Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The face of American diplomacy.

Wow. Spotty hadn't realized that John Bolton had such a highly-developed cranium. Maybe it's from high blood pressure due to Bolton's famous temper. Probably, it's just that he has a big head - metaphorically speaking.

President Bush's most famous recess appointee has been cheerfully shoveling sand into the gears over at the UN, in spite of his promise "to work with people." It is reported that Bolton is demanding 750 changes in an approximately 36 page (it depends on the language of the draft, apparently) draft blueprint for United Nations reform. You do you own math, but Spot figures that works out to over 20 changes per page. These are not helpful drafting tips, dear reader; this is an evisceration.

Here's a little of what Canada's Globe and Mail had to say:
Mr. Bolton, who was installed as ambassador by the Bush administration over the objections of Senate Democrats, circulated a letter this week demanding renegotiation of a draft text that would commit UN members to aggressive action on poverty reduction, climate change and nuclear disarmament.

At the same time, the United States wants to maintain those parts of the text that would strengthen the definition of terrorism, create a peace-building commission, fund pro-democracy initiatives and reform the administration of the world body.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged leaders to endorse the most sweeping changes to the world body since its founding 60 years ago. Mr. Annan said the changes are necessary to make the scandal-plagued organization more effective and transparent. But UN watchers and diplomats said yesterday the American insistence on sweeping changes to a document that has been hammered out through year-long negotiations could result in stalemate and no agreement in September.
In truth, Bolton's antics do not come as a giant surprise for observers of the UN:
Mr. Bolton's intervention was not surprising, given the long-time resistance by the United States to the economic, social and environmental priorities of other UN members.

"We should assume that he is only fulfilling what the administration is asking him to do," said Suzanne DiMaggio, executive director for global policy programs at the United Nations Association of the United States.

However, Ms. DiMaggio said it would be impossible to reach a UN reform package if Washington is not willing to compromise.

"If the goal is to bulldoze those priorities of greater economic and social development that most of the member states want to see in there, and in place just have U.S. priorities, then I think we are headed for a very rough ride," she said.
The Washington Post reports that the US is not alone in expressing reservations about the current draft. Apparently, "only" the 25 member EU, Austrailia, New Zealand, and those hopeless bleeding hearts, the Canadians, are on board. This would include, of course, the UK and the government of Tony "the Poodle" Blair.

The Guardian article, linked above, has the headline and subhead: Britain heads for clash with US: Disagreement over America's bid to derail UN reform.

It seems that people have figured out what this is really all about. Why worry about mere reform when you can make a stab at disabling the entire institution?

Whenever President Bush talks about cooperating with out allies, just remember John Bolton, who does not play well with others.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Don't let the door hit you on the butt, Cheri!

Cheri Pierson-Yecke reached into the ring, picked up her hat, and is getting ready to stomp out of town. Apparently, her welfare benefits at the Center of the American Experiment were about to run out and she needed to find a job, especially since her prospects for a congressional gig weren't looking too good. Spot says there may be something to this welfare to work business after all!

Cheri announced late yesterday (Monday 8/29) that she was dropping out of the 6th district congressional race in Minnesota in a implicit admission that Michele Bachmann, who is running for the same seat, is better looking. Cheri and Michele were both after the knuckle-dragger vote. She also announced that she was getting out of Dodge, heading to Florida to be the chief kill-joy for Florida's K-12 school system. Minnesota's loss is Florida's gain!

Only, some folks in Florida and elsewhere have misgivings:
Why in the world would this failure of an Education Czar from Minnesota be promoted and allowed to repeat her miserable performance in Florida?

[Link]: August 29, 2005--Cheri Pierson Yecke today announced that Florida Governor Jeb Bush has invited her to play a lead role on his education team. Yecke will end her Sixth Congressional District bid to help implement Governor Bush's reform agenda.

"I am honored to have been asked by Governor Jeb Bush to be such a significant part of his education team," said Yecke. "It is therefore with deep regret that I announce that I will no longer be a candidate for Minnesota's sixth district Congressional seat."

Let's run that through the Reality Community Translator: Yecke was unpopular with Minnesotans. She succeeded in dividing and pissing off the educational/science communities in particular with her loony take on everything from religion in the classroom, to sex Ed, to science & evolutionary biology. Her fringe ideas finally elicited statewide disgust and votes to send her packing. So she decided to run for the Sixth Congressional District Seat in 2006. The prospect of winning began to look worse and worse as support for the GOP in Minnesota went south along with Bush's numbers.

Truly, a Horatio Alger story.

In reflecting on her move, Cheri said that she was glad to be moving to a state without an income tax! You'll enjoy the executions, too, Cheri.

Spotty's advice to Floridans: Cheri Pierson-Yecke is a doctrinaire Bush (first George and now Jeb) functionary. She is an agent in the destruction of public education. Watch her very, very carefully.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Jesus Saves!

When Spotty did a technorati search for "Wal-Mart," this image popped up. Spot thought that Katie would like it.

The photographer, Orrin, at Flickr, gave Spot permission to post the picture. He has a lot of good pictures photographs over there, by the way.

For your reading pleasure, Spotty recommends his post:

Kersten: Teachers are being mean to Wal-Mart!


Darwin is wrong, saith the Lord.

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
LOS ANGELES -- A group representing California religious schools has filed a lawsuit accusing the University of California system of discriminating against high schools that teach creationism and other conservative Christian viewpoints.

The Association of Christian Schools International, which represents more than 800 schools, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming UC admissions officials have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin's theory of evolution. Other rejected courses include "Christianity's Influence in American History."
Why don't we just give the country to the Chinese, Japanese and Europeans and save some time?
According to the lawsuit, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta was told its courses were rejected because they use textbooks printed by two Christian publishers, Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books.
Bob Jones University? Now that's different! California's flimsy excuse:
UC spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina said she could not comment, because the university had not been served with the lawsuit. Still, she said the university has a right to set course requirements.

"These requirements were established after careful study by faculty and staff to ensure that students who come here are fully prepared with broad knowledge and the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed," Poorsina said.
Spotty could sit down with a six-pack of beer and tell you in a couple of minutes that a biology textbook from Bob Jones University was going to be full of crack pottery.

Where is Clarence Darrow now that we really need him? (Spot recommends Inherit the Wind, by the way.)


Kersten: Teachers are being mean to Wal-Mart!

Who? Teachers? Say it ain’t so Katie! Katie says that teachers are being mean to Wal-Mart. Don’t they know their place? This is an offense to the moral order and the social hierarchy!

Everyone knows that political thought is supposed to be left to the intelligentsia like Katie.

Katie’s Monday column Teachers should leave Wal-Mart alone rates about a seven on the Shrew-o-Meter’s scale of one to ten. You’d think that one of her kids was being picked on. Think about that for a minute.

After reminding us of the daunting challenges faced by schools and educators, particularly in the inner city – challenges created in no small part by Katie and her ilk – she goes on to “tell” on teachers and their unions for participating in a labor initiative:
The MFT, along with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, is urging parents and teachers who shop for school supplies to boycott Wal-Mart, the nation's leading discount retailer. The unions claim that Wal-Mart workers' wages and benefits are too low.

