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State Shutdown Watch: The eleventh hour is at hand

MORNING EDITION ALSO: An optimist weighs in; Pawlenty’s list of supporters; the secret new stadium plan; Prairie Island gets new lease on life; Medtronic developments; and more.
Read Wed. Afternoon Edition


As we move toward the 59th minute of the 11th hour, signs of progress in avoiding the calamity of The Shutdown are very hard to find. Politics in Minnesota’s Briana Bireschbach, filing on Judge Kathleen Gearin’s Wednesday ruling, takes the view that it weakens Gov. Dayton’s position by relieving some pressure on the GOP. “[P]ractically speaking, the political underpinnings of Dayton’s proposed shutdown terms appeared to be weakened by Gearin’s order that both local government aid payments and state K-12 education payments should proceed on time. Dayton’s plan had not proposed to  designate the people in charge of making those disbursements “core” personnel to be retained in a shutdown. Many observers thought the Dayton proposal reflected an effort to put maximum political pressure for a deal on Republican lawmakers.”

Oh wait, here’s an optimist. Mark Sommerhauser of the St. Cloud Times checks in on GOP freshman Rep. King Banaian, the former talk radio host and blogger: “Banaian said he had no information about the budget talks beyond what’s been reported publicly. Still, he told the crowd that a state shutdown isn’t imminent. ‘I’m optimistic,’ Banaian said. ‘I’m hoping we’re going to have a solution, and I really feel like it’s going to happen.’ Meanwhile, Banaian fielded comments and questions from the 40-plus who attended the town-hall meeting. Some suggested state leaders impose a temporary tax hike to supply a short-term budget fix. Others touted Dayton’s tax-the-rich approach or GOP legislators’ call to trim wasteful spending. Others urged legislators to consider using state-sanctioned gambling to create new state revenue.” In other words … never mind.

You did see T-Paw’s list of prominent Minnesota endorser/contributors, right? Jeremy Herb of the Strib posts it and says: “Pawlenty sought to show he’s winning on the home front Wednesday with a list of 100 “conservative Minnesotans” who are endorsing him for president. The list includes current and former Minnesota legislators, including Minnesota House Speaker Zellers, as well as several Minnesota CEOs and top business executives. Many of the endorsers are also Pawlenty contributors. One name that’s not included: Ron Carey, Bachmann’s former chief of staff and former state GOP chair who wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register Monday that said Pawlenty is ready to be president, but Bachmann is not.”

On that double-secret Vikings stadium talk attached to any budget resolution … ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, noting the Strib’s hints of a deal, writes: “[T]he Vikings’ stadium would be addressed when the shutdown ends. As you might expect, last-minute negotiations between the Vikings and state leaders are continuing as both sides try to complete final tweaks and account for a funding gap caused by necessary road upgrades. Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune reported Wednesday that the Vikings had lowered their project cost estimate from $1.057 billion to $820 million, a $200-plus million gap that prompted many — including me — to question whether the team had abandoned plans for a roof. As we discussed recently, the original proposal called for a $206 million retractable roof. Swapping it with a fixed roof would cut $25 million from the project, but Olson’s report suggested the Vikings were contemplating a more substantive cut. Here’s what I can tell you: There is almost no chance a stadium will get built without a roof, be it retractable or fixed. Dayton’s support largely rests on the year-round utility of an indoor facility, one that would, in essence, replace the Metrodome.”

Prairie Island nuke power? Good to go for another 20 years. So says the NRC anyway. Naureen Malik of the Wall Street Journal writes: “The initial 40-year operating licenses for the two Prairie Island reactors were set to expire in 2013 and 2014. The approval completed a three year safety and environmental review process of the facility, including numerous inspections and public input. Licenses on the plants’ Units 1 and 2 reactors were extended through 2033 and 2034. Xcel said it will invest at least $500 million in the plant by 2015 to support the extension of its life, and would spend even more if the nuclear agency approves a separate proposal to expand generating capacity there. Prairie Island, located about 28 miles southeast of Minneapolis, currently has the capacity to generate 1,096 megawatts of electricity. It supplies a fifth of the power Xcel’s customers use in the upper Midwest region.”

