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Dan Burns

Serious obstacles for PolyMet

by Dan Burns on February 5, 2016 · 0 comments

stoppolymetAnd I’m a little more confident, these days, that they won’t be overcome.

Paula Maccabee still holds out hope that the state and federal agencies whose permission is needed to open the door to copper–nickel mining in Minnesota will yet come to their senses — but just in case they don’t, she is prepared to sue.
As attorney for WaterLegacy…Maccabee submitted an 80–page comment to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act…
Now that the “Co–Lead Agencies” (PolyMet, the DNR, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Forest Service) have finalized their plans, PolyMet can begin applying for a multitude of federal, state, and local operational permits — and mining critics can begin sharpening their legal arguments to fight back.
Maccabee says the Final Environmental Impact Statement violates Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which governs the regulation of discharge into American waterways. “In their words, if you want to destroy the waters of the United States, there are specific requirements under the Clean Water Act.”
(Zenith City News)

But righteous people may not even have to go to court.

The announcement late last Wednesday that Glencore had agreed to loan PolyMet another $11 million to pay for an update to its definitive feasibility study, was greeted by some as a piece of good news — that suggests the giant Swiss-based commodities broker still sees potential in the company’s NorthMet copper-nickel mine despite the recent collapse in metals prices.
Yet the terms of the loan, and the likely results of the feasibility update, point to a project that’s teetering on life support. While PolyMet saw a bump in its stock price in November with the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, investors have grown increasingly pessimistic ever since. As of this week, the company’s stock price had recovered slightly, to 89 cents, but is still down 20-percent since its post-FEIS peak. Savvy investors can’t be unaware that major copper mines around the world are being shuttered by companies like Glencore, Rio Tinto, and others, in a desperate attempt to stem the financial bleeding and the production oversupply that has cut copper prices in half from their peaks in the late 2000s.
The nickel market has been even more brutal, as prices for the metal have fallen by nearly 75 percent from the levels that PolyMet had assumed in its 2008 update of its feasibility study…

Even if an updated financial assessment shows a modest profit, it’s difficult to imagine the scenario under which the massively debt-laden Glencore opts to sink another $650 million into copper-nickel production it needs like a hole in the head.


Minnesota legislative elections news 2/4/16

by Dan Burns on February 4, 2016 · 0 comments

Minnesota-State-CapitolThese updates do not purport to include everything. Not even close.
– In SD52, Sen. Jim Metzen (DFL-South St. Paul) is retiring. Here’s an article about his service from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. One suspects that plenty of DFLers are contemplating a run, as this is one of those seats that, once you have it as a Democrat, it’s likely pretty effortlessly yours for as long as you like. But no one’s made it official yet, that I can find.

– In HD52B, Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) is retiring. Ditto on who might be running.

Liz Olson is running as a DFLer in House 7B (Duluth). That’s the seat being vacated by DFLer Eric Simonson, so he can run in SD7, along with DFLer Sharla Gardner.

– Tiffany Stenglein, who lives in Brainerd, is running for the SD10 seat currently held by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point).


Minnesota Republicans fiddle while miners suffer

by Dan Burns on February 3, 2016 · 0 comments

imagesqtbnANd9GcRhlLTHok0fDiQpsx_IVQRQg-lVMpygkf1rEyJsns1mZT-bzjRXRemember how the Minnesota GOP was going to be the party on the right side of the “rural/urban divide,” standing up at every opportunity for real Minnesotans vs. those snotty liberals in the metro? Yeah, right.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he’s abandoned plans for a special legislative session to tackle jobless aid for laid-off Iron Rangers after Republicans demanded business tax cuts in exchange for their session support.
In his first public appearance since being released from the hospital Monday after fainting, Dayton struck a pugnacious tone, scolding GOP leaders for being unwilling to meet in special session to extend $29 million in unemployment benefits to out-of-work mine workers on the Range, fix state drivers licenses to meet federal ID standards and address racial economic disparities.

You presumably recall how Republican legislators were similarly responsive to efforts to aid the Mille Lacs Lake area after walleye fishing had to be stopped for a while. And how their priority throughout the 2015 regular session was blowing the whole budget surplus, and then some, on yet more tax cut welfare for the super-rich.

