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Was it political cowardice or bad strategy?

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2014 · 4 comments

announcement of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation
UPDATE: Heard from the Speaker of the Minnesota House, sadly shortly to be minority leader (replaced by this guy), and looks like some state-specific comments of mine might not hold up. Details here.
 
When Pres. Obama announced his support for net neutrality right after the election, I thought I understood how Republicans felt when Bush Jr. forced out Defense Sec. Don Rumsfeld right after the 2006 election. Well, that was nice, but couldn’t you have done that before we got toasted in the midterm election?! Of course my first response to Obama’s announcement was to be glad he came out so strongly on the side of the angels, but my next thought was to recall an image of Rumsfeld’s resignation being announced. Why not do this before the election, and maybe save some seats?
 
The silver lining of an election loss is it makes us more likely to consider our assumptions. We may not even realize we’re making assumptions. The assumption in this case is the spinelessness of Democratic candidates and elected officials. We in the Democratic base have pleaded for more spine for I don’t recall how long. Back to the 80’s maybe? The 70’s? The 90’s at least. Election after election, but especially during midterms when there’s a Democratic president, we see one self-defeating move after another. The seeming political cowardice wasn’t just on the part of Obama, despite my reaction to the timing of his net neutrality announcement, and despite his failure to do anything on immigration until last night, which I blame for the lower than expected (lower than expected by me anyway) turnout among Latinos. I’m inclined give him a pass on the timing of his strong stances on global warming since those likely had to wait for summits in China and Australia, though that doesn’t explain other Democrats not running on it.
 
Nor do Obama’s decisions excuse Democratic candidates who avoided him during their own reelections, and the many who avoided other Democrats at all, as if they weren’t running on a ticket. There were exceptions: Minnesota’s statewide candidates very much ran as a ticket, campaigning on the Democratic successes most Democrats rarely mentioned, for example; but in general, Democrats ran every-candidate-for-themselves with campaigns focused on appeasing, if not conservatives, then those mysterious centrists.
 
But was it really cowardice? I’m asking the base to question our assumption of gutlessness. Maybe this was strategy; lousy, awful strategy. If that’s the case, if spine isn’t the problem, then no wonder our appeals for political courage seem to achieve so little. We’re making the wrong demand.
 

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MN-08: About the election

by Dan Burns on November 6, 2014 · 3 comments

nolanI grant that it was close. Uncomfortably – indeed, distressingly – so, though the (entirely legitimate) presence of a Green Party candidate was partly the reason for that. Distressing that so many are still politically foolish and gullible enough to have fallen for Stewart Mills III’s repugnant, failed plutocratic drivel. Turnout was 68.5% of registered voters (not of all eligible voters) in this race, compared to 63% for governor (those numbers are based on registered voter totals on the linked pages, and don’t include at-the-polls signups). So, not awful, but far from great, by Minnesota standards. (Update: It turns out that total turnout was awful, at 50.31% of eligible voters statewide. Which partly explains the closeness of this race, too.)

 

I’m obviously very relieved that we won’t have to put up with Minnesota’s corporate media deifying Mills as the Unstoppable Future of the Republican Party. And you know that they were pumped with eagerness, to do that. Probably not the reporters themselves, for the most part, but those who tell them what to write.
 
Contrary to what some concern trolls claimed, taking particular note of Mills’s unearned privilege worked. Probably made the difference. Well, that, and The Hair. I saw somewhere that Nolan has the most progressive voting record overall of any Democrat who faced a really tough challenge. I’m not sure about that – I haven’t seen the data, myself – but it’s likely at least close to accurate, and makes his win something to feel all that much better about.

 

This seat probably won’t have to be worried about much in 2016, even if Rep. Nolan hands it off, but the longer term remains to be seen. Tuesday’s result, given the overall climate, shows that the district is blue, but not dark blue. (And that any candidate who is perceived as not red-hot enough for sulfide mining is not automatically doomed. I’ll write more about that. A lot of people will.) Demographic movement (as in greater diversity and better-educated) will push things left, but that’s a slow process.
 
Comments below fold.
 
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Actually, no. The PolyMet project is the one that’s getting most of the attention now. Substantially less far along is the plan by Twin Metals Minnesota to put a sulfide mine right next to where the South Kawishiwi River connects with the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Twin Metals’s parent company is Duluth Metals Ltd.
 
duluth
 

I’ll be liveblogging election results tomorrow night.
 

