consultants are sandburs

Saturday, May 31, 2008

That we have the First Amendment as a part of our liberty.

It says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The antiestablishment clause is great and I do not have to bow to Buddha and can spell it Buddah if I choose. DFL people can "peaceably assemble," where currently a will toward "peaceably" is in doubt at the presidential and Minnesota senatorial levels. We all can petition government - none are excluded - although some get to talk while others walk if we believe South Philadelphia Congressman Michael Joseph "Ozzie" Myers' videotaped 1979 comment to FBI Abscam agents posing as freespending Arabs, wherein he voiced his view that differing approaches in petitioning government inherently entail differing likelihoods of success.

But it is free speech and a free press that I salute today.

Ms. Betty McCullom was a lead instrumentalist in the Ciresi campaign which he put into cryogenic preservation a month or two ago, but with Ms. McCullom possibly signaling a thaw.

She does not like Al Franken's candidacy.

She has doubts about Franken ostensibly not because he is someone other than Michael Ciresi, but, she says, because eight years ago he talked dirty - actually he wrote a story in return for money from Playboy magazine, and the story talked dirty. Andy Barr, Franken's spokesperson, says people are smart enough to separate satire from fitness for office while P.T. Barnum along with Ms. McCullom suggest Barr is wrong. One source also quotes a Harper. Interestingly, this Harper is Ms. McCullom's chief of staff. Surprisingly, he is in complete agreement with Ms. McCullom.

I applaud Ms. McCullom's right to speak her mind such as she and Harper have shown her mind to be from speaking. Neither Ms. McCullom nor Harper should be faulted for intently wanting to keep the braying jackass as symbol of the DFL political party. It is her Constitutional Right to do so. And the press may publish about it, so that you may read detail; for example, here where Harper is mentioned, here, here and the original Fred Frommer AP feed which Strib also carried before writing its own version of things, here.

The forefathers [and foremothers] risked hangings had they lost the Revolutionary War, and then after confederating together failed to please enough of them enough of the time they peaceably assembled to write a Constitution endorsing peaceable assembly, endorsing it and free speech as an afterthought amendment, after having spoken their minds and freely published their views before and during the Convention. However, unlike today's bloggers they published under silly assumed names like "Publius." And unlike currently pejorative GOP fashion they were called "federalists" rather than "liberals," although there was a lot of Enlightment to them.

They won their war and got to write the history books about their struggle.

And the press is free.

Except you want a paper you buy a paper - not free in that sense.

Free to rabble rouse. Or free to guide by example. Whatever they like. Whatever sells. Whatever moves more processed trees and ink through the factory.

In giving story links I have reserved for special comment two items of reporting our local press gives us, showing that freedom and license are close with the line indistinct. Yet, the press has every right to write things in words that they feel will best move the greatest number of papers into the hands of a buying public. Lurid coverage has been termed, "If it bleeds it leads."

However, "Body found in closet" journalism is not exactly at issue here as much as arguably more nuanced wording choices, arguably not, and perhaps, just perhaps, xenophobia may exist [comparable to the "not invented here" attitude charged against some corporations and their managements especially Norris of Control Data and Olson of DEC - with all four of them now dead].

Strib coverage is a lesson in freedom of the press.

First, May 29, 2008, the Fred Frommer AP wire feed was carried online by Strib, headline and body, without any photo, stating in its entirety:

Some Minnesota Democrats troubled by Senate candidate Al Franken's 8-year-old Playboy satire
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER , AP - May 29, 2008 - 9:12 PM


WASHINGTON - Senate candidate Al Franken's satirical and explicit take on virtual sex and other topics, published in Playboy magazine eight years ago, is drawing concern instead of laughter from some Minnesota Democrats.

Rep. Betty McCollum, who supported the comedian's rival Mike Ciresi until he dropped out of the race for the party's nomination for the Senate, complained Thursday that she and other Minnesota Democrats will be on the same November ballot as a candidate "who has pornographic writings that are indefensible."

"Do they spend all of their time defending him, or do they spend their time talking about issues that are important to this election?" McCollum told The Associated Press in an interview. "The whole story was a shocking surprise."

Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer and a best-selling author, is the Democratic front-runner to take on Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. Minnesota Democrats hold an endorsing convention next week and a primary Sept. 9.

"Al understands, and the people of Minnesota understand, the difference between what a satirist does and what a senator does," Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said. "It's unfortunate that she's trying to create divisions in our party rather than working with other DFLers (Minnesota Democrats) to take on the special-interest senator."

Two other Minnesota Democrats in the House, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz, also expressed concerns about the 2000 satirical article that Republicans began circulating last week. None of the critical House members called on Franken to step aside.

At one point in the Playboy piece titled "Porn-O-Rama!" Franken called the Internet a "terrific learning tool," writing that his 12-year-old son was able to use it for a sixth-grade report on bestiality.

"As a parent and an aunt, and talking to other parents, people are very concerned about the type of Internet use that's out there, and how it has a potentially harmful effect on children," McCollum said. "Sexually explicit material is one of the things that parents are very concerned about, and want to make sure that they're steering their children away from."

Ellison said that and other parts of the article about sexual activities "made me feel a little uncomfortable."

"I have to ask myself, can I explain it to my 11-year-old daughter? I'd have considerable difficulty," Ellison said, adding that voters who have talked with him about it are "just sort of appalled."

Nonetheless, Ellison said he will support Franken if he receives the state party's endorsement. McCollum was making no such promises. "I'll have to see," she said.

Franken is the heavy favorite to take on Coleman, although he faces a challenge from college professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington remained firmly behind Franken. "We believe he'll beat Norm Coleman in the fall," said DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller.

McCollum said she spoke briefly with Franken on Thursday and that the candidate wanted to speak again.

"I told him this is a serious problem," she said. "I told him my cell phone's ringing off the hook. Union leaders call me, state House members are calling, I've had people in the coffee shop approach me, very concerned about this. They really feel this article is politically radioactive."


Next day, May 30,, local hands take over writing the story, with local headlining, photo choice, and rewording the body of text, in total saying:


Franken's porn story has party in a lather


A 2000 Playboy article may be a problem for the candidate and the DFL, some Democrats say.
By KEVIN DIAZ and CONRAD WILSON, Star Tribune, May 30, 2008 - 1:42 PM


WASHINGTON - A week before Minnesota DFLers endorse a U.S. Senate candidate, behind-the-scenes rumblings about a satirical Playboy magazine article written by candidate Al Franken eight years ago have broken into the open.

Among those weighing in are Democrat Jim Oberstar, dean of the Minnesota delegation in the U.S. House, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

On Thursday, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., called the sexually explicit article offensive and potentially damaging to Franken and other Democratic candidates in Minnesota.

The Franken campaign and backers of the candidate said the work was merely satire and faulted McCollum for dividing the party.

"As a woman, a mother, a former teacher, and an elected official, I find this material completely unacceptable," McCollum said of Franken's piece, published in 2000 under the headline "Porn-O-Rama!"

"I can tell you it's not playing comfortably in St. Paul, and I can't imagine this politically radioactive material is doing very well in suburban and rural districts," McCollum said.

Minnesota Reps. Tim Walz and Keith Ellison expressed similar concerns in interviews Thursday with the Associated Press. Ellison said the Franken article made him "uncomfortable," citing passages on oral sex and bestiality. Walz called the piece "pretty inappropriate."

McCollum supported Franken rival Mike Ciresi, who dropped out of the race in March. She said she has not talked to Ciresi about the Playboy article, nor has she encouraged him to reenter the race, although others have.

Ciresi was not available for comment Thursday.

McCollum said Franken's piece came up at a weekly meeting of Minnesota Democrats in Congress on May 21. "The overwhelming majority of us thought it was a serious political problem," she said. "Others thought it was a problem but that it would blow over."

Oberstar, one of those who attended the meeting, said that "some concerns were raised" but that he concluded the matter "is best left to the delegates to sort out at the convention."

The concerns coming out of the meeting came to the attention of Schumer, who talked to Oberstar about them.

Schumer spokesman Matthew Miller declined to discuss the conversation, other than to say, "We support Al Franken and we believe he will beat Norm Coleman in November."

Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" star, wrote the piece for the January 2000 edition of Playboy, describing a virtual reality sex laboratory involving researchers and "sexbots" (sex robots) at the fictional Minnesota Institute of Titology, or MIT.

"I could describe the incredible sex the three of us had, but this is a piece of journalism about the future of pornography and not one of those cheesy letters from a horny reader," Franken wrote.

McCollum said the piece, in which sex acts are explicitly described, is tantamount to pornography, noting that the Star Tribune would not publish it in its entirety.

Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr fired back at McCollum Thursday, saying "it's unfortunate that she's trying to create divisions in our party rather than working with other DFLers to take on [Coleman]."

Some Franken supporters took a similar line. "I know that Representative McCollum was a co-chair of Mike Ciresi's campaign, but at a time when Minnesotans are hurting, it's extremely disappointing that she would rather destroy party unity than focus on beating Norm Coleman," said Javier Morillo, president of Service Employees International Union Local 26.

Franken's backers have deflected similar criticism of his past writing, saying that Minnesota voters understand that he was a satirist.

"Al Franken being a satirist isn't something that just emerged," said state Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul.

Countered McCollum: "This isn't satire. It's a serious political problem."

Franken's chief rival for the DFL endorsement, University of St. Thomas professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, has stayed out of the fray. "We are spending every moment and every resource connecting with DFL delegates," said Chris McNellis, Nelson-Pallmeyer's campaign spokesperson.

kdiaz@startribune.com • 202-408-2753
cjwilson@startribune.com • 202-408-2723


Make what you will of photo and headlines, but first paragraph, "behind-the-scenes rumbling" to make it look as if some exclusive breaking story was uncovered. It was all talking to the press - upfront - and calling it "rumbling" is a choice of words.

Note also the change from reporting what people said, to something less, with Barr's "the special interest senator" changed to "[Coleman]".

That change was made along with dropping the sentences, "None of the critical House members called on Franken to step aside." And, "Nonetheless, Ellison said he will support Franken if he receives the state party's endorsement. McCollum was making no such promises. 'I'll have to see,' she said." It changes the tenor of the story to suggest there was a groundswell of some kind of pressure on Franken to bow out. Strib editors may want him to bow out more than others might. They wrote it that way. The actual quotes did not support an effort to imply that kind of groundswell, but it was re-written that way to bend and sell less of a story into more of one.

And Coleman: I think "the special interest senator" is, after all, what the man said.

Frommer never mentioned Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. Jack gets at best a footnote reference from Strib's mechanics, while he IS the only other active choice.

Ciresi's early mention is fair, given possible views of McCullom as a stalking horse [talking horse, DFL symbol, whatever you say]. And it is fair, for a local story to get Oberstar saying his friends would decide and he'd agree with his friends.

Jack's saying his position is unwavering and he is campaigning about why he is the best person for the job, based on his attributes and not talking trash about others, went unreported. Instead that "connecting with DFL delegates" statement can be read two ways, and Strib deliberately blurred things that way when Jack's been straight-arrow crystal clear in his rectitude about not making any comments about others and instead running his campaign positively, on his own virtues and merit.

Coleman got an upgrade, Jack a downgrade.

Go figure.

More detail about the Franken item was given in Strib's homebrew version. The added part, we all had a meeting (with Al uninvited) and the consensus was to knife him was reported less judgmentally than that, but it was left out altogether by Frommer who reported without editorial slanting, things people said to him on record.

Besides Jack getting buried to last in the coverage, it was everyone jump on Al for a lot of the story, with the Barr statement buried deep down in the story after that.

It made Franken look like an ill-supported factor, giving an impression of an almost unwavering onslaught of opposition thought. Others may read the stories as merely parallel, neither slanted, and the second version giving more "local flavor" to things. But it sure read like all jumping Al, with his spokesperson and a bare allusion to his support voices played as weak grist for an overwhelming majority view.

And the insult to Nelson-Pallmeyer was palpable and intentional. As the only currently opposing candidate, his sensible "So what, let me run on my record" position had no place among the sharp knives, and was treated accordingly.

***
The other candidate for endorsement an afterthought, a total footnote because he has the good sense and common decency to not be drawn into the p---ing contest?

Not news?

Perhaps that is fair, it is Strib fairness in things, you decide.

Now, not quite "finally" but close, "tantamont to pornography" McCullom said. I recall courts wrestling in the past with what is obscene, or indecent, and the approach at one time mentioned, "patently offensive without any redeeming social merit." To me, revolving door lobbyists fit that characterization, as to what to me is "patently offensive" yet Ms. McCullom has had no reservations about endorsing one.

Now, finally, MPR in its report included this:

McCollum isn't the only DFLer with concerns.

"I'm in a swing district," said state Rep. Sandy Wollschlager, DFL-Cannon Falls. "I ran three times to win. I don't really need to be on a controversial ticket with other candidates."

Wollschlager is in her first term in the Minnesota House and is running for reelection. She said Franken's Playboy article, along with the admission that he failed to pay taxes in 17 states, worries her.

"When I go door to door I want to be focusing on my campaign," she said. "Once I say who I am and what I'm running for, the temptation to ask 'What do you think about Al Franken' is going to be out there and that's not what I want to spend my time on."

Wollschlager said she hasn't backed anyone in the Senate race and would even be open to another DFLer entering the race.


Ms. Wollschlager has a big problem. If she lacks the good sense to say exactly what Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, (closer to the fray than she is), has the good sense to say, I simply am running on my merits not about anyone else, then should anyone vote for her or should they wonder, instead, about her experience, wisdom and judgment? If she goes door-to-door and somebody wants her to touch the third rail over another race, who's to blame but her if she cannot figure out how to handle the situation?

_______________

As a footnote, not about Jack this time, here's the picture Strib should have run.

I am shocked!
Shocked!


In jumping Franken now McCollum is entering the same foxhole as Brodkorb. They make an odd couple. Ciresi is trying a straddle. Saying he is not behind McCollum's putsch and she speaks for herself, while not disclaiming or distancing himself any further. He knows better. He is not scoring points by being coy. If he wants a primary he may get a primary. It might have the GOP holding off until it's over before they dump.

As a second footnote, again not Jack this time, the press is free to have spelled Ms. McCollum's name any way they wanted, and not constrained to spell it as she does; nonetheless, I have tried to spell it her way throughout this post, resisting a puckish urge toward, "McCull'em," to go along with her partner-voice "Harper."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Foreclosures - locally, counting Anoka County Union legal notices pages.

In an earlier post I misstated that the May 23, 2008 ACU had 40 mortgage foreclosure pages.

32 + 18 = 50.

There were 50 pages May 23, not 40.

Today, May 30, 2008, there were 47-1/2 pages.

At 8-9 notices per page, that is:


May 23: 400 - 450 notices of foreclosure.

May 30: 380 - 427 notices.

This seems unprecedented to me, and fits the view that this may be the biggest housing foreclosure crunch, and housing downturn, since World War Two.

I fail to see how the FED bailing out the subprime lender portfolios, by buying up or shoring up portofolios of speculative mortgage backed securities does any good for a single homeowner.

Capital markets and those taking risks in them can sleep easy, since they get downside risk protection courtesy of homeowners paying federal income tax.

Even the folks being foreclosed, in paying federal tax money, are subsidizing the lender-investor community that took advantage of them and set them up for a fleecing.

It makes you wonder.

No risk-free mortgage for the little guy.

Risk-free speculation for the deep pockets.

It looks clear who is making decisions.

Prosperity favors those who can provide a safety net for themselves, especially if they fashion one for themselves paid for by other peoples' money.

The Golden Rule at play.

A tempest in a teapot, vs the real deal?



While I have not been enamoured of Elwyn Tinklenberg, at times you have to say, "Get Real," to groundless criticisms.

May 29, 2008 - Brodkorb does it again, all sizzle, no steak.

Inconsequential things blown out of proportion, as with Franken's business taxes, and now on a far, far less valid basis than with Franken, this time about Elwyn Tinklenberg's making a couple of property tax late payments.

