Sunday, December 30, 2007

For only $200, you too can be rehabilitated!

Canada takes DWI very seriously. It's a felony in Canada and can make you inadmissable to Canada if you're a US citizen. (If you are a Canadian citizen, they have to take you back.) For the most part, of course, a DWI, especially the first one, is not a felony in the US. Well, okay, fair enough. But that's not the end of it.

You see, you can still get into Canada. You'll just get trimmed of an extra $200 bucks:

Canadian immigration officials say that in many cases, would-be visitors with minor records are provisionally admitted -- either by paying about $200 in U.S. money for a temporary permit or paying the same amount and following a months-long process to "rehabilitate" their record permanently.

So, if you're a practicing alcoholic, you may be able to drive into Canada by paying $200, but if you've had a single Friday night indiscretion, and you're on a bus but without the necessary cash, you won't get in.

Gee, Spotty, that sounds like it is more about the raising of some revenue than keeping inebriated drivers out.

That's what Spot was thinking, too, grasshopper.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The last Spotty of 2007!

Spotty, why don't cops often write blogs?

Because they're like lawyers: generally not very funny.

But you told us about a funny one once.

Ah, yes, the Discordian Stooge who writes At the Hillocks of Hysteria. He is pretty funny. In fact, DS wins a Spotty™ for a post he wrote a few days ago. It's called A Public Service Announcement Followed Me Home the Other Day. Here's the opening graf:

People call the police for a lot of strange reasons. Many calls involve criminal or suspected criminal behavior. Others involve people with honest to god problems that the police are in a position to help with (e.g. Cars stuck in the middle of the street; Lost stuff that needs to be given to somebody). Then there are the other calls ...

What follows are several vignettes of citizens misapprehending the function of law enforcement. A couple of examples:

What you should do in your personal life, however, is another matter. I don't know if you should let so-and-so move in with you. Chances are, I haven't met the person. I'm not an accountant, and can't tell you what to do with your money (I will advise you not to store hundreds of thousands of dollars in the crawlspace under your house, though, if you ask). I can't enforce a non-existent court order to get your kids back from Dad's house when you are unwilling to go get them yourself.

If a bouncer kicks you out of a bar, it was for a good reason. I can't get you back in (and probably wouldn't even if I could). If the bouncer insulted you, that's not a crime, and I don't know what you should do to get over the experience. Maybe find a therapist. Or another bar.

That's just the beginning. Go and read the rest. Humans, you gotta love 'em!

Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty™ is awarded to the author of an op-ed piece, a letter to the editor, or a blog post or comment that Spot wishes that he had written. In addition to the award, and in accordance with practice here at The Cucking Stool, an award winning blog also gets a place on the blogroll.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Very Katie Christmas!

The scene: a darkened bar frequented by reporters. A man walks in, stamps the snow off his feet, and notices a tall, astringent stranger at the bar nursing what looks like a double whiskey neat. Yet, she looks familiar somehow. Of course! Now he recognizes her. He walks up and sits beside her.

Hello, Katie. I don't think I've ever seen you here before.

Oh hi, Nick. And I prefer Kathy.

I know, Katie, I mean Kathy; I'll try. What's the matter?

As you may know, Monday—the day for next my column—is Christmas Eve.

That oughtta be a natural for you.

I know! But I've wracked my brain trying to tie in condemnation of gays, Muslims, or even public schools, into the Christmas Story, but nothing is coming up. All this "peace" and "good will" stuff has got me all stopped up.

Maybe I can help.


What do you mean, me? Of course, me. I've been a newspaperman a lot longer than you, and I've plowed through writer's block a time or two myself.

Really? Would you do that for me?

It is Christmas, and we are [shudder] colleagues.

That would be great! What do you suggest?

Well, first maybe you should drop the polemics for Christmas Eve.

You think so? That might confuse some of my readers. It would be really hard for me, too.

Ah, you can do it, Katie—Kathy. I've got it! You could write about a private act of charity. That would be killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.

That's a great idea, Nick. I know this white woman who has been really nice to a Hmong family for three years! I could call her a "surrogate Santa," or do you think "surrogate Santa" sounds too much like "surrogate mother?"

Nah, works for me. It's actually the kind of white man's burden story you like, only subtle for the holidays, I mean Christmas.

You're right! What do you think of this line?

Santa is very much alive, full of magic and mirth, and ... living in Maple Grove.

Gripping, give me some more.

How about:

You may imagine Santa ho-ho-hoing in a state-of-the-art workshop amid a wonderland of prosperity. In fact, Schulz [the actual kind lady in question]-- like many Americans -- doesn't have a lot to spare, though she has one of the largest hearts you'll ever encounter.

The imagery is magic, Katie.


Right. Any more good details you can flesh out?

Well, "Santa's" grandchild got little May [a little one in the Hmong family] a "Hello, Kitty!"

I'm sorry, did you say "Hello Katie?"

No, silly, "Hello Kitty." Maybe you'd know if you had a daughter among those three rug rats you have at home.

It sounds like you have the situation under control. Just be sure to peg the saccharine meter!

Oh, I will, Nick. Thanks for the help. [rises to leave, downs the rest of her whiskey, throws a quarter on the bar for a tip, and departs]

[to the bartender] I didn't need a drink when I came in here. But I do now. Bushmills neat.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yeah, and Merry Christmas to you, too!

This story won't be up much longer at the Strib, so Spot reproduces it entirely:

Muslim student's aid in New York City subway attack leads to interfaith friendship

Associated Press

Last update: December 12, 2007 - 5:13 AM

A suspected bias attack on four Jewish subway riders has resulted in a friendship between the Jewish victims and the Muslim college student who came to their aid.

Walter Adler is calling Hassan Askari a hero for intervening when Adler and three friends were assaulted on a subway train in lower Manhattan on Friday night.

The altercation erupted when Adler and his friends said "Happy Chanukah" to a group yelling "Merry Christmas" on the Brooklyn-bound train.

The 20-year-old Askari said he tried to fight off the 10 attackers, giving Adler a chance to summon police by pulling an emergency brake.

"I did what I thought was right," said Askari, a student at Berkeley College in Manhattan, who was allegedly punched and beaten. "I did the best that I could to help."

Eight men and two women have pleaded not guilty to assault, menacing and other charges in the case. Prosecutors have said the charges could be upgraded to hate crimes.

"That a random Muslim kid helped some Jewish kids, that's what's positive about New York," said Adler, 23, who suffered a broken nose and a lip wound.

This happened on a Friday night, the beginning of the Sabbath for Jews, during Chanukah. Have a Merry Christmas, or we'll kick your ass!

The interesting twist on this story is, of course, that the guy who broke the thing up was a Muslim. A really gutsy Muslim at that. Talk about not having an, er, dog in the fight! It's enough to make one stop and think when he hears Peace on earth and good will to men! from the pulpit tomorrow night.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Spot's DL Christmas!

After a rush through post production today.



Update: After a hectoring by the video scolds, and you know who you are, Spot presents Spot's DL Christmas postcard.




Thursday, December 20, 2007

Katie, come in here a minute

Sure Mr. Tice, what's up?

I just read your column this morning.

Boy, it was zinger, wasn't it? I made a pun on "seasonal creep" and everything! I think it was one of my best efforts. What did it go? 350 words?

You have no idea what I am thinking about, do you?

[smiling, but a little uncertainly] That you really liked the column?

[smiling back, but tiredly] It was, well, acceptable, IN A VACUUM!

What do you mean by that?

On Monday, you wrote about the religious influence of Muslims at Normandale Community College. And you seemed to take a dim view of it, championing a view of the separation of church and state.

That was another good one, wasn't it?  My good friend Scott Johnson picked that one up, He even said:

One might wonder how news of this breakdown in the wall between church and state becomes the preserve of the Star Tribune's lone conservative columnist. Perhaps the creeping Islamization of Twin Cities public schools is no longer newsworthy.

I know that Scottie thinks you're special, Katie.

