Minnesota’s DFL legislative leaders say their adopted $38 billion budget for the coming two years represents “progress,” but they haven’t made a lot of claims about it representing “reform.”
The so-called “linchpin” of the budget – the $2.1 billion tax bill approved by the two houses – is decidedly lacking in reform. And Gov. Mark Dayton can share in the blame.
After conducting forums in more than 50 cities around the state and raising expectations, the Dayton administration offered a tax plan that contained surprisingly little reform. Indeed, it included a terrible idea for providing property tax relief – a flat $500 rebate for homeowners regardless of their income or the size of their tax bill.
It’s curious that a DFL governor driven to raising income taxes on the rich also wanted to send them a $500 property tax refund.
The most important reform in Dayton’s tax plan was his proposal to expand the sales tax to clothing and services, and lower the tax rate from 6.875 percent to 5.5 percent. This would have modernized the tax to recognize our transition to a service-oriented economy and made the sales tax a more stable source of state revenue.
But Dayton abruptly yanked that proposal from the table after business leaders convinced many legislators and members of the public that taxing business-to-business services was a bad idea.Hidden taxes
They argued that it would result in hidden taxes on Minnesota goods and services, make them less competitive with out-of-state businesses and result in higher prices for consumers. Minnesota Revenue Department studies have shown that business taxes passed along to consumers are the state’s most regressive taxes – that is, the most burdensome for lower income taxpayers.
The Senate DFL leadership sought to retain the expansion of the sales tax to clothing and some consumer services, but Dayton wouldn’t support it in the absence of a tax on business-to-business services.
In the final bill, the two houses did extend the sales tax to three new types of business transactions – the purchase of telecommunications equipment, warehousing and storage, and maintenance of business equipment. These provisions are expected to generate more than $300 million in additional revenue.
Bill Blazar, senior vice president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, says just the tax on telecom equipment will have a huge impact. “Most businesses replace telecom equipment nearly as often as they replace computer equipment,” he says.
Of course, the biggest revenue raiser in the bill is Dayton’s signature proposal to increase income taxes on the upper 2 percent of Minnesotans. As Dayton proposed, the bill establishes a new top tax rate of 9.85 percent for single filers with taxable income of more than $150,000 and married couples with income of more than $250,000. This will generate more than $1.1 billion in the coming biennium
Under the bill, Minnesota’s income tax ranking will rise from 11th to fourth for single taxpayers with $250,000 of income, from 12th to fifth for married taxpayers with $500,000 of income, from 11th to fourth for married taxpayers with $1 million in income and from seventh to fourth for single seniors with $250,000 in income, according to the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence.
Blazar says he is worried about the impact of the increase on 20,000 small business owners who pay individual income taxes on their business income. He says the chamber proposed an exemption for a portion of this business income, but DFL legislators “chose not to do that.”
Mark Haveman, executive director of the Center for Fiscal Excellence, says his biggest concern is the impact of the increased income tax on Minnesota’s ability to attract new business and jobs.
How many CEOs are “going to look at a 9.85 percent income tax rate and decide this is probably not the best place to expand?” Haveman says. “We think this bill is a very big bet on the irresistibility of Minnesota as a place to do business.”
The other big revenue raiser in the bill is a $1.60-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax, which is projected to bring in another $408 million in the next two years.Property tax relief
DFL legislative leaders claim their tax bill will provide $400 million in property tax relief over the next two years. This total includes $80 million in additional aid to Minnesota cities and $40 million in aid to counties. In addition, the bill repeals the existing sales tax on purchases by local governments, saving them another $172 million.
Historically, over the last four decades, property tax relief provided in the form of increased aid to local governments has been eroded quickly by increases in local spending.
Haveman says the best study of the impact of local government aid (LGA) was done by the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor’s office in 1990. “It found that cities used 82 percent of the additional aid to finance increased spending and 18 percent to reduce property taxes,” he says.
To ensure that Minnesotans see some property tax relief next year, the bill imposes a one-year limit on local property tax levies. Cities and counties will not be permitted to raise their levies more than 3 percent, minus the additional state aid they receive.
At the insistence of House DFLers, the bill also provides $135 million in additional aid to homeowners and renters through the current Property Tax Refund (PTR) program, which provides refunds based upon the taxpayer’s income and the size of their property tax bill (or, in the case of renters, the amount of rent that is presumed to go for property taxes).
Tax experts generally agree that the PTR program is the most direct, efficient and equitable way of providing property tax relief to the people who need it most.
About three-quarters of currently eligible households will see an average $219 increase in their refund and another 112,000 households will now qualify for a refund, according to the Minnesota Budget Project, an initiative of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
Perhaps the most important reform in the budget is that it erases a projected $627 million shortfall and balances the books without the kind of one-time accounting shifts and other gimmicks that have been used over the last decade.
"We have re-set the clock in Minnesota,” says Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and put the state on a "stable budget path."
Officials in Brussels and Washington may view China’s global shopping spree with alarm, as the Asian power house continues to buy up companies, sovereign debt, ports, and bridges around the world. But the Greeks are already dusting off the red carpet.
On a five-day visit to Beijing that ended Monday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras eagerly invited the Chinese to "join Greece's success story," hoping to lure the country’s ravenous investors to Greece and pump new life into the country's devastated economy.
After global rating agency Fitch upgraded Greece's sovereign credit rating from CCC to B- last week, Mr. Samaras tried to convince Chinese officials that the economic crisis plaguing Greece would soon come to an end.
"I wouldn't be here if we in Greece hadn't turned our ship around," he told them during his visit, flanked by 71 Greek businessmen and members of his cabinet, who had to pay their own way to Asia because of budget austerity measures.A way out of debt for Greece?
After six years in recession, the unemployment rate in Greece has reached 27 percent, and 64 percent for those under the age of 25. In the first quarter of this year, the economy contracted 5.3 percent, the fifth consecutive year of negative growth.
Hoping to turn things around, Greece signed an agreement with its creditors, which hold billions in Greek debt, to raise $67 billion by 2022 by selling off state assets. And the Chinese have already expressed interest in Athens International Airport, along with some of Greece’s 12 ports for lease.
"There's a strong interest from China for infrastructure investments in Greece, especially in ports and railways," says Nicholas Economides, professor of economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University. "Greece will benefit from the efficient running of its infrastructure [brought on by the sale], as well as investment in its infrastructure once those are privatized."
Officials in particular are hoping to replicate the successful partnership between the Greek government and state-owned Chinese Shipping Company COSCO, which they say has revitalized the port of Piraeus and brought in millions of euros in tax revenue. The company has leased half the port since 2010 for 500 million euros in total for a period of 35 years. The Greek government now wants to lease the other half, and COSCO officials have said they are interested.
Samaras and company did not leave China empty handed. Officials from the China Development Bank promised to finance Chinese companies interested in buying Greek assets, while Chinese investors promised to soon visit the country.
And Greece is sweetening the pot for foreign investors. Earlier this month, Greek lawmakers passed a bill offering a 5-year residence permit to non-EU citizens investing in property worth more than 250,000 euros ($320,000). That would allow such investors to bring their families to Greece and at the same time, travel freely within the Schengen zone of 26 European countries.Worries about China
But Greece's deals with China are not without critics.
Some worry over such arrangements with China, especially whether they would benefit the average voter. Whistleblowers at the port of Piraeus have complained publicly that COSCO has violated Greek labor laws, by underpaying them and not allowing them to form a union. Some ex-workers have even sued the company for those violations.
Another concern is that Greek officials – already under severe pressure from its creditor "troika" of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the European Central Bank – will sell off state assets too cheaply and with few conditions, to the country's disadvantage.
And the EU already is worried about Chinese business practices. European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht announced just last week he was preparing to launch a formal investigation into telecommunications giant Huawei whose imports into the EU are worth more than $1.3 billion for violating Europe’s competition law.
"Huawei and ZTE are dumping their products on the European market," Mr. De Gucht told Reuters, adding that access to cheap Chinese capital “creates a distorted playing field.”
The day after Mr. De Gucht's announcement, Greek Development Minister Kostas Chatzidakis stopped Huawei's headquarters in Shanghai. The international company has agreed to build a research center and a transit hub in Greece, according to the Greek Ministry of Development.
And during his visit, Samaras shied away from bringing up the usual human rights issues most of his Western counterparts make a point to address while visiting Beijing.'Not a deus ex machina'
Instead, Samaras kept the talks focused on business opportunities, and used the rich ancient past of both nations as a key reason why China should help Greece.
