December 29, 2007

More Gableman v. Butler

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, would-be Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is back aboard his “stark contrast” hobbyhorse, which may become the signature rallying cry of his campaign moving forward, as they say.

Actually it's more of a stark contrast plus needling example, thus:
Gableman said his approach to cases involving law enforcement, for example, will show a clear choice between [incumbent Justice Louis] Butler and him.

"My philosophy is to apply the plain language of the law and not to look for ways that offenders may escape the consequences of their actions," Gableman said.
The clear inference being that Butler does “look for ways” that offenders may escape. Because on the "stark contrast" view, everything Butler has done, Gableman will do the opposite.

It's one thing to characterize Butler's opinions, or his position in concurrence or dissent with respect to opinions written by other members of the court, as siding with criminal defendants. Certainly they may; after all, defendants occasionally win their appeals.

But when you start insinuating that Butler is proactively “looking for ways” to facilitate the escape of defendants from consequences, then you had better provide some support for that proposition. I would expect none to be forthcoming, unless Gableman is a mindreader, or is secretly taping Butler's conferences.

Gableman's rival Charlie Schutze, meanwhile, implies that Butler looks for ways offenders may not escape consequences:
"How can you hold someone liable for something they have no control over?" Schutze said. "That is such an incredible stretch of the law."
But that's in reference to a civil case, not a criminal one.

Maybe Gableman and Schutze will mount a tag team offense against Butler, the former bemoaning Butler's propensity for sympathy with criminal plaintiffs, the latter decrying his attitude toward innocent corporate defendants. Both are apparently the telltale signs of a liberal jurisprude. And that's bad for business. Or something.

Ah well, see you next year.

Pope exorcises exorcist

A Vatican flack has denied statements by the Holy See's top caster out of demons, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, declaring that every Catholic diocese will be equipped with a platoon of exorcists.

The papal spokesman said Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. Benedict 16, "has no intention of ordering local bishops to bring in garrisons of exorcists to fight demonic possession.”

According to the London Daily Torygraph, Amorth told a Catholic website, Petrus, the teams of exorcists would be deployed to combat “extreme godlessness.” As opposed to mild godlessness, presumably.

“Too many bishops are not taking this seriously,” Amorth added. Well, you can hardly blame them for that, since it takes a degree of extreme sillyfulness to do so. It's difficult to say who's flakier, the demon worshipers or the exorcists and their Vatican City sponsors, since the baseline for flakiness, which they all occupy, is buying into these nonsensical superstitions.

Satan is making inroads with modern youth via rock music and the internets, according to the Vatican. And, quoth Amorth, “Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of darkness, the Devil.”

Also noteworthy is this item from the Torygraph:
A Roman Catholic bishop has caused fury in Spain by claiming that some teenagers "want to be abused."

Bishop Bernardo Álvarez of Tenerife told a newspaper: "There are 13-year-olds who are in agreement and even want it; even, if you don't watch out, provoking you."
Sounds like Ratzinger still has a few demons of his own to expunge.

December 28, 2007

Unusual Pakistanis

On MSNBC's “Morning Joe” today, Mike Huckabee spoke approvingly of Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto and another former Prime Minister and political opponent of President Pervez Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif: “While Bhutto probably brought the most pro-American position, both she and Sharif brought essentially centrist and secular perspectives to the government.”

But just a couple of weeks ago, Huckabee, stumping in Utah for a presidency of his own, told a gaggle of Baptist preachers, “I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.”

So Pakistan, which is 97% Muslim, should be governed by secular politicians, whereas the United States needs to be “taken back for Christ” by its leaders, despite being only 76% Christian (78% if you count Mormons, which Huckabee probably doesn't).

Arrogance, or clueless naïveté? The latter, more likely, given that Huckabee went on to criticize Musharraf for failing to control Pakistan's eastern border with Afghanistan. Except Pakistan's eastern border is with India. It borders Afghanistan (and Iran) to the west.

He also warned of “unusual activities by Pakistanis” entering the U.S., and yesterday offered “apologies” to the people of Pakistan after Bhutto's assassination.

Later today, a high ranking Huckabee spin doctor admitted that the candidate has “no foreign policy credentials.” Somewhat amazingly, Huckabee leads a recent LA Times/Bloomberg poll by 36 to 28 percentage points over his closest rival, Mitt Romney, going into the Iowa GOP caucus next Thursday.

Iowa is on the eastern border of Wisconsin, where unusual activities by Republicans have been reported.

Headlines of no distinction

Speaking of semantic genius, I notice another headline from yet another local conservative blog, courtesy the BNN feed, as follows:
Founding fathers wanted us to be free OF religion, not free FROM religion
And the difference is?
Louse-Off shampoo will keep you free OF head lice, not free FROM head lice

But if it's correct the founding fathers wanted us to be free of religion, I can certainly accept that. And even offer a hearty "Amen." So don't let anyone tell you a conservative blogger never said something objectively true. Sometimes they do — by mistake.

Bête noire of the Googleoisie

A local conservative blogger is fawning over a local conservative radio squawker for allegedly “manufacturing an excellent new word” in an item the petit-boorgeois squawker concocted for Madison's weekly paper, the Isthmus.

The blogger trumpets this purported act of semantic genius as THE reason to read the squawker's occasional scribblings.

Unfortunately, the squawker didn't manufacture the word at all and in fact it appeared several months ago in a column by Dave Blaska in — you guessed it — the Isthmus:
[A]s mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani was the bête noire of the quicheoisie for cracking down on the squeegee men.
(Why liberals were enamored of the squeegee men is anyone's guess. I thought they were annoying as all hell.)

It also appears online as far back as 2004, in a discussion board posting about a missing University of Wisconsin student.

How embarrassing for both the squawker and the blogger, who has just made the squawker's embarrassment more acute (if, that is, either one is capable of embarrassment, which seems unlikely).

The conclusion, of course, is that this leaves NO reason to peruse said radio squawker's scribbled inanities.

“Googleoisie,” on the other hand, is an excellent new word, manufactured by me. Gaze upon my skillz and weep, mortal.

December 27, 2007

A sure sign Christmas is over

And it's time to get back to sectarian business:
Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests attacked each other with brooms and stones inside the Church of the Nativity as long-standing rivalries erupted in violence during holiday cleaning on Thursday.

Palestinian [!] police, armed with batons and shields, quickly formed a human cordon* to separate the two sides.
That's more like it. All is well with the world again, and the Lamb of God who came to take away its sins has been safely put back in storage for another revolution of the Earth 'round the Sun.

Priests brawl at Jesus' birthplace

* Must be a local delicacy; I've only had it with chicken and prosciutto.

Fred surges ahead in Iowa

In the temporal sense, at least.

"There is no woman on the horizon that ought to be president next year, let's all agree on that." Thus spake Fred D. Thompson, the somnolent former Tennessee actor and Hollywood senator with his own occasionally articulated aspirations to the presidency.

Assuming Fred is referring to Hillary Clinton, and assuming by next year he means 2008, then let's all agree that the best Mrs. Clinton can hope for is to be the president-elect by the end of November. The inauguration won't take place until January 20, 2009, the year after next year, and perhaps the year during which Fred does feel a woman ought to be president. It's hard to tell, because Fred barely knows whether or not he wants to be president himself.

Assuming he means Nancy Pelosi, and setting aside Fred's value judgment embodied in the word "ought," she stands a better chance at becoming president next year, since the Speaker of the House is second in the order of presidential succession. Unlikely, albeit possible. But "ought"? That depends on your secret desires pursuant to the mortality and/or incapacitation of Messrs. Bush and Cheney.

This has been today's American civics lesson for Fred "Wake Me Up When It's Over" Thompson, the sleepy GOP choice.

Fred dozes through the remaining days of December, 2007

December 23, 2007

December 22, 2007

You must have been a beautiful zygote

Because zygote, look at you now. This is what Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gadfly Patrick McIlheran calls a "baby":

"Our desire to ease the suffering of a raped woman has led a majority of the Legislature to overlook the baby, as if its humanity were contingent on how it was conceived."
I bet he can't tell whether this one is a human or a sea urchin.

Homicide killers

Speaking of Fox News, I notice they are still referring to suicide bombers as homicide bombers. If I recall correctly, “homicide bomber” was coined several years ago by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who advised the gathered scribes it was preferable to “suicide bomber,” because the latter unjustly drew attention to the martyrdom of the killer or something.

