Thursday, August 31, 2006

Heiress Harris Erras

From Shortcuts in Thursday's Star Tribune:
"Over time, that lie we have been told -- the separation of
church and state -- people have internalized, thinking that they needed
to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who
chooses our rulers. And if we are the ones not actively involved in
electing those godly men and women and if people aren't involved in
helping godly men in getting elected then we're going to have a nation
of secular laws."
-- Florida Republican U.S. Senate candidate and
U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris (made famous in the 2000 presidential
recount as Florida's then-secretary of state), Florida Baptist Witness,
Aug. 24.

Earth to Katherine Harris: we do have a nation of secular laws. The people make them, not God. They bring all kinds of ideas, obviously, with them when they go to the polls or sit in the legislatures or congress, but the people make the law.

You can't, at least not yet, be charged with a violation of Leviticus or Deuteronomy. There may be some man-made law based on notions of morality derived from some things in these two books that you can be charged with, but that's fundamentally different.

It is a dangerous abdication of democracy to assert that we should be governed - as a matter of state control - by a group of religious fanatics.

The separation of church and state is a constitutional doctrine we got from the Enlightenment thinkers in Virginia and the Constitutional Congress. It is demagoguery of the purest and rankest order to call it a lie.

And that goes for you, too, Mary Kiffmeyer.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Who wrote this?

Who wrote this?

Generally, people who hold themselves above the laws of civilization are called terrorists.

Sometimes, though, they have been called private, sergeant, Mr. Secretary and Mr. Attorney General.

So far, it has been only the privates and the sergeants who have been disciplined for gross violations of the laws of war. Now comes word that the Bush administration is looking to prevent any responsibility for the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib and who knows where else from being laid at the feet of anyone higher up.

Oh Spotty, that’s gotta be the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It’s so left wing.

Ah, grasshopper, you are wrong. It is from an editorial in the Salt Lake City Times from Sunday, August 13th. There have been many editorial voices objecting to the proposed amendment of the War Crimes Act, as first reported in the Washington Post on August 9th:

The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments.

Officials say the amendments would alter a U.S. law passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties governing military conduct in wartime. The conventions generally bar the cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment of wartime prisoners without spelling out what all those terms mean.

Spotty, who were the dim bulbs who thought that we weren’t subject to the Geneva Convention?

That would be Professor Organ Failure, John Yoo, and his sidekick Robert Delahunty, who even now holds a teaching position in our fair city.

Sorry for the nearly link-free post, Gs and Gettes, but the quotes are accurate.

A tongue-twister for Sticks

Sticks, can you say equal marginal sacrifice principle of taxation?

Three times, fast.

Okay. Now, do you know what it means? This is a take-home test, so you can look up the answer if you want.

Boys and girls, we will see if Sticks answers the question. In any event, we will discuss it, probably later today.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Blankety-Blank Blogger

Spot has tried for several hours to upload a post from another editor, but Blogger says no. Spot's off the air until he gets it to work. Sorry.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Spot is not writing today

That's what they say, or used to anyway, over at the Strib when a columnist misses a spot in the rotation. Your ol' friend Spot has been spreading sunshine in other venues today. He'll try to better tomorrow.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A little advice

Captain Fishsticks went all postal on Spot's latest responding to Sticks responding to Spot. Got that? Just a couple of practice points for you, Sticks.

Sticks, Spot sure hopes that you haven't told Justice is Blonde that motivation is irrelevant to the discussion of school vouchers, or anything else for that matter. Motive or bias in a witness is often the most important of the testimonial attributes. Ignore it, and you'll get suckered every time.

Second, don't lose your cool on the stand. And don't put your comments all in bold. It makes you look like a schmuck and it detracts from your appearance of sincerity.

Finally, and this is really important Sticks, when responding, don't repeat every word you opponent said. It just gives everyone the chance to hear your opponent's story again. A real rookie mistake.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cue the music

After two weeks of taking the waters somewhere, Katie promenades through the newsroom to her Throne of Opinion while humming a triumphal tune from Verdi's Aeida, delivering this. And Spot was too busy chatting with Swiftee to notice! Here's the lede:
Gov. Tim Pawlenty's recent interview with the Star Tribune, reported Saturday, has touched off a bad case of heartburn in Republican circles.

Katie tells us that the governor has strayed from the tenets of conservative orthodxy. And nothing bothers Katie more than straying from her path to grace:
Pawlenty has even adopted Hatch's signature righteous indignation. "Certain things just get me mad," the governor said in Saturday's article. Bloated government? No, oil companies and drug companies -- familiar whipping boys of the left.

Is Pawlenty trying to out-Hatch Hatch in this election year?

I'm uneasy. Pawlenty talked a lot in Saturday's article about the dangers of concentrated power.

But he said little about the greatest concentration of power we face: government. Even under Republican administrations, government has a relentless tendency to spend, regulate and expand.

But then, Katie changes her mind and really isn't worried:
In short, it's hard not to conclude that Pawlenty's recent criticism of
Big Business smacks of election-year posturing. Is it a coincidence
that by dueling with the two corporate villains he denounces -- oil
companies and drug companies -- he also appeals to important voting
constituencies: farmers, agricultural interests and senior citizens?

Katie's concern about government control is funny, of course, in light of the fact that Katie doesn't mind government control of a lot of things: reproductive rights, the right to marry a person of your choice, limiting the number of brown people in the tonier shopping venues, etc.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Sticks’ stones

Spot wondered what situation would stir the somnolent Sticks to surrender his slumber. Spotty is pleased that he was apparently the catalyst! We haven't heard much from Sticks lately, and Spot will speculate about that in a minute.

In a post that mentions Spot by name in the title, Captain Fishsticks sets out to prove how wrong Spot was in his posts Harry Potter and the Pathetic Bag of Wind and Captain Fishsticks with shining eyes. Specifically, Sticks is incensed that Spot would accuse him of using minority kids as stalking horses for school voucher plans. Let's imagine this little scene:

Spot: Remember, Captain, you’re still under oath.

CF: Yeah, yeah I remember.

Spot: You’re a libertarian, right?

CF: And proud of it!

Spot: I’m sure you are. Do libertarians believe in the public interest?

CF: Well, sure! Just not the same way you do. We think it is in the public interest for there to be no public interest. We don’t believe that people can get together collectively to do useful things, except for maybe national defense and the protection of private property rights.

Spot: We’re all in this by ourselves, right?

CF: Right. And this big invisible magic hand will push each of us in the right direction and it will all come out okay if our faith is strong enough and we just hope for the best. I know that sounds kinda crazy, but that’s what we believe.

Spot: Will the invisible magic hand give a shove to the neglectful parents who won’t immunize their children or seek medical care for them when they are sick? Will the invisible magic hand stay the hand of a child abuser? Will the invisible magic hand provide for orphans?

CF: It’ll provide for the orphans if they can do useful work.

Spot: Move to strike the answer as non-responsive.

CF: Okay, no, it won’t do any of these things.

Spot: Thank you Captain. And yet, you believe that privatizing the educational system, will improve educational outcomes? And you want us to believe that little black kids aren’t just stalking horses for your long term plan to destroy public education because it is full of union people?

CF: [chortle] Yes, that’s right.

Spot: Thank you. I have no further questions at this time. The witness is subject to recall.

There it is, boys and girls. Is Captain Fishsticks a credible witness on his concern for inner-city school children? Of course not. He doesn’t give a rat’s arse for them; he’s just interested in another way to put pressure on public schools to try to kill them. Take away as much revenue as you can, bleed them white and watch them die.

Oh no, says Sticks! Rep. Buesgens’ plan is only for low income kids. But, it’s just the camel’s nose under the tent. Pretty soon you’ve got the whole camel! The strategy of the vouchers crowd is to whittle away at publics schools, making them die from a thousand cuts. The inner-city schools are the most vulnerable, so that’s where to start. If you read the comments to Sticks’ post and the two Spot posts linked above, you will see that’s the agenda for a lot of the people who agree with Sticks.

