Leaked! A Rejected First Draft of the University of Minnesota's Subtle Anti-Union Email Campaign

You may be familiar with the fact that the graduate student workers at the University of Minnesota, myself included, are attempting to unionize (for like the 5th time or something). We recently filed union support cards from a majority of our bargaining unit with the University in a (futile) attempt to have the University recognize our union without going through the onerous and expensive election process.

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead the University of Minnesota, while being ostensibly “neutral” on the question of support for organized labor, is waging a subtle disinformation campaign.

Easier said than done! Being subtly anti-union while pretending to be neutral is actually quite tricky. It requires careful wording, a very particular posture, and lots of editing.

For example, through my sneaky contacts in the Department of Parking and Employee Condescension Services, I’ve managed to get my hands on an early draft (!) of an email sent out to all the graduate student workers on campus, attempting to dissuade them from supporting the union. Nobody else has this information, folks. It can only be found right here!

(The original email can be found here. The union's response to the misinformation is here.)

University of Minnesota Graduate Assistants:
On January 16, a bunch of ungrateful trouble makers who don’t know how good they have it University of Minnesota graduate assistants filed cards with the Bureau of Mediation Services beginning a process by which all current graduate assistants will decide whether or not to become members of the United Auto Workers of America who build cars, with their hands, in factories. Like, in factories. Cars. Big boxy unreliable cars! You may remember the city of Detroit? Those were burly men with mustaches who built cars in giant belching factories, which is about as far from the pleasant tunneled confines of this halcyon university as you can get. While we were asked to recognize the union without a vote which caused us to laugh so hard that milk came out our nose for a second, we support “the election process” the election process, which is required provided by law and allows all graduate assistants an opportunity to be arm twisted and frightened into freaking out about the idea of auto workers vote. It is important that each of you individually, without consulting any of your so-called friends, participate in this election because those who vote will determine the outcome for everyone in the group. You are free to vote against for or against union representation, especially if you regardless of whether or not you signed a card. However, if elected, all graduate assistants will become members of the United Auto Workers of America who make cars with their hands in giant factories in Detroit where there aren’t any jobs and the crime rate is super high and people die and its basically a ghetto which is what Minneapolis will become if you vote for the union, and all will be required to sell your soul pay union dues.

It is critical that you listen to your Gopher representative from University Relations and the official Director of Parking and Employee Compensation stay informed as we move through this process. The state's Bureau of Mediation Services will determine the list of eligible voters as well as the details of the election. We will tell you to vote against the union communicate this information to you as soon as it becomes available. We also will continue to update our online frequently asked questions as needed. If you have questions or concerns at any time during this process, please email ohr@umn.edu.
Thank you in advance for your participation in this stupid waste of time that is dragging down our important research activities and forcing us to hire expensive lawyers to destroy hopes and dreams instead of becoming the top 3 public research university in the world important election. Resistance is futile. Go Gophers!

Patti Dion

Director of Employee Relations and Condescension Compensation

PS: It's worth pointing out that the UAW represents more graduate student workers in the US than any other union, including grad workers at the Universities of Washington and California.



Signs of the Times #48

[Pole. Stadium Village, Minneapolis.]

[Window. University of Minnesota campus, Minneapolis.]

[Sidewalk. Location forgotten.]


[Mysterious dirt thing. University of Minnesota campus, Minneapolis.]


[Door. Downtown, Minneapolis.]


[Pole. Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

Closed for the day
Due to am Emergency!

[Door. Midtown, Minneapolis.]


[Plastic board. Midtown, Minneapolis.]

99¢ Wigs

[Window. Midtown, Minneapolis.]

... 90 days
imprisonment for theft
or tampering with
Signs of Safety Signs

[Metal gate thing. University Avenue, Minneapolis/St Paul border.]


Sidewalk Poem #19

[A Save the Met poem from the old stadium fight against the Metrodome, two or three stadium fights ago.]

Reading the Highland Villager #54

[The Villager stops cold winter drafts.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.] 

