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Saturday, December 09, 2006

LTE on Prager

Prager and the oath (Strib)

He's not fit for council

As an individual, Dennis Prager should be able to make any stupid comment he likes about oath-taking for members of Congress. However, as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, his recent statements about Keith Ellison seem to negate one of the purposes of this museum and memory space, which is: "to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy."

Clearly Prager should resign and stick to radio.

Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies,
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Ed Koch Calls for Prager's Ouster from Holocaust Museum Board


Koch Calls for Pundit's Ouster from Shoah Council

Jennifer Siegel Fri. Dec 08, 2006
The Jewish Daily Forward

Former New York City Mayor Edward Koch has called for Dennis Prager to resign or be removed from United States Holocaust Memorial Council, in response to the pundit's recent insistence that a Muslim congressman should not be sworn in using a Quran.

"There is no question that Dennis Prager is a bigot who ought to be repudiated even by his closest supporters," Koch said this morning in an interview with the Forward. "His statements are a disgrace ... and I will be down there calling for the council to condemn him, and, if we have the power, to remove him."


Koch, like Prager, serves on the 55-member memorial council, which oversees the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. He said he plans to take up the issue at a December 18 meeting of the advisory panel in Washington, if Prager does not resign. A second committee member, who did not want to be named publicly, also said she was disturbed by Prager's comments, and would likely support action support calling for his withdrawal.

I'm sure Prager will ask more of his listeners to write the Holocaust Musueum to support him.

Republican State Central Committee Report

Andy from Residual Forces has waxed eloquent in several posts. He put together a few pieces of literature. This piece I think says it well.

Ron Carey's speech talked about the take home message from the election was to run more candidates like Michele Bachmann. That's going to be poison for the party in the western suburbs.

Drama Queen Goes Out on the Limb

I saw Michael Brodkorb at the State Central Committee meeting. I asked him on the record what he thought of the Mark Olson affair. He said that Mark Olson should resign.

Vikings Plan to Lobby City of Minneapolis for Subsidy Rather than Hennepin County

I've heard this from a reliable source. Developing...

Strib Had Target Tax Abatement Story Before Election: Chose to Hold It

I got this from a Hennepin County Commissioner. This is appalling.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Foley Report In - Gets Top Coverage


Will Hatch Work for Swanson?


Attorney General Mike Hatch will vacate his big office in the west wing of the State Capitol when his term ends in early January, but there's a chance he'll stay on as a staff member under Attorney General-elect Lori Swanson, who has been his long-time top deputy and confidante as solicitor general.

The arrangement would be unusual and potentially controversial, say some observers, creating a perception that Hatch is still in charge of an office that he held for two terms and often has described as his life's passion.

Swanson said Thursday that she has asked fellow DFLer Hatch to consider serving as a regular assistant attorney in the office.

Perhaps he would have special responsibilities for assembling a team of lawyers who handle particularly complex litigation, she said.

Hatch is an "incredibly talented" and "phenomenal" attorney, Swanson said, "and when you have a team, you look for all the talent you can find."

Hatch said that he has not decided whether to take the offer and that if he does, he probably will stay no more than a few weeks, or however long it takes to get the complex-litigation team going. Swanson said she viewed the offer as "not necessarily indefinite. "There are lots of offers that I'm looking at," Hatch said, from law firms, companies and other institutions. "If I accept [the Swanson offer] it would be for a short period."

David Schultz, a Hamline University law professor and expert in ethics, said that Hatch going to work for his former subordinate appears to be legal, but that it would make some citizens wonder "if the tail is wagging the dog. Would he be seen as the de facto attorney general? It raises all kinds of questions about who's running things, given the close relationship they've always had."

Schultz added, "Voters also have to be wondering whether Mike Hatch was running for two positions, governor and attorney general, this fall. It will be hard for him to go from top banana to second fiddle, and you don't ever see this kind of dynamic work. The smartest thing when a leader leaves is to really leave."

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said Hatch working for Swanson would look "odd, like kind of a switcheroo. It kind of reminds you of when Governor George Wallace [of Alabama] had his wife run for governor, and everybody knew who the real governor was."

Ouch! Direct hit from Seifert.

This is bad press for Lori Swanson. This was her response:

Calling the shots

Swanson said such perceptions are off base.

"I will be the attorney general, and I'm going to call the shots as I see them," Swanson said. "I'm passionate about the work of the office, I believe in the work of the office, and it's the reason I jumped into this race."

