Friday, March 30, 2007

Who is Katie’s good Muslim?

Zuhdi Jasser: boy, that name is familiar.

Oh come on, Spot. You never heard of him until Katie gave him a big write up Thursday.

I suppose you're right, grasshopper. Actually, it's Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, Chairman, Board of Directors. And that would be Chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, an organization that advertises itself as "at home with American liberty and freedom." Spot has a box of kibble that says the "M" stands for Mohammed, which the doc is apparently ashamed of.

Katie made a big deal in the linked column about the fact that the doc was opposed to the lawsuit brought by the flying imams against US Airways, the MAC, and perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Bigot.

Here's a little more about the background of Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, from the AIFD site:

Dr. Jasser is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander and served in the U.S. Navy as a medical officer from 1988-1999. He is a native of Wisconsin and graduated from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1992 with Honors in Research. He completed his medical education on a military scholarship as part of the National Health Professions Scholarship Program with the U.S. Navy. He then completed his internship in internal medicine at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda Maryland in 1993. After serving as Head, Medical Department aboard the U.S.S. El Paso from 1993-1994, Dr. Jasser completed his residency training in internal medicine at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He was selected to serve as Chief Resident in Internal Medicine from 1996-1997 and then served his final tour in the Navy as a staff internist in the Office of the Attending Physician for the U.S. Congress from 1997-1999. He finished his military service as a Lieutenant Commander with an Honorable Discharge in 1999. His highest military award was the Meritorious Service Medal. He is now in the private practice of internal medicine and nuclear cardiology in Phoenix Arizona.

In 2002, Dr. Jasser noted the obvious increasing American attention to Islam and Muslims and their role in the national and international war against Islamism and 'Islamo-fascists'. As a result of what he felt to be a paucity of Muslim scholarship demonstrating the synergy of American democracy and its founding principles with the religion of Islam, he set out to form AIFD. He felt that many Muslims came to America in fact somewhat similarly to our founding fathers and so many others--- seeking freedom, liberty, and the American dream in order to escape religious persecution from so-called "Islamic" lands.

Dr. Jasser is a cheesehead! Not only that, he was a doctor for Congressional representatives for a couple of years. Are you beginning to see where Dr. Jasser is coming from boys and girls? Here's a little more about Dr. Jasser. Doc Jasser actually sounds like an accomplished guy, but he's pretty conservative—voted for George Bush—and obviously has a lot invested in the American Dream. Wouldn't you have liked to know about his eleven years in the US military and his conservative politics before accepting his views of the flying imams' lawsuit from Katie? Of course you would.

It doesn't mean you would discard what Dr. Jasser has to say, but it would certainly help you understand him if you had a little more about his background. It's no secret—Spot found it readily enough—but Katie's identification of him is incomplete enough to be called misleading.

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Sauce for the goose, etc.

Via Mia Culpa, this from a column in today's Guardian in the UK:

It's right that the government and media should be concerned about the treatment the 15 captured marines and sailors are receiving in Iran. Faye Turney's letters bear the marks of coercion, while parading the prisoners in front of TV cameras was demeaning. But the outrage expressed by ministers and leader writers is curious given the recent record of the "coalition of the willing" on the way it deals with prisoners.

Turney may have been "forced to wear the hijab", as the Daily Mail noted with fury, but so far as we know she has not been forced into an orange jumpsuit. Her comrades have not been shackled, blindfolded, forced into excruciating physical contortions for long periods, or denied liquids and food. As far as we know they have not had the Bible spat on, torn up or urinated on in front of their faces. They have not had electrodes attached to their genitals or been set on by attack dogs.

They have not been hung from a forklift truck and photographed for the amusement of their captors. They have not been pictured naked and smeared in their own excrement. They have not been bundled into a CIA-chartered plane and secretly "rendered" to a basement prison in a country where torturers are experienced and free to do their worst.

As far as we know, Turney and her comrades are not being "worked hard", the euphemism coined by one senior British army officer for the abuse of prisoners at Camp Bread Basket. And as far as we know all 15 are alive and well, which is more than can be said for Baha Mousa, the hotel receptionist who, in 2003, was unfortunate enough to have been taken into custody by British troops in Basra. There has of course been a court martial and it exonerated the soldiers of Mousa's murder. So we can only assume that his death - by beating - was self-inflicted; yet another instance of "asymmetrical warfare", the description given by US authorities to the deaths of the Guantánamo detainees who hanged themselves last year.

You know where international law on the treatment of POWs and detainees comes from, don't you boys and girls?

Spotty, you taught us that it is contained in the Geneva Conventions.

Very good grasshopper. Here's part of Convention III, Article 13:

[P]risoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

Airing a videotape of the Brits in Iranian custody is certainly frowned on by this Article. But have we not lost some of our standing to complain about it for the reasons set forth in the Guardian column? Let's remember what our current Attorney General said back when he was White House counsel:

Notwithstanding his mild-mannered appearance, Gonzales is the iron fist in the velvet glove. Gonzales, whom Bush affectionately calls "mi abogado" ("my lawyer"), wrote one of the most outrageous torture memos. On January 25, 2002, Gonzales advised Bush that "the war on terrorism is a new kind of war, a new paradigm [that] renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitation on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders some of its provisions quaint."

After we manage to somehow pick a fight with Iran—we're working on it even as Spot writes this—you can be sure there will be more American and British service personnel captured in battle. What will we say when they are captured and rendered hors de combat?

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oh, here’s one!

Katie finally found a "good" Muslim. No, he's not a dead Muslim, boys and girls, but he's a Muslim who thinks the flying imams were out of line:

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of Phoenix was deeply troubled after 9-11. A Muslim, he saw his faith threatened by extremists seeking to hijack it for political ends. "Islam is a spiritual path," he says. "The mixture of politics and religion is toxic to our faith."

In 2003, Jasser founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy with several like-minded Arizona Muslims. "We are pro-Islam and anti-Islamist," he says. In Jasser's view, Islamists believe that governments should incorporate Islamic law, and that spiritual leaders should also be political leaders.

Though he is well-known in Arizona, he has not been visible outside the state. But that changed a few weeks ago, when he publicly challenged the six imams who filed suit after being detained at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Five of them are from Arizona, and Jasser knows several of them, he says. He has volunteered to raise money to help any passengers they sue for reporting their behavior, as they have threatened to do.

Suddenly Jasser is a sought-after radio and TV commentator. His new role is taking lots of time, a scarce commodity for Jasser, who practices internal medicine and is president of the Arizona Medical Association.

Katie quotes Jasser with apparent approval when he says:

"I believe I represent the views of the large majority of Muslims in this country," says Jasser. "They are repulsed by political sermons, by apologetics for terrorism. The vast majority do want to separate their spiritual identity from their political identity."

Yes, Katie, separation of church and state is so important when the church, er, mosque, is Muslim. But your writing clearly shows you don't think the same is true when the religion is Christian. Your views of gay marriage, religious involvement in schools, and the list goes on, make that clear.

Let Spot ask you this Katie: if the imams had been Christian evangelicals, flush with religious fervor after a revival, and were singing Onward Christian Soldiers at the airport gate, would you have a different opinion? Would the Mr. and Mrs. Bigot?

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Et tu, Abdu?

A report from the Arab League summit in today's Star Tribune starts this way:

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, one of the United States' closest Arab allies, told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the U.S. presence in Iraq was illegal and warned that unless Arab governments settled their differences, foreign powers such as the United States would continue to dictate the region's politics.

"In beloved Iraq, blood is flowing between brothers, in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and abhorrent sectarianism threatens a civil war," the king said at the opening of the Arab League summit meeting here.

Juan Cole brings the comments into a little tighter focus:

King Abdullah followed up on these harsh criticisms of the US by cancelling his planned appearance at a White House dinner in April. The Saudi royal family is fit to be tied that Bush gave Iraq away to fundamentalist Shiite parties that have close ties to Iran.