Total # of articles about sidewalks: 13
Total # of articles about sidewalks written by Jane McClure: 10

Headline: Riverfront land use plan flows swiftly toward final resolution
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The master plan for St Paul's riverfront, called "The Great River Passage" [for some reason?], is done and open to comment by the neighborhood groups. Includes quote from neighborhood people who'd like more time to peruse the plan. Includes some details of plan: "nature-based recreation" that include "public-private partnerships", and a development proposal for the [drop dead beautiful] abandoned red brick power plant. [The article uses the word "natural" or "nature" only three times! Remarkable restraint. -Ed.] Includes times/places for public meetings.


Headline: Size matters in early debate over state bonding bill; DFLers argue for a larger bill as way to create jobs and stimulate economy
Reporter: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: Report on bonding bill debate, w/ quote from [what seems like all of the] St Paul legislators about need for more investment.

Headline: City's first pitch to Legislature: a new downtown ballpark
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the proposed new Saints stadium in lowertown, emphasizing its inclusion in Governor Dayton’s bonding bill. Includes Saints’ version of the details of proposal: rendering, cost, “jobs” generated, and economic benefits (#10/yr in lowertown). Article also includes other St Paul city council priorities from their recent “legislative agenda”: legislative redistricting that might shrink St Paul’s seats, money for Como park, public television, the Watergate Marina, flood mitigation, and the children’s museum.

 Headline: Ramsey County sets its agenda for new legislative session.
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the similar agenda only at the county level. Specifics include: lane expansion and new interchanges along 694, money for industrial cleanup.

 Headline: District councils will share the pain of federal block grant cuts
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on how cuts of federal funding for cities will trickle down to the district councils.

 Headline: McDonald’s in Highland to be rebuilt
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on how the McDonald's on W 7th St is going to be razed and the rebuilt. [The new building will be “the exact same size” as the old one, with very similar drive thru and parking lot moat design. –Ed.] Includes details about the Planning Commission’s zoning committee, which wants better landscaping. Includes details such as existence of McDonalds’ USA executive “Roy Crouston”, who helps franchise owners design their buildings. Includes the following quote about Crouston: “He noted that most cities have requiremnts for minimum parking, not maximum.”  Includes drawing of site plan.

 Headline: Local residents seek amendments to plan for Griggs Street bike blvd
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the public hearing before the city council about the proposed bike boulevard on Griggs Street, which would have small roundabouts to calm traffic to create a bike boulevard. Article focuses on neighbor reactions and quote, people confused about why the boulevard is being built. [People including my dad and step-mom, who live a block from Griggs, and were among the testifiers opposed to the bike boulevard. Yes. Yes, they were. –Ed.] Example of a public comment: “I’m lucky if I see one bike go by each week … I can’t understand why this is being done.” Article includes some explanation from council members CM Stark and Brendmoen about usefulness of bike boulevards, and in the final paragraph, some costs figures including detail about federal funding stream. [NOTE: the proposal passed after they removed only one of the roundabouts, the one on Dayton, because of pressure from CM Carter. The roundabout next to my parents house IS going to be built. They won’t mind. –Ed.]

Headline: Nothing more than window dressing
Reporter: Michael Mischke

Short short version: Editorial about recent new city sign ordinance claiming that it won’t really have any effects because 1) there are so many “special sign districts”, 2) the inspectors won’t enforce the rules because they don’t like or are too busy, and 3) the existing signs are grandfathered in, which has let to an avalanche of signage being placed in windows before the new rules take effect. [Actually, I find myself, for the first time, agreeing with Mr. Mischke. –Ed.]

 Headline: SHA, law firm appeal parking variance for Cupcake on Grand
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the long long saga of the Cupcake cupcake store and [delicious] bakery [which is trying to open a new store in a old failed clothing boutique on Grand Avenue]. The local district council is pissed about the parking variance [which allowed the bakery NOT to build seven new parking spots off the street]. The board of zoning appeals (BZA) recently granted the bakery a variance.

Headline: Emily Program drops plans to run eating program in old Bush Home
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the end of an attempt to re-use an old children’s home building for a eating disorder clinic. The Article includes quote from the clinic and the developer about too many restrictions, points to the role of the St Paul planning Commission, which wanted “conditions” on their “non-conforming” use limiting the number of beds and kinds of activites that could occur in the building. Includes quotes from SPPC  folks saying that neighbors should not have to negotiate with a non-conforming [its in an area zoned residential] institution.

