Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Drinking Liberally: the Al Franken valedictory

nyt al franken Thursday night will be a chance to offer congratulations, and maybe some advice, to our new Senator. Al won’t be there, but the video camera will be.

Six to nine at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

New York Times picture

Norm Coleman political epitaph contest

01coleman Submit your entries in the comments in the Cucking Stool’s contest to write the definitive political epitaph for Norm Coleman. The winner will receive a Spotty (tm) medallion, a digital one anyway. Deadline is Friday, close of business.

And remember: epitaph, not obituary.

Update: Here’s one, but it is only entered in the exhibition category:

Paid no rent
Saw no evil
Now he’s out
On his schnozzle

Further update: There’s a couple of good ones in the comments already. Keep ‘em coming! One more for the exhibition category:

Here lies the Accidental Senator

And yet another update: There are several excellent entries in the comments. Please keep them coming, and try, if you can, to get them in by Thursday afternoon (deadline remains the same: Friday afternoon). The ones that are in will get an airing at DL tomorrow night just to get some crowd reaction to help the judges. This isn’t going to be easy.

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The money un-quote

It’s been news for nearly a half an hour now that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Al Franken. But before the rejoicing begins in earnest, and too much beer and champagne are drunk, and too much confetti is thrown into the air, consider this:

For all of the foregoing reasons, we affirm the decision of the trial court that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minn.Stat. § 204C.40 (2008) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota.

That’s the judgment at the end of the Supreme Court’s 32 page opinion.

Hey, that’s great, Spotty! When’s the swearing in ceremony?

Not so fast, grasshopper. The judgment lacks one teensy little thing: an order to Governor Pawlenty to sign the certificate. He’s said he would, unless blah blah blah. Of course, blah blah blah is in the eye of the beholder.

If he refuses to sign the certificate, on whatever pretext: that he’s unsure of the correctness of the decision, Coleman says he’s going to appeal to the federal courts, whatever; the governor’s failure to sign is not likely to have legal consequences. Why? Because the governor has not been given an order from which he could be found in contempt.

It may not be over yet.

Update: The grasshopper asked why the Court didn’t include an order to the governor and the secretary of state in its judgment. Spot’s pretty sure that Al Franken’s lawyers would have asked for one. The best answer is probably the reluctance of the Court to provoke a constitutional crisis. That’s understandable, but it seems like a dereliction of the Court’s duty to declare what the law is and to enforce it.

Further update: It is reported that Norm Coleman has awakened and smelled the unmistakable aroma of coffee.

And Spot forgives the Supreme Court for not wanting to pick a constitutional fight with the governor.

Quote of the day

"Sadly, there is a cost to this kind of freedom."

Lee McGrath, just this morning at the Federalist Society Continuing Legal Education seminar, when asked about the need for regulation - or not - of the financial markets in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal.

Mr. McGrath also explained how he'd have no trouble whatsoever having a surgeon from a non-accredited medical school operate on his heart.

More later if I get a chance to revisit my thoughts on the morning.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A keen sense of smell

TPaw by Avidor "Any time you have leading figures who are engaged in behavior that is sad and troubling and hypocritical, other people are going to look at that and say, 'Hmm, they don't walk the walk.' And so the words and the actions don't ring true," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn. "It certainly hurts the brand."

Pawlenty added: "I think I can make a contribution, in a positive way, for trying to rebuild this party. And it needs it."

That’s a quote from a Strib web article Sunday, commenting on Governor Pepsodent’s appearance on the Sunday morning talk shows. One of the commenters to the article wrote: “I’ll give him this: the man can smell opportunity.”

So can a jackal.

Pepsodent was talking about the recent revelations of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford playing with an Argentine fire cracker and earlier stories about an extra-marital affair of Sen. John Ensign of Nevada which he admitted were true.

Still, if the personal rectitude card is all you’ve got, Spot guesses you have to play it.

Update: Forgot the graphic attribution: Ken Avidor. This formerly appeared in Law & Politics.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Repost: Kip Sullivan at Drinking Liberally

Last February, Kip Sullivan came to Drinking Liberally in Minneapolis and spoke about single-payer healthcare and the bill that was pending in the Minnesota Legislature at the time. The discussion about single payer is still relevant and timely, so here it is again.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A brief gloss on “Fire”

Yesterday, MNO posted about Hal Turner getting all worked about the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals failing, in his view, to enforce the District of Colombia v. Heller decision holding a chicken in every pot and heat in every home in DC. As MNO points out, Turner has been charged on a criminal complaint and accused of threatening assault and murder of members of the federal judiciary in retaliation for the judges’ performance of their official duties.

One wonders if ‘ol Hal can blog from prison. Probably not.

The judges on the panel who wrote the unanimous opinion were Frank Easterbrook, who currently serves as chief judge, William Bauer and Richard Posner. Easterbrook and Posner are both well-known conservative federal judges. Richard Posner is one of King Banaian’s little tin gods, as a matter of fact, although he recently wrote some things that probably tarnished him in Banaian’s eyes.

Anyway, the 7th Circuit held that the District of Colombia and the states were different species of fish; a due respect for the difference and for the fact that the Supreme Court opinion left open the question of application to the states required leaving gun control ordinances in place:

Judges on the panel included well-known conservatives Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner, as well as another Republican appointee, William Bauer. Easterbrook wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year in District of Columbia v. Heller overturned a handgun ban in the federal enclave of Washington, D.C., on Second Amendment grounds, but left open the question of whether the amendment applied to the states.

The issue is "for the justices rather than a court of appeals," Easterbrook wrote.

