Politics can be heated, so may words suffice

If I understand correctly, guns exist to seriously injure or kill animals or persons. Our beautiful State Capitol building exists for the rational discussion of ideas, and for passing laws for the public good. Of course, irrational laws and ideas are freely tossed around as well, and that’s part of both the democratic process and the comedy of politics.

No one questions that there should be armed officers present to protect the process and the public. But I doubt that anyone seriously expects to go deer or duck hunting in our legislative chambers. Having guns in the hands of the public hugely increases the possibility of violence or violent “mistakes.” All of us occasionally have bad days, or lash out in irrational anger at perceived offenses. We’re only human!

Political debate can likewise become messy and uncivil. So let the trained guards at the Capitol do their job. These seasoned veterans are better equipped than the rest of us to ensure our security and safety. Let the rest of us participate in democracy with our tongues and our pens, not with our pistols. The pen is mightier than the sword.

CURT OLIVER, Brooklyn Park

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If I had my way, the possession, ownership and sale of handguns for or by anyone, other than law enforcement, would be strictly forbidden and would be a serious crime.

But today I find myself on the other side the argument. It would be unforgivably hypocritical of legislators to permit firearms, as they do, in and near schools, churches, public buildings, other people’s homes, shopping malls and other places where people and children gather, but forbid them in the Capitol.

And, for the record, if intense arguments and issues are the reason to ban guns there, let’s please remember that most emotional arguments, and most shootings, occur in the home.

It seems that logic and consistency are the hobgoblin of legislative minds.


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Tax credit cutoff sure looks like a cliff

Starting in October, MNsure is where Minnesotans can shop for health insurance as part of Obamacare. The website includes a tool ( that will estimate the amount of tax credit you will receive based on your household income, age and number of household members.

Household income is your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), which includes Social Security. The major issue everyone should note is that 400 percent of the poverty level is the maximum income that qualifies you for a tax credit. A single dollar over that amount, and you get no tax credit.

The amount you lose can be significant. For a couple both at age 62, with no dependents and income of $62,040, the tax credit is $1,164 per month. But an income of $62,041 results in a $13,968 annual tax credit loss. The Cost-of-Living Adjustment from Social Security could push seniors past the cutoff.

For a couple aged 40 with two children under 21 and income of $94,200, the tax credit is $356 per month. But, again, at $94,201 — no tax credit. You may want to refuse that raise.

My point is that you can fall off a tax credit cliff if you exceed the income cutoff. Tax credits should have a phaseout range to prevent this potential shock. Tax planning is now more important than ever. I’m UNsure about MNsure.


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Let’s stop using mental health as a metaphor

When Minnesota personalities as popular as Paul Douglas refer to the weather as “manic” and Mother Nature “needing to be medicated,” “flailing from one crazy extreme to the next,” the stigma attached to mental illness becomes further entrenched.

Douglas would never refer to Mother Nature as a diabetic needing shot of insulin, or as a cancer patient who needs another round of chemotherapy. Somehow, though, it is acceptable for the popular media to continue to use mental illness — a biological/chemical brain disease — as a metaphor for a describing a range of societal ills, and now, even the weather.

It is vital that media personalities and institutions become sensitive to how they can help erase the stigma associated with mental illness, not perpetuate it.


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A review of local polar achievements

I read with interest the Aug. 20 obituary of Dr. Arthur Aufderheide (“Doctor studied ancient cultures”), in particular the brief statement that he “was part of a North Pole expedition in 1968.” Indeed he was, although he did not actually get to the pole.

Another famous adventurer in Minnesota, Ralph Plaisted, was the person behind the expedition after he and Aufderheide discussed the opportunity in a bar in Duluth. Plaisted took it from there, and reached the pole on motorized toboggans in 1968, on his second try, along with three others — Gerald Pitzl, Jean-Luc Bombardier and Walt Pedersen.

Aufderheide and Don Powellek, an electronics engineer, were part of the expedition, but were airlifted from the ice back to the expedition base on Ellesmere Island to manage equipment. Plaisted plus his three team members were confirmed to have reached the pole by an overflying U.S. Air Force aircraft that radioed to say that “every direction from where you are is south.”

Fellow Minnesotans Walt Steger and Ann Bancroft have the distinction of reaching not only the North Pole but also the South Pole.

Plaisted (1927-2008), an insurance agent from St. Paul, was first to set foot on the North Pole, having reached it over the surface. Fans of Robert Peary, who claimed to be first in 1909, and Frederick Cook, who claimed to have reached the pole in 1908, might dispute this, but studies of Peary’s and Cook’s records have shown irregularities.