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Big Trouble in Big Stone County: Strata Wants To Turn Some of Earth’s Oldest Rocks into Concrete

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the efforts of a big mining corporation named Strata to bulldoze its way past local opposition in Minnesota’s Big Stone Country, just as a bill designed to gut local control was making its way through the Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature. While that bill, HF 389, did manage to pass the House, it stalled out in the Senate and may (may!) be dead for what’s left of this legislative session. That’s good news for Minnesota as a whole, but while the HF 389 threat is (likely) gone, the problem with Strata still remains.

To recap: Big Stone County, Minnesota, has lots of Big Stones of granite and gneiss that are among the oldest rocks on the planet, in some cases dating back to the Early Archean Period — that’s 3.6 billion years ago, folks. (You can see some of these stones in the picture above, taken by James Robins.) These gigantic stones, the very ones Strata wants to blow up for concrete, are a prime scenic and tourist attraction, providing lots of jobs and millions of dollars each year for the Western Boundary Waters area as well as the county’s very name. By contrast, Strata’s planned project will only create 5 to 6 jobs at most and maybe $20,000 in tax revenue per year while costing a lot in wear and tear. What’s worse, the proposed mining site will be located near several homes, a bike trail, and a particularly beautiful part of the Minnesota River.

The tourism and slow food movement is growing out in the Upper Minnesota River Valley, and the corridor is extremely likely to be named a National Blueway outdoor recreation and natural area by US Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar within the next two weeks. It’s already one of Minnesota’s two America’s Great Outdoors Areas as designated by the DOI.

There’s a public hearing on the project on April 17, at 7 p.m., in Ortonville. If you’re a Minnesotan or know any Minnesotans you think would be interested in this, please spread the word as much as possible to show the county commissioners that people from across Minnesota care about their community. If you can’t attend, you can still submit your thoughts on this project by following the instructions laid out here.

That Fine Republican Work Ethic: Minnesota Edition

7:10 am in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Oh, the poor babies!

Minnesota legislators are edging toward a historically early end to the legislative session, potentially ditching dozens of prized initiatives in their determination to head home and hit the campaign trail.

The race toward early adjournment is revealing a fresh divide among Republicans who control the Legislature: some who want to end this week and others who want to soldier on well into April to complete a more ambitious agenda — maybe even a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Legislators have much at stake in the session’s outcome, particularly as they face re-election in districts with newly redrawn political boundaries. If they get bogged down in controversial proposals, they risk alienating or angering voters. That has many arguing for a stripped-down agenda and a quick exit.

“As far as I am concerned, if we can block a whole bunch of spending in a bonding bill and get the photo ID bill done, that’s enough,” said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, who faces his first re-election.

In other words, Dapper Dave’s priorities are screwing over his constituents by denying them the needed infrastructure improvements a bonding bill would provide, and using the Kiffmeyer-ALEC Voter ID ballot initiative to make sure large numbers of his constituents won’t be able to vote after the upcoming November election. Nothing else matters, besides his getting re-elected.

Interestingly, Thompson was recently involved in what looked like a wee bit of legislative kabuki concerning an effort by Democratic lawmakers to amend a bill with the “ALEC ID” amendment, which would have forced influential groups like ALEC to be more forthcoming with how and who they influence. Check out this description of his behavior — it looks very much like he was waiting for amendment foe (and ALEC member) Kvetchin’ Gretchen Hoffman to let him know that there were enough “no” votes on the GOP side to kill the thing before he cast what would now be his second-to-last (and meaningless) “yes” vote.

But Dapper Dave Thompson’s not the only RPM legislator — or even the only RPM senator — with strange work habits. Check out this documentation of the work ethic, such as it is, of fellow Senator Mike Parry, who is vying with Theocon and Bachmann ally Allen Quist for the right to lose big to Tim Walz in MN-01 this November. (One of the videos at that link graces this post.)

You know, if working is just too darned hard for them, that could be fixed this November.

GOP’s War on Voting, Minnesota Edition: The Twelve Ways of ALEC’s Kiffmeyer to Disenfranchise Us

4:48 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

As Minnesota holds its 2012 election caucuses tonight, I thought this might be apposite.

I was planning to wait until this weekend to discuss the State Rep from ALEC’s Mary Kiffmeyer and her strange war on Native Americans and their defenders, but I decided to take advantage of what Jon Walker had to say about the Virginia front in the GOP’s War on Voting, and of a document that’s circulating through the local online media, and which I received through the e-mail transom.

