Saturday, May 31, 2008

Border Patrol-Petersen case story: True salutes Jane Howard

True nominates Jane Howard for the First Place Investigative Journalism in Cook County Award (an apocryphal but still powerful accolade). Her story, "Border Patrol agent seeks court elsewhere in vehicular death case," is a remarkable piece of journalism.
Jane did her homework and did it well, interviewing everybody concerned and taking good notes. Then she assembled the facts she gathered, as well as evidence regarding all those things that we all have been wondering and grieving about: how could it have happened? why did Ms. Weber fail to appear in court? what is her story about why she is not to blame for the death of a beloved resident? what will happen next to offer closure (if not justice) to county residents? are we really the ogres that Ms. Weber claims us to be? is the Border Patrol adequately trained to drive here? do the increasingly large number of agents have a clue about our community? is it appropriate for the DHS to impose Texas border rules on our quiet backwoods?
Well, True might (and has in the past) offer comments on all of the above questions, but the point is that Jane has raised them and brought them to a place where we can now have a community conversation. Ms. Weber has escaped the wrath of our traffic ticket. So it seems we can go ahead and dissect the lingering unanswered questions and sorrow that remain for us living here, that will perhaps never be resolved and yet in the seeking give us some peace of mind.

Don't trust DNR on ATVs

Dear True,

If you are one of those who still trusts the DNR to do the right thing for the environment this webpage should completely eliminate that thought.

Hay Creek ATV damage

The Hay Creek ATV damage site is on an 80 acre parcel of our state land within thousands of acres of Cass County land. Cass County controls the access and refuses to restrict ATV riders access.

On April 4, 2005 I was hiking my favorite trail and photo documenting the massive amount of ATV damage that is taking place on our public lands because of the do-nothing MN legislature and the MN DNR.

I came across severe ongoing erosion caused by ATV riders. The trail is a winter logging trail and is designed to be used only during winter when the ground is frozen. Beavers had dammed a flowage and caused the water to run down the trail as they had done in the past only this time the deep ATV ruts concentrated the flow. Without the root matt to hold the soil it was rapidly eroding into Hay Creek during fish spawning season.

This first series was taken as I walked towards Hay Creek on 4-4-05. It shows only a very small portion of the rutted trail. I have only used a few of the photos in order to speed loading. This spring I took hundreds of similar photos of ATV damage to our forest trails in Cass and Crow Wing County forests. Gross negligence on the part of Cass and Crow Wing County officials and the MN DNR has allowed the creation of literally miles of ruts just like those shown in these photos.

Here's the beginning of the washout next to Hay Creek. The photo was taken looking backwards. It was taken on 4-4-05.

On 4-5-05 I notified the MN DNR and Cass County of the ongoing damage and emailed photos of the site.

Here is what the same site looked like on 4-12-05 seven days after I notified the MN DNR and Cass County.

Still no action from the MN DNR or Cass County was taken to stop the erosion into Hay Creek.

Here is what the same site looked like on 4-21-05 sixteen days after I notified the MN DNR and Cass County..

Still no action from the MN DNR or Cass County was taken to stop the erosion into Hay Creek.

Here is what the same site looked like on 5-4-05 one month later. I brought the MN DNR and Cass County staff to look at the site on that day.

Still no action from the MN DNR or Cass County was taken to stop the erosion into Hay Creek.

Here is what the same site looked like on 7-3-05. Vegetation covers most of the site so the 4 foot deep gully is barely visible.

Still no action from the MN DNR or Cass County was taken to stop the erosion into Hay Creek.

As of January 16, 2006 despite numerous group hugs and agency visits to the site nothing has been done to restore or stabilize this trail from continuing to erode into Hay Creek. I expect that spring runoff and spring rains will continue the process of erosion.

Even though $475,000 sits in the ATV damage account for just this sort of restoration the MN DNR still refuses to use that money. I believe it it so that pro-ATV legislators (Bakk, Dill, Penas, Hackbarth, Saxhaug and Irv Anderson) and certain DNR staff can claim it isn't needed. In 1999 when our very own MN DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten was Representative Holsten he teamed up with then Representative Tom Bakk to push an 11th hour amendment that allowed ATV riders to leave the trail and ride randomly through our forests. That helped create a No Boundaries attitude that can be seen in the ATV trails around closed signs to this day. It's no wonder that ATV riders are destroying our forest trails and wetlands with a so-what leadership like that at the very top of the MN DNR.

I was able to email a question to DNR Commissioner Holsten on MPR Midday. The host asked DNR Commissioner if he regretted pushing the 1999 amendment that allowed ATV riders to ride randomly off trail through out forests. You can hear him tapdance around the question here . Click on the listen button to the left of the image. Then scroll to 11:36 minutes to hear the question and his evasive answer. I doubt that he regrets it and only regrets that people know what he did.

