Friday, November 30, 2007

Social Capital Assessment

Here's a post from Boreal News of interest to all who care about Cook County. The benefits of social capital assessments are multiple and manifold. This theory, already adopted by scholars in many disciplines from evaluation/sociology to architecture and development, advocates for local communities. The idea is to inventory the community assets and then build on or strengthen them instead of the outside developer mentality of slash-and-burn.

Cook County is rich in social capital assets that include communities dedicated to the best interests of citizens and tourists.

Please, friends, if you can spare the time, consider taking part in this most important project that could have incredible impact on the long-term health and well being of our county:

Join us on Thursday, November 29 at 4:30 p.m. at the Cook County
Community Center to plan how this assessment will work in all parts of the
county. There is no charge to us as we are serving as a pilot project
for the U of M Extension. The information will be valuable for decision
makers.Contact the Community Center Extension Program to plan how this assessment will work in all parts of the county. There is no charge to us as we are serving as a pilot project.

We are looking for volunteers from all parts of Cook County to help with a county-wide social capital assessment. We want to set this up so that areas within the counties can determine how well their local
community is doing in terms of cooperating together for mutual benefit. This may differ between Schroeder, Gunflint Trail, or Grand Portage. The time commitment is one training session and getting folks to fill out the assessment in January.

If you are unable to attend the meeting but would be willing to help with the survey assessment in your part of the county, please contact Diane Booth at the Extension office at 387-3015.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

Notes from a nonviolent radical on the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act

Dear readers,

True here. Guess I need to "out" as a radical in my comments on the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. Don't blame all of True; we are a collective like the musical group Anonymous Four. I've included the link to this story about the act passed by the House with virtually no opposition. The wusses don't dare to stand up and be counted. The presidential candidates as well as Speaker Pelosi were conveniently ABSENT.

The spin for this act is something nobody wants to sign on with: citizens who are radicals. I freely admit to being a radical, albeit nonviolent in the tradition of Gandhi. But in a government where the prez says we don't practice torture, when we DO practice torture, we need to ask who is using the violence here. The provisions of this act allow for "research" (read "spying") on anybody who dissents, ANYBODY. Less than one century ago, people were electrocuted and their careers destroyed by McCarthyism. Hearings on "anti-American" activities tarred all dissenters with the same brush. The shameful execution of the Rosenbergs, the black lists of many Hollywood writers and actors, the witch-like persecution of left wingers, probably provided the inspiration for the neocons who control the Bushco in creating this dastardly act.

My question is simple: With all of the existing "Patriot Act" mandates for spying, allowances for torture and "rendition" (meaning "disappearing into countries that torture"), dismantling of constitutional rights, etcetera etcetera etcetera, WHY do they NEED this act? And the only answer I can come up with is: they want to squelch ALL dissent and this act gives them the license.

Read the post:

The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reversal of Endangered Species Rulings

Here's a link to an AP story about the lynx and other endangered species rulings. This is a national, not a local, story but we might be tarred with the Bushie Undue Influence Brush for wanting to exempt private landowners from the strict habitat rules since only nine percent of the county is privately owned.
Read on:

Reversal of Endangered Species Rulings

Oh, look out: here comes the lynx habitat thing again

The fish and wildlife service is reopening the lynx critical habitat issue:
This is because of a determination that the original decison on this and six other rulings was based on politics and not science.

Big Brother is watching Us

Big Brother is watching you

Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Well, actually, it’s a GPS satellite watching every move you make. In the wee hours, however, it truly is a plane flying surveillance through the night, shattering the peaceful silence of our North Shore nights for the last hundred years.

Around town there are lots of new, white unmarked vans but you can recognize them by the “DHS” on their license plates. That means “Department of Homeland Security,” doncha know. Does this make you feel more or less secure?

As for yours truly I don’t really have anything to hide; I put it all in the shop window. I spend my days writing letters and signing petitions in protest against the lawless abuses of the Bush administration: torture, illegal wars of aggression, warrantless surveillance, outright thievery in the name of privatization, dismantling governmental oversight that protects our air, water and food, cutting safety net programs for children, the poor, and the elderly while awarding billions in no-bid contracts to cronies, flouting the Constitution, the list goes on and on.

