Americans Dovish, New Poll Finds

On today's Fightin Words podcast: A new Politico poll indicates that the American public overwhelmingly opposes moving the nation’s foreign policy in a more muscular direction. Have we grown weak? Or is there a false dichotomy among the Washington set between restraint and strength?

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Insultingly ironic

In my inbox the other day was an email from Cindy Bills, asking me to come out and support Scott Honour for Governor.  Cindy is the wife of 2012 US Senate candidate Kurt Bills, and her email is reads as an intentional insult to Republican activists across Minnesota.

In 2012, after his surprising endorsement at the state convention, Kurt Bills emerged as a major candidate with no money, no fundraising plan, no volunteer base, and little if any name recognition.  The meager positives he had going for him on the campaign trail were his undeniable conservative beliefs, and his endorsement by the state party.  All around Minnesota, Republicans who didn't even quite know who Bills was, myself included, pounded lawn signs, made calls and walked in parades on his behalf.  One local activist who has been involved in party politics since before Jimmy Carter was president asked me if we had any signs left for 'that Bill Kurtz guy, the Senate candidate'.


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Keeping Score

Every hour on the hour, and sometimes half-hour, we hear a running body count of the deaths of “civilians” in Gaza (though Hamas calls all their fighters “civilians” and even “innocent civilians”).  If the number of Israeli military killed is mentioned at all, it seems to be for the purposes of telling us how unfair it is for Israel to defend itself against thousands of missiles launched against its civilian population.  As prime minister Netanyahu said, “Israel uses missiles to protect its citizens; Hamas uses its citizens to protect its missiles.”  Given that truth, I propose a new means of “keeping score” in this conflict.  I suggest that from now on we consider the number of civilians INTENDED to be killed by each side.  That would make Hamas responsible for many thousands of intended civilian deaths in Israel, as well as for most of the truly innocent citizens in Gaza.  Based on that score, the world’s moral outrage and calls for Israeli restraint are clearly aimed at the wrong party.  Where is a fair scorekeeper and referee when you need one?

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Those who don't want limits on voters are demanding limits on voter choices

A proposal by the Minneapolis Charter Commission to raise the filing fees for candidates running for city offices will be on the ballot this November.

In order to pass such a change to the charter without a referendum, the city council has to unanimously approve.  That approval failed, so it will be up to the voters to decide whether a candidate should have to pay $500 to run for mayor.

All Minneapolis city offices’ filing fees have been $20 for decades. Besides the $500 proposed fee for the mayor’s seat, the city council filing fee would be raised to $250, while the Board of Estimate and Taxation and Minneapolis Parks Board candidates would pay $100.

Filing fees called for in city charters override the fees that have been set in state statutes. Approximately one-eighth of the cities in Minnesota use the charter form of government.

The public debate of the issue has turned into an effort to limit the number of candidates for any given office.

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Critics of wind power blame feds for killing, ‘chopping up’ eagles, other birds

Wind industry insiders call it a “turbine collision,” though the feds prefer “non-purposeful take.”

But critics such as Sharon Klemm get real on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website: “Why don’t you call it what it is? Shooting eagles. Killing Eagles. Murdering Eagles.”

The backlash over a controversial 2013 USFWS rule exempting wind farms from prosecution for the unintentional deaths of bald and golden eagles — for up to three decades — continues to play out in emotional online comments.

“Eagles along with other birds are being chopped out of the air and suffer horrible injuries and death by the blades of high-speed wind turbines,” wrote Patricia Lewko. “This practice has been given a green light by this administration in the name the name of Clean or Green Energy … What is so clean about chopping up birds to either lie in agony or be mutilated?”

Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 2007, yet killing bald and golden eagles remains a felony punishable by a $250,000 fine and prison time.

“As the nation seeks to increase its production of domestic energy, wind energy developers and wildlife agencies have recognized a need for specific guidance to help make wind energy facilities compatible with eagle conservation and the laws and regulations that protect eagles,” according to the wind energy development sectionon the USFWS website.