You can add Senator Satveer Chaudhary's name to the Hall of Shame when it comes to supporting irresponsible and destructive OHV use in MN state forests. He is the chair of the Environment and Natural Resource Committee in the MN Senate. His actions and the bill he passed out of his committee puts him in the same league as the scoundrels above.

The MN DNR finally "restored" the Hay Creek ATV damage site. You will see what I mean by "restored" in the following photos. It is PATHETIC. Now they will refer to this site as a success story about how they, the great protectors of the environment rushed to the rescue and made everything right despite great obstacles. The MN DNR and irresponsible legislators like those named above are the obstacles to protecting our state forest from irresponsible ATV riders.

Here are before and after restoration photos of the site.

Before After

The "before" photo was taken well before the erosion was complete. The final gully was 4' deep and up to 11' wide.

Before After

I don't have any good before photos of this part of the trail shown below but as you can see it doesn't matter because the DNR didn't make any attempt to restore this portion of the trail. The majority (90%) of the trail was not touched in the "restoration".

It's no doubt that the DNR was more concerned about saving ATV damage account dollars than restoring the trail.

Cass County has refused to control access to this site even going so far as to place the gate at the east entrance to the area in such a way that ATVs and mudder trucks can go around the gate.

Cass County also refuses to close the west access point even though ATVs are riding in Pistol Lake. These photos represent only a tiny portion of the ATV ruts along the shoreline of Pistol Lake. They are clearly visible from the air and Cass County is well aware of the ongoing damage. The water from Pistol Lake flows into Hay Creek and then to Daggett Brook and finally into the Whitefish Chain before joining the Pine River on it's way to the Mississippi River. Without the cooperation of Cass County Commissioners there is little chance of enforcing any ATV regulations or protecting this site from further ATV damage. They seem to have embraced a slash-and-burn economic development philosophy when it comes to ATV regulation with their stated goal of leaving 90% of Cass County land open to ATV riders.

Unfortunately Crow Wing County has adopted the same reckless position of allowing ATV riders to destroy our trails. It is evident in that we have NO county ordinances that would allow any realistic regulation of these machines despite the fact that Crow Wing County commissioners have had years to write those ordinances.. I have photographed literally miles of deep ATV ruts in Crow Wing County.

Some of those images can be seen at

MN legislature stealing our gas tax dollars to give to ATV riders

Each time you buy gas the ATV riders illegally siphon off 0.27% of the Constitutionally dedicated gas tax that you paid. Each year ATV riders are stealing nearly $2 million from our badly needed transportation fund. It's called a "refund" because supposedly ATV riders cannot use our highway system but ATV riders ARE using our highway system ditches. It also violates the MN Constitution to divert money from our highways and bridges.

The ATV lobby pushed legislation that requires all ATV owners to license their vehicles even if they never leave private property. Then they steal that license money to build ATV trails. It also inflates the numbers of ATVs so that the ATV lobby now uses that massively inflated figure to justify building more trails and prevent any reasonable ATV regulations.

A study was commissioned to find out how much gas tax ATV riders pay and where they ride. After spending our tax dollars to fund the study and collecting all the data the MN DNR looked the other way when 1/2 of the study was left undone. The half that was left undone with the DNR's permission would have drastically reduced the amount of our gas tax funneled into the MN DNR Trails and Waterways. The missing part of the study showed that only 15% of riders use trails on public lands.

In a nutshell the gas tax "refund" is based on the false premise that ATV riders aren't riding in our ditches, massively inflated numbers of ATVs and that 100% of ATV riders ride on public land instead of only 15%.

Gene Larimore from the Jack Pine Coalition finished the second half of the study. Here are the results of his analysis. Gas tax His analysis has never been contested by the MN DNR or the ATV lobby.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mr. True goes to Minneapolis (reprise: Mr. Smith goes to Washington)

Yes! True is going to join his lifelong media heroes in Minneapolis next weekend. Dan Rather, Bill Moyers, Katrina Van der Heuvel and a hundred more who, like the late great Molly Ivins, weren't afraid to speak the truth. For True it is like a Catholic gaining audience with the Pope, like a Daydream Believer as Homecoming Queen, like a lowly sadhaka in the presence of the Dalai Lama.

The National Conference for Media Reform on June 6th through 8th will focus on challenges to that Free Press that the Bill of Rights guaranteed. Nobody ever foresaw Rupert Murdoch, or big corporate takeovers of the formerly free press.

There are huge media issues in Cook County as well as everywhere else.... True hopes to bring the inspiration of the greatest journalists in his lifetime. So important to True, that he will be sleeping in his car.... Hey! It costs $150 per night minimum to stay downtown by the Convention Center.

