Prosecute the torture.

March 31, 2006

Pennacchio Weekend Events

Friday (Today!):
Friday evening (March 31st) we’re going to be doing a walking tour of Squirrel Hill WITH Chuck. Join us at the 61C coffee shop on Murray Avenue at 6:30.
Change of plans!
We're meeting at the Beehive Coffeehouse at E. Carson and 13th St. on the South Side at 6:30PM instead of in Squirrel Hill. Come and meet and walk with Chuck!

Saturday:
On Saturday (April 1st), we will be leafleting and talking Chuck up at the Regent Square Peace Vigil. The vigil is being held on the corner of Forbes and Braddock at noon so we should be there by about 11:30.

The Harris Theater, 809 Liberty Avenue, in downtown Pittsburgh is showing the documentary “Why We Fight.” Please join us on Sunday (April 2nd) at 1:30 PM (before the 2:00 showing) to spread the “Chuck” word.

chuck2006.c0m

More subtle media bias

When the wingnuts speak of media bias, they're usually talking about "liberal" media bias.

But take a look at this. It's Maeve Reston's article at the P-G describing how the Senate has approved new rules about lobbying. All this in response to the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals.

And not once is the word "Republican" used in the piece. The closest Reston gets is to put the "R" when mentioning the Republican members of Congress.

But let's remember, friends, that the Abramoff scandal was a Republican scandal. And that the Duke Cunningham scandal was a Republican scandal.

If you didn't know the details, you could reasonably guess from Reston's piece that Abramoff was an equal opportunity briber (which he wasn't) or that the lobbying corruption is shared in equal parts by both parties (which it isn't).

In this piece it looks like the Senate has come together in a bipartisan way to clean up a bipartisan mess.

Uh-uh. Not true. It was a partisan mess all along. A Republican partisan mess.

Here's a thought experiment. Imagine it happening to Democrats. Doncha think the whole frickin news media would be pointing it out?

Of course they would.

It looks like there's a conscious attempt to AVOID mentioning the word "Republican" and the word "scandal" in the same sentence - heck, in the same news article.

March 30, 2006

HAPPY DAY

Take a look.
KDKA Radio said it has named John McIntire as permanent evening host to fill the 8-10 p.m. weekday slot, the station announced today.
AND he has a blog.

Today's a good day.

Scalia = Potty Mouth

On Monday, the Boston Herald reported that Justice Antonin Scalia "Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross" made an obscene gesture "when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs."

While the gesture was immortalized on film, the United Press International reported that Scalia told the photographer, "Don't publish that."

On Wednesday, 'Famously feisty Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia yesterday denied that he made an obscene gesture Sunday inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, accusing the Herald staff of “watching too many Sopranos episodes.” '

Later that day, AmericaBlog demanded that the photo be released.

Today, the Boston Herald released the photo:


Whether or not you believe the gesture to be obscene (meaning "fuck you") or not (meaning "I don't care") seems to depend on how many generations removed you are from Italy.

That said, the Herald also reported today that while making the gesture, Scalia had some choice words to go with it:

The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.
For those who don't know, "vaffanculo" translates to:

"FUCK YOU"

UPDATE: Photographer who took the picture of Scalia has been fired by the Archdiocese of Boston’s newspaper.

Eyes Wide Open: Pennsylvania

The AFSC’s [American Friends Service Committee] widely acclaimed exhibit on the human cost of war is branching out.

Eyes Wide Open: Pennsylvania features one pair of military boots for every Pennsylvanian casualty in Iraq and 50 pairs of civilian shoes, tagged with Iraqi names, representing the 50:1 ratio of Iraqi to US casualties in the current conflict. As of January 2006 Pennsylvania has lost over 110 soldiers, the third highest state casualty count in the US.

This exhibit is available to communities across the state and will be on tour in the spring of 2006.

Pittsburgh Events – March 31st through April 2nd:

Thursday, March 30 – 7:30PM to 10:00 PM - Film showing at A20 Porter Hall, Carnegie Mellon University.

Friday, March 31st - 11:00 AM to 8:30 PM – Eyes Wide Open boots exhibit at Friends Meeting House, 4836 Ellsworth Ave in Oakland . One of the persons reading at this even is Friend of 2PJ, Zuri, as seen on this blog on September 27th participating in the March Against the Iraq War in DC.

Friday, March 31st - 7:00 PM – Eyes Wide Open Candlelit Vigil and reading of the names of PA service people killed in Iraq. At Friends Meeting House, 4836 Ellsworth Ave in Oakland

Saturday, April 1st - 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM – Eyes Wide Open exhibit at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Penn and Highland Aves in East Liberty Saturday, April 1st - 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM – Film showing sponsored by Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Penn and Highland Aves in East Liberty

Saturday, April 1st - 7:00 PM – Eyes Wide Open Community Forum, a chance to share your thoughts around the human and economic cost of the Iraqi war. East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Penn and Highland Aves in East Liberty

Sunday, April 2nd - Noon to 3:30 – Eyes Wide Open exhibit at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Penn and Highland Aves in East Liberty

Sunday, April 2nd - 4:00 PM – Pittsburgh Playback Theatre production: Reflections on the Human Cost of War. East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Penn and Highland Aves

March 29, 2006

The "foreignization" of all Latinos

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez at La Queen Sucia decrys the chief pinche cabron (Lou Dobbs) in an "open letter to CNN and other mainstream US media outlets."
(Hat tip to Atrios)

Her points include:
1. The vast majority of Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. (75 percent of us) were born and raised here, including many of us who have roots here that predate the arrival of the pilgrims.

2. "Immigrant" is not synonymous with "Latino" and the media should stop pretending they mean the same thing.

3. The CNN analyst who said today "Keep in mind, Latino voters are LEGAL immigrants, not illegal immigrants" should be FIRED for sloppy thinking. MOST LATINOS ARE NOT IMMIGRANTS AT ALL, PINCHE CABRON.

[snip]

6. You can be a Mexican American and never have had an ancestor come over the US border; vast portions of the United States of today USED TO BE MEXICO or SPAIN. If you failed to learn this in high school, your teachers should be fired.

7. The vast majority of Hispanics/Latinos in the US speak English as a first language. The Pew Center for Hispanic research shows that by the third generation, all Latin American immigrant descendents - 100 percent of them - are English-first, English dominant. Zero percent speak Spanish as a first or primary language by the third generation.
See all 16 of her points here.

(Yet again I have to ask) What Liberal Media?

From Mediamatters:
Since a March 27 New York Times article confirmed that a leaked British memo appears to contradict President Bush's repeated claim prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that he wanted to avoid war, media have failed to note the full significance of the document and in some cases ignored the story altogether.
If there really was a "liberal bias" in the media, don't you think that would be front and center? Since it is not, what's left of the "liberal bias" claim?

For those who missed it, here's the Times article.
In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
Media Matters notes that:
...major newspapers have yet to feature articles on the memo, and Fox News has not once mentioned the document. CBS and ABC have limited their coverage to several brief mentions of the story. And numerous other reports have failed to contrast the memo's depiction of Bush with his public statements prior to the war.[emphasis added]
Yep, "fair and balanced" FNC ignores yet more Bush-era mendacity. Hardly surprising, I guess.

Aaaanyway, here's an interesting point:
At their meeting, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair candidly expressed their doubts that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be found in Iraq in the coming weeks, the memo said. The president spoke as if an invasion was unavoidable. The two leaders discussed a timetable for the war, details of the military campaign and plans for the aftermath of the war.
And I like how it's put: "the president spoke as if an invasion was unavoidable." He's the Commander-in-Chief! It's written as if he had no say in the matter. But according to Article 2 of what's left of our Constitution, he's the Commander-in-Chief!

And check this out. That day, at the news conference both men were asked:
Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?
And Bush answered:
I can't make that claim.
So they doubted that WMD would be found and they stated that they couldn't claim a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 (I wonder if Stephen Hayes was watching that night), and they asserted that military action was inevitable anyway - while all the public statements point in the exact opposite direction.

