Friday, September 29, 2006

A toast

Spot's session in the sweat lodge ended a little early, so he was able to make it to DL last night. It was a pretty morose crowd, uncharacteristic of liberals really. The big topic of discussion was the military tribunal/detention/torture bill that passed the House and similar legislation that was under consideration by the Senate, which has now passed.

This is one of the saddest and most lamentable chapters in US history, and in the memory of most of us. Although Spot does recall when . . . well, never mind.

There are many things in these bills that are objectionable, but one of the worst is the provision that MNObserver mentioned yesterday: the provision for indefinite administrative detention of citizens and non-citizens alike, whether in the US or out of it, and leaving them without resort to the ancient writ of habeas corpus. Spot will have more to say about this in coming days.

In the meantime, Spot recommends that when you uncork that bottle of wine tonight, or go out with friends for dinner and a drink, that you do what MNObserver did last night:

Offer a toast and a bitter farewell to the Magna Carta and its 800 years of guidance.

Here is part of the Magna Carta:
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his

rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his

standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him,

or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals

or by the law of the land.

The "we" of course is the royal we, being King John, who is reciting concessions of the Crown in England in 1215. This is generally considered to be the first prohibition of administrative detentions and for judicial determination of guilt by jury trial.

There is a momument at Runnymeade, where the Magna Carta was signed, erected by the American Bar Association to mark the importance of the Great Charter in US law.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

"We are legalizing tyranny in the United States."

Spotty's off at the canine sweat lodge, and I'm sure you've come for a Katherine Kersten takedown, my droogs, but today I can't. I can't be bothered with Katie's mindless vomiting of GOP talking points today. Because today the only thing you need to do is read Glenn Greenwald and mourn the death of a grand experiment:
There really is no other way to put it. Issues of torture to the side (a grotesque qualification, I know), we are legalizing tyranny in the United States. Period. Primary responsibility for this fact lies with the authoritarian Bush administration and its sickeningly submissive loyalists in Congress. That is true enough. But there is no point in trying to obscure that fact that it's happening with the cowardly collusion of the Senate Democratic leadership, which quite likely could have stopped this travesty via filibuster if it chose to (it certainly could have tried).

* * *

And as a result, we are now about to vest in the President the power to order anyone -- U.S. citizen, resident alien or foreign national -- detained indefinitely in a military prison regardless of where they are -- U.S. soil or outside of the country. American detainees are either cut off from any meaningful judicial review and everyone else is cut off completely. They can be subject to torture with no recourse, and all of this happens on the unchecked say-so of the administration. Really, what could be more significant than this?

But before you're declared an enemy combatant, make a phone call:

Senator Mark Dayton
Washington, DC Office
SR-123, Russell Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3244
Fax: 202-228-2186

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ritual cleansing

Your canine correspondent will enter the sweat lodge tonight for his periodic ritual cleansing. He will probably talk to you on Friday.

Michael Brodkorb,

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life! A lot of people, including some lazy journalists we could name, are beginning to see what you're really all about.

In the post that Spot links to, you say:
Sure it is MIchael. Then why has no one ever read about the Bachmann connection and the extent of the Kennedy payments before? Spot says the real statement should be:
Spot always knew you were a factotum, but now everybody knows.

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Robin Williams shows us how to get water-boarded in Jacob the Liar.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sanctimonious dweebery

Mr. Governor Pawlenty, Sir, I have a Mark Kennedy calling for you.

Who? I don’t need to talk to no stinkin’ Massachusetts Democrat! Take a message!

No, no, sir. This is Mark Kennedy, the Minnesota Congressman, a Republican, who is running for the US Senate.

Well, okay, put him through. Crap.

Timmy, you’re killing me.

What? And it’s Governor Pawlenty to you.

Sorry, Governor Pawlenty. It’s just that a recent campaign email of yours is making me look like an ass.

You can do that all by yourself, Kennedy, don’t blame me. All that corny piano playing. Who do you think you are, Harry Truman?

Of course not, sir. Truman was a Democrat. Although I have been cursed with a Democratic name. You’ve probably noticed.

No, I hadn’t.

Well anyway, I got the first break of this whole miserable campaign last week. Somebody found an unaired television advertisement for me on my agency’s website and told somebody on Amy Klobuchar’s staff. The staffer got canned for looking at the ad, but Klobuchar didn’t do anything with the ad itself. Even so, my guy Michael Brodkorb and I have been making all the hay we can out of this, trying to portray it as unethical skullduggery. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to an issue for months.

Yeah, Kennedy, this is all old news. What’s it got to do with me?

Well, apparently, your campaign got some advance information about an advertisement critical of you. The campaign not only found out about it, you acted on it and rebutted it before it was aired.

So what’s your point?

It makes me look like a sanctimonious dweeb.

I said, what’s your point?

Oh, never mind. [click]

Sanctimonious dweeb. [click]

A persistent ringing

Michael Brodkorb, never send for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

This just in! Fig leaf gets smaller!

The fig leaf that George Bush tossed to John McCain on the compromise over treatment of detainees just got even smaller according to the Washington Post today:

Republican lawmakers and the White House agreed over the weekend to alter new legislation on military commissions to allow the United States to detain and try a wider range of foreign nationals than an earlier version of the bill permitted, according to government sources.

Here’s a description of the new language:

[H]uman rights experts expressed concern yesterday that the language in the new provision would be a precedent-setting congressional endorsement for the indefinite detention of anyone who, as the bill states, "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" or its military allies.

The definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant. It is broader than that in last week's version of the bill, which resulted from lengthy, closed-door negotiations between senior administration officials and dissident Republican senators. That version incorporated a definition backed by the Senate dissidents: those "engaged in hostilities against the United States."

As Spot noted in Power Line’s descent into depravity yesterday, Paul – and a lot of other right wingers, too – say it is “fair to say that Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner comprise the terrorist rights wing of the Republican party.”

And in giving terrorists “rights,” Paul must mean that McCain, Warner, and Huckleberry should be detained indefinitely without charge or trial under this new language of the bill for “materially supporting hostilities against the United States.”

Well, maybe not them, but how about traitors like Juan Cole, Glenn Greenwald, Billmon, Digby, or Chris Floyd? Spot should probably be locked in a kennel for life, too!

“We lock up terrorists and throw away the key. They are terrorists because we have locked them up and thrown away the key.” The logic is unassailable.

It’s a brave new world, boys and girls!

Update: Da Wege certainly should be included on the traitors list. Spot apologizes for the oversight.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Power Line’s descent into depravity

John McCain seizes the moral high ground on behalf of his country

A day or two ago, I explained why I consider it fair to say that Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner comprise the terrorist rights wing of the Republican party. In essence, the reference is fair because all three want to expand the rights that terrorists and terrorist suspects have.

Yesterday, Senator McCain listed some of the rights that terrorists now have thanks to his work. According to McCain, they have the right not to be subjected to water-boarding, extreme sleep deprivation, and forced hypothermia. Terrorist organizations also have the right, thanks to McCain, to know in advance which practices apparently are off-the-table.

McCain defended his tireless and effective advocacy for terrorist rights by stating, "we have to have the high moral ground." It is revealing, I think, that McCain believes our nation lacked the moral high moral ground in the war on terrorism until he rode to our rescue.

