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Dumb thugs YouTube themselves with crime videos

PLUS: Norm Coleman news, the continuing Petters and Hecker sagas, and more Tea Party punking.

Producing videos of your crimes, including your own faces … and then posting them to YouTube … comes real close to a “World’s Dumbest Criminals” bit, except the cops haven’t caught all of our local yobs … yet. Everyone in town jumped on the self-celebrating videos of not-so-young men knocking over bicyclists and pedestrians and chasing kids wearing backpacks. News this morning is that two youths have been arrested, MPR’s Tim Nelson is noting.

Mara Gottfried’s PiPress story offers perhaps some historical connection: “The video that came to the attention of St. Paul police Tuesday depicts ‘happy slapping,’ a practice that began about 10 years ago in Europe and involves assaulting unsuspecting people, photographing or videotaping the assault and posting the images on the Internet, said Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety, a New York nonprofit. ‘As videos became more popular and people could easily put them online, we started seeing kids beating each other up, real assaults, fake assaults, sexual exploitation, rapes — all kinds of things that people are doing, or pretending to do, for their 15 megabytes of fame,’ she said. ‘We’re seeing a huge growth in this,’ ” she adds, in one of the better understatements I’ve heard lately. “Sadly, there are a lot of ratings in doing slimy stuff online.”

Our sort of local hometown airline, Delta, is making a move to roll cash-strapped Japan Airlines (JAL) into its “SkyTeam” affiliation, which could simplify travel for Twin Cities flyers. JAL is not exactly in good health. In fact, it sounds an awful lot like an American car company. The AP story reports: “Its interest-bearing debt totals nearly $10 billion. Hit by a downturn in travel brought on by the tepid global economy and the H1N1 flu outbreak, the company has been approved for a government-run turnaround. It is mulling large job cuts after already lowering its staff mainly through attrition as well as taking other measures such as cutting unprofitable routes.”

It would have been fun to be a fly on the wall of a few DFL offices Tuesday after that Rasmussen poll dropped. According to the numbers, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, “who stepped down in 2007 after one term in office, captures 30% of the vote from likely Democratic voters in Minnesota. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also earns 30% support. Dayton is an announced candidate for governor, and Rybak has formed a committee to explore a possible run for the job.” We want to be careful not to over-characterize things, but Dayton may be every bit the dream candidate for Republicans Sarah Palin is for Democrats. The same poll had Norm Coleman pulling 50 percent among Republicans. As Bob Uecker used to say, that’s, “juuusst a bit” ahead of former Minority Leader, Marty Seifert, who shows up at 11 percent.

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Smart Politics offers thoughts on the poll —which by any standard is a pretty useless metric. The blog continues to suggest that Coleman will wait until at least next spring — because he can.

Third District freshman Congressman Erik Paulsen is high up on the list of Republicans targeted for the 2010 elections. He now has formal and possibly serious competition. The conservative blog True North recalls interacting with Maureen Hackett at one of Paulsen’s health care town halls. “I was the microphone holder who called on her for a question, and she was one of the more well spolken [sic] questioners from the pro-Health Care bill side. She introduced her Air Force and medical professional career and came across well.” True North, of course, goes on to doubt Hackett can win by supporting Nancy Pelosi’s “radical agenda.”

“I trusted some people too much” were essentially Tom Petters’ first words in his own defense as he took the stand Tuesday. David Phelps’ story in the Strib has this exchange between the man and his attorney. “Petters attorney Jon Hopeman asked his client, ‘Are you guilty?’ ‘No, I’m not,’ Petters replied. Asked if he had intended to commit a fraud, Petters said, ‘Definitely not knowingly.’ ” That’s as good as he could come up with after a year of silence?

Interestingly, the Bloomberg News story has Petters saying, “Most certainly, but not knowingly.” In each case, of course, Petters is reported conceding an early minor fraud involving diverting merchandise.

Yes, not knowingly” is the PiPress’s version of the same quote. That story, filed by John Welbes, has some good detail on a perplexed new accountant trying to make sense of Petters Inc. cash flow. “In late 2007, Indahl found the wire-transfer confirmation file for Petters Co., and looked at data related to a new investor, Edge One. She noticed that funds were coming to Petters Co. from a vendor called Nationwide International Resources Inc. Those funds were the same amount as the loan that had just been negotiated for Edge One, she said. But it didn’t make sense because no transactions involving merchandise would have had time to take place yet. It looked to her like the loan proceeds from Edge One were going to Nationwide and then coming straight back to Petters Co.” Hmmmm, I wonder what that’s all about?

Meanwhile, the other half of the Twin Cities entrepreneurial duo, Denny Hecker, is still being asked to explain where — in his “unemployed” state — he’s getting money for family vacations to Vegas. His estranged wife, Tamitha — remember she lived in one house on the Cass Lake compound while his girlfriend, Christi Rowan, lived in another — still wants $7,500 a month from Denny. Rowan, meanwhile, has received $72,000 in “living expenses” from Denny … since June. The Strib’s Rochelle Olson tries to explain were the money is … or was: “Hecker details his expenses by category. From June through October, he spent $3,450 on gas, $6,200 on groceries, $3,800 on ‘therapy’, $2,200 on dining out and $400 on movies, plays and sporting events. He also listed $22,000 in unspecified ‘discretionary spending.’ “

It’s been 80 years since “pretty girl entertainers” and mob goons partied
at the Victoria Theater on University Avenue in St. Paul, but preservationists are still trying to save the long-vacant building, which has an interesting indirect musical connection to Bob Dylan.

MPR’s Madeleine Baran tells the story at some length, including a brawl that broke out one night long ago. “Allen McGill, a former assistant Ramsey County attorney and a regular patron of the cafe, was among the injured. He sent out an urgent telegram to his congressman, alleging that the agents had not identified themselves until after the fight began. ‘Saturday night at the Victoria I had just finished eating,’ the telegram said. ‘No liquor was in sight at my table. I sensed something unusual occurring and on looking up beheld a rough looking man just behind me dressed in hat and overcoat. I stood up thinking I was about to be help up’. A physical fight ensued, and ended with McGill being struck over the head with a club and arrested.”

Tea-Party punking is enjoying a rage this week. After Monday’s “Columbus go home” incident in St. Paul, where an irate “anti-immigrationist” grabbed the mike at a rally and ranted about the crimes of all the Irish, Swedes, Brits and Germans allowed into this country, Minnesota-native comedienne/writer Lizz Winstead (co-creator of “The Daily Show”) joined a Twitter-gathered crowd of punkers to mess with a conference call organized by a conservative rabble rouser. The part where Winstead, aka “Marge in Minnesota”, asks what she “should care about” is almost as funny as the fight that breaks out between two real Tea Partiers … over the threat President Obama poses to their “liberties.” Here’s a link to the mp3.

It’s a jerky war in Wisconsin! The feudin’ Link family — you know, of the Jack Link beef jerky you see near every gas station cash register — is still at it, according to an AP story. “The dispute has pitted company founder Jack Link against his son Jay Link, who contends he was unfairly cut out of the family business in 2005.” And before young Jay was cut out, you gotta know he was chewed out.