News Day: Bachmann again / Dirty coal, clean wind / From CCC to Americorps / Budget battles / MN Job Watch / Sara Jane, AIG, more

Bachmann earmarks: Yes, you did! “I have not taken earmarks in the last three years that I’ve been in Congress, because the system is so corrupt.”

But, reports MnIndy, “government watchdog groups say she has requested them—seven, to be precise, totaling $3,767,600, since she was elected to the U.S. House.

Bachmann: Well, maybe I did, but “mine is very, very small on that level and that’s in the first two years that was in.” MnIndy again:”the average earmark for Minnesota’s delegation is $2.1 million,” and Bachmann got $3,767,000 for her district in 2008.

Coming clean on coal There is no clean coal, claim MN’s movie-making Coen brothers in a series of ads satirizing the coal industry’s “clean” claims, reports the Strib’s Tom Meersman. Though the promised clean coal technology does not exist and — even if claims that it can be built are believed — lies at least 10-15 years in the future, coal companies are pushing the construction of traditional coal plants based on this future promise. See one of the Coen videos here.

Big wind in Big Stone? After investors rejected Big Stone Wind LLC plans for a 20-megawatt wind energy project that included major contracting payents to coal-promoting Otter Tail Power Company, the plan has resurfaced as a partnership with National Wind LLC. The Little Rock Wind LLC plans to locate 100 1.5-megawatt GE wind turbines on 15,000 acres of farmland in Big Stone County. Minneapolis-based National Wind is a “well-funded wind developer with 4,000 megawatts of eisting or planned wind-energy projects in seven states,” reports Finance and Commerce.

Volunteerism or work corps: Then and now David Hawley writes in MinnPost about the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps, recalling how it was launched within months of FDR’s inauguration and grew to include 77,000 Minnesota men between 1933 and 1942. The CCC “boys” built everything from log buildings in state parks to bridges and dams, planted trees, and earned a small stipend and education. For some, it was a lifesaver: “In 1933, the average enrollee in the CCC was 10 pounds underweight and shorter than average height. He was, in a blunt word, malnourished. During the standard six-month enlistment, the typical “C” gained 10 pounds and grew an inch.”

An Obama proposal currently before Congress would triple the size of Americorps and create four new corps to boost volunteerism and provide a low-wage stipend and future educational benefits, reports MPR. It may be called volunteerism rather than job creation, but I know some recent college grads who welcome any opportunity to get paid for meaningful work.

MN Job Watch The Strib’s last holdout union finally had to give in to bankruptcy court pressure, reports David Brauer in MinnPost, voting 72-5 to accept 24 additional layoffs and wage concessions.

But there are still some good jobs in MN – the Strib reports that “Travelers Companies CEO Jay Fishman receeived $12,849,043 in total compensation for the year ended Dec. 31, 2008.”

In national news, AP reports that housekeeping and lawn services are becoming casualties of the economy, as people do chores that they previously paid others to do.

Vice President Joe Biden will visit the New Flyer Bus Co. in St. Cloud today, and Workday Minnesota reports that the company is a success with green, unionized jobs, and a union that was recognized through the card-check procedure that EFCA would make more widely available.

Budget battles Pawlenty called his latest budget proposal “some good news,” reports the Strib, but DFLers think it’s “a crock” (DFL chair Brian Melendez), as well as “smoke and mirrors” (Sen. Tarryl Clark) and “a cruel hoax” (Sen. Larry Pogemiller). The latest tweaks include some additional education funding for K-12 and higher ed and some cuts to medical assistance that can still be implemented without losing federal economic stimulus money — along with large cuts in January 2011, when the stimulus program is over.

And, as Doug Grow points out in MinnPost, T-Paw continues to complain about and criticize federal economic stimulus money, even as he uses it to prop up the budget and maintain his “no new taxes” posture, begrudgingly saying the stimulus “is law … so we’ll take it.”

On Monday, DFL leaders proposed a package of health care “reforms” to save money this week, reports Jason Hoppin in the PiPress. The DFL plan includes “canceling payments for hospital errors or duplicative lab work, discouraging cesarean sections for expectant mothers with state-provided medical insurance,” encouraging the use of birthing centers, and requiring protective fluoride varnishes for children’s teeth.

Expect more DFL budget proposals this week, but, as Grow concludes, “Meantime, back and forth they go. Where — and when — they’ll stop, nobody knows.”

Talking tough on Sara Jane With his usual deft touch, Ruben Rosario deflates T-Paw posturing on the Sara Jane Olson parole, noting that 1,591 other out-of-state offenders are paroled to MN already and that, “We’ve exported 2,518 of our own across the nation. We’re talking everything here from property burglars to murderers.”

After a riff about a convicted murderer/cannibal who served an uneventful parole here decades ago, Rosario continues:

Let’s get real here. Olson is as much a danger as the voles that, under cover of night as well as snow, once again ate up chunks of my backyard. …

The ideal purpose of parole, which the state parole board approves and oversees, and probation, which a judge imposes, is to successfully reintegrate and assist offenders to return to a community after paying the debt imposed by society for their crimes. … There’s a reason, and still an idealistically driven good one, why it’s called the Minnesota Department of Corrections and not the Department of Perpetual Punishment.

But somebody at AIG ought to go to jail At least, that’s what the Josh Marshall thinks. He notes that AIG top exec Joseph Cassano told auditors to stop looking at the books in the Financial Products unit and suggests:

You really don’t think there’s anything in what happened at AIGFP that we’re not going to find out fell seriously afoul of a lot criminal statutes? And we’re still paying out these bonuses? I suspect we need to get this conversation out of Treasury and over to DOJ.

On the other hand, points out the Daily Kos, Charles Calomiris, the co-director of the Financial Deregulation Project for the American Enterprise Institute, spoke on NPR, defending AIG’s bigshots: “It doesn’t really make sense to get rid of bonuses, especially for people we’re hoping will make wise decisions so they don’t lose us even more money.” The Daily Kos asks: “Can you imagine the damage people would do in those spots if they weren’t the really Top People fueled by multimillion dollar bonuses? ” and suggests that perhaps NPR should stop turning to the American Enterprise Institute for enlightenment. Amen to that.

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