Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Spotty award winner!

Spot has been thinking about the carpetbagger tag on Al Franken ever since Republican Party Chair Ron Carey--who is not a native Minnesota himself, boys and girls--held his stupid little news conference to "welcome" Al back to the state. Spot has been thinking about writing about it, several people have, but Jeremy Powers wrote the piece that Spot wanted to, so Spot awards it a Spotty and reproduces the letter from Wednesday's Strib here:

He has roots here

So the claims of "carpetbagging" begin for Al Franken (Readers write, Feb. 26).

Franken grew up in St. Louis Park and was exactly the kind of kid every
Minnesota parent wanted to raise -- smart and ambitious. He went on to

I first met Franken in May 1982 when he visited Minnesota State University-Mankato. He was at the top of his "Saturday Night Live" fame, yet he put up with SNL takeoffs devised by the students, held seminars and was very open to students. He was also on top of Minnesota politics, knowing the political landscape as well as anyone.

My mother was an election judge in the precinct in which Franken's mother lived, and he most often accompanied her to the polls, even when he lived in New York. He came back regularly to campaign for Democrats, such as Sen. Paul Wellstone.

What would we have wanted from a smart, creative local kid who went on to win five Emmys? Come home and work at Dayton's?

If Franken is a carpetbagger, then what we would call Sen. Norm Coleman, who still sounds like a New York lawyer? Or former Gov. Arne Carlson, another New Yorker (who at least now sounds like he lives here)? How about Rep. Michele Bachmann, who was raised in Iowa? Or why did we elect Rep. John Kline, who was neither raised here nor lived here until he retired from the Marines, just in time to run for office?

Al Franken is more of a Minnesotan than any of these people because he believes in the values he learned being raised in a state where people cared for everyone else.

Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty is awarded to the author of a letter to the editor, an op-ed piece, or a blog post or comment that Spot wishes that he has written.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Michele gets the Treatment

There is the scraping of a key turning in the lock, and the door swings open.

Michele steps into the darkened room and flips on the light "Marcus, are you here?" she says. Then she sees Marcus standing in the empty room. "Whatever have you done to my office?!?"

Before Marcus can say anything, Father Seamus, who is standing behind the door, pushes the door shut and throws the deadbolt. Almost simultaneously, with speed and grace that catches even Marcus by surprise, he sweeps his leg, aiming his foot at Michele's three-inch heels. He connects, knocking the heels off of Michele's shoes; she goes down like a clown in a dunk tank. "Tackle her Marcus!" shouts Father Seamus.

Marcus does as it is told, pinning Michele to the floor. "Get off of me, you ape!" roars Michele.

"Don't listen to her, Marcus. If she escapes now, we're both in trouble," says Father Seamus.

"Marcus, believe you me. I AM going to kill you." Michele's voice is strangled and other-worldly. She is having difficulty drawing a deep breath with her husband piled on top of her.

"Oh my God, it's the Beast!" Marcus looks with fear at Michele and then at Father Seamus.

"Don't worry, son. We have the upper hand, for the moment anyway. Let's get her trussed up proper!" Father Seamus brings the straight jacket and shackles. Michele sees what the priest has in his hands, and her eyes go wide with fear, then rage.

"If you think you're going to get me into those things, you're both fools. Who are you anyway?" she asks, looking at the priest.

"You know who I am. But for the piece of Michele that's still in there, I will say that I am Father Seamus, and I am here to perform an exorcism."

After a stunned moment, Michele begins to laugh hysterically, but the laugh turns into shrieks, mingled with animal grunts and growls, as Father Seamus begins to thread her arms into the straight jacket. Marcus realizes that the little priest is really quite strong. Michele tries to bite the priest, but Marcus restrains her. He puts his hand over her mouth to keep her from biting, and she bites his hand.

"Ow! Michele: STOP. This is for your own good." Michele does stop trying to bite when she tastes Marcus' blood.

In spite of her struggling, she is over matched by the two men, and it isn't long before she is half-sitting in a corner, breathing heavily, and wearing the straight jacket with her legs shackled together.

"My, she's a pretty thing," says Father Seamus, inspecting his handiwork.

"Yes, she is," agrees Marcus. "I so much enjoy picking out outfits for her and dressing her up. My little doll." Then Marcus sobs and says "That's the dress she wore to the State of the Union address when she came on to the President!"

"This is the last time I ever wear this dress, buster; you can be sure of that," hisses Michele. "Who put you up to this, Jim Ramstad?"

Father Seamus says, "Well, we'd better get started," and he pulls a small black volume out of his bag. The priest turns several pages with a bemused look on his face, then he brightens. "Here it is."

Father Seamus says, "Let us pray."

Involuntarily, Michele bows her head and closes her eyes. Then she jerks her head up, opens her eyes, and scowls at Father Seamus. "I'm not praying with you, you phony!"

"Suit yourself," replies the priest who prays silently for a moment, and then continues aloud:

"I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the mysteries of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by the coming of our Lord for judgment, that you tell me by some sign your name, and the day and hour of your departure. I command you, moreover, to obey me to the letter, I who am a minister of God despite my unworthiness; nor shall you be emboldened to harm in any way this creature of God, or the bystanders, or any of their possessions."

Marcus looks at his wife expectantly, but all she does is sigh and roll her eyes.

"The demon doesn't seem to be taking you very seriously," says Marcus. "Ah, but it's early," replies the priest.

"Marcus, how on earth did you hoodwink a Catholic priest into doing this?"

"I told him we would become Catholics."

Michele laughs hysterically and then says, "Marcus, this man is the agent of the anti-Christ. Sorry Father."

"I forgive you, but the Heavenly Father may not if you continue this way."

"Ok, demon, I spit you out!" Michele spits in the general direction of the two men; they flinch.

"Ah now we're getting somewhere," chuckles Father Seamus, "The demon wants us to think it's gone. It knows we're on the trail of it. Time to take the next step." The priest turns around, reaches into his bag and extracts the false teeth. Then he whirls around and brandishes the false teeth within inches of Michele's face. "Behold the Righteous Rictus of His Excellency John Ireland!" bellows Father Seamus.

"Marcus, what is that? I don't have my reading glasses," says Michele.

"They're the false teeth of a dead archbishop from St. Paul."

Michele screams, "Marcus, don't let the priest bite me!"

"I told you Marcus that a relic would scare the demon."

Michele scrunches up and puts her head down. The priest dances back and forth chanting, "Leave Michele you demon," and "Leave her evil spirit," and clacking the false teeth like castanets. He does this for the better part of an hour, then he sits down, winded, and says, "Now it's your turn, Marcus."

So Marcus takes the false teeth and does his best to imitate the priest, but the Irish are in general better dancers than the Germans, and that is true is the case of Father Seamus and Marcus, too. After a time, Marcus becomes winded and sits down. From her rhythmic breath sounds, it is apparent that Michele has fallen asleep.

It is now the wee hours of the morning, and the two men are also exhausted, their adrenalin rush having worn off. "Let's jest sit for a minute," says Father Seamus. They sit back-to-back, and in a few minutes both are snoring.

Considerable time passes, and Marcus is jolted awake when Michele says, "Marcus, I really have to go to the bathroom." This was not an eventuality that Marcus had really thought about, so he rouses the priest and explains the problem.

"Ah, no," says Father Seamus, "we dare not free her now."

Michele pleads with the priest and says, "Don't make me pee on the carpet in my office, please!"

Father Seamus is adamant, but Marcus, also pleading, says "Isn't there something we can do to bring this whole thing to a head?"

"I suppose. It's a little early fer it, but I suppose we can try." Father Seamus goes over and retrieves the jug of distilled water. He performs a little ceremony with the jug, and then addresses Michele, "Beast, I am about to splash you with holy water which will burn you right out of Marcus' dear wife!"

In alarm, Marcus says, "I don't want to burn her!"

"It's extreme, I know," replies Father Seamus, "but it should smoke the devil right out, so to speak." He pours out a little water into his hand, and he dribbles it on Michele's feet. Nothing. "That's funny," he mutters and tries it again. Still Nothing.

