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Trump administration tanks NAFTA talks

by Dan Burns on October 19, 2017 · 0 comments

naftaWhatever you think of NAFTA – and I’m no big fan, myself – having it just suddenly collapse probably wouldn’t be a great thing.

The Trump administration is staking out shockingly hardline positions in the newest round of NAFTA talks — raising new fears that the president doesn’t want to renegotiate the agreement so much as set the stage for pulling out of it.
In the latest round of negotiations over the free trade pact between the US, Canada, and Mexico, which concluded on Tuesday, US negotiators made a number of protectionist demands that Mexico and Canada consider nonstarters.
These include adding a five-year sunset clause that would require the countries to vote every five years on whether to stay in NAFTA; favoring US carmakers over Canadian and Mexican ones under standards requiring that a certain percentage of a product be made in North America; and gutting special dispute-settlement tools that Canada and Mexico consider vital to their ability to push back against punitive US border taxes.
Those demands, along with a few other wonkier ones, are so directly at odds with Canada’s and Mexico’s expectations for NAFTA — or any free trade agreement — that they almost seem designed to be rebuffed.

I don’t know about Trump “setting a stage,” here. I’m a believer in Trump’s Razor – pick the stupidest explanation for what he’s doing, and that’s what’s really going on. He may really believe that since he’s Donald Trump, Canada and Mexico will give him all he wants, in the end.


trump20You’ve probably seen something about this recent, serious event in the Middle East.

Ordinarily the US president would have swung into action to call the leaders concerned and attempt to forestall the outbreak of hostilities. There are likely some 10,000 US troops in the country in the Iraq Command reestablished by Barack Obama in 2014. The US forces have a close relationship with the Kurds, their best allies during the 2003-2008 occupation of Iraq, and have been crucial to the defeat of ISIL by prime minister Abadi. If the US had a real president instead of a petulant and self-absorbed toddler, likely this new Arab-Kurdish war in Iraq would not have broken out.
(Informed Comment)


Pipeline protesters get a win in court

by Dan Burns on October 18, 2017 · 0 comments

oilspillThis isn’t a verdict, just a procedural ruling. And it certainly looks to me (though I’m not a lawyer) like the chances of acquittal are not high. But, nonetheless, cool.

A judge in Minnesota has cleared the way for an unusual and potentially groundbreaking defense, allowing climate activists to use the “necessity” of confronting the climate crisis as justification for temporarily shutting down two crude oil pipelines last year.
Robert Tiffany, a district court judge in Clearwater County, Minnesota, ruled on Oct. 11 that three activists who were arrested and charged with felonies last year can argue that they violated the law in order to protect citizens from the impacts of global warming and that they had no legal alternative.
“It is extremely unusual for a court to allow presentation of the necessity defense by environmental protesters,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “It will be fascinating to see how this trial goes and how much evidence the court allows.”
(Inside Climate News)


trump26This is based on a spot-on article that was widely shared last week.

Watching a train wreck like this may have its charms for a certain class of voter for whom anger and prejudice is their only governing impulse. But ultimately the train leaves the rails and heads straight for the spectators, the rest of us who have to live and work in this country. Other kakistrocacies have turned out very, very badly…

“Can’t anybody here play this game?” was Casey Stengel’s famous lament about his inept 1962 New York Mets. The same lament could apply to the Trump administration and its majority team in Congress—but the problem is deeper and worse when ineptitude joins with venality and recklessness, and when the stakes are far more than baseball pennants.

(Daily Kos)


Invited Guest Commentary

John-Marty-2016by Senator John Marty. DFL – Roseville

As a consistent critic of corporate subsidies, I had a mixed reaction to Amazon’s request for bids to attract their proposed second headquarters.


The promise of up to 50,000 high paying jobs is incredible; something no state would ignore. But nobody knows whether those jobs will actually materialize. Businesses often promise the moon to gain handouts from taxpayers as is evident in Wisconsin’s massive subsidy to Foxconn.


Even if Amazon does come to Minnesota, along with the jobs and economic boost there would also be serious negative impacts from the project. For example, an already tight housing market in the Twin Cities would get much worse. Low income workers at other businesses would not receive significant pay increases because of Amazon’s arrival, so many would be priced out of the rental market, creating more homelessness. Low income workers usually see more costs because of these subsidies, but few benefits.


Another major concern is that the competition between states ends up with a bidding war to see who will promise the biggest taxpayer subsidy. I share Governor Dayton’s desire that Minnesota’s bid be “restrained” in offering financial incentives. Such economic subsidies to one business come at the expense of other businesses and individual taxpayers.


