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9 posts from July 2011


My bRush with the Limbaugh clan

Images Here's another addendum to my July 23 column about the oppressive heat, especially in southeastern Missouri, this time of year...

To refresh your memory: I wrote in that column about enduring summers in Cape Girardeau, Mo., located along the Mississippi River about 100 miles south of St. Louis.

A reader who commented on that column wrote:

"So, Greg, did the legacy of a certain rotund pundit have anything to do with your decision to Rush out of the Cape?"

This is a not so obscure reference to one Rush Limbaugh III, who grew up in Cape Girardeau and got his first radio gig there. When I lived in Cape Girardeau, as a cub reporter in the early 1980s, Rush had moved away to the big city. Kansas City, to be exact. After dropping out of college to pursue a radio career, Rush worked for a short time as a promotions director for the Kansas City Royals.

Although I don't recall ever having been introduced to Rush, I'm relatively certain he was in Cape Girardeau from time to time while I was there. His parents were still there at the time as well as siblings and cousins.

In fact, the Limbaugh clan is one of the most established, respected families in Cape Girardeau. Rush Limbaugh Sr., Rush's grandfather, was a federal judge based in eastern Missouri for decades, retiring in 2008. And many of Rush Sr.'s children and grandchildren were or still are lawyers in the area. I covered cops and courts in Cape Girardeau, so I got to know Steve Limbaugh, who was the prosecuting attorney for Cape Girardeau County at the time. Although he was really young for a county attorney — he was 26 when he was elected — he was competent and effective, and a very nice guy. He later served as a district judge and as a Missouri Supreme Court Judge, before being appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2008. (Yes, the entire Limbaugh clan is Republican.)

Here's another note about Cape Girardeau that long-time Rochester residents might find interesting. For most of the past decade, up until last year, the Mayor of Cape Girardeau was a banker named Jay Knudtson. He was forced to step down as mayor because of term limit laws. Knudtson is a native of Rochester and a graduate of Mayo High School whose parents still live here. The last time I exchanged emails with him Knudtson was pondering a run for a seat in the Missouri Legislature. I'm hoping to write a column about him sometime soon.


Global warming comment draws the red-hot ire of a reader

In my July 23 column about life in the good old days when not all cars had air conditioning I included a throw-away line that included these apparently incendiary words: "global warming." Given the volatility of that topic I should have known it would have attracted the ire of at least one reader.

Here is what that one reader wrote:

Mr. Sellnow,
In reference to your statement, "But in the days before global warming you didn't really need air conditioning.", (3rd paragraph down, 1st sentence);  first ~ two questions for you...  Are you a Meteorological Historian or a Global Climate scientist?  Or does the fact that you made such a broad generalization unsubstantiated and out of thin air underscore that, 'no', you are not?
For the record, Brainerd's highest 'recorded' temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit in July of 1988, lowest on record was -54 in February of 1996.
Additionally, all-time recorded highs in the state of Minnesota are as follow:
Jan.  -   69 F, Montevideo, 1981
Feb.  -   73 F, Pleasant Mound, 1896
March  -   88 F, Montevideo, 1910
April  -   101 F, Hawley, 1980
May  -   112 F, Maple Plain, 1934
June  -   110 F, Canby, 1931
July  -   114 F, Beardsley/Moorhead, 1917/1936 respectively
Aug.  -   110 F, Beardsley/Montevideo, 1947/1988 respectively
Sept.  -   111 F, Beardsley, 1931
Oct.  -   98 F, Beardsley, 1963
Nov.  -   84 F, Winona, 1950
Dec.  -   74 F, Wheaton, 1939
Which brings me to my last questions...  On what, exactly, do you base your generalization, and what facts did you have to support it?  In light of the data above ~ of which over 71% of the dates are 1950 or earlier ~ just 'when', in your accredited professional opinion, did "Global Warming" begin to affect the temperatures in Minnesota?  Bear in mind two points:  1)  The dates above are only the recorded highs, and 2)  the initial referenced statement infers the pre-GW days were when you were young (basing this on the July high for relevance, unless you age miraculously well, my guess is that you were NOT born before 1917 - and possibly not before 1936).
Your article would have been much better had you kept political debris out of it, and more amusing if you would have gone the common-thread route, and instead referenced the 'age factor' again.
Just sayin'

No, I am not a climatologist, meteorologist or scientist, just a lowly journalist. I don't know what got into me. I'll try not to refer to (alleged) gw ever again in a column. I realize now that them's fightin' words for some folk. One important point, though. The column was primarily about my experience living in the heat and humidity of southeastern Missouri. So, I'm not sure why this reader included so much statistical weather data on Minnesota.

