News Day: Unemployment up, crime down / Tea bagging / Wild and wacky Wisconsin / more

It’s Friday, almost 10 a.m., and I’m still plowing through news items. Though there is really serious news, including tax policy analysis, today’s crop includes massive silliness — tea baggers, more Michelle, and silliness from Wisconsin. Enjoy!

When unemployment rises, crime … falls? That’s what Minneapolis numbers show, according to the U of M’s Smart Politics blog.

Minneapolis’ non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate hit 7.1 percent in February – its highest rate in decades. However, even though jobless claims are up 77.5 percent from a year ago (4.0 percent in February 2008), the index crime rate is down 13.5 percent over the same period.

The numbers are no aberration, says Smart Politics, tracing the trend back for more than a year and finding a steady decline in crime rates (comparing each month to the same month of the preceding year.) Crime rates “tend to rise during the spring and summer, and drop during the late fall and winter.” I can’t count the number of pundits and police chiefs who have stated confidently that crime increases during recessions, but Smart Politics has the numbers to say this is just another myth.

Michelle knows more She told us about Bush administration plans to divide Iraq into three separate countries. She told us about un-American Congress members. And now the the Star Tribune has given her op/ed space to tell us that “According to an analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the average American household could expect its yearly energy bill to increase by $3,128 per year.” Just one problem with this canard, circulating in GOP circles for a while now — according to the MIT professor, that is absolutely not what he said. TPM observes:

Perhaps we should applaud Bachmann, though. After all, this phony statistic has circulated throughout the Republican ranks for quite some time. And using a fake statistic as a standard talking point isn’t too bad compared to Bachmann’s other pronouncements about the dangers of re-education camps and replacing the dollar, or the people becoming slaves, or how the country is at the point of revolution. Really, this is one of her tamer moments.

Taxes, taxes, taxes Over at Politics in Minnesota, Steve Perry writes that sin taxes (cigs and booze), sales and property tax increases levied by counties (and thus not new state taxes), changes in the mortgage deduction to eliminate McMansions, and a new, top tax bracket are among the likely changes. None of them would make up enough to close the budget gap, so income tax surcharges and extending the sales tax to clothing are also likely changes. Perry explains the biggest revenue-generator, the fourth tax bracket:

For the record, it’s currently estimated that a 9 percent top bracket kicking in at $400,000 per household–akin to the House’s 2007 approach–would produce $309 million in revenue for the upcoming biennium. A new 9.7 percent bracket for household incomes exceeding $250,000–a la the 2007 Senate DFL plan–would generate about $643 million. But the House is likely to set its income threshold lower this time around; yesterday at a press conference, Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Minneapolis) mentioned the $250,000-$300,000 range as a possible starting point for upper-bracket increases. If they were to go 9 percent on incomes over $250,000, the added revenue would come to a little less than $600 million.

And then there’s the big question (or two): Which of these changes would T-Paw veto, and would the DFL stand up to him?

Women in Afghanistan At MinnPost, Sharon Schmickle reflects on her 2004 visit to Afghanistan and on the plight of women there, especially after recent passage of repressive legislation directed at Shiite women. Schmickle notes that “worldwide anger over the law is not helping Obama’s efforts to bolster support from other countries for his stepped up mission in Afghanistan” and says that “the challenge for Obama — and, presumably, for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — will be to convince the West that prospects for the women are even worse if everyone pulls out of Afghanistan.”

Tea baggers sponsored by Fox News Who is the major media outlet sponsoring an anti-government protest? Don’t bother thinking too hard — Fox News is the answer, and they don’t like thinking anyway. Yes, Fox News is officially sponsoring the anti-government tea bag protest on April 15 — the “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties,” according to the media giant. Not only are they sponsoring the parties, but some enthusiasts are determined that no other media should even be allowed to cover the events, , intimidating and chasing away reporters from WKRC-TV, the CBS affiliate at an event in Cincinnati.

Tea Party websites offer stirring slogans, including:

• Andrew Jackson was Right: No to Bank Nationalization
• April is the month when the green returns to the lawn, the trees and the IRS.
• Bailouts + Debt = fiscal child abuse
• I would rather live under a bridge than live under socialism

While the tea-baggers are well-organized and well-funded, they are also paranoid, reports the Daily Kos, offering one of their memos as evidence:

TEA PARTY CAUTION! DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING – FROM ANYONE – AT ANY TEA PARTY ANYWHERE IN THE USA —- NO EXCEPTIONS!Federally-funded ACORN operators will be at all Tea Parties to get signatures which they will give to Obama stating that the signatures are in support of his policies or to get the names of people who oppose his policies and report dissention.

NO MATTER WHAT, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING! IF YOU HAVE FRIENDS WHO PLAN TO ATTEND, WHO DO NOT HAVE EMAIL, GET ON THE PHONE TO WARN THEM. TRY TO CALL OR EMAIL RADIO TALK SHOWS AND LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG.

PASS IT ON!

MnIndy notes that “tea-bagging” has another meaning probably not intended by the organizers, and offers a hilarious, if R-rated, video to illustrate.

Other headlines Terrorism charges against RNC 8 dismissed — meaning the MN Patriot Act will not be used to increase potential sentences. Conspiracy charges remain. / The Strib reports that “Liberian officials removed 35 children from a Minnesota-run nonprofit as part of an ongoing inquiry into child trafficking.” / Grow your own … Backyard Harvest in Minneapolis.

The worm turns Watch out — Conficker is reportedly on the move again, with more than 12 million computers estimated to be infected. According to AP, “Security firm Trend Micro says some of the machines have been updated over the past few days with fake antivirus software — the first attempt by Conficker’s authors to profit from their massive ‘botnet.'”

MN Job Watch 3M is offering early retirement packages in an attempt to cut payroll. Hennepin County is considering requiring three days of unpaid leave for all employees to meet the latest state budget cuts.

Wild and wacky Wisconsin Part one: A 78-year-old woman was banned from a senior center for using bad language about a card game — and now she’s suing, alleging violation of her right to free speech.

Part two: A Wisconsin lawyer was fined $500 and reprimanded by the judge for”a pattern of gross and inexcusable inattention to details,” that included egregious proof-reading errors, missing filing deadlines, and includig “salacious material” in documents.

Part three: State regulators have just declared fish pedicures illegal.

I know – Minnesota has plenty of silliness, too, but I decided against writing anything about the recount today.

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