Monday, October 31, 2005

Chasing cars . . .

Some readers tell Spot they really like Spotty's Katie bits. Others say that Spotty shouldn't bother with Katie's dreck. Spot is inclined to think the latter group is right, but like chasing cars, it is just something some dogs do. Take today for instance.

Fresh from warning us of the dangers of Sheehanism, Katie tells us today about the societal benefits of dressing nice. The springboard for today's sermonette was the new NBA dress code. Couldn't Spotty just leave well enough alone? Apparently not.

Katie's kids are in college now, so she really has full time to devote to telling strangers how to dress. Apparently. Katie is just not happy unless she is operating in full control-freak mode. There is a Katie instruction book for the most minute details of life.

It must be very tiring for her.

They keep 'a comin' . . .

From today's Star Tribune letters:
GOP hypocrisy

How ironic to discover that two leading Minnesota Republicans, Ron Carey and Kathryn Marshall, were featured prominently in the Oct. 27 story on use of public funds at the Minnesota Autism Center.

Are not these the same Republicans who advocate drastic reductions in public funding for programs to assist the poor -- such as MinnesotaCare, Medical Assistance and child care subsidies -- on the basis that such programs foster dependency on the government, and that the poor should be more self-sufficient?

Yet, here are two affluent Republicans, not only receiving Medical Assistance paid for by our taxes, but allegedly misusing the public funds for their own children to the detriment of other children.

Why are they not paying for these services themselves? Would that not demonstrate the self-sufficiency and less reliance on the government they demand from the poor? Is this another example of hypocritical Republican behavior?

For this letter, Mr. Wey earns a Spotty. A Spotty is awarded to someone who writes a letter or opinion piece that contains sentiments that Spot wishes he had included in a blog post.

Affirmative action . . .

Lee McGrath asked for a response to his comment to Spot’s post about the unconstitutionality of school vouchers in Minnesota. Spotty says that a voucher could not be paid to a sectarian school in Minnesota under Article XIII, Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution which reads as follows:
PROHIBITION AS TO AIDING SECTARIAN SCHOOL. In no case shall any public money or property be appropriated or used for the support of schools wherein the distinctive doctrines, creeds or tenets of any particular Christian or other religious sect are promulgated or taught.
Wow, that’s pretty unambiguous. But Lee says no; vouchers would be okay. Read the comment, but Spot will summarize his arguments.

Spot has to say right off that Lee and Spot have heretofore conducted a pretty civil discussion. But Spot is, after all, Spot, so he will probably bring this unnatural condition to a conclusion.

Lee’s first argument is the above-quoted text from the Minnesota Constitution was born during a virulent anti-Catholic era, and that “regular” public schools were Protestant. So, we should just ignore it; pretend it isn’t there. Focus the unhelpful to my cause death ray on it.

Well, of course, Article XIII, Section 2 is neutrally drafted. To do what Lee suggests would introduce a “pure motivations” test to constitutional and perhaps statutory interpretation. But whose pure motivations?

Lee also tries to suggest that because Spotty had written in support of the right of privacy in the federal Constitution that he should agree with the propriety of the surgical excision of an entire unambiguous provision in the state Constitution. (That’s what his remark about textualists is about.) Whoa, big fella.

Writing an entire – again unambiguous – section out of the Constitution would be an act of titanic judicial activism. No, not even activism: lawlessness. The right of privacy arises out of interpreting several amendments to the federal Constitution in light of changing technology and social conditions. If you don’t want to do that, it would mean that gun nuts might have to content themselves with muzzle-loading flintlock smoothbore long guns and pistols. (This is perhaps a poor example, gentle readers, because the Second Amendment does not, in any event, confer upon individuals the right to pack heat, the NRA notwithstanding.)

Lee makes some curious comments about the history of parochial school education. He says, in effect, other than Blake school, all private schools used to be Catholic. Nonsense. Lee picked the wrong dog to make that comment to.

Spot’s Pop went to a Dutch Reformed “Christian” grade school in the twenties. Spot maternal grandmother ran a boarding house for students at a Calvinist high school after she was widowed. You can read a fictionalized account of this whole milieu in Fredrick Manfred’s book Green Earth. Or Ferde Feikema, as he was known then. The Reformed Calvinists and other denominations have long histories of operating sectarian schools.

Spotty also disagrees with the proposition that public schools were or are uniformly Protestant. Don’t you imagine at least some Catholic influence in public schools in places like St. Cloud, New Ulm, etc. & etc? And generations of public school Protestant kids consumed a helluva lot of fish sticks and fetid tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on Fridays for nothing if the Catholics had no influence.

There was a time, Lee, when even the Catholics thought the separation of church and state was a good idea. Nick Coleman wrote about it on occasion, and Spotty dug up a quote from a column on the subject:
When I was growing up in St. Paul, one of the things the nuns drilled into us was that this nation was lucky and wise to have separation of church and state, which meant that the Protestants who dominated Minnesota politics couldn't force us to pray like heathens. We were keenly aware that we belonged to a religious minority (outside of St. Paul, anyway), so separation of church and state was an article of our patriotic pride: America was a place where we prayed to our God at home, in church and in parochial school. But when we went to City Hall or the Capitol or public school, awe would be left alone, which was better than what happened to our ancestors in the 1800s, when Catholic immigrants were lynched for their religion. Separation of church and state was smart: It cut down on the number of street brawls.
Lee is making a weird affirmative action argument for Catholic schools. But he doesn’t have his facts right, and his argument is sophistry.

