Monday, December 31, 2007

Annual Blog Statement for 2007

Name of Blog: Clips and Statements
Organizers: Kevin Chavis

Purpose: To organize important information in a format similar to clipping and storing them. This allows me to save information and news that I value, while sharing it with the world. No profit is made (apart from knowledge) and sources are always stated explicitly.

Participating with this blog is available to others interested. Please e-mail KevinChavis AT Yahoo dot com with subject line:"Clips and Statements Blog"

594 visitors from 24 October 2007 until December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Goodman's actions on burner questioned

As an investor, Lisa Goodman left the debate on the project and did not vote. But was her letter to the MPCA a conflict of interest?

By STEVE BRANDT, Star Tribune

Last update: December 24, 2007 - 7:43 PM

Lisa Goodman says she did everything by the book when she invested last year in Midtown Eco Energy, which wants to generate energy in Minneapolis' Phillips neighborhood by burning wood.

The Minneapolis City Council member filed a statement with the city clerk disclosing a conflict of interest. She left the room during the council's discussion of Midtown Eco Energy's request that the city reserve up to $86 million in tax-exempt revenue bond authority for the project. She abstained from voting on the request. She didn't lobby colleagues.

Goodman said those actions exceed what's required.

But she also wrote in August to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, urging it to issue an air quality permit for the facility.

Although on personal stationery, the letter began by referring to her post as a council member. It didn't disclose that she had invested at least $2,500 in Midtown.

The wood-burning proposal has attracted opponents, some of whom look askance at the Goodman letter.

"I think it's a little sleazy," said Carol Greenwood, a Seward neighborhood environmental activist. She called Goodman's omission of her investment "a little disingenuous."

Goodman's action may not run afoul of the city's ethics ordinance. It says that a city official should avoid any situation that might give rise to a conflict of interest. A conflict is defined as participating in the discharge of official duties in a government decision, action or transaction in which one has a financial interest greater than an occupational peer.

An ethics professor weighs in

But the proscription appears to apply only to city officials influencing a city decision, not a state action. David Schultz, who teaches government ethics at Hamline University's law school, calls that a "statutory gap."

"She's got a conflict of interest, no doubt about it," Schultz said, even if no law is broken. "What's she's doing here more than anything else is using her position as a council member for personal gain. That fits under one of the classic definitions of conflict of interest."

In an interview, Goodman refused to disclose the amount of her investment but it's at least $2,500, the threshold that required her to disclose it on an economic interest statement last year.

"I can't afford to be making a large investment," Goodman said. But she also said: "I could lose a ton of money."

She described it as an investment in a project in which two "people who are in my life like family" are involved.

They are Kim Havey, the city's former Empowerment Zone director, and Michael Krause, a former Green Institute president and city DFL chairman. They are two of three partners in Kandiyohi Development Partners, which is proposing the Midtown project. They said they asked friends and family to invest seed money in the project.

Goodman and Havey have known each other since college days in the 1980s and shared a condo for years. Goodman, Krause and Havey own an 8-acre Kandiyohi County farmstead.

Goodman adapted form letter

Goodman, who represents downtown and the Cedar-Isles area, said most of her letter was copied from a form letter circulated by the Midtown project. But she inserted her council title at the form letter's start. Although it's on personal stationery, her letterhead also lists her council title.

Asked about that, Goodman said: "I was just listing what my job was. It wasn't a position of the city."

Schultz disagreed: "She's using her position. If she had just signed it Jane Doe at 1 Elm Street, maybe that wouldn't have been so much of a problem."

"She's using her influence as a City Council member," said Nancy Hone, one of the activists opposing the Midtown project. Another opponent, Alan Muller, who discovered the letter in state files, said it raises questions about Goodman's ethical sensitivity.

After Goodman was asked by the Star Tribune about the letter, she wrote the agency to clarify that she was not acting in her official capacity.

The city's ethics code requires those working for the city to "maintain the highest ethical principles and avoid misconduct and conflicts of interest, apparent or real."

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rep. Neva Walker to forgo seat in 2008

By Andy Birkey , Minnesota Monitor

In a letter to constituents, Rep. Neva Walker announced that she will not pursue reelection to the Minnesota House in 2008 for seat 61B. Walker has represented the south Minneapolis district since 2000, a district that includes the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood.

“I have decided not to seek reelection for a fifth term,” Walker said in a letter sent to constituents late last week, which can be viewed at “I realize that I am sending this notice out at a late date and do apologize for that. I know that this will come as a surprise and disappointment to many of you. This decision hasn’t been an easy one for me.”

While Walker didn’t give any specifics about her decision to leave office, she says she will continue her work in social justice. “Regardless of where my journey will lead me, I will always be committed to this work, seeking to educate people on the importance of social justice and why it is so crucial that we all be engaged and involved.”

Indeed, Walker worked on many progressive causes related to social justice. She held multiple events to engage the communities of color in her district to break down barriers to the political process, and she played a key role in the ethics complaint against former Rep. Arlen Lindner, whose statements regarding race, homosexuality and the Holocaust brought much negative attention to the Capitol.

She was awarded the Hanson Henningson Award by the Minnesota AIDS Project, which recognizes legislative leadership in the fight to stop HIV, for her work in securing HIV prevention funds to provide life-saving information to Minnesota’s growing and diverse African immigrant communities. She also worked for years to pass comprehensive sexual health education measures for the schools.

Those are just a few of the progressive causes that Walker represented in the Minnesota House.

“I believe that our district is an island of righteousness and the conscience of where we should be headed as a state,” she wrote. “The core values of social justice and the importance of equal rights have been things that I refuse to compromise on because of the people and support in our district.”


Elaine Brown renounces Green Party of the United States

Elaine Brown
139 Altama Connector, No. 107
Brunswick, Georgia 31525
telephone/facsimile: 912-261-1799
email: sistaelaine AT

For Immediate Release

Brunswick, Georgia,
December 28, 2007


Renounces Green Party Membership


As of today, I am no longer a candidate for the Green Party nomination for president of the United States, and I hereby resign from all affiliation with the Green Party. I believe the leadership of the Green Party of the United States has been seized by neo-liberal men who entrench the Party in internecine antagonisms so as to compromise its stated principles and frustrate its electoral and other goals. They have made it impossible to advance any truly progressive ideals or objectives under the umbrella of the Green Party, and, thus, rendered it counterproductive for me to go forward as a Green Party candidate or member.

I believe this small clique that has captured control of the Party has transformed it into a repository for erstwhile, disgruntled Democrats, who would violate the Party's own vision and sabotage the good will and genuine commitment of the general membership. Indeed, these usurpers foster a reactionary agenda, supporting partisans in and backers of the Bush wars and disavowing the Party's more progressive tenets in favor of promoting high-profile participation in the politics of the establishment.

This became clear to me almost from the moment I announced my candidacy in February of 2007. I intended using my campaign to bring large numbers of blacks and browns into the Party, particularly from the hood and the barrio—as would come to be reflected in the lists of supporters and delegates I've submitted in connection with my candidacy. As I asserted I would use the respect I enjoyed as a former leader of the Black Panther Party to do so, some in the hierarchy seemed utterly fearful of the prospect of a massive influx of blacks and browns into the Green Party. Soon, there was wide circulation of false rumors that I was a one-time "government agent," which was intended to discredit my history in the Black Panther Party so as to undermine my potential influence.—And, since then, I have had to devote significant time and energy to addressing these lies.—What this effort revealed, though, was how the Green Party, while advocating "diversity," remains dominated by whites. Indeed, the Party is able to count less blacks, browns and natives in its membership than our national population percentages and certainly less than the Democrats themselves.

In effect, the present Green Party leadership promotes a kinder, gentler capitalism, a moderated racism, an environmentally-sustainable globalism, which I cannot support. They are dedicated to the underside of the Party's platform, which falls short of repudiating the capitalist state, source of all the social ills the Party would address. They equivocate by promoting "an economic alternative to corporate capitalism and a socialist state," advocate a "re-formulation" of the IMF, NAFTA, so forth, and advance the institution of "stakeholder capitalism."

