We are the 99%

November 29, 2010

“This is not a story.”


According to Lil Mayor Luke, the fact that his four city police bodyguards are "on pace to earn $200,000 in overtime for the past two years" is "not a story."

So, according to Ravenstahl:

Even though the mayor has threatened the city with police layoffs, the $200,000 in overtime pay "is not a story."

Despite stopping the highly successful sweeps on the South Side after only four weeks with no reason given, the $200,000 in overtime pay "is not a story."

And, while it's completely inexplicable that there could be any overtime when his bodyguards work in shifts, the $200,000 in overtime pay "is not a story."
Hat Tip to Ginny @ That's Church for picking up on the story which most missed when it was broadcast on the eve of Thanksgiving and thanks to KDKA for their original report!
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November 28, 2010

The Braintrust Spins on Climage Change. Again.

From today's Sunday Pops at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
New research suggests that all those predictions of markedly higher sea levels because of melting Antarctic ice sheets are wrong. In fact, the research says sea levels will fall — because of decreased gravitational pull and the fact that the bedrock will rise as the weight of the ice drops. The study comes out of Harvard, much to the chagrin, we're sure, of the Chicken Little crowd. Honey, throw another log on the fire — it's still cold outside.
But let's take a closer look, my droogs.

Here's the study's nearly incomprehensible summary:
Climate change could potentially destabilize marine ice sheets, which would affect projections of future sea-level rise. Specifically, an instability mechanism has been predicted for marine ice sheets such as the West Antarctic ice sheet that rest on reversed bed slopes, whereby ice-sheet thinning or rising sea level leads to irreversible retreat of the grounding line. However, existing analyses of this instability mechanism have not accounted for deformational and gravitational effects that lead to a sea-level fall at the margin of a rapidly shrinking ice sheet. Here we present a suite of predictions of gravitationally self-consistent sea-level change following grounding-line migration. Our predictions vary the initial ice-sheet size and also consider the contribution to sea-level change from various subregions of the simulated ice sheet. Using these results, we revisit a canonical analysis of marine-ice-sheet stability and demonstrate that gravity and deformation-induced sea-level changes local to the grounding line contribute a stabilizing influence on ice sheets grounded on reversed bed slopes. We conclude that accurate treatments of sea-level change should be incorporated into analyses of past and future marine-ice-sheet dynamics.
You will note, of course, that the study does NOT deny Climate change. It doesn't deny the temperature rising. It doesn't deny the ice sheet melting. Scaife's braintrust only wants you to make an artifical connection: the sea water won't be rising even though the "hoaxers" have said so - this Harvard study thus undermines another part of "global warming hoax" so we can be even more skeptical of the rest.

But does the study say what the braintrust says it says?

No.

Take a look at some of the press following the report. Like this one from New Scientist:
The vast ice sheets of the Antarctic may be more stable than we thought, because a key piece of physics has been overlooked.

Glaciologists have long worried that the West Antarctic ice sheet will collapse over the next few centuries, raising sea levels dramatically. At present the ice sheet is grounded on underwater islands, which insulate some of the ice from the melting effect of the seawater upon which the rest of the sheet floats. But because the ice has started to melt because of climate change, more water is probably flowing underneath the sheet over the surface of the islands, accelerating its destruction.

The ice sheet has a defence mechanism, however. As it melts, sea levels around it will fall, say Natalya Gomez and Jerry Mitrovica of Harvard University and colleagues. That is counterintuitive, because the ice sheet will release extra water into the sea – but because the mass of ice has shrunk, its gravitational pull on the seawater will be weaker. Also, the bedrock will rise up as the weight of ice on it drops.

"You get a fall in sea level within 2000 kilometres of the ice sheet," Mitrovica says. This means there will be less water sloshing around the sheet's base, so it will last longer. "It will slow down the retreat," says Gomez. [emphases added.]
So this is a much more local thing than the Trib wants you to believe. Look again. The study is asserting something the Trib wants you to doubt: the temperature is rising.

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

When I was a boy in New England (where you can find the best pizza on the planet) every year on Thanksgiving day it was a tradition for at least one New York radio station to play one particular 18 minute piece of music - some time around noon.

This piece of music.

Lyrics are here.

You can buy a copy here.
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2010

Hey, Remember That "Hockey Stick" Graph?

The report debunking it was plagiarized. How's that for academic integrity?

Much like how the Tribune-Review editorial board has yet to (as far as I know) even mention that NOAA has concluded that global warming is "undeniable", I am not expecting my good friends on Scaife's braintrust to cover this story any time soon.

It's from the USAToday and it's about that report that "debunked" the Michael Mann's "Hockey Stick" graph. Turns out things ain't looking so good for the climate deniers:
An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say.

Review of the 91-page report by three experts contacted by USA TODAY found repeated instances of passages lifted word for word and what appear to be thinly disguised paraphrases.
The report, by the way, is the so-called "Wegman Report" commissioned by Congressman Joe Barton. He's the guy who apologized to BP for the Guv'ment's handling of the oil spill in the Gulf.

USAToday reporter Vergano does toss the skeptics a bone anyway with his next paragraph:
The charges of plagiarism don't negate one of the basic premises of the report — that climate scientists used poor statistics in two widely noted papers.
This is a non sequitur, of course, because even if Mann et al used "poor statistics" it didn't make any difference at all as the temperature still went up. Vergano points out a few paragraphs later:
A 2006 report by the National Research Council (NRC), which examines scientific disputes under a congressional charter, largely validated Mann, Bradley and the other climate scientists, according to Texas A&M's Gerald North, the panel's head. The NRC report found that Wegman report-style criticisms of the type of statistics used in 1998 and 1999 papers were reasonable but beside the point, as many subsequent studies had reproduced their finding that the 20th century was likely the warmest one in centuries.
Here's the irony:
But the allegations come as some in Congress call for more investigations of climate scientists like the one that produced the Wegman report.

