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Are you ready for ‘fracking’ in southeastern Minnesota?


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.”

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 04/22/2011 - 02:44 pm.

    The privilege/right thing is basically matter of semantics. We often hear that “a drivers licence is a privilege, not a right”. This differs from voting because a non-discriminatory DMV “poll tax” can be charged to get a drivers licence, there is no “means testing” for this. Also a non-discriminatory “knowledge test” can be required for a drivers licence.

    Beyond that, both voting and the driver licence can have a many of the same rules. To give voter ID, as an example, the US Supreme Court has ruled that a “valid ID” requirement can be imposed. The exception often cities is something like the small town stay at home housewife who never worked and let her husband handle everything including Medicare and Social Security. There should be some review following her husband’s death but she should be “grandfathered” into the process. She may have declined to get an ID after her husband’s death because she didn’t want to drive and everyone in the town knows who she is.

    We might get someone who never formally worked, married or had children but took care of parents or relatives. Social Security numbers are now issued at birth. The point is that these are “long-shot” scenarios where the person made no effort to address the ID problem at first. To do Medicare without an ID you would almost need the small town widow who was “grandfathered in” with here late husbands Medicare registration. Possible but a “long-shot”.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/22/2011 - 03:29 pm.

    Actually, having Minnesota workers work for Thai wages is EXACTLY what our Republican friends have in mind and the overarching goal of “globalization” (a race to the bottom for workers across the entire planet).

  3. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 04/22/2011 - 04:20 pm.

    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’?”

    Cilek can argue all he wants, but that won’t change the fact that it’s completely different. It makes no difference who you are when you fly; what matters are your intentions while you’re flying.

    Millions of people fly each year, and a good number of them fly without ID. Why? Because you’re not require to have or show ID to board a plane. I’ve flown many times without one and I’ve never had a problem.

    The reason that myth persists is because the flying public takes whatever TSA says as fact and meekly accepts it, without actually checking. That’s how you lose your civil rights, people. Buck up!

  4. Submitted by Karl Struck on 04/22/2011 - 05:47 pm.

    Yes, Greg, us evil Republicans yearn for a day when Minnesota workers are paid a Thai wage. Can we please raise the dialogue to a level above 5th grade? We all wish for a bright future for our great state, but we have different ideas of getting there.

    I would love to pay my employees more, I would love to hire a couple more workers. There is great pride and responsibility in giving my employees the benefits and wages they so richly deserve. Unfortunately, the poor economy, regulation, and taxes all play a role in me keeping the status quo.

    And to the “globalization” point, it is this type of sour grapes, pessimistic attitude towards economic development and achievement that will leave our state lagging behind others in our country… not to mention our country in the world marketplace.

    It’s your sour grapes take on “globalization” that will lead to us to

  5. Submitted by Ray Marshall on 04/22/2011 - 07:49 pm.

    Scott Dibble had an impassioned op-ed in the Strib this morning supporting Planned Parenthood’s funding.

    One of the commenters wondered what his position would be if science discovered the “gay gene” and all the homosexual babies start to get aborted.

    China and India are seeing millions of their female babies aborted. No doubt that is true in many other countries also.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/22/2011 - 08:48 pm.

    Methinks Mr. Struck protests too much…

    Globalization as an economic policy benefits shareholders and corporate CEOs at the expense of American workers, and often, of workers in foreign countries, as well. Since most workers do not directly own sizable blocks of corporate stock, it’s fair to say that globalization benefits the “haves” at the expense of the “have-nots.” Greg Kapphahn is right on the mark in #2.

    Polaris Industries closed down its facility in Osceola, WI, and moved 515 jobs to Mexico (25 of those jobs *might* come back, according to the latest things I’ve read in the ‘Strib) specifically because Mexican workers could be hired for 1/3 of what the non-union Polaris workers were being paid. By the way, they were being paid $15 to $20 an hour, with minimal benefits. While those couldn’t be characterized as “starvation” wages, $30,000 to $41,000 a year would hardly make the families earning those numbers “affluent,” except by 3rd world standards. And in Mexico, the $10,000 to perhaps $13,000 that the new Polaris workers will be paid is roughly equivalent to the Americans whose jobs they’ll be given. Median income in Mexico is about 1/3 that of the U.S.