And yet, Fox news and their fellow travellers in the mainstream media have yet to notice.

What liberal media?

Bush Trying to Subvert Democracy Again

But this time it's not in the US

From the New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 28 — Senior Shiite politicians said today that the American ambassador has told Shiite officials to inform the Iraqi prime minister that President Bush does not want him to remain the country's leader in the next government.

It is the first time the Americans have directly intervened in the furious debate over the country's top job, the politicians said, and it is inflaming tensions between the Americans and some Shiite leaders.

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting last Saturday to pass a "personal message from President Bush" on to the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who the Shiites insist should stay in his post for four more years, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite politician and member of Parliament who was at the meeting.

Ambassador Khalilzad said that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.
Shiiit!

What about all ths purple fingers? Like the ones that the Rethuglicans held up at Dubya's State of the Union Address only one year ago:



Once again, Bushy replaces those fingers with his favorite one:

They need your help NOW

CHUCK PENNACCHIO

Here's an opportunity to meet Chuck and come out in support of his campaign! Chuck is pro-choice and anti-war, to mention just two of his positions. For more info, go to: www.chuck2006.com

1. Supporters of Chuck will meet this evening at the Beehive on the Southside (corner of 14th and E Carson St) at 7:00 PM

2. Chuck Pennacchio will be in town this Friday (March 31st) to do a walking tour of Squirrel Hill. Meet at the 61C coffee shop on Murray Avenue at 6:30 PM. They will be walking the district and handing out information and talking to people about Chuck Pennacchio!

Tell your friends and bring some along!

For more info, contact Henry Lipput at h_lipput@hotmail.com or Janis Williams at janis.jwm@comcast.net


SHAWN FLAHERTY

There are loads of opportunites to support Flaherty!
There is only ONE race that pits good guys (Dems, of course!) vs. the bad guys before the General Election in November. That is the race for State Representative in the 30th District on TUESDAY, APRIL 11, between Shawn Flaherty, the only Democratic candidate for State Representative in the District 30 Special Election to replace Jeff Habay, and the Republican candidate he is running against. To pull off a win for the Democrats, we need YOUR help- and there are lots of ways to get involved.

Aside from being the only opportunity in the next month to take a state house seat back to the Democratic side, this race has further reaching implications. This state representative district is in the same area of Allegheny County that gave birth to Republican Congresswoman Melissa Hart and Senator Rick Santorum when both were just rising stars on the national scene. The Republican candidate for this race is a Santorum-Hart clone, and we can't afford another one.

Shawn Flaherty, on the other hand, son of former Pittsburgh mayor Pete Flaherty, will bring commonsense solutions to create real property tax reform, protect the quality of our public education, and ensure a more open government. Shawn is the only candidate with the experience of helping residents reduce their property taxes. His law firm has helped homeowners save more than fifty million dollars in assessments, and as Representative, he will bring that same smart approach to Harrisburg with the Shawn Flaherty Plan for Real Property Tax Reform.
The Special Election is April 11, so with only two weeks to go, Shawn, and the Democratic Party, need your help.

There are visibilities scheduled for Rush hour this Friday at the intersection of: Mt. Royal Blvd & Rt. 8 - It's the fisrt traffic light after exiting Rt. 28 at the Route 8/Butler exit.

There are also opportunities to phone bank, canvasss, etc. We MUST win this race!!

The campaign will be canvassing Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Please sign-up for whenever you may be available. The campaign will also be phoning whenever anyone is available.

On the weekend of April 8-9, the last weekend before the election, the PA Young Dems will also be organizing a statewide Campaign Invasion, providing lodging to Democrats from across PA willing to come in and help for the final push. More information on this effort to follow.

If you'd like to get involved, make a real difference, and get yourself tuned up for the rest of the big races in 2006, please email or call the campaign at (412) 418-7330 to get involved and talk to Campaign Manager, Shawn Westcott (shawn.westcott@yahoo.com ). For more info, check out www.ShawnFlaherty.com .

March 27, 2006

If you missed it...

...("it" being David on offQ), you have a last chance to catch it again at 12:30 PM today on channel 13.

"Fair and Balanced"

ABC News broadcasted a story yesterday that asked, "Was Confusion Over Global Warming a Con Job?"

The subtitle on their website states, "Some Claim Disinformation Campaign Attempted to Create the Impression Scientists Were Broadly Divided."


Well,

D

U

H

!



The story says:

The vast majority of scientists has determined global warming to be a real threat. So why has it taken so long to convince Americans?

Misinformation Campaign

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ross Gelbspan blames a 15-year misinformation campaign by the oil and coal industries.

"The point of this campaign was not necessarily to persuade the public that global warming isn't happening," Gelbspan said. "It was to persuade the public that there is this state of confusion."

[snip]

The industry's influence even extends into the White House — where up until a few months ago a former oil industry lobbyist, Phil Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was one of the president's top environmental advisers, editing scientific reports to make global warming seem less threatening.

"From now on, we don't have scientists write reports and just take them," said Rick Piltz of the group Climate Science Watch. "We pass them through a White House filter before they're ever published. I mean, that's scandalous."
What the ABC story leaves out is the media's complicity in all this.

Moreover, they miss the bigger picture which is the Right Wing's War on Objective Reality.

While the Right Wing has been screaming about "moral relativism" on one hand, the have been assaulting any notion of "object truth" or just plain old facts on the other.

The Right will claim, for example, that Fox News is "fair and balanced" because it presents "both sides of the story." Forget for a moment that the Left side is given by anemic spokespersons for a fraction of the time that is given to the Right's talking points and look at the bigger picture:
- They cry that Creationism (in the form of Intelligent Design) must be taught in schools to provide students "other views."

- Climatologists who regard global warming as being overblown are given equal weight in coverage of the subject even thought they represent a minuscule fraction of all scientists or are concerned by global warming.

- Doctors are dragged out from under rocks to claim that Terri Schiavo is not brain dead despite all hard evidence to the contrary.

- Partisan fringe groups like "Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth" are given massive media coverage despite the fact that their claims differ from the testimony of the men who were actually on the same boat as John Kerry and official military records.

- They cry that "good news" stories must be found in Iraq despite that fact that if car bombs were to be blowing up on a regular basis in, say, Pittsburgh, the news would not be focusing on fireman rescuing a cat from a tree or the opening of a new store.

ETC., ETC., ETC.
And it isn't just FOX of course. The Right has been screaming so loud and long about "balance" that they have bullied the entire media to give up any ghost of presenting facts in context lest they be accused of having a "liberal bias."

It's long passed the time when we must all cry "FOUL" at this assult on science, reason and critical thinking.

2 + 2 does =4.

We can't let any amount of screaming from the Right Wing tell us (or bully the media into telling us) otherwise.



Good News in Iraq

From Americablog:
I've come to the conclusion that AMERICAblog has been far too critical of the war in Iraq, so we're going to devote an entire post to the good news about Iraq. Happy news. Puppy dog warm and fuzzy kind of news. Please feel free to add your own good news in the comments.

Ten good things about Iraq:
  • No Ann Coulter
  • Only 69 people died in today's violence
  • If the number of dead hits 70, Bush can say that Muslim's read backwards so it's really only 7
  • At least they don't put Christians to death
  • No more torture
  • Flowers
  • Electric bills are at an all-time low
  • Freedom is on the march
Any more happy news?
Let's see if I can add some more:
  • There's two different ways for Americans to pronounce the name of the country: ih-RACK and EYE-rack. Neat, huh?
  • They never had to suffer through Cop Rock
  • They probably hate the United Nations
Feel free to add some more in the comments.

March 26, 2006

Stiff Competition! Calling All Artists!

Planned Parenthood Western Pennsylvania's Action Fund (PPWPAF) proudly invites you to participate in Stiff Competition 2006: Firm Beliefs.