The scam du jour is a Canuckistani preying on Minnesota senior citizens, convincing them to send emergency money to stranded grandchildren and the like. Marciella Miranda of the PiPress writes: “[T]he Dakota County Attorney’s Office today charged 33-year-old Robert Attias, a Canadian living in Miami, Fla., with felony theft by swindle for allegedly stealing $15,525 from seniors in Minnesota. The seniors scammed were 70 to 83 years old and lived in Dakota, Ramsey, McLeod, Olmsted, and Steele counties, said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. ‘These are sad and disgraceful crimes that really attack the most vulnerable folks in our society,’ Backstrom said. It’s ‘a scene focused and aimed at grandparents.’ The scam starts when a person calls a senior claiming to be his or her grandchild in need of money because of an arrest or a drunk-driving crash, Backstrom said. The scam artists don’t know the grandchildren’s names and wait until seniors tells them. The senior then wires the money to a supposed prosecutor or attorney. Once the money arrives, the criminal continues to call asking for more until the money stops.”

David Wahlberg of The Wisconsin State Journal files on the story of the Medtronic bone growth product and the company’s (latest) lucrative royalty agreements: “A group of orthopedic surgeons is challenging research by UW-Madison spine specialist Thomas Zdeblick, saying he failed to disclose risks of a bone-growth substance made by a company that has paid him at least $21 million in royalties. The criticism, made Tuesday in a special edition of The Spine Journal, comes after the U.S. Senate Finance Committee sent a letter last week to the company, Minneapolis-based Medtronic. The letter asked for financial records and communications with doctors such as Zdeblick. … In The Spine Journal, three orthopedic surgeons reviewed 13 studies of Infuse, a genetically engineered substance made by Medtronic that is used in spinal fusion surgery. Also known as bone morphogenetic protein-2, or BMP-2, the substance was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002. The studies downplayed or failed to mention known risks, the review found, such as cysts, infection, cancer, back and leg pain and retrograde ejaculation, which can cause sterility in men. The risk of such complications is 10 to 50 times higher than the studies reported, the review said.”

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s designated conservative columnist, Patrick McIlheran, proclaims all of middle-class Wisconsin’s problems solved: “[C]onservatism is in a good position in Wisconsin. It’s been solidified by a growing infrastructure, from an unusually vibrant talk radio scene to a plethora of free-market think tanks and watchdogs. It’s grounded mainly in the reality that, while progressives historically have seen the state as their natural property, conservatism’s offer of restrained, sustainably priced government is now more in tune with much of the state’s middle. It’s been an exciting shift to watch, especially from the vantage point I’ve been lucky to occupy for seven years as a columnist for one of the country’s best newspapers. I’m leaving (I’ll be at the rather narrower federal trough myself, working as a writer for one of Wisconsin’s U.S. senators, Ron Johnson), but I feel fortunate to have been in the stands as my home state showed the rest of the nation how conservative ideas can win.” Johnson, you may recall, is taking fire for a $10 million “deferred compensation package” from the company for which he served as CEO, which in effect fully covered the cost of his campaign last fall.

One of the Fraters Libertas fellows is very upset with the press’s treatment of Our Favorite Congresswoman over her, uh, “confusion” about John Wayne’s birthplace. Likewise, how mean they all are to Sarah Palin. What gives with the lamestream press? “Michele Bachmann makes a campaign speech touting her background and qualifications to be president and the media ignores this in favor of exhuming Ed Gein and making that the national story. Why do they do this? For the answer, I turn to John Nolte. He’s done an outstanding job in analyzing the media’s assault on Sarah Palin and the dynamics he identifies are exactly what is happening to Bachmann:

The idea is, at all costs, to undermine her seriousness and to create a relentless storm of nonsensical controversies around her that serve the leftist MSM’s partisan desires in three ways. First, by creating a narrative out of the ridiculous, the Governor is never allowed to get her message out. Second, it furthers the goal of turning her into a punchline. Finally, this Palin-Fury the MSM constantly brews up is meant to condition us to wince every time she pops her head out of the ground. Simply put, Palin’s MSM enemies want to exhaust us to the point where we start to wish she’d just go away.

“Bachmann has successfully fought this off in Minnesota for the past six years or so. The national media brings a much larger world of hurt.” If only she could get her message out! It’s so unfair! I often wonder what she thinks about, you know, “gangster government” and if “There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.”