Read and decide whether you agree with the few terse lead comments included below about the blog post text:



MDE EXCLUSIVE: TINKLENBERG’S TAX TROUBLES: PAYS PROPERTY TAXES LATE - TWICE; CAMPAIGN CITES “HECTIC” SCHEDULE FOR AS REASON FOR LATE PAYMENTS
By Michael B. Brodkorb | May 29, 2008

According to public records obtained by Minnesota Democrats Exposed and confirmed with a representative of his campaign, Elwyn Tinklenberg paid his property taxes late on two occasions, once in 1999 and again in 2005. In both instances, Tinklenberg paid a fine for his late payments.

I spoke with a very professional and polite John Wodele, who works for Tinklenberg’s campaign and he confirmed that the campaign knew about Tinklenberg’s tax problem. After speaking with Tinklenberg, Wodele cited a “hectic” schedule as a reason for Tinklenberg paying his property taxes later.

Please check back to Minnesota Democrats Exposed for more information on this developing story.

***
17 Responses to “MDE EXCLUSIVE: TINKLENBERG’S TAX TROUBLES:

Andrew Says:
May 29th, 2008 at 3:23 pm
This is where you’re probably starting to reach a bit too far with uncovering people’s tax problems. He paid his late fee, whatever.

Andrew Says:
May 29th, 2008 at 3:23 pm
Lord knows we’ve all sent a bill in late once or twice.

Chuck Says:
May 29th, 2008 at 3:27 pm
Tinkleberg may or may not be a bum. But you are seriously overreaching if you think a couple of late property tax payments are the determining factor.

[...]


Back in October 2006 Brodkorb/MDE, here, posted documents ostensibly to discredit Jim Deal and Mike Hatch, because Hatch at one point had been a director of NAU Insurance, a closely held crop insurance business wherein Jim Deal is the principal executive, along with his son, since his founding the firm years ago (the item below being a separate thing unrelated to Hatch).




Now, above is a document relating to City of Ramsey's Highway 10 mapping and property purchases, where Jim Deal ended up with his NAU business moving into the Ramsey Town Center and Deal taking title to about 26 acres, off Highway 10 and the other side of the BNSF tracks (of which he sold 1.3 acres at $500,000+ per acre, right next to one of the busiest and noisiest railroad tracks in the nation, buyer being the taxpayers of Anoka County, i.e., the land was sold for the new morgue - which could have been sited anywhere, especially somewhere representing a less costly burden to taxpayers).

Bruce Nedegaard was personally in chain of title to one of the parcels Ramsey purchased on Highway 10, and his development operation, Ramsey Town Center, LLC, was in chain of title to the other (the former site of NAU, if I recall correctly, but I may be wrong on that detail).

Ramsey disbursed $2.5 million.

That was to purchase two parcels [I only think two, I have seen a "Lot 2, Block 1," and also a "Lot 3, Block 1," mentioned on papers along with two Hwy 10 addresses, so I believe only two parcels (not three or more) were involved and price was $1.7 for one and $1.8 for the other, with no additional funds if only the two parcels were involved].

Money was changing hands, with Bruce Nedegaard transferring title to one property at closing, according to the closing statement for that Lot 2, Block 1, parcel; but the money went to Jim Deal and not Nedegaard, "CASH TO SELLER 0.00" being what the bottom line said.

All this was with Tinklenberg Group quarterbacking things for a fee paid it by City of Ramsey.

So now, if Brodkorb/MDE holds any documents similar to the past ones about Hatch on the NAU board, but with it being Tinklenberg, then in view of the $2.5 million dealings, that would be interesting, as would be the case if Brodkorb/MDE could find any consulting fees paid by Deal or NAU to Tinklenberg Group.

If such documents exist, and Brodkorb holds copies and will publish them, two very big "ifs," then clearly, that would be news since an argument could be made about multiple arguably conflicting interests. I have no idea whether any such documents exist, or whether any business dealings were ever conducted involving Tinklenberg and Jim Deal (other than the roles each had on the Highway 10 property arrangements).

Tinklenberg and his group appear aware of "special" treatment involved in the Ramsey-Deal-Nedegaard-Ramsey Town Center, LLC, integrated dealings, see page 11 of the City Council's Jan. 29, 2008 Work Session Minutes. For a context, starting at p.6, "TH10/169 Corridor Coalition," excerpted minutes state:

Mayor Gamec explained that about five years ago cities like Anoka, Coon Rapids, and Ramsey began working together with the North Metro Mayors Association. He explained that eventually North Metro Mayors had too many projects and they decided to break down into a separate group and hire The Tinklenberg Group to head up the Highway 10 Coalition.[NOTE: 1] He explained that they have used them for three years. He explained that it has been helpful in coordinating many of the cities together and much has been accomplished.

Elwyn Tinklenberg and Jodi Ruehle of The Tinklenberg Group were present. Mr. Tinklenberg explained that there have been significant accomplishments including bringing in 2.6 million dollars of federal money to the corridor. He explained that 1.8 million dollars of federal appropriations were brought in. He explained that the Coalition was helpful in this by determining priorities and making decisions on how money was spent. He explained that another 800,000 dollars previously was dedicated to work on the intersections on Highway 1O in Ramsey. He explained it is important to work with the cities to continue the process. He explained there are key plans for 2008 and work to prepare for 2009.

Ms. Jodi Ruehle explained there is a work plan a communications plan and a membership plan. She reviewed that the Coalition involves cities and counties between Coon Rapids and Elk River. She referred to a list of Coalition members and contributing community members.[NOTE 2]

Ms. Ruehle stated they will work with MnDOT to minimize the impact to the traveling community and work to see how additional funding can be accessed. She explained that they will assist the State in using the money within the timeframe necessary which is three years. She stated that they will do research to see if Federal dollars are available. She explained that the Highway 10 project is a priority but there are several other projects for 2008.[NOTE 3]

Councilmember Jeffrey asked if there is a website where Coalition minutes are listed for the public or where cities could access information and be updated.

Ms Rhuele stated that they have not provided this but could consider it.

Ms Rhuele stated that the County is their biggest supporter. She explained that the State and Federal funding is the next area to review. She stated that the Coalition can work on this and work within the timelines as necessary. She explained that meeting with committees and providing updates makes more people informed so that awareness is raised in the community. She explained that they want to publicize the Coalition so that it expands and involves other cities. Mr. Tinklenberg explained that if a Rotary group or other such group would like an update of what is happening with transportation they would like an opportunity to make a presentation.

Mr. Tinklenberg explained that in 2009 the funding levels and policies plan will be set from 2010 to 2015 which will be amajor bill and a significant bill for Mr. Oberstar. He explained it will be a statement about this area of the country.

Mayor Gamec stated that a priority is to list goals and that individual goals are key to look at in the application process for funding. He explained that this is a great opportunity. He explained that in previous meetings they found it important to have a lot of communication about projects to raise awareness. He asked if the 22nd is a date to consider.

Mr. Tinklenberg stated that for the 2009 appropriations Mr. Oberstar has represented the Senate side and the goals will be due February 22nd.

Mr Tinklenberg stated that there was a lot of interest in the rail station and the cities impacted. He explained that businesses are impacted and the community benefits as a whole.

Mayor Gamec explained [aka speculated] that it would increase the tax base for the community.[NOTE 4]

City Administration Ulrich stated that they would discuss land and right of way acquisitions at Sunfish Lake Boulevard and along the Highway 10 corridor. He explained that they will review the larger picture of using money available from RALF and how to prioritize the improvements. He explained that a chart was developed by Staff. He reviewed that properties acquired to date are identified and properties to consider are listed.

Councilmember Dehen asked about the assessed value versus the appraised value. [discussion ensued]

Mayor Gamec stated that blighted areas of the City may be easy to acquire. Mayor Gamec stated that he would like to work on acquiring the blighted properties.

Ms. Frick [of the Coalition or of Tinklenberg Group??] explained that the prices paid have not been unfair. Ms. Frick stated that the Jim Deal properties that were purchased did not fit in on the list but they were motivated to move them to the Town Center Development that went in. She explained that they needed to be relocated. Ms. Frick stated that the Met Council has requested one appraisal now instead of two [as required when the Deal parcels were purchased] to consider the comparables. She explained that the property owner is given the option of choosing the appraiser.


