A polar vortex event like we experienced last week does not make the sunshine weaker, nor does it reduce the strength of the wind. In fact, very cold weather can be associated with very sunny conditions, and in Minnesota a long dreary cool but not frigid cloudy period ended with the arrival of a much sunnier but very cold Arctic air mass. And,the movement of great masses of air is what pushes those windmill blades around. Continue reading Renewable energy in the time of Polar Vortex
Regulators in Minnesota made the bone headed decision to approve the building of a new natural gas plant on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border near Duluth. They are idiots. There is no calculation that requires or even strongly suggests that this is a good idea. It has already been determined that this plant is not necessary. This is just the petroleum industry getting its way. I call for an investigation of the three (out of five) individuals who voted for this lame brained scheme. I want to know what stocks they own, and I want to see their bank records for the last, and next, five years.
Meanwhile, I call on Legislators in Minnesota to pass a law stating that we can not add any more fossil fuel sources into our energy mix, in utilities within or overlapping with the state of Minnesota. We need that bill passed during the next legislative session, to stop this plant and similar ideas in the fiture.
The building of this particular natural gas plant is not inevitable. It still has to be approved on the Wisconsin side of the border. From NPR:
If Wisconsin regulators approve the plan, the new power plant would produce at least 525 megawatts of electricity. Minnesota Power and its ratepayers would be on the hook for half the $700 million cost.
Minnesota Power covers roughly a third of the state, mostly in the northeastern quadrant of Minnesota, from Little Falls in the south to International Falls in the north and over to Duluth and up to Canada. Its customers include large taconite mines and power plants.
PUC regulators heard final arguments in the case earlier this month. Commissioners also decided Monday that the plan did not need to undergo additional environmental analysis, a decision that paved the way for its approval vote.
Methane is not a bridge fuel. It is a fossil fuel, and a greenhouse gas.
The McKnight Foundation and GridLab contracted Vibrant Clean Energy, LLC, to prepare a report called Minnesota’s Smarter Grid: Pathways Towards a Clean, Reliable and Affordable Transportation and Energy System. Among other things, the report says:
The study has shown that the economy in Minnesota can decarbonize by 80% (from 2005 levels) by 2050. All the decarbonization pathways involve deeper energy efficiency of existing electric demands (particularly in the industrial sector), heavy electrification of transportation, transitioningheating of space and water from natural gas and resistive heating to heat pumps, building new zero-emission generation technologies, and retiring fossil-fuel generation.
The electrification of other sectors provides the electricity sector with new demands, which have different load profiles to existing demands and have greater flexibility potential. These new loads provide increasing sales for the electricity sector to invest against. Further, the greater flexibility allows the electricity grid to incorporate more variable resources, which are low-cost and nearzero emissions. Further, the electrification provides net cost savings for consumers because the reduction in spending on other energy supplies (natural gas for heating and gasoline for transportation) outweighs the additional spending in the electricity sector for the electrified loads.
The law works differently in different countries. If you commit a crime in one country, and jump over the border to an adjoining country, what can or might happen to you depends on the arrangements that have been made between the two countries.
Similarly, the law that applies, and the actual application of the law if any, is complicated when it comes to non-natives committing crime on native lands, which are separate nations, within the United States. I am very far from an expert on this. What I know about it comes from conversations with my friend Shawn Otto, who wrote a novel set in this boundary space between native and non-native lands (Sins of Our Fathers: A Novel, excellent story, go read it).
PZ Myers commented on something related in a recent blog post in which he notes a recent study suggesting that nearly half of non-Native Americans do not believe that Native people exist.
Recently, a host on a wildly popular podcast, who is Indian (as in from the Indian subcontinent, in Asia) took to referring to himself and his compatriots as “real Indians,” a reference to the idea that Columbus got it wrong when he referred to the indigenous people he ran into in the Caribbean as “Indians,” thinking he was in Asia while at the same time not having a very clear concept of what “Asia” might actually be.
I found that reference deeply offensive and I’m neither Asian-Indian or American Indian. Its just that Native Americans have enough trouble being taken seriously that I’m pretty sure they don’t need some over privileged Hollywood type from California suggesting that Native Americans are in some way non-real.
I grew up in Upstate New York, and later moved to the Boston area. That was, in a sense, going backwards in historical time in relation to Indians. From my own studies of regional history and archaeological work in the time period, I knew that a very large percentage of the Native cultures near Boston, and anywhere near Boston, were wiped out way early in the Colonial Period, while Native groups played a more persistent role in US history in New York and nearby areas of Canada. Putting this another way, we are not even quite sure of the full range of tribes that existed or what they called themselves, along the Massachusetts coast, while the New York area Haudenosaunee and some Algonquin groups are well known in history, and very much present both on and off reservations.
