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Obama speech to schools makes Minnesota waves

PLUS: Pawlenty and Kline make hay with speech controversy. And the spread of socialized biking.

As you no doubt have heard, on Tuesday Barack Obama will be broadcasting a late morning direct address to students, the contents of which can perhaps best be described as a sort of pre-game spirit  assembly, with the cheerleading done in support of education, rather than athletics: Obama will be talking about the importance of education and students’ responsibilities, and the whole thing will take about 15 minutes.

But, of course, as you no doubt also have heard, there is nothing Obama can do that certain conservatives won’t use as an opportunity to stir up controversy, and this is no exception. Indeed, among the especially paranoid, there is nothing Obama can do that won’t generate conspiracy theories, and it was Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, that articulated this one: “The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power.” As MediaMatters points out, Obama has no plans to discuss anything listed by Greer. Well, at least the word “socialism” didn’t pop up in Greer’s comments. Oh, wait, yes it did. In the first sentence of Greer’s press release, he says “I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.”

This manufactured controversy has left Minnesota schools scrambling; as the Star Tribune reports, parents have been calling in to schools threatening to keep their child out of classes if Obama’s speech is shown. Liz Collin of WCCO provides a sense of schools’ fumbling responses: The Minnesota Department of Education has left it up to the schools to figure out what to do, and a number of schools have passed responsibility for the decision down to individual teachers, some of whom have, in turn, passed responsibility on to the parents, and so it will go, one expects, until the buck is finally passed so many times that nobody can say for sure who decided what American children really needed to avoid right now was a message to stay in school and try to learn something.

Other schools are not so circumspect. As MinnPost’s Eric Black reports, the Becker School District, in a communication to its staff, informed them that they would not be showing Obama’s speech, and pretty much blamed Obama himself for that fact, complaining that they have not had enough time to prepare, and the president is speaking during lunchtime, which is inconvenient, and this has all caused some controversy. “Not the way we want to start the new school year,” the communication concludes.

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At least one person has come out firmly against the speech: According to the Star Tribune, that person is Governor Tim Pawlenty, who called the speech “uninvited.” But then, despite Pawlenty’s coyness about the subject, it’s obvious even to dogs and children at this point that he is ramping up for a run against Obama in the next presidential election, and so, were Obama to come out unequivocally against socialism, you can be sure that the next day Pawlenty would join the Socialist Party of America and start singing “The International.”

Thank goodness Rep. John Kline is on the case. Eric Roper, in his Big Picture Blog on the Star Tribune site, informs us that Kline has sent a letter to Obama requesting a copy of the speech in advance, citing concerns raised by the speech. It’s worth noting that one of the concerns has already been addressed: One of the supplemental materials requested students write a letter to themselves about how they can help the president; that has since been revised to suggest writing letters as to how to achieve educational goals, as ABC reports. Also worth noting is that the White House has promised to post the text of the speech on its web page on Monday, so that parents and educators can see it before classes on Tuesday, as the Salt Lake Tribune tells us. In the face of all this, it’s hard not to recall the scene in an episode of “The Simpsons” when a school meeting erupts into chaos, someone cries, “Will nobody think of the children?” and a man leaps out a window in terror.

It seems depressingly likely that this is going to be a season of H1N1 stories as this strain of the flu gets going in Minnesota, and this weekend saw what is likely to be an increasingly common tale, that of groups of children sent home because of the flu. In this instance, as summed up by the Pioneer Press’ John Brewer, 120 4-H kids were sent home from the Fair after 17 of them developed “flu-like” symptoms and four of them tested positive for H1N1.

Some of us don’t have children, so let’s move on to news that affects us: Darcy Pohland of WCCO tells us that Minnesota inspectors are cracking down on an ordinance that prohibits drinking and standing at outdoor patios and sidewalk cafes. The ordinance doesn’t seem to say anything about drinking in a supine position, so we humbly suggest that more alcohol might solve this particular problem.

Some of us also don’t have bikes, and are already members of the Socialist Party of America, and so we’re the ones most likely to be pleased by the fact that Minneapolis has socialized bike riding. According to MPRnewsQ’s Madeleine Baran, as of next year Minneapolis will be the home of the country’s largest bike-sharing program. For $5 per day or $60 a year, patrons will be able to rent a bike from a number of kiosks stationed throughout the city, which they will then be able to ride along our socialized streets in May Day Parades and to labor strikes and whatever else it is socialists do, while our socialist police force watches with unconcern.

It’s nine days before the Vikings have their Cleveland season opener, and Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune detail the last-minute decisions that have yet to be made — while the team’s top-line starters will be benched until the opener, other players risk being cut before then. “The whittling-down process is hard,” the story quotes coach Brad Childress as saying. “In some cases, you’re cutting good football players. I don’t have any illusions about … one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. People are going to end up probably picking up guys from us as they have in the few cuts we’ve made. But, yeah, it’s not the fun part of the job.”