Prosecute the torture.

September 30, 2010

Non-Political Announcement

We are so lucky - from this week's City Paper:
AcoustiCafe came back in 2007, with help from new blood: local musicians Lauren DeMichiei, Paul Tabachneck and Heather Kropf; newcomer Joel Lindsey; and publicist Maree Gallagher. The new incarnation of AcoustiCafe has also begun to branch out. For the last two summers, organizers have partnered with the Three Rivers Arts Festival to host their own smaller stage; over the next few months, the organization is presenting a Beatles Tribute Night (Nov. 12 at Hard Rock Café) and a special Christmas show. [emphasis added.]
I was at last year's Beatles Tribute Night. It was amazing. Jimbo and the Soupbones were just amazing. Autumn Ayers harmonizing on Blackbird was simply breathtaking.

It's a wonder that, 40 years after the last Beatles album, the music is still powerful enough for such a show.

Honestly and all politics aside, if you're free on the 12th, you can do yourself a HUGE favor by seeing the show.

I'll definitely be there.

Altmire Ad Makes The Daily Show

A clip from a Jason Altmire (PA-4) campaign ad made it into The Daily Show last night illustrating the point that some Democrats are running as fast as they can from the party (especially from President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi). The bit starts about six minutes in:


The clip is from the following ad where middle-age, rural, white guy says, "I like that Jason Altmire is not afraid to stand up to the President" and white soccer mom adds, "and Nancy Pelosi."


Stewart comments with, "Holy [bleeped "shit"]! Those are the ads that Democrats are running?"

He then asks, "What ads are the Republicans running?" and shows a mock spot of a Republican saying he'll punch Obama in the balls if elected.

Funny, but would anyone be too terribly surprised if, say, a Tea Party candidate actually went with that exact ad? After all, we've already seen Pelosi as a crazed monster being tasered this year.

And, if anyone has a video of the anti Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3) commercial I saw this morning where the heads of Obama, Pelosi and Dahlkemper are superimposed on a line of chorines, by all means, post a link in the comments -- it's over-the-top crazy.
.

More On James O'Keefe (Conservative "Investigative Reporter")

Some highlights of Conservative Journalism:
  • Christopher Ruddy: Main pusher of the universally debunked "murder" of Vince Foster
  • James Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon): Male escort given extraordinary access to the Bush White House in order to lob softball questions during press briefings
  • Andrew Breitbart: Serial video faker
  • James O'Keefe: Employed by Breitbart, fake pimp, another video faker...
And now total and complete creep (as if he was ever anything otherwise).

The story from CNN:
A conservative activist known for making undercover videos plotted to embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating "palace of pleasure" and making sexually suggestive comments, e-mails and a planning document show.

James O'Keefe, best known for hitting the community organizing group ACORN with an undercover video sting, hoped to get CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session, those documents show.
By the way, those ACORN videos?
The videos led to some of the employees being fired and contributed to the disbanding of ACORN, which advocated for low- and middle-income and worked to register voters.

But prosecutors in New York and California eventually found no evidence of wrongdoing by the group, and the California probe found the videos had been heavily and selectively edited.
For the record.

The plan revolved around getting CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau into a boat (a "pleasure palace"). In the boat would be video equipment (hidden, of course, so as to be able to video the upcoming tryst) and some other props:
  1. condom jar
  2. dildos
  3. lube
  4. porn
  5. candles
  6. viagra
  7. fuzzy handcuffs
  8. blindfold
Which he was gonna use to seduce Ms Boudreau and video it. Misogynist, creepy, disgusting.

This is the current state of Conservative Investigative Reporting, ladies and gentlemen.

By the way Mediamatters reports that there's legislation in the house (from Pete Olson of Texas) "honoring" O'Keefe for his (now fraudulent) work on ACORN.

According to Mediamatters, there are 31 cosponsors on this. Included is Pennsylvania's very own Joseph Pitts (PA-16).

September 29, 2010

An Interesting Twist

By the pricking of my thumbs
Something tea part this way comes. [not-MacBeth]

That darling of the tea-party, Sarah Palin endorsed Christine O'Donnell, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-masturbation GOP candidate for the United States Senate from the Great State of Delaware has been lying about her education. More than twice.

Talking Points Memo has the story (both of them).

First it was Oxford University:
Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell (R-DE) proclaimed on her LinkedIn the University of Oxford under "education," but it turns out that's another exaggeration on her resume. The claim is that O'Donnell earned a certificate from an Oxford course which her campaign said is "overseen" by a summer seminar program called the Phoenix Institute.
The TPM story leads back to this at the Washington Post:
O'Donnell's LinkedIn bio page lists "University of Oxford" as one of the schools she attended, claiming she studied "Post Modernism in the New Millennium." But it turns out that was just a course conducted by an institution known as the Phoenix Institute, which merely rented space at Oxford.

What's more, the woman who oversaw Phoenix Institute's summer program at Oxford tells me O'Donnell's claim about studying at Oxford is "misleading."

By itself, O'Donnell's Oxford claim might not matter too much. But the larger context is that O'Donnell has already been nabbed fudging her education record not once, but twice. She claimed for several years to have graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson Unversity, but she actually obtained her bachelor's degree last summer. And in a lawsuit she suggested she was trying for a Master's degree courses at Princeton -- but subsequently acknowledged she hadn't taken a single Princeton graduate course.
Princeton, too?

Then there's this:
Claremont Graduate University tells TPM that Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell did not attend the Southern California school despite listing it under education on her LinkedIn profile.
But here's the twist:
Turns out O'Donnell (R-DE) did receive a fellowship from a conservative think tank named the Claremont Institute, also in Claremont, Ca. but not affiliated with Claremont Graduate University.
While feeding the ear worm "It's a small world, after all" guess who sends gobs of money to the Claremont Institute?

My best friend 4-evah Richard Mellon Scaife.

According to mediamatters, the foundations he controls (Carthage, Sarah Scaife) have given $4.8 million dollars to the Institute over the last two decades. That's more than any other foundation, by the way.

In yet another ear worm moment, O'Donnell was a 2002 Lincoln Fellow. Did you know that another paragon of honesty is among the 2009 Lincoln Fellows?

Andrew Breitbart.

In 2009, the Scaife sent $375,000 to the Claremont Institute.

y god, his crap is everywhere!

September 28, 2010

Sestak Doubles Down


The first ad must be polling well because the Sestak campaign has doubled down on Toomey's statement that he'd like to eliminate all corporate taxes.

Here's the first ad:


Here's the new one which also inserts the candidate himself into the picture:


.

Trib's Anti-Science

Yesterday, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wasted some ink and paper (and I guess bandwith) trying yet again to debunk the science of climate change:
The scientific bankruptcy of blame-mankind global-warming orthodoxy is made plain by a Canadian climatologist's observation that every United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prediction and projection has been wrong.

Writing for Canada Free Press, Dr. Tim Ball, a former University of Winnipeg climatology professor, demolishes IPCC's "settled science."

Among his devastating points: Climatology, which studies "one of the most complex systems in nature," suffers from scientific overspecialization. That means lots of researchers know lots of minutiae but don't understand how those minutiae fit together in the real world.
And so on.

Funny that I've never seen on the venerable pages of the Trib any mention of the not-so recent report by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA for short) that climate change is "undeniable." Not even a snarky editorial about it (as far as I know - someone please correct me if I am wrong here. HAS the Trib ever mentioned the NOAA "undeniable" report??)

But they'll go all the way to the Great White North to find a climate skeptic at a conservative Canadian newspaper.

What does that tell you?

Should tell you lots.