“Homicide bomber” is absurd and redundant: A homicide bomber killed 48 people in Islamabad today. “A bomber killed people” already denotes homicide. “Suicide bomber” is concise and conveys more information. It's as simple as that. Somewhere in a Fox News report, the reader has to be told how the explosives were deployed. Why not in the lead, or the headline.

And why be coy about it. Would-be suicide bombers probably aren't watching Fox & Friends for inspiration anyway. If they were they'd more likely just commit suicide without taking anyone else with them. I can see Steve Doocy and the rest of that brain trust having just such an effect on people.

The only reason Fox News uses the term is in aquiescence to the Bush administration's preferences. It certainly has nothing to do with concise, direct reporting. It's toadying, plain and simple, and about the last person news editors should take direction from is a dissembling government flack.

If Fox News was consistent, it would start reporting gun murders by describing the assailant as a “homicide shooter.”

Ann Coulter's Gormless

Yesterday I had the distinctly unpleasant misfortune of catching a few moments of one Ms. Ann Coulter yelping at a Fox News Network hair helmet (John Gibson [link NSFW!!!1] I think it was), babbling something about Mike Huckabee, and how he is the liberals' favorite Evangelical Christian or some such similarly supercilious assclownery.

It was alleged that Ann Coulter wrote a book, a full third of which dealt with questions of biological evolution. I recall hearing something about this. And I recall hearing that Ann Coulter had enlisted the likes of William Dembski and Michael Behe, the numeri uno e due crackpots of the so-called “intelligent design movement” to tutor her in the discipline.

So I was a bit surprised yesterday to hear Ann Coulter aver that nobody had even addressed the “arguments” she'd made with respect to biological evolution in said tome. “Godless,” I think it was called. Or maybe “Slander” (which always struck me as more of an FDA warning label than the actual title of the book). Anyway ...

Now I know that the Milwaukee Public Library maintains electronic records of my borrowings, and I'd sooner have the federales find the Unabomber Manifesto, the Qur'an, and The Anarchist's Cookbook therein or, for that matter, my mother discover a CD-R loaded with bukkake .mpegs after my death than anyone unearth evidence that I'd actually cracked the spine of an Ann Coulter product.

Sure enough, a stout yeoman by the name of James Downard had already done the heavy lifting, and the results of his considerable labors are published in three lengthy parts at
Secondary Addiction: Part 1
Secondary Addiction: Part 2
Secondary Addiction: Part 3
Nope, nobody had ever even addressed her “arguments.” If anyone has a set of cojones so risibly colossal as to get all up on national teevee and make that statement, it's Ann Coulter.

Downard's verdict:
Her sashay into matters scientific delightfully illustrates a common theme in sloppy thinking. Coulter is a secondary citation addict [and she is a lawyer, may gog help us all].

Like a scholarly lemming, she compulsively reads inaccurate antievolutionary sources and accepts them on account of their reinforcement of what she wants to be true. It never once occurs to her that she might find it prudent to check on the reliability of those sources before accompanying them off the cliff, either by investigating critical takes on those sources, or by actually inspecting the original technical literature directly.
Downard does both, and the results are enlightening and frequently hilarious, as all the finest creationist smackdowns are.

December 21, 2007

Werewolves of Grosse Pointe

I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic's ... and his hair was perfectWarren Zevon

Remember Mitt Romney's “religious speech”? In it, he claimed to have seen his father, George Romney, march with Martin Luther King. He repeated the assertion some more last Sunday on Press the Meat, while Tim Russert was waving a pair of flip-flops at him.

Now some intrepid reporters have done a bit of digging, and it looks like it never happened.

Was it all [I have] a dream?
A spokesperson for Mitt Romney now tells the Phoenix that George W. Romney and Martin Luther King Jr. marched together in June, 1963 — although possibly not on the same day or in the same city.
Reminds me of the times I slept with Salma Hayek.

However, no problem, says Romney, “It's a figure of speech ... I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort.”

And: "You know, I'm an English literature major as well. When we say, 'I saw the Patriots win the World Series,' it doesn't necessarily mean you were there — excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it's a figure of speech."

... but his hair was perfect.

December 20, 2007

Blasphemy corner

A modest Green Bay proposal.

(Call me on those Pick 'n Save Slip 'n Falls.)

h/t capper.
No man of sound information, at the time Nietzsche planned "The Antichrist," actually believed that the world was created in seven days, or that its fauna was once overwhelmed by a flood as a penalty for the sins of man, or that Noah saved the boa constrictor, the prairie dog and the pediculus capitis [head louse] by taking a pair of each into the ark, or that Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt, or that a fragment of the True Cross could cure hydrophobia. Such notions, still almost universally prevalent in Christendom a century before, were now confined to the great body of ignorant and credulous men—that is, to ninety-five or ninety-six percent of the race.

H.L. Mencken

Supreme Court race is warming up

The other day I mentioned a complaint that One Wisconsin Now lodged with a campaign watchdog group (WJCIC) over some election literature put out by Michael Gableman, the Burnett County Circuit Court judge who's challenging incumbent Louis Butler's seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

OWN raised a question of whether Gableman had made any “pledges, promises, or commitments” in an attachment to a letter that briefed a handful of Butler's opinions and stressed the “stark contrast” in which Gableman comparatively stands. Aspirants to the bench may not make such promises connected to certain “cases or controversies” that might come before the court.

OWN's concern arose because Butler's opinions are necessarily quite specific with respect to questions of law and, essentially, the narrower the question, the closer Gableman comes to making a “promise” by presenting himself in “stark contrast” to Butler's disposition. It's a tricky business made trickier by Gableman's own (no pun intended) right to free speech.

While the WJCIC decided not to take formal action, which according to its regulations and procedures includes investigations and formal notification of the parties involved, it issued a statement in response to OWN's complaint that primarily consisted of a reiteration of the intent behind the relevant sections of the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct. End of story? Not quite.

The Gableman campaign responded with its own (pun intended) press release, which contained what turns out to be the unfortunate remark, “Louis Butler and his allies cannot hide the fact that he consistently sides with criminals over law enforcement.”

The implication being, it seems to me, that Gableman's "stark contrast" means consistently siding with the government in criminal cases. Hence the question of whether such pronouncements are edging toward "pledge, promise, or commitment" territory.

Now it seems that Tom Basting, the President of the State Bar and chair of the WJCIC, is not amused. And he directed a letter today to Gableman himself, saying so.

In it, Basting upbraids Gableman's lieutenant Darrin Schmitz for the remark and expresses dismay at the Gableman campaign's broad mischaracterization of the original WJCIC reply: “This is precisely the kind of campaign rhetoric that I and other members of WJCIC hoped we would not hear or read.”

I expect there is — and will be — much consternation in the one camp, and considerable chuckling in the other. Perhaps now is the time for the third candidate, Charlie Schutze, to leap into the fray. Virtually nothing has been heard from him, apart from a gratuitious "also running" in the occasional press report.

eta: And a bit warmer yet.

Adolf Hitler, progressive ideologue

As did your humble correspondent, the Brew City Brawler also noticed that the proprietor of the blog Sadly, No! has received an advance copy of Jonah Goldberg's forthcoming book, Liberal Fascism. Goldberg, spawn of the odious Lucianne, scribbles for the National Review and his doughy visage occasionally graces pundit teevee when someone slightly less absurd is unavailable to producers.

Apparently Goldberg's project is to present Nazi policies and selected personal foibles of Adolf Hitler that can be rhetorically manhandled to coincide with Goldberg's own special caricatures of “liberalism” and “progressivism” and Hey, Presto!, liberals are just like Nazis.

If the following excerpt is representative of Goldberg's syllogistic finesse, then reading the entire book would be, as one of the hundreds of Sadly, No! commenters observes, “like getting punched in the butt until you die.”
Animal rights advocates correctly note that animal rights activism was a major concern in pre-Nazi Germany and that the animal rights movement shouldn't be associated with Nazism. But as with environmentalism, this is less of a defense than it sounds. It is fine to say that many of Nazism's concerns were held by people who were not Nazis. But the fact that these conventionally leftist views were held by Nazis suggests that Nazism isn't as alien to mainstream progressive thought as some would have us believe.
Well, if it's correct that the animal rights movement shouldn't be associated with Nazism, then why the association of the animal rights movement with Nazism? Because, that would be incorrect.

