- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2021

Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Jan. 8

Cabinet must unify to protect country from Trump

In the aftermath of a shocking, destructive invasion of the U.S. Capitol by domestic terrorists who were incited to action by President Donald Trump, Americans have some hard truths to face.

This is a president who has gone rogue. The top priority now for Vice President Mike Pence, Congress and other leaders must be how best to protect this country from a leader who is demonstrably unfit for office. They must present a unified front to restrain a president whose lack of remorse and unwillingness to take responsibility for what happened are ample evidence that his judgment cannot be trusted.

Trump issued a 4 a.m. statement, shortly after Congress affirmed the election results, saying that he would go along with the transition on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. But there is no guarantee he will do so, and there is much damage he could do in the coming days.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, soon to be majority leader, have called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Failing that, both leaders support impeachment. Certainly there is justification for both, but neither is likely. Impeachment is a process designed to move slowly. The 25th Amendment can be swift, but it requires a degree of unity and purpose that may be difficult to achieve.

That said, there are a growing number of former Trump acolytes finally acknowledging openly how far off the rails this president has gone. Former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in a CNBC interview that Trump has become increasingly erratic.

“Clearly he is not the same as he was eight months ago, and certainly the people advising him are not the same as they were eight months ago,” he said, “and that leads to a dangerous sort of combination as you saw yesterday.” Former U.S. Attorney Bill Barr, who left office recently, issued a statement calling Trump’s conduct a “betrayal of his office.”

Trump’s actions have triggered a wave of resignations that now include at least one Cabinet member, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Reportedly there are high-level discussions among top Republicans urging aides and others to stay and do what they can to maintain some semblance of order. That is the proper course. Trump in his current state should not be in the position to further erode norms by installing those even more willing to do his bidding.

Congress must also move quickly to conduct a thorough and unflinching investigation into the stunning failure of U.S. Capitol Police to secure the building and protect those inside from a raging mob. No weak protestations of being “unprepared” or “overwhelmed” will suffice here.

What should have been an impregnable fortress on a day when this country’s most important leaders were gathered to certify an election was exposed as being almost comically easy to crack. The world will not soon forget the sight of the mob scaling the walls, breaking windows and rampaging through the Capitol. Steps must be taken to ensure there is no repeat episode. Ever.

Those involved in the insurrection and their accomplices should be tracked down and prosecuted. That includes the West Virginia Republican lawmaker who, incredibly, was part of the mob that rushed the Capitol.

We commend Minnesota U.S. Attorney, Erica MacDonald, a Trump appointee, for her clear and unequivocal denouncement of the attack and declaration that “if we can prove you traveled from MN to DC to commit violent criminal acts, then you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Finally, while Congress did finally certify the election results, 147 lawmakers, hours after the invasion, still fed into the delusion by voting against certification and fomenting further doubt about an election outcome that has been clear since November. Shamefully, Minnesota Republican Reps. Jim Hagedorn and Michelle Fischbach were among them.

Mankato Free Press, Mankato, Jan. 5

State park bison herd has numerous benefits

Since the introduction of a small herd of bison to Minneopa State Park in 2015, visitors have been flocking to drive through the prairie to see them.

It turns out the bison have been a boon to everyone who’s always enjoyed visiting Minneopa’s waterfalls, trails, prairie and campground. The park, particularly the prairie area, was once one of the least visited of state parks, but now it is one of the top parks, drawing about 280,000 annual visitors.

That has allowed more people to enjoy the beauty and amenities of the park. But more importantly, it has meant Minneopa gets a larger infusion of money from the Department of Natural Resources. That funding has helped improve the gravel bison trail road and other amenities in the park.

And additional funding has greatly accelerated the reclamation of the prairie that has long been plagued by invasive sumac. Now large sections of brush are being removed to give native grasses a chance to thrive.

Beyond those benefits, Minneopa has become a key in building a genetically pure line of American bison in Minnesota.

Wild bison disappeared in the state in the late 1800s as, like bison across the country, they were hunted to near extinction. Most of the bison that remained in the U.S. were bred with cattle in hopes of starting a thriving “beefalo” meat industry, an experiment that never really took off.

But the captive bison that were kept in a few places in Minnesota were found to be genetically pure. In recent decades building that pure herd has been the focus of the DNR and zoos. Genetically pure herds now exist at Blue Mound and Minneopa state parks, the Minnesota Zoo and a small zoo in Olmsted County.

There are about 150 pure bison in the state, a number officials hope to grow to 500, a number that can generate a self-sustaining population with enough genetic diversity to avoid inbreeding.

