We are the 99%

September 1, 2014

September 1 - Born Today

I am a trumpet player (however adept I am with the trumpet is, as always, up for debate) and my university degree is in music.  Trumpet performance, some music theory and lotsa musicology.

Every now and then, I'll sift through Wikipedia on a given date to see who was born then.  It's always interesting to see the diverse musicians born on the same date (though not, of course, in the same year).

Today is just one of those dates.  Born today:

In 1653Johann Pachelbel.

(Ok, this might be a bit of a stretch because he was only baptized on this date in 1653 - so sue me.).  Don't know who Pachelbel is?  He's the guy who wrote this:

Yea and now you know.  And now you have today's earworm.  You're welcome.

I had a musicology professor once praised Pachelbel with this line, "Johann Pachelbel - first rate composer, despite that bloody canon!"

In 1935: Seiji Ozawa

Don't know who Seiji Ozawa is?  He's conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra for almost 30 years.  I was hoping to find a video of Ozawa conducting the Pachelbel Canon but, alas, sometimes the Internet Gods smirk and say "Ha!"  So I'll post this instead:

Take a look on the panel. Between Dorothy Kilgallen and Arlene Francis sits none other than Allen Stewart Konigsberg.

In 1957: Gloria Estefan

Don't know who Gloria Estefan is?  Are you kidding me?  Where have you been for the last 3 decades or so?

Lotsa other interesting people born today as well.  But then again lotsa interesting people born EVERY day.

Happy Labor Day.

August 30, 2014

Don't They Filter Out Obvious Untruths?

Diana West writes a column for the Tribune-Review.

She's responsible for all the columns written under her byline.  She wrote them, she owns them.

So in that case, she's a birther.  Though to be fair and as far as I know, that column was NOT published in the Tribune-Review.  But still, they publish the columns of a known birther.

Bad.  Bad Tribune-Review.  Bad dog.

Here's another one.  In her most recent column, published Friday August 29 and titled "Rush to judgment in Ferguson" Diana West writes:
Even the dark suits and American flags fail to obscure the 21st-century lynch mob at work. According to federal and state authorities, Wilson shot the 6-foot-4, 292-pound man multiple times for “racist” reasons. The other story out there is that Wilson fired as Brown charged him after having beaten Wilson to the point of fracturing his orbital socket and rendering the six-year veteran cop nearly unconscious.
The fractured eye-socket story?  She went with the fractured eye-socket story?

Wasn't that debunked more than a week before (on August 21)?

But let's take a look at this fake story, shall we?  Where did it come from?  For that we turn to Salon.com:
Perhaps the first shot in the right-wing news campaign to smear Michael Brown came in the form of a call to a conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch on Aug. 15. A caller who claimed to be a friend of Wilson’s — who would only identify herself as Josie — told Loesch that Brown had “bum rushed” officer Wilson, punched him in the face and tried to go for Wilson’s gun. Brown and his friend then walked away. Wilson pulled his gun and ordered Brown to stop. Brown turned around, taunted Wilson, then again “bum rushed” him. Wilson fired six shots, the last shot to Brown’s forehead. “Josie” claimed that she had gotten this information from a Facebook discussion. She did not claim that Wilson had been seriously injured in the encounter.

Much discussion and rampant speculation followed in the right-wing blogosphere, even though the only source was an anonymous caller to a radio show and a supposed Facebook discussion. Then, on Aug. 19, Jim Hoft, a St. Louis-based blogger, announced on his site Gateway Pundit that Wilson had suffered an “Orbital Blowout Fracture to Eye Socket.”

“The Gateway Pundit can now confirm from two local St. Louis sources that police Officer Darren Wilson suffered facial fractures during his confrontation with deceased 18 year-old Michael Brown. Officer Wilson clearly feared for his life during the incident that led to the shooting death of Brown. This was after Michael Brown and his accomplice Dorian Johnson robbed a local Ferguson convenience store.”

Hoft offered a still from a CT scan as evidence of Wilson’s injury. It did not take long for people to debunk the story. Later that afternoon on the website Little Green Footballs, Charles Johnson, who takes delight in debunking Hoft, shredded the story.
Johnson, for example, foiled the description of how painful a fractured orbital socket is with the video of Officer Wilson casually walking about the corpse of Michael Brown.  No ambulances were called for him, none of the officers gave him first aid and the X-Rays Holt posted at Gateway Pundit were stock images from the University of Iowa.

The story's false and yet Diana West still went with it and just as importantly, the Trib allowed onto its pages.

But let's take a look at West's description of "the other story out there" - that Wilson shot Brown 6 times after Brown beat him so badly he shattered the officer's eye socket and nearly rendered him unconscious.

Wow.  Does Diana West seriously think that makes any sense?  Any sense at all?

Does the Trib?

