Friday, July 31, 2009

Where have I heard that name before?

Something that’s been percolating around my brain for a while is a question about this Tony Sutton dude. No, not whether the Mexican restaurant chain is introducing a line of chimichangas named after prominent GOP gasbags, but his new gig as Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. As I read about his new job, I had this sneaking suspicion that his name was not entirely new to me, that there was something in the past that he’d done.

Then it came flooding back to me. This Sutton guy was, before ascending to the throne room at the RPM, the treasurer of the RPM. He’s the one whose name is most closely associated with the horrific accounting and auditing nightmare that is the treasury of the RPM. He’s been front and center in that complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission and he’s the one who has had rather pointed questions directed at him by the FEC here, here, here, and here. He also had to send in those humiliating letters – over and over and over again – stating that "An amended report correcting this error will be filed when the committee's internal audit has been completed." In short, he was apparently the doofus in charge as this mess was allowed to fester and grow into what some think will eventually lead to the largest FEC fine in history for poor bookkeeping.

For most of us, being so intimately connected with this monumental mess would be such a professional embarrassment that we’d slink off to North Dakota or something. We’d at least have the good sense to drop out of politics.

But not Mr. Sutton. Nope, he decides that such a stellar performance only means one thing – he’s destined for bigger and better things! He’s going to run for the top office in the party! He's going to win that top spot and he's going to reboot that party! Proclaiming that the Minnesota GOP is “alive and running hard,” he feels he’s just the man to engineer the renaissance of the party after some pretty lousy election cycles.

But wouldn’t you think that the party might be asking for a bit of trouble by elevating the inept treasurer while the FEC complaints are still pending, still unresolved, still going to eventually lead to trouble - and a sizable fine - at Mr. Sutton’s doorstep?

In a word, no. You see, the Federal Elections Commission, thanks to appointees of outgoing President Bush, has become a toothless joke:
Election-law experts, supporters of campaign-finance regulations, and even some members of the commission itself are expressing growing concern about a string of cases in which the three Republicans on the commission -- led by Tom DeLay's former ethics lawyer -- have voted as a block against enforcement, preventing the commission from carrying out its basic regulatory function. As the normally mild-mannered Washington Post editorial board wrote recently: "The three Republican appointees are turning the commission into The Little Agency That Wouldn't: wouldn't launch investigations, wouldn't bring cases, wouldn't even accept settlements that the staff had already negotiated."

And when the agency that is supposed to investigate and punish the malfeasance and illegal actions of the Republican Party of Minnesota can be counted on to continue to do nothing, why not install the guy as chair? They've gutted the system and they know that even thought they've been caught, they're not likely to ever be held responsible. In the meantime, the RPM has smear campaigns to run. They have questionable operations to coordinate with political operatives who escape oversight. They have to continue to recycle those "tax and spend liberals" press releases over and over and over again. Go team!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

About those flying Imams

On Friday of last week, federal Judge Ann Montgomery issued a decision on motions to dismiss in what has been called the "Flying Imams" case. Background can be found here. I have only read very quickly through Judge Montgomery's order, but the length and detail of the opinion demonstrate the thorough analysis she undertook in the case. In the end, she dismissed some of the claims and allowed others to proceed to trial.

Predictably, this upset those Powerline guys.

But reading through the Powerline guy's post, you'd think that uncharted territory of official immunity had been created, that vast precedent had been thrown aside by some activist judge. He's wrong, of course. What he misses first is that there were claims that were dismissed. Judge Montgomery dismissed the false arrest claims, she dismissed the claims against US Airways in their entirety, and she denied the Imams' request for more discovery against US Airways.

What remains is a claim for a pretty standard constitutional tort under the longstanding law in Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, a 1971 US Supreme Court case. It's a well-accepted legal vehicle for addressing deprivations of constitutional rights by law enforcement, and the Imams now get to present that claim to a jury.

What the law enforcement people had tried to do in their motion to dismiss was to gain immunity from the lawsuit by trying to fit under established immunity or under recently-created immunity granted to people who report suspicious terrorist activity -- people like the paranoid old white couple who freaked out and turned in the Imams. Judge Montgomery held that this didn't protect law enforcement and they were subject to the well-settled law already in place. If she'd ruled the other way, any cop who wanted to get out of a brutality charge or a Bivens lawsuit would simply have to proclaim "I thought he was a terrorist!" to escape liability.

But the Powerline guy tries to get his brain cells moving by next asking: "Reading the opinion, I ask myself: What was law enforcement to do?" The answer is simple. Like any one of thousands of American cops on the job every day who know what they're doing, these officers were to follow the law. We don't detain people when there is no probable cause, but that's what they did. Cops know what is and what is not "probable cause," and to insist that they don't (just because some Powerline guy doesn't) sells law enforcement people short.

And his argument that there was justification because one of them asked for a seat belt extender because "there's always a first time" some object will be used for violent purposes is just plain stupid. By that account, every man with a belt is a potential terrorist who should be arrested and detained.

Judge Montgomery put it best:
But when a law enforcement officer exercises the power of the Sovereign over its citizens, she or he has a responsibility to operate within the bounds of the Constitution and cannot raise the specter of 9/11 as an absolute exception to that responsibility.

When things don't work well in the bedroom, they don't work well in the living room, either.

I can't let too long pass without some mention of Katie's column on Sunday, in which she picks up that most classic of themes for scolds: Sex. Katie's addressed sex in the past, and you can be pretty certain that she's never going to celebrate the joy in that particular part of life, no matter how wholesome the circumstances.

Of course, she's always been particularly appalled at civil rights for gay people, so much so that she even opposes anti-bullying efforts because some day, somewhere, some child perceived to be gay might be given some protection from getting stuffing beaten out of him. She was horror-struck at the idea of kinky people loving each other in a safe manner (although spanking is apparently permitted under the right circumstances), of girls kissing girls, even broadcasts of "Sex and the City."

She's not fond of condom use even though it saves lives, she bemoans the use of most contraception even though the vast majority of Americans use it, and questions the reports that show that abstinence as a form of sex education is an expensive joke. She disdains any reality-based sex education as divorced from the "true language of love."

But on Sunday she went far beyond her earlier efforts at Victorian pique. On Sunday, she used the personal lives of pioneering sex researchers Masters and Johnson as reason to reject the idea that there is any place in the world for research that makes people understand and enjoy sex. It's not just gay, kinky, young, interracial, or unmarried people who deserve shame heaped on them because of their enjoyment of this most natural of acts. Nope, Katie believes that we all deserve sex lives long on romance and short on facts, even wholesome, married, heterosexual trying-to-make-a-baby-like-Jesus-wants people. Well, mostly women, but men, too. Reminiscing about our long-lost ignorance, Katie sums it up thusly:
Sex is available without constraints or commitment. But love, romance and the beauty of a carefully guarded sexual gift are in short supply.