On the other hand, they demonstrate a willingness to override the best of the Party's platform. My sharp criticism of high-profile Party members' support for the "three-strikes" crime laws, the sole basis for the inhumane mass incarceration of people in the United States, particularly blacks—the repeal of which the Party's platform advocates—has been met with outright enmity. And, to divert attention from this and other critical issues, the leadership has employed chicanery in their promulgation of defamatory lies about me—which they finally extended to character assaults on my supporters and critics of their unscrupulousness.

It is my sincere belief that the Green Party as it now exists has no intention of using the ballot to actualize real social progress, and will aggressively repel attempts to do so. To remain in the fray or in the Party, then, would require a betrayal of my lifelong and ongoing commitment to serving the interests of black and other oppressed people by advancing revolutionary change in America.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Apathy fueled by lack of honest dialogue

Sen. Hillary Clinton's planted question shows candidates' need to focus on honesty and integrity.

the average American has plenty of reasons to feel disengaged in today's political climate. In the wake of two questionable presidential elections, the growing sentiment that our votes really don't matter in combination with increasing frustrations over partisanship are leading to an indifferent electorate.

Navigating oneself through corporate media biases in presenting the 2008 presidential candidates is difficult enough in itself, but when candidates seem to froth at the mouth over bashing their competitors, but cannot clearly articulate their policy positions, question-and-answer sessions with "real Americans" seem to be one of the last true dialogues between the elite and the masses.

In the past week, however, it has become obvious that at least one candidate who has attempted to separate herself from our current leader of the free world is employing some of the same campaign tactics and is destroying candidate- constituent confidences. (See any town hall meeting held by President George W. Bush).

In Iowa last week, Hillary Clinton's staffers reportedly planted a somewhat benign question about global warming with Grinnell College student Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff. Gallo-Chasanoff claims Clinton staffers approached her and asked if she wanted to ask the senator a question. She said she would want to, but when she shared the question she had in mind (about how Clinton's energy plans compared to the other candidates), the staffers encouraged instead for her to ask the question about global warming.

Although Clinton denies any knowledge of the planted question, she managed to select Gallo-Chasanoff from a crowd of over 300 Iowans.

I do not doubt that many of the questions posed in events like this one are candid and sincere, but I also do not doubt that it is beneficial to a campaign to coerce questions for which the candidate has prepared answers.

Voters, as stakeholders in the future of this country and the world, should demand honesty and integrity from our presidential candidates. Although oft-undervalued characteristics in this society, their importance in the highest office in the land is obviously innumerable.

Think of what could be, had we placed a higher value on those characteristics in 2000. Rather than fighting a war based on trumped-up charges and lies, we could have taken the billions of dollars we are now spending in Iraq and used it toward finding viable solutions to our incredibly gluttonous use of energy. Or perhaps instead of "cutting the pork" from our most basic human rights to education to buy more RPGs, we could have found a way to actually leave no child behind.

I know it's just easier to go downstairs to your basement and play Second Life than to fight for civil rights you cannot see or touch. I know it's discouraging to feel as though you don't matter in the political makeup of this country.

But I also know that unless we begin to work for change within the system we face and can be honest with one another and those who lead us, we will never see true progress in our society.

Chelsey Perkins welcomes comments at cperkins AT

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cat Fleas' Journey Into The Vacuum Is A 'One-way Trip'

Homeowners dogged by household fleas need look no farther than the broom closet to solve their problem. Scientists have determined that vacuuming kills fleas in all stages of their lives, with an average of 96 percent success in adult fleas and 100 percent destruction of younger fleas. In fact, the results were so surprisingly definitive that the lead scientist repeated the experiments several times to be sure the findings were correct.

full article:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More power to new energy alternatives

Electricity is one of the basic necessities in modern society.

Most, if not all, economic and social activities would grind to a halt without electricity. The electric power industry advances a nation’s productivity, promotes business development and expansion, and provides employment opportunities.

Indeed, electricity is more than energy. It is a vital component of infrastructure and an essential part of modern day life. Looking to the future, electricity will play an even greater transformative role. Electricity-based innovation is supporting increasingly sophisticated global, real-time networks for communication, finance, trade and technology development.

For a long time, in many developing countries (notably in Africa), the electricity sector has been dominated and run by the State (through utility monopolies). However, the industry is now undergoing a period of major restructuring: a shift from a monopolistic to a competitive structure.

It is a welcome boost to the economy to note that the Sondu Miriu Power Project in Nyando District is finally generating 30MW to the national grid. An additional 30 MW will be generated by the end of January, next year.

However, this additional supply is still a long way from satisfying the rising demand, mainly driven by economic growth as well as the Government’s commitment to take electricity to the rural areas.

Available statistics indicate that the current peak demand in the country is 1,010MW, against the maximum supply capacity of 1,100MW, leaving a reserve margin of a meagre 90MW.

It is, therefore, imperative that the Government, through KenGen visualise, plan and invest ahead if the current economic momentum and the lofty aspirations of the Vision 2030 are to be realised.

Indeed, it is a fact that the unpredictability of power supply in many African countries is one of the main hindrances to economic growth. The reasons for this irregularity of supply are numerous and diverse. These include limited financial resources for the maintenance of the infrastructure such as transmission and distribution lines, leading to unnecessary loss of power on transit.

One of the sad aspects of electricity in Africa is that most of it is generated through hydropower plants. This has given rise to an unhealthy reliability on weather to determine the supply of electricity. In the past decade, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda (to name, but a few) have all experienced debilitating power outages owing to drought conditions and leading to economic-sapping rationing programmes.

The Government, therefore, needs to start exploring the alternative sources of power including wind power, which is one of several renewable energy options. Other renewable sources include sunlight (photovoltaics), heat from the sun (solar thermal), naturally occurring underground steam and heat (geothermal), and plant and animal waste (biomass).

The Government and all the other stakeholders in the sector, also need to institute measures of improving existing operations, especially in enhancing the efficiency of both the supply and demand for electricity. This would, for instance, include investigating how demand side management options (such as efficient lighting and heating) can assist with affordability of electricity and poverty alleviation.

This is the route to self-sufficiency and growth.


Monday, December 17, 2007

OPEN LETTER TO GREEN PARTY from Cali Committee to Elect Elaine Brown

by Campaign Coordinator ( vote4elainebrown [at] )
This open letter is to address issues of unprofessional, undemocratic behavior and tactics taken by the National Political Director of the US Green Party and the National Steering Committee. The Green Party is a bright hope for electoral justice in America. Information was provided to us by an honest member of the Steering Committee. She should be CELEBRATED for her bravery yet she is being pushed to resign. Please feel free to respond. THE GREEN PARTY BELONGS TO US ALL, NOT JUST DISGRUNTLED DEMOCRATS!
OPEN & URGENT LETTER To Green Party US Steering Committee From California Coordinator, Committee to Elect Elaine Brown

I write this open letter to the Green Party US Steering Committee and the
Green Party membership at large in order to immediately expose the
malicious, libelous, and racist behavior and comments made by Brent
McMillan, Political Director, Green Party USA to the National Steering
Committee during the time that body was deciding whether or not to grant
Draft Candidate status to Elaine Brown last week.
Through email correspondence, Mr. Mcmillan informed the US Green Party
Steering Committee of a situation in which an associate of Candidate
Elaine Brown went to him to pick up paperwork for the DC primary ballot

Relating his experience through an email to the Green Party US Steering
Committee, Brent McMillan claimed that the man who came to meet with him
was sent with malicious intent. He further stated he did not know who
would come after him next, that he may be taking his last breath soon AND
accused our campaign of laying groundwork for violence. He then ended his
correspondence to the Steering Committee by claiming that Elaine Brown is
an alcoholic, a flat out lie which has NO FACTUAL BASIS whatsoever. This
is straight libel against a Green Party Candidate for the US

His accusations against our Black associate and the expressed fear that
there may be violence directed upon him in the future is rooted in racism
and was done with malice. His accusations and commentary are very severe,
unjustified, and Anti-Elaine Brown. It is pure libel, both to Elaine and
to the campaign that represents her.

Our campaign has registered many new voters to the Green Party in a
relatively short amount of time. We are organizing the marginalized and
oppressed, who have never been served by the elitist, hierarchal,
patriarchal electoral status quo. The very people who the Green Party
CLAIM to serve and represent. We are bringing these folks into this party.
Over 95% of our delegates are people of color and under the age of 25.
Most have never regitered to vote...yet are over 18. And her support is
growing in the Green Party rank and file.