Spot will not send you over there, nor will he link to it, but this is a post today by Pants-Shitter Paul at Power Line. It’s too bad that the headline isn’t even true. As the links in Spotty’s last post show, there was no “compromise,” just capitulation to the administration by McCain, Warner, and Huckleberry.

Paul dishonors the memory of every American service man or woman who has acted honorably, even nobly, in war since the founding of the Republic.

I love you, man!

I love you, man!

Jesus! Be careful, John. Don’t let our genitals touch!

Oh, sorry Mr. President. I guess you only like the legislative hummers you get from me.

That’s right, John. Just like the one you just gave me on the detainee torture “compromise.” You really want to get that Republican nomination for prezinut, don’t you John?

Yeah, I really do.

You always fold like a cheap umbrella, John, but I thought with you being tortured and all, you’d stick to your guns this final time around. Had me goin’ there for a while. Mebbe you are a little funny in the head, jes like we said back when you was runin’ agin’ me in 2000. You sure are a strange fella, John.

I really appreciate the fig leaf you gave me, Mr. President. Lettin’ me say that I haven’t permitted Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to be rewritten. It seemed important to my supporters to be able to say that.

Well of course you haven’t, John, ah will be doin’ that.


Leggo me, John.

Spotty adds:

As reported in Empire Burlesque, here’s what the Senate majority leader and cat torturer said about the compromise:

Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said the agreement had two key points. “Classified information will not be shared with the terrorists” tried before the tribunals, he said. And “the very important program of interrogation continues.”

Here’s what the ACLU said about the compromise, from a Daniel Froomkin column in Friday’s Washington Post:

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington office released this statement: "This is a compromise of America's commitment to the rule of law. The proposal would make the core protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions irrelevant and unenforceable. It deliberately provides a 'get-out-of-jail-free card' to the administration's top torture officials, and backdates that card nine years. These are tactics expected of repressive regimes, not the American government.

"Also under the proposal, the president would have the authority to declare what is -- and what is not – a grave breach of the War Crimes Act, making the president his own judge and jury. This provision would give him unilateral authority to declare certain torture and abuse legal and sound. In a telling move, during a call with reporters today, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would not even answer a question about whether waterboarding would be permitted under the agreement."

When Spot was a pup, Spot’s pop told him a story. In WWII, Spot’s pop was a military policeman, and one of his jobs, especially toward the end of the war, was to search newly-captured POWs and send them to the rear. It is so long ago now, that Spot isn’t really sure whether this happened to Spot’s pop, or whether he had just heard about it. And Pop is not around to ask.

Anyway, the story is that a young German soldier surrenders to the Americans. He’s a kid really, and the war is as good as lost for the Germans. When being searched, the soldier wants to keep his white handkerchief. When asked why, the soldier responds, When I got drafted, my father gave me this handkerchief of his and told me to wave it in front of the first American soldier I saw. And I did.

And that, boys and girls, is what has been lost.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Neiwert's book review

Oy vey, what a week Sigmund Spot has had! It started last Saturday when . . . well, never mind. It was trying, but not all that interesting. That's why it's called a dog's life. Spot is sorry to have neglected you, boys and girls.

MNO loaned Sigmund Spot John Dean's Conservatives without a Conscience a few weeks ago. Some interviews and commentary about the book got Sigmund Spot thinking about the authoritarian personality again, and he was glad to have a chance to read the book.

There has been some good research on authoritarian leaders and followers since Siggy's groundbreaking work with Stanley Milgram many years ago, and John Dean provides a good summary of it.

Although Dean says many trenchant and alarming things, Siggy was left unsatisfied by the conclusions that Dean drew. Siggy figured out why when he read David Neiwert's review of Dean's book on Media Transparency. Spot has pitched Media Transparency before, but it is hands down Spot's favorite investigative journalism site. Hands down. Especially on church and state and other social conservatives' favorite issues.

Most of you probably know David Neiwert. He publishes the blog that has the big black and white fish on it. Please read the whole review, but Neiwert takes issue with Dean, who has a need to be the Republican apologist all the way in his book:
For all this insight, though, we are left with a larger conundrum: Where do we go from here? Conservatives Without Conscience drills so deeply into the personal realm that, by the time we reach the end, it becomes hard to raise our eyes up to see the larger political picture that emerges. Dean briefly touches on this when, late in the book, he describes how his studies of authoritarianism led him to also study fascism.

This step was perfectly logical, since the personal and social pathologies that he finds in the conservative movement also take a political form, and fascism is the consummate right-wing political pathology of the modern era. He describes studying Robert O. Paxton's landmark text, The Anatomy of Fascism, yet at the end he backs away:

Are we on the road to fascism? Clearly we are not on that road yet. But it
would not take much more misguided authoritarian leadership, or
thoughtless following of such leaders, to find ourselves there.

Yet in examining Paxton's book, it is difficult -- especially in
combination with the remarkable weight of the evidence and analysis
that Dean provides -- not to conclude differently. Paxton explains
that, as with personal pathologies, fascism consists not of a single
core belief or trait but of a constellation of them, and that real
fascism emerges when they coalesce. He provides a list of nine "mobilizing passions" that together create this constellation:

  • A sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions;
  • The primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every
    right, whether universal or individual, and the subordination of the
    individual to it;
  • The belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against the group's enemies, both internal and external;
  • Dread of the group's decline under the corrosive effect of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences;
  • The need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary;
  • The need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a
    national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group's destiny;
  • The superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal reason;
  • The beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group's success;
  • The right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group's prowess in a Darwinian struggle.

Conservatives Without Conscience tends to demonstrate, actually, that we are indeed well on the road to fitting that description thoroughly. Dean's hesitation may well be due to the reality that the description does not fit completely (the conservative movement, beyond its war making, is not particularly violent yet, for instance, though violent rhetoric is becoming increasingly popular in its ranks), but it is hard not to see that the differences are dwindling daily.

So that's it, boys and girls. Dean refuses to draw the conclusion that his own evidence presents.

It's a compelling book, and Neiwert's review makes it even more so.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Absolutely unforgiveable irresponsibility

Spot was thankfully otherwise occupied last evening and this morning. He hasn't had chance to comment on the wounded bellowing of Michael Brodkorb and Pat Shortridge (no links) about a blogger's viewing of an unaired Kennedy campaign TV ad. The blogger passed the link on to a Klobuchar staffer, who got herself fired for viewing the ad, too. Here's a story from the Strib with a good summary of the flap.

Charlie Quimby has an excellent perspective on this, and he faults the advertising agency for not providing security (latter link to Chuck Olsen at New Patriot) for the ad. Spot absolutely agrees.

There is no indication, by password control or warning screen or anything else whereby Kennedy's agency claims trade secret on behalf of itself or Kennedy.

Apparently, the agency's work for a lot more clients than Kennedy is available with nothing more than the client's name.

Boys and girls, this is not how you maintain a trade secret. Proof of reasonable steps to protect the information is a critical element. Clients of this agency have more than a little reason to be alarmed.