September 27, 2010

Altmire-Rothfus

The P-G's Daniel Malloy has an interesting run down on the Altmire/Rothfus race - a race I haven't spent much time thinking about, basically because it seemed so one-sided. The reason can be summed up by something Malloy wrote:
Mr. Rothfus is at a significant financial disadvantage to the well-stocked Mr. Altmire...
According to Opensecrets.org, at last report (June 30, 2010) Almire had raised nearly $2 million and spent about $480,000 leaving him about $1.5 million. Keith Rothfus, on the other hand had only raised about $560,000 and spent $360,000 leaving him with about $200,000.

So it looked, at the beginning of July that Altmire had a war chest 7 times the size as Rothfus. I would think that's pretty much the definition of "one-sided."

But things may not be exactly what they appear to be.

Back to Malloy:
When Keith Rothfus hits the campaign trail, the bespectacled Republican attorney from Edgeworth spends a lot of time talking about 2006.

That was the year when a political upstart overcame a big fundraising disadvantage to unseat Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District incumbent, who was tied to an unpopular president during a wave year for the opposition party. And Mr. Rothfus is looking to replicate Rep. Jason Altmire's path in what is looking like a similar electoral tide -- though this time, it's the GOP advancing on the Democrats.
For his part, though, Altmire's no Missy Hart. For starters, he's no fan of the Obama Administration:
Mr. Altmire, who unseated Melissa Hart in 2006 and went on to beat her in a rematch two years ago, is inclined to agree with the shortcomings of the Democratic Congress, and his message often can be boiled down to: Don't blame me.

His ads declare that he is not beholden to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama. He proved it, he said, by voting against some of their biggest priorities -- health care reform and a comprehensive climate bill, to name two.
He's among those mentioned in this piece in the Huffingtonpost regarding "vulnerable" Democrats distancing themselves from the Democratic Party.

ith a 7-to-1 financial advantage, Altmire can't really be said to be "vulnerable," can he? At the very least he's among those who "declared their independence" from the party, though as Cristina Silva of the Huffpo says:
The tactic could hurt Democratic turnout at a time when the party needs to protect its majority in Congress, some political strategists say.

"They want to get turnout as high as possible among those who vote for Democrats," said Joseph Bafumi, a government professor at Dartmouth College. "Running away from the president or the party might not be the way to do it."

Democrats such as Altmire, Edwards, Space and Nye stand out for defying party leaders on leading issues such as health care, but they are having to defend their independent bona fides because of the "D" after their name.
On the otherside of the aisle, Rothfus has been endorsed by Pat Toomey's old pals at the Club for Growth:
Rothfus is a Tea Party favorite, an anti-establishment economic conservative who defeated a heavily-favored Republican in the May primary despite having far lower name ID and less campaign cash. His pro-growth bona fides are further burnished by a particular notable credential. He was a Pat Toomey volunteer in the 2004 Senate primary race against Arlen Specter.
He's also moving up the latter with the RNCC. He's made it onto their "Contender" list. From the RNCC press release:
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) today announced its newest round of ‘On the Radar' and ‘Contender' candidates. By reaching the first and second step of the three-step ‘Young Guns' program, these Republican candidates have reached the fundamental benchmarks to place them on the road to victory. Now, these 23 candidates are ready to take on the Democrat establishment and return fiscal sanity to Washington.
So I guess "Contender" is the second step? I am not sure. Presumably this means more national funding for Rothfus. But I don't know that either.

Of course, the spin's begun - as is the need to unspin it. Malloy:
Mr. Rothfus' assertion that Mr. Altmire votes the party line nearly 90 percent of the time is technically true, but because the House casts votes on so many noncontroversial issues -- naming post offices, congratulating championship sports teams and the like -- that number is misleading, Mr. Altmire says. He is consistently ranked near the bottom of the Democratic caucus in party loyalty.
Misleading campaign charges? Ah, we're home.

September 26, 2010

Jack Kelly Sunday

In this week's column, Jack Kelly weaves a number of different threads of anecdotal evidence to prove, well I am not sure what - that we live in a land of religious freedom where one religion shouldn't be as free as everyone else? Maybe. I honestly don't know.

Oh yea, he's talking about the "Ground Zero Mosque" (which, again, isn't exactly a mosque and it definitely isn't at Ground Zero - but why let clarity get in the way of demagoguery?)

Jack begins with a constructed polarity:
Writing in National Review in July 2009, Angelo Codevilla said traditional distinctions between Republicans and Democrats were being overshadowed by the split between the "Court Party," which he defined as "the well-connected ... who see themselves as potters of the great American clay," and the " 'Country Party,' the many more who are tired of being treated as clay."
It's certainly interesting that Jack would cite this piece in the NRO in that it begins with:
Far be it from me to suggest that Sarah Palin should be or is likely to be our next president. She has not shown the excellence of cognition or of judgment that would recommend her ahead of other possible candidates, nor does her path to the presidency look easy.
Being that Jack is a Sarah fan from way back.

But back to Jack. While he restates the NRO's definitions of "Court" and "Country" parties, he more or less projects his own content into them from the get go. The "Courts" are the liberal Democrat elites he's looking to ridicule and the "Countrys" are, of course, the Tea Partiers.

With no evidence whatsoever connecting either of of the NRO's year old definitions (from the Summer of 2009, remember) to the events of this summer, Jack asserts:
According to the Court Party, those Americans -- more than two thirds of us, polls indicate -- who oppose construction of a mosque near Ground Zero are motivated chiefly by religious bigotry.
According to the Court Party? Who says that? Is there a quotation I missed somewhere? A source from anywhere to support Jack's point? No. He's projecting what he thinks one dated fabricated abstraction thinks about a recent real event.

And even then, what he's projecting is partial and misleading. From a FoxNews poll taken August 10-11 of this year, when asked this question:
A group of Muslims plans to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center a few blocks from the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Do you think it is appropriate to build a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero, or do you think it would be wrong to do so?
64% of those polled said it was "wrong" while only 30% said it was appropriate. But when asked this question:
Regardless of whether you think it is appropriate to build a mosque near Ground Zero, do you think the Muslim group has the right to build a mosque there, or don't they have that right?
61% said the group "has the right" to build and only 34% said it doesn't. This is at the heart of tolerance and religious freedom. While we may not agree with a particular religion's tenets, those who practice that religion are absolutely free to do so.

Jack, however, uses some anecdotal evidence to try to prove that there's no religious bigotry in the heartland, so therefore there's no bigotry in his newly embraced "Country Party."

He goes with:
Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq drove 13,000 miles across America during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with the intention of attending services at 30 mosques within those 30 days. They didn't encounter any of the religious bigotry the Court Party says is endemic.

"Ali and Tariq were embraced nearly everywhere they went, from a Confederate souvenir shop in Georgia, to the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, to the hills of North Dakota where the nation's first mosque was constructed in 1929," CNN reported Sept. 10.

Mr. Tariq, 23, an American citizen of Pakistani descent, told CNN the reception they received "really made America feel like home to me in a way that I've never felt before."
It is interesting to note that their second blog post (the one they wrote after attending the "Ground Zero Mosque") begins like this:
Dude, it’s just a mosque.

Bassam and I walked into Park 51, the site of the so called “Ground Zero Mosque,” expecting to feel transformed, knowing the fact that I was praying inside the place that’s practically been mentioned in the news every 20 minutes.

But all it felt like – was praying inside a mosque.
Wait, wait, wait. The terrorists are already praying there? My god, they need to be stopped! Muslim prayers at Ground Zero are an insult to the memory of those 4,000 God-fearing Americans killed by Islam on 9/11!

If you missed the satire in the previous paragraph, you're reading the wrong blog. Let's get back to reality.

They're already praying at the Park51 site. So the real question is whether a new building will be built for them. Should the state be given that authority? Should the local (or regional or nation's) population be given that authority?

I think not.

Jack continues his anecdotal ways. Take a look:
And if it's religious bigotry that fuels opposition to the mosque near ground zero, why do most Arabs, most of whom are Muslim, object to its construction?

