All The World’s A Stage …

… and the smokers on it only players. At least that’s what the bar owners in Minnesota have decided. They have taken a loophole in the state no-smoking law to allow their patrons to have their tobacco, even if they have to sing for their supper, so to speak:

On a night when wind chills were expected to reach minus-40 or below, revelers hunkered down for a night of drinking at Barnacle’s Resort, a popular winter redoubt for ice fishermen and snowmobilers on the north shore of Lake Mille Lacs.
Helmets and jackets were stuffed everywhere. A plastic kiddie pool full of crushed ice held red meat, which was raffled off throughout the night. Two tables of Texas Hold ‘Em were full, and someone was telling the story of the night Minnesota Vikings fullback Jim Kleinsasser sat there – right there – in that very stool. Smoke wafted through the bar.
Wait … smoke? As in cigarettes?
On this Saturday night, and every Saturday night going forward until someone tells them to stop, the owners at Barnacle’s are allowing their customers to light up. It’s not so much an act of civil disobedience against the statewide smoking ban as it is exploiting an exception that allows smoking as part of a theatrical production.
You see, all those people drinking and smoking and laughing and telling the government to mind its own business? They’re really actors.

Is this a lame dodge, a technicality? Of course it is, although ice fishermen up here are no strangers to spinning a few yarns for a drink or two. It’s a lame dodge around a lame law that tells bar and restaurant owners that they cannot choose to serve smokers on property they own.
The state legislature may wind up with a theatrical boom in Minnesota. The arts have always had a strong following in the North Star State, but this year it may really be smoking. If the rest of the bars and restaurants follow the lead of Barnacle’s, we may see a lot of poetry readings and Shakespearean sonnets in Minnesota bars. And while the acting may be as rotten as something in Denmark, the play’s the thing — in which they hope to catch the attention of the legislature. (via QandO)

The Miniscule Grace Of Al Franken

Al Franken has new television commercials playing locally about his deep and abiding concern for Minnesotans, part of his primary campaign to win the Democratic nomination to challenge for Senator Norm Coleman’s seat. It talks about how he grew up in St. Louis Park among the fine people of the state. That apparently only applies to Democrats, however, even when stumping for votes. Otherwise, Franken demonstrates nothing but scorn:

According to Fritz, things started out fine with him taking photos of fellow Carls (that’s what [Carleton College] students call themselves) with Franken. Then Franken’s curiosity was raised about why Fritz didn’t want to be in a pic.
He’s a conservative, another Carl yelled out by way of explanation.
At that point, Franken reportedly began peppering Fritz with questions about supporting President George W. Bush and former President Ronald Reagan’s tax hikes. Fritz told me he got tense and, as he does in those situations, started chewing the inside of his mouth, a gesture he said was mimicked by Franken; Fritz also thought his style of speech was mocked by Franken.
An aide eventually interrupted Franken’s act, Fritz said, by announcing to the candidate that it was time to go.
Fritz told me Monday that he then stuck out his hand to shake Franken’s. “Well, at least it’s nice to meet you,” the GOPer said he told Franken, who reportedly replied, I can’t say the same.

Lest anyone think that Fritz just wants to spread lies about Franken, he has corroboration for his account. It comes from Pablo Kenney — who happens to be the president of the Carleton Democrats.
Franken has always been a bully. Temperamentally, he has some kind of deficiency that requires him to lash out at and ridicule people with whom he disagrees. He has a long record of this kind of behavior, including this heated confrontation with Laura Ingraham’s producer at the 2004 Republican National Convention, in which Franken’s handler had to drag him away before he got physically violent (pictures taken by Michael Brodkorb):

In this case, though, it seems especially egregious. Fritz just wanted to meet Franken, shake his hand, and had no intention to confront the supposed comedian. Instead of acting with some grace when confronted by the sight of a conservative at Carleton — admittedly a rare event — Franken found it amusing to pick on him in a setting where Franken figured he had the overwhelming advantage over the undergraduate in terms of numbers. It’s the same kind of mentality bullies use in middle-school locker rooms to humiliate their victims, and with him mocking Fritz’s nervous habits, similar tactics as well.
Al Franken. He came of age in Minnesota, but he didn’t grow up anywhere. (via SCSU Scholars)

Declining Into Dhimmitude

Let’s say that a public college started segregating non-restroom facilities by gender, giving women less resources than men. Add to that the dissemination of literature that instructed women to keep their mouths shut, as public speech by women offends. Top it off with diatribes that demands the shunning of Jews and Christians, and one might see the lawsuit appearing quickly in the rear-view mirror. However, in Minneapolis’ Normandale College, it’s just another concession to radical Muslims (via Power Line):

