Saturday, June 30, 2007

A conservative dog?

This letter in the June 30 Star Tribune wins a Spotty (tm):

Beware of thunder

Katherine Kersten's June 28 column [the link is to Spot's post about the column] actually made me laugh because at our house, we joke that our dog is a conservative. How do we know?

He is blindly obedient to our authority, any slight change to his routine upsets him greatly even if it's to his benefit, and he is willing to give up his freedom of the yard to cower behind our legs at even the slightest rumble of thunder.


Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty (tm) is awarded to the writer of a letter to the editor, an op ed piece, or a blog post or comment that Spot wishes that he had written himself, although he would have loath to describe a dog as a conservative.

Friday, June 29, 2007

You got a lotta damn nerve

Spot rarely bothers with Michael Brodkorb.


You know Michael Brodkorb, don't you grasshopper? That transient uncomfortable bunching of your shorts; that hole in your sock that your big toe sometimes pokes through; that hard taco that breaks into many pieces when you take the first bite? In other words, an agent of annoyance whose power to peeve far exceeds his importance.

Michael Brodkorb is a foppish Republican dandy, the saloon keeper at Minnesota Democrats Exposed, a site dedicated to the extrusion of an effluvium of rumor, gossip, and innuendo, like a dotty Play-Doh Fun Factory, loaded with excreta, run amok.

Brodkorb also stars on the conservative radio fart show, "The King and the Korb," on "The Patriot AM 1280." Last Saturday, the King and the Korb tried to perform an ambush on Hal Kimball over his criticism of Luke Hellier as a candidate for a student representative position on the MnSCU Board of Trustees. Regrettably, Hal was not available, but that didn't prevent the King and the Korb from vilifying Hal. It's better than talking about the Manchurian Candidate's credentials!

Anyway, the Korb registered shock and dismay that Jeff Fecke, writing at Minnesota Matters Monitor, would pick up the story and write that the Manchurian Candidate seemed to be the governor's apparent choice. Why, he didn't source it properly! (Spot is not making this up, boys and girls.) Based on what he knows, boys and girls, Jeff's inference is a reasonable one; Brokorb's complaint is like Elmer Gantry, railing against sin while boinking the help.

You've got a lotta damn nerve, Brodkorb.

Rest in peace II

Spot is betting that Katie will be in full cry, blood dribbling from the corners of her mouth, next Monday about the effective repeal of Brown v. Board of Education yesterday; he is inclined to keep his powder dry until then.

Spot did forget one thing in the linked death announcement: In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to the ACLU or the NAACP.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rest in peace

Spot regrets to announce the death today of one of the real patriarchs of the civil rights movement, Brown v. Board of Education. It was only 53 years old, younger than the men (they were all men) who decided to end life support. The Brown decision, and the entire civil rights movement itself, slipped into a coma some time ago. The death, while not entirely unexpected, will be mourned nevertheless.

It seemed for a time after the birth of Brown v. Board of Education that affirmatively working toward civil rights and a more just society would be the new paradigm in the United States.

A more complete obituary will follow.

Not all of Spot's owners have been liberals

Katie's column this morning is about the liberal in her household—"a cuddly white Bichon"—who, according to Katie, is "a pleasure-seeker in full moral meltdown." While Katie used the occasion to poke fun at her dog, and by extension liberals, it was the cause of sober refection by Spotty, let him tell you, boys and girls! Before going any further, though, let Spot present a little photo gallery:




Katie, of course


Now if this little tableau doesn't suggest the yin and the yang of moral constipation to you, boys and girls, you aren't paying attention. Cuddly white bichon, curly, not  cuddly black Katie. Full moral meltdown, frozen stone.

Spot's first owner was a lot like Katie. Here's how Katie describes her dog, Fischer:

Fischer's decadence is unrestrained. His vice of choice is a glorious gluttony. He has refused to mend his ways, despite constant exhortations about the importance of self-discipline and moderation.

Katie goes on to describe the feats that Fischer performed over the years to steal food.

The first owner of Spot was a conservative Christian, too, a real Calvinist type. Appearances were very important to her. She got dressed up to take Spot on walks, and it was important for her to have a dog that reflected her tight-arsed asceticism. That meant Spot had to be svelte, really svelte. Spot was hungry all the time. He used to try to steal food whenever he could, too. It always meant a scolding—or worse—but it was the only way to keep the hunger pangs at bay.

Katie talks about Fischer's enablers: her kids. Yeah, Spot had enablers, too. Also the kids. They were in a similar position to Spot in many ways: subject to the iron will of the mistress and trying to fit into her mould. They could understand what Spot was going through. But finally, Spot couldn't take it any longer.

When the kind stranger saw Spot cowering in the ditch one night, dirty and cold, he took Spot home. Spot was gaunt and had a haunted look. Spot is ashamed to say it, but he was mistrustful at first. It was obvious to the man that Spot needed compassion—and some square meals—which the man provided in abundance.

As Spot convalesced, the man tried to figure out what to do with Spot. Spotty had broken his collar, so there was no way to identify Spot's first owner. He did check the newspaper and the utility poles in the neighborhood to see if anyone had reported losing Spotty. No one had, so the man had to decide whether to put up his own notices: Dog Found. In the end, he didn't, perhaps sensing that Spotty would not want to leave the liberal care that he had been given by the kind man.

And so, the kind man became Spot's new owner, and Spot has taken hundred of walks with him and chased countless tennis balls for him. He'll do it as long as he can.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Remorseless remorse

A reader called Spot's attention to the fact that King Banaian apologized for his radio and blog tirade against Hal Kimball. Here's the back story: Spittle guards on microphones.

And here's the apology: Where is the line? Spot thought, well, okay. That's the end of it. But the apology began to eat at Spot. There were some things about it that were troublesome. For example:

When I decided in 2004 to join the NARN as a radio personality, I resolved that it had to be clear that I spoke on the air in a personal capacity. I try hard to avoid the impression that a listener thinks I speak on behalf of the university. I thought I had taken due care in establishing, within the rules of data privacy, that he was not a student and therefore unlikely to be seen as someone with whom I might have any professional responsibility.

