Friday, December 30, 2005

A warm, moist wind.

Jason Lewis, the periodic flashback from the bad acid trip, the rash that won’t clear up, the flatulence that won’t go away, the gift membership in the Chia Pet Club, the gift to the Twin Cities that just keeps on giving, penned another stinker in the Star Tribune yesterday. Most of the column is hysteria about being at war – the Congress authorized the use of force; it didn’t actually declare war, by the way – and the need to KEEP OURSELVES SAFE! Just like Katie, Jason wants to ram 9/11 up our arses as often as necessary to keep us all afraid and nice and compliant with whatever authoritarian schemes the righties might advance.

NSA hoovering up private information on all of us? Not to worry; it’s keeping us safe! You’ll have to pardon him, but this does not make Spotty feel safer. It just makes him feel spied on.

There have been other commenters on Lewis’ column; Smartie at Power Liberal, for instance. There is one teensy thing that Spot wants to mention, however. Lewis says:
When Zacarias Moussaoui was busy learning how to steer an airliner inside a simulator at an Eagan flight school, the FBI got the now-infamous tip as to how suspicious it seemed that a self-sufficient fellow with no gainful employment was only interested in flying a plane, not landing it. Alas, because evidence (courtesy of French intelligence) [The French? Oh, the irony. Ed.] of mere membership in a suspect organization was not enough to authorize a warrant to inspect his computer files, information on what might have prevented 9/11 was not shared.

Outrageous! Damn that FISA Court! Only one small problem. The Justice Department never presented a warrant application for Moussaoui’s computer to the FISA Court. Why not? You might ask John Ashcroft about that one. Spotty thinks that maybe it is because different agencies of the government did not understand the impending threat of the hijack of civilian airplanes. Why not? Well among other reasons, Chimpy McFlightsuit was too busy riding bike and clearing brush to “shake the bureaucratic tree” as the Clinton Administration had done in the run-up to January 1, 2000.

It is the height of intellectual dishonesty to assert that FISA doesn’t work because it wasn’t used. It’s also stupid. And it surely isn't a reason to permit the further erosion of our Fourth Amendment rights.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

No more eggnog for Katie!

Ok, Spotty. Time to get off your substantial haunches and post something. [Whining in the background. Ed.]

Spot thinks that Katie has been into Uncle Bill’s special rum eggnog, big time. There is no other explanation for the story she tells today, December 29th. Katie tells the story of Hazelton, a hardscrabble North Dakota town, and a man who graced the place by living there, rancher Ben Kalberer.

Kalberer sounds like a thoroughly admirable, community-spirited man. A bachelor, Kalberer was apparently the adopted uncle of every kid in Hazelton. Here’s what one resident said of him:
"Ben Kalberer was the pied piper of Hazelton," says Tom Weiser, who recently stepped down as president of the Hazelton Development Corp. "Kids followed him everywhere. Without a family of his own to support, he used what he had to brighten other people's lives."

Stories abound of Kalberer’s generosity and thoughtfulness to the young people of Hazelton. Every kid, if he or she is lucky, has some adult who treats the kid as a separate, autonomous individual of worth, wholly apart from the obligation of family. It can be a key to self esteem and a gift beyond measure. Kalberer’s gifts to his community were recently recognized by the naming of a new high school gym in Hazelton in his honor.

Here’s the too much of Uncle Bill’s eggnog part.

Kalberer apparently spent a lot of his time in the local tavern, Earl’s Bar. That Katie finds such a person admirable is astonishing to Spot. Even more astonishing is this:
After Kalberer died in 1975, Hazelton, like many other small North Dakota towns, continued to struggle. By the 1990s its population had fallen below 240. In 1997, town officials faced a wrenching decision: renovate the high school or close it.

"That wasn't an option for us," Weiser says.

So Hazelton's citizens took a risk. They voted to raise their taxes, passing a $1.3 million bond issue with 72 percent of the vote.

Apparently, the risk is paying off. What amazes Spot, though, is that Katie could ever affirm the decision of a community - acting through the government, for crying out loud - to make a decision to raise its own taxes for the common good. What ever happened to individual initiative Katie? To the good old Invisible Hand?

We could use more Ben Kalberers. But we could also use more citizens like those in Hazelton, willing to sacrifice for their community.

Incidentally, Sigmund Spot told Spotty that he wants to comment on Katie and the Chronicles of Narnia. Look for it soon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Yawn . . .

With all the solstace and Christmas celebrating, your friend Spotty is in a post-celebration torpor. It's too bad really, because there is so much out there to skewer. Until Spot becomes a more sentinent being however, he offers you this post about plutocracy in America by Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque. But sure to follow the link therein to the Toledo Blade story.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

He's not the only . . .

Reason for the season. You know, the bumper sticker slogan He’s the reason for the season, or sometimes Jesus Christ is the reason for the season. Well, Katie & Co., this is not entirely accurate. Winter solstice festivals and observances were taking place centuries before the birth of Jesus.

Mesopotamians (you know them Katie as those pesky Iraqis) celebrated the solstice by supporting the god Marduk in his annual battle with the powers of chaos. At the Zagmuk [click the link and search for Zagmuk] festival celebrating Marduk's success, gifts were exchanged. This festival goes back to perhaps 3500 BCE.