This document summarizes twelve specific actions taken by Mary Kiffmeyer during her time as Minnesota’s Secretary of State (1998 to 2006) that put the integrity of voting in Minnesota at risk during that time. Here they are, in order:

#1 was her rushed and slapdash adoption of the Help America Vote Act — 41 other secretaries of state asked for and got delays on implementing HAVA until after 2004, but Kiffmeyer, over strong and sustained protests, went ahead with the implementation, generating criticism from Minnesota Republicans as well as Democrats that she was deliberately botching the implementation in such a way as to make it harder for persons to vote.

#2 concerned the confusing forms Kiffmeyer had designed, purportedly to comply with HAVA; Minnesota’s two most populous counties, Hennepin and Ramsey, rejected them in favor of existing federal forms when it was time to gear up for the 2004 elections. Kiffmeyer asked the Department of Justice to investigate, falsely claiming the forms were illegal, and even the Bush DoJ was compelled to rule against her.

#3 was Kiffmeyer’s decision to remove Independence Party candidates from the 2004 general election ballot because their candidates hadn’t received 10% of the votes in the primary election. She based this decision on a rarely-used law from the 1930s disqualifying parties not getting 10% of their votes received in the “last election,” a rule she hadn’t enforced up to that point.

#4 is especially sleazy: She actually tried to keep Hennepin County’s absentee voters who had voted for Paul Wellstone before his tragic death in October of 2002 from being able to re-cast their ballots for a living candidate. Kiffy decreed those absentee-ballot-voter re-votes to be invalid, but the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against Kiffmeyer, allowing absentee voters to revote.
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Minnesota’s Gay Community Apologizes to Amy Koch for Ruining Her Marriage

9:47 am in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Breaking news — Minnesota’s gay community, in the person of John Medeiros, has officially apologized to Amy Koch, Republican state senator and former Majority Leader in the Minnesota state senate, for causing her to ruin her own marriage by straying with a staffer widely rumored by insiders to be Michael Brodkorb.

The apology starts as follows:

On behalf of all gays and lesbians living in Minnesota, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for our community’s successful efforts to threaten your traditional marriage. We are ashamed of ourselves for causing you to have what the media refers to as an “illicit affair” with your staffer, and we also extend our deepest apologies to him and to his wife. These recent events have made it quite clear that our gay and lesbian tactics have gone too far, affecting even the most respectful of our society.

Both Koch and Brodkorb are noted for their opposition to marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

Minnesota Shutdown Coming to an End?

3:20 pm in Government by Phoenix Woman

The short version:

Minnesota governor Mark Dayton this morning offered the Republicans controlling the Minnesota Legislature a choice: He’d accept their June 30 proposal, which delays school payments and doesn’t tax the rich, on these three conditions:

– They dump all the ALEC-inspired social/policy agenda bullshit (including their own version of Scott Walker’s union-busting bill), crap which they’d spent the entire session pushing

– They drop their plan to cut state employee numbers by 15%

– They approve a $500 million bonding bill to put people back to work in Minnesota.

It took them several hours, but the Republican leadership decided that protecting the rich from more taxes was far more important than looking fiscally prudent or even gutting unions and pushing mandatory picture voter IDs.

The details will have to be worked out, and this is still a tentative framework, but (assuming Zellers and Koch — or rather, their leaders Tony Sutton and his deputy Michael Brodkrob, who dictate every breath Zellers and Koch take — can get the rest of the GOP caucus to agree) the shutdown is very likely going to end soon.

Think about it. They were so desperate to protect the rich that they actually agreed to dump ALL the Taliban legislation they’d been trying to push all session — the union-busting, the anti-stem-cell crap, the picture voter ID, all of it — along with any pretense that they were deficit hawks, just to keep Dayton from taxing the top .03% or 7,700 richest Minnesotans.

That tells you something.

By the way, Dayton’s not up for reelection until 2014, whereas the legislature’s all up for reelection next year.

And again, there is a chance that some of the wackier GOP freshmen might refuse to back this because all of the Taliban crap got stripped out. But it’ll probably go through, with GOP votes — the DFL will sit this one out most likely.

Classy John Gilmore Update: Now with Video

6:31 pm in jerks, Politics by Phoenix Woman

Thanks to Jeremy Ryan of Defend Wisconsin, who gave permission to AmericaBlog to post this on their YouTube channel, we now have video of prominent Minnesota Republican activist and party functionary John Gilmore right as he’s about to get arrested for harassing a few women who made the mistake of being openly Muslim in his presence.