It's been two years since PPWPAF's last Stiff Competition, and things have certainly changed in the world of reproductive freedom. Abortion is banned in South Dakota, some women have been turned away from their local pharmacies when they tried to fill their birth control prescriptions, and more than half of all sexual assault victims can't obtain emergency contraception from statewide emergency rooms.

PPWPAF wants participants to be thinking about and supporting these major issues affecting reproductive freedom. They are asking entrants to create engaging and eye-catching posters that will be used to educate the public and legislature about three of Planned Parenthood's most vital issues.

They are issuing a call for artists to submit message designs based on one of the three current public awareness campaigns:

1. Emergency Contraception in Emergency Rooms
("EC in the ER") Securing statewide protocol that emergency contraception in available in all emergency rooms for victims of sexual assault.

2. Pharmacist refusals to fill contraceptive prescriptions
Individual pharmacists refusals to fill prescriptions and pharmacy chains refusal to sell contraceptives

3. Abortion bans
The recent South Dakota abortion ban is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and interferes with the constitutional right to make private, personal decisions about health care.Polls consistently show the majority of Americans support a woman's right to choose. Abortion ban legislation is wildly out of step with mainstream America. We want to let our governor and legislature no that we will NOT allow it to happen here.
Pieces can be submitted directly to Planned Parenthood offices at 933 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

Additional information -- including Contest Rules and Entry Forms -- can be found at:
http://www.stiffcompetition.org


The artworks will be featured in an exhibition at The Andy Warhol Museum on June 8, 2006 and auctioned off to raise funds and awareness for PPWPAF. A panel of judges will select a winner in each theme category and an overall winner.

Deadline for entries is Friday, May 19th, 2006. There is no entry fee.

Short note about Jack Kelly

From his blog:
People who read the post below may wonder why I did not report on the good things the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard has done in Iraq. The reason is I've been fired as the national security writer. I've been forbidden to write news stories about national defense.
I'm not sure whether he means the Post-Gazete or the Toledo Blade. But no matter. Jack explains:
What happened was this: My column in September about the response to Hurricane Katrina was the subject of a hit piece on David Brock's Web site, Media Matters. The criticisms were a piece of crap, which I was able to demonstrate. But it got the Lefties among the editors here and (especially) at our sister paper in Toledo all exercised.
Hmm...

I seem to recall something about that. Here's Jack's column. And here's what Kelly calls Media Matters' "hit piece." And here's Kelly's response.

You can read it all and decide for yourself. Just as Jack Kelly's bosses have decided and (in his words) "fired [him] as the national security reporter."

Of course it's all the fault of all the "Lefties" on those editorial boards. The fault can't possibly lie with Jack.

Of course not.

Report from OffQ

Wow, what a blast that was!

Here's the basic story. A few weeks ago, there was in the "guest panelist" chair a woman named "Ellen James." First thing I thought of was "Wow, she's named Ellen James and yet she can speak." (If you don't get the joke, go read "The World According to Garp." You'll thank me later.)

Ms James was described on the show as a freelance writer who publishes a literary journal called "Salt." Here's the online version and here's the blog connected to it. (Geez, does EVERYONE have a blog these days?)

When I saw that, I thought to myself: Hey, I'm a freelance writer (I have a political column over at The Front) and I write for one of the bigger lefty blogs in town (this one), why can't I be on the show?

So I dropped the good folks at WQED an e-mail asking them if I could be on OffQ - and they said yes.

I was told that they'd send me the topics of Friday's show on Friday afternoon - so I took the afternoon off and headed down to the public library in Oakland. Had a great cheeseburger at a place called "Five Guys" and made it in to the Carnegie at about 2. Read everything I could until about 4 and waited. Then I went over my notes and waited some more.

The waiting was excruciating.

I arrived at QED at about 6:45 and got shuttled into the green room (and I THINK it was actually green - though I wouldn't trust my memory on that).

About 7:10 I met Chris Moore and he gave me some general pointers and then we went into the studio. I sat in my chair, got miked and thought to myself, "What am I doing here? This could turn into a whole mess of humiliation." But then I thought, "Yea, but this is really cool." And it was.

Fred Honsberger walked in about 7:15. Alan Cox a few minutes later. Handshakes all around. Alan was wearing a "Suicide Girls" t-shirt and (I think) some brand new Converse All-Stars. I'm pretty sure they were All Stars, I'm just not sure they're "brand" new.

Ruth Ann made it in at about 7:25.

Then the show began. After a few early jitters, I began to enjoy it big time. I made a few points, cracked a few jokes. There was one that can't really be heard on the air (everyone was talking), at the end of the story of the "pidgeon shooter," Ruth Ann said that if you get to them early enough, pidgeons are squab - and added something about how they should utilize all this locally raised produce at the nearby Culinary Institute. I said, "Yea it would be like killing two birds with one stone."

Get it? I thought it was funny, but I don't think anyone else heard it. Every one did giggle when Fred "thanked" me for listening to his radio program (I think he actually said "bless you.") and I said "You can give me a dollar later."

Everyone was very nice and I was honestly surprised how cordial everything was. With any luck, I'll be back on the show sometime soon.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming of incisive political commentary.

IMPEACH

March 24, 2006

Reminder

Just a reminder - I'll be on OffQ tonight. Channel 13 at 7:30. It'll be rebroadcast later in the evening, 11:30 I think. Check your local listings for details.

I'll be the bearded guy sitting next to The Honzman.

Ohmigod, I am like, you know, so psyched over this!

Seriously, I am very excited about this. Who wouldn't be?

IMPEACH

March 23, 2006

Tricky Ricky Santorum News

First up, from the New York Times (via AmericaBlog)

WASHINGTON, March 20 — Weeks after the Internal Revenue Service announced a crackdown on political activities by churches and other tax-exempt organizations, a coalition of nonprofit conservative groups is holding training sessions to enlist Pennsylvania pastors in turning out voters for the November elections.

Experts in tax law said the sessions, organized by four groups as the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, could test the promises by the tax agency to step up enforcement of the law that prohibits such activity by exempt organizations.

Such a test could define the boundaries for churches and other groups.

[snip]

The first training session, on March 6 in Valley Forge, included a videotaped message from a single candidate, Senator Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican who faces a difficult re-election fight.

"I encourage you to let your voices be heard from the pulpit" on vital issues, Mr. Santorum said, urging the pastors to champion a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, according to a recording made by a person at the session. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a liberal group critical of the effort, provided the recording to The New York Times.

After the tape, organizers offered participating pastors copies of the senator's book "It Takes a Family."

[snip]

Pennsylvania appears to be the sole state where advocacy groups are pouring so much into working with churches so early. The outcome of the effort, and the way the tax agency responds, could have an influence far beyond the state.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) alleging that a get-out-the-vote training session offered by the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN) may have violated IRS rules governing charities.

According to CREW:
As §501(c)(3) organizations, the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Urban Family Council are barred from engaging in any activity that supports or opposes a candidate. This prohibition extends to implicit candidate endorsements and events designed to suggest a favored candidate. Sponsoring get-out-the-vote training in which Senator Santorum delivered a message, but the Senator’s opponent in a closely contested race, Bob Casey, was not invited to do so, likely constitutes impermissible political activity.

[snip}

CREW’s executive director, Melanie Sloan said “it appears that rather than engaging in legal, non-partisan get-out-the-vote efforts, the real mission of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network is to assist Senator Santorum in his re-election campaign. This is exactly the sort of political activity prohibited by IRS law.” Sloan continued, “the IRS has already taken action against a liberal church in Pasadena, California for much less egregious activities. If the IRS is serious about enforcing the law equally, it will take action against those involved in creating the Pennsylvania Pastors Network as well.”
And, then there's this amusing bit at Atrios:
Just caught last week's Veronica Mars on Tivo. Plot involved someone blackmailing gay students. At one point the fake name used by the blackmailer was "Rick Santorum."
Time to rid PA (and the Nation) of the embarrassment of Santorum.

