Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Even Spotty knew, too

Via Buzzflash, here's part of a post from a blogger named Jurrasicpork:
The Achilles’ heel of “The Warrior,” as she is known, is the war. She expressed outrage about Iraq, but ended up sounding like a mother whose teenage son has not cleaned up his room: “The president has said this is going to be left to his successor ... and I think it’s the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it.”

She uttered the most irritating and disingenuous nine words in politics: “If we had known then what we know now. ...”

Jim Webb knew. Barack Obama knew. Even I knew, for Pete’s sake. The administration’s trickery was clear in real time.

Hillary didn’t have the nerve to oppose a popular president on a national security issue after 9/11, and she feared being cast as an antiwar hippie when she ran. Now she feels she can’t simply say she made a bad decision. And that makes her seem conniving — not a good mix with nurturing.
Jurrasicpork was commenting on Hillary Clinton's recent trip to Iowa. Maureen Dowd expressed similar sentiments recently in a behind-the-firewall column at the NYT.

John McCain's surge idea was meant to put some daylight between him and the Prezinut on Iraq, but then Bush went and took him up on it--much to McCain's surprise, Spot's sure. Hillary's posturing is similar in its cravenness.

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Molly Ivins: RIP?

Somehow, Spot doesn't think that Molly Ivins, who died today from breast cancer, will rest peacefully. She never did anything peacefully in her life. Some of the old timers from her Minneapolis Tribune days still tell Molly Ivins stories. She did everything with noise and brass. God love her.

One of Spot's favorite Molly Ivins lines was the lede of a column she wrote on a visit to Canada several years ago:
Ottawa - Being Canadian is like living next door to the Simpsons.
Update February 1st: In her obituary today in the Strib, the story is recounted of her long and bright red winter coat. What wasn't reported was that someone in the newsroom told Ivins, a six-footer, that she looked like the Foshay Tower at sunset. (Spot heard Ivins repeat that story several years ago.)

Also corrected the reference to the Tribune, which is where Molly worked, not the Star.

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Can Don be far behind?

From today's NYT:
FRANKFURT, Jan. 31 — In the most serious legal challenge yet to the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret transfers of terrorism suspects, a German court has issued an arrest warrant for 13 people in connection with the mistaken kidnapping and jailing of a German citizen of Lebanese descent.
Remember, boys and girls, Rumsfeld declined to go to a NATO conference recently, and Spotty said that he thought that a German prosecutor's consideration of war crimes charges against him was the reason. Who was the boss of these thirteen? Don Rumsfeld. Aided and abetted by the likes of Professor "Organ Failure" Yoo and our own William Delahunty.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

The Prezinut seeks a little guidance

Uh, Uncle Dick? Can I see you for a minute?

Sure, Junior, I mean Mr. President, come on in and have a seat.

I shore appreciate this. [pause] Dick, will you turn yer recorder off, please?

Oh sure. I just forgot. [click]

Thanks. I just remember the last time I talked into yer flowers here. Scooter and Addington were makin' jokes for weeks. Made me kinda' sore.

Well, boys will be boys!

Yeh, I guess. Got daughters myself, so I don't know. Speakin' of Scooter--things don't look so good for him, do they?

No, Ari kind of ratted him out. Damn shame really. You know you will have to bail him out, don't you, Mr. President?

Ah know. But ahm a little mad at Scooter. I think he is trying to throw Rover under the bus. On the other hand, that Fitzgerald fella is trying to throw you under the bus. What a world! Say wasn't "Fitzgerald" that Jack Kennedy's middle name? Might be somethin' there. We outta check into it.

Sure, Mr. President, we'll do that. What's really on you mind?

Well, Dick, I don't exactly know. But I got a bad feeling about this Iran deal. I think we may be stickin' our peckers where they don't belong, if you follow my meanin'.

No Mr. President, I really don't.

Ah mean, that President Ahm-bad-inna-head, or whatever his name is, is kind of making' fun o' me.

[sighs] Mr. President, you're a bigger man than he is.

Ah know. I jes think mebbe we git further if we just play cool and talk to 'em.

That's a really bad idea, Mr. President. What if we reduced tensions and there was still an Islamic government in Iran? They'd still be influential in Iraq. You know how the Iranians are already talking about taking a bigger role in Iraq. And you've already threatened them about that.

Yeah, that's right, I did. You know, invitin' Iran into Iraq is kinda our own fault, with the invasion and all. Now that I think about it, it's mostly your fault!

My fault? This is exactly what we want!

It is?

Sure. Iran has always been the country standing in our way of complete dominance of the Middle East. You must see that. We have to provoke Iran so we have an excuse to take them out.

But Dick, we got 150,000 troops mired in Iraq and what? 20,000 - 30,000 in Afghanistan, not to mention all these NATO fellas we snookered into goin' there. Iran could hit all of 'em with missiles. And we ain't got nobody left. And the Straits of Whore - Moos, why Bobby Gates was tellin' me those Iranians got a bunch of those Sunburned missiles and could close that sucker down quicker than I can say armadillo. Maybe even sink the carriers I sent there. I gotta tell you Dick, it worries me.

That's why we'll probably have to nuke 'em, Mr. President.

NUKE 'EM? Boy, I don't think I signed up for that!

Well, you shouldn't worry about it. It's really almost out of our--especially your--hands anyway.

God's will, ah guess.

Something like that.

Well, ah think ah will hit the gym and then head upstairs for supper. Ahm glad we could have this talk.

So am I, Mr. President. Have a nice run. Say hello to Condi.

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The geography of nowhere

James Kunstler has a trenchant post today. It starts out like this:
Martha Stewart was not an accident of history. She came along in the late 20th century as a kind of spirit guide to a society whose bad choices and misinvestments had led to the wholesale destruction of any place in America that people called home. And by this I mean the towns, neighborhoods, and city districts of our land, not just the individual dwellings.

By the 1980s, America had been converted, with monstrous efficiency, into what I have called a geography of nowhere, a panorama of identical highway strips, malls, big box warehouses, fried food out-parcels, and free parking wastelands -- all serving the endless new subdivision pods of single family houses. The ultimate result was a landscape full of places no longer worth caring about.

The program was carried out ruthlessly by big corporations and their hand-maidens, the road-builders, the house-builders, and the brotherhood of traffic engineers, but it was fully supported by the public at large and their elected local officials on the planning and zoning boards. It was both an "emergent" economic ecology -- a systemic response to decades of cheap oil and favorable geopolitics -- and a consciously mapped-out attempt to create a kind of Utopia, in this case a suburban Utopia of Happy Motoring. Whatever it was, nothing like it had ever been seen before.
Boys and girls, those of you who live in Edina anyway, does that sound like any place you know?

The historic neighborhoods of Edina--not just the Country Club, but South Harriet Park and perhaps other neighborhoods as well, are under an assault that the city's leadership is apparently indifferent to doing anything about.

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The REAL McCain

There is a short video at this site that you really should see, boys and girls.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Getting a referral

Ring. Ring. Kathy Kersten here.

Oh Katie, I mean Kathy, I need your help.

Who is this?

It's Marcus Bachmann.

You want my help Marcus?

Yes, you're a Catholic, right?

I am a Catholic. You know that very well Marcus. You think I'm in league with the anti-Christ.

[evasively] Never mind that. Can you help me?

An evangelical seeking the help of a Catholic. Now that's rich. What's on your mind?

It's about Michele. I think she is possessed by Satan.

[hysterical laughter] Sorry. What makes you think that, Marcus? Michele's performance at the State of the Union address?

Well, that, but there are other things, too. She thinks that Jim Ramstad is possessed.

You're just making sport of me aren't you, Marcus.

No, I swear! I'm desperate.

All right. You do sound worried. How can I help?

