As a frequent visitor to Lake Minnetonka’s “Cruiser’s Cove” on Big Island, I was dutifully shamed by the Star Tribune’s Sunday story on all of the horrible littering that takes place out there (“Lake Minnetonka boaters urged to clean up trash,” Sept. 6). So my friends and I were back out there on Monday to fix the situation. Here is what we collected: two children’s swimming goggles and a child’s toy boat.

This has got to stop! Either ban children from the lake or make parents pay a fee per child and ban them from bringing toys and having fun.

After all, this is for the god of the environment and everything must be sacrificed to that god.

On a related note, consider that every public boat launch has a dumpster so boaters can pack out their trash. So why would anyone leave beer cans at Cruiser’s Cove?

Well, if you are a teenager living on the lake, and using mom and dad’s boat, you don’t want to come back home with 50 empty beer cans! Duh. You have to get rid of the evidence, so you dump it at Cruiser’s Cove. It is possible that the biggest offenders are the lakeshore owners themselves, not the public launch users — as the Star Tribune article implies.

Martin R. Wellens, Shorewood

AQUATIC INVADERS

We must do more, so start with quarantines and boost research

Editors posed the question “Is state doing enough vs. aquatic invaders?” (Sept. 6), then answered with more questions, but no solutions.

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are a crisis for Minnesota lakes. Unfortunately, our go-to prevention remedies are ineffectual. How much do inspections reduce the risk of AIS introductions? How effective is decontamination — and on which species? Education and voluntary compliance? Enforcement? With each “upgrade,” we don’t know what we are gaining. More may be better, but we do not know how much better.

With the recent discovery of starry stonewort as well as numerous new zebra mussel infestations, we know that we have fallen short. This is unfortunate, but not a surprise. AIS exploit our leaky prevention system. There are more AIS coming, and they will continue to move. Because we tend to focus on the AIS du jour (today it’s the zebra mussel), we will miss others, such as starry stonewort.

If we really want to stop the spread of AIS, we must consider quarantines aimed at boats, trailers and water equipment — this has little monetary cost. We should make serious investments in AIS research to seek effective, long-term solutions.

Dick Osgood, Duluth

The writer is an ecologist and lake manager.

 

COPS AND FORCE

Good cops should publicly denounce bad cops’ actions

In response to Terry Smith’s Sept. 6 commentary, “The use of force: A cop’s perspective”: No one disputes that police have a dangerous job. Smith did a fine job explaining what police go through when facing criminals, but he and other good officers need to start publicly denouncing the bad officers when they questionably shoot and kill unarmed suspects or use excessive force.

Choking a man to death for allegedly selling cigarettes is going too far. Following behind an unarmed suspect and shooting him dead is unacceptable. There are too many examples of questionable excessive and deadly force.

In an article from Raw Story from Aug. 2, William J. Lewinski, a psychologist who trains police officers, admitted that he trains them to shoot first and ask questions later. He also makes big money at police trials.

If we don’t start publicly denouncing the actions of bad police officers, more good police officers could possibly become victims of retaliation due to the actions of the bad police officers.

I’ll bet that if officers had to pay fines, medical bills and reparations to the victims out of their own pockets, there would be fewer questionable shootings in this country by bad officers.

Anthony Zmuda, Fridley

 

‘BOGUS RESEARCH’

Three helpful questions so readers can evaluate polls

In her Sept. 6 commentary “Why we fall for bogus research,” Megan McArdle makes an important point. To paraphrase, journalists and readers of research studies must be more concerned about the quality of the study than whether the results are new, unusual or even incredible. Her plea is extremely timely given the impending 14 months of never-ending, often-contradictory polls. But while her prose is easy to read, it does not provide operational guidance for a reader interested in following her advice.

To follow McArdle’s advice, a reader must evaluate the answers to three questions. First, “What part of the voter population was surveyed?” This will help a reader judge the potential representativeness of the sample. A survey directed at members of one political party cannot be representative of the voting population that is unaffiliated. Second, “What questions were asked?” This will help a reader judge the potential for measurement error — are we getting the information we want? When a stranger asks someone whom they will vote for in November, it does not necessarily produce an accurate picture of what they will do in the privacy of the voting booth. Third, “What is the margin of error and confidence level?” This will help a reader judge the possible sampling error in the results. The conclusion that we are 95 percent sure that Candidate X leads Candidate Y by 3 percentage points is much more convincing if the margin of error is 1 percentage point instead of 4.

Armed with answers, a reader is better able to judge the credibility of the reported conclusion. But regardless of a study’s credibility, McArdle’s conclusion is wrong: “[the reported result is] going to be within the sampling error of the true number.” A credible study only produces an estimate. We will not know for sure what the voting population will do until after the polls are closed.

Norman Chervany, New Brighton

The writer is professor emeritus of information and decision sciences at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

 

INDIVIDUALISM

In our ruggedness, we forget how much we need one another

The letter “Individualism, to what degree?” (Sept. 6) posits the question as to why so many friendships feel superficial — that a baffling lack of sincerity seems to pervade our relationships.

The writer suggests, I think correctly, that there are regional and competitive factors that influence social bonding. I would add that our cultural narrative of “rugged individualism” is an aberration — one that models a faux adulthood focused on self-interest and emotional toughness, and a message of not needing one another that tinges each social interaction with disingenuousness. The departure point of personal economic survival also pervades much of our day-to-day activities.

This stress alone can reinforce our social isolation from one another.

Anthropologists have shown that stress levels, social cohesiveness and even life spans improve in cultures where caring for one another is the chief ethic. In Western culture, the conditioning of self-interest over that of the group is firmly established. As a result, a kind of infantilized free-for-all of consumerism and the need for personal survival feed the agendas of commercial interests. A stark imbalance between providing for self-interests and the common good is reflected in how we connect as humans. When we can’t depend on one another, we try to buy security and we all end up less secure. Perhaps it is time for us to reassess what we should mean to one another as humans.

That caring about one another, and being deeply involved with one another, is more rewarding than a 401(k).

Thomas Evans, Bemidji, Minn.