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The Kagan hearings: judicial activism, the little people, and maybe a short nap

It's no secret that Sen. Al Franken is critical of the Roberts Court — for the past few weeks, he has publicly been making the case that the Supreme Court consistently sides with corporate over individual interests. Franken made the case forcefully at the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings Monday on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. You can view the video at MinnPost. Franken argues: "Well, I think we established very convincingly during the Sotomayor hearings that there is such a thing as judicial activism. There is such a thing as legislating from the bench. And it is practiced repeatedly by the Roberts Court, where it has cut in only one direction: in favor of powerful corporate interests, and against the rights of individual Americans."

Of course, during the actual confirmation hearings, Franken looked a little sleepyCity Pages has a video of the senator viewing Kagen's speech with heavy lids and the stupefied expression of somebody losing the battle with unconsciousness. Was he sleeping? "Al Franken clearly blinking normally, not dozing off," argues one tweet. We at the Glean refuse to speculate until somebody can make a forceful case about why it matters.

Franken wasn't the only Minnesota senator to speak at the hearings — Amy Klobuchar also offered up advice, also available on MinnPost thanks to our Washington correspondent, Derek Wallbank. Klobuchar cautioned Kagan to think about the effect Supreme Court decisions have on ordinary Americans, saying, "I, for one, would like to see someone who thinks very deeply about the consequences that legal choices and legal decisions have on regular people." You can watch a video of Klobuchar's remarks on the Minnesota Independent.

It's been a rough couple of months for Sen. Satveer Chaudhary. He found himself in hot water when he pushed for legislation that would restrict walleye fishing on a lake where he owns a cabin; he's repeatedly apologized, insisting it was an honest mistake, but, as Tom Scheck writes on Minnesota Public Radio's Polinaut blog, "DFL Party loyalists were in no mood to forgive." They've retracted their party endorsement for Chaudhary for re-election and instead have endorsed State Rep. Barb Goodwin for the seat. Chaudhary will continue his campaign nonetheless.

Gay marriage has been a public issue in the Twin Cities since at least 1970, when Jack Baker and James Michael McConnell applied for a marriage license (you can see a photo of them applying at the Stuff About Minneapolis blog). The resulting trial, Baker v. Nelson, established an unfortunate legal precedent defining marriage in Minnesota as being between partners of opposite sexes, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

And so here we are today, with a group calling itself the National Organization for Marriage preparing to tour Minnesota through July. Despite their name, they are an organization that is decidedly against marriage, if that marriage is between consenting adults of the same sex, and they hope to make their case on this tour. Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent has the details.

In related news, IP gubernatorial candidate Rob Hahn wants to change divorce laws in Minnesota, as MinnPost's Joe Kimball reports. Hahn is himself is a divorcé and the noncustodial parent of two children, and he wants, among other things, for Minnesota law to make joint custody the presumption. One imagines the National Organization for Marriage will want a word with Hahn, because, in his own way, he's trying to redefine traditional marriage.

A few arts stories today. Firstly, the Playwrights Center has finally completed its long search for a new producing artistic director after longtime organizational leader Polly Carl left last year to work at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. Graydon Royce of the Star Tribune has the story on her replacement: He is Jeremy Cohen, who recently completed a six-year stint as director of new play development at Hartford Stage. On his plans for the Center, Cohen offered the following: "Some people said I just need someone to give me a helping hand, others said, 'I write so that my plays will get paid productions,' so my purpose is to get somewhere in the middle without diluting the mission."

Euan Kerr of Minnesota Public Radio's State of the Arts blog points out a blog post by playwright David Henry Hwang, who is probably best known for his Tony Award-winning "M. Butterfly." The blog post is called "Working with Prince," and that's precisely what it details: Hwang's brief professional relationship with the singer when the two worked briefly on a never-realized stage musical that ultimately resulted in Hwang's writing getting incorporated into the song "Solo." Hwang's description of meeting Prince is precisely as you might imagine: "I meet Prince in the penthouse of the Riga Royal Hotel on West 54th St. ... The door opens, and — there he stands. Prince. But, I mean, really Prince. Like, with the high heels, and the make-up and the purple jacket and — For our meeting, he's donned full Prince drag. Or maybe this is how he hangs around his hotel room all day, who knows?"

In related news, Prince was honored at the BET awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award and offered this brief bit of advice, as reported by Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio: "I was pretty wild in my younger days and you don't have to do what I did. You don't have to make the mistakes I made." One presumes Prince was referring to the make-up.

In other music news, Marc Sanchez of MPR visits Charlie Braunreiter of New Ulm's Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. Braunreiter is a lively fellow and a living encyclopedia of Minnesota's polka history; from the interview, he also seems ready at a moment's notice to grab an accordion and launch into a schottische.

In sports, blogger Emily of Because Emily Says So argues that T.C. Bear is one of the worst mascots in sports. Her primary argument: In no way does it represent the concept of twins, which is what you might think would be nice to represent when you have a team called the Minnesota Twins.

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Comments (4)

"We at the Glean refuse to speculate until somebody can make a forceful case about why it matters."

Hey, all that righteous bloviating tuckers a guy out!

Seriously thought, bunny, other than the absence of Al's dubious comedic effect upon the body politic, you have a point. I doubt anyone would take much notice if Al napped until he's retired in a couple of years.

Maybe I'll send him a pair of jammies and some fuzzy bunny slippers.

"In no way does [TC Bear] represent the concept of twins"

A reasonable point. The twinkies need a more fitting mascot, perhaps one representing the yin and yang of twins - all twins having a good and evil member. Or maybe something like the impersonator I recall seeing on some talent show (neither the Gong Show nor Amurrika Got Talent, but in between, chronologically), where the performer sang 'Islands in the Stream' and was dolled up half as Kenny Rogers, half as Dolly Parton. Showbiz don't get better than that, folks!

Senator Klobuchar's concern for the effect of legal decisions on regular people is remarkable. She sits on the Board of Governors of the University of St. Thomas Law School, where she employs as a law professor Robert Delahunty. In his capacity as an Office of Legal Counsel attorney, Professor Delahunty wrote memos, which are binding within the Executive Department, saying the Geneva Conventions did not apply to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. Those legal decisions may well have led to the torturing of those detainees, which began before the more infamous "torture memos" were completed. Did Prof. Delahunty think very deeply about the consequences of his legal decisions on regular people? Has Sen. Klobuchar thought very deeply about her decisions as a member of the Board of Governors of UST Law School, and the effects those decisions may have on regular people, including our own soldiers in the future?

Speaking of bloviating...