Here’s one that will hit pretty close to home, Katie:

Mitra or Mithra or Mithras is an important deity of Persian and Indic culture; he appears in the Vedas as one of the Adityas, a solar deity and the god of honesty, friendship, contracts and meetings. In Persian civilization, where his name was rendered as Mithra, he later came into increased prominence as a major deity of Zoroastrianism. He can be identified with a proto-Indo-Persian deity whose name can be reconstructed as *Mitra. Mithraism began as an aspect of the religion of the old Aryan people, preserved in the Persian Avesta and the Hindu Vedas.
In both cultures, he is distinguished by his close relationship with the god who rules over the asuras (Persian ahuras) and protects rta (Persian asha): Varuna in India and Ahura Mazda in Persia.
Mithra was believed to have been the son of God (Ahura Mazda). According to Persian tradition, Ahura Mazda sent his son Mithra to defend humanity from evil and from the Adversary, Ahriman.
Mithraism entered Europe after the conquests of Alexander the Great and spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire in later years. The Hellenistic and Roman god Mithras, worshipped by male initiates from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD, combined the Persian Mithra with other Persian and perhaps Anatolian deities in a syncretic cult.

Guess what time of year Mithra’s birthday is celebrated?

The ancient Greeks celebrated the solstice as the birthday of Zeus, the Egyptians celebrated the birth of the god Horus to Isis. The list goes on and on.

But here’s Spotty’s favorite part:
[Saturnalia is a] Roman festival to the ancient god, Saturn. In Ancient Rome, the mythical age of Saturn's kingship was a golden age of happiness for all men, without theft or servitude, and without private property. Saturn, dethroned by his son Jupiter, had joined Janus as ruler in Italy, but when his time as earthly king was up, he disappeared. "It is said that to this day He lies in a magic sleep on a secret island near Britain, and at some future time ... He will return to inaugurate another Golden Age."

The people gave themselves up to wild joy. They feasted, they gave gifts, they decorated their homes with greenery. The usual order of the year was suspended: grudges and quarrels forgotten; wars interrupted or postponed. Businesses, courts, schools closed. Rich and poor were equal, slaves were served by masters, children headed the family. Cross-dressing and masquerades, merriment of all kinds prevailed. [italics are Spot’s] A mock king -- the Lord of Misrule -- was crowned. Candles and lamps chased away the spirits of darkness.

Now, some of you, boys and girls, will remember that Spot told you that Constantine conquered Rome in about 313 CE. And that he was responsible for ending the persecution of Christians in the Edict of Milan, and for sponsoring the Council of Nicaea which made Christianity the official religion of the empire in 325 CE. Christmas was begun to be celebrated around 336 CE, and the timing of the celebration was simply piggy-backed on Saturnalia.

So, what to make of this, boys and girls? The Christians, like a bunch of pious hermit crabs, hijacked the existing pagan solstice holiday for their own! Now it made a lot of sense, and Spotty is not at all critical of the date choice, but it does seem a little huffy to claim Christmas is being corrupted by a failure to properly limit it to the observance of the birth of Jesus.

Merry Christmas, or whatever!

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

No Katie today, but . . .

There is no Katherine Kersten column today, but for those of you who missed it, here is Katie's Christmas letter, a copy of which Spotty received.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Well Surprise Surprise Surprise!

Governor Gimmick hoist on his own petard! The courts have been rough on the governor this week. First, Susie Ek, Republican House candidate, is thrown off the ballot for a special election in Saint Cloud because, well, she doesn’t live in St. Cloud. So now, apparently Susie’s mommy, who has the same address that Susie tried to use, is going to run, but she won’t be on the ballot. But now for the real fun.

Remember the No New Taxes Ever, I Really Mean It, Cross My Heart, and Hope to Die Pledge that Timmy signed for the Minnesota Taxpayers League? Apparently, Timmy was so worried that he would burn in hell, or maybe on Davy Strom’s front yard, if he didn’t observe the letter of the pledge, that he concocted the 75 cent per pack health impact user fee for cigarettes. The plan was to use the estimated $400 million dollars raised by the “fee” this biennium to plug a hole in the budget and send the legislature for the exits.

Never mind that the “fee” just went into the general fund of the state, not some special fund to deal with the health costs of smoking.

Timmy thought he covered this tracks pretty well. The “fee” legislation was put in, as Spot recalls, a human services bill, not the tax bill. And in news conferences after the session ended, Timmy said he called it a “fee,” and he was sticking to that. Now he’s really stuck with it.

Yesterday, a Ramsey County district judge threw out the “fee” as violating the terms of the of the 1998 settlement the state made with the tobacco industry. Wow, Timmy that has to smart! It’ll probably leave marks, too!

And of course, one of Timmy’s loyal vassals, Earl of Kenyon, is on the radio this morning, saying how he was surprised by the court decision. The only way he could be surprised would be to think the whole “fee” idea was such a transparent and laughable ruse in the first place that no actual grown ups would take it seriously.

Tags: loses on the , mystified

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Like old married people . . .

They complete each other’s sentences. Yesterday, Katie told a story about Staff Sgt. Joe Buhain of Rochester, and how US medics looked after US soldiers, insurgents, and civilians alike. Last evening, Johnny Rocketseed told us that “Kathy” and Captain Queeg had explained this was because we were better people than the insurgents – Johnny and the Captain used the term terrorists, of course – and Johnny said this was one of the reasons we are going to win the war.