By the way, Lee, happy Reformation Day.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

A scary story from Katie!

The Star Tribune gave Katherine Kersten a rare and coveted Sunday spot today so that she could tell us a scary Halloween story a day early! Katie has tried everything should could think of, and some things she didn’t think of, to drum up support for George Bush’s vanity war in Iraq, or failing that, badger the anti-war people into just shutting up. Today, she tries to equate the backlash from the Paul Wellstone memorial service with support for Cindy Sheehan. Truly, it is a rhetorical tour de force.

First, Katie starts out by repeating the conservative legend of the Wellstone memorial: it was intended all along as a political rally that backfired. Never mind that most of the people who spoke said little or nothing about politics, and that everyone who spoke was filled with overwhelming grief and sadness for people they had loved and tragically lost. Heaven forbid that these people would be cut any slack. Spot just hopes there is somebody around to record Katie’s remarks in her most vulnerable moments.

The tragedy of the Wellstone memorial service was more conservative spin than anything else. Right after the service, the dour, be-jowled Republican flak Sarah Janecek laments with glee that the memorial was so scripted that there actually was a script on the Jumbotron at the memorial in Williams Arena, complete with places for applause. Of course, what Sarah saw was closed captioning for the hearing impaired. She either knew that’s what it was, or she is too something-else impaired to figure it out.

Katie remarks that poor Norm Coleman was sitting “helpless” on the sidelines when the memorial shenanigans happened. Katie, Spot had heard Normmy called a lot of things, but helpless isn’t among them. Try these adjectives: opportunistic, calculating, grasping, contriving, perfidious, unfaithful, knavish, treacherous, and insincere. Readers are invited to leave more apt adjectives in a comment.

Spotty also invites readers to think back of some of the political things that were said by Republicans during the Reagan Farwell Tour, also known as the Death and Transfiguration of Ronald Reagan, that happy cowboy demagogue.

This is supposed to be a cautionary tale for people opposed to the Fraud for Oil Fiasco that the neo-cons foisted on the American public. There is nobody on the face of the earth with more standing than Cindy Sheehan to criticize this war, or this truly feckless president. And Katie, Spot has some news for you. The Cindy Sheehan effect is going to blow up in your face, not Cindy’s. The antiwar movement is only growing, in spite of all the president’s men: Scooter, Karl, Dick, et al.

Why reach back three years to discuss the Wellstone memorial service? Because that’s all she’s got folks. With the shining city on a hill sliding down the shitter, Katie has to strike out at somebody. Psychologists call it displacement. Spotty calls it desperation.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Spotty's prayer . . .

Dear God,

Please tell Katie to write about Scooter Libby.

Your friend, Spot

Obsequious boobs . . .

Spotty has got to quit reading Powerline; it's distracting, but these obsequious boobs are just too funny to ignore. Here's John this afternoon, in the concluding paragraph of his homily on Why It Wasn't So Bad Afterall:
If Rove is not indicted, what we have here is a terrible human tragedy affecting one man, Scooter Libby, but not a serious problem for the administration. On the contrary, it is evident from the indictment itself that administration officials including Dick Cheney, Ari Fleischer, and others followed President Bush's order to cooperate fully with the Plame investigation. But it's premature to conclude that the administration is out of the woods until we find out what, if anything, happens to Rove. In the meantime, Libby is entitled to a presumption of innocence, notwithstanding the grim picture that the indictment paints.
Oh really? The commission of five felonies over a period of two years is a tragedy for the perpetrator? Hysterical laughter. Sorry. No, the tragedy John, my self-absorbed friend, is the damage done to the CIA and Valerie Plame's foreign sources, and to the national security interests of the United States.

And apparently, the administration cooperation is not quite so complete as Powerline want you to believe, gentle reader, because the investigation is continuing into the Flip the Scooter phase.

Tags: mourns

Another Spotty . . .

Eric Utne wins the coveted Spotty for his opinion piece in today's Star Tribune A founding father on faith.

A Spotty is awarded to a person who writes a letter or opinion piece that Spot wishes he had put in a post on this blog.

Flip the Scooter . . .

According to radio press reports, the grand jury has indicted Scooter Libby on five felony counts of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice. But the investigations continues as to the other targets, including Karl Rove, the porcine Rasputin.

The next act in this play might be titled Flip the Scooter.

Never mind . . .

In yesterday's Star Tribune, Katherine Kersten wrote . . . . . . Aw, what the hell, it isn't worth writing about.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

All in favor . .

It occurs to Spotty that the Republicans have just forfeited the right to claim that a judicial nominee is entitled to an "up or down vote."

Too funny to pass up . . .

Harriet Miers falls on her sword and John and Paul get all misty-eyed. Here's a whistling past the graveyard remark from Owly Paul:
PAUL adds: Miers deserves great credit for pulling out and preventing the train wreck. If Bush will nominate a high quality conservative, and if Senate Republicans will push that nominee through, then this will prove to be, on balance, a great news week regardless of what happens on Friday. Scandals, real and imagined, come and go; the Supreme Court is for keeps.
These are two guys who, it must be remembered, supported the nomination until say, yesterday afternoon.

You're right Paul, people remember failed Nixon court nominees Carswell and Hayneworth so much more than they remember the resignation in disgrace of Nixon himself.