Update: There is apparently no user registration or login on the agency site. Unbelievable.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Julie Risser and PRT, not

Spot came in from his bike ride and found an email from Ken Avidor. Ken is, as you know, boys and girls, one of the agents provocateur here at the CS. Ken directed me to this post at Lloydletta's Nooz and Comments:
Julie Risser sent us the following message:
After researching PRT, reading the Sierra Club's position and the Transit for Livable Communities' website, I have come to the conclusion that PRT is not viable for Minnesota. Minnesota has made a committment to lightrail. We need to continue this committment. The Southwest Corridor is a logical continuation of the lightrail network. We also need to
continue our committments to bike paths, side walks, and buses. The Twin Cities is decades behind other metro areas in terms of transit.
I think it shows a lot of courage and strength of character for a candidate to change their opinion on an issue during an election. It is a very rare candidate that can do that... Julie Risser has my respect and admiration for studying this issue and and reconsidering her position.

posted by Avidor

Spot agrees with Avidor.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mr. Cary, go ahead with your call

Mr. Carey? This is the conference operator. I have conference participants Alan Fine, Katherine Kersten, Michael Brodkorb, and Scott Johnson on the line. Please go ahead with your call. And thanks for using AT&T, partnering with the NSA for better security for us all!

RC – Jesus, I feel like such a putz.

AF – You do? [sounding a little pleased]

KK – What’s the matter, Ron? How can we help?

RC – You guys are gonna be mad at me.

MB – Nah, Ron, you’re the godfather. What’s up?

RC – Well, you know CAIR head Nihad Awad? The guy who came to Minneapolis for a fund raiser for Keith Ellison?

SJ – Yeah, we’ve all been flogging that story hard, just like you asked. Keith Ellison is gonna be sorry he ever heard of that mo fo. Sorry, Katie.

KK – That’s okay, Scotty. [a little breathless]

MB – We got that guilt-by-association stuff with the innuendo about Awad and Hamas pretty well nailed, Ron. Did we miss something?

RC – Well, sort of.

KK – I wrote a column about it on Monday – you remember Ron, you just called yesterday to thank me for it – and Scotty put a post on his blog about my column. Thank you swe-, Scotty.

MB – What was overlooked?

RC – It turns out this guy Awad is kind of a mensch, if that term can be applied to a Muslim.


RC – Well you don’t have to yell. I’m trying to explain. You know how we’re tying Hamas around Awad’s neck for remarks he made in 1994?

AF – What’s CAIR?

RC – Jesus, Alan. CAIR stands for Council on American-Islamic Relations. It’s a prominent Muslim group in DC.

KK – What’s a mensch?

RC – Scott, explain it to her later. It turns out that Nihad Awad stood right next to The President of the United States on September 17th of 2001 to denounce the airplane hijackings of the week before. There’s a picture of him standing next to The President of the United States on the White House website.

SJ – Boy, I feel kind of stupid.

KK – No, you’re not, Scotty.

MB – It makes us all look stupid. Thanks, Ron.

AF – Does this mean I won’t be a congressman?

RC – Jesus, Alan. We’ve been through this before. That’s all I’ve got to say. [click]

KK – Ron, what do you expect us to do now? Ron? Ron?

AF – I think he hung up, Katie.

MB – Brilliant, Alan. [click]

[click] [click]

AF – Hello?

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Update: Almost forgot. A thump of the tail to Rob for the tip.

Due process? Please!

Hammer at Three Way News explains the importance of due process. Excellent. Just excellent.

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Der Panzerpappen

Power Line to der Panzerpappen (no link): stop apologizing already! (Incidentally, Spot did not coin the name Panzerpappen, but he can’t remember where he read it for purposes of attribution.) Don’t worry guys; he hasn’t really been apologizing. He’s made a couple of those it’s too bad so many people died, I was misunderstood, mistakes were made, sorry you took offence kind of apologies. Of course, it’s hard to ‘fess up to a boo-boo when you tell everyone you’re infallible. It creates a grinding cognitive dissonance, probably for der Panzerpappen, too.

The ruckus of course is over the pope’s quotation, with evident approval, of Manuel II Palaeologus to the effect that Islam was a violent religion. Never mind the crusades and the Inquisition.

Via Empire Burlesque, this letter was printed in the Guardian (UK):

If I were a Muslim I don't know what I'd find more surreal; being lectured on the "evil and inhuman" nature of my beliefs by an ex-member of the Hitler Youth, or the fact that when Manuel II Palaeologus wrote his infamous letter he was sitting in the ruins of an empire still shattered by the attentions of Pope Innocent III's fourth Crusade in 1204, a violent sack in which a large part of the population was massacred by their fellow Christians.

This particular example of spreading the Christian faith so unimpressed the late John Paul II that he was moved to comment: "How can we not share, at a distance of eight centuries, the pain and disgust," in an address in which he also apologised to Muslims for the Crusades. If Muhammad did command the spreading of the faith by the sword, what was he doing if not following the Catholic example?

Dr Jon Cloke

School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University

As comments to the Empire Burlesque post discuss, boys and girls, the last sentence of Professor Cloke’s letter was metaphoric, ironic even. Which is why the Power Line boys probably won’t get it. The post quotes extensively from Karen Armstrong, too; Spot recommends the whole thing.

Then this morning, Gwynne Dyer, a journalist from the UK, had this trenchant op-ed piece in the Star Tribune. Dyer says that der Panzerpappen is not all that darn sorry. She calls the new pope, rather charitably in Spot’s opinion, parochial and intolerant. Dyer notes that the pope, before his metamorphosis into the pope, said that Islamic Turkey should not be admitted to the Christian EU. He also said that Islam was a religion that tended toward violence, and he entertained the virulent anti-Muslim journalist, Oriana Fallaci.

Spot says that Dyer’s concluding analysis it spot on:

The real reason for the uproar is that so many Muslims feel under attack by the West. Two Muslim countries have been invaded by the United States and its allies since 9/11, and another, Lebanon, has been bombed to ruins by Israel with full U.S. and British support.

At least 20 times as many Muslims have died in these brutal wars as the number of Americans who died in the 9/11 attacks, and almost none of them had anything to do with that terrorist atrocity. So the suspicion grows among Muslims that all this is not really about 9/11 at all, and almost any minor insult to Islam from the West is enough to trigger outrage from Morocco to Indonesia.

We haven't achieved a full-scale "clash of civilizations" yet, but we're making progress.

Don’t you think that sounds about right, boys and girls?

Update: Da Wege points out that Gwynne is one of those @#$%^&* gender-confused British names, and that she is really a he.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Grace happens

This is a day that the Lord hath made. Katherine Kersten speaking.

Well how’s my favorite Lois Lane of the Cornfields?

Excuse me?

I’m sorry. No offense intended. This is Ron Cary.

None taken, I guess. How may I serve the Republican cause today, Ron?

Nothing special today Katie. I’ve just been making some calls to thank party functionaries who have been putting in an extra effort to smear Keith Ellison and try to tie him to state-wide DFL candidates. It’s probably not gonna do much good, but I appreciate the effort. I talked to Alan what’s-his-name yesterday. And I wanted to really thank you for your column today. I especially love the way you ended it:

The question of the hour is this: Is Ellison's DFL also the party of Amy Klobuchar and Mike Hatch? We have six weeks to find out.