Apparently, “Kathy” had somehow left this conclusion unstated, or at least not stated with the clarity that Johnny thought that Katie’s readers needed. Spot has to hand it to Katie; she has become a little more oblique of late. But this is apparently dismaying to the right wing blogosphere, since it needs to fill in the blanks.

As far at Johnny’s conclusion is concerned, the American soldier, who is in the main a good-hearted and idealistic sort, will never overcome the mess the US has created.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

White people are mutants!

Spotty has finally quit laughing long enough to type out this post. Here's a news flash:

WHITE PEOPLE ARE MUTANT BLACK PEOPLE!

It has been known for some time that the human race arose out of the Rift Valley in African. What scientists have recently discovered though, is that white people are the result of a genetic mutation, a gene defect in other words! Take that, Prussian Blue, you little Aryan shits.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that light skin pigmentation arose in a single individual after people migrated out of Africa. It was probably Jesus! Just kidding.

Seriously, the scientists did stress that humans are all pretty much alike:
[S]everal scientists said, the new work shows just how small a biological difference is reflected by skin color. The newly found mutation involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome -- the complete instructions for making a human being.

Spot isn't sure what this means for spotted dogs, but he is pretty sure it means that trying to differentiate humans based on skin color is really, really stupid.

Tags: are

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Great Pretender, part two

In the Great Pretender, Spotty told his readers about state senator Geoff Michel’s efforts to run away – rhetorically only, of course – from his Republican caucus in the Minnesota Legislature. He needs to do so, of course, because of the bluing of Edina, Geoff’s hometown. Oh, what a tangled web we weave!

Now, Spotty wants to spend some time over the next several days talking about the real Geoff Michel. First, let’s talk about civil rights, specifically the rights of gays and lesbians.

Whenever the passage of a so-called “defense of marriage” amendment to the Minnesota Constitution comes up, Michel gives a sad smile and says he thinks the people should vote on the issue. He wants voters to think that all of the controversy and his profound thinking on the subject have left him wounded and weary. By favoring a referendum on the amendment, Geoff is trying to wash his hands of the whole affair like Pilate, and like Pilate, he seeks to avoid moral responsibility for his conduct.

But there are no moral dodges, Senator. And isn’t it conservatives who are always telling us about how we all have to own up to the consequences of our own conduct? In the Great Pretender, Spotty mentioned a presentation made by Michel last week that was reported to him by Spot’s Dump Michele Bachmann friends. Apparently, there was this exchange during the question and answer period:
Q: Would you be in favor of permitting a referendum on a constitution amendment to reinstitute slavery?

Michel: No.

Q: Would you be in favor of permitting a referendum on a constitutional amendment to prohibit miscegenation? [interracial marriage for the youngsters in the crowd, ed.]

Michel: No.

Q: How is a gay marriage ban amendment any different?

Michel: Baleful stare at the questioner and a refusal to answer, other than to repeat that’s my position.

Eva Young, the publisher of Dump Michele Bachmann calls Geoff Michel a member of "the stealth Leviticus crowd." That’s an accurate description. The senator and the Republicans want next session to be all about gays, all the time. Why?

Because it panders to the prejudices of the public. By focusing on this divisive social issue, attention will be diverted from what’s really important, like education, transportation, and health care, and that’s helpful to conservatives. This brings the Great Pretender’s crowing about the 2020 Caucus into sharp relief.

Michel trots out the old saw about activist judges who might make an unpopular decision in favor gay marriage. Exactly. Which brings us back to slavery and miscegenation; you might throw women’s suffrage in there too, just for fun. The whole idea behind the equal protection clauses in both the federal and Minnesota constitutions is to prevent a majority from trampling the rights of an unpopular minority. As Spotty has observed before, when it comes to civil rights, sometimes the majority is just a mob.

Sometimes a person, even a legislator, needs to lead, not follow. Regrettably, Geoff Michel has decided to be Nathan Bedford Forrest and not Susan B. Anthony. History will judge him accordingly.

Spot would like to write more on this subject, and will, but right now he has to go out and go kibble shopping for Lee!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

John Ashcroft's shameful past

Did you know that John Ashcroft is the grandson of an illegal immigrant? Yup, that guy: John Hang 'em High Ashcroft, our former Attorney General, Chief Boob Draper, and calico catophobe. This is the kind of information that genuine, snoopy journalists will tell you. Especially ones with a sharp irony sensor.

The story of John's illegal grandfather was told by Nick Coleman in his Wednesday column in the Star Tribune entitled A second scolding: Governor, do your research, please. But this flavorful tidbit was just a sidebar to Coleman's second scolding of the governor over his xenophobic smear of undocumented aliens in Minnesota. Coleman's started out last Sunday with Immigrant report fails to document accurate picture.

Spotty had thought of weighing in on the governor's hatchet job, too. But that would be silly, especially when you can read Coleman's columns and not only learn about the report, but read about a Norwegian ship jumper, too!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Eugene McCarthy equals . . .