Something tells me that the "carefully guarded sexual gift" has little to do with fireworks, the earth moving, the big O, la jouissance, or anything that involves screaming like Meg Ryan in Katz's Delicatessen. Unless our sex lives are nasty, brutish, and short, we're apparently wasting this gift.

A while back, we had this to say about Katie's criticism of a group who dared to try to enlighten about a brand of sexuality Katie didn't like. But I fear that she appears to be going further, finding reason - any reason - to champion an ignorance that would begrudge all of us sexual joy we might manage to find in this world. How sad.

Note: The title is, of course, a quote from Dr. William H. Masters, that monster.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Support for Sonia Sotomayor Crumbles as Pro-Abortion Bona Fides Established

Sorry, "Life News," things didn't turn out quite that way:

Senate Judiciary Committee votes to confirm Sotomayor

(CNN) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination of federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, setting up a final confirmation vote by the Senate.

The committee's 13-6 vote was mostly on partisan lines, with one Republican joining the panel's Democrats in sending the nomination to the full Senate.

At least five Republican senators have announced their intention to support Sotomayor, making confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate a virtual certainty

Good show, soon-to-be-Justice Sotomayor!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Who's paying for that pilgrimage?

Well, kids, Spot’s gone off for his annual fishing trip, leaving me in charge of this here blog. I’ve been a bit short on the additions to the blog lately, causing Spot some consternation as to whether I’d be up to the task of holding down the fort while he heads off on his frolic and detour.

Let’s just say I’ll give it a try.

First up, local Republicans are apoplectic about the privately financed trip to Mecca taken by our nation's first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison. The state party has demanded that Congress look into the matter. The party's official party organ favorite blog hammers on the story endlessly. Why, one even local dimwit concluded that traveling to the Middle East on someone else's dime proves that the Congressman is a terrorist.

But it seems to me that Ellison's problem is that he went to Mecca, not Israel and that the group paying for it was a Muslim nonprofit rather than a Christian nonprofit. Because if it's a shadowy Christian nonprofit bent on exerting political influence by sending elected officials on junkets, it seems to be just fine:
On at least three occasions in recent years, Sen. Ensign traveled to Asia and the Middle East on what he described as official policy trips, paid for entirely by the International Foundation, one of the network of little-known nonprofits that make up the Family. Sen. Coburn, meanwhile, traveled to Beirut in 2005 on the Family's dime, with the explicit mission of setting up Lebanese political prayer groups, just like the one that covered for Ensign. The following year, Coburn humbled himself in prayer at a special Family event in the British Virgin Islands, a Christian mission of earthly rewards also undertaken, at Family expense, by fellow C Streeter Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., who also sacrificed himself for God with a Family-paid trip to Aruba.

Because Jesus wants you to go to Aruba. Really.

There have been complaints about the Family's assistance given to Senator Ensign's recent travel. For reasons that I'll go into later this week, it's questionable whether those complaints will ever go anywhere, but one can hope.

In the meantime, you can track your congresscritter’s travel here. Not very up-to-date, but there's a pattern to who pay for Collin Peterson's travel that is particularly interesting.

Friday, July 24, 2009

And now, boys and girls, a fond adieu

Well, just for a little while. Spot will be back the first few days in August. Behave yourselves.

In the meantime, MNO has some things for your consideration. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What this blog needs is some Saint Paul content

Just a question that's been bugging me. Wouldn't you think that the Saint Paul Republican nominee would stop and think before screaming about a man named Coleman who might abandon the City to run for Governor and check out if it might have happened before?

Do as we say, not as we do

From Scott Horton:

In Tehran reports circulate that protestors held in the infamous Evin Prison are being waterboarded. The practice was unheard of in Iran before the latest troubles. So where did the Iranians get the idea of waterboarding prisoners? Ask Dick Cheney.

We’re watching the Iranians, but they’re watching us, too:

The former vice president describes waterboarding as “dunking in water” and insists it isn’t torture. Those who set the political stage in Washington dismiss the question of accountability for torture as an “attempt to criminalize policy differences.”

And yet Washington just doesn’t get it:

The idea that Washington’s trivialization of the issue will result in tens of thousands around the world being tortured, in some cases tortured to death, is beyond their comprehension. Chuck Todd is one of the brighter political commentators of the new generation, yet in recent on-air remarks even he fell for these typical inside-the-Beltway delusions. Glenn Greenwald challenged him, and the two had a face-off interview that is well worth a listen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DL: loot and bloggers

Any bloggers out there are urged to make a special effort to make it to Drinking Liberally tomorrow night.

We’ve also got more loot to give away: a Drinking Liberally t-shirt, baseball-style cap, a couple of books, and of course, some DL buttons.

We meet at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis, six to nine.

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DL: One Day in July reprise

Last Thursday, Jim McGuire, one of the organizers of the One Day in July street festival and observance, came to Drinking Liberally and told us a little about the 1934 teamsters’ strike in Minneapolis and the event to mark its 75th anniversary. One of the stories he told was about how the Aquatennial was dreamed up by the Minneapolis business community to repair some of the damage to the community’s reputation and to lure people back downtown.

Nick Coleman told the story on Sunday, too:

There will be fireworks in downtown Minneapolis next Saturday night to mark the end of another Minneapolis Aquatennial. Fittingly, the fireworks will coincide with the commemoration of an explosive event that helped lead to the creation of the Aquatennial, which was invented in the hope of healing the reputation of a city that had been torn for years by economic strife: The 75th anniversary of the 1934 "Teamster Rebellion" that gave American labor one of its most important victories.

Here’s Nick describing the event:

Called the One Day in July Street Festival, the remembrance of the tumult of 1934 will take place from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday in the Warehouse District (at the corner of 3rd St. and 7th Av. N), near the site of much of the mayhem when workers stood together against heavy-handed policing and gangs of strikebreakers to make Minneapolis one of the most pro-union cities in the country.

You can find more about the One Day in July festival linked here.

There’s also a big labor picnic the next day:

There will also be a picnic next Sunday at the Wabun Picnic Area in Minnehaha Park, with speeches and free food to celebrate the anniversary. One of the speakers at the picnic will be Tom Dooher, president of the largest union in the state, the 70,000-member Education Minnesota. Dooher's grandfather, Patrick Corcoran, was an officer of the militant Minneapolis truck drivers' union who was murdered in a 1937 assassination that remains unsolved.