Your True Correspondent

Cook County: Torture is a moral and a religious issue

Who will stand against torture?

If not me, who? If not now, when? Cook County has more people of faith per capita than almost anywhere. Read this story and take it to your congregations.

Where Is the Outrage?

by Robert Scheer

Are we Americans truly savages or merely tone-deaf in matters of morality, and therefore more guilty of terminal indifference than venality? It's a question demanding an answer in response to the publication of the detailed 370-page report on U.S. complicity in torture, issued last week by the Justice Department's inspector general.

Because the report was widely cited in the media and easily accessed as a pdf file on the Internet, it is fair to assume that those of our citizens who remain ignorant of the extent of their government's commitment to torture as an official policy have made a choice not to be informed. A less appealing conclusion would be that they are aware of the heinous acts fully authorized by our president but conclude that such barbarism is not inconsistent with that American way of life that we celebrate.

But that troubling assessment of moral indifference is contradicted by the scores of law enforcement officers, mostly from the FBI, who were so appalled by what they observed as routine official practice in the treatment of prisoners by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo that they risked their careers to officially complain. A few brave souls from the FBI even compiled a "war crimes file," suggesting the unthinkable — that we might come to be judged as guilty by the standard we have imposed on others. Superiors in the Justice Department soon put a stop to such FBI efforts to hold CIA agents and other U.S. officials accountable for the crimes they committed.

That this systematic torture was carried out not by a few conveniently described "bad apples" but rather represented official policy condoned at the highest level of government was captured in one of those rare media reports that remind us why the Founding Fathers signed off on the First Amendment.

"These were not random acts," The New York Times editorialized. "It is clear from the inspector general's report that this was organized behavior by both civilian and military interrogators following the specific orders of top officials. The report shows what happens when an American president, his secretary of defense, his Justice Department and other top officials corrupt American law to rationalize and authorize the abuse, humiliation and torture of prisoners."

One of those top officials, who stands revealed in the inspector general's report as approving the torture policy, is Condoleezza Rice, who in her capacity as White House national security adviser turned away the concerns of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft as to the severe interrogation measures being employed. Rice, as ABC-TV reported in April, chaired the top-level meetings in 2002 in the White House Situation Room that signed off on the CIA treatment of prisoners — "whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called water boarding. …" According to the report, the former academic provost of Stanford University came down on the side of simulated drowning.

As further proof that women are not necessarily more squeamish than men in condoning such practices, the report offers examples of sexual and religious denigration of the mostly Muslim prisoners by female interrogators carrying out an official policy of "invasion of space by a female." In one recorded instance observed by startled FBI agents, a female interrogator was seen with a prisoner "bending his thumbs back and grabbing his genitals … to cause him pain." One of the agents testified that this was not "a case of a rogue interrogator acting on her own." He said he witnessed a "pep rally" meeting conducted by a top Defense Department official "in which the interrogators were encouraged to get as close to the torture statute line as possible."

That was evidently the norm, according to FBI agents who witnessed the interrogations. As The New York Times reported, "One bureau memorandum spoke of 'torture techniques' used by military interrogators. Agents described seeing things like inmates handcuffed in a fetal position for up to 24 hours, left to defecate on themselves, intimidated by dogs, made to wear women's underwear and subjected to strobe lights and extreme heat and cold."

In the end, what seems to have most outraged the hundreds of FBI agents interviewed for the report is that the interrogation tactics were counterproductive. Evidently the FBI's long history in such matters had led to a protocol that stressed gaining the confidence of witnesses rather than terrorizing them into madness. But an insane prisoner is the one most likely to tell this president of the United States what he wants to hear: They hate us for our values.

Robert Scheer's new book, "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," will be released June 9 by Twelve.

Copyright © 2008 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Untreated wastewater: seven million gallons a year in Tofte and Schroeder

Tofte Schroeder Sewer District gets grants for inspections, fix-up and educational manuals