"It kind of undermines the credibility of your work criticizing others' integrity when you don't conform to the basic rules of scholarship," Virginia Tech plagiarism expert Skip Garner says.
If you don't think this is a big deal, just imagine what would happen in the rightwing noise machine (and their enablers in the mainstream media) if the shoe were on the other foot. If an influential report supporting climate science were found to be plagiarized.

I am sure Joe Barton would demand hearings on it.

This time? Probably not.

November 22, 2010

More On GOP Scientific Ignorance

Let me say that there is no automatic link connecting the scientifically ignorant to the politically conservative. There are many conservatives who've not sipped the "global warming is a hoax" kool-aid. Some even here in the the US.

Here's one, Sherwood Boehlert:
Why do so many Republican senators and representatives think they are right and the world's top scientific academies and scientists are wrong? I would like to be able to chalk it up to lack of information or misinformation.

I can understand arguments over proposed policy approaches to climate change. I served in Congress for 24 years. I know these are legitimate areas for debate. What I find incomprehensible is the dogged determination by some to discredit distinguished scientists and their findings.

In a trio of reports released in May, the prestigious and nonpartisan National Academy concluded that "a strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems." Our nation's most authoritative and respected scientific body couldn't make it any clearer or more conclusive.
In his op-ed, Boehlert links to this piece from the National Journal which beings talking about a scientifically literate politician:
When British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited the U.S. last week, he placed combating climate change near the very top of the world's To Do list.

"Climate change is perhaps the 21st century's biggest foreign-policy challenge," Hague declared in a New York City speech. "An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity." The danger was no longer just distant thunder, he suggested, warning that the recent devastating floods in Pakistan heralded the sort of extreme events that will become more common in a warmer world. "While no one weather event can ever be linked with certainty to climate change," he said, "the broad patterns of abnormality seen this year are consistent with climate-change models."

William Hague is not a holdover from the left-leaning Labor Government that British voters ousted last spring. He's not even from the centrist Liberal Democrats who are governing in a coalition with the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron. Hague is one of Cameron's predecessors as Conservative Party leader.
And Hague isn't the only European conservative to get the science right:
Just for the record, when the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences last reviewed the data this spring, it concluded: "A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems." Not only William Hague but such other prominent European conservatives as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have embraced that widespread scientific conviction and supported vigorous action.
It's just in the GOP that scientific illiteracy seems to be a default idea:
Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is "no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of."

It will be difficult for the world to move meaningfully against climate disruption if the United States does not. And it will be almost impossible for the U.S. to act if one party not only rejects the most common solution proposed for the problem (cap-and-trade) but repudiates even the idea that there is a problem to be solved.
But this is all moot. Know why? Because Congressman Shimkus said that because God promised Noah He would not to destroy after the flood (Genesis 8:21-22).

Science, schmience! That's the GOP party line.

November 21, 2010

The Trib Editorial Board Lies About Torture

In an op-ed at the today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Scaife's braintrust omits a fundamental fact in it's discussion on the Ghailani verdict.

We've written about this before but I want to dive straight into the Trib's deception:
Conviction of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee linked to al-Qaida's 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on just one of 285 counts -- conspiracy to destroy U.S. property -- proves the naivete (or is it idiocy?) of the Obama administration trying suspected terrorists in civilian courts.

The judge's exclusion of a key witness -- because that witness had been identified while Ahmed Ghailani, 36, was in a secret CIA prison where harsh interrogation techniques were used -- hampered the prosecution in federal court in Lower Manhattan.
The reason Trib wants you to believe that the reason that "key witness" was excluded (because "that witness had been identified while Ahmed Ghailani, 36, was in a secret CIA prison where harsh interrogation techniques were used") is where their deception is found.

And how do I know this? Let's take a look at Judge Kaplan's order. First the set-up:
The question presented by this motion is whether the government may use in this criminal trial the testimony of a witness whom the government obtained only through information it allegedly extracted by physical and psychological abuse of the defendant. The government has elected not to litigate the details of what was done to the defendant. Instead, it has asked the Court to assume for purposes of the motion that everything the defendant said was coerced in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly this decision, at the government's behest, prooeeds on that premise. (page 4)
Kaplan goes onto say that Ghailani was subjected to "enhanced interrogation methods and other allegedly abusive treatment" and that Ghailani gave them the information that led them to the "key witness" Hussein Abebe." On top of that, the then government wanted to call Abebe to testify against Ghailani. (page 5). The judge concluded that that's a violation of the 5th Amendment.

Now look back at how the Trib characterized it. They left out the part that it was Ghailani who identified the Abebe AND they left out the part that he did it after being tortured enhancedly interrogated. All you get from the Trib is that Abebe was identified while Ghailani was at a place where people were being tortured enhancedly interrogated.

How's that for deception? You'd like to think that a "news" organization wouldn't lie to you that blatantly but this is the Trib op-ed page where honesty is a rare commodity.

But the braintrust isn't done. No sirree Bob! Here's the next paragraph:
Thus, an indisputable miscarriage of justice resulted from court-granted protection that Mr. Ghailani -- an enemy combatant, not a U.S. citizen -- didn't deserve and wouldn't have received from a military tribunal at Gitmo.
They're saying that had Ghailani been tried in a military tribunal the coerced information would have been allowed and the terrorist would have been found guilty of even more crimes.

Not so fast.

Take a look at this footnote from Kaplan's order (h/t to mediamatters):
It is very far from clear that Abebe's testimony would be admissible if Ghailani were being tried by military commission, even without regard to the question whether the Fifth Amendment would invalidate any more forgiving provisions of the rules of evidence otherwise applicable in such a proceeding.

Military commissions are governed by the Military Commissions Act, 10 USC 948a et seq. (the "MCA"). Evidence in such proceedings is governed by the Military Commission Rules of Evidence ("MCRE"). U.S. DEP'T OF DEFENSE, MANUAL FOR MILITARY COMMISSIONS (2010 ed.).