Tags: used to heart

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

She loves me; She loves me not . . .

Owly Paul at Powerline has been in favor of the confirmation of Harriet Miers. Now he's not so sure. Which is it, Paul?
Some explaining to do

Ed Whelan, a former Scalia law clerk and the head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, argues that Harriet Miers should withdraw. Until now, Ed has been giving the White House "the benefit of the doubt" on this nomination. However, a 1993 speech by Miers, reported on in today's Washington Post, moved Ed into the "withdraw" column.

I'd be happy to see Miers withdraw. However, the speech is 12 years old, and Miers should be given the opportunity, if she wants it, to say whether or to what extent she agrees with the views she expressed in 1993. If her views have changed, she should describe her current position and explain what caused the conversion.

UPDATE: Here is the speech. Whelan's analysis of the speech for NRO is here.

FURTHER UPDATE: I've found the time to read Miers' speech carefully. This is not the speech of a centrist (the worst case plausible scenario, I thought); it's the speech of a liberal. The behavior of liberal Senate Democrats over recent years relieves conservative Republican Senators of any obligation to vote for the confirmation of nominees who take positions like the ones Miers sets forth in this speech (e.g., "abortion clinic protesters have become synonymous with terrorists" or, in the context of the abortion debate, "where science cannot determine the facts and decisions vary based upon religious belief, then government should not act").

Miers should withdraw. If she doesn't then, absent convincing evidence that her positions today are completely different from the liberal ones contained in the 1993 speech, the Senate should not confirm her.

Posted by Paul at 10:29 AM | Permalink

Poor Paul is suffering from a serious, perhaps fatal, case of cogntive dissonance. Take a pill and go to bed, Paul.

Tags: hearts

Brandl's offspring . . .

Spotty thinks he has located Dave’s tag team partner! Welcome Lee McGrath. Lee posted a comment criticizing Spot’s award of a Spotty to Rob Levine for Rob’s dissection of John Brandl’s criticism of a Star Tribune editorial. Got that? Anyway, Spot wants to respond to the comment a little more comprehensively that a comment might allow. Here is the comment, with some remarks by Spot:

Dear Spot:

Are you certain you want to give Mr. Levine such a noble prize?

Yup; he’s sure.

His first observation about voucher students doing "worse on standardized tests and have smaller academic gains than students who attend regular public schools."

However the study that Mr. Levine told me he based this observation says something different. It says: "The most recent results do not reveal any significant impacts of participation in the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program on student achievement. From the end of first grade, when the large initial differences between public school students and scholarship students no longer existed, students in all of the groups we have studied demonstrated significant gains each year. And, across groups, the general extent of achievement growth was nearly equal through second and third grade. Although it is not statistically significant in the data available to date, there is some evidence of a pattern of slightly greater annual achievement growth among (voucher) students who have used a scholarship continuously since kindergarten. If this pattern continues, the achievement of this group of students may become noticeably, and meaningfully, higher than that of public school students. However, data over three to five additional years will be necessary to confirm or discount such a pattern."

For the entire report, see clev5sumrep.pdf

Actually, there is a collection of articles about the performance of voucher schools at Cursor’s Media Transparency site that you can read here. Rob Levine is an editor at

If Mr. Levine's first point is dubious, doesn't that make you, Spotty, question your endless loyalty to him?

Spot has no loyalty, in spite of being a dog, to anybody. Spot’s own post about Brandl’s article was published days before Levine’s opinion piece, and Spot makes different points. One of Spot’s points, made only obliquely in his recent post, but made more comprehensively before, is that a payment by the state of a voucher to a religious school is almost certainly unconstitutional under the Minnesota Constitution. Spot says that Article XIII Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution sets up an absolute bar to aid of sectarian schools, stricter that the “neither advance nor inhibit” test currently employed by the federal Supremes. Lee should be interested in that as a constitutional lawyer type.

And what about point #4? Do you share his belief that it is important to keep students in poorly performing schools to avoid teachers' unions defunding the Democratic Party?

The remedy is to make the schools better, not do more to insure their failure. The older Spot gets, nearly 400 in dog years now, the more he realizes that life is an ensemble (or pack, to stay in metaphor) affair. And that quality public education has more to do with the future success of our society that virtually anything else.

To answer the next question, Spotty says that the DFL champions public education while the current crop of Republican Social Darwinist hunter gatherers does not, and that is why teachers support the DFL.

Spotty, you don't want to sacrifice puppies and students just to keep the DFL funded, do you?

Wrong question. Do you, Lee, want to sacrifice the Minnesota Constitution – and the First Amendment if the Supreme Court had any moxie – to fund religious institutions?

Say it ain't so Spotty?

Lee McGrath | Homepage | 10.25.05 - 9:23 pm | #


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A drumroll, please . . .

Rob Levine wins a Spotty, with an oakleaf collar, for his commentary Case for vouchers ignores many facts in the October 24th Star Tribune. Spotty discussed the same issue, criticizing the same opinion piece by John Brandl, in Brandl's big splash. But Levine does a better job.

Godspeed, Rosa Parks

Monday, October 24, 2005

What now Don?

Spotty wonders what Don Shelby thinks of Judy Miller now? See Spot's post about Shelby's defense of the Queen of all Iraq.


These guys are lawyers?