Headline: Mpls. To reopen Howe School in 2013; Growign district will spend $45 million to refurbish 3 buildlings
Reporter: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: Article on the elementary school at 37th Street and 43rd Avenue, which will be remodeled. Includes photo of the school from 1927.

Headline: Discussions continue over plans for Pizza Luce parking
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Update on the debate over the construction of more parking spaces for the Selby Avenue Pizza Luce, focusing on a recent district council committee meting and public hearing. (There will be another meting Tuesday 1/31 at 6:00 at the western district police station.) The issue is headed to the city council, and involves the setback rules for building parking lots. Article includes a quizzical quote from the local neighborhood group leader, who doesn’t understand why the construction of off-street parking is seen as a bad thing. [It’s like the exact opposite story from the earlier Cupcake article. It seems like you’re parked if you do, and you’re parked if you don’t. It seems like you’re up a dead-end alley without a spot to turnaround. It seems like you’re out of the on-street frying pan, and into the off-street fire. –Ed.]

Headline: Catering company seeks to open in Casa Vieja spot on W. 7th; Renovation plans include offering music, bar and restaurant on main floor
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: A caterer called “complete beverage service” is trying to open a new bar / club in at a spot on West 7th Street [that used to house what I can only assume was a Mexican restaurant?]. The district council is OK with it. The name of the restaurant “has not yet been announced.” [I hope
its a better name than "complete beverage service." -Ed.]


For your consideration: The LOL Horn

[A "conversation" in Beirut.]

I was out at the Bryant Lake Bowl last night, talking about transportation and society with some friends (as per usual). What we ended up discussing was the way that cars force you to interact with each other. My friend was saying how completely normal people, who are very nice and non-rude and genteel and civil, can turn into absolute solipsistic maniacs when they get behind the wheel of the car. (I’m not going to name any names, Andy, so your secret driver identity is safe with me.)

The point my friend was making was that the ‘honk’ of the horn has almost ZERO syntactical content. It's almost entirely meaningless, and only conveys something like danger/urgency. It’s a blaring nasal mechanical bleat, and other than giving someone the finger or yelling noiselessly in your isolated cockpit, its the only form of communication you have. The honk of a horn can mean anything from “Fuck you!” to “Please speed up” to “The light is green, please proceed at the next available opportunity" to "You just cut me off, and you better be late for a wedding or something" to “Hey, you’re an attractive female!”

Being in a car, at least if you’re not dangerously talking on your cell phone, means that you are reduced to the most duck-like form of communication possible, to a single solitary noise that could mean almost anything positive and negative. When you stop to think about it, a bunch of people stuck on a freeway is perhaps the lowest possible common denominator for our society, at least in terms of interactive communication.

But then someone asked, what if you could replace the ‘honking of the horn’ with something like an emoticon? What if, instead of your horn saying ‘beeeeeep’, it could say “LOL" or  "OMG!”

Close your eyes for a second and imagine a freeway full of cars stuck in traffic, only instead of leaning on their horns, the cars were going “LOL” to each other! OMG, that might be great.

Update: Actually, no, it would still be dumb.


Signs of the Times #47


[Fence. Cathedral Hill, St Paul.]

Will Be Towed

[Sandwich board. Cathedral Hill, St Paul.]


[Lakeshore. Near New Hope.]


[Wooden board on steps. University of Minnesota campus, Minneapolis.] 


[Fence. "Nicollet Avenue", Minneapolis.]


[Pole. North End, St Paul.]


Reward! Call

[Post. Como Park, St Paul.]


[Board on stack of tires. Warehouse District, Minneapolis.]

 *Attention: lovely & loyal

Mapps will be closed from
 Friday December 23rd - Sunday Jan 1st


[Door. Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.]


[Above the sidewalk. Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.]


Classic Sideawlks of the Silver Screen #56

The kids play the whistling game where you bet on bumping the lamppost...

