Prosecute the torture.

June 30, 2009

Eichelberger Faces His Critics

(H/t to Think Progress)

Here's the entire clip:



Think Progress has a transcript:
SPEAKER: So are you going to apologize to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people in Pennsylvania — and all the people in Pennsylvania for those comments about allowing to exist and calling them dysfunctional.

EICHELBERGER: No, I think you know my answer to that. Thank you very much.
And Sue Kerr gets a shout out at Think Progress:
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, an LGBT blog in Pennsylvania, writes, “It is one thing to disapprove of my identity or believe it is a choice, but quite another thing to suggest that I am permitted to exist in spite of my identity. Should I be grateful to Senator Eichelberger for not condoning someone taking away my existence?”
Congratulations to Sue!

MN Supreme Court Declares Franken Winner



Congratulations,
SENATOR Al Franken!


Your move, Pawlenty. Will you keep your word?
CNN: Your state supreme court has a ruling before it, it could come very soon. After that ruling, the next step would be for you to certify the election. Will you certify the election based on your state’s supreme court ruling, is that for you?

PAWLENTY: I’m going to follow the direction of the court, John. We expect that ruling any day now. I also expect them to give guidance and direction as to the certificate of election. I’m prepared to sign it as soon as they give the green light.

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Pittsburgh City Council Passes the Amended Amended Act 47 Recovery Plan 6 to 3

For: Burgess, Kraus, Motznik, Payne, Peduto, Smith
Against: Dowd, Harris, Shields


For those who didn’t see it, the discussion before the vote basically went the way you’d imagine: Harris asked the same question half a dozen times, Shields bloviated, etc.

Our Overlords kept 30 out the 42 amendments changes suggestions made by Council last week.
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Act 47: There's going to be a showdown


Pittsburgh City Council will likely vote on the Amended Act 47 Recovery Plan today.

Yesterday in an email blast, Councilor and Finance Chairman Bill Peduto wrote:
As of this moment, it is still unclear whether or not City Council will support the plan. The Act 47 coordinators have requested final action before July 1st, when collective bargaining begins for most of the city’s workforce. Tuesday is June 30th and the plan still lacks the five votes it needs.
He's quoted in today's Post-Gazette (posted at midnight) as saying:
The new fiscal plan for the city, under state Act 47 for distressed municipalities, "is far too important to vote down," said council Finance Chair William Peduto. He said he detected "willingness" among state officials to include enough council-backed changes to the 300-page documents "that should be enough to get us to five" votes on the nine-member council.

[snip]

Last week council tentatively approved the plan 5-3, with one abstention, but only after tacking on a slew of amendments. Mr. Peduto said yesterday that a compromise was emerging based on amendments sponsored by him, Bruce Kraus and Theresa Smith.

State officials are "working with us to form [the amendments] into a plan, not that they're going to be happy with, but that they're going to find acceptable," Mr. Peduto said.
And, he tweeted the following about seven hours ago:



Guess I'll be watching the City Channel this morning . . .
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Obama and the LGBT Community

From Salon.com:
The last time the president of the United States marked gay pride month with anything official at the White House, it was June 2006. George W. Bush decided to throw the weight of his office behind a proposal to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage. After all, the fate of Western civilization hung in the balance. "Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them," Bush said at the time. "And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure."

On Monday, 40 years and a day after the Stonewall riots began to bring the gay rights movement into the mainstream, Barack Obama took a slightly different tack. The administration brought nearly 300 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered guests -- and, in some cases, their partners or children -- to the East Room for an open bar and some hors d'ouevres. "Welcome to your White House," the president said. "We have made progress and we will make more. And I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps. We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."

Of course, part of the reason he hosted the event at all is that it was starting to become clear that the gay and lesbian community may not have had such good feelings about the Obama administration so far. After winning broad support from gay voters last year, Obama had promised to push Congress to overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which makes it possible for states to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in the increasing number of places that allow them. He'd sworn he would end the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which has forced more than 13,000 people out of the military since 1993. But he followed up by inviting the Rev. Rick Warren -- a prominent supporter of California's ban on gay marriage -- to speak at his inauguration. And then his Justice Department filed a brief defending the DOMA, using language that some activists read as lumping homosexuality in with incest and child marriage (though that point has also been disputed). By Monday, Obama had some damage to repair.

The Advocate on some of the damage:
The president acknowledged the frustration felt by many LGBT activists who have felt that his administration has not moved quickly enough on key pieces of legislation, such as repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We've been in office six months now,” he said in an assured, matter-of-fact tone, “and I suspect that by the time this administration's over, you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.”

On policy, the president called on Congress to repeal what he called the “so-called” Defense of Marriage Act, but he also stopped short of repudiating the Justice Department’s brief supporting DOMA, which drew intense reaction from activists when it was filed earlier this month.

“I want to add, we have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides,” he said, “and fulfilling this duty and upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law.”

Obama also urged passage of Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and a fully inclusive Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill.

The president reiterated his campaign contention that the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy undermines the effectiveness of the nation’s military.

Salon has some background on the event:
Like every event it puts on, the White House carefully managed the stagecraft at the LGBT reception. Invitations went out about a week ago, shortly after aides began to realize the grumbling among gay activists was teetering on the edge of becoming a real political problem -- the reception was the second move to ease concerns, after an order Obama issued two weeks ago to give some domestic-partner benefits to some gay and lesbian employees of some federal agencies. Media access to the event was limited; a small group of reporters and a camera crew were allowed in, but officials directed attendees to leave through the White House's East Wing, which meant there was little danger they would wander past the press workspace attached to the West Wing on the other side of the building. Perhaps as a result, the media's interest was also limited -- cable networks didn't bother carrying Obama's full remarks live.
And they point out the event "may have helped buy him some, well, patience" but the LA Times adds:
Obama is hoping his gay supporters will wait. But patience is starting to ebb.

"People feel they've been patient for a long time," said Leslie Calman, executive director of the National Lesbian Health Organization's Mautner Project. "They feel President Obama is on our side and want to see something concrete as soon as possible."
From Salon:
Still, the message Obama was trying to convey -- relax, I'm with you -- seemed to sink in. "He's been in office six months, and in six months, not much has happened to help us," said Jerry Hoose, one of the two Stonewall veterans who met Obama privately before the meeting, and a founder of the Gay Liberation Front in New York not long after Stonewall. "But again, six months. I mean, what do you expect? The man is president, not a miracle worker." If nothing has changed a few years from now, keeping gay and lesbian supporters in Obama's corner may indeed take a political miracle. For now, though, the White House is hoping some kind words will do.
The full text of his remarks can be found here.

June 28, 2009

Allegheny Council Human Relations Ordinance

Curious email/text message floating around (don't know if you've received it yet). Here's the text I got:
Onorato. 4123506500. Remove language from Human Relations ordinance that allows orgs that get County funding to discriminate. 100 calls on Mo
A bit too cryptic for me, but then again I am middle-aged, balding and paunchy - I know I'm no Helmholtz Watson, but I fear I am actually Bernard Marx - (and a brave new donut to you if you get the literary reference). It took me a few minutes to figure out the text message was from Sue Kerr over at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. At her blog, there's a fuller version of the text:
Call 412-350-6500. Ask Onorato to remove language from the proposed Human Relations Ordinance that allows organizations receiving County funding to discriminate.
What's this "Human Relations Ordinance" then? If you're looking to read some legislative prose, here it is. The Stonewall Democrats have been kind enough to post the entire text.

