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daudtThe state House Republicans have something new they want to try, and it sounds exciting. To solve the problem of what to do with the projected $1.9 billion surplus, they propose a $2 billion tax cut, mostly for people with lots of money already. I understand no one has tried this before. Apparently fiscal conservatives have always been too concerned about deficits from the loss of revenue to give it a try. The theory is that if we give more money to people who already have lots of money, they invest it in ways that help everybody, and the growing economy means the government actually gets back more than the taxes were cut.
 
I can’t conceive of what could be wrong with the theory or how it could go wrong!
 
CORRECTION: After further research, I want to address an error in the first paragraph. Specifically, it turns out there’s a slight problem in that everything is wrong. This isn’t a new idea after all, but actually the policy Republicans always advocate when there’s a budget surplus. Or a budget deficit. Or when the economy is strong. Or when the economy is weak. Or when the wind changes. Moreover it has been tried, repeatedly, with consistent results, namely the government runs short of revenue and the wealthy recipients tend to just pocket the cash instead of investing it. Turns out they have so much money already that if there were good investment available, they’d already be investing. I asked how that squared with the “Reagan recovery” of the 1980’s, and turns out he raised taxes. A bunch. Because the deficit blew up. He just didn’t raise them on the same people who got the tax cuts. Oops. Also turns out there are these places called “red states” suffering slow economies and chronic budget shortfalls. Wow. I wonder if these states are as red as my face is right now!
 
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More details will be forthcoming.

 

For now, from the announcement by Sen. A-Klo:

The Senate just voted 56-43 to confirm her as the next Attorney General.

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No surprise, we have more bird flu in Minnesota, not only among turkey farms but now outbreaks at chicken farms.  Governor Dayton is releasing additional resources to combat the spread, up to and including making the National Guard units available to help.

 

Gov. Mark Dayton has declared a state of emergency in Minnesota in response to the bird flu outbreak, which has claimed the lives of 2.6 million turkeys and has now spread to a chicken farm for the first time in the state.

The Star Tribune reports that the governor’s order activates “an emergency operations plan” to provide support to attempts to quell the outbreak, and also says that National Guard personnel can be mobilized if necessary.

It comes after chicken producer J&A Farms, near Detroit Lakes in northwestern Minnesota, became the first chicken farm in the state to confirm an infection of the deadly H5N2 virus, KSTP reports. The farm has 275,000 hens.

Earlier on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported the bird flu’s presence in 13 additional turkey flocks in Minnesota. That brought the state’s overall total to 44 across 15 counties.

The deadly avian flu has spread to 13 more Minnesota turkey farms, bringing the total number of birds affected to more than 2.5 million, the state Board of Animal Health announced.

…Since the outbreak of the virus in early March, 7.1 million turkeys and egg-laying chickens have been affected across the Midwest, The Associated Press reports.

Chicken operations in Iowa and Wisconsin have also been hit by the bird flu. There are 16 states now coping with the disease in commercial bird operations.

 

National  media is running headlines that McDonalds may experience supply problems, with ‘Chicken Mcnuggets as rare as hen’s teeth’.  I don’t eat them, but it occurs to me that might be the only silver lining of a serious global warming related economic disaster to our state and regional economies.  It is beginning to dawn on people that this will affect not only the price of turkey and chicken meat, but also the price of eggs — and presumably therefore a variety of the ‘golden starches’ breakfast menu items as well as the nuggets.
The economic impact goes far further afield than just fast food retailers.  The BBC is reporting protests against ongoing trade negotiations for US ag products to be marketed in Europe as a result of this outbreak.  As with past food safety and disease issues, such as the mad cow problems of some years back, a variety of nations are banning the shipment of poultry products while this epidemic continues.  having the reputation of unsafe or disease-ridden products is of course detrimental to the long term economic strength of our ag industry sector, and a serious concern for the entire country.

 

The head of the World Organisation for Animal Health tells us why this latest outbreak of bird flu has come as such a shock to US industry. Also, as the latest round of negotiations towards a new trade pact between Europe and the US get under way, we report on the opposition to the proposals, at a protest attended by Vivienne Westwood in London.