The really disgusting and manipulative thing, one that really requires the stones, is that Sticks’ crowd is enlisting the support of inner-city parents who have endured decades of neglect of their public schools. It is shameless chicanery.

Sticks say private school vouchers are also a way for the state to save money. Exactly. Why spend, say $8,000 or more per year on an inner-city kid when you can toss ‘em a $3500 voucher instead, especially when you can make his parents feels fortunate to get it! Is that a good libertarian value, or what!

Spot says the answer – the only equitable and legal answer – is to stick it out with the public schools and make them better. That runs contrary to Stick’s nature.

Oh, almost forgot! Sticks has been very quiet lately. Just a post of his columns and a couple of other little posts for weeks now. Why? Spot thinks it is because Fishsticks has got a new gig. Why doesn’t someone ask him what it is?

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Breakfast links

Just to get you started this morning, boys and girls, a couple of links.

First, the story of a troubling arson incident at a south Minneapolis mosque. It is written by Abdi Aynte, a contributor to the new Minnesota Monitor. Haven't heard about this? Apparently nobody had until Aynte's story.

Second, CP does the play-by-play on yesterday's 5th Congressional District primary race debate held by Minnesota Public Radio. It's a good wrap up, with the insight and humor we have come to expect from CP. Spot loves EJR's new avatar.

Spotty will see you later.

Update: Added the link to CP's round up. Sorry for the oversight. (Now it's two links, ok?) BTW, Spot agrees with CP's scoring of the event.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Captain Fishsticks with shining eyes

There has been a lively discussion in comments to the post Harry Potter and the Pathetic Bag of Wind, some good, and some, well there are some others, too. Since this is Spot’s blog, he gets to reply with a whole post, not merely a comment. Don’t like it? Tough.

After disagreeing with Spot’s assessment of school vouchers as merely a subsidy to private school students, Mark concludes a comment with this:

But then again, I have no real affinity for vouchers either. Government has no business WHATSOEVER in schooling children.

Well, actually Mark, it does! In Minnesota, the people decided that a long time ago. The obligation of the state to educate children, and the raison d’être for it are summed up neatly in the Minnesota Constitution:

Article XIII, Section 1. Uniform system of public schools The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.

As Walter Cronkite used to say, And that’s the way it is! Spot invites Mark and his friends to try to amend the Constitution if they feel so strongly about it. Or, of course, they can hold their weekly “the government is being mean to me” pity party. It’s just a useless stupid debate, both on the merits, and on the political reality.

The Legislature’s appetite for school vouchers is waning, as Rep. Buesgens and his buddy Captain Fishsticks found out this spring.

Oh, by the way, boys and girls, did you know that Minnesota used to have a voucher-like scheme for private, including sectarian, schools? Well, it did until the Legislature got spanked by the Minnesota Supreme Court in MCLU v. State (oh, vile MCLU!) in 1974. It was called a tax credit system, where private school tuition up to a certain amount could be credited against Minnesota income tax, and if the credit was bigger than the tax owed, the state would send you the difference. Vouchers without the actual coupon.

The Court said, in a unanimous opinion, what? Are you nuts? (That’s Spot’s paraphrase, anyway.) It’s a violation of the separation of church and state. The Court ruled on US constitutional grounds, but noted that Minnesota also had this constitutional provision:

Article XIII, Section 2. 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.

Spot has written many times that vouchers will remain merely a gleam in Captain Fishsticks’ eyes.

Update: cite for MCLU v. State:
302 Minn. 216, 224 N.W.2d 344 (1974)

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not as good as Spot's idea

Word comes that the next Survivor will divide the tribes by race. Spot was rooting for a Fundamentalist Island theme, with Islamic, Jewish, and Christian fundamentalists tribes. Points would be scored for "conversions" of rival tribe members to the respective True Faith of each tribe. There would also be periodic tests of faith for each group: handling snakes, dodging exploding cars, etc. The winning tribe would be the one with the last surviving, or maybe living, member.

Update: On reflection, Spot believes that the fundie Christians and Jews would gang up and kill the Muslims, and then the Christians and Jews would turn on each other. The Christians would argue that the Jews had to die to fulfil scriptures.

Another giant sucking sound

Thanks to the ears-to-the-ground, all around on-the-ball folks at Media Transparency, we have some more proof that charter schools, as well as private schools voucher schemes, are giant rat holes. From the linked NYT story:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — Fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Federal Education Department.

You know it just had to just about kill the current bunch in charge of the Department of Education to release this report. In fact, they don’t want to do it anymore:

Even as the federal commissioner of education statistics, Mark S. Schneider, released the report, he said the agency should no longer put its official imprimatur on research comparing charter with public schools and leave such studies to independent researchers.

Their minds are made up and they don’t want to be confused with the facts! Like most things in the Bush administration, educational policy just ought to be faith-based.

In addition to having a little fun at conservatives’ expense, Spot wants to mention this because it has implications for the DFL Fifth Congressional District primary coming up in September. What you say?

Spot knows that one of the candidates is a charter school aficionado: Ember Reichgott Junge. That’s right, student council president, Up with People Ember. In fact, Ember seems to be getting a lot of support from the charter school crowd, AKA Republicans. In rummaging around for some links, Spot sees that Minnesota Campaign Report has the same story.

Spot has been working on some charter school data from the Minnesota Department of Education. We pay a boatload of money for these flights of fancy. Expect to hear more about it from Spot in coming days.

Harry Potter and the Pathetic Bag of Wind

You'll have to supply your own Harry Potter. Here's the bag of wind, a letter in yesterday's Star Tribune:
I continue to be amazed by the zeal that the Star Tribune
devotes to opposing vouchers. The Aug. 15 editorial "Vouchers remain a
bad, wasteful idea" blasts a $100 million federal plan for Opportunity
Scholarships, providing $4,000 per year to low-income children to attend a
school of their choice.

I have authored bills at the Legislature to provide
similar scholarships to low-income families in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I
agree with the Star Tribune that family stability and income are good
predictors of success. Helping more families find work is good policy. It's
laudatory to see the Star Tribune belatedly endorse the now 10-year-old welfare
reform act that moved millions out of poverty. I also agree with the Star
Tribune that public schools do a remarkable job for many students, especially
in Minnesota.

Yet while state math and readings score have risen for
most students, inner-city achievement scores -- especially among blacks -- have
stagnated, despite years and years of compensatory funding.

Many inner-city parents want their children to receive
the best education. These grants will enable many low-income students to have
access to the same school choices that middle- and upper-class students have
always known. Providing access grants to these children can help many succeed
where they haven't before. Why would any caring adult continue to deny children
from low-income families that opportunity?


Who indeed would deny opportunity to low-income children? Why, Spotty says it's you, Rep. Buesgens! Spot has said it before and will say it again: the goal of No Child's Behind Left and school vouchers is the destruction of public education. Period. Buesgens will give you that sad puppy smile if you say that to his face, but don't be fooled. The inner-city children that Buesgens - and Katie, Captain Fishsticks, and Geoff MIchel, for that matter - appear to champion are just so many little black stalking horses for them.

No Child's Behind Left is actually a moniker applied to the slow-motion homicide of public schools by Greg Palast in his recent book Armed Madhouse.

Most of the people who show up at Rep. Buesgens' little pep fests for school vouchers already have kids in private, most often sectarian schools. They're just looking for a subsidy for something they already do. According to Palast, and the source NCLB expert Scott Young, 76% of the voucher money handed out in an Arizona voucher program went to students already in private schools. Just a subsidy.

It is also laughable, especially when the idea is raised in an election year, to think that the feds are going to sink $100 million into vouchers. Heck, these clowns don't pay enough money to the states to cover the cost of the mandated testing under NCLB. Again, according to Palast, fifteen states have sued the federal government on these grounds.