Oh, and guess what? It turns out our very own Gregg Levine was an inadvertent witness to the start of the harassment:

OMG, after looking at the videos, I realize I saw the start of this whole thing Thursday night on Nicolette Mall. I assumed Gilmore was some drunk local or tourist. He was screaming in a sort of drunk-sounding slur, THIS IS AMERICA, and holding his camera three feet in front of his face and flashing pictures while he yelled at the women.

The women in hijab had this so under control, I felt no need to intervene. Really, they were calm and smart and mostly just told him they were practicing their religion and to leave them alone–and I felt they didn’t need some pasty NYer escalating things. I didn’t realize it did escalate after I walked on.

Gilmore came off as a screaming freak. I’m glad the police intervened–he was harassing the women. And since it is now theoretically illegal to take pictures of bridges, it should at least be investigated when someone tries to intimidate by snapping picture after picture of you when you are minding your own business.

And, now that it is in context, think what lies beneath. Gilmore is taking pictures to show how insidious the left Netroots is because we include these “obviously subversive terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.” I’m sure he thought he had some sort of scoop, himself. What a pig.

This tallies well with what we see on the video as well as with the various other eyewitness descriptions, such as these at City Pages, the local arm of the Village Voice:

Elisabeth Geschiere, a pedi-cab driver, was working on Nicollet Mall when she recognized a friend, Jamila Boudlali, standing outside of the Dakota Jazz club. She came over and started talking with Boudlali, and her friend Anwar Hijaz, who were downtown for an afterparty for Netroots Nation, the progressive political blogging conference. Both Hijaz and Boudlali were wearing Muslim headscarves.

That apparently attracted the attention of a gray-haired man — 52-year-old Gilmore — who suddenly approached the trio and said the name, “Ayan Hersi Ali.” Ali is a vocal, female critic of Islam. The three women tried to brush him off, saying they did not want to debate with him.

And that, according to cops and witnesses, is when Gilmore became belligerent, taking photos of the women, and demanding to know why they were in the U.S. Geschiere says when she asked him to stop taking their photo, things only escalated.

“He started saying things like, ‘This is America, welcome to America, this is the western world,’” says Geschiere. “So I immediately retorted like, ‘Dude, we all grew up in America.’”

As bystanders started to intervene, the shouting ramped up, and Gilmore started pacing around the crowd and yelling “Andrew Breitbart — hello!” into his phone. That was the first time, says witness and visiting Netroots Nation-attendee Matt Glazer, that he realized the man was a conservative.

“He made it sounds like he was about to hurt people, so then that’s when I called the police,” says Glazer.

More on this as it develops.

Note, ladies and gentlemen, that this occurred the evening before Andrew Breitbart’s attempt to sneak into Netroots Nation without paying. Much of the early scuttlebutt about this conflated the two events, leading to confusion that still exists today in some quarters.

(Crossposted to Mercury Rising.)

Republican Party of Minnesota Insider: Staying Classy by Harassing Women

5:33 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

For the record: John Hugh Gilmore is not an employee of Andrew Breitbart. While he is a conservative blogger (of the Minnesota Conservatives blog), he does have some standards.

Gilmore lives in St. Paul, and is a pretty big wheel in Minnesota Republican politics, being in tight with the Marty Seifert and Ben Golnik/Gregg Peppin crowd as well as being a prominent Republican Party of Minnesota functionary in State Senate District 65 and a state central committee member. He backed Seifert in the 2010 Republican race for the gubernatorial nomination, but dutifully (albeit reluctantly) climbed onto the wildly careening Emmer bandwagon once Emmer’s nomination was a done deal.

He also happens to be the person who was arrested last Thursday night for getting drunk and harassing two Muslim women of Middle Eastern descent. This is the incident that triggered a flash mob protest on Saturday’s session of Right Online, and accounted for some of the passion with which Andrew Breitbart’s attempt to disrupt Netroots Nation 2011 was met. Here’s Sue Wilson’s account:

.The story started the night before when two women ventured into the streets of Minneapolis wearing the traditional Hijab (headscarf.) They were approached by John Hugh Gilmore, a 52 year attorney and self described Conservative who blogs for “Minnesota Conservatives.” According to police, he asked the women what they thought of Ayaan Hersi Ali, a Somali who is a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who decries Muslims. The women told him they weren’t exactly fans. The inebriated Gilmore then became upset and started harassing the pair, asking what right they had to be in this country, until 60 onlookers intervened. Police were called and arrested Gilmore, but not until Gilmore tried to reach Andrew Breitbart on his phone.

