Friday, February 29, 2008

Now we sing, and do tiny dances on the kitchen floor

Now that Governor Pawlenty has named Robert Bly Minnesota's first Poet Laureate, will Kevin-M be back to guide us through this situation? Kevin-M over at the Insomnia Report (alas, moribund these many months) is our favorite authority on all things Bly. He once had the best contest ever, still open over at his site: Find the fake Robert Bly!
I have decided to throw a contest. What follows are six snippets of poetry. Four are legitimate Bly pieces. Two have been have written by me, a man with no discernible poetic gifts. Try and guess which ones are which and place your answers in the comments. If you're right, you win. What do you win? Well, you win the right to call yourself a winner, which ought to be prize enough for anyone, I should think.

Go forth now. Sing, do tiny dances on the kitchen floor, and enter the contest. Maybe we can convince Kevin-M to rescue us.

Janet rewards the suck-up!

Spot has developed a dreadful little game for himself. He put SCSU Scholars into his RSS feeder to see if he could tell when a post was written by Janet. If he thinks so, only then does Spot go to the to site check. So far, he batting 1,000.

Here's the set-up for this one. You're one of Janet's students, and it became obvious early on that she is kind of, well, a homer. She tosses you this softball: "Why are there more software engineers in the US than in India or China?" The student crafts his reply to please Janet:

My students were assigned some very, very small mini-cases to present to the class. Students were to read the information, summarize it, identify the pros and cons or causes. They were to ascertain whether or not information was unclear, missing, etc. and provide solutions or clarifications.

One case discussed the fact that the US has 4x the number of software engineers as India, 6x the number of software engineers in China. The question was, why?

The student who had solved this situation was from Africa. His major explanations included these gems:

"America provides more access to education than anywhere else. Americans always look for a way to improve software, they know (have the freedom) to make improvements"

Note: this statement is from a foreign student who recognizes what we have. I only wish more Americans internalized this fact.

You know, boys and girls, the choice of the word "internalize" is very interesting here, don't you think? Here's the American Heritage Dictionary entry for "internalize":

in·ter·nal·ize (ĭn-tûr'nə-līz')

tr.v. in·ter·nal·ized, in·ter·nal·iz·ing, in·ter·nal·iz·es

1. To make internal, personal, or subjective: "Protean man internalizes the longing for immortality through an ongoing process of death and rebirth within himself" (Henry S. Resnik).

2. To take in and make an integral part of one's attitudes or beliefs: had internalized the cultural values of the Poles after a year of living in Warsaw.

Of course, Janet chose her word perfectly, because she is a propagandist, not a teacher. She is most interested in affecting the attitudes or beliefs of her students; she is more interested in doctrine than fact.

We're winning the war?

Yea! Spotty, we're winning the war in Iraq!

Where did you get that idea, grasshopper?

That's what Dave says.

Sigh. Hasn't Spot told you to take what Dave says with a grain of salt?

Well yeah, Spotty, but he sounds so sure, although I can't find the comment from Dave that I was going to quote.

That's all right grasshopper; that is Dave's sentiment. You have to realize, though, that Dave suffers from what Spot will call cheerleader's myopia. Janet has a bad case of it, too. For a different perspective, Spot recommends Chris Hedges, the former New York Times reporter and author, writing in truthdig:

The United States is funding and in many cases arming the three ethnic factions in Iraq—the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunni Arabs. These factions rule over partitioned patches of Iraqi territory and brutally purge rival ethnic groups from their midst. Iraq no longer exists as a unified state. It is a series of heavily armed fiefdoms run by thugs, gangs, militias, radical Islamists and warlords who are often paid wages of $300 a month by the U.S. military. Iraq is Yugoslavia before the storm. It is a caldron of weapons, lawlessness, hate and criminality that is destined to implode. And the current U.S. policy, born of desperation and defeat, means that when Iraq goes up, the U.S. military will have to scurry like rats for cover.

The supporters of the war, from the Bush White House to Sen. John McCain, tout the surge as the magic solution. But the surge, which primarily deployed 30,000 troops in and around Baghdad, did little to thwart the sectarian violence. The decline in attacks began only when we bought off the Sunni Arabs. U.S. commanders in the bleak fall of 2006 had little choice. It was that or defeat. The steady rise in U.S. casualties, the massive car bombs that tore apart city squares in Baghdad and left hundreds dead, the brutal ethnic cleansing that was creating independent ethnic enclaves beyond our control throughout Iraq, the death squads that carried out mass executions and a central government that was as corrupt as it was impotent signaled catastrophic failure.

"[D]estined to implode." "[S]curry like rats for cover." Arresting images, no? Hedges goes on the say this:

The Sunni Arab militias, though they have ended attacks on U.S. forces, detest the Shiite-Kurdish government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and abhor the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil. They take the money and the support with clenched teeth because with it they are able to build a renegade Sunni army, a third force inside Iraq, which they believe will make it possible to overthrow the central government. The Sunni Arabs, who make up about 40 percent of Iraq’s population, held most positions of power under Saddam Hussein. They dominated Iraq’s old officer corps. They made up its elite units, including the Republic Guard divisions and the Special Forces regiments. They controlled the intelligence agencies. There are several hundred thousand well-trained Sunni Arabs who lack only an organizational structure. We have now made the formation of this structure possible. These militias are the foundation for a deadlier insurgent force, one that will dwarf anything the United States faced in the past. The U.S. is arming, funding and equipping its own assassins.

Why can't we just keep paying these guys off, Spotty?

Because we can't afford it, grasshopper. There was an article in the UK Guardian, just yesterday, called The true cost of war. In describing a forthcoming book by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the article says:

Stiglitz and Bilmes [his co-author]  dug deeper, and what they have discovered, after months of chasing often deliberately obscured accounts, is that in fact Bush's Iraqi adventure will cost America - just America - a conservatively estimated $3 trillion. The rest of the world, including Britain, will probably account for about the same amount again. And in doing so they have achieved something much greater than arriving at an unimaginable figure: by describing the process, by detailing individual costs, by soberly listing the consequences of short-sighted budget decisions, they have produced a picture of comprehensive obfuscation and bad faith whose power comes from its roots in bald fact. Some of their discoveries we have heard before, others we may have had a hunch about, but others are completely new - and together, placed in context, their impact is staggering. There will be few who do not think that whatever the reasons for going to war, its progression has been morally disquieting; following the money turns out to be a brilliant way of getting at exactly why that is.

