Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Never send for whom the Bell's pours

It pours for thee, and well, for Spot, too. Some of the Drinking Liberally regulars will not be at the 331 Club this Thursday night, but there will be DL as usual, six to nine--or so. For those of you not going to YK, be there or be square.

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O Boo Hoo!

Apparently, Mitch Berg combed the liberal blogs in the wake of the death of Norm Coleman Sr. to see who was rending their clothes and gnashing their teeth in the proper manner. And Mitch was troubled to find only two, MNPublius and Centrisity. Spot thinks he missed some, including Minnesota Monitor.

Spotty, you offered your condolences, didn't you?

No grasshopper he did not. Spot has never met the senator, well maybe they did play "shake" once, and Spot doubts that Coleman reads the Cucking Stool. So what's the point?

Well, Mitch would have felt better.

And that's Spot's job, this cheering up of Mitch?

I guess not.

Why would Spot pander to Mitch and his buddies? Spot doesn't recall the right wing bloggers lamenting the passing of, say, Lady Bird Johnson or Dean Johnson's wife. Johnson was the state senate Majority Leader when his wife died. Or come to think of it, Spot doesn't recall their outpourings of grief when Becky Lourey's son was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq, either. There may be been some, and Spot apologizes for the ones he missed. But that's not Spot's point.

You say "I'm sorry for your loss" to the person who had a loss. Mitch Berg didn't have a loss. Spot's "thoughts and prayers" are not with Mitch and his MOB buddies. Norm Sr. had a full life, especially recently, and Spot let him go in peace.

Right wing bloggers are a cottage industry in the manufacture of grievance. One of their most important raw materials is maudlin sentimentality. It's usually used for embroidery, but it sometimes provides the fabric for the whole garment.


Monday, July 30, 2007

So let it be written, so let it be done!

This is one of the funniest posts that Spot has ever read. It wins a Spotty™ and an almost certain Koufax nomination for funniest post of the year.

Congratulations driftglass.

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 had written.

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I can read! I can read!

Avidor called this one to Spot's attention. It is Michele Bachmann's entry in the Get Caught Reading program. Get Caught Reading is a literacy initiative. Michele's picture, however, looks like a poster you might see in an al-Qaeda training camp barracks to impress on the recruits what's really at stake:

Dazed and brain-washed white Americans, bent on killing Muslims! Join our jihad before it's too late!

Who's the author of the book she is reading, Spotty?

It's Mark Steyn:

Johann Hari accused Steyn of falsely claiming that "[o]n September 10, 2001, a sixth-grade student of Middle Eastern origin at a Jersey City school warned his teacher to stay away from Lower Manhattan". Steyn was quoting reporter Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, who was fired after writing that story for reasons that have never been made public.

Later, in a review of America Alone, Hari accused Steyn of "raw racism", pointing to a passage which he argues shows Steyn to be celebrating the birth of 'white' babies over those of other ethnicities. He also states that Steyn "describes as 'correct' a friend who talks about 'beturbanned prophet-monkeys'" and goes on to say that "for [Steyn], culture is merely a thinly veiled homologue for race."

Spot wrote about Johann Hari here.

Of all the participants from Congress in the Get Caught Reading program linked above, Michele Bachmann is the only one Spot saw who was holding up such a polemic.

A big thump of the tail to Dump Michele Bachmann.

Katie goes whup ass!

Spot knows there have been a lot of heavy topics here lately: bird flu, Bush - Hitler comparison, examining witnesses, and so on. Spot bets that you boys and girls are ready for a little comic relief. Well, guess what? It's Monday! You know what that means.

Yea, it's Katie day!

Yes grasshopper, it is. And we have a nice piece of feedstock to work with; let's fire up the chipper and get started!

Today, Katie tells us about a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision to uphold the right of a Hennepin County parent to spank a son. Well, not so much "spank" as administer a beating with a "small" maple paddle. The parent brought down that paddle in anger on his son 36 times. Apparently, the son was wont to sneak out of the house, and according to Katie:

At first, dad tried the textbook approach. He grounded his son and withdrew his privileges. G.F. continued his delinquent ways. Dad then warned G.F. that he would use the paddle if his son threw a tantrum or left home again without permission. (Dad's rough sense of justice dictated that G.F. would get one whack for every year of his age.)

But G.F. soon sneaked out again. Dad then announced that it was time for the "hot seat." G.F. got 12 whacks with a "small maple paddle."

Unrepentant, G.F. responded with a tantrum. Likewise undeterred, dad applied 12 more paddle strokes. Then things got seriously out of hand. G.F. picked up a knife and threatened to kill himself. Result? Twelve more whacks and off to bed.

Twenty-four whacks and then things got seriously out of hand? Spot thinks things did get seriously out of hand before that, and the parent was the reason they did. Hennepin County Social Services apparently agrees with Spot's view. And the kid threatens suicide and it earns him twelve more strokes? What is this, a Mel Gibson movie?

If somebody hit Spot with a wooden paddle 36 times, Spot would try to kill him. Failing that, Spot would hope there would be a witness to call the ASPCA so the spittle-flecked person with the anger management problem might be charged with animal cruelty. And don't you think you would be charged with animal cruelty for beating a dog 36 times? But apparently with a child it's okay. Go figure.

Katie's starts the column with a light-hearted stroll down memory lane:

Many folks of mature age will tell you that, in their youth, no lessons were conveyed so memorably as those reinforced by a stinging rebuke to the backside.

I'm speaking, of course, of the disciplinary device known as the "paddle." In my father's day, this simple piece of wood had a variety of nicknames. The paddle hanging in the school principal's office was often dubbed the "board of education." Back then, most sons knew well the sense of doom that descended when dad reached for the paddle and calmly announced, "It's time to give the 'attitude adjuster' some use."

The paddle was sometimes overused or misused, no doubt. But for many, its memory carries a silver lining. They recall its sting, but they also recall its effectiveness -- and the conviction that they would never, ever, EVER call their sister that name again.

Spot noticed a curious thing; Katie apparently believes that spanking, beating, choose your preferred word, is appropriate for sons but not daughters. Katie, if somebody laid 36 stripes on you as a child, would that have been child abuse? This is just a hunch, of course, but Spot bets you would have thought so.

