Prosecute the torture.

August 31, 2010

Announcement

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm now a member of the Peduto for City Council cyber staff (a paid, part-time position).

My duties include blogging at http://billpeduto.com/ and http://reformpittsburghnow.com/ -- though Councilor Peduto likes to write his own material -- as well as sending out monthly email blasts.

So, look for updates to those sites!

And yes, obviously, opinions expressed by me at 2 Political Junkies are my own. Statements by me on this site do not represent the views of any of my employers.
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UN-AMERICAN!

That's what the Tribune-Review called it: UN-AMERICAN (in all caps, no less).

Take a look:
The Obama administration has shelved its plans to prosecute Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. He's alleged to have coordinated the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Seventeen U.S. soldiers were killed. Another 39 were injured.

"(N)o charges are either pending or contemplated with respect to al-Nashiri in the near future," the Justice Department said in a filing made in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. (That was news to the Defense Department, which insisted charges still are being developed against him.)

And a president has spat upon the dead and the injured and America itself.
And the reason given? "Politics," they write. And charge:
Welcome to the latest manifestation of Barack Obama's foreign policy deferentialism. What un-American injustice will this administration serve up next?
But when you look at the, you know, facts and stuff, you see a much MUCH different picture. After pointing out that al-Nashiri was to be tried in by a military commission, the Washington Post writes:
But critics of military commissions say the Nashiri case exemplifies the system's flaws, particularly the ability to introduce certain evidence such as hearsay statements that probably would not be admitted in federal court. The prosecution is expected to rely heavily on statements made to the FBI by two Yemenis who allegedly implicated Nashiri. Neither witness is expected at trial, but the FBI agents who interviewed them will testify, said Nashiri's military attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen C. Reyes. "Unlike in federal court, you don't have the right to confront the witnesses against you," he said.

Such indirect testimony could be critical to a conviction because any incriminating statements Nashiri might have made are probably inadmissible under the 2009 Military Commissions Act, which bars the use of evidence obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Al-Nashiri was tortured.

This has been public knowledge for at least a year. The Washington Post from August 22, 2009:
CIA interrogators used a handgun and an electric drill to try to frighten a captured al-Qaeda commander into giving up information, according to a long-concealed agency report due to be made public next week, former and current U.S. officials who have read the document said Friday.

The tactics -- which one official described Friday as a threatened execution -- were used on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, according to the CIA's inspector general's report on the agency's interrogation program. Nashiri, who was captured in November 2002 and held for four years in one of the CIA's "black site" prisons, ultimately became one of three al-Qaeda chieftains subjected to a form of simulated drowning known as waterboarding.
Not only that, but:
In one instance, an interrogator showed Nashiri a gun and sought to frighten the detainee into thinking he would be shot, the sources said. In a separate encounter, a power drill was held near Nashiri's body and repeatedly turned on and off, said the officials, who spoke about the report on the condition of anonymity because it remains classified.

The federal torture statute prohibits a U.S. national from threatening anyone in his or her custody with imminent death.
He was waterboarded. Waterboarding is torture. He was threatened with execution. That's considered torture, too.

Torture is illegal. The Obama Administration should be prosecuting the torture. They have a legal obligation to prosecute the torture.

But tell me again about "Un-American" justice. Tell me again about who's "spitting on America." And now tell me who's defending (or at least ignoring) the torture.

TORTURE IS UN-AMERICAN.

August 30, 2010

Trib, Scaife, Followthemoney...

From Sunday's Tribune-Review:
In his new book "Control Freaks: 7 Ways Liberals Plan to Ruin Your Life" (Regnery), Terence P. Jeffrey warns that liberals in the White House and Congress who disregard the Founders' principles are taking control over such everyday aspects of life as where Americans live, what they eat, what (and whether) they drive, how they use their property, what they listen to, watch and read, how many children they have and what those children are taught.

Following are excerpts from the Trib's phone conservation with Jeffrey -- cnsnews.com editor-in-chief, Human Events editor-at-large, syndicated columnist and national manager of Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign.
So Jeffrey's editor-in-chief at CNSNews.

Guess (just guess!) who's the largest "funder" at the Media Research Center (the outfit that owns CNSNews). That's right my friends. It's our old pal, our old buddy Richard Mellon Scaife.

According to media matters, he's tossed about $2.8 million at Brent Bozell and the boys over the years.

No mention of that, of course, in Richard Mellon Scaife's newspaper when Richard Mellon Scaife's newspaper mentions the Media Research Center or CNSNews. Ever.

The circle jerk continues.

August 29, 2010

Jack Kelly Sunday

This week, Jack Kelly (as usual) does his usual song-and-dance and spins away from reality.

The column is the usual conservative-speak about guv'ment spending/waste, blah-blah-blah with a bit of environmental snark thrown in.

Jack sets-up:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates raised eyebrows and ruffled feathers Aug. 9 when he announced plans to shut down Joint Forces Command, a headquarters in southeastern Virginia at which more than 6,000 military personnel, civilians and defense contractors work.

The closure will devastate the economies of the Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Hampton Roads area, so Mr. Gates' announcement brought the predictable squeals from Virginia's politicians.
But wait, I thought that the guv'ment didn't create jobs (we hear that all the frickin time from conservatives) but closing down this HQ will result in the loss of jobs? Huh.

In any event, Jack's thoughts on the closing:
There is something that doesn't seem right about cutting defense spending when we're in the midst of two wars. But even though I look askance at how the administration circumvented the rules with regard to base closing, I can't be critical of the decision itself.
So he's OK with the closing, just not how it was done. By the way what rules were circumvented? Jack doesn't say. Wouldn't it be a big story if, say, the Office of the Secretary of Defense had "circumvented the rules" in order to reduce the military budget?

If that was the case, where's the uproar about it?

You can see some of the other proposed "Efficiencies Initiatives" the SecDef has proposed here.

The environmental snark comes about in discussing the Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) - which has been considered endangered since 1994. Its place in Jack's discussion seems, well, out of place. What does it have to do with a military base closing (a closing, that Jack agrees with).

Can't really wrap my head around Jack's column this week, sorry.

Go read Ed, instead.

Talk About A Selective Quotation

From today's Tribune-Review (naturally):
Housing sales have tanked. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. Companies won't hire because they know they're about to be taxed to death. "Consumer confidence" is an oxymoron. And Vice President Joe Biden says the economy's moving in the right direction? These cats couldn't find their own litter boxes if they were tied to them.
Now let's take a look at how the original story. It's from a blog at the Chicago Tribune and Biden's remarks are tucked in at the tail end - last paragraph, by the way:
Biden conceded that the economic recovery was not proceeding as fast as the administration had hoped, but claimed there was "no doubt we're moving in the right direction." [emphasis added.]
See how that changes things? See how the Trib, by a careful selection of the VP's words, makes it seem as if he said something he didn't say? See how dishonest that is?

Naturally, that's what's in the Trib.

August 27, 2010

KDKA: "Feds Won't Pursue Charges Against Officers" in Jordan Miles Case

KDKA News is reporting that the federal investigation into the brutal beating of CAPA honors student Jordan Miles is over and that the Pittsburgh police officers involved will not be charged.

They quote Justice Department sources as saying:
"We don't believe we can get a conviction."

[snip]

"It's three against one..."
So does that mean that if only one police officer had brutalized Miles that they'd be more likely to pursue charges? By that logic, if Miles had been attacked by five officers, they'd be handing out medals to them.

And speaking of handing things out, the three officers have not only been on paid leave since February, they've also been receiving overtime pay.

