Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Drinking Liberally Thursday!

The last Drinking Liberally in the Twin Cities before the precinct caucuses is Thursday night at the regular time and place:

331 Club in Minneapolis

6 to 9 PM

Technorati Tags: ,

All your uteri are belong to us

Over at his blog, the Oracle of the Midway has made it clear that no, he isn't the slightest bit interested in compromise on the reproductive rights of women. So this one's for him.

Remember, he's the most feminist man you know.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You go first, Mitch

Here's the Oracle of St. Paul talking about Steve Chapman's weekend op-ed piece about abortion:

Abortion is one of those tugs of war [in politics]. When I was a kid, in 1973, the ribbon got a huge pull to the left with Roe Vs. Wade [sic]. In the past 35 years, many - from conservative evangelicals to liberal Catholics - have grabbed onto the rope from the right and pulled with all their might. And for some of us, the hope for a compromise - knowing that a complete ban was not going to happen in our lifetimes - was the hope that just one more tug would pull the ribbon just far enough so that people - maybe a majority - would see that while abortion was legal, that aborting a fetus was an act imbued with much more moral gravity than excising a wart or clipping a toenail.

In other words, the first step to an acceptable a less vile compromise would be for abortion’s supporters to realize that there is a moral dimension to abortion. It’s a realization that abortion’s most sacramentalist zealots resist, because it’d be the first step in gutting the notion that a fetus is nothing but a mass of tissue until you get a diaper on it.

If Mitch had an irony-warning meter in his head, it would have been pegged while he wrote that. But Mitch is, of course, dead to irony.

So pro-choice supporters have to realize that there is a "moral dimension" to abortion? And then a "compromise" would be possible? Does Mitch sound like he wants to compromise, boys and girls?

Well, he does wrote about "an acceptable a less vile compromise," Spotty.

Grasshopper, would Mitch accept half a loaf if offered to him?

No, I guess not.

Mitch sees compromise as just a step in the incremental banning of abortion until it is entirely illegal.

Tell you what Mitch, come back after you're willing to concede that there is a privacy and civil liberties dimension to abortion. Then maybe we can talk.

But you go first.

How would you like your crow prepared, Katie?

Roasted? Probably kind of dry. Fried? That'll make it even tougher to chew. How about stewed in a broth of right-wing bile? That's Spot's recommendation. Tough eating any way you do it.

A week ago, our Katie, yes, crowed about he fact that the NTSB had found that gusset plates were the cause of the I-35 bridge collapse. Move along, people, no government neglect to see here! Spot, of course, had misgivings. So did Nick Coleman, who wrote this even a few days in advance of Katie's bit of triumphalism:

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board says inspections of the Interstate 35W bridge would not have found flaws in the design of the bridge, which opened in 1967. Such inspections would not have learned if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or whether the moon is made of green cheese, either.

But the obsolete design of the bridge was known to be flawed long before the bridge fell into the Mississippi last Aug. 1, killing 13 and injuring 145. It was a "fracture critical" bridge, meaning that if any major part failed, the whole thing would fall. It was precisely that lack of redundancy that led worried officials to order stepped up inspections of the "structurally deficient" bridge, which carried 140,000 vehicles a day, pounded by far more traffic than was intended.

So NTSB board chairman Mark Rosenker was disingenuous, at best, when he said "routine" inspections would not have found a flaw in the bridge gussets that the NTSB is blaming for the collapse. "Routine?"

There was nothing "routine" about the bridge, including its inspections. It had so many problems that it was the most-inspected bridge in Minnesota and engineers were openly worried (according to a story in this paper Aug. 19) about the dangers of a collapse.

Inspections did find that many of the gussets were corroded and thinning, plus a host of other significant problems ranging from cracks and missing bolts to a tilted bridge pier and frozen expansion rollers.

The question isn't whether the original designers were distracted by thoughts of Marilyn Monroe as they were planning the bridge. The question is why wasn't the bridge closed, or fixed, by those in charge now?

On Sunday, there was this op-ed piece by Jim Carlson. Carlson is a DFL state senator from Eagan. Now one of the interesting things about Carlson is that he has some credentials:

In her Jan. 21 column ("A new witch to chase in bridge collapse with hunt"), Katherine Kersten is dismissive of anyone questioning the early findings of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Kersten says, "Suddenly every critic seemed to have an engineering degree in his back pocket." While I do not carry my degree in my back pocket, I do proudly display it on my wall. I also happen to sit on the Joint Committee on the Bridge Collapse.

Ooh, this isn't going to go well for Katie is it, Spotty?

No, grasshopper, it's not. Senator Engineer Carlson had a few observations that are pertinent to Katie little homily on putting the matter to rest:

As a licensed professional engineer, I practiced engineering with a disciplined group of people. We have a code of conduct that discourages uniformed comment or conclusions outside our areas of expertise. Watch the media carefully and you will not see a professional engineer make conclusions on incomplete evidence.

The collapse was not an act of God; it was an error of oversight. Something was missed.

If there was an original design, specification or construction error that compromised safety, it was overlooked several times over 40 years. Lanes, roadway thickness and heavier medians were added, along with 33 percent more traffic, evidently without a verification of load capacity.

After the bridge fell into the river, I began reviewing the many years of bridge-inspection reports. I was surprised to see that problems were often reported for more than a decade without corrective action. There were instances in which the inspectors used exclamation points to draw attention to unaddressed problems. Other reports included many broken bolts and a tipped pier and "significant section loss." However, in its preliminary findings, the NTSB dismisses any factor related to the inspection, maintenance or condition of the bridge as a potential cause for collapse.

As an engineer, I find this unsettling and inappropriate. Does the NTSB not think that broken bolts are warning signs? Does it not think a tipped pier ought to be analyzed? Does it not think that "significant section loss" weakens gussets? Could not adding lanes, road thickness and heavier medians to under-designed gussets be an error?

Boy, those seem like good questions, Spotty!

They do, don't they? And Carlson had this to say about the guy that Katie says has put the whole matter to rest:

Mark Rosenker, the chairman of the NTSB, has also created credibility issues. He is not an engineer. He is a former Air Force general and has been a member of Dick Cheney's staff and a lobbyist. He has also been involved in several Republican presidential campaigns. His rush to pin the blame on a 40-year-old design problem, while ignoring all the other contributing factors, is unseemly at best. He also said that never in the history of his organization had it seen a similar underdesigning of gusset plates; yet in 1996, Ohio discovered gussets that were too thin on a sagging bridge. Since then, Ohio bridge inspectors have been inspecting gusset plate design, which Rosenker also stated inspectors are not trained to do.

This is the guy in charge of the NTSB?

Yes, grasshopper, he is. But even he has had to back away from his smug pronouncements:

The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board backed off Monday from earlier remarks that seemed to rule out all but design flaws as the "critical factor" in the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.

Mark Rosenker's clarification, made to U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., came as NTSB investigators again contacted one of the researchers involved in a study of an Ohio bridge that buckled a decade ago due to undersized gusset plates similar to those that have become the focus of the 35W investigation.