The Powerline boys, those serial bloviators, have weighed in several times in favor of the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. In a recent post, Owly Paul said:
John and I agree that, as things stand now, conservative Senators should not vote against Miers. On the current record, she appears to be a qualified center-right nominee. As such, the president has the right, under all prior serious thinking of which I'm aware, to have her confirmed.
Uh, Paul, the divine right of kings has been eroding since say, 1215. The president has powers and responsibilities, set forth in Article II of the Constitution, but it is the people - who elected George Bush for better or worse - who have rights. Here are a few things Alexander Hamilton said about the appointment and confirmation of Supreme Court Justices:
... the necessity of their [the Senate’s] concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

The danger to his own [the President’s] reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other.
And here’s a zinger:
He [the President] would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.
Let’s see, Miers is from Texas; she is certainly personally allied to Bush, and when you consider the adolescent fan mail she has sent to Bush over the years, Spotty says she is also the “obsequious instrument of his pleasure.” Wow, do you think that Alex had Harriet specifically in mind?

Much has also been made of Miers evangelical Christian credentials in support of her confirmation. Of course, the Constitution speaks to that too, in Article 6:
Clause 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Spotty says the drafters of the Constitution were very wary of religious ideologues. Bush apparently though he could get a stealth cipher through confirmation, but that looks less and less likely.

Tags: shills for

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Onward, Christian Pharmacists!

Spotty's readers have undoubtedly heard about the Target pharmacist, in Missouri, Spot thinks, who wouldn't fill a prescription for emergency contraception, or Plan B. There have been other scattered reports of similar refusals by pharmacists across the country. Spot thought it would be altogether fit and proper to commerate these brave soldiers for the Lord with a hymn. Spot has two verses figured out so far, and would like to solicit suggestions or contributions for a couple of more verses. Here's what Spotty has so far:

Onward, Christian Pharmacists, wrapped in piety,
Foisting their morality onto you and me.
Who needs modern chemistry, when they had a vision?
Everyone trying birth control should land themselves in prison.

Onward, Christian Pharmacists, wrapped in piety,
Foisting their morality onto you and me.

Keep the torches burning, let not sunlight in,
Let the white hot torches burn out all the sin.
Stand behind their counters, dressed in pious white,
Anyone who wants the Pill, they will surely smite.

Onward, Christian Pharmacists, wrapped in piety,
Foisting their morality onto you and me.

It it sung, of course to the tune of Onward, Christian Soldiers. Ideally, there would be at least four verses: one with a quiet intensity followed with a triumphal ending verse.
It would be nice to work in themes of refusal to fill prescriptions for rape victims and seriously ill women. Spot knows the bards out there can help. Leave you snippets of verse, or entire verses in a comment or send Spot an email.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

With friends like this . . .

Well, Spot’s back. Not very chipper, but back. Time to climb back on the fire truck.

On Thursday, Katie achieved a new personal low in column writing with a post entitled Megacash can be the source of megaproblems. It was all about the woes of winning the lottery. Katie is good at setting up straw men to knock down with her moral superiority, but this is the first time in Spotty’s recollection she used her friends as the negative moral exemplar:
Last weekend, my husband and I drove north with some friends. They bought a Powerball ticket at a Holiday station.
Can you even imagine having Katie, that scold, that harpy, that harridan as a friend? Sweet Jesus.

The column was all blather and platitudes about money not buying happiness, etc. & etc. Apparently those of us unaccustomed to having any money are especially at risk:
Lottery winners often have little idea how to use their new riches. They may go on buying sprees, or start to gamble big time, experts on problem gambling say.
Katie also comments:
The lottery appeals to our dubious impulse to get rich quick without working for success.
Spotty says, Katie, that the lottery is actually a good teaching metaphor for life. It teaches that blind luck: accident of birth, family circumstances, social opportunities, often has as much to do with success in life as anything else. Just “working hard” is a poor predictor of success; just ask a migrant farm worker.

Tags: doesn't play

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Farewell Scott . . .

This is the hardest post that I have ever written. A close and valuable friend of my older son lost his life to despair on Tuesday night. I cannot begin to describe the sense of grief, anguish, bewilderment – and yes, anger – that has descended over Scott’s family and friends, certainly including my son, over this loss.

Scott was a high school history teacher, laid off for budgetary reasons last spring. He was also in the midst an especially venomous marriage breakup. Things were definitely not going Scott’s way, and it is easy to see how he’d feel trapped in a whirlpool that was pulling him irretrievably under.

But Scott really had a lot of things going for him; he was an active, friendly, and curious man, and an athlete, a Big Ten football player in fact. It is regrettable that Scott could not see the effect that tearing his life out by the roots would have on those around him. It might have made him feel less alone.

Scott was a little older than my son; he was a kind of older brother and mentor who shared a love of history with him. They used to visit battlefields, historic places, and collect historical artifacts together. The loss to my own son is incalculable, which as a parent wounds me greatly. The loss to Scott’s parents and family is unimaginable.

I have always thought that the Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life, with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, was kind of corny and maudlin. Any more, I am not so sure. Scott surely could have used a guardian angel Clarence. Now, I think the movie is more of a cautionary tale, telling us all to be Clarence whenever we can.

There probably won't be any more posting for a while.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A postscript . . .

In Spot's last post, Brandl's Big Splash, Spotty forgot to mention that Brandl and Dewey's premise that religion promotes effort and altruism is probably not correct. In a previous post, Here's a Shocker, Spotty describes a study that shows that the US lags every other industrialized nation (presumably the nations that keep statistics) in most measures of moral behavior, even though the US is more "religious."

