Thoughts on northern Wisconsin mining, “pothead” Pat, and those positive jobs numbers

The problem with labeling people “conservative” and “liberal” is that there are so many rich, wonderful, and strange varietals lurking within the deep, expansive wine cellar of political belief that such clumsy descriptors often wildly miss the mark. For instance, I’m a liberal, and this blog is called Left Business Brain, but I do hew to one or two “conservative” positions. (By the way, I’ve been doing this for almost a year now, and not once has anyone told me, “I think you’ve left your business brain behind.” I’m gravely disappointed in all of you.)

Case in point: I support all of the Bill of Rights, not just the ones I think are cool. That includes the Second Amendment. I personally don’t like guns, but it’s really not up to me. I also don’t like NASCAR, and I’d rather go on aboriginal walkabout with an alcoholic raccoon duct-taped to my inner thigh than attend a Ted Nugent concert or spend a minute in Branson, but that doesn’t mean I think these pastimes should be illegal.

I also frequently break bread with conservatives, many of whom share my last name and whose company I greatly enjoy. (Of course, I break vegan peasant bread and dip it delicately in organic Tuscan olive oil while they’re tossing 12 slices of Roundy’s pimiento loaf and a dollop of Hellmann’s the size of a narwhal spleen inside some bleached, pasty, half-baked wads of moistened flour, but we find common ground wherever we can.)

Then again, my liberal bona fides are clearly well established. I’m a vegan who listens to progressive radio, thinks Madison could use even more bike paths and farmers markets, and believes George W. Bush alighted on this planet as the pure, archetypal manifestation of the village idiot from Plato’s World of Forms.

Which brings me – at long last – to the Gogebic Taconite mine that disappeared in a puff of legislative inertia last week.

As a liberal, I know I’m supposed to go through the usual histrionics about raping the land and destroying the earth – and I am naturally skeptical about projects that might threaten our natural resources, particularly when one considers the importance of tourism to our state – but I simply can’t believe the Legislature couldn’t have reached a compromise that would have made it feasible for Gogebic Taconite to move forward with the project.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite, after all. I live in a city, and I love city living. Cities use a lot of iron. We need to get it from somewhere. When it comes right down to it, NIMBY is no excuse.

Personally, I’d like to see such projects undergo a clear, honest cost-benefit analysis. Let’s take note of the economic benefit of the mine, including the jobs created (labor was strongly in favor of the mine, after all), and on the other side of the ledger, let’s take account of the negative externalities – including environmental destruction, the possibility of doing more or less permanent damage to a sizable portion of the north woods, and the certainty of extracting a resource that will now no longer be available to future generations.

Put all those considerations in a blender and see what comes out – quantify it in dollar terms if possible. Then legislate accordingly. If the project still doesn’t pass muster, so be it. But you can’t just start by saying we can never do anything that will disturb any part of the wilderness. If you believe that, you should move to downtown Detroit and live in a yurt. On the other hand, we can’t just greenlight any and every project simply because it might temporarily boost the economy. That would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. I happen to like clean air, clean water, and a toxin-light bloodstream, and I think most Wisconsinites would agree with me.

So, really, can’t we all just get along?

It’s Pat!

Speaking of crossing political divides …

I used to watch Pat Robertson on The 700 Club from time to time because I had a sneaking suspicion that his co-host (and former Miss Wisconsin and Miss America) Terry Meeuwsen had either a Sam’s Club-sized can of pepper spray or a trident and net hidden under her chair, and I didn’t want to miss the day she was finally forced to use one of them.

Watching Meeuwsen watch Robertson as his brain’s crackling synapses explore every imaginable permutation beneath the threshold of sanity is the purest form of entertainment, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before he said something that accidentally made sense.

To wit: Pat wants to legalize pot.

Said Robertson in an interview last week: “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”

I’d like to go out on a limb and agree with Pat. If nothing else, the tax revenue we’d realize from a product that Americans are already using is just one reason to follow the good preacher’s advice.

About those jobs numbers

The state and national jobs numbers released last week have gone through at least one spin cycle already, so I’d just like to say congratulations on both fronts. At long last, we see positive numbers everywhere we look.

I know that some Republicans – including some running for president – probably secretly hoped that the national economy would show meager job gains so Obama would look weak, and some Democrats probably secretly hoped that the state would lose jobs for the seventh straight month so they could further embarrass Scott Walker.

I simply can’t join that chorus of nattering nabobs.

I’d rather see Walker embarrassed in other ways, like slipping on the Capitol steps in front of half the state press corps and having a leather gimp mask and a signed, dog-eared copy of Mein Kampf come tumbling out. But I’m magnanimous that way.

Whether it helps Scott or not, let’s root for continued job growth next month and far into the future. That can only benefit all of Wisconsin’s workers.

Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click here.