In Tofte and Schroeder, compliance inspections of Individual Septic Treatment Systems have begun on the approximately 100 lakeshore properties south of Highway 61. These inspections follow up a survey conducted in the summer of 2006 by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency licensed inspector Jeff Crosby. Crosby has been hired jointly by the district and the county to determine whether a system is in compliance or requires repair or replacement.
The inspections are funded by a $20,000 Clean Water Legacy grant to the district from the MPCA. In some cases, to complete the inspections a pumping of the septic tank may be required. The district anticipates having some grant funds available to provide pumping discounts in cases of need. Crosby expects to complete most of the inspections around the beginning of July, when letters will be sent by the county to property owners describing the results.
A recent letter from Leroy Halberg, Cook County Environmental Health Inspector, and Rick Anderson, TSSSD Chair, stated: “We all have a common desire that wastewater treatment systems in Cook County and in the TSSSD adequately treat wastewater to protect our health, drinking water, and the environment. The area along Lake Superior is very sensitive, and adequate wastewater treatment there is important to us all.”
Crosby’s 2006 survey results suggest that as many as seven million gallons of wastewater per year are not being adequately treated, in the Tofte Schroeder district alone. There are more than 300 wells in the district as well as three rivers, many streams, and the shore of Lake Superior; all are affected by wastewater.
The district has also received a CWL grant for $42,000 to help a limited number of property owners who are required to repair or replace their systems. A cost share of up to $8,000 will be made available to those systems identified as Imminent Public Health Threats, meaning that there is surfacing wastewater. Income guidelines will be established, using the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic sliding fee scale.
Anderson says that the district wishes to engage public dialogue about the important issues of noncompliant and failed septic systems as well as the best use of the $42,000 grant. Meetings are held on the third Monday of each month at 5 p.m. at the Tofte Town Hall and everyone is welcome. Next steps include a five-year plan for wastewater management that could serve as a pilot for the county as well as other rural Minnesota communities.
Another big goal of the district is education of property owners about how to care for and maintain their septic systems. Toward that end, every ISTS owner within the district was sent a copy of The Septic System Owner’s Manual, a very readable and entertaining guide, with funds provided by grants from Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program and the Arrowhead Electric Cooperative’s Roundup. Extra copies will be available at a public seminar following the inspections, as well as to county educators interested in raising awareness of septic maintenance issues.

The lowly lynx: fed's environment trump card

True loves the environment and also loves the Lynx, along with every other sentient creature on the planet.
But I can't help but notice that the feds don't really give a s**t about the polar bears, nearing extinction on account of global warming, the wolf who can now be shot from the air in some places with impunity, and a host of other species endanged by such atrocious practices as cutting off mountaintops to get more coal.
Ah. But, they stand firm on the lynx. In Cook County, where 90 percent of the land is publicly owned and lynx habitat protected, they are determined to regulate the rest of us and restrict our back yards. Lynx, to my delight, run through my small private forest and presumably feed upon the abundant snowshoe hare that also live here. I hope they always will feel comfortable visiting. BUT. Restrictions on whether I can build something new on my land? It makes me want to spit on those who lop the tops off moutains that have stood for thousands of years.
Or maybe they just have it in for us in Cook County. We aren't allow even limited commercial fishing on Lake Superior although conservative projections show that won't adversely affect local fish populations. The white settlers here survived by commercial fishing and our 150-year history here would never have happened without it.
Where is there any perspective? Fishing does not cause global warming, and doesn't harm anything or anybody except the unlucky fish who are caught. But protecting the lynx on private property could have devastating effects on our local economy.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dying during dialup

Gasp, choke! I'm mad enough to have a stroke! It only took me two hours to read my email today, with DIALUP!
The whispering grapevine assures True that We are not the only one. Dialup is slow and would you believe, getting slower. Everybody says so. Boreal says that the quality of the phone line determines the quality of your dialup. And it's an open secret that Qwest phone lines in Cook County are the worst. True in fact has a phone line a couple of inches above the ground which is often tripped by passing deer or other critters.
Two things:
1) You can pay for Wi-Fi at the library and a few other sites sponsored by Boreal. OR, you can connect for free at Neptune's Cyber Cafe, next door to the coop. That's right, FREE. It would be nice of you to indulge in one or two of John's lovely lattes and chai and fruit smoothies, not to mention delectable treats from Lola's Sweet Life Bakery, while you blessedly check you email and watch U Tube. It would be poor manners indeed to bring your own coffee.
2) Broadband access in the United States is very limited compared with other so-called civilized nations. This is mostly due to the Repug philosophy that if you can't afford it you don't deserve it, reinforced by huge new expenses to local governments thanks to the "No new taxes" of P-lenty for the Rich and the neocon nuts who still rule Washington.... So, rural Cook County can't afford to invest in broadband, and only the locals lucky enough to spring for satellite or cable can compete in the 21st century economy. Or, pay $3.00 per hour at the library.
True is just a lowly journalist, a "stringer" as they used to call it. In any big city this wouldn't really matter that much. But he can't run a competitive business from home while waiting.... and waiting... and waiting.... zzzzzzz

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pro-ATV Tofte board throws hissy fit

