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trump12This blockquote is from an excellent rant.
 

This counter-narrative is almost certainly flimsier than an IOU from Accounts Payable at the Trump organization. But let say it’s not. Let’s say that, in fact, a senior Obama official maliciously leaked classified information about Michael Flynn to the Washington Post and the New York Times. Let’s say that Flynn himself is not a malignant actor but just kind of a gullible knucklehead who lost his marbles a few years ago but is basically harmless. Let’s say further that the investigations into the Trump campaign were partially or entirely politically motivated and turn up nothing of consequence.
 
In other words, the most innocent explanation of Trump’s ties to Russia turns out to be true – the relationships are incidental and related to his business of building luxury monuments to unearned wealth, dirty-talking working people out of their life savings and selling garish real estate to money launderers and organized criminals. Yeltsin-era Russian capital kept him drifting just above the water line for years, and he ended up in their social networks and thus is predisposed to treat them favorably.
 
Where would that leave Trump, politically speaking? The same place he is now: Paddle-free in a small, filthy river.
 
Even if Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone were not working directly with Julian Assange to crater the Clinton campaign using Macedonian Facebook posts and looted emails, even if Putin doesn’t have pornographic kompromat on Trump stashed in a Sochi safe house, even if Trump himself isn’t toupée-deep in Kazakh gangster cash and trafficked Moldovan sex slaves, even if the incredibly shrinking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson isn’t working secretly to open up Arctic oil fields for make benefit of Exxon-Mobil and even if Devin Nunes isn’t performing the worst cover up since Mohammed Salameh tried to get the deposit back on the rental van he used to almost blow up the World Trade Center, we are still left with a deeply troubling reality: Trump is either too stupid to know that he is constantly surrounding himself with grifters, fabulists, hacks, mediocrities and borderline criminals, or he knows exactly who these people are and works with them anyway. He is either the kind of guy who falls for Nigerian email scams or he is the Nigerian email scammer or he is the guy who gets rich by floating the people doing the Nigerian email scam.
(Informed Comment)

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smokestacksThere will be a rally at the Minnesota Capitol today, scheduled to start at 11AM, opposing pro-oil pipeline policies included in the Omnibus Jobs and Energy Bill.
 

When: (Today), Thursday April 6th at 11:00am
Where: MN State Capitol (basement level) Room B971
 
What’s happening: The proposed Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill has a lot of terrible things in it, including 2 changes to state law that would fast track pipelines (including Enbridge’s Line 3) and eliminate some of our most important tools for environmental and social protection. The bill has been approved by the Senate and the relevant committee in the House and is now moving to the House floor for review.
 
The bill would:
1) Exempt oil and gas pipelines from the “Certificate of Need” part of the permit process. This means Enbridge would no longer have to prove that Line 3 (or other proposed pipelines) are actually needed. The CON process is the state’s only mechanism for rejecting a project.
2) Prevent regulators from considering alternative routes that don’t start and end where Enbridge wants them to. This means that Enbridge would get to define the project based on what’s best for their profits, and the State of MN would no longer be able to consider other routes that could get oil to market with less impact on our land, water, health, and human rights.

 
The Omnibus Legacy Bill is similarly odious. And potentially disastrous.
 

Minnesota’s Party of Trump in the legislature is full-on on removing public protections through any means possible. That has little to do with what Minnesota’s residents want (more here), but they don’t care about that.
 

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Shovel-WeathervaneI’m well aware that not all rural voters went for Trump, any more than all urbanites didn’t. Nor are all city dwellers all politically knowledgeable and sophisticated, while all country folks aren’t. I shouldn’t have to note that, but such assumptions seem implicit in too much online discussion of rural issues in politics, including on the progressive left. Anyway:
 

The people in rural areas who voted for President Trump in droves have much at stake in his proposed budget.
 
Trump’s budget plan cuts a wide range of federal funding sources, including a water and sewer program that provided more than $200 million to greater Minnesota communities over the last five years.
(MPR)

There’s another, more in-depth article, also on MPR, from about a month ago, looking at some of what’s behind Wisconsin having gone for Trump. It’s well worth a click and read (frustrating though parts of it are), if you’re into this stuff.
 