And so it is. You have to wonder though, if this experience will influence these judges in the future as more of the rantings and ravings of the gun suckers comes before the court.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


The threats from Hal Turner we mentioned in the update to this post seems to have not gone unnoticed by the FBI:
Blogger and occasional Internet talk show host Harold Charles "Hal" Turner was arrested by federal agents today at his New Jersey home on charges that he threatened on his website to murder three judges on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

Prosecutors say the material--which allegedly provided photographs and addresses for the three jurists--included statements such as "these judges deserve to be killed," reports the Chicago Tribune.

Turner, 47, also is accused of posting a map of the federal courthouse in Chicago in which the three work--and, in reference to the 2005 murders by a disgruntled litigant of the mother and husband of a Chicago federal judge, stating that another such "lesson" is needed, reports the Associated Press.

Turner's anger at the judges (two of whom are very conservative in their philosophies and are closely identified with the Federalist Society) is based on their reading of the Second Amendment in a recent case. Angry that the judges used well-established precedent to allow state regulation of gun ownership, Turner went off on a very threatening tirade. Pictures, addresses, and other personal details were posted along with the thought that a "lesson" was needed. It was pretty clearly aimed at Turner's fellow Second Amendment absolutists.

As someone recently said about such speech, this is not like yelling "fire" in a theater, this is like yelling "fire" at a firing squad.

The sinister cheerleaders

Yesterday, Spot posted about the post-election violence in Iran in Let’s just compare numbers of dead people. Here’s Juan Cole, on the US reaction to the Iran political demonstrations:

But there are dangers here. Obama will likely be as helpless before a crackdown by the Iranian regime as Eisenhower was re: Hungary in 1956, Johnson was re: Prague in 1968, and Bush senior was re: Tiananmen Square in 1989. George W. Bush, it should be remembered, did nothing about Tehran's crackdown on student protesters in 2003 or about the crackdown on reformist candidates, which excluded them from running in the 2004 Iranian parliamentary elections, or about the probably fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad in 2005. It is hard to see what he could have done, contrary to what his erstwhile supporters in Congress now seem to imply. As an oil state, the Iranian regime does not need the rest of the world and is not easy to pressure. So Obama needs to be careful about raising expectations of any sort of practical intervention by the US, which could not possibly succeed. (Despite the US media's determined ignoring the the Afghanistan War, it is rather a limiting factor on US options with regard to Iran.) Moreover, if the regime succeeds in quelling the protests, however odious it is, it will still be a chess piece on the board of international diplomacy and the US will have to deal with it just as it deals with post-Tiananmen China.

Spot would add George W. Bush and Georgia to the list. Oh, the Georgians begged for help all right, just as the Iranian students appear to be. But it won’t be coming any time soon. One of the first rules of gun boat diplomacy is to never invade some place where you might get you butt kicked or at least seriously bloodied. Better to stick with places like Grenada or Panama or Iraq (which turned out a lot bloodier than the Bush Administration expected). And before you pop off Dave, do you think we really would have invaded Iraq — and embedded journalists to help us watch the show — if we seriously believed it had substantial stock piles of WMD, ready to use?

So bluster is cathartic, but it could also be stupid and worse: sinister. Cole continues:

And, the more Obama speaks on the subject, even in these terms [quoted in Cole’s post], the more he risks associating the Mousavi supporters with a CIA plot. Iranian media are already parading arrested protesters who are 'confessing' that 'Western media' led them astray. In nationalist and wounded Iran, if someone is successfully tagged as an agent of foreign interests, it is the political kiss of death.

The fact is that despite the bluster of the American Right that Something Must be Done, the United States is not a neutral or benevolent player in Iran. Washington overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 over oil nationalization, and installed the megalomaniac and oppressive Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, who gradually so alienated all social classes in Iran that he was overthrown in a popular revolution in 1978-1979. The shah had a national system of domestic surveillance and tossed people in jail for the slightest dissidence, and was supported to the hilt by the United States government. So past American intervention has not been on the side of, let us say, human rights.

More recently, the US backed the creepy and cult-like Mojahedin-e Khalq (People's Holy Warriors or MEK), which originated in a mixture of communist Stalinism and fundamentalist Islam. The MEK is a terrorist organization and has blown things up inside Iran, so the Pentagon's ties with them are wrong in so many ways. The MEK, by the way, has a very substantial lobby in Washington DC and has some congressmen in its back pocket, and is supported by the less savory elements of the Israel lobbies such as Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson. I am not saying they should be investigated for material support of terrorism, since I am appalled by the unconstitutional breadth of that current DOJ tactic, but I am signaling that the US imperialist Right has been up to very sinister things in Iran for decades. .  .  .

Here’s a Charlie Krauthammer quote, repeated from my post yesterday:

WASHINGTON – Millions [?] of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.

Isn’t that just perfect, boys and girls? Good luck! Godspeed! Our people in Tehran will give you some signs, printed in English for you to wave to impress western media!

Cole makes one other point that is well worth noting:

Moreover, very unfortunately, US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights. The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States. Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, 'protest zones' were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated 'protest zones' would be illegal in New York City, apparently. In fact, the Republican National Committee has undertaken to pay for the cost of any lawsuits by wronged protesters, which many observers fear will make the police more aggressive, since they will know that their municipal authorities will not have to pay for civil damages.

The number of demonstrators arrested in Tehran on Saturday is estimated at 550 or so, which is less than those arrested by the NYPD for protesting Bush policies in 2004.

Anybody who was in the Twin Cities the week of the RNC last summer knows what it was like.

Guys like Krauthammer, Pipes, and William Kristol would love to see the destabilization of Iran as a pretext to an invasion. But all they are likely to get is a bloody mess.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

God’s will

A thump of the tail to Jesus’ General for pointing this one out:


Let’s just compare numbers of dead people

Spot’s rather late to the discussion about the aftermath of the Iranian election. There isn’t much to add, but maybe a little comparison of death tolls is in order. Numbers of the fatalities are hard to come by in the case of Iran; there is the heart-wrenching and galvanizing YouTube of the young woman felled by a bullet. According to one Iranian human rights organization, the death toll now stands at 32. Many more are surely injured.