The boycott is part of a nationwide campaign, called Wake-Up Wal-Mart, sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), the union that has unsuccessfully tried to unionize Wal-Mart employees at a number of stores.
Never mind that Wal-Mart has a national reputation for anti-union “activities,” and that in the one place where workers did organize in one of its stores, Montreal, Wal-Mart shuttered the store as soon as the union was certified.

Most of the rest of Katie’s column is an advertisement for Wal-Mart. Katie waxes poetic philosophic economic, well she just waxes, over the low low prices at Wal-Mart. Always! Cheap shirts, cheap shorts, and best of all cheap pens! Spot just hopes that the Star Tribune is charging standard advertising rates for the column.

Katie, if you ever get tired of the newspaper gig or it gets tired of you, you could do the announcements for the blue light specials at K-Mart.

To rebut the charge that Wal-Mart pays low wages, which it does, she reports the interview of three people: a part-time employee who is also a student, a full-time employee (how’d she find one of those?) who has been on the job two weeks (cut to the exit interview with Tom, who says: Gee boss, I didn’t know that newspaper lady was going to print what I said about crummy wages and the fact that I took this job after being unemployed for so long. I know I was still on probation, but I gotta keep this job!), and best of all, the “acting” manager of one of the stores. What happened to the regular manager? Spot shudders to think.

Anyway, the “acting” manager said when the store opened in 2004 that had 6,000 applications for 325 job openings. A genuine tribune to Wal-Mart. Or maybe an indicator of the sorry state of the economy. Take your pick.

Katie winds up with a real stinger to the teachers:
It's time, I'd say, for teachers unions to get back to improving our kids' academic performance, and leave the rest of us to shop and work where we want.
Why, yes of course you would say that, Katie. We would expect nothing less from a bug-eyed control freak. Nobody but you is entitled to an opinion.


Katie has a friend!

From the letters in the Star Tribune on August 29th:
After reading Katherine Kersten's Aug. 25 column, I can't help but worry about her.

My worries have nothing to do with her dead-on opinion regarding media coverage of the war in Iraq and war protesters.

I am concerned about Kersten personally. Do her well-researched, articulate, intelligent conservative views make her the loneliest person working at the Star Tribune?

John Sherwin, Rochester.
Spotty is concerned about Katie's popularity, too.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Damn, I wish I had said that!

Profesor Juan Cole of Informed Comment called Bush's recent description of the situation in Iraq a typically panglossian screed.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Intellegent design . . .

The opening paragraph of a post on the Intelligent Design or Evolution Blog on August 27th:
Many advocates of evolution have now adopted a new religion. They believe that life was created by the flying spaghetti monster. They have even formed their own church to worship this fictitious creation. Their goal is of course to mock intelligent design. Sadly, they have missed the point entirely, because intelligent design is based on indirect logic and their parady is not.
Spotty says that the poster, an intelligent design advocate apparently, confuses parady with careakatur.


Constitutional wardrobe . . .

Remember how Rumsfeld and all the others in the Bush administration assured us that Iraq would not become an Islamic theocracy?

The cartoon is by Ann Telnase. Here cartoons are available, and highly recommended by Spotty, at the U Comics site.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Dependable Renegade post . . .

Just go look at it.

Hey Katie!

You might want to take a look at this:
BASRA, Iraq -- For Yousef Lyon and other Christians in Basra, the downfall of Saddam Hussein has meant a terrible loss of religious freedom.
You can read the entire dispatch from Newsday here. Spot wants to recommend it to Scott at Powerline, too.

Complete clueless fools.


No, Senator, there is no evidence that nicotine is addictive.

From the Associated Press:
Zoo tries to get smoking chimpanzee to kick habit
Associated Press
August 26, 2005 CHIMP0827

XI'AN, China — The handlers of a smoking chimpanzee in a zoo in northwest China are trying to get her to kick the habit.

The 26-year-old female chimpanzee has been smoking for 15 years. Her mate died recently, which caused her to smoke even more.

Now, the chimp's keepers are worried about her health as a result of her intense smoking. So, they're trying to give her milk instead of cigarettes.

She started smoking years ago by picking up butts from tourists.

More assigned reading . . .

Peggy Noonan (yes, that Peggy Noonan) has an op-ed piece up on the site called Think Dark. It should have been called Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. Spotty's favorite line in the whole piece is:
To think dark, on the other hand, takes imagination--and something more.
Why, yes it does, Peggy. In your case, it also requires a leave of absence from reality. The essential point of the piece is that we shouldn't close a single military base because we may need them someday when martial law is imposed. Neat! In making her point, Noonan takes every possible terrorist threat, rolls 'em together and smokes 'em.

It's really a silly piece, and who better than James Wolcott to provide the evisceration? Darkness at Noonan is a must-read.

If you have some time, and for extra credit, also check out Spotty's own post about the use of fear-mongering by a columnist.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Consider the communis rixatrix.

Okay, that enough. Spotty says did you notice the penetrating, predatory eyes? Or the no-nonsense visage or the somber plumage? You can't see the feet in this picture, but the feet of communis rixatrix are covered in sensible sheathings.

Now listen for the raucous, scolding call. It's easy to identify; it's the loudest one in the forest. There it is.

You know that's funny. The call has kind of a plaintive quality this morning, almost like communis rixatrix was desperate somehow. Perhaps she is digesting something that doesn't agree with her. Spotty suspects that it is the increasingly poor food supply of information about the war in Iraq. Let's see.

Spotty was right! In her Thursday column The big picture in Iraq tells quite a different story, Katie tells us how the mainstream media is missing the boat altogether in Iraq:
The major media's love affair with the Crawford protest is no surprise. It's consistent with the focus on body counts and funerals we've come to expect: "Troop Carrier Flips; Four Dead,"Roadside Bomb Kills Two." The media rarely give us the context we need to understand the fighting that produces these casualties -- the purpose and outcome of the missions the lost soldiers were engaged in. When that information is given, it's often buried in articles that focus on death.
Those darn headlines about dead soldiers (it's a good thing there aren't many reports about the thousands more maimed for life!) really give the public a such a bad taste in its mouth about the war. It is so good that there are people like Katie around to propagandize the record straight!

Katie give us some context:
To evaluate the war in Iraq, like any war, we need to understand what our troops are attempting and achieving, as well as how many of them are being killed. Take the 14 Marines who died in Haditha in early August in a much-publicized roadside bombing. Army Lt. Colonel Steve Boylan, a military spokesman I contacted in Baghdad, explained that they were laying the groundwork for Operation Quick Strike: a campaign to destroy the insurgency by depriving it of its bases and shutting down its "rat lines" -- infiltration routes running from the Syrian border to the heart of Iraq.

The Marines' mission was to undercut the insurgents' freedom of movement, and thus -- among other things -- to increase security for the Iraqis' constitutional process.
Katie does not tell us that Operation Quick Strike has made a huge and helpful difference, of course. Facts are not context unless they help Katie make her point.

Oh, and the constitutional process? It is about to enshrine Islamic law as paramount, something George Bush and Scott McClellan and others in the administration assured us would never happen. Katie's mate, the communis rix David Brooks, has a column in the NYT today telling us this isn't so bad after all. It's not? Ask the women of Iraq if they all agree.

