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Duluth race takes another unusual turn

Rybak’s “blistering” attack; appeals court strikes down disclosure law; McDonald’s billboard butchers Hmong wording; and more.

Editor’s note: Former Glean writer Max Sparber is filling in for Brian Lambert for a few days.

What do they call professional baseball? The big show? Well, real fans of the great American pastime know that while the spectacle happens on the national stage, the really interesting, distinctive and, frankly, odd stories happen in the minor leagues.

So, too, with politics. Let’s not be overly distracted by the big show of the DNC just now and keep in mind there is still room for the peculiarities of various farm leagues. Take, for instance, the tale of Duluth Democratic candidate Erik Simonson, reported by the AP.

 Simonson is bucking for the seat of Rep. Kerry Gauthier, who will not be seeking re-election following Gauthier’s spectacular meltdown following a liaison with a 17-year-old male. While everyone is quick to point out that no laws were broken (the age of consent being 16), this was the archetypal “dead girl/live boy” scenario that ruins political futures. And so we have traded in a scandal for a more quotidian domestic drama — Simonson’s 20-year-old daughter claims her father abandoned her when she was 2. There’s no political dirt here, just the everyday heartbreak of divorce and estrangement, but it’s palpable. The AP quotes the daughter, who is clearly wrestling with her father’s emotional and physical distance: “He has two other daughters, and he sees them every day,” she is quoted as saying. “And I don’t understand. I just don’t understand.”

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It’s not the big show, but these little moments of roiling humanity can just break your heart if you pay attention to them.

But the political equivalent of, say, baseball season pregame events is on just now, and, as I mentioned this morning, Minneapolis’ own Mayor R.T. Rybak has a featured spot. Bill Salisbury of the PiPress writes a thrilling play-by-play with a headline that promises to describe how Rybak “blisters” the GOP with his rhetoric. Blisters! It sounds a bit like Amos Starkadder, the westcountry preacher from Stella Gibbons’ “Cold Comfort Farm,” who never knew what he was going to say but always knew it would be something about burnin’.

In fact, Rybak did talk about burning, castigating the GOP for spending the past four years doing nothing but impeding Obama.

“[P]yromaniacs shouldn’t blame firefighters,” Rybak said, although I think they should, because firefighters put out all the pretty fires that pyromaniacs start. But his metaphors got a lot less mixed as he got more personal. Explaining that he was raised Republican, Rybak went on to say that “I don’t recognize a once-proud party that’s been hijacked by extremists and driven off the flat earth they pretend we’re living on.” There’s that throwing arm we were promised; it’s no wonder Rybak has a spot in the majors.

You remember when we were all young, back in the 1950s, and politics seemed mostly funded by pennies collected at union halls and by small donations from corner banks and grocery stores. Back then, as we all remember, political conventions took place in cramped meeting halls with no air conditioning and everybody fanning themselves, and politicians all seemed to buy their suits at Goodwill. Well, you must have noticed that there is a lot more money in the game nowadays. This coincides, of course, with the rise of the American corporation, and the legal decision that corporations should be treated just like human beings, except, of course, where it really matters, when it comes to, say, debt or criminality.

The Glean

There has been a movement afoot to locate precisely who donates to what since the Supreme Court decided that corporations can give however much they want to whoever they want — one supposes the argument is that at least we should know the source of all this big money moving into politics. There was, for instance, a law forcing Minnesota corporations to reveal political donations. Or, at least, there was until today, when a federal appeals court struck down the law as likely being unconstitutional.

Of course, corporations still can’t donate directly to Minnesota candidates, so that’s something. I mean, it’s not like the airwaves are flooded with attack ads from strangely anonymous-sounding political action committees or anything.

While we’re speaking of corporations, let us close out with a tale of McDonald’s and St. Paul’s Hmong community. The hamburger chain presumably had its best intentions at heart, reaching out to a minority population in their own language to communicate to them that “Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going.”

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Now, this is not one of those semi-urban legends, like the tale of the Chevy Nova failing in Latin American because “Nova” means “won’t go” in Spanish. No, there was no catastrophic mistranslation. There was no real translation at all — instead, it seems like McDonald’s did the equivalent of just going through Google translate. The resulting message, as WCCO reports, lacked proper spacing and made no sense at all. McDonald’s has apologized to the Hmong community, hopefully in a way that is intelligible. Coffee gets you up; hiring a good translator gets you going.