Cecilia Reigns Fire and Thunder on SD's Antiabortion Law

According to an article in Native American Times (subscription only), Cecilia Fire Thunder, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe at Pine Ridge, SD is "incensed...that a body made up of mostly white males would make such a stupid law against women" regarding that state's antiabortion law.

So what will Ms. Fire Thunder do with her righteous anger?
"To me, it is now a question of sovereignty," she said to last week. "I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction."
However, the law states "jurisdiction for non-Indian criminal offenses on the reservation lies with state or federal courts: Crimes committed on the reservation by non-Indians against non-Indians are subject to state jurisdiction." (See New York ex rel. Ray v. Martin, 326 U.S. 496 (1946); Solem v. Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463 (1984).) So any abortion clinics established may need to have Native Americans performing abortions.

(Hat tip to Sunfell at Daily KOS)

March 22, 2006

Cheney Sighting in the 'Burgh?

There was a bit of a ruckus in downtown Pittsburgh today when a man was sighted on a rooftop with what appeared to be rifle. Streets were closed. The SWAT team was brought in.

As it turns out, it was only someone who was using a pellet gun with a scope to scare pigeons.

We haven't seen pictures of the guy, but we're thinking he may look something like this:

March 21, 2006

Female Trouble

Why name a post about the dearth of Pennsylvania women in political office and the executive ranks of business after a John Waters film?

While aside from the fact that watching Divine as Dawn Davenport knock over the Christmas tree on her parents because she didn't get the pair of cha-cha heels that she asked for is hysterically funny, it would seem that a man in drag has a lot better chance of moving up in this little corner of the world than an actual woman does.

Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the following on Women (not) at the Helm in business:

So we tried to do what hasn't been done before: gather data on the number of women executives and board members in the every public and private corporation and nonprofit institution in the region. Business reporter Dan Fitzpatrick spent two months surveying dozens of companies and worked with the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, an advocacy group for gender equity, to produce this ground-breaking report.

The results are revealing and discouraging. Women hold only 9.8 percent of the executive positions and 9 percent of the board seats at publicly traded companies in the region. Only one public company -- ESB Financial in Elwood City -- has a female CEO. Several have no women executives or board members, including Federated Investors, the Downtown firm with $213 billion under its management.

Compared with Pittsburgh, the U.S. figures are better but still surprisingly low. Nationally, women occupy 15.7 percent of key executive positions among Fortune 500 firms and 16.9 percent of the board seats at Fortune 100 companies, according to Catalyst, a research organization aimed at advancing women's careers.
You can participate in an online chat on the P-G article "Women at the Helm" with Dan Fitzpatrick and Heather Arnet at noon on Thursday at www.post-gazette.com .

Things aren't much better on the political front.

The United States is 50.2% women and yet they represent only

14% of U.S. Senators
16% of U.S. Representatives
14% of Governors
less than 20% of Mayors
0% of the Pittsburgh area's delegation to the State House

This issue will be discussed at:

"The Spark": Women in Local Politics
Host: GAAP, Women's Center, Office of Gender Issues, Pre-Law Society
Location: The Heinz School, Room 1000 of Hamb 4800 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Friday, March 24, 5:00 PM- 6:30 PM
Phone: 412-491-9938

Join a panel discussion with women improving these statistics by changing public policy and running for public office.

Find out how they found the courage to run, learned the art of campaigning and negotiation, and developed skills to compete in the political arena. Refreshments will be served.

RSVP HERE

And perhaps because March is Women's History Month, there is a competing panel discussion on the same day:

YWCA Panel Discussion: Women & the Global Community
Host: YWCA Greater Pittsburgh
Location: YWCA Greater Pittsburgh, 305 Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh
When: Friday, March 24 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Phone: 412-255-1257, Terri Balogh (tbalogh@ywcapgh.org)

In celebration of Women's History Month and International Women's
Day, the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh will be hosting a panel discussion
comprised of five women reflecting the global community.

The three major topics the panel will be discussing are:

1) How is the global economy impacting women worldwide?
2) Why are we hearing less and less about AIDS and is it a woman's
disease?
3) What are the most pressing issues facing women today?

Please feel free to bring a guest. Heavy hors d'oeuvres will be served.

So what can you do to make a change?

The Progress Pittsburgh blog recently ran "A Run Down of the Run Baby Run Candidates":

Run Baby Run is a Pittsburgh based organization that is supporting women candidate running for state office in 2006. Currently there are no women from Western PA in the state house. Here is a run down of the "Run Baby Run" candidates who you can support:

Susan Banahasky
Democrat - District 20
Contact: susan@susaninthehouse.com
Campaign Manager Matt Preston: mattpreston@gmail.com
Website: www.susaninthehouse.com
Incumbent Walko
District includes most of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville
neighborhood, parts of the Northside and parts of
Reserve, Ross and West View.

Lisa Bennington
Democrat - District 21
Contact: LisaForHouse@comcast.net
Website: www.LisaForHouse.com
Incumbent Pistella
District is made up of Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield,
Shadyside and Morningside neighborhoods, as well as
the towns of Etna, Millvale, Sharpsburg, and parts of
O’Hara, Ross and Reserve.

Jodie Goughnour
Democrat - District 58
Contact: questions@JodieGoughnour.com
Website: www.jodiegoughnour.com
Incumbent: Harhai (D)
District consists of towns in both Fayette and
Westmoreland counties, including Belle Vernon, Fayette
City, Monessen, Sewickley Township, Rostraver and
parts of East and South Huntingon, Hempfield and West
Newton.

Deberah Kula
Democrat - District 52
Campaign Assistant: Jill Kula, lmi2@atlanticbbn.net
Incumbent: Shaner, retiring
District consists of parts of Fayette and Westmoreland
Counties, including Connellsville, Dunbar, North
Union, Scottdale and parts of Mt. Pleasant.

Kathy Marks
Republican - District 59
Contact: kmarks3088@zoominternet.net
Incumbent: Stairs (R)
District consists of parts of Fayette and Westmoreland
counties, including Saltlick, Bullskin, Fairfield,
Hempfield, Mt. Pleasant and Ligonier Townships.

Marilyn Messina
Democrat – District 34
Contact: marilynwmessina@yahoo.com
Incumbent: Paul Costa (D)
District includes Braddock Hills, Swissvale, Edgewood,
Rankin, Braddock, Forest Hills, North Braddock,
Chalfont, Turtle Creek, Churchill, Wilkins,
Wilmerding, and East McKeesport.

Chelsa Wagner
Democrat - District 22
Contact: chelsa@chelsawagner.com
Website: www.chelsawagner.com
Incumbent: Diven (R)
District includes parts of the city of Pittsburgh,
Baldwin Township, Castle Shannon and Whitehall.

Eileen Watt
Republican - District 33
Contact: eileenwatt@yahoo.com
Incumbent: Dermody (D)
District includes East and West Deer, Fawn, Frazer,
Harrison, Brackenridge, Tarentum, Oakmont, Indiana,
Harmar, Cheswick, Springdale and parts of Plum.

You can also support Valerie McDonald Roberts in her efforts to get Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll to particpate in a debate.

Yes, this female vs. female, but PA needs a Lt. Governor who knows that our Governor is not "Edward G. Robinson."

Catherine Baker Knoll has declined to debate her challengers on the issues at the heart of this year’s election. The League of Women Voters has scheduled a debate for April 25th in Harrisburg and May 1st in Scranton, but it looks like Knoll will be a no show.

McDonald Roberts released this comment on the upcoming debates:
“Debate is at the heart of Democracy. The first amendment in the Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, because our founders knew the importance of discourse in choosing our leaders and protecting our democratic government. No one has the right to rule. Office holding is a privilege granted by the people and the people have a right to be informed by the candidates themselves. I invite Catherine Baker Knoll to participate in the democratic process by joining me and the other candidates in debating the issues important to this state.”

