When legislators fight (5×8 – 3/14/12)

This will be the last 5×8 of the week. I’ll be out tomorrow, Friday, and Monday to attend to family matters.


You don’t usually see a lot of food fights breaking out in committee hearings at the Capitol (it’s reserved mostly for the House floor), but it was actually somewhat refreshing to see two legislators throw the gloves down yesterday and brawl over who’s “sticking it” to the middle class more than the other (there’s irony there somewhere). The combatants yesterday were Republican Pat Garofalo and DFLer Tom Rukavina. They picked a good week — considering MPR’s “TheOutsiders” series — for casting off their passive aggressive approach to debate and just going toe-to-toe.

The action came at yesterday’s House Taxes Committee hearing during which Republicans unveiled a proposal to lower taxes on corporations and businesses and pay for it, apparently, by reducing the renters property tax refund.

Rukavina asked a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce official, who is going to educate the workforce? “Businesses can locate all around the world and find an educated workforce,” he responded.

“Move to Russia, they’ve got a well-educated workforce,” Rukavina responded.

“I enjoy this fake populism,” Garofalo said as he listed taxes on the middle class that “you guys” raised.

Then, they were off and running.

No stump speeches. No phony niceties. Just old-fashioned bare knuckles.

It’s about time. Maybe it can stir up enough interest that the debate, which has far more impact on the state than a stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, moves to center stage.

Speaking of which, City Pages tackles the stadium issue today with Tom Goldstein’s piece on six myths about the stadium perpetuated by the mainstream media. Example: Stadiums are almost always paid for by the public. Who knew?


Unlike its Twin Cities cousin, the Duluth News Tribune isn’t shying away from this week’s Doonesbury comic strip which focuses on Texas’ law that requires women to have a sonogram before having an abortion.

The News Tribune has been publishing Doonesbury on the Opinion page since 2004, and this week’s strips are precisely the reason why.

After a lengthy conversation late last week — one of many such conversations at newspapers across the country — News Tribune Publisher Ken Browall and Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick decided to publish Doonesbury as usual this week. Typical of Trudeau, the strips are legitimate, if biting, political-social commentary, precisely what belongs on the Opinion page and the sort of content readers expect to find there.

No, not everyone will agree with what the strips have to say. But providing a forum for a diversity of views long has been a commitment of the News Tribune Opinion page. We prefer to encourage conversation rather than stifle it.

The paper, nonetheless, issued a warning that the comic strip “may be considered inappropriate for some audiences, especially younger readers.” But what are the odds that a younger reader (a) reads the editorial page of a daily newspaper and (b) wouldn’t be able to understand the debate underway?

There were a few dozen comments from readers attached to the online warning. Not one objected to the publication of Doonesbury.


The Supreme Court hears a fascinating case next week — at least for those of us who enjoy free-speech issues and punishment for their deprivation. It involves Steven Howard’s arrest for “assaulting” then VP Dick Cheney at a mall in Colorado. Charges against Howard were dropped — he didn’t really assault Cheney — but he’s suing the Secret Service agents for damages.

SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston breaks it down…

Spectators gathered around the Vice President, shaking hands and exchanging remarks. Howards waited a bit, then approached Cheney and commented that his “policies in Iraq were disgusting.” Cheney merely thanked him in reply. As Howards prepared to walk away, he apparently touched Cheney briefly. The parties in the case dispute whether this was a simple tap, or something more aggressive, like a slap. But no agent in the detail moved in to take any action. Later, one agent approached Howards after he had left the recital hall, and asked if he had assaulted Cheney. Howards replied that he should not be questioned for having offered his comment to the Vice President. The agent then reportedly grew angry, and asked if Howards had touched the Vice President. He denied doing so.

The agent, Virgil D. “Gus” Reichle, Jr., then arrested Howards for assault, based mainly upon making “unsolicited contact” with the Vice President. Howards was turned over to Eagle County sheriffs, was detained by them for several hours, and was ticketed for harassment, under Colorado law. A local prosecutor later dismissed that charge. No claim of assault or violation of any other federal law was ever made, and, so far as is known, the Secret Service took no further action of any kind toward Howards.

The agents have taken the issue to the Supreme Court arguing that “probable cause” to arrest Howards for assault gives them immunity against damages for retaliating against someone for their speech.

More legal: The anonymous “PDgirl,” who writes the blog, “not for the monosyllabic,” provides another depressing glimpse into the life of a Minnesota public defender today:

I worked 12 hours today. This is the second time in 2 weeks I’ve put in a 12 hour day. Lately I’m generally doing 9 or 10 hour days, in a futile and failing attempt to stay on top of things. My case load plus my court schedule since the start of the year have been untenable. No matter how much I try to keep up, I can’t. I spend almost my entire day in court Monday through Wednesday plus two Fridays each month. I’m allotted 6 office days a month-every Thursday and the second and forth Fridays of the month.

In those 6 days, I somehow have to find the time to meet with clients at the office and at the jail (the jail is 25 minutes away from my office, in a separate city). Sometimes, the jail gets over full and my clients end up in a different jail because of space issues. That jail is an hour and a half away from my office. I also have to find time to return phone calls and emails, read new documents that come in, prepare for trials or contested hearings, fill out requests for the paralegal and investigator, do legal research, write morons and memos, and review countless hours of audio and video.

It doesn’t sound like things have changed much since I profiled a day in the life of a public defender in Hastings four years ago.


Old Guys Rule from Bethel Church on Vimeo.

Church — the non-megachurch kind — is the only place I can still go and still have someone say, “it’s nice to see young people here.” I’m 57. Many traditional churches are dying. Literally. Their populations are dwindling because many young people either don’t go to church or are more attracted to the bells and whistles of more “modern” organizations.

