At a time when the word "patriot" is grossly overused in conservative political ads and on talk radio, I thought everyone should know that a true patriot died a few days ago ("A war hero, the Hawaiian served in Senate for 50 years," Dec. 18). Sen. Daniel Inouye, 88, a Democrat from Hawaii, was the first Japanese-American to serve in Congress -- elected to the House in 1959 and then the Senate, where he served since 1963. He was also a highly decorated World War II hero.
Sadly, another member of our greatest generation has passed. He will be missed.
TOM J. INTIHAR, BROOKLYN PARK
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I want the community to know about the outstanding job the Minneapolis Fire Department did recently while putting out the fire in our ready-mix concrete plant in northeast Minneapolis. After we called 911, they quickly extinguished the fire. No employees at Marshall Concrete Products were injured. Also, due to the speedy response, there was minimal damage to our building and equipment. We continue to offer concrete from our Ramsey production plant, and our Minneapolis plant continues to serve masonry and fleet service customers. Thanks to the Fire Department, we will be back up and producing concrete in Minneapolis in a couple of months. The firefighters were a godsend in our time of need. I can't thank them enough.
JAY MILLER, MINNEAPOLIS
The writer is president of Marshall Concrete Products.
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The Dec. 16 Q&A on the budget deficit and Medicare costs stated that tax revenues are near a 60-year low as a share of the country's gross domestic product ("A primer on the costs of Medicare"). If that's true, why are Republicans saying that taxes are too high? There is certainly no shortage of disconnect from the facts in the latest war on ideology when it comes to how to dig our way out of the debt hole we find ourselves in.
MICHAEL BEFUS, BLAINE
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As we approach the fiscal cliff, it's becoming more and more clear just how little the federal government is doing to improve the economy and our standard of living. Right now, especially when disasters like the recent elementary-school shooting hit, society needs volunteers to help keep it afloat. The government has enough to worry about. As citizens we need to be more involved. Would you want help if it were you?
KARISSA TRICAS, HUGO
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A mother's only child was killed by a motorist convicted of criminal vehicular homicide ("Driver sentenced in teen girl's death," Dec. 18). At the sentencing a few days ago, after talking about what the loss of her child means, the distraught mother said, "I have nothing." Ramsey County District Court Judge John Van de North replied, "I have to disagree with one thing. You are always the mother of this beautiful child. Nothing can take that from you." But her only child was indeed taken from her. Memories are no substitute for life. The judge would not dare utter these words in Newtown, Conn.
RON SCHUMEISTER, EDINA
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The National Rifle Association has responded. As expected, instead of a reasonable solution, it proposes more guns, more weapons, more guards. And who should pay these costs? I suggest we start focusing on this. I believe the United States should implement taxes on all weapons, based on their costs to society. These costs include police equipment, SWAT teams, school lockdowns, electronic security at courts and airports, murders, suicides and, yes, the cost of the NRA's proposed posting of guards at schools.
If people believe so intractably that they should be allowed to own any weapon, without limits, then let them bear the costs their weapons have on our society.
DAN CARLSON, ARDEN HILLS
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The NRA's proposal to add more guns has strong merit. However, the plan for armed security in all of our schools needs more detail. How many guards per school? One on each floor? One at each entrance? With evening activities, would two shifts of security be necessary? Then there is the need for substitutes for vacations and sick days. Would it be wise to leave a post unguarded for breaks? Then the question of the type of weapons provided for the security personnel.
Since potential mass killers are usually quite well-armed, assault weapons would be a given. Several sidearms, a Taser and maybe a concussion grenade or two. Since schools are currently struggling with budgets, the cost might be prohibitive. A possible solution may be a federal grant for a one-time purchase of assault weapons mounted under each student's desk with a quick-release mechanism, to be used in an emergency situations only. This would almost be a 100 percent guarantee of no school violence ever again.
DON EISENSCHENK, MINNETONKA
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We have armed guards over our money. We have armed guards over our Congress and president. We have armed guards at sporting events. Are these people more valuable then our own children? And with the NRA proposal to fund and set up training for firearm training to any school that has the common sense to participate, what shallow-thinking person would argue? The NRA has a century-long history of training police, military and civilians. Let the politicians posture and argue while we protect our children now.
STEVEN ERB, EDEN PRAIRIE
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.