August 29, 2014

Subtle, Very Subtle

By now you should all have learned that Governor Corbett, behind in the polls by double digits and presumably in desperate need of an election year boost, has announced:
...that the state has secured agreement with the federal government to implement the portion of his Healthy Pennsylvania plan that will improve and bring financial stability to the state’s Medicaid program so that the state can increase access to quality, affordable health care through the private insurance market.
In the words of Kate Giammarise at the P-G:
Pennsylvania’s working poor could start receiving subsidized health insurance as early as Jan. 1 now that the federal government has approved the state’s proposed Medicaid overhaul.

Federal regulators approved much of Gov. Tom Corbett’s “;Healthy PA” plan, the state and federal governments confirmed Thursday, ending months of negotiations between the two parties. Enrollment in what’s being called the “Healthy PA Private Coverage Option” will begin Dec. 1.

Mr. Corbett’s plan, unveiled last year and formally submitted to the federal government for review in February, would not directly expand the state’s Medicaid program, but would instead offer federal subsidies to low-income Pennsylvanians to purchase private insurance. As many as 600,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians could be eligible, according to the state’s latest estimates.
Guv'mint subsidies?  Redistributing the wealth to help the poor?  That's a guv'mint take over of the economy!  Impeach Obama!

Give it time.  Give it time, for surely our friends in the Pennsylvania Tea Party will be screeching that very soon.

Back to reality.  While it's good news that hundreds of thousands of the states poor could be receiving subsidized health insurance soon, not everyone's happy with the deal.

From Pennlive.com:
"Today's agreement begins to dig Pennsylvania out of the hole Governor Corbett and lawmakers created when they rejected funding to expand health care coverage to half-a-million low-income Pennsylvanians. There never should have been a coverage gap in Pennsylvania, and we share the relief of hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians in knowing it's finally on track to close," said Antoinette Kraus, of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, in a news release, referring to the fact that the coverage became available Jan. 1 in states that accepted the Obamacare version.
And from Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress:
"The Obama administration's approval today of 'Healthy Pennsylvania,' Governor Corbett's insurance industry giveaway, will leave thousands of working families without insurance unnecessarily. Because the Corbett administration refused to accept a simple expansion of the medicaid program, thousands in Pennsylvania have gone without insurance they so dearly need, and thousands will still be left out in the cold because the approved deal will create unaffordable premiums.

"There is no reason to give more money to the insurance companies when there was an easy alternative that would have used that money to directly aid the families that need it most -- expanding medicaid as 20+ other states have already done. Instead, the Corbett administration has decided to play politics with the health of thousands of Pennsylvanians in an effort to funnel millions of dollars into the pockets of wealthy insurance companies."
And our friends on the right must surely be unhappy as well. From Alex Nixon and Brad Bumsted of the Trib:
The conservative Commonwealth Foundation commended Corbett for pushing back against Medicaid expansion, but said he should “walk away” from the plan as approved.

“Given the federal government's unwillingness to grant Pennsylvania work search requirements or meaningful cost-sharing, it's in the best interest of Pennsylvanians to walk away and pursue other avenues to truly expand health care access,” the Harrisburg nonprofit said in a statement.
And there's the subtle.  That's the Tribune-Review, remember.  Which, via its editorial page, has denounced Obamacare forever.  Prior to his passing, Richard Mellon Scaife owned the Tribune-Review.  Prior to his passing, Scaife presided over a number of foundations.  Prior to his passing, those foundations gave lots of money to various conservative institutions over the years.

Turns out that about 35% of the foundational support received by the above mentioned Commonwealth Foundation came from those Scaife-controlled foundations - amd there's not a peep out of Nixon and Bumstead about all the money their former boss gave to the conservative institution they were quoting.

Subtle, very subtle.

August 28, 2014

Jon Stewart on The Rightwing Outrage Over Ferguson

From the Washington Post:
Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Andrea Tantaros, and other Fox News personalities all get torched in a 10-minute riff by the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart on race in America. The host starts by noting how O’Reilly was “furious” over the media reaction to the Aug. 9 police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. — though perhaps not too “furious” over the shooting itself.
Here's the clip.

Stewart ends with this:
Race is there. It is a constant. You're tired of hearing about it? Imagine how f**king exhausting it is, living it.

August 27, 2014

PASTAH Conference

Hey, did you know that a whole buncha godless heathens will be conferencing in our lovely city this weekend?

It's called the PASTAH (short for, as I understand it, PA State Atheist/Humanist) Conference and it's taking place at the Doubletree dahn-tahn.

For tickets/schedule and so on, go to the atheistpa website or their facebook page.

From the P-G:
Pittsburgh has the honor of hosting its first Atheist/Humanist conference, the 2014 PASTAH Conference to be held August 29 through August 31, in Downtown Pittsburgh at the DoubleTree! A lineup of fantastic speakers has been recruited, including Jerry Coyne, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Fred Edwords, Jamila Bey, Jerry DeWitt, John Loftus, Monette Richards, Lauri Lebo, as well as local musicians and comedians. The conference is an excellent opportunity for freethinkers to socialize, network, and commune.
Lynn Cullen did a segment on it, about halfway through her show, with local godless heathen, Ann Norman:

I still can't believe they're gonna let the godless heathens have their own goddamned conference.  Next thing you know atheists'll be demanding the same equal rights the Constitution guarantees to all the good faithful normal Americans.