Katie give us more context:
Here's a glimpse of that bigger picture: According to government and policy organization sources, Iraq today has a vibrant free press, with roughly 170 independent newspapers and magazines, up from zero under Saddam Hussein. Thousands of schools have been constructed or refurbished, and more than 200 water treatment projects are underway or have been completed.
What about Iraqi public opinion about the occupation? Headed south, of course, because in most cases things are still worse than before the invasion started. Again, facts are not context unless they are helpful to Katie.

Katie has one thing right:
The result of a media obsession with body counts can be defeatism. The Vietnam War's 1968 Tet Offensive provides a sobering example.
It should be a sobering example to you Katie. There were watershed events in that war, Tet and the Cambodian bombing campaign conducted by President Nixon, for example, when public opinion made significant swings against the war. Cindy Sheehan and Camp Casey are making a similar impact on public opinion. The right wing knows it, and is scared to death by it.

Spotty's an old dog, and there isn't a thing in Katie's column that couldn't have been taken from pro-war editorials in 1968, 1969, 1970, well you get the picture. Wingers like Katie are beginning to see that the Fighting Cowboy's presidency is going to wind up on the guano heap of history, just like another Texas president's, Lyndon Johnson.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The dangerous myth of American exceptionalism.

Michael A. Babcock swims in the same fetid pond as Pat Might as well Kill ‘em Robertson. The StarTribune carries an op-ed piece by Babcock today (August 24th) that was originally penned for Newsday. According to the piece, Babcock is an associate professor of the humanities (humanities?) at Liberty University, Robertson’s little factory for making christo-fascist mannequins.

Babcock’s premise in a nutshell: the United States is so clearly right about, well, everything that we should just accept our greatness and duty to impose our will on everybody else:
Imperialism has received bad press for most of the last hundred years. We think of pith helmets when we hear the word, and tiger hunts, and pathetic little bands in remote Indian provinces playing "God Save the King." We think of a stiff upper lip that looks, over time, more like foolish bravado than noble resolve. We think of colonial hubris and the blind assertion of cultural superiority.

But ancient Rome -- always the brand name in empires -- is the better model. Rome demonstrated that empires can be about much more than blood sports, tiger hunts, rapacious oil companies and military adventures in far-off places. Empires can also stand for things that make the world a better place. Political stability, the rule of law, the virtues of political enfranchisement, the preservation of learning and the arts, and respect for other cultures and religions: These are some of the better legacies left to us by the Romans. They pulled this off -- with all their faults -- because they believed in that quaint concept we call destiny.

Americans, too, always have believed in a higher purpose. Almost 400 years ago, John Winthrop envisioned America as a shining "city upon a hill." Ronald Reagan echoed that language in speeches that resonated deeply with the American people. The liberal elites in Europe and America never understood the mythic power of Reagan's rhetoric -- just as they don't understand Bush's simple vocabulary today. That disconnect is easy to explain. If you believe that history is the product only of material forces -- and is never nudged onward by some transcendent will -- then all this talk about destiny will strike you as, well, a bit spooky.
Spot wonders how much political enfranchisement the Israelites and the peoples all the way to Britain got from the Romans. Yeah, Spotty does find it a little spooky, as does Howard Zinn:
Myths of American exceptionalism

Howard Zinn

The notion of American exceptionalism—that the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary—is not new. It started as early as 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when Governor John Winthrop uttered the words that centuries later would be quoted by Ronald Reagan. Winthrop called the Massachusetts Bay Colony a “city upon a hill.” Reagan embellished a little, calling it a “shining city on a hill.”

The idea of a city on a hill is heartwarming. It suggests what George Bush has spoken of: that the United States is a beacon of liberty and democracy. People can look to us and learn from and emulate us.

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

Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword, some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived that they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.
Wow! That was bracing. Zinn continues:
Expanding into another territory, occupying that territory, and dealing harshly with people who resist occupation has been a persistent fact of American history from the first settlements to the present day. And this was often accompanied from very early on with a particular form of American exceptionalism: the idea that American expansion is divinely ordained. On the eve of the war with Mexico in the middle of the 19th century, just after the United States annexed Texas, the editor and writer John O’Sullivan coined the famous phrase “manifest destiny.” He said it was “the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” At the beginning of the 20th century, when the United States invaded the Philippines, President McKinley said that the decision to take the Philippines came to him one night when he got down on his knees and prayed, and God told him to take the Philippines.
Spotty says that when you talk to God, it’s called praying. When God actually talks back, it is probably just schizophrenia. Actually, it was Fox Mulder who said that, the great philosopher king from the X-Files. And George Bush believes that God talks directly to him. More from Zinn:
Invoking God has been a habit for American presidents throughout the nation’s history, but George W. Bush has made a specialty of it. For an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, the reporter talked with Palestinian leaders who had met with Bush. One of them reported that Bush told him, “God told me to strike at al Qaeda. And I struck them. And then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did. And now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.” It’s hard to know if the quote is authentic, especially because it is so literate.
And this from Babcock:
Bush has embraced the transcendent view -- and the clear-cut vocabulary of war that goes with it. That certainty may creep out a lot of people, but that doesn't keep the president from declaring -- repeatedly and rightly -- that we represent a force for good in the world.
Spotty says make no mistake, what Babcock means by a force for good and a higher purpose is a certain brand of apocalyptic fundamentalist Christianity that is full of the foolish bravado, colonial hubris, and assertion of cultural superiority that Babcock makes fun of in the old British Empire.

Spotty really recommends that you read the entire Howard Zinn article. Zinn is an historian and the author of A People’s History of the United States, available at quality bookstores everywhere.


Is there an echo in here?

Neal St. Anthony of the StarTribune had a column in the business section yesterday about the need for energy conservation. Read it here. St. Anthony is optimistic about innovating ourselves out of our foreign oil dependence.

When you are finished, read Spot's post Jim, you seem worried and the link to Jim Kunstler contained therein. When you are done, you will have the spectrum from optimism to pessimism about our current oil situation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Clueless in Minneapolis . . .

From one of the big thinkers at Powerline:
August 21, 2005
Through many dangers

Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten reports a "good news" Iraq related story with a Minnesota connection: "In Iraq, Grace takes amazing hold." Don't miss this one.

Posted by Scott at 09:59 PM
The ignorance of these people would be funny if they weren't so damn dangerous. For Spot's analysis of Katie's recent column, see Good one Katherine!


Fill in the blanks . . .

This is from an unknown author somewhere in cyberia. Spot says it's a pretty good take on the rationalizations for "religious and ethnic" war. Spotty says scroll down for his posts and and the post comments about demonizing and dehumanizing our enemies.

WHY THE _______S HATE THE ________S
A Guide To All Ethnic and Religious Strife Through Human History

1. They stole our _______!

2. At the Battle of _______ in the _______ Century, they used unfair tactics to defeat us. We cannot rest until the souls of our dead are avenged.

3. Their religion is absurd. Offensive, really—did you know they actually believe __________? And they won't be happy until EVERYBODY believes it!

4. While it's not "politically correct" to say so, science has proven them to be _______.

5. They smell weird.

6. They live like animals. Children, education, the future—none of these matter to them.

7. Their music is primitive, and encourages people to _______.

8. Can you believe they eat _______? Think about that for a second—they actually put _______ in their MOUTHS.

9. They want to sully our women.

10. There are so many of them—all they do is _______! If we're not careful, someday soon we'll be submerged beneath a flood of ________!