That was the startling finding of a poll by Elaph, which John Hopkins Prof. Fouad Ajami described as "the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world." According to that poll, 58 percent of its readers oppose building the mosque.
Too bad that when you look at the "poll" you find it's not a poll at all. It's a survey. From the Wall Street Journal:
A survey by Elaph, the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world, gave a decided edge to those who objected to the building of this mosque—58% saw it as a project of folly.

Elaph was at it again in the aftermath of Pastor Terry Jones's threat to burn copies of the Quran: It queried its readers as to whether America was a "tolerant" or a "bigoted" society. The split was 63% to 37% in favor of those who accepted the good faith and pluralism of this country.
See that? The journal "was at it again" when it "queried its readers" about Terry Jones - so what it did there, it also did with the mosque "survey." Do I need to point out how unreliable surveys like this are? They don't tell you much if anything about the general population - only about those self-selected readers of a journal who in another act of self-selection decide to respond to the survey. As solid information, surveys like this are more or less useless.

They're anecdotal. As is most of Jack's column.

Anecdotal evidence built on a fabricated polarity.

And that's not much at all.

The Trib

This won't take long.

From today's Sunday Pops at Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review:
More than 300 economists have signed a letter stating that failure to extend the Bush-era tax cuts will devastate growth. Obamanomics hasn't worked. What a novel idea -- return to fundamental economics. [Bold in original]
I know you're all chomping at the bit with some questions; What letter? Who sent it? Where can I see it?

Took a few seconds, but here's the letter. It's posted at the National Taxpayers Union website.

Guess who (c'mon, just frickin guess) is a huge financial supporter of the NTU?

That's right, Richard Mellon Scaife - owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

According to mediamatters, in fact, the Sarah Scaife Foundation offered up the single largest financial support of the NTU, with $1.23 million in support from 1991 to 2007. This does not count the $275,000 in support from the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation from 1993 to 2003 or the
  • $50,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2009.
  • $75,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2008.
By my calculations, that's $1.63 million in financial support over the years.

Considering the fact that Scaife is more than likely among those wealthy who'll see their taxes go back to up Clinton-era levels once the Bush-era tax cuts end, he stands to benefit personally if the tax policy positions suggested by those 300 economists are implemented.

His foundations supported the NTU, the NTU posted the letter saying the tax cuts should be extended, his paper lauded the letter as the right thing to do.

The circle jerk continues.

September 25, 2010

More On Christine O'Donnell's Intellect

Christine O'Donnell, the Sarah Palin-endorsed darling of the Tea Party and GOP nominee for the United States Senate for the great state of Delaware, thinks evolution is a myth.


Her skepticism is based on this ultra-scientific question:
Then why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?
Maher points out:
This is somebody who could be in the Senate, who thinks that mice have human brains and doesn't understand that, oh my god, monkeys don't evolve in the time it would take to watch them.
Darling of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin-endorsed, GOP Candidate for the United States Senate. Shouldn't scientific ignorance of this magnitude disqualify someone from being taken seriously as a candidate for public office?

That's right, this is the GOP we're talking about here.

September 24, 2010

Tribbing Full Circle

Remember this blog post? It's from 3 short weeks ago.

In it I criticize this editorial for getting some facts very wrong regarding the UN's Human Rights Council report (the UPR or "Universal Periodic Review") and for not disclosing the tightly wound financial connections that exist between the Tribune-Review's owner, Richard Mellon Scaife and the Heritage Foundation, the think tank the editorial was using for its "information".

Guess what? The circle is complete, old man.

Today there's an op-ed by Ed Feulner, president of that same Heritage Foundation (it's his weekly column, by the way), that gets the same facts wrong and still fails to disclose the tens of millions of dollars in support that the various Scaife foundations have given to Heritage.

But this is nothing new.

But there is something that needs to be said about Feulner's column. The sloppy filler. Take a look at the two paragraphs it quotes from the UPR:
A recent Arizona law, S.B. 1070, has generated significant attention and debate at home and around the world. The issue is being addressed in a court action that argues that the federal government has the authority to set and enforce immigration law. That action is ongoing; parts of the law are currently enjoined.

President Obama remains firmly committed to fixing our broken immigration system, because he recognizes that our ability to innovate, our ties to the world, and our economic prosperity depend on our capacity to welcome and assimilate immigrants. The Administration will continue its efforts to work with the U.S. Congress and affected communities toward this end.
Looking at them, you'd think they were somehow connected.

You'd be wrong.

Take a look at the report. The two paragraphs are found in a section titled:
V.2 Values and Immigration
and are two of five separate numbered paragraphs within that section. The second paragraph is not a commentary on the first - it's just filler.

So the column's a rehash of parts of editorials already published in the Tribune-Review. And it's not even well researched or written.

You'd think for $24 million, Richard Mellon Scaife would get better homework from Ed Feulner.

The circle-jerk continues.

September 23, 2010

Hell, Yea!

After leaving the House of Representatives and before running for the Senate (this time) Pat Toomey was president of the Club for Growth.

If you've been following this story at Early Returns 2.0 you've seen that Tim McNulty opened with:
Readers of this site know full well how hard the Pat Toomey campaign has pushed back on claims that he wants to "privatize" Social Security.
Tim's being way too nice to Toomey. Here's Jim O'Toole from Tim's second link:
Democrats have repeatedly criticized Mr. Toomey for a statement at the Harrisburg Press Club last month in which he denied ever having advocated the "privatization of Social Security." That statement may seem at odds with Mr. Toomey's long and outspoken advocacy of a shift from the current system to one that would allow workers to invest their own retirement funds in private or personal accounts.

The dispute is not an example of a campaign trail conversion by the Republican but a replay of a semantic argument from the early years of the second term of President George W. Bush. Before it became clear that Mr. Bush's plan had no political momentum, its proponents tried to boost its chances with a rhetorical shift from the term "private accounts" to "personal accounts" -- a nominal but not substantive change rooted in the poll-tested notion that "personal accounts" would sound more appealing.

Mr. Toomey has not modified his position that such a change is essential given the projected shortfalls in the massive retirement program. In his 2008 book, "The Road to Prosperity," written with his campaign communications director Nachama Soloveichik, he devotes a chapter to his vision for the system, one that he reaffirmed in a recent interview. Mr. Toomey would retain the current system and promised benefit levels for current beneficiaries and those close to retirement.

For younger workers, however, he would establish the option of investing part of their Social Security contribution in private accounts -- or personal accounts, take your pick -- that would allow them to take advantage of the potentially more generous yields of private markets.
If it walks like a duck... Sounds like a privatize-quack to me.

McNulty earlier linked to this thinkprogress post which catches Toomey in some serious weasel words. When asked if he continues to to favor the privatization of Social Security, Mr Wall Street spun:
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. [emphasis in original]
Does he think we're not paying attention? What's that if not privatization?

The wonkroom points out:
Toomey seems to be under the impression that if you aren’t in favor of privatizing all of the Social Security system then you aren’t in favor of privatizing, period. But make no mistake, Toomey absolutely favors privatizing a portion of the program, as he makes painfully clear through his advocating that young workers “own” an account.
If there was any doubt about where he's coming from, his old pals at the Club for Growth have issued a statement on the privatization of Social Security. It's titled:
Privatize Social Security? Hell Yeah!
In bold green letters. And they write:
Most Republicans are running away from the Social Security issue. They've probably been told by establishment handlers to never defend "privatization" or personal accounts.

Baloney.

Fiscal conservative candidates should embrace it. While Americans in retirement or approaching retirement would stay in the current system, younger workers should have the option to invest a portion of their money in financial assets other than U.S. Treasuries.
Isn't that more or less exactly what Toomey's proposing? And doesn't the Club for Growth call that Privatization?

