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Dan Burns

Tailings Pond Breach 20140805From Monday:

Environmental groups implored Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday to push for changes to PolyMet Mining’s plans to mine copper, nickel and precious metals near the Boundary Waters…
“Since the Legislature has failed to act, and the Department of Natural Resources has not required PolyMet to implement the recommendations of the expert review panel at Mount Polley,” said Aaron Klemz with Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, “it’s up to Gov. Dayton to do what’s needed to protect Minnesota’s clean water.”

Three huge red flags are being emphasized. Any one by itself should be enough to, at least, force major changes to the project.

The mine design uses the same approach to storing toxic mine waste that caused the worst disaster in Canadian mining history at the Mount Polley mine. PolyMet proposes to use a forty year-old dam to hold back billions of gallons of mine waste mixed with water, the same technology used at Mount Polley. An investigation by the British Columbia government called for an end to the practice of storing mine waste mixed with water, since it led to such disastrous results. The PFEIS dismisses the recommendations of the Mount Polley Review Panel in a single paragraph.

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greedI don’t pretend to know how the Greek crisis will turn out. I do think the Greek people have put up with far too much crap already.

Paul Krugman has long been sounding the alarm about the relentless imposition of economy-hobbling austerity measures on Greece. Now, the worst-case scenario he has warned about seems to be coming to pass, with Greek banks closing and panic spreading. Will anyone learn the right lesson? Doubtful…
He takes the stance that Greece should vote ‘no’ and leave the euro. Because they have no choice. Further austerity will ruin them.
Yes, Krugman allows, the Greeks did need to cut back their overspending in the 2000s, but they have done that repeatedly and dutifully raised taxes. The problem is they cut so much spending that their economy simply collapsed.

If this new entity is not all hung up on “austerity,” it really could run the World Bank into the ground:


PolyMet doesn’t cut it in DNR report

by Dan Burns on June 29, 2015 · 0 comments

Tailings Pond Breach 20140805Not even close.

State regulators have released a much-anticipated third version of a preliminary environmental report on PolyMet Mining Corp.’s proposed mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area…
PolyMet officials are praising the report as a major milestone. But critics say the environmental impact statement, which details how the company plans to treat water from the mine’s leftover waste and abandoned mine site, doesn’t include enough safeguards to protect northeast Minnesota’s fragile environment.
“We’re either talking about a catastrophic release of toxic waste, or a long-term slow seeping of toxic waste from this site,” said Aaron Klemz, communications director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “Either way, we think it’s a bad deal for Minnesota.”
…Environmental groups are planning a news conference for Monday to detail their objections to the proposal. Among them, Klemz said, is that the document dismissed a major Canadian mine accident in 2014, in which a dam holding back a tailings pond at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine burst, releasing over 1 billion gallons of waste into nearby lakes and rivers.

(The image is of part, just part, of the aftermath of the Mount Polley disaster.)
An excellent article also recently appeared about the project’s real owner/operator, the horrific multinational conglomerate Glencore, detailing its appalling history:


scotusArguably the most so since Roe v. Wade, because of the massive expectations that are being dashed. This court, despite its right-wing majority, has simply refused to automatically do whatever right-wingers want it to do.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell is not simply a victory for the Obama administration — and for the millions of Americans who depend upon the Affordable Care Act for their health coverage. It is a sweeping, crushing blow for conservatives who seek to use the courts to undo what President Obama and a Democratic Congress accomplished. “In a democracy,” Chief Justice John Roberts implicitly scolds the activists behind this litigation, “the power to make the law rests with those chosen by the people.” He then offers a broad statement to future judges called upon to interpret the Affordable Care Act: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”
The message here is clear: In this and in future litigation, judges should turn aside clever attempts to undermine the law if there is any possible way to read the law otherwise. The attorneys and activists behind this lawsuit came to the Court hoping to gut Obamacare; instead, they placed it on the strongest possible legal footing.
(Think Progress)

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of marriage equality, and the four dissents—one from each of the justices who voted to continue discrimination—are a decent sign of what’s to come from opponents of equality. Lots and lots of predictions that the world is coming to an end, everything is terrible, tears rage tears.
(Daily Kos)


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TPP fast-track vote in Senate – Update

by Dan Burns on June 23, 2015 · 0 comments

charliebrown622A cloture vote to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is scheduled for today in the U.S. Senate. It’s the same thing that just passed the House, that is, without Trade Adjustment Assistance as part of the package. I believe that President Obama has indicated that he won’t sign this without TAA, but if so, I’m not exactly exceedingly confident on him sticking to that, if it turns out to be his only option to get fast-track. Apparently other would-be signatory nations are hesitant to give the package final approval, without fast-track, as who knows what Congress would look to do to it with amendments.
The gentleman that I vote for, for the U.S. House, Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), has been strong on this issue. I also got the cartoon from the linked page.