You Catholics know about exorcism and stuff, right?

What? I have no idea why you're talking about.

Oh come on, Katie. Michele and I saw the movie. In fact, that may be part of her problem.

It's not something we usually discuss with apost--, I mean evangelicals.

Please Katie! This is a Republican House seat we're talking about here.

Well, that does emphasize the gravity of the problem. I do know a little about exorcism, I guess.

Thank you! Thank you! Can you recommend a good exorcist?

[long pause] Katie?

Years ago, when I had some trouble with--, well never mind. I have no personal experience with this stuff, you understand, but I have heard about someone.

Oh please tell me who it is!

All right. But you didn't get this from me, okay? [pause] Okay?


There is an old, old priest who lives at the rectory for the Cathedral over in St. Paul. He spent several years at the Vatican. He knows the procedures inside and out.

That's great. What's his name?

Promise to keep me out of it?


All right. He's an Irishman, named O'Connor. Father Seamus O'Connor. I should tell you that he believes in fairies and leprechauns, too.

Katie are you sure this is the guy?

I'm sure.

[sighs] What choice do I have? Will he expect anything of me?

He'll expect you to convert to Catholicism. We don't undertake this kind of heavy lifting for apostates.

I'm not sure I can do that.

Promise him you'll convert. I suppose you can back out later. But it will put your immortal soul at risk.

Hmmm. Damned if I do and damned if I don't! But I'll do anything for Michele, and the Republican Party, of course!

I am awed by your commitment, Marcus.

Thank you, Katie. I'll give Father O'Connor a call. Not a word to anyone, okay? Goodbye.

Mum's the word. Godspeed, Marcus.

[a little later]

Ring. Ring. This is Michael Brodkorb.

Kathy Kersten here. You won't believe what I am going to tell you.

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Gimme some of that old time religion!

Spot doesn't ordinarily read Katie's blog. Katie is such a tedious scold that a couple of columns a week is usually all--or more--that Spot can take. But your friend Spotty, boys and girls, did a search on the Strib website looking for the Bloghouse article from yesterday, and this popped up: Goodbye to Right and Wrong?

Can't you just picture it? Katie stands on the dock tearfully waving a handkerchief as the HMS Ritenrong pulls away from the shore, and the crew on the ship join arms and sings We've Lost our Moral Compass! Right out of Gilbert and Sullivan.

If you thought that Katie was a mess with an editor, boys and girls, wait 'til you read her blog; its subtitle is Untouched by Human Hands. Anyway, here's a bit (from an earlier scribbling that perhaps was edited) from the linked post:

This week’s debates have raised a vital question: Are there
universal standards of right and wrong that are true for all? Or must
we hesitate to “impose our values on others”?

I wrote about this some time ago:

Today, conservatives often press ‘family values’ as the answer to
our nation’s social ills. In response, liberals caution that we must
not ‘impose our values on others.’ What links these two notions is that
both employ the language of ‘values,’ whose widespread embrace marks a
quiet revolution in our national consciousness.

[T]he language of ‘values’ has brought with it a profound shift in worldview. ‘Values’ have replaced ‘virtues.’

Virtues…are universal standards of right and wrong. Cutting across
ethnic lines, they are timeless moral principles against which we judge
our own behavior and that of our fellow citizens.

It's funny, Spot somehow missed the recent debates on the "vital question" of universal standards of right and wrong. They must have been on Bil Bennett's radio show! Perhaps Spot was just transfixed by the sight of Michele Bachmann making out like a horny teenager with the President of the United States and they escaped his attention.

How, oh how, Katie can we learn these virtues, these "timeless moral principles"? Listen to you, because you--and people like you--will tell us? How will you get the answers? From religious leaders, especially the ones who talk regularly to God?

What Katie espouses, of course, is called virtue ethics:
The term "virtue ethics" is a relatively recent one. It is an umbrella
term that encompasses a number of different theories. Initially, virtue ethics was
characterized as a movement rivaling consequentialism and deontology because it focused on the central role of concepts like character and virtue in moral philosophy. Later versions developed fuller accounts of virtue ethics theories. Most virtue ethics theories take their inspiration from Aristotle, although some (admittedly less well discussed) versions incorporate elements from Plato, Aquinas, Hume and Nietzsche. This article looks at how virtue ethics originally defined itself by calling for a change from the dominant normative theories of deontology and consequentialism.
Katie would have you believe that virtues ethics is timeless and old, but as a school of thought it is probably not as old as Katie! Again from the link:
In 1958 Elisabeth Anscombe published a paper titled "Modern Moral Philosophy" that changed the way we think about normative theories. She criticized modern moral philosophy's pre-occupation with a law conception of ethics. A law conception of ethics deals exclusively with obligation and duty. Among the theories she criticized for their reliance on universally applicable principles were Mill's utilitarianism and Kant's deontology.
The great thing about virtues ethics is that it is an exercise in self-absorption. Katie doesn't have to worry about the consequences of her conduct, or her consumption, so long as she can view herself as virtuous. It is a beautiful system of self-justification: just pick the virtues that are consonant with the way you think the world should be. Even if it's not.

Katie ends her post with this question:
An even weightier question: Can we be good without God?
Katie clearly thinks not. But God is whoever and whatever suits Katie.

In one of those harmonic convergences that make Spot's ears prick up from time to time, public television in the Twin Cities ran the classic movie Inherit the Wind last night. The movie is a dramatization of the Scopes Monkey Trial that took place in 1925 Tennessee. In that trial, the coercion of the state and its courts are arrayed, in the name of virtue, against the truth.

And where does that virtue come from? As Leslie Uggams sings during the opening credits: Gimme some of that old time religion!

Remember, boys and girls, if it's good enough for Katie, it's good enough for you!

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

The newest hostage taker

Spot was going to put up a longer post about this, but Buzzflash already beat him to it with a headline that links to this story. Brand-spanking-new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said this about the current efforts to pass a resolution against the Prezinut's troop surge:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday an effort in Congress
to pass a resolution opposing President Bush's troop buildup undercuts
U.S. commanders in Iraq and "emboldens the enemy."
Well, Bobby, they're pretty damn bold already. Spot doesn't think that the insurgents and the sectarian death squads are gonna say, "Okay, 20,000 more: we give up! Uncle! We know when we're beat!" You and George must have the same dealer. Pretty good stuff, eh?

Buzzflash's point was that Gates is just another in a long line of charlatans and confidence men who are trying to take legitimate dissent about the war off the table because the American public is finally waking up and isn't buying the baloney that's been offered up since the fall of 2002--or earlier. They are trying to take us intellectually hostage.

Gates seemed to promise a breath of fresh air during his confirmation hearings. But he sounds pretty Rumsfeldian already.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

We knew her before

Cartoon by Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Listen up, you Atrii, you Koses, you Renegades, and everybody else. Michele Bachmann: we knew her before she burst on a national stage at the SOTU, before she bloomed into the national consciousness as the replacement for Katherine Harris.

We knew her when she was just a bat-shit crazy state senator with a medieval anti-gay agenda.

Why we knew Katherine Michele back when God told her to run for congress after three days of fasting (and Al Franken memorably observed that you shouldn't make important decisions on an empty stomach), and we heard the follow-up, too.

After Michele won the election, we were there to comfort her when she had a nightmare that she lost the election, and to cheer her on when she had to get Mark Kennedy out of his office after he lost is bid to become a senator.

And as late as last week, we were on top of Michele's attempts at persuasion of Jim Ramstad, the aftermath of the kiss and its strain on Michele's marriage, and Michele's entry into the occult.

There are many other Minnesota bloggers who have had Michele Bachmann in their sites for a long time, including Dump Michele Bachmann.

