Sunday, July 31, 2005

Why do they hate US?

Here are the opening paragraphs of a post by Michael Smerconish on The Huffington Post:
Why do they hate us? It’s a question that I have avoided for close to four years. To entertain the issue seems to acknowledge that there could have been some rational justification for what occurred on 9/11, moreover, even addressing the issue sounds unmanly. Instead, this has been my mindset:

‘F ‘em. Who cares why they hate us. Regardless of what motivated an unprovoked attack, they need to die. All of them who played any role. As soon as possible. End of story. And, stop being such a wimp.’

I think my American hardheadedness is typical of many who seek justice and revenge, but mainly revenge.

Now I find myself re-assessing the situation. In large part, this is due to my having just spent a few hours with Michael Scheuer. You’ll remember him. He’s the guy who spent 22 years at the CIA, four of them as the head of the Bin Laden desk, and then resigned shortly after publishing Imperial Hubris under the byline of “Anonymous.”

He’s critical of the way the Administration is waging the war on terror, and the neocons in particular. (“Only the village idiot or a neoconservative could fail to see that we abjectly failed to estimate the impact on the Muslim world of a U.S. occupation of Iraq.”) He’s equally critical of our prior president, less you should think he plays partisan favorites. (“After al Qaeda destroyed two U.S. embassies in Africa on 7 August 1998, we rejoiced that the government now would annihilate al Qaeda. No effective action ensured.”) Further, he maintains that his agents gave the U.S. government 10 opportunities to capture Bin Laden pre-9/11.

Scheuer thinks we Americans continue to be sold a bill of goods, which fosters a misunderstanding of our enemy, and forestalls success in the war on terror. Specifically, we’re told that radical Islam hates us, and attacks us, for who we are and what we think, when that is not the case. It’s not McDonalds, Starbucks, lap dances and Brittany Spears – offensive though Muslims may find those hallmarks of American life. And it’s not about converting us to Islam. To the contrary, says Scheuer, what motivates radical Islam is American foreign policy. It’s our support for Israel, our troops on the Arabian Peninsula, our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, our support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants, our pressure on Arab energy producers to keep prices low, and our support for tyrannical Muslim governments.
Spotty just read this post, and it contains the thoughts of a genuine expert on bin Laden and radical Islam, Michael Scheuer. Spotty say go read the whole post. It explains better than Spotty did in Who Remembers DudleyDoright? why the idea that our enemy is free floating evil is hogwash.

Who remembers Dudley Doright?

On July 28th, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave an interview to Jim Lehrer of NPR's News Hour. It was the usual political bob and weave, but Spotty perked up his ears at one part of the interview particularly:
JIM LEHRER: What about the additional element here that, increasingly, terrorism experts and Muslim experts are saying that the combination of Iraq and other foreign policy decisions by the United States are actually creating more terrorists every day than they are eliminating them.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: When we are going to stop making excuses for the terrorists? The terrorists on Sept. 11 attacked the United States. We weren't in Iraq. We weren't even in Afghanistan on Sept. 11.
No, Condi sweetie, but we were in Saudi Arabia and countless other places in the Middle East, usually supporting repressive Arab regimes. We weren't "in" Iraq, but we sure were around it, lobbing bombs and missiles with some regularity. But maybe most significant all, was the uncritical US support of Israel and its treatment of the Occupied Territories; Arabs see the consequences of this on TV all the time, and they don't fail to take notice.
They have attacked in places that had no forces in either place. They've attacked all over the world. They've attacked in Morocco and in Bali and in Egypt and in London and in Madrid.
And in every case, the attacks were against what were perceived as western interests or proxies.
When are we going to stop making excuses for the terrorists and saying that somebody is making them do it? No, these are simply evil people who want to kill. And they want to kill in the name of a perverted ideology that really is not Islam, but they somehow want to claim that mantle to say that this is about some kind of grievance. This isn't about some kind of grievance. This is an effort to destroy, rather than to build.

And until everybody in the world calls it by name -- the evil that it is -- stops making excuses for them, then I think we're going to have a problem. And I hope that after the bombings of innocent people in London, innocent people at Sharm el-Sheikh, innocent children in Iraq, that people will call this by name and stop making excuses for these people.
The notion that there is a free floating force called evil is an ancient one. It is a useful notion, because it is a sure fire way to cut off debate about a difficult subject, and especially when you are trying to deflect any examination of your own conduct or decisions. If you can reduce a group of people to evil, the Other, then anybody who tries to criticize you is just plain crazy and immoral. Who's your witch doctor, Condi?

When George Bush began to speak of evildoers, it had an odd ring to an old dog like Spotty. He eventually figured it out: the cartoon Mountie Dudley Doright used to rail the against the evildoers all the time. A coincidence? Spotty doesn't think so.

We will continue to have a problem so long as we think we are fighting the boogie man.
No one is making them do it. They're doing it because they want to create chaos and to undermine our way to life.
People (and dogs) who are opposed to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq largely understand something that Condi apparently doesn't; the US cannot make the terrorists stop. We can huff and puff and rant and rave, but as more and more people are figuring out, it is non-productive or even counter-productive. But gee, that sounds so unfair! Maybe so, but we live in the world of "is" not "ought."

As far as ways of life are concerned, Islamic militants are a lot more concerned about how they perceive western influence, rightly or wrongly, to affect their way of life than they are concerned about our way of life. In fact, the militants are simply engaged in the same evildoer rhetoric that we are.

So, the smart things to do would be to adopt a crash program to reduce dependence on oil from the Mideast, spend money domestically to protect chemical and nuclear plants and our ports, and get out of Iraq now before we grind our armed forces into dust finer than the sand in which it is presently mired in a unwinnable war of attrition. Iraq is already descending into civil war. Iraq will inevitably follow the path of Yugoslavia when the repressive communist regime collapsed. The bright lights in Washington should have figured that out before we lit the power keg.

Oh yes, and one thing more. We could make our good friends the Israelis (and Spotty says that absolutely genuinely and without a trace of irony, really) deal fairly - and even humanely - with the Palestinians. The land grab on the West Bank under the Sharon government is shameful. It is often the case the oppressed and abused became the abusers and oppressors.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Minnesota Chain Saw Massacre . . .

Spotty was going to say a few words about this asinine post from Hindrocket at Powerline. It is about what a brilliant man George Bush is, and how the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which the administration is negotiating, is so much better than that nasty old Kyoto Protocol.

While Spotty was navel gazing however - I'll bet you don't know where a dog's navel is - The Rude Pundit put up a great post, carefully dissecting Hindrocket with a chain saw. The Rude Pundit is, well it would be charitable to call him merely rude, but it is a great post you can read here.

Spotty says read . . .

For today Spotty is going to assign some outside reading:

First, an article on the difference between religion as professed and religion as practiced in the United States, a little piece that Spotty calls Choking to Death on the Bread of Life.

Second, a post from Professor Juan Cole that Spotty says might be titled GWOT? Gee Whiz.

There may be a quiz.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Of course it is . . .

There is an op-ed piece in the Strib today (July 28th) about Supreme Court nominations. It was written by the president of the local chapter of the Federalist Society, a cabal of wing nut lawyers. Her name is Kimberly Crockett. Of course it is. What did you think it would be, Ayuba Suleiman Ibrahima Diallo? She, I mean it, is a piece of work. Let's dig in:

Most of us are reaching for the antacid as we anticipate the high drama in our nation's capital surrounding John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court.
Kimmy, you need to relax a little, cut down on the coffee, maybe learn to meditate.
Those knotted stomach muscles, and the constipation that goes with them are because you are such such a hysterical control freak.