Katie ends her column with another boy-only beating scenario:

Today, lots of dads are doing their best to master that most imperfect of sciences: raising sons to be men of character. S.F.'s chosen method of discipline "may not have been the best approach under the circumstances," said the court, but "parents, who are in the best position to make those judgments, have a wide degree of latitude regarding the discipline of their children."

Spot supposes that beating--because let's face it, this was a beating--helps to transmit the attitudes and techniques of the abuser to the abused so that the tradition can be carried on.

Well, that was sort of serious, too. Sorry.

And Katie, what was it that your brother called you that got him flogged?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Our friend the bird flu

One of Spot's new friends, suddenlysouth, has some musings on why we should embrace the bird flu. Spot thinks suddenlysouth is a Malthusian, like Spot's buddies James Kunstler and Joe Bageant. They don't call it the dismal science for nuthin'.

Bush is no Hitler!

Keith Ellison got lots of flak for saying that the aftermath of 9/11 bore some resemblance to aftermath of the Reichstag fire in Germany in the 30s. Katie wrote about it, following obediently in Scott's footsteps. Some Jewish groups also complained, because we know that the Jews own the Holocaust and any accounts or rebroadcasts of, or comparisons to the Holocaust may not take place without the written permission of the licensors of Holocaust memories:

The Anti-Defamation League also stated "Whatever his views may be on the administration's response to 9/11 and the conduct of the war on terrorism, likening it to Hitler's rise to power and Nazism is odious and demeans the victims of 9/11 and the brave American men and women engaged in the war on terror. Furthermore, it demonstrates a profound lack of understanding about the horrors that Hitler and his Nazi regime perpetrated."

They're really touchy about this stuff, Keith; it's their bloody shirt, and they don't want to share it. Can't blame them really. Any time anybody criticizes Israel for say, dispossession of Palestinians or continued colonization of the West Bank, the bloody shirt is really handy! Just for the sake of keeping the Jewish community out of a snit, Keith, Spotty says pick another example.

How about Bonaparte seizing upon the chaos after the French Revolution? Here's what one contemporary said about Bonaparte:

He was a wretch who . . . had been the author of more misery and suffering to the world, than any being who ever lived before him. After destroying the liberties of his country, he has exhausted all its resources, physical and moral, to indulge his own manic ambition, his own tyrannical and overbearing spirit . . . What sufferings can atone . . . for the miseries he has already inflicted on his own generation, and on those yet to come, on whom he has rivetted the chains of despotism.

Oh Spotty! Bush hasn't caused more misery and suffering than anybody else!

That's true grasshopper; perhaps we should chat again after the Bush administration provokes a war with Iran and the whole Middle East blows up.

By the way Spotty, who is the author of the quote?

Spot thought you might have guessed by now, grasshopper. It was Thomas Jefferson writing in letters to Albert Gallitan and George Ticknor in 1815 and 1817.

Both historical analogies really stand for the same point: it is in times of social disorder and unrest that the demagogue and the dictator arises. The United States was clearly knocked off its pins by 9/11, and we had absolutely the wrong leader to guide us through it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Slip sliding away

It is so easy to let a witness slip through your fingers. Loosen your grip even slightly and the witness flies away.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee had a golden opportunity to fix in amber FBI Director Robert Mueller's testimony about the infamous bedside exhortation of ailing (then) Attorney General Ashcroft by Alberto Gonzales. It would be a record that we could all look at and say sure enough, that's what happened, a record that a prosecutor could use to investigate and perhaps prosecute Gonzales for perjury. Regrettably, this is what we got:

In his own sworn testimony Thursday, Mueller contradicted Gonzales, saying under questioning that the terrorist surveillance program, or TSP, was the topic of the hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials.

Mueller was not in the hospital room at the time of the March 10, 2004, confrontation between Ashcroft and presidential advisers Andy Card and Gonzales, who was then serving as White House counsel. Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee he arrived shortly after they left, and then spoke with the ailing Ashcroft.

"Did you have an understanding that the discussion was on TSP?" asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, in a round of questioning that may have sounded to listeners like bureaucratic alphabet soup.

"I had an understanding the discussion was on a NSA program, yes," Mueller answered.

Jackson Lee sought to clarify: "We use 'TSP,' we use 'warrantless wiretapping,' so would I be comfortable in saying that those were the items that were part of the discussion?"

"The discussion was on a national NSA program that has been much discussed, yes," Mueller responded.

Do you remember our little discussion about foundation the other day, boys and girls? Let's consider: Mueller wasn't in the room, but he testified that the conversation in the room was about the much-discussed warrantless wiretap program. He wasn't at the intersection, but he still testified that the light was green. There wasn't anybody there to say "Objection, foundation!" to Rep. Jackson Lee, but Spot wishes that there had been someone.

If Jackson Lee had been more intent on creating a good record, she might have followed up with questions like this:

Why were you called to the hospital that night? By whom?

You said you weren't in the room for the meeting. Did someone present at it tell you what was discussed? Who? What did he/they say?

Did you see the authorization that Alberto Gonzales sought to have John Ashcroft sign? Did you keep a copy of it? What surveillance program did it address?

Were there subsequent discussions or communications concerning this hospital meeting that you had with anyone? What was said and by whom?

Spotty is very glad that Jackson Lee is "comfortable," but he would have preferred a better record. Couple this with the flim-flam job that Gonzales pulled on the Senate the same day, as ably described by Hammer at Three Way News, and you can see, boys and girls, that Alberto Gonzales beats a perjury rap on the current record. That's in essence what the Friday night pundit class found out when they asked legal experts whether Alberto Gonzales had committed perjury. It need further investigation, they said. If the House had been better at nailing Mueller down, it would be easier to demonstrate Gonzales' prevarication. As it stands, all we have is more fodder for the talking heads.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Reason run amok

It sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it, boys and girls? Reason sounds so civilized, so Enlightenment, so, well, "reasonable." How could reason run amok?

In fact, Spotty, weren't Voltaire and his contemporaries champions of reason, especially in their criticism of the divine right of kings?

That's true grasshopper. But there were a couple of others, who preceded the Enlightenment by a couple of hundred years, who also used reason or rationality in the pursuit of somewhat less noble—sorry, bad pun—ends.

