Why is a 17-year-old alleged killer laughing?

There’s going to be a huge public appetite for background and motivation on Michael Swanson, the smirking, laughing 17-year-old St. Louis Park kid arrested in connection with what’s been described as the cold-blooded killing of two women in Iowa. The Day One stories are about what you’d expect from something this heinous. The Des Moines Register story, by Jens Krongstad and Tom Alex, reports: “On Tuesday afternoon, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents combed through the St. Louis Park house where Swanson lived off and on with his parents. St. Louis Park spokesman Jamie Zwilling said he could not discuss Swanson’s history because he is a juvenile. However, there have been 10 police calls to the house since 2005 including reports of assault, theft, a missing person, vehicle theft, threats, weapons violations and shots fired. Swanson had been on probation for a December 2006 charge in Minnesota of theft of a motor vehicle, court records show. In October 2009 … police arrested Swanson after a hit-and-run crash shortly before 1 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2009. When police apprehended Swanson, he smelled of alcohol and his speech was slurred, according to court records. His blood-alcohol content registered at .113, nearly 1½ times Minnesota’s legal driving limit. Swanson later told police that he had drunk half a bottle of vodka in an hour and gone ‘car shopping,’ breaking into cars for money and valuables.”

KARE’s John Croman assembles a sketch of Swanson’s recent history, with the inevitable neighbor saying he was was, “good at heart.” An unidentified woman berating the assembled media suggests to Croman (and any viewer) that the kid’s family has probably been living in their own kind of hell long before this.

Fox9’s Paul Blume (and other TV crews)  get to the same neighbor. Blume reports: “Monday, [Swanson’s] parents called police to report their son and their car missing. By the time anyone locally had heard from him again, he was shackled, accused of two murders across the border in Iowa. ‘We all thought he might be capable of something stupid like this because of all the stupid things he had done in the past,’ [the neighbor] said. Former classmate Eli Hedgecock described Michael Swanson as a bit of an outsider. ‘I haven’t heard much in the past couple years, and haven’t seen him around school since junior high,’ Hedgecock said. ‘This is the first I’ve heard of him in a while.’ “

No doubt there’ll be bonuses all around at Target today. Third-quarter earnings show the company more than doubled its profits off of credit cards and bolstered that number with its strategy of shifting to food. NPR runs an AP story saying: “Within its credit card segment, profit increased to $130 million from $60 million a year ago, as bad debt expense declined 64 percent to $110 million from $301 million in same period last year. At Target’s retail segment, revenue increased 3 percent to $15.2 billion, partly because of a 1.6 percent increase in revenue at stores open at least a year.”

With many incoming Republicans here and in D.C. vowing to kill off dreams of high-speed trains and other such projects, Ramsey County has gone ahead and guaranteed $5.8 million to keep work on the Central Corridor LRT project on schedule through the winter. A Strib piece by Chris Havens says: “The move was made without any guarantee of federal funding, but Central Corridor officials are confident the money will come through despite a major makeover in Congress after the recent election. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is expected to pay for half of the $957 million project, but a decision isn’t likely until March.”

In what is something of a habit for our largest newsroom, the Strib tucks Michele Bachmann’s latest, um, “unusual perspective du jour,” away in its Hot Dish Politics blog, rather than submitting it for dead-tree distribution. This one, as posted by Jeremy Herb, has the good congresswoman suggesting that some earmarks, like the ones she wants for her district, really should be “re-defined.” Writes Herb, “Bachmann told the Star Tribune she supports a ‘redefinition’ of what an earmark is, because, she said: ‘Advocating for transportation projects for one’s district in my mind does not equate to an earmark.’ ‘I don’t believe that building roads and bridges and interchanges should be considered an earmark,’ Bachmann said. ‘There’s a big difference between funding a tea pot museum and a bridge over a vital waterway.’ ” He adds: “Bachmann has not previously discussed changing the definition of earmarks to separate out district transportation projects. The Minnesota Republican said she talked about the idea with Rep. John Mica, in line to take over for Rep. Jim Oberstar as Transportation Committee chairman, about making the distinction. Bachmann, for instance, backs federal support for the Stillwater Lift Bridge, which she blamed the Obama administration for not funding.”