Why thank you, Ron. Mr. Tice said it was ponderous and a transparent smear, but I argued to keep it in.

Thatta girl!

I can be very persuasive when I want to be! Wait a minute. That didn’t come out right! I’m a good arguer.

I’m sure you are, Katie.

You know Ron, I have been thinking about how redemption is possible for morally-upright Republicans but not for Democrats.

How do you mean, Katie?

For example, we get to beat up Keith Ellison for things in his past, even silly ones like parking tickets, but Norm Coleman’s student radical days are off limits. Did you know he was even suspended from Hofstra for leading a sit-in? I don’t think anything like that happened to Ellison. And let’s not even get started on President Bush’s alcoholism and his sorry National Guard service record. Grace just seems to happen for the right people. It’s so inspiring; I think I’ll write a column about it!

Uh, Katie, why don’t you hold off on that one, ok?

Well, all right, but it’s a great story!

I tell you what, Katie. Just keep running your ideas by me before you write anything, OK? Say, why don’t you write something about school vouchers or gay marriage? Those topics seem to come pretty easily to you.

That’s a good idea, Ron! It was nice of you to call.

Bye Katie.

Bye Ron.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Wherein Gary Miller shows that he does so get the memo

The right wing, displaying their well-known penchant for viewing women through the lens of their physical features, showers their readers with substance....

The substance being, of course, that women don't belong in big-league politics, and every time they try, we gotta smack 'em down. They can have those girlie offices - and woe to those who dare speak this truth - but when they aim for the big time, there seems to be a need to slap these uppity creatures back where they belong. And there really is no better way to do this than to turn the discussion into one where her looks, her tits, the way she wears her hair, her general fuckability are the issue. All else becomes secondary to the true and ugly goal: reminding everyone what women are good for, even those with senatorial aspirations.

Just this last week, we were treated to the latest Kennedy commercial, where Klobuchar is shown in grainy pictures that make her look ugly. Now she's "big-boned" (read: fat) and flirting with Clinton. The message here is obvious to Klobuchar: Know your place.

I'll bet we will also be seeing that same message delivered to Keith Ellison: Know your place.

Update: I almost spoke in this post about how long it would be before the noise machine would begin questioning Klobuchar's sexuality. I deleted that part, thinking it would take at least a few more weeks. How wrong I was.

This is Alan Fine

This is Alan Fine, you’re next Fifth District Congressman!

Oh knock it off Alan! This is Ron Carey.

Sorry Mr. Carey. Is something wrong?

Other than the fact you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning? But we both knew that before I called.

Then why did you call, other than to rub it in?

I actually called to thank you on behalf of the Republican Party for acting like such a schlub since Keith Ellison won the primary. You’ve got the biggest mud bucket I’ve seen in a while.

It doesn’t seem to be helping me much.

Jesus, Alan, you really are a schlub. Did you think all this stuff we’ve been feeding you is to help your sorry arse campaign? Get a grip, Alan.

Whatever do you mean, Mr. Carey?

[heavy sigh] All right, Alan, let me lay it out for you. If we can portray Keith Ellison as a scary brown person, and a Muslim to boot, and then associate him with Amy Klobuchar and Mike Hatch, we might be able to energize our base a little outstate. They don’t have much reason to show up at the polls right now. For example, our operative Michael Brodkorb has been working on a bumper sticker that features Keith Ellison and Amy Klobuchar. That dweeb Kennedy needs every vote outstate that he can lay his hands on.

You’re just a spear catcher, Alan.

Well, I wish someone had told me.

I just did. The Republican strategy has been all over the news. Where have you been, Alan?

I’ve been running for office in case you haven’t noticed.

Don’t be a wiseguy, Alan. If you take this one for the team, and make as big a stink as you can on your way down, there might be an appointment in it for you, that’s assuming Pawlenty gets re-elected.

What if he doesn’t get re-elected?

Then you get to go back to teaching bean counting, or whatever the hell you do teach.

Boy that’s reassuring.

Who am I? Your fairy godmother? Suck it up, Alan. And again, thanks. Goodbye. [click]

Goodbye, Mr. Carey. Mr. Carey?

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Onward [fill in the blank] soldiers!

Spot was going to comment on the Pope's remarks about Islam, but no need. Da Wege already has.

The only additional thing that Spot will add is that Prezinut Bush also picked up the theme this week when he talked about a Third Awakening of religious (read Christian) fervor in the United States.

Pull up! Pull up!

Here's a great post from MNObserver over at Yowling on the Fencepost (mutter, mutter, what's that Spotty? oh nuthin') It is probably Spotty-worthy, but Cucking Stool authors and families are disqualified from winning the coveted award. The post is about our steep glide path to financial ruin in the warron terra.

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Tony, meet Rudyard

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque is a favorite of Spot's. He's been writing for latey, and he has a piece up this morning about Tony Blair's abasement by George Bush and his ignominy among the British public and his own Labour Party. As usual with Chris, it is terrific. What caught Spot's eye especially was this:
So wedded is Blair to Bush's policies that he's now led his country into what many say is rapidly becoming Britain's Vietnam - not the Iraqi quagmire, which is increasingly regarded here as an irretrievable failure, but the "good war" in Afghanistan, where Blair has hurled an underprepared, undermanned expeditionary force into the violent chaos spawned by Bush's callous neglect of the broken country in favor of his Iraq adventure.

What Chris Floyd is speaking of, of course, is the role the British are playing in the NATO forces in Afghanistan:
British forces have lost 27 men in Afghanistan in the last six weeks - almost a quarter of the total 117 lost during three years in Iraq. Soldiers report a lack of ammunition, armor and air cover. At times the Taliban has been able to keep British outposts under siege for days. A top aide to the commander of the UK forces in the pivotal Helmand province has resigned from the army, citing the "pointless" and "grotesquely clumsy" policy that is "just making things worse," The Times reports. "We said we'd be different from the Americans who were bombing and strafing villages, then behaved exactly like them," said Capt. Leo Docherty of the Scots Guards. "All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British. It's a pretty clear equation - if people are losing homes and poppy fields, they will go and fight. I certainly would."

Iraq is going to make us lose Afghanistan too. Tony Blair should read more Kipling.

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When you're wounded

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.
Rudyard Kipling

The British have gotten tossed out of Afghanistan. Twice. And so have the Soviets. Now is appears likely that it will be our turn to beat an ignominious retreat from that country. For the same reason: hubris.

Spot reads in today's Star Tribune about a new front in the Afghan war in the west of the country. This is in addition to the fighting that has been occurring in the Pashtun south. The trend line is not good, boys and girls. One of the reasons we are playing whack-a-mole in Afghanistan, of course, is that we picked up and left Afghanistan to invade Iraq, a move foretold to us in a fevered neocon vision.

For a novelization - though historically accurate, unlike a recent mini-series Spot could name - of the first British invasion of Afghanstan, Spot recommends Philip Hensher's The Mulberry Empire.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bill Green is wrong!

Katie delivers another round of charter school cheerleading today in a column about a new boys academy attached to Harvest Prep, an existing charter school. This one apparently offers a steady diet of martial arts:
Martial arts classes are an important part of the plan. Every boy will
study martial arts every day, from K-6 -- in the process, developing
self-discipline and acquiring a sense of mastery.