Hey, did you know that today is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots? Frank Rich has an interesting take.

Anyway, here's the language Sue referenced:
For the purposes of this Article, the definition of "employer" shall not include any religious organization, regardless of number of employees or County funding, provided that such religious organization provides documentary evidence of its religious nature to the Human Relations Commission of the County of Allegheny, and avers in writing to the Commission that gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitute grounds for employment decisions under the fundamental tenets of the religion in question. Documentary evidence of an entity's religious nature may consist of articles of incorporation, a charter or other foundational document for the entity, documentary evidence of tax-exempt status as a religious institution under §501 of the Internal Revenue Code or any other applicable Pennsylvania or federal law, or any other documentary evidence deemed sufficient by the Commission.
So my reading is that any employer that meets the above criteria (a religious organization - even those getting County funding - that takes matters of gender, orientation, etc, into its employment decisions) are are exempt, for instance, from the following provision:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of the individual's race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry or place of birth, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, familial status,age or use of a guide or support animal because of blindness, deafness or physical disability of any individual or independent contractor or because of the disability of an individual with whom the person is known to have an association.
The ACLU offers up an analysis at Sue's blog. Here's some:
As written, Section 215-31(H)(1) exempts from the ordinance those religious organizations that "aver" in writing to the Commission that gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitute grounds for employment decisions under the fundamental tenets of the religion in question.” Accordingly, the ordinance would allow a religious organization that considers gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity to be grounds for employment decisions based on its tenets to discriminate in its hiring on any basis, including race and disability. Conversely, a religious organization that does not consider gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity to be grounds for employment decisions would not be permitted to discriminate in its hiring on any of the protected categories identified in the ordinance, including race, color, religion,national origin or ancestry, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, familial status, and age. This language provides a benefit to some religions — those whose beliefs require that they consider gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity in making employment decisions — that is not provided to religions whose beliefs do not require that they base employment decisions on such criteria by exempting the former from the ordinance’s nondiscrimination provisions while requiring the latter to abide by them.
It's a tricky bit of legalese, but I think I bolded out the important part.

On the one hand, I am all for the separation of church and state (big fan. Big BIG fan if it) so if a private religious organization wants to discriminate, it has every right to - the state has no authority to force a church to do something against its collective will. But once that organization is on the receiving end of public funding, the law should accompany that funding, right? If, in this case, the County holds that an employer can not discriminate on the basis of gender, gender identity and so forth, then that should hold for all the organizations receiving funding from the county. If not then we're all contributing to the discrimination (by way of our taxes) of some of our fellow citizens (who, by the way, are also contributing).

It seems very simple to me. What part of this am I missing?

June 26, 2009

Some Sanford Analysis

Let the analysis begin. First from S. A. Miller of the The Washington Times:
Social conservatives, the once-powerful force that focused the Republican agenda on moral virtue and family values, have suffered a diminished brand on the national political landscape as a steady stream of their icons have fallen prey to the vices they once preached against.

Extramarital affairs, gambling, alcohol abuse, prostitution and sexual pursuit of minors have taken a toll on the GOP.

A tearful South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford became the latest social conservative to fall, confessing Wednesday to an affair with a woman that ended with a bizarre episode, in which he disappeared from his security detail and flew to Argentina for a visit, leaving his four sons and wife on Father's Day weekend.
For which no less than Michelle Malkin called him a bastard.

Then Miller goes further into describing the hypocrisy:
In the late 1990s, during and after their pursuit of President Clinton on impeachment charges for a sexual liaison with an intern, several Republican luminaries acknowledged they, too, had indulged in affairs, including pro-life leader Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and former Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, who resigned just before assuming the speaker's chair. Mr. Sanford voted in favor of three of four articles of impeachment against Mr. Clinton.
But of course, mixes in a dab of a "but both parties do it" argument:
Gary Bauer, president of American Values, a nonprofit group that promotes marriage, family, faith and freedom, said there are plenty of examples of moral weakness in both parties, including Mr. Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment trial,and former Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's affair with a call girl that forced him to resign.

"Both political parties have had a depressing number of cases of people that were unable to keep their promises to their families," he said. "I think it is sad for the country that character issues seem to do in so many of our promising leaders."

Which is, of course, not the point of hypocrisy at all. It's not about parties. It's about who's claiming the moral (and biblical) high ground while failing to live there - who's condemning the moral failures of others while ignoring the speck or the log in their own eyes.

As Joe Conason points out:
Whenever the latest Republican politician is caught with his zipper undone, a predictable moment of introspection on the right inevitably ensues. Pundits, bloggers and perplexed citizens ruminate over the lessons they have learned, again and again, about human frailty, false piety and the temptations of flesh and power. They express concern for the damaged family and lament the fall of yet another promising young hypocrite. They resolve to restore the purity of their movement and always remember to remind us that this is all Bill Clinton's fault. What they never do is face up to an increasingly embarrassing fact about themselves and their leaders.
And they get away with it. Conason again:
By the way, while Vitter, Ensign, Gingrich and perhaps Sanford have been able to retain their positions and political viability, the same cannot be said for the most recent offenders on the progressive side. Neither Eliot Spitzer nor John Edwards, each among the most promising figures in the Democratic Party, will ever be a candidate for public office again, although their misbehavior was no worse than what their Republican counterparts did.
Meanwhile, he makes an interesting point along the way:
According to the Old Testament -- a text regularly cited by these worthies as the highest authority in denouncing reproductive freedom and gay rights -- the proper penalty for adultery is death by stoning. Leviticus is quite clear on this point (as any truly strict originalist could hardly deny). Fortunately for all of us, biblical law doesn't rule this country, despite the zealots on the religious right who disdain separation of church and state. Very few Americans believe that we should impose state sanctions, let alone the death penalty, on private peccadilloes. But civic tolerance doesn't excuse the limp, smiling attitude of the Republican right toward the infidelity of its leaders.
That's Leviticus 20:10, in case you're looking for chapter and verse.

June 25, 2009

RIP, Farrah Fawcett - American Icon

For a great many men of my age, this image:

marked an awakening of sorts - younger boys had other posters (The Fonz? The USS Enterprise?) on their walls but those sprouting hair in scary places had Farrah's poster to look upon with a new and confusing awe.

The lithe figure, clad in a simple red one-piece, sits in front of an old Indian blanket. The main sight lines of her form - the straight right arm swooping upward and the bent left propped upon a naked knee, both direct the viewer's eye to her face, framed in a halo of hair, a tumble of curls. The sight-lines of her legs leads the viewer's eye to that magnificently nippled bathing suit, her curved torso leading the eye, as well, up to her face. The main feature there, of course, being that beaming beaming bright smile - one powerful enough to curve the absolute space around it (you only have to look to the blanket's nearly horizontal lines to see what I mean).