Even more depressing:
Sources close to the investigation tell the KDKA Investigators if the Justice Department will not pursue charges, the district attorney's office won't either -- and the criminal investigation will soon be closed.
A reminder that this is what Miles looked like after the attack:



.....

And, that the officers went after him in the first place because they claimed that Miles was standing against a building "as if he was trying to avoid being seen" and that they believed he had a gun which they later said was a a bottle of Mt. Dew in his winter coat pocket which they couldn't even produce.

Miles' attorney said, "We plan on filing a civil rights violation case against the Pittsburgh Police Department obviously."

It would be a crime if they didn't.
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Song for today

I suppose it's possible that someone at the Justice Department is singing along (unironically) with the chorus of this song (more in a bit):


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Free Screening of Gasland Tonight @ Frick Park



Via Progress Pittsburgh:
Friday, August 27th

Pittsburg, PA

Venue: Frick Park, Beechwood Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

Directions at: http://www.pittsburghparks.org/frick-directions

Rain: In the event of rain, this event will be held on Saturday, August 28th

7:00 PM: Doors Open

7:30 PM: Live Music

8:15 PM: Film Begins

9:30 PM: Q&A with Director Josh Fox and Local Organizations

There is no admission charge for this show. For more information, please visit: http://www.rooftopfilms.com/2010/schedule/57-gasland-pittsburgh-pa

Pat Toomey: "My idea of gun control is a steady aim"


Via The York Dispatch:
"My idea of gun control is a steady aim," he said.
I guess he's running to be the Sarah Palin of Pennsylvania.

CeaseFirePA reminds us:
Mr. Toomey’s remark, delivered at a campaign event in Biglerville, PA, comes at a time when 1,200 Pennsylvanians, on average, are killed each year in gun-related incidents – homicides, suicides and accidental shootings.

It comes at a time when 22 Pennsylvania police and law enforcement officers have been shot and killed in the past 10 years – 7 officers since 2009 alone. Just over a week ago, two convicted killers were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer, who was murdered with an assault rifle.

His remark comes at a time when cities and towns across Pennsylvania are taking action to combat illegal trafficking by passing a commonsense reform requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen handguns to the police. A total of 46 PA municipalities have passed lost or stolen handgun reporting laws in the past year and a half. Dozens of more Pennsylvania towns are considering similar action to give their police departments an additional tool to curb illegal gun traffickers and straw sellers of handguns to criminals.

And it comes soon after the U.S. Supreme Court recently reiterated its holding that reasonable regulations of firearms are permissible under the Constitution.

[snip]

Polling in Pennsylvania and nationally shows strong support for reasonable reforms to reduce gun violence. 96 percent of Pennsylvanians support a reporting law for lost or stolen handguns – including 92 percent of PA gun owners. Nationally, 84 percent of NRA members agree more can be done to keep illegal guns out of criminals’ hands without infringing 2nd Amendment rights.

Steel City Endorses Dan Onorato for PA Governor

While it can certainly be argued that Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato hasn't always been ultra gay friendly, he has become way more progressive on LGBT issues -- and more importantly -- hasn't backpedaled since winning the Democratic primary.

So, it should come as no surprise to those paying attention that Dan has received the endorsement of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats (especially no surprise considering the alternative is Tom Corbett -- a man who wants to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, opposes domestic partner benefits, and opposes strengthening PA's anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity).

Steel-City urges you to sign up to join the Onorato campaign here.
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Facebook Removes "Porn for Toomey" Spoof Page


When the Keystone Progress Action Fund learned that the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Pat Toomey received $4,800 in campaign contributions from Scott Banister -- an adult website owner -- they created the Porn for Toomey ("Because we recognize a pro at screwing people") spoof website.

They also created a Porn for Toomey spoof Facebook page:

There's no link to that because Facebook killed the page in a little more than 24 hours after the page went up.

According to Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress, the page was clearly labeled as a spoof and was attributed to the Keystone Progress Action Fund as the source of the content.

Now, mind you, the page wasn't called "Toomey for Porn" -- it was called "Porn for Toomey" -- which one could arguably say was a fact.

I guess Facebook just didn't want to in any way be associated with porn (except they do accept porn fan pages) or they just don't want misinformation or confusion about politicians on their site (except for pages like Barack Obama is a terrorist! or Obama is a muslim -- both of which have been up since before the 2008 election).

[sigh]
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They're At It Again

From today's Op-Ed page of Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review:
It's a huge weekend in the nation's capital for patriotic Americans.

Tonight, it's the "Take America Back Convention" at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, sponsored by FreedomWorks. Participants will learn of the hottest congressional races of the year and learn how to get out the vote in November.

And Saturday, it's the "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial, co-hosted by Fox News host Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, the Republicans' vice-presidential nominee in 2008.
From the title of this blog post, you can guess where this is going. You're smart. You know you are.

The Take America Back Convention is sponsored by FreedomWorks, right?

Guess, just guess, who's given a ton of money TO FreedomWorks. That's right. Richard Mellon Scaife, owner of the newspaper that contains the op-ed that's "reporting" on the event.

How much money?

According to Mediamatters, the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation has given $200,000 and the Scaife-controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation has given $2,960,000 to FreedomWorks and Empower America (as it had been called until 2004) between 1985 and 2007. And this $3.5 million doesn't include the Scaife money from 2008 and 2009:
  • Sarah Scaife Foundation $132,500 in 2009.
  • Sarah Scaife Foundation $70,000 in 2008.
In case you're wondering, that's an extra 200 large.

So Scaife money is helping bring about the "Take America Back" convention and yet when the convention is being written about in Scaife's own newspaper, there's no mention of the money.

The circle-jerk continues.

August 26, 2010

WND: Teh Crazie (Still!)

Joseph Farah is still at it.

He's STILL droning on about the Birth Certificate.

Really.

And in supporting his case, the stuff he leaves out is simply breathtaking.

Really.

Here's Joey:
The State Department is maintaining a "counter-misinformation" page on an America.gov blog that attempts to "debunk a conspiracy theory" that President Obama was not born in the United States, as if the topic were equivalent to believing space aliens visit Earth in flying saucers.
Well, it is. As one has to be rational to recognize this, I can't expect anyone from WND to understand.

Really.

The "counter-misinformation" page, written by Todd Leventhal and dated August 21, 2009 (good thing they got right on it at WND, huh?) can be found here.

But as you read Joey's prose, take note the verb tenses when describing the president's "dual citizenship." It's always in the present tense. Even when what he's quoting always puts it in the past. For example, Joey writes:
In a number of court cases challenging Obama's eligibility, dual citizenship has been raised as a factor that could compromise his "natural born" status under Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution. The cases argue dual citizenship would make Obama ineligible...[emphasis added.]
But way way way way down the bottom of the piece, he writes:
Finally, Leventhal cites FactCheck.org to state, "Obama was originally both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies from 1961 to 1963 (because his father was from Kenya, which gained its independence from the British Empire in 1963), then both a U.S. and Kenyan citizen from 1963 to 1982, and solely a U.S. citizen after that." [emphasis added.]
So even if Obama once held a dual citizenship, he no longer does. But as part of Joey's argument, he's ranting about how Obama's dual citizenship would make him ineligible.

See? That's teh crazie right there.

By the way factcheck.org goes a bit farther:
In other words, at the time of his birth, Barack Obama Jr. was both a U.S. citizen (by virtue of being born in Hawaii) and a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (or the UKC) by virtue of being born to a father who was a citizen of the UKC.

