Political Philosophy

More Hillary, and the “fates of peoples”

From “Ready for Hillary” today on facebook:

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 10.19.21 AM

The post and photo currently has 124,000 likes and 15,000 shares.

My take: Hillary’s strategy so far is (1) allying herself with Wall Street money, and (2) emphasizing the clear truth that it’s time for a helluva lot more women in DC. That may work for her, we’ll see. However, even just on the possibility of Hillary running there are already a lot of conflicted people who want the latter, without ceding to the former, creating divides among otherwise allies. Which causes me to question just whose, exactly, interests her running would really serve. Anyway, you know my position. Give me Warren/Sanders (or Stein/Flowers, etc).

Bogged Down in Duluth

By JT Haines – January 25, 2014

On January 16, I attended the 1300-person public hearing in Duluth on PolyMet Inc’s proposed nonferrous metal mine in northern Minnesota. The purpose of the public hearing (first of three) was to receive public comment on the proposal’s “NorthMet Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

I feel deeply about this moment, and have thoughts about it a mile long. Ian Kimmer of Friends of the Boundary Waters is calling this “the most critical conservation and economic decision of our generation,” and I agree. I’ve written on the subject several times and have co-directed a documentary about a similar project in Latin America, but I have to admit, when it came time to comment publicly in Duluth, I felt a little jammed up. Public speaking is just hard, so there’s that, but a few other things travelled through my mind that day.

We’re All Friends Here


SDEIS Open House

First, walking into a room full of energized people wearing work boots, union tees, and “we support mining” stickers did – at least for me – have an impact. Frankly, I like these guys. I doubt many in the room know me from Adam, but I grew up a couple blocks from Minntac in Mt. Iron, and rooms like this remind me of a time and place not at all unpleasant. At the end of the day, we’re all friends here, and thankfully, pretty much everyone there seemed to have that firmly in mind.

But as I stood there feeling very strongly about the topic – me with my freshly minted “who will pay for pollution” sticker – the “we need jobs” thrust weighed heavily on my mind. Wait, how sure am I about all of this, again? I mean, I’m sure — to me, we absolutely need to identify better, more sustainable jobs than this new and dangerous type of mining — but all of a sudden I’m completely re-evaluating all three thousand thoughts I’ve had about this over the past couple of years. It’s not easy.

Kabuki Theater

Second, during the week leading up to the hearing, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr made a public effort to discourage people from comments not specifically about the SDEIS. “This is not a referendum on mining,” he said. The DNR’s printed materials and official media kits drove home the message. Fair enough, I guess.


Duluth SDEIS Hearing

Except that, there I was again, re-evaluating the legitimacy of my own sentiments for this room. I have made some effort to review the SDEIS (it’s 2200 pages long), but I think my opposition ultimately comes from somewhere else. My observations have led me to the conclusion that allowing external corporate interests to extract public resources and ship them off to international markets does not generally work out well for communities. (Not really ever, nowhere, never.) What’s the plan here, one more boost? Then what? When does it stop? Why not now, rather than in 20 years when we come up against this again, but in a worse position? Why not now when our waters are reasonably clean, rather than later when they’re inevitably less so? And by the way, who really benefits?

And then…are these sentiments appropriately specific to the SDEIS?

To be fair, charged with evaluating this specific proposal, I imagine Commissioner Landwehr believes there’s a time and place for geopolitical economics, and that this hearing wasn’t it. Whether or not one agrees with that, it was at least enough to give me additional pause.



Don Arnosti, Audubon MN

Thoroughly bogged down (or just a chicken with excuses, hard to say), I didn’t speak in Duluth. I’m glad to report, though, that a lot of others did, and with comments that were remarkably coherent and helpful. Many were specific to potential flaws in the SDEIS, the trigger for formal DNR review. (Just this week, in fact, the Ely Timberjay has reported that the DNR is considering whether the key water modeling in the report is flawed.) And others were respectfully from the heart, and absolutely effective in their own right. By the way, plenty of those were in the paper the next morning too.

So my hat’s off to Minnesotans commenting on this project. I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say on Tuesday.

The final of three public hearings is scheduled for this Tuesday, January 28, in Saint Paul. For my part, I hope to have decided by then whether “Glencore Schmencore” is specific enough to the SDEIS. (Glencore is the Swiss multinational Polymet investor, chaired by Tony Hayward of BP Deepwater Horizon infamy).

Getting out in front of the “lesser of two evils”

By JT Haines, December 14, 2013

I’ve noticed lately there’s hardly an article about Elizabeth Warren (she’s great) which doesn’t also offer presumptions about the 2016 candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Fair enough, I guess, except that the same agents of the status quo currently lining themselves up around Sec. Clinton will no doubt later seek to pawn her candidacy off on us as the result of an authentic democratic process.

