Recent Posts

A partial win on PolyMet, for now

by Dan Burns on March 8, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfide2A win as far as the judge refusing to dismiss the lawsuits, that is. There is no question that the proposed land swap is an atrocious giveaway, but whether courts will see that in the long run is another matter. You know how plenty of judges are.
 

A federal judge has put on hold four lawsuits filed by eight environmental groups to block a land swap that the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota needs to move forward.
 
U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen stayed the lawsuits while Congress considers legislation to force completion of the land exchange between PolyMet and the U.S. Forest Service. The bill passed the House last November and is pending in a Senate committee…
 
In her order Tuesday, Ericksen denied PolyMet’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits.
(MPR)

Groups have filed for a contested case hearing on PolyMet with the Minnesota DNR.
 

{ 0 comments }

MN lege: Off to a predictable start

by Dan Burns on March 6, 2018 · 0 comments

mncapitol2Individuals might of course interpret the word “predictable” in different ways, in this context.
 
– Funding for the legislature was restored without a hassle. Which left a lot of us wondering what the point of the whole de-funding exercise was supposed to be. I don’t get why there’s been no real effort to have the budget-busting tax cuts for the rich bill found unconstitutional, because that’s what the poison pill strategy used to get Governor Mark Dayton to sign it was. (Sen. John Marty floated a plan, a while ago, but got little support. Regarding that link, you probably know that Minnesota‘s Supreme Court ultimately did side with Gov. Dayton. Maybe he will use that to his advantage, on something or other this session.)
 

– Senate Majority Leader and purported Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) is indulging in rampant dereliction of duty.

 
– Republicans are being idiots about the issues with the new DMV computer system. (So it’s going to take more time and money. Big projects generally do, here in the real world.) To be fair, if the positions were reversed DFLers would be trying to make political hay of it as well. But they wouldn’t be so childishly obnoxious about it.
 

{ 0 comments }

studentdebtThis article is really good, but something important needs to be added.
 

Picture the United States without student debt. It’s a country with a larger, more vibrant economy than the one we have today. It’s a country where more than a million people, including many people who never went to college, have jobs they would not otherwise have.
 
A new report from Bard College’s Levy Economics Institute concludes that this bold idea – cancelling all outstanding student debt – would help the entire economy and create more than a million jobs.
 
To those who say we can’t afford to cancel this debt, the report poses a new and different question: Can we afford not to?
(OurFuture.org)

Yes, when we get progressive governance, canceling student debt must be a top priority. But if commensurate goodies don’t manifest for those who didn’t/don’t go to college and therefore have no student debt, there is unlikely to be progressive governance for long. The point of putting the left in charge is to see that everyone except the 1% is better off.
 
As to what those commensurate goodies for those without student debt should be, I don’t presume to specify. Why not ask them?
 

{ 0 comments }

veteransOne one hand the Trump budget calls for a big boost in the Veterans Administration budget, which is a rare bit of positive news from that for the most part extremist wish-list. On another:
 

But others in the administration want a much more drastic change: They seek to privatize vets’ health care. From perches in Congress, the White House and the VA itself, they have battled (VA secretary David) Shulkin. In some instances, his own subordinates have openly defied him.
 
Multiple publications have explored the turmoil and conflict at the VA in the wake of the inspector general report. Yet a closer examination shows the roots of the fight stretch back to the presidential campaign and reveals how far the entropy of the Trump administration has spread. Much has been written on the “chaos presidency.” Every day seems to bring exposés of White House backstabbing and blood feuds. The fight over the VA shows not only that this problem afflicts federal agencies, too, but that friction and contradiction were inevitable: Trump appointed a VA secretary who wants to preserve the fundamental structure of government-provided health care; the president also installed a handful of senior aides who are committed to a dramatically different philosophy.
(ProPublica)

There was a report yesterday that one of Shulkin’s top staffers tried to get him fired.
 

{ 0 comments }

To say the least.
 

