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Minnesota water projects in limbo at best

by Dan Burns on June 24, 2016 · 0 comments

bwcaFMR is a cool and righteous organization. Click the link for specifics.
 

Our top special session priority is to secure full funding for clean water bonding projects. When Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a bonding package prior to the 2016 legislative session, it included robust funding for a variety of high-priority clean water programs and projects across the state.
 
Funding for many of these items was included in the final bonding bill, though not necessarily at the full amounts requested by the governor. We urge legislators to fund these priorities at the Governor’s original recommended levels in a special session bonding package.
(Friends of the Mississippi River)

Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton resumed their special session talks Tuesday after a week’s hiatus but somehow moved further from a deal to bring lawmakers back for a special session on transportation, taxes and construction borrowing.
 
But no one is ready to bail out of the negotiations or give in just yet, but at this point, it’s become a zombie session, neither dead nor alive.
 
“I don’t have a deadline. I’m not setting a deadline. But at some point we’ll have to see whether we’re making any progress or getting farther and farther apart, which is what the result is today,” Dayton said after about an hour of closed-door discussions. “We don’t need to get even still farther apart.”
(MPR)

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Big Polluters target state attorneys general

by Dan Burns on June 22, 2016 · 0 comments

desertAnd in some cases they’re using sorry red state AG’s to do it. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is part of a coalition looking to hold Big Filthy Fossil Fuels accountable on climate change. She is not among those being directly targeted in this petty, vindictive fashion, yet. But it’s presumably just a matter of time.
 

ExxonMobil has sued to derail a second attorney general’s investigation of the oil giant’s climate record.
 
The company filed a complaint in federal district court in Fort Worth on (June 15) against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Her office subpoenaed Exxon records going back 40 years in an investigation of whether the company committed consumer or securities fraud by misrepresenting its knowledge of climate change.
 
In the same court, Exxon has a similar suit pending against Claude Walker, the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who has launched a similar probe. Healey and Walker are part of a coalition of Democratic attorneys general trying to hold fossil fuel companies legally accountable for their conduct on climate change. The group was organized by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office initiated an Exxon inquiry last year.
(Inside Climate News)

You could call it the battle of the attorneys general: one side representing the public interest, exactly what attorneys general are supposed to do; the other side representing the special interests, exactly what they are not supposed to do.
 
In late March, 17 attorneys general held a press conference to announce they will defend the new federal rule curbing power plant carbon emissions and investigate energy companies that may have misled investors and the public about climate risks. They call themselves AGs United for Clean Power, and so far attorneys general from California, Massachusetts, New York and the Virgin Islands have launched investigations of ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, for fraud.
 
In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange decided to push back. On May 16, they intervened on behalf of ExxonMobil to quash one of the investigations of the Irving, Texas-based company, accusing AGs United for Clean Power of trying to stifle the “debate” over climate science.
(Huffington Post)

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Hillary’s vice-president

by Eric Ferguson on June 22, 2016 · 3 comments

warrenI’m just going to start with the conclusion and say I think Hillary is going to pick Elizabeth Warren for vice-president, and the related point, that seems like a good choice. That’s admittedly doing some reading of the proverbial tea leaves, and tea leaf reading has such a poor record with predicting vice-presidential picks, that I make that prediction with low confidence. I can’t think of a strong counter-argument, so file that lack of confidence under “predictions are hard, especially about the future.”
 
And certainly, I’m not in Hillary’s confidence, at least not since trying to fool her with that Bill costume. You make just one bad decision, as I tried to explain to the Secret Service guy…
 
Warren is one of a number of people mentioned in reports based on leaks, or maybe claims of leaks, and reports based on anonymous whoever. For example, “Clinton has also begun to winnow a list of more than a dozen potential choices, another senior Democrat said.” Well, if “another senior Democrat” said it, who can argue? Hillary has met with Warren more than once. Warren endorsed Hillary in an interview with Rachel Maddow, and when asked if she would be ready to be president if she was vice-president and the worst happened to Hillary, she just out and out said yes. Maybe she’s just that self-confident, but that sounded like someone who had been seriously thinking about it.
 