Given the widely reported problems involving Nedegaard and his LLC, involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy filed days after the November 2006 elections and Swiss bank account diversions in six-figure amounts, federal tax and postal search warrants of Community National Bank headquarters and the Nedegaard business location in Columbia Heights, subsequent bank insider indictments, and such, a sham title company involving Nedegaard and bank officials, and skimming of paid sums away from a prior encumbrance to pay down a subsequent loan involving bank insiders, along with the suicide death of one appraiser involved in the Highway 10 Deal property dealings, J. Scott Renne who was reportedly involved in an appraisal fee kickback scheme with Ross Sandison of the bank, one of the indicted officials; given all of these unique factors, the above pictured document concerning a security interest is most interesting.

One normally wants steadfast security protection in all instances. Given what has surfaced, security protection among such active individuals would be an even sounder aim.

The circumstances were anything but normal and normally to avoid imperilling a security interest a mortgage is routinely recorded as part of a closing of a loan. It routinely does NOT go unrecorded for half a year or more as the one between Nedegaard and Deal shown above appears, from its text, to have been handled (the encumbrance which attached March 29, 2005 was not recorded uitil October 28, 2005, so that a risk of an intervening bona fide recording without notice taking priority existed while the position apparently was held in the hands of a sophisticated investor, Jim Deal, over that timeframe with Deal for some reason declining to protect his interest by recording it).

Besides risk to a security interest, third parties might have been misled into thinking Nedegaard's fiscal health during that half year was greater than it actually was, if reviewing county records and seeing the recorded title to a Highway 10 parcel without any accompanying encumbrance of record. Presuming, of course, that the change of title was duly recorded and excise taxes paid, when title went from Deal to Nedegaard; and that this was contemporaneous with the mortgage lien attaching, as is the normal course of events. Possibly some unusual escrow may have been arranged, (hopefully not through the bogus title company federal investigations uncovered).

Lenders, perhaps, might have been misled if Nedegaard had not fully disclosed the actual status. Since he is dead, what he did or did not disclose is hard to determine; but others are alive and well. Jim Deal, John Feges who was cognizant of some aspects of the Highway 10 property dealings, and Tinklenberg and his group members exist along with bank personnel such as Curt Martinson, (former employee of Community National Bank), are all alive to clarify things, if anyone asks.

There seem to be many loose threads, and the City was using Tinklenberg Group to monitor things and protect city interests. A candidate for Congress normally would want to explain how he was distanced from any irregularities or potential misdeeds in such an unusually strange set of circumstances. It is likely that, so far, no questions have been asked of the candidate - yet still, anticipation and disarming worry would be expected from a prudent person, and that is the kind we should want in Congress.

Finally, still concerning Town Center but turning away from interrelated matters in the Highway 10 buy-outs --- for more nostalgia about the great expectations some had or at least expressed for Ramsey Town Center, there is this from March 2006, Midwest Home Magazine [online], touting two Nedegaard failures, Grand Central Lofts and Ramsey Town Center:

Urban Living: Lofts and Condos

Association maintained living communities are part of a growing housing trend in Minnesota and across the country, influencing some of the state’s top builders and developers to invest in this market. Whether in the form of condos, lofts, single family, townhomes, or golf course communities, people are trading in their “traditional” living spaces for the newest version of modern living.

Loft and condos are the essence of urban living. These developments are often located in areas with easy access to shopping, dining and transportation systems that can take you to some of the city’s best arts and entertainment. From downtown lofts to condos on the lake, these owners will have “everything taken care of” in the style of association maintained living.

“Everybody’s lifestyle seems to get busier everyday, and [association maintained living] really frees you from the time consuming tasks of mowing lawns and painting houses,” says Mark Bartikoski of Bartikoski Partners. “You write a check every month [for association dues] and everything’s taken care of. Then you can spend time doing what you like to do. It’s also attractive if you travel a lot for your job.”

Bartikoski Partners represents several Cornerstone Group developments, including The Mist on Lake Minnetonka and the Great Northern Lofts.

Grand Central Lofts, for example, is located along Central Avenue, 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and along major bus corridors.

“The location of Grand Central Lofts is the first of many redevelopment sites for the city,” says Tim White of Nedegaard Construction Company. “It’s not only association maintained, but it allows the people to move into something new with all of today’s amenities.”

Grand Central Lofts have numerous features, including underground heated parking, and a community center and patio with waterfalls and ponds for birthday parties or business meetings.

Association maintained single family homes and townhomes are located in some of Minnesota’s most beautiful communities. They are diverse in style, size, location, demographics, amenities and price. With so many options available, young professionals, families and active adults can choose the perfect maintenance-free community in which to reside.

In addition to the maintenance and beautification of AML [association maintained living] areas, these communities may also include stores and services.

Ramsey Town Center, a 320-acre site built along the Highway 10 corridor, is a master-plan community, essentially an entire “association maintained city.”

Some of the 2,400 housing units are already being occupied, and several businesses are open. The community should be substantially completed by 2008.

“Ramsey Town Center will be an authentic, genuine downtown, characterized by a mix of goods and services that meet the needs of local residents and promote Ramsey as a regional destination. Not just a main street or outdoor shopping mall, but instead a compact district of streets and blocks lined with houses, stores, offices, restaurants, cinema and many other uses.”

“We’re creating a lifestyle so people can really live right within the neighborhood,” says Tim White of Nedegaard Construction Company.

Ramsey Town Center will include row houses, townhouses, vertical housing (lofts and condos) and narrow lot single family homes. Additionally, shopping centers, a city hall and civic center, business offices and recreational areas will be included.

It will look like a traditional neighborhood, and will reflect a “cross section” of the demographics of Minnesota citizens.

The housing developments will begin at $150,000, and higher-end options, including the penthouse area of lofts and condos, will be available.

The Ramsey Town Center project is reflective of housing trends across America.

“It is similar to the patterns in Europe called lifecycle housing,” says John Feges, president of Landmark Community Builder Collaborative Inc. “These communities are balanced, and complement lifestyle changes. Because of the explosive growth in the U.S. during WWII, towns sprung up around railroad corridors to pick up services and goods. Now the Baby Boomer population is aging, and they’re looking for alternative housing options.

“Generation Y, those typically about 25-years-old and younger, are now coming into their earning years, and aren’t embracing the same lifestyle as their parents or grandparents,” Feges says. “They, too, are looking for more alternative lifestyles.”

Ramsey Town Center is located near Highway10, one of the fastest-growing corridors in the metro area.

“By 2008, we’re hoping that this community will be on the Northstar Line,” Feges says. “Ramsey Town Center is being telegraphed across the country as a more favorable way of developing land.”


Ah, nostalgia, the hype and rose color of the viewing glasses, before the bubble burst and reality put a drabber hue to things, and the Feges "telegraph" lines went silent while the beauty of the entire idea went into a foreclosure where the acreage left has proven hard for the bank to move.

_______________
NOTE 1: For 2006 alone, the State Auditor's Local Government Lobbying Services report indicated, p.19, that the "North Metro Highway 10 Coalition" spent $30,000; 99.3% of which [$29,790] was for lobbying services. And Gamec said that Tinklenberg was hired by the coalition during a three-year timeframe including that year. If all that cash went to Tinklenberg Group, $30,000 per year is not bad lobbying money on top of all the other lobbying and "services" Tinklenberg Group was selling since say, his first contract with City of Ramsey [a separate cash flow from that he had from the Highway 10 Coalition] in 2003.

NOTE 2: No listing of members was included in minutes. No explanation was given how $2.6 million of federal dollars could be solicited without federal lobbying, but Tinklenberg is on record saying he has not been a lobbyist on the federal level.

NOTE 3: Tinklenberg Group has repeatedly represented differing municipal clients wishing to attain federal funding, with conflicting interests for conflicting projects between clients.