And doesn't that mean that Pat Toomey wants to privatize Social Security?

And doesn't that mean that Toomey was, uh, misleading the public when he said that he never favored privatizing Social Security?

Hell, yeah.

September 22, 2010

Nice To Be Noticed

At about 11 this morning, someone from Koch Industries (or at least someone surfing the internet from a Koch server) took a look at this post.

The important data:
Referrer: No referring link
Host Name: extcf01.kochind.com
IP Address: 146.209.130.1
Country: United States
Region: Kansas
City: Wichita
ISP: Koch Industries
Ah...nice to be noticed.

Another Dissipating "Scandal" At The Trib

From today's Tribune-Review, there's an editorial that begins with this breathless question:
In its zeal to smear its critics, has the Obama administration committed a crime?
As with much on Scaife's editorial page, once you look at the facts you immediately see the skewed frame his braintrust doesn't want you to see. The editorial is about Charles and David Koch "libertarian billionaires" and the vast right-wing network they fund. The kernel of the issue:
But as The Weekly Standard magazine reports, lawyer Mark Holden says the administration might have crossed the line by revealing what's supposed to be private tax information about Koch Industries. He cites an Aug. 27 on-the-record background briefing by an unnamed senior Obama administration official that cited particulars of Koch's taxes.
Here is the Weekly Standard article for y'inz to peruse. And according to that article, this is what Koch attorney Holden said that senior Administration official said in that on-the-record briefing::
So in this country we have partnerships, we have S corps, we have LLCs, we have a series of entities that do not pay corporate income tax. Some of which are really giant firms, you know Koch Industries is a multibillion dollar businesses. So that creates a narrower base because we've literally got something like 50 percent of the business income in the U.S. is going to businesses that don't pay any corporate income tax. They point out [in the report] you could review the boundary between corporate and non-corporate taxation as a way to broaden the base. [emphasis in original]
Look again at the braintrust's first rhetorical question: Has the Obama Administration committed a crime?Curious thing about that because in the same Weekly Standard piece, Koch Industries attorney Holden is also quoted with this:
I’m not accusing any one of any illegal conduct. But it’s my understanding that under federal law, tax information, is confidential and it’s not to be disclosed or obtained by individuals except under limited circumstances. ... I don’t know what [the senior administration official] was referring to. I'm not sure what he's saying. I'm not sure what information he has. But if he got this information--confidential tax information--under the internal revenue code ... if he obtained it in a way that was inappropriate, that would be unlawful. But I don't know that that's the case.
Holden isn't accusing anyone of any illegal conduct, but the Trib certainly is. You do know that that's what they're doing, right? They're just hiding behind a series of leading questions. Questions like:
If so, who's behind what would clearly be an illegal act? Who in the Obama administration ordered the information? Who at the IRS provided it? And if the Obama White House crossed the line with Koch Industries, has it done the same with others? How many others?

Well? [emphasis in original]
Only there's no there there.

Ben Smith at the Politico reports that another administration official said that:
..the White House got the information from testimony before the the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) and from Koch's own website
This official is then quoted as saying:
No senior administration officials have any access to anyone's tax returns--individual or business. The administration official was discussing the section of the PERAB's tax report that argued we should look at the rising importance of pass through entities that do not pay corporate income tax.

This issue was raised repeatedly by outside experts that testified before the PERAB and Koch was cited to the PERAB as an example by outside commenters to the group. We assume it came up from publicly available information such as the Forbes magazine annual report listing Koch as one of the largest private companies in the nation or the fact that a high fraction of the largest companies within Koch Industries are listed on the Koch website as LLCs, LPs or other frequent pass-through entities. If this information is incorrect, we are happy to revise statements.

But the administration still believes it is worth reading the PERAB's independent tax report which raised the issue of the large amount of business activity being done by sometimes very large businesses which is not paying corporate income tax but competes against other companies that do.
You can find the PERAB report here.

But let's get back to the issue at hand. Koch Industries tax information is listed on its own website?? Yes, it is. If you go to this page, you'll see a list of Koch Industries industries. At the end of each there's an "LLC" or an "LP" or something like it. LLC means "Limited Liability Company" and it's a "pass-through" organization that doesn't pay taxes. The profits or losses are "passed through" to the owners of the company to be listed on their individual tax returns.

So look again at the Trib's fervent rhetorical questions. How silly do they look now?

There is no there there. Again.

September 21, 2010

My Dinner With Hitchens

Ok, so it wasn't exactly dinner. It was only lunch.

To bring y'inz up-to-date, we'll have to start with Tony Norman's column. It's all about Hitchens, the well-known atheist, the well-known writer, and now the well-known esophageal cancer sufferer.

In the course of the column, Tony writes:
On a personal level, there are few intellectuals I enjoy more than Christopher Hitchens. When he taught at the University of Pittsburgh in 1997, he was kind enough to invite me to a private reception for Salman Rushdie when that writer was under threat from the soulless theocrats of the Iranian regime.

Since then, we've broken bread at the now-defunct Crawford Grill, had a drink at the Warhol and exchanged pleasantries at various book signings.
I was there at the Crawford Grill. I broke bread (well, kinda - you'll understand in a minute) with Christopher Hitchens.

It was April of 2001 and he was in town promoting his Henry Kissinger book. That night, he was to read from the book at the Frick Fine Arts building and Tony, being the all around cool guy that he is, was kind enough to invite me along for lunch.

As I worked in the Frick Building at the time, I knew it would be a half hour walk to the now-closed Crawford Grill and while I can't recall exactly I think Tony gave me a ride to lunch. I do remember walking in with Tony.

I also remember that there was a bar was on the right as we walked in. It was 11:45 (am) Hitchens was already there.

When we walked in, he was sitting facing the bar and we could see his profile. Odd thing though - when we walked in he turned to to his left (we were on his right) to meet us and by...how...slowly...he...turned, I pretty much knew he was already completely plastered by that point.

There were five of us for lunch. Me, Tony, two other people I couldn't possibly remember even if you held a gun to my head, and Christopher Hitchens. We got a table and amid the copius cigarette smoke, the conversation was buzzing along very nicely without me. Film, politics (local and international) and Henry Kissinger were all topics of discussion. The lunch order was taken while we had our drinks. I remember I had a soda of some kind. Hitchens had already switched, I think, from a cocktail to wine.

When the food arrived, guess who's lunch order was lost?

Yea, mine. They ate but I didn't.

So that's why I can't exactly say I "broke bread" with Christopher Hitchens.

Later that night, after his reading from The Trial of Henry Kissinger, I stood in line waiting for him to sign my freshly bought copy. When I got to the head of the line, he looked up, smirked a bit and we chatted about lunch.

When he signed the book, it read "To David. Next time, lunch is on Crawford's."

Scenes From Bush's FBI

From today's P-G:
The Justice Department harshly criticized the Pittsburgh office of the FBI for providing misinformation, misleading testimony and false reports in connection with surveillance conducted at a 2002 anti-war rally sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center.

The 209-page report from the Inspector General's office was prompted by a 2006 congressional inquiry into whether the FBI was improperly spying on domestic groups and activities protected by the First Amendment.

Although the report concluded that the FBI was not improperly spying on anti-war protest groups, it noted that the Pittsburgh office had "no legitimate purpose for the FBI to attend the event."
And there's this from The Trib:
The bureau is considering the inquiry after a separate Department of Justice investigation found that agents across the country improperly started investigations, put the names of environmental activists on a terror watch list and, in Pittsburgh, gave explanations for their actions that showed "extraordinary carelessness" or were "deliberately misleading."