What is the effect of vouchers on public schools? Let's assume for a minute they actually do what proponents say: persuade kids to transfer to private schools. Every time a child leaves a public school, the per-pupil funding attached to that child also leaves. Because Republicans like them so much, Spot is now going to use some business concepts.

In microeconomics, there is a concept called the "shut-down" point. An enterprise arrives at the shut-down point when its revenue no longer covers its variable costs. Notice, Gs and Gettes, the shut-down point is under the point where the enterprise is merely in the red. An enterprise may be in the red, yet earning enough money to pay its variable costs and eat up some of its fixed costs, the so-called overhead items, or to entrepreneurs, the "nut." In other words, you shut down when you lose more money by operating than closing.

Even attractive suburban schools, like the ones on Spot's hometown, are in on the dogpile on inner-city schools. The district loves open enrollment, right up to where the schools are full, because it maximizes revenue and minimizes per-pupil costs, and there is a bigger herd over which to amortize fixed costs.

Well, that was brutal, but that's the way it works.

Every student that leaves drives the marginal revenue down a lot more than the marginal cost of that student. It pushes the school closer to the shut-down point. This is the end zone for the public school killers.

Vouchers are not about sending poor little black kids to Blake, or The Blake School, as it likes to call itself. (Spotty says that anything with "the" in the front of it usually comes with a price premium of at least 25%.) They are about easing the burden to well off parents who already send their kids there. That, and putting additional financial pressure on already-strapped inner-city public schools.

Spot has more to say about NCLB, but it will have to wait for a day or two.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Who are the irresponsible ones?

Spotty linked to the Glenn Greenwald post Rules of polite Washington discourse yesterday but didn't give it much explanation. Did all of you read it, Gs and Gettes? No? Well, let's talk about it a little. Here's a little quote from Glenn:
Legal battles which involve the government typically are waged over abstract questions as to whether a particular government action (a new law or a President's order) is invalid as being unconstitutional. While such battles can generate substantial emotion, they do not typically implicate government officials personally.

But the FISA ruling from Judge Taylor is of a much different nature. The question being decided by NSA cases is, effectively, whether George Bush and his top officials, along with those at the NSA following his orders by eavesdropping without judicial approval, are guilty of felonies. As Professor Turley notes, very few people actually believe the answer to that question is difficult to discern:

While Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales insists that the legal authority for the program is clear and filed a notice of appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, few experts outside of the Bush administration support the program. To the contrary, federal law seems perfectly clear in prohibiting warrantless surveillance.

Of course, Glenn does not count our three scholars over at the Abscess of Evil, where these boils on the butt of humanity produce commentary like this and this about Judge Taylor's opinion. Greenwald is quoting law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School, by the way.

Turley and Greenwald say, gee, it's not nice to talk about it, but the stark implication of Judge Taylor ruling is to say the all the presidents men, and perhaps a woman or two, have committed multiple felonies.

Back to Glenn:
The Justice Department lawyers who approved this illegal program, the
political officials who ordered it, and the journalists who defended it
(and have enabled this presidency) are all part of the same circle, and
the very suggestion that any of this is actually criminal --
even though it is all being done in violation of the crystal clear
criminal law -- is just too unpleasant, too unruly, too disruptive to
admit. As Turley puts it: "The question of the president's possible
criminal acts has long been the pig in the parlor that polite people in
Congress refused to acknowledge."

But Judge Taylor's ruling --
with its very un-Beltway irreverence towards the President, and free of
the fear of describing the President's lawbreaking as what it is -- is
forcing that question out into the open, which is what explains so much
of the hostility towards Judge Taylor. This judge, unknown to the
Important People in academia and the political power centers, sitting
in her little Detroit courtroom, has broken the rules. She used
language which is uncouth (she pointed out the obvious -- that this
President has pretenses to being a King) and refused to pay homage to
the false orthodoxy that there are really difficult questions triggered
by the President's refusal to abide by the criminal law. How
irresponsible, unscholarly and unserious she is.

Who does that sound like to you boys and girls? That's a rhetorical question; Spot knows that you know the answer.

Mr. Ilk writes again

What did you say grasshopper? That's not Mr. Ilk? It's Mr. Yuck? Sorry. Spot's mistake. Well, Mr. Ilk has this letter in the Strib today:
I would guess the Aug. 20 letter writer who thinks U.S. District
Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, a Democratic appointee, did the right thing in
ruling that the warrantless eavesdropping program was unconstitutional
will be among the first to complain if we suffer another terrorist
attack in the United States.


If you would guess that, Bob, why don't you just go ahead and do it?

Mr. Ilk supports the logic, if that is what it can be called, of saying if you do not suport every murderous, illegal, and vile thing that the administration does or even dreams of doing, you support the terrorists. In fact, come to think of it, maybe Mr. Ilk should have accused the "Aug. 20 letter writer" of looking forward to a terrorist attack!

There are only so many fear cards in the deck. They've all been played already, Mr. Ilk.

Georg of Arabia

Siggy zes go read za Informed Comment today. Za Professor Cole discusses Georg Bush and za personality disorder!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Laurence Tribe is a hater!

So says no less a legal scholar than Death Squad John in a post entitled Let’s not confuse the masses with legal analysis. You’re right DSJ, when we could confuse them with your special brand of ad hominem attacks! In line with Spot’s new policy, there will be no link to this Power Line post from August 20th. In the post, Professor Laurence Tribe was criticized for criticizing the criticizers of Judge Taylor opinion on the NSA warrantless surveillance program. Got that?

This was actually a post from the Deacon (at least that’s what they used to call him), but DSJ couldn’t resist an update:

A lot of years have gone by since I knew Larry Tribe as a superbly fair-minded professor. It is inconceivable that, in those days, he would have defended a district court opinion that failed even to acknowledge the fact that it conflicted with every appellate decision on the controlling issue. But the Democratic Party, to which Larry is loyal, has become a party of hate; and hate has superseded any pretense of rational analysis. It is a sad fate for a once-fine intellect.

Anybody who disagrees with DSJ obviously couldn’t have a fine intellect!

This is one of the more colossally absurd statements that Death Squad John has ever made. Quite a claim, Spot knows. But perhaps you need to know a little about how litigation works, boys and girls. Trial courts are in the business of hearing cases in the first instance, finding facts, making a record, and applying the law as it has been currently interpreted by appellate court decisions. Judge Taylor did not acknowledge that her opinion conflicted with every appellate court decision on the controlling issue, as Death Squad John say, for a couple of reasons.

First, it didn’t. Here’s just a teensy bit from the Judge’s opinion:

On appeal, the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the district court with respect to the plaintiffs’ claims regarding the Government’s admitted wiretaps, because there was no reason to “suspend the general rule that the burden is on those seeking an exemption from the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement to show the need for it.” Ellsberg, 709 F.2d at 68.

The Ellsberg is Daniel Ellsberg, and the case being discussed is the Pentagon Papers case. As Spot mentioned before, the burden is on those seeking an exemption to the warrant requirement must establish the grounds for the exemption. In other words, it’s the government’s burden. The government didn’t meet that burden. DSJ wants a rule where the government just says state secrets privilege and then everyone closes up shop and goes home. But as the Judge noted, the government already admitted the facts necessary to make out a prima facie case against the program. The state secret privilege is an evidentiary rule, not a disposer of cases, although it sometimes has that effect. But not always. Obviously!

Second, Judge Taylor didn’t acknowledge that her ruling was contrary to precedent because she didn’t believe it was. That’s why she ruled as she did. To accuse a district court judge of intentionally not following precedent, in other words being lawless as well as wrong, is a serious, and Spotty says reckless, charge made by DSJ, an officer of the court.

There has been criticism of the opinion, by people, including law professors who support the Judge’s conclusion, who say that the case failed to raise this issue or that, and that it didn’t even rely on the strongest arguments against the program. Glenn Greenwald discusses the reason that may explain all the focus on the quality of Judge Taylor’s opinion.

When Death Squad John loses a case, Spot wonders if he always calls the judge lawless?