When the DFL Party's endorsed candidate for attorney general, former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, dropped out of the race last summer, Hatch made it clear that Swanson was by far his favorite choice to replace Entenza on the ticket.

Swanson won the primary and general election with Hatch's advice and support, and Hatch has described Swanson as one of the top advisers and strategists for his gubernatorial race.

He said Swanson, who worked for Hatch's law firm before he was elected in 1998, was one of the strongest personalities in his office and not the kind of person who is seeking or who would take orders from her former boss.

The job offer was a "noble offer," Hatch said, and Swanson eventually will be remembered as "the most impressive attorney general we've ever had."

In other personnel decisions Swanson appears to be essentially keeping the top layer of officials that Hatch had in place. Swanson said Kris Eiden will stay on as a chief deputy, and Al Gilbert, another top Hatch deputy, will take Swanson's position as solicitor general.

Hatch already is in the process of moving out of his office and is working part of the time from Swanson's office in downtown St. Paul, Swanson said.

When the Strib's Syl Jones wrote a devastating column attacking Mike Hatch, Swanson wrote a counterpoint defending Hatch.

Minnesota Republicans Cut Ties With Mark Olson.

KSTP Eyewitness News reports:

Minnesota House Republicans are breaking off ties with a fellow GOP legislator facing domestic abuse charges.

Republicans voted Thursday to oust seven-term Representative Mark Olson of Big Lake from the caucus. In short, they won't supply him with staff support or other services. Caucus spokeswoman Jodi Boyne says the move means -- quote -- "Basically, he's on his own."

Olson says he'll hang in there.

More at the Dump Mark Olson Blog

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Robin Marty Interviews Arianna Huffington


According to the New York Times, you are going to be adding original reporting to the Huffington Post. Are there any other changes in the works for the HuffPo? What is your view on the state of the media currently, and where do you see both the MSM and blogs heading in the upcoming few years?

For the HuffPost, it will be more video, more investigative pieces, more viral/satiric content -- more, more, more.

We don't need to choose sides… Are you into TV or YouTube? Yahoo News or the New York Times? Blogs or Newsweek? As these are either/or distinctions. The more I hear this kind of talk, the more I realize that it has about as much real world relevance as "tastes great" vs "less filling". It's as outdated as the old Ginger vs Mary Ann barroom argument. Why do we have to choose? This is 2006 -- why not just have a three-way. After all, polyamory is very hot right now. We have polygamy on HBO, we can have polygamedia in our consumption habits.

So give me blogs… and my hard copy newspaper. Let me watch stuff on TiVo, DVD, YouTube, on an iPod… and on cable TV. That is the biggest change: consumers who want what they want, when they want it… and in a variety of media.

Huffington will speak at the annual luncheon for the Minnesota Women's Political Caucus.

When Will We Stop Trying to Grow "The Roses of Success"?

"Every bursted bubble has a glory!
Each abysmal failure makes a point!
Every glowing path that goes astray,
Shows you how to find a better way.
So every time you stumble never grumble.
Next time you'll bumble even less!
For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!"

Star Tribune editor Doug Tice dropped in recently on Eric Black's "Big Question" blog to wring his hands over the lack of optimism in the last election... particularly among Democratic voters:

Optimism about America’s future declined sharply among Democratic voters between 2000 and 2006. Fewer than half as many Democrats told pollsters they thought life will improve for the next generation of Americans on November 7 than had thought so on Election Day 2000. Republicans were a bit more pessimistic, too, but only a bit.

It’s hard to doubt that the darkening Democratic mood over recent years is (like so much else?) Bush’s fault.

The dreariness among Democrats would seem to reflect the distress, anger and frustration so many liberals have felt and expressed about the Bush presidency, the war in Iraq and the general conservative direction of public policy in recent years.
There has long been something mysterious and hard to comprehend about the apocalyptic depths of this anti-Bush feeling, at least for those who don’t fully share it. But the Pew numbers are further evidence that it is for real.

But is there more than that in these numbers? Is optimism an inherently Republican attitude? Are Democrats pessimists at heart?

William Prendergast of the Stillwater Tribune and the Dump Bachmann blog comments:

I laughed when I read that, too. It’s still “mysterious” to people like Doug why the anti-Bush feeling runs so deep.

Amazing, that anyone could still be puzzled about why anti-Bush feeling runs so deep. A recent article quotes five respected historians–they compare his presidency with previous ones and four out of five of them list GWB as among the worst presidents ever. (The fifth dissenting historian, who disagrees, is a former Bush speech writer. He points out that Bush passed NCLB and a prescription drug bill–which small- government consevatives despise.)