Now, we're willing to share, but don't forget where the real mother lode is.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jimbo's Exorcism

Scene: a dim hallway in the Cannon Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Time: late in the evening, a few days after this and this.

Hurry up Marcus, and be quiet! [Michele with her finger to her lips as her every footfall sounds like a rife shot from her 3 inch heels]

This is a really, really bad idea, Michele. Why did you have to drag me along?

Don't be silly, Marcus. I need you for protection!

[under his breath] You need protection from yourself, Michele.

What? I couldn't hear you.

Oh, never mind.

Well here we are: Room 103. The office of Jim Ramstad, also known as Beelzebub. I found out he was gonna catch up on his reading this evening; his staff will be gone. Marcus, knock and see if he's there!

What? Me? No, you do it.

I'm not gonna do it. He'll be suspicious.

Boy, that makes sense. All right, but that's all I'm going to do. [knocks on door] Congressman Ramstad, are you there?

JR: Yes, hello. Who's that? [voice from within the office]

Marcus: Congressman, it's Marcus Bachmann. I need to talk to you.

JR: Is it about that bat-shit crazy wife of yours?

Marcus: [hesitating and looking at Michele] Yes! [Michele gives Marcus an icy and malevolent look]

JR: Okay, hold on a second; I'll come and get the door.

[The lock turns, and when the door opens an inch, Michele shoves the door, sending Ramstad sprawling.]

Michele: Ha! That worked on Mark Kennedy, too! Don't move, Lucifer!

Michele: [Ramstad lies stunned as Michele stand over him and starts to spit on him. Then she speaks.] GOOOO WAAAYE SAAAAAAAAATAAAANNNNNNNNNN NOOOOWWWWWW LLEAVVVVVE JIMMMMMMMBBBBBBBOOOO HUGGABUGGA!

Marcus: Michele, what are you doing?

JR: [weakly] She's speaking in tongues.

Marcus: I know that, but why are you spitting on Congressman Ramstad?

Michele: My sanctified spit should burn his flesh!

JR: [wiping a gob from his forehead] It's a little warm, Michele, but it doesn't burn.

Michele: It's supposed to burn! Damn! He's a tough one.

Marcus: I am really sorry Congressman. [he helps Ramstad to his feet] Let's go into your office and get you into a chair and clean you up.

JR: [a little uncertainly] Well, okay. [Marcus guides Ramstad into the inner office and sets him in a side chair by the desk.]

Michele: I told you this wasn't over, you Lucifer. Didn't you vote with the Democrats six times in a row? Crossing ME on every vote?

JR: Well, yes but---

Michele: Yes but nuthin', mister. That's proof enough for me! [Michele dumps the contents of a large handbag on the desk. Among other things, there is a silver cross, a bottle, and rather ominously, a wooden stake and a large rubber mallet.]

JR: [looking nervously at the wooden stake, in particular] What's all that for, Michele?

Michele: [snatching up the cross and brandishing it in from of Ramstad] Leave Jimbo, Satan! I will beat you out of Jimbo if I have to!

Marcus: Oh come on Michele. Don't hit him or spit on him again!

Michele: Marcus, I think someone is coming! Go and make sure the outer door is locked.

Marcus: Okay, but Michele, don't you dare touch him while I'm gone. [Marcus leaves the room]

Michele: [shrieking loudly] Marcus come help me! Look what Jimbo, I mean Satan, did! [Marcus returns] While your were out, Jimbo's head turned completely around, and he vomited this green goo all over me and the beautiful dress that you picked out for me!

Marcus: What? My God! [pause] Wait a minute! That smells like maple syrup! I saw maple syrup and green food dye on the counter when we left to come over here tonight. Michele, you're making this up. You just poured green maple syrup on yourself!

Michele: You apostate! [going for the stake and the mallet] Now I have to kill him to free Jimbo's soul.

Marcus: [moving between Ramstad and Michele] I forbid it! Go away!

Michele: [a look of growing horror overtakes her face] Marcus! The devil has got you, too! I should have seen it! [she snatches up the cross and backs out of the room] I knew Washington was a wicked place, Marcus, but I thought you were strong. [she reaches the outer door, turns and runs, shrieking] Colonel Kline! Colonel Kline! Save me!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pillow Talk

Later that night in the Bachmann bedroom:

That was so great! I got to spend some real time with the President. He talked to me, and I told him what a faithful follower I would be. You saw me on television, didn't you Marcus?


Is that all you have to say, Marcus? I wore that dress you picked out for me.

I'm glad you had a good time.

Marcus, are you mad at me?

No, I'm not mad at you, Michele. Now go to sleep.

I can't sleep. I am so arou-- excited that I couldn't possibly sleep.

Then read a book. I'll put the pillow over my head.

Oh pooh! I don't want to read!

Then get yourself a glass of milk.

Come on Marcus. I'm feeling kinda hot.

I'm sorry to hear that Michele. Go to sleep.

Ok. Party pooper.

[there is a pause of a minute or so]


Now what?

Sure you're not mad at me?

I'm sure.

Then my feet are cold. Can I put them on your back for a minute?

Oh for crying out loud, Michele. A moment ago you said you were feeling hot.

Well, I was, but it's feeling kinda frosty in here now. Tell me what's wrong.

[another pause]

Did you have to kiss him--on the lips no less?

Marcus, I think you're jealous! The President means nothing to me.

Really? You came to bed more steamed up than you have in years.

Why Marcus Bachmann! Now I'm getting mad at you.

Go ahead. But I'm not the one carrying on like a common trollop in front of a national audience.

Common trollop? You take that back, mister!

No, I won't.

I'm sorry if I hurt you Marcus. I didn't mean to.

We'll talk about it tomorrow.

[a longer pause]


Yes dear?

You didn't slip him any tongue, did you?

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Spot thinks they were

In view of this, the question is more pressing than ever.

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Would you buy a used war from this man?

George Bush commenting on the surge plan: "just give it a chance."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"Helping" Iraqi Christians

Katie and her pious fundie ilk need to have their noses rubbed in this as often as possible:
THOUSANDS of Iraqi Christians have sought refuge in Damascus and may
never return to Iraq, a Christian campaigning charity, the Barnabas
Fund, warned this week.

The United Nations has launched a campaign to raise money for
Iraqi refugees, mostly Sunni and Shia Muslims, but the Barnabas Fund
said that Christian refugees could be forgotten.

The Iraqi Christian population had dropped to about 500,000, a
third of its level of 20 years ago. An estimated 350,000 Christians had
fled since 2003, it said.
Katie told us that the fall of Saddam Hussein would be so good for Christians, especially with the help of the faithful at Grace Church:
[T]he communis rixatrix delivers another serving of codswallop on Monday, August 22nd in the Strib. In a column titled In Iraq, Grace takes amazing hold,
Katherine Kersten tells us of the foothold that Christianity has gained
in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, thanks in large part to the
efforts of Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. And as usual, Katie
displays stunning ignorance of what the military calls the facts on the ground. As Frazier once said to Cliff, What color is the sky in your world, Katie? Well, he didn't say Katie, but you know what Spot means.

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

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

Katie is happiest when she watches somebody grinding somebody else's face in the Good News.
Things haven't turned out so swell for the Iraqi Christians, after all, have they Katie? Oh well. It doesn't affect Katie, so what's the biggie?

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A big drum roll please!

Wally Carr of New Hope wins a Spotty for this letter in today's Star Tribune:
So Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants a high school program with rigor and excellence. I wish he'd take some time to get informed before spouting off.

We already have such a program. It's rigorous, its high standards are enforced by a worldwide network of independent evaluation and peer review, and it produces some of Minnesota's best-prepared high-school graduates. Here in Robbinsdale District 281, it recently produced a Marshall scholar.

