The intoxicated driver

George Merry makes a telling point when he writes, ``Most who take to the road while intoxicated don't realize that they are unfit to drive and those who do don't expect to get caught'' [``Bay Staters deserved stiffer drunk-driving bill from the house,'' Dec. 5]. Has anyone yet come up with a way, short of physical restraint, of getting the message to those who are intoxicated, who ``don't realize that they are unfit to drive''?

No amount of after-the-fact legislation will accomplish that. John H. Nerl Boston

Political tides shift The column ``As the political cycle turns,'' Dec. 5, does not mention the event that will turn a very large number of voters away from any candidate believed to support the fundamentals of Reaganism.

President Reagan has by sheer personality been able to convince the American people that they can become a total armed camp while maintaining a high level of prosperity. That image of prosperity has been supported these last few years by pouring borrowed money into the military buildup. Louis K. Davis Elroy, Wis.

Provocative series Having lived in West Africa for 3 years in the late '60s, and having made two trips there in the last two years, I am happy to see the recent coverage of Ali Mazrui's series, ``The Africans'' [``Worth noting on TV,'' Nov. 26, and other articles].

I question the use of ``controversial'' to describe the excellent essays. If that means thought-provoking, I fully agree that this series has been an effective means for awakening and informing Americans' interest in the inadequately understood continent of Africa: rich resources, diverse cultures, and rapidly changing social and political structures.

If, however, the term ``controversial'' is to be construed negatively, implying biased reporting, then I object. On the contrary, I have found Mazrui's treatment of issues to be well balanced and fair. Donald L. Weaver Greencastle, Ind.

Earn that diploma The use of guarantees by schools to business will not only reduce the credibility of an institution itself but also will clearly show the lack of faith demonstrated by the school toward its own faculty and their teaching abilities [``These grads come with warranties,'' Dec. 5].

A diploma should signify the satisfactory completion of basic skills taught over a period of four years. It should be earned - not just given away. Christine V. Miller Concord, Mass.

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