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frackingNot long ago, the commissioners for Houston County, in the southeast corner of Minnesota, seriously considered passing a ban on frac sand mining, but essentially backed off at the last minute. The Star Tribune had an article yesterday about some other goings-on over the issue. I’m noting the following take (you can click directly to the Strib here, if you like), as it has considerable additional information of value.


In Monday’s Star Tribune, Matt McKinney looks into local government mischief in “Frac-sand debate tears SE Minnesota county apart; Ethics investigation finds Houston County official threatened opponents,” and the story demonstrates why the citizenry is up in arms:

A zoning official here wielded his power to retaliate against people who opposed frac sand mining, an independent investigation found, slapping frac opponents with bogus zoning violations, threatening to tear down their house or cabin and, in one case, warning a frac opponent that she should “watch what she says” or risk getting cited.
His targets were people who had spoken out at public meetings or sent letters to the Houston County Board to complain about the encroachment of frac-sand mines, an issue that’s torn the county’s social fabric as the local government wrestles with how to manage the emerging and potentially lucrative industry.
The official, Bob Scanlan, was suspended for three days and given mandatory ethics training as a result of the investigation ordered last summer by the County Board of commissioners and conducted by Minneapolis law firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen.
The findings were made public recently, when the county released a redacted version to the Star Tribune. Today, Scanlan presides as the county zoning and planning director and acts as a key official in the county’s ongoing deliberations over sand mining.

(Bluestem Prairie)


First, this:

So, now Ted Cruz joins past presidential candidate wanna-bes on the right in proposing a flat tax.  Flat taxes have been proposed by most recently Herman Cain and the Nut Gingrich, but have also been floated in the past as far back as Steve Forbes when he wanted to be the right wing nut candidate. There is a problem with the Fat Tax.  It doesn’t work, in that it does not offer the promised benefits in tax revenue or growth.
What it DOES do — and why we should expect it from the right wing, hand maidens to the wealthy, is to benefit the rich and to expand wealth and income inequality.  It also tends not to have provided adequate revenue — much the way the Bush tax cuts failed to produce adequate (much less increased) revenue and economic growth.  The flat tax also does not promote adequate revenue or optimal job growth, much the way we have seen the tax cuts in regressive states like Kansas and now Wisconsin have not produce either economic growth or job creation and increases in business growth. There has been experimentation with the flat tax, mostly in formerly eastern bloc European countries and Russia.  Many of those countries, after implementing a flat tax, DID see economic growth, but for other reasons than the flat tax, and those countries have been hit hard by the 2008 global economic recession.  And another factor not generally noted – most of the countries that have implemented the flat tax have also been widely regarded as highly corrupt, with Russia being regarded as the MOST corrupt – one of the most corrupt in the world, which should be considered in any reference to increased tax compliance. This is significant because Cruz also wants to abolish the IRS, making compliance apparently entirely on the honor system.
Yeah, like THAT is going to work.
So lets start with the famous IMF study of flat tax implementation and success/failure from 2006 — before the big global economic collapse.  At that point the range of time during which there was evidence on the implementation of the flat tax ranged from ten years to two years in the countries examined:


This Guy Wants to be President — Exxon edition

by Eric Ferguson on March 4, 2015 · 0 comments

clowncarI might as well own up right away that the headline is a bit misleading, as only one of these stories involves Exxon. Well, someone has to be in Exxon’s pocket. The Koch brothers surely can’t squeeze in everybody. Then again, the Kochs and Exxon are part of the same oil oligopoly and between them do much to keep global warming denying funded, and the subject of the second story is infamous for Koch-pocket inhabiting, so please undulge some stretching in an effort at cleverness. Anyway, New Jersey governor Chris Christie let Exxon pay $250 milion after suing for $8.9 billion in damages.

I can appreciate why, when it comes to the Christie administration, the assorted controversies can be tough to keep track of, but this story is raising questions that deserve answers.
A judge was poised to rule on damages, and New Jersey was seeking $8.9 billion – $2.6 billion to help restore the damaged areas and $6.3 billion in compensatory damages. The fact that Exxon was responsible was not even at issue anymore.
And then the Christie administration decides it’ll settle for $250 million, most of which the governor can now apply to his state budget shortfall – rather than, say, environmental recovery.

Essentially, with the lawsuit successfully fought to the point where culpability was established and they were down to the money, Christie suddenly decided his state could give up billions to the benefit of Exxon, which made roughly $32 billion in net profit last year, while his state government, like pretty much all states run by Republicans, is short of cash. I guess if the Kochs have given their affections elsewhere, Christie needs to find a sugar daddy where he can.


frackingUpdate: They did indeed reverse themselves. No ban.
Original text:

It’s unfortunate that this is not surprising.