MCA 948r(a) and MCRE 304 preclude or restrict the use of "statements obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," and evidence derived threrefrom, and could require exclusion of Abebe's testimony. Even if they did not, the Constitution might do so, even in a military commission proceeding.

Mediamatters even links back to the MCA to do something the Trib refuses to do - show the evidence supporting their position:
No statement, obtained by the use of torture, or by cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment (as defined by section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 2000dd)), whether or not under color of law, shall be admissible in a trial by military commission, except against a person accused of torture or such treatment as evidence that the statement was made.
None of which, of course, made it into the Trib's editorial.

Such a short editorial. So much misinformation. Par for the course for Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review.

November 20, 2010

More On Bush's Torture (Mayor Of London Has A Warning)

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has a warning of sorts for George W Bush: You may be arrested if you come here.

Take a look:
It is not yet clear whether George W Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker. It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots. The real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.

One moment he might be holding forth to a great perspiring tent at Hay-on-Wye. The next moment, click, some embarrassed member of the Welsh constabulary could walk on stage, place some handcuffs on the former leader of the Free World, and take him away to be charged. Of course, we are told this scenario is unlikely. Dubya is the former leader of a friendly power, with whom this country is determined to have good relations. But that is what torture-authorising Augusto Pinochet thought. And unlike Pinochet, Mr Bush is making no bones about what he has done.
All this because Bush admitted to authorizing torture.

Johnson goes through the usual analysis of torture; it's incompatible with US and international law, it doesn't work, it's "results" are inadmissible in court because those results are usually unreliable.

The Mayor of London ends with this:
How could America complain to the Burmese generals about the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, when a president authorised torture? How can we talk about human rights in Beijing, when our number one ally and friend seems to be defending this kind of behaviour? I can’t think of any other American president, in my lifetime, who would have spoken in this way. Mr Bush should have remembered the words of the great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who said in 1863 that “military necessity does not admit of cruelty”. Damn right.
Damn right.

UPDATE: I forgot the link to the Boris Johnson quote. It's fixed now.

Oh The Things You Find, When You Dig The Trib (A Brief Addendum)

As an addendum to the previous blog post. According to news reports the California suit was filed by University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor Kris Kobach.

From the Times:
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard with a doctorate from Oxford University, Mr. Kobach earned his law degree from Yale.
So presumably he's one of those Ivy League elites Sarah Palin's been warnin' us about for a while - one of those "experts" who think they're better'n the rest of us, who talk down to regular folks like us because we never went to Harvard or Yale or Oxford.

He's also Of Counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute. It was for the IRLI that Kobach brought suit. According to their website:
IRLI is the public interest law affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
We've stumbled across FAIR before, haven't we?

Yes, we have.

Did you know that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled FAIR a hate group?

Did you know that foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife have given FAIR about $3.4 million over the last 25 years?

Small world, ain't it?

Oh The Things You Find, When You Dig The Trib

From today's Op-Ed page:
The California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that illegal immigrants may continue to be eligible for in-state tuition rates at the state's colleges and universities rather than pay the higher rates charged to those who live out of state.

Thus began a Nov. 15 Los Angeles Times blog post about a ruling in a case whose very existence shows how ridiculously off-base the terms of America's immigration debate are these days.

The court upheld a California law that allows in-state college tuition for illegal aliens who attend California high schools for at least three years and graduate there. It ruled that law doesn't conflict with a federal ban on residency-based educational benefits for illegals.[italics in original]
Here's that LA Times blog post, by the way. The Trib dutifully quoted the first paragraph. Know what happens in the second?

Here it is:
In a ruling written by Justice Ming W. Chin, one of the panel's more conservative members, the state high court said a California law that guarantees the lower tuition for students who attend California high schools for at least three years and graduate does not conflict with a federal prohibition on giving illegal immigrants educational benefits based on residency. [emphasis added.]
Huh. The Trib used the term "Left Coast Supremes" - a pun of sorts. Because if you look at a standard map of the US, California is on the left side of the page. The Trib is punning that the Supreme Court of California is also on the left politically.

It certainly is compared to the arch-conservativeness of Scaife's braintrust. But then again so is most of America.

In any event, who is Justice Ming Chin? He was initially appointed to the bench by former Governor George Deukmejian (a Republican) and elevated to the Supreme Court by former Governor Pete Wilson (another Republican). Before that this commie pinko soft-on-immigration liberal was a Captain in the US Army in Vietnam where he was awarded a Bronze Star.

You can read his bio here, if you don't believe me.

But what of the opinion itself? You can read that here. The interesting paragraph, it seems to me, is this one:
This court has received many briefs making policy arguments for and against section 68130.5's tuition exemption. We have received arguments that section 68130.5 affords deserving students educational opportunities that would not otherwise be available and, conversely, arguments that it flouts the will of Congress, wastes taxpayers' money, and encourages illegal immigration. But this court does not make policy. Whether Congress's prohibition or the Legislature's exemption is good policy is not for us to say. Rather, we must decide the legal question of whether California's exemption violates Congress's prohibition or is otherwise invalid. We must decide the statutory question by employing settled methods of statutory construction.
Which is, of course, another way of saying that had they're saying that they decided the case based on policy they'd be guilty of (now wait for it) JUDICIAL ACTIVISM.

But that's precisely what the Trib wants.

It's not their job to judge the merit of the law, just whether it conflicts with the federal law. And in this case, they found that it didn't.

Since when does the Trib favor JUDICIAL ACTIVISM?

That's right - only when it suits their right wing agenda.

November 19, 2010

New TSA Grab & Grope Screening Posse Announced


It's possible that I may have my stories mixed up.

Be that as it may, if you have objections to the TSA's Naked Photos Vs. Grab & Grope policy, you can voice your complaints/sign a petition at the ACLU website.

Another Reason Why Torture Is A Bad Idea

Take a look at the Ghailani Verdict:
Fierce criticism erupted Thursday over the split verdict on terrorism charges against the first Guantánamo detainee to be tried in civilian court, casting new doubts on the Obama administration’s goal of trying cases against other prisoners in the civilian criminal justice system.

The defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, was convicted Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan of conspiring in the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa, and he faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. But Republican critics roundly denounced the fact that a jury acquitted him on all but one of more than 280 charges — including every murder count — as a sign that such terrorism detainees should be prosecuted only before a military commission.

That portrayal of the verdict as a disaster was hotly contested by the administration and other supporters of civilian trials. They argued that the system had shown that a terrorist could be convicted and sentenced to a stiff prison term even after a judge excluded evidence tainted by coercive interrogations during the Bush administration.
See that? They euphemized "torture" to "coercive interrogations." When they do it it's torture; when we do it it's "coercive interrogations." Damned lib-rul media!

So what's the problem?
Many observers attributed any weakness in the prosecution’s case to the fact that the Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of United States District Court in Manhattan, who presided over the trial, refused to allow prosecutors to introduce testimony from an important witness, who was discovered after interrogators used coercive techniques on Mr. Ghailani.
So evidence based on torture was deemed inadmissible. That, of course enraged the law and order types on the right. Military tribunals wouldn't have this problem, they said.

Not so:
But proponents of civilian trials noted that in a footnote of his order rejecting the witness, Judge Kaplan pointed to restrictions against evidence obtained by torture in military trials and strongly suggested that a military judge would have excluded the testimony, too.
So, apart from the immorality of Bush's torture, apart from the illegality of Bush's torture, there's another reason why torture is bad. Bad, bad, bad.

From Andrew Sullivan:
The only thing to say about the remarkable acquittals on almost all counts for a tortured prisoner of war is that torture renders convictions all but impossible. By throwing aside all norms for prisoner treatment and setting up an apparatus of systemic torture, Bush and Cheney destroyed critical evidence that could have been used by the prosecution to convict. [emphases added.]
In their zeal to "git 'em!" Bush and Cheney made things much much more complicated. They could have just followed the law but they didn't. They broke it. And now the only alternative is detaining the accused terrorists indefinitely without trial. Another insult to our Constitutional system.

This is the Bush/Cheney legacy: torture followed by indefinite detention. So much for the rule of law.

Republicans Wage War On Christmas!

Republicans hate Christmas. They hate it so much that they don't want millions of Americans to be able to celebrate it. No toy train for little Johnny. No pretty dolly for sweet Sue. No Christmas turkey or ham. No Christmas lights. Maybe they think because Santa wears red and has a beard that he's a Communist.

There's no other conclusion to draw.

By voting no to extend emergency unemployment to millions of Americans during the holiday season at the same time that they refuse to extend tax cuts to millions more middle class Americans (unless they can give themselves huge tax breaks) they are saying no to holiday cheer and waging war on Christmas.

Instead of kids writing a letter to Santa this year, they need to write to Congress and ask them why they want St. Nick to skip their house.

[If Democrats can't sell this they don't deserve to be in office.]
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November 18, 2010

Found Object (Message To The Tea Party)

From Alternate Brain:
Message to the Tea Party - What took you so long to get angry?

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq .

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq .

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans , drown.

You didn't get mad when we gave people who had more money than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion dollars in tax breaks.

You didn't get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.

You didn't get mad when Federal regulators looked the other way while banks and Wall Street reaped billions writing faulty mortgages, short-sold the debt and even wagered that the debts would fail.

You didn't get mad when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their lives because they had no health insurance.

You didn't get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.

No.....You finally got mad

When a black man was elected President and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.
Yea. What took you?

Pass it on.

More On Bush's Torture Crimes (The UN's New Rapporteur Chimes In)

From Reuters:
The new U.N. torture expert urged the United States on Tuesday to conduct a full investigation into torture under the Bush administration and prosecute offenders as well as senior officials who ordered it.
And:
"The United States has a duty to investigate every act of torture. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much in the way of accountability," said [Juan Ernesto] Mendez, himself a former torture victim, in the wide-ranging interview at the United Nations in Geneva.

"There has to be a more serious inquiry into what happened and by whose orders... It doesn't need to be seen to be partisan or vindictive, just an obligation to follow where the evidence leads," added Mendez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture.
And what is a "UN special rapporteur"?

From the UN's website:
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1985/33, decided to appoint an expert, a special rapporteur, to examine questions relevant to torture. The mandate was extemded for 3 years by Human Rights Council resolution 8/8 in June 2008. It covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The mandate comprises three main activities:

1) transmitting urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture;
2) undertaking fact-finding country visits; and
3) submitting annual reports on activities, the mandate and methods of work to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
So Mendez, aside expertize gained from being a victim of torture himself, is also an officially mandated expert on torture, what it is and where it's taking place.

Recently Mendez was interviewed by Australian reporter Mark Colvin. When asked if there was a question as to whether waterboarding is torture, Mendez answered:
I don't think there is any question, any serious question. I mean it's a question of severity. If you think that waterboarding is not severe mistreatment you don't really know what waterboarding is. But you know if just with the definition that it's designed to create a sensation of asphyxia, you can tell that it's severe. There's just no other way.

I mean if you then redefine upwards the severity standard to say that it's only severe if it's organ failure or death, then you know you're really very clearly distorting the sense of the words and you know words have to be interpreted in treaty language, they have to be interpreted in their plain meaning and their plain meaning couldn't be more clear in the case of waterboarding.
Then when asked if waterboarding is a war crime, he answered:
Well it can be depending on the situation in which it happens. I mean it's a war crime if it's in a battle field scenario. If, you know, the enemy soldier is arrested and instead of just allowing him to say name and serial number, as it were, you try to interrogate him under torture. Then of course it's a war crime. But in other circumstances, you know in law enforcement circumstances it's an international crime. Whether it's a war crime or crime against humanity it doesn't matter. The single act of torture is an international crime.
And then there's another problem with not prosecuting the torture. Mendez asks:
How are we going to tell a small country that it has the obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish torture when states with all the wherewithal and all the ability and all the human resources and intelligence and skill to do this, decide not to do it?
Y'know like if Iran tortures someone then how can the US claim any sort of moral high ground to criticize when we're allowing a our own torturers to go unprosecuted?

