From the Editor:
The kinder, gentler JUG is now also cheaper. JUG is moving to a new web host because the cost of the old one simply got out of hand. I was faced with three choices – raise money via ads or subscriptions, cut costs somehow, or quit.

I don’t want JUG to be beholden to anyone, in any way, so ads and subscriptions are out. And I’m not quite ready to quit. So cut costs it is.

Which leads us to a new host, and a facelift. The facelift is necessitated by the fact that it would be difficult to transfer some of the host-provided photos such as the rocks in the JUG nameplate.

Changes will be ongoing, with the hope that eventually the site will be even better than it was. Today we’re starting with the home page.

I’ve been told the new look is dated. So am I. But at least I’m holding the line on the cost of your JUG subscription.

Why Would Anyone Do That? 8/26/15

My recent travails with trying to re-create the JUG site got me to thinking about . . . reproduction.

More specifically, cloning.

Oh come on, what did you think I was going to say here on the kinder, gentler JUG?

Cloning got its first big publicity push with the birth of Dolly the sheep. She was the product of laboratory controlled cell division and artificial fertilization, rather than (ahem) sex.

In an attempt to allow Dolly to have as normal a life as possible she was allowed to breed. Scientists are quirky.

A small Welsh mountain ram was selected as her mate and between them they successfully produced 6 lambs. Their first, Bonny (in the photo with Dolly), was born in the spring of 1998. Twins followed the next year and triplets the year after that. At least Dolly knew how things normally work.

Dolly died in February of 2003, a victim of sheep pulmonary adenomatosis (SPA), which is a virus that causes lung tumors. Very little has been said about cloning since then.

But you can bet your pipette tube that research goes on. The question, in my mind is, why? I mean, is there a problem with sex? Things have been going along reasonably well for quite a while. People, sheep, and platypuses seem able to propagate just fine without the help of lab technicians. So what will cloning accomplish, that sex can’t?

Body parts?

Think about it. Someone’s liver is failing. If he can be kept alive long enough to harvest a liver from a cloned version of himself, it will be the perfect transplant. The liver will be perfectly compatible, so there’s little likelihood of rejection. And what civil rights would a clone, created for the express purpose of harvesting organs have?

Or maybe ego parts?

Imagine a scenario where Donald Trump creates cloned versions of himself to carry on his legacy – a dozen The Dons being boorish and inconsiderate. The guy thinks he’s perfect, so a dozen perfect Trumps should be even better, right?

At first, only wealthy individuals, corporations and governments will be able to afford to clone themselves. But eventually, WalMart will get into the business. You’ll pick up the Sunday ad supplement and see specials for flat screen TVs, ground beef, and genetic replicator kits. Some third world surrogate Mom will carry mini-you to term. You’ll get to feel good because you’ve given someone a, shall we say, productive job. You’ll get to reproduce yourself without messy emotional commitments to another co-parent. Heck, even Shakers who don’t believe in sex will have a means of reproduction.

But like I said earlier, why? The fact that we can do something doesn’t make it right or useful. In the case of cloning, I think researchers are looking for a way to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Nature doesn’t need a new form of reproduction. If someone is looking for a way to breed sheep, should just put a male and female together. And I’m guessing the ewe and ram would have a lot more fun together than the ewe would alone with a lab technician wielding a syringe or baster, or whatever they use.
The Quote:
“We need to take a leaf out of nature's book. Any species that clones itself will eventually be attacked by a parasite, leading to an inevitable population crash.”
  Daniel Suarez

Here Comes The Judge 8/19/15

“Hear ye, hear ye
This court is now in session

His Honor, Judge Pigmeat Markham presidin’

Hear ye, hear ye, the court of swing
It's just about ready to do that thing

I don't want no tears, I don't want no lies
Above all, I don't want no alibis

This Judge is hip, and that ain't all
He'll give you time if you're big or small

All in line for this court is neat
Peace brother, here comes the Judge”

Here comes the Judge
Everybody knows that he is the judge

Pigmeat Markham

Well, what brought that on, you ask? I’m about to tell you what’s going to happen with the gravel pit, and I thought ol’ Pigmeat Markham would be a good opening act.

Ultimately, the gravel pit situation is going to be resolved by a court – either through overt action, or implied threat. And that’s going to happen because neither Scott County, nor Jordan will stand their ground, and Sand Creek Township can’t win its’ fight without allies.