Hmmm. Banaian authors a blog called SCSU Scholars, and it has a large vertical graphic "St. Cloud State" running along the left side of the blog. The tagline to the title is: "Deliriant Isti Magistri - They Are Mad, Those Professors." Moreover there is a badge displayed prominently in the right sidebar that advertises the King and the Korb show:

There's not much of a secret of the affiliation is there? Nor is there much question that Banaian is trading on his association with Saint Cloud State.

And then Banaian writes this:

Had Hal identified himself as a returning student [after some absence, apparently] before our Saturday broadcast, I would have hesitated on running the story and would certainly have been more tempered in my discussion of his role; I can understand the confusion it causes to think I may be criticizing him as a professor. Again, he has never been my student and given his course of study (identified publicly as a masters program in social responsibility) he likely never will. But my line is a little further out than that; the potential that criticism of a person is seen as my speaking officially to a student is over that line.

Let's just be sure Spot has this straight: if Hal is a former student, it's okay to savage him and compare him to Gomer Pyle, If he's a student, however, he gets the kid glove treatment. Banaian's invective—especially on his website—was full of information about Hal Kimball's time as a student, a student activist, at that. How do you think that your remarks bore the imprimatur of Saint Cloud State any less if Hal was merely a former student, Professor?

Banaian wants to be sure that we know that he's never likely to cross paths with Hal Kimball at school; Hal is going to be studying social responsibility. Boy, your right, Prof, little risk there.

Then Banaian goes on:

My obligation is to the university in this regard. To them, I apologize for any confusion I may have caused in mistaking Hal as an ex-student.

Shouldn't Banaian being apologizing to "it" not "them," Spotty?

Spot thinks so grasshopper. But Spot says that the thing that bothers him is that Banaian seems to be merely distinguishing situations where character assassination is, and is not, appropriate. Spot has hurled a brickbat or two, but he wouldn't use his status, if he had any, to do it.

Norm, did Katie put you up to this?

Here's your Catch-22 of the morning: Report being assaulted, and you risk being deported. According to NOW, that's how things may turn out for illegal immigrant women if one particular amendment winds up attached to the immigration bill just revived in the Senate. That would be the Coleman-Domenici amendment (S. Amdt. 1158; text not yet available on Thomas), offered by Sens. Coleman, R-Minn., and Domenici, R-N.M., and packaged as a way to "facilitate information sharing between federal and local law enforcement officials related to an individual's immigration status." What it would actually do: Discard state and local policies (including provisions in the Violence Against Women Act) that keep immigration status confidential when someone reports domestic or sexual violence to police. (Key language: "No person, agency, or Federal, State, or local government entity may prohibit a law enforcement officer from acquiring information regarding the immigration status of any individual if the officer seeking such information has probable cause to believe that the individual is not lawfully present in the United States.")

[at Salon's blog Broadsheet]

Some of you, boys and girls, will recall Katie's plaintive wail about the Minneapolis separation ordinance designed to keep the Minneapolis cops from becoming junior G men on immigration. In a recent morals raid by Rachel's boys and girls on undocumented alien prostitutes who had been brought into the state for that purpose, Katie was all bent out of shape because she didn't think that the Minneapolis cops were helpful enough. And she pointed to the ordinance.

Katie, the cops probably weren't more involved because they were busy busting panhandlers at your behest!

Now, by golly, thinks Katie, we'll take the issue out of the hands of the local police! I'll write that Norman Coleman fellow! He'll do something!

It doesn't occur to Katie that fear of deportation—even if you're a prostitute—would be a impediment to the reporting of crime, even serious crime, even by victims. Katie is missing the empathy gene. She has no ability to walk in the shoes of a undocumented alien, or a homeless panhandler for even an instant. She only knows the world of "decent people" or "ordinary folks" who are perhaps not unexpectedly exactly like Katie.

Eroticism to Katie is being able to look down on other people. Status porn.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Even the facts are arrayed against us

Here's the lede from a post by the brilliant Johnny Rocketseed today:

Yesterday, we wrote about an Associated Press article on Fred Thompson's career as a lobbyist. The article was factually accurate, as far as I know, but it took a decidedly anti-Thompson bent, as is evident from the opening paragraphs:

Republican Fred Thompson, who likes to cast himself in the role of Washington outsider, has a long history as a political insider who earned more than $1 million lobbying the federal government.

As a lobbyist for more than 20 years, billion-dollar corporations paid Thompson for his access to members of Congress and White House staff.

Then Johnny goes on, of course, to attack the AP reporter. Brilliant, Johnny. This is another example of the right wing's use of the Texas Cockroach Defense: when you don't have a defense, you just crawl all over the plaintiff or prosecution.

Let Spot explain something to you Johnny. You attack the credibility of a witness or declarant in order to try to call into question the truth of what s/he says. When you admit the truth of what is said, attacking the witness is just venal, not useful. You just reveal yourself as a crank.

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A dangerous obsession

Spot read Katie's column yesterday, just another piece of drivel bashing the public schools. But Spot had other things to occupy him yesterday and didn't have time to comment on the column. So, with a mixed sense of ennui and despair, boys and girls, Spot approaches her column today. Regrettably, Spot is the old dog snoozing on the porch who will nevertheless rouse himself to chase the rusted-out Oldsmobile—perhaps it was your father's Oldsmobile—with the bad muffler when it drives by a couple of times a week.

Is Katie your dangerous obsession, Spotty?

Well yes, grasshopper, she is, but the post title is really meant as a warning to Spot's friend, the Wege. He has devoted a troubling amount of electronic ink to Katie of late. Spot says, Turn back Wege, mend the error of your ways before it is too late. Katie has claimed the lives of too many bloggers already. Spot's should be a cautionary tail tale.

While trudging down the road to perdition yesterday, the Wege does make some interesting points. He runs Katie's column through the "Jewing Test," a search and replace exercise intended to see if the substitution of "Jew" for whatever group Katie is complaining about makes the reader uncomfortable. The theory is, well let's let the Wege tell it:

For those who have forgotten, the Jewing Test is a global search and replace exercise the replaces all references to one "group," and replaces them with terms like Jew and Jewish. If the result creeps you out, then maybe you should wonder why you weren't creeped out by the original text.

