Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What is the plural of doofus?

Doofi. Spot thinks so anyway. One of the doofi at Power Line, Johnny Rocketseed (name used under license from Clever Peasantry) says this today:
November 30, 2005
President Outlines Strategy On Iraq

This morning, the White House released a document outlining the administration's strategy for victory in Iraq; it is accessible here. From a quick review, it looks good, although I doubt that anything in it will be new to those who have been paying attention.

At this moment, President Bush is delivering a speech on Iraq, its centrality to the war on terror, and the administration's strategy for victory, at the Naval Academy.

I'll have further comment when I've had time to read the White House report.
Posted by John at 09:05 AM

It looks good
. All of Spot's readers know what a great military strategist Johnny Rocketseed is. Spot feels much better now. Johnny says we can all sleep securely.

Spot says it looks good is damnation with faint praise. Especially when you consider the fruits and sweets that Johnny Rocketseed usually delivers up for George.

For a rather darker, and Spot suspects more realistic, take on George's rumble in the sand, Spotty recommends Martin van Creveld's opinion piece in the Forward. Martin van Creveld is a professor of military history at the Hebrew University.

Tags: versus

Sigmund Spot returns!

Today, boys and girls, Sigmund Spot vants to talk about insanity.

George Bush delivered a Major Address this morning at the Navel (Spot spelled it that way on purpose) Academy. It was a rehash of every speech that George has given since the Iraq war began, or perhaps since he announced "Mission Accomplished." What has George learned? Apparently nothing. What lesson should we draw from zis?

If your patient does the zame ting over and over again, hoping for a different result, you must conclude he is inzane.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Moral cripples . . .

There was no Katie column on Monday. She must still be at home cleaning up after that family Thanksgiving! Well of course, this leaves Spotty somewhat at loose ends. So, Spot is going to wax as philosophic as he is able, on a Katie-like subject.

What is the role of religion – especially Katie’s brand of religious fundamentalist thinking – on the ability to make moral decisions? Spot says that it is overwhelmingly crippling. Whoa, Spotty, that’s pretty strong; do you really mean that? Yup.

Any dictionary that you care to consult will tell you that one definition of faith is belief in the absence of validation. That’s why the challenge to any religious orthodoxy provokes such a vicious reaction. Faith appeals to emotion, not critical thinking. Religious orthodoxy cannot permit rational examination of its tenets.

Katie gives us an example of this in this in a recent column, commented on by Spot here. Katie says (commenting on her distaste for same-sex marriage) I am a Christian; I hold certain beliefs, and I am entitled to hold them as a matter of religious freedom. Questioning my beliefs is taboo. This becomes a problem when Katie and her ilk think this alone is a sufficient basis for making public policy.

Organized religion also promotes a sense of us and not us, or the other. Part of the function of religious ritual is the reinforcement of the boundaries of the group. This works surprisingly well because humans have become wired over millennia to operate this way. For a long time when humankind was into hunting and gathering, being able to identify quickly whether someone was in the tribe or not could save your life.

If you accept uncritically the tenets of a religious orthodoxy in order to maintain group membership and identity, you have abdicated your responsibility as a moral actor. Religious orthodoxy becomes a substitute for examining the world and your relationship to it. Kind of like nationalism.

If you’re not a moral actor, then you’re just following orders. That was an unsuccessful defense in the Nuremberg trials. That’s kind of an over the top analogy, but Spot believes that it is essentially accurate. If you’re not a moral actor, you can be Jimmy Swaggert and say the devil made me do it.

On the other hand, if you are a moral actor, you will examine religious tenets in light of the subsequent history of humankind, the writings of other learned philosophers, and in light of science and reason. To refuse to do that is a moral self-maiming.

That’s probably where Katie got the limp.


Monday, November 28, 2005

A Spotty with an oak leaf collar

This letter in Star and Stripes is starting to make its way around the 'net. It earns a Spotty for its author.
War based on a lie

Weapons of mass destruction? I’m still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we’ll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of “democracy” and “freedom” touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces’ belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and “laissez-faire” society. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonald’s, but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again. [italics are Spot's]

I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn’t exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans “feel good” about the “War on Terrorism.” The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, “bring ’em on” so we can get our “mission accomplished” and get out of this mess.

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

And yo, Jim Lileks, note what the Captain says about western civilization!


A new award and winner!

Last week, Smartie over at Power Liberal suggested that readers should take a look at James Lileks’ post on the Bleat (his blog) the day before Thanksgiving. Pay particular attention, Smartie says, to the final paragraph. As you might expect, these are unexplored environs for Spot, but being the obedient dog that he is, Spotty did surf over there. Here’s the paragraph:
Public service: Chris Matthews got banged around in the blogs for remarks he made about the need to understand terrorists. He replied, at length, on the Dennis Prager show Tuesday. His show is not archived online, so I am taking the liberty of posting the exchange here, for one day. (This link does not work in the archived version of this post.) Matthews labors to make a point which seems both obvious and irrelevant, but matters a great deal to him. In any case, I don’t “hate” the other side; I just find their ideas inconsistent with the basic themes of Western Civ, and hence I oppose them. It’s interesting to note how Matthews makes a point of using US support of the Shah as a grave mistake, given the horrible consequences that followed from his boss’ removal of support from the Peacock throne. But you can judge for yourself. See you tomorrow, with bells on.

First, a digression. Spotty’s readers know about the Spotty award, given to someone who writes a letter to the editor or other opinion piece expressing thoughts that Spot wishes he had put in a post. For some time, Spot has been thinking about an anti-Spotty type award. But then he thought that the whole site was kind of an anti-Spotty, except for the Spottys, of course. Well, what to do?