Obama's British citizenship was short-lived. On Dec. 12, 1963, Kenya formally gained its independence from the United Kingdom.
When he held also held a Kenyan citizenship. However :
[T]he Kenyan Constitution prohibits dual citizenship for adults. Kenya recognizes dual citizenship for children, but Kenya's Constitution specifies that at age 23, Kenyan citizens who possesses citizenship in more than one country automatically lose their Kenyan citizenship unless they formally renounce any non-Kenyan citizenship and swear an oath of allegiance to Kenya.

Since Sen. Obama has neither renounced his U.S. citizenship nor sworn an oath of allegiance to Kenya, his Kenyan citizenship automatically expired on Aug. 4,1984.
So he hasn't been a "dual citizen" since he convinced Weather Underground member Bill Ayers to ghostwrite a book for him - eleven years later.

That's teh crazie.

Really.

Pat Toomey Flip Flops (Yes, He Did.)

From PA2010:
Republican Senate hopeful Pat Toomey appeared to be trying a little revisionist history this week when he claimed he never called for privatizing Social Security.

Toomey made the statement at the end of his appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club Monday, only to see a wave of critics calling him out. That included the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which dug up a 2003 headline from Toomey’s hometown newspaper, The Morning Call, which read: “Toomey: Privatize Social Security.”

The former Club for Growth president said he does favor allowing younger workers to deposit savings into private accounts, a position he has held since his first congressional term in 1999. He recently touted it in his book, “The Road to Prosperity,” which is now selling for $3.03 on Amazon.

The key to understanding this semantic subterfuge is, well, semantics. The word Toomey uses is “personalized” Social Security accounts.
It's always enlightening to flesh out stories like these to see more clearly what, in fact, is going on. According to thinkprogress, when asked "Do you continue to favor privatizing Social Security?" Mr Wallstreet answered:
I’ve never said I favor privatizing Social Security. It’s a very misleading — it’s an intentionally misleading term. And it is used by those who try to use it as a pejorative to scare people…[T]hat doesn’t mean that we must perpetuate exactly this structure for future workers and for very young workers. So I’ve advocated that we consider offering young workers an alternative — a reform within Social Security that would give them the opportunity to take a portion of their payroll tax and actually save that and own that and allow that to accumulate over the course of their working years and for that to provide a portion of their retirement benefit. I think that’d be a very constructive reform, and that’s what I’m going to advocate.
Unfortunately, what he described is exactly "privatizing" Social Security. Whether it's "a portion" or all of someone's payroll tax, "owning" it makes it privatization.

Calling it something else in the hopes that no one will notices the flim-flam, is just dishonest.

But we've already seen that Pat is so devoted to the Club For Growth speak, he has trouble speaking truthfully.

The Trib Conveniently Forgets Our History

I don't have much time - but that's OK because this won't take much time.

From today's Thursday Wrap:
What a guy: As you know, U.S. taxpayers have sent controversial Ground Zero imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on a "religious tolerance" tour of the Mideast. This would be the same imam who, according to Human Events, told an audience at the University of Australia in 2005 that the United States is worse than al-Qaida. Specifically: "(T)he United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaida has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims." It takes all kinds, doesn't it?
What they left out is the key to their mendacity.

From mediamatters this is, in fact, the entire paragraph from which they snipped that one sentence:
The complexity arises, sir, from the fact that - from political problems and the history of the politics between the West and the Muslim world. We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non Muslims. You may remember that the U.S.-led sanction against Iraq lead to the death of over a half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, said it was worth it.
Yea, remember the sanctions? Remember the sanctions that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children? Iraqi children? Muslim children?

Unicef:
[I]f the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998.
Reason Magazine (even after substantial skepticism of Unicef's numbers):
It seems awfully hard not to conclude that the embargo on Iraq has been ineffective (especially since 1998) and that it has, at the least, contributed to more than 100,000 deaths since 1990.
Um - now go back and look at the Trib-spittle. They're trying to invalidate the imam's words by pointing out how ridiculous that sentence is.

But what happens when it turns out to be true?

Takes all kinds.

August 25, 2010

Another Republican Comes Out - And This One's A Biggie

Via the Huffingtonpost, there's this from Atlantic.com:
Ken Mehlman, President Bush's campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.

Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter's questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California's ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
There's a lot in this article, but this part is kinda, you know, funny:
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush "was no homophobe." He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called "the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now."
Really? He wondered about that? Perhaps the answer (or ONE answer) is found in the very next paragraph:
Mehlman's leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities -- such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party's platform ("Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country..."). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush's chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.
As I said. Kinda funny he wondered about why gay voters never formed common cause with the part of the religious right.

It's a joke


That would be much of public discourse now (and some of the policy proposals out there).

The War Against the Poor
It's not enough to give the ultra rich huge tax breaks, you must actively punish the poor:
  • Carl Paladino, Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate for governor of New York (who has showed up on these pages before for is racist and hardcore porn emails), advocates for the creation of prison dorms for welfare recipients where they can receive training including lessons in "personal hygiene" (because everyone knows that the poor are stinky).

  • Utah state Sen. Dan Liljenquist wants to cut all elective epidurals and elective C-sections for women on Medicaid (I'm going to take a wild guess here that he's also "pro life" in addition to being pro pain).

  • The War Against US Muslims
  • What does it say when the voice of sanity in the Republican party on the Ground Zero Mosque Burlington Coat Factory Non-Mosque is Ron Paul? '...Paul argues that the opposition to the mosque “is all about hate and Islamaphobia,” stoked by “neo-conservatives” who “never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars."'

  • And, just in case you think it isn't all about "hate and Islamaphobia," you can view a video here of "a person of color wearing a skull cap and wandering through the crowd was targeted with insults and nearly attacked by protesters for the offense of looking vaguely Muslim" at an anti Burlington Coat Factory Non-Mosque protest. You can also hear a person chanting "Mohammad is a pig."

  • The War Against President Obama
    Last week I spent some time in my old stomping grounds (Jeannette, Hempfield, Greensburg -- or as I like to refer to it -- The Heart of Darkness). While there, the following marred the lovely landscape:
  • A group of four billboards. One said "Obama Care Shovel Ready" over a picture of a cemetery. Another announced a 9/11 T.E.A. Party at Bushy Run Battlefield. Right under that, was one with a graphic of the US Capitol dome with the words "Throw the bums out" (I'm guessing based on the other two signs that "bums" referred to Dems). A little further down Route 30 was a billboard which proclaimed "Marriage...God's plan for Safe Sex" (you can be sure that the picture was of one man and one woman). There were also more yard-size T.E.A. Party signs on the back roads of Greensburg than I cared to count.

  • A man I met who, while telling me that he didn't follow politics, was absolutely certain that Obama didn't have a US birth certificate. When I told him that a copy has been available online for two years, he looked like I told him his parents were really Santa Claus.

  • .

    So Who Is John Rees?

    Earlier today I wrote about a right wing think-tank called The Maldon Institute and the huge financial support it gets from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review owner, Richard Mellon Scaife.

    So who's this John Rees who works for the think tank Scaife so heavily funds?

    He's a piece of work. According to Sourcewatch:
    John Rees was active during the 1980s as a right-wing journalist and private intelligence operative. Among the publications he was associated with are Review of the News and American Opinion, published by the John Birch Society, and his own Information Digest. In addition, he collaborated with the Birch Society's late Congressman Larry McDonald in the activities of the Western Goals Foundation.
    Here's more from Public Eye:
    The most influential private domestic spying operation during the 1980's was run by John Rees, a veritable right-wing spymaster who has published Information Digest, a gossipy newsletter, for over twenty years.