Rosenker, meeting privately with Oberstar, said he did not mean to suggest that the finding of undersized gusset plates on the 35W bridge reflects the board's final conclusion on the cause of the Aug. 1 accident. That conclusion is expected later in the year.

[a chorus from the boys and girls] Bon appétit, Katie!

Blessed are the cheesemakers

That's a line from The Life of Brian and the title of a Spotty™ award-winning post by Ed Naha. Here's the lede paragraph:

There’s an old adage: “Faith can move mountains.” Whoever came up with that gem probably didn’t leave the house a lot. In today’s tumultuous times, faith can barely move bowels, let alone mountains. Yet, we are encouraged by presidential candidates to vote for them based on how super-duper their personal religious beliefs are. The last time this country voted for someone who claimed that God was his co-pilot; things didn’t work out so hot. [referring, of course, to W]

Here's a few more paragraphs:

Over the years, I’ve come to discover that people who talk about their faith the most usually have the least and those who rant about the angry God of the Old Testament usually have inflatable sex partners (or want one).

The introduction of God as a running mate is a pretty recent development and one that is a good reflection of a society wherein pro-lifers are in favor of the death penalty, guys like Bill Frist think folks like Terri Schiavo are one kick away from being a Rockette and Hot Pockets are considered a serious source of nourishment.

. . .

Over the past twenty years, however, politicians, largely Republican conservatives, have bent over backwards to display their higher moral values, sneering at their so-called secular brethren in the Democratic Party. And, when Republican conservatives weren’t bending over backwards to display their values, they usually found a variety of other swell things to do while they were in that position.

. . .

Now, after nearly eight years of a meandering Messianic meathead, the American people are being called to pick a new President and, as usual, Republicans are playing the “God” card. (It’s a Joker, folks.)

Quoting and commenting on Mitt Romney:

“There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us,” he recently intoned. “If so, they are at odds with the nation’s founders.”

Somewhere, Ben Franklin is nursing a fifth of whiskey.

He's even harder on Huckabee:

If Romney is a God Squad wannabe, Mike Huckabee is the real deal. An affable, down-home guy who loves jamming on his bass guitar, Huckabee is, in a word, whacked.

This is a professional Christian who defended his belief in the death penalty by saying “If there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued against the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, ‘This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency.’”

Forget the theological slapstick of that statement, for a moment. What it boils down to: if Jesus can take it, so can you, wussy. Top of the world, Ma!!!

Buried beneath his quick-wit and Gomeresque demeanor, ol’ Mike has quite a few interesting beliefs. He thinks America’s “holocaust” of abortions has caused the work shortage leading to the present wave of illegal Mexican immigrants. Save a fetus. Pick a strawberry. Also: the Earth is about 6,000 years old. And, “Inherit the Wind” be damned, evolution isn’t scientifically accurate.

He attributes his popularity to the Big Guy. “There’s only one explanation for it, and it’s not a human one. It’s the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of five thousand people.”

(And that little boy, Dudley Pudinski, later went on to found Dumpster Diving Caterers.)

Please go and read the whole thing, and leave a note of appreciation for Ed.

Remember, boys and girls, a Spotty™ is awarded for a letter to the editor, an op ed piece, or a blog post or comment that Spot wishes that he had authored.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thank you Mistress Kersten; May I have another?

Tracing her literary riding crop across our collectively trembling skin Sunday morning, Katherine Kersten once again attempts to dictate for us the sexual practices we ought to be engaging in. Or, more specifically, not engaging in. Like the dominatrix with her fingernails in your private parts, Mistress Kersten thinks she's the one who gets to decide what you like. In her column on Sunday, she describes with little editorializing the educational and social efforts of "Kinky U," a group of University students who engage in activities that are clearly not part of her list of approved sexual practices.

The lack of editorializing is purposeful, it seems, because she seems to think that merely by revealing breathlessly the activities of Kinky U, her readers will be so squicked that they’ll just know that those icky sexual minorities have gone too far this time. She wants us to pretend that practices that have been around forever simply go away if we condemn them enough: teenage sex, homosexuality, adultery, and yes, even kinky sex between consenting adults.

But intentional ignorance of those things we don’t approve of only results in unplanned pregnancy, the spread of disease, and accidental death. Take, for example, the early demise of the Rev. Gary Aldridge, a graduate of and former dean at Liberty University and one-time employee of Jerry Falwell:

The report indicated that Aldridge died while seeking sexual gratification.

The autopsy, prepared by Dr. Stephen Boudreau of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, lists "accidental mechanical asphyxia" as the cause of death. Aldridge's hands and feet were bound together behind his back, and they were attached to a nylon cord fastened around his neck.

The body was dressed in a face mask with a single breathing vent, two wetsuits and was bound with cords and a belt, according to the report.

Aldridge was the longtime pastor of Thornington Road Baptist Church in Montgomery. A church member found the body after Aldridge failed to show up at church on a Sunday when his wife was out of town.

Because of his position, Aldridge's death was widely reported last fall, with plenty of titillation to go around. It's safe to conclude Rev. Aldridge would have benefited from a basic safety course from Kinky U, and it's equally safe to conclude Liberty University had no such resources for the young and curious Aldridge.

Back in October at the time of Aldridge's death, Mrs. Tilton had this to say:

It's easy to despise the Aldridges of this world. We should be careful about doing so. Aldridge had a passion that few of us will understand and that most of us will find distasteful. He didn't need our approval, though. Yet he must have lived in terror that the denizens of his little world would discover him. Freed from that cramped and bitter world, perhaps he could have found a measure of happiness; freed from that world, perhaps he might even be alive today.

In her ongoing celebration of ignorance and intolerance, Mistress Kersten continues to expand her campaign to grant freedom only to those she thinks worthy, to ridicule those she thinks not. And like any good dominatrix, she works very hard at making us believe she's the one making the decisions.

Huckabee sews up the pro-Easter bunny vote!

Watch it:

Huck says that the Easter eggs are in Jordan, not Syria, as the wing-nut orthodoxy says.

Via Thinkprogress.

More sober reading for Dave

Spot's commenter Dave pooh-poohed Spot's post about the accelerating decline of the United States as a geo-political power as the consequence of domestic economic conditions and the continuous war footing that the Bush administration had kept the country on. The gravamen of Dave's comment was that Spot said some dirty words: George Soros. As one of the world's principal boogeymen, this permits Dave to disregard anything Soros might say. Sort of like Al Gore, only thinner and with a cooler accent.

Well, Dave, Spot has another piece for you to read; it's long but worth the time: Waving Goodbye to Hegemony in today's New York Times Magazine. Here are the opening grafs:

It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from North Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline.

