Thursday, July 31, 2008
True is moving to a new domain. Alas, all the 550-plus old posts will have to stay behind but friends can always come back here to http://www.truenorthgm.blogspot.com to enjoy them all over again or use the labels to look up all entries under a topic of interest.
In future, you can also look to more changes, such as hiring an editor and spending more time on research and investigation as we seek alliances with other progressive blogs and websites across Minnesota and nationwide.
This sea change began after True attended the National Conference on Media Reform in Minneapolis in June and was inspired by Bill Moyers, Dan Rather, Arianna Huffington, Naomi Klein, Louise Erdrich, Amy Klobuchar, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Jonathan Adelstein, Medea Benjamin, Byron Dorgan, Keith Ellison, Amy Goodman, Caroline Fredrickson, Robert Greenwald, Joel Kramer , John Nichols, and a hundred more progressive media luminaries who came together with 3,500 bloggers and activists to generate a truly independent and free press on the Internet as the print media is dying, strangulated by big corporate owners. The Owners have two agenda items: 1) suck the newspapers dry to feed huge proft margins and 2) get rid of all the best, most experienced journalists and replace them with Infotainment and Lite News so that nobody out there can possibly get any real news.
So, please, old friends, keep in touch with the New True at http://www.truenorthgm.com/ as we work toward an improved web site and more news coverage.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Some recent letters about the Friends in the papers have delegated the level of public dialogue to somewhere near the scum layer in my septic tank. So, you didn't like the anti- snowmobile- skipping campaign by the Friends? Hmm, neither did True. But, that's only one issue and not a biggie at that, not like devastating the Grand Marais harbor with a mega-marina that would eat up all the RV Park and campground space for boaters' parking and send all revenue to the DNR. Not like allowing the city to dump toxic landfill in harbor wetlands or overturning the conservation easements adopted to protect the harbor permanently....
All of this, the Harbor Friends have saved us from, us being a public interest that reaches far beyond the nearsighted few who put dibs on the "process" and refused to allow any other public input.
One writer this week brings his old grudge forward as if it is relevant to snomo skipping, sniping at the Friends even though the marina issue has now been resolved by the city in a good way that benefits everybody. The writer conveniently forgets that the process was deeply flawed by rejecting public input, and that there would have been no Harbor Friends without a great outpouring of concern and longing to protect the harbor beloved by city, county and statewide residents.
Another letter writer who doesn't like the Harbor Friends decided to attack the lifestyle of its president, Lonnie Dupre. How mean-spirited, how petty, how unkind, and how inappropriate. Stick to the issues, folks, and stick to the facts.
Public dialogue needs to be respectful and thoughtful. Most newspapers recognize this and have standards for publishing letters. True doesn't only blame the letter writers; the papers ought to have more sense than to publish letters that exceed the bounds of decency and fair play and ignore or deny the reality of a broad public consensus regarding the harbor that belongs to all of us who love it.
Thank you, Friends.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
It's dark as a dungeon, way down in the mines.
Nothing, but nothing, epitomizes the greed of big corporations more than the innocuous-sounding "surface mining" that is destroying Appalachia just to pull more tons of filthy coal from the mountains. Filthy coal, that sends megatons of carbon emissions into the air along with other pollutants, filthy coal that Minnesota Power burns at Taconite Harbor and releases into our airshed, filthy coal that could within a decade or two choke all of us trying to breathe. This we knew, or at least True knew.
But the merger of Cleveland-Cliffs with the Appalachian coal mining company with the Orwellian name of Alpha Natural Resources makes us accomplices. Last year alone in Kentucky, 50 million tons of coal were dredged from the surface of the Appalachian mountain range by, among other methods, cutting off the tops of the mountains and throwing them down into the valleys. The mountaintops are called "overburden." I shit you not.
Compare this with the five million tons of magnetite pellets being produced annually by Northshore Mining, a subsidiary of Babbitt-based Cleveland-Cliffs, now to be known as Cliffs Natural Resources, "A Leading Diversified Mining and Natural Resources Company."
It is time for residents of northern Minnesota to admit their culpability. The mountaintop leveling now supported by the merged company surely ranks right up their with the proposed Polymet copper-nickel mine that will create dead zones in our watershed.
Where is your outrage, North Shore citizens? What will you leave of earth, water and air to your children? Here's a link to the Duluth Tribune story that conveniently glosses over the devastating truth:
Duluth News Tribune | Cleveland-Cliffs announces merger with Appalachian coal company in $10 billion deal
Sunday, July 13, 2008
- Hindu proverb
The guest is a jewel resting on the cushion of hospitality.
- Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe
If ever there was any doubt that summer residents at the RV Park are considered to be second-class citizens, that issue was put to rest by the rude and insulting letters published in both papers last week in response to a reasonable request by park resident Norm Larsen. Norm was speaking on behalf of many others who are themselves expected to quiet down after 10 p.m. but find sleep impossible due to loud music from the Birch Terrace and the Gunflint Tavern.
What insults they were subjected to, simply for a noise complaint that even in rowdy Minneapolis would have resulted in a visit from the police asking that the noisemakers tone it down. Grand Marais is currently considering adoption of a noise ordinance and I Truly hope they will despite "noise" from people who must never have lived in a big city where such ordinances are routine.
Many others besides Norm and the park "guests" (who according to the letter writers don't deserve a voice since they don't pay taxes) either live in or visit Grand Marais because of the beauty of the harbor, the nearby lakes and woods, the shops and art galleries, the folk school, the hiking trails, and a rather endless list of sports and attractions other than late-night entertainment.
