Dave Durenberger’s regular commentary over at the National Institute for Health Policy includes this on Newt Gingrich: “A gifted young man from Georgia, with ambition and personality to match, goes to Washington and succumbs to its ethical standards. Only after he uses the ethics process to take down a couple of the kings of the Democratic caucus, plus a few others, does he take power. Only to lose it when he himself is found guilty of violating standards of conduct. Without acknowledging a thing, he launches a second career influencing the way his former colleagues approach legislation. Newt has the confidence of a history lover who believes himself destined to make it. So he’s able to rise above his called-out shortcomings as though a pundit analyzing the foibles of homo politicus. No one among the Washington Republican cognoscenti believes Newt can beat Barack Obama, regardless of the economy. In fact, one of the best, former MN Congressman and lobbyist Vin Weber suggested to John Harwood in the New York Times this week that the Republican Party might do for President Obama in 2012 what Democrat George McGovern did in 1972 for President Richard Nixon.”
Perhaps a bit overdue here. The AP reports: “Tens of thousands of Somalis living in Minnesota might be forced to find another way to send money to relatives back home after a bank said it would halt the wire transfers amid fears some funds could go to terrorists. Sunrise Community Banks handles the majority of the community’s wire transfers. Officials said they made the decision after realizing they can’t prevent funds from winding up in terrorists’ hands. Now, many money transfer businesses known as hawalas say they’ll close Friday or next week because they need the bank to make the transfer.”
Former Goldman Sachs CEO, New Jersey Gov. and Sen. and MF Global boss Jon Corzine says he has no idea where $1.2 billion in investor money has gone. In his column for the PiPress, Ed Lotterman writes: “Why would anyone, especially a Minnesota farmer, risk their farm or grain business on what would happen in the European bond market? The answer is that they would not, but the MF Global debacle, in which the company collapsed and some $1.2 billion of customer money — including that of many Minnesotans — is missing, shows that in today’s financial system this can happen without the clients’ knowledge. MF Global was headed by Jon Corzine, a former top executive at Goldman Sachs, a former governor and former U.S. senator from New Jersey and an oft-cited possible Treasury Department head. His role in the debacle shows Wall Street had, as French pundit Talleyrand said of the Bourbon dynasty, ‘learned nothing and forgotten nothing.’ … MF Global broke the intent of the law, but it may have taken advantage of a regulatory loophole that allowed the brokerage side of the firm to lend money to its proprietary hedge fund side via a derivative security called a repurchase agreement. This would not appear on MF Global’s balance sheet the way a direct loan would. Neither would Minnesota elevators and hog feeders have any idea that their money, legally held in escrow, was being used to bet that relationships between prices and interest rates of bonds issued by European governments would return to some expected pattern or that they could lose money if Corzine’s bet did not pay off. History supported them. … The financial sector blew up in 2008 because firms created financial instruments the risks of which they did not understand, and that fostered opaqueness rather than transparency even while creating false confidence in naive savants like Alan Greenspan.”
The juice is coming. Leslie Brooks Suzukamo’s PiPress story explains: “The operators of the Midwest’s power grid on Thursday approved a $730 million high-voltage transmission line from Brookings, S.D., to the town of Hampton in Dakota County. The transmission line is one of 17 big projects given the green light by Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, better known as MISO, in an initiative designed to strengthen the grid and speed up the development of renewable wind energy. Called the Brookings Line, the 230-mile project could carry wind energy from the Dakotas and southern and western Minnesota, say a group of regional utilities led by Xcel Energy and Great River Energy, who back the project. Opponents who live along proposed path of the 345-kilovolt line have questioned the line’s necessity. Some … have expressed concern about their health by living close to such high voltage; others say the line will become a conduit for coal power from the Dakotas instead of a green project carrying wind power.”
What would you do if you saw a sign on the car next to you saying the driver was being “drugged by LSD”? Ashley Martin of the Dickinson (ND) Press reports: “A Wyoming man’s vehicle caught the attention of at least one person in Dickinson, N.D., on Tuesday, since he or she called police upon seeing it. A sign on the vehicle stated ‘driver being drugged by LSD,’ said Dickinson Police Capt. Joe Cianni. ‘In the dust was written ‘Help FBI toxins,’ Cianni said. ‘The sign taped to the rear window said something like ‘vehicle being followed for a felony driver.’ However, officers determined the man did not need help and was not an immediate threat, he said.” Key word: “Immediate.”