NOTE 4: If privately funded and not subject to TIF delays there would be an immediate tax base increase for any station built. A publicly owned structure would not contribute one additional penny to tax income. Additional payment to BNSF to acquire track rights for another Northstar station likely would drain and not enhance tax monies. At some level, unless privately funded, tax money would have to be paid to acquire such additional rights from the railroad. There is no indication BNSF would waive or compromise any property rights without compensation.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Depending on the aim, perhaps it was accomplished.



Wikipedia, source of the above photo, says:

"Mission Accomplished", a military phrase associated with completing a mission, is in recent years particularly associated with a sign displayed on the USS Abraham Lincoln during a televised address by United States President George W. Bush on May 1, 2003.




While sometimes seeming to fit the phrase "Every village has one," the man certainly got the profit direction right, from mid-2003 onward, as the chart shows. And mid-2003 is when he went to a navy carrier to show the direction Big Oil profits were headed since initiating a few months earlier the still-ongoing ill-fated occupation of Iraq. Some of his standing-in-rank-and-file-and-listening-as-ordered spectators on the carrier probably had friends at risk of dying in the ground war.

Bless his family sense, for profit. Bless the Carlyle Group. Bless Halliburton. Bless Prescott and the Thyssen family. Not that following generations are to be held responsible for predecessor acts. Under the closing sentence of Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution that would be improper.

But on his own score, the rumors about the AWOL from Guard duty circumstances never have been put to rest, see here, and here.

_____________
Chart is among other interesting information, here.

That reporting lays to rest the pernicious shiboleth that Newt Gingrich now appears intent to promote via slick falsehoods reminiscent of "Contract With America" rhetoric and paraphernalia, that denial to Big Oil of its will to drilling profligately is why prices are up.

There is supply. There is demand. Demand is harder to jigger than supply, especially in a concentrated seller-controlled vertically integrated situation.

And when the Saudis are given heat over supply at the ground spigot, they indicate a willingness to build more US refinery capacity anytime the authorities will permit it. Bandar, while ambassador, enjoyed pointing out that domestic refinery capacity, and its management, was the bottleneck, the choke point, for availability and pricing at the US-of-A neighborhood gas pump - doing this indirectly and discretely, of course, simply by indicating of record (more than once) on CNN the Saudi willingness to fund building additional refinery capacity right here, in the US-of-A.

And they're experienced, see here, (with a little help from their friends), and here.

The got-you-by-the---uh-throat aspect of refined product supply is NOT the ground in the mid-east, even with Iraq off the market while occupied, but at the Koch Twin Cities facility, and comparable facilities nationwide.

Same with petrochem products, be it plastics or agrichemicals. Food costs more to consume if it costs more to produce, never mind corn diversion into Cargill ethanol plants, off the human feedstock market, to use as an industrial feedstock and then onward, as feedlot feedstock, in Lubbock.




Back to Bush and oil; see also, here.

Think about the man's proper retirement, in Crawford, Texas, next trip to the pump. Think whether ethanol from corn, taking food off the market while food prices soar as the dollar plunges, think, is that a good idea.

All those ethanol plants probably ultimately will be converted, if feasible to cellulosic biomass processing, vs food out of the mouths of the hungry. Still, the carbon cost of producing ethanol, the water needed, many factors suggest that boosting the price of corn for farmers and intermediaries might not be the wisest thing we could do, and even aside from diversion of foodstuffs, biodiesel and cellulosic conversion may be negative on an energy consumption-yield basis, never mind on a full environmental balance sheet consideration. But retire Bush first. Then worry about ethanol dynamics.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This electron microscope photo shows a taconite fiber breaking up into smaller fibers in rat lung tissue.

1.
2.
3.
4.[click on document to enlarge]

caption, plus 1 and 2, from here
3 from here
4 from here

of interest, see here re provable impairment plus fear of cancer, here re ditto, and here re general nature of a "fugitive dust" cause of action

first where there is fugitive dust there is no neighborhood workers comp shield if there is actual harm to a class representative having also a fear of cancer

second of interest is a quote from one above-referenced item

Citing a recent study by the Rand Institute for Civil Justice in Santa Monica, the high court on Monday said that asbestos litigation has consumed about $50 billion already and that the total cost may exceed $200 billion.


not chump change

and that is asbestos litigation, not parallel but separate arguably different though comparable "taconite fiber" litigation - will there be a deep pocket at the end of that trial-lawyers' tunnel

the Ciresi firm knows how to ask questions in cancer litigation and has wherewithal to represent a class

state coordinators for PUBLIC JUSTICE are listed here


***
- and they said I could not put up a post without being wordy -

Larry Zanko and the direction of interest shown in his NRRI work - use it, please.

I have seen the underlying item, but my Google Alert for "taconite tailings" just gave me this link, to go with my morning coffee.

It is not news to many who have read anything on this blog, or elsewhere about use of taconite tailings in paving aggregate in the road bed in front of your home.

Larry wants it done, Larry was paid to do the study, Larry likes tailings, and at the end of the abstract it is clear that, "In terms of the marketing potential, low-cost rail transportation and a workable distribution plan would be key for expanding the use of coarse taconite tailings as aggregate in markets beyond Northeastern Minnesota."

And that quoted part from the link explains Elwyn Tinklenberg's major if not sole concern with the stuff. He is not health risk oriented. He is a promoter for use of the stuff, whatever the current state of knowledge and the uncertainties of health risks might be.

The quoted text is what Tinklenberg has been and apparently still is being paid money to want to see done. It is what you can read of and see how he has focused upon that as his personal goal, in his reporting to NRRI to justify his continuing contract status with NRRI. He has touted his many and varied thoughts and efforts to contact people to advance the stuff being disseminated exactly in the way that above quoted text envisions. It is his mission with NRRI, that sentence basically being his mission statement.

Marketing the stuff and arranging low-cost shipping ways and means is why Elwyn Tinklenberg contacted shippers and railways, and went to trade shows, (Mesabi Hard Rock hockey puck in hand), to influence and impress people.

It is why he produced a repeatedly played trade-show short video presentation for that marketing purpose, for use in marketing "Mesabi Hard Rock" at trade shows; a video which his campaign people have yet to put on YouTube - for the rest of us - those whose vote Elwyn solicits.

This is posted because it conveniently fits the longer posting, below, from earlier this morning.

So, hey --- Pick a cup, any cup.

_______UPDATE_______
I believe I must emphasize this as strongly as possible. This link is very, very important. It gives you online access to the underlying study Larry Zanko did at NRRI.

You can read it and form your own opinions about whether it entirely begs the question of whether there is or is not any inherent health hazard in the taconite tailings material, itself, independent of any questions over whether it contains asbestos when from the east end of the Iron Range or from the west end.

Whether it's from east or west of a boundary line, is it safe or unsafe, independent of when and if it does or does not contain asbestos?

Does Zanko answer that? Does he even consider it? Are taconite fibers and/or clevage fragments the problem independent of asbestos considerations?

Read the entire Zanko thing.

Think for yourself. Figure things out for yourself. Does Zanko's work beg the question of whether or not taconite fibers and/or cleavage fragments pose a health risk even if asbestos is not a minor component?

TACONITE TAILINGS - I had a brief phone conversation with Judge Lord. Is asbestos a shiboleth? Am I the monkey pointing at the wrong cup?


When having the opportunity to talk by phone with Miles Lord, he left me feeling like an acolyte for the first time meeting the voice of Yoda, aided to see a glimpse of the dark side in a place I had not thought to look because my attention was directed to look for darkness forcefully at play in a familiar publicized place and way - led easily enough to look down the path others have for years looked - what is the threat to health from asbestos and how should we react to it?

Misdirected, perhaps. Perhaps by circumstance and the neutral force of collective thinking, perhaps by a skilled hand of the dark side of the force pointing me in the path of collective "wisdom" and questioning.

But I felt like the monkey, chumped to pick one cup to guess about, when the basis of the game was the issue.

The most fundamental question about use of taconite tailings, (outside of the occupational exposure questions of their mining and the host of threats it poses locally), is not, "Where on the Iron Range is asbestos-in-tailings a problem or not and is there evidence some tailings are asbestos free so that those tailings pose no asbestos threat?".