There must be countless studies that show that little kung-fu masters are really much less prone to violence! Didn't there used to be a teevee show about that once?

Charter schools, an idea that began as a way to provide alternate high schools for seriously alienated and hard-to-educate kids, have turned into a 31 flavors hodge podge catering to virtually every goof-ball idea that someone can come up with for a school. Don't believe it? Check out these charter school names:
Skills for Tomorrow (algebra, English, chemistry, and physics are so yesterday), New Voyage Academy (beam me up, Scotty!), Face to Face Academy (another combat school, apparently), Family Academy (where you can bet your arse they don't discuss family-making), Ascention Academy (a Big Coop special no doubt; Spot would like to look at the curriculum for that one), F. Scott Fitzgerald Writing (for all the parents who wanted to write the next Great American Novel but now hope little Johnnie or Janey will), Loveworks Academy (Spot's not touching that one with a stick), Higher Ground, and one of Spot's favorites, Great Expectations! (Spot added the exclamation point, but it seemed like a natural).

Couple all of this "creativity" with poor oversight, and it's a recipe for disaster. Spot's a little busy to scare up the links right now, but most people in the Twin Cities know about the closing of the "business" charter school and others, and the recent case of a large sum of money that went missing in another local charter school.

Katie winds up with this little gem:
Mahmoud [Harvest Prep's president who is complaining that the public school transportations system does not deliver kids to the school when he wants and thinks that Minneapolis Superintendent Bill Green is not supportive] says he is not convinced: "[Minneapolis] Superintendent Bill Green told me directly: 'You're our competition.' "
No, Bill, you're wrong! They're not your competition. They're you're dependents! For fiscal year 2005, the last data available, Harvest Prep received public funding of a little over $3.5 million dollars. When you add up all the dollars spent on all the charter schools, it is a substantial blood-letter of the public school system.

It's the charter school system that's out of control, and it contributes to public school funding problems.

And we haven't even talked about the recent study (actually Spot did in an earlier post) from the Department of Education that shows that charter school provide an inferior education.

But the little buggers can kick box.

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Spot's been thinking

No smart remarks about the title, grasshoppers and grasshopperettes.

On Monday night, George Bush compared the warron terra with WWII and the Cold War. In doing so, he impliedly compared himself with Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The sheer effrontery! A more apt comparison would be to Jimmy Carter's war on inflation, but that's probably not fair to Jimmy Carter.

You know George, Spot knew Franklin and Harry. They were friends of his. And George, you're not Franklin or Harry. Maybe Millard or Calvin, or maybe even Herbert.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New heights of delusion

Spot promised comment on Prezinut Dimwit's remarks to the nation on the evening of September 11th. But he can hardly bring himself to do it. Does this confused fool really think he is staring down the equivalent of the Axis Powers or the Soviet Bloc? Does he really think that? 'Cuz if he does, he's too crazy to be president.

Digby has a great wrap-up of the address. Go read it. Spot is feeling a little nauseated.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A second Spotty

Charlie Quimby wins his second Spotty for his thoughtful interview with the nuclear goatskin expert A.J. The interview provides rare insight into the requirements of a candidate to carry America's nuclear football. It is a must read for assessing the qualifications that John Kline brings to his job as a Congressman.

Charlie is a clever and subtle satirist. Unlike Spot, who sometimes has more of a North Korean propagandist style.

Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty is awarded for a letter to the editor, an op-ed piece, or a blog entry or comment that Spot wishes he had authored.

Speaking of propaganda, Spot will have some Pointed Remarks about Prezinut Dimwit's scary bedtime story from last night, probably tonight or tomorrow morning.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Shorter Katherine Kersten

Conspiracy nuts think that George Bush is a malevolent liar.

A lot of people think George Bush is a malevolent liar.

Therefore, all of these people are conspiracy nuts.

Grasshoppers and grasshopperettes, Spot wants you to study Katie’s column today and see if you don’t agree with Spot’s syllogistic summary of it. Of course you do.

Katie had the opportunity to be in full bloodthirsty cry on 9/11, and she blew it. Instead we get an argument unworthy of a grade school playground debate. Not to mention that conspiracy theories have swirled around practically every major news event in history from Eve giving Adam the fateful apple (Eve was framed), to Roosevelt knowing about about the Pearl Harbor attack beforehand, to Lee Harvey Oswald not being the only shooter.

Da Wege has more about our dear Katie this morning.

Update: Corrected Katie's adjective.

Tags: dishes more on

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A special kind of premise

Spot has had a really busy week, and he just now has the time to circle back on Pastor Sticks’ homily in the PiPress last Wednesday. The pastor has a serious discussion with himself over overt political involvement and the recommendation of candidates by (right wing) clergy to their flocks. Pastor Sticks concludes that it is okay:

Boyd's view [an evangelical preacher who thinks church and state out to be separate] gives pause for thought, but it does not invalidate the choice made by politically active pastors to engage in politics and urge their parishioners to support candidates who reflect Christian values. Ultimately it is those entering the booths, pulling the curtains and voting their values, Christian or otherwise, who will validate a candidate's position. That's not theocracy — it's democracy.

There is a thing in logic called a horseshit premise. Actually, it’s called a false premise, but Spot prefers his more colorful language. The italicized language is an example of a horseshit premise. Sticks says Christian values; Spot says bigoted codswallop. Who’s right? Well Spot, obviously.

Spot says it is wrong to bring a religious imprimatur to the recommendation of political candidates. It is, frankly, anti-American. And contrary to Sticks’ absurd assertion, it is theocratic and anti-democratic. The theocrat clergy is trying to substitute its will and judgment for that of the parishioners. Got a gay child, or sibling, or cousin and doubt the Leviticus view of things that Pastor Sticks jams down your throat? Too bad, you’d better vote for Michele Bachmann!

The tyranny of evangelical fools is bad enough without licensing preachers to make political endorsements. And they’re not supposed to of course, at the peril of their tax-exempt status.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Get ready for it

Get ready for it, boys and girls. Your annual proctologic exam by Dr. Katie. Dr. Katie, or one of her associates, cannot wait to ram the probe called nine-eleven so far up your backside that you cannot do anything except panic. The object is to shove that probe from your arse to your brain to short out your ability to think about the mess that Prezinut Dimwit has made. Katie’s breath quickens a little just at the thought of it.

Spot says pucker up and just say NO!

Katie won’t be the only one. Peggy Bakken, executive editor of the Sun newspapers, recently invited readers to recount their stories of that horrific day.

People, self-pity is not an attractive human attribute. There are, of course, a lot of people who mourn legitimately. But most of the rest of us do it only vicariously and badly. It has led us to make or permit a lot of really, really bad decisions about protecting ourselves and our foreign policy.

And it won’t stop until we stop accepting the probe called fear.

A blot on what?

Peter Swanson, who must be about as busy at work as Spot, left a long comment to Spot’s post White whine with crackers. That post was about Katherine Kersten’s column tut-tutting over a Minneapolis law firm having to live with the obloquy of representing some whiney white kids who couldn’t get into the University of Michigan Law School. Katie said that the bow-tied whiney white kid vindicators didn’t deserve the blot on their escutcheon. Spot said, oh yes they do.

