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mncapitol2Namely, with Medicaid work requirements. A tiny, perverse part of me kind of wishes that Governor Mark Dayton actually would sign it (not really, but you know what I mean), presuming that it gets through the Senate with its big old 1-vote GOP majority. Because, for example, from last July:

 

James Acker is a Donald Trump supporter deep in Minnesota Trump country. Cass County voted two-to-one for Trump over Hillary Clinton in last fall’s presidential election.
 
Acker and some of his neighbors, however, are not sold on what they’ve heard from Trump and other Republican lawmakers on Medicaid. The federal health safety net plays a crucial role here and many residents are worried now about the GOP’s push to remake health care and how that will affect them and their communities…
 
Many in Cass County are watching intently. Despite the overwhelming support for Trump, people are wary about changing a program that for many is a life-or-death necessity.
(MPR)

This is about another really intellectually stellar proposal:
 

OK, Minnesota State Legislators: What is going on with SF 2487? It requires schools to adopt a “written academic balance policy” that must “prohibit school employees, in their official capacity, from requiring students or other school employees to express specified social or political viewpoints for the purposes of academic credit, extracurricular participation, or as a condition of employment,” among other things.
 
On its face, this seems simple enough. But what does it mean? I understand that, as a professional educator, I won’t be telling my students that they should vote for a specific candidate. I don’t know any professional teacher who would do that. Of course we wouldn’t say “only conservatives are allowed on the debate team,” or “only socialists are allowed to try out for the basketball team.”
 
But what is a “social viewpoint?” Is Black Lives Matter a social viewpoint? Because that’s not really negotiable: the lives of my black students, friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens do matter, unequivocally. How about supporting LGBTQ students’ rights to have a safe place to learn, or that their lives matter? Is that a social viewpoint? Because that’s not really negotiable either. How about “women are equal to men?” There are so many different things that fall under the idea of “social viewpoint” that are basic rules of safe classrooms and healthy schools.
(Adventures in Distraction)

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A partial win on PolyMet, for now

by Dan Burns on March 8, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfide2A win as far as the judge refusing to dismiss the lawsuits, that is. There is no question that the proposed land swap is an atrocious giveaway, but whether courts will see that in the long run is another matter. You know how plenty of judges are.
 

A federal judge has put on hold four lawsuits filed by eight environmental groups to block a land swap that the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota needs to move forward.
 
U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen stayed the lawsuits while Congress considers legislation to force completion of the land exchange between PolyMet and the U.S. Forest Service. The bill passed the House last November and is pending in a Senate committee…
 
In her order Tuesday, Ericksen denied PolyMet’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits.
(MPR)

Groups have filed for a contested case hearing on PolyMet with the Minnesota DNR.
 

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To say the least.
 

Final permit decisions on PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet Mining Project are approaching, and for all the celebration of the process by politicians and company promoters here in Minnesota, we have grave concerns. We bring this message from Duluth, where we live downstream of the proposed PolyMet mine.
 
Last week we welcomed a delegation from Amnesty International to discuss their experience with a British Columbia copper sulfide mine upstream of their own communities. This is a group that has heard it all before: promises of safety from mining companies, claims of new technology that isn’t, guarantees of zero discharge, and assurances from government officials that it will all be fine.
 
Unfortunately, in 2014, the dam upstream of them collapsed, sending toxic water and tailings into nearby Quesnel Lake, effectively turning the pristine lake into a waste pit. The Mount Polley dam breach is the worst environmental disaster in Canadian history, and it is ongoing.
(MinnPost)

A related and similarly enlightening item:
 

The outdoor recreational industry contributed toward two percent of the U.S. GDP in 2016, according to a preliminary report the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released (on February 14). It’s the bureau’s first attempt to analyze this economic sector, and it points to the surprisingly large contribution of hunting, festivals, and countless other outdoor activities to the American economy.
 