As a tourist some years ago, staying at a cottage on the hill in town, I was kept awake by some musicians jamming outside, behind the present-day Gunflint Tavern. In my nightclothes, I followed the noise to the source and to their astonishment, burst in on them wild-eyed and said, "I can't sleep, so could you please STOP."
Why is this not okay? Those who break the peace and silence that most "guests" come to enjoy ought to be the ones to compromise. Surely there is a way to mitigate sounds: keep doors and windows closed, don't use loudspeakers, quiet down at a reasonable hour OR install soundproofing. This didn't used to be a problem. True himself has attended concerts at both venues that did not impinge on the surrounding tourists and resident families.
Lots of families with young children all over the residential parts of town can hear open-air noises from near the lake; sound carries. The burden is on the noisemakers; the great majority of "guests" or tourists or summer residents want quiet enjoyment and don't need to stay up half the night partying. That's not why they come to the North Shore.
As for locals all their lives who want to exclude those "guests" they don't like, hello? You are truly cutting off your own noses, my friends.
And the 86-year old lady who sleeps through the night? Hmm. Like many young people whose hearing has been decimated by loud decibels, the elderly commonly have some hearing loss.
But True is most appalled by Stephan Hoglund's jibe about "poverty level" rents paid by RV park visitors. Even were it True it is not NICE, and it would not be said of boat slip renters who pay even less (about $900 per year).
Assuming that the 50 or so RV renters who return year after year stay an average of four-and-a-half months, they pay $500 per month for their space alone, without the house or the electrical hookup. All of those dollars go into the Grand Marais City coffers... If that is "poverty" level, many of us who are year-round residents might be the target of Hoglund's ire for not having enough money to matter.
But it needs to be reiterated that locals don't have the only say in what happens here; if the tourists don't like it they won't come back.
Norm has gotten signatures from 60 or more residents of the RV park as well as neighbors around the Birch Terrace. Let's face it, most people don't like to stay up carousing all night. Surely 10 or 11 p.m. is a reasonable hour to quiet down. Those who want to party on through the night, let them stay indoors.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
-The Fourth Amendment, US Constitution, 1789
Barack Obama won the joyous support of progressives not so very long ago when he promised to FILIBUSTER any attempt by Congress to provide retroactive immunity for telecoms against spying on Americans.
His spectacularly disastrous reversal in the Senate vote today calls into question all of the ways that progressives have believed in Barack, because we wanted so desperately to believe. Even Hillary Clinton voted against telecom immunity today.
Yes, all politicos have to be strategists, as an old campaigner True knows all about that.... But, we Loved Barack because his strategy seemed to be telling the truth and generating support from the vast majority of Americans who have suffered under the lies of the neocons. It diminishes his campaign when he caves rather than stands up for what is right, and what can be more right than the Fourth Amendment?
The MSM have contrived to make it appear that government surveillance without a warrant applies only to the very baddest guys. Barack knows that this is not so but he also suspects that most people don't realize this and so he can get away with reversing a stand that brought him huge support from the Democratic wing of the Dim Party.....
And not only them; the 3,500 journalists at the National Conference on Media Reform believed in Barack's promise to protect the Fourth Amendment. Every single one of us understood what was at stake and we all believed Barack would stand up for the Constitution even if he had to cave on some issues in order to get elected.
Every single one of us who were there, from Bill Moyers down to the lowliest journalist like True, feel betrayed. Barack had a chance to stand up and be counted for something that the vast majority of Americans believe in: the sanctity of privacy, the home as castle.
The Repug neocons have sold the FISA surveillance by telecoms in several ways, mostly by denying that surveillance creeps into our homes in ways never imagined by the founders, but also by insinuating that anybody who is spied deserves to be, and that YOU and I have NOTHING to HIDE.... depending on who raises or lowers the bar. Who is listening and to whom? The answer, well-documented though you will NEVER see it in a MSM story, is that the National Security Agency is listening to EVERY conversation that you and I make by phone or email. Yes, modern technology permits them to do this.
True doesn 't care, True follows Her mandate to peaceably address grievances in the First Amendment and takes Her role in a Free Press very seriously.
So, who cares? Well, friend, you ought to, perhaps. You have been led to believe that only the bad guys are spied on and even if you are spied on, you have nothing to hide, right?
Don't be so sure. They go by code words in your phone conversations: did you ever say you are sick of America these dahys? Or anything mildly critical?
It never was intended -- OR EVEN IMAGINED -- that every single phone or email conversation would be monitored by paid spies of the government.
Bushcos are bragging that they WON a big victory and it is True.
Barack is/was our leader and we adored him, but we adored him BECAUSE he spoke truth to power in this essential, critical issue of the Fourth Amendment. When he doesn't do that, how can we trust him to do all the other things he promises?
-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
called the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1789
"Go now, and tell it on the mountains and in the cities. From your Web sites and laptops,tell it. From the street corners and the coffee house, tell it. On campus and at the mall, tell it. Tell it at the synagogue, sanctuary, and mosque. Tell it. Tell it where you can, when you can, and while you can. Tell America what we need to know--and we just might rekindle the patriot's dream."
-Bill Moyers, keynote address
National Conference on Media Reform
Minneapolis, June, 2008
Cook County is blessedly free of corporate-dominated media. Oh ya sure, the News Herald is owned by a media group but it's not Fox, not Murdoch, not even a very big player in the control-of-information game that was invented by the neocons who now control all three branches of the U.S. government--at which the founders would turn over and rise up from their grave to peaceably assemble and protest.
Lucky, yes, but well-served for the 21st century? True says no. Mind you, True is only a humble, ragtag collective. But She formed in response to a gap between the grapevine and the published Word a couple years back when Grand Marais was being invaded by Big Developers. That issue was happily resolved, to the benefit of most if not all.