First, Spot will mention the Inquisition as launched by Pope Gregory in the thirteenth century:

The Inquisition was a Roman Catholic tribunal for discovery and punishment of heresy, which was marked by the severity of questioning and punishment and lack of rights afforded to the accused.

While many people associate the Inquisition with Spain and Portugal, it was actually instituted by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) in Rome. A later pope, Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition, in 1233, to combat the heresy of the Abilgenses, a religious sect in France. By 1255, the Inquisition was in full gear throughout Central and Western Europe; although it was never instituted in England or Scandinavia.

Initially a tribunal would open at a location and an edict of grace would be published calling upon those who are conscious of heresy to confess; after a period of grace, the tribunal officers could make accusations. Those accused of heresy were sentenced at an auto-da-fe, Act of Faith. Clergyman would sit at the proceedings and would deliver the punishments. Punishments included confinement to dungeons, physical abuse and torture. Those who reconciled with the church were still punished and many had their property confiscated, as well as were banished from public life. Those who never confessed were burned at the stake without strangulation; those who did confess were strangled first. During the 16th and 17th centuries, attendance at auto da-fe' reached as high as the attendance at bullfights.

It was the Dominicans who got the job. They were a cheerful band of bureaucrats:

The Dominican order of preachers is one of the two major monastic groups of Roman Catholic friars, the other being Franciscans. It was founded in 1216 in France by Saint Dominic, and sanctioned in the same year by Pope Honorius III.

The order began as an attempt to convert the Albigenses, a Christian sect named from Albi, a city in southern France. They [the Albigenses] dared to be different in a time of conformity when the Church claimed political control. The Dominicans were charged by the Pope to destroy this "heretical sect".

In 1233, following several failed armed attempts at eliminating the Albigenses for the previous 30 years, the Pope ordered the formation of the now infamous Inquisition. The Dominicans were in charge of the torture and persecution.

According to John Ralson Saul writing in Voltaire's Bastards, the Inquisitors were the first to formalize the idea that to every question there is a right answer. What could be more rational than that? Of course, the Dominicans were in charge of the right answers. Can't you smell the burning heretics? Although their tribunals were secret, apparently the inquisitors were careful to make a record with a notary and document their proceedings. In re heretic Gaston – Judgment: roasting on a spit. Something like that.

There were people who questioned the technocratic, blind logic approach. Jonathan Swift was one, and an obscure Italian academic, Giambattista Vico, writing in 1708, was another:

[Today] . . . only criticism and judgment are admired. The subject itself has been relegated to the last row. . . . They say that men are capable of judgment, one need only teach them a thing and they will know if it is true. But who can be sure to have seen everything?

[another quotation from Voltaire's Bastards, paperback edition at pp. 53]

Vico was saying, boys and girls, that we can get so caught up in the process that we fail to make a meaningful examination of the precepts upon which the process is based. Spotty says that's a big problem for social conservatives. They get caught up in burning the heretics, but they fail—or are unwilling to—make a critical examination of the grounds for burning them in the first place.

The second person or institution that Spot will mention is Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits. Iggy was a professional soldier. Almost, and some think in fact, emasculated by a cannonball, he had a conversion experience:

During the time he was recovering, Ignatius read a number of religious texts on the life of Jesus and the saints and became fired with an ambition to lead a life of self-denying labor and emulate the heroic deeds of Francis of Assisi and other great monastic leaders. He resolved to devote himself to the conversion of non-Christians in the Holy Land. Upon recovery, he visited the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat (March 25, 1522), where he hung his military vestments before an image of the Virgin. He then went and spent several months in a cave near the town of Manresa, Catalonia where he practiced the most rigorous asceticism and studied at the ascetic Collège de Montaigu of the University of Paris, where he remained over seven years. Although Íñigo is actually Basque for Ennecus or Innicus. In later life, he was often called "Master Ignatius" in recognition of his final academic credential.

Iggy turned into a real kick-ass Christian! He was the guy who came up with the idea of soldiers in Christ. Ran the Counter-Reformation. He and his new order also got so caught up in process that they failed to examine their basic philosophy and criticisms of it, too.

[update] Spot is going to develop the use of reason by the Jesuits a bit more later. Spot also wants to more directly recognize the parentage of John Ralson Saul's Voltaire's Bastards for the examples of the Inquisition and the Jesuits. [/update]

For social conservatives, the sense of purpose and belonging often overwhelm a critical examination of core beliefs. The psychic reward is just too great. It is simply too easy—and too righteous feeling—to stand on the steps of the Capitol and cry about the gays getting married. It all seems so rational.

In coming days, boys and girls, we will examine some examples of "religious decision making."

Evaluating witnesses

Today, boys and girls, we are going to discuss things that you may wish to consider in the evaluation of witnesses.

Oh, come on Spotty. We have discussed this before!

Nevertheless, grasshopper, a refresher is apparently in order. You will recall that the four testimonial qualities are perception, recollection, communication, and prevarication, or lack of it. (You could say truthfulness or veracity instead of prevarication, but it wouldn't have the nice shun at the end of it.) For today, we are particularly concerned with the first quality: perception. You have probably heard lawyers say "Objection, foundation!" a lot. Well, maybe not, but if you hung around the courthouse a little more you would.

What our objecting lawyer is saying is that the witness has been asked a question for which it has not been demonstrated that the witness has first-hand knowledge of the answer. To take a simple example, before a witness may testify that the traffic light was red or green, the witness must first demonstrate that s/he was at the intersection at the time in question and actually saw the light color. Elementary, really.

Proving that the witness can give first-hand testimony about the color of the traffic light is known as laying the foundation. It is a critical part of making a record in court. There is an additional wrinkle for expert witnesses: witnesses who are permitted to give opinions in court, about medical or scientific matters, for example. If you cannot qualify your expert--lay a foundation for the opinion that you want the expert to offer--the court will not permit the "expert" to offer the opinion.

How do you lay a foundation--sometimes called qualifying--for an expert's testimony? You make a record--offer testimony--about the expert's credentials: training, experience, books and scholarly articles authored; you get the idea. You're trying to show that the witness really is an expert and whose opinion should have weight. Now, let's apply what we've learned to two real-world witnesses: Scott Thomas Beauchamp and Peter Hegseth. It is an interesting exercise, Spot promises.