For me, it’s the principle of the thing: I thought I lived in a country where warrantless spying was illegal and a Man’s House is his Castle. Another president, Richard Nixon, got into big trouble for similar shenanigans but those were different times. Nixon was a pussycat compared to Bush and Cheney. He even dealt with the energy crisis by, gasp, asking Americans to conserve gas and drive more slowly. Too bad he was paranoid, but he didn’t really ever advocate the overthrow of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

So, maybe someday I will be “renditioned” for my opinions but probably not since I am free, white and well over 21. No, it’s the people of color who are targeted by the Border Patrol agents (unless said officers happen to be speeding along the Gunflint Trail and hit a man and a tree in the road). Some people say the agents speed a lot, just because they can. Just reporting the local gossip here.

Our sleepy county is asleep at the wheel here. Where is our righteous indignation, where is our rage? And where are the terrorists sneaking across the Pigeon River?

New True

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Poor Tax: Desperately poor in Grand Marais

Dear New True,
I am writing on behalf of the many near-poor who live in Cook County of whom I am one.
We mange to scrape by or we used to. But the recent cost increases for food, gas, heat and electricity not to mention health care have left use reeling.
I just now paid my electric bill to Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission. I hope the check won't bounce. If my payment is late I am charged a fee of eight percent of the bill. Even in Shakespeare's time this would be considered usury.
I normally receive something from Energy Assistance due to my low income. Last year the amount was cut by more than half, due to the huge numbers of applicants and the refusal of the Bush and Pawlenty administrations to provide more relief.
No matter how much I receive, I don't get any credit from Grand Marais PUC to offset the eight percent penalty. This works out to be a Poor Tax. I noticed this year that if I don't manage to pay what the state considers sufficient they will cut off all of my electric service except for heat and refrigerator.
In my case that would mean I could not do my self-employment w0rk which is the only source of paying my bill. My computer, phone and even my water source require electricity.
Most of us poor are too shy to speak out and I am also. I won't sign my name to this mainly because the PUC could make me a target, a horrible warning who dares to challenge their usury.
But I am an elderly person who has not been able to find a living wage job in Cook County in the wake of Repug iniaitives that give the big tax breaks to the filthy rich.... all of my jobs here have been cut, cut, cut to increase corporate profits.
This is just another impact of a Republican onslaught against poor people and for rich people, I know. And yet, the straw that breaks the camel's back for me is the poor tax of eight percent of my electric bill which no way can I pay on time.
Everything costs a lot more now, a result of our remote place at the tip of the Arrowhead and the challenge of getting goods and services here but also and most importantly on account of the vicious policies of the US government that spends billions on war for oil but nothing on renewable energy.
Hannah Jumana Banana

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Naomi Wolf: The End of America May Happen

Here's a post that I wish all would read, and especially the "young patriots" Naomi Wolf is writing to in her latest book. She despairs that the young are not taught their history in civics classes.
In recent years there has been a synapse gap between the past and the present. The past I grew up honoring: the US Constitution, the rule of law, the checks and balances among the three branches of government, the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus, and even the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness have all been challenged or simply cut off by a renegade administration which considers itself above the law. But worse, this has happened without a peep from the People who cower at their own shadow in the wake of manufactured fears.
The neocons who want an aristocracy of the super-rich, not a democracy, and don't have any scruples about pursuing it joyously seized on 9/11 as a way to destroy our free society.
That would be bad enough, but add to it the engendered debt of trillions for oil-wars to future generations, the reckless damage to the environment by the war machine and corporate profiteers (think about leveling the beautiful Appalachian mountains to get more coal, the dirtiest energy source except spent uranium and that's another story).....
Anyway I don't really want to rant. I would just like for civics classes and plain folks to read and consider the premises in this article:

Naomi Wolf: The End of America May Happen

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Think globally, shop locally

