Petroleum politics (Five by 8 – 8/24/10)

1) The New Yorker profiles the Koch brothers, who run Koch Industries, which runs oil refineries in several states, including this one. The magazine says the brothers — libertarians — are the money behind the tea party. The damning article makes the Target controversy in Minnesota look like small potatoes.

The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, “The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.” With the emergence of the Tea Party, he said, “everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there–people who can provide real ideological power.” The Kochs, he said, are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.”

Koch’s organization — Americans for Prosperity — bankrolled Rep. Michele Bachmann’s health care protest rally last November.

Jon Stewart also followed the money yesterday, and found the same money connected to the mosque/community center near the World Trade Center, comes from the same spot that funds FoxNews, which regularly questions where the money comes from that’s funding the mosque/community center near the World Trade Center.More politics: Courage to Run Stand. That’s the title of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s new book, a pre-requisite these days for running for president. Time’s Swampland blog notices something familiar:


2) I’ve read this story three or four times now and it still isn’t making any sense to me. There is a nine-day-long traffic jam in China that last 60 miles. Apparently — and you can relate to this, right Minnesota? — it was caused by construction. China’s state-run news service says drivers are passing the time by playing cards. For nine days?

Some people joke about the enduring congestion on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway, saying “concerts should be held at each congested area every weekend, to alleviate drivers’ homesickness.”

They’re joking? After nine days? OK, let’s play with this one. You’re on Highway 10 between here and St. Cloud. You’ve been sitting on the highway for nine days. It’s good times all around, what with that poker game with the family in the minivan, and the joking with the guy who cut you off… 8 days ago.

No, something’s not right here, especially when you look at the China TV report. It’s a minute long, and repeats the video three times, showing two trucks. If there’s really a 60-mile-long traffic jam and it’s been happening for nine days, wouldn’t there be more than 20 seconds of video and wouldn’t it show more than a couple of trucks? Besides, nobody would sit in a nine-day-long traffic jam. Would they?

3) The pre-light rail construction in St. Paul’s Lowertown is certainly damaging business there, but it’s building community, commentators Katherine Stillings Barta and Kevin Barta write on MPR’s NewsQ today.

Ultimately we realized something: that the construction in Lowertown, which has been an inconvenience to some and a financial dilemma to others, has also had a positive effect. It’s building community. We’re all trying to help each other survive through this transition period — whether by starting websites, buying our milk at Golden’s Deli or our wine at Lowertown Wine and Spirits, eating dinner at small restaurants like Tanpopo or supporting new restaurants when they arrive, such as Heartland and Faces. We’re all working together to try and keep the work that has been done to rejuvenate the area alive and to showcase one of the true gems of the Upper Midwest.

They created a Web site — Lowertown Landing — to promote the area and help people navigate through the construction mess.

They’re right, of course. Disasters create community by forcing us to help each other and watch out for each other, and be nice to each other. Remember the afternoon of 9/11? Courtesy ruled.

In other news, potential community-builder Danielle grew to a hurricane overnight.

4) Could you spend four months with your work colleagues without going crazy? The trapped miners in Chile have already spent 17 days together. Officials apparently haven’t told them it will take four months to get them out, and they’re not entirely sure humans can stand this sort of thing.

5) Pee power? I don’t really have the nerve to say anything more about this.

Bonus: A tour of the Legends Club at Target Field.

Viral video of the day:


Imagine you are a superintendent. What would your ideal school schedule look like?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A new way into med school? A New York medical school is reserving a few spots for humanities and social sciences majors without requiring hard sciences. Midmorning asks how essential those “weed-out” sciences like organic chemistry and physics are for creating great doctors?

Second hour: After 34 years, “Cathy” creator Cathy Guisewite is ending her beloved comic strip. But Guisewite says even though she’s retiring, there is more of a need for newspaper cartooning today than there ever has been.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Two Minnesota lawmakers, DFL Sen. Tom Bakk and GOP Sen. Julianne Ortman take questions about tax policy.

Second hour: The three major party candidates for governor — Republican Tom Emmer, Democrat Mark Dayton, and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner — gather at the University of St. Thomas for a panel discussion on business issues that affect the state.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Twenty years ago the U.S. military crushed Saddam’s army on the battlefield and in the skies but stopped short of taking Baghdad. Some veterans argue that Operation Desert Storm just set the stage for today’s U.S. presence in Iraq.

Second hour: There’s no such thing as a typical college student anymore. Who are the new college freshmen?