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Media event: Prankster dumps $20.02 in pennies on Emmer

ALSO: Oberstar warns airlines; Pawlenty weighs in on voting felons; and bumper crops of blueberries.

You have to give Tom “$100K servers” Emmer props for walking into a restaurant full of waiters and waitresses and, for the most part, hearing them out … for 50 minutes. But the results weren’t always pretty. Like, for example, political prankster/performance artist Robert Erickson startling Emmer by dumping $20.02 of pennies on the desk in front of him. Tom Hauser’s video from KSTP-TV, is by the far the best of the penny-dumping incident. But I’m not sure Hauser knows who Erickson is. There’s no mention of his previous work on this year’s campaign trail. Hauser does note that Erickson’s primary beef is with Emmer’s fondness for an Arizona-style immigration crackdown.

The UpTake video of a waitress from Keys going off on Emmer via a point-by-point dissection of his original, fateful comments on the burden of minimum wage on employers is pretty good. Although the best moment may be her wanting to know what in the hell Emmer means by a “successful” customer?

KARE’s Joe Fryar interviews the waitress in The UpTake video and prankster Erickson. He also gets Emmer aide David Strom (once head of The Taxpayers League) on a Twitter message not intended for public consumption saying, “We know this is a problem. Today is the last day. Over. Done. No Mas. Just help us stay on message: courage and willingness to listen. DS.” In another, he said, “No more tip credit after today. We won’t win the issue. DS.”  The accompanying Associated Press report notes: “Strom deleted the messages from his feed, and deputy campaign manager Bill Walsh downplayed them. ‘He works for us, but that wasn’t us speaking,’ Walsh said. ‘He doesn’t speak on behalf of the campaign.’ Walsh said Strom thought he was communicating with someone about a possible newspaper commentary on the issue. Walsh didn’t say whom Strom meant to reach.”

Meanwhile, over on Fox9, Jeff Passolt sits down for a five-minute chat with a St. Paul restaurant owner who asks, about politicians, “Why are they always going after the little guy?”

The Pioneer Press runs an AP story with comments from Jim Oberstar rattling the weaponry of a congressional crackdown on baggage fees, weight fees, blanket fees, etc., that airlines … like Delta (who is raking in more money than anyone) … are laying on consumers. “Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who led a House hearing Wednesday on the matter, told airlines that the public will push back ‘and then Congress will act’ if the industry does not show restraint with the fees. ‘That’s not a threat,’ he said. ‘That’s history.’ ” You wonder, of course, how congressional leaders like John Boehner and Eric Cantor will defend the practice on the grounds of protecting consumers from encroaching socialism?

The issue is that travelers have little way of calculating the actual cost of trips until they’ve … paid the fees, and the government gets no excise tax money from those other costs. There’s a swelling tide out there. The Wall Street Journal writes: “Currently the government collects a 7.5% excise tax on passenger fares but not on ancillary fees. Applying the excise tax to baggage fees, which provided about $2.5 billion in revenue for airlines last year, would have led to an additional $186 million in federal excise taxes, congressional investigators said. Rep. Costello said he’s concerned that by reducing the portion of revenue taxed by the government, the fee model is diverting money from a fund used to finance airport renovations and construction. The fund is increasingly short on revenue.”

DFL gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza was on MPR’s “Morning Edition” program Wednesday and was asked for his thinking on a single-payer health insurance system (like almost every other first-world country uses). Entenza, who continues to be coy about the basis of his family’s wealth, argued that a single-payer system would be “too expensive.” He “said it would cost $15 billion a year, which would force lawmakers to raise taxes. ‘There’s a $6 billion budget deficit,’ he said. ‘That [plan] would require a massive, massive increase in taxes.’ Entenza’s DFL opponents, Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Mark Dayton, have said they’re in favor of exploring a single-payer system for Minnesota, which they say would save the state money in the long run. But Entenza said it’s not time for such a plan.” Considering that the current system enriched him (via his wife, the former UnitedHealth exec), by tens of millions of dollars, we do kind of wonder if that other time will ever come.
                                           
Really Governor, “credible evidence,” you say? In the wake of various reports about allegations of felons tipping the vote in Al Franken’s favor, including a report here at MinnPost by Joe Kimball, presidential aspirant Gov. Pawlenty weighed in Wednesday calling the, um, research done by the conservative Minnesota Majority “credible evidence.” No one other than rigid partisans seems to agree. The Hill’s Briefing Room blog, posted by Michael O’Brien, writes: “The aspersions toward Franken’s victory could be politically motivated for Pawlenty, a possible Republican candidate for president who will need to appeal to conservatives actively participating in the GOP’s primaries. Franken is a figure who’s generally reviled by many of those primary voters. The Minnesota governor, however, did sign Franken’s election certificate after the state’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Coleman, who dropped all appeals after that defeat.”