Father Seamus gives a little sigh of bewilderment, shrugs, and then pours the rest of the jug of water over Michele's head. Michele coughs and sputters, her hair plastered down over her face.

Michele's shoulders shudder a couple of times as she begins sobbing softly. Her crying becomes louder and louder and more plaintive with each passing moment.

Father Seamus is quiet for a moment, and then he says softy to Marcus, "I think we've made a big mistake here, my son."

"What? It's hopeless?"

"Nah, that's not it. I don't think that Michele was possessed in the first place. A little confused maybe, but not possessed. Help me untie her so she can use the john."

They remove the shackles and the straight jacket and help the sodden Michele to her feet. Marcus and Father Seamus support Michele between them, and then walk her out of the office and down the hall to a restroom.

"I think I can make it now," says Michele, "and thank you Father for seeing that I wasn't really possessed." Michele walks into the restroom.

[N.B. there will be an epilogue]

Update: Added graphic from Tild

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Monday, February 26, 2007

A mighty wind II

C'mon Spotty, you promised to tell us who or what the "mighty wind" was a week ago. You remember, when you told us the story about the hunter gatherer village?

What? Oh yes. Thanks for the reminder grasshopper. You will recall that Spot was writing about the continuing efforts to undermine public education in Minnesota. Nick Coleman had an insightful column about that recently:

Don Samuels has apologized for his words, but not his views. And he isn't likely to. For the Fifth Ward City Council member from Minneapolis who suggested burning down North High School [and which Nick also wrote about] is not just one man with an opinion.

He is a stalking horse for a movement that wants to torch public schools. It has gotten frighteningly close to its goal.

The Center of the American Experiment, a local conservative think tank, is renewing the push for school vouchers, and it tapped Samuels to endorse its position paper. In his foreword to the recent publication, Samuels again displays a flair for the dramatic, writing that he wonders "how many future murderers are in the first grade classes of the four elementary schools within a mile of my home?"

Is Don Samuels the mighty wind, Spotty?

No, he's pretty windy all right, but the mighty wind Spot has in mind is the Great Kahuna at the Center of the American Experiment, Mitch Pearlstein.

Didn't Katie used to work there, before she got her newspaper gig?

Yes, grasshopper that's right. Ol' Mitch has authored a new "study" that says school vouchers are "essential" to reducing the achievement gap between blacks and whites in Minnesota, which Mitch says are bigger here than anywhere else. And he claims that statistics back him up. This is the study for which Samuels wrote the forward. Mitch says this in the summation of a description of his "study":

For the life of me, I can't understand how any educator, politician, editorial writer, or anyone else can read all of this and not believe vouchers are worth at least a try.

Did you know, boys and girls, that Minnesota is also one of the most racially-segregated places in the country? Spot doesn't have a link for you right now, but it's true. Do you suppose that has anything to do with it? Mitch doesn't say. There are probably a lot of other variables that Mitch doesn't control for either: class size, parental involvement, relative social and economic status of the families, family stability. Well, you get the idea.

Here's one of the best descriptions Spot has ever seen of school vouchers:

School voucher programs usher in a mind-boggling practical achievement. They take the answer that is public education and scramble it into 3 new problems: forcing the state to improperly promote religion by funding religious schools with taxpayer money, draining the public school system of much-needed resources, and bridling the religious freedom of church institutions with the inevitable strings of government funding. They're bad for the state, bad for children's education, and bad for the church.

Spot thanks Media Transparency for the link.

As Nick Coleman points out in his linked column:

Charter schools, funded with public funds, were supposed to help produce new teaching methodologies and education strategies. Other states limit their number. New York has a limit of 100. Iowa has a limit of 10. Minnesota has no limit. Today, we have 131 charter schools, with 23,600 students. At least 19 more charter schools are on the way.

How much is too much?

The largest sponsor of charter schools, Friends of Ascension, has ties to former state Republican chairman Bill Cooper, who has served on the group's board of directors. Friends of Ascension has 16 schools with 2,800 students (12 percent of charter school enrollment). Nor is Cooper the only former Republican Party chair to have found a keen interest in the inner city.

Former GOP chairman Ron Eibensteiner and his wife are the founders of KidsFirst Scholarships, which award privately funded vouchers to children (650 this year) to attend private schools. Those scholarships are funded by grants from right-wing billionaires such as Ted Forstmann and the late John Walton of the Walton Family Foundation. Critics such as the liberal People for the American Way point out an obvious motivation: By handing out private vouchers in the inner city, conservatives hope to create political momentum for state vouchers that will damage public schools.

Not to mention the teaching of evolutionary science.

But Mitch, and Sticks, and Katie say "No, we're just trying to help the poor little black children."

But maybe they are, Spotty!

Okay grasshopper, tell me this: tell me another issue on which the conservatives or the libertarians are on the side of poor people. Minimum wage? Worker safety? Economic justice in general? Power plant mercury emissions? Global warming (there are a couple of million people in Bangladesh alone who are going to be made homeless by rising sea levels)? Affirmative action?

You see, boys and girls, Mitch has a teensy credibility problem. He is simply unworthy of your trust.


Spot was close

Spot predicted an anti-Oscar rant for Katie this morning. Katie delivered an anti-Al Gore rant, but Al Gore won an Oscar, so Spot declares it close enough for government work.

Katie's column was all sniping and ankle-biting, unworthy of further discussion.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Any takers?

Katie's column for Monday is not up yet at the Strib website. Spot bets it is about the depravity of society as represented by the Oscars.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Does the NRA know about this?

According to the Star Tribune, in an article discussing psychotic astronauts:

There are no weapons on the space station or the shuttle. NASA and its Russian counterpart drew up the checklist in 2001.

This is just asking for trouble. You never can tell when the Russkies will turn on you. And we let 'em share the decision making on this!

Our boy and girl space cadets must be issued side arms immediately!

She’s one of ours, really

Phoenix Woman, whose usual blog is Mercury Rising, started to do some posting at firedoglake today. In spite of her kinda Southwest-sounding name, she is really one of our homies here in Minnesota, boys and girls. Congratulations on promotion to the big time, PW, but did you have to show the whole damn country how beautiful the North Shore is?

Spot will add Mercury Rising to his eccentric blogroll as soon as he remembers how to do it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

God catches Michele fibbing


What? Oh, it's just you.

Don't you mean "Hosanna, it's You?"

Yes, of course. Sorry. I'm just a little stressed right now about something I said.

That's why I want to talk to you.

O Lord, an ever present help in time of need!

Well, not exactly this time.

Am I in for a chastisement, Lord?

Yes. But don't worry, I don't believe in hurting anybody. You told some bush league reporter that Iran was going to turn western Iraq into a terrorist training playground. Didn't you? And the reporter bought it and printed it. That's about right, isn't it?

I guess so.

You guess so? Remember Who you're talking to here.

Yes, I did.

That's better. Where did you come by that information?

A little bird told me.

Don't be impertinent, Michele.

I'm not. It's just my way of saying that I had a confidential source.

Right. But you can tell me who it is. I can keep a secret.

Well . . . I guess I really don't have a source. But I believe it to be true.

[God snorts, which sounds like thunder] But you really knew that I knew you were fibbing, didn't you?

Yes. But I am really sure that my information is correct!

Michele, do you know the difference between my children the Sunnis and my children the Shia?

Sort of.

Then you know that the Iranians are mostly Persians, not Arabs, and that they're predominantly Shia?

They are? I mean they are.

And you know that western Iraq—including Anbar Province—is predominantly Sunni?


Then tell me why your theory doesn't hold up.

I don't follow you. I mean I do follow you, but I don't understand you here.

All right. The Sunnis and the Shia are at each other's throats in Iraq. Sometimes I wonder whether giving humans Free Will was such a hot idea after all. Do you really think that the Iranians are going to set up shop in Anbar?

Well they might.

