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State kids failing graduation test, so drop math requirement?

Little Falls shooting puts focus on Castle Doctrine; Best Buy off to a good holiday start; musicians question Minnesota Orchestra board decisions; Gov. Scott Walker hires criminal defense lawyers; and more.

With so many Minnesota kids failing the big graduation math test, the solution to the problem is … ? Steve Brandt of the Strib says: “With nearly a third of high school students at risk of failing Minnesota’s high-stakes exit exam for math, some educators say it’s time the state dropped the requirement. On Tuesday a panel of educators is expected to recommend changes in the state’s school-testing regimen. Dropping the exit exams would require action by the Legislature.”

The public will be getting an education in the full meaning and limitations of the so-called Castle Doctrine law after the Little Falls shootings. John Croman of KARE-TV has a good piece setting up the discussion: “‘The biggest misconception is that self-defense law is something simple, that would fit on a bumper sticker,’ John Caile, a firearms instructor for 40 years, told KARE. ‘I spend a good three and a half hours on just the legal part in my classes, which is more than a lot of people do.’ He says those who buy weapons to defend themselves in their homes need to understand in Minnesota there’s no such thing as automatic immunity from prosecution for shooting another person. ‘So there’s no duty to retreat inside your house. That does not mean that your house is a free fire zone, and you get to shoot anyone who walks through the door,’ Caile explained. ‘It’s one of the few times where you walk into court, freely admitting you did it, and now you have to explain to the jury why they should not send you to prison.’ The prosecution still has the burden of proving that the shooting wasn’t justified, but defendants in self-defense cases often face what’s known as the ‘burden of production’ — to produce evidence backing their perspective.”

A ray of sunlight over Richfield … . According to MPR’s Martin Moylan, “Best Buy seems to have gotten off to a good start to the holiday shopping season. The consumer electronics retailer had the nation’s third-busiest retail website on Black Friday, according to comScore, which measures Internet traffic. The company said Best Buy ranked behind Amazon and Walmart but ahead of Target. ComScore would not disclose visitor counts. A Deutsche Bank retail analyst pronounced Best Buy a ‘big winner’ over the past weekend because a survey revealed 86 percent of Best Buy stores were busy. But the analyst said he was unsure how much of that traffic was converted into sales.” Oh, come on. It’s a short parade. Don’t rain on it.                           
New details on Minnesota Orchestra board decisions aren’t helping its case with musicians. Kristin Tillotson of the Strib reports: “At a Monday news conference, Tim Zavadil, leader of the musicians’ negotiating team, questioned the board’s ‘hiding large deficits’ during the recession so as not to negatively affect fundraising for a new hall and a bonding request before the Legislature. Zavadil also wondered why management chose to draw larger amounts from its endowments than the 5 percent generally accepted as prudent. Minutes from a 2010 finance committee meeting show members being advised that ‘a draw over 5 percent is irresponsible.’ In response, orchestra president Michael Henson said Monday that he and the board had to find ‘short-term solutions’ to the deficits, with a goal of returning to long-term stabilization.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is “absolutely confident” he is not the target of a criminal investigation. The AP’s Scott Bauer reports: “The governor, who hired high-profile criminal defense attorneys from Chicago and started a legal-defense fund, met voluntarily with prosecutors in April. He has insisted he did nothing wrong and did not know that county workers were illegally campaigning while on the job. … Prosecutors revealed emails that showed regular contact between Walker’s county executive and gubernatorial campaign staffs. The emails showed workers held daily telephone meetings, discussed how to handle politically sensitive topics and even suggested planting stories in the press to distract attention from problems at Milwaukee County’s mental health hospital, where nine people have died since 2010. Walker repeated Monday that he had no knowledge of anyone in his county office doing illegal campaign work, and that if he had, he would have stopped it. … ‘It defies reasonable belief that Scott Walker was completely ignorant of the fact that he was surrounded by people committing criminal acts in his office as county executive,’ Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said Monday. ‘It is not believable. If true, it raises serious questions about his management ability, including who he chooses to surround himself with.’”

Kind of like the haggard guy at the bottom of one of those outdoor escalators in Vegas holding a sign that said, “Why Lie? I need a beer,” you have to hand it to a company that calls itself, simply, Liquor Boy. John Ewoldt of the Strib says: “Just in time for the busiest month of the year for liquor stores, [John] Wolf opened Liquor Boy in St. Louis Park Monday with everyday low prices on more than 900 wines, as well as liquor and beer. Why does he expect the everyday-low-price concept to work on alcohol when it didn’t work on sweaters and towels at JC Penny? ‘People know the price on wine and liquor,’ he said. ‘They can’t tell what a shirt should cost.’ Wolf said his 10,000-square-foot store, between Office Max and PetSmart on Cedar Lake Road, will be unique in the Twin Cities, except for ‘no sale’ pricing at Chicago Lake Liquors in south Minneapolis, which he also owns.”

The Shattuck school sex scandal now has an official St. Paul connection. Madeleine Baran of MPR reports: “Joseph Machlitt, who faces criminal charges for allegedly sexually abusing a boy in 1980 at a Faribault boarding school, recently worked as a substitute teacher at a private school in St. Paul. St. Paul Academy and Summit School, which employed Machlitt as a substitute teacher, notified parents, faculty, staff and trustees about the charges via email on Friday. … Court records do not indicate when Machlitt moved back to Minnesota or whether he has worked at other schools.”

I know I hate nothing more than driving up and down the street and never finding The Love Doctor. Frederick Melo of the PiPress says: “Passengers along the Central Corridor will soon be able to find The Love Doctor at all hours of the day or night. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-to-1 on Monday, Nov. 26 to allow the adult novelties shop at 1607 W. University Ave. to install a 20-1/2-square-foot illuminated sign, extending up to four feet perpendicular to the sidewalk. The size represents what board members saw as a compromise, as the zoning code allows for 16 square feet, projecting no more than three feet over the public sidewalk. Store owner Troy Decorsey had asked for a sign measuring 25 square feet, projecting four feet.”

Sally Jo Sorensen digs up minutes from a Southwest Metro Tea Party meeting for her Bluestem Prairie blog: “In a  ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ panel on November 19, state representative-elect Cindy Pugh (R-33B) shared her thoughts with the SW Metro Tea Party, a group she co-founded. …[H]ere’s the introduction along with the summary of what Pugh had to say: ‘Tonight’s program, “Where Do We Go From Here?” featured a panel discussion with Mary Amlaw, Paul Carlson, David Fitzsimmons and Cindy Pugh. There was an individual presentation from each panel member and then questions were taken from the audience. …  Cindy Pugh has optimism despite the election. Cindy listed the threats we face: (1) An illiterate, disengaged and lazy electorate. (2) The physical size and scope of our government. (3) The media. (4) The progressive movement – on both sides of the aisle. (5) The infiltration of the Muslim brotherhood.’” By the sound of it, I think she might be better off fearing brain-eating amoeba.