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HD49B Barb Sutter has unique definition of independent

by Eric Ferguson on November 3, 2014 · 1 comment

HD49B Barb Sutter lit

Barb Sutter lit in HD 49B


HD49B GOP candidate Barb Sutter says at the top of her campaign lit “Barb Sutter is an independent voice for our community” (click the image to enlarge). I suppose “independent” sounds good in a swing district, if appealing to voters inclined to split tickets. It sounds like someone who isn’t beholden to a party or any big donors or special interests. Yep, sounds good. And sounds funny, given that before becoming the candidate, Sutter was, no kidding, the SD49 GOP chair. Independent enough to make up a new definition of independent I guess.
 

She mentioned being the chair before becoming the candidate in an interview a few months ago on Republican Roundtable, a local public access program. This wasn’t the only instance where she’d showed interesting understandings of things. In that same interview, she agreed that schools increase the number of students labeled “special needs” just to get more money. The interviewer was the one who said it, and she replied, “There’s truth to that”. Embedding is disabled on this video, so you’ll have to follow the link. Scroll ahead in the video to 14:30.

 

“There’s truth to that”. So you know this, do you? It’s fraud, so you’ve reported the schools doing this, right? No? Are you countenancing fraud, or just making up what you’re saying? Basically, the whole interview is some variation of:
 
INTERVIEWER: Government sucks and everyone is dishonest.
Sutter: Yep.
 
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Audit of BP claims facility results in $64 million in additional payments – from the New Orleans Tribune http://www.tribunetalk.com/?p=3343

The ever-corrupt Tom Coburn, who lives his life amid the lint of the deep pockets of big oil, big pharm and other big money spent on PAID-triots. It’s no secret who buys members of the House and Senate to do their bidding.

 

And it’s no secret that Coburn, leaving this year due to ill health, has NEVER really been against waste. He’s just a hatchet man for his buyers, a long term buy-to-lie guy.

 

 

On his way out the door, he’s done his donor’s bidding one last time, this time via the right wing propaganda machine over at Fox (not really)News. It’s good to use Fox to lie to the gullible conservatives; neither Fox, nor the Conservatives who consume their drivel, will ever fact check anything. They tend to be science illiterates on both sides of the television – the sending and the receiving, and they are consistently wilfully ignorant.

Let’s look at the recent Fox dishonest headline:

$10G to watch grass grow: Coburn report details worst examples of gov’t waste

As American taxpayers worried about the terror threat from the Islamic State, the crisis at the border and the economy, the U.S. government spent their money to give rabbits massages, to teach sea monkeys to synchronize swim and to literally watch grass grow.

These and other examples of wasteful government spending were detailed by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn in his annual “Wastebook,” his final edition since he is retiring early next year.

…Other examples vary from the serious, to the aggravating, to just plain bizarre. One that takes the cake is the $10,000 the government spent to watch grass grow — seriously.

That project is the brainchild of the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is paying for the growth of the smooth cordgrass to be observed on a Florida reserve. The money covers “the cost to monitor grasses, restore two acres as a demonstration and publish a guide on best practices for cultivating the cordgrass, known formally as Spartina alterniflora.”

So…….IS the government wasting money on Spartina alterniflora, just ‘watching grass grow’? OR is there a connection to Coburn trying to discourage funding something useful on behalf of big oil, again?

Guess.

Here is the actual study, INCLUDING the actual purpose, which is completely and totally different from the description of the research in Coburn’s ‘wastebook’. The biggest waste here is the wastebook itself.

Here is the link to the study and the information about this very special kind of grass, with some excerpts below of the pertinent parts:

Smooth cordgrass provides cover for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds,
and muskrats; and habitat for commercially important fish and shellfish.
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Smooth cordgrass was direct-seeded successfully on damaged marshes found
on dredge spoils from Connecticut to Virginia. Lower littoral zones
were seeded in locations where heavy wave action caused by storms did
not erode away the often top-heavy plants before their root systems
developed sufficiently. Smooth cordgrass seeds and seedlings were also
planted successfully on dredge spoils produced in the maintenance of
navigational channels within sounds and estuaries

Smooth cordgrass is an important component of Gulf Coast salt marshes
which stabilize shorelines against erosion and filter heavy metals and
toxic materials from the water column [13].

The presence of smooth cordgrass indicates sites with high salinity,
which can be managed for shrimp ponds [20].