It's called International Baccalaureate, and the governor let his conservative buddies cut it by a million dollars last year.

As Bugs Bunny would say: "What a Maroon!"
Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty is awarded to the author of a letter to the editor, an op ed piece, or a blog post or comment that Spot wishes that he has written. Spotty especially appreciates the culturally appropriate and dismissive reference to Bugs Bunny. A nice touch, Wally.

It's too bad that Timmy and his pewfellows Katie, Captain Fishsticks, and Mitch Pearlstein don't appreciate irony.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Not so fast Alberto!

Remember last week, boys and girls, when Attorney General Gonzales announced that warrantless surveillance will now be conducted subject to the approval of the FISA Court? Spot wants to discuss the Administration's actions, but let's have a little parable first.

This is the story of the dissembling teenager and the parent.

The teen sneaks into the house in the wee hours of the morning, walking on tiptoes in the dark. He is frozen in his tracks when he hears his father's voice cutting through the void, "I suppose you know what time it is." (There is no question mark there because it's an accusation, not a question.)

"Oh, gosh no, Dad. I didn't think it was late."

"Then why did you try to sneak into the house?"

"I guess I knew it might be a little late, but I was just hanging out at George's house, and we lost track of the time."

"I called George's father an hour ago. You weren't there. George's folks thought the two of you were over here."

"Oh, well, I guess we went over to Dick's house then."

"Really? Well, I'll just call Dick's father in the morning, or rather later this morning. If you weren't there, you're in some trouble mister, for busting curfew and for lying about it."

"Uh, Dad? We didn't go to Dick's house. We just horsed around at the park."

"That must where you got that sack of popcorn with 'Orpheum Theater' printed on it."

The teen looks down at the sack in his hands.

"What movie did you see?" asks the father.

"Oh just some adventure flick."

"That isn't really the kind of stuff they show at the Orpheum, is it?"

The kid knows now that he is utterly and irrevocably screwed. He decides the only thing left is to throw himself on the mercy of the court. "No, I guess not. I'm sorry Dad."

"You know, you probably could have saved yourself some trouble if you had been straight with me from the beginning," says Dad.

"Grounded for a week, right Dad?"

"Two week for compounding the felony by lying about it," comes the reply.

Did you notice how the teen kept offering up explanations for his behavior, and it was only because of the persistence of the father that the truth was finally revealed? Persistence is what is required of the Congress now, boys and girls, because we have not arrived anywhere near the truth in the case of warantless surveillance.

Were you the boy in the story, Spotty?

I will forgive the impertinence this once, grasshopper.

I'm sorry Spotty.

We need not talk of it again. Now where were we? Oh, yes.

When the warrantless wiretapping program was revealed--or rather leaked--it was like the boy who had just been caught in the dark by his father. His first impulse, as well as the second, third, and fourth, was to prevaricate.

It is, alas, the same with little Alberto. It will be necessary to strip away the layers of deception until we arrive at the unvarnished truth. It is pretty clear that the Administration has no intention of abandoning its warrantless surveillance program. In an article at, Aziz Huq wrote this:
At first it was hailed as a victory for civil liberties. But last week’s announcement that warrantless domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency has come to an end means less than it first appears.

Until now, the NSA has been engaged in electronic spying on Americans’ communications without warrants. On Wednesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez announced that all such warrantless surveillance “will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” or FISA court.

Hardly a respite from the wars around the separation of powers, it is better seen as a tactical redeployment by the administration. By momentarily retreating, the administration reveals the continuing breadth of its reckless ambition. Indeed, expect to see new claims of unchecked executive power from your neighborhood Department of Justice soon!

Because the work of the FISA court is secret, and only the government may appear and be heard, it’s impossible to know exactly what kind of judicial approval the government has secured. In a briefing on the new development, a Justice Department attorney said that a warrant did not approve the whole program, but rather took advantage of unnamed “developments in the law.” The result is a “hybrid” of individual and program-wide warrants.

The lawyers in the room will recognize that a "program-wide warrant" would not exactly meet the case and controversy requirement of American jurisprudence. For the non-lawyers (a curious and not altogether un-pejorative term, Spotty admits), it is important that you know that courts in the United States do not just cruise around announcing advisory opinions. You could ask Dean Johnson about that.

The potential for the abuse of a "program-wide warrant" should be self-evident.
If the Administration got a FISA judge to bless entire categories of surveillance ahead of time, well, that would be an enormous case of judicial activism. Not to mention the abdication of the judiciary's role to protect citizens from the excesses of their government. It has a kind of Star Chamber quality to it: decisions from which there is no appeal.

Congress must press the Administration on this.

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Blog for Choice Day

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

Spot says just go over and read MNO's entry for Blog for Choice Day at Norwegianity.

That's the word from Paul

A breathless post from Paul at Power Line this afternoon. [no link]
A conservative summit

National Review is holding a Conservative Summit in Washington, D.C. this coming weekend. It will feature a terrific line-up including Jeb Bush, Tony Snow, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, John Bolton, James Woolsey, Ward Connerly, the NRO folks, and many others.

I'll be catching as much of the Summit as work and family commitments will allow, and will probably file a few reports. I'm also hoping to meet some of our readers. [italics are Spot's]

Posted by Paul at 01:13 PM

Spot just wanted you to have the opportunity to share Paul's giddiness, boys and girls. Spot can see it now: Paul shuffles up shyly to somebody in the hall or the restroom, taps them on the shoulder, and says, "Do you read Power Line?"

Now, boys and girls, imagine a room full of painfully-earnest Paul types, asking questions about how to purge the counter-revolutionary elements in the Republican party and restore its ideological purity. The ghost of William F. Buckley--no wait, that is William F. Buckley--inhabits the room like a damp, chilly breeze.

The summit ends of course with the giant circle jerk bonding ritual.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hi Michele

Scene: a chance meeting between Michele Bachmann and Jim Ramstad in the House cloak room:

JR: Hi Michele! How are you?

MB: Sniff. Better than you, apparently, Congressman Ramstad.

JR: Congressman Ramstad? That's pretty frosty Michele.

MB: I imagine that the honorable's member is pretty cold these days.

JR: Whoa! Michele, this is Jim Ramstad here. Jimbo. The Jimster. What gives?

MB: As if you didn't know.

JR: Humor me. Tell me what I know.

MB: Voting with the Democrats six times in a row, and on my first six votes, too! You left me and the colonel just hanging out there looking like a couple of primitives to the folks back in Minnesota.

JR: Well, Michele, if the s----

MB: What?

JR: Never mind. I just thought an increase in the minimum wage, expanded stem cell research, cutting tax breaks for big oil, cutting student loan interest rates, letting Medicare try to get better prices for drugs for seniors, and implementing the 911 Commission's recommendations were good ideas.


JR: Not to mention fair.

MB: Fair? You know darn well mister that ideology and fairness have nothing to do with each other! When you let your mind be clouded with notions like facts and fairness, shoddy ideological decisions are the inevitable result. You need to clear your head, Congressman.

JR: I guess we just don't come from the same place, Michele.

MB: What do you mean by that?

JR: You come from the 6th District and I come from the 3rd. Maybe the 6th is just a little closer to heaven.

MB: HERESY and BLASPHEMY! [MB is quiet for a moment. She frowns and then bears the expression of one experiencing an epiphany. She continues in a loud, authoritative voice.]


JR: Come on now, Michele. Surely you're joking.


JR: Jesus, Michele what the hell was that?

MB: Satan, you know perfectly well what I was saying. I was speaking in tongues. [MB drops to her knees, raising her eyes and hands toward the ceiling]


JR: For crying out loud, Michele! Quiet down! The only thing that's gonna get cast out is you out of the House if you don't put a cork in it.