Although there has been no Supreme Court vacancy since 1994, the history of Republican nominations and the bitter rancor that results is a lasting memory. The media treat potential nominees like political candidates, wanting to know where they "stand on the issues." And now we have to master arcane Senate rules on filibusters and cloture to follow the debate.
Okay, let's look at the history of scorned Republican nominees since Nixon:

President Richard Nixon's 1970 appointment of G. Harrold Carswell was rejected largely because of Carswell's mediocre juridical record. A second Nixon nominee, Clement F. Haynsworth Jr., although well qualified judicially, was rejected in part because he appeared insensitive to ethical improprieties and participated in cases where his financial interest might have involved him in conflicts of interest. Similar allegations of impropriety led to the resignation in 1969 of Justice Abe Fortas, nominated to the Court four years earlier by President Lyndon B. Johnson. [more on this later]

President Ronald Reagan was in the next to the last year of his eight-year stay in the White House when his nomination of Robert H. Bork was defeated by the Senate after one of the most vociferous confirmation battles in history. Bork's rejection was due largely to his often-articulated and well-known conservative views and the fact that he had been named to replace a “swing vote” on the Court, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. (Subsequently, Reagan's selection of Douglas H. Ginsburg also failed to win confirmation. Before his nomination was official, Ginsburg asked that his name be withdrawn because questions were raised concerning his possible conflicts of interest and his past drug use.)

Okay, so you got Scalia and Thomas, and you want to make Robert Bork, a guy who even looks like Beelzebub (sorry Cheri), your poster boy?

Why does the appointment of federal judges, especially to the Supreme Court, consume so much political capital?

First, at the heart of the rancor surrounding judicial nominations is a fundamental disagreement regarding the proper role of a judge. President Bush has promised to nominate judges who will say what the law is and not what the law should be -- a difficult enough task.
Not really. Conservatives just trot out the old "activist judge" bromide when courts hold something they don't like. Don't believe Spotty? Just look at the convenient little list that Kimmy has assembled for us a couple of paragraphs down.

The Supreme Court has often strayed from the text of the Constitution to either create new rights or to strike down legislation, in effect arrogating unto itself the power to amend the Constitution. This upsets the delicate balance of power among the three branches.
Yeah, I am sure it makes it that much harder for people like John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and George Bush to balance in their jackbooks. Sort of like when you wear your spikey heels to the club, right?

Also as Spotty has observed before, it is the conservative justices who are more inclined to strike down acts of Congress. Didja know that, Kimmy?

The court has justified this violation of our constitutional scheme, in part, by proclaiming the Constitution a living, evolving document which, as Justice William Douglas declared in Griswold vs. Connecticut in 1965, contains "penumbras, formed by emanations." (Huh?)
As Spotty has written about before, here and here, Griswold held that a right of privacy existed in the Constitution, not because one specific provision said so, but that several provisions, taken together, led to that conclusion: the First, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice Douglas used those words all right, but they make perfect sense in context and in the description he was making. Do you know what penumbra and emanations mean, Kimmy? Maybe that's your problem.

Of course the Constitution is complex. Of course it must evolve. That is why the founders gave Congress and state legislatures (i.e. our elected representatives) an effective mechanism to amend it, and we have done so 27 times, starting with the Bill of Rights in 1791.
If we take out the Bill of Rights, the Constitution has been amended 17 times in about 215 years. Spotty has trouble just keeping track of them all: let's see the 21st amendment repealed the 18th amendment, and . . . .

Most of the cases we associate with judicial activism, such as Roe vs. Wade, reflect a liberal social agenda. Even if you agree with the underlying policy of certain landmark decisions (e.g., adults should be able to buy contraceptives or get an abortion), you ought to be alarmed.

When judges legislate from the bench, We the People get cut out of the process; we have little or no recourse except to try to get "our guy" on the court, further politicizing the judiciary. If the courts become just another political branch, our brilliant system of checks and balances will be lost.

Kimmy, I thought all the conservatives were saying that Roberts is your guy. And no, the people don't get cut out, judges still have to be nominated, vetted, and confirmed. Really, some of the antacids you are consuming are because of the democratic process of appointing a Supreme Court Justice. This is the system of checks and balances working, you ninny.

Second, the court system has been effectively used by political activists (primarily social liberals) to obtain policy results that might not otherwise be achieved in the nation's legislatures, or be achieved as swiftly. Abortion, sodomy, affirmative action, sexual harassment, same-sex marriage, outlawing religion in the public square, the expansion of criminals' rights -- the list goes on. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been particularly successful in using the judicial branch to advance its agenda.
Again, Kimmy, Spotty has to say that your principal problem is that you don't like the results, and this aggravates your stomach condition. Relax. Not everybody is willing to do what you want them to do.

Conservatives, used to playing defense, are just beginning to push back with public interest firms of their own. Judicial imperialism, so cherished by the left, is one of the reasons Republicans are doing well politically. Americans don't like being bullied by judicial fiat.
How the hell is protecting a same-sex couple or religious minorities bullying you? Actually, Kimmy, and this is very very important: what you want is greater license to bully people who aren't just exactly like you, you little white bread creep.

Third, modern Supreme Court justices are serving longer and longer terms, with the average term exceeding 25 years. Both sides of the aisle pick young judges to extend the president's legacy.
Congratulations. This is basically true.

Then, to compound matters, the honorable justices -- be they liberal or conservative -- don't seem to know when it's quitting time. (Rehnquist is fighting cancer at 80; Stevens is going on 85. Thomas is the only justice younger than 65. This court is an elite gerontocracy, but that is a matter for another day.) Because a nominee may serve the equivalent of six to eight presidential terms, all appointments are momentous.

Fourth, while it has always been a presidential prerogative to appoint judges who share his political philosophy, some critics of Bush want to deny him this constitutional power, or even more strangely, require him to appoint someone with whom he disagrees (a consensus candidate).
But wait, I thought you just said that politicizing the Court was a bad thing? Spotty is confused. Actually, he thinks you are, Kimmy.

President Bill Clinton filled two vacancies and both nominations sailed through the Senate. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served as the general counsel to the ACLU for years, was confirmed with only a peep from Republicans. Justice Stephen Breyer had reliable liberal credentials and has not disappointed his "constituency." During the hearings, the criterion for most Republican senators was competence, not ideology, though they passionately disagreed with Ginsburg's and Breyer's judicial philosophies and leftist views.
Actually, Bill Clinton conferred with Senator Orrin Hatch about the Ginsburg appointment. Spotty doesn't have a link at the moment, but he recalls that Hatch is really the person who came up with Ginsburg as a suggestion and recommened it to Clinton. Hatch brags about it in a book.

Under our Constitution, you have to win the presidency to get the power of appointment. The Senate's duty to "advise and consent" requires an up-or-down vote; it does not confer the power of choice on the Senate. Unless a candidate is unqualified in some material way (like Abe Fortas), the Senate is expected to defer to the president.
Well, Kimmy, that's not entirely correct. Funny you should mention Abe Fortas. Abe was a sitting Associate Justice nominated by Lyndon Johnson to be Chief Justice on the retirement Earl Warren (another great conservative boogey man; maybe the boogey man). Abe didn't get an up or down vote; his nomination was - gasp - filibustered. First one in Supreme Court history. Nixon's boy Haynsworth got a vote.

All these civilized traditions must cut both ways; otherwise we will have breakdown. The next Democrat in the White House will get to fill any vacancies, so liberals should focus their energies on winning the hearts and minds of voters, instead of attacking and maligning Bush's nominees.
Let's see if I understand the deal, Kimmy. The Dems are supposed to play dead because there is a Republican in the White House or they are politizing the Court. And you will make a binding agreement on behalf of all conservatives to do the same when we next have a liberal in the White House? Get back to me if we have a deal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

She's baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Kersten resumed her position in the pitching rotation with a column on Thursday, July 28th, titled Meet one big 'counterculture' family. They seem like a happy bunch - a big bunch to be sure with nine kids - but a well adjusted and happy family.

Well. Spotty can see that the bloggers will be on short rations around her for a while. But Spotty will put in half-hearted effort just to placate his readers. He will just react to some quotations from the article.
The first [idea about happiness] is about the source of [that] happiness. Every day, cultural messages insist that happiness means getting what we want (or think we want). But the Reinhardt household has turned this message on its head. There, happiness comes not from "getting what I'm due," but from interdependence and loving self-sacrifice.

This one is pretty interesting to deconstruct. This really sounds kind of collectivist: interdependence and loving self-sacrifice. The kids learn responsibility by being rewarded with love, appreciation and a smoother running family. Spotty says that most parents at least try run this kind of a ball club with varying levels of success.