New issues emerge, however, in our 21st century where technology daily changes the nature of the "press" even as most information is not now printed but rather published in cyberspace. And our backward local "press" have not joined the free and open Internet where anybody, anywhere can google something like "Poplar River impairment" and get all the published news articles from the local angle. Well, once we could get it from the News Herald but now it has gone private and you have to sign away your life story and pay money just to see an article. As for the Star, they are SO 20th century, you just have to save a copy of every paper.
And even here in our cozy little county our media have more serious limitations than Internet access. Let's name them:
The Star, the News Herald and WTIP are beholden to advertisers. Once the News Herald did editorials about issues in Cook County but now, nobody does.
WTIP is the emerging leader in comprehensive and substantive news coverage. They do a great job, covering issues and meetings that neither paper seems to manage to attend or explore.
But nobody gives us a big picture, nobody tries to put it all together (even inadequately, which would be a start), nobody fills in the gaps between the gossip mill and the deep truth.
Outsiders, even summer residents, can read and listen to every word but they still can't figure out what is really going on. That's partly because covering meetings, the basic stuff of the three branches of media, doesn't tell the stories but only describes the meetings.
OK, let's get specific, with a couple of examples.
1) The new major issue in Cook County is the big plans for development of Lutsen Mountain into an Aspen-like monstrosity. While this huge proposed travesty of the Cook County development ordinance looms large as an even greater threat than turning Grand Marais into a huge marina with Disney condos, there is scarcely a peep about it in the news.
2) Directly related to the Mountain Megalomania is the impairment of the Poplar River and the big misinformation being disseminated freely in both papers by--you guessed it--the OWNERS of Lutsen Mountain, who call themselves the "Poplar River Mangement Board." The irony here is that although these guys could well afford to BUY a page in both papers, they got it for free, in direct conflict with the policies that opinions and letters be strictly limited in word count. True will be exploring the Poplar River issues, trying to sift Truth from Sediment, in future posts.
But the point is, nobody else is looking at the big picture here, or taking any kind of a stand. Certainly not the county board which dances around and dodges with silly stuff about the legality of a special tax district that would force other Poplar River landowners to pay for the damage wreaked by the Lutsen Mountain owners, or the Lutsen Town Board that agrees to anything they want.
And here is the great failing of the media: what the Founders feared most when they wrote the First Amendment: that people can't make informed decisions without all the information. Both papers have printed full-page ads purporting to be "facts" by Lutsen Mountain owner Tom Rider. NOBODY has bothered to do any fact-checking.
Editorials have two purposes: one, to engage a public discussion and two, to bring a truthful perspective to the slipshod, piecemeal and disconnected stories that make up the daily news. We badly need them here, even without Rupert Murdoch's blockade of any facts at all.
Need your help!! Please publish and broadcast to our community
AARP/MN estimates that there are 64,000 Minnesotan's who are eligible
to claim the Stimulus payment from the Federal government and have
not yet done so.
Please, if you know someone, who is retired or is living on a limited income,
and for this reason does not normally file a Federal Tax return,
have them contact Harriet Walsh (387-1367) or Chuck Flickinger (475-2776)
so that we may help you with this matter -
Many people who do not earn enough income to file and pay taxes think
they do NOT qualify
for the Stimulus payment, however
* BUT all you need to qualify is $3000 of earned income, OR,
* $3000 of social security, disability, SSI, or
Veteran benefits to qualify
Thank you all for your help
I am Chuck Flickinger
187 Whippoorwill Lane
Hovland MN 55606
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Ya sure, it probably isn't that good for the fish. BUT, what about those big boats and their ballast? What about the, excuse me, detritus left behind by every single motorized vehicle? What about the city itself and its failure to clean up waste in the harbor?
Hey, we are talking about only a few hours per year at most. How much environmental damage can that do?
As for the conservation easement, which True soundly supports, that has been repeatedly violated by city and developers alike. So why pick on these little kids who just want to have a little fun?
True, it is not my idea of a fun fest, but I don't need to agree with everything that everybody wants to do. This seems relatively harmless and enjoyed by a lot of folks.
Another big issue at play here is the hubris of Homeland Security, who has now taken over the formerly friendly and service-oriented Coast Guard. They claim to own the harbor! This raises my hackles; it would never have happened when the Coast Guard was simply the Coast Guard and not an outpost of the heavy-handed Homeland Security, home of the Unitary Executive.
Plummer's letter shows that some Coast Guard personnel were willing to approve the skipping permit. This apparently got nixed at a Higher Level.
Harbor Friends, please lighten up. Coast Guard emissaries of the Homeland Deciders, please remember that WE remember you fondly as partners in protecting our harbor, not as the Heavies who Rule Jurisdictions.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
At the same time there were stories about the local delegates to the Dim and Repug annual love-fests.
Hey, politics is no longer a ball game, if it ever in fact was. Politics is war, at least since the 1980's when a group of Machiavellan plotters later known as "neocons" hatched up a battle plan to take over the US government permanently. Soon they also hooked up with the then-toothless "Moral Majority" and combined the advantages of wealth, power and a supposed channel to God to build a permanent one-party government. A government not of the people, by the people and for the people, but of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.
They have all-but succeeded. They have bought two presidential elections and brought to power a fool who is also a willing tool of his ultra-right, ultra-rich buddies from Yale and Texas oil.