A row of chest-high barriers splits the room into sex-segregated sections. In the smaller, enclosed area for women sits a pile of shawls and head-coverings. Literature titled “Hijaab [covering] and Modesty” was prominently placed there, instructing women on proper Islamic behavior.
They should cover their faces and stay at home, it said, and their speech should not “be such that it is heard.”
“Enter into Islaam completely and accept all the rulings of Islaam,” the tract read in part. “It should not be that you accept what entertains your desires and leave what opposes your desires; this is from the manners of the Jews.”
“[T]he Jews and the Christians” are described as “the enemies of Allaah’s religion.” The document adds: “Remember that you will never succeed while you follow these people.”
A poster on the room’s door advertised a local lecture on “marriage from an Islamic perspective,” with “useful tips for marital harmony from the Prophet’s … life.” Other fliers invited students to join the Normandale Islamic Forum, or participate in Ramadan celebrations.
One thing was missing from the meditation room: evidence of any faith but Islam. No Bible, no crucifix, no Torah.

The previous meditation room got closed due to construction, and Normandale apparently decided that the only needs of its student body revolved around Islam. Ralph Anderson, dean of student affairs, declared to Katherine Kersten that the room can be used by anyone — anyone who wants to meditate among these rather inflexible demands. In fact, a female student got chased out of the room for refusing to take off her shoes and respecting the male-female dividing line erected by the Muslims, with the school’s apparent blessing.
How apparent? When Kersten asked Anderson about the incident, he declared that “both sides were probably out of line.” Huh? If Anderson insists that the room is open to everyone, why should it have any kind of gender restriction on its use? In fact, why does anyone need to remove shoes to enter? Those restrictions apply in a Muslim mosque, not an American public college facility outside of locker rooms and restrooms.
Returning to the literature in the room, Anderson says he’d remove it if he found it there. Amazingly, the school has heard of these allegations but doesn’t see the need to investigate them. Had someone passed around fliers denigrating Muslims as “enemies of the US”, the school would have had fits, and the national news media would have dutifully covered it as anti-Muslim hysteria. In this case, however, Anderson apparently lacks the testicular fortitude to enter into that room that’s “open to everyone” to see whether the allegations have any truth to them — probably because he knows he’ll have to do something about it if they do.
Muslims should have the use of the meditation room, but so should everyone else. Real multiculturalism means accommodation, not exclusion, and this room exemplifies the latter. Normandale should find an administrator who understands the difference and has the courage to stand up for all students at the college — and to stand up to one faction determined to impose its bigotry on everyone else.

No-Knock In Minneapolis

This could have ended very badly. Police conducted a raid on a house based on bad information and wound up getting shot by the owner, who could not speak English. Fortunately for everyone, no one got hurt, but once again the wisdom of no-knock raids will get challenged by the disaster that could have occurred (via Memeorandum):

Police blamed bad information for sending a SWAT team into a north Minneapolis house early Sunday morning in a raid that ended with shots exchanged between police — who were struck by bullets — and the resident, who said he was just defending his family.
The homeowner, who does not speak English, told his brother that he thought the police were the “bad guys” after they broke through the back door of the house, where he lives with his wife and six children. He fired and hit two police officers, who were not injured thanks to their bullet-proof vests and helmets, police said in a statement.
The Police Department’s SWAT team was trying to search the two-story house at 12:46 a.m. in the 1300 block of Logan Avenue N., as part of an investigation by the Violent Offender Task Force. But police said that they learned later that bad information led them to that house.
“It was found out that this particular address was not part of that long-term investigation,” police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia III told KSTP-TV on Sunday. He told KMSP-TV that it was a “bad situation.”

Police arrested Vang Khang for shooting the officers with two blasts from his shotgun. Afterwards, Minneapolis released him without charging him — and well they should have. As it turns out, Khang speaks no English; he and his family are Hmong refugees. All he knew was that people had broken into his house, and he attempted to defend his family, including six children.
It could have ended in someone’s death, as a no-knock raid did in Atlanta earlier this year. IN that case, an elderly woman attempted to defend herself against what she thought were violent intruders in a dangerous neighborhood. Instead, police — again entering without announcing themselves following bad tips from an informant — shot and killed her in the confusion. Khang managed to survive his experience with no-knock entries, but only just.
The Khang raid came at the end of a string of more successful operations against houses that served as weapons depots and safe havens for violent offenders. However, the use of the no-knock raid heightens some risks even while it might lower others, and it makes mistakes like the one at Khang’s house deadly affairs. Obviously the Minneapolis police did not do their homework before busting down the door of Vang Khang, and the SWAT raid on a law-abiding resident put everyone’s lives at risk for no good reason.
We need to have a conversation in every state and city about the wisdom of no-knock raids. In cases of national security and imminent violence, one might see room for such an approach, but otherwise police should announce themselves before entering private property. It seems to me that the Constitution takes that approach in the Fourth Amendment, and as Khang can attest, it does so for good reason. At least Khang is alive to attest to it.