Having said that, there is a way in which Minnesota could offer a bid that would be attractive to Amazon and everyone else in Minnesota.


Amazon, like every other American business, is being choked by the high cost of health care for employees. A 2010 survey of Minnesota employers found that the expense of health coverage was the most significant obstacle to business expansion.


As a result, I reached out to the people pulling together Minnesota’s Amazon bid to encourage them to include, front and center, a commitment to adopt a universal health care system, such as our proposed Minnesota Health Plan.


The Minnesota Health Plan would ensure that all Amazon employees would have comprehensive cradle-to-grave care, including dental care. It would give every Amazon employee the ability to select their doctors and hospitals, without network limitations. Amazon employees would not face co-pays or deductibles and could get care without worrying about whether they could afford it.


And, every Minnesotan would receive the same benefit!


Amazon’s headquarters would be freed from the waste of time and resources negotiating new insurance plans every year, and the subsequent need to educate their employees on what is covered, what their co-pays and deductibles are, and who is in- or out-of-network. Again, this benefit would apply to every Minnesota business.


Because Amazon employees would have access to the care they need when they need it, Amazon could count on a healthier, more productive workforce. So could every other Minnesota business.


Equally important, although it may appear counterintuitive, it is significantly less expensive to provide health care for everyone than to continue our dysfunctional health insurance system. These lower costs are clear from both economic studies in the United States and real-world evidence from international comparisons. Amazon would have to pay its fair share, as would everyone else, but they would pay much less than under the current system.


This could be a game-changing bid. Because health care costs are far higher for business than corporate taxes are, providing universal health care may save Amazon more than the corporate tax breaks likely to be offered by other states. Amazon would save significant money from the start and the savings grow over time.


Amazon stated in their Request for Proposal that they seek “communities that think big and creatively.” Minnesota’s bid to Amazon would be wise to take this bold approach rather than offering corporate subsidies.


Should Amazon end up going elsewhere, Minnesota families and businesses would still gain the incredible benefit of a less expensive health care system that delivers comprehensive care to all. We need to address the health economics crisis soon. Amazon’s bid makes this a good a time to start.


Copyright © 2017 John Marty


Strib pimps its beloved Tea-Paw for governor

by Dan Burns on October 15, 2017 · 0 comments

AMES, IA - AUGUST 11:  Republican presidential candidates (L-R) former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty take the stage for a debate in the Stephens Auditorium at Iowa State University August 11, 2011 in Ames, Iowa. This is the first Republican presidential debate in the state ahead of Saturday's all important Iowa Straw Poll.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sunday morning, in an openly, shamelessly fawning front-page article. The Strib has always loved TBag with great, powerful love.

Like a singer trying so very hard to persuade an adoring crowd that there are no more encores, the former governor’s efforts to hush all the talk about a return to politics seems a little less than completely sincere to both fans and foes. While perhaps genuinely undecided, Pawlenty has had private discussions about the prospect with donors and political supporters.
Meanwhile, talk of another run by the two-term Republican has preoccupied the state’s political insiders for months.
(Star Tribune)

That second paragraph is gross exaggeration. But, whatever.
Here is the reality of what went on in Minnesota when Tim Pawlenty was governor. The full report, accessible from the linked page, is conclusive and damning. The worst governor in the state’s history, hands down.

– Minnesota’s performance relative to the national average in terms of unemployment rates and employment growth (since 2001) has deteriorated.
– Somewhat smaller-but still significant-deterioration was observed on the three income and pay measures.
– On all three education indicators-pupil-teacher ratio, students at or above “basic” level in math and reading, and per capita state and local spending on education-Minnesota’s performance declined relative to other states.
– Minnesota’s position in terms of road miles in poor or mediocre condition fell sharply relative to the rest of the nation; the miles of roads in poor or mediocre condition in Minnesota more than doubled from 2002 to 2007.
– On the other four factors examined in this report (homeownership rates, health insurance coverage, bridge deficiency percentage, and poverty rates) there was no evidence of a statistically significant decline in Minnesota’s performance relative to other states. Nor was there evidence of improvement.
(MN 2020)

Actually, the one interesting thing in the Strib article, and I don’t know how it got past the editors, is the all-but-open admission that Minnesota’s existing crop of declared GOP gubernatorial candidates is a feeble, even miserable, bunch. It’s about a third of the way down.
If you’re late to the game here, Pawlenty, the worst kind of self-serving political hack, sometimes tried to act like some sort of conciliating “moderate” during part of his governorship. But when the Tea Party came along he sucked up to it with the worst of them. That’s where the nicknames used above come from.
Pawlenty has a gargantuan ego, one that outweighs his very mediocre intellect and abilities by an even greater ratio than is the norm for right-wing politicians. Undoubtedly he’s never gotten over the humiliating end to his presidential effort, when he got his tail kicked by Michele Bachmann – yes, Crazy Michele Bachmann – in the Iowa straw poll in 2011, which made him a national laughingstock. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he tries to erase the memory of that, next year, with a winning gubernatorial run.