Whereupon, Peter draws himself up to his full rhetorical height, whatever that might be, and in vice-presidential fashion, peppers Spotty with birdshit birdshot. Peter asks Spot several questions which Spot has, of course, no intention of answering directly. But Spot invites Peter, and you, boys and girls, to consider the following.

First of all Peter, let’s understand that you don’t have any special genetic standing to oppose affirmative action or the promotion of diversity or whatever you want to call it. You get to have your opinion all right, but so does Spot.

The proposition put forth by the whiney white kids is this: the law requires a strict meritocracy based on a standard of merit written by people for whom the standard has already worked. It’s sort of the people like me are meritorious standard. This is the only way that people can be equal before the law.

Of course, according the whiney white kids (perhaps hereafter just “WWK”), under law the rich and the poor are equally enjoined from sleeping under bridges.

Perhaps more than anything else, affirmative action or diversity admissions are recognition that you won’t achieve essential fairness if you just rely on a high-stakes test. Not only that, but you’ll probably miss some people who deserve a chance because of obstacles they have overcome, the background of experiences they bring to an institution, or gasp, the strength of their character. Most people implicitly recognize this with respect to some characteristics but some can’t accept it with respect to minority communities.

Conservatives are okay with, in fact rather like, the idea that some people are just “better” than others. Equal protection just means an equal shot at proving how superior you are to somebody else. Competition is healthy, but at its perimeter, it’s just a sick obsession. Spot thinks low self-esteem is the root of the problem. Right, Katie?

Most of us probably know a person who is exemplary in all ways but testing well on high-stakes test like the LSAT. Why should that be the only way to prove your value to an institution or the society that will pay for a chunk of your education?

Peter also asks if it is fair to ostracize the bow ties. He says the bow ties’ firm has an open pro bono practice, in other words the lawyers can pretty much take up the cases they want. The whole phrase is pro bono publico which means “for the public good.” And to Spot, that means more than just not getting paid; it means doing something in the public interest, which representing the WWKs was not.

Finally, Peter, Spotty stands squarely against boiling shrimp.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Godspeed, Britta and Andrew

This is a hard one, and it’s personal. Spot has nothing to do with Borene campaign, but he’s gotten to know Britta and Andrew, and their two boys Dane and Magnus, over the last year. A sweeter family you will never meet. Andrew’s withdrawal from the SD-41 race today, and the circumstances surrounding it, are a kick in the gut. Spot is not one to look on the bright side of things, and the inclination does not come naturally here, but just a couple of observations:

First, the Borene family has made a lot of friends in the district since Andrew started running for the senate seat over a year ago. They’ll support him now, Spot’s sure.

Second, and related to the first point, a lot of people know each other and have been attracted to the DFL in SD-41 because of the Andrew’s campaign, his personable manner, and all of the hard work of Andrew and Britta (and Scott and Penny, too) and the campaign staff and volunteers. They won’t go away.

So, thanks for all the effort, Britta and Andrew. Now it’s time for you to just take care of each other and your boys for a while. We’ll see you around, we’re sure.

Broken feed

Apparently, the atom feed is broken. There still is an RSS 2.0 feed available for the Cucking Stool.

Update: Now the atom feed seems to be working again.

White whine with crackers

Nobody, but nobody, carries the jeremiad sack of white resentment around better than Katherine Kersten, our dear Katie. Today’s plaintive wail is for the Maslon, Edelman, Borman and Brand law firm in Minneapolis. Katie is distressed – I say distressed – because the Maslon firm’s civil rights credentials have been sullied by the firm’s representation of a bunch of pouting white kids who couldn’t get into the University of Michigan Law School, even though they had LSAT scores a little higher than some minority students who were enrolled.

Katie tells us of the nobility of the bow ties who mounted a challenge to the nefarious practice of looking at factors beyond the LSAT in making law school admission decisions, and how the bow ties took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. What Katie didn’t say was that the pouting white kids and the bow ties lost.

The thrust of the bow ties’ argument is that the only way – the only way – to measure merit and potential utility to society is by high-stakes testing. It is a pure social Darwinist hunter gatherer argument. And even the current Supreme Court rejected it. (Well, the one that had Rehnquist and O’Connor on it.)

Katie wants the world to be a giant Pork Chop Games. She’s had hierarchy and ranking drilled into her for so long that her life has no meaning unless she can be ranked against, and found superior to, the majority of people. Just like the biggest parakeet in the cage at Woolworth’s.

After their representation of the pouting white kids, the bow ties found out that life sometimes has consequences:

The backlash came in early 2006, when Maslon applied to join Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, a consortium of nine major corporations and 19 law firms interested in recruiting and hiring minority attorneys. Maslon's admission should have been a slam dunk. But its application was tabled after objections were raised. Months later, the firm is still in limbo.

Katie, representation of the pouting white kids wasn’t vindication of an important constitutional principle; it was low and mean and petty. It is going to take a while for the bow ties to scrub off the stain of what they spilled on themselves.

Tags: hates

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Julie Jetson?

After Spot's last post, Ken Avidor sent Spot a link to a web artcle about PRT. Spot believes that Ken contributed to it. Spotty called a PRT system a hamster habitat. A really elaborate hamster habitat.

PRT concept envisions one-way loops throughout urban area. To go opposite direction, passengers must ride car "wrong way", then double back. Cars unable to enter crowded stations must stay on loops in holding patterns. Energy-efficiency, anyone?

Spotty, what does this thing look like?

Here are a couple of concept pictures, grasshopper, because PRT is only the fevered dream of people like Julie Risser and Michele Bachmann.

Crikey, Spotty! Wouldn't that look like a huge spider web over the city?

Why yes, grasshopper, it would. Here is a conceptual map of an urban PRT grid.

Pretty oppressive, isn't it boys and girls? Any environmentalist who supports this is no environmentalist.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Julie, Julie, Julie

Spot did not realize until just recently that you were one of the Pod people. That’s not iPod; it’s Personal Rapid Transit, Gs and Gettes.

Spotty, what’s Personal Rapid Transit?

Ah, grasshopper, that is a good question. What is the sound of one hand clapping? No one knows because it has never been done. Spot thinks it is a little like a mini-Rapture or perhaps the transporters on the starship Enterprise. Beam me up Julie! Or maybe beam me over to Dayton’s, I mean Field’s, I mean Macy’s! Here’s how the Green Party’s Dean Zimmerman’s pod plan was supposed to work. Of course, Dean is in kind of deep doo doo now.

PRT makes Spot think of the hamster habitats you can buy to let your hamsters zoom around in tubes and wind up in unexpected places like so many furry Jetsons. What fun!

Spotty, how do you know that Julie Risser is a Pod person?

Ken Avidor says so a post on the blog Dump Mark Olson. Spotty will anticipate your question, grasshopper, and tell you that Mark Olson is a Republican legislator from Big Lake (sort of half-way between the metro area and St. Cloud) who apparently used PRT as a red herring to oppose the North Star commuter line. In fact, Ken made up a graphic of the Pod people:

Who are these people, Spotty?

Grasshopper, left to right they are Dean Zimmerman, Mark Olson, Julie Risser, and Michele Bachmann. That’s Green, Republican, Green, Republican.

Boy, Spotty, it sure looks like the Republicans are using the Greens to oppose legitimate transit solutions.

You speak with wisdom for one so young, grasshopper.


Soccer as preparation for death

Katie’s column Rising when we fall and learning when we lose was pointed to with approval by Paul at Powerline. In a post he calls That to philosophize is to learn to die (no link), Paul recalled the shocking adoption of a rule in Connecticut high school sports that sought to limit blow outs to fifty points. (Never mind that the ten run rule already exists in a lot of places.) He compares this with the stoicism of the Christian Bad News Bears soccer team that Son of Katie played on and that Katie describes in her column.

You know, it is so important to experience catastrophic failure young. There is nothing better for the inculcation of the values of the social Darwinism early on. You only have once chance to put that killer instinct in the adolescent. Spotty bets that Paul has his own version of the Pork Chop Games.

All you need to know

All you need to know about the recent anti missle test is in this link: US Delays Anti-Missle Test Due to Weather in Alaska.

Of course, the Chinese or the North Koreans would never be so unsportsmanlike as to launch an attack in bad weather.Would they?

Monday, September 04, 2006

You've raised him well, Katie

Ever since Katie came back from Bible camp, or wherever it is she went for two weeks recently, she been sort of off her feed. Spot is pleased to report that she's back in fine fettle today talking about Rising when we fall and learning when we lose. It's about her son's internment on the Christian Bad News Bears soccer team. It is a wonder to Spot that Katie let a son play soccer; it so European!

According to Katie, she asked her son:
What was the greatest memory of his sports career? His answer was prompt: the soccer team his junior year in high school. I was astounded. Their record was a dismal 0-15.

Either Katie made that up, or this kid is going to make a great Catholic priest, or maybe an Opus Dei member! Son of Katie apparently really liked the way they got chewed out at half-time when they were way behind. A real connoisseur.

Katie bemoans the fact there is so little competition for kids today:
Today, many kids aren't used to merit-based competition. They've experienced only a steady stream of bland praise intended to boost a largely meaningless sense of self-esteem. Sports presents a high-stakes challenge: the possibility of very public failures in front of schoolmates and family.

In sports, someone always wins and someone loses.

Yeah, Katie. It's such a shame that a youngster's life isn't like that all the time.

In fact, this is why, when Katie's kids were younger, they used to have the Pork Chop Games every Wednesday night before heading off to catechism. Katie would cook three pork chops for her four kids, and then there would be some kind of physical or mental contest to see who got the chops. Of course, the younger ones rarely got one, but that's an important lesson, too! And they got breakfast the next morning, so what's the harm?

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Davey and Geoff

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Strom residence. This is David himself.

Davey, this is Geoff Michel.

Well hello Geoff! It’s nice of you to call the pledge master.

Davey, I need a favor.

For one of my acolytes? Name it pisan. An endorsement? A mention in literature or on the Taxpayers League website? Even a personal appearance for you Geoff!

Those things won’t help, I’m afraid.

What? You have a problem that won’t succumb to Davey’s personal charm? You must be in deep doo doo my friend. What do you need?

Actually I need you to criticize me.

Why would I do that? From my perspective, you’re one of the best!

That’s really flattering, Davey, but I’ve got a very difficult election contest in my district. And as you know, the Crosstown Commons project was killed last week.

Hey, wasn’t that great? Imagine the nerve of that guy Erhardt – he’s from Edina, too, right? – wanting to raise the gas tax to fund transportation. It took a real mensch to vote against that gas tax increase with all the people in your district clogged up on the Crosstown. When you took the No New Taxes pledge, Geoff, it really meant something to you. Congratulations!

Davey, that vote is really coming back to haunt me. People are saying that I helped give the governor – another pledge signer, I know – a veto-proof margin in both houses of the Legislature. I’ve been running around pretending like the Crosstown is now my number one worry, but people aren’t buying it. Can you help me? Disavow me? Maybe you could write a letter to the local paper, it’s called the Sun Current. Tell the people I voted against the Taxpayers League dictates a couple of times.

Well, okay, if that’s what you want. If you get re-elected, though, I expect you to toe the line.

Oh Davey, I will! Thanks for the help.

Here, boy and girls, is the letter that David Strom wrote for Geoff Michel.

Tags: hearts and the

Keep your shirt on Dave!

In his recent post Heiress Harris Erras, Spot took Katherine Harris to task for her comment that the separation of church "was a lie." Dave from Baghdad, or its environs, challenged Spot to specify the origin of the concept as it is embodied in the Establishment Clause. Spot is paraphrasing here, but that is basically what Dave asked. That was last evening. Then tonight, Dave berated Spot for not answering the question.

We need to get one thing straight here, Dave. Spot is a dog, not a reference librarian! It's been a while since Spotty has studied this history. Let's see what he remembers.

The Founders counted several Diests among their number, and some pretty unconventional Christians, including Jefferson who, as Spot recalls from the time, rewrote the New Testament (or maybe just the gospels) to remove all the references to the divinity of Christ. They were a bunch of Enlightenment thinkers.

In the time between the end of the Revolution and the adoption of the Constitution, leaders in the various colonies had different ideas about the role of religion in government. Interestingly enough, it was the sturdy pilgrims and puritans in Massachusetts who wanted a state church, a curious position since the had left England in part to escape the Church of England. Most everyone else didn't think a state church was such a hot idea. This was especially true of Catholics and the evangelicals in the southern colonies. (Boy, how times have changed!)

Some of the same Virginians who were so vital to the Revolution were influential in Virginia state government in the time prior to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Virginia had a statute keeping religion and government separate that the Establishment Clause was based on. And if Spot remembers correctly, it was during this time that the terminology "separation of church and state" began to be used.

Spot thinks there was a famous letter that Thomas Jefferson sent to a bunch of Baptists telling them that it was okay to just go ahead and be evangelicals, because under the new Constitution the government would stay away from religion, and he used the term "separation of church and state."

Now Dave, Spot knows that the term "wall of separation of church and state" was not used by the Supreme Court until much later. But the concept and use of that term existed from the founding of the Republic. Christian revisionist "historians," or maybe "imagineers" in Disneyspeak, have tried hard to suggest that the United States was founded as a Christian nation through the import of Bibles, etc., but it is plainly not so.

So, let's see how 'ol Spotty did. He going to look for a link or two. Not bad.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

A Day at the Fair

Rew and I spent a lovely day at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, mainly to watch the Senate Candidates debate the issues of the day, grab campaign swag, and snap a few photos of the populace. She's sure to have a great writeup soon over at Minnesota Monitor, but I wanted to share the most instructive t-shirt of the day, seen over at the booth of the Minnesota Republican Party:

Yes, that quote from the woman trying to find her GOP candidates reads, "When all else fails, manipulate the data." Her friend had one, too.

Republican sentiments to the core.


That's Michael Brodkorb Exposed. Read about it by Jon David and American Hot Sausage, Co.

Grading papers

Update: Ah, the numbers in Spot's example are cocked up. He'll fix 'em later. S

Further update: The numbers are fixed. S

Does everyone have their papers turned in? Grasshoppers Swiftee, Jambo and Sticks? Good. Let’s discuss the equal marginal sacrifice principle of taxation. Spot asked Captain Fishsticks in particular to discuss the term in A tongue-twister for Sticks. Before we get to the answers submitted, a brief discussion of what the equal marginal sacrifice principle (mostly just the “principle” hereafter) is.

The principle is a, well, principle of public finance. Spot’s public finance professor, lo these many years ago, was prone to the spontaneous Spoonerism, and he used to mangle equal marginal sacrifice principle of taxation in hilarious ways! Well, Spot thought they were funny anyway.

The principle is rooted in a moral philosophy called utilitarianism. It sounds like government by and for the electric and gas companies, which is maybe what we have, but that’s not what it means. Utilitarianism has been around a while:

Utilitarianism was first proposed by the Chinese philosopher Mozi, who lived some time between the years of 479-381 B.C. during the Warring States Period. He was the founder of the school of Mohism in ancient China and advocated a utilitarian ethical system some 1,800 years before it was promoted as a viable principle in Europe.

European Utilitarianism was originally proposed by Jeremy Bentham. From the principle of utility, Bentham found pain and pleasure to be the only absolutes in the world: "nature has put man under the governance of two sovereign masters: pleasure and pain." From this he derived the rule of utility: that the good is whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Later, after realizing that the formulation recognized two different and potentially conflicting principles, he dropped the second part and talked simply about "the greatest happiness principle." [italics added]

Spot commends the linked Wikipedia entry if you are interested in more about utilitarianism. We can see right away that utilitarianism does not appeal at all to social Darwinist hunter gatherers like Captain Fishsticks. You see, utilitarianism doesn’t view Sticks’ individual happiness as The Most Important Thing. Heresy to Sticks.

The principle itself is often attributed to John Stuart Mill. Mill’s godfather was the aforementioned Jeremy Bentham. The goal of the principle is to minimize the pain to society in collection of the taxes needed to run the government. Minimizing pain is the flip side of maximizing happiness. Again, we’re talking aggregate pain here, more heresy to Sticks. How do you do that?

Start out with the proposition that everyone “deserves” to be pained by taxes more or less equally. That’s not an outrageous notion, unless you think that some people are more equal than others.

Let’s start out with Joseph and Mary. Joseph has an income of $100 per unit of time, say a week or a month or a year or whatever, and Mary, who lives in Silicon Valley, has an income of $1,000 over the same unit of time. Boy, that Mary is doing pretty well! Let’s also say we need $200 from these two to run the government. How do we raise it?

That’s easy, say the social Darwinist hunter gatherers. Charge ‘em a hundred buck apiece. That leaves Joseph with nothing and Mary with $900. But hey, life is hard.

We could also charge them each 18.2% of their income, which would raise $18.20 from Joe and $182 from Mary. This would also leave us with a budget surplus of twenty cents, which Tim Pawlenty would recommend be returned to the people. That would leave Joseph with $81.80 and Mary with $818. That seems more equitable to most people.

But if $81.80 is close to what it takes to feed, house and clothe a family of four, that $18.20 probably hurt Joseph a lot more than the $182 paid by Mary. Maybe it means no ice cream bars for Joseph’s kids on Saturday night, while it only means that Mary goes to Aruba once this year instead of twice. This is where the utilitarian might say, we can do better than that in distributing the burden fairly.

What if, say we had a rule that said everybody pays 10% on the first hundred, just so we’re sure they get by, 15% on income between $200 and $500, and, say, 27% on income between $500 and $1,000? Spot wonders how that would work out? Give Spotty a moment . . . well, Spot’s a monkey’s uncle! It raises exactly the money we need. Here’s how.

Joseph and Mary pay $10 each on their first $100 of income; that’s $20 in the aggregate. Mary pays $45 on her income between $200 and $500. On that last $500 of income, Mary pays $135 in tax.

Unfair! Unfair, say the social Darwinist hunter gathers. To which you might get these answers:

The utilitarian would say that the aggregate pain to Mary and Joseph is minimized by such a system. The marginal dollars that Mary parts with on her higher income cause her less pain that if she or Joseph lost those first dollars. That’s kind of what Jambo is getting at in his comment about the “decreasing marginal value of money.” Jambo, the money doesn’t decrease in value; it decreases in utility to it holder. Confirmation of this fact can be had by strolling through Southdale and seeing the high-priced low-utility baubles for sale.

A pragmatist might add that it is fair for Mary to pay more because she benefits a lot more from the government. It regulates the stock market that people have (some) confidence in that allowed Mary to take her company public. It also created and maintains an intellectual property system of patents, copyrights, and trademarks that permitted Mary to leverage her intelligence and protect the fruits of her imagination.

And then there would be Spot’s answer. Spot says he doesn’t give a rat’s arse whether the SDHGs think it’s fair or not. Their oral stage views of fairness are of no interest to Spotty.

What Spot has laid out is, of course, the raison d’être for a system of progressive taxation. Obviously, Spot’s example is distorted because it had only two taxpayers, one poor and one wealthy. In real life, of course, there are many taxpayers and they are all over the map in income.

We already considered Jambo’s comment above. Swiftee says that the principle is “lefty newspeak for socialist type wealth re-distribution.” It’s hardly newspeak when its antecedents are an ancient Chinese philosopher and John Stuart Mill. As far as wealth re-distribution is concerned, not a single dollar of Mary’s went into Joseph’s pocket. In real life, of course, there are social services delivered to the poor, but Spot says they don’t compare to the value of what the government does for the wealthy. This subject is, in fact, a good one for a future post.

Which leaves us with the dog’s breakfast. Spot is loathe to quote Sticks extensively, but will on this occasion because Sticks did not turn in his answer but rather put it up on his own site:

For the record, the equal marginal sacrifice principle applied to taxes would say something like taxes should be levied such that the last tax dollar everyone pays has the same economic impact on each and every individual. So for example, if the poorest person in the land pays $50 in taxes and as a result cannot purchase a winter coat, then I must be assessed taxes to the point where I can not purchase a winter coat and Bill Gates must also be taxed to the point where he cannot afford a winter coat. We all make an equal sacrifice to pay our taxes.

If you're thinking "from each, to each" you're on the right track. It’s impractical in reality and ridiculous in principle.

Sorry, Spotty. You’re going to have to go back to chasing your tail; I'm not throwing the ball for you any more.

Is that what we did to Mary, bring her down to the level of impoverishment of Joseph? No, of course not. On the first $100 of income, she paid exactly what Joseph did.

In his post, just above his discussion of the principle, Sticks says this:

I have no intention of discussing anything as foolish as the marginal sacrifice principle applied to taxes, at least with Spotty for whom discussion is little more than the hope of finding something so arcane to discuss that he appears intelligent.

Oh Sticks! Spot doesn’t consider himself intelligent – he’s a Dalmatian. Spot just throws up a little in his mouth when you think you are! Update: Sticks must have had his irony warning buzzer completely turned off when as a libertarian he accuses somebody else of discussing the arcane.

Next time, boys and girls, we’ll see how Minnesota does in the progressive taxation department.

Almost forgot. Sticks, Spot didn’t expect you to throw the ball; he expected you to chase it.

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