Prosecute the torture.

October 4, 2015

Jack Kelly Sunday

This won't be your usual Jack Kelly debunking, just letting you know up front.

Today, in the Post-Gazette, Jack Kelly informed the the public of this:
Every day this week I shaved, brushed my teeth, showered, dressed myself, made my own breakfast. Big steps for a recovering invalid.

I have multiple myeloma, a bone-marrow cancer. Just after I started chemo, I fell down the stairs and tore my left anterior cruciate ligament, complicating treatment for both.

For the last six weeks, I’ve essentially been confined to my bed, with another week or so to go. If you sent me an email, and I haven’t responded, this is why.
I was very sad to learn of Jack's diagnosis.  As you may recall from this blog, I lost my father a few years ago to a very quick and devastating cancer.  It wasn't multiple myeloma but what difference does that make?  It started as a tumor found on his right lung but it wasn't lung cancer.  The surgeons in New Haven successfully removed it but were never able to determine what sort of cancer it was.  For a number of years they monitored his status and he was fine.  Then in the space of about three months it took him.  Quickly.  And with a vengeance.

So it's more or less a completely different story from Jack's but what difference does that make?

It was cancer and cancer can be devastating.  I've watched in quiet awe (via facebook) a woman I barely knew in high school battle (and beat back) her own cancer with Asgardian-sized courage.  Takes a lot to face it.  My hat's off to anyone (INCLUDING YOU, JACK) who's looked into that abyss.

But Jack, that doesn't mean you get a pass when you try to misinform your readers.  You still own what you've written and it's still misleading.

For example, Jack writes:
The president said Obamacare would reduce unsubsidized, employer-based health-insurance premiums by $2,500 a year, and since 2008 the growth in premiums has slowed, but the average family premium still has risen $4,865, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
First, there's this from Politifact:
When it came to health care premiums for the typical family, Obama said he would cut the annual cost by $2,500. Months before Obama took office, a New York Times reporter dubbed it one of the most audacious pledges of the campaign.

We reached out to David Cutler, an economist who advised Obama during the 2008 campaign and helped calculate the $2,500 figure that appeared in Obama's speeches. He said the calculation encompassed total health care costs, not just premiums. These would include out-of-pocket costs, employer-provided insurance costs, and taxes to pay for public insurance programs.

Cutler acknowledged that Obama made "occasional misstatements” that tied the $2,500 reduction to premiums and not total medical spending.
That was written 3 years ago.  So why use the point now?  If only to evade the reality of the situation, I guess.

But let's look at the other side of the sentence - the growth of the premiums.  Here's what Kaiser wrote about three weeks ago:
Single and family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of 4 percent this year, continuing a decade-long period of moderate growth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey released today. Since 2005, premiums have grown an average of 5 percent each year, compared to 11 percent annually between 1999 and 2005.
There's more from the Kaiser survey itself:
Premiums for family coverage increased 27% during the last five years, the same rate they grew between 2005 and 2010 but significantly less than they did between 2000 to 2005 (69%) (Exhibit B).
They even have a chart:

Wait, wait, doesn't this mean that while yes the premiums have gone up, they probably would've been higher without Obamacare?

Yes, it does.

And if you look carefully at Jack's sentence above, he actually affirms that (or at the very least that "the growth in premiums has slowed").  It's hidden in all that anti-Obamacare stuff.  Huh.  Interesting.

And then look at what he writes later:
The first steps to giving more Americans access to quality care are to repeal Obamacare...
Which would of course would hit the deficit hard, according to Politico:
A new cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office underscored the magnitude of the task: The budget scorekeeper last Friday said a full Obamacare repeal would add $353 billion to the deficit over the next decade.
I thought conservatives were against doing stuff that would raise the deficit.  I guess it's OK if the cost of it comes from actually helping people who otherwise couldn't afford health care to get health care.

So Jack I am very sorry to hear about your health issues.  No one should have to face what you're facing.  But you're still spinning Obamacare in a way that does no favors to your readers or the public at large.

October 1, 2015

US: More Mass Shootings Than Days in the Year

"That brings the total of mass shootings this year -- incidents where 4 or more people are killed or injured by gunfire -- to 294. 
There have been only 274 days this year."
Via Wonkblog @ The Washington Post 

Nailed it


Just another mass shooting in the U.S. with over a dozen dead and many more injured. But, hey! What did the Pope say to Kim Davis? And, what's the latest on Trump? And, damn it, keep those dangerous Syrian refugees out of my town!!!