They have decimated the middle class by outsourcing jobs and attacking unions, made college education an unaffordable luxury for many, slashed public school funding, pandered to big corporate interests to the detriment of health and well-being, created new classes of homeless people and near-poor, stacked the courts with their far-right-wing appointees, squandered the future of our children with overwhelming debt for their stupid wars-for-oil while also destroying thousands of young people's lives who idealistically wanted to serve their country after 9/11, made us the most hated people in the world, allowed and even encouraged big corporations to take over the media so the people would never get the real news, condoned torture and spying on all Americans, created a new Big Brother called "Homeland Security" that makes J. Edgar Hoover look like a pussycat, and tried to dismantle Social Security and Medicare.
Perhaps worst of all, these rich-and-powerful morons have probably doomed the earth to unmitigated disaster by denying global warming despite the melting of Artic permafrost, promoting environmental devastation in ever more invasive mining and lifting of regulations to protect air, land and water. This list actually only scratches the surface of the terrible damage done to the world by the neocons and their tame but hateful Religious Right.
This is war, war against the American people, waged by the party that controls the White House, the judiciary and even the Congress despite the 2006 election mandate to throw the suckers out. Pelosi, Reid, and the Blue Dog Dims don't have the stomach or the gumption for the hardball tactics that they COULD employ to bring democracy back to America.
Barack Obama has been voting party-line lately, too, for funding the Iraq war for another year, for giving amnesty to the big telecoms that were spying on our emails and phone calls...
I grew up in a world where the parties jousted and fenced, but had basic respect for the two-party system, the checks & balances of the Constitution, and yes, Truth, Justice and the American Way.
I was a "Nixonette" who later came to love JFK. I went to DFL bean feeds. It was all good fun in those days, until one party started assassinating the charismatic leaders of the other party.
Now it is war. Gov. Plenty has reduced taxes on the rich and replaced them with horrendous fees and sales taxes paid by the poor. He has refused to rebuild our failing infrastructure and bears direct responsibility for the 35W bridge collapse. He is angling for a high place in a McCain administration. He's a snake and also a seller of snake oil and he's looking out for Number One with every photo-op.
Please do take the time to read this excellent and as always well-researched article by Seymour Hersh that appeared in today's issue of The New Yorker magazine.
Possibly the forced resignation of Admiral Fallon in March, head of US Central Command in Iraq and Afghanistan, raised your eyebrows as it did mine. Admiral Fallon had expressed misgivings about an attack on Iran.
Hello, folks, it's deja vu Iraq all over again.... the secret shenanigans, the cooked intelligence reports, the public lies, and, voila! a new war, just in time for the 2008 elections.
True wrote to Rep. Oberstar with concerns about the recent resolution in the House (H. Congr. Res. 362) that would facilitate The Unitary Executive's fast track to war by declaring Iran to be a threat to peace and stability in the Middle East. Oberstar wrote to True that he will be thinking hard about whether to vote for it and he also said he is opposed to war with Iran as he was to war with Iraq. So, what's to think about?
On the same page, the Israelis are also making noise about attacking Iran. Now THAT would be a biblical situation so longed for by the end-times folks, would it not? The Israeli right joins the unholy American alliance of the Christian Right with the Big Oil Rich in a new Armageddon? Or Apocalypse? Because we can be sure of one thing: a war with Iran will unleash a world war like nothing we've ever seen.
Oh, the loose cannon? Of course that is King George the Dubya. The loaded gun? You guessed it, Darth Cheney. And Bomb-bomb-bomb Himself? That's the Repug presidential candidate who knows he won't win unless the goofy voters are rallied round the flag again.
Here's the link:
Preparing the BattlefieldThe Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran. - CommonDreams.org
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I'm writing to comment on the troubled and sad column by Mitch Dorr in this week's News Herald, "The Death of Faith, Family and Country." I have some sympathy for Mr. Dorr, as I too recall a time in America that I think was better than today, but I'm not willing to blame the changes on "intolerant intellectuals," radical politicians, or Muslims. Also, methinks I have heard the tune he is singing before, on right-wing talk shows and in emails that sometimes come my way--such as naming Barack Obama a Muslim terrorist and other nonsense claiming to be "God's truth."
I know from Mr. Dorr's other writings that he is a good and loving family man and I don't mean to attack him in any way. But I do feel an urgent need to put forth an alternative view of religion and society.
I want to address the parts of Mr. Dorr's column about religion and try to infuse a dose of historical fact-checking. One of my personal regrets about modern society is the dismal failure of our schools to teach history. When I was a child in the 1950's we were rigorously taught to understand the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We studied the Revolutionary War and we read the speeches by Washington and Jefferson and the other so-called "founding fathers." Back then we had no problem that there were no founding mothers.
The first thing to remember is that the men who devised the Constitution were, yes, mostly Christians (in fact mostly Episcopalians) but they were even more firmly for freedom of religion, the right to worship or NOT worship as anyone may choose. They were best termed "deists" rather than Christians, however, as followers of the "Enlightenment" philosophies of Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire promoting individual liberty and equality. Of course they were referring to the equality of white men, and several were slave owners but in their time they were visionaries.
Several of them spoke quite firmly on the issue of religion and government, for example:
"I believe in one God, Creator of the universe...That the most acceptable service we can render Him is doing good to His other children...As to Jesus..I have some doubts as to his divinity..."
"Every man ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of..."
"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."
"That religion, or the duty we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience."
"The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed."
(original wording of the First Amendment, 1789)
In short, the founders were clear and adamant about protecting the rights of all to worship as each one chooses. The Religious Right have made an issue of actual non-issues like worship in public schools or government buildings.
Granted, the founders never specifically forebade worship in public buildings because they never foresaw free public education for all, the great immigrations of many races and creeds that would re-make America in centuries to come, or that one day some people might feel excluded by a government display of one religious viewpoint such as the Ten Commandments. Nonetheless, they foresaw that there would be possibilities they couldn't cover, and so laid down the principle of religious neutrality in the brilliant First Amendment.