Spot decided he should have a special, extra-mile, kind of award for writing that expresses the distilled essence of doctrinaire, bilious, right-winger thought. And James Lileks gave Spot the perfect occasion to award the first one. But what to call it?

Spot has decided to name the award in honor of all of the movie extras who played frightened villagers in old Frankenstein or other horror movies. You know, the kind who ran around with torches and pitchforks looking for people to burn or impale? The award will be called the Ignorant Superstitious Villager award; perhaps it will come to be known as the ISV for short. As with the Spotty, the grant of the ISV award is solely within the discretion of the publisher of The Cucking Stool, namely Spot. There are no appeals, and there are no prizes, except for the kudos or obloquy, as the case may be, that goes along with receiving the award.

Okay, back to cases. The arrayed right-wing blogosphere, including our awardee, have raised a howl because MSNBC’s Chris Matthews had the gall to suggest that we might have better luck if we spent some time trying to understand the terrorists! But Chris, it is so much easier to loathe and fear people we know little or nothing about! That should be so obvious. Look, it is hard enough to write people off as infected with evil spirits as it is, without some smart ass going around suggesting they might have some human attributes.

And Jim (he hates that), Spot appreciates western civilization, and the white man’s burden and all that, but maybe in the Middle East they don’t. Ya think?

Tags: shoulders the

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Crying in the Wilderness . . .

Remember Intellectual Takeout, the website for conservative college students? Well, Spot had forgotten about it until he reminded himself in a recent post. N.B. If one reminds oneself about something, was it truly forgotten? Think about it.

Intellectual Takeout, run by the Center of the American Experiment, a winger tank, is dedicated to helping conservative students weather the vicissitudes of life in that den of liberalism, the modern college campus. It offers talking points on a variety of hot-button social issues, including some that used to be matters of scientific inquiry! Spot has written about Intellectual Takeout before, here, here, and here.

There is one section of Intellectual Takeout that does intrigue Spot. It is called Ask the Professor. Readers are invited to submit questions on things like cultural studies, economics, education, "foundations of liberty," history and political science. Intellectual Takeout was launched in September with great fanfare. Well, CAE crowed about it anyway. How many questions has the Professor been burdened with these past three months?

Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Spot says check it out yourself.

Spotty also says let's wake up the Professor with questions. If you write to the Professor, especially those of you with an edu domain email, please send a copy of your question to Spotty. There must be something you are dying to know about one of these issues.


Pass the graham crackers . . .

Spot awoke from his tryptophan and Vouvray induced coma yesterday, and found out that the internets weren’t working, at least Spot’s weren’t. Spot spent the day on the telephone with people who spoke a very strange language about DSL slam setups (he thinks that what it was, anyway), and a very sad thing called packet rejections. Poor packets. Anyway, it got fixed last evening. Thank you Chad.

There have already been some rude comments about Katie’s paean to Thanksgiving. Far be it from Spot to pile on. Although the canine tendency to do that is undeniable; think of a dogpile in football!

Katie gives us her childhood Thanksgiving memories. Most of us have some kind of warm recollections of Thanksgiving observance of our youth: grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, parents, siblings, shenanigans; why one time I remember that my cousins and I . . . . well, never mind.

Katie’s recollections are covered with a thick crust of sugary goo, sort of like cinnamon rolls with too much caramel on them. They’re hard to swallow.

They’re also a little martial:
Growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa, I always woke up early on Thanksgiving morning. Our family traditionally hosted about 45 relatives for dinner, and I was proud of my position as chief table-setter. In the dining room I carefully laid out the lace tablecloth, and arranged the little wicker cornucopia with the brightly colored gourds tumbling out of it. Then I set the card tables in the living room, and draped bed sheets as table coverings over the Ping-Pong table downstairs.

My most challenging mission was to scrounge enough candleholders and saltshakers for every room. [italics are Spot’s]

Ah, capo de flatware. A splendid job for Katie, one that she could apply her razor-sharp perfectionism to all morning and most of the afternoon, and thereby stay out of people’s way in the kitchen. Spot is sure that the job she did is still the stuff of legend in Ft. Dodge, Iowa.

And of course, Katie can’t let a column go without preaching to us about our miserable failure to properly observe holidays: Christmas (of course), Independence Day, Memorial Day, and (this must have made Katie shudder) Labor Day.

Spot on the other hand likes to observe, or at least think about, the post-First Thanksgiving bonfire:
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.

This is from an essay by the historian Howard Zinn. Spotty wonders if the Pilgrims made s’mores!


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It made Spot think of banter with Dave!

Here's a bit from a Robert Dreyfus article in Rolling Stone:
"The key word in 'exit strategy' is not 'exit' but 'strategy,'" said Max Cleland, the former Democratic senator from Georgia who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam. At a recent congressional hearing, Cleland warned that the United States must plan its withdrawal before U.S. forces have to pile into helicopters and beat a hasty retreat from a besieged Green Zone in Baghdad. "We need an exit strategy that we choose -- or it will certainly be chosen for us," Cleland said. "I've seen this movie before. I know how it ends." [italics are Spot's]

Remember to get that picture for Spotty, Dave!


Racing or ambling?

Spot has always heard that editors who write headlines are an ironic bunch. Take today (November 23rd) for example. In the print edition of the Strib, on page A1, above the fold, reads this headline: U.S. racing the clock to find alternate fuels. Spot would have written US energy policy ambles into oblivion. Because that's where we're headed, boys and girls.

