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A glance off the beaten track of local news

Babies with pitchforks, men (and women!) with beards, and boys with Civil War rifles. ALSO: The latest health care, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, and Denny Hecker news.

Health care. Pawlenty. Bachmann. Denny Hecker. Sometimes it seems like local news has been boiled down to a few topics that we spiral endlessly, and perhaps it would be worth taking a moment to look outside those — admittedly important — topics. Well, Hecker might not actually be important, but his catastrophic collapse this past year has been fascinating viewing. Frankly, though, it’s not as fascinating as this image, republished on the Stuff About Minneapolis blog. Yes, it’s three babies with a wheelbarrow, the smallest wielding an enormous pitchfork. The photo was taken in 1925, and those were simpler days, when people didn’t even realize the risks of giving a pitchfork to a baby as a gewgaw. Man, that’s no gewgaw. That’s no gewgaw at all!

Of course, this is Minnesota, where we give boys Civil War rifles and send them marching in exceptionally complicated formations. We speak, of course, of the The Shattuck Crack Squad in Faribault, who obsessively drill complicated patterns at 250 steps per minute. Here’s an old video of them that’s been making the rounds on YouTube, and it’s thrilling.

And how can we even concern ourselves with the failings of a car sales magnate when the news has broken, via the Huffington Post (reported locally by Metroblogs) that Minnesota is only 28th in the nation in penis size! What is Pawlenty doing to improve our national ranking? What is anybody doing?

Well, if nobody is sufficiently concerned about the diminutive stature of our state’s intromittent organs, at least somebody is investigating and evaluating our regional bristles. We speak, of course, of the Minnesota Beard-Off, occurring next week at Sauce Spirits and Soundbar. As far as we at Daily Glean are concerned, ever since poet Bill Holm passed away, there is only one truly legendary beard in the Twin Cities: The carroty sproutings of South 12th blogger Andy Sturdevant, whose magnificent Garibaldi has already been the subject of one loving essay, seemingly now only available in cached form.

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And it’s not as though our lawmakers are doing nothing at all, genitalia notwithstanding. For instance, according to WCCO, they are working to criminalize salvia divinorum, an herb mostly famous for making teenagers look foolish on YouTube. “The Senate also approved legislation to give bong smokers a slight break” the story tells us: “[A]uthorities couldn’t count the weight of bong water when determining how much of a drug they possess.” At last, good news in the field of bongology.

All right, now back to our scheduled programming. We’ll start with health care. As you know, it’s been a tumultuous few days since health care reform passed and was signed into law. There have been threats and actual violence, and as goes the nation, so goes Minnesota. According to FOX9, Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, as well as Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, have received threats for their pro-health care reform votes. We at the Daily Glean don’t recall learning in our civics class that democracy is predicated on threatening elected officials when they don’t vote the way you like. But, then, we were out sick for a week with pneumonia, and maybe we missed that lesson.

And what of Tim Pawlenty? Same as usual: The governor is fighting with Minnesota lawmakers over finances. In this instance, as the AP reports, the subject is a jobs bill, and it sounds like everybody likes it but can’t agree on how to pay for it. The dispute is over a gas tax credit for low-income taxpayers. Pawlenty would be glad to be rid of it; opponents argue it would “take from the poor to give a tax credit to wealthy investors.”

And what of Michele Bachmann? Same as usual; in fact she’s revived something from her nostalgia file: Bachmann and Pawlenty spoke at the same anti-abortion fundraiser Wednesday night, and Politico reports she reiterated the claim that got her in hot water a year back, saying, “I said I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama had anti-American views,” adding, “[a]nd now I look like Nostradamus.”

It is an interesting turnabout. After all, as Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent reminds us, shortly after making those statements, Bachmann claimed never to have made them, saying she “did not say that Barack Obama was anti-American, nor do I believe Barack Obama is anti-American. He loves his country, just as everyone in this room does.” Perhaps she is of the opinion that she spoke in non-specific quatrains that can be interpreted and reinterpreted based on current events, as did Nostradamus. Of course, she didn’t: You can watch her interview with Chris Matthews, in which Bachmann says, quite plainly, “Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.” Hmm; that’s a lot clearer than Nostradamus’ prediction about Hister.

And what of Denny Hecker? Well, he continues his decline. He has, for instance, lost another attorney, as MaryJo Webster of the Pioneer Press reports. The attorney, Bill Skolnick, is reportedly owed $250,000 and claims he hasn’t been paid, but that doesn’t seem like the only issue. Skolnick reportedly has hired an ethics lawyer for himself, a week after Hecker’s bankruptcy trustee leveled charges against Hecker and Skolnick that they had misled the court about the subject of $75,000.

Thursday was a busy day for Hecker, according to Martin Moylan of Minnesota Public Radio: Hecker was in court, pleading not guilty to 19 fraud charges “alleging he tried to rip off lenders and hide assets in bankruptcy.” His attorney here, Bill Mauzy, complains in the piece: ” I could sell tickets to people willing to pay to kick him in the head when he’s there on the curb and broke.”

Here’s a new piece of news that will probably get a lot of attention over the next few months, and it’s an especially unhappy piece of news: A St. Paul attorney, Donald Marshall, is alleging that he was one of a number of teenagers at Lincoln Hills Boys Home in Irma, Wis., who were sexually abused by a priest there, the Rev. Lawrence Murphy. As John Brewer of the Pioneer Press reports, Marshall’s attorney, tracked down church correspondence about Murphy in which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger passed on defrocking the priest, who is currently accused of molesting as many as 200 student at the St. John’s School for the Deaf. Ratzinger is, of course, now the pope. Concurrently, a nearly identical story has emerged from Italy: The Associated Press reports that as least 67 deaf students there claim they were molested by 24 priests, brothers and lay religious leaders.

And finally, in sports: The new Twins stadium is proving to be wildly popular, with Twins tickets sales quickly moving toward a predicted 3.2 million. So David Hanners of the Pioneer Press asks the obvious question: Just where the hell are all these people going to park? As it turns out, there’s no good answer. The official answer from the Twins’ transportation boils down to “come early, stay late,” according to Hanners, and he adds that public transportation might be wise.  Hang around in downtown? We at the Glean are starting to wonder if predictions that the new stadium will revitalize Block E aren’t dead on the money, and, frankly, we’re a little worried about what might happen to the movie theater as result. It’s one of the few theaters in Minnesota where you can enjoy the dying tradition of attendees screaming advice to characters onscreen (“Don’t go in there!” “He don’t love you!”), and it just won’t be the same if each of these exhortations are met with angry shushes from malingering Twins fans.