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Gulf Coast marshes, because they provide soil stabilization and enhance
water quality, receive the highest priority for protection in
comprehensive oil spill response plans for coastal areas [13]. Effects
of oil spills on salt marshes vary depending on oil type, plant
coverage, season, and marsh elevation [24]. Flushing with seas water is
the most effective clean-up method for oil-contaminated salt marshes at
present. However, once oil penetrates the sediment, not even flushing
will remove it. Flushing is also ineffective at reducing damage to
cordgrass and enhancing long-term plant recovery. If natural tidal
flushing occurs, no other clean-up measures are recommended because
impacts on the community cause more harm than good. Overall, clean-up
responses have limited effectiveness; therefore, primary emphasis should
be placed on contingency planning and protection of salt marsh habitat
from oil spills.

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HD2B Steve Green dislikes both science and law

by Eric Ferguson on October 20, 2014 · 2 comments

State Rep. Steve Green, HD2B
State Rep. Steve Green, R-2B, has authored some interesting bills. By “authored”, I suspect I mean “stuck his name on some special interest’s bill, and who knows if he even read it”. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he really believes this stuff. Wait, that’s sort of worse. Anyway…
 
Let’s start with a bit of tentherism. Green is one of those who buys into that doctrine birthed in John C. Calhoun’s black-enslaving heart that states can ignore whatever federal laws they disagree with. That doctrine, originally intended for the defense of slavery, has never entirely died out on the extreme right, which extremity apparently includes Green, trying to apply it to modern issues with just as little understanding of how the law works.
 
Green coauthored a bill that calls for the arrest of federal officials enforcing federal gun laws. He seems to be fond of arresting federal officials for implementing laws he disagrees with. Green was one of the Republicans who said they would support arresting federal officials implementing Obamacare in Minnesota. No shock I suppose that there is considerable overlap between the Republicans who want to arrest federal officials for one and the other. Each list is like a handy guide to nutjobbery.
 
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Torrey Westrom does double denial

by Eric Ferguson on September 24, 2014 · 1 comment

clowncarTorrey Westrom is a state senator in the reddish-purple SD12. He’s the GOP nominee challenging US Rep. Colin Peterson in CD7, and presumably he’ll be seeking reelection to his senate seat in 2016 (so yes, sticking to my prediction Peterson wins reelection). He recently gave an interview to the St. Cloud Times where he engaged in double denying, hitting both climate change and the debt ceiling.
 
Maybe “denial” isn’t quite the right word for the debt ceiling since he plainly knows the debt ceiling is real. He does seem to be in denial about the catastrophe that would be unleashed should the government smack into the debt ceiling and be unable to borrow enough money to pay its bills. If you need a reminder of how we nearly had a financial crisis on the scale of 2008, only this time with a Congress looking to commit sabotage rather than defuse the crisis, read “Why the debt ceiling clash happened”. Sen. Westrom seems to be among those who need the reminder, judging from what he told the Times, “Westrom told the Times that he wouldn’t vote to increase the federal debt ceiling unless Congress strikes a deal with President Barack Obama to balance the federal budget.”
 
Does he understand that if the government runs out of borrowing authority, bills go unpaid, including bond payments, Social Security, vendors’ bills, payroll, the whole thing? Does he get the long term implications of the government failing to pay its bills not because it can’t, but because it can but won’t? Republicans talked in 2010 about using the debt ceiling to force Democrats to agree to massive spending cuts when they realized they would definitely take the US House, and made good on their threat in 2011. When dreaming of the leverage they would get, they did so realizing how serious the impact would be.

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minerunoffAnd it really is “mostly.“ I would have to say that the public, the informed part of it anyway, has weighed in. Could well be time for some politicians to reassess.
 

In all, 52,887 people and organizations took time to submit comments on the proposal, which broke the previous state record for comments by nearly 50,000. An analysis of all of the submitted comments conducted by Mining Truth, found that 51,970 (98.2 percent) of the comments raised concerns about the proposal as currently written. There were 883 (1.6 percent) comments supporting the project, and another 84 (0.2 percent) where the author’s position was not clear…
 
“The intensity of the opposition to this project is testament to the fact that the mining companies still have some fairly big information gaps in their proposal,” said Paul Danicic, Executive Director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “Since we don’t know how long polluted water from the site will need to be treated once the mine closes, it is clear that there is growing opposition to the idea of Minnesotans shouldering all the long-term financial and environmental risks while foreign mining corporations rake in all the profits.”
(Mining Truth)

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Enbridge risking disaster up on the border

by Dan Burns on September 3, 2014 · 0 comments

imagesCA2I186XI wrote before about Enbridge’s activities in Minnesota, here.

 

Enbridge has been trying since 2012 to get a presidential permit to expand the Alberta Clipper from its current permitted capacity of 450,000 barrels per day to 800,000 barrels per day.
 