    Polaris CEO Scott Wine was paid very well, indeed, to eliminate the jobs of 515 non-union American workers, export their jobs to a foreign country, and in the process likely destroy the economy of not only Osceola, but of the county and region that serves the town, and for years to come. Splitting the difference between the “low” and “high” average wage for Polaris workers, I get $36,000 in annual income. Multiplied by 500 workers, Wine has taken about $18 million annually out of the local economy, sent about $6 million of it to Mexico, put about 500 Americans in the unemployment line, which will cost the citizens of Wisconsin millions of dollars in unemployment compensation that’s taxpayer-paid, and for doing that, Wine has been rewarded with nearly $3 million, according to a “CEO Pay Watch” article in the ‘Strib. The “Pay Watch” article goes on to note that the company’s compensation committee approved an increase in Wine’s base salary to $800,000 annually.

    By moving the production facility to Mexico, Wine made Polaris more efficient and more competitive in a highly-competitive industry by putting the production of its product closer to its customers, thus lowering transportation costs, and dramatically lowering (by 2/3!!) the company’s labor costs, as well. Investors win, Polaris prospers, dividends are paid, and, because the company headquarters are in the U.S., if Polaris machines are exported to other countries, Polaris may be entitled to a corporate tax break because it’s selling “American” products overseas, even if it lays off American workers to do so and the products are made in Mexico by Mexicans. Return-on-investment to Polaris stockholders in 2010 was 83.8 percent. Compare that to what your savings account is earning.

    It’s tempting to paint Scott Wine as a villain, but doing so misses the point. He’s simply doing what a savvy CEO – one with previous experience at doing business in Mexico – ought to do in a competitive market. He gets rewarded for doing that, and the stockholders prosper. Too bad about Osceola, or those 500 American workers, or the millions of dollars taken from the local economy.

    That, my friends, is globalization. It’s also a useful example of “business ethics.”

  7. Submitted by William Pappas on 04/23/2011 - 07:15 am.

    Sour grapes, Karl? Is wanting a livable wage in Minnesota that enables a person to raise a family, buy a house and send kids to college selfish? That is what it has come to Karl. Wages and benefits have been driven down too far by globalization and our trade agreements that encourage companies to seek production overseas where they can pollute the environment and engage in wage exploitation. The old American dream is dead Karl. It ended with a resounding crash three years ago. Now your republican representatives are trying to stomp on that dream even further by removing the few benefits that keep the elderly from living in abject poverty and poor health and enable most of us to retire at 66. On top of that they want to allow the rich to pay even fewer taxes as they accumulate more and more wealth. Selfish Karl? There is no end to the greed of today’s corporation and no bottom to the wage, salary and benefit cuts they’ll extract from America’s workers. When wages go up, Karl, people will buy more and the economy will improve for everyone. That is what will allow you to make more money and pay your workers more. Never in the world’s history have riches been showered on the wealthy and that money filtered effectively down to the workers. Corporate greed has been unleashed on America by a false economic promise: that those record profits mean prosperity for all. Karl, you know that is a false dream. Declaring efforts to make the wealthy pay their fair share as “sour grapes” is laughable in the face of those massive incomes and obscene corporate profits that have been extracted, just like your business, Karl, on the backs of workers through lower wages, longer hours, less benefits translating to huge gains in productivity. This discussion is absurd with respect to the one sided gains made by the rich and devastating losses sustained by middle class America.

  8. Submitted by William Pappas on 04/23/2011 - 07:23 am.

    It is hard to believe that in addition to the environmental calamity that is caused by the process of gas extraction from geological strata we also must suffer the indignity of subterranean or surface mining of sand that underlies some of our oldest and beautiful landforms in Minnesotak to get to that gas mined elsewhere. Add water pollution to this process and it starts to approach the disaster magnitude of tarsands oil extraction that now sends environmentally filthy oil streaming into Minnesota from Albaerta. Minnesota, in the name of economic progress and support of the mining industry, now puts a good share of land at risk for all sorts of ground water pollution in north and south Minnesota. If natural gas can be found in western Minnesota we can almost cover the state with water pollution that will forever alter the quality of our state’s surface water. Gee, do you think that would be good for our state, good for our heritage? Unbelievable.

