Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fool me twice

Spot thinks this is how it goes:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . . . you can't get fooled again.

George W. Bush

As with many things, Bush is wrong here again. Proof of the error of George's maxim came yesterday, when the Star Tribune endorsed the "veteran" (Lori Sturdevant's term) Geoff Michel for a second term in Senate District 41. Because the Strib will take down the endorsement at some point, and because Spot expects to have plenty of opportunity to rub the Strib's nose in the mess it made, Spot reproduces the entire endorsement of Michel:

Republican Sen. Geoff Michel's quest for a second term got easier in September, when his hard-charging DFL opponent, Andrew Borene, dropped out of the race. Michel is the better candidate left standing -- despite the principled, progressive campaign being waged by the Green Party's Julie Risser.

We're encouraged by signs that Michel recognizes why Borene's campaign was gaining traction through the summer. Many voters agreed with Borene's take on Michel -- that his "no new taxes" pledge four years ago, opposition to a gas tax increase and his conservative stance on social issues did not represent the views of his district. Michel isn't taking an antitax pledge this time. While he still wants to send a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage to the ballot, he's also open to some legal protections for same-sex couples. He also says he's more open to new funding sources for transportation and transit.

An attorney with experience in and out of government, Michel has great potential as a legislator. His founding role in the Legislature's 2020 Caucus illustrates his capacity to be an innovator and consensus-builder. We hope to see him put those skills to greater use in a second term.

While neither time nor space allows a full recitation of the senator's record, a couple of things need to be mentioned. In 2002, Michel changed his position on abortion between the time he won the Republican primary and the general election, causing him to lose the endorsement of NARL. (You can look it up. It's getting close to Spot's bedtime.) He was also a sponsor of the waiting period for a woman before an abortion procedure.

Apparently, he told the editorial board at the Strib that he was in favor of some rights for same-sex couples. No he's not. At a forum last December, Michel told the assembled that he wanted the Bachmann amendment on the ballot, but domestic partner rights could be discussed after the amendment passed. This is not the case, because the Bachmann amendment would not only prohibit gay marriage, but any "equivalent" relationships like domestic partnership. Obviously, Michel knew this; his comments to the group gathered at the church were a bald-faced lie.

Michel's position on new funding sources for transportation is simply a factor of the ire of constituents over, among other things, the Crosstown debacle.

And finally, the laughable 2020 Caucus. It is just window dressing for some legislators, certainly Geoff Michel among them, who were worried about charges of partisanship being leveled against them. For good reason, usually. Did you ask, Lori, if the 2020 Caucus has ever actually accomplished anything? Of course it hasn't. Michel doesn't stick his neck out.

Geoff Michel is a feckless and shameless opportunist. It is no tribute to the journalistic skills of the Strib that it accepted at face value what Geoff Michel told them, rather than making an evaluation based on the legislative record he has produced.


The Frightening Season

Via Susie, a thought about what we have killed off these past few years:


Six more days 'til Puckernacht my Republican friends.

Have you noticed how the whistling past the graveyard had changed in the right-wing punditry, boys and girls?

First, it was the Democrats will never take the Congress.

Then, it was the Democrats may pick up enough seats to take the Congress, but it's pretty unlikely.

Next, it was the Democrats will take the Congress unless we work really hard.

And now, it's okay, the Democrats will take the Congress, but it won't mean much.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ernest Hemingway wrote here

"Here" is the Toronto Star and when is after the First World War when Hemingway came back from being an ambulance driver in Italy. Guess he wowed 'em with his writing. Yesterday, the 29th, there was a punishing op-ed piece in Ernest's old paper. It was about the commission of the war crime of aggressive war. Spot has a soft spot for the prosecution of war crimes, as you know boys and girls.

The piece does a good job of describing what the crime of aggressive war is.
Canada's own Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leadership front-runner,
tries to slough off his former enthusiastic support for the war by now
saying he hadn't "anticipated how incompetent the Americans would be."

But incompetence is a side issue. The real problem is, and always has been,
that it is illegal — not to mention immoral — for a country to invade
another country, in other words, to wage a war of aggression.

The fact that Iraq is the last unharvested oil bonanza on earth, in an era
of increasingly fierce global competition for dwindling oil reserves,
only makes U.S. motives all the more suspect.

As the Nuremberg Tribunal concluded after World War II: "War is essentially an evil thing ... To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an
international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing
only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the
accumulated evil of the whole."
Supreme international crime. Pretty strong words. Bet you didn't know you were signing up for that, did you boys and girls?

B29 George McGovern, pestered by that conscience of his, thinks the country should do this as reported by the Star:
As former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern argued in Harper's, the withdrawal [sooner rather than later] should be accompanied by a payment of about $17 billion to compensate the Iraqi people for the immense suffering caused by the invasion. McGovern sets out in detail how the money should be allocated. He calculates that a U.S. pullout, even with a $17 billion payment, would save the U.S. $200 billion over the next two years, and help restore America's reputation.
War reparations as an economy move. Who would have thought?

But Spotty, can't a country defend itself?

Yes of course grasshopper it can, and it can even invade another country if it is in imminent danger of itself being invaded. Don't make Spot look it up, but it's in the UN Charter. In Iraq's case however, it is clear that the threat was not imminent, and in fact it was non-existent. And it is also pretty clear that the administration knew it.

Here's another question for another day, boys and girls.Is the commission of the supreme international crime an impeachable offense?

Update: Link to Toronto Star op-ed from BuzzFlash

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Don’t do it Sticks!

Captain Fishsticks, the freelance editorial voice of the Pioneer Press, made a boo-boo. Here's the lede of a correction to the PiPress editorial endorsing John Kline:

The campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives seat from the 2nd District of Minnesota has been edgy on both sides, but in our opinion page endorsement of John Kline on Friday we erroneously reported that the Coleen Rowley campaign had produced a misleading negative video tying Kline to Washington corruption.

Although it includes Rowley campaign graphics, the video we referenced was neither produced nor endorsed by the candidate or her campaign.

By the way, correction writer, it would have been better to say "the video we referred to." Anyway, it was Sticks who made the erroneous attribution.

Well, Sticks stood up to take his medicine, more or less, which is admirable. At the end of his mea culpa, Sticks, feeling a little sorry for himself, says:

Short of gutting myself on the corner of 4th and Cedar, there is little more to be done except learn from the experience.

Spotty says, Sticks, don't gut yourself!

Spot does recommend a strict regimen of sackcloth and ashes, however.

‘Lo Daddy


Hi, Laura, is Junior there?

Oh hi, Daddy Bush. Yes, he's here.

Well may I speak to him?

[sighs] Do you really have to? He's always so hard to live with after you call.

Only after I call? Ha! But I really need to have a chat with Junior. What's he doing right now?

I think he's in the den playing with the Google. Ever since he found those satellite maps on the Google, he's been obsessed with finding places to bomb in North Korea and Iran. Sometimes he sits at that screen late into the night, way past nine o'clock. Frankly, I am a little worried.

That's the kind of thing I want to talk to him about.

Okay, but I sometimes have trouble getting him to break away from his reconnaissance, even for milk and cookies. I'll see what I can do. [shouting now] Mr. President! You have a phone call.

Who is it?

It's your father.

I don't want to talk to him. Tell him I already spoke to my father – the heavenly one – today.

Oh, Mr. President, you'll hurt his feelings!

What about my feelings all those years? Growing up in the shadow of the "Great Man." But at least I got two terms.

See, you got even. Talk to him, please.

All right. [picking up the phone, speaking sullenly] 'Lo Daddy.

Hello, son.


Oh come on. It's just the two of us.

Laura says it.