Across town, Robbo Coleman leaned over the bar he tends and described a similar political about-face. He held up an ink pen, wrapped in plastic stamped “Made in China.”
 
“I don’t see why we can’t make pens in Prairie du Chien or in Louisville, Kentucky, or in Alabama or wherever,” said Coleman. “Trump brought something to the table that I haven’t heard or seen before. And if it doesn’t turn out, then, hey, at least we tried.”

Uh, yeah.
 
A far more substantive factor in what’s been going on in rural Wisconsin is the state having turned over its governance to worthless, corrupt Tea Party extremists in 2010, and not having corrected that since. The last time a lot of people were looking at Wisconsin was 2015, because of Gov. Scott Walker’s much-hyped but short-lived presidential run. But a search for 2016 shows that it still sucks, by the standards of the Upper Midwest, especially when it comes to the sorts of small business start-ups that would be key to any real rural economic renewal.
 
Voters in rural Wisconsin put right-wingers in charge in 2010, and that’s the biggest reason they’re “left behind.” In Minnesota, promising policy trends from 2013-14 largely ended when Minnesota outstate voters (and urban/suburban non-voters) gave the GOP control of the MN House and, now, the Senate. And in the worst kind of irony, who did country dwellers in both states vote for, for U.S. President in 2016, looking for change for the better? It truly sucks, but there it is.
 

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Bad Actors and Big Wars

by Eric Ferguson on April 3, 2017 · 1 comment

coat of arms of Hapsburg empire of AustriaApril 6th marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I. If there’s one metaphor you’ve read in every history of World War I, it was probably “tinderbox”. That’s how the pre-war world is frequently described: “Europe was a tinderbox”, or “rival alliances were a tinderbox”. If someone had asked me about WWI before recently, I probably would have said “something something tinderbox” too. Not now, in a change Trump has already wrought. I occurred to me that it was in a way something worse: two bad actors started the war. There was nothing unavoidable about it. Two people could have stopped it. Yes, two, and how this relates to Trumpworld will likely be guessed by readers before I spell it out, but let’s spell it out anyway.
 
That’s not to dispute that the European empires weren’t a metaphorical tinderbox, but when weren’t they? Was a balance of power that could crash down in a major war an invention of the early 20th century? We’ve had balances of power between rival states going back to at least the invention of states, and I suspect it goes back to whenever groups of pre-historic humans noticed there were other groups of humans, and found themselves asking how strong everyone was and who were likely enemies or allies. Point being, it’s wrong to think there was something unique in the early 20th century and it had to result in a big war inevitably. Maybe it was inevitable, no way to know, but it didn’t have to happen right then, the way it did. So why did it? What caused such a massive breakdown of global order and the world’s biggest war (pending the next world war, of course)? What went wrong?
 
What went wrong was two bad actors: Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.
 
…READ MORE

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Minneapolis DFL precinct caucuses Tuesday

by Dan Burns on April 2, 2017 · 0 comments

minneapolis_skyline__heroMinneapolis DFL precinct caucuses are Tuesday (April 4) night at 7PM. Here’s the Minneapolis DFL webpage with the precinct caucus locations and lists of those seeking endorsement. (Caucuses actually select delegates, who then endorse, or not, later.) I haven’t troubled to look up which candidates have said they will abide by any DFL endorsements. I strongly suspect that far from all of them have said, or will say, any such thing. Here is a more user-friendly guide to caucusing, for newbies, from Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. It is partisan, and my linking it doesn’t imply agreement, or not, with its general take on things.
 
There is a lot of speculation about who is vulnerable. It’s no secret that many progressives in the city feel that the Mayor and City Council should have produced a lot more “change,” however defined, since the considerable turnover resulting from 2013. I, personally, am not about to run my mouth on that (happy though I am to do precisely that, on most issues, online). I don’t live in Minneapolis, and I’m just here to provide a convenient source of information. Which I will continue to do, now and then, throughout the summer and fall.
 
The thing is, Mayor Betsy Hodges is not the most powerful politician in Minneapolis. Not even close. Rather, that would be City Council President Barb Johnson. Many people are not unhappy with that; others are. We’ll see whether either side dominates the caucuses.
 