    Rees spent the early years of the Reagan administration as the spymaster for the right-wing Western Goals Foundation. The Foundation was the brainchild of the late Rep. Larry McDonald, former leader of the John Birch Society. Western Goals published several small books warning of the growing domestic red menace, and solicitated funds to create a computer database on American subversives.

    Western Goals Foundation was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) when it was caught attempting to computerize references to "subversive" files pilfered from the disbanded Los Angeles Police Department "Red Squad."
    Remember the 2000 RNC Convention in Philadelphia? Something from the ACLU to remind you:
    The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania today denounced the use of state police to infiltrate political activist groups that planned protests at last month's Republican National Convention.
    And guess who was there? There's this from Salon.com:
    A previously sealed police affidavit made public earlier this month details how Philadelphia police used state troopers to infiltrate planning meetings and the puppet warehouse, where activists were constructing giant, satirical floats and other props. Some state troopers even posed as union carpenters and helped build floats.

    More disturbing still, the affidavit cites a report by an obscure right-wing think tank to contend that some of the protest groups are funded by Communists and "Soviet" sympathizers.

    Specifically, the affidavit claims that PCAN, the Pennsylvania Consumer Action Group, is a "United States conveyer for People's Global Action (PGA), a self-styled 'leaderless' international network of groups opposed to the global market economy. Funds for the PGA ... allegedly originate with Communist and leftist parties and from sympathetic trade unions. Other funds reportedly come from the former Soviet-allied World Federation of Trade Unions."

    In fact, People's Global Action is the international umbrella group that formed two years ago in Geneva to help launch the WTO protests in Seattle. And PCAN is a consumer rights group in Reading, Pa. While PCAN organized the permitted and peaceful "unity march" that led off the GOP protests on July 30, it had nothing to do with the street blockades that took place later that week.

    The affidavit attributes its information to a report by the Maldon Institute, a private think tank funded by conservative multimillionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife is best known for financing several investigations of President Clinton in recent years. Maldon Institute director John H. Rees is a contributor to the right-wing John Birch Society and publishes a newsletter devoted to "intelligence-gathering" which is distributed to police.
    So why does all this matter?

    Guess who writes the Dateline DC column for Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review?

    John H. Rees.

    Moslems = Radical Moslems = Terrorists

    From today's Trib:
    The Daily Caller reports that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to rehabilitate 26 mosques in 19 countries. Are we "winning hearts and minds," as advocates claim, or are we underwriting the headquarters for radicals to plot our demise?
    Ah such obvious religious bigotry, ain't it grand to see it out in the open?

    August 24, 2010

    The Maldon Institute - Guess What? Guess Who?

    In the course of blogging at this blog, occasionally readers (some astute and some otherwise) email in suggestions for blog posts. Some are interesting, some less so.

    A while ago, one reader suggested I take a look at something called The Maldon Institute.

    So I took a look.

    It's hard to pin down exactly what the institute is. The institute described itself in 2007 this way:
    The Maldon Institue was founded in 1985 in support of the concept that realistic assessments of political, economic, social and environmental risks, issues and opportunities are essential to reasonable decision making especially regarding the emerging and developing economies of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Latin American and Africa.
    And on the website, you can find this description:
    The Maldon Institute’s (TMI) mission is to provide and publish information on matters ignored or misrepresented by the media, or that is believed will amplify the knowledge necessary to understand a variety of international and domestic press and government reports. TMI seeks to publish truthful information where false reporting may have contributed to our loss of tranquility.
    Loss of tranquility? That's a new one.

    Globalsecurity.org puts the Maldon Institute among on its "Private Intelligence" list.

    Public Eye (a progressive think tank) described it this way:
    The Maldon Institute is a right wing think tank that studies national security and terrorism from a countersubversive and often conspiracist perspective. Maldon's director, John Rees, infiltrated the political left in the 1970s, and passed the information to groups ranging from the John Birch Society to the FBI.
    Guess who funds The Maldon Institute?

    That's right, our old friend Richard Mellon Scaife - by way of the Allegheny, Carthage and Sarah Scaife Foundations. In fact, the Media Transparency project at Media Matters lists only those three foundations supporting Maldon.

    According to Mediamatters, between 1985 and 2007 Scaife's foundations supported Maldon to the tune of about $5.6 million. That doesn't count the $450K granted by the Sarah Scaife foundation in 2009, $242K granted by the Sarah Scaife foundation in 2008, and the $250K granted by the Carthage foundation in 2008.

    So who's this John Rees? That will have to wait until later tonight or tomorrow.

    August 23, 2010

    They Should At Least TRY To Make It Difficult!

    From today's Dateline DC, we read a sordid warning story of a politically connected mega-millionaire who buys up a weekly news magazine - and who may be (just may be) planning on using his connections to a political think tank to skew the news.

    Yes, it's in the pages of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review but no it's not about Richard Mellon Scaife, the mega-millionaire (billionaire?) who owns the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and who uses his connections to right wing political think tanks to skew the news.

    No, it's about Sidney Harman and his ties to the Institute for Policy Studies, his millions, his wife California Representative Jane Harman and his purchase of Newsweek Magazine.

    The funniest line in the whole piece is found when the Dateline DC writer (who writes anonymously) says this of the Washington Post's coverage of the story:
    As usual, The Post gave us all the news it thought we should know.
    As usual, the Trib gives us all the news it thinks we should know in this column. For instance, did you know that there were other prospective buyers for Newsweek?

    Chris Potter had the story a few weeks ago, so you should. In that story, after linking back to this blog (thanks Chris, for that you can have my Soros check this week), he quotes this piece in the Wall Street Journal:
    A private-equity firm and a publisher of a right-wing magazine are among prospective buyers expected to enter the first round of bidding for Newsweek magazine.

    OpenGate Capital, the investment firm that owns TV Guide, plans to formally declare its interest in acquiring Newsweek before Wednesday's deadline for nonbinding bids, according to managing partner Andrew Nikou. Christopher Ruddy, publisher of the conservative monthly magazine Newsmax, said he also plans to bid.
    Wasn't it only a few days ago when I pointed out how Richard Mellon Scaife owns 40% of Newsmax?

    So Newsmax was in the running (whatever that means) for the purchase of Newsweek and Newsmax is 40% owned by his/her boss at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and yet the writer of Dateline DC sought fit to omit that part from her/his piece on the sale.

    All while accusing the Washington Post of omitting salient facts about a story about Representative Jane Harman.

    Here's Dateline DC continuing:
    As usual, The Post gave us all the news it thought we should know. So we turned to the Los Angeles Times.
    It's not as if the Dateline DC writer couldn't have known about Newsmax as it's in the LATimes:
    Other bidders included Fred Drasner, a former executive at U.S. News & World Report and the New York Daily News, and investment firm Avenue Capital Group, people familiar with the matter said. Private-equity firm OpenGate Capital and publisher Newsmax Media Inc. also considered buying the magazine.
    Do yourself a favor. Go read Dateline DC. See if you can spot the details for the conspiracy theory:

    Sidney Harman married to Representative Jane Harman. Jane Harman caught on an NSA wiretap colluding with an "Israeli operative" concerning some Israeli spies.

    If you can't spot the conspiracy, here it is:
    And now this very well-matured millionaire owns Newsweek. Every sign is screaming that he will continue to let the magazine serve as a conduit for those American policies that match the best policies advanced by Israel.
    Nothing like a good Israeli conspiracy to boost Monday's caffeine.

    August 22, 2010

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    I guess I am not surprised that Post-Gazette Columnist Jack Kelly would wander, this week, into the hall of smoke and mirrors constructed by his fellow conservative voices. The spin is obvious from the opening gesture:
    We got an indication of how deeply President Barack Obama has stepped in it Wednesday when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd compared him unfavorably to George W. Bush. Any day now Hell will freeze over (global warming alarmists be warned).