Doug–it’s no mystery why so many people despise Bush. It’s his awful leadership. Read the guy’s autobiography, “A Charge to Keep”–it’s the story of a nothing man, promoted into power through his personal charisma and his family’s heavy connections. The biggest thing he ever achieved personally, all by himself, was to stop drinking in order to save his marriage. That’s not a qualification for leadership of the United States of America.

And then you have his record as President–the loss of the WTC and the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon, campaigning to actively promote the election of the Republicans for Congress, a Congress that the voters just dismissed en masse for corruption and conservative hypocrisy at the highest levels–and the war in Iraq, a cynical con job selling it to America, and an absolute disaster in its execution.

And you’re still puzzled by the depth of this anti-Bush feeling?


Bill Prendergast is obviously a pessimist or more accurately, a realist. Realists are shunned in our society which in large part is based on the notion that no task is impossible and the nearly impossible tasks are the ones to accomplish first... like building space colonies on the moon or a war to "free Iraq".

I recently discovered on You Tube a video produced by British animator and blogger Tim Ireland that parodies the overblown optimism of the folks who brought us the Iraq War:

The tune "Roses of Success" comes from the movie version of Ian Fleming's story "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". The song was written by the Sherman Brothers who wrote many songs for Walt Disney in the golden age of optimism that followed the Second World War. Among their familiar tunes are "Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins" and that hopeful theme park classic "It's a Small World". In this You Tube video, you can hear "The Roses of Success" being sung by the wacky, but ever-optimistic inventors in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:

I don't think optimism is the problem, I think that optimism has been hijacked by some folks to make a buck... and the major media is mostly to blame. If the major media had been skeptical about the reasons we went to war, it is possible the disaster could have been avoided. But, nothing sells newspapers like a war.

And it's not just war. The media hypes all kinds of boondoggles that either go belly-up or end up costing gazillions of dollars. For instance here in Minneapolis, we're building stadiums while closing libraries... and that product of misguided optimism is a bipartisan effort.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Nick Coleman on Mayor Rybak and City Council Priorities


As it considers a plan to close libraries in three parts of town that lack well-heeled political clout, Minneapolis somehow has found the money for new programs designed to make politicians look good.

This is part of the prettifying of a city that continues to let basic services shrivel while raising taxes. This is known as putting lipstick on a pig.

Here are a few examples of new programs funded with new money while the $300,000 or $400,000 it would take to keep the three community libraries open cannot be found.

• $100,000 from the general fund (the first time it has happened) to a nonprofit tree-planting group. This is how tree huggers get a bad name.

• $50,000 to add an aide to the office of Mayor R.T. Rybak. This aide will specialize in education policy. Education apparently does not include keeping libraries open.

• $150,000 to hire liquor-license inspectors so bar owners can get licenses faster, while libraries that somehow stayed open during the Depression close in the middle of a city building boom. Maybe we need whiskey in the libraries.

• Hundreds of thousands of dollars more to speed city permits and hire an environmental champion to begin the Mill City's fight against global warming. Hooray! Al Gore's call to save the planet has been heard in City Hall! Too bad Al didn't say anything about saving libraries.

• And $35,000 to hire a person to sit in the City Hall corridor along 5th Street and help visitors who are lost. It is not visitors who have lost their compass. It is the politicians.

Astonishing. Appalling.

The mayor and the council are proposing a 2007 budget that includes about a million for new positions and programs (not counting public safety) while closing libraries.

Although the Library Board finally seems to be retreating in the face of public anger and today plans to discuss options aimed at keeping at least the Southeast and Webber Park libraries open, there seems to be no hope in store for the Roosevelt library, which is just as deserving as the other two. The City Council is scheduled to make a final budget decision on the three libraries at 5 p.m. on Monday.

The library mess represents a giant dereliction of duty and abdication of responsibility shared by an ineffective Library Board, a blame-shifting mayor and a City Council that has too many dim bulbs on it.

There are noble exceptions on the council side, and they have paid a price for being outspoken.

When Council Member Gary Schiff tried to shift the money to fight global warming to the libraries, he was publicly chewed out by Rybak, who practically wept tears of outrage as he accused Schiff of ignoring Al Gore's commandments. And Council Member Diane Hofstede, a former president and long-time member of the Library Board, was slapped down when she moved to postpone new (non-public safety) city hires for six months.

That delay would have saved the city half a million dollars, more than enough to keep the three jeopardized libraries open.

