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Tar Sands by Garth Lenz_0It’s one of those never-ending sagas.

After 22 public hearings, long proceedings before the state Public Utilities Commission and a Minnesota Court of Appeals case, two proposed pipelines that would together carry more than one million barrels of oil per day across the northern part of the state find themselves again at the beginning of a long regulatory process…
The hearings were prompted by a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision last September. The ruling overturned a June 2015 decision by the utilities commission to grant the proposed Sandpiper pipeline a so-called “certificate of need,” saying state regulators first needed to complete a full-blown environmental impact statement for the project.
Calgary-based Enbridge has proposed two pipelines that would each stretch about 300 miles across the state. Sandpiper would carry 225,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken region of North Dakota to the company’s hub in Clearbrook, Minn. From there it would carry 375,000 barrels per day to Superior, Wis.
The company also plans to replace its existing Line 3, which was built in the 1960s and transports crude from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada. By replacing the aging pipe, the company plans to boost the line’s capacity back up to 760,000 barrels per day.

A couple of relevant additional items:


bwcaOne likely result of Minnesota legislative Republicans’ arrant foolishness, short-sightedness…all of the things that conservatives everywhere are primarily defined by, is that we will likely lose out on a big federal match for Reinvest in Minnesota/Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program funding.


RIM/CREP $30 million bonding is critical because Minnesota would receive a $60 million (2:1) federal match for a total of $90 million. It also protects thousands of acres of the most environmentally sensitive land; the CREP initiative will impact 100,000 acres during the next five years. Finally, $90 million would create or maintain over 800 jobs (according to Assessing the Economic Impacts of WRP and RIM on the Minnesota Economy, USDA-NRCS).
(Audubon Minnesota)


MN-02: Jason Lewis wins GOP endorsement

by Dan Burns on May 8, 2016 · 1 comment

lewisbuckley(Our candidate, representing the major party that is not running Donald Trump for president, is Angie Craig. You can help her out here.)

I wrote about the race here. I did not specifically note a long-priced outsider, Gene Rechtzigel, but he apparently did provide the most memorable part of the convention, using his presentation to accuse President Obama of having ordered the murder of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and so forth. Anyway:


Under Minnesota’s endorsement system, party conventions vote to endorse candidates, but other candidates who don’t get the endorsement can ask voters to overrule that endorsement and pick them instead at the Aug. 9 primary. (David) Gerson said Saturday that he would abide by the endorsement, drop out and support Lewis.
But at least one and possibly two candidates will challenge Lewis for the Republican nomination in the Aug. 9 primary. Businesswoman Darlene Miller has promised to run in the primary, while former state Sen. John Howe said he will decide soon whether to stay in the race.
(St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Retiring/fleeing Rep. John Kline (R-MN) has endorsed Miller. Given that Kline’s time in Congress has been nothing but a negative for students, women, workers, the elderly…really, everyone except rich white men, there’s no good reason for his endorsement to matter. But it might, anyway. We’ll see. Howe is presumably under a lot of pressure – as in, might even get a phone call from Kline himself – to drop out and avoid splitting the “sane,” anti-Lewis vote.

Comment below fold.

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Effort to slash pensions rejected

by Dan Burns on May 7, 2016 · 0 comments

pensionsI wrote about this issue before, here.


A U.S. Treasury Department pension ruling will block a reduction in pension payments to hundreds of thousands of retirees, including roughly 15,000 in Minnesota. Friday’s decision drew praise from the state congressional delegation’s Democrats who said anything less would be a broken promise.
The decision involving the Central States Pension Fund headed off potential cuts of up to 50 percent.


Donald_TrumpI haven’t blogged about presidential stuff, mostly because everyone else is doing so, in many cases a lot better than I could. But I have to pass along these two.
Regarding this first one, I don’t buy that conservatism is dead. I remember indulging in what I now recognize as having been some serious motivated reasoning to that effect – wishful thinking, if you prefer, in this context – at the ends of both the Reagan and Bush II presidencies. But that’s just hyperbole for the title, anyway. I do that, myself.

