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Dan Burns

Oil-Fields-19a-Belridge-California-USA-2003Big Oil’s profits are down, because of low crude prices. I’m having trouble even typing this, what with barely being able to see through the copious, bitter tears that I’m weeping about that. But I’m able to note that it’s American consumers in general who could well have reason to cry, if a plan to lift the decades-old ban on exporting American crude gets much further. In addition to other very serious matters.
 

Since 1975, the U.S. has restricted the export of crude oil in the name of energy security, and somehow that dirty protectionism even managed to make it through the Reagan era. But perhaps no longer. Republicans in Congress are pushing to allow oil companies to export crude to overseas refineries, and they could put the issue to a vote as soon as next month.
 
Ending the crude oil export ban would represent one of the largest tweaks in U.S. energy policy in decades, and, from an environmental perspective, not a positive one.
 
On Friday, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released an analysis pleading for congressional consideration of the broader risks at play, especially as they relate to the environment. The authors argue that the policy change would lead to more oil drilling in the U.S., resulting in an increase in annual carbon and methane emissions, the loss of open lands and wildlife habitats, and risks related to production and transportation like increased prevalence of crude oil train derailment and air quality problems for those living near drilling operations. This is to say nothing of the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground if we’re to fight off climate change.
(Grist)

According to Bloomberg, this is still a little short of Senate votes, and they may not be looking to touch it any time soon anyway. I wouldn’t count on that. It’s also unclear, at this time, what President Obama would do with this if it gets that far.
 
Once they learn about it, poll respondents of all ideologies are horrified. (On top of all the taxpayer-funded government giveaways they already wallow in, now they want this?!) Which makes it unsurprising that my online search this morning showed minimal coverage of the issue in major corporate media. So I suppose that it’s up to us to do what we can to get the word out.
 
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miningI’ve actually got several recent items, here, related one way or another to plans for sulfide mining in Minnesota. And the latter two are very important in their own right.
 

For more than a decade, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have informed the public that potential contaminants from PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet mine, near Hoyt Lakes, would flow south into the St. Louis River watershed.
 
It was a key issue for many environmentalists, who have been primarily focused on protecting water quality within the popular Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, located to the north of the proposed mine.
 
But documents obtained by the Timberjay through a Minnesota Government Data Practices Act request reveal that the lead agencies that have overseen the preparation of the environmental impact statement may well be wrong.
 
According to a June 18, 2015, letter from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), one of the cooperating agencies on the decades-long study, Barr Engineering, the PolyMet contractor that actually ran the water flow model used in the study, made fundamental miscalculations, rendering the results of this key element of the environmental study invalid. Barr works as a consultant for PolyMet, yet the lead agencies have relied heavily on its technical work throughout the environmental review process.
(Timberjay)

A couple of Range legislators talked tough, about upcoming contract negotiations involving iron mineworkers. There’s no reason to believe sulfide mining operations will be geared toward fairly compensating the people who do the actual work, any more than the big taconite/steel companies appear prepared to be.
 
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St. Paul City Council elections Wards 1-3

by Dan Burns on August 24, 2015 · 0 comments

Saint_paul_mnAs with the Minneapolis city elections a couple of years ago, I’m just looking to provide a handy guide with links to websites, etc. My intent is not very partisan, though given the purpose of this website if a candidate seems un-progressive I’ll generally say so.
 
I’m getting my information on who’s running from this webpage. Filing closed on August 11. Here’s a legible map of the wards.

 
Commenters (or, for that matter, community bloggers) are welcome to extol their candidates, discuss the issues, and so forth. Scurrilous personal attacks directed at anyone will not be posted. What constitutes a “scurrilous personal attack” is determined by me, and the bar is set low.
 
Ward 1
 
Trahern Crews is the Green Party candidate. Here’s his Facebook page.

 
– DFLer Dai Thao is the incumbent. Facebook here.

 

Ward 2
 
The incumbent, Dave Thune, is not running, and the DFL did not endorse. This one looks like a blast.