In fact, this TPP contains nothing to fix a broken U.S. trade enforcement system that allows terrible economic damage to be done before any actions can be taken; no requirements for “partner” nations to provide living wages or worker health and safety benefits comparable to the United States; nothing requiring them to protect the environment from industrial pollution; nothing preventing them from manipulating their currencies to keep dumping millions more tons of low-grade, foreign government subsidized steel – and countless other sub-par knock-offs of American manufactured goods – into the U.S. marketplace; nothing to assure that imported foods will meet tough U.S. safety and inspection standards; nothing to protect U.S. consumers from big international price increases for lifesaving drugs to fight cancer and other dread diseases and nothing to help stop horrific violations of human rights.
(Rep. Rick Nolan Monday Report)

Update: It passed.


Concealed carry mostly just enables criminals

by Dan Burns on June 21, 2015 · 1 comment

1604609_10202175405083254_1755567452_nSome years ago Minnesota released data from its first decade of concealed carry. 124 gun crimes committed by permit holders, 5 justifiable uses. Turns out that it’s that way everywhere.

Guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes.
In 2012, across the nation there were only 259 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as detailed in its Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). That same year, there were 8,342 criminal gun homicides tallied in the SHR. In 2012, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides. And this ratio, of course, does not take into account the tens of thousands of lives ended in gun suicides or unintentional shootings that year
(Violence Policy Center)

Numbers like these don’t just indicate that concealed, or for that matter open, carry are almost entirely useless in preventing crime. They also show that the true effect is to allow would-be criminals to carry firearms with impunity.
Gun advocates often rather pitiably claim that the numbers are skewed because “good” uses of guns go unreported. My strong impression is that your typical gun creep would love to be able to legitimately let the world know all about his heroic use of a firearm. But in fact such instances are very rare.
Not that even I’m fool enough to believe that it will happen anytime soon, but the next step for policymakers is clear – no more strutting around with firearms in public, for anyone except law enforcement. Especially in view of the fact that NRA political supremacy is a full-blown lie.
Comments below fold.

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Another TPP House vote today – Update

by Dan Burns on June 18, 2015 · 0 comments

tpp2This is getting extremely tiresome. Far worse, it could pass.

On Thursday the House will vote on just the fast-track portion—also known as Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA—on the understanding that the workers’ aid would be approved later…

It’s all a little weird and desperate, but it might work. Republicans are swearing that if TPA passes, they’ll bring up TAA for a vote later, which is supposed to appease Democratic concerns about job losses. Dems only voted against TAA in order to kill TPA, so if TPA has already passed there’s no longer any reason for them to vote against TAA.
Of course, even if Republicans allow a vote on TAA, it also needs a few Republican votes to pass, and the problem here is the opposite: Republicans have little reason to vote for TAA once TPA has already passed and there’s no longer any need to appease Democrats. But Democrats can’t pass it alone. They need some Republican votes too. So do they trust the GOP leadership to deliver those votes?
(Mother Jones)

Anyone who trusts Republicans on this is being every bit as pathologically gullible as any right-wing kook.
The TPP is President Obama’s inner wonk taking over and running amok. It’s all about Very Serious People bulls*it like the “global chessboard,” the “pivot to Asia,” and “countering Chinese economic hegemony.” A consistently strong American economy, that works for everyone, would in fact accomplish much more, for a better country and world. The TPP and other mega-“free trade” deals are not conducive to that.
Developers Are Crabgrass has a good read on this.

Update: It passed, 218-208.

The TPA bill will now be sent to the Senate where a vote is expected next week but not yet scheduled.
The Senate passed TPA a month ago with 14 Democrats in favor. It will be up to the grassroots opposition to fast-tracking to peel away as many of those Democrats as possible. There is no doubt that this will be very tough.
(Daily Kos)


Blessed respite from robocalls, someday?

by Dan Burns on June 17, 2015 · 0 comments

Robocall-no-redPerhaps like me nothing infuriates you in quite the same way as one of those days with a seemingly constant stream of unwanted telephone calls. Especially robocalls, that keep coming even after you’ve long since signed onto the otherwise reasonably effective (at least for me) federal do-not-call list.