In 2009, USFWS first instituted a permit system to allow exemptions from prosecution — for five years — for wind farms and certain other projects that inadvertently harm or kill eagles. Last year, the wildlife agency extended the duration of permits for “non-purposeful take of eagles” to 30 years, responding to pressure from the wind industry to provide more certainty for investors.

“The industry suffers a lot from uncertainty about policy of all sorts, environmental as well as tax policy, and a variety of things like that,” said Dan Turner, an analyst with Windustry, a Minneapolis renewable energy advocacy group. “It’s very hard to plan, especially these major projects that take multi-years, if you don’t know what the policy is going to be. It might just close you down.”

There’s no requirement to obtain the permit, but wind farms and other potential threats to eagles risk prosecution without one. Opponents will get the chance to discuss their concerns during five USFWS public meetings across the country to reconsider eagle-kill permits, starting this week in Sacramento and Minneapolis.

Joshua Winchell/USFWS photo

DYING IN THE WIND: Wind power proponents claim other sources kill far more eagles than turbines, but the USFWS is being sued by one environmental group that calls longer permits a “reckless and irresponsible gamble.”

“This is taking a look at what needs to be changed, what isn’t working, what still needs to be addressed,” said Margaret Rheude, a Twin Cities biologist and eagle expert for USFWS.  “And so one of the big issues that we’re going to tackle is the permit duration, having the 30-year permits.”

USFWS models project that up to 1,100 bald eagles, excluding Alaska, could be killed annually without threatening the species, though experts say nowhere near that many actually die. Bald eagle populations in Minnesota and Wisconsin continue to flourish, but wind power critics from as far away as Green Bay, Wis., told Watchdog Minnesota Bureau they plan to make the trip and make their point.

“It’s quite a long drive but we think it’s important because Fish and Wildlife makes decisions that impact Wisconsin, too. This is the line in the sand,” said Sandy Johnson, a retired teacher from Green Bay Wisconsin. “ … For some reason, wind developers and their corporate owners are being given priority over the welfare of our raptors, and there are reports of cranes and songbirds and the bats being destroyed.”

Estimates vary widely on the collateral damage to eagles, bats and birds that tangle with wind turbines. A recentWildlife Society survey estimated 1.4 million bat and bird fatalities annually, including 83,000 raptors. In the past five years, wind farms have destroyed at least 67 eagles, mostly golden eagles, according to a 2013 government report.

But the American Wind Energy Association claims turbines account for less than 2 percent of reported golden eagle deaths, and even fewer deaths of bald eagles. While declining to discuss the issue with Watchdog Minnesota Bureau, AWEA calls lead poisoning, vehicles and power lines greater threats.

“You could expect some deaths of eagles from wind turbines over the life of a wind farm, but the numbers are pretty small,” said Turner of Windustry. “There’s no threat to populations of eagles, certainly no species type threat, and if you compare other threats to them, it’s pretty insignificant.”

Yet several wind-friendly environmental groups also oppose the so-called eagle kill rule, which triggered a June 2014 lawsuit by the American Bird Conservancy.

“Giving wind companies a 30-year pass to kill Bald and Golden Eagles without knowing how it might affect their populations is a reckless and irresponsible gamble that millions of Americans are unwilling to take,” Dr. Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of ABC’s bird smart wind energy program, said in a release on the legal challenge.

Their shared concern for America’s national symbol puts some environmentalists on the same side as die-hard wind-power opponents hoping to modify or reverse the industry’s 30-year immunity.

“If the public shows up and raises enough ruckus over this so the bureaucrats in Washington see that we care, it’s really quite possible that they’re going to step back because of the politics of this,” said Mary Hartman, a Rochester activist whose group used the eagle issue to stop a  Minnesota wind farm last year.  “If we don’t show up, then the wind industry is going to get what they want.”


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American Culture

Behavior matters, period. Thus, proper behavior must be learned and/or taught.

Last week we took two of our grandkids (GKs), ages 5 and 6,  to Paul Bunyon Country, Mississippi headwaters and many other sites in northern Minnesota. And, as much as the stories and activities were enjoyed, the winner of the trip was a fantastic, three-story water slide at our hotel.

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Irony, Anyone?