Chuck Pennacchio on KDKA Radio Tonight

Chuck Pennacchio will be on KDKA Radio (AM 1020) tonight at 8:00 PM with John McIntire.

You can live stream this at:

http://www.kdkaradio.com

58th Annual Global Solutions Education Fund Dinner with John Nichols

Global Solutions announces their 58th annual Global Solutions Education Fund - Pittsburgh Spring Dinner

WHEN: Thursday evening, April 20, 2006
WHERE: Omni William Penn Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh.


This year they will be hosting John Nichols, who will present "The Perils of Empire: How Unilateral 'Nation-Building' by the United States Undermines Democracy Abroad and at Home."

The evening’s events will begin with a reception at 6:00 pm and continue with dinner at 7:00 pm, followed by a presentation from John Nichols at 7:30 pm.

Guest Speaker:
John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation

The Perils of Empire: How Unilateral "Nation-Building" by the United States Undermines Democracy Abroad and at Home.


This year, John Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent, will speak at their 58th Annual Spring Dinner. Nichols has covered progressive politics and activism in the United States and abroad for more than a decade. Formerly a writer and editor for The Toledo Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspapers, he is now editorial page editor for The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. He has covered electoral politics for The Progressive for a number of years. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.

Nichols has covered four presidential elections in the United States, along with elections and political activism in Britain, Ireland, Israel, India, Palestine, El Salvador, Jamaica and South Africa. He has interviewed Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George Bush, Bill Bradley, John McCain and Patti Smith. His editorials on corporate responsibility have been honored by the Inland Press Association as the best in the country and his columns on presidential politics have been acclaimed by Women in Communications International as the best appearing in a daily newspaper.

He is the author, with Bob McChesney, of It's the Media, Stupid (Seven Stories), which features introductions by Ralph Nader, Barbara Ehrenreich and Paul Wellstone, and Jews for Buchanan, on the 2000 presidential election, published in November 2001 by New Press.

Reservations:
Reservations are $40 per person and $280 for a table of eight. Student reservations are $15.
To RSVP or for more information, please email rsvp@globalsolutiospgh.org , call 412-471-7852 or visit www.globalsolutionspgh.org/sd2006.html .

*****************************************

And, yes, Global Solutions has sponsored an ad on this blog, but I've subscribed to The Nation for years and read John Nichols, so I would have posted this any way.


Run, Baby, Run & LUPEC Happy Hour Tonight!

WHAT:Run, Baby, Run & LUPEC Happy Hour
WHEN: Tuesday March 21, 2006, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
WHERE: Tonic - Liberty at 10th St., downtown Pittsburgh


Join Run, Baby,Run and LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) as they celebrate Women's History with LUPEC's special style.

It's Gin & Sin time!

Everyone is welcome.

Twofer! Help "Greet" Bush & Santorum in Sewickley!

WHAT: Candlelight Antiwar/Peace Rally
WHEN: Friday, March 24, 2006, 7:00 PM
WHERE: The corner of Beaver and Broad in Sewickley at the Gazebo

The evening of 3/24 George W. Bush will be in town for a fundraiser for Rick Santorum at the Simmons on Quaker Hollow 5-7. (General Reception is $1,000.00, Photos with the president: $10,000.00 per person/couple***.)

At 7:00 PM there will be an antiwar/peace rally at the corner of Beaver and Broad in Sewickley at the Gazebo. (Permits have been issued.)

Please come with friends (spread the word) with candles and signs.

After the rally, a gathering will be held in Osborne at 1315 Linden St. (For more information, contact: natashasoroka@aol.com )

Western PA has a history of making a stand for what is right -- let's once again set a national standard!

***Or you can break your piggy bank, RSVP the fundraiser for PA's -- and the Nation's -- shame, and get a way kool snap with you and Bushie!

Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn

From yesterday's NY Times:
BALTIMORE — Black men in the United States face a far more dire situation than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics, a flurry of new scholarly studies warn, and it has worsened in recent years even as an economic boom and a welfare overhaul have brought gains to black women and other groups.

[snip]

These were among the recent findings:

¶The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.

¶Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.

¶In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.

[snip]

According to census data, there are about five million black men ages 20 to 39 in the United States.

Terrible schools, absent parents, racism, the decline in blue collar jobs and a subculture that glorifies swagger over work have all been cited as causes of the deepening ruin of black youths. Scholars — and the young men themselves — agree that all of these issues must be addressed.

[snip]

Arrests of black men climbed steeply during the crack epidemic of the 1980's, but since then the political shift toward harsher punishments, more than any trends in crime, has accounted for the continued growth in the prison population, Mr. Western said.
The high levels of incarceration among Blacks also leads to disproportionately fewer Blacks being able to vote.

A reminder that the Pennsylvania General Assembly recently passed a bill making it hard for those with a felony conviction to vote which was fortunately vetoed by Governor Rendell.

Further surpression of the Black vote can be expected in New Orleans. As ColorOfChange.org notes:
On April 22nd, New Orleans will hold it's first mayoral election since the storm. Everyone watching knows what will happen if elections go forward without a change--the Black vote will be suppressed and the ability for Black New Orleanians to claim their future compromised. During Iraq's election, the U.S. government provided polling places in U.S. cities with large numbers of Iraqi-Americans. Why won't it do the same for thousands of mostly Black displaced New Orleanians?
You can join ColorOfChange.org in calling on Governor Blanco to protect the voting rights of Katrina survivors by demanding satellite voting and, if necessary, postponing the election to do so HERE.

March 20, 2006

OffQ

I am very pleased to announce that I'll be the "guest panelist" on this week's OffQ.

For those who've never seen the program, it's a lively discussion on current events between Ruth Ann Dailey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Alan Cox of 105.9, Fred Honsberger of KDKA and a guest panelist.

This week, as I stated above, the guest panelist is little old me.

Is that a kick in the pants or what? I get to sit next to The Honzman himself.

Oh, yea. I almost forgot - Bush is still breaking the law.

IMPEACH

SAFEGUARD OUR ELECTIONS !

NO PAPER, NO PROOF, NO WAY!
VOTER-VERIFIED PAPER BALLOTS (V-VPBs)

*** CONTACT THE BOARD OF ELECTION
Dave Fawcett, John Defazio, Dan Onorato
dfawcett@county.allegheny.pa.us
jdefazio@county.allegheny.pa.us
executive@county.allegheny.pa.us

*** CONTACT COUNTY COUNCIL
Phone: (412) 350-6490
council@county.allegheny.pa.us
http://www.www.county.allegheny.pa.us/council

*** SPEAK TO COUNTY COUNCIL
MARCH 21st AT COUNTY COUNCIL, 5:00 PM
Request to speak before County Council at: http://www.TINYURL.COM/M3TV3
County Courthouse
436 Grant Street
4th Floor - Gold Room
Pittsburgh PA

NO PAPER, NO PROOF, NO WAY!
http://www.www.votepa.us


************************************

You can view a 60 second video on this subject by Democracy for America at:
http://tools.democracyforamerica.com/petition/paperballot
And sign a petition there!

test

Is it just me or is the formatting all screwed up?

UPDATE: Nevermind. Seems to be back to normal.

Can someone please show the White House the 4th Amendment?

This from USNews:
In the dark days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a small group of lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department began meeting to debate a number of novel legal strategies to help prevent another attack. Soon after, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to begin conducting electronic eavesdropping on terrorism suspects in the United States, including American citizens, without court approval. Meeting in the FBI's state-of-the-art command center in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the lawyers talked with senior FBI officials about using the same legal authority to conduct physical searches of homes and businesses of terrorism suspects--also without court approval, one current and one former government official tell U.S. News. "There was a fair amount of discussion at Justice on the warrantless physical search issue," says a former senior FBI official. "Discussions about--if [the searches] happened--where would the information go, and would it taint cases." [Emphasis added.]
Here again, our 4th Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
How much more evidence do we need to conclude that this administration is hostile to our civil liberties? Hostile to the Constitution itself? They wanted something expressly forbidden by the 4th Amendment.