In other words, boys and girls, we will run out of the willingness and the ability to pay for this; it is hard to say which first. Here are some of the figures from the book, The Three Trillion Dollar War:

The amount the US spends on the monthly running costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - on top of regular defence spending

The amount paid by every US household every month towards the current operating costs of the war

The amount Halliburton has received in single-source contracts for work in Iraq

The annual cost to the US of the rising price of oil, itself a consequence of the war

$3 trillion
A conservative estimate of the true cost - to America alone - of Bush's Iraq adventure. The rest of the world, including Britain, will shoulder about the same amount again

Cost of 10 days' fighting in Iraq

$1 trillion
The interest America will have paid by 2017 on the money borrowed to finance the war

The average drop in income of 13 African countries - a direct result of the rise in oil prices. This drop has more than offset the recent increase in foreign aid to Africa

Because, Stiglitz says, the saving rate in the US is zero, zip, zilch, nada, we have to put the entire war on the foreign credit card. Having pups in college is bad enough, grasshopper, but George Bush in the White House is entirely unsupportable.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thar he blows!

Blowhole Bob, that is, writing in this week's Sun Current:

To the editor:

I am absolutely livid with our two Edina state representatives, Ron Erhardt and Neil Peterson, for voting for the Democrats' $6 billion transportation bill.

Not only did these Republican In Name Only representatives turn their backs on the governor and their Republican caucus, but also slapped their constituents with an added expense that is not necessary. As Gov. Tim Pawlenty has stated numerous times, there is more than enough money to cover roads and bridges by allocating funds in a more prudent manner.

Our real Republican leaders offered a competing plan that invests more than seven times as much in local road and bridges and uses reliable, long-term funding to build and maintain the state's transportation systems without burdening taxpayers while keeping healthy commitments to other areas of government.

To see how this plan works you simply need to e-mail House Minority Leader Marty Seifert at and ask for the House Republicans transportation solutions.

It is evident by their votes that Reps. Erhardt and Peterson did not read their own party's plan.

Bob Maginnis

Well, indeed, Bob, who are you going to believe? The sweaty ideologue Marty Seifert or long-time Edina legislator Ron Erhardt and former Bloomington mayor Neil Peterson?

Spot's advice? Take a pill, Bob, and maybe get out of your Chrysler Cordoba.

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More on the Calvin Christian School imbroglio

This is a follow up to Spot's earlier post on the City of Edina's consideration of helping Calvin Christian School obtain up to $1.5 million dollars of tax-exempt financing.

Here's what the Edina City Code, section 140.01 (B) states:

It is the public policy of the Council to:

Secure for all of the residents of the City freedom from discrimination because of race, color, creed, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin in connection with employment, housing and real property, public accommodations, public services and education. [italics are Spot's]

The city, acting through the HRA, cannot possibly facilitate the tax-exempt bonding of the Calvin Christian School addition. The Calvinists are really stern in their condemnation of gays. Spot hopes that somebody asks about that at the public hearing next Monday. These are grounds to refrain from this action wholly apart from and in addition to the Establishment Clause grounds that Spot articulated in the linked post above.

Incidentally, Spot is informed that CCS wants assistance in financing $1.5 million of an approximately $2.25 million project. Hardly incidental involvement.

Third District debate

Joe Bodell has the first in what will apparently be a series of posts, including video, from the 3rd District candidates' debate last night. Worth a look, boys and girls.

Drinking Liberally tonight!

Join the other denizens of the 331 Club tonight for political chatter and libations. Will Marty the Seamstress come to regret his spiteful purge of the Republican Moderate Six? Did MNDoT lose its head today?

Six to nine.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Would you like that Khmer Rouge or Spanish style?

No, that is not a food question.

In an opinion piece in today’s USA Today, GWU Law Professor Jonathan Turley discusses the recent testimony of Steven Bradbury, the acting chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, on the administration’s use of waterboarding. Turley points out that the testimony before Congress contained details of exactly what kind of waterboarding our country engages in:
Bradbury helpfully explained that the administration did not adopt the Inquisition technique of forcing the suspect to swallow large amounts of water and stomping on his stomach.

As Bradbury's testimony and various reports indicate, the Bush administration opted for the standard variation of the tortura del agua of putting a cloth or a piece of plastic over the face of the victim while pouring water over his face. It achieves the same sensation of drowning and the inability to breathe. This technique was used by governments such as Cambodia's Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot.

How charming that the torture being carried out in the name of our country uses so modern a method. And by "charming" I mean makes-you-want-to-throw-up.

Edina: the holy city?

The city council of Edina, sitting as Commissioners of Edina's Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) made a decision earlier this month (February 4th) to consider an action that almost certainly violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Article I, sec. 16, of the Minnesota State Constitution as well.

Although a little longer quote than Spot usually makes, it is worthwhile to reproduce the HRA minutes here:

RESOLUTION NO. 2008-02 ADOPTED SETTING MARCH 3, 2008, PUBLIC HEARING FOR ISSUANCE OF TAX EXEMPT REVENUE BONDS FOR CALVIN CHRISTIAN SCHOOL Executive Director Hughes explained Calvin Christian School has requested that the Edina Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) issue $1.5 million in non-profit revenue bonds to facilitate the expansion of their facility at 4015 Inglewood Avenue.  These bonds would be similar to those issued on behalf of Volunteers of America late last year.

Mr. Hughes explained the note has been proposed to be issued in a principal amount of up to $1,500,000 and the purchaser of the note will be Anchor Bank Woodbury.  The reason that the HRA rather than the City has been requested to issue the note is in order that the note can be “bank qualified” under Section 265(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.  Having the note bank qualified allows a bank to own the note and receive the tax-exempt interest thereon without losing an interest deduction.  The HRA and the City may issue bank qualified bonds if such entity and any subordinate entities will not issue more than $10 million of tax-exempt bonds in a calendar year.  At this time it is anticipated that the City will issue bonds in excess of $10 million in 2008, so if the City were to issue the note it could not be bank qualified.  However, the HRA does not expect to issue any tax-exempt obligations in 2008 and the City’s tax-exempt bonds are not taken into account in determining whether the HRA is eligible to issue bank qualified bonds.

Mr. Hughes said the debt service on the note will be payable solely from payments to be made by CCS, and the HRA will not have any liability with respect to the note.  CCS will pay all HRA expenses with respect to the note and upon issuance of the note will pay the HRA a fee in accordance with the City’s policy for the issuance of revenue bonds (1/2 of 1% of the original principal amount of the note).  He added, in 1995, the City adopted guidelines for the consideration of tax exempt revenue bonds.  The proposed use of the bond proceeds appears to comply with the guidelines in that a significant amount of the proceeds will be used for property improvements.

Mr. Hughes stated the revenue bonds were not backed by the general obligations of the City and repayment would be the sole obligation of Calvin Christian School. He suggested if the HRA wished to consider this request, a hearing be scheduled for March 3, 2008.

Following a brief discussion, Commissioner Housh made a motion to adopt Resolution No. 2008-02 setting March 3, 2008, as the hearing date for the Calvin Christian School Tax Exempt Revenue Bonds. Commissioner Swenson seconded the motion.


