Friday, February 1, 2013

Cornish's summary of new gun control bills

State Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, posted on his Facebook page the summary of bills regarding gun ownership in Minnesota. "Gun Bills All DFL That Were Introduced Today (Thursday). If this does not scare you, nothing will"

Fee of up to $25 for a Permit to Purchase (from $0). Police can extend processing time from 7 days to 30 days.
Makes a permit to carry only good for purchasing firearms up to 1 year after issue. (instead of the 5 year duration of the permit)
All transfers MUST be sone at a licensed dealer. Dealers can't charge more than $25 for the transfer.
Loans extending past 24 hours must go through FFL.
Felony to carry on school property:
Removes misdemeanor exemption for permit holders carrying on school property. (Also removes "a firearm carried in violation of this paragraph is not subject to forfeiture.")
Adds a gross misdemeanor. for the first time, and a felony charge for the second time for carrying in an establishment that bans guns.
Sheriff / Police can require you to get "signed off" by a state licensed primary care physician or state certified mental health professional before you get a permit.
Defines "Assault Weapon" as ANY:
Semi-automatic that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and has one or more of the following:
a rifle or shotgun with a pistol grip or thumbhole stock,
any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the nontrigger hand,
a folding or telescoping stock,
or a shroud attached to the barrel or that partially or completely encircles the barre.
That has the capacity to accept more than SEVEN rounds of ammunition.

Prohibits the above mentioned "Assault Weapons" Police / Gov't are exempt.
No grandfathering...
Any person who, on February 1, 2013, legally owns or is in possession of an assault weapon has until September 1, 2013, to do any of the following without being subject to prosecution under Minnesota Statutes, section 624.7133:
(1) remove the weapon from the state;
(2) surrender the weapon to a law enforcement agency for destruction;
(3) render the weapon permanently inoperable; or
(4) if eligible, register the weapon as provided in Minnesota Statutes, section 624.7133, subdivision 5.

Large-capacity magazine crime:
"Large-capacity magazine" means any ammunition feeding device with the capacity to accept more than ten rounds.
It is unlawful for a person to manufacture, import, transfer, or possess a large-capacity magazine.
Police / Gov't are exempt.
No grandfathering:
(1) permanently alter the magazine so it cannot accommodate more than ten rounds;
(2) remove the large-capacity magazine from the state; or
(3) surrender the large-capacity magazine to a law enforcement agency for destruction

Friday, December 21, 2012

An opportunity blown; an icon's luster tarnished

The National Rifle Association, handed a golden opportunity to be a thoughtful participant in a national discussion on responsible gun ownership, instead came out in Friday's "press conference" shouting "SQUIRREL!" and pointed to old violent video games, greedy Hollywood moguls, the mentally "deranged" and, in general, all the evil doers plotting their next massacre on the innocents of America who unfortunately are walking the streets unarmed.
People who criticize semi-automatic weapons can't even get the correct nomenclature down! And the .223 caliber as powerful? Pshaw!
The answer? Protect our schools (yep, all 133,000 of them) immediately with armed volunteers. Don't worry; we'll train them. We have 11,000 trainers standing by. We understand this is controversial but, no, we aren't taking any questions. Stay behind that velvet curtain, please. I said no questions. Bye now. Bye, bye.
What a surprise. What a waste.
I am a gun owner and have been for a number of years. I have been pretty defensive against self-righteous zealots calling for the banning of all guns as the end-all answer to today's violent society. (By the way, the deadliest school disaster was done with a bomb, not a gun.)
I grew up with the NRA representing everything honorable about responsible ownership and usage especially teaching young lads like me how to use firearms safely. I started out as many did with a BB gun, then a .22 caliber rifle and then a shotgun. You were taught patience and respect not only for your weapon but for everyone around you. It was like Boy Scout training - be careful, considerate and trust-worthy. Being a member of the NRA was like being a member of the Youth Conservation Corps, training to be a serious adult, a patriot and defender of the realm.
Somewhere along the way, however, the NRA lost that aura and Friday's "press conference" brought it home.
It was like your drunken uncle showing up soused at your office party picking fights with your co-workers, spilling his drink while ranting about the evils of money-grubbing corporate America especially those whiny spoiled Hollywood types ruining the morals of our youth.
You're embarrassed, apologetic as you try to distance yourself from the remarks but understanding he's part of your family. It's not him, really; it's his behavior.
Well, maybe it really is him. In this case, the "new" NRA.
While in the past, it represented its members who were hunters and sportsmen who used firearms, today they are chiefly spokesmen for the weapon industry. After the Newtown killings, the industry felt it was under assault from all corners and that threatened their livelihood. A major investor of Freedom Group, maker of the Bushmaster rifle used by the Sandy Hook killer, announced it was selling off its stake in the company. Stock prices for all publicly-traded gun makers was headed down and the companies felt under siege.
Rather than talk capitulation, they did their fiduciary responsible thing and deployed their shock troops to divert attention in the most uncompromising and potentially damaging way possible.
Damaging now because past defenders of gun ownership and responsible usage of firearms will be painted with the same broad brush used to paint the NRA. Uncompromising, disrespectful, unapologetic and hardly civil. The antithesis of what the old and respected NRA stood for.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-election thoughts