Hot enough for ya?



Lineup at Olmsted County Fair Grandstand leaves much to be desired

Regular readers of my column know that I'm a big fan of county fairs. I'm a 4-H alumnus, both as a member when I was a kid and as an adult leader when my children were growing up. When I was a teenager I virtually lived at my local county fair, and then at the State Fair. So, the Olmsted County Fair is something that I look forward to every year. 

I'll be in the livestock barns. I'll take a spin through the commercial exhibits. I might take in a horse show or two, or watch some local entertainment. I'll probably buy some cheese curds, or maybe a strawberry shake at the Dairy Association booth. I'll look at fish inside and outside the DNR Building. I'll take a spin through the midway. Since the fair is free again I might even make more than one trip out there this week.

But I'll tell you one place I won't be this year — the grandstand. Here's this year's grandstand lineup:

Monday: Demolition derby

Tuesday: Remote control cars

Wednesday: Demolition derby

Thursday: Motocross

Friday: Mud drags

Saturday: Truck and tractor pull

Sunday: Demolition derby.

My goodness. Could they have come up with a weaker lineup? I have no interest in hearing loud, roaring motors and breathing in clouds of smoke created by the incineration of oil and gasoline. I don't get excited watching old cars smack into one another. I can see one demolition derby, but three?!

Where are the concerts? Where's the rodeo? Where is anything that the average Olmsted County resident might be interested in.

Maybe I'm wrong, though. Maybe I'm one of only a tiny number of people who doesn't get all tingly watching competitions involving anything with a motor in it.

Please, fair board. I'm willing to pay. Just give me something worth watching.


Accepting nominations for the Ultimate Minnesota Potluck Recipe

Images-3 In my column for this coming Saturday I give props to Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa and Sen. John Howe of Red Wing for spearheading the "Church Lady Bill," which allows churches and sportsmen's organizations to hold potlucks and other feeds on their property without having to obtain a health permit from the state.

It's just good common-sense legislation, which takes effect on Aug. 1, that came about after a couple of women from a church in Zumbrota complained to their lawmakers after they were informed that their annual supper was illegal because they hadn't acquired the proper permit.

I got hungry for a good old-fashioned Minnesota potluck dish while writing the column, prompting me to make a call for nominations for the Ultimate Minnesota Potluck Recipe.  Send me your nominations, and I'll proclaim a winner in an upcoming column and blog item. It doesn't have to be hotdish, and it doesn't necessarily have to have wild rice or mushroom soup in it. Just make sure it's not too spicy (this is Minnesota, after all) and that it's a crowd pleaser.



Questions for Gov. Mark Dayton?

I'll be participating in a conference call with Gov. Mark Dayton involving editorial page editors at 2:30 p.m. today. Do you have questions you'd like me to ask? Let me know.

On another note, check out our Backtalk question and results on our website landing page. So far, 70 percent are calling Gov. Dayton the winner in the Great Budget Deal. Not sure if that's an accurate reflection of public sentiment, or not. Have you voted?



Kudos to lawmakers who aren't accepting pay during shutdown

On my way in to work this morning I was listening to a couple of lawmakers, a Republican and a DFLer, being interviewed on MPR by host Cathy Wurzer about the shutdown. Their responses were predictable. The DFLer defended Gov. Dayton and the Republican defended the position of the GOP leadership. The DFLer is not accepting pay during the shutdown, while the Republican lawmaker is. Her justification for continuing to accept pay while 22,000 state workers are not being paid is that "I haven't been furloughed. I'm working."

While it's true that lawmakers are still "working" during the shutdown, I'm guessing most of that work is answering emails and phone calls from angry constituents. It has little or nothing to do with hammering out a budget agreement.

In my view, it's just bad PR for lawmakers to be accepting pay right now. It doesn't look good to be accepting pay from state taxpayers when so many state workers have been forced to stay home from their jobs, through no fault of their own.

Kudos to the lawmakes from our area who have filed paperwork requesting that they not be paid during the shutdown. They are:

Sen. Carla Nelson

Sen. Dave Senjem

Rep. Kim Norton

Rep. Rich Murray

Rep. Steve Drazkowski



Gov. Dayton abandons his tax-the-wealthiest-Minnesotans proposal; your move GOP

DownloadedFile Gov. Mark Dayton stopped in for a meeting with our editorial board this afternoon, and he confirmed that he's dropped his insistence that the state budget be balanced in part with money generated by an increased income tax on Minnesota's top earners.

You'll read more about what Gov. Dayton had to say to us in tomorrow's print edition, along with an editorial. But here's a direct quote from the governor on the tax-the-wealthy issue: "Republicans are adamant that they won't support any tax increase, and they're most adamant that they won't support an income tax increase, and I can't force the Legislature to do something. It's a four-year term, and I still believe it's right for most Minnesotans, and it's fair for all Minnesotans. Just because I can't achieve it this legislative session, doesn't mean I don't think it's the best course of action."

He also told us that's "nothing's off the table" when it comes to budget negotiations. Instead of raising revenue with a higher tax on the state's highest earners, he' said he's willing to consider anything from an increase in the alcohol or tobacco taxes to a racino, even though he's cool to all of those things.

Having the wealthiest Minnesotans "pay their fair share of taxes," you might recall, was a huge part of the governor's campaign platform, so this seems to me to be a pretty strong attempt on his part to compromise.

I strongly criticized Dayton for not being willing to get off his "tax the wealthy" soapbox. Well, he's done just that. Now, it's time for the GOP leadership to get off their no new taxes — period — high horse.

It's the GOP leadership's turn for a counter proposal. Soon. Like, today. It's been two weeks since we've heard anything from them. Families and businesses are suffering. The governor has made his next big move. Your turn.


Minnesotans are mad and getting madder — who should they blame?

I had this delusional hope that while I was on vacation last week that Gov. Dayton and Republican leaders would get together and hammer out a compromise. Instead, I returned on Monday to the same old, same old. No compromise. No new meetings scheduled. No change in the entrenched positions of the two sides.

A few minutes before I started this post I got a call from a woman who wanted to know what she could do to move forward the idea that legislators should not be paid during the shutdown. "What can I do? Who can I call," she asked. "This is ridiculous. They aren't doing the job we elected them to do." I told her to start by calling or emailing her state senator and state representatives and the governor.

Both sides are taking a huge gamble right now. Gov. Dayton is gambling that public sentiment is on his side. The Republicans are gambling that Minnesotans have short memories and that by the time they're all up for election next year, we'll have forgotten the "inconvenience" of a shutdown and will congratulate them with our support for holding the line on taxes when it comes time to vote next November.

If you're as fed up, Minnesotans, as you've been telling me over the past two weeks, fire off some emails, and make some calls to the governor's office and to your local legislators. I assure you, they do pay attention to correspondence.

If there are any lawmakers out there reading this, here's an interesting thing to note. We've been getting a ton of letters to the editor and emails on the topic of the shutdown. The vast majority of them are not coming from the usual suspects. In other words, these are not hard core Republicans or Democrats who've taken the time to express their disgust. They're just plain folk who can't understand why the people with whom we've entrusted our government can't act like adults and do what's best for the state. I subscribe to the belief that 25 percent of voters are Democrats who wouldn't vote for a Republican if their lives depended on it; 25 percent are Republicans who wouldn't vote for a Democrat if their lives depended on it; the 50 percent in the middle swing elections one way or the other. And right now that 50 percent is downright angry with incumbent lawmakers and the governor.

There is a "throw the bums out" mentality that's building daily. Doesn't that mean anything to our state decision makers? Or is party dogma more important?


One final note on the legalization of airborne fireworks

I just finished an email exchange with a reader who wrote that he "couldn't believe" my "ignorance" in suggesting that fireworks laws be relaxed in Minnesota to include the sale of airborne pyrotechnics. The exchange, which I thought was civil, ended with the reader saying he was going to quit reading my column.

I guess the my-way-or-the-highway rhetoric that's poisoned politics these days has seeped into the marketplace of ideas as well. But then I received this email from another reader and it cheered me up. I'll let it be the final word on this issue.


I have never understood the reasoning behind sparklers and snakes. To me, that is the same as peanut butter and  jelly, you can enjoy them anytime. But we are celebrating our Freedom, so let the fireworks show. I think there are some limitations though, 
1) I think that you must be 18 to purchase rockets. At this age, you should have some common sense and some respect for others by now!
2) There should be a City wide rule though, no fireworks after 10pm. That is the city curfew, so be the same with the Fireworks.
3) Kids under 18 caught with Fireworks don't need to pay the fine, just soke the fireworks down with water, or confiscate entirely. 
4) Kids of any age, doing stupid things to cause injury or damage to others and or property, should get one heck of a fine. Learn respect.
I know this sounds kind of dumb, but let people enjoy the one time of the year to make some noise and celebrate our Independence!