Now three cows from Minneopa, which has a herd that has grown to about 40, will help expand the genetic diversity within the genetically pure state herd. They are being sent to Olmsted County’s Oxbow Park zoo to be bred by a bull there.

If they give birth, there will be three more genetically pure bison to add to the growing genetically diverse Minnesota herd.

It’s a worthy project. After man nearly eradicated the American bison, it should give all supporters of Minneopa and all area residents a sense of pride to do our part to rebuild a line of the majestic animals.


St. Cloud Times, St. Cloud, Jan. 3

2020 showed that facts do indeed matter

With 2020 still closer than it appears in the rearview mirror, we’re reticent to add pressure to 2021 by way of resolutions.

But there’s one that, if widely adopted, could make the coming year better for all of America: Get back to facts, and that means by people on all points of the political spectrum.

Just facts. No need to extend an olive branch to people you believe to be bad at the core. No call for understanding of our fellow citizens. Just a commitment to stop bending provable truths or citing sketchy experts to fit your team’s rhetoric, to be right, to win arguments, or to defend a meme.

Somewhere along the way, this nation lost its connection to a principle so bedrock to the foundations of America that both the Founding Fathers and Superman put it right up front: Truth. As in “we hold these truths to be self-evident” and “truth, justice and the American way.”

That’s not making light of a serious subject. It’s illustrating that the concept of truth - of facts - permeates our highest principles and our most popular and enduring pieces of pop culture. Truth is not reserved for elites, or for blue-collar workers, for left or for right, no matter how far we’ve strayed from it.

Straying from the logical and the provable to embrace the emotional is not a 2020 problem, although denial of and disconnection from facts caused plenty of problems last year. No, skating past inconvenient facts is as old as time, with eras of high tolerance for magical thinking (the Dark Ages, for starters) regularly giving way to eras of logic, reason and evidence (the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution, for example) and back again.

We’ve been in trouble with the truth most recently since at least 2005, when “truthiness” was named the word of the year by Merriam-Webster. (“Truthiness: a truthful or seemingly truthful quality that is claimed for something not because of supporting facts or evidence but because of a feeling that it is true or a desire for it to be true).

Our surrender to a fact-light public life has become entrenched, both caused by and feeding our deep political divisions. Our tribal need to be on the “winning” side and our emotional need to believe what we want to be true, even if it isn’t, leads to confirmation bias, group accommodation bias and many other bad things.

It’s time to reclaim facts as part of our public discourse and let the political and social debates fall where they may. Starting from facts - facts supported by credible evidence, consensus of experts, common sense and the conspiracy-theory-busting power of Occam’s razor - won’t end debates, but those debates will stand a better chance of fueling solutions, not just tempers.

What is the truth? For purposes of civic debate, truth has little to do with belief. It is about facts, evidence, measurement, data and consensus across a community of credentialed experts in a field, and with proper context.

The potential benefits of returning to a fact-based civic life are many. First among them: If we demand that our leaders deal in the currency of truth, the laws they make and the responses to crises they develop will be rooted in actuality, presumably leading to increased effectiveness. Which (color us radical) seems like a good idea.

But the benefits of re-embracing objective facts extend into our daily lives as well: fewer garbage fires on our social media feeds, more effective response to community challenges, even a better understanding of what those challenges actually are, rather than what we believe them to be.

It will take effort by millions of us to improve America’s future. That means vetting (and diversifying) the information sources we use, looking for the data behind the opinion, being honest with ourselves about the credibility of the sources we believe, learning about bias in media, science and research and how to weight those biases without turning to charlatans.

Some practical tips: Seek out information sources that correct factual errors routinely, quickly and publicly. Learn the schedule of your favorite news channel - when they air news and when they air opinion-based entertainment shows, and learn to tell the difference (Hint: If you see a panel of people arguing, it’s not a news show). Learn where credible experts publish their findings. That’s rarely YouTube or TikTok. Bookmark two or three credible fact-checking sites, then use them before sharing that meme, that outrageous “fact” or that incredible “injustice.”

Everyone is, in fact, entitled to their own opinion, and that’s as much a part of the American way of life as honesty. But opinions rooted in facts are better - yes, objectively better - than what we want to be true, what we wish to be true or what we know is not true but keep standing behind out of deference to our “team.”

Truthfulness is part of how we see ourselves as a nation: Asked to describe the ideal American, “honest” usually comes right before “hard-working,” “neighborly” and “brave.”

If we can claim that national persona, we can live up to it. If we decide to. Let’s give it a shot this year.

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