I remember moving to Milwaukee for a year, and discovering that Wisconsin had what was referred to as the “Indian Problem” by some people. It sounds a little more obnoxious than it actually was. The problem was disagreement over fishing rights and regulations in commonly held territories, and it was a problem that involved claims by Indian groups vs. claims by the state. I heard the term “Indian Problem” later, and read it in older documents, when I moved to Minnesota. The process of taking land from Indians, and otherwise pushing them out, moving them aside, or starving them off, was very recent in Minnesota. There are living people who’s grandparents had artifacts from the Dakota War(aka “Sioux Upraising” or “Little Crow’s War”). Some of those artifacts may have been body parts from Native Americans executed after the uprising was put down. In historic documents, the “Indian Problem” seems sometimes to refer to the constant threat of Indian attack in areas near Minneapolis or Saint Paul, well within the current boundaries of the Twin Cities metro area, early in the 20th century. These attacks are memorialized in stories and newspaper accounts, way post-date the Dakota War, and I’m 100% sure they never ever happened. They were used as a publicity stunt to make the idea of traveling out to the Twin Cities to stay in a hotel and take in the fresh air more exciting for New Yorkers and others out east.
The study mentioned above is described here. The study shows that Native American erasure from common or popular understanding in the United States is partly due to the way Native people and issues are treated by the media. Also, Natives are largely underrepresented, or absent, in educational programs, or where they appear, it is as historical figures or factors as though they existed in the past, but not necessarily now.
I actually don’t see this as a huge problem in Minnesota, and I assume it is more of a bi-coastal and possibly Southern thing. Native American presence in Minnesota is pretty out front, and I think it would be very difficult to find that more than a tiny percentage of Minnesotans think Native Americans don’t exist. Of the several individuals running for Governor or Lt. Governor in Minnesota this year, at least one is a Native American. This does not mean that the attitude about Native people is good. It probably isn’t on average. Native American reservations are often discussed in the same light as really bad urban neighborhoods, as places to avoid. At best, Native Americans are interesting or quaint.
(I note that the above mentioned Shawn Otto write the script for a brand new planetarium show in our local natural history museum, in which a kid bonks his head and ends up in an oz-like world where he learns about the history of the universe. The role is played by a young Native boy. That was helpful.)
A few years ago there was an effort by the state, I think through the Department of Education, to have more reference to Native peoples in schools. The way they did this was, in my view, not smart. Although the standard itself was somewhat better defined, they essentially required that every core course taught in the schools incorporate something about Native Americans. That’s it. Simple. This, of course, required that, say, the physical science teacher, or the math teacher, be sufficiently expert in Native American studies of some sort, to come up with something, and sufficiently enlightened to not end up doing something harmful, misleading, or hateful. There are a lot of ways to get a key bit of subject matter into a curriculum. Telling each teacher to come up with ten minutes on that topic no matter what they are teaching has never been done before, for any topic. Why this topic? Clearly, the mandate was not being taken seriously.
From the Women’s Media Center coverage of the above mentioned report:
When exposed to narratives about Native people that included factual information about present-day Native life, more accurate history, positive examples of resilience, and information about systemic oppression, respondents from all demographics showed more support for pro-Native policy and social justice issues. Information that was shared with respondents included simple statements such as “The government signed over 500 treaties with Native Americans, all of which were broken by the federal government. From 1870 to 1970, the federal government forcibly removed Native American children from their homes to attend boarding schools.” On key issues such as the Indian Child Welfare Act, racist mascots, and tribal sovereignty, 16-24 percent more people supported the position of tribes after being exposed to these new messages.
That large a shift in public support can easily be the difference in an election outcome, a bill’s passage, or the actions of large corporations, such as sports teams. Positive and accurate portrayal of Natives in the mainstream media has the potential to significantly advance Native rights in this country. Alongside the report, Reclaiming Native Truth released a guide for allies on how to improve coverage of Native Americans. The guide includes examples of positive messaging and questions for media makers to ask themselves, such as “Am I inadvertently contributing to a false or negative narrative by not taking into account or including contemporary Native peoples in my work?”
“The research really challenges the media to do their job better. The media has a deep ethical responsibility to not fall into these standardized tropes,” said Echo Hawk. “We can do a lot in terms of empowering Native voices and telling Native stories, but we can’t do it on our own. We need non-Natives as allies who are also talking about us and championing accurate representation.”