Final permit decisions on PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet Mining Project are approaching, and for all the celebration of the process by politicians and company promoters here in Minnesota, we have grave concerns. We bring this message from Duluth, where we live downstream of the proposed PolyMet mine.
 
Last week we welcomed a delegation from Amnesty International to discuss their experience with a British Columbia copper sulfide mine upstream of their own communities. This is a group that has heard it all before: promises of safety from mining companies, claims of new technology that isn’t, guarantees of zero discharge, and assurances from government officials that it will all be fine.
 
Unfortunately, in 2014, the dam upstream of them collapsed, sending toxic water and tailings into nearby Quesnel Lake, effectively turning the pristine lake into a waste pit. The Mount Polley dam breach is the worst environmental disaster in Canadian history, and it is ongoing.
(MinnPost)

A related and similarly enlightening item:
 

The outdoor recreational industry contributed toward two percent of the U.S. GDP in 2016, according to a preliminary report the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released (on February 14). It’s the bureau’s first attempt to analyze this economic sector, and it points to the surprisingly large contribution of hunting, festivals, and countless other outdoor activities to the American economy.
 
Indeed, 2 percent amounted to nearly $374 billion in 2016. That’s enough money to fund the Department of Interior 27 times over. And this economy is growing at a faster rate than the general U.S. economy. It grew 3.8 percent in 2016 whereas the overall economy saw just a 2.8 percent rise…
 
With data on this industry available, lawmakers should have no excuse for not measuring the impacts of extraction and other land use on public lands, said Matt Lee-Ashley, senior director of environmental strategy and communications at the Center for American Progress, to Earther. After all, as he pointed out, the mining industry (which includes oil and gas) amounted to just $260 billion in 2016. Outdoor recreation wins in that aspect.
(Earther)

{ 0 comments }

What difference did the Russians really make?

by Dan Burns on February 22, 2018 · 0 comments

trump7I’m among those who have been thinking, very little. That is, that Russian activities are well down the list of the factors that put Trump in the White House. (If you ask me, the #1 factor is that the overall socio-political intelligence in this country is still considerably less than many of us fondly chose to believe. #2 was the atrocious, despicable behavior of corporate media, including pretty much across the board here in Minnesota.) I still think that, more or less, but I found this article intriguing and worthwhile.
 

It’s a fairly straightforward question. But more than a year later, we are no closer to a definitive answer on the actual impact of Russian intelligence hacking efforts as well as their active measures through RT, Sputnik News, and thousands of Facebook and Twitter ads, bots, and trolls on the 2016 election.
 
It’s not really a question of whether they made a difference: it’s a question of how big or small that difference ultimately was.
 
This unknown impact would be added to the appeals made by either candidate, the specific states they visited, and how they managed to resonate with the general populace in the wake of the news cycle. And of course there was also the last-minute release of the Comey letter, which FiveThirtyEight states may have dropped Clinton’s numbers by between 3 to 5 percent. Is it possible that she had already been severely hampered by the endless reams of bad news about internal DNC emails, and then John Podesta? What difference did it actually make?
(Daily Kos)

{ 0 comments }

Praise for St. Paul teachers

by Dan Burns on February 21, 2018 · 0 comments

schoolsThe author of this, Jeff Bryant, is a leading pro-public schools researcher and writer.
 

St. Paul teachers want to do “phenomenal things” for their students. At least that’s what Nick Faber of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers tells me. But what’s been holding back him and his fellow educators are the same obstacles to progress in many of our communities: a culture of financial austerity combined with a political lack of will to tax corporations and the wealthy.
 
But Faber and his union brothers and sisters may have just taught progressives a valuable lesson in how to take on those impediments and win, not just for students and schools but for the common good of our communities.
(OurFuture.org)

{ 0 comments }

Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 100

by Dan Burns on February 19, 2018 · 0 comments

trump18When I started this series I soon decided to see how long it would take to get to 100. As it turns out, 395 days since his inauguration. Of course I could have arrived far sooner, because we’re talking Trump, here. I’ve never gone out of my way to find items. I just use what pops up in daily/weekly email updates from a bunch of sources, the majority but by no means all progressive. As a matter of fact doing the whole thing has been pretty much effortless.
 