Here’s a handbill about the picnic:

labor picnic

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sating the appetite for brutality

From Scott Horton’s No Comment:

One of the most striking things about this report [in the Washington Post] is the extent to which the entire torture process was driven by healthcare professionals. The account makes clear that contract psychologists Mitchell, his partner John “Bruce” Jessen, and CIA psychologist R. Scott Schumate played a vital role in the entire process. It also makes clear that, contrary to the official Bush White House account, under which they were responding to pleas from the ground to “take the gloves off,” in fact the struggle was consistently between handlers who wanted to stop or limit the rough stuff, and unidentified people in the pinnacles of power in Washington whose appetite for brutality could apparently never be sated. Who was calling the shots? The story tells us that the approvals came from “downtown,” agency jargon for the White House. And there’s another giveaway:

“Headquarters was sending daily harangues, cables, e-mails insisting that waterboarding continue for 30 days because another attack was believed to be imminent,” the former official said. “Headquarters said it would be on the team’s back if an attack happened. They said to the interrogation team, ‘You’ve lost your spine.’ “

And who was talking to “headquarters” and pressing them? If you’ve read Jack Goldsmith’s book The Terror Presidency, this cajoling and threatening will sound familiar. In his book, the man consistently on the delivering end was David Addington [Counsel to Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney].

And as Horton points out in another post, the American Psychological Association tried to provide the “health care professionals” with a Nuremberg defense of their own:

As the Bush Administration introduced its torture program in 2002, the APA modified Section 1.02 of its ethics rules, to state that in the event of conflict between ethics standards and law as interpreted by government organs like the Department of Defense or CIA, psychologists are free to disregard the requirements of applicable ethics guidelines and “may adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority.” This provision was curiously passed just as psychologists undertook their key role in the torture program. And it dovetails perfectly with a scheme introduced by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to undercut the ethics standards of lawyers, doctors, and other healthcare professionals by binding them strictly to the laws and regulations as definitively interpreted by him as Secretary of Defense (DOD Policy Directive 3115.09). It is a full-throated repudiation of the rule fashioned at Nuremberg under which individuals involved in the torture or abuse of prisoners are not entitled to rely on a defense of superior orders. The APA was saying that Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were free to suspend the organization’s ethics rules whenever they chose to do so. [italics are Spot’s]

If somebody tries to suspend the laws of war, it that a war crime Spotty?

We’ll have to stay tuned for that, grasshopper.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Snowballs in Hell

It's unlikely to ever ever ever happen again, so take note.

What Kathleen Parker said:
More troubling were questions based on anonymous hearsay aimed at Sotomayor's bench personality. Here's what women hear when men ask a female candidate about her temperament: "Are you really the bitch everybody says you are?"

Harry Potter and the Invisible Hand

Hey, ‘Arry, you there?

Ron, go away, I’m trying to sleep.

I’m not Ron, ‘Arry.



Hermoine? What are you doing in the boys’ dorm?

In your dreams, ‘Arry.

Then who are you?

I’m the Invisible Hand.

I can’t see you.

[mutters under breath] Jesus, ‘Arry, what did I say my name was?

Oh, right: the Invisible Hand. Then how do I know you’re real?

You infer me.

Infer you? How?

Well, you know what some people infer from the beauty of flowers, don’t you, ‘Arry?


Right. I’m like that.

Oh, come on now.

‘Arry, when you go to the apothecary to buy tooth powder, what do you see?

Well, if I’m lucky, I see Glenda, the clerk.

Come on ‘Arry, focus! [mutters: hormones]

Well, row on row of tooth powder, I suppose.

That right, ‘Arry! That’s me!

You make tooth powder?

No! Of course not! I make people make tooth powder.

I don’t get it. What do you do, whisper in their ears, like now?

It’s much more subtle than that, ‘Arry. I just kind of put the idea in their heads, you see? And they just go and do it!

That’s amazing!

Yes, it is!

Can you make people make anything?

Yes, I can.



Do you ever have people make too much of something?

Advertising is supposed to take care of that, ‘Arry! Creatin’ demand, we call it; saved my bacon a time or two, let me tell you!

All right. Can you make people do good?

[defensively] What do you mean by that, ‘Arry?

I don’t know; something that benefits everyone.

Never mind about that, ‘Arry. We’re going to have some adventures, you and I. I’m going to show you some things and introduce you to some people.

Great; when do we start?

Patience boy; soon.

Invisible Hand? Hello? I guess he’s gone.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflexive pronouns

Object pronoun that refers to the same person as the subject. ‘I cut myself.’ ‘You see yourself as the leader.’ Himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves, and oneself are the other reflexive pronouns.

The Free Dictionary.

So let’s review:

The committee awarded prizes to Fred and myself.

Unless you and the committee are the same person: wrong.

Fred and myself were the prize winners.

Even more odious, since here “myself” isn’t even used as an object, but rather as a subject.

Unless you want to give yourself away as a hopeless grammar moron, boys and girls, get it right. It’s a very simple rule: unless “I” is the subject of your sentence, just never use the word “myself.”

Golly Spot, where did that come from?

From the misuse of a reflexive pronoun by somebody who ought to know better.

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Do unto Christians

Do unto Christians as you would do unto Muslims.

Shorter Mark Gislason, reacting to Katie’s column today about the ACLU of Minnesota going after the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) for mixing pubic education and religion in its charter school operation.

Katie’s column is remarkable not for its subject matter, heaven forefend; she has railed about the school for a long time in keeping with her concern about all things Muslim: cab drivers, foot baths, flying imams, and the like. You name it and Katie has probably wailed about it. Several times.

No, what makes this one special is that she praises the action of the ACLU of Minnesota. And she even quotes its state director, indirectly:

"It's a theocratic school," state ACLU director Chuck Samuelson told City Pages. "It is as plain as the substantial nose on my face."

Katie also quotes the ACLU complaint in a couple of spots. Do you know what this means, boys and girls?

That Katie has multiple sources, Spotty?

Grasshopper, it probably means that Katie not only didn’t actually talk to anybody at the ACLU, that she was in a fevered dream state when she wrote that the lawsuit would “tear down the school’s curtain” to reveal the answers to important questions raised by, well, Katie (or maybe by Powerline; Spot didn’t check), including the disappearance of several young Somali men and the death of some of them.

Perhaps we can also get the ACLU to look into the disappearance of Judge Roy Bean, Amelia Earhart, and Jimmy Hoffa. The FBI hasn’t figured these cases out either.