This irresponsible, dangerous, undemocratic, and unprofessional, behavior
by Brent McMillan, US Green Party Political Director, is the antithesis of
the Green Party Key Values. It is hypocritical for the Green Party to
allow him to stay on as a paid staff member in a position of leadership at
the National level.

Also implicated with the Steering Committee are two other National Green
Party activists who responded to the racist accusations of
violence by Mr. McMillan.not by checking their facts...but by proposing
stronger security in the building to keep any future violent black folks,
out. They are accusing our campaign of intent to harm. A serious, criminal
accusation. This too, is malicious and hurtful to our campaign, our
candidate and a downright insult to all of our delegates and any Black
person who walks in to the Green Party office in DC this day forward.

We call for Brent McMillam to immediately and publicly recant his
malicious and untrue statements about Elaine Brown. We demand an immediate
apology and resignation of Mr. McMillan. If this statement does not come
forth from Brent McMillan, his consequences will come in the form of full
legal action.

Furthermore, we propose the Green Party US accept the following resolution
and solution proposed below I sincerely hope that Greens in positions of leadership will
hear this call for justice on behalf of our campaign. I hope all of you
will do whatever is in your power to reconstitute this US Steering
Committee with non-judgmental, tolerant, righteous people who represent
different factions of this party. The Green Party US is at a crossroads of
great potential or harm within itself.

Let a new US Steering Committee bring the party to its highest potential.
Do not allow this party (at the top levels) to become racist, biased,
elitist and corrupt. America needs the Green Party to work based on its
Key Values now more than ever.

Please support this resolution, start to make the needed changes, and
appoint a new National Political Director immediately.

With Love For The People,
California Coordinator, Committee to Elect Elaine Brown
Vote4elainebrown [at]


Whereas the paid political director of the GPUS, during a GPUS Steering
Committee Discussion and Voting period of that committee to accept or not
a high profile and respected Black Community leader, labeled that Draft
Candidate for the GPUS Presidential nomination in written Green Party
documents, derogatory terms not congruent with the ten key values of the
GPUS or the appearance of impartiality and non-appearance of conflict of

Whereas -- after national committee delegate's probing of the GPUS
steering committee -- there were no apparent responses nor action towards
censure, separation, or distancing of such remarks, from our National
Steering Committee, during this critical time of growth or implosion of
our party's democratic institutions which must remain accountable;

And whereas there has been a long standing acrimony stemming from two
tendencies in the GPUS and within the GPCA which has not been solved and
appears headed towards certain separation;

Be it resolved that the National Committee of the GPUS calls for two
delegates of Peter Camejo, two delegates of David Cobb or Cynthia
McKinney, and 1 delegate from Elaine Brown and 1 delegate from Ralph Nader
to constitute a new voting Steering Committee, with all current Steering
Committee Members to Resign their voting positions but allowed to be
present and participate in meetings until such time as GPUS steering
committee decides;

GPCA Delegate

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Green Party's McKinney Says She Offers an Alternative to Those Upset with the System

by: Andy Birkey

Tue Dec 11, 2007 at 11:54:29 AM

CynthiaAnnMcKinney.jpgGreen Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney is not afraid to speak her mind on the issues and ideas she cares about, and she joined local Greens Monday morning to do just that. She spoke on her experiences as a representative in Congress for more than a decade and as an activist on a number of issues at a small meeting of bloggers, reporters and party activists at the Midtown Exchange as part of a two-day trip to Minneapolis to gain support for her presidential bid.

McKinney has seen her fair share of controversy and accomplishment in her political career. One of her first actions as a politician in 1986 after winning a seat in the Georgia House through a successful write-in campaign spearheaded by her father (she was living in Jamaica when she won her seat) was to change a repressive dress code at the Georgia Capitol that said all women representatives must wear dresses. Thanks to McKinney, they may also wear slacks to work.

McKinney spoke of some contentious moments at the Georgia legislature, particularly her anti-war stance. "The one event that catapulted me to the United States Congress, that was when President George Herbert Walker Bush decided to bomb Baghdad," she said Monday. "And outraged, I stayed up all night and wrote a speech, went to the floor of the house and said among other things 'President Bush ought to be ashamed of himself.' That was when my colleagues got up and walked out on me."

Andy Birkey :: Green Party's McKinney Says She Offers an Alternative to Those Upset with the System
"The four years I was in the Georgia legislature I infuriated people," she said. It wouldn't be the last time she infuriated people. Her campaigns were plagued by charges of anti-semitic remarks, especially by her own father and her security staff. Racial tensions have also run high with McKinney calling her Republican opponents "holdovers from the Civil War days" and "a ragtag group of neo-Confederates."

She raised eyebrows in a letter to Saudi Prince Al-Waleed-bin Talal that criticized U.S. foreign policy. Al-Waleed donated $10 million to relief efforts after Sept. 11, but with the caveat that perhaps if the United States took a more moderate stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, these things wouldn't happen. It was rejected by charities in New York. McKinney wrote him suggesting he give the money to other charities.

Perhaps one of her more well-known statements was her insinuation that the Bush administration knew about Sept. 11 before it happened. "I thought that was a perfectly good question to ask," she said Monday. "and so I said let me ask the question pertaining to Sept. 11 that the American people ought to have answered: What did the administration know and when did they know it about the tragic events of Sept. 11?" Because of her work supporting indigenous people in Columbia, the United States and Australia, she "had a long history of upsetting people in the Congress who were not accustomed to being upset," and said members of Congress were already out to get her for those reasons.

That statement likely cost her reelection in 2006. She said 48,000 Republicans crossed over to vote for her Democratic opponent because of her statements about Bush.

Her time in Congress has also been spent looking into the events of Sept. 11. In 2005, she held hearings on unanswered questions regarding Sept. 11, and the media treatment of those hearings was not kind she said. "The quote 'mainstream media,' which is becoming less mainstream because fewer people are subscribing to them -- and that's a good thing -- labeled this briefing with these esteemed people as a meeting of conspiracy theorists."

Her time in Congress was spent on many human rights issues for which she gets very little attention. She's worked with Congress for action in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central and South America, and sponsored legislation to prevent the United States from sending military supplies to countries with undemocratic governments or human rights violations. She also played a key role in both investigating the government's response to Hurricane Katrina and Rita and securing relief funds for the disaster.

At the meeting Monday, several prominent Green Party Activists endorsed McKinney. Former candidate for mayor of Minneapolis Farheen Hakeem introduced then endorsed McKinney. U.S. Senate candidate Michael Cavlan "proudly" endorsed McKinney. Candidate for the 3rd Congressional district, Amy Alexander, also endorsed McKinney.

The McKinney campaign is working to secure federal elections money by raising funds in at least 20 states, and is trying to secure ballot status in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. So far, only Illinois has succeeded in getting McKinney on the ballot.

One of McKinney's goals is to ignite those who have been disenfranchised and who are upset with the current political system. "We've got young people who have been taught a set of values, the difference between right and wrong," she said. "They see so much wrong, and they see no one being held accountable."


Monday, December 10, 2007

The ugly side of beauty products

Whether your beauty products might be bad for you is up for debate -- and that creates a major headache for consumers.

Last update: December 10, 2007 - 10:21 AM

When you count everything from deodorant to toothpaste to hand soap to lotion, even the lowest-maintenance types among us probably use at least five beauty or personal-care products.

How many do you use a day? That's the question that Stacy Malkan, author of "Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry" posed to about 300 people attending a panel discussion at the University of Minnesota recently.

She asked that question because the safety of some ingredients commonly used in these products has become suspect by a number of watchdog groups.

It was widely reported recently that more than half of the lipsticks tested by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics contained lead. Another ingredient setting off alarms is phthalates (pronounced THAY-lates), a common component of fragrances, as reported by the Enviromental Working Group.

Research indicates that phtalates can interfere with hormones and cause birth defects. In a study of 289 people by the Center of Disease Control, all had higher-than-expected levels of phthalates, especially women of childbearing age.