But compare:

Bomb Kills at Least 60 in Baghdad Market:

BAGHDAD — A bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded Wednesday evening in Baghdad’s Sadr City, killing at least 60 people in a popular clothes and vegetable market as it was thronged with shoppers who had waited for sundown before venturing into the hot summer weather, according to the Iraqi interior ministry.

It was at least the third bombing in two weeks to result in double digit casualties in Shiite communities [never mind Fallujah]. On Saturday, a truck bomb in Taza, a Shiite Turkmen area in northern Iraq, killed at least 68 people. Earlier in the month, a car bomb exploded outside Nasiriya, the capital of a predominantly Shiite province in southern Iraq where bombs are rare, killing at least 28 people and inciting a near riot among survivors who threw stones at the police, blaming them for lax security.

But Spot, Iraq is so yesterday.

Yes grasshopper, you’re right. But what about this:

U.S. Drone Strike Said to Kill 60 in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An airstrike believed to have been carried out by a United States drone killed at least 60 people at a funeral for a Taliban fighter in South Waziristan on Tuesday, residents of the area and local news reports said.

Details of the attack, which occurred in Makeen, remained unclear, but the reported death toll was exceptionally high. If the reports are indeed accurate and if the attack was carried out by a drone, the strike could be the deadliest since the United States began using the aircraft to fire remotely guided missiles at members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The United States carried out 22 previous drone strikes this year, as the Obama administration has intensified a policy inherited from the Bush administration.

They must have all been Taliban, Spot; our missile wouldn’t kill innocent civilians.

If you say so grasshopper. Hard to tell from the air, though. But just doing a rough comparison, these two incidents have resulted in roughly four times the death toll than that reported by the Iranian organization. But it’s the Iranians that have got guys like Tom Friedman and Charles Krauthammer excited into incontinence.

Why do you suppose that is?

Krauthammer writes:

WASHINGTON -- Millions of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.

Millions? Well, I told you that Charlie was excited. Both Friedman and Krauthammer would have the US egg the demonstrators on. Easy enough to do when you don’t have any skin in the game. But consider:

Stephen Kinzer’s book, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, tells the story of the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mosaddeq, by the CIA and the British MI6 in 1953. The CIA bribed Iranian government officials, businessmen, and reporters, and paid Iranians to demonstrate in the streets.

On American TV, the protesters who are interviewed speak perfect English. They are either westernized secular Iranians who were allied with the Shah and fled to the West during the 1978 Iranian revolution or they are the young westernized residents of Tehran.

The 1953 street demonstrations, together with the cold war claim that the US had to grab Iran before the Soviets did, served as the US government’s justification for overthrowing Iranian democracy. What the Iranian people wanted was not important.

Today the street demonstrations in Tehran show signs of orchestration. The protesters, primarily young people, especially young women opposed to the dress codes, carry signs written in English: “Where is My Vote?” The signs are intended for the western media, not for the Iranian government.

More evidence of orchestration is provided by the protesters’ chant, “death to the dictator, death to Ahmadinejad.” Every Iranian knows that the president of Iran is a public figure with limited powers. His main role is to take the heat from the governing grand Ayatollah. No Iranian, and no informed westerner, could possibly believe that Ahmadinejad is a dictator. Even Ahmadinejad’s superior, Khamenei, is not a dictator as he is appointed by a government body that can remove him.

The demonstrations, like those in 1953, are intended to discredit the Iranian government and to establish for Western opinion that the government is a repressive regime that does not have the support of the Iranian people. This manipulation of opinion sets up Iran as another Iraq ruled by a dictator who must be overthrown by sanctions or an invasion.

The Infowars article continues:

Many of the demonstrators may be sincere in their protest, hoping to free themselves from Islamic moral codes. But if reports of the US government’s plans to destabilize Iran are correct, paid troublemakers are in their ranks.

And Tommy and Charlie and a lot of Republicans are flogging the story for all they and it are worth; a lot of people are buying it. Bomb bomb bomb; bomb bomb Iran.

Imagine, if you will, the public reaction if Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez had offered words of support for the protesters at the Republican National Convention last year, or they had condemned the decision in Bush v. Gore and encouraged people to hit the streets. There are a lot of people in Iran who remember 1953 and life under the Shah and who are not likely to view interference — or even the perceived interference — of the US in their domestic politics charitably. Who could blame them?

And it’s not as though the neocon dream has exactly worked like, well, a dream so far. It really isn’t very smart to try to destabilize one of the larger, wealthier, and more military powerful states in the region.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t try.

A thump of the tail to techno.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cartooning at Drinking Liberally!

Thursday will be an extra special Drinking Liberally featuring Ken Avidor and some of his cartoon/illustrator buddies. Ken promises to bring along his sketch book and pen.

As most of you know, Ken has done several graphics for the Cucking Stool over the past couple of years. He skewers Michele Bachmann with some regularity and writes for Dump Michele Bachmann. Recently, Ken’s work in sketching for Law and Politics at the Republican National Convention won him a Society of Professional Journalists award.

One of Ken’s recent projects was to do the cover of the first issue of False Witness, Bill Prendergast’s graphic retelling of the Michele Bachmann story:

false witness cover

False Witness was noted recently in Talking Points Memo. And the dialogue is genuine Michele Bachmann, too!

We’ll have some copies of the comic available for you to buy, boys and girls, and Ken will autograph the cover if you like. It would make a great gift, especially for the right winger in your life.