And I might decide to go swimming in the Potomac next Monday. Be serious Michele. People are calling you a whackjob. Frankly, as one of my followers, you're making me look silly here.

O Lord, I don't mean to do that!

Is that an apology?

Yes Lord!

We've talked about drinking too much Kool Aid before, haven't we?

Yes, Lord. And I will try to be better about that.

I doubt that you'll be better, but I would appreciate it if you at least try.


By the way, Michele, how are you getting along with Marcus these days?

Lord you know.

Yes, I do. But I have a feeling that the situation is moving toward a resolution.

Update: Spot understands that the St. Cloud Times did not run an article on Bachmann's comments, but it did put up a podcast of the interview. God regrets the error. Bachmann's rear guard action is described here.

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Fox attacks Obama

A new short video by Robert Greenwald:

Charlie cuts Katie

Your friend Spotty was a little distracted yesterday, boys and girls, so he didn't get around to reading Katie's mechanical scratchings. But then he read Charlie's post about them this morning, so Spot didn't even have to read Katie's column after all! Let's give the boy a hand!

The column is about character defects in the minority community and how we really don't need to spend money there, just teach the little tykes to sit up straight! That will be so much cheaper. Charlie performs the autopsy with precision.


McCain Then and Now

From Scarce at My Left Nutmeg:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Wages of Sin are Death!

So saith Grand Wizard Ayatollah Executive Director Tom Pritchard of the Minnesota Family Council. Pritchard says that a lot, most recently about the initiative to immunize pre-teen girls with the HPV vaccine. Here are a few grafs from an article in the Pioneer Press:

The [HPV] vaccine itself has proven remarkably effective at protecting against the types of human papilloma virus, or HPV, that are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancers and most of the 4,000 U.S. cervical cancer deaths each year.

However, proposed vaccine requirements in Minnesota and more than 20 other states have come under heavy criticism from conservative family groups, which say they send the wrong message to preteen girls about sexual promiscuity. Other critics say a political mandate is an unscientific way to impose medical policy and are upset that the vaccine manufacturer, Merck, has been using substantial lobbying to drive the state proposals.

The Minnesota Family Council says a state vaccine requirement "undermines abstinence and excuses pre-marital sex" and that the decision should be left to parents. Executive director Tom Pritchard said the vaccine doesn't need a state mandate, because HPV isn't like other viruses that can spread through the air or casual contact.

"It's not dealing with a contagious disease that someone can get in public," he said. "It's specifically resulting from a particular behavior."

Pritchard has never been an especially thoughtful individual, boys and girls, nor frankly, a caring one.

Spot can think of scenarios where a girl or woman might become infected with HPV that have nothing to do with even Pritchard's crippled and vicious sense of morality. Date rape, which happens on college campuses all the time. And a virginal bride could be infected by her less-than-virginal new husband. Boys will be boys! Spot says you can probably think of other situations too, boys and girls.

Good old patriarchal Pritchard wants the women, as usual, to bear the risk of the sexual encounter. The penalty for sex outside of marriage? A bastard baby or a dreaded disease. Truly biblical. Truly reptilian.

The Minnesota Family Council's position on the HPV vaccine is different in degree, but not in basic kind, from stoning non-virgin brides on the doorsteps of their fathers.

Oh Tom, this is very much a public health issue, especially when you consider that most teens are sexually active before they graduate from high school. And it's not as if there weren't plenty of other things to catch while having sex.

You can do as Pritchard suggests boys and girls. And maybe you will be the first one on your block or in your church to have a daughter, the mother of your grandchildren, to die of an entirely preventable cancer. Then you can take her emaciated body—it won't be heavy—to the altar of your church and lay it there as a sacrifice to Jesus. Praise God! You'll feel so holy and chosen.

You know, Tom, God told Abraham to stay the knife in the end. Perhaps God is telling you the same thing, but you just aren't listening.

Let Spot close with a little prayer: Dear God, if there is any damnation in you, as people like Tom Pritchard and the Minnesota Family Council believe there is, please save a big scoop for them. Amen.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A solution in search of a problem

Here's a letter that Laura Brod, a New Prague Republican, and assistant House minority leader, has been circulating to newspapers in outstate Greater Minnesota:

Do you find it difficult to vote? Or do you just want assurances that elections are fair and legal? Secretary of State Mark Ritchie recently unveiled an election agenda that would significantly ease voting restrictions — including online voter registration and voting absentee for any reason.

While these proposals are well-meaning, they also lack a specific focus on ensuring security in our elections, and would likely make it even easier for non-Minnesotans to vote.

While citizens desire new technology and voting simplicity, they also want confidence in their election system. Voters need to be able to trust the process, trust the technology, and they must be assured that their legal ballots are not going to be negated by someone who is voting illegally.

Identity theft and fraud are becoming more common, and we need to ensure that our election processes can stand up to the test of those who wish to tamper.

House Republicans have consistently supported election initiatives that maintain the integrity and security of our voting system, such as showing photo identification before voting and instituting stronger vouching restrictions so only those who are legally eligible can participate.

But Ritchie all but ignored our common-sense initiatives — which are strongly supported by citizens throughout Minnesota. Election reform is important, so contact your state lawmaker and share your views.

In the meantime, we'll look forward to working with Ritchie on initiatives that strengthen the voting process, rather than making it easier for non-Minnesotans to influence an election outcome.

As a resident of Lesser Minnesota, Spot wants to know Rep. Brod, does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight? Do you suffer from the heartbreak of "restless leg syndrome?" Are you convinced that the game of pool will lead to perdition? Maybe you and Harold Hill ought to get together, Rep. Brod.

In her little incitement to action, Rep. Brod mentions the increase in "identity theft and fraud." What she doesn't do, because she can't, is tie the efforts of digital thieves to voter fraud. And frankly, you'd have to be a pretty stupid thief to try to steal a vote here and there. Now that he thinks about it, Spot has never gotten a Nigerian voter-fraud scheme email!

How many voter fraud cases in Minnesota have you read about in the paper recently, boys and girls? Spot certainly hasn't seen any. If Rep. Brod's proposals ever gets a committee hearing, Spot hopes that Rep. Brod and her sidekicks will get a good grilling on the evidence behind statements like those contained in her letter.

Rep. Brod says that she just wants to be sure that "only those who are legally eligible can participate." Bull chips. What she really wants is to depress the turnout of the poor, the minorities, and the natives. For more on that, you'll have to go read Joe Bodell at Minnesota Monitor.

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A mighty wind

Today, boys and girls, Spot is going to tell a moral fable, sort of like the great philosopher-king Bill Bennett does.

The gambling windbag? Is that the "mighty wind" you're referring to Spotty?

No, grasshopper, actually it is not. Be patient. Please.


Thank you. Now here's the tale:

Once Upon A Time, there was a village of hunter gatherers. By and large, the villagers were pretty successful in both their hunting and their gathering. For generations, the village had made the effort to teach all of the children in the village the necessary skills to survive. This is the village on which Hillary Clinton based her book, "It Takes a Village," by the way.

Oh, come on, Spotty. You don't expect us to swallow that, do you?

It is up to you to decide. Anyway.

It seemed like there were always a few youngsters in the village who did not pick up hunting and gathering skills as well as the majority of the children did. Some of them lived in a remote part of the village; some had parents who didn't seem interested in or able to spend the time with the children on their homework: sharpening spears, making snares, and the like; some, it must be admitted, just didn't like hunting and gathering.

A discontent arose in the village over the community-wide system and its seeming failure to reach all the kids. Some of the discontented parents had children who weren't doing as well. But not all. Some of the parents who were critical of the system just thought it took too much of everyone's time, that they could teach their own children better by themselves or together with a few of the other more successful parents, or that not enough time was devoted to making the children adept at reciting the prayers and incantations for a successful hunt. This last group was especially vocal.

While the elders in the village counseled that the villagers should figure out how to make the village-wide education system better, some parents didn't take their advice and began to chart a new course. Some of them set up hut schools, and a few of them banded together to form little units that only their children could attend.

