The persistent appeal of boondoggles

boon·dog·gle/ˈbo͞onˌdäɡəl/(1) work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.(2) a public project of questionable merit that typically involves political patronage or graft.~ From the Oxford Languages dictionary When a debate boils down to “doing something useful” vs. “doing nothing,” politicians often reach compromise in “doing something useless.” This represents… Read More →

When profits pile costs on people

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer is out today, this one tackling the rising cost of housing and health care that most affects working class people. The piece is called “Cost of living is our harshest tax.” Here’s a taste: We’ve all experienced economic inflation this past year. Consumer costs rise along with commodity… Read More →

We are in the automated future

It started long ago. Big trucks and steam shovels replaced small hoppers filled by men with spades. Machines took over for pinsetters at the bowling alley. Before long we were pumping our own gas. Now we scan our own groceries, making sure to check the codes on the bananas before ringing up our purchase, paying,… Read More →

Bakk decision makes big news

Thursday’s announcement that State Sen. Tom Bakk would retire from the legislature made big news around Minnesota. My blog post yesterday was reprinted in the Minnesota Reformer, so check that out if you missed it. I also appeared on CBS 3 in Duluth and KBJR with analysis about the race. You can check out that… Read More →

As Bakk retires, unpredictable new era begins on the Iron Range

Though I have been on an extended hiatus from daily political blogging, I find it hard to leave certain events without comment. Thus, today, we observe the end of an era in Iron Range politics and the beginning of a shapeless and developing new order. This morning, State Sen. Tom Bakk (I-Cook) announced that he… Read More →

Clothing the next generation with independence

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer is out today. The piece is entitled “A homespun stitch in time could save us.”  I like to blend personal stories with my commentary and often write about my family. I’ve written quite a lot about my dad and grandfathers, but today I get to highlight some of… Read More →

Northeastern Minnesota seat shuffle shows how it is when nobody knows your name

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer is up today. Entitled “Shifting lines and changing times on the big lake they call Gitchi Gummi,” this piece explores redistricting outcomes here in northern Minnesota. Specifically I take a look at the expanding geography and unique political culture of the Eighth Congressional District. For instance, this observation:… Read More →

Navigating mining’s perilous boundary between enough and too much

Today I have a new essay up with the Minnesota Reformer. It’s one that took a great deal of time and thought to write, and that leaves me yet unsettled. The title is “The troubled border between consumption and conservation.” For two decades, we’ve watched northern Minnesota’s mining debate bob up and down in the… Read More →

The 21st Century is a salvage operation

Junk is all over the news. Steel companies are buying scrap at big prices. And yet, recycling loses money for local governments across the country. The climate crisis is running headlong into our desire for more and more stuff. Worse, our economy currently depends upon us making and buying that stuff. My latest column for… Read More →

Labor navigates northern Minnesota political crosswinds

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer is out today. Let’s call it a Labor Day think piece. Northern Minnesota has been a wellspring of the American labor movement for more than a century. However, in more recent years, organized labor has shifted into the role of mature old power, increasingly wedded to politics and… Read More →