Let’s look at Scott County first. For years Scott County has dragged its feet on the issue of the gravel pit on Valley View. I think some people in Shakopee have been hoping the whole mess would go away. Others don’t want to create an adversarial situation between the proposer and the County, so they follow a policy of appeasement. At least some members of the County Board believe the County will be sued if it denies an interim use permit for the mining operation. My sense is they are willing to sacrifice clean water to avoid a potential lawsuit. In hindsight, maybe if the County had said five years ago that the gravel mine was a bad idea which the County wouldn’t support, the whole thing would have gone away.

Instead, the County let the process drag on, and every day that it dragged on meant stopping the proposal was that much harder. The County removed from consideration several issues that couldn’t be resolved easily – for example, noise, dust and odor issues in Holzer Park, or the impact of increased heavy truck traffic in Jordan.

Various people at the County level have told me that when a proposal is presented to them, they see it as their job to find a way to make the proposal work. Swell. But who’s going to look out for the County residents who rely on wells for clean drinking water?

The only group at the County level – or any level, for that matter – who’s come out smelling like a rose is the County Planning Advisory Commission. They said the gravel mining proposal was a bad idea, and they voted to not recommend it.

One last thought about the County Board. One member told me he thought the proposer was backing away from the proposal. Ummm, no. The proposer continues to persue all and sundry permits to mine gravel on the floodplain of Sand Creek. Any County Board Member who doesn’t know this is certainly not keeping informed about this issue that’s been in the hopper since at least 2008. And he also probably isn’t too concerned about those of us who are not residents of his district.

Then let’s look at The City of Jordan. For years Jordan has been sitting on its thumbs, unwilling to do anything that might actually affect the issue of gravel mining on Valley View. Positive action taken five years ago might well have been enough to protect the City from the deleterious effects of the traffic, at least. You will recall that one Council Member said we should wait. And when I asked him what his plan B was, he said “Wait.” Okay, waiting time is over. The MPCA is preparing to issue a waste water discharge permit, and the City doesn’t have a coherent response, other than to ask the County to help protect Jordan residents by preparing a petition for hearing or some such. The smart money would have been to close off Valley View Drive at the City Limits five years ago. But my colleagues then said, “Wait.”

And on Monday, when I made my little spiel to the Council, one staff member actually took the time to tell the Council the error of my thinking. Perhaps my thinking regarding wells and excavations is in error. But rebutting me is not helping the people of Jordan.

The City sent a hasty email to Scott County. It was presented to the County Board Tuesday. I don’t know precisely what the email said, but it landed with a thud.

County Administrator Shelton said he felt the Jordan City Council had been pressured by a vocal group of people to do something, and the email was meant to satisfy that pressure.

County Staff, in the person of Paul Nelson, found no questions of fact, only questions of procedure, and found no reason to address the issue.

County Commissioner Ulrich said he saw no reason to respond.

I imagine County Staff will send a polite “Thanks, but no thanks” response I asked Commissioner Wager if he would characterize the City’s letter as a request for help to protect the people of Jordan. He said yes. I asked him if he would categorize the County’s response as a refusal to help. He said yes.

Folks, I hope your City Government has some other cards up its sleeves, because it looks to me like Jordan has waited itself out of an opportunity to do anything to help its’ citizens.

Finally, let’s look at you. What have you done over the past couple of years to protect your water supply and your streets from the onslaught of pollution?

Are you one of the people who have written letters to editors, or to County Board Member, or to City Council people? Have you attended hearings or meetings. Or are you waiting to see what happens?

Quite a few people from the Jordan area have done a lot to try to stop the madness. But many more people have done nothing more than complain. I’ve heard complaints from some surprising sources. Some of the complainers are absolutely outraged by what they’ve learned about the gravel mining issue. They say if the proposer wants to sue, let him – our water is more important than his profits. Sadly, most of these same people have done or said nothing to express their dissatisfaction to their elected officials. (One area resident who grilled me today about where Jordan stands on the gravel mine issue didn’t even know I am no longer on the Council.)

Some of us are trying to stop the gravel mine. More who are angry need to get involved. The full house at the Jordan Council meeting Monday was gratifying. Too bad some of the people who are so concerned about rehabilitating Downtown didn’t show up to say something about the traffic. Shopping Downtown Jordan isn’t going to be a fun experience with 200 more trucks per day passing through.