Industry scientist counters claims

But Malkan's reasoning is being questioned by the cosmetic industry. John Bailey, chief scientist for the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, a Washington D.C.-based trade group, said that certain levels of lead occur naturally in nature and that the levels found in lipsticks were relatively low. In general, he says cosmetics are safe.

"Speaking as a scientist, these issues aren't new, they've been known for a while," he said. "Low levels of lead show up in products because it's very much in the environment naturally, not because it's intentionally added. If you look hard enough at foods, water, air, soil air, there's going to always be a small residue of lead. For that reason, federal government authorities as well as some of states have set limits for lead exposure. Lead found in lipstick is well below these limits."

Finding what's safe is confusing, hard work

Panel attendee Asia Schulz of Eden Prairie, who has been reading "Not Just a Pretty Face," has found the quest for healthy beauty products to be confusing and labor-intensive. She said that she has started throwing out beauty products based on ingredients listed on labels, but not without trepidation: Schulz is also a makeup artist for Bobbi Brown (owned by Estee Lauder) and LancĂ´me (owned by L'Oreal), which she now isn't convinced are safe.

At home, Schulz recently noticed that her husband's Edge Shave Gel contains triethanolamine (TEA). According to Malkan's book, the ingredient "forms carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds if mixed with other ingredients that act as nitrosating agents. It is also a skin sensitizer and possibly toxic to the lungs and brain."

Bailey disputes that. "It's a safe ingredient, normally used to sort of adjust the PH of a product and make it softer and milder," he said.

Label-reading has shown Schulz that you can't rely on brand names alone to determine the ingredients: She found ingredients that Malkan calls harmful on a tube of Kiss My Face lotion, which is marketed as being natural. "But then I pulled out a black nail polish I bought for 99 cents. The bottle said '100 percent phthalate free,'" she said.

Bailey questions how useful a careful examination of products is for consumers. "If you look beyond claims that express particular hazards and how they link those assertions to finished products, I don't think you can draw the conclusions that are being represented," he said.

Horst's new line: Good enough to eat?

On the panel with Malkan was, among others, Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda Corp., which was sold to Estee Lauder in 1997. An audience member pointed out that Aveda's Shampure rated a four (medium hazard) and the Shampure conditioner a five (also medium hazard).

Aveda's not-so-direct response, via e-mail from Gracia Walker, director of global communications: "Consumer safety has always been a top priority at Aveda. We are committed to selling only safe products and work diligently to ensure that our formulations and packaging meet our exceedingly high standards and comply with applicable regulations in every country in which our products are sold."

Rechelbacher has created a new company called Intelligent Nutrients (IN), a joint venture with Regis Corporation. The concept of the new line is that everything you put on your body should be something that you can eat and your body can digest. "It's not just food-based, but organic food-based," Rechelbacher said.

It's an idea that "is going to be normal," he added. "Putting substances on the body and not getting nutritional benefit is just outdated."

To this end, he has united food chemists and aesthetics chemists. "It has to look good and it has to function."

A variety of Intelligent Nutrients' "Neutraceutical Foods" and "Neutraceutical Supplements" are currently available online, at various salons and at the IN corporate headquarters in Minneapolis. A full line of products will launch next spring or summer.

It's an idea that seems to be catching on in the beauty industry. Origins has recently launched a new line of products that are certified organic, including face lotion (95 percent certified organic) and lip balm (97 percent certified organic).

So what can you use?

In the meantime, Malkan recommends keeping things basic, starting with the products you use everyday, like shampoos and deodorants.

"The advice that I follow is that simpler is better," she said. "Fewer synthetic ingredients, fewer ingredients overall and in some cases fewer products." Rechelbacher even suggested washing hair with an egg (it turns out that suds don't actually function beyond adding to the aesthetics of the bathing experience).

Among the products that raise Malkan's brows are bubble bath (especially "children sitting in warm waters with chemicals"), air freshener and any kind of fragrance, to which so many people have allergies or sensitivities.

Also, there is no such thing as safe hair color, said Rechelbacher, although bleaches are safer than dark hues.

Malkan no longer colors her hair. She suggests using the Safe Cosmetics Database (see chart for details, or for guidance.

She hasn't been spooked from all beautifiers, though. "There are many products on the market now that are a lot safer," she said. "It's up to consumers at this point to do our own research. In the meantime, while we work to change the laws, we research safer products and buy them for each other for Christmas."

Sara Glassman is a Minneapolis-based fashion writer. See her blog at


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Green Presidential Nominee Elaine Brown; Statement of Platform and Positions




     As a former leader of the Black Panther
Party, a Green Party candidate for mayor of
Brunswick, Georgia (2005), an author and college
lecturer, a community organizer—as co-founder of
Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice and the
National Alliance for Radical Prison Reform, and
a local leader of the "No on One" campaign
(advocating same gender partnership rights)
(Atlanta, 1997-2004)—and as executive director of
the Michael Lewis ("Little B") Legal Defense
Committee, an activist in the campaigns to free
political prisoners Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Chip
Fitzgerald and Siddique Hasan, and simply as a
black woman from the ghetto (Philadelphia), I
have a long history and significant credentials
in the struggle for social, political and
economic justice in the United States.

     In the absence of a national progressive
movement toward the institution of fundamental
change in the United States, I believe a ballot
cast for a Green Party candidate or issue
represents the most significant instrument for
change available for the Marginalized
Millions—black people, brown people, other people
of color, poor working people, those languishing
in prison, those without decent housing or health
care and all the other oppressed people trying to
survive at the bottom of life in the most
powerful nation in the world. That is, change
will not be e-mailed, rapped in a CD or YouTubed.
To paraphrase Malcolm X, for the masses of
disenfranchised and disaffected millions in
America, the ballot is the bullet!

     It is my intention to use my presidential
campaign to galvanize the non-voting Marginalized
Millions to seize the ballot of the Green Party
toward their self-empowerment. The Green Party,
too, must seize this moment of national malaise
and disillusion to come out of the morass of
being a repository for disgruntled Democrats and
open the Party's doors to the non-voting millions
so as to actively and powerfully challenge the
status quo and become an effective force in the
national political arena. I believe I am a
catalyst the Green Party can use for this
necessary transition.

     Beyond a call for the immediate,
unconditional and complete withdrawal of U.S.
troops and war machinery from Iraq and
Afghanistan, my platform focuses on the repeal of
the "three-strikes" crime laws across the nation.
No other domestic issue is more urgent for black
people, brown people, poor people. This
Clinton-promulgated law (1994) and its progeny
caused the doubling of America's prison
population in the ten years since passage. The
result is, over two million people are presently
incarcerated in America, with five million more
on parole or probation, with families
representing millions more affected by their
incarceration, and millions of formerly
incarcerated people. In general, this mass
incarceration—distinguishing the U.S. as the
country with the highest incarceration rate in
the world!—has devastated black, brown and poor
communities, further impoverishing them and
destroying familial foundations. In addition, the
"three-strikes" crime laws overturned the
100-year-old juvenile justice system, allowing
for the inhumane housing of children in adult
prisons, in violation of the U.N. Convention on
the Rights of the Child. Finally, it has
generated a nefarious economic scheme of
financial gain for private prison profiteers.—For
blacks, this has been particularly oppressive,
given that 50% of prisoners are black, as
compared to 13% of the population, reflecting the
ongoing, institutionalization of racism in
America.—This criminalization and mass
incarceration of the poor, when compared to the
glorification of mass murder in Iraq and
elsewhere, demonstrates that in the United
States, crime is a political question. This law,
as it exists around the nation, particularly in
California where prison overcrowding has rendered
the state facilities gulags, must be repealed!

     My platform, then, is one that urges
humanizing this society, as follows, a program
that can be easily supported by the immediate
transfer of the billions of dollars spent on
war—one trillion dollars last year alone:

1. Repeal of the "three-strikes" crime laws,
restoring a juvenile justice system, funding
programs of education and rehabilitation for
those incarcerated and transitional housing and
employment for those released, and restoring
voting and other civil rights to prisoners and
former prisoners.

2. Full and free health care for everyone, as
exists in most civilized countries.

3. Complete and free primary, secondary and
higher education for everyone, eliminating the
exclusion of the children of poor and working
families from obtaining a college education.