In the beginning, the break-away villagers still had to perform their assigned tasks for the village-wide education system. After a while, these villagers started saying, "What the hell is this?" Actually they didn't say that, but if Spot said what they really said, no one would understand it. So accept Spot's paraphrase. Soon, these parents began to neglect their duties in teaching all of the children in the village.

At first, things seemed to work pretty well, especially for the children of the breakaways. Their spearing accuracy went up, they were able to make more sophisticated snares, and perhaps best of all, they could recite their prayers and incantations like nobody's business. Some villagers—but not the elders, though—predicted a new age of plenty for the village. But a funny thing happened.

Over time, the villagers noticed a marked decline in the quality of skill teaching in the village school. The breakaways said, "So, what? Form your own school." Some did, which made the problems of the village school worse. But a lot of the parents were unable—for whatever reason—to find an alternative for their kids and had to watch helplessly as the village school continued to decline. And something else happened, too.

In recent years, the villagers had learned how to hunt the biggest game animals: buffalo and even the mastodon. This really did take a village! But the villagers were finding that there were no longer enough hunters with adequate skills to provide the muscle needed to bring down larger quarry. Oh sure, the privately-schooled hunters went out and tried, but they tended to get trampled or gored. Naturally, they started to concentrate on smaller game.

What happened then, Spotty?

The nutrition of the village declined and the villagers started blaming each other. Quarrels started to break out; the villagers started fighting, and some even resorted to cannibalism. The survivors scattered, and while some joined other villages, many starved.

The End

That's really a sad story, Spotty. But who or what is the "mighty wind?"

Spot has gone on long enough for now, grasshopper. For the answer, you'll just have to stay tuned.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sigmund Spot's gonna love this

Spotty was whining yesterday about my only-occasional posting here at the Cucking Stool. Not only is a whining dog acutely annoying, but today something came up that I know will appeal to Spot's loyal readers.

A while back, I lent Spot my copy of John Dean's "Conservatives Without Conscience" -- a book whose location appears to be somewhat in doubt at this moment -- which prompted some observations from Sigmund Spot. Building on Sigmund Spot's earlier work, the post in turn had its genesis directly in the work of Prof. Stanley Milgram and indirectly Prof. Bob Altemeyer (Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba). Prof. Altemeyer has spent his entire career exploring authoritarianism and his work provided insight into much of what was in John Dean's book of last year.

Well, Prof. Altemeyer seems to be a man who loves to tell people about his research, apparently even when they don't want to hear about it (actual quote: "everyone who knows me would rather volunteer for a root canal operation at a school for spastic dental students than ask me a question about authoritarianism"). He also bases his research on those actual experiments that psychology professors are always sucking their students into, something I recall vividly from my days as a Psych 101 student. He hasn't taken a research grant since 1972, has never been a member of a political party, and is someone clearly in hog heaven doing the work he's spent his life with.

And following the buzz around John Dean's book, he's decided to write his own. I've only read the introduction, but will be picking it up over the next few days. The best part? So can you! For free!

The good professor has decided to pass on the "big bucks, fame, and cocktail party hors d'oeuvres" and make the book available here absolutely free.

So read the book, and the next time you see some right wing blogger exhibiting high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities, you'll know why.

Tuesday Odds ‘n Ends (tm)

Spot's favorite—well one of his favorites, anyway—pants pissers, Jonah Goldberg, is at it again. In today' Strib, Jonah has a column playfully suggesting that maybe the Democrats should win the presidency in 2008; it would serve them right!

There is an idea out there. Perhaps not a fully formed one. Perhaps more like the whisper of one gusting like a sudden draft through the rafters of the conservative house, causing some to look toward the attic and ask fearfully, "What was that?"

This wisp of a notion is simply this: Maybe a Democrat should win in 2008.

Personally, I don't believe in this poltergeist, at least not yet. But every now and then, I must confess, I do shiver from its touch.

The key phrase here, boys and girls, is "look toward the attic and ask fearfully". That's something that Jonah's crowd is really good at. Jonah is actually trying to scare two groups: Democrats and Republicans.

He'd like to scare Democrats into being, well, more scared.

The idea goes something like this: If you believe that the war on terror is real, then you think it is inevitable that more and bloodier conflicts with radical Islam are on the way, regardless of who is in the White House. If the clash of civilizations is afoot, then the issues separating Democrats and Republicans are as pressing as whether the captain of the Titanic is going to have fish or chicken for dinner. There's a showdown coming. Period. My task isn't to convince you that this view is correct, but merely that it is honestly and firmly held by many on the right and by a comparative handful on the left.

And that's the problem: Only a handful of people on the left -- and far too few liberals -- see radical Islamists as a bigger threat than George W. Bush. Which is why if you really think that we are in an existential conflict with a deadly enemy, there's a good case for the Democrats to take the reins. Not because Democrats are better, wiser or more responsible about foreign policy, but, just the opposite, because the Democrats have been such irresponsible backseat drivers that they have to be forced to take the wheel to grasp how treacherous the road ahead is.

That's right! Be careful what you wish for Democrats. You'll see what a burden leadership of the free world is! Getting the rest of the planet to do our bidding is not an easy job! Just ask the President.

And of course Jonah is trying to scare Republican into working hard to keep the Democrats out of the White House.

For hawks who believe that the Bush White House either hasn't been hawkish enough or has done a much better job than the conventional wisdom holds (remember, no terrorist attacks on our soil since 9/11), counting on Democrats to learn on the job is a chilling thought. Which is why it remains a whisper, for now.

As though the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with the lack of further "attacks" on the United States. Jonah is a reliable Republican factotum, and he is part of the Greek chorus that continuously sings "War in Iraq = War on Terror" when it is pretty clear from objective evidence that the invasion of Iraq has been massively counterproductive in the terrorism department.


Some of you, boys and girls, have no doubt read about the indictment of a number of American citizens for their role in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Milan and "rendering" him to Egypt, where he apparently had quite a time:

Prosecutors allege that five Italian intelligence officials worked with the Americans to abduct Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003.

Nasr was allegedly taken to Aviano Air Base near Venice, Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany, and then to Egypt, where he was held for four years and, according to his lawyer, tortured. He was freed earlier this week by an Egyptian court that ruled his detention was "unfounded."

Here's a description from the linked article of the Americans:

The Americans have all left Italy, and it is unlikely that they would be turned over for prosecution, even if Italy requests their extradition - a move that would strain relations between Rome and Washington.

All but one of the Americans have been identified as CIA agents, including the former Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady and former Rome station chief Jeffrey Castelli. The other is Air Force Lt.-Col. Joseph Romano, who was stationed at the time at Aviano.

Prosecutors believe that many of the American names in the indictment are aliases.

Aliases? You think?

Spotty will bet, boys and girls, that you think that Spot is going to rail about the US conduct in the rendition. Nope. Here's what troubles Spot the most:

It is not clear whether Italy will seek the extradition of the Americans, and it is highly unlikely the U.S. government would comply. In fact, it is all but guaranteed that none of the Americans will ever appear in court.

Still, the trial could proceed because Italian law allows for the prosecution of defendants in absentia. Arrest warrants for the 26 men and women — 25 CIA operatives, including two station chiefs, and an American Air Force colonel — have been issued and apply throughout the European Union.

You know, boys and girls, there are a lot of places where you can get tried—and convicted—in absentia, including perhaps Guantanamo Bay. Ordinarily, we dislike in absentia trials in the United States. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution frowns on it:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense. [italics are Spot's]

Some of you, boys and girls, may remember reading in the papers recently about a "terrorist suspect" in Minnesota who recently won the right to be told by the government what it believed that he did. But it is unclear how much access the Guantanamo detainees will have to the witnesses and the evidence against them Spot will post more about this later.

By the way, happy birthday Marbury v. Madison!

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Christ died for your Hummer

It seems that oil has been discovered on Sunni territory in Anbar Province. This could be good news.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Oh Brien, how could you?

