News Day: Minneapolis budget / Minnesota multi-faceted MMPI dust-up / Michelle Bachmann – on the media and in the media

tc_icon_dollarMinneapolis budget With a $21 million cut in state aid this year, the 2010 Minneapolis city budget proposed by Mayor R.T. Rybak on Thursday includes both spending cuts and tax increases, according to reports in the Star Tribune and MPR. Among the budget highlights:

• a budget trim that brings the 2010 budget in $100 million below the 2009 budget;
• cutting 200 mostly unfilled city jobs, and implementing voluntary, unpaid furloughs for city employees;
• property tax increases that average 6.6 percent;
• an $800,000 increase to the $4.3 million Great Streets program, which provides low-interest loans to small businesses;
• 20 additional police officers, thanks to federal ARRA funds;
• a $1.7 million savings in police overtime, due to lower crime rates;
• a shift in funding away from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and Target Center debt repayment, with $13 million going instead to property tax relief.

Minnesota multi-faceted MMPI dust-up First came the questions about conflict of interest and revision of the MMPI, raised in Maura Lerner’s Star Tribune article. The 70-year-old Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, “the most widely used personality test in the world, assessing the emotional stability of millions of people” has recently undergone major revision, with critics ranging from academic journals to plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging that they have been damaged by MMPI results. Among the strongest critics are psychologists who did the latest revision of the MMPI some 20 years ago. According to the Strib article:

University investigators found nothing inappropriate about the MMPI changes. But they did fault the University of Minnesota Press for relying on an advisory board that consisted entirely of two scientists — psychologists Auke Tellegen and Yossef Ben-Porath — who co-wrote the new test and stand to profit from its sales.

Susan Perry in MinnPost gives a little historical context, with fascinating details about “how unscientifically by today’s standards (OK — by today’s purported standards) the original developers of the MMPI questionnaire went about choosing their ‘normal’ control group.” The so-called “Minnesota normal” group consisted of hospital staff and visitors to mental wards, whose test results were compared to those of patients in the wards.

Perry also reviews recent questions about the Hawthorne effect — “the widely accepted idea that when people are being observed (such as during a psychological experiment), the fact that they know they are being observed will change their behavior.” In addition to other problems described in The Economist, Perry points out that the original Hawthorne effect study sample consisted of only five women — two of whom were replaced by others during the course of the study.

Of course, there’s the ultimate test, set near the end of the Star Tribune article: “University officials say they’re willing to let the marketplace decide.” After all, isn’t that what science is all about?

Michelle – on the media and in the media again In a fundraising appeal to fans, Michele Bachmann warned that the media are “Palinizing” her and denounced what she characterized as “a hit piece on one of my kids!” The so-called hit piece Star Tribune column actually praised the younger Bachmann for his commitment to serve in the AmeriCorps-affiliated Teach for America program:

Coincidentally or not, TFA came to Minnesota just this year, exactly because the state’s socioeconomic inequalities have grown as the state has retrenched its programs for the poor, disenfranchised and under-educated. For the first time, we have to rely on the charity of good kids like Harrison Bachmann to step up and help out at our schools.

Quoting Bachmann’s tirade against AmeriCorps, Tevlin asks rhetorically, “Why do our children always disappoint us?”

Over at MinnPost, David Brauer points out:

This wasn’t a hit piece on your son, Congresswoman — it was a hit piece on you. And not in your capacity as a mother, but as an elected public official.

World/National News

The people behind the lies Let’s say it again: “There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure.”

Why are the lies about death panels so widespread and viral? The New York Times examines the origins of this attack on health care reform, and finds that this particular lie, given broad publicity by the likes of Sarah Palin and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley,

…has a far more mainstream provenance, openly emanating months ago from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating President Bill Clinton’s health care proposals 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, New York’s lieutenant governor). …

The specter of government-sponsored, forced euthanasia was raised as early as Nov. 23, just weeks after the election and long before any legislation had been drafted, by an outlet decidedly opposed to Mr. Obama, The Washington Times.

No surprises there. It looks like the White House’s Reality Check web page has rebuttals for a lot of the craziness — somewhere to refer when you get the viral email forwarded by your brother-in-law.

Violence in Russia Clashes in the North Caucasus region of Russia and neighboring Chechnya killed 17 people yesterday. Yesterday’s death toll was particularly high, but violence permeates the region, according to the New York Times:

It was one of the most deadly nights the largely Muslim region has seen for months, though bloodshed occurs almost daily, particularly in Chechnya, Dagestan and another North Caucasus republic, Ingushetia. Earlier this week, Ingushetia’s construction minister was killed by gunmen in his office, just as the republic’s president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was planning to return to work after being seriously injured in a suicide attack on his convoy in late June.

Most of the violence centers on fighting between police and various radical Islamist or more secular separatist organizations in the region, some of which are remnants of militant groups that fought federal forces in Chechnya’s two wars.

War Reports

Iraq Suicide bombs at a cafe in northern Iraq killed at least 21 people and injured 30 others, reports BBC. the attack came in city of Sinjar, which is populated primarily by Yazidis, Kurdish-speaking followers of a pre-Islamic faith with its roots in Zoroastrianism, and which has been the target of previous attacks by Sunni extremists.

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