    When Mr. Obama jumped unbidden into the controversy over the proposed mosque and community center two blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood, he committed, arguably, the greatest unforced error in the history of our politics.
    Thousands of American troops (and countless Iraqi citizens) dead due one (republican) president's lies and this (democratic) president's defense of religious freedom is the greatest unforced error in American politcs.

    Yea, I know. I don't understand that either.

    But let's take a look at what Maureen Dowd actually said. Dowd takes Obama to task for "skittering back" from a stand on first principle and then "tak[ing] it back the next day."

    Which, of course, isn't exactly true. As I wrote here, when you look at what the president actually said at the iftar and then compare that to what he said the next day, there's little, if any, conflict.

    It's only when you project "endorsement" onto the first statement does the second look like a backtrack - something Dowd and a large chunk of the so-called liberal media does.

    And something Jack actually seems to recognize:
    But at a White House dinner to celebrate the Muslim feast of iftar, Mr. Obama gave remarks which both supporters and opponents of the ground zero mosque interpreted as a ringing endorsement of the project.

    The president's speech nationalized the issue, and turned "a brushfire into a prairie fire," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

    The next day, after a torrent of criticism, Mr. Obama "clarified" his remarks. He was only defending the right of its backers to build the mosque, not expressing an opinion on the wisdom of doing so. [emphasis added.]
    He doesn't say Obama endorsed. He says Obama's words were "interpreted" as an endorsement. When that turned out to be less than accurate (and promting the "clarification" the next day) suddenly we see the president "skittering" back. It's all a media construct.

    Jack completely steps in it with this attempted rewrite of history:
    But the right to build the mosque was not in controversy...
    Really? So Jack must've missed that part of the Dowd column when she wrote :
    Yet here is Gingrich attempting to out-Palin Palin on Fox News: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.” There is no more demagogic analogy than that.
    I'll help Jack out with this one. When Gingrich compares the Park51 folks to Nazis, he's saying that they have is no right to build the community center. Did Jack miss that part? Here's Politico on Gingrich's remarks:
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday compared the mosque planned to go up blocks away from ground zero in New York to Nazis protesting next to the Holocaust museum.

    Gingrich highlighted the fact that New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and numerous others have proposed alternative locations for the mosque in arguing that the leaders of the cultural center are “radical Islamists” who want to prove that “they can build a mosque next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by Islamists.”

    “That's why they won't accept any other offer,” he said during an interview on Fox News's "Fox & Friends."

    Gingrich then declared that if the mosque is indeed being built as a symbol, which its leaders have repeatedly denied, New York authorities have every right to prevent it from being built.
    Yea, I guess Jack missed this - how else could he assert that the right to build the mosque is not a controversy?

    Like a lot of other wingnuts, he's pretending conservatives never ever attacked religious freedom.

    It's all a diversion. And this is a big enough diversion that the fabric of most of the rest of the column is left in tatters.

    This Morning In The Trib (A Quickie)

    They spin on the Ground Zero Mosque*:
    The imam at the center of the Ground Zero mosque controversy is being sent on a 15-day goodwill tour of the Middle East -- by the U.S. State Department. And American taxpayers are picking up the $16,000 tab for Feisal Abdul Rauf. This is the fella who said America essentially brought upon itself the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He also refuses to call Hamas the terrorist group that it is.

    And this isn't the imam's first tour "to promote religious tolerance." It's his fourth on the public dime. [emphasis added]
    Where to begin? Let's take a look at that last sentence. The fourth time, huh? I can hear everyone wondering: when were the previous three?

    Take a look:
    [State Department spokesman P.J.] Crowley said this will be Rauf's fourth U.S.-government sponsored trip under a program run by the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs. Earlier, the State Department had said it was his third trip.

    Crowley said Rauf had traveled twice to the Middle East in 2007 during the Bush administration and once earlier this year.
    On the public's dime?? The outrage!

    Funny how the Trib didn't mention that a full half of the trips "on the public's dime" occurred during the Bush Administration. Especially in an op-ed calling it an example "of pure idiocy being sold as 'good public policy.'"

    Some context. On how the US "essentially brought upon itself the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11" let's take a look at actually what the Imam said. He was being interviewed by Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes:
    Bradley: Are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?

    Faisal: I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened, but united states policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.

    Bradley: You say that we're an accessory? How?

    Faisal: Because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.
    But is this a radical idea? Hardly. Take a look at this from the LA Times in 1998. Graham Fuller is looking to explain the terrorist mindset and after asking, "What do the terrorists perceive? He gives this answer:
    U.S. support for almost any ruler willing to protect U.S. interests--routinely identified in Washington as oil and Israel. They see a Washington unwilling to act evenhandedly in the Arab-Israeli peace process and infinitely tolerant of a hard-line government in Israel that denies Palestinians land, dignity and statehood. They perceive double standards that allow Israel to violate U.N. resolutions, but not Iraq; that Israeli nukes are OK, but not nukes in Muslim hands. They see routine use of U.S. unilateral military power against Muslim targets that is unparalleled elsewhere in the world. They see themselves routinely humbled by use of overwhelming Israeli military power. They see U.S. military forces in the Gulf as being there to protect ruling families and not populations--the essence of Osama bin Laden's charge.
    So of course when essentially the same idea comes out of an Islamic Imam, he's so radical he's almost a terrorist himself.

    * Again, it's not at Ground Zero and it's not a mosque - but other than that, the label is completely accurate.

    August 21, 2010

    One More Thing...

    I don't know if anyone caught this item in the New York Times:
    This summer Bill O’Reilly, the biggest star on the Fox News Channel, lent his name — inadvertently, he says — to a Web ad that lured viewers to sign up for a financial newsletter sold by Newsmax, the conservative Web site.

    Mr. O’Reilly was the featured guest in an online video billed as an “Economic Crisis Summit,” which also promoted a newsletter and a secret “I.R.S. payout” that viewers could pay to find out about.

    The video was first published in June and was promoted in e-mails and Web ads, but it was removed from the Web on Tuesday after a financial columnist, Kathy Kristof of CBS MoneyWatch, questioned why Mr. O’Reilly was promoting “investment flimflam.”
    From Kristoff's original story:
    The faux news show...starts with an anchorman sitting at a desk in front of a glowing “Economic Crisis Summit” video screen. The anchor welcomes O’Reilly and gets him talking about Obama and taxes — O’Reilly’s normal bailiwick. Then he asks: “How can you invest in this treacherous environment?” O’Reilly suggests buying depressed stocks that pay dividends, which plays right into the anchor’s hand.

    As soon as O’Reilly leaves, the next “guest” is a smarmy-looking “accountant” named Bill Spetrino, who purports to agree with O’Reilly and offers a newsletter called “The Dividend Machine.” But he adds that he has “something even better.” Spetrino maintains that he’s written a report about a “forgotten, seven-state Constitutional Clause” that guarantees generous tax-free “IRS payouts” of $1,196 or more. And, he’s agreed to provide this report “free” to viewers of the show produced by Newsmax.

    What’s the investment? The dowager of the investment world — municipal bonds. Municipal bonds are issued by states, cities, counties and government agencies to finance everything from parks to water treatment facilities. These bonds do pay tax-free income, but at low rates of interest. To get the promised $1,196 weekly return, you’d have to invest about $2 million in munis at today’s rates.

    If you got the report, you’d likely toss it and figure that “free” advice is often worth exactly what you paid for it. What you didn’t know is that you’ve actually gotten caught up in “a free trial offer” that’s going to quickly cost you.