But back to Mark’s substantial point: there are many more Christian-inspired charter schools out there, ripe for the suing, too, but the ACLU is nowhere to be found so far. Spot has written about them, and their theological-sounding names several times (just put “charter schools” in the search engine). And, come to think of it, where was the ACLU when the “flying imams” were denied a public accommodation (a seat on a scheduled airline)?

Spot gets at least a couple of fund-raising appeal messages from the ACLU every week. But he certainly won’t be inclined to respond until this organization figures out the Establishment Clause has a broader reach when it comes to education than it seems to believe now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

And here’s another reason, Professor Banaian

Some months ago, King Banaian dragged his readers through Banaian’s angst about getting a Kindle; apparently in the end he finally did get one. Spot counseled him to stick with a book, because, inter alia, the consequences of dropping a book in the bath tub while reading were not as ruinous. Spot’s not going to find the link for you, boys and girls, but that was the gist of it.

Now, Jack Balkin at Balkinization tells us about another really good reason to stick with the book and avoid the Kindle:

The New York Times reports that found out that the publisher of Kindle versions of George Orwell's books 1984 and Animal Farm decided that it didn't want to give the rights to a Kindle version. So used its wireless connection to each Kindle to delete copies on various owners' Kindles and refunded their money. You see, because of the wireless connection, knows what books are on your Kindle and it can delete them or modify them at will.

Apparently, the irony of deleting a book about Big Brother watching you was lost on both the publisher and

This story is a perfect example of Jonathan Zittrain's analysis of "tethered appliances," that is, appliances like the Kindle and the iPhone that feature a combination of hardware and software services connected by a network. The manufacturer of the tethered appliance can easily discover what consumers are doing with the product, can restrict what end-users do with the hardware, and can alert the features of the product by remote control. It simultaneously offers the possibility of privacy invasions and retroactive alterations of features. The Kindle story shows that it also offers the possibility of private censorship.

They’re watching you, Professor. Bwahahahahahahah!

Unlike computers, where you have some ability to defend yourself with firewalls, cookie managers, and virus and spyware software; with the Kindle, apparently you’re standing there entirely in the buff.

After having had a little fun at the Professor’s expense, let Spot say this really is disturbing. A similar situation undoubtedly exists with all the iPhones and Blackberries (or should it be Blackberrys?) out there. Spot has also read rumors that Microsoft can and sometimes does modify your computer operating system even when you’ve set the update function NOT to download updates or to at least inform you before it does.

Here’s a bit more from Professor Balkin:

In a sense, this story is too good to be true. It is a vivid demonstration of the possible dangers of new forms of closed or tethered network services, and the way they allow companies to exercise control over end-users at a distance, without the knowledge of end users.

[  ]

For centuries, we have understood, or rather believed, that owning books came with certain rights, including the right to keep what we purchase and to use it, mark it up, and sell it in any way we like. We were free to purchase books and keep them in our homes, without telling anybody what we were reading, or indeed, what page we had last looked at. Amazon's Kindle system upends all of these expectations. Amazon knows what books you have on your Kindle, and, in theory, it can even know the book you are currently reading, and even the last page you've read on each of the books you own. It can delete books, add books, or modify books, all without your permission. It can change features of the Kindle at will. In upending our assumptions about our freedoms to read books in private and use them as we see fit, Amazon threatens many of the basic freedoms to read we have come to expect in a physical world. If we want to preserve these freedoms, we will have to reform copyright law and privacy law to control the new intermediaries who can control us at a distance.

Jack Balkin is a professor of law at Yale.

Update: Forgot the link to the Balkinization post; sorry.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Frank Ricci gets him some empathy

The case of Ricci v. DeStefano is getting some play today in the hearings on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to sit on the Supreme Court. It beggars the imagination to watch the Republican senators, who have been wailing all week about Sotomayor’s empathy and her “wise Latina” remark then complain about the decision in the Ricci case because it discriminated in favor of blacks. But in addition to Frank Ricci, who were the plaintiffs in the case? According to the linked New York Times article:

The New Haven case, in which a group of white and Hispanic firefighters sued the city after the results of a promotional exam were thrown out because black firefighters did not fare well, has emerged as one of the most contentious issues in the hearings.

If she was such a Hispanic homer, wouldn’t she have voted the other way? Let’s see if any of the bright lights on the Democratic side of the committee figure this out.

In the meantime, let Spot quote from Stanford Law Professor Richard Thompson Ford in Slate, commenting on the case before the decision was accounted by the current Supreme Court reversing the 2nd Circuit panel that Judge Sotomayor was on:

New Haven's decision may sound like blatant racial favoritism, but in fact the city rejected the firefighter exam because the test violated Title VII, the federal civil rights law that prevents discrimination in employment. Title VII requires employers to consider the racial impact of their hiring and promotion procedures in order to prevent discrimination that's inadvertent as well as intentional. Ricci's claim is that the city's effort to comply with Title VII is itself race discrimination (under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and under Title VII itself).

This argument would undermine an important part of modern civil rights law. Some of Sotomayor's critics argue that, in the era of Obama, we no longer need such proactive policies to promote racial equality. But racism isn't a thing of the past yet. In fact, we haven't corrected the lingering effects of racism that is in the past. It's precisely because overt racism is no longer the main impediment to racial equality that the law against inadvertent discrimination is arguably now the most important part of civil rights law.

The professor tells about the two ways to violate Title VII:

There are two ways an employer can discriminate according to Title VII. He can intentionally discriminate by making race a factor in employment decisions—choosing a black candidate over a white candidate because he is black. Frank Ricci claims the city intentionally discriminated when it threw out the exam results because most of the people who scored high were white. An employer can also discriminate by using a selection process that has a disparate impact—in other words, that screens out a particular group for no good reason. New Haven claims that the test it tossed out had a disparate impact. Eight black, 25 white, and eight Hispanic firefighters took New Haven's test for promotion to captain; three black, 16 white, and three Hispanic candidates passed. Nineteen black, 43 white, and 15 Hispanic firefighters took the test to become lieutenant; six black, 25 white, and three Hispanic candidates passed. This result counts as discriminatory under the rules of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. New Haven was right to worry about the possibility of a lawsuit from black firefighters if it accepted the results of the tests.

But not only that:

The city was also in a bind because its agreement with the firefighters union required that the exam count for 60 percent of the decision about whether to promote each candidate and because a city charter rule required that every promotion go to one of the three top-scoring candidates. These rules magnified the disparate racial impact of the exam—no black candidate and only one Hispanic candidate was eligible for promotion, even though several of them passed the test. More reason for the city to worry about a lawsuit by the African-Americans who were to be passed over.