Confronted with safety concerns cited by Cook County engineer Shae Kosmalski about connecting Highway 61 and the "600 Road" where ATV trails begin via the Sawbill Trail, Tofte township chair Paul James said that ordinances have "driven people out of the woods." "What are kids supposed to do? Stay home and watch TV?" (quotes from the Cook County Star). James was backed up by Supervisors DC Olsen and Tom Muntean.
Might True respectfully suggest that kids could hike, canoe, kayak, swim, backpack, camp out, bird watch, or in any of a thousand other ways enjoy the North Country woods without the devastation caused by ATVs, not to mention the egregious waste of gas and concomitant carbon emissions that hasten the day of reckoning when global warming destroys life as we know it on the planet? This could happen in our lifetime.
True uses gas only sparingly, only for basic necessities of life. Why the hell should spoiled kids squander gas for their destructive ATVs, and in the process erode yet more of our dwindling soils?
The "recreational" use of gas-guzzling and habitat-destroying ATVs should be going the way of the horse-and-buggy if we are to survive the 21st century.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

White trash go for Hillary

Dear True,
I grew up in the Kentucky mountains of Appalachia. So I know from White Trash. They don't want no "Boy" to be president and so they cut off their own faces to vote against him. Obama is the only candidate who cares about the working poor. Hillary? Ha! She is the working rich. She and Hubby sent zillions of good jobs overseas with their trade agreements.
But the White Trash of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia hear from the pulpit how to vote and it ain't for the only guy who cares about them.
A terrifying parallel exists between Appalachia and Northeastern Minnesota. Both are victims of big coal, big mining. In Kentucky the beautiful mountains of my childhood are being cut off at the top to get more coal. The debris of the dynamiting and destruction are plunged into the watershed; toxic chemicals are re-named as the bland label "fill." So it well may be here in Minnesota if Polymet goes ahead with a new copper mine that leaches into the St. Louis county watershed and ultimately creates a new dead zone where life just doesn't go on.
Ya, the White Trash of the South and the dumb shits of the Northeast either don't know or don't give a shit that their lands and waters are being destroyed by big money interest to whom both Clinton and McCain are beholden. BUT, here at least we like Obama. Down there they won't ever, ever vote for a "Boy."

A "Sub-deb" from Kentucky (meaning I was White but not Trash)

PS If it is True that 56 percent of Minnesotans approve of "Pawlenty for the Rich" who was in large part responsible for the Minneapolis bridge collapse and our tanking economy, well I guess you get the government you deserve.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ugly America

Dear True,

I’m thinking about the Ugly Americans, about what evil they have done to the world so far in the first decade of the 21st century. Let me count the ways:

First there was what we might call 9/11 revenge: to avenge the deaths of 4,000 Americans on that tragic day we have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens in other nations, mostly Iraq and Afghanistan. We have left millions homeless, we have destroyed their infrastructure and centuries of culture, we have committed rape and murder by our hired mercenaries like Blackwater, we have caused 4,000 soldiers to die and untold others ruined lives, suicides, post traumatic stress unlike any war in living memory and we have failed to provide jobs or health care or training to these fractured souls when they come home. Have we taken enough revenge yet? Can we finally say, yes, we now understand why “they” hate us so much?

Second, the markets of the whole world are reeling from the bad mortgage loans given out by greedy profiteers, yes, here in the US of A. The dollar has tanked for similar reasons and the trillions of dollars of federal debt are owed by and large to other countries like Japan and China.

Next, look at our record on torture of prisoners, warrantless spying on everybody, destruction of a free press by the big media giants, dirty tricks politicking to win at any cost, the Bush-Cheney-Rove cabal’s devastation of our own constitution which so wisely provided separation of powers, the dismantling of all the good and great social nets that brought widespread security and prosperity after the Depression…. This list is endless. Look at the millions of people here and billions elsewhere who can’t meet their basic survival needs for food, clothing and shelter thanks to our ruinous economic policies and the rampant greed of big oil. Look at how everything costs so much because it has to be delivered via oil-based energy, at how diverting grain production to ethanol has caused starvation.

Worst of all, don’t look too hard at how fast the Arctic permafrost is melting and releasing poisonous methane into the air we breathe, or at the dizzying speed of carbon emissions already spiraled beyond sustainable levels (i.e. that 350 ppm). Don’t look because you will recoil in terror, because there is probably no turning back from global disaster even if we stopped all coal-fired plants NOW and we won’t. No it’s bidness as usual in the good old US of A, the greed and hubris capitol of the world. It’s ME, NOW, SPEND, PILLAGE and PLUNDER. It’s cut down the mountaintops and create dead zones where no life survives just to mine a little more treasure trove out of Mother Earth, an astonishing and horrific metaphor for all we have done, all we have become.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

A chance to stand against torture

To Minnesota supporters of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Dear Friends:

One of NRCAT's projects is a collaborative one with the Center for Victims of Torture and Evangelicals for Human Rights called the Campaign to Ban Torture. That effort is urging the next president to issue an executive order prohibiting torture.