11. If there's anything worse than a _________, it's a _________-lover. These traitors are trying to destroy us from within.

12. Sure, there are a few good _________s. But better safe than sorry.

13. Yes, we killed ________ of them. You can't expect them to understand it was in self-defense—they're totally irrational. Sooner or later, they will seek revenge, and when they do, we must be prepared to kill more. That's the only language they understand.

14. Of course we seem prejudiced. The media is obviously pro-_______.

15. They're the reason we're so unhappy.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Jim, you sound worried . . .

James Kunstler, in discussing the media's reporting that the price of oil really doesn't matter any more:
NPR's Marketplace show and a separate wire story piece on the web offered similar headlines (or lead-ins) which said (again I paraphrase) "US Economy No Longer Affected By Oil Prices." Of course, this is exactly the kind of magical thinking you'd expect to see in a public on extended leave from reality, despite the ubiquity of "reality television." The accepted idea is that since America outsourced most of its heavy industry to China and elsewhere, we now have an economy that runs just fine on Tic-tacs and Diet Pepsi, and oil is not in the picture anymore.

Wrong. America consumes one-quarter of the world's daily production of 84 million barrels of oil. More than half of our share is burned in cars and trucks. In fact, our economy now amounts to little more than running 200 million motor vehicles around the suburban metroplexes in the service of ever more slapped-together McHousing developments, big box stores, and fried chicken huts. That's our economy. That's all we do anymore.
You can read his whole post, which Spot recommends, here.

Good one Katherine!

Ha! Made you look.

Actually, the communis rixatrix delivers another serving of codswallop on Monday, August 22nd in the Strib. In a column titled In Iraq, Grace takes amazing hold, Katherine Kersten tells us of the foothold that Christianity has gained in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, thanks in large part to the efforts of Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. And as usual, Katie displays stunning ignorance of what the military calls the facts on the ground. As Frazier once said to Cliff, What color is the sky in your world, Katie? Well, he didn't say Katie, but you know what Spot means.

Katie tells us about an Iraqi Christian pastor who suffered under Saddam Hussein and who was so glad that the regime fell. She then tells us about all the help that the fellow has received from the evangelical Grace Church.

Katie, Spot hates to break the news to you, but there have been Christians in Iraq for a helluva lot longer than there have been Christians in, say, Eden Prairie. Yeah, it's true. Spotty is too cranky today to give you much of a history lesson, but he suggests that you take a look at this BBC piece on the BBC website. If you like to listen while you read, although Spot warns you of the dangers of multitasking, he also recommends this NPR interview.

Katie is happiest when she watches somebody grinding somebody else's face in the Good News.

Iraq is the home to many Christian sects, including Assyrian, Syrian Catholics, Armenian Orthodox and Armenian Catholics, and the Chaldeans. The latter group includes many people who still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. And here you always though He spoke King James' English! Shame on you, Katie!

Katie, did you know that former Deputy Prime Minister (when the Baathists where in charge) Tariq Aziz is a Chaldean Christian? The Baathists, as secularists, were actually reasonably good at preventing violence by Islamists against Christians. It is during the time of the punitive sanctions against Iraq after Gulf War I that the Iraqi people became more anti-Western, anti-Christian, and anti-Crusader. Whooda thunk?

If Spotty was a betting dog, which he is not, he would bet that the preacher mentioned in Katie's declamation is an Assyrian Christian. Assyrians Christians originated in the northern part of Iraq and share ethnicity with the Kurds. The Kurds, of course, have wanted the hell out of Iraq for some time, so Grace Church's protege's abuse may have had more to do with political affiliation than religious persuasion.

There is also evidence that things have gotten worse for Christians in Iraq since the fall of the Baathists. (Insert the standard disclaimer here: Saddam Hussein was a bad, bad man. Nobody wants him back. But as usual, things are a lot more nuanced than Katie will admit.) Spotty says read the linked BBC article.

Katie also mentions how Grace Church and Samaritan's Purse teamed up to do Good Works in Iraq. Samaritan's Purse is run by Billy Graham's kid, Franklin. Good ol' Franklin is one of the American preachers who lined up after 9/11 to call Islam an evil religion. Franklin Graham is one of the people who has helped make America's Crusader image much worse.

File this one under Evangelism, counterproductive.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Calling for resignations . . .

This riff on August 18th from Eric Alterman at Altercation:
I see the editors of The New Republic are calling on Kofi Annan to resign. “The big question is whether Annan will insist on continuing to burden the United Nations with his presence or finally go and write his memoirs.” Here (sub.) I don’t want to spend all day on this but, in light of the catastrophe in Iraq from which Annan tried to save us, here is a short list of people who ought to resign, long before we start worrying about Kofi:
  • George W. Bush
  • Dick Cheney
  • Donald Rumsfeld
  • Condoleezza Rice
  • John Bolton
  • Every Republican Senator and Congressman and about half of the Democrats
  • Judy Miller
  • The entire editorial staff of the Weekly Standard
  • Tom Friedman
  • Charles Krauthammer
  • All of the “talent” at Fox News, and much of it at CNN, and MSNBC
  • Limbaugh
  • The editors and owners of The New Republic…

Spotty says that the sanctimonious turd Norm Coleman, heir to Tail Gunner Joe, should be the first to go.

Faith-based falling . . .

From an article in the Onion:
"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

It's frankly nuts . . .

This from Juan Cole at Informed Comment:
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's apparent belief that Iran might be helping the radical Sunni fundamentalists in Iraq to kill Shiites is frankly nuts.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Another possible exit strategy . . .

In a recent post, Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque discusses an "exit strategy" for Iraq: war with Iran.
That's why the Bushists are throwing new tropes into the mix. In his chest-thumping bluster last week, Bush said pointedly that he would be willing to use military force to "provide the opportunity for people to live in free societies." That's a blank check for hitting Iran (and many other countries) any time he feels like it.

But such noble gasbaggery might still prove too vague to close the deal. So now they've waving the bloody shirt: "Iran is killing American soldiers in Iraq." That's the charge currently percolating through the corporate media -- NBC, Time magazine, etc. -- from the usual anonymous "senior officials" and the never-anonymous but always mendacious Pentagon warlord Don Rumsfeld. "It's true that weapons clearly, unambiguously, from Iran have been found in Iraq," he announced last week, with same clinched-sphincter certainty he once displayed in declaring that he knew where Iraq's WMD were hidden: "They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad, and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Left unexplained is why Shiite Iran would want to help Sunni insurgents overthrow a Shiite-dominated Iraqi government led by Tehran proteges (and employees) who are busy aligning the country with, er, Tehran. That's the kind of self-defeating stupidity one might expect from the Bush poltroons, who have spent $300 billion and almost 1,900 American lives to establish an unstable, terrorist-ridden, fundamentalist Islamic state in the center of the Middle East. But it's unlikely that the subtle Persians, with 3,000 years of statecraft behind them, would be foolish enough to kill the golden goose that Bush has handed them by destroying Saddam and installing their allies in power.
Why indeed?

Dog to sponge, part three . . .

Spot can only count to two in French.