As Spot has written before — but won’t bother to link to, because this is a better explanation — the city of New Haven was damned if it did, and damned if it didn’t. But conservatives want to portray the decision as a hideous mistreatment of white people by Sonia Sotomayor. But come on, people, even the sitting Justices in Ricci were split:

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and SCALIA, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined.  SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion.  A LITO, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined.  GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and BREYER, JJ., joined.

The decision in Ricci does take a big chunk our of disparate impact jurisprudence under Title VII:

But, properly applied, disparate impact law doesn't excuse poor performance, nor does it require quotas. Instead it smokes out hidden bigotry and requires employers to avoid unnecessary segregation of the work force. Suppose an employer wants to keep women out. Knowing that he can't just put a "women need not apply" sign in his window, he might use a proxy, such as a weightlifting test, knowing that women on average have less upper body strength than men. The law against disparate impact discrimination is designed to reveal such hidden bias. Now, suppose an employer has no desire to discriminate against women but uses a weightlifting test simply because he thinks, all other things equal, stronger employees are better than weaker ones. Disparate impact law also prohibits this: It requires the employer to reconsider job qualifications that favor one race or sex, unjustifiably.

Of course, there might be a good reason to prefer people who are physically stronger—or who score higher on a written exam. The law gives employers a chance to prove that the discriminatory criteria are job-related. The idea, then, isn't to make an employer hire less qualified women or minorities over more qualified men or whites. It's to make sure the employer is testing for job qualifications, not unrelated ones.

That’s why the city of New Haven threw out the test; it was not clear that is actually picked the best people for promotion, and it had a disparate effect on minorities. And very importantly, it didn’t mean that Frank Ricci was passed over for promotion; he could still be considered under new, presumably fairer, criteria. What’s so bad about that?

Sen. Jefferson Beauregard [Jackson Stuart] Sessions

Alexander Tsesis, a professor of constitutional law at Loyola University School of Law, had an excellent guest post on Balkinization last evening. After making the observation that concern over the first “this or that” was hardly new in Supreme Court nomination history — referring to the first Catholic, Jewish, and black nominees — he makes a good observation about what each nominee brings to the Supreme Court:

Is it really true that judges do not bring personal sensitivities to the bench? In a 1927 Harvard Law Review article, the future Justice and then Professor Felix Frankfurter asserted that the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses lead to differences of opinion that require some personal interpretation. As he put it, “The words of these provisions are so unrestrained by their intrinsic meaning as well as by their history and traditions, that each Justice is impelled to depend upon his own controlling conceptions, which are in turn bound by his experience and imagination, his hopes and fears, his faith and doubts.” There is little doubt in my mind, for instance, that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion in the Virginia Military Institute gender discrimination case, VMI, or Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s dissent in the Nguyen deportation case demonstrate a personal consciousness of gender discrimination. Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent in Virginia v. Black, a case that in part upheld a Virginia cross burning statute, seems to include his personalized understanding of the KKK’s terror, having himself been raised in segregated Georgia.

To pretend that judges are mere vending machines is, of course, ridiculous. Professor Tsesis also quotes Senator Jefferson Beauregard [Jackson Stuart] Sessions (R – AL) from the hearings yesterday:

The accusations made against Sotomayor are not the overt racism of the past. Instead, the charge is that she will not be objective because she is sensitive to Hispanic issues. In the words of Senator Jeff Sessions at the confirmation hearings on July 14, 2009, “Call it empathy, call it prejudice or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it’s not law. In truth, it's more akin to politics, and politics has no place in the courtroom.”

Here’s a guy who was nixed by the same Judiciary Committee some twenty years ago for his insensitivity to race:

In 1986, Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Ronald Reagan. The nomination was killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which refused by a 9-9 vote to let the nomination come to the Senate floor for a vote. Sessions' opponents accused him of "gross insensitivity” on racial issues.  Sessions allegedly made a variety of comments that opponents pointed to, when he jokingly said that the Ku Klux Klan was not so bad until he found out that some of them smoked marijuana. Sessions also allegedly referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as "un-American" and "Communist-inspired" because they "forced civil rights down the throats of people."

Sen. Jefferson Beauregard [Jackson Stuart] Sessions wants the people to get top drawer treatment — so long as they’re white. Here’s the Senator with some of his friends:

Cartoon from the Star Tribune

Sen. Jefferson Beauregard [Jackson Stuart] Sessions also gets tangled up again in the empathy/sympathy business that Spot discussed before. publius at Obsidian Wings, a pretty good legal scholar, had this to say about the “empathy” brouhaha yesterday:

The main point to remember is that Obama's "empathy" is not so much a positive vision of progressivism, but instead a critique of conservative jurisprudence (a topic upon which he has legitimate expertise).  Specifically, I think "empathy" is better understood as two distinct types of attacks on conservative jurisprudence:

The first is a higher-level theoretical attack.  Two of the main conservative schools of thought today -- originialism and textualism -- assume that consequences are generally irrelevant.  Law is the law, and how law affects the outside world is someone else's problem.  This conceit is particularly strong in originalism, which interprets constitutional text as it was understood at the time -- consequences be damned.

[ ]

In short, originalism often masks policy preferences behind a cloak of "this is what the law says."  In this respect, Obama's "empathy" comment simply makes explicit what originalism tries to hide -- that is, we should pay attention to consequences.

And here’s the second type of empathy that publius refers to:

The second sense in which "empathy" is an attack on conservative jurisprudence is less theoretical.  It's an attack on conservative judges' tendency to rule for business and the state, at the expense of employees, the environment, and the criminally accused.  To me, Obama was essentially saying that he wants judges who focus more specifically on how our courts' decisions affect these specific individuals.

Tell Spot, boys and girls, which group Sen. Jefferson Beauregard [Jackson Stuart] Sessions belongs to and wants his judges from:

There are a million different indeterminate areas of the law where multiple plausible outcomes exist.  And so if you've lived in a bubble world where the reality of discrimination, or harsh drug laws, or mountain top mining has never affected you personally, that isolation will necessarily (and even epistemically) influence your decision at these various points of indeterminacy.  If, however, you know these realities more viscerally (i.e., if you have "empathy"), then that too will influence your decision the other way. [and remember the comments about Justices Ginsburg, O’Connor, and Thomas, above]

Although Spot has already copied a lot of it, please go and read publius’ whole post; it and he deserve the traffic. He concludes with this, a sentiment in which Spot concurs:

To me, Obama was simply saying that courts have been coming down too often on the side of businesses and the state in recent years, while ignoring the real-world effects of those decisions on parties with less power and less political influence.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New contest here at the Cucking Stool!