"If the two countries with the greatest legacies in the world do not combine forces to create such synergies – if we do not do it, nobody else can," Samaras told Chinese officials.
But nostalgia aside, China is firmly rooted in the economic considerations of the present that has led it to become a leading exporter and economic powerhouse, analysts say, scoffing at the hope that Chinese investment could be a panacea for Greek economic woes.
"We shouldn't consider them as a deus ex machina,’’ says Charalambos Paposotiriou, professor of international relations at Panteion University in Athens and author of a recent book about China's rise as a superpower. “They might help with our recovery but we should also become more competitive."
Another recent deal underscores the competition: Greece, which used to be one of the leading builder of ships until the '90s, saw its shipping magnates recently agree to buy 142 new ships from Chinese shipbuilders.
"There might be mutual respect between the Chinese and the Greeks because they're both ancient civilizations,” adds Mr. Paposotiriou. “But people shouldn't forget that China operates according to its interests and profits."
In this three-part blog series, GlobalPost Special Reports explores what's at stake for Chile's embattled artisan fishermen following the passage of major new federal legislation governing one of the largest fishing industries in the world.
QUEULE, Chile — One beautiful morning in late spring, the ocean’s bounty had been especially plentiful, yet Luis Baez was in a foul mood.
At dawn, dozens of fishing boats under his stewardship returned from a midnight outing, heavy with silvery-grey fish called southern rays bream. With clear skies forecast for days ahead, crews might have readied for another trip, but with southern rays selling for just 75 cents per kilo, another excursion wasn’t worth the trouble.
“The majority of these boats aren’t even registered to catch southern rays,” explained Baez, who is president of the Queule artisan fishermen’s cooperative, a small village on Chile’s central coast. “But the government has to bite its tongue or this becomes a social issue, and all these men take to the streets.”
Last year, frustrations spilled into the streets as artisan fisherman burned tires and blocked roads in opposition to a congressional debate over a new fisheries law, which they saw as tantamount to privatizing the country’s most profitable fisheries for the benefit of few powerful business interests. Undeterred by the outraged fishermen, legislators forged ahead and approved the law in December, making notable improvements in fisheries management — including a ban on the destructive practice of bottom trawling, or clear-cutting, vulnerable marine ecosystems.
Critics fear the new law, which took effect in February, will negatively impact artisan fishermen by exacerbating longstanding issues within the industry, including the continuation of a divisive quota system through which corporations could feasibly hold sway over independent fishermen in perpetuity. At stake is a share of the world’s seventh-largest export market of fish products.
Lawmakers awarded 20-year renewable contracts to a small group of companies for the largest share of Chile’s main fisheries, which center-left Senator Ximena Rincon described as expropriating citizen sovereignty over the country’s fish and handing it to corporations.
“It isn’t legitimate to say to all Chileans. The only ones who can fish in Chile are three companies that live by fishing and taking advantage of resources of all Chileans for decades,” said Rincon, one of 11 senators whose attempt to stall the bill died in constitutional court.
The fisheries law could set the tone for future discussion on resource management, as similarly far-reaching contracts on natural resources have met with public outrage, notably on water distribution and lithium mining contracts.
In practical terms, however, the law has preserved a legacy whose roots can be traced to the early 1990s when Chile’s fisheries operated under a Total Allowable Catch system that promoted growth over sustainability.
This period, dubbed the “Olympic Race,” characterized by rapidly expanding commercial fleets out to capture as many fish as possible, was a conservation nightmare that could not last. By 2001, Congress passed an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) system, designed to reign in overfishing.
Under the ITQ system, all commercial fishermen were assigned a percentage of the allowable catch per year, but the system favored large-scale fishing operations, awarding them the majority of lucrative fisheries over artisan fishermen.
For the next decade, larger companies absorbed smaller ones, consolidating more than 90 percent of jack mackerel and a majority share of hake, into the hands of four conglomerates: Marfood, Orizon, Blumar and Camanchaca.
Despite the many advantages enjoyed by the industrial sector, declining fish stock has exacted a heavy toll on their massive operations, shrinking its collective fleet to less than 200 vessels, compared to an artisanal sector that has held steady at 13,000 boats. Additionally, as the industrial catch has shrunk, the artisan catch has grown little by little from less than 25 percent of the total catch a decade ago, to more than 50 percent today.
The government reports around 10,000 industrial sector employees, working on ships and in processing plants, and nearly 85,000 artisan fishermen prowling Chile’s 4,000-mile coastline.
During negotiations over the fisheries law last year, industrial outfit Lota Protein joined forces with a large swath of the artisanal sector, launching an aggressive campaign to push for an auction system that would have opened the market to new competitors, a move supported by Chile’s pro-business President Sebastián Piñera.
The industrial sector responded to the challenge, claiming a historical right to its quota, but ultimately settled for a reduced share of jack mackerel and hake. The industry also agreed to auction 5 percent of its quota each of the next three years, ostensibly to foment outside competition. But with bidding open to all, artisan opposition argues that industrial heavyweights will simply outbid smaller competitors.
Responding to critics, industry representatives rejected as hyperbole the popular belief that four conglomerates, owned by seven powerful families, control Chile’s fishing industry, and wielded their power of influence to sway political decisions.
“It’s a hateful and false argument,” said Luis Felipe Moncada, general manager of Asipes, the industrial fishing association based in the central region of Bio Bio. “[With] more than 50 fishing companies in operation,” the biggest of them answerable to “more than 6,700 shareholders,” it could not be otherwise, Moncada said.
And yet, the recent admission by industry giant Corpesca to investigative news site CIPER Chile that the company gave the equivalent of $52,000 to government deputy Marta Isasi before she voted in favor of the fisheries law, has shed light on the inner workings of lobbying, and ignited calls for a revised law.
Beneath the vitriol the industrial and artisanal quotas are nearly indistinguishable. In the port city of Coelemu, a few hours north of Queule, industrial heavyweight Orizon relies on the largest class of artisan boat, measuring some 60 feet in length. The owners of vessels of this size have little choice but to answer to industrial demands, which has provided loans to artisan fishermen over the years to grow their operations. It’s a debt artisans have repaid in the currency of fish.
And because mega-conglomerate Orizon owns the only fish processing plant in town, even those who are not indebted to the company end up selling it their catch.
“The industry gets our entire quota without putting a boat in the water and without getting wet,” said Alvaro Reyes, owner and captain of the 60-foot Herminia. “They receive the product, process it and sell it internationally at a premium.”
Reyes got his start more than a decade ago in a 16-foot craft, netting hake and southern rays bream. Through personal savings and a five-year loan from a now-defunct industrial company, Reyes bought the Herminia, and after that a 40-foot vessel he christened Lario Abram. He paid off his loans with thousands of pounds of sardine and anchovy. Although he considers himself better off than most of his peers, Reyes harbors no illusions that he has achieved an even footing with Orizon.
“[Orizon] pays the most, I’m not disputing that,” Reyes said, “but finding a better price with another company isn’t really an option.”
In Queule, the industry exercises a distant, albeit deceptive influence. At local school, within eyeshot of the docks where tens of thousands of fish are unloaded every year, canned fish from Asia is served in place of local catch. This is the paradox of a country lacking an inclusive fisheries policy, said Patricio Olivares, president of the local artisan fishermen syndicate in Queule and an outspoken critic of Chile’s fisheries law.
“What this law intends is to disappear the artisanal sector,” Olivares said, his three-legged dog Rocky faithfully at his side. “As things are, artisan fishing is still profitable; the question is for how much longer.”
This series was funded in part by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
LONDON, UK — The Chelsea Flower Show has attracted British society’s upper crust by celebrating the best in British gardening for the last 100 years. Its gala night this week — which marks the show’s centenary — is one of the premier networking events of the year.
Attendees at Monday’s preview included not only celebrity royalty, such as actress Helen Mirren — who won an Oscar for playing the queen — but also the actual queen. Prince Harry was reported to beso excited about his garden that he had the plans emailed to him during his military service in Afghanistan.
Like a New York Fashion Week of flowers, the Royal Horticultural Society show highlights the top talent of this garden-mad society and showcases the trends that, in a few years, may make their way to the garden aisle of B&Q, the British chain of home supply stores.
As any such high-profile event, the show imposes limits to keep creativity from crossing the line into chaos. One hard and fast rule in particular has fenced Chelsea’s gardens off from commoners’ plots: no gnomes!
Except this year. In honor of the centenary, the RHS has temporarily lifted its controversial ban on “brightly colored mythical creatures” — the euphemistic name for the cheerful, chubby characters more commonly known as garden gnomes.