4. Complete opening of the borders of the United
States accompanied by the institution of a
guaranteed minimum living wage of $25/hour for
all workers, so as to elucidate the so-called
immigration question now confounded by racist
assaults on Mexicans and Central Americans coming
into the U.S. to work and to provide all people
working in the United States with a decent
standard of living.

5. Creation of a base of free or low-cost, decent
housing, so as to eliminate homelessness and
provide every human being the fundamental right
to a decent place to live.

6. The repeal of all laws that discriminate
against or dehumanize people on account of
ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexuality,
religion, age, or disability, and the creation of
laws that guarantee non-discrimination and human
rights to all.

7. Institution of laws and policies that promote
purification and cleansing of the air, water and
land and that outlaw polluting, contaminating or
adulterating them, toward reversal of the
pollution of nature itself, particularly as this
pollution seeps into and devastates the lives of
black and brown and other poor people trying to
breathe and live in the ghettos, barrios and
hollers of this nation.

8. The payment of reparations by the United State
government to native peoples for the theft of
land and to Gullah/Geechee and other African
slave descendants for slave labor.

9. Total dismantling of nuclear and other weapons
of mass destruction by the United States, and
recognition of and adherence to all international
agreements as to war, crime and human rights.

10. Imposition of wealth taxes and reduction of
taxes for poor and working people, toward a
complete and fair redistribution of the wealth of
the nation.

     I have embraced and worked for the ideals
and issues set forth here, reflected in the Green
Party's Ten Key Values, for most of my life. It
is my hope to seize the opportunity of being the
Green Party presidential nominee to widely
advocate for and promulgate this platform among
the Marginalized Millions to bring about the
concretization of it through election of Green
Party candidates in every city and state as well
as nationally.

>From Elaine Brown>


Though Cynthia McKinney is in town, this was just released to Green supporters. I like Elaine Brown much more than McKinney. Elaine was former leader of the Black Panthers during their height of power - which seems at odds to some people's idea of "Green." But nonviolence is a Green value, not a principle. The words of the Dalai Lama inscribed on his Congressional Gold Medal state "World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence, peace is the manifestation of human compassion."

I must side on those who support a compassionate society, because I cannot fully support less than that.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

No excuse for recycling apathy

The lack of effort by students and staff is disheartening and maddening, especially since it is relatively easy.

the physical act of tossing a bottle or can into a recycling bin is no more strenuous than that of throwing it into a trash can. Of course, you might need to walk a few extra feet, or make room for the recyclable in your bag until you find the proper place to dispose of it. But these are not difficult tasks, nor are they emotionally stressful or a financial burden.

So I cannot understand for the life of me why so many people not only do not make the negligible amount of extra effort needed to recycle items like cans and bottles that are the easiest to recycle rather than trash them, but act affronted by the mere concept.

Of course, I know there are many people who do make the effort, and I also know that outside of cities with comprehensive recycling programs, it might be difficult and maybe even impossible to recycle certain items. In my own hometown, for example, there is no recycling pick-up at all, and the closest recycling drop-off no longer accepts plastic.

But here on campus, for the most part, a majority of the effort has already been made for us. If you have yet to notice, bins all over the place, compartmentalized nicely and neatly, make it possible to rid yourself of last week's Sudoku, your empty Diet Coke bottle and the rest of that $2 burrito you couldn't bring yourself to finish all in one go. In most classrooms I've been in, three separate bins stand directly next to one another, labeled clearly.

Yet I regularly see people throw recyclables into the trash even though literally a foot away they could recycle them.

A friend told me this weekend that her parents poke fun at her when she asks them to recycle; another friend of mine waited until she found a recycling bin for her newspaper and her brother asked, "So, what, are you like an environmentalist now?"

As our world faces an environmental crisis like we have never seen before, the tasks before us seem daunting and nearly unattainable and it is easy to feel helpless. It's not as though the average person can simply waltz into Exxon Mobil and shut them down or halt clear-cutting in the Brazilian Rain Forest.

Why, then, is one of the tasks possible for an individual to complete on their own, a task that undeniably is crucial to environmental health, so often brazenly disregarded?

Even if you subscribe to the notion that humans are not the cause of global warming or could care less what happens to the planet after you're gone, why not just put that bottle in the freaking recycling bin when it is right there in front of you?

The thing is, although it might seem like a long shot, we can as individuals make a difference for our environment by the products we buy and the sustainable habits we commit to. Collectively, we have unlimited power to make change on the environmental front.

If you feel like that one bottle will not make a difference, multiply that by the 50,000 or more people that are on this campus every day for nine months, and you can see what kind of impact can be made. Whether it's a positive or negative one is up to you and which of the three slots you choose.

Chelsey Perkins welcomes your comments at cperkins AT


[ Minnesota has tens of thousands employed in the recycling industry. One of my battle buddies at basic training in the Minnesota National Guard works at one of the factories.

Each can of aluminum you recycle saves a bit more than half a cup of oil. Recycling is interconnected to the economy, natural resources, Global Warming, Peak Oil, and municipal taxes.

Even if you pay $3 a month to do this in suburbs such as Brooklyn Park, you are still making a profound difference. ]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Address by Mayor Ross C. “Rocky” Anderson

Salt Lake City, Utah --

Today, as we come together once again in this great city, we raise our voices in unison to say to President Bush, to Vice President Cheney, to other members of the Bush Administration (past and present), to a majority of Congress, including Utah’s entire congressional delegation, and to much of the mainstream media: “You have failed us miserably and we won’t take it any more.”

“While we had every reason to expect far more of you, you have been pompous, greedy, cruel, and incompetent as you have led this great nation to a moral, military, and national security abyss.”

“You have breached trust with the American people in the most egregious ways. You have utterly failed in the performance of your jobs. You have undermined our Constitution, permitted the violation of the most fundamental treaty obligations, and betrayed the rule of law.”

“You have engaged in, or permitted, heinous human rights abuses of the sort never before countenanced in our nation’s history as a matter of official policy. You have sent American men and women to kill and be killed on the basis of lies, on the basis of shifting justifications, without competent leadership, and without even a coherent plan for this monumental blunder.”

“We are here to tell you: We won’t take it any more!”

“You have acted in direct contravention of values that we, as Americans who love our country, hold dear. You have deceived us in the most cynical, outrageous ways. You have undermined, or allowed the undermining of, our constitutional system of checks and balances among the three presumed co-equal branches of government. You have helped lead our nation to the brink of fascism, of a dictatorship contemptuous of our nation’s treaty obligations, federal statutory law, our Constitution, and the rule of law.”

“Because of you, and because of your jingoistic false ‘patriotism,’ our world is far more dangerous, our nation is far more despised, and the threat of terrorism is far greater than ever before.

It has been absolutely astounding how you have committed the most horrendous acts, causing such needless tragedy in the lives of millions of people, yet you wear your so-called religion on your sleeves, asserting your God-is-on-my-side nonsense – when what you have done flies in the face of any religious or humanitarian tradition. Your hypocrisy is mind-boggling – and disgraceful. What part of “Thou shalt not kill” do you not understand? What part of the “Golden rule” do you not understand? What part of “be honest,” “be responsible,” and “be accountable” don’t you understand? What part of “Blessed are the peacekeepers” do you not understand?

Because of you, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, many thousands of people have suffered horrendous lifetime injuries, and millions have been run off from their homes. For the sake of our nation, for the sake of our children, and for the sake of our brothers and sisters around the world, we are morally compelled to say, as loudly as we can, ‘We won’t take it any more!’ ”

“As United States agents kidnap, disappear, and torture human beings around the world, you justify, you deceive, and you cover up. We find what you have done to men, women and children, and to the good name and reputation of the United States, so appalling, so unconscionable, and so outrageous as to compel us to call upon you to step aside and allow other men and women who are competent, true to our nation’s values, and with high moral principles to stand in your places – for the good of our nation, for the good of our children, and for the good of our world.”

In the case of the President and Vice President, this means impeachment and removal from office, without any further delay from a complacent, complicit Congress, the Democratic majority of which cares more about political gain in 2008 than it does about the vindication of our Constitution, the rule of law, and democratic accountability.

