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Readers Write (April 8): Immigration, executive pay, Ebert, National Anthem

  • April 8, 2013 - 7:21 AM

DRIVER’S LICENSES

This isn’t the best kind of immigration reform

No doubt our immigration laws need revision. I would welcome changes that enable those who wish to contribute to our society, learn our language and adopt our customs to legally enter and reside in our state and country.

But I’m baffled by editorial logic that somehow assumes those who willfully break immigration laws will rush to comply with traffic laws that require a license, training and insurance (“Allow all immigrants to drive legally, safely,” April 5). Seriously? You really think this is a solution?

David Brentz, Arden Hills

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EXECUTIVE PAY

Largest shareholders call the shots on change

Recent letters concerning the CEO Pay Watch column indicate great reader interest in expanded reporting on executive larceny. Despite weariness/anger/disgust with the numbers reported, I join their call for more substance and fewer news releases.

One letter suggested that shareholders could, with knowledge from real reporting of the issues raised by the numbers in Pay Watch, “demand change.” I am sorry, my friend, but there are shareholders and then there are shareholders. Annual report season is coming, and to determine which shareholders are which, look at your proxy materials.

First look at the board of director nominees. Half will be investment bankers; another quarter will be large-scale venture capitalists, and the remainder will be CEOs (yes, there will be a token “other,” perhaps a professor or media personality). There will likely also be a “shareholder initiative” recommending limits on executive pay. The proxy materials will recommend a vote for the board nominees and against the pay limits.

And the results? No need for a Gallup poll. The board will be approved and the pay-limiting initiative defeated. Overwhelmingly. Why? Because the combined votes of huge institutional investors and old-money plutocrats dwarf those of the remaining shareholders. And because those supermajority shareholders are of the same class as the CEO and his (pronoun intended) inner circle, any demand for change will inevitably fall on deaf ears.

David Hodgson, St. Paul

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The fetish that some letter writers have with the income of others is a never-ending source of amazement to me. They always seem to imply that high earners are dastardly and that it is unfair that they make the money that they do. CEOs of large corporations and owners of successful small businesses are all, without exception, very intelligent, work extremely hard, have sacrificed a great deal to educate themselves and devote their lives to their companies or their professions.

In most cases, they sacrifice time spent with their families in response to the responsibilities of their jobs. None of them work a 40-hour week. The envious letter writers apparently think that business success is random. It is not. People rise to the level of high incomes because they are intelligent, disciplined, educated, hardworking, and willing to sacrifice their time to get things done.

It is, after all, their income taxes that fund the government programs that these letter writers hold most dear. Let’s stop making villains out of people who should mostly be given a high state of regard.

Bob Hageman, Chaska

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ROGER EBERT

There are lessons to be learned from film critic

From the great movie critic Roger Ebert, who cherished kindness above all: “To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to communicate joy to the world. This is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

When Ebert wrote of meeting screen legends (John Wayne, Robert Mitchum), he could be a child enthralled. When he climbed a worthy soapbox (“Grave of the Fireflies”), he could move you to tears. When his critic’s barb stung too deeply (Rob Schneider, Vincent Gallo), he publicly made amends. His 20th anniversary note to his wife, Chaz Hammelsmith, is a valentine for the ages.

Toward the end, Ebert was comforted to know his writing, teaching and broadcasting would survive his passing, and I suspect he knew the world was more gracious for his voice.

Drew Hamre, Golden Valley

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THE NATIONAL ANTHEM

Why not save the song for major events?

An April 4 letter writer expressed disgust that the Twins and other Major League Baseball teams are no longer broadcasting the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Playing patriotic songs at baseball games became popular first during World War I, then more extensively during World War II as the large public gatherings and advanced public-address systems allowed for large-scale exhibitions of patriotism. By the time World War II ended, the national anthem was established as a pregame ritual not by a specific decision or proclamation, but more so by circumstance. Eventually other sports adopted the tradition, and now the song is played before nearly every sporting event, ranging from high school to professional.

During the many events I attend yearly, I see increasing numbers of fans and players who appear disinterested during the anthem. Is this unpatriotic? Hardly. The anthem is not played before movies, school assemblies, church services, theater performances or concerts, so why is it exclusive to sports? Sporting events are strictly entertainment; they are no longer a public gathering place where the masses are joined together in support of a war that consumes the entire nation.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is a powerful, unique song. Perhaps we would actually show it more respect by reserving it for special occasions.

Jason Gabbert, Prior Lake

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