Then there are the reports Senate minority leader Harry Reid is looking into Massachusetts’ unusual procedure for replacing a senator. Maybe he’s just idly curious. What a coincidence.
 
Vox looked at strength and weaknesses of list of candidates supposedly leaked. It seems a plausible list, and most names are popping up elsewhere. All the candidates have strengths and weaknesses, but what sticks out is that Warren has the strongest strengths, and the most addressable weaknesses. Others have weaknesses like lack of campaign experience, lack of governing experience, low name recognition, and to connect to my point about Reid, a bunch are incumbent senators whose replacements would be chosen by Republican governors. So if Hillary wins, a senate seat flips to the Republicans. I actually thought AL Franken and Amy Klobuchar would be considered, not just for what they might bring to the ticket, but because their replacement would be chosen by a Democratic governor. Warren’s replacement, though picked by a Republican, would be temporary since Massachusetts requires a special election 160 days after the vacancy occurs, not coincidental with the next even numbered general election like most states. In other words, picking Warren entails less risk of ceding a Senate seat than if several other rumored candidates were chosen.
 
And here’s an oddball reason for thinking Warren will get picked: Wall Street is convinced she won’t be.
 
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paulsen2(You can help out the Democratic candidate, Terri Bonoff, here.)

 

Now Paulsen, the recipient of more than $500,000 in donations from the (medical device) industry, has thrown his wealthy handlers another bone. He cast a vote for a bill that would allow tax-exempt groups from ever having to reveal its donors — even to the federal government.
 
In other words, shill organizations masquerading as nonprofits like the Medical Device Innovation Consortium could spend gobs of money on mailers and TV commercials come election time, and nobody would be wiser as to who’s behind the cause or why.
(City Pages)

Paulsen’s A grade has been dutifully earned as well. Over an 18-month period, Paulsen voted 13 times to block efforts to bring a gun safety measure to the House floor.
 
Nicknamed “No Fly, No Buy,” the proposal would ban suspected terrorists on the FBI’s terror watch list from being able to buy guns. It seeks to close the loophole for people who the FBI has determined should not be on a plane, but can still legally purchase firearms.
(City Pages)

Too many people in Paulsen’s “moderate” district just sort of reflexively vote for him, unaware of what a farce his contrived “moderate” image is. It’s time to send this right-winger packing.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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Should Hillary spend money on Minnesota? Just to cut to the chase, yes, but that’s admittedly a hard case to make given how Minnesota has voted for the Democratic nominee in every presidential election since 1956 except for 1972, when we made our what-the-hell-were-we-thinking mistake and voted for the one president who resigned in disgrace. I personally think of Minnesota not as a blue state, but as a purple state where the Democrats are good at GOTV (Get Out The Vote). But yeah, hard to argue with that presidential record. Or with how much better financed the DFL is than the MNGOP, or with the DFL record in statewide races. We’ve won every statewide race starting in 2006 except for governor in 2006, when Tim Pawlenty won by about 1% while a third party liberal took 5%. It was that close.
 
So OK, my purple state claim is resting pretty much on the way the legislature keeps changing hands, and the way we split US House seats 4-4 or 5-3. But that also gets to why we deserve some presidential campaign attention. We want to win the House, right? That seems incredibly optimistic to me, but the Republicans are fearfully talking about it as a plausible outcome, and I suppose they have to be right one day. Besides, if we want to win the House, we have to nibble away where we can, giving more Democrats the advantage of incumbency the next election — and Minnesota has more competitive districts than anyone would expect from a medium sized state.
 
As it happens, Minnesota isn’t gerrymandered. Really. Yes, we’re self-packed like every other state with a major metropolitan area. Liberals are comfortable with a big city’s density and proximity to public spaces, while conservatives like their big lawns and long drives. Like in almost every other state, this works to the advantage of conservatives since there’s no way to draw district lines to break up liberals unless we ignore the principle that municipalities should be kept together, and when those municipalities are big, self-packing it is. Fortunately, not being gerrymandered means our districts aren’t drawn in strange ways to get the most advantageous distribution of conservatives. Our process is each house of the legislature passes a redistricting plan, then a conference committee works out the differences, and the governor signs it, with one of the latter two steps never happening. Our state government has been split between parties something like the last five redistrictings, so a panel of judges eventually gives up on the other two branches and just makes its own plan.
 