 
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abandoned2The U.S. Senate has passed the Every Child Achieves Act, and the House has passed Rep. John Kline’s (R-MN) Student Success Act. They are now trying to reconcile the two, and produce something that President Obama will sign. Whether they’ll succeed in the first of those objectives, much less the second, remains an open question. Anyway:
 

The (Every Child Achieves Act) also modernizes the Charter Schools Program (Title V), ensuring the opening of new charter schools, the replication and expansion of the most successful of charter school models, and support for facility financing and authorizer quality. We applaud the committee for strengthening this program that has been critical to the growth of charter schools nationwide.
(National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

First, the SSA expands America’s already-successful charter school system and allows federal funds to follow low-income students to the public school of their parents’ choice, not the school dictated by district lines.
(National Review)

And what could be wrong with more resources directed to charters, at this time? Just a handful of items; one could go on all day:
 
Charter schools are cheating your kids: New report reveals massive fraud, mismanagement, abuse (Salon)
 

How Wall Street’s Greedy Tentacles Sank Into Schools, Trapping Them in Massive Debts (AlterNet)

 
Charter schools struggling to meet academic growth (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

 
Education “reform’s” big lie: The real reason the right has declared war on our public schools (Salon)

 
Charters do potentially have a place, which is to deal with very challenging students via specialized approaches and services. Currently, the charter movement, through no fault of its teachers or students, is too often being used to undercut traditional public education, and line the pockets of odious, despicable greedheads. What needs to be fundamental in American education is a great public school in every town and every city district. Period.
 
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Support for unions continues to grow

by Dan Burns on August 19, 2015 · 1 comment

I’m not in the habit of paying a lot of attention to witless ninnies, unless I have to. I did happen to notice something about Republican presidential candidate and disastrously failed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker having made a campaign stop in Minnesota. I’m passing this along, about support for unions continuing to rise, that I saw at Daily Kos.
 

unionpoll2
 
Gallup did the polling.

 
Support for universal access to safe, legal abortion has also been rising, and presumably the plethora of assaults on those rights is also part of the dynamic on that.

 
The problem is getting this kind of support to consistently manifest, electorally. If everyone eligible would vote, based on where they’re at on the issues, two elections in a row (it would actually take three, six years, to clean out the U.S. Senate, but two would go a long way), right-wingers would be out of power at the federal level, and in all but 10-15 states, with massive benefits for practically everyone. It doesn’t seem like that should be so much to ask. Apparently, it is.
 
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Puppy/kitty-mill bill isn’t getting it done

by Dan Burns on August 18, 2015 · 0 comments

dogsFirming it up needs to be a priority, when DFLers take back the legislature. Getting anything was a hard row to hoe. Big Ag legislators kept coming up with bizarre, slippery-slope fantasies, apparently honestly believing that the next step would be making farmers sing their cows lullabies at night. Wingnuts are weird and paranoid.
 

The state’s breeder’s law, however, is proving to be regulation without a whole lot of teeth. In fact, it contains no limit on the number of dogs a kennel can house and breed.
 
Minnesota’s Commercial Dog and Cat Breeder Law, which went into effect was last July, dictates that breeders must provide daily enrichment for their furry charges, meaning positive physical contact with people and other well-adjusted animals at least twice daily. It also requires operators to monitor animals’ health and well-being daily, thus ensuring proper care. Or least that’s the idea…
 
Almost 90 names make up the list of Minnesota’s Commercial Dog and Cat Breeders. Included is Valley View Kennel, which was designated as “one of the worst puppy mills” in the country in 2013 by the United States Humane Society. So are Renner’s Kennels, owned by John and Lyle Renner, and Wanda Kretzman’s Clearwater Kennel, Inc.
 
The latter two made the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred 2015″ puppy mill list.
(City Pages)

There was a protest, and a counter-protest, at a breeding operation in Eden Valley, on Saturday.
 

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Out-of-control CEO pay and other bad things

by Dan Burns on August 14, 2015 · 1 comment

greedUnfortunately, the myth of the “rock star CEO” isn’t dead.
 

Corporate apologists say CEOs and other top executives are worth these amounts because their corporations have performed so well over the last three decades that CEOs are like star baseball players or movie stars.
 
Baloney. Most CEOs haven’t done anything special. The entire stock market surged over this time.
 
Even if a company’s CEO simply played online solitaire for thirty years, the company’s stock would have ridden the wave.
 
Besides, that stock market surge has had less to do with widespread economic gains that with changes in market rules favoring big companies and major banks over average employees, consumers, and taxpayers.
 
Consider, for example, the stronger and more extensive intellectual-property rights now enjoyed by major corporations, and the far weaker antitrust enforcement against them.
 
Add in the rash of taxpayer-funded bailouts, taxpayer-funded subsidies, and bankruptcies favoring big banks and corporations over employees and small borrowers.
 