Her expression, it seems to me, is one of complete sexual self-confidence. She knows she's enchanting. She knows she's unattainable. She knows she can have any man she wishes.

And she's smiling because she knows you know as well.

What 13 yr old boy wouldn't be completely captivated by that image, that face, that smile?

RIP, Michael Jackson - King of Pop

Despite all the weirdness and controversy, he was genius when it came to music and the sheer force of his talent broke the racial barrier on MTV. Being only a year younger than him, his music was definitely part of the soundtrack of my life. Here are some of my favorites:








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June 24, 2009

Andrew Sullivan On Governor Mark Sanford

He makes an interesting (though somewhat obvious) point:
I have to say the karma in all this is pretty profound. The party that has gone on and on and on to prevent me getting married, and prevent my own marriage from being recognized by the federal government is the party of David Vitter, Mark Sanford, Rush Limbaugh and Larry Craig. It's like taking lessons on sexual maturity from the Vatican. And, yes, Sanford was a dedicated opponent of gay couples being allowed to marry. He deserves forgiveness and compassion for his human failings; but he deserves censure for his public double standards. But here's what you learn: those GOP stalwarts who survive these affairs never change their positions on marriage equality. They never learn or evolve.

bram on my teevee

Bram Reichbaum of The Pittsburgh Comet blog spoke at today's Pittsburgh City Council meeting today during Public Comment.

He applauded Council for deciding to put their meetings on the Internet, but asked them to make the video downloadable. He explained that while Allegheny County Council has video of their meetings available to view, it is not downloadable and therefore not editable. If, for example, you want to direct your blog readers to a particular comment made during a County Council meeting you can only provide them a link to a six hour meeting and tell them it's three hours in.

Councilor Bill Peduto said that Council wants to make the video not only downloadable, but also searchable and embeddable. [Yeah!]


Note: In the course of Bram's comments he gave a shout out to numerous blogs that cover Pittsburgh politics . . . 2pj not being among them. Thanks, Bram. ;-)
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News From The UK

Woven into an article in the Times describing former Prime Minister Tony Blair's efforts for a private inquiry into Britain's role in Bush's Iraq war is this enticing tidbit - one that only reinforces what we already knew:
This news comes amid new evidence to suggest that Mr Blair knew that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.

A memo dated January 31, 2003, by Sir David Manning, then Mr Blair’s policy adviser, outlines how President Bush told Mr Blair he had decided on a start date for the war — almost two months before the invasion.

Paraphrasing the President’s comments at the meeting, Sir David noted: “The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled (sic) in for March 10. This was when the bombing would begin.”
A few paragraphs later:
In public at this time, Mr Blair was justifying plans for an invasion on the grounds that Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction.
Not unlike George W. Bush. The UK's got the beginnings of an public inquiry into the war. Why can't we?

Anyway, the Guardian has this:
A confidential record of a meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq, outlining their intention to go to war without a second United Nations resolution, will be an explosive issue for the official inquiry into the UK's role in toppling Saddam Hussein.

The memo, written on 31 January 2003, almost two months before the invasion and seen by the Observer, confirms that as the two men became increasingly aware UN inspectors would fail to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) they had to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second resolution legitimising (sic) military action.

Bush told Blair the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours (sic) over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions.
Just look at Bush's logic: Faking a UN aircraft (and does the UN even have any U2 planes?? Maybe someone should ask Bono.) in order to entrap Saddam into firing at it, just to pin a UN violation on him for doing so. It boggles the mind.

All this reiterates what's already known: they knew they they didn't know Iraq had WMD and yet they invaded anyway.

How many died for these lies?

Pittsburgh Iran Vigil: Lighting 100 Candles Against the Darkness


Approximately 100 gathered Tuesday evening in Market Square to show support for the democratic movement now underway in Iran and to honor those who have lost their lives in this struggle.

The crowd was a mix of old and young; Persian and non Persian. Many greeted each other with "salam"as the vigil grew.

A poem was read in honor of Neda Agha Soltan, the 26-year old woman shot in the heart at a protest in Iran, who has become the face of the movement when her death was broadcast on YouTube.

A woman who said she had lived through the 1979 revolution in Iran stood up and spoke. She said that she had been waiting a long time to see a new generation of Iranians seek change. She then led many in the crowd in singing an old Iranian folk song. I heard someone behind me comment that it was the old anthem -- the one that was sung "before the monsters took over."

Another vigil/rally is planned for Sunday. Details to be announced.












(Kudos to WPXI for covering the event on the 11:00 news broadcast.)
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June 23, 2009

Nixon On Abortion

From the New York Times:
On Jan. 23, 1973, when the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade, President Richard M. Nixon made no public statement. But privately, newly released tapes reveal, he expressed ambivalence.

Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases — like interracial pregnancies, he said.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”
No no no. The Times gets it wrong. Nixon didn't say there was a need for an abortion in the case of an interracial pregnancy; he said it was necessary in the case of an interracial pregnancy. Unless he was mis-speaking (and let's be fair - he's not here to explain himself), Richard Nixon just said that every interracial pregnancy had to be aborted.

One more reason to love Tricky Dick, eh?

Ha! Funny!

Tom Tomorrow brings up an interesting point in his most recent cartoon.

About the conservatives who are criticizing President Obama for not speaking out more forcefully in support of the protesters in Iran, he says that some of the same folks, not too long ago, were advocating mass death in Iran. Remember this?


Or remember how William Kristol said that Bush might bomb Iran if he thought Obama was going to win?

Or when Joshua Muravchik, resident scholar over at the American Enterprise Institute wrote an Op-Ed in the LA Times in November, 2006, that began with these words:
WE MUST bomb Iran.
Who did they think would get hurt when the bombs dropped?

Glenn Greenwald has the story.

June 22, 2009

Three things you can do in the next two days

TODAY:

1. Call your PA state senator today about Sen. Eichelberger's outrageous statement that "We’re allowing them [gays] to exist."

Here's a link to find your senator. More details on this story here.

(Your calls and emails are working! We've got hits today on our original post from: Commonwealth of PA, PA Senate, and US Senate Sergeant at Arms. Please keep the pressure on!)

TOMORROW:

1. Attend The Citizens Police Review Board meeting (and the press conference) tomorrow.

There are some very real issues being raised about how police respond to incidents of domestic violence spurred by the Donna Williams case. Details on this case here and here.

Citizen Police Review Board Meeting
June 23, 2009, 6:00 PM (Please attend the press conference at 5:30 PM before the meeting)
Freedom Unlimited Building
2201 Wylie Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

2. Attend the Pittsburgh Peace Vigil for Iran tomorrow.

Date: Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Time: 8:00-9:30 PM (dark)
Location: Market Square, downtown Pittsburgh, PA

This will be a quiet/silent show of support for the historic democratic movement now underway in Iran, and for those who have given their lives in the name of their cause. Please bring a flashlight.

