Post

Papa Needs a New Pair of $2500 Seat Licenses. (poll below)

Did you hear? No, sorry, not about the developing ecological crisis and ongoing emergency in economic inequality. Minnesota’s shiny new $1B NFL football stadium! We’re all very excited.

ICYMI (although hard to believe that’s possible), Minnesota is building, with significant public funds, a new $1B stadium to serve one privately owned football team for 10 home games a year, at least 4 of which are likely to be meaningful to football fans. (To be fair, the new stadium may possibly a bring a super bowl, which would be great for corporate hotel sponsors and less great for anyone hoping to drive somewhere, or read about something else in the newspaper.) Here is the “rendering” of the stadium-in-development:

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 9.27.12 AM

The Minneapolis STrib is reporting this morning that tickets for the new stadium — including for my not-rich-grandpa who has been going to Vikings games since long before the last time we built a new stadium — will come with an upfront “seat license” ranging from $500-$9,500. According the the story, “three-quarters of the stadium’s 65,000 seats will have a license fee attached. The average license will cost $2,500.” The license fees go to the team’s private owners, and will evidently be used for part of their share of the building’s construction expenses, as well as marketing (you know, because a good dose of marketing is definitely going to be needed).

There is one tiny thing I like about this seat license news. It gives me an opportunity to say this:

Dear Internet, I hereby declare that I will never use my own money to pay for a seat license to this Monument of Distraction, ever. PS – Adrian Peterson, you still rule, and I genuinely hope everything works out well for you.

Do you want a say on this situation? Express yourself here!

Social Media Etiquette – Just Say Yes

You’ve seen it. There is an event or invitation posted on social media, and someone has publicly shared this:

“I would go, but can’t because of X. Winky face!”

Fair enough, only good intentions involved there I’m sure. That said, I would like to toss this friendly suggestion into the ether:

Events are posted on social media by organizers for our benefit — to inform us of the details, to offer us a chance to seize on the opportunity, to engage with the people who are interested, etc. A public ‘no’ in response doesn’t serve much of a purpose. If there are people who need to know for one reason or another that we will not be attending – or if we simply want to indicate our appreciation to the organizer – a simple private message will almost always suffice. (Even for small private events of less than 20 people, I’ve taken to usually withholding a public ‘no’ at least until the ‘yes’s’ have had a chance to come out and play.)

In my observation, a lot of people have already figured this out. If you haven’t, consider that your public ‘no’ leaves the organizer with two options: leave your stinker sitting there, or delete it as frankly not very relevant (which, being the conscientious social media user that they are, they are hesitant to do). I assume that’s not the intent.

We can do our friends and well-meaning acquaintances a favor by — almost always — kindly keeping our no votes to ourselves. Or better yet, turn them into a yes.

photo credit: FindYourSearch via photopin cc

photo credit: FindYourSearch via photopin cc

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

IMG_1813

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.

IMG_1828

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.

Conclusion

IMG_1847

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).

Is Chomsky Right or Not?

A Chomsky quote caught my eye this morning, prompting a couple of quick thoughts. The quote:

Noam Chomsky

“Let’s go to the environmental crisis. There’s nobody around to bail you out. The externalities in this case are the fate of the species. If that’s disregarded in the operations of the market system, there’s nobody around who is going to bail you out from that. So this is a lethal externality. And the fact that it’s proceeding with no significant action being taken to do anything about it does suggest that Ernst Mayr actually had a point. It seems that there is something about us, our intelligence, which entails that we’re capable of acting in ways that are rational within a narrow framework but are irrational in terms of other long-term goals, like do we care what kind of a world our grandchildren will live in.” — Noam Chomsky (via today’s “Noam Chomsky Quotes” on facebook, date and original source not provided).

The thoughts:

  • First, does anyone credibly dispute anything in this statement? One thing I find interesting about Chomsky is a generalized resistance among many to his assertions, regularly paired with a non-refutation of same. Seriously, is he right or not? If not, I’d be interested to hear about it.
  • If he’s right, or if it’s even only possible that he’s right, is our response sufficient? Shouldn’t these concepts part of actual public debates now?

As you might’ve guessed, I agree with Chomsky, and see his assertions as immediately and specifically relevant, not distant or academic. Putting a finer point on it, these concepts — the lethal failure of the “market” to capture externalities, and our own failure as humans to fully grasp the future — should be a real part of public debate now, including around, for one ideal example, Polymet’s pending copper-sulfide mining proposal in Minnesota.

If you agree, a reminder that the public comment period for the Polymet proposal is currently open, and waiting for your thoughts: http://dnr.state.mn.us/input/environmentalreview/polymet/index.html

Peggy Noonan is beflabberfuddled!

By JT Haines, December 22, 2014

Peggy Noonan’s “The Most Memorable Words of 2013” in today’s Wall Street Journal is is pretty incredible. Check it out:

  • “The most arresting words heard this year? A billionaire of New York, in conversation: ‘I hate it when the market goes up. Every time I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are coming closer.’ This was interesting in part because the speaker has a lot of money in the market. But he meant it. He is self-made, broadly accomplished, a thinker on politics, and for a moment he was sharing the innards of his mind. His biggest concern is the great and growing distance between the economically successful and those who have not or cannot begin to climb. The division has become too extreme, too dramatic, and static. He fears it will eventually tear the country apart and give rise to policies that are bitter and punishing, not helpful and broadening.”

Fair enough, and not a bad start actually. I’m glad to hear that billionaires of New York are concerned about the appalling and anti-democratic wealth gap in this country – whatever the underlying motive may be. Interesting anecdote, at minimum.

The “analysis,” however, is worthy of a group hug. Take it away, Peggy:

  • “This year I came to understand, at meetings and symposia, that this has become an ongoing preoccupation of the wealthy. They are not oblivious, they are concerned. And though they give away hundreds of millions of dollars to charities, schools and scholarships, they don’t know what can be done to turn the overall economic picture around. Globalization isn’t leaving, industrial manufacturing isn’t coming back as it was, technology will continue to give jobs to the educated, and the ever-evolving mischief of men and markets won’t change. They are worried. They are right to be. They are trying to think it through, trying to find any realistic solutions, and words.”

Whatever do we do? I mean, we gave a bunch of tax-deductible money to our alma maters. We went to symposia. We’re trying to think it through! What do you want from us?

As many have continually noted for anyone paying attention, there are plenty of ideas laying around for addressing this very issue, and have been for decades. Stuff to try is not the problem. Willingness to try the stuff is — particularly for the billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes while they exploit public resources for their own gain at the planet’s peril, i.e., the people for whom Peggy seems to feel the need to apologize.

If Peggy really wants to help, she doesn’t have to know what the possibilities are, or even understand them. We have lots of awesome people for that. (If you want to know who I think are awesome people, I’ve listed some of my favs here. I’m sure you have your own list.) Peggy could start by getting over her own ridiculous and self-satisfied attitude that the powerful are simply powerless in the face of having too much money compared to other people.