Although the Saudi statement is remarkable for its brutal frankness and coldness toward the United States, its real significance is its slam of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Abdullah has not only said that the US presence is an illegal occupation, he has said that the al-Maliki government is nothing more than Shiite sectarian hegemony. The Saudis are known for their behind the scenes diplomacy and their public discretion. King Abdullah is hopping mad, to talk this way. It augurs ill for US-Saudi relations. Abdullah is also angry that Bush is letting the Palestine issue fester and that he pushed for open Palestinian elections but then cut off the Hamas government once it was elected. Abdullah thinks Bush is pursuing irrational policies, the effect of which is to destabilize the Middle East. He is so angry that he sounds a bit like Iraqi Sunni fundamentalist leader Harith al-Dhari, who is connected in some shadowy way with the Sunni guerrillas fighting the US.

Being criticized by the Saudi royal family brings no special moral opprobrium in Spot's opinion. But it does show just hope isolated the US is in the Middle East. Even our thuggish friends are abandoning us.

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What HE said

Gwynne Dyer, who Spot regrettably once referred to as "she," had an op-ed piece in today's Star Tribune.

Spotty, that isn't regrettable, just ignorant.

As you wish, grasshopper. Anyway, he discussed in some depth something that Spot mentioned yesterday:

Capt. Johanson [commander of the carrier John C. Stennis] has broken or missing irony sensors and empathy sensors! And he sounds like he is spoiling for a fight. A decision made at the ship-commander level is probably how a war with Iran will start.

Dyer makes the same point today:

"I don't want to second-guess the British after the fact," said U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Erik Horner, "but our rules of engagement allow a little more latitude. Our boarding team's training is a little bit more towards self-preservation." Does that mean that one of his American boarding teams would have opened fire if it had been them in the two inflatable boats that were surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast patrol boats off the coast of Iraq last Friday? "Agreed. Yes."

Who is scrappy Lt. Commander Horner?

Horner is the executive officer of the USS Underwood, the American frigate that works together with HMS Cornwall, the British ship that the captive boarding party came from. Interviewed after the incident by Terri Judd of the Independent, the only British print journalist on HMS Cornwall, he was obviously struggling to be polite about the gutless Brits, but he wasn't having much success.

Dyer muses about the result of detaining Americans in the same situation:

"The U.S. Navy rules of engagement say we have not only a right to self-defense but also an obligation to self-defense," Horner explained. "[The British] had every right in my mind and every justification to defend themselves rather than allow themselves to be taken. Our reaction was, 'Why didn't your guys defend themselves?'

So there they are, eight sailors and seven marines in two rubber boats, with personal weapons and no protection whatever, sitting about a foot above the water, surrounded by six or seven Iranian attack boats with mounted machine guns. "Defend yourself" by opening fire, and after a single long burst from half a dozen heavy machine-guns there will be 14 dead young men and one dead young woman in two rapidly sinking inflatables, and your country will be at war. Seems a bit pointless, really.

Dyer is ordinarily more insightful than this. (kidding) The rules of engagement for the US Navy are designed to provoke a war with Iran. And it's a hothead like Horner who will deliver one. That's the whole bloody idea.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bullies and aircraft carriers

You remember Coleman McCarthy, don't you boys and girls?

Sure Spotty, he used to be a columnist at the Washington Post, right?

Exactly grasshopper. Now he directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C.

Next question: who has heard of Capt. Bradley Johanson? Anybody? All right.

Well, Capt. Johanson is the commander of the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, the modern incarnation of a dreadnaught, currently motoring around the Persian Gulf.

What do these two men have in common?

[furrowed brows and sighing] We don't know, Spotty.

It is admittedly a little obscure, so Spot will help you out. The both got some ink in the Star Tribune today, March 28.

That's the only connection?

Not the only one. They represent the yin and yang of human empathy. First up is McCarthy, who had a piece on bullying on the op-ed page. Spot wants you to read the whole thing, boys and girls, but here is a taste:

In 25 years of teaching courses on nonviolent conflict resolution -- to high school, college, law school students and prison inmates -- I've argued that violence is a learned behavior. Bullies aren't born, they are taught: often by peers, sometimes by the adults at home or coaches who berate their players during practices or games, and perhaps by living in a country like the United States that is perceived by much of the world as a global bully. [italics are Spot's]

If violence is learned, can empathy, kindness and tolerance also be learned? Yes. If taught well and taught consistently, those skills are as teachable as any others.

A prime solution is exposing children in the early grades to the satisfaction of service to others. If parents, teachers and coaches encourage -- and demonstrate themselves -- reaching out to someone who needs help, a message is sent: We are a caring family, we are a caring school; we are a caring team. Be a part of it. Whether the service is as basic as clearing the table after dinner or as large as volunteering at Special Olympics, chances increase that a child will become less self-centered and more other-centered.

Spot says that is a pithy and powerful statement about how to raise your pups. Spot wrote about this recently in Katie enslaves her dog.

And now for a quote from Capt. Johanson in an article about why he is motoring around in the Persian Gulf (the quote is in the last paragraph):

ABOARD THE JOHN C. STENNIS - U.S. warplanes screamed off two aircraft carriers Tuesday as the U.S. Navy staged its largest show of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, launching a mammoth exercise meant as a message to the Iranians.

The maneuvers with more than 10,000 U.S. personnel, 15 warships and more than 100 aircraft were sure to heighten tensions with Iran, which has frequently condemned the U.S. military presence off its coast and which is in a faceoff with the West over its nuclear program and its capture of a British naval team.

While they would not say when the war games were planned, U.S. commanders insisted the exercises were not a direct response to Friday's seizure of the 15 British sailors and marines. But they made it clear that the flexing of the Navy's military might was intended as a warning.

"If there is strong presence, then it sends a clear message that you better be careful about trying to intimidate others," said Capt. Bradley Johanson, commander of the Stennis. "Iran has adopted a very escalatory posture with the things that they have done."

Let's see, the United States has invaded the countries on either side of Iran and currently has two battleship groups patrolling off-shore of Iran to the south. Iran detained some British sailors and marines who may or may not have been in international waters, and who were themselves detaining ships:

Exhausted after working a 17-hour day the small group nevertheless seemed buoyed by the day's events, explaining how they had been boarding ships carrying suspected smugglers earlier and planned to return the following morning.

There are two possible scenarios here. First, the Brits were in Iranian territorial waters; in that case they were legitimately subject to arrest for the territorial violation. Second, they were in international waters. In which case you have to ask yourselves, boys and girls, by what authority were they detaining ships on the high seas? Do you suppose we would like it if the Iranians did that?

If Spotty was an Iranian, he would want a nuclear weapon, or several of them, pretty badly. Wouldn't you, boys and girls? Think about the Axis of Evil: North Korea has nukes and didn't get invaded; Iraq didn't have them and got invaded. Which category do you think Iran prefers?

Capt. Johanson has broken or missing irony sensors and empathy sensors! And he sounds like he is spoiling for a fight. A decision made at the ship-commander level is probably how a war with Iran will start.

Spotty wonders if Capt. Johanson was a bully.

Update: You might want to read Arthur Silber's Sleepwalking to the End of the World.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Praying for Monica

O Lord, my Lord!

What is it now, Michele?

I'm glad you're there.

I'm ALWAYS here, Michele. Sometimes I just choose not to be on call.

I'm praying about somebody else tonight, Lord, not myself.

That's refreshing.


Never mind. Just tell me who's in a pickle now.

It's thy maid servant Monica Goodling. She works for the Justice Department.

Yeah, I've heard of her. And you're right. She needs help.

Then you already know about her situation.

More than you, Michele.

Of course, Lord. Will you help her?

What did you have in mind?

I was hoping that you would smite that awful Pat Leahy. And maybe Chuck Schumer, too, although I don't want to ask too much.

