Oh yeah, “fracking” in southeast Minnesota. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier files from Red Wing on the possibility: “Underneath the forested land is an increasingly valuable resource called ‘frac sand,’ highly sought after for its size and strength. With perfectly round grains that look like brown sugar crystals, the sand is ideal for the oil and natural gas exploration industry, which uses it to extract fuel from underground rock in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. An increasing number of companies are eying Minnesota for the valuable sand, which geologists say is buried in virtually unlimited amounts deep beneath the bluffs that straddle the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. … Some residents fear sand mining will spoil the environment, said Bruce Ause, who 10 years ago retired as director of the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center. Many recognize the river’s role in navigation for industry, but the jury is still out on fracking, a controversial practice.”
The Strib gets involved in last weekend’s double suicide story out of Marshall. Pam Louwagie and Mary Lynn Smith write of Paige Moravetz and Haylee Fentress: “[The two] were like sisters, Deruyck said. They also were among a group of girls recently punished for fighting at school. Fentress was expelled; Moravetz and some other girls were suspended, Deruyck said. ‘It was one of those things when one girl pushed another. The schools have zero tolerance for this. It all happened so fast. And the girls were just sick about it. It really affected the girls badly.” … [Stepfather Joel] Deruyck and Paige’s mom, Tricia Behnke, said they don’t believe any one thing drove the girls to commit suicide. Instead, they said, they believe it was a combination of things. ‘Let’s face it, there’s drama everywhere in middle school … and it’s stuff that wouldn’t make a difference a week from now,’ Behnke said. ‘The way they talk to each other is unbelievable.’ ” Still … “expelled” for a fight?
House Speaker Kurt Zellers’ struggle with the concept of voting as a “right,” not a “privilege,” has some precedent among fellow Minnesota Republicans. Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent writes: “Zellers statement mirrors one made by former Sen. Norm Coleman earlier this year at a tea party voter ID conference. Some places require an ID to cash a check at McDonald’s; if it’s good enough for McDonald’s, it should be good enough for one of the greatest privileges that democracy affords, and that’s the right to vote,’ said Coleman. At the Minnesota Capitol, during a hearing on voter ID last month, the right to vote has been compared to many things that are privileges. ‘Maybe you can explain to me how we would know how many people were drinking underage if we never ID’d them,’ Sen. Ray Vandeveer of Forest Lake said, noting that the same could be said about voting. In his testimony, Minnesota Majority’s Dan McGrath compared the voting process to banking. ‘How fast do you think your bank accounts would empty if someone could access your account on the say-so of a friend?’ he said, referencing Minnesota system of allowing neighbors to vouch for voters who don’t have IDs. The Minnesota Voters Alliance’s Andy Cilek said voting with voter ID is the same as boarding an airplane. ‘I would argue this is no different than taking an airplane,’ he said. ‘How many people would fly on an airplane if we didn’t make sure the people on that plane were who they said they were in the terminal at their destination’?” If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were all working off the same script.
There are still incentives for up-insulating your house. The PiPress’ Leslie Brooks Suzukamo reports: “While most people are trying to forget winter, [homeowner Jane] Lundberg is getting a jump on the next cold season. She’s taking advantage of special no-interest energy-efficiency loans and utility rebates to tighten up her house, even though she missed out on the federal tax credit that sparked a frenzy of weatherization work toward the end of 2010. Surprisingly, the expiration of the $1,500 credit doesn’t appear to have slowed demand for energy-saving efforts this year. Many other programs remain to help homeowners weatherize. The Neighborhood Energy Connection, a St. Paul nonprofit that oversees several energy-efficiency programs in St. Paul and its east metro neighbors, is busier this spring than it was last year at this time. ‘So far, we’re seeing the level of activity remain fairly high,’ NEC executive director Chris Duffrin said.”
Sometimes, you know, you get to the point where you’ve had just about enough. Like the U of Iowa prof who told a campus student group exactly what she thought of them. The AP story says: “A University of Iowa professor who studies same-sex relationships was so upset by an email from a campus Republican group promoting ‘Conservative Coming Out Week that she fired off a vulgarity aimed at all Republicans, according to messages released by the school Wednesday. ‘F— you, Republicans’ was professor Ellen Lewin’s response Monday to the recruiting pitch from UI College Republicans. She sent the email from her school account, drawing outrage from conservative students and one Republican lawmaker. … ‘I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities,’ Lewin wrote. But she said the group’s email contained several statements that were ‘extremely offensive, nearly rising to the level of obscenity.’ She said she was upset that Republicans used the ‘coming out’ language to describe the week given what she called their general disdain for gay rights. She said the email also mocked labor protesters in Wisconsin and animal rights.”