But ironically, what has been decreed in the past is subject to change under those same principles laid down by the founders.
And so, a "Unitary Executive" (anathema to the founders), a judicial system stacked to favor the rightest of the right wing, and a gutless Congress have conspired with the right-wing corporations that buy votes, that control our media and that are supported by the Christian right to perpetrate untruths about the role of religion in America.
The right to worship in government buildings and display the Ten Commandments smacks of a state religion. Or, why not the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism instead? Why not face Mecca and chant?
Mr. Dorr, it was not about keeping you from your Christian worship, at home, at church or within the community, but rather about respecting those who are not Christian that the founders had in mind when they decreed there would be no mixing of religion and government. They understood only too well how easily any religious group may drive "unbelievers" to become second-class citizens, refugees, or victims of genocide, as in recent times we were appalled to witness in Nazi Germany.
Genocide, by the way, proceeds unabated today in many parts of our lawless corporate dominated world. Our aid is urgently required and yet the Religious Right is silent.
In Cook County, Christians have many forums of expressions, unlike urban areas. There is a religion page and a column by a minister in both weekly papers and these are exclusively Christian. There are Christmas pageants and activities at school. Perhaps, you say, this does not matter because everybody in Cook County is a Christian? Not so. I am not.
On the other hand I am more than happy to read the thoughts of Christian ministers, SO LONG AS other voices are also heard equally (or at least occasionally). Such as columns about Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, or my own faith of Hinduism which embraces the teaching of the saints and sages of all religions.
And for those who can't bear to make it through the school day without prayer, you can always pray silently, pray with your heart and mind if not your mouth. Pray while taking tests or eating lunch.
The commonality among religious faiths is what tolerance is all about, and tolerance is the very foundation of a free and just society. I don't know how we can co-exist with one another in harmony without it.
If you seriously study Islam you will find its teachings not very different from those of Christianity. The Islamic fundamentalists who believe in jihad or holy war are not all that different from the Christians who slaughtered Muslims during the Crusades.
Any who kill in the name of religion are not practicing the great moral and universal truths of their faiths. The similarities have always been apparent to great religious leaders like the Dalai Lama, Pope John XXIII, Gandhi and Mother Teresa as well as humbler students of comparative religion, like my personal hero, Bill Moyers.
Shortly after reading Mr. Dorr's column, I chanced to read a speech by Moyers made at Union Theological Seminary in 2005 on receipt of the President's Medal, their highest award. Bill is a devout Christian. He begins his speech by, like Mr. Dorr, looking back to happier times when he was growing up but in a very different vein: "At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state. I still do."
Bill goes on to describe the First Amendment as "a remarkable arrangement honoring 'soul freedom'--the inviolate right of each of us to believe and worship as our conscience determines, in a society that honors freedom over conformity." He sees that fundamental right at risk in the rise of a new religious movement that is based in the Republican party, well-funded and organized, and resolved on a "sectarian crusade for state power." "The religious right has become the dominant force in America's governing party," he said, and thereby also complicit in "upholding a system of class and race in which the rich thrive and the poor barely survive."
"This is the crux of the matter: to these believers there is only one legitimate religion and only one particular brand of that religion that is right; all others are immoral or wrong. They believe they alone know what the Bible means."
Bill concludes, "As I look back on the conflicts and clamor of our boisterous past, one lesson about democracy stands above all others: bullies--political bullies, economic bullies and religious bullies--cannot be appeased; they have to be opposed with courage, clarity and conviction. This is never easy. These true believers don't fight fair."
Well, this says it all to me, Mr. Dorr, and it is why I feel obliged to take issue with your view of MY country as a CHRISTIAN country while to me it is still, if precariously, a FREE country.
"Kindness is my religion."
-The Dalai Lama
Thursday, June 26, 2008
show details 10:38 AM (9 hours ago)
"the rest of the story" about the sulfide copper-nickel mining industry
being proposed for northeastern Minnesota.
Subject: sulfide mining
Lake County Chronicle
An inquisitive group of about 45 Lake and St. Louis County residents gathered last week at the Two Harbors Community Center, anxious to hear "the rest of the story" about the sulfide copper-nickel mining industry being proposed for northeastern Minnesota.
Local mass media has painted a rosy picture of jobs and economic growth coming from this new kind of mining. Not surprisingly absent in the mining propaganda are the grim realities of the toxic pollution problems inherently associated with the mining of sulfide ore bodies and the legacy of public-funded clean up costs to taxpayers, which number in the billions of dollars nationwide. Sulfide mining, also called non-ferrous metallic minerals mining and copper-nickel mining, is "not your father's mining". Its environmental impact greatly exceeds that of the iron and taconite mining we have all grown up with. Sulfide ore bodies, in which trace amounts of valuable metals are embedded, once exposed to air and water, generate sulfuric acid. Once this chemical process (Acid Mine Drainage) starts, it cannot be reversed and will continue for hundreds, and more likely thousands of years. Sulfuric acid runoff from the massive volume of waste rock piles and strip mine pits will leach into our surface waters and groundwater if not effectively controlled and treated. This kind of control has not yet been demonstrated. A metallic sulfide mine has never failed to pollute its watershed.
Our good neighbors in Wisconsin have found an effective control measure for sulfide mining. They have legislatively enacted a moratorium that will permit sulfide mining only after it has been demonstrated that it has been done elsewhere safely for 10 years and that such a mine has been closed for 10 years without any negative aftereffects. So far no company has been able to meet the criteria of this law. Minnesota has not yet adopted this kind of caution to protect our environment.