Mark Dayton has it right in the article:
"We have done very little really, as a country, to promote the development and marketing of energy alternatives," said Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., a former state energy and economic development commissioner. "We've given lip service to them."

Calling US efforts "lip service" is actually being charitable. Remember when Trent Lott, then making his cameo appearance at Majority Leader in the Senate, held a press conference specifically to ridicule efficient cars when the Republicans killed efforts to increase the CAFE standards? Remember when Dick Cheney took time off from barbecuing Muslims to say that conservation was "personal virtue?" Remember when Sen. Grassley from Iowa recently said that when he turned on a light switch he expected the light to go on, and that he expected the car to start when he turned the ignition? Suggesting that was somehow his American birthright?

Spotty remembers, and he is just a dog.

Whoops! Spotty did forget something! Remember when the CAE's website for college students, Intellectual Takeout, criticized St. Olaf for adopting sustainability as a freshman theme?

According the the article, Congress and our Dear Leader are finally beginnng to recognize that we have a problem. So far, they are just spitting into the wind. We're into Jared Diamond's Collapse territory here.

Spot has recommended that gleeful Mathusian, James Kunstler, before. He is the author of a book on "peak oil," and he writes a great blog, too.

So have a great Thanksgiving everyone!


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Morality v. moralism

One of the dangers of being an Important Commentator on Current Affairs is having your words thrown back in your face by a person with a good memory, or maybe even by a dog. Such is the fate of John Brandl, Humphrey Institute professor and former dean, proponent of sectarian schools, and all-around upright Catholic.

In response to Spot’s posts about Brandl’s support of school vouchers and parochial schools, Brandl’s big splash, A postscript, and A drum roll, please, one of Spot’s correspondents reminded Spotty that Brandl had weighed in on the impeachment or resignation of Bill Clinton. Here’s part of what Brandl wrote for publication in the Star Tribune on October 1, 1998:
Who would be attracted to politics if Clinton resigns? Honorable people, one would expect. The greatest contribution he [Clinton] could make to the country in the rest of his life would be to resign now, to show that public service is noble work, that honor lives. [The italics are Spot’s.]

Okay, John, what about the current nest of snakes that lied its way – dragging the rest of us along - into war? A war that has killed nearly 2100 service people, injured or maimed over ten thousand of them, and killed tens of thousands of Iraqis? Most citizens in the country now recognize that is the truth. And it is the truth. Where are you John? Have you spoken up against our ignoble Administration and its dishonorable perfidy? An Administration that has caused a thousand thousand times more damage to the republic than Bill Clinton’s dalliance. If you have, Spot hasn’t heard about it.

Morality versus pious moralism. We could do with a little more of the former and less of the latter, John.


Spotty says go read . . .

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque, listed in Spot's meager blog roll, has a very chilling post up today, titled the Gates of Hell. (Spot can't seem to link to it.) So does the General.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Celebrity defendant acquitted!

Katie writes crows today about Ron Eibensteiner’s recent acquittal on charges of illegal political fundraising. Ron joins the pantheon of wrongly accused but ultimately acquitted celebrities, including O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Michael Jackson, and Oliver North. Oh wait, Ollie was convicted, but the conviction was overturned because his public testimony before Congress may have prejudiced his prosecution.

Katie says this is a huge blot on Mike Hatch. Hork! Hork! Hork! Sorry; Spotty had milk come out of his nose. Readers will recall that Mike Hatch learned about a letter written by Eibensteiner thanking a local lobbyist for money sent by the lobbyist’s Florida client to the Republican National Committee. Curious. Curiouser when you know that the same client received a sweetheart settlement with the State on charges of violations of insurance law in Minnesota.

Why was a state party chair writing a thank you to an out-of-state company for a contribution to a national party? Why, oh why, would he do that? Spot will now introduce you to what Louis Nizer called the rule of probability, but Spot calls the rule that it probably happened in the most ordinary way. Some guy named Occam says he conceived the rule first, but pay no attention to him.

The rule says that simple, straightforward explanations are best, and virtually always right. The rule says here that the Florida insurance company’s contribution was for the ultimate benefit of the Minnesota Republicans after being laundered through the RNC.

There is another pol in some current trouble for using the RNC as a laundromat for corporate contributions: Tom DeLay. Now there’s a coincidence for you! Not.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Irony, thy name is Parry

Boy, that’s rich. Today, Kate Parry tells us about her concern about the blurring of the line between news and advertising. In a column titled Line between news, ads is fraying in spots, Kate tells about how worrisome it is to her that some people might think a Santa Bear advertisement is an actual comic strip! Oh the horror!

Last Sunday, of course, Kate did all she could to blur the line between an actual journalist and a pernicious propagandist. Spotty can abide Santa Bear in a comic strip, but he can’t abide Katherine Kersten dressed as a journalist.

Which is the bigger fraud? Spotty reports and you decide.

Save your pontification, Kate. Who said irony was dead?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Our Monsters in Iraq

That's the title of a Robert Dreyfus opinion piece at the website Tom Paine. Here's a sample:
It is time to start waving the bloody shirt. There is no longer any doubt that the men that the United States has installed in power in Iraq are monsters. Not only that, but they are monsters armed, trained and supported by George W. Bush's administration. The very same Bush administration that defends torture of captives in the so-called War on Terrorism is using 150,000 U.S. troops to support a regime in Baghdad for which torture, assassination and other war crimes are routine.

To repeat a quote from a couple of posts ago:
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

— Beyond Good and Evil - Friedrich Nietzsche

OK Strib, Spotty dares you . . .