Maybe if we just wait for a while . . .

A Reader Writes Added 8/22/15

Hi Thom,

I believe that I was still the first to notify the town of Jordan, and many of Scott County, of not only the gravel pit going on by Ren Fest but also the one coming to Jordan a few years ago! (By the article I wrote and had published in the paper) Then there were certain people who wanted to know my ideas about the parks and any ideas I had for a new community center. Since they used quite a few of my ideas I do have one more for them that they can use.

My next idea for them is... Once everyone moves out of Jordan.... They can turn the community center into a truck stop to make their money!

Nikki Othoudt

My Response

Nikki, between now and the end of November the County Board will be deciding whether to grant an Interim Use Permit for the gravel mine on Valley View Drive. Specifically, this is the Jordan Gravel LLC mining proposal. Now would be a good time for you and some of your environmentally aware friends to contact County Board Members with your concerns. The more voices they hear, the harder it will be for the Board to approve the proposal. It wouldn’t hurt to remind them that their own Planning Advisory Commission recommended denial of the IUP.

Preventing water pollution from one ill-conceived gravel mine probably won’t make much of a dent in global climate change, but it could have a significant impact on local groundwater quality. You will find contact info for all Scott County Board Members here:

The Quote:
“You may delay, but time will not.”
  Benjamin Franklin

Courage? 9/12/15

It doesn’t take much courage to be upset about a dead lion, a poached rhinoceros, or an abused dog. If you use Facebook, you will see posts daily about such issues. And your Facebook friends will ask you to share their concern by liking and sharing their posts. Often, you will see multiple posts of the same material from several friends. The level of concern about some issues is amazing.

The level of courage is another story.

Facebook has been used to stir up considerable anger about a dentist shooting a lion, and a host of other events. What it hasn’t been used for, in my experience, is for stirring up anger against radical Islamists who kill girls because they refuse to have sex with radical Islamist men. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post about Boko Haram kidnapping hundreds of Christian girls. Radical Islamists kill hundreds of people every month, and they brag about it.

Meanwhile, we wring our hands and send our sons and daughters to the desert to fight the radical Islamists in a so-called asymmetric war.

Here’s a tip. If the peaceful practitioners of Islam see the violent practitioners of their religion being dissed on Facebook, maybe they’ll worry about the image of Islam, and start to do something about the radical Islamists.

Right now I suspect radical Islamists see our concern about Cecil as a sign that we’re shallow, and unwilling to face deep challenges. I think they’re looking at us and saying to themselves, “See? Those Americans are more worried about a few dead animals than about the girls we behead. They don’t even ask if the girls had names.”

ISIS, Hamas, Taliban, and al Queda all use social media to recruit followers and spread their messages. They’re well aware of the power of the internet, and they’re not afraid to use it.

Are you?

I reposted a picture on Facebook a couple of days ago. The photo showed girls dressed in white, locked in a cage on the back of a pickup truck, on their way to execution because they would not have sex with ISIS fighters. My post got two likes. And as near as I can tell, none of my friends reposted it.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from Facebook. Or maybe I’m expecting something most Facebook users don’t want to see on their feel-good medium.

By the way, in my opinion, those girls who refused to have sex with ISIS soldiers are Saints (with a capital S). God will receive them with open arms. I think the Catholic Church should conduct an investigation prior to canonizing them. Catholics have been investigating sinners a lot lately. How about let’s check out some Saints?

A Reader Writes Added 8/16/15

Hello Thom

Glad to see the site back up, I think you once again have linked two issues together that are very similar. The jug has always been about the content and not the look and I commend you for that. On the other hand Facebook is well all about the face. When I do look over my wife's shoulder to see what she is looking at 99.9 percent of the time it is complete self absorbed dribble. She enjoys it because she can stay connected to friends and family, but I on the other hand always walk away shaking my head. The reason your post only had two likes is probably because people in general do not want to take a hard look at issues, especially those that threaten to break their paradigm.

Dan Brunes

My Response

I post plenty of self-absorbed dribble on Facebook myself. But sometimes I try to put something thought-provoking out there. As for JUG, I always try to provoke some critical thinking here. I wish more people would respond – including those who don’t agree.

The Quote:
“I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.”
  Orson Welles

Jordan Underground