End the “Farm” Safety Rule Exemptions that Big Ag is Spilling HazMat Through!

Time to end the “farm” safety rule exemptions that Big Ag is spilling HazMat through!

Ol’ friend dropped by yesterday, seemed pretty shaken. Being a veteran of the trades not much rattles him, he’s seen it all and survived. But I’ve never seen him so stressed as he told me of what almost became a major HazMat spill, and the company didn’t give a darn.

My union brother is a retiree who took a seasonal job delivering tank trailers of ammonia to supplement his retirement. Ammonia otherwise known as NH3 is nasty stuff, just a one percent solution in the air can kill you. But it’s a staple of mass scale farming, delivered to the farm in 1000 gallon tank trailers that weight up to 7500 pounds. And did I mention that those trailers have no brakes?

So against his better judgement my friend is ordered to pull one of these 7500 pounds tanks with a 5000 pound pickup down a dirt road to a farm. The road is icy and hilly, and going up a hill the pickup loses traction. And because the 7500 pound tank trailer has no brakes, it pulls the lighter pickup right down the hill backwards. The tank trailer has a typical farm wagon chassis and “steering”, which means you can’t back its straight for more than a few feet. Ignoring his boss’s instructions my friend gently applied the pickup’s brakes, which slowed the trailer full of ammonia’s inevitable slide into the ditch. 

We were lucky this time, the trailer stayed upright and intact with no leaks. But every fall and spring as the ammonia is applied we’ll hear of at least one catastrophic discharge with attendant evacuations and our firefighters risking their lives to contain the leak. It’s just another in the parade of “farm” accidents, like the worker who just died in Iowa from burns received while cleaning out a mega livestock barn or the near daily tractor tipovers. Or the slow roadway destruction caused by the loaded thousand bushel hopper pulled behind an almost as heavy tractor I passed on a paved county road today.

Under our state’s laws almost any trailer weighting over 3000 pounds must have brakes, California requires brakes for travel trailers over 1500 pounds. I pull a 2000 pound trailer myself a lot, usually at half that weight, and because I can’t find trailer brakes to fit it I won’t pull it on snow, never mind ice. But Minnesota exempts “farm” trailers from that law and lets them run the roads with no brakes, even though they can weight more than a properly licensed and braked tractor trailer rig. And if I’m plowing snow off driveways or streets with my tractor I fall under OSHA rules and the Roll Over Protection System (ROPS) roll bar must be up and my seat belt buckled, but if I’m plowing a field neither is required.

These safety rule exemptions were put in law decades ago to give our poor small farmers a break, but the “farmer” demanding that my friend pull their 7500 pound trailer with no brakes on an icy and hilly road is an exchange listed foreign corporation that does $30,000,000,000+ a year in business. That’s why it’s time to eliminate these safety exemptions that maim and kill our farm workers!

Saving (Future) President Amy (Klobuchar’s Campaign)…

Saving President Amy…

Being a Minnesotan and a progressive, Amy was an easy first choice for me. So I signed onto the campaign and waited for marching orders, hopefully in the direction of Iowa. And waited… While my inbox filled with daily and then some fundraising appeals, I got not a single “were having a campaign event” notice. Then I looked at the polls and saw Amy barely registering in the very low single digits. So I regretfully switched my support to my second choice, Elizabeth Warren. While Liz’s flavor of progressive was short on practicality, she has the best ground operation going in Iowa and they excel at doing events.

Meanwhile, Amy’s campaign was sputtering- While they bussed in supporters to put on a good show at the big events, there were still disconnects, like the Liberty and Justice event bit over a week ago with volunteers not getting home ’til 4:30 am. So I followed the campaign through northwest Iowa on Friday, and the campaign comedy continued…

For a start, the campaign on just a couple days notice decided to do a swing through northern Iowa. This resulted in conflicting itineraries on the campaign website, the DM Register website, and over at Iowa Starting Line’s site. Local media notice of the events was missing, due to the short notice. So no surprise that a 3pm Friday event in Pocohontas produced a scant 40 attendees in a county of 7000. At 6 pm in Sioux Center maybe a hundred turned out in a county of 33,000, a few days before Mayor Pete turned out at least 400 in slightly less populous Spencer in Clay county. It gets worse- trying to make the crowd look bigger, the Amy staffers in front of god, the media, and everybody shooed attendees up from the back seats and put those chairs away. And may be a good thing the crowds were small, as Amy wasn’t exactly firing ‘em up anyway.

Yet despite these mistakes, Amy’s moving up in the polls and at least in Iowa has made the top 5 and nationally has qualified for the December debate. Even an incompetent campaign can’t totally keep the best candidate down- Amy is the practical progressive with the best combination of policies that can actually pass the senate and the swing state appeal that will make her president.

 Amy deserves better, and we owe her… So I’m dropping out of the non existent out here Warren campaign and goin‘ all in for Amy! There’s dozens, hundreds, and literally thousands of us Minnesotans that organized and door knocked Paul Wellstone to the Senate and Barack to the White House. It’s time for us all to put everything we’ve learned in those campaigns and our boundless energy into the greatest campaign Minnesota AND Iowa has ever seen to send Amy to the White House.