Donald Trump is in the White House. Politically, any awful thing is possible, these days, no matter how unlikely it might seem out of the gate. It’s important to accept the reality of that, and deal with it accordingly. Don’t let claims that this a**hole was anything other than an atrociously wretched, failed governor go unchallenged, anywhere, if you want any advice from me.


school2We’ll see whether the author of this is right, but it’s important as an awareness-raiser.

In other words, this should be fertile territory for Democrats. But the coming decimation of public sector unions also means that the Democrats will be more dependent than ever on corporate money, especially from the financial sector. Accept the growing influence of the party’s biggest donors, comprised of Wall Streeters, hedge funders and Silicon Valley elites, and you also get their cramped and narrow vision of what is possible. And the moneyed influencers within the Democratic Party share a vision of education—personalized, privatized, union free—that’s increasingly difficult to distinguish from the one DeVos espouses.

On September 28, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would give a handful of states, including Minnesota, an “additional $253 million in grants to expand charter schools,” in order to spur on school choice–an education reform strategy long embraced by Democrats, Republicans and wealthy financiers…
Such announcements are often accompanied by cheerful talk of innovation and choice. The new federal funding is all about “seeing how we can continue to work with states to help ensure more students can learn in an environment that works for them,” according to DeVos. But this new funding will also support Minnesota’s increasingly segregated public and charter school landscape, as well as an exodus of money and students from union-staffed districts. (Charter school teachers and staff are mostly non-unionized, in Minnesota and beyond.)
(Bright Light Small City)


trump17I would specify this as the go-to article on the Trump/GOP Congress tax plan, out of the many that I’ve read.

Donald Trump says his tax plan is “a revolutionary change, and the biggest winners will be the everyday American workers as jobs start pouring into our country, as companies start competing for American labor and as wages start going up at levels that you haven’t seen in many years.”
No, it’s not.
It’s just another con job from the most successful con artist in history.
Below are nine examples of how this is a plan of the super-rich, by the super-rich and for the super-rich. And unless you are super-rich, this plan will badly hurt you.


minneapolis_skyline__heroWith seven (I’m pretty sure) new faces on the 13-member council elected in 2013, that would certainly qualify as a “change” election. But there hasn’t been much change in how the city is run. The extent to which that will affect this year’s elections will be interesting. On the whole Minneapolis may be regarded as a relatively thriving place, these days, but not everyone is sharing in said “thriving.” To say the least. Here is the candidates page from the city elections website. Here is a website with ward maps and other info.

Ward 8: The incumbent, Elizabeth Glidden, is leaving. Andrea Jenkins is a member of her staff. Terry White and Dave Holsinger are also running.

Ward 9: Alondra Cano is the first-term incumbent. Gary Schiff represented this ward from 2002-2014; he left to run for mayor, and is now running again for his old job. Ronald Peterson and Mohamed Farah round out the field.


Ward 10: Lisa Bender is the first-term incumbent. David Schorn, Bruce Lundeen, and Saralyn Romanishan are challenging.


Ward 11: John Quincy is the incumbent. Jeremy Schroeder and Erica Mauter are also running.

Ward 12: Andrew Johnson is the first-term incumbent. Will Jaeger and Harrison Bullard are challenging.

Ward 13: Linea Palmisano is the first-term incumbent. Bob Reuer is also running.



ryanCorporate media, which has supposedly begun “holding Trump accountable” after its dismal performance before the election, certainly hasn’t had much to say about this that I’ve seen.

Senate Republicans may have moved on from trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but they’re still trying to cut Medicaid and Medicare funding by more than $1 trillion over the next decade, according to a new report prepared by the Senate Budget Committee minority staff led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
The budget would cut $1 trillion from Medicaid and $473 billion from Medicare over the next decade, HuffPost reporter Jennifer Bendery tweeted Tuesday, which she said she confirmed with Democratic leadership. Politico published the report from budget committee minority staff Wednesday morning.
(Think Progress)

I don’t know how even the most avid Trump diehards, dwindling gaggle of the truly delusional though they are, can deny the reality of this: