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Environment

Environment continues to take a beating

by Dan Burns on July 13, 2015 · 0 comments

scienceThese are all bummers. If you’re not in the mood for that right now, and I don’t blame you if you’re not, maybe move on and come back later.
 
In the entirely justified positive reaction to some recent Supreme Court decisions, it’s not getting all that much press that there was also a really bad one.
 

Power plants may continue to be able to emit unlimited mercury, arsenic, and other pollutants thanks to the Supreme Court, which on (June 29) took steps toward invalidating the first-ever U.S. regulations to limit toxic heavy metal pollution from coal and oil-fired plants.
 
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found fault with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, commonly referred to as MATS.
 
The EPA had been trying to implement a rule that cut down on toxic mercury pollution for more than two decades. But the Supreme Court majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the EPA acted unlawfully when it failed to consider how much the regulation would cost the power industry before deciding to craft the rule.
(Think Progress)

Another disconcerting study about groundwater supplies:
 
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Actual flag of the United States: note the size and position of the blue square relative to the stripes; note the number of rows of stars and the pattern of stars in alternating rows; note the number and width of the stripes.

Conservatives are angry all the time.  The further to the extreme right, the higher the sustained anger level.

 

Fact and reason have nothing to do with this anger level.  The anger is real; the causes are not.

 

The condition of perpetual free-floating rage on the right is the result of careful and deliberate priming – read LYING – by the right wing propaganda machine.  They tell their gullible little stooges that things are BAD BAD BAD, and without a thought to fact checking a word of it, the right wingers fall into line and foam at the mouth on command.

 

You tend not to see these stories in the mainstream media, because they don’t survive the fact checking process.  Tell the truth about these ginned up incidents, no one gets angry.   It takes lies to anger the base.  It takes lies to unite the base in support of bad candidates as well.  There is so much of this propaganda, that the right cannot fully identify why they are so angry –  they just know they ARE.

 

To move on to the latest of these manipulated anger political dramas, specifically about the flag (there are entire separate persistent right wing propaganda themes, memes, or genres, although they do sometimes overlap – black people are thugs, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc.), here are a couple of the more recent ones.  The flag propaganda series posts illustrate qualities common to all of the different propaganda themes.

 

Nothing says patriotism like cars made in Korea……..or not.  Hey, I’m all for trade, so long as we have an even playing field to compete, but it is an issue in the TPP that we are suffering from some bad provisions of past trade agreements with South Korea, and Kia is just one of the imports that contribute to those problems of lost jobs and trade imbalance.

 

So in that larger world economics context, I was equal parts angry and amused at the latest two examples of right wing propaganda that usurps legitimate patriotism and hijacks the flag for purposes of propaganda.  Both take place in Florida, one in Sunrise, one in West Palm Beach.

 

Note that there is no upper  (viewers) left hand corner of blue (technically a canton) with 50 stars representing 50 states, but rather the blue takes up slightly less than half of the flag.   The number of stars in each row, and the arrangement of stars in each row also appear to be incorrect.

 

photo of the so-called ‘American Flags’ being flown at the Kia dealership in West Palm Beach.

Moving on to the ‘stripes’ of the flag, they are the wrong width, and there are more than the 13, representing the original colonies, that appear on our American flag.

 

These are NOT AMERICAN FLAGS.

 

This is a form of bunting, which is prohibited by local ordinance, apparently intended to keep dealerships from unduly junking up the municipality.
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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.”
(MPR)

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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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.
(MPR)

(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:
 
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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.
 

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Conservatives MUST GO

by Dog Gone on June 13, 2015 · 1 comment

These are factual figures. Conservatives are lousy at governance (a gross understatement), and especially poor at economic policy and foreign policy — and those two are both closely connected to our failed energy policy. To see the actual statistics on how bad these obsessive ideology failures really are, see the graphic, from Occupy Democrats on Facebook.

 

Conservatives still believe the debunked nonsense promoted by right wing economist Art Laffer — who is currently the personal architect of the failed government tax policy in Kansas.  Tax cuts do not increase revenue, increase job growth or increase growth of GDP.

 

From Fact and Myth:

Do Tax Cuts Increase Revenues? No, Tax cuts do not Increase Revenue
“The Bush tax cuts led to 50 consecutive months of job growth…It’s demonstrably proven that tax cuts increase revenues” – Rush Limbaugh

The argument that tax cuts create or increase revenue is an old myth that simply refuses to go away. The logic behind this argument is that cutting taxes will stimulate spending (since investors now are  now encouraged through reduced tax rates) that will result in GDP growth.

This growth in GDP will result in increased tax revenues so significant that they will more than offset the drop in tax revenues that result from a lowered tax rate. The inverse to this is that increased taxes lower tax revenue by discouraging investment, which in turn lowers tax revenues so drastically, that they offset the added increase coming from the tax rate increase.  One of the reasons Republicans and other self-ascribed fiscal conservatives are able to get away with this is, is the superficially plausible argument that the Reagan and/or Bush tax cuts grew the economy and created revenue. To understand the fallacy of these arguments, it is necessary to understand economic growth during business cycles and over a long period of time, and how this affects tax revenues.

Correlating Tax Increases and Decreases with Revenue

By conveniently pointing to places where tax cuts were enacted at or around the time of a recovery or boom, tax cut advocates argue that tax cuts increase revenue.  The problem with this is that the revenue increases following the Bush and Reagan tax cuts are dwarfed by the revenue increase following Bill Clinton’s tax increase on the wealthiest Americans.

In fact, as a percentage of GDP, post-Reagan & Bush tax cut revenue falls below the 1965-2005 average. In other words, revenue increased because the economy was recovering/growing, and the tax cuts have little (probably nothing) to do with growth in GDP.  If anything, these tax cuts actually lowered revenue increased from what they would have been otherwise.

So the real question to ask is this: how much revenue did these tax cuts cost us?

 

Half of the right wing are evangelicals. The other half embrace them and make common cause with them, which places the same blame on their shoulders.

 

From CBS news earlier this year :

White Evangelicals are half of GOPprimary voters
 
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Tar Sands Resistance March Saturday

by Dan Burns on June 1, 2015 · 0 comments

spillEnbridge plans to start construction next year, on a controversial pipeline across northern Minnesota. There is a hearing on Wednesday (June 3), but while we can all hope for the best, the way things are going it’s probably more likely than not that the permitting will sail through that. Native American organizations are also holding hearings this week, to highlight their opposition.

 

The real purpose of this post is to pass on information about a big public demonstration planned for Saturday, June 6. It’s called the Tar Sands Resistance March. Enbridge is looking to pump a lot of tar sands oil across Minnesota via an existing line that is old and decrepit. Here’s information.

 

WHEN
Saturday, June 6th
12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
 
WHERE
Lambert Landing, on the corner of Shepard Rd and N Sibley St. We will march to the rally at the State Capitol Lawn, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55155

And here’s a compelling list of reasons to attend.

 
(Image credit here.)
 

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Dayton vetoes multiple right-wing bills

by Dan Burns on May 23, 2015 · 3 comments

capitolsculptureGood deal. The link has video of his news conference. Actually, as these bills contain way too much from the ALEC wish-list, none should have made it through the DFL-controlled Minnesota Senate to begin with.
 

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton made an expected special session of the legislature even more complicated by vetoing two more bills on Saturday. He has vetoed the omnibus agricultural, environment and natural resources bill and the omnibus jobs and energy bill.
 
Dayton said the first bill undermined decades of environmental protections and the second one fell short in funding several critical areas.
 
The governor did say he signed the omnibus state government finance bill despite a section that outsources some duties of the State Auditor to private auditors. Dayton said he would make fixing that section a part of any special session he calls.
(The Uptake)

 
Comments below fold.
 
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mncapitol2Disgraceful.
 

Iron mines, electric utilities and the biofuel industry came out winners in energy-related measures passed at the close of the Legislature.
 
But people with rooftop solar panels now face fees from municipal and cooperative electric companies, which convinced lawmakers that homegrown generators don’t pay their fair share of the power grid.
 
The energy measures, contained in agriculture and energy-jobs bills, are now before Gov. Mark Dayton, who said Tuesday he was still studying them.
(Star Tribune)

From Bluestem Prairie, here’s information on how this was railroaded at the very end. Also, regarding the energy/environment legislation from this session, there is a Keep Minnesota Clean event planned for Thursday at the governor’s mansion.

 

A few related notes:
 
– Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated that he may use line-item vetoes in budget bills. I’m generally against the line-item veto in principal. I think it gives governors too much power, and for evidence of that I can certainly cite the atrociously partisan ways in which it was abused by Dayton’s predecessor, the worst governor in the state’s history, Tim Pawlenty. But, all things considered, I support Dayton doing what he’s gotta do, here and now, with the tools he has to hand.
 
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amd_300(Update 2: Thrilled to have been wrong! We got the veto.)
 
(Update: Looks like we won’t get that veto. Damn. Governor Dayton’s explanation, and I suppose that it does make some sense, is included in this MPR article.)
 
This passed the DFL-controlled Senate 35-30. What a load.
 

“No one should be under the impression that this buffer law will clean up our waters,” said (MEP Executive Director Steve) Morse. “It is significantly weakened from the Governor’s proposal. While it will have a modest positive impact, the waters of Southwestern Minnesota will remain unswimable and undrinkable. We have a long way to go to making the transformative change that the Governor envisions.”
 
…Raiding Dedicated Environmental Funds: Even with $1 billion on the bottom line, this bill raids funds that are to prevent old landfills from contaminating our groundwater and surface water and clean up the pollution where it occurs…
 
Surprise Sulfide Mining Amendment: The bill exempts sulfide mining waste from solid waste rules. This amendment was never introduced as a bill or heard in any committee, and its future effect is unknown. Exempting as-of-yet unknown waste streams from potential sulfide mines is an unnecessary risk to water quality and public health…
 
Polluter Amnesty: A polluter amnesty provision delays enforcement and waives penalties for regulated parties that self-report violations of environmental regulations. This provision needlessly strips the MPCA of its powers to hold polluters accountable for protecting our natural resources.
(Minnesota Environmental Partnership)

I’m not suggesting that online petitions suffice to change the world. But they certainly don’t hurt (just to cite one example, a lot of sane and rational federal judges were able to be confirmed, last year, largely because of online activism), and you can let Governor Mark Dayton know, here, that you’re with him, should he choose to veto this contemptible travesty.
 

In a related move – MN Auditor Rebecca Otto dared to suggest that Big Mining be required to put down some sort of legitimate surety, before poisoning Minnesota’s water – we had this.
 

DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto is hoping Gov. Mark Dayton vetoes the state government finance bill that House and Senate leaders negotiated in the closing hours of the 2015 session.
 
Otto objects to language in the bill from House Republicans that would allow county officials to bypass her office and get audits from the private sector…
 
Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said the privatization of audits would be “like the fox guarding the chicken coop.”
(MPR)

 
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