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Cops on a crime spree? Walz survives a town hall

The squalid, B-movie tale of the Metro Gang Strike Force appears to have turned downright criminal and a bit tacky to boot, with the report from the so-called (Andy) Luger-(John) Egelhof panel. Luger held a press conference and laid out what reads like a petty crime spree by the cops involved.

Randy Furst serves up a long piece in the Strib and isn’t shy about the farcical aspects. Like, for example, the tale of the purloined ice auger. “The report described how an ice fishing auger seized in a narcotics case went missing. At the conclusion of the case, the owner asked that the auger be returned. However, a Strike Force member had taken the auger. The officer in charge of the case threatened to obtain a search warrant [for] the home of the officer who took the auger. The auger was then quietly and anonymously returned to the Strike Force offices. The Force returned the auger to the owner, saying that it was ‘slightly used.’ ” Considerably more provocative of racial tensions directed toward area police are parts like this one, ” … the Luger-Egelhof panel said that frequently the Strike Force members stopped, searched and seized money and property from people who were not gang members, and the officers had no intention of seeking charges.”

Mara Gottfried files a much shorter piece for the PiPress. She includes the report’s analysis that “Some officers were motivated by the belief that individuals didn’t ‘deserve’ to possess cash or certain items.” Does that recent infusion of stimulus money mean we can replace these guys?

Congressman Tim Walz threw himself into the lion’s den of a live 1st District town hall meeting on health care reform and came out unscathed.  The Strib’s Warren Wolfe reports from Mankato that the usual suspects were there with their copies of the Constitution (suddenly they’re all constitutional scholars), but with former Sen. Dave Durenberger admonishing the ranters to chill a bit, Walz had enough air time to talk a bit of sense. “Waving a copy of the Constitution, Mankato insurance agent Jerry Longstreet said the founding document ‘does not say you can take over health care, the banks, auto dealers …’ The shouting and applause drowned out the rest of his sentence. ‘;… How can you do Obama-care?’ If you buy that, Walz shouted out, ‘then we have to drop [veterans] VA medical coverage and Medicare, along with the National Park System and a lot more.‘ The Constitution, Walz said, says Congress is responsible to for the country’s ‘common defense and welfare, and that’s what we’re doing.’ ”  Not quite Barney Frank, but he’s got the right idea.

MPR’s Tom Weber has a good piece on construction commencing on a building that will eventually hold the world’s most powerful magnet … and its going to be on the campus of the U of M. How powerful? “Magnets’ power is measured in Tesla, and the ones in those MRI clinics that maybe you or a family member have been in are between 1.5 and 3 Tesla. The U already has a 4 Tesla machine, a 7 Tesla machine, and a 9.4 Tesla machine. [Thursday’s] groundbreaking marked the start of construction on a $53 million building that will house a 10.5 Tesla machine. The magnets themselves are $14 million of that cost.” He adds, “The magnet will weigh 60 tons and be built in England. They’ll then ship it to Duluth, then drive it down I-35 on a specially made truck.” When they get a minute, I’ve got a key somewhere in a drain in the basement.

Compared to big-dog wheeler-dealers like Tom Petters, Larry Kladek is pretty much a yipping chihuahua. But the strip club owner still got 20 months from a federal judge in St. Paul Thursday for an ATM scheme that netted him a cool $2 million … on which he owes $912,000 in unpaid taxes. Chao Xiong has the story in the Strib. The good part is how he tells the judge he shouldn’t do time because of the vegetable farming he lets Hmong families do on his gated 78-acre Inver Grove Heights estate. You heard right. “Gated,” “Inver Grove Heights” and “estate” all there in one sentence. Also good is how he has since “sold” the strip club to his wife.

An AP story by Elizabeth Dunbar tells the story of State Department approval for a new pipeline to deliver crude oil from the strip-mined tar sands of western Canada to Superior, Wis. It ain’t exactly “drill baby, drill”, but the “scrape baby, scrape” part of tar sand extraction has environmentalists in an uproar. ” ‘Both Obama and Hillary Clinton who had to sign off on this permit campaigned on reducing our reliance on oil and moving to a cleaner and greener energy system. ‘This will be a step backward,’ said [former PiPress reporter] Chuck Laszewski, spokesman for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, which is part of the coalition. Environmentalists say crude extracted from oil sands produces more greenhouse gases than other sources, partly because it requires a more intensive refining process before it can be used. In Canada, extracting the oil leaves behind toxic residue and damaged lands.”

You can bet most people won’t read or take a look at this National Geographic story on tar sand extraction.

Local health insurance giant UnitedHealth may have received limited local coverage of the leaked memo “urging” employees to get out and participate in those town hall meetings. But Jennifer Niemela of the Minneapolis-St.Paul Business Journal notes that the company will cover H1N1 vaccinations. “In light of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, we felt it was important to remove barriers to ensuring the widest possible administration of the vaccine,” said Reed Tuckson, chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group. Big of ’em. No word on what would happen if you applied for a policy when already infected with H1N1.

The UnitedHealth memo, which emerged Wednesday, reveals a company seriously concerned about competition from “the public option” and repeating several of the key — and demonstrably false — assertions of town hall “dissenters.” Among its riper quotes is this one: “Our company is very concerned that a government-run health plan would be a road block to meaningful health care reform. It would significantly increase costs for individuals and families, would add billions of dollars in new liabilities to the federal budget, would break down the current health care system upon which more than 160 million Americans rely, and would violate the President’s commitment that those who like their current coverage can keep it,” the memo reads. Ben Smith, at Politico, adds a bit more, including UnitedHealth’s denial that it is urging employees to go all “tea party” on reform.

Earlier, Paul Schmelzer of the Minnesota Independent, noting work done by Talking Points Memo, added the part about The Lewin Group, a PR/consulting firm. “The group is said to operate independently from the parent company. Last month, the Washington Post reported that the Lewin Group was ‘accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied UnitedHealth and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the ‘reasonable and customary’ doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care’. UnitedHealth ended up settling, paying $50 million to the New York attorney general and $350 million to the AMA.” $400 million? Chump change.

Movie fans have been “this close” to writing off director Quentin Tarantino. He’s got talent, yeah. But the constant celebration of trash and cheese … come on, man. Well his new movie, a WWII drama (I guess) called “Inglourious Basterds” opens today and the Strib’s Colin Covert is well-past impressed. “This is not a team-on-a-mission yarn nor a Brad Pitt star vehicle. It’s an ominous comedy and a prankish drama. It’s a showcase for ornate dialogue, at least half of it in subtitled German or French. It’s a war movie without battlefields, a postmodern period picture, a disco and funk soundtrack, an egregiously gory movie that lampoons screen violence. It’s classic, quirky, quintessential Quentin.”

The movie aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes pretty much agrees with Covert, condensing critical consensus to “A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining.” Oh hell, OK. I’ll go.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schmitz on 08/21/2009 - 11:33 am.

    Heard the tar sands mining area described as Mordor of Tolkein fame, shame we have to sit in our cars and use fuel that takes more natural gas energy to make then it delivers.

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/21/2009 - 12:26 pm.

    If a public option “would break down the current health care system,” I’M ALL FOR IT, as long as it is not weakened to the point of uselessness by members of the Senate Finance Committee or of conference committees.

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