Shortly after Gene McCarthy died, one of the three doofi (that's Power Line for the uninitiated) in remarking about his passing said that the Democratic party had nobody like him today, certainly not Hillary or Howard Dean. Tsk, tsk. Spot isn't going to link there; you can find it if you're really interested. Spot thought that was an especially precious and clueless remark and had thought about commenting on it. Indirectly, the Strib editorialists beat Spot to it, and earn a Spotty:

Editorial: Too bad GOP had no McCarthy in 2004

December 13, 2005

Eugene McCarthy's death on Saturday has triggered a flood of bittersweet memories and set off the inevitable comparisons between Iraq today and the Vietnam misadventure of four decades ago -- and all that went with it.

We would never wish for another 1968. The tear gas, the truncheons, the political and cultural recriminations, the calamitous assassinations are painful still. But that pivotal and tumultuous election year had something that 2004 lacked: the courage from within a political party to challenge a sitting president who was plainly and tragically wrong.

Republicans had no Gene McCarthy in 2004, even though many in the party knew what's clearer to most Americans now: that President Bush misled the nation into war in Iraq and that his administration on many fronts -- from antiterrorism to science to pension reform -- is driven by narrow ideology, not broad-based reality.

Iraq and Vietnam are different kettles of fish, but deception of the American public was central to the U.S. entry into each. Phantom WMD and links to al-Qaida were used as pretext for Iraq just as a phony report from the Gulf of Tonkin was used to widen the war in Southeast Asia. McCarthy voted for the Tonkin resolution in August 1964, but within two years came to regret it. By early 1967 he was criticizing the war, and by November he was challenging President Johnson in the primaries -- if only to get his attention.

"We do not need presidents who are bigger than the country," he summarized.

McCarthy's audacity, intellect and wit are sorely missing from today's political scene. The vacuum reminds us of a line uttered by John Houseman in the 1975 film "Three Days of the Condor," in which an old spy is asked if he misses the kind of action of days gone by, and he replies, "I miss that kind of clarity."

We miss it, too. Layers of willful deception by the Bush administration (the readiness of Iraqi troops as part of the "Plan for Victory" is only the latest fiction) make clarity difficult in today's world. McCarthy, in his prime, could have sliced through the fog with a raised eyebrow and a tart phrase.

When, in 1968, Johnson's loyalists mocked McCarthy as a "footnote in history," the Minnesota senator fired back with a quote from Winston Churchill, "But what a footnote!" For all his brilliant complexity, the nation could use another footnote like Gene McCarthy.

So, the proper comparison, my doofi friends, would be to Chuck Hagel or John McCain. But Spot knew Gene McCarthy, and Chuck and John are no Gene McCarthy.

Tags: are clueless about

Monday, December 12, 2005

Kersten streak ends at one

Spot mentioned last week that Katie had written a column about the Merchant Marine during the Second World War that Spot liked. Sigh. Two in a row was pretty improbable. Nearly as improbable, Spot finds himself defending Dorsey & Whitney, one of the local law factories that has helped turn law practice into a smokestack industry.

Katie’s latest tirade is about how some law schools, including the University of Minnesota Law School (housed in the Walter F. Mondale building; oh, the horror), were denying military recruiters access to law students. Why, oh why, would law schools do that? Antipathy toward the military, says Katie. It all goes back to the Vietnam War. And probably to the 60s in general. Wow, Spotty had no idea.

And all this time Spot thought it was because of the continuing denial of civil rights to gays and lesbians through the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” and its dismissal of every one it finds. Katie kinda tries to brush that aside. Katie says well, Dorsey & Whitney and other big law firms represent all kinds of mean people: death row inmates, those unlawful combatant detainees, and assorted corporate flim flam men. Ah, yes Katie, but there is a difference, and since you’re a lawyer, Spot is surprised you didn’t spot it.

Katie, if you think way, way back to when you went to law school, you probably took a class in ethics that told you it was the law profession’s duty to insure that all people receive adequate legal representation, including people who have done heinous things or hold unpopular opinions. Spotty suspects that any other organization that would ruthlessly root out any gay or lesbian it found would also get the pariah treatment from the Law School. (Spotty has heard that D&W is actually a pretty gay-friendly place to work, and the firm does a lot of pro bono representation.) Lawyers and law professors as a class of people generally like civil rights, although as Katie will tell you, there are exceptions!

Spot has told you before, gentle readers, that Katie will try to cram almost anything up your arse using “we were attacked by terrorists” as the tamping rod. Letting the military off the hook for its bigotry is just the latest example.

Tags: hearts

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Great Pretender

A Minnesota state senator, not the crooner. Geoff Michel, not Freddie Mercury and the Platters.
Oh yes I'm the great pretender (ooh ooh)
Pretending I'm doing well (ooh ooh)
My need is such I pretend too much
I'm lonely but no one can tell

Yes, Geoff has been getting lonelier and lonelier since the election in 2004. John Kerry carried Geoff’s district (41) which includes the salons of Edina. The same election swept a dozen or so new DFLers into the Minnesota House of Representatives. The DFL just took another state senate seat in
Minnetonka in a special election. And one of the Representatives in Geoff’s district, Ron Erhardt, is a well-liked moderate Republican who is increasingly alienated from Governor Pawlenty.