"Closing libraries will be a scar on the heart of the city," Hofstede said Tuesday. "There is a big lack of leadership in this city. How can you claim to care about families and children when you are closing neighborhood libraries?"

Schiff is more emphatic: "Taxes are going up, and services are being cut," he said. "We're not covering the basics. Our priorities are awry."

Hofstede and Schiff are among the stalwart few still fighting for the libraries. That decision will come Monday, when the council takes up final passage of the 2007 budget. Your vote might still make the difference.

Here are the numbers to call:

Mayor R.T. Rybak: (612) 673-2100

City Council: (612) 673-2200

Truth In Taxation Hearing

December 7, 2006
5:30 PM
Commissioner Board Room
A2400 Hennepin County Government Center

I'm going to go to this and testify. The Target tax abatement, plus the Vikings Stadium issue has motivated me to do this.

Upcoming Circus

Triple A talks about the Republican Party of Minnesota budget.

The State Central Committee meeting is December 9. This should be interesting.



City a star in local author's thriller
Landmarks plentiful in attorney's first novel
Pioneer Press

Take a U.S. senator and a bit of Summit Avenue, mix in a serial killer in the Midway and a prominent St. Peter Street technology firm and you've got the makings of peril to the free world, as local novelist Roger Stelljes envisions it.

He calls it "The St. Paul Conspiracy." The Twin Cities attorney has just published the book, a first novel based on the premise that not just all politics, but all political thrillers, are local.

"I went to law school at (William) Mitchell and I lived in St. Paul for two or three years after law school as well," Stelljes said. "I just fell in love with the city when I was there … so when I sat down to write, I wanted to do it in St. Paul."

As local authors John Camp, Chuck Logan, Theresa Monsour and others have discovered, it's fertile ground for popular fiction.

But few have adopted the city in such proximate detail: Much of the action takes place in Ward 2, between downtown and Lexington Parkway.

The book opens with the arrest of the state's Republican U.S. senator on suspicion of the Grand Avenue slaying of his illicit girlfriend. A host of St. Paul institutions and landmarks — most of them thinly disguised — figure into the action, including Patrick McGovern's tavern, the Victory Ramp, KSTP-TV, the Lawson Software headquarters and the RiverCentre parking ramp.

Two characters sound a lot like Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

"I didn't really use either of them as the basis for those characters — although when people read the book, I can see how they might think of Gaertner and Coleman just because of who they are," says Stelljes, who went to Osseo High School and now lives in Maple Grove with his wife and two children.

The regulars on DU are discussing this.

CAIR Ramps It Up on Dennis Prager

President Asked to Rescind Appointment of Dennis Prager

Wed Dec 6, 3:39 PM ET

To: City Desk

Contact: Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 202-488-8787, or 202-744-7726, or

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on President Bush to rescind the appointment of radio talk show host Dennis Prager to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council because of his intolerant views toward Islam in American society.

Earlier this week, CAIR urged the taxpayer-supported museum's council to remove Prager because of a recent syndicated column in which he wrote that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, should be prevented from taking his oath of office using the Quran.

In his commentary, Prager wrote that swearing an oath on the Quran "undermines American civilization." "Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible," wrote Prager. "If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."

Prager also wrote that Ellison's swearing on a Quran would "be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11."

On Tuesday, the Holocaust Museum distanced itself from Prager's views, but indicated that it did not have the power to remove him from the council. The museum's statement said: "Talk show host Dennis Prager speaks solely for himself. His statements do not reflect the position of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, whose board is not self-appointed."

A number of groups and commentators have rejected Prager's views. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called his comments "intolerant, misinformed and downright un-American." The New York Sun said today: "Mr. Prager is not only wrong but his comments are so outrageous and, by our lights, almost unbelievably ignorant."

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said in a statement: "The criticism by Dennis Prager of Rep. Keith Ellison's use of the Koran for taking the oath of office is irreconcilable with American law and ideals as well as Jewish values and interests."

President Bush recently appointed Prager to the governing board of the Holocaust Memorial Museum for the remainder of a five year term expiring Jan. 15, 2011.

In a letter to President Bush, CAIR wrote:

"If put into practice, Mr. Prager's exclusionary and intolerant views would permanently marginalize every minority faith in America and would violate the constitutional ban on a state-sponsored religion.

"By taking action to disassociate your administration from Prager's remarks, you will send a positive message to all those in this country and worldwide who believe in religious diversity and mutual understanding.