Imagine that!

August 26, 2014

Professor Harris-Perry Has The Floor Again

And shows us all how it's done.  Again.

Crooks and Liars has the set up:
Melissa Harris-Perry did a nice job of taking apart Villager Joe Klein for his "cringe-worthy" op-ed he wrote this week for Time, where he did his best to malign Michael Brown for his own shooting and opined about the need to have an honest discussion about race relations in the United States. That discussion, as Harris-Perry discussed in her commentary above, is something Klein really doesn't seem ready to have yet when you dissect his article.
 And here's Professor Harris-Perry's analysis (cringe-worthy yes, but for Joe Klein):

You can find the transcript at Crooksandliars.

August 24, 2014

Yea, This Is Disappointing

Usually, I love watching John Oliver on HBO.  Usually, he's funny, moving, and completely right.

Last week, however, I watched as he got caught up in the Gender Gap story.

And, he got the story wrong.

We've written about this before but I guess it might be a good idea to revisit the issue, if only to point out Oliver's mistakes.  The biggest mistake happens whenever Oliver uses the phrase "for equal work" except when he says this about 5 minutes in:
Paying people less for the same work is clearly wrong.
I could not agree more.  The problem Oliver has is where and what to other sentences he pastes the "for the same work" phrase.

Let's take a look at his numbers.  His piece gives a number of different pay gaps  Along with the by now well known $.77 he gives us talking points saying the gap is:
  • $.81
  • $.88
  • $.91
  • $.95 to $.93
They're obviously different, but are they conflicting?  Throughout the piece Oliver mocks the presence  of different numbers as evidence that...there's something wrong with all those numbers.  Implicit in the mockery is the "fact" that the reality is "$.77 on the dollar for the same work" and so all the other numbers must be so much dishonest number fudgery.

But that's just simply not true.  You have to look at what the numbers represent to see that each tells a slightly different story.  Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post explained this a little more than 2 years ago:
We were struck by the disparities in the data when we noticed that a news release by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) trumpeted the 77 cent figure, but it included a link to a state-by-state breakdown that gave a different overall figure: 81 cents.

What’s the difference? The 77 cent figure comes from a Census Bureau report, which is based on annual wages. The BLS numbers draw on data that are based on weekly wages. Annual wages is a broader measure — it can include bonuses, retirement pensions, investment income and the like — but it also means that school teachers, who may not work over the summer, would end up with a lower annual wage.

In other words, since women in general work fewer hours than men in a year, the statistics may be less reliable for examining the key focus of the legislation — wage discrimination. Weekly wages is more of an apples-to-apples comparison, but as mentioned, it does not include as many income categories, The gap is even smaller when you look at hourly wages — it is 86 cents vs. 100 (see Table 9) — but then not every wage earner is paid on an hourly basis, so that statistic excludes salaried workers. But, under this metric for people with a college degree, there is virtually no pay gap at all. [Emphases added.]
So what did Oliver's numbers represent?  Let's look one at a time:
  • $.81 - This is a BLS survey released in 2012 that compares weekly earnings.
  • $.88 - Factcheck.org quotes BLS to say that, if I am reading it correctly, Since men tend to work more overtime their weekly earnings edge higher and that when comparing male and female workers who each work only 40 hours, the gap is closer to $.88.  
  • $.91 - Hanna Rosin over at Slate.com cites this paper to say that "The big differences are in occupation and industry. Women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying. If you account for those differences, and then compare a woman and a man doing the same job, the pay gap narrows to 91 percent."
This is where we clash with Oliver's other bit of mockery: that if the gap exists, it's actually women's fault. [OMG, how can anyone in their right mind believe that?]

But as we've seen, the Stanford paper says that women do congregate in lower paying jobs and no less than the Association of American University Women says that the different choices that men and women make in college and in the job market are in fact a part of the gap.  From page 8 of the AAUW report, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap:
In part, these pay gaps do reflect men’s and women’s choices, especially the choice of college major and the type of job pursued after graduation. For example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to be paid less than other college graduates. This portion of the pay gap is considered to be explained, regardless of whether teachers’ wages are considered fair.
It's not the entire explanation for the gap, of course, but it's not non-existent either.

So a large part of the gap is based on the the difference between the choices men and women make in choosing an education and the details of the career that follows.

Once we accept that premise, how can we be possibly be talking about "equal pay for the same job"?  We simply aren't.  Saying that $.77 on the dollar is evidence for unequal pay for the same job was simply incorrect 3 years ago and it was simply incorrect last Sunday.  And yet that's exactly what John Oliver was doing to BS the facts.

When all of the other factors (yearly vs weekly vs hourly wages, educational and career choices and so on) are taken into account, the gap is in the still unacceptable single digit range.  Too large, obviously, but still much smaller than the currently accepted rate of "77 cents on the dollar."

And whatever the gap is (even if it's "only" 5%), it's something, according to The Equal Pay Act of 1963, that's still illegal.