Scott Thomas Beauchamp, using the semi-transparent nom de plume Scott Thomas, wrote an article for The New Republic describing the morally-deadening aspect of wartime service in Iraq. For some of the deep thinkers in the right wing like Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Jonah Goldberg, and the extra-odious Mark Steyn, this is just unacceptable! And of course, Scotty huffed and puffed, too. But you know what? None of the collected ignorami can point out where Beauchamp's story is false. Oh, some sleuth at the Weekly Standard thought he found something, but he really wound up confirming rather that refuting facts:

As you may know, a little while back a soldier serving in Iraq writing under the pseudonym "Scott Thomas" did a piece for TNR detailing the morally deadening aspects of wartime service in Iraq. The Weekly Standard and the conservative blogosphere whipped themselves into a frenzy wherein they convinced themselves that Thomas' story was bogus. In the course of doing so they accidentally confirmed a key detail -- Thomas unit did, just as he wrote, uncover a bunch of children's bones during the construction of a combat outpost.

The critics, however, managed to convince themselves that their discovery of this children's grave incident actually debunked Thomas' claim that he had found a mass grave even though his article didn't claim this. At the same time, the Standard was reduced to arguing that Thomas couldn't have witnesses [sic] soldiers using a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to kill dogs because -- ta da -- to do so would violate Army Standard Operating Procedure. Then they started making a big deal out of the idea that TNR editor Frank Foer labeled . . . Thomas . . . a soldier with "near certainty" -- why not total certainty?

Well, now here he is -- his real name is Scott Thomas Beauchamp, he's a soldier, and as best I can tell nobody has yet brought forward any serious reason to doubt his story. Needless to say, rather than spend some time reflecting on the fact-free zone the conservative press is trying to create, Jonah Goldberg is attacking Beauchamp while Mark Steyn argues that Jonah isn't attacking him viciously enough.

Not a single one of these right-wing hyenas can lay a glove on Beauchamp's story, because he's "testifying" from personal knowledge, and none of them has any personal knowledge or a witness to refute him. That doesn't stop the wind ensemble from trying. Do you hear that little high-pitched toot toot toot, boys and girls? That's Michelle Malkin.

Take on the other hand the Iraq "expert" that Katie wants to foist on us: Peter Hegseth. Katie tell us, and so does Peter, that Peter's got the recipe for Iraq because, well, let's let Peter tell us:

"Who better to lead the fight for finishing the mission than the guys who fought on the front-lines and understand the stakes of the battle?" Hegseth said.

At 27, Peter's qualifications seem to be that 1) he's shot at Iraqis, and 2) a right-wing think tank is willing to keep him off the street.

So now Spot asks you boys and girls, who is the more credible witness? Peter Hegseth who claims to  know how to win the war in Iraq, or Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who is just talking about some of his personal experiences?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Putting the judgment back into judgmentalism

This could be big, boys and girls. Really big.

What if all the religious conservatives and the other self-appointed dispensers of truth who huff and puff daily from the moral high ground were really moral and ethical midgets? Limited capacity thinkers?

Guess what? That describes a lot of them. And now, a small cadre of Minnesota bloggers is preparing to prove it. It will probably start off as just a sprinkle; then it will rain harder, and finally all of the collected grime of empty moralisms will be washed away. Or something like that. It should be fun.

In order that the blooming of the thousand flowers can be collected, Spot suggests using a Technorati tag and/or category "judgmentalism."

Stay tuned.

Technorati Tags:

It's the gays!

Via Greatscat:

This one is unusual, even for Spotty, but it's funny.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tilting toward the Shiia

From Juan Cole today:

The headlines will probably concentrate on the shouting match between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iranian diplomat Hassan Kazemi Qomi at their meeting in Baghdad. Crocker accused the Iranians of giving training and weapons to Shiite militias, some of which ended up being used against US troops in Iraq. The Iranian diplomat denied the charges. But in my view the money graf in this Telegraph report is this one:

' The two countries did agree to form a security committee, with Iraq, to focus on containing Sunni insurgents. The committee would concentrate on the threat from groups such as al-Qa'eda in Iraq, officials said, but not those [Shiite] militia groups the US accuses Iran of funding and training. '

If the US is allying with Iran against the Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda, this is a very major development and much more important than some carping over Shiite militias. (My guess is that 98% of American troops killed in Iraq have been killed by Sunni Arab guerrillas). If the report is true and has legs, it will send Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal ballistic. The Sunni Arab states do not like "al-Qaeda" in Iraq, but they are much more afraid of Iran than of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who are fighting against US military occupation.

Spot hopes Professor Cole will write more about this in coming days. Needless to say, the Bush administration's world view has come a cropper.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Not so fast, Katie!

Before writing about her column yesterday, Spot has a question for you boys and girls. Was it Katie's paternal or maternal "grandfather-in-law" who was the Cass County Sheriff? You can figure it out to a fair degree of certainty just by being a reader of Spot's blog.

Oh come on, Spotty! You don't know the answer to that.

Yes, grasshopper, Spot thinks he does. First hint, from the linked column:

Sixty years ago, Elmer Johnson -- then Cass County sheriff -- returned from the Bar Harbor nightclub near Nisswa to Walker, Minn., with a load of illegal slot machines. He dragged them behind the jail and smashed them to pieces with gusto.

Johnson was my husband's grandfather. "I could have been a rich man if I'd looked the other way at Bar Harbor," he later told his children.

Other than the thrilling tale of the summary execution of some slot machines, it doesn't tell us which grandfather it was. And by the way, what did Elmer Johnson do with the money in the slot machines at the time he smashed them?

Sheriff Johnson undoubtedly contributed the money to Gamblers Anonymous. Here's the hint that will give you the answer to the question:

So how did Katie meet her hubby?

I finally stumbled on Mr. Right by a stroke of good fortune. After I left my job to go to law school, he was assigned to the seat next to mine in antitrust class.

And then Spot observed:

Katie and her new boyfriend undoubtedly had romantic conversations about how to beat the regulators in a Sherman Act price-fixing investigation! And based on the alphabetical seating arrangements in most law school classrooms, Spot bets Katie's hubby is named something like Johnson or Lindholm.

Of course, Spotty! Sheriff Johnson is almost certainly Katie's paternal "grandfather-in-law."