Thanks in large part to our public pressure, activists have stalled approvals for this tar sands project and others, like the Keystone XL pipeline. So Enbridge concocted a dangerous scheme that essentially amounts to smuggling to get their filthy product across the border.
 
Instead of carrying tar sands across the border on the Clipper pipeline directly, Enbridge is diverting the tar sands flow to an adjacent 47-year-old pipeline, where it will travel 20 miles across the US border into Minnesota, then back to the Clipper pipeline. Disturbingly, the aging “Line 3″ was not designed to carry toxic and corrosive tar sands crude, yet would be operating at more than double its current capacity.
 
Yes, this is a proven recipe for disaster: The 2013 Mayflower Arkansas spill was caused by a rupture of the similarly aging Pegasus pipeline, which had been also co-opted to carry tar sands crude.
(Credo)

The Star Tribune confirmed all of this, albeit of course in a much more rhetorically meek way, here.
 
It looks more and more as if Enbridge isn’t any better than TransCanada (I don’t type that lightly), and deserves similar levels of public scrutiny and pressure.
 
The image is from the Mayflower spill, via insideclimatenews.org
 

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LegacyWebHorizontalI’ve long held forth to anyone I could buttonhole, whom I thought I had a reasonable chance of educating, that Minnesota and the Twin Cities are not some frozen hinterland of the continental upper Midwest, but instead offer some of the best arts, dance, theater and music in the country.

 

Usually I’ve had these conversations in airport bars or at trade shows and business seminars. Few people have been inclined to listen much, but that hasn’t dampened my spiritual calling to civic boosterism. I love Minnesota and the Twin Cities, always have, and if you love something you want to let others know.

 

Minnesota is known for a lot of things — our lakes, our sports teams, our universities, our liberal politics — but it’s not generally known as a center of the arts and a major supporter of the arts community. It should be.

 

While not generally known even to native Minnesotans, our state is home to more than 1,500 arts and cultural organizations. Each year, these organizations pump more than $830 million into the local economy. Of that, the creative sector produces some $700 million in revenues with $430 million in consumer retail sales — equal to about 70% of all sports sector revenues combined. The creative sector employs some 20,000 residents in Minneapolis alone, amounting to about 5% of all jobs in the city. The Playwrights’ Center is recognized across the country as unrivaled in the cultivation of new playwrights and their works. There are nearly 100 theater companies in the state with more theater seats per capita than anywhere in the country except New York City. Per capita revenues for theater companies and dinner theaters is 14 times the national average. Overall, the Twin Cities metro area is rated 6th highest in the Creative Vitality Index nationwide.

 

A lot of that artistic energy, innovation and economic vitality is the legacy of the Legacy Amendment, which I consider one of the greatest collective acts of civic philanthropy in our nation’s history and one which will serve as a model to other states once they begin to realize the astounding social, cultural and economic benefits it produces.

 

For those who need some background, in 2008 Minnesotans passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Act (Legacy Act) to the Minnesota State Constitution. The objectives of that legislation were to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater; to preserve clean drinking water sources; to protect, enhance and restore wetlands, prairies and forests and renew wildlife habitat; to support parks and trails; and to preserve Minnesota’s arts and cultural heritage. To accomplish those objectives, the Legacy Act called for an increase to the state sales tax of three-eighths of one percent (0.00375%) beginning on July 1, 2009 and continuing through 2034, to be divided into four funds: 33% for a Clean Water Fund; 33% for an Outdoor Heritage Fund; 19.75% for an Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; and 14.25% for a Parks and Trails Fund. Note that this self-imposed tax was in addition to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) established in 1988. The Legacy Act passed with a 56% majority, even though a blank ballot counted as a “No” vote, proving to the many doubters that Minnesotan’s ongoing love affair with our state’s astonishing natural beauty and priceless water resources meant far more to them than a handful of pocket change.

 

To date, here’s how the Legacy Act funding breaks down (diagram includes ENRTF funding):

 

Legacy Act Funding

 

http://www.legacy.leg.mn/funding-overview

 

Looking just at the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, you can see why Minnesota enjoys such a lively, thriving arts community and creative sector economy: by this year’s end, for just the first five years of the Act, Minnesotans will have invested more than a quarter-billion dollars in our arts community. An investment of that kind of capital in any area of human endeavor is bound to have an enormous impact. In fact, that’s just what we are seeing.

 

In time, Minnesota will become known for more than bone-chilling winters and sky blue waters. We’ll become known as the center of arts and culture in the center of the continent and a magnet for the best and brightest. At the rate things are going, it won’t take long …

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