Meanwhile, here's something you won't soon see on the fair and balanced Fox "News" channel:
Protesters called for George W. Bush to be arrested for his role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as he opened his presidential library in Dallas.

Demonstrators staked hundreds of white crosses into the ground to represent troops killed in both wars and carried banners saying 'torture is illegal' and 'arrest Bush'.
Huh. I missed that even in the "Mainstream" American news. I wonder why.

Torture is an war crime. Bush allowed the torture. Prosecute the torture. Prosecute Bush.

November 17, 2010

More On Bush's Torture (A View From The Outside)

Now that George Bush has admitted to torture and now (it seems) that the Obama administration is just as reluctant to prosecute (or even investigate) those war crimes as ever, the responsibility just now may fall to our overseas allies.

From Rue 89:
A total of 145 other countries, including Canada, are signatories to the U.N. Convention Against Torture. And all signatories have committed to enforcing its provisions, even against offenders residing in other territories.

Therefore, with varying degrees of success, proceedings have been initiated in Spain and Belgium against foreign heads of state, notably the Chilean Pinochet. Water boarding is now considered a form of torture worldwide, and those responsible must be prosecuted.
And:
In fact, a court in Madrid last January opened proceedings against Bush advisors who wrote memos illegally authorizing the use of torture. The case is pending, but the issue was pursued precisely because no American authority took action against the officials responsible.

It's a safe bet that George W. Bush is now in the crosshairs of the Spain tribunal. If it were to condemn him, even in absentia, he would then be subject to the mutual extradition treaty in force among 24 European countries.

In other words, Bush couldn't travel to any of these countries without incurring the risk of being deported to Spain to serve out his sentence.
No one is above the law - not even presidents. That was the case when it came to lying about blowjobs, why isn't it the case when war crimes are involved?

Torture is illegal. Prosecute the torture. It's simple.

What Krugman Said

Krugman is it completely right:
The roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America’s problem as one of process, not substance — we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.

This promise of transcendence may have been good general election politics, although even that is questionable: people forget how close the presidential race was at the beginning of September 2008, how worried Democrats were until Sarah Palin and Lehman Brothers pushed them over the hump. But the real question was whether Mr. Obama could change his tune when he ran into the partisan firestorm everyone who remembered the 1990s knew was coming. He could do uplift — but could he fight?

So far the answer has been no.
Krugman posits that it's Obama's habit of "negotiating with himself" before negotiating with Congress that's the culprit.

Here's the thing: given the animosity the Right has for the president, given how their leaders have stated publicly that they want to shut down every administration proposal, how DO you negotiate with a party that wants to kill your agenda.

Let them kill half of it?

Krugman's right. Obama should fight, he should be fighting and he should have fought more.

November 16, 2010

RootsCampPA

I've been meaning to blog on this for some time.

An astute reader sent me a link to RootsCampPA:
Hello Pennsylvania! Are you ready to keep changing the world? It's time for a full debriefing after the election and to ORGANIZE the ORGANIZERS!

Are you ready to learn and teach? Share and Network? Upgrade your skills and effectiveness? Be Re-inspired? Oh yes, it's time!

We want to see and hear from folks from all across the state of Pennsylvania who've been working on progressive issues and with progressive, electoral campaigns! That means you, Joe Sestak and Dan Onorato Campaigns! That means you, organizers from Marcellus Shale, Healthcare Reform, Pennsylvania Fair Housing, Greening, Environmental Justice and Historic Preservation, Jordan Miles to AFL-CIO (who brought us Michael Moore and Capitalism: A Love Story to Pittsburgh) to the G-20 Activists engaging in Citizen Journalism to highlight police brutality to those working on the Jordan Miles case to highlight the same, to those working on Women's Empowerment, Moms Rising and Fatherhood Support, to organizing around Veterans and Entrepreneurship, legislation around casinos, Marriage Equality, to Educational Reform and Equal Pay!
Date and Location info:
Nov. 20-21
Pennsylvania

One Hope Square
1901 Centre Ave
Historic Hill District
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Email RootsCampPA@gmail.com for more info.

Americans Can Be Sooo Dumb!

Here's some stuff floating around the toilet bowl of our national discourse (and obviously wrong) but believed to be right by a whole mess of people.

From Alternet:
  • Polling data during and after last week’s midterm elections suggested that many Americans genuinely believe President Obama has raised their taxes -- even though the reality is that our president actually lowered them for most of us. This means that people trust pundits like Rush Limbaugh, a major force behind spreading that lie, over the numbers on their own tax returns.
  • Another recent phenomenon? Half of new Congressmen don’t believe in the reality of global warming. It’s not that they don’t just disagree on the source or the severity of the problem. They flat out don’t think the world is getting warmer--despite the evidence outside their windows.
  • Nearly one-fifth of Americans think Obama is a Muslim. Thanks, Fox news, for acting like this was a matter of opinion, not fact.
And so on. There's Sarah Palin's "Death Panels" and how few people accept Evolution as science. Lotsa people believe in ghosts and astrology, too.

Newsweek had a similar story some time back.

How civilized can we be if so many of us believe in such drivel?

November 15, 2010

Ruth Ann, Read Carefully

Take a look at today's column from P-G columnist Ruth Ann Dailey. The title of the column gives hint to what's inside:
Bad apples vs. good eggs: the power of one
The column posits an eternal struggle between the few bad apples, "the one person who..." and the greater community ("the good eggs") that has to fix the damage that bad apple caused.

She starts with an anecdote about jury duty and how the day was upended "all because one idiot phoned in a false threat."

