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Presumptions and assumptions in the news

Possible prison issues and mouse population explosions. ALSO: More stuff gets dumped in Tom Emmer’s lap; the gubernatorial race gets ugly; an oral history of LGBT Twin Cities.

We at the Glean don’t usually like to report things before they happen, and it’s surprising how many news stories are pre-emptive: “Pawlenty to visit the moon”; “Best Buy opens outlet on the moon”; “Prince to play … on the moon.” Until it’s actually happened, it’s just guesswork, and unless it’s the sort of guesswork that people actually make policy around, such as estimates of our deficit, it doesn’t interest us. But Kevin Giles of the Star Tribune offered up a story that seems like the sort of thing one might want to make policy around, and so we shall share it: According to union correctional officers, budget cuts have caused a “staffing crisis” in Minnesota prisons that could lead to what the story’s headline calls a “blowup.” Not only has the number of guards dwindled while the number of prisoners has risen, but cuts have also “hurt some programs intended to reduce idleness and restlessness among inmates,” which doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you want to hurt. A Pawlenty spokesman dismissed these concerns, claiming the union was playing politics just weeks before the election. The story notes that on May 15, there was a violent disturbance “involving about 70 inmates who live in the B West cellhouse”; one presumes they were also playing politics.

Dave Orrick of the Pioneer Press offers a story that is assumptive, rather than presumptive: Apparently, there’s something of a mouse boom going on right now. How do we know? Well, we don’t actually, but some exterminators are reporting a rise in calls and some hardware stores are selling more traps. And look at this weather! If you were a mouse, you’d be loving it, wouldn’t you? Well, let’s ask an expert: Kendall Crosby, owner of Kendall’s Ace Hardware Stores in St. Paul. He sells traps — he must know a thing or two. “Just look at your garden this year,” he says. “The ecology is awesome this year for all kinds of growth. I’m no expert, but I guess you’ll see a lot of fatter animals around.” Oh. Well, how about Carrol Henderson of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources? “That’s a population that kind of falls between the cracks for biologists,” he says. Maybe somebody at the U? “[I]t doesn’t track mice.”

Monday’s gubernatorial debate went … oddly, according to Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press. The three frontrunning candidates were discussing children’s health care when activist Nick Espinosa took the stage and dropped a Dora the Explorer doll in GOP candidate Tom Emmer’s lap. You may remember Espinosa — he previously dumped pennies in front of Emmer. This time, he said, “Hey, Emmer, pick on somebody your own size. … Education, not deportation,” which we at the Glean are having a hard time parsing. Did he mean Emmer should beat up cartoon characters? Emmer seemed resigned to occasionally having stuff dumped on him. “[I]t was better than the pennies,” he said.

Bemusing stunts aside, there was, in fact, a debate, sponsored in part by MinnPost, and Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio sums it up. The highlights seem mostly to have been the various potshots the candidates got in at each other, such as DFL candidate Mark Dayton asking Tom Emmer, “If you don’t believe in government, why do you want to be in charge of it?” IP candidate Tom Horner seemed unimpressed by Dayton’s various promises to bolster government programs, saying, “You have to set priorities. If everything is a priority, Senator Dayton, nothing is a priority.”

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“Governors race getting ugly,” declares Jeff Goldberg of FOX9, but it’s not the debates, or the candidates, he’s talking about. He’s talking about ads and attacks from outside groups, such as the GOP “publicizing a wrongful termination settlement reached in 2009 after years of litigation between then-senator Mark Dayton and a former staffer,” or party chair Tony Sutton calling Republicans who support Horner “quislings,” which the story says is associated with Nazi collaborators, although we at The Glean mostly associate it with the Irish folk song “The Patriot Game” by Dominic Behan; when you’re Irish-American, everything seems Irish to you. Sutton has said he never intended any Nazi comparisons, and, frankly, we find it a bit odd that people are focusing on the word “quisling” and not on the fact that Sutton said there was “a special place in hell” for Republicans who support Horner.

Going back to an earlier topic, if Nick Espinosa is to dump Dora the Explorer dolls anywhere, perhaps it should be in Minnesota’s 6th District. As Sasha Aslanian of MPR points out, the issue is mostly flying under the radar in the congressional race between Michele Bachmann and Tarryl Clark, but it’s a big one for Bachmann. She has come out in favor of the notorious Arizona law requiring police to check people’s immigration status, and a recent ad from Bachmann accused Clark of voting “to give benefits to illegal immigrants.” What benefits? Well, Clark voted to give all Minnesota students, whatever their status, the right to pay in-state tuition. Clark has not broached the subject, except to say that Bachmann’s ad is wrong. In the overwhelmingly white and strongly conservative 6th District, appearing soft on illegal immigrants can be bad for one’s political career.

In arts: Sheila Regan of the Daily Planet writes about “Queer Twin Cities,” an oral history of the LGBT experience here in the cities formerly known as Albion and Pigseye. The book collects more than 100 interviews and discovers, among other things, that police were apparently much less repressive of sexual minorities than elsewhere and that there was a great deal of pre-Stonewall activism going on, which is no surprise to anybody who knows about activist Jack Baker, who founded the first gay student organization in the United States at the University of Minnesota a month before the Stonewall Riots, and who was the first gay man in America to attempt to marry his partner in 1970, and brought the case to the Supreme Court, the details of which can be found here.

In sports: We’re still not going to talk about Brett Favre’s male generative organ, although David Brauer offers up a good summary of how the story has been handled in the local media, and some of the ethical issues it raises. Instead, we will mention that the Nice Ride program is getting ready to expand into North Minneapolis, as reported by the Associated Press. Where will it expand to next? Perhaps … the moon.