   Ayes:  Commissioners Bennett, Housh, Masica, Swenson, Hovland

   Motion carried.

Aw, what's the matter with that, Spotty?

Well, nothing, Spot supposes, if you think that city government ought to be in the business of facilitating the financing of parochial schools.

Maybe it's just for the irreligious, I mean non-religious part of the building, Spot.

Perhaps you will explain to Spot what part of the building that is, grasshopper, when the Calvin Christian School website opens like this:

Because this world belongs to God
For more than 40 years, Christian parents in the Twin Cities have partnered with outstanding teachers to lay the educational foundation for a God-centered life. From the sciences to the arts, from the classroom to the playground, every part of the Calvin experience is built on biblical principles and focused on equipping young disciples of Christ for leadership and service.

Calvin Christian School works to permeate learning with faith on its K-8 campuses in Edina and Blaine and its high school campus in Crystal.

At Calvin Christian School, the commitment to a God-honoring education has never been stronger.

Spot calls your particular attention, boys and girls, to the phrases "every part of the Calvin experience is built on biblical principals" and "CCS works to permeate learning with faith."

It doesn't sound to Spot as though much effort is made to separate the sacred from the secular, in fact quite the reverse.

And these people won't educate just anybody. Before little Johnnie or Janie can be admitted, the parents have to have received the Christian Seal of Approval from the pastor of their church. The pastor is asked to opine on whether the parents are "practicing Christians." And whether they attend church regularly.

Here's just a bit from the CCS "Statement of Faith":

God has revealed himself to us both through the Bible, which is his infallible, authoritative written word, and through the universe that he created and faithfully sustains.

This means the whole nine yards on the creation story and the rejection of science. It also means, by the way, gays hated here.

This is the same outfit that obtained a conditional use permit for its building expansion in part by agreeing to keep more that twenty mature trees for the benefit of the surrounding neighborhood. The trees were razed, apparently without even mentioning it to the city. If you have any questions about that, send ol' Spotty an email.

Even if this was not a religious institution, it is not the kind of good neighbor that the city ought to go out of its way to help. CCS will undoubtedly try to pack the hearing on March 3rd (note that it is a Monday night; not the usual city meeting night). Spotty urges you, Cakeville boys and girls, to go if you can, and oppose this terrible idea. You can also write to the council using this address:

Marty the seamstress

From the Strib today:

Less than 24 hours after six rogue Republican House members voted to override a veto of a $6.6 billion tax-raising transportation bill, they were stripped of their leadership positions, a swift and unusual recrimination explained as an effort to "stitch together" a fractious House GOP caucus.

House minority "leader" Marty Seifert had this to say about the action:

"We expect Republicans to follow other Republicans, and there is obviously a mixed message with what happened yesterday," Seifert said at a news conference Tuesday. "We're not taking anyone's secretary away. I'm not throwing their computers down the Capitol steps. I'm not severing their phone lines."

Just another angry, truculent little man with an impotence problem—legislatively, anyway. It is telling that Marty said that "[w]e expect Republicans to follow other Republicans." Well, Marty, you can lead some lemmings to the cliff, and they just won't jump! Too smart, Spot supposes.

One of the insurgent six, Spotty's own Ron Erhardt, said this about, er, that:

"I am not going along with this foolishness. If you have to get rid of me, fire me," said Rep. Ron Erhardt, R-Edina, who was removed as the lead Republican on the Property Tax Relief and Local Sales Taxes Committee. "This is the way we get treated if we vote our districts and vote our consciences and vote our feeling that we are doing the right thing for the state."

There was a town hall meeting held at Edina City Hall in advance of the session, hosted by Rep. Erhardt and one of his partners in sin (that didn't come out exactly right, oh well), Rep. Neil Peterson; Erhardt's district is 41A and Peterson's is 41B. There was considerable support by the meeting's attendees for additional transportation funding, and a lack of enthusiasm for Governor Pepsodent's plan to borrow a billion (bonding) for road and bridge repair. When Rep. Erhardt said he was "voting his district," he wasn't kidding.

Rep. Peterson lost his position as an assistant minority whip, apparently for being unable to whip himself.

For followers of District 41 politics, over on the Senate side, Geoff Michel voted to uphold the veto. It is nice that somebody from around Cakeville maintained ideological purity. A real profile in courage! Geoff is the guy who, of course, went pounding on doors for money when the Crosstown project was stalled for lack of money. Remember, that was when Carol Molnau suggested that contractors do the project and pay for it, too!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Good ol' Janet

Janet is steamed about the coverage of Bush's trip to Africa, or rather the media's lack of coverage of it:

What is the basic problem here? Americans are not being informed of the really good things our president is doing. Whether we like it or not, we are the world leader and when our president makes a point of carrying representative democracy to nations craving for something besides a tribal mentality and our media ignores it, that is plain wrong.

But Spot did see some coverage of the trip Janet. Why here are a couple of photographs:


Leader of the free world does the hokey pokey.


"Mah own coata manny colors."


A thump of the tail to the Dependable Renegade.

Monday, February 25, 2008

'Atta boy, Ron, and you too, Neil!

Both of the state representatives for Spot's hometown, Ron Erhardt and Neil Peterson (the latter's district includes prestigious West Bloomington, too) voted to override the governor's veto of the transportation bill that included some new taxes for transportation. Both are among the small group of Republicans who voted for the override.

This had to be a difficult vote for each of them, especially Erhardt, who is facing an endorsement challenge. The endorsing convention is coming up very soon, too. It wouldn't hurt, boys and girls, to let Reps. Erhardt and Peterson know that you appreciate their action; the right-wing blogs are already howling.

Apparently, the Senate will take up the override shortly. It's a virtual slam-dunk there.

The old saying is that you get what you pay for, but you also have to pay for what you get.

Friday, February 22, 2008

What I learned from the internets today

As a middle-aged woman with a lousy family history when it come to heart disease and stroke, I thought I was doing the right thing by frequent blood pressure checks, taking those medications that control the problems, being aware of the symptoms of a heart attack, and making some effort to live a healthier lifestyle.

Silly me. I should have consulted the All Seeing Eye Wege to determine the true source of my problems. Women, it turns out are suffering greater deaths because of heart disease and stroke, and it’s not for all the reasons medical professionals tell us.

One may think that it’s because of this country’s failure to watch its collective weight:

Strokes have tripled in recent years among middle-aged women in the U.S., an alarming trend doctors blame on the obesity epidemic.

One might also think that it’s because women experiencing heart attacks have been found to have to wait longer for treatment than men:

In a heart attack, the saying goes, “Time is muscle.” The faster a person gets treated, the better his or her chances of survival and recovery.

But a new study finds that women who have heart attacks wait longer than men to receive an emergency procedure that can re-open clogged blood vessels and restore blood flow to the heart muscle. The study also finds that the longer any patient waits for this treatment, the higher his or her chances are of dying before leaving the hospital.

One might even think that it’s because of disparities in treatment that leave women and minorities not receiving the critical emergency care that often saves lives:

… the study found that rates of reperfusion therapy, coronary angiography and in-hospital death after heart attack varied according to race and sex. The rate of treatments went progressively down in white women, black men and black women compared with white men, with black women found to have the lowest use of interventions.

Then there’s the fact that the disease may manifest itself differently in women, making it difficult to diagnose:

Many women suffer from a form of heart disease that is fundamentally different from the type that strikes most men and is easily missed by standard tests, researchers reported Tuesday.

There’s also the possibility that millions of uninsured women or crowded emergency rooms could come into play here. Or that among the insured, the most effective medications are often not on the insurer's formulary. There are a number of documented medical reasons why women might die more frequently than men with the same disease.

But you'd be wrong if you listened to those doctors and public health professionals.

That's because the all knowing Wege has cracked this nut. It’s FEMINISM that causes heart attacks and strokes among women!

But it's the proximity of the HRC story to the increase in women's heart attacks that caught my eye. I always thought that the point of feminism was going to be the undoing of the bullshit male corporate culture. Instead it was all, apparently, about teaching women to grow a dick. Women in corporate cultures have, more than anything, simply reinforced the bullshit that was already in place and now those pioneering dames can start taking half an aspirin a day like their bull-headed colleagues.

Now if you'll excuse me, this dame has a date with an aspirin.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The crank jumped over the moon

Spot, there is no Katie column today. I thought when she had a column on Monday, there was supposed to be one on Thursday, too, right?

Yes, grasshopper, that is Spot's understanding as well.

Maybe she just has writer's block. That happens to you, too, doesn't it Spot?


Oh come on, Spotty, it must happen once in a while. What do you do?

Okay, maybe once in a great while. Katie might try what Spot does: go over to SCSU Scholars and hope against hope that there is a recent post by Janet, like this one:

At this very moment my husband and I are sitting in our office watching an incredibly clear, spectacular lunar eclipse. There is not a cloud in the sky. As we're watching, we're recalling where we were on July 20, 1969, almost 40 years ago - when NASA landed an American space capsule on the moon. It was a night (in the US, daytime in other places) to celebrate, cheer, be proud of what we Americans have always been good at - setting our minds to something and doing it.

It is sad that we dismantled the program and all the engineers who pulled off that achievement. It was awesome. Since then, we have dumbed down our education system, taught our kids most of where we have erred. They do not understand that massive accomplishments of countless men and women of the US. They don't learn that off shoots from the space program drove the computer industry, powdered drink beverage industry, metal alloys applied to wheelchairs, especially those for wheelchair athletes. Countless other inventions came from the space program because it demanded the best of everyone and our society thrives on continual [Spot thinks continuing would have been a better word choice] improvement.

It is my sincere hope that that we will find a way back to setting national goals (vs vapid platitudes) and showing the world why we are what we are. We have much to be proud of - much. It's time we teach our children, and do it soon.

If you can, get the DVD for the movie, In the Shadow of the Moon which tells the story of US astronauts landing on the moon wonderfully. [Spot thinks that Janet means that the astronauts didn't crash.] Summary is here.

It makes you wonder what Janet and the hub were smoking in the "office." Janet is doing a little waxing and waning of her own, apparently. It's not even good stream of consciousness. Stream of semi-consciousness, maybe.

As a writing exercise boys and girls - and Katie, you too - Spot wants you to take the observation of a physical phenomenon and in three paragraphs, draw from it an entirely unrelated conclusion. This is harder than it looks.

You got some ideas for us Spot?

Sure, grasshopper:

A leaf falling to earth: John McCain's presidential campaign. [Sorry, bad example.]

A strawberry parfait: segregation is God's will.

A woman runs for president: Western Civilization will end.

A same-sex couple holds hands in public: Western Civilization will end.

Those examples aren't as good as Janet, Spot.

Well, she's a pro, grasshopper.

Before you're dismissed for the day, boys and girls, let's examine a couple of the things that Janet wrote.

Imagine a world without Tang. It's the kind of future we would have been consigned to had the astronauts not demanded synthetic orange juice to go with their synthetic eggs and synthetic toast. A grim prospect, indeed!

Or take racing wheel chairs; can you imagine a less efficient method of assisting the disabled than shooting people to the moon? Offhand, Spot can't.

Ah, but computers, you say! Without the space program we wouldn't have computers! Actually, Janet, the digital computer was invented in 1939, and most of the things we associate with computers today such as massive storage capability, miniaturization, computing power, and networking, all arose after the lunar program ended.

Most touching is Janet's plaintive cry at the end:

It is my sincere hope that that we will find a way back to setting national goals (vs vapid platitudes) and showing the world why we are what we are. We have much to be proud of - much. It's time we teach our children, and do it soon.

Yes, Janet, we are at such loose ends these days! Nothing like a good Mars rocket or the invasion of a third-rate country to take our minds off of rapid climate change, peak oil, and the fact that the US is dead broke.

Drinking Liberally - political trivia edition

Drinking Liberally tonight at the 331 Club, six to nine. If enough people are interested, we'll play a round of political trivia, with Spotty as the quizmaster.

If you want to play, sharpen your # 2 pencil and bring it along. We'll probably play around seven.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I've come to save your soul!

Two men of indeterminate age sit along the bank of the river, under a bridge. Their cardboard lean-to is propped up against the place where the bank meets the bridge. The men, both with unkempt gray beards, are dressed in shabby long coats. One wears a blaze orange knit cap, and the other has an old wool cap with earmuffs that he has pulled down. They both have cloth mittens and old, cracked boots. It's cold; the men sit huddled together under a dirty blanket in front of a dying fire. They contemplate bedding down for the night behind the cardboard shelter; neither one is cheered by the prospect.

Just then, a cadaverous figure, dressed in black, looms in the darkness.

One fellow spots the phantasm first. He exclaims, "Frank, it's the Grim Reaper! I think he's come for us!." The man crosses himself and starts to intone "Hail Mary . . .  ."

Suddenly, the specter speaks, "Oh yoo hoo, homeless persons! It is I, Katherine Kersten, the famous newspaper columnist. I have come to deliver you from the cold, for tonight anyway. And I'll save your soul, too, if you let me. Well, not me, exactly, but the One in whose name I come to you this night."

The other man turns to his companion and says, "No, Vince; it isn't the Grim Reaper. It's much worse."

Yesterday, Katie gave us her gripping first-person account of cruising the streets for freezing sinners in Searching the streets, offering help and hope. At first blush, other than Katie's annoying habit of placing herself in the middle of the story (contrast with Nick Coleman's column on the same subject the day before), it was innocuous enough. But as Charlie observes, the column wasn't so much about rescuing the homeless from the cold as it was about rescuing souls for Jesus.