Readers will probably also recall some of the rants about the moral and religious South after the 2004 elections. Wendy Wilde conducted a little survey, too.

Brandl's big splash . . .

John Brendl, former dean and current deep thinker at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, wrote an opinion piece that appeared in the Star Tribune on October 14, 2005. You can find it here. The title is Case for Vouchers is Growing Stronger. Spot cannot fathom how such a presumably public-minded citizen could be such a shameless flack for parochial school education. This may have something to do with it.

Let’s back up a little. After Katrina, the Bush administration concocted a plan to give education vouchers to displaced students from the Gulf Coast, vouchers that could be used in parochial schools. A Star Tribune editorialist wrote, Wait a minute, that’s a back door way to make a monumental policy change that probably shouldn’t be made, or at least it needs to be fully aired first. This is where Brendl walks in, responding to the editorial.

Brendl starts out describing John Dewey’s book A Common Faith and Dewey’s belief that stimulating effort, or striving, and altruism were the socially useful aspects of religion. Dewey didn’t have much time, however, for most aspects of traditional religion. What Dewey was describing, of course, is secular humanism.

Readers can find some tributes to John Dewey here. Spotty was particularly struck by something written in a piece about Dewey by Alfred North Whitehead, a Harvard philosopher, in 1951:
The human race consists of a small group of animals which for a small time has barely differentiated itself from the mass of animal life on a small planet circling round a small sun. The Universe is vast. Nothing is more curious than the self-satisfied dogmatism with which mankind at each period of its history cherishes the delusion of the finality of its existing modes of knowledge. Skeptics and believers are all alike. At this moment scientists and skeptics are the leading dogmatists. Advance in detail is admitted: fundamental novelty is barred. This dogmatic common sense is the death of philosophic adventure. The Universe is vast. [italics by Spot]
Brandl writes:
Dewey's vision continues to invigorate many. Many, but hardly all. For some, religion, not government, remains the ultimate source of strength. Here's the rub: Maybe there are millions of people -- poor people who can't afford tuition -- whose family and neighborhood circumstances are such that without the inspiration, structure, protection and love to be found in religious schools, they simply will not thrive. . . .
This is an ignorant and vicious libel of public schools. Every public school that Spot or his pups have ever attended has made an effort to instill values of good citizenship and civic engagement. It is utter demagoguery to suggest that some people are so weak they need some of that ‘ole time religion to “thrive.” At least when it comes to making the argument on Spot’s dime.

Spotty does not want one red cent of public money to go a theistic educational system dominated by homophobes, anti-feminists, and other assorted antediluvian thinkers.

A quality, universal and free public school education is the backbone of the United States, and of Minnesota. Minnesota’s founders recognized that. In some parts of the country, and some parts of this state, the schools have been sorely neglected and underfunded while saddled with mandate after mandate and an increasingly diverse student population.

It is sophomoric of John Brandl to suggest that a solution is simply to give some students a religious school alternative and call the problem solved. And of course he isn’t trying to solve the problems of pubic schools, just lop off some public revenue for religious schools. If the public school problems are exacerbated by that, well, too bad.


Monday, October 17, 2005

A three hour tour.

You can imagine the scene: Katie confronts some unsuspecting bystander and demands What do you think of the Vikings players’ sex cruise?

Well, the bystander sputters, it was terrible.

But why? asks Katie, piercing the bystander with her laser glare. Athletes are role models, responds the bystander. Why? repeats Katie. After a couple minutes of petulant three-year-old style cross examination, the bystander edges away, unsure of what to make of the middle-woman who apparently wants to talk dirty.

In her Monday column answers yet again her own rhetorical question: Where are we headed, and why are we sitting in this hand basket?
Minnesotans are expressing shock at the alleged sex party on Lake Minnetonka. Fans are disgusted. Politicians are outraged. The Vikings can kiss a new stadium goodbye.

But I've noticed something. Everyone sputters with outrage, but no one really articulates why. When pressed, people generally mutter something about the Vikings being poor role models for our kids.
Katie continues with her sad conclusion:
We sense something is disastrously wrong with such lascivious conduct. But in America in 2005, we've lost the language to say exactly what.
Yeah, it’s sad that a perfectly good word like the Yiddish shtup is hardly heard any more.

There isn’t anything else about this column that Spotty might write that the Wege hasn’t already said at Norweginity. Recommended.

Tags: and

Friday, October 14, 2005

Kilt him a bar . . .

Spot had a post yesterday discussing right-wing hypocrisy in constitutional interpretation. He ran across a story today that shows another example of how wingers have no problem with an expansionist view of federal power when it suits their ends.

Consider the story of Steven Tuck, a disabled vet, 38. Here’s the first graf in an AP story:
SEATTLE - An Army veteran who fled to Canada to avoid prosecution for growing marijuana to treat his chronic pain was yanked from a hospital by Canadian authorities, driven to the border with a catheter still attached, and turned over to U.S. officials, his lawyer says.
Laying aside this rather uncharacteristic – and uncharitable – conduct by our Canadian friends, what in the Sam Hill is happening here? It turns out that Mr. Tuck was growing marijuana to use to treat his chronic pain from a service-related injury: a parachute accident. He was conducting his little agronomy venture in California, which enacted a law permitting medical marijuana several years ago.