Gnome fans — of which there are very many — are overjoyed.
“About time!” said Ann Atkin, founder of the Gnome Reserve in Devon. “They’re magical little creatures, aren’t they? I like to say to that fashions come and fashions go, but gnomes go on forever.”
Although gnomes will once again be personae non gratae at Chelsea next year, the symbolic embrace of the proudly tacky art form is a nod to democratization in a once-exclusive pastime that’s become a national obsession.
Leigh Hunt, principal horticultural adviser at the Royal Horticultural Society, admits Chelsea has long been associated with “a certain snobbishness.”
When the show began, attendance was for “the landed gentry. You had to have the resources to garden on a grand scale.”
Times have changed, however, and now “gnomes have their place.”
Despite the gnome amnesty, virtually the only examples to be found at the show’s venue at the Royal Chelsea Hospital Monday were celebrity-decorated plaster gnomes the RHS is auctioning off for its school gardening charity.
Elton John gave his gnome pink rhinestone-studded sunglasses. “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes went with traditional primary colors.
Admittedly, gnomes would look as out of place amid the reconstructed English huts and traditional Japanese houses of the main gardening displays as an embroidered “Bless This Mess” cushion in Architectural Digest.
Chelsea’s floral exhibits are breathtaking specimens: one-of-a-kind roses painstakingly coaxed into out-of-season bloom, exquisite bonsai trees, a pagoda built from orchids, tulips so perfectly delicate their dewdrops appear applied by hand.
Each display takes up to 15 months to plan and execute. The RHS’s list only of plants making their debuts at Chelsea runs to 15 pages.
No less rarified exhibitors offer the latest in gardening essentials, such as designer floral-print rubber boots, sculpted birdbaths, gardening tools imported from Japan and Switzerland and, handily, champagne carriers. (Booze also goes on sale at Chelsea from the moment the gates open. Last year’s visitors consumed more than 1,000 bottles of bubbly.)
More than 165,000 visitors are expected over the show’s five days. Monday’s preview for media and guests drew many tweed jackets and examples of the complicated millinery favored by British high society.
Others dressed in all-weather jackets and sensible rubber-soled shoes seemed like the type of people who don’t have special carriers for their champagne, but have nevertheless embraced the national pastime of mucking about in the garden.
“The English love gardening,” declared Susan Rushton of the rose breeder David Austin Roses. “It’s like a major passion for us. We don’t mind if there’s a patch of daisies in our lawn.”
More from GlobalPost: How rich people are ruining London
“A lot of people would not put gnomes in their actual garden,” Rushton said diplomatically, then added, “A lot of people are extremely repressed about garden art.”
“It’s not a bad thing to be less repressed.”
Two of the most deep-pocketed teams in world sport – Manchester City of the English Premier League and the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball – have agreed to pay $100 million to own and operate a new professional soccer team in New York City starting in 2015.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber could probably read that sentence all day.
The news is potentially so significant for the still-fledgling league that it's hard not to see it as an announcement of David Beckhamian proportions.
The owner of Manchester City is Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, a sheikh who, in his first four years of owning the club, spent more than $1.5 billion of his petro-fortune to turn City from bumbling underachievers into Premier League champions for the first time in 44 years. And there are whispers that that was just a warmup act for an American adventure.
Manchester City, after all, are not Manchester United – their cross-town rivals who have won a record 20 league championships and are the most profitable sports franchise in the world. They are not Real Madrid or Barcelona or even Bayern Munich – pillars of European soccer whose success is measured over generations. European soccer, Wall Street would say, is already a mature market, and City are for now still just scheming upstarts.
Yet in New York City Football Club, Mansour has an opportunity to do something altogether more momentous: to make soccer relevant in America.
To be sure, Beckham played his part. But his six-year sojourn was never likely to be enough. Though MLS has come a long way since his arrival in 2007 – it now draws more fans to each game, on average, than do the National Basketball Association or National Hockey League – it still has a long way to go. It's televised games, for example, draw a 0.2 rating – less than a recent broadcast of US Grand Prix skiing.
To truly make soccer relevant in the US means making it one of the top leagues in the world. That will take time and money, lots of it. Enter Mansour. In other words, when Mansour made City one of the top soccer clubs in the world, one half of Manchester was overjoyed. If he could do the same with his new City, he will have pried open one of the great untapped sporting markets in the world.
"When it comes to propelling Abu Dhabi’s image onto a global scale, the United States is where it’s at for Sheikh Mansour and his advisors," writes Mark Ogden of The Telegraph, a British newspaper.
And who better to help his team of soccer cognoscenti navigate the world of US sports than the Yankees, who have built an American empire of their own. News reports suggest a deal is already in the works to secure a site in Queens for a new $340 million soccer stadium for New York FC, despite local opposition.
The address is key. MLS has had a New York area team since its inception in 1996, but never one in New York City. The New York Red Bulls play in Harrison, N.J. New York City FC clearly will not end up at the Meadowlands or on Long Island.
Yet in landing an investor of the sort that MLS has long sought, the league faces a potentially decisive moment.
Even now, only one-third of MLS teams make a profit. That might not be the most accurate measure of league health, since many clubs play in venues built just for them and control the revenues from those facilities. Yet the league is hardly rolling in cash.
The league has survived only by going slowly – by reining in the spending excesses that doomed its predecessor, the North American Soccer League. Yet in the aftermath of the Beckham experiment, pressure is mounting to loosen the pursestrings a bit.
One might guess where an oil sheikh with a reported personal net worth of $30 billion might come down on that question.
Dred Scott was a slave for all but the last year of his life.
Unlike Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, he did not escape to freedom and become a famous anti-slavery crusader. Unlike Nat Turner, he did not lead a famous, bloody, slave rebellion. Dred Scott is among the most famous of slaves because he sued for his freedom and his case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, the court used the occasion to hand down one of its most infamous, racist decisions, going way beyond the issue of Scott’s freedom to declare that no blacks could ever be U.S. citizens (even free blacks in free states) and that African-Americans had no rights which any white man was bound to respect. Seriously. That’s a quote. And that interpretation of the U.S. Constitution prevailed by a vote of seven justices to two. Under our system, as you know, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. Until it isn’t.
Even though Dred Scott lost, his case played a significant role in bringing about the end of the despicable tale of legal human slavery in the United States, although it ended in the worst possible way, and maybe the only possible way, by a long bloody civil war.
Why bring this up today? Well, it’s a heck of a tale on any day, but it comes up today because a substantial observance and celebration of Dred (and his wife Harriet) Scott will take place May 22 in Bloomington. Yes, the one in Minnesota.Minnesota connection
Why here? Because Minnesota played a key role in Dred Scott’s pretty amazing tale and a large and excellent athletic complex in Bloomington is named for Dred Scott. But a while back, human rights activist Frank White noticed that, other than the signs stating the name of the Dred Scott Playfield, the story of Dred Scott was not told. Kids played ball there without necessarily learning the tale of the man for whom their field was named.OAS_AD("Middle");
White approached Michael Davis, the chief federal judge of the Minnesota District (and the first African-American federal judge in Minnesota history), and suggested that something be done about this. He had in mind a plaque at the site telling the kids who play there about Dred Scott.
White’s idea of the plaque has snowballed into a much bigger deal, including a curriculum about the case that is taught to Bloomington high school juniors and a play, developed by the estimable Mixed Blood Theater, with actors portraying Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet. And more.
The ideas set in motion by White and Davis will culminate Wednesday evening with a dedication and unveiling of plaques for the playfield, the performance of the play, a talk by Lynne Jackson of St. Louis, the great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott and president and founder of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation. The schedule and location are right here.Dred Scott's life story
OK, you’ll learn a lot more about Scott and the case if you go to the event, but for those who can’t make it, I can’t let you go without a brief summary of Dred Scott’s story, especially of the Minnesota angle.
Dred Scott’s owner, an Army doctor who was dispatched to various military bases, took him from their home in Missouri (which was a slave state) to a base in Illinois (a free state) and then to Fort Snelling (in what was then the Wisconsin territory), governed by the federal government, which prohibited slavery in the territory. But not really prohibited because it had been fairly normal for slaveowners to travel with their slaves into free states and free territories. So it was there that Dred Scott spent most of the 1830s in free Illinois and free (pre-)Minnesota.
Back in Missouri, a doctrine had developed, sometimes called “once free, always free,” under which some slaves had successfully sued for their freedoms on the ground that their masters had taken them to free states, and after some period of time they had to be considered to have gained their freedom.