"As a private citizen, Mr. Prager has the absolute right to hold whatever views he chooses, no matter how divisive or ill- informed. But as a presidential appointee to a taxpayer-funded institution, he must be held to a higher moral standard.

"We therefore respectfully request that you rescind your appointment of Dennis Prager to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council."

The U.S. Constitution states that "no religious test shall ever be required" to hold public office. No books of any kind are used in the actual swearing-in ceremony. Representatives may use any book they choose or no book at all, during later ceremonial events.


CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

I'm sure Dennis Prager is an embarrassment to President Bush. I doubt if he will listen to CAIR.

The New York Sun was unable to get any comment from the Whitehouse.

From the Sun:

It was not immediately clear whether Cair's call for Mr. Prager's ouster would have any impact. The group's request was directed to the chairman of the Holocaust council, Fred Zeidman. He has no obvious authority to remove the talk show host, who was appointed to the council by President Bush in August.

Cair's credibility as an advocate for tolerance could also be undercut by its own links with Islamic groups that the government has accused of being fronts for terrorism. Cair describes itself as a "a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group," but at least three of its officials have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses. The organization has denied any connection to terrorism, but also has criticized nearly every terrorism-related prosecution brought by the federal government.

A White House spokeswoman had no comment last night on the controversy. Mr. Zeidman did not return a call seeking comment for this article.

Dennis Prager has been asking listeners on his show to write to CAIR and to write letters to the editor at the Star Tribune.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bonnie B Claims It's All Homophobia

City Pages Blotter here.

Give me a break.

Holocaust Museum Distances Itself from Prager

Minnesota Monitor:

Holocaust Memorial Reaction

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial distanced itself from Prager in a short statement.

"Talk show host Dennis Prager speaks solely for himself," the emailed statement from a media relations contact read. "His statements do not reflect the position of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum."

Ellison wasn't available for comment on Tuesday.

If Prager isn't dismissed from the Holocaust Memorial, CAIR officials said that they will gauge the next course of action, but didn't give details.

During his radio show today and yesterday Prager asked listeners to write letters to the editor about this editorial from the Strib. He didn't like being called a "gasbag". Well if the shoe fits.

Prager also claimed he never bashed Muslims in his life. I suppose this was praise for muslims:

This argument appeals to all those who believe that one of the greatest goals of America is to be loved by the world, and especially by Muslims because then fewer Muslims will hate us (and therefore fewer will bomb us).

But these naive people do not appreciate that America will not change the attitude of a single American-hating Muslim by allowing Ellison to substitute the Koran for the Bible. In fact, the opposite is more likely: Ellison's doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America.

Michael Medved responded to Prager's call for Ellison to go ahead and swear on the Koran, but also have the bible present.

Paul from Minneapolis comments:

The guy you linked to just below calls him a racist. Or at least the headline does; and I don't think every two-bit website has headline writers. He also engages in the utterly dishonest characterization of Prager's use of Mein Kampf in the original column, in the manner Prager talks about.

Using words like "whining" is a cheap tactic. For myself, I agree with him: almost every enraged response I've seen has been characterized by some amount of venom but more importantly dishonesty, as he says. Honest venom is fine. Dishonest venom is not.

I do think it's interesting, if true, as Prager says, that this is the first time a national politician has rejected the Bible (or the Torah, which in Prager's mind stands as part of the Bible, although it's not his preference for swearing-in purposes) in favor of an entirely different spiritual source. And I also think it's true that it's not Prager who made this an issue, it's Ellison. He was making a statement; according to the left, is the only permissible response to that statement to have no resposnse or to praise it? Criticism is simply not allowed? Huh.

Poor me blather in my view is whining. Prager can dish it out with strong - and hateful - rhetoric, but has a hard time with people reacting. Prager made this an issue by writing that over the top column.

It's not just the left that's been condemning Prager's column. Glenn Reynolds, Eugene Volokh, Stephen Bainbridge, Michael Medved - and many other conservatives have condemned Prager's column.

New Wikipedia Pages for Two Minnesota Politicians

I put up a Zimmermann Wikipedia page and a Mark Olson Wikipedia page. It will be interesting to see who shows up to "edit" those two pages. Dean has an appointment in Federal Court on the 19th and Olson has been charged with domestic assault and will appear in court on the 12th. Here's a picture I took when Mark and Dean appeared together at Minneapolis City Hall back in 2004:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Dennis Prager Responds to Critics


He starts out by whining:

In addition, there was widespread coverage on left-wing blogs, which, with no exception I could find, distorted what I said, charging my column and me with, for example, racism (see below), when race plays no role at all in this issue or in my column. For the record, because I deem this a significant statement about most of the Left, I found virtually no left-wing blog that was not filled with obscenity-laced descriptions of me. Aside from the immaturity and loathing of higher civilization that such public use of curse words reveal, the fury and hate render the leftist charge that it is the Right that is hate-filled one of the most obvious expressions of psychological projection I have seen in my lifetime.