Why? Weren’t we supposed to reconnect with the United Nations and reaffirm to the world that America can, and should, lead it to collective security and prosperity? Indeed, improvements to America’s image may or may not occur, but either way, they mean little. Condoleezza Rice has said America has no “permanent enemies,” but it has no permanent friends either. Many saw the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the symbols of a global American imperialism; in fact, they were signs of imperial overstretch. Every expenditure has weakened America’s armed forces, and each assertion of power has awakened resistance in the form of terrorist networks, insurgent groups and “asymmetric” weapons like suicide bombers. America’s unipolar moment has inspired diplomatic and financial countermovements to block American bullying and construct an alternate world order. That new global order has arrived, and there is precious little Clinton or McCain or Obama could do to resist its growth.

In fairness to our simian president, a global realignment was on the horizon anyway, but Bushco moved up the timing so that even an old dog like Spot will be around to watch it happen.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Spot was wrong!

A few days ago, Spot said that he was glad that Captain Snake Oil was back writing on the net, but apparently he's been doing it for a while at a site dedicated to the invisible hand job and sponsored by the association of puffed cereal called the Minnesota Free Market Institute. One of the biggest puffs, the iconic David Strom, is featured in the sidebar on the site. Please forgive Spot; the Free Market Institute is not a place to find reasonable conversation. A friend of Spot's just called this bleat, written by Captain Fishsticks, to his attention: Ten-month wait for a maternity ward.

Boy, Spotty, did some poor woman actually have to wait an extra month for a spot in a maternity ward? That's awful.

Of course not, grasshopper. Sticks is just quoting the "journalist" Mark Steyn, the Great White Dope from our Neighbor to the North. Actually, Steyn and Sticks have a lot in common; neither is really a journalist in the common understanding of the term, but each gets to play one in the media, substituting his own recipe mixing ideology and deception as a synthetic substitute for genuine inquiry and exploration.

In this case, not even Steyn claims that a woman had to wait an extra month to deliver a baby, or four babies as was the case here. Here's what happened:

A woman in Calgary, Canada was carrying four identical quadruplets (four kids from one egg; nice work Mom). When it came time for the babies to be delivered, the mother, who had been on bed rest for a month, was flown to Great Falls, Montana because there were not enough neo-natal intensive care beds in Calgary for the new quartet.

The valiant Captain, breathlessly repeats Steyn's claim that this is a failure of the national health care system in Canada. Steyn says:

Health officials said they checked every [emphasis is Spot's] other neonatal intensive care unit in Canada, but none had space.

Funny, that not exactly what the parents' website says:

 Saturday, August 11, 2007-  Greetings from Montana!  The past few days have had us on another roller coaster ride... and a Lear jet!  Karen started intermittent contractions on Thursday and was starting to dilate.  This prompted the doctors to take a serious look at NICU bed availability on Friday morning, and the outlook wasn't good.  The addition of 3 new preemies to the NICU Thursday night meant the Unit was maxed-out on space and staff.  4 additional preemies could have posed an insurmountable challenge for the limited resources.  A scan of availability in nearby U.S. cities showed there were 4 NICU beds available in Montana.  To safeguard the health of our babies in the case of delivery, the Calgary Health Region decided to send us south of the border.  The paramedics and flight crew, and the hospital staff at the Foothills and in Montana have all been wonderful.

Steyn add the part about looking all over Canada to find beds just to make a better story, at least from his perspective. Maybe they should have been sent to Goose Bay, Labrador, or perhaps Charlottetown on Price Edward Island; Dad could have stayed at the Anne of Green Gables bed and breakfast!

Let's have a little geography lesson for Sticks, okay?

Where is Calgary located?

It's on the eastern slope of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta.

Right. What's the nearest Canadian city to the east?


Right again. It's about 1350 kilometers. How about to the west?


Yes. That's about 1050 kilometers, but it is over the Rock Mountains, requiring a lot more altitude and better pressurization capabilities for a medical flight, perhaps especially in the case of a pregnancy. How about to the north?

Wait a minute! We forgot Regina (775 k) and Saskatoon (625 k) to the east!

You're absolutely right, grasshopper. But what about the north?

Red Deer?

Be serious grasshopper; the answer is Edmonton, about 300 kilometers. Although many Canadians (especially male Canadians) will tell you that the best-looking women in Canada come from Red Deer. Anticipating your question, grasshopper, Spot doesn't know why. Now let's look to the south.

Well, Spotty, the nearest Canadian city to the south isn't in Canada; it's Great Falls, Montana. About 500 kilometers from Calgary.

So, except for Edmonton, the closest city of respectable size to Calgary is Great Falls. Spot has been to Great Falls many times. It has a great airport, in fact two of them. One is a U.S. Air Force base, although it is in limited use right now. Sticks and Steyn [will break your bones] want you to think that Great Falls is just a rural backwater, but it is not. Great Falls International's most used runway, 3/21, is 10,500 feet long and has excellent IFR approaches. Just the ticket if you have some weather flying to do, or you're in a Lear Jet.

There is one other factor that may have played a part, too, boys and girls. Edmonton and Calgary are two boom cities in the Canadian west, growing rapidly. It is not uncommon for population growth to outstrip infrastructure, including hospitals. Just ask Maple Grove. The population of Great Falls has stagnated in the recent past; probably fewer babies being born, which would lead to some excess capacity.

Remember, too, that most of the population of Canada lives within a hundred miles or so of the US border. Since that country is so spread out east to west for its population, Canada, especially, has been interested in providing closer cooperation between Canadian provinces and the states to their south.

Anyway, here's what one health official in Calgary said:

An official with the Calgary Health Region defends the move to send the Jepps to Great Falls.

“We did not have the capacity to take four new Level 3 babies, so the call goes to Edmonton and to Vancouver and across Western Canada to find out if there is bed space,” explained Don Stewart. “We had found across Canada there were not four Level 3 beds available so that’s when we looked to Montana, which is the closest facility to us with reasonable care and within a reasonable distance. That was only done after exhausting the options here at home.

“They (American critics) don’t have all the facts and information, obviously,” he added.

Stewart said there are 21 Level 3 incubators in Calgary, but a staffing shortage meant only 16 were in use when the Jepps were giving birth. Staffing levels will be increased by this fall, he added.

And remember, four neo-natal intensive care beds for one delivery would tax most any medical facility. Any responsible administrator would want to keep some places in reserve. This was a rare event. The health care system in Canada also paid for the flight and for the care in Great Falls.

Imagine what would have happened if the situation had been reversed. A Great Falls mother needs air transport to a medical facility with more capacity in another city. Think about trying to get advance approval from the insurance establishment for that one, moms and dads. Especially when you need it NOW.

The drooling cretins like Sticks and Steyn want you to think this is a failure of the Canadian system, but it is actually a success. How many neo-natal beds do you suppose there are in New Orleans right now, and how many expectant moms get flown or taken somewhere else when there is a shortage?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Brian sez go!

Brian Melendez, chair of the Minnesota DFL, was at Drinking Liberally in Minneapolis last evening. A good crowd showed up to hear him; there were two themes to what he said.

First, go to your DFL precinct caucus on February 5th. Melendez said that the DFL was expecting an excellent—maybe record—turnout. He also said that if you're a first timer, don't worry, you'll be in good company: perhaps half the attendees will be new. Melendez also said that the DFL wants people to have a good time and enjoy the experience, since that's the first step in getting new people to participate more in party activities.