(UPDATED 11-7-12 225 p.m.) - With Minnesota DFL now in control of state government, we could see renewed confidence to push harder on placing a higher tax on top earners especially with the apparent success of California's Proposition 30. That initiative will raise the sales tax by one penny for every $4 spent for four years but it also raises the income tax on the state's highest earners for seven years. Conversely, California defeated a proposition that would have raised income taxes on everyone for 12 years. Tax the rich? Good. Tax me? Not so good. The "tax fairness" issue has been a hallmark of the DFL for a number of years and Gov. Dayton this year has said he will continue that push. Update: WCCO reporter Pat Kessler tweeted at 2:23 pm that "Gov. Dayton backtracks on promise to pass inc tax hike on weathy. Says it depends on economy, budget"
- With defeat of the marriage amendment, we also could see moves to repeal state law that now bars same sex marriage passed in 1997, pending the outcome of the Benson v. Alverson lawsuit in Hennepin County which deals with some constitutional issues. But the outcomes in Washington, Maine and Maryland apparently approving same sex marriage may indicate attitudes have changed and the DFL may feel emboldened. Update:  Marriage victories bigger than it seems Update: Sen. John Marty say he will work on repeal in 2013.
- The state GOP loss of seats will undoubtedly give it pause on the need to refocus. Especially telling is the very narrow victory of U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann. Despite a massive war chest and redistricting that gave her a more conservative territory, her victory was surprisingly close.  Even Rep. Tony Cornish - who ran unopposed - posted on Facebook that he is "licking his wounds" this morning but adding "Everything is a learning experience, in victory or defeat." The party is in disarray right now both politically and financially. It spent a great deal of social capital on constitutional amendments that were soundly defeated.There will be calls to stick with spending issues especially now with the DFL in control. But more importantly, given the stinging losses across the state, the party needs to define what it stands for in a more constructive way. 
- Locally, nothing has changed in either state or national representation. U.S. Rep Tim Walz (D) beat back Republican Allen Quist in a pretty testy fight. In the contested state legislative races, Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL) handily beat back challenger Thad Shunkwiler with 64 percent of the vote. Further south, GOP Rep. Bob Gunther defeated challenger Kevin Labenz and GOP Sen. Julie Ann Rosen won decisively against challenger Paul Marquardt. Incumbents Reps. Cornish and Terry Morrow (DFL) ran unopposed as did state Sen. Kathy Sheran. One could argue with all the newly elected legislators in the state, leadership and mentoring will fall to those with experience which this area has plenty of. Cornish, however, will lose his chairmanship of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance committee.
- In the City of Mankato, although the city council now has fresh faces with Chris Frederick and Jason Mattick don't expect to see any dramatic changes. Actually, a DFL-controlled state government bodes well for the city's continued attempts to get funding for the civic center. A newly hired Director of Government and Institutional Affairs by Greater Mankato Growth whose job is to raise the visibility of the Mankato area with state government may have found a more fertile ground now with the election outcome.
- In North Mankato, however, the election of Kim Spears to the council will change some of the dynamics in city operations. Count on a confrontational Spears joining councilman Bob Freyberg in affecting big decisions yet to come including the hiring of a new city administrator, the future of the Port Authority and most recently the six-story Marigold 2.5 building downtown.   
(NOTE: In earlier version I misspelled Allen Quist's first name) 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why we don't endorse

