We are the 99%

July 31, 2009

Tony Gives Credit Where Credit Is Due

In his column today, Tony Norman explains some parts of teh crazie and starts with two sentences I never thought I'd read from him:
Let us now praise Bill O'Reilly. Let's not forget "Sideshow Annie" Coulter while we're at it. Both Ann Coulter and Mr. O'Reilly have done what many conservative elected officials don't have the guts to do: They've either mocked or denounced the so-called "birther" movement as an embarrassment to common sense and a threat to the long-term interests of the Republican Party.
And writes something a local member of Congress should notice:

Earlier this week, a reporter from The Huffington Post tried to get Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican from Upper St. Clair, on the record about the "birthers." But the pride of the 18th District proved too fleet-footed for the running dogs of the media.

Rep. Murphy reportedly hid in a congressional office supply store for 20 minutes rather than answer the politically sensitive question about whether Barack Obama is a natural-born citizen. How many birthers can there possibly be in the 18th District to take offense?

The video can be found here, in the event you wanted to see it in all its glory. Tony, in three paragraphs, explains teh crazie:
As anyone with a relative with a tinfoil hat knows, the birthers believe Barack Obama is a Kenyan citizen who became president of the United States through trickery. They argue that Mr. Obama's presidency is, thus, constitutionally invalid. Even CNN's Lou Dobbs has given legitimacy to their paranoid ravings by insisting on "more documentation" from the Obama White House on the issue.

Birthers want to inspect the original birth certificate and not the copy issued by the state of Hawaii. They don't believe an original exists and they're critical of the "certificate of live birth" Hawaii distributed to the media to quell the controversy.

Birthers insist that a certificate of live birth and a birth certificate aren't the same animal. They also want to debunk the notion that "six of one" comes anywhere near to being the same thing as "half dozen of the other."

Birthers are crazie.

July 30, 2009

So I Guess Quinn's A Birther

Give a listen.


Woven into his wingnut anti-Affirmative Action, Professor Gates is a racist rant, local radio embarrassment Jim Quinn drops a few hints on where he stands on President Obama's citizenship (about 45 seconds in) when he says that Gates:
[H]as got the same racial chip on his shoulder as the guy that claims to be the President.
Ladies and Gentlemen, local embarrassment Jim Quinn.

More On Conservatives' Scare: Obama Wants To Kill Old People

From the Wonk Room:
[D]uring President Obama’s AARP town hall, a caller stated that she had “heard lots of rumors going around about this new plan…I have been told there is a policy there that everyone that Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die.”
And they have a clip of the usual suspects crowing about how, within the Health Care plan, the Government is going to force old people to die:


Guess what? Wonk Room actually looks at the language of the bill and (again guess what?) finds:
The bill aims to provide seniors with information about drafting a living will or the options surround end of life care, information Americans have been asking for. A recent report by ThirdWay found that “although 75% of Americans feel advance directives are a good idea, only 40% of Medicare patients say they have one.” Given the lack of clear information, “many patients sign documents that don’t offer clear instructions. Family members may have conflicting feelings about the care they wish to see a patient receive…For elderly patients, their end-of-life wishes regarding care are often unknown or ignored.” The new optional Medicare service seeks to reverse that trend and help patients make more informed end-of-life decisions.
But to the GOP, that means some guv'mint agent is going to be telling Laura Ingraham's 83 year old father how he should be a good citizen and pass on some expensive life-saving procedure.

Just when you think they've reached the bottom of the "shameless" scale, the GOP proves yet again there's no end to their fear mongering.

July 29, 2009

BREAKING NEWS!


Citizens!

We already know that Barack Hussein Obama is an undercover Muslim who is not really our president because he was born in Kenya.

We know that he wants to take our guns and turn the US of A into a socialist/commie country.

We know that he has a deep seated hatred for white people and is a racist.

We also know that there's a better than 50% chance that he is the antichrist.

And, now we know that Hussein Obama has A SECRET PLAN TO KILL OLD PEOPLE:


Citizens, you know what you must do to rid America and the world of this devil and his minions:


NEXT: How Hussein Obama plans to use taxpayer money to hire hordes of feminazis to menstruate on Bibles and video proof that he's coming for our white woman!

*** YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! ***

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Even BILL O'REILLY Says So

Check this out:


When BILL O'REILLY trashes the birthers, you know they're teh crazie.

July 28, 2009

Too clever by half

I thought with the upcoming Happy Hour scheduled between President Obama, Professor Gates and Officer Crowley that this was all over, but I still hear the issue being debated on the cable news shows this morning and today on Pittsburgh Now with Chris Moore. I called into the latter show and got on the air but I was up against a hard break and was cut off.

The reason that I called in is because I can't believe that there are people who are still acting like it was a righteous arrest -- it wasn't.

First, let's say for the sake of argument that the police report is 100% accurate. You can read it here.

From that report you will see that Gates was not arrested inside his home -- as many keep saying -- he was arrested on his porch. This is an important distinction.

The report says that the officer initially asked Gates to step outside. This is perfectly understandable as the officer at that point was without backup; didn't know who was in the house; and Gates could have had a gun being held on him or others by real burglars. However, as you read the report, you'll see that at some point the officer is in the house (curiously in such a detailed report he doesn't note entering the premises).

While the officer is in the house Gates does eventually produce ID, but the officer writes that Gates keeps asking him for his name and the officer says that he's provided it and that Gates isn't listening. The officer in part blames Gates for yelling and in part mentions bad acoustics (huh)?

Now there should be an easy way to resolve this and it's by Massachusetts code:
Chapter 41: Section 98D. Identification cards

Section 98D. Each city or town shall issue to every full time police officer employed by it an identification card bearing his photograph and the municipal seal. Such card shall be carried on the officer’s person, and shall be exhibited upon lawful request for purposes of identification.
The officer does not mention producing his ID in his report -- he doesn't even say he gave Gates his badge number.

Now, here's where the "too clever by half" part comes in.

According to the officer's own report, he's in the house and one assumes assessed the situation (non burglary, non-hostage, etc.); he's had Gates produce ID; and he's provided (at least) his name to Gates. The officer was called to investigate a burglary and has established that no crime has taken place.

He can walk away.

But he doesn't. Instead, he repeatedly tries to get Gates to leave his home.

Why?

The officer has stated that Gates has not acted in a manner that he expected. The officer has stated that Gates was less than cooperative; that he's yelled, that he's threatened to go up the chain of command; that he's thrown in accusations of racism. Hell, Gates even threw in a yo mama.

So here's the pissing match (I said "testosterone contest" on my call to the show).

The reason why the officer has to get Gates out of the house (and win the contest) again comes back to Massachusetts code. This time it's the law on disorderly conduct (what Gates was charged with):
Here is the Massachusetts statute under which Gates was arrested, Mass. G. L. ch. 272, s. 53:
Common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female, common railers and brawlers, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy persons of the opposite sex, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, idle and disorderly persons, disturbers of the peace, keepers of noisy and disorderly houses, and persons guilty of indecent exposure may be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Here is a recent gloss by a Massachusetts court (adopting Model Penal Code s. 250.2(a)):
A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he: (a) engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.... ‘Public’ means affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access; among the places included are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, or any neighborhood.
Massachusetts courts have rejected MPC s. 250.2(b) as a violation of free speech rights. So this provision is not part of Massachusetts law:
(b) makes unreasonable noise or offensively coarse utterance, gesture or display, or addresses abusive language to any person present.
The officer knows the law to the extent that he's careful to put the words "tumultuous behavior" in his report (behavior, of course, that you'd find happening at any gathering of Steelers fans). He also declares that the "tumultuous behavior" took place in a "public place."