Last week, Houston County commissioners voted unanimously to send a bill banning frac sand mining to the county attorney. However, at their meeting on Tuesday, a few commissioners appeared to rethink their position on the issue.
The county attorney discussed his findings on the ban on Tuesday with the board and said the ban could be passed and defended in court. However, some commissioners wanted to tone down the proposed ban, despite voting for the ban in the last meeting.

I’m not going to openly speculate on what kinds of pressures are perhaps being brought to bear. The following has all the background.

Grassroots organizing by ordinary citizens in a southeastern Minnesota county has resulted in a stunning vote by the Houston County Board of Commissioners to essentially ban silica sand mining for purposes other than local construction and agriculture.
It’s a stunning counterpoint to the “informational hearing” that the Minnesota House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee held in St. Paul earlier this year in which only mining interests were first invited to speak.
(Bluestem Prairie)

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Keystone XL – Done and Dusted! Obama vetoes!

by Dog Gone on February 24, 2015 · 0 comments

He did it, Obama has vetoed the evil Keystone XL pipeline!
Well done, Mr. President! A long awaited victory over big, bad oil, with all the corruption and destruction that accompany it.


oil pipeline explosion



Bench PolyMet at the high school tournaments

by Dan Burns on February 18, 2015 · 0 comments

is-polymet-a-good-deal-300x300I have to pass this along right now, from Newspeak Review. Everything’s explained, precisely and concisely, when you click on the link.


When we see ads again at our public tournaments, whether the boys’ hockey tournament, girls’ hockey tournament, or other (I noticed them at football this year too), I say it’s time for a response. Let’s #BenchPolyMet!
I invite you to join me in:
– Tweeting and posting on social media using the hash tag #BenchPolyMet. Tag @MSHSL and @KSTC45 for maximum effect. Tag @newspeakreview for retweets.
– Make a #BenchPolyMet sign. Display it at the tourney; mega bonus points if you can get it on TV!
Most of us who care about the integrity of our democracy and public decision making processes in Minnesota don’t have the big bucks that PolyMet uses to spread our message, but we have our Minnesota voices. Let’s use ‘em. Attention to PolyMet’s corporate propaganda at the hockey tourneys is growing, and several organizations have already indicated interest in the #BenchPolyMet social media campaign. It’s time to #BenchPolyMet, @MSHSL @KSTC45.


More bad GOP bills in the Minnesota lege

by Dan Burns on February 12, 2015 · 0 comments

amd_300I implied some time ago that I thought it not very likely that the 2015 Minnesota legislature would get really involved in the sulfide mining controversy. Wrong again. Some Range DFL names are on this, too.

Essentially, HF 616 and 617 limit the power of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The agency couldn’t implement water standards without completing an economic impact study. Further, the PCA couldn’t base standards on data that hasn’t been verified from an independent source. In other words, conflicting research from industry scientists could be used to discredit current water standards.
That’s relevant, because the wild rice sulfate standard at the heart of many water quality debates in both nonferrous mining and taconite mining on the Iron Range is subject to such disagreement.
(Minnesota Brown)


So while some may propose increasing monies on infrastructure, education or expanding the state’s Child and Dependent Care Credit, Senator David H. Senjem (R-25) and Representative Greg Davids (R-28B), the chairman of the Minnesota House Taxes Committee, have proposed a simple bill … Minnesota should give a tax credit to businesses who have paid the federal Medical Device Excise Tax. And it’s not just a tax credit that can offset Minnesota taxes due, it is a refundable…
If Senator Senjem and Representative Davids get their way, thoughts about “surpluses” will be replaced by “deficits” … let the fight for “unallotment” begin. With a billion dollars directed to “assist” medical device companies, something has to give … so expect cuts to MDOT projects, education, local government aid, and other programs.
This is one of the most idiotic ideas ever proposed.
(MN Political Roundtable)

If you scan through all of the House bill introductions for this session (I don’t recommend it; it’s an ordeal, trust me on that), it looks like Reps. Greg Davids (R-Preston), Duane Quam (R-Byron) and Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) are the primary American Legislative Exchange Council water carriers, this time around.

I don’t know about you, but now and then I try to step back and consider, as objectively as I can, whether maybe I myself am just being a ridiculous idiot. Rigid ideologues make no effort to try to self-correct like that, and that’s one of many reasons why when they get into power, they often do a lot of damage.