Spot's not talking about your retirement as the Vice-Chair and Minister of (dis) Information at the Senate 41 GOP. Spot is okay with that. Really.

What Spot has trouble figuring out how even you could have the chutzpa to republish a 2002 article from CO2 Magazine in the February 2007 Senate District 41 Voice. An article entitled The Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age: Their Untimely Demise and Welcome Resurrection, by Sherwood Idso and Keith Idso. You can follow the link and read the article yourselves, boys and girls, but Spot will save you some time.

The Idsos (Idsi?) are trying to tell us that global warming is just part of a millennium-long oscillation in the climate! No need to worry! Just keep your Hummer gassed up and ready to go! You see: the last of these two warm and cold periods tell us so much about the current tizzy over global warming. We've seen this all before!

Uh, Brien, do you know the population of the whole earth in the year 1000 AD? You don't? According to sources, it was about 310 million. Now, there are over six and half billion souls on spaceship earth. There sure weren't nearly as many cars and smokestack industries in 1000 either, were there Brien? Spot doesn't suppose that it has occurred to you, Brien, that we have changed some important variables just a teensy bit? Didn't think so.

Of course, the legitimate (more about that in a moment) scientific community is certain that the global warming we are now experiencing is man made.

So who are the Idsos, anyway? Spot was shocked—positively shocked—to learn that Sherwood Idso and his son Keith Idso, along with another brother Craig Idso, are part of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a group that is connected to the Greening Earth Society, which is in turn funded by the Western Fuels Association. You probably won't be surprised to learn, boys and girls, that the Western Fuels Association is a trade association of fossil fuel producers. According to the Greening Earth Society, green house gases are good; we'll all benefit from a warmer planet.

In other words, the flying Idsi are a trinity of biostitutes. You know, Brien, even you and your Republican buddies are not going to be able to maintain the myth of the never-ending oil fiesta for long. You're much too old to believe in Santa.

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The insufflation of Katie

Boys and girls, if Michael Brodkorb, proprietor of Minnesota Democrats Exposed, posts with the title "Freedom to Poop," what is it? Freudian? Ironic? Or eponymous?

That's a hard one, Spotty. Can you give us a hint?

Sure, grasshopper. Spot actually forgot to put in the best answer: all of the above.

Of course, Katie gets insufflated with the whole Brodkorbian meme and sends her readers over there today. Which prompted MNObserver, who occasionally—very occasionally, Spotty has to say—posts over here to point out what a bunch of boorish, graceless turds Katie and her ilk really are. (At Norwegianity)

Spotty, "insufflated" is an Ecclesiastical term isn't it?

Well it can be grasshopper. Spot was actually thinking of the definition that refers to blowing vapor or smoke into a body cavity, however.

Update: Go read Tild, boys and girls.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Exorcism: the Waiting

Marcus pulls his car into a spot in the mostly-deserted lot behind the Cannon House Office Building. "Her office is on the fourth floor," he says to Father Seamus. "You don't have any guns or knives in that bag, do you Father? We'll never get 'em past the guard."

"No," replies Father Seamus, "the only real weapon I have is the Archbishop's false teeth, as I was tellin' ya.

The rain continues to fall as the two men trudge along the sidewalk, up the steps, and into a rear door, often used by members and staff. Their shoes squeak as they walk across the terrazzo floor in the dim hallway; they present themselves to the guard. Marcus pulls out a laminated ID card with his picture. The card is strung on a lanyard and Marcus hangs it around his neck.

"Hello, Marcus," says the guard, "You've been around a lot lately."

"Um, yes I guess I have. You know what say: Behind every successful woman is a man. That's me!"

"Who's your sidekick, a man of the cloth I see."

"He's a constituent of Congresswoman Bachmann's. This is Reverend O'Connor. Just write 'Revered O'Connor' there where he's pointing on the log."

The guard offers a pen and shows Father Seamus where to write his name. He writes "Reverend O'Connor" awkwardly and scribbly. "Do you vouch for this fella, Marcus?" asks the guard. Marcus nods, and the guard continues, "I'll still have to look in that leather bag."

"Are you sure you need to do that, my son?" asks Father Seamus.


Reluctantly, Father Seamus undoes the clasp holding the bag shut and hands over the small leather valise. The guard peers in, and then he reaches in for the false teeth. "I have to ask. These are very unusual false teeth. Since you still have your teeth, and these look like they could be used to cut somebody, tell me what these are for."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Be careful with those! They're a family heirloom," says Father Seamus.

"OK," replies the guard, "but maybe I ought to just hold these until you leave."

"'Ah, but they have special sentimental value to this poor priest. I'd be bereft without 'em. Do I look like a terrorist, son?"

"No, I guess not. You may keep them. Marcus, I don't think Congresswoman Bachmann is in right now."

"She isn't, but we're expecting her a little later."

"All right. I'll see you two later. I'm here all night."

Marcus and the little priest take their leave and head up to Michele's office. When they get there, Marcus opens the door to reveal an empty ante room. Empty, except for the straight jacket, shackles, and jug of water that Marcus had managed to get by the guard earlier in the evening.

"Perfect!" exclaims Father Seamus. "This is about as safe an environment as we could ask for. Are ye prepared for the room to go really hot or cold, Marcus?"

"I wore my warmest coat and I brought a hat and gloves."

"Good. Now you're ready to be my assistant, aren't you Marcus?"

"What? Assistant? I didn't know you needed an assistant. I'm not sure I can do that."

"You have to. I can't do it all by myself. Especially the rough stuff."

"Rough stuff?"

"Sure. Like getting her into the straight jacket and shackles. That kind of stuff. I may need you to take a spell of the prayin', too. Think of it as you first act as a new Catholic. Startin' off pretty high falutin' if you ask me."

"Well, okay," says Marcus, uncertainly. "I guess I can."

"That's the spirit," assures Father Seamus. "Now, I'll hide behind the door to push it shut and lock it when Michele comes in. That's when you need to be ready. It's almost eleven now. We'd better get ready."

Father Seamus crouches beside the door where he will be concealed when it is opened. Marcus switches off the light. They wait several minutes. Nothing. Marcus is breathing noisily in the dark. "Be calm, my son," says Father Seamus.

"Why did you have me sign in the way I did?" asks Father Seamus.

"Because if you wrote Father Seamus, Michele will be instantly wary if she checks the sign in list when she comes."

"Ah, good thinking, my son."

"Father, do you really think this will work?" asks an anxious Marcus.

"Piece of cake," replies the priest. "That is if she comes at all."

"Oh, she will. She was invited to a Daughters of the American Revolution confab tonight. But I told Michele that we need to air some things, and she agreed to come after."

"I didn't know your wife was DAR."

"Oh, she's not. But she travels in the same circles."

"Oh feck! The DAR is mostly a bunch of stuffy Prods!" And now whispering, Father Seamus continues, "Steady now Marcus. I hear a key in the door."

There is the scraping of a key turning in the lock, and the door swings open.

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Charlie: Cease and Desist!

It has come to Spot's attention that at approximately 6:50 PM yesterday, Saturday, February 17, 2007, that you Charlie, the proprietor of Across the Great Divide, did knowingly adopt Weekend Ends And Odds as the title of a post. You are no doubt aware of Spot's post Weekend Odds 'n Ends™, which was posted fully 3 hours and 15 minutes prior to your post.

This is a transparent and unlawful attempt to appropriate the valuable intellectual property of The Cucking Stool™ and the goodwill of The Cucking Stool™, such as it is, associated therewith. This confusingly similar title creates a likelihood of confusion in the minds of readers as to the source of the Weekend Ends and Odds post, an offense that when done intentionally is known as "palming off." By adopting this title, you and Across the Great Divide are competing unfairly with The Cucking Stool™.

