Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

Virtual schools, light rail draw comments — and, of course, politics, politics, politics

MinnPost readers were moved to comment recently on virtual schools, light rail issues, a potential war with Iran and turmoil in the Attorney General’s office, among other topics. And politics — lots of politics.

Amanda Smith commented on Cynthia Boyd’s Monday story, “The rise of ‘virtual schools’ divides education world”:

While social skills such as sharing and building peer relationships are indeed a very important aspect of becoming an adult, students can just as easily learn these skills by participating in extracurricular activities in the community.

Online learning teaches the student much more than is in the syllabus. They learn self-motivation, problem-solving, and technology skills that are necessary to be successful in today’s job market. It gives them the opportunity to free their schedules so that they may participate in sports, choir, art or other activities. They gain confidence that they are able to complete all of the required work themselves, at their own pace. And by using e-mail as their main form of communication, students are preparing themselves for the business world.

John Olson added:

Online classes are not for everyone, but districts should consider them as a potential tool for kids who are, for instance, either home because of an extended illness or injury or receiving treatments away from home. As the article points out, it is also a potential tool for districts that cannot afford to offer certain elective courses due to budget issues.

For home-schooled kids, it is also a good option. Personally, I am not a big supporter of home schooling, but parents certainly have the right to use this option for whatever reason. However, there are other lessons that are learned in a school environment, such as getting along with others, sharing, waiting your turn, problem-solving, building friendships with peers and adults, just to name a few. These lessons are also important later on in life as the young person moves into the workplace.

The central issue, as usual, comes down to the district’s view that online courses pose a threat to losing public dollars.

Jerry Jones
brought up a concern:

Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their issues with schools and education in general are much too broad, complex and atypical of non-JW children to use a JW to prove the point of this article or generalize about all children. …

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Ann Spencer had a question raised by Kay Harvey’s Monday post, “Boomer consumers: red-hot property in the marketplace”:

If we in the much-ballyhooed baby boom generation are such rich pickings, why do TV and print advertisers believe it’s smart marketing to kick us to the curb in favor of what I call “whoring after the 18-49 demographic”?

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Mark Nabavi commented on Susan Albright’s May 29 story, “A report on climate change in the here and now”:

I believe global warming is the direct result of humans’ three to four centuries of assault on the planet, including over-population, over-utilization of its resources, over-production of wastes, overturning the principle of supply and demand and interfering with the very basic principle of survival of the fittest, among many others. And so there is nothing that we can do to undo the centuries of our wrong-doings.

So, we deserve it!

Actually, it is nature’s turn to finally take over and put things back in balance.

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Bernice Vetsch weighed in on Steve Berg’s Wednesday Cityscape post, “Central Corridor leaves mitigation issues and scar tissue”:

Unlike Hiawatha Avenue, University Avenue is a miles-long stretch of neighborhoods, small shops and restaurants, other retail and offices. Light rail is designed to move people quickly between destinations, one of which, in this case, would be the University. The limited number of stops means that those wishing to go a mile might have to get off many blocks early and walk the rest of the way in rain/sleet/snow and 30 below.

If the intent of light rail in this case is to preserve locals’ access to destinations on the avenue, might it make more sense to skip it and instead concentrate on a commuter line that would run from Union Depot in St. Paul to the current Amtrak Depot on Cleveland just north of University, and on to the north and northwest suburbs and small towns? (And save lots of money.)

That would take care of all the longer-distance drivers. New hybrid buses could be used for those traveling shorter distances on University Avenue and for dedicated service from the Amtrak Depot to the U.

John Olson
disagreed:

If we followed your idea, Bernice, then I would really question the viability of the project as a whole. The U of M East Bank stands to be a major destination from either direction. The intent (I think) would be to reduce automobile commuter traffic into the East Bank from both downtowns.

The “U” has been—and will continue to be—a commuter school where the majority of students and staff have to commute in and out daily. I spent enough years walking Washington Avenue inhaling diesel exhaust and watching the roadbed get pounded into oblivion over and over again. Light rail presents a controversial opportunity to change that.

The U of M’s argument that sensitive laboratory equipment would be affected by magnetic fields and vibrations seems like a snotty way of simply saying “NIMBY.”

It would be one thing if the “U” owned all of the land—including the streets and the Washington Avenue bridge—on campus and were responsible for their maintenance and upkeep. Unless I am missing something, they are not. If my neighbors want to paint their house neon green, I can complain all I want but at the end of the day it is their house and they can do that. If the county or city wants to put LRT rails there, seems to me that they should be able to do that, even if the “U” objects.

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Joel Rosenberg had this to say about Kay Harvey’s May 30 post, “Reported anti-gay attacks, violence on sharp rise in state”:

The article doesn’t directly address — much less answer — the key question: Are actual attacks against GLBT folks up, or are GLBT folks more willing to report bashings?

That’s kind of important. (And it’s [possible that] “both” could be the answer.)

(It also doesn’t address the even more important issue of what things folks — both GLBTs and straights — ought to do about it, but I digress.)

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Arvonne Fraser commented on the May 29 Community Voices essay, “Has thinking, like jobs, been outsourced?” by Michael Fedo, author of “The Lynchings in Duluth” and other books:

Just wanted to say that Fedo’s article is a good argument against presidential primaries. All organizations except the political parties have nominating committees that screen candidates for top offices. If people don’t want to be bothered with news and politics, then why the great demand for presidential primaries? Or is this 24/7 media frenzy, so they will have something to talk about? Caucuses for nominating purposes have their merit. At least at caucuses you get people who are interested in politics and government. We have a representative democracy, not town hall democracy. Why direct primaries?

Larry Surdynska added:

I tend to agree with this article. Most Americans are way under-involved in the issues. We let the elected officials do whatever they want in Washington and all they end up doing is fighting. I started reading “Current Events, Conservative Outcomes” by G.A. Freiman because a friend told me it would sort it all out for me. I needed to understand the issues and see what I could do to make a difference. I do not like the course of our country, and Freiman makes suggestions on how to change for the better. Highly recommended.

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Ron Gotzman took issue with Steve Berg’s May 30 story, “Can a greener economy help solve poverty?”:

What a bunch of spin of old socialist dogma.

Jonathan Scoll had a different view:

Van Jones is right on.

There is going to be a tremendous demand, at all levels of the economy, for new goods and services to address global warming.

New technologies are emerging, virtually daily, and many of them have immediate implications for employment in low-income neighborhoods. As just one example: the operation of locally-scaled waste-to-energy enterprises, such as collecting and sorting municipal solid waste and processing it into biofuels.

The looming end of the “petroleum era” could be a politically and economically liberating event worldwide, particularly for those whom the current “top down” energy economy excludes or marginalizes.

Greg Lang added:

First off, virtually any local government-sponsored project is prevailing wage or union with only the mandated minimum minority set aside. Basically people from the suburbs doing this work in the city. This won’t change. I live near the Industrial Park at the old Minneapolis Moline site. There seems to be help wanted signs there most of the time.

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Several readers commented on Sharon Schmickle’s May 29 post, “Talk of war with Iran on a sweet spring evening”:

From Rod Loper:

The Bushies had better hurry up their war. The Iranians are electing moderates these days. What are we to do?

From Tom Poe:

“An IAEA report Monday said Iran may be withholding information needed to establish whether it tried to make nuclear arms.”

That’s the leadin from AP. Now, granted, the AP news service is a corporate media shill, but if we believe this quote, and there’s good reason to in this case, it deserves our consideration.

Are you interested in moving us closer to declaring war on Iran because they haven’t answered questions about what went on in years past? Would you have the IAEA ignore their work in monitoring and reporting, confirming there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and indeed adhering to treaties that the U.S. won’t participate in?

And from Brian Kirscht:

I find it interesting that people are so afraid of Iran getting 1, that’s ONE, nuclear weapon. We used to face down the Soviet Union when they had tens of thousands of nukes. There is zero evidence anywhere that can prove beyond a doubt that Iran even wants a nuclear weapon. They have a large population; nuclear power would probably be a wise choice to supply electricity to their millions of people.

Israel can take care of itself;  we need to stop all this war-mongering. We’ve been in a perpetual state of war since the Korean conflict started. …

If anyone is eager to go to war, let him or her be the first in line with combat boots and a rifle, and let their children be the first to go. Diplomacy / Democracy thru the barrel of a gun is NOT the way to go.

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Susan Herridge was one of several commenters on Eric Black’s May 29 story, ” ‘They will come after you’ “:

Thank you, Eric, for this excellent reporting; especially for the observations about the out-of-proportion fear of retaliation for speaking up. I think the most charitable way to understand it is in terms of post-traumatic stress. What most of those affected hopefully know is that an individual that would do something as low-down as “tagging” an employee for leaving (as Mr. Hatch is alleged to have done) as well as his other outbursts, must be a known quantity in the close-knit legal community and therefore his point of view is discounted, if not ignored. … What his loyalists perhaps don’t realize is that it is likely that they, too are being “tagged.” Anyone who can survive and persist in that atmosphere could have some serious issues, and is at risk for securing future employment elsewhere — who would want to hire the toady of a junkyard dog? What a creepy place to work. Minnesota deserves better.

From Mike Nelson:

It’s scary to think that for the last 10 years the chief law enforcement officer(s) of the State of Minnesota have been more interested in their own political survival at the expense of the state and federal constitution that they have been sworn to uphold. The threats to the constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly and the lack of protection for whistleblowers in the AG’s office clearly show contempt for the employees in the office and of the citizens of the state of Minnesota.

From Kevin Judd:

This is a stunning story. Stunning in the breadth of pain and control, stunning in the length of time it has gone on in the AG’s office. Given how aggressively the local media reacted to negative feedback when the Rachel Palouse story started leaking, I’m flabbergasted that this story stayed under wraps for four or five years. Eric, do you have a theory on this? Is it possible that this kind of intimidation was going on for six years and word never leaked from the AG’s office to the local media? Do you attribute it to fear of retribution?

Can you imagine this kind of manipulator as governor?

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Steve Berg’s May 30 story, “Even by Washington standards, McClellan’s tale is a bombshell,” brought this comment from Tom Poe:

There’s no mention of the Bush administration’s dealings with governments around the world leading up to the invasion/occupation by this twirp. There was a whole world full of millions of people on the streets, screaming the facts to this idiot. How dim was the light? If he thinks he’s not going to be a leading war crimes indictee, because he writes a tell-all book of lies, he’s fooling himself.

Ann Spencer added:

What I find interesting is that not even the President’s strongest defenders are seriously questioning the veracity of McClellan’s account. The focus is on McClellan’s motives (is he just trying to sell a book?), McClellan’s timing (why didn’t he protest or quit at the time?) and McClellan’s character (is he a lowdown snake in the grass, betraying the man who made his career?). And the media are blithely following them down the path, allowing the White House to shape the coverage of this story to deflect attention from the substance and onto the author.

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Jim Nesseth commented on Albert Eisele’s May 30 story, “Rep. Nick Rahall has an idea: Oberstar should be next transportation secretary”:

I like this idea. We’d have four years of pain—maybe even, god help us, eight—but then we’d be done with Jim “I never saw a pork project I didn’t like” Oberstar—hopefully!

William Levin added:

Smart and knowledgeable, yes. But too mercurial and quixotic, too close to the airline industry, too temperamental.

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Doug Grow’s May 30 story, “McCollum’s public worries about Franken’s Playboy article raising questions in political circles,” tapped into a hot topic. From Rod Gotzman:

It will be so fun to watch these politically correct DFLers vote for the “foul mouthed,” “mean spirited,” “tax avoiding” “porn star” Big Al!

Kevin Judd:

No doubt people on the coasts will think we are backward hicks if Franken does not get the nomination, but there is no way he can beat Coleman now.

Alan Davis added:

I admire Franken for his biting satire. He’s a humorist. I read the excerpts from the Playboy article, and it’s tame stuff. I think Franken will not only beat Coleman but will use satire effectively to make mincemeat out of the flip-flopping boy from Glad who seldom meets a Bush policy he doesn’t like. It’s quite silly of McCollum to pretend that she’s disinterested when she was a bigwig for Ceresi who still eats her sour grapes every day in public. …

From Dan Pesonen, who identified himself as a Minnesota Democrat:

I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, I will vote for a Republican before I cast my vote for Al.

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On the national front, Dan Hoxworth commented on Eric Black’s Wednesday post, “Emotions and the Obama-Clinton contest”:


The comment of “WOW-White Old Women for Obama” in one of our dailies resonated with my 80-year-old mother. A lifelong Missourian whose mother (my grandmother) served in the Missouri State Legislature in the 1950s and 1960s, my mother has been an Obama supporter since the very beginning. His voice and his vision have always resonated to her. All of this in a state that straddles the Mason-Dixon line.

When one thinks of swing states, remember Obama won Missouri!

John E. Iacono added:

It seems to me, also, that one’s choice of favored candidate is not simply an intellectual one, any more than choice of friends or lovers is.

In the end, in a representative republic we are not selecting a political agenda, although the head does have its role.

My father’s ultimate comment about a candidate was not “I agree with his positions” but “I like him” or “I don’t like him.” I find myself judging the same way, as my movement toward one candidate or another comes from myriad inputs including previous behaviors, how one carries him/herself, general appearance, how he/she handles difficult situations, whether he/she is well-spoken, and all the other things we use to pick our friends from pre-school onward.

One thing pleases me about the campaigns (for the most part, except for Hillary’s friends) so far: they have been civil. One can only forlornly hope it continues.

* * * *


Judy Hess appreciated Doug Grow’s Wednesday story, “Clinton supporters wowed with warm reception at Obama rally”:

I reached this article through rawstory.com and am very glad I saw it.

Koryne Horbal and others like her may be stinging at the moment, and as a member of the older generation of women, I understand. It cannot be stated too strongly, however, that there could be as many as four Supreme Court appointments between Jan. 2009 and 2013. Even one could be the tipping point for the death of our civil liberties under a McCain administration. Just saw another article in rawstory.com that indicates he’s ready to do warrantless wiretapping of Americans, as Bush does. It seems these days that if you are a Republican presidential hopeful, it’s all the rage to do away with the rule of law—or as Bush says it, “the rulalaw.”

We have far too much at stake to hold on to resentments. Just the country.

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