Your insights on Commentaries

Gordon C. Stewart Palin's strange move may prove smart after all
By Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minn.

Like a former Minnesota governor, Alaska's outgoing chief executive seems determined to forge a place outside the political mainstream. more >>

An elephant is like a snake

The author suggests, as other have ad nauseum, that Palin's popularity is predicated on appealing to the deep-seated hostility of a sizable portion of the American populace.

This is a thoroughly unsubstantiated assertion akin to suggesting that millions liked Jack Benny because he appealed to their stinginess or that the James Bond movies still attract huge crowds because Bond kindles latent feelings of violence and promiscuity in audiences.

Closer to the truth is the likelihood that many adore Palin for the same reason Regis Philbin is a media superstar. Like Regis, Palin is greater than the sum of her parts. Regis would acknowledge that he isn't particularly good looking, charismatic, or talented. He's just exceptionally good at what he does, which is somewhat inexplicable.

Those who detest Palin would be better served by merely acknowledging that whatever it is she does possess, it makes her critic-proof.

"Gilligan's Island" seemingly should have been cancelled after the first commercial break of the season premiere: it ran for three years. "Boston
Legal" ran for four.

Gary Cooper was courted to play Rhett Butler.
Lee J. Cobb was the first choice for "Columbo".
And NBC execs first thought the "Seinfeld" ensemble wouldn't work.

"The heart hath reasons that reason knoweth not."

The left better brush up on its Shakespeare fast or they'll be watching
Palin while on its collective back.

John Carpenter
New York

William McGuire, M.D Let's put some reform in health care reform
By William McGuire, M.D., Minnetonka. Minn.
July 15, 2009
A retired health care executive suggests the "reform" debate is pointless unless it addresses a few key elements. more >>

A question for Dr. McGuire on Health Reform

Dr. McGuire,

I have a hard time swallowing your steps to Health Care Reform in the U.S.

*** In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a former employee of Uniprise, UHC, and Ingenix (Oldsmar, FL, Greensboro, NC, and Minnetonka, MN [Corp Campus]). ***

I do agree, the entire Health Care infrastructure in this Country must be overhauled and it concerns me that it's not starting at the consumer/patient level - It's starting at the Corporate/Legislative level - Large Health Insurers, Facility Groups, Physician IPA's, and the plethora of Ancillary providers are giving the public the impression they are 'driving' legislative outcomes of the President's proposed Health Care overhaul. I don't see 'We The People', anywhere in this discussion.

Had you spent more time fostering creation of a true CDHP model, and investing in more robust & relevant IT environment across all UHG subsidiaries (specifically in the Group Health arena and with what was formerly known as Uniprise), instead of focusing on how far back you could back date your stock options, paying settlements on enormous State/Class action suits over claim payment, and driving up the cost of UHG Employee (and Group Health) HMO's, EPO's, POS's, PPO's, and IND's - I might take your voice and your ideas more seriously. Exactly how much of the fines and penalties from all of this litigation wound up in my premiums? I guess I'll never know that.

You, sir, need to spend a little more time exploring the topic of Redemption and Repentance.

Better yet, why don't you spend some time with some of the folks your former company use to insure (and probably still insures).

You know, the ones whose claims have been denied on technicalities like Pre-Existing clauses or the High $$$/Chronic/Transplant claims denied through the practice of recision.

When a larger group of Stakeholders come to the table - and have the 'warts & all' discussions, I'll feel a little better about the direction our Health Care system is moving.

Thank you.

Craig Pearson
Eagan, Minn.

Consider The Source

I'm not inclined to quibble with Mr. McGuire's thoughts on health care reform. I also can't help wondering where he buried these old ideas on cost control while he was busy wringing every last cent from the market. Even his own stockholders weren't safe from his greed. So, when I note that he is cautioning us against the lure of self-interest to make reform possible, it's a bit hard to swallow.

Tom Kelly
St. Paul, Minn.

Erin Matson A feminism that works for all women
By Erin Matson, Minneapolis
July 14, 2009
A Minneapolis woman reflects on the path that led her to a national leadership role at NOW. more >>

Feminism through the generations

Her views sound very similar to mine at about the same age!

Barbara Harrison
St. Paul, Minn.

Caregiving equality--a radical idea whose time has come

"We want justice that acknowledges and supports all the work we do -- including caregiving." Well put, Erin!

As an at-home parent of two young children, and a loud and proud feminist, I've always felt that a caregiving revolution is the unfinished business of the modern feminist movement. Women are in the workplace, but men aren't in the home in equal numbers, which means that the unpaid and underpaid work done in the care of children and elders is still belittled, if not totally forgotten.

Thank you, Erin, for ensuring that this essential part of women's lives is remembered inside the Beltway.