You are instructed to cease and desist immediately from using Weekend Ends and Odds as the title for a post. You are further instructed to change the title of Weekend Ends and Odds, refraining from using the words "ends" and "odds" alone or in combination with each other or with any other words, especially if they have anything to do with the weekend: "Saturday" or "Sunday" for example. You must also email every reader of your blog since 6:50 PM Saturday night, inform them of the error, and direct them to delete any cached copies of Weekend Ends and Odds. Finally, you must deliver up the keyboard used to compose Weekend Ends and Odds to Spot for destruction.

Failure to follow these instructions will no doubt result in a string of increasingly threatening yet tedious emails leading perhaps to Spot baying at the moon.

Note to anyone who is a new reader: this post is just a little riff on the subjects raised by Spot in Lawyer Jennifer gets testy! and More lawyerly bluster!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Weekend odds 'n ends (TM)

First up, a cartoon in the Adventures in Amnesia series by the brilliant Kirk Anderson:

This cartoon is great for so many reasons, but Spot wants to point out just a couple. Notice the staff that Hack Mammon is holding in the first panel in the middle row. And the name, Hack Mammon. Absolutely inspired. Note that the Reverend Mammon preaches Liberation Theology for the Ruling Class.

Kirk Anderson used to draw editorial cartoons for the Pioneer Press in St. Paul. Now, apparently, he's a freelancer, and his work is often in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and can also be seen online at Buzzflash.


Speaking of Hack Mammon, boys and girls, you remember the anguished wailing and threats of legal mayhem against the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, don't you? And Spot said a couple of times that it was really just hot air?

If you go to the CREW site, you will see that the documents that lawyer Ansis howled about are still there.


Last Monday, Spot wrote about his disapproval of trying to compel enlisted soldiers and junior officers to make Jus ad Bellum decisions about what orders to follow.

Spot said it was just a step away from stripping captured soldiers of their Geneva Convention protections and trying them all for war crimes. Spot now reads about an individual, who used to be a JAG investigator apparently, who has said this about Lieutenant Watada's case:
Lt. Watada is the first commissioned officer to refuse orders to Iraq and is also the first soldier to do so who is not a conscientious objector. His decision is based on legal grounds as well as moral, with the recognition that a soldier has not only the duty to obey all lawful orders, but also has the moral and legal obligation to disobey any unlawful order. [italics are Spot's]
This is a scary proposition for anybody going to war, having misgivings but going nevertheless out of a sense of duty--like Tammy Duckworth's husband, for example--and conducting himself or herself honorably in the field. Should that service person have to be worried about loss of Geneva treatment if captured because the war itself is considered illegal by the capturing adversary? Of course not.

As Spot said in his earlier post, you cannot impose legality of the war decisions on the people who don't make those decisions.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

All of the action thus far

In advance of the concluding episodes of The Exorcism of Michele Bachmann, Spot though he would provide the links to the prior posts related, at least in some way, to the story. They are listed oldest to newest to facilitate following the story line:

God: Listen up Michele!

God and Michele talk again

Oh Katie! Spot has something for you!


Michele's nightmare

I know you're in there, Mark!

Hi Michele

Spot thinks they were

Pillow talk

Jimbo's Exorcism

Getting a referral

Marcus talks to the Exorcist

Marcus and the Exorcist team up

Pastor Mac seeks intercession

The penultimate episode should be up in a couple of days.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Categorical Imperative

You all remember Immanuel Kant's "categorical imperative," don't you boys and girls?

Sorry, Spotty. Doesn't ring a bell.

There are a couple of popular bromides that sort of, but not entirely, describe what Immanuel Kant was talking about. The first one, discussed in the linked article is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The one that Spot prefers is: What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Kant has his critics—sometimes Spot among them—the consequentialists or utilitarians. But there is a useful nugget of truth in Kant that is helpful in today's discussion, boys and girls.

One of the things that Kant at least implies is that if you set a moral standard, you shouldn't be surprised—or complain—if others follow it. That's a problem, perhaps a big one, if the standard you set is a low one. You lose your moral authority to complain. You look like, well you are, a hypocrite.

The idea that the US could impose international standards of conduct on others while not observing them ourselves is a notion rooted in the idea of American Exceptionalism. Only remaining superpower; we're better than that; blah blah blah.

But sometimes, when others do what we do, and we don't like it, our responses are, er, morally circumscribed. For example:

Let's assume for a moment that Iran is supplying arms to Iraqi insurgents as President Bush asserts. Although as some other blogger observed, it's hard to imagine that the Iraqis were so dangerous in 2003 that they needed to be disarmed immediately, but in 2007 that they're too stupid to make a roadside bomb, especially with all the stuff we left unsecured after the invasion. But isn't that exactly what we did in arming the Afghan insurgents against the Soviets in the 80s? The mujahedeen shot down damn near the whole Soviet helicopter fleet with American-made Stinger missiles. Wasn't much of a secret either. You could ask Dan Rather.

Thankfully, the Soviet Union did not touch off WWIII to retaliate for our support of the mujahedeen. But George Bush seems prepared to touch off at least a regional war over support that Iran is supposed to be supplying to the Iraqi insurgents.

But Spotty, the situations are entirely different!

Iran probably doesn't think so.

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Jimbo replies!

No sooner had Spot asked Jim Ramstad what he was going to do on the Iraq resolution, than the Congressman took the floor of the House and delivered a passionate denunciation of the Administration's policy in Iraq. Boy, when Jimbo gets steamed, look out!

Oh c'mon Spot, he was downright sheepish about supporting the resolution objecting to the escalation:
Some of the 11 Republicans who publicly broke with Bush were longtime
opponents of the war, such as Reps. Walter Jones of North Carolina and
Ron Paul of Texas. But others, such as Rep. Jim Ramstad of Minnesota,
had never sought the limelight and were almost apologetic in their
But don't you see grasshopper, Ramstad has really ratcheted up the rhetoric. In his January 11th statement on his website about the escalation, linked in Spot's earlier post, Jimbo said he was "disappointed" by the escalation. Yesterday, in his speech on the floor, linked above, he said that he was both "surprised" and "disappointed." He doubled the words of disapproval. Boy, Spot doesn't ever want to be the object of Jimbo's righteous wrath!

He's in for it now with Michele.

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I'm Spartacus!

I'm Spartacus!

Spot got the graphic above and the text that follows from Tild:

It’s time to stand up. driftglass started it, and many have followed suit and are already standing. If you have a site, grab the graphic above and stand up with us.

The slavering rightwing hordes have begun their assault. Amanda, Melissa and their families have received death threats; their sites have been hit with DDOS attacks.

Go buy a T shirt, or two, or more. All proceeds go to Shakes and her family.

It’s time to take a stand. We’re all Spartacus now.

Stand up.

Stand up indeed. And bark. And bite if necessary.

Update: Added the link to Tild.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What are you gonna do, Jimbo?

There will be a vote later this week on the US House—nonbinding—resolution to express disapproval of President Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq. Spot is aware that Kline and Walz have spoken on the House floor respecting the resolution. John Kline, of course, is opposed. Walz spoke eloquently in favor of the resolution, saying:

"Many of these soldiers are kids that I taught in my high school classroom and coached on our school football team," he said. "They joined my Guard unit and I trained them. We deployed together in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and now they are deployed again to Iraq."

Now we come to the curious case of the Minnesota Third District's Jim Ramstad. Ramstad's been a supporter of the war for which he suffered the derision of his constituents at "town hall meetings" as the war has dragged on. Ramstad cast a vote in favor of the Military Commission Act of 2006.

But even Ramstad has had misgivings. He issued a statement expressing "disappointment" over the President's decision to escalate. "Disappointment" in a politician is so touching. Not to mention meaningless. Spot doesn't care about your angst, Jimbo, he cares how you vote. Your early votes in this session showed that your heart is not entirely calcified, Congressman. Spot challenges you to vote for the resolution. Join Tim Walz, not John Kline.

The only downside that Spot sees is the potential for another confrontation with Michele Bachmann!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007

Senator Chris Dodd is introducing a bill with the short title "Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007." The purpose of the act is to restore the writ of habeas corpus and reaffirm our commitment to the Geneva Conventions.