We meet six to nine or so at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

Dewey defeats Truman!

Spot’s back on the ‘net but is a little behind on his reading. Here’s a news tidbit to hold you over.

dewey defeats truman

Monday, June 22, 2009

About that principled stand

Nearly a month after President Barack Obama picked her for the Supreme Court, Republican senators say Sonia Sotomayor isn’t serving as the political lightning rod some in their party had hoped she would be.

“She doesn’t have the punch out there in terms of fundraising
and recruiting, I think — at least so far,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who most likely will be elected as the No. 4 Republican in Senate leadership this week.

We can't raise money off of tortured readings of her opinions, it's not working well for our recruiting efforts, so I guess we'll allow her to move forward with her nomination -- for now. Bigotry just ain't what it used to be, I tell ya.

Somebody better make sure the Admiral gets the memo before his head explodes at further contemplation of the nominee's "seething hatred this women has for the white race."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Horrible computer problems

Spot's computer has been involved in a grisly accident. Posting now from a remote location without the blog editor or practical means for inserting photos of video. Thoughts and even prayers are appreciated; it may be a while.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer on single payer health care

When he ran for the DFL nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by . . . well, who holds that seat now, grasshopper?

Nobody, Spotty.

Ah, that’s right, grasshopper!

Anyway, Jack showed up at Drinking Liberally one cold winter night and gave a terrific presentation on universal health care –- and a single payer system to pay for it –- in about ten minutes. It’s worth repeating, so here it is:

Jack talks about healthcare

Monday, June 15, 2009

Railing against gangster government

Michele Bachmann, standing on the floor of the House:

jack abramoff "The Federal Government has set up a new cartel and private businesses now have to go begging with their hand out to their local--hopefully well politically connected [sic]--Congressman or their Senator so they can buy a peace offering for that local business," said Bachmann. "Is that the kind of country we are going to have in the future?" she asks.

tom delay mug shot "We need to call this for what this is," Bachmann added. "We need to call this for what this is. Call it out. The American people need to get outraged and figure out that it could be them next."

What was she talking about and what did she call it, Spotty?

She was talking about the intervention of congressional members to speak on behalf of car dealerships slated for closure by GM; she called it “gangster government.”

Why are those pictures of Jack Abramoff and Tom De Lay up there in the corner, Spot?

Oh, they just seemed ironic, grasshopper. Or maybe iconic. Take your pick.

fishsticks Our beloved Captain Fishsticks — Craig Westover — takes up the cudgel, too, although it is unclear whether he is speaking as a Pioneer Press editorialist, a contributor to the Minnesota Free Market Institute, or as an alternate to the Republican State Central Committee (which he apparently is):

Bachmann is right. What is happening in this country is not capitalism. It is not free market economics. It is not "necessary" to save either capitalism or free markets. "Gangster government" is the blatant exploitation of fear, uncertainty and doubt spawned by an economic crisis created by decades of government meddling in the economy. It is "the law perverted" as Frederick Bastiat wrote in " The Law. " It is the destruction of the fundamental principles upon which this country was founded -- the primacy of individual sovereignty, the sanctity of private property and the rule of law.

Yes, the Captain says we are entirely forgetting our national motto: E Pluribus Pluribus! And the Captain is certainly right about the “sanctity of private property”; we have almost entirely forgotten the line in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the acquisitive, for they shall inherit the earth, or all the valuable parts thereof, anyway.

You see, the Captain believes that free market and capitalism are the ultimate goals of society. Get for yourself, and the devil take the hindmost. It’s the simple hunter gatherer mentality: you get to eat what you kill and you don’t share with anybody. I caught this grub, and I’m going to eat it!

Fishsticks and Andrew Mellon would have gotten on quite well, Spot thinks:

Mellon became unpopular with the onset of the Great Depression. Many economists today (such as Milton Friedman and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, to give two prominent examples) partially attribute the collapse of the American banking industry to the popularity among Federal Reserve leadership of Mellon's infamous "liquidationist" thesis: weeding out "weak" banks was seen as a harsh but necessary prerequisite to the recovery of the banking system. This "weeding out" was accomplished through refusing to lend cash to banks (taking loans and other investments as collateral), and by refusing to put more cash in circulation. He advocated spending cuts to keep the Federal budget balanced, and opposed measures for relief of public suffering. In 1929-31, he spent much of the time overseas, negotiating for repayment of European war debts from World War I. In February 1932, Mellon left the Treasury Department and accepted the post of U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He served for one year and then retired to private life.

Even Herbert Hoover thought Andrew Mellon was a nutjob, got rid of him at Treasury, and sent him to England where he couldn’t do so much harm. Mellon thought that a liquidation of the entire freakin’ economy was just what we needed in the Depression, a view undoubtedly embraced by Fishsticks, too.

The Captain and Michele raise some issues about bankruptcy reorganization and the enforcement of contracts, too, but they will have to wait for another time.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Katie does a two-fer

Reaching deep into the well of anti-Muslim venom, not to mention the well of recycling, Katie manages to combine two of her favorite subjects: the warron terra with Peter Hegseth and video games in her opinion piece, For veterans, Guantanamo was no game, in the Strib on Sunday. She displays once again the rich talent that inspired the Cucking Stool to establish a new award in her name: the “Katie.” (Katie cannot win a “Katie” of course, because she IS the Katie.)

Katie has mentioned Peter Hegseth, that nice young man from Forest Lake, and his heroics in the warron terra, several times. But she never gives poor Peter his due, including: Executive Director of the pro-war Iraq Vets for Freedom, a fish in the conservative think tank called the Manhattan Institute, a “Witherspoon Fellow” for the Family Research Council (think James Dobson and Tony Perkins), and banker at Bear, Stearns.