The investigation by Inspector General Glenn Fine, which covered the years from 2001 to 2006, did not find the FBI targeted groups because of their political views. Fine's report includes FBI investigations involving the Garfield-based, anti-war Thomas Merton Center and the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, an anarchist organization.
So what happened? Potter has a rundown:
FBI agents investigated the Thomas Merton Center and the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) because they literally didn't have anything else to do. An FBI agent surveilled and photographed a 2002 Merton Center rally, because "work was slow" the Friday after Thanksgiving. The agent, a new hire on probationary assignment, began taking photos of Merton Center activists leafletting in Market Square to "show his supervisor that he was 'earning his pay'." Similarly, an agent confesses that an investigation into POG got underway because "work is light ... [W]e are looking for work, which is why folks in POG even get on the radar."
And then:
When the ACLU demanded records relating to FBI surveillance of the Merton Center event, a cover-up apparently ensued. Someone in the agency wrote up a "routing slip" -- which seeks to redact certain information before a document is released publicly -- that made it look like the FBI was really tracking individuals suspected of terrorist ties. The report makes a pretty convincing argument for why that isn't true. And it surmises that the routing slip was intended to make "a stronger justification for the surveillance of the Merton Center anti-war rally than was in fact the case." The routing slip became the basis for a misleading press release issued by the FBI in the matter, and for false Congressional testimony made by FBI chief Robert Mueller.
The P-G has some fallout:
Michael Drohan, board president at the Thomas Merton Center, said the fact that more than one-quarter of the inspector general's report is dedicated to his organization is "extraordinary and unbelievable."

"The Merton Center is an organization devoted to the pursuit of peace and justice with an absolute strict commitment to non-violence," Mr. Drohan said. "To mention us in the same sentence as 'terrorism' is an outrage. Everything we do and have done is to stop war, prevent war and promote economic and social justice.

"They really owe the Merton Center a profound apology for incriminating us."
Good to know that in the years directly following 9/11 our nation's premier law enforcement service was doing such a good job protecting us. Who knew we'd have to be protected from them?

The report, by the way, can be found here.

September 20, 2010

Oy! AGAIN With The Bedbugs and DDT!

In an editorial/commercial for a new documentary, Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's editorial board takes yet another unscientific swing at environmentalism and in the process gets many many things plain wrong. The braintrust begins the projection:
A new documentary, "3 Billion and Counting," sets the record straight on DDT, malaria, bald eagles -- and America's current bedbug plague.

The title refers to all the human lives ended by malaria, which annually kills 1.5 million and debilitates millions more -- needlessly, because banned DDT eradicates malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Producer and physician Rutledge Taylor's film connects the underlying dots of environmental fanaticism, misguided policies and disregard for science.
We've already address the bedbugs here. But if you're in a hurry and don't have the time to sift through a Jack Kelly Sunday column, here's the upshot - DDT is ineffective against bedbugs. Has been for a few decades. Since before DDT was banned, in fact. From Newsweek (again):
[L]ong before the United States banned most uses of it in 1972, DDT had lost its effectiveness against bedbugs—which, like many fast-breeding insects, are extremely adept at evolving resistance to pesticides. “Bloggers talk about bringing back DDT,” says Bob Rosenberg, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, “but we had stopped using it even before 1972.”

Nor is there any reason to think it would work better today; according to Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an urban entomologist at Cornell, among a wide variety of pesticides tested against bedbugs within the last two years, DDT performed the worst.
But let's move on to malaria as that's the largest concern of the editorial. The braintrust writes:
The title refers to all the human lives ended by malaria, which annually kills 1.5 million and debilitates millions more -- needlessly, because banned DDT eradicates malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Actually they get it right.

Inadvertantly and ironically, of course.

Look at that last line: banned DDT eradicates malaria-carrying mosquitoes. That's absolutely correct. Why do I write this? Because according to this report from the much-despised (by the Trib) UN (World Health Organization, actually), DDT is being used to eradicate malarlia-carrying mosquitoes:
[Indoor Residual Spraying] with WHO-approved chemicals (including DDT) remains one of the main interventions for reducing and interrupting malaria transmission by vector control in all epidemiological settings. In 2008, 44 countries, including 19 in the African Region, reported implementing IRS. (page ix)
And:
DDT has comparatively long residual efficacy (≥ 6 months) against malaria vectors and plays an important role in the management of vector resistance. Countries can use DDT for IRS for as long as necessary and in the quantities needed, provided that the guidelines and recommendations of WHO and the Stockholm Convention are met and until locally appropriate, cost-effective alternatives are available for a sustainable transition from DDT. (page 4)
Indeed, the title of this WHO Document is:
THE USE OF DDT
IN MALARIA VECTOR CONTROL
And section 2 of that document is titled:
Why is DDT still recommended?
Still recommended??? But the braintrust said Ruckelshaus buckled under environmental fanaticism and banned DDT and that led to 3 billion deaths by malaria!

I guess the Scaife's braintrust gets yet another one wrong.

September 19, 2010

Finally! A SANE Republican!!

Via Huffingtonpost, it's Colin Powell:
I would just tell my fellow Americans: think carefully about what was just said, think carefully about some of the stuff that is coming across the blogs and the airwaves. Let's make a couple points: One, the president was born in the United States of America. Let's get rid of that one, let's get rid of the birther thing. Let's attack him on policy and not nonsense. Next, he is a Christian. He is not a Muslim. Twenty percent of the people see he is a Muslim, 80 percent apparently do not believe he is a Muslim.
And even that's low. David Gregory has to correct him and say it's actually 30 percent. He goes onto to spank Newt Gingrich and Dinesh D'souza:
But I bet you a dollar if the unemployment rate was not 9.5 percent but it was down to four percent then you would find only five percent think he is a Muslim. So they are attacking the president on this line. But he is not a Muslim. He is a Christian, and I think we have to be careful when we take things like Dinesh D'souza's book, which is the source for all this, and suggest that somehow the president of the United States is channeling his dead father through some Kenyan spirits. This doesn't make any sense. Mr. Gingrich does these things from time to time, with a big bold statement. He did it with [Sonia] Sotomayor, she's a reverse racist; he did it with Elana Kagan, she ought to be taken off the nomination for Supreme Court justice; and he does it occasionally to make news and also to stir up dust.
Huffingtonpost ends with this:
Powell, it should be noted, has made appeals to sober-minded Republicanism before, also on "Meet the Press." And his pleas were met with calls from some of the GOP's more senior members to, essentially, leave the party. So while his rebuke of Gingrich may be newsworthy, the reaction to it could produce some telling remarks as well.
We'll see.

So How Conservative IS Pat Toomey?

Via Joe Sestak's website, I found this.

As it's Sestak's idea of what Pat Toomey's website should be, we can assume a certain level of political rhetoric going on. But on the first page there was a link that led here:
A kindly reader forwarded this 2004 piece in The American Spectator musing on the U.S. Senate race in PA back then, between Arlen Specter and Pat Toomey, who’s currently running against Joe Sestak for that same seat. You will be amused to find out that, back in ’04, that then-senator Rick Santorum actually backed Specter, and told “everyone within earshot that the primary challenger, Rep. Pat Toomey, is ‘too conservative for Pennsylvania.’” [emphasis added.]
Say it ain't so, Rick!

It's so. It a piece written during the Toomey/Specter primary race way back in 2004, our Lil Ricky was defending Arlen Specter (who was then the Republican Incumbent) against a challenge from the right - Pat Toomey. Colin McNickle elaborated Rick's conundrum back then. He had to support Specter because he would have lost his Senate ranking (no. 3 at the time, if I am not mistaken) if he did.

That aside, so how conservative IS Pat Toomey? From RealClearPolitics:
Toomey's lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is 97%; Santorum's is just 88%.
Pat Toomey - More conservative than Rick Santorum.