Happy Thanksgiving! As the holiday season officially opens I love to give thanks for the wonderful privilege of living here in Cook County amid the woods overlooking Superior, Queen of Lakes. Lucky, lucky me.
But. This isn't a fuzzy, feel-good post. The choices I made to come and live here include not having the big bucks. I have traded them for the wealth of beauty that surrounds me and don't regret it even though it means I don't have a lot to spend on gifts.
Nonetheless, the dollars I do spend will be recycled back into our local economy. I was shocked last year to read in a News Herald straw poll that most people don't buy their gifts locally.
Well, ya, doncha know, we don't have all the stuff they sell at Toys R Us, Wal Mart, Target and all the other big box stores. For the excellent reason that we don't WANT these stores here. So why the hell would we want to go down to Duluth and Minneapolis, paying huge sums for gas to get there and at the same time squandering oil resources, adding more greenhouse gas emissions to global warming, supporting companies that don't pay a living wage to their workers and rack up profits by exploiting the international poor for cheap labor, while we are basically just buying more junk we don't need?
On the other hand, look at the benefits of shopping here. You might pay a few extra bucks but you have a huge choice of locally crafted gifts, original artwork, books and calendars by local authors, handcrafted chocolates, candies, candles and syrups, as well as unique opportunities to create your own cards and gifts that you won't find anywhere else. Take a class at North House, the Quilt Shop or the Art Colony or Community Education and learn to bake delicious breads or scones, potting, rosemaling, knitting, basket weaving, fabric arts to name only a few.
No time for that? Well, the awesome rounds of holiday arts and crafts shows will kick off this week at the Community Center on Saturday. There are items for every budget by many local artists and artisans.
If for some amazing reason you can't find anything you like, try Johnson Heritage Post, the Art Colony, North House's gift shop, the Hovland crafts sale, or Betsy Bowen's Art Underground sale and many others. The local papers and WTIP 'Community Calendar have all the information about when and where.
This doesn't even mention our wonderful bookstores, art galleries, Joynes Ben Franklin and even our eclectic hardware stores that offer fabulous stuff at reasonable if not big-box prices. When I was a kid about half a century ago there were lots of Ben Franklins but nowadays there is no other place like Joynes for "all your needs and necessities." Hey, if you can't get it in Cook County you and the people on your shopping list just don't need it.
Not to mention, you are supporting your friends and neighbors who like you have chosen to live here and need to earn a living.
May all of your holidays be filled with joy and local products. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Solstice and all the best for a New Year (Hogmanay) which surely has to be better than this one.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Truth hurts

Truth hurts.

The rational rest of us are always entertained by the road rage rants in the local ATV rag on what currently bugs the Cook County ATV Club. But, I for one was hoping for something honest and new this week, like the price of gas making it so much more expensive to rampage. Or, rising outrage around the country about the number of children killed and injured in ATV accidents. Or, the fact that ATVs are getting banned in many parts of the country because of the damage they do to the landscape. Or, closer to home, about the difficulty of, on the one hand, proclaiming total abidance with the law by ATV owners everywhere (and especially here in Cook County), and on the other having to bear the ignominy of working with a club leader charged along with others for shooting from a moving vehicle. It has to be tough to declare just how law abiding the club leadership is, and how you are going to follow the rules and how you are going to police yourselves and know that no one believes a word you say. It is always the case that it’s not your enemies who eventually do you in, it is your friends. Well, the club did tell us the ranks of ATV enthusiasts include a lot of birders. But, let's get back on track.

No, none of those. What was the weekly rail directed at? ... The truth! At least the truth as reported in the recently distributed survey of Cook County residents regarding their attitudes toward ATV travel in the county. Thank you Sustainable Recreation Coalition!

The rag's reaction to the report on the survey was the usual knee jerk, but rather than ride along on the calumnious scribbles of the ATV club's literary wingette, get a copy of the report and have a look at the facts behind it - decide for yourself. The report was clearly based on a professionally conducted blind survey of the opinions of a random sample of Cook County residents. From what I read, the survey was conducted in a totally scientific manner and by a well respected researcher who the ATV industry itself has used, and it was done under the auspices of the University of Minnesota. The bottom line is that it is totally credible.