Children should, in fact, take the nurturing and cooperation skills to their lives outside the family at school and into adulthood. That's how you can tell they were properly nutured at home. However, the nuture/cooperation model is not the MO of a lot of conservatives once they are out the front door.
The Reinhardts' second insight concerns the importance of connecting effort with rewards. Contemporary parents often believe they should do all they can to smooth their children's path in life. But the Reinhardts stress the self-respect that comes with earning your own way.

All of Spotty's pups and the friends of his pups have part time jobs; Spotty thinks they work too much some time, but they feel better about earning their "walking around money" and funds to buy special things: bikes, guitars, a small boat, etc. Membership in the family entitles a kids to some stuff, though; you can't put them entirely on commission.
Finally, the Reinhardts stress the importance of clear rules and expectations -- curfews, no sleepovers, and the like. We baby boomers can find it hard to say no to our kids, because we're often tempted by a desire to be their pals. The Reinhardts use their parental authority to try to build character.

Spotty says you have to be careful about this one. If using parental authority to try to build character means parent induced adversity, Spot doesn't recommend it. If it means encouragement and support to get kids to try new and more difficult thinks, Spotty agrees.

Spotty says that the Reinhardts seem like nice people, but from his experience, they aren't all that counterculture. It is Spotty's opinion we are not hurtling toward hell in the proverbial handbasket at anywhere near the velocity that Katherine thinks, or implies by stories like this.

Hennepin considers rollback of smoking ban . . .

Another Non Sequiter cartoon. Check them out at uComics.

More about little Rickey . . .

Spotty got an email about his post I guess we don't need that pesky constitution, after all. The writer observed that Sen. Santorum had not said that he was personally opposed to birth control. No, what he said was even more ominous.

Santorum said that Griswold v. Connecticut was wrongly decided; that no right of privacy exists under the federal constitution. Santorum said that a legislature was free to outlaw contraception, even if it would be stupid to do so. As Spotty mentioned, Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and other privacy decisions are the children of Griswold. If Griswold was wrong, presumably so are these other cases.

The whole purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect minorities and the unpopular from the torch and pikepole types. Beetlebrows like Santorum want to bring large swaths of human conduct under the control of the unctuous, the sanctimonious, the bug-eyed control freaks. Presently, many of them have another name: Congress and state legislatures.

Rated R for language . . .

Spotty is going to write a very bad word a little later in this post. Some of you may wish to avert your eyes. Fellow potty mouths, read on!

Last Sunday in the Strib, Annette Meeks, the chief harpy and wet blanket at the Center for the American Experiment - the harridan superior so to speak - wrote an epic hymn of praise to Newton Gingrich. According to Annette, Newton single-handedly changed the face of the world forever. Wow. Spotty had no idea. How did Newton do this? Apparently by breathing life into the moribund Republican Party, getting the Party to offer the Contract with America, and hookwinking enough voters into voting for Republicans to take control of both houses of Congress.

Here are things that the CwA committed the House to do immediately:
On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:

* FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
* SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
* THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
* FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
* FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
* SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
* SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
* EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.

How much of this happened even after the Republicans took control? Spotty doesn't think any of it did. Annette, if you're listening, correct Spotty if he his wrong.

The CwA also promised, inter alia, a balanced budget constitutional amendment, and term limits for Congress. Never mind that a balanced budget amendment would have been really stupid and unworkable - you can ask W about that - the shiny new Republican Congress didn't even present a bill to President Clinton to veto. Term limits? Of course not.

The CwA was all Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing, a huge dishonest shell game perpetrated by Annette's former employer Newton in order to gain the upper hand in Congress. It worked, as confidence games sometimes do.

Annette concludes with "history books and God will provide final judgment on his life." If history is honest, it will conclude, to paraphrase Vanity Fair's James Wolcott, that Newton was a giant fuckrat.
Many critics of Gingrich have noted that while his party hammered President Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal, that Gingrich himself had a history of questionable personal conduct.

In 1981 Gingrich reportedly informed his first wife, Jackie Battley, that he wanted a divorce just as she had received a diagnosis of cancer. Gingrich and Marianne Ginther were married months later.

Also, during the very time of the Lewinsky scandal, Gingrich was having an extramarital sexual affair with Callista Bisek, a scheduling and assistant hearing clerk on his staff who is 23 years his junior. The affair reportedly began well before Gingrich assumed the speakership in 1994, and continued through his divorce from his wife, Marianne Ginther Gingrich, in 1999. Reportedly, Gingrich's fellow Republicans knew he was engaged in the extramarital relationship and used that knowledge to ease him out of the speakership.

According to the Washington Post, in late 1999, Gingrich reportedly telephoned Marianne in Ohio during Marianne's mother's birthday party to inform her that he "didn't want [her] as his wife any more." There was controversy as to whether Gingrich knew whether his wife had a neurological condition that might be a "forerunner of multiple sclerosis."

Spotty doesn't know what God will think.

A note about highlighting . . .

Spotty added to a couple of recent posts. He decided to highlight the additions, just for good order's sake. Spot thinks this is a good policy and plans to do it for modifications in the future, too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mirror, mirror on the wall . . .

Cheri Pierson Yecke has another Little House on the Prairie moment in the StarTribune on Wednesday, July 27th (okay, tomorrow, but it pays to get a head start). She complains about people being mean about how conservatives look:
Condoleezza Rice, our dignified secretary of state who started college at age 15 and earned a doctorate in her early 20s, is one of the most powerful women in the world.

Nonetheless, she has been mocked and ridiculed -- not for her intellect or knowledge of international diplomacy, but for her hair. It has been likened to that of June Cleaver, but her critics are not content to stereotype her as a dowdy relic from the supposedly subservient '50s. She has also been criticized as a "dominatrix" who oozes "sex and power" for wearing fashionable boots and a fitted black coat.

Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state whose crime was correctly interpreting Florida law in the 2000 election, was described by Time magazine columnist Margaret Carlson as Cruella De Vil. An article about Harris in the New York Times was subtitled "Mascaragate 2000," and the Washington Post suggested that she "applied her makeup with a trowel."

She has some other examples, including the treatment of Katherine Kersten by her critics, or rather of her photo in the Strib. She didn't mention Spotty as one of Katherine's detractors, which really hurt. In Kersten's case in particular, you have to admit it is kind of a silly ass picture, making Katherine look like she is smirking at the rest of us. Maybe she is.

Spotty has only made two references that could be interpreted as being about Kersten's looks. Once he called her wooly headed in reference to one of her arguments. And Spotty called Katherine his "puckered Muse," an obvious reference to her posterior sphincter muscle. Oh wait, he did call her a communis rixatrix, but that doesn't really deal directly with looks.

And Cheri, my dear, what about the conservative cruelty heaped on the appearance of Amy Carter and Chelsea Clinton while they were kids? Wanna disarm? You go first.

Spotty has made fun of you several times Cheri, but he has never made fun of your looks. Until now.

Just kidding.

I guess we really don't need that pesky constitution, after all.

We don't have to create constitutional rights because we have a stupid legislature.

Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, made this remark on CNN last night in describing how Griswold v. Connecticut was incorrectly decided. All of you undoubtedly remember Griswold held that it was unconstitutional for the state of Connecticut to prohibit counseling or medical treatment to prevent contraception. This case was decided in 1965. 1965. Practically yesterday, for Spotty anyway. You know, it's funny, because Spotty always thought the purpose of constitutional rights was to protect people from stupid legislatures.

You all probably also remember that the Griswold case started the line of cases establishing a right of privacy that ultimately led to Roe v. Wade, and recently to Lawrence v. Texas which struck down the Texas sodomy law that prohibited private consensual sexual relations with persons of the same sex. In the briefest of summary, the Supreme Court found in Griswold that a right of privacy existed in the constitution, not because of one specific provision, but rather a collection of privisions: the First, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and that privacy was a penumbra of the shadow cast by these Amendments.

The subtext of this is, of course, the current campaign against judges who "legislate" from the bench. Little Rickey laid it out for you very well. Conservatives want to get rid of Roe v. Wade all right, but they really want to ditch the right of privacy in general. Then, the little bug-eyed control freaks will have a much easier time asserting social control over all of us.

The video link is from the excellent and useful Crooks and Liars.

Timmy speaks; Spotty listens . . .

This bit of blather from Timmy in the StarTribune today (July 26th) from the interview he gave the paper's editors some days ago.

"We got Q Comp at our funding level and in our form, and we're very pleased with that.

"One of the things we are not addressing as a society is what are we going to do about intergenerational failure of disadvantaged kids? If you assume that, beyond parents, the most important thing in a child's life is the effectiveness of their teachers, and that there's a whole host of things that need to go into reforming how we recruit and reward and retain teachers, Q Comp is a great start. It will be the national model five years, 10 years from now.
Oh that's rich. Timmy and the Republicans are worried about disadvantaged kids. That's why they wrung $185 MILLION dollars out of the last biennieum's education budget and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into paying more this budget cycle. That's why they dis teachers every chance they get. One big-shot Republican, Bill Cooper, is trying to suck up as much public education money as possible with his stealth parochial schools.

Spotty says that Q Comp's primary goal is to begin the dismantling of the civil service system. In the long run this will discourage students from entering the teaching field. Q Comp is a subjective minefield of arbitrary decision making by administrators and pressure from parents, some of it malevolent. Kids thinking of entering teaching are not going to fail to notice this.

"What are you going to do about kids in Minneapolis or Red Lake, in a world where the margin of error for strong-back jobs is gone? The jobs at the factory or driving the forklift, if they exist at all, don't exist at the wage and benefit levels that they used to. We have strong-mind jobs instead. And we now have intergenerational failure in school districts, and we're not meaningfully addressing it.
So that's where we get all the Deltas from. Now that Spotty thinks about it, he is sure there has never been a successful kid from Minneapolis or Red Lake in all the generations those schools have operated.

"It's not the schools' fault. The schools are filled with good people trying to do their best. They are overwhelmed by the social pathologies that are visited on their doorstep.
And your solution is to take "all these good people trying to do their best" and keep them in an overwhelming situation where they cannot but fail, and then penalize them under the compensation system? Brilliant.

"There's a resource issue there, to a point, but there are other things we need to try. I don't think it's too much to ask to reasonably try some school choice.

"The argument against school choice is, you're going to take the healthy, the wealthy, the smart [out of public schools]. I wouldn't do any of that. Only offer it to the poor, the failing, the disabled. Who's against that, and why would you be? We asked for that, as a part of a session-ending compromise. It was just a non-starter [with DFLers].
I suppose the end of the session was the first time that school choice - let's call it what it really is: vouchers - ever occurred to you. You and the rest of the confidence men in the Republican Party hoped all along to pull a fast one at session end. You also pulled the 65% solution out of the hat at the end of the session to create one more way to bad mouth public schools. You're smooth Timmy, but you're a charlatan.

Vouchers will do exactly what you say you won't, Timmy.

There is also the fact that vouchers don't have a snowball's chance in hell if used to support a parochial or sectarian school.

"The academic results for school choice are not overwhelming. There's some improvement. But there's a marked increase in parent and student satisfaction, and behavioral change. There's significance beyond academic results ... .
"Not overwhelming?" They aren't statistically any better. Can you say lip stick and pig, Timmy? If you control for parent involvement in a child's education, I'll bet the results are worse than public schools.

"Government schools aren't able to, as a legal matter, provide guard rails around values. It's not constitutionally appropriate. But if a parent or child chooses to get into an environment where there's a value component, a behavioral component, that represents some guard rails for them for eight or 10 hours a day, it changes their behavior and their expectations. It mimics what parents should be teaching them."
Government schools? Oh, that's such a dirty word, Timmy. It sounds so, well, remote. A lot of the remoteness comes from things like No Child Left Behind. You remember Cheri Pierson Yecke, don't you Timmy? She loved NCLB.

Yeah, public schools are such moral vacuums. They don't teach your particular brand of white bread Christianity.

Spotty's pups attend the Edina school system. Here's what Superintendent Ken Dragseth said some time ago about values education:"[we need] to make sure that, as our mission states, we ‘educate responsible, life-long learners to possess the skills, knowledge, creativity, sense of self-worth, and ethical values necessary to survive and flourish in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society.’ The (September 11) crisis placed renewed emphasis on the challenge of understanding and appreciating our diversity within our country and from a global perspective." Other public schools have similar commitments and mission statements.

Public school teachers and administrators try to instill civic values in students; it is insulting to them to suggest they don't. I know it may be hard for you to believe, Timmy, but people who aren't white bread Christians have values, too.

By the way, what are guard rails? They sound like the things your bug-eyed control freak alienated parents would be especially interested in. Right?

Monday, July 25, 2005

A little doggerel, part deux

How long, O Katherine? Wilt thou forget Spot for ever?
How long wilt thou hide thy face from him?

Why dost thou hide thy face
And count Spot as thy enemy?

Spot panteth for your voice
To smite humanism and nuance.

To put Tolerance where the Sun
Doth not shine.

To banish Thought from Dogma
And Reason from scruple.

Fly home my muse, else
Spot may perish.

A free box of kibble to the first reader who correctly identifies the Biblical paraphrases.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

syc-o-phants, (n. pl.)

see also Eibensteiner and Hinderaker.

These two fawning conservative functionaries took turns tripping over each other today in praise of governor Timmy on the op-ed page of the StarTribune (July 24th). The object of the exercise was to blunt criticism of the governor by Mike Wigley and David Strom of the Taxpayers League who claimed that TPaw was not living in reality. Spotty has to admit that's pretty rich coming from C3PO and R2D2. However. RonJohn write:
We were there when Pawlenty stepped to the podium on election night.
Just like the shepherds and the baby Jesus, right? Spotty was there when the steaks fell off the Simon Delivers truck too, but he doesn't think it was a harmonic convergence or anything.
While he thanked all of his supporters and those who voted for him, he declared that he was going to be the governor of all the people of Minnesota.
Let's see, that's all people except public school students, people in need of health care, drivers and others who need get around, property taxpayers, smokers, and parents and citizens all over the state who don't like the proliferation of guns that people will carry in places like the Mall of America, downtown Minneapolis, the Metrodome, bars and restaurants, etc. and etc. Spotty is sure he has left some people out here, too. If that's a governor in Spotty's corner, he shudders at the thought of one who isn't.
And he has done what he promised, moving the state forward with pro-growth policies. Minnesota's economy is advancing strongly and steadily, with excellent job growth and just 3.7 percent unemployment.
Spotty cannot find the link, but he recalls an article in the StarTribune last week that said that Minnesota has finally got as many jobs now as it had four years ago. It is just too bad that people keep graduating from high school and college and moving to the state, expanding the work force. Median income has actually declined in Minnesota in the last available reporting period so the jobs are of a decreasing quality. And obviously tax collections are still off. Spotty doesn't say this is all the guv's fault, but he wishes RonJohn wouldn't try to give Timmy credit for a situation that doesn't exist.

There is also an opinion piece by David Hage entitled Gap between the rich and poor spurs new questions in the StarTribune today. He writes:
Traditionally, economists and market conservatives have answered the question this way: Inequality makes a nation richer and more productive. The fear of poverty and the promise of wealth inspire people to work hard, finish school, save money, invest wisely and dream up valuable new products like the iPod. Conversely, a nation that taxes success and subsidizes idleness is inviting economic stagnation.

The theory was summed up neatly by economist Arthur Okun in a little 1975 classic called "Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff."

But what if it's not that simple? What if there are other formulas for economic growth that don't require the poverty, disadvantage, civic alienation and social friction that Americans take for granted?

A spate of new research is raising exactly these questions. It doesn't exactly refute Okun's tradeoff, but it suggests that the United States might have chosen the wrong spot on the continuum, a place that accepts high levels of inequality without much economic payoff.

Consider the quasi-socialist nations of Europe, which make much greater use of public transfers to reduce inequalities that arise from the marketplace. They are widely considered to be economic basket cases, and most of them have higher unemployment and lower economic output than the United States.