With the legal and financial support of sympathetic whites (actually, Scott got backing from the Blow family, which had owned him earlier in his life), Scott initiated such a “freedom lawsuit” in Missouri in 1846. His case dragged on for 11 years. He actually won once, in state court, precisely under the “once free” doctrine, but then lost on appeal. The case moved into the federal courts, and when the Supreme Court agreed to hear it, it became, of course, the case that would decide for the whole country whether the doctrine of “once free, always free” was valid.
The ruling, delivered by justices who were mostly southerners or slavery sympathizers, was so over the top, and the verbiage of blacks having no rights at all shocked the North.Judge Donovan Frank
Federal Judge Donovan Frank of the Minnesota District, who has been active in the local celebration of Dred Scott and who talked to me Monday about it, didn’t exactly say that the Supreme Court got it wrong, but he did say that ”many scholars have described this is as the worst decision ever by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
He credited the ruling, and by extension the Scotts’ “courage and quest for freedom,” with “solidifying the abolitionist movement and with helping to bring about the election of Abraham Lincoln, which led to the secession of the southern states, the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
I’ve been over the Dred Scott ruling and its aftermath several times in my ridiculously slow quest to understand U.S. history but I recently had a breakthrough when I read Eric Foner’s fantastic study of Lincoln’s evolution on the slavery issue titled “The Fiery Trial.” But this dang post is already so long, and I’m trying to write shorter. So, with your permission, I’ll start over soon with a discussion of Foner’s revelations.Dred Scott's freedom
But in the meantime, I do have to redeem the very first sentence of this post, which mentioned that Dred Scott was a free man in the last year of his life. It wasn’t, of course, thanks to the Supreme Court case, which he lost. And it wasn’t because he lived long enough to be emancipated by the Emancipation Proclamation (which wouldn’t have affected him anyway, because Missouri never seceded) nor to be freed by the 13th Amendment, which took effect seven years after Scott’s death.
No, after the case was over, the ownership of Dred Scott was transferred back to his former owners, the Blow family, who had become abolitionists. They freed him from legal bondage in 1857 but, sadly, he died of tuberculosis in 1858.
So long ago that almost everyone has forgotten it, something remarkable happened in North Dakota. During the Depression, a charismatic Chrysler dealer in Bismarck put together a minor league baseball team that included both white and black players. Decades before desegregation and the Civil Rights era, the team captured the town’s attention and affection, becoming the center of the region’s social experience, and winning games across the Midwest with a sensational lineup that included some of baseball’s greatest players.
Tom Dunkel grew up playing football in a baseball-loving family, and has written about sports and other topics for publications including Sports Illustrated, the Baltimore Sun, Smithsonian, and the Washington Post. He’d never heard anything about integrated baseball in North Dakota until he stumbled upon the story that became his book, “Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line” (Atlantic Monthly Press).OAS_AD("Middle");
“I was writing about anti-aging medicine, of all things, in 2007, and my Google research somehow turned up an obituary for a baseball player named Ted ‘Double Duty’ Radcliffe, who died at age 103 in 2005. To procrastinate for a few minutes, I checked out his Wikipedia bio, and saw he had played on an integrated baseball team in the 1930s,” said Dunkel. “I knew Jackie Robinson broke the color line in the major leagues [in 1947], so if Radcliffe was playing on an integrated team so much earlier, that was really interesting. Then I found out that Quincy Trouppe and Satchel Paige had been team members too, and Paige is one of the great characters in sports history, so I was hooked.”
Dunkel creates rich portraits of the Bismarck team’s players and especially of the team’s manager, Neil Churchill, a larger-than-life figure who defied the rules of the day to collect the very best players he could find, black or white.'Characters, to say the least'
“This was a wild and wooly bunch of guys, right out of ‘Guys and Dolls’ or something like that. They were a bunch of characters to say the least,” said Dunkel in an interview. “North Dakota was still somewhat the frontier in those days. Well, it still might be — there are probably some real characters out on the oil fields today.”
This might look like a book about baseball, but it’s really a book about life during hard times in a place that has never really had easy times. “I was surprised to learn how hard North Dakota was hit by the Depression. The state got battered unmercifully. Its population is only now just recovering to the level of the 1930 Census,” Dunkel said. “My intent was to write a sports book that would appeal to non-baseball-loving readers. I wanted the book to be about the characters on that Bismarck team, and the time and place in which they operated, more than I wanted it to be about game accounts or statistics.”
“Color Blind” takes a sobering look at Depression-era poverty on the drought-stricken Plains, and surveys race relations during a time when lynchings were a popular form of public entertainment. Black-white relations were tense everywhere, but in Depression-era North Dakota, where only 377 people were classified as “Negro” in the 1930 Census, larger tensions were those between white settlers and the native Sioux population. Somehow, as Dunkel shows, baseball was the thing that brought everyone together. Even Sitting Bull makes an appearance in this tale.
“It would have been great to do this 20 or 30 years ago, when some of these people were still alive. Fortunately, many of their relatives are alive, and I was able to talk with them. But I couldn’t find some of them. I presume they are out there somewhere,” Dunkel said. “After they were done playing ball, these guys melted back into civilian life, especially the white guys, who went into other occupations, while the black players played into their 40s and 50s, due to lack of opportunities.”Film, photos saved
In the decades after the team dispersed, it was largely forgotten. Although Churchill kept no memorabilia from the team he created, Trouppe documented his career carefully, and Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary includes some of his film and photos.
“Rumor has it that there’s a woman out there who has some film footage of Satchel Paige,” says Dunkel, who continues to follow leads and rumors, although the book is done. “It would be a real find if it was the 1930s Bismarck team. You never know what’s in somebody’s basement or attic.”
The impact the team made continues to this day. Quincy Trouppe, Hilton Lee Smith and Satchel Paige went on to the major leagues, and today’s baseball is richer for Churchill’s insights. But did it bring lasting change to North Dakota?
“Certainly Bismarck — and other town teams that experimented with integrated baseball — opened people’s eyes. Many North Dakotans and Canadians literally had never seen a black person before. When you open eyes, you often open minds,” says Dunkel.
“I think the bigger impact of that Bismarck team was outside the state in the realm of sports. Of course, there’s no way to quantify the impact Bismarck had on opening the door to blacks in the Major Leagues. But progress comes in incremental steps, and Bismarck represented a step forward.”
What “opponents”? MPR’s Brett Neely reports: “U.S. Sen. Al Franken is in "good shape for re-election" 18 months out from Election Day 2014 with approval ratings above 50 percent and a big leads over all of his potential opponents, according to the Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling. In a survey of 712 Minnesota voters from May 17-19, the firm found that Franken drew more than 50 percent support against all of his potential GOP rivals. The poll's margin of error is 3.7 percent. … The firm polled Franken against McFadden, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, talk radio host Jason Lewis, state Sen. Julianne Ortman, state Sen. Julie Rosen and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. With the exception of Bachmann, most of those potential candidates had limited name recognition with the public.” Is that a “Draft Gruenhagen” commotion I hear?
For the Strib, Kevin Diaz writes: “Among those tested by the Democratic polling firm was U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who he leads 55-38, a 17 point margin. … Other findings from Minnesota:
• Minnesota voters support requiring background checks for all gun purchases by a 74-21 margin. …
• “It's looking more and more like the damage Tim Pawlenty did to himself with his failed 2012 Presidential bid is going to prove to be permanent in Minnesota. Only 39 percent of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him compared to 50 percent with a negative one.”
• “Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman isn't very popular in the state either, with a 37-39 favorability rating and 24 percent of voters having no opinion about him.” OK. If not Jason Lewis, how about Bob Davis?
Ramsey County didn’t like the price jump. In his PiPress story, Frederick Melo writes: “Ramsey County has alerted the city of St. Paul that it is filing for a divorce of sorts when it comes to joint purchasing. The city office that handles the procurement of everything from pens and pencils to sand and vehicles has also managed Ramsey County's purchases since the early 1960s, a marriage that seemed to work well for decades. The good times are over. The Ramsey County Board voted Tuesday, May 21, to hire three new buyers and an administrative worker by the end of year. The county is gradually divesting from the city's Contract and Analysis Services office by 2014 and moving procurement in-house. ‘The cost was prohibitive. We're talking about 50 percent increases over a couple of years,’ said board Chairman Rafael Ortega, who noted the vote was 6-0. City officials see the change creating a costly duplication of efforts, for unknown savings.”