And in the process he proved definitively that Republican voters don’t give a flip about Genuine Conservative Economics. Practically every aspect of the Laffer–Reagan–Kemp–Gramm Give to the Rich economics package came in for a drunken pummeling at some point in the Trump campaign, and to the horror of the defenders of the faith, no one cared.
Republicans were under the delusion that they had convinced half the nation that trickle-down was gospel and voodoo was the only thing to do. But they’d actually only trained their troops to accept any number of impossible things before breakfast … and Trump presented them with a whole feast of shiny new nonsense. Better still, Trump’s isolationist nonsense is a much, much easier fit with the Republican anti-immigrant position than is the standard conservative open market nonsense. For the people clamping red, white, and blue hats to their heads, even Trump’s random patter seemed more self-consistent than the positions other Republicans were offering.
Because it is.
(Daily Kos)

Although (New York Times columnist David Brooks) ends up proffering all the wrong answers, we should not fail to recognize the significance of what he has to say, for his lamentations and calls for action signal more than he realizes or surely intends us to hear. While his words do not speak directly to the renewal of Americans’ democratic energies, the anxieties he expresses should help us see that Americans are not simply pained by the class divide, but also determined to do something about it. Time for us to act.
(Harvey J. Kaye/Moyers & Co.)

Actually, a lot of people are doing something about it, and have been for a while. But recent events can swell our numbers, and our effectiveness.


Business as usual for Minnesota lege GOP

by Dan Burns on May 4, 2016 · 0 comments

mn_capitolA couple of current examples.

The American Energy Alliance, a prominent conservative energy group, said (April 27) it is backing a push in state legislatures across the United States to bar funding for work on the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
This effort has already proved successful in several states this spring, including Virginia, Wyoming and Colorado, where lawmakers passed budget bills restricting money for state agencies to plan for the federal climate change regulation. Similar budget language is currently being floated in at least four other states, including Minnesota and Missouri…
And in Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said the Supreme Court stay “does nothing to diminish our resolve in Minnesota to keep moving forward on clean energy initiatives, including the development of our state’s Clean Power Plan,” the Legislature is also moving forward with a bill to bar funding for compliance work with the rule unless the stay is lifted.

A proposal to boost spending for so-called “student support services” will get a look in final budget negotiations as the end of the legislative session nears.
Advocates say the need for more counselors, social workers and other support workers is critical in Minnesota. But heading into negotiations, the DFL-controlled Senate and GOP-controlled House are far apart on the issue.
The Senate wants to set aside $13.1 million for matching grants to help schools hire more counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses and drug addiction counselors. The House doesn’t want any money for the idea so far — its bill calls for studying the proposal and reporting back next year.


I am embarrassed to the very roots of my thinning hair to admit that I did not until very recently know about the North Star Policy Institute. It was apparently started by Jeff Van Wychen, some time after the late, great MN2020 called it a day. Every progressive activist in the state should check the NSPI Facebook page or Twitter now and then for recent work, because nothing crushes conservative drivel, and humiliates its originators, like learned displays of reasoning from fact. A few recent items that I thought of particular note:
“Business Property Taxes Not as High as We’re Led to Believe”

A recent publication from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce contains a list of claims regarding the level of business property taxes in Minnesota relative to other states: 49th “worst” (i.e., second highest) among the fifty states for rural commercial property taxes, 45th worst for metro commercial property taxes, and 40th worst for industrial property taxes. Startling? Definitely. Accurate? Not so much.
The property tax statistics cited by the Chamber are from the 50 State Property Tax Comparison Study 2014 from the “Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence” (MCFE). The first thing to note about this report is that it does not compare average metropolitan and rural property taxes within the fifty states. Rather, it compares a selected metro and rural city within each state. In Minnesota, metro (or urban) tax computations are based on Minneapolis, while rural computations are based on Glencoe, the seat of McLeod County.
Neither Minneapolis nor Glencoe are representative of their respective regions in terms of property taxes. For example, Minneapolis’ 2014 total local property tax rate is 19 percent higher than the average rate for the seven county metropolitan area, while Glencoe’s rate is a whopping 64 percent higher than the average rate for greater Minnesota.