The officer had to get Gates out on the porch to meet the statute. He couldn't arrest Gates for "tumultuous behavior" in his own home. Let's face it, you can cover yourself in glitter and do naked somersaults in the privacy of your own home and the police can't tell you boo. The officer has to get Gates outside to even attempt to get a disorderly conduct charge to stick.

So, the officer gets Gates outside and Gates is still yelling so the arrest is gold and the officer wins the pissing match, right?

Wrong.

Again, according to the law -- even in public -- the act of "makes unreasonable noise or offensively coarse utterance, gesture or display, or addresses abusive language to any person present" does not count as "tumultuous behavior" or disorderly conduct.

That makes this a false arrest. Period.

And ya know, the charges were dropped -- even before Obama got involved.

Now you know why they were dropped (Ruth Ann and others).

So whatever else occurred that day a crime was not committed and Gates was wrongfully arrested and charged.

As to whether they both overreacted: yeah, looks like it. But here's the difference:
When a private citizen, as in this case, overreacts by yelling the officer is made to suffer from unwarranted abuse (just like you might from your boss or spouse or that jerk in the next car on the parkway, but when a police officer overreacts by arresting a citizen, the citizen loses their liberty.

No contest on which abuse is worse.
NOTE: This post is in no way meant to be a recommendation that anyone yell or swear at police officers:
1) They do a dangerous, difficult, public service and don't need the extra crap.
2) On a purely pragmatic level, no matter how many times the courts rule that it's legal to raise your voice, swear or even give them the finger, you will likely get arrested (or worse) if you engage in these behaviors. So you'd be an idiot not to "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am" them like crazy.
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The Truth From Colbert

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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More On Birther Nation

Can The State of Hawaii be any clearer (from the AP)?
State officials in Hawaii on Monday said they have once again checked and confirmed that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen, and therefore meets a key constitutional requirement for being president.

They hoped to stem a recent surge in the number of inquiries about Obama's birthplace.

"I ... have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen," Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said in a brief statement.
Then there's this a few paragraphs down:
However, it appears Congress has moved on and has accepted Obama's island birthplace. The U.S. House on Monday unanimously approved a resolution recognizing and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii becoming the 50th state. A clause was included that reads: "Whereas the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961."
I suspect, however, that all these "facts" won't deter teh crazie much.

UPDATE: The resolution passed the House by a vote of 378-0.

July 27, 2009

Guess Who?

Watch:



From Firedoglake:
Mike Stark has been up on the Hill all week whipping Democrats to hold fast on the public plan, and in his spare time, he decided to ask Republicans if Barack Obama was born in the United States. Not only do they not want to answer -- they run.

He asks Republicans Tom Price, Thaddeus McCotter, Jeff Fortenberry, Charles Boustany, Aaron Schock, Greg Harper, Mike Coffman and others what they think. Tim Murphy hides, looking at pens for 20 minutes to try and avoid him.

Mike and Brave New Films cameraman Brett Vauhn finally got Arizona congressman Trent Franks to admit without equivocation that Obama was born in the United States, and that his birth certificate is valid.

The video makes clear that the Republican Party is captive to their conspiracy theory-mongering base all the way up to the top.
Tim Murphy first appears about 40 seconds in.

Franco Dok Harris Campaign Events



For more info: forgeahead@harrisforpittsburgh.com / 412-620-8823
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Blogroll Update

As always, I add blogs to our blogroll for my convienence -- to make it easier for me to get to blogs that I want to read. (Of course, I add blogs at Dayvoe's request too.)

Here are some new additions. While not overtly political, they often touch on politics.

National:
Racialicious
"Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture."

Sociological Images
"Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing is designed to encourage all kinds of people to exercise and develop their sociological imagination by presenting brief sociological discussions of compelling and timely imagery that spans the breadth of sociological inquiry."


Local:
WWVB
"Vannevar Bush described the Internet in 1945. What Would Vannevar Blog now?"
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Sestak and Specter in interactive session at Netroots Nation

From Suburban Guerrilla:
The Netroots Nation Pennsylvania Leadership Forum, scheduled for Friday morning at 11 a.m., will give you and your fellow attendees an opportunity to engage both leaders in substantive discussion about issues of the day.

Rep. Sestak and Sen. Specter will each participate in an interactive session moderated by Pennsylvania blogger Susie Madrak and The Nation’s Ari Melber. Much like our Presidential Leadership Forum back in 2007 and our Ask the Speaker session last July, each participant will be asked questions solicited online in advance, as well as from the audience.

Suburban Guerrilla's Susie Madrak taking advance questions here.

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

I will be attending Netroots Nation and I believe that David will too. Who else is going?
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July 26, 2009

Sarah, we hardly knew ye



But what we saw was enough.
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Jack Kelly Sunday - A Followup

I have a followup to this morning's posting.

First, let me give a shoutout to EdHeath. HIS deconstruction of Jack is worth a read. Some salient points:
Kelly selects some quotes from whatever he read from Vaknin:

• subtly misrepresents facts and expediently and opportunistically shifts positions;
• ignores data that conflict with his fantasy world;
• feels that he is above the law;
• craves to be the exclusive center of attention, and
• has a messianic-cosmic vision of himself.

I have to say it was not Obama I thought of when I read those quotes. “Feels he is above the law” – Bush’s theory of a unitary President? “Subtly misrepresents facts” – weapons of mass destruction? “Has a messianic-cosmic vision of himself” - This is a quote from an April 2003 USA Today (maybe an April Fool’s joke): “Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day.”
Great point. I was gonna say that. Really. I was. You gotta believe me.

Now back to Jack. I was going to skewer Jack on his comment about the iPod the President gave to the Queen of England a few months ago but a curious thing happened sometime between yesterday and today.

The column changed.

For those who don't know, Jack Kelly's column is actually published in TWO newspapers. On Sundays, of course, it's found in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. On Saturdays, it's found in the P-G's sister paper, the Toledo Blade.

When I reread Jack's column this evening, I thought something was off - on the iPod part. There was something in it that I didn't remember reading this morning. So I checked the column at the Toledo Blade. Wanna know what I saw?

This:

It reads:
If Mr. Obama is a narcissist, it would explain otherwise odd things, such as his notion that an iPod loaded with his speeches is an appropriate gift for the Queen of England and his frequent references to himself in virtually all of those speeches. [emphasis added]
Now take a look at what's at the P-G now:
If Mr. Obama is a narcissist, it would explain otherwise odd things, such as his notion that it was appropriate to include two of his speeches on an iPod he gave to the Queen of England and his frequent references to himself in virtually all of his speeches. [emphasis added]
We can assume that the version in the Toledo Blade is the original one. It's factually incorrect, of course, but it makes more sense. Take a look at the patch in the P-G's version of the column. What was "loaded with his speeches" in Toledo became "two of his speeches" in Pittsburgh. It's obvious that in Jack's original version, he's saying that the speeches loaded onto the iPod were also loaded with references to him.