Yawn - The Trib Spins

One can sometimes see in the tiniest of places an echo of the whole. This week we can see in a slip of an editorial jab, how Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review editorial page spins, folds and mutilates reality to score a cheap political point.

To whit:
The White House denies it but French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy says Michelle Obama told her that being America's first lady is "hell." "I can't stand it!" she supposedly said, reports London's Daily Mail. Hey, we're sure voters will be happy to ease Mrs. O's pain in 2012.
Does Bruni-Sarkozy really say that? Had they done their homework, the braintrust would have found out a few things - enough to at least taint the credibility of the story.

First the DailyMail:
Michelle Obama thinks being America’s First Lady is ‘hell’, Carla Bruni reveals today in a wildly indiscreet book.

Miss Bruni divulges that Mrs Obama replied when asked about her position as the U.S. president’s wife: ‘Don’t ask! It’s hell. I can’t stand it!’

Details of the private conversation, which took place at the White House during an official visit by Nicolas Sarkozy last March, emerged in Carla And The Ambitious.

The book was written by journalists Michael Darmon and Yves Derai in what they claim is collaboration with Miss Bruni.
Wait. What? They "claim" it's a collaboration? So the book isn't from Bruni-Sarkozy herself? Apparently. The DailyMail again:
The Elysee Palace has denied that the Miss Bruni co-operated with the biography.
So not only does the White House deny the story, the French Government denies it as well.

That's all echoed by this from the AP:
The co-author of a new book about French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy defended his sources Friday amid a media buzz over a passage that cites Michelle Obama as calling life in the White House "hell."

Mrs. Obama's spokeswoman has denied the first lady said such a thing, and a spokesman at the French Embassy in Washington said Bruni-Sarkozy "distances herself completely" from the book, which appeared in French bookstores on Thursday.

The unauthorized book, called "Carla et les ambitieux," or "Carla and the Ambitious Ones," describes the scene of a March dinner at the White House, during which the two first ladies were purported to have had a conversation in English in which they compared notes on their experiences as wives of presidents.
Hmm...she distances herself "completely" from a book that's "unauthorized." Isn't that enough to put the braintrust off the trail? Apparently not, so here's more:
Author Yves Derai stood by the explosive dialogue, insisting it was based on interviews with "reliable sources" — though he declined to name them, in accordance, he said, with his journalistic principles.
Am I missing something here? Does he say that Bruni-Sarkozy said it or not? If he does, I'm not seeing it. Could be the line came from one of his reliable sources.

And then there's this:
Derai acknowledged the French word used in the passage, "enfer," might not precisely correspond directly with the English word "hell."

"I don't know, maybe translated into English, hell is Dante's Inferno where they burn sinners, but in French it's really a rather common expression to say that sometimes it's just 'a real drag,'" Derai explained. He did not say what the original word allegedly pronounced by Mrs. Obama was.
So on top of everything else, we have a translation problem. Was it "hell" or just "a real drag"? Did it even occur at all?

Not that any of this would ever get in the way of Scaife's braintrust trying to score a cheap point. Oh no.

Took me all of 30 minutes to find this stuff out. Did Scaife's braintrust even bother to do their homework on this? If they didn't, then why not? If they did, then why include the jab at all?

And that's the tiniest of places echoing the whole.

Thus endeth the lesson.

PodCamp Follow-Up

I just wanted to thank all the other panelists (Bram, Ms Mon, Sue, and Maria) for participating in yesterday's panel discussion on the ethics of political blogging.

And to the folks I knew in the audience (Ed, Jon Delano, Bob Mayo, Eric, Jennifer and whomever I am inevitably and still unforgivably forgetting) I want to give a big thanks, too! I was worried that there'd be more people on the panel than watching the panel.

THANKS EVERYONE!

Scenes from Day One @ PodCamp Pittsburgh 5


PodCamp 5 continues today (schedule here -- live streaming at that link). Unfortunately prior commitments will prevent me from attending today's sessions, but here's some photos from yesterday.

The Keynote Address:

PodCamp Pittsburgh Co-organizer Norman Huelsman.


Pittsburgh City Councilor Bill Peduto.
(Links from his opening session here)

Other Sessions:

PodCamp Pittsburgh co-founder Justin Kownacki
(Something to be Desired) had one of the most well
attended sessions. This is from the overflow room.


Tim Lessick of Pittsburgh Human Rights Network from
the Echoing Activism Through Social Media session.


Brian Honigman of Sampsonia Way Magazine
also from the Echoing Activism session.

Political Blogging: A Panel Discussion:

This was the session moderated by 2 Political Junkies' very own David DeAngelo. Other panelists included: me (Maria Lupinacci); Bram Reichbaum, The Pittsburgh Comet; Sue Kerr, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents; and Frances Monahan, Ms. Mon's Salon.

Thanks to all those who attended our presentation!

Here are some photos of our audience. Can you spot the local MSM?


KDKA's Traffic and Transportation Reporter Jim Lokay
and Newsradio 1020 KDKA Anchor/Reporter Matt DelSignore.


KDKA Money & Politics Editor, KDKA Sunday Business
Page host and prolific tweeter Jon Delano.


WTAE's Bob Mayo (live spot news, government
coverage and political reporting) and blogger
@ The Busman's Holiday.


Ultimate "liberal's" gift basket which we awarded in
a random drawing to an audience member. The Mao
Tse-tung statue came from the desk of Pittsburgh
City Paper Editor Chris Potter (complete with a
letter of authenticity). It also appeared on a City
Paper cover for their War of Words story:


We'll put up a link to the podcast of our session once it's been posted.

Finally, some shout-outs:
  • Nice to meet you, Jason! Thanks for reading us. :-)

  • Here's a link to part three of Rich Lord's "Network" investigation for Carolyn.

  • Thanks to Ginny for her shout-out to 2pj (good to finally meet you).
  • September 18, 2010

    A Message From The GOP In Montana

    From the Huffingtonpost:
    At a time when gays have been gaining victories across the country, the Republican Party in Montana still wants to make homosexuality illegal.
    Huh?

    Here's the platform for the Montana GOP.

    And here's what they have to say about teh gays:
    Homosexual Acts

    We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.
    Things, of course, get interesting when you start to dig into the details so let's start digging.

    From MSNBC:
    Montana GOP executive director Bowen Greenwood said that has been the position of the party since the state Supreme Court struck down state laws criminalizing homosexuality in 1997 in the case of Gryczan v. Montana.
    Gryczan v. Montana? What did Gryczan v. Montana say? Take a look:
    The State of Montana appeals a Judgment of the District Court for the First Judicial District, Lewis and Clark County, declaring § 45-5-505, MCA, unconstitutional as a violation of the privacy provision of the Montana Constitution when applied to consensual, private, same-gender sexual conduct between adults. We affirm.
    So what's this 45-5-505, then? That's obviously the law making homosexuality illegal. Take a look:
    A person who knowingly engages in deviate sexual relations or who causes another to engage in deviate sexual relations commits the offense of deviate sexual conduct.
    And how do they define "deviate sexual relations"? Take a look:
    "Deviate sexual relations" means sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex or any form of sexual intercourse with an animal.
    And that's what the Montana Supreme Court found unconstitutional. And that's what the Montana GOP wants to reinstate.

    Good to know.

    More On Christine O'Donnell, Witchcraft Dabbler.

    The latest fresh face of the Tea Party.

    From Talkingpointsmemo:
    Eleven years ago a boisterous Christine O'Donnell confessed to Bill Maher and his ABC audience that she'd dated a witch, "dabbled into witchcraft" and even went on a midnight date involving blood on an altar.

    And now a thought experiment: Imagine the uproar if there was a video clip of, say, Michelle Obama declaring that she'd "dabbled in witchcraft" and had gone on a date where there was a satanic altar with some blood on it.