It means the election of people as President and Vice President who, unlike most of the presidential candidates from both major parties, have not aided and abetted in the perpetration of the illegal, tragic, devastating invasion and occupation of Iraq. And it means the election of people as President and Vice President who will commit to return our nation to the moral and strategic imperative of refraining from torturing human beings.

In the case of the majority of Congress, it means electing people who are diligent enough to learn the facts, including reading available National Intelligence Estimates, before voting to go to war. It means electing to Congress men and women who will jealously guard Congress’s sole prerogative to declare war. It means electing to Congress men and women who will not submit like vapid lap dogs to presidential requests for blank checks to engage in so-called preemptive wars, for legislation permitting warrantless wiretapping of communications involving US citizens, and for dangerous, irresponsible, saber-rattling legislation like the recent Kyl-Lieberman amendment.

We must avoid the trap of focusing the blame solely upon President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. This is not just about a few people who have wronged our country – and the world. They were enabled by members of both parties in Congress, they were enabled by the pathetic mainstream news media, and, ultimately, they have been enabled by the American people – 40% of whom are so ill-informed they still think Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks – a people who know and care more about baseball statistics and which drunken starlets are wearing underwear than they know and care about the atrocities being committed every single day in our name by a government for which we need to take responsibility.

As loyal Americans, without regard to political partisanship -- as veterans, as teachers, as religious leaders, as working men and women, as students, as professionals, as businesspeople, as public servants, as retirees, as people of all ages, races, ethnic origins, sexual orientations, and faiths -- we are here to say to the Bush administration, to the majority of Congress, and to the mainstream media: “You have violated your solemn responsibilities. You have undermined our democracy, spat upon our Constitution, and engaged in outrageous, despicable acts. You have brought our nation to a point of immorality, inhumanity, and illegality of immense, tragic, unprecedented proportions.”

“But we will live up to our responsibilities as citizens, as brothers and sisters of those who have suffered as a result of the imperial bullying of the United States government, and as moral actors who must take a stand: And we will, and must, mean it when we say ‘We won’t take it any more.’”

If we want principled, courageous elected officials, we need to be principled, courageous, and tenacious ourselves. History has demonstrated that our elected officials are not the leaders – the leadership has to come from us. If we don’t insist, if we don’t persist, then we are not living up to our responsibilities as citizens in a democracy – and our responsibilities as moral human beings. If we remain silent, we signal to Congress and the Bush administration – and to candidates running for office – and to the world – that we support the status quo.

Silence is complicity. Only by standing up for what’s right and never letting down can we say we are doing our part.

Our government, on the basis of a campaign we now know was entirely fraudulent, attacked and militarily occupied a nation that posed no danger to the United States. Our government, acting in our name, has caused immense, unjustified death and destruction.

It all started five years ago, yet where have we, the American people, been? At this point, we are responsible. We get together once in a while at demonstrations and complain about Bush and Cheney, about Congress, and about the pathetic news media. We point fingers and yell a lot. Then most people politely go away until another demonstration a few months later.

How many people can honestly say they have spent as much time learning about and opposing the outrages of the Bush administration as they have spent watching sports or mindless television programs during the past five years? Escapist, time-sapping sports and insipid entertainment have indeed become the opiate of the masses.

Why is this country so sound asleep? Why do we abide what is happening to our nation, to our Constitution, to the cause of peace and international law and order? Why are we not doing all in our power to put an end to this madness?

We should be in the streets regularly and students should be raising hell on our campuses. We should be making it clear in every way possible that apologies or convoluted, disingenuous explanations just don’t cut it when presidential candidates and so many others voted to authorize George Bush and his neo-con buddies to send American men and women to attack and occupy Iraq.

Let’s awaken, and wake up the country by committing here and now to do all each of us can to take our nation back. Let them hear us across the country, as we ask others to join us: “We won’t take it any more!”

I implore you: Draw a line. Figure out exactly where your own moral breaking point is. How much will you put up with before you say “No more” and mean it?

I have drawn my line as a matter of simple personal morality: I cannot, and will not, support any candidate who has voted to fund the atrocities in Iraq. I cannot, and will not, support any candidate who will not commit to remove all US troops, as soon as possible, from Iraq. I cannot, and will not, support any candidate who has supported legislation that takes us one step closer to attacking Iran. I cannot, and will not, support any candidate who has not fought to stop the kidnapping, disappearances, and torture being carried on in our name.

If we expect our nation’s elected officials to take us seriously, let us send a powerful message they cannot misunderstand. Let them know we really do have our moral breaking point. Let them know we have drawn a bright line. Let them know they cannot take our support for granted – that, regardless of their party and regardless of other political considerations, they will not have our support if they cannot provide, and have not provided, principled leadership.

The people of this nation may have been far too quiet for five years, but let us pledge that we won’t let it go on one more day – that we will do all we can to put an end to the illegalities, the moral degradation, and the disintegration of our nation’s reputation in the world.

Let us be unified in drawing the line – in declaring that we do have a moral breaking point. Let us insist, together, in supporting our troops and in gratitude for the freedoms for which our veterans gave so much, that we bring our troops home from Iraq, that we return our government to a constitutional democracy, and that we commit to honoring the fundamental principles of human rights.

In defense of our country, in defense of our Constitution, in defense of our shared values as Americans – and as moral human beings – we declare today that we will fight in every way possible to stop the insanity, stop the continued military occupation of Iraq, and stop the moral depravity reflected by the kidnapping, disappearing, and torture of people around the world.

[ KAC: While Mayor Anderson is not currently within the Green Party, he reflects our values better than the majority of those in the largest Two Parties. He would impeach Bush if Pelosi and Reid would allow it. ]

Monday, November 26, 2007

Twin City Energy Transition Working Group


● Brian Merchant reported that his article, “Have We Hit Peak Oil Yet?” appears in the new issue of Do It Green magazine.

● Philipp Muessig and Brian Merchant discussed their appearance on the November 21 “Truth To Tell” radio show on KFAI community radio along with John Farrell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance and Michael Noble of Fresh Energy. The hour-long talk-show was devoted to the subject of peak oil.

● Philipp also reported that he had responded to a request for topics from Public Insight Journalism with a recommendation that they address climate change and peak oil combined in society’s move toward a lower carbon future.

● Mary Morse provided an update on NEC’s continuing work on the MnZEB – Zero Energy Block project, and the Neighborhood Conservation Corps (NCC). The proposed NCC would include college students canvassing door-to-door offering assistance in direct impact options such as installing CFL’s, programming thermostats, distributing coupons for neighborhood bike shops, etc. The concept is likened to a “Welcome Wagon” of energy information.

● Brian Merchant reported that a citizen education workshop organized through Highland District Council and Macalester Groveland Community Council is scheduled for Wednesday, January 16, at Hillcrest Auditorium. The workshop, “ENERGY LITERACY: Energy-savings and carbon-reduction at the household and community level – What citizens can do,” will feature Justin Lee from Macalester EcoHouse, Jimmie Sparks from NEC, and Eric Schroeder from Great Plains Institute.

Media Strategies:

The group discussed the need for effective ways to provide information to the public. The Energy Challenge was criticized for appearing to be merely a pledge and not a fun one at that. David Suzuki’s 10 points to save the world was suggested as a good model.

Mary Morse suggested organizing a meeting with local editorial boards to introduce the topic of energy transition. The group will begin framing its pitch at its January, 2008 meeting.

Energy Transition Resolutions:

The group discussed creating a model peak oil resolution appropriate for local precinct caucuses. Caucuses include opportunities for citizens to introduce resolutions that, if passed at the caucus, can find their way to the platform committee. Mention was made of Representative Bill Hilty’s peak oil resolution introduced in the state legislature last February (HF 995).

Philipp distributed a draft peak oil resolution designed for precinct caucuses. The resolution asks state elected and appointed officials to educate and prepare the state to meet the challenges of peak oil.

Discussion included references to portions of the City of Portland’s resolution and recommendations to build self-interest in a local resolution describing benefits to the state economy as well as specifics on what is to be achieved.

Lee Olson offered to start a list, jumping off from the TC Peak Oil Resource Guide, describing strategies for citizens to prepare for peak oil. Alice Tibbets offered to work with her on developing the list emphasizing personal responsibility for becoming prepared while encouraging a sense of safety, resiliency, becoming connected, having choices, and improving life.