A new Canadian mining company, PolyMet is presently in the permitting process with Minnesota's DNR, including an environmental impact statement (EIS) which is due out soon, to be followed by a brief period of public input. The proposed mine site is just outside of Babbitt MN, and surrounded by the Partridge River, a Lake Superior tributary. If PolyMet is allowed to proceed, it will set off a ripple effect, with many other mining companies ready to pursue prospects of their own. These new mining prospects will expand mining into new areas of the Arrowhead country, including the Spruce Road area near Birch Lake, less than 1 mile from the BWCA. Settled areas such as the Bassett-Fairbanks community, could be next, with more than 9000 acres of 50-year mineral rights leases recently purchased from the state in that area.
Even though our iron mining industry is healthy, our politicians are anxious to bring even more non-diversified non-sustainable industrial growth to Minnesota's Arrowhead. Rep. James Oberstar has introduced a bill in the House to facilitate the sale of 6,700 acres of Superior National Forest land to PolyMet, without waiting for the results of the EIS, and without possibility of appeal of its authority or provisions. The bill, HR4292, sets a dangerous precedent of sale of such a large parcel of national forest land to a foreign, private industry without public input.
North Shore Watershed Watch and ACTNOW, the groups which organized this meeting, believe that the environmental problems such an industry would bring to our water-rich environment are not being adequately addressed or shared with the public. After viewing the evening's presentation, most of those in attendance, including residents who traveled from Brimson and Ely areas, agreed and were looking for ways to express their anger and frustration.
Other questions coming from the group which should be considered in deciding about the future of this industry in our state were: how long are the jobs generated locally likely to last? Do domestic or foreign companies stand to profit most from extraction of these minerals? Where are the markets for the minerals – we all use them, but would these be used domestically or go to China, India, etc.? What is the rush – the minerals aren't going anywhere are they? There will still be a market for them after however many years it takes to find out if they can be mined safely. Has there been an energy budget proposed for this industry? Given the rising cost and diminishing supply of energy, will it have to compete with the taconite industry for energy? And the taconite industry requires clean water – will they be working at cross purposes on that front too? You mean, I can't run over a cattail with my ATV, but a Canadian mining company can destroy a thousand acres of wetlands? So, this is like a grand experiment with our forests and water resources?
Will the financial benefit to today's generation be at the expense of tomorrow's generation? Only our descendants' will be able to answer that question.
Two Harbors MN
I am a citizen of Cook County that has been attending the water skips activities in the Grand Marais harbor during various times of the year. I am greatly disappointed in the city council’s decision to not allow this event any longer. I feel that not enough research and time was spent looking into this topic before a decision was made.
The city may not have known that permission was needed from the Coast Guard to have the water skips, but we did. We have worked with them the previous 2 years to make sure it was a safe event that followed their guidelines. We followed their 30 min rule about retrieving a sunken snowmobile, we followed their rules regarding fire extinguishers and buoys attached to our sleds. We even made sure to stay in the area that was roped off for us and to not get to close to the many people who came to enjoy this event. We will now work to try and get our activity back, and I think that the city council should work with us. There is nothing for anyone over the age of 15 do during Fisherman’s Picnic, and now that the water skips aren’t happening, I have absolutely no reason to go downtown or spend any money. This event not only brought local people into town to watch it, but it also brought new people into Cook County who wanted to partake in this event. It also drew more people than any other event during Fisherman's Picnic down to watch. Let's all work together and get this great asset to Fisherman's Picnic back!!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Oberstar's HR 4292 is a "sellout": Selling Superior Forest land to Polymet for its disastrous proposed copper-nickel-palladium mine near Hoyt Lakes and within the Duluth area watershed:
Please link to this Duluth Tribune story by John Myers, who has written extensively on this issue, and let Rep. Oberstar know this sale of forest land to a private mining company with intent to destroy the environment is unacceptable.
On the Internet
Oppose Rep. Oberstar's HR 4292 Bill Superior National Forest Land Adjustment Act of 2007 This bill would sell 6,700 acres of Superior National Forest public land to PolyMet, a Canadian mining company. The main purpose of this bill is to avoid Federal environmental protections for public land near the BWCAW!
Bill sells Superior National Forest land to Polymet
John Myers Duluth News Tribune
Published Friday, June 06, 2008
The federal land is precisely where the company hopes to mine for copper, nickel, platinum and palladium as early as next year.
It would be the first major sale of Superior Forest land to a private company.
The bill, HR 4292, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., has not advanced in any committee.
Without legislation, the Forest Service is prohibited from selling any land to a private party, though exceptions are made for tracts smaller than 10 acres, said Jim Sanders, supervisor of the Superior National Forest.
Instead, the Forest Service usually trades land with property owners. The Forest Service has been negotiating with Polymet for about a year to exchange the land for other land in or near the Superior National Forest, Sanders said. But a land exchange of this size is more cumbersome, forcing Polymet to find multiple willing sellers, bargain over price and acquire purchase agreements.
The legislation would require the Forest Service to use money from the sale to buy private land of equal value in or near the Superior National Forest boundary. The bill exempts the land sale from a separate environmental review, but supporters note that an environmental review of the mining project is under way.
Supporters say the bill simply speeds up the process of trading the mine land for other forested land.
“The legislation gets us to the same end, the same result as a land exchange,” Sanders said. “It’s the same value, the same appraisal process, whether it’s a sale or exchange.”
Selling the land directly to Polymet probably would speed up the process by a year or so because it avoids the environmental assessment required with a land exchange and allows the Forest Service to deal with directly with willing sellers.
“We think it avoids a lot of duplication on the environmental assessment. … And it saves a lot of time and effort for both us and the Forest Service,” said Latisha Gietzen, Polymet vice president of public, environmental and government affairs.