Are you new and want to be a delegate to the legislative district convention? Stand up and say so. [Spotty adds that as in many things in life, you don't ask, you don't get.] In most precincts, that alone will give you a pretty good shot at being a delegate to the district convention.

At the caucus, you will fill out a presidential preference ballot that will be used to allocate most of the delegates to the national convention among the candidates.

The balance of the caucus will be primarily concerned with picking district convention delegates and considering resolutions. [You may be asked who you support for the state house from your district, and your US Senate and Congressional favorites are. Perhaps you have gotten calls asking if you are going to "caucus" for a particular candidate; it's their campaigns counting noses.]

Offering resolutions is a way that you can have an effect on the DFL's platform. Each caucus will be adopting resolutions, and similar resolutions having the support from numerous caucuses will be considered by the district conventions, winnowed further, and then considered by the state DFL convention. [Spotty says don't be timid here, either. If you offer a resolution about the war, the economy, or whatever, chances are that other people will say they've been thinking about that, too, and support your resolution.]

Second, contribute your free $50 to the DFL for 2008, sooner rather than later. The first $50, $100 for a couple, is refundable by the State of Minnesota. Virtually painless.


Spot, how do we find out where to caucus?

Easy, grasshopper. Just go to the Minnesota Secretary of State.

Gosh, that's easy Spotty!

Yes, grasshopper, it is, in spite of what Michael Brodkorb may have told you.

What about this refund program?

Well, you can go right to the DFL homepage and click the "donate" button. There's a caucus finder on this page, too.

I don't know, Spotty, the refund business sounds like a gimmick to me.

Has Spot ever steered you wrong, grasshopper? Anyway, if you like, you can go and have the Minnesota Department of Revenue explain it to you.

Any more questions? Dismissed.

"The burden of proof is on the individual to show they're legally entitled to be in the United States."

A chilling story:
FLORENCE, Ariz. — Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he's never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack's claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.

It's safe to assume Lou Dobbs won't be interviewing Mr. Warziniak anytime soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Buddy, can you spare a billion?

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke throws a few sticks on the sputtering fire. George Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi also toss a pile of sticks on as the blaze flickers alarmingly. All of them blow on the fire as hard as they can. Then, they step back, rubbing their hands and looking expectantly at the guttering fire.

Nothing happens.

As George Soros, that billionaire capitalism-hater says:

The current financial crisis was precipitated by a bubble in the US housing market. In some ways it resembles other crises that have occurred since the end of the second world war at intervals ranging from four to 10 years.

However, there is a profound difference: the current crisis marks the end of an era of credit expansion based on the dollar as the international reserve currency. The periodic crises were part of a larger boom-bust process. The current crisis is the culmination of a super-boom that has lasted for more than 60 years.

Boys and girls, when you go back sixty years, where are you?

Yikes, Spotty! Isn't that right after the Second World War?

Yes, grasshopper, that's right.

Holy mackerel, Spotty! That can't be good.

Right again, grasshopper. What came before, and may have in fact precipitated, the Second World War?

It was the Great Depression, wasn't it?

That's three in a row.

Here's a bit more from George:

Boom-bust processes usually revolve around credit and always involve a bias or misconception. This is usually a failure to recognise a reflexive, circular connection between the willingness to lend and the value of the collateral. Ease of credit generates demand that pushes up the value of property, which in turn increases the amount of credit available. A bubble starts when people buy houses in the expectation that they can refinance their mortgages at a profit. The recent US housing boom is a case in point. The 60-year super-boom is a more complicated case.

Every time the credit expansion ran into trouble the financial authorities intervened, injecting liquidity and finding other ways to stimulate the economy. That created a system of asymmetric incentives also known as moral hazard, which encouraged ever greater credit expansion. The system was so successful that people came to believe in what former US president Ronald Reagan called the magic of the marketplace and I call market fundamentalism. Fundamentalists believe that markets tend towards equilibrium and the common interest is best served by allowing participants to pursue their self-interest. It is an obvious misconception, because it was the intervention of the authorities that prevented financial markets from breaking down, not the markets themselves. Nevertheless, market fundamentalism emerged as the dominant ideology in the 1980s, when financial markets started to become globalised [Soros is writing in an English publication] and the US started to run a current account deficit.

A dope slap from the Invisible Hand!

James Kunstler put it a little more colorfully on Monday:

Knees knocked last week from sea to shining sea as the shape-shifting monster of economic reality cut a swathe of destruction through the markets and financial ranks. The exact nature of this giant beast still remained largely concealed in a fog of accounting gambits, policy blusters, and reporting dodges, but a few intrepid scouts who glimpsed the behemoth up close said it looked like Godzilla with Herbert Hoover's face.

George W. Bush, tried to appease the beast by offering each American adult the dollar equivalent of half a month's mortgage payment -- with the exhortation to drive forthwith to the nearest WalMart and blow it on salad shooters and plasma TV's -- but Hooverzilla just laughed at the offering and pounded the equity markets further into the dust of loss, while the "bank-like" guardians of wealth lay in the drainage ditches bleeding from their ears and eyes.

My favorite moment was seeing Treasury Secretary Paulson and one of his fellow shaved-head deputies at a press conference rostrum frantically trying to calm the news media rabble like a couple of extraplanetary high priests from a Star Trek episode -- the batteries having run down in their laser wands, and their incantations ("liquidity! liquidity!) veering into mystifying glossolalia.

Kunstler saves a special measure of contempt for the hedge funds:

A whole closet full of "other shoes" is now waiting to be dropped. Surely the biggest clodhoppers in the closet belong to the hedge funds, representing trillions and trillions of dollar-denominated "positions" which, however hallucinatory, had previously yielded enough real "money" year-by-year to keep all the realtors and Humvee dealers in the Hamptons goose-stepping to Goldman Sachs's drumbeat. These "positions" can't help now from moving into counterparty crisis territory, especially as the bond insurers such as MBIA and Ambac go up in a vapor, and if that happens the damage could be so colossal globally that Stephen Hawking might have to be brought in to run the Federal Reserve.

Back to George for a moment, who says this about the hedge funds:

Globalisation allowed the US to suck up the savings of the rest of the world and consume more than it produced. The US current account deficit reached 6.2 per cent of gross national product in 2006. The financial markets encouraged consumers to borrow by introducing ever more sophisticated instruments and more generous terms. The authorities aided and abetted the process by intervening whenever the global financial system was at risk. Since 1980, regulations have been progressively relaxed until they have practically disappeared.

The super-boom got out of hand when the new products became so complicated that the authorities could no longer calculate the risks and started relying on the risk management methods of the banks themselves. Similarly, the rating agencies relied on the information provided by the originators of synthetic products. It was a shocking abdication of responsibility.

Globalisation allowed the US to suck up the savings of the rest of the world and consume more than it produced. The US current account deficit reached 6.2 per cent of gross national product in 2006. The financial markets encouraged consumers to borrow by introducing ever more sophisticated instruments and more generous terms. The authorities aided and abetted the process by intervening whenever the global financial system was at risk. Since 1980, regulations have been progressively relaxed until they have practically disappeared.

