Monday, April 30, 2007

The shoes of the fisherman

Those don't look like the Pope's shoes. Doesn't the Pope wear really cool red Gucci loafers or something?

Yes, he does, grasshopper.

That is what they say about the Pope, isn't it, that he walks in the shoes of the fisherman?

Right again, grasshopper.

Then I don't understand Spotty. Those look like old army boots.

They are old army boots. They belong to Joe Repya, one of the tin gods of the right wing and cheerleader for the war in Iraq. He's running for chair of the Minnesota GOP against Ron Carey. Spot wrote about Joe Repya before.

How do you know he's a fisherman, Spotty?

He has to be. With fishermen, the stories get better and the fish get bigger with each retelling. That seems to be true for Joe Repya, too. But before we get into that, let's back up a little.

In the run-up to the war in Iraq, some St. Joan of Arc parishoners made up lawn signs that proclaimed "Say No to war with Iraq." Joe Repya decided to mount a counter campaign with lawn signs that read "Liberate Iraq." One of the contributors to the St. Joan of Arc website interviewed Joe Repya, an account of that interview can be read here. The interview apparently took place in September of 2003, when the war was still fresh and new, the bloom had not yet come off the rose, and President Bush had announced "Mission Accomplished" some months earlier.

There was something in the interview that caught Spot's eye. Actually, it caught somebody else's eye who called it to Spot's attention. But Spot did find it interesting. Here it is:

Liberals scream peace at any price, said Repya. I took a few deep breaths. My pause allowed him to tell me about how he came home one day to find the police and the FBI in house. His wife had received three phone calls in 15 minutes threatening them and President Bush. The police gave the Repyas bullet proof vests and a conceal and carry permit. The suspect was caught, tried, and is now in prison. But Repya still has the bullet proof vest, and his tone implied he felt there are still threatening people out there.

Wow. Finding yourself in mortal danger for a lawn sign campaign! That's pretty unusual, thought Spot. So he decided to check it out.

It turns out that somebody did make harassing phone calls to the Repyas. The police say that the person was identified and issued a citation. A ticket in other words. Now, Spot thinks that the likelihood of spending time in the big house on a tab charge is, well, remote. As is the probability that the police gave the Repyas bullet-proof vests and concealed weapons permits. Remember, boys and girls, this incident most likely took place before the heady days of shall-issue conceal and carry permits in Minnesota. Maybe Repay was considered such a national treasure that he got better armor than the troops were then getting, but who knows?

One thing is pretty clear. Spot's tipster also did a Lexis search to find any articles about a person being charged—and convicted and sent to prison—with threatening Joe or Mrs. Repya and George Bush. None was found.

Grasshopper, Spot says to draw your own conclusion about whether Joe Repya is a fisherman.

Okay, Spotty I will.

A big thump of the tail to Spot's anonymous tipster.

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Some are more equal than others

Over at Shot in the Dark (no, I won’t link there), Mitch Berg takes on the events in Austin and domestic terrorism, trying to wrap himself in the flag of feminism to make a point that isn’t entirely clear even after reading the piece three times over. He does challenge Rew at Powerliberal to “ding his premise” but it’s pretty hard to see what the premise is beyond taking “feminists” to task for being angry that they might be exposed to violence when going in for that annual pap smear.

One part of his post, though, is worth examining. He claims that “abortion-related violence has been declining [but] eco-terrorism has been growing.” In support of his claim, Mitch turns to a May 2005 report from CNN that simply regurgitates ATF statistics:
Senior officials from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) and Explosives told a Senate panel Wednesday of their growing concern over these groups.

Of particular concern are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).

John Lewis, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said animal and environmental rights extremists have claimed credit for more than 1,200 criminal incidents since 1990. The FBI has 150 pending investigations associated with animal rights or eco-terrorist activities, and ATF officials say they have opened 58 investigations in the past six years related to violence attributed to the ELF and ALF.

In the same period violence from groups like the Ku Klux Klan and anti-abortion extremists have declined, Lewis said.

Unfortunately, it’s a claim that has its basis in a government that has pretended that domestic terrorism against some people is worth counting and some is not. Two months before the CNN story, Congressional Quarterly reported that government statistics showed a marked decrease in abortion clinic violence because they’d stopped counting such threats as terrorism:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not list right-wing domestic terrorists and terrorist groups on a document that appears to be an internal list of threats to the nation’s security.

According to the list — part of a draft planning document obtained by CQ Homeland Security — between now and 2011 DHS expects to contend primarily with adversaries such as al Qaeda and other foreign entities affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement, as well as domestic radical Islamist groups.

It also lists left-wing domestic groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), as terrorist threats, but it does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements, which have staged numerous terrorist attacks that have killed scores of Americans. Recent attacks on cars, businesses and property in Virginia, Oregon and California have been attributed to ELF.

* * *

Individuals affiliated with such groups have also been involved in many smaller terrorist acts, including mailing hundreds of bogus anthrax letters to abortion clinics, and in plots to obtain and use conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons against civilians.

It's easy to dismiss those things that one doesn't think are worthy of counting.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A day late and a dollar short again

Spot was going to write about Bishop John Nienstedt, der Panzerpappen's choice to replace the retiring Harry Flynn as archbishop for the local archdiocese. He seems like quite a fellow! But both Nick Coleman and MNObserver beat Spotty to it. Spot has been so content basking in the reflected glory of winning the award from City Pages last week that he's kind of asleep at the switch. Ah well. Parenthetically, boys and girls, this is why it is so difficult to win back-to-back World Series.

Coleman's column, entitled A dove of peace taken down by religious birds of prey (Spot thought at first the column was about Katie!), tells the story of how a Lutheran church took in a Catholic congregation after the latter's church was seriously damaged by the devastating tornado that ripped though St. Peter, Minnesota in 1998. Apparently, the two congregations each held their own services, and had some joint services as well, for over two years, until the Catholic church was repaired:

Pastors Mark Solyst and Elizabeth Yates of First Lutheran Church, which escaped damage, called the Catholic pastor, the Rev. Harry Behan, with an offer he couldn't refuse:

"What is ours is yours."

Holy Week was at hand, and with the tears and the prayers of a people hit by what would be named Minnesota's most severe weather event of the 1990s in mind, Father Behan accepted. On Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, Catholics and Lutherans came together at First Lutheran.

Genuflecting Catholics had no kneelers. Lutherans, sitting beside Catholic nuns, had trouble keeping their eyes off their exotic guests. And there was the sensitive issue of communion. After years of ecumenical outreach, the Catholic Church was pulling back. Then-President Bill Clinton, a Protestant, had just been criticized for taking communion in a Catholic mass.

But the Christians of St. Peter, reeling from the destruction and psychological trauma of a tornado, came up with a solution: They gave themselves "a battlefield dispensation."It's like in a war," Behan told me then. "When you're being shot at, everyone worships with whoever leads them."This is not the time to divide," Solyst said at the time. "If I'm going to err, I'm going to err on the side of hospitality."

On Easter Sunday, the congregations returned to separate worship, sharing the Lutheran building with rotating services: Catholic mass at 8 and 11 a.m., Lutheran services at 9:30.

That arrangement lasted more than two years, until St. Peter's Catholic was rebuilt. The interfaith arrangement was a large part of the healing and recovery of the city.

But when John Nienstedt was appointed a bishop in New Ulm, he put an end to all the ecumenical nonsense! Yesiree bob! There is no reason why sturdy and faithful Catholics couldn't hold services outside, year-round, for a couple of years! That would be better than accepting the hospitality of a bunch of Lutherans with the attendant risk of heading down the road to perdition! And what if the Host transubstantiated itself in some Lutheran's mouth? No tellin' what might happen.

Nienstadt has similar enlightened attitudes on many issues:

When Nienstedt replaced New Ulm Bishop Raymond Lucker, a progressive who died in 2001, he denounced many of Lucker's policies and reportedly banned cohabiting couples from church marriages, kept female church leaders from leading prayers at meetings, opposed stem-cell research and claimed homosexuality is caused by childhood trauma rather than something innate in a person.

MNObserver, writing at Norwegianity, links to a PiPress online article that includes this quote from a priest who used to be in the New Ulm diocese:

Kenneth Irrgang, a retired priest who clashed with Nienstedt when he was bishop in New Ulm, predicted that Nienstedt will meet resistance among the 654 active priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"I expect disaster there. I don't think those priests are going to accept him," said Irrgang, who now lives in St. Cloud. "He's a micromanager. He has to control everything. He hews the line from the Vatican without any question whatsoever. He's not a very good people person."