But what was on the iPod to begin with? On April 1 of this year, ABC reported that, along with a huge amount of Broadway show tunes, on the iPod, there were also:
  • Photos from the Queen's 2007 White House State Visit
  • Photos from the Queen's 2007 Jamestown, Va., Visit
  • Photos from the Queen's 2007 Richmond, Va., Visit
  • Video from the Queen's 1957 Jamestown Visit
  • Video from the Queen's 2007 Jamestown Visit
  • Video from the Queen's 2007 Richmond Visit
  • Photos from President Obama's Inauguration
  • Audio of then-state senator Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and
  • Audio of President Obama 2009 Inauguration Address
Only two speeches (goes without saying that Jack initially got the facts wrong) and how does one question the statement "his frequent references to himself in virtually all of his speeches"? What criteria does one use to define "frequent"?

It's a bad patch for a bad mistake.

Jack Kelly Sunday

With this week's column, Jack Kelly gives us all a valuable lesson in rightwing psychobabble. The topic: President Obama's supposed "narcissism."

Sometimes deconstructing Jack Kelly is difficult (i.e. last week) and sometimes (i.e. this week) it's easy as easy can be.

Jack begins by defending (yet again) the Alaskan quitter, Governor Sarah Palin:

In his hit piece on Sarah Palin for Vanity Fair, Todd Purdum wrote:

"More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin's extravagant self regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of 'narcissistic personality disorder' in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -- 'a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration and lack of empathy' -- and thought it fit her perfectly."

Bill Clinton last year described Mr. Purdum as a "sleazy, slimy scumbag," despite the fact that Mr. Purdum is married to his former press secretary, Dee Dee Myers. And I suspect the anonymous Alaskans are a product of Mr. Purdum's imagination. But because he has gone there, I now feel free to write something I've thought about a lot, but have hesitated to put into print.

With that he begins his psychobabble. There's so much to correct, however, in his opening that were we to step over it, this thick gooey smeary steaming pile of spin that it is, we'd miss a great deal of Jack's subtle wingnut tradecraft.

So we'll start with the Vanity Fair piece. Jack, of course, fails to deliver the rest of Purdum's paragraph - stuff that, as you'll see, perhaps sheds light on why someone might think there's "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity" inside the perfectly coiffed head of Alaska's most famous ex-Governor. Here's Purdum's full paragraph with the edited-out part in bold:
More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—“a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy”—and thought it fit her perfectly. When Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig’s condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God’s, and signed it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.” [ephasis added.]
She did what?? Yep. I guess for Jack it's not too grandiose to speak for (or in this case e-mail for) The Supreme Being. Huh. Interesting.

And what about Bill Clinton's reaction to Purdum? It can be found here. Any idea why Clinton doesn't like Purdum? After describing Purdum's piece last year on the Clinton as "dishonest," Bill Clinton then says of Purdum:
"That's all right-- he's still a scumbag," Clinton said. "Let me tell ya--he's one of the guys--he's one of the guys that propagated all those lies about Whitewater to Kenneth Starr. He's just a dishonest guy-- can't help it."
Interesting that Jack would leave that out, too! Does he agree with Clinton that Purdum's reporting on Whitewater made the reporter a "scumbag"? Not surprisingly, he leaves that out.

Now we get to his last sentence of his opening:
But because he has gone there, I now feel free to write something I've thought about a lot, but have hesitated to put into print.
He's talking of course, about Obama's narcissism. But, dear reader, this is not the first time he's written about, oh no. A year ago today, RealClearPolitics published a column by Jack Kelly titled:
Obama's Narcissism
Now he says he's hesitant to put it in print? Did he think no one would check? And (again, I have to ask this) why did no one at the P-G check?

NOW we get to talk about the psychobabble. First the charge:
"Barack Obama appears to be a narcissist," wrote Shmuel (Sam) Vaknin, a psychologist who's written two books on narcissism, in July of 2008. "Narcissistic leaders are nefarious and their effects pernicious. They are subtle, refined, socially adept, manipulative, possessed of thespian skills and convincing. [They] lack empathy and are ruthless and relentless."

Only after lengthy tests and personal interviews can a qualified mental-health professional determine whether someone suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, Mr. Vaknin acknowledged. But for his article in the American Chronicle, Mr. Vaknin constructed the kind of psychological profile the CIA commissions on foreign leaders.

You'd think that after Jack Kelly calls Vaknin a "psychologist" he's some sort of, well licensed psychologist, right? That he has a degree in psychology of some sort, right? That he's a mental health professional, right?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong on all counts.

Take a look at the CV at Vaknin's website. There is a Ph.D in philosophy from the now defunct (?) Pacific Western University listed at the Library of Congress website. No degrees in psychology, psychiatry, social work, or any mental health disciplines of any kind. Indeed, Vaknin even acknowledges on his own site:
In publishing this Web site, the author makes no representations concerning the efficacy, appropriateness or suitability of any products or treatments. Use this site at your own risk. The author of this Web site, is not a mental health professional and has no relevant background or training in psychology or psychiatry. [all emphasis in the original]
Jack left that part out, doncha know.

Again, Jack. C'mon. Did you think no one would check?

Though Vaknin does note that he has certfication from something called Brainbench, which is described by Businessweek as:
Brainbench, Inc. provides assessment products and services. The company focuses on offering online assessment and employment screening and testing services. It provides pre-employment screening tests and testing products, such as personality, employment history survey, software simulations, interview guides, custom assessments and consulting services, and proctored administration; speaking, writing, and listening; and knowledge, skills, and abilities.
And Jack should have checked his source just a teensy bit better as Sam Vaknin is the subject of a CBC documentary called "I, Psychopath" where he's described as:
[A] self-proclaimed psychopath, goes in search of a diagnosis. In a scientific first, he allows himself to undergo testing to find out if he was born without a conscience. He knows he's narcissistic and cannot empathize with others. By his own admission, he's pompous, grandiose, repulsive and contradictory, ruthless and devoid of scruples, capricious and unfathomable... but he believes, he's not a bad person. What he is indifferent...he couldn't care less. Unless, of course, the topic is himself.
So when the headline asks "Who's the narcissist?" we now know that one answer, at least, is Sam Vaknin, Jack's main source for information on this week's smear. Sam, by his own admission, may even be a psychopath.

Good going, Jack. Great source vetting. Did you even bother to check it out? And if so, did you think no one else would?

But let's move on in Jack's column. Again, what Jack leaves out is very telling. Here's Jack:

"Barack Obama appears to be a narcissist," wrote Shmuel (Sam) Vaknin, a psychologist who's written two books on narcissism, in July of 2008. "Narcissistic leaders are nefarious and their effects pernicious. They are subtle, refined, socially adept, manipulative, possessed of thespian skills and convincing. [They] lack empathy and are ruthless and relentless."

Only after lengthy tests and personal interviews can a qualified mental-health professional determine whether someone suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, Mr. Vaknin acknowledged.

And here's the relevant section that Jack quotes from Vaknin piece in The American Chronicle:
Barack Obama appears to be a narcissist. Scroll down for a detailed treatment.

Granted, only a qualified mental health diagnostician (which I am not) can determine whether someone suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and this, following lengthy tests and personal interviews. But, in the absence of access to Barack Obama, one has to rely on his overt performance and on testimonies by his closest, nearest and dearest.

