The Week in Commentary
Gas prices are nothing to complain about
Karin Winegar, a journalist and author, argues that people shouldn't be surprised by fuel prices — especially if they don't choose to change their own habits in response.
"It's time to be indignant about indignation. Each time gas prices rise, shrieks are heard in the land as if somewhere in the Constitution there's a right to cheap and plentiful fossil fuels.
"We've been warned for decades about relying on petroleum for our personal transportation, and people are still furious when it happens -- again! Threats against President Obama (who announced recently that he will buy a Chevy Volt in five years, when he's no longer president) follow. ...
"Without assessing who or what is to blame, or the mysterious coincidence that gas prices (set by the quite conservative oil industry) are elevated in this election year, I suggest we finally get past our need for it."
"And all of this coming from someone who drives a bluebird blue Prius! Get real. Not everyone out there can just go out and buy a Prius ... The majority of the population utilize gasoline engines and the continual increase at the pump hurts each and every one of us." -- H.H., Hermitage, Pa.
"While I applaud the moves you have personally made, nobody, including our elected officials, have mentioned the 500 pound gorilla in the room -- namely that this country has based its entire economy on access to cheap energy by burning fossil fuels in the form of oil, natural gas, and coal. These are all finite resources that ultimately we as a thinking species will use up until it's gone ... then what?" -- Patrick Basile, Rochester, Minn.
"Efficiency is something that Americans must embrace, because it's the only way we can retain anything like our current standard of living in a finite world with rapidly growing demand." -- Rich Schulze, Minnesota
Trayvon Martin's death brings an opportunity to reform justice
Brandon Ferdig, a Minneapolis writer and blogger, suggests that the penal system would serve Americans better if it focused on public safety instead of punishment.
"In our version of justice in America, we seek far more than righting the wrong. We want to see that the perpetrator serves time, is thrown behind bars, pays for what he did. In short, we like to see the perp suffer. We seek revenge. ...
"We must cut that cord. It's an insult to Trayvon [Martin] to suggest his life was worthwhile if only we avenge his death. ...
"Imprisoning [George] Zimmerman might serve no productive function except to continue to warp our idea of justice. This case can be about more than racism and racial divides. It can serve as a jumping-off point for looking at justice in a whole new way, by identifying and removing the toxin that interferes with the unifying process: revenge."
"Justice is not revenge. Revenge would be if Tayvon's family hunted Zimmerman down and blew his head off. But they didn't. Our justice system allows for a trial and representation. I think you are right about prisons, in general, but what is your solution?" -- Henrietta Bozoki, Minn.
"I am opposed to prisons. They are cruel and inhumane. We should have jails to hold people for trial. Then thieves must perform restitution to the actual victims, the debt is to NOT to the state or 'society.' And rapists and murderers are executed. Simple and fair." -- L. Amelio, Brookings, S.D.
"To say that the perpetrator is no longer a threat to society seems like a utilitarian argument, and I would not find much satisfaction in that argument were I the victim. I think what you're doing is to try to institutionalize forgiveness, and in this way I think your argument is akin to the modern liberal approach, which to establish virtue (in this case, forgiveness) as policy, but it is no longer virtue when it becomes codified as government policy." -- Nathan Higgins, Minneapolis
Who are these voters who have no I.D.?
Owen Riess, an author and Vietnam-era veteran, disputes the factual assertions of some who criticize the proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a photo I.D. at the polls.
"I think Mark Ritchie is just playing politics. Minnesota's secretary of state is a Democrat who opposes a voter I.D. requirement; he estimates that more than 215,000 Minnesotans lack either identification with a current address or any identification at all. Ritchie and other opponents of requiring voters to have I.D. say the rules will make voting harder for seniors, college students and people who are homeless. ...
"I think Ritchie fails to realize that all of our senior citizens collect Social Security income. The Social Security Administration is making a transition away from sending checks in the regular mail. To receive Social Security income, a person will have to have a bank account that will accept direct deposits from the Social Security Administration. To get a bank account, a person has to have a valid identification card. ...
"I'd like to see Ritchie produce a senior citizen in Minnesota without valid identification. "The opponents also point out that some college students don't have proper identification. Again, I say: Produce one."
"My mom is 89 years old. Last year, she gave up driving (probably a good thing). When her license expires, she didn't plan on getting a new one. She has accounts at the same small town bank she's had for over 50 years. They don't ask for her ID anymore." -- Carol Purcell, Rochester
"An out of state college student, living in the dorms or wherever, gets to vote in Minnesota. How will these students' right to vote be preserved under this law? I have moved five times so far in my 20s and I have not always updated my ID right away. When I might not live there more than one year, why should I?" -- Matt Brillhart, Minneapolis
"I personally don't see a problem with voter ID. I think that very few don't have a photo ID. If they don't, it's not that hard to obtain one. If 'incapacitated' in a nursing home, are they really capable of voting? By the way, I am 83 years old." -- Calin Harwick, Rochester
"You hit the nail on the head. There is such a VERY SMALL minority of people who MIGHT have a problem getting an I.D. And I would bet most of them don't care to vote anyway." -- Mike S., Prior Lake
"I have been an election judge since I was 16 (I'm now 31). We do NOT need to add in additional obstacles to vote; we don't have a problem with voter fraud, and we have a very good system for keeping it that way WITHOUT disenfranchising people. If you honestly want to keep Minnesota's electoral system strong, try working as an election judge." -- Julia C, Minneapolis
"I can see both sides of this debate, but if I get to vote I'll be voting in favor of the author's position. Voting is a privilege." -- N. Black, Monticello
When the boys of summer come together as comrades
Reporter Neal Karlen ponders the relative ease with which he can make friends with other men at spring training baseball games.
"My scorecards indicate I saw five games in three days last month, featuring 10 different teams scoring 47 runs. Yet a few days later, I remembered almost nothing about the games. What I recall instead is being in the company of more than 20 men, whom I only see once a year. The rules are simple: no golf, no shaving and a $5 fine for any whining ... about anything.
"What hit me years before I hooked up with this group is how hard it seemed for me and other men I knew to make new friends as adults. Virtually all my male friends were made by the time I was 25. Yet at spring training, midlife male friends are made, and I think that's the magic of the trip. ... Conversation can be as superficial or as deep as we desire, without recrimination or judgment."
The play's the thing, sure, but to pay the bills you need commercials
Actor and blogger Mo Perry lifts the veil on the commercial audition process that gives professional actors a chance to supplement (or multiply) their income.
"Whether you succeed in getting a commercial has almost nothing to do with your talent, skill or training as an actor. It is deeply humiliating and ridiculous, and your odds of booking any given job are about on par with winning the lottery. But the ones you do book pay more than your last five real acting jobs combined. So you subject yourself to the process over and over again — which, come to think of it, is the same logic that drives compulsive gamblers. ...
"The opportunities to lose all self-respect are endless. I find it helps to pick a favorite restaurant or coffee shop near every casting agency so I can tell myself, 'Yes, I may have to go pretend to be a duck who is professional yet casual and pleasant but not too chirpy. But afterward I'm going to get a really good scone.' "It's when the scone evolves into whiskey shots that you know it's time to take a break."