The super-boom got out of hand when the new products became so complicated that the authorities could no longer calculate the risks and started relying on the risk management methods of the banks themselves. Similarly, the rating agencies relied on the information provided by the originators of synthetic products. It was a shocking abdication of responsibility.

Spotty, didn't Warren Buffet once say that he didn't invest in hedge funds because he couldn't understand them?

Although he doesn't have a link at the moment, grasshopper, Spot thinks that Buffet did say that. Apparently, a lot of other people didn't understand them, either!

Here's what Soros says is the likely shakeout of the current financial crisis:

Although a recession in the developed world is now more or less inevitable, China, India and some of the oil-producing countries are in a very strong countertrend. So, the current financial crisis is less likely to cause a global recession than a radical realignment of the global economy, with a relative decline of the US and the rise of China and other countries in the developing world.

Are we broke, Spotty?

What do you think, grasshopper?

Goodbye Rudy, Tuesday

Spot couldn't resist ripping off that headline. It is from an opinion piece by Timothy Egan of the New York Times about, of course Rudy Giuliani. The article is as good as the headline:

Yet, the more they [Florida Republicans] see of him here, the more his poll numbers tank. Even with ol’ Fred Thompson shuffling off the stage for a life of longer naps and witless homilies to more appreciative audiences, Rudy’s campaign is in a meltdown.

It’s worth stepping back for a moment to recall how far and how quickly Giuliani has fallen. For most of the summer and well into the fall, he was the Republican frontrunner. His campaign consisted of a hagiography: the hero of 9/11. His fundraising was strong. Now the campaign is all but broke and he’s getting his clock cleaned in some states by Ron Paul – Ron Paul! – the 97-pound libertarian who thinks the war on terror is bogus.

What happened? I saw Giuliani four years ago at a rally in Henderson, Nev. He was on fire, the Elvis of Republicans. George W. Bush was the president who said things like, “You’re working hard to put food on your family.” By contrast, people emerged from that Giuliani speech in Nevada saying, “I wish he were running.”

And then there is this:

More broadly, you can summarize Giuliani’s problems in the line he no longer uses. When the World Trade Center towers came down, he turned to his loyal sidekick Bernie Kerik, and said he was glad George Bush was president.

Now, that line is a triple loser. Kerik, his police commissioner, is under federal indictment, in a sea of troubles. Bush is despised by two-thirds of Americans, and even a majority of Republicans want to go in a different direction. As for the big scare, give Senator Joe Biden credit for writing what may be Giuliani’s obit: “There are only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11.”

Yet Giuliani still wants to frighten people into voting for him. Maybe that’s why he hired the gothic-faced actor Jon Voight to stump for him in Florida. What, Christopher Walken wasn’t available?

To which Spot will only add this photograph of Rudy's grave:

Daniel Barry/Getty Images via Dependable Renegade

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Michele's moment of glory

Watch Michele Bachman on C-Span today, waxing evangelical about the anti-abortion march in Washington, D. C., also today, Tuesday. Be sure to hear Michele's endorsement of fellow Congressmen and their love for babies, men and women. Spot doesn't recommend the whole thing, but be sure to watch when the camera pulls back and pans the chamber.

Update: The stream doesn't want to play. Spot will try to fix it tomorrow.

Further update: It's working now.

Preview of coming Drinking Liberally attractions

January 24th - 331 Club - 6 to 9 PM

Brian Melendez, DFL chair, will arrive some time after seven for a meet and greet and a little discussion about caucuses.

January 31st - 331 Club - 6 to 9 PM

An evening of drinking and dancing! Well, the first part anyway, and some good political conversation, too. Last DL before the precinct caucuses.

February 7th - location TBD, but somewhere in St. Paul - 6 to 9 PM

A meet and greet with Steve Sarvi, DFL candidate for the Second Congressional District. More information to follow.

February 14th - 331 Club - 6 to 9 PM

Bring your sweetheart and come and meet Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, DFL candidate for US Senate. Again, more information to follow.

Monday, January 21, 2008

He was piped aboard

Captain Crabby was piped aboard the SS MinnPost today for a piece in the Community Voices section entitled So what happened to Minnesota's progressive attitude? Writing mere editorials at the Pioneer Press must crimp Captain Crabby's style, because he obviously needed to vent. Feel better now, Captain?

The apparent trigger for the Captain's fulmination was Dane Smith's observations about Minnesota's chintzy observation of its 150th birthday in Scrimping on the Sesquicentennial: A sign of the times. Here's the lede paragraphs:

Yet another casualty in our decade-long experiment with downsizing and disinvesting in the public sector — which is a historic deviation for Minnesota — turns out to be the celebration of our own history.

Media reports in recent months have drawn attention to the bare-bones budget for the Minnesota Sesquicentennial, the 150the anniversary of statehood. Kevin Duchschere's recent assessment of the sad situation in the Star Tribune notes that only $750,000 has been appropriated, compared with $8.5 million that Wisconsin spent on its sesquicentennial in 1998 and an inflation-adjusted $8.5 million that Minnesota spent on its centennial in 1958.

Then Dane went on to quote, of all people, Nick Coleman!

Captain Crabby, also known as Captain Fishsticks, also known as Craig Westover, is having none of it. In a spittle-flecked screed that is twice as long as Smith's original piece, the Captain delivers a stinging rebuke of the notions that progressive taxation and universal public education are good things:

Take the income tax, a progressive idea. When did it morph into a weapon of mass desperation? When did the progressive idea of the wealthy helping to provide for the needs of the community become the reactionary idea that wealth is evil? Where did the notion arise that we should tax the rich not just to meet the needs of the community but to supply its wants, desires and whims as well? When did the term "public good" lose all definitional credibility?

Why are the progressives that fought so hard for children of color to receive a good education now standing in the doors of failing government schools telling the children and grandchildren of those children that if their families are poor, they can't have school choice? Call me crazy, but defending a failing system against educational opportunity for kids doesn't sound all that progressive.

O Captain, my Captain! (with apologies to Walt Whitman) Spot has a question for you. Have you been taking your benzodiazepine? Spot didn't think so.

It's almost bedtime for Spot, so no links here, but the income tax is not nearly as progressive now, at the federal level, as it was in the Eisenhower administration. And it is not as progressive as it used to be in Minnesota, either. Everything that the government does is of more benefit to the wealthy than the poor: transportation, banking, securities regulation, the creation of artificial persons (corporations, LLCs, etc.) enforcement of private property rights, even national defense (protecting US investment abroad). It is only the most unctuous, self-absorbed scrubs like Sticks that fail to see that. Progressive taxation is simple fairness, not redistribution of wealth.

And the notion that Sticks is worried about the education of po' folks is beyond laughable. All he really cares about is subsidizing private and parochial school education. Believing that Sticks and his ilk care for any but themselves requires a suspension of disbelief of enormous proportion.