And we know that Geoff is tight with the guv. He and the guv signed the No New Taxes Ever, I Really Mean It, Cross My Heart and Hope to Die Pledge by the Minnesota Taxpayer’s League that helped cripple publics schools and will lead to double digit property tax increases just for 2006. That’s an election year, isn’t it Geoff?

What’s a party apparatchik to do? Become the Great Pretender, of course.

How does a guy with a 100% rating from the Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota in 2004 (he slipped a little this year) become the Great Pretender? Well, if you’re Geoff Michel, you start by trying to look as bi-partisan as you can, without actually being bi-partisan, of course. A tall order you say? Nah, not for a pro like Geoff. You could start by assisting in the birth of a shuck and jive called the 2020 Caucus.

The what? The 2020 Caucus is a recently formed group of primarily first or second term legislators from both parties who, for the most part, come from swing districts. They recognize that there is a big anti-incumbent sentiment in the electorate, and as new legislators they know they are the most vulnerable. What’s a callow legislator to do? Well, try to put a little daylight between your caucus leaders and you; run against St. Paul. And that is exactly what Geoff is trying to do with the 2020 Caucus. Boy, Spotty, you are a cynical S.O.B. In Spot’s case, the S.O.B. part is accurate, but he pleads not guilty to the cynicism charge. How does Spot know that’s what Geoff is doing? Pretty simple, really.

The 2020 Caucus is dedicated to the proposition that the sky is falling. People are getting old at an alarming rate; we must plan; we must plan! Okay, what are the 2020 Caucus’ plans? Well, um, there aren’t any. None? Nope, not as far as Spot can determine. This group just wants to raise the issues, and let its members appear as earnest and statesmen-like as possible, hoping to divert the wrath of the voters.

Spotty, this group is certainly going to caucus together—caucus is in the name, after all—and develop legislative positions on stuff, right? Again, no. So the senator will still be at Dick Day’s beck and call. He admitted as much last Wednesday night at a presentation as part of a public affairs series at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. (Some of Spot’s friends from Dump Michele Bachmann were there and filled Spotty in.)

And ask yourselves, boys and girls, what are they going to propose? The budget has to be balanced every biennium. Do we bounce a bunch of people off of Minnesota Care, funded by the medical provider tax and premiums paid by enrollees, and then take half-a-billion dollars out of Minnesota Care surpluses to help plug up the budget deficit? Well, the governor already thought of that.

Maybe we could raise additional tax revenues now and salt some money away for when the boomers get old. Good idea. Let’s ask Davy Strom and the rest of the deep thinkers at the Minnesota Taxpayers League what they think about running surpluses year after year! Geoff’s in tight with the Taxpayers League after all.

Behind it all, of course, the senator hasn’t changed. He just wants you to think he has. In coming posts, Spot will discuss how Geoff is the same old, same old on education, taxes, transportation, and civil rights, especially for gays and lesbians.

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Eugene McCarthy dead at 89


The New York Times reports today that Eugene McCarthy has died. A generation ago, McCarthy had the courage to take on a sitting president of his own party in opposing another misbegotten war.

Godspeed, Gene McCarthy.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

So that's what we're fighting for!

Now Spot gets it. The war in Iraq isn’t about WMD, or democracy for Iraqis, it is about our self-esteem as Americans! At least that is what David Brooks writes in an op-ed piece in the Star Tribune of December 6th. Codswallop. The piece is no longer on the Strib site, but you can probably find it somewhere on the internets.

The subtext of Brooks’ piece is that by opposing the war, you liberals, you are hurting the government’s ability to do anything: fix the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast, deal with genocide in Dafur, deal with the energy needs of the country, or deal with the Iranians. Americas are just becoming too skeptical and cynical!

Brooks says that more people are “skeptical of [US] plans to mold reality according to our designs.” The notion that reality is moldable by the US is a laughable conceit, about as useful as belief in the Easter Bunny.

Actually, the Vietnam War may have started the slide into skepticism as Brooks suggests, but what really accelerated it was Ronald Reagan’s pronouncement that the government was not the solution, it was the problem. That’s been the theme of the Republicans and pundits like Brooks ever since.

After undermining the idea that government can be useful for twenty five years, now Brooks is sorry that the American people cannot be rallied to an unpopular cause. The amazing thing is that he doesn’t seem to have any idea why.

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Sigmund Spot on Friday!

Among all za animals, humans zeem ze most resiztant to change. Vy is zis so? Sigmund Spot tinks it is becauze zome people cannot believe zer species ever evolved. Bah!

Sigmund Spot haz observed zat humans vill only make a change when za zychological pain of not making the change becomes greater zan za pain of making za change. Read zat over carefully liebschen.

Take za case of your prezident Georg. He must know that za wor in Iraq is shtupped. But he cannot change za policy of za foolish bleating about victory! victory! victory! becauze ze pain of admitting that he is a schlemiel is still greater zan za pain to him of killing people!

Zomting must be done about zis. Sigmund Spot zes zat you must make Georg’s pain of persistence greater zan za pain of waking up and zmelling za coffee! You do not do zis by letting Georg or Herr Major Rőve tell you zat you cannot disagree wit zem and still be za good American! Tell zem to kush meer in toches.

Next time, liebschen, ve vill discuss whether Georg’s stubbornness can be traced to za toilet training or to za whacks to za head he got for zucking his tumb.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

About as useful as . .

