By Brian Lambert | Wednesday, April 20,2011
The peculiar gaggle of Republican presidential, uh, contenders is a constant fascination. But whether anyone was going to step up to run against Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been another, albeit less consistently entertaining drama. The AP’s Brian Bakst has a couple names: “Lawyer Chris Barden told The Associated Press that he has been approached by several people about running after an unsuccessful bid for attorney general [in 2010] and is weighing the prospect. He gave no timetable for a decision. ‘It’s something that every citizen if asked to ponder something like this would take it seriously,’ Barden said, adding, ‘The fact is people have asked me and I’m thinking but it’s nothing more than that.’ Dan Severson, who lost his secretary of state race, [also in 2010] is ‘seriously considering’ entering the race and will decide sometime in May, said Kent Kaiser, a political adviser to Severson.” The wait for the announcement of the intention to form exploratory committees will be unbearable.
Kind of like the cost of cable or satellite, the idea of taxing Minnesotans based on the miles they drive instead of (just) the gas they use is one of those things everyone can understand, sort of. And it is a guaranteed hot button issue for the usual suspects … like Pajamas Media’s PJ tatler blog (written by Bryan Preston). He writes: “Three, count ‘em three, stories on the Tatler today about government bureaucracies engaging in massive mission creep. This one is about the MN Dept of Transportation, which is looking for a way to let Big Brother ride shotgun in your car. Well we just can’t let improvements in efficiency in the private sector have a negative impact on the government’s bottom line, can we? It all makes one wonder if the big “green energy” push is really just a ruse to keep on increasing government power. Ok, that was rhetorical. It’s obvious that the green energy push is precisely about increasing government power.”
If the government is worried about declining gas tax revenue from more fuel-efficient cars, it’s going to need a defibrillator for this news: “St. Paul and other cities in the metro area are preparing to apply for new electric vehicle grants announced Tuesday,” says the Strib’s Jeremy Herb, “which are part of a $5 million federal pilot program to build charging stations and electric infrastructure across the country. The Department of Energy said Tuesday that Minnesota leads the country in using alternative fuels: The state’s Clean Cities program, a federal public-private partnership designed to reduce gasoline reliance, saved more than 135 million gallons of gas between 2005 and 2009 — more than 38 million more gallons than the next closest Clean Cities program.” Remember the good old days when you got a tax break for buying a 6,000-pound Ford Excursion?
Gee, if Delta Airlines says they’re as committed as they’ve ever been to Minnesota, I guess we’re supposed to believe them, right? Apparently Gov. Dayton did. A short MPR item says: “Dayton said he’s reassured about Delta Air Lines’ commitment to Minnesota after the airline’s CEO told him Tuesday that Delta employs far more Minnesotans than Dayton had believed. Dayton thought the airline had only 7,000 or so employees in the state. But in a meeting with Delta CEO Richard Anderson, Dayton said he learned the airline is exceeding its promises for employment and air service in Minnesota. ‘They’re employing over 12,500 Minnesotans and they’re committed to the hub here,’ Dayton said. ‘It’s the second-largest hub, after Atlanta. And they expect it to continue to grow as the airline grows.’ ” Post-Jim Oberstar, we’ll assume Delta’s commitment to that call center in Chisholm is just as solid. Right?
Speaking of the 8th District, freshman Congressman Chip Cravaack will start feeling heat real soon for his vote in favor of the House’s 2012 budget, which depends heavily on turning Medicare over to the private sector. Brett Neely of MPR writes: “In a sign that Democrats plan to make the 2012 election campaign about national issues, the Democratic Congressional Committee is running an ad campaign aimed at 25 potentially vulnerable House Republicans, including freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack. The ads capitalize on the Republicans’ vote for their party’s budget road map, which includes a plan to transform Medicare into a voucher-based system. Many outside observers, including the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, say that seniors’ out of pocket expenses would rise if the plan were adopted. Democrats have seized on the possibility that expenses will rise, claiming in the ads that ‘Congressman Chip Cravaack voted to end Medicare forcing seniors to pay $12,500 for private health insurance, without guaranteed coverage.’ ” At the very least, that means a lot of time in retirement centers explaining what he really thinks.
This one gets points for brazenness. Paul Walsh of the Strib reports: “A 38-year-old Shoreview woman has admitted embezzling about $400,000 from her employer, one of the nation’s leading insurance companies. Kimberly D. Swenson pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Minneapolis to mail fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison. Swenson admitted that from 2008 through 2010 she embezzled the money from Minneapolis-based Allianz Life Insurance Co. … The indictment cited one example in which Swenson arranged … for a client’s check for $20,000 to be mailed to her home.” Why not auto-deposit?
I need a translator for some of the technical stuff here. But the basic story, this one from Jim Anderson of the Strib, has a guy hacking into women’s Facebook pages and re-posting their photos and personal info on sex sites: “In a case speaking to the perils of social networking, a 26-year-old Woodbury man faces 13 felony charges after being accused of hacking into Facebook accounts and duping young women into becoming friends, then stealing their photos and personal information to post on sex-oriented websites. Timothy P. Noirjean has been charged with 13 counts of identity theft and is scheduled to make his first appearance in Washington County District Court on May 26. … When confronted by police in the basement of his parents’ home, Noirjean admitted to hacking into the accounts and posting the photos, the complaint said. He denied knowing that he was doing anything wrong.”
So the NCAA is still going after the Fighting Sioux. The AP story says: “A new state law that orders the University of North Dakota to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname won’t shield the school from penalties for continuing to use a moniker the NCAA considers hostile to American Indians, an NCAA executive told the school Tuesday. The law, which says UND must use the nickname and a logo featuring the profile of an American Indian warrior, ‘cannot change the NCAA policy’ against using American Indian nicknames, logos or mascots that are considered offensive, said Bernard Franklin, an NCAA executive vice president. … Franklin said the university must follow an agreement it made in October 2007 to discontinue using the nickname and logo by Aug. 15, 2011, unless it received approval from North Dakota’s Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes. Spirit Lake tribal members endorsed the nickname and logo in a referendum, and the tribe’s governing council followed. The Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal council, which has long opposed the nickname, has declined to change its stand.”
Animal advocate Gregory Cruz writes a commentary for the Strib on the bills introduced last week to ban surreptitious videos of farm animals. (Go ahead. Make your sick jokes.) He writes: “Obtaining, possessing or distribution of photos or video of varied ‘animal facilities’ should not be a crime. This is not child pornography. The few antiquated animal welfare laws there are in Minnesota would become virtually unenforceable without the ability of the public to document and share conditions of abuse. Contrary to public belief, commercial production of animals in Minnesota is an unregulated industry. The only way to deal with animal abuse is to discover it, document it, press charges and hope you prevail in court. That is impossible to do without photo, audio and video evidence. There are existing laws regarding breaking in and entry, property damage, and vandalism, and there are remedies related to those issues. These bills are overkill.”