Franken: I Have Iraq Surrounded

The Norm Coleman campaign takes Al Franken seriously, at least seriously enough to do their homework on the former comedian, author, and talk-radio host. If Franken wins the nomination from Michael Cerisi to challenge Coleman in the general election, he will not find Coleman unprepared. The campaign has already readied its first ad, and this one — on Franken’s attempts to triangulate on Iraq — will leave a big mark:

Here are the key parts of the transcript, all of which come from video or audio recordings of Franken over the past eighteen months:

“We have to start a withdrawal, I believe, and have a timeline.” (10/5/07)
“I’m not sure we should set a timetable myself. I may actually, oddly enough, agree with Bush here.” (6/16/06)
“I neither spoke out advocating the war or against the war.” (8/21/07)
“Well, first of all, I never spoke out in favor of this war.” (9/30/07)
“No one spoke out louder about this war than I did, and more consistently.” (9/30/07)
“We’ll cut funds is the bluntest instrument, where you are undercutting our troops in the field, no one is going to do that.” (11/29/06)
“I think you make the President cutoff funding for the troops.” (614/07)
“I’m not for cutting off funding for the troops, and neither is the President” (10/10/07)

These ads just write themselves. Norm Coleman hasn’t exactly been a rock on Iraq — he opposed the surge in the beginning — but he has supported the overall mission consistently. Franken hasn’t been at all consistent, despite his high profile in politics. He has mostly said whatever his audience wants to hear, and that obviously changes from venue to venue.
I suspect that the Democrats of Minnesota will see the dangers inherent in running Franken against Coleman. The comedian will wind up as the joke. Expect to see Cerisi get a lot more attention over the next few months.
Also, don’t miss this post at True North. (via Mitch)

Minnesota Official Lied About List

Mark Ritchie won election as Minnesota Secretary of State on a promise to “depoliticize” the office after beating the incumbent, Mary Kiffmeyer. Ritchie said that the Republican incumbent ran the office in “a partisan and unprofessional manner for the past eight years”. It therefore surprised Minnesotans when people who do business with Ritchie’s office began receiving e-mail soliciting donations for his political campaign shortly after his election. Ritchie denied giving the e-mail addresses to his campaign, but he has now changed his story:

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie now says that he personally gave his campaign a list of participants in a state-sponsored “civic engagement” program so it could send them a campaign newsletter that asked for a political contribution.
Ritchie, a DFLer, was elected on a platform of de-politicizing the office, which supervises elections. He has been under fire since two Republican activists who attended the office’s publicly funded event filed a complaint over having their e-mail addresses turned over to Ritchie’s political operation.
Previously, Ritchie had denied knowing how the campaign got the list. He now insists that it solicited contributions only to pay for the newsletter itself. But its text invites recipients to an upcoming campaign fundraiser. …
The Oct. 22 newsletter, however, invites recipients to an upcoming fundraiser and links to Ritchie’s campaign website for anyone wishing to donate to “help me cover my campaign related expenses for this year.”

Ritchie can’t spin his way out of this conundrum. Earlier, he insisted that he had no idea how his campaign got the list of e-mail addresses of those who do business with his office. Now he admits that he personally provided that list to the campaign. That goes beyond “my staff did this without my knowledge,” or any other bureaucratic nonsense.
In other words, Ritchie lied. Badly.
This isn’t any technicality, either. All political parties have to deal with the Secretary of State, and they need to know that their business will be conducted professionally. Ritchie’s little “newsletter” informed them that he’d be happy to help, and oh by the way, it would simply be peachy if you dropped a few dollars into the campaign fund. It looks a lot like corruption, if not a mild form of extortion.
This is the professionalism that Ritchie promised Minnesota? This is the non-partisanship that he said would be an improvement on Kiffmeyer? Mary Kiffmeyer never “asked” for political donations from people doing business with her office — and she didn’t tell lies to cover up wrongdoing, either. As I recall, she had no need.
The Minnesota state legislature should investigate its options with Ritchie. Perhaps the voters here could also look into their options. Could a recall election fulfill Ritchie’s promise and raise the level of honesty and professionalism in the office of Secretary of State?
UPDATE: Gary Gross has more on this story, as does my NARN colleague Michael Brodkorb.

