Sailing Toward a New Environmental Era?

Or Surfing a Wave of Politics?

The ship of state does not turn on a dime. Picture it as a giant oil tanker — perhaps Chevron’s the Condoleezza Rice. It takes miles to turn the darn thing — and plenty of time.

On the environmental side, the ship of state has been wallowing of late.

The Environmental Protection Agency was set up under Republican President Richard Nixon, strengthened under Democrat Jimmy Carter but nearly gutted by Republican Ronald Reagan. It maintained its own under the first George Bush and gained strength again under Bill Clinton. Then came George Bush the younger, and it was all but redubbed the “Exxon Protection Agency.”
Continue Reading

Governor ‘Veto’ and His Amazing Superpower!

“House approves gas tax increase despite Pawlenty veto threat”

“Tim Pawlenty has threatened to veto any income tax increase”

“…a license tab fee increase and a metro sales tax for transit will face his veto pen, Pawlenty said”

“Minnesota Gov. Threatens Veto Over Gay Partner Benefits”

“Pawlenty has threatened to veto any bill that raises state taxes”

“Pawlenty is willing to veto the entire state government finance bill”
Continue Reading

231 Years Later, History Repeats Itself

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana

George Santayana’s words have been paraphrased in many different ways, but the meaning is still the same: Leaders who do not know the lessons of history often repeat the lessons that history teaches us.

It’s too bad President Bush and his advisers didn’t read David McCullough’s “1776” prior to committing to war in Iraq, but then Professor McCullough hadn’t published it till 2005. Yet that’s not an excuse, since the information he has condensed into a fascinating tome has been available in one form or another for 230 years.
Continue Reading

Molly Ivins: Gone but not Forgotten

Molly Ivins was a Texan, which means she had little to do with Minnesota … except that the things she wrote about were often the same ones on many Minnesotans’ minds: social justice, peace, stupidity in government, corruption in government. For this she was branded a “liberal” — a tag she embraced.

Molly in some ways was to Texas as Jim Klobuchar and Garrison Keillor are to Minnesota. She told the truth, but in an entertaining and funny way. Her writing was like being hit on your funny bone: You wanted to laugh and cry at the same time — laugh about the way she phrased things, cry about the plight of our country, especially in the last six years.
Continue Reading

To our new congressional reps: Welcome to the Land of Ooze

Just in time for the new Congress, American RadioWorks has come up with a terrific documentary entitled “Imperial Washington”. Listening to it one wonders, “How come no one came up with this stuff a few years ago?”

Actually, part of the answer is explained in the documentary. For example, all those congressional junkets to posh resorts in Scotland, the south of France, Florida and elsewhere? Yes, the congressmen had to fill out forms about their travel, but they were all sequestered — the forms, not the congressmen, unfortunately — in some out-of-the-way basement, never put in a government database, and not readily made available to journalists.
Continue Reading

Obstacles push DM&E expansion to the tipping point

Once considered a “sure thing,” the proposed Dakota Minnesota & Eastern (DM&E) Railroad expansion into the coal-rich Powder River Basin could be on the verge of collapse. The reasons for this are many and varied, but a last-minute provision slipped into the Transportation Bill earlier this year virtually assuring a $2.3 billion dollar unsecured federal loan for the railroad now appears to be in serious jeopardy.
Continue Reading

A history of DM&E hazardous material spills

The recent 30,000 gallon ethanol spill near Courtland, Minnesota, is nothing new for the DM&E Railroad, and opponents of its proposed expansion plans have repeatedly called into question the railroad’s safety record. In fact, in the last 20 years, the DM&E has spilled over 116,000 gallons of hazardous material — and that’s just the known amount.

The DM&E contends, however, that its safety record has improved in recent years. Yet over 94,000 gallons of that spillage, more than 80%, has come since 2000. For a perspective, 94,000 gallons is about the capacity of a swimming pool measuring 75 feet in length, 30 feet in width, 3 feet in the shallow end and 8 feet in the deep end.
Continue Reading

The latest on $4 generics

Other pharmacies will soon be jumping on the $4 generic drug program. The Snyders Drug Store in Mankato has posted a handwritten sign saying “We will beat the price on any $4 generic drug.” What does that mean? Their price is $3.99. Whether the chain will adopt the $3.99 price across all its stores is under consideration.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Public Radio has pointed out the the $4 for a 30-day supply has some caveats. Some medications on the list will actually cost more. (Why are we not surprised?) The blame, apparently, is on a 70-year-old state law prohibiting the sale of drugs below cost. Minnesota is not unique in this exception as at least eight other states have similar laws, including California, Colorado and Wisconsin.
Continue Reading

Is the push to abolish the estate tax over?

“Great accumulations of wealth cannot be justified on the basis of personal and family security … Such inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our government.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FairEconomy.org)

One of the rallying points of the neoconservative agenda has been to get rid of taxes — seemingly all of them, if possible. Taxes have been portrayed as an impediment to an efficient society directed by business and overseen, albeit quiescently, by a limited government.
Continue Reading

Minnesota and Instant Runoff Voting

Last week Minneapolis voters overwhelming approved instant runoff voting for future city elections. Instant runoff voting, or IRV, allows voters to rank their candidate preferences on their ballots. The idea is that if no single candidate receives a majority of 1st choice votes, then the candidate receiving the least number of votes is eliminated and the 2nd choice of those who voted for him or her is then allocated to the remaining candidates.
Continue Reading