It's an illuminating exercise. The Wege also says this:

Just because suburban kids have all the advantages is no reason to cede that advantage to them in the public school system, as well. The real problem here isn't Kersten's columns, it's our stinkingly racist society, white flight, and the abandonment of inner city youth by our winner-take-all society.

The premise of Katie's column is pretty well summed up in the title, "Another try at balancing schools by race falls flat." If that doesn't sound smug to you, boys and girls, then have a look at Katie's picture. See what Spot means? Katie tell us about two schools set up by WMEP, intended as magnet schools to draw children from Minneapolis and surrounding suburban schools in an attempt to achieve a voluntary racial integration.

One can almost hear Katie chuckling as she writes the lede:

The Inter-District Downtown School in Minneapolis and the FAIR School in Crystal opened their doors with much fanfare in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Their sponsor is the West Metro Education Program, a consortium of the Minneapolis school district and 10 suburban districts. WMEP created the schools at a cost of more than $26 million to be showcases of racial balance, achieved voluntarily.

Last week, we learned that they are no such thing.

Today, Inter-District students are 70 percent minority and the FAIR School is nearly 70 percent white. Their racial composition is little different from that of the districts in which they are located. The Inter-District School actually qualifies as "racially isolated" under state desegregation rules.

Almost giddy with this disclosure, Katie goes on to give us her verdict:

This revelation will disappoint you if you think that getting a good education requires sitting next to someone whose skin color is different than yours. But while many social planners (including judges) seem to view education this way, most ordinary folks don't.

"Including judges," what does Katie mean by that?

Grasshopper, Katie is referring to the use of school busing to achieve racial integration of schools. Ever since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which held that "separate but equal" was inherently unequal, federal courts have struggled to find a way to insure the integration of schools. Intra-district busing was one of the attempted remedies. It was one way to achieve some racial balance without taking over the entire school system. What would you have preferred, Katie? That the judge appoint himself, his clerk and court reporter, and the U.S. Marshal to the school board to run the district until it was integrated? Or perhaps—and this may have been in the offing had WMEP and programs like "It's You Choice" not been created—inter-district busing might have been considered.

And who are the ordinary folks, Spotty?

They're the white "flighters," grasshopper:

But mandatory busing did have one devastating unintended consequence: White, middle-class families began streaming out of the city. When the suit that launched busing was filed in 1971, the Minneapolis district was 14.5 percent minority. In 1985, it was 40 percent. In 1994, it was 62 percent minority and today it's 72 percent.

Putting themselves beyond the reach of intra-district busing, in other words. The federal judiciary and proponents of integration underestimated the will of white people to avoid having their children attend integrated schools.

That's it in a nusthell, boys and girls. White flight is merely residential segregation writ large. We're left with the same problem we had pre - Brown v. Board of Education. But that's okay with Katie, because she hates public education anyway.

Katie does get cause and effect turned around. Residential segregation existed for a long time before efforts were made to integrate schools. School busing did have the effect of damaging the community created by a neighborhood school; this is regrettable and has certainly damaged support for the Minneapolis Public School system. But the answer is not to simply accept de facto or de jure segregated schools. Spot thinks the Brown court was right in saying "separate but equal is inherently unequal."

Spot believes the long term answer is in the reduction of segregated housing patterns. Addressing that, of course, will make integrating the schools seem like a piece of cake.

Amy Klobuchar, where are you?

If Spot was a freshman senator—unlikely, he knows—he would certainly want to be a co-sponsor of a bill to restore the writ of habeas corpus, maybe the cornerstone of the rule of law in the United States. It might be the most important vote of a young political career. There are twenty-two Democratic co-sponsors of S-185, a bill to do just that. But Amy is AWOL. Now maybe the sign-up sheet just hasn't come to her office yet; you know the yellow legal pad on a clipboard where you provide you name, address, telephone number, and now, your email address?

Phoenix Woman passes on some suggestions for talking the habeas bill up.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Spot and the hoi poli do not mix

On Friday, Eric Black posted a story at Minnesota Monitor about the fact that most journalists are liberals. Or libruls, as the King and the Korb might say. Eric, on behalf of the MSM, seemed a little defensive about this. Perhaps it's just a leftover reflex. Spot was going to go over and leave a comment, but he sees that the post is up to FORTY-NINE comments as of this writing. Ol' Spotty is not used to sharing space for his thoughts with such a larger number of the hoi poli (kidding), so he'll pen his thoughts over here where he commands the spotlight a little better.

The whole idea of "balanced journalism" should be consigned to the scrap heap forthwith. Eric argues, unnecessarily in Spot's view, that most journalists are able to "rise above" their "selective perception" or biases. Boys and girls, we don't need balanced journalists, so much as we need journalists who tell the truth. Conservatives have been quite successful in convincing journalists that there are two sides to everything. But, there is not need, when discussing the rotation of the earth, to include the fact that some people maintain that the earth is flat. Just because some jughead believes it doesn't mean that it is entitled to equal time.

There is perhaps no issue where the flat earthers have had a more pernicious effect than global warming. See? Even Spot just did it! Global warming isn't an issue, it's a fact. The only deniers left are just biostitutes and their promoters: Katie, Powerline, Jason Lewis, et al. The real scientific community—those pesky reality-based folks—all say, yep, it's real and we had better starting doing something about it NOW. [Update] When Spot wrote this post, he should have included Brian Lambert's commentary on this subject in the Strib a few days ago. [/update]

The pre-war reporting about Iraq is another example of where the issue wasn't balance, but courage. And except for Knight-Ridder (RIP) and CBS's Bob Simon, courage was in short supply. Mostly, we got sucklings like Judy Miller.

Just give Spot a reporter who is skeptical, especially of people in power, who can ask a pointed question—without the bombast of Tim Russert or playing "gotcha" journalism—and maybe another reporter who is willing to ask a good follow-up question if the first one doesn't get a chance to, rather than preening in front of the cameras like a parakeet looking in a mirror and asking his or her "own" question, and Spot doesn't care what political party the reporter belongs to.

Spittle guards on microphones

Do you suppose they have spit guards on the microphones at "AM 1280 - The Patriot?"