The article describes this administration's now familiar flim-flam of misusing the testimony of Jamie Gorelick to bolster it's illegal actions. Then it calls in an expert:
But John Martin, a former Justice Department attorney who prosecuted the two most important cases involving warrantless searches and surveillance, says the department is sending an unambiguous message to Congress. "They couldn't make it clearer," says Martin, "that they are also making the case for inherent presidential power to conduct warrantless physical searches."
Doesn't matter, I guess that the 4th Amendment bans them.

The article does point out that they weren't able to find out whether any searches were conducted. They did add the story of a defense attorney Thomas Nelson. He wrote to US Attorney Karin Immergut that there were strong indications that his house and office were searched.
The searches, if they occurred, were anything but deft. Late at night on two occasions, Nelson's colleague Jonathan Norling noticed a heavyset, middle-aged, non-Hispanic white man claiming to be a member of an otherwise all-Hispanic cleaning crew, wearing an apron and a badge and toting a vacuum. But, says Norling, "it was clear the vacuum was not moving." Three months later, the same man, waving a brillo pad, spent some time trying to open Nelson's locked office door, Norling says. Nelson's wife and son, meanwhile, repeatedly called their home security company asking why their alarm system seemed to keep malfunctioning. The company could find no fault with the system.

In October, Immergut wrote to Nelson reassuring him that the FBI would not target terrorism suspects' lawyers without warrants and, even then, only "under the most exceptional circumstances," because the government takes attorney-client relationships "extremely seriously." Nelson nevertheless filed requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, with the NSA. The agency's director of policy, Louis Giles, wrote back, saying, "The fact of the existence or nonexistence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter."
How convenient.

But don't go away tyranny-fans, there's more!
White House lawyers, in particular, Vice President Cheney's counsel David Addington (who is now Cheney's chief of staff), pressed Mueller to use information from the NSA program in court cases, without disclosing the origin of the information, and told Mueller to be prepared to drop prosecutions if judges demanded to know the sourcing, according to several government officials. Mueller, backed by Comey, resisted the administration's efforts. "The White House was putting pressure on Mueller to broadly make cases with the intelligence," says one official. "But he did not want to use it as a basis for any affidavit in any court." Comey declined numerous requests for comment. Sources say Mueller and his general counsel, Valerie Caproni, continue to remain troubled by the domestic spying program. Martin, who has handled more intelligence-oriented criminal cases than anyone else at the Justice Department, puts the issue in stark terms: "The failure to allow it [information obtained from warrantless surveillance] to be used in court is a concession that it is an illegal surveillance." [Emphasis added.]
So they know it's illegal, they know that if the sourcing of the illegal intelligence were made public it could endanger the prosecution of terrorists - but they wanted to do it anyway.

I'll say it again.

IMPEACH IMPEACH IMPEACH

March 19, 2006

Overkill at the Antiwar Rally/March?

As reported here, Pittsburgh held a rally and march to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq War. The main sponsor was the Thomas Merton Center which has received national attention recently when proof was offered demonstrating that the FBI had been spying on this pacifist group.

I and the Other Political Junkie attended the rally but not the march, but I didn't bring a camera (I was toting some largest posters for Democracy for Pittsburgh).

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covers the march here and Pittsburgh Indymedia covers it here with LOTS of pictures including these two:




But the most interesting coverage may be a Recommended Diary at Daily KOS by Yellow Canary here.

Like, I said, I didn't do the march, but Yellow Canary did and took loads of photos, including these two:




The photos illustrate the point Yellow Canary makes in his diary:
Not so bad. Then I got the crowd itself. A nice drumbeat was being tattoo'd by an active group in the center, but mostly people were just milling around. Not the police. They had formed an impenetrable cordon. And I'm not kidding. The crowd was dressed in jeans, sweaters, jackets. It was a cold, sunny day. These police were in FULL RIOT GEAR.

That's a block-long line of police in full riot gear. High-tech stuff: shields, shin, knee, elbow, shoulder protectors, pads everywhere. About every eighth officer had an earset with a microphone. Notice that the crowd is not particularly menacing.

[snip]

Did you notice the arms? This was a significant show of force for the police state.



He wasn't unfriendly. Told me the gun fired "non-lethal crowd control rounds". That leaves, well, most everything.

I didn't get any pictures of the "greens". They were a team of riot police staying out of the way half a block to the north. They ALL had those nice canister launchers, and one guy -- luck of draw, he was the munitions mule -- was wearing a long vest covered front, back, and sides with five inch by two inch aluminum canisters.

That's a lot of cops, probably on overtime. Pittsburgh, by the way, is in receivership (it can't pay it's bills). But it sure can pull out all stops to keep an anti-war rally from turning ugly. The city of Pittsburgh has contributed more than $950,000,000 in federal taxes for Bush's illegal war of aggression in Iraq. We sure could use that money to pay for the schools (property taxes are forcing people out of the city). Or invest in the local economy. Paying Bush to kill Iraqis when you can't afford to pay your bills seems a misguided. But then we pay extra to show peace marchers the newest in police equipment.
As one person commented after viewing the pictures:

nonlethal crowd control rounds like the one that killed the young lady celebrating in Kenmore Square after the Red Sox won the Series? These pictures are straight out of V for Vendetta. The police are up-armed for tactical assault at the mere presence of peaceful citizens exercising their constitutional rights. We need to stop this. We cannot have local police rigged out as storm troopers. They will act like what they are dressed out to do. What in the hell happened to my country? Who are these police that stand ready to kill and maim with lethal non-lethal rounds in peaceful gatherings? Woe is this nation, woe, and in peril.
What is missing from the above diary is any mention of the incident that happened at the same recruiting station back in August 2005 when tasers, dogs, and chemical weapons were used to subdue protesters. In that protest, six were arrested, two hospitalized, and many were injured including a grandmother who was bitten by a police dog. However, that protest was organized by POG, not the Merton Center.

Pittsburgh City Council held a Post Agenda hearing on the incident, the police response, and the guidelines for use of force.

At the time, Chief Robert W. McNeilly, Jr., when asked and how much force should be used during group protests "declined to release those policies, saying sophisticated anarchist groups might use them against police."

We seem to have gone from perhaps too few police who seemed overeager (felt threatened?) and ill-equipped to handle a situation to something that resembles a phalanx of troopers out of Star Wars.

[sigh]

But, by all means, go to Daily KOS and Pittsburgh Indymedia and make up your own mind.

March 18, 2006

Local Girl Makes Good

Hey check out today's P-G.

Sue Kerr, John McIntire's "official lesbian correspondent" and local blogger, made it into our local rag today.

The story revolves around Sue's efforts to stop a local company from illegally dumping in her neighborhood.

Sue Kerr - sticking it to the man!

No, wait can I really say that??

With Religion and no brains

An eleventh century blind Syrian poet named Abul'-Ala' al-Ma'arri wrote:
The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts:
Those with brains, but no religion,
And those with religion, but no brains.
And I normally think the lines a bit (ok more than a bit) unfair as he distiction between those with brains and those with religion is too harshly drawn.

However, every now and then I stumble across something that makes at least ponder whether our blind poet was onto something.

Read. It's from last February.
When Wendy DeVore, the drama teacher at Fulton High here, staged the musical "Grease," about high school students in the 1950's, she carefully changed the script to avoid causing offense in this small town.

She softened the language, substituting slang for profanity in places. Instead of smoking "weed," the teenagers duck out for a cigarette. She rated the production PG-13, advising parents it was not suitable for small children.