It ain’t gonna be easy, but it can be done- Show Amy some video of Pete’s stump speech so she can see how a moderate can excite a crowd. Capture the data and get it working, we need a 3D view of Amy’s supporters, confirmed and potential, so we can track and guide them to the caucuses. We need an exciting campaign event road show starring Amy that would do a rock band proud while performing right on schedule in an Iowa blizzard. We need an all singing, all dancing social media campaign that spreads like a turbocharged virus and develops and drives Amy supporters to the caucuses and primaries.

And most of all, we need you- Please join me in going all in for President Amy!

MN Clean Cars Meeting- Civility and Science were Checked at the Door…

The current occupant of the White House is dumping the EPA’s tightening of auto emission regulations that would have reduced Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) via tightening MPG requirements over the next few years. In response to that gross unscientific stupidity, Minnesota’s Governor Walz proposed adopting the California standards, which are pretty much the same as the standards Trump killed. So it was that last night the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency held a meeting in my rural corner of the state to explain and get public feedback on the proposal…

The are two California standards proposed, the first is the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standard that ratchets up automakers average MPG to a theoretical 50 MPG or so. Theoretical because only some small cars have to meet that standard and the MPG goals drop with size to the point where a big ol’ pickup with a barely 20 MPG rating can waltz right through. That explains why the automakers gave up the fight on this regulation so easily and BMW, Ford, and VW say they’ll meet it whether required to or not. If we had any real climate change fighting courage we’d adopt the tougher EU standards that will require max GHG of 100 grams/kilometer, which is better than 40 MPG for anything smaller than a working truck or minibus. The other standard, the Zero Emissions Vehicle Standard (ZEV), demands that 6% of a car makers output must be electric cars. That explains the phenomenon of “compliance cars” with tiny batteries and inadequate range sold at a loss only in states that follow California’s ZEV standard.

The LEV standard, wimpy as it be, actually has potential to produce double digit reductions in GHG emissions. The ZEV standard is basically PC on wheels, given that it takes 20+ years to turn the nation’s auto fleet over and electric cars have a life of only 10, sometime after 2040 the ZEV standard will push us up to maybe a whole 3% electric cars on the road. Figure in that electric cars displace small high MPG cars anyway, some of the electricity fueling them will come from dirty sources, and some of the conventional cars will be running on renewable biofuels… The ZEV standard will maybe give us a whole one percent reduction of GHGs in a couple decades. 

So we’ve got an LEV standard that’s an easy choice, a big reduction in GHGs and drivers fuel costs with almost no downside… I should know ‘cause I’ve been driving VW diesel LEVs for the last four decades. The ZEV standard is barely worth arguing over… It just plain won’t accomplish much. 

So comes the meeting and the PCA presenter gets through maybe a half an hour of explaining, only to be interrupted by a luddite who argues the whole regulation was unconstitutional, with a couple of his fellow luddites joining the interruption. Clearly they’d skipped outta Civics 101, the constitutional authority of the government to establish rules for the general welfare of the citizenry being well settled law. 

Noting that the luddites weren’t waiting for their time to speak, this cued the ‘lectric car fanatics to take the floor with their own near religious testimonials. Clearly they’d played hooky outa science classes as well as Econ 101, thinking their little Bolt, Leaf, or Tesla was going to save the world by replacing the couple hundred gallons of fuel a year they burn with ‘lectricity half produced with sometimes even dirtier fossil fuel. This cued the dealer’s lobbyist, or at least he claimed to be, who got up and unleashed the standard FUD about higher costs and less choices. Seeing an opening, I countered by chiding him for stupidly opposing a ZEV regulation that will shower them with electric cars that they’ll have a monopoly on repairing and half the life of a conventional small car, and those $40k price tags pack a lot a profit! 

The stupid kept coming for the rest of the meeting, with testimonials of the glory of big ass pickups countered by testimonials to the glory of overpriced throw away electric cars that will save the clean air of tiny Morris, Minnesota. The ‘lectric car fanatics even had a conspiracy theory that they couldn’t buy electric cars in Minnesota… cars.com lists something like 176 for sale within day trip distance… But these zealots weren’t about to let their not so righteous indignation be scuttled by reality. I tried to interject some bits of science, but neither side would have it- This was an argument between religious zealots, with neither side interested in real solutions.

Heck, why would they drive a 40+ MPG diesel car that rivals an electric for GHG production while doing the work of a big ol’ pickup when they can make a “statement” with said funny looking ‘lectric car or jacked up pickup?

SRO at the Spencer Y for Mayor Pete!

DSCF4479Spencer where…? Yup, 11 odd thousand population Spencer in appropriately named Clay county in Steve King’s red & republican homeland, Iowa’s 4th congressional district. I counted about 400 chairs here on the YMCA’s basketball court, they were all full at 2pm on a Monday with at least another hundred in SRO. And ain’t like the gay population of Des Moines or Minneapolis road tripped here, noted only the occasional ping on my gaydar. GOP homophobes take note: When an out gay presidential candidate packs ‘em in here in Spencer, the real American families have won and you’ve lost.