This guy wants to be president 3

by Eric Ferguson on February 10, 2015 · 0 comments

clowncarRemember back when even some Republicans wanted to be known as environmentalists? Granted, remembering Ronald “trees pollute” Reagan, it looks like George Bush Sr. was already an anomaly. In case there was any doubt though, there’s Scott Walker, pursuing a blatantly anti-environmental agenda. He seems to be covering the gamut, from stripping citizen boards of decision making authority, to selling public lands, to firing the scientists.
Oh yes, those Wisconsin tourism ads are full of lakes and trees. Just look and don’t get wet I guess, or you might get too sick to hear when Walker starts selling himself to swing voters as some sort of moderate.
Remember when Mike Huckabee was the nice conservative? I remember his line in one of the 2008 debates, “I’m conservative, but I’m not angry about it.” He was this amusing guy who made repeat appearances on such lefty media as Colbert Nation and The Thom Hartmann Program. He could disagree with liberals yet be civil about it. For 2016, he decided that crazy sells better than polite. Feeling left out of the conservative angerfest after President Obama’s bit of historical accuracy at the national prayer breakfast (on a tangent, why does Obama show up at that thing anyway?), Huckabee said Obama doesn’t like anyone but Muslims. “This President has a high horse himself. It’s his TelePrompTer,” Huckabee said, apparently still thinking teleprompter references are hilarious. Even on his now defunct Fox News program, at least early one when I watched it once in a while, Huckabee used to come across with a sort of “I don’t dislike you, but I just don’t agree with you” attitude. I also recall some Arkansans saying in 2008 that we shouldn’t be fooled, because we weren’t seeing Huckabee’s other side. I think I see it now.


You don’t get handwashing by restaurant staff from the magical waving of the ‘invisible hand’.

Remember when, in K-12 (closer to the 12) and perhaps in college, you learned about Laissez-faire capitalism, and Adam Smith’s 18th century concept of ‘an (not ‘the’) invisible hand of the market’ where unintentionally even the worst, most selfish tendencies of human beings would magically benefit society BETTER?


From Smith’s “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” (vol. 1):

The rich … consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end which they propose from the labours of all the thousands whom they employ, be the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements.


Yes, Adam Smith gave us BOTH the failed Trickle down Economics AND the even more epic failed INVISIBLE HAND OF THE MARKET PLACE, not one but two failed concepts embraced by conservatives regardless of extremely poor outcomes and bad results.  It’s sometimes called laissez-faire capitalism.  Laissez-faire translates loosely as let you do what you want.


That was an idea back in the mid 18th century. Adam Smith also posited one of the first appearances of trickle down economics, specifically that the gluttony of the rich man would cause the leftovers to ‘trickle down’ to those who were the workers, and that those leftovers would be very small, but magically should be enough. Or at least, the less wealthy should just shut up and be content with less, and then we’d all somehow MAGICALLY be better off.

“By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.”

Since then, for some reason completely devoid from any observation or even casual connection to reality, conservatives have decided to expand on the very limited concept of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ to the notion that some form of magic or stupidity will regulate EVERY aspect of the economy, both macro and micro.



Minnesota as a crude oil superhighway

by Dan Burns on February 3, 2015 · 0 comments

arctic8This is from a must-read article, full of important information about Enbridge’s record and corporate culture:

“Northern Minnesota is becoming the superhighway for oil,” says Paul Blackburn, an attorney for Minnesota’s branch of the national climate justice group
Enbridge’s 50,000 miles of pipelines span the continent, but the corporation is planning a massive expansion in the Great Lakes basin. This scheme could prove devastating to public and environmental health, as well as the rights of the Anishinaabeg people, who are entitled by federal treaties to use Minnesota’s natural resources to maintain their livelihoods.
The Enbridge Pipeline System, some portions of which date back to 1950, transports crude oil from production facilities in the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States and Ontario, Canada. Approximately 2 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) are carried through a stretch of the pipeline network that extends from Gretna, Manitoba, where it crosses the border, to a major junction in Clearbrook, Minnesota. From there, a smaller number of pipelines continue on to the seaport of Superior, Wisconsin, where the oil is finally shipped to refineries throughout the Midwest and Eastern Canada.
(In These Times)

The northern long-eared bat may soon be declared an endangered species, because of a brutal fungus disease that has been virtually wiping out bat populations in much of the country. That would raise big issues for Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline proposal.

Rep. Duane Quam (R-Byron) and Rep. Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin) introduced a bill, HF 21, to hassle state agencies that don’t rubber-stamp pipeline plans with suitable alacrity. Considering the sources, among other things, this one shouldn’t get far.