No he doesn't sound like much of a people person, does he?

We can expect Nienstedt to use his bully pulpit as archbishop to rail against abortion, stem cell research, and homosexuality, that's for sure. His position will give him the ability to influence the lives of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and whether those of us in the non- category like it or not. And Spotty says, boys and girls, we probably won't.

On the bright side, Nienstedt sure sound like Katie's kind of a man. She must be very happy. We can look for saccharine paeans by Katie to Nienstadt in coming months. Oh well, it'll be a break from Katie's Muslim beat.


First Muslim Spotty winner!

At least Spot thinks it's the first one. For his powerful commentary in Saturday's Star Tribune, Ahmed Tharwat wins a Spotty™. Since the Strib will take the piece down in a few weeks, Spot reproduces it here in its entirety.

Ahmed Tharwat

Is it me, or has Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten used her forum at the paper to vent fear of Muslim Americans in our communities?

From the "flying imams" fiasco at the airport, to the cabdrivers facing off with the Metropolitan Airports Commission about transporting alcohol, to the current flurry of articles about plumbing adjustments to accommodate foot-washing at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Kersten's interest strikes me as paranoia, or even out-and-out phobia.

In a culture like the United States, it seems, we have very few requirements for cleanliness beyond 'wash your hands.' Maybe that is why this topic appears to some a mystery.

Whatever her motive, Kersten is consistent in her attempts to agitate the reader about Muslims living in the United States and their perceived "threat" to Western civilization. Her zealous coverage of issues of the Muslim community is both puzzling and frightening.

The foot-washing topic has gone from a local concern at a community college to a national story. Will the shock jocks be ranting about it next? Shouldn't Kersten give more attention to students who bring guns or drugs to schools than to those who want to wash their feet and stay clean?

Kersten seems intent on stirring up negative public opinion on relatively minor topics in her apparent crusade to save American culture from the Muslims. If this is "just the beginning," as she warned of the foot-washing threat, what else might Muslims bring to campus? Lord forbid, Arabic books?

Let's consider this assault on Western values and North American culture by Muslim personal hygiene. To understand the topic, Kersten really needs to understand the importance of the washing rituals, which may have something to do with praying (in Arabic this is called wudu) or not. Some Muslims may complain about a lot of issues, but I do not think they complain nearly enough about their daily torture at public bathrooms, where you are provided condoms as an incentive for casual clean sex but are severely under-equipped for a thorough washing.

Besides lacking a low-level washing area with a drain for washing feet, there is also no bidet-like system for cleaning after using the toilet. Water is the essential element for a thorough cleaning -- toilet paper will not suffice.

You can say all you want about Muslims, but when it comes to the cultural issues of washing and personal hygiene, we are very meticulous. Without going into detail -- we like to keep our private parts private -- Muslims usually try to avoid public bathrooms. Muslim students at a college will, however, spend many hours on the campus and have to make do with the facilities available to them. "Being clean is half of religion," the prophet Mohammed said.

Washing and following cultural rituals of cleaning don't strike me as threats to North American culture.

To Kersten I would urge: If you are going to trail Muslims wherever they go, at least learn about this community's customs and values as much as you urge them to understand yours. Believe me, Muslim washing rituals don't constitute the threat to American culture that your writing does.

Ahmed Tharwat is host of the Arab-American TV show "Belahdan," which airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on Twin Cities Public Television (Ch. 17).

Not, it's not just you Mr. Tharwat. A lot of people, and some dogs, too, have concluded that Katie is a vicious bigot. When Katie talks about "western civilization," boys and girls, what she really means is Christian. And Katie means her brand of hysterical intolerance, masquerading as a religion. The Christo-fascist death brigade.

Spotty is really tired of Katherine Kersten. He is tired of the entire snake-oil sales force of which Kersten is a part: All of the pseudo-patriotic, pseudo-courageous, pseudo-religious, pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-human cretins who have infected the body politic like a virus. There is no sense in placating them, trying to negotiate with them, or trying to understand or respect their views. They're like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz: relentless and evil.

The gloves are off, Katie.

Update: Sport forgot to add: 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.

Also, Spot saw the above commentary in the paper, but thanks to Mark at Norwegianity for reminding him how good it was.

Finally, for new readers, the handsome Spotty™ medallion was produced by Tild, proprieter of the eponymous blog Tild~.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Condoleezza, Condoleezza

Sung, of course, to the tune of the Nat King Cole classic, Mona Lisa.

Condoleezza, Condoleezza, Waxman's called you
To find out for sure what you really knew
Is it only 'cause you're fibbing Condoleezza
That the crooked smirk has crept into your smile?

Do you smile to keep your cover, Condoleezza?
Or is this your way to hide a guilty heart?
Many schemes have been brought to your doorstep,
Are you complicit, or just a misfit?
Are you warm, are you real, Condoleezza?
Or just a cold and lonely tool of the right?

(instrumental bridge)

Do you smile to keep your cover, Condoleezza?
Or is this your way to hide a guilty heart?
Many schemes have been brought to your doorstep,
Are you complicit, or just a misfit?
Are you warm, are you real, Condoleezza?
Or just a cold and lonely tool of the right?

Condoleezza, Condoleezza . . .

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A little over five

That's five Blacksburg Units. That 's how many Iraqi civilians were killed on Saturday.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

The existential conflict

Bill Moyers interviewed Jon Stewart on PBS tonight. You can watch the interview here, or read the transcript here. Although Stewart denies being a journalist, the interview comes on the heels of a recent finding that Daily Show viewers are materially better informed than Fox News viewers. Spot says catch the whole interview, but here's part of the discussion about the administration's strategy and posturing about the war in Iraq:

JON STEWART: You know, one of the things that I do think government counts on is that people are busy. And it's very difficult to mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it's over really crucial-- you know, foundational issues. That [be]come[s] sort of sort of a tipping point.


JON STEWART: But war that hasn't affected us here, in the way that you would imagine a five-year war would affect a country. I think that's why they're so really — here's the disconnect. It's sort of this odd and I've always had this problem with the rationality of it. That the President says, "We are in the fight for a way of life. This is the greatest battle of our generation, and of the generations to come. "And, so what I'm going to do is you know, Iraq has to be won, or our way of life ends, and our children and our children's children all suffer. So, what I'm gonna do is send 10,000 more troops to Baghdad."

So, there's a disconnect there between — you're telling me this is fight of our generation, and you're going to increase troops by 10 percent. And that's gonna do it. I'm sure what he would like to do is send 400,000 more troops there, but he can't, because he doesn't have them. And the way to get that would be to institute a draft. And the minute you do that, suddenly the country's not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back, and then the whole thing falls apart. So, they have a really delicate balance to walk between keeping us relatively fearful, but not so fearful that we stop what we're doing and really examine how it is that they've been waging this.

That's really it, isn't it? Dick Cheney says this is an existential conflict, and George Bush tells us to go shopping. If those two confidence men really thought that the "global war on terror" was an existential conflict, they'd be behaving differently, wouldn't they? These fools thought that the U.S. would have a "cakewalk" in Iraq, that we wouldn't even get our hair mussed. And now that their lark has come a cropper, they don't know what to do.

We can't really treat it like an existential conflict, because too many people would start to say, "What the hell is going on here?" They're starting to do that anyway. And we can't withdraw without a massive loss of face—not for the U.S.; we don't have any face left anyway—but for Bush, Cheney & Co. Instead, we'll just muddle along, adding to the carnage of lives lost, until GWB can return to his ranch or his new digs in Paraguay to bear the obloquy of perhaps the worst foreign policy disaster in American history.

Update: Added link to Pew Research Center site on study mentioned in the post.

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Did he fall or was he pushed?

When Spot went out fishing this morning (beautiful day on the stream and some fish, too; thanks for asking), he was sitting on a link that he hoped would be waiting for him this evening:

Senior Justice Department officials had raised concerns about Tom Heffelfinger, the former U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' one-time chief of staff told congressional investigators.

The ex-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, made the remarks in an interview with the investigators last week, according to a senior congressional judiciary aide who was familiar with the interview. The aide spoke Thursday on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

What are we to make of this AP story, boys and girls? Well, the diarist smit2174 already has made something of it at Minnesota Campaign Report. This person has been following the soap opera As Rachel Squirms from the beginning. The post is worth a read.