But a month after the performances in November, three letters arrived on the desk of Mark Enderle, Fulton's superintendent of schools. Although the letters did not say so, the three writers were members of a small group linked by e-mail, all members of the same congregation, Callaway Christian Church.
Those three members of the Calloway Christian Church must be very proud of themselves. They stomped their feet and got their way. Who cares about free speech? Who cares about free thought? We have to protect the children!

But now here's what they call the ironical part.
Dr. Enderle watched a video of the play, ultimately agreeing that "Grease" was unsuitable for the high school, despite his having approved it beforehand, without looking at the script. Hoping to avoid similar complaints in the future, he decided to ban the scheduled spring play, "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller.

"That was me in my worst Joe McCarthy moment, to some," Dr. Enderle said.
Do you think he understood his own joke? That cancelling The Crucible would be a Joseph McCarthy moment? In a letter to the editor Enderle tries to explain himself:
My decision was made in an attempt to help our students prepare for their spring production absent any residual criticism and attention that may have resulted from the problems experienced with the fall production. It should be clarified that no community group or members had contacted me in an effort to halt production of “The Crucible.” My decision was intended to be entirely preventative in nature.
Isn't that the scary part? No community group contacted him about The Crucible but he banned it rescheduled it anyway to avoid any future controversy - from the local Christian community, no doubt. Now why would a conservative Christian community object to a play that uses the 17th century witch trials as a metaphor for the McCarthy anti-communist scare tactics of a half century ago?

And guess how many of the three protesters actually saw the play?

Two.
Mark Miller, a 26-year-old graduate student, said he was moved to complain after getting an e-mail message about the show from Terra Guittar, a member of his church. Her description of the pajama party scene offended him, he wrote, adding that one character should have worn a more modest nightgown. Mr. Miller did not see the play.
And then there's this:
Dr. Enderle said he did not base his decision to cancel "The Crucible," which was first reported by The Fulton Sun, a daily, just on the three complaints and the video. He also asked 10 people he knew whether the play crossed a line. All but one, he recalled, said yes.
And this:
Others learned"The Crucible" was off limits through an internal school district newsletter. In it, Dr. Enderle said he dropped the play after seeing this summary on the Web: "17th century Salem woman accuses an ex-lover's wife of witchery in an adaptation of the Arthur Miller play."
Did he even read the play? Between the lines, it doesn't look like it. But something about the line struck me as odd: were they performing the play or an adaptation of the play? Out of curiousity, I googled the quotation. And first on the list is this. Did he really base this whole thing on one sentence from the Internet Movie Database?

Here's some background commentary that will become important in a minute:
"Grease" and "The Crucible" are hardly unfamiliar; they are standard fare on the high school drama circuit, the second-most-frequently-performed musical and drama on school stages, according to the Educational Theater Association, a nonprofit group. The most performed now are "Seussical" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Ms DeVore chose a Midsummer Night's Dream as a replacement for The Crucible.

Here's how the Times piece ends:
For the moment, Dr. Enderle acknowledged, the controversy has shrunk the boundaries of what is acceptable for the community. He added that "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was "not a totally vanilla play."

But asked if the high school might put on another Shakespeare classic about young people in love, "Romeo and Juliet," he hesitated.

"Given the historical context of the play," the superintendent said, "it would be difficult to say that's something we would not perform."
So high school students shouldn't see "Romeo and Juliet" either?

That was back in February.

Take a look at what's happened recently:
A central Missouri high school drama teacher whose spring play was canceled after complaints about tawdry content in one of her previous productions will resign rather than face a possible firing.
And:
But after a handful of Callaway Christian Church members complained about scenes in the fall musical "Grease" that showed teens smoking, drinking and kissing, Superintendent Mark Enderle told DeVore to find a more family-friendly substitute.

DeVore chose Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a classic romantic comedy with its own dicey subject matter, including suicide, rape and losing one's virginity.
Uh-oh, just like "Romeo and Juliet" there's trouble in "Midsummer Night's Dream." Better fire the director.

Lord what fools these mortals be! - A Midsummer Night's Dream (III, ii, 115)

March 17, 2006

MO GOP Lawmakers Promote Abortion

Republican & Religious Right Jihad Against Women, Families & Privacy Proceeding as Planned

From KansasCity.com by way of Fired Up! Missouri by way of AmericaBlog:
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - An attempt to resume state spending on birth control got shot down Wednesday by House members who argued it would have amounted to an endorsement of promiscuous lifestyles.

Missouri stopped providing money for family planning and certain women's health services when Republicans gained control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2003.

But a Democratic lawmaker, in a little-noticed committee amendment, had successfully inserted language into the proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 that would have allowed part of the $9.2 million intended for "core public health functions" to go to contraception provided through public health clinics.

The House voted 96-59 to delete the funding for contraception and infertility treatments after Rep. Susan Phillips told lawmakers that anti-abortion groups such as Missouri Right to Life were opposed to the spending.

[snip]

Others, including some lawmakers who described themselves as "pro-life," said it was illogical for anti-abortion lawmakers to deny money for contraception to low-income people who use public health clinics.

"It's going to have the opposite effect of what the intention is, which will be more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions," said Rep. Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City.

The other alternative is for low-income women to give birth to more children, which is only likely to drive up the state's costs to provide services to them, said Democratic Rep. Melba Curls, also of Kansas City.

[snip]

Missouri Right to Life said it was concerned with the contraception language because it was loosely written and could have included emergency contraception - often referred to as the morning-after pill.

The Missouri Catholic Conference also opposed the birth control funding.

"State taxpayers should not be required to subsidize activities they believe are immoral or unethical, relating to contraceptives or abortions," said Larry Weber, executive director of the state Catholic Conference.
So what have we learned from this article? We've learned:

1. Because some poor single women may get birth control, Missouri Republican Lawmakers will not pay for family planning services for any poor Missouri families, including for married Missourians.

2. Missouri Republican Lawmakers believe that not paying for family planning services will prevent the poor in Missouri from fucking.

3. Missouri Republican Lawmakers would rather not pay for family planning services for the poor in their state then dare to offend the Religious Right.

4. The Religious Right believes that contraceptives, and not just abortions, are immoral and unethical.

5. Missouri Republican Lawmakers and the Religious Right would rather ensure that more abortions occur when poor people inevitably do have sex than pay for family planning services.

6. Missouri Republican Lawmakers and the Religious Right are either complete idiots or are members of some sort of Cult of the Blastula.

7. Missouri welcomes it's new Uterus Gestapo Overlords.

You're all invited to my Birthday Party! / Pittsburgh still says "NO" to war!

WHEN: SATURDAY, MARCH 18, 1:00 PM
WHERE: Corner of Penn and Highland

WHAT: Birthday Party for Me!/ Something about a war... ***

THREE MILES FOR THREE YEARS

This Saturday, March 18th, the Thomas Merton Center Anti-War Committee is organizing a permitted mass rally and march that begins at 1:00 pm at the corner of Penn and Highland. The event kicks off with performances by Soma Mestizo, Short Dark Strangers and poet Debra Bowen followed by a few brief remarks by local activists.

MARCH! Then, at 2:30 pm we will lead a three mile march that spans three neighborhoods, marking three years since the U.S.-led war on Iraq began. The march will proceed from the East Liberty Presbyterian Church to the Shadyside shopping district before terminating at Oakland military recruiting station on Forbes Avenue. (If you're worried about getting back to East Liberty note that there are several buses that can take you there: 71C, 77C, 78C and the 81B.)

BLOCS: Throw on your pink attire and join regional Codepink chapters for their fiesty Pink Bloc. Look for the big "Impeach Bush" banner...Or, join Pittsburgh Organizing Group's raucous Youth/Counter-Recruitment contingent. Look for the Youth Against Militarism banner at Baum and Liberty. Other contingents include Anti-Racist Action's Radical Pro-Choice Contingent and the free-wheeling Drop Bikes not Bombs protest ride that meets up in Friendship park at 1pm.