Spot got more traffic for the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and habeas corpus posts last fall than anything else Spot has written. It is clear that a lot of you care about these issues. Spot hopes to write more about Senator Dodd's bill in the future.

The Senator, who perhaps not coincidentally is running for President, also has a website: At the site, you can sign on as a "citizen sponsor" of this bill. Part of the purpose of the site and the "sponsorship" is obviously to collect email addresses for his campaign. But Spot does think it would be great to show support for a rollback of the odious MCA.

And, boys and girls, Spot doesn't think it would kill you to hear once in a while from a candidate other than Hillary or Obama. From Spot's perspective, Chris Dodd seems to be the one actually doing something to begin the rollback of at least some of the excesses of the Bush administration.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Now for something entirely different

C'mon Spotty, tell us another story about Mac Hammond, or maybe about Father Seamus and Marcus and Michele Bachmann. Please?

Well not today, grasshopper. Boys and girls, we have something very serious to talk about.

What could be more serious than if Michele Bachmann gets exorcised?

Spot will admit that is serious, but you'll just have to be patient, grasshopper. Can you do that?

I guess so, Spotty.

Good, because today Spot wants to talk about war crimes. Have any of you heard of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada?

Isn't he the first officer to be court martialed in the Iraq war for refusing to be deployed to Iraq? He was charged with "missing movement" with his unit.

That's exactly right, grasshopper. He refused to go on the grounds that the order to deploy was illegal because the whole war was illegal. Of course, this made the military brass pretty nervous. There is the prospect of a serious breakdown in military discipline if garden-variety soldiers get to make judgments about the legality of a war they are ordered to fight. There is also perhaps some risk for the soldier, as we will see in a moment.

A mistrial was declared in the Lieutenant's court martial last week. It was declared after the proceeding had begun, and over the defense's objection; it probably precludes retrying Lieutenant Watada on double jeopardy grounds. What happened is a fascinating bit of courtroom intrigue. It gets a little technical here, so sit up straight and listen carefully, boys and girls.

The prosecution—and frankly the military judge, too—thought that they had the Lieutenant right where they wanted him. The prosecution and the defense entered into a "fact stipulation" that seemed to admit all of the elements of the infraction of "missing movement." The judge asked the defendant several times if he really, really wanted to admit to all the facts. Watada said "yup" while maintaining the illegality of the order. Now the judge had ruled that the order to deploy to Iraq was legal, and he had ruled that no defense witnesses would be permitted to testify about the legality of the order, i.e., the legality of the war.

Oh Spotty! The Lieutenant cooked his own goose!

No grasshopper; he did not. He and his defense lawyer were very smart. After the prosecution had put in its whole case, Watada's counsel disclosed that the defense would be "reasonable mistake of fact or law" and requested an instruction to the panel (like a jury) to that effect. If you are reasonably mistaken about a fact or the law, boys and girls, it goes to whether you had the requisite state of mind for the commission of the offense.

It began to dawn on the judge that maybe the case was not so airtight after all. He zigged and zagged tried to get the prosecution to reopen its case and to get the defendant to abandon the fact stipulation. No dice. The judge then declared a mistrial, and as Spot mentioned, the defense objected. Since it doesn't look like the defense did anything prejudicial before the panel, it is entitled to claim double jeopardy if the military attempts to try Watada again.

Watada had a good lawyer! That was a great story Spotty!

We're not done yet, grasshopper.

We're not? Darn.

Sorry. Let's consider for a moment the judge's ruling that the order was legal. International law divides consideration of war criminality into two branches: Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello:

Under international law, there are two distinct ways of looking at war—the reasons you fight and how you fight. In theory, it is possible to break all the rules while fighting a just war or to be engaged in an unjust war while adhering to the laws of armed conflict. For this reason, the two branches of law are completely independent of one another.

Jus ad Bellum is the branch that deals with the legal cause of the war: was taking up arms justified for some reason, or was it simply aggressive war—the ultimate war crime according to the Nuremberg Court. Jus in Bello deals with the day-to-day stuff: rape, pillage, that sort of thing. Spot thinks what happened here is that people got their Juses all balled up.

Soldiers who are captured on the battlefield are entitled to prisoner of war status and to be released at the conclusion of hostilities, whether they killed or harmed enemy soldiers or not, as long as they did not commit any war crimes. That's provided in the Third Geneva Convention. But what if we imposed on the individual soldier the burden of determining Jus ad Bellum as well as Jus in Bello? It would mean that every soldier who took up arms in the Wehrmacht in WWII was a war criminal. It would also mean that every American flier shot down over North Vietnam might be treated as a war criminal since the North Vietnamese considered the US to be the aggressors.

Spot says this is dangerous territory for the individual soldier to tread. Spot yields to no one in his view about the lack of justification for the war against Iraq. But he says that neither trials of prisoners of war (the low level ones, anyway) nor a court martial of a junior officer is the place to try the legality of the war itself.

Update: It would be possible to allow Jus ad Bellum illegality arguments as a defense to a court martial, but not as a reason to prosecute low level military personnel for Jus ad Bellum crimes. But it seems logically inconsistent to Spot.

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California Dreamin’

Here's the latest video by Ava Lowery. She is sixteen. She has a website called

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A chat with pastor Mac

CS: Would you state your full name for the record? Sorry. You're Reverend Mac Hammond, right?

MH: That's right, although I'm not an ordained minister.

CS: What? You don't have a divinity degree?

MH: Nope. I have an English degree and I took some Dale Carnegie courses. A pastor can be a lay person; it just means shepherd or spiritual leader.

CS: This is sort of hard to believe.

MH: Why? You're a journalist, and you're just a dog.

CS: Point taken. To whom do you attribute your success in the, er, ministry?

MH: Dale Carnegie—and God, of course.

CS: Of course. You preach something called the "prosperity gospel"?

MH: Our creed is that following God's word will lead not only to spiritual salvation but also earthly wealth. I think it's important that I not be embarrassed about the increase the Lord does bring me. One of the things I think has kept Christianity from being as effective as it could be is the idea that the clergy has to be poor. The Bible doesn't say that.

CS: Well, did the Lord bring the "increase" to you, or did you go out and take it for yourself?

MH: I don't follow you.

CS: The control of your church is solely under the control of yourself, your wife, and a small coterie of other "prosperity gospel" pastors, right?

MH: What's your point?

CS: Okay. Let's talk about something different. You believe that if you follow "God's word" it will lead to earthly riches as well as spiritual salvation?

MH: Absolutely!

CS: Are all the parishioners at LWCC wealthy?

MH: No, of course not.

CS: Well then, what's the matter with them? What part of "God's word" aren't they following? Perhaps all the ones who aren't rich are homosexuals.

MH: Wait a minute! Hold on! I never said that. They're just not rich yet.

CS: Is that what you tell them? That they're just not rich—like you—yet?

MH: Not in so many words. I do give them hope, though. I give them hope for their money. Seems fair to me.

CS: You do have a lot of apparently satisfied customers.

MH: Darn tootin'!

CS: Didn't Jesus say that a man cannot serve God and money?

MH: Yes He did. But I don't serve money; money serves me! See the difference?

CS: Um hum. What's your take on smaller churches?

MH: I do think it's the will of God that every church grow. It really hurts my heart to see the kind of mentality that pervades much of the body of Christ right now, which is small church, friendly environment, know everybody, and they become little religious bless-me clubs.

CS: So you want to be a religious Wal-Mart?

MH: Yup. The benefits should be obvious, even to you.

CS: This has been a very illuminating few minutes.

MH: Thank you.

CS: Just one more question. What do you think of Elmer Gantry?

MH: Terrible underachiever.

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"I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas."

--Karl Rove, at a luncheon this week explaining why the GOP of today exists only to serve the children of the privileged and is as far from the party of hard work, bootstraps, thrift, and other conservative values as you can imagine.