Watch some coverage of the Judiciary Committee hearings on the Sotomayor confirmation: specifically watch Senator Lindsey Graham. Turn the sound down; watch Graham’s mannerisms and facial expressions. Now, tell Spot whose voice is playing in Spot’s head.

Some of you are disqualified from entering; you know who you are.

Jeff Fecke collects a Spotty!

the_spotty Here’s Jeff today:

It’s easy to forget, a year later, just how difficult 2008 was on Democrats. From mid-March to mid-June, the party was fractured almost exactly down the middle between boosters of Hillary Clinton and devotees of Barack Obama. The snarling and back-biting was intense, viscious, mean-spirited, and brutal. Along the way, all sorts of dirt was dug up and flung with real intent to destroy. Anyone looking at the Democrats in late-May saw a party that was coming apart at the seams.

But a funny thing happened on the way to disaster. Both candidates — Clinton and Obama — became better candidates for the experience of the battle. Damaging information about Obama — the Wright kerfuffle chief among it — came up and was disposed of. Obama was forced to defend himself from withering attacks, and so was Clinton. Whichever candidate survived the marathon was in far better shape to take on John McCain, and when the dust settled, Barack Obama handled the Republican easily, cruising to victory in November.

Obama did this not in spite of the bruising primary battle, but because of a bruising primary battle.

Here’s Jeff on Sunday in Inevitable:

In 1990, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party put forth a sacrificial lamb for the United States Senate. The feisty college professor was entertaining, and the base loved him, but he obviously couldn’t beat the firmly entrenched and well-liked Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, I-R-Minn.

Jeff goes on to describe several wrong-headed nuggets of conventional political wisdom since then, including this last one:

In 2009, everyone knows that Matt Entenza will be the nominee for the DFL in 2010. He’s got a lot of money and a strong organization, and he will obviously steamroll anyone in his way. Anyone who says otherwise is dooming the party to defeat.

And this is Jeff last Friday in Anybody But Entenza:

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor party is really bad at picking gubernatorial candidates. Not since 1986 — that’s 23 years ago — has a DFL candidate won election in a governor’s race, a five-cycle drought that’s almost impossible in a state as blue as Minnesota. The candidates we’ve put up since — Rudy Perpich in full Governor Goofy mode in 1990, John Marty in weak tea mode in 1994, Skip Humphrey in dynastic right mode in 1998, Roger Moe in Roger Moe mode in 2002, and Mike Hatch in full meltdown mode in 2006 — have been disaster piled upon disaster, a series of men (all men) who each, in his own special way, clearly deserved to lose their election.

It is tempting to write this off as an aberration, but it is not; in the history of Minnesota, there have been a total of five DFL governors. Two of them are Rudy Perpich; the others are Wendy Anderson, Karl Rolvaag, and Orville Freeman. By the time the next governor is sworn into office, Republicans will have held the Governor’s mansion for 42 of the past 72 years. Independents will have held it for four. DFLers have held it for 26 — and again, eleven of those years belong to Rudy Perpich.

This is not an aberration. This is a trend. [Spot might have called it a tradition, but he quibbles.]

Which brings us to Matt Entenza.

Excellent posts, each one of them, and well worth a Spotty (tm) for the series. Congratulations, Jeff.

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

And excuse Spot for burying the lede.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Drinking Liberally: “One Day in July”

1934 teamsters' strike On Thursday night this week, the 16th, Jim McGuire will be our guest at Drinking Liberally. Jim is one of the organizers of One Day in July – A Street Festival for the Working Class. The actual event will take place on Saturday, July 25th, in Minneapolis:

Youthful supporters of the struggles of union labor will gather again at a street festival and concert they are calling a "counter-Aquatennial" in the Minneapolis Warehouse District on Saturday, July 25 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the historic 1934 Teamster strikes.

This is just a block from where some of the greatest violence of the strike took place. You can read more about the event at the link, above.

Here’s the lede from a Minnesota Historical Society web article:

This strike, also known as the Minneapolis Teamsters' Strike and, alternately, sometimes called "a police riot," was one of the most violent in the state's history, and a major battle in Minnesota's "civil war" of the 1930s between business and labor.

We meet six to nine or so at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis. We expect Jim around seven. Come and learn some history about the labor movement.

MHS photo

Conventional wisdom

Well one out of two ain’t bad. Both Jeff Fecke and Robin Marty have written recent posts about how, in the context of the Entenza campaign for governor, conventional wisdom is always conventional, but much less often wise.

Jeff provides a litany of many of the nuggets of conventional wisdom gone wrong in state and national politics since 1990:

In 1990, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party put forth a sacrificial lamb for the United States Senate. The feisty college professor was entertaining, and the base loved him, but he obviously couldn’t beat the firmly entrenched and well-liked Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, I-R-Minn.

And the list goes on, and on, and on. Jeff has a great example of the failure of the conventional wisdom in politics for almost every year from then until now. It’s a delicious trip down memory lane. Every supporter of an “inevitable” candidate should print out a copy of this post and tape it to to the refrigerator.

Robin picks a single analogy for comparison: the early Hillary Clinton race for president in the last election cycle.

I'd been working on this post ever since Fecke put up his Entenza piece, because I see a lot of parallels between Matt Entenza and the early Clinton campaign. Both candidates were seen as early on favorites due to finances, name recognition, and, in some ways, by this weird political idea of "it's my turn." Both candidates had extremely high positives, but for those who didn't like them, they REALLY didn't like them. Both have done things in campaigns that weren't necessarily officially unethical, but could be seen by their dissenters and coming dangerously near the line if not crossing it. Both were running early, long campaigns at a time when, let's be honest, a democrat really should have an excellent chance to win.

Couple these facts with the spectacular explosion and flame out of the 2006 Entenza campaign for attorney general, and it would be — in the words of one of Spot’s friends — mass ritual suicide to just annoint Matt Entenza the DFL candidate now.

No way; ain’t gonna happen.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

For the weekend gardeners among us

If you’ve been out mowing the lawn, or picking weeks, or even going to the Al Franken party all weekend, it might have escaped your attention that the Entenza Stampede has run into a bit of a gully. And if you look around the blogosphere and on Twitter, you can find a lot of dead buffalo.