It's song day here at the Stool

In a song dedicated to JC Christian, Jesus General, MJS at Corrente pens this:
Pissing Our Pants

(sung to the tune of “Staying Alive”)

Well, you can tell by the way I stain my pants
I’m a patriot: just read my rants
Muslims make me want to hiss, when they come at me
I start to piss
And now it’s airtight, it’s inside
I have hung onto my pride
We just want to all be safe
But when I walk I tend to chafe

When you are so frightened the tension is quite heightened
You’re pissing your pants, pissing your pants
Feel the bladder leakin’, everybody freakin’
And we’re pissing our pants, pissing our pants
Ah, ha, ha, ha, pissing our pants, pissing our pants
Ah, ha, ha, ha, pissing our pants…

If you want to sing the rest, go here.

He’s having an excellent morning

Da Wege always has great links and, er, provocative commentary. But his muse this morning is George W. Bush, who invited us at his press conference to imagine Iraq without our occupation. This in turn led da Wege to imagine new lyrics to the Lennon – McCartney classic ballad Imagine. Da Wege wears his lyricist hat to the Spotty award ceremony in his honor. Here’s the first verse of the new Imagine. If you want to read, or even sing, the rest, you’ll have to go over to Norwegianity.

Imagine Iraq has nukes
It's easy if you close your eyes
Cooked intel to guide us
Friends in places high
Imagine all the people
Murdered someday.....

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

Sunday, August 20, 2006

She's a what?

A Brienian Bozette. Carol Overland. You can figure it out boys and girls. Carol submitted this comment to You remember Brien, boys and girls?
Hey, in picking at failure to displayendorsements, you failed to note that there IS a candidate who does disclose endorsement in SD 41! Risser is THE SD 41 candidate who DOES list her party on her sign!

And neither Michel nor Borene do. And Michel's signs are GREEN, and Borenes are not blue weighted... what does this mean?

Well, Spot's a monkey's uncle! It's there, just a plain as day. Every osprey in town knows that Julie is a Greenie! Motorists going by at the posted 30 miles an hour, maybe not so much.

What's that grasshopper? You can't see the wording about the Green endorsement? Oh, it's there; just enlarge the picture maybe a 1000% or so and you'll see it too!

What the point? Well the point is that there is no point. Other than the fact that Brien Martin, Carol Overland and the Edina Sun Current are all a bunch of fools.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

A pox on all your houses

Pray that the end will come, now as it obviously must, quickly and painlessly. Here’s Scotty at Power Line:

Who's afraid of Anna Diggs Taylor?

Anyone who knows what legal analysis and legal argument look like -- anyone who knows the requisites of legal reasoning -- must look on the handiwork of Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in the NSA case in amazement. It is a pathetic piece of work. If it had been submitted by a student in my second year legal writing class at the University of St. Thomas Law School, it would have earned a failing grade.

On the issue of the legality of warrantless interception of enemy communications, for example, it is entirely conclusory. It does not address precedent. It assumes its conclusion, essentially framing the issue as whether the president can break the law. It simply asserts that the NSA eavesdropping program is "obviously in violation of the Fourth Amendment" -- apparently because it is warrantless. (Wrong.) She sagely observes that the "President of the United States is himself created by that same Constitution" -- you know, the one with the Fourth Amendment that she apparently thinks requires warrants in all cases.

Judge Taylor is like the big bad wolf in the fairly [sic] tale. She huffs and she puffs. I think she's facing the brick house that can't be blown down -- she at least can't blow it down -- but the end of this unedifying fairy tale has yet to be written by a higher and presumably more competent authority.

You’ll have to find your own link, Gs and Gettes. No, Spotty does not predict the end times based on the outcome of the NSA case.

Spot predicts the end of the world because Scotty has apparently got a job as a legal writing instructor. At literally the fourth-rate law school in Minnesota, one that employs the likes of John Yoo’s sidekick, Robert Delahunty, but still. You will recall, boys and girls that the song and dance team of Perfessers [sic, Spot knows] Yoo and Delahunty authored the brilliant legal memorandum that said that the administration didn’t need to worry about or comply with the Geneva Conventions. This is why administration factotums are this very moment slinking around the halls of Congress pushing the idea that the War Crimes Act should be modified to prevent any future, er, unpleasantness for Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al.

One the one hand, it is the perfect place for Scotty; on the other, students will be forced to part with coin of the realm to listen to Scotty and be subject to his ministrations. Let’s ask Scotty some questions, boys and girls, okay?

Have you actually read the opinion?

Did you notice that it discussed, inter alia, the two lines of cases supporting the state secrets privilege, the standing of the plaintiffs to maintain the action, the history of electronic surveillance in the United States, including FISA, the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment (because some of the plaintiffs were journalists who interviewed sources by international telephone, the attorney-client privilege, the separation of powers argument created by the aforementioned gasbags Yoo and Delahunty, the authorization of the use of force by the Congress after 9/11, the so-called inherent power of the president, and “practical” justifications for exemption to the warrant requirement.

Spot says the Judge gave the government all the rope it wanted, and then some. The Judge’s opinion ran forty-four pages.

Oh, and Scotty, did you know that the basic prima facie case was made out by the plaintiffs out of the government’s own mouth? It admitted and affirmed many times that the warrantless program existed. It just couldn’t justify it as an exception to the warrant requirement.

Scotty, when you said that the Judge apparently thought warrants were always required, you brought dishonor on yourself, your piss-ant blog, and the school where you purport to teach. A pox on all your houses.

The ballad of Mark and Nick

Grasshoppers and grasshopperettes, what do Dolly Levi and Spot have in common? And no, they aren’t both in love with Horace Vandergelder (you have to scroll down to 1969). Any guesses? Ok, Spot will tell you.

They are both matchmakers! Spot’s latest triumph in the union of accidental lovers department happened this very morning in the comments section to his post, What is it, libertarian grasshopper? It’s sort of like two bashful people who run into each other while perusing a book in the self-help section at Barnes & Noble. No, it’s exactly like that. Check out the comments to that post; they’re probably over there right now, throwing flowers at the feet of a statue of Ayn Rand. You see, these two found that they are both libertarians! [cue the lush music]

The last time Spot looked, Mark was talking about being an objectivist philosopher and Nick was discussing the nature of mankind. Nick winds up and pitches this one:

Moreover, I find it hypocritical to the extreme when the Left complains about the capture of government by private interests when they are busy giving government the vast coercive power that makes such capture so tempting to a society that is inevitably composed of bad and borderline bad people--and corporate executives who are usually correct in their claim that they owe a legal and fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder profits (in less "enlightened" corporations than Whole Foods). When the Left speaks such nonsense, it leads me to believe that its members are dangerously naive or stupid--or it suggests strongly that their arguments are merely tactical--an effort to replace those who capture government with members of their own tribe, for purposes that have destroyed economies and/or killed millions.

Objectivism, Gs and Gettes, is the invention of St. Ayn, which holds:

Objectivism holds that there is a mind-independent reality, that individuals are in contact with this reality through sensory perception, that they gain knowledge by processing the data of perception using reason or "non-contradictory identification", that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or "rational self-interest", and that the only social system consistent with such a morality is laissez-faire capitalism.

Sigmund Spot has told Spotty zhat most of zese people were brought up by ze emotionally-distant momma and poppa. Or zey have za defective empathy gene!

Nick seems to say that since we have a society of “bad and borderline bad” people, we shouldn’t have a powerful government because these bad people will take it over. Yes, there is some evidence of that happening even as we speak, but the people who wrote the Constitution had a pretty good idea about human propensities and how to restrain them. The question before the house today is how and when the ship of state will right itself. Spot doesn’t know about you, Gs and Gettes, but Spot thinks that institutions built to protect individuals and society is better than the we’re all in this by ourselves approach.

Spotty has often called libertarians social Darwinist hunter gatherers. Nick’s comment about liberal tribes capturing government in order to kill economies and people proves Spot’s point. Nick’s perspective is so lacking in human empathy that he doesn’t believe it can exist in anybody else.