In the AP piece, Tom Heffelfinger reiterates his story that he was not pressured to leave his spot as U.S. Attorney.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Heffelfinger repeated that he left the job on his own, and he said he was not aware of any concerns that senior Justice Department officials had about him.

Remember, boys and girls, that Heffelfinger left his position early in the planning of this new Night of the Long Knives. Remember, too, that when you add his service as U.S. Attorney for Minnesota in the first Bush administration, Heffelfinger had held the position for a total of about nine years. He clearly loved the job.

With that sort of tenure with the DOJ, don't you suppose that some career person at headquarters who knew Heffelfinger got wind that knavery was afoot and tipped him off in time for him to make a more-or-less graceful exit? And the tipee is protecting the tipper? Spotty doesn't know, but he'd bet a box of kibble that's what happened.

It's really okay, Mr. Heffelfinger. Spotty says to wear the fact that you were dissed by this gang of charlatans and double crossers as a badge of honor.

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It's a sure sign

Boys and girls, do you know how to tell with certainty that the residential real estate market is in the toilet?

You wait to be told by an expert on CNBC or in the business pages in the Strib?

Then you'll probably be a little late, grasshopper. Spotty says to watch the teevee for an increase in commercials urging you to hire a Realtor®.

And now, boys and girls, Spot is going fishing. See you later.

He shoots, he misses!

Johnny Rocketseed (John Hinkeraker for the uninitiated) made the expected howl tonight about the subpoena of Condoleezza Rice to testify before Henry Waxman's committee in the House about the trumped-up claim that Iraq tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. Johnny is nothing if not predictable. But he made one comment that caught Spot's eye:

Where to begin. [sic] Actually, as we've pointed out many times, the weight of the evidence is that Iraq did, in fact, try to buy uranium from Niger. Beyond that, what President Bush actually said in his State of the Union speech--the famous "sixteen words"--was indisputably true. And beyond that, who cares?

I beg your pardon, Johnny? Spotty wonders what planet this guy is from? Spot would like to see Johnny prove that assertion with competent evidence.

Boys and girls, your friend Spot decided to see how long it would take to debunk Johnny's codswallop. The answer is under a minute. In an article in the Friday New York Times on George Tenets' new book, due out next week. A NYT reporter got a hold of an advance copy and pens this:

Mr. Tenet describes helping to kill a planned speech by Mr. Cheney on the eve of the invasion because its claims of links between Al Qaeda and Iraq went "way beyond what the intelligence shows."

"Mr. President, we cannot support the speech and it should not be given," Mr. Tenet wrote that he told Mr. Bush. Mr. Cheney never delivered the remarks.

Mr. Tenet hints at some score-settling in the book. He describes in particular the extraordinary tension between him and Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, in internal debate over how the president came to say erroneously in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa.

He describes an episode in 2003, shortly after he issued a statement taking partial responsibility for that error. He said he was invited over for a Sunday afternoon, back-patio lemonade by Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state. Mr. Powell described what Mr. Tenet called "a lively debate" on Air Force One a few days before about whether the White House should continue to support Mr. Tenet as C.I.A. director.

"In the end, the president said yes, and said so publicly," Mr. Tenet wrote. "But Colin let me know that other officials, particularly the vice president, had quite another view."

He writes that the controversy over who was to blame for the State of the Union error was the beginning of the end of his tenure. After the finger-pointing between the White House and the C.I.A., he wrote, "My relationship with the administration was forever changed." [italics are Spot's]

So, boys and girls, who is the competent witness, George Tenet or Johnny Rocketseed?

It's not Johnny Rocketseed, is it, Spotty?

No, grasshopper, it's not.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Katie Quiz

Boys and girls, what scares Katie more than a Muslim?

Two Muslims?

Ah, a logical answer, grasshopper. But not the one that Spotty was looking for. The thing that scares Katie more than a Muslim is premarital sex. Thursday's column was an apologia for abstinence education under the headline: Abstinence study abstained from the larger truth. You see, boys and girls, there is a new study out on the effectiveness of abstinence education in preventing premarital teen-age sex. We'll let Katie describe the results:

What was the drastic finding that discredited abstinence programs, according to critics? The study assessed results from four abstinence-based programs around the country. Kids entered the programs in 1999-2001, at age 11 or 12 on average, and participated for one to several years. In late 2005 or early 2006 they completed a follow-up survey, when they were nearly 17 on average. About half the kids reported remaining abstinent, the same as a control group. Those who had sex did so first at the same age as those in a control group, and had as many sexual partners.

The abstinence education had no measureable effect of any kind on what the kids did. It's unclear whether the parents were soothed by it.

Katie is trying to minimize the study's import by calling its findings "drastic." Calling the finding that abstinence education is literally perfectly worthless in addressing teenage premarital sex when compared to a comprehensive sex education program is only "a drastic finding" if you think that spending tax money on this giant rat hole is a good idea. Katie does:

But anyone who wants to make public policy based on this study should think again. Its sample was small and unrepresentative, says Dr. Gary Rose of the Medical Institute of Austin, Texas, a research organization that supports abstinence education.

Why it only sampled four of the NINE HUNDRED federally-funded abstinence programs out there! We're paying for NINE HUNDRED of these clunkers at the federal level? According to Rose, Katie says, there is "good evidence" that abstinence education works. You apparently just can't see it. At least Katie doesn't share any of the proof with us. Sometimes faith just works that way!

But regardless of the statistics, says Katie, there is a larger truth: the well being of our kids. Which is why, apparently, Katie wants the same number of kids to have sex, only without knowledge about pregnancy or disease prevention. Now there's good public policy for you! Then, we can make sure they don't have access to emergency contraception or abortion services, or the girls to the HPV vaccine!

Parenthetically, Spot will say that Katie, in addition to being the Commissioner of Troubling Signs, is the Commissioner of Larger Truths. If the facts don't support Katie, she just claims that what she wants is due to her access to ineffable, transcendent Truth. Who are you going to believe? Katie the oracle or your lyin' eyes? What hogwash.

Katie also says this:

Our kids are telling us that they're having sex too early. Nearly two-thirds of teens who have had sex regret their early activity and say they wish they had waited, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Our kids are crying out for socially supported ways to say no.

Here's a page on the "National Campaign's" website that makes it explicit that religion undergirds its efforts. Katie wants us to make public policy based on Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Never mind scientific studies!

Katie, Spot has to say he has known and knows a lot of teenagers. Never has he known even one who was crying out for ways to avoid sex. Spot has counseled some, especially the boys, not to be pushy, to be careful, and that sex is not a good idea for unmarried teenagers. Would it be more effective to say that we'll stone the non-virgin brides on their fathers' doorsteps? Probably not. But that's what Katie wants:

Authentic abstinence curricula take a very different approach [from comprehensive sex education]. They view sex not primarily as a source of pleasure or self-expression but as a deeply significant act with moral, emotional and psychological dimensions. As a result, they focus on teaching students about the differences between love and sex, and encouraging them to view sexuality as part of a lifelong process of developing intimacy that will culminate ideally in a faithful marriage.

Whatever happened to the role of the family in moral development, Katie? Why on this issue do you want the schools to act in loco parentis and not on other issues? (That's Latin, boys and girls, not Spanish, so it doesn't mean crazy parents.)

Katie gave up her usual Muslim rant today because the Minnesota Legislature is considering a bill to require sex education in 7th to 12th grade classrooms. She's just cranking up the, well, cranks. REW at Power Liberal comments on a related aspect of this issue: the Rt. Reverend Steve Sviggum's lament about an initiative to increase support for the godless Planned Parenthood.

Dear Lord, free us from the tyranny of these mossbacks. Amen.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The whitest couple in America get down

Via Dependable Renegade:

Update: See the whitest couple in America in motion, sort of.

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Spotty, I have a question

Yes, grasshopper, what is it?

You, or this blog anyway, were just named by City Pages as the Liberal Blog of the Year, right?

Yes, that's right.

How did that happen?

Whatever do you mean, grasshopper?

Well, you know, there are bloggers out there—bloggers you know—who cover a lot of subjects better than you.



Name one.

