Minnesota has its political flaws, to be sure. Most of its important legislation is cut in back-room deals and we find out well after the fact that somehow, some way, an Iron Range lawmaker got $300,000 to replace an outhouse in the middle of nowhere.

Sometimes lawmakers vote for things without having a clue what the impact is and sometimes the impact is tragic, but for the most part their lack of vision is out in the open for most of us to see if we want to take a look.

Over in Wisconsin this weekend, as in other places, people will stick an American flag on the porch and say all the right things about freedom and democracy, and they’ll ignore everything their lawmakers are doing to undermine the romanticized notion of what America stands for.

They’re trying to keep its citizens from finding out what they’re up to.

In one of the final votes on the state budget, GOP lawmakers approved sweeping limits on public access to records.

“The taxpayers who are paying for all of this are being told, ‘It’s none of your damn business,'” Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Our state’s tradition of open government is on the line.”

The co-chairman of the budget committee, Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), told the newspaper that “multiple” people sought the changes but he wouldn’t identify them.

There’s some first-class American values.

It’s safe to say that not a single lawmaker in Wisconsin campaigned on eliminating public oversight of the government there.

Budget committee member Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, told Madison.com that he didn’t seek the changes and isn’t sure who did. “I honestly don’t need (the changes) for my purposes,” he said. “We have nothing to hide.”

Translation: “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”

But Hudson Rep. Dean Knudson of Hudson said the changes clarify what is a record for lawmakers and would “make it easier for us all to stay on the right side (of the laws).”

Uh huh.

“If Wisconsin wants to take a giant leap into corruption, I think that’s a good move for them to make,” Lueders said. “It’s cowardly. It’s dirty. It violates the tradition of the state of Wisconsin, and it shows what miserable cowards that these people are that they would stick this in an omnibus motion.”

God bless America.

It’s mayfly season along the Mississippi River. Hastings officials have turned out the lights at night to try to bring the disgust-o-meter reading down.

So when a TV crew shows up for a 10 p.m. news live shot, it’s an easy target for the critters.

KARE 11’s Jay Olstad earned hazard pay last night.

You never quite get used to them.

In some locales with outdoor dining, mayfly season forces restaurants to close before sunset.

Bob Collins | MPR News

Not surprisingly, the Empire Builder eastbound Amtrak train to Chicago is pulling into Winona, Minn., at this hour about four hours and 30 minutes late. The one that’s due through here tomorrow is already around 90 minutes behind schedule.

What might be a solution to the misery? How about a second train each day?

In a news release today, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Amtrak claim that a second train between St. Paul and Chicago each day would add about 50,000 more passengers a year to the current 104,000 with one train.

They release details of a study that says to do so would require $95 million for the Chicago-to-St. Paul scenario, more if the route would include St. Cloud, Minn., and Minneapolis. If new train equipment is used, toss in another $46.4 million cost.

The service would also require $6.6 million from the state each year to pay for the shortfall between ticket revenue and cost. Under federal law, Amtrak is limited to paying for only 15 percent of the operating cost.

The theory is that a second train would provide more reliability on a route that has absolutely none right now.

What are the odds that Minnesota lawmakers would pony up that kind of money?

Do the math. Fifty-five thousand additional passengers with a $6.6 million subsidy works out to $120 per passenger per year, or just about half the amount a passenger pays for a ticket.

Don’t get your hopes up, rail fans.

Archive: At Union Depot, a celebration of a failed transportation option

I was out for an evening bike ride a few weeks ago when I stopped to watch a game at a Woodbury park and noticed something odd — there weren’t very many parents there. The parents who were there didn’t appear to be particularly emotionally invested. It seemed like fun.

And that, author and father Daniel Pink insisted last evening on PBS NewsHour, is how youth sports should be played — without parents in attendance. Read more