    Fox "News" would never ever stop talking it. The Southern Baptist Convention and the American Family Association would never ever stop talking about it. Ever.

    What if there were a video tape of Nancy Pelosi declaring the same? Or of Hilary Clinton?

    We won't hold our breath waiting on the silence from the right-wing/corporate media to mention O'Donnell's witchy-past.

    September 17, 2010

    Go Read Potter

    He's done yeoman's work on the recent Homeland Security "Intelligent Reports" that's causing Governor Rendell such agita.

    The OPJ has the beginnings of the story here.

    In one recent blog, the pertinacious Potter posts:
    But what pisses me off is ... how come it's only lefties who merit government scrutiny?

    The Intelligence Bulletin that kicked off this mess is 12 pages long. Among the events it warns of presenting "additional risk factors" are the Jewish High Holidays and Ramadan (see? Muslims and Jews have some things in common after all! Let the healing begin!). Also supposedly presenting an opportunity for trouble: zoning hearings in Upper St. Clair, a Pittsburgh City Council hearing, and gatherings of such bloodthirsty groups as the Brandywine Peace Community.

    It's a comprehensive list, except for one thing: It's only interested in political activity on the left.[italics in original]
    And he boils things down to an irritating rhetorical question:
    So see if you can follow this logic. On the one hand, you have a pseudo-populist movement that noisily asserts its Second Amendment rights, and whose members widely consider the current government to be illegitimate and marching toward socialism. On the other hand, you have a demonstration slated to burn the flag used by an armed rebellion against the U.S. government. And guess which of these two groups apparently merits scrutiny?
    If that hasn't pissed you off, he's got more on the group doing the surveillance. Like any good security firm, it's difficult to dig up much info on it. As Potter has found out:
    Mystery continues to surround the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, the non-profit group that apparently received $125,000 of state money to compile a controversial report on environmentalists opposed to natural-gas drilling.

    I first reported on this controversy -- which was opened up by online journalism organization ProPublica -- last week. Since then, Gov. Ed Rendell has disavowed the whole enterprise, while other politicians are calling for an investgation. City councilor Doug Shields, for example, asserted, "I want to see the 990s on this group," referring to documents that tax-exempt organizations must file.

    That may not be so easy. While today's Post-Gazette notes that the group is registered as a non-profit with the state, I've been having some difficulty tracking down those 990s. The ITRR doesn't have a listing at Guidestar, a widely used clearinghouse for information about non-profit entities. Nor could I find a listing for the organization on the IRS website. (The agency does list two other Philadelphia-based terror-related groups,)

    My colleague at the Philadelphia City Paper, Isaiah Thompson, has hit a similar brick wall.
    Go read Potter. As often as you can.

    September 16, 2010

    PodCamp Update

    For the original stuff see this post.

    An Update: Chad can't make it. In an email to me he said it had something to do with a coded message found near the body of someone named Jacques Saunière. I had no idea what he meant but I wished him well anyway.

    More On Christine O'Donnell

    A clearer picture of Christine O'Donnell, that darling of the Tea Party, has been emerging since she defeated Mike Castle for the GOP nomination for Senate from the great state of Delaware.

    She's a creationist.

    New York Magazine had a piece out yesterday on her enlightened cosmological views. Have a taste:
    This was during one of our country's periodic debates over teaching creationism in schools. In a discussion moderated by anchor Miles O'Brien, O'Donnell squared off against Michael McKinney, a University of Tennessee professor of evolutionary biology. Not only was O'Donnell in favor of teaching creationism alongside evolution, but she wasn't even sure evolution was real.
    First there's this:
    Well, as the senator from Tennessee mentioned, evolution is a theory and it's exactly that. There is not enough evidence, consistent evidence to make it as fact, and I say that because for theory to become a fact, it needs to consistently have the same results after it goes through a series of tests. The tests that they put — that they use to support evolution do not have consistent results. Now too many people are blindly accepting evolution as fact. But when you get down to the hard evidence, it's merely a theory.
    Then there's this:
    Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that.
    She's against masturbation.

    From Talkingpointsmemo:
    O'Donnell, it seems, is opposed to masturbation, and considers looking at pornography akin to adultery. And back in the 90s, though [on the video] the hair was different and Joan Osborne's 90's mainstay "One Of Us" played in the background, O'Donnell maintained a similar stance: "The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. You can't masturbate without lust!"
    She's got a problem with homosexuality.

    From the dailybeast:
    Toward the end of the Clinton administration, she protested the appointment of James Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg, a posting the religious right opposed because Hormel was gay. “The SALT was concerned about Hormel’s ties to the pedophile-rights movement,” her website said, though there was not a shred of evidence behind the slur. In 1997, in a clip recently unearthed by Talking Points Memo, she appeared on C-SPAN, where, looking fresh, lovely, and innocent, she objected to AIDS sufferers being called “victims” because the disease is the product of their own actions. In an appearance on Fox in 2000, she exclaimed over the horrors of New York’s gay pride parade: “They’re getting away with nudity! They’re getting away with lasciviousness! They’re getting away with perversion!”
    On 'tother hand, one ex-aide of hers calls her a "complete fraud" and Bush's brain is on record saying she's said some "nutty things" and that she's unelectable.

    Teh crazie. Tea-Party Palin style.

    Announcement: PODCAMP

    Just a reminder - I'm moderating a panel discussion on the ethics of political blogging at this year's PodCamp.

    Here's the schedule.

    As you can see, we've got some local bloggers (Chad, Bram, Sue, Maria, Ms Mon and Me), a place (Room B - 421) and a time (Saturday at 3pm).

    See you there!!

    September 15, 2010

    Rendell calls PA Homeland Security "absolutely ludicrous" for tracking Marcellus Shale protests

    Via CNN:

    Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says he is appalled that the state's Office of Homeland Security, unbeknownst to him, had been compiling and circulating information about protesters at peaceful gatherings.

    Banging his fist on the podium Tuesday evening, a visibly angry Rendell called the practice "absolutely ludicrous."

    "Let me make this as clear as I can make it. Protesting against an idea, a principle, a process, is not a real threat against infrastructure," he said at a news conference. "Protesting is a God-given American right, a right that is in our Constitution, a right that is fundamental to all we believe in as Americans."
    A WTAE News report here includes video of Governor Ed Rendell apologizing for "what he calls the $125,000 waste of taxpayer dollars, spent to investigate the so-called alert."

    And, it wasn't just Marcellus Shale protests which were put on the official bulletin to law enforcement from Pennsylvania Homeland Security:

    Among the rallies that were mentioned in the lists were a candle light vigil against the oil company BP, a gay pride festival and protests against natural gas drilling.

    "I apologize to the Marcellus Shale protesters. I apologize to the taxpayers protesters. I apologize to the lesbian and gay Pride Festival. I apologize to every single name that was on the list," Rendell said.

    Another event whose protesters made the list was a rally in support of higher spending on public schools.

    "Supporting my education bill? That was on the list," he said incredulously.
    Ah yes, this is what happens when you give these clowns free reign -- everyone becomes suspect.

    But, back to Marcellus Shale...

    As far back as August 27th, there was a comment on this very blog by Gloria Forouzan of Lawrenceville Marcellus Action Group warning about Homeland Security's interest in those who oppose Marcellus Shale drilling:

    This morning I rec'd notice that Homeland Security's been watching anti Marcellus chatter on the internet all summer long...

    What a great use of our tax dollars.
    And on September 9th, the Philadelphia City Paper posted an email authored by Pennsylvania Homeland Security chief James Powers which in part stated:

    “We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies.”
    The email was mistakenly sent to someone who participated in anti-drilling forums.

    That same day, the Pittsburgh City Paper also posted a story at Chris Potter's Slag Heap blog about the Homeland Security "intelligence bulletin."