Four years ago, we adopted the policy of no longer providing endorsements. Most readers I heard from applauded the move. This year, we have some contentious issues on the state ballot and an extremely tight presidential race. Everyone is looking for an edge to their side and we’re getting challenged to take a side. We respectfully decline.
Let me recount our 2008 explanation on why we changed that policy:
When newspapers first came upon the scene in America, they were backed and, indeed, funded by political parties. The papers were staffed by party functionaries. There was no expectation of fairness or objectivity in news coverage; it was all opinion and slant.
It was only late into the 20th century that news organizations began to seriously look at what was happening to their craft. We were determined to improve people’s perception of our reporting.
News councils began to crop up. Journalism reviews grew in number. Ethics courses were included in journalism curricula. One huge mistake made during this time was to profess that journalists are objective and unbiased. No, journalists are human and have to work at being balanced and fair. But we still held onto one vestige of the old newspapers — or, it should be said, publishers did — endorsements. If these publishers were honest about it, it was a way of trying to influence the outcome.
Other people were under the impression that endorsements were given to whichever candidate took out the most advertising. When candidates then used those endorsements in their own political advertising, it just fueled that impression even more. Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, blasted the practice of political endorsements in 2000, saying, “When newspapers endorse candidates editorially, their political coverage on the news pages becomes suspect in the eyes of readers, rightly or wrongly.” USA Today does not endorse candidates.
Even earlier than that, Neuharth pointed out that “Readers want to be fully informed about issues and candidates. They welcome debate. But they rebel when we dictate. They resent being told how to vote.”
The editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, which also does not endorse candidates, said the editorial page has a more fundamental purpose, which is to “stick up for those principles” it deems important.
Jay Rosen, chairman of the journalism department at New York University, was reported to have said that endorsements were “a tool of power” that newspapers paraded out as their civic authority in leadership. Editorial writers would proclaim that, because of their access, they were more knowledgeable and thoughtful and could be more credible in their opinion. Even if this were true at one time, it’s not the case anymore. Today, voters have access to a lot more information — just as much access in many cases as do editorial writers.
I can’t speak for all newspapers, but I don’t think newspapers should be in the business of making kings – or telling people how they should think. Regardless of who is sitting in the seats of power, each should be held accountable to whom they represent, and that’s the job of news organizations. An endorsement appears to give a seal of approval and taints the perception of readers of our true intent, regardless of how hard we work at fairness. That puts our reporters in a difficult position. 
Ending endorsements doesn’t mean there will be no opinions about the candidates. 
These will appear as signed columns from various authors. They could be opinions of a syndicated columnist or a particular Free Press writer, not the opinion of the Free Press editorial board. We will, however, recount what issues we feel are important to this region and this state and raise questions we feel need to be addressed.
Readers then can use that information as a barometer against their own thoughts about issues and candidates, as it should be.
And, in our reporting, we will still present to our readers the differences between the candidates. We will still question every potential office holder and hold them accountable.
And then armed with our reporting, publication of various sides of issue and individual columns, you can decide for yourself.
This year, you also will decide for yourself on constitutional amendments. Our job is to provide as much information – and opinions - from all sides that we can so you can make an intelligent choice.
In a democracy, it is the people who decide how they want to be governed - not one individual, not a party, not a movement and certainly not a newspaper. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Trying to makes sense after a senseless death

