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GOP scratches Rybak, blogger scratches back

ALSO: Republican gubernatorial candidates get scrappy; Bachmann comes out punching, others punch back; WCCO debuts The Wire (not theTV show).

And it’s off to the races! The website of the GOP released its all-out assault on gubernatorial candidate R.T. Rybak, perhaps thinking the Minneapolis mayor will be the frontrunner in the forthcoming election. “Property Taxes Have Skyrocketed Under Rybak,” party leaders warn, claiming that R.T. stands for “Raise Taxes” (although anybody who follows Rybak’s voluminous online presence knows it stands for Retweet). “Rybak Spent $180,000 To Promote City Tap Water,” comes another complaint, and a pungent one at the moment, given that Minneapolis’ tap water currently has its seasonal disorder of smelling like the octopus-headed elder god Cthulhu died in it and is rotting away somewhere.

Gosh, there are a lot of charges against Rybak here, and who has the time to go through and offer an elenchus of every single one? As it happens, there is a blogger in the Twin Cities who is obsessive enough to document the folded toilet paper of every hotel room he visits, and that’s just the sort of guy who would dedicate himself to spending 24 hours chasing down every single claim the GOP makes about Rybak. We speak, of course, of Deets author Ed Kohler. At the time of this writing, Kohler has already tackled 33 points, including the charge that Rybak raised property taxes, reminding us that Gov. Tim Pawlenty “shifted the tax burden for local services to cities in order to avoid raising taxes, so cities increased taxes in order to keep the lights on.”

There are some oddball charges thrown in as well, such as the one titled “Rybak is Way Out of the Mainstream,” which looks back 16 years to when Rybak was the campaign co-chair for former Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza. Bouza was in favor of eliminating handguns, and the GOP behaves as though Bouza’s position is Rybak’s. Kohler points out that this was about the same time as the Brady Bill, so gun control wasn’t really that far out of the mainstream. We at the Glean would like to add that it’s very difficult to locate any recent gun control efforts by Rybak, which might be why the GOP had to fish so far into the past.

One last one, and the rest you can read for yourself: In their efforts to cast as wide a net of criticism as possible, the GOP went all the way back to the mid-1980s, when Rybak was transferred out of a beat at the Minneapolis Tribune covering development issues. Rybak, seemingly already eyeing a life in politics, recommended the creation of a development director and offered to fill the position, which his editors saw as a conflict of interests. Kohler is dismissive of the story, saying “Back when Wham! was topping the charts, something happened that no one cares about in 2010.” Perhaps it’s a bit much to say no one cares — we at the Glean are thrilled the GOP takes the subject of journalistic ethics so seriously that minor breaches in them still resonate almost three decades later. So let’s clear the air once and for all: This author, when covering a Fringe Festival play in the early ’00s, went skinny dipping with the cast and neglected to mention it in his later (and favorable) review. All he can offer in his defense was that it was a very hot night, and people were naked.

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Of course, this early in the gubernatorial campaign, when candidates are still jostling to be their party’s frontrunners, almost anybody can be a target for political vituperation. Let’s take Republican Reps. Marty Seifert and Tom Emmer. According to Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio, the two candidates “exchanged fire” at a Thursday night debate in Plymouth, which sounds like a very exciting scene in a John Woo film; the Associated Press says they got “testy,” which sounds like an exciting scene in a movie by Minnesota-born filmmaker Chi Chi LaRue, if you don’t know what “testy” means. So what happened? Well, they just sort of squabbled over picayune differences in policy, voting records and budget plans. “They even disagreed over their ability to admit when they were wrong,” the AP tells us, which doesn’t sound much like a John Woo film, unless doves were flying behind them in slow motion.

No, if you want real gunfire, you have to turn, as always, to Rep. Michele Bachmann. For instance, on Bill Bennett’s radio show Thursday, Bachmann claimed that Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich flip-flopped on his opposition to the health care reform bill because he got a ride on Air Force One and his wife gets to push veganism in the schools as a weight-loss technique, as David Weigel of the Minnesota Independent reports. But, like Chow Yun-Fat, Bachmann doesn’t just start a-blazing with a pistol in one hand; no, she’s got a second pistol in her other hand, in that she’s also claiming President Obama wants to ban fishing, as City Pages’ Hart Van Denburg and MinnPost’s Derek Wallbank share. Now that’s exchanging fire!

But it’s not a proper firefight unless some gunfire is returned, and the big guns went after Bachmann: Stephen Colbert, who mocked the congresswoman’s flip-flopping on the census issue, as well as her occasional propensity for widening her eyes like a frightened colt. Pew! Pew! Pew pew! City Pages has the video. Also, Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent has taken on the role of one of those nerdy tech guys in action films who always calls at the last moment with some useful bit of information, and he’s been crunching numbers about Bachmann’s voting record. What has he discovered? Bachmann has missed four times more committee votes than Keith Ellison and Erik Paulsen. Also, Birkey reports that Bachmann is claiming that the mechanism used to try to pass health care, dubbed “deem and pass,” has never been used before. It has, in fact, been used extensively, especially by Republicans. Pew pew pew.

The blog Minnov8 takes a look at WCCO’s new news site, The Wire, which, besides being an intriguing graphic interface mapping out news on a timeline, is mostly notable for two things. Firstly, it’s a massive Flash application, which means either that they have chosen to side with Flash on the ongoing “Flash is dead/no it isn’t” war of words being fought online, or that they’re unaware of it. Secondly, they either don’t mind competing with the branding of what is widely regarded as one of the best television shows ever created, or they’re unaware of it. Perhaps they have hidden characters from the show in the timeline somewhere. Where’s Wallace, WCCO? WHERE’S WALLACE?

As the flood plays out in Minnesota, raising rivers in New Ulm, turning farms into lakes shores, closing bridges and threatening Harriet Island, it’s worth reflecting on how tragedies can be grist for the ambitious. Billy Wilder once made an astonishing movie called “The Big Carnival,” also knows as “Ace in the Hole,” about a ruthless, amoral newsman who inflates a small-town emergency into national news, and without the excuse that it was hot or people were naked. MinnPost’s own Don Effenberger looks back on Wilder’s films — it’s a post worth checking out, because Wilder’s style of pitch black cynicism seems especially necessary now.

And it’s off to the races, this time literally: Bleacher Report offers a detailed argument for the creation of a racino at Canterbury Down. For those unfamiliar, a racino is a mixture race track/casino, and it’s a discussion that’s been proposed, and then withdrawn, but seemingly still has some legs. Legs with fetlocks, presumably.