Here's the core of her piece - it follows immediately:
It only takes one. One person, one moment, one stupid decision. It only takes one to mess things up for dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of other people.
She reiterates the point later on:
A relative handful of no-goodniks regularly screw up life for everyone else, and an unwritten law of the universe seems to be that the efforts of many are required to counteract each lone destructive act.
NOW look at her examples of "one person" whose actions messed things up for lots others:
We are near the end of a decade shattered by the violence that can be wrought, in modern times, by just one man willing to blow himself up for a cause.
One man - a suicide bomber. Obviously bad. She says a paragraph or so down the page:
We were there [in jury duty] because, in each criminal case, one person was charged with hurting another, acting in violation of laws written to protect all of us.
Another singular person - an accused criminal. Society has to correct itself for the misbehavior of that one person violating the rest of us.

Ruth Ann talks to a woman while waiting for jury duty:
But where she lives, decades of successful revitalization are beginning to crumble under the onslaught of drunken revelers.

Thousands live in her community and many thousands more pass through every day, bringing the benefits of commerce. But listening to a street brawl each weekend or stepping out the front door into someone's vomit once a month has longtime residents beginning to flee to quieter corners of the city.
The point is clear. There's that one person (or small group of people) who screws things up for the rest of us and then there's us.

So what should we make of this paragraph dropped in the middle of the compositional fabric of her column?
We were summoned to serve just six days after a historical election, a midcourse correction for an administration swept into power because of the charismatic promise of one man.
Guess Who? It's Obama!

Ruth Ann places The President of The United States among the lone terrorists, lone criminals, the lone vomiters on innocent people's doorsteps, to show how such no-goodniks need to be corrected by "We the people."

She even brings another president in to make her point:
Just as George Washington refused to be made king, our founders were wary enough of human inclinations that they designed a system of government to check the power of any individual.

Washington probably wouldn't look too fondly on Washington, D.C.'s unvetted czars. He and his peers probably would've been pretty skeptical that any one person could stop the rise of the oceans or cause the planet to heal, either, but here's a notion they'd endorse: We are the ones we've been waiting for. We the people.
And you thought the column was about jury duty and the value of civic involvement when it in fact it's all about how bad Obama is. And how good "we" were to stop him.

Subtle, Ruth Ann. Very subtle.

UPDATE: I forgot to link to Dailey's column. It's been corrected.

November 14, 2010

How The Right Wing Noise Machine Works

I guess this may have to be an ongoing series.

It's long been known that Richard Mellon Scaife has funded large swaths of the right wing media - from the Heritage Foundation to his ownership of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He funds the think tanks and then his paper reports on what those think tanks say - and all with no mention whatsoever about the Scaife money funding both sides.

A few days ago, it was about Ilya Somin. Today, it's about Paul Kengor:

Paul Kengor's new book, "DUPES: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century," is a masterful history of how many progressives have unwittingly aided some of America's most dangerous adversaries. However, history is a process and the same dynamic is at work today among our most powerful leaders. Fortunately, we now have an active universe of commentators and media outlets that seek to inform and educate us about the perils we now face with power in the hands of modern-day "dupes."

So who's this "Paul Kengor? He actually had a piece in the Trib recently. It was on Juan Williams and touched on NPR's "hypocrisy" for not firing Nina Totenberg "for wishing AIDS upon the family of the late Jesse Helms." (Actually the piece is a reprint from The American Thinker - where the author of the piece, Ed Lasky, is the news editor.  Small world, huh?)

From this blog post we learn some context of Totenberg's "wish."  It was from 1995 and Helms was at that point holding up the reauthorization of the Ryan White Act because he was disgusted by the image of men having anal sex.  How much more human suffering would have happened had he succeeded in stopping the reauthorization?  Totenberg catches flack for her rather inartful statement but Kegnor is silent on the disgusting Helms himself and the pain and death the Senator from South Carolina was himself wishing on a lot of other human beings.

Interesting.

Back to Paul Kengor and the right wing noise machine.

If you do just a little digging, you'll find the connections.  For instance Kengor is on the "Board of Advisors" of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.  About 87% of that institute's funding comes from none other than Richard Mellon Scaife.

The book itself is published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.  And what's the ISI?  According to the mediamatters.org:

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) is an educational organization based in Delaware. Founded in 1953, ISI strives to educate for liberty and promote a set of principles deemed the principles of freedom. These principles include limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, rule of law, free market economy, and Judeo-Christian moral norms.
The ISI has received about $10.4 million over the last 25 years or so from the foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife.

Media Matters has more:
ISI sponsors the Collegiate Network, an organization that supports right-leaning publications on many prestigious college campuses. The organization also has its own publishing imprint, ISI Books, which has published the work of more conservative authors like William F. Buckley, Michael Barone, and L. Brent Bozell. The organization is chaired by Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., who is also president of the Heritage Foundation. Major donors include the Castle Rock, Carthage Scaife, Olin, and Bradley Foundations. [emphasis added.]
Again, small world, huh?  Paul Kengor, advisee to the Scaife-funded Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, has a book published by the Scaife-funded Intercollegiate Studies Institute and now he's getting some free publicity for the book on the pages of the Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

There's some more minor stuff here, as well.  Ed Feulner, president of the Scaife-funded Heritage Foundation has a weekly column at the Scaife-owned Tribune-Review and is the former chairman of also Scaife-funded ISI, the institute that published Kengor's book.

Which makes me wonder, would any of this have happened without Richard Mellon Scaife's philanthropic largess?

I dare say, very little.

This is how the right wing media noise machine works.

The circle-jerk continues.

November 13, 2010

Yet Again...

Scaife's braintrust over at the Tribune-Review tries, yet again, to claim some sort of upper hand regarding climate science.

And they make a huge embarrassing blunder doing it.

Take a look:
If the work of blame-mankind climate "scientists" were unimpeachable, they wouldn't be gearing up for a charm offensive.

Seven hundred global-warming doomsayers have agreed to defend their dubious "science" publicly under the auspices of the American Geophysical Union. And 39 Chicken Littles have signed up for a separate "climate rapid response team" organized by a professor at Minnesota's St. Thomas University for deployment to radio and TV talk shows.
So what's so embarrassing about that?