MB: Is that a threat Satan? God is my rock and my salvation. Yea, though I walk through---

JR: Yeah, yeah, Michele, I get it. Now get off your knees; I hear some people coming. I'm outta here.

MB: [to the retreating Ramstad] This isn't over you Lucifer!

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tim "Elbows" Pawlenty?

An entire cottage industry, and at least one political party, have arisen around the blood sport of bashing public schools. One of the state's pre-eminent practitioners of the game is Tim "Elbows" Pawlenty. Timmy is to education what mold is to the bread in your kitchen: a real spoiler.

So it was therefore no especial surprise when Elbows tossed some new bilge balls at high school education in his latest State of the State address. Here's some of what Elbows had to say:
"Too many of our high school students today are engaged in academic
loitering for much of their high-school career," Pawlenty told a joint
House-Senate assembly. "In too many cases our high school students are
bored, checked-out, coasting, not even vaguely aware of their post-high
school plans, if they have any, and are just marking time." [here's a PDF of the whole speech]
Unlike Timmy, of course, who knew from an early age that he wanted to be an oily, sanctimonious, and duplicitous politician! Maybe he and Katie can get together and sing a verse or two of What's the Matter with Kids Today?

Here's one thing that Elbows wants to do:
Other features of the Pawlenty schools plan include a 2 percent,
no-strings-attached annual funding bump for schools over the next two
years, another 2 percent increase for schools that post sterling math
and reading test results, and more money for high tech, online learning
Two percent will not even cover inflation, and here's what will happen if you provide the two percent reward for "sterling" math and reading test scores: school teachers and administrators will be encouraged even more to teach to a test to whip the little buggers into earning the money for the school. (Some of you may recall the Simpsons' episode where Lisa cheated on a test that wound up earning the school some money that got spent for a lot of Principal Skinner's pet projects, including a new high-tech scoreboard.)

That will make school ever so much more interesting and relevant to the students! (Spot's not as self-referential as he used to be, but he does want to call your attention, boys and girls, to a post he did about the Yerkes-Dodson Law that shows that all the high stakes testing is counter productive for a lot of students.)

Elbows refers to comments made by Bill Gates about the inadequacy of high schools today. Bill is looking, at least in part, for the next generation of insects to secrete all the code that will be necessary to keep the economy humming. We've had an industrial, vocational-centered public school system really since Horace Mann introduced the Prussian Education System in the US in the middle of the 19th century.

If there is something wrong with public high schools, we surely aren't going to fix it by requiring even more rote drilling and testing.

Spot will have more on this later, including perhaps some words from an educator who has given this whole subject a lot of thought.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Dave wasn't satisfied

Spot's Iraq correspondent Dave wasn't satisfied getting frequent letters into the Star Tribune and commenting here at the Cucking Stool. Oh no. So he started his own blog.

Spot says that you, boys and girls, should give Dave a look. Hear him out. And then of course, you can point out the error of his ways, if you are so inclined!

The only one in the world

Charlie, the world's only living double-Spotty winner (Spot predicts that will be a trivia question someday, so commit that fact to memory, boys and girls), came close to the unheard of hat-trick Spotty with this post. Even though it is reproduced here to memorialize commemorate the event, you are expected to click through to give Charlie the traffic:
Okay, since you asked:

Tell me this: What is the difference between a police department increasing the number of officers in a high-crime area and what President Bush is going to do in Iraq? What if the police said that they should just pull their officers out of the area and leave it to the residents to fix the problems? We'd have the same vigilante/sectarian violence that is happening in Iraq right now.

Letter, Star Tribune


A. U.S. military forces are not police

B. Iraq has police

C. Bush putting U.S. "police" in Iraq is like al Maliki putting Iraqi police in your neighborhood

D. Many of the residents of the "neighborhood" resent the presence of the outsiders and will not cooperate with them

E. Your high-crime area may need more police, but the police already there didn't unleash the crime wave.

Otherwise, I see what you mean.

This is, of course, from the guy whose blog is dedicated to bringing us all together. It always pleases Spot to no end when Charlie gets a little venomous. Venom is Spot's default position, but he likes it when others come over to the dark side, too.

You might want to check this out

From this week's Edina Sun Current:

An Edina church will present a groundbreaking piece of theater this week with its production of "The Laramie Project."

The play, which retells the story of Matthew Shepard and the aftermath of his murder, will be performed Friday through Sunday, Jan. 19-21, at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, 5730 Grove St., Edina. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Let it be done!

And so it came to pass in the year 7 NDA, that the Grand Vizier, or perhaps it was another of the courtiers, whispered in the Sultan's ear: I fear, O Peerless One, that there may be rebellion in the provinces.

The Sultan adjusted his turban, that had slid down over eyes which now registered a flicker of fear, and replied: It is as I have always feared. Whatever shall we do? If we kill all the peasants, there will be no one to harvest the grain!

Oh, there is no need to kill all the peasants,
said the Grand Vizier. We only need to purge the unreliable elements.

Ok, how?

The Grand Vizier thought for a moment, and then said, First, we kill all, well some of anyway, the lawyers.

That's catchy, said the Sultan, but are you sure you thought of that?

Is my liege accusing me of plagiarism? asked the Grand Vizier.

No, of course not! exclaimed the Sultan. Where do we begin?

O Peerless One, I have already prepared a little list for your approval.

This cannot be, said the Sultan, these are all lawyers that I myself, in consultation with you and my other loyal retainers, have appointed.

Alas, I am afraid it is true, said the Grand Vizier, shaking head sadly.

Then bring me their heads on a plate, with a little mustard on the side!

O Peerless One, I don't recommend that. We must just dispose of them quietly and hope their disappearance does not create further unrest.

Let it be done as you have written. Now, I need a glass of milk and a nap, said the Sultan.

How many of you remember the Saturday Night Massacre, boys and girls?

Spotty, isn't that when a bunch of gangsters got killed in Chicago?

No, grasshopper. You are thinking of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. The Saturday Night Massacre didn't involve any actual blood, but it had more far-ranging consequences. It helped bring down a President.

Spot remembers it as if it were yesterday:
In the most traumatic government upheaval of the Watergate crisis,
President Nixon yesterday discharged Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox
and accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson
and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus.
The President also abolished the office of the special
prosecutor and turned over to the Justice Department the entire
responsibility for further investigation and prosecution of suspects
and defendants in Watergate and related cases.

Why did Nixon do that? Spot will anticipate your question, grasshopper. He did it because Special Prosecutor Cox was getting too close to the White House in his investigation of the Watergate break-in, and Nixon wanted to nip it in the bud. Of course, we all know it kind of backfired.

You're trying to get us to draw a conclusion about the similarity of Nixon and the Suntan aren't you Spotty? And isn't President Bush the Sultan in your story, and maybe Dick Cheney the Grand Vizier?

Very good grasshopper! There is a lot of speculation--and that is what it remains for the moment, anyway--that the recent sacking of US Attorneys around the country may be as a result of corruption investigations coming too close to comfort for Bush Co. New York Times columnist and all-around bright guy Paul Krugman thinks so. See a discussion of his column on the subject at Hullabaloo.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

He's trying, really

Spot is trying to taper off of Katie; he really is. She is such an unserious person, especially when one considers things like, say, the hanging of defendants on hearsay evidence (see the previous post). However.

Today's column about the bad stuff on the teevee is vintage Katie. She quotes the Parents [sic - it should be plural possessive; the numskulls can't even punctuate the name of their organization properly] Television Council's recent study that television violence is way up. What the Strib's resident communis rixatrix doesn't mention is that the PTC is behind 99% of the FCC's indecency complaints received.