 

I documented here, on the 2015 celebration of Earth Day why this outbreak of avian flu is an issue of global warming, and the cause and effect link to rising temperatures and the spread of these kinds of disease, among both wildlife and domesticated animals, directly affecting our food supply and the affordability of the food we eat (not just fast food).  From the STrib

 

DES MOINES, Iowa — Some international trade partners are declining to buy egg and poultry products from states affected by a deadly strain of bird flu while others are excluding imports only from counties where the virus has surfaced.

Agriculture officials say the food supply is safe. But Mexico, Japan and Canada are among 33 countries declining to accept poultry products from entire states, including Iowa, the nation’s leading egg producer, and Minnesota, the top turkey grower in the U.S.

Other countries, including Hong Kong, limit the ban to counties where the virus has been confirmed.

 

Conservatives, who as a group receive enormous amounts of funding both directly and indirectly from fossil fuel sources, refuse to address the issue and actively obstruct others from addressing it.  Most recently we have a member of our state legislature doing exactly that, on the floor of the lege, while following the classic tactic of pretending that conservatives are somehow victims and martyrs  for believing things which are factually false – and seriously dangerous to all of us.  I would further posit that it is precisely to take positions that are factual and objective that these legislators are elected, and NOT to be faith based or phantasy driven in writing legislation, voting or formulating policy.  Hat tip to Bluestem Prairie and the Uptake for the video and news item on Rep. Jim Newberger, R-Becker.  This is EXACTLY what we do NOT need or want in response to the challenges of global warming.  This is the kind of failure to act and failure to think that is why we must oppose conservatives in any position of authority at any level of government, because of failing to address these issue in a manner that is rational, that is objective, that values science not religion as the basis for action.  If we wanted whining, we’d look for two year olds who missed their nap time.

 

Rep. Newberger grow a pair, and act your age.  You and the rest of the lege were elected to deal with these issues, to voice your opinions BASED ON FACTS NOT FAITH, and to do something about these kinds of problems on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota.  Pull up your big boy pants, buckle up your belt and if necessary add a pair of suspenders, but ditch the crap about being a victim.  DO SOMETHING about the very real problems of global warming; they are on our doorstep, right there where you live in Sherburne County.  But don’t kid yourself – something I suspect Newberger does often; the effects of this problem go much further afield than just Sherburne County, or the state boundaries, or even the national boundaries.  We can’t afford the kind of  political and ideological driven denial that we see next door in Wisconsin, courtesy of Koch brothers’ puppet Scott Walker as he trashes the state of Wisconsin, including by prohibiting any references or planning related to global warming.

 

 

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What do the kids think?

by Dan Burns on April 23, 2015 · 0 comments

schoolThis is extremely important, from someone who actually took the trouble to talk to students. These kids are all clearly quite a bit smarter than the education deformer crowd, btw.
 

Somehow, despite the Testocracy’s best efforts, these students have learned to think critically about their lives and the world around them:
 
There is a clear boundary between the haves and have-nots, but opportunities should be there for everyone.
We know bright kids without high GPAs; a high GPA doesn’t exactly equal intelligence. But we are told a high GPA equals a good future.
High school is getting increasingly hard. More difficult. We get the message that we’re not going anywhere unless we have all A’s.
We are told to shoot for the stars, but it feels like we shouldn’t expect to get there.
Life is a three-step thing: High school–College–Job.
College costs vast amounts of money, but we don’t have time to reflect on what we want to do with our lives.
But, I think about it a lot. And I think, we’re only 17.
We have good memories, too. We’ve grown up together. We’re lucky to have the opportunities we do have. Southwest is still a good school.
It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t all work out.
(Bright Light Small City)

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We are in a desperate struggle to save our planet and ourselves, both as a species and individually, from two inter-related threats, global warming and climate change denial by ignorant crazy people who suffer from magical thinking. Magical thinking is where nutty religious zealots ignore scientifically documented cause and effect, and instead demand we all conform to religious supernatural insanity, that denies reality. Magical thinking requires us to believe that abortion and/or gay marriage in the United States are responsible for natural disasters, while denying the real causes of those problems, human use of fossil fuels and other anthropogenic carbon emissions that are related to greenhouse gases, as well as other problems such as fracking-caused earthquakes.