    What the show is really peddling is Spetrino’s $99 investment newsletter, which you will subscribe to automatically, if you’re gullible enough to ask for his “free” reports. How? You must pay $1 on a major credit card to get the free reports. (Spetrino justifies the $1 fee in the video by saying that people don’t pay attention to free advice, so he’s charging a token just to get you to listen.)
    But I don't wanna talk about Bill O'Reilly. From the reporting, it doesn't look like he was duped and didn't have anything to do with the scam. And until something more solid comes down the pike, we will assume that's the case.

    So who's doing the flim-flam (or is that a bait and switch? I have no idea)? Did Spetrino mislead Newsmax or is Newsmax in on it? Not exactly clear. Either way it's an embarrassment to Newsmax.

    And that's what I wanna talk about. The Times has more:
    The appearance was set up by Don Walker, an agent with Harry Walker who books Mr. O’Reilly’s speaking engagements. Mr. Walker said in an e-mail that “we understood Newsmax would mention a financial newsletter service during the program, which was explicitly separate from Bill’s appearance.”

    Similarly, Newsmax said Thursday that “both parties agreed that Newsmax could offer financial newsletters during our broadcast,” separate from Mr. O’Reilly. The Web site’s chief executive, Christopher Ruddy, suggested that Fox had made a rush to judgment.
    And there's our old friend Christopher ("Vince Foster was Murdered") Ruddy.

    Noticeably absent in this story is the other major player at Newsmax. Did you know that as of March of 2009, Ruddy owns 60% of Newsmax? Wanna know what's up with that the other 40?

    You guessed it:
    A Long Island native, Ruddy received a master's degree in public policy from the London School of Economics. He was a reporter for the New York Post, which like MarketWatch, the publisher of this column, is owned by News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS) He also was a national correspondent for Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    Ruddy launched Newsmax in 1998 with a $25,000 investment. Then he raised $15 million from 200 private investors. Scaife subsequently bought up their stakes. Today, Ruddy owns 60% of privately held Newsmax and the remaining portion is controlled by Scaife. [emphasis added]
    How much you wanna bet this embarrassing tale never ever makes it onto the pages of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review?

    Anyone find any reference to it? Because I can't.

    August 20, 2010

    The Seed of Billy Graham Declares that Obama Carries "The Seed of Islam"

    Just in case you were wondering how on earth 18% - 24% of Americans and 31% - 34% of Republicans came up with the notion that President Obama is Muslim, here's a good place to start (hint: we're back to the "one-drop rule"):


    Via Talking Points Memo:
    "I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name," Graham told John King. "Now it's obvious that the president has renounced the prophet Mohammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That's what he says he has done, I cannot say that he hasn't. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said."

    [snip]

    "The confusion is, is because his father was a Muslim, he was born a Muslim. The Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs. That's why Gaddafi calls him 'my son.' They see him as a Muslim. But of course the President says he is a Christian, and we just have to accept it as that."

    [snip]

    "Well, you know, you can be born a Muslim, you can be born a Jew, but you can't be born a Christian," said Graham. "The only way you can become a Christian is by confessing your sins to God, asking his forgiveness, and by receiving Jesus Christ by faith into your heart, that Christ died for your sins, shed his blood on Calvary's Cross, and that God raised him to life. If you're willing to accept that and believe that, and let Jesus Christ be the lord of your life, God will forgive your sins, he will heal your heart, and that's the only way you can become a Christian. And so if the President has done that, then I would say he's a Christian, if that's what he has done."
    I only wish that John King had asked Graham if Obama was a "Muslin."


    http://isbarackobamamuslin.com

    I'm guessing that the answer might have gone something like this:
    "Now it's obvious that the president has renounced loosely-woven cotton fabric. That's what he says he has done, I cannot say that he hasn't. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said, if that's what he has done."
    [Please make it stop.]
    .

    "Is Fox News a terrorist command center?"

    And Yet Toomey Still Misleads

    Via thinkprogress, I found this interview with Congressman Pat Toomey.

    The thingprogress piece points out how Toomey is being misleading about his plans to privatize Social Security:
    Earlier this week, a host of Republican pundits tried to claim that no members of their party are proposing to privatize Social Security. “There’s no Republican, basically, standing up and saying that, and we haven’t for a very long time,” said Republican talking head Ed Rollins. Of course, plenty of Republicans have proposed just that, most notably Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), whose Roadmap for America includes the creation of personal Social Security accounts. And then there’s Pat Toomey, the Republican nominee for the Senate in Pennsylvania, who during an interview with Real Clear Politics touted his plan for Social Security, conveniently leaving out that he would privatize the system
    Thinkprogress points out that:
    In Toomey’s book, the first subhead under the “Transforming Social Security” chapter is “Personal Accounts Lead to Personal Prosperity.” And that’s really no surprise, considering Toomey said he was “thrilled” with President George W. Bush’s privatization scheme.
    But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

    What I wanted to point out about that interview is that Pat is still misleading the public about Justice Elena Kagan. Take a look:
    During her testimony, she did nothing to overcome the legitimate concerns that I and others have about how she would rule on things like the First Amendment, given her support for the government's position on campaign finance regulation that would actually, by her own admission, permit the federal government to ban books.

    She gave no comfort to those who think that she would support the idea of unlimited federal powers under the Commerce Clause. When asked about that, she indicated no belief in any real limits imposed by the Commerce Clause. When she was the dean of the law school at Harvard, I think she subverted the law that forbids colleges and universities from getting federal funds if they prevent the military from having equal access to recruiting opportunities on the campus.
    Haven't we danced this dance before?

    Yes, we have - in late July in response to this piece Toomey wrote in the P-G.

    In that piece, Toomey mislead when he wrote that:
    Ms. Kagan expressed the view that it was within Congress' power to pass a law that banned a pamphlet or book because of its advocacy of a political viewpoint.
    This is simply not true. Neither is what Toomey told Real Clear Politics. Slate has the truth:
    But what has so exercised Sen. McConnell, David Bossie, and others is Kagan's statement at argument—in response to more pressing by the conservative justices—that if a corporation produced "a pamphlet" directly calling for the election or defeat of a federal candidate ("Vote against Smith"), it would have to pay for it with its PAC funds. This is hardly the stuff of book-banning and government censorship. As Justice Stevens explained in his dissent in Citizens United, to call the PAC requirement a "ban" is "highly misleading, and needs to be corrected." [emphasis added.]
    Pat has yet to correct himself.

    Of course Mr. Wall Street can't help himself with the part about Hah-Vahd - incorrectly asserting (again) that Kagan "subverted federal law" when dealing with the military recruiters up there.

    Kagan, as Law School Dean (and I can't believe I have to correct Pat on this AGAIN) pulled the plug on the military recruiters after the Solomon Amendment was declared unconstitutional. It was the Solomon Amendment that forced gave those recruters access.

    So she was following the law, Pat, not "subverting" it.

    So not only does Pat Toomey mislead the public about his support for the privatization of Social Security, he continues to mislead the public about Justice Elena Kagan's record.

    August 19, 2010

    More On Sarah Palin's Intellectual Consistency

    This says it all:
    Sarah Palin continues to defend Dr. Laura Schlessinger's use of the word "n****r" and blame liberals for forcing the controversial conservative radio show off the air. But just a few months ago Palin was adamant that using the "N-word," and other offensive terms, should be a firing offense...if you're a Democrat.