Since Kate Parry's defense of Katherine Kersten last Sunday, Spot and others have taken umbrage at Kate's comparison of our dear Katie to a real journalist like Nick Coleman. That got ol' Spotty to thinking. What would happen if the Strib made Katie a real reporter for a week or two?

So, here's Spot challenge to the Star Tribune:

Make Katie a general assignment reporter for two weeks. Let her come up in the rotation as you might with any other reporter. Let her report on vehicle accidents, sewer backups, fires, and human interest stories. Anything that might show up in what used to be called the "B" section. Then, print everything she writes with a byline.

Spot dares you. But he doesn't think you'll do it.


Friday, November 18, 2005

New Spotty award!

Barbara Frey, well-known human rights activist and academic, wins a Spotty for this letter in the Star Tribune today:
Torture memo contradicts Geneva

Kimberly Crockett [Pliers, ed.] and Peter A. [the Singing Coach, ed.] Swanson, in their Nov. 16 commentary billed as presenting "the realistic" point of view, actually seem quite naïve about how security policy is made.

By concluding that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the "war on terrorism," the Yoo/Delahunty memo gave a signal to the intelligence community that there would be no legal consequences for acts tantamount to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The president specifically relied on their analysis in determining that Al-Qaida and Taliban detainees are "not legally entitled to" be treated humanely.

The Yoo/Delahunty analysis was wrong. Everyone is entitled to be treated humanely under U.S. and international law. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is the minimum standard for treatment in peacetime and in wartime, including the handling of common criminals or rebels. That law absolutely prohibits mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, as well as "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."

Overlooking minimum international standards was bad law and resulted in bad policy.



Tags: disses over

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sigmund Spot

Sigmund Spot wants to talk about a psychological phenomenon called projection. It's a little like ventriloquism, only instead of throwing your voice, you throw your personality. Sigmund Spot got to thinking about projection when he wrote his last post, Making omelets. In that post, Spot suggested there was more than passing similarity between what Katie said about Muslim extremeists and what might also be said about Christian fundamentalists.
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

— Beyond Good and Evil - Friedrich Nietzsche

Could it be that people like Katie, who can't let 9/11 go, and who use it as the frame of reference for all of their thinking, have just been staring into the abyss too long? Spot thinks so.

Making omelets . . .

Our enemy in the war on terror is a global network of religious extremists who don't wage war by civilized rules.

That’s how Katie starts her column today. How true. Religious extremism is the enemy of the United States. We must eradicate the forces that seek to deny any humanity to people other than themselves, have a bizarre world view at which they are at the center, and whose heavy-handed doctrinaire rhetoric threatens us all.

Wait a moment; somebody is whispering something to Spotty. . . . Really? Okay, let’s start over. Spot now understands that the column was about fundamentalist Muslims, not fundamentalist Christians! Spot regrets the error. Spotty will be serious now.

The title of the column is Persuading terrorists is no friendly game. But Spotty would like to shake the hand of the editor who wrote the subhead: Al-Qaida has changed the rules of war. Extracting information has acquired new urgency and requires new tactics.

The key word here is extracting.

In her column, Katie tells us about the pedantic manifesto of Prof. John (the Vulcanizer) Yoo delivered at St. Thomas, in which he tries to justify the ignoring of international law in the treatment of detainees. She doesn’t really report on the presentation – Katie can’t really report – but rather uses the occasion as a springboard for her own advocacy – she’s not much of an advocate, either, come to think of it – for the mistreatment of the some 80,000 (according to a report Spotty heard on the radio) people detained by the US in the GWOT. Including a lot we hoovered up by mistake, too. Most of these people have been released, of course. We must have taught them so much about the American way of life and built so much goodwill!

If Katie had actually been a reporter, she would not have spent her time sitting right up front, hobnobbing and laughing with Kimberly (Pliers) Crockett, Peter (the Singing Coach) Swan, and the Vulcanizer himself. Pliers and the Singing Coach were moderators and conveners of the Vulcanizer’s sermon.

Katie tells us we’re involved in something new: a war of intelligence. Crap. We’re screwed. John Yoo of course was one of the bright lights at the Justice Department, a side kick of the great humanitarian John Ashcroft, who managed to wish away America’s international obligations on the treatment of detainees.

In an apparent exclusive to Katie, Yoo told her that captured terrorists are trained to resist questioning. The nerve of those Muslims! Well then of course we must beat information out of them! Katie should talk to John McCain to get some tips on how to do it!

Yoo says that the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners was “designed for another age.” This is part of the rhetoric that says after 9/11, everything changed. Baloney. 9/11 was just the manifestation of the anger that has been brewing over the West’s continuing manipulation of Middle East politics for decades. It is part of the mentality that says If I can’t drive my Hummer, the terrorists win.

Katie says that the goal of our questioning is not sadism, but rather saving innocent lives. If a little sadism occurs in the process, well you can’t make an omelet, etc.

Yoo likes to use the hypothetical of a terrorist in custody with knowledge of an impending attack. Shouldn’t we torture him? Yoo should be writing a screen play, not foreign policy. You cannot make enlightened policy by basing it on the most extreme example that you can think of, has never occurred, and probably won’t ever occur. Law professors like to push students this way, but it’s hardly a real world technique.

Spot agrees with Katie that religious extremists are going to get us all killed, but they aren’t all Muslim extremists by a long shot.

Tags: loves it when talks to her

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Spot is lazy?

According to Lee. And Spot pleads guilty as hell, he means as charged. Spotty got upbraided by Lee in a comment to his last post Sorry Lee, it's a stinker for being a lazy historian. Lee then cites a number of articles in support of his proposition that Article XIII, Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution was passed to be mean to Catholics and should be stricken.

