In town from Washington for the holidays, I was surprised by a letter writer’s contention that Black Lives Matter should be morally excused for trampling on private property rights because lawful protests have supposedly failed them and raising awareness through an “if it bleeds, it leads” public-relations strategy is therefore necessary (“Civil disobedience is chosen because it gets attention,” Dec. 24).

To be sure, the U.S. has a broad problem with excessive force in policing, and more specifically a problem of police gunning down unarmed black men. However, arguing the same “all press is good press” strategy deployed by the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church is a good way to alienate potential supporters and sympathizers. This is not how to build a winning coalition capable of actually accomplishing something noble. Rather, it primarily serves to boost the egos of the tiny number of increasingly marginalized demonstrators.

You cannot convincingly argue that all reasonable avenues for reform are closed when it is in part your actions that continue to close them. The questions the letter writer and others like him should ask are: Whom are you trying to convince and how will your chosen actions convince them?

Marc Scribner, Washington, D.C.

ISLAM IN MINNESOTA

Opinion writer’s risk assessment is, yes, discriminatory

Scott Johnson (“Can we hear some straight talk for a change?” Opinion Exchange, Dec. 28) believes it’s OK to be Islamophobic — although he is unpersuaded by the term — because 10 Somali-American Muslims have been charged with serious crimes. By his own figures, that’s 10 out of 100,000 Somali-Americans in Minnesota, or 0.01 percent. I’m pretty sure that more than 0.01 percent of non-Islamic Minnesotans have been charged with serious crimes. So by his logic, we should hate everyone.

David Weisberg, Minneapolis

 

HEALTH CARE

Are health savings accounts, free market a durable strategy?

I have two questions for the Dec. 19 letter writer who stated that the U.S. doesn’t need single-payer health care — that we should have health savings accounts and trust the free market instead (“Universal coverage is not the answer to rising prices,” Readers Write).

The first question is this: How are Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck supposed to have money to put into those HSAs? And what happens if they suddenly need a $100,000 surgery when they have less than that in the HSA?

My second question is this: Why should we trust the free market? Republicans said back in the 1990s that the free market would improve health care in this country and make it cheaper. However, that isn’t what happened. The free market has made health care worse and more expensive because health care companies want to make as much profit for as little expense as possible.

Perhaps it’s time to recognize the fact that the free market can do many things well, but that it doesn’t do everything well — in fact, it does some things very poorly.

James Kessler, St. Michael

• • •

My Dec. 19 letter elicited letters of opposition. The objections published Dec. 26 stated that I missed the point. They used as examples Medicare and payment systems in some other developed countries. Both opponents would support “Medicare for all” as a solution. My response:

• Our former health care payment system did need meaningful reform.

• My suggestion would legislate guaranteed insurability and permit individual/family ownership of policies.

• Individual and family ownership of policies would guarantee portability and encourage cost control through direct consumer spending decisions.

• I disagree that health care is never a discretionary expenditure. Consumer discretion can and should come into play when making coverage decisions and selecting medical service providers.

• Substitution of the government for insurance companies is sure to fail. My solution would remove insurance companies from the costly, inefficient and more routine “first dollar coverage.” Personal “health savings accounts” would be used for regular medical services.

• Insurance companies would only cover major medical/catastrophic coverage, where they are most efficient and beneficial.

• Praise for Medicare ignores physician resistance to providing Medicare services — it’s not profitable. “Medicare for all” would encourage physician shortages.

• Praise for Medicare ignores the importance of consumer-funded Medicare supplemental coverages.

• Creating the desired relationship between personal income and health care costs can be efficiently achieved through the tax system. Deductibility of major medical coverage and HSA costs would vary based on income, ranging from partial deductibility to refundable tax credits.

Steve Bakke, Edina

 

LIGHT-RAIL SAFETY

Maybe our transit system went wrong when it went ‘light’

The number of deaths and injuries to pedestrians who have been hit while crossing in front of light-rail trains has several causes, distracted pedestrians being one of them (“Halting tragedy on the tracks,” Dec. 25). However, the design of the Twin Cities’ rail system also plays a part. It is primarily at street level, with fairly open access to the tracks by anyone walking near them. If you look at rail transit in many large cities, the tracks are elevated or underground.

With family in the San Francisco Bay Area, I use the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system frequently when I am visiting there. With BART, you enter the station and buy your ticket at street level. You then go through a turnstile and go up an escalator to the raised platform where the trains run. The BART tracks are either below ground or elevated. Also, BART often goes down the median of the freeway, through hills and, at one point, under San Francisco Bay. It does not cut through prime parkland as the Metropolitan Council, very sadly, is planning to do with the Southwest light-rail line.

Also on BART, passengers pay their fare, then proceed through a turnstile. There is virtually no way to get on the train without paying, as is very possible in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Mary Diercks, Minneapolis

 

ROAD SAFETY

What? We can’t afford adequate visibility on metro freeways?

I’m late with this gripe, since our days are now getting lighter instead of darker. But here goes: I’ve been driving about 25 miles to work in the dark and coming home in the dark for the past couple of months. Sometimes if it’s raining or snowing it’s just impossible to see the lane lines on our freeways. Then I noticed that about a third of the massive lights are out on Interstate 35W, Hwy. 36 and other tricky merge-and-hope roads. Is there a method to this madness of keeping just some bulbs shedding light on our highways? Does it save a few dollars to have dark patches of highway? Is it too difficult to change light bulbs? Is anyone in charge of this part of our not-too-splendid freeway design? Are we just going to wait until the sun comes out again? Another thought: Is it too expensive to maintain the reflective paint for our lane lines? I could go on …

Betty Beier, Edina