Very considerate of you.

Lord, it's just that Monica went to a Godly law school. So did I, as you well know. And we get made fun of for our legal education by the unbelievers. Well, and by some believers, too. I feel her pain.

That's Bill Clinton's line. You know that, don't you?

It is? I'll never use it again. Yuck!

I don't know Michele. I've always sort of liked it. But back to smiting. That's a pretty tall order. Especially since Leahy is on to something.

That's why it is so important that he be smitten, or smited, or whatever.

But let's say Michele, just for the sake of argument, that Monica did some things she shouldn't have done, and said some things she shouldn't have said. It wouldn't really be fair to smite someone who is just trying to get to the bottom of it, would it?

But Monica is one of your people, a sheep in your flock.

You're all sheep to me. God was that Freudian, if I do say so myself. Michele, what would you say if I told you that Monica was involved in activities that were detrimental to the operation of the very process of justice? That she may have interfered with some public corruption cases, and that she assisted in the damaging of the careers and reputations of some fine lawyers.

Well, Lord, I'm sure she had a good reason! It had to be to speed Your Kingdom here on earth.

Hey, don't put this on me! I am not going to smite Pat Leahy; I'm not even going to swat him a little. I may actually pat him on the back.

What? Help someone afflicting one of your sheep?

I told you Michele, you're all sheep to me. It's you people who are always trying to divide everybody up into "us" and "them." It kind of annoys me, frankly. Monica's got the Ninth Commandment on her rapsheet now. Remember the Ninth Commandment?

Ah . . .

I'll save you the embarrassment. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

But Lord, number Nine? It's way down on the list. It would be easy to miss.

I always remember things I read last better, Michele. I am afraid Monica is on her own.

You won't do anything for her?

Well, maybe a little advice.

That would be wonderful! What is it?

Tell her to listen to her lawyer. Take the Fifth.

But this will probably ruin her career!

Sometimes, Michele, when you burn your butt, you have to sit on the blisters.

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We’re winning! II

Here's some more confirmation that Johnny Rocketseed is right: we're winning in Iraq:

More on the rocket attack in the Green Zone today. There were injuries and fatalities.

The military in Iraq had a good laugh over John McCain's comments on Bill Bennett's radio show that there are neighborhoods in Iraq where an American could go for a stroll:

Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told radio host Bill Bennett that President Bush's escalation is working. "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today," he said. Today, when CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked McCain why Americans still aren't able to safely leave the Green Zone in Iraq, the senator replied that Blitzer was giving three-month-old talking points:

"General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed humvee. I think you oughta catch up. You are giving the old line of three months ago. I understand it. We certainly don't get it through the filter of some of the media."

But according to CNN reporter Michael Ware, who has been in Iraq for four years, McCain is "way off base." He stated, "To suggest that there's any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I'd love Sen. McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll."

Ware also rebutted McCain's assertion that Petaeus travels in an unarmed humvee: "[I]n the hour since Sen. McCain's said this, I've spoken to military sources and there was laughter down the line. I mean, certainly the general travels in a humvee. There's multiple humvees around it, heavily armed."

John McCain—and Johnny Rocketseed, too—may be oriented to time and place, but that's about it.

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Who is Monica Goodling?

She's a real legal scholar, apparently:

WASHINGTON - Monica Goodling, the Department of Justice official who said Monday that she'll invoke the Fifth Amendment rather than talk to lawmakers, is a frequent figure in department e-mails released so far as part of the congressional investigation into the firings and hirings of U.S. attorneys.

Goodling, 33, is a 1995 graduate Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., an institution that describes itself as "committed to embracing an evangelical spirit."

She received her law degree at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Regent, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, says its mission is "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world."

You have to wonder what Carol Lam and David Iglesias and the others thought about flyweights like Goodling and Kyle Sampson messing with their careers.

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We’re winning!

That's the report from a breathless Johnny Rocketseed today over at Powerline (no link):

March 27, 2007

It's Official, We're Winning

That's what Blog of the Week--rapidly turning into Blog of the Spring--Jules Crittenden says, anyway:

… we can win in Iraq, we are winning in Iraq, and George Bush's surge strategy is responsible for it. Not even the AP can ignore it* anymore:

The US military has captured the leaders of a car-bombing ring blamed for killing hundreds of Iraqis.

The news came as the departing US ambassador said Americans are in ongoing talks with insurgent representatives to try to persuade them to turn against al-Qaeda.

It is noteworthy, though the AP can't quite bring itself to note it, that the anti-al-Qaeda Sunni insurgents have advanced beyond the Democratic congressional leadership in their thinking:

Khalilzad said the talks have shifted from "unreasonable demands" by the groups for a US withdrawal to forming an alliance against al-Qaeda. He said the effort has gained support among tribal leaders and even some insurgents.

"Iraqis are uniting against al-Qaeda," he said.

It's been reported on and off for a long time that Sunni insurgents are turning against al Qaeda. Armed clashes between the two groups have been reported from time to time.

I do think the surge is showing results, but our concern, as always, is that the kind of violence that the terrorists in Iraq rely on--car bombs, etc.--is easy enough to carry out that if the standard of success in Iraq is an absence of violence, it may never be satisfied despite our best efforts. [italics are Spot's]

Posted by John at 10:24 AM

So now we win not if 1) Saddam is disarmed of WMD, 2) Iraq becomes a Jeffersonian democracy, or 3) we get electricity to Iraqis more than a few hours a day, but rather if the escalation shows results, even if Iraq remains violent? You guys are getting really easy to please! Spot has an idea, Johnny, why don't you just declare victory so we can come home?

Honestly, Johnny's grip on the real world seems so fragile that Spot cannot figure out how he ever makes a record in court.

Meanwhile, Iraq continues to go to hell in a handbasket:

Attacks Throughout Iraq Kill at Least 65

Baghdad's Green Zone hit by rocket

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please find enclosed the rotting remains of your spouse/child/parent/other family member (whichever applies):

HOUSTON -- Like thousands of other Americans who have served in Iraq since the U.S. intervention began four years ago, Walter Zbryski came home in a coffin. Only his coffin was not draped in an American flag or accompanied by a military honor guard.

Instead, the mangled body of the 56-year-old retired firefighter from New York City was shipped back to his family in June 2004 in the bloodied clothes in which he died, with half of his head blown away, according to Zbryski's brother Richard.

"I viewed the body," Richard Zbryski said. "What really upset me was that he was laying there floating in at least 6 inches of his own body fluids. They didn't even clean him up for us."

Zbryski's death was not counted among the official tally of more than 3,200 American military personnel who have been killed in Iraq, nor was it noted by the Defense Department in a news release. That's because Zbryski was not a soldier--he was a truck driver working in the private army of hundreds of thousands of contractors hired by the Pentagon to support the logistical side of the massive American war effort in Iraq.

The linked article goes on to state that about 770 "contractors" have died in Iraq since the invasion, which is about a hundred more than the last time Spot talked about this, which wasn't that long ago.

The most recent statistic for deaths among those contractors is 770 as of the end of 2006, according to the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Division of the U.S. Labor Department, which computes the figures from workers' compensation claims filed under the federal Defense Base Act.

But those figures, which also count 7,761 contract workers injured in Iraq, appear to understate the actual number of casualties because they do not include killings of off-duty workers. Nor do they specify the nationalities of the dead and wounded.

We need to be better at considering these deaths and injuries in calculating the butcher's bill.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Patrick Leahy is a meanie!

Spot learned today that one of the persons that the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to talk to in the U.S. Attorneys purge is going to keep her lips zipped. Monica Goodling won't talk:

The official, Monica Goodling, the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, is invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and so will decline to answer "any and all questions regarding the firings," her lawyer, John M. Dowd, said.