("This is the 45th shooting at a school in 2015 and the 142nd shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut." - ThinkProgress)

September 29, 2015

I Stand with Planned Parenthood #StandwithPP

Today is "Pink Out Day." People around the country--including Pittsburgh*--are rallying in support of Planned Parenthood as once again, congressional Republicans (and Republican presidential candidates) continue their relentless attacks on reproductive health care. They do this even to the point of threatening to shut down the government, despite the fact that government funds do not go to paying for abortions.

One in five American women have received care at a Planned Parenthood health center. And in 2013, Planned Parenthood served 2.7 million women, men, and young people. Maybe that's why USA Today found that Americans back government support for the group by more than 2-1.

If you're not already at a rally, you can still participate:

  • Wear pink to show your support for women's health and for Planned Parenthood, and make sure your friends know why. 
  • Share a #PinkOut selfie to #StandwithPP on social media.
  • Pink Out your Facebook and/or Twitter profile image.
  • Let them know that we're sick of this bullshit.

    * Thank you  Lynn Cullen, and City Councilman Dan Gilman!

    The Best The GOP Can Do? The Best The GOP Can Do.

    The Donald, a birther:
    Billionaire landlord, hotel magnate, television star and self-described Tea Partier Donald Trump is turning up the heat on President Barack Obama, insisting that after three weeks of probing the question, he is now more convinced than ever that the president has failed to prove he is a citizen of the United States.

    “Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country,” Trump, who is very publicly mulling his own run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira. “Right now, I have some real doubts.”
    The Neurosurgeon, a creationist:
    In a “Faith & Liberty” interview posted last week, potential GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson discussed his rejection of the theory of evolution, arguing that the science of evolution is a sign of humankind’s arrogance and belief “that they are so smart that if they can’t explain how God did something, then it didn’t happen, which of course means that they’re God. You don’t need a God if you consider yourself capable of explaining everything.”

    He claimed that “no one has the knowledge” of the age of the earth “based on the Bible,” adding that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.”

    Carson pointed to the “complexity of the human brain” as proof that evolution is a myth: “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.”

    He said evolution is unable to explain the development of an eyeball: “Give me a break. According to their scheme, it had to occur over night, it had to be there. I instead say, if you have an intelligent creator, what he does is give his creatures the ability to adapt to the environment so he doesn’t have to start over every fifty years creating all over again.”
    Let me just say that no Darwinian ever postulated that the eyeball evolved "over night" and that it shows his vast ignorance of science to say so.  Also, let me ask this: why would an intelligent designer need to design in "his creatures" the ability to adapt?  Adapt to what?  A changing environment?  Didn't the intelligent designer design that, too?

    And finally, the tech-exec, a liar:
    Republican presidential contender Carly Fiorina has fiercely defended her claim during the GOP debate last week that undercover Planned Parenthood video footage shows a “fully formed fetus” alive on a table as “someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

    Fiorina again refused to back away from these comments during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” after host Chris Wallace said that her call for the defunding of Planned Parenthood was her “biggest moment of the debate,” but questioned the accuracy of her statements.

    “Do you acknowledge what every fact-checker has found that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it?” he said. “There is no actual footage of the incident that you just mentioned.”

    But Fiorina wasn’t willing to agree with this sentiment.

    “No, I don’t accept that at all. I’ve seen the footage,” she responded. “I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact-checkers in the mainstream media claim this doesn’t exist. They’re trying to attack the authenticity of the video tape.”
    The video that doesn't exist.

    This is the best the GOP can do right now?  This?

    Yes, sadly.  This is the best the GOP can do right now; a birther, a creationist and a liar.