Another PiPress story, by Doug Belden, covers a glimpse of the Vikings’ financial situation at the Metrodome: “The Minnesota Vikings say they’re losing money by playing in the Metrodome. If so, it’s not much, counters the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. “We believe the Vikings are about break-even now,” commission chairman Ted Mondale said Thursday. The team had been subsidized by the NFL through revenue sharing to the tune of $15 million to $20 million a year. But since a new collective-bargaining agreement was approved this summer, it is no longer receiving that money, Mondale said. At this point, ‘they’re about a break-even enterprise — maybe they make a little, maybe they lose a little,’ Mondale said. But Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development, repeated Thursday that the Dome is a financial drain on the Vikings. The team will continue to receive the highest subsidy in the league, he said, and despite that, ‘the team continues to lose money at the Metrodome on an annual basis.’ As he has in the past, he declined to specify how much.” If we agree to pay for a “people’s stadium,” we will, of course, have full access to all of our “partner’s” books, right?
How to wring some money out of state land in the BWCA? Dan Kraker of MPR writes: “When Congress carved the Boundary Waters out of the Arrowhead Region in the 1970s, it created an 86,000-acre dilemma for Minnesota. The wilderness includes 2.5 million acres of valuable land from which the state derives revenue from timber sales, mining royalties and other sources of income. Over more than a century, the investment has grown to more than $600 million and generates about $15 million a year. In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, $27 million was distributed to public schools from trust fund interest and dividends. But more than 30 years later, Minnesota is not deriving revenue from the 86,000 acres because of restrictions on activities within the Boundary Waters area. … The basic disagreement is whether to sell or swap. Should the state sell its land to the federal government for a lump sum of cash? Or, should the state swap its land for federal land outside the Boundary Waters that isn’t bound by wilderness rules? Iron Range lawmakers like state Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, prefer the swap option. Rukavina argues that land — potentially with mineral and timber resources — is a more valuable asset over the long term.”
Abandon all hope, ye drivers in the southwest metro. The Strib’s Paul Walsh reports: “One of the busiest sections of highway in the Twin Cities will be closed for the entire weekend starting Friday night. Both directions of Interstate 494 from Hwy. 100 west to Hwy. 212 will shut down at 10 p.m. Friday as part of the Hwy. 169/I-494 interchange reconstruction project. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) says the closure is needed so crews can place beams to span the interstate for the new flyover bridge from westbound I-494 to southbound Hwy. 169.”
$355 million for clean energy? Wendy Lee at the Strib says: “Doug Cameron, a prominent venture capitalist and former biotech executive, said he will lead a $355 million investment fund for early-stage clean technology and renewable chemistry businesses. The investment fund, called First Green Partners and based in Minneapolis, will become one of the state’s larger pools of money dedicated to funding early-stage companies the United States and Canada. The investor behind First Green is New York-based private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which has more than $30 billion assets in management. Warburg also has invested in medical device companies with roots in Minnesota, including eV3 and Tornier. The new fund, which will be led by Cameron and local venture capitalist Tom Erickson, is welcome news for Minnesota at a time when entrepreneurs have struggled to raise money. Venture capital investment in 2010 dropped to its lowest level in 15 years, causing some Minnesota companies to leave the state in search of more capital.”
Minnesota “native” Diablo Cody has a new movie opening this weekend. At the Strib, Colin Covert writes: “ ‘Young Adult,’ the new collaboration from ‘Juno’ director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, shares some stylistic notes with their earlier effort. It’s set in Minnesota, features a pop-saturated soundtrack (including the Replacements), a woman-child stuck between adolescence and adulthood, and a droll appreciation of daily life in suburbia. Yet it’s a step in a new direction, both for the creative team and for movies, a mature and humane comedy centered on a misanthropic female antihero. Think of it as ‘Juno’s’ wicked stepsister.” I’m in.
Today in Bachmannia: Days after essentially dismissing Our Gal as “a worker bee,” Donald Trump is accusing her of being “disloyal” … to him. The AP reports: “Trump is questioning Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann’s loyalty after she repeatedly sought his advice but then chose to skip a debate he is hosting. Trump told Fox Business Network on Friday it amazes him Bachmann would meet with him four times and phone for his guidance, only to snub his Dec. 27 debate in Iowa. Only former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum have agreed to attend. Trump says he might scrub the debate without more candidates.” Maybe Gary Busey and Meatloaf could sit in for Bachmann and Rick Perry?