And, the report itself was, as they say, a fair and balanced presentation of the data contained in the survey. What the report showed is that, contrary to what the ATV club would have us all believe, a significant portion of Cook County residents do not want ATVs running rampant on county roads, etc. The ATV club has often been heard to profess that the majority of county residents favor them in their quest for wide open riding. The survey clearly demonstrates that is absolutely false. Most folks want reasonable restrictions on ATVs and, unlike the ATV club, no one wants the county turned in to an ATV destination. There is a litany of very rational and reasonable opinion on related concerns quantified in the survey and presented in the report, and it is clear that the facts are four square against the mis-information that the ATV club has been spreading. The bottom line is that the ATV club does not have the support they profess. The kind thing to say is that they are delusional.

What seems to particularly jamb the club's carburetors is that the Sustainable Recreation Coalition, the group that paid for the survey, had the temerity to report on it and to do so in a clear, fair and factual manner rather than obscure or distort the facts. Wow. Those four wheeling purveyors of fact and stalwarts of truth just don't get it that the world is not like them and that most of the county does not especially appreciate ATVs.

Not all the results of the survey benefit those who oppose the ATV club's position, but I am sure we all knew that the county is not of one mind on this issue. What we do now know, however, is that the majority of us have not fully inhaled the ATV club's exhaust. For over a year they have been spewing their noxious fantasies about overwhelming support for their pipe dreams of ATVs gone wild. Well, it just ain't so. The clear message from county residents is you can mess up your own yard, but we don't want you to ruin the neighborhood in the process. Hopefully the county commissioners come to the same conclusion. The ATV task force has not served the county well, and this whole issue should never have been given the consideration it has received. The board should not waste any more time on it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lutsen Mountain: the new Aspen?

There's a good reason for the 35 foot height limit for all building in Cook County. We are one of the few areas left in this nation with forests, wetlands, lakes and shoreland, thanks mainly to the fact that only nine percent of the county is privately owned. This keeps out the mega-developers, as does our zoning ordinances.
Look at many places that were once special destinations and now are just overdeveloped McMansions: South Florida, much of Colorado's ski resorts, Door County, Wisconsin--to name only a few.
By requesting a 55 foot building on Lutsen Mountain, Lutsen Mountain Corporation is opening Pandora's box. Once it happens there is no turning back and others will be scrambling to get on the bandwagon: witness the rental condo development fiasco in Grand Marais that finally ended after voters changed the City Council and the housing bubble deflated.
The argument in favor, as I read it, is mainly that higher means a smaller footprint. Surely this is specious. Every time I drive up Highway 61 I can't help but notice the Bavarian Castle owned by The Arnold, governor of over-developed California, perched on overhanging ledgerock for all to see and be awed.
People who come here, our bread-and-butter folks, love that we have kept our wild spaces and limited the size and scope of our developments.
Worst of all, without the questions asked by Lutsen supervisor Diane Parker, this travesty would have passed the town council with scarcely any public process. That's in sharp contrast to the excellent work done by the Lutsen Planning Committee and the U of M Center for Changing Landscapes on the town center and highway/bike trail configurations. Why the discrepancy?
The county's response is lukewarm with Bob Fenwick fussing about how height limits are determined and nobody really wanting to say No to such a big landowner and employer.
Development works best when it follows the guidelines set by open and inclusive public processes. Designs need to first of all preserve and protect our fragile ecosystem, which grows largely on fractured bedrock and is thereby vulnerable to stormwater erosion, non-source point pollution, and most of all over-development.
New True

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The silent sports majority speaks