     She took off her glasses and started wiping her eyes as she spoke softly into the phone. "Oh, Michael. I'm so, so sorry."
     As I listened from the other room, my chest tightened. My wife was catching up with our son in the Twin Cities. We learned a friend of his from Viterbo College, Jake Beneke, was shot to death. He was one of 10 victims - six dead, four wounded - in the shooting at Accent Signage in late September. The gunman, an employee who was terminated, fired methodically at those inside the shop. Then he turned the gun on himself. Utterly senseless.
     Michael recalled Jake. He was a gentle soul and wondered "Why him? He was a real passive guy. He wouldn't hurt anyone," and trying to attach some rational thought to what happened, "I don't even think he would even have rushed the shooter. He was that kind of guy."
    Jake's roommate and Michael's best friend, when he heard the news, had an immediate admonition for my son. "Michael, next time it better not be you."
    Michael listened. His fiance suggested they take a firearms class and they talked about how to protect themselves.
    He called me for advice. "Which handgun would be best?" "What should we look for in a shooting range?" "What about at work?" But it really came down to "Dad, how can I stay safe and protect the ones I love?"
    We talked for awhile. It was natural after someone close to you dies a violent death to put yourself in the same situation and wonder "What if?" You want to be prepared.
    Some of us are good at using hindsight to make sense of senselessness, to reassemble order in our lives, to put an event in some context we can hope to understand. But sometimes there is no understanding.
    Predictably, there are calls for banning handguns as though those are the only weapons that kill. Conversely, others want everyone armed to defend themselves believing everyone has the capability of taking a life, regardless. I've heard all the pros and cons. There is no one answer for all of us.
    This I believe. There are disturbed people in the world. More than we want to believe but less than some people fear. Sometimes the safety net you think is there has rips and you don't see them until it's too late.
    But, in this country, ordinary people shouldn't have to live in constant hyper-vigilance waiting for evil to occur. And we shouldn't be so oblivious to our existence we miss signs of something about to go terribly wrong. How do you recognize those signs? Which are real red flags and which are just something odd? And more importantly what do you do?
    Instinct comes with age and wisdom is wasted on the old - unless it is passed on. The advice I gave my son is for my son only, rooted in my experience. I don't know if it's right but, in today's world, we all at least should be having that discussion without hyperbole or a misplaced conviction there is one true answer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Final word: Lessons learned from my knee replacement

It's now officially three weeks since my knee replacement and I'm finally easing back into the mainstream. The operative word here is easing. It will be half days of work for a little while. I feel extraordinarily blessed being on the receiving end of a great surgical procedure and now attentive physical therapy at OFC.
Three weeks is not ordinary and believe me I'm not yet at normal speed. In fact, I find myself shuffling around the house in my slippers rather than walking. What a pitiful sight. No wonder I don't have house guests.
I would not encourage anyone to expect three weeks as some kind of norm especially if your job is more physical than mine and whose isn't. In fact, sitting for a long period of time is NOT recommended and neither is walking or standing too often. You have to find the situation that is "just right" for you, baby bear.
OK, that said, I did want to end this serial saga with some questions I received from those contemplating knee replacement. If you've been following this blog, the following answers will make sense. If you haven't, well, you have some catching up to do:
Knowing what you know now is there anything different/more you would have done prior to surgery in preparation for your recovery?
I would have done more stretching exercises to loosen up the tendons/muscles surrounding the knee. I knew they were tight going in because I had neglected exercise and then the pain was reducing my flexibility. Now most of my therapy is trying to improve my extension.
Did your outpatient physical therapy start immediately upon your discharge or were there a few days of in-home therapy?
The therapy starts immediately (it was next day for me) at the hospital with a “therapy camp.” These are with other people who have undergone either hip or knee replacement and we do basically the same routines. Some people (depending on their physical condition/age) would be transferred to a place like Pathstone to complete their therapy. It also depends on who you have at home. If no one or if the care provider needs some help, then for sure they will discharge you to a rehab center.
Physical therapy – how many days a week is it and for how long?
It starts out at three times a week for about six weeks. I made some pretty good progress so mine will probably be only four or five weeks.
I live in a two story home – how difficult were stairs to manage your first week home?
Stairs? Are you kidding? You'll have trouble negotiating that edge of the rug. Seriously, plan on living on the first floor for the first two weeks at least even with a care provider.
How long did you have to give yourself shots (of the anti-coagulant)?
Ten days. It really wasn’t that bad. Just something very new for me.
When do you expect to drive by yourself? Was your surgery on your driving knee?
As long as you are on pain meds, don't drive. It took me until the start of my third week, when I dropped the pain meds during the day did I do some driving. And frankly that made for a long day. And yes, it was my “accelerator knee” that was worked on. I would plan on probably driving four weeks after surgery.
Did you ever consider having the surgery elsewhere? (I had a second consult in the cities so am pondering my options)
A few things to consider: The consult after surgery. Do you want to drive that far or will you be staying in the cities? The physical therapists and surgeons know each other here and what each can offer. That knowledge has to count for something. And the advice I received is the same I will pass on - go to someone who has done a lot of these and, in fact, will be the one actually doing the replacement. I had no intention of being a final exam for some intern.
Any general advice about my thought process in knowing what I need to know?
The hardest part of this is not the surgery. Nor is it the hospital stay. It’s the therapy. It will be difficult right out of the chute. But it gets better – slowly. I don’t know how to take care of the sleep deprivation other than to say it doesn’t last TOO long. Be patient – look at the destination, the end result and not the here and now. I can tell you it not only gets better. It IS better than living with the pain. I expect to be not only pain free in a couple of months but looking forward to getting back to snow shoeing this winter. My time was pretty well spent at home with work with no problem. Because it was very short-term attention span. I was able to continue writing editorials and my blog so my “fogginess” was not as great as I had last time. I think the drug used eight years ago with my last replacement - Vicodin - was terrible. The one this time – Percocet – was much easier to tolerate. Reading a novel or a book? I found myself re-reading a lot of pages and eventually just stuck with doing crossword puzzles to keep the mind active.

