Hard as it is to believe, events other than the never-ending circus “celebrating” the life and death of Michael Jackson have been going on on this planet. Really. Minnesota, for example, now has two senators, what with Al Franken’s formal swearing in yesterday in D.C. Stock coverage of the event abounds. The Strib story, by Kevin Diaz and Eric Roper, basically chronicles the scene and suggests that somewhere in the guy who campaigned like a diligent banker still lurks a sense of humor. Not that much was on display yesterday. They note only that, “Despite Franken’s studied seriousness leading up to his swearing-in, he was heard erupting in ebullient laughter several times on the Senate floor.” What a cut up!
The cash-strapped Pioneer Press apparently held a bake sale because Rachel Stassen-Berger has a D.C. byline to her piece, which tucks in a quote from Minnesota Republican Chair Tony Sutton saying, “Al Franken has the opportunity to erase the asterisk by his name by standing up for hard working-Minnesotans against the liberal big spenders in Washington who are leaving future generations with crippling debt.” Talk about stock coverage.
The Strib website draws attention to Katherine Kersten’s post on her “Think Again” blog. Judging by the almost instantaneous reaction from commenters, we’re not the only ones who miss her. The first line is a grabber … “Sure enough: The weekend after finally winning his lawyer-infested Senate brawl, there was Al Franken snuggling and kissing a baby on the front page of Sunday’s Star Tribune.” Uh, “HIS lawyer-infested Senate brawl … “? Sadly, though, Ms. Kersten does not find a way to link Franken to the Flying Imams or the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy. We’d hate to think she’s losing her touch.
For those of you who missed Bill O’Reilly’s show last night, and Bill’s reaction to Franken’s swearing in, here’s a link to video, via the Crooks and Liars website. Always a good quote, O’Reilly says of the fateful day: “Al Franken is now a U.S. senator. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled he won the election by about 300 votes. Franken is a blatantly dishonest individual, a far-left zealot who is not qualified to hold any office, a man who trafficked in hate on his failed Air America radio program. If you want proof, check out Page 96 in my book ‘Culture Warrior.'” That’s right … a plug for his own book, the final word on any issue.
woot! the blog produces a list of agenda items for Franken’s Senate term. Among them, “Sponsor federal legislation to legalize medical marijuana. Also medical hash, medical cocaine, medical quaaludes, medical psilocybin, medical LSD, and medical gasoline fumes” and “Increase government funding for Children of Alcoholic Overeating Rageaholic Parents Anonymous.” Even if Franken never cracks another joke, never gets so much as a parking ticket in D.C. and celebrates his 50th anniversary with wife Franni, this is going to be a trip.
Bob Collins’ “News Cut” blog at MPR condenses anecdotes from yesterday’s “Midday” program on the state of the local economy, employment in particular. News flash … it ain’t good. A wedding photographer says, “We were prepared to raise our prices this year and we’re not anymore. We’re ‘the splurge’ now compared to when we were part of a package. We’re seeing more videographers and wedding planners not doing very well right now.” And then there’s this from an IT worker, “The jobs that are being lost are being lost [to] overseas and it’s strictly a matter of low pay rates. Companies are using the recession as an excuse. These jobs aren’t coming back.” Everyone feeling better?
Not many missed — or failed to remark — on the story of the Willmar woman who ran over and killed a four-month old sleeping in a tent and seriously injured the child’s mother. Vince Tuss of the Strib provides water-cooler details like this, “On Saturday night, [Nicolle] Prechel smoked marijuana and drank ‘the majority’ of a 1-liter bottle of Southern Comfort, the complaint said. She and her daughter went to sleep in a van, which was next to the tent. About 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Prechel drove her daughter to a bathroom. When they returned, Prechel tried to back in and drove over the tent and didn’t stop until the van hit a pole.” Prechel was charged yesterday. Wait a minute … a liter of Southern Comfort?
And while we’re at it, Dave Chanen has a story up this morning about the guy who looted the home of a dead neighbor … with the deceased still in the building. Writes Chanen: “He allegedly stole several watches and necklaces, seven pairs of earrings, a cell phone, a rifle and a revolver, [police spoikesman Jesse] Garcia said. The suspect’s sister said he might have been drunk, but Garcia said he had enough sense to grab valuables. He never touched Lindemans’ body.” Together, these two make a case for the return of prohibition.
Mary Jane Smetanka delivers a numbers-dense piece on the conflict over where the percentage of money collected through the stadium tax and designated for youth sports facilities will actually go. Boiled to within an inch of its essence, the wrangle among county commissioners is whether “needs-testing”, i.e., chronically under-funded neighborhoods, will soak up most of the cash at the expense of improvements in places like, um, Edina. Smetanka reminds readers: “The sales tax, which has collected between $27 million and $28 million a year, must be used to pay construction costs, debt service and costs to get the ballpark up and running. The county can spend as much as $2 million a year on expanding county library hours and $2 million on youth sports activities, with slight increases permitted in future years.”
David Peterson reports for the Strib on the fast die-out of Starbucks coffee outlets south of the river, Burnsville in particular. On the list of calamities associated with the Wall St. meltdown, this one doesn’t rank too high, but it is interesting to note how much even giant Starbucks relies on the midday “hanging out” trade. “Closures are taking place at strip mall outlets without drive-through windows — a hint that, in a relatively low-density commuter suburb that empties out during weekdays, there just isn’t enough settle-into-the-soft-chair business for most of the day to make a living,” writes Peterson. Then there’s the subjective call that Caribou and mom and pop places are simply more homey and comfortable than Starbucks’ Euro-vibe.
Twins fans — those covering their eyes as the team pratfalls through another series with the despised Yankees — will be pleased, mostly, to hear that Justin Morneau will NOT compete in the All-Star home run derby next week. The PiPress’ Kelsie Smith quotes manager Ron Gardenhire, who obviously prefers Morneau sleeping in or lolling by the pool for a day, saying, “I told him if he wants an excuse, I’ll be his excuse. I’ll just tell him no, he can’t. He’s got a sore … something. I’m just kidding, I don’t want to get in trouble with Major League Baseball.”
Meanwhile, the Twins stunk it up last night in a game that was pretty much over after the first inning. Click into Brian Murphy’s PiPress story for photos of a terrific catch by Carlos Gomez taking a grand-slam away from Alex Rodriguez.
Oh, and in case you missed it, Charley “Shooter” Walters has Brett Favre and the Mrs. putting down a deposit on a condo somewhere around 50th and France in Edina. There goes that neighborhood.