Photo above: Minnesotans learning about Native Americans at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum, in Minnesota.
Ollie Andersen and his wife lived much of the summer in a cabin in northern Minnesota,where Ollie fished, watched birds, and spent considerable effort keeping his boat in repair, while his wife made canned goods and embroidery to bring to the market a few times a year down in Walker, not to make money, but to sell for the Leech Lake Area Benefit Association, her favorite local charity.
One day Ollie came up to the cabin after a couple of weeks down in the cities, and his mail box, out on the county road, was full of junk mail and a few good pieces of mail. Ollie had noticed over recent months that more and more mail was coming to the cabin address, and on more than one occasion he found several days worth either soaked because a bad rain had blown into the box, or found the mail knocked out by the wind and strewn around in the ditch by his drive. So, he decided, about mid August, on a plan to do something good and healthy for himself and deal with the mail box problem at the same time. Every evening, after dinner, Ollie would walk up the drive, out to the county road, and check on the mail.
Now, you have to understand a few pertinent facts. Continue reading The Story of Ollie and his Flashlights
I call it the Minnesota scowl. It is a little like a Minnesota “stern look” but the latter is wielded as necessary and on demand. The scowl is always there, as a gumpy resting face. You’ve heard of Minnesota nice. This is the Minnesota scowl. Same thing, just more honest.
As far as I know it is an up north thing, not a city thing. In fact, just the opposite. I used to live in South Minneapolis in a neighborhood where everyone had literally gotten together in a series of meetings and decided that they would always smile at each other and say “hello” when out walking. There were hand-outs for those who had not attended the meetings. They also decided to walk around all the time. This produced a somewhat odd, almost uncomfortable, effect, at first. But in the long run, once people settled into it, it worked out pretty well. It made for a neighborhood that seemed friendly. It seemed like if you needed something – if there was some kind of an emergency – people would be ready and willing to help out. Continue reading Minnesota Northern Scowl
Every single place that Copper-Nickle-Sulfide mining has been done — every. single. location. — the mining companies left behind a destroyed landscape. There have been no exceptions.
This sort of mining can not be done without destroying the landscape.
It is quite possible that Minnesota’s boundary waters are not saving, and we should just mine out the copper.
Today, Rebecca Otto, Minnesota Auditor, suspended her campaign for Governor of Minnesota.
Rebecca had run to seek the endorsement from the Minnesota DFL (that’s what we call Democrats in Minnesota). The state convention, at which endorsements are determined by a large collection of dedicated delegates and alternates, was held in Rochester. (Note: candidates can still run in the August primary, but it is often considered bad form to ignore the endorsement process.) I was there as a delegate. I’d never been to a state convention before, though I’ve been to plenty of state Senate District and Congressional District ones. The state convention was similar but ten times bigger, twice as loud, three times as long, and doubly exhausting.
Rebecca lost the endorsement process with a gut-punching and unexpected low number of votes on the first ballot, followed by a long period of chaos, followed by the exuberant endorsement of candidate Erin Murphy. Congratulations to Erin, who has doubled down on this process with her choice of picking a second Erin, Erin Maye Quade, as her running mate. That was a stunningly excellent choice.
But back to the Otto campaign. I was truly expecting the numbers to be different in this endorsement process. I was not personally privy to the detailed data on this campaign, but I had seen the top-line analyses. I expected Murphy, not Otto, to be in distant third. Clearly the numbers were wrong!
I don’t fault the people in the Otto campaign for getting that wrong. Well, yes, they did get it wrong, but this is not uncommon. I myself have had the job of counting delegates. I’ve gotten it at least as wrong. I know others who have as well. Campaigns often, perhaps to some extent, in most races, end up with incorrect delegate counts. (I note that as far as I know, the Murphy campaign had the numbers close to correct.) I have some ideas as to how this happens, and it might be helpful to work out some theory on this. But that is for later. For now, there is this one element of getting surprised by a low delegate count on the first ballot that I’d prefer to dwell on for just one moment:
It feels really, really, bad.
I don’t feel it is my place to relate how things were in the war room after the end of the process. That is private. But I was struck by one thing I’ll leak out. The people in the room, all of whom I have great love and respect for, exhibited the full range of expected emotional states from quietly stunned to liquefied-in-place, except for Rebecca Otto herself. Rebecca was the strength in the room. That was not unexpected, but I think it is something that should be said. I know she felt just as bad. I know her just enough to have sensed that. But she was not the quivering bowl of jelly I would have been.