Alice Tibbets reported on her consulting work with the Minneapolis Public School District dealing with rising costs of student busing. Having previously worked on Safe Routes to School in St. Paul, Alice is currently working on transportation planning for Minneapolis. The district may not be able to afford to provide student busing at parents’ beck and call. With the rising price of diesel fuel, there is a need to change the district’s approach from that of transportation provider to one of transportation partner.

Minneapolis transports students a total of 25,000 miles a day. Alice developed a visual depiction of the fact that the daily total of 25,000 miles represents a trip around the world. In Alice’s analysis, she found that students’ walking just five minutes more to a more distant bus stop resulted in substantial cost savings compared to the costs of door-to-door service. Alice described recommendations including car free zones, providing incentives not to drive to school, and adult crossing guards.

Tony Hainault provided a description of the Metropolitan Counties Energy Group. Hennepin County serves as fiscal agent for the Metropolitan Counties Energy Group representing seven counties in the metro area along with the Met Council. He pointed out that local government has no jurisdiction over energy in Minnesota and counties are not allowed to generate electricity. The Energy Group provides a forum to education county commissioners on energy and has launched energy conservation programs in participating counties. This effort has included incentives to reduce energy use with the pilot occurring in Xcel Energy district counties. Further information on strategic planning is available at:

To join go here:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bored and apathetic students bother me

It is draining to be in a class where a bunch of deadweights drag the lecture down with their lack of enthusiasm.

BY Quynh Nguyen

As a student who actually pays attention in class, I am increasingly annoyed with those Sudoku-ing, nose-picking, text-messaging or napping students in the back of class. These are the same students who demand study guides from harried professors, bug their laptop-toting classmates for a copy of notes and are generally the loudest to complain about the slightest challenges in the class. If only they were paying attention in class they would not need to be so obnoxious in demanding crutches to their grade.

It is draining to be in a class where a bunch of deadweights drag the lecture down with their anti-enthusiasm. I applaud these students for being able to muster the motivation to get out of their warm comfy beds and into a stiff auditorium seat - some days it is pretty darn hard to get off a lazy butt. It's even harder to actually do work for a grade.

Don't get me wrong - I slack off too. Once you hit the real world, slacking off gets much more difficult. Having had a brief stint as a full-time employee, I have learned how sweet it is to sleep past 8 a.m. and to not have a real boss hovering over me and dripping acid down my neck. Any time I get to slack off I savor it like a gourmet meal. I just separate my slack time from actual school time - the two simply don't mix. Why slack off in lecture when you can slack off at home and can devote full attention to fun?

I am not deaf to excuses like "Gosh, the lecture is so boring" and "I have to do something to stay awake in class." But when I hear these excuses I think to myself, "Man, these kids have not worked a single boring day at an 8-to-5 job in their semi-charmed lives. If they have, they would be devoting their class time to learning everything they can to avoid being a full-time grunt stuck in a boring job."

As a student we can choose to be bored, choose to pay attention, choose majors that stimulate us or choose to not attend class at all. As workers, we have the option to take the job or get another similarly monotonous job.

The people I feel sorry for the most are the instructors who have to put up with lackluster students and do everything they can, short of stripping at the lectern, to keep a disinterested and disaffected student populace in line with the goals outlined in the syllabus. I've seen instructors do all sorts of innovative things to keep us awake - remote-control game show clickers, Socratic debates, interactive PowerPoint and WebCT pages - but it is a Sisyphean effort to be more interesting than the Sudoku puzzle.

I have seen instructors just burned out with students who don't care, students clearly here to get a degree and get out. These instructors are often leaders in their field of research, can publish papers and win grants, but can't win against a student populace that couldn't care less.

The only solution I can think of is this: Do your Sudoku at home. If your grades suffer and you don't like it, change majors to something more interesting and fulfilling so it's worth coming to lecture. And if college isn't for you, it's OK to go out there and work.

Going to college is like going to the movies - admission costs a lot of money. If a lecture, like a movie, is not worth seeing, let your instructor know what you did not like and move on. College is too costly to just blow off to get the mere ticket stub (aka the degree) to say you've attended. Believe me, employers are just as impressed with an old movie ticket stub as they are with a degree with no experience and a lackluster GPA.

Quynh Nguyen welcomes comments at

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Overlooked family values

Virtually every religious tradition emphasizes paying your debts and caring for your children. Yet America today is failing to fulfill these very basic moral obligations.

By Oliver "Buzz" Thomas

Throw out the turkey carcass, break out the tinsel and batten down the hatches. Election season is upon us. And, if this election is anything like the past two, religion and values will play starring roles in deciding the outcome.

A key economic issue that is starting to gain traction as a result of the falling dollar involves two of religion's most universal teachings and cuts across ideological and party lines. Whether you're Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Zoroastrian, your tradition has taught you at least this:

* Pay your bills.

* Provide for your children.

I don't know a religion this side of Dante's inferno that would dispute either one.

(Illustration by Web Bryant, USA TODAY)

For Christians, the Bible is explicit about our obligations to our children. "Children are not responsible to provide for their parents but parents for their children," wrote St. Paul to the Corinthian Church. He went on to assert that one who fails to provide for his family "has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (I Timothy 5:8.) The obligation to pay our lawful debts runs even deeper, going all the way back to the Ten Commandments. Defaulting on one's debts is at least lying if not stealing.

Yet, Americans appear to be violating both of these great religious teachings at warp speed.

How are we doing it? By continuing to spend more and pay less with our national government. Specifically, we are $9 trillion in debt, with the figure rising at the rate of about half a billion dollars a day. The interest alone on the national debt amounts to more than $230 billion a year, or 8% of the federal budget.

The moral component

Why is this a moral issue? Because these are real dollars that must eventually be paid back. If not by us, by our children and our grandchildren.

Think about that for a moment. Nine trillion dollars is nearly $30,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. That's $120,000 for a family of four. And that's assuming everybody can pay, which they can't. The elderly, the sick and disabled, the young ... these people can't pay. When you boil it all down, the amount our workforce would have to pay if we could freeze the debt at its current level is gargantuan. Still, we keep piling it on.

I understand that debt can be useful during times of recession or national emergency. I remember learning how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used deficit spending to help propel the country out of the Great Depression. But piling up massive amounts of red ink as a matter of ordinary course portends disastrous results. This was a central message of Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign, and one of the reasons we turned our attention to successfully balancing the budget during the '90s.

Here's what's fascinating. I don't have a single friend who would run up his credit card debt by $30,000 and expect his children to pay it off when he died. (Most of my friends live by the biblical adage that "a good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children.") Yet, none of these friends seems concerned that we're saddling our children with the same amount of debt through our elected officials. Because Congress and the president are the ones using our credit cards, we seem not to mind.

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Combat veterans will tell you that it's easier to drop a bomb on hundreds of people from 20,000 feet than it is to kill a single person at arm's length. Up close and personal, moral questions are clear and focused, but between Washington and Waycross, things cloud up.

The tax cuts passed by President Bush and the Republican Congress in 2001 only worsened our economic woes. Projected surpluses never materialized in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but our deeply convicted, if not stubborn, president plowed full-speed ahead with his plan to give the surplus back to the American people. Meanwhile, government spending continued to soar. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were like pouring gasoline on the fire. Congress began the dangerous practice of adopting federal budgets without reliable figures for war-related expenditures. Then came Pell grants, Homeland Security, farm subsidies, Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, Medicare, foreign aid and all the rest. All good stuff, but the point is this: Somewhere it has to stop.

As the Hebrew Scriptures put it, men die for lack of discipline. We have only two choices really. Cut spending, or pay more into the system.

'Supply side' fallacy

I realize that Republican politicians beginning with Ronald Reagan in 1981 convinced us that you could balance the budget simply by slashing taxes on the wealthy and holding the line on spending. "Supply-side economics," they called it. The well-off would be able to invest more, thereby expanding our economy and growing additional tax revenues to balance the budget.

It didn't work. In the wake of the Reagan tax cuts, federal budget deficits ballooned to record amounts. The Great Communicator, a pragmatist at heart, responded in the only responsible way. He raised taxes.

