MINOT, N.D. — When I was a kid, I didn't like the fall. It meant going back to school, and I much preferred the lazy days of summer.

As a grownup, fall my be my favorite season. Yes, the weather gets colder, but there's something refreshing about that bite in the air after a sweltering summer. The cold, dark winter months are looming, but so are the holidays.

Anyway, it's a chilly fall Friday where I'm at, and I'm hoping you're enjoying it as much as I am.

Below is this week's feedback from you readers. If you'd like to reach me, email rport@forumcomm.com. Submissions may be edited for clarity and brevity.

Aaron writes: "Your tone has changed since your COVID scare (just my opinion). I like reading your columns now, this one on 'we cannot abandon choice' was so well written and conceived that I had to make the positive comment. I usually don’t comment on things like this, but well-done."

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That column elicited a lot of strong reactions from both sides of the debate over vaccinations, and I suppose that's to be expected. I'm taking a position that's for vaccinations, but against vaccination mandates, and nuance like that isn't exactly welcome right now. It seems we are expected to either be pro-vaccination to the point of strapping people down and forcing the shots on them, or subscribe to rank odious fabulism about the origin of the COVID-19 vaccines, their efficacies, and their side effects.

And yet, nuance is what this situation calls for. The pro-vax people are, for the most part, vaccinated. The vaccine-hesitant, meanwhile, still need to be persuaded. We could use force on them, which so far has manifested itself in economic coercion in the form of employer mandates, but in the long term we are better served by getting buy-in from them on vaccine efficacy. We should want them to get vaccinated because they understand that vaccines work.

Besides, if we, as a society, can't overcome with reason and sincere argument the obnoxious bloviating of talk radio conspiracy mongers and Facebook keyboard warriors, we have bigger problems than COVID-19.

Jay writes: "I applaud your column on dress-up days. When our kids were little, my wife was about ready to hit me over the head because of my carping about all of the 'fun events' that inevitably meant parents had to buy clothes, accouterments, something, so our little darlings would fit in. We could afford it, but it was a budgetary item -- and apparently the schools didn't give a damn about the parents for whom it was a real strain and the kids who would feel left out if their parents, God forbid, weren't rich enough to meet the school's standards for having 'fun.'"

I write a lot of controversial things that elicit a lot of feedback, but that column asking schools to cool it with the dress-up days received a surprising amount of comment from the audience. I was afraid that I was being a bit too much of a curmudgeon, but the bulk of the replies were in line with Jay's thoughts, which tells me there are a lot of parents out there struggling with this.

I love our schools, and our hard-working educators and administrators who staff them, but sometimes I think they can be a bit myopic. School is their vocation, and that can lead to an institutional blind spot when it comes to the reality for many families there's this whole other world outside of school that calls on our time and attention.

What I'm trying to say is that dress-up days are born of the very best of intentions, but all things should be done in moderation.

William writes: "Good column on oil pipelines. We were told by Enbridge that, when at full capacity, the [Line 3] pipeline was the equivalent of 7000 tanker trucks a day. Apparently Biden and the anti-pipeline protestors would rather have 7000 tanker trucks spewing diesel fuel into the atmosphere than a pipeline you don’t even know is there. Not to mention the mile-long rail cars carrying oil down the track. Go figure."

"Go figure" is right.

Even the most strident and violent pipeline protester, the sort of person so convinced of what they imagine to be the visceral threat of using fossil fuels that they're willing to risk harm to themselves and others, not to mention arrest and all of its attendant legal jeopardies, is using oil every single day.

Like it or not, oil is what our world runs on. It would be nice if we had some better alternative to oil, but what is that? Our power grid, burdened as it is with a push to renewable energy like wind and solar that has diminished its reliability, is not ready for electric cars, and even if it were, that wouldn't address the need to power air travel and shipping.

Unless we're all willing to take a significant hit to our quality of living and embroil ourselves in some dramatic economic consequences, we have to keep using oil. And if we have to keep using oil, why wouldn't we want to build pipelines that, while certainly not infallible, are still the safest and most efficient way to transport it?

This seems like self-evident truth to me, yet so many engaged in the debate over pipelines refuse to acknowledge it.

I'm not saying we should stop looking for alternatives to oil. I'm not saying we shouldn't be finding ways to use oil more efficiently. I am saying, however, that no person who argues that we can stop using oil today should be taken seriously. They're simply wrong.

Darlan writes in response to my column about the national debt math so many of us like to ignore: "Do you know how long it would take you to spend 1.5 trillion dollars if I were to give you 100 million dollars a day? It would take about 41 years to spend it. That is hard to comprehend."

It is hard to comprehend, and let's expand on Darlan's point. The national debt currently stands at approximately $28.4 trillion. Spending $100 million per day, it would take you more than 778 years to pay that amount of money.

There is an innumeracy in politics that leads us to a failure to comprehend really, really big numbers like that, and I don't mean that pejoratively. Where else in our lives, outside of the politics of deficit spending, are we asked to wrap our arms around such enormous sums?

Now, to be fair, our economy, and the revenue it generates, is also an enormous number. In 2020, our federal government collected about $3.42 trillion in revenue, meaning our current national debt represents about 8.3 years worth of our current revenues. A far less unsettling calculation, to be sure.

How many of us are carrying debt, in the form of mortgages or car loans or student loans, that represent multiples of our annual income?

Our national debt is manageable, but what we can't afford is to continue to make the problem worse with spending habits that consistently outstrip what we are willing to pay in taxes.

What fiscal discipline requires of us is an acknowledgment that expanded government programs should require higher taxes, and that lower taxes require spending cuts. The point I made in the column is that both of our major political parties like to tell us fairy tales to distract from these undeniable truths. Republicans like to think they can cut taxes without needing to do the politically risky work of cutting spending. Democrats, meanwhile, think we can run up the national debt eternally with no consequence.

They're both wrong.

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.