Thursday, June 30, 2005
A judge shouldn't decide a case by asking, "What outcome seems fair to me here?" or be influenced by the intellectual fashions of the day. In a democracy like ours, judges overstep their bounds unless they base decisions on the actual words of the Constitution or the law in question.
A Supreme Court justice should be grounded in the political philosophy that won the day at the time that he or she was appointed. When need be, the justice will interpret the actual language of the Constitution, or the law in question, in light of that political vision.These are two snippets, just a few column inches apart, in Katherine Kersten's Thursday column, What the constitution says must prevail. Does this woman have an editor? Does she remember what she said two paragraphs earlier? Is Katherine a complete idiot?
The most result-oriented jurisprudence pales in comparison to this sweeping and contradictory nonsense. The absolutely marvelous thing is that Kersten is so doctrinaire that she undoubtedly doesn't see it, like the woman who walks out a restroom with a stream of toilet paper stuck to her shoe. Spottie has noticed this in several of Kersten's columns, making contradictory points in the same column.
In Monday's column, for example, she says:
The Guantanamo detainees are clearly a dangerous and fanatical bunch.
Most Americans would be surprised to learn that some detainees don't want to leave the base.
Kersten writes stuff like this with absolutely no trace of irony.
Spottie's lawyer friends say the best cross examination is when you don't have to do any, that is when the witness destroys his own credibility by making inconsistent statements. Just like Kersten.
For a good analysis of the Thursday column, read Smartie, guest blogging at Clever Peasantry this week.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Rep. Tom Emmer's diatribe about Democrats and political theater ("Repitition can't change the truth," June 22) would be humorous if it were not such a sad display of our dysfunctional political process.
Here is a freshman Republican who authored a bill promoting castration of sex offenders as his contribution to our civil discourse, and he is complaining about political theater! Perhaps if the far-right-wing ideologues who have taken over the Republican Party could get over their fascination with castration and gay marriage, there would be less political theater in St. Paul.
Tom Salkowski, Buffalo, Minn.
Sp0ttie ccouldn't have said it better.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
I could not help but be skeptical as I read of Attorney General Mike Hatch's actions against CenterPoint Energy. Before people look at Centerpoint as the big bad gas company turning off people's gas, Ã la Scrooge, some questions need to be addressed. First, Hatch is probably going to run for governor next year. One must at least ask if politics are involved -- Hatch looks as if he is sticking up for "victims" who lost heat last winter.
Second, CenterPoint is a company, not a charity. Most people work hard and budget their money and pay their bills on time. Some do not. If I do not pay my gas bill in November and the next four months, should I just assume that I can continue to have gas services provided for the winter?
It is hardly fair to the company, its shareholders, and those who pay their bills. If the company does nothing and has no penalty for people who decide not to pay a gas bill from Oct. 15 through April 15, how can CenterPoint go on without passing along higher costs to consumers? And if there's no penalty for ignoring a gas bill for six months, what is the incentive to pay the bill?
Thousands of CenterPoint customers pay their bills on time. If people do not pay their bills, or if CenterPoint is fined heavily, who'll be fronting the burden of the cost of this lawsuit and who'll get free gas service half the year?
Paul Kammen, St. Paul, is a seminary student.
Sweet Jesus, keep Spottie out of this guy's flock. Apparently, he thinks that the only reason a person doesn't pay a bill is because he doesn't want to. Hey Katherine Kersten, I have a promising young preacher for you!
What our unctuous judgmental little scrub needs is a good dose of economic hardship, or maybe a lingering illness. Nothing serious of course, a titanic case of hemorrhoids perhaps, or persistent torrential diarrhea.
Spottie cannot imagine how someone so devoid of human empathy would even want to be a minister. I tell you what Paul, why don't you spend some time on the social gospel of Jesus rather than majoring in the book of Revelation or wherever the hell else you get your poisoned view of mankind and your relationship to it.
