The Week in Commentary
In the long run, Obama's victory on health care could mean a loss of federal power
David Schultz, a professor who teaches business and law, explains why the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act could mean a weakened federal government down the road.
"The media will report that by a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court affirmed the individual mandate and upheld the Obama Health Care Act. But a tighter and more thorough reading demonstrates this to be a very conservative decision, and Obama lost big legally.
"Congress passed and the Obama administration defended the Affordable Care Act primarily on Commerce Clause grounds. Their argument was that Congress, under the Commerce clause (giving them the power to regulate interstate commerce), justified the imposition of the individual mandate. ...
"The four liberals on the court would have affirmed the individual mandate on Commerce Clause grounds, in addition to the tax claim, but Roberts only supported it on taxing power.
"What are the implications? In the last 50 or so, years major legislation on civil rights and many other regulatory issues have been affirmed in part on Commerce Clause grounds. This new decision actually trims back the Commerce Clause power of the federal government, raising questions about the Voting Rights Act and other civil rights legislation in the future. This is the case both because of a weakened Commerce Clause and also because it suggests a court perhaps less sympathetic toward federal power than thought. All this is significant, especially in light of state challenges to legislation in these areas."
Failure of union vote portends a big shift on the Iron Range
Aaron J. Brown, a writer and community college instructor on the Iron Range, ponders the meaning of a failed unionization vote at the Mesabi Nugget plant.
"Mesabi Nugget is among the newest iron ore processing facilities on the Range, using a modern process to create iron nuggets that are purer than taconite pellets. It opened after the early 2000s mining slowdown and before the big recession of 2008-09.
"Thus, the people working there were very happy to get those jobs. And why not? The pay has started at about $50,000 a year with a $75,000-a-year average, plus incentive programs based on production. That's really good pay on the Range, especially if you've strung together jobs at foundries, manufacturing companies or the like over the years. For a younger worker here, this is as good as it can get. ...
"Younger workers on the Iron Range have no personal memory of the working conditions that made unions as important as they once were. I know a lot of the folks just hired at the mines these days. I went to school with them. They've struggled through sluggish construction trades and attempts at self-employment for a decade; now these mines are paying good money. ...
"Can labor regroup and become relevant to newer workers, both young Rangers and those who come in from outside the area? That's a daunting challenge."
What, to the slave, is the Fourth of July?
Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became a leading Abolitionist, was asked to speak as part of the Independence Day celebration in Rochester, N.Y., in 1852. He took the opportunity to condemn a country that would celebrate freedom while allowing slavery.
"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour."
The wilderness is a wilderness, with or without a cell tower
Roger J. Skraba, the mayor of Ely, Minn., states his support for a planned new cell tower that will serve his area.
"The recent Appeals Court ruling that reversed a Hennepin District Court's decision on the AT&T cell tower near Ely was a welcome reprieve from the endless opinions of people who do not live in or around Ely. ...
"If those of us who live here felt that a tower necessary to our safety was about to ruin our scenic and aesthetic resources, we would have enjoined the process and testified against it. We are very capable of making decisions to protect the resources that we enjoy, and we do so because we live here.
"The tower in question is outside of the wilderness. I am on a canoe trip on Lac La Croix, and the Lac La Croix First Nation has a tower, a road bridge, a community with many buildings and constant motor vehicle traffic, all bordering the wilderness. The people who live here did not designate the wilderness; as a matter of fact, they were never asked. Should they be taken to court because their homes affect the scenic and aesthetic resources in a wilderness?"
"I'm not sure what Mayor Skraba means about the 'woods are still the woods.' I've never seen a cell phone tower growing out of the woods. I believe that Ely has fallen for At&T propaganda, when what At&T really wants is a higher tower so that it will outpower its cell phone competition and gain access to the cell phone market in the area. There is no need for a 450 foot cell tower and there are lots of reasons against it--including migratory bird kill, as well as killing the quality of a wilderness experience." - Elanne Palcich, Chisolm
Mercury hurts kids, and it comes from mining
C.A. Arneson, a retired teacher who lives on a lake near Ely, explains her view that Minnesota officials pay too little attention to the threat of mercury pollution from mining operations.
"A 2011 Minnesota Department of Heath (MDH) study indicated that 10 percent of Minnesota newborns in the Lake Superior Basin have toxic levels of mercury in their blood, likely from pregnant mothers eating fish. So the advice is: Don't eat fish.
"The mining industry in Minnesota loves to say that a greater percentage of the mercury deposited in our waters comes from outstate sources than from the taconite mines. So what? It is the sulfates that are responsible for triggering the production of methylmercury, the toxic form that bio-accumulates in the fish we eat and then in us — and in our babies. Why not hold taconite mining and other industries accountable for the sulfates they disgorge into our waters?
"The mining industry is the major source of sulfate pollution in northern Minnesota. Is it not likely that sulfate pollution is the link to the high mercury levels in our newborns?
"Why is no one in power asking? ...
"Unfortunately, it seems that the health of our children and their quality of life have been forgotten in the speculative rush for so-called precious metals exploration."