Yeah, Lee, Spot said he didn't accept your version of history, but more significantly, he said he didn't care. A couple of the simplest canons of constitutional and statutory construction render all of the gas baggery about the Blaine amendment inert. You cannot make words mean the opposite of what they say.

Go read this post . . . now

Put down what you are doing, and go read CP's post The Katherine Kontradiction. Especially those of you who enjoy it when Spot nips Katie's ankles. It is the post that Spot aspires to write.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sorry Lee, it's a stinker . . .

Ok. Spotty will be honest. He has been putting this post off for a while. Not because he doesn’t have something to write, but rather that he isn’t sure how to write it in a way that wouldn’t give readers marks on their faces from falling asleep and plunging face down on their keyboards. You’ve been warned.

First, we need a return to the thrilling days of yesterweek, or the week before. Readers who have not successfully repressed the details will remember that Spotty and Lee McGrath, the Great Kahuna at the Institute for Justice, Minnesota Chapter, have had a little dust up over the constitutionality of school vouchers for parochial schools under Article XIII, Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution, most recently discussed here.

Here’s a soap opera digest of the action thus far:

Spot says the Minnesota Constitution prohibits a school voucher program being used to fund parochial – or sectarian, to use the word in the Constitution – schools. Read about it here in Brandl’s offspring. Lee comments, saying that section of the Minnesota Constitution is void (under the US Constitution) because people were being mean to Catholics at the time it was enacted.

In Spotty’s next post on the subject, entitled Affirmative action because he knew it would drive conservatives nuts, he said that Lee’s argument amounted to affirmative action for Catholics. And then in A discussion of some isms, also linked above, Spot went on to say that Lee could only make his case if Article XIII, Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. And Spot said that was silly.

Hang on; we’re almost done with the preamble and ready to start the post. And may God have mercy on your souls.

Lee comments, No you dumb dog, I agree with you on the Free Exercise Clause; it’s the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that is violated by Article XIII, Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution. We are gathered here today, boys and girls, to examine that remarkable assertion.

Extended hysterical laughter. Sorry.

Remember now, the Establishment Clause prohibits the advancement of any religion or religious sect. There have been lots of formulations of the test over the years, but that’s it in a nutshell. A lot of nibbling has gone on over the years, arguing that a particular expenditure of funds for parochial schools does not advance a religion; bus transportation is one example. The First Amendment addresses religion in general, but not parochial schools in particular.

Obviously, payment of a voucher when the money is used for a curriculum that includes sectarian teaching and books is a different matter. But Minnesota is even tougher. As a refresher, here is Article XIII, Section 2 again:
PROHIBITION AS TO AIDING SECTARIAN SCHOOL. In no case shall any public money or property be appropriated or used for the support of schools wherein the distinctive doctrines, creeds or tenets of any particular Christian or other religious sect are promulgated or taught.

Wow, that’s unambiguous. Even Lee agrees, or certainly seems to, that the quoted language prohibits state-sponsored parochial school voucher schemes. This language certainly seems to address the nibbling that Spot describes above, too.

But in a genuinely Orwellian moment, Lee says Article XIII, Section 2 violates the Establishment Clause. And up is down, and black is white. How can this be? Well, it can’t, but here’s Lee argument: given the milieu surrounding the adoption of this section of the Minnesota Constitution, its adoption amounts to the establishment of Protestant Christianity, and therefore, it should be written out of the Minnesota Constitution by the courts. Pretty smart, huh?

Smart no; baloney yes. Spotty does not accept Lee’s version of history. But even if he did, it really wouldn’t matter. The Supreme Court reaches constitutional questions last, not first. In other words, if there is a way to resolve a case short of finding a statute (or a state constitutional provision) unconstitutional, that’s what the Court is supposed to do.

One of the canons of statutory interpretation is that if the language is unambiguous, that’s it. This language is unambiguous, and the unambiguous language obviously does not violate the Establishment Clause. Lee only gets to talk about legislative history or his milieu in an effort to resolve ambiguity or fill in gaps not addressed by the language itself.

This is called determining legislative intent. Notice that Spot said intent, not motivations. Even if a court were to look at intent, it would be impossible to conclude that the Legislature and the voters intended anything other than prohibition of aid to all sectarian schools. The fact that some people may have had the motivation to keep money away from Catholics is irrelevant. Irrelevant.

Forget it, Lee; it’s a loser.

Okay, here’s a teaser. Another canon of statutory or constitutional interpretation is to read sections together and to try to find a comprehensive whole. Article XIII, Section 1, the next door neighbor of the section we’ve been discussing, also sheds light on its meaning. Stay tuned.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Sticks and stones . . .

Today was the second installment in the Katherine Kersten is really just a regular person, honest, campaign. On Sunday, Kate Parry explained Katie’s place in the crown of stars at the Star Tribune, which Spot panned. Today we hear from Katie. The great thing about today’s column is that Katie only had to interview herself! Here’s how it starts:
As a newspaper columnist, I get lots of responses from readers. Most are thoughtful -- many agree with me, many don't. I find it stimulating to exchange ideas with readers who like to think. But there are other responses, too -- quick and nasty blasts that rely on name-calling and personal insults, particularly over controversial topics.

Name-calling rolls right off my back, after years of writing. But it degrades the quality of the debate. It's part of the much-noted recent decline in civility -- an anti-intellectualism, or rejection of reason, that afflicts our public discourse. The goal is to shut your opponent up so you won't have to respond to his argument.