The Strib’s Claude Peck has more on The Southern theater’s ongoing financial problems: “The Southern Theater posted another letter to its website Thursday warning that its financial difficulties have reached ‘a state of emergency.’ That emergency, the letter says, ‘now threatens the very existence of the Southern and we must raise $400,000 by April 30, 2011 to keep the doors open.’ The letter, signed by board chair Anne Baker and executive director Gary Peterson, refers to ‘the financial mire in which [the theater] has been sinking for the past decade’. As reported last Friday by the Star Tribune, the theater recently was hit by the pullout of major funder the McKnight Foundation as well as a board shake-up, the ouster of the former board chair, and the denial of a request for a $90,000 bridge loan. The Southern has an annual budget of $1 miliion.” $400K in eight days? Good luck.
DFL Sen. Scott Dibble writes an impassioned defense of Planned Parenthood in this morning’s Strib: “Even though the vast majority of family-planning clinics’ funding is for essential health services (any abortions performed are funded separately), conservative legislators are trying to put family planning, low-cost contraception, STD testing and treatment, and cervical cancer screenings out of reach for low-income women by dismantling Planned Parenthood’s long established statewide network of clinics. The recession greatly added to the number of uninsured — nearly 59 million Americans had no health insurance coverage for at least part of 2010, up from 44 million a few years earlier. Sixty-one percent of women served by Title X-funded clinics like Planned Parenthood’s are uninsured, filling in the gaps for women who fall through the holes of our social safety net.”
John Hinderaker’s breakdown of polling on the GOP presidential picture … as of today … is interesting: “There are only two candidates who are both widely known to the general public and also viewed favorably by non-Republicans: Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Romney has been through a high-profile campaign and has a modestly positive overall rating, which is all one can expect in this polarized era. Mike Huckabee rates even better among both Republicans and all voters. I am not surprised by this: Huckabee is the most talented politician now working in either party. (I would say he is the most talented politician since Bill Clinton; is it coincidence that both came from Arkansas?) … I think Romney and Huckabee (assuming he is in) are co-favorites. Now look at the rest of the field. Several high-profile candidates have negative ratings with the general public that seem prohibitively high: Sarah Palin (an appalling 26/55), Newt Gingrich (23/37) and Donald Trump, assuming he is actually a candidate (25/46). Unless Republican voters are feeling suicidal next year, they can be ruled out. … It is striking that of the remaining candidates, there is only one who is popular among both Republicans and to the general public: Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty has a terrific 20/3 rating among Republicans, by far the best ratio of any candidate. This bears out the conventional wisdom that Pawlenty’s strength lies in the fact that he is acceptable to just about everyone. Meanwhile, his favorability among the general public is 12/8, a 60/40 ratio that is about as good as any politician can expect, and much better than Barack Obama’s.”
The ever-vigilant Sally Jo Sorensen, of the Hutchinson-based “Bluestemprairie” blog, is not having any of the revisionist history that “a better tax environment” would have kept all those Hutchinson Technology jobs in Minnesota: “Minnesota’s Senate Majority Caucus doesn’t seem to be able to leave any talking point behind, regardless of how debunked it might be. Take the humbug about Hutchinson Technology shutting down manufacturing in Minnesota. It’s not because of taxes and the state’s business climate. … [State Senator Gary] Dahms wondered where the state would be had it raised taxes in the past.
” ‘If we had raised taxes continually in the last 10 years, our employment situation would be a lot more dire than it is right now,’ Dahms said. ‘If we want to keep people, we need to make (Minnesota) more attractive. Look at Hutch Technology — 600 jobs went to Wisconsin. They’re gonna go to Wisconsin and build a new facility when they had a facility here in Minnesota, yet it was so attractive tax-wise and incentive-wise that they went to Wisconsin. Those are 600 jobs that just left southern Minnesota and they’re not gonna come back.’
“… Nope, senator. Hutchinson Tech isn’t building a new facility in Eau Claire. It built a plant there years ago and located some newer product lines there, but the new plant is being completed in Thailand. Thailand. That’s the place with palm trees … While HTI ended production here in Hutchinson, and transfered some product lines to Wisconsin, it wasn’t because of the incentives senate majority comm director Michael Brodkorb retweeted about. HTI wasn’t eligible for those. Fact is, HTI has laid off workers in Wisconsin as well. It’s globalization at work. But perhaps Brodkorb and Dahms will be honest about this and talk openly about how American workers in Minnesota and Wisconsin might pitch in and work for Thai wages. That should work.”