As far as Spot can tell, it started last Thursday with the reporting of a fine by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board levied against the Entenza campaign for taking an illegal contribution. This prompted Spot’s friend Jeff Fecke to say some things that have obviously been on his mind for a while in a post called Anybody But Entenza. Jeff’s lede describes the quadrennial suicide pact known as the Minnesota DFL:

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor party is really bad at picking gubernatorial candidates. Not since 1986 — that’s 23 years ago — has a DFL candidate won election in a governor’s race, a five-cycle drought that’s almost impossible in a state as blue as Minnesota. The candidates we’ve put up since — Rudy Perpich in full Governor Goofy mode in 1990, John Marty in weak tea mode in 1994, Skip Humphrey in dynastic right mode in 1998, Roger Moe in Roger Moe mode in 2002, and Mike Hatch in full meltdown mode in 2006 — have been disaster piled upon disaster, a series of men (all men) who each, in his own special way, clearly deserved to lose his election.

Jeff doesn’t think much of the idea of running with Entelza either:

Today, Matt Entenza is running for governor, pushing hard on the idea that he’s already the de facto nominee. He’s got a lot of money, he’s got a strong organization, and he’s got a tailwind. You can hear the cognoscenti of the DFL nodding approvingly [if they are nodding hard enough to actually hear them, Spot supposes, that would really be something!]. It’s his time. He’s put in his time, paid his dues, that 2006 kerfuffle was almost three years ago, nobody remembers that.

That seems to sum up the current conventional thinking pretty well. Suicide pact: the 2010 edition. But the race hasn’t even begun, much less ended, and given the creeping sense of entitlement of the Entenza campaign, Jeff’s post was a most welcome wake-up call. It has sparked some intense discussion, some hard feelings, and attempts to invoke the code of omerta.

Thinking that Matt Entenza’s campaign finance problems and his weaknesses as a candidate would remain undiscovered by the Republicans is, however, an exercise in magical thinking worthy of J.K. Rowling.

So thanks, Jeff; we needed that.

Insurance love

Yesterday, Spot linked to an interview with Howard Dean. Here’s more from that interview; Spot recommends it. It’s a good read:

ESQ: One thing I've never seen before is when you say [in his book], "Much is made of the 47 million without insurance, but nothing of the 25 million who have insurance but don't go and see the doctor." I've got one of those high-deductible catastrophic plans myself, so I don't go to the doctor unless I'm bleeding. Why have I never seen this argument before?

HD: Because 99 percent of the discussions among reporters, policy wonks, and politicians focus on the uninsured — which is, frankly, why nothing is passed. They don't focus on the majority of Americans who have health insurance that doesn't work.

ESQ: Boil it down, if you would. Why isn't it working even if you do have insurance?

HD: Because it's too expensive. The private sector can't manage costs. Health care is one of the few places — defense is another — that the government works more efficiently and more effectively than the private sector. That's just a fact.

ESQ: Why is that?

HD: Because there is no feedback in the private health-care system. When I was practicing medicine, nobody with substernal chest pain ever got off my examining table and said, "The guy down the street does it for $2,000 cheaper, I'll see you later." That's why we've had 40 years of costs that increase between two and three times the rate of inflation every single year. It's breaking our economic system. People are yelling and screaming about jobs going to China, but they're not yelling and screaming about jobs going to Canada. But they are. Because the right-wingers can scream and yell about rationing if they want, but economically their system works much better than ours does.

ESQ: I've seen nothing about that during this debate. But in the book you talk about GM and — or was it Toyota? — moving their new factories just across the bridge to Ontario to take advantage of the Canadian health-care system.

HD: Toyota did also, but GM and Ford were the big ones.

You see, boys and girls, it is often the people most loudly clamoring for “competition” who are trying to protect their place in the sun, or maybe they don’t want the sun to shine in, or, well, whatever. You get the idea. And it’s certainly true of the health insurance industry.

And those who love it or are married to it, if you follow Spot’s meaning.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

“I hope you have healthcare, young lady”

hope you have health nsurance kid

Star Tribune photo

“Because if you don’t, the woman to my left is probably not going to help you out.”

For the time being, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., appears to be undecided on some of the key particulars of health care reform. When asked specifically about the public plans, a single-payer system and financing options, Klobuchar's spokesman said that the senator was not available for comment.

"She is considering health reform options that include Health Benefit Gateways or Health Exchanges, but wants to analyze how the plans in their entirety will impact our state before signing on to a specific proposal," said Klobuchar spokesman Linden Zakula.

This gibberish is just another way of saying more money to the insurance industry.

“Health care reform” without a public option isn’t worth the effort according to Dr. Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic Party.

Friday, July 10, 2009

More about the 28K smackers!

Returning now to the thrilling days of, well, the day before yesterday:

Spot, you mean that Entenza was fined 28K+ while running to be the most senior law enforcement officer in the state?

Guess so, grasshopper; we’ll have to look into it.

And look into it Spot did. Here’s the decision of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board in 2006. Matt Entenza was self-financed for the Attorney General’s race in 2006. His campaign, Minnesotans for Matt, says it thought that meant at all campaign contribution limits were beneath consideration. Well, it didn’t say that exactly, but that’s in essence what it argued before the Board:

On behalf of the Committee, Mr. Weinblatt argues that the special source contribution limits imposed by Minnesota Statutes, section 10A.27, subdivision 11, do not apply to a candidate who has not agreed to a public subsidy under Minnesota Statutes, section 10A.25.  The Board does not agree, and has consistently found that contribution limits, including special source limits, apply to candidates regardless of their acceptance or refusal of the public subsidy agreement.

Spotty, what are “special source contributions?"

I’ll let the Board tell us grasshopper:

Candidate committees have an aggregate limit on contributions from certain types of contributors (special source limit) as provided in Minnesota Statutes, section 10A.27, subdivision 11.  This statute sets a yearly limit on the total amount of contributions that a candidate’s committee may receive from political committees, political funds, lobbyists, and large contributors.  A “large contributor” is defined by this statute as “…an individual, other than the candidate, who contributes an amount that is more than $100 and more than one-half the amount an individual may contribute”.  In 2005, the contribution limit from an individual to a candidate for the office of Attorney General was $200.  Therefore, a contribution from an individual of over $100 was from a “large contributor” and counted against the special source limit.

The Board describes Minnesotans’ for Matt’s infraction:

In 2005, candidates for the office of Attorney General were limited to $14,588 in aggregate contributions from special sources.

Of the $42,693.33 in special source contributions accepted by the Committee, $3,125 was from registered lobbyists, $3,700 was from political committees or political funds, and $35,868.33 was from individuals who contributed more than $100.  The total amount of these contributions exceeded the special source limit by $28,105.33.

The excess contributions were not returned within 60 days as required in Minnesota Statutes, section 10A.15, subdivision 3.  Therefore, the Committee accepted the excess contributions.