First off, it strikes Spotty as unlikely that Katie would enjoy an “exchange of ideas” with anybody, at least anybody who disagrees with her. Here’s a little altogether unscientific poll: if you ever sent a critical letter or email, of any kind, to Katie and got a substantive response back, please send it to Spotty.

And Katie, nobody really believes they will shut you up. Spotty suspects that some of your correspondents are just looking for catharsis, writing in frustration to a closed mind. Speaking of that, Spot challenges Katie to tell us of one instance in her lengthy writing career when a commenter changed her opinion on a non-trivial issue.

Kate told us yesterday that Katie seemed “inured” to criticism; today Katie tell us that name calling rolls right off her back. Well of course it does. To someone possessed of the Absolute Truth like Katie, there are no worthy critics. There is another word for a person like this: sociopath.

Katie’s particular complaint today is about being branded as a bigot for her anti-gay views. She says it is illegal to discriminate against persons because of their religious beliefs. She says that Christianity embraces some ideas (obviously referring to homophobia here) that some people don’t like, but she is entitled to them because they are religious notions.

Oh, where to begin.

First of all Katie, a lot of Christians don’t buy a much of the pre-scientific Bible hook, line, and sinker. Spotty realizes that you think that makes them less Christian, but it is nevertheless true. Many Christians are convinced that being gay is not “a lifestyle” but rather an imprint you are born with. Spot’s not a scientist, but he believes this is the case for this simple reason: Who would put up with the crap you are in for by being gay if it was a choice? Just doesn’t make sense.

Moreover, society as a whole doesn’t do what particular religious sects want. Mormons are supposed to have only one wife; we require basic health care for minors, even if a court has to order the parents to provide it; we don’t require all baby boys to be circumcised on the eighth day of life, and we don’t require women to wear headscarves. In America, when your eccentric religious ideas conflict with our basic notions of freedom and equality, we keep them out of civil society.

Don’t like same-sex marriage? Fine. Don’t have one, and don’t allow them in your church. But don’t expect to tell everyone else what to do.

The more Spotty thinks about social conservatives and their drive to control everyone’s agenda, the more Spot believes that the movement’s driving force is self-absorption or narcissism.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Step right up Kate . . .

Kate Parry that is. Parry makes her first appearance on the Cucking School today. Let’s give her a big stool of repentance welcome! Kate is the reader’s representative at the Star Tribune newspaper, and today she mounted a spirited but largely ineffective defense of Katie. Katie is of course Spot’s pet name for Katherine Kersten, which he is loathe to abandon, so between Kate and Katie, this might get complicated, gentle readers. Spotty recommends attentiveness.

By the way, if you were going to invent a character in a novel whose job it was to deflect reader complaints to a newspaper, you would name her Ms. Parry, wouldn't you? Sort of like Premiere Kisoff in Dr. Strangelove.

Kate starts out by saying, Boy, that Katie; she really makes a lot of people mad! She does, and dogs, too! But that is what columnists are supposed to do, says Kate, all over the political spectrum. Kate spends the rest of the column telling us how perfectly ordinary a columnist Katie (Spot told you this would get complicated) really is.

Katie’s column last Monday predicting hell fire and damnation to Canada for permitting same-sex marriage apparently made Kate put in some extra time last week. It really was a standard Katie polemical tract. Apparently, people didn’t like Katie’s attempt to attribute something that took place in 2001 as being caused by events in 2005:
In a column on Page B1 Monday about the debate over same-sex marriage in Canada, Katherine Kersten described discipline imposed on a British Columbia teacher and a human rights complaint filed against a Roman Catholic bishop. Both had expressed general disapproval of homosexual behavior while supporting traditional male-female marriage. While much of the column dealt with events in recent months, the charges against the teacher were filed in 2001.

This is the “clarification” issued by the Strib in response to complaints. There were other complaints too, apparently nearly 140 in total through Tuesday, the day after the column ran.

Spotty was going to write that Katie is a laughable buffoon, but it is more serious than that. Katie is a vicious scold. She has castigated gays, people holding anti-Iraq war sentiments, people who don’t worship the Lord Jesus in the manner that she prescribes, public school teachers, George Bush denigrators, 9/11 apostates, sloppy dressers, non-representational artists, liberals in general, and even her friends – for buying a lottery ticket. There is nobody who can’t get the woodshed treatment from this communis rixatrix. Nobody. But that is not what Spotty wants to discuss today.

Spotty wants to talk about journalism, an honorable craft to which Katie is wholly unacquainted. Katie’s screeds are to journalism what junior high potty talk is to erotica. Katie thinks that the main purpose of her column is to give her a platform to parrot right wing talking points. This she does quite well, although not very originally. Spotty says that Doug Tice, her boss, should kick Katie’s arse out of the newsroom once in a while and make her actually talk to people, instead of doing telephone interviews with Father Coughlin’s doppelganger in British Columbia, or wherever.

For Katie, the facts are always subservient to the Point, and malleable, too. Katie always has a Point in mind when she sits down to peck at the Underwood. Next to George Bush, Katie is the most incurious person that Spotty has ever encountered. Maybe including George Bush.

Add lazy to incurious. Katie is willing to lift entire sections of a column from other sources, as Spotty demonstrated in his post Conservative Reverb. And by the way Katie, no Kate, if this is the post you are referring to when writing about putting Katie’s columns through plagiarism software, you are quite mistaken. Spot found those similarities the old fashioned way. It wasn’t that hard.

What annoyed Spot the most Kate, was your defense of Katie by comparing her to Nick Coleman. Whether a reader agrees with Coleman or not, Spot says you have to agree that Nick is 1) a veteran newspaperman, 2) who lives in the reality-based community, 3) can write with energy and clarity, and 4) is not a mouthpiece for a political party. For ten points, compare and contrast with Katie.