... in Jaques Tati's (1958) classic, Mon Oncle.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #55

Increasingly fewer kids get some exercise on the sidewalks of Paris ...

... in Truffaut's (1959) classic Les quatre cents coups.


Sidewalk Mailbox #4: If You Shovel It, They Will Come?

[Walking to school on the "sidewalk", or mountain climbing?]
All too occasionally on this insignificant sidewalk blog, I receive letters from  readers with questions about important matters of the day, issues that range the entire gamut all the way from sidewalk history, to sidewalk graffiti, to types of sidewalk materials!

Needless to say, I find these queries tremendously exciting. Feedback of any kind always makes me giddy.

At the same time, I’m inevitably disappointed with my responses to these kinds of questions, for the simple reason that, to tell the truth, I don’t know very much about sidewalks! Sure, I can blather on about the joys of walking or random curiosities, and thanks to my very expensive education, I can use words with many syllables. But I know next to nothing about actual sidewalks. You might say, I lack concrete knowledge.

That said, I got a letter the other day from a frustrated citizen of a second-ring Twin Cities’ suburb [Hint: it’s in Ramsey County] who expressed frustration about the lack of shoveled sidewalks in his neighborhood.

Here’s a version what the reader wrote to his local civic code enforcer, with all nouns removed to protect the innocent: [Extra fun game: insert your local nouns and create a Madlibs sidewalk complaint!]

I am very concerned about the lack of snow removal on the part of property owners along [street name], specifically between [street name] and [name of local elementary school]. [Name of city] removes "significant snowfall" along this corridor which we greatly appreciate. It's the nuisance snow which property owners neglect to clear in a timely manner. This snow becomes compacted and glazed over with ice becoming extremely treacherous. In my opinion they are in violation of [number of city code].
My wife has walked our kids to school over the past few days and there are sections of glare ice where they had to walk like "penguins" for lack of a better description. This section is heavily used by the [name of elementary school] walk line as well.

I'm not one to nit-pick, but when this happens time and again it's ridiculous. A majority of home owners do their part which we're very grateful for, but it's the following owners which create problems time and again.

In response, the code enforcer wrote that “citizens are not required to remove snow from the sidewalk” and that “we recommend it, but its not required.” Needless to say, this didn’t please my correspondent!

Even on the best of Twin Cities’ sidewalks, winter maintenance is no easy task. For people with mobility issues – especially the young, the elderly, and the disabled – getting around in the wintertime can be a huge challenge!

[A person in a wheelchair choosing to go the wrong way on the street instead of onto the sidewalk in Minneapolis' SE Como neighborhood.]

But the issue is compounded many times over in the suburbs, which often lack sidewalks altogether. Or if they do have them, they’re almost completely pointless because they lack accessible, nearby destinations. We have an almost impossible task ahead of us lot of work to do if we want to make our suburban neighborhoods walkable, but it would seem to me that requiring snow shoveling could be some “low hanging fruit.” (As added benefits, people would get much needed exercise, boost the snow shovel supplying parts our economy, and maybe even meet their neighbors over a good round of kvetching.)

All this is to say that I turn to you, brave readers. What, if any, are the rules for shoveling sidewalks in the suburbs? Does anyone enforce them? Would it matter if they did? Is there any hope for the wintry suburban pedestrian?

Maybe the only solutions are to either learn to enjoy walking like a penguin, or else to move to Minneapolis, where they only recently enacted a new sidewalk snow shoveling law with teeth.