I haven't seen such descriptions of Prager. I called him a theocrat (and a column like the one he wrote justifies that), and others have called him a bigot. That is hardly obscenity-laced. It is strong language. Prager used strong language - and emotional comparisons in his column.

I'm sure that Prager has received hate mail since his column got so much attention. That's unpleasant - but hate mail gets sent to right wingers and left wingers. You can't pin that down to one group of people.

Thanks to commenter Paul from Minneapolis for pointing this out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Minute Maid's Orange Juice Ad Promoting Homosexuality

Oh my!

Talking Points Memo Cafe on Prager

M.J. Rosenberg writes about it

The ADL statement reveals that Prager is a member of the United States Holocaust Council which is an official US government position. He should be forced to resign or face removal. The idea that a bigot sits on a body designed to commemorate victims of genocide is appalling.

It is worth noting that the charter of the Holocaust Council makes specific reference to the homosexual victims of the Holocaust, along with Jews, gypsies, and others. Prager is one of the right's most outspoken gay-bashers.

Rosenberg finds a column where Prager waxes eloquent on homosexuality.

Let Prager know what you think of his column by emailing him at

Norm Coleman: The Bible is the Foundation Of Our Nation

There's a discussion of CAIR's call for the Removal of Dennis Prager from the Holocaust Museum board over at the Drama Queen's blog. One commenter posts Norm Coleman's response to his or her email:

I chose to take my oath of office on the Bible, and find its teachings to be part of the foundation of this nation. However, the Constitution permits elected officials to be sworn into office using whatever document they wish as long as they profess a willingness to state the truth. Moreover, when Members of the House of Representatives officially take their oath of office, they do not use any object to swear on. Only for unofficial photo reenactments do Members select their own religious objects to use. As the elected representative of Minnesota's 5th district, Representative-elect Ellison has expressed his preference to use a Koran for this occasion, as is within his Constitutional rights.

Thank you once again for contacting me. I am humbled to serve as your Senator, and hope you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue of concern to you or your family.

Norm Coleman
United States Senate

I have written Coleman on this topic. I have not gotten a response.

Anti-Defamation League on Prager

Press Release here:

ADL Statement on Dennis Prager's Attack On Muslim Congressman for Taking Oath of Office on Koran

New York, NY, December 1, 2006 - The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued the following statement in response to Dennis Prager's November 28 online column, "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on," where he said that the first Muslim elected to Congress should not be permitted to take his oath of office on a Koran:

Dennis Prager's argument that Representative-Elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, should not be permitted to take his oath of office on a Koran is, intolerant, misinformed and downright un-American.

Prager is flat-out wrong when he asserts that Representative Ellison's use of a Koran would be "damaging to the fabric of American civilization." To the contrary, the U.S. Constitution guarantees that, "no religious test shall ever be required" to hold public office in America. Members of Congress, like all Americans, should be free to observe their own religious practices without government interference or coercion.

Prager's patriotic prattling is misinformed on the facts, too. No Member of Congress is officially sworn in with a Bible. Under House rules, the official swearing-in ceremony is done in the House chambers, with the Speaker of the House administering the oath of office en masse. No Bibles or other holy books are used at all. Members may, if they choose, also have a private ceremony with family and friends. At these unofficial ceremonies, Members frequently solemnize the event by taking an oath while holding a personal family Bible.

Prager ridiculously asserts that permitting Rep. Ellison to take the oath of office would "be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11." What he fails to understand is that what truly unifies all Americans is a value system built on religious freedom and pluralism, not dogmatism and coercion.

Prager presents intolerant, ugly views. His comparison of Ellison's desire to "choose his favorite book" to that of the right of a racist elected to public office to use Hitler's Mein Kampf is outrageous. If Prager were merely a blogger and radio talk-show host trying to be relevant and provocative, these views might not merit a response. But as a newly-appointed member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Prager and his views must be held to a higher standard.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

I agree. Prager's appointment should be pulled.

More at the Moderate Voice and debate link.