Spot is glad to see you're writing on the 'net again, Captain; he never gets around to the Pioneer Press.

As opposed to the old one

Katie's latest, A new witch in the I-35W bridge collapse witch hunt, is just her plaintive cry to Make the Whole Thing Go Away! She trumpets a presser by Mark Rosenker, the head of the NTSB who said, boy, it was a design flaw! Nobody couldda seen that coming:

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued interim findings that should prompt the witch-hunt crowd to pack it in. (A final report is due within six months.) The "critical factor" in the collapse was a "serious design error" that dates from the bridge's construction in the mid-1960s, said NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker at a news conference.

"It is important to understand that bridge inspections would not have identified the error," Rosenker said. In fact, he said, the National Bridge Inspection Standards don't include procedures that would detect such a design flaw.

Who is this god, Rosenker, Spotty?

Funny you should ask, grasshopper! He is—how can Spot put this diplomatically?—a Republican politico of many years standing. Katie's own newspaper, not that she always reads it, says so:

Rosenker, 61, brought a lifetime of experience in the military, electronics, communications and politics when President Bush appointed him to the safety board in 2003. By then, he had worked on most of the Republican presidential campaigns since Richard Nixon's 1972 reelection.

When he was sworn in as board chairman in 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney credited him with overseeing some of "those secure, undisclosed locations where I've been known to spend some of my time."

Wow, I wonder how that got past Doug Tice?

It is surprising, grasshopper. Maybe Mr. Tice had the day off! Anyway, Katie is shocked that some people won't let her friend Mr. Rosenker have the last word.

Who dares to question this Rosenker, Spotty?

Well, Jim Oberstar, the chairman of the US House committee that oversees the NTSB, for one:

What some Minnesota Democrats -- particularly Rep. Jim Oberstar, chairman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee -- have alleged is that Rosenker overstepped his mandate Tuesday by ruling out the role of rust and corrosion while announcing a preliminary finding of a design flaw in the bridge.

Oberstar called it "an inappropriate, unfortunate and uncharacteristic statement by a board chairman," though the congressman stopped short of ascribing an explicit political motive to Rosenker.

Do you suppose the congressman could haul Rosenker's, er, backside, in front of the Transportation Committee?

I suppose he could, grasshopper.

Anyway, who's the witch?

Isn't that obvious? It's the NTSB itself. Katie is especially put out that the Minnesota Legislature - controlled by those evil DFLers - hired a local law firm to do an independent investigation. Katie concludes her column, shaking her head in sadness:

You can expect that the Legislature's law firm will find some heads to hand to the villain-hungry crowd. But someday the howls will die down, as lawyers and legislators turn their attention to another supposed scandal. Then the men and women who care for our bridges will finally be left to work in peace.

Why yes, of course, Carol Molnau deserves her repose! Katie's suggestion that we just leave the poor state bridge inspectors and maintenance workers alone is a red herring. As has been chronicled over and over, MnDOT knew that bridge was sorely "deficient" but passed on efforts to fix it. And money was clearly the most important reason. That wasn't the fault of the workers; it was the fault of the Administration.

Somehow, Spot finds Katie's concern about a bunch of AFSCME workers rather incongruous. Don't you?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sorry, Charlie!

Charlie at Across the Great Divide recently commented on Garrison Keillor's commencement of a lawsuit against his neighbors to restrain their building of a garage/addition that, according to the suit, would deprive Keillor of "light and air." Here's the Star Tribune on the lawsuit, as quoted by Charlie:

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Ramsey County District Court, claims the addition would "obstruct the access of light and air to the Nilsson-Keillor property" and "impair or destroy protected historical resources."

Charlie tut tuts a little about the tiff, suggesting perhaps, my heavens, people, can't we just get along and be neighbors? And Charlie intimates that maybe Keillor is overstepping his, er, boundry, when he complains about something happening next door, especially since Keillor's house is bigger to begin with.

For their part, the neighbors, the defendants—who Spot saw in a televised news report, so he has no link to offer—express shock and dismay, saying that they have done everything according to the zoning ordinance and just "want the whole thing to be over." Doubtless, this is true. But of course, compliance with the zoning ordinance is not the end of the story.

Spot doesn't know the merits of Keillor's case, nor has he seen the complaint, but Keillor is undoubtedly seeking to vindicate an ancient right: the abatement of a common law nuisance. Nuisance is one of the oldest torts out there, and a cause of action for nuisance may lie if "the right of quiet enjoyment [of real estate] is being disrupted to such a degree that a tort is being committed." Simply complying with a zoning ordinance does not mean you can't commit a common law nuisance.

In fact, zoning laws arose in the first place in recognition of the fact that the commencement of private litigation every time a building went up was a very inefficient method of land use regulation. As property became more urban, parcels smaller and landowners with competing interests more numerous, the Invisible Hand developed a bad case of arthritis. The adoption of zoning ordinances, however, has not eliminated the tort of common law nuisance. So for Keillor's neighbors to say "we complied with the zoning ordinance" is an incomplete answer; it does not eliminate the possibility that tort was committed against Keillor.

Air and light is something that is sometimes protected under what is called the Ancient Lights Doctrine. "Light and air" might also be called, in this modern age, access to solar and wind power.

This is one of the issues in the McMansion controversy that exists in Spot's hometown. Spot has written about it before, and the issue is featured in Spot's Car Ride Take IV. Here's a case from Spot's hometown that cries out for a common law nuisance lawsuit, even though the zoning ordinance was apparently complied with:

Spot predicts that the resurrection of the law of common law nuisance is the future of the McMansion issue.

George Babbitt runs for mayor of Edina!

The Edina Sun-Current had an item this week about Scot Housh's decision to run for mayor of Edina:

"Watching [current Mayor] Jim [Hovland] as he's now decided to move into the congressional race made me start thinking about it," Housh said. "I felt the time was right for me to step forward and make a definitive statement."

Housh was first elected to a two-year term on the City Council in 2000. He was re-elected to four-year terms in 2002 and 2006.

An executive vice president with insurance broker Willis, Housh served on the Park Board before he was elected to the City Council.

In a "not so fast, Junior" statement, Mayor Hovland replied:

Hovland, who is seeking the DFL endorsement for the 3rd District, said he would drop out of the congressional race if he does not get the endorsement.

"If I didn't get the endorsement, I could still consider running for mayor," Hovland said.

You will remember, boys and girls, that Scotty has been a champion of every grand—or perhaps grandiose—real estate scheme to come down the pike since he was elected. One of the questions that ought to be asked of Scotty is how much insurance business he does arising out of all of the building activity occurring in Edina, both commercial and the in-fill residential activity.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Drinking Liberally Thursday (tomorrow) night!

Regular time (six to nine) and regular place (the 331 Club). Be there or be square.

Be sure to mark your calendars for DL a week from tomorrow night, the 24th of January, when Brian Melendez, chair of the DFL party, will be there for a question and answer session about the DFL caucuses and party endorsements. We expect Brian around seven that night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Now listen up, boys!