Narcissistic leaders are nefarious and their effects pernicious. They are subtle, refined, socially-adept, manipulative, possessed of thespian skills, and convincing. Both types equally lack empathy and are ruthless and relentless or driven. [emphasis added.]
Notice, again, what Jack omitted? He omitted the part where Vaknin admits he's not a "qualified mental health diagnostician." Any idea why Jack omitted it?

Simple: Including that part would more or less completely undermine the impression Jack is looking to give. He wants you to think that Vaknin is an expert (a "psychologist", in fact) and that what he says about Obama's "narcissism" is somehow valid because of this professional expertise - that the only thing standing in the way of Vaknin actually making this diagnosis is his lack of access to the President.

A larger point here is that Jack must know Vaknin's not a licensed diagnostician - but tries to let you think it anyway.

How dishonest is that?

Even for Jack, it's a doozy.

July 25, 2009

Interesting Point...

From Stanley Fish.

After some background on Henry Louis Gates at Duke University:
As the story unfolded in the press and on the Internet, I flashed back 20 years or so to the time when Gates arrived in Durham, N.C., to take up the position I had offered him in my capacity as chairman of the English department of Duke University. One of the first things Gates did was buy the grandest house in town (owned previously by a movie director) and renovate it. During the renovation workers would often take Gates for a servant and ask to be pointed to the house’s owner. The drivers of delivery trucks made the same mistake.

The message was unmistakable: What was a black man doing living in a place like this?
The point:
Now, in 2009, it’s a version of the same story. Gates is once again regarded with suspicion because, as the cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson put it in an interview, he has committed the crime of being H.W.B., Housed While Black.

He isn’t the only one thought to be guilty of that crime. TV commentators, laboring to explain the unusual candor and vigor of Obama’s initial comments on the Gates incident, speculated that he had probably been the victim of racial profiling himself. Speculation was unnecessary, for they didn’t have to look any further than the story they were reporting in another segment, the story of the “birthers” — the “wing-nuts,” in Chris Matthews’s phrase — who insist that Obama was born in Kenya and cite as “proof” his failure to come up with an authenticated birth certificate. For several nights running, Matthews displayed a copy of the birth certificate and asked, What do you guys want? How can you keep saying these things in the face of all evidence?

He missed the point. No evidence would be sufficient, just as no evidence would have convinced some of my Duke colleagues that Gates was anything but a charlatan and a fraud. It isn’t the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate that’s the problem for the birthers. The problem is again the legitimacy of a black man living in a big house, especially when it’s the White House. Just as some in Durham and Cambridge couldn’t believe that Gates belonged in the neighborhood, so does a vocal minority find it hard to believe that an African-American could possibly be the real president of the United States.
Darn! Why didn't I think of that?

July 24, 2009

Pittsburgh's Mayor's Door Chained Against Protestors


WPXI


KDKA


Pittsburgh City Paper



Approximately 150 protestors (union members and community activists) protested for nearly an hour today outside the office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. They had to protest outside the office because a city worker chained and padlocked the door (police also showed up).

The protestors were demanding that, along with all the taxpayer subsidized giveaways to developers that have become commonplace in this city, they get a promise of family-sustainable jobs.

More on this story:

http://pghcomet.blogspot.com/2009/07/were-here-to-ask-mayor-to-change-his.html

http://twitter.com/bobmayo

http://pghisacity.blogspot.com/2009/07/theyre-back.html

http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A66316

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_635143.html

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09205/986133-100.stm

http://www.wpxi.com/news/20165257/detail.html (with video)

http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/news/20165049/detail.html (with video)

http://kdka.com/local/union.protest.mayors.2.1099491.html (with video)

"CANDIDATE FRANCO DOK HARRIS SUPPORTS UNION PROTEST AT MAYOR'S OFFICE"
Full statement here.

UPDATE: Bram has video Yarone Zober on Development and CBA's
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Sen. Ferlo: Trib Misrepresents Me Regarding G-20 and "Free Speech Zone"

Here's the headline and first two paragraphs of a story which appeared in today's Tribune-Review:
State Sen. Ferlo wants Point State Park designated free-speech zone for G-20

By Jeremy Boren, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, July 24, 2009


Sen. Jim Ferlo wants the city's permission to turn Point State Park into a free-speech zone for activists the day before the Group of 20 economic summit begins Downtown.

Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said Thursday he wants a permit to use the park from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 23 to "provide a forum for a very large event where people would feel comfortable appearing."
The problem? (Besides, of course, the whole idea of "free speech zones.") Sen. Jim Ferlo never requested a permit for a "free speech zone" -- he did request a permit for an event to be held at Point State Park on September 23rd (the day before the G-20 Summit).

According to a letter that Ferlo sent to police Chief Nate Harper and Public Safety Director Michael Huss (.pdf here), the event would entail "speeches and cultural entertainment focusing on the arrival of the G-20 delegates and international media to our great City" and which would be "entirely peaceful, motivated by the spirit of democratic participation, and open to the public."

The Trib characterized Ferlo's request as trying to create a "free speech zone."

Anyone paying attention during the, oh, last eight years or so knows that a "free speech zone" typically refers to setting up a designated area for protestors and only allowing protest/political speech to take place in that designated area (usually far from the political event) as a means of censoring free speech.

Anyone actually reading Ferlo's letter to Harper and Huss can see that Ferlo is not trying to censor speech, but rather, he's trying to initiate a rally which would enhance those desiring a peaceful, safe space to comment on the upcoming G-20 summit.

From my reading of his request, Ferlo is trying to provide AN ALTERNATIVE for those who have no desire to take to the streets but still wish to mark the summit -- a huge difference from the way that the Trib characterized his request.

I mean for Pete's sake, Ferlo cc'd Vic Walczak of the ACLU on his permit request! Does anyone really think that he would have done this if he was trying to curtail speech in any way?

[sigh]

Here's Ferlo's response to the Trib article:
Jeremy,

Respectfully, I have been in public life for over 25 years and while I have taken exception to various editorials and news reporting I have never written and asked for a correction or retraction. The headline and your own reporting of an interview with me following the release of my letter to local public safety officials amounts to the pusillanimous neglect of accuracy and truth! I never , either in written word or our phone conversation, used the phrase or suggested a so-called "free-speech zone". A so-called "free speech zone" violates our right of free speech and assembly---anywhere! It would amount to me telling you and the Trib and Mr. Scaife that you could only sell or pass out the Trib at certain public intersections. My request and administrative processing of a permit for Pt. State Park is for obvious permitting procedures and exclusive use of an area. All the other events that I described to you generally provided a picture of the various actions that individuals and organizations, locally, nationally and from around the globe, will exercise leading up to and during the G-20 summit here in Pittsburgh. No one needs a permit or be told by police or government officials that free speech is limited to "certain designated areas". This is morally, politically and Constitutionally un-acceptable and I will go to jail should it be necessary to fight and secure this principle. All of the United States - anywhere - is guaranteed free speech and that's a pretty big "zone"!

Sincerely,

Senator Jim Ferlo

Ferlo's office is requesting that you all use your free speech to "take a moment to write a letter to the Trib editor regarding you opinion on this matter."
.

The Trib Editorial Board vs ACORN. Again.

I guess we gotta do this every few weeks. The last time was July 2.