You Know How Those Sioux Loved Hockey

I’m just running through the blogs before I head to the airport this morning, and my partner Mitch noticed something amiss at the University of Minnesota. The U recently adopted the policy that they would not allow their sports teams to compete against schools that used Native American references for team names or mascots, part of the political-correctness movement in Academia that continues to aim at the most pointless targets in the US. The U has followed dutifully along, to no one’s great surprise.
However, one has to wonder about the priorities of the administration when reading this:

A University of Minnesota policy discouraging the school’s athletic teams from competing against the University of North Dakota in any sport except hockey will stand.
The school’s Advisory Committee on Athletics said in February that it would reconsider the policy, which was prompted by UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname.
Committee chairman Douglas Hartmann now says that won’t happen.

The entire point of this ban was to discourage negative ethnic stereotypes. How does hockey earn an exemption for a team named the Fighting Sioux? Did the Native Americans play hockey in the centuries before Europeans swept across the continent? Has the U’s archeology school recently made a discovery that will shake the hockey world to the foundations of the ice rink?
Well, no. The U’s best sport these days, and the most popular locally, is the hockey team. It competes for the national title almost every year. Refusing to play UND would create a backlash among Gopher fans, as the rivalry between the two schools generate tremendous interest — and no small amount of cash.
At least we can see the limits of political correctness at the U of M. It isn’t bound by reason, but by cash.

‘One Strib Veteran’?

The Rake, a local alternative newspaper here in the Twin Cities, published an interesting cri de coeur from “one Strib veteran” about the direction of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The anonymous attribution wears thin in the first line of the quote:

As one Strib veteran tells the Mole, “The right-wing blog voices that were bashing the paper a couple of years ago, Hugh Hewitt and the rest, have gotten pretty much everything they wanted. The GOP wanted the Minnesota Poll gone, and now it’s gone. They wanted to get rid of people like [editorial board members] Jim Boyd and Susan Albright and their editorial policy, and they’ve succeeded at that. Now there won’t be editorials about the war and global warming; they’ll write about local issues like zoning conflicts in Coon Rapids instead. They wanted the paper to hire a conservative columnist, and they got that. From here on out, it looks like the Strib becomes the conservative, suburbs-oriented paper, and the Pioneer Press will become the paper of the city underdogs and the blue voters. They may wind up getting pushed more to the left.”

There’s only one “Strib veteran” who likes to blame all his woes on Hugh Hewitt and the local conservative buh-loggers. I won’t name names since he apparently lacks the testicular fortitude to speak for himself, but he used to have a local radio show in which he railed against people like Hugh and others for consistently outarguing him. He started suggesting that some of the buh-loggers were closet homosexuals, including me, which not only showed his homophobia but also his complete lack of journalistic ethics. That didn’t shut us up, but it gave us a few good laughs at his expense.
I also find it hilarious that this “Strib veteran” finds the inclusion of one conservative columnist at the Strib (Katherine Kersten) so powerful that it can completely change the nature of the entire newspaper. This “Strib veteran” apparently understands his complete intellectual failure over the years of his tenure at the newspaper, and that he cannot hope to compete with any alternate viewpoint. This veteran seems to quail at the thought that he may get challenged in his own paper and will have no response except sputtering, which is the only thing he’s ever done well.
For the record, the buh-loggers didn’t want the Strib to stop editorializing on national and international issues. We just wanted them to be intellectually honest about it. With Jim Boyd refusing to engage Power Line after they embarrassed him on the Strib’s own pages, that honesty was obviously not forthcoming. The Strib’s new owners apparently understood that, like this “Strib veteran”, they couldn’t argue their way out of a paper bag on those issues, and instructed them to refrain from embarrassing themselves any further.
The “Strib veteran” doesn’t want intellectual honesty, or a balanced perspective on the news. Unfortunately, that explains why the Strib has fewer “veterans” on its staff and fewer veteran subscribers. (via Hugh Hewitt)
UPDATE: My good NARN friend Chad the Elder explains what the Strib’s readership wanted, and still don’t get:

Personally, what I wanted was a local newspaper that delivered the relevant news in an objective manner, presented a broad range of views in the opinion pages, and showcased interesting material from talented writers. I also did not want my intelligence or values gratuitously insulted on a regular basis.
While some of the recent departures from the editorial board are likely to diminish the insult quotient and perhaps bring better balance to the opinion section, I haven’t seen anything that would lead me to believe the Strib is going to address the other areas of concern. And even though her title as “Reader’s Representative” seemed dubious at times, the fact that Kate Parry is moving into a new role and the Strib has no plans to replace her doesn’t inspire confidence that the paper is committed to putting out a quality product.