Oh, undoubtedly, and probably wind screens, too. Why do you ask, grasshopper?

You remember your post The Manchurian Candidate? About the Republican factotum non-MnSCU student that the governor is considering appointing to the MnSCU Board of Trustees? Well, the Manchurian Candidate was a guest of Michael Brodkorb and King Banaian on their right wing call-in therapy show last Saturday. Picture that tableau, Spotty!

Yes, Spot thinks he has an image now.

Aren't those the guys from Powerline?


Anyway the whole thing apparently started with Hal Kimball's post suggesting that the Manchurian Candidate, Luke Hellier, was a bad choice for the job. Although Kimball didn't call him the Manchurian Candidate, you did, Spotty. And on Saturday, the King and the Korb went to great lengths to talk about what a great guy the Manchurian Candidate is, and dammit, he's eligible. Never mind that he was one of the Brownshirts for Bachmann and has heretofore never expressed any interest in public higher education, except perhaps for some political organizing and "fostering conservative thought" on MnSCU campuses—as though that was an intellectual movement.

They discussed Kimball during the show, and the  King went all testicular on him; there's also a post about it up on SCSU Scholars.

There's one thing that the King and Kimball have in common that the Manchurian Candidate does not, grasshopper.

What's that, Spotty?

The King and Kimball have both set foot in a MnSCU classroom. Spot finds it  least mildly ironic that a tenured SCSU faculty member would support a candidate for the MnSCU Board of Trustees who has such a fatally-defective background—or rather the lack of any background—with the MnSCU system. It makes one wonder where the King's priorities lie. Perhaps one doesn't have to wonder too much!

Banaian seems to want to make this about Hal Kimball, not Luke Hellier. Why is that Spotty? He even suggested that Hal Kimball, who is apparently a former infantryman in the Army, was like Gomer Pyle.

Isn't it obvious, grasshopper? The King thinks it is more effective to try to tear down Kimball than talk about why the Manchurian Candidate should get the job. You will admit there isn't a very good case to be made for Hellier's appointment.

No, I suppose you're right, Spotty.

Update: The grasshopper apparently thought that Hal Kimball had called to the radio show. In fact, Banaian went ballistic without any provocation from Hal. The post has been corrected. Spot, and the grasshopper especially, regret the error.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pat's epiphany

Pat has spent several sleepless nights since the visit from the Prophet Muhammad, or spirit number two. When the spirit of Jerry Falwell paid Pat a visit and told him to expect a visit from three more spirits, and even after the spirit of Oscar Wilde visited him, Pat was inclined to blow the whole thing off. But the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad was able to whisk Pat all over the place in the blink of an eye, and he could make Pat think stuff. It was really spooky, and Pat was afraid of what might be in store with the last spirit. He remembered his Dickens well enough to know that the third spirit would show him what the future might hold. It scared Pat stiff. The Ambien and scotch didn't seem to help; Pat floated along most nights in and out of consciousness, having dreams that were both vivid and, regrettably, memorable.

Maybe Oscar Wilde and the Prophet Muhammad were dreams, too, but he doesn't think so. The leather sandals that the Prophet Muhammad had been wearing, and that were on Pat's feet when he woke up, are still in Pat's closet. So this night, he weaves unsteadily into bed, setting his fourth tumbler of scotch on the night stand, and climbs gingerly into bed. He intones a prayer, Help me Jesus, knocks back the rest of the liquor, and turns off the light. Pat tosses and turns, afraid to go to sleep. After a couple of hours though, he does slip into an unconscious trance.

The next thing that Pat is aware of is sitting in his living room, or the "parlor" as his mother called it, with a group of people. He can see and hear them, but apparently he is invisible to them. Pat tries talk and get people's attention, but they don't hear him, and they look right through him when they do look his way. Everyone in dressed somber suits of blue and gray, and the women are all wearing gray or black dresses. He recognizes most of the people there; they include James Dobson, James Kennedy, Ralph Reed, even Mac Hammond, and members of the Regent University administration. It's a pretty impressive group, thinks Pat.

Pat sees his wife, Adelia; she is sitting in a corner. People are coming up to Adelia in ones and twos and leaning over to whisper to her. Pat goes over to hear what they are saying.

"I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sure you'll miss Pat very much."

"Thang kew. Ah will, ah'm sure."

"What a ghastly way to die."

"Yes, the Lord moves in mysterious ways sometimes. We just have to accept it."

Pat gulps when he realizes that he watching the reception after his own funeral. He can't bear to hear Adelia talk about him the past tense, so he moves on. Pat then goes over to a group of administrators for Regent University. He can overhear them.

"What are we going to do without Pat?"

This makes Pat feel better.

"Yeah, that old fart could fleece people for money like nobody else I've ever seen. It was his true gift. In spite of whatever stupid thing he might say: a hurricane was gonna hit Disney World because of its gay-friendly attitude, that gays and liberals caused 9-11, that we should "off" Hugo Chavez, the bucks continued to roll in. Amazing. We won't see one like him in our lifetimes."

"Oh, I don't know, fellas," responds another, "There's some other guys in the room who are pretty good, too."

"But they're not fit to shine Pat's gold belt buckle," chimes in a third. They all laugh.

"Who's going to get the big boy's office?"

"Let's draw lots for it; there'd be some logic in that!" There is a murmur of approval.

This conversational turn is making Pat feel ill, so he leaves to go over and hear what his evangelical buddies are saying. Certainly they will hold him in higher regard!

"Well, Reverend Dobson, it looks like you're going to be the money leader from here on out. Now with your main rival out of the way."

"Call me James, please. Yes, I've been waiting a good long time for that charlatan to get out of the way. Snort. I expect to pick up a lot of his donors. Just think of it: all the little people looking for place to invest in salvation! Makes me weep just to think about it."

"You might be able to take over Pat's school in time, too, Jim."

"I said James, not Jim. That's what I was thinking."

Pat can't believe what he is hearing. He goes into the hall to collect himself, but when he walks into the hall he finds himself on a large barren plain at dusk—or dawn; he can't tell which. When he glances to his side, he sees that another man in a rough brown robe, again with a hood, is standing there. This is a different man than spirit number two, but they are not dissimilar: beard, olive complexion, sandaled feet.