    September 25, 2015

    The Company Metcalfe Keeps, Part II

    Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl "I Don't Speak Mexican" Metcalfe (R-Pennsyltucky) is more 'Merican than you or I could ever hope to be! The man sweats red, white & blue! He's always busy keeping 'Merica for 'Mericans! His latest efforts occurred on Monday when according to Eat That, Read This (#275):
    • Distended scumtroll Republican State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chairman of the House State Government Committee, denied colleague Rep. Leslie Acosta, "herself an immigrant and the state's only Latina legislator," her allotted speaking time as she "attempted to lay out her argument" against the shiteous English-only bill, interrupting her and then cutting off her microphone. Metcalfe, who is a white, straight, Christian human-shaped agglomeration of dog shit animatronically operated by a groundhog, used the same tactic against another minority colleague in 2013, when Gay Fantasy Boyfriend™ State Rep. Brian Sims attempted to speak "about the Supreme Court's gay marriage rulings," informing us that "his religious views against gay marriage compelled him to do it." Fuck Daryl Metcalfe.
    But, True Patriot Metcalfe is even more 'Merican than stopping Latinas from speaking. According to Talking Points Memo, Metcalfe invited a white supremacist white nationalist to be a witness for his bill on Monday:
    A Pennsylvania lawmaker objected to accusations that he had invited a white supremacist to testify in front of a committee by clarifying that the witness was merely a white nationalist. 
    The witness, Robert "Bob" Vandervoort, appeared at a hearing Monday on a bill to make English the official state language, the Patriot-News reported, prompting state Rep. Leslie Acosta (D) to allege that the committee had invited a white supremacist. 
    The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Vandervoort as being tied "to white nationalist groups." But, as the Patriot-News noted, the center characterizes white nationalist groups as espousing "white supremacist or white separatist ideologies." 
    Metcalfe also said, "For whoever said the man was white to begin with, that person was actually the racist -- tying his skin color to his patriotism and what he stands up for for his country."
    Yes, you say "to-may-toe" and I say "to-mah-toe" and Metcalfe says pointing out racism is racist!

    And why is this post titled "Part II"? Because when Metcalfe is not busy inviting white supremacists white nationalists to speak (and shutting up Latinas and Gays), he is cavorting with people who call for elected Democrats to swing from ropes.

    In 2010, he invited Jeff Lewis, national director, Federal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Coalition (FIRE), to stand with him at a press conference to promote PA House Bill 2479 which patterned itself after Arizona's controversial "Papers, Please" legislation. Here's the type of thing that Lewis writes:
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other Members of Congress ignore the Constitution on a daily basis, and knowingly give support and comfort to special interest groups, foreign governments and the illegal alien insurgents they encourage to invade the United States, and betray everything their oath of office represents. Ask your governor, your federal and state judges why these traitors aren’t swinging from a rope? [Emphasis added]
    God Bless 'Merica! God Bless Pennsyltucky! And God Bless Daryl Metcalfe!

    September 23, 2015

    RICO, Climate Science, The Tribune-Review and A Whole Buncha Scaife Money

    I'm not sure the Tribune-Review editorial board sees how much they're involved in this story.

    Or perhaps they do and they're on defense - while hoping no one would notice that they are.

    Today they began with:
    Climate alarmists have reached a new and troubling low. They're calling for those who audaciously question the hardly “settled science” of global warming to be prosecuted as racketeers.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., suggests that the federal government treat climate skeptics as it did Big Tobacco — by filing civil litigation under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. And four gaggle of self-anointed leading climate squawkers signed a Sept. 1 letter to President Obama to that end.
    Ok, here's what Senator Whitehouse actually said:
    The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.

    Thankfully, the government had a playbook, too: the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil RICO lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups, alleging that the companies “engaged in and executed — and continue to engage in and execute — a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO.”

    Tobacco spent millions of dollars and years of litigation fighting the government. But finally, through the discovery process, government lawyers were able to peel back the layers of deceit and denial and see what the tobacco companies really knew all along about cigarettes.

    In 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decided that the tobacco companies’ fraudulent campaign amounted to a racketeering enterprise. According to the court: “Defendants coordinated significant aspects of their public relations, scientific, legal, and marketing activity in furtherance of a shared objective — to . . . maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public.”
    Sound familiar? That's the point the senator was making.

    Where it gets RICO-scare for the braintrust comes when Whitehouse references this study, by Drexel University professor Robert Brulle.  Here's what the press release from Drexel had to say about the study.  One of the key findings included this:
    Conservative foundations have bank-rolled denial. The largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating climate change denial are a number of well-known conservative foundations, such as the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation. These foundations promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms. [Bolding in Original.]
    See that?  Until his death, Richard Mellon Scaife both controlled the Sarah Scaife Foundation AND owned the Tribune-Review.