The national media always seems far more interested in Ms. Bachmann. She popped up on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Tuesday, where she had this exchange with host George Stephanopoulos:
“STEPHANOPOULOS: … why is it okay for the wealthiest Americans, earning over $250,000 a year — And remember, the President has called for extending all tax cuts for those under $250,000 — for them to get tax cuts extended but for people who are out of a job and needing unemployment benefits not to have their benefits extended?
BACHMANN: Well, remember again what this is. It’s a massive tax increase. And it’s on the people who are the job creators. And people want to think these are millionaires, sitting in leather chairs, lighting their cigars with $100 bills. That’s not what we’re talking about. These are people who are carpet layers that maybe employ two or three other guys. Or a plumber, maybe himself and his brother. And it’s $250,000 in gross sales for their business. They’re the ones that are looking at mass tax increases. So, for instance, in Minnesota, in my district, it would mean 2,000 jobs lost, if we don’t extend the current tax policy. That’s going to hurt more people than anything, if we can’t have job creation. And this is a job-killer, if we raise taxes on the job creators.” That’s right. She said, “gross sales.” Would you want the Congresswoman doing your tax return?

Meanwhile, in Denny HeckerLand, his girlfriend, Christi Rowan, is getting ever closer to the hoosegow herself. Bankruptcy trustee Randall Seaver wants Rowan jailed fore not fully disclosing how she spent $18,000 of Hecker’s life insurance money. MaryJo Webster in the PiPress writes: “Seaver found through his own investigation that Rowan had spent money on things that she didn’t disclose in her response, including 10 money orders totaling $8,300 made out to various individuals and companies, including Neiman Marcus and Breck School, according to the court documents.  Rowan, 37, told the Pioneer Press today that she provided everything she was supposed to and said the money orders were all collections on past-due bills. She noted that the two Neiman Marcus money orders were signed by Hecker and she didn’t know anything about them.”

Simultaneously, Seaver and his legal team want to get paid for all the bird-dogging and wrangling they’ve had to do with Hecker. KARE’s Allan Costantini blogs: “The Trustee hired attorneys (although he is one himself), with the permission of Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Kressel, to do the deep digging into Hecker finances. Hecker filed for bankruptcy protection (which he ultimately didn’t get) in June of 2009. The meter started running on the cost of the government lawyers at that point.” And: “In December, 2009, the Leonard, O’Brien, Spencer, Gayle and Sayre, Ltd. Firm got an ‘interim compensation’ of $372,278.75 for attorney fees and $11,834.17 for expenses. This is the law firm of Matthew Burton and others. Matt Burton is the lead attorney for Trustee Seaver in U.S. Bankruptcy court in the Hecker case. … The costs of the lawyers is taken out of the money that the Trustee is able to wring out of Hecker’s assets, presumably to return to Hecker’s creditors. On Dec. 8, Leonard, et al will ask Federal Bankruptcy Court for more ‘interim compensation.’ This time the request is for $480,925.75 for the ‘firm’ and $21,181.36 for expenses. Backing up the request is almost 200 pages of detailed money moments of lawyer work. … Add to this the ‘interim compensation’ request from Seaver himself (Fuller, Seaver & Ramette, P.A.), also on Dec. 8 before Judge Kressel. This is $206,349.26 and $8,762.26 in expenses. Perhaps most fascinating to non-attorneys is the hourly wage of the lawyers and staff. Randall Seaver punches the clock at $390-$435 an hour. Matthew Burton charged $360 an hour for work in 2009. Then, he got a raise to $375 for 2010. The firm billed the court for the non-lawyer staffers at $90 an hour.” Bankrupt and behind bars, Hecker is still a hell of a meal ticket.

The Gibson guitar people have produced a list of “The Greatest Rock Venues of All Time”, and up there with the Whisky a Go-Go in L.A., the Fillmore in San Francisco, CBGB’s in New York and The Cavern Club in Liverpool is our own First Avenue. Says the story: “First Avenue’s main stage was memorialized forever as the place where Prince and the Revolution performed their searing music in the film, Purple Rain. Indeed, throughout the ’80s, the Purple One often tried out new material at the venue. Meanwhile, First Avenue’s sister venue, 7th Street Entry, served as a breeding ground for The Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum and other Minneapolis-based bands. One wonders if the Midwest alternative explosion would have occurred at all were it not for this cornerstone venue.”