There is more that Spot could write, and may write in coming days, but for now he will conclude with this. There will come a time when the Star Tribune recognizes that Katie is a blot on the Strib’s escutcheon, perhaps not for her opinions, but certainly for the perfidiousness and the artlessness of everything she writes.

Tags: can't hold a candle to

Friday, November 11, 2005

Pious, Scmious . . .

There was a reunion yesterday of extras from old Frankenstein and other horror movies. You know, the ones who played frightened, ignorant villagers who ran around looking for people to burn or impale? Oh, wait, Spotty now reads it was just a gathering of the cretinous and intolerant at Grace Church in Eden Prairie. Sorry; Spot’s mistake. Still, he wonders if they had to leave their torches, pitchforks and pike poles at the door.

There was a “pastor’s summit” at Grace Church yesterday to serve as a pep rally for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Apparently, some of you are going to get a lot about this from the pulpit in coming days. The goal is to pass a bill during the 2006 legislative session to put the amendment issue on the ballot for the fall 2006 election.

Here’s a few words about the raison d'être for the summit:
The pastors' summit was organized by the Minnesota Family Council in the belief that "the only thing that stands in the way of legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota is the church," said Chuck Darrell, of the council's Minnesota for Marriage project.

Attendees heard speakers who described how pastors have spearheaded marriage amendment drives in states from Oregon to Maine, offered tips for churches to get active without forfeiting tax-exempt status and recounted the history of religious leaders engaging in the American political culture.

Religious leaders engaging in American political culture? That has always worked out so well. Slaves, obey your masters. Women should not vote. Temperance must be the law of the land. Dr. King, end the Birmingham bus boycott.

When religion gets into politics, it is almost always on the side of the status quo, the stiff-necked intolerant boobs, and the narcissistic, pious crackpots who think they alone have the moral authority to speak for all of us.

Here’s an example of the Biblical scholarship presented yesterday at the summit:
David Barton of the Texas-based group Wallbuilders said the Bible condemns not only homosexuality but also capital-gains taxes, progressive income taxes, estate taxes and minimum-wage laws.

Imagine. Spotty had no idea. Spot thinks old Davey spends his time on the entrails of owls, not the social gospel of the New Testament. And of course, the clown princess of Minnesota politics (unchallenged now since Cheri Pierson Yecke climbed on her Bissel and flew to Florida), Michele Bachmann had to get into the act:
State Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, the Legislature's chief proponent of the proposed amendment, led one session on its uncertain status in Minnesota, while her husband, Christian therapist Marcus Bachmann, led another on "the truth of the homosexual lifestyle."

Boy, wouldn’t you just love to spend some quality time with these two dining on roasted sinners? Sweet Jesus.

By the way, Jesus did have some things to say about the Pharisees. They are yet among us.

Tags: hates at

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A new benchmark . . .

Spotty has been out of town for a few days. While he was gone the Clever Sponge has posted the Katie evisceration against which all future Katie eviscerations will be compared.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cavorting in the tall grass . . .

Spot will spend the next few, maybe a few more, days cavorting in the tall grass with other big dogs. This means it will be a while before you can read Spotty's sarcastic post responding to Lee's wild allegation that Article XIII, Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the US. Constitution.

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and each other. Spot

Friday, November 04, 2005

Oh, please Mr. Tice!

That's Doug Tice, not Mike. Doug Tice is Katie's boss at the Strib. And what Katie wanted was an extra column this week, because there was something she had to get off her chest, or she would, like, explode! What was troubling our favorite communis rixatrix so much?

Katie has an absolute conniption over the fact that high school students attended the anti-war rally at the University of Minnesota on November 2nd. Why, the nerve of those kids! Young people are not supposed to think! They are supposed to sit submissively in class and absorb important information like the names of all the English kings in order since 1066, and all the counties in Minnesota! Participating in democracy! This will never do!

The other things that Spot might have written about this column were written funnier by Smartie in a post at the Power Liberal. It is especially recommended for Star Trek fans.

Tags: hated the

And now, for something completely different

Spotty says check out the proposed captions to this photograph at the Dependable Renegade.

Cohabitation at the U of Minnesota!

On Thursday, Katie tells us the shocking story of a score of University of Minnesota students who run a speakeasy on the first floor of their dwelling while sharing the upstairs as living quarters! She describes the arrangement with evident approval:
Kappa Pi Alpha is a two-year-old Christian fraternity, located in a big house vacated several years ago by another fraternity. Eighteen students, both men and women, live there in an "intentional community" with one purpose: to be a blessing to the university.

For now, Kappa Pi's efforts are focused on its first big project -- Bordertown Coffee House, open since January. It is on the fraternity's first floor, and residents live upstairs. "We named it Bordertown because we wanted to create a place where people from all backgrounds can meet, where borders are not an issue," says Brian Kurbis, a manager.
Seriously, what do you think Katie's view of this would be if it wasn't a Christian fraternity? In fact, Spot is almost positive that Katie has written a piece before abhorring co-ed dormitories. Katie doesn't appear to be all that wild about co-education, much less living arrangements.

Spotty also has to wonder how good the fraternity memebers will be at refraining from conferring blessings on each other, in spite of intentions! Okay, that was a cheap shot. But still. Hormones are hormones, even in youthful Christians.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A discussion of some isms

You know how sometimes a person comes along in your life just at a time of great need? And the person is just right? And you want to say Praise Be it’s a miracle? Lee McGrath is kind of like that for Spot; just as he was really starting to miss Dave, Lee came along. Lee has been on Spotty’s case over Rob Levine’s recent winning of a Spotty for his takedown of John Brandl on the sectarian school/voucher issue.