Sigmund Spot’s prescription for these two is a little hardship in their lives to show them how interconnected we all are, and how mutually-dependent we are.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

What is it, libertarian grasshopper?

Spotty! Spotty! Come quick! I have something important to show you!

What is it, libertarian grasshopper?

It’s a speech by the Chairman of Whole Foods. He used to be a hippie like you – you were a hippie weren’t you? – but now he’s a libertarian! The speech is his testimony about his conversion. And man, I agree, WHAT HE SAID!

Okay libertarian grasshopper, Spot will give it a read.

[Much later . . .]

Spotty, wake up! Did you read the testimony?

Oh, sorry libertarian grasshopper. Spotty must have dozed off. Yes, he read it, or as much of it as he could before overwhelming ennui set in.

Well, what did you think?

Sometimes, libertarian grasshopper, when liberals become really wealthy, it affects their ability to think. That certainly seems to be the case with John Mackey, the convert of whom you speak. For everyone, boys and girls, Spot will say that libertarian grasshopper and Spot are talking about a speech by the founder and chairman of Whole Foods to an audience at a thing called FreedomFest. The speech was titled WinningtheBattleforFreedomandProsperity. Really. The people at FreedomFest apparently cannot afford spaces between their words.

It is perhaps unnecessary for Spot to mention that Mackay was, well, preaching to the choir. Here are the four things that Mackay say absolutely critical for improving society:

  • Creating educational choice.
  • Privatizing social security.
  • De-regulating health care.
  • Enacting meaningful tort reform.

Libertarian grasshopper, Spot thought you said this guy was an outside the box thinker? Well, he does have one idea. He thinks that the “freedom movement” needs to reposition itself and re-brand itself!

Of course he does. This is a guy who sells lettuce for three bucks a head! You would expect him to recommend a marketing solution. Wouldn’t you? More lipstick! It still looks like a pig! Sad, really. The chairman says that Ayn Rand and Gordon Gekko had the right ideas, but it was such a mistake to talk about the “virtue of selfishness” and greed. They would have been so much better off just to talk about self interest, according to the chairman. It’s a much nicer-sounding term. Here’s the core of the chairman’s philosophy:

Business, working through free markets, is possibly the greatest force for good on the planet today. [italics are Spot’s]

Well, the chairman does hedge his bets! According to the chairman, business is “burdened” with the “brand” of maximizing profits. Well, actually, that is what corporations do. In fact, if they don’t do that, they get sued by disgruntled shareholders. Businesses are not – for the most part – immoral. They are just amoral. In fact, people in a group will do things that wouldn’t dream of doing individually. That’s why business needs a little, er, guidance. This guidance takes many forms, and only one of them is business regulation. It’s the stick beside all those carrots!

Spot isn’t going to bother to debate the chairman’s four points, other than to say the chairman seems awfully worried about a batch of bad bananas! (See point four above.) There are a few other points of the chairman’s gas baggery that deserve mention, however.

The freedom movement needs to support economic globalization. Globalization is the most caring and compassionate strategy we can implement to help the developing world lift itself out of poverty.

There was a time when Spot actually believed this to be true. “Globalization” as actually practiced, however, is mostly the race to the bottom that many predicted when the NAFTA was adopted. Income disparities have actually increased in a lot of places, including the United States, where aggressive opening of markets has taken place. Ecuador and Argentina are examples. Venezuela was also an example, until its citizens elected Hugo Chávez as president. Ol’ Hugo is kind of a wild card in the oil markets business, which is why holy men like Pat Robertson want to kill him.

Do you remember what happened to Mexico after its entry into the NAFTA, boys and girls? The peso collapsed, parts of its agricultural economy, especially corn, collapsed, and thousands ended up moving to border cities where they could work for maquiladoras for pennies. Some of them, of course, decided to move a little farther north. There were some Mexican winners in the NAFTA of course, but they were vastly outnumbered by the losers. It has not helped Mexico “lift itself out of poverty.”

If you look at a major trade agreement, WTO, NAFTA or otherwise, you can see how thoroughly they are written for the benefit of the multi-nationals. The big winner in corn under the NAFTA was not the Mexican farmers or the US farmers, but rather Cargill and ADM.

The chairman also says this:

What other reforms are needed? The following reforms are old news to people in the freedom movement: school choice, through vouchers and tax credits, along with privatizing public schools and selling off their assets to the private sector.

Jesus, he sounds like Captain Fishsticks here. You know, the communists in the old Soviet Union sold off a lot of state assets to private firms – usually just cronies – and they would up with a giant kleptocracy that has been of zero benefit to the average Russian. Paul Bremer and Co. and their neo-con henchmen at the Heritage Foundation tried it in Iraq, too, with predictably disastrous results. One of the things they didn’t manage to sell off was the oil industry, because the US oil barons said, What are you crazy? Of course, unemployment is way down since Bremer showed up! Not really.

The chairman preaches love, caring and compassion, but his prescriptions produce the exact opposite. Libertarians are either very naïve or very cynical. Either they believe the crap they peddle, or they think others will.

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You remember Brien, boys and girls?

Of course you do. Perhaps after limbering up (or something up, anyway!) by posting a comment on Spotty's blog, he penned this one to the local weekly, the Sun Current:
To the editor:

The election campaign season has started and lawn signs are popping up like tulips at springtime. However earlier in the year the most important part of the campaign process for candidates was getting their respective political party's endorsement.

The party endorsement is critical in establishing the creditably of the candidate which leads to added financial support from the party and volunteers to work on the campaign. It is a major political milestone to be achieved in validating the candidate's viability.

To get the highest level of benefit, the endorsement is communicated on every piece of campaign material or media possible. Of the materials the endorsement is best publicized on the candidate's lawn signs. This is because, like billboards, lawn sign messages reach the widest viewing audience.

With that, I find it curious that the DFL candidate Andrew Borene has decided not to publicize the endorsement he received from the DFL Party on his lawn signs. Either this was a big marketing mistake or he wants to tone down widespread public attention of his DFL endorsement. It, I think, was not a mistake.

Brien A. Martin


Brien Martin is vice chair of the Senate District 41 Republican Party.

The funny thing is that if you go to Geoff Michel's campaign website, you will see jolly pictures like this:

This is, of course, what Michel's lawn signs look like! Perhaps our friend Brien brings his careful proofreading skills to the task of reading signs here, too, and finds that they say Republican somewhere! Putz.

But Spotty, Brien is the only blowhard Republican in Edina, right?

Alas, grasshopper, sadly no. This one was in the Sun Current a couple of weeks ago. Spot can't find the link, but he assures you it is an accurate copy of the letter.
To the editor:

My wife and I had a marvelous time at the Edina Fourth of July parade.

We helped decorate a float and then had a ball handing out red, white and blue beads to the veterans and all the kids. We gave beads to everyone who smiled or put out their hands, regardless of what political candidate's sticker they were wearing.

Then we went to the Senate District 41 Republican barbecue at the Community Center. What a great sight it was to see all of the veterans sitting together at tables and eating those terrific burgers and brats. I would love to have heard some of the stories being told. No one cared to what political party you belonged. What a great way to celebrate July 4th.

All this feeling of patriotism and good fun was quickly deflated when I read two days later that DFL endorsed Senate District 41 candidate Andrew Borene got into a political snit and complained about the way our wonderful veterans were invited to the barbecue. I don't know who should be more ashamed: Mr. Borene or Edina's Recreation Supervisor Susie Miller who kowtowed to Borene's silly complaint and sent a letter of apology to all of the veterans.

The citizens of Edina do not need a person of Mr. Borene's ilk representing us in the state Senate and I will do everything I can to ensure our current Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, gets re-elected in November.

Bob Maginnis


You see, Brien and Bob have kind of a poison pen club! Brien even brags about it in his alcohol-fueled comment to Spot, linked above. Bob, and guys of his ilk to borrow a word, seems to think that it is okay for the City of Edina, where elections aren't even partisan, to sponsor a Republican picnic!