And oh by the way, the cold weather shut off rule wasn't dreamed up by Mike Hatch. It has existed for a long time, and it was passed by the Legislature at a time when Minnesotans cared more about each other than they seem to today.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Sunday, June 19, 2005
In summary, Holy Angels Academy in Richfield accepted the applications of twin boys from Burnsville for next year's ninth grade class. It turns out one of the twins has muscular dystrophy, and Holy Angels rescinded its acceptance of him because it "could not accommodate him." The other twin, a good athlete, is of course still welcome. In the private school world this is, of course, perfectly legal, and Spottie says probably not all that rare.
The public schools are different. They will accept both twins, and by law must make accommodations for the one with MD to see that he gets a good education, too. At least they will to the extent that money is appropriated to run the schools.
It is also apparent that Nick Coleman interviewed several people for this piece, including an adversarial interview with the school president, Jill Reilly. Coleman tells his story deftly, weaving in facts from interviews. Spottie says the Star Tribune's newest columnist could learn a lot about writing a newspaper column from this one, whether she agrees with Coleman's conclusions or not.
Spottie also wonders how long Holy Angels can hold their breath.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Spottie was not aware of this information; he urges you to go read it.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Then, the day before the column was to run, the medical examiners who did Ms. Schiavo's autopsy had a televised news conference and did their version of Monty Python's dead parrot routine. Profoundly damaged brain, no hope of recovery, incontrovertibly blind (contrary to the video finding of Dr. Senator Frist), a persistent vegetative state. Yes folks, the lights were on, but nobody was home. Terri, like Polly, had passed.
And no sign of the abuse alleged by the foam-flecked zealots who wanted to continue play buskashi with the tragic and insensible Terri Schiavo. What's a columnist, especially an ideologue like Kersten, to do? You run the column anyway, of course. That's the great thing about rigid ideology; it is such a good substitute for thinking.
Kersten conjures up the jack-booted guard at Ms. Schiavo's bed preventing anyone, including her family, from reinserting the feeding tube. Why was a guard necessary? Because some people were not willing to accept the decision of most of the state judges in Florida (every one that heard the case, anyway, and that was quite a few), and the federal courts, too, that Terri Schiavo, the person, was already dead.
The effort to keep that hopeless hulk of a person breathing is not a culture of life; it is voodoo. Instead of being so worried about the undead and Snowflake Americans, it would be refreshing to see people like Katherine Kersten (and let's not forget Michele Bachmann, who sponsored legislation in the wake of the Schiavo case to compel that bodies be kept breathing when their souls have departed) to show a little concern for people who are actually alive and sentinent.
Spotty believes that it is ironic that people who profess to have the strongest belief in an afterlife are the most afraid of death.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Spottie's doctor friends say that being aware of one's surroundings, and being oriented as to time and place are important tools in diagnosing brain trauma. Kersten has clearly taken at least one upside the head, and probably several, including some recently. She obviously spoke only to Bachmann, an unimpeachable source herself, in writing the column. Spottie's readers are invited to check here and here for some different perspectives on Kersten and Bachmann's complaints. Really, go read them; they're good - and funny.
Just a couple of comments on the column itself.
First, conservatives trot out the "activist judges" stuff whenever the Constitution is brought to bear to protect civil rights or equal protection and the bug-eyed control freaks feel threatened by a departure from their idea of conventional behavior. You heard about activist judges in free speech and pornography cases, civil rights cases, and you're hearing about them again.
Both Bachmann and Kersten are lawyers - an involuntary shudder from Spottie - and they probably learned in their first constitutional law class about a case called Marbury v. Madison. It's really a gripping tale of political intrigue, but Spottie will spare you. The case did, however, declare that it is the duty, yes duty, of the judiciary to be the final arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution. Now in spite what you might think, the courts do not cruise the streets looking for trouble. However, when a court is presented with a genuine justiciable dispute, it must resolve it. And sometimes, that means a resolt to Constitutional principles. The Constitution has been understood by most jurists to be a living document, not a tablet of stone.
Sometimes the majority, who Kersten and Bachmann seem to care about so much, is just a mob.