Steven Bainbridge

In fact, however, my understanding is that Jewish politicians and civil servants often take the oath of office by swearing on the Torah rather than the Christian Bible. (Anybody got any empirical evidence on way or the other?)

In the second, and more importantly, while I am a firm believer in the idea that immigrants to the United States (and their children) should be encouraged to assimilate to American culture, I don't share Prager's notion that it's necessary for politicians and government officials to "take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book" in order to "affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization."

Why not? For one thing, freedom of religious exercise is a core value of American civilization. Requiring someone to take an oath on the holy book of a faith he or she does not share violates that person's right to freely exercise their religion (not to mention constituting a government endorsement of that religion). Hence, for example, despite many movies to the contrary, courts generally do not require atheists to swear on the Bible or even to say "so help me god" before testifying.

Perhaps more seriously, however, Prager's claims remind me very much of certain arguments made by earlier Americans. We learn from the Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, that:

John Jay, of New York, who afterwards became Chief Justice of the United States, succeeded in fastening upon the Constitution of his own state a provision which denied the privilege of citizenship to every foreign-born Catholic unless he would first abjure and renounce all allegiance to the pope in matters ecclesiastical.

When Prager says to Ellison "America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath," I hear the echoes of John Jay. There's not much daylight between the arguments Prager is making and those made by generations of WASPs to keep people of my faith out of the public arena.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Octopus escaping through a 1 inch hole

Octopuses have an amazing ability to squeeze through tiny crevices, cracks and holes. My fall BIOS independent studies student, Raymond Deckel is investigating just how small a hole Octopus macropus can fit through as well as how long it takes them to squeeze through different sizes of holes. CAABS intern Rowena Day, NSF-REU intern Jared Kibele as well as teaching assistant Abel Valdivia help wrangle the 232 g octopus, Ray times it’s escape through a 1 inch hole while I shot video clips for later analysis. Location: Whalebone Bay, St. George’s, Bermuda.

Dr. James B. Wood - BIOS
The Cephalopod Page

Hat Tip: Pharyngula

Dennis Prager Put in His Place

Paula Zahn Now:

ZAHN: Tonight's top story in politics, a controversy of biblical proportion. For the first time ever, voters have elected a Muslim to the House of Representatives. But when the congressman elect was asked if he will take the oath of office using a Bible, he said he'd rather use his faith's own holy book, the Koran. Some people say that's un-American.


REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: In America today, it is no longer about just smaller government and no taxes, it is about everybody counts, and everybody matters.

ZAHN (voice-over): Keith Ellison made history on election night by becoming the first Muslim ever elected to Congress. The 43-year- old Democrat and Detroit native was raised Catholic, but converted to Islam in college.

ELLISON: My name is Keith Ellison, I'm running for United States Congress.

ZAHN: He's been an attorney, a political activist and a member of the Minnesota legislature. During the campaign, he pointed out that he's neither a cleric nor a religious scholar. But after getting elected with 56 percent of the vote in a racially-diverse Minneapolis district, Ellison said he wanted to use a Koran instead of a Bible when he's sworn in next January.

Both the Constitution itself and the very first law of Congress ever passed back in 1789 require all government officials swear or affirm an oath to protect the Constitution. There's no requirement to use a Bible to administer that oath.

President George Washington on his own used a Bible at his inauguration in 1789, but the next president, John Adams was sworn in using a law book. For more than a century now, presidents have all been sworn in with the Bible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

ZAHN: It is different for members of Congress. They usually take their oath of office twice, first all together on the House floor, during a big opening day ceremony without a Bible.

In a statement to CNN, Ellison says the U.S. Congress will not be changing the swearing in ceremony for Representative Ellison, nor has anyone asked them to.

The most likely place where Ellison would use his Koran would be during the unofficial swearing in photo sessions with the speaker of the House.


ZAHN: The very notion of using the Koran instead of the Bible, even for swearing in, that is nothing more than a photo op has some people really upset, including one of my next guests.

Radio host and columnist Dennis Prager has written that a swearing in using the Koran would undermine the fabric of American civilization. He joins us tonight from Los Angeles, along with UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. And here with me in New York is Daisy Khan, the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancing. Welcome all.

Dennis, I want to start with you tonight and start off by reading a small part of the editorial you wrote, where you said "when all elected officials, take the oath of office, with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed it change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America than the terrorists of 9/11."

How can you charge that someone expressing religious freedom would be causing the kind of damage that the 9/11 terrorists did?