Very good grasshopper. On to the column. Katie makes the remarkable--for Katie, anyway--observation that government is supposed to be about promoting the public good; she says this about state lotteries:

Slick advertising can mask a sobering fact about state lotteries: They have the worst odds of any common form of gambling, according the bipartisan National Gambling Impact Study Commission report of 1999. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in about 146 million. (Your odds of winning are the same whether you buy a ticket or not, one wag has quipped.) Hot Lotto jackpot odds are about 1 in 11 million.

You might retort: So what? At a buck or two a ticket, the lottery is low-cost fun.

Not for some vulnerable players. Economist David Mustard of the University of Georgia found that the average lottery player in his home state spends about $900 a year. Many of these are low-income folks, he adds.

Minnesota lottery officials don't know how much the average player here spends, said state lottery director Clint Harris.

But the lottery's most troubling impact may be its opening the way for other forms of gambling. Lottery directors are under constant pressure from state political authorities to maintain and -- if possible -- to increase revenues, according to the study commission's report. In the view of many, it adds, state lotteries "have become active agents for the expansion of gambling, setting the stage for the introduction of commercial gambling in all its forms."Is this a proper function of government?" the report asks.

Why is government in the gambling racket? Simple: Politicians want to spend more money, but don't want to raise taxes. They often attempt to justify lotteries by earmarking some proceeds for popular causes like the environment.

You see, boys and girls, the lottery is the gateway to perdition. As much as Spot hates to admit it, Katie is right, with politicians being the biggest gambling addicts. Where Spot parts company with Katie, however, is where she says that "Politicians want to spend more money." Spot would say it is because politicians are too lily-livered to fund--that is, raise revenue for--necessary state activities without resorting to gimmicks like the lottery, accounting fund and timing shifts, and raiding the tobacco settlement fund.

It was Governor Pepsodent and Senator Dick "racino" Day who wanted to get the state into casino gambling. You don't suppose, boys and girls, that Katie is so quiet about identifying these recent champions of gambling because they're Republicans?

Update: Ollie Ox urges us not to forget Racino Randy Demmer.

A demagogue will have no honor, and a Spotty

After a long dry spell, there have been a spate of Spotty™ award winners of late. Here's another one from one of Spot's favorite categories, the "Why Katherine Kersten is an Ignorant Bigot" division. This "Commentary" was in the Star Tribune on July 24, authored by Khalid Elmasry:

It seems that I always finish reading a Katherine Kersten column by laughing at the fact that she's missing the point. Her July 12 column about Rep. Keith Ellison's speech to a group of atheists in Minnesota was no different.

Kersten doesn't seem to understand Ellison's point about the aftermath of 9/11 and its similarities to the aftermath of the Reichstag fire. However, I've grown accustomed to the predictable behavior in her writing, and Ellison can defend himself.

Rather, it's the opening paragraph in the column with which I take issue. Kersten quotes Ellison as stating, "You'll always find this Muslim standing up for your right to be atheists all you want." She follows this quote with her own parenthetical comment, "You might want to check the Qur'an on that, Rep. Ellison."

The implication, of course, is that Kersten has checked the Qur'an and found something to contradict Ellison's claim for tolerance of non-Islamic beliefs. Not surprisingly, she is wrong.

The Qur'an is clear that "there is no compulsion in religion." There are countless more verses instructing Muslims to respect others' beliefs. One such verse states, "Oh Prophet! Exhort them, your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel them to believe."

Critics of Islam often mistakenly refer to a Qur'anic verse out of context, which would suggest harshness by Muslims towards non-Muslims.

In fact, when I called Kersten's editor to point out her error, he said his understanding was that the Qur'an "deals pretty harshly" with unbelievers. While I was taken aback, I almost couldn't blame him, since this myth is commonly perpetrated by the likes of Kersten. The truth is that any verse in the Qur'an that speaks "harshly" of non-Muslims by encouraging Muslims to fight them is always in the context of self-defense. Furthermore, this is always a means of last resort, when it becomes a matter of survival.

The critics who quote a verse about Muslims being encouraged to fight non-Muslims fail to mention that the non-Muslims are trying to kill the Muslims. They also fail to mention that these verses are followed by verses such as, "If one among the non-believers ask thee for asylum, grant it to him so that he may hear the word of God; and then escort him to where he can be secure." This is with the understanding that those who do not want to hear the word of God have the right to believe as they choose. Thus, Ellison was simply practicing what he has learned as a Muslim by standing up for his audience's right to be atheists, while Kersten chose to question him in her own misguided way.

One of my favorite verses in the Qur'an perfectly captures what Ellison was saying about respecting and embracing people's differences: "We have created you out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another." While I have the feeling Kersten might miss the point of this verse as well, I'm no longer laughing.

Khalid Elmasry, St. Paul, is a media commentator on Muslim issues and a retired businessman.

Elmasry also managed to bloody Doug Tice's nose in the air as well! Well done, Mr. Elmasry. Spot has talked about Katie's column and Doug Tice's reaction to it.

This all puts Spot in mind of his favorite verse from Scripture:

In the end, a demagogue will have no honor in her home town.

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 had written.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Three things Spot likes

Out on the bike today, Spot rode by a park in Minneapolis where a lacrosse game among young kids was going on. Several of the kids were chasing butterflies with their sticks/nets, oblivious to the game in spite of the exhortation of the group's leaders. It was kind of a swords-into-plowshares moment for Spot.

Second, when the first Minnesota Guard soldiers were at Ft. McCoy after returning from Iraq, there was a television story that included several of them sitting in the green grass, obviously enjoying it. One was picking blades of grass and dropping them on another soldier. If you didn't feel delighted watching that, you're dead.

Third, and related to the second, is Dave's recounting of coming home.

Sarah Dippedee visits again

Last night, Spot read this:

The end, in any case, is that part of the human experience most often mistaken for something else. Everything is at its most sophisticated, most organized, most stable. The very sophistication of the organism marks the divorce of those ideas which were reasonably clear and simple when they were first embraced from the marvellous, remarkable structure which has been built over and around those same ideas in the course of living with them. That structure becomes the superficial celebration of the ideas, which it also invariably crushes. This simple-truth is hidden from us by the reassuring sense of stability which the structure creates. But stability is the most fragile element in the human condition. Nothing seems more permanent than a long-established government about to lose power, nothing more invincible than a grand army on the morning of its annihilation.