    "I would ask the president to show decency in this process by eliminating one member of [his] inner circle, Mr. Rahm Emanuel," Palin wrote in February. "The Obama Administration's Chief of Staff scolded [liberal critics] calling them, 'F---ing retarded,' according to several participants, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. Just as we'd be appalled if any public figure of Rahm's stature ever used the "N-word" or other such inappropriate language...
    Words fail.

    The Mosque*, Religious Liberty, and Some Local Pols

    Mike Wereschagin of the Trib (yes, I don't only read Scaife's editorial page!) has a good rundown of some local politicians' reactions to the unfolding Mosque story. He begins:
    What started as a local zoning dispute over a proposed mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site has spread into a dispute over First Amendment protections, religion in public life and the campaigns of Pennsylvania politicians.
    But the real story is in who (locally) said what. Ask yourself, who's brave and stands up for religious liberty and who, well, doesn't.

    Jason Altmire is the first local politician mentioned in the piece:
    Rep. Jason Altmire of McCandless was among the first congressional Democrats to come out against the project, and Keith Rothfus of Edgeworth, his Republican opponent in November's election, joined him Wednesday in opposing it.

    "The folks who attacked us on September 11 were attacking us in the name of a religion," Rothfus said.

    "It's an attack that was generated by Islamic extremists," Altmire said. "As a country, we are offended by this. This gets right back to the heart of what happened September 11."
    However, while disappointing to read that Almire came out against the project, this is not the only thing he's said about Park51. When he was on Rob Pratt's KDKA radio show, he said they have a constitutional right to build the center - but he questioned whether it was "morally" the right thing to do. More from pa2010.com:
    Count Congressman Jason Altmire (D-4) among the politicians who doesn’t think a mosque should be built two blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.

    Altmire said over the weekend that he is “offended” by the idea of building the mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, where the worst of the Sept. 11, 200 terrorist attacks occurred. Acknowledging the project’s backers have a legal and constitutional freedom to do so, Altmire said “there should be some discussion about what is right morally, as well as just what you’re allowed to do.”
    The issue of being offended, however, has little or no bearing. Who's offended at the Catholic Church's pedophile priests? Can we discuss banning churches from being within walking distance to a school? Didn't think so.

    While it's nice to see Altmire at least acknowledges Park51 project's rights, it would be nicer to see some backbone here. Seems to me his response is trying to have it both ways: Yes they have a right to build it but considering how offensive some people think it is, should they? And as always, there's a call for a "discussion" on the topic.

    Rothfus, on the other hand, is frightening. He's opposed because the terrorists attacked "us" in the name of religion. Therefore this community center, to be built by other members of another sect of that religion, should be rejected. If his quotation is accurate, the logical conclusion to his position is little different from the AFA's Bryan Fischer: No more Mosques. Ever.

    Luckily, up in Erie, there's a Democrat with a spine. Wereschagin again:
    "While I understand that emotions are running strong in regard to the Muslim community center in New York City, it's neither the government's nor an elected official's place to tell any religious group where they can or cannot practice their faith," [Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Erie] said. "Our Founding Fathers came to America to escape religious persecution.

    "I believe very strongly in the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, and I will not throw our Constitution or core values aside simply because it is an election year."
    Nice to see some backbone. Maybe Jason Altmire can borrow it sometime.

    Kathleen Parker had some good things to say on Park51:
    The mosque should be built precisely because we don't like the idea very much. We don't need constitutional protections to be agreeable, after all.

    This point surpasses even all the obvious reasons for allowing the mosque, principally that there's no law against it. Precluding any such law, we let people worship when and where they please. That it hurts some people's feelings is, well, irrelevant in a nation of laws. And, really, don't we want to keep it that way?
    And finally:
    Ultimately, when sensitivity becomes a cudgel against lawful expressions of speech or religious belief -- or disbelief -- we all lose.
    Land of the free, home of the brave.

    *Again, it's really not really a mosque. It's a community center with a prayer room in it. It's also not at Ground Zero but a few blocks away. And before you say, "Oy! Again with the Mosque!" All I can say is, "Pittgirl has her pigeons, I have this."

    August 18, 2010

    The Trib On The Mosque*

    Before I begin, I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to my friend Maria on her father's passing.

    Death is always very sad.

    ============================

    The Trib, this morning, quoted that level-headed, got to where she is on her own and NOT by family connections, Liz Cheney:
    President Obama was for the Islamic community center/mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York City before he was against it. We think. Or was he against it before he was for it? Or was he for it on constitutional grounds or ag'in it on its wisdom before he was for it on constitutional grounds and was forced to backtrack on its wisdom. Whew! How about simply calling the whole thing off?
    Here's what Cheney tweeted (by way of Mike Allen at The Politico):
    “I guess President Obama was for the mosque before he was against it. You can quote me. Sent from my iPhone.”
    Thing is, this is all a right wing media smoke screen. No back tracking no flip flopping, though lots of misrepresentation on the media's (right wing and "mainstream").

    Let's take a look at what the President actually said.

    Point one. Just after pointing out that the "Constitution established the freedom of religion as the law of the land." He said:
    Now, that's not to say that religion is without controversy. Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities -– particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

    But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
    That's all he said about the Mosque*

    A day or so later he said:
    Well, my intention was to simply let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country, we treat everybody equally, in accordance with the law. Regardless of race, regardless of religion.

    I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there.
    I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about. And I think it's very important that as difficult as some of the issues are, we stay focussed on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.
    Someone please show me the "back track"? It's only when you (misleadingly) project an "endorsement" onto his first statement that the second looks like "walking back."

    Let me say it outright - the building is private property. They've gone through all the proper channels to build the community center and the state (either local or state or federal) has no authority to step in to veto the project merely because lots of people don't like it or don't like the faith of those who want to do it.

    I would have figured this was an easy point.

    So of course Dick Cheney's daughter got it wrong.

    As did the Trib.

    Of course.

    *It's really not really a mosque - it's a community center with a prayer room in it. It's also not a Ground Zero. But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good smear.

    My Dad

    I haven't been posting lately because my dad, William J. Lupinacci Jr., passed away late Friday night.

    If you ever wondered how I started debating the issues of the day, that would have been over the Vietnam War with my father who was a lifelong Republican (we pretty much stayed on the opposite side of every issue for all the ensuing years). I couldn't have had better training because my dad was the smartest man I ever met and you needed to stick to facts and logic if you wanted to argue with him.

    He graduated early from Schenley High School and had his pick of full scholarships from then Carnegie Tech (where he studied Electrical Engineering) and Duquesne University.

    He was a small business owner in Greensburg for many years and worked for the Catholic Church -- to which he was devoted -- later in life.

    He's going to be missed terribly by his family, friends and former co-workers.

    Love you, Dad!
    .

    August 17, 2010

    The Mosque - Sestak and Toomey Comment

    Guess who favors religious liberty and who doesn't?

    From James O'Toole of the P-G:
    Seeking the middle ground on a polarizing issue, Rep. Joe Sestak said that as long as constitutional rights are respected, it's up to New Yorkers to make the decisions on a proposal to build an Islamic study center and mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center.

    "I believe in the constitutional right of religious freedom and that the separation of church and state applies equally to everyone," Mr. Sestak, D-Delaware County, said yesterday. "This issue is a New York issue, and I'll let them resolve it, but it has to be resolved with respect for that constitutional right."
    I would not say that's a "middle ground" position. Sestak's defending the Constitution and saying that whatever the resolution is in NYC, the Constitutional right to religious freedom has to be respected. That's "middle ground"? To-MAY-to/to-MAH-to, I guess.

    On the other hand, we have Pat Toomey (or rather Toomey's communications director):
    Mr. Toomey opposes the mosque proposal.

