We are the 99%

July 21, 2014

In Case You Missed It, McCullough Trial Delayed. AGAIN

From the Trib:
Five years since a grand jury accused attorney Charles McCullough of taking money from an elderly woman's estate, the former Allegheny County councilman has yet to stand trial.

The case has been delayed at least eight times since September 2009, for various reasons, and appeals tacked on two more years of delays.

At a status conference on Wednesday, Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen stepped down from the case because scheduling conflicts would go beyond his November retirement, causing another delay.

The case goes to the court's administrative judge for reassignment, and it could be a month before a trial date is set.
And from the P-G:
It has been delayed at least nine times.

“This case has been around a long time,” Judge Machen said. “And I've entertained every one of your requests for continuance. I’m sending the case back for reassignment.

“Best of luck to all of you.”

The delays have been for various reasons, including both defendants’ switching counsel repeatedly.
Let's review the timeline here.  On Feburary 19, 2009, I blogged that Chuck McCullough had been arrested.

Some of the things that happened since Chuck McCullough was arrested and today:
  • Jerry Sandusky arrested (November 5, 2011)
  • Jerry Sandusky's trial began (June 11, 2011)
  • Jerry Sandusky was found guilty (June 22,2012)
  • H.R. 3590, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was introduced in the House of Representatives (September 17, 2009)
  • H.R. 3590 was signed into law (March 23, 2010)
  • Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot by Jared Lee Loughner (January 8, 2011)
  • Jared Lee Loughner pled guilty (August 7, 2012)
The list is endless.  If all these extremely complicated events could occur between February 19, 2009 and today, why can't we get Chuck McCullough in a court room to stand trial?

I'm just asking.

July 20, 2014

Um, I Think The Braintrust Left Something Out. Again.

From today's Tribune-Review:
The Obama administration might be painting a rosy picture of the federal deficit — the lowest thus far under Barack Obama's tenure — but the Congressional Budget Office is ringing the alarm bells. It reminds that the federal debt that today is 74 percent of the economy will explode to 106 percent by 2039. Spending and deficits must be curbed, the CBO warns. But, of course, that's anathema to “progressives,” who can't seem to wrap their brains around the Law of Diminishing Returns. [Bolding in original.]
But take a look at the report.  On page 5 (page 5!!) we read:
The unsustainable nature of the federal tax and spending policies specified in current law presents lawmakers and the public with difficult choices. Unless substantial changes are made to the major health care programs and Social Security, spending for those programs will equal a much larger percentage of GDP in the future than it has in the past. At the same time, under current law, spending for all other federal benefits and services would be on track to make up a smaller percentage of GDP by 2024 than at any point in more than 70 years. Federal revenues would also represent a larger percentage of GDP in the future than they have, on average, in the past few decades. Even so, spending would soon start to outpace revenues by increasing amounts (relative to GDP), generating rising budget deficits. As a result, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow faster than the economy starting a few years from now, and because debt is already unusually high relative to GDP, further increases could be especially harmful.

To put the federal budget on a sustainable path for the long term, lawmakers would have to make significant changes to tax and spending policies: reducing spending for large benefit programs below the projected levels, letting revenues rise more than they would under current law, or adopting some combination of those approaches. [Emphasis added.]
And what do you think "letting revenues rise more than they would under current law" could possibly mean?

The next page offers up an explanation.  In a discussion of two competing scenarios (do we do this sooner or later?) the CBO's authors use other language to describe what "letting revenues rise" means.  First the "sooner" scenario:
The sooner significant deficit reduction was implemented, the smaller the government’s accumulated debt would be, the smaller policy changes would need to be to achieve a particular long-term outcome, and the less uncertainty there would be about what policies would be adopted. However, if lawmakers implemented spending cuts or tax increases quickly, people would have little time to plan and adjust to the policy changes, and those changes would weaken the economic expansion during the next few years. [Emphasis added.]
And then the "later" scenario:
Reductions in federal spending or increases in taxes that were implemented several years from now would have a smaller effect on output and employment in the short term. However, waiting for some time before reducing federal spending or increasing taxes would result in a greater accumulation of debt, which would represent a greater drag on output and income in the long term and would increase the size of the policy changes needed to reach any chosen target for debt. [Emphasis added.]
Isn't it interesting how the braintrust, in informing its loyal readers about the impending budgetary doom described by the CBO, left out the part about the possibility of avoiding said doom by increasing taxes?

Yea, they want you to know the fullest picture possible of the CBO report.

July 19, 2014

Climate Denier Governor To Meet With Climate Scientists (An Update)

Hey, remember this?