[Katie smiles, less uncertainly] Yes, he does!

But your current column clouds up and rains all over a couple of people at the University of Minnesota who seem to be trying—although perhaps a little clumsily—to keep religion out of Christmas—I mean holiday—parties at the University, which is, after all, a public institution.

Whatcher point?

Don't you see at least a little inconsistency between lambasting an educational institution on Monday for making religious accommodations, and then criticizing another educational institution on Thursday for failing to be tolerant of religious observance?

[frowning, and thinking for a long moment] I guess. But it's different somehow.


On Monday, I was talking about Normandale and the, well, you know.

You mean Muslims?

You make them sound so, so human.

I'm sorry Katie, but have you ever looked at it from the Muslim perspective?

Like you have.

Have too.

Have not.

Have too. At any rate, I want you to try really hard to be at least logically consistent between Monday and Thursday. Do you think you can do that?

I'll try, Mr. Tice. Thank you.

[walking out] Have not.

Have too.

DL festivities tonight!

Remember, boys and girls, tonight is the Drinking Liberally winter solstice party at the 331 Club. Spot will be observing Christmas, and many others there will be too. Santa? Spot doesn't think he will. But he'll be there!

Bring an unwrapped toy or gift for Toys for Tots which Santa has graciously agreed to deliver for us. You might think about something for an older kid.

That's tonight from 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock at:

331 Club
331 13th Avenue NE

The 331 Club is at the corner of University and 13th NE.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Amy, are you there?

Spot tried to take his own advice on contacting Amy Klobuchar about FISA. This is the email address you get if you click the "Email Senator Klobuchar" link on her Senate webpage:

But when you send a message to that address, this is what you get back:

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification
Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 13): 550 5.1.1 <>... User unknown

The senator may be wondering why she isn't getting more email about this subject! Spot suggests that you make a phone call.

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Today’s word is spoliation, Grasshopper.

Hey, wait! What are you doing here? Isn’t Spotty supposed to be the one giving us lectures about legal concepts?

Spot’s busy drinking water out of the toilet, Grasshopper, so calm down and listen.

Ok, ok. What’s that big word again?

Spoliation. It’s used in legal circles to describe the act of losing or destroying evidence by someone who is in the middle of a lawsuit or who can expect to be embroiled in one pretty quickly.

But wait, who would want to destroy evidence, Ms. Observer? Don’t you need evidence to prove your point in a trial?

Well, yes, Grasshopper, that’s true. It would be hard to show the jury how things happened without physical evidence about the event in question. But sometimes the evidence doesn’t always prove what you want it to prove. In fact, sometimes it’s downright damaging to your case.

What happens then? Do you get to pretend it’s not there or get rid of it?

No, that’s not supposed to happen. First of all, it’s wrong, violates all sorts of rules, and can even be a criminal act. But sometimes evidence gets lost or destroyed anyway. Sometimes innocently, sometimes not so innocently. Imagine if, say, your garage burned down and you are convinced it was because something in that car caught on fire and destroyed your garage. But – whoops! – you accidentally (or not so accidentally) junk the car before the folks from the auto manufacturer get a chance to have their people look at it to determine that it wasn’t that bad electrical component, but rather that cigarette you left burning in the car.

Wow, if I were the manufacturer, I’d be mad! I couldn’t defend myself! What happens then?

Usually what happens is that the judge at trial will tell the jury that there used to be a car, that the car (while under the control of the now garage-less plaintiff) was destroyed, and that they can draw an adverse inference from the fact that the car is gone and unavailable for inspection. That means that the judge will instruct the jury that they are free to assume that an inspection of the car would have revealed facts that would tank the plaintiff’s case. Our garage-less plaintiff will be able to argue that he didn’t mean to destroy the car, but the jury is free to laugh in his face and say, “Yeah, sure, pal.” Such cases do not turn out well for plaintiffs and this rule about “adverse inferences” actually serves as an incentive for people to preserve evidence, even evidence that is bad for them.

I think I see why, but I have one more question. Why is this all important to us, Ms. Observer?

Well, Grasshopper, you’ve undoubtedly heard that there are some videotapes that purport to show the torture of some Guantanamo Bay prisoners who were being interrogated, tapes that were destroyed back in 2005. Well, it appears that these tapes might have been destroyed after a judge presiding over a lawsuit brought by some Yemeni nationals challenging their incarceration ordered that such tapes be preserved.

So what does that mean?

Most judges don’t take very well to having their orders ignored or disobeyed. United States District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., the judge in this case, has set a hearing for 11 a.m. Friday to discuss the destroyed tapes. I’m glad I’m not the lawyer representing the United States going in to that hearing. Judge Kennedy might be kind of crabby.

Wow, so that means that if terrorism suspects get to trial and they claim that the people being tortured actually said “No, not him! He’s not a terrorist, he’s just a shoe repairman from Kabul!” there might be some problems?

Now I think you’re starting to understand, Grasshopper.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dammit, Amy!

Spot is pretty tired of your votes on some significant stuff: funding for the Iraq war, censure of, the FISA bill, and now your refusal to join Chris Dodd's filibuster against the bill giving the telecoms retroactive immunity for handing over records about millions of customers to the government without a warrant. Spot's been fuming about this, and was going to write about it, but now he doesn't have to. Lynnell Mickelsen, writing at Norwegianity, has already done it very well:

Why do the telecoms want retroactive immunity? Because they broke the law and they know it. And if we're ever going to get our Constitutional rights back, we're going to have to hold them accountable. So at some point, probably in 2008, the telecom companies ARE going to be sued and/or called in front of Congress and asked why they allowed the federal government to illegally spy on millions of Americans for the past five years. (By the way, the Bush administration first asked the telecom companies for access to Americans' phone, e-mail and internet records before September 11th, 2001. What's up with that?)

If called into court, the telecoms are expected to say they illegally handed over access at the request of the Bush administration. At which point, they will be asked to testify who in the Bush administration made such a request and how this violation of both the FISA law and the U.S. Constitution was justified. The proposed legislation to grant them retroactive immunity is an attempt to make sure the telecoms NEVER have to answer those questions.

I have no idea why the Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and far too many other Democrats supported this bill except that the telecoms have lobbied everyone ferociously for it and too many Dems are spineless.

Spineless is one of the more charitable descriptions. Spot might say Quisling, or perhaps collaborator.

Even though the filibuster failed. Harry Reid pulled the bill at the last minute:

The good news is.....this small, patriotic action by Dodd and nine other Democratic Senators at least slowed down this atrocious piece of legislation. Yesterday afternoon, Harry Reid pulled the bill off the floor and said the Senate would vote on it when they return in January. The bad news January, the telecoms and their supporters will be pushing very hard again for retroactive immunity.

So, everybody contact Amy Klobuchar's office and give her a piece of you mind about this. Lynnell Mickelsen tried to do this, and here's her report about it:

Anyhow, I called her office and asked what legislative aide on Sen. Klobuchar's staff deals with the FISA bill. The guy who answered the phone said the aide was Jonathan Becker. I asked if Jonathan Becker was available.

The receptionist asked what group I was with. I said I was simply an ordinary citizen from Minneapolias who wanted to let Jonathan Becker and the Senator know why this legislation was so important to so many of us. The receptionist said Becker did not take calls or comments from people like me----I apparently needed to be a lobbyist or spokesperson for a larger group---and that it was the receptionist's job to take calls from ordinary citizens.

So I explained the stuff above. The receptionist argued that since plenty of other Democrats had voted for it too, I should let Sen. Klobuchar alone. (The old, "But Mom! Everyone Else is Doing It!)" I told him this was one of Klobuchar's many votes that had been disappointing and if she kept up like this, she could be facing a primary challenge in five years from Democrats who expected better of her. He said he would pass my comments on---but tone is important and at this point, his tone was definitely along the lines of "Go f--- yourself". I started to say, "But you haven't taken down my name or----" But he hung up on me.

And be sure to ask for Jonathan Becker when you do call.