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millspartying1 stewartshorn

Since the narrow loss in 2014, the brains behind the U.S. House campaign of Stewart Mills III seem to have determined that they lost because of two (2) things: the hair, and the spoiled rotten rich kid image.
 
Regarding the former, I’ve provided “before” and “after” pictures. The story is that the change is the result of a “grilling accident.” It’s true that you’d be hard-pressed to think of a man elected to the U.S. Congress with flowing locks like “before” unless you went all the way back to the antebellum South. But, seriously, this guy somehow burned off his own hair, and we’re supposed to put him in Congress? (“We’re,” because I’m an MN-08 voter, myself, and very much desirous of continuing with the strong, mostly progressive representation of Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN).)
 
Re: the latter, it still seems like a valid point indeed, especially since as far as I’ve seen Mills has never so much as been on a city council, much less paid some dues and learned something about governing by doing some time in the Minnesota legislature. Hence, this ad, in which viewers are assured by sincere eyewitnesses that as a child Stewart III in reality worked his fingers to the very bone. If you buy that, you probably buy the one about the grilling accident, and far worse the whole Guardians Of Privilege platform about how what we all really need are more tax breaks and other government handouts for the super-rich…like Mills.
 

Stewart Mills III supports Donald Trump for the Presidency of the United States.
 

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sulfideThis is not the PolyMet project. It is the one proposed for right next to the BWCA. Governor Dayton, among many others, already publicly opposes it. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) has proposed federal legislation to block it.
 

U.S. Forest Service officials on Monday said they are “deeply concerned” about potential impacts of the proposed Twin Metals copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and announced a public comment period before the agency’s decision on extending mining leases for the project.
(Duluth News Tribune)

More:
 

Antofagasta PLC holds two federal mineral leases that were issued in 1966 as part of their Twin Metals Minnesota proposal. One of these mineral leases includes land within a quarter mile of the wilderness boundary. The Forest Service has been asked by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management whether it “consents” to the extension of these leases for ten more years. If the Forest Service does not give consent to extend these leases, Twin Metals’ sulfide mine proposal on the edge of the Boundary Waters would be prevented from polluting the wilderness…
 
The Forest Service will start a thirty day public input period beginning on June 20th, one week from (Monday). They will also hold a public hearing on whether to deny the Twin Metals leases in Duluth on July 13th. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness will be there in force, and intends to gather tens of thousands of public comments supporting a decision that protects the BWCA from sulfide mining.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

As for PolyMet, it’s still in the process of getting more permits. The world markets for copper and nickel remain ugly. (Click on the link and look at, for example, the five-year copper chart.)
 

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daudt2Of course he is.
 

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt is predicting that Donald Trump’s presidential bid could be helpful to Republican legislative candidates this fall in the state’s rural districts.
 
Daudt, R-Zimmerman, speculated on Trump’s potential down ballot impact Thursday during an interview on Fargo radio station KFGO. He said Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is “incredibly unpopular” in rural Minnesota districts, many of which are currently held by Republicans.
 
“With the seats that we’re defending, we think Donald Trump actually helps us on the ballot to retain our majority,” Daudt said.
(MPR)

I find myself in agreement with Rep. Daudt, to a point. Trump likely will make a difference with rural voters. But given his well-earned reputation for dishonesty, grandiosity, and morally loose conduct in general, not the one that Daudt claims.
 
It’s unlikely to matter in the big picture, but I’m curious to see how the ordinarily bright red, north-south trio of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas goes on Election Day. Especially if someone comes up with audio of Trump disparaging “hicks,” “hayseeds,” or whatever. A recent poll in Kansas has Clinton up by seven. But that’s just one early poll, and Kansans may have the most compelling reasons of voters anywhere to detest all things right-wing, these days.
 