"I know better than to ask if you're Jesus," Pat says, "Are you the Angel of Death?"

The man smiles and shakes his head.

"I suppose you'll tell me when you're darn good and ready. What do you want to show me?"

The man points at the ground at Pat's feet. When Pat looks down, he can see that a great chasm has opened up and there is a blast of hot sulfurous air that makes Pat gag. Some distance below, Pat sees waves and waves of flames; it is the Biblical lake of fire. When he looks closer, he can see a rather fat man doing what appears to be the backstroke in the lake of fire. The man looks at Pat and waves.

Pat nearly faints when he realizes the swimmer is Jerry Falwell. Pat almost falls into the chasm, but the robed man pulls him back and steadies him. "Not yet," he says to Pat.

"Oh, spirit number three, whoever you are, is that the fate that waits for me?"

"Yes, I am afraid it is," comes the reply.

"I've made such a mess of things. The spirits of Oscar Wilde and the Prophet Muhammad showed me that bigotry against gays and lesbian and Muslims was wrong. And just now I got a chance to see what a bunch of hypocrites I've surrounded myself with. I am so, so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"

"Perhaps, if you truly repent you of your sins. Repentance also means not doing them again."

"Oh, I won't! You'll see! I am just so glad that I had a true friend like Jerry Falwell to arrange this little come to Jesus meeting!"

The robed man laughs, and says, "That's truer than you know."

"You mean you are Jesus?" The robed man nods.

"But I thought you were in the business of saving souls!" exclaims Pat.

"I am. Right now I'm trying to save yours."

"I see, sure. Well, you've made a big impression on me. I'd do things a lot differently if I had a chance. Do I get another chance?"

The robed man nods "yes," and then he disappears.

Pat awakens; it is morning. He looks over at his wife, and shakes her vigorously. Wake up, Adelia! Is that you? Am I alive?"

"Well, of course you are! You must have had a really bad dream. No wonder, with all that stuff you've been taking!"

"I'm alive! I'm alive!" Pat kisses Adelia and gets up and begins to dance around the room. Pat is laughing and weeping and exclaiming, "Thank you Jesus!" When he finally sits down, winded, he says to Adelia, "I've got a lot of work to do."

And Pat was as good as his word.

That morning, at an administrator's meeting at Regent University, Pat announces that they will be hiring a new Muslim professor, and that the school henceforth will include Comparative Religion as an offered degree. Moreover, he says, he has been thinking about it a lot, and he wants the school to seriously consider whether such hatred and prejudice against gays and lesbians is really "loving our neighbors as ourselves." Little by little, Regent becomes a tolerant place without abandoning its avowed Christian focus. When Pat does die—in his own bed and at a ripe old age—he is hailed by religious leaders around the world for promoting peace and religious reconciliation. His funeral is attended by theologians of every stripe. Because of the example set by Pat Robertson, the Great Schism between the Roman and Orthodox Churches is healed. Jews, Christians, and Muslims begin to describe themselves often as all of Abrahamic Tradition. Arabs and Israelis break bread together and weep for the way they and their ancestors treated each other.

And Jerry Falwell? Jerry got a pardon because of his work in bringing Pat around. You can see the two of them on the celestial tennis courts once in a while. Jerry is still working on his weight.

How all theological debates begin

From the comics section in today's newspapers and at

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False rites and weak faith

Spot wants Katie to read this:

Al-Hayat [an Arab newspaper] says that the Iraqi legislature issued a statement on the knighting by Queen Elizabeth II of author Salman Rushdie: "At a time when we call for a dialogue of religions and civilizations, and work to combat terrorism in all its forms and wherever it exists, we express our amazement and our regret that the Queen of England has honored a person who has insulted Islam and millions of its adherents."

Note to Iraqi parliament: if a religion is true, it cannot be insulted,  and if adherents have faith, they will be undeterred by criticism.  Only false rites and weak faith need be afraid of novels. Insecurity in a self-proclaimed believer is unlovely.

[Juan Cole writing today in Informed Comment]

Katie has written on a number of occasions lamenting the insults to her Catholic faith. Were these products also of "false rites and weak faith?" What do you think, boys and girls?

Spot hasn't ripped off the Dependable Renegade for a while

But her caption "Laura Bush accepts award for the most innovative use of flocked wallpaper" from the National Association of Upholsterers was too good to pass up.

WH/Shealah Craighead

And as Watertiger points out, that is Dorothy Hamill.

Insulting kangaroos

Scott Horton on why calling the Combat Status Review Tribunal a "kangaroo court"  is an insult to kangaroos and the courts they cherish:

A key aspect of the legal architecture of the “war on terror” crafted by the Bush Administration involves labeling all persons seized and held as “terrorist detainees” (look at the telling language used in the letter from Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker, published in this space yesterday, for instance). Under the laws of war, a person seized on the battlefield is presumed to be a lawful combatant and as such entitled to prisoner of war treatment pursuant to article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention. This status can be overturned by a process of administrative review in which a determination is made that the person is not a lawful combatant in which case the detainee has protections under article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions. However, the Bush Administration decided to turn this system on its head, introducing the fiction that “the president” had made the determination that every person seized was an “unlawful enemy combatant.” There was no need for specific evidence or facts about the persons seized. It was conclusively presumed.

Of course we subsequently learned that over 80% of the persons held at Guantánamo had nothing to do with al Qaeda, or any other terrorist group. For the most part they were seized so that their captors could avail themselves of a bounty payment that the Pentagon very foolishly began offering for prisoners early in the war.

They persisted in this nonsense until the Supreme Court declared the process illegal.

But that led to a dilemma. If the person was really a civilian noncombatant, and he had been seized and held for years, subjected to torture and other illegal interrogation techniques, then the U.S. had a problem. Then, of course, what had been done was a criminal act. Indeed, a felony under American law. It was therefore essential to juryrig a system which would guarantee the result they needed to protect themselves from criminal liability.