Here's Spot's curse for you Amy: every time you say the words "Paul Wellstone," may they burn in your mouth.

Monday, December 17, 2007

If irony was gravy

The whole town would have biscuits and gravy for breakfast for a week.

What are you talking about, Spotty?

Katie's column Normandale's 'meditation room' is home to a single faith. This is yet another screed from Katie about how Muslims are taking over, especially in higher education. First it was Metropolitan State University, and now Normandale! It's the Crusades in reverse!

It is also ironic on a couple of levels. Before we get into that, though, here's a taste of Katie's column:

Last week, I visited a Muslim place of worship. A schedule for Islam's five daily prayers was posted at the entrance, near a sign requesting that shoes be removed. Inside, a barrier divided men's and women's prayer space, an arrow informed worshippers of the direction of Mecca, and literature urged women to cover their faces.

Sound like a mosque?

The place I'm describing is the "meditation room" at Normandale Community College, a 9,200-student public institution in Bloomington.

Katie was disturbed to find this in the "meditation room," a room that is supposed to be open to everybody:

A row of chest-high barriers splits the room into sex-segregated sections. In the smaller, enclosed area for women sits a pile of shawls and head-coverings. Literature titled "Hijaab [covering] and Modesty" was prominently placed there, instructing women on proper Islamic behavior.

They should cover their faces and stay at home, it said, and their speech should not "be such that it is heard."

"Enter into Islaam completely and accept all the rulings of Islaam," the tract read in part. "It should not be that you accept what entertains your desires and leave what opposes your desires; this is from the manners of the Jews."

"[T]he Jews and the Christians" are described as "the enemies of Allaah's religion." The document adds: "Remember that you will never succeed while you follow these people."

Katie has a great talent in taking an issue that's ripe for legitimate discussion and turning it into a stew of hypocrisy and bigotry.

First of all, do any of you, boys and girls, find it rich that Katie would come out as such a champion of the secular nature of public institutions and of women's rights? Spot sure does. But Katie will leave no tern unstoned in her exertions to oppose the Muslim Menace. Even if it means championing the cause of even the Jews:

One thing was missing from the meditation room: evidence of any faith but Islam. No Bible, no crucifix, no Torah.

Probably no Orthodox rabbis either, eh Katie? Maybe there just aren't enough Christian fundies at Normandale to run a decent counteroffensive.

It is unlikely that many Somali immigrants, or the children of those immigrants, attend the tony St. Thomas University, where Katie recently decried the de-Catholicification of the school. You see, Katie doesn't really mind religious influence in higher education, just so it is the right kind of religion. St. Thomas is a private institution, but the logic still applies.

Maybe the Establishment Clause question is: why is there any "meditation room" at a public college? Katie doesn't ask that one because she is OK with meditation rooms so long as they are Christian. Why, they were called chapels until the constitutional busybodies got involved!

And Katie: champion of women's rights? Why, the guy leading the Republican party (of which Katie is a proud member) polls in Iowa right now is Mike Huckabee, a fellow who thinks that wives should submit graciously to their husbands. Although unlikely, perhaps Katie says, No fair, he's part of the lunatic fringe! Maybe, Katie, but there are lots of voices within Islam, just as there are within Christianity.

In other words, I've got a piece to speak and blow hot or cold, I'm going to speak it

Right this moment, Senator Chris Dodd is saving the constitution and you can watch.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What's a public nuisance, Spotty?

Is it sort of like of like a common scold?

Why yes, grasshopper, it is.

It sounds like they are both people who can annoy and embarrass other people, including political and business elites.

Well, that's right.

But don't you make fun of people you call common scolds, Spotty?

Yes, grasshopper, but Spot doesn't have the power to lock them up, put them out of business, or even give 'em a good dunking. Well, metaphorically, maybe. What's the interest, grasshopper?

There was an op-ed piece in the Strib today about the case of Near v. Minnesota.

Ah, yes, a story well told by a local attorney, Max Heerman. In it, a muckraking Minneapolis newspaper was judged to be a public nuisance.

Isn't is worthy of a Spotty™ award, Spotty?

Well, maybe, but Heerman isn't going to get one. Spot has already awarded two Spottys™ this week.

That doesn't seem fair.

Where is it written that it would be fair, grasshopper? Spot admires your sense of justice, though.

Near v. Minnesota is a very important U.S. Supreme Court precedent holding that prior restraint—that is trying to prevent publication—is an unconstitutional abridgement of freedom of the press. It has echoed down through the years, including in the Pentagon Papers case during the Vietnam war. Go read the linked article; it is most definitely worth a read. In fact, Spot may post it when it's no longer available on the Strib site.

It is fascinating because, among other things, the beloved governor Floyd B. Olson makes a appearance as a villainous prosecutor.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The hat trick at last!

Charlie at Across the Great Divide, the world's only living (or dead, for that matter) double Spotty™ winner, takes the hat trick with his series "Where There's Brimstone, There's Fire. Charlie wins a Spotty for the series, which is apparently not over yet, but here are the first four installments:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

Charlie has a special place in his heart for the likes of Ken Copeland, Mac Hammond, and all the other sky pilots who so fearlessly live the lavish lifestyle for Jesus.

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

Update: Part Five is up.

Roger Clemens and New York Times v. Sullivan

That blog post title could have come from only one place: Balkinization. Is the steroid story about, among others, Roger Clemens, evidence or proof that the malice requirement in statements or publications about public figures in order for them to maintain a defamation action a bad idea?

Why do you want to talk about that on a Friday afternoon, Spotty? We were all looking forward to getting out a little early!

Sorry grasshopper. But it's a very important lesson in First Amendment jurisprudence.

Sit down guys, we'll be here for a while.

Here's the scenario posed by Professor Jack Balkin in the linked post. Suppose Roger Clemens is innocent of the allegations of steroid use made against him by the Mitchell report. What remedy does he have? If he sues the former senator George Mitchell and the other authors of the report for defamation, he will surely lose because he will be unable to prove that these authors acted maliciously. His reputation is surely in ruins, but he can't recover damages.

Is Roger Clemens innocent, Spotty?

This is where Spot has to tell you a little bit about law professors, grasshopper. Law professors never tell you anything; they just ask questions, and knowledge is supposed to be magically revealed to you thereby. It sounds odd, Spot knows. Here, Professor Balkin is also doing something else that law professors like to do, "play with the facts."

You mean that Professor Balkin is NOT claiming that Roger Clemens is innocent?

Heavens no, grasshopper!

Then why is he worried about whether Roger Clemens can sue George Mitchell?

Because that is what law professors do, grasshopper.

It seems like Professor Balkin would have enough real things to worry about without making stuff like this up.

He isn't really making things up, grasshopper. He just wants us to explore the consequences of a particular legal rule by using a current set of facts and hypothetical variations on the facts.

You will remember—you do remember, don't you grasshopper?—that in New York Times v. Sullivan the Supreme Court held:

The Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity). Under this new standard, Sullivan's case collapsed.

In that celebrated case, a southern law enforcement official had sued the New York Times for defamation, claiming that its civil right era reporting about him was false. That was a favorite tactic to discourage northern newspapers from reporting about civil rights in the south. The Supreme Court said that as long as the reporting was not malicious, it would protect the dissemination of information about public officials even if the information proved to be false, because of the importance of a free flow of information about the public's business. A later ruling, Gertz v. Welch, extended the rule to cover public figures as well as public officials.

Professor Balkin makes the same point here: the value to the public at large of having information about steroid use in professional sports outweighs Roger the Rocket's reputational interest. And as the professor points out, Roger Clemens is a big boy—perhaps an unusually big one—who can still call press conferences and get the public's attention in other ways if he believes he has been unfairly accused. As a public figure he can do that, which is one reason that different rules should apply to public and private figures.

Which brings us to today's lesson.

You mean that wasn't it? There's more?

Be patient grasshopper; this won't take long.