And, if it's incorrect to associate the animal rights movement with Nazism, then why needs there be a defense to this incorrect association at all, let alone one whose degree gets evaluated by Goldberg according to a measure of “more or less”? Things are not “more or less” incorrect. They either are, or they aren't, and Goldberg just got finished admitting this particular association is.

Goldberg then generously allows that some Nazi “concerns” were held by non-Nazis, and it's fine to say so. Thanks, Goldberg. For example, the classic stereotypical Nazi/Fascist “concern” that the trains run on time, which is, in turn, I think it's safe to say, also a classic progressive concern. Likewise eating, drinking, breathing, etc.

So because Nazis shared with progressives a concern that the trains run on time, this “suggests” that Nazism is connected to progressivism, despite what “some” will tell you. Mein Gott.

This is a game for buffoons, and can be played with any political ideology, and especially played with cherry picked components of any political ideology. Doubtless the Malkinbots will drink from it deeply.

Elsewhere Goldberg actually attempts to equate eating healthy with Fascism because Hitler favored a macrobiotic diet. There's a lot more of this nonsense at the link, some of it quite hilarious indeed.

As your attorney I advise reindeer

Mat Staver* to the rescue!
Mayor Jim Schmitt said today he has received legal advice from the national advocacy group The Liberty Counsel, which indicated the city is on firm legal ground with the display, especially if some secular items, such as a Christmas tree and reindeer, are placed near the nativity scene.

The 'ol "Plastic Reindeer Rule" in action.

Why, it seems like only yesterday Schmitt himself was drafting guidelines requiring only "legitimate religious symbolism" for what is rapidly becoming the most ridiculous public display in the country.

Farce majeure continues.

* What happened to City Attorney Allison Swanson? Surely she knew about the Plastic Reindeer Rule. Oh, right, she advised caution. Then Jim Schmitt got Mat Staver into the act. It can only get worse now.

December 19, 2007

Huckabee funnies

Mike Huckabee's Big Spectrum of Aberrant Behavior

h/t Blog of the Moderate Left.

Chad Fradette: Wise man or sorcerer?

Interesting comment here posted by one of the Green Bay Nativity scene agitators, Taku Ronsman. Ronsman confirms that Chad Fradette, who originally installed the Jesus, Mary, and Joseph figurines, did so as an act of political defiance. Ronsman quotes the city councilman as saying, “I'll keep going on this until this group [the Freedom From Religion Foundation] imposing Madison values crawls back into its hole and never crawls out.”

Another remarkable observation is attributed by Ms. Ronsman to Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt, characterizing the Wiccan pentacle that was installed and subsequently vandalized for its “association with witchcraft,” and regretting, on those grounds, his decision to allow it in the first place.

This would explain the absence from the Nativity scene of the “wise men from the east” introduced in Matthew 2:1 (unless Fradette is planning on erecting them at a later date). One needn't be a credentialed etymologist to recognize the derivative forms of “Magi,” which is the term for the wise men used by the New International Version of Matthew.*

Not only that, but the same Greek word that's translated as “wise men” and “Magi” becomes “sorcerer” in Acts 13:6. How's that for political correctness? When you're facilitating the illegal immigration of the Nativity set into Egypt, you're a wise man, but when you're a Jewish false prophet, you're a sorcerer.

So I wouldn't be so quick to denounce the Wiccans for their “association with witchcraft” while at the same time celebrating some Iranian sorcerers for their gifts and their heroic protection of the Saviour against the depredations of King Herod.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette has an entertaining account of last night's public meeting and council vote, including the entreaties of one Tim Entringer, who declares Christianity the One True Religion™ and therefore its god(s) must be kept on the roof of City Hall.

* My default Bible is the KJV, for the poetry.

December 18, 2007

This should be good

Mayor Jim Schmitt said ... no further displays would be put up until the City Council debates the guidelines he drew up with City Attorney Allison Swanson, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported Tuesday.

The guidelines include provisions limiting religious displays to the month of December and requiring them to contain legitimate religious symbolism.
No word yet on who gets to decide that. Or on the novel (and ancient) questions raised by a government religious requirement.

The Christmas brouhaha in Green Bay gets sillier by the moment, and Schmitt has banned all seasonal decorations — save for the Nativity scene — until the city can decide on a policy. Schmitt declared a decoration moratorium after some character climbed the City Hall roof, dragged down a five-pointed star and threw it in a hedge.

Now, according to the sidebar in this item, it turns out City Council President Chad Fradette only uploaded his crèche onto the roof to slap at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is apparently challenging another Nativity set-up in nearby Peshtigo.

Well, at least Fradette had a secular purpose.

If these clowns keep this up, Nativity scenes will be the least of their concerns, because if Green Bay voters can find one more thief, the lot of them will be installed in a Good Friday diorama at the earliest available opportunity.

Another take, from here:
It never ceases to amaze me that a small minority of Christians who clearly feel threatened by the concept of religious pluralism feel the need every holiday season to wage this pointless battle. They aren't putting their Nativity scenes up in public spaces to celebrate their faith. They're doing it to pick a fight with those whose beliefs are in the minority. It's nothing other than faith-based bullying.
I don't know if I'd go that far, at least under the present circumstances, although it sure as hell is tempting. And Chad Fradette certainly seems to be copping to the antagonism stance.

December 17, 2007

Plant activist returns twigs to soil

A concerned Green Bay environmentalist, apparently disturbed that a Wiccan group had removed some topiary from God's green Earth and fashioned it into a seasonal wreath, early this morning stealthily scaled a ladder and liberated the clippings, returning them safely to their natural habitat behind a hedge.

The activist, described as of medium height, slightly heavy build, and wearing a parka bearing the Packers insignia and a camouflage hunting cap with ear flaps, was reported to Green Bay police, who immediately focused their manhunt on a list of 47,359 suspects.

Meanwhile a whimsical local Catholic attempted to have a Festivus pole — "I find tinsel distracting" — installed at City Hall, but was chastised by Mayor Jim Schmitt for making something “rather serious” into a “laughing matter.”

And we certainly can't have that at this joyous time of year.

In other Solstice celebration news, presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has released a new television spot presenting him seated beside a reconstruction of Thor's Oak, while rambling incoherently about a virgin birth, an aspect of a number of pagan religions.

GOP rival Rudy 9iu11iani is said to be upping the Solstice ante by producing a “reply ad” featuring the former mayor slaughtering a Yule Goat with his bare hands at the entrance to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

And Mitt Romney's seasonal message is to depict Jesus training a stun gun on Satan while the latter protests, "Don't tase me, Bro."

December 21 is roughly the day when some inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere have traditionally commemorated the Sun's position relative to its angular distance from the Earth's equator. For many others, however, it has special significance as the shortest day of the year, and about the halfway point of the NHL hockey season.

Lieberman endorses Maverick


Gableman wants it both ways

Last week, the advocacy group One Wisconsin Now voiced a concern over some campaign literature distributed by Michael Gableman, who is seeking to unseat Louis Butler from the Wisconsin Supreme Court next April. At issue is the prohibition against candidates for judicial office making “pledges, promises, or commitments” with respect to “cases, controversies, or issues” likely to come before the court.

The flyer, labeled, “Louis Butler: Failing Wisconsin Law Enforcement,” contains thumbnail accounts of Butler's opinions in nine split decisions of the Supreme Court wherein Butler variously joined the majority or dissented. Eight of the nine cases are 4-3 splits. Butler voted with the majority in five of those cases, and dissented in the other three. The ninth case is a 6-1 decision where Butler authored the lone dissent.

Gableman is advertised as standing in “stark contrast” to Butler, who, it's suggested, is dedicated to “expanding the rights of criminals.” The message, presumably, is that Gableman would have (or will) ruled opposite to the disposition Butler reached in the cited cases. Whether he's promising to do so in the future when faced with similar controversies is the question OWN is raising.

What interests me at the moment, however, is the juxtaposition of two of the nine cases and the objections Gableman is proffering against Butler's results in those cases from a perspective of “conservative judicial philosophy,” which is, let's face it, what Gableman is selling here.

The first, State v. Jensen (.pdf, 60 pgs.), has to do with (among other law of evidence questions) the U.S. Constitution's Confrontation Clause, which appears in the Sixth Amendment: “At all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Jensen was unable to confront the particular witness in question because he'd, er, caused her death.

