Defense money could be put to better uses


The Oct. 12 article on military spending ("Defense cuts could cost Minnesota 4,000+ jobs") failed to raise critical, related questions. For instance, how do for-profit corporations within the "military industrial complex" use campaign contributions and lobbyists to influence Pentagon spending levels and even the decision to wage war? Could we use federal taxes more effectively to create jobs in non-military sectors? If so, why don't we?

Federal taxes create jobs, but the return on investment differs across job sectors. For instance, a study by University of Massachusetts Amherst found that job losses in that state would be 15 to 20 percent greater if non-military programs were cut instead. In Massachusetts, federal tax dollars create more jobs in education, health care, construction and clean energy than in military spending. Every state should conduct such a study to better understand the impact of proposed federal budget cuts.

Recently, the St. Paul City Council joined 21 U.S. cities, 39 members of the Minnesota Legislature and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in support of shifting federal funding priorities from military operations toward the essential needs of communities. The St. Paul resolution was brought forward by the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP), a group led by Prof. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.

Ultimately, MN ASAP will pursue support at the state and federal levels.


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Stand for equality (it's been done before)


The TV commercial says, "No one has the right to redefine marriage." But, in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Loving vs. Virginia, redefined marriage in 16 states to include marriages between people of different races. Does the nice blonde woman in the commercial disagree with that decision? We DO redefine marriage, when we see it's necessary. The amendment makes it hard to make such corrections in the future, so vote "no."


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I am a farm-raised, gun-loving, football-watching, church-attending, prolife-supporting, higher-ed-teaching, family-raising, limited-government-wanting, personal-responsibility-believing, fiscally conservative, red-white-and-blue-bleeding U.S. Army officer, and the Republican-endorsed candidate for Minnesota House of Representatives in District 19B (Mankato). I will be voting "no" on the marriage amendment that limits the rights of Minnesota citizens.

I'm fully aware that this position will cost me both support and votes. While I can live without those votes, I cannot live with the idea that I might have to look my friends and neighbors in the eye and deny them the rights that I enjoy based on who they love.

We have some serious challenges facing our country and state government. Denying rights to our friends and neighbors isn't on my list. On Nov. 6, don't forget the allegiance we have all pledged "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." It's time to come together for all of us who call the great state of Minnesota home -- because united we will stand, but divided we will fall.


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Of traffic stops and affirmative action


An Oct. 16 letter writer suggested that race did not play a factor in the recent traffic stop of an African-American Minnesota Lynx basketball player because it is illegal for anyone to have objects hanging from a rear-view mirror.

This view ignores the reality that police officers do not uniformly enforce all traffic rules. Visit Rosedale Mall or any other mall parking lot and count the number of vehicles with objects hanging from rear-view mirrors. Most of these vehicles will not be stopped by police officers, for the same reason that police officers do not stop every vehicle that speeds, or every vehicle that does not come to a complete, three-second stop at a stop sign. It is practically impossible for police to enforce every traffic rule, or ticket every infraction. The reality is that police must exercise discretion when enforcing traffic rules. Officers rely on hunches -- some permissible and some not -- when exercising that discretion.

In addition to the objects on the rear-view mirror, the officer in question noted the out-of-state license plates and asked the occupants if they knew anything about robberies in the mall. Consider whether the officer would have exercised his discretion and posed those questions to a white person driving a Lexus with rosary beads hanging from the mirror.


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As an African-American teaching and experiencing the sociological meanings and practices of "minority," let me clarify that in debating the problems and virtues of affirmative action ("Affirmative action's time not up," editorial, Oct. 12, and Readers Write, Oct. 16), there are two primary issues standing between perception and reality:

1. Subjectively biased positions we hold as individuals in society shape what we see (or not) and how we speak (or not).

2. The lack of a functional definition for what the term "minority" means biases debate.

Avoiding the first requires walking in minority shoes if and when inequality exists. It does. We likely miss or diminish any social, historical and patterned minority realities for lack of this perspective. Not seeing and not accepting this adds to the minority experience while denying and diminishing the truth of it.

Second, the notion that we share a definition of the term "minority" as "those being out-numbered" is problematic. Indeed, if all people lived as real equals, the larger grouping of people would be in the "majority" and the lesser the "minority." Under this assumption of equality, we have the statistical minority. But the 99 percent (protesting the 1 percent) are in the weaker position -- the larger underclass (vs. the small upper class) is the functioning minority. Power, resources and opportunity distributed unequally make us the minority no matter our numbers and are clearest by class, race/ethnicity and sex.

Now debate removing affirmative action for the functioning minority.