We are collecting endorsements from leaders in the faith, foreign policy, security and military communities now for the statement below my name Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty which will be used to encourage the president to issue an executive order prohibiting torture. After we garner the names of leaders, we will be working on a grass roots strategy this summer to collect the endorsements of many people of faith and others across the nation.

The June 26, 2008 public launch of the Campaign to Ban Torture will mark the beginning of an intensive public education campaign. Leading up to the campaign's national launch, we hope to talk with local and regional organizations that want to be a part of this effort. A staff person for the Center for Victims of Torture, Lauren McGrath, will be working in Minnesota and three other states to talk with faith and other organizations about this project. Lauren will be in Minnesota May 19-22. The Declaration is embargoed for public release until June 26, so please don't publicize it until then (although after June 26 we would greatly appreciate your help publicizing it).

If you are interesting in talking with Lauren about this project either when she is in Minnesota or later on, please email


Richard Killmer

Rev. Richard L. Killmer
Executive Director
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
316 F Street NE, Suite 200,
Washington, DC 20002
Tel: 202.547.1920 or 207.846.1614
Fax: 202.547.1921

Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order On Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty
(This statement is embargoed until released on June 26, 2008)

Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.

In our effort to secure ourselves, we have resorted to tactics which do not work, which endanger US personnel abroad, which discourage political, military, and intelligence cooperation from our allies, and which ultimately do not enhance our security.

Our President must lead our nation back to our core principles. We must be better than our enemies, and our treatment of prisoners captured in the battle against terrorism must reflect our character and values as Americans.

Therefore, we believe the President of the United States should issue an Executive Order that provides as follows:

The "Golden Rule." We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.

One national standard
. We will have one national standard for all US personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Currently, the best expression of that standard is the US Army Field Manual, which will be used until any other interrogation technique has been approved based on the Golden Rule principle.

The rule of law. We will acknowledge all prisoners to our courts or the International Red Cross. We will in no circumstance hold persons in secret prisons or engage in disappearances. In all cases, prisoners will have the opportunity to prove their innocence in ways that fully conform to American principles of fairness.

Duty to protect. We acknowledge our historical commitment to end the use of torture and cruelty in the world. The US will not transfer any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Checks and balances. Congress and the courts play an invaluable role in protecting the values and institutions of our nation and must have and will have access to the information they need to be fully informed about our detention and interrogation policies.

Clarity and accountability. All US personnel-whether soldiers or intelligence staff-deserve the certainty that they are implementing policy that complies fully with the law. Henceforth all US officials who authorize, implement, or fail in their duty to prevent the use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position.

This initiative is coordinated by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Evangelicals for Human Rights,
and the Center for Victims of Torture.

You have received this message because you endorsed the "Torture is a Moral Issue" statement of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture OR you signed up to receive more information from NRCAT.

If you no longer wish to receive emails from us, please click here to unsubscribe from this mailing list.

Questions? Please email
National Religious Campaign Against Torture:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Let them eat Triscuits

Dear readers,
Who will speak for those of us devastated by rampant inflation of food, gas, heat and electricity? Hmm, looks like it is up to little old me...
What is the deal here in Cook County? While the busy-ness elected officials continue to seek new sales taxes-a regressive burden on the poor-look out! Prices are rising at alarming rates.
Maybe not so surprising, since the world we know is also disintegrating (carbon emissions, melting Arctic permafrost releasing methane that humans can't breathe...)
Back to the point: True tries to eat right while respecting sustainable agriculture. For True, this does not mean buying organic fruits and vegetables! Ya ya it is the right thing to do BUT...
True is broke. So far not reduced to seeking macaroni from the food shelf, but no way being able to afford organic produce. Is that a sin?
There's a disconnect here. The rich can afford to buy organic, but I can't. I still owe big bucks for my winter fuel bills. My well water line doesn't work.
And yet I get guilt-tripped by the organic PC club?
Hello, folks. I used to have Triscuits and (Wisconsin, no hormones) cheese for dinner. Ya? When you are old and creaky maybe this will look good to you too.
Somehow I manage to buy fairly healthy food for myself and my beloved companion animals.
But, I won't be buying any more Triscuits, my former fave, 100 percent whole wheat with no trans fats.
Last week the price of a box was $3.19 for 9.5 ounces (a reach, by the pound this would buy some very fancy cheese at the coop); this week it is $4.00....
Like lots of poor folks, I can still get fat on the cheap stuff: white bread, pasta, potatoes, and corn chips. Nobody in Cook County need go without Kraft Dinner! Yum yum, everybody loves comfort food...
But what to do to make a difference in this world where people in Burma starve without even empty calories? True can't afford to make a difference!