In Fargo, Bethel Lutheran Church is trying to reach a younger audience with social media and an attempt to get the video above to go viral.

“We care desperately about reaching young people,” the worship director of the church tells the Fargo Forum.


The article documents the extent to which traditional churches are using social media to attract a flock. One church director said an “online presence can make a church more credible in the eyes of a college student.”

More religion: Two women in Europe insist they have the right to wear a crucifix in the workplace. Both were fired for refusing to remove their “jewelry.”


The AP’s Brian Bakst reports Minnesota is one of two states — North Carolina and Michigan are the others — where barbers are taking a stand defending their striped poles from invaders. Barbers are proposing legislation that would penalize non-barbers from advertising their talents with the iconic pole.

“They’re still trying to hang onto the vestiges that say they’re special. I can cut a man’s hair. Why shouldn’t I be able to put a barber pole up?” said Jeanie Thompson, president of the Minnesota Salon and Spa Association and owner of a beauty parlor. “They’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

A bill gets a Senate hearing in Saint Paul today.

You know who the coolest people in the world are? Barbers. Generations of men are growing up without having set foot in a real barber shop. Pity.

Bonus I: Temperatures may hit the 70s today. And in the spring, a young man’s fancy turns to Medieval weaponry…

Bonus II: The scary consequences of a lost smartphone.

Bonus III: Happy Pi Day, people!


Sunday’s massacre of Afghan civilians, reportedly by an American soldier, has contributed to a crisis in U.S.-Afghan relations. Today’s Question: What should the United States do in response to the shootings?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Minnesota joined the “right to work” fray this week when Sen. Dave Thompson’s bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. What impact would these laws have on Minnesota and the country?

Second hour: How have some prison education programs managed to stay afloat? And is higher education even something that should be available to prisoners, when it’s so hard to come by for people in the general population?

Third hour: On Monday, Kerri Miller spoke with the majority and minority leaders in the House. Today, it’s the Senate leaders’ turn to discuss the Vikings stadium bill, the political battles over voter ID and right to work amendments, and taxes.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A live broadcast from the National Press Club with former Minnesota Rep. Jim Ramstad and former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy on mental health issues and legislation.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The Political Junkie analyzes yesterday’s primaries in Mississippi and Alabama. He’ll also discuss the voter ID laws and the effects of gas prices on the election.

Second hour: Jack Hanna and Esquire magazine’s Chris Jones on the regulation of exotic animals in Zanesville, Ohio.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Abraham Lincoln historian Harold Holzer.

Follow NewsCut on Twitter.

  • TomK

    Re: Barbers –

    It is my experience that barbers are superior in cutting men’s hair. I’m in my 30’s but have a card time convincing male friends and coworkers to go to a barber instead of Cost Cutters/Great Clips/etc.

  • Tyler

    I’ve had the opposite experience. Going to “barbers” in the Plymouth area usually gets me a bowl cut, with a fade that goes halfway up my head in back.

  • so sorry for your loss. safe travels.

  • JamesT

    My father is one of the old guys in the Old Guys Rule video . . . he rules, Go Dad!

  • I have to side with the British employers on the matter of the crucifixes. They have a no jewelery policy and the government is correct that wearing one is not a requirement in Christianity. Should the employers have overlooked it? Perhaps, but perhaps the two women involved are blowing it out of proportion as much as their employers are. But this is not a case where the government or the employers are preventing these women from practicing their religion. They weren’t told they couldn’t attend church or “do unto others.” They just can’t wear jewelry.

    What troubles me is this case will likely be used by European neo-fascist “Christians” as an instance of anti-Christian bigotry. In fact, I’d be shocked if they didn’t.

  • Jamie

    I agree that we should hear more “fights” like the one in the video — except with better DFL debaters. At least that young DFL woman (forget her name) said once that the issue they were discussing sort of boils down to how the Republicans are trying to pay for a corporate tax cut by raising taxes on people who are poor (this from the no-new-taxes crowd — I guess that only applies to rich people). And Republicans don’t even seem to be ashamed or apologetic about it! Instead of dealing with that heart of the issue, they (Republicans) spew one lie after another about Democrats being responsible for property and other tax increases. Of course, anybody being honest knows that Republican Pawlenty is responsible for those tax increases. Democrats HAD to agree to what the Republicans wanted because of Pawlenty vetoes and to avoid more state shut-downs. And because Pawlenty would never compromise.

  • Bob, thoughts and prayers for you and your family. Have a safe trip.

  • Heather

    Bob, I’m very sorry for your loss. Travel safely.

  • KTFoley

    Condolences, Bob. Sorry to hear of your brother’s passing.

  • alicia

    Bob… condolences from both Dick Bancroft and me. He was at our opening ceremony last weekend and was quick to chat about your conversation with him. He asked that you call him sometime…even if you don’t have a reason. I asked him to grab my arm…and he could, with a bit of strength behind it, too.

    Travel well.

  • This is NOT lucy

    Sorry for your loss Bob. I sounds like you and your brother were close growing up and he had alot to share with you. Travel safely.

  • John O.

    Bob, my condolences to you and your family.

  • Pat Fair


    My condolences to you and your family. Little compares to the punch in the gut feeling that occurs when a family member dies. Take care of yourself, and allow others the privilege of taking care of you for a little while.

    Pat Fair

  • Kat S.

    So sorry for your loss, Bob.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob, if your brother was half as cool as you, he must have been a real cool guy.

  • Kim E

    My condolences for your loss, Bob. I’ll be thinking of you and your family.

  • lindsey

    So sorry for your loss, Bob. Be well.

  • lindsey

    So sorry for your loss, Bob. Be well.