What Spot really wants to talk about, though, is the position of the Edina Sun Current. It very much seems to prefer bon-bons like the two examples above, while eschewing policy discussion because well, sigh, they are just too long (250 words max!)! It is obvious that the Sun Current is remaining true to its humble origins!

On the other hand, this week's Sun Current has room for a six-hundred word pity party about 9/11 by Peggy Bakken, executive editor. That's okay, Peggy, just let it out! It would be a genuine shame if you had to talk about, say, the sorry state of transportation for Edina commuters and Geoff Michel's role in it.

Perhaps Spot can come over some time for a pretend tea party at your pretend newspaper.

A thump of the tail to Wild Blue for his comment.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Spears: Baby number two not planned

Britney Spears, expecting baby No. 2, says she and husband Kevin Federline didn't plan the pregnancy. "It just kind of happened," the 24-year-old singer reveals in an interview in the latest issue of People magazine, on newsstands Friday.

Didn't this happen once before?. To a Jewish couple? Can you say rapture, Gs and Gettes? The pieces do seem to be falling into place, alhough Spot would have figured Madonna as the candidate for the next Immaculate Conception.

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Vox Day, who's... um... where's your Daddy?

In today's news, we learn that Robert Beale is is on the lam. Robert Beale is best known in the blogging world as the one who spawned the best argument for the estate tax, ever.

Update: For a man who has opinions like this, this, this, and this, isn't it ironic that one of the most capable woman jurists in the land signed his father's arrest warrant?

Spot adds: Spotty has gotten credit for this post in some places. Note the author.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

From a commenter

Haloscan sends Spot a message when comments are posted. This comment was filed a little while ago, although Spot doesn't know what the post was and has not gone back to look it up.
Hey Spoted Dick,

Have no courage Spotty? Shouldn't expect
anything more from a wet mop. I see your blog is get 0 comment on your
out standing commentary. You're such a nothing looser, you just wish
you could get publish in the Edina Sun but they have readers.

Brien A. Martin |Email | 08.14.06 - 9:07 pm | #

This is the first time that one of Spot's commenters has ever slurred his speech with the keyboard. Good job, Brien!

Update: This one has generated some comments, hasn't it Brien?


Who said this?
A liberal Catholic is oxymoronic. The definition of a person who disagrees with what the Catholic Church is teaching is called a Protestant.

No, it isn't Katie, although she undoubtedly believes it. No, it's a Opus Dei evangelist named John McCloskey. He is at the Catholic Information Center which is located a couple of blocks from the White House. Here's a little more information about him:
In 2000 Father McCloskey laid out his vision of American Christianity in the year 2030 (McCloskey, 2000). In his "new church order" there is no dissent remaining in the Catholic Church, and mainstream American Protestant churches (which he calls "Protestant sects") will be virtually a thing of the past. All faithful "evangelical, biblical" Protestants will have joined his one true politically-correct church and the rest of Christendom is left behind with the pagan masses (McCloskey, 2000).

These are just a couple of snippets from a Media Transparency article entitled Neocon Catholics target mainline protestants by Andrew J. Weaver.

Why do you care about this Spotty?

Because, grasshopper, McCloskey and a lot of other conservative Catholics - like our Katie - are working pretty hard to subvert the social justice ministry of mainline Protestant churches. You remember Katie's recent jeremiad (a word that Spotty has not used before to describe Katie's writing but thinks may be the best one yet) against the mainline Protestants, don't you? Her column may be locked away, sealed with an astringent kiss, in the vaults at the Star Tribune. But Spot wrote about it in Katie bashes religion!

Not all religion, of course, just some. The bone in Katie's craw on this occasion was the adoption of resolutions by the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in Minnesota to, well, let's just let Katie tell it:
In the past, Methodist leaders have often focused on racism and sexism. This year, however, gay issues jumped to center stage. The Minnesota Annual Conference outdid itself, passing nine petitions on various aspects of the topic. The conference went on record as supporting both gay marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.

Boy it was bad enough when those darned Methodists stuck up for blacks and women! Now they seem to think gays are actually, like, people! Who knows where this might lead?

One of the places where Katie undoubtedly downloads her thoughts from is the Institute on Religion and Democracy. According to the linked Media Transparency article, here's an example of an IRD attack on the Methodists:

Recently, Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the National
Council of Churches and a United Methodist minister, observed "there is
a growing body of evidence that groups like the IRD" are working to
"deliberately divide and undermine institutional churches...This is a
concerted effort, not just against the National Council but the
mainline churches themselves, to erode the confidence in leadership of
these churches" (Guess, 2006).

Here is how the attacks are
carried out. In November of 2005, in an unusual move, 99 (now 109)
United Methodist bishops from every region of the United States as well
as Europe, Africa, and Asia released a joint Statement of Conscience
entitled, "A Call to Repentance and Peace with Justice" (United
Methodist Reporter, 2005). The bishops are the elected officials who
constitute the consecrated leadership of the 11 million member United
Methodist Church (UMC), which includes among its members President
George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.

In the Statement of Conscience
the bishops confess, "In the face of the United States Administration's
rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many
of us were silent." The bishops commit themselves to pray for the end
of war in general and "the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation
of Iraq" specifically, to reclaim their prophetic authority to speak
out against war and injustice, and to engage in advocacy and
peacemaking as integral to Christian discipleship (UMR, 2005). The
signers reflect a wide consensus and are comprised of a broad national,
age, gender, and theological diversity.

A few days after the bishops' Statement of Conscience was made public, the Weekly Standard published an IRD response (Fred Barnes is the executive editor of Weekly Standard and a board member at IRD). In IRD's attack piece on the bishops for the Weekly Standard,
it accused them of "flogging the President." Its graphic denunciation
of the bishops followed the Neoconservative party line, condemning the
bishops for being out-of-touch "liberal elites" who promote
"anti-Americanism" and have "hostility to capitalism" (Tooley, 2005a).

This was followed by a Christmas fundraising appeal from IRD dated December
22, 2005, in which it smeared the bishops a second time. IRD claimed
that the bishops' Statement of Conscience is "insulting" to the "brave
young men and women" who are serving in Iraq (Tooley, 2005b). Never
mind that family members of the bishops have been and are serving in
Iraq. IRD sneers at the bishops' call for peace, justice, and reconciliation in Iraq as sounding "like warmed-over 1960s utopianism" and proceeds to mock them as "flower children and chronic demonstrators who never really grew up and faced the real, sinful world" (Tooley, 2005b). In a direct challenge to the basic patriotism of the bishops that would warm the heart of Joseph Goebbels, IRD declares:

No doubt, if transported back in history, these bishops likewise would
have impartially "lamented" the "continued warfare" between Allied and German forces in Normandy in 1944, while blaming the plight of millions of victims of fascist aggression on the United States (Tooley, 2005b).

This malicious accusation, typical of IRD, is made despite the fact that
among the bishops are decorated World War II and Korean Era combat

Gs and Gettes, these are not nice people. And they are pretty well funded too, by a handful of right-wing foundations and as Media Transparency points out in the linked article. You really ought to read it. These Media Transparency guys do great work.

Update: Be sure to check out the comments. No, not the one from St. Swiftee, but the second one from Rob Levine.

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Authoritarians everywhere!

After Spotty put up his last post, Take the money and run, he sat down to read the paper, and saw this on the op-ed page of today's Star Tribune:

It just seemed like kind of a harmonic convergence to Spot.

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Take the money and run

Dean Zimmerman’s conviction last week for taking bribes while a member of the Minneapolis City Council was noteworthy, and regrettable. But perhaps what happened after it is more important, politically. According to Polinaut, the Green Party issued a statement this weekend.

The Green Party of Minnesota reaffirms its belief that Dean Zimmermann had no intention to solicit or take bribes. We base this on his record of more than half a century of service to his community and active work for justice. We recognize that he has made serious mistakes in the handling of funds, and we do not condone or excuse those mistakes. Nevertheless, we believe that he was never motivated by personal gain.