Not to mention trade agreements making it easier to outsource American jobs, and state legislation (ironically called “right-to-work” laws) dramatically reducing the power of unions to bargain for higher wages.
(AlterNet)

It’s the 1% that’s the problem, not any particular age group:
 
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The GOP debates and candidate mental health

by Dan Burns on August 12, 2015 · 3 comments

conservatism(Update: I strongly recommend reading “Inside the GOP Clown Car,” by Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone. At least the first five paragraphs or so. Masterful.)
 
I didn’t watch the debates – no way was I subjecting myself to the repugnant drivel of fourth and fifth-rate minds – but I’ve read all about both the varsity and JV efforts, in sources I trust. What we had is a conclusive demonstration of the epidemic of combined mental health issues that define conservative “leadership” in the contemporary U.S. Namely, these two.
 

Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a “psychosis” in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in something untrue…
 
People with delusional disorder often can continue to socialize and function normally, apart from the subject of their delusion, and generally do not behave in an obviously odd or bizarre manner.
(WebMD)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet.
(Psych Central)

I’m well aware that a bunch of these people were academic superstars in college, and blew people away as law clerks or whatever. That’s called “book-smart” – they can get straight A’s, sure, but in the real world they won’t deal with the facts, and they never learn from what went wrong. That’s, in a word, stupidity.
 
As long as they’re not dealing with politics, most conservatives aren’t like this. They have to stay grounded in reality enough to handle jobs, ordinary social interaction, and the like. Professional conservatives – politicians, media, propaganda mill hacks, etc. – get to live the crazy, always, and with constant groupthink to reinforce it all.
 
There was a time, as little as 4-5 years ago, when I would have intended a screed like this as partly satirical. These days, I’m 100% serious.
 
I used the “Donald Trump insult generator” at Mother Jones.
 

Liberal clown Dan Burns has zero cred. Average talent who is out of touch with reality. Show courage!

Fair enough.
 
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Daudt chairing for Walker in Minnesota

by Dan Burns on August 10, 2015 · 2 comments

daudtMy reaction was the same as that of this excellent blogger.
 

(Minnesota House Speaker) Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) is said to be a rising Republican star in Minnesota. And so, I have to seriously wonder about his judgment as he chooses to become the state chair of the Walker for President campaign….
 
“In Minnesota, we’ve seen how our neighbor, Wisconsin, has been able to turn around under the strong leadership of Gov. Walker,” Daudt said.
 
Seriously, Daudt? You want to go there?
(mnpACT!)

I’m sure that as soon as he found out about Governor Mark Dayton’s replacement MPCA committee, Daudt was on the phone getting his orders from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). I haven’t seen yet that Minnesota Republicans intend to go to court over that. But I expect that they’ll try something.
 

I would just add that this makes it clear as the very air, for those who don’t know already, that Daudt is just another groveling Koch/ALEC punk. And I strongly suspect that he is preparing, as such, for a gubernatorial run in 2018. It will be quite helpful if, starting now, DFL activists take advantage of this opportunity to identify him in the public mind with the odious, corrupt, failed, and in many respects despicable governorship of Scott Walker.
 
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Tailings Pond Breach 20140805From yesterday:
 

On the anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster, ten Minnesota conservation groups called on Governor Mark Dayton to prevent a similar disaster from happening in Minnesota…
 
The letter to Governor Dayton states, “the Mount Polley Independent Review Panel’s recommendations should have been a wake up call for Minnesota. Instead, it seems that Minnesota hit the snooze button.” One year after the tragedy, the PolyMet sulfide mine proposal in Minnesota has not implemented the recommendations of the Mount Polley Independent Review Panel. Instead, PolyMet continues to propose storing their mine waste mixed with water behind a forty year-old dam, on top of the tailings and slimes from the shuttered LTV taconite mine. A simulation of a PolyMet tailings dam failure conducted in 2013 showed over 25 structures downstream could be inundated within hours of a dam failure.
(Mining Truth)

The “Preliminary Final Environmental Impact Statement” is not a public document, and I’m not sure whether it’s cool for me to blockquote from it, here, so I won’t. Basically, the issue of a possible massive tailings dam breach is included in an appendix, which says a) they’ve thought about it; b) there are things they could do to lessen the risk; c) they really don’t see the need. Surprise.

 
Governor Mark Dayton acknowledged earlier this week that whether to let the mining proceed will be a tough call. (He’s welcome to just turn the whole issue over to me. I’ll be glad to lay it out, in full, for Glencore and its political allies: “F*ck, NO!!!” But I suppose that he’s not about to do that.) My guess is that he’ll finesse it, giving a sort of conditional approval with strict environmental controls and a big (well into nine figures, at least) damage deposit. We probably won’t know until next year.

 

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