Instead the first and most basic question is: Does the hard rock itself, the substance of the tailings pose a health risk possibly greater than or at least more widespread than the secondary risk of whether some or all of it contains differing amounts of asbestos? Is the asbestos question, posed in the context of safety of using "Mesabi Hard Rock" as paving aggregate overlooking the much more fundamental question - independent of asbestos, is this stuff, itself, a major menace that sane people would not spread around?

In effect, the first level of questioning should not merely be, "Does it contain asbestos," but, "By itself and independent of possible asbestos content, what is its basic makeup and what threat might it pose, with small fibers in the 1 x 3, or 1 x 5 micron range, or smaller, fiber or cleavage fragment, when inhaled into human lungs?"

That, ultimately would get into the chemistry and crystallography of the material, the biochemistry at DNA and protein chemistry levels within the lungs, how are particles of that material and that size range lodged into tissue once reaching lung walls, and what following upset might be caused (after they become lodged) to the DNA and protein chemistry in regular cell functioning and in a cell that neighbors on embeds the micro-fine material when the cell is dividing.

Given that we do not know much of anything about any of that, i.e., we have not successfully done any of that basic science giving us capability to give any reliable answers that way, then once we admit we cannot give mechanistic expressions at the most basic level of insight, epidemiology and incidence statistics studies are what we are left with and those approaches always are where the forces wanting a particular action wish to steer us to indecision.

If you want an outcome - people smoking cigarettes with abandon or using "Mesabi Hard Rock" with abandon as the desired action generating for you some actual or potentially great profit - you, given human nature, would be the one always saying, "The proof against it is inconclusive," or "We need at least one more study," or as we hear from a politician who took money to promote something, "You have to prove Larry Zanko wrong."

Such voices with pecuniary interests may think quietly, "But while that's being strung out by us, forever hopefully, stay the #&$&%^&$! out of the way of any and all of our profitable mischief."

Of course the latter would not be said at all, and certainly not that directly.

But stripped of euphimism, is it not the message in saying I have a burden to prove Larry Zanko and NRRI wrong before I may be listened to?

Perhaps not. Perhaps there is no dark motive whatsoever in a message false in both its bias against the precautionary principle, and in its capacity to misdirect and mislead by saying Larry Zanko in the first instance siezed upon the right tack to take, and I should question or debate his results so that if I ask something different I am ignorant or a troublemaker.

Yoda said beware of how the dark side of the force operates.

If I will not be the monkey dutifully pointing at the wrong cup, or choosing one of three on the table, put there by "the authorities," then I am even less than a dumb monkey.

And my thinking is accordingly of no consequence in deciding which cup an intelligent monkey should be induced to choose.


***
I have a weakness for quotes because my writing falls short of the quality of things better writers have thought over and tightly written. There is this quote that I put into a comment thread from a different post, which an interesting website attributes to Bertrand Russell, Roads to Freedom,

What a man believes upon grossly insufficient evidence is an index into his desires — desires of which he himself is often unconscious. If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.


Almost all of us have a desire to think analytically or to believe we do, and to see if we find truth or fiction and credibility vs. weakness in evidence, especially if it is presented as "science" and gets into a journal, of which there are many of varying quality. In the process, misdirection is something often overlooked, via the forest and the individual trees analogy.

And I do not say there was deliberate misdirection by either Larry Zanko or Elwyn Tinklenberg. If deliberate misdirection was there it was by different people, the ones pulling the strings, funding Zanko, and giving the marching orders. People probably not in Minnesota or caring about its people and public health, and brighter by far than either Zanko or Tinklenberg. Philadelphia lawyers, whatever. People thinking if "we" keep "them" thinking only of asbestos, where it is or is not and thinking of mesithelioma only, where it occurs in abnormal incidence levels or where baseline data exists, then "we" keep "them" from asking if the pea is under a different cup or if the game is entirely different and the problem is not asbestos in or absent from "Mesabi Hard Rock" but the propensity of that material, itself, to form small fiber or cleavage fragments of a particular size which, by itself, because of something in the very nature of "Mesabi Hard Rock" itself and independent of asbestos presence or absence, poses a potentially major health threat.

Reversing "we" and "they" as used above, with "we" now being the public --- If the cause of a range of disease and death or disablement is in the tailings themselves, independent of asbestos, then "we" collectively are the monkey pointing to the wrong cup - or being led into the game of pointing to one cup or another that "they" put on the table.

"They" have wealth and ways and means of defining the game they present, and most of "us" are in no position to be ever vigilant against being misdirected.

"We" should be pointing at and questioning the hard rock itself, independent of any set of three misleading cups "they" offer.

So, the quest is not to watch the hand being quicker than the eye, and to then guess, but to say more fundamentally - what is the quality and threat of the pea, and of any or all of the three cups?

If the shell game has been set by the shill to take the mark by basic misdirection and by luring the mark into wishing to even play that game by the shill's rules, then the mark's been taken or is at risk of it. So, avoid being taken. Ask the bigger basic threshold question - and the natural follow-up:

[1] Independent of asbestos, what's the hazard of that Mesabi Hard Rock in commerce?

[2]And short of having an answer to the first question, WHY NOT be prudent and follow the precautionary principle?


***
Or do we simply follow their Golden Rule, that they have the gold so they make our rules?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Jack Nelson Pallmeyer - a letter to the editor.


Jack's family, Hannah, Naomi, Jack, Sara, and Audrey Nelson-Pallmeyer, from "about Jack," on the campaign website.

Blue Man in A Red District republishes the short May 25, Strib leading letter of the day, from Barbara Calrson of Shrewood, saying mainly:

Over the past few days, I have read with interest all the hype and hand-wringing over the U.S. Senate race. In all of this, I have failed to see the name of Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer mentioned.

We do not have to look to a humorist or to someone proven to back his party no matter what, in order to have a viable alternative candidate for the U.S. Senate.I urge you to go to Jack's website, jackforsenate.org, and see for yourself.


You should do that, visit the website, but first read this, one of the earlier pieces of campaign literature the household received from Jack prior to precinct caucus, showing much of what he offers as a candidate that is appealing [click to enlarge the image]:




Legitimately using Wellstone green, Jack expresses vision more than ten years out, talking about the global view and not what's he done in the past for Blaine or such. Hopes. Expressing a sense of justice and goals - where if you quit on that out of cynicism or belief in starting small, or myopia over only immediate goals, then you've given away the store before you start and try, never mind keeping after it.

Please look at Jack's website. And that of Franken. He also is good.

AP - One of the bleakest views of how bad the housing market slump is and may be.

Locally, last week's Friday, May 23, 2008, print version of the Anoka County Union, in its legal notices, all 32 pages of its Section D were mortgage foreclosure sale notices. Then, 18 out of the 22 pages of Section E were the same for a total of forty pages of foreclosure notices [and I noted there were two postponement of sale notices in that batch]. At roughly 8 - 9 notices per page, at 40 pages, that is 320 - 360 for the most current full single week. I believe there is a multi-week publishing requirement for foreclosures, but for a snapshot in time, that many notices far exceeds prior norms.

For a local and anectodotal comparison, an arguable baseline or trend - Anoka County Union past legal notices section -- Oct. 18, 2002, 8-1/2 pages; Feb. 27, 2004, 13 pages; March 26, 2004, 13 pages; Apr. 2, 2004, 11 pages; Nov. 5, 2004, eleven pages; Nov. 12, 2004, 9-1/2 pages; Feb. 11, 2005, 9-1/2pages; March 11, 2005, 10-1/2 pages; June 16, 2006, 17 pages; and earlier this month, May 9, 2008, 36 pages.

While it's the evidence gleaned from papers still around the house, and not a random sample, it still is an indicator to compare with what's to be seen years later, a baseline of 8-13 pages through early 2005, a slight jump in summer 2006, perhaps, but with only a single sample, and then wonked out through the roof to 36-40 pages before the end of this month.

Record Anoka County mortgage foreclosure activity was noted in the blogs, after being reported in the print news, with the Strib having an online March 2, 2008, article on Anoka County foreclosures at a then record level, per 2007 statistics. See also, here and here; and we have all read the stories about one place or another, so that is enough background.