Robocallers invade our homes and privacy. They circumvent the Do Not Call list. And they cost us real money – an estimated $350 million a year is lost to phone scams.
Phone companies can block these calls before they reach you. Yet the companies aren’t doing it.
(Consumers Union)

Note “Rachel’s” red devil-eyes, on the page linked above. Nice touch.

The Federal Communications Commission will address the issue at its next meeting June 18th in Washington, D.C. The FCC has put forth an ambitious proposal of new rules to redefine “auto-dialers” in an effort to prevent misuse of existing laws, and to allow consumers to revoke their consent to receive such calls at any time…
The new FCC rules include provisions that should open the market for industry to come up with more innovative solutions to reduce, if not kill, spam calls which are proliferating.
A recent survey of U.S. smartphone users conducted by my company, YouMail, found that at least one-third of Americans get a spam call every day and nearly two-thirds waste time dealing with them.


Why hate on endangered species?

by Dan Burns on June 16, 2015 · 0 comments

wolfMy favorite animals are wolverines and polar bears. The adult males of both species are bad-tempered loners, and I relate. Wolverines are not in trouble in the near-term. Polar bears are listed as “vulnerable.” Many species are in far worse straits. For example, red wolves (pictured) are critically endangered.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing (May 6) on several bills that would obstruct the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the guise of “improvements” and “updates” these bills threaten the foundation of this bedrock environmental law.
Sadly, these legislative attacks on one of our most successful environmental laws are nothing new. The House passed several comparable bills last summer. With longtime opponent of the Endangered Species Act Senator Inhofe as chairman of the committee overseeing endangered species issues, this hearing is likely just the beginning of a similar onslaught in the Senate.
Though masked by a popular rallying cry of increasing transparency around endangered species decisions, the aim of proponents of dismantling the Act is to delay and ultimately stop Endangered Species Act safeguards from going into effect.
(Sierra Club)

Ostensibly, this is about reducing “burdensome” regulation, but, seriously, why would anyone think this is OK? A few suggestions:
– Perpetrators use motivated reasoning to convince themselves that the species aren’t really in trouble at all. The scientists are wrong about climate change, you know, so it’s a safe bet that they’re wrong about this, too.
– They are so pathologically narcissistic that they are honestly indifferent to the threat of species extinction.
– They are unable to wrap their puny right-wing pea-brains around a concept like the finality of extinction, and its real meaning and consequences.
There could be some of all of the above, and more. In any case, this is really ugly.


GOP running scared over women’s rights

by Dan Burns on June 14, 2015 · 0 comments

declarationGee. Since of course forced-birth zealots are in the right and have God on their side, you’d think they’d welcome this.

Rick Perry, the former Texas governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, does not want to talk about abortion. Specifically, he doesn’t want to discuss the draconian law that he signed two years ago, which was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (last) week and now threatens to shut down two-thirds of the state’s remaining abortion clinics…
But the American people may not be able to avoid the issue of abortion as next November nears. This week’s ruling paves the way for the US Supreme Court to take up the most important abortion case in more than 20 years to determine how far states can go in cutting off access to abortion. If the high court takes the case, the justices’ decision could be announced right smack in the middle of the 2016 campaign, forcing candidates to discuss abortion whether they want to or not. And, as Perry seems to recognize, that could be bad news for Republicans.
(Mother Jones)

As the article notes, support for Roe v. Wade is at an all-time high. Said support, for safe, legal abortion access, will only increase as the conservative base continues to dwindle. First, because of natural attrition among its existing members. Second, that attrition not being compensated for among younger people, because kids nowadays are, frankly, more intelligent than their parents and, especially, grandparents, and therefore considerably less likely to hold conservative socio-political views.
But that unfortunately isn’t having much real-world effect yet, in the here and now.

By now, most reproductive rights, health and justice activists have heard of Purvi Patel, the Indiana woman sentenced to decades behind bars after what she maintains was a miscarriage. Her case is still being fought in the courts, but supporters have recognized it as a wake-up call about what a post-Roe America might look like, with bedside interrogations and trials that pry into emotional responses to pregnancy loss. Even as public awareness that pregnancy outcomes can lead to imprisonment is growing, threats to pregnant people are quietly working their way through courthouses and statehouses across the country.
(National Partnership for Women & Families)

Update: I wouldn’t read too much into this, but this morning the Supreme Court ruled against forced-birthers in an ultrasound case.