LAST BIT OF BIG ADVICE: If you are on regular prescribed medication, DOUBLE CHECK AND TRIPLE CHECK the meds you are given at the hospital. Ensure they know UP FRONT what you are taking. When they call to double check your meds, have your list in front of you. If you have someone who can be a patient advocate for you, let that person know the same information. Give that person the Health Agent power necessary. This is really were most things can go wrong – medicine mixups.
Finally, thanks to all who sent their prayers and good wishes. It apparently worked. And now, back to your regularly scheduled blogs.
Previous post

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

#KatoKnee: You think therapy's tough? Try getting some sleep

We all agreed. The hardest part of joint replacement is the therapy; the second hardest part is getting a good night's sleep after surgery. For many of us, that still hasn't happened even two weeks later. And, in one case, the sleep deprivation lead to slight hallucinations and a trip to the emergency room.
It was a rehab camp "reunion" today in the waiting room of Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic. Four of us who had surgery at the same time were together again this time to have our staples removed. We had shared a couple of days of pretty intense therapy immediately following surgery and quickly grew to know each other. Comrades in pain tend to bond pretty fast.
And rehab is like Vegas for gimps. What gets said in rehab stays in rehab so don't look to me for any hints on identity. But they are pretty interesting people.
For instance, the patient with sleep deprivation knew enough about it having been trained on surviving such torture while in the service. His body took enough beating back then the future holds a few more joint replacements - one more hip and both knees.
In his most recent case, he was sent home and told to take some 5 mg of melatonin, an over-the-counter herbal supplement that is supposed to bring on sleep. It helped. His wife said there was no way he was taking Ambien. Her relative, while on the drug, got up in the middle of the night, cooked breakfast and went back to sleep not remembering a thing. At least that's what she said.
In my case, the longest stretch of sleep I got actually came in the afternoon after therapy. It was for one hour and 45 minutes. When I awoke, I was disoriented, grumpy and still tired. That also ruined it for me that night not getting more than one-hour stretches of sleep.
I'm told this is not unusual so if you are contemplating joint replacement, ponder how you will deal with this. First off, it's best to have your own bed and your own bedroom if you can manage it. You will be up often and your mate doesn't want to hear you whining and grunting in the middle of the night. She needs her sleep too just to take care of you the next day.
My earlier readings of others in similar situations found that most patients get beyond this after about four weeks. Great. Two more weeks to go.
This was my first visit with Dr. Kyle Swanson since the hospital and I knew he would be glad to see me. I had my left knee replaced eight years ago in Indiana and already can tell a big difference with this one. I didn't need the walker once I got home. I've been walking without a cane now for a few days, much earlier than the Hoosier knee. When I told him this surgery was four times better than the last, you'd thought I just scored him a perfect 10 on the uneven bars. "It really makes my day to hear we did better than the last guy," he beamed. I love competition.
Dr. Swanson showed me the X-ray taken immediately after surgery and it was beautifully straight. He said may leg extension looked fantastic for just two weeks out, told me to stop taking naps or I'll mess up my sleep cycle and gave me my permission slip for the principal so I can return to class.
"You want it for when? You know you can take six weeks off, don't you?"
"Yes but I'm going stir crazy."
He was still reluctant for such an early return so I relented.
"OK, I'll give you no more than four hours a day starting next week. No lifting. No sitting for prolonged periods. And take off when you need to."
"Can you add that no one should piss me off?" It's political campaign season, you know. He didn't but he did prescribe more Percocet. And there you have it - going for the symptoms not the cause.
I did get to keep the staples, all 31 of them (see photo below) but I couldn't retrieve my original knee. Hey, it's not that weird. I still have all my kids' teeth having rescued them from that cheapskate tooth fairy. Yes, I'm that kind of guy.
Previous Post