And so the Combat Status Review Tribunal (“CSRT”) was born. The CSRT has been enshrouded in controversy from its start. To call the CSRT a kangaroo court would be an insult to kangaroo courts; it is far worse than that. Indeed, it would be embarrassing to allow outsiders to actually watch one of these farces in operation. The Pentagon therefore denied journalists and others the right to attend the proceedings, contending that national security secrets were prone to come up. Instead redacted transcripts were to be provided afterwards. And, like clockwork, the Pentagon has produced transcripts which reflect page on end of redactions: the witnesses coming before the tribunals describe how they were tortured. [emphasis in the original]

There is probably nobody better than Scott Horton on the laws of war. (A thump of the tail to the Wege for this particular link.)

There has been some writing around the 'net the past couple of days about an affidavit offered by Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham about the CSRT. It was filed in a case urging an appeals court to find that the CSRT is not a meaningful alternative to a writ of habeas corpus. Lotsa luck fellas, lotsa luck.

Lt. Col. Abraham says this in his affidavit:

“What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence,” Abraham said in the affidavit, filed in a Washington appeals court on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an “enemy combatant”…

No to mention that the statements were hearsay, or hearsay to the nth degree.

Spot has said several times that the US does not have the goods on most of the persons at Gitmo. Anyone who has ever tried a case will tell you there is often a vast difference between what you think or wish to be true and what you can establish in a court record to be true. The administration is facing greater and greater resistance to this sham in the ranks of the professional military.

Future generations of law students will study Gitmo, the Military Commissions Act, and the GWOT as part of the raison d'être for the writ of habeas corpus.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Still crazy after all these years

Minnesota's own (sigh) Allen Quist, quoted in an article about the International Baccalaureate program that was under consideration in Arizona:

"The International Baccalaureate is un-American," Allen Quist, who served in the Minnesota Legislature in the 1980s and ran for Minnesota governor as a Republican in 1994, said in a phone interview. He said that International Baccalaureate's links to the United Nations are disturbing and that its sense of right and wrong is ambiguous.

It teaches students to see the American system of government as one of many, not as the only one that protects universal and God-given rights to property, to bear arms and free speech, Quist said.

Same old Allen, right, boys and girls? It is hard to believe, that the same state produced Allen Quist and Harold Stassen; Spot wrote about the latter recently. Not only the same state—the same political party. Harold Stassen, the champion of multilateralism and international cooperation, and Allen Quist, provincial rube and proponent of ignorance, paranoia, and chest-beating nationalism. Stassen was still alive when Quist ran for governor; Spot wonders what he thought of Quist.

If any of you boys and and girls has any information about that, be sure to send it to ol' Spotty, ok?

You have to wonder where guys like Quist come from, don't you? Psychologically, that is. What makes a person so pathetically afraid of anything that is the smallest bit different? Is it a steady diet of unsalted oatmeal as a child? Is it the same comforting set of underwear worn every day in the first grade? Or perhaps there's a genetic component, too: children sired by men too bashful to talk to a girl they didn't grow up with. Whatever the cause, these people are dangerous nuts.

Someday, boys and girls, we will talk about the "God-given right to bear arms." Meanwhile, we can be sure that Allen has given each of his children, he's got about a dozen of them, a Jesus model M-16 as a christening present.

A thump of the tail to the Wege at Norwegianity for calling the article to Spot's attention.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Let them eat peat!

In what may [may?] be another troubling sign for the state's economy, record numbers of Minnesotans are delinquent in paying their natural gas bills.

CenterPoint Energy, the state's largest provider of natural gas, reports that about a third of its customers -- about 208,000 businesses and households -- owe money after the heating season.

More than half of the delinquent customers are at least two months behind on their payments, and owe an average of $1,500, according to CenterPoint.

Heating bill delinquencies jump

We are in the time of the year when the cold weather rule does not prevent shut offs. That ought to make Paul Kammen happy! However it ought to make the rest of us, and mortgage lenders particularly, uneasy about what this says about the probable trend in the mortgage foreclosure rate.

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Brian, your country, just like Jesus, loves you!

A few days ago, Spot put up a post urging readers to go over and read a post at Balkinization by Professor Brian Tamanaha about the dangers of patriotism. Here's just one of the paragraphs from the Professor that Spot quoted:

Learn this history and you will see the price patriotism exacts. For many reasons, I feel fortunate to have been born in the United States, but I don’t love my country. It has no love for any of us. A cold, manipulative, object of affection, the state fans patriotism, then asks those who love it deeply to prove their love by dying or sacrificing their limbs for it.

In a post today, Professor Tamanaha says that he knew he would be throwing "red meat to a pack of hungry dogs," but he got complaint from a quarter he really didn't expect: a person that the Professor described, charitably in Spot's opinion, as a "serious" law professor. Here's what that professor, from Pepperdine, perhaps unsurprisingly, wrote:

Brian you may not love your country, but your country loves you, even if you don’t know it. You are its raison d’etre.

Professor Tamanaha identifies this as dangerous hogwash:

Ordinarily I would not single out a response, but the issues raised are too important to let go without elaboration. The point of my initial post was to highlight the fact that states have killed over 100 million people (their own citizens and others), and that patriotism is manipulated by government leaders in ways that lead to these horrific consequences. The miffed professor’s response to me illustrates the dangers of patriotism.

Let’s consider his assertion “your country loves you.” This is what I want to know: Does my country’s heart beat faster when it thinks of me? Does it miss me when I am away? Does my country worry when I am sick? Will it shed a tear for me when I die?
Need I go on?

Okay, I know he did not mean “your country loves you” literally (right?), although he did wax at length. But it is precisely talk like this that makes patriotism so dangerous, substituting metaphor and emotion for reason and careful evaluation. Much of his post consists of glorified abstractions of the state, slogans we repeat unthinkingly so often that they become truths in our mind (confirming my recent post that legal theorists often trade in myths and myth making).

It was Ben Johnson, Spot thinks, who said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." One of the Balkinization commenters says no, it's the first.

Blind patriotism and fundamentalist religion share something important: they are substitutes for thinking.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Katie didn't mention him

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, some guys from St. Paul fired the first American shots of what would become World War II. They were members of the Minnesota Naval Reserve, patrolling Pearl Harbor in the destroyer USS Ward. The St. Paul boys spotted a Japanese mini-submarine sneaking into the harbor and destroyed it before it could sink a big ship in the narrow channel, blocking the U.S. fleet's access to the sea.

