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New Ulm’s ‘Culture War’ Is Just Plain Old Bigotry

Plus Rock Bottom bottoms out, Scott Jensen wants to bankrupt Minnesota, and wolves are good neighbors in today's Flyover.

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Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily midday digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Let’s Retire the Phrase ‘Culture War’

Today in the Star Tribune, Reid Forgrave takes a close look at New Ulm, where gay kids who want to feel comfortable at school now have to deal with bigoted cranks who show up at school board meetings and rant about how rainbows are Marxist. After the high school’s varsity basketball team was involved in two homophobic incidents last winter, LGBTQ kids rallied, speaking out about the daily harassment they faced and forming a LGBTQ club. Now comes a new wave of reactionary school board candidates spluttering all the familiar nonsense propaganda about CRT and socialism and “gender identity,” as is happening in school boards across the country.

The most notable figure in the story is school board candidate Michael Thomhe, who believes schools “are teaching our children to think in Marxist terms of a class struggle between privileged classes and victim classes,” a very tell-me-you-never-read-Marx-without-telling-me you-never-read-Marx remark. Thomhe is also also obsessed with the possibility that “sexual and gender identity” is being taught to kindergarteners. (It is not.) In short, nothing he says is rooted in actuality. That’s why it’s unfortunate that the story frames the current situation as a “culture war,” which, as always, is an abstraction that pretends coherent value systems are duking it out, while glorifying soup-brained crackpots as warriors. When adults spread disinformation that will make children’s daily lives less safe, that’s no war—it’s just plain malicious harassment. And it sure ain’t culture, either.

Mediocre Downtown Bar Closes After Nearly Three Decades

Sometimes a business doesn’t need to be great to last for decades. In some cases, all it takes is to be adequate. Since opening in the ‘90s, downtown’s Rock Bottom Brewery has done just that. The chicken strips were fine, the nachos were OK, and the beer… well, like a lot of early-era brew pubs the beer was never good, but we didn’t know any better in the ‘90s. Now, nearly 30 years later, nationwide chain Rock Bottom has removed Minneapolis from its website. Their last Facebook post, made a mere two days ago, encourages folks to place orders online, but the link is now dead.

Somehow, the Star Tribune managed to find confirmation via the business’s website before the big wipe: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we cannot operate a restaurant/bar in our current resident building of 700 Hennepin Ave. To which, we have no alternative but to close. We understand the inconvenience to you and what this may cause and thank you for your patronage.” While folks in the comments section of that article are citing crime as the reason for its closure, we suspect the place had gone downhill during the pandemic. And, when you are mediocre, you cannot afford to do that. A few recent reviews from Trip Advisor and Yelp:

“Our food was excellent [and] our server was very attentive! Our only concern was the cleanliness of the place because they were gnats” –Sol B.

“It’s a dark and dingy bar atmosphere. Don’t look too close because you might gross yourself out. Doesn’t look like it’s been deep cleaned in a while” –Lana T.

“We waited for more than an hour for our food. We left without eating to get to the play across the street” –Janet S.

Jensen’s Tax Proposal: First, Do Harm

Today’s “I can’t believe we have to say this but I guess we do” story comes from the Minnesota Reformer, which looks at Scott Jensen’s hair-brained plan to eliminate the state income tax and discovers some of the unsurprising effects it would have. The plan would fork over truckloads of unneeded cash to the superrich, while the small savings you or I might see would be easily gobbled up by the need to increase other taxes. To balance out the $15.7 billion lost, we’d have to triple the state sales tax or increase property taxes by about 150%. Of course, that would not happen. We’d just have a much poorer and ineffective state. In other words, this is the latest plan from Republicans who preach that government is useless, then prove their point by stripping the government of any ability to be useful. Of course, we’ll always find some way to pay for cops, somehow. So, if you’re extremely wealthy and think the rest of us should just go get fucked, this is the tax plan you’ve been waiting for.

Wolf Packs are Good Neighbors, Stay Off Each Others’ Lawns

That’s what we’re taking away from this fascinating tracking map from the Voyageurs Wolf Project, which shows how six different packs make their way about their respective territories, rarely a venturing into another pack’s land. The map covers a 30-mile radius, and demonstrates just how meticulous these animals are in regards to maintaining their “wolf neighborhood.” As for the little lines going beyond the main traffic areas? “Those are typically referred to as ‘extra-territorial’ forays which are thought to be short ventures wolves make outside of their territories to assess resources, competition, etc,” Voyageur explains in the Twitter thread. Scouts!