Katie's column was about the Salvation Army's Harbor Light shelter. By all accounts, it's an admirable outfit. Katie opens by saying:

During a recent subzero cold snap, I spent my Saturday evening in an unusual way -- driving through the back alleys of downtown Minneapolis, searching for homeless people to invite to the Salvation Army's Harbor Light shelter.

I rode in the van with Brian Robertson, Harbor Light's head of security, and Sgt. Maj. Robert Strawberry, a chaplain. They told me that Harbor Light houses between 400 and 500 people a night and serves as many as 2,000 free meals a day.

As we prowled through the dark, peering under overpasses and scouting out footprints in the snow, I asked, "How do you know where to go to find these homeless people?" Strawberry's matter-of-fact answer: "Because I used to be there myself."

Eighty percent of Harbor Light's staff -- from food service workers to "advocates" who counsel clients and "provide a shoulder to cry on" -- are former drug addicts or alcoholics, according to Envoy Bill Miller, the facility's executive director. "I try to fill the ranks as much as possible with people who've been through the war themselves," he said.

And, by the way, the Salvation Army receives money for this from the evil, secular Hennepin County:

Harbor Light's goal is to prepare people for employment and independent living. It is the state's largest social-service provider, and offers a homeless shelter, chemical dependency treatment, and transitional and permanent housing, according to Miller.

The Salvation Army contracts with Hennepin County for many nonreligious aspects of its programs. It also offers services like BOLT (Basics of Life Training), which teaches the rudiments of financial management, healthy living and spiritual life.

Those "non-religious aspects" must include food, shelter, and chemical dependency training, right Katie?

But then Katie veers into attributing Harbor Light's "success" to its religious orientation:

The fruit of [Harbor Light's] philosophy is on display at the 10 a.m. Sunday service at Harbor Light's chapel. The standing-room-only congregation ranges from homeless people sleeping it off in the corners to professionals in coats and ties. Most have struggled with addiction or have family members who have, says Miller.

It is undeniable - and undenied by Spot - that many people find solace and hope in religion. People with addictions seem especially suited to the concept of submission to a Higher Power who is powerful in the face of their own powerlessness over alcohol or drugs. It is also undeniable that religion motivates many people, including the employees of Harbor Light, to do good and help others. But here's how Katie ends the story:

There are many sinners at Harbor Light on Sunday morning. But the message they hear is transforming: "A saint is just a sinner who gets back up again."

Just get up! Dust yourself off! The question Katie doesn't ask is why in heaven's name we have four to five hundred people show up every night at Harbor Light, only one of the shelters in town?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Steve Sarvi pulls out all the stops

Steve Sarvi, candidate for Congress in the 2nd district, gets serious about fund raising. Steve was at DL a couple of weeks ago.

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer on the race for the DFL endorsement

Again from his session at Drinking Liberally:

Spot has gotten some emails congratulating him on the JNP videos. Although there is a credit at the end of each one, it bears repeating that the videographer is Jonathan Carlson of Epic Media.

Update: But the bone-head editing is by somebody else.

Actually, it's Cary Teague

This one is for the boys and girls out here in Cakeville:

In December, the Edina City Council directed the Director of the Planning Department to consider additional changes to the city's zoning ordinance to deal with the" McMansion" issue and report back to the Council. Mr. Teague does not seem enthusiastic or well-suited to the task. He has, remember, the valet parking concession for builders at city hall.

As Spot recalls, the Council was going to consider additional zoning changes in about 90 days; that's coming up pretty soon now.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nelson-Pallmeyer talks about Iraq at DL

At his DL session, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer fielded a couple of questions about Iraq:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Nelson-Pallmeyer's remarks at Drinking Liberally

Jack Nelson Pallmeyer was at Drinking Liberally last Thursday. He offered some remarks to the group, and then he took some questions. Here's his comments:

Some of the Q and A will be posted in subsequent videos.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Drinking Liberally - Bring your sweetheart

Remember Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club tonight, six to nine, with a visit by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer around seven.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jack Nelson Pallmeyer on climate change

There are some videos out there of Senate debates. Here's a clip of Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's comments about climate change from a debate at Roosevelt High School last November.

Remember, Jack will be at DL tomorrow night.

On behalf of the future

Spot noticed the re-emergence of a couple of perennial issues at the Legislature this year: bonding for road and bridge repair and a dedicated sales tax for the environment. Now, Spot thinks that all these things are good ideas, but he thinks that future generations ought to be given the opportunity to disagree. Here are Spot's musings about some of these same things from a couple of sessions ago:

It seems that everyone in Minnesota these days has a plan to tie up or bind the future in a way that takes a pet political issue off the table. It is sort of like writing in a will that Johnny is disinherited if he marries Jill (or Jack!) or fails to go to medical school, or whatever. Boys and girls, let’s look at some examples.

The gay marriage amendment ban is the pre-eminent example. Moral clucks like Katie who have an out-sized view of their own moral understanding and authority want to decide the issue of gay marriage rights not only for themselves, but for others and for the future. On behalf of the future, Spotty is offended. But Katie is not the only one.

The governor’s proposal to borrow a few billion dollars and try to bond our way (the governor calls it “investment”) out of the transportation mess in Minnesota is another. By refusing to raise more gas tax revenue (Spot has posted too many times about the governor’s veto of the transportation bill with a dime a gallon increase last year to link to), the governor is proposing tie the hands of future generations who will be saddled with the debt service on things we should have paid for out of current revenues.

And how will we pay that debt service? Well, the governor says, the dedication of the motor vehicle sales tax to transportation, on the ballot for a constitutional amendment this fall, will cover it.

Presently, the motor vehicle sales tax goes into the general fund. The state is barely in the black, as you know, boys and girls. Dedication of funds currently unallocated will result in shortages elsewhere, as City Pages writes in the article The Road to Perdition. More binding the hands of the future. [This is now law, boys and girls, perhaps exacerbating the current budget shortfall.]

One final example: Ron Schara writes today about an effort to pass a constitutional amendment to dedicate a portion of the general sales tax to natural resource protection. The environment is an issue pretty close to Spotty’s heart, but again, we’re trying to tell the future how to spend its money. Maybe the future will decide, if a depression comes around, that it would rather spend the money to keep people from starving. Shouldn’t the future be able to make that choice?

Each of these cases springs from a belief that the proponent knows best for all of us for all time, coupled often with a desire to avoid present responsibility for what we want.

Spotty says consider these issues with humility before you decide you know what is best for future generations.

We hire the Legislature to make these decisions for us. It's a frustrating bunch sometimes, but Spot prefers it to the dead hand reaching into the future.


That looks like an email address, Spotty.

No, no, grasshopper, it's a text message. It means DFL candidate for US Senate Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer will be at Drinking Liberally tomorrow night for a meet and greet, and perhaps offer a few words. Jack is a terrific speaker with a great grasp of the issues. Be sure to come, grasshopper; you'll probably learn something from the professor.

We will, Spotty. Where and when again?

The 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis, a block north of Broadway on University. Here's a map. The usual meeting time is six to nine. Jack is slated to arrive around seven. But he'll probably be on Candidate Standard Time, so don't grouse if he is a little late.

We won't Spotty!

See you there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Who you gonna call? Mythbusters!

Health care policy is really not Spot's thing. But it's not Sticks or Janet's thing, either. If you read the links to Spot's earlier posts, you will see that the Canadian Mark Steyn certainly isn't the answer.

But Sara Robinson just may be. She wrote a two-part series: Mythbusting Canadian Health Care. Here's part ONE; here's part TWO.

Both Sticks and Janet quote Mark Steyn's cautionary tale of a woman who had to wait ten months to deliver quadruplets, and when she did, she had to go to the United States to do it: Ten month wait for a maternity ward. The quads were actually delivered early, but never mind.

Here are just a couple of Sara's observations from part one:

Canada's health care system is "socialized medicine."
False. In socialized medical systems, the doctors work directly for the state. In Canada (and many other countries with universal care), doctors run their own private practices, just like they do in the US. The only difference is that every doctor deals with one insurer, instead of 150. And that insurer is the provincial government, which is accountable to the legislature and the voters if the quality of coverage is allowed to slide.

The proper term for this is "single-payer insurance." In talking to Americans about it, the better phrase is "Medicare for all."

.  .  .

Wait times in Canada are horrendous.
True and False again -- it depends on which province you live in, and what's wrong with you. Canada's health care system runs on federal guidelines that ensure uniform standards of care, but each territory and province administers its own program. Some provinces don't plan their facilities well enough; in those, you can have waits. Some do better. As a general rule, the farther north you live, the harder it is to get to care, simply because the doctors and hospitals are concentrated in the south. But that's just as true in any rural county in the U.S.

You can hear the bitching about it no matter where you live, though. The percentage of Canadians who'd consider giving up their beloved system consistently languishes in the single digits. A few years ago, a TV show asked Canadians to name the Greatest Canadian in history; and in a broad national consensus, they gave the honor to Tommy Douglas, the Saskatchewan premier who is considered the father of the country's health care system. (And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that he was also Kiefer Sutherland's grandfather.). In spite of that, though, grousing about health care is still unofficially Canada's third national sport after curling and hockey.

And for the country's newspapers, it's a prime watchdogging opportunity. Any little thing goes sideways at the local hospital, and it's on the front pages the next day. Those kinds of stories sell papers, because everyone is invested in that system and has a personal stake in how well it functions. The American system might benefit from this kind of constant scrutiny, because it's certainly one of the things that keeps the quality high. But it also makes people think it's far worse than it is.

Critics should be reminded that the American system is not exactly instant-on, either. When I lived in California, I had excellent insurance, and got my care through one of the best university-based systems in the nation. Yet I routinely had to wait anywhere from six to twelve weeks to get in to see a specialist. Non-emergency surgical waits could be anywhere from four weeks to four months. After two years in the BC system, I'm finding the experience to be pretty much comparable, and often better. The notable exception is MRIs, which were easy in California, but can take many months to get here. (It's the number one thing people go over the border for.) Other than that, urban Canadians get care about as fast as urban Americans do.

.  .  .

You don't get to choose your own doctor.
Scurrilously False. Somebody, somewhere, is getting paid a lot of money to make this kind of stuff up. The cons love to scare the kids with stories about the government picking your doctor for you, and you don't get a choice. Be afraid! Be very afraid!

And here's one that Spot wants Janet, who worries so about health-care rationing to read:

Publicly-funded programs will inevitably lead to rationed health care, particularly for the elderly.
False. And bogglingly so. The papers would have a field day if there was the barest hint that this might be true.

One of the things that constantly amazes me here is how well-cared-for the elderly and disabled you see on the streets here are. No, these people are not being thrown out on the curb. In fact, they live longer, healthier, and more productive lives because they're getting a constant level of care that ensures small things get treated before they become big problems.

The health care system also makes it easier on their caregiving adult children, who have more time to look in on Mom and take her on outings because they aren't working 60-hour weeks trying to hold onto a job that gives them insurance.

And from part two:

Government-run health care is inherently less efficient -- because governments themselves are inherently less efficient.
If anything could finally put the lie to this old conservative canard, the disaster that is our health care system is Exhibit A.

America spends about 15% of its GDP on health care. Most other industrialized countries (all of whom have some form of universal care, either single-payer or entirely government-run) spend about 11-12%. Canada spends about 8-9% -- and most of the problems within their system come out of the fact that it's chronically underfunded compared to those other nations. If they spent what the UK or Germany do, those problems would mostly vanish.

Any system that has people spending more and getting less is, by definition, not efficient. And these efficiency leaks are, almost entirely, due to private greed. There is no logical way that a private system can pay eight-figure CEO compensation packages, turn a handsome a profit for shareholders, and still be "efficient." In fact, in order to deliver those profits and salaries, the American system has built up a vast, Kafkaesque administrative machinery of approval, denial, and fraud management, which inflates the US system's administrative costs to well over double that seen in other countries -- or even in our own public systems, including Medicare and the VA system.

Not incidentally: one of the benefits of single-payer health care is that it largely eliminates the entire issue of "fraud." You can only "cheat" a system that already views its primary business as rationing and withholding care. In Canada, where the system is set up to deliver health care instead of profits, and medical access is considered a right, this whole oversight machinery is far cheaper and more compact. In general, the system trusts doctors and patients to make the right choices the first time. As a result, people generally don't have to lie, cheat, and grovel to get the system to deliver the care they need. They just go and get it -- and walk out without a moment's dread about the bills.

Shareholder profit, inflated CEO salaries, and top-heavy administration -- all of which serve to work against the delivery of care, not facilitate it -- are anti-efficiencies that siphon off 20-25% of America's total health care spending. These are huge sums; yet it's mostly money down a gold-plated rathole. In the end, it doesn't provide a single bed, pay a single nurse or doctor, or treat a single patient.

We'll have rationed care
Don't look now: but America does ration care. [are you paying attention, Janet?] And it does it in the most capricious, draconian, and often dishonest way possible.

Mostly, the US system rations care by simply eliminating large numbers of people from the system due to an inability to pay. Last year, one-quarter of all Americans didn't go to a doctor when they needed one because they couldn't afford it. Nearly that many skipped getting a test, treatment, prescription, or follow-up appointment recommended by a doctor. In Canada, those same numbers are in the 4-5% range; in the UK, 2-3%. Also: nearly 20% of all Americans had a hard time paying a medical bill last year; and these stresses now trigger over half of all personal bankruptcies in the country.