There’s a new idea being thrown around in liberal and progressive circles: that if Trump or Cruz were to win the presidency, it would ignite a revolution in America. This idea is coming from multiple directions, most publicly from Susan Sarandon, but also more and more frequently on media and social media outlets. Now, many will be quick to point out that Sarandon has backpedaled a bit, stating that she would never, ever vote for Trump, but let’s be quick to point out that it doesn’t rule out her voting for a third party. “I’m more afraid of Hillary Clinton’s war record and hawkishness than I am of building a wall,” is clearly downplaying the danger of a Trump presidency.


Prior to this I’ve heard many people say that if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, they won’t vote for Clinton. Many of these are the same folks that seem to be now putting forth this idea that somehow we’d (eventually) be better off if Trump or Cruz were to win. The idea is that Americans would be so cheesed off that Democrats (or presumably some “truly progressive” candidates) would sweep the presidency and both houses of Congress in 2020, thus setting us up for the Glorious Liberal Revolution.


Here’s the problem: the vast majority of those putting forth this idea don’t really have anything to lose if Donald “Build a Wall” Trump or Raphael Eduardo “Lucifer in The Flesh” Cruz (oh, Boehner, we missed you!) were to be elected. The vast majority of those putting forth this idea are white, the vast majority are straight, and the vast majority are men.



MN-03: Long past time for a change

by Dan Burns on May 2, 2016 · 1 comment

bonoffAs you undoubtedly know by now, Minnesota state Sen. Terri Bonoff is Rep. Erik Paulsen’s opponent. You can help Terri out here. Paulsen’s minions are already running a pretty iffy attack campaign.


Electorally, Paulsen’s biggest weakness (of many) is in my estimation his lack of accomplishment on behalf of all but the extremely wealthy. But if pointing that out was enough to get rid of Republican House members in swing districts, they would all be long gone. What can do the job is turnout, and unusual circumstances – like a loudly and proudly bigoted, misogynistic lunatic at the top of the party’s ticket.
Presumably thanks in part to Paulsen’s only legislative “accomplishment” of note – a hiatus in the ACA medical device tax – 2016 is being termed the year of “merger mania” in that industry. When all is said and done this sort of thing tends to result in job losses. I haven’t found any evidence for that on a large scale, yet, though I didn’t exactly spend all day looking. We’ll find out.
Comment below fold.

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Workers Memorial Day

by Dan Burns on April 28, 2016 · 1 comment


On April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe jobs. This year we will come together to call for work in this country that is safe and healthy and pays fair wages. We will celebrate the victories won by working people and commit to fighting until all workers have safe jobs and the freedom to form unions without the threat of retaliation.
(Minnesota AFL-CIO)

More on the issue.

By the time you’re done reading this article, roughly one person will likely have died from dangerous working conditions somewhere in America. It could happen in virtually any job, but it’s especially likely to happen to a Latino worker, maybe someone working on your office building’s roof. There’s also good chance they’ll be killed in a rigging mishap while extracting the natural gas powering your laptop, or perhaps they’ll be an immigrant woman killed in a farming accident while harvesting your groceries…
The roughly 3.8 million occupational injuries and illnesses reported in 2014 represent the myriad ways that the economy values capital over human life: from unmonitored toxic exposures at lucrative oil and gas fields, to construction workers falling from faulty scaffolding on million-dollar office towers―150 work-related deaths daily. Tragedy was often preventable, but risking lives more profitable.
(The Nation)

Comment below fold.

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