Indeed, 2 percent amounted to nearly $374 billion in 2016. That’s enough money to fund the Department of Interior 27 times over. And this economy is growing at a faster rate than the general U.S. economy. It grew 3.8 percent in 2016 whereas the overall economy saw just a 2.8 percent rise…
 
With data on this industry available, lawmakers should have no excuse for not measuring the impacts of extraction and other land use on public lands, said Matt Lee-Ashley, senior director of environmental strategy and communications at the Center for American Progress, to Earther. After all, as he pointed out, the mining industry (which includes oil and gas) amounted to just $260 billion in 2016. Outdoor recreation wins in that aspect.
(Earther)

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What difference did the Russians really make?

by Dan Burns on February 22, 2018 · 0 comments

trump7I’m among those who have been thinking, very little. That is, that Russian activities are well down the list of the factors that put Trump in the White House. (If you ask me, the #1 factor is that the overall socio-political intelligence in this country is still considerably less than many of us fondly chose to believe. #2 was the atrocious, despicable behavior of corporate media, including pretty much across the board here in Minnesota.) I still think that, more or less, but I found this article intriguing and worthwhile.
 

It’s a fairly straightforward question. But more than a year later, we are no closer to a definitive answer on the actual impact of Russian intelligence hacking efforts as well as their active measures through RT, Sputnik News, and thousands of Facebook and Twitter ads, bots, and trolls on the 2016 election.
 
It’s not really a question of whether they made a difference: it’s a question of how big or small that difference ultimately was.
 
This unknown impact would be added to the appeals made by either candidate, the specific states they visited, and how they managed to resonate with the general populace in the wake of the news cycle. And of course there was also the last-minute release of the Comey letter, which FiveThirtyEight states may have dropped Clinton’s numbers by between 3 to 5 percent. Is it possible that she had already been severely hampered by the endless reams of bad news about internal DNC emails, and then John Podesta? What difference did it actually make?
(Daily Kos)

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School privatization stuff

by Dan Burns on February 15, 2018 · 0 comments

abanschoolA couple of recent items. Regarding this first one, I’m not ready to declare victory, yet. (Neither, I’m sure, is the author.) But it is encouraging.
 

Charter schools used to be seen as the hot new concept in education.

 
But that fad seems to have jumped the shark.

 
For two decades since the first charter school law was passed in Minnesota, they’ve grown at about 6 to 7 percent nationally.
 
But for the last three years, that growth has dropped each year – from 7 to 5 to 2 percent.
(gadflyonthewallblog)

The next one is long and involved, but should be read in full if you’re into contemporary education issues in Minnesota, at all. And why wouldn’t you be?
 

If education reform is a political game, and it is, then it looks like the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) is winning. Here’s why.
 
On February 13, the union held an informational picket line, meant to rally members and raise public awareness of the issues MFT says it is fighting for. That includes clean buildings, less testing, and smaller class sizes. 1,000 people showed up to walk the picket line in freezing, late afternoon temperatures. They hoisted signs and banged on drums while passing vehicles honked and waved in support…
 
It comes amid contract negotiations between MFT and the Minneapolis schools. According to a Star Tribune article, the district would like to hold mediation sessions over typical business items such as wages and benefits. Across the table, however, the union, like its counterpart in St. Paul, is attempting to use its contract as a way to advocate for the “schools Minneapolis kids deserve.” Labor laws in the United States favor management on this one, with precedent given to restricting union negotiations to boilerplate contract issues.
 
But there is a growing trend of labor groups embracing “social justice unionism,” where the contract becomes a way to reframe the failure narrative dogging public schools. In cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, St. Paul, and now, Minneapolis, this movement has pushed back against the plutocrat supported assumption that schools and teachers are failing kids.

 
On February 7, almost one week before the MFT rally drew one thousand supporters, the local education reform outfit, Minnesota Comeback, held their own rally at Minneapolis’s Capri Theater. This was billed as a quarterly gathering for the group’s community members and was a much more sparsely attended, subdued affair than MFT’s more celebratory one.
(Bright Light Small City)

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 99

by Dan Burns on February 15, 2018 · 0 comments

trump13I suppose that this is not at all surprising.
 

President Donald Trump — who boasted (in January) that his success in life was a result of “being, like, really smart” — communicates at the lowest grade level of the last 15 presidents, according to a new analysis of the speech patterns of presidents going back to Herbert Hoover.
 
The analysis assessed the first 30,000 words each president spoke in office, and ranked them on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and more than two dozen other common tests analyzing English-language difficulty levels. Trump clocked in around mid-fourth grade, the worst since Harry Truman, who spoke at nearly a sixth-grade level.
(Newsweek)

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Public hearing on PolyMet tonight in Duluth

by Dan Burns on February 8, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfide2If so inclined, you can view the proceedings via a livestream at The Uptake. A good many viewpoints will likely be presented, in at least some cases quite vigorously.
 