We like the rule as it applied in Times v. Sullivan, and we may be willing to accept it even if Roger the Rocket were to demonstrate his innocence. But what about the case where the publisher of the statements, arguably false, is loathsome? There is just such a case arising out the defeat of the Robbinsdale school levy referendum last month. Spot will quote liberally from the linked Strib article, since it won't be up much longer:

An anti-levy group whose tactics were described by Robbinsdale's superintendent as "racist, without conscience and untruthful" filed suit against the state Thursday, claiming its First Amendment rights have been violated.

The 281 CARE Committee, whose campaign helped defeat tax levy for the Robbinsdale School District on Tuesday, sued the state over its statute that bans factual distortions relating to school referendums.

"I'm amazed that any side in any election would take a preemptive move to say, 'We want to have the right to lie or use untruths in our election,'" Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators and a former Northfield superintendent, said of the suit.

The suit was started in a race to the courthouse door, since the anti-levy group got wind that Superintendent Stan Mack and the Robbinsdale school system were going to sue it for defamation over some of the campaign statements.

The state's rule does seem to impose a test of truthfulness for statements made in a levy campaign, which is clearly the public's business. If we look at the reasoning behind Times v. Sullivan, we can see that such a rule, with no requirement of maliciousness, fails the test. Perhaps a rule could be crafted that would only address unprotected malicious speech, but Minnesota's rule is almost certainly unconstitutionally broad.

Is that it, Spotty?

One more thing, grasshopper. Even if that anti-levy group wins its lawsuit against the Minnesota rule, it doesn't mean that the people in this group couldn't be successfully sued for defamation if it was proved their statements were not only false, but malicious.

A DL Christmas, or holiday, or whatever!

Next Thursday night's Drinking Liberally will feature a Toys for Tots collection and a visit from a rookie, but very promising Santa. Check the link for ideas about the stuff they need at Toys for Tots.

Spot will also be there, and he'll be filming Spot's DL Christmas. Show up and try out for a role, or at least get a cameo.

That's Thursday, December 20th from 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock at:

331 Club
331 13th Avenue NE

That's the corner of University and 13th NE.

Be there or be square.

[with apologies to the true leaders of DL: the currently sidelined REW and Mark]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Javier Morillo-Alicea wins Spotty!

For his op-ed in today's Star Tribune, Morillo-Alicea wins a Spotty award. The subject of the piece is Dick Day's flirtation with the Minutemen. Spot has written a little about that, and it has also been a featured topic on A Bluestem Prairie several times. Here's the piece from the Strib, reprinted in its entirety here because it will eventually come down at the Strib:

In our national dialogue about our broken immigration system, our political leaders have two choices: They either can come together to find solutions that are practical and fair, or they can fuel the flames by appealing to worst in us by creating fear and confusion around the issue. Unfortunately, in his run for Congress, Minnesota state Sen. Dick Day has chosen the latter path.

According to a recent report in the Star Tribune, Day, R-Owatonna, recently traveled to Arizona at the invitation of a group called the Minuteman Project. It's been widely reported that the Minutemen are a group of civilian vigilantes that take the law into their own hands by patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border fully armed, without the official sanction of the United States Border Patrol or local law enforcement. Their members advocate the immediate expulsion of all undocumented immigrants in the country, no matter the effect on our economy and society, and for the construction of a 700-mile-long fence along the border, no matter the cost.

While the Minutemen are treated by some as just another voice in the immigration debate, they have demonstrated that they are an extremist group with no interest in real solutions. It's been documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center that they've attracted racists and hatemongers into their ranks and have spawned a slew of copycat organizations that are even more explicit in their agenda of hate. Witness Dave Bertrand, the Minuteman who hosted Day's personal visit to Arizona and who describes himself as a "culture warrior." Bertrand has posted photos and stories of Day's visit to the border on his website.

Sadly, that's not all you'll find there. Bertrand's blog is also filled with paranoid rants about a supposed Hispanic conspiracy to "take back" the United States for Mexico. He believes that America is on the brink of a civil war brought about by too much cultural diversity. Indeed, just last October, he wrote that Confederate-style secession from the United States "may be a viable solution to avoiding a civil war."

The racial anxiety that underlies Bertrand's radical positions on immigration is palpable. In a post entitled, "The Rebirth of America by Sex," he argues that the government should be actively encouraging American citizens to have more babies because "Hispanic opponents supporting illegal immigration are encouraging their culture to mass produce children in order to outnumber the Anglo Saxon and other cultures that make up the United States." So a fully armed vigilante advocate for secession from the United States who fears Hispanic reproduction was Day's exposure to our southern border.

Americans want honest, long-term solutions to the immigration issue, but while we've been waiting for Congress and the president to act, one thing is clear to most of us: Fear and hatred have not brought us closer to a comprehensive solution. Is it clear to Day as well?

Most of us recognize that a workable, long-term solution to the immigration issue will include some combination of sanctions on employers who exploit undocumented workers, an earned path to citizenship for those who have worked hard and paid taxes for years, more-effective border security, and a controlled, legal immigration flow. Most of us also recognize that deporting 12 million people and erecting a 700-mile-long border-fence will not solve the issue. And none but the most politically opportunistic want our honest political debate poisoned by paranoid rants.

Immigration is a tough issue, but an enforcement-only approach of raids, detention centers and border fences -- all paid for by taxpayer dollars -- won't solve it. It's time to replace the chaos of our broken immigration system, which exploits immigrant labor and hurts all American workers, with a pragmatic, controlled system that works for all of us.

As Minnesotans, we must challenge our political candidates and elected officials to bring people together to address the tough issues head-on. But so far, Dick Day has shown that he's more interested in dividing us.

As Minnesotans, we deserve better.

Javier Morillo-Alicea is an immigration reform advocate. He is also president of SEIU Local 26, a union of more than 5,000 janitors and security officers in the state.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

God is my sharpshooter!

That's what Jeanne Assam apparently believes:

The guard -- former Minneapolis police officer Jeanne Assam -- said Monday that she prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide her, and that her hands never shook.

"It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God," she said.

Jeanne, of course, is the armed security guard at Ted Haggard's old church who killed—or at least winged pretty good—the Christian zealot turned anti-Christian zealot, Matthew Murray on Sunday last. Murray was going to be a missionary, but apparently he washed out late in the program, and he has harbored a, well, grudge, ever since:

"It appears that the suspect had been kicked out of the [missionary] program [affiliated with the church] three years prior and during the past few weeks had sent different forms of hate mail to the program and/or its director," police said.

Murray shot up the missionary training center earlier in the day.

But let's get back to Jeanne:

JA: O lord! Let me shoot straight!

HS: A little to the left, Jeanne.

It does sound like it was a good thing that Jeanne was a good shot, but how many of you, boys and girls, think that the Holy Spirit did the aiming? Michele, Katie, anybody else? And if you do, how much work would it have been for God to have stationed Jeanne out in the parking lot where two people were killed, or at the missionary training center earlier that day, where several people were shot and two were killed?

God seems like an arbitrary Fella, steadying Jeanne's aim but not protecting all of the other people who got shot. Spot guesses that they just didn't have time to pray, or they didn't pray hard enough. Sad, really.

There is one other thing in the article:

New Life Pastor Brady Boyd called Assam, who is normally his personal security guard, a "hero" whose actions averted further bloodshed.

The forces of Baal must really be thick in Colorado.

Monday, December 10, 2007

About that part where I vow to fight to the death to prove my innocence?

Never mind.
Former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby this morning gave up the appeal of his perjury and obstruction convictions in connection with the CIA leak case, his attorney said.

Libby, whose 30-month prison sentence was commuted by President Bush just before he was to begin serving it, continues to maintain his innocence, attorney Theodore V. Wells Jr. said in a statement. But, Wells said, "the burden on Mr. Libby and his young family of continuing to pursue his complete vindication are too great to ask them to bear."