Obviously I have to rethink my usual pre-flight ritual of a latte and a doughnut. City Pages’ Rachel Hutton produces a survey of the best food at MSP International. Says Hutton: “The MAC used to rely primarily on the worldwide food service company HMS Host to supply its concessions, but it has moved to a more diverse, multi-vendor model to encourage competition. (The practice of giving one concessionaire a very long contract used to be quite common, which is why food at many airports has seemed stagnant. San Diego International, for example, used HMS Host exclusively for nearly 40 years.) Greer explains that most of the 100-some airport tenants are operating with seven- to nine-year leases, and nearly all of them came due in the most recent vendor changeover, in 2005. A commission review team offered a request for proposals, made selections, and rolled out the new concessionaires over the next several years.” Hutton seems to really like the French Meadow Bakery: “French Meadow’s two airport outposts turn out hot morning meals (made-to-order omelets and hemp toast!) and offer fresh, self-serve baked goods all day. Contrary to most of their stale, grab-and-go brethren, the lemon poppy seed muffins are springy and light, with a delicate crumb; the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies will stay chewy and moist until you’ve finally made it to Miami or Dubai.” Fine, give me a dozen.

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/17/2010 - 10:10 am.

    “These are people who are carpet layers that maybe employ two or three other guys. Or a plumber, maybe himself and his brother. And it’s $250,000 in gross sales for their business.”

    In case anyone wasn’t clear, that statement is false. The tax rate increase at $250,000 is based on net profits, not gross sales. If someone really wasn’t sure, it should not take much time and effort to figure that out, especially if you have the resources of a sitting member of congress. Either Bachmann has no interest in figuring out the truth, or she is just flat out lying.

  2. Submitted by Justin Crum on 11/17/2010 - 10:12 am.

    …and of course Stephanopoulos corrected her, right? … right?

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/17/2010 - 10:32 am.

    Say, Brian?

    Being a faithful reader of “the Glean”, I had been led to believe that the scary smart, reality based community had brought Target to it’s knees with The Big Boycott.

    In keeping with the week’s events, maybe MinnPost could sponsor a “Return to the Max” day, where everyone trots down to Target, buys a bunch of stuff and then takes it right over to the return counter in a huff.

    It won’t hurt the company, probably, but just think of all the wonderful sneers that could be delivered…hey, maybe we could all gather together afterwards and get latte’s!

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/17/2010 - 11:13 am.

    BTW – If the tax cuts are extended but not for the $250,000+ bracket, those people who report in that bracket will nonetheless still get a tax cut. They will get the tax cut that applies to money earned up to $250,000. It is only their *marginal* rate – income tax paid on income ABOVE $250,000 – that would rise.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/17/2010 - 11:57 am.

    From Bachmann’s Wikipedia bio:

    From 1988 to 1993, Bachmann was a U.S. Treasury Department attorney in the US Federal Tax Court located in St. Paul. According to Bachmann, she represented the Internal Revenue Service “in hundreds of cases”[7] (both civil and criminal) prosecuting people who underpaid or failed to pay their taxes.[8] She left her government position to become a full-time mother.[9]
    (end quote)

    The only possibilities are either early onset Alzheimer’s, or a deliberate lie.

    She, of anyone, should know the difference between gross income and net taxable income.

    It’s hard to square that sort of background with that type of misrepresentation.

  6. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 11/17/2010 - 12:05 pm.

    My new airport ritual is a glass of riesling and a panini at the new Surdyk’s outpost. Delish.

  7. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 11/17/2010 - 12:08 pm.

    Can’t you all picture #3 chortling away in his cell or den, patting himself on the back for his razor-sharp wit and guileless outlook on life. What would we all do without him?!

  8. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 11/17/2010 - 12:35 pm.

    Interesting background for someone railing against government- working for the IRS to bring in revenue. I think it’s a fine job, and I’m happy there are people doing it, but one can’t help but wonder why someone who spews her type of venom about the evils of government and taxes would choose to work for the feds to bring in taxes. I would have thought that as a believer in the job-creating powers of the private sector that she would have used her talents there, or even lived out the american dream of starting her own business, but apparently I believe too much of what she says, vs. what she does.