Mind you, this is one of the persons who makes up the ‘respectable’ wing of the local GOP, capable of doing semi-credible defenses of Democrats like Terri Bonoff on invocations — though he muffs it when he attacks her for backing nondenominational ones only: “Invoking Jesus or Yahweh does not violate the separation of church and state. This misses the point entirely but then again MC has not found democrats to be well versed in either religion or the constitution.” Sorry, that’s not what the Fourth Circuit found.

This guy is, underneath his Brooks Brothers suit, a raging Islamophobe of the Bradlee Dean variety, and he shows it in his writings and now in his actions.

UPDATE: Well, whaddaya know — the local rocking-chair media actually have deigned to notice this story. Good on you, MPR!

(Crossposted to Mercury Rising.)

Wrestlers, Paperkids, Grocery Workers: Why The CTUL Fight Is Important

12:14 am in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

US Representative Keith Ellison (in red CTUL shirt) and Minnesota Representative Jim Davnie join CTUL hunger strikers on the picket line, Sunday, May 29, 2011. Courtesy CTUL.net.

When I was growing up in the ’70s, I shared a paper route with my brother. He did the mornings, I helped him in the evenings, and our parents sometimes helped us on the weekends — if nothing else by making sure we got out of bed on time.

The paper we delivered was the St. Paul Pioneer Press in the morning and the St. Paul Dispatch in the afternoon; the two papers were once separate entities, but were both bought by the Ridder company in 1927, and ever since then were essentially the same paper. In 1990, as TV news continued to eat into print media’s market share, the Dispatch was shut down and the PiPress has been a morning-only paper ever after.

The Pioneer Press was and is a “union” newspaper, in that its reporters belong to a union, the Minnesota Newspaper Guild. Most major newspapers have a unionized reporting staff; this has been the case for decades. The people who deliver the paper to your front door, however, are not unionized employees of that paper. In fact, they’re technically not even employees of the paper, but “independent contractors”, which in essence means they get paid a pittance (and in our case the pay depended on going door-to-door each month to collect the subscription fees, which we didn’t mind doing as at least that way we could get tips or even Christmas bonuses, which didn’t happen when subscribers opted for automatic renewal by mail or credit card).

The “independent contractor” concept shows up in other fields, too. Did you know that Vince McMahon’s wrestlers aren’t actually employees of the WWE, but “independent contractors”? That means that Vince doesn’t have to do diddly in terms of providing benefits, sensible work hours, or job security. That means that he can overwork them as much as he wants without letting them have time to rest and recover — and that means that alcohol and drug use and abuse is rampant, as it’s hard to take such a punishing schedule unless you’re sloshed or doped to the gills, and often not even then. (Jesse Ventura’s first brush with politicking was when he attempted to form a union in the 1980s back when he worked for Vince McMahon — oh, pardon me, I meant was “an independent contractor whose paychecks just happened to come from Vince McMahon”.)
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Neil Gaiman Is Worth 45,000 Matt Deans

9:36 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Witness as, in the course of his attacks on the popularly-mandated Minnesota Legacy Amendment, a man not worthy of being Neil Gaiman’s bootscraper struts like a little peacock, attempting to lob ridiculously ripe stinkbombs at one of the finest living novelists in the English language:

House Majority Leader Matt Dean said he reminded Urdahl of the “importance of making sure he has [Republican] caucus support” for Legacy funding for arts and cultural heritage projects, an area of spending that Dean acknowledged had rankled some Republicans. “MPR, it’s safe to say, has been a concern in the past,” said Dean.

Dean also singled out a $45,000 payment of Legacy money that was made last year to science fiction writer Neil Gaiman for a four-hour speaking appearance. Dean said that Gaiman, “who I hate,” was a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”

What is your major malfunction, Matt Dean? I mean, really? Are cheap shots wrapped in non sequiturs your strong suit, or what?