But Dowd doesn't want you to think that Goodling has anything to hide:

But Ms. Goodling's refusal does not signal that she has anything to hide, Mr. Dowd told the Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy. Rather, Mr. Dowd said, it is a recognition of the "hostile and questionable environment" that has been spawned by the controversy.

"For example, you, Mr. Chairman, have concluded that the attorney general and deputy attorney general 'failed to tell Congress the whole truth about this matter under oath,' " Mr. Dowd told Mr. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.

Mr. Dowd also cited remarks by another committee Democrat, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who asserted on March 13 that the Justice Department statement's [sic] about the firings consisted of "misleading statement after misleading statement." Such remarks illustrate the hostile atmosphere permeating the controversy over the firings, Mr. Dowd said.

In other words, Patrick Leahy is a meanie. And so is Chuck Schumer. But you see, boys and girls, you don't get to decline to testify just because you think people won't be nice to you. How stupid do you think Senator Leahy is, Mr. Dowd? Spot thinks he sees right through you:

Mr. Leahy said this afternoon he was disappointed in Ms. Goodling's decision, "but everyone has the constitutional right not to incriminate themselves with regard to criminal conduct."

"The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms. Goodling's concern that she may incriminate herself," Mr. Leahy added.

Wonder indeed. Most of us are actually pretty suspicious by now.

There is a way around this, gentlemen. Immunize Ms. Goodling's testimony before the committees and then compel her to talk on pain of contempt. Pat Fitzgerald could probably tell you about the contempt part, or maybe even Judy Miller. Goodling is a small fish; immunizing her would be helpful in getting to the bottom of this entire tawdry affair. In fact, that's what attorney Dowd may be fishing for.

Grants of immunity by Congress are controversial, and it is often prosecutors who are the most opposed to them. Here is an exchange between Sam Dash and Archibald Cox on the subject generally of congressional committees mucking around a prosecutor's turf:

[Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox to Samuel Dash, Chief Counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee: ] "No one doubts the responsibility your committee had to fully investigate and expose the facts at a time when the Department of Justice could not be trusted to do that job. But now, as a result of the urging of the Senate itself, an independent special prosecutor has been appointed-me-with a broad mandate to investigate all the Watergate charges, and even more, to prosecute those who are indicted by the grand jury. It doesn't seem to make any sense that there should be two investigations, does it?"

[Dash to Cox:] "[T]hat's absolutely ridiculous! ... Our tasks are entirely separate and distinct. You were appointed to conduct a criminal investigation, which will end up in decisions that certain persons are guilty of criminal offenses and might have to go to jail. We have a broader responsibility. Under our mandate and constitutional duty, our Senate committee must find and publicly expose the facts involving corruption and abuse of power in the executive branch. We also must recommend remedial legislation, but we can't do that without producing the facts that support such legislation. The committee can't abdicate these responsibilities now. I can tell you that [committee Chairman] Ervin and the other members of the committee would be absolutely opposed to shutting down our public hearings."

Because Goodling is the liaison between the Justice Department and the White House, she probably knows where most of the bones are buried.

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Tillman: just Horst Wessel to conservatives

Most of you know by now, boys and girls, that football star Pat Tillman was killed by "friendly fire" in Afghanistan, not by the swarthy terrorists. Tillman's death had much better story potential than that, however, and a cover up and recasting of the story in heroic terms began immediately.

Tillman's death came at a sensitive time for the Bush administration — just a week before the Army's abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq became public and sparked a huge scandal. The Pentagon immediately announced that Tillman had died heroically in combat with the enemy, and President Bush hailed him as "an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror."

The right-wing punditry picked up the meme immediately:

His killing was widely reported by the media, including conservative commentators such as Ann Coulter, who called him "an American original — virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be." His May 3, 2004, memorial in San Jose drew 3,500 people and was nationally televised. [italics are Spot's] [Spot's seventh grade grammar teacher would also have been disgusted by Coulter's grammar.]

But the prevarication unraveled, as it usually does (just ask Alberto Gonzales):

A [San Francisco] Chronicle review of more than 2,000 pages of testimony, as well as interviews with Pat Tillman's family members and soldiers who served with him, found contradictions, inaccuracies and what appears to be the military's attempt at self-protection.

And now, several Army officers, including four—count 'em four—generals are in trouble for their prevarication, according to Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher:

(March 25, 2007) -- By all accounts, the belated official military probe of the Pat Tillman killing and cover-up on Monday will call on the carpet nine officers, including up to four generals, for badly mishandling information. This is what The Associated Press reported yesterday, adding that the investigation found there was no "orchestrated" cover-up.

But even if Tillman's outspoken family affirms that justice has finally been done -- don't count on it -- it is vital to look back two years at why the case stirs such anger and reveals so much about military deceit and (too often) media acceptance of it.

You remember Horst Wessel, boys and girls? He's the songster who wrote a little ditty for the Nazis, got killed in a partisan dust up, and was lionized by Goebbels' propaganda machine:

The lyrics of the song were composed in 1929 by Horst Wessel, a Nazi activist and local commander of the Nazi militia, the SA, in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain. Wessel was assassinated by a Communist activist in January 1930, and the propaganda apparatus of the Berlin Gauleiter, Dr Joseph Goebbels, made him the leading martyr of the Nazi Movement. The song became the official Song of Consecration (Weihelied) for the Nazi Party, and was extensively used at party functions as well as being sung by the SA during street parades.

That's pretty harsh, Spotty.

Yeah, it is. But when you lie to suit your political purposes, it's propaganda, regardless of who does it. Tillman's situation may be even worse, since it appears that good ol' Horst was offed by a Communist. According the linked San Francisco Chronicle article, Tillman had misgivings about what was going on in Iraq, where he had been stationed on an earlier tour:

"I can see it like a movie screen," Baer said. "We were outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching as bombs were dropping on the town. We were at an old air base, me, Kevin and Pat, we weren't in the fight right then. We were talking. And Pat said, 'You know, this war is so f— illegal.' And we all said, 'Yeah.' That's who he was. He totally was against Bush."

Another soldier in the platoon, who asked not to be identified, said Pat urged him to vote for Bush's Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry.

Clearly, Pat Tillman was used, just like Horst Wessel.

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Can you beat him, Daddy?

A conversation from long ago with one of Spot's pups:

Daddy, can you beat Hoak?


You know, Hoak.

I don't know who you mean.

Sure you do. Hoak. Hoak Hogan.

Why would I fight with Hulk Hogan?

I don't know.

Hulk Hogan is, of course, Katie's avatar for Gerald Nolting, the Minneapolis lawyer who wants to kick some imam butt. Spot has said this about Nolting's entrance—stage right, of course:

Word comes today that Spartan Gerald Nolting at Faegre & Benson has donned his feathered helmet and unsheathed his mighty briefcase in defense of Mr. and Mrs. Bigot.

Spot thought that calling Nolting a Spartan—a reference to the new cartoon 300 was pretty clever—but he has to admit that Katie has him beat: Hulk Hogan, the quintessential oily, narcissistic blowhard. Spot can't top that. Bet Gerry loved it, too!

There is only one teensy problem. Nowhere has it been reported—and Katie doesn't either—that Mr. and Mrs. Bigot have contacted Hoak, er, Gerry.

Little kids on the playground love to exchange taunts of "My Dad can beat up your Dad!" Katie is no different here. She's just as childish. Whether one dad can beat up another is always irrelevant to the dispute at hand, and the fact that Gerald Nolting is willing to don his Crusader costume tells us nothing about whether imams have a case or whether the Bigots should be worried. It's a variation of the whose god is stronger argument.

Spot has an idea. Tell you what Gerry, if you feel so strongly that the Bigots are pure as the driven snow, why don't you offer, in addition to representing them, to indemnify them against any judgment entered against them? Really put your money where your mouth is!

And Spot has a tip for Mr. and Mrs. Bigot, too. In describing Nolting's exploits, the first thing Katie mentions is a $5 billion dollar punitive damage award won against Exxon because of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill. [whispering in Mr. Bigot's ear, now] But you might want to ask how much of that money has been collected so far.