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Buffers and mowing in Minnesota farm country

by Dan Burns on March 31, 2017 · 0 comments

Farming_near_Klingerstown,_PennsylvaniaA couple of items. You might call them examples of the (fairly) good and the bad.
 

With eight months before the first buffer deadline for public waters, the Department of Natural Resources has released its final maps. These maps were finalized after reviewing more than 4,200 public comments and making 2,800 changes. Your collaboration in this process resulted in more accurate maps ready for use.
 
Most notably, 74 percent of Minnesota’s counties are 60-100 percent in compliance with the buffer law. While this might surprise some, it doesn’t surprise us, as we know Minnesota farmers and landowners are great stewards of our lands. In fact, many farmers and landowners already had buffers in place when the requirement became law. And others have responded to the governor’s call asking them to be part of the solution to clean up our valuable water resources.
(AgWeek)

A friend’s observation about farmers over-mowing conservation plantings along Highway 169 in Blue Earth County had us looking again at the issue of farmers’ demands to mow state-owned right of ways on state highways. Are some landowners not only making hay off public land–but damaging plantings on state highways for which the public dime has paid?
 
Our source noted that the forbs (flowering plants) and prairie grasses planted after some work on 169 had been mowed early and often until other grasses took over…
 
When landowners alongside state-owned road ditches mow early and swipe the bales on land that’s been planted with native seeding, they’re not just taking hay they’re not paying for. They’re also damaging an investment made at public expense.
(Bluestem Prairie)

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trump13Nice start to the “Trump boom.”
 

Well, that didn’t take long. People around the world have taken a look at Donald Trump and decided his America is not a place they want to visit. The result has been labeled the “Trump Slump,” a drop in international tourism that’s predicted to cost the United States more than $7 billion. Experts across the travel industry have sounded the alarm that the Trump presidency, already destructive on so many fronts, may also do serious financial damage to the country’s $250 billion tourism sector…
 
The numbers offer evidence that Trump has turned off potential visitors from around the world. The resounding message of Trump’s “America First” stance, his obsession with the Mexico border wall, his anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies, his Muslim ban, and his rudeness to longstanding allies is that America is inhospitable to foreigners. Predictably, international travelers are opting to stay away—and that includes the European ones that Trump and his supporters are totally cool with.
(AlterNet)

Comment below fold.
 
…READ MORE

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Man-Boys with Nuclear Toys

by Invenium Viam on March 30, 2017 · 0 comments

man-boys“… as I look at the End-Times scripture, this says to me that […] we are to understand where we are in God’s End-Times history.” Rep. Michele Bachmann

 

Former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has said a lot of crazy things over the years that prove she’s uneducated about some subjects, dis-educated about others, and simply ignorant — by design or default — about still others. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong. She may be right about these being the End-Times for planet Earth, for example, although like many conservatives she’s infrequently right for frequently wrong reasons.

 

I believe the world could very well end in our lifetimes, or even next month, but it isn’t because God has a plan to destroy the wicked and redeem the faithful. It’s because we human beings are driven by irrational beliefs and unreal objectives that cause us to create defective social orders and manage them with incompetent leadership systems. We often deny what’s factually and provably true (e.g., global warming) and believe wholeheartedly in the delusional (e.g., Jade Helm 15). Our leadership systems, by design or default, too often come to rely on exploiting human foibles to advance the careers of narcissistic and paranoid individuals within defective systems of governance, thereby to promote the delusional policies they espouse (e.g., the 18th Amendment). The only foundational difference between any system of human governance is whether it selects for control freaks who pass laws and sanctions against drinking, phucking and getting high, or selects for greedheads who pass laws and policies that serve their avarice and that of their friends. The worse systems of governance, of course, are those that select for a little of both — Control-Freak-Greedheads — and produce such murderous gems as Idi Amin, Shah Reza Pahlavi, and Saddam Hussein. No, it’s human faults and failings that will bring about the end of the world, not a vengeful God. The proof is readily at hand.