John Ralson Saul, Voltaire's Bastards, page 31, Vintage paperback ed. 1992.

Then, this morning, Spot read this:

   Go anywhere in America, among any class of people -- from the Nascar morons to the Ivy League -- and one expectation is pretty universal: that technology will only bring us more wonders and miracles, and it will certainly save-the-day where our energy problems are concerned. This would seem natural for people living in an age when a simple cassette SONY Walkman is superceded by an 80-gigabyte iPod in one generation. But what if this assumption is off? What if peak technology occurs roughly in the same wave as peak energy?

     Of course, another nearly universal expectation is that we will go through an orderly transition between the end of the oil fiesta and whatever comes next -- implying, naturally, that some new sovereign energy resource is out there in destiny's green room, getting prepped up, waiting to be sent on-stage. The confusion about this, induced by strenuous wishing, is such that most people expect the next energy resource to consist of technology itself.

      This has been the heart of my beef with the rosy future crowd. Energy and technology are not the same thing, not interchangeable or substitutable. If you run out of one (energy), you can't just plug in the other (technology). I certainly believe other energy resources exist besides oil and methane gas, but I maintain that we will be grossly disappointed by what they can do for us, given what we are currently running in society. Nor am I categorically against the idea of using these other things: solar, wind, bio-fuels, what-have-you. I can even be persuaded on nuclear with its many hazards, if that's the only way to keep the lights on. But all of these things will not preclude the extreme necessity to make severe changes in our manner of daily living -- and to do so rather quickly.

Clusterfuck Nation by James Kunstler 7/23.

In other words, boys and girls, we're in the process of getting caught napping, big time. Although Spot doesn't have a link for you, it is also one of the themes of Jared Diamond's book Collapse. And Joe Bageant's web essay The Ants of Gaia.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Spot doesn't read Michael Totten

Nor is he every likely to based on the Wege's evisceration of Totten's report of a flight into Baghdad. Some of you, boys and girls, have probably seen the bad high school metaphors and analogies from English composition. It's that bad. "The plane was as loud as 100 lawnmowers." Indeed.

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Welcome home Dave!

Sigh. Spot found out today that Dave was headed home to Owatonna, but he didn't even get a chance to announce that great news before Dave posted a comment. Dave's internet has been limited the last several months in Iraq, and also for the last week at Ft. McCoy, so we can be sure that he has a lot of pent up energy. Brace yourself, boys and girls. Just for old time's sake, Spot will reprint the comment. Dave took issue with Spot's post about Katie's paean to Peter Hegseth. Here's the comment:

Pretty sad, Spot, that for no other reason than having a different ideology than you, you have labeled Pete Hegseth 'callow'. Maybe I am an idealist, but I believe that a man's words and actions define him, not his political party preference.

And Charley, as I have said before on Spot's blog, show me some actual evidence of detainee torture at Gitmo or elsewhere, and I will be right alongside you in condemning them and calling for their court martial. But in absence of evidence, stop maligning the men and women who keep you free.

And lastly, despite Spotty's predictions on this very site, his war correspondent has come back very much alive, and without the helicopter ride from the roof of the US embassy.

We will take Dave's points in order:

In foreign policy, Peter Hegseth, at 27, is a callow fellow. That is not to denigrate his courage or his service. But he is inexperienced and at present is little more than a cheerleader for the war in Iraq. That's how Katie presented him. He has zero foreign policy credentials.

On detainee treatment, there is an emerging record of abuses. The revelations of the treatment of Jose Padilla at his trial are but one example. Mostly, this seems to be CIA stuff, not subject to military justice anyway. Revealing also are some of the transcripts, and redactions therefrom, in the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT). That's not a great link, but hey, it's Saturday night.

On Dave's third point, let's get one thing clear: Spot never "predicted" Dave's demise. Spot thought, prayed, and kept his fingers crossed for Dave and the rest of the Minnesota Guard's safety the whole time they were gone. Dave knows that, too.

As far as the helicopter evacuation from the embassy scenario is concerned, Spot says not to discount it happening some day. If the Brits pack up and leave the south, as they seem prepared to do, our supply lines to Baghdad will be very tenuous; we won't have the people required to do force protection. Rockets and mortars pour into the Green Zone every day now.

The real fight has always been in Afghanistan--and now western Pakistan, too. Bless you Dave, and the whole Minnesota Guard, for going to fight in Iraq for us. But the whole thing is monumentally FUBAR and a complete distraction from where attention is legitimately focused.

I hope you are out celebrating with your wife and family, Dave. Spot doesn't want to hear from you for a while.

Governor Pepsodent's dating dilemma

What do you do at a dance when you find out that your date is a drag--or maybe in drag, haha--and you don't want to waste the whole evening? Well, you start chatting up other people, of course. Maybe you find somebody, but there's always that awkward moment in ditching person A for person B. So we can all appreciate Governor Pepsodent's problem. He picked a date to the big dance that he thought would be, well, easy, and now he finds that he picked the Iron Maiden and she wants to go for a swim. What's the plan? Find a more buoyant date!

Do you know, boys and girls, what we call people like this?

Norm Coleman?

[hysterical laughter] That's not what Spot had in mind grasshopper, but it's funny. Spot was thinking of another member of the animal kingdom: weasels. Or maybe the prescient rats abandoning ship.

There was an article on the National Journal's "daily briefing on politics" called the Hotline a couple of days ago that discussed Governor Pepsodent's dating dilemma. The guv was in Washington--again--last week, and he managed to blow some kisses to Mitt Romney:

In a round-about fashion, one reporter (OK, it was our own Charlie Cook) was able to infer a bit about Pawlenty's WH '08 outlook from a "state-based" perspective. Asked who he would most want at the top of his party's ticket if he were running for re-election in '08, Pawlenty carefully replied on behalf of his "light blue" state saying he would want a president who appealed to the GOP base as well as indies and moderates. Although he said there are "several" who could do that, he went on to list just two -- Mitt Romney and McCain -- respectively.