This takes a hard look, based on current information, at whether Pr*sident Donald Trump really is traitorous filth. It’s by James Risen, and does not play fast and loose with the evidence. Quite the contrary.

 

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump.
 
It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.
 
At the end of the day, he is certain to be left in the dustbin of history, alongside Father Coughlin and Gen. Edwin Walker. (Exactly – you don’t remember them, either.)
 
What more can I add?
 
Unfortunately, another word also describes him: president. The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.
 
Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?
(The Intercept)

{ 0 comments }

In SD54, DFLer Karla Bigham won.
 
In HD23B, DFLer Melissa Wagner did not win.
 
The results were about what you’d expect for special elections in these districts in typical years. There was no evidence of the Trump backlash that has led to big upset wins for Democrats elsewhere in the country. I don’t purport to know why we didn’t see that here.
 
But I’ll speculate a little. For a long time things have been going a lot better in Minnesota than in places like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Missouri. So maybe there’s not the same motivation for people who wouldn’t ordinarily turn out for special elections in those places, but did, to do so here – in part to make a statement about the crass, demented, misogynistic, racist, treasonous buffoon in the White House. Maybe.
 
Update: The paragraph above about the election results was dashed off in haste and needs qualification. The standard that is being used for special elections is how much they changed from the amount by which they went for Trump on that awful day in 2016. DFL performance improved from that by about 5 points in SD54, and by about 7 in HD23B. So, not like quite a bit of what’s been happening elsewhere in the country, but not insignificant, especially for special elections in the dead of winter in Minnesota.
 

{ 0 comments }

School privatization stuff

by Dan Burns on February 15, 2018 · 0 comments

abanschoolA couple of recent items. Regarding this first one, I’m not ready to declare victory, yet. (Neither, I’m sure, is the author.) But it is encouraging.
 

Charter schools used to be seen as the hot new concept in education.

 
But that fad seems to have jumped the shark.

 
For two decades since the first charter school law was passed in Minnesota, they’ve grown at about 6 to 7 percent nationally.
 
But for the last three years, that growth has dropped each year – from 7 to 5 to 2 percent.
(gadflyonthewallblog)

The next one is long and involved, but should be read in full if you’re into contemporary education issues in Minnesota, at all. And why wouldn’t you be?
 

If education reform is a political game, and it is, then it looks like the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) is winning. Here’s why.
 
On February 13, the union held an informational picket line, meant to rally members and raise public awareness of the issues MFT says it is fighting for. That includes clean buildings, less testing, and smaller class sizes. 1,000 people showed up to walk the picket line in freezing, late afternoon temperatures. They hoisted signs and banged on drums while passing vehicles honked and waved in support…
 
It comes amid contract negotiations between MFT and the Minneapolis schools. According to a Star Tribune article, the district would like to hold mediation sessions over typical business items such as wages and benefits. Across the table, however, the union, like its counterpart in St. Paul, is attempting to use its contract as a way to advocate for the “schools Minneapolis kids deserve.” Labor laws in the United States favor management on this one, with precedent given to restricting union negotiations to boilerplate contract issues.
 
But there is a growing trend of labor groups embracing “social justice unionism,” where the contract becomes a way to reframe the failure narrative dogging public schools. In cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, St. Paul, and now, Minneapolis, this movement has pushed back against the plutocrat supported assumption that schools and teachers are failing kids.

 
On February 7, almost one week before the MFT rally drew one thousand supporters, the local education reform outfit, Minnesota Comeback, held their own rally at Minneapolis’s Capri Theater. This was billed as a quarterly gathering for the group’s community members and was a much more sparsely attended, subdued affair than MFT’s more celebratory one.
(Bright Light Small City)

{ 0 comments }