Here's what they write today:
On the "Watch List": Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl. The Allegheny County chief executive and the mayor of Pittsburgh have begun an eight-month push to bolster census-response rates. Indeed, an accurate count is to the benefit of all. But here's a critical question for them:

Do they support the involvement of ACORN in the survey process? That would be the same ACORN that's accused in a number of states, Pennsylvania included, of voter registration fraud. That would be the same ACORN that aided the subprime mortgage mess by bullying banks to lend to those with dubious financial means.

Well?
ACORN and the census. ACORN and the subprime mess. (At least they didn't say that ACORN was accused of "voter fraud." They got that part right, at least.)

First on the census. ACORN is one of the groups partnering with the Census bureau and, as FactCheck.org wrote:
Each partner group is asked to complete a form listing a series of possible activities with which it would be willing to help. ACORN's form is on page 48 of a package of documents that was turned over to the watchdog group Judicial Watch by the Census Bureau under the Freedom of Information Act. ACORN checked off, among other items, "identify job candidates and/or distribute and display recruiting materials" and "provide space to train new [census] employees." But government officials have made it clear that that's a far cry from having ACORN hire workers and conduct the census.
Heck, FactCheck even quotes Commerce Secretary Gary Locke saying:
[T]he Census will not be hiring anyone from ACORN. We use these so-called partners to get the word out and to spread the word about the need for people to respond and answer the questionnaires. ...We control the hiring. We do not use any government funds to subcontract with any organization to do any activity. ...We are not delegating anything to ACORN.
I guess the Trib's Editorial Board didn't do its homework. Again.

On the subprime mess, there's this from Daniel Gross at Newsweek. In a healthy debunking of the rightwing deflection on the causes of the subprime mortgage crisis:
The thesis is laid out almost daily on The Wall Street Journal editorial page and in the National Review. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer provides an excellent example, writing that "much of this crisis was brought upon us by the good intentions of good people." He continues: "For decades, starting with Jimmy Carter's Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, there has been bipartisan agreement to use government power to expand homeownership to people who had been shut out for economic reasons or, sometimes, because of racial and ethnic discrimination. What could be a more worthy cause? But it led to tremendous pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—which in turn pressured banks and other lenders—to extend mortgages to people who were borrowing over their heads. That's called subprime lending. It lies at the root of our current calamity." The subtext: if only Congress didn't force banks to lend money to poor minorities, the Dow would be well on its way to 36,000. Or, as Fox Business Channel's Neil Cavuto put it: "I don't remember a clarion call that said: Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster."

Let me get this straight. Investment banks and insurance companies run by centimillionaires blow up, and it's the fault of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and poor minorities?
A few paragraphs later there's this rhetorical question:
Did AIG plunge into the credit-default swaps business with abandon because ACORN members picketed its offices?
Oh wingnut, please.

July 23, 2009

TODAY: Rally for Clean Energy, Not Coal

Sorry for posting this so late, but if you happen to be downtown today:

Rally for Clean Energy, Not Coal
Thursday at 12 p.m.
6th Avenue & William Penn Place, Pittsburgh PA


From MoveOn:

Will Arlen Specter stand up for the Clean Air Act?

The House passed an energy bill which would roll back a key provision of the Clean Air Act that limits global-warming pollution from dirty coal plants.1

Now it's the Senate's turn to write an energy bill, and we've got to stop them from making the same mistake.

So MoveOn members are gathering in Pittsburgh on Thursday at 12 p.m. to call on Sen. Specter to save the Clean Air Act and switch America to a clean energy economy.

Under President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun to take steps towards cracking down on global-warming pollution from coal plants and oil refineries.

But oil and coal lobbyists quietly snuck a provision into the House energy bill that would roll back the Clean Air Act and stop Obama's EPA from acting—so old, dirty coal plants will be let off the hook for their pollution.2

Even worse, as many as 100 new coal plants could be built in communities across the country—so instead of creating millions of new, clean energy jobs, we'll be stuck with dirty coal power for another generation.3

1. "Under House energy bill, coal won't be going away," Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51521&id=16610-1367448-jjEnQDx&t=7

"Big Coal Using Climate Change Bill To Roll Back Clean Air Act," The Huffington Post, June 18, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51542&id=16610-1367448-jjEnQDx&t=8

"Waxman-Markey Strips EPA of Clean Air Act Authority to Fight Global Warming," Friends of the Earth, June 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51541&id=16610-1367448-jjEnQDx&t=9

2. "Climate endangerment finding clears White House review," The New York Times, April 14, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51624&id=16610-1367448-jjEnQDx&t=10

"Climate change legislation now faces senate heat," Albany Times Union, July 12, 2009
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51623&id=16610-1367448-jjEnQDx&t=11

3. Memo on Clean Air Act authority, Pawa Law, July 2, 2009 [PDF]
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51620&id=16610-1367448-jjEnQDx&t=12

July 22, 2009

Specter More Progressive On Gun Control Than Casey

From The Hill:
Senate Democrats on Wednesday banded together to defeat — barely — a Republican proposal to allow concealed weapons to be carried across state lines.

Voting 58-39, the chamber beat back an amendment by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a potential presidential hopeful who has taken on a growing role among Senate Republicans, that would have permitted weapons to be transferred from state to state.

Under a previous agreement between the two parties, the amendment needed 60 votes to pass.

[snip]

Nineteen other Democrats crossed over to support the amendment: Max Baucus of Montana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jon Tester of Montana, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Mark Udall of Colorado and Mark Warner and Jim Webb of Virginia. [Emphasis added]

[snip]

The bill would have allowed citizens with a concealed-weapons permit in one state to transfer that permit to other states.
Sen. Arlen Specter only signaled his his opposition yesterday. From his website:
"From my own experience growing up in Kansas and being District Attorney of Philadelphia, I know states need to prescribe their own rules for carrying a concealed deadly weapon. This is the essence of federalism. My vote against the Thune Amendment will not limit the constitutional rights of hunters and gun owners. Pennsylvania already recognizes concealed carry permits from 24 other states where their laws are similar."
Groups such as Cease Fire PA and Mayors Against Illegal Guns targeted Specter and Casey. The latter group running an ad in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer this week. Notice that this ad was aimed at Specter -- not Casey. Did they already know that Bobby was a lost cause?

This all comes on the heels of a lawsuit by the NRA being thrown out of court which tried to challenge a Pittsburgh ordinance that required owners to report lost or stolen guns to the police.

Despite Casey's efforts, all in all, a good week for keeping firearms "well regulated."


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Franco Dok Harris Challenges Rivals to Put Limits on Campaign Contributions

From an email from the Harris camp sent to other Pittsburgh mayoral candidates:
To All Candidates for the Office of Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh:

I declared I would maintain campaign finance contribution limits on day one of my campaign, and I have kept my word. Because I am committed to the people of this city, not large contributor, back-door influence peddlers of the past, I remain the only candidate to enforce federal limits.

Following in the footsteps of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I am choosing to hold to the federal fundraising guidelines so that the people of the city of Pittsburgh can elect our Mayor--not special interests. We all need to have a voice in our future and we need to know that no one will have special privilege with the Mayor because they contributed greatly to his or her campaign. The federal limits of $4800 per individual and $10,000 per PAC are fair limits, and for candidates dedicated to transparency in government this should be enough. These limits offer every single person from every single neighborhood in this city an opportunity to have a voice in who they want to lead us towards a green future full of jobs that can sustain a family, and safe places for our children to play.