Tags: wants to wrestle the

Sunday, March 25, 2007

More about Dave's op-ed piece last Sunday

A week ago, Dave, who is presently serving in Iraq, wrote an op-ed piece in the Star Tribune that Spot commented on here. You will recall, boys and girls, that Dave often writes to Spot expressing shock, horror, and dismay at some opinion ably expressed by Spot here at the Cucking Stool™. Anyway.

The centerpiece of Dave's argument was that we should stay in a Iraq because most of the US service people there wanted to stay and finish the job. Spot quarreled with that conclusion and Dave's evidence offered in support of it.

Spot said Dave was wrong. Today, a letter writer in the Star Tribune assumed that Dave was correct about support in the military for staying in Iraq, but disagreed with his conclusion:
I must respond to Dave Thul's very well expressed opinions regarding the Iraq situation ("In Iraq as in football, defense is crucial," March 18). As a retired military officer, I believe there is another aspect to this issue that needs equal consideration.

I agree with him wholeheartedly that our leaders' constant equivocating and petty
arguing do nothing to make the soldiers' lives safer or better. The Democrats, clearly receiving a strong mandate to change the strategy in Iraq, seem completely paralyzed and almost pitiful. The Republicans, who can come up with nothing better than "more of the same," are no better. For this I empathize with Thul.

We must take care, however, not to give greater consideration to the opinion of the
troops, who have fought bravely and hard, than that of the majority of their countrymen. Of course they want to finish what they started. Of course they want their sacrifices to mean something. Of course they feel we can still "win." That's why we serve.

Ultimately, however, the military and people in uniform do not decide our national
strategy; we in the military are simply tools of national strategy. It cannot and must not be otherwise in a democracy.


Spot never called you a simple tool, Dave. (kidding) But Mr. Pederson makes a great point. It is the civilians who run the show and call the shots.

Update: Added missing link to Pederson letter.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Insulation of Bigotry Act of 2007, part 2

We have to spend some more time on this stinker, boys and girls. You may recall from Spot's earlier post that H.R. 1640, co-sponsored by Minnesota's own Congressman John Kline, purports to insulate people who report "suspicious behavior" to authorities.

What kind of "suspicious behavior," Spotty?

Well, let's look at this archetype of legislative craftsmanship, shall we, grasshopper? Spot has the bill right here. Hmmmm, let's see, suspicious . . . suspicious. You know, grasshopper the Colonel's bill doesn't limit the meaning of "suspicious behavior" in any way. It must cover all kinds of suspicious behavior! Let's see if we can think of some examples.

A brown-skinned man moved into your neighborhood recently. He came home last night with a white woman who was still there when you went to bed at 10:30. Suspicious? You bet!

A woman who always wears a veil walks past your house twice a day, in opposite directions each time. She often glances up and sees you scowling on the porch. You think she may be checking out your place to use as an al Qaeda safe house, after killing you and stuffing your body in the attic. Suspicious? Obviously.

You're at the grocery store. Two women behind you in line are chatting in some gibberish you don't understand. They seem to be complaining about something. You try to move forward and away from them, but they just step forward right behind you. You get really nervous, and then the two women start to laugh. Suspicious? Spot says you should be!

You know, boys and girls, there was a lot of score settling that went on in tribal Afghanistan when word got out that the CIA was paying informants to finger al Qaeda suspects. Imagine, settling a grudge and getting paid for it, too. It is likewise dangerous mischief to set people and groups against each other, fanning their paranoia and distrust.

That's all that H.R. 1640 does. As we have seen, it is meaningless as a law, incapable of being construed, applied, or enforced. The only thing it serves to accomplish is to reinforce the bigotry of those persons already so inclined.

A thump of the tail to CP for the inspiration.

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Bill Maher on patriotism

Via Dependable Renegade and Attaturk and a UTuber Joriet2:

Friday, March 23, 2007

Insulation of Bigotry Act of 2007

This one has gotten quite a bit of play over at Powerline today. Rep. Stevan Pierce (that's how Powerline spells it) from New Mexico introduced H.R. 1640, the short title of which is Protecting Americans Fighting Terrorism Act of 2007. Here's the impassioned, if ever-so-slightly misguided, Pierce in a press release talking about his new Magna Carta for bigots:

Today, United States Congressman Steve Pearce introduced H.R. 1640 the "Protecting Americans Fighting Terrorism Act of 2007." If passed, this legislation would protect individuals from being sued for reporting suspicious activities to law enforcement and security personnel.

The language of the Act comes as a direct response to a recent incident in Minneapolis. As reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the imams engaged in a variety of suspicious behaviors while boarding a US Airways flight, according to the airport police report. Some prayed loudly in the gate area, spoke angrily about the United States and Saddam, switched seats and sat in the 9/11 hijackers' configuration, and unnecessarily requested seatbelt extenders that could be used as weapons, according to witness reports and US Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader.

As a result of the aforementioned behavior, citizens contacted airline authorities and the pilot informed law enforcement to have the suspicious parties removed from the aircraft. The original incident occurred in November of 2006; now the group has filed suit against US Airways and the Minneapolis - St. Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission on 17 different charges. Included in the lawsuit as defendants, are "John Does" described as citizens who called authorities to report the suspicious behavior of the Imams.

Rep. Pearce commented on introducing the bill: "It is a sad day in America when our own institutions of freedom are being used against us in the battle against terrorism. When I first heard about the lawsuit brought by the 'imams' in Minnesota, it was clear to me that this was an injustice against Americans who were simply trying to protect themselves. These brave citizens should be recognized as heroes for their efforts to report suspicious activity, particularly activity that has been associated with previous terror attacks.

"As Americans, we must not allow ourselves to be bullied by individuals who seek to disrupt our way of life. We can not allow the sympathizers of terrorism to make Americans wonder if they could be sued before reporting possible terrorist activity. Whether it is an intimidation tactic or a full scale attack, Americans have the right and responsibility to protect themselves and their fellow citizens. I introduced this legislation to protect Americans and keep all citizens alert and vocal as they serve on the front line in our battle against terrorism here in America."

Rep. Pearce was joined by 10 cosponsors in introducing this legislation.

One of the co-sponsors was the Colonel, our own John Kline.

Spotty has seen some grandstanding in his day, but Reps. Pearce and Kline, you take the Oscar® for this one. How many lawsuits do you think this will prevent, boys and girls?

It has to be a lot Spotty, otherwise Reps. Pearce and Kline wouldn't have bothered.

Oh, you are a callow fellow, grasshopper! The answer is zero. Here's what Rep. Pearce's bills says: you can't bring a civil action in a federal or state court for making a "qualified disclosure" of "suspicious conduct." Here's how a "qualified disclosure" is defined:

For purposes of this section, the term "qualified disclosure of suspicious behavior" means any disclosure of the allegedly suspicious behavior of another individual or individuals to a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency or other security personnel that is made in good faith and with the reasonable belief that such behavior is suspicious.

Who is going to determine whether the discloser had a "reasonable belief" that the behavior was "suspicious"? And what's the standard? A reasonable person, or the panicked Mr. and Mrs. Bigot?

Boy, those sound like a question for the courts, Spotty!

Yes, grasshopper that's right. Which is why Rep. Pearce's exercise in futility will not keep anybody out of the courtroom. And Spotty says that the bill does not affect the legal standard a whit, either.

If you truthfully report facts to a law enforcement official, you don't have any liability for what the law enforcement official does. Aye, "truthfully," there's the rub. Either way, the Bigots are prospective defendants. If they're telling the truth, Spartan Nolting gets them off the hook, if they, er, embellished their story, they are probably liable whether or not Rep. Pearce's silly bill is passed.


Damn, it’s not Hinderaker!