These people are not merely prudish, they are lustfully, salaciously prudish. They can't seem to get enough of what they complain about. And neither can Katie. Here's how her column opens:
A woman, victim of a gruesome murder, lies on an examining table. When
a needle is inserted into her eye to draw fluid, the eyeball comes out,
nerves dangling. Meanwhile, investigators stumble upon a basement
laboratory where someone has been conducting medical experiments. They
discover two Asian men in their underwear on the floor. They appear to
have been sewn together along the spine. One is dead, the other barely
alive. They are drenched in blood.
Katie's pulse must have quickened a little as she wrote that. How many times did you have to rewind your TiVo to get that all straight, Katie?

Katie's a great one to complain about the nanny state unless it's something she wants nannied.

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It is just as Spot suspected

From the Associated Press:
The Pentagon has drafted a manual for upcoming detainee trials that would allow suspected terrorists to be convicted on hearsay evidence and coerced testimony and imprisoned or put to death.
Apparently, the manual contains this little gem:
The Pentagon manual is aimed at ensuring that enemy combatants - the Bush administration's term for many of the terrorism suspects captured on the battlefield - "are prosecuted before regularly constituted courts affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized by civilized people," according to the document.
Not really. If you condemn somebody to death without affording the defendant a chance to confront the witnesses against him, it is nothing more than a kangaroo court. The judges and prosecutors at Nuremberg would hang their heads in shame.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sell Big Pharma now!

Chris Floyd, the proprietor of the site Empire Burlesque, has a new piece up at titled Medical Breakthrough Could Change Global Politics. Here are a few grafs:

War in Iraq. A new front in Somalia. Ships, troops and planes lurking on the borders of Iran. Every day seems to deepen the shadow over the dark valley of our times. Driven by a reckless regime in Washington and the increasingly strident reaction it provokes, and by growing financial and social inequities stranding billions of people in poverty and despair, the geopolitical scene appears locked in a cycle of conflict and chaos that nothing can break.

A quiet announcement at London's Hammersmith Hospital at the turning of the new year heralded a breakthrough that has the potential to be one of the most transformative developments ever seen in global affairs: a positive change on a par with - or even surpassing - the world-altering malignancies of war, greed and strife. But this boon could be strangled in its cradle by the vast corporate interests threatened by its radical new approach to both health care and business.

The approach is called "ethical pharmaceuticals," and it was unveiled on January 2 by Sunil Shaunak, professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College, and Steve Brocchini of the London School of Pharmacy, the Guardian reports. Their team of scientists in India and the UK, financed by the prestigious Wellcome with technical assistance from the UK government, have developed a method of making small but significant changes to the molecular structure of existing drugs, thereby transforming them into new products, circumventing the long-term patents used by the corporate giants of Big Pharma to keep prices - and profits - high. This will give the world's poorest and most vulnerable people access to life-saving medicines - now priced out of reach - for mere pennies.

The breakthrough is not merely biochemical. Shaunak's team is proposing a new model for the pharmaceutical business. The patent of the transformed drug they have developed is held by non-profit Imperial University. And because their methods are hundreds of millions dollars cheaper than the mammoth development costs of the big pharmaceutical companies - whose spending on marketing and advertising often dwarfs their funding of scientific research - Shaunak and his colleagues can market their vital medicines for infectious diseases at near-giveaway levels, yet still stay in business. How so? By forgoing the profit motive as the ultimate value of their work.

Persons in academic medicine have a choice," Shaunak told an Imperial College journal. "They can use their ideas and creativity to make large sums of money for small numbers of people, or they can look outwards to the global community and make affordable treatments for common diseases."

The first drug developed by the team is a new version of interferon, the main treatment for Hepatitis C, a debilitating disease that afflicts 200 million people worldwide. Yet only 30 million can afford the medicine. That leaves the rest to face the chronic liver disease and premature death that the illness inflicts. The cost of Hepatitis C treatment in the UK is approximately $13,000 per patient per year, New Scientist reports. Nor can a cheaper version of the existing interferon be made, because Big Pharma players Hoffman-La Roche and Schering Plough hold patents not only on the drug but also on the standard way of adding the special molecules needed to enhance its performance.

That whirring sound you hear in the background is Adam Smith spinning in his grave! This Professor Shaunak sounds like a pretty subversive guy; one wonders how he got into the UK. Just another example of the pitfalls of immigration.

Update: Boys and girls, you might want to read what Digby said on a similar subject.

What are you gonna do, Geoffy?

There is a fight looming - well, there are probably several - at the Minnesota Capitol this year over transportation funding. Based on various news reports, it is clear that the motor vehicle sales tax dedication will not provide sufficient funding for the state's road and transit needs in coming years.

Enter Rep. Ron Erhardt, Republican from Edina, and his hardy band of brothers and sisters who are trying, inter alia, to raise the gas tax. Erhardt is a chief author of HF23, a bill to:
County wheelage tax authorized, vehicle registration tax provisions modified, transit fund and accounts established, motor vehicle sales tax revenues distributed, motor fuel tax rates modified, bonds authorized, and money appropriated.
You'll remember, boys and girls, that Rep. Erhardt managed to get a gas tax increase through the Republican-controlled House in 2005, a bill that also passed in the DFL-controlled Senate only to be vetoed by Pawlenty.

This bill has a companion in the Senate - S5 - sponsored by Senator Steve Murphy. The Senate version is one of the topics of Katie's screech fest from last week, so admirably autopsied by Charlie here and here. Katie says that S5 is proof of the DFL addiction to taxes and spending. Spot says that Katie's writing is proof of her addiction to playing fast and loose with the truth!

Of course, TPaw still thinks an increased gas tax is a bad idea, in spite of the fact that the Crosstown project got cancelled for the summer in a wonderful Gilbert and Sullivan production by the DOT. A production, incidentally, that featured a bit part for Senator Geoff Michel of Edina singing the patter song "Where Will We Find the Money?"

TPaw, through his mouthpiece, has already threatened to veto any gas tax:
On transportation, Senate DFLers would raise the gasoline tax, license tab fees and allow counties to raise taxes and fees, all to produce $1 billion of new spending on roads and transit. Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung has dubbed the Senate bill "veto bait."
This is pretty funny, of course, because the Minnesota Legislature's site links the House and Senate versions as "companions." Fellow travelers, so to speak.

So that brings us back to the question in the title of the post. A good transportation bill with a gas tax increase will pass the DFL-controlled Legislature. The governor will probably veto it. Then there will be a vote to override the veto.

What are you gonna do, Geoffy (Michel)?

He voted against the gas tax increase last time, in spite of the fact that the two representatives in his district - Ron Erhardt and Neil Peterson - voted for it. He then had the bad taste to pretend that the Crosstown fiasco of last summer was not his fault.

Spotty, I bet he votes yes.

Your friend Spot hopes that's where the smart money is, grasshopper.

Update: Fixed broken link.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

An existential conflict?

That's what Dick Cheney said on Fox News Sunday, as repeated in the San Francisco Chronicle, about the Iraq war, boys and girls:
"This is an existential conflict," Cheney said. "It is the kind of conflict that's going to drive our policy and our government for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. We have to prevail and we have to have the stomach for the fight long term."
Nah, Dick. The Revolutionary War and the Civil War, now they were existential conflicts. Calling the Iraq war, or even the warron terra, an existential conflict is an insult to existential conflicts. Two possibilities present themselves:

First, Dick Cheney really believes this is true. If that is the case, he is clearly so delusional that he must be removed from office immediately.

Second, he knows it's false and is just saying it to keep the right wing peeing in its pants. Spot finds this alternative, albeit distressing, oddly comforting.

Update: Corrected reference to Cheney's appearance.

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Boy that al-Maliki!