Why has Scooter decided to drop the appeal? Howard Bashman has a theory:
If Libby were retried, and if the retrial resulted in the exact same conviction as the first trial, presumably President Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence resulting from the first trial would not preclude Libby from being resentenced to prison, and from having to serve that sentence absent a new commutation, following a second trial. Because a new president may be in office by that point, Libby may have reasonably concluded that the odds of getting a better result than he has now, plus the costs and risks that it would entail, made abandoning his appeal and accepting the status quo quite an attractive option.

Scooter Libby isn't interested in proving his innocence, he's interested in staying out of prison, something that is far from certain if he had gotten his wish and been retried.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Katherine Kersten: eater of the dead

A man, his son, and two others die in a small plane crash at the Faribault airport. It is widely reported; Katie sums it up this way:

A small plane piloted by her husband [Julie Mayo the wife; Chester Sr., her husband] had crashed at the Faribault, Minn., airport, as he was returning their son to Shattuck-St. Mary's School after Thanksgiving break. Two of Chester's friends, his roommate Jay Wang and Corey Lyn Creger, also had died.

Does Katie devote her column to a little eulogy for the four souls aboard, to use aviation parlance? No, of course not! Not when there is one of her favorite points to be made! The title of the column, In the midst of sorrow, a school that saves lives, should be a tip off. Instead of a little remembrance of each of the four, we are treated to yet another polemic about the virtues of parochial schools, in this case a boarding school.

Julie Mayo, wife and mother, put a brave face on it when she spoke to a memorial service at the school, apparently for three of its students:

Yet a few days later this same mother stood on a stage at the Faribault school's crowded memorial service with a smile on her face. She said something that seemed inexplicable: "Shattuck-St. Mary's saved Chester's life."

Katie goes on to write a promotional puff piece about Shattuck-St. Mary's School. Writing the column was ghoulish; Spot won't compound the ghoulishness by commenting further.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Katie spanked by an archbishop!

On Thursday, Katie penciled a column complaining about how St. Thomas was on the verge of becoming a godless, secular institution. The prophecy of Frank Mach has come to pass, early even:

By the time St. Thomas' bicentennial rolls around in 2085, Mach wrote, any remaining link between St. Thomas and its Catholic roots "is likely to be vague and mostly symbolic."

In fact, events seem ahead of schedule.

Since St. Thomas' founding in 1885, the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has held the position of chairman of its board of trustees. But Mach noted that "a vote of the trustees and a subsequent stroke of the pen," could make such connections with the church "vestiges of the past."

On Oct. 25, 2007, the vote that Mach foresaw took place.

St. Thomas' trustees voted to eliminate the archbishop's automatic position on the board. As a result, come next spring, for the first time since Archbishop John Ireland founded the institution, a sitting archbishop will not chair the St. Thomas board.

Moreover, he may not even have a seat on it.

In future years, the trustees can elect as chair whomever they wish: a layperson, technically even a Buddhist.

Say it ain't so, Katie! At least it couldn't be a Muslim. Right? It could? Gasp!

Katie—nobody ever said that she wasn't on the ball—suspects that the change is the result of the fact that the new archbishop for the area is going to be the jack-booted Herr John Nienstedt:

Some [in this context, boys and girls, "some"means "me"] speculate that Archbishop Harry Flynn's upcoming retirement was a major factor in the board's vote. During Flynn's 12 years as chair, little has been done to resist the slide to secularization. He will be succeeded in 2008 by Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has a reputation for orthodoxy.

Katie was so looking forward to Nienstedt kicking some serious ass at St. Thomas! But alas, it is not to be.

How do you know that Katie was looking forward to it, Spot?

The beads of sweat on her upper lip are a dead giveaway, grasshopper.

Well, fine, but how does the current archbishop figure in?

Thanks for the reminder, grasshopper. This letter was in the Strib today:

Katherine Kersten's column of Dec. 4 ("Battle for soul of St. Thomas takes a turn for the worse") was an inaccurate and slanted portrayal of the current and future Catholicity of the University of St. Thomas.

I simply wish to make two points about the statement she quoted as being from our "Archdiocesan spokesman":

First, the statement we e-mailed and faxed to her was headlined as being a "Statement of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis." It came from me, not from our "spokesman."

Second, and more important, Kersten used only the first sentence of my statement in her column. The other two sentences were ignored. They read as follows: "The Saint Thomas board will always include bishops or priests. Any rumors or speculation about the 'de-Catholicization of the University of Saint Thomas are ill founded, inaccurate and ludicrous.'"

The editing of my statement leaves open to question her motivation in writing this one-sided and inaccurate column.



It is just shocking that someone, anyone, much less an archbishop, would question Katie's motives!

The funny thing is, Spot thinks that Katie is right. There is a battle going on for the soul of St. Thomas. The winner will determine whether St. Thomas continues to grow, develop and flower as an institution worthy of the name "university," or whether it retreats to become the citadel of orthodoxy that Katie wants.

Godspeed, St. Thomas.

Former Republican legislative leader wins Spotty!

David Jennings, a former Republican legislator and Speaker of the Minnesota House, now the superintendent of the Chaska schools, wins a Spotty for his op ed piece in the Strib this morning:

Some pine for a world where 'public' is a dirty word

Michael R. Wigley's counterpoint ("Witness the conscience of a liberal: It ain't pretty," Nov. 21) is, to be kind, obfuscatory (Mike, that's a big word I learned in public school).

My lawyer and politician friends would say the letter is "riddled with baseless allegations." My dad (also a public-school graduate), if he were alive today, would say it's a crock. My point is, I've read some of Wigley's propaganda before and, as is usually the case with him, the article is long on innuendo and short on data or research.

To quote his letter directly, for example, he says, "While legislators and bureaucrats are hand-wringing, analyzing and politicking, children are not learning to read or write or do arithmetic ... ."

He offers no proof of this grandiose allegation, and there's a reason. It's just not true.

A recent study from the Center on Education Policy is the latest in a long line of such studies showing that, among other things, when you compare students from similar economic and social backgrounds:

• Public-school students score as well or better than their private-school peers on achievement tests.

• Public-school students are just as likely to go to college as private-school students.

• Public-school students are just as satisfied in their jobs and are just as engaged in civic activities as private-school students by the age of 26.

As for the oft-heard refrain that, somehow, public schools were better in the past and we need to find a way to return to those golden days of yesteryear, the fact is more students are graduating from public high schools today than ever before; more public-school graduates are going on to college than ever before, and, in comparisons with their international peers, American students are actually performing quite well.

Now, I'm not "Pollyannish" about this subject and, unlike Wigley, I actually have some direct experience with it. I'd be the first to admit that the demands of the 21st century are putting educational institutions to the test. Continuous improvement and relentless vigilance to stay ahead in the race to provide kids with a relevant educational experience is the challenge of our time.

I also know the achievement gap for poor kids is real and is unacceptable. Its continued existence is a mark of shame on all of us, including Wigley. None of that, however, is an argument for privatizing education for profit.

Now, I know that Wigley's concerns are not really about public schools. That is to say, he does not limit himself to demonizing public schools alone. It is actually the word "public" that bothers him more than the word "schools." It seems he simply does not believe in any public expenditure of taxpayer dollars. He instead believes we will all be better off when our futures are left in the hands of corporate America and the enlightened few who share his views and his economic stature.

Me, I'm just a middle-class guy who, thanks to public schools and universities, managed to get an education I could not otherwise have been able to afford and who, because of that education, has enjoyed greater economic success than generations of my family before me.

As a result, I feel some obligation to make sure the next generation of kids among the poor, the working poor and the middle class have the same opportunity. Public schools have been the pathway of that opportunity for many generations. To believe private schools funded by vouchers will provide that same hope for all kids is to believe in Santa Claus, but I guess it is that time of year.

Here's a paragraph that deserves repeating:

Now, I know that Wigley's concerns are not really about public schools. That is to say, he does not limit himself to demonizing public schools alone. It is actually the word "public" that bothers him more than the word "schools." It seems he simply does not believe in any public expenditure of taxpayer dollars. He instead believes we will all be better off when our futures are left in the hands of corporate America and the enlightened few who share his views and his economic stature.