Mineral rights vs. land ownership
Sanders said the Forest Service purchased the land from U.S. Steel in the 1930s but has never owned the mineral rights below the surface. Polymet controls those mineral rights.
Polymet officials say they had been moving ahead with mining plans, assuming their mineral rights “superseded” surface ownership, Gietzen said. Regional U.S. Forest Service officials last year informed the company that they didn’t hold the same legal opinion.
Rather than battle it out, the two sides agreed on the legislation to sell the land, Gietzen said. But if that fails, the company still could try to sue the government to gain access to the minerals.
“We certainly can challenge their opinion. … But nobody wants to go that route,” Gietzen said.
Because the 6,700 acres is surrounded by mining-related activities — a railroad to the south and an active taconite mine to the north — Sanders said it makes sense to sell the land and use the proceeds to buy other, more environmentally sensitive land closer to the heart of the forest.
The forest covers more than 3 million acres; about 2 million of that is owned by the federal government. There are hundreds of tracts of private, state and county-owned land within the forest boundaries.
Sanders said he is eying private land in the Kawishiwi River area, near Trout Lake, the Fernberg corridor and near Mud Lake, where landowners are willing to sell and where “it makes sense to consolidate our holdings.”
But critics of copper mining in the north woods say the legislation seems to offer a special deal to the mining company.
The land in question includes undeveloped forest and 1,200 acres of wetlands, said John Doberstein of Duluth, chairman of the Mining Without Harm committee of the Minnesota Sierra Club. The bill was introduced in December with no announcement.
“Not only does the bill exempt them from doing an Environmental Impact Statement [on the sale], it also sets a dangerous precedent of taking public land and transferring it to a private company for their profit without any public input,” Doberstein said. “This really seems to fast-track the land sale for the convenience of the company, without any regard whether this is the right thing to do with the forest.”
Critics say that copper mines in other areas of the world have almost always brought extreme environmental problems.
John Schadl, an Oberstar spokesman, said the bill was introduced at the request of the Forest Service and Polymet to speed the company toward mining operations.
“It’s an effort to expedite the process but still do it in an environmentally sound way,” Schadl said. “And the bill as it is now [will] not be the same bill that moves. … There will be some changes.”
No Senate version has been introduced yet.
Congressional action to sell national forest land to private parties is not unheard of, Sanders said. About a dozen such bills have been passed in the past decade, he said.
Polymet would be Minnesota’s first copper-nickel mine. But Polymet is only one of several companies eyeing rich deposits of copper, nickel, platinum and palladium under northern Minnesota forests and lakes. The interest is being sparked by record-breaking prices for those minerals and new technology that make it easier to separate copper from other rock.
Polymet is the farthest along toward developing those minerals and has purchased land, processing equipment and buildings from the former LTV Mining site near Hoyt Lakes. The company’s proposed open pit mine on federal property is several miles away toward Babbitt and would be connected by railroad to the processing plant.
Alert on HR 4292: Superior National Forest Land Adjustment Act of 2007
HR 4292 mandates a sale of approximately 6,700 forested/wetland acres of Superior National Forest land near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, to PolyMet, Inc., a Canadian company hoping to open the first metallic sulfide copper strip mine in Minnesota. The U.S. Forest Service owns the surface rights to the land, but not the mineral rights. The underlying purpose of this bill would be to benefit the mining company by eluding steps in the standard land exchange process which includes public comment and environmental review.
Progressing with land transfer before completion of the environmental process
According to HR 4292, the U.S. Forest Service would be given required to sell 6,700 acres of public land to PolyMet before completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act (1969) and negates the purpose of the EIS, which is to allow for disclosure of environmental impacts of an action and for public input. There is an existing process for the Forest Service to exchange lands with private companies but exchange takes place after review that is open to the public in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement. This bill would circumvent that existing process.
This bill would also require the U.S. Forest Service to assume the responsibility for wetland replacement credits over a ten year period. The Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with the Forest Service, is responsible for assessing impacts and mitigation alternatives for wetlands as part of the PolyMet EIS process. In addition, the Wetland Conservation Act of Minnesota is intended to prevent further loss of wetlands within the State. Thus HR 4292 is contrary to both Federal and State law.
HR 4292 further disregards public input by specifically denying appeal of the outcome.
Special favors for mining companies
The U. S. Forest Service owns less than half of the mineral estate in the Superior National Forest and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Likewise, the Forest Service lacks mineral rights to many of its lands nationwide. This bill, if passed, could set precedence for the sale of public lands to private mining companies across the country. It would also open the doors for a dozen other mining companies who are currently exploring the Duluth Complex of rocks throughout Minnesota and other sulfide mineral deposits in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These sulfide-bearing rocks encompass an area that extends underneath the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and between Voyageurs National Park and Lake Superior, before dipping down into the southern part of the state.
Ignoring potential harm to the environment
At the same time that a bill designed solely to help PolyMet bypass existing environmental and public disclosure law is being circulated through the halls of Congress, PolyMet is downplaying the potential effects of acid mine drainage. Sulfuric acid is a byproduct of metallic sulfide mining and in all previous mines required perpetual treatment of any affected watershed.
PolyMet spokesmen claim their company is "following all of Minnesota's environmental laws." HR 4292 seems contradictory to this statement.
Action requested Concerned citizens need to contact their U.S. representative, and Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman in opposition to HR 4292. More specifically, citizens can request an explanation from Rep. Oberstar regarding the intention of this bill to circumvent current environmental law, to sell public land for private investment, and to ignore opportunity for public input as part of the environmental impact statement process.