  9. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 11/17/2010 - 12:36 pm.

    Say, Swifty?

    Do you prefer to view Bachmann in this instance as either stupid or evil? If there’s a third alternative, please explain!

  10. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 11/17/2010 - 12:44 pm.

    If only Target would steer clear of politics and concentrate on business … in the manner where, as stated, they drastically reduce bad debt expense from year to year. Then everybody will be happy, and nobody needs a get-together for lattes except to celebrate Target’s well-being.

  11. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 11/17/2010 - 12:48 pm.

    Swifty (et al),
    Care to chime in as to what exactly an earmark is? I may have overlooked something here.

  12. Submitted by Susanna Patterson on 11/17/2010 - 01:20 pm.

    CORRECTION: The BRIDGE that Bachmann supports is NOT the “Stillwater Lift Bridge.” She supports the as-yet-unbuilt multiple-lane steel-and-concrete superhighway bridge that will connect Oak Park Heights and Houlton, Wisconsin, TOTALLY BYPASSING downtown Stillwater. Unaccountably, local merchants have all jumped on board with this ill-considered project, extolling the virtues of “eliminating downtown traffic.” It is not quite clear why they believe that a town that relies heavily on tourists for its livelihood would benefit by the reduction — or total elimination — of “traffic,” but that is their position, and there’s no talking them out of it.

  13. Submitted by taylor carik on 11/17/2010 - 01:22 pm.

    You might want to check the Freudian misspellings (twice!) of Rachel’s last name in that last graph. And maybe take a week off from following the recount.

  14. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/17/2010 - 02:02 pm.

    Jeff, I view Rep. Bachmann as she is; sincere, beautiful, successful and smarter than most of her leftist stalkers could ever hope to comprehend.

    George Foreman could connect the dots for the reality based community…but he’s too busy creating successful businesses.

  15. Submitted by Steve Sundberg on 11/17/2010 - 02:15 pm.

    @Susanna: If I recall correctly, the National Park Service has pretty much put the kibosh on any bridge-building across the St. Croix in the Stillwater area: http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=877456.

  16. Submitted by Jim Meyer on 11/17/2010 - 03:37 pm.

    Happy now, Brad? Swifty just told you; she’s crafty!

  17. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/17/2010 - 07:39 pm.

    Ms. Bachmann is all that Mr. Swift asserts: sincere, beautiful, successful and smarter than most of her [critics] could ever hope to comprehend. None of that precludes her also being a shameless demagogue and a near-pathological liar.

    The beauty will fade. She’s successful because her followers, not being part of the reality-based community, are in a state of willful denial regarding that reality (a qualified therapist would label that mental state as “delusional”), and any successful demagogue has reached that success via the intelligent exploitation of fear and ignorance among those same followers.

    If she were as stupid as she often appears, she’d be easy to get rid of. Asserting that the $250,000 figure in the tax discussion is “gross sales” rather than “taxable income” is a purposeful and clever lie, one which plays very well with the prejudices of her fans and supporters. She is nothing if not both self-promoting and sanctimonious, hence her frequent appearances on programming from Fox. Demagoguery is often entertaining.

    As for Target, no argument. The boycott was a failure in and of itself. I note, however, that there were no more headlines about 6-figure contributions to other “business-friendly” campaigns by Target during the election season, so someone in the Target boardroom must have decided that negative publicity isn’t always in the company’s best interests.

  18. Submitted by Susanna Patterson on 11/18/2010 - 10:35 am.

    And in addition…Bachmann’s support for the building of a new bridge from Stillwater to Wisconsin is not some civic-minded, selfless concern for her (adopted) home town — quite the contrary: she stands to profit immensely when her farmland across the river can be chopped up into quarter acre lots, selling for ten times what mere acreage would bring. Neither Steve Sundberg nor anyone else ought to worry about what the National Park Service has decided about the fate of the proposed bridge: the National Park Service is on the verge of being disbanded — not by the Republican Congress, but by the “bipartisan” deficit reduction commission!!!

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