One has to wonder where the GOP's "next superstar" will turn if his current dog really quits the race. Here are some suggestions inspired from today's luncheon. Granted this kind of guess work might be premature, but Mehlman and other DC GOPers certainly see something in his brand of populist conservatism, often referred to as "Sam's Club Republicans" this afternoon.

-- Get on the Romney bus. First, Pawlenty dropped Romney's name today at lunch. Secondly, Pawlenty's media luncheon was hosted in part today at Akin Gump by Weber, Romney's adviser and cheerleader on all things wonky. Finally, Romney dropped Pawlenty's name in a 7/8 interview with U.S. News and World Report, calling him an example, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, of the way states are working and balancing budgets, even if DC is faltering. We might be reading too much into this, but at the very least the two men have shown affinity for some of each other's policies.

It even seems like Mitt is blowing them back. That's a good sign, Timmy!

You know, boys and girls, don't you, that Governor Pepsodent has already pledged his troth to John McCain for '08, in the hope of securing the veep spot? It seemed like a reasonable thing to do at the time, but the starship McCain is now trapped in a decaying orbit. Pundits cite various reasons; one of the principal ones is that McCain favors an immigration reform bill that would grant amnesty--although don't call it that, please--to undocumented aliens in the United States. That alienated the mouth breathers and the knuckle draggers in the Republican party, also known as the "base."

Governor Pepsodent's delicate maneuvering away from his date by "going to the punchbowl" has begun.

If Governor Pepsodent is any kind of a man, he'll stick like glue to McCain and dance with the one who brung him. But Spot wouldn't bet on it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The raison d'etre

Boys and girls, Spot has not sent you over to Balkinization for a while now, but Professor Andrew Koppelman of Northwestern University Law School put up a post on July 19 that is too good to miss. It's called Religion as a conversation-starter. It isn't all that long; here are the opening grafs:

A noteworthy development in liberal political theory over the past 30 years or so has been the claim, by such distinguished thinkers as John Rawls, Bruce Ackerman, Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Nagel, Amy Gutmann, Dennis Thompson, Stephen Macedo, David Richards, Charles Larmore, Samuel Freeman, Richard Rorty, and Robert Audi, that in a liberal democracy, political discourse must rely on arguments that are not sectarian and can be assessed in terms of commitments that all citizens can share. The obvious target is religiously based political movements, and it is no accident that most of this theorizing was done after the Presidential election of 1980, when the religious right first became a potent force in American politics.

This claim has elicited a bitter response from religious thinkers, who have argued that this deprives politics of important moral resources and denies them the right to state what they believe. This response, which has not slowed the production of these liberal theories of public discourse, gives rise to a puzzle: why did the liberals converge on and keep producing new articulations of a proposal, in the name of social unity and comity, that was so widely received as an insult? How could so many brilliant people have been so rhetorically clumsy?

Why indeed? The "religious thinkers" even have a term for these people: secular humanists. They're just a bunch of moral relativists, slouching toward Gomorrah, in the words of Robert Bork. This is, of course, so much horse puckey. Koppelman continues:

I suspect that the answer has something to do with norms of civility that developed in the United States throughout the twentieth century. It is now well settled that it is impolite to challenge someone else’s religious beliefs. Religion is private. Even if you think your neighbor believes really stupid stuff, it’s not nice to say so. He can go to his church; you go to yours; don’t bother each other.

This formula works only so long as neither of you offers a religious argument that is supposed to govern something that will affect both of you. Suppose, for example, that you propose that homosexual sex be criminalized because it’s an abomination before God. How am I to respond? If I disagree, my obvious answer is to say that your religious beliefs are wrong. By hypothesis, that is what I really think. But it’s impolite to say that. So I have to twist around to find some way to say that your views ought not to govern political decisions, without having to say that they’re false. These political theorists have been doing the twist.

Spotty doesn't entirely agree with the professor's assertion here. But it does have an important kernel of truth: the conservative Christian community has no trouble criticizing Muslims, Jews (although it is politically aligned with Israel for apocalyptic reasons), and even liberal Christians, but people outside that community seem more reticent to criticize the Bible literalists. Conservative Christians like to think of themselves as oppressed; it's part of a martyr complex that is, well, fundamental to this group's self-identity, but they're really not.

There is a significant trend in politics and the law in the United States to expand the scope of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the detriment of its Establishment Clause. Most of you, boys and girls, are familiar with the Bush Administration's faith-based initiatives. Recently, the Supreme Court held that a citizen of the United States had no standing to complain about the distribution of faith-based initiative money on the grounds that it was being used for sectarian purposes. It probably won't come as a surprise that the decision was 5 - 4.

The home-school movement, which Spot has discussed before, is premised on the belief that the country ought to be organized on religious ("natural or God's law") principles, not democratic ("positive law") ones. But the proponents of God's law admit to no possibility of error in their understanding of it or reticence about imposing their understanding on the rest of us. This is profoundly undemocratic. It is based on the notion, espoused by people like Katie from time to time, that "These my beliefs, and I am entitled to hold them; you're being intolerant of me if you don't." Spot has also discussed where tolerance of the intolerant will get you.

Then Professor Koppelman writes this:

Their strategy has been a disaster, because it has produced the opposite of what they have hoped. A doctrine grounded in universal respect has left a lot of actual citizens feeling profoundly insulted. This suggests that the norm of politeness needs to be revisited. As soon as A invokes religious reasons for his political position, then it has to be OK for B to challenge those reasons. It may be acrimonious, but at least we’ll be talking about what really divides us (and we’ll avoid the strange theoretical pathologies that have plagued modern liberal theory, though that seems to be a disease mainly confined to the academy). It’s more respectful to just tell each other what we think and talk about it.

Professor Koppelman just articulated the raison d'etre for the Cucking Stool. If he gets around to it, Spot may award the professor a Spotty™. If you want to base public policy on some pronouncement of Moses that is supposedly God's dictation, you better be prepared to take some heat from a jeering dog. And that goes for Muslims, too, if you think strict Sharia law is the way to go.

It is way past time for the mainline Christian community to stand up and start opposing the people that Chris Hedges rightly calls "American Fascists."

A hole in one!

Nick shades his eyes and looks down the fairway. "How far, d'you think?" he asks the caddy.

The caddy squints, is thoughtful for a moment, and replies, "It can't be more that twenty yards at the most. I'd use a seven iron."