Senator Amy Klobuchar http://klobuchar.senate.gov/
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IEN news release
The Sale of Federal Lands to a Mining Company in the 1854 Treaty Area of Minnesota
Representative James Oberstar from Minnesota’s 8th congressional district has introduced HR 4292 in the U.S. House of Representatives. This act, titled - the Superior National Forest Land Adjustment Act of 2007 – would, require the Secretary of Agriculture to sell certain lands in Superior National Forest in Minnesota to Polymet Mining Company within 180 days of enactment. The act requires:
(1) The sale of 6,700 acres of Forest Service lands;
(2) The first offer for the sale of the lands under this Act is to be made to Poly Met Mining, Inc explicitly for the purposes of strip mining;
(3) Elimination of the requirement for public disclosure and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Compliance under NEPA is usually met by the writing and review of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that informs the Secretary, affected federally recognized Tribes, and the public about possible environmental impacts of a federal land exchange. A major environmental impact will be the mining company dredging or filling with mine waste 1,200 acres of wetlands included in this sale adjacent to the Partridge River, a tributary of the St. Louis River. The St. Louis River flows through the Fond du Lac Indian reservation on it’s way to Lake Superior.
(4) There can be no administrative appeal of the sale.
(5) The sale must take place within 180 days of the enactment of the act.
This legislation would create a precedent by which the Superior National Forest could sell public lands each time a mine gets close to the permitting phase of development. This act relieves the Forest Service from their responsibilities to protect public lands here in Minnesota. This could become a precedent elsewhere each time a federal land agency chooses to ignore it’s mandated management responsibilities on order to expedite mining operations.
Exchanges of federal land routinely happen all over the country. The Bureau of Land management and U.S. Forest Service conduct approximately three hundred land exchanges annually. There is a process delineated in law (the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976) that describes how this happens for both Bureau of Land Management holdings as well as U.S. Forest Service. There is no need to introduce legislation that circumvents existing law. There is a time tested federal process in place that gives the Secretary of Agriculture, the public, and Federally Recognized Indian tribes input into the land exchange process. While this process does not guarantee that all concerns are addressed, it guarantees that concerns are heard. The proposed legislation would take away the right for all citizens as well as other state, tribal, and federal agencies to have their voices heard on this land exchange.
This sale will have, as yet, undetermined impacts on treaty-reserved rights in the 1854 treaty area. There will be both short-term significant environmental consequences in the form of filling or draining approximately 1,200 acres of wetland and long term environmental and water quality degradation in the form of discharge from large waste rock piles. Loss of wetlands coupled with runoff from the mine waste stored on this site can adversely affect water quality as well as other cultural, and natural resources for miles downstream from the mine site. Chemicals from existing iron mines have already been detected in the St. Louis River where it enters the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation.
Let the Minnesota congressional delegation know that there is no need to sell this Forest Service land as proposed in HR 4292; there is an existing land exchange process that should not be circumvented. Let them know that all U.S. citizens and the tribes in the region have a right to express their views on the fate of this land. Let them know that there is an existing process for this type of transaction and that you favor the use of that process.
The author of H.R. 4292, The Superior National Forest Adjustment Act of 2007, is:
Congressman James L Oberstar
Eighth Congressional District of Minnesota
Duluth Federal Building, Room 231
Duluth, Minnesota 55802
TDD: (218) 727-7474
FAX: (218) 727-8270
2365 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
FAX: (202) 225-0699
In the Senate, Amy Klobuchar is considering the introduction of companion legislation:
Senator Amy Klobuchar
1200 Washington Avenue South, Suite 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
For additional information, contact Robert Shimek, IEN Mining Projects Coordinator, 218-751-4967
To the editor:
I am writing to inform readers about H.R. 4292, the Superior National Forest Land Adjustment Act of 2007, which is being sponsored by U.S. Representative James Oberstar. The sole purpose of this bill is to fast track a land sale between the U.S. Forest Service and PolyMet, Inc. in anticipation of the permitting of PolyMet’s proposed metallic sulfide mine near Hoyt Lakes.
The U.S. Forest Service would be given the authority to sell 6,700 acres of public forest land to PolyMet without any environmental review of the sale (which goes against current Federal law) and to assume the responsibility for wetland replacement credits over a ten year period (which goes against current wetland policy). Any administrative appeal would be denied. This bill would specifically help facilitate the permitting process for PolyMet.
The bill, if enacted, would also set a precedent for the selling of public land to private mining companies nationwide, based upon the fact that the U.S. Forest Service does not often hold the mineral rights to its lands.
Considering that PolyMet spokesmen claim they are asking for no favors and are following all of Minnesota’s environmental regulations, it seems a little strange that a bill designed solely for the benefit of PolyMet is currently circulating through the U.S. Congress.
At the same time, PolyMet is downplaying the effects of acid mine drainage, a problem associated with metallic sulfide mines, and which basically requires perpetual treatment. I believe it’s time for area citizens to take a closer look at the effects that the permitting of an entirely new mining industry will have upon the Arrowhead Region, and upon future generations.
Please let your elected officials know that you oppose this bill.
There is a bill in Legislature in Minnesota to allow the National Forest Service to sell, directly to Polymet mining, 6700 acres of Superior National Forest, with no public hearing, no Environmental Impact Statement, nothing. that land includes 1200+ acres of wetlands.
My question is: why would the NFS suddenly, with no notice, place a bill to sell DIRECTLY, with NO public input, land to a mining company, land...that is the publics land?
Incidentally, Polymet intends to, within 12 months, have an open pit mining operation in place and active in that land. Have you seen what damage an open pit copper mine DOES to the earth?
WHY ARE WE ALLOWING THIS?
Contact your fellow environmentalists and please, make this an issue of contention. Its important!!!
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