Spotty's pal Dave fired in another one as a comment in response to Dog to Sponge, part deux. Spot wants to respond to it.
Spotty's post makes me feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony-where o where to begin?

Let's start with the most popular liberal mantra-Bush lied. I've heard this accusation thousands of times in the past year but never seen a shred of evidence for it. Bush may have been WRONG about WMD, but there is no reasonable basis for claiming he lied. As I have pointed out to Spotty several times, the vast majority of Democrats looked at the intel and agreed with the president.
Spot didn't say anything in the post commented on about president Bush's truthfulness. Spot says that Dave doth protest too much. Ah, that's rich. Protest too much! Get it?
Next, you want to try to solve the problem by using logic and reason. Your example is of an argument with a friend or loved one. Great intentions, but you cannot negotiate with someone who does not share your basic system of beliefs. You don't try to reason with your friend or loved one when they are drunk and have a gun, do you? No, you call the police.
Logic and reason are the only things that will ever get us out of Iraq.

Spotty says, as he suggested in the earlier post, that humans are pretty much the same wherever you go. One of the human universals is to demonize an enemy, call them bloodthirsty, irrational, zealots, evil, insensitive to human life, whatever. It just makes them easier to kill, especially in large numbers, and it makes it easier to just call all of the innocents who are slaughtered "collateral damage." The Islamic fundamentalists are doing it to us; we are doing it to them.

Remember, a lot of these folks were our friends (upon whom the US lavished money and material) when they were fighting the Soviets. Same thing is true of the Iraqis when they were fighting the hated Iranians. They went from friends to ruthless enemies so fast it makes Spot dizzy.

I challenge someone, the Sponge is a good candidate, to compile a list of some things that we have said about our enemies in Vietnam, the Cold War, Korea, WWII, WWI, and the Spanish American War. (You can go back farther than that, if you like.)

The first step in stopping the digging (see the First Law of Holes in part deux) is to stop the demonology.
Next, the myth of our allies. The French and German governments, being morally pure and completely honorable in their intentions, objected to the invasion of Iraq because it was morally wrong. Yeah, and the billions of dollars that they made every year in selling Iraqi oil had nothing to do with it. That's not counting the bribes given under the oil for food scandal.
Nobody is morally pure. Don't always have to be to be useful. From what Spot understands, the French are very helpful in Afghanistan and in the intelligence and law enforcement efforts against the terrorists. Remember, the French had Algeria and therefore have a little experience we could use. That's sure not a myth.

And Spotty believes that there were some US hogs at the oil for food trough, too.
And lastly, Spotty doesn't have to choose living on your knees or dying on your feet. Just wait long enough and the terrorists will make the choice for you.
That's a chance Spotty is willing to take. He has the courage of his convictions, just like Dave.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Absolutely nothing.

Spotty attended one of the many Cindy Sheehan vigils in the Twin Cities last night. All day, songs by Edwin Starr, Arlo Guthrie, and Country Joe and the Fish have been running through his head. Not that Spotty actually heard any of them at the vigil. But Spotty was struck by how gray the crowd was. There were younger people too, and kids, but there were a lot of people who were probably in protests 35 years ago over events at Kent State. Spotty has been thinking a lot about why that was.

The Vietnam protest movement really germinated on college campuses; often the catalysts were vets who returned early in the war and then went to college. There is a similar group today called Operation Truth. Spotty says go take a look at the site.

Spotty recalls that there were watershed events in the history of the war in Vietnam, like the Tet offensive, Kent State, and the Cambodian bombing by US forces, that pushed large groups of people who were having misgivings about the war over into the antiwar camp. Last night felt like such an event.

Perhaps it is because the rhetoric and the dissembling about stay the course and the progress we are making are so eerily and wrenchingly similar to those we heard during the Vietnam war that the generation in its fifties and sixties best understands the deceit and knavery that is afoot.

If Spotty has just described you, he asks that you please pass this on.


It's okay, Katie, just let it out . . .

There, there Katie. Don't you feel better now? Katherine Kersten's column today, August 18th, is one of the few glimpses into what makes Katie tick ever so erratically. The title of the column is Defeating dyslexia at home. Makes you want to brew your own beer or give yourself a permanent, doesn't it?

Katie tell us the story of her own daughter who struggled with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a monumental problem to learning; there is not a doubt about that. But people do overcome it, some spectacularly well, as this list suggests. Katie's daughter has beaten it too, according to the column; good for her.

Let's pick up the story here:
My daughter, now 20, has a learning disability. The umbrella term is dyslexia --- unusual difficulty with reading. But she also has difficulties with math and sequential memory. We had her in four schools over five years. [Really gave the little tyke a chance to settle in!] Though we encountered several dedicated special-education teachers, we never found a school with a clear, coordinated plan for poor readers. Progress seemed to depend on the luck of the draw -- would she get an effective teacher or not? But a half-hour a week with a specialist made little difference anyway.

I used to wake up at 3:00 a.m. and gaze sadly out the window thinking, "She'll never read a novel; she'll never go to college." [She would however have been spared the turgid political polemics urged on her by her mother.]

At the end of fourth grade, I got a note from my daughter's teacher, who said she was "regressing." We were at a crossroads. With more failure, we could see an attitude of defeatism becoming a permanent mark on her character. Public and private schools seemed to offer only bits and pieces of what she needed. With time and options running out, we made the decision to teach her at home.
Spotty observes that Katie's daughter was lucky to have an educated mother who could afford to turn in some bon bon and soaps time to work intensively with her. Well sort of lucky. (Just kidding Katherine! Spotty has no doubt that you are a grizzly bear of a mother!) For a child born into a family without the resources, human and financial, like Katie's daughter's, it's public school special education or nothing.

Unintentionally, Katie also responds to one of the favorite conservative criticisms of public schools: all they do is make students feel good about themselves. With more failure, we could see an attitude of defeatism becoming a permanent mark on her character. Katie and Mr. Katie understood something: self-esteem is the sine qua non for learning.

Katie continues:
As time went on, I discovered that my initial instructional strategy -- just explaining things again in a louder voice -- didn't work. We needed to identify learning techniques that would act as keys to unlock her memory and unleash her abilities.
This is of course the conservative strategy for talking to non-conservatives and non-English speaking brown people around the world. It is equally effective in these cases.

The happy ending:
As defeatism faded, my daughter developed a new love of learning.
Yup. That's the way it works.

Do you know, gentle readers, that some special education students have a paraprofessional or aide with them throughout the school day? Many have an aide for part of the day, as well as spending time with a special education teacher in a "resource room" or other quiet environment. This is obviously expensive.

Special education students cost more to educate, and this is why the state and the feds provide special education funding in addition to the per-pupil funding formula. But they really don't provide enough money to do what the schools are ostensibly required by law to do. Special education funding can be a drain on regular education funding, and it requires school administrators to walk a thin line to keep different groups of parents satisfied.

It is inner-city schools that have the most special education students: learning disabilities, behavioral problems, ESL, etc. They get the most categorical aid, which leads conservatives to express outrage at the per-pupil costs in a district like Minneapolis.

Here's another interesting tidbit. If a Minneapolis special education student goes to school in another district under open enrollment, Minneapolis has to pick up the special education costs of that student, whether or not the categorical aid received is sufficient or not. This is among the reasons that the assault on the inner city public schools is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And of course, private schools do not have to mess around with any of this nonsense.