Nick nods in agreement as the caddy hands him the club. Nick takes a copy of his column this morning, July 20, wads it up in a tight ball, and drops it at his feet. He looks down the fairway again, which is really just an aisle in the Strib newsroom, at the, er, cup: Katie is leaning over and inveighing a co-worker about her recent column about the heroin epidemic in Northfield.

"Jesus, Nick, keep your  head down," Nick mutters to himself. He addresses the wadded column, takes a couple of practice swings, and then gives the crumpled paper a sound whack with the iron.

Nick's aim is true. The paper ball sails in an arc and lands in its target! Katie straightens up and shrieks "AIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Then Katie reaches behind her, retrieves, and then reads the object of her humiliation.

Coleman's column this morning was a series of interviews and observations about the hyped and questionable story about heroin use in Northfield. Boys and girls, Spot says that reading the two columns linked above will demonstrate the difference between the work of an ideological hack and a veteran newspaperman.

Spot has written about the Northfield affair here, here, and here.

A new Spotty winner!

There's a new Spotty™ winner for Friday, July 20 for this letter in the Strib:

Congress must act

I was struck by the subtitle to your July 14 editorial "Forget the Reichstag" -- "Bush is not a dictator." For starters, someone needs to inform the president's staff.

Former White House political director Sara Taylor said, "I took an oath and I take that oath to the president very seriously." Upon further questioning, she backed away from that statement because only in a dictatorship do you take an oath of loyalty to your leader. In a constitutional democracy the oath of loyalty is to the Constitution.

But it gave a clear understanding of the mindset of the executive branch today. Because of this grab for power, President Bush has created a constitutional crisis. The method that our founding fathers gave us to avert such a crisis is through impeachment proceedings.

Since the White House has erected walls of secrecy, no illegal acts, thus far, can be proved. But there are clear abuses of power which our forefathers considered to be impeachable offenses. To reinstate the rule of law and to establish precedent for future presidents, Congress must act now rather than simply waiting for President Bush's term to expire.


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 had written.

If George Bush isn't a dictator, it is not for lack of effort:

Just in case you haven't noticed before, the United States of America has become a presidential tyranny. We've been clanging this bell here (and elsewhere) since late September 2001, and have seen it confirmed over and over through the years — with torture edicts, domestic spying, rendition, secret prisons, indefinite detention of uncharged, untried captives, etc. — and most recently and most baldly with the "Military Commissions Act," which enshrined the principle of arbitrary presidential power in law and gutted the ancient privilege of habeas corpus. This was rubberstamped by the Republican-led Congress last year — and is still standing strong under the Democratic-led Congress.

This post from Chris Floyd goes on to describe just the latest power grab by the Administration, the assertion that the Justice Department cannot bring contempt proceedings against anyone who raises executive privilege as grounds to refuse to testify before Congress:

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

Conservatives hearts' fluttered and they grew faint when Keith Ellison described the aftermath of 9/11 as having some similarity to the aftermath of the Reichstag fire in the 1930s Germany, but Spotty says the comparison was, well, spot on.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Katie wants you to meet Peter

This morning, boys and girls, Katie wants you to meet Peter Hegseth, a nice young man that she met a few years ago at a Fourth of July parade in Forest Lake. Peter was walking the parade route and giving little U.S.--made in the U.S., of course--flags to the children so they could wave them when the veterans walked by. Katie was moved by the gesture and introduced herself to Peter. They have been friends ever since! Peter and Katie have so much in common. They're both from small towns and like to use the word "warrior" to describe soldiers, as though they lived in Sparta in ancient Greece! It's so cool!

Out of the blue, she found out that Peter recently had an excellent adventure in Washington, D.C. earlier this week. You see, Peter went there to speak out in favor the Iraq war:

On Tuesday, Hegseth addressed a packed news conference, surrounded by vets and prominent senators. It was the young warrior's latest foray in a communications offensive that has included appearances on CNN, Fox News and CSPAN, and op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Star Tribune.

It is so nice of Katie to tell us about these fine young (Hegseth is 27, according to Katie) people from Minnesota who feel called to sacrifice so much to spread the word about our important work in Iraq.


In truth, Peter Hegseth is a callow young Republican functionary. You could have guessed that just from the fact that Katie features him in a column, boys and girls, but here's a little more information about Hegseth from Sourcewatch.org:

Hegseth is a Policy Specialist at the Center for the American University at the conservative Manhattan Institute think tank. According to his July 2007 speaker's profile for the New York Young Republican Club, Inc., Hegseth "plans to pursue a Masters in Public Policy" at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in fall 2007. [citations omitted, but they're at the Sourcewatch link]

What is the Manhattan Institute, Spotty?

Let's hear what Rudy Giuliani has to say about it, grasshopper:

“For twenty-five years, the Manhattan Institute has confronted old problems with fresh thinking. Many of the Institute’s emblematic ideas—from the notion that low taxes encourage businesses to the concept that police should be treated with respect—were originally greeted with skepticism but have since been embraced by well-run cities everywhere. Congratulations on a quarter century of making a difference.”

—Rudolph W. Giuliani

Perhaps we can ask police and other first responders in New York how well they feel respected by the former mayor:

But Spot digresses. Obviously, the Manhattan Institute is a garden-variety conservative think tank.

Hegseth is such a wunderkind that he no only has the prescription for U.S. policy in Iraq, he also worries about the heartbreak of "judicial activism," the over-emphasis on college diversity, and the liberal bias on college campuses. A genuine one-stop shop for all you conservative hysteria needs. Kersten featured him once before denying that any abuse occurred at Guantanamo Bay. He has been quoted by Johnny Rocketseed and published by the Family Resource Council and the WSJ opinion page.

The question that Spot has is what does a snot-nosed twenty-seven year-old kid has to say about geopolitics? Well, okay, that's not entirely fair. Hegseth's principal contributions to the Iraq war debate, however, seem to be confined to repeating sound bites like "pure evil" and "freedom." Here's what Hegseth says about his qualifications:

"Who better to lead the fight for finishing the mission than the guys who fought on the front-lines and understand the stakes of the battle?" Hegseth said.

Sorry, Peter. You're barely old enough to drink beer. Spot will get his foreign policy advice from people who have some experience with foreigners other than shooting at them.