Shannon Drury

Bruce Schneier So-called cyberattack was overblown
Bruce Schneier, St. Paul, Minn.
July 13, 2009
An expert in computer security looks skeptically at the supposed North Korean assault in cyberspace. more >>

Disappointing NPR coverage too

I listened to Talk of the Nation dedicated to the topic, and began to suspect what Bruce confirms - it wasn't much of an event.

In fact, the expert guest pretty strongly implied that there was no evidence linking the incident in the US with that in South Korea. He also suggested that it lacked a strategic rationale.

In other words, there was nothing in the event to establish that it was anything more than a minor coincidence, which makes one wonder why it was even reported.

On the other hand, if NPR has listened to their expert first, they could have told a more interesting story, which Bruce of course just did.

Tom Edman
St Paul, Minn.

Cyber war

You might want to step out of your cyber world into the real one and research what happened in Georgia recently. You may see a different view of the way Estonia looks at Russia in the new millenium. sometimes reality is a bitch.

Marty Mang
Delavan, Wisc.

For Iranians in the streets, 'landslide' was humiliating lie

July 10, 2009
An Iranian woman in the Twin Cities reflects on the post-election strife in her country. more >>

Witness to your words

I want to thank the writer expressing how strongly she supports the particular people she knows in Iran who are part of the movement demanding a fair election process.

I, too, can easily feel powerless in such large and fast moving situations. Grounding our caring in particular people and circumstances can help us overcome paralysis and find our place to start moving.

Anonymous writer, your words helped me to come forward with these few words of support. Thank you.

Michael Gardos Reid

Dane Smith North Star State takes a page from the South
By Dane Smith, St. Paul, Minn.
July 6, 2009
Among states with the worst budget troubles, only a few have ruled out tax increases. more >>

Sharing the burden

When I urge loved ones and neighbors to support increasing revenue by increasing income taxes so that we are sharing responsibility for the common good, they often respond: "Well, go ahead, write your check to the State!" In my opinion, the welfare of our State and of our neighbors is a shared responsibility -with our leadership super-responsible for ensuring the revenue to do so. Governor Pawlenty's no new taxes philosophy is broken; I hope we don't have to wait until his departure to fix our broken State.

Sieglinde Gassman
St Paul, Minn.

Leslie Martin A vacation that comes according to schedule
By Leslie Martin, Mendota Heights, Minn.
July 3, 2009
"The cabin" is a fully furnished condo that's hers one week every other year. more >>

Vacation on schedule

Aaah, the compulsory vacation! Reminds me of the chic and totally cool utter contempt my much younger self had for packaged fun - cruises, tour groups,etc. Then the goal was at least the appearance of total self-suffiency. Now it is simply to disengage my frantic frontal lobes from endless tasking long enough to ease my aching joints into a lawn chair. Enjoy the now!

Bruce Snyder
Mendota Heights, Minn.

Brian Rice Franken v. Coleman ruling: balls, strikes and absentee ballots
By Brian F. Rice, Minneapolis
July 2, 2009
A lawyer puts the Coleman-Franken decision in terms baseball fans will appreciate. more >>

Elections are not baseball games

Despite my agreement that Al Franken wil rightfully be confirmed as the junior US Senator from MN on Tuesday, elections are not baseball games. If one truly believes that the counting of the votes was flawed enough to have swayed the election, they have every right to demand the process be modified in some way that would ensure another election, even one with a vote tally as close as this one, can be decided decisively without a 6 month recount and litigation process. Of course we need 2 senators representing us in the Senate but I would strongly prefer a vacant seat to an unjustly elected individual filling the void.

I agree with the general sentiment that Minnesota's recount process was both fair and effective, but considering the technological advancements of our age I can't see how there can be ballots (especially absentee ballots) which are genuinely in limbo despite the best efforts of those who have written our election laws. Certainly electing judges have some discretion in rejecting absentee ballots, but they should not have discretion that our state Supreme Court can not later rescind in order to make a finding that there was an error in judgment. To believe otherwise is to elevate the status of the election judge from that of a common citizen (who is honorably serving our state) to that of someone above the justices of the MN Supreme Court, which given the disparity in training and expertise is clearly ludicrous.

If we can modify our election system without disenfranchising voters and without undue expenditure of tax-payer dollars (perhaps by simply revisiting the rules regarding the consideration of absentee ballots) we ought to do so, whether we consider the result of the recount legitimate or not.

Andrew Olson
Duluth, Minn.