I could name several, but I'll stick with just a few. Manic collection of newsworthy links and pithy comments about, especially, journalism? Mark at Norwegianity. Your co-author, MNObserver writes over there, too, you know. Mark is the dean of Left Blogistan.

Environmental matters, including the recent and very important 3M water contamination case? Sky Blue Waters.

Minnesota tax policy? How about the blog author you call "the go to guy?" Across the Great Divide?

Norm "the empty suit" Coleman? Three Way News.

Right-wing Christian nutcases and their enablers? Media Transparency.

And finally, Minnesota Monitor, a site that is not so much a blog anymore as an online news magazine. MinnMon has people who go out an actually interview other people. Have you ever interviewed anybody, other than your made up interview with "Pastor" Mac Hammond?

Well, no, grasshopper.

I rest my case.

Well, I am not giving the award back.

Don't have to. Just don't let it go to your head.

Update: The grasshopper had forgotten that he wanted to taunt Spot with Charlie's site, too.

Pop some corn

According to Think Progress, Monica Goodling will be granted immunity from prosecution and compelled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Purgegate. Spot imagined a little conversation about that earlier.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark!

Quiet down, Spotty! Let's see why all these people are at the door.

Bark! Bark!

Shush! Well, it looks like they're here to see you, Spot.

Moi? Whatever for?

The Cucking Stool was just named Liberal Blog of the Year by City Pages.

Really? That's awesome! And look at me! I haven't been to the groomer in months!

You've never been to a groomer. Your hair is too short.

Oh, right.

Just go out and talk to the people.


Spot wants to thank City Pages for the recognition and the award. One of the good things about reading a blog by a dog is that there is very little self-absorbed angst to be endured. Or self-absorption of any kind for that matter. Today will be an exception, for which Spot apologizes.

First off, Spot has a co-author, MNObserver. Spot complains bitterly that MNObserver, who is more connected to politics, especially local politics than Spot, doesn't post more often, but he's grateful when she does.

The Cucking Stool, which was an old English and colonial American "engine of correction," was used as a dunking punishment for a communis rixatrix or common scold. There is a picture of a cucking stool here. People have written to Spot to say that a cucking stool was something else, designed to expose the posterior of the communis rixatrix, but the legal commentator Blackstone supports Spot's usage. Although a communis rixatrix could only be a woman – you Latin scholars can figure that out – Spot includes the communis rix, too.

It is mostly politicians and journalists who have been forced to sit on The Cucking Stool: George Bush, Tim Pawlenty, Tom Emmer, Geoff Michel (Spot's state senator), Norm Coleman, Dick Day, Alberto Gonzales, Don Shelby, D.J. Tice, Craig Westover, and the Power Line boys to name a few. But Spot has a special place in his heart for Katherine Kersten and Michele Bachmann, the state's two pre-eminent common scolds.

Sometimes, Spot plays the canine Zen master and has a dialogue with his "boys and girls" in the plural, or a "grasshopper" in the singular. And sometimes, just for fun, Spot channels dialogues or telephone calls or adapts classic literature to the present circumstance. On special occasions, Spot has the power to hear Katherine Kersten or Michele Bachmann praying.

The Cucking Stool is especially incensed at Katherine Kersten's anti-Muslim tirades.

We occasionally award a Spotty™ to the author of an op-ed piece, a letter to the editor, or a blog post or comment that Spot wishes he had written himself.

Spot urges new readers to poke around a little. Check out Spot's favorite posts on the right, or put the name of your favorite communis rix or rixatrix in the search box, and see if he or she comes up.

Spot hopes you'll come back from time to time.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Spot thanks all the paragons of virtue or vice, blogger mentors (every one of them a local blogger that you probably already know), helpers and friends, and the tipsters who made and make The Cucking Stool possible. Them and the tolerance of Mrs. Spot.

City Pages, thanks again. Spot is not the hippest dog in town, and your recognition means a lot to him.


Joe Repya redux

About a year ago, boys and girls, Spot put up a couple of posts about Eagan resident Joe Repya. One of them, Repya's Rantings, has always gotten a few hits a day, even months after it went up. Repya is a recently-retired Army officer, cheerleader of the Iraq war, a delegate to the 2004 Republican Convention, and an apparent Republican insurgent who is after Ron Carey's job as party chair.

The subject of Spot's post was the political activism of Joe Repya, then an active military officer, and his criticism of local columnist Nick Coleman who had written a column itself critical of operation Iraqi Freedom.

A funny thing has happened, though. In the last month or so, the hits on Repya's Rantings have increased: 20, then 25, and sometimes 30 or more a day, and the trend is still upward. Some of this can be explained, Spot supposes, because Repya is running for party chair, but not all of it. Referring pages come from all over the country, including Florida and Washington State.

In fact, if you do a Google search of the term "Joe Repya," Spot's post is number two in rank; at least it was a few minutes ago. That's ahead of anything from Power Line, Captain Ed, or Let Freedom Ring. There is only one item listed above Spot: U.S. Coast Guard Lightship Sailors. Repya is an "honorary" lightship sailor. This afternoon, this comment was posted to Repya's Rantings referring to the lightship piece:

It's a bit unsettling to read the Lightship piece about Repya - whoever wrote it kept capitalizing the 'h' in him when referring to Repya, e.g., "The first time I met Him".

The way I was raised, there's only one Him you capitalize that way, and it isn't Repya.

Joe Repya is indeed one of the tin gods for the righties. His bid for party chair will be interesting to follow. One of his supporters is Andy at Residual Forces.


Inconsistent statements

A little DOJ bird says to Rachel Paulose: You need a really fluffy interview to get some good ink. Rachel replies, sure, but who? How about a local gossip columnist? They aren't very careful. Great, says Paulose. I'll call C.J.

Minnesota U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose and her predecessor, Tom Heffelfinger, shared a two-hour lunch at Atlas a couple of weeks ago.

Word is the air seemed very clear after they left.

Why did they do that?

Asked about lunch with Heff, Paulose was succinct: "We're friends."

Notice, boys and girls, it is not clear—as is usually the case in C.J.'s column—who the source of the information that "the air is very clear" is.

Isn't it nice that Rachel and Heff are friends?

Wait a minute Spotty. Heff, I mean Mr. Heffelfinger, didn't get invited to Ms. Paulose's coronation, or investiture, or whatever.

That's right, grasshopper, and here's what Paulose said about invitations, again from C.J.'s column:

[ … ] She's real smart, but I didn't get the idea that she thinks she is the second coming of former U.S. Attorney Miles Lord.

Lord was not invited to her investiture, and neither was Tom Berg. Paulose tells me she invited only predecessors with whom she had relationships. [italics are Spot's]

Apparently, C.J., Heffelfinger is Rachel's friend, even though she's never had a relationship with him. (Presumably, Rachel and C.J. are just referring to platonic relationships.) Friends without friendships. Quite a concept, Spot thinks!

Either that, or the two statements are flatly contradictory, and any journalist worth her salt would have followed up.

Spotty says never get your news from a gossip column.

A big thump of the tail to Avidor.

Update: Clarification to the sentence about source per comment from the Demure One.

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Our biggest problems remain human problems

Hasn't Spot been telling you that off and on for a couple of years, boys and girls? That in spite of all the new gee-whiz toys that we have, human relationships are at the core of our knottiest problems?

I don't remember you saying that, Spotty.

Well, he meant to! And it's why history, political science, sociology, anthropology and the like are as important to the survival of humankind as chemistry. There is an L.K. Hanson cartoon in the April 23 Star Tribune that captures the notion perfectly:

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Sarah Baxter, communis rixatrix

Spot supposes that it was inevitable. The slaughter in Blacksburg, Va. was the result of promiscuous young women, not guns, according to a conservative writer that Jeff Fecke dissects here:

The scolds, of course, never really explain why it is that "young women behaving like men" is confusing and enraging -- or at least, why young women behaving like men is worse than young men behaving like men. They don't have to bother. We all know that good girls don't, and cool boys do--the message is driven into us, all of us, from the moment we become aware of what sex might be.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Little Alberto awoke in the predawn hours Friday, on his back, sweaty and flailing all three of his pairs of legs. He was jolted out of his sleep to see six tiny legs waving wildly in the air. He shook his head in disbelief and blinked a couple of times to clear his eyes.

ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR-FIVE-SIX. Little Alberto had knocked back a couple of martinis and took two Ambien Thursday night, but they never had this effect before!

