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That wasn’t really a ‘Shutdown Office Pool,’ GOP says

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Poligraph finds ed-spending comment misleading; essential vs. non-essential services; Hastings may try screech therapy; Wanted: more criminals; “Walkerville” opens; and more.
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It was so “colossally stupid” we must agree that it never really happened. The GOP isn’t pleased WCCO-TV ran a story about an in-house “shutdown pool,” inviting small-government types to bet on when the state will lock its doors to the citizenry. “A spokesman for the GOP Senate Caucus says a shutdown office betting pool organized by a single staffer was a ‘colossally stupid idea.’ A copy of the pool, obtained by WCCO-TV, has a suggested $1 fee to enter, and allows participants to select dates of a possible first and second special session. It also asks for predictions for a government shutdown, and how long it might last. ‘This is an ‘IN-HOUSE” document,” according to the rules of the pool, “intended for staff only — just for fun. Thanks, and good luck.’ ‘This is disgusting,’ said Eliot Seide, the head of AFSCME, Minnesota’s largest state workers union. ‘Thanks and good luck? Make a bet on how long our people are going to be out of work? What kind of sick people are these?’ Republicans say the pool was never distributed. ‘It’s incredibly inappropriate,’ said Michael Brodkorb, Executive Assistant to the Senate GOP Caucus, who said neither he nor any Republican leaders were aware of the pool. ‘It wasn’t distributed. Copies were discarded and no bets were taken.’ ”

I like to keep up with Catherine Richert’s PoliGraph truth tests over at MPR. This is from Friday: “DFL lawmakers say the Republican majority is cutting K-12 funding by $44 million. Republican leaders say they’re increasing funding substantially. ‘This bill spends $450 million more on education than last session,’ said Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo, who chairs the Education Finance Committee, during a debate over the issue with Rep. Mindy Greiling, the top DFLer on the committee, on the May 23, 2011 broadcast of Midday. … On one hand, Garofalo’s claim is correct. His panel’s bill would increase education spending compared to the last two years and increase spending on some things, including per pupil spending. But he neglects a fact that DFLers highlight: funding falls short of what the state would be spending if it followed current law, and that means some school districts will see cuts. For leaving out those facts, Garofalo’s claim is misleading.” But in politics, “misleading” is just good “messaging.”

In terms of who and what is “essential” in the event of a government shutdown, retired Judge Ed Stringer is an expert, having decided as much in 2005. He was on Cathy Wurzer’s MPR show this morning.
Cathy Wurzer: What counts as an essential state function?
Justice Stringer: First of all, there’s no roadmap for it. It’s just here’s the law, is it core, is it critical? And it’s more a guttural feeling: Does this person or this agency do something that is critical to the health and safety of the citizens of the state? Is a life at stake? Is health at stake? Is property at stake? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. It’s all arguable, it’s all debatable but in the end you have to make a decision and that’s what I did. …
Wurzer: Give me an example or two of something that you considered non-essential.
Stringer: One service I deemed not essential was the parks and the rest areas. I didn’t consider those to be anyone’s life, safety or health to be at risk if those were closed. As a matter of fact I got a very nice note from an owner of a cafeteria in one of the small towns up on I-35 thanking me for closing the rest areas because it brought people into her restaurant. So a little here, a little there.”                                           

What if they just played Mozart?  Bob Shaw of the PiPress says Hastings may try screech therapy for an oft-vandalized city park: “Hastings might soon install a late-night sound-blaster to keep teenagers out of one of its parks. The gizmo emits sounds audible only to young people — sounds that can’t be detected by older people with less-sensitive hearing. ‘This is intriguing,’ said Parks and Recreation Director Barry Bernstein, who is investigating ways to reduce vandalism. The sound won’t bother neighbors, said Jeff Webber, owner of Webber Recreational Design, which would install the device. ‘But for young people, it sounds like 15 or 20 people dragging their nails down a chalkboard,’ he said.”

Wanted: More criminals. A Strib story by Katie Humphrey and David Peterson says Minnesota has 3,000 jail cells going empty. “After dismissing old data as unreliable, the state of Minnesota is now formally acknowledging the full extent of the problem. More than 3,000 cells stand empty on a given day, the new figures show — the equivalent of roughly the 70 smallest facilities of about 90 statewide. That new clarity is allowing for a much better grasp of how costs per inmate are rising. In Scott County, for instance, with its drooping inmate counts, costs per inmate per day have jumped from $115 to $159 over the past two years, and the county is about to offer early retirement to jailers.”