Word comes today that Spartan Gerald Nolting at Faegre & Benson has donned his feathered helmet and unsheathed his mighty briefcase in defense of Mr. and Mrs. Bigot. No word yet on whether the Bigots will accept their magnanimous champion's offer of free representation in litigation brought by the imams against US Airways, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, and perhaps the Bigots, if they can be found. They seem to be lying pretty low at the moment.

According to the Washington Times, Spartan Nolting said this in laying down the gauntlet:

Gerry Nolting, whose Minnesota law firm Faegre & Benson LLP is offering to represent passengers for free, says the judicial system is being "used for intimidation purposes" and that it is "just flat wrong and needs to be strongly, strongly discouraged."

Oh is that right, Gerry? It is remarkable to Spot that without even representing a party in the litigation or conducting any investigation, interviews or discovery whatsoever, Spartan Gerry already knows exactly what the lawsuit is about and who is telling the truth. That's the kind of lawyer you want, boys and girls, if you ever get into trouble.

Oh, and Spartan Gerry is obviously discerning when it comes to lawyers using the law to intimidate people.

Nolting is a sidekick of John Hinderacker. It's too bad Johnny won't be at the helm of the defense; we've seen him in action before.

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Let 150 flowers bloom

There is a movement afoot in the Minnesota Legislature to limit the number of charter schools to 150. Nick Coleman writes about it in his column today, Friday, March 23, 2007. Nick thinks it is about time we reigned in the charter school movement—many states do have a limit on the total number of charter schools that may exist—and Spot does, too. Nick observes:

The need for a cap is clear: Charter schools, authorized by the 1991 Legislature (and limited, at first, to eight schools) have wildly outgrown their original intent, suffer from a lack of rigorous financial controls (several have gone bankrupt, others have been robbed by their managers), and have not significantly outperformed traditional public schools (according to the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, 44 percent of the state's charter schools did not make adequate progress last year, including the school where Minneapolis City Council member and public school critic Don Samuels sends his children). [italics are Spot's]

"There are too many of them that suffer from really bad management, financial improprieties or sweetheart deals" involving charter-school sponsors who contract for services to their schools, says Charles Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. "It's time to put the brakes on, and take a hard look to figure out what's right or wrong."

Boy, that makes Don Samuels look pretty silly, doesn't it boys and girls? Nick continues:

"We have all these laws to try to integrate society, and now we're creating all these segregated little pots," says Kyte. "The advocates of charter schools are relentless, and we're going to have 500 in five years, if we don't pause."

The "experiment" is out of control and having the opposite effect of what was intended: Instead of reforming public schools, it is damaging them.

This week, Minneapolis school leaders recommended closing six schools, including one, North Star Elementary, that by any measure was a successful inner-city school. After a strange-brew coalition of education reformers, school-voucher pushers and charter-school drumbeaters picked off hundreds of the school's kids, leaving it with a shattered student body and plummeting teacher morale, there was nothing left. So a fine neighborhood school is being shuttered in a city that has seen a devastating plunge in enrollment while charter- school advocates -- some of whom openly brag about eliminating traditional public schools -- pick up the pieces and the per capita tax dollars. Without doing demonstrably better, in many instances.

Actually Nick, sometimes the charter schools do demonstrably worse. From a NYT article that Spot mentioned last summer:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — Fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Federal Education Department.

This so annoyed the Bushies in the Department of Education that they said they wouldn't publish the report any more.

Spot knows adults who have volunteered at North Star Elementary. Everything Nick writes about its fate is true.

In September of last year, Katie wrote an ode [the column won't be up any longer at the Strib website; the link is to Spot's post about the column] to a charter school featuring a special martial arts academy for boys. Dominatrix that she is, Katie loved it because of its emphasis on discipline. Any nutjob with whatever whacky idea (including some sub rosa theocratic ones) can start a charter school if he can find a few suckers, and you know what P.T. Barnum said about suckers, don't you, boys and girls?

In writing his post, Spot collected some names of charter schools in Minnesota that are feeding at the public trough:

Skills for Tomorrow (algebra, English, chemistry, and physics are so yesterday), New Voyage Academy (beam me up, Scotty!), Face to Face Academy (another combat school, apparently), Family Academy (where you can bet your arse they don't discuss family-making), Ascention Academy (a Big Coop special no doubt; Spot would like to look at the curriculum for that one), F. Scott Fitzgerald Writing (for all the parents who wanted to write the next Great American Novel but now hope little Johnnie or Janey will), Loveworks Academy (Spot's not touching that one with a stick), Higher Ground (here's a little of the sub rosa Spot was talking about), and one of Spot's favorites, Great Expectations! (Spot added the exclamation point, but it seemed like a natural).

If you weren't convinced already, boys and girls, consider the fact that the central poobah at the Center of the American Experiment, that clot of deep thinkers about feel-good self-absorption and narcissism, is also a mover, and especially a shaker, in the private school movement.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

They’re not quaint, Alberto!

There are many good reasons to adhere to the Geneva Conventions treatment of combatants and prisoners. This one doesn't get mentioned as often as insuring the reciprocal treatment of one's own who are captured, but it's important:

As on the Western Front in the First World War, then, the crucial determinant of an army's willingness to fight on or surrender was soldiers' expectations of how they would be treated if they did lay down their arms. In regard to prisoner killing in the heat of battle, information about enemy conduct was relatively easy to obtain; eyewitness accounts of prisoner killings tended to circulate rapidly and widely among front-line troops, often becoming exaggerated in the telling. By contrast, news of the way prisoners were treated away from the battlefield was slower to spread, depending as it did on testimony from escaped POWs or the letters from POWs to their families relayed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. (It should be borne in mind that both of the latter channels were effectively closed between Germany and the Soviet Union because of the geographical distances between enemy camps and safe territory, and the refusal of the Germans to acknowledge Stalin's belated subscription to the Geneva Convention.) Such information mattered, because treatment of prisoners varied so enormously between theatres and armies, as we have seen. A British prisoner in German hands had a reasonably good chance of surviving the war, as only one in twenty-nine died in captivity; but a Russian prisoner of the Germans was more likely to die than survive. A substantial proportion of the large number of German troops taken prisoner at the end of the war also died in captivity, though the numbers remain controversial.

Niall Ferguson, The War of the World, The Penguin Press, 2006, p. 551.

Ferguson recounts atrocities committed by all of the armies early in the war, and he says that it increased the tenacity of the Axis powers in fighting on after it became pretty clear in 1943 that they could not win the war. He says it wasn't just fanaticism, but a fear of being killed on capture. Toward the end of the war, massive numbers of pamphlets promising humane treatment upon surrender were dropped in both the European and Asian theaters to counter the wide-spread belief—which often has a basis in fact—that capture equaled death. By all accounts, the pamphlets had a favorable effect on Axis soldiers, encouraging many of them to surrender.

Fast forward to today. Do you suppose, boys and girls, that the widespread reports and evidence of abuse of detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan might be affecting the tenacity of the insurgents and the Taliban, giving them extra incentive to fight on and not be taken prisoner? Spot does.

Alberto, and his former sidekicks, professors John "Organ Failure" Yoo and Robert Delahunty, probably should have thought of that! It's just too bad they're such doctrinaire, ahistorical jerks.

Update: Corrected reference to Robert Delahunty, thanks to the sharp-eyed Big E.

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Come to Drinking Liberally tonight!

In addition to the usual frivolity and world-problem solving, tonight's DL's is a fundraiser for Marine Air Control Squadron 2 in Iraq. Details are in the scanned flyer at the left. A Hastings V.F.W. will be handling the donations.

Come tonight and you'll probably see Spotty. He'll be the spotted one.

Update: What did you forget to say, Spotty?

Oh yes. Thanks to Tild for running the scanner.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tony’s embarrassing moment

Uh, Mr. President, Sir, may I have a word with you?

Shore. C'mon in. No excess formality needed. Just a simple "Excellency" will do.