In the other, State v. Knapp (.pdf, 62 pgs.), as Gableman's campaign puts it, “Butler voted to expand criminal’s [sic] rights beyond the US Constitution by voting against allowing key evidence of bloody clothing in a murder case.”

As to the latter, it's a cliché of constitutional law that the U.S. Constitution sets a floor, and not a ceiling, in terms of the enumerated rights in the Amendments. In other words, whatever limits the U.S. Supreme Court places on the Bill of Rights, States remain empowered to grant greater latitude.

In still other words, for example, if Justice Scalia convinces four of his colleagues that smoking giant cones packed with sticky, sticky bud is not a legitimate free exercise of Rastafarianism, Wisconsin courts may nonetheless deem it so, at least for the purposes of State law. This is a feature of federalism, which addresses the tension between State and federal power.

Wisconsin courts, however, embody a tradition of not hovering too far above that floor, and Gableman doesn't appreciate that Butler may wish to reconsider some of that State precedent. Because, as we all know, the doctrine of stare decisis is sacrosanct to conservatives — witness the devotion to Roe v. Wade. I digress (but not much).

Presumably, one of the defenses the Gableman campaign may raise against OWN's concerns is that the flyer, far from making any promises or commitments, is simply enunciating the candidate's judicial philosophy. And, no doubt, as the campaign continues, Gableman's supporters, at least, can be expected to let loose the familiar code phrases, “strict constructionist” and “original intent,” guaranteed to warm the conservative heart and invoke pleasant apparitions of their favorite jurisprudes, Scalia and Thomas.

But in his Jensen dissent, Butler deploys both strict constructionism, in his emphasis on the Confrontation Clause's “all criminal prosecutions” language, and original intent, in arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the Sixth Amendment is itself frozen in 1791, which is what informs Butler's conclusion.

However, apparently, it's merely the result Gableman doesn't like. Surely he can't be objecting to the employment of strict constructionism and original intent, can he? If so, there's a Butler campaign slogan for you right there: "Michael Gableman, a living, breathing judge who sees the Constitution in exactly those terms."

(Better a Charlie Schutze campaign slogan, come to think of it.)

Now, it may be claimed that Butler is the one who wants it both ways, on the one hand arguing for a modern expansion of the Fifth Amendment (as in Knapp) but also for restricting the Sixth to its original understanding (as in Jensen).

But there's nothing unusual about a judge employing different means of interpretation when facing resolutions based in different sets of circumstances and different historical strains of law. They all do it. And besides, it isn't Butler who's criticizing Gableman for his jurisprudence; it's the other way around. For the moment, at least.

The moral of the story is that the next time you hear a conservative yammering about strict constructionism or original intent and her unwavering devotion to same, don't believe a word of it.

December 15, 2007


Found via Pharyngula, a series of succinct "Successories" spoofs poking fun at the so-called intelligent design* movement, e.g.:

Collect the whole set at Banninated.

In addition to the obvious japes about creationists' failure to perform peer-reviewed science and their fatuous attempted connections between the coleopteraphile Charles Darwin and mass murder and genocide, a more subtle message inheres concerning a gentleman called Trofim Lysenko, chieftain of Soviet biology under Stalin.

Lysenko notoriously rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of hocus pocus and Stalin's favor, and ultimately failure and disgrace. Current biology, on the other hand, embraces a combination of Darwin's and Gregor Mendel's ideas, hence the designation, “Modern Synthesis,” which, ironically, was initially championed by a Russian-born emigré to the U.S., Theodosius Dobzhansky.

While contemporaries, Darwin and Mendel were unaware of one another's work. Dobzhansky made the justly famous observation that, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

* "The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God." — William A. Dembski, betraying his secular purpose.

Who said it?

"There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

"I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try and dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism."

Answer (highlight the space below):
Barry Goldwater

December 14, 2007

Make that 36

Thirty-six States that will continue to engage in the increasingly complex ritual of putting prisoners to death. And, of course, the federal government, along with our fellow travelers in progressive societies such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and Uzbekistan.

New Jersey Moves to End Its Death Penalty
"I am ashamed the Assembly would consider this bill today," said Assemblyman Richard A. Merkt, a conservative Republican from Randolph.
I get that. He means it should have been considered decades ago. The last execution in Wisconsin occurred in 1851, in Kenosha. Citizens of the Garden State! Welcome to the 19th century.

Jesus, Satan, Huckabee & Hitler

Naturally, Mike Huckabee's faux-naïf concern about whether Mitt Romney believes Jesus and Satan are brothers is inspiring considerable chatter appropriate to the race for the presidency.

A Romney/Mormon apologist blog is offering that Jesus and Satan are brothers in the same sense Huckabee and Adolf Hitler are brothers, which is an interesting analogy.

It makes sense, however, since Huckabee's GOP rivals are deriding his socialist inclinations and, as has been demonstrated in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Hitler was a liberal.

And, in the kerfuffle's wake, Huckabee's camp is now denying that the candidate has a theology degree, despite Huckabee's touting exactly that in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in September. Huckabee implied that his “theology degree” put him in a better position than his rivals to understand Jihadism.

Now his campaign is claiming Huckabee only has a BA in Biblical Studies, which doesn't count as a theology degree, and maybe doesn't put him in a better position to understand the strange doctrines of Mormonism.

A piece in the New York Times this morning refers to Huckabee's “ignorance” and offers an attempt at clarification courtesy of Robert Millet, a professor of religion at Brigham Young University:
Jesus was God’s first-born son, and everyone who came after that, including Satan could be considered the siblings of Jesus, he said.

“Latter-day Saints believe that all of us, Christ included, existed in a premortal existence, as spirits,” Mr. Millet said. “Yes, Jesus and Lucifer were in that premortal existence, together. But what we need to make very clear is that Jesus was God and there was never a time when Jesus and Lucifer were on the same plane.”
Er, what? Jesus was God's first-born son and Jesus was God?
But according to some literature at the official Mormon website,
Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers.

Jesus Christ was with the Father from the beginning. Lucifer, too, was an angel “who was in authority in the presence of God,” a “son of the morning.” Both Jesus and Lucifer were strong leaders with great knowledge and influence. But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother.
The author then points out that it's not unusual for two brothers to choose career paths at variance with one another, in this case, the elder as the “savior of mankind,” the younger a mischievous demon, and concludes,
We can only imagine the sorrow of our Heavenly Father as he watched a loved son [Satan] incite and lead a rebellion and lose his opportunity for exaltation. But we can also imagine the Father’s love and rejoicing as he welcomed back the beloved son [Jesus] who had valiantly and perfectly fought the battles of life and brought about the great Atonement through his suffering and death.
That's some tricky business right there, to claim God was Jesus, when God sent Jesus away, and then welcomed Jesus back after he was dead. Excuse me while my brain explodes.

I'm thinking the operative words in that passage are, "we can only imagine." It's nice to see such candor for a change.

And who knows what BYU Prof. Millet means by Jesus and Satan never having been “on the same plane,” because I don't see any difference between “loved son” and “beloved son.” Before they went their separate ways, that is.

Maybe he means the plane Jesus flew to Missouri on to meet up with Joseph Smith. One thing's for sure, it ain't easy keeping all these fairy tales straight, least of all for Mike Huckabee, who's puzzled by Mormon doctrine yet draws inspiration from a talking snake.

However, there is some evidence, also in the Journal-Sentinel, that it's possible to both be related to a person and be that person:
Q: Joe of Milwaukee - How many cheesesteaks have you eaten in the course of your lifetime? Also are you related to Big Daddy Kane?

A: Eugene Kane - 2,645, give or take a hoagie or three. Also, of course we're related. I AM BIG DADDY KANE.
Another thing's for sure, the cheesesteak is a tool of Satan.

December 12, 2007

GOP debate highlights

Wolf Blitzer asked [Mike] Huckabee about his comments on Mitt Romney’s faith, as published in the New York Times magazine this Sunday. The article highlighted this sentence from the new GOP frontrunner in Iowa: "Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

This is part of what Huckabee said:

"After the debate today I went to Mitt Romney and apologized to him, because I said, I would never try, ever, to try to somehow pick out some point of your faith and make it, you know, an issue, and I wouldn’t."
Except when he would.