 

Take for example President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, two extremely volatile, narcissistic and paranoid individuals who espouse a wide range of delusional beliefs and related policies. Or, as I like to refer to them, Man-boys with Nuclear Toys. Each believes he possesses magical powers. Kim Jong-un believes he was a child prodigy who could drive a car at age three and was winning yacht races at age nine. He got 11 holes-in-one his first time out golfing. He satisfies every woman he sleeps with multiple times before he even meets her. Oh, and he doesn’t ever defecate (maybe that’s why he’s so irritable). Donald Trump, on the other hand, is smarter than everyone else on the planet … about everything imaginable. He can make millions of Americans who watch Duck Dynasty believe ten impossible things before breakfast. He can close his eyes and make the world disappear. He can make Republicans defend his tweets, rants, and executive orders even though they really don’t want to. And he convinced half of the mass media prior to his election that his personal reality was the only reality that matters, who then awarded him half-a-billion dollars of free media and the presidency just for sh*ts and giggles.

 

It was a defective social order and ineffective leadership-selection system that put each of them in power and handed them the nuclear launch codes. We don’t need God to blow up the world; we can do that ourselves without needing help. We can only credit God with an earthly intervention if those two fail to blow up the world. Think of it this way: If you were to equip a pair of 9-year-old boys with fully loaded Glock 9 mm Semi-automatic pistols and send them out to play, and nothing bad happened, wouldn’t that prove the existence of God?

 

On the other hand, maybe Bachmann is right and God really does have a plan to destroy the world.

 

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sulfideFrom this week.
 

The Campaign to Defend Lake Superior, represented by Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), joined the Center for Biological Diversity and the W.J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League in a lawsuit filed in federal court today. The suit asks the court to overturn the U.S. Forest Service decision to approve the largest land exchange in its history, planned with PolyMet Mining. The land exchange would give PolyMet thousands of acres of critically important wetlands in Superior National Forest, where mining operations would forever destroy the wetlands that form the headwaters of the St. Louis River…
 
Federal law requires appraisals to reflect the “highest and best use” of public land when determining fair market value. The failure to do so has caused the public to receive less land in exchange and will result in taxpayers being forced to pay PolyMet $425,000 in cash unless the decision is overturned.
(Campaign to Defend Lake Superior)

From early February. The two actions may be consolidated as they make their way through the courts.
 

WaterLegacy, a Minnesota nonprofit founded to protect the state’s wetlands and wildlife from sulfide mining, filed a complaint (in late January) claiming that the Forest Service violated federal land management laws by selling parts of the forest for way less than what they’re worth.
 
The Forest Service’s final agreement with PolyMet valued the federal lands at $550 an acre. That is based on a consultant’s study of five Wisconsin and Michigan properties that were sold for timber — not copper-nickel mining.
(City Pages)

I of course wish the plaintiffs very, very well, in every way. Actually, that goes for all of us, since we all have a stake in not seeing northern Minnesota’s land and water poisoned.
 

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Enbridge is quite a corporate citizen

by Dan Burns on March 28, 2017 · 0 comments

oilspillFor some background, here.
 

Enbridge Energy’s massive property tax challenge may end up costing several northern Minnesota counties millions of dollars. In fact, two counties — Clearwater and Red Lake — could end up refunding more money to Enbridge than they raise annually from all of their property tax payers.
 
Enbridge has appealed five years of taxes, claiming the Minnesota Department of Revenue unfairly valued its vast pipeline network, resulting in significantly higher payments. The company says a November Minnesota Supreme Court decision in a separate pipeline tax case buttresses its own appeals.
 
“It’s scary for us,” said Allen Paulson, Clearwater County’s auditor. “If Enbridge wins its appeal, the [tab for the county] will be $7.2 million, and our levy is $6.8 million.”
(Star Tribune)

The article goes on to note that Enbridge had $524 million in net operating profits in Minnesota in 2015. Paying its property taxes here poses a real existential threat to the company, all right.
 
A stunt like this is actually a symptom. The cause is a generation of corporate execs and lawyers brought up on jejune drivel from the likes of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand.
 
The vermin at Enbridge who made this call, and their ilk everywhere, need to be crushed. I don’t know of a fast, effective way of accomplishing that. But more people with progressive opinions actually troubling to vote would be a very good start.
 

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