Lee is no ordinary bloke; no sir. He is the Executive Director of the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter. Lee is therefore charged with litigating constitutional issues on behalf of indigent right wingers. A discrete and insular minority if ever there was one. Spot on the other paw is just a modest blogger, and as you know, gentle readers, a dog. Spotty is humbled that Lee would visit Spotty’s modest demesne.

Well, Lee has the tenacity of some of Spot’s terrier friends, and he posted a comment to Spot’s post Affirmative action. Spotty will spare you the entire history of the thread because it sounds like a recitation of lineage from the Old Testament. Here’s the short version:

SPOT: School vouchers are unconstitutional under Article XIII, Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution.

LEE: Nuh uh!

In an act of shameless self-promotion, Spotty will tell those of you with an interest in separation of church and state issues to read several posts and comments on The Cucking Stool, starting with Brandl’s Big Splash. For this post, however, Spot will focus on the comment referred to above.

We will start with Lee’s implicit admission that the bare language of Article XIII, Section 2 does in fact, prohibit the payment of a voucher by the state of Minnesota to a sectarian or parochial school. You would think this is a problem, but Lee says no, no, just ignore it.

Ignore it? Spot replies. That would be titanic judicial activism, nay lawlessness!

Piffle, counters Lee, for he reads George Will, you’re not an originalist, are you Spotty? After all, you believe that the federal constitution contains a right of privacy that inheres in several of the amendments to the constitution and is protected against action by the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. What’s the difference? When Article XIII, Section 2 was included in the Minnesota Constitution, people were being really mean to Catholics, and therefore it should be ignored. (That’s why Spot’s earlier post was called Affirmative action [for Catholics].)

So either a constitution text is the only thing, or it means nothing? Lee actually makes a pretty good parade of horribles argument here for the originalists. (Spot will interject here and say that Spotty’s lawyer friends tell him that the parade of horribles is all the bad things a lawyer threatens a court, legislature, or client with happening if he, she or it does not take the course recommended by the lawyer.)

It is one thing to interpret language in the light of current or unforeseen circumstances. Courts have to do that all the time in statutory construction because courts are presented with cases that are not covered by exact enumeration in language of the statute, yet the cases must be decided. This is where the originalists are disingenuous about their “judicial activism” gas baggery.

It is quite another thing to simply and explicitly ignore unambiguous language in a constitution, such as Article XIII, Section 2 and pretend it isn’t there. Lee’s approach would really put the judges in the saddle.

There is of course a middle way we should take, just as the Buddha advocated the middle way between asceticism and profligacy. There is for example an approached outlined by Justice Stephen Breyer in a recent series of lectures at the Harvard Law School and now contained in a little book he has written. Breyer calls it active liberty. Spot hasn’t actually read it yet, but based on reviews, it is not a beach book, gentle readers, so be careful.

There are other middle way approaches, too; Judge Posner, a Circuit Court judge, calls his “pragmatism.” All stand in rebuttal to Justice Scalia’s textualism, a sort of religious fundamentalism for judges. The text of the Constitution doesn’t always answer the question, but it’s pretty important.

There is one other thing that Lee wrote, not exactly explicitly, that Spot believes is where this argument is going. Spotty’s posts were really limited to a discussion of the Minnesota Constitution, but Lee tries a couple of times to sneak the federal Constitution into the discussion, suggesting somehow that First Amendment Establishment Clause jurisprudence should be “borrowed” in discussing the Minnesota Constitution. As Spot has pointed out before, the language of the First Amendment and Article XIII, Section 2 are different, and that the latter is stricter.

Of course, the big federal Constitution trumps the little state Constitution. But only when they conflict; they don’t here. That’s because we are concerned not with the Establishment Clause, but rather the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

The only way Lee can get the First Amendment to knock out Article XIII, Section 2 is to make the argument that the state’s refusal to fund sectarian schools is a denial of Free Exercise rights.

And that, gentle readers, is a silly argument.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

They lied to us!

From Jim Kunstler at Clusterfuck Nation:
They Lied To Us

October 31, 2005

The cry across the land grows increasingly shrill: "THEY LIED TO US!"

For going on three years, the American public, especially on the political left, has been complaining that the Iraq War was some kind of a shuck-and-jive. The Bush government pulled the wool over everybody's eyes. They ran a vicious propaganda operation. We were fooled by all those fairy tales about WMDs, Saddam and Osama, and African radioactive yellowcake.

Now, through the fog of the Valerie Plame affair and the indictment of Scooter Libby, the cry is reaching a crescendo: "THEY LIED TO US!"

Being a Democrat myself, and therefore nominally in opposition to Bush-and-Cheneyism, one has to contend with all sorts of embarrassing nonsense emanating from one's own side. In Sunday's New York Times op-ed section, for instance, Nicholas Kristoff wrote: "Mr. Cheney, we need a stiff dose of truth." I'm sorry to tell you this Nick (and the rest of my homies), but what Jack Nicholson's character said in that court martial movie some years back still applies: you can't stand the truth.
Kunstler goes on to say that the war really should have been called not the Iraq War, but the War to save Suburbia. Kunstler is a wicked and gleeful Malthusian.

Spotty wonders, though, as people sit in their drafty 62 degree homes this winter, singing in limbo song fashion How low can I go?, whether Kunstler may be right. Go read the whole post; don't be afraid of the name of the site.