More details here.
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President Obama Speaks Out About Iran

From Whitehouse.gov:
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.
And to those who wonder why he hasn't spoken out more forcefully, there's this from CBS:
Harry Smith: People in this country say you haven't said enough, that you haven't been forceful enough in your support for those people in the street, and which you say?

President Obama: To which I say the last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That's what they do. That's what we've already seen. We shouldn't be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the Iranian people are seeking to let their voices be heard.
And he was right. Here's something from Yahoo.com on Wednesday:
Iran directly accused the United States of meddling in the deepening crisis over a disputed presidential election and broadened its media clampdown Wednesday to include blogs and news Web sites.
It's a volatile situation over there. No need to make it worse by pouring gasoline on it. No matter what the neocons (and they were so right about Iraq!) say.

More On Bush's War Crimes

From Truthout.org:
On January 25, 2002, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales advised George W. Bush in a memo to deny al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners protections under the Geneva Conventions because doing so would "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act" and "provide a solid defense to any future prosecution."

Two weeks later, Bush signed an action memorandum dated February 7, 2002, addressed to Vice President Dick Cheney, which denied baseline protections to al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners under the Third Geneva Convention. That memo, according to a recently released bipartisan report issued by the Senate Armed Services Committee, opened the door to "considering aggressive techniques," which were then developed with the complicity of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior Bush officials.
And we all know what happened after that.

By the way from the same article, a few paragraphs later:
The Supreme Court held in 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that the prisoners were entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions.
So I guess AG Gonzales was...wrong?

Prosecute the war crimes.

Something To Think About

From the Huffington Post, (written the day of the Holocaust Memorial Shooting):

People who believe conspiracist allegations sometimes act on those irrational beliefs, and this has concrete consequences in the real world. The shooting today is a prime example of why it is a mistake to ignore bigoted conspiracy theories. Law enforcement needs to enforce laws against criminal behavior. Vicious bigoted speech, however, is often protected by the First Amendment. We do not need new laws or to encourage government agencies to further erode civil liberties. We need to stand up as moral people and speak out against the spread of bigoted conspiracy theories. That's not a police problem, that's our problem as people responsible for defending a free society.

Demagogues and conspiracy theorists use the same four "tools of fear." These are 1) dualism; 2) scapegoating; 3) demonization; and 4) apocalyptic aggression. The tools of fear are a connected constellation of frames, narratives, and processes used by demagogues to mobilize resentment and undermine the democratic process.

The basic dynamics remain the same no matter the ideological leanings of the demonizers or the identity of their targets. Meanwhile, our ability to resolve disputes through civic debate and compromise is hobbled. It is the combination of demagogic demonization and widespread scapegoating that is so dangerous. In such circumstances, angry allegations can quickly turn into apocalyptic aggression and violence targeting scapegoated groups like Jews or immigrants.

Apocalyptic aggression is fueled by right-wing pundits who demonize scapegoated groups and individuals in our society, implying that it is urgent to stop them from wrecking the nation. Some angry people already believe conspiracy theories in which the same scapegoats are portrayed as subversive, destructive, or evil. Add in aggressive apocalyptic ideas that suggest time is running out and quick action mandatory and you have a perfect storm of mobilized resentment threatening to rain bigotry and violence across the United States.

Amen.

June 21, 2009

Father's Day, 2009

For a number of different reasons, I don't usually spend too much time on personal stuff at 2 Political Junkies.

I just don't think that you, the astute readers out there, would find the minutiae of my personal life altogether that interesting. Besides, that's what my facebook page is for.

In any event, this is Father's Day, 2009 and I wanted to do something a little different and tell you a little something about my dad.

Here he is with me a few years ago. He's the shorter, beardless one. This was probably a decade or so ago - I surmise this by noting the complete absence of gray in my beard, the round glasses on my face and the fact that there's still some hair on the top of my head.

My dad passed away in November, 2007 after a very harsh, though mercifully short, battle with cancer. He would have been 81 this past March.

His parents emigrated from southern Italy early in the 20th century. Smart as a whip, he was the first in his family to graduate high school and first in his family to graduate from college (NYU '56 on the GI Bill). He was a mechanical engineer who designed sprinkler systems for a living. He married my mom in 1960 and had two kids by the fall of '63 (I was the second). They made it possible for us a comfortable, safe, and secure life in a house filled with love, books, and good food.

And he knew lots of stuff - from the eulogy I wrote:
We were all once watching a movie – I can't remember which one. It was an action movie of some sort and we'd stumbled into a scene in a casino – and I recall asking an innocent question about all the other betting possibilities at the craps table. The question was something like, "Hey, what are all those other squares on the table?" and Dad ended up giving me a 10 minute seminar on the mathematics of gambling with dice and how each of the odds are reflected in each of the betting options. I think I was in my 20s at that point and I remember asking myself, "When was dad ever in a casino?" It was not for as long as I knew him. If he had been shooting craps at a casino someplace, it must've been decades before – and if that's the case, how the heck did he remember that all math for such a long period of time?
That was my dad. Always sharp. Always reading, always learning. He absolutely inhaled historical novels.

He was also a bodybuilder in his youth. Growing up in a crowded house in a crowded section of Trenton, he found the gym in his late teens. And he used to tell us that he started from the bar. That is to say, from the beginning - with no added weights. I think it was a "life lesson" he sought to impart to my brother Albie and me - the lesson being that it might take time, but by patient and persistent effort you can achieve some great things. Look at dad. He started from the bar and in a few years he could climb a rope using only his hands with his legs parallel to the floor. He could do a set of pushups with a 185 pound guy sitting on his shoulders. He could do a one-handed handstand (with is feet propped up against a wall) and press his own weight a couple of times.

Everything that he was, he made out of himself.

He was the most honest man I've ever met. I never knew him to cut corners in anyway. Never saw him drunk and I never saw him get violent or intimidating. He was a great guy. Though he came up with the worst puns ever in the history of the English language. Possibly in human history. I'll spare you those. You'll thank me later.

Growing up, as he did, in Trenton, he developed a completely understandable undying devotion to Tasty Kakes. The only trouble was that in southern New England, Tastykakes weren't exactly sold on every corner, in every grocery store. So when he was able to snag some, he did. A few Christmases ago I made his day (as my mom would tell me later) with a special gift. Take a look:

See all those boxes? TASTYKAKES. My dad loved him some tastykakes.

One last picture. Here he is in the Army This was the early 50s and he was in his early 20s. Handsome sombich, huh? This was about 10 years before I was born.

For better or worse, we all grow into (or away from) our own ever-changing and flawed-as-they-are portraits we make of our parents. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had that man as my dad.

God, I miss him. Gotta call mom to see how she's doing.

June 19, 2009

PA Senator Eichelberger: "We’re allowing them [gays] to exist"

Take a good, long look at this guy:


He's Pennsylvania State Senator John Eichelberger (R-PA-30th).

He says he's all about "integrity."

Here's how he defines that:


(Click on graphic for larger image)

(What? Nothing about putting prayer back in schools and kicking out them there foreigners?)