Clearly those predicting last summer that the trend had peaked and this year would start a rebound have yet to be proven correct.

It currently appears that things are quite high now and still trending upward, from the informal ACU legal notices indicator.

Nationwide there is this, an AP feed, online here, saying, with little excerpted out:

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER - AP ECONOMICS WRITER

WASHINGTON -- Like spring flowers, the "For Sale" signs are sprouting in front yards all over the country. But anxious sellers are facing the most brutal environment in decades, with a slumping economy, falling home prices and rising mortgage foreclosures.

And even the faint promise of better days ahead might not come true, given all the headwinds the housing industry is facing at the moment.

"This is going to be another difficult spring," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "I think we are at the beginning of the end of the housing downturn, but it is going to be a long and painful end."

The devastation is certainly a far cry from the boom years from 2001 to 2005 when sales of new and existing homes were setting records for five straight years. During that time, home prices were soaring, luring thousands of investors into the market, hoping to buy homes and flip them for quick profit.

But since 2006, the country has been mired in a housing bust which, in many ways, is the worst since World War II.

Construction is expected to drop to the slowest pace since the 1940s and prices are expected to decline by the largest amount since the Great Depression.

Hardest hit are the states where sales boomed the most: California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and parts of the Northeast. In the Midwest, the problem is shrinking jobs in the auto industry, making homes hard to sell. But virtually all of the country has felt the aftershocks of the housing slump, either through weaker home sales or the massive drag housing has imposed on the overall economy.

Housing has shaved more than a full percentage point off economic growth, trimming the gross domestic product for the past two quarters to a barely discernible 0.6 percent rate and raising the threat that the country could topple into a full-blown recession.

The National Association of Realtors reported that 46 states saw sales decline in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2007. Two-thirds of 149 metropolitan areas saw prices decline during the same period, the largest percentage of cities reporting price drops in the history of the NAR survey, which goes back to 1979.

The state with the biggest sales decline was Maryland, with sales down 38.6 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2007. The drop nationwide was 22.2 percent.

The price decline nationally was 7.7 percent in the first quarter, with the biggest plunge a 29.2 percent decline in the Sacramento, Calif., area.

As the spring sales season got under way, the slump was continuing. The Realtors reported Friday that existing home sales fell 1 percent in April, the eighth drop in the past nine months, with the median home price falling 8 percent compared with a year ago, the second-biggest drop on record.

So just how much worse will things get?

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors, sees some hopeful signs. "Lower prices and low interest rates are starting to generate results," Yun said, noting that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.92 percent in April, down from 6.18 percent in April 2007. That reflected an aggressive rate-cutting effort by the Federal Reserve to try to keep the country out of a recession.

Sales should also be helped in coming months, Yun predicted, by the reappearance of more mortgage products as lenders reopen the tap for certain loans. That supply had been closed following the credit crisis that hit last August, triggered by rising defaults in subprime mortgages.

Other economists are not so optimistic, noting that the Realtors' latest report showed the number of unsold single-family homes jumping to a 23-year high, reflecting, in part, a rising tide of mortgage foreclosures, which are dumping more homes on an already glutted market.

Adding to the foreclosure problem is the weak economy, which has resulted in four straight months of job layoffs, an indication to some analysts that the country has already fallen into a recession.

Rising job layoffs and higher gasoline and food prices have sent consumer confidence plunging - not a great environment to mount a rebound in housing.

And then there is the problem of the huge overhang of unsold homes generating further declines in prices, which seem to be keeping more prospective buyers on the fence.

"Right now a lot of people are staying away because they don't want to buy an asset that might lose value right away," said Patrick Newport, an economist at Global Insight.

Newport predicted that prices, which by some measures have fallen by about 15 percent nationwide from their peak two years ago, will decline another 10 percent before bottoming out in the spring of 2009. A 25 percent fall in prices would be the biggest since home prices plunged by about one-third during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

David Seiders, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, said he believed sales will bottom out by the middle of this year and then start to move higher by the end of this year.

He said builders, trying to control inventories, will continue slashing production, with housing starts expected to drop by 39 percent this year following a 30 percent decline in 2007. That will push activity to the slowest annual pace since the end of World War II. Seiders predicted a gradual rebound in construction starting next year.

"This is stacking up as the most dramatic housing contraction in the post-World War II period," he said.

And while sales, construction and prices should all start to recover by next year, the rebound is not expected to be a rapid one. Some analysts are forecasting it will take a couple of years for housing to regain its footing.

"It is going to take some time first to restore confidence that housing is a reasonably OK investment, then to work off this inventory and then for the financial system to revive," Zandi predicted.


So, it is unlikely the GOP can engineer any October Surprise this time, in housing.

Michele Bachmann has been on the House Financial Services Committee which has made some sensible proposals, probably falling short of a real and complete answer, but it is unclear where Bachmann stands on the plight of families losing their homes vs. her key concern for ultra-high income tax payers not being taxed more. I have not seen any indication she is in line with majority proposals from that committee.

In fairness to Bachmann, I have not seen any politicians running for federal office committing to any detailed proposal as a solution to the foreclosure crisis, nor have I seen any go as far as I would that being born into citizenship in the wealthiest nation on earth is an entitlement as a right and not a privilege to freedom from hunger, from homelessness, and from denial of medical care.

Jack Nelson Pallmeyer comes closest to that perspective which is one reason I favor him; his heart is in it; and Bob Olson while a candidate had a proposal that if we became serious about alternate energy and ceased transferring so much wealth from the nation to buy foreign oil, we could create more energy sector jobs and have that cash flow to spend for relief of domestic suffering. That and ceasing a deficit funded war, another thing he suggested, would help.

Olson lost the endorsement and Jack still has a chance but appears trailing too far in delegate count. The two making the most sense and being truest to core progressive values long given lip service in their party seem distrusted too much, in their own party. In the ultra-conservative and fence-straddling middle segments of their own party.

That is very sad. I hope Jack somehow gains the endorsement. He is closest to Wellstone and others who kept the faith.

RAMSEY - They put Environmental Policy Board agenda and minutes online. There's nothing comparable for the Finance Committee. Legacy intent?

Either it is stupid to continue to not have minutes for critical Finance Committee activity online, or continuing legacy intent, from days of James Norman.

However, in trying to unravel the exact initial contact point on record between Tinklenberg Group and City of Ramsey, I met a stone wall at December 2002.

Online records do reference that there were contacts or at least one contact made before James Norman and Elwyn Tinklenberg were exchanging correspondence that was put on record, (although with a reference to "enclosures" from Tinklenberg that never made it into the full agenda for the council).

[As always, click on the image to enlarge to readable size, or open it in another window]




These images present Council minutes and full agenda evidence of at least one mid-December face-to-face visit between Elwyn Tinklenberg and James Norman. Those resource items reference a crucial Jan 14, 2003 finance committee session involving the Tinklenberg for-fee proposals, with no paper trail of what transpired before the matter days later going to Council. Perhaps, just perhaps, the enclosures not in the full agenda were on the table before Finance Committee, and if their agenda and minutes were published online we'd see the full package. Perhaps not. But without it online, it is like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon Tapes. A black hole.

That was back when David Elvig headed that committee, (if I recall correctly). Perhaps in a blog comment David might share his recollections of all he knows about the initial Tinklenberg insinuation of himself into Ramsey affairs, for a fee, with Tinklenberg Group thereafter ultimately taking payments from Ramsey totalling $840,000, according to City spreadsheet records I have seen.

Some schmoozing, or fair arms length contact, who's to say which without a paper trail, happened leading up to the Tinklenberg Group's first appearance in minutes (that I could find), Dec. 2002 - Jan. 2003.

Not putting Finance Committee agendas and minutes online -- It is like the refusal to televise council work sessions.

Indefensible.

Do they not keep minutes of such an important deliberative activity? Is it a feeling that while minutes and agendas do exist, they are not worth posting? Or worse, is there no maintained paper trail at all?

Either way, not putting Finance Committee matters online in full disclosure form, minutes and full agenda, is shameful and should change.

After all - the money and situations concerning the money - what is more important to citizens to know and weigh?