No levity tonight, boys and girls. In fact, girls, you may be excused if you like; it's the boys that Spot wants to talk to.

A lot of you—that is, a lot of us—have some explaining to do regarding our treatment of Hillary Clinton.

Aw, c'mon Spotty, isn't she the most calculating woman you've ever seen? Besides, she's a candidate for president! And you have to admit she is pretty tough, too; she can take it.

Grasshopper, whether she can take it or not is not the issue; this is about you, not her.

What do you mean by that?

This is about your sense of fair play and your willingness to treat everyone, even a girl, equitably.

Well, we do that!


Sure! It's just that there are so many other people—ok, most of them are men—out there for whom she is such a polarizing figure; we just can't support her for president. It affects her electability; it's not because she is a woman; well, directly, anyway.

So, in other words, the fact that there are so many misogynists, sexists, and male chauvinists out there that you adopt their attitudes vicariously?

Of course not. I guess. But you have to admit she is calculating.

Spot is not aware of any cases in the history of the United States where someone ran for president by accident. Are you?


Would you even want a president who didn't seem to really want the job? The British sense of amateurism has its place, but not in the presidency of the United States. Don't you think that she is qualified to be the president?

Yes, she's qualified. But she's such an insider, such an establishment inside-the-beltway kind of a candidate.

Who is telling you this, grasshopper? Is it Senator Obama, or (former) Senator (and vice presidential candidate) Edwards, or perhaps Congressman Kucinich?

But she has the support of the Democratic Leadership Council; they're the ultimate insiders and we don't think they're very progressive.

Hillary Clinton is the first really serious woman candidate for president in the history of the country. Do you think that the first woman president or first minority president we'll ever have will win as a quixotic outsider?

Well, probably not.

Hillary Clinton would not be a serious candidate if she was not an insider. You can take it from Spot that the first woman or minority president in the country's history will be a party insider. Which is why Hillary Clinton will almost certainly beat Barack Obama for the nomination.

Okay, we don't like some of her policy positions.

Now we're getting somewhere. Which ones? And compared to whose?

We'll have to get back to you on that, Spot.

All right. But Spot has a little reading for you to do while you reading policy positions. It's Bob Herbert's column in the New York Times today, Politics and Misogyny.

The tragedy of identity politics

Ring. Ring. Hil? This is Bar.

Barbara Bush?

No, me! Barack Obama.

Perhaps even stranger. What's up?

I want to call a truce.

Ok, what's the gimmick?

Oh Hil, you cut me to the quick! There's no gimmick. I just want to bury the hatchet.

Right. What's the gimmick?

You know what I'm talking about. This isn't doing either of us any good. And I'm sorry for criticizing you for emphasizing the role of Lyndon Johnson in getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, instead of Martin Luther King. I know that you were talking about presidential leadership. I played the race card. It was a cheap shot; I'm sorry.

Apology accepted. And?

Why do you think there has to be an "and?"

There is, isn't there?

Well, yes, but I'm sorry you won't just accept the apology in the spirit in which it was offered.

Fine. What's the "and?"

Well, maybe you could let up on the questions about "likeablility" and stuff.

I think I brought up the question about why some people, especially some men, don't like me exactly once, in that New Hampshire debate.

I know, but when I responded that you were "likeable enough" it made me look petty.

[chuckling] Yeah, it really did, didn't it? What's the "and stuff?"

Well, playing the woman card. You, well, sniffed a little in New Hampshire; I've never seen you do that before.

And that's playing the woman card?


Well it wasn't. But if you're trying to suggest it's a mistake to play identity politics, you're right.


Even though there are a lot more women than blacks in the U.S.

Come on, Hil, I thought we were getting somewhere.

Just kidding. We should both pledge not to play the race or gender cards. One of us will need all those voters in the fall.

Great! I'm glad we had this conversation. Even though you started it.

What? I did not!

Did too.

Did not.

Did too.

Did not.




[click] [click]


That was perhaps a little cheeky, even for Spot. But playing identity politics is a dangerous game. Simply trying to aggregate enough identities to your side may even work sometimes, but it's tribalism, not political philosophy. One of the tribes in the Republican party, the evangelicals, is providing an excellent example of that now.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Even when she has a point, she's annoying!

A severe woman, dressed in black, sits at an Underwood typewriter. Her dark eyes glitter and there are beads of perspiration on her upper lip. There is a rising color in her neck and face. Her respiration is quick and shallow as she pecks away with an arrhythmic staccato.

She writing a sex scene in a romance novel, right Spot?

Good guess, grasshopper, but wide of the mark. It's Katie, writing today about the just but sorry fate of a group of Eden Prairie high school students who were featured drinking on a Facebook page:

We used to think of Eden Prairie as a quiet corner of suburbia, aspiring to be what its name implies: An idyllic refuge from the commotion of big-city life. Sure, its tangled freeways can be maddening to outsiders, but we've still viewed it as a tranquil place to live, work and get an education. Until last week.

That's when Eden Prairie High School administrators called a long line of students to the office to discuss compromising photos that had shown up on Some of the photos appeared to show the students at boozy, underage drinking parties. Forty-two students were interviewed and 13 were disciplined, receiving suspensions from sports and other activities.

Facebook has, boys and girls, ripped the Bedford Falls face off of the Eden Prairie Potterville. And Katie couldn't be happier.

Some of the kids railed about the invasion of privacy and ruined scholarship chances; parents sighed that teen-age drinking was inevitable.

Katie is having none of it. You see, Katie is a empty nester, and her chance to deliver this lecture to even a mythical child must have been really cathartic:

You broke the law, and some of you broke your word. As an athlete, you signed a pledge not to drink or possess alcohol, and to be 'fully responsible' for your actions and their consequences. What is there about this you don't understand?

If you think breaking the law and breaking your promise have no consequences, well, you've learned something.

Don't give me the 'everyone does it' line. That never worked with my mom, and it won't work with the Highway Patrol.

And drop the privacy-rights stuff. There's a camera in every cell phone these days. If you do what is right and don't drink illegally, you'll have nothing to fear from other people's cameras.

Yes, you're 17 years old now, but there's a lot you don't know. The stakes here are higher than losing two weeks with the lacrosse team.

Imagine what would happen to your privacy and life prospects after you've driven off the road, paralyzed yourself or killed a friend. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, and makes it easier to discard your principles. It can lead you to abuse someone else, or become abused yourself. The consequences could transform your life.

Oh, and about your concern that the school's penalty was too harsh. You'll soon think of that as a Hawaiian vacation compared with going without car keys until the last snow melts this spring in Eden Prairie.

Spot's favorite sentence is "Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, and makes it easier to discard your principles."

You mean like deciding to rob a gas station or burn down a school on the spur of the moment?

No grasshopper. Spot thinks that Katie had something else in mind.

Anyway, Katie just seems a little, well, cheerful, about meeting out punishment, don't you think? Irresponsible use of alcohol is a societal problem that goes far beyond young people drinking before they hit 21, and it is illegal until you get there, boys and girls. But Katie is just having too much fun for Spot's taste.