  9. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 04/23/2011 - 11:11 am.

    Sour grapes, Mr. Stuck??? More like an honest expression of the great harm corporate outsourcing has caused American workers and the economy of the United States.

    Globalization did not HAVE to mean outsourcing something like 71 million jobs to low-wage countries, along with the production of pretty much all electronic goods (TVs, radios, computers), a huge share of auto production (if you think Detroit and Flint have a case of sour grapes, please visit there), and even furniture and clothing.

    All those jobs lost mean the state and federal income taxes paid by these workers is gone as well. Not to mention the wages spent for consumer goods, recreation and travel, higher education for their children and perhaps to buy something from you.

    Plus, regulation is the only protection American consumers, home buyers, credit card users, et cetera, have against corporate abuse at work and financially.

    Not all companies take pride, as you do, in paying benefits and decent salaries. Many instead take great pride in doing the opposite.

  10. Submitted by William Pappas on 04/24/2011 - 06:43 am.

    There is of course one big problem with the figures on Pawlenty, he is a relative unknown. His favorability rating results from the mistaken notion that he is centrist republican that appeals to conservative democrats. The unsuspecting think he governed in a state that is blue and progressive, not understanding the previous democratic governor served in the last mellinium and the state is currently saddled with republican controlled legislative government. My many friends on the east coast tell me he has been exposed for the fake he is. They are not at all expecting him to be considered seriously for President by a majority of his party. The problem, Brian, is that the Tea Party unbelievably controls the direction of the Repubican Party and Pawlenty is an evangelical right wing zealot. When he is exposed for his budget busting economic policies and radical right wing ideological approach to everything his approval rating will tank. Pawlenty can’t even out poll Bachmann in states neighboring his native Minnesota. And that after he abandoned his governorship for two years and dedicated the last 3 1/2 years to running for President while Bachmann simply hinted she’d run a few months ago. The truth is, Brian, that repubicans are in deep dodo about a Presidential candidate that is credible. When an entire party has to ignore reality and facts to focus on an ideological approach, it produces disingenuous candidates that, once exposed, begin to appear rediculous in their inability to process events and refusal to engage in any legislative comprimise. The public is starting to understand that these conservative idealogues are making the political process freeze up with their extremism in defense of the privlaged at the expense of America.

  11. Submitted by Peter Wagstrom on 04/24/2011 - 10:19 pm.

    Can anyone name the part of the US or Minnesota Constitutions that guarantees the right to purchase goods and services on credit or to travel by airplane? Now, who can name the amendments to the US and Minnesota Constitution that protect our rights to vote?
    There are no parts that guarantee you the right purchase items on credit or travel by airplane. The US Constitution has the 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments protecting our rights to vote. The Minnesota Constitution has Article 1, Section 17, which says in part “No religious test or amount of property shall be required as a qualification of any voter at any election in this state,” which is a greater protection than that granted by the US Constitution. An ID is an “amount of property,” and having to pay for documents necessary to get a photo ID, such as a birth certificate, has been ruled a poll tax and against the 24th amendment. That’s why parts of Missouri’s voter ID law have been struck down.
    It is fairly clear what the difference is between a right and a privilege. The GOP just don’t care if trampling our rights furthers their political gains. The voter disenfranchisement bills in St. Paul are designed to rig elections in GOP favor. Think about it. If the GOP cared about the integrity of elections, and every case of voter fraud in the past 10 years has been from felons voting, wouldn’t they do something to stop that? Felons have IDs, and voter ID only prevents voter impersonation, which has never happened in the history of Minnesota. Go ahead, ask Speaker Zellers or Rep. Kiffmeyer to give you an example of a person convicted of a crime that would have been prevented by voter ID.
    FYI, I am an election judge, and we take our jobs seriously, and I find it insulting that the GOP thinks we let ineligible people vote.

  12. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/25/2011 - 08:56 am.

    What genuises like Struck even fail to consider is there are now 515 less Americans able to buy Polaris products. And 515 mexicans being paid such an putrid wage that they can’t afford a Polaris product, past present or future.

    5th grade dialogue? With that exhibition of reasoning, you and the rest of American business leaders should look upon a 5th grade education as something to aspire towards.

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