Maybe done better here than in other places

Like a Dec. 17 letter writer, I am also conflicted about my role in creating a market for mining. Although I am strong supporter of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, I reserve the right to enjoy it with modern gear. I can use aluminum canoes, a wooden canoe fashioned with steel tools, or Kevlar canoes made from high-tech synthetic fabric. All other gear is also dependent on Earth resources won by mining.

How much land has been impacted by mining? Of the 100 percent wilderness in the United States 400 years ago, more than 60 percent has been stripped for agriculture and less than 0.5 percent for mining. I eat and thus accept this allocation, but I realize that there could be no agriculture without the mining and mineral products necessary for planting, fertilizing and harvesting.

Commercial development is prohibited in the BWCA but not outside, under rules and regulations that, in Minnesota, are as strict if not stricter than in any other state. With growing demand for mineral commodities, driven by increasing global population and poorer countries' expectations for improved quality of life, I guess I'd rather do the mining here, with the best environmental control, than elsewhere with greater global environmental impact, and also enjoy the local and state economic benefits.

KEN REID, Eden Prairie


If it's thriving, that's the sign of a problem

In the Dec. 18 Letter of the Day, the national commander of the American Legion spoke of the "new posts that are popping up on college campuses and our many thriving posts spread throughout the country."

"In fact," he wrote, "there are more American Legion posts in the United States than there are Starbucks."

This is not something we should celebrate. It is an indicator that we have not made any progress — that we're regressing in our approach to resolving international disputes and crises and are relying on the military option too often and too soon.

The tens of thousands of physically, emotionally and mentally disabled veterans and the thousands of advocacy groups devoted to helping them are signs of a war-ravaged society. The tens of thousands of dead, mostly innocent victims abroad irreparably harm our reputation and capacity for good for generations. And then there's the money — trillions per year to pay for present and past wars and to take care of damaged and destroyed lives of veterans and reparations abroad.

If we could finally put down the gun and learn the ways of peace, the disappearance of the American Legion would be most welcome.



More on the ratios of coaches vs. faculty

To provide some consolation to the writer of a Dec. 15 letter questioning the priorities of the University of Minnesota as reflected in the disparities in its coach-to-athlete vs. faculty-to-student ratios: It must be kept in mind that the "student-athlete" is a vital part of the rich sports entertainment sector of the U.S. economy. As such, the student-athlete's toil on the U's behalf provides it with a significant revenue stream. Students of literature, chemistry or finance — call them "student-scholars" — are, in contrast, cost centers: Their tuition pays only a fraction of the expense to educate them. The good that will come from educating student-scholars at a loss is difficult to measure in an economy that is focused on short-term gains. So, it must be recognized that coaching student-athletes isn't harder than teaching student-scholars; it's just more immediately profitable and thus worthy of a coach-to-athlete ratio that exceeds the U's faculty-to-student ratio.

I agree that the U's priorities are warped, but, more sadly, so are its values.



The math makes it the musicians' move

I see two clear indicators that it's time for the Minnesota Orchestra musicians to get back to the bargaining table and participate in a workable contract. The first is the orchestra's $5 million deficit reduction in a year where there was virtually no concert revenue — laying plain the major discrepancy between musician salaries and economic reality. The second is the fact that musicians have raised only $600,000 despite aggressive fundraising efforts and rally concerts — barely enough for four musician salaries under the current contract. Unless the musicians want to rename themselves the Minnesota Classical Quartet, it's clear that they need the board and management as much as the board and management need them. It's time to negotiate and move forward.