Mediation is best done in private

On the same day that columnist Gail Rosenblum wrote that mediation could resolve very difficult disputes (“Want to resolve conflicts? Start listening to the other side,” Oct. 8) the Star Tribune Editorial Board suggested mediation was a way to escape public scrutiny (“Keep teacher talks open to the public”). The editorial both misunderstood mediation and used a bully approach with the innuendo “if neither side has anything to hide …”

Good for the school districts for turning to mediation when they reach an impasse. The Minnesota Orchestra did not, and look where its gotten.

As for having mediation open to scrutiny by outside parties, the Minnesota Supreme Court said that public interest is served by conducting these sessions in private. And notice how nothing has come of firing salvos through the press regarding the orchestra (or our national political scene).

I’m participating in another example of the potential power of mediation. Child custody after divorce is a subject fraught with strong emotions and deep concerns, and it has been a political football for a decade. Now we are trying something different, and the agreement to not discuss any of our work publicly has been absolutely crucial.

Mediation is a different process than negotiation and needs to be protected from public scrutiny. More important, mediation can help where negotiation fails. Let’s learn this lesson — and quickly!

State Rep. CAROLYN LAINE, DFL-Columbia Heights



We could go back and forth on this …

In response to the Oct. 9 article “Many in GOP doubt default warnings”: So it seems that, once again, the Republican Party has found its policies to be at odds with the conclusions of experts. Time to check the official playbook: Aha! Just claim that the “so-called experts” are wrong! They’re probably involved in the same conspiracy as the world’s climate scientists.

I really wish the media would grow a backbone and force these politicians to explain why they think they know better than the people that actually study this type of thing for a living, especially when the stakes are so high.

SCOTT HANSEN, St. Louis Park

• • •

Halloween is just around the corner. President Obama, our frightener-in-chief, is on the job and, thank goodness, is doing a splendid job of scaring us.

In his news conference on Tuesday, Obama said: “If Congress refuses to raise what’s called the debt ceiling, America would not be able to meet all of our financial obligations for the first time in 225 years” — that if we don’t raise the ceiling, we will default on our debt. With debt meaning paying interest.

I don’t think so.

The fiscal 2013 debt service for the 12 months ending Sept. 30 will be somewhere around $420 billion. (Per the Bureau of Fiscal Service, the actual figure of 11 months through August was just under $396 billion.) IRS revenues for the calendar 2012 tax year will probably be around $2.3 trillion.

Now, I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but it looks like the United States can pay the interest on the debt.

Let’s not continue to frighten everyone, Mr. President (just like you did last week, scaring Grandma about her Social Security check). Let’s be truthful.


• • •

The Oct. 9 headline “Obama to GOP: Lift threat; Boehner says no surrender” should have read: “GOP submits multiple funding bills; Obama says I will not negotiate.”

The Star Tribune’s bias is so blatant.


• • •

If Russia demanded that the United States return Alaska or it will drop bombs on our major cities, the headline would not read “Putin and Obama unable to reach compromise on Alaska issue.” However, the media, in an obsessive desire to avoid any appearance of bias, characterize the root cause of the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis as the inability of Obama and House Speaker John Boehner to negotiate a compromise on defunding the Affordable Care Act. This act is not some preliminary bill under discussion in Congress; it is law, vetted by every branch of the federal government — legislative, executive, and judicial. If a party disapproves, the Constitution offers a solution: Elect a Congress and a president who will pass and sign a bill more to your liking. The correct phrase for attempting to undo the official law of the land using the threat of fiscal chaos is “Republican blackmail.”



… but know that others may be feeling it more

I went to a Vietnam vet’s funeral on Tuesday — he died at 64, ultimately from the effects of Agent Orange. Chuck Lambert was the hardworking, honorable rock of the family. The family held off on the funeral for more than a week, trying to arrange a burial with military honors. Because of the shutdown, it was not to be. The family’s grief was immeasurably amplified because they couldn’t give this wonderful man — who gave his life for his country — a proper, fitting, and well-earned farewell.

JEAN HANVIK, Burnsville