I thought for sure it was another HomeDepot/Panera/O’ReillyAutoParts/Wendy’s/Applebee’s Plaza ... . But Mary Divine of the PiPress says it’s just … dirt: “The dirt being moved onto the Bergmann property at the northeast corner of Manning Avenue and Minnesota 36 in Stillwater Township isn't a sign of a pending development deal. It's just dirt. Developer Denny Trooien said Mathiowetz Construction Company of Sleepy Eye, Minn, recently contacted him and asked if they could dump up to 150,000 cubic yards of fill on his property. He would not disclose how much he is getting paid to receive the dirt. Trooien, owner of Dennis Properties and Crescent Development, owns 50 acres on what is called the ‘Gateway’ site. Twenty adjacent acres are owned by Paul Bergmann, who continues to run a greenhouse and nursery business. The dirt is coming from the Minnesota Department of Transportation construction site at Hilton Trail and Minnesota 36. ‘They've got a whole bunch of excess dirt that they have to get rid of in connection with that intersection construction project, and they needed someplace to put it,’ Trooien said.”
Burning restrictions have been lifted up north. The AP says: “The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has lifted fire restrictions in all or parts of 32 Minnesota counties as wet weather lowers the fire danger. The restrictions were lifted at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. The counties are scattered across roughly the northern two-thirds of Minnesota. Restrictions remain in Cook, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Roseau, northern St. Louis and northern Beltrami counties. The DNR expects those restrictions will be lifted soon.”
It’s always the details … Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: “Requiring a job — or basic training for one — from able-bodied participants in the state's food stamp program would cause about half of them to drop out, a total of tens of thousands of people statewide and 14,500 in Milwaukee, according to a new report. The new projections come from the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office, which last week released its analysis of Gov. Scott Walker's plan to require 62,700 able-bodied adults without children in Wisconsin's FoodShare program to work or attend bare-bones job training. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau puts the cost of implementing the program at $35.8 million over two years, including $16.8 million for state taxpayers, and the rest by federal taxpayers. … In 2012, FoodShare benefits totaled nearly $1.2 billion and went to more than 1 million people in Wisconsin — adults who were able-bodied, adults who were not able-bodied, children and seniors. Benefits average about $191 per month for able-bodied adults. As Walker's proposal is fully implemented, it would cost taxpayers an additional $19 million over the 2015-'17 budget. The key is that training needs to continue to be provided.”
Meanwhile, on this side of the line … . David Peterson of the Strib writes: “The Brookings Institution on Monday released a study ranking the Twin Cities area among the nation’s top 10 major metropolitan areas for the speed at which suburban poverty is rising. Its analysis says the number of suburban Minnesotans living in poverty more than doubled between 2000 and 2011. Although it won’t be part of the public release, analysts at the Washington, D.C., think tank say Shakopee and Apple Valley head the list of outer-ring suburbs seeing sharp rises in poverty numbers. Both places permitted wave upon wave of townhouse construction during the housing boom — nearly 2,000 units between the two of them from 2000 to 2005, according to the Metropolitan Council. … People offering services speak of startling turnouts. On Mother’s Day weekend, cars lined up for two blocks when a Lakeville church, Spirit of Joy, offered free oil changes to single moms. Hundreds assemble on Saturdays when a Burnsville church distributes food.”
The Strib is not pleased with Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau. In an editorial, it says: “Two Minneapolis police officers were shot and two young men died following a police chase in the city’s Uptown area. The tragic events of May 10 left the community with questions about what happened and how the investigation was being conducted. … the delays in releasing information on the Uptown incidents cast doubt. Why did it take five days or longer to take testimony from the officers directly involved? Why did a recent Star Tribune news story have to rely on sources other than the chief for an account of the events? That information, especially when civilian deaths are involved, should come in a timely manner directly from police administration.”
Get your pre-orders in … Aaron Rupar at City Pages reports on a bodice-ripper featuring Our Favorite Congresswoman: “[S]he's moved author Trey Sager to write Fires of Siberia, ‘an old-fashioned bodice ripper romance’ that's ‘inspired by the life of Tea Party leader and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.’ A press release provides a synopsis of the book, which will be available online June 1:
Presidential candidate Danielle Powers, full of firebrand pluck and red state sex appeal, has the country in a tizzy. But on an international tour to beef up her foreign policy experience, disaster ensues — her plane explodes over Siberia. Miraculously, Danielle survives, along with one other passenger — a mysterious stranger named Steadman Bass. Trapped in a wilderness of snow and ice, the two begin a journey that pushes Danielle to the brink. There she must confront her deepest self and choose between civilization and a wild, primitive ecstasy. All the while, Steadman harbors a terrible secret that threatens to destroy them both.”
Spoiler alert. Steadman voted for Obamacare.
In 1968, my family moved from New Jersey to Dallas, Texas. Fast forward to 1971 and I was being bused to the south side to go to school with African-American kids. To this day, it was the best educational, if not life, experience that I have ever had — an experience for which I am truly grateful.Carrie Daklin
But it was one whose impact only became evident with time and maturity. I was going to school with black kids. This was a very big deal. At 10, I did not know why.
Forty years later, I do. The effects of the civil-rights laws were in their infancy. It had no bearing on me that the kids I was going to school with were a different race than I was – until the grown-ups brought it up.Curious about differences, but found few
Was I curious that we were different? Of course. I had had a couple of encounters with people of other races, but they were not a frequent thing at that time.
What had more of an impact on me was the fact that their lifestyle seemed so different from mine: I lived in a middle-class household that belonged to a country club. A lot of the kids' parents didn’t even have cars.OAS_AD("Middle");
This was confusing to me. Why were things so different in North Dallas from what they were in South?
Children have a unique ability to look past the subterfuge of adults and see the real thing: kids. Yeah, our hair was different, our skin was ashy or it wasn’t, and most kids at my school had brown eyes when I had blue.
That’s about the sum total of what I remember being different.
I have a grandchild who is a little over a year old. Last week's final Senate vote and the governor signing gay-marriage into law were historic events. Right up there with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Marriage licenses available to same-sex couples will become legal on Aug. 1, 2013. By the time my grandson starts kindergarten, he will no doubt be surrounded by kids whose same-sex parents are legally married.In a few years, a commonplace thing
To him it will be a normal occurrence – an everyday, commonplace thing. It will, no doubt, take a generation before the remarks or glances subside. Culturally, some things are hard to let go.
What will his life be like? He certainly won’t be bused to “the gay side of town.” It won’t be that explicit, and because of that I wonder how he will reconcile what is at once normal and undoubtedly sometimes castigated, in the mind of a 5-year-old.
The responsibility to prevent that confusion lies with us.
As we move forward, regardless of your views, this is this law. Will you join in celebrating the democracy in which we live, or will you – even silently, most effectively silently – undermine its strength?
Carrie Daklin is a Twin Cities freelance writer.WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
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Creative Commons/David MorrisThe average cost of producing a bushel of corn has about doubled during the past 10 years.
While grain farmers have seen a rise in prices paid for their crops in recent years, they are paying more for seed, fertilizer, chemical and other costs. "We're looking at direct expense of production of corn nearing $600 an acre on rented ground, and close to $450 on owned land,'' said Jim Molenaar, regional Farm Business Management director at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson. David Little of the West Central Tribune writes that a 2012 report of central and west central Minnesota crop and livestock farms shows the average cost of producing a bushel of corn has about doubled during the past 10 years. "If we have any kind of return to prices that are more in the $4 range for corn, it's probably a break-even year with a normal crop,'' Molenaar said. With good prices comes less debt, Molenaar said. Farmers reduced their debt from about 47 percent in 2003 to 40 percent in 2012.
In related news, Minnesota farmers are hustling to get their corn in the ground. Good weather allowed the percentage of planted corn acres to jump 52 percentage points to 70 percent, though that's still below the normal pace of 84 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crops and weather report. Minnesota farmers try to get their corn planted by mid-May to ensure the best yields. An average of 5.1 days were suitable for fieldwork last week. Soybeans are 23 percent planted. Sugarbeets are 89 percent planted.
Rochester homes are flying of the market, reports Mike Klein of the Rochester Post Bulletin. “Single-family homes in Rochester sold more quickly in April than they have in any April in 10 years,” he wrote. “The average days on market was less than three months — 86 days, down 34 percent from a year ago, and the lowest since 76 in April 2002, according to the newly released numbers from the Southeast Minnesota Association of Realtors.” The median sales price in Rochester was $155,000 in April, he wrote, up 5 percent from $148,000 a year ago. Klein also wrote that home sales in Austin dropped 31 percent from year earlier and the median sales price was down 3 percent to $72,400,while in the Winona/Goodview area, sales dropped 8 percent to 36 in April. The median sales price increased 16 percent to $127,000.