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Brando-adjusted“The man is clear in his mind. But his soul is mad.” Apocalypse Now

 

The bedrock of any social organization, whether it’s a softball team or a great nation, is the practice of civility. Put another way, what makes a community work is what we call common courtesy, or what all of the major religions teach in one form or another as The Golden Rule. For a long time now, for 30 or 40 years at least, civility in America has tanked.

 

The evidence is everywhere: email flame wars, slandering internet trolls, social media assassinations, up-skirt photos, road rage shootings, loud public cell-phone conversations in elevators and airport shuttles, revenge porn, line-jumpers at restaurants and theaters … the list goes on and on.

 

One reason is because incivility is endemic in our media. It is the stock-in-trade for political shock-jocks on the radio, for tabloid cable hate-mongers, for teevee celebrity stalkers, for ambush journalists. It’s dished out by the shovelful in reality television shows, by political commenters on websites, and by emotionally stunted ideologues in the blog-o-sphere.

 

Incivility in our politics is so commonplace that now the absence of incivility has become noteworthy and newsworthy.

 

By any measure you care to choose, the Grandmaster of Incivility in American politics is Donald Trump. When it comes to insulting, defaming, and demeaning others, Trump has no equal. He is truly, as he is so fond of telling us, the best and the greatest. He has proven it in political debates, in wee-hours tweets berating his social and political enemies, by insane rants at campaign rallies, in cringe-worthy televised interviews. When it comes to boorishness, bitchiness, and an utter lack of couth, Trump truly is the Lord of the Dance.

 

But it’s a title not much worth having, like winning a contest for the tallest midget.

 

And that’s what makes him a lousy candidate for President, beyond all the other manifest shortcomings of character and credentials.

 

Trump claims that he can “make America great again” (presuming,wrongly, that America is not great now), but the test of a great people lies not in their contempt and cruelty, but in their generosity and compassion. It lies not in the strength of their arms, or in their saber-rattling chauvinism, but in the power of their art and the beauty of their culture. Not in a howl of rage, or chest-thumping boasts, or baying for revenge, but in songs of joy and benediction.

 

Likewise, the true test of a great President lies in how well he or she represents the best of America, not in how well they personify the worst that is in us. A great leader serves as an example of our highest ideals, not the embodiment of our basest instincts.

 

this-tall-to-rideRegardless of his wealth and fame, Trump is a man far too small to be great at much of anything. Being successful financially is not the same as being great. That’s a mistake that both he, and those who covet and admire his wealth and fame, continue to make.

 

Maybe that’s why Trump spends so much time and energy trumpeting his self-styled “greatness” to all and sundry. It’s almost as if he suffers from a compulsive need to convince himself of his own worth by convincing others. It seems the more people he can convince of his singular exceptionalism — in all things — the more he is able to believe it himself. There is at the heart of that compulsive emotional tick, that cloying needy behavior, a deep insecurity or sense of inadequacy. Trump must always be the center of attention, always elevated above others. There is a sickness evident in that behavior, symptoms of a “dis-ease” that needs treatment.

 

Donald Trump did not create the incivility of American culture or of political media, but he most certainly exploits it. People say that he’s a nice guy off-camera and off-stage. If that’s true, it’s unimportant. In public, Trump’s behavior encompasses the entire genre of incivility: he is arrogant, contemptuous, condescending, combative, insulting, racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic. No one would care, except that he’s now the presumptive GOP nominee for President and many of the policies he espouses seem to stem from one or another of these deficiencies of character. From building a wall to keep out Mexicans, to barring Muslims from entering the country, to his unspeakable disrespect for and objectification of women — Donald Trump has proven time and again that his brand of politics is based on a deep-seated contempt for, and hostility towards, others who don’t look like him and his mostly white base of mostly white male supporters.

 

trump alien

In short, as a political candidate, Donald Trump is a monster. His public persona is a monster born of a monstrous self-image and a monstrous polity. He is like the demonic newborn of pulp fiction that kills and eats its mother. He is like the xenomorph-parasite of the ‘Alien’ movies that bursts through the chest wall of its host to immediately imprint its dying victim as a prey species. As a political leader, Trump’s positions and policies lack any semblance of a moral center or moral compass. He is utterly loathsome, utterly self-serving, utterly remorseless. He is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad.