But if inequality makes our economy more efficient, then we should be widening our economic lead over Europe, and we're not. Most European nations, including France, Italy, Spain and Great Britain, have had faster income growth than the United States since 1970. Economist Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute points out that labor productivity per hour -- the linchpin of economic growth -- is higher in Italy, France, Germany and Norway than in the United States, even though they have higher taxes and more social spending.
Maybe the US advantage has more to do with geographic and natural resources than anything else. Hage continues:
In 2003 Christopher Jencks of Harvard University and Gary Burtless at the Brookings Institution studied 17 wealthy nations over the period 1980 to 2000 and found no evidence that higher inequality produced higher growth. In a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, economist Peter Lindert compared the United States to a group of 18 European economies and concluded: "It is well known that higher taxes and [government] transfers reduce productivity. Well known -- but unsupported by statistics and history."

How can such a compelling rule be wrong?

One theory is that material incentives -- the fear of poverty and the promise of wealth -- are only one part of the recipe for growth. A second part is social investment. A nation that provides quality child care, fine public schools and excellent vocational training can reduce inequality and raise productivity.
In other words, perhaps people are better off when they work cooperatively as well a competitively. Let's ask Lance Armstrong and his Discovery team what they think. Back to RonJohn:
Pawlenty was elected governor, not emperor. He has to deal with the Democrats. No budget can become law without passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, and Democrats were determined to raise taxes by $1.4 billion. Tim didn't give in to their budget-busting demands; he went toe to toe with them, to the point where Democrats walked out and shut down state government. If Pawlenty hadn't agreed to some kind of compromise, the government would be shut down still.
"Pawlenty was elected governor, not emperor," said RonJohn wistfully. It takes two to tango boys, and Spotty says that the Republicans bear as much responsibility for the shut down as anybody else. Remember, it was the DFL that passed a lights-on bill at the end of the fiscal year.
We have fought in the trenches for a long time for conservative values and Republican candidates. So has the Taxpayers League, which performed a great service for Minnesotans. But it is no service to divide the Republican Party, in search of an unattainable purity, at a time when Minnesota has the best governor within memory, Tim Pawlenty.
RonJohn yield to nobody in their fealty to tight-assed asceticism. But Spotty is going to reach back into his limited dog-years memory to find a better governor. It was easy: Arne Carlson. Arne was not only a good governor who had to deal with budget shortfalls, but he saved your sorry ass party, RonJohn, from shame and obloquy by stepping in as your candidate after the Grunseth pool caper. And how did you unctuous scrubs pay him back? By not even endorsing him as a sitting governor when he ran for a second term.

May that's where C3PO and R2D2 get their penchant for criticism.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

From Jesus' General . . .

Be sure to check out all the Republican Jesus panels at Jesus' General. Link is on the blogroll to the right.

From Spotty's beach vacation . . .

Actually, it's from Non Sequiter, a very funny cartoon strip that you can find on the 'net but not, apparently, in newspapers in the Twin Cities.

Hey! There's sex in my violence . . .

Yesterday, San Francisco columnist Mike Morford wrote a great piece on the absurdity of the flap over the "sex patch" that can be downloaded for Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas. Beat people up, shoot them, blow them up, incinerate them, but please don't show their nethers. This is a must read column.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Oh the horror!

With KK not writing yesterday (see A Little Doggerel), Spotty was casting around for material and he ran across this from the Ass Missle at Powerline:

Being A Republican... not always easy. Especially if you're a teacher. It's not so easy, actually, if you're a lawyer, either.

Posted by John at 10:33 PM [July 21st]

Spotty can only imagine the angst that the sensitive and retiring John must feel on a regular basis. Look, the 10 PM news is over and John is still up, fretting away! Oh boo hoo. If you don't feel bad for John, Spotty says you have no heart.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More about the Queen of all Iraq . . .

From an article in by Russ Baker:
While defending its own, the [New York Times] also has a larger responsibility—both to its readers and to journalism—not to serve as a propaganda organ, obscuring key unresolved questions about Miller, her work and this particular case.

Two weeks ago, as Miller went off to serve a likely four-month sentence at a federal detention center, a profile of her by a Times media writer almost cartoonishly obfuscated her crucial role in peddling war with Iraq through her series of completely wrong reports fed to her by sources closely tied to the very same White House figures at the heart of the Plame affair.

It's a good read for those interested in more about the subject of Don Shelby's op-ed piece, described in the last post.

Sit right down, Don, and plug your nose . . .

Don Shelby has a bit of sanctimonious twaddle on the opinion page of the July 21st StarTribune. Don seems to think that a journalist's privilege is absolute. We all like to think our pedestal is a little higher than anyone else's, and journalists are no different. But he's wrong, and there are good reasons why no privilege against testifying is absolute, be it for lawyers, doctors, clergy, or whomever.

After describing the plight of Judy "The Queen of all Iraq" Miller, Shelby goes on to describe two instances in which he, Don the Chaste, was on the hot seat:
Once, my boss learned that I was supposed to testify to a grand jury. It was a wide-ranging inquiry and I possessed certain information readily available elsewhere. But, because I'd reported a related story, the prosecutor thought it a handy shortcut to just make me a witness and tell my story again -- this time with all my sources named. I told my boss. He wrote me a note, which I still have. It said, "Go to airport. Get on plane. Go someplace. Call me." I stayed gone, incommunicado, for two weeks.

Sigh, Shelby doesn't say whether he was actually subpoenaed or how he knew that the prosecutor wanted to make a handy shortcut out of him. Spotty suspects this story has gotten better in Shelby's telling of it over the years. Next,
It happened again, in Minnesota. It was 20 years ago. A police officer told me a search warrant would be served at the home of a child pornographer. I showed up with a camera. Later, at the trial, both sides wanted to know who told me about the search warrant. I was ordered to answer. I respectfully refused, and was held in contempt by the Hennepin County judge presiding. I knew I couldn't tell. The defense wanted to prove a malicious prosecution. The state wanted to know who leaked the information so that they could fire my source. I served no jail time. The Minnesota Supreme Court found my information immaterial. I would, however, have gone had I been sentenced. Sometimes people are asked to make decisions of conscience; to engage in an act of civil disobedience, and suffer the consequences. That's what Judith Miller is doing.

No, that not what Judy Miller is doing. Miller was an instrument in the perpetration of a crime, a rather serious federal crime that affects national security. But for the fact that the statute on the "outing" of intelligence is so narrowly drawn, Miller might easily be indicted as a co-conspirator or accessory.

Spotty's lawyer friends say that if a lawyer helps a client in the perpetration of a crime, communications between the lawyer and client in furtherance of the crime are not privileged. If a doctor assists a client in the perpetration of prescription or controlled substance fraud, the doctor's records are not privileged. Don't believe Spotty? Ass (God, that was Freudian) ask Rush Limbaugh.

Here's another gem:
If the government can require reporters to give up their sources, the reporters become an arm of the police. I don't think anyone, even Judith Miller's critics, would like that. The press acts independently of the government.

Actually here, The Queen of All Iraq has acted as an instrument of the administration, and she wants to be protected from the consequences of that. The defense of Judy Miller in this case is positively Orwellian.

Journalists who come to Miller's defense are chumps. They support a world in where crimes, frauds and defamations are protected merely because they are laundered through the Fourth Estate.

Shelby concludes by writing that he offered to serve time in Miller's stead. Perhaps his stupid grandstanding gesture is the result of reading A Tale of Two Cities recently, but believe Spotty when he says Don, Judy Miller isn't worth it.

A little doggerel

O Katherine Katherine Katherine!
Where are you
My puckered muse?

A Thursday morn burns bright,
But Spotty has
No scent of you.

You leave old Spot bereft
To bay and bark
And snuffle in vain.

As a hart longeth
For flowing streams,*
Spotty longeth for you.

Do not stay away
He begs, he needs you,
So he can be Spot.

*Psalm 42

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Via This Modern World . . .

Network of the Living Dead

CNN executives announced today that they will not bury the badly decomposed corpse of columnist and on-air personality Robert Novak, despite complaints from producers that the stench of his putrifying flesh is making it difficult to book guests for the network's talk shows.

Read the whole thing here.

Spotty channels TPaw . . .