    "It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero," said Nachama Soloveichik, Mr. Toomey's communications director. "Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere."
    The hypocrisy of this statement is subtle and two-fold.

    First - One should ask Congressman Toomey if he thinks it's "provocative in the extreme" to allow Muslims to pray to Mecca at The Pentagon. He should be reminded that The Pentagon was attacked too, on 9/11 and as such is no less hallowed ground.

    Muslims have been praying in there for years. This is from the Washington Times in 2007:
    Navy imam Chaplain Abuhena M. Saifulislam lifted his voice to God as he called to prayer more than 100 Department of Defense employees Monday at a celebration of Ramadan at the Pentagon.

    God is most great, sang the lieutenant commander and Islamic leader, in Arabic, as iftar — the end of the daily fast began.

    Uniformed military personnel, civilians and family members faced Mecca and knelt on adorned prayer rugs chanting their prayers in quiet invocation to Allah.
    Second - There's something called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (the RLUIPA). It was passed by voice vote unanimously in July, 2000. I should point out now that Pat Toomey joined the House of Representatives in January, 1999. So unless he wasn't there to vote for the act, he voted for it.

    Here is what the American Center for Law and Justice has to say about the act:
    42 U.S.C. § 2000cc. Thus, within the jurisdictional framework of section (a)(2), RLUIPA prohibits two things: 1) any land use requirement that substantially burdens free exercise, even if the requirement is generally applicable; and 2) discrimination against religious assemblies and institutions.
    And yet Congressman Toomey thinks discrimination is OK now.

    Against Muslims.

    August 15, 2010

    The Trib Editorial Board Re-Writes History

    Or at least ignores it, in an editorial today.

    Take a look at how they start:
    Eliminating "birthright citizenship" -- gained by 8 percent of babies born in the United States in 2008, according to a new study -- should be a matter of simply enforcing the 14th Amendment's plain language in toto.
    We know where this is leading, don't we?

    After tossing around some numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center they get to their solution to "birthright citizenship":
    That makes clear the extent of the problem. Yet addressing it doesn't require a constitutional amendment -- because the second clause of the 14th Amendment (emphasis added below) straightforwardly denies birthright citizenship to illegals' newborns:

    "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

    Thus, illegals' newborns -- inherently subject to the jurisdiction of their illegal parents' homelands -- clearly have no birthright to U.S. citizenship. [emphasis added]
    Too bad the law doesn't "straightforwardly" deny citizenship to illegals' newborns. Doesn't deny it at all. And according to the Supreme Court, it hasn't denied it for more than a century.

    It all hinges on the phrase "...and subject to the jurisdiction thereof...". From a decision from the Supreme Court on this very phrase:
    The real object of the fourteenth amendment of the constitution, in qualifying the words 'all persons born in the United States' by the addition 'and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,' would appear to have been to exclude, by the fewest and fittest words (besides children of members of the Indian tribes, standing in a peculiar relation to the national government, unknown to the common law), the two classes of cases,- children born of alien enemies in hostile occupation, and children of diplomatic representatives of a foreign state,-both of which, as has already been shown, by the law of England and by our own law, from the time of the first settlement of the English colonies in America, had been recognized exceptions to the fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the country.
    So there are only two exceptions:
    • Children borne to armies occupying US Territory or
    • Children of diplomats from a foreign state working here.
    That's it. Everyone else born in the territory of the United States is a US citizen.

    And how long as this been the case?

    You could ask Judge Rufus Peckham - he was in the majority when that opinion was written.

    In 1898.

    Trib Quick Shots

    Proof (yet again) Richard Mellon Scaife's braintrust doesn't read - or doesn't care.

    Two examples from today's Sunday Pops.

    Example one:
    Temperatures have been so below normal in Southern California this summer that fruits and vegetables are not ripening properly. Must be another of those curious side-effects of global warming.
    This little jab is obviously designed to sow doubt about global warming:
    How can it be getting warmer when it's so cold in SoCal that the fruits and veggies can't ripen?
    Except when you actually look at the story. Via Global warming "skeptic" Marc Morano's Climatedepot.com we find a link to this article in the Whittier Daily News. It begins:
    It hasn't been the coolest summer on record, but it's been close, forecasters say.

    The average temperature in July was 79 degrees, five degrees below normal, and the first eight days of this month also have been five to six degrees below normal, weather experts said.

    That could put Southern California on track for a near-record-low summer, but it's still too early to say, according to weather experts. The Los Angeles area, in fact, has had below-normal temperatures every month since April.
    Huh. You might ask whether this is normal? I'll let the next paragraph answer:
    "We normally get this kind of weather pattern when we are transitioning from an El Niño year to a La Niña year," National Weather Service meteorologist Jaimie Meier said. "It sets up this trough of moisture over the West Coast, and that's what's been happening. We end up with cooler-than-normal temperatures and cooler coastal waters."
    Oh, I see. But that might not be the complete answer. Take a look:
    It may be too early to be feeling any effects of La Niña, Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert said.

    During a La Niña occurrence, certain ocean temperatures around the equator cool, resulting in wetter winter weather for Northern California and a drier winter in Southern California.

    "Some would like to blame it on La Niña, but that La Niña is a long ways away," Patzert said. "The pattern we're seeing is that the Northern Hemisphere is having record-breaking heat and we're getting near-record lows."
    Whah???? But I thought things were so cool that global warming couldn't be happening!

    Set aside the Trib's overal mislead about using localized weather to "discredit" global patterns. This is just silly. Especially when the JPL expert shows up later in the piece:
    People who absolutely love the heat can still look forward to September and October, two months in which we typically experience waves of above-normal temperatures, Patzert said.
    Will we see a Sunday Pop in October decrying how warm it is in SoCal? Don't hold your breath, my friends.

    Example two:
    By one accounting the first family this weekend is on its fifth vacation since July. Can you even imagine that? No, not the amount of vacation time taken but rather Sasha and Malia sitting in the back seat of Air Force One repeatedly asking, "Are we there yet?"
    This one is simpler.

    Here's the "accounting" to which the Trib refers. It begins thusly:
    There they go again. For the fifth time since July, the first family has set plans to board Air Force One for a frilly vacation, a 10-day return trip to exclusive Martha's Vineyard where they are expected to stay at the 28-acre oceanfront Blue Heron Farm that rents for up to $50,000 a week.
    And it was published on August 11 at USNews.

    Too bad the Trib editorial board couldn't be bothered to read it.

    But Bedard (of USNews) actually lists the vacations:
    • Three days in July in Maine, primarily tony Bar Harbor.
    • Last week, the president traveled to Chicago for a birthday party with Oprah and others.
    • Michelle and Sasha spent much of last week on Spain's southern coast, ending it with a trip to Majorca to meet the king and queen of Spain.
    • Florida this weekend for a night on the Gulf Coast.
    • August 19-29 on Martha's Vineyard.
    See that last one? It hasn't happened yet. Didn't stop the Trib from saying that this weekend is the 5th vacation since July.

    They can't count or they can't read or they don't care as long as it's a good smear.

    Especially since there's this tidbit from USNews:
    A previous East Wing worker in a different administration added, "In the past, the first family pays their expenses and those of their guests, unless the guests are paying for themselves. Taxpayers do pay for the cost of security but that would be true no matter where they are since they have round the clock security. In terms of travel it varies: some will reimburse the government for cost of first class flight."

    Despite all the criticism of the presidential vacations, especially Michelle and Sasha's recent summer trip overseas to Spain's ritzy Costa del Sol, Obama still has some catching up to do when compared to the days that former president Bush was out of town, mostly at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
    Funny how the city's conservative paper would leave that out.

    Doncha think? Funny.