Setbacks from wetlands? Sure that is important.

But get real.

I shall publish favorably the names of any council candidates filing this July and running for election, who will publicly commit and inform me of the committment to have work sessions televised again, and minutes taken and posted electronically for the Finance Committee.

Indeed, why not televise finance committee and public works committee? Parks gets televised. Finance and public works does not. That's strange.

For now, on the "Documents" laser fiche page, all I could find are four "outcome" categories; nothing deliberative - no hint of decision processes before finance matters are presented council.

Transparency is good, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Justice Brandeis pointed all that out as far back as 1914, regarding dealings in "Other People's Money."

__________UPDATE_________
SOMETHING certainly happened at that 18-minute gap meeting of the Finance Committee. While there is no paper trail record of it online except the following reference back to a decision having been made then, off camera, for later on camera pro-forma approval and the Tinklenberg letter agreement even referencing that the day after the stealth meeting, James Norman and Elwyn Tinklenberg negotiated a deal where conveniently enough for the both of them, James Norman would be Elwyn Tinklenberg's official contact person in dealings - and I have presented in earlier posts evidence that after Norman's precipitously abrupt ouster/leaving Ramsey, he was a Tinklenberg Group affiliate - he had his revolving door, in the lobby, much like Elwyn's.





________FURTHER UPDATE__________
Interestingly, that initial Tinklenberg-to-Norman Happy New Year letter embodied the "federal dollars" or "federal funds" theme that much on the Internet indicates as a repeatedly used theme of Elwyn Tinklenberg in soliciting or finalizing cash-flow business for his Tinklenberg Group:

Also, I would like to discuss with you the idea of using federal dollars to advance the official mapping of the TH 10 corridor. I think the potential exists and it may serve the City's interests well.


The man apparently does have that as a sales-pitch approach he likes and relies on time and again.

***
For something completely unrelated and wholly different, this photograph:



Saturday, May 24, 2008

A big to-do list, the Gray Plant Mooty falling bridge report, tails of tailings, etc. THE BRIDGE.

Finance and Commerce reports the Gray Plant Mooty report on paper weighs 30 pounds. Not as much as the I35W bridge weighed, but hefty. Heavy reading.


On Wednesday, Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, sets before Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, the voluminous report on the 35W collapse compiled by the law firm of Gray Plant Mooty. (Photo by Bill Klotz)


Picture and caption are from the above F&C link.

Where in that stack of paper will we find the name or fingerprints of Elwyn Tinklenberg, when it talks of MnDOT look-the-other-way benign neglect?

A report of the report indicated there were seventeen years neglect of a known problem. There also were fiscal implications. Elwyn might not have wanted bridge spending to constrain him when Hiawatha was saying "Build me, and they shall ride."

The Report is online [here].

I expect the first thing I shall do is a search of each of the report subparts for "Tinklenberg" anywhere in the text.

My suspicion is the circumspect lawyers did not name names that way, but I have yet to study things.

The report may be less about finger-pointing than about moving-forward.

State Sen. Steve Murphy and Rep. Lieder issued an initial joint committee press release Dec. 19, 2007, online here, explaining initiation of the Gray Plant Mooty firm's investigative involvement, and describing the joint committee makeup and tasking. In a press release contemporaneous with the release of the May 21, 2008 report, Murphy indicates it is less about blame than ongoing procedural tightening, but politicians are political animals. "Improve communication," is a cliche, but he uses it. He indicates he needs to study reported things in more depth, so I have esteemed company, that way, while I study.

MnDOT's formal response to the report is here.

For more background about the report tasking history, see here, here, here, and here.

Any reader with additional good resource links should add info via a comment.

Certainly Elwyn Tinklenberg's spending goals when MnDOT head highwayman were not to rock any boat or precipitate discord over whether a key bridge needed to be shut down a substantial time and fixed, or redone. Infrastructure decay now is a stated motive for his becoming a reluctant candidate, he's said, but back when it mattered because he ran the shop, it must not have been his thing. He was to have his Hiawatha legacy. It needed much cash to be brought to reality, a big money sinkhole, so was the bridge back-burnered with a fig leaf study run comparable to the Larry Zanko taconite-asbestos fig-leaf thing instituted at NRRI? ("fig leaf" being a term I probably don't need to explain)

See prior Crabgrassing, two items, first this; then this, expressing second thoughts the same day, from a less judgmental perspective.

So, after reading Gray Plant Mooty & Bridge, which is longer than Brothers Karamazov, will my view of that MnDOT commissioned study become one of those instances, "I thought I was wrong but was not?"

More study of the report from back then, by those knowing more of the engineering and having the right to take depositions of persons with direct knowledge, i.e., by the lawyers representing the collapse victims advised by their consulting experts, may be needed before the question of whether Elwyn or subordinates at MnDOT ordered a valid [or a fig leaf] study as cause [or excuse] for postponing [neglecting] funding of bridge repair [shutdown and replacement] during the Tinklenberg-Ventura watch at MnDOT.

Surely, knowing James Oberstar as he does, Elwyn ought to have been able to get the funding - except which party in DC controlled the House then? That was when Mark Kennedy was my representative, I think, not as far back as Bill Luther. And if you are told before Christmas, you can have the fire-engine wagon toy, or the video game upgrade, not both, you choose - and lil' Elwyn chose the light rail instead of the more mundane girder bridge. Life is a string of choices, isn't it? Toys for Christmas, or socks and underwear. Who wants the more mundane but wiser choice?

Bottom line - can you tell from the 30 pounds Gray Plant Mooty dutifully churned - Was that one study mentioned in the earlier linked posts flawed? Was it a fig leaf to cover, "We know it's deficient, so here's a consulting contract to reach a predetermined conclusion, saying 'bad' is not 'too bad' and we can muck along just as we've been doing bridge-wise, and build that frigging light rail?

Will study of the Gray Plant Mooty study give a definitive answer? It's conjectural until the details of the many megabytes are sifted and considered.

Finally, Elwyn Tinklenberg has three studies as part of his Blue Dog, fleas, and scratching situation.

First there is the Larry Zanko study and the question of whether cancer risk is being impropitiously promoted, to be spread around as a consequence of spreading around taconite tailings as paving aggregate, a threat that nobody needs or wants in front of their homes.

Second there is this MnDOT Final Study 2001-10 of the I35W bridge status during Tinklenberg's head highwayman tenure - and was there any unwise neglect of the mundane bridge when a sexy light rail legacy to tout was an alternative way for Tink to spend? Will study of the Gray Plant Mooty study give a definitive answer to that sort of consideration?

And again, for the earlier MnDOT sponsored bridge report info, see these two U.Minn. TC campus, "Center for Transportation Studies" links to full pdf materials; here, and here. And for a lets-give-the-benefit-of-doubt expression, until more evidence is available and perhaps determinative, see my thinking, here.

It's only a conjecture until the details of the many megabytes are sifted and considered. It may still be a conjecture after the effort, but the sifting has to come first.

Third there is the MnDOT Highway 10 high-priority highway upgrade study that was propitiously wrapped up May 2002, before Tinklenberg left MnDOT Oct. 2002, and formed the Tinklenberg Group in Nov. 2002, got his head together with James Norman at City of Ramsey in mid-December 2002, and had his first Highway 10 related contract as best as I could discover what was "first," Jan. 2003, surprisingly with City of Ramsey, contact person, surprisingly, James Norman.

He could write a book, "How to Become a Millionaire - Through the Revolving Door and Prospering From a Study."

Perhaps he could get Rupert Murdoch to pay him a cash advance, to do it.

With three extended studies to study, [1] Gray Plant Mooty, [2] Zanko and others on taconite fibers and cancer, and [3] Highway 10 saga pages; pinning the tail on the donkey might require a substantial investment of time.

I expect the GOP may have more time and motive to invest it in study than I, (they certainly have more at stake, Bachmann's seat, while I am solely a private citizen with concerns). Also, there are things I enjoy more than thinking about Tinklenberg out of whatever time the reaper may leave me.

However, I wonder if the GOP and Bachmann people are up to the task of real and substantial research effort and thought, vs. Brodkorbian style mud-slinging.

We shall see.