DENNIS PRAGER, RADIO HOST: Well the issue isn't expressing religious freedom. As I also wrote in there, I would fight for his right to worship as a Muslim, to run for Congress as a Muslim. That's not the issue.

This is Prager's first lie. Read his column. He does not say this.

The issue is exactly as you put it earlier. What is the book that these people affirm as the central text of American life? Now some people will say the Constitution. But the Constitution derives its legitimacy from that Bible. Secular congressmen have all used the Bible. They don't believe in it.

Mormons do not ask for the book of Mormon. If a scientologist ran, would he ask for Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard)? If a racist ran, would he ask for Mein Kampf? We are starting a very unfortunate further unraveling of the fabric of American life. That's my worry.

ZAHN: Eugene, does the Constitution say anything about using a religion text when being sworn in for Congress?

EUGENE VOLOKH, UCLA LAW PROFESSOR: Well it actually does say a couple of things. First, it doesn't even require congressman to use any religious text or any religious component. It specifically provides that they may affirm, rather than swearing. That was for the benefit of people who have a religious objection to invoking God in an oath.

Quakers were a traditional example. And for example, President Herbert Hoover was sworn in without putting his hand on any book. So already we've departed from Dennis's vision of everybody swearing on the same book.

It also says no religious text shall be used for government office. And when you're required to swear on the book of a religion that is different from you, not traditionally you've done it, that would be an impermissible religious test. More importantly, the purpose of an oath....

ZAHN: ... OK, we've just lost Eugene. A quick reaction, Dennis from you, before we hear from Daisy?

PRAGER: Well, there's no religious test. The issue is what is the work that he wishes that we wish to affirm as our central text? There's no religious test. I want Muslims to run for office, I want atheists, I want Buddhists. It is no religious test of Keith Ellison. It is what decision does he wish to convey? What message to the American people? Do our values derive from the Bible or from the Koran? That is to me, the question. No religious test of Keith Ellison.

ZAHN: Does this show a disregard, do you think, on Mr. Prager's part for Muslims, Daisy?

DAISY KHAN, MUSLIM ADVANCEMENT OF SOCIETY: Well, I think the foundational values of America, our freedom of religion and freedom to express your religion and to practice in the way that you see your values. And I think what is important is this is a very proud moment for Americans, American Muslims and all Americans, and I think it is sad that somebody would try to ruin this moment for all of us by trying...

PRAGER: Am I ruining it for Mormons when I cite that Mormons don't use the "Book of Mormon". I'm not ruining -- I don't want to ruin it for anyone. I want to keep Americans united on one, basic thing. We are endowed by our creator with certain fundamental rights.

KHAN: And that is...

VOLOKH: That's not the purpose of an oath. The purpose of an oath is not affirm the correctness of the book that you use. The purpose of using a book is to invoke God as your witness and as a means of firming up your resolve to abide by the oath.


ZAHN: But Eugene, let me close with a final quote from Mr. Prager's editorial.

Let me close with this. Hang on, gentlemen, for one moment.

He says, "America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."


VOLOKH: Well, for starters, the Constitution specifically says that you may refuse to use any book for. You may refuse even to give an oath. You may affirm. That's what Herbert Hoover did. Justice Goldberg, a Jewish Supreme Court Justice...

PRAGER: Herbert Hoover had a Bible.

VOLOKH: He affirmed. He didn't even swear an oath...

PRAGER: Herbert Hoover did. He just didn't swear by it, because I believe he was a Quaker. That's a very different story.

VOLOKH: Justice Goldberg used the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible.

PRAGER: Justice Goldberg used Old Testament, which is part of the American Bible.


VOLOKH: What you're saying about you have to use the same book...

ZAHN: Daisy, you get the final word tonight as we close out this...

VOLOKH: .. is already being violated.

KHAN: Well, I'm saying that America is great, and we have to uphold America's greatest values, which is coming together of all. You know, we're a multi-cultural, multi-religious society and we have to work together to create a good society. There are eight million Muslims in America now, 25 million Muslims living all over the West.

ZAHN: I understand. But you're saying he should be able to take the oath office on the Koran?

KHAN: Absolutely, because -- because, you know, an oath is something that is very important. And I think it's -- I think it's -- I think it's his integrity that he's speaking from, not a lack of integrity. And I think we should -- we should really...

ZAHN: We've got to leave it there. Sorry to have to cut you off. Commercial's ready to take us off the air.

Here's Daisy Khan, Eugene Volokh, Dennis Prager. Appreciate your time.

It sounds like Prager looked like an idiot.