Our hearts go out to Dean and his family in what is clearly a tragic situation. We have serious concerns about what appears to have been questionable investigative practices by federal authorities.

As a party we believe that the root of the problem is the vast sums of money being poured into politics and the climate of widespread suspicion and corruption that it creates. We are concerned about the legal bribery inherent in the existing political system.

The Green Party continues to stand, as it always has, for clean and fair elections, public funding of campaigns, and strict regulation of lobbying.

What? You could watch a video of Zimmerman taking the money!

Why is this important, boys and girls? Spotty says that it proves 1) Greens are ordinary mortals with their pro-rata share of vices, and 2) the Greens don’t believe #1. The party’s belief in its own moral superiority is a key attribute in party members’ identification with it. But after Zimmerman, members ought to consider if there is really moral superiority in the brand and think seriously about shopping elsewhere. Specifically.

Julie Risser’s feel-good run in SD41 can accomplish nothing progressive. In fact, it may accomplish a lot less than nothing. It may give a group of progressive authoritarians a sense of group identity and moral superiority, but that’s it. Wouldn’t it be so much better to actually elect a progressive candidate?

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

What to do? What to do?

Well, contrary to the instructions of Spot and a lot of other liberal bloggers, the DFL Central Committee went ahead yesterday and endorsed Steve Kelley for Attorney General. Norwegianity is pretty cheesed off about it. He says it was an ill-conceived and ill-timed decision and says it much more colorfully than Spot.

What to do now? Norwegianity says punish the party and the endorsed candidate by supporting either of his opponents, Lori Swanson or Bill Luther in the September primary. That's one approach. Here's another: ignore the endorsement - made under these regrettable circumstances - and go ahead and vote for the candidate who you think is best for the job and most likely to win in November. Since there are no interesting Republican primary races (a big surprise there), we can assume that there will be some cross-over Republican mischief-making in the DFL primary.

Spot doesn't think he will add to that with a protest vote in the AG's race. He's gonna listen to what each of them have to say between now and the primary, especially about enforcement in the health care, securities, and consumer protection areas.

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A lesson II

This time delivered by Digby at Hullabaloo. It seems that the British wanted to wait to move in on the would-be bombers, but the US said get 'em now. Why? To take Joe Lieberman off the radar screen.

Perhaps the danger wasn't quite so imminent as the Bushies want us to believe, eh?

Are you paying attention, Chicken Little?

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A lesson

Grasshoppers and grasshopperettes, today we are going to learn the difference between, say a dog like Spot, and a Chicken Little. One morning last week, Spot woke up to hysterical reports by blonde mannequins to the effect that terrorists were apprehended in the act of hijacking a dozen airliners bound for the US from Britain – intending to blow them up mid-ocean. Alarming, of course.

Spot thought they must have been apprehended at the airport, just in the nick of time! We know now that certainly wasn’t the case, and some interesting facts have come to light in the days since the first reporting. But that hasn’t stopped the administration, the media, or the right-wing blogosphere from breathlessly reporting that we were a hair’s breadth from disaster. Silly persons.

First, the British police rolled this one up quite a while before anybody got near an airport with explosives. And the suspects had been under surveillance for a long time. And you know how the plot was discovered in the first place? A tip from a British Muslim. The most elemental police work, in other words. Not a lot of fancy signals intelligence, not the Gitmo treatment, not an extended bombing campaign somewhere.

And you have to chuckle a little about mothers tasting their own breast milk before getting on airplanes. The danger of liquid explosives has been known for a long time. Heck, Bob Baer even talks about them in his recent novel Blow the House Down. Heck, they have even been tried before. But suddenly, Evian, Diet Coke, and breast milk are hazardous substances. The US is gripped in this mad, paranoid psychosis that Spot calls the “bogey man” approach to current events. And the Bushies use it to every advantage. The events of last week did not make breast milk any more dangerous than it had been the week before, at least to anyone who knows about explosives and bombs, and Spot hopes the US government has hired at least a few of those before now.

On Coleen Rowley’s blog, there is a good recent post about this whole issue.

It’s Sunday afternoon, and time for Spot’s nap, so Gs and Gettes, you’ll have to dig for some of the facts in Spot’s post yourself. But they’re there; Spot recommends

So, what is the difference between Spot and Chicken Little? Spot is reflective; Chicken Little is reflexive.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Entirely derivitive

MNObserver apparently read Sigmund Spot and Spot's posts about the authoritarian personality. A day or so ago, MNObserver referred Spot to a post entitled Cracks In The Wall, Part I: Defining the Authoritarian Personality from late this week at Orcinus, apprently some kind of black and white fish, not spotted, but kind of a two-tone job. Anyway, Spot wanted Sigmund Spot's reaction to it. It was predictable:
Who is zat Sara Robinson who wrote za article? Za vork is sehr derivitive of za work by Siggy and Stanley Milgram! Zis is an outrage!

After Spot calmed Sigmund Spot down a little, Siggy admitted zhat that it was a pretty good inventory of the authoritarian types, both leaders and followers. Spotty thinks so, too. Only, Robinson is a little more optimistic than either Siggy or Spotty.

There ae supposed to be two follow-up posts, but Spot hasn't seen them yet.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

To endorse, or not to endorse?

That is the question. Let Spot be perhaps the last local blogger to weigh in on the issue of an endorsement by the DFL Central Committee for Attorney General. By all accounts, three good candidates (in alphabetical order): Steve Kelley, Bill Luther, and Lori Swanson.

Steve Kelley was a candidate for the DFL endorsement for governor; he was Spot’s early choice. Several unions have backed Kelley, including Education Minnesota. Kelley has certainly earned the latter organization’s support for his leadership in K-12 education matters at the statehouse for many years. Bill Luther, a long-time DFL stalwart, has been a Congressman and before that a leader in the Legislature.

But still.

The dark horse in the race is Lori Swanson. Spot has never met Lori Swanson. She has certainly not had the same opportunity to be known by the DFL insiders as Kelley and Luther have (Spot is not a DFL insider, and he is certainly not a member of the Central Committee, heaven forefend!). But Spotty just has this sneaking suspicion that she is the best applicant for the job.

Swanson has been the Solicitor General of Minnesota for seven and a half years. Like politics, that ain’t beans. The office requires directing all of the litigation on behalf of the State of Minnesota: defending it when it gets sued and bringing suit to enforce Minnesota’s law, including its insurance, banking, securities, health care, and consumer protection laws. You don’t get that job without having both administrative savvy and being a great courtroom lawyer. Virtually every law firm in the state, big and small, tangles with the Solicitor General’s office.

Spot says it is unfair for a candidate to have to labor against an endorsement when that endorsement is made by the DFL Central Committee so close to the primary, especially when any endorsement cannot be well-considered. Spot wants a chance to look more closely at Swanson’s candidacy, and for her – and Bill Luther, too - to have a fair shot at the nomination.

This is not simply a do-over for the party establishment. Spot doesn’t think the party establishment is entitled to a do-over, now, in any event.

Spotty award: drinking buddy edition

Last night at DL, Spot congratulated Charlie Quimby again for his hysterical and straight-faced send-up of Death Squad John and the Lebanese carnage photos. Spot concluded his remarks by saying that it was a post that he wishes he had written. Whereupon (it means the same thing as "then," boys and girls, but it's much more pompous) REW pipes up and says, Then it deserves a Spotty! Why yes, dear REW it does, by Spot's own criteria and the words out of Spot's mouth.

So therefore, without further ado (or adieux, as Tild might say just to mock Spotty), be it known by all these presents, Charlie Quimby is awarded a Spotty for the aforementioned post, All in the Same Nonexistent Boat.

Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty is awarded for an op-ed piece, a letter to the editor, or a blog post or comment tha Spot wishes that he had written. The prestige value is immeasurable, but the cash value is 1/20th of a cent.