Spot suspects that Jennings' time in the Minneapolis Public Schools and now at Chaska have given him some insight into Wigley's, and Katie's, and Sticks', and John Brandl's crowd.

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

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More than a glancing blow

When Spot put up his post Is the governor a spanker?, he delivered a glancing blow to the governor for appointing the "spanking judge" to the Minnesota Supreme Court, noting that the governor had called Judge Dietzen "kindhearted." In praising the appointment, here's what Chris Tiedeman had to say:

Governor Pawlenty also appointed appeals court Judge Christopher Dietzen to replace the Honorable Sam Hanson on the State Supreme Court. Justice Dietzen is a class act, has been a brilliant private practice attorney and has served with absolute distinction on the court of appeals since December of 2004. Justice Dietzen will join a court growing more and more restrained and intellectually honest after a handful of truly egregious, and intellectually void decisions over the years. Justice Dietzen will serve along side model justices such as Barry Anderson and Lorie Gildea. He will stand with integrity and a humble nature along with Chief Justice Russell Anderson (a former Judge in Crookston, and a St. Olaf Grad himself).

I cannot express how exciting today's announcements are, especially in light of a judiciary that is often unrestrained and all too often political. Nobody can make those claims about this set of appointments. Governor Pawlenty continues to impress as he leaves his mark on the judiciary. His influence and his integrity will have a lasting effect long past his Gubernatorial tenure. [italics are Spot's]

Then yesterday, Nick Coleman's whole column was devoted to the effect that eight years of Governor Pepsodent is going to have on the high court in Minnesota. Coleman picked up on some language from Judge Dietzen's opinion, also linked to by Spot above, saying this:

Dietzen burnished his conservative credentials by writing a July Appeals Court opinion overturning a [trial court] ruling that the repeated "Biblically based paddling" of a 12-year-old Bloomington boy [constituted] physical abuse.

That opinion won Dietzen praise for upholding "parental rights" from "pro-family" groups that support Pawlenty, despite Dietzen's tortured finding that the "chosen form of discipline for [the son's] knife-wielding and suicide threat may not have been the best approach."

Wow. Sometimes, a judge has to work really hard not to be "an activist." And sometimes, deciding not to act is to act.

Spot is sure this is just the kind of intellectual honesty that Chris Tiedeman is talking about!

A thump of the tail to Avidor for reading "The Party of Pawlenty" so Spot doesn't have to.

Freedom for me, but not for thee

A good discussion of the freedoms we enjoy under the First Amendment is always a good thing. I suspect Mitt Romney's speech today declaring that "Freedom requires religion" and that secularism is a "new religion," but then insisting that secularism has no place in America will prompt such discussions.

So will the Eighth Circuit's decision today (warning: pdf) that a district court in Missouri was wrong in refusing to issue a preliminary injunction that would allow the members of the Westboro Baptist Church to picket the funerals of fallen soldiers with their message of hate. In upholding the rights of even the Phelps family, the three judge panel started with a recognition of a fundamental right: "Peaceful picketing is an expressive activity protected by the First Amendment."

The Eighth Circuit knows that even unpopular and despised Americans have First Amendment rights. As a Mormon, one would have thought Candidate Romney would have seen that, too, but I guess not.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

George Babbitts thick as thieves

Last night, Tuesday, the Edina City Council met to consider, inter alia, a four month moratorium on the tear down of existing homes in Edina. These tear downs are usually replaced with a much larger, and therefore more expensive structure—Spot is reluctant to call some of them "homes"—and regrettably, often ones that looks like an onion in the petunia patch. The moratorium would have permitted the city's elected leaders some time to craft an ordinance that addresses the so-called "massing" issue. Which the council says it is committed to doing. There was an article in the Strib yesterday about the upcoming meeting.

The moratorium did not pass. In fact, in the end, council member Joni Bennett was the only person on the council to support the idea of a moratorium. It was illuminating to see who was there for the public comments ahead of the vote.

The largest group was the builders and real estate agents—the principal George Babbitts of the evening. Here's a description of Babbitt, living in the fictional city of Zenith, a real estate developer in Sinclair Lewis' novel of the same name:

Zenith's chief virtue is conformity, and its religion is boosterism. Prominent boosters in Zenith include Vergil Gunch, the coal-dealer; Sidney Finkelstein, the ladies'-ready-to-wear buyer for Parcher & Stein's department-store; and Professor Joseph K. Pumphrey, owner of the Riteway Business College and instructor in Public Speaking, Business English, Scenario Writing, and Commercial Law.

Babbitt lives a successful life professionally but remains unhappy. His success as a businessman is contrasted with his ignorance of contemporary social and economic conditions. Lewis, in one of the most cinematic passages of the novel, pulls back from his main narrative to take a sweeping view of events occurring elsewhere in Zenith. Babbitt lives with only the vaguest awareness of the lives and deaths of his contemporaries — he focuses instead on the drama of his own life. He gradually becomes disillusioned with his lifestyle and then rebels against it. Babbitt's rebellion is sparked by Paul Reisling being sent to prison for shooting Zilla. This forces Babbitt to look at his life and think about what he wants in life, and will if it make him happy. However, he eventually finds himself too weak to continue on that path and lapses back into conformity by the end of the novel. [italics are Spot's]

These new Babbitts delivered a string of heart-rending monologues on how a moratorium would condemn Edina forever to a marginal, down-market future. We heard what bad shape Edina's stock of $400,000 to $750,000 houses is in. Spot was shocked to hear this. We also heard that there were so many young families who wanted to move into Edina, but apparently the houses are too small. And oh, by the way, a moratorium would interfere with the Babbitts' ability to profit from Edina real estate. Babbitts from as far away as Farmington came to tell the council this!

There were also some homeowners—ones who want to leave town and think their property is the most valuable as an empty lot, what does that say, boys and girls?—who complained that a moratorium would impede their exit.

Finally, there was Spot's sentimental favorite, Lee McGrath, a libertarian attorney, who steamed up to the lectern—and steamed up the windows, too—informing the council that any limitation on homeowners' discretion in using their property was an infringement of their rights. Lee's ideology has a certain 18th century Scots - Irish feel to it, rather antiquated for modern living. Lee is a commenter here, sometimes. Perhaps Spot will take Lee to lunch so we can review the cases on land use regulation!

Standing against the Babbitts were homeowners worried about the construction of a man-made mountain right next door, especially on a small lot. In contrast to the sleek Babbitts, seeking to protect their livelihood, these were residents—mostly long time residents—seeking to protect their lives, or the quality of it anyway. These are the people who have voted for the school levy referenda, supported local civic and religious institutions, and showed up at all the bake sales and car washes for the local high school.

So in the end, the council was more solicitous of the people who want to come in or the people who want to leave, not the people who want to stay. It's funny though, this last group has another name: constituents.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Jesus takes another one in the shorts!

Well, not actually Jesus. But rather those who seek to use religion to further their own moralistic, material, and authoritarian ends. Word comes to Spot from Mercury Rising and the Des Moines Register that Charlie Colson's InnerChange program in an Iowa prison had another wooden stake driven into it evangelical heart. Long time reader may remember—well okay, unlikely, but still—that Spot wrote about the case when the US District Court in Iowa ruled against InnerChange in a post that Spot called Dissembling for Jesus. (There's kind of a dangling modifier there, boys and girls, so step carefully.) That post has a pretty good bit about the debunking of a study that purported to support the value of InnerChange, so Spot recommends that you go back to it and have a look.

Now, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has added it condemnation of public support for this plainly religious program in prisons with their, er, captive audiences:

In the present case, plaintiffs demonstrated (and defendants do not seriously contest) that the InnerChange program resulted in inmate enrollment in a program dominated by Bible study, Christian classes, religious revivals, and church services. The DOC also provided less tangible aid to the InnerChange program. Participants were housed in living quarters that had, in previous years, been used as an “honor unit,” and which afforded residents greater privacy than the typical cell. Among other benefits, participants were allowed more visits from family members and had greater access to computers.

