Whose lives would war hawks put on the line?

An Aug. 26 letter writer said that the use of poison gas in Syria by Assad is all we need to “green light the Navy SEALs. Time to take [Bashar] Assad out.” If all the couch-sitting war hawks who rushed to get us into Vietnam and Iraq, and who now want us in Syria, were to volunteer for active combat, we could quadruple the size of our military and take care of business. With 1 percent of our country’s population doing all the dirty work of protecting the other 99 percent of us, I want to be darn sure there is a clear mission, a clear path to success, incontrovertible facts and an absolutely clear plan to minimize harm to all.

Bob Brereton, St. Paul

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While I agree with President Obama’s reluctance to get involved unilaterally and his deference to the United Nations in taking action with regard to Syria, the reality is that the U.N. will do nothing, owing to probable vetoes from Russia or China. The next best option is action by NATO — since virtually all the members of NATO have expressed outrage over the use of chemical weapons against civilians and combatants — but this option is not even being discussed.

What purpose does our support for the U.N. and NATO serve if both are totally powerless to act in a situation as overt as that of Syria?

Ted Adams, Edina

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Gender inequality fetters civil rights

The lack of progress in civil rights can be tied to a much larger issue — the fact that we do not have equal rights for women in our country. As a professional woman, I make 78 percent of what a comparably educated man makes. (This is a “huge” improvement over the 69 percent portion earned in the 1970s.) More women live in poverty than men, and many of those women are women of color. Until we have gender equality, civil rights will continue to be a dream. The Texas governor’s recent veto of an equal-rights bill in his state is only one example of the ongoing denial.

Jane Hovland, Duluth

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‘Burden’ isn’t new if you’ve followed the law

In response to the Aug. 23 letter regarding the “burden” seniors will suffer from having to pay sales tax on purchases of taxable merchandise: Really? All purchases of taxable items purchased via catalogs or the Internet have been taxed for decades. It’s just a question of whether our seller collects it, or if we send payment ourselves. The letter writer and other opponents simply want the system to continue to allow lawbreaking.

All of us — old and young — enjoy the work of first responders and other governmental benefits paid for, in part, by sales tax collections. The Marketplace Fairness Act simplifies our obligations as good citizens, and supports essential services.

Joe Nunez, West St. Paul

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City hasn’t kept up with growth

As a former teacher of the city-mandated taxi driver training classes and current manager of Rainbow Taxi, I agree with the Aug. 24 Letter of the Day referring to dirty and unsafe taxis in Minneapolis. There are several reasons for incidents like the one described.

First off, since 2006 the number of cabs in Minneapolis has nearly tripled while taxi ordinance enforcement has not increased appreciably. The Business Licensing department simply does not have the manpower to even begin to address the problems facing it.

Second, there are an astounding number of unlicensed vehicles cruising the city, almost unimpeded. We don’t know if the cab the letter writer took was legal. Third, the difficulty making a living in a Minneapolis taxi sadly causes some drivers to lose interest in customer service.

My boss was recently in Chicago and was impressed by the successful regulation of taxis in that city. As we see it, Minneapolis officials have to choose whether they want to be Chicago or Duluth.

Frederic J. Anderson, Minneapolis

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Someone needs to step up here

Despite what some may think (“Southwest rail issues long since solved,” Opinion Exchange, Aug. 22), or what the Star Tribune reports (“Opposition stalls plans for Southwest Corridor LRT,” Aug. 25) it was the years-long negligence of Hennepin County’s planners that has brought us to the current impasse. To date, nobody has been able to provide a freight rail reroute plan that is operationally viable for railroads and affordable for taxpayers. Until this long obvious but deliberately ignored engineering and financial problem is solved, the actions of St. Louis Park or Minneapolis or citizen groups are moot. We need solutions, not scapegoats.

Terri Spencer, St. Louis Park

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Central to the controversy are considerations of neighborhood safety and continuity, quality-of-life issues related to green space and noise and air pollution, and much more.

In the 1960s, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) was beginning to lay rail for a regional system around San Francisco. The city of Berkeley, just north of Oakland in the East Bay, had many of the same concerns with the rail system we’ve been seeing in the Twin Cities today.

Long story ( short, Berkeley conducted its own analysis and determined the BART district authority had grossly exaggerated the costs for underground rail through Berkeley, presumably because it didn’t want to establish a precedent of acquiescing to local communities.

However, lacking the arrogance to stop or indefinitely delay the entire project, which was clearly of significant benefit to the region, the city floated a bond issue to raise the funds to build the Berkeley stretch underground. The bond issue was passed with 80 percent of voters in favor. The residents of Berkeley taxed themselves for the benefit of the region and for future generations.

The mundane arguments we see on the opinion pages here today are in sharp contrast to the high-mindedness of Berkeley in 1966.

Steven Boyer, St. Paul