Peter has written about Guantanamo; he apparently spent some time there; here’s what he said for the Family Research Council:

There is abuse at Gitmo, as our Witherspoon Fellowship Alumnus, 1/LT Pete Hegseth, has said: it's the detainees abusing their guards. They are the ones who throw bodily waste on the guards and hit their own Korans!

The U.S. Congress begs to differ:

A US bipartisan Senate report released late last year found Rumsfeld and other top administration officials responsible for abuse of Guantanamo detainees in US custody.

Katie’s on your case if you play video games, too.

So, what could be better than Katie’s warrior friend doing battle with a video game? The game in question was written by a Scottish company, and it features innocent (according to the game) detainees at Guantanamo fighting to free themselves.


"Rendition: Guantanamo" is clearly unsavory. But it's still just a video game. Why get so worked up?

"The game is one small corner in a larger battle to shape perception of American conduct in the war on terror generally, and at Guantanamo Bay specifically," says Hegseth. "It's an attempt to rewrite history, to create the perception that the war is misguided and that in fighting it, America has lost its values, lost its way."

Pete seems a little defensive, don’t you think, boys and girls? You know, Pete, it may take a revisionist historian to know one; if so, Spot supposes you’re just the guy to complain about the video.

For Americans, of course, our perceptions were shaped before the Iraq invasion began by guys like Vice President and Minister of Disinformation Dick Cheney. (Don’t even bother to write, Dave.)

Come to think of it, we never heard from Katie or Peter when this game was published:

The goal of Muslim Massacre, which can be downloaded for free on the internet, is to "ensure that no Muslim man or woman is left alive", according to the game's creator.

Players control an "American Hero" armed with a machine gun and rocket launcher who is parachuted into the Middle East.

By slaughtering all the Arabs that appear on screen – some dressed as terrorists, some apparently civilians - players progress to later levels where they take on Osama bin Laden, Mohammed and finally Allah.

The game's creator, a freelance programmer known as Sigvatr, described the game as "fun and funny" and some players have interpreted the game as a critical commentary - albeit a crude one - of US foreign policy.

Or this fun weekend activity came to light. Or this one.

Or did Spot just miss it?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Planning ahead for special Drinking Liberally sessions

June 25, 2009

SelfPortraitColor Ken Avidor is the headliner for this session of DL. He has promised to bring his [wicked] pen and do some caricatures of some people, especially the bloggers or other activists, in attendance.

Many of you have seen and enjoyed Ken’s work at Dump Michele Bachmann, Law & Politics, and this very blog to name just a few places. He recently won an achievement award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his graphic coverage of the Republican National Convention that ran in Law & Politics.

Come and see DL’s denizens through Ken’s eyes. We’ll also put some of Ken’s work for the evening up here.

July 23 or July 30, 2009

The date is not yet final, but on one or the other we’ll hold the first Drinking Liberally poetry slam. The form of the poem is entirely up to you; it doesn’t even have to be overtly political.

We are working on celebrity contestants and judges, too.

If writing and performing a poem is a little outside your comfort zone, but you’ve always thought you’d like to try it, DL and the 331 Club would be friendly confines to give it a shot.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Buying a judge you can’t even use

Scott Horton tells the tale very well; he always does. Shorter version:

West Virginia coal executive spends three million dollars to elect a judge to the West Virginia Supreme Court. An appeal comes before the court on a $50 million judgment against the same coal company. The judge casts the deciding vote to overturn the award.

The United States Supreme Court, in a 5 – 4 decision, said, not so fast; the judge should not have ruled in a case involving so large a benefactor.

Spot will leave you to imagine who the five were and who the four were.

Give up?

The dissenters were, naturally, what Horton calls the “Roberts quartet.” Here’s what Horton says about the reasoning of the dissenters:

But there may be a deeper rationale behind the opinion of the Roberts quartet. Whereas movement conservatives once complained bitterly about judicial elections dominated around the country by the trial bar, their complaints have gone silent over the last decade, as the Republican Party and its allied business interests have come to dominate the elected bench in most of these states. New York University’s Brennan Center estimates that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has poured $50 million into state judicial races over the last six years. The trial lawyers have also raised substantial sums, but they now lag far behind the organized fundraising efforts of G.O.P.-loyal groups. The result has been a fairly dramatic shift in control over the elected state bench, in states like Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and West Virginia, where movement conservative Republicans who think and look much like the Roberts quartet have taken charge. One beneficiary of the shift was Brent Benjamin, a Republican insurance defense lawyer elected to the West Virginia court with massive funding from business interests.

Brent Benjamin, by the way, is the judge we’re talking about.

Because of recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in cases involving Minnesota, judicial candidates in Minnesota may now seek and obtain party endorsements, and they may also discuss their view of issues that may come before the courts. There have been a few judicial candidates who have received local Republican endorsements, but none has so far been successful in getting elected.

One might expect the decision in the case, Caperton v. Massey, would discourage groups like MCCL or the Minnesota Family Council from sinking big bucks into judicial races in the hopes of hiring a homer. Let’s hope so.

Incidentally, there is presently no per-contributor dollar limit on contributions to judicial campaigns in Minnesota, although the candidates aren’t supposed to know who made them.

Now who else does this remind us of?

"The responsible white separatist community condemns this. It makes us look bad."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drinking Liberally tomorrow night

Thursday night – the 11th – we’ll have our regular Drinking Liberally meeting: an evening of agreeable company and refreshment, probably outside under he awning. Six to nine or so at the 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis.

And just a reminder: the first (annual?) Drinking Liberally Poetry Slam is coming up; it will probably be either the 23rd or the 30th of July. Start or keep working on that poem.

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Boy, talk about your metaphors!

Thanks again to the Wege, a regular reader of Haaretz.

