The issue reminds him of the tobacco debate


I remember when the tobacco industry was trying to refute the growing scientific evidence that cigarettes cause cancers and respiratory diseases. The idea of taking on that industry, with its well-funded lobbyists and back-pocket congressmen, seemed absurd, while the tobacco lobby engaged in all sorts of rhetorical gymnastics to avoid taking responsibility for the deaths and misery the industry was causing. On the one hand, the industry eventually lost the tobacco lawsuit here in Minnesota and paid billions in penalties. Smoking is now banned in most public places. On the other hand, tobacco sales remain legal and quite profitable; young people are still being lured into nicotine addiction, and people are still dying grim, needless deaths.

That's how the gun violence issue feels now. Facing down gun lobbyists seems daunting, especially because -- unlike smokers -- they have the Second Amendment to use as leverage. But it also feels like we've crossed a watershed, with the recent nightmarish events finally turning popular opinion against the reckless spread of lethal weaponry. If the issue of tobacco is any indication, it will probably be another 10 years until any court cases are lost or laws are changed, but it's coming like an unstoppable tide. With every loss of life, the effort will gain momentum. As with tobacco, we'll never get rid of guns, but I hope we can reduce these senseless killings.


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Gas prices

Trending higher, relative to oil


I tend to follow the price of crude oil and other economic indices and have long believed the price of gasoline was disproportionately high ("Gas-price Grinch is on the way," Dec. 20). Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that the relationship between gasoline prices and crude oil prices has been significantly wider in the recent past than it has been historically. For example, in January 2010 the spot price of crude was $78.33 a barrel, and gasoline was $2.04 a gallon, or 2.6 percent of the cost of a barrel of crude oil. The prices of crude and gasoline rose slowly but steadily during 2010, with gasoline rising faster, so that by December 2010 gas was 2.68 percent of the price of a barrel of crude. In January 2012, it was 2.81 percent, and by September, it was 3.46 percent -- $3.27 a gallon, to $94.51 for a barrel of crude.

Since January 2000, the price of a gallon of gasoline has averaged 2.8 percent of the price of a barrel of crude oil. It has exceeded this average through all of 2012. The data show that the price of gas is driven by factors not directly related to the price of crude. I will leave the reader to decide what those factors might be.


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Orchestra finances

Might sports owners step up for community?


According to the New York Times, the owners of professional sports teams in Indianapolis (the Colts and the Pacers) each have made $750,000 contributions to the financially troubled Indianapolis Symphony. The Minneapolis-St. Paul communities have contributed significant financial support toward the area's professional sports facilities. How about our billionaire team owners stepping up with financial support for the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra?


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Academic standards

Breaks for athletes send wrong message


I am concerned that a proposal made by the Minneapolis school district to lower academic standards for students participating in extracurricular activities ("City may ease rule on athletic eligibility," Dec. 19) sends the wrong message to current high school students and their younger counterparts.

While it is important for students to be well-rounded and be involved in activities outside of school, I do not believe that participation should come at the cost of their academics. It is often the case that the student athletes and other involved students are role models for their classmates and younger students, which makes it all the more crucial that they are setting as good of an example inside the classroom as they are outside the classroom. It is important to hold students participating in Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned activities to a high level of academic achievement. Extracurricular activities are just that -- extra. They should come as a reward for performing well in the classroom, not as an excuse for falling behind.


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Urban development

Higher density has its benefits


According to the census, the median household income in Minneapolis is $47,478. Meanwhile, according to, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city is $1,189 -- about $14,268 a year. That is 30 percent of the median household income, which is the definition of affordable housing. The 22 new buildings with about 2,800 new housing units that have been given the green light this year ("Mpls. sees high-density future," Dec. 16) will allow more homes for families at an affordable price. Yet residents of one area targeted for redevelopment -- near Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street, will object to any buildings over four stories, according to Erica Christ, president of the Whittier Alliance Board of Directors.

The city has many buildings that are taller than four stories. Building more might reshape the skyline, but they'll blend into the city scene and allow the population to grow. Population growth will benefit local businesses, public transportation (such as light rail) and affordability.