When Spotty gets tired of chasing tennis balls, he sometimes indulges in his next most productive activity: reading Power Line. It's always good for a paranoia fix. Here's a little gem from Johnny Rocketseed within the past couple of days:
Quantifying the Bias

Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston links to a Media Research Center study of coverage of the Iraq war by the three broadcast news networks. Sure, you knew it was bad, but MRC has the figures:

Network coverage has been overwhelmingly pessimistic. More than half of all stories (848, or 61%) focused on negative topics or presented a pessimistic analysis of the situation, four times as many as featured U.S. or Iraqi achievements or offered an optimistic assessment (just 211 stories, or 15%).

News about the war has grown increasingly negative.In January and February, about a fifth of all network stories (21%) struck a hopeful note, while just over half presented a negative slant on the situation. By August and September, positive stories had fallen to a measly seven percent and the percentage of bad news stories swelled to 73 percent of all Iraq news, a ten-to-one disparity.

Interesting. That coincides with the Democrats' "Bush lied!" attack, and with the President's precipitous fall in the polls.

Even coverage of the Iraqi political process has been negative. More stories (124) focused on shortcomings in Iraq’s political process — the danger of bloodshed during the January elections, political infighting among politicians, and fears that the new Iraqi constitution might spur more civil strife — than found optimism in the Iraqi people’s historic march to democracy (92 stories). One-third of those optimistic stories (32) appeared on just two nights — January 30 and 31, just after Iraq’s first successful elections.

Few stories focused on the heroism or generous actions of American soldiers. Just eight stories were devoted to recounting episodes of heroism or valor by U.S. troops, and another nine stories featured instances when soldiers reached out to help the Iraqi people. In contrast, 79 stories focused on allegations of combat mistakes or outright misconduct on the part of U.S. military personnel.

Posted by John at 04:09 PM | Permalink

[italics by Spot]

Spot is not making this up; he couldn't. So, in reporting about a thunderstorm and tornado descending on the city, the televsion weather guy should also be sure to say: Don't worry, it should be sunny and mild for the clean up tomorrow? Oh Johnny, Johnny. Is the sky blue in your world Johnny?

Spotty has linked to this op-ed piece before, but it is useful to get the perspective of someone in the reality-based community. The author teaches at Hebrew University in Israel, and he is on required reading lists for US military officers.

Johnny, you've heard the old saw: if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, haven't you?

You are not gonna believe this . . .

Katie has a column in today's Star Tribune that Spot likes. Likes quite a bit, actually. Katie tells the story of John Hennessy, a merchant marine sailor in WWII. Mr. Hennessy was in a fuel tanker ship that was torpedoed in November, 1944. He was blown out of the ship, managed to find a life boat, climbed in, rescued a couple of his fellow sailors, and floated for days until rescue. While being trailed by the sub that sunk his ship, using them for bait for potential rescue boats.

You do have to hand it to those merchant marine guys. They sailed to hell and back, basically unarmed, and not always with convoy support. You also have to imagine that Hennessy cursed his luck at being sunk by a Nazi submarine in the Indian Ocean in late 1944 after having made it that far from the dark days of 1942.

Part of the column was about how merchant marine sailors were not recognized as veterans until 1988. One of the other sailors that Katie talked to, Mike Boosalis, said this about finally being recognized:
"When we finally got recognition as veterans in 1988," Boosalis said, "I went in for a GI housing loan. The banker took one look at me -- I was 61 -- and said, 'Where have you been?' "

Spot imagines that Boosalis had some stories to tell the banker.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Katie's Christmas letter . . .

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends, and to the rest of you too!

It has been such an amazing year. I hardly know where to begin! Let me start out by saying that I got a new job last spring! You are now reading the words of an honest-to-goodness newspaperwoman. It’s true! Uncle Bill helped me get a job with a big newspaper here in Minneapolis called the Star Tribune – The Newspaper of the Twin Cities. I don’t suppose many of you in Fort Dodge are familiar with it, but it is a big deal here, and get this: it is published every day, just like the Des Moines Register!

Uncle Bill is not really my uncle, but he likes me to call him that. Most people have to call him Mr. Cooper, but he really likes me. In fact, Uncle Bill used to pay a lot of my salary when I worked in the thinking tank. So, I suppose you could say he lost a dependent when I went to work at the paper! We’re still close, though.

Anyway, my job is to write a column that is in the paper two times a week. And I get to talk about whatever I want! Twice a week is a lot, I am finding, and it is so helpful to have my friends in the thinking tank to help me out with research and story ideas and stuff.

The people I work with are really nice, mostly. When I was sitting at my desk the first day, people came around and said welcome aboard and stuff like that which made me feel really good. But then this guy, I’ll just call him NC, told me that I was sitting where that awful Molly Ivins used to sit years ago. Yuck! I asked Mr. Tice (my boss) if that was true, and he said it wasn’t. But then NC said who has been here longer, me or Tice? So I don’t really know. That NC is such a pill.

I have written about parochial schools (my favorite subject), the tragedy of 9/11, the need to support Our President in the war in Iraq whatever the cost, the Christian life, the perils of gambling, and of course those sinful gays and lesbians. I have written about most of these subjects several times now. I do worry about falling into rut, but I try to pay attention to what other conservative bloggers and columnists say, kind of following their lead. So far it has worked okay.