And therefore what, boys and girls?

The InnerChange program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Very good, grasshopper.

As Spot said in his earlier post, Minnesota's own Al Quie is or was a board member of the sponsor of the InnerChange programs, the InnerChange Freedom Initiative. As of the date of that post, InnerChange was operating at Lino Lakes, too. Spot does not know the current status of that program. Any readers who know?

You know, between this and the news that the Hennepin County Attorney has appealed the case against Gerard's folks, Katie must really have the vapors.

Is the governor a spanker?

Inquiring dogs want to know. Spot, of course, doesn't know if the governor is a spanker or not. However, we do know some interesting facts. You remember, boys and girls, Spot's post about Katie's second column on the spanking case?

Doesn't ring a bell, Spot.

Aw, come on, grasshopper! That post is maybe a day old.

Just kidding Spotty. The column and the case were about parents who got into trouble for hitting their 12 year old son 36 times in the space of a little over an hour. Katie thought it was fine Christian discipline. The parents apparently threatened the boy with the Bible.

Close enough, grasshopper. You will remember that when Katie first wrote about the case last summer, the Minnesota Court of Appeals had reversed a trial court finding of child abuse. Here's the opinion, if you want to read it.

Well, great, Spotty, but what does this have to do with the governor?

Check out who wrote the opinion in the Court of Appeals.

Let's see. Some dude named Judge Dietzen, right Spot? But what does that have to do with the governor?

Governor Pepsodent recently made a new appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Who was it?

Can we get back to you on that one, Spotty?

No. Look it up and come right back.

Holy smoke! The governor appointed the same fella, Chris Dietzen—who wrote the Court of Appeals decision—to the Supreme Court! Do you suppose that the governor was aware of that?

You can be sure that he was, grasshopper. And although it's not proof that the governor is a spanker, it wasn't a deal killer for him, either.

You mean this same judge gets to decide the case again now that it's been appealed to the Supreme Court? That stinks.

No, grasshopper, now-Justice Dietzen will undoubtedly recuse himself from the case. But the Court of Appeals decision is interesting to Spot for a couple of reasons.

First, the opinion contains a recitation of the findings of the trial court, based substantially on a stipulated record. It's an illuminating read. You will recall that Katie tells us that the parents had said this is what their son had been up to:

Last week, the Frasers described their long ordeal. In 2005, their then-12-year-old son, Gerard, "began running with the wrong crowd at school," explained Shawn. The boy started shoplifting, stealing money from his mother and prowling the streets at night, leaving his parents frantic.

You would certainly think that the shoplifting and stealing money from his mother would feature prominently in the parents' defense of their conduct, wouldn't you? Well, here's how Judge Dietzen described it:

During 2005, G.F. left home without permission on numerous occasions and, when confronted, either lied about it or refused to say where he had been or what he had done.

That's it? Gee, Spotty, that doesn't add up, does it? Did Katie read the opinion?

No grasshopper, it doesn't add up. If Katie did read the opinion, she failed to ask a few pointed questions of Gerard's parents. If she didn't read it, she failed to avail herself of some rather simple fact checking that was available to her. Not a pretty sight either way. She says she's a lawyer, you know.

Isn't it unfair, Spotty, to tag Governor Pepsodent with responsibility for the Appeals Court's decision?

Well, sure, grasshopper, but that's not the issue. This issue is the subsequent appointment of Dietzen to the Supreme Court after the Fraser decision. That and the basis on which the Dietzen court decided Fraser. As Spot said earlier, the case was appealed on a mostly-stipulated record. It looked at those facts de novo.

Wow, Spotty! That sound dangerous!

Actually grasshopper, it just means this:

Because this case was presented on stipulated facts to the court, the material facts are undisputed.  Consequently, we review the application of law to the stipulated facts de novo.  Morton Bldgs., Inc. v. Comm’r of Revenue, 488 N.W.2d 254, 257 (Minn. 1992); In re Welfare of K.J.K., Jr., 620 N.W.2d 734, 736 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Mar. 27, (2001); see also In re Welfare of Children of R.W., 678 N.W.2d 49, 54 (Minn. 2004) (stating that questions of law, such as the interpretation of the statutory criteria for adjudicating a CHIPS petition, are reviewed de novo).  Clear and convincing evidence is required to support a CHIPS petition.  Minn. Stat. § 260C.163, subd. 1(a) (2006); Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 39.04, subd. 1; In re A.R.M., 611 N.W.2d 43, 49 n.2 (Minn. App. 2000).

Judge Dietzen wrote, in effect, that he didn't think that whacking a kid three dozen times was clear and convincing evidence of child abuse. Funny, though, the cops, the county attorney, and the trial court thought it was! We're just lucky that Governor Pepsodent appointed such a wise man to the Supreme Court.

There's one good thing about the decision, though. The Appeals Court didn't have to rule on the Fraser's other claim.

What was that?

They urged the court to rule that the child abuse statute was an unconstitutional infringement on their right to discipline their children. If the Frasers had won on that one, it would have meant that you could kick you kid, but not your dog. Spot is glad for the second part of that, of course!

A couple of other things before Spot lets you go:

First, Chris Dietzen, then a practicing lawyer, represented Governor Pepsodent in an election law violation case in 2002:

Dietzen defended Pawlenty's campaign when Democrats accused it of conspiring with the Republican Party to exceed campaign spending limits. The state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board fined the campaign $100,000 and reduced Pawlenty's spending limit for the violation.

Pawlenty said he doesn't give preferences to acquaintances or political allies, but he also doesn't penalize them when making appointments.

Pawlenty also said this of Dietzen when he made the appointment:

He is studious; he is smart; he is also kindhearted.

Spot wonders of Gerard would agree with that assessment!

Second, P.Z. Myers recently put up a post titled Religion Kills. It's about a boy who died after refusing a blood transfusion on religious grounds. P.Z. called it child abuse. Spot agrees. P.Z., even when religion doesn't kill, it sure can sting sometimes!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Whoa Gerard, wassuuuup?

Aren't you a little curious how Mr. and Mrs. Dominator came to the attention of the County Attorney? Spot sure is. Several scenarios present themselves.


Hello, is the the Blomington police?

Yes, it is.

I'd like to report child abuse.

Really? Who?


Aw, come on son. Every kid gets the old man's wrath once in a while.

But this is different. I'm pretty sure.


Dad hit me.

Well, son, a lot of kids get a cuff on the butt once in a while. Parents have self-control problems sometimes, too.

I know that! But he went over the line.

How old are you, son?

Twelve. Dad hit me thirty-six times tonight.

Jesus Christ! Did you count?

Dad did. I got three separate whuppings, twelve whacks each because that's how old I am. Mister, he'll kill me before I get to eighteen.

What did he hit you with, his hand, and where?

It was a maple paddle that he ordered online some time ago. He hit me on the back of my legs while quoting Scripture to me. I don't remember the verses.

I suppose not. Hang on a minute, son. Sarge? Come over here; we have a situation.


Wassuuuup, Gerard? You look a little peaked, my man.

I'm fine.

You don't look so fine. Hey, have you been crying?


Yes you have! What's wrong? It's okay; you can tell me.

Remember when I told you that Dad bought a paddle online and threatened to hit me with it? Well, it came and he hit me thirty six times.

Come on; we're gonna tell the school counselor. Nobody outta hafta put up with that shit.

Three [Spot's favorite]

Hello. Hennepin County Social Services.

Uh, hello. I'm a county resident, and I have a discipline problem with my son.

Welcome to the club. What's your name?

I'd rather not say. But my son sneaks around and is disobedient to his mother and to me, the head of the household. I'm the king of the family, you know.

Good for you. How can I help you?

I want to know how far I can go while, uh, disciplining my son. We've tried quoting Scripture to him, but he seems to have trouble with the English in the King James' version we use. I suppose I could get a more modern translation, but I'm afraid it wouldn't help.