Why then, are the feds chasing him? Well, it’s the Supreme Court, stupid. The article concludes with this:
The Supreme Court ruled in June that people who smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it to ease pain can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws, even in states like California that have laws permitting medical marijuana use.
Spot reread the constitution before going to bed last night; it helps him sleep; he found no mention of marijuana anywhere in the constitution! The Supreme Court’s decision in this case can only be justified by the 20th century expansion of the meaning of the interstate commerce clause and its implied limitation on the rights of states to regulate interstate commerce, especially where the federal government has assumed a large regulatory role, such as drugs and narcotics.

So, gentle readers, this is just another case where our little control freak friends like Kimmy Crockett (who can undoubtedly trace her lineage back to coonskin Davey) want their freedom but don’t think you should have yours.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Boy, that name is familiar.

Crockett. Kimberly Crockett. Of course! Kimmy is the president of the Minnesota chapter of the Federalist Society. Spotty remembers now. Kimmy is a spokeswoman for the antediluvian constitutional doctrine called originalism. Basically, the originalists want to freeze American society as of 1787 when the Constitution was drafted. This would relieve us all from all kinds of pesky problems, including the right of privacy in constitutional jurisprudence. The right of privacy has given us contraceptive freedom, reproductive freedom, and sexual freedom among consenting adults.

When John Roberts was first nominated to the Supreme Court, Kimmy wrote a screed in the Star Tribune complaining that the right to an abortion was a direct consequence of the evil right of privacy; Spotty responded to Kimmy:
Kimmy: Conservatives, used to playing defense, are just beginning to push back with public interest firms of their own. Judicial imperialism, so cherished by the left, is one of the reasons Republicans are doing well politically. Americans don't like being bullied by judicial fiat.

Spot: How the hell is protecting a same-sex couple or religious minorities bullying you? Actually, Kimmy, and this is very, very important: what you want is greater license to bully people who aren't just exactly like you, you little white bread creep.
That was a long introduction. Kimmy is in the paper again today. This time, she made a federal case out of what she sees as unwarranted state interference with her ability to buy discount plonk. Really.

Spot wants to be sure he has this right. States should have the authority to prohibit contraception, abortion, and same-sex snuggling, but states should not have the authority to regulate the manner of distribution of intoxicating liquor? Hysterical laughter. Sorry.

Spot cannot find a link to the article about the suit in the business section of today’s Strib. (Spot has had trouble finding a lot of stuff in the Strib the past couple of days, but that’s another story.) Almost as good, though, is the opinion piece by Lee McGrath, the executive director of the “Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter.” Kimmy and a couple of wineries are the nominal plaintiffs, but you can be sure that the IJMC, a right wing law firm, is really the engine here.

A lengthy description of the suit isn’t really necessary, but the nub of it is Kimmy’s complaint that she cannot complete a transaction to buy, say a case of fermented right-wing Kool Aid, online from a winery. She has to use the telephone, fax or mail. This according to Kimmy’s lawyers, is a violation of the free speech rights of the plaintiffs, an unconstitutional act by the Minnesota Legislature.

Here’s the funny part. Commercial free speech as a doctrine has only arisen during Spot’s lifetime. In other words, activist judges recently made it up! And who said irony was dead? Activism is, apparently, in the eye of the beholder.

Don’t get Spot wrong, he likes a little red wine, even better than anti-freeze, but defending the expansion of wine distribution on commercial free speech grounds is titanic judicial activism.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Spotty loves his hometown. The memory of man or dog does not run to a time when it wasn’t Republican. But a fresh wind is blowing. John Kerry carried Spot’s burg in 2004, and in the Minnesota senate district (41) where Chez Spot is located a great DFL candidate is running for the seat held by a first term “extra chromosome” conservative. The war in Iraq is going very poorly, and a large number of people showed up recently at an anti-war rally on the equivalent of Main Street. The governor, to whom our current state senator is closely tied, is unpopular, losing to a couple of possible opponents in new polling.

This has all left the local Repubs in a state of high agitation.

Two of the more reliable local Republican bagpipes, Bob Maginnis and Brien Martin, had letters in the local weekly last week, here and here. Spot has noticed that these two often have letters in the paper at the same time. Spotty figures they have a little writing club where they get together periodically over a glass of bile and write letters to the editor.

Both Bob and Brien have a bee in their bonnets (Spot loves alliteration) about the growing anti-war sentiment here in Cakeville. Bob laments that by protesting the “legal” invasion of Iraq, protesters are merely giving “aid and comfort to our enemies.” This issue has come up on the Stool before, and here, too. The comments to the posts are especially illuminating. Short version: our bumbling, incompetent administration has given a helluva lot more aid and comfort to the enemy than war protesters ever have.

Bob calls the people involved in the protests “liberal fringe.” Well, Bob, the fringe is getting pretty long, since it includes most of the country these days.

Brien (“Brien” is another word for inaccurate blunderbuss in some dialects of English) writes, with peccable logic, that “9/11 brought Iraq to a head.” If by that Brien means it gave the neo-cons an excuse to invade Iraq, Spot supposes that Brien is right. Brien says we should assume that Iraq was involved in 9/11, since it is “logical.” Hysterical laughter. Sorry. Islamic fundamentalists hated Saddam.

Brien, as a local high school teacher says, Don’t assume; it makes an ass out of you and me.