Here’s the set up: an Israeli colonist in the West Bank, living in a settlement colony sets fire to some nearby Palestinian land and then sits back to watch, grinning in satisfaction. The scene is caught on Israeli television.

Haaretz reports that the following was also captured on video:

The haters of Obama, the haters of Arabs, [the article was mostly about the Israeli hatred shown for Obama during his Middle East visit] and the outpost gunslingers should bear in mind what happened at the end of that Channel Two report on the Gilad Farm activists: not long after they started the fire on their neighbors’ field, smoke and flame were licking at the walls and windows of their own houses.

The Haaretz article also mention our old friend Rabbi Manis Friedman from St. Paul and the charming video interviews that Max Blumenthal shot in Jerusalem on the eve of Obama’s visit to Cairo.

And these are all apparently Charlie Krauthammer’s kind of people. The stench of moral sickness hangs so heavily over this crowd that it makes you gag.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Scott Horton has some of the details of Donnie in the Dock:

The senior United Nations expert on the integrity of legal processes states that beginning next year, Donald Rumsfeld will have difficulties traveling outside of the United States because of his connection to war crimes. The official, Leandro Despouy, drew his conclusions based largely on a review of the recently released report of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which directly connected the mistreatment of prisoners to policy decisions taken by Rumsfeld. Despouy is a well-known Argentine human rights lawyer and diplomat who has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers since 2003.

Spot is delighted to say that he predicted this in October of 2007, and explained why, in a post entitled Bitten in le ass!

Do you remember, boys and girls, when George Bush bought a ranch in Paraguay? Spot always figured that he might turn it into a resort for his buddies who can't travel anywhere else!

Returning to the scene of the grime II

A recent conversation in a doctor’s office:

Well, Mr. Horner, the results of your colonoscopy are negative.

Aw, dammit! Another wasted medical test!

Here’s our patient Tom in the opinion piece that won him a Katie (tm):

Virtually every person who has studied America's health system agrees that at least 30 percent of health spending is unnecessary and unproductive. More tests, more procedures and more doctor visits don't mean better outcomes.

A breathtaking statistic, Tom. Speaking of colonoscopies, that figure must have come from the same place that Rush Limbaugh gets most of his statistics! Who are these students of health care, Tom? Inquiring minds want to know.

If we quit giving flu shots, only a small percentage of people would die, or even be hospitalized. Does that mean we should quit administering them? Tom would say, “Yes, of course!”

Every time a medical test comes back negative, Horner and his buddies probably think it’s a waste, defensive medicine. But then, Tom has probably never heard of differential diagnosis, the systematic identification of unknowns used by doctors to determine cause.

In his own careful assessment of the health care patient, Horner says:

Providing access to the 45 million Americans who are without insurance -- and that's a competitive necessity, not just a moral imperative -- will require more efficient use of the resources already being spent. Some of the efficiency will come from changes in how we purchase our care, some of it will be driven by changes in how health providers are reimbursed and some will come from the technology adopted to make everything from access to recordkeeping more streamlined.

None of this will mean beans if we continue to off load a quarter to a third of our health-care spending on the insurance industry. Horner may be right about the percentage of waste, but he’s looking in entirely the wrong place.

The 45 million people without health insurance are a rather unlikely place to look for overuse, too.

For evidence that our problem is not in overuse of care but in the insurance system, one needs only to look at the recent OECD report issued on several measures of well being in the 30 member countries:

Infant Deaths: 28 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey). [!]

Life Expectancy: 24 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Czech & Slovak Republics). [!]

Health Expenditures: 1 out of 30. [!]

Poverty Rates: 28 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey).

Child Poverty: 27 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Poland).

Income Inequality: 27 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Portugal).

Obesity: 30 out of 30.

Incarceration: 30 out of 30.

Work Hours (ranked in ascending order): 30 out of 30.

Height (women): 25 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Korea, Portugal, Japan).

Height (men): 24 out of 30 (Italy, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Korea, Japan).

The countries in parentheses are the ones that the US bested in each category. We’re getting comparatively shorter, by the way, another marker of relative health, or rather declining health. It’s beyond the scope of this relatively short post, but studies do pretty consistently show that in several measures of outcomes, our system does not fare well compared to most other industrialized countries.

So, instead of blaming the providers, Spot says blame the politicians and the business people who are the ones responsible for the mess, including the (cough, cough) bright lights who invented managed care.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Returning to the scene of the grime

Yesterday, Tom Horner won the first-ever Katie (tm) award for his stunning opinion piece in Sunday’s StarTribune. It was a trilogy of foolishness, dedicated to tax policy, health care, and education. First, I’ll discuss the section that won Horner the Katie (tm): tax policy. Here’s part of what he said:

Minnesota needs a tax system that encourages businesses to innovate and create jobs. That means some business taxes should be reduced or even eliminated. But doing that leaves a revenue hole. The solution is to increase consumption taxes. And that's where too many Republicans draw the line -- because of politics. Republicans should provide leadership that acknowledges that tax reform will increase some taxes in order to reduce those that stifle economic growth and innovation.

At the outset, Spot notes that more reliance on consumption taxes would make the tax system in Minnesota even more regressive. Horner suggests that Republican politicians should just Do The Right Thing and provide leadership to make the income distribution in the state even more unequal.

Here’s some language from a press release about the 2009 tax incidence study (based on 2006 data) from the Minnesota Department of Revenue that Charlie quoted at Across the Great Divide:

According to the report, Minnesota’s tax system in 2006 was somewhat regressive, with lower- and middle-income households paying a higher percentage of overall taxes in relation to income than upper-income households. As in previous studies, Minnesota’s highly progressive income tax [highly progressive is in the eye of the beholder; here the beholder is Pawlenty’s Department of Revenue – Spot] somewhat countered the regressive effects of property and consumption taxes.