 

And yet, he is not wrong about the world he knows and intends to rule from the Oval Office like a Grand Panjandrum. He knows very well the kind of men and women he calls to his banner and he knows exactly what they want. He knows the politics of the party he will soon take control of. He knows how to destroy those lesser leaders who resist him. Like the Borg, resistance is futile.

More Below the Fold

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Update: The controversy over the “Under the Gun” documentary centers on an inserted pause during a question about terrorists being easily able to access firearms.
 
In the face of the incident early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida, that question could not be more timely.

 
Conservatives are not factual, and conservatives whine, claiming they are victims when they are not, in fact, victims at all.  And conservatives are massive hypocrites, holding others to a more rigorous standard than they hold themselves (or other conservatives).

 

I would argue that the hypocrisy alone would be sufficient to disqualify conservatives from criticizing others, but that the additional factual deficiency renders them the ones who merit harsh criticism.

 

The latest controversy over a gun violence documentary in which Katie Couric conducted an interview is simply the latest iteration.

 

Katie Couric was a news personality on ABC in 2008, when she exposed the lack of qualifications of Republican candidate Sarah Palin for the position of VP.  That still gripes the behinds of conservatives, who will look for pretty much any pretext to jump all over her, fair or foul.  That Couric continues to enjoy some measure of success, while Palin is at best a marginal figure, only adds to conservative irritation, especially by those less successful conservatives in the media (including the blogosphere).

 

What is she doing now?  From the Wrap:

 

Couric is the current Yahoo global news anchor and a legend in her field. The former “Today” show staple is an anti-cancer advocate, documentary film producer and New York Times best-selling author of “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives.”

Let’s start with the facts; Katie Couric did not insert the controversial ‘dramatic pause’ in the documentary in question, Under the Gun. and did not agree with the insertion, but was over-ruled.  Continuing from the Wrap:

 

 

Katie Couric said she “didn’t feel comfortable” with the controversial edit in her recent documentary on guns, but hopes it starts a broader conversation about the gun control in America. “I can understand the objection of people who did have an issue about it,” Couric said at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in New York on Thursday morning.

…Couric did not edit the interview herself, and said last week that she questioned director Stephanie Soechtig and an editor about the pause when she screened the film, “and was told that a ‘beat’ was added for, as she [Soechtig] described it, ‘dramatic effect.’”

I would posit that the dramatic pause was not particularly significant, that the controversy is a tempest in the proverbial tea pot. But I would add to that criticism that the pause should not have been inserted in a documentary; dramatic license belongs in dramatic productions, not in non-fiction features.

 

But to return to the massive hypocrisy of the right, who are kvetching about a lack of factual content by Couric, and/or ‘fake footage’, let’s recall here for a moment the appalling actions of convicted criminal James O’Keefe when HE inserted footage of himself as a pimp in undercover interviews with ACORN, while actually appearing in the real interviews as a normally dressed boy friend of a woman appearing to be an abuse victim.

 

Not a peep out of conservatives, about deceptive editing, or fake footage when it is ‘one of theirs’, not then, not in the past year, not ever.

 

Rather they defended O’Keefe, trying to justify false claims as ‘B roll’ and other flimsy excuses. Again, as another example out of many, the insertion of fake footage from other sources, representing it as from Planned Parenthood, was deliberately misleading and unethical. Like James O’Keefe,who was convicted of illegal activity in his filming, those faux documentarians are also now facing criminal indictment for fraud. Did anyone here much criticism of these far more egregious examples of bad faith documentary making? Heck NO! Far from it, the right tried to find pretexts and excuses to condone THAT conduct.

 

Unless they drop the double standard BS and their whining, I would argue that conservative critics should sit down and shut up.  If and when they are willing to do the right thing, not just the right wing thing, then and only then do they have a legitimate complaint about others; in the successful PROFESSIONAL and more ethical media.

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