In addition to having to return the excess contributions, the Entenza campaign had to pay a fine equal to the excess contributions.

That had to smart, Spotty!

Yes, grasshopper, it most assuredly did. Spot isn’t sure of the amount of the biggest fine ever levied by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, but he’s got a box of kibble that says this one is in the top five.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Drinking Liberally tonight!

Don’t forget, boys and girls, we have our regular meeting of Drinking Liberally tonight at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis. Six to nine or so.

We have a big box of stuff from the mother ship at Living Liberally to start giving away: some books, a DL t-shirt, a Blue State Coffee baseball-style cap, some bumper stickers, etc. I’ll think of some games or riddles to determine the winners. The loot will be doled out over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Another edition of “Matt Entenza knows”

Apparently he knows lobbyists. Campaign finance law? Not so much.

Minnesota’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosures Board fined Entenza $500 for taking a campaign donation from  General Mills lobbyist Lee Anderson during the last session of the Legislature.

That’s a no-no.

And a pretty simple one for gubernatorial candidates to avoid: Is the Legislature in session? Yes ___  No ___. If the answer is “yes,” DON’T TAKE THE MONEY. You’d think the Man From Cheerios would know better, too.

The linked AP articles goes on to say:

Entenza has faced campaign finance issues before, including a 2006 fine of more than $28,000 accepting donations above state limits while running for attorney general.

Spot, you mean that Entenza was fined 28K+ while running to be the most senior law enforcement officer in the state?

Guess so, grasshopper; we’ll have to look into it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ken Avidor wins the Spotty!

the_spotty Spot told Ken on Friday that he had won the Spotty (tm) in the Norm Coleman political epitaph contest. The contest was well fought, with several excellent entries. Before we get to the winner, here are a few of them:

Second runner up – submitted by Jeff Fecke

Paul Wellstone is a Democrat
And I am a Democrat
We must work together
To Re-elect
Bill Clinton

First runner up – submitted by Phoenix Woman

Play me off, Keyboard Cat!

Be sure to follow the link to the video.

Winner – Exhibition Category – Spot

The Accidental Senator

Ken’s winning entry is a send up of the famous Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias.

Here’s the winner:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

My name is Norm Coleman, (former) Senator of Senators:
Look on my political career, ye mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains (except professional hockey). Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level snows stretch far away.

On learning that he had won, Ken penned an illustration to accompany the epitaph.


Notice the wingtips. And the cross-country skier and the little snowman.

Congratulations all and thanks for your participation.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The day after the day after

Note to self: Don't ever take on a client who makes you interrupt the holiday with your family to trudge into the office to write threatening letters about the people she thinks are saying nasty things about her.

Update: This is especially to be followed when said client hasn't paid her bills.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A winner has been chosen

A winner has been chosen in the Norm Coleman Political Epitaph Contest. The winner has been notified, and the award will be made public on Monday. Thank you all for your participation.

Friday, July 03, 2009

There are still some worms left in that can

Do you remember, boys and girls, in the early days of the Bush Administration the secret energy task force headed by the Vice President? And how we all thought it was just trying to figure out a way around all those bothersome environmental types? But we were thinking way too small:

    It was believed then that Cheney's secretive task force was focusing on ways to reduce environmental regulations and fend off the Kyoto protocol on global warming.

    But Bush's first treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, later described a White House interest in invading Iraq and controlling its vast oil reserves, dating back to the first days of the Bush presidency.

    In Ron Suskind's 2004 book, "The Price of Loyalty," O'Neill said an invasion of Iraq was on the agenda at the first National Security Council. There was even a map for a post-war occupation, marking out how Iraq's oil fields would be carved up.

    Even at that early date, the message from Bush was "find a way to do this," according to O'Neill, a critic of the Iraq invasion who was forced out of his job in December 2002.

    The New Yorker's Jane Mayer later made another discovery: a secret NSC document dated February 3, 2001 - only two weeks after Bush took office - instructing NSC officials to cooperate with Cheney's task force, which was "melding" two previously unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies towards rogue states" and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." [The New Yorker, February 16, 2004]

That’s from a recent article by Jason Leopold.

Now there’s an interesting word: “cooperate.”

Let’ see what that “cooperation” produced:

    It began more than six years ago with a lie, followed by another lie, and another lie, and then two more, ten more, a hundred, a thousand, an avalanche of lies from heads of state and hatchet men and well-fed media types more interested in getting the interview than in getting the facts.

    It began with lies like this:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

    - Dick Cheney, Vice President Speech to VFW National Convention 8/26/2002

    ... and this:

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

    - Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser CNN Late Edition 9/8/2002

    ... and this:

"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."

    - Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary Press Briefing 1/9/2003

    ... and this:

"We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more."

    - Colin Powell, Secretary of State Remarks to the UN Security Council 2/5/2003

    ... and this:

"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

    - Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense ABC Interview 3/30/2003

    It began with George W. Bush standing before both houses of Congress and an international television audience for his January 2003 State of the Union address and stating that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons - which is one million pounds - of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, al-Qaeda connections and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program.

Pretty impressive cooperation, wouldn’t you say, boys and girls? That’s William Rivers Pitt, also in

You know how people say You can’t make this up? Apparently you can.

Spot is sorry to drop this one on Dave on the eve of the Fourth of July, when Dave is undoubtedly busy sharpening and polishing his ornamental spear for the parade or some such, but these articles came out in the last couple of days, and Spot thought they were interesting, especially taken together.

After he puts the silver polish away, Dave will no doubt deliver an impassioned defense, pointing out that many Democrats voted for the Iraq war and were therefore collaborators. We won’t quibble about the meaning or intent of the resolution that Congress passed, nor whether the Dems who voted in favor were collaborators or dupes, but you have to draw the conclusion that many anti-war types did early on: it was about oil.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Passing the torch

Several weeks ago, Stewart, an emissary from the Lafayette, Indiana, Drinking Liberally chapter, came to Minneapolis and to our meeting and presented our chapter with a National Review paperweight, given to Dan Quayle and signed by William F. Buckley himself.

Stewart was inspired to bring the paperweight to us symbolize a kind of passing of the loser-Republican torch from Dan Quayle to Norm Coleman. As Stewart says, the paperweight was picked up in a thrift store shortly after Quayle’s mother dropped it off in a box of her son’s memorabilia.

We cemented a sister-chapter relationship with toast and jeers.

Spot has to wonder whether scenes of Laurie Coleman schlepping boxes of Norm memorabilia around to the thrift stores in town will now become a common sight.

I’ll put up a picture of the paperweight, with the Buckley inscription legible, in the sidebar when I get a chance.