It is also curious to Spottie that Kersten, a Catholic, and Bachmann, an evangelical, seem so unconcered about the protection of minority rights. These are two groups who were specifically worried about their own preservation and protection in the early days of the United States, and who were particularly interested in the First Amendment protections in the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses.
Second, the Sour Sisters professed concern about academic freedom. But it is really the opposite they are after: the intimidation of teachers who challenge their fundamentalist Christian orthodoxy. It's late; Spottie is tired, but Google "academic freedom" and "PZ Myers" just to get started on this discussion.
Finally, Kersten makes the remarkable statement that Bachmann "raised five kids and 23 foster children." Boy, Mothers' Day must be remarkable in Michele's house! Spottie has seen pictures of Bachmann's kids, and "raised" they ain't. They're little kids. Having "raised" 28 children is such an obvious fabrication that it's pathological. It calls into question every "fact" that has ever issued forth from Kersten's mouth or pen.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
The head of the St. Paul NAACP apparently criticized Terrill for sending the letter on St. Paul stationery and in his official capacity. From this, Kersten concludes that the letter was entirely anti-responsibility. And then she concludes that the entire leadership of the civil rights movement is against personal responsibility.
Let's see, Katherine Kersten is a pseudo-moral cretin; Katherine Kersten is a woman, therefore all women are pseudo-moral cretins. You gotta admit, the logic is flawless.
Why can't it be both about people taking responsibility for their own lives, AND creating a fair and open environment for everyone? Well, of course, it is, except in the eyes of bigots like Katherine Kersten and some others.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The president says he wants to foster a culture of life. And he backs up his committment, at least with respect to Snowflake Americans and the brain dead. But what about actual sentient beings?
Well, that's different of course.
Spottie invites you to look at this article in Common Dreams.
Monday, June 06, 2005
Kersten does trot out one of the hoary statements attributed to Chesterton: The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried. Spottie just wonders which Christian ideal Chesterton had in mind, the Christian ideal and social gospel set forth in the first four gospels of the New Testament, or the ideal and gospel according to Fellini, also known at the Book of Revelation? Spottie suspects the former; neither Chesterton nor his pal C.S. Lewis are remembered as fudamentalist Roundheads.
Katherine Kersten, SBECF, now there's a Roundhead for you.
Anyway, this is really an issue of equal protection or treatment of citizens under law, provided primarily by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Every citizen should be concerned about the equal protection of fellow citizens, because each one of us could be in the next group to fall out of favor. History is full of examples.
Spottie is going to borrow from his other blog for the best defense of equal protection ever; it bears repeating. Consider the case of Sir Thomas More, the Chancellor of England during the reign (or part of it, anyway) of Henry VIII.
As a Catholic, he couldn't swear to the Act of Succession or the Oath of Supremacy. The oath was to swear that Henry was the head of the Church of England, renouncing the Pope and Rome. He was charged with treason over this, and ultimately beheaded.
There is a famous play and a movie about these events; it is called A Man for All Seasons. Thomas More was played on stage and screen by British acting icon Paul Scofield. At one point in the play, More has a conversation with Richard Roper, a court sycophant who is Henry's Solicitor General and who is trying to trick More into committing treason here. He is not successful, but it is on Roper's perjured testimony that More is ultimately convicted of treason. I reproduce a portion of that conversation here:
More: There is no law against that.This last remark from Thomas More is the best defense of due process and equal protection that Spottie has ever heard. He still trembles on reading it.
Roper: There is! God's law!
More: Then God can arrest him.
Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.
More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.
Roper: Then you set man's law above God's!
More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact - I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forrester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God....
Alice: While you talk, he's gone!
More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
Sir Thomas More was ultimaely knighted and canonized. Kersten says she is a Catholic; she may have even studied More in her catechism.
Someday, there will be a diorama of the gay rights movement at the Minnesota History Center. People like Katherine Kersten and Michele Bachmann have to decide what kind of a character they want to play in the scene: a person like Susan B. Anthony or one like Nathan Bedford Forrest.
