News

What We Have In Common With Jeb

Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush (Image (c) The Atlantic 2015)

Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush (Image (c) The Atlantic 2015)

By JT Haines — July 15, 2015

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush says we should work more hours. Fortunately, “Jeb!” has been appropriately chastened, with many pointing out (among other things) that Americans already work a ton of hours and productivity gains have gone to the 1%.

But while inartful and misguided, Jeb’s comments also reflect a sacred goal that is actually shared by most in American politics, including those doing the chastening: Growth.

The examples are everywhere. Minneapolis’ Democratic Mayor Betsy Hodges — the same mayor who has recently been invited to the Vatican to discuss climate change — had this to say at her inaugural address last year:

“To grow our city, and make it more than great, means above all that we must grow a population where 500,000 people — no, 500,001 and more people — live and thrive in Minneapolis, with the greatest density along transit corridors.” [MinnPost]

The current population of Minneapolis is 400,000.

Twin Cities, MN, traffic. 5:08PM, today, July 14, 2015.

Twin Cities, MN, traffic. 5:08PM, July 14, 2015.

Of course, it’s not difficult to understand why mayors trumpet growth. The whole system relies on it, and Mayor Hodges still needs to show up for work in the morning.

But how does growth align with the real world in the broader sense? In addition to the increasing social pressures and infrastructure costs that accompany population growth — which seem to go under-appreciated by elected officials seeking to increase budgets — we are faced with a much larger problem as well.

By that I mean, it’s odd, to say the least, to receive the daily mythology about growth alongside the increasing number of articles about climate change, drought, and population overshoot.

The same day I read about Jeb’s comments, I also took note of Dahr Jamail’s article in Truthout entitled “Mass Extinction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” The article is about University of Arizona Ecology Professor Guy McPherson and his research on the possibility/likelihood of near term human extinction. (Sorry, say again?) Prof. McPherson says “we’re in serious population overshoot,” and that “our version of civilization is the least sustainable of them all.”

Yet, the received political debate is whether poorer Americans should work more to achieve an extra two percentage points of GDP growth (and accompanying emissions), not whether growth itself.

The usefulness of Jeb’s “work more” comment, while idiotic on several levels, is that it exposes a fundamental contraction which we all perpetrate: Hard facts about the planet and prescriptions about growth simply do not align.

Of course, what to do about that is the question, but at the very least it’s time to blow the idea door wide open. The New Economics Foundation has proposed a 20-hour work week. That’s an idea. Unless you’re one of the saintly and indispensable among us who work 1 on 1 with real human beings every day, we could probably actually use less of what you’re selling. In today’s context, these things are not radical (more likely radically insufficient), Jeb is.

So slow down if you can manage. Do something close to home with the family. And as always, don’t believe the hype.

This piece also appeared in MinnPost on July 20, 2015.

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“Most Anti-Environment Bill in Decades”: Rally at Capitol and Related Materials

Photo (c) Newspeak Review

Photo (c) Newspeak Review

By JT Haines – June 12, 2015

A Special Session of the Minnesota Legislature starts today, and a bill Betsy Daub, Policy Director of Friends of the Boundary Waters, is calling the “most anti-environment bill in decades” is still on the table.

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership echoes the sentiment, calling this “one of the most anti-clean water bills in decades.” In a letter joined by dozens of top enviro orgs, MEP offers 11 reasons why legislators should vote “no” on the Environment and Ag bill at Special Session.

The bill is clearly out of step with the demands of the moment and the needs of Minnesotans (unless one believes taking a giant dump on our environment and public resources is a fine plan). In terms of some of your options for action:

Friends of the Boundary Waters, Water Legacy, “Say No to Bakk and His Shenanigans,” and members of the new DFL Environmental Caucus are promoting a rally at the legislature today to say no to the bill. From Friends late last night:

“After months of back and forth, the Minnesota Legislature will meet TOMORROW (Friday, June 12th) in special session to pass budget bills that Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a couple of weeks ago.