New mining industry leaves Arrowhead wetlands vulnerable


New mining industry leaves Arrowhead wetlands vulnerable

By Elanne Palcich
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In the late 1800s, the U.S. government claimed the land of Minnesota, and pushed the indigenous people onto reservations. The huge pine forests of northern Minnesota were cut, red earth was discovered, and immigrants from a variety of struggling northern and southern European nations moved in to become workers for the mining companies.

While the Iron Range continues to be mined, following bands of taconite rock, the Arrowhead region of Minnesota escaped the mining process. Some of the northern counties were in large part wetlands, while others remained forestland. The Arrowhead region became known for its lakes and for the quality of outdoor recreational opportunities — the vacation land of the north, where campers "hear the lapping waters, hear the whispering of the pine trees."

These northern wetlands escaped the destruction that occurred as the rest of the state turned urban or agricultural.

Scientists know that wetlands have evolved over the past 10,000 years, since the recession of the last glaciers. We also know now that wetlands sequester carbon — and that destroying wetlands releases carbon that has been stored over centuries. There is evidence that global climate change is literally being fueled by the burning of fossil fuels and the accompanying release of CO2 into the air.

A new threat in the Arrowhead
Minnesota's wetlands may hold the key to moderating climate change on a local level, except for one thing: the threat of an entirely new mining industry poised to begin in the Arrowhead.

The industrialization of the burgeoning populations of China and India is driving demand and prices for copper, nickel, platinum, and gold — precious metals bonded within sulfide ores throughout the Duluth Complex, the underlying rock formation of the Arrowhead Region.

These precious metals are very low grade — 0.4 percent copper, 0.1 percent nickel and 0.01 ounces per ton of platinum, palladium, and gold. But the current price is enough to bring a half-dozen Canadian companies into the Arrowhead, exploring in an unregulated fashion and pulling every political string for funding and support.

The international balance of economic power is changing. Just three generations after the take-over of native lands by extractive industries, Canadian companies are seeking to turn the remaining Arrowhead Region into a colonial outpost for China and India. For basically a handful of jobs, we are turning over our land and our culture so that Canadian companies and their shareholders can earn fantastic sums on precious metals while our workers will receive $40,000-a-year nonunion wages (translate into no pension and no health care) based on the price of copper. And when the price of copper drops, or the precious-metals market collapses, or the price of diesel fuel makes mining uneconomical, the Canadian companies will pull up stakes and leave northern Minnesota with an acid-mine drainage problem requiring perpetual treatment — almost forever.

No way to replace lost wetlands

The Arrowhead region of northern Minnesota is our Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It's our Brazilian rainforest. It is the equivalent of the remaining special places left on each continent, in each country. When we lose our wetlands, there is no way to replace them. There is no way to reconstruct a process that took thousands of years to form. There is no way to recapture the carbon released when wetlands are destroyed. There is no way to rebuild the wildlife habitat and plant communities that will be eliminated.

At the same time, this new mining industry would spew hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 into the air, further contributing to global warming.

Consider, too, that the Arrowhead is just the first piece of the metallic sulfide pie. While exploration is progressing in the Birch Lake area, along the Kawishiwi River, Partridge River, and the St. Louis River, companies are also exploring along the Rainy, Pigeon, Root, Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, the Mille Lacs area, in the Big Sandy Watershed (Aitkin County), and in Carlton County.

Bill would set a precedent
In the meantime, U.S. 8th District Rep. James Oberstar has introduced a bill in Congress (H.R. 4292, the Superior National Forest Land Adjustment Act of 2007) that would 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. While this bill singles out Polymet for special treatment, it would also set a precedent for the selling of public lands to private mining companies nationwide, or wherever the Forest Service does not own the mineral rights. Much of the mineral estate in Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters is owned by mining interests, not the Forest Service. What implications might this have for the future?

What exactly are those of us living here thinking? Are we in denial regarding the ecological degradation that is taking place on a global scale and how this is going to affect our future? Are we naive enough to believe propaganda about clean mining technology that is being pushed upon us by mining-company spokesmen who are set to receive huge bonuses once the sulfide industry gets up and running?

Or are we going to believe in our own ability to create an alternative future that allows us to finally acknowledge the true heritage of the Arrowhead Region — that of living in harmony with the land?