I invite Mayor Ravenstahl and all Mayoral candidates to join me in utilizing the federal fundraising limits so that we can ensure that the Mayor is beholden only to the people of the city of Pittsburgh.

Sincerely Yours,

Franco Dok Harris
Independent Progressive
For Mayor

.

July 21, 2009

Teh Birther Crazie Continues

Mike Castle is a moderate Republican (I thought they'd all been purged from the GOP by now - you live and learn) from Delaware. Former Governor and current House Representative from Delaware.

He got booed in his own state for declaring that President Obama is a US Citizen. The Washington Independent has the story:

A little evidence that [the birther] conspiracy theory is showing up in uncomfortable situations for Republicans: Here’s Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a moderate Republican who hasn’t announced whether he’s running for re-election or for the U.S. Senate next year, at a town hall meeting earlier this month.

A woman gets up, holding a baggie containing her birth certificate, and unleashes a rambling, minute-long tirade tirade about how the president is a “citizen of Kenya.” The crowd hoots and cheers when she’s done. Castle responds, diplomatically: “Well I don’t know what comment that invites. If you’re referring to the president, then he is a citizen of the United States.” That elicits roars and boos from the crowd, so Castle presses on. “You can boo, but he is a citizen of the United States.”

Take a look:


Even in little Delaware, teh crazie flourishes.

Then there's Pat Boone. In his Newsmax column he hits all (and I mean ALL) of the Anti-Obama wingnut points. First on the birth certificate:
I know; this suspicion, this question about whether Barack Hussein Barry Soetoro Obama was actually born in the United States — as the Constitution explicitly demands — has been circulating for months, since before he won the election last November. He, or somebody in his confidence, posted a supposed copy of a Hawaiian "Certification of Live Birth," or COLB, on his presidential campaign Web site — even though a COLB, under Hawaiian rules, does not necessarily prove in-state birth. Some found the document, which does not list the hospital of birth or attending physician, to be fake.
"Some" also believe the moon landings to be a hoax. That doesn't mean there's any evidence to support it. Same here. Pat goes further:
  • Corsi's trip to Kenya where he was denied entry (the cover-up's gone international!!)
  • The videotape (which, again, "some" have reported to have seen) showing Obama's paternal step grandmother saying she saw his birth -in Kenya
  • And then this convoluted conspiracy:
    Many, who know more than I do about what actually happened, notably the United States Justice Foundation, have surmised that baby Obama’s mother, about to have her child in Kenya, had booked a flight to Hawaii but was prohibited from flying because delivery was so imminent. But soon after baby Barack was born, USJF theorizes she flew with him to Oahu and obtained some kind of "record of birth" as if he'd been born there.
OR he was simply born in Hawaii.

Pat sums up the importance of this issue with:
Yes, it is important, crucially and everlastingly important. America’s very future depends on the defense of, and obedience to, our basic constitutional laws.
Good to know. But where was Pat and the other birthers when the previous President was lying the country into a war? Okaying illegal domestic surveillance? Ordering torture?

July 20, 2009

But He's Still An Idiot...

Remember this?

That's when Fox "News" host said, comparing Finland to the United States:
Finland -- Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody.
Well he's apologized. And here's what he said (from HuffingtonPost):
I made comments that were offensive to many people. That was not my intention, and looking back at those comments I realize they were inappropriate. For that I sincerely apologize. America [is a] huge melting pot, and that is what makes us such a great country...
Good for him but he's still an idiot.

40 Years Ago Today

Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

July 19, 2009

A Short Note About Musical Metaphors

Unless you know what you're talking about, run them by someone who does.

Case in point.

In today's P-G, Rob Owen has a piece on WQED that begins with this:
Every few years, the soap opera that is WQED Multimedia reaches a new crescendo. Multi-year attempts to sell WQEX was a veritable aria.
He really should have run this passage by Druckenbrod. And if he did, Andy should have done a better job of correcting him. Or maybe the original was much worse and Andy really did all he could to clean it up.

First off, Rob starts by framing the larger metaphor as a "soap opera" then goes on to rattle off a few musical metaphors beneath the larger one. But a "soap opera" is not a musical form but a dramatic one - and a TV critic should know that. Given the melodrama his story describes about the financial situation at QED, perhaps "Grand Opera" would have been a better fit. It certainly would have fit with any music metaphors to follow.

Now about the metaphors Rob misused. He writes that every few years the situation at QED "reaches a new crescendo." So what is this thing, this "crescendo" he writes about? (This is one of my pet peeves, by the way. ) It's that place in a piece of music where there is a change of dynamics and the music gets louder - for instance it goes from soft to loud or loud to LOUDER. A decrescendo is the opposite - the music gets softer. Given the definition, saying what's happening at QED has "reached a crescendo" only means that it's reached the place where it is about to get (or is in the process of getting) louder. The music is moving to a place of greater tension.

But I don't think that's what Rob meant to mean. He's describing a point where things have already gotten complicated and dramatic - the end of a crescendo, perhaps, where the musical tension has reached a high plateau. But that's not a crescendo - at least not in musical terms.

And then he describes the "muti-year attempts to sell WQEX" as an aria. A "veritable" one, in fact. So what is an "aria"? One of my college professors used to begin his description of the "Sonata Allegro Form" with a completely useful caveat (so useful it works here as well). He said:
It's different things at different times, in the hands of different composers.
Let's keep that in mind as we proceed. In general, an aria is that shorter musical piece in an opera (or a cantata or oratorio) that is more or less self-contained. It contrasts the recitative in that the latter is the place in Italian opera where the action takes place while in the aria is, again in general, that place where the action is described. In Shakespearean terms it's the soliloquy. In opera the dramatic narrative has paused and the character is revealing more interior emotions in the aria.

How can that metaphor be used to describe a "multi-year" effort?

I don't know. And I don't know how to fix the bad metaphor usage, either.

Don't get me wrong. Rob's a good guy and a good TV critic. Just a bad music metaphor user.

July 18, 2009

The Birthers

Kitty Pilgrim debunks the Birthers:


Crooks and Liars has a transcript.

Pilgrim lists her evidence upfront:
Now, the Annenberg political fact check, which is a nonpartisan group, went to Chicago to view the birth certificate last year and they released photos and this statement, "FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the USA, just has he has always said."

The Republican governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, on record, she says Obama was indeed born in her state and we should note, she did support John McCain. So, we also have a copy of the "Honolulu Advertiser" the newspaper, August 13, and the "Hawaii Star-Bulletin," August 14, 1961, both announcing Barack Obama's birth.

Also, October last year, the director of the Hawaii Department of Health wrote a letter stating, "I have personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Senator Obama's original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedure."

PolitiFact.com reissued their results from the investigation they conducted in June of last year and they say, "Since we published Obama's birth certificate, questions about its authenticity have been frequent and fierce. After reviewing the evidence, we are confident of our rulings."
In fact, she missed a bit. There's this from Janice Okubo, communications director for the Hawaii Department of Health:
Okubo, who said that she gets weekly questions from Obama ‘Birthers’ that are “more like threats,” explained that the certificate of live birth reproduced by Obama’s campaign should have debunked the conspiracy theories. “If you were born in Bali, for example,” Okubo explained, “you could get a certificate from the state of Hawaii saying you were born in Bali. You could not get a certificate saying you were born in Honolulu. The state has to verify a fact like that for it to appear on the certificate."
And then there's this from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands explaining about the "Certifications of Live Birth":
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands accepts both Certificates of Live Birth (original birth certificate) and Certifications of Live Birth because they are official government records documenting an individual’s birth. [emphasis added]
So the so-called "short form" certificate is the official position of the State of Hawaii. If it's a forgery then the whole of official Hawaii (with its Republican Governor) is in on the hoax.