From the July 20th StarTribune op-ed page:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty met with members of the Star Tribune editorial department on Monday to discuss the legislative session just passed and the unresolved issues it left behind. Here are excerpts of their conversation:

Q What have you learned about dealing with a divided Legislature that might assure Minnesotans that they won't again witness gridlock and a government shutdown on your watch?

A It can't happen again. The state went into uncharted territory with this partial government shutdown. It should not have happened, and should never happen again.

We tried hard this year to reach out to both sides of the aisle, but in a polarized environment, you have to adjust your expectations to reflect the reality of who's there and how far they can go in compromising. We set the bar really high on some things, and frankly, the Democrats did the same thing. We take our share of the blame for that.

We have 101 Democrats and 100 Republicans in a highly polarized political environment. Until that gets nudged one way or another, it's unrealistic for either side to think they are going to have world-changing reform.
[Jesus, Timmy, did you just say that? I must be crazy! Of course it can happen again, probably will happen again. Exactly the same people will be back next year, including me, posturing for the 2006 election. Well, these schlubs seem to be buying it; no follow up so far.]
Q You've set two budgets now as governor. Do you still believe that Minnesota is overspending?

A Given what we've been through [the 2003 revenue shortfall], the budget we just passed is appropriate.

We are going to remain a high government services state. That is who we are. The question that presents itself is, are we sufficiently prepared for the future? Is the 1970s model still appropriate for 20 years from now?

When demographics are changing, markets are changing, technology is changing, world economies are changing, it would be folly to say we're going to stay the same. That doesn't mean we're going to become South Dakota. But are we going to increase taxes $1.4 billion more, and plow money into various government programs, and call that the Minnesota model for the future? I don't think so.
[If Grover Norquist or Davey Strom read this, I am so dead.]
Q Are you arguing that it is necessary for the tax structure in Minnesota to be more regressive than it was in the 1990s in order for the state to prosper?

A It's not fair to say it's our policy to make the tax code more regressive. Look at the activities that are going to fuel future economic growth. I'm setting aside workforce development and education here. Clearly, incentivizing research and development [is important.] Having this be a place where people make capital investments and capital gains and are not punished for it [with taxes.] Marginal tax rates on both individual income and corporations are a cost consideration. As you don't make those things worse and try to make them better over time, it does disproportionately provide tax relief to upper-income wage earners.

Q What do you say to middle-income earners who now are paying a greater proportion of their income in state and local taxes than do the wealthy?

A If you are successful in growing the economy, then the proceeds of that can be deployed in programs that presumably will help lower- and middle-income people disproportionately.

Let's say you lower capital gains and marginal income tax rates and corporate income tax rates. In the interim it lessens burdens on high-income earners, but the net effect is to stimulate economic growth. You use that money for tuition assistance for disadvantaged families, or early childhood programs.
What is regressive again? Boy, I'm really glad I skimmed that rich people's feel-good classic Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand again last night. Those last couple of questions would have been tough without it. I suppose I could have also said that I don't want to tax success, but then some wise guy would have said "What do you want to tax, failure?"
Q The budget you just signed took $60 million more away from child care support, after $90 million in cuts in 2003. Does that serve Minnesota well?

A I don't think cutting child care is ideal, or that that's the direction we want to go indefinitely. There are budget realities. What we've said in this area is, while we recognize its value, we want to make sure we can pay for what we have now before we add new things. There's also a lot going on in child care that is not of high quality.
[While it may not be ideal, cutting child care is a helluva lot better than asking Bill Cooper and Brian Sullivan to pony up a little more in income taxes. Those SOBs are mean.]
Q If you had to do it over, would you take the "no new taxes' pledge?

A I would, in this regard: It's not about the piece of paper. It's what the pledge represents in a governing philosophy. In a highly taxed state, with revenues growing pretty well, should we, or do we need to be, talking about raising taxes? I would say no. That doesn't need to be a pledge on a piece of paper, but it does represent a policy perspective that I think is appropriate.

[For the future,] what I've said across the board is, I'm not signing anybody's pledge. I think I've proven my mettle on taxes. I've been around long enough that you can see my record. I don't need to be signing pledges.
[One self-administered political lobotomy is enough.]
Q Republican campaign strategists say they would like the gay-marriage issue front and center throughout 2006. Is that good for Minnesota?

A The idea of preserving marriage as between a man and woman is an important value. It's a relationship cornerstone for our society. We are already on record as being against gay marriage. We have a statute that says that.
[Good non-answer, Timmy. These people are pussy cats.]
Q Are you open to allowing civil unions between same-sex couples?

A There should be room for consideration of how you jointly own property, how do you pass it along intergenerationally, how do you deal with hospital visitation rights. Some contractual relationship between same-sex partners is worth exploring. But people who say, "Let's make it equivalent to marriage and we'll just call it something else" -- I don't support that.
[Michele Bachmann and Katherine Kersten are gonna claw my eyes out for that one!]

It's the coup, stupid . . .

Chris Floyd has an insightful post on John Roberts, the new Supreme Court nominee, over at Empire Burlesque. Spotty recommends it hightly.

The gist of the post is a description of Judge Roberts' role, as a memeber of the DC Curcuit, in permitting the rolling coup d'etat of the Bush administration. In particular, the post describes last week's decision that permits the continuation of military tribunals at Gitmo.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More on Minnesota Care . . .

Spot is experiencing one of those malaises that Jimmy Carter was always warning us about. He doesn't know what it is, but he is having trouble working up much blood lust for anything in the news today. Maybe Spotty need something to help him free associate a little better.

So. Spot will write some more about a subject that has appeared on The Cucking Stool before, namely the Health Care Access Fund. As the faithful stenographer for the governor, Steve Sviggum, and Kevin Goodno, our good friend Katherine Kersten wrote about what an evil program Minnesota Care is and how it will break the bank, oh my! Spotty and several others have commented on the factual errors in the column, wholly apart from its tight-assed asceticism, e.g., here and here. Senator Linda Berglin also wrote an op-ed piece in the StarTribune criticizing Kersten's smear and for which Spot cannot find a link at the moment.

Remember, the Health Care Access Fund is funded with premiums, the 2% health care provider TAX (not fee), and Spot believes, some contribution from the federal government.

Anyway, here are some quotations from the president's message in the July/August 2004 issue of MetroDoctors, the journal of the Hennepin and Ramsey County Medical Associations. It was written by Peter J. Daly, M.D., the president of the Ramsey Medical Association.

. . . Governor Pawlenty used more that $100 million from the Health Care Access Fund to balance the budget [which he did unilaterally in the spring of 2004] and pay for expenditures in the General Fund that had nothing to do with health care.

. . . The Citizen's Council on Health Care noted that from 1992 - 1999, [never mind what has happened since] nearly 29% of the Health Care Access Fund's resources were diverted from the Minnesota Care subsidy program.


Monday, July 18, 2005

It's worse than you thought . . .

From an article in today's Boston Globe:

New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.

. . .

A separate Israeli analysis of 154 foreign fighters compiled by a leading terrorism researcher found that despite the presence of some senior Al Qaeda operatives who are organizing the volunteers, ''the vast majority of [non-Iraqi] Arabs killed in Iraq have never taken part in any terrorist activity prior to their arrival in Iraq."

. . .

American intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, and terrorism specialists paint a similar portrait of the suicide bombers wreaking havoc in Iraq: Prior to the Iraq war, they were not Islamic extremists seeking to attack the United States, as Al Qaeda did four years ago, but are part of a new generation of terrorists responding to calls to defend their fellow Muslims from ''crusaders" and ''infidels."

. . .

''The president is right that Iraq is a main front in the war on terrorism, but this is a front we created," said Peter Bergen, a terrorism specialist at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

. . .

Case studies of foreign fighters indicated they considered the Iraq war an attack on the Muslim religion and Arab culture, Paz said.

. . .

For example, while the unprovoked attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were largely condemned by clerics as violations of Muslim law, many religious leaders in Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have promulgated fatwas, or religious edicts, saying that waging jihad in Iraq is justified by the Koran because it is defensive in nature. Last October, 26 clerics in Saudi Arabia said it was the duty of every Muslim to go and fight in Iraq.

. . .