Here we are 25 years later in the same fix but, alas, without a Ross Perot. To their credit, Congressional Democrats have adopted a "pay as you go" approach to budgeting, but even they appear unwilling to tackle the harsh reality of our collective debt. They have neither cut spending nor seriously moved to repeal Bush's tax cuts.

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidates are busily proposing ways to spend money while Republican candidates continue preaching tax cuts. They all appear oblivious to the lessons of the '80s or to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's 2005 study showing that such tax cuts routinely fall short of their billing and increase the federal deficit. No wonder George Bush the elder once called it "voodoo economics."

As a minister, I'm going to call it something else: Sin. That's not a word that gets used a lot in our politically correct culture, but spending money that we don't have and leaving the bills for the grandkids isn't going to earn us one of God's gold stars.

As "values voters" parse the politicians, I'd like them to remember this. Paying our debts is a family value.

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas is a minister, lawyer and author of 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).

Ranked Choice Voting at Minnesota Senate Subcommittee on Election

Senate Subcommittee on Elections
AGENDA - Ranked Choice Voting
20 November 2007

Senator Dan Larson - Committee Chair

1) Jeanne Massey - FairVote Minnesota

Intro to Ranked Choice Voting by FairVote Minnesota via powerpoint

Senator Chris Gerlach R-Apple Valley - [ Clearly upset, angry about this issue. Wanting to throw a temper tantrum? ]

When he asks for a logical conclusion in an election of 100%, Is he calling for consensus elections? Could we have a blocking concern against a candidate and block the outcome of an election as a single voter? Elections would never have a conclusion in Gerlach's assumption of election consensus. [ Photo is of Gerlach making this leap of logic at consensus voting ]

"Abraham Lincoln elected by a majority"
Partisan primaries and general joined together? Gerlach has not done his homework on IRV when he asked this ridiculous question. He was only given the talking points against Ranked Choice Voting.


John Gilbert - Wake Co. N.C. Board of Elections 2007 -

Carie - 112,000 suburb of Raleigh - saved $28,000 in election costs

Hendersonville 12,000 in Western part of county -

No split votes, neither were partisan. Objectives of county election judges
1) Election conducted with integrity
2)Do all they can within limited authority to facilitate voting by all citizens

2004 Wake County outvoted many other counties, including Charlotte, N.C.
Don't count votes people are not entitled to vote for.
Designing voting laws is not rocket science. This brings us as close as possible to a fair government. Election proved that IRV is as easy as 1,2,3. Rankings only affected one race, an at-large race.

Opponents insist on it being complicated, but people are used to making choices. Exit polls confirmed that voters liked it and had no problems with it. It was the same regardless of ethnicity, income, where they lived, age, or any other criteria.

Gerlach "agrees it simple at the front end. Behind the scenes the choices are manipulated through math and formulations. How many understand how it works?"

Gilbert - "About as many as can explain how are President is elected. The powerpoint makes it look complicated, but it really isn't. There are different ways of tabulating. What we did in Carie was simply voting by hand, though computer programming exists. What people often don't understand, is that their second choice can never be the enemy of their first choice, it brings you closest to majority rule."

Gerlach - "Far more people understand how electoral votes work. Clearly IRV creates a gymnastics of confusion. It is far more complicated than you make it appear."

Gilbert - "IRV is not a left or right issue, is not a Democrat or Republican issue. If you believe that Democracy is that over half the people are right most the time, this brings you the closest to this. "


Betsy Hodges - City Council - Minneapolis

Voted as a council to put Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot. 65% of the voters approved in 2006. Many events to inform public, citizens very enthusiastic of RCV after they understood it.

Cyndy Reichert - Director of Elections - Minneapolis

Studied election law extensively and released a report. ( )

Working towards a 2009 elections, and may delay until 2013 to replace equipment with Rank Choice compatible

4) Beth Fraser - Secretary of State's Office

Excited about the process. A statewide issue, other cities are examining this method such as Red Wing and Hopkins.

5) Joe Mansky - Elections Manager for Ramsey County

No position for or against RCV. All voting equipment certified by Secretary of State prior to RCV proposed, currently a "Winner takes all" system. Two voter equipment vendors are working to create equipment that will meet Federal voting standards. We will not use a different or new voting system for a statewide election system.

Cities do not have authority on their own to change their voting system. Cannot be recommended that two different forms of voting occur in the same election. Believes this situation should be prevented. One quarter of Saint Paul's electorate speak another primary language.

Our voting equipment can do a 1st round voting system. We cannot reallocate votes in subsequent rounds. A counting center could do this manually or with different voting equipment. Current equipment allow instant results on our websites in 2008 and 2012.

Replacing the voting equipment, and currently cities and county work together. This becomes a cost issue for both cities and counties. The year 2011 would be the time when most voting equipment in the state would be in need of replacement.

Our election law does not accommodate for RCV.
-maximum round limit for runoff voting
- maximum votes one can cast, permitted to rank all candidates
- procedures for counting
-rules how we can tell voter intent
-how would we conduct a recount

According to the Attorney General, RCV may be unconstitutional in general elections. It does appear as though there may be no constitutional issue with primaries, and RCV could be restricted to these elections. It could also be used in a presidential primary.

Manufacturers understand more demand for RCV and other voting methods. Vendors will not put effort into something they cannot make money on. New generation of voting equipment is needed, but a law is needed to assist us in buying them. Hand-counting is the least accurate form of vote counting in Minnesota.

6) Andy Cilek - Minnesota Voters Alliance ( )

[ Also seems angry ]

We oppose IRV and RCV - Barbara Johnson [ A corporate-owned DFLer - could easily join the GOP along with Paul Ostrow and Chris Stewart - as Norm Coleman has ] also opposes this.

In Raleigh, they felt it disenfranchised many voters.

Plan to file a legal case against IRV in Minneapolis on December 4th, 2007.

Cannot cast a single choice more than once.

Fatal flaw, voters don't know whether they are helping or hurting their cause.

Senator Sandy Pappas - DFL - Saint Paul - Confused about IRV and normal runoffs.

Andy Cilek also wanted Pappas reprimanded for speaking out of turn.

Gerlach believes votes are not counted fairly. Majority 1st choice voters get a less fair chance.

Gerlach - What value is there a vote in a vote not counted?

Pappas - 3rd Party voters are told their votes are pointless

Gerlach - A vote for Hatch was the same weight per voter as Pawlenty. IRV is a weighted system.

Pappas - Minnesota does not have a runoff election. Only if you have 2 candidates would you have an election where voters can create a majority winning candidate.

7) Fran Hesch - Hopkins - Charter Commission

Volunteer on the Ranked Choice Voting committee

25 page alternative voting taskforce. 6 different voting options were recommended for Hopkins. Supporst alternative voting method choice. Document Hopkins concerns for STV in smaller cities.

1917-1959 Used STV. Hopkins encouraged state of Minnesota to purchase voting equipment that would be STV compatible. IRV is different than STV in multiple seats. IRV could be used for mayor and special elections only,per Hopkins city charter. STV could be used in Hopkins for multiple seats.

Please don't legislate for plurality or STV methods. Minneapolis is the urgent issue and legislation is needed. Any language should not impact a choice of voting methods.

8) Senator John C. Hottinger - Saint Paul

Also volunteering to assist IRV implementation.

2nd Round of counting, you DO count both votes twice. You don't have to come back to the polls again. Voter support for a victor with a majority of the vote. IRV alleviates the concerns of voters. Peter Hutchinson couldn't be voted for because he was outside the two parties, yet he should have been an option instead of seen as a "spoiler."

There will always be discontent over elections. Those who win with less than majority serve as if they were mandated by the voters. 2% of voters turnout for primaries. 2 elections instead of one hurts Democracy.

Minnesotans are frustrated in the way political parties choose their primary candidates.

Pappas - Constitutionality of IRV.

Hottinger - David Schultz from Hamline goes through the Constitutionality of IRV. All votes are counted again during the second round.

Pappas - This is a Minnesota Constitutional issue, not a Federal. How does this voting system work here?

Hottinger - Unsure of how RCV applies to Minnesota Constitution

Link to video podcast:

Real Media Format

Windows Media Format

[ All of my comments in parantheses. These are notes and highly paraphrased. But the primary ideas of each individual are expressed ]
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