Tags: and are on

Theodore Roosevelt Heller

An obituary in yesterday's Chicago Tribune:
Theodore Roosevelt Heller, 88, loving father of Charles (Joann) Heller; dear brother of the late Sonya (the late Jack) Steinberg. Ted was discharged from the U.S. Army during WWII due to service related injuries, and then forced his way back into the Illinois National Guard insisting no one tells him when to serve his country. Graveside services Tuesday 11 a.m. at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery (Ziditshover section), 1700 S. Harlem Ave., Chicago. In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans. Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals, Douglas MacIsaac, funeral director 847-229-8822,
Published in the Chicago Tribune on 10/10/2005.

Spotty will redouble his efforts in your memory, TRH, and he urges his readers to do the same.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Whack! Whack! Whack!

Katie cinches up the spiked mortification band (cilice) around her thigh, and she gives a little gasp of pain and a shiver of pleasure. Then she takes the small Tendrils of Redemption Flagellator (that she got at a recent Opus Dei convention) out of her pencil can and administers several sound whacks over her shoulder to her back. Weeping softly, she replaces the Flagellator, and turns to her Underwood to write today's column.

Except for stories about how we are winning the war in Iraq, Katie likes nothing better than a story of modern tight-assed asceticsm, and she has one today. Katie tells us about the St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, located on the University of St. Thomas campus. There, Katie says with relish:
In addition to philosophy and theology, says [the seminary's president] Baer, SJV stresses behavior that families used to teach, but often don't today: "Things like be true to your word, apologize when you've done wrong, welcome visitors with hospitality."
Katie is getting to be quite the tag team quoter! Here's another example of her clumsy art:
There's no room at SJV for what some call "the beige church" -- the "whatever turns you on" spirituality that became popular in the 1970s and '80s. In Baer's view, the recent clergy abuse scandals had their roots, in part, in the freewheeling seminaries of those years.
"Some" refer to the "beige church?" Come on, Katie, admit it. You made that up.

Spot does find this quote chilling, made by a senior at the seminary:
Liaugminas [said senior] points to the 12 Apostles, who were willing to go to the death. "We want to be warriors for Christ, who are not afraid to fight for a cause," he said. "This is the stuff of legends, and it resonates deeply in our hearts here."
Just what the world needs: more religious zealots. Onward Christian Soldiers; the Crusades need you.


Judge between the quick and the dead.

William Cooper, the owner of a local savings and loan and the champion of speeding snowmobilers everywhere, has weighed in on the “living Constitution” debate. The Coop prefers a dead one. In a commentary in Sunday’s Star Tribune OpEx section, Cooper makes the case for originalism.

In a nutshell – God, that was Freudian – originalism posits that failure to pay attention to just the text of the Constitution means that judges will be just making it up as they go. Go with the judgment of the dead guys and not that of judges living in contemporary society. Sort of a pro-Leviticus position. Coincidence? Spotty doesn’t think so.

Cooper tells us:
A careful reading of our Constitution reveals that it was constructed mainly to limit the role of government in the lives of citizens. The document bestowed certain limited rights to government and all other rights to the states and, most importantly, to the people. "Living Constitution" makes our rights as citizens subject to a dictatorship of the court. The Supreme Court makes new law outside the political process.
But in the next breath, the Coop tells us that Roe v. Wade, a decision that increased the autonomy of individual women, is Exhibit A in the case against the “living Constitution”:
The abortion issue is the clearest and most hotly debated issue that demonstrates the effects of the "living Constitution." The U.S. Supreme Court took away the rights of the states to legislate laws limiting abortion based on a so-called "privacy right" in the "living Constitution." There is no right of privacy in the Constitution. In fact, the word privacy is nowhere to be found in our Constitution. This so-called right was somehow divined out of our Constitution by a court interpreting contemporary standards into our Constitution, without the inconvenience of amending the Constitution.
It is obvious to even the casual observer that Cooper’s real problem is with a line of cases that began with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. Spotty has written about Griswold here and here. Griswold involved the constitutionality of a Connecticut statue that prohibited the use of birth control drugs or devices and the counseling of patients regarding their use. In reversing a conviction under the statue, Justice William O. Douglas finds the existence of a right of privacy by considering the intent of several of the provisions of the Bill of Rights. In concluding his opinion, Douglas writes:
We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights - older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.
The thread of the right of privacy runs from Griswold through Roe v. Wade to the recent Lawrence v. Texas. Lawrence is the case that struck down prohibition of consensual sexual relations between members of the same sex.

Cooper argues that by limiting the control that government – state and federal – can have on individual citizens, his right is abridged: the Right to Tell Other People What to Do.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bark! Bark! Barf!

Well, not really. But Spotty has been a little under the weather the past couple of days (a rhetorical flourish that Capt. Fishsticks may enjoy). Not Boy, that antifreeze I licked up was really tasty, but I don't think it agrees with me sick, but enough to put a crimp on his activities, including blogging.

Spot is working on a couple of posts, including ones on Cheri (the Shiva) Pierson Yecke and the Big Coop, Bill Cooper.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Katie really does get a pass.

From Spotty anyway. In her column today about what women want, Katie says she "came of age" at about the same time that Spot did (involuntary shudder from Spot). Spot has spent his entire adult life trying to figure out what women -well, one woman in particular - want, and Spotty says he has no standing to comment on Katie's column.

However, MNObserver, writing at the Power Liberal, does. Recommended.