Ha ha. Good one Mr. President!


Never mind. There is something I think I need to tell you.

Ahm listenin'.

You know how we're using the executive privilege defense against having Rover and Harriet testify on the Hill about firing those U.S. Attorneys who weren't, er, performing up to your expectations? [Tony makes quote marks in the air with his fingers when he says performing up to your expectations]

Yup. Man, ah was just spittin' rocks about that yesterday, wasn't I? Kinda drew a line in the sand, didn't ah? Those pesky Democrats don't have a leg to stand on.

That's kind of what I want to talk to you about, Sir. You remember the Clinton impeachment, don't you?

Course ah do. What do you think ah am, dumb? That Clinton feller beat my daddy back in '92. We damn near strung him up, too!

Yes, Sir, we did, didn't we? But I'm afraid we created a problem for ourselves, and I contributed to it. A lot of media types really pooh-poohed executive privilege when Clinton tried to raise it to keep his aides from testifying.

Really? Like who?

[Tony gulps] Well, me.

You? Deep fried Jesus on a stick! What did you say?

Let me read an op ed piece I wrote:

(HEADLINE: "Executive Privilege is a Dodge")

Evidently, Mr. Clinton wants to shield virtually any communications that take place within the White House compound on the theory that all such talk contributes in some way, shape or form to the continuing success and harmony of an administration. Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold a chief executive accountable for anything. He would have a constitutional right to cover up.

Chances are that the courts will hurl such a claim out, but it will take time.

One gets the impression that Team Clinton values its survival more than most people want justice and thus will delay without qualm. But as the clock ticks, the public's faith in Mr. Clinton will ebb away for a simple reason: Most of us want no part of a president who is cynical enough to use the majesty of his office to evade the one thing he is sworn to uphold -- the rule of law.

I also said this on the teevee:

Tony Snow, Fox News, March 18, 1998:

In our latest Fox News Opinion Dynamics poll, we asked a series of questions about executive privilege. Most believe it's an attempt to stonewall Ken Starr's investigation. There's an even split on whether the White House has something to hide. And a majority thinks conversations with the first lady should not be covered.

Did the president invoke executive privilege to preserve the presidency or hold Ken Starr at bay?

Why didn't you tell me this when you applied for the job?

Sir, I hardly thought the subject would come up, especially like this.

With this administration? Are you kidding? Well, maybe nobody will notice.

I'm afraid they already have, Sir. I got some really pointed questions this morning.

Just tell 'em it's different.


How the hell do ah know? Talk to Fielding. He's slick. Lot smarter than Harriet, to tell the truth.

I will, but I'm telling you that the White House Press Corp is restless; I've never seen it like this before.

Oh hell, Tony, throw 'em a dinner or something. You know how make 'em go back to sleep.

Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Henchmen in the dock

Pop some corn, boys and girls; this one could get really good. There are a lot of Congressional staffers, Department of Justice lawyers, and of course Fred Fielding who are dusting off a thirty-year-old case and brushing up on the scope and application of executive privilege. Indeed, those of you who have been longing for the thrilling days of yesteryear may soon have that longing fulfilled.

Spot is speaking about the showdown between the cowboy prezinut and Sheriff Leahy and his deputies. Leahy wants Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify like ordinary mortals before Leahy's Judiciary Committee: under oath with the proceedings public and the questions and answers recorded. The subject? The unusual personnel changes in several U.S. Attorneys' offices. The issue? Were these changes politically motivated?

Spot called last week Blood in the Water Week for the administration. Now the feeding frenzy is beginning in earnest. Spot was a little surprised that Alberto Gonzales survived the weekend. Bush seems to be ready to go down swinging on this one. (Did you notice how smoothly Spotty mixed the metaphors?) The Politico reported this today:

The White House and top GOP officials are bracing for a lengthy battle over executive privilege and the likely resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the escalating fight over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, several key Republicans said Tuesday.

With Democrats demanding public testimony of top White House aides, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and the White House insisting on private interviews only, the GOP officials said the controversy over the fired prosecutors is likely to intensify and prompt Gonzales to step aside.

President Bush on Tuesday called Gonzales, offering a public show of support. And White House press secretary Tony Snow said that news reports about a search for a replacement were "flat false."

The article continues:

The operative assumption, the GOP source [for the article] said, is that Gonzales will go but that he will do so on his own schedule. The first stage in finding a replacement is gauging who is available among the well-established lawyers under consideration, most of whom have previously been confirmed by the Senate. "I think it is going to come down to who is willing to take the job," said the source.

Bush is also combative on the issue of his retainers:

We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants. The initial response by Democrats [insisting that Rove and Miers actually testify] unfortunately shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials. And I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available. I proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse, and I hope they don't choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.

That's funny, because we recently did have a kind of a show trial, or maybe more of an Opera Buffa. The Opera Buffa may point out the difficulty that President Bush is going to have in keeping Rove and Miers out of the bright lights.

In the case linked above, United States v. Nixon, the Supreme Court held that executive privilege did exist, but that grounds had to exist to assert the privilege, not that it was merely inconvenient or embarrassing:

The President's need for complete candor and objectivity from advisers calls for great deference from the court. However, when the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises. Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets, we find it difficult to accept the argument that even the very important interest in confidentiality of Presidential communications is significantly diminished by production of such material for in camera inspection with all the protection that a district court will be obliged to provide.

Glenn Greenwald, who writes very well on legal matters—to Spot's considerable annoyance—has a great blog post at Salon today wherein he explains how the Opera Buffa is likely to come back to haunt the president and his loyalists. Please go read the whole thing, boys and girls; Greenwald collects several nuggets like this one from the high old times of the Clinton impeachment era:

Tony Snow - Op-Ed - St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 1998 :

(HEADLINE: "Executive Privilege is a Dodge")

Evidently, Mr. Clinton wants to shield virtually any communications that take place within the White House compound on the theory that all such talk contributes in some way, shape or form to the continuing success and harmony of an administration. Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold a chief executive accountable for anything. He would have a constitutional right to cover up.

Chances are that the courts will hurl such a claim out, but it will take time.

One gets the impression that Team Clinton values its survival more than most people want justice and thus will delay without qualm. But as the clock ticks, the public's faith in Mr. Clinton will ebb away for a simple reason: Most of us want no part of a president who is cynical enough to use the majesty of his office to evade the one thing he is sworn to uphold -- the rule of law.

There is a grand old legal principle at work here, boys and girls: What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

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Katie enslaves her dog!

Katie got wind of an initiative to ban at least some circus animals, i.e., elephants and the big cats, in Minneapolis; she wrote about it yesterday:

One of my great childhood memories is a visit to Ringling Brothers Circus when I was 7. My kids loved the circus, too: the colors, the smells, the thrills. They watched it all with breathless excitement.

The highlight came when the elephants stood on their hind legs. No Game Boy ever produced an enchanted reaction like that.

Of course, when you grow up in Fort Dodge, a trip upriver to Algona is a great childhood memory. And admit it Katie: no child of yours ever had a Game Boy so you have no basis for comparison.

We'll let Katie ask and answer the next question:

So who wants to bar the pachyderms? A Minneapolis group called Circus Reform Yes, for one. Where you and I see magic, they see animals maltreated and "forced to perform unnatural acts," spokesman Nick Coughlin told the Star Tribune.

The organization's website features a quote from comedian Richard Pryor: "The animals in circuses are held against their will by chains and domination. ... They can never choose their own partners, their own homes, their own food. ... I don't care how this is dressed up, ... it is still slavery."

Gee, by this standard, my dog is a slave. He's chained in the front yard, and doesn't get to choose his own friends, or home or food. I've tried unsuccessfully to train him to do a most unnatural act -- to heel. By this standard, the animal control officer should haul me in.

Dog? Chained? What kind of a hellhound have you got, Katie? Oh, and Katie, don't give up hope. Spot is sure you'll whip that dog into shape eventually.