I helped Rebecca in her campaign for two reasons. One is simply that she and her husband, Shawn, are my friends. But I’ve had a lot of friends run for office for whom I offered only perfunctory help. In the case of Rebecca Otto, there was another reason. I knew that Rebecca was blindingly smart, and a deeply good and honest person, and ever thoughtful. I know that for each area of policy, Rebecca would assemble her best assets and then ask them to assemble their best assets. These teams would then develop details and try ideas, in order to ultimately advance well developed proposals that could be brought to fruition in the State House to change the fundamental nature of economy, society, and culture in Minnesota, all in good ways. I was at the tail end of at least one of those assemblies, and contributed a bit to the policy development. There was a fact Rebecca often repeated in her stump speeches that I had worked on. I was proud to hear it mentioned again and again.
The other candidates are great people, great democrats, any one would be great as a governor, but I was supporting Rebecca Otto because I knew her approach and her results would be uniquely and powerfully transforming. People around the country were going to look at Minnesota, and go, “Wow, what the heck was that??? Why can’t we do that? Who did that? Let’s do that!” And the answer would be Rebecca Otto and the team she leads.
In the end, we are all Democrats. Just as importantly, those other guys? They are all Republicans. So, we have work to do. I like Erin Murphy. I will support her and her campaign, as the endorsed candidate. I’ll support all the endorsed candidates. I’ve been working on the campaign of our local Minnesota House, where my friend Ginny Klevorn hopes to unseat Representative Sarah Anderson, who is is a less religious but just as tea-happy mini-me version of Michel Bachmann, and leader of the evil Republican redistricting ploy in our state.
But I’ll be standing by for future versions of a Rebecca Otto campaign, should that happen, and I hope it does, somehow, sometime, somewhere.
A few notes about the other events at the convention.
The first one is a major piece of news that is still unfolding even as I write this.
Lori Swanson is the Minnesota Attorney General. Swanson has been the perennial heir apparent for that job forever. What I mean by that: everybody always assumed she’d be endorsed, then win. She has a great reputation and everybody likes her, etc. etc.
But this year, Matt Pelikan ran against Swanson for AG. Everybody seemed to like Matt, but everybody also said this about that race: we need Lori, she’s been great, Matt is great, but he has no experience, maybe he can run for something else someday.
Meanwhile, Swanson made a nuisance of herself at the very beginning of the pre-election season, last summer, telling everyone she might or might not run for Governor. This moved several good people into the position of running for the AG seat, but promising to pull out if Lori gives the governor’s race a pass. She pulled that trick (do I sound annoyed? sorry!) for way too long, using the fact that she was a state AG but also, not really an actual candidate, to exploit her moves along with other state AGs against Trump for positive Democratic Party cred.
At the convention, two things happened, then the boat tipped over.
First, Matt Pelikan, who is one very impressive young man, gave a speech that in my view was in the top three given at the convention, maybe the best one. He had the crowd on their feet. He also landed about eight good punches on the Swanson campaign, including noting Swanson’s NRA endorsement over the years, and her stand on various other issues that have become highly questionable even though everybody loves Lori and assumes she’s the automatic candidate.
Then, the Swanson campaign totally messed up their own presentation. Each campaign gets a certain number of minutes, then they have to get off the stage. Most campaigns have a short video, a person or two talk in favor of the candidate, then the candidate gives a rousing speech. Swanson had a mediocre video. Then, some dozen or so people lined up to each speak on her behalf. They were mostly unpracticed and poor speakers (including at least one who is an experienced politician who simply had not woken up that morning, it seemed). Each one spoke for 3-5 minutes. But they were supposed to speak for one minute! SO, half way through that awkward and embarrassing event, the whole lot of them got thrown off the stage, and Swanson never got to speak.
When the delegates voted, Pelekan had denied Swanson the endorsement. A very large number of delegates had probably figured, “OK, Lori is the obvious candidate, but Imma cast this one vote for Pelikan because he is so impressive.” The outcome of that vote was so astonishing, they had to bring in a special sweeper device to remove everyone’s jaws from the floor.
Before the second vote, Swanson dropped out. Ear shattering collective gasp.
My first thought? She’ll run in the primary for the AG slot!
My second thought, seconds later? No, wait! She’s running for governor!
And, low and behold, seconds ago as I write this, the news has leaked out: Swanson is running for Governor with Congressman Nolan as her Lt Gov.
In a less dramatic and less complicated event, former Republican and Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter ran against Senator Tina Smith for the endorsement. Smith got the endorsement, but Painter got a surprisingly large number of votes.