"But you're still fucking peasents as far as I can see,
A working class hero is something to be"

--John Lennon, Working Class Hero

Casting "dispersions"

So said a commenter to one of the myriad of posts around the 'net concerning Mac Hammond and the LWCC. Regrettably, Spot cannot find it back for a link. Just so that no one thinks that Spot is casting dispersions about pastor Mac, Spot is pursuing his own interview with Mac Hammond. Look for it soon.

Can’t see the forest for the planes

Charlie has a great, informative post about Mac Hammond up at Across the Great Divide. Spot suspects that most of Spot's readers read Across the Great Divide anyway, but if there are any strays out there, go have a look. It is Spotty™-worthy, but Spot is going to make Charlie really work for the hat trick. The gravamen of Charlie's post is the cozy management of The Living Word Christian Center:

Seven Trustees, all ministers, oversee this roughly $35 million organization, including Hammond and his wife Lynne, and another pastoral couple who run Living Word North in Brainerd and minister through reality TV. The other three — located in Arlington and Crowley, Texas, and New Orleans — also operate prosperity gospel ministries.

This Board was appointed by Hammond and approved by the Congregation. The memorandum says they have "significant educational and business experience," but unlike most boards, which strive for diverse backgrounds, this group specializes in the same business, conducted in a very similar fashion. To an outsider, this board — which would approve loans, compensation and other operations that benefit Hammond — appears under Hammond's control. They also all operate closely held family businesses where husband, wife and other relatives appear to harvest the tithes draw compensation.

There is certainly not much transparency in the operation. You can probably get more information about your average Disney-operated amusement park than Mac's nonprofit, tax-exempt, organization. As Charlie points out there are many stake-holders here: the congregation, of course, but the rest of us taxpayers, too.

It is also interesting to Spot how the recent revelations about LWCC came about. As Charlie recounts, the report that has been disclosed—or maybe leaked is a better word—was part of an offering memorandum to prospective participants in the syndication of a $25 million mortgage-backed loan to the church.

Why would all this stuff about loans to pastor Mac and airplane leases show up in an offering memorandum, Spotty?

Because of the securities laws, grasshopper. When you offer to sell a participation in a loan like this, it is a security, and all the things that are material to the repayment of the loan must be disclosed to the potential lenders. Are the closed management and the self-dealing material to the ability of the church to repay a $25 million loan? Somebody thought so.

Spot has already commented on the merits of trying to get CREW to take down the report from its website. The mortgage syndicator, The Marshall Group, or LWCC itself, may have a legitimate complaint against somebody who was contractually bound to keep the information confidential and did not. But as long as CREW did not steal or somehow intercept the information unlawfully, it is free to publish it. If the Washington Post can publish the Pentagon Papers, CREW can certainly publish this.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pastor Mac seeks intercession


I'm glad I caught you Michele; it's Mac Hammond.

Oh pastor Hammond, how nice to talk to you!

Well, it's nice to find somebody who will talk to me!

What do you mean?

What do you mean, "What do I mean?" I am in some trouble here.

A Godly man like you? That hardly seems possible. OH MY GOD, ARE YOU A HOMOSEXUAL?

No, nothing like that. It's worse.

Oh come on pastor! Cheer up. It couldn't be worse than being a homosexual!

I am no longer sure of that.

You must have something really weighing on your normally-soaring soul. Tell me what it is.

[muttering under his breath] I cannot believe this clueless broad got elected to Congress.

Well, my church, The Living Word Christian Center® was too good to me, or at least the board of directors was.

You're just being modest, pastor. I am sure you deserve everything you get!

I'm afraid that may be true. I had such a good thing going at LVCC. I could use it as my personal piggy bank for loans, and it helped me out a lot with the expenses of my hobby.

Oh yes! I can still remember that thrilling flight we took. You really are the "sky pilot!" [Michele is lost in a reverie for a moment]

I can't imagine that anyone would object to your flying! It's so, so, spiritual!

It's also hellaciously expensive, Michele, especially the kind of plane we were flying. Especially on a pastor's salary. Even this pastor. Now, thanks to a leaked report, everyone knows. Even if the congregation doesn't object, which it probably will, the IRS is gonna take a dim view of flyboy Mac.

Yes, the IRS can be so problematic!

You're a tax lawyer, Michele, or at least you were one, right? Can you help me?

Oh pastor Mac! I'll pray for you right now! Dear Lord . . . .

Uh, Michele, I had something a little more, well temporal, in mind. You're a Congresswoman, right?


I guess I hafta spell it out. Can you apply a little influence at the IRS for me? You know, sweet talk 'em, or threaten to reduce their budget, or something?

I suppose that I can try. But are you sure you wouldn't rather have me pray for you?

No Michele, really.

I'll have to think about it, pastor Mac. Goodnight. Godspeed.

Yeah, thanks.

Image by Avidor.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

More lawyerly bluster!

Friday night is developing a theme here at the Stool, boys and girls. While you're out painting the town, or canoodling or whatever else you do on Friday night, Spotty is collecting specimens. Specimens of what, you ask. Well, exemplars of blustery lawyers hoist on their own petard. Last week it was lawyer Jennifer and her exhortation on behalf of the defenseless National Pork Board. This week, it's lawyer Ansis trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube for the Living Word Christian Center and it mortgage banker. Regrettably, another adventure doomed to failure!

You can get the whole back story in excellent articles at Minnesota Monitor, here, here, and Spot's favorite, for reasons that will become apparent in a moment, here. But this is it in a nutshell: a north-suburban Twin Cities überchurch, The Living Word Christian Center, has apparently been really good to its senior pastor, Mac "The Winner's Way" Hammond. Probably a little too good. A report, prepared by a mortgage banker seeking participations in a proposed loan to the church, and which discloses substantial concessionary loans by the church to the pastor, as well as the church's assistance in keeping the sky pilot airborne has surfaced. The reverend is an insider you see, and this would raise eyebrows for any stock or membership company, but particularly for one that's a purported nonprofit under federal tax law.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) got a hold of the report and posted it on the web. It also filed a complaint with the IRS because of the church's tax exempt status. This one is probably going to leave marks, boys and girls. Some of you will recall Mac Hammond and his church are already the subject of a complaint by CREW claiming Mac & Co. endorsed Michele Bachmann for Congress last fall.

The church protests its innocence:

Hammond could not be reached on Thursday, but the church released a statement saying that all contracts and financial transactions are reviewed by its law firm and audited by its accounting firm and that it makes every effort to comply with tax laws.

"Living Word and those outside professionals involved in the conduct of our financial affairs remain confident any fair review of our dealings will reveal the validity of our effort to consistently be an accountable and honest ministry before God, our congregation and our community," said the Rev. Marc Redman, associate pastor.

So, did the faithful at The Living Word Christian Center know all of these things? If they did, there wouldn't be much reason to keep this information so hush-hush, would there? On the other hand, a church that keeps substantial information [cough] confidential: isn't that odd boys and girls? Spot thinks it is odd.

Now comes lawyer Ansis, saying remove that information! It's confidential and proprietary to The Living Word Christian Center and its mortgage banker, The Marshall Group. Remove it I say! If CREW fails to remove it, lawyer Ansis says he "must advise" CREW that The Marshall Group is "prepared to pursue all remedies available to it."

Spot actually likes lawyer Ansis' letter. When he says that he "must advise" CREW, Ansis sounds like he sincerely regrets having to threaten CREW. On the other hand, he probably does regret it, because he doesn't have a legal leg to stand on. CREW is not a party to any confidentiality agreement. On the contrary, CREW likes fresh air! When a media organization receives information by legal means, it is free to publish it. Ansis' letter has a plaintive quality to it entirely lacking in lawyer Jennifer's letter from last week.

Boys and girls, the letter that lawyer Ansis sent is called a cease and desist letter. That's a lawyers' term of art. CREW sent a response. The response was also a lawyers' term of art. It's called a go pee in your hat letter.

It would be really interesting to see what pastor Mac has to say this Sunday about the whole matter. Perhaps the service will be webcast. Avidor, you know what to do!

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