The funniest part of this story happens when teh crazie Alan Keyes answers this question from Pilgrim:
Now, Alan Keyes, you've been patient letting me get through all that, but what more do you need to be convinced?
And how does teh crazie Keyes start his answer?

Two words: SOME-EVIDENCE.

Alan Keyes has teh crazie.

July 17, 2009

RIP Walter Cronkite


.

fail


From thepittsburghchannel:
On Friday, some workers were not paid and others got checks for smaller amounts than their normal pay. By July 31, paychecks will stop altogether.

Meanwhile, in Harrisburg, state lawmakers are still at an impasse and Pennsylvania continues to operate without a budget that is already two weeks overdue
Mantel places remain shockingly empty . . .
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More On Bush's Crimes Via The NY Times Editorial Board

Last Saturday I wrote about this report from 5 Inspectors General regarding Bush era secret surveillance activities.

Today, with an editorial titled, "Illegal, and Pointless," the New York Times Editorial Board chimes in:
We’ve known for years that the Bush administration ignored and broke the law repeatedly in the name of national security. It is now clear that many of those programs could have been conducted just as easily within the law — perhaps more effectively and certainly with far less damage to the justice system and to Americans’ faith in their government.
And...it just gets worse for Dubya and Cheney from there. A few paragraphs later:
Once the Bush team got into the habit of breaking the law, it became their operating procedure that any means are justified: ordering the nation’s intelligence agents to torture prisoners; sending innocents to be tortured in foreign countries; creating secret prisons where detainees were held illegally without charge.
And finally a call out to the Obama administration:
President Obama has refused to open a full investigation of the many laws that were evaded, twisted or broken — pointlessly and destructively — under Mr. Bush. Mr. Obama should change his mind. A full accounting is the only way to ensure these abuses never happen again.
Bush and Cheney and their administration broke the law. Repeatedly. For the sake of the integrity of the system, their illegalities must be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law they so flagrantly violated.

July 16, 2009

The Family's Local Connection

Last night on Rachel Maddow:

Here's the piece she mentions from the Chattanooga Times Free Press. It begins:
For a dozen years, a three-story, brick rowhouse near the U.S. Capitol has served as the Washington home and spiritual sanctuary for the likes of U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., along with a number of other Christian conservative politicians.

But the sex scandals of U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford have thrust the home known as the C Street Center, its residents and the secretive Fellowship Foundation, a conservative Christian group with ties to the center, into the national limelight.

The story about The Family all stems from the reporting of Jeff Sharlet (indeed he's the one interviewed by Rachel in the clip) and his book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Excerpts of the book have been published in Mother Jones.

Sharlet's been reporting on The Family for a few years - here's something from Harper's in 2003, for instance.

From Sharlet's piece in Harper's:
The Family's only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast, which it established in 1953 and which, with congressional sponsorship, it continues to organize every February in Washington, D.C. Each year 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations, pay $425 each to attend. Steadfastly ecumenical, too bland most years to merit much press, the breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can “meet Jesus man to man.”
Sharlet spent some time at C Street and met Doug Coe, the group's leader (if that's the right word) and his son. Some insight into the theology of the group can be gain, perhaps, by this interaction between David Coe, Doug's son and some of the groups members:
“Hey,” David said, “let's talk about the Old Testament. Who would you say are its good guys?”

“David,” Beau volunteered.

“King David,” David Coe said. “That's a good one. David. Hey. What would you say made King David a good guy?” He was giggling, not from nervousness but from barely containable delight.

“Faith?” Beau said. “His faith was so strong?”

“Yeah.” David nodded as if he hadn't heard that before. “Hey, you know what's interesting about King David?” From the blank stares of the others I could see that they did not. Many didn't even carry a Hebrew Bible, preferring a slim volume of just the New Testament Gospels and Epistles and, from the Old, Psalms. Others had the whole book, but the gold gilt on the pages of the first two thirds remained undisturbed. “King David,” David Coe went on, “liked to do really, really bad things.” He chuckled. “Here's this guy who slept with another man's wife—Bathsheba, right?—and then basically murders her husband. And this guy is one of our heroes.” David shook his head. “I mean, Jiminy Christmas, God likes this guy! What,” he said, “is that all about?”

The answer, we discovered, was that King David had been “chosen.” To illustrate this point David Coe turned to Beau. “Beau, let's say I hear you raped three little girls. And now here you are at Ivanwald. What would I think of you, Beau?”

Beau shrank into the cushions. “Probably that I'm pretty bad?”

“No, Beau. I wouldn't. Because I'm not here to judge you. That's not my job. I'm here for only one thing.”

“Jesus?” Beau said. David smiled and winked.

He walked to the National Geographic map of the world mounted on the wall. “You guys know about Genghis Khan?” he asked. “Genghis was a man with a vision. He conquered”—David stood on the couch under the map, tracing, with his hand, half the northern hemisphere—“nearly everything. He devastated nearly everything. His enemies? He beheaded them.” David swiped a finger across his throat. “Dop, dop, dop, dop.”

David explained that when Genghis entered a defeated city he would call in the local headman and have him stuffed into a crate. Over the crate would be spread a tablecloth, and on the tablecloth would be spread a wonderful meal. “And then, while the man suffocated, Genghis ate, and he didn't even hear the man's screams.” David still stood on the couch, a finger in the air. “Do you know what that means?” He was thinking of Christ's parable of the wineskins. “You can't pour new into old,” David said, returning to his chair. “We elect our leaders. Jesus elects his.”

He reached over and squeezed the arm of a brother. “Isn't that great?” David said. “That's the way everything in life happens. If you're a person known to be around Jesus, you can go and do anything. And that's who you guys are. When you leave here, you're not only going to know the value of Jesus, you're going to know the people who rule the world. It's about vision. 'Get your vision straight, then relate.' Talk to the people who rule the world, and help them obey. Obey Him. If I obey Him myself, I help others do the same. You know why? Because I become a warning. We become a warning. We warn everybody that the future king is coming. Not just of this country or that, but of the world.” Then he pointed at the map, toward the Khan's vast, reclaimable empire.
In this piece from the Washington Post, we learn that our own member of the House, Congressman Mike Doyle, resides in the C Street residence:
People familiar with the house say the downstairs is generally used for meals and prayer meetings. Volunteers help facilitate prayer meetings, they said. Residents include Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), Ensign and Coburn. None of the congressmen agreed to be interviewed for this article. But associates of some of Ensign's housemates privately worried that the other residents would be tarred by the scandals.
So I wondered how connected was my Congressman to the group? Contacted for a comment (specifically asking if the Congressman was a member of The Family and how closely he subscribes to the theology of Doug Coe, if at all. I also asked about the amount he pays for rent - $600/month - a question Fester over at NewsHoggers raised a few days ago) Doyle responded:
The only religious organization I’m a member of is the Roman Catholic Church, of which I’ve been a member all my life. The only religious teachings I follow are those of the Roman Catholic Church.