Well, at least we know that he's serious about #4 on his pledge because he introduced an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to ban same-sex marriage (it's just not good enough for him that PA law already defines marriage as being between a man and a woman).

Eichelberger said in this interview, ''[This is] not an anti-homosexual bill.''

If despite that, you're still somehow convinced that Mr. Integrity First is "anti-homosexual," you'll be happy to know that he believes in allowing teh gays to exist!

Here he is debating State Senator Daylin Leach (D-PA-17th) who introduced a bill to allow same-sex marriage:
Leach: Should our only policy towards [same-sex] couples be one of punishment, to somehow prove that they’ve done something wrong?

Eichelberger: They’re not being punished. We’re allowing them to exist, and do what every American can do. We’re just not rewarding them with any special designation.
Mighty gracious of him if you ask me!

You can read more of his brilliant thoughts on same-sex marriage here and you can hear the entire radio debate here.

You can sign a petition at Keystone Progress here.

And, you can do as Sue @ Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents suggests:
I think you need to do more. You need to call YOUR Senator today or Monday and raise the roof over this outrageous comment. Here's the link to find your Senator. I called Senator Fontana and demanded he address this with Senator Eichelbeger and the Republican and Senate leadership. No way is this okay. I do not exist at the whim of Pennsylvania's Republicans or the hatemongerers masking as the ardent defenders of marriage.
But for the sake of real integrity, DO SOMETHING!
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Obama to Bylsma: Pittsburgh fans might be “getting spoiled"

From The White House Office of the Press Secretary:
Yesterday afternoon, President Obama called Dan Bylsma, head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, to congratulate the team on a great year and on winning the Stanley Cup. The President joked that, coupled with the Steelers’ Super Bowl win, Pittsburgh fans might be “getting spoiled” and said he hoped the team will come to the White House.

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Taking Credit For Teh Crazie

Joseph Farah, founder, editor and CEO of the most profoundly wingnutty World Net Daily, has taken credit for the recent resurgence in the profoundly wingnutty "Birth Certificate" conspiracy theory.

In his latest column, Farah is looking for money to continue a national billboard campaign - one where he asks the question "Where's the birth certificate?":
Ask yourself this question: What else, besides this campaign, could possibly have been responsible for the outburst of talk, discussion, debate, controversy, snide comments and media coverage of Barack Obama's eligibility issue in the last five weeks? I think it's clear that this very low-budget media campaign, stifled, as it were, by three of the largest communications companies controlling billboards, has made an enormous and surprising impact on the national debate.

Am I right or wrong about that?

There have been newspaper stories about the campaign. There have been cable TV newscasts about the campaign. There have been talk-radio shows discussing the eligibility issue that have never before broached the topic. The Internet is abuzz with debate.

This was pretty much a dead issue before I launched this billboard campaign. Now it's alive again.
And he's using the issue to, surprise surprise surprise, raise money:
And before I get back to the subject of Barack Obama's birthday, I want to try to set the record straight on a misunderstanding that, I believe, has severely hampered the campaign in recent days.

While it's true that CBS, Clear Channel and Lamar Advertising have all banned this campaign nationwide, that does not spell the end of this effort – far from it. There is no shortage of billboards to acquire for this campaign. There are literally hundreds of thousands available to us through other major providers and through independent companies eager to work with us.

But this misunderstanding that we've somehow been shut out of advertising has resulted in a precipitous drop in contributions toward the billboard campaign. While we have a few more billboards on their way, we've had to stop our aggressive pursuit of more because the money has all but dried up.
Aw, geez.

I know I haven't mentioned this in a while, but World Net Daily actually published this last August:
However, FactChecker.org says it obtained Obama's actual birth certificate and that the document was indeed real. The site discredited some of the claims of Internet bloggers, such as that the certificate as viewed in a scanned copy released by Obama's campaign lacked a raised seal. FactChecker.org also established that many of the alleged flaws in the document noted by bloggers were caused by the scanning of the document.

A separate WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic. The investigation also revealed methods used by some of the bloggers to determine the document was fake involved forgeries, in that a few bloggers added text and images to the certificate scan that weren't originally there.
I forget if Farah has denounced his own website. Does anyone know?

Teh Crazie continues...

Blogroll Update

We've added some fine local blogs. (Yes, pa2010 isn't really Burgh-local but who knows when I'll ever get around to adding a list of PA blogs like I've been meaning to do for years. And, pa2010 has an excellent PA blogroll. It would be even better if they added The Pittsburgh Comet.)
  • Declarations of Pride

  • Infinonymous

  • My Tabloids - Satire on the Mon

  • pa2010

  • Peaks and Gutters
    .
  • June 18, 2009

    Your "Liberal" New York Times At Work

    From Mediamatters:
    A June 17 New York Times article headlined "Poll Finds Unease With Obama on Key Issues" reported that according to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted June 12-16, "A majority of people said his [President Obama's] policies have had either no effect yet on improving the economy or had made it worse, underscoring how his political strength still rests on faith in his leadership rather than concrete results." However, the Times article did not report that according to the poll, a majority of respondents -- 57 percent -- approved of the way Obama is handling the economy. Nor did the Times article report that when respondents were asked if they thought "Obama's policies have made the economy better, made the economy worse or haven't ... had any effect on the economy yet," only 15 percent said that Obama's policies have made the economy worse. According to the poll, 32 percent thought his policies have made the economy better, 15 percent thought his policies have made the economy worse, and 48 percent thought his policies have not yet had any effect on the economy.
    Here's the article and the paragraph cited:
    A distinct gulf exists between Mr. Obama’s overall standing and how some of his key initiatives are viewed, with fewer than half of Americans saying they approve of how he has handled health care and the effort to save General Motors and Chrysler. A majority of people said his policies have had either no effect yet on improving the economy or had made it worse, underscoring how his political strength still rests on faith in his leadership rather than concrete results.
    But here is the text of the question they're using as a foundation for that second sentence:
    So far, do you think Barack Obama's policies have made the economy better, made the economy worse or haven't his policies had any effect on the economy yet?
    • Better 32%
    • Worse 15%
    • No effect yet 48%
    • DK/NA 4%
    Which is somewhat different in tone from how the Times ever so subtly mis-characterizes it. Note that the question offers three distinct options; better, worse, no effect. The "no effect" part did not ask whether his policies had any effect at improving the economy, just whether they'd had any effect yet at all. The numbers also reflect a feeling that they've also had no effect yet on worsening the economy. The Times could just as easily have written that a "majority of people said his policies have not yet had an effect on the economy nor have they made it worse." Which would have been just as true. And just as misleading.

    Needless to say, the Times ignores its own poll data on whether Americans think the country is moving in the right direction or the wrong direction (51/39 percent) or how well Obama is handling the economy (55/24 percent).

    Fun with numbers.

    Specter leads Sestak by 19 points

    From pa2010:
    Senator Arlen Specter continues to hold a significant lead over Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) in a likely primary matchup, but that edge could be closing slowly as Sestak gains more name recognition from his public crusade against Specter, according to a new poll
    It's a Rasmussen poll of only 374 likely primary voters.