An hour later, Japanese planes swooped in and "a date which will live in infamy" began.

The story of these hometown heroes is one of many fascinating tales told at the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley, the National Guard training site 20 miles south of Brainerd. Each summer, thousands drive past the museum's small buildings on the way to the North Country, without even knowing it is there.

That's the lede in Katie's column June 21. For military history buffs, the Minnesota Military History Museum is definitely a place to go. Katie mentions several units and wars, but there is one old Minnesota sailor, now gone, that Spot admires and that Katie did not mention. Harold Stassen. Stassen resigned the governorship to enter the Navy during the Second World War. Here's a little about Stassen from an obituary in the Pennsylvania Gazette, a University of Pennsylvania alumni publication:

Few university presidents have ever boasted a more impressive resume. Stassen was first elected governor of Minnesota when he was only 31 and delivered the keynote address at the 1940 Republican convention, where he helped clinch the nomination for Wendell Willkie. Reelected twice, he resigned in 1943 to go on active duty in the Navy, serving as chief of staff to Admiral William Halsey in the South Pacific. President Franklin Roosevelt named Stassen to the American delegation to the first United Nations conference in San Francisco, where he helped write the UN Charter and was voted the most effective delegate.

Why did the University of Pennsylvania do an extensive obit on Stassen, Spotty?

Well, he was president of the University for a time after the war, grasshopper. Here's a little more about the Navy service from the Minnesota Historical Society:

Four months into his third term Stassen resigned and enlisted in the Navy (April 27, 1943). He served as Admiral William F. Halsey's assistant chief of staff, was decorated three times, awarded six major battle stars, and was in charge of the Navy's prisoner evacuation program in Japan. He was released from active service on November 15, 1945. During his Naval service Stassen was selected by President Roosevelt as a delegate to the United Nations charter conference in San Francisco (April-June 1945). [italics are Spot's]

A brilliant—and yes, obsessed—man, Harold Stassen gave his greatest service to his country after resigning as governor, a job that he apparently could have had about as long as it wanted it. He coordinated the Navy's prisoner evacuation program, and he was voted the most effective delegate to the UN conference. Just let that sink in for a moment. It is regrettable that Stassen is remembered mostly for his quixotic runs for the presidency.

Harold Stassen was a chief architect of post-WWII multilateralism, a spirit that gave us no only the UN, but things like an international monetary system, and the several Geneva Conventions.

You know, Governor Pawlenty is still young enough to sign up to fight the war he seems to be keen on. He clearly isn't going to be vice president any time soon. What do you say, Tim? It could be a real resume builder.


Read Juan Cole today

You really should read Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment, every day, boys and girls, but especially today, June 21. In fact, if you only have time to read one of us, Spot says to go read Informed Comment and skip the Stool. Here are a couple snippets from today's post:

The demonstrators [at Clinton's speech at the Take Back America conference] objected when she blamed what went wrong in Iraq on the Iraqi government. They were right to protest.

If I were advising Senator Clinton on what to say about Iraq, this would be it: "Our troops have fought courageously and with great skill against the totalitarian, genocidal Saddam Hussein regime and its security forces. They did their job, but the Bush administration did not do its. Bush failed to secure a United Nations Security Council resolution for the war, depriving the war effort of key international support and casting the administration as an outlaw regime in the eyes of much of the world. There was no planning for the aftermath of the war. Stupid decisions were taken to dissolve the Iraqi army, to fire thousands of experienced bureaucrats and teachers, to marginalize the Sunni Arab community, and to deliver Iraq into the hands of expatriate carpetbaggers, some of them overly friendly with the ayatollahs in Tehran. Neither the US military nor the Iraqis bear the primary blame for the subsequent catastrophe. It is on the shoulders of the Bush administration. The administration has so spoiled the situation that there is no longer any hope of a military solution. Any solution to this festering crisis must be political and diplomatic. The US military is essentially being ordered to support some sides in a multi-pronged civil war against others, but without any real hope of having being able to triumph decisively in these low-intensity guerrilla wars. That is why I favor getting our troops out of Iraq and insisting that regional powers, NATO and the UN now come in to bring about a political resolution, even as the world ensures that a nonsectarian Iraqi military is trained, equipped and deployed for the protection of all Iraqis."

Caveat: I am not giving my own speech above. I'm just taking what Senator Clinton often says and rephrasing it so that the blame is put where it belongs, which is not on the poor Iraqi public but on Bush-Cheney. I think she'd find this approach a stronger rallying cry and also that it would allow her to occupy a higher moral ground.

So we invaded the country, tore up both its infrastructure and its institutions, and the resulting chaos is the Iraqis' fault? Spot doesn't think so, Hillary. This is the Republican line, and you are foolish, or disingenuous, or both, to buy into it.

Professor Cole has a little advice for candidate Obama about energy:

And, just a word of advice to Senator Obama: the petroleum market is just one global market. It doesn't matter whether the US gets petroleum from the Middle East or from Venezuela. In fact, the Saudis deliberately make petroleum deals with US firms so as to make political points, when from a market point of view they could just let the contracts fall where they may. You can't fix any problems by switching which countries you buy petroleum from. It is like trying to get the level of the water in your bathtub lower in one corner. Can't be done. It is just one bathtub and level will equalize throughout.

Other than the fact that he teaches at a Big Ten school other than Spotty's alma mater, Spot cannot recommend Professor Cole enough.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pat gets a surprise

It has been several nights since his visit from the spirit of Oscar Wilde. Pat snuggles into his pillow and thinks, "Jerry told me that there would be three spirits. I'm beginning to think I dreamed the whole thing. Boy, it was a bad dream, though. Washing down three Ambien with scotch seems to help." He drifts off to sleep.

Pat awakens to find himself in a sparely-furnished room with a dirt floor. It is evening, and the shadows are long, but it is still quite hot. He can hear the murmur of people walking and talking outside the room, along the street that he can see through narrow windows, but he cannot make out what they are saying. They are dressed in robes and other flowing garments. Pat is sitting on a simple, rough-hewn wooden bench. He sees a movement out of the corner of his eye, and he turns to the man standing silently in the room.