Bush: Stay the Course!

President Bush gave what the administration described as a “major address” on Iraq this morning. Major address apparently just means longer than usual; the Iraq war has been going on long enough now that President Platitude needed some extra time to repeat all the accumulated bromides. Here’s the short version:
Stay the Course!
Spotty listened carefully, as carefully as Spotty can anyway, and he doesn’t believe he heard one new thing. At least the television networks didn’t interrupt their rich weekday morning programming to cover the speech!

Spot believes that a couple of things did happen this morning, though.

First, Spotty says that the President made the first in a string of announcements that will lead to administration efforts to reinstate the draft. The US military is being ground to powder, and there is no way to maintain the endless war against the boogie man without the draft. Enlistment goals are not being met, and there is no prospect that they will in the future.

Second, this morning may be recognized in the future as a watershed date in the Republicans’ loss of control of one or both houses of Congress.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

And the Spotty goes to . . .

For this letter in the Star Tribune this morning, October 4th, Greg Glarner of Minneapolis gets the Spotty award:
But would it be 'morally reprehensible'?

I don't know about what William Bennett said, but I do know that if you aborted the House and Senate majority leaders and the senior aides to the president and vice president, the crime rate would go down.

Greg Glarner, Minneapolis.

The Spotty award is for persons who say or write something that Spot wishes he had put in a post.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Katie gets a pass . . .

Who are we kidding? It would take more than a story about the Renaissance man Rutherford Aris to do that. Katie’s writes about Aris in her Star Tribune column today, October 3rd.

Katie tells us about the long-time but now retired professor of chemical engineering who also had an interest in medieval Christian Latin manuscripts, and who was a devout Christian. In fact, the MacLauren Institute, recently sponsored a conference called the Professor as Pilgrim to recognize the Regents Professor Emeritus, who is now in failing health. Apparently, mentoring graduate students and younger faculty members was something that Professor Aris was especially good at.

What is the MacLauren Institute? According to its website, it is A Christian study center serving the University of Minnesota community. So far so good. But, when you scroll down the home page, you can see that the Institute sponsors event like this:
Intelligent Design, Methodological Naturalism and the Integrity of Science, Dr. Michael Kent, Sandia National Lab, Thursday, October 27, 7:00 p.m., Room 140, Nolte Center, 315 Pilllsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN
And it contains entries like this in a section called Gopher’s Den:
Intelligent Design on Trial Sep. 26th, by Matt Kaul

The New York Times has an article on the upcoming Dover, PA lawsuit concerning the teaching of ID in public schools, in which upcoming MacLaurin Institute guest Dr. Michael Behe is expected to be the star witness for the defense.
Well, Spot’s a monkey’s uncle, or maybe a monkey is his uncle! These are Katie’s kind of people.

So Katie, what did Professor Aris have to say about intelligent design? Hmm, after reading the column a couple of times – Spot will do almost anything for his readers – he could not find any quotations by Professor Aris, much less one on the subject of intelligent design. In fact, she doesn’t quote anybody on the ID issue.

Here’s Katie explanation of the professor’s religious faith:
. . . How did he reconcile his science and his religious faith? Some would say that the more Aris saw of the universe, the more he saw God's hand at work and the more he came to realize the limits of his own knowledge. . . .
Well, actually it was Katie who said that. It’s a lot easier if you just make stuff up. Here’s another priceless bit from the column:
At the conference, Keller displayed Aris' "academic family tree," a chart of 60 former Aris students and the students' students who are now teaching at leading American universities. Said Keller: "This represents the personal influence of one man," a man who believed he was called to be a humble servant of God.
Did you notice how Keller and Katie teamed up on this quotation, gentle readers? Imagine. Said FDR, “December 7th, 1941, a day which will live in infamy,” in spite of the fact that the Redskins hung on to beat Philadelphia 20 – 14.

And by the way, the Keller is Ken Keller, who penned a long op-ed piece in the Star Tribune Op-Ex section just yesterday condemning the debasement of science by the creationist or ID crowd.

PZ should probably take it from here.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

They won't play nice . . .

From a post on A Tiny Revolution:
By my observation, colonial wars always have three stages in the minds of supporters:
1. We've got to help these people!
2. Why are these people resisting our attempts to help them?
3. These people MUST BE KILLED!!!!!!!!
You really should read the whole thing here.

The site author, Jonathan Schwarz, goes on to say that St. Louis Park's own Tommy Friedman has reached stage three. He bases his conclusion on a New York Times column by Friedman that ran in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Thursday, September 29th. Spotty doesn't think it is available on the Strib site, and it is only available for Times Select online subscribers, but portions of the column are quoted in the Schwarz piece.

Friedman expressed exasperation that the Sunni Arabs haven't taken his advice to play nice with the Shi'ia and the Kurds. Since they won't, Tommy wants to arm these latter groups and leave the Sunnis to "reap the wind." We thank Tommy for this useful advice, just as we thank him for all the useful advice he has given us about Iraq for the last three years. He and Judy "the Queen of all Iraq" really make a dynamic duo, don't they?

It is numbskulls like Tommy that got us into the Iraq mess in the first place. And they are so put out that things didn't go as they predicted. But now Tommy, like Pontius Pilate, wants to wash his hands of the affair and dodge the moral question of his own involvement.

Nice try Tommy, but there are a lot of people around, like Schwarz, who will make sure that doesn't work.