“Walkerville” is up in Madison. The city’s latest elite (but not gated) development is a building sea of tents … to protest pretty much everything Gov. Scott Walker does. The Wisconsin State Journal’s George Hesselberg writes: “There was no fee or registration, but the rules were strict, privacy was zero and scary stories around the flashlight were likely to feature cuts, slashes and vouchers. There were roughly three dozen tents set up by 8 p.m., but by 9 p.m. organizers estimated there were 250 campers in 75 to 100 tents. The convivial mood was infectious, with lots of friendly conversation and tents set up within inches of neighbors, as if at a rock festival. With the requisite permission from the city and county, but with grumbling from some nearby businesses, a federation of unions, students and other groups calling itself We Are Wisconsin plans to maintain a presence by way of its tent city in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker until June 20. The gathering is the latest act in the 2011 political drama featuring the governor’s push to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for most public employees, drawing a cast of thousands to the Square to protest that law, now tied up in court, and other changes to the way government works in Wisconsin. Protesters have responded creatively, with tractor parades, celebrity appearances, a national television presence and, Saturday night, the Wisconsin incarnation of ���Hooverville.’ “

Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal’s “No Quarter” column has another good one. He writes: “In letters obtained by No Quarter, local Republican Party officials are encouraging their GOP colleagues to collect enough signatures to get a fake Democratic candidate on the ballot in each of two upcoming recall elections. The spoiler Democrats, who are identified by name in the letters, would run in the Democratic primaries for the seats now held by Republican Sens. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon. Both of the fake Democrats have a history of giving almost exclusively to major Republicans. ‘We need to make sure Democrat challengers face primaries to allow our Republicans time to mount a campaign,’ Dan Feyen, chairman of the 6th Congressional District Republican Party, wrote in the letter to ‘fellow conservatives’ on Friday. … By running these fake Democrats, Republicans would force the Democratic challengers to spend money on a primary that could have been used in the general election. Plus, the spoiler candidates could launch negative attacks on the Democrats while the Republican incumbents remain above the fray.”

And in case you’ve neglected your Scott Walker recall news. The AP’s latest story says: “With recall elections for six Republican state senators all but certain, Wisconsin Democrats have begun focusing on their biggest foe — Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Democrats think their chances of ousting the senators are so good that they dubbed their annual meeting this weekend the 2011 Recall Convention. They hope any successes this summer will carry over into January, when Walker will have been in office long enough to be eligible for recall. ‘This whole recall effort has been an exercise in building the party, building a movement to fight the Scott Walker-(U.S. Rep.) Paul Ryan agenda’, said Graeme Zielinski of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. … Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in the governor’s race, told those at the convention Friday that they needed to be tireless in holding the GOP accountable for its agenda. ‘This group of Republicans is drunk with power. They have sold out the middle class and Wisconsin values for a 12-pack of special-interest brew,’ he said. ‘Now is the time to sober them up.’ ” Shrewd politicians always trade in metaphors their public can easily understand.

The “beauty” of John Hinderaker’s posts on Power Line is  his ability to apply what feels like historical and scientific certainty to garden-variety partisan spin. In one from Sunday, he (again) asserts that regulation is what is really stifling job growth. He then runs a graph that shows job numbers cratering, uh … somewhat before Barack Obama started heaping regulation on our “jobs providers.” To this (and to Hinderaker’s credit) he runs a note from a reader that says, “I’ve seen the graph many times and I believe you are unintentionally supporting President Obama’s claim that he ‘inherited’ a Great Recession. The graph is misleading because it is ‘Aligned At Maximum Job Losses.’ The original version of this graph, from the same source, used to have all recessions start at the far left of the graph. If you were to view that version, you would see that the current recession was quite average for the first year or so as the red line would be clumped in the middle of all the other lines. After a year, job losses stacked up and the red line dropped precipitously. Depending on your partisanship, one could view the plunge aligning with either Obama’s election or the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. I was president of a small division owned by a DOW Jones 30 company when Obama was elected and the next day we began major restructuring plans so I see it as the former. Regardless, I believe showing the other chart will reveal that Obama ‘inherited’ an average recession, used it to push radical measures, and extended the recession far longer than it should have been.” You read that right. Several million lay-offs in three months = “average recession.”