Nevertheless, Huckabee appears to be correct:
We needed a Savior to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father. Our Father said, "Whom shall I send?" Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, "Here am I, send me." * * *

Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, "Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind ..."
Half brothers, perhaps, in a polygamous schema.

In another equally compelling GOP debate controversy, Alan Keyes reportedly apologized to Duncan Hunter for suggesting that, "Spiderman could totally kick the crap out of the Incredible Hulk."

I didn't vote for him*

The American Bar Association has named former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "Lawyer of the Year" for 2007.

Judge Gonzales shouldn't get too excited about the encomium, however, since a runner-up was Michael Nifong, the North Carolina DA notorious for his outrageous shenanigans during the attempted prosecution for rape of three Duke University lacrosse players.

Maybe he was ineligible for the top prize because he's disbarred.

Other runners-up include Howard K. Stern of Anna Nicole Smith fame and somebody out of Los Angeles called "Cupcake." In other words, it doesn't sound like an award anybody would actually want.

More like a Darwin Award for lawyers. Hopefully the ABA takes its "highly qualified" ratings slightly more seriously.

* Full disclosure: I voted for

'I'm torn between being entertained as a spectator
and horrified as a legal professional.' - Roy Black

December 11, 2007

Matthew Murray and his cult

Steve Benen at the blog Carpetbagger Report notes that the quintessentially idiotic Tony Perkins is making political hay from Sunday's shootings in Colorado. In an e-mail to his Family Research Council devotees, Perkins writes:
It is hard not to draw a line between the hostility that is being fomented in our culture from some in the secular media toward Christians and evangelicals in particular and the acts of violence that took place in Colorado yesterday.
Unfortunately for Perkins and his persecutionist blather, it's far easier and considerably more obvious to draw the connection between Matthew Murray's homicidal outburst and the Pentecostal cult he was reacting against.

Murray, using the nom de plume nghtmrchld26, was a contributor to an internet discussion board called Ex Pentecostal Forums. While the board's administrators have since removed a number of nghtmrchld26's most recent posts, dozens of them remain as of this morning, and they offer some insight into the type of creepy mind control exercised by the cult's members.

For example:
Since I was at least age 6 my mother and her church friends have always told me about how my birth was "foretold." They say that while I was still in my mother's womb a "prophet" told my mother that I was to be, quote, "a prophet to the nations" and something along the lines of the next Billy Graham/Peter Wagner.

They said that the following verses applied to me: Mat. 12:18 and Ezk. 36:26-28.

Basically, they believe that I am their "chosen one" for "the end times" and according to the Ezekiel passage they believe that I am going to go back to their church/system.

The problem right now is the fact that it appears that they are always going to pursue me throughout life (and they have said so), as I am supposedly the "chosen one." As far as I can tell they did not treat the other youth the same way.

Well, I don't want to be their "chosen one" at all. I just wish I could find some way to wake up from this nightmare.
Or this, contra those who are suggesting that Matthew Murray “hated Christians” en masse, or was an atheist follower of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens:
We can be christians, we can be spiritual and believe in God/the Cosmic Divine WITHOUT their abusive lying pentecostal charismatic Jesus People movements, groups, false prophets, churches, and programs.
Finally, Matthew Murray describes what sounds suspiciously like child abuse:
I remember getting thrown around the room and hit while getting interrogated about whether or not I had video games and DVDs.
That entire thread is instructive. And there are lots more like it.

Matthew Murray's hostility toward the particular cult in which his mother was and is apparently an active member wasn't fomented by any “secular media,” it was inspired by the cult itself. The “secular media” is right to expose and criticize it. Let's hope it does.

Obviously Matthew Murray was one deeply disturbed individual, but, according to his own experience and in his own words, it was the religious cult that exacerbated his disturbance, and not Tony Perkins's secular bogeymen. Perkins needs to look a little closer to home, if he truly is interested in conducting any family research.

And conservatives, in the meantime, are more worried about indoctrination by liberal university professors. What a joke.

December 10, 2007

Speaking of irony

A Boy Scouts leader who sued the city of Berkeley, CA, for enforcing restrictions against the BSA for its 'no gays allowed' policy has been arrested for ... 19 counts of felony sexual assault on teenage boys.

h/t Clutch.

No room at the megachurch

According to press reports, the man who attacked two Christian outlets in Colorado yesterday did so as a reaction to being denied a bunk for the night at a youth missionary center. I'm sure I'm not the only one to note the irony.

You also have to wonder whether the gunman chose his second venue based on its association with the self-styled “Reverend” Ted Haggard, who resigned from its proprietorship under a cloud of methamphetamine smoke and a whiff of homosexual sodomy.

And why must we voice a heightened “sense of outrage” by dint of the shootings taking place in a “religious facility,” as Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter claims we must? Hell, there were armed guards at the New Life megachurch, where the gunman met his own new death.

Their presence denotes a heightened expectation of mayhem.

I don't see why senseless gun violence is any more or less regrettable or contemptible whether it occurs in a church or a biology lab. That the victims were nominally Christian makes no difference whatsoever. It's a bad deal regardless of the circumstances.

That they were nominal Christians and turned the man away from a bed for the night does make a difference, however, and it will be interesting to find out what the reasons for that were. And that the purported killer is being described variously as sporting a “beanie” or a “skull cap” makes it all the more intriguing.

eta: AP is reporting that police have been searching a home in Englewood, CO, southeast of Denver, which this site lists as the address of a local neurologist. Of course it could be in error, outdated, or any number of other things.

The info at, however, matches the above.

December 9, 2007

Shorter Mitt Romney

Relax, my wild superstitions are only marginally crazier than your
wild superstitions and in any event, we are morally and patriotically superior to the superstition-impaired, and we must fight to keep them down. It says so right there in the Constitution.

December 7, 2007

Civilization is sooo over

In an interview with GQ magazine, Republican presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee makes the following baleful observation:
There's never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived.
What in the world is that supposed to mean? Presumably that that civilization will end which rewrites marriage. Like the civilization in Massachusetts. It's just ... over.

Then what? Back to hunting and gathering, and maybe a bit of rudimentary farming? At least then, taxes would be lower than they are in Massachusetts, so maybe Huckabee meant the end of civilization as we know it is a good thing.

But I would have thought an enhanced feature of civilization allowed for civil rights without regard to "race," ethnicity, religion, gender, and so on.

Civilization notoriously provides for the marriages of Britney Spears, even if they last only a few hours, or produce negligently cared for children. Granted, Britney Spears is often cited as representative of the decline of Western civilization, but for entirely different reasons.

From Lewis, et al. v. Harris, et al., a 2006 decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court, here's a few of the godless reprobate plaintiffs that are hell bent on destroying our civilization:
Alicia Toby and Saundra Heath, who reside in Newark, have lived together for seventeen years and have children and grandchildren. Alicia is an ordained minister in a church ...

Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow reside in Union City and have been together for fourteen years. They both are pastors in the Episcopal Church.

Diane Marini and Marilyn Maneely were committed partners for fourteen years until Marilyn’s death in 2005. The couple lived in Haddonfield, where Diane helped raise, as though they were her own, Marilyn’s five children from an earlier marriage.

Karen and Marcye Nicholson-McFadden have been committed partners for seventeen years. ... [T]hey are raising two young children conceived through artificial insemination, Karen having given birth to their daughter and Marcye to their son.

Suyin and Sarah Lael have resided together in Franklin Park for most of the sixteen years of their familial partnership. ... They live with their nine-year-old adopted daughter and two other children who they are in the process of adopting.

Cindy Meneghin and Maureen Kilian first met in high school and have been in a committed relationship for thirty-two years. They have lived together for twenty-three years in Butler where they are raising a fourteen-year-old son and a twelve-year-old daughter. Through artificial insemination, Cindy conceived their son and Maureen their daughter.
The horror ... the horror.

December 6, 2007

In Effect effectively checks out

But not permanently, hopefully.

One of the more thoughtful and well written contributions to the Wisconsin blogosphere (which perhaps isn't saying much, given that the BNN local feed features roughly 90% regurgitant wingnuttery) is going into semi-retirement.

The proprietor of In Effect, Seth Zlotocha, who has been entertaining and informing on local issues for nearly two years, is heading back to the real world in pursuit of a doctorate in history.

While we'll all be the poorer without In Effect's regular observations, we shouldn't be so selfish as to wish to deny Seth's pursuit of more meaningful goals.