Raising the sales tax would just make that regressively worse. If you’d like to read a little more about why progressive taxation is more fair, here are a couple of resources that will be of interest.

Henry Ford understood that his workers had to make enough money to buy a car, or the whole system wasn’t going to work. (More on this and an essay from techno shortly.)

Horner says we have to get rid of business taxes because they “stifle growth and innovation.” Anything a business has to pay for stifles growth. Perhaps Tom thinks that a business should just be permitted to steal its raw materials? Using slave labor would also undoubtedly save millions of dollars. And environmental regulation? Think about how much money utilities could save if they could just belch that darn coal ash into the air for all of us to breathe? Or chemical companies were permitted to dump waste into rivers. What’s a river catching fire or two among friends?

The examples are not just silly. They are all examples of a business enterprise shifting the cost of its operation on to the public or to other individuals. An elimination of business taxes would be no different.

Even Tom Horner might admit in a private moment that businesses are consumers of, and beneficiaries of, government services. On a local level, fire and law enforcement, utilities, streets and roads: almost everything a municipal or county government does. It’s true on a state level, too. Law enforcement, maintenance of a court system, roads, protection of property in the event of natural disasters or civil unrest when the Guard is called out, and the list goes on.

But Spot, doesn’t business just include the taxes paid in the price charged?

Yes, grasshopper, it does. But when a business has to include the social costs of its operation in its price — taxes or pollution abatement or whatever — the price more accurately reflects what a good or service really costs to produce. If a polluter causes or exacerbates asthma, the public pays for part of the polluter’s cost of production. Likewise, if a business benefits from government services provided, but doesn’t pay for them, the public has to.

We can argue about the amount of taxes that should be allocated to business — and we do; it’s called the political process — but Horner’s argument is just for pikers, scrubs, and freeloaders.

Palestine’s Holocaust

A thump of the tail to the Wege for a link to this op-ed piece in Haaretz:

For 42 years we have been occupying, oppressing and stealing lands that are not ours. To be free in our land do we need to become thieving Cossacks, uprooters of trees, burners of fields and harassers of women, the elderly and the very young? "We have this land, we have it," goes the song, but what should have been said is "We have the power, we have it, we have the money, we have it, and we are allowed, we are," to starve an entire population, imprison it and annihilate it using air strikes, cluster bombs and white phosphorous. Because we are the lords of the land and God has chosen us to rule. For the shame of it.

From the same piece:

Time has passed and many heirs to Kahane have arisen - not only among a greedy and savage multitude but also among "the public's chosen representatives" in the Knesset and government. The latter are busy preparing blatantly racist laws and sending armed police to thwart Palestinian-initiated international cultural events because the regime believes the Arabs of the Land of Israel, the native Palestinians, are not worthy of being called human beings. According to the writers of these laws, the Arabs are certainly not entitled to human rights, not to mention a cultural and intellectual life, and never mind property, land and a home, because thousands of years ago God promised this land to Abraham and his seed.

Most regrettably and disgracefully, everything that Lord Rothschild [in a letter stating why he did not support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine] predicted is coming to pass in our time. In our blackest dreams and in the hardest times since the struggle to establish the state, we never imagined that those who call themselves disciples of Ze'ev Jabotinsky would impose terror and fear here using deranged racist legislation. We never imagined that they would use the destruction of the court system to try to prevent any possibility of achieving social justice and a humane attitude. This is something essential in every democratic society toward every man, woman and child, irrespective of origin, race, religion and sex.

I have raised the issue of genocide in the Israeli treatment of Palestinians before, and has taken some heat for it. But take what the author of the opinion above, Shulamit Alini, says about the actions of the Israeli government, and then compare it with the two elements of genocide as contemplated by the man who invented the term, Raphael Lemkin:

“Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals.”

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Tom Horner wins a Katie (tm)!

What’s a Katie (tm), Spot?

I’ll explain it in a moment, grasshopper, but first let’s see what Tom did to earn the award. Horner gets a big spread in the opinion section of the Star Tribune today (Sunday) to permit him roam around and think about Life Without Pawlenty. He talks about three issues that he thinks Republicans can win on. The first one he discusses is tax policy:

Minnesota has a tax system created for an economy based in manufacturing and dependent on a young population of families in their years of high consumption. Holding onto this tax system is like General Motors hanging onto tail fins. [Spot’s italics]

Okay, Tom, what do you recommend? In the very next paragraph, Horner says:

Minnesota needs a tax system that encourages businesses to innovate and create jobs. That means some business taxes should be reduced or even eliminated. But doing that leaves a revenue hole. The solution is to increase consumption taxes. And that's where too many Republicans draw the line -- because of politics. Republicans should provide leadership that acknowledges that tax reform will increase some taxes in order to reduce those that stifle economic growth and innovation. [again, Spot’s italics]

Brilliant, Tom. Take a tax base that is diminishing and rely more heavily on it.

Tom Horner must be dismissed as any kind of serious public policy commentator — if for no other reason, and there are some — because he can’t be logically consistent two paragraphs in a row.

Who does this remind you of, grasshopper?

Of course! Katie! Now we get it!

That’s right, grasshopper. The Katie (tm) is a new award given to someone who writes a piece of internally-inconsistent intellectual hackery that Katie — Katherine Kersten — would be proud to have written.

I’ll have more to say about about Horner’s take on taxes, health care, and education later.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I’ll take number three for five hundred, Spotty

These were links shown on the Star Tribune homepage on Saturday night. Guess which piece Katherine Kersten authored:

guess which one katie wrote

That really wasn’t very hard, was it? Here’s Katie’s lede:

We're increasingly uncomfortable with religion these days.