    The origin for the bulletin story was a piece at ProPublica on September 8th:

    Anti-drilling activists in the state say that public hearings and other events have been peaceful and that they see no evidence of violent opposition. Given the lack of evidence about "extremist" crimes, they say, the bulletin casts drilling opponents as criminals and threatens to stifle open debate.

    "It may very well be designed to chill peoples' very legitimate participation in public decision making," said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, a national group pressing for stronger environmental protections [3]. "If people who have concerns fear that they are going to be treated as a security threat they may very well be afraid to go and express their views."

    The advisory lists a series of public hearings on drilling permit issues across the state as potential flash points. It also mentions a Sept. 3 screening of the anti-drilling film "Gasland" in Philadelphia that went off without incident. Language describes "environmental activists and militants" on one side of the debate and "property owners, mining and drilling companies" on the other.

    Finally, the bulletin groups the public hearings and film screening with protest rallies for anarchist clubs focused on "evading law enforcement," and with a Muslim advocacy group's rally for the release of suspects in an alleged terror plot at Fort Dix, N.J.

    The advisory was sent to state law enforcement and local government groups, as well as businesses with a specific concern addressed in the bulletin. It was not intended to be distributed to the public.
    What other events were listed as needing observation? According to Chris Potter:

    These include such radical gatherings as a Pittsburgh City Council hearing on drilling slated for Sept. 13, and a zoning hearing in Upper St. Clair scheduled for Oct. 4.
    Participating in democracy -- what a radical notion!

    Here's a video from Monday's dangerous, dangerous protest:



    Obviously peacefully protesting out in full view on the very steps of City Hall and speaking at a public hearing constitutes crazy, militant terror activity.

    If you too desire to be among dangerous "environmental extremists" terrorist types, you might want to take militant action by joining the MarcellusProtest Facebook page (so very subversive to put their activities there) or visit the Marcellus Shale Protest website (because plotting in secret is so 9/10).

    UPDATE: Here's a thought: How frightening is it that the Pennsylvania Homeland Security chief mistakenly sent that email to "the other side." If they really believe that environmentalists are such security threats, wouldn't this be (in his mind) the equivalent of, oh say, cc'ing an al qaeda sympathizer on an email detailing how they're secretly tracking al qaeda events? What a putz!

    UPDATE: 2: Bob Mayo also did a story on the intelligence bulletin on September 9th on WTAE.

    You can see the intelligence bulletin on Pro Publica's site here.

    .

    September 14, 2010

    Anti-Altmire Ad

    Last night before heading to bed for some still jet-lagged sleep I saw on my TeeVee an anti-Altmire ad sponsored by a group called "Americans for Job Security."

    Pa2010 has the story and the ad:
    A conservative group that bills itself as business-friendly is running TV ads targeting Congressman Jason Altmire (D-4) and Democratic congressional candidate Bryan Lentz.

    The ads from Americans for Job Security criticizes Altmire for claiming to independent from the Democratic leadership, and Lentz for his spending votes in Harrisburg.
    So who's Americans for Job Security?Hard to say. According to its website its:
    Since our founding more than ten years ago Americans for Job Security (AJS) has been at the forefront of an explosion of the marketplace of ideas. During this time AJS has put forth a pro-growth, pro-jobs message to the American people.
    And from the mini-FAQ at that page:
    Who are your members? Our members are businesses, business leaders and entrepreneurs from around the country. AJS does not disclose or discuss its membership further than this. Too often politicians or the media define an organization or message not by the merits of the argument, but rather by the perception of the people associated with it. We would rather the people decide on merits instead of name-calling.
    Sourcewatch has some more:
    Americans for Job Security (AJS) spun off in the late 1990s from a group called The Coalition: Americans Working for Real Change, a group that had been formed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to counteract the extensive soft money spending by the AFL-CIO starting in the 1996 elections.

    Later in a FEC Complaint, Public Citizen wrote that AJS is a "sham front group that would be better called Corporations Influencing Elections ... masquerading as a non-profit to conceal its funders and the scope of its electioneering activities,"the Center for Responsive Politics wrote in April 2007. Incorporated October 1997 in Virginia, AJS was described by the Center as "pro-Republican", "pro-business", and "established to directly counter labor's influence".
    In a word: Astroturf.

    Oh and sourcewatch has this funny:
    In December 2005, Sen. Rick Santorum ran an interne that used the same ad footage as that in an ad "placed on TV stations" by Americans for Job Security. Blogger mantooth of The Square Circuit Blog commented that "this wouldn't be news, of course, if it were not borderline unethical. It seems clear that two ads--one for Santorum directly, and one in support of Santorum--that used EXACTLY THE SAME FOOTAGE were probably cooked up by the same people. But no! say the parties. Just a fantastic coincidence."

    "According to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton NEWS-LEADER, 'Michael Dubke, president of the Republican-leaning third-party group, and John Brabender, Santorum's media consultant, each denied that the two sides had collaborated in any way. They each said it was a coincidence they used the same stock footage in their respective ads'," mantooth related.
    Good to know who the players are.

    Good to be home, by the way.

    September 13, 2010

    Paying attention to the men behind the curtain

    You're all reading Rich Lord's three-part series on "The Network" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, right? (Part 1, Part 2, Illustration of who's who)

    If you haven't yet, LEAVE THIS BLOG IMMEDIATELY AND CLICK ON THE LINKS ABOVE.

    It's the Theory of Everything on how Pittsburgh works -- or in some cases -- works badly.

    It explains how and why things get done in this city because it follows the money. For example:
    In March 2008, an official who has since left the city sent Mr. Grattan a list of more than four dozen people who had done business with, or sought to do business with, or asked for help from the city or its agencies. Among them were Mr. Ferchill, several other developers, engineers, architects, contractors, and sports team executives.

    Asked whether he was aware of the transmission of the list, Mr. Ravenstahl said, "I don't know what you're talking about, so I don't know."

    The mayor held several political fundraisers in 2008, including one in May and a November event headlined by former President Bill Clinton. Two days before the latter event, the mayor's campaign paid Mr. Grattan $9,500, according to its filings with the Allegheny County Elections Division, for "travel & event deposit." Filings indicate that Mr. Grattan later reimbursed the campaign $6,300.

    Between the date the list was sent to Mr. Grattan, and 2008's end, the mayor's campaign got checks tied to 30 of the people on the list -- usually directly from them, other times from their business associates, businesses, or political action committees to which they were connected. Members of Mr. Ferchill's firm, for instance, donated $5,000 to Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign at a May 2008 fundraiser, adding to the $8,000 that firm members gave his campaign in 2006.

    The mayor's receipt of contributions from more than half of the people on the list is "a very powerful statement of the power of campaign contributions," said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause PA, a watchdog group which has pushed for years for statewide campaign contribution limits. "In an ideal world, that should never occur."

    [snip]

    "Decisions aren't made to benefit Pittsburgh," Mr. Peduto said, "but instead [based on] how to make contractors into contributors, and contributors into contractors."
    The only funny bit in this tragedy so far? The players' reactions -- those who actually did respond -- to the idea of The Network:
    "Define for me who would be involved out of the Foerster era," said former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala Sr., whose brother, Charles, has been involved with finance, development and energy savings companies. "I was part of [the Foerster administration], but I left the administration, and went on the Supreme Court in 1982. ... I'm kind of lost. I don't know what you would mean as far as impact."

    [snip]

    Charles Zappala declined to be interviewed, saying reporting on a network and its history "makes no sense to me."

    [snip]

    Asked about Mr. Verbanac's role with his administration, Mr. Ravenstahl said the reporter was "confused, and I'm not going to participate in your pursuit of something that doesn't exist. I'm insulted by it, to be honest with you.
    What's actually lost, confused and making no sense in all this is the ideal of Good Government.

    I can't wait for part three.
    .