It had been a difficult time before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. He had prepared for the session for weeks. But it did not go well. He tried to tell the senators that he had, after all, been involved in the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys, but that he didn't know why he had fired them. And it sounded so smooth and believable when he practiced in the mirror on Wednesday night. But the Republicans on the committee seemed skeptical, and the Democrats were downright contemptuous.

There was nothing to do now but try to round up some support.

But Alberto felt really funny this morning. First the business with the legs, and then he looked down at his chest and stomach – or at least where they used to be – and saw maybe a twelve pack of abdominal segments, hard and shiny. Alberto emits a scream, but it comes out really, like, metallic sounding! Now is he really panicked. Alberto decides to take a shower and try to clear his head. But when he tries to get out of bed, he rolls onto his side but rolls right back again. He tries to get up for several minutes, and lies back, panting with the exertion. Alberto cranes his neck around, trying to look at his back, and he notices two tentacle-like things protruding from his forehead. To his amazement he is able to taste the sour smell of his sweat in the air with these things.

It is beginning to dawn on Alberto why he cannot get out of bed. He bridges on his neck and turns his head to look at his back. It has been transformed into a hard, brown, convex shell. No wonder he can't roll over! Alberto resolves never to drink martinis and take Ambien together again. In one last Herculean effort, Alberto bridges again on his neck and flips himself off the bed on to the floor with a crash. Winded, he lies still for a moment. Then, concentrating hard to get all of his legs to work in a coordinated fashion, he goes into the bathroom. The lid of the toilet is about eye level, and the sink looms over him.

Alberto takes his front set of legs and places them, one at a time, on the toilet lid. He hoists himself up and then reaches over to the sink, searching for a purchase to pull himself upright on his hindmost legs. He is afraid that he will fall over backwards, but he finds that his feet, if that's what you might call them, ooze a sticky substance that Alberto uses to hang on to the sink. When he is upright, he lifts his eyes and looks in the mirror and is horrified at what he sees.

Staring back at Alberto is an insect, a really big beetle. Its antennae are quivering, and its black head has a saw-like jaw jutting from the bottom of it. His twelve pack joins his brown shell back all around to form an exoskeleton, and his legs protrude from the seam between them. Bracing himself with his middle set of legs, Alberto uses the front set of legs to explore his head and then his front, and finally his back. He lets out a metallic sob.

Alberto senses that his only way out is to get some support for his embattled position. Dropping to the floor, Alberto returns to the bedroom. He looks at his clock – gratified that he can still read it – and notices that hours have passed; it is mid-morning. He decides to call Arlen Specter. Alberto no longer has any thumbs, but the sticky stuff on his feet permit him to pick up the receiver. Using one of his antennae, he dials the senator's number.

"Alberto, you sound really funny," says Specter when he gets on the line. "You been drinkin'? Not that I would blame you."


"I said everything I am going to say in the hearing yesterday, Alberto, and take care of that cold, if that's what it is. Goodbye."

Undaunted, well somewhat daunted, Alberto calls John Cornyn, the senator from Texas; Cornyn gives him an even colder shoulder. Albeetle, and he now thinks of himself, decides to call the man for whom he has been a loyal retainer all life: George W. Bush.

Albeetle dials the White House number, but can only get through to Dana Perino. After struggling to make himself understood by her, she just says, "You continue to have the President's full support."


"No need for that; you have his full support," replies Perino. "Goodbye."

Albeetle places the receiver back in the cradle and is quiet for a moment. Then he bellows, "SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHIT!" Then Albeetle lies down to contemplate the rest of his life as an insect.

With apologies to Gregor Samsa and Franz Kafka.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vote for Andy!

The proprietor of the blog Stubborn Residue, via Blog House, said a couple of weeks ago concerning the proposal to increase income taxes at the top in Minnesota:

All those high tech programs we're paying through the teeth [isn't it through the nose we pay for things, Andy?] for at the U of M will be churning out grads looking for high paying jobs to fit their education (ahem, in this new tax bracket), and they come to a stark realization. Minnesota will no longer have anyone providing these level of jobs, as most companies that can will have relocated. And these grads will be too smart to live in a state that is going to suck almost 10 percent off the top of their wages for the companies stuck here.

Spot had visions that Andy had the Vista Cruiser all packed! Ready to move to more temperate tax climes like Mississippi or Alabama. Apparently not. This word now comes to Spot: AAA is running for vice chair of the sixth district GOP.

With shining eyes, Spot asks, "Where do we get men like these?"

New action flick!

Via Jesus' General:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gonzales v. Carhart misunderstood

In a blog post at The Big Question, Eric Black is sadly misinformed about the consequential nature of the so-called partial birth abortion decision this week:

For those who like to see what I write when I'm writing for the paper paper (and who don't read it in the paper paper), my piece in the Thursday editions analyzing Wednesday's abortion ruling reinforced the view – expressed in a quick blogpost of Wednesday but now buttressed by interviews with two constitutional law professors whose personal politics place them on opposite sides of the abortion issue — that you should not believe the hype about how the court's approval of a federal law banning one particular abortion procedure means, prefigures or even hints that the court, as currently constituted, is ready to reverse the 1973 decision that a pregnant woman has the right to choose an abortion, especially in the early stages of a pregnancy, but that the government's right to regulate abortion increases in the later stages.

Spot doesn't know who your con law buddies are, Eric, but they have perhaps not been paying attention all these years. Here's Jack Balkin, a law professor at Yale on the ruling:

This consequence of Gonzales v. Carhart is hardly accidental. It is the result of a long and sustained strategy by pro-life advocates that has now borne fruit in Supreme Court doctrine. In his discussion of informed choice and in his purple prose about the natural bonds of love between mothers and children-- call it Kennedy's "mother and child reunion" speech-- Justice Kennedy adopts some of the rhetoric of Operation Outcry-- an anti-abortion group which has honed the new style of pro-life rhetoric. The basic goal of this new rhetoric is to undermine the notion that women exercise any kind of choice when they decide to have abortions. It seeks to turn the rhetoric of the pro-choice movement on its head. Women, the new rhetoric argues, don't really understand what they are doing when they decide to have abortions; as a result, they often regret having them later on.

The amicus brief that Justice Kennedy cites for these propositions was written on behalf of Sandra Cano, who was the original Mary Doe in Doe v. Bolton, the companion case to Roe. Cano regrets her association with Doe v. Bolton (she did not in fact have an abortion), and she sees in her experience the experience of all women. Anti-abortion activist Harold Cassidy has been instrumental in refining this style of argument over the past decade, even coming up with an invented medical syndrome, post-abortion syndrome (or PAS) that women suffer as a result of making the immoral and unnatural decision to have an abortion. As Justice Ginsburg's dissent explains, the medical evidence for PAS is flimsy; there is no evidence that women suffer more stress from having abortions than from having to bear and raise children that they aren't prepared to mother. PAS is junk science that has been championed by a new generation of anti-abortion advocates to explain why almost any woman would be out of her mind to undergo an abortion.

Let Spot lay it out for you, Eric. The import of Carhart is not the banning of a rarely-performed abortion procedure. It is that a new form of "junk science" as Professor Balkin calls it has now found its way into constitutional doctrine, and that women are not capable of making an abortion decision without the "help" of the state. Carhart strikes at the very heart of Roe v. Wade, which is that women have sovereignty over their own bodies.

We can now look forward to all sorts of legislation to "help" women make this decision: lectures, looking at ultrasounds, gruesome pictures chosen by legislators, not doctors, etc. and etc. Abortion foes are already licking their chops:

Elated and emboldened, abortion-rights opponents in state after state are planning to push for stringent new limits on second- and third-trimester abortions in the hopes of building on their victory Wednesday at the Supreme Court.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices upheld a federal ban on a procedure critics call "partial-birth" abortion, which involves partially delivering the fetus, then crushing its skull. The ruling included strong language asserting the state's "legitimate, substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life."

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate predicted the ruling would spur a flood of legislation.

"We're moving beyond putting roadblocks in front of abortions to actually prohibiting them," said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a national abortion-rights opponent group based in Wichita, Kan. "This swings the door wide open."

Here's Troy Newman and others have in mind:

He and other strategists said they hope to introduce legislation in a number of states that would:

•Ban all abortion of viable fetuses, unless the mother's life is endangered.

•Ban mid- and late-term abortion for fetal abnormality, such as Down syndrome or a malformed brain.

•Require doctors to tell patients in explicit detail what the abortion will involve, show them ultrasound images of the fetus and warn them that they might become suicidal after the procedure.

•Lengthen waiting periods so women must reflect on such counseling for several days before obtaining the abortion.

And Leslee Unruh, the sweetheart from South Dakota that MNO introduced us to last week, said:

"I'm ecstatic," said Leslee Unruh, an abortion-rights opponent in South Dakota. "It's like someone gave me $1 million and told me, 'Leslee, go shopping.' That's how I feel."

She spent the day conferring with attorneys on how to leverage the ruling to maximum effect in the states: "We're brainstorming and we're having fun."

So Eric, Spot recommends that you take another look at this and perhaps your reporting won't be quite so sanguine on the effects of Carhart. You owe it to your readers.

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The quality of empathy

Is in short supply. For example, here are the opening paragraphs of a Judith Warner opinion piece in her online NYT column called Domestic Disturbances. It is regrettably subscriber only:

There's an absolutely horrifying article in the current issue of Child Magazine about the food fight now raging between parents of children with life-threatening food allergies and parents of the allergy-free. The latter, apparently, have started to push back against "peanut-free" school regulations to assert their children's natural right to eat whatever they darn well please.

The stories are downright chilling: One parent joked on a message board about having his daughter dress as "the Death Peanut" on Halloween. A North Carolina father at a parent-teacher organization meeting said he'd continue to send his child to school with peanut butter sandwiches and "tell his child to 'smear' the peanut butter along the hallway walls." Another father sent his child to school with a "disguised" sandwich that had peanut butter hidden in the middle of the bread.

What's with these wacko parents? According to Judith:

[E]mpathy appears to me now, in much of what I read, to be in particularly short supply, not only among different groups of parents (all those "wars," Mommy and otherwise) but in the increasingly punitive attitudes of school systems and legislators toward parents and, by extension, their kids. Frequently, I find, there seems to be a kind of studied harshness in the air, an in-your-face obtuseness that tries to pass itself off as some sort of virtue or push for justice.

A studied harshness in the air. That seems right to Spot. Piety and virtue, and sometimes even justice, are the biggest empathy killers around. Here's a comment to Warner's article by a reader:

My experience has been that self-righteous parents also raise children without empathy - children without any sense of the good-natured tolerance that makes society a more civil place. I am continually amazed at the inability of older school children to make the smallest accommodations for anyone else. It seems as if to do so would sacrifice their natural right to…whatever it is. We act as if we are the most liberty-deprived people on the planet, instead of the most self-centered.

Spotty says that the comment is spot on. Piety and the code of "personal virtue" make self-absorption masquerade as moral rectitude.

You know where this is going, don't you, boys and girls?

Yeah, you're going to talk about Katie again.

Bingo. Let's take Katie's recent hat trick screed against Muslims. Katie is a member of the group that holds the overwhelming wealth, power, and influence in the United States.

Hack writers?

No grasshopper: Christian white people. People like Katie are the ones who ought to have a little of the "sense of the good-natured tolerance that makes society a more civil place." But in order to have tolerance, you first have to possess a modicum of empathy. Empathy is among the attributes sorely lacking in conservative Christians. Think of them as a large mutual-admiration society, brimming with self-regard, convinced of the correctness of their beliefs and their place in the firmament.

What need have they of empathy? What the world needs is the propagation of their grasp of Ultimate Truth: evangelism. You can understand then Katie's concern about some other religion having the same idea. Here's how she ends her latest column (link above):

The Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada is heavily involved in the Canadian Federation of Students' new report and lobbying. Its president is a member of the task force, and has been a spokesman for its recommendations. The association is the organization that Minneapolis Community and Technical College has looked to for guidance on the ritual washing issue.

Its main goal, it says, is "Dawah": spreading Islam.

Oh, the horror!

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The Blacksburg Unit

First of all, boys and girls, who knows what a Friedman Unit is?

I know! I know! Pick me Spotty!

All right, grasshopper, what's a Friedman Unit?

A Friedman unit is the amount of time that columnist Tom Friedman predicts will be required before we can determine whether a decent outcome is possible in Iraq. He's been saying that the next six months will tell the tale for years. The blogger Atrios, who is much better known than you, Spot, came up with the term. A Friedman unit is therefore six months.

Thank you, precocious grasshopper. See me after class; I have a special project for you. That's right; a Friedman Unit is six months.

In a similar vein, Spot thought it would be useful to measure the violence in Iraq from time to time in terms of comparison to the recent horror at Blacksburg, Virginia. In round numbers, a Blacksburg Unit is therefore 30; Spot thinks that is sufficiently precise for our purposes. So for example, there were nearly three hundred people killed or found dead in Iraq on Wednesday: that would be how many Blacksburg Units?

Ten Blacksburg Units, Spotty.

Right. There have been more that 3,300 US service persons killed in Iraq since the invasion. How many BUs is that?

Wow. That's 110 Blacksburg Units.

Right again. Final question, a harder one. Ready? It is estimated in a study in the British medical journal that as of last fall, 655,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of violence or illness directly attributable to the war. How many BUs is that?

That's 21,833 Blacksburg Units.

Very good. By the way, do you know where we got the numbers that permit us to do long division?

Well, it's called the Arabic number system, so I'm guessing the Arabs, Spot.

Yes, that's right. Can you imagine doing long division with Roman numerals? That's what the western civilization that people like Katie and Victor Davis Hanson are so fond of would have given us. Spot thinks that sometimes a little more cultural humility is in order, at least in some circles.

Class is over for the present. Don't think, boys and girls, that today's exercise was to minimize the tragedy of the loss of life at Virginia Tech. Quite the reverse. Spot wants you to take all the horror and grief experienced on that one campus in America and multiply it by the thousands and thousands of people who have died in Iraq.

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James Clay Fuller wins Spotty!

Mark at Norwegianity nominated James Clay Fuller for a Spotty™ for Fuller's blog post yesterday. When Mark told Spot about it at DL last night, and mentioned that it was a great take down of Katherine Kersten a/k/a Katie, Spot was intrigued.

Well, boys and girls, it's everything Wege said it was. Fuller is an experienced, experienced journalist with years at the Strib. It is obvious that his case of revulsion for Katie has been building for quite a while. As an aside, Jim, Spotty says to just let it out a little more often; it seems easier to Spot that way.

The post does indeed win a Spotty™. Here are just a few excerpts from the post, but be sure and go read Fuller for a more comprehensive treatment of Katie's bigotry than Spot usually gives it.

Even as the worst talk show jerks and hate-spewing columnists – and those who employ them -- finally are starting to draw the fire they deserve from decent people, Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten has mounted a virulent anti-Muslim campaign.

She focuses mainly on Muslims in Minnesota.

[ . . . ]

For the most part, until the anti-Islamic campaign began to overwhelm all other subjects in her columns, rational people either dismissed Kersten as being irredeemably silly – an accurate assessment – or regarded her with annoyance as the Star Tribune's bad joke on Minnesota.

You could say she did some good by bringing liberals and conservatives together, since many people on both sides of that fence freely share their contempt for the woman.

Some readers found amusement in the fact the Star Tribune apparently pays
her what undoubtedly are substantial bucks to publish the output of her former employer and other right-wing propaganda mills. They could get the press releases and position papers for nothing.

There's not a damned thing amusing about the attacks on U.S. and, especially,
Minnesota Muslims, however. While much of what she says on the subject is silly, it comes with too much hate and danger to be dismissed.

[ . . . ]

[While castigating Muslims for refusing to handle pork products s]he has never said a thing about several instances of people in other jobs refusing to serve someone on religious grounds – as, for example, the number of proved complaints about pharmacists who have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control pills because birth control offends their Christian beliefs.

[ . . . ]

As usual with those who practice Kersten's version of what politely is called conservative Christianity, she complains over and over that no comparable accommodation is madefor Christians.

Yeah, right. [Fuller then goes on to identify many such accommodations]

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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Thursday, April 19, 2007

She shoots! She scores!

Katie scores her third consecutive column in a row (as Bob Kostas might say) as an anti-Muslim rant. Spotty wondered if she could score the hat trick. Katie has had columns on the same subject twice in a row at least a few times, but rarely if ever does she have the attention span to go for three.

Muslims obviously bother Katie a lot. Well, you can sure see why! Washing their feet in the restroom sinks before the mid-day prayers when attending Minneapolis Community and Technical College, eating a restricted diet in the cafeteria at the school when it's not even Lent! And Katie doesn't want to scare you, boys and girl, but Katie says to be worried about many more accommodations that you will have to put up with in the future.

Spot made that part up about Katie not wanting to scare you. That's obviously the object of the whole exercise. Today, the object lesson comes from Canada, which we learn, is well down the road to perdition in accommodating Muslims.

Last week [and Monday of this week], I wrote about Minneapolis Community and Technical College's proposal to install ritual washing facilities to facilitate Muslim prayer. Is this a tempest in a teapot, as some have suggested?

Canada, our neighbor to the north, is farther down the "accommodations" road. A glance north can shed light on whether prayer spaces and ritual washing facilities are likely to satisfy activists for long.

Katie goes on to describe some of the recommendations (the key word here) of an Ontario student organization:

Some recommended changes could affect all students. For example, the report criticizes Canada's loan-based system of financing higher education and calls for outright grants to students. "Education related government loans should not accumulate interest," it says, since Islam "opposes usury and involvement with interest-bearing loans." Other changes would be more focused. The report endorses "women-only" time at athletic facilities, and urges colleges to "provide curtains or screens over the observation windows" when women are using the pool.

The report calls not just for Muslim-only prayer space but for "multiple prayer spaces" with "easy access" from all over campus. All new building plans should include prayer space and ritual washing facilities if necessary, it adds.

Food service workers must learn to prepare halal food, which is ritually slaughtered and otherwise permissible under Sharia law. After preparing non-halal food, staff must "change sanitary gloves and wash cutlery and surfaces" to avoid contaminating halal food.

Have you read Leviticus recently, Katie?

Katie says that according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission,

Islamophobia includes more than clearly inappropriate behavior such as violence against Muslims or unreasonable suspicion of them.

Reasonable suspicion, now that's fine, right? Of course, Katie thinks about "reasonable suspicion" the way that Mr. and Mrs. Bigot do, meaning "breathing while Muslim."

And our little emotion arsonist Katie stirred up quite a controversy with her jeremiad against the installation of what the president of the school, Phil Davis, calls a "plumbing fixture":

The proposal was the subject of a column by the Star Tribune's Katherine Kersten, which was picked up by conservative bloggers across the country. It became the subject of a nationwide "action alert" by the American Family Association, which urged its Minnesota readers to contact their legislators regarding the MCTC proposal. Davis, bombarded with 3,000 e-mails, in turn sent letters to every Minnesota legislator and Gov. Tim Pawlenty this week.

That Katie knows how to tweak the base, doesn't she, boys and girls?

One of the funniest responses to Katie's column came from a defender of the faith in the Minnesota House:

And today Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said he planned to introduce an amendment to the House Higher Education bill that would allow MnSCU workers to display religious symbols at their desks and cubicles.

Abeler is quoted as saying:

Abeler said his amendment would clarify what can be permitted in MnSCU workplaces, in light of the Muslim foot-washing issue.

"The foot-washing thing is absolutely a religious accommodations [sic] which they should do," Abeler said. "My point is that as we accommodate one faith, we shouldn't suppress the rights of people of other faiths."

Abeler said he is likely to offer an amendment on the House floor today to send a legislative letter to college officials urging them to remember that as they might accommodate one group, they should accommodate others as well.

Just as Katie and Captain Fishsticks did, Rep. Abeler turns First Amendment law on its head, arguing in effect that Establishment Clause considerations are irrelevant, and that all religions should just be treated equally generously. This is what happens you start to drag religion, any religion, into the public square. Everybody wants a place at the trough.

Katie probably understands that she cannot argue against Muslim foot baths on Establishment Clause grounds because of her position on things like public support of sectarian schools. However, the Establishment Clause is where it ought to be argued.

So instead, Katie falls back on comfortable grounds: religious and racial bigotry.

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Geoff Michel is shocked!

Shocked at the prospect of increasing the cost of pool boys, gardeners, and other retainers out here in Cakeville. The Minnesota Senate has passed a measure to raise the minimum wage from $6.15 to $7.75 per hour. Can you believe that, boys and girls? Let's see, that's $15,566 a year for full time work. Outrageous. Why, that would leave maybe six or seven thousand dollars a year left over after you buy health insurance for a family! Who couldn't get by on that?

Geoff took a dim view of the Senate action:

"It's bad policy, bad timing and another punch in the gut of Minnesota businesses," said Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina.

You're right Geoff; we want to be the region's low-cost labor supplier, just like Mississippi. Maybe we can attract more call center business like India. (Can I get that delivered tomorrow? Fer sure.) We're on the way, according to the linked article:

[Sen. Ellen] Anderson [a sponsor of the bill] said that 25 states already have higher minimum wages than Minnesota's, including Wisconsin ($.6.50), Iowa ($6.20, going to $7.25 next year) and Illinois ($6.50, going to $7.50 in July). "Even Arkansas ($6.25) is higher," she said.

Makes you really proud, doesn't it boys and girls?

Actually, for small businesses in Minnesota, the minimum wage is even lower:

For large firms, the rate would rise to $6.75 an hour on Aug. 1 and $7.75 a year later. For small firms, which now have a minimum of $5.25 an hour, the steps would be to $5.75 on Aug. 1 and $6.75 a year later.

Spot called Geoff Michel the "Great Pretender" during the campaign last year for trying to fool voters into thinking he was a moderate.

Geoff sounds like Michele Bachmann, who opposes an increase in the federal minimum wage. If Spot remembers correctly—and he is pretty sure that he does—both Michel and Michele opposed the last increase in the minimum wage when Bachmann was still in the Minnesota Legislature. Great company Geoff.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Not much more to say

Spot has nothing to add to MNObserver's post over at Norwegianity about today's Supreme Court ruling curtailing abortion rights. Go read it, boys and girls.

What’s the difference?

In Katie's last two columns (Spot can't wait to see if she goes for the hat trick tomorrow), she rails and wails against what she regards as public institutional support of Islamic religious practice. She has also shrieked about Muslim taxi drivers and the flying imams.

Spot is pleased that Katie is foursquare against dragging religion into the public square. Spot just wonders when Katie will pen a column criticizing the putative Christian pharmacists who won't fill a prescription for emergency contraception.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

You can’t prevent something like this

That's the ironic title of Professor Stephen Griffin's post about the Virginia Tech shooting yesterday. Professor Griffin notes bitterly:

I've heard something like [you can't prevent something like this] after every mass slaying or, rather, every mass slaying committed by someone with a gun. After mass slayings committed by terrorists, presidential assassinations, or killings in areas supposedly secure like courts, we commit ourselves to the actions necessary to prevent such killings in the future, whether through better security, use of intelligence, confiscation of weapons, and the like. But with mass killings committed in country with a gun, we are encouraged to believe, by people who should know better, that they are akin to natural disasters or freak occurrences like an asteroid strike in your backyard.

Griffin's post drew the usual howls of protest from the gun nuts. Spotty has been thinking lately about all the Catch-22s in life: Want to be the president? You're clearly too much of a megalomaniac for the job. Want to carry a gun around all the time? Then you're probably such a paranoid psychopath that you're too damn dangerous to be trusted with one.

Where was Spotty? Oh yes. Virginia does very little to control guns. There is no background check, nor any waiting period before purchasing a handgun. According to reports, the shooter at Virginia Tech had just recently acquired the handguns used in the killings. Might a waiting period have stopped him? Maybe, or maybe not. But one thing is certain now: thirty-three more people are dead from gun violence in Blacksburg, Virginia.


Reassuring news

Spot heard a couple of commentators refer to the shootings at Virginia Tech yesterday as the "largest mass murder in American history." You'll be relieved to know, boys and girls, that it's not true. We've been much better than that at slaughtering Indians. Spot's favorite historian, Howard Zinn, describes a blood fest that perhaps established the tradition:

In reality, we have never been just a city on a hill [describing Winthrop and later Ronald Reagan's use of the term]. A few years after Governor Winthrop uttered his famous words, the people in the city on a hill moved out to massacre the Pequot Indians. Here's a description by William Bradford, an early settler, of Captain John Mason's attack on a Pequot village.

Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword, some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived that they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.

Ah, the smell of roasted Indians! But this was hardly the last time:

The kind of massacre described by Bradford occurs again and again as Americans march west to the Pacific and south to the Gulf of Mexico. (In fact our celebrated war of liberation, the American Revolution, was disastrous for the Indians. Colonists had been restrained from encroaching on the Indian territory by the British and the boundary set up in their Proclamation of 1763. American independence wiped out that boundary.)

Spotty, I think maybe the commentators meant it was the worst mass murder in U.S. history when most or all of the victims were white and where guns were used. Captain Mason's guys used fire and swords.

Do you think so, grasshopper? Well then, never mind.

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Monica calls Rachel

Ring. Ring.

Hello, this is Rachel Paulose, your United States Attorney.

Omigod, they want to talk to you, too!

I'm sorry. Who is this?


Monica? Monica who?

You know very well who this is. Monica Goodling.

Oh, of course. Monica. What can I do for you?

That's a little abrupt, Rachel.

Whatever do you mean? It's nice to talk to you. What do you want?

Gee, I thought we could have a friendly conversation like we used to. Visit about the Christian life. Stuff like that.

I'd love to Monica, but I'm a little busy right now. I know you have some time on your hands, but some of us are still employed and would like to stay that way.

That was catty, Rachel.

Sorry. I am just stressed out, I guess.

I know. That's partly why I called. Maybe we can pray about it. What do you think?

Maybe another time. Right now I need to summon more temporal powers.

That's the other reason I called. Do you need a referral to a good lawyer? Mine's just the best! He stopped Conyers and the rest of those yahoos on the House Judiciary Committee cold!

Actually, Monica, I think he just slowed "Conyers and the rest of those yahoos" down a little.

Whatever do you mean? He told the Committee that I wouldn't testify.

Sigh. He told the Committee that you were invoking your Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. You remember that from law school, don't you Monica?

There you go again! Of course I do! Just because you went to Yale and I went to that crackpot Pat Robertson's law school.

I hear that Conyers is talking about granting you immunity for your testimony before the Committee. If he does that, you'll have to testify.

Really? I mean yeah, I suppose. But that'll be great, because then I can just go up to the Hill and just say some things, yada yada yada, and protect like, everybody!

Did you ever use the DOJ email system Monica?

You know I did.

As the DOJ liaison with the White House, you either sent, received, or were copied on lots of emails, weren't you?

Well, sure.

You know who has those emails now, don't you Monica?

John Conyers?


Ooh, that's bad. But I'll be immunized, right?

You'll have immunity for any deeds you participated in, but not for any perjury you commit before the Committee. And if they have all your emails, you'll be on a pretty short leash. Not a good time to get creative, Monica.

But Paul and Kyle and even Alberto, I mean Mr. Gonzales, will be counting on me! Maybe even you!

But in the end, you'll save you own skin.

I suppose. Goodness! Can Conyers ask about whether I ever talked to you, like now?


I'm starting to see why you don't want to talk. Should I hang up now?

Yes, Monica. Please. Goodbye. [click]

Rachel, I would still like to end with a little prayer, just for old time's sake. Rachel? Rachel? Darn, I wanted to ask her if she was still sore that I missed her coronation.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Listen to the Mockingbird!

Remember boys and girls, when Katie took another shot at Muslim religious observance last week? Spot urges you read his post, but in summary, Katie was upset that Minneapolis Community and Technical College was considering adding some kind of facility for Muslim students who want to ritually bathe their feet before prayer to do so more easily. Spot said that Katie was upset because the religion that was being "established" was Islam, not Christianity.

Today, Katie expands on the theme with Ritual-washing area for Muslims at MCTC may be only the beginning. (The Muslims have been a godsend to Katie; they have permitted a conflation of racial and religious bigotry, a two-fer so to speak.)

Katie has learned about a stealthy and subversive organization called the Muslim Accommodation Task Force, an instrument of the Muslim Student Association, has plans to turn U.S. colleges into mosques! Foot baths! Food lines! Housing! Ed al Fitr! Where will it end?

How did Katie find out about this stealthy and subversive organization and it nefarious plans, Spotty?

Well, she read about it on the 'net. And the nerve of these people! They offer advice to Muslim student activists like this:

Activists should also frame their objectives in language that Americans embrace. "Most Americans identify with concepts such as 'justice,' 'self-determination,' 'human rights' and 'democracy,' "the guide explains. "These terms will be constructive when delivering your message, regardless of the issue."

For example, if you want to bring a speaker to campus to discuss the importance of hijab (Muslim women's headwear or covering), you will be "more effective" if you broaden the topic to "women's rights."

It seems quite ironic to Spot that Katie would complain about somebody else adopting the same flag-waving rhetoric that Katie's crew does.

The funny thing is, Spot agrees with much of what Katie says in her last two columns, but from an entirely different perspective. As is especially evident in Katie's last column, she isn't so much worried about the establishment of religion as she is in a grudge match between Christianity and Islam. Public support of religion is fine, so long as it's my religion.

Be careful what you wish for, Katie. Conservatives have been trying to break down the wall of separation of church and state by casting Establishment Clause situations in Free Exercise terms. The Muslim Accommodation Task Force is what you get when you do that. These two clauses of the First Amendment exist in a tension, a healthy tension, Spot says. When you try to say that failure to support religion in public institutions is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause, however, you are destroying the Establishment Clause.

One of Katie's fellow travelers, Captain Fishsticks, attended a meeting of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State back in February of 2006. Here's a little of what Sticks said about his participation in the meeting:

That strange historical scenario [19th century constitutional amendments that rose in several states to prevent the funding of sectarian schools] came up in response to a question about school vouchers, which Didier [a presenter at the meeting] opposed as government support for religion comparable to colonial taxation for support of ministers of state-sponsored religions. "That's my opinion," he said. "I don't know if anyone thinks differently."

There was about ten seconds or so of silence. It being clear that no one in the room did think differently, valor taking the better part of discretion, I said "Okay, I'll take that one."

Well, I can only say I am glad no one dropped dead from shock. Nonetheless, I made the argument that under voucher and tax credit systems, education funds (the state guaranteeing free education to all children) go to parents that decide whether to use them at private religious or secular schools and if a religious school, what type of religious school. Vouchers violate neither the establishment clause of the first amendment, nor the free exercise clause. They do not violate Blaine Amendments, in that those apply to direct state aid to specific "sectarian" schools. There is no breach of separation of church and state.

Didier's response was as puzzling to me as was the look on his face brought on by my argument. He asked me if my explanation meant that vouchers would be distributed universally. I replied that under the Hann/Buesgens bill in Minnesota [which did not make it out of committee last year], vouchers targeted only low-income students.

"Well," replied Didier, "Then it's a fairness issue. Unless vouchers are universal they are not fair."

Now that's a puzzling answer because it's not relevant to his main objection that state money would be funneled to religious schools. I didn't (and don't) see how sending more state money to more religious schools is philosophically different than sending some state money to some religious schools, but heck, I'd be all for it. I explained that universal vouchers would be great, but public schools objected to even a small implementation of vouchers, let alone universal vouchers, out of fear of too many students leaving failing public schools.

This is a good example of trying to turn an Establishment issue into a Free Exercise one. Here, Sticks argues that the state's obligation to provide K-12 education means that it should support all schools, including sectarian ones. If we support sectarian schools with tax money, what's a foot bath among friends?

Here's more from Sticks about the meeting:

Having already felt like I pissed on the carpet a little, I didn't question some of the later comments during the Q&A, but the "confirmation bias" was rampant. One woman asked if the influx of Muslims, "who don't believe in the separation of church and state," would contribute to breaking down the wall of separation. "It could" was the essence of a long answer, without considering that her premise is false. At one point, Southern Baptists were mentioned and a knowing "Hmmmmmm" went through the crowd indicating a general agreement as to what those people were like. [italics are Spot's]

The premise of her question, Spot presumes, is that there is a wall of separation between church and state in the U.S. Sticks is obviously a doubter on the subject. In fact, Sticks says that vouchers used to support sectarian schools do not violate the Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, or the Blaine amendment (the 19th century state constitutional initiatives Sticks mentioned).

Spot says that the woman with the question about Muslims telegraphed the issue at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College that now has Katie in such a dither. Conservatives are so eager to feed at the public trough for their religion that they fail to see the implications for other religions, too.

Spot will conclude by saying, boys and girls, that you shouldn't rely on the First Amendment advice Sticks gives above!

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