Furthermore, nominally having health insurance is no guarantee against financial ruin, as Sicko amply illustrated. Being cut off or denied by your insurance company is rationing, too. And there are vast numbers of fairly well-off Americans -- many of them middle-aged, and too young for Medicare -- who have pre-existing conditions that render them uninsurable at any price. They're one heart attack, one diabetic event, or one bad turn away from financial disaster. Please don't insult these people by telling them that the American system doesn't ration care.

Another persistent (and ridiculously mendacious) rationing myth about the Canadian system is that old people are cut off from treatment and left to die. I've never heard about a single case of this in Canada; but it happens routinely to Americans on Medicare and many private policies, which have strict limits on how long you can stay in the hospital with an acute illness. When the benefits run out, ready or not, they send you home. If you die, you die. The Canadian plan has no such limits: you stay for as long as you need to. But in the US, these limits fit the very definition of "rationed care."

Effectively shutting one-quarter of the population out of the medical system entirely, and putting many of the rest on short rations, certainly does make things so much nicer for those happy few who are still in it. In fact, Americans have these missing millions to thank for their system's impressively short wait times. Only 4% of American have to wait more than six months for non-elective surgeries, while 14-15% of Canadian and Britons do. (Don't blame this on government care, though: in Germany and the Netherlands, the number is closer to 2%.) When conservatives start bellowing about Canada's terrifying wait times (which, by the way, are carefully triaged: it's rare for people to die waiting, though it happens), we need to remind them that there are 75 million Americans who have been wait-listed forever. If my friend's Aunt Millie gets her emergency hip surgery today because I'm willing to hobble along for an extra couple months before getting my knee surgery -- well, for any morally serious person, that choice should be a complete no-brainer.

Spot has probably already cribbed more than he should, but these are two really excellent posts. Read them, print them off, and use them in discussion with the gas bags.

Update: Nick Coleman has a good column today profiling a Minnesota legislator and her experience with the efficient health care system we have in the US:

Shelley Madore has lived through the health care crisis. Even though she had health insurance, Madore was nearly bankrupted when her kids became ill. And the financial and emotional strains of the ordeal helped lead to the end of her marriage, too.

But Madore didn't take her troubles lying down. She stood up. And ran for election. And won. Now, she hopes to change a rotten system from the top.

Madore, 45, is a DFLer from Apple Valley who ran for the state House of Representatives in 2006 after encountering the indifference of legislative leaders to people in her situation. At the time, Madore and her husband, Paul, were earning about $50,000 a year and struggling to make the payments on their modest home and the $908 monthly premium on their health insurance.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Is that what's got you down?

Can't choose between Clinton and Obama? Is that what's got you down, Bunky?

Here are a couple of things that will help you choose:

Obama vs. Clinton

A Calumny a Day To Keep Hillary Away

Ha ha.

Bitch, bitch, bitch

Steve Sack in the Strib on Sunday:

And here's the lede in an op-ed by political science professor Kathryn Pearson in the Strib today:

In my political science courses, I stress that the "rules of the game" matter. This is evident in Minnesota's caucus system, which purportedly values citizen deliberation and engagement in the political process, but at great cost to widespread citizen enfranchisement.

You would almost think that the caucuses last Tuesday night were an abject failure, not the most successful precinct caucuses in this old dog's memory. Any human endeavor is fraught with peril and the prospect of error. And there were undoubtedly errors in the process last week. But nobody who Spot is aware of is claiming the kind of shenanigans that may have occurred in the Washington State Republican caucuses this weekend. Or that the people who were selected to their district or county conventions fundamentally misrepresent public or party opinion.

But compared to, say, getting Hannah Montana tickets, or shopping the day after Thanksgiving, admit it people: the caucuses were pretty easy. The parties run the caucuses and they are staffed by volunteers. Keep that in mind when forming your criticisms of the process.

Spot agrees that "widespread citizen enfranchisement" is a good thing, but getting out of the Barcalounger for a couple of hours every four years to express a preference for president of the United States isn't that big a burden.

Professor Pearson not only doesn't like the caucuses for indicating presidential preference, she doesn't like it for other state and federal office either:

When it comes to the selection of candidates for state and federal office [other than president], the caucus system is even more undemocratic. Delegates to congressional and state conventions are selected at precinct caucuses in a haphazard way. Among the many caucus-goers I've spoken to, only one attended a caucus that selected delegates on the basis of sub-caucusing for specific Senate candidates. The rest simply took the names of volunteers with no discussion of the candidates whatsoever.

Of course, the reason that the people who volunteered to be delegates were not quizzed more closely about their choice for senator or congressman/woman is that most precincts had room for anyone who wanted to be a delegate to be one. From what Spot hears, that happened in some heavily-DFL precincts in Minneapolis and St. Paul, too. There was absolutely nothing to prevent anyone from asking who the delegate volunteers supported. Perhaps there is room for the discussion of a more formal primary system for presidential preference - and a discussion of who will pay for it - but what would you have us do for the other offices, professor?

[crickets] . . . [/crickets]

One of the things that caucuses do is test the organization of a candidate, especially among the activists; usually this is a good thing. But not always; think of the sitting Republican governor Arne Carlson who couldn't get his party's endorsement for re-election. (This was a shameful episode in Republican politics, in Spot's opinion.)  Remember, the candidates are competing for an endorsement, not the nomination. The party's endorsed candidate can still be challenged in the fall primary, as Carlson did when he challenged the party's endorsed candidate, Alan Quist, and Arne thankfully won. But it's mostly the activists who will be drop literature, make phone calls, and host fund raisers necessary to get a candidate elected.

Caucuses also favor the better retail politicians. They are one of the few things that stand in the way of entirely media-driven campaigns. Spot likes that and says it is healthy for democracy.

Hope, only different

Via the Dependable Renegade:

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spot tries; he really does

What do you try to do, Spotty?

Avoid reading SCSU Scholars, but sometimes his mind drifts, and he winds up reading something like this:

Before addressing specific fallacies of so called "single payor" (ie government) systems, check this site that includes a graph that corrects life expectancy data for differences in the rates of premature death from non-health-related injury, such as homicide and car accidents. Once these non-health-related injuries are excluded, Americans live longer than anyone else, even with our obesity problem.

So, in other words Janet (the author of that gem), if you manage to avoid getting shot or dying in a bridge collapse, you'll do pretty well in the US, longevity-wise. Boy, that's great!

The balance of Janet's little homily is a screed against "socialized" medicine. Let's be sure we know where Janet is, well, coming from.