Simple. It was published November 13 and the American Geophysical Union has already released a statement 5 days ago saying the initial reporting at the LA Times was "innacurate."

Did the Trib miss it? Did they not bother to check? What an embarrassment - either way.

More embarrassing is the braintrust's continuing denial of reality:
Both efforts smack of increasing desperation fueled by the blame-mankind crowd's credibility crumbling beneath the weight of the scandalous Climategate e-mails, which show data manipulation, and greater public recognition of their leftist big-government agenda. That's why skeptics of global-warming orthodoxy make up half of the new GOP members just elected to Congress.
Climategate? They're resting this on Climategate?

From the AP, March 30, 2010:
The first of several British investigations into the e-mails leaked from one of the world's leading climate research centers has largely vindicated the scientists involved.

The House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee said Wednesday that it had seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming — two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues.

In its report, the committee said that, as far as it was able to ascertain, "the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact," adding that nothing in the more than 1,000 stolen e-mails, or the controversy kicked up by their publication, challenged scientific consensus that "global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity."
From the Science Assessment Panel, April 10, 2010:
We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal.
From the NYTimes, July 7, 2010:
A British panel on Wednesday exonerated the scientists caught up in the controversy known as Climategate of charges that they had manipulated their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming.

But the panel also rebuked the scientists for several aspects of their behavior, especially their reluctance to release computer files supporting their scientific work. And it declared that a chart they produced in 1999 about past climate was “misleading.”

The new report is the last in a series of investigations of leading British and American climate researchers, prompted by the release of a cache of e-mail messages that cast doubt on their conduct and raised fresh public controversy over the science of global warming.

All five investigations have come down largely on the side of the climate researchers, rejecting a number of criticisms raised by global-warming skeptics. Still, mainstream climate science has not emerged from the turmoil unscathed.

Some polls suggest that the recent controversy has eroded public support for action on climate change, complicating the politics of that issue in Washington and other world capitals. And leading climate researchers have come in for criticism of their deportment, of their episodic reluctance to share data with climate skeptics, and for not always responding well to critical analysis of their work.

“The e-mails don’t at all change the fundamental tenets of the science,” said Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado. “But they changed the notion that people could blindly trust one authoritative group, when it turns out they’re just like everybody else.”
I take it there are more reports exonerating the CPU. Not that it matters. It's like the braintrust inhabits a different reality. Where is their evidence that "climategate" is anything other than a faded photograph of a puff of smoke in a hall of mirrors?

They don't have any because that evidence doesn't exist. All they have is the (false) assertion that Climategate somehow undermined the science.

It didn't.

Repeating the lie that it did doesn't make it so.

Speaking of rightwing climate change crazie, get a gander at this from the Toronto Star:
U.S. Representative John Shimkus, possible future chairman of the Congressional committee that deals with energy and its attendant environmental concerns, believes that climate change should not concern us since God has already promised not to destroy the Earth.
Some background:
During a hearing in 2009, he dismissed the dangers of climate change and the warnings of the scientific community by quoting the Bible.

First, he noted God’s post-Flood promise to Noah in Genesis 8:21-22.

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though all inclinations of his heart are evil from childhood and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.

“As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”

“I believe that’s the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it’s going to be for his creation,” Shimkus said.

Then he quoted Matthew 24:31.

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other.”

“The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood,” Shimkus asserted. “I do believe that God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.”
While I usually think the lines from the 11th century poet unfair as the distiction between those with brains and those with religion is too harshly drawn, in this instance Abul'-Ala' al-Ma'arri was more than adequately describing Shimkus when he wrote:
The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts:
Those with brains, but no religion,
And those with religion, but no brains.
Such unending and frightening ignorance. Even more frightening that it's found a comfortable home deep in the GOP.

Beatles Tribute Show

The lovely wife and I went to the AcoustiCafe's Beatle Tribute show last night. It was to show raising money for Project Bundle-Up.

We went last year, had a great time. We went this year, had a great time.

But this time I took notes.

Some highlights:

Jimbo and the Soupbones - always a high point. These guys are amazing. Simply amazing. Given that the Tribune-Review described their "multi-genre assemblage" of "funk, soul, rock, blues", it was a pleasant surprise to hear them belt out a huge (!) "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Brought down the house - and that was the opening act.

The Wreckids (a married couple, Bob and Sara? - he on guitar, she on viola) had some really quite lovely harmonies going on "I'll Follow The Sun" and "Blackbird."

Shay did a very nice performance of the only non-Beatle song of the evening, Lennon's "Working Class Hero." (Full disclosure: Lauren used to live next door to me a few years ago.) Her husband Joe was running one of the cameras - capturing the show in HD for OrionVega.

The Elliots gave a very polished performance of some early-ish Beatles: "You're Gonna Loose That Girl", "This Boy" and "Help!"

Morgan Erina had to have had the bravest set of the evening. What did she perform? "Yesterday." Solo guitar, quiet sad singing - who does that? It's like trying to repaint the Mona Lisa. To her credit, she was wonderful.

Buddy Hall (and 3 other guys who's names I missed - SORRY) in perhaps the most polished performance of the evening, did "I'll Be Back", "Long and Winding Road" and something I haven't heard done live in 30 years, the ending of Abbey Road - from "Carry That Weight" to "The End." Superb.

Pete Bush and the Hoi Polloi did "It Won't Be Long" and another something I've never heard done in public "A Day in The Life." These guys are good.

Whole show was good. Place was packed, standing room only, and if you weren't there you missed something special.

Bad on you.

