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Union president rips Minneapolis three-lockout law firm

Norm Coleman rules out rematch; Bachmann watch; Klobuchar at Gridiron dinner; defeated Downey wants to head state GOP; death by totem pole; and more.

The ever-vigilant Sally Jo Sorensen points readers to a commentary in the Grand Forks Herald by local AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson. In it she says: “While we see the National Hockey Leauge player lockout coming to an end, Minnesota still has three major lockouts on its hands. Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have been locked out since the fall. And one of the most egregious examples is in the Red River Valley, where 1,300 skilled and highly trained workers who turn beets into sugar have been locked out for nearly 17 months by their already profitable employer — American Crystal Sugar. Besides the fact that these employers all are located in Minnesota, there is another common thread. All three employers are represented by the Minneapolis law firm of Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon and Vogt at the bargaining table. … These lockouts continue to hurt workers, employers and communities. So, why are they continuing? The only ones who seem to be benefiting are the employers’ lawyers. Are these attorneys giving their clients the best advice? Will these lockouts leave wounds that are too deep for time to ever heal?”

A rematch — full of apocalyptic thundering about rampant voter fraud — would have been so much fun. But sadly … Norm Coleman says he won’t take on Al Franken in 2014.  In the National Journal story, Michael Catalini says: “After winning election by the narrowest of margins in 2008, Sen. Al Franken looked like one of the GOP’s most inviting Senate targets in 2014.  But instead, the party is facing the reality that Franken is proving to be a much more resilient opponent than expected, and his uncontroversial first term is raising doubts about whether Republicans can even recruit a first-tier candidate against the former Saturday Night Live funnyman. ‘You can’t play handball in an open field. At this point there’s been no candidate,’ said former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, who lost to Franken in the 2008 race. ‘He’s been pretty much invisible. In that sense he hasn’t created a lot of enemies. I don’t know if that’s his strategy, but it’s a pretty good strategy if it is.’ … Coleman touted Rep. John Kline, another swing-district Republican, but he has passed up previous statewide bids in favor of building up tenure in the House. And Rep. Michele Bachmann, who would be formidable in a primary, would be the Democrats’ dream challenger, given her high unfavorables even back home.”  Oh … don’t tease me like that.

Speaking of … David Weigel at Slate writes: “Paul Singer is out with a fun piece about the first 100 or so bills introduced in the 113th Congress. No change from previous Congresses, really — the first people into the breach are the ones with doomed bills dear to their hearts, which they introduce every two years. This, however, is a quiet change from the 112th: ‘Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced on Twitter that she had introduced the first bill of the 113th Congress to repeal Obamacare.’ Bachmann introduced the same bill immediately after the Affordable Care Act passed, and she introduced it again in the 112th. But right now, a week after Bachmann introduced the bill, it has no co-sponsors. No one else has introduced an Obamacare repeal bill.” Iowa’s Steve King must be down with the flu.

And, from Tuesday … Nick Wing at the Huffington Post says: “Bachmann (R-Minn.) barely survived a Democratic challenge in November, despite a massive cash and spending advantage. Last week, however, Bachmann was back to business as usual, mounting another effort to repeal Obamacare before proudly announcing that she’d been reappointed to a key position on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The committee decision by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was particularly upsetting for People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group and ardent Bachmann foe, which found the appointment an ‘outrage’ in light of the Minnesota Republican’s controversial crusade against Muslim members of President Barack Obama’s administration last year. ‘While Rep. Bachmann’s Islamophobic fear mongering is a hit in conspiratorial right-wing circles, it’s beneath the level of discourse Americans should expect from members of Congress,’ Ben Betz of PFAW said in an email to supporters on Tuesday. ‘And her views are nothing short of terrifying for someone sitting on the powerful Intelligence Committee.’ ” But you see what she’s doing, right? She’s terrorizing the terrorists.

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The GleanMeanwhile … Kevin Diaz of the Strib says: “U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been confirmed as the Democratic speaker at this year’s Gridiron spring dinner, a hallowed Washington institution dating back to 1885. The Republican speaker for the white-tie event on March 9 has not been announced. Traditionally, the dinner is a high-amperage event mixing media and political elites, including the president, for an off-the-record evening of self-deprecating jokes and irreverent skits. President Obama’s attendance has been spotty, but the group announced Wednesday that it is ‘hopeful’ of securing his attendance with the First Lady this year.”

Apparently Home Depot’s not hiring. Jennifer Brooks of the Strib tells us: “Former state Rep. Keith Downey is making a bid for the chairmanship of the Minnesota Republican Party. ‘Announced today I am running for MNGOP Party Chair. Our state needs a vital GOP, hope to be part of it,’ Downey announced via Twitter Wednesday morning. Downey, a management consultant from Edina, lost a bid for the District 49 Senate seat to Democrat Melisa Franzen last November. The Minnesota GOP has been battered by financial woes and November elections that cost the party control of the Legislature.” I sure hope Tony Sutton’s press conference notes are still in the top desk drawer.

Generally speaking, business leaders have a pretty good sense for the best deal  … possible. At MPR, Tom Scheck says: “At least some members of the business community appear to be softening their hard line stance against tax increases. … The executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, Charlie Weaver, is no fan of tax hikes. For years, he has lobbied against higher taxes. But Weaver is also a realist and knows DFL control of the Legislature and the governor’s office means things have changed. … He adds that the Business Partnership is opposed to Dayton’s proposed income tax hike on top earners, but acknowledges it is likely to happen because it’s a top priority for the governor.”

If it’s January, Lonnie Dupre must be trying to climb Denali. On his website, the Grand Marais explorer says: “We got the go ahead from our pilot, Paul Roderick, this morning to be at the airport by noon. By 1:30 pm we had landed on Kahiltna Glacier where Lonnie buried a cache of supplies at basecamp (7200ft).  About half an hour later Lonnie finished getting ready and began making his way towards the mountain. We said our goodbyes and wishes him a safe journey!”

I can’t say for certain, but this might be a first. Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News Tribune reports: “A man accused of murdering his wife with a totem pole the two were carving pleaded guilty today to second-degree murder. Carl Chester Muggli, 51, of Ray, had been charged with premeditated first-degree murder and intentional second-degree murder in the Nov. 26, 2010, death of his wife, Linda, 61, who died of severe head trauma when the log the couple had been carving for a totem pole landed on her. He has been in custody on $2 million bail. … A court document alleges that on the day of the incident, Carl Muggli told a Koochiching County sheriff’s deputy that the totem pole wasn’t lying level in a cradle as they worked on it, so he placed two or three two-by-fours under the pole to keep it level. He said they were turning the pole with a hook when it suddenly fell to the floor on top of his wife. He said he had his back to her and couldn’t see how it happened. When he turned, the pole was lying across her chest and shoulder. He also said that one of the arms on the cradle that held the pole was across her neck. He couldn’t explain how she wound up under the pole.” Uh, I have a theory.