This morning, Janet's socialized alarm clock (powered by electricity from a private utility whose status as a corporate entity with limited liability for that nuclear accident is provided by the government, and whose ability to distribute that electricity depends on the power of eminent domain it got from the government), puts her size twelves on a socialized toasty warm floor warmed by a gas utility (see comments about the electric company, supra), takes a socialized shit flushed away by a municipal utility, perhaps eats a private-sector breakfast (but there are probably subsidies in there somewhere), brushes her teeth with socialized water, and then drives her car down a socialized road to work at a socialized public educational institution, or maybe church, since today is Sunday.

And then the thoughtful Janet pens a post criticizing Al Franken for suggesting that health care services might be more economically delivered with a "single payer" system. Not single provider: single payer. Think Medicare, which has a much smaller percentage overhead burden than the private Rube Goldberg system that most of us "enjoy."

You see, boys and girls, the word "socialized" is a Very Bad Word to Janet, never mind that she really doesn't know what it means. She's afraid that health care will be "rationed." All economic goods are rationed, one way or another Janet. Otherwise, they are "free goods," like, until recently, air and water. The only real question is how we ration - or allocate - these goods. Janet is clearly a proponent of "all for me and none for thee" school. But is that really the best way to allocate health care? Janet is a known quantity to society in terms of her utility, but some uninsured poor kid might be the next Einstein, that is, if he gets to grow up. Janet clearly is not.

But Janet thinks she can wave the word "socialized" around like a priest with an incense pot and scare the single-payer goblin away. And for the superstitious, it might work. The torch and pitchfork crowd, that is.

Anyway, the centerpiece of Janet's argument is Mark Steyn's ten-month gestation story that Spot posted about before. There's not much more to say, except that Spot is really tired of the cheesy sloganeering on this issue by people like Janet and Mark Steyn.

While sluggards sleep

Rather than trying to describe it to you, boys and girls, here's the opening graphs of Katie's column today, Sunday.

At 6:30 a.m. on a freezing Friday in February, the lights are dark on Frat Row near the University of Minnesota campus. Some students may be sleeping off last night's party, while others are just sleeping in.

An 8 a.m. class? Get real.

But drive down a few blocks, then take a sharp right [get it?] at the U of M Armory. It's a different predawn world there, as 120 young men and women sweat through a grueling workout of timed runs, push-ups and sit-ups.

Katie tells us how thrilling it is that Golden Gopher Army ROTC battalion (now there's a name to strike fear into the hearts of terrorists everywhere!) ranks have swelled from 47 to 120 in recent years.

Boy, that's great, Spotty! How many students go to the University of Minnesota?

You could look it up, grasshopper, but Spot thinks it is about 51,000. And the GGAR draws from other local colleges, too:

These are the cadets of the Golden Gopher Army ROTC battalion. About 75 percent are U of M students; the rest are drawn from nine other metro-area colleges.

Let's lay the other nine colleges aside for a moment, grasshopper. What is 47 divided by 51,000, expressed as a percentage?

Just a second. Spotty, it's .092 percent.

Right, grasshopper. Now, perform the same calculation on 120 and 51,000.

It's .26 percent, if we round that second decimal up.

Right again. Do you think that is a statistically significant difference  to show an increase in student interest in the military life as Katie suggests?

Probably not.

Spot think it may have as much to do with the declining affordability of college for many people as a lust for the military life, although Katie did quote a couple of the more gung-ho types. And the cadets do get paid. Katie asks rhetorically:

Why drag yourself out of bed on a winter morning when your fellow students are still catching zzz's? Is it the free tuition and living stipend that ROTC offers?

College assistance has always been one draw to the military. GI Bill and all that.

But here's the best part yet for Katie:

Army ROTC doesn't have that "everybody's special," feel-good philosophy so prevalent today. Cadets across the nation are ranked from top to bottom during their junior year -- from first to 4,099th.  . . .

As Spot has observed before, Katie loves hierarchy. Katie hates the idea of an egalitarian world; if she can't be better than some people, she has no self-esteem. Spot suspects that she is a product of conditional parental love. Lord knows what kind of a parent she turned out to be.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Drinking Liberally last night

Well, did any of you boys and girls go to the 331 Club for DL last night?

I did Spotty, but there weren't any DL people there!

Of course not, grasshopper, because DL was at the Chatterbox in St. Paul last night. If you had been paying attention, you would have known that.

Sorry, Spotty.

Did you at least wish Alisha Happy Birthday? (It's tomorrow.)

No, I didn't know it was her birthday.

Now you know, so be sure to tell her next week, okay?

We will, Spotty!

Grasshopper, what you missed was a chance to meet Steve Sarvi, a DFLer who is running for Congress in the Second District and for the seat currently held by John Kline.

Sarvi spoke about his time in Iraq and the bond he forged with a mayor in a town in Iraq. He spoke about the issues that we face in Iraq: tribal and sectarian distrust, de-Baaathification (Sarvi expressed some reservations about it), and and the slow pace of reconciliation and progress in the Iraqi government. He also spoke about making health care universal and portable.

Steve had just come from a press conference in St. Paul making the formal announcement of his candidacy. Here's a picture of Steve addressing the DL group:

Steve has some young supporters, too. Here's Robin Marty (a DL organizer, among other things) and her two-month old daughter Violet:

"An amended report correcting this error will be filed when the committee's internal audit has been completed" Part 2

The financial woes of the Republican Party of Minnesota seem to be harbinger of similar woes at the National Republican Congressional Committee. We've mentioned the state party's ongoing and unresolved financial accounting problems before, and yesterday, Minnesota Monitor had a recap of the NRCC scandal and its Minnesota Connections.

Well, things appear to be going from bad to worse for the NRCC:
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a certified public accountant, had pushed for months for an internal audit of the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to GOP members, but the committee’s treasurer at the time was reluctant.

Finally, at a recent meeting, the now former NRCC treasurer, Christopher J. Ward, relented, giving Conaway what was supposed to be an official internal audit from 2006. That document was a fake, the GOP members said. Even the letterhead on which it was sent was a forgery.

Revelations about the falsified document touched off an unfolding scandal that has rocked the NRCC and spurred a criminal investigation by the FBI into the committee’s accounting procedures.

And the Minnesota Connections don't just stop at Mr. Ward's position as treasurer of the Bachmann, Coleman, and Kennedy '02/RPM leadership PACs. The chair of the NRCC's management team is Minnesota's Rep. John Kline:
Cole told his colleagues that he wasn’t sure if the committee had done a real audit since 2001, and that could open the door for a lengthy and expensive review of the committee’s financial records.

Cole spoke to members with notes detailing what he could – and could not – say, according to one member present. Conaway and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who chairs the committee’s management team, also spoke.

So the next time you hear one of our local GOP attack dogs hounding a Democratic office holder about some picayune, unfounded technical transgression that is almost immediately found to be lacking probable cause, be sure to ask if it's better to have no audit or a faked audit.