 

Their reasoning is that overall planetary global warming can’t be real if you can still make a snow ball. Because Jesus loves us and he wants us to use up finite resources while killing ourselves doing so. We are wrestling for control of who drives the bus, who controls the steering wheel, the sane people or the crazies who want to crash the bus over a very tall cliff, with the bus being a metaphor for the planet, our ‘little blue marble’ hanging in space.

 

It is not only extremist insane right wing evangelical and fundie religion, it is also corrupt, largely Republican and other conservatives being corrupt taking truckloads of cash, directly and indirectly from the fossil fuel special interests to act against the interests of their constituents – the American people – effectively fiddling while not only Rome but the entire planet burns.

 

This affects US, right here, right now, and those effects will only become more severe if we don’t succeed in stopping the dangerous right.  I generally dislike polarizing politics, the Us versus Them mentality, but in this particular area, there is no room for compromise, there is only one rational and correct side.  Democracy can only operate if those in power are sane and rational; conservatives are, as a group, NOT either.

 

turkeys from how stuff works.com

From Science, August 2, 2013, review:

Climate Change and Infectious Diseases: From Evidence to a Predictive Framework

  1. Sonia Altizer1,*,
  2. Richard S. Ostfeld2,
  3. Pieter T. J. Johnson3,
  4. Susan Kutz4,
  5. C. Drew Harvell5

“Scientists have long predicted large-scale responses of infectious diseases to climate change, giving rise to a polarizing debate, especially concerning human pathogens for which socioeconomic drivers and control measures can limit the detection of climate-mediated changes. Climate change has already increased the occurrence of diseases in some natural and agricultural systems,…”

 
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Handouts for the haves

by Dan Burns on April 22, 2015 · 1 comment

greed1Just a few examples to remind us of what our socio-political system is all about. Namely, plutocracy and open bribery.
 

The six tax breaks that Sanders wants Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to eliminate are:
 
The check-the-box loophole allows multinational companies to characterize their offshore subsidiaries in different ways to different governments so that their profits are untaxed.
The Hewlett-Packard loophole allows American corporations to use short-term loans from their subsidiaries circumvent the requirement that they pay U.S. taxes on their offshore profits when those profits are brought to the U.S.
The corporate inversions loophole allows an American corporation to merge with a (usually much smaller) foreign corporation and then reincorporate as a foreign company to avoid U.S. taxes even as it continues to operate and be managed in the U.S.
The carried interest loophole allows hedge fund managers to characterize their compensation (which they earn for managing other people’s money) as capital gains, which is subject to lower personal income tax rates than other types of income. Tax experts have pointed out that the Treasury Department has the authority under existing law to determine how this income is taxed.
Valuation discounts are restrictions placed on small business property given to family members (to keep the business in the family, for example) which are often meaningless but are claimed to dramatically reduce their value for estate and gift tax purposes.
The real estate investment trust (REIT) loophole allows private prisons, billboard companies, casinos and other companies claim that they are making money from rents to avoid paying the corporate income tax.
(Sen. Bernie Sanders)

 
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 photo 15B1_zps2qt2qcqs.jpgWhat, there isn’t a literal “biggest jerk in the legislature contest”? I guess I just assumed there was such a prize from the way some legislators seem to be trying to win it. Here’s a strong entry from Rep. Jim Newberger, R-15B, via The Uptake. Trying to make some point about North Star rail, he mentioned that the prison in St. Cloud is near railroad tracks and said, “Boy, wouldn’t that be convenient, to have that rail line going from the prison to North Minneapolis.” No, North Minneapolis was not part of the discussion. He brought that up all on his own. He excused himself by saying North Minneapolis was just what he happened to think of. Yep, purely at random, he mentioned a prison, and then mentioned a racially mixed area. He said he could have mentioned any part of the state, so I’m sure International Falls had an equal shot at a cheap shot.
 
Then he decided to dig deeper by saying, “But if you’re going to connect a large metro to a prison there’s going to be some concerns. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t.” Well, who knew the prison at St. Cloud was on an island in the ocean? Sure, a land connection could only be dangerous. I’d be lying if I said Newberger didn’t have concerns, and lying if I said Newberger had any idea what those concerns were. That’s maybe the saddest or funniest thing: you have to listen twice to get past his prejudice and realize there isn’t even a coherent point in there. Please 15B, next election, show that Newberger doesn’t really represent you. Maybe elect a smart person next time.