The bad news is that the Environment and Agriculture bill is nearly as bad for the Boundary Waters as it was before. It would still eliminate the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizens’ Board. It would still exempt sulfide mine proposals like PolyMet and Twin Metals from Minnesota solid waste disposal laws. It would still suspend Minnesota’s rules to protect wild rice from sulfate pollution, making it easier to give a permit to sulfide mines near the BWCA.

When we showed up at the Governor’s Residence to ask him to veto this bill, it worked. Now we need to show the Legislature that Minnesota does not want and will not allow them to roll back environmental protections and threaten the Boundary Waters with pollution from copper-nickel sulfide mines.

WHAT: Rally at the Minnesota Legislature to say no to the most anti-environment bill in decades
WHO: You, your signs, your voice, and your energy
WHEN: 10 AM Friday, June 12
WHERE: South entrance of the State Office Building (location of the special session), 100 Rev. Dr. Martin King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55103
WHY: To ask the Legislature to vote no and show that we won’t stand for environmental rollbacks that threaten the Boundary Waters

The Sierra Club Northstar Chapter is also asking people to tell their legislators to vote no on the bill, providing a link to do so electronically here.

Finally, in related news, this week the Ely Timberjay asked the question “Could Sen. Tom Bakk’s tenure as state Senate Majority Leader be in doubt?” On-the-spot Minnesota Brown covered that issue yesterday, concluding “Bakk is having a make-or-break moment in his political career, and the question now is whether he still has strong enough rapport to hold sway in his own caucus. Failure here would disrupt state government, which is the worse issue, but it would also probably signal the end of the Iron Range senator’s leadership role.”

A petition is circulating at change.org calling on Bakk to resign as Senate Majority Leader:

“You have divided your caucus. After making a deal on an Environment and Agriculture budget that rolled back environmental protections, you relied on the support of nearly 100% of the Senate Republican caucus to pass it. After he vetoed HF846, Governor Dayton stated that the worst provisions in the bill “more emanated from the Senate than they did from the House.” How can that be? 29 of 38 members of your caucus voted against HF846. You are supposed to lead and represent the will of your caucus as majority leader. Instead, you’ve substituted your own agenda for the agenda of your caucus.”

There were 479 signers as of early this morning.

The Growing Defense of the State Auditor is Great, but Where Does it Leave Us?

By JT Haines — June 4, 2015

So, we rush to the fairly obvious defense of our State Auditor, get some ridiculous provisions removed from law (STrib summary of the underlying issue here), and some of us even score a few mostly-cost-free political points for doing so. Yay! I’m all for getting that nasty business handled. But I’ll admit some concern. When we’ve succeeded in reversing the ridiculousness (which on this matter I believe we will), where does that leave us? Have we gone far enough? Are we ahead of where we were, or in reality behind? Have the *causes* of the need for such a rally been addressed? (And in the interests of slightly more clarity, I don’t just mean Republicans here.) Furthermore, are there equally important matters being compromised away because maybe they aren’t quite as easy and obvious to support? (MPCA Citizens Board comes to mind – what is its natural constituency? — Good MinnPost read on that situation here). I honestly don’t know, as I’m not close enough to this situation right now, and this is admittedly a fairly knee jerk reaction. But this all does feel a little weird to me, like maybe we’re getting played — from a pretty straight forward playbook — by those who seek to compromise our democracy every day. I hope I’m wrong, but in any case I mostly just hope it doesn’t end there.

In the meantime, of course, do please continue to support both the public functions of the Auditor’s office as well as Rebecca Otto for the bold stances she’s taken in favor of public accountability and her pro-taxpayer stance in the face of the highly costly PolyMet proposal, which Arne Carlson and others have convincingly argued is what’s really behind this nonsense. Make sure to check that out.