There's one other thing that bothers Spot. It is this:

And drop the privacy-rights stuff. There's a camera in every cell phone these days. If you do what is right and don't drink illegally, you'll have nothing to fear from other people's cameras.

Here, Katie embraces the National Surveillance State with open arms. "If you do what is right" you don't have to be worried about the National Surveillance State. Remember, someone might be watching; someone probably is watching, and maybe it isn't only your friends! It's important to Katie that you be afraid, very afraid, boys and girls.

Update: Katie hasn't had so much fun since she wrote about spanking.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Spot's Car Ride Take IV

Here's a version of Spot's Car Ride with comments. Thanks for the patience.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Drinking Liberally tomorrow (Thursday) night

Six to nine at the 331 Club, as usual.

What is maybe not so usual is that Spot suggests a couple of questions for discussion, maybe even debate:

If you're male, and you prefer another candidate to Hillary Clinton, does that make you presumptively a misogynist?

Is your answer to that question different than it would have been last week? If so, why?

This one's for the Wege

"People feel that the media is piling on Hillary Clinton; they're coming to her defense with their votes."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Spot's car ride

Recently, Spot got to go for a car ride and he saw some of the new McMansions here in Edina. Here's some of what he saw. It deserves a narration, which it will get, but in the meantime, enjoy the ride:

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Please see the new version with subtitles! You can find it at a post above called Spot's Car Ride Take IV. (There have been a couple of cuts that Spot would rather not talk about.)

Rachel's pity party

Katie's column yesterday was about Rachel's Raw Deal. Spot wrote about it in Flogging a dead horse. The column produced outpourings of grief from the expected places, but Avidor wrote about one that deserves more attention. It's by Drew Emmer at Wright County Republican:

This morning Katherine Kersten wrote a brilliant piece about how U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose was run out of town on a rail. As is typical of the leftist press they didn't bother to vet the facts and play the role we used to expect from the media. Had teh [sic] media done its [sic] job the hardest working US Attorney we've had in decades might still be showing up for work in Minnesota.

Paulose was hot on the trail of uncovering a significant corruption issue in Minnesota. Amazing how expendable the U.S. Attorney becomes when there is big money on the line.

Boy, Spotty, it sounds like they got rid of Paulose just in the nick of time!

Well according to Drew, but Drew exposes a laughable ignorance of the Paulose fiasco from coronation to humiliation.

But what to make of his statement that "Paulose was hot on the trail of uncovering a significant corruption issue?" Our boy Draw obviously has no first hand information about ongoing investigations at the US Attorney's office, so a couple of alternatives present themselves.

First, and frankly the more likely, Drew is just full of so much doo doo. He was so carried away by the drama of Katie's prose that he made the statement up "out of whole cloth" as lawyers like to say.

Second, Drew has a source of this information. If so, it is, directly or indirectly either someone in the U.S. Attorney's office or perhaps a grand juror. In either case, such a leak would be a serious matter, worthy of investigation by federal authorities. Spot will remind Drew that there isn't even a federal journalist source shield law, just some guidelines at the Justice Department. When the alleged leaker is one of its own, Spot doubts that the guidelines would be much of an impediment to an investigation.

Spot calls on Drew Emmer to say whether it is alternative one or alternative two that is true.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Flogging a dead horse

What does that mean, Spotty? Flogging a dead horse. It sounds kind of useless, not to mention icky.

Where did you hear that, grasshopper?

Oh, somebody said it about Katie's column today praising the now departed Rachel Paulose. Apparently, Friday was her last day on the job:

Last Friday, Rachel Paulose walked out of the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis for the last time.

Ah, yes, the former and little lamented, in a lot of circles anyway, US attorney for Minnesota.

But Katie said that she did a really good job, and some other people thought so, too.

On the other hand, there are others, including several people who worked in the office, who thought she was a venomous little witch:

When Paulose took over the office, she told several of the career officials there that she demanded total personal loyalty. At least one replied that loyalty was owed to the Constitution, not to her. Many of the allegations [against Paulose] raise the possibility that Paulose crossed the line while seeking to punish personal disloyalty.

That's City Pages quoting Eric Black. But let's get back to flogging dead horses. It's a metaphor, grasshopper.

For what?

Doing something entirely useless. You can't make a dead horse walk or run faster or pull harder by flogging it.

Oh, I get it! Sort of like the futility of writing glowingly about a person who already lost her job!

Exactly, grasshopper.

Running away II

Alternate title: DON WAN HUCKABEE!

You'd think these guys were being chased! Well they are, in a way. In his last post, Spot observed that the Republican establishment was really frightened of Mike Huckabee's traveling evangelical freak show, especially after the Iowa caucuses, and how it was working hard to discredit it. Ironic, in view of how the Republicans have courted the evangelicals for years. Spot used Power Line as Exhibit A for how the party insiders were trying to get the anti-Huckabee message out.

There was a final candidates' debate this weekend before the New Hampshire primary. Guess how Power Line scored it? C'mon, guess. That's right.

Here's Paul:

Mitt Romney, in my view, was the winner. His answers were crisp, knowledgeable, and poised. He was solid on each substantive issue and effective in defending his so-called attack ads. My guess is that he's cemented himself as the choice of Republicans in New Hampshire, but still faces the prospect of having independents override that choice.

Mike Huckabee looked to me like tonight's loser. Scott has already shown how weak Huckabee was during the debate on taxes.  . . .

Crisp? You pickin' a candidate or a head of lettuce, Paul?

And as Paul intimates, Scotty came to the very same conclusion: Mittens won and Huckabee lost:

I score this round (on immigration) for Romney and am calling the event for Romney. I thought that Giuliani and McCain came in tied for second, a few points behind Romney. For an extraordinarily attentive account to check against mine, I recommend Michelle Malkin's here.

Note the link to another member of the Republican talking points Play Doh extrusion machine, Michelle Malkin.

A Romney adviser also passed this cautionary tale on to the boys at Power Line:

With Mike Huckabee’s victory in Iowa, however, the Republican party is now entering what might be called its Jesse Jackson moment.

If Huckabee goes on to win more primaries he will have a reasonable claim to the nomination. He may, of course, lose New Hampshire, New York, California and Michigan. But let’s suppose that he manages to win enough primaries in the southern and border states to make the results in those three states [by Spot's count, that's four states] irrelevant. It’s all a question of numbers. In spite of itself, the party might end up with him as its nominee, and with it, heading down the shortest road to disaster since the Goldwater debacle of 1964.

Romney's advisor is trying to make the point that the Republicans may have to pay the price for courting evangelicals just as the Democrats did with blacks.

They did, Spotty? Has this clown ever seen a picture of Barack Obama?

Apparently not, grasshopper. Obama won in Iowa, the "whitest place south of the North Pole," according to the CNN's Jack Cafferty. Spotty say that now, Johnny and Scotty and Paul, since you've invited all the snake handlers,  medicine show peddlers, and all the other magical-thinking nut balls into your home, you're going to have to live with them. Have fun.