NEWS DAY | Republican ACORN feeding frenzy / Trash talking in St. Paul / Data Planet / Solar St. John’s

© Xavier -

© Xavier -

How many Republicans can dance on the head of an ACORN? Republicans continue to obsess over ACORN, with a passionate commitment that once informed theological debate over the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin. Never mind the latest video footage, highlighted by Daily Kos,  “documenting that a shocking 63% of private sellers at gun shows tested were perfectly willing to sell to buyers who admitted up front that they probably couldn’t pass a background test.” MN Reps Michele Bachmann and John Kline and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly continue a pure and single-minded focus on ACORN.

Bachmann is now calling for appointment of a state inspector general to investigate ACORN contracts with Minnesota government — the best she can do, since there are no current contracts. In fact, reports AP, the last government contract with ACORN was for the grandiose amount of $7500 for foreclosure prevention work in 2008, and the grand total of Minnesota contracts with ACORN from 1996-2008 was $109,000 — not quite enough to pay minimum wage for a single half-time worker over that time period.

Bachmann also tweeted — twice — about a Washington Times story alleging that FEMA got a million dollars in fire prevention funds since the federal ban. Both the Washington Times and Bachmann are just plain wrong, report Politico and the Minnesota Independent, noting that the last payment under the FEMA contract came before the ban was imposed, and that the Bush Administration contracted with FEMA for fire prevention in poor communities in 2007.

Rep. John Kline has also demanded a “full airing” of all past and present connections between ACORN and any federal agency, according to MinnPost.

Fox’s Bill O’Reilly is demanding that Governor Pawlenty “look into possible fraudulent ACORN voter registrations as a factor in Sen. Al Franken’s narrow election victory over Norm Coleman.” MinnPost points out that there is absolutely no evidence to support his allegations.

It seems likely that the various (and duplicative) investigations into ACORN will cost more than the government contracts awarded to the organization. Back to Daily Kos:

Fake pimps. Fake “hos.” Fake “brothels.”

Real guns. Real crimes.

You tell me which one deserves time on the TeeVee, and a stampede to the floor of the House and Senate with new legislation in hand.

Trash talking gets ugly Debates over imposing city control of garbage hauling get heated and ugly in short order in cities with multiple trash haulers, such as St. Paul. But “open” trash hauling can get ugly, too, reports the Star Tribune:

Each week, at least five trucks rumble past to collect trash in their Fridley neighborhood. They show up as early as 6:40 a.m., waking the retirees.

Bill Simms, 67, doesn’t understand why his community needs so many haulers when people in next-door Columbia Heights get by with just one. And he’s furious he has to pay to fix streets worn down by all that tonnage. “I’m fed up,” Simms said.

Now an MPCA study finds that people in cities with multiple, competing garbage haulers pay more for their garbage collection, in addition to putting up with multiple garbage trucks rumbling down their alleys. Some St. Paul neighborhoods have organized to use a single hauler and enjoy less truck traffic and lower garbage rates. The St. Paul city council will take up the question, perhaps as soon as this month, and garbage haulers are already organizing to oppose any change in the system. Look for a major battle, despite the MPCA report’s findings that “St. Paul residents pay millions more than people in cities with organized garbage systems.”

Calling all information junkies The Pioneer Press has just relaunched Data Planet, and it’s looking good, despite a few techno-glitches in the search function. Data Planet offers info on crime, health care, real estate, business, education, public employee salaries, politics and elections, and “general interest.”

You can find the names of everyone booked into Hennepin or Ramsey County jail on a given date, or search for defendants by name. Hennepin County records are already publicly accessible online, but Ramsey County records are not, so Data Planet’s compilation is a real service.

You can check Minnesota school or nursing home report cards.

Money is always of interest: public employee salaries are public records, and they’re all available. You can also find out what MN executive makes the most money (Target’s Gregg Steinhafel last year, with a cool $13,453,024.)

Data Planet says the most popular baby names in Minnesota last year were Jacob and Emma.

Whether you are doing serious research, or looking for fun facts for Facebook posts, Data Planet is a great place to visit.

Solar power goes giant at St. John’s The state’s biggest-by-far solar farm will start pumping power during the shortest days of the year at St. John’s University in Collegeville, reports MPR. That’s a December launch for 1,820 solar panels in 35 rows on four acres of farmland, producing enough power for about 65 homes — or four percent of SJU’s total power needs. The purpose is educational and experimental as well as power-producing, with moving panels tracking the sun. According to a the manager of Westwood Renewables, an Eden-Prairie based design and engineering consulting firm, solar works more efficiently in cooler temperatures:

“So if you take this solar system and put it in New Mexico, on the same sunny day, it will actually produce more in Minnesota because of the cooler temperatures than it will on a hot day in New Mexico.”

That’s because electronics generally work better in cooler temperatures. Franzen and Monesterio said they hope the project will dispel myths about solar energy and prove that it’s viable in the state.

St. John’s University connects the solar installation to its theological commitments:

The Benedictine tradition at Saint John’s Abbey advocates a strong commitment to good stewardship of its resources. Incorporating solar energy to the campus’s energy sources is the first major step in the Abbey’s initiative to broaden and strengthen the monastic community’s commitment to green energy-and to education.

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