Sidewalk Poem #18

Benediction for the Savior of Orlando

Signs and wonders: Jesus Is Lord Over Greater Orlando
snake-tagged in cadmium on a vine-grown cyclone
fence along I-4 southbound north of downtown
is a credo that subverts the conventional wisdom
that Walt Disney is the messiah and his minions the christened
stewards of this place, that the Kingdom to Come shall be Mickey's,
that the bread of our communion will be proffered by A.T.M.
and the wine quaffed without taint of sulfites
or trademark infringement, all of which is certainly true
and yet too pat, too much like shooting mice in a barrel
when there are nastier vermin to contest
and purgatories far worse than Disney's realm of immortal
simulacra suckled at the breast of Lake Buena Vista.
There is, for one, Orlando itself,
Orlando rightly considered, Orlando qua Orlando.
Nobody, anywhere, could honestly propose Orlando
as a fit model for human habitation,
city with the character of a turnpike restroom,
city with the soul of a fast-food establishment,
sanitized and corporatized, homogenous and formulaic.
Orlando is the holy land of the branded and franchised,
Orlando is the Jerusalem of commodified delight,
Orlando, Orlando, so many Orlandos
I commence to feel downright Shakespearean,
but here is no Rosalind to dignify our tale,
no Touchstone to transform its tragedy to farce,
because Orlando is the Florida I fear to conceive,
Florida ordained like the ante-chamber to that afterworld
where jackal-headed Anubis prepares his embalmer's instruments
to pump our veins with tincture of liquid sunshine
until we are reduced to somnambulant acquiescence,
a citizenry mummified within the cambric of material satiety,
within the gated stucco walls of economic segregation
and the hairy stucco arms of Armed Response security,
a people determined to rev our outboards and troll for bass
in the shadow of the form-glass temples to corporate profit
while the fill ponds grow heavy with duckweed and algae
and the golf courses burn with viridian fire
through seasons of rain and seasons of drought
and the metropolis spreads ever outward the bland picnic blankets
of its asphalt dominion, landscape drained of spontaneity and glee,
bones boiled free of communal gristle—is it any wonder
the children of this America rise up with guns
to wreak a senseless vengeance,
the very children that might have saved us,
the ones we had relied on to assemble in fellowship
and attend to councils of greater wisdom
than those to which we have given credence?
Perhaps the children were absent from school
the day these lessons were offered or perhaps
the lessons have been censored from the curriculum
or there was no curriculum or the schools
had been demolished to make room for the future,
a serial cataclysm of vinyl and asphalt,
a republic of bananas and Banana Republics,
where cars are the chosen and credit cards the elect,
where Judge Judy balances the Scales of Justice
and the anthem of our freedom is sung by Chuck E. Cheese.
Here I may testify with absolute conviction:
Chuck E. Cheese is the monstrous embodiment of a nightmare,
the bewhiskered Mephistopheles of ring toss,
the diabolical vampire of our transcendent ideals.
Every Chuck E. Cheese's erected across the mall-lands of America
is another nail in the coffin of human aspiration
and every hour spent in one takes six months off your life.
No, no, no, it's not a theme restaurant or family amusement center
but a vision of infernal despair enjoined in plastic flames,
the clownish horror of the place is unspeakable,
yet I feel that I must speak of it, for I have been
to the birthday party of Emily, turning five,
the birthday party of Max, turning eight or nine,
of Max again, of David and Doris, of Myrna and Roberto,
I can bear witness to its odors of chocolate milk and floor cleanser,
the Formica falsity of its processed cheesefood pseudo-pizza,
its banquet tables arrayed with pitchers of lurid orange soda
and the kids in the arcade room playing air hockey
and whack-a-mole and teaching one another to cheat at skiball
to win a screel of coupons to redeem for tiny, chintzy prizes,
the worst sorts of craftily packaged trash—
stringless army parachute guys, malformed monster finger puppets,
Chinese yo-yos that self-destruct at the flip of a wrist—
a rainbow-colored peepshow designed to entice the youngest among us
to invest their lives in a cycle of competitive consumption
and then the animatronic hoedown commences its banjo jangle,
the hairy rodent orchestra chirring their cymbals on stage
as the gray rat-man emerges from his curtain redolent of mildew,
the incubus, the secret sharer, Chuck E. Cheese himself,
and the baby children scream in dismay and the larger children
gag with disinterest and the parents pay no attention at all
while employees with the fear- and candy-glazed eyeballs
of medium-security inmates stutter their pre-scripted remarks
over a public address system in whose interstitial silences
one may discern the voices of the lost upraised in prayer.

We're having a great day at Chuck E. Cheese—
            Hear us, help us, grant us benison,

Pick up your food at the counter PJ—

            Comfort and guide us, lead us to salvation,

Everyone loves family fun at Chuck E.—
            Bestow the mercies of your blessing

Cheese for your safety wear shoes at all times—
            Upon our souls, we beseech Thee,

Last call for pickup PJ last call—
            Lord of our fathers, almighty God.