Spotty says . . .

Taft rhymes with graft. A coincidence? Spotty doesn't think so.

A snippet from the article linked above:
Taft was charged Wednesday with failing to report 52 gifts worth nearly $6,000, including dinners, golf games and professional hockey tickets over four years. Taft earlier had revealed that he failed to report some outings but said the omissions were accidental.

Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said the gifts included two golf outings worth $100 each paid for by coin dealer Tom Noe, a Republican fundraiser whose $50 million investment of state money in rare coins launched the scandal that led to the accusations against Taft.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Freedom isn't free . . .

Part of the guv's announcement yesterday concerning the Guard call up in Minnesota:
We've all heard the phrase that freedom isn't free. It's also true that not everybody pays the same price.
Spotty wishes he had a nickel for every time some wing nut said freedom isn't free. He would endow a chair at the vet school.

The governor fell right in line with the rest of the government charlatans who continue to mislead their citizens - with decreasing success - about the misconceived and totally bungled war on terror. They try to sooth our doubt with platitudes about supporting the troops and the price of freedom.

It's all a giant confidence game. More people are recognizing that all the time. Cindy Sheehan's camping adventure may be a tipping point, and that is why this plain spoken but obviously angry woman is driving the right wing crazy. They vilify her, call her names, question her patriotism, but they can't lay a glove on her. Why? Because she has a moral authority that none of the administration's toadies and sycophants can touch.

There was an op-ed piece in a Lexington, Kentucky newspaper last Friday, August 12th. Here is some of that letter:

Iraq war: tragedy of errors
Honorable Marine died in dishonorable war
By Missy Comley Beattie

He is number 1,828, 1,829 or 1,830. We don't know for sure, because so many died last week.

Marine Lance Cpl. Chase Johnson Comley died when his vehicle was hit head on by a suicide bomber. His death admits his family to a club no one wants to join: the grieving, questioning families who have heard the dreaded ring of the doorbell followed by a messenger's words, "We regretfully inform you that your son ..."

You realize that nothing you've thought, done or felt has prepared you for this reality. The feeling is so much worse than a broken heart. It is an evisceration.
. . .

For those of you who still trust the Bush administration -- and your percentage diminishes every day -- let me tell you that my nephew Chase Johnson Comley did not die to preserve your freedoms. He was not presented flowers by grateful Iraqis, welcoming him as their liberator.

He died fighting a senseless war for oil and contracts, ensuring the increased wealth of President Bush and his administration's friends.
. . .

He died in a country erupting into civil war and turned into a hellhole by Bush, a place where democracy has no chance of prevailing, a country that will become a theocracy like Saudi Arabia.
. . .

And think of someone who says, "We will not cut and run," but who did just that years ago when he was called.
. . .

For many Americans, the war is an abstraction. But it is not an abstraction for the innocent Iraqis whose lives have been devastated by our smart bombs. And it certainly is not an abstraction for those of us who have heard the words that change lives forever.

So think of my family's grief -- grief that will never end. Think of all the families. Think of the wounded, the maimed, the psychologically scarred.

And then consider: The preservation of our freedom rests not on U.S. imperialism but on actively changing foreign policies that are conquest-oriented and that dehumanize our own young who become fodder for endless war as well as people in other countries who are so geographically distant that they become abstract.

The answer is not Bush's mantra: "They're jealous of our freedoms."

And, finally, think about flowers: The flowers for Chase Comley will be presented not by grateful Iraqis but by loved ones honoring him as he's lowered to his grave and buried in our hearts.

Missy Comley Beattie of New York is the aunt of Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley of Lexington who was killed in Iraq last weekend.
You can and should read the whole thing here. It is raw and electric throughout. Governor Pawlenty, who just consigned more Minnesotans to death and dismemberment, should read it and weep.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dog to sponge, part deux . . .

One of Spotty's most faithful readers - and persistent critics, God love him - is Dave. He posted a comment to And then the dog said to the sponge that is thoughtful and it also provides a good introduction to what Spotty wants to write about in this second installment in reply to Mr. Sponge's balance of terror.
Let's say for a moment that Spot is right-that we need to stop creating terrorists to win the war on terrorism. Let's imagine for a moment that Kerry had won the election, and that the dems had one back control of the Congress. Imagine further that we pulled our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, whatever the consequences. What then? Would the terrorists stop hating us? Would they say "gee, those Americans aren't really so bad, maybe we should leave them alone"? Or would they maybe smell blood on the water and come after us even harder? It's not our foreign policy they hate, it's our whole way of life. Anything that we do that violates a strict view of Shi'a Islam is offensive to them, and they hate Americans for spreading our culture. And that's the rub. They are, by American standards, not thinking rationally. You can't reason with them, or try to placate them. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Dave Thul
First, Spotty wants to express his gratitude to Dave for granting Spot even a moment of rightness! You don't know how much it means to him.

Dave has identified what political scientists call the tiger by the tail conundrum. Well, actually they don't, but they should. How do you unwind or resolve a conflict that may well be made worse in the short run by attempting to solve it? You start by applying an old principal govening human behavior. It is called The First Law of Holes (FLH).

The First Law of Holes states:
When you are in a hole, the first order of business is to stop digging.
Now some readers may think this principle was conceived by Tom Friedman, the formerly brilliant writer for the New York Times. It was not. Spot is quite certain that it was first espoused by a group of influential eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers.

It is pretty apparent that our presence in Iraq is making the terrorism threat to the US and our allies worse. Spotty doesn't have any paticular citation for that; he just suggests that you read the papers. The FLH tells us to stop doing what is making things worse. The FLH is pretty intuitive, really, which is why George Bush's telling us to stay the course in Iraq is reassuring to fewer and fewer people.

There is a political science guru, Professor Huntington as Spotty recalls (Spotty doesn't read many political science journals), who says in essence what Dave is saying; we're in a Religious War of the Worlds; there is nothing we can do to avoid it, and we had better buckle down and win it. And Huntington has his adherents. But Spotty and lots of people smarter than Spotty say that Huntington is wrong.

Spotty says think of a lasting argument you had with your significant other, co-worker, neighbor, whatever. What did you do? Spotty will tell you. You started to think of all of the other things the other person ever did to piss you off, his or her annoying personal habits, and every other grievance you ever had against that individual, whether or not it had anything to do with the argument at hand.

Why, oh why, do people behave this way? Again Spotty will tell you why. It provides psychological reinforcment, helping you stick to your guns. Imagine the cognitive dissonance that would occur if our minds, whenever we got into an argument, began to think of all the good traits of our opponent. It would be like trying to hate puppies.

It is why, as Spotty has written about before, president Bush wants us to think of terrorism as a free-floating and inexplicable evil, entirely inhuman. But in Spotty's observation, people around the world have more in common than not, regardless of religion - that's blasphemy to fundamentalists of every stripe, Spotty acknowledges, but it's true.

As Spotty has also written before, the roots of Islamist terror lay in the same things people always go to war about, resources, pride, etc. Why does this seem like a religious war? See hating puppies, supra.

Will dismantling our Iraq policy solve the terrorism problem? Certainly not in the near or even medium term. It took most of the 20th century for the West to screw up the Middle East as bad as it did; it will probably take most of the 21st for Humpty Dumpty to reassemble itself. So what in blazes does the US do?