    Last month, a Quinnipiac poll had Specter up by almost 30 points.
    .

    June 17, 2009

    Mayor Ravenstahl Appears Before Pittsburgh City Council RE: Amended Act 47 Recovery Plan

    UPDATE: Ok, I have to be somewhere soon and can't watch anymore, but from what I saw:

    1) Ravenstahl supports the Amended Act 47 Recovery Plan and implores Council to vote for it.
    2) Ravenstahl presents his recommendations on how to meet the additional $15 million (revenue/savings) called for in the plan (but his recommendations aren't in writing in the plan Council is voting on).
    3) Ravenstahl says he is not in favor of raising taxes that would only impact on Pittsburgh residents as a failsafe.
    4) Council (well, most of it) says that too much of Act 47 and Ravenstahl's plans count on getting Harrisburg or non-profits to cough up $ that they won't and that they can't be compelled to do.
    5) It's a given that council will not pass the plan as is.
    6) More work needs to be done between Council, the Mayor and Act 47 Overlords.

    So back to square one?


    At approximately 11:00 AM this morning the clouds opened and Lil Mayor Luke descended and deigned to appear before Pittsburgh City Council to answer their questions about the Amended Act 47 Recovery Plan.

    I'm watching it live on the City cable channel. If you can't, you can follow Bob Mayo's tweets on the meeting @ http://twitter.com/bobmayo
    .

    This is so not news: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed says he lied under torture

    REPORT: Key Terror Detainee Acknowledged ‘I Make Up Stories’ In Response To Torture

    Don't get me wrong. I appreciate any attention paid to this subject. I'm just saying it's something that we've known for years.

    Back in 2007 when the Pentagon released the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession it was widely acknowledged that KSM seemed to have confessed to anything and everything and that it simply defied belief. Everyone from The Onion to Time Magazine ridiculed the confession at the time.

    We even made a joke on this very blog that there was a local connection in KSM's confession:
    2 Political Junkies has just learned from several unnamed sources that after some additional waterboarding questioning, terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has just confessed to being responsible for putting all those City of Pittsburgh-owned images on the Ravenstahl Campaign website.
    And, yes, torture and waterboarding were also mentioned in some of the reports at the time -- maybe because we knew as far back as 2006 that the Bush-Cheney Administration was torturing suspects.

    I remind you that we knew this because Dick admitted to it way back then.

    So, while this news is important it isn't really new.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    This post has been brought to you by the Department of Things We Already Know But Keep Forgetting.
    .

    The Fairness Doctrine. Again

    From Broadcasting and Cable:

    Julius Genachowski, President Obama's nominee for chairman of the FCC, said Tuesday that he did not support reimposing the fairness doctrine.

    He was asked at his nomination hearing by ranking Senate Commerce Committee Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to publicly state the opinion he had expressed to her in a meeting--that he did not support the doctrine, even if it were arrived at by ancillary routes like localism mandates.

    Genachowski said he strongly believes in the First Amendment and doesn't think the FCC should be involved in censorship based on political speech and opinion.

    It doesn't get much more simple than that.

    Huffingtonpost has more:
    What is the "Fairness Doctrine?" Imposed in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine mandated that the scarcity of media resources made it necessary that FCC license holders allow competing points of view to have equal time and access. In practice, the Fairness Doctrine was always tricky to enforce, and so in 1987 is was done away with. In the immediate offing, right wing radio flourished. Of course, since then, the media has expanded to include satellite radio and cable television and the internet, eliminating the original "scarcity of resources" argument that underpinned the Fairness Doctrine in the first place, while greatly complicating a media sphere that the law couldn't handle well when it was implemented nearly sixty years ago.
    So I guess Brent Bozell has an answer to his question:
    The Federal Communications Commission rescinded in 1987 the so-called “Fairness” Doctrine, deeming it an unconstitutional abridgment of the First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of speech.

    But in just the last couple of years, at least seventeen members of Congress have expressed their desire to see this form of government censorship reimposed.

    Last June, a spokesman for then-candidate Barack Obama stated publicly that President Obama views the mis-named “Fairness” Doctrine as a “distraction” and does not want to see it reinstated. But on February 15, President Obama’s advisor David Axelrod was asked by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday “Will you rule out reimposing the Fairness Doctrine?”

    To which Mr. Axelrod responded “I'm going to leave that issue to Julius Genachowski, our new head of the FCC, to, and the President, to discuss. So I don't have an answer for you now.”

    Do you, Mr. Genachowski, have an answer for us now? Have you discussed the so-called “Fairness” Doctrine with the President? Will you reimpose it? Where do you stand on this form of outright regulatory censorship?
    Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes Bozell to reinstate his feverish Fairness Doctrine jeremiad?

    Prosecute The Torture

    From Salon.com:
    Torture is a crime and the United States engaged in it. Those are two indisputable facts. Given the mountains of evidence already in the public domain, any effort to deny or soften that harsh and devastating reality is either disingenuous, uninformed or a result of the human instinct to avoid painful truths. But one of the things that allows our democracy to endure is that time after time, no matter the misdeed, we have been willing to look ourselves in the mirror, acknowledge our wrongdoing and hold ourselves accountable.
    And:
    This cannot be the way forward in a country committed to the rule of law that applies to everyone, regardless of status or position. We have a Department of Justice for a reason, and now it’s up to Attorney General Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, to do his job and appoint an independent prosecutor to follow the evidence where it may lead. In this country, we investigate crimes and, when appropriate, we prosecute them. Once we start compromising our principles and laws because it is too messy, too inconvenient or even too painful to enforce them, we render them meaningless. This is not a political issue, but a moral and legal one.
    Two authors of that piece; one the Executive Director of the ACLU, the other an Army prosecutor who resigned from six Gitmo prosecutions "due to ethical failings of the tribunal system."

    Obama's extension of same-sex benefits with all the asterisks

    Last night David posted about the then breaking news that President Obama will sign an order extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

    That move comes with asterisks:
    According to the New York Times, "While he will announce a list of benefits, officials said, they are not expected to include broad health insurance coverage, which could require legislation to achieve" because of (you-guessed-it) the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

    Also in that article, "...administration officials said the timing of the announcement was intended to help contain the growing furor among gay rights groups. Several gay donors withdrew their sponsorship of a Democratic National Committee fund-raising event next week, where Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to speak."

    And what's the furor about? Obama's DOJ choosing not only to defend DOMA, but to defend it using some of the right wings' most disgusting and shameful talking points such as comparing same-sex marriage to incest. The New York Times in a Monday editorial called it a "A Bad Call on Gay Rights" and quoted Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, who said, “I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones.”

    The Times also adds that, "There is a strong presumption that the Justice Department will defend federal laws, but it is not an inviolable rule."

    I will add that Obama's DOJ has, for example, not prosecuted Bush/Cheney on torture or any other broken treaties and war crimes.
    [sigh]
    .

    June 16, 2009

    AP @ about 8:30 this evening

    From the AP:
    Obama to sign order extending benefits to same-sex federal employees.
    The announcement will be made Wednesday.