There was a letter in today's Star Tribune (June 6th) that sums it up very well:
Katherine Kersten is flat wrong ("Heterosexual marriage: A universal institution," June 2). Gay marriage is the civil rights movement of our generation. It will be as embarrassing to our children as segregation is to our parents.
My daughters will equate President Bush with Alabama Gov. George Wallace, and compare people like state Rep. Michele Bachmann and columnist Kersten to the sidewalk hecklers who screamed at little black girls.
Katie Pierson, Minnetonka.
Friday, June 03, 2005
June 3, 2005 | Washington -- The Pentagon on Friday released new details about mishandling of the Quran at the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects, confirming that a soldier deliberately kicked the Muslim holy book and that an interrogator stepped on a Quran and was later fired for "a pattern of unacceptable behavior."
In other confirmed incidents, water balloons thrown by prison guards caused an unspecified number of Qurans to get wet; a guard's urine came through an air vent and splashed on a detainee and his Quran; and in a confirmed but ambiguous case a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Quran.
The findings, released after normal business hours Friday evening, are among the results of an investigation last month by Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the commander of the detention center in Cuba, that was triggered by a Newsweek magazine report -- later retracted -- that a U.S. soldier had flushed one Guantanamo Bay detainee's Quran down a toilet.
The story stirred worldwide controversy and the Bush administration blamed it for deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan.
Hood said in a written statement released Friday evening, along with the new details, that his investigation "revealed a consistent, documented policy of respectful handling of the Quran dating back almost 2 1/2 years."
Hood said that of nine mishandling cases that were studied in detail, five were confirmed to have happened. He could not determine conclusively whether the four others took place.
He also said they found 15 cases of detainees mishandling their own Qurans. "These included using a Quran as a pillow, ripping pages out of the Quran, attempting to flush a Quran down the toilet and urinating on the Quran," Hood's report said. It offered no possible explanation for the detainees' motives.
Last week, Hood disclosed that he had confirmed five cases of mishandling of the Quran, but he refused to provide details. Allegations of Quran desecration at Guantanamo Bay have led to anti-American passions in many Muslim nations, although Pentagon officials have insisted that the problems were relatively minor and that U.S. commanders have gone to great lengths to enable detainees to practice their religion in captivity.
Hood said last week that he found no credible evidence that a Quran was ever flushed down a toilet. He said a prisoner who was reported to have complained to an FBI agent in 2002 that a military guard threw a Quran in the toilet has since told Hood's investigators that he never witnessed any form of Quran desecration.
Other prisoners who were returned to their home countries after serving time at Guantanamo Bay as terror suspects have alleged Quran desecration by U.S. guards, and some have said a Quran was placed in a toilet.
There are about 540 detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Some have been there more than three years without being charged with a crime. Most were captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 and were sent to Guantanamo Bay in hope of extracting useful intelligence about the al-Qaida terrorist network.
From Spot's perspective, our overwrought friends from Bloomington can send their apology to Newsweek anytime.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Kersten says the need for the protection of strictly heterosexual marriage flows directly from the fact that sex between men and women produces babies. The rest of her composition rests on this blinding flash of intuition. But the premise is a faulty one.
Marriage is both more and less than a baby making factory, a cottage industry so to speak. It is more because it establishes an emotional support network between partners, and very significantly provides legal recognition of the right and duty of the partners to protect each other. Marriage partners can inherit from each other, can make health care decisions for the each other when one partner is incapacitated, and one spouse cannot be required to testify against the other. There are many other legal incidents to marriage, as well, health insurance and survivor benefits to name just a couple.
Kersten acknowledges the existence of these attributes of marriage, and how they would be of advantage of couples of any sort, but argues they must be reserved for special people, because again, they make babies.
But a lot of marriages don't produce babies. A lot of marriages are entered into with no intention of producing babies; you don't sign an oath when you get a marriage license promising to have babies. A priest may threaten your eternal soul if you don't at least try, but there is absolutely nothing in the civil covenant we call marriage that requires the production of children.