Whether House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and his pals are coming up with this on their own, or are operating under orders from the American Legislative Exchange Council, doesn’t really matter in practical terms. Either way, they’re unfit to govern, and voters need to know that.


MN-03: DFLer Tollefson enters race

by Dan Burns on February 1, 2016 · 0 comments

tollefsonGood deal.

After his experience abroad, Jon returned home to Minnesota to advance local economic and health policy issues, working for the Minnesota High Tech Association and now the Minnesota Nurses Association.
Jon Tollefson is running to bring the true values of Minnesotans to Washington: real fiscal responsibility, investments in education and transportation that lead to jobs and economic growth, and affordable access to health care for all. Jon wants to fight to create a better government, one that actually functions for the people it represents.
(Jon Tollefson for Congress)

I and undoubtedly others will have plenty more to say about why the incumbent, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), very, very badly needs to be the incumbent no longer, as of next January. For now, this:

Reviewing Erik Paulsen’s fourth quarter fundraising report, is very telling … telling that he is the consummate Washington insider … including $405,261 from Political Action Committees and big donors and only $2,133 from small donors.
Yep, that’s right the Medical Device Manufacturers PAC gave more money to his re-election campaign with one check, than all small donors combined !
(MN Political Roundtable)


(This is the last part, at least for now. Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)
My view, based on what I’ve included in this and previous posts, is that U.S. military spending can and should be cut by anywhere from 30-50% over the next decade, and that fixing the bloated mess will actually improve military readiness and capability. Many progressives agree. But military spending is unfortunately one of the few areas where polling does not consistently show strong (often 2:1 or better) support for progressive views. Numbers from one poll to another, that I’ve seen, tend to fluctuate considerably, but on the whole it’s roughly even between those who want cuts and those who don’t.

Next to the claim that casting off the obstructive dead weight and fixing the corruption in military spending will somehow make us more “vulnerable,” defenders of the status quo wail about JOBS! By any rational standard, no one has a “right” to jobs – burning coal, derivatives trading, right-wing propaganda mill idiot, making bombs, etc., etc. – that just screw things up for everyone. There are far better things they could, and should, be doing. This is from an analysis of jobs created per $1B of federal spending, which matches this report:



davisThis is from last October, and is a little dated, in some particulars, as far as which candidates are given particular notice. But it remains a most enlightening and useful resource.

(October 24), Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio will headline a veterans and military town hall in Greenville, South Carolina for the Concerned Veterans for America — a right-wing group backed by the Koch brothers. Rubio’s record reflects a lack of commitment to issues important to veterans and military families, so he’s lucky to be in friendly territory: addressing a group directly affiliated to the Koch brothers, whose funding and blessing he is courting.
Rubio is one of many Republican presidential hopefuls, including Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, who have a poor record of service to our veterans – denying them access to education, health care, and other benefits.
(Correct The Record)

“7 Examples Of Republican Presidential Candidates Screwing Over Veterans.”
(Here is Col. Morris Davis’s Twitter account. Good stuff.)


military_pie,_gold_background(Part 1 here.)

Current and continuing U.S. military operations are grossly bloated (and in many cases destructive, arguably criminally so), and any legitimate cost/benefit analysis is certainly a sorry sight indeed. To wit, and one could cite much, much more:

From the point of view of the U.S. military and the national security state, the period from September 12, 2001, to late last night could be summed up in a single word: more. What Washington funded with your tax dollars was a bacchanalia of expansion intended, as is endlessly reiterated, to keep America “safe.” But here’s the odd thing: as the structure of what’s always called “security” is built out ever further into our world and our lives, that world only seems to become less secure. Odder yet, that “more” is rarely a focus of media coverage, though its reality is glaringly obvious. The details may get coverage but the larger reality — the thing being created in Washington — seems of remarkably little interest…
After more than a decade of secret wars, massive surveillance, untold numbers of night raids, detentions, and assassinations, not to mention billions upon billions of dollars spent, the results speak for themselves. (Special Operations Command) has more than doubled in size and the secretive (Joint Special Operations Command) may be almost as large as SOCOM was in 2001. Since September of that year, 36 new terror groups have sprung up, including multiple al-Qaeda franchises, offshoots, and allies. Today, these groups still operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan — there are now 11 recognized al-Qaeda affiliates in the latter nation, five in the former — as well as in Mali and Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, Nigeria and Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen, among other countries. One offshoot was born of the American invasion of Iraq, was nurtured in a U.S. prison camp, and, now known as the Islamic State, controls a wide swath of that country and neighboring Syria, a proto-caliphate in the heart of the Middle East that was only the stuff of jihadi dreams back in 2001. That group, alone, has an estimated strength of around 30,000 and managed to take over a huge swath of territory, including Iraq’s second largest city, despite being relentlessly targeted in its infancy by JSOC.
“We need to continue to synchronize the deployment of (Special Operations Forces) throughout the globe,” says Votel. “We all need to be synched up, coordinated, and prepared throughout the command.” Left out of sync are the American people who have consistently been kept in the dark about what America’s special operators are doing and where they’re doing it, not to mention the checkered results of, and blowback from, what they’ve done. But if history is any guide, the black ops blackout will help ensure that this continues to be a “golden age” for U.S. Special Operations Command.