Or march with Democracy for Pittsburgh (one of the sponsors)/Allegheny for Pennacchio. We'll meet up at PNC office on 5934 Baum Boulevard at 12:30PM. It's about 2 blocks from the rally, has a parking lot and the bank itself closed on Saturday. (Mapquest -- Please note, there is also a PNC bank located on the corner of Penn & Highland. This is NOT the location that DFP will meet at, but instead we'll meet at a nearby PNC bank with a parking lot.) We will then walk together a couple of blocks to the rally at Penn and Highland. There will also be some of us with signs/support for Chuck Pennacchio, who is the only candidate in the race for Pennsylvania Senator, who actaully has an exit strategy for our troops to bring them home from this terrible war. (Any questions, please email or call Janis Williams at 412-680-1626/janis.jmw@comcast.net . ) Please make a sign!!!

AFTER THE MARCH: we invite you to join us for a post-march chill-down at the Shadow Lounge (5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty) from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. Or join us for a special screening of Why We Fight at the Regent Square Theater (1035 S. Braddock Ave, Edgewood) at 9:15pm. Why We Fight is Eugene Jarecki's new must-see documentary about the military industrial complex. Representatives of the Thomas Merton Center will be present to introduce the film and lead a discussion afterwards.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: If you'd like to help out on the day of the event, come to a meeting at 12:30 pm at the rally site. Complete details can be found at http://www.pittsburghendthewar.org/.

***More than 300 events are being held across the country for my birthday! Check for one in you area here!


SPY-IN TO RESIST FBI & PENTAGON SPYING AND INTIMIDATION

You've heard of sit-ins, sleep-ins and die-ins. Well, you are invited to resist the FBI and Pentagon spying on local anti-war activists and join us for a SPY-IN on Tuesday, March 21st, 12-1pm at the Federal Buildling downtown (Grant and Liberty). Dress in spy gear––trench coats, black suits/fedoras (a la Abramoff), sunglasses, etc., try your local thrift shop. Bring cameras, toy cameras, note pads, binocs, telescopes. Organized by Thomas Merton Center Anti-War Committee and Pittsburgh Bill of Rights Defense Campaign.

Also consider filing your own Freedom of Information Act request to find out if the Feds have been watching. Attend the "File your own FOIA" party at the Thomas Merton Center on Wednesday, March 29th, 7pm.

Learn more about the recent release of documents which show that Thomas Merton Center anti-war efforts are being targeted by the FBI.

March 15, 2006

Garrison Keillor is still my favorite

Check it out.
The Republican Revolution has gone the way of all flesh. It took over Congress and the White House, horns blew, church bells rang, sailors kissed each other, and what happened? The Republicans led us into a reckless foreign war and steered the economy toward receivership and wielded power as if there were no rules. Democrats are accused of having no new ideas, but Republicans are making some of the old ideas look awfully good, such as constitutional checks and balances, fiscal responsibility, and the notion of realism in foreign affairs and taking actions that serve the national interest. What one might call "conservatism."
Geez, the man can write.
Over the course of time, the Chief Occupant has been cruelly exposed over and over. He sat and was briefed on the danger of a hurricane wiping out a major American city, and without asking a single question, he got up from the table and walked away and resumed his vacation. He played guitar as New Orleans was flooded. It took him four days to realize his responsibility to do something. When the tsunami killed 100,000 people in Southeast Asia, he was on vacation and it took him 72 hours to issue a statement of sympathy.
How long will it take for the Republican Noise Machine to denounce Garrison Keillor as a traitor?
He openly, brazenly, countenanced crimes of torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. He engaged in illegal surveillance, authorized the arrest of people without charge and "disappeared" them to foreign jails. And he finagled this war, which, after three years of violence, does not look to be heading toward a happy ending. And now it's up to Republicans to put their country first and call the gentleman to account.
It's up to THE REPUBLICANS TO PUT THEIR COUNTRY FIRST?

Now that's depressing.

33%

He's at 33%.
In the aftermath of the Dubai ports deal, President Bush's approval rating has hit a new low and his image for honesty and effectiveness has been damaged.
33%
Bush's overall approval measure stands at 33%, the lowest rating of his presidency.
33%
The president's ratings for handling of several specific issues, particularly terrorism, have also declined sharply. Just 42% now approve of Bush's job in handling terrorist threats, an 11-point drop since February. In January 2005, as Bush was starting his second term, 62% approved of his handling of terrorist threats.
33%
Bush's personal image also has weakened noticeably, which is reflected in people's one-word descriptions of the president. Honesty had been the single trait most closely associated with Bush, but in the current survey "incompetent" is the descriptor used most frequently.
33%

INCOMPETENT

March 14, 2006

The FBI's been naughty!

The Post-Gazette is reporting that the Thomas Merton Center and the ACLU released documents claiming that the FBI has spied on peace activists in duh 'Burgh.

The FBI issued a statement that said that the agent involved wasn't investigating the group, but were investigating someone at a rally.

Here's the ACLU's page on this.

The P-G says there'll be more on this on Wednesday.

IN PGH COUNCIL DISTRICT 3? VOTE FOR KRAUS TODAY!



If you're in Pittsburgh City Council District Three, don't forget to come out and vote today for:

Bruce A. Kraus


Endorsed by the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the South Pittsburgh Reporter!

March 13, 2006

Russ Feingold, American Hero

Senator Feingold stood up on the floor of the Senate and after being interrupted a couple of times by some childish Republicans delivered a historic speech. He began this way.
Mr. President, when the President of the United States breaks the law, he must be held accountable. That is why today I am introducing a resolution to censure President George W. Bush.
He must be held accountable.
The President authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil, and then misled Congress and the public about the existence and legality of that program. It is up to this body to reaffirm the rule of law by condemning the President’s actions.
Bush authorized an illegal program.
All of us in this body took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the same. Fulfilling that oath requires us to speak clearly and forcefully when the President violates the law. This resolution allows us to send a clear message that the President’s conduct was wrong.
The President violates the law.

I wondered what our two Pennsylvania Senators had to say about the resolution. Let me amend that. I really don't know yet, but I am pretty sure Senator Man-on-Dog will say something idiotic and embarrass himself and every other citizen of this Commonwealth.

But what did the sane half of our Senatorial duo say? Here's a "live blogging" description from thedailybackground.
4:52 Specter takes the floor. Says subject matter is worth debate. Wants Feingold to stay on the floor, and asks him to return to debate with him. Describes Feingold’s speech as a “long sollioquy”.

4:54 Specter says that although he agrees with many of the statements made in Feingold’s resolution, he thinks the censure resolution is “way over the top”. Feingold doesn’t seem to be returning.

4:58 Specter seems to be saying that the President has the power to do what he is doing, under the Constitution. He says that the President’s constitutional rights are above statute (FISA). Specter says that if Attorney General Gonzales is correct, then the President is legally okay.

5:00 Specter is basically saying that Article 2 of the Consitution superceeds any laws that the President may have broken. Specter says either the President should brief the Senate and House intelligence committee, or ask them to change laws about briefing, which require them to do so. He says there should be no in between. He says regarding not leaking– yes, Congress leaks, but that the White House leaks too, and neither have a perfect record.

5:04 Specter conceeds that he doesn’t “know what the [NSA] program is” and that Gonzales wouldn’t tell him at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings.
So our "sane" Senator's rebuttal is this: Bush couldn't be guilty of breaking the law because the law in question is unconstitutional. The law is almost 30 years old - and good ole Arlen is just discovering its unconstitutionality now? Georgia10 at dailykos is absolutely correct:
Specter's arguments are nothing more than strained and baseless legal tripe meant to distract the public from the gravity of the President's crimes. The Constitution unequivocally gives Congress the right to regulate all powers "vested" in the Constitution, and that includes the inherent power claimed by President Bush. Congress chose not to abdicate its constitutional powers in 1978, and it cannot chose to do so now.
Oh Arlen, I am so dissappointed in you.

IMPEACH

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