Laying aside all the couples who get married that don't want kids, how about all the folks we allow to marry who can't have kids? Under Kersten's rule, post-menopausal women, impotent men, and infertile people of either sex couldn't get married. Society has no need for them to get married because they produce no offspring.
So reproducing is clearly not the only thing that society is trying to accomplish with the institution of marriage.
And don't be fooled by Kersten's recitation of a few anecdotes and vague referenced to "studies" about how children do better, etc. etc. There are a lot of kids from non-traditional families of several kinds who are perfectly well adjusted thank you, and kids from nuclear families who grow up to be serial killers.
So what's really at work here? It's just another face of the control freak phenomenon Spottie mentioned in the home schooling post. Kersten has her expectation of what a marriage should look like, and woe be unto anybody that suggests something else. She even says so in the concluding paragraph of the piece:
Minnesotan believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they please. (Well, clearly not all of them do.) But they don't believe that gays and lesbians have the right to redefine the institution of marriage for everyone else.
So in the end even Katherine Kersten admits this is an issue of civil rights and equal protection. Heterosexuals have something that gives them an advantage they don't want to give up. Just like every privileged class in the history of the world.
BTW, if you check the June 2nd paper editon of the newspaper, you will see that there is a new picture of KK. Apparently, the old one was a little, er, severe.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Kersten's apologia makes several interesting statements; let's examine some of them.
Studies show that home-schoolers, as a group, score well above average on standardized achievement tests.Okay, but what if we control for parents who aren't interested in their kids' education. Do home-schoolers still do better than kids who are in a school and who have involved parents? Maybe, but Spottie would like to see it proved. Statistically, not anecdotally. And what about controlling for special education kids? Both private schools and home schools can "cherry pick" students; the public schools can't and don't.
[there is a] stereotype of home-schoolers starved for social contact.No, the actual stereotype is not of the students, but rather their parents. Home-school parents, and Spottie offers Katherine Kersten as Exhibit A, are control freaks. Has there ever been a study on the correlation of home-school parents and people who are afraid to fly? Spottie bets it's pretty high. HSPs are scared to death of losing absolute control over their childrens' every movement and thought. They are fundamentally antisocial people, wanting to have as little to do with the general society as possible. This is why they are poison to any community endeavor they encounter, including building and maintaining strong public schools.
Home-schooling parents can emphasize literary classics over contemporary children's fiction, which generally features a simplistic style and a narrow, asolescent mind-set.Boy, Katherine, you got us there. Spottie still remembers being in junior high and reading that great English clunker Silas Marner, by George Elliot, who was a woman with sort of a reverse-drag nom de plume. Just a helluva lot better than To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, Lord Grizzly and Scarlet Plume by Minnesota author Frederick Manfred, the latter being about the 1862 Dakota Conflict, and A Green Journey by John Hassler, just some of the trash that Spottie's pups read. And finally:
[A] 1997 study determined that, on average, they watch far less TV than other children.Spottie says this has a lot more to with having bug-eyed control freak parents than being home schooled.
LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. (AP) - A landslide sent 18 million-dollar houses crashing down a hill in Southern California early Wednesday as homeowners alarmed by the sound of the walls and the pipes coming apart ran for their lives in their nightclothes. At least four people suffered minor injuries.[ . . . ]
Officials said they had no idea what caused the disaster. The landslide followed the second-rainiest season on record in Southern California . . . .
Spottie does not know what to say. But it sounds like somebody already got dunked on this one.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty rejected a bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature that would have allowed him to appoint a poet laureate after receiving recommendations from the nonprofit Minnesota Humanities Commission.
Many states have them, including Texas and Alabama, apparently. But not Minnesota. A lot of people think this is because Tim is afraid that somebody who speaks really well might share a platform with the governor and chew him out from time to time. Spottie will let Bill Holm, the Viking from Minneota, administer the dunking, again from the Star Tribune article:
Mr. Pawlenty seems to think that if you keep from raising taxes, the imagination will cease to be rambunctious. He's terrified of the imagination rearing up and giving a good, swift kick to his dead ideas.