Up in Lake Superior, warming water is affecting big fish, a new report states. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune writes that scientists found “Increasing water temperatures over the last three decades have made conditions more favorable for chinook salmon, walleyes and lean lake trout but less favorable for cold-water-loving siscowet lake trout.” The study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and funded by Wisconsin Sea Grant, estimates that fatty siscowets have lost about 20 percent of their historic habitat because of the temperature changes that already have occurred. The research builds on work at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Large Lakes Observatory, which found that average Lake Superior surface water temperatures increased 2.5 degrees Celsius between 1979 and 2006, among the most dramatic examples of climate change in North America. “I think our biggest message is that these are changes that already have happened. These are not projections of temperatures years from now,” said Tim Cline, lead author of the report.
Moorhead’s “mediocre” flood this year has some city leaders saying sandbags are no longer a necessary expense, reports Eric Burgess of the Fargo Forum. Moorhead spent nearly $500,000 for this year’s flood, much of which was spent on 50,000 sandbags to some of the 87 homes still left on the river, City Manager Michael Redlinger told the City Council on Monday. Mayor Mark Voxland said the city has spent around $87 million since 2009 buying riverfront homes and building levees up to 42.5 feet, so paying for the sandbags should be left to those individual homeowners who have declined a buyout offer. The Red hit a preliminary crest of 33.32 feet on May 1. “We didn’t have to make sandbags, and we didn’t have to buy sandbags (the city used bags left over from 2011) and it still cost us almost a half a million dollars,” Voxland said. “The 87 folks that are left along the river really are at a point where they have to pony up something and be responsible citizens themselves for having property along the river.” “We’re not abandoning these people,” Councilman Mark Altenburg said. “It’s just we won’t provide the same level of service.”
The Hormel Institute researchers have discovered that an agent in milk thistle significantly restricts the growth of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, reports the Austin Daily Herald. The discovery was made by a research team led by Executive Director Dr. Zigang Dong and is reported in the May 2013 edition of Cancer Prevention Research. Silybin, also known as silibinin, is a bioactive component of the milk thistle plant and has long been used for preventing allergies and liver damage. Studies have shown silybin’s preventive and therapeutic effects against colon, prostate, bladder and lung cancers. Researchers at The Hormel Institute revealed silybin’s molecular targets while investigating its effect on melanoma cell growth. Their study found silybin weakened melanoma growth. “These research findings are especially significant because, although many common cancers are declining, the incidence of melanoma continues to rise at an estimated rate of 3.1 percent annually,” Dong said. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and melanoma accounts for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.
The August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm has won a couple of awards from the Beverage Tasting Institute, according to the New Ulm Journal. What’s impressive is their description. Here’s BTI’s description of Schell’s Maifest beer: A "brilliant amber color with aromas of grilled pineapple, honeycomb, papaya yogurt and pepper with a round, fruity-yet-dry medium-to-full body and a long, tangy and warming pepper bread, arugula, and roasted nut driven finish." Here’s the one for Zommerfest: A "rich old gold color with aromas of Denver omelet and butter toast with a dryish, minutely sour medium body and a tangy, Greek yogurt, melon rind, turnip, and lemon pepper-like hop finish." I dunno, man. Tastes like beer to me.
At MPR, Elizabeth Dunbar looks at voting on the Legacy bill (sometimes regarded as the Dennis Anderson v. Phyllis Kahn bill). She writes: “The $496 million Legacy bill lawmakers sent to Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday received the most 'no' votes ever recorded for spending through the amendment voters approved in 2008 to send sales tax money to clean water, the outdoors, arts and parks. The bill passed with a 43-21 vote in the Senate and a 77-57 vote in the House. While House members have opposed the final Legacy bill in the past, no senator had ever voted against the overall Legacy spending package. … ‘Going into conference committee, there was a House position for funding of county fairs at $2.8 million, there was a Senate position for funding of county fairs at $800,000 and somehow we added those two together and came up with zero,’ said Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska. Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who chaired the House Legacy Committee, replied that county fairs are still receiving $2 million for arts and cultural heritage — in the agriculture budget bill.”
In his session wrap-up piece, Tim Pugmire of MPR writes: “Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the tax bill is the result of excessive government spending under Democrats. ‘Our Minnesota state Legislature, led by the DFL, has said yes to virtually every request of every special interest group that has come and asked for something more,’ she said. ‘Nearly every spending proposal is included in the state budget. On a day like this we realize how much the cost is going to be, and it's going to be enormous.’ Republicans also argued that the tax increases will kill jobs and drive businesses out of the state. But DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook said the CEOs he's met with place greater importance on the state workforce.” Has anyone checked the traffic to South Dakota today?
Stribbers Jim Ragsdale and Jennifer Brooks write: “[Gov.] Dayton said the decision to increase the income taxes on upper-income Minnesotans, along with other taxes such as a cigarette tax hike, allows the state to wipe out a $627 million projected deficit, to invest $753 million in education from pre-school to college, to provide $400 million in property tax relief and $40 million in economic development. … GOP leaders were flying around the state to give their take on the session — which is that there was no need for a tax increase at all this year because of the improving economy. Back at the Capitol, Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, told reporters that 2013 would be remembered as the session of ‘tax, tax, tax.’ … None of the leaders mentioned the historic bill to legalize gay marriage, the last-day passage of a bill to allow child-care and home-care workers to vote on unionization, or the failure to enact universal background checks on guns.”
Job cuts … at Medtronic. Says Christopher Snowbeck for the PiPress: “Medtronic is eliminating 2,000 jobs worldwide including about 500 positions in Minnesota. The medical device manufacturer announced the job cuts during a conference call Tuesday ... About half the worldwide cuts are hitting the company's workforce in the United States, said Gary Ellis, the company's chief financial officer. Many cuts in the U.S. and around the world are related to consolidation in manufacturing, Ellis added during the conference call. Cindy Resman, a Medtronic spokeswoman, wrote in an email that about two-thirds of the reductions already have taken place. … Medtronic's division based in Mounds View for heart rhythm devices has been the company's largest business for decades; it includes pacemakers as well as implantable defibrillators, which shock failing hearts back into rhythm. The heart rhythm business has struggled due to a variety of factors including product recalls, price pressure from hospital customers and questions about whether defibrillators — at a cost of up to $30,000 each — have been overused.”
Sugar beet residue to fire iron smelters? John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports: “A North Dakota company plans to build a $60 million iron-producing plant near Jamestown using iron ore concentrate from Minnesota. A subsidiary of Bismarck-based Carbontec Energy Corp. called E-Nugget North Dakota LLC has unveiled plans to churn out 100,000 metric tons of iron annually using North Dakota sugar beet residue in the mix instead of coke coal. The company hopes to break ground on the plant early in 2014 and be making iron nuggets by 2015, apparently using 160,000 tons of concentrate annually produced by Grand Rapids-based Magnetation.”
There are still mysteries aplenty in a notorious Utah murder case with a Minnesota connection. The AP story says: “Josh Powell reportedly had an affair just months before his wife disappeared and his brother may have been ‘heavily involved’ in getting rid of her body, Utah police revealed as they announced they couldn’t solve the sensational case. The West Valley City Police Department on Monday opened its books on the investigation of Susan Powell’s 2009 disappearance, after several years of second-guessing about why they never arrested her husband. Josh Powell killed himself and the couple’s two young sons in an explosive house fire in Washington state last year. … Following Josh Powell’s death last year — and his decision to make his brother, Michael C. Powell, the main beneficiary of his life insurance policy — police focused more closely on Michael Powell. Michael Powell, an ardent supporter of Josh Powell, killed himself Feb. 11 by leaping from a parking garage in Minneapolis.”
Wisconsin has taken a different path to getting a grip on the cost smokers present to the health system. The AP says: “State workers who smoke would have to pay $50 more per month for health insurance under a Gov. Scott Walker proposal that has won approval by the Legislature's budget committee. The Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 13-3 to approve the fee. Twelve other states currently impose similar fees but anti-smoking groups including the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association oppose them because they argue they are not effective in reducing tobacco use.” Next: Obesity?
On his weather blog, Paul Douglas reacts to Monday’s tornado in Oklahoma, saying: “The Chief Meteorologist at KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City actually told his viewers ‘if you don't have a basement you will not survive a direct strike from this tornado — better to get into your vehicle and try to drive away.’ You don't hear that very often.
• fewer than 1 in 10 Oklahomans have a basement. The reason? Bedrock. It's cost-prohibitive to put in a basement across most of the Sooner State.