    If there's any RICO investigation, it will inevitably lead to money granted by Scaife.  Shouldn't that have been part of the editorial?

    Then there's this:
    The efforts to silence debate are Orwellian and self-serving. Climate Depot says the lead signer of that Sept. 1 letter and his wife received $1.5 million in government grants from 2012 to 2014.
    Climate Depot is a project of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (even says so on their website).

    Guess who gave $2.3 million to the Committee?

    Richard Mellon Scaife, by way of the Carthage and Sara Scaife Foundation.

    Last time I checked, $2.3 million was more than $1.5.

    Shouldn't THAT have been mentioned to the Trib-reading public?  Shouldn't it have been, at the very least, hinted at that the media structure criticized by Senator Whitehouse included the one-time owner of the very paper that's criticizing Whitehouse for that criticism?

    September 21, 2015

    Another Jack Kelly Slavery Column Follow-Up

    Sometime ago a letter writer from Squirrel Hill complained on the Post-Gazette's letters page about a column he read recently about slavery.  (It was written by Jack Kelly, doncha know.)  Our letter writer had a few issues with Jack's collection of "facts."  Here's one:
    Slavs were not the people most frequently enslaved by the ancient Romans. Hence the Roman word for slave was "servus" not "slav." "Slav" became synonymous with "slave" almost 1,000 years after the Germanic tribes sacked Rome. Moreover, those Slavs who did become slaves around 1300-1500 were not Catholic Poles, but Eastern Orthodox Bulgarians and Russians (among many other ethnic groups from the Balkans to the Caucasus).
    And another:
    Kelly's reference to the Arab slave trade is less inaccurate, but no less irrelevant. Yes, about 11 million sub-Saharan people were transported by the Arab slave trade in the thousand years before 1900, and about 12 million were shipped across the Atlantic by the Europeans in the 400 years before 1860. The relative size of groups has no bearing on claims being made for descendants of African slaves within the United States.
    And yet another:
    Finally, Kelly's double-standard undercuts his own basic point: "No American living today was either a master or a slave," therefore why should one accept guilt by inheritance? Only liberals, Mr. Kelly insists, "love to apologize for everyone's sins but their own."
    The letter writer was Seymore Drescher, history professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

    He also wrote it in August of 2000.

    That's right.  August of 2000.

    You see, Jack's column from a week or so ago was not his first foray into slavery revisionism.  He wrote another one almost like it 15 years ago.  And while I can't find it at the P-G website, luckily Jack's columns are also published at the Toledo Blade.  And the column, in all it's glory, can be found there.

    Here's how he started back then:
    This talk of reparations for slavery excites me. I had, according to family lore, only one ancestor in this country at the time of the Civil War. He was a soldier in the Union Army. Since blacks were freed not by act of God, but by the bullets and bayonets of men like my great-great grandfather, I figure it's about time Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton wrote me a check.
    Wow.  Not sure what to say about that.  So I'll let it the awkward settle in and then move on.

    Let's compare and contrast.  Here's Jack from last week:
    Slavery isn’t America’s original sin because it was unique, or uniquely horrible here. If prostitution is “the world’s oldest profession,” slave trading is second. Since the dawn of recorded history, slavery has been practiced in nearly every society known to man.
    And Jack from 2000:
    But to the extent American blacks believe slavery was a horror uniquely visited upon them, they are mistaken. Slavery has existed in every culture known to man, ancient and modern. The word slave comes from Slav, the peoples most frequently enslaved during Roman times.
    So I guess Jack didn't concern himself with Professor Drescher's corrections.  Oh well.  He rarely concerns himself with mine.

    I gotta ask: Did he research the column again or just use his earlier column for research?  How much of this is a rewrite and how much a regurgitation?  Inquiring minds want to know.

    In any case, wanna know how long ago was August of 2000?
    • Bill Clinton was still president
    • Hillary Clinton had yet to be elected to the Senate
    • Monica and Chandler were still nine months away from getting married.
    That's a long time, Jack.  Did you think no one would find your earlier column? 

    (I only found it with a lot of help.  Mega hat tips to Ed Heath who was at John McIntire's comedy show where he heard the P-G's John Allison talk about Jack's slavery column from 2000.)