So, best wishes to Seth Zlotocha in getting that advanced degree.

The one saving grace is that Rick Esenberg will be afforded fewer opportunities to misspell Mr. Zlotocha's name.

December 5, 2007

A hanging

Remus [Bush/Gore/Rodham/Huckabee] passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.
That's such a great line.


By the way, I'm not sure whether "Bert" is a typo, but Bret Hart's middle name is "the Hitman."

Teach "intelligent design," sez Huckabee

Why is Mike Huckabee annoyed at questions about creationism? Maybe it has something to do with this:
Huckabee, at a dinner in Des Moines, told reporters that the theory of intelligent design, whose proponents believe an intelligent cause is the best way to explain some complex and orderly features of the universe, should be taught in schools as one of many viewpoints.
Many viewpoints? Yes, let's teach them all. There might be just enough time left over to show the kids how to light a bunsen burner.

There is no “theory of intelligent design.” Its leading proponents look at things, decide they appear “designed,” immediately conclude they are “designed” (after having made the same conclusion in advance), but refuse to identify the “designer” — on the advice of counsel.

Isn't that just like science, where all research must be vetted by attorneys for compliance with the Establishment Clause caselaw.

Huckabee's ridiculous suggestion is arguably irrelevant to a president's powers and responsibilities, but it's a pretty good indicator that Huckabee doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, which may in turn be an indicator of his other proclivities.

Still, Huckabee's got nothing on Sherri Shepherd, one of the hosts of ABC's The View, who doesn't know whether the Earth is flat or spherical, and says if she really needed to know, she'd go to look it up at the library. Not only that but:
Goldberg: When [Epicurus, 341-270 BCE] was around, there was no Jesus Christ stuff going on.

Shepherd: No, no, they still had Christians back then. ... They had Christians and they threw 'em to the lions.

Goldberg: This might predate that, I think.

Shepherd: I don't think anything predated Christians.

Behar: The Greeks came first, then the Romans, then the Christians.

Shepherd: Jesus came first, before them.
Three things: 1) Television is not a meritocracy; 2) Both the Old and New Testaments were written in Christian; 3) Mike Huckabee can probably count on Sherri Shepherd's vote.

November 29, 2007


Get real:
People who want to vote in [February's Virginia Republican primary, which is open to all qualified voters] must sign a loyalty oath swearing their intent to vote in November for the party's nominee, whomever that winds up being.
Remarkably, said "loyalty oath" was actually approved by the State Board of Elections. Lawsuit in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ...

November 28, 2007

Cultural Learnings of America

Rep. Chip Pickering, a potential successor to retiring Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, was featured in the film version of Borat:

Watch the Chip clip.

Sometimes you just don't know whether to laugh at or be disturbed — indeed, frightened — by these people. And I don't mean Borat.

November 27, 2007

Court sends mixed message to perverts

To time-stamp or not to time-stamp one's surreptitious photography.
Townsend, who didn't time-stamp his surreptitious photography, managed to elude three felony charges for videotaping three different women naked and without their permission, in a place where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy (Walworth County).

Townsend was charged under an amended Wisconsin statute that became effective on December 18, 2001, but since investigators were unable to determine exactly when the tapes were made, the criminal complaint recited time frames that straddled that date, e.g., “between November 1 and December 31, 2001.”

In fact there was a substantially identical statute in effect prior to 12/18/01, but it was moved by the amendment from the 'Crimes Against Morality' chapter to the 'Crimes Against Reputation, Privacy and Civil Liberties' chapter, and renumbered.

Not a problem, argued the State, we'll leave it up to the jury to decide when the recordings were made and that will determine whether it was a crime against morality or a crime against reputation because, after all, the statute — and, therefore, the crime — was the same; it was simply moved and renumbered. No biggie.

Nope, sorry about your luck, said the District II Court of Appeals, you forgot to cite the pre-12/18/01 statute number in the criminal complaint, and your proposed course of action would violate Mr. Townsend's constitutional right to be informed of the exact charges he faces in order to prepare an effective defense. Townsend dodges three felony bullets.

Townsend also challenged the four misdemeanors he was charged with, which involved knowingly “installing” a surveillance device with the intent to observe nude or partially nude persons without said nude or partially nude persons' consent.

Townsend claimed “install,” which isn't specifically defined by statute, means “permanently affix.” Yes, it may mean “affix,” said the Court of Appeals, after consultation with the New Oxford American Dictionary, but it may also simply mean “place,” and, furthermore, it would be absurd to interpret the statute to exclude hand held cellphones, which are the instruments by which a lot of your perversion is getting facilitated these days.

So, Wisconsin perverts, you're advised to consult your pre-12/18/01 surreptitious photography and adjust yourselves accordingly.

State v. Townsend (.pdf; 9 pgs.).

November 25, 2007

Someone's writing, Lord

Plaisted, that is, and it's a classic.

Definitive, even.

And one more summing up for the road, from the Brawler.

A law professor, unsurprisingly, thinks the original bumper sticker should have had a footnote: “The desire to coexist is the right instinct, but it alone won't get us very far.”

Did anybody suggest it would? And, as the folks at Whallah! pointed out about a week ago, “They weren't saying we could sing Kumbaya with Hitler in the first place.” Which is one of the reasons the “parody” fails utterly.

The “coexist” bumper sticker is nothing but an idealist, pacifist message. So in the same breath that “lefties” are getting castigated for lacking in civility, so-called conservatives — many of whom describe themselves as followers of Jesus, one of the ultimate pacifist idealist figureheads — are marshaling themselves in strenuous defense of some pre-Thanksgiving turkey's deliberate provocation of pacifist idealists as “smug little twerps”?

And equating Islam with Nazism? Aren't these the same characters who flew off the handle when Ward Churchill, in the context of Hannah Arendt's technocrats, referred to employees at the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns”? Now all of a sudden there are nuanced, rationally defensible justifications for playing the Nazi card?

Suddenly it's all about context, is it? How absolutely fascinating and instructive. Gee, I'll have to remember that.

Apparently they're pretty selective when it comes to whom they allow to get called Nazis, or any other epithets, for that matter.

But the main reason this so-called parody fails is the same folks most likely to slap the coexist bumper sticker on their cars are also the least likely to pay any attention to the “satirists” and their little cadre of apologists.

They're also far more likely to be actually doing things to promote coexistence, rather than hammering out eleventeen blog posts per day laden with manufactured outrage and cognitive dissonance, which doesn't get anyone anywhere.

November 23, 2007

For the record

While I'm duly flattered that the Journal-Sentinel's Tim Cuprisin done gimme some link lovin' over yonder, I'm afraid I have to take exception to his characterization of my being "up in arms."

I ain't up in arms, I'm bemused by the innumerable layers of irony, which you practically need a spreadsheet to keep track of. The little episode has also spawned some of the funniest expressions of faux-outrage and self-righteous blather I've seen in weeks.

One can start by having a gander at a trio of posts, starting with this one, put up by the Brew City Brawler today.

If I was so inclined, I'd say that letter from the Interfaith Conference was a Gift From God Her/Himself, given that its recipient and his clownish acolytes are apparently milking it for all its worth.

November 21, 2007

The bumper sticker Nazis

I couldn't resist having a peek at the apologia pursuant to the purportedly parodic defacement of this bumper sticker after reading Milwaukee journalist James Rowen's interesting post here.

Among the apologists is Rick Esenberg of Marquette Law School, who writes:
But appropriating the symbols of these traditions and assembling them into a command that is probably most often expressed by people who do not follow (or follow loosely) any of them strikes me as patronizing.
And this suggestion isn't?

Like an addendum to a construction contract that both deletes and adds an equal number of Allen-Bradley limit switches, I'd say the patronizing v. patronizing here is what we call “a wash.”

It's funny, because I know a lot of, for example, non-Christians who conduct themselves in a manner more in accordance with the admonitions of the founder of said religion than most of the ones who parade their alleged Christianity like a Macy's balloon.

Personally I prefer less hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance and more intellectual honesty in a bumper sticker:

Bad week for creationists

Looks like the “intelligent design movement” picked the wrong week to continue sniffing glue.

First, PBS brought its oft-celebrated dissembling modus operandi to the national airwaves. Then, “intelligent design theorist” Michael Behe was forced to admit that one of the central claims in his book, The Edge of Evolution, is demonstrably false.