That the “Strib veteran” appears opposed to all of Chad’s reasonable expectations — and yet remains at the Strib — I think we can agree that Chad’s predictions are probably quite accurate. Well, except for the part about me wearing a dress…

Another Challenger To John Kline

The Democrats have come up with yet another challenger to John Kline for Minnesota’s Second Congressional District — my district. The Hill reports that an Iraq war veteran will file campaign paperwork to run against Kline in the general election as a Democrat, and that the former Watertown mayor sees himself as a vanguard in the effort to make Minnesota go completely blue:

Iraq war veteran and former Watertown Mayor Steve Sarvi just began his campaign against Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) on Thursday, but he’s already talking about not only his own victory in 13 months, but three others for the state’s Democrats as well.
“We’re talking about the whole state turning blue,” Sarvi said. “It’s going to be an exciting time.” …
Sarvi, who calls himself a fiscal conservative and social centrist, believes he can take a bite out of Kline’s base. He emphasizes that he’s not running as someone “angry about the Iraq war.” But he does think it’s time to pull the troops out and force Iraq to protect itself.
“Although it seems rather conservative, I think a lot of the people in this district are more of the small-i independent and are really looking for leadership and someone who’s going to actually work to get things done,” Sarvi said.

We wish Mayor Sarvi the best of luck, and acknowledge that the Democrats have gotten smarter than they were in 2006. They ran Coleen Rowley against Kline, a woman who had national name recognition for her whistleblowing over the Zacarias Moussaoui case. However, even though she was a former FBI agent, she turned into something of a kook once she began campaigning, chasing after Cindy Sheehan and coming close to endorsing the 9/11 Truther movement. Even in a year which favored Democrats, Kline beat Rowley like a drum, 56%-40%.
This time, Democrats have found someone without the kookiness quotient, or at least seemingly so. However, one has to wonder why MN-02 would give up its reliable representative for one who campaigns on the basis of being just as conservative but whose vote would increase the caucus of the Left. Kline has served his nation honorably, first in his career as a Marine Corps officer and afterwards as Representative for three terms. Kline has a sterling reputation, including one of the leaders in the fight against earmarks and corruption. Kline has one of only eleven perfect scores on the RePork Card from Club for Growth, meaning that he voted in favor of all 50 earmark reforms that made it to the House floor this year.
John Kline is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Given the efforts by House and Senate Democrats this year in watering down earmark reform and submarining it when possible, adding to their caucus will make matters worse, not better. Sarvi may be a better candidate than Rowley — who wouldn’t be? — but MN-02 knows a real independent and successful conservative already.

Should I Move To Minnetonka?

The answer to that question is usually Only if I win the Powerball lottery, but Jim Ramstad’s announced retirement after 18 years in the House leaves yet another tough election campaign for the Republicans in 2008. The 3rd District will likely need as many GOP voters as it can get, because it’s one of the remarkable minority of Congressional districts that remains competitive after decades of gerrymandering:

U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad announced today that he is retiring from Congress next year and will not seek a 10th term. Ramstad has represented the Third District, made up of the southern, western and northern suburbs of Minneapolis, since he was first elected in 1990.
After 17-years of commuting to Washington as a congressman, Ramstad said he’s “burned out” in an interview before his official announcement.
“My passion for serving people remains as strong as ever,” said the Minnesota Republican, one of the last of what he called a “dying breed” of House moderates.

Ramstad has served with distinction in the Minnesota delegation. Like many Minnesotan Republicans, Ramstad has a moderate voting record, which represents the western suburbs of the Twin Cities. He wants to pass legislation mandating health care coverage for mental illnesses and addictions from private insurers, a project he started with the late liberal Senator, Paul Wellstone. He remarked after the last election that a Democratic majority would be beneficial in getting the bill passed, which annoyed some in the Republican Party.
Whether the GOP can hold the seat depends in large part who will win the nomination. It will probably take a moderate to be competitive, although that’s not quite as cut-and-dried as the analysts will argue. Minnetonka has a bit of a conservative streak, and it has enough wealth to help float a candidate who can articulate a conservative vision. Democrats will rightly see this as a good opportunity to help hold off a Republican effort to win back the majority, and they will sink plenty of cash in MN-03 to ensure a victory.
Republicans will need to secure every vote they can get out of the Third District. Perhaps a few will move from John Kline’s solid MN-02 to those western suburbs. If anyone wants to donate their summer home for a good cause, the First Mate and I would have no problems moving to the lake. No, no problem at all ….