Elanne Palcich, a retired elementary school teacher, lives in Chisholm, Minn.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The media is the message

True here.
Well, we at True claim to confront the big issues nobody else will take on...So, the media.
You might think that we in Cook County aren't affected by the machinations of the Bushies to buy and control the press...
And, in that you might be correct. Nonetheless, we are hampered in our press coverage by the FACT of the existence of two papers. Neither one has the resources to cover all of the news. Neither one has the courage to express opinions about the decisions being made that will determine our future. Such as, what would be the impact of closing our pool and making it part of a new county facility? Commissioner Fenwick appears to be the one in favor of this proposal. But who reports on this critical news?
Recently the Cook County News Herald hired a new editor, not a local, to replace Jay Anderson. Since then, the News Herald reporting has detioriated sadly. Meetings are missed, especially on the West End. Issues are not addressed, such as the impairment of the Poplar River and the septic system impairements in Cook County including Clean Water Legacy Grants in mitigation.
Is there any virtue in having two papers, which have to divide advertising revenue and need to cover the same stories?
NO, what we need is one high quality local paper and that is what we don't have. It's sorta like Obama and Hillary.
Meanwhile, if you want to get the real news, tune into WTIP and/or check out the website: Http://
If y'all would like to weigh in on the merits of the two papers, feel free to publish your comments here OR perhaps more important, send directly to the papers.

The traffic tickets charged to Maranda Weber

True recognizes the enormous community concern over the death of Dr. Ken Peterson last fall. In our posts we have expressed the opinion that charging Ms. Weber with the equivalent of a speeding ticket does not satisfy the grief and puzzlement experienced by our residents.
So we are truly astonished by the claims of Ms. Weber and her attorneys that she cannot receive a fair trial or hearing in Cook County.
Ask any citizen on the street: they will tell you that she has already had a fair hearing with the grand jury.
Many others have received similar misdemeanor tickets for far lesser offences that don't involve the death of a human being.
These traffic tickets have been consistently upheld by Judge Sandvik. True can speak to this, having been "convicted" himself of a similar offense some years ago and subjected to a lecture by the judge despite the fact that there was no harm done.
Why is Ms. Weber resisting even this mild slap on the wrist? Actions need to have consequences. Justice and reparation satisfy deep needs of human society.

Oberstar Speaks on "Harsh Realities" of Record Diesel Prices

MAY 6, 2008

I am pleased that the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit is holding this important hearing today to shed light on the reasons behind ever-escalating prices for gasoline and diesel fuel, and the tremendous impact this continues to have on the trucking industry, its drivers, consumers, and our national economy.

The price of both gasoline and diesel are currently at an all-time high. Consumers, who are squeezed by having to pay $3.61 per gallon at the pump, are hit again with escalating costs for food and other basic consumer goods, in part due to the rising costs of getting these goods to market.

The men and women in the trucking industry who bring these goods to market are also facing situations that were unimaginable just a few years ago. The cost of a gallon of diesel fuel has risen 48 percent in the past year; 78 percent in the last three years; and 166 percent since 2003. Every one-cent increase in the price of diesel fuel translates to an annual additional cost of $391 million to the trucking industry. It costs nearly $800 more for a driver to fill a standard tractor-trailer than five years ago.

As hard-working Americans struggle to adjust to the harsh realities of record fuel prices, oil companies continue to report record profits. ExxonMobil, which earned over 25 percent of the $155 billion profit enjoyed by the oil industry in 2007, reported a quarterly profit last week of $10.9 billion dollars – the second biggest quarterly profit in the history of this nation. The record for the largest quarterly profit in U.S. history is held, perhaps not surprisingly, by ExxonMobil.

Without a doubt, the gross imbalance between enriched oil companies and captive consumers must be addressed. Yet some have called for a myopic, short-term “solution” to this complex and pervasive problem by proposing to suspend the Federal gas tax for the summer months.

Leading economists have confirmed that this proposal would provide little relief to consumers while providing another multi-billion dollar windfall profit for the oil companies. This irrational proposal will bring the Highway Trust Fund to the edge of insolvency; will eliminate approximately 300,000 family-wage, highway construction jobs; will cut highway safety funding; and increase the cost of congestion.

The problem of high fuel prices is unrelated to the Federal gas tax. The 18.3-cent gas tax rate was established in 1993, when the average retail price of a gallon of gasoline was $1.05. The Federal gas tax has not changed in the last 15 years, yet the average price of a gallon of gasoline has more than tripled.

High diesel prices have also brought into sharp focus fuel surcharges in the motor carrier industry. Today’s hearing will examine the relationship among motor carriers, brokers, shippers, and independent drivers with respect to setting and collecting fuel surcharges. Currently, fuel surcharges are left to the discretion of an individual motor carrier or broker arranging for transportation, with few disclosure requirements and without any government oversight.

This lack of transparency affects independent owner-operators and drivers who often do not control if, and what amount, a broker or motor carrier charges a shipper for the rising cost of fuel. This makes it very difficult for drivers to verify whether the fuel surcharge is being passed through. When it is not, drivers are nonetheless the ones stuck paying the higher price at the pump.

I commend Chairman DeFazio for holding this hearing, and for his strong leadership on this important issue.