    Follow-up to "Domestic Violence In Pittsburgh" Donna Williams Post

    If you haven't already, you can read the details of this case in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.

    In my original post on this subject, I wrote the following:
    What's needed now is to find out if policies were violated/if new policies need to be put in place.
    Here are the three main issues:
    1. In the first reported incident of domestic violence why was there a 23-day delay between the time that Ms. Williams filed her complaint (Dec. 13, 2008) and the time that the police issued a warrant and filed a criminal complaint (January 5, 2009). What took so long?

    2. In April when Ms. Williams reported another more serious incident where she said she was held against her will, threatened with death, was chocked and bitten (and actually had photographs of her cheek with visible tooth marks on it) why did the police merely tell her to seek a PFA? Why did they not issue an arrest warrant for her assailant when the police have a Mandatory Arrest policy already in place?

    3. Police have two options when an alleged perpetrator is in the hospital: either rely on hospital security or assign police officers to 24-hour guard duty. Why did they choose to leave this in the hospital's hands? Was it a case of not wanting to spend the money on officers' overtime? There is currently no Police Department policy specifically for cases of domestic violence (when it could certainly be argued that the hospitalized perpetrator presents a danger to the community).
    Hopefully, these questions will be addressed at the next Citizen Police Review Board meeting.

    Again, you can attend this meeting and are urged to do so:

    Citizen Police Review Board Meeting
    June 23, 2009, 6:00 PM
    UPDATE: press conference at 5:30 PM
    Freedom Unlimited Building
    2201 Wylie Avenue
    Pittsburgh, PA 15219
    412-434-0922
    .

    June 15, 2009

    Rep. Wagner Gives Birth: 1st sitting PA legislator in almost 25 years to give birth

    Congratulations, Chelsa and Khari!

    The details:
    State Rep. Wagner Gives Birth to Thaddeus Wagner Mosley

    First sitting legislator in almost 25 years to give birth


    State Representative Chelsa Wagner and her husband Khari Mosley are proud to announce the birth of their son Thaddeus Wagner Mosley on June 14th at 9:11 p.m. Mother and child are both doing well. Rep. Wagner is only the third sitting State Representative to give birth and the first in more 20 years, along with the first Democrat.

    The baby weighed 9 lbs 15 oz at birth and was delivered by Midwives at Magee. This is the first child for the couple.

    “They are tired but overjoyed,” said Rep. Wagner’s chief of staff Heidi Tappe. “Right now they are getting to know their new addition and settling into their expanding family!”

    Before the birth Rep Wagner said that she was excited to take on the challenge of being a working mother, like so many women across her district and the State of Pennsylvania. “I’m lucky to have a great support network, especially my husband Khari who will be traveling with me to Harrisburg after the birth. Along with being an exciting and joyful time for us personally, I think this will also help me understand the challenges faced by so many women who work and raise a family.” Rep. Wagner expects to leave for Harrisburg for the anticipated lengthy budgetary process to address the Commonwealth’s climbing deficit shortly after she and Thaddeus are cleared to travel.

    According to the PA House Archives the previous legislators to give birth were Lois Sherman Hagarty, who gave birth to one of her sons (Seth Michael, 7/2/85) during her tenure (R – Montgomery County, 1980-1992), and Frances Weston, who gave birth to two daughters (Bridget Rose, 4/20/83 and Kaitlyn, 7/16/86) during her tenure (R – Philadelphia County, 1981-1990).

    Khari Mosley, Rep. Wagner’s husband, is the National Political/Field Director for the League of Young Voters.

    .

    Penguins Party in Pittsburgh


    Tens of thousands of supporters of the Penguins are streaming to the center of Pittsburgh in a boisterous celebration of the Stanely Cup winners.

    My bad.

    Make that: "Tens of thousands of supporters of pro-reform leader Mir Hossein Mousavi are streaming through the center of Tehran in a boisterous protest against election results that declared President Mamoud Ahmadinejad the winner."



    .

    The Luckiest Boy in the Whole Wide World!


    Life is always a day at the beach for
    the luckiest boy in the whole wide world.

    Lil Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has (temporarily) dodged another bullet.

    Last week Pittsburgh City Council voted to compel Ravenstahl to appear before them to answer questions about the five year Amended Act 47 Recovery plan (Lukey was on vacation last week and seemingly everyone who mattered in his administration was unavailable).

    Today's Penguins Stanley Cup victory parade pushes back the showdown until Wednesday.

    This is a mayor who is no stranger to luck. He came into the office on a fluke and engendered enough sympathy to become Pittsburgh's Favorite Grandson (the one who can do no wrong no matter how hard he tries). And, despite having repeatedly snubbed Barack Obama while he was the Democratic presidential candidate, Lukey got a big, fat, wet kiss from the Obama Administration in the form of having the G-20 summit fall into his lap.

    What more could a boy (mayor) ask for?

    But, back to Act 47. Ravenstahl also had kisses blown to him from the Trib which lovingly noted about his unavailability to Council that:
    The mayor, father of an 8-month-old boy, is taking a week-long vacation with his family after a successful May primary campaign.
    OMG! Those meanies on Council were trying to deprive a little 8-month-old from a day at the beach! You bastards!

    The Trib followed that up with a "lance" to Council for "grandstanding":
    It voted Wednesday to "implore" Hizzhoner to appear before it to discuss the latest five-year plan of the Act 47 economic recovery team. And it raised the specter of issuing a subpoena. Pssst! The mayor's back on Monday. How silly. How bush league. How Tweedledee and Tweedledum. "Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour" has returned.
    First of all: Ted Mack? Exactly how old is Laurels & Lances? Besides, the point is that Council was attempting to compel the mayor to actually attend the meeting. We've seen time and again that Lil Mayor Luke is perfectly capable of shirking his responsibilities and snubbing various groups whether he happens to be in town or not.

    What's at stake here is only the financial health and welfare of the entire City of Pittsburgh.

    You'd think maybe, just maybe, the mayor of the city would want to be fully present for decisions made about that.
    .

    Sometimes, When The Stars Align Just So...

    The editorial boards at the P-G and Trib editorialize on the same subject.

    Thus it is today - the subject is the schedule for the confirmation process for Sonia Sotomayor.

    The Trib sez slow down:
    Here's a question regarding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor that the Obama White House needs to answer: What's the hurry, especially when Democrat [sic] control of the Senate virtually guarantees her confirmation?
    And:
    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, has set Sotomayor's hearing to start July 13, just 48 days after her nomination; for Chief Justice John Roberts, it was 55 days. Again, GOP senators' desire for more time is legitimate, particularly because the Supreme Court's next term doesn't begin until Oct. 5.
    As I am sure the good folks on the Boulevard of the Allies had no idea what Scaife's gang was going to write, we can't really call the P-G's editorial pre-emptive. Though it's tempting.
    Even by the rancorous standards of recent Supreme Court nomination battles, federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been the subject of a gross level of partisan attack.

    This disgraceful campaign, stooping so low as to accuse her of racism or reverse racism, is a by-product of a dispirited Republican Party trying to energize its base. Critics of Judge Sotomayor's nomination clearly view this as a political opportunity, not a chance to delve honestly into her qualifications. After all, most of them have already made up their minds.