As a society, we tolerate pastors, priests, rabbis and other religious folks, so long as they confine their message to a vanilla "God is love" theme and bless babies, brides and caskets.

But when religious leaders speak out on the issues of the day -- especially using morally tinged language -- the elite gatekeepers of public opinion in the media, government and academia warn shrilly that a new Dark Age is upon us.

And Katie knows all about shrill, doesn’t she? Anyway, Katie tells us that Judeo-Christian principles are the reason why we’re good:

We Americans take the moral principles of equality and compassion for granted. Yet these ideas are deeply counterintuitive. We've largely forgotten that their source is the once-revolutionary Judeo-Christian belief in a loving God, who created human beings in his image and decreed charity to be the first of virtues.

Never mind that other religions — take Buddhism, or, gasp, Islam — teach moral principles of equality and compassion, too.

Fundamentally, so to speak, Katie’s problem is that religious leaders get pushback when they act like the Holy Bully, not when they’re being compassionate or egalitarian. Kersten rails against the “New Atheists” for condemning religion, but they don’t do so on the grounds that religion is too compassionate or egalitarian. It is the lack of these qualities that the New Atheists find so off-putting, as do many people who aren’t in the atheist camp.

In fact, Spot will put the compassion and egalitarianism of Richard Dawkins or PZ Myers up against Katie, the Holy Bully, Michele Bachmann, Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell, John Hagee, Jimmy Swaggert, Bill Donohue, Mark Buesgens and Mary Kiffmeyer COMBINED and win in a walk.

When “media, government and academia” take moral instruction from some of the religious clowns who are fellow travelers of Katherine Kersten, you will know that the theocracy has arrived. And then, democracy, in the words of the Munchkin coroner, will be absolutely completely dead. (At least that’s what Spot thinks he said.)

Ethical systems — and not just ones based on traditional religion — are all rooted in empathy. Empathy is a word in the news a lot lately, and it’s not the conservatives who are champions of it. Recent brain research tells us about parts of our brains called mirror neurons. These mirror neurons are what allow us to feel what other people feel: to walk in their shoes or to “empathize” with them.

It may be that religion is as much an effort by humans to explain this brain phenomenon as it is a source of it. Religion is the first ethical system that most of us experience, so we all assume that’s where “goodness” comes from, but it ain’t necessarily so.

Religion can be, and obviously is for a lot of people, an empathy reinforcement mechanism. It can also be a source of authoritarianism and narcissism. When that happens, religion has nothing to do with the compassion and egalitarianism that Katie speaks so glowingly of.

Charlie Krauthammer is pro-lebensraum

Here’s Charlie in an op-ed piece entitled The Settlements Myth:

President Obama repeatedly insists that American foreign policy be conducted with modesty and humility. Above all, there will be no more "dictating" to other countries. We should "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions," he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."

An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone -- Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: "a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions."

What's the issue? No "natural growth" means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them -- not even within the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns -- even before negotiations.

The colonies in the Occupied Territories are illegal. Read more here. Or here. Charlie’s “natural growth” is just lebensraum:

The term Lebensraum was coined by the German geographer, Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904). During the last two decades of the 19th century, Ratzel developed a theory according to which the development of all species, including humans, is primarily determined by their adaptation to geographic circumstances.

Above all, Ratzel considered species migration as the crucial factor in social adaptation and cultural change. Species that successfully adapted to one location, he thought, would spread naturally to others. Indeed, he went on to argue that, in order to remain healthy, species must continually expand the amount of space they occupy, for migration is a natural feature of all species, an expression of their need for living space.

This process also applied to humans, who operate collectively in the form of 'peoples' (Völker), with one Völk effectively conquering another. However, according to Ratzel, such expansion could be successful only if the conquering nation 'colonised' the new territory, and by 'colonisation' he meant the establishment of peasant farms by the new occupiers.

Making room for the cute little Israeli baby comes at the expense of living and breathing room for probably several Palestinian ones. It takes especial chutzpah to make Krauthammer’s argument when it’s the Palestinian babies’ land in the first place.

Krauthammer also wails that there has been no “negotiation” over this. The Israelis have been foot dragging about this for years in an attempt to run out the clock and hope that the “facts on the ground” will make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible. They may have already succeeded. Once more we go to the Bob Simon video:

Listen to the former Mayor of Jerusalem and the West Bank Mayor, especially.

If there’s any myth at work here, it’s Charlie’s mythmaking about justification for colonies in the first place.

If there is no peace in Palestine, there won’t be in the Middle East, and the United States will not know peace, either.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Do you suppose Rabbi Manis Friedman knows these guys?

Max Blumenthal, who somehow manages to get great video interviews of conservatives without getting beat up, delivers again:

Max writes:

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt, I stepped out onto the streets of Jerusalem with my friend Joseph Dana to interview young Israelis and American Jews about their reaction to the speech. We encountered rowdy groups of beer sodden twenty-somethings, many from the United States, and all eager to vent their visceral, even violent hatred of Barack Obama and his policies towards Israel. Usually I offer a brief commentary on my video reports, but this one requires no comment at all. Quite simply, it contains some of the most shocking footage I have ever filmed. Watch it and see if you agree. (Warning: this video contains profanity and material offensive to just about anyone.)

This is what two or three billion dollars a year will buy you, boys and girls. The video contains a lot of what Spot has heard described as “crying and shooting.” That is, invoking the Holocaust to justify the displacement and killing of Palestinians.

Spot got an email and a telephone invitation to a big Al Franken rally at the Capitol in St. Paul the day after the Minnesota Supreme Court rules in Coleman v. Franken. Based on what Spot knows about Franken’s unquestioning and continuing support of Israel, Spot won’t be going.