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Commentaries

Jul 13, 2015
On July 4, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln sent a message to Congress that deserves to rank with his greatest speeches. Having summoned that body into special session to deal with a civil war that was already underway, Lincoln sought to explain why it was necessary to fight, rather than surrender to, secession. Much lengthier than his much-more-celebrated Gettysburg Address, this message was the president’s answer to anyone who might have been tempted to carve “war is not the answer” into his horse-drawn buggy.
Jul 13, 2015
In case you haven’t been tracking the new intellectual fashions in higher education, you will be surprised to learn that, in some institutions, professors and program organizers must give advance notice to students when a touchy subject is about to be discussed. Labeled “trigger warnings” because they might trigger anxiety or terror or some other emotional malady, they suggest that instead of courageous champions valiantly searching for truth, many students are timid little emotional time bombs.
Jun 28, 2015
Every decade or so, another academic “fashion du jour” sweeps America’s college campuses. In the 1990s, it was multiculturalism. That morphed into “diversity” — now such a mantra that students can spell it backward in their sleep. Today, excitement is surging for a new fad, “sustainability,” that’s taking higher education by storm.
Jun 28, 2015
Up until a couple of years ago, and for about a decade, my wife, who is white, was the deacon of a nearly all-black Episcopal church in the Twin Cities. My role as “Senior Auxiliary Member, Self-Appointed” was significantly less official. But while I did not engage nearly as much as Diane did, I was involved more than enough to become good friends with many of the parishioners, many of whom were much older than me, even though I was then in my late 50s and early 60s
Jun 23, 2015
I once wrote a column about how I aspired to be Norwegian. This had something to do with my having served several years earlier on Al Quie’s gubernatorial staff. But as a New York native who had moved to Minnesota in 1974, my interest in being Norwegian also had to do with preferring the stereotypical Scandinavian way Diane Keaton’s family in Wisconsin celebrated Thanksgiving in “Annie Hall” instead of how Woody Allen’s family did so, presumably in Brooklyn.
Jun 22, 2015
You might not know her name, but you know her face. She is the migrant mother, the face of Depression-era poverty captured on film by Dorthea Lange and reprinted in hundreds of history books and untold articles. Her image is seared into American cultural memory as the face of poverty, an image to humanize what would otherwise become a sea of statistics.
Jun 10, 2015
The news from the Metropolitan Council this spring that the Southwest light-rail line has blown way past all cost estimates to $2 billion presents a great opportunity to find consensus on a big decision that will affect the region well into this century. The rail line has not been fully engineered, which means we are likely to see more cost increases, even after construction begins.
Jun 3, 2015
One of my favorite sports commentators, Tony Kornheiser, often screams out to his co-host, Mike Wilbon, on their TV show “Pardon the Interruption”: “Stop it, just stop it.” He says this when someone says something that is over the top or unbelievable.
May 21, 2015
I’ve always believed that consumers of poll data are welcome to draw their own conclusions about what the data mean and how they apply to legislative settings. However, almost two decades as a pollster have also shown me that partisans can occasionally twist poll data to mean just about anything they want it to.
May 15, 2015
Transportation is a big priority at the Legislature; both sides agree Minnesota's roads and bridges need repair -- and that commuters need more efficient options -- but that is where the agreement ends. There is a lake the size of Superior separating the GOP House from the DFL Senate and Gov. Dayton on where transportation dollars should come from, where they should go and how much to spend over the next decade.