What a card! Just when you think he can't get any funnier, he goes and ups the ante. It wasn't enough to botch the hanging of Saddam Hussein, turning him into the world's most unlikely martyr. Oh no!

This time al-Maliki's ski-masked goons managed to jerk the head right off of Saddam's half-brother:
After the executioners pulled black hoods over the heads of the two men, tightened nooses around their necks and pulled the lever opening the trapdoors, both fell like deadweights [so to speak]. But the hangmen’s calculations of weight, gravity and inertia — a grim science that has produced detailed “drop charts” used for decades around the world to ensure enough force for certain, rapid death but no more — appeared in Mr. Tikriti’s case to have been seriously awry.

Iraqi officials who attended the hanging said later that for Mr. Tikriti, a man of medium height and build, the calculation allowed a “drop” of 2.4 meters, or nearly 8 feet, and about that length of thick yellow rope could be seen coiled at Mr. Tikriti’s feet before the hanging. But the video showed his head being snapped from his body as he fell, and ending up, still inside the hood, lying in the pit of the gallows about 5 feet from Mr. Tikriti’s headless body.

Spotty would call them the Keystone Kops, but the Keystone Kops were actually funny by comparison. These guys are just hopelessly, painfully inept. This is the gang, not coincidentally, that George Bush continues to tell us is the salvation of Iraq.

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In praise of ancient bigots

Today, Little Miss Sunshine (Katie, not Olive) introduces us to Wendell and Roberta Brown of Roseville. The Browns have lived a life of doing good deeds, including assisting an immigrant who matured into a Republican:

Take Obi Sium, from Eritrea in Africa. "Obi came here on a bus about 25 years ago," recalls Roberta. "He didn't know a soul. At the bus station, he looked in the Yellow Pages and found our church -- North Heights Lutheran. He called and said he needed someone to pick him up and host him until a job interview he had scheduled. He just felt the need for more support than he could get in a hotel room alone."

The Browns took Sium in. Eventually, he became a professional hydrologist, and last year he ran for Congress in the Fourth District against incumbent [Democrat] Betty McCollum. [italics are Spot's]

Wow! You couldn't ask any more than that from a brown person!

Oh, one other thing. The Browns are the driving force behind the Minnesota Family Council:

The couple moved to the Twin Cities in 1964, after farming for 14 years. Wendell eventually became a Farmers Insurance agent and Roberta a homemaker and mother of three. The last thing on their minds was political activism.

But in 1982, they believed they saw the culture around them crumbling. Convinced of the need to inject "Judeo-Christian values" into politics, they joined the Rev. Morris Vaagenes of North Heights Lutheran Church in Roseville to found the Berean League, later renamed the Minnesota Family Council. It grew to be a national model for such organizations, and today has a staff of 10 and an annual budget of about $1 million.

Why, Wendell, at 85, still has the energy to be the chairman of the Council's "education" arm! Well, they're not really all that interested in education, you see. Wendell and Roberta just want to see that those gays don't get married! The Council is behind Minnesota for Marriage. Sounds pretty ecumenical, doesn't it, boys and girls? But only marriage for the right kind of people. Here's what Minnesota for Marriage says about itself:

Minnesota For Marriage is a nonpartisan grassroots group of Minnesotans working to pass a State Constitutional Amendment bill defining marriage as "the union of one man and one woman, with no other relationship being recognized as marriage or its legal equivalent".

Minnesota For Marriage is not a homosexual hate group -- we subscribe to the belief that all individuals are entitled to the respect and acceptance they deserve as members of our society. However, this does not mean that we need to agree with those who would seek to redefine the institution of marriage.

Our message is simple -- the people of Minnesota should be allowed to vote on matters of constitutional importance. We need to elect state legislators who understand this basic premise of our democracy.

Okay, Wendell, let's vote on whether to put your pal Obi back in chains! Perhaps we ought to vote on a new eugenics code! The possibilities are almost endless.

Wendell is a perfect example of the dim bulbs in every generation that have to pass from the scene in order to take advantage of advances in science, philosophy, and ethics.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007


Hello again, boys and girls! It's nice to see all your shining faces in Spot's monitor. Just a short post tonight about a subject that Spot has been meaning to get to, but just hasn't. The Military Commissions Act wasn't the only funny business in the year 6 NDA. Here's another one.

What's NDA, Spotty?

Oh, sorry grasshopper. NDA means "New Dark Age," a period that commenced in 2001, the year of George II's ascendancy to the Presidential Throne. Year 6 NDA was last year.

The Defense Authorizations bill adopted by Congress last October contained a troubling change in an old statute in the United States, the Insurrection Act. This was the general object of the Act:
The general aim is to limit Presidential power as much as possible, relying on state and local governments for initial response in the event of insurrection.
The Act, now charmingly called "Enforcement of Laws to Restore Public Order," significantly broadened the events for which the president can call out - federalize - the National Guard for domestic law enforcement purposes. Here are the new grounds:
Under this act [as amended], the President may also deploy troops as a police force during a natural disaster, epidemic, serious public health emergency, terrorist attack, or other condition, when the President determines that the authorities of the state are incapable of maintaining public order.
Kavan Peterson at recently wrote an online story that provides an excellent background on the Act and its recent change:
Under the U.S. Constitution, state's National Guard unit is controlled by the governor in time of peace but can be called up federal duty by the president. National Guard employs 444,000 part-time soldiers between its two branches: the Army and Air National Guards.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 forbids U.S. troops from being deployed on American soil for law enforcement. The one exception is provided by the Insurrection Act of 1807, which lets the president use the military only for the purpose of putting down rebellions or enforcing constitutional rights if state authorities fail to do so. Under that law, the president can declare an insurrection and call in the armed forces. The act has been invoked only a handful of times in the past 50 years, including in 1957 to desegregate schools and in 1992 during riots in south central Los Angeles after the acquittal of police accused of beating Rodney King.

Congress changed the Insurrection Act to list "natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident" as conditions under which the president can deploy U.S. armed forces and federalize state Guard troops if he determines that "authorities of the state or possession are incapable of maintaining public order."

The conditions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was given as an example of the need for the change in the Insurrection Act. But the governors are not amused:
The change adds to tensions between governors and the White House after more than four years of heavy federal deployment of state-based Guard forces to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, four out of five
guardsmen have been sent overseas in the largest deployment of the
National Guard since World War II. Shortage of the Guard’s military
equipment – such as helicopters to drop hay to snow-stranded cattle in
Colorado – also is a nagging issue as much of units’ heavy equipment is
left overseas and unavailable in case of a natural disaster at home.

The changes in the Insurrection Act, and the recent call out of the Guard to patrol the border with Mexico are both trends that should give us pause. Where is Katie, our Commissioner of Troubling Signs, when we need her?

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Friday, January 12, 2007


A difficult week with an especially trying end for the Spot family. But now all is okay; Spot hopes to post more in coming days. There is a lot to talk about.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Listen up, Congressional Democrats

President Bush said nothing new tonight, other than that he intends to escalate the war in Iraq. Here's the best he could do to justify the "surge" - a focus group tested term for escalation - and the additional slaughter of Iraqis and Americans:

"Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents," the president said. "And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have."

He said American commanders have reviewed the Iraqi plan "to ensure that it addressed these mistakes."

This time, apparently, we'll level the place, just as we did in Falluja--and that worked so well. Oh right: Falluja was Sunni and Sadr City in Baghdad is Shia.

But a lot has already been written about the President and his delusions, including the opinion of top generals in Iraq who were cashiered for telling the boy king that his ideas were laughably inept.

Spot wants to talk to the Democrats.

Teddy Kennedy, bless his heart, says "no way" to escalation and wants it stopped by legislation. The footfalls you hear are all the Democratic Senators and Representatives running away Kennedy. The Democrats are said to be "skeptical" of the President's plan.