While in Grand Rapids last week, I spotted a car w/ the following two bumper stickers (sorry, no photo):

#1 2nd biggest deficit, critical thinking

#2 I am for Hillary




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One law, two rulings

ObamaCare is in the news today, with rulings from two different federal courts. The courts have opposite takes on what appears to be an obscure question, but one which is foundational to the Affordable Care Act (ACA): Are all insurance exchanges created equal? That is, does the federal exchange ( have the same legal effects as an exchange, such as MnSure, set up by a state? I offer a quick analysis here.

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Back to the Front


  [rak-uhn-tur; French ra-kawn-tœr]  Show IPA
noun, plural rac·on·teurs  [rak-uhn-turz; French ra-kawn-tœr]  Show IPA .
a person who is skilled in relating stories and anecdotes interestingly.
There are many words that one could use to describe writer Mark Yost (some of them actually not obscene), but raconteur is probably the one that comes to mind first. From his work on the business of sports to his Nick Mattera series of thrillers to the new Rick Crane noir, Mark covers the base and does so with style and flair. 

His latest effort is to serve as a virtual tour guide for World War One's Western Front at a blog called The Western Front in a Week:
As many of you know, I am an avid World War I historian.
I lived in Brussels for three years, writing for The Wall Street Journal. I have visited most of the battlefields, monuments, cemeteries and museums related to what most Europeans still call “The Great War.” Along the way, I’ve written numerous articles over the years for The Wall Street Journal and other publications.
August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of what many consider the major events that actually began the 20th century. Over the next four years, more people than ever before (hopefully) will be visiting the Menin Gate in Ypres, the British memorial at Thiepval on The Somme, and the Ossuary at Verdun.
Given all the renewed interest in World War I, I am offering my expertise.
I can guide your tour across France and Belgium.
I can help you plan your self-guided tour to make sure you visit the most informative museums, most moving monuments, and most haunting cemeteries.
And, I am available to speak to your book club, luncheon group, or professional meeting.
World War I is an oft-forgot piece of history, overshadowed by World War II and other events. I hope that changes with the advent of the 100th anniversary.
In short, I’m here to increase your knowledge of World War I and make your trip to the Western Front enjoyable and informative, in whatever way I can.
Over the course of the next four years, I will be commenting here on the anniversary of important battles, republishing my articles past, present and future from The Wall Street Journal, and curating what I hope you will find to be a lively and engaging discussion on World War I.
Our boys will be studying World War One next year as part of their home school curriculum. At this point, requests to have Mark swing by for personal tutoring have not been responded to.  Check out Mark's new blog anyway and his other writing. It's all good stuff. 

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Climate Of Ridicule

 A friend of mine in the insurance industry sent me this:

The Minnesota Department of Commerce sent a Climate Risk Disclosure Questionnaire to Minnesota insurers yesterday and ended up on my desk. It is ridiculous.

Here’s some background to it.

Here’s the exact survey I received yesterday, it’s a pretty standard form used by other states.
Here’s how I really want to answer. I think this accurately captures how all insurance companies ought to answer.

Your friend,

I’ll include the survey (and my friend’s answers, in italics) below. 

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The Libertarian Case for Supporting Israel

On today's Fightin Words podcast: As the presidential prospects of Sen. Rand Paul grow more viable, so does the intensity of the foreign policy debate within the Republican Party. At the center of that debate is the U.S. relationship with Israel. What obligation do we hold to the Jewish state? Does our answer to the question indicate whether we are antisemitic?

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The Phone Call (that should be made) to Putin

My friend, Bruce Bialosky, wrote a very good article regarding the mess in the Ukraine. Now that the Ukranians have a gutsy president, one with backbone, Petro Poroshenko, Obama COULD put together a coalition of European nations who lost people in the Malaysian airliner attack. Coupled with leaders of Canada and Australia, this coalition should make demands as suggested below. Why? This thuggish behavior must be stopped now or it will simply escalate.

* Stop the rebel revolt in Eastern Ukraine now. Demand rebels surrender to the Ukranians.

* Sanctions will be imposed - can bring Russian economy to its knees quickly.

* America and its allies will begin shipping armaments to the Ukraine.

* Saudis would back this resolution because they don’t like the ISIS moves in Iraq.

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