 

 

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It is time to follow the example of Colorado and other states, in being progressive about marijuana the way we have been progressive about the minimum wage and gay marriage. Marijuana is NOT a ‘gateway drug'; that is obsolete thinking, as science has shown us that both tobacco and alcohol have greater roles in leading to subsequent heavy use of drugs, and stronger drugs.

 

In that context, there was a rally at the Minnesota Capitol to push for full legalization, not just limited medical marijuana legalization which goes into effect in July of this year.

 

 

We need to further explore the potential to control the component ingredients of marijuana, and we need to address the racial disparity in arrests. I would argue that we would all benefit from releasing prisoners in our corrections system who are non-violent criminals with only marijuana possession convictions. African American and Hispanics are disproportionately arrested while it is affluent white people who are in fact the biggest users of marijuana (and other drugs).

 

More than 100 million people have used marijuana at least once; our total population of 321,000,000; making users of pot as slightly less than 1/3 of the population.

 

People of color are 11 arrested for marijuana use or possession ELEVEN TIMES more often than white people, in spite of the fact that they actually represent a smaller percentage of users of pot.  The graph below is from the NORML blog, reflecting federally gathered statistics about adult population:

 

http://assets.blog.norml.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/us-adult-of-races.jpg

all U.S. adults by race and ethnicity breakdown

 

and by adult marijuana use:


 
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The ALEC clown show plays Minnesota

by Dan Burns on April 21, 2015 · 0 comments

mncapitol2This is all so obviously straight outta the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that Minnesota GOP legislative leaders might just as well have plastic surgery done, to make them all dead ringers for Scott Walker. First, what do “clerical errors” matter when it comes to savagely assaulting programs for the poor?
 

Due to clerical errors, House Republicans had to do some last minute revisions to their Health and Human Services spending bill for the coming biennium.
 
Instead of cutting about $1 billion from administrative costs associated with Medical Assistance, ending MinnesotaCare and delaying insurance company payments, the new total is about $1.2 billion in cuts over two years.
(MPR)

Their tax plan is similarly atrocious.
 
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4/20, Colorado Pot and Guns

by Dog Gone on April 20, 2015 · 0 comments

image from azmarijuana.com

It is 4/20, aka pot day, and informal holiday. It is also the anniversary of the Columbine massacre in Colorado in 1999.  Colorado has legalized marijuana consumption, two years ago.  Other states and jurisdictions are following suit.  At the same time there have been attempts to move forward legislation all over the country variously to make guns as easy to purchase and carry as pot is in Colorado.  There is no public consumption of cannabis permitted in public in Colorado, or other jurisdictions, while conservative and libertarians have pushed for very liberal public display and to some degree more liberal use of firearms.

 

As a curious intersection of those two very different events, it is worth noting that one of the reasons given for the massacre death toll not being higher is that 4/20 was both a senior skip day, and a day when students cut class to go smoke pot.

From the Denver Post online:

The day is known in circles as “4-20” – when students around the country skipped school to smoke marijuana. Aside from it having been April 20, the police code for a drug bust in Los Angeles is also 4-20.

“This is the big day for (smoking marijuana),” said Columbine student Jason Greer, 16.

 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that both of the Columbine shooters were at least occasional pot smokers.

 

Did Eric & Dylan smoke weed? If so, was there proof?
 
Yes they did, and some friends and a coworker said they believed they did harder drugs too (but there’s no proof they actually did.) As for weed, there is proof. Witnesses say that they saw and/or joined them smoking weed in the smoker’s pit at school. On Eric’s survey, he said that his favorite thing to do on the weekend was “get stoned.” And, friends of theirs such as Chris Morris and Cory Friesen, said that they did indeed smoke weed.

Kliebold and Harris, the Columbine shooters and bombers, appear to have had a very easy time acquiring both illegal firearms through the assistance of straw purchasers, and illegal pot (also bomb-making components for 99 bombs).

 

Looking at the available statistics in Colorado, post-pot legalization, there seems to be far less problems resulting from legal, easily available marijuana than there have been from easily obtainable firearms, legal or otherwise.

 
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