Political scientist Dan Hofrenning Franken's satirical side may not be much help in the Senate
By Dan Hofrenning, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
July 1, 2009
Al Franken begins his U.S. Senate term with one of the lowest approval ratings of any newly elected official in history. And that's no laughing matter. more >>

The gift of a satirist

Although Franken begins his first term with a somewhat low approval rating, his career as a satirist and social commentator has prepared him well for the US senate. A satirist must intimately understand an issue and the major points of contention before being able to critique it. A satirist cuts through the fluffy exterior of an issue and slices into the meat and potatoes to reveal its true meaning. In the senate, Franken will have to critically struggle over many important reforms on the horizon - healthcare, the economy, education and immigration. The major challenge that Franken faces is that instead of coming up with a snappy one liner, he must develop constructive solutions to these complex issues. He must refrain from alienating himself with sass and learn to put his critical thinking skills to work towards solutions. Franken has succeeded as a satirist because he has a strong work ethic and a commitment to excellence (whether or not you agree with his sense of humor). As long as he can put those same qualities toward constructive criticism and develop positive solutions he will win over more Minnesotans.

Chad Goodroad
Minnetonka, Minn.

Au contraire

Prof. Hofrenning's comments echo the common wisdom about Sen. Franken. What he doesn't mention is that Franken has an incisive mind and an eye for his opponent's strengths and weaknesses. To defeat an incumbent Senator is no small feat, even in a Democratic year. He will be a formidable presence in the nation's highest political body (if one doesn't include the Supreme Court, which says it isn't political but behaves as though it is). There are few Senators who will be able to outpoint him in a battle of wits--no small advantage for him. That he is wise enough to play it cool is evident; and the help and example he has from Wellstone and Klobuchar are superb resources. Faint praise from Prof. Hofrenning, indeed.

Irl Carter
St. Paul, Minn.

Give Franken a Break

I agree that Franken--like all incoming senators--will need to prove himself. And his background--like that of all incoming senators--will figure into the adjustment equation. But give him a break.

The tut-tutting about how his background as a writer/performer/satirist somehow puts his ability to serve us well as a senator is getting a bit old. No one comes to the senate (or the presidency or the supreme court) having expected from childhood that they were going to make that leap. If they had seen the future, they likely wouldn't have written that essay, or told that racist joke, or been mean to people. They might have studied harder in school, chosen a 'better' vocation, stayed married to their first spouse, or not forgotten to pay their taxes.

Whatever Al Franken's liabilites might be as a person and as a senator, including his 'shady' past as a satirist of big fat idiots or of insipid advice-for-living gurus, he did not comport himself as a comedian or jokester during last year's campaign. Instead (even if you disagree with him politically) it must be admitted that he showed himself to be a student of public policy, an effective campaigner and as a person with a good deal of passion for justice and of dignity.

More to the point, look at his record compared to his Senate colleagues. He has married to his first wife for decades (unlike several of the the people he will meet on the Senate floor next week). He has not (so far as is known) either been in treatment for addiction, or appeared drunk on the Senate floor (as have several senators). His career--whatever you make of it--has not been created around a demand for a higher level of personal morality from others (say, of President Clinton and former Senator Larry Craig) than he himself was able/willing to deliver. He has not been a member of the Ku Klux Klan (as was Sen. Richard Byrd earlier in his life) and, unlike the powerful and celebrated Senator Strom Thurmond, did not build his career by preaching the social, political and economic segregation of a whole race of of people while at the same time fathering a child by a woman of that group which he despised and rejected. Franken has not used his podium to speak out for America's enemies as did Minnesota Senator Ernest Lundeen for the Nazis in the days before World War II, and has not colluded with business interests to strip Minnesota's Native Americans of their land and money as did a couple of our state's senators in days past. He seems an unlikely candidate to come before the Senate to receive its denouncing. And if, unlike a senator from another state who failed of re-election last fall, and yet another who he will meet on the floor next week, he has negotiated sweetheart loan terms or received gifts from people with whom he has done official business, we do not know about it; he truly seems like an unlikely person to do so.

Frankly, if in the past Franken has written a few jokes, even some scatological ones, and made fun of some political poobah, is this really the biggest deal of all time? Franken's conduct and character seem at this point no worse than that of previous and present senators--and in some ways are more consistent with the kind of behavior Minnesotans would LIKE their senators to display.

Over the course of the nation's history Americans have elected to the Senate everyone from blackguards to heroes. If Al works hard and keeps his nose clean over the next five and a half years--whether or not he tells a few jokes along the way--he'll acquit himself admirably as our senator, and give us a senator we can be proud of.

John Clawson

Abigail Ramirez Minnesotans should insist on early-childhood education
By Abigail Ramirez, Minneapolis
June 29, 2009
A mom wonders why it's so expensive to give her kids the best possible start in life. more >>

Family time

Abbie's point is excellent; quality child care is crucial to learning and success for children as they grow in the wider world. However, it's important not to forget the fact that parents making the time to spend with their children, read to them, interact with them, etc. can happen with no financial outlay, and cannot be replaced by child care. In the old days, parents cared for their children without "child care" for which they had to pay. And those children grew up to be the "greatest generation." Parents can do a lot for their children if they sacrifice unnecessary personal luxuries.

Jenny Blaine
St Paul, Minn.

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