PolyMet E-mail Notwithstanding, NorthMet Fight Far from Over

Screenshot MNDNR Twitter Page

Screenshot MNDNR Twitter Page

By JT Haines – March 20, 2015

PolyMet Mining sent an e-mail to subscribers this week offering their preferred version of possible DNR release dates for the “NorthMet” project Final EIS — the highly controversial copper/sulfide mining proposal currently under state and federal regulatory review in Minnesota. The email reminded me that readers might appreciate a quick refresher on where we are in the process.

First, according to the email:

“PolyMet Mining is gearing up for a busy and productive few months ahead as state and federal regulators complete the environmental review process and prepare for permitting…The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been working through the 58,000 comments it received on the draft Environmental Impact Statement since the public comment period closed one year ago this month. That exhaustive work is nearly complete, and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said it is his goal to have the document “out the door” this spring. Permitting would then follow.

As we near the finish line, we will have much to share with you. And we may even need your help. If you haven’t done so yet, please update your information with us so we can keep you informed and ask for your help when it matters most.”

I’m not entirely sure what PolyMet means when they say “exhaustive work is nearly complete”, because the email doesn’t provide a source for that claim, and a claim that work is nearly complete is different than a “goal” expressed by DNR Commissioner Landwehr five months ago. Perhaps they mean they’ve understood from more recent non-public communications with the DNR that the EIS review is nearly complete, in which case that would be good for the public to know.

In any case, here’s a quick refresher on what we do know on EIS timing: Last September 24, 2014, the Ely Timberjay concluded based on an interview with DNR Commissioner Landwehr that it was “highly unlikely a final SDEIS will be issued before the second half of 2015, and possibly much later than that,” adding that company-promoted timelines had “once again, proven optimistic.” Two weeks later on October 6 — perhaps after a testy phone call or two? — Commissioner Landwehr expressed a “goal” to the Mesabi Daily News of releasing the final EIS in “early spring” 2015 (the goal presumably referenced by PolyMet’s email). The Commissioner qualified, however, that such a goal depends on a number of requirements, including that there be “no hitches” in the process.

As far as I know, we’ve not yet heard a DNR update on the EIS timeline in 2015, and it’s the DNR’s timeline that matters. Also as far as I know, no preliminary versions of the final EIS have yet been released, so at this point a final EIS from DNR in “early spring” seems unlikely.

In terms of next steps, after the final EIS is issued there is a separate public comment period, and after that, a permit application process — the results of which, as Commissioner Landwehr noted, are not guaranteed.

In other words, whatever the exact timeline, the fight is far from over. Which is exactly why in the meantime PolyMet is spending money promoting a (false) “narrative of inevitability”, an important thing to keep in mind going forward, and something the savvy readers of Newspeak Review are having no trouble with I’m sure.

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UPDATE: On June 9, 2015, the Duluth News Tribune confirmed that the PolyMet EIS is still months away, suggesting that it is “now expected by the end of 2015.” Ely Timberjay and Newspeak Review 1, MDN 0?

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MOA Surveillance of BlackLivesMatter Makes National Press

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 5.46.42 PM

By JT Haines, March 18, 2015

We Minnesotans have made national news, and not in the good way.

First Look’s The Intercept has picked up a recent discovery (h/t FOIA colleague Tony Webster) that Mall of America security used a fake facebook account to spy on good people in Minnesota — at least one of whom, Lena Gardner, is a personal friend of mine (who I first met in 2010 on a John Marty campaign). Another, Nekima Levy-Pounds, is a law professor at University of Saint Thomas and respected local civil rights lawyer.

The Intercept’s article describes “catfishing” of movement organizers, whereby a Mall of America “Intelligence Analyst” befriended activists including Gardner and Levy-Pounds, and “liked” the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Facebook Page, for surveillance purposes. The Intercept reports that the fake account was removed after TI contacted MOA.

Newspeak Review joins the calls for the City of Bloomington to ‪#‎DroptheCharges‬ and for citizens to ‪#‎BoycottMOA (at least) until it does so‬. This behavior by the Mall is wrong, as are the charges by the City of Bloomington. Let’s trust the people we know, and speak together. For more information on this important development in Minnesota, you can follow Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.

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