Instead, Democratic Congressional leaders want to pass a "non-binding resolution to "isolate the President." Excuse me? He's pretty damn isolated already. You don't need to make him feel even lonelier: you need to stop this blithering idiot. Remember, as long as he has Barney, Bush has no emotional need for the rest of you.

So Nanci Pelosi, Harry Reid and all the rest: are you mice, or are you the people's representatives?

Here's something for you to think about. A lot of you are saying "Boy, if I knew then what I know now, I never would have voted for this war." Not good enough. Now you know, so you had better do something about it. You authorized the commencement of aggressive war, an act that the Nuremberg judges called the worst war crime of all.

Here's you chance to scrub up a little.

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Great. Just Great.

From the San Francisco Examiner online today:
(01-10) 12:09 PST Washington -- President Bush's new plan to add more than 21,000 U.S. troops to retake Baghdad from insurgents and sectarian militias, to be outlined in a prime-time speech tonight, was presented to him in Jordan late last November by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a top administration official said Wednesday.
Nori al-Maliki is of course, beholden to the Shiite militias, including the Madhi Army, led by Moqtada al-Sadr. Remember when al-Maliki made the US forces in Baghdad take down roadblocks surrounding Sadr City:
Maliki's decision exposed the growing divergence between the U.S. and Iraqi administrations on some of the most critical issues facing the country, especially the burgeoning strength of Shiite militias. The militias are allied with the Shiite religious parties that form Maliki's coalition government, and they are accused by Sunni Arab Iraqis and by Americans of kidnapping and killing countless Sunnis in the soaring violence between Iraq's Shiite majority and Sunni minority.
Sadr City is the base of the country's most feared militia, the Mahdi Army, which answers to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadr's strongly anti-American bloc is the largest in the Shiite governing coalition and was instrumental in making Maliki prime minister five months ago.
From a Washington Post article you can find here.

Why were the roadblocks there? To control movement in and out of Sadr City while soldiers looked for a kidnapped American soldier.

The utter cluelessness of George W. Bush is a source of continuing amazement to Spot. Think what it would be like if Bush had trusted Vladimir Putin? Oh, wait; he did! Never mind.

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Coming to a theater near you!

Spot doesn't know how good the movie will be, but he snapped up this collector's edition movie poster as soon as he saw it!

Monday, January 08, 2007

No conspiracy to commit war crimes?

Spotty, the other day you mentioned that Salim Hamdan had been charged with a war crime that didn't exist: conspiracy to commit war crimes. Why doesn't such an international crime exist?

An excellent question, grasshopper. For an answer, we will return to Ambassador David Scheffer and the Jurist web article that Spot linked to earlier. The essential reason is that conspiracy would cast too wide a net:
Neither the Uniform Code of Military Justice nor Title 18 of the U.S. Code, which includes the War Crimes Act of 1996 as amended, aligns the crime of conspiracy with the law of war. It is simply implausible, as the Nuremberg judges discovered, to sweep vast numbers of individuals into conspiracy theories about war crimes. A higher standard is required, and that standard is joint criminal enterprise - which of course is a standard for proving a specific crime, not a stand-alone theory of liability.
In other words, grasshopper, you have to prove all the elements of a specific crime against the defendant. In garden variety conspiracy law, you only have to show some pretty trivial act in support of the criminal enterprise. War, on the other hand, is not--usually, anyway--a criminal enterprise.

If every act in furtherance of the war effort was considered enough for a war crimes indictment for conspiracy, that would mean that, say, Dave, might be responsible for Abu Ghraib or Haditha. Even Dave will agree that's a little harsh!

Coming back to Salim Hamdan, it is apparent that the administration wants to hang Hamden for being bin Laden's driver. Nothing more. Maybe there is more, but Spotty says let 'em prove it--openly and fairly--before you put a noose around his neck. Especially if you're doing it in the name of the American people. Even Hitler's drivers didn't swing.

It is too late to hope for the kindness of history in this entire sordid affair; let's not make it worse.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

To be or not to be: is that a question?

One of Katie's favorite themes is how illiterate young people are today. (And of course it's the educational system's fault.) Katie prefers the classics. It really doesn't matter if they bear any resemeblance to reality:
Fruman [a creaky professor that Katie talked to] uses King Henry's great speech at Agincourt in Shakespeare's "Henry V" as an example. "When I hear it, I want to jump up and follow him into battle," he says. Fruman also recalls hearing Winston Churchill's thrilling words on the radio in 1940: "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." It's no accident that the other great Allied leaders of World War II -- Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle -- were also great orators, he adds.
Spot was not aware that Shakespeare was there to be a stenographer for Henry's words! What's that you say, grasshopper? He wasn't there?

No, Spotty, Shakespeare wrote the play Henry V almost 200 years after the Battle of Agincourt. The speech is fiction.

That's right of course. Which is why it is pretty silly to compare Will Shakespeare to Churchill, Roosevelt, and de Gaulle.

Great literature is great, but what color is the sky in your world, Katie?

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Oh, don't do that, Dave!

Spot's post of yesterday,Whatever happened to him, Spotty?, elicited this comment from Dave:
A recurring theme in your writings is that people we detain on the battlefield have the same legal rights as US citizens. What's the basis for this? The only legal protections relative to warfare are the Geneva Conventions, and the US military Law of Land Warfare. Unless you know of a recent change, non-uniformed enemy combatants, commonly called spies, are still liable to summary execution. What legal grounds are you following to come to the conclusion that we should do more for these individuals? [italics are Spot's]
Sigh. We've been through this before, haven't we boys and girls?

As a preliminary matter, the "summary execution" of anybody has another name: it's called an extra-judicial killing. This is a REALLY BIG NO NO in the international community. This, boys and girls, is an example of an extra-judicial killing that some of you may remember from the bad old days of the Vietnam War:

Here's what Crimes of War, linked above, says about extra-judicial killing:
It is, of course, unlawful to execute an accused person without giving him a fair trial first. Two bodies of law apply—humanitarian law, which applies in an armed conflict, and human rights law, which applies even where the laws of war do not.

Under international humanitarian law, the sorts of killings that took place in Hue are usually termed "willful killing without judicial process." If the victims are enemy prisoners of war (including accredited journalists and civilian suppliers and contractors attached to enemy armed forces), or medical or religious personnel attached to the armed services, such executions are grave breaches under the Third Geneva Convention. If they are enemy civilians, it is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The requirements for fair trials of military personnel and civilians are similar. Each accused person has rights: against self-incrimination, against being convicted on the basis of an ex post facto law, for being advised of his or her rights, of having the right to counsel, to be told the particulars of the charge, to prepare a defense, to call witnesses, to have an interpreter, and to appeal. “As it is prohibited to kill protected persons during an international armed conflict, so it is prohibited to kill those taking no active part in hostilities which constitute an internal armed conflict,” the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia said in November 1998. The key element is “the death of the victim as a result of the actions of the accused.” Even when it is unclear whether a situation is an armed conflict, human rights law forbids extrajudicial executions.
Spot has written at length--those of you in the back of the room might say ad nauseum--about Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Just to be tedious, Spot reproduces Common Article 3 here:
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of
the armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all
cases be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on
race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth of wealth, or any other
similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time
and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) taking of hostages;

(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without
previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court,
affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as
indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

This is the provision specifically that the Supreme Court said in Hamdam v. Rumsfeld that pertained to Iraq detainees, even if they weren't uniformed combatants, or maybe even civilians.

In other words Dave, if you have custody of anybody, this is the way you must treat them. They get this treatment because they are homo sapiens.

Article 3 treatment is not the same as being treated as an American citizen. But it does say you can't just take 'em out and shoot 'em.

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