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Jury’s verdict: Wally the Beer Man ‘not guilty’

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Weather sure to worsen floods; Duluth paper offers kudos for proposed oil speculation crackdown; pundits weigh in on Pawlenty; and more.
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Four women and two women have declared Wally the Beer Man not guilty of selling alcohol to an underage man at Target Field. Abby Simons’ Strib story says: “One juror, who did not want to be identified by name, said the jury felt McNeil was entrapped … He said McNeil had ‘some credibility,’ but they didn’t find [the teenaged “stinger” Anthony] Pasquale’s testimony believable. ‘He acted like he was too rehearsed, too well-coached,’ the juror said. … McNeil said he didn’t violate any policy when he relied on Pasquale’s word that he was 21 rather than asking for his identification. … ‘The policy is you’ve gotta use your judgment in a crowd of 40,000 people,’ he said. ‘You’ve seen me at the ballpark; how many people come around me? I have to use some of my judgment after 41 years.’ ” Also, how would you look yourself in the mirror if you were the juror who convicted Wally the Beer Man?

The rain we already got, plus inches of more heavy wet slop … are not what you’d call good timing, flood-wise. Paul Walsh of the Strib is writing: “By the time the storm moves on Wednesday, the Twin Cities may have 1 to 5 inches of snow, with the highest amounts in the far northern and western suburbs. Look out for freezing rain and sleet, the National Weather Service added. … The National Weather Service has changed the flooding forecast from moderate to major severity for the Minnesota River near Jordan affecting Scott and Carver Counties. In Ramsey County, officials are preparing for the Mississippi River to hit historic levels dating to the 1965 flooding. … Central Minnesota may get 8 to 12 inches of snow, and a blizzard warning is in place for Duluth, according to Star Tribune meteorologist Paul Douglas. Double-digit snowfall is also possible in and around Brainerd, Hinckley and Mille Lacs.” A thousand years ago, convinced we had angered the gods, we’d be sacrificing goats.

Every time you hear a 10-second “report” on rising oil prices, usually blaming a refinery fire in Nigeria or a crazed dictator gone amok, listen to see how often the word “speculation” is used. Almost never. The Duluth News Tribune serves up an editorial today saying: “Last week we offered kudos to Sen. Amy Klobuchar for ripping off a letter to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, urging immediate action on excessive price speculation in the oil markets. Turns out fellow Minnesota Sen. Al Franken signed the letter, too — along with 11 others. Franken’s office reported that oil trades by speculators have jumped 35 percent since January amid civil unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. That has caused U.S. gas prices to soar by almost 40 percent. ‘Minnesotans are already struggling in this economy and I’m working every angle I can to make sure gas prices don’t continue to go unchecked,’ Franken said in a statement. ‘That’s why I’m urging regulators to exercise the authority they were given by the Wall Street Reform Act to clamp down on the damage oil speculators are causing and help stem the rise in prices at the pump.’ Anyone emptying their wallet just to fill their gas tanks can applaud the efforts of Franken, Klobuchar and others watching out for them, for doing what can be done. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission can respond by doing all it can to ease the motoring public’s pain at the pump.” You are of course free to guffaw at the thought of the guys on the trading desks at JP Morgan Chase flicking warnings from some dweeby regulator into the wastebasket.

Who knows about all those other tax plans, but Gov. Dayton did sign a bill Monday guaranteeing Minnesotans a not exactly colossal $13 million in new tax cuts. The AP story says: “The action by Dayton and state lawmakers from both parties who passed the bill extends the income exclusion for health insurance to benefits for adult children up to age 26. It also provides state income tax deductions for higher education tuition expenses, classroom expenses for teachers, and deductions to Minnesota businesses for their charitable contributions of used computers.”

If you’re counting, we’re now up to nine cases of the measles. Dan Olson of MPR says: “Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said the outbreak of measles in Minnesota in the past month exceeds the number from the last five years combined. … Lynfield said measles is rarely fatal but can cause complications including pneumonia and is highly contagious among people without immunity. ‘They have a 90 percent chance of getting measles, so this is a very, very contagious virus,’ Lynfield said. “In one-third of cases there are complications.’ “

Pawlenty, “The Placebo Candidate.” It’s a description that may have some adhesive qualities. You’ll find it in The Economist’s “Democracy in America” blog: “[T]he odd thing about the Pawlenty campaign thus far — and he’s given enough stump speeches to call it a campaign — is that the candidate seems content to play the placebo. He has tried to be everything to everyone, and as a result seems like nothing in particular — a completely anodyne figure that attracts no enmity, inspires no passion, but could end up being “good enough” in the minds of Republican voters to win the nomination. … [H]is inauthenticity seemed harmless, not a cause for distrust. He does not come off like a chameleon, as Mitt Romney did in 2008. It’s Mr. Pawlenty’s shouting and aggressiveness that seems put on, not his conservatism. His anti-Obama barbs sound rehearsed and hollow, but there is no doubt that he disagrees with the president’s agenda. His rhetorical passion for religion is over the top, but he is an evangelical Christian. It’s his personality that he’s faking, not his platform.”

Micheal Tomasky, writing on The Guardian’s site, looks at Pawlenty and says: “The other thing about him, which I think one of you pointed out earlier, is that while he did win two gubernatorial elections, he never got 50% of the vote either time. If I were Haley Barbour, that would be the focus of my whispering campaign. There seems to be nothing inherently interesting about Tim Pawlenty. That’s the problem. He’s a bland midwestern guy. That’s not a regional knock. Lots of Minnesotans aren’t bland. Al Franken. Not bland. Bob Dylan, Winona Ryder. Not bland at all. Pawlenty just seems like a deeply boring man. That of course is often a plus in politics.”

Chris Cillizza, writing on “The Fix” for The Washington Post, devotes today to explaining why Pawlenty could get the GOP nomination. Among the factors: “Everything to everyone: Usually trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for political disaster. But, in Pawlenty’s case it may well be an advantage. Pawlenty isn’t likely to be the first choice of any of the GOP’s disparate interest groups but there is also no group that is adamantly opposed to the idea of him as the nominee. And, a look back at the last two Republican presidential nominees — George W. Bush and John McCain — reveals that the party tends to pick the person who is able to appeal to the broadest number of constituencies within the party rather than the person who embodies the ideal pick of a single constituency group. Pawlenty, at the moment, is lots of peoples’ second choice. As the field narrows — and it will narrow — Pawlenty is likely to pick up supporters of other candidates because he is good — if not great — on the issues that matter most to them.”

Finally, you know you’re into the bone when you’re looking at $5 co-pays from prisoners to help balance the state’s books. An AP story says: “Republicans are proposing that Minnesota prisoners be forced to come up with a $5 co-pay for every visit they make to a health-care provider. … Republicans propose a $12 million cut to programs for crime victims and battered women. Another cost-saving measure in the bill would require that offenders with 60 days or less in their sentences serve that time in a county jail or workhouse.”