And, finally, another sad thing. I’ve always supported Jon Tolefson in his political career, and I wanted him to be endorsed for auditor. He had a lot of support, including the endorsement of the Environmental Caucus. In something of a surprise, Julie Blaha took the majority of votes on the first round, and Jon stepped away, allowing Julie to be endorsed by acclamation. That was sad for me, but more sad for Jon’s Mother, who was sitting with me in my unit delegation at the event.
That’s all I have for now, but later, there are some people I want to thank. First, some dust has to settle and and I have to go through some photos and videos I may post.
OK, everybody, get to work!
ADDED: Keith Ellison, US Congressmember and Democratic Party co-head, considering running for Minnesota AG? This makes no sense! The world is spinning in the wrong direction!
In a year in which Democrats show up, like they did in 2012, Trump would have been trounced in Minnesota. Instead, he barely lost. It was a very very close call, just a couple of percentage points.
This graph says it all:
One thing this means is that the Democrats, in putting up candidates in Minnesota, are not trying to win back Republicans or Trump voters. They are simply trying to win back their own.
Many months ago I coined the term “snowflake” to refer to liberals, progressives, or Democrats, who felt that since their own personal point of view is not perfectly represented in the mind of each and every other liberal or progressive or Democrat, that they should therefore complain incessantly, stay home from the polls, and sit there in a funk hoping someone like Trump wins the election in order to show the rest of them how bad they are being.
Unfortunately, the snowflake moniker has been co-opted, without my permission, by others! But, here, I revise it for the special purpose of talking about this graph.
Roughly six percent of Minnesotans are snowflakes.
This year, dammit, show up.
Also, in the coming convention, if you are a DFL delegate, vote for Otto because you don’t need a medium size male with a lumberjack shirt and a booming voice to win in this state.
Congratulations to citizen Adam Jennings for running a fantastic campaign in the Third Congressional District DFL!
Adam reminds us of the essential nature of the Democratic Leader. He embodies the spirit of Lettered Democrats and Progressives Past (JFK, RFK, FDR, and even TR and possibly LBJ on a very good day). The Jennings campaign did not prevail at today’s Congressional District convention, but they made an excellent showing, and many left the hall thinking, “Adam’s got to run for something important, soon.” My recommendation for a future run: Start calling yourself AJ. It flows.
Congratulations to Endorsed Congressional Candidate Dean Phillips for also running a fantastic campaign in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District. A somewhat more fantastic campaign, apparently, winning the 60% super majority needed to gain the DFL Endorsement on the first ballot! Continue reading Today’s Minnesota Third Congressional District Convention
Donald Trump went into a snit and his babysitter wasn’t around to control him, so he barged into a meeting and slapped high tariffs on metal imports. The stock market suffered a mini-crash, and according to some experts, 2 cents per watt have been added to utility scale solar projects. Continue reading Trump Ruins Everything For Everybody (but good news from Minnesota)
… is anybody’s guess, but I have two supportable (and very different) hypotheses.
The first is short and sweet and I’ll give it to you straight.
Tweeden and Senator Franken get together, possibly with their families, and have a pow wow. They emerge from this to announce a newly formed organization to destroy the patriarchy in government. Franken throws his viability as Senator to the voters, and stays in the Senate, but the two of them launch a major campaign to rethink and rebuild gendered relationships at the levers of public power in America. All is well.
The second hypothesis is a bit different, and in this one, Franken resigns. Here’s why. Continue reading How The Franken Thing Is Going To Play Out
True that. In the US, energy policy and regulation happens much more at the state level than the federal level, and our federal government went belly up last January anyway. Some states will not lead, they will go backwards, but others will lead, and show the way.
So, here I want to highlight this new item in Scientific American by Rebecca Otto.
States Can Lead the Way on Climate Change
The Trump administration’s threats to abandon Obama’s Clean Power Plan and exit the Paris accords don’t necessarily mean all is lost
The word “corporation” does not appear in our Constitution or Bill of Rights. But as Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse notes in his book Captured, corporations had already grown so powerful by 1816 that Thomas Jefferson urged Americans to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
Today the conflict between the unfettered greed of unregulated capitalism and the right of the people to regulate industry with self-governance has reached extreme proportions. Corporations now have more power than many nations and feel justified in manipulating democracy to improve their bottom lines instead of the common good.
Nowhere is this problem more pronounced than…
Then where? THEN WHERE??? Go read the original piece!
The benefits of vaccines far outweigh the minuscule risks, but some parents still question their safety. John Oliver discusses why some people may still feel uncertainty about childhood vaccinations.