My living arrangements comply with all House rules and are perfectly legal and ethical. I rent a room – not an apartment – and the rent I pay falls within the range of what anyone could rent a room for on Capitol Hill.

I’m confident the people I represent will judge me on my behavior and my performance as a Member of Congress – not anyone else’s.
Someone's religious identity is extremely personal and indeed should be respected. We live in a secular society - no religious tests for membership in the Congress or in Government. Just because he lives there does not mean he believes all the stuff Sharlet reports.

July 15, 2009

Fact-Checking The Trib. Again.

In an editorial today, the editorial board at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review writes:

Attorney General Eric Holder has renewed rattling his saber about investigating the Bush administration's torture policy. Whether that's a trial balloon, as even some Democrats suggest, is not clear. But in any event, it's actually Mr. Holder who should be the subject of an investigation.

In a stunning move, Holder's Justice Department decided not to pursue the most serious charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. They were accused of intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place on Nov. 4, 2008.

The editorial quotes from this piece in the Hill:
It shows two Black Panthers "standing 10 to 15 feet from the polling station. The two men are seen standing shoulder to shoulder, dressed in black military-style uniforms, black berets and combat boots," reminds reporter Molly K. Hooper, writing in The Hill newspaper.
And here's what it leaves out of Hooper's reporting. After pointing out that "key House Republicans are charging Holder with "playing politics" at the Justice Department (they're making that charge now?) Hooper writes:
A spokeswoman for Justice said facts did not back up the charges, and that career officials at Justice, not political appointees, decided to drop the charges.

“Following a thorough review, a career attorney in the Civil Rights Division determined that the facts and the law did not support pursuing the claims against three of the defendants,” spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said. “As a result, the Department dismissed those claims.”

Committee sources said they expected Justice to send a letter on Monday to Wolf and other members, and to brief Republicans on why the charges were dropped.

Holder let stand one of the four original charges though. The leader of the black nationalist group’s Philadelphia chapter, Minister King Samir Shabazz, is charged with brandishing a “deadly weapon,” a nightstick, outside of the polls.

As a result, he was punished with not being able to brandish a weapon within 100 ft. of a polling station in Philadelphia until after the 2012 elections. [emphasis added.]
I am sure that last part is going to send the wingnuts into fits of apoplexy. As a punishment it feels a bit light to me, but I'm not a lawyer.

By the way, there's some contemporaneous reporting about the "incident" over at Talkingpoingsmemo. Did you know that the police were called? Here's how Josh Marshall writes it. This was posted on election day at 3:04 pm:
[Obama campaign volunteer Jacqueline] Dischell confirms that there were in fact two black panthers guarding the polling place, a nursing home on Fairmont Avenue in north Philadelphia, earlier this morning.

But she says one was an officially designated poll watcher (it was not immediately clear which municipal office had designated him in that role), and the second was his friend. The second panther, who left two or three hours ago, was the one with the nightstick, she says.

Dischell says that earlier this morning a few men who identified themselves as being from the McCain campaign came and started taking pictures of the two panthers on their cell phones. She suggested that they seemed to be baiting the panthers, and that the designated watcher may have given one of them the finger in response to the picture taking.

The police came roughly an hour and a half later. She says she talked to the cops and told them there had been no incident. The police drove away without getting out of the car, she adds.

Some time later, a second, larger group of men whose affiliation couldn't be determined came with real cameras and started taking more pictures. Maybe 15 minutes later the cops returned. This time, they spoke to people on both sides, and told the panther not designated to watch the polls to leave, which he did without an argument.
Bottom line, the guy with the nightstick was asked to leave by the cops and he did. And if what Marshall is reporting is true, that was about 1pm on election day. But really, he probably shouldn't have had the nightstick.

Yea, that's just as serious as torture. Just as serious.

Of course the Trib doesn't bother to tell you this:
Fliers warning that people with outstanding warrants or unpaid parking tickets could be arrested if they show up at the polls on election day appeared recently in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Philadelphia.
Since it doesn't involve Black Panthers (or their night sticks) I guess it doesn't warrant a mention by Dickie's gang.

Here's the video if you wanted to see it.

July 14, 2009

Five City Councilors Shirk Responsibilities and Rubber Stamp Mayor/Lamar


(Click graphic to view larger image)

Looks like I picked a bad day to watch the live Sotomayor hearings instead of the live City Council meeting.

[sigh]

Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided to deny the public the right to hear from nominees to the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Historic Review Commission and the Shade Tree Commission.

Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided to deny the nominees the right to appear before the public.

Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided to themselves forgo interviewing twelve nominees for these boards.

Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided that "the mayor appoints and we approve."

Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided that if nominees already have enough votes to pass, there simply is no need for any real discussion or review.

Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided that their function was to serve as a rubber stamp for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Lamar Advertising.

FOR SHAME

For those who haven't been paying attention: Lil Mayor Luke has lots of friends who give him lots of money -- Lamar Advertising being one of them. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Amid a reshuffling of city boards and commissions this week, the Ravenstahl administration dismissed the author of a Zoning Board opinion that blocked a controversial electronic billboard proposed for the city's Grant Street Transportation Center with the support of the administration.

Alice Mitinger, a lawyer with expertise in zoning issues who had been appointed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment by the late Mayor Bob O'Connor, was informed by the administration this week that she would not be named to another term. Ms. Mitinger wrote an opinion supporting a 2008 ruling, which was upheld yesterday, that denied a permit for Lamar Advertising to erect an electronic billboard on the transportation center.

The administration also chose not to reappoint David Toal, another board member, who had recused himself from the Lamar case because his firm had represented it on unrelated issues. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl did reappoint the third member of the board, Wrenna Watson, who wrote a dissenting opinion in support of the Lamar application.

This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the Lamar controversy which included free billboards for Lukey's election the Ravenstahl Redd Up campaign, major conflicts of interest, threats to Councilors' jobs, civil lawsuits against Councilors from Lamar, etc.

So while Council had voted unanimously on June 29th to interview each of the 21 nominees on the list that the mayor had sent over on June 22nd and had already interviewed nine of them, lame duck Councilor Jim Motznik introduced an amendment to the already partially enacted 6/29 bill to stop the interview process and simply vote up/down on the remaining twelve candidates.

It was clear during the hours of discussion that the minority of Council felt that the main purpose of the amendment was to deny the asking of tough questions of Wrenna Watson who was up for reappointment to the Zoning Board.

Motznik's amendment by substitution to stop the interview process passed by 5 to 4.

Motznik's twelve bills to rubber stamp the approval of the twelve remaining nominees passed by 5 to 4.

Oh yeah. It became apparent during the meeting that the Rubber Stamp Five didn't even know enough about one of the nominees to be able to attempt to pronounce his last name.

[sigh]

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

Statement by Franco "Dok" Harris about the Mayor’s "Closed-Door Appointment Processes":

As other local and state governments, throughout this great country embrace fair and open processes as well as clarity in all government dealings, the current Mayoral administration stands out by championing an opaque, “back-room deal” system of government. The Mayor has consistently shown questionable judgment when the people of Pittsburgh are not looking; I encourage him to try to win back the public trust by reversing this dangerous course of action and filling the positions in a clear, open, and transparent manner. The residents of this city deserve to see how their government’s decisions impact their daily lives. As Mayor, I am committed to establishing good government processes and ensuring that every Pittsburgher has the opportunity to be involved in the leadership of our great city.

.