Are you jealous that Gaiman’s fantasy writings are much better than your party’s fantasy writings — such as that pathetic excuse for a budget bill your party had Accenture write? And for this they put you in charge of the House? And as for your partners in crime at the StarTribune, who are trying to stick up the state’s taxpayers for $791 million for a new Vikings stadium (that works out to 17,577.77 four-hour appearances by Neil Gaiman, or 17,250.77 more appearances than the Vikings will make in that stadium during its likely thirty-year lifespan), they should be ashamed of themselves for their hypocrisy as well as their facilitating your idiocy.

What’s next, attacking Terry Pratchett?

(Crossposted to Mercury Rising and Renaissance Post.)

Lies and the Lying Liars That Revive Them

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

Amazing, how over the span of eight-plus years, high-powered conservatives with a national reach are touting themselves as such helpless little infants, so untutored in the ways of society, that they can claim they’re unfamiliar with something that’s present in every sports bar and many fast-food places, and has been for over two freaking decades: “closed” captioning on TVs.

I am not kidding. Sarah Janacek and Kellyanne Fitzpatrick did it in late 2002, and Jim Hoft’s doing in early 2011:

It appears that Gateway Pundit saw a picture of the Tucson rally, in which the Jumbotron was featured. He then mistook the closed captioning as “instructions” for the audience to applaud.

That’s right, folks: A bit of technology that every sports bar, many regular bars, and many casual-dining restaurants have possessed for nearly three decades is somehow so unfamiliar to these self-styled wise ones that they can allegedly mistake it for “applause signs”.

If this sounds awfully familiar to some of you, it should: It’s the same bogus story that was bruited about after the Wellstone memorial:

Kellyanne (Fitzpatrick) Conway went on TV the day after the memorial and told a nationwide audience that the Jumbotron instructed the crowd “when to cheer and when to jeer.” (The speeches were close-captioned and would indicate when there was LAUGHTER and APPLAUSE.)

Even though the words on the closed captioning followed the speaker’s words by five or so seconds and were often misspelled, Sarah Janecek, a Minnesota Republican lobbyist, said the speeches on the Jumbotron were proof that the speeches had been written and vetted by the cynically politically motivated Democrat who ran the event. Actually, the people who spoke at the Wellstone memorial were all chosen by the families of those who died. No one’s speech was vetted. The Wellstone people had all spent the previous five days going to funerals. It never occurred to them to vet the speeches. The irony is that because they weren’t thinking politically, they opened themselves to being accused of staging a political event.

Janacek’s tried to deny all of this, but I — and several other persons who were at the event and/or heard Janacek’s dishonest commentary on it on Minnesota Public Radio the morning afterwards — know better. Here’s Techno, a regular Balloon Juice commenter and personal friend of Paul Wellstone:

@Doctor Gonzo:
It is true what you say about this stupid slander about closed captioning being used after the Wellstone funeral. In fact, it was first said by that execrable Republican hack Sarah Janecek on MPR the day after the funeral.

The reason I remember this so clearly is that I was driving my car and got so upset at this lie that I had a heart attack and wound up in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I have not knowingly conversed with a Republican since that day except to insult them. I am STILL angry about that cynical lie.

And here’s Velveteen Ocelot commenting at Democratic Underground:

She was all frothing at the mouth about the memorial right afterwards, lying out her ass on local Hate Radio about how the organizers were using closed captioning to prompt the crowd, and going on about how horrible and partisan and scripted it was. Maybe she realizes how full of crap she was and feels bad about it now; or maybe — more likely, I think — she just wants to distance herself from the truly repellent Katherine Kersten, who really went off the deep end in that obnoxious column. I was doing some volunteer work at one of the DFL offices just before that election, trying to get out the vote for Mondale, and Al Franken showed up and got after Janacek on the phone to call her on her bullshit. I know what she said then, and it was 180 degrees from what she’s saying now.

A caution to those conservatives who, like Jim Hoft, are tempted to revive and repurpose the Wellstone event “applause signs” smear, or any other of the smears originated and disseminated by Republicans about that event: The lying by Republicans about the Wellstone event in Williams Arena was so egregious and so infuriating that it did two (2) things: it led to the rise of the reality-based, progressive side of the blogosphere, and it caused Al Franken to decide on a career in electoral politics. Do you all really want to risk anything like that happening again?

UPDATE: TBogg notes that at least one other right-wing blogger is jumping into the fray on Hoft’s side — even as his own commenters try vainly to correct him. And when a person who actually works as a closed-captioner tried to explain to Hoft and his fan base how closed-captioning works, one of them looked him up online, found out he was gay, and decided that meant his word couldn’t be trusted. Oy gewalt.