Meanwhile, over on FoxNews, (to whom Pawlenty fed this dubious assertion on the persistently ditsy “Fox and Friends”), “FoxForum” is feeling no doubt at all. They write: “With a razor thin victory over Senator Norm Coleman in 2008 of just 312 votes, felons convicted of crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assaults may have given Democrats the filibuster proof sixtieth vote that allowed Obamacare to be passed.” They add for good measure: “For those who claim that vote fraud isn’t a problem, Al Franken’s election to the Senate demonstrates not only that vote fraud exists but also that it can alter elections and indeed the laws of the country. Murderers, rapists, and robbers may not be the people we want providing the crucial votes that determine what America’s laws should be.” In other words: Al Franken owes his seat to rapists and murderers. Note to Governor: While you’re at it, check Al’s birth certificate.

The Strib’s D.C. correspondent, Kevin Diaz, writes: “Even if Minnesota Majority could back up its numbers, Democrats argue, there is no basis for concluding that a decisive number of felons voted for Franken or any other particular candidate, particularly outside the Twin Cities, where more than half of the 2,803 voters flagged by the group allegedly cast ballots. Of 1,359 suspected ineligible felons originally brought forward to Hennepin and Ramsey County officials, the vast majority have been withdrawn, found to be unsubstantiated, or erroneous. Ramsey County officials say they are still examining 180 cases; Hennepin County says it’s still looking at 216. Part of the difficulty, prosecutors say, is proving whether suspected felons had their voting rights restored by Election Day, whether they knowingly cast votes while they were ineligible, or whether they even cast the ballots themselves.”

If all this (barely) two-digit IQ stuff is wearing you down, if you think the combination of heat, recession and the Tea Party has sapped the last hint of intellectual acuity from the public consciousness, there’s a bit of encouragement in Erin Carlyle’s City Pages feature on efforts to re-start the Aspen Institute-style Itasca Forum, wherein Minnesotans capable of combining empirical facts with imagination gather to discuss the future. ” ‘A small group of Minnesotans are trying to figure out how to get the state of Minnesota broadly and publicly thinking out its future,’ [ex-Science Museum exec and “professional” futurist Joel] Barker says. ‘We can probably smarten up this state a lot.’ ” “Probably” is excess verbiage.

The oldest tree in Minneapolis will be feeling the saw blade. MPR’s Rupa Shenoy reports on a 300-year-old oak off Franklin Avenue by the Mississippi: “A 1950s newspaper article … speculates on its age. ‘It already had a good start when Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in France in 1431. It was quite a tree when Columbus recorded his visit to America in 1492,’ the article stated. ‘Our tree could’ve been nearly 200 years old when the English defeated the Spanish armada in 1588. By the time Capt. John Smith settled Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the tree was nearly half the size it is today.’ Minneapolis Park Board foresters say the oak is likely not as old as the article suggests. Still, they say it was probably a sapling when Father Hennepin first wandered through what would become Minneapolis in 1680. The oldest photographs of the tree show it standing alone, with no other trees around it. Many have grown near it since then, and many have fallen to logging, disease or development.”

What’s growing well are blueberries. Several stories note a bumper harvest of the indisputably nutritious little fruit, which is ripe now across all but the very northern stretch of the state. KARE’s Scott Seroka files one report: “[Climatologist] Pete Boulay says the past 6 weeks have been much different from the same 6 weeks a year ago. ‘For the first time since 2006, we’re not talking about a worsening drought in Central and Southern Minnesota. We’ve had the wettest June in the Twin Cities since 2002,’ he said. Most berry growers couldn’t be happier. In fact, Minnesota Grown reports most crops around much of the state are 2 weeks ahead of where they normally are, thanks to an early spring and the abundant rain.”