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He got out somehow

Well, Captain Fishsticks is off his meds again. (Actually, Sticks is grayer than the guy in the picture.) We haven't heard from Sticks since Wednesday, July 26th, until yesterday. In his most recent column, cut and pasted to his blog at the link above, Sticks returns to his favorite rant: gummit schools. Here's the backstory:
As the saying goes, "when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." Stillwater resident Karl Bremer grabs a sledge hammer in his Aug. 8 Viewpoint piece "She's says it's No. 1, but is she for it or against it?" His only political tool is guilt by association, so every problem looks like Michele Bachmann, 6th District congressional candidate.

The gist of Bremer's harangue is that it is somehow inconsistent for Bachmann to say that public education is "her number one issue" and accept campaign contributions from individuals who have signed the proclamation of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, which favors "ending government involvement in education." In his effort to politically nail Bachmann, Bremer pounds on contributors to the Alliance as "public education abolitionists" who "want to kill public education."

No Sticks, Spot believes the saying is: When your hammerhead is a tool, you'd better check out the people who are supporting her.

Sticks objects to Bremer's use of the the term "public education" to mean public schools. Well, that's exactlhy what it has meant here since the founding of the state. Definitional sophistry by the likes of Sticks isn't going to change that.

Sticks returns in this column to his juvenile understanding of Minnesota constitutional law. Sticks and Spot have been over this a couple of times. Sticks' crusader's myopia apparently makes it hard for him to read. A couple of quotes from our seafaring legal scholar:
Section One of Article XIII of the Minnesota state constitution authorizes the Legislature to "establish a general and uniform system of public schools." But within that charge, there is no notion of exclusivity. In other words, the Minnesota constitution requires public schools, but does not limit "public education" to public schools.

No, you knothead (did you catch that nautical reference, boys and girls?), the constitution doesn't "authorize;" it directs, requires, and mandates that the Legislature establish a "uniform" system of public schools. It doesn't mention "public education" as somehow distinct from "public schools" anywhere. Sticks' contention is pure gas baggery.

Now Sticks delivers the one-two punch:
Section Two of Article XIII prohibits direct state support for "schools wherein the distinctive doctrines, creeds or tenets of any particular Christian or other religious sect are promulgated or taught," but it does not prohibit individual parents who receive educational vouchers from freely using them at religious schools, provided (courts have ruled) there are other non-religious alternatives.

Again Sticks' eyes, and perhaps his mind, fail him. The language in section 2 is NOT "direct state support," it is that public money or property may not be "appropriated or used" for sectarian schools. The very first time, and every time thereafter, that a sectarian school tried to cash a state-issued voucher, it would violate the MInnesota Constitution. Period. End of story.

Spot has written often on this issue, most recently in School vouchers redeaux which has links to some of the earlier posts on the subject.

By the way SD41 voters, Geoff MIchel is a supporter of school vouchers.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

MPR article on S41

Busy day; headed for DL in a while; not much time to post. Spot did want to mention this web article at MPR: Edina is key suburban battleground this campaign. This first thing Spot noticed is that there are pictures of each candidate in the article. Andrew Borene, the DFL candidate is standing with his wife Britta and a group of supporters, including a coule of kids - and not Borene's kids either. In his picture, Geoff Michel, the Republican incumbent, is standing with a single connstituent. Julie Risser, the Green candidate, is at a table reaching into a stack of papers, Green Party manifestos, no doubt. Spot says draw your own conclusions.

Borene says in the article:
I would certainly hope that people would judge me based on my actions, not what pledges I sign, not what caucus I caucus with, and listen to what I really believe, and the things I want to do for the community," Borene said. "I'll never sell the community out for a special interest pledge because my family's here.

Unlike Michel, who will have to run on his lamentable record. One of the first things Geoff Michel voted to do when he took office was vote on the Minnesota Senate floor to pull a concealed handgun bill out of committe for a floor vote. By the time the bill finally came up, his vote wasn't needed, so Michel got the okay to vote no from Dick Day, the Senate Minority Leader. You see, Michel had heard from a lot of voters who didn't want people packin' at Southdale.

People, even legislators, are entitled to change their minds on something. But that is not what Michel did; the political wind just blew him around. This one issue is probably the most emblamatic of the fecklessness of Geoff Michel. Just ask him about family members who got carry permits sometime.

Michel, along with the governor, was one of the no new taxes pledge guys. He ran on it, and obviously thought it helped him when he ran the last time. Now he'd rather you didn't remember it. But we remember Geoff.

We remember how you and the governor engineered the $185 million decrease in education funding in your first state budget. And we remember how you helped give the governor a veto-proof margin against a ten cent gas tax increase last year. We remember that every time we sit and fume on the Crosstown! And we think that trying to pretend that you are all, like, worried about the Crosstown Commons now is titanic hypocrisy.

In the article, Michel also reminds us of his membership in the 20/20 caucus. Ask Michel what single piece of legislation the "caucus" has proposed, much less gotten passed. It's just cheap political veneer.

Spot called Geoff Michel the Great Pretender. If you haven't already, follow the link and see why. Julie Risser? We'll save her for later.

Update: added the red italicized language. Spot regrets the error.

Further update: Got the attribution straight. Spot told you he was in a hurry to get to DL. Thanks, in fact, to a DL regular, Smartie, for the catch.

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Wherein I stick my toe in Edina politics.

Now I'm a St. Paul gal, but I can't help but notice that Take Action Minnesota, the new organization formed by the merger of Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action and Progressive Minnesota has been helping itself to some Green Koolaid in Spotty's home town race.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Spot loves the blogosphere

It is a place where Spot can toss off a little post like And then in #57932-04, the rocks clearly and have someone, say Charlie Quimby, perhaps find a little inspiration in it and produce All in the Same Nonexistent Boat. You gotta love this place.

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The Kiss of Death II

Somebody should have told Joe Lieberman about Bush's effect on Democrats.

Image courtesy of MNObserver.

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T & A!

That’s truculent and self-absorbed. What? Isn’t that what you thought Spotty meant? Shame on you.

A couple of days ago, Spot put up a post, Farting into the wind, wherein Spot criticized third-party movements, especially the Greens in Edina for running a candidate, Julie Risser, who could submarine the first chance in memory, or maybe ever, for the DFL to take the state senate seat with its candidate, Andrew Borene. (Thanks, boys and girls, for sticking it out to the end of that sentence!) At the end of the post, Spot suggested that the Greens might just be progressive authoritarians: inflexible, doctrinaire, and unwilling to compromise. Like the right wing, only with different ends. It was kind of a toss off.

A reader pointed out to Spot that George Lakoff makes a similar point in his recent book, Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea. Lakoff, you may remember boys and girls, is also the author of two recent books, Moral Politics and Don’t Think of the Elephant, which touched off the “issue framing” discussion. Lakoff calls these progressive authoritarians militant progressives.

According to Lakoff, a militant progressive uses “strict-father means” to obtain nurturing ends. In his earlier books, Lakoff uses the strict father/nurturing parent metaphor to explain the difference in the mind sets of liberals and conservatives. Spot believes that the strict father side of the metaphor is just a gentler way of saying authoritarian personality. Isn’t it?

Getting back to cases, Julie and her pal Carol Overland think they have the exclusive ability to tell people what the most important item on the progressive agenda is. If you don’t agree, they say you aren’t a progressive. Do you hear the bell ringing, Gs and Gettes?

When you think about it, it seems like it is always the authoritarians who split off from a major party to form a third-party movement. Vy do ze do zis? Sorry. Why do they do this? Spot says it is because they believe they have the answers and know what is good for everybody else. The difference between the conservative authoritarians and the liberal authoritarians is that the conservative variety is ascendant in its major party at the present time. But both kinds are anti-democratic.

Incidentally, the same reader who told Spot about the Lakoff book recommended this website to see how well you line up with il Duce. Spot had to try a couple of times to get it to load, so be persistent.

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