• last year I wrote an article for Huffington Post, highlighting a prolific, well-respected structural engineer/meteorologist who predicts that, within our lifetime, America will be struck by a single urban tornado that claims over 1,000 lives. My jaw dropped when I heard him say this, but after yesterday I'm starting to think he was right.”
Simultaneously, noted climatologist Steven Hayward at Power Line, writes: “The news broadcasts of the Oklahoma tornado disaster that I saw last night and this morning were thankfully free of speculation that this tornado is proof of — wait for it — global warming, and therefore one more reason to hand over control of our energy sector to environmentalists. I am certain this will come from the usual people starting today, but for now, note the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin discounting the thesis:
I’ll add a final thought about the persistent discussion of the role of greenhouse-driven climate change in violent weather in Tornado Alley.
It’s an important research question but, to me, has no bearing at all on the situation in the Midwest and South — whether there’s a tornado outbreak or drought. The forces putting people in harm’s way are demographic, economic, behavioral and architectural. Any influence of climate change on dangerous tornadoes (so far the data point to a moderating influence) is, at best, marginally relevant and, at worst, a distraction.”
Those danged environmentalists. they're this close to taking out Exxon/Mobil and the Koch Brothers.
WASHINGTON — Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken has double-digit leads over a cast of potential 2014 opponents, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey.
Fifty-one percent of respondents approve of Franken's work as senator, according to the poll. He leads every potential GOP challenger by at least 10 points, according to survey of 712 Minnesotans from PPP, a Democratic polling firm
According to PPP, Franken leads:
- Businessman Mike McFadden and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek by 15 points;
- State Sen. Julie Rosen by 16 points;
- And State Sen. Julianne Ortman and talk show host Jason Lewis by 17 points.
Of the group, McFadden seems closest to a Senate run (the others are mostly rumored candidates, though Lewis has said he's considering mounting a challenge). If U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann were to challenge Franken, he leads by 17 points.
Franken's approval rating has hovered around 50 percent for the past several months. No Republican has yet decided to challenge him next fall, though several high-profile would-be candidates, including Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, have declined runs.
PPP's full results are here.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com.
Pedro Hernandez posted a 6.67 ERA with just 10 strikeouts in six starts since replacing Liam Hendriks in the rotation, predictably struggling versus lineups stacked with right-handed hitters.
Hernandez, not unlike Brian Duensing, simply isn't capable of handling righties well enough to be a consistent starter. He struggled against righties in the minors, and they've clobbered him in the majors, hitting .389 with a .704 slugging percentage and more walks than strikeouts. Hernandez may still have a big-league future as a reliever, but in the meantime he's headed back to Triple-A and the Twins called up an actual left-handed reliever, Caleb Thielbar, to replace him.
That left the identity of Friday's starter against Detroit unknown temporarily, leading to speculation that it might be Kyle Gibson's debut. Gibson threw a complete-game shutout Sunday at Triple-A, his second in his last three starts, and Friday would be his normal turn for Rochester. Gibson turned in a clunker between the shutouts and his overall Triple-A numbers are good, rather than great, with a 3.25 ERA and 46-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 innings.
On Tuesday, however, the Twins announced that Rochester rotation-mate Samuel Deduno would start, so presumably the choice came down to whether the Twins believe Gibson is ready to stick in the majors yet.
• As for Thielbar, he's a helluva story. Originally drafted by the Brewers out of South Dakota State in 2009, the Minnesota native got released before advancing past Single-A and latched on with the independent league St. Paul Saints. Thielbar had a 2.54 ERA and 62-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50 innings for the Saints in 2011, which impressed the Twins enough to sign him.
He started out at Single-A and has been at Triple-A since the middle of last season. Thielbar had a 3.64 ERA and 66/24 K/BB ratio in 67 total innings at Triple-A, which isn't great for a 26-year-old reliever, but he's been unhittable for the past month and the Twins decided to give him a shot. He throws in the low-90s and has enough raw stuff to survive as a middle reliever, but based on Thielbar's track record too many walks and fly balls could get him in trouble. Assuming the Twins demote a reliever to make room for Friday's starter his stay, this time may be brief.
• Chris Parmelee has regularly been benched in favor of Ryan Doumit since Oswaldo Arcia's arrival created a first base/corner outfield/designated hitter logjam, frequently sitting even against right-handed pitching. Parmelee's main problem is that he hasn't hit since a big September call-up in 2011, batting .219/.285/.352 with an 86-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 100 games, but he's also hurt by everyone competing for playing time being a left-handed hitter or switch-hitter.
And that hurts the Twins too, because Parmelee and Doumit aren't starting-caliber hitters against left-handed pitching and Arcia could certainly use the occasional day off versus tough southpaws. But because the Twins lack a decent right-handed hitter to sub for them, what happens is that one of the lefty bats sits versus right-handers when they should start and two of the lefty/switch bats start versus left-handers when they should sit.
All of which brings me to Chris Colabello. Colabello is a 29-year-old non-prospect signed out of an independent league and wasn't all that impressive at Double-A in 2012, hitting .284/.358/.470. He moved up to Triple-A this season and has hit .361/.419/.657 with 12 homers in 45 games. Being stretched defensively anywhere but first base hurts Colabello's cause, but he's a right-handed hitter and would seemingly be more useful to the Twins than Parmelee given their current roster construction.
• At the most basic level, a team's best relievers should throw the most relief innings, but because of how most managers' bullpen usage revolves around the save statistic, that often isn't the case. Instead, when a setup man becomes a closer, his workload almost always decreases, and closers frequently throw fewer innings than middle relievers because they're constantly being held back for "save situations" that may never actually arrive.
Glen Perkins is proving to be a prime example, as Ron Gardenhire goes out of his way to avoid using Perkins in non-save situations and has essentially stopped using him to get more than three outs. Perkins has been fantastic for the third consecutive season, posting a 3.07 ERA and 23-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14.2 innings, but take a look at how his workload compares to the rest of the Twins' bullpen:APPEARANCES INNINGS Casey Fien 21 Anthony Swarzak 26.0 Jared Burton 20 Josh Roenicke 23.1 Brian Duensing 19 Ryan Pressly 21.2 Josh Roenicke 16 Jared Burton 19.0 Glen Perkins 15 Casey Fiend 18.1 Ryan Pressly 13 Brian Duensing 17.1 Anthony Swarzak 12 Glen Perkins 14.2
Perkins missed a couple of days with a sore left side, so if not for the injury, he might have one more appearance, but the point remains. In terms of appearances, Perkins' workload is closer to the long man (Anthony Swarzak) and Rule 5 pick (Ryan Pressly) than to the most-used relievers in the bullpen. And in terms of innings, Perkins is the least-used reliever in the entire bullpen. How does that make sense? If you're not obsessed with the save statistic, it doesn't.
• Scott Diamond has struck out exactly one of the last 54 batters he's faced, during which time he's served up four homers and allowed 12 runs on 23 baserunners. His career strikeout rate of 4.47 per nine innings is now the lowest among all active left-handed pitchers with at least 250 innings. This is Diamond's third season in the majors and take a look at how his career numbers compare to another recent Twins pitcher through three seasons:ERA SO/9 BB/9 OAVG Diamond 4.01 4.5 2.0 .287 Pitcher X 4.14 4.4 1.8 .293
Pitcher X is Nick Blackburn, about whom the same type of things were once said to explain his initial success despite terrible strikeout rates. Now, in fairness the above comparison is way too simplistic — Diamond gets more ground balls than Blackburn, to name one key difference — but you get the idea. Diamond is walking a very thin line right now as he tries to duplicate his unexpected 2012 success and avoid going further down the Blackburn path.
• After two injury-wrecked seasons, the Twins have been remarkably healthy so far, but their lone significant injury has provided a glimpse into the same question marks that filled 2011 and 2012. Darin Mastroianni injured his ankle late in spring training, but instead of simply placing him on the disabled list to begin the season the Twins kept him on the active roster. He was too limited to actually do much, but they used him as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.
Then, after appearing in eight games without logging a single plate appearance, the Twins deemed Mastroianni healthy enough to start two games in center field. Shortly after that he was placed on the DL and diagnosed with a stress reaction in his ankle. Initially the Twins said he'd be out three weeks, but that came and went with Mastroianni still in a walking boot and now he's expected to miss the rest of the first half following surgery. I'm no doctor, but that's an awfully familiar story.
• Rafael Perez, who signed a minor-league deal with the Twins in February, was released from Triple-A after failing to impress coming back from shoulder surgery. At the time of the signing, the Twins indicated that Perez was close to being full strength and they planned to stretch him out as a starter, but within weeks he'd been shut down. Perez pushed back his May 1 opt-out clause to give the Twins more time to evaluate him, but after four appearances, they'd seen enough.
