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George Hutchinson, Minneapolis
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If a self-driving car is in an accident, who is at fault? The maker of the car, the programmer of the computer or the person who chose to use the vehicle? Can the computer recognize all road traffic and weather conditions? Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. When is the last time your computer crashed, and did it take your car along?
David Newville, Coon Rapids
Let us not speak gently about a large problem
In a June 1 commentary “Bring back Prohibition (in a sense) with discentives,” Reihan Satam says that “alcohol is crazily dangerous,” and elsewhere in the Opinion Exchange section, D.J. Tice calls drunken driving a “social scourge.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta states that approximately 88,000 deaths a year are attributable to excessive alcohol use, and MADD reports that 10,000 deaths a year are caused by drunken drivers. The words “dangerous” and “scourge” are both euphemistic.
Salam recommends taxing alcohol to just under the level that would generate illegal bathtub moonshine. That would be a good start, since rising costs tend to reduce sales. But in addition to that, what is really required is a good public education program to emphasize the health costs that result from alcohol abuse. There seems to be plenty of statistical evidence and emotional information available to make a worthwhile series of articles.
Dave Swanson, Minneapolis
SEN. AL FRANKEN
Support for profile, and an anecdote
Finally, an article about U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s focus on unsexy but terribly important issues (“Franken says he’s still about ‘getting it done,’ ” June 1). He’s not a drama queen nor a microphone hogger, but a smart, dogged senator. In addition to the bills described in the article, if you got a refund from your HMO, thank Franken; he authored the provision limiting HMO administrative expenses to 20 percent. That’s huge. He also tried to ensure the Dodd-Frank bill dealt with the inherent bias of stock rating companies, but lobbyists and Republicans killed it.
Franken also is a compassionate, genuinely nice guy. When he first ran, he called to ask for a donation for the primary. I said, “I am not giving to Democrats to do battle with each other, but call me after you get the nomination, and I’ll give.” He said, graciously, “I can’t argue with that.” Then he did, and I did.
Mary McLeod, St. Paul
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.