No surprise why Pete’s picking up momentum, he stuck to the red meat broad spectrum democratic issues like health care, the environment, jobs, and education. Pete had a chance to go negative on his opponents over their Medicare for All plans and other disagreements- But he didn’t, talking up his “Medicare for All that want it” plan and other positions instead. And after his stump speech, Pete took just as long answering audience questions. Negative democrat on democrat attacks don’t play well, and Pete is moving up in Iowa because he’s taken the high road!

GOP won’t represent rural minorities, so urban democratic legislators do the job!

GOP legislators won’t represent rural minorities, so big city and rural dems are!

It’s a nice fall Saturday in Worthington, a majority-minority Minnesota meatpacking town. Despite the nice weather outside, the church cafeteria is full of local minority citizens, democratic and labor allies, and several democratic state reps who travelled nearly 200 miles from their metro districts to listen to them.

Worthington was saved from the dead by immigrant workers, but the ghosts of the white power structure still run the town- not a single minority or immigrant council member in this town where minority folks are the majority. The police department lets ride alongs join in the takedowns and mostly makes the news for roughing up minority packing house workers, and a white supremicist school bus driver who sends his kids to what’s becoming a “desegregation academy” makes the national news. Said schools are overcrowded because said bus drivers fellow white supremicists keep voting down bond issues because they think they can chase immigrant kids away by not providing their constitutionally required public education. The town’s diversity festival is (mis)managed by a member in gooding of the white zombie establishment, but they’re planning an immigrant community center… In a hazmat site!

Fortunately our Minnesota democratic party wants no part of this white zombie power structure, so today several democratic state legislators drove near 200 miles to hear local minority and immigrant citizens concerns and were joined by several local labor and democratic party allies. Citizens told of frustration with an unresponsive local government and retaliation when they took part in non-partisan civic activities.

And it wasn’t just talk- Before and after the listening session dozens fanned out to door knock Worthington in support of a much needed bond issue to expand the overcrowded schools. There’s talk of immigrants and minority folks running for board and council seats, even the state legislature… Zombie white supremicist power structure, your apocalypse is coming!

Liz knocks it outa the park with her Medicare For All funding plan!

Amy, Joe, and Pete: You’re gonna need a better argument…

Have to confess I’ve been straying from the Warren fold of late, was worried that she didn’t have a plan to fund Medicare for All without the funding fears some of the other candidates have been stoking. The Warren campaign hasn’t helped either, as I’ve grown tired of explaining farming to them despite the fact that Liz’s farm policy is straight out of the Farmer’s Union playbook. Heck, I almost suckered for a ticket and bus ride from Amy to the big event in Des Moines tonight.

But this morning Liz blew away all doubt and hit it outa the park with a clear plan for financing Medicare For All, here’s the link so you can read it yourself:  https://elizabethwarren.com/plans/paying-for-m4a?source=soc-WB-ew-fb-rollout-20191101&fbclid=IwAR1RHl67Lo2He5i_FlLSeFVZ2HZy1p3Wri7GQGyvCCXUFly1_MTkmWyOY70

I feared that the Warren plan would rely too much on “wealth taxes”, but that’s a small part of the funding and will only apply to a small enough group of multi millionaires that their assets won’t be hard to track down. I feared that middle class taxpayers would pay more as their medical benefits from work became income and thus taxable, that won’t happen as employers will simply pay those dollars into the Medicare Trust Fund instead of to greedy insurance companies. I feared losing our great union insurance plans, but the’ll have several years to transition in and will get some discounts when they go into Medicare For All that will make unionization an advantage for both employers and workers. And it appears the Warren plan will keep current Medicare, military health care, and numerous other government funded health plans that are working well in place. 

Warren’s Medicare For All plan is the best of any candidate’s, the most fleshed out and the most vetted by academics and actuaries of any candidate’s. Amy, Joe, Pete, and the rest- You got anything better? You don’t, so better get crackin’… Or better yet, sign on to the Warren Medicare For All plan!

So I’m firmly back in the Warren fold, but could the campaign please lose the food fetishes, gender pronoun pressuring, etc.- The place reeks of Ivy League campus!

Why this Progressive is sticking’ with Congress Member Collin Peterson:

‘Bout a decade ago we were peeved at Collin ‘cause he wasn’t supporting a trans-inclusive GLBT rights law. So come the district convention, four of us all but stalked him until we got a few words with him. Collin considered our argument, then let us talk to a staffer, and a short while later Collin was supporting that inclusive GLBT rights law.

A few years later I moved into Collin’s Minnesota 7th district and got to talk with him more. He’s a political genius, one of the few surviving democrats in a double digit R+ district where less than a handful of democratic legislators have survived. I learned that besides supporting the GLBT community, Collin’s a strong supporter of tribal sovereignty and labor.

But the strongest reason I’m supporting Collin is because of his advocacy for farming and our rural communities. Collin ain’t just an advocate, he has a deep understanding of farming that neither party can replace. So for our rural communities and farmers, I’m stickin’ with Collin!