Don't automatically discount the NRA

Regarding the editorial of Dec. 27, asserting that there are better solutions for school security than armed guards: Just what does "gun-free schools" mean?

I think it applies to students not bringing guns to schools. I've never agreed with the National Rifle Association on anything, but I totally agree with NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre's suggestion of stationing armed guards at our schools. LaPierre also said the NRA would help pay for it and even train the guards if necessary.

I know this is self-serving PR, but I think he's got an answer until such time as we are able to identify and give preventive care to those who might be threats to carry out school massacres. I think there is in an unspoken undercurrent of opposition to anything an NRA official says, much as the Republicans automatically dis President Obama.

If it would cost Minnesota $138 million a year to put armed guards in all schools, I ask you: What price would you place on the lives of our precious children and their dedicated principals and teachers?


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There is an underlying belief, fostered by the NRA and held close to the heart by those who amass huge amounts of powerful weaponry, that the government of the United States may, any day now, act with complete tyranny, and individuals will have to mount an armed insurrection. This belief has been around since the founding, and we have had more than a couple armed insurrections, the largest and most destructive of which was, of course, the Civil War. And we have to admit that the government has, from time to time, acted in tyrannical ways -- with genocide of Native Americans, internment camps, extraordinary rendition, torture. But the thing about a democracy is that you can overthrow the government at the ballot box. You don't need guns, rockets and heavy artillery.

Think if the various oppressed cultures in our country had access to military-style weapons. If you begin with the assumption that every person has the right to be fully armed and to use those arms to respond to any and every infringement, you cannot build a multifaceted culture. Look at Northern Ireland -- Catholics against Protestants. Look at the Middle East -- Muslims against Jews or Sunni Muslims against Shiite. In practically every country, there is a faction that is violently opposed to immigration and/or an oppressed minority. If we do not deprive those who would do violence of advanced weapons, we are doomed to continuous internecine warfare.


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The Editorial Board is a wee bit inconsistent

In response to the Dec. 26 editorial "Filibuster in need of major overhaul," I believe it is in the best interest of the Star Tribune Editorial Board to know what it has previously written on this page.

In 2005, when Republicans controlled the U.S. Senate and threatened to use the "nuclear option" to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominees, this publication wrote an editorial titled "Nuking the filibuster/GOP arguments fail smell test."

In it, the board wrote: "As the Republicans in the U.S. Senate consider invoking the 'nuclear option' of prohibiting filibusters on judicial candidates, a bit of Senate history might be in order. It shows that the arguments being marshaled against the filibuster are sheer sophistry."

Now, let's move to April 1993, when the board wrote: "Down the drain goes President Clinton's economic stimulus package, washed away in the putrid flood of verbiage known as a filibuster. ... Call it a power game. Call it politics as usual. Call it reprehensible."

Both parties have lacked consistency on this issue, and so has the Star Tribune. I expect nothing less than a full defense of the filibuster in two years when Harry Reid becomes the Senate minority leader once more.


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A treatment's true cost is complex

A Dec. 26 letter ("In prostate treatment, a lesson in cost") was somewhat misleading. The real lesson regarding treating prostate and other cancers with proton radiation is not about cost, but rather quality of life. While it is true that other treatments for prostate cancer are quite successful in eradicating the disease, these protocols -- standard radiation and surgery -- pose greater risks to the patient's quality-of-life issues.

Relatively few proton patients suffer lasting erectile dysfunction, incontinence and other urinary problems as do those who undergo either of the usual treatments.

A study released by the Loma Linda University Medical Center in October found that patients treated with proton radiation have posttreatment quality of life on a par with men who have never been diagnosed with or treated for prostate cancer. A significant reason for this is that standard radiation passes through the body while the specifically targeted proton beam stops with the tumor, thus reducing the likelihood of damage to surrounding tissue and organs.

Proton therapy is indeed more costly in the short term, but following the usual protocols also often increases costs to patients and insurers, because some radiation patients end up with colon, bladder and rectal damage. Surgery patients may develop impotency and incontinence, among other collateral issues The cost for these treatments is initially lower, but when those approaches lead to other significant health issues -- often lasting for the duration of the man's life -- the real costs may ultimately exceed that of proton radiation.

I am a survivor of prostate cancer, having undergone proton therapy at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville in 2010. My current PSA is close to zero, and I suffered no side effects either during or following treatment. I recommend any man seeking treatment for prostate cancer to consider proton radiation. One caveat: Pay attention to the Gleason score; if it is at six, do not rush into treatment, but monitor the condition. In many cases, a Gleason of six will remain constant for years, even decades, and treatment may not be necessary at all.