[Epcot Center looking like heaven.]

Al Franken is Kinda Almost Entirely Wrong on the Stillwater Bridge

[This is the "ruined view" that Franken claims is the reason why this smaller bridge proposal  makes no sense.]

I've been thinking for some time about the 'non-partisan' politics of development. No matter what party you belong to, everyone seems to agree that classic 20th century suburban growth economics is a good thing. Big deal (freeway) transportation projects provide jobs by putting people to work while simultaneously feeding the real estate growth machine that connects to global finance capital.  Lots of political interests, on both sides of the aisle, can get behind that!

In particular, the Stillwater Bridge issue is a great example of how local political growth machines combine with union interests, development schemes, and frustration over traffic congestion to make a bad idea seem like common sense. It's crazy that an expensive, misguided, environmentally-damaging bridge to nowhere that will only encourage bad long-term investment decisions is one of the few (the only?) issues that both sides of our statewide political schism can agree about. Why is sprawl development bridging the canyonesque gap between Michele Bachmann and Al Franken? 

Well, Franken appeared on MPR the other day, and the topic of the Stillwater Bridge came up. I'll allow him to explain himself:
[Comment from “Bruce on Facebook." Bruce is someone who is annoyed about the bridge not being built yet. He says “as a Democrat I can’t believe I’m coming down on the side where I agree w/ Michele Bachmann and not with Betty McCollum. Can you explain that to me?"]

Senator Franken: This isn’t really a partisan issue I don’t think. I did… I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to this project until Governor Dayton met with Michelle on the bridge and said, let’s do this. And then Amy also agreed what we should do it.

And so... I just... I know that Vice President Mondale had been against it because he’d been author of the wild and scenic rivers act, and he felt that this might open the door to violating that act because the parks service has said that this bridge would violate that.

Now there is a provision written in it where congress can instruct the secretary, in this case the sec of the interior under whose jurisdiction this bridge is because in this case it’s the parks service that runs it the area, can instruct the secretary of transportation to say ‘we’re going to build a bridge’. That’s written into the law, so its not going to be open season on this law.

I studied this very intensely, and I came to the conclusion that the footprint of the bridge that is the preferred option by the community groups that met on this, that studying this, is probably the best footprint. It goes right past the enormous NSP, or Excel, smokestack. So it doesn’t, I don’t believe, ruin the wild and scenic nature of this.

I tried to explore with MN-DOT other alternatives, the "lower and slower bridge," as sometimes the nomenclature is, and there really wasn’t a there there. There was a bridge, a "three architects bridge" that the Sierra Club put forward that hadn’t been really considered by MNDOT. I pressed on them to do that, and they … there were a couple things wrong with it, one was that it completely obstructed the view of the bluffs for anybody in Stillwater, which if you’re ruining the wild and scenic nature of the thing, that really did it for Stillwater.

And secondly, it causes as much environmental damage, and needed as much mitigation, and essentially costs the same. And we’ve been dealing with this for about 30 years, and the longer we put this off, the more any bridge that we do is gonna cost. The bridge that is there now is 80 years old, and there’s backup of traffic. It’s a lift bridge, so when a boat comes under it they have to lift that bridge and stop traffic. And its 80 years old, and we can’t go with that.

It’s also a historical preservation bridge, so we can’t tear it up. so we’ve been… I’ve made the point that this is the exception that hopefully will prove the rule. I don’t think this will put the wild and scenic rivers act under… in open season on it.

Gary Eichten: Will the bridge actually be built in our lifetime? A bridge? Any bridge?

Senator Franken:  Yes, well, we’ve been trying to get it on…we tried to get it on the last omnibus package. I don’t want to… Boy, you talk omnibus package you sound like you’re really into the weeds in nomenclature of the congress, but we couldn’t get it in. But we did pass through, actually it's my committee, the energy and natural resources committee. We passed the authorization for the bridge. And the senate has passed it, I believe. Anyway we’re trying to get it into this bill and we couldn’t do it.