It is never my intent to caricature supporters of sulfide mining in the general public. They have their reasons, and many are knowledgeable, well-intentioned, and no fools.
 
Some information on a purported “damage deposit:”
 

A draft permit to mine issued by the Minnesota DNR last month calls for PolyMet to make available $544 million in financial assurance the first year of mining, which acts as a sort of damage deposit if PolyMet couldn’t pay for the proposed mine’s cleanup.
 
However, state officials estimated that more than $1 billion would be necessary to cover the potential environmental liability Minnesota could be left with from the mine.
 
The DNR is taking comments through March 6; the PCA through March 16.
 
Correction (Feb. 8, 2018): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that PolyMet has put up money for financial assurance. A draft permit calls for that, but PolyMet would not begin to make financial assurance available unless and until it receives permits and begins construction.
(MPR)

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mncapitol2The election is next Monday, February 12. The DFL candidate is Melissa Wagner. From her website:
 

As you might guess for someone who has worked as a school social worker for 24 years, I am a big advocate for kids and education. Children in rural Minnesota deserve to get a world-class education: to have a great school experience, to be educated in safe, well-functioning schools, and to have every opportunity along their educational path that students do in larger cities…
 
The single best way we, as a community, can make sure that all our kids have that chance is though strong public schools that are well-integrated and supported in the community and, most importantly, focused on student success, not just test scores.

Jeremy Munson beat Scott Sanders in a GOP primary. If you look at his website, Munson is about what you’d expect, politically, for someone looking to be the right-wing legislative heir to Tony Cornish. Note the complete lack of supporting references for some of the claims that he makes.

 

There is also apparently a write-in candidate. You can read about that at Bluestem Prairie, here.
 

A couple of notes, neither of them meant to be taken as suggesting that any kind of complacency is in order. Democrats flipped another deep red state legislative seat yesterday, this time in Missouri. And GOP participation numbers in yesterday’s Minnesota caucuses were disappointing. For the GOP, that is.
 

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Minnesota-State-CapitolThe special elections (I’ll post about the other one tomorrow) are being held next MONDAY, February 12. I haven’t troubled to find out why they’re not on a Tuesday as usual. Busy.
 

Karla Bigham is the DFL candidate in Senate District 54. From her website:
 

Whether it was fighting to complete the Wakota Bridge, supporting funding for the Hastings Bridge, working to expand education programs in our schools, or ensuring our communities were safe — improving the quality of life of our residents was always my top priority. I will bring that same level of dedication and advocacy to the Minnesota State Senate. When making policy decisions, doing what best for the residents of Senate District 54 will always come first. By working hard to actively listen to all residents, and partnering closely with local governmental units, I will ensure that our communities are the best possible place for us all to live, raise our families, and start a business. Thank you!

Denny McNamara was a GOPer in the Minnesota House for quite a while. He left rather unexpectedly, under a cloud. Bluestem Prairie has comprehensive material on the realities of his campaign fundraising, this time around, here and here.
 
There’s also a Libertarian candidate, Emily Mellingen. And for some reason there’s another Republican, James E. Brunsgaard III, still listed on the SoS website. I haven’t looked into that, either. What’s important, as always, is DFL voter turnout.
 

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trump23Corporate media has been making a big deal of worker bonuses of a few hundred dollars or whatever, and generally not mentioning that virtually none of the people that do the actual work out there are seeing anything like permanent pay raises because of the Trump tax scam.
 

Less than ten percent of the nation’s wealthiest and most-profitable companies have shared any of the financial benefits they received from a massive corporate tax cut provided by President Donald Trump and Republicans, a new analysis released Tuesday shows.
 
According to Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of organizations which advocates for progressive tax reform, the numbers in their new analysis reveal that the GOP public relations campaign touting the idea that corporations would be sharing “a big slice of their huge Trump tax cuts with their workers through bonuses and wage hikes is mostly hype.”
 
The ATF analysis, in fact, draws from financial data and public statements compiled by a similarly named (though ideologically opposite) group, the Americans for Tax Reform. The right-leaning ATR has been maintaining a database of how Fortune 500 companies have implemented or altered fiscal policies since passage of the GOP tax cuts at the end of 2017.
(Common Dreams)

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