The bearded man is dressed in a long, brown robe, tied with a rope at the waist. He is wearing simple leather sandals and has a hood pulled over his head, shielding his olive-complexioned face in the gloom. The man raises his hand in sort of a greeting.

"Jesus, is that you?" exclaims Pat. "Have I died and gone to heaven?"

Pat can see the man smile, and the word "No" forms in Pat's head, although the man utters no sound.

"Well then, who are you?" asks Pat. "That fella Oscar Wilde was certainly a sharper dresser than you."

The man again says nothing, but the words "In the fullness of time you shall know me," form in Pat's head.

"Are yew talkin' ta me?" says Pat, sticking his fingers in his ears in a effort to clear them out.

"In a manner of speaking," is the phrase that next enters Pat's head.

"Are you spirit guy number two?" asks Pat; the man nods.

"Well, we might as well get after it, I suppose." The man nods again.

Pat blinks and the scene changes. Pat and the mysterious man and standing on a hill, watching a horde of people, dressed like peasants from a thousand years ago, carrying torches and pitchforks, streaming into a village. They are screaming in what sounds like French, and they are hacking at the villagers.

"What are they doing?" Pat asks.

This is the beginning of the First Crusade in 1096. Those people were incited by Pope Urban. This is the so-called People's Crusade. Bloody, isn't it?

"So they're killing unarmed Muslim villagers?"

No, of course not. Those are Jews. Most of the people's crusaders never made it out of Europe. Pope Urban told them killing all non-Christians was part of the crusade. Anti-Semitism got its first big boost from Urban in his sermon at the Council of Clermont. Prince of a guy, that Urban. The First Crusade did one thing, though, after it got organized a little, that was not accomplished in the later crusades.

"Oh, what is that?"

Christians captured Jerusalem and held it for a couple of hundred years. They established some crusader states in the Holy Lands. It never happened again until 1967. Then it was the Jews, of course. As you can see, the invasion of Arab lands has some precedent that makes Arabs angry.

"They need to let bygones be bygones at some point," says Pat, shaking his head.

Have you ever heard of the Plain of the Blackbirds? And a famous battle that took place there in 1389?

"Didn't that happen in the Balkans somewhere, maybe Serbia?"

Serbia, Albania, it depends on who you talk to. Anyway, it's a battle that the Christian Serbs lost and have been trying to avenge on the Muslim Albanians ever since. Those Christians don't seem to want bygones to be bygones.

Pat now realizes that the scene has changed again. There are men and women, weeping and holding cloths over the noses and faces while digging with shovels and their hands. Decayed arms and legs--and heads, too--stick out of the dirt. Pat gags.

"Were those people killed by the Serbs? Are they Muslims?"

Yes. Not very observant Muslims, really, but they are Muslims.

"You can't blame all Christians for these atrocities," protests Pat.

No. But the converse is also true. You cannot blame all Muslims for terrorism or condemn Islam any more than Muslims should condemn Christianity.

Pat blinks, and the two of them are back in the room where Pat originally awakened. "Say, who are you?" he asks.

You have apparently not figured it out. There is no God but Allah, and the Muslims say that I am His Messenger.

"You're Muhammad? Can't be; you're dead!"

Ah, Jerry Falwell said you were a hard case. I never claimed to be a deity, but I'm as alive as any you care to name.

"What are you trying to tell me, spirit? That mine is not the One True Religion?"

Something like that. You can start by not being so narrow minded.

"That's going to be hard for me."

Perhaps impossible, but try. Then the robed man simply disappears. Pat blinks again.

Pat is now sitting up in his bed; it is dawn. He is sweaty, and his body is covered with a fine, dusty sand. He wiggles his feet; they feel odd somehow. Pat throws back the covers, and he sees that he is wearing the sandals that spirit number two had worn.

Pat begins to cry, softly at first but rising to a plaintive wail.

The housekeeper knocks at the door, "Sir are you all right?" Pat doesn't know what to say.

Hey Spotty!

Spotty, we thought that Pat Robertson was going to be visited by three spirits. Only one so far. What gives?

Sometimes, grasshopper, the spirits are quite shy. If Katie stays away a little longer, however, the second spirit may visit soon.

Is this the Manchurian Candidate?

It appears that he is.

Remember, boys and girls, the Manchurian Candidate is Luke Hellier, and in the pictures above he was taking a video of the protesters at a Michele Bachmann campaign event attended by Karl Rove. There's only one thing wrong with the picture.

What's that, Spotty?

Luke's shirt isn't brown.

Update: Tail thumps to Avidor for the link to the Manchurian Candidate's pictures, and to Bill Prendergast for writing the post that contained them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Manchurian Candidate

Be on the lookout for him. Here's his picture with one of his handlers:

He may be sent by Governor Pawlenty on a secret mission to work against Tim Walz.

How could he do that, Spotty? He looks a little big for espionage work.

Very perceptive, grasshopper. But the governor will hide him in plain sight.

Boy, Spotty, that's sneaky! But how?

You see, grasshopper, the Manchurian Candidate is Luke Hellier. The guv is considering Hellier for a spot as a student trustee on the MnSCU Board of Trustees as the four-year students' (undergraduate) representative.

Well, so?

Hellier graduated this spring from St. John's University, which is not in the MnSCU system; it's not even a public college. So Hellier not only is not a four-year student, he's never been one in at a MnSCU school.

Well, then. What does he have to recommend himself to TPaw?

He's a Republican activist, grasshopper. Things like the Young America Foundation, active in Students for Bachmann, Students Fostering Conservative Thought, and College Republicans show up on Hellier's cv. (Incidentally, at the last link, you can find a picture of Hellier with Jenna Bush.)

Spotty, do you think this guy gives a rat's ass about public higher education?

Watch your language, grasshopper, but no, Spot doesn't. Which is why Spot thinks the guv wants to give him a platform to "foster conservative thought," so to speak. What do you bet Hellier winds up as an operative for whoever whomever runs against Walz?

You can get a much better idea of what a faithful retainer for the GOP Luke Hellier is by reading this post by Blue Man in a Red District.

But be on the lookout for the Manchurian Candidate. Here's another picture: