows are tinted so you are not aware of an occupant, but the brake lights always come on to comply with the posted speed.) Speaking of public meetings, here in Minnesota we have 2,775 townships, 87 counties, more than 850 municipalities and 336 school districts. They meet often and are responsible for spending our tax money. There are not enough newspapers or reporters in this state to cover these meetings — to apply the brakes, so to speak. A solution would be to get retirees enlisted and trained to report on them. Probably more fun than watching TV reruns!
In order to just maintain our Fourth Estate will take a commitment by concerned citizens and businesses to subscribe and advertise more. Let us all support our local newspapers!
Tom Obst, Wyoming, Minn.
If we can’t park, we can’t go
I am not sure I follow the reasoning of the Minneapolis City Council in planning to close the parking lot on Garfield Avenue behind the Jungle Theatre (“Lyn-Lake businesses balk at plan to redevelop parking area,” Feb. 15). The council members want to eliminate car usage in the city! Well, if they looked at the audiences at the Jungle (as well as customers at the various restaurants in the area), they would see an older crowd that depends on their cars to drive in from various suburbs to attend events in this neighborhood. There is no mass transit from our suburb to Lyn-Lake. If there is no parking nearby, most of us will quit coming. This issue needs to be reconsidered!
Phyllis Porter, Eden Prairie
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The Saturday Star Tribune quotes City Council President Lisa Bender as saying, “We can’t meet our climate change goals without reducing car trips as a city,” to which two things must be said. First, if people in the city start to drive to (and park for free in) the suburbs to accomplish tasks they can no longer drive to (and park for a fee) in the city, climate goals are compromised. Second, it is not true that the number of car trips must be reduced to meet climate-change goals. It’s not the number of trips that matters; it’s the pollution.
We used to fill our gas tank every couple of weeks until we bought a Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid. Now we fill the tank every 12-14 months. And it is charged by the solar panels on our roof.
Finally, there is a way for the city to preserve the Lyn-Lake parking lot that supports businesses and moves toward its climate-change goals: Reserve 10% of the parking places in the lot for electrics or hybrids; maybe even provide free charging. Every year add another 10% so that over 10 years it becomes a lot for zero-emissions vehicles. Climate-change goals met. Parking for businesses preserved.
And since I have already given Ford a plug, let me add that Orange EV makes all-electric terminal trucks. The city could help companies replace their diesel terminal trucks.
Rolf Bolstad, Minneapolis
Why play sports? According to Houston Astros, so you can cheat.
Not only does it appear that Astros owner Jim Crane has learned nothing from his team’s cheating, he gives the players an excuse they don’t deserve. He offers his opinion that “our players should not be punished for these actions. They’re a great group of guys who did not receive proper guidance from their leaders” (“Astros face heat, but apologies ring hollow,” Feb. 14).
Hogwash. The players were all adults who have been involved in their sport for many years. They should have known better. To suggest that they still need someone to tell them that it is wrong to cheat makes a mockery of one of the main reasons we support youth and school sports for our young people: Participation builds character.
Boyd Beccue, Monticello
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An easy way to test Astros owner Jim Crane’s statement, “Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game,” is to require that Astros pitchers, in every game this year — maybe next year, too — tell every batter which pitch they’re going to throw, in advance. Make it simple — one fastball, two curve, three changeup. If the pitcher lies, the batter automatically walks. Then see what happens.
Bill Vossler, Rockville, Minn.
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