Now, one of the other “intelligent design” top dogs, mathematician and theologian William Dembski, has been caught misappropriating a computer generated video, evidently the copyrighted product of Harvard University and a corporation, XVIVO.

The Behe episode is especially entertaining, as he was originally exposed by a 24-year-old female graduate student named Abbie Smith. In fact, Behe's initial response was to blow her off, for being just that, the classic ad hominem fallacy or, in this case, the argument against the woman.

But a fellow named Ian Musgrave took up cudgels on Ms. Smith's behalf and initiated a series of open letters, to which Behe responded at his blog. The entire exchange is archived here. It's a lot of reading, is quite technical, and refers to a lot of side links (all worthwhile), but it's instructive, to say the least.

Ultimately, Behe doesn't have the balls to concede the point to Ms. Smith, who made it in the first place, but rather to Musgrave.

Smith, who is rapidly becoming a cause célèbre among the biological sciences crowd, maintains a blog called ERV (short for endogenous retrovirus, since she's a researcher of HIV/AIDS). She also provides laymen's translations of her original Behe critique here and here.

In fact it was Ms. Smith who busted Dembski on the Harvard/XVIVO video as well.

That bit of unintelligent redesigning is both shameless and shameful, given the ID movement's agenda to retool scientific methodology by insisting that it allow for the Hand of Jesus in the construction of cellular organelles.

Dembski is traveling about, like a circus clown or monkey, charging several grand a pop to deliver lectures backed by a video swiped from Harvard researchers, from which he's removed the biology and added subtitles describing cells as “lilliputian machinery factories” or some such nonsense.

He's also appended to it an absurdist narration, which Abbie Smith describes as sounding like South Park's Big Gay Al.

PZ Myers of Pharyngula has a bit more on Dembski's opéra bouffe here. It might be nice to think any of this was surprising, but it isn't. It's typical. And, you can count on the glue sniffing to continue.

November 20, 2007

Re-elect Ziegler in 2017

So now that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette K. Ziegler's public hearing is complete, she'll be getting on with the business of the court for the next ten years or so. Some of my colleagues are none too pleased with a remark made yesterday by Judge Ralph Fine, one of the three State appellate judges who conducted the hearing.

Fine said Ziegler's failures to disclose her financial relationship with the West Bend Savings Bank while presiding over actions involving it as a party “hardly register as 'a blip on the screen,'” as the Journal-Sentinel reported.

One of the problems with this observation is that there were 11 blips. And then some more. Another is it closely parallels, in terms of dismissiveness, Ziegler's now-infamous excuse of having performed a “gut check” in determining whether or not she needed to violate judicial ethics guidelines by not disclosing the relationships.

So now we have a judge's duty to disclose potential conflicts of interest that make her almost an adversary to a party before her being characterized in terms of gut checks and blips on ethical screens.

While Fine may be correct that Ziegler's numerous lapses pale in comparison to other (unspecified) judicial misconduct, it's not his function to perform that analysis. It's for the members of the Supreme Court — to whom Fine et al are reporting — who will determine what, if any, sanction Justice Ziegler is to receive, albeit based on this panel's recommendations.

Speaking of legal analyses, mal contends objects to a law professor's remarks as reported in this State Journal story from the other day:
I would describe the misconduct as significant in the sense that it raises some questions about Justice Ziegler's judgment. But I wouldn't call it serious, in the sense that I think it extremely unlikely that it had any actual impact on any decisions then-Judge Ziegler made.
This is a rough statement of the classic “fair trial” analysis that appeals courts perform when confronted with the question of whether a losing defendant got a raw deal below.

In other words, the system can tolerate a certain amount of ineffective lawyering, or even mistaken rulings at trial on whether to allow certain pieces of evidence, for example, but the question remains as to if the accumulation of error gives rise to a fundamental denial of due process to the losing party.

The trouble here — and where the application of that test arguably fails — is that parties in the subject cases did not even have the opportunity to decide whether or not they wanted to continue proceedings in Judge Ziegler's courtroom, since they were never apprised of the judge's financial relationships with their adversaries.

But what Prof. Kritzer is suggesting is that yes, Ziegler should have disclosed her financial relationships but no, her failure to disclose had no effect on her ultimate disposition in a particular case. The party adverse to the party with whom Ziegler had the financial relationship would have won — or lost — in any event. And, also importantly, Judge Ziegler realized zero personal benefit in ruling as she did.

Doubtless some form of this test will inform the Supreme Court's impending decision that their newest junior associate endure the mildest of reprimands.

As Prof. Benesh of Marquette Law School suggests, the degree of punishment may be measured against the public's trust in the integrity of the system.

To which I might add, the wisdom of subjecting the composition of a State Supreme Court to the whims of the general electorate. That process is by no means as “non-partisan” as the theory — and the State law — would have us believe, as the observations of both Ziegler's defenders and detractors clearly show.

November 19, 2007

Lying for Jesus

I didn't know JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe had a blog. JIJAWM makes the rounds, fighting the good and reasonable fight against the superstitious and the gullible, at several of the local conservative circle jerks, which is why I don't see him much anymore, since I gave up reading them. For Lent. Permanently.

Anyway, JIJAWM has some fun observations on the War on Christmas™ today, featuring a fellow by the name of Mat Staver. Staver is a Florida attorney who gave up working for a living, litigating workers' comp cases, in favor of accepting tax-exempt tithes from the superstitious and the gullible, originally under the auspices of the late, unlamented Jerry Falwell.

Staver also turned up representing some fifth-tier plaintiffs in the Bush v. Gore circus that took place in that State's courts in 2000. Despite the very limited questions he was allowed to address, and the fact that the judge dozed through most his presentation, Staver constructively claimed sole responsibility for installing Bush to the presidency on his radio show, which airs weekdays at 3 p.m. on Milwaukee's own 107.7 FM.

From the archives, here's an example of the type of unseemly shenanigans Mat Staver engages in.

In January, 2002, beneath the heading Supreme Court Justice Promotes Judicial Activism, Staver posted the following commentary on his website:
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer promoted his concept of judicial activism in a speech given at the New York University School of Law. In his speech, Justice Breyer stated that “Literalist judges who emphasize language, history, tradition and precedent cannot justify their practices by claiming that is what the framers wanted.” This is an incredible statement by a Supreme Court Judge.
Incredible? Not really. What was incredible, however, is how Staver completely removed this phrase from its proper context.

In fact, there is no period at the end of the phrase Staver quote-mined, but rather a comma, and the sentence goes on to say: "for the Framers did not say specifically what factors judges should emphasize when seeking to interpret the Constitution's open language." This is not an incredible statement at all. It's a fact, and a fact that has informed the debate surrounding the so-called doctrine of original intent for many, many decades.

Staver also failed to mention that appended to this particular sentence of Justice Breyer's was a footnoted reference to Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, by Jack Rakove, a Pulitzer Prize-winning law professor at Stanford University.

As a lawyer, Staver should know that when he's citing a footnoted remark, he's to include the footnote in his citation. But, what can you expect from a guy who replaces a comma with a period.

Staver then proceeded to pose the following presumably rhetorical question:
If a judge interpreting the Constitution or a statute does not consider language, history, tradition or precedent, then what does a judge consider?
Why didn't Staver let Justice Breyer answer that question? Breyer did, in the same speech from which Staver misleadingly mined his quote:
Judges can, and should, decide most cases, including constitutional cases, through the use of language, history, tradition, and precedent. Judges will often agree as to how these factors determine a provision's basic purpose and the result in a particular case. And where they differ, their differences are often differences of modest degree. Only a handful of constitutional issues — though an important handful — are as open in respect to language, history, and basic purpose as those that I have described. And even in respect to those issues, judges must find answers within the limits set by the Constitution's language. Moreover, history, tradition, and precedent remain helpful, even if not determinative.
Staver went on to observe, with a logic derived seemingly from his apparently deliberate misquoting:
The only thing left is the judge's own personal opinion, which is cut free from the Constitution or the statutory language.
What was Staver suggesting here? That Justice Breyer decides constitutional questions based entirely on his own personal opinion, utterly disregarding constitutional "language, history, tradition, and precedent"? Even Mat Staver has to know that this is preposterous. In fact, the substance of Justice Breyer's complete speech maintains the exact opposite of what Staver was attempting to make him say.