It is apparent that we cannot bloody afford what we are doing now. In Spotty estimation, we should have started a crash program of energy conservation and development of alternative sources of energy years ago. It will be one of the greatest ironies of American history if we fight to exhaustion to stabilize our Middle Eastern oil supply and then find that the region is running out of oil anyway, as some people think it is. A Manhatten Project on energy would actually be good for the economy.

We should also take some of the money we would otherwise piss away in the sand and use it to property secure our ports, chemical and nuclear facilities, etc. here in the "homeland."

And finally, and this may be the hardest of all, we need to genuinely reach out to our traditional allies (Germany, France, Canada, Japan for example) and, if necessary, beg for help in extricating us from Iraq, to get their contractors and NGOs involved, and to help press the law enforcement side in the fight against terrorism, which it should have been in the first place.

As far as living on one's knees or dying on one's feet are concerned, Spotty would prefer to do neither, and he doesn't think that's the choice.

Monday, August 15, 2005

What's that giant sucking sound?

For those of you who are too busy - and shame on you if you are - to keep up with the progress of our world toward the Rapture, please check out Hammer's Monday Rapture Watch at Three Way News. It is a convenient place for Rapture tidbits all tied up with a bow.

If you have been living a subterranean existence for some years now, the Rapture, or God's Giant Vacuum Cleaner, was foretold in the Book of Revelation, a pre-chemical hallucination known in some circles as the Gospel According to Fellini.

According to Rapture enthusiasts, at some point in the near future the Godly will be sucked out of their clothes and hoovered off the earth to heaven. When this happens, of course, the Godly will be nekked, for shame, so Spotty recommends that the Godly always carry an extra swim suit or something suitably modest. One can never to too prepared!

Somebody has to tell the president the war is over.

That's the title of a Frank Rich column in Sunday's New York Times. Spotty would especially like Dave to read it.

Jesus wants you for a sunbeam . . .

This is not a post to skewer organized religion. Well, maybe a little. Our favorite communis rixatrix is at it again today (August 15th), telling us how soft we've become, how pleasure seeking, and that we all need a long walk in the hot sun to rekindle our spirits of tight-assed asceticism.

It is apparent to Spotty that Katy has spent altogether too much time in the hot sun. [If this blog had audio, the background music at this point would be Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen.]

Katy like to start her columns with a deep, profound, unanswerable question, and then of course, proceed to answer it. It's a slick rhetorical trick. Here's today's:
Why such an outpouring of religious interest among young people, at a time when popular culture emphasizes pleasure-seeking, and elites view religious belief with suspicion?
You can read the whole thing titled For youth, pilgrimage is a rite of passage. Katy goes on to describe World Youth Day XX (that's twenty, not double X rated) later this month in Germany and tell of some local youth (with extravagant chaperoning of course) who will attend.

Communis rixatrix like Katy have been telling us that the youth are going to hell in a handbasket since time immemorial. They just aren't happy - if you can call it happy - unless they are pointing out someone who has slipped from their own joyless path of grace and by spreading gloom dust over everything. Not satisfied to just go off and join Opus Dei or set up a little factory to make whips for self-flagellation, the communis rixatrix needs to be sure that we are all just as damn miserable as she is.

In some circles, the gloom dust is called evangelism, or telling the good news. Just how telling most of the people in the world they are headed for hell because they aren't part of the in crowd that has been saved is good news is a concept that has always eluded Spotty, but then Spotty is not an evangelical.

Katy says that elites (this is a social conservative's code word for liberals) are suspicious of religious belief. It's not belief that's the problem, it's the practice, stupid. Americans are the most pious non-practicing (meaning social behavior) Christians on earth. Spotty really wants you to read a Harper's article that Spotty has renamed Choking to Death on the Bread of Life.

Here's another nugget from the column:
Mornings will feature religious teaching, including the chance to explore mission opportunities and talk theology with the world's bishops. Young people will remember Christ's Passion, using a giant cross that youths have carried to Germany through 26 countries. Everywhere, there will be opportunities to attend mass and participate in the Catholic sacrament of penance.
Yeah, especially if some of those youth can evade those doggone chaperones!

Katherine quotes a priest as saying:
They [the youth attending the festivities] want more than endless computer games and music.
Okay, how about taking a youth group to inner-city Chicago, an impoverished Indian reservation, or to Appalachia for a week to work on sub-standard housing? Actually do something with one's religious faith, rather than sit around and talk about how cool it is?

Okay, that's probably a little unfair of Spotty, in that some of these kids undoubtedly do the social gospel stuff, too. But still.

Spotty isn't really interested in religion that has as a main goal the dividing of the world into US and THEM. Sort of like a gang.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

You'll be hungry an hour later . . .

There has been a lot of liberal wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Center for the American Experiment’s new website Intellectual Takeout. Spotty says that it will actually provide endless hours of entertainment in the college classroom.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, and that may include most of you, the Center of the American Experiment is an aquarium of bloviators who are not employable anywhere else, a sheltered workshop for conservatives, so to speak. In the fifteen years or so of its existence, the roster of the un- or underemployed conservatives who have taken refuge at the CAE is impressive.

The CAE is bankrolled by a group of wealthy benefactors whose commitment to the welfare of this discrete and insular minority is impressive and commendable. Characteristically modest, Mitch Perlstein is quoted as saying:
This was my idea, said Pearlstein, a writer and president emeritus of the center. It has nothing whatsoever to do with running errands for the wealthiest people in the United States.

Spotty thinks he seems kind of defensive.

The Center has recently announced its new website, Intellectual Takout, as an antidote to liberal bias on college campuses. It is supposed to provide intellectual ammunition for tongue-tied conservative students who want to engage their contemporaries and liberal college professors in Meaningful Dialogue. Moon balls for Pete Sampras are more like it.

Spotty would love to be around when gems like this are declaimed:

Oh yeah? Well Ronald Reagan single-handedly defeated Communism.

Jesus would have supported the war against Iraq, because he hated Muslims.

Huge and growing income inequality is good, because the poor will only spend their money on low value-added items like food.

Just remember grasshoppers, it is never good to go into a battle of wits lightly armed. Our young conservative friends may think it will be helpful to be equipped with a one-page defense of say, the existence of the Easter Bunny. But Spotty says that speaking up will just expose you to more ridicule.

Spotty’s recommendation is to find a nice conservative little Bible college somewhere that won’t challenge the things your Mommy and Daddy have told you.


Ain't the web wonderful?

Spotty was just doing a little checking to see where referrals to The Cucking Stool come from. He was gratified to learn that he is the top selection on MSN to this query:
What's the problem if your stool turn black?

One of Spotty's little hot buttons . . .

The tall grass is now hooked up to the web. Who knew?

There was a letter in today's Strib (8/13) that pushed one of Spotty's buttons.
Park students' cars

Facing yet another round of high gasoline and crude oil prices as well as the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, I have a simple solution.

Currently there is a seat reserved on every school bus in America for those attending public schools. There may be convenient, but not practical, reasons for a "child" to drive a car to school. Driving is a privilege, not a right. It's time to suspend the practice of students being allowed to drive to public school. This would save millions of barrels of gasoline each year.