    That is why Americans should be wary of Republican complaints about a mid-July date to convene the nomination hearings. When Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced this week that the hearings would start July 13, Republicans were reportedly surprised and angry. They wanted more time to prepare -- in reality, more time to make political hay.

    Considering the Republicans floated an idea that, if taken to its logical conclusion, would require almost two years of review, I find the P-G's argument a bit more, uh, valid.

    My best guess is that the GOP is hoping that if they stretch out the time between the nomination and the confirmation hearings something embarrassing to Sotomayor will pop out of the sky to help them further obstruct the Obama administration.

    June 14, 2009

    Iran.

    The heck with everything else.

    Watch this:

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    In this week's column, Jack Kelly loyally continues his support of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (no idea why) and in doing so, he takes a swipe at David Letterman.

    Good Lord, doesn't he realize how easy this is going to be?

    Jack begins:

    President Barack Obama is, by far, the most popular politician in America. And there is little doubt who is No. 2.

    The city of Auburn in upstate New York, population 28,574, held its first annual Founder's Day celebration June 6. The most famous of the city's fathers is William Seward, who as secretary of state purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. To commemorate the event, the city council invited the current governor of Alaska. The parade featuring Sarah Palin drew more than 20,000 people, according to press reports.

    Of course he's saying it's Governor Palin. But is that the case? Is she really the second most popular politician in the country? Let's look at some poll numbers. Asking what they describe as an "open ended question," the Gallup folks have an idea:
    Asked to name the "main person who speaks for the Republican Party today," Republicans across the country are most likely to name three men: Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Cheney.
    They give the overall percentage numbers as:
    • Limbaugh, 13
    • Cheney, 10
    • McCain, 6
    • Gingrich, 6
    • Bush, 3
    • Steele, 1
    • Boehner, 1
    • Romney, 1
    • Other, 9
    • No one, 14
    • Everyone, 1
    • No Opinion, 37
    Take a look at the numbers for the Republicans/leaners:
    • Limbaugh, 10
    • Cheney, 9
    • McCain, 6
    • Gingrich, 10
    • Bush, *
    • Steele, 2
    • Boehner, *
    • Romney, 2
    • Other, 14
    • No one, 17
    • Everyone, 1
    • No Opinion, 29
    See who isn't on either list? Interesting, isn't it? So not only doesn't Sarah Palin rate nationally on the "who speaks for the Republican party" question, she doesn't even get on the scoreboard among Republicans.

    Nor is Governor Palin the most popular governor in the country, as was the case when Jack reported that factoid almost exactly a year ago.

    Heck, she's not even the most popular politician in Alaska. From Seattlepi.com:
    After Alaska voters gave her positive ratings as high as 86 percent in mid-2008, Gov. Sarah Palin's "positives" are down to 54 percent in the latest Hays Research Group poll of Alaska voters.

    The governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee trails far behind the robust 76.3 percent approval figure scored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Both Palin and Murkowski are up for reelection in 2010.

    It's up to Jack to explain how his "second most popular politician in the country" isn't seen by members of her own party as speaking for that party AND how she's not even the most popular politican in her home state. That I'd like to see. In any event it's difficult to see how she's the second most popular politician in the country.

    Then there's this part:
    The day after that, Ms. Palin took part in a fund-raiser in Washington, D.C., for House and Senate Republicans at which former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the keynote speaker.

    "An attempt to have the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate speak at the dinner ... fell through when organizers feared she might upstage Gingrich," UPI reported.

    Of course, Jack leaves out some important stuff. But given how more Republicans (at least according to the poll data above) view Gingrich as "speaking for" the GOP, it does make sense that she would not be the keynote speaker at that fundraiser. Dana Millbank, though, at the Washington Post fills in some of the blanks:
    First the Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee was invited to be the keynote speaker at the party's annual congressional fundraising dinner.

    Then she was not the keynoter, replaced by former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

    Then she was invited to speak, again. Then that invitation was rescinded.

    Then she let word slip out that she was unhappy about the whole state of events and was thinking of not attending at all.

    Then -- after much public bickering between Palin loyalists and party officials -- she finally agreed to come, speaking slot or no.

    But what's with the back and forth on her speech? Seems that things are running not so smooth in the GOP. That should have been the story. But my guess is that with this column, Jack is sending the message that he's plainly in Palin's camp. Everything else should be seen through that frame of reference.

    Then there's Letterman. Here's Jack's take on the story:
    If Sarah Palin decides she's had her fill of public life, it could be because of the attention her visit drew from the likes of "comedian" David Letterman.

    In his monologue Monday, Mr. Letterman "joked" about Ms. Palin's "slutty flight-attendant look," and made two awful jokes about her daughter, one implying she'd had sex with Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the other that she'd been a prostitute for former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

    "Laughter incited by sexually perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is not only disgusting, but it reminds us some Hollywood/New York entertainers have a long way to go in understanding what the rest of America understands -- that acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl, who could be anyone's daughter, contribute to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men who use and abuse others," Ms. Palin responded when asked for comment.

    As for the "joke" about Palin's flight-attendant look, Letterman also joked about her laughing "all the crazy looking foreigners entering the U.N." and about how she finally "met one of those Jewish people Mel Gibson's always talking about."

    What? No outrage at the jokes pointing to Palin's lack of foreign policy experience or cultural ignorance? The jokes about how she looks get Dave into trouble. A bit sexist, if you ask me.

    The Top-Ten list is here, if you want to see it.

    But take a look at Jack's dishonesty regarding the "daughter" joke. First off, he's got his facts just a teensy bit off. I'll let the politico fact-check Jack:
    Riffing on Palin’s trip to New York last weekend, Letterman joked Monday night that during the seventh inning of the Yankees game “her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”

    Letterman followed up on the line Tuesday night, joking that “the toughest part of her visit was keeping [former New York Gov.] Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter.” [emphasis added.]

    It doesn't change the meaning of his argument of course, but it does show that Jack's not on top of his facts (yet again).

    Left out is Letterman's explanation:
    Despite maintaining his usual tone of playful sarcasm as he discussed his flap with Palin, Letterman did respond seriously to the charge that he had made a rape joke about a 14-year-old girl: "These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl," he said. Letterman insisted the jokes were intended to be about Bristol, who is 18-years-old. "Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes. Did I suggest that it was OK for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No."
    But a curious thing emerges. Take a look at exactly what Jack says and what he doesn't say in his description of Letterman's jokes. I'll help things along with a question: Does Jack Kelly say that Letterman was joking about Willow Palin, the 14-yr old?

    No he doesn't. He leaves that up to the Palins themselves - he just quotes them. So what can we assume from that?

    Perhaps that Jack isn't convinced that Letterman wasn't talking about Bristol rather than Willow. If he was convinced, why wasn't he clearer?

    In any event, not to mention Letterman's explanation (if only to disagree with it) is, in itself, dishonesty by omission.

    Can't wait for a difficult column.