My blog post started with this article in the Tampa Bay Times.  A group of actual scientists offered to meet with Florida Governor (and climate science denier) Rick Scott to explain the science to him.

I was wondering if we couldn't get a few climate scientists from Pennsylvania to meet with our own climate denying Governor.

Anyway, there's an update.  From the Miami Herald:
Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist fueled the climate wars Friday and called Florida State University oceanography professor Jeff Chanton offering to meet with the scientists who asked to meet with Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott said this week that someone in his administration would meet with the 10 climate scientists from universities and colleges across the state, but after Crist agreed to meet, them, the governor also agreed.
Of course, this is all about the upcoming gubernatorial election in Florida.

Hey, we have a gubernatorial election coming up in Pennsylvania, right?  Maybe Democratic challenger Tom Wolf should reach out to meet with some scientists and discuss the issue.  Maybe that would get Corbet to do the same - just like in Florida.

Wolf even has a "climate change" page on his website.  It starts with this:
Tom knows we need to remove the politics from the discussion about climate change and global warming. We need to take action so that future generations have access to fresh air and clean water, and have the opportunity to explore and enjoy Pennsylvania's natural beauty.

As governor, Tom will promote policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy alternatives, and invest in green energy technology and infrastructure. Additionally, Tom will appoint qualified individuals to lead the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources who will be responsible for proactively addressing climate change and promoting policies that are in the best interest of current and future residents -- not special interests.
Not a heck of a lot of room in there to say that climate change is "subject to debate" so it should be a rather easy conversation for Wolf to have with some climate scientists on climate change.

How long until we get a serious discussion about it from Governor Corbett?

July 17, 2014

Hey, Can We Get Something Like This In Pennsylvania??

From the Tampa Bay Times:
In an effort to push Gov. Rick Scott into the debate on climate change, 10 prominent Florida scientists on Tuesday asked for an opportunity to explain to him the impact human-induced global warming will have on Florida.

"We note you have been asked several times about how, as governor, you will handle the issue of climate change," the scientists wrote in a two-page letter to Scott. "You responded that you are 'not a scientist.' We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state."
I mean we have a Governor who's denied the science and we have some very important climate scientists in this state as well.  Why can't something like this happen in our state?

As a reminder this is exactly what Governor Corbett said:
I think everybody is taking a look at this. I think some people believe that it is clearly evident and it’s coming very, very quickly. I think there are others who are equally qualified that disagree with that. It’s a subject of debate.
And that's exactly untrue - especially since we know that 97% of climate scientists endorsed the position that climate science is real and that human beings are causing it.

Weather.com has a copy of the letter sent to Florida's governor.  Here's the text:
Dear Governor Scott:

We respectfully request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the current and future impact of human-induced global warming on Florida. As scientists, we believe such information is vital given the threat posed by climate change. There is a clear need to develop a state plan to both mitigate and adapt to the threats to Florida's communities, businesses, tourism industry and protect the state's economic well being.

We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change. You responded that you were "not a scientist." We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.

We welcome the chance to present you with the latest climate science. Our hope is this will inform you as you consider Florida's plan for meeting the recently announced carbon pollution standards from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each state will be called on to implement reductions with Florida's carbon intensity rate reduction target of 38 percent by 2030, from 2012 levels.

When asked about climate change, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's stock response is: I'm not a scientist. Florida scientists say: Let's talk.

We will also respond to any questions you might have regarding the recent National Climate Assessment (NCA) and any adaptation planning decisions you may be considering. That report, as you may be aware, concluded that climate change "is already affecting the American people in far-reaching ways." This includes more frequent and/or intense extreme weather events, more acidic oceans, and rising sea levels. The report further found "unambiguous" evidence that human activities — the burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of forests — are the cause. The NCA also found we are "exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, and decreased water availability" caused by climate change, with "residents in some areas such as Miami Beach [already] experiencing seawater flooding their streets."

In short, Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the country with respect to climate change, with southeastern Florida of particular concern.

This is not a hypothetical. Thousands of scientists have studied the issue from a variety of angles and disciplines over many decades. Those of us signing this letter have spent hundreds of years combined studying this problem, not from any partisan political perspective, but as scientists — seekers of evidence and explanations. As a result, we feel uniquely qualified to assist you in understanding what's already happening in the climate system so you may make the most effective decisions about what must be done to protect the state, including reducing emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants.

It is crucial for policymakers, such as yourself, to have a full understanding of the current and future threats to Florida. Most importantly, you should have a detailed understanding of the specific climate change impacts already affecting Florida to help you formulate the optimal plans for mitigating future impacts, while simultaneously preparing Florida's communities and businesses for the changes already underway, and almost certain to accelerate in coming years.