It is interesting that Katie picks out elephants to discuss in her little diatribe. Indian elephants are pretty clearly capable of domestication. Spot even wanted to be a mahout at one time. But the big cats are another matter. They can't be domesticated; they do seem pretty miserable.

The great thing about Katie's column is its illumination of the quality of empathy. Most conservative like Katie don't have much capacity for empathy. Katie's delighted squeals versus the welfare of a bunch of caged, wild animals? To Katie, it's not even close. Don't believe Spot? Recall this sentence:

Where you and I see magic, they see animals maltreated and "forced to perform unnatural acts."

Which group has the capacity to empathize, to at least consider that there might be a problem? It ain't Katie's crowd.

The dead empathy sensors affect how conservatives feel about other people, too. They can't get out of their own skin. Spot has noticed that when a conservative gets behind efforts or legislation to, say find a cure for a disease, it's usually because that person is afflicted with or has a family member with the disease.

Katie just laid it out for you.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Who the blank is Janet?

Spot NEVER reads SCSU Scholars, which sounds like an academic site, but is really just a gaggle of blow hards in the Hugh Hewitt/Glenn Reynolds/Victor Davis Hanson mode. The site did come up recently on a Google search gone terribly wrong, and Spot saw that the Academic "Janet" intended to go to Washington, D.C. last weekend, prepared to lay her life on the line, if necessary, to prevent any mischievous anti-war protester from, um, despoiling our National Monuments, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Why she thought the Park Police were not up to the task, Janet didn't say.

But it seemed important to Academic Janet.

Well, there was a large protest in Washington and other cities yesterday. And Janet, true to her word, was there! Janet reported on her field trip to her friends:
The usual protest representatives were there: sixties hippies; their kids; ANSWER; Che Guevara; the pacifist and anti-fight for anything crowd. They were joined by another assortment of protesters: high school kids bussed in from Philly - they get extra credit in their US History classes if they participate in a protest (note, anti, not pro); a few who dressed like Palestinians and carried signs for the oppression of the Palestinians; "No war with Iran" crowd; impeach everyone crowd; anti-Halliburton; etc. These people are well-financed, signage is good. [you know, Academic Janet, a colon or even a semicolon would have been a better break than a comma in the last sentence; perhaps the protesters just included some gays with good design sense!]

On the other hand, the vets were proud, professional, and polite. Speakers summarized some real history - in particular, the real culprits for Vietnam casualties. One speaker, Kevin Michael of DC was particularly powerful! He is a Desert Storm Veteran and proud of it. He speaks well for all veterans.
Vietnam? Desert Storm? Spot thought that the protest was about current events: these guys are just taking a trip down memory lane.

Anyway, Spot found a couple of pictures of the proud, professional, and polite people that Academic Janet is talking about:

I don't know what you think, boys and girls, but they look like soccer hooligans to Spot! You can read a couple of first-hand accounts of people at the protest at the Winter Patriot. Academic Janet apparently had a good time, though.

Spot did notice that SCSU Scholars has a poster named King, too. Spot had a puphood friend named King; he was a dachshund.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cheerleading from Iraq

Spot got a not-especially-germane comment to his last post, but its author obviously couldn't wait to post the question in it:

When [chortle] are you going to comment on [Spot's Iraq correspondent Dave] Thul's op/ed piece? [heh]

My hunch is that you disagree. [ha ha ha]

Peter A. Swanson

Well, Spot will comment right now, Peter. Spot had a premonition that Dave would get some ink today. Spot is becoming downright clairvoyant!

One of Dave's points is:

But I can tell you that a majority of U.S. troops want to stay in Iraq and finish the mission. How do I know this? Two ways.

The first way, Dave says, is anecdotally. Everyone around Dave supports the war.

Imagine with Spot for a moment:

Uh, sergeant, can I have a word with you?

Sure. What's up soldier?

Well, I've got some misgivings about what we're doing here. Everybody's giving us the evil eye these days, and we're just playing peek-a-boo with the insurgents. It's impossible to tell if the situation is getting worse or better. Frankly, I'm discouraged.

I understand where you're coming from, soldier. I tell you what. At the campfire tonight, when it comes to sharing time, you just say what you told me now. It's good to get these things out where we can talk about them. Perhaps there are other soldiers who feel the same as you do. Run along now; I have to finish this Kahil Kilbran poem.

Thanks, sarge. You're the best.

This is the way it works in the military, right?

The second way, Dave says, is that 1500 service persons have signed an online petition at asking Congress to stop calling for "retreat."

If Spot recalls correctly—and he thinks he does—there are about 160,000 service persons in Iraq at the present time. And that doesn't include all of the Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater, CIA, et cetera, folks, either. The site has been widely promoted and featured in the blogosphere and elsewhere. Spot's no mathematician, but he thinks that's less than one percent of the people in country.

Compare and contrast, boys and girls, with this:

Curious about what members of the military actually think about President Bush, the Iraq war, and the question of whether there should be a "surge" in troops? Then check this out: The latest annual Military Times poll of members of the military has just come out, and guess what it finds? For the first time, more respondents disapprove of Bush's handling of the Iraq war than approve of it. It also finds that a minority -- all of 38% -- think there should be more troops in Iraq than are already there. And only half think success in Iraq is likely -- down from 83 percent two years ago.

These were end-of-the-year numbers from 2006. Spot bets they haven't turned massively in Dave's favor since then.

Dave says we have to win in Iraq because golly, we just have to win! Spot says that Dave is a True Believer, but in this case any concept of winning is merely wishful thinking. It is tough to beat a dog in his own backyard. Spotty knows this. People like Dave like to remind us that the insurgents can never beat the U.S. on the battlefield. True, but they don't have to.

The surge—escalation; let's call it what it is—will just create more enemies faster for us. We lit the fire. As Spotty's grandma used to say, "When you burn your butt, you have to sit on the blisters." We're just making the blisters bigger.

Every "good thing" that has taken place in Iraq since the invasion: building (or in most cases rebuilding) schools, treating wounded Iraqis, protecting civilians from sectarian violence, whatever, is just in mitigation of the shit storm we created by the invasion. They don't erase the act of aggressive war from the ledger. Far from it.

Our effort should be directed to trying to mend what we broke, not trying to put some illusory "W" in our column.

Dave ends his column by saying this is all worthwhile so that he can come home with honor and have made the world safer for his young daughter—an absolutely understandable sentiment. But Spot asks you this, Dave: how many tens of thousands of Iraqi kids and their parents have to die before you conclude the risk to your daughter growing up in the middle of America is zero?

Update: Fixed the link to Dave's op ed.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Air travel is a civil right

Spot's post Imams sue Mr. and Mrs. Bigot! got the comment juices flowing! Dave commented that the imams were way outta line and deserved to get hauled off the airplane. Rogier said that the whole incident was symptomatic of the racial and religious paranoia that exists in the US., amplifying what Spot suggested in his little dialogue involving the Bigots. But Dave said one thing, a notion that we must disabuse ourselves of right away, boys and girls.

I sympathize with Muslims that feel they are being profiled, but air travel is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

Well, actually Dave, it is. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, enacted by the Congress in, you guessed it – 1964, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in a number of areas, including public accommodations and transportation. The Act was, incidentally, one of the last pieces of civil rights legislation that had any major Republican support.

All legislation enacted by the Congress has to be under the authority of a constitutional provision. Otherwise the law is, gasp, unconstitutional! It is one of the curious and interesting sidelights of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that it was enacted pursuant to the Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce, not the Fourteenth Amendment.

It will be interesting indeed to watch the case of the flying imams and Mr. and Mrs. Bigot as it develops. It will be particularly interesting to see what people say in their depositions, under oath, and subject to what Wigmore called "the great engine of truth": cross examination. Spot is willing to abide the event. Are you Dave?

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