The results are in for Cook County: most of us don't want to be an ATV destination. We love the peace and silence of the woods and we want to protect, not destroy, the fragile infrastructure that sustains our flora and fauna. This includes our ditches, which serve an important purpose in stormwater runoff and are damaged by big ATV tires.
Here are the numbers, crunched by the U of M Tourism Center with a 56 percent response rate (amazingly high) of Cook County residents:
* 78 percent oppose ATVs on paved roadways.
* 57 percent oppose ATVs on shoulders of paved roadways.
* 65 percent oppose ATV riding in ditches in residential areas.
* 53 percent favor closing most public lands to ATV use.
* 49 percent would confine ATV riders to their own property to minimize damage to public lands.
* 60 percent do not want Cook County promoted as an ATV destination.
A super-majority of residents (71 percent) don't own ATVs and nearly two-thirds don't own snowmobiles.
The U of M report recommends environmental assessments, a "Safe, Quiet and Wild Cook County" tourism task force, proposals for ATV use on private lands and other steps to minimize ATV impact on us silent sports majority.
Request an e-mail copy of the survey from
New True

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Who is he and what was he smoking?

The tragic death of Ken Petersen, whose only crime was being a good Samaritan and cutting up a downed tree on the Gunflint Trail, raises a lot of scary questions about the good old boy network in Cook County.
Ken was killed by a Border Patrol agent who claims he didn't see either the man or the tree blocking the road. What was he smoking?
More to the point, why is his name not released? In any other road accident there is no secrecy. But the Homeland Honchos have their perks, I guess.
Routinely, the state patrol issues tickets whenever there is a road accident, no matter whether anyone is hurt or any property is damaged. When a ticket is issued, the driver gets listed on the Court Report. County Judge Kenneth Sandvik declares that this is totally okay. So, why does a Border Patrol agent get special treatment? Who is this guy?
It's all part of the special privileges granted to "Homeland Security" as I see it. They get to do all sorts of bad stuff because... well, just because they can.
Ken Petersen was an exceptional person, brilliant and good and kind. Yes, accidents do happen, BUT. I know I would never hit a person and/or a tree in the road; if my vision got that bad I would quit driving.
People, ask questions.
New True

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Duluth News Tribune | Water bill becomes law with Senate override: Millions aimed at Northland projects

Our precious water: please read the excellent linked article by Duluth Tribune writer John Myers about how critically the water bill vetoed by The Unitary Executive but approved by Congress after all will impact our environment and our safe and clean waters:

Duluth News Tribune | Water bill becomes law with Senate override: Millions aimed at Northland projects

Monday, November 05, 2007

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar: Congress Will Override Bush Veto

The latest Bush veto affects harbor improvements in Grand Marais as well as many, many significant water infrastructure projects. Thanks to our Rep. Jim and other members of Congress for a first--a veto override--and one that makes our lakes and waterways much safer for the future, for our children. Here's the press release:

Congressman James L Oberstar -- Oberstar: Congress Will Override Bush Veto

Friday, November 02, 2007

White Trash

Dear New True,
Recently I have been letting my foolish young puppy run free in the seasonally-empty hockey rink, where she is safe from wolves, bears and other predators.
Every day when I arrive I find more "white trash." I call it white because the people who dump it are 99 percent white. Yucky cigarette butts by the dozen; where did smokers get the idea they could throw their ugly filter butts that don't break down like organic waste? Not to mention pencils, legos, broken glass, plastic bottles and tin cans, gum and candy and cake wrappers.... Most of this trash could be recycled and none of it is biodegradable. What culprits does that sound like to you?
My guess is, kids partying at night. Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods?
I've seen lots of other evidence that kids see the whole county as their personal trash can. On my private road, for instance, I find beer and pop cans, food wrappers and broken bottles. I even found the remains of a campfire during the fire ban this summer. Or just look at the road ditches. One day I saw a kid snowmobiling down Broadway who tossed a liter-sized plastic pop bottle on the sidewalk.
What is the deal here? Were these brats brought up in a barn? Where are their parents, or did they learn these bad habits from same?
Cook County sells beauty to tourists. Anybody who destroys that beauty deserves to be called to account. Community service is what I suggest, because the parents won't be able to do that for them. I would assign them the job of cleaning up all the white trash after school so at least they wouldn't have time to throw out more.
As for me, I pick up after myself and my dog but not the white trash folks. That just "enables" their bad behavior.
Yours truly,
Pooper Scooper