''These are people who did not get training in Pakistan or Chechnya, [and they] ended up going to Iraq because they considered defending Iraq a must for every Muslim to go and fight," said Rita Katz, director of the Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute in Washington and an Iraq native.

. . .

One indication that a heightened degree of Arab solidarity is a leading factor is that they are almost entirely Arabs and not Muslims from other countries, such as those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. Another motivation, the studies and analysts contend, is the centuries-old struggle between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. All the foreign fighters are Sunnis, according to the analyses, and many of their targets are Iraq's majority Shia Muslims, who have gained political power in Baghdad for the first time in hundreds of years.

Pay extra attention to this comment:
'To say we must fight them in Baghdad so we don't have to fight them in Boston implies there is a finite number of people, and if you pen them up in Iraq you can kill them all," said Bergen. ''The truth is we increased the pool by what we did in Iraq."

Please take a seat Mr. Rumsfeld . . .

Spotty heard some comments of Sec. Rumsfeld in a press conference this afternoon. He said of people trying to make a separate peace with terrorists (in response to a question about whether the British were in greater danger because of their support of the US in Iraq):

"They will find that it is a little like feeding an alligator, hoping he eats you last."

Spotty thinks it is a little more like the two guys getting ready for a hike in bear country. One guy starts lacing up his running shoes, and the other say "Why bother with running shoes? You can't outrun a bear." The first fellow replies "I don't have to outrun the bear; I only have to outrun you."

As James Wolcott writes, it is hard to figure out exactly what the British are getting out of this whole business in Iraq. A lot of the British people are wondering, too.

She's come undone . . .

The little Mylar balloon Katherine Kersten has finally slipped its moorings and floated off unsteadily into the ether. There is no other way to describe her column in the July 18th StarTribune. According to Kersten, gang violence Minneapolis in 2005, as well as virtually every other societal ill, can be traced directly to the '60s. And all this time, Spotty thought it was just Bill Clinton's fault!

Even for Katherine, this column is a magnum opus. Spotty imagines that the local bloggers will be gorging for days. So dear reader, tie on a bib and let's see what we can find.
Behind our debate over how to deal with gangs is a clash of world views. Many people in social service agencies or university faculty rooms see human beings as basically good and naturally cooperative. They view crime and violence as aberrations, and essentially a result of injustice. If people are given opportunities (jobs and rec centers), they reason, they are likely to behave peacefully and rationally.

Ordinary citizens view human nature more realistically. They see their 2-year-old throw a tantrum over a Popsicle, or their spouse cut someone off in rush-hour traffic, and recognize that tendencies toward selfishness and aggression are innate and universal.

Isn't that second paragraph just a little inductive reasoning gem?

Kersten may be on to something here. Spotty bets a lot of serial killers threw tantrums over Popsicles; if we had only known. Then more of them could have been beaten regularly into submission like James Dobson's dog and turned away from a life of crime. Cutting people off in traffic on the other hand has more to do with cell phones than evil intent.

Kersten is right about the clash of world views, but it's not quite as she describes. It is conservatives who have the dangerous world view, and I will leave it to you dear reader to decide whether they are the ordinary ones. That's why conservatives want to pack heat, live in gated communities, send their kids to private school, and invade foreign countries. They are frightened of the world they live in and alienated from it. They have defective empathy genes.

The column goes on:
. . . But if we all start life with certain tendencies in common with them, why don't most of us behave like them?

The answer is rooted in culture and family. Most of us learned to control our aggressive, antisocial impulses as youngsters. Our mothers taught us empathy. Our fathers taught us not to hit our sister. We don't steal tennis shoes at the mall, but it's not because we fear the police. We police ourselves, exercising the conscience and self-control we were taught.

I have a hot tip for you Katherine, it's called socialization. And it has a lot to do with cooperation, respect for yourself and others that is reciprocated to you. When public schools try to teach values like this, conservative like you scream SECULAR HUMANISM! Let's start a private school!

Next nugget:
The underclass culture that has spawned homicidal youth gangs is relatively new. It didn't exist in this form in the 1930s, for example, when poverty was much more widespread. What has changed?

For one thing, the 1960s "cultural revolution" happened. Some of America's most privileged citizens led it -- intellectuals, lawyers and entertainment executives. They urged Americans to shake off the shackles of "bourgeois" norms -- the very qualities that had helped generations rise from poverty to the middle class.

Katherine, Katherine, Katherin. Gangs have existed just about forever.
Gangs have been known to claim colors such as red or blue, a trend that started as far back as the late 18th century and early 19th century with the rivalry of the Roach Guards and the Dead Rabbits of New York's Five Points district and later with Mexican bandits and roving marauders in what would later become the Southwest/Western United States. (In the United States, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, "gang colors" can refer to the entire design of a gang jacket.)

There isn't much else that needs to be said. Katherine's argument falls flat on it intellectual keister. Would it be so hard to do a little research before you write Katherine?

Spotty thinks Katherine's problem with the '60s is really that she couldn't get a date and missed the fun.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Follow the uranium . . .

Please read Frank Rich's column in the New York Times today, entitled Follow the uranium. It is probably the best exposition of the Niger uranium kerfuffle. And Dave, if you're still reading, I especially commend it to you.

The column also shows what happens when you let a former theater critic, known at the Butcher of Broadway, loose on politics.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Mark Yost, please sit on the chair . . .

Mark Yost, an editorial writer for the Pioneer Press, complains that Iraq reporting is too "negative." This sort of annoyed some of Yost's Knight Ridder colleagues:
From Hannah Allam:

It saddens me to read Mark Yost's editorial in the Pioneer Press, the Knight Ridder paper that hired me as a rookie reporter and taught me valuable lessons in life and journalism during the four years I spent there before heading to Iraq.

I invite Mr. Yost to spend a week in our Baghdad bureau, where he can see our Iraqi staff members' toothbrushes lined up in the bathroom because they have no running water at home. I frequently find them camping out in the office overnight because electricity is still only sporadic in their sweltering neighborhoods, despite what I'm sure are the best-intentioned efforts of people like his Marine buddy working on the electrical grid.

Mr. Yost could have come with me today as I visited one of my own military buddies, who like most officers doesn't leave the protected Green Zone compound except by helicopter or massive convoy. The Army official picked me up in his air-conditioned Explorer, took me to Burger King for lunch and showed me photos of the family he misses so terribly. The official is a great guy, and like so many other soldiers, it's not politics that blind him from seeing the real Iraq. The compound's maze of tall blast wall and miles of concertina wire obscure the view, too.

Mr. Yost can listen to our bureau's morning planning meetings, where we orchestrate a trip to buy bottled water (the tap water is contaminated, when it works) as if we're plotting a military operation. I wonder whether he prefers riding in the first car -- the most exposed to shrapnel and bullets -- or the chase car, which is designed to act as a buffer between us and potential kidnappers.

Perhaps Mr. Yost would be moved by our office's tribute wall to Yasser Salihee, our brave and wonderful colleague, who at age 30 joined the ranks of Iraqi civilians shot to death by American soldiers. Mr. Yost would have appreciated one of Yasser's last stories -- a rare good-news piece about humanitarian aid reaching the holy city of Najaf.

Mr. Yost's contention that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are stable is pure fantasy. On his visit to Baghdhad, he can check that by chatting with our resident British security consultant, who every day receives a province-by-province breakdown of the roadside bombs, ambushes, assassinations and other violence throughout the country.

If Baghdad is too far for Mr. Yost to travel (and I don't blame him, given the treacherous airport road to reach our fortress-like hotel), why not just head to Oklahoma? There, he can meet my former Iraqi translator, Ban Adil, and her young son. They're rebuilding their lives under political asylum after insurgents in Baghdad followed Ban's family home one night and gunned down her 4-year-old daughter, her husband and her elderly mother in law.

Freshly painted schools and a new desalination plant might add up to "mission accomplished" for some people. Too bad Ban's daughter never got to enjoy those fruits of her liberation.

You can read the whole article in Editor & Publisher.

Addition 7/17: You can read much more about this at Clever Peasantry here.

Thanks a lot, everyone . . .