• Rich Harden, like Perez, signed a minor-league deal with the Twins coming back from shoulder surgery and, like Perez, it hasn't gone well. Harden hasn't been released yet because his opt-out clause isn't until July 31, but he's yet to appear in a game, and assistant general manager Rob Antony revealed that his progress is going "slow" and "not very well to be honest." Harden has been hurt for basically his entire career, so he was always a long shot.
• There are eight American League starting pitchers with an opponents' batting average of .310 or higher and four of them (Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Diamond, Hernandez) are Twins. Kevin Correia avoids that list, but his .292 mark isn't exactly pretty and in his last four starts he has a total of seven strikeouts and five homers allowed.
• Twins pitchers have allowed an MLB-high 47 runs in the first inning through 41 games. They've allowed 25 or fewer runs in every other inning. And since that will make everyone curious: Brad Radke had a 5.05 ERA in the first inning and a 4.07 ERA in all other innings. • For a whole lot more about Gibson and Colabello, plus a bunch of other Twins topics, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.
In a recent Fox News interview, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann attempted a triple play, making three assertions about the scary nexus between the IRS and the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. They are all contained in this Bachmann statement:
"So now we find out these people [the IRS] are making decisions based on our politics and beliefs, and they're going to be in charge of our health care. There's a huge national database that's being created right now. Your health care, my health care, all the Fox viewers health care, their personal, intimate, most close to the vest secrets will be in that database, and the IRS is in charge of that database? So the IRS will have the ability potentially -- will they? -- to deny health care, to deny access, to delay health care? This is serious! Based upon our political beliefs? That's why we have to repeal Obamacare. And I still think it's possible."
Politifact checked all three separately.
On the assertion that the IRS "is going to be in charge of our health care," Politifact ruled: FALSE. Yes, the IRS has a role in the new law, but they are far from in charge.
On the assertion that "The IRS will have the ability potentially" to deny or delay health care, Bachmann's rating improved to just "MOSTLY FALSE."
Part three of series focused on whether it’s correct to say that the IRS is going to be in charge of "a huge national database" on health care that will include Americans’ "personal, intimate, most close-to-the-vest-secrets." Politifact once again granted Bachmann its falser-than-false rating of "PANTS ON FIRE."
It is time for those of us who supported the passage of the same-sex marriage bill to thank the leaders of the Republican Party for making it possible.
Without their efforts to include bigotry in our State Constitution the people of Minnesota would never have created the Minnesotans United organization that so brilliantly led the campaign to reject the amendment — and that built the political juggernaut that culminated last week in the passage of the bill that gives marriage equality to all Minnesotans.
We also can credit those Republican strategists for causing the overwhelming coming together of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people to not just vote to reject such bigotry but to reject the attempt to keep thousands of legitimate voters from being eligible to vote with their so called Voter ID amendment.
And the added bonus that came to all Minnesotans was the rejection of not just the amendments but of the very people who tried to corrupt our Constitution when the Republican Party was cast aside by the voters that they stimulated to turn out in such large numbers.
Never in the history of Minnesota politics has justice been so well served.
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Minnesota state Rep. Karen Clark will be honored at the White House Wednesday as a "Harvey Milk Champion of Change" for her commitment to equality and public service.
Clark and nine other openly LGBT elected or appointed officials will be honored in a ceremony that's part of the ongoing White House "Champions of Change" program.
The event is on the birthday of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to a political position in California. He was shot and killed at the San Francisco City Hall in 1978 and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Obama.
Clark was the House sponsor of the state's new gay-marriage law. The Minneapolis legislator, first elected in 1980, is the longest-serving openly gay or lesbian state legislator in the nation.
The ceremony will "honor Harvey Milk’s legacy in these ten outstanding public servants, who will surely inspire the next generation of public servants," said Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president.
The event will be streamed live at 2 p.m. Central time on the White House website.
The Democrats in control of Minnesota’s state government looked tired but pleased Tuesday morning, just a few hours after finishing up a grueling weekend-long tear of intense legislating.
They have a few regrets: not coming to a deal on increasing the minimum wage, not passing a larger infrastructure investment package and not addressing the mountainous backlog of transportation projects awaiting funding.
But the tired leadership stayed on message: This session was a success. It was the “education session” that they’d promised, with crucial investments in voluntary all-day kindergarten, early-learning scholarships and a tuition freeze for Minnesota’s college students.
They also stressed that they’d made good on their campaign promises to address skyrocketing property taxes and to craft a structurally balanced state budget that didn’t include shifts or gimmicks — positions that reporters had been hearing all session.
Republican legislative leaders disagree, however, and embarked Tuesday morning on a state fly-around to trash the DFL budget for raising taxes on middle-class Minnesotans and not reforming any state spending or programs.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, though defends the budget: “No gimmicks, no borrowing and we’re leaving to the next Legislature after the 2014 election no crisis to manage.”
“We did finally get past the partisan gridlock and balance our budget without gimmicks in a fair and honest way, and that is going to be a lasting legacy,” House Speaker Paul Thissen said, asserting that one-party control of state government turned out to be a successful proposition for Minnesota taxpayers.
The DFLers — who late Monday night wrapped up a $38 billion state budget that includes $2 billion in new taxes — now must sell the outcomes of this session to voters.
Democrats appeared genuinely to believe that they did the right thing.
“The nice thing about this, being able to stand up in front of you today, is to be able to say all this and not have it feel like spin,” Thissen said. “This is reality. These are things we actually did. I’m really proud that we can stand up here and not have to put some kind of media spin on the accomplishments we made this year.”
Bakk admitted they made some small mistakes that will have to be corrected next year and included some provisions that lawmakers will have to watch to see how they play out.
For example, the sales tax reform that Democrats passed on Monday evening includes a base expansion to some business services, including warehouse storage, that won’t go into effect right away so lawmakers can look for “unintended consequences.”
There will also need to be technical corrections to the tax bill next year, Bakk said, citing a different provision that made it in by mistake: a tax on farm machinery repairs.
“Everybody’s tired here, hasn’t slept in three days, so we have one little clinker in there. Like in any major piece of legislation, every one I’ve ever been involved in, you have to come back the next year and make some corrections to make sure that what you intended really happens.”
When asked to look forward, Bakk said he still had to digest all that legislators had accomplished this session, which ended technically at the beginning of today.
But he did have one forecast: Taxes aren’t likely to go up next year.
“We’re not going to have to come back here and raise new revenue next year because we have a balanced budget,” he said.
Recall petitions against two DFL legislators who supported gay marriage have been thrown out by Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea.
The recalls had targeted the two legislators from Brainerd-area districts that had supported the failed gay marriage ban.
Reports the Brainerd Dispatch:
[Gildea] dismissed proposed recall petitions against Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, and Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, for "failure to allege specific facts that, if proven would constitute grounds for recall."
Under the state Constitution, elected officials are subject to recall for serious malfeasance or nonfeasance, but the two legislators' actions were not "unlawful or wrongful" conduct, she wrote in the ruling.
The recall petition was launched after Radinovich said he would vote in favor of gay marriage and Ward voted in favor of gay marriage.
Both of their districts had voted last November in favor of the failed constitutional amendment, which would have banned gay marriage. Six months later, the Legislature approved gay marriage in the state.
Doug Kern of rural Brainerd initiated the petition against Radinovich when he said he'd vote in favor of gay marriage and Tony Bauer of Nisswa initiated the petition against Ward after he voted in favor of gay marriage.
Radinovich told the paper that he respects everyone’s right to the democratic process and he and Kern had a difference of opinion on this issue.
Ward said the facts prevailed in the case and the democratic process worked: "I’m very thankful they found the way they did. I respect the opinions of the people who presented the petitions, as well."
A half-cent sales tax increase in the metro area to fund bus and rail transit didn't get through the Legislaturethis year, leaving transit advocates frustrated.
Barb Thoman, executive director of Transit for Livable Communities, said in a statement:
"Minnesota had a chance to make a decisive move on transportation but decided not to take it. Instead of moving sensibly to expand our transit system, we’re stalled. No increase in local bus, minimal progress on rail. This is a huge disappointment, especially to all the people who need more affordable options for getting to work and school, and for the health and economic vitality of our region. Minnesota is not a national leader today."
The Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition had pushed for the regional transit tax increase, as well as a higher gas tax, which also failed to pass. The group said in a statement:
"The new law keeps the region and state far behind competing regions that invest far more in transit."