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Some recent Enbridge pipeline stuff

by Dan Burns on March 23, 2018 · 0 comments

enbridge– People get fed up, and I don’t blame them.

Leaders of the Red Lake Nation are formally calling for the removal of oil pipelines from their reservation in northern Minnesota.
The tribal council in January pulled out of a deal with Canadian energy firm Enbridge that would have allowed the pipelines to stay in place. Leaders now want the infrastructure removed altogether.
“We just want them to move their lines and clean up the pollution and the damages they’ve done the past 70 years,” Chairman told The Bemidji Pioneer after the council voted unanimously on Tuesday to remove the pipelines.

– Enbridge spent more than $5 million lobbying Minnesota state officials, last year.


– A result in a closely watched “necessity defense” protest case:


Tuesday’s sentencing hearing tested a Montana court’s willingness to apply the severe penalties already available for use against pipeline protesters. For halting the flow of oil through Enbridge’s Express pipeline for several hours, Leonard Higgins, a 66-year-old retired information technology manager for the state of Oregon, faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine for charges of misdemeanor trespass and felony criminal mischief. Higgins was sentenced to three years’ probation and $3,755 in restitution to the pipeline company…
Although the sentence is lenient in light of the possible penalties Higgins faced, it does not represent a full win for the activists. Higgins’s legal team had hoped Judge Daniel Boucher would allow them to argue that, given the severity of the climate threat, he had no choice but to act — a strategy known as a necessity defense. But Boucher said that since Higgins appeared to fear harm to his children and grandchildren, rather than an imminent threat to his own life, the defense could not apply. In his denial, Boucher wrote, “The energy policy of the United States is not on trial, nor will this court allow Higgins to attempt to put it on trial.”
(The Intercept)


veterans2The bastards are not going to give up.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has long been the subject of aggressive privatization efforts. However, veteran organizers say the fate of the program, drowning in fresh scandals under embattled Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin, has never been in more danger than it is now.
The efforts to outsource veterans care are waged by the Koch brothers and their front group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), among other advocates of privatization. The group held a press conference to discuss its privatization efforts — which they like to call “choice” — on Friday in DC. Should they succeed in their goals, it will have consequences not only for veterans, but also for the broader movement for a public system like Medicare for All. The VHA is the only truly public, fully integrated health system in the US. The attacks against it aim to undermine public support for government-run care.

A name that is popping up a lot, to take over and then deliberately wreck the VA, is that of prominent Fox News idiot Pete Hegseth. He’s from Minnesota, and ran for US Senate here in 2012, but lost the Republican endorsement to Kurt Bills. Who Sen. Amy Klobuchar then wiped out by about 30.
Hegseth has been described as “like a FOX funded throbbing hemorrhoid causing undue pain on the body politic.” He was considered for the job last year, but ferociously righteous opposition from veterans groups torpedoed it that time. So we’ll see.


15th anniversary of a crime against humanity

by Dan Burns on March 20, 2018 · 0 comments

None of the perpetrators of this have been held at all accountable. Nor is there any real chance that they ever will be.

First came the lies — so many, it was impossible to keep up with them. Then came the shock and awe, the crudely invented Iraqi jubilation, the extraordinary renditions, the secret prisons, the indefinite detentions, the relentless torture, the deluge of unaccounted-for cash, the no-bid contracts, the flaccid media, the spectacle of “mission accomplished,” the lousy armor, the occupation …
The endless flow of blood.
There is now a long list of the dead who would not be dead were it not for this war of choice initiated out of bravado, rancid ideology, and doctored “evidence.”
…Come March 2003, shock and awe was delivered to Baghdad, soon followed by more of the torture that had been going on since the first terror suspects had been grabbed off the streets of Europe and elsewhere. Billions of shrink-wrapped dollars poured into Iraq, great gobs of it never since accounted for. Halliburton and other war profiteers made fortunes off no-bid contracts and frequently shoddy work. The media excelled as a pipeline for brazen propaganda.
(Daily Kos)

I didn’t have a computer then, and I must note with considerable embarrassment that I had CNN on, quite often. I remember before the invasion how they were constantly running the same documentaries about being a fighter jet pilot, and life aboard an aircraft carrier – the USS Ronald Reagan, of course. And all of that “embedded” reporting, once it started – though certainly such arrant, contrived cheerleading didn’t deserve to be called “reporting,” or legitimate journalism of any kind. Memories of that make it all the more nauseating to see now how c. media, facing attacks by Trump, claims to be a key “defender of democracy” and so on, these days. What a farce.
That said, I don’t think that corporate media will behave in quite as contemptible a fashion, this time around, if the Trump administration starts to really push a “case for war.” But I’m not at all sure about that.
This is a pretty great song, from 2007. “Dad” is short for Baghdad.



frackingFrom March 13:

“Our examination…uncovered no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health,” states a blistering 266-page report released today by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group, Physicians for Social Responsibility. Drawing on news investigations, government assessments and more than 1,200 peer-reviewed research articles, the study finds that fracking – shooting chemical-laden fluid into deep rock layers to release oil and gas – is poisoning the air, contaminating the water and imperiling the health of Americans across the country. “Fracking is the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” says Dr. Sandra Steingraber, one of the report’s eight co-authors, a biologist who has worked as a public health advocate on issues like breast cancer and toxic incinerators. “Those of us in the public health sector started to realize years ago that there were potential risks, then the industry rolled out faster than we could do our science.” In recent years, the practice has expanded from rural lands to backyards, farms, and within sight of schools and sources of drinking water. “Now we see those risks have turned into human harms and people are getting sick,” says Steingraber. “And we in this field have a moral imperative to raise the alarm.”
(Rolling Stone)


mncapitol2Namely, with Medicaid work requirements. A tiny, perverse part of me kind of wishes that Governor Mark Dayton actually would sign it (not really, but you know what I mean), presuming that it gets through the Senate with its big old 1-vote GOP majority. Because, for example, from last July:


James Acker is a Donald Trump supporter deep in Minnesota Trump country. Cass County voted two-to-one for Trump over Hillary Clinton in last fall’s presidential election.
Acker and some of his neighbors, however, are not sold on what they’ve heard from Trump and other Republican lawmakers on Medicaid. The federal health safety net plays a crucial role here and many residents are worried now about the GOP’s push to remake health care and how that will affect them and their communities…
Many in Cass County are watching intently. Despite the overwhelming support for Trump, people are wary about changing a program that for many is a life-or-death necessity.

This is about another really intellectually stellar proposal:

OK, Minnesota State Legislators: What is going on with SF 2487? It requires schools to adopt a “written academic balance policy” that must “prohibit school employees, in their official capacity, from requiring students or other school employees to express specified social or political viewpoints for the purposes of academic credit, extracurricular participation, or as a condition of employment,” among other things.
On its face, this seems simple enough. But what does it mean? I understand that, as a professional educator, I won’t be telling my students that they should vote for a specific candidate. I don’t know any professional teacher who would do that. Of course we wouldn’t say “only conservatives are allowed on the debate team,” or “only socialists are allowed to try out for the basketball team.”
But what is a “social viewpoint?” Is Black Lives Matter a social viewpoint? Because that’s not really negotiable: the lives of my black students, friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens do matter, unequivocally. How about supporting LGBTQ students’ rights to have a safe place to learn, or that their lives matter? Is that a social viewpoint? Because that’s not really negotiable either. How about “women are equal to men?” There are so many different things that fall under the idea of “social viewpoint” that are basic rules of safe classrooms and healthy schools.
(Adventures in Distraction)


trump18For some reason I just can’t get enough of people effectively bashing corporate media, these days.

This is going to turn into one of those things like the Iraq War, no doubt, where a great many people who do not have columns in the New York Times are all pointing out the looming catastrophe in real time but it is only after every prediction is proven right that the important wags in the papers and in Congress begrudgingly start to admit that no, flagrant lying in service of plainly crooked ends was not merely a side note to the story, but the whole damn story. They will then congratulate their boldness in coming to this conclusion, while pretending there was no possible way anyone could have predicted that Trump was in up to his strangely puffy eyeballs in Russian conspiracies, and in-office bribe-seeking, and the remnants of the Republican Party will act concerned and surprised for exactly as long as it takes to convince dullards they’re very sorry for all of that, rinse, repeat.
(Daily Kos)

I admit that on the whole c. media hasn’t entirely been quite as bad as I expected, in the matter of automatically downplaying Trump’s most egregious sayings and doings. But all in all they have still been constantly plumbing atrocious new depths of false equivalence, just like during the campaign.


Trump, Kim Jong-un, and Twitter

by Dan Burns on March 9, 2018 · 0 comments

trump13Pr*sident Donald Trump apparently plans to personally meet with North Korean President Kim Jong-un. (North Korea has been trying to get one of these summit-type meetings with a US president going back to Clinton. The intent is to try to help establish world legitimacy for the regime. Not even W. went for it. Once someone explains that, and other matters, to Trump, it seems unlikely that this encounter will actually happen.) I did something I very rarely do: took some time on Twitter to view reactions. MN Progressive Project follows 3,463, by no means all left/progressive, so I presumably saw a somewhat representative sample. Significant categories included:

– Quips referencing Dennis Rodman. Most were mildly amusing, none lol-funny;
– Suggestions that Trump and KJU will become bosom buddies, what with both being deranged egomaniacs, and that Putin is somehow involved;
– Suggestions, entirely valid if you ask me, that KJU will “play” Trump like a grand piano;
– Re-posting old Trump tweets about the foolishness of trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man.”
Which brings me to a big study about Twitter that just appeared. My tendency has been to discount the real influence of social media on voting. That could be a mistake.

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift once wrote.
It was hyperbole three centuries ago. But it is a factual description of social media, according to an ambitious and first-of-its-kind study published Thursday in Science.
The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.
“It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.”
(The Atlantic)

(I don’t think the original publication in Science is paywalled, but I do think you have to sign up to access it, so they can send you emails. That’s how it worked for me when I first read something there online, a few years ago. I now get a weekly list of suggested articles on Saturday mornings, and sporadic emails inviting me to go for a subscription to the actual magazine. In any case, I’m sure that original is pretty dense and data-heavy to plow through. There‘s a link in the quoted article.)


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.

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


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.


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?

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?