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DF-ST-87-06962 Presumably if you’re reading this you’re something of a glutton for psychological punishment – like me, I guess – and therefore have been following issues like U.S. military spending. You may then, if you’re old enough, recall the fanfare with which it was announced that, as part of a law passed in 1996, some sort of Pentagon super-audit would finally get to the bottom of things. We’re still waiting.

The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 requires every federal agency to pass a routine financial audit each year. The Pentagon is the only cabinet agency that is “unauditable” according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office.
In the last decade, the Pentagon broke every promise to Congress about when the audit would be finished. Meanwhile, Congress doubled the Pentagon’s budget.
(Audit the Pentagon)

I spent the better part of an evening searching parameters like “what percent of u.s. military spending is fraud and waste,” and while I ran across all kinds of intriguing stuff, I didn’t find a readily apparent number as a percentage of the total budget for our warmongering-industrial complex. That’s understandable when you consider that terms like “fraud” and “waste” are subject to very wide interpretation, in practice, and no one really knows what’s going on with all that Pentagon money, anyway. But when you take into account items like big-ticket weapons systems that will likely never be used, resources that have disappeared (and continue to do so) overseas (especially in Iraq and Afghanistan), the sorts of practices that got us into those wars in the first place, unneeded bases both here and abroad, corporate profiteering,


Minnesota legislative elections news 1/21/16

by Dan Burns on January 21, 2016 · 0 comments

Minnesota-State-CapitolFrom time to time I note some legislative electoral news that might be of particular interest for progressives. These posts most certainly do not purport to include everything.
Shawn Olson is running for the Senate in SD8 (mostly Otter Tail County, a few hours NW of the metro). I usually don’t extol a particular candidate the moment he gets into a race like this, as other interested DFLers may come along and I’ve learned from experience to wait and see what shakes out. But it’s hard to see, from a progressive standpoint, how we’d get a better candidate than Olson.
– Here are reasons why Matt Little is going to win SD58, in the SE Metro. That’s the seat being vacated by Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville). Here’s Little’s website.


– In HD57A, it looks like Rep. Tara Mack (R-Apple Valley) may well be running for reelection, in spite of it all, and a DFL candidate is Erin Maye Quade.


– In HD21A, Rep. Mack’s cohort in sordid scandal, Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), is being challenged by Lisa Bayley. Here’s Bayley’s website.


– In HD6A, Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) won’t seek reelection.


66758002People are working to try to get President Obama to come through in doing more to help protect women’s fundamental right to reproductive choice.

Anti-women, right-wing extremists in Congress are relentless in their commitment to take health care, including abortions, away from women. One of the most powerful tools they have is the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, which prohibits the use of federal funds for any health benefits coverage that includes abortion…
It’s bad enough that women have to fight so hard to defend their constitutional rights against right-wing Republican extremists. It’s even worse when Democrats are also standing in the way. The Hyde Amendment has been re-authorized every year for the past 39 years, under Democratic presidents and with Congress in Democratic control. When President Obama ran for president he promised he would work to end Hyde’s dangerous intrusion on “a poor woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy.” He has failed to follow through on that promise, not only by endorsing Hyde in each of his seven budgets but by allowing the Stupak Amendment to strip access to abortion from ObamaCare.
(Credo Action)

Related items:
“States added another 47 abortion restrictions in 2015. No doubt there are more to come.”
“Groups Push Obama to Clarify U.S. Abortion Funding for Wartime Rape.”