You might give that a try, though. Sometimes the smallest things can make a difference.

I want to do more.

That's laudable. What did you have in mind?

I'd like to hit him.

Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute! Hit him?

Well, spank. I'd do it so I didn't leave any marks. Then it would just be his word against mine, right?

Yes, I suppose so, but . . .

Thanks! That what I needed to know! [click]

Hey, Jerry! Get me an investigator in here NOW.

The point of each of these little dialogues is to show that there are several ways for child abuse to be identified. However it actually happened in this case, it is clear that Gerard or his parents—probably Gerard—exhibited some kind of conduct that tipped somebody off.

If you ever suspect that some kid is being abused, boys and girls, tell a teacher, a social worker, a cop, somebody. No kid should have to deal with parents who are psychopaths. Thirty six whacks with a maple paddle is child abuse, not loving Christian child raising as Katie suggests. Children are not property; there are things you cannot do to them, even if you are the king of the family.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Katie goes whup ass! II

Some of you boys and girls may remember the case of G.F., the miscreant that Katie wrote about last summer. That column is no longer with us, but Spot worte about it in Katie goes whup ass! Here's Katie's summary of what G.F.'s parents—devout Christians, of course—did to lovingly correct their son:

At first, dad tried the textbook approach. He grounded his son and withdrew his privileges. G.F. continued his delinquent ways. Dad then warned G.F. that he would use the paddle if his son threw a tantrum or left home again without permission. (Dad's rough sense of justice dictated that G.F. would get one whack for every year of his age.)

But G.F. soon sneaked out again. Dad then announced that it was time for the "hot seat." G.F. got 12 whacks with a "small maple paddle."

Unrepentant, G.F. responded with a tantrum. Likewise undeterred, dad applied 12 more paddle strokes. Then things got seriously out of hand. G.F. picked up a knife and threatened to kill himself. Result? Twelve more whacks and off to bed.

Did you count thirty-six whacks, boys and girls? Spot did. Lizzie Bordon gave what, forty?

Here's the summary of the same events from Katie's current column:

After warning Gerard repeatedly and posting Bible verses to remind him of the consequences, Fraser smacked the back of his son's upper thighs 12 times with a small wooden paddle after he disobeyed and lied. He repeated the process twice over an hour and 15-minute period when the boy remained defiant. The paddling left no marks.

"I wasn't trying to harm him," Fraser said. "I was trying to teach him about the importance of self-control and respect for authority."

Oh! He posted Bible verses! That explains everything. Why didn't you say so in the first place, Katie? A religious beating is something entirely different. Entirely!

Spot would like you to reflect on the irony of trying to teach somebody self control by hitting him three dozen times with a maple paddle. And the maple paddle? Where did you get that, daddy? Make it in shop class when your father was beating you?

Reflect also on Katie's statement that "[t]he paddling left no marks." Oh, it left marks, Katie, right in little G.F.'s head, just as was intended.

Why did Katie's glorification of sadism get a second column?

Because Katie is kinda sadistic herself?

Well, maybe, grasshopper. But Katie's original column on this sickening slice of home life came when the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of G.F.'s pious mommy and daddy. Now, alas and alack, the case is being appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Katie apparently couldn't resist another bellow of outrage. We do get some more details:

Gerard, now 15, returned recently from a Christian boarding school in Utah where his father and mother -- a materials handler and hotel kitchen worker, respectively -- sent him after raising the $50,000 tuition by refinancing their home.

The county's continued intervention is absurd, Gerard says. "I understand now that my dad paddled me because he loves me, and he wants me to have success in my life. He disciplined me, he didn't abuse me.

Let's see, you're Gerard. You have just returned from a Christian gulag in Utah. When you get a beating in Utah, it does leave marks. You don't want to ever go back to Utah, not even to hear that big choir in Salt Lake City, but you know the lengths that your folks will go to make you obdient, dutiful, and well, maybe a little cowed. So now you're sitting at the kitchen table across from this severe-looking woman with frizzy hair and dressed in black. She has been visiting with your folks, and they have been praying and chuckling in an odd sort of a way. You are three years away from the age of majority.

The severe-looking woman with the frizzy hair and dressed in black asks, "Do you know why your dad whacked you three dozen times?" Your father is sitting immediately to your right, your mother to your left.

Consider your answer very carefully, boys and girls.

Katie has this to say about spanking:

Spanking may be out of fashion. But it's gotten a bad rap -- no pun intended, says Waite [one of the parents' attorneys]. Spanking is an important tool that parents need in their disciplinary toolbox to shape behavior.

Most Americans agree. According to research cited by Waite, commissioned by the Family Research Council, 76 percent of those surveyed said that spanking was an effective form of discipline in their home when they were children.

Ah, the Family Research Council! Of course! That's James Dobson's outfit, isn't it? Here's what one commentator said about James Dobson on the subject of discipline, taken from a passage in one of Dobson's books:

"When I told Sigmund to leave his warm seat and go to bed, he flattened his ears and slowly turned his head toward me. He deliberately braced himself by placing one paw on the edge of the furry lid, then hunched his shoulders, raised his lips to reveal the molars on both sides, and uttered his most threatening growl. That was Siggie's way of saying. "Get lost!" "I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me 'reason' with Mr. Freud."

What Dobson never explains to his readers is WHY it was so essential that the dog sleep where Dobson wanted him to sleep instead of where the dog wanted to sleep. Dobson is behaving like a toddler who throws a violent tantrum if his "bedtime ritual" isn't adhered to down to the slightest detail. Making Siggie go to sleep on command where and when Dobson wants him to has been part of this overgrown toddler's bedtime ritual for six years. Now, Siggie is interfering with a small detail of this bedtime ritual of Dobson's by wanting to sleep somewhere else which is warmer and more comfortable. So Dobson, true to his infantile level of emotional maturity, throws a violent tantrum:

"What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt. I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him to bed, only because I outweighed him 200 to 12!"

This is one sick puppy, and I don't mean the dog, either. Dobson is OBSESSED with control. I suspect that this stems from the punitive upbringing he endured as a young child (and which he now praises, with unintended irony, for making him what he is today). Now that he is a grownup, and too old to spank, he is determined to get everything HIS way, by golly! He is a 200 pound, verbally articulate version of the "strong-willed" toddlers whom he always exhorts parents to whip into submission "with a belt or switch" because "pain is a marvelous purifier." Dobson is walking proof of how just how badly a spanked child can turn out. The fact that parents like this exist in the world is an excellent argument for why all forms of corporal punishment should be abolished forthwith.

Just in case the more slow-witted among his readers fail to grasp the obvious parallel between his relationship with his dog and the type of parenting advice the man as become rich and famous by dispensing, Dobson then lays it explicitly on the line:

"But this is not a book about the discipline of dogs; there is an important moral to my story that is highly relevant to the world of children. JUST AS SURELY AS A DOG WILL OCCASIONALLY CHALLENGE THE AUTHORITY OF HIS LEADERS, SO WILL A LITTLE CHILD -- ONLY MORE SO." (emphasis Dobson's)

Spot would like Dobson to try that treatment on Spot's pal Theodore! He's a Rottweiler. But of course Dobson would never do that. He knows you only wield your authority against the powerless.

And for Spot's money, Katie, you've established a new low benchmark against which to measure future offerings of yours. Congratulations.


On a tip from a reader, Spot googled around and found several sites dedicated to a discussion of spanking (don't even start, grasshopper) and offering paddles for sale. One that Spot can recommend is Spanking Paddles by Walt, which offers several models in different woods and price ranges. Spot didn't see maple, though, so the daddy above must have shopped somewhere else! Spot's favorite from Walt's was this model. It shows that spanking does have a certain, er, crossover appeal.

Further update:

MNO did a great parody of Katie's column at Norwegianity. 

grumble grumble grumble

What did you say, Spot?

Oh, nuthin'.