[sighs] Okay. Hello Mr. President. Satisfied?

Thank you.

Son, I mean Mr. President, there is something I need to talk about with you.


The situation in Iraq. I know it's a sore subject, but . . .

I don't want to talk about it with you, not anybody!

Well, Mr. President, it's not like when we used to play peek-a-boo. It won't go away if you just cover your eyes. And I know Iraq is not your fault; I've told you that many times at family get-togethers and in front of everyone to make sure they hear it. So just listen to this will you?

NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NAH! I'm not listening.

I think you are. Now you know that Uncle Jimmy is trying to figure out a way to extricate you from this mess, I mean situation? He and that feckless piece of bipartisan window dressing Lee Hamilton. Anyway, I want you to listen to Uncle Jimmy.

Aw, Daddy, do I have to? He probably gonna be critical of me.

I've already talked to Uncle Jimmy about that. We've agreed that he'll sugar coat it as best he can. And you know that Uncle Jimmy is a fixer, a real wizard. Think of what your rap sheet would look like without Uncle Jimmy. Just let him help you again.

Daddy, do you think Uncle Jimmy can make me look good?

I said he was a fixer, not a miracle worker.

Well, thanks a lot! If Uncle Jimmy tells me to change things, well, I just won't.

I'm sorry you feel that way, SON. [hand over mouthpiece, speaking to another person in the room] I tried Jim.

I heard that! Uncle Jimmy is in the room, isn't he? ISN'T HE?

Yes, he's here. We're just trying to help you.

You've been "trying to help me" my whole life. And look where it has gotten me. I'll solve this one by myself. [click] Let's see, Tehran, Tehran. Oh, there it is.


No Katie today. She probably wants to husband her precious venom supply for the last two columns before the election. Either that, or Michael Brodkorb has been out of touch.

Spot does have a couple of quick things, boys and girls. We are approaching not only Election Day, but also Election Eve. Or as Republicans are calling it this year, Puckernacht. Spot says to be sure on Election Eve that you get everything ready for voting, encouraging your friends (and your kids, if they can) to vote, and finding the location of both your voting place and the election night parties.

Spot also want to tell you that he is working on the transcription of a telephone call between Daddy Bush and Junior that Spot got from the NSA. It is painstaking work and it may not be ready for a little while yet. Be patient.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Great Pretender Snookers Sturdevant

Lori, Lori, Lori. You can't take what the Great Pretender, Geoff Michel, says at face value. In an op-ed piece entitled A welcome move to the middle ground from both sides, Lori positively gushes about Michel's swearing off pledges against tax increases. Then why is his name on a list of the Americans for Tax Reform, dated October 3, 2006, as a taker of this pledge:

I, ____________, pledge to the taxpayers of the _____ District of the State of _________ and to all the people of this state, that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.

In fact, Michel is listed at one of two Taxpayer Pledge Protection caucus chairs in Minnesota! Did he show you his letter of resignation as caucus chair and the demand that his name be removed from the pledge signers? Have Davey Strom and Grover Norquist performed the ritual excommunication yet? Michel says he wants his name off the list. He hasn't been trying very long.

Here's Sturdevant's quote from Michel (a freshman who is laughably described as a "veteran" by Sturdevant):

"I'm not doing any pledges this time," Michel told the editorial board. "It's wrong for interest groups to try to lock you down before you put your hand on the Bible" and are sworn into office.

Was the no-taxes pledge a mistake? "Yeah, maybe," he said. "It was a different kind of politics four years ago."

Let Spot translate that for you, Lori. I signed this pledge four years ago because I thought it would help me get elected. It apparently did. I was pretty faithful to that pledge, including voting against the gas tax increase in 2005. I worked a lot on getting a sweet promotional deal for TCF for a new University of Minnesota stadium, and now the voters in my district are howling about the fact that I paid little attention to transportation including financing for the Crosstown, which a lot of them have to use. Other than saying so, there is absolutely no reason to believe that I have changed in any way.

Michel admits that his change of heart is driven by politics, apparently not policy.

And by the way, Lori, the gas tax vote (and the governor's veto) is the same one that the editorial board mentioned as a reason to cashier the governor, just today in an editorial. Go figure.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hey Charlie!

Here's why you can't get your mouse. Spot still says you need a cat.

Oh Katie! Spot has something for you!

Michele Bachmann (R-Heaven) doesn't like the Catholic Church. In fact, she believes that you Catholics are a bunch of devil worshippers. How does Spot know? Bachmann atttends one of those big Christian factories in Stillwater, Salem Lutheran Church.

Salem Lutheran is a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The WELS website has a long article dedicated to proving that the Pope in the Antichrist. It is a current and thoroughly modern part of WELS doctrine.

What's that you say Katie? Lovely Michele couldn't believe that? Well, if she doesn't, it makes her kind of an apostate, doesn't it? Spot knows what you think of apostates.

If she is an apostate, what's next for MIchele? New views on a host of subjects: stem cell research, gay marriage (that'll be rich), pro-choice? You know Katie, once somebody deviates from their orthodoxy, the road to perdition is short and steep!

On the other hand, maybe Michele is not an apostate and really does believe you're a devil worshipper. Take you pick.

A big thump of Spot's tail to the Blog House.

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Friday, October 27, 2006


This morning while he was washing the site off, Spot accidently deleted a message from a reader who calls himself BlackBloc. Sorry. Repost the comment if you like, BlackBloc; Spot can't unerase it, regrettably.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

She collapses exhausted

Katie collapses over her Underwood, arms spread wide over her desk, and mumbling Copy Boy, take my latest column to Tice. It is finished. The copy boy eyes her nervously, noticing that she has three pages for him, rather than the usual two. It is clear that Katie has poured herself out over this one.

Indeed she has. Today we get almost 1150 words on the need for the West to gird its loins against a return of the Caliphate. She doesn't call it the Caliphate, but the meaning is clear enough. After the longest wind-up in Katie-column history, here's the pitch:

MAC officials will hold another meeting today about the airport controversy, and Mohamud [more about him in a moment] says he will try to revive the two-tiered pilot project for taxis. Whatever the meeting's outcome, we now have reason to believe that the issue is only a prologue to a larger drama playing out in Minnesota and the United States.

What Katie is referring to, of course, is the problem that has arisen because some Muslim Somali cab drivers don't want to drive fares who are carrying alcohol, usually from the duty-free shop at the airport. The MAC had adopted a system of identifying the temperance cabs and soon thereafter scrubbed the idea. Katie wrote about it before, and is often the case, Spot commented on the column is a post called A teachable moment. Now according to Katie, the aforementioned Hassan Mohamud is urging the MAC to reconsider the implementation of the program because:

Mohamud adds that Americans need to learn about Islamic law because the Muslim population here is growing. That's why the proposed two-tier system for airport cabdrivers is important, he says. It could become a national model for accommodating Islam in areas ranging from housing to contractual arrangements to the workplace.

Hassan Mohamud is a spokesman for the Minnesota Chapter of the Muslim American Society. Katie explains the role of the Society in this issue:

But many Somali drivers at the airport are refusing to carry passengers with alcohol. When I asked Patrick Hogan, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman, for his explanation, he forwarded a fatwa, or religious edict, that the MAC had received. The fatwa proclaims that "Islamic jurisprudence" prohibits taxi drivers from carrying passengers with alcohol, "because it involves cooperating in sin according to the Islam."

The fatwa, dated June 6, 2006, was issued by the "fatwa department" of the Muslim American Society, Minnesota chapter, and signed by society officials.

The society is mediating the conflict between the cab drivers and the MAC. That seems odd, since the society itself clearly has a stake in the controversy's outcome.

It is such a shame that Katie is completely dead to irony. Completely. Dead. What if we were talking about, oh say, prayer in school, stem cell research, or abortion? Oh, those things are entirely different, says Katie. No they're not, replies Spot. You may think they are, Katie, but they all spring from the same place: somebody's understanding of teachings from the "Book."

Katie asserts that the Muslim American Society is really a branch of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, and that some Somalis want no part of it. But she misses the point entirely.

There isn't a nickel's worth of difference between the Muslim American Society's "fatwa department" and that fatuous Brooklyn Park imam Mac Hammond, who takes it upon himself to tell his congregation who to vote for.

In fact, Spotty says that American society is more threatened by Christian Reconstructionists like Katie, James Dobson, Michele Bachmann, and Mac Hammond than it will ever be from the American Muslim Society. Katie, remove the log from your own eye before trying to help your neighbor with the mote in his.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

God and Michele talk again

Oh Lord, my Lord!

What is it now Michele?

It's just that we left our last conversation a little, well, unresolved. By the way, you sound kind of masculine today. I like that.

Ah, it's just a little head cold. What do you mean unresolved?

[stammering] I was kind of left up in the air about being forgiven for being so bigoted against gays and lesbians. I know that Jesus loves me and all, but I have felt all shivery and cold since we talked.

Yeah, Jesus loves you, Michele, but personally I think you're kind of a jerk.

Oh dear God!


It was just an exclamation.

Taking my name in vain, eh?

Oh no sir, or ma'am!

Just call me God, okay?

Okay. But God, it says right in the Bible, especially in the Books of Moses, that homosexuality is an abomination. What am I to make of that?

Well, in retrospect, I should have written out what I wanted for laws. That's what I did when I gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Not nearly so much room for ambiguity. All this later stuff was dictated when Moses was older and didn't hear so well. For example, you know the stuff about shellfish? Total misunderstanding. I was talking about macaroni shells. Those things are awful! I love shrimp myself. Especially scampi.

And he wrote in this funny cramped hand. Did you know Moses was a lefty? Damn near impossible to read. Lotta mistakes made over the years.

I can't believe it!

Well believe it Michele. I could tell you stories. Like the time . . . well, never mind. Moses was kind of a prude, too. He slipped in some stuff he never got from me. Most people have been sensible enough to discard most of it. Like the business about stoning girls who aren't virgin brides on their fathers' doorsteps. You can bet if I had given men hymens that rule would never have seen the light of day! Or men having to marry their brothers' widows. Pretty barbaric stuff. And how many guys do you know who get along with the sisters-in-law?

This is really hard for me to accept.

I know, Michele, that why there's a couple of years for you to get your head around some of these things before . . .

Before what, God?

Nothing. Really, nothing.

You're not holding out on me, are you God? What is it? Give me a hint? Will I like it?

Well, probably not.

Oh, please tell me.

Okay. If you insist. I took a lotta money off Lucifer or Beelzebub, or whatever you want to call him, over that Job deal. He wants to go double or nothing on you. And you know, you're just crazy enough to stick it out, so I agreed to the bet. It means you'll lose everything: husband, kids, house, reputation. You don't have any cattle do you? But stick with me, kiddo, and I'll make it worth your while in the end.

You mean I'll be elected to Congress?

Don't be silly.


What this blog needs is a global moment.

Heed the wombat!

(stolen from Bob Harris)

Mark Kennedy on the teevee

Mark Kennedy's latest ad, entitled War is Good for You (well, not really, but it might just as well be), is set on the porch of what looks like a house in a Stephen King movie. BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  One statement in the ad jumped out at Spot:
You can't negotiate with people who want to kill you.
In other words, you have to kill them all. Play whack-a-mole until they're all gone. How long will that take, Mark, especially since we seem to have embarked on a very successful world-wide mole breeding program?

You'll undoubtedly have a lot of time to consider how long it will take from your new perch at that sheltered workshop for Republican politicians, The Center of the American Experiment.

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What are sheeple?

Here's the lede in the article Herding the Sheeple, Voting on Justice on the terrific new site, Atlantic Free Press:

“Let’s vote on it.” To most people that sounds like the ideal way to solve any issue. But it can also be one of the most dangerous.

In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights decision. But a 1968 Gallup poll documented that 72 percent of Americans opposed interracial marriage. Had America voted on the issue in 1968, civil rights would undoubtedly have been defeated.

Let the people vote is, of course, Michele Bachmann's siren song on the gay marriage ban amendment.


Tripping down memory lane with Geoff

Do you think, boy and girls, that Geoff Michel (R-Cakeville) has always been an opponent of conceal and carry handgun legislation? You would be very wrong. He used to think it was a great idea. Spot tried to lay out the details in a post last year on the blog Retire Geoff Michel.

Spot has somewhere, incidentally, copies of the record of the Senate votes referred to in the earlier post regarding the senator's opposition to an amendment to the conceal and carry legislation that would have banned guns from retail establishments like Southdale or hospitals like Fairview Southdale. Makes you think.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Spooky old Alice

Alice Hausman that is. Well, that isn't entirely fair. Spot thinks he's older than Alice, actually. But the spooky part fits, at least on the issue that Spot is about to describe. ("Spooky old Alice," incidentally, was what George Gobel called his wife on Gobel's teevee show, a part played by Jeff Donnell, who was not a guy in drag.)

Representative Hausman is a supporter of the proposed constitutional admendment to dedicate all motor vehicle sales taxes to transportation and transit. A DFLer, Hausman was on the local show Minnesota Matters on Air America Radio this afternoon to defend the amendment and urge listeners to vote "yes."

Here's the pitch for the amendment: it'll raise $300 million dollars a year for transportation without raising taxes! But Alice, won't that create a hole in the budget of the same size? Not to worry says Alice, the revenue redirection is phased in over five years, and the annual tax revenue growth should cover the difference. It's painless!

If you believe that, boys and girls, you undoubtedly still believe in the Easter Bunny. Revenue growth occurs in part, maybe mostly, because of inflation and population growth. Demand for services like education, health care, public safety, and everything else the state does are going to continue to grow, too. What's that Alice? You forgot about the cost side of the equation? Ooh, too bad.

Speaking of health care, the Minnesota Care program, with the 1% health care provider tax, consistently runs surpluses. The governor and the legislature don't seem to have any trouble taking millions from Minnesota Care surpluses and putting them in the general fund.

Why, Alice, are cars (and to be fair, transit) more important than healthy citizens, especially children?

The best thing to be said about this proposal by the legislature to the citizens of Minnesota is that it is an act of legislative cowardice, a bob and weave to avoid making hard funding decisions, or revenue decisions for that matter.

What if you don't hit the numbers, Alice? Too bad, so sad, education takes a hit! If this is such a great idea, why don't we dedicate liquor sales taxes to addiction programs, or the sales taxes on books to adult literacy programs? Or maybe, we could even, like, put the money from the "health impact fee" into the paying the health care costs of smoking! What a concept! The possibilities are endless.

Spot wrote about this issue once before, about how everybody wants their own mason jar with money in it that they don't have to subject to the political process, in a post titled Cornholing the future.

Spot says just vote NO.

Update: If you really want money from transportation to go into transportation, raise the gas tax.

He's made a little list

Boys and girls, here are some links to articles about some of the great Republican candidates running this fall. You can see that Gil Gutknect and Michele Bachmann made the list compiled by MyDD. Congratulations all!

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert

God, that's Freudian

From Power Line yesterday:

If you missed it over the weekend, check out our podcast
of the interview we did with Tony Show on our radio show on Saturday.
It's a fun conversation, with Tony's candid comments on the White House
Press Corps, President Bush, and more.

Posted by John at 09:11 AM

Monday, October 23, 2006

Come to Jesus, er, Julie

This one is for Spot's homies, the DFLers in Senate District 41. Spot has received reports that people want to vote for Andrew Borene, even though he has withdrawn. Spot says just don't do it. It isn't good for Andrew, the DFL, or Senate District 41.

When Andrew Borene withdrew from the race, Spot originally wanted the DFL to endorse another DFLer to run a write-in campaign. That did not happen.

There is one progressive left in this race: Julie Risser. Vote for her. Put her lawn signs up. Work for her. Retire Geoff Michel.

Oh, and one more thing. If you're a DFLer, leave a comment saying that you support Julie.

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God: listen up Michele!

Michele? Michele, are you listening?

[trembling] Who's that?

It's me, God.

Really? You sound so, so . . . feminine.

I didn't make up all that white beard crap, you people did.

What is it you want me to do, sir, I mean ma'am, I mean God?

Well, you can start by ditching the delusion that I give a rat's arse whether you get elected to Congress.

But ma'am, I . . .

Oh, and another thing: quit putting words in my mouth. Who the hell do you think you are, me?

Ma'am, but the Bible says we are made in Your Image.

Yeah, and you've done it exactly backwards. You're trying to make me in your own bigoted image. And it's starting to really annoy me. I don't know who's worse, you or that putz Mac Hammond. Winner's way, greed it good, what an arsehole.

I must say ma'am, you are a lot saltier than I expected.

SILENCE! You've heard of the plagues against Egypt? You think I'm salty now, just keep it up and see what happens when I really get mad.

Lord, Lord cast me not away in disfavor!

Ok, here's what I want you to do Michele. Remember that all of God's people and creatures have a place in the choir. Not just you.

I will Lord.

No you won't. I'm omniscient, remember?

Then do you forgive me?

We'll talk about that later.

Artwork by Ken Avidor

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Don't bother to impeach

Last night in a 60 Minutes interview, Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) said that she wouldn't push an agenda seeking impeachment of President Bush if she was elected Speaker of the House. Good for her.

There will be plenty of time for that kind of stuff once the War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Iraq is empaneled.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Vote for Julie

Spot asked Julie Risser for the party she would caucus with if elected Senator in Senate District 41. In a comment to that post, Julie said she would caucus with the DFL.

You know, boys and girls, that Spot has been supporting Andrew Borene for the seat. Regrettably, Andrew withdrew. What to do?

Vote for Geoff Michel? Don't be ridiculous. He still need retiring.

Vote for Andrew Borene, who will still be on the ballot? A sentimental choice, but useless in advancing the ball for progressives in 41.

Or, boys and girls, you can do what Spot is going to do. Vote for Julie Risser.

Spot has been critical of Julie, but Spot's a big dog, at least big enough to admit circumstances have changed and that he's changed his mind.

Julie is so much better than Michel on many issues. She has the endorsement of, among others, the Sierra Club and Outfront Minnesota. In the days before the election, Spot hopes to review Michel's record and why Julie deserves to beat him.

In the meantime, let Spot just say that he recommends Julie for the Senate seat in District 41 and hopes you will vote for her.

A question for Julie

Julie Risser, that is.

If you won the SD41 Senate seat, with whom would you caucus?

The comment line is open.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hey Spotty! You’re wrong!

Is that you Dave? Or Peter? Maybe Sticks? Oh, it's you grasshopper. You say that Spot is in error? Unlikely, but Spotty will hear you out.

Spotty, you remember when you said that the Military Commissions Act did not apply to citizens?

Yes, that was Spot's impression based on his reading of the MCA at the time it was enacted. That's the view of the New York Times as expressed in a recent editorial, too.

I know, Spotty, but what about this language in the part of the MCA that outlines the substantive violations of the MCA?

Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States ... shall be punished as a military commission … may direct.

You raise a very important and interesting point, grasshopper. Who owes "allegiance or duty to the United States?" That does sound a lot like citizens. On the other hand, the military commissions act was specifically enacted to deal with unlawful combatants; these are the persons "subject to this chapter."

But Spotty will concede there's an ambiguity. And it's probably a big enough ambiguity to get citizens thrown into the gulag from which they will have no judicial remedy until they have been tried and convicted by a military commission.

Boys and girls for further reading on the subject, Spot recommends this article.

Update: And this one, too, by Peter Van Erp on Informed Comment.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Moderates don't torture, Jimbo

Jimbo, meet the Iraqi detainee nick-named Gilligan.

This is a picture of Gilligan under the care and custody of the US military at Abu Ghraib.

Jimbo, what are Gilligan's remedies for any torture, mistreatment or humiliation he received? What's that, Jimbo? Spot can't hear you.

Ok, if you won't say, Spot will. Gilligan has no remedies of course to get himself out detention if he is innocent, ameriolate his treatment, or recover damages from his tormenters.

Why is that? Well the answers are contained in the Military Commissions Act that Jimbo the Moderate supported.

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Will the last judge

Will the last judge to leave the courthouse please turn off the lights? You might as well leave the door unlocked, however, as it is apparent that the Republicans are not done looting the judiciary.

When Spot fired up his computer this morning, there was a message from CP mentioning to Spot this article in the Friday Washington Post. The Post gave it a prominent spot –page A18 – a curious place to announce the latest episode in America's continuing constitutional crisis and slide into fascism. Here's the headline and lede:

Court Told It Lacks Power in Detainee Cases

By Karen DeYoung

Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

You might notice, boys and girls, that the administration "formally notified" the court that it no longer had jurisdiction to consider the habeas corpus petitions. Not the administration filed motions to dismiss these habeas corpus petitions. Just told the court to buzz off. This action was taken as a result of the recently passed – and now signed into law – Military Commission Act. Among other thing, most of which Spot has already discussed, it eliminated the habeas corpus rights for detainees in the warron terra.

Mr. Marbury, meet Mr. Madison.

But Spotty, what if the administration locks up somebody who isn't even covered by the Military Commissions Act? Will the government just "notify" the court it doesn't have the jurisdiction to ever hear the case to determine whether the Military Commissions Act applies?

That's an excellent question, grasshopper. The government apparently believes it does not even have to come into court and show that the MCA applies. Just a little post card to the judge, sort of like the post cards you get, boys and girls, telling you that you may have won 23 million dollars in the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes. If that position prevails, anybody could be designated "hands off" by the administration. If that doesn't scare the everloving bejeesus out of you, boys and girls, it should.

In every case commenced in court, the court must determine as a preliminary matter whether it has the jurisdiction to hear the case. That decision, like all trial court decisions, is reviewable on appeal. But the trial court makes it in the first instance, not one of the litigants. Imagine boys and girls, if you were swindled out of a sum of money, and that when you sued to recover the money, the defendant could just write a letter to the judge saying, well, I don't live in the jurisdiction. You must dismiss. And the judge did dismiss, without even having a hearing and accepting proof on the residence of the defendant?

Another thing the administration is trying to do is keep these petitioners from presenting arguments that extinguishment of the writ of habeas corpus is unconstitutional under the Suspension Clause to the Constitution.

There is one lawyer in the Republican congressional delegation from Minnesota. That's Jim Ramstad. How did he vote on the Military Commissions Act? Well, for it of course. The others voted for it, too, but Jimbo's vote was especially odious and an affront to the rule of law. Shame on you Jimbo!

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Suggested reading for Jimbo

According to an interview yesterday on Air American Minnesota with Besty O'Berry, Wendy Wilde's campaign manager, Jim Ramstad went ballistic at a candidate forum at Wayzata High School this week when another candidate (Spot's money is on Michael Cavlan, the Green party candidate for US Senate) suggested that the Republicans had, er, fibbed us into war. (Do you remember how to diagram sentences, boys and girls? Give that one a try.)

Jimbo called that slander of "good people." Well, Jimbo, you surly know that truth is a defense to a defamation action. We have plenty of truth and proof of it here.

Spot recommends you go to www.buzzflash.com/bushlied/ for a compendium of sources, lists, articles and charts on the lies of the president and his confidence men and women that got us into Iraq. Screaming and yelling won't change those facts. Jimbo, your party, with your help, has visited the most misery on the country and the world in a generation. Congratulations.

Update: For those of you more visually inclined, here's a timeline of lies by Bushco at Mother Jones. Spotty recommended.


Jimbo's membership

In the Party of Michele Bachmann, that is. Spot told you yesterday about Jim Ramstad's support of a bill that promotes the blurring of the line between church and state, and the fundraiser he helped sponsor for the woman who wants to destroy it all together. For the few of you who haven't already seen it, here's Michele Bachmann's appearance at Mac Hammond's (the Winner's Way) church where she declared she was called by God to run for Congress, and that she was a fool for Christ.

Either Jimbo doesn't know, or doesn't care, that nutjobs like Michele Bachmann want to obliterate one of our principal freedoms: the freedom to be unencumbered by religion that has the imprimatur of government.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why, oh why, Jimbo?

Why, oh why, Jimbo, did you co-sponsor a bill to help turn this country into a theocracy?

That's what Jim Ramstad did, boys and girls. Don't believe Spotty? Here's the bill. Here's the description of what it is supposed to do:

To amend the Revised Statutes of the United States to eliminate the chilling effect on the constitutionally protected expression of religion by State and local officials and the Federal Government that results from the threat that potential litigants may seek damages and attorney's fees. [italics are Spot's]

But Spotty, aren't government officials supposed to refrain from religious expression when they're acting as, like, public officials, anyway? That's what the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is all about!

Grasshopper, you are a precocious fellow! Certainly more precocious than Jimbo. Anyway, the title of the bill is the "Veterans' Memorials, Boy Scouts, Public Seals, and Other Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act of 2006."

Here are the things that the bill "protects:"

The remedies with respect to a claim under this section are limited to injunctive and declaratory relief where the deprivation consists of a violation of a prohibition in the Constitution against the establishment of religion, including, but not limited to, a violation resulting from—

"(1) a veterans' memorial's containing religious words or imagery;

"(2) a public building's containing religious words or imagery;

"(3) the presence of religious words or imagery in the official seals of the several States and the political subdivisions thereof; or

"(4) the chartering of Boy Scout units by components of States and political subdivisions, and the Boy Scouts' using public buildings of States and political subdivisions.".
The principal purpose of this bill is to defund public interest litigation in Establishment Clause cases. It deprives litigants of any claim for damages and, in another section, any claim for attorneys' fees, which are usually awarded in a successful civil rights actions under 42 USC § 1983.

But Spotty, the enumerated things don't look so bad.

Grasshopper, it is the "but not limited to" language and the "public building's [sic] containing religious words or imagery" that are especially troublesome. The way Spot reads this, literally anything done by a federal, state or local official in the name of religion would be insulated against damages. The enumerated items are all written, but the "not limited to" language would insulate from damages all kinds of prayers, incantations, sermonizing, proselytizing, and religious demagoguery.

And the language about "religious words or imagery" referring to public buildings means not only In God We Trust over the front door, but get ready to stumble over baby Jesus in the manger in city halls all over America.

Jimbo's name is on this stinker as a sponsor with such Congressional luminaries as Marilyn Musgrave, Tom Tancredo, and Jean Schmidt. Oh by the way, John Kline and Mark Kennedy were also sponsors. Perhaps Gil wasn't there they day the passed the pad around! (Spot believes he did vote for the bill, though.)

These guys would be so happy to have Michele Bachmann join the cause that they sponsored a fund raiser in Washington for her on July 20th of this year. She would be a reliable vote for garbage like this.

This bill was passed in the House on September 14th of this year and has not been acted on by the Senate. Spotty says you might think, boys and girls, about sending a little money to Democrats in close Senate races.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jimbo the moderate

Some people here in the 3rd Congressional District are fond of saying, boy, that Jimmy Ramstad! He sure is a moderate, middle-of-the road fella. Not like somma those extra-chromosome Republicans.

If you're one of those people, Spotty suggests you sit down before reading on.

Jimbo likes to play the moderate for the folks back home. For the upcoming election, Ramstad sounds, well, almost Wellstonian. Asked to identify their legislative priorities, here's what the two major party candidates had to say in an October 10th story in the Star Tribune:


One of his top priorities is passage of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act, stalled in Congress since 1997. [The next time you run into Ramstad, by the way, ask him to tell you, grasshopper, what he did to get the bill unstalled, and ask for proof.]


She lists as her top issues: The $8.5 trillion national debt, the environment, foreign relations, education and affordable housing.

But if Jimbo is a moderate, Spot's a bloodhound. Jimbo, just like Geoff Michel, is the Great Pretender. Ramstad has supported a number of congressional efforts to undermine democracy and destroy the separation of church and state. Let Spot mention just a couple of them boys and girls.

Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006. Right. This stinker would be an amendment to the Help America Vote (Republican) Act. It has only passed the House so far, with Jimbo providing his reliable 'aye.' This legislation requires a voter to produce a "government issued" photo ID to vote or register to vote. In 2010 and thereafter, only an ID issued after proof of citizenship will be sufficient.

How do you prove citizenship? Ordinarily with a birth certificate. Who do you think that will advantage? A lot of people don't drive or have the means or opportunity to get a birth certificate. Spotty got one some time ago to renew his passport, and it took several weeks. There is some provision in the bill to subsidize state expenses of issuing IDs to indigents, but it doesn't say anything about the expense of the birth certificate.

This is just a transparent attempt to disenfranchise poor people. It is a disgusting, low and mean. And entirely unnecessary. When you see him, boys and girls, ask Jimbo for all of the cases of voter fraud that were presented to the Congress that led him to support this anti-democratic trash. Then wait for the blank stare.

This isn't about election integrity, any more than the "tests" that used to be put to blacks requesting voter registration in the South. This is the opposite of election integrity and democracy. And there is a broad seam of racial bigotry in it, too.

Pledge Protection Act. Also passed by the House, with Jimbo's support, this one would deprive the courts of jurisdiction to decide the constitutionality of Pledge of Allegiance cases. The "destroy the separation of church and state" crowd is worried, of course, about the "under God" language in the pledge. This is one of at least a few initiatives to destroy court jurisdiction over First Amendment issues.

There are more, but Spot will save them for later posts. Stay tuned.


Monday, October 16, 2006

A teachable moment

Katie's column today begins:

Imagine you're returning from a trip with a bottle of French wine to celebrate your wedding anniversary. At the airport, you drag your bags out to the taxi stand in the cold breeze. As the cab pulls up, you hoist your suitcases, eager to get home.

But when the driver spots your wine, he shakes his head emphatically. The Qur'an prohibits him from accepting passengers with alcohol, he tells you. OK, so you'll take the next cab. But the next driver waves you off, and the next.

Well, of course Katie is really carrying a jug of sacramental wine and some things that look like Carr's Table Water Crackers, but never mind. And never mind that there are always fifty cabs lined up and a cab starter to help you find one.

Katie sees real danger in allowing Somali cabbies to refuse patrons carrying alcohol:

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, wrote about the MAC's two-light proposal [to allow the Somali cabbies to identify themselves as not accepting passengers with that big sack of spirits from the duty-free shop] in the New York Sun on the day its rejection was announced. While the proposal seemed like a common-sense compromise, he wrote, on a societal level, it has massive and troubling implications. Government sanction of a two-tiered cab system would amount to an acknowledgement that Shari'a, or Islamic law, is relevant to a routine commercial transaction in the Twin Cities. The MAC, a government agency, would be officially approving a signal that differentiates those who follow Islamic law from those who don't.

And what if Muslim drivers demand the right not to transport women wearing short skirts or tank tops, or unmarried couples? After taxis, why not buses, trains and planes? Eventually, in some respects, our society could be divided along religious lines. [italics are Spot's]

And what if, Katie, a southern lunch counter owner put up a sign in the window that read "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone"? We've been through this before. Let's take Katie's hypotheticals, women wearing short skirts or tank tops, or unmarried couples, just a little further. Does an orthodox Jew have to carry a man eating a bratwurst? Or a conservative Christian a couple of guys in killer sweaters and holding hands? Or maybe even a mixed race couple?

Katie is on to something here, but Spot is afraid she'll miss the teachable moment entirely. What, Katie, is the source of the Somalis' objection to carrying passengers with alcohol? You identified it earlier: Shari'a law, enshrined in the Quran. The Quran is, of course, a holy book that not everyone subscribes to. Sort of like the Bible, or parts of it anyway.

Katie, there are people, many Christians even, who think your hysterical wailing about gays is the same kind of superstitious reading of an old book, a bigotry unworthy of the modern age. Not at all unlike a religious aversion to alcohol.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

With Spot's compliments . . .

Here's a web article that Spot commends to Sausages, Katie, and Gena Bounds.

Venerate the Angel of Death

AHS: Progressives must mollify Christians because we want more of them to vote progressive. He (or maybe she; Spot isn't sure about how to determine sausage gender) quotes Saint Barack as saying:

And if we're going to do that [acknowledge the role of religion in American life for political advantage] then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.

So we should have angel-centric school curricula? Ask PZ what he thinks of that one.

Spot had a vision last night, or maybe it was just a dream, that God commanded Spot to start a religious renewal movement. It is to venerate the Angel of Death. The Angel of Death is one of the truly great characters in the Bible. Here are just a couple of examples:

My angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites; and I will wipe them out. (Exodus 23:23 NAB)

That night the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Early the next morning, there they were, all the corpuses of the dead. (2 Kings 19:35 NAB)

Oh, and let's not forget this Holy Smackdown:

At midnight God did as He said [he would do] and struck the Egyptians. As was their custom when someone died, the Egyptians wailed loudly over their dead. Soon others awoke and discovered that a family member had died. Everyone was struck, from the house of Pharaoh, to the house of the lowest slave. There wasn't a single Egyptian household where there wasn't at least one dead. Soon a great crying and wailing filled the land.

It isn't clear this was a contract job for the Angel of Death, but it's hard to imagine that God would bother do it himself.

What God told Spotty he wants is for all of us to pray that the Angel of Death be sent out to kill Osama bin Laden. If we all pray rilly, rilly hard, it will happen. And next, we'll all pray, right along with Pastor Fred Phelps, that the Angel of Death kill all the gays! It seems like such a simple, elegant solution. No muss, no full, just a late night visit from the Holy Hammer.

AHS, if progressives give in to religious zealots on issues like gay rights, reproductive rights, and stem cell research, they won't be progressives anymore.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Faith does not make you a bigot

So says the author of American Hot Sausages:

There are so many logical problems with the liberal shortcut to thinking that we must put them in order. Gena Bounds is a concerned parent, not merely a "minority group member." Ms. Bounds being Christian and believing that sexual and family matters should be taught at home, consistent with home beliefs, is not "flat-ass bigoted," its [sic] something we like to call America. See, in America you have the right to be Amish or Pentecostal or single or pagan or Zoroastrian if you choose. And guess what? Faith does not make you a bigot. Attempting to push you faith on others and restricting their life is problematic, whether it's Christians blocking gay marriage or gays demanding that Christian children agree with the gay concept of "family."

And, as of about eight o'clock Saturday night, to the surfer who came over on an AHS referral, Spot says welcome!

AHS is unhappy about Spot's post Conservatives love it, a post about minority parents complaining about a curriculum at a local school that included books from "All Families Matter." AHS appears to champion the notion that parents should be able, as a matter of "faith," to control a school curriculum on matters of religious belief. AHS is right. Faith doesn't make you a bigot, but my tasty friend, it sure as hell often permits you to be one.

Why? Because it permits a person to believe something – mostly what they want to believe anyway – without having to justify it, explain it, or defend it in any way. I just "believe" it; that should be enough for you. Sorry sister; it ain't. As though we should take civil rights off the table to accommodate religious belief. Oh, wait! Spot guesses we already do. The New York Times ran a story this last week about how religious institutions and the organizations they run are able to evade all manner of civil law.

It is religious quacks like Katie and yes, Gena Bounds, who want to put their own very special brand of bigotry into a protected class.

You have to wonder what Gena Bound's ancestors thought about Christian justification of slavery and the apartheid system in South Africa, or maybe the efforts of the white preachers to get Martin Luther King, Jr. to end the Birmingham bus boycott, rebutted so famously by King in his letter from the Birmingham jail.

This is not a Free Exercise case, boys and girls, it is an Establishment case.

AHS is also exercised about the fact that the teacher involved in this fracas had the nerve to invoke the black civil rights struggle as a comparison to the gay rights struggle. They may differ in, er, complexion, but they are both struggles for equality against entrenched belief that includes a strong religious component. It is sophistry to try to distinguish them.

Spot's going to close with this letter in today's Star Tribune. It will be awarded a Spotty in a separate ceremony.

As a high school student at the Interdistrict Downtown School, I was interested in the Oct. 7 article regarding the protest there. I was disturbed by the protest. IDDS' motto is "A partnership in diversity, community and technology." At our school, we learn about different types of diversity: racial, socioeconomic, family structure and learning abilities among them.

The strongest part of our school community is learning to accept others despite these differences. Why should acceptance of sexual orientation be any different? The Oct. 6 protest rejects these ideals of equality.

I find it unfortunate that parents who choose to send their children to a school that values these ideals would also choose to protest in favor of denying any group's natural right to life, freedom and pursuit of happiness.

I applaud student Walter Kaplan for standing up for his beliefs during this protest. He has the support of many high school students because he didn't allow "authority" to silence our convictions.

The issue of homosexuality in schools goes far beyond IDDS. The complexity of the topic and the strong emotions involved suggest to me the importance of treating this subject with respect and dignity.


Allison, you go girl!

Update: Spot forgot a couple of things. In his list of religio-bigots, he should have included the Queen of the Rile, Michele Bachmann. And he should have credited CP's comments to earlier posts on this subject for helping Spot to identify the issues more critically.

Friday, October 13, 2006

She has the perfect name

Here's a letter from today's Star Tribune:

As a teacher, a mother and a grandmother, I am well acquainted with many of these books that "Families All Matter" want included in curriculum.

These books are definitely difficult to present to a group of children in a classroom setting and they should be left out of the curriculum and used only for children experiencing the same type of family relationships. They have a purpose for those already involved in these unusual families, but they are detrimental and definitely inappropriate for young children who need good role models and family values.

Let's get back to individuality as intended. Let's get rid of imposed values that cause too much unrest and indecision in our already mixed-up educational system.


This letter refers, of course, to Katie bleat yesterday, commented on by Spot in Conservatives love it! Spot's gotta say, Gramma Bias is well named!

Gramma's opinion is, apparently, that kids with gay or lesbian parents should read the "Families All Matter" books because they, gosh, speak to them, but other little tykes shouldn't read them because they might become, well, tolerant.

A box of kibble to the first reader who can tell Spot where Gramma Bias teaches.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Conservatives love it!

Conservatives like Katie just love it when they run across a minority group member who is just as flat-ass bigoted as they are. Spotty supposes it gives them a sense of validation. Katie must have positively glowed while writing her column in the Star Tribune today: Parents say school undermines their authority over kids.

Apparently some black mothers (no really, mothers) are upset because the Interdistrict Downtown School in Minneapolis – a magnet school (so that parents have to apply to get their kids in) by the way – is teaching their kids about, are you ready for this boys and girls, diversity. Jeebus, you can't make this stuff up! Here's Katie's lede:

The scene last Saturday at the Interdistrict Downtown School in Minneapolis was straight out of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. A group of black mothers and their supporters stood shoulder to shoulder, demanding what they called a decent education for their kids.

No Katie, not true. In the 60s the blacks were the bigotees, not the bigotors.

Here's the beef: a teacher at the school had been reading "Asha's Mums" to their second graders. This is, apparently, a book about a girl that has lesbian parents, and it's part of a curriculum called "Families All Matter." One mother, Gena Bounds, expresses it this way:

I teach my children about family matters myself, and this isn't what we believe.

Mommy also said that her daughter had learned that people who believe that "a mother and father are best are discriminatory." This must be the undermining of parental authority that Katie is talking about! Why if a parent wants to raise a little bigot in her own image, she shouldn't have to brook any interference!

According to 'nuther muther:

FeLicia McCorvey Preyer, who has second-grade twins at the school, was also incensed about "Families All Matter." Before the school year began, she told Sage [a gay teacher at the school who read Asha's Mums to his students] and school officials that she didn't want her children reading books with homosexual themes, she says. "They knew my wishes and they defied them," she adds.

Well, the nerve! Failing to give a parent complete control over curriculum! It's just the kind of thing that Nathan Bedford Forrest would have condemned! Katie continues:

After Sage read "Asha's Mums," he "told the class that his grandfather had believed that black people are stupid," she says. "He said that other adults had helped him see that his grandfather was a bigot." The implication? That parents who don't share Sage's views on family matters are bigots too.

Sage touched a nerve by claiming the mantle of the fight against racism for his own agenda, says Preyer. "I'm appalled that he, a white man, would use that tactic to push his views on African-American children."

But Bounds and Preyer are most upset at the school's message that kids don't need to listen to their parents when the school and the parents disagree. "The school is undermining my authority as a parent, at a critical, formative stage of my daughter's life," says Bounds.

Hey! We're black and therefore own the franchise on who gets to decide what bigotry is! "Parental authority" is just code for "don't expose my kids to ideas that are contrary to my own bigoted view of the world."

Spot has a hunch that the mothers quoted by Katie in her column are emblematic of some of the black parents in the charter and private school movements. That's what Katie's "decent education" is about: not offending the sense of decency of the parents. There are studies that show that charter and private schools are no better, and usually worse, that public schools, so there must be something else driving the parents.

The only thing that Katie likes better than blacks bigoted against gays is blacks bigoted against blacks.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why was John Yoo wrong?

Here's the language in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that finds that Common Article 3 is applicable to Al Qaeda:

Alternatively, the appeals court agreed with the Government that the Conventions do not apply because Hamdan was captured during the war with al Qaeda, which is not a Convention signatory, and that conflict is distinct from the war [***14] with signatory Afghanistan. The Court need not decide the merits of this argument because there is at least one provision of the Geneva Conventions that applies here even if the relevant conflict is not between signatories. Common Article 3, which appears in all four Conventions, provides that, in a "conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties [i.e., signatories], each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum," certain provisions protecting "persons . . . placed hors de combat by . . . detention," including a prohibition on "the passing of sentences . . . without previous judgment . . . by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees . . . recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." The D. C. Circuit ruled Common Article 3 inapplicable to Hamdan because the conflict with al Qaeda is international in scope and thus not a "conflict not of an international character. " That reasoning is erroneous. That the quoted phrase bears its literal meaning and is used here in contradistinction to a conflict between nations is demonstrated by Common Article 2, which limits its [***15] own application to any armed conflict between signatories and provides that signatories must abide by all terms of the Conventions even if another party to the conflict is a nonsignatory, so long as the nonsignatory "accepts and applies" those terms. Common Article 3, by contrast, affords some minimal protection, falling short of full protection under the Conventions, to individuals associated with neither a signatory nor even a nonsignatory who are involved in a conflict "in the territory of" a signatory. The latter kind of conflict does not involve a clash between nations (whether signatories or not). Pp. 65-68. [italics by Spot]

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Seduced and abandoned

The evangelical chumps by the Republican Party that is.

Dogonne it Dave! II

It is hard to decide who is the bigger pain in the neck, Peter or Dave. Spot thinks he will give Dave the nod because of the distance involved. Here's part of a comment Dave left to Spot's last post.

Spot you have proved the President's point with your second to last remark. We all agree that there is a minimum standard that all detainees, regardless of their status, should be provided. But there is no law, and importantly no portion of the Geneva Conventions that spells out what that minimum standard is.

Oh, Dave? Here's what Common Article 3 says:

Article 3, the text of which is repeated in all four Geneva Conventions, is the only part of the conventions that applies explicitly to internal armed conflicts. It has been called a "treaty in miniature," and sets forth the minimum protections and standards of conduct to which the State and its armed opponents must adhere. The protections it spells out are at the core of international humanitarian law. Additional Protocol II of 1977 also covers internal armed conflicts, but it is less widely accepted among States than the 1949 Conventions.

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all cases be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth of wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) taking of hostages;

(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

This seems pretty specific to Spot. He will return to the subject of the application of Common Article 3 to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Spotty has a question, though. All this talk about Hamdi, Hamdan, DTA, and MCA – are you ready for a time line to sort these thing out, boys and girls? Good. Spot would like one, too.

The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (sometimes just called the DTA by Spot) has two predicates. One was the revelation April 2004 of detainee mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad by US forces. The other was the Supreme Court's announcement of the decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld in June of the same year. Abu Ghraib embarrassed the military and the Congress, and the country, and led to an outcry over the treatment of detainees. Hamdi made it clear that the military and the administration would have to fashion some régime to give detainees a forum to show that they weren't combatants.

The DTA addressed, inter alia, detainee treatment and the Hamdi issue concerning detention without hearing. At the time the DTA was enacted, administration and congressional leaders labored under the illusion that Common Article 3 applied neither to Al Qaeda nor the Taliban. That's right, Dave. Where did they get this notion?

We turn again to John Yoo and Robert Delahunty who wrote a memo to the general counsel of the Department of Defense on January 9, 2002. In the linked copy of the memo, you can read a summary of their conclusions about both Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the first say, four paragraphs. In summary, Al Qaeda was a non-state actor, and the Taliban was not a government, and since Afghanistan was a "failed state," we don't need no stinkin' Common Article 3. The cavalier thinking about the Taliban is especially outrageous, since it was, for better or worse, the government of Afghanistan at the time.

Among the things the memo did was give a green light to outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment short of torture. And of course, torture was defined down by our friend Professor Organ Failure, John Yoo, in a memo to Alberto Gonzales (then White House counsel) on August 1. 2002.

Spot already discussed how the DTA was pretty well neutered before passage in Because it's good for you.

Then came the shocker for Perfessers Yoo and Delahunty: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, decided last June. As you know, boys and girls, in fact you are probably sick of hearing Spotty say, Hamdan decided that Common Article 3 did apply to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. That really sent the administration scrambling! For a couple of reasons.

One, it became clear that the administration's ad hoc military commissions did not come within a country mile of meeting the requirement of Common Article 3 that prohibited the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

Two, a lot of the "harmless pranks" practiced on detainees by military and civilian authorities no longer looked so harmless! In fact, they looked like war crimes! Uh-oh.

This brings us to the final chapter of our saga, the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Spot has already written about some aspects of the MCA in some detail. What remains is a discussion of the amendments of the War Crimes Act by the MCA. We'll talk about later.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dogonne it Dave!

Spot thought he just about had this military commissions stuff about wrapped up, but Dave Thul posts an interesting question:

I wonder if there is so much confusion on this matter because of the huge majority of Americans who have never served in the military. First, Taliban troops would in theory be covered under the Geneva Convention, because they were by and large uniformed troops serving in an organized militia. You have to cut them a lot of slack on the uniform issue, but the intent to act like an army is what is important. Terrorists, on the other hand, are not mentioned in [Common] Article 3 of the Geneva Convention[s].

Yes, Dave, there is some confusion about that. But no only by the unwashed masses of unmilitary citizens, but by the military and the administration, too. Here's the opening graf of the opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld:

Petitioner Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni national, is in custody at an American prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In November 2001, during hostilities between the United States and the Taliban (which then governed Afghanistan), Hamdan was captured by militia forces [i.e., the Northern Alliance] and turned over to the U. S. military. In June 2002, he was transported to Guantanamo Bay. Over a year later, the President deemed him eligible for trial by military commission for then-unspecified crimes. After another year had passed, Hamdan was charged with one count of conspiracy "to commit … offenses triable by military commission." App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a.

As far as Spot can tell, there was no allegation that Hamdan was not just a Taliban fighter at the time he was found eligible for trial by a military commission. He was not an Afghan, but there were a lot of Arab militia types in Afghanistan since the days of the invasion of the Soviet Union. The US gave these fighters a lot of support, too. The charges ultimately brought against Hamdan were for "conspiracy to commit terrorism," a charge that the majority in Hamden expressed doubt about the existence of in international law.

Here's what the original military commissions envisioned by the administration would have included: the unrestricted use of hearsay evidence, and evidence obtained by coercion, no requirement of sworn testimony, the inability of the defendant to hear evidence used against him if it was classified, and most amazingly, no right to even be present at the trial. There is a reason why you don't hear about convictions in absentia in the United States; they would violate the right of a defendant to be confronted by the evidence against him.

There is a lot tut tutting by some people, including Dave, who think this about giving terrorists jury trials and granting other rights "never contemplated by our Founding Fathers." Rubbish. Hamdan conceded that a regularly convened court martial would have jurisdiction to try him.

Hamdan's complaint was that the kangaroo court tribunals set up by the administration were created neither by the Constitution or a statute. (Maybe John Yoo just made 'em up!) And he was right. The military commissions met neither the requirements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice nor, the Court found, Common Article 3.

The government tried hard to distinguish between "legal combatants" and "illegal combatants," and the Military Commissions Act strives to maintain a distinction between them. If you are a legal combatant under the MCA, you get an honest-to-goodness court martial. If you are an illegal combatant, you get something less.

This is what Dave is harping about.

But it is not clear to Spot that the Supreme Court drew a distinction. Spot says that the Supreme Court said that Common Article 3 sets a floor below which a member country to the Conventions cannot go, for any trial, of anybody, on charges of war crimes, anyway. Spot thinks you get Article 3 treatment just, well, because you're a human being. Spot knows that disappoints some people.

The MCA may also fail judicial scrutiny under Common Article 3, too. There was discussion of that fact in the Senate, as Spot recalls.

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Because it is good for you!

It is clear to ol' Spot, based on traffic statistics, that you, boys and girls, would rather hear about ex-Congressman Foley or Alan Fine than habeas corpus, detainee treatment, and military commissions. Think of Spot as your cod liver oil dispenser, however, because we're going back into these things, whether you like it or not. The last few, maybe several posts, have been about detaining people; this one is about how they are treated while in detention.

The Congress has taken a couple of swipes at the detainee treatment issue. There are really two intertwined issues afoot here: 1) how must detainees be treated, and 2) what happens to people who mistreat them? The first issue is important, but as we will see, the answer to the second one can render the first one moot.

John McCain has figured pompously prominently in both recent Kabuki theater productions, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

The DTA states that no person in military custody may be subjected to any interrogation that's not in the Army Field Manual. The Army Field Manual has been published on the web for some time. However, the AFM has been recently amended to include ten or so new classified pages. The Los Angeles times reported these changes removed the prohibitions in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions against "humiliating a degrading treatment." You will recall, boys and girls, that John Yoo and Robert Delahunty opined for the Justice Department that Common Article 3 did not apply to the Taliban or al Qaeda, but they were wrong.

The DTA also prohibits treatment of detainees described as follows:

Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Defined - In this section, the term `cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment' means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984.

Sounds good, eh? Well, until you read the next section:

Protection of United States Government Personnel- In any civil action or criminal prosecution against an officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States Government who is a United States person, arising out of the officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent's engaging in specific operational practices, that involve detention and interrogation of aliens who the President or his designees have determined are believed to be engaged in or associated with international terrorist activity that poses a serious, continuing threat to the United States, its interests, or its allies, and that were officially authorized and determined to be lawful at the time that they were conducted, it shall be a defense that such officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent did not know that the practices were unlawful and a person of ordinary sense and understanding would not know the practices were unlawful. Good faith reliance on advice of counsel should be an important factor, among others, to consider in assessing whether a person of ordinary sense and understanding would have known the practices to be unlawful. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or extinguish any defense or protection otherwise available to any person or entity from suit, civil or criminal liability, or damages, or to provide immunity from prosecution for any criminal offense by the proper authorities.

That's pretty opaque. Here's Spot's paraphrase of the language that Spot has emphasized above:

If somebody acting for the US is involved in the detention and interrogation of a ferriner that somebody thinks might be a terrrist, and if they did things to the detainee that were authorized, but were a violation of international law, they may raise the defense, if sued or charged with a crime, that they were following orders. The interrogator is entitled to rely on advice from guys like Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

I vas only following orders! Boy, that has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it boys and girls? Of course, it's the so-called Nuremberg defense, named after the place of trial of the Nazi war criminals who tried to raise it to excuse their actions. Didn't work. Principle Four of the Nuremberg Principles reads as follows:

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

And that, boys and girls, is what we teach US service personnel, to this country's everlasting credit. A service person does not have to obey an illegal order. Is that a tough call? You bet it is, but we expect everyone, including the people of the absolute lowest ranks in the service to make it. But now, if you torture somebody under orders, that's cool.

Of course, after the protections of the DTA had been thoroughly neutered, the Prezinut had to issue a "signing statement" that included this just to be sure he didn't feel the smallest bit encumbered by the pesky provisions of the DTA:

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.

Spotty, what a urinary executive?

Unitary, grasshopper. Here's one description:

The unitary executive doctrine arises out of a theory called "departmentalism," or "coordinate construction." According to legal scholars Christopher Yoo, Steven Calabresi, and Anthony Colangelo, the coordinate construction approach "holds that all three branches of the federal government have the power and duty to interpret the Constitution." According to this theory, the president may (and indeed, must) interpret laws, equally as much as the courts.

In other words, Marbury v. Madison was a dirty trick played on the president a couple of hundred years ago.

Spot was going to go on and write about the effect of the Military Commissions Act on detainee treatment, but he has decided to save that for the next post.

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