The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editor's blog

November 30, 2012

Shooting intruders, busting filibuster, closer fiscal cliff

The news smorgasboard is open for business today with a menu of aggression in one form or another.

Buzz on The Free Press Facebook page rose to a fever pitch when we asked people what readers thought of the retired Little Falls man shooting two teenagers to death after they broke into his house.

Almost half agreed with the statement "A man's home is his castle and he should do whatever he has to do to protect it." Another 42 percent checked this statement "Hard to say. You should be able to defend your home, but shooting to kill? That's a little extreme."

A small percentage, 6 percent, agreed with "Heck no. Burglars just want property."

What's interesting and possibly overlooked: Morrison County sheriff had pretty strong words for the shooter saying charges of murder were justified and people should wait for all the facts to come out. You usually don't hear law enforcement saying things like that unless there is some pretty compelling additional evidence.

We do know the shooter, retired State Department security expert with top secret clearances, admitted to "finishing off" one of the teens after they'd been shot and that one was even gasping for air. Given no one else witnessed these details suggest the shooter is in some kind of different dimension. It's almost like he snapped.

Busting the filibuster

On the political front, we find Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell becoming extremely agitated about Major Leader Harry Reid's plan to implement tougher filibuster rules with just a majority vote allowed by Senate rules in January. Usually you need 67 votes.

McConnell was so teed off he apparently got his colleague Speaker John Boehner in the House to threaten any legislation coming from the Senate that squeezes out the minority.

The context that is missing from this news story is that both sides were talking about changing filibuster rules last year, and if McConnell's Republicans ever regained the majority, they would have the same advantage they say Reid is aiming for.

Some columnists have suggested McConnell is fighting these rules because he has little hope of regaining the majority anytime soon.

Our editorial from August this year makes the case for either party changing these rules. At a very minimum it seems, if we keep the filibuster rules the same, we should require people actually stand up and give speeches for hours and hours like they had to do in the old days.

That rule went away and nobody really seems to say why or how. Several columnists have argued that it went away because it would be extremely difficult for the minority, whichever party is was, to sustain that many members talking for 24 hours or however long it took to get the other side to compromise or at least consider their amendments.

It would be difficult because senators don't actually hang around the Senate much. They're off fundraising, speaking, traveling and most don't even stay in town for the whole week.

Filibustering should be hard. I appreciate the view of the minority, but at some point the amount of legislation stymied (it's at epic proportions now) outweighs the inconveniences of the minority actually conducting a real live, talking filibuster.

Fiscal cliff gets closer

From what I'm now reading about rancor between Obama and Republicans on negotiating taxes and spending for avoiding the fiscal cliff, it seems more likely we're headed there.

Why? I think some political leaders actually don't think the fiscal cliff will be that bad, at least initially for a few weeks or a month or two. Also, the House and Obama both claim a voter mandate because both were re-elected.

Remember, the average American only loses $50 a week, $30 after taxes. Some would hardly notice.

The only cracks I see are some Republicans seem to be urging Boehner to strike a deal because they don't want to vote against the 98 percent of middle class voters who would pay more taxes under the cliff, and are not terribly worried about the 2 percent of upper income folks being mad at them.

It's not like the 2 percent are going to vote for Democrats.

U.N. vote on Palestinian state

The most surprising news of the week was the U.N. vote on upgrading the standing of a Palestinian state. It maybe wasn't a surprise to Obama and Hilary Clinton, but it was to the average reader.

We are very much in the minority on this 138-9 vote. I'm not sure I've heard a good argument for us being on the wrong side of this, except if we voted for the upgraded status, we'd offend Israel.

The U.S. and Israel argue this vote hurts the peace process. I'm not buying that. It's a weak argument in my mind.


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