One time, when I followed a little too close, this nasty blogger named Spot told everybody about it, and I mean everybody. “Spot” wants us all to think he is a dog, but how stupid does he think we are? Anyway, I had to wear a long face in the newsroom for a few days, but it all blew over.

We took our son to college this fall. He’s a good boy. He has always been interested in the ancient Greeks—he got a lot of that in the fine Catholic schools we sent him to—and he has talked about going to toga parties at college, so I guess he’s keeping up his interest! One always worries about children when they are out of sight!

Oh, I have to tell you about Thanksgiving! We all gathered at our house for the big feast. I had to get up pretty early to stuff and roast that bird. Those Jennio instructions weren’t worth a hoot! The best part was when Uncle Bill came roaring up on his snowmobile, even though we only had a dusting of snow. We still talk about the sparks he made when he drove up the driveway! Uncle Bill wore his Pilgrim costume, and he told us the story of how the Pilgrims were forced to kill the Indians who had saved their lives that first winter, and with whom they shared the first Thanksgiving. A very sad story, even though it was necessary.

Well, that’s about it. I’ll write again next year. Remember, He’s the Reason for the Season!

Love, Katie

PS. Also remember, it is better to burn one terrorist than to curse the darkness.


[links added by Spot 12/7]

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A remedial post . . .

Spot gave Katie a once-over lightly yesterday for her column in praise of Ascension Catholic School in Minneapolis. There have been a couple of good comments to that post, and Spot commends them to you, boys and girls.

Spotty was a little crowded for time yesterday, and there are some observations he would like to have made in the original post. That’s the great thing about publishing a blog; there are an infinite number of second chances.

One of Spot’s readers called to his attention a little information about the Core Knowledge curriculum that Katie touts as a source of success at Ascension. It turns out that the eponymous Core Knowledge curriculum is the child of the Core Knowledge Foundation. The always useful Media Transparency site tells us that the Core Knowledge Foundation is located in Charlottesville, Virginia and that it has apparently only two benefactors: the Walton Family Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation, Inc. To the tune of $4.2 million dollars through 2003. Spot invites you, gentle readers, to Google these foundations.

What do you suppose is in the Core Knowledge curriculum? Katie tells us that Homer and memorization of the preamble to the Constitution are included, as are ancient Egypt (apparently a crowd pleaser) and knowing all the presidents in order. No mention of Ellison’s Invisible Man or Hanberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Spot has a box of kibble that says they’re not in there!

Mention should also be made of the fact that Ascension is effectively owned and run by Bill Cooper. Cooper of course is the biggest sugar daddy of the Center of the American Experiment. The CAE took Katie off the street and gave her a job for several years before she got the Strib gig. Cooper is the owner of several parochial and charter schools, including the high school where Katie's son graduated last spring. Connect the spots.

The other thing Spot wants to mention is that Katie’s asceticism makes her fawn over the fact that Ascension teachers make 80% of what Minneapolis public school teachers make. But they’re on a mission! Great.

Katie is on a mission, too. Does that mean she accepts only 80% of what everyone else in the newsroom makes? And that she will refuse guild legal representation when she finally gets into trouble for her manifest conflicts of interest and her doctrinaire incompetence?

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Katie's missionary position . . .

Katie tells us today about a missionary school in Minneapolis. And you thought that all of the missionary schools were in Africa or New Guinea or places like that! For shame. Local kids, especially minority kids according to Katie, benefit from a little Christianizing, too!

Wait a sec . . . Really? It’s not? Okay; Spot will have to start over.

Spot got confused by the rhetoric about teachers on a mission and missionary zeal. Sorry; his mistake. Coulddha happened to anybody. Anyway, we learned today about a little slice of Bill Cooper’s version of heaven, Ascension Catholic School, a kindergarten through eighth grade that Katie tells us has 293 students, 90% percent of whom are minorities. The Private School Review says it has 269 students, 83% of whom are students of color, but hey, that’s pretty damn close for Katie. And Ascension spends much less per pupil than the public schools in Minneapolis.

Katie tells us how well this school does on achievement tests, ranking near the gold standard, the schools in Spot’s home town of Edina. Pretty good. Apparently, this is accomplished by drilling the little buggers endlessly with “the Saxon Math program and E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum in literature, history and science,” so that they can perform well on standardized tests. But is Ascension “a powerful rebuttal to one of the American education establishment's central tenets: Better schools require more money”? Katie says so.

Spot has a few questions, though. How big is the special education department? What percentage of the students are ESL? Do any of them ride public school buses or receive special education services from public school teachers? Do any of the students participate in extra-curricular activities sponsored by public schools? How many Muslims attend school at Ascension? What percentage of Ascension teachers leave every year to take a public school teaching job?

Every public school in the state gets the same amount in per pupil aid. It is only categorical aid for things like ESL students where Minneapolis gets additional help. But Katie takes one little parochial school, applies her miserable analytic and accounting skills and her ignorance of public school finance, and concludes that the entire public school system is a failure.

Spotty has told you before, gentle readers, to beware lawyers bearing inductive reasoning. Katie’s only real interest here is that of an advocate; an advocate who wants to destroy public education. She wants everyone to be educated by the missionaries.