The scenario is familiar: 1) Party machinery grinds forward one or more insider candidates long before most of us are involved. 2) Barring sufficient democratic intervention, said candidate receives the party’s nomination. 3) And, with Ranked Choice Voting not yet nationally available, those preferring a meaningful departure from the status quo are faced with a lesser-of-two-evils scenario, which is, at that late date, regrettably compelling.

Frankly, I resent the dynamic. I thought about doing some huffing and puffing about how I will be refusing to support a corporatist-warmonger candidate in 2016, including Hillary, regardless of what type of maniac the other corporatist-warmonger party nominates. But then I thought, this is not a threat, this is feedback which might genuinely be useful to someone.

Because here’s the thing, I might actually refuse to support another corporatist-warmonger candidate in 2016. I for one feel more fortified in this position than I did last year when I, yes, reluctantly voted for Mr. Drone. (Although I did not, I’d like to note, offer support in the form of money, organizing, or positive voice, as I do for candidates representing a genuine alternative.)

As I see it – and I’ll grant, it’s an uncomfortable position to assume — the risk to the planet of another four years without a radical departure from the status quo may now be more dangerous than the risk of one corporatist candidate losing to another corporatist candidate. And to the extent others are agreeing, it’s likely in a manner not currently anticipated by backward looking data and self-serving whitepapers. Given the thin margins in which these campaigns now operate, it wouldn’t take many.

In other words, dear Democrats, as you paper state fairs and clog inboxes with presumptions and propaganda about your self-appointed candidate, a friendly heads up: If you are counting on the same levels of reluctant, nose-holding support in 2016 as was received in 2012, it may not be forthcoming.

As Russell Brand put it in his popular recent BBC interview, “Then it’s this one gets in, then it’s that one get in, but the problem continues. Why are we going to continue to contribute to this facade?” Given what will surely be pitched as another hugely important election in 2016, I think those of us who demand a genuine alternative should be saying so early and often.

Update: This sponsored ad is popping up on facebook feeds December 2013. Establishment money at work.No thx

Update #2: From MSNBC Feb 11, 2014: “Don’t Run, Hillary, Don’t Run.” A very interesting piece, and headed in the right direction.

Update #3: January 19, 2016: In a piece titled “Democrats Fear Bernie Sanders Supporters Won’t Back Clinton if She Wins Nomination,” the Washington Times reports that 14% of Sanders supporters say they will not vote for Clinton under any circumstance.

Update #4: November 9, 2016. Oh no.


Darn, I guess I’m not entitled to object.

Minnesota Public Radio’s question-of-the-day today is: “Is copper nickel sulfide mining worth the risk?”  As discussed on this blog from time to time, my position continues to be: By foreign-owned corporate profit seekers? Absolutely not.

One commenter’s response to MPR’s question was as follows: “If you typed your response to this question on a computer … And said No … You are a hypocrite.” I hear this one quite a bit — it’s probably in a full-color brochure somewhere — so perhaps it’s worthy of our brief attention. For a moment, the comment sounds reasonable. Yeah, I use a Mac computer. I wear t-shirts. I guess that’s that, eh?

But logically, here is what the commenter is proposing:

  • If you use a certain resource, i.e., by typing on your computer, it’s hypocritical to be against any approach for getting, owning, and distributing that resource.

Or, by extension,

  • By virtue of living in a society you are disqualified from critiquing that society.

This line of argument is almost always a red herring. (In fact I’d go further and call it anti-democratic, nihilistic, lazy, and dangerous.) Because you use a stove, you are not disqualified from taking issue with fracking. Because you take a bath, it is not illogical to oppose draining all of Lake Michigan and selling it to Nestle.

Comments like the above lack important context, and are rarely helpful. Next time you hear one, you might just say so.

These things are not nonsense.

INCYMI:  Russell Brand refuses to speak within the current paradigm, in uniquely entertaining fashion to boot.  9.3M views on YouTube.  Highly recommend joining, you won’t be disappointed.


Russell Brand: The planet is being destroyed, we are creating an underclass, we’re exploiting poor people all over the world, and the genuine legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.

Jeremy Paxman: All of those things may be true.

Russell Brand: They are true.

Jeremy Paxman: But you took – I wouldn’t argue with you about many of them.

Russell Brand: Well, how come I feel so cross with you? It can’t just be because of that beard, it’s gorgeous.


Jeremy Paxman: You’re calling for revolution!

Russell Brand: Yeah! Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m calling for change. I’m calling for genuine alternatives.

Jeremy Paxman: There are many people who would agree with you.

Russell Brand: Good!


Russell Brand:…What I’m saying is that within the existing paradigm the change is not dramatic enough, not radical enough. So you can well understand public disturbances and public dissatisfaction when there are not genuine changes and genuine alternatives being offered. I say when there is a genuine alternative, a genuine option, then vote for that. But until then, pfffft, don’t bother. Why pretend? Why be complicit in this ridiculous illusion?