We look forward to meeting with you, and await your response.
And while I've not found any instance of Governor Corbett saying "I'm not a scientist" it shouldn't be that difficult to re-write the above letter, change some of the details (like replacing "Florida" with "Pennsylvania" and so on) and sending it to Harrisburg.

For the Governor to state that the science is still "subject of debate" only shows how much he needs to be properly educated on the subject and that's something one or more of Pennsylvania's climate scientists should seek to address.

How 'bout it??

July 16, 2014

Meanwhile Outside...

From Slate:
New data released Monday shows humanity has just unlocked another achievement in the race to cook the planet: The last three months were collectively the warmest ever experienced since record-keeping began in the late 1800s.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said June 2014 was the warmest June globally since at least 1891, when its dataset begins. This follows May 2014, which was the warmest May globally on record, which follows April 2014, which was the warmest April globally on record.
And this is the artwork from our friends in Japan:

See that red line? That's the long term linear trend.  It's going up.

And then a few paragraphs later:
Also on Monday, NASA released its monthly global temperature numbers for June, with nearly identical results that were reached by a different method. According to NASA, June was the all-time third warmest, May was the warmest, and April was tied for second, with 2010 nudging out 2014 by an imperceptible 0.003 degrees Celsius in the three-month average. [Emphasis added.]
Why did I emphasize the "reached a different method" part?  If two separate studies using different methodologies both point to the same conclusion, then the chances of both being incorrect are lessened.

The temperature is still going up.  The science is still solid and I still have to write this blog post (it seems) ever couple of weeks.

July 15, 2014

Did Mike Pintek REALLY Host Larry Pratt on KDKA?

If you were listening to Mike Pintek a few days ago, you were privileged to hear this:

Yea, that would be the same Larry Pratt profiled in Rolling Stone magazine.

Some highlights of the profile.  In a comparison between the Gun Owners of America with the NRA we can read this:
"The NRA describes itself as a religion, and Larry Pratt is the snake handler," says Tom Diaz, a former analyst at the Violence Policy Center, a Washington-based gun control group, and author of two books on the gun lobby. "The NRA debates using arguable premises of the American system: What is the meaning of the Second Amendment, of self-defense? Pratt unconnects from all that, and appeals to the least informed, most paranoid people." In parallel with his frequent national media appearances, Pratt aggressively pursues smaller radio audiences to peddle conspiracy theories and recycled John Birch Society propaganda from the 1960s. In recent years he has argued that the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting was an inside job and that the Justice Department was pursuing charges against George Zimmerman to stir up racial animosity, trigger social chaos, and "build their own communist society."
Then there's this (are you paying attention, Mike?):
As with Pratt's frequent appearances on cable television over the years, no mention was made by the Times of his fringe political and religious beliefs, or the dark corners of American gun culture and rightwing politics to which these beliefs have led over the years. But these links between mainstream and fringe have long been at the core of his role in rightwing politics.

"Larry Pratt has served over the years as an extremely important bridge between the more rabid parts of the gun rights movement and the radical right," says Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "The fact that he's been linked to so many different extremists for so long — including Klansman and Christian Identity leaders — together with his roaming around on the militia circuit for God knows how long — it should put him beyond the pale."
And this is what the SPLC has to say about Larry Pratt (again, Mike. ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?):
Larry Pratt stands at the intersection of guns and Jesus, lobbying for absolutely unrestricted distribution of firearms while advocating a theocratic society based upon Old Testament civil and religious laws. A pivotal figure in the rise of right-wing militia, or “Patriot,” groups, he spoke at the notorious 1992 “Gathering of Christian Men” in Estes Park, Colo., where 160 neo-Nazis, Klan members, anti-Semitic Christian Identity adherents and others arguably laid the groundwork for the militia movement that would explode in 1994. He believes that white Christians must arm themselves for self-protection in the inevitable social implosions and riots that are soon to come.
But back to Rolling Stone:
On the afternoon of the Oklahoma City bombing, Pratt was in Washington, D.C., demonstrating in front of FBI headquarters for its role in the Waco tragedy. Three days later, Pratt spoke before a gathering of 600 Christian Identity adherents and assorted radicals convened by Pete Peters at the Lodge of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri. Pratt addressed the "Biblical Mandate to Arm" and seemed to justify McVeigh's act of terror, at the time the bloodiest in American history. According to an account by Michael Reynolds in Playboy, Pratt told the gathered, "The government behaves as a beast. It did in Waco, and we have somebody, whoever it might have been, whatever group it might have been, assuming they can't rely on the Lord to take vengeance."
Mike, that's the guy you had on your air the other day.