Lance Nemanic, Shakopee.
No it's not the suggestion that kids take the bus rather than drive to high school. We all need to make better use of transit, not just high school kids. The students who want to drive to school are, after all, just emulating their parents.

What really cheeses Spotty off is the statement that driving is a privilege, not a right. Really? Then the government could decide to deprive all people with green eyes or red hair of driver's licenses. Or maybe black people.

We are all fed this privilege crapola from the time we start learning to drive. The fact is that if you are old enough, pass the tests, and keep your record clean enough it is your civil right to drive. And don't let Lance or some door knob at the DMV tell you otherwise.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Adieu for a little while . . .

And now, boys and girls, your faithful friend Spotty is going to take a few days to play in the tall grass with other big dogs.

And then the dog said to the sponge . . .

Mr. Sponge over at Clever Peasantry posed a question. If Spotty had half a brain in his head, he would have blown off the question as merely rhetorical. But he didn't, and he is mightily sorry for it. It is really Katherine Kersten's fault, he supposes, as so many things are.

Kersten wrote a column about how it was necessary to vaporize a couple hundred thousand people to see if our new atomic bombs worked and to give that extra special kick to the tottering Japanese empire. I guess the Japanese are just damn lucky we didn't have more of those bad boys ready to drop!

So our friend Sponge, using his prodigious gift of free association, says Golly, (well he didn't say golly, but work with Spot) isn't terrorism the new atomic bomb? In other words (and believe Spotty when he says you are getting the short version here), both are indiscriminate attacks calculated to cause mass casualties and destruction of property. And both are employed to achieve an objective. So far, so good.

Then Mr. Sponge analogizes a balance of terror as a deterrent to terrorism the same way mutually-assured destruction (MAD) served - and still serves - as a deterrent to war, especially nuclear war. You can read the whole post here. What prompted Sponge to think of this was the statement by a Colorado congressman that if there is another terrorist attack on the US, we should bomb Mecca. (Boy, wouldn't that make the Saudis stingy with their oil!)

So here's the question: is the balance of terror idea workable or desirable? Spotty doesn't believe that Sponge really thinks much of the idea, but Sponge does say that it may be where we are headed in the war on terra, especially for the folks who want to turn the whole thing into a War of the Religious Worlds. And Spotty regretfully agrees.

Here's the thing. Wars ostensibly about religion are almost always about something else, wolves dressed as religious sheep. As described by Kasper Gutman in the Maltese Falcon, the Crusades were "largely a matter of loot." The Spaniards were not so much interested in Christianizing the natives in South America as they were interested in the plunder available. Sure, they took along the odd priest, whose job it was more often than not to declare the natives beyond redemption and therefore eligible for slaughter.

Islamic terrorism is about Islamic or Arab shame and American foreign policy, gussied up into religious extremism. Once a terrorist is "born," he pretty much stays a terrorist until he is killed or is too old to pick up a gun. Very few terrorists retire to a life of ease. So, the trick is to keep terrorists from being born. Terrorist birth control: what a concept!

The terrorists are non-state actors of course, and Spotty does not believe they are deterrable. Period. The Bush administration has that much right; that's why there has been so much saber rattling about “regimes that support terrorists”; regimes can be deterred, even really hinky ones like North Korea. That's also why it is important to stop creating so many terrorists; we can never kill them all.

If Islamist terrorists were deterrable, all of the Israeli reprisals for bombings and terror incidents in Israel would have had some effect. You could argue that there would have been more terror without reprisals, but Spot doubts it's true. If they were deterrable, they wouldn't retreat into mosques (including some rather sacred ones) and sacred cemeteries in Iraq to seek refuge when attacked.

Our chimpanzee president and his sycophant Secretary of State (Spotty had a recent post about the latter) tell us that terrorists are just evil and hate us for our freedoms. Negative, you two. They hate us because we soak up so much of the world's resources, support repressive regimes in the process, and because we don't seem to have any restraining influence on Israel; Israel being one of the saddest cases of the oppressed becoming the oppressor that probably has ever been. It is convenient to think of our enemies as boogie men; then we don't have to reflect on whether we had at least something to do with creating them.

The key to producing terrorist condoms lies in the last paragraph. It is the only key. Think of it as supply side terrorist control. If we want to preserve our profligate "way of life," we will just have to live with midwifing more and more terrorists. Then, we will spend more and more blood and treasure until we collapse, exhausted, and become reacquainted with our old friend reality.

There are also legal and obviously moral - Mr. Sponge addresses the latter in his post - objections to the idea of a balance of terror to restrain terrorists. Spotty will probably take this up again in a future post.

Exit strategy . . .

Chris Floyd has this great post on Saddam's upcoming trial on his site Empire Burlesque.

Is mankind essentially good, or bad?

From Home Education Magazine Online:
* More holistic approaches to reading instruction (whole language being the primary one mentioned) are more child-centered and seem to assert the inherent goodness of the child which is opposed to the basic Christian doctrine of a sin nature derived from the fall of Adam.

* Related to the above is the belief that any approach other than intensive phonics is somehow rooted in humanism. Many Christian educators associated current basal textbook programs and the whole language philosophy used in public schools with the New Age movement (a quasi-religious belief system that incorporates many Eastern notions of reality). Perhaps this is a logical conclusion reached by educators who generally believe that public schools operate from a humanistic agenda.

* A phonics approach to reading instruction, with its usual dependence on drill and rote memorization, is more compatible with the rigidly disciplined environment of most Christian schools. It is also more compatible with the "back-to-basics" movement that has characterized educators who lean toward more conservative beliefs.
Read the whole article here.

Does this mean there has never been morality outside Christianity, and never want of it within Christianity?

What's wrong with cutting and running?

In the beginning of this article, retired general William E. Odom, also a former NSC chief, says:
By William E. Odom

Source: Nieman Watchdog

Everything that opponents of a pullout say would happen if the U.S. left Iraq is happening already, says retired Gen. William E. Odom, the head of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration. So why stay?

If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Aren’t they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

1) We would leave behind a civil war.

2) We would lose credibility on the world stage.

3) It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.

4) Iraq would become a haven for terrorists.

5) Iranian influence in Iraq would increase.

6) Unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in Iraq's neighbors.

7) Shiite-Sunni clashes would worsen.

8) We haven’t fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.

9) Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.

Odom goes on to respond to each of these arguments for staying here.

Incidentally, Nick Coleman had a good column yesterday called It's time to discuss this war as adults. Spotty says go read it.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bill Clinton interviewed by the French . . .

Excerpts from an Agency France Presse story:
Bill Clinton calls for US strategy that creates partners, not terrorists

Tue Aug 9, 9:55 AM ET

The United States needs a strategy that "creates more partners and fewer terrorists," former US president Bill Clinton said in an interview.

"We can't put the whole world behind walls. We can't kill all our enemies. ... The fate of Americans is closely entwined with that of other peoples," he said in comments reported in the French newspaper Le Monde.
. . .

His country needs "a strategy which consists of destroying the legitimacy of an ideology which falsely relies on religion to create and maintain conflicts," he said.

"Religion must become a means to resolving conflicts."
Spot thought our friend Bob (see the last post) would especially enjoy the article, which you can read in its entirety here.