God save us.

Tags: disses

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Memo to Kate Parry

Kate,

Spot read Nick Coleman's front page above-the-fold story about Sidney Mahkuk in today's paper. He read it with admiration for Coleman's news-gathering skills and for his skill as a writer and story teller. Coleman is an actual, genuine journalist.

You know that Spot has written before criticizing your comparison of Nick Coleman and Katherine Kersten. If you haven't already done so, Spot recommends reading Coleman's article and comparing it to the sophmoric, polemic dreck that Kersten produces.

Then, Spot recommends that you tell Doug Tice to send Kersten out on a story like this. Tell him Spotty double damn dares him. Then, when the story comes back, you can ask yourselves whether Kersten deserves a section B column, or ought to be confined to the op-ed section.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Moral cripples, part deux

If you haven’t read it yet, please go read Spotty’s earlier post Moral Cripples; Spot will wait.

Done? Ok.

The moral crippling by religious fundamentalism – of any stripe, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or whatever – deprives the adherent of the ability to take advantage of the teachings of history and philosophy and scientific advances since whatever religious tract that is being adhered to was written. There was a time when just writing that would have gotten Spotty burned as a heretic. The fundies want to bring back those thrilling days of yesteryear.

As others have observed, fundamentalism is essentially (Spot was going to say fundamentally!) a psychological phenomenon, not a theological one. It is driven by anxiety, which creates a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity and the views of others. Fundamentalism has a hierarchical world view [bug-eyed control freakism, ed.] and is distrustful of human judgment. Fundamentalists have a high need for an identity rooted in identification with a group that gives them self-esteem.

In other words, fundamentalism is not very grown up. Sound like anybody we know?

The funny thing is that the book that Katie & Co. want to put so much stock in is a political document, one with human fingerprints all over it. The Bible was hammered out in a process that probably began with the convening of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. This happened at the urging of the Roman Emperor Constantine. The older among Spot’s readers will recall that Constantine conquered Rome in the name of Christianity in, as Spot remembers, 313 CE.

The biggest fish to fry, so to speak, at the Council was a theologian named Arius. Aruis questioned whether Jesus could really be the same as God, and he had some followers. At the time, there were competing religious texts about the nature of Jesus and his divinity, such as the Gnostic gospels. Spot thinks it is so nice to see that it took a whole twelve years after Rome was Christianized for a giant schism to arise!

Well anyway, the whole affair became known as the Heresy of Arius, so it is pretty obvious to even the casual observer who won. Ultimately, Arius was forgiven, but he died in a grim spectacle that you can read about if you follow the above link and scroll down.

It was St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who in 367 CE who listed the 27 books of the New Testament canon, and these books became widely recognized as the New Testament thereafter. It was not until the Council of Trent in 1546 that the Catholic Church actually adopted the canon.

The Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible, of course, took even longer. Jewish scholars wrangle about meaning endlessly.

Spot’s no theologian but, boys and girls, it should be pretty obvious that the Bible was not dictated by God overnight to a bunch of stenographers. And it is also obvious that differences of opinion have always existed about the meaning of the Bible. But Katie & Co. are entirely oblivious to these things, because they need to be psychologically.

Spot heard somebody say once that when God starts disliking the same people you do, chances are that you are making God in your own image, rather than the other way around. That sounds about right to Spot. Are you listening Katie? Senator Bachmann?

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

It's the evil spirits again!

This from an AP story today:
"There is no option other than victory," he [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace] said. "You need to get out and read what our enemies have said ... Their goal is to destroy our way of life."

Oh ho, Pete; yes there are other options. Most of them ignominious. Take for example an opinion piece that Spot linked to yesterday. Pete, you just lack the imagination to consider any possibility other than We Win, We Win!

Pete, you've been spending too much time with Jim Lileks. The longer that people try to make the war in Iraq western civilization vs. evil spirits, the harder it is going to be to think clearly about what the US ought to do.

And Pete, if by "our way of life" you mean our profligate energy ways that requires that we interfere endlessly with theirs, you're probably right.

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Is that a hatchet, Katie?

Spot scanned Katie’s column this morning denouncing violent video games, and he promised himself he wouldn’t bother to write about it. Unfaithful dog.

This paragraph has been written a couple of times. Spot first called Katie Robert Preston (Professor Harold Hill in the Music Man), but then he decided Carrie Nation was the better choice. Besides, he has always loved this picture.

Whether it's liquor, pool halls, private sexual conduct, contraception, or video games, you can be sure that bug-eyed control freaks like Katie will want to tell the rest of us what to do. It doesn't even matter what you think about any of these issues. The point is that given the chance, Katie would deny you the right to have an opinion if it differed from hers.

Do you really think that, Spotty? Yes he does. That is why Katie is such a splendid specimen of a communis rixatrix.

Spot cannot figure out why ersatz violence on a television screen is so horrible, but real violence, including the burning to death of insurgents and civilians alike with white phosphorus in Fallujah, mistreatment of detainees, and the Shi'ia death squads now operating in Iraq (working within the Iraqi army that we are working so hard to support) pass without comment. Or in the case of mistreatment of detainees, actual approval by Katie.

Raise you hand if think Katie needs to spend more time in the reality-based community.

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