Interestingly, Staver's context garbling was mirrored by several of his ideological allies, the most noteworthy (and comical) being Janet Folger, who wrote, “In other words, Justice Breyer doesn't really hold the Constitution in high regard."

Can she really have been serious? I think she was — which speaks volumes for her credibility, and even more for her familiarity with constitutional law. And Folger's comment was based on exactly the same misapplied fragment of Justice Breyer's sentence that Staver excised and posted on his website. Coincidence? Not.

Janet Folger, by the by, also has a radio program that's aired by 107.7. The lying for Jesus that takes place on that show is simply astounding. I recommend it to anyone with a certain sense of humor.

November 18, 2007

A tribute to you, the readers

Enter your blog's URL.

Your morning hypocrite

There is a bumper sticker one sees occasionally spelling out the word “coexist,” using a variety of religious and other symbols. For example, the 'c' is the crescent moon of Islam, the 'x' a Star of David, and the 't' a Christian cross:

Apparently some of the deep and influential thinkers on the local political right find this plea for tolerance and ecumenicism offensive, in particular the suggestion that they are being asked to “coexist” with Muslims. God forbid.

In response, one of these clever fellows revised the bumper sticker, putting a hammer and sickle where the 'e' was, and replacing the Star of David with a Nazi Swastika, a decidedly unfortunate decision, to say the least.

Graphically it wouldn't have worked to replace the crescent moon with the swastika, which was presumably the intent, but nobody should expect intellectual coherence from the local wingnuts.

Furthermore, in addressing bearers of the original sticker, the clever fellow remarks, “Coexist With The Commies And The Nazis, You Smug Little Twerp!”

The irony, of course, is the revised sticker shows Christians coexisting with Communists and Nazis, and neither Nazi Germany nor any Latin American socialist regime were exactly what you might call nations of atheists.

But the best part of this little episode concerns the triumphalist ravings of a Milwaukee radio blatherer who, I have been told, recently delivered an extended harangue condemning the lack of civility among his political opponents.

This same blatherer, amazingly, reproduced all of the above — and more — at his official internet site, which is hosted by the largest media conglomerate in Wisconsin. And, even more amazingly, the blatherer labeled his entry, “PURE GENIUS” in 24-point bold font, and bestowed the revisor of the bumper sticker with the congratulatory adjective, “brilliant.”

I have no desire to link to any of this laughable hypocrisy, but AQM's got it all here. Très amusant. And, to be sure, pathetic.

November 16, 2007

A creationist "Senior Fellow"

As noted below, Seattle's Discovery Institute is a “think tank” from whence much of the “intelligent design theory” issues, generally in the form of political rhetoric and pronouncements grounded in an allegedly objective morality. Science? Not so much.

Now comes news (nice picture) the DI has named as a “Senior Fellow” the noted population geneticist Michael Medved. Mr. Medved's contributions to evolutionary biology are legion, not least of which are his review of Jurassic Park and his recent apologetic for American slavery, published by

As a Senior Fellow, Mr. Medved outranks such luminaries of biology as the mere Fellow Nancy Pearcey, whose scientific credentials include “graduate work at the Institute for Christian Studies” in Toronto, which corresponds roughly to authoring a scholarly paper on the behavioral psychology of leprechauns.

Apparently the DI has now discharged all pretense to credibility, and Mr. Medved's appointment to Senior Fellow serves only to confirm that the intelligent design movement truly is nothing more than “creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” a set of fallacious assertions against evolution and a dyspeptic, polemical rejection of the fact that our species is as much a part of nature as any other creature.

It is, as another of the DI's Senior Fellows acknowledged during the Dover trial, every bit as scientific as a horoscope and nothing more than a ploy to smuggle religion into the one remaining area of human endeavor where it clearly has no place.

Its advocates shouldn't be granted an inch of concession.

November 15, 2007

cdesign proponentsists

PBS's science program NOVA on Tuesday night ran a by turns edifying and irritating special on the creationist shenanigans that occurred in Dover, PA, in 2005. A couple of fundamentalist Christian knuckleheads called Bonsell and Buckingham tried to smuggle their religion into high school biology class there, an attempt that resulted in a federal bench trial and a 139-page creationist smackdown authored by John E. Jones III, a conservative Republican judge.

An unrepentant Buckingham, who apparently lied under oath at trial, is interviewed calling Judge Jones a “jackass,” and it's reported that Jones and the parents and science teachers who complained against the creationist scam artists received death threats during the proceedings. Feel the Christian love.

All because the creationists are too willfully ignorant to appreciate the elegant and ingenious manner in which the God they claim to worship went about introducing life on Earth: biological evolution.

The two-hour program, which is available for viewing online starting tomorrow, is not kind to the creationists; but neither was Judge Jones's opinion, which referenced the “breathtaking inanity” of the creationist members of the local school board and noted that
It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the [“intelligent design”] Policy.
The so-called intelligent design policy — which has been famously and accurately described as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” — consisted of the mandated reading in biology class of a fatuous anti-evolution diatribe and the placement in the school of several dozen copies of a creationist textbook, Of Pandas and People.

The books, which Bonsell and Buckingham at one point claimed appeared out of nowhere — creatio ex nihilo, as it were — it turns out were purchased by Bonsell's father with tithes solicited by Buckingham through his church.

One of the more amusing episodes in the special concerned documents obtained by the plaintiffs during pre-trial discovery, documents that showed the evolutionary precursors of the text in Of Pandas and People. The text, which originally contained dozens of references to “creation” and “creationists,” was modified to substitute various permutations of the term “design,” ostensibly so as not to offend the long string of federal and State judicial opinions which have essentially declared creationism and “creation science” to be religious shams masquerading as science and, as such, their inclusion in public school curricula a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Click to see a funny graph. (1987 is the year the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Louisiana creation science [sic] decision, Edwards v. Aguillard. Incidentally, Justice Scalia's Edwards dissent contains possibly the most palpably ridiculous argument ever memorialized on the pages of the United States Reports.)

In one particularly awkward textual substitution, the expression “cdesign proponentsists” appears, an attempt to simply replace “creationists” with “design proponents.”

What makes this especially comical is the reliable demand anti-evolutionists are constantly making, which is for scientists to produce “transitional forms,” that is, creatures intermediate between, for example, land mammals and whales, dinosaurs and birds, or fish and amphibians.

Whenever such creatures are produced — and they are numerous — creationists either somehow deny their status as transitional forms or else demand additional transitional forms representative of the newly created transitional “gap.” So the comedy inheres in the status of “cdesign proponentsists” as a transitional form, hard evidence of the evolution of creationism to intelligent design (without any new data or novel argumentation).

Much of the NOVA special is devoted to reenactments of the bench trial, and especially the testimony of the star creationist witness, Michael Behe. Behe is shown engaging in the time honored creationist device of misrepresenting the work of a scientist, David DeRosier, a professor of biology at Brandeis University.

DeRosier, who has devoted considerable study to the flagellum, the part of a cell which makes it move about, made the mistake of referring to it metaphorically as “a machine.” Behe takes DeRosier's characterization literally, and uses the flagellum as the centerpiece of his “theory” that Jesus the Millwright installed the flagellum into creation fully formed. Behe further alleges that the flagellum is “irreducibly complex,” meaning that if any of its constituent proteins are removed, it's useless for any other purpose.

DeRosier himself turns up to expose Behe's buffoonery, and gives examples of “reducibly complex” flagella, that is, structurally similar yet missing constituent proteins and performing different functions. Behe declined to participate in what his colleagues at Seattle's Discovery Institute — where the cheap tuxedo is maintained — have termed a “propaganda piece.”

In another trial reenactment, a lawyer for the plaintiffs piles Behe's witness box with articles and books discussing the evolution of immune systems, literature Behe essentially claimed didn't exist. He continues to insist that it's “unsatisfactory,” or something.

Then lawyers for the Thomas More Law Center, the "Christian answer to the ACLU" who represented the defendant creationists, complain that Judge Jones overreached in his decision by declaring that intelligent design is not science, despite their specifically having asked him to rule on that very question. There's just no pleasing some people.

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial, will be viewable at this link. Trial documents and Judge Jones's opinion in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District are archived here.

And TalkOrigins, the internet's premiere biology clearing house, has the complete trial transcripts at this page. The cross examination (“with cheerful mercilessness”) of Michael Behe by Eric Rothschild of Pepper Hamilton is particularly entertaining.