Spotty (I am going back to the 'merican spelling even though this blog is named after an English engine of correction) arrived late at the kill site of Kersten's latest column and there wasn't much left. All the bloggers had gone; even the buzzards were packing up to leave.

Spotty chewed on a bone in contemplation for a while; a couple of things did occur to him. In her column, on recent high school graduate army recruits, which ran on July 14th, Kersten trumpets the fact that the armed services met their recuiting goals for June, after missing them for several months before that. Okay people, connect the spots. What happens in May and June? Think hard now; it will come to you.

How many people said planting gardens and flowers blooming? Wrong. How many people said high school graduation? That's the right answer. June is probably the one month of the year when the most new recruit material comes on the market. It will be interesting to see what happens the rest of this year.

Spotty thinks the Pentagon has already figured out it is going to be way short in 2006 and beyond. That is why it is preparing for a large troop draw down, in coordination with the British, in Iraq starting next year. Spotty thinks that is a good thing, but it is not being driven by the readiness of the Iraqi armed forces to take over, but rather by US manpower shortages. Guard units are basically used up, and recruiting is down. This is an important symptom of the American people's loss of faith in the misbegotten enterprise known at the Iraq war.

Spotty is not gloating over these manpower shortages. They will result in even more hardship for the soldiers and families left in the military. And we will have to redouble our efforts to let these people know they are in our thoughts and prayers and to help their families out stateside while they are away.

The other thing that Spotty thought of was to be sure to tell Kersten about Operation Yellow Elephant in case she had any 18+ year old children who should be enlisting.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A cheery note from Jason . . .

Spottie sent Jason, Jason, Jason to Jason Lewis. Spottie got this cheery reply today. Spottie didn't set out to push one of Jason's buttons, but guys like him are all button.
Now that you've cornered the market on economic ignorance, you're starting to give dogs a bad name. The rich pay a larger percentage of the total tax burden than their total share of state income. Got that dog? Ergo, since it costs the govt. not one more dime to protect the freedom of the wealthy than the poor, you, as good little well-behaved collectivist, continue to insist that govt. transfer income. Understand dog? Taxes as share of income are irrelevant unless you...well, read the damn piece you insufferable fool. You and yours would be much more at home in the Weimar Republic, they too were quite adept at ignoring facts. I'm sure both of your readers enjoyed it however.

Read the tax incidence study referred to in Spottie's piece. Who are you going to believe, Jason or your lying eyes?

Slight correction: ok, I did set out to push one of his buttons. So shoot me.

The word is out on KK . . .

There is a God.

Which reminds Spottie of a joke. What does an agnostic, dyslexic, insomniac do?

He sits up all night wondering whether there is a Dog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Jason, Jason, Jason . . .

Like the periodic flashbacks of a bad acid trip, Jason Lewis sometimes comes back to the Twin Cities to provide the wing nuts with renewed hallucinations, a freshening of the kool-aid, so to speak. He did it again today with This tax-the-rich chicanery is anti-American in the July 13th StarTribune. For those of you who are unaware, Lewis used to produce large quantities of bile and flatulence on his daily radio talk show on KSTP. But then he moved on to the undoubtedly greener pastures of North Carolina, leaving several of his listeners bereft. He sends a missive of hope to them once in a while. It is the least he can do.

Today's bon bon was a rant about how the Minnesota DFL wants to redistrubute income! This is apparently because the DFL controlled-Minnesota Senate proposed a new top income tax bracket that rolled back some, but not all, of the income tax reductions enacted several years ago.

Jason Lewis is a dumbass. A. Dumb. Ass.

(Spottie got that technique from Clever Sponge; pretty cool, don't you think?)

Well, okay; let's dig in. One of his first points is that Minnesota's budget is larger per capita than North Carolina. He says that Minnesota's is 30 billion for five million residents, while North Carolina's is 32 billion for eight million residents. Now everyone knows that North Carolina is a true garden spot; they play pretty good basketball there; it is the home of that true internationalist Jesse Helms (who is reported to have once said: Democracy used to be a good thing, but it has gotten into the wrong hands), and Spottie recalls that they used to make a lot of textiles, mass-produced furniture and other high value-added products there. And, let's not forget, it is the gateway to Appalachia, America's Ruhr Valley.

How do Minnesota and North Carolina compare income-wise? Median annual income for a family of four, from statistics compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services for the most recent period available:

Minnesota - $72,379

North Carolina - $58,227

Jeebus Christmas! How can that be? North Carolinians are so much freer than Minnesotans! Spottie says it is because Minnesotans are healthier and better educated that North Carolinians and attract a better class of value-added businesses.

Spottie commends the above-referenced statistics to you, dear reader. Please compare Minnesota to such tax shangri-las as South Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Montana or even Florida. Then, just for fun, look at Taxachusetts. Any additional taxes paid in high tax states is easily paid out of the higher income earned in those states. A coincidence? Spottie doesn't think so.

What is really at issue is a redistribution of the tax burden, not income. Presently when you combine income, sales, and property taxes in Minnesota, top income earners play less as a percentage of income than lower income earners. Yup, it's true. Spottie refers you to this post from Minnesota Politics and the most recent tax incidence study by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Lewis thinks this is fair.

If there is any redistribution of income going on, it is from bottom to top, just like the Guilded Age. We all know what came after the Guilded Age.

I have a tongue twister for you Jason. Can you say equal marginal sacrifice principle of taxation? Good. Now say it three times, sorta fast if you can. Do you know what it means? Of course not, you putz. Let Spottie put it to you this way, my knuckle-dragging friend. The last dollar you tax the poor is more dear to them than the rich unless the rich pay a greater rate on the portion of their income that is higher. Why is this fair?

It is fair because virtually everything the government does benefits the wealthy more than the poor. That is true on a federal level: regulation of capital markets, transportation subsidies (locks, dams, federal highways, airports), maintenance and enforcement of intellectual property protections, patroling the customs frontiers, etc. and etc. It is also true on a state level: transportation and education (where do you think educated workers come from Jason?) to name just a couple.

Lewis would apparently prefer a return to feudalism. That's really un-American in Spottie's opinion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Notice it's a right turn, too . . .

Posted today on Operation Yellow Elephant.

Where do we get men like these?

From the Democratic Underground:
Perhaps the problem with the war on terror is that we're just not doing enough damage. What we need is good men like Paul Harvey in charge, then we'd see some results.

Last week the fabled radio personality pontificated on "the decline of American wartime aggression," according to "We're standing there dying, daring to do nothing decisive because we've declared ourselves to be better than our terrorist enemies - more moral, more civilized," said he. So Paul has the perfect solution - be worse than our terrorist enemies.

"We sent men with rifles into Afghanistan and Iraq and kept our best weapons in their silos," he continued, presumably referring to nuclear missiles, before winding up with this wholesome rant:

"We didn't come this far because we're made of sugar candy. Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and across this continent by giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. That was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever.

"And we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves. So it goes with most great nation-states, which - feeling guilty about their savage pasts - eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry up-and-coming who are not made of sugar candy."

And that's the rrrrrrrrrrrrr....avings of a senile old lunatic.

Defending James Dobson . . .

From the July 12th StarTribune letters page:
The real Keillor

Garrison Keillor's July 10 column, "Power, as long as you want it," shows his true colors. He is a hate-filled, closed-minded, anti-Christian bigot.

His columns -- this one a personal attack on Dr. James Dobson and Christianity -- always end with an advertisement for his radio show on taxpayer-funded public radio. And people wonder why many of us view public broadcasting as a leftist entity?

Wally Andress, Golden Valley

Well Wally, if James Dobson is Christian, count me out. Here is a small part of a web page article by Chris Dugan entitled Would you trust this man alone with your dog? It chronicles the amusing story Dobson tells in one of his books about how it was absolutely necessary to beat the hell out of the family pet because it wanted to sleep in the warm bathroom rather than on its bed. And how this valuable story is also applicable to small children! For Spottie, of course, this one hits especially close to home:
"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)

Spottie only growls when he feels threatened; he guesses that Dobson beats up Siggie from time to time. Psychopaths like Dobson shouldn't have pets or children; people surely shouldn't look to Dobson for guidance on keeping or raising them, either.