I actually talked to Michele on this. You know, about a month ago, while we were trying to get it into the omnibus package. And leader reed asked me to ask Michele about Speaker Boehner about it, and actually Michele and I had a great conversation. And it was a good three weeks before the Iowa caucuses, and she said, "you know what, this process, this is a good process. Whoever’s gonna be president has to go through this."
And so as much as I have problems with Michelle’s politics and her stance on certain things, I will say that her attitude to the whole caucus thing was pretty commendable.
A lot of other stuff she said, I didn’t… I disagree with.

Gary Eichten: So is that yes or no on whether or not a bridge will be built while we’re still alive?

Senator Franken: Uhh, yes. Well, that depends. You’re pretty old.

Gary Eichten: [Laughs geriatrically]

There's lots that's a bit off here, including a underestimation of the damaging environmental precedent. And that, except to talk about "the view," Franken doesn't really explain himself when he claims that the alternative "lower and slower" bridge concepts are flawed.
It's only hearsay, but I've heard from people who've talked with folks at MN-DOT who have admitted that there is in fact a "there there" when it comes to bridge alternatives for the Stillwater Bridge. In fact, as Chuck has pointed out repeatedly, the Stillwater Bridge is an "old economy project that won't die." It's based on assumptions about suburban growth that are ridiculously out of date, and meanwhile, the current traffic across the bridge is incredibly low for a project that would be the costliest bridge in state history.

Meanwhile, it represents a serious mis-allocation of resources. In an era of budget cuts at every level, we need to focus on maintaining existing infrastructure, not building more of it (for its own sake).  The current bridge proposal would connect a distant suburban small town with a bunch of Wisconsin farm fields for the cost of $700M. The MN-DOT bridge project as planned would inevitably lead to a tremendous amount of exurban development in the wrong places, in distant Wisconsin. It's an idea that only makes sense if you believe that $2 gas is right around the corner.

Al Franken should know that that's isn't going to happen. He's devoted his life to satirizing political folly. If he can't see this project for the bad idea that it is, nobody can.

[Ex-candidate Bachmann promising $2 gas, streets paved with gold.]

Update: This just in. The Senate has officially passed the bill. Via MPR:

The bill, sponsored by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, passed the Senate with no debate under a procedure known as unanimous consent that is used for legislation considered uncontroversial.

The legislation grants an exemption to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that protects the St. Croix. The bill authorizes a four-lane replacement bridge south of Stillwater near the town of Oak Park Heights.


One of the possible holdups in the House is the opposition of DFL Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, who argue the cost of the project is excessive and say a smaller bridge would suffice.

"We need to find a common sense compromise because a $700 million bridge across the St. Croix River is bad fiscal policy, bad transportation policy, and bad environmental policy," said McCollum in a written statement.

 I'd say that the chances of this bridge not getting built are about the same as a huge taxpayer-funded Vikings stadium not getting built. In other words, they are exceedingly slender.


*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Cold

This has specific consequences, especially for the modes of movement and the phenomena accompanying them: humans who always move along walls, walk as continuously as possible, never sit down, and prop themselves up with their arms and lean against a wall when they stop, completely shifting their weight to the tip of an elbow or propping themselves up with one food on the curb. In the worst case, if they move too slowly or stop in the middle of the street, they fall face forward or have to be helped up or pushed along.

[Billy goats preparing to cross the Medicine Lake Art Shantys.]


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Yet while they all seem compelled to mention the helment, not one of them so much as bothered to point out whether or not Hackman was wearing a sun hat--as a fair-skinned octogenarian, the actor is at high risk for skin cancer, and going out without adequate protection from the harsh Florida sun would technically be far more foolhardy behavior.

[Fm. BSNY.]

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Every afternoon he would emerge from his rented room at the Ace Hotel over on the east side by the railroad yard, and he and Friedrich Engels, another Ace resident and local curiosity, would stumble around  the sidewalks of downtown engaged in heated conversation that often resulted in minor dust-ups and spitting matches. Kids used to regularly throw rocks at them.

[Fm. Zellar.]

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