Illustration by Bruce Bjerva

Illustration by Bruce Bjerva

file, Star Tribune

Readers write (June 27): Michael Swanson case, health and fitness, firepits, state budget

  • June 26, 2011 - 7:15 PM


Two views of justice for a convicted killer


The front page of the June 24 Star Tribune shows the smirking face of a killer of innocent people who was duly convicted of first-degree murder. Iowa will be obliged to support this murderer, now 18, in prison for the rest of his life -- unless, of course, he is paroled. In that case, hopefully he will not kill again, as another paroled killer did not long ago.

It is time to bring back the death sentence, which was abolished in 1911 in Minnesota because a murderer who was sentenced to hang did not die soon enough. (The rope was too long, and his feet hit the ground. It took 14 minutes for that poor victim of a bad rope to die. I wonder how long it took his victim to die.)

For the sake of our citizens and in the name of justice, go back to hanging killers or, perhaps giving solace to heartfelt softies whose sympathies often are the direct cause of letting murderers free, use the electric chair.


• • •

I just returned from Carroll, Iowa, where I attended the trial of Minnesota teenager Michael Swanson, who last November killed two convenience store clerks in Iowa. These were horrific crimes; however, justice was not served.

Rather, vengeance was served. Justice would have put him in a hospital where he could finally get treatment; vengeance put him in a prison to deteriorate for the rest of his life.

Swanson's parents had tried in vain to get help for his mental health problems from the time he was a 3-year-old. The Des Moines Register's front page reported, on June 23, that a psychiatrist told Kathy Swanson, Michael's mother, when he was 11, "Your son needs to be locked up, and there isn't anything more I can help you with."

Years later, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota wanted to put Michael into a clinical study. Where, in the span of 18 years, was the treatment for this obviously sick boy?

Yet, a jury in a small town in Iowa served up vengeance disguised as justice. Something besides the cows smelled very bad in Carroll, Iowa.


* * *


Prevention, by itself, cannot meet our needs


As a health care worker, I see both the wonders and shortcomings of our system firsthand. I couldn't agree more that our system needs to focus on keeping people healthy rather than just treating us when we get sick ("We all win with wellness in the workplace," by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, June 17).

However, while wellness promotion and preventive care are necessary features of a quality, affordable American system, they are not sufficient. I see too many patients who put off care until it is too late because it is increasingly unaffordable for working people.

Even with the best wellness and preventive practices, we need to ensure that every family can afford to see a family doctor. Right now, that isn't the case in our country.

Every other industrialized country has figured out how to stay healthier than America at a lower cost per citizen. These countries have certainly put in place the best practices in wellness and preventive care, but they have also been willing to question and limit the role of corporate greed in their health care systems.

If we truly hope to lower the cost of health care and make Americans healthier, we ought to push ourselves to ask the same questions.


• • •

I thoroughly agree with the new recommendations from the Institute of Medicine intended to help combat childhood obesity -- especially the recommendation that at day care and preschool, caretakers should "avoid withholding physical activity as a punishment" -- but it needs to be expanded to elementary school as well.

I can't tell you how many times my second-grade twin sons came home from school this past year and told me that they had not had recess.

If their class was "too noisy" at lunchtime, the entire class or even the entire grade would lose recess. I have discussed my concerns with our principal, and she was polite yet firm in her belief that this type of punishment is sometimes necessary.

I hope that these new guidelines will change attitudes, and that soon we will consider denying our children a physical outlet as anathema as denying them a meal.


* * *


One person's pastime is another's real pain


To many folks, the hazy camaraderie of cigarette smoking has also built memories of the kind suggested by a June 24 letter writer in praise of back-yard bonfires. Her memories of burning are more important than "the ozone layer."

But whenever wood is burned, anyone near the smoke is also smoking -- secondhand wood smoke. Her back-yard bonfire could send someone with asthma or heart disease to the emergency room. That's not a pleasant memory. Is our lighting the match more important than the effects that smoke of all kinds has on others?


* * *


Newspaper should take care with descriptions


How is it that raising $450 million in additional revenue is a "modest" amount (editorial, June 22) but cutting taxes or spending is often referred to as slashing? The Star Tribune Editorial Board's choice of words strains its credibility.


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