November 12, 2010

Two Views of Bush's War Crimes

View one, from Amnesty International:
Amnesty International today urged a criminal investigation into the role of former US President George W. Bush and other officials in the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” against detainees held in secret US custody after the former president admitted authorizing their use.
And:
“Under international law, the former President’s admission to having authorized acts that amount to torture are enough to trigger the USA’s obligations to investigate his admissions and if substantiated, to prosecute him,” said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.
Amnesty gives some background:
The USA ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) in 1994. Under UNCAT, in every case where there is evidence against a person of their having committed or attempted to commit torture, or of having committed acts which constitute complicity or participation in torture, the case must be submitted to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

Failing to proceed with a prosecution on the basis that the accused held public office of any rank, or citing justifications based in “exceptional circumstances”, whether states of war or other public emergencies, is not permitted by UNCAT.
I know we've done this before, but let's do it again.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture was signed by Ronald Reagan and ratified by the Senate in 1994. And according to Article IV paragraph 2 of the US Constitution, which says:
This constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
UNCAT is US Law. Torture is against US Law. Bush needs to be prosecuted.

Then there's the wingnuts who love love l-o-o-o-o-o-v-e the Constitution except when it gets in their way. Here's Peter King (R-NY):
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on Wednesday defended the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and said a Democratic colleague was “entirely wrong” to call for an investigation into the interrogation method sanctioned by the previous White House.

King, the presumptive next chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, pushed back against demands by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) for a probe into Bush-era waterboarding and asserted that President George W. Bush’s authorization of the practice “saved many, many lives.”

“Jerry and I are friends, but he’s entirely wrong on this,” King said in an interview with POLITICO’s Arena. “There would’ve been lives lost, and Bush deserves credit for what he did.”
Doesn't matter. Torture's still illegal. What part of that don't they get?

And then King further distinguishes himself:
King suggested Bush “should get a medal” for authorizing waterboarding. King said cases like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind behind Sept. 11 who is currently awaiting trial, proved practices such as waterboarding were effective.

“There was no harm done,” King said, referring to Mohammed. “In the big picture, to hold someone’s head underwater, the chance of permanent damage is minimal and the rewards are great.”
No harm done, except to the rule of law.

And our moral standing in the world.

No one is above the law. George W Bush is a war criminal. And Peter King is defending the indefensible.

November 11, 2010

How The Right Wing Noise Machine Works

As if we needed another example.

But here it is anyway. From today's Tribune-Review:
Noted George Mason University constitutional scholar Ilya Somin writes (in the Richmond Times-Dispatch) that the states that have challenged the president's "individual mandate" prescription "have a serious case with a real chance of victory." That's far from the characterization of such Obama acolytes as Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell that the lawsuits are "frivolous." Let's hope Professor Somin is right -- and that the Constitution survives another in a long line of "progressive" potshots.
While we scoot over the debate over the "individual mandate" we wonder who this Ilya Somin is. The braintrust gives no clue to his identity beyond his being a "noted George Mason University Constitutional Scholar." One would think he's just a neutral observer just calling the constitutional balls and strikes.

Um, not so much.

He's also an Adjunct Scholar with the Cato Institute. You know what happens next, right? Yes, that's right. So how much money has Richard Mellon Scaife given to the Cato institute over the years?

Approximately $2.5 million.

Of course, no mention of the multi-million dollar financial connections between Scaife's op-ed page and the "neutral" source they quote.

That's how the right wing noise machine works.

But perhaps this is a tenuous connection (Somin to Cato to Scaife = politically biased). But take a look at another snippet from today's "Thursday Wrap":
National Review Online's Matthew Shaffer discovers that -- surprise, surprise -- nearly all of the members of two boards of directors involved with National Public Radio "have demonstrably liberal political sympathies." Ah, so a name change to National Progressive Radio really is in order, we see.
This is the NRO piece. And what do we see as the first example of the "liberal bias" of NPR?
Antoine van Agtmael (chairman of the NPR Foundation): He is a trustee of a liberal think tank, the Brookings Institution. He donated $1,000 to Obama for America in 2008, $2,000 to Kerry in 2004, and $1,000 each to Hillary Clinton and Terry Liermann in 2000. That’s $5,000 — every penny to Democrats. [Emphasis added.]
So the NRO can establish the political biases of the NPR board by listing their think-tank membership (and there by discredit them). Looks good enough for me.

Good for the goose and all that.

November 10, 2010

Palin Fans Flames in PA


Palin baking up a big ol' mess of BS

Via Politico:
Sarah Palin used baked goods Tuesday night to attack the “nanny state.”

Palin brought dozens of cookies to a speech at the Plumstead Christian School in Plumsteadville, Pa., amid news reports — since retracted — that Pennsylvania’s State Board of Education is looking at ways to limit sweets at classroom parties.

Palin called the plan an example of the “nanny state run amok” and said that she brought the cookies in order to “shake things up," according to news outlets including WPVI-TV.

One guess which "news report" Politico points to for inaccurate reporting about supposed mandates. Can you say Trib? I guess this really should be David's story...

I don't know about you, but I've certainly heard of schools already encouraging parents to being in healthy treats.
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More On Bush's Waterboarding War Crime

Of course the rightwing media (and it's enablers in the mainstream) are spreading a false justification.

From Mediamatters.org:
Following the release of former President George W. Bush's book Decision Points, right-wing media are promoting Bush's claim that waterboarding "saved lives." But this claim is disputed by intelligence experts, including former British officials who have "cast doubt" on Bush's waterboarding claims.
And here's one of the most idiotic things I have ever heard the idiotic Brian Kilmeade say (again, from Mediamatters):
"George W. Bush telling his critics who's boss." Later on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade called Bush's comments, "President George W. Bush telling his critics who's boss." After playing Bush's statement that waterboarding "saved lives," Kilmeade said, "That's one of the things he's most proud of."
Then there's the intelligence experts' skepticism. There's this from The Guardian in the UK:
No 10 dismisses George Bush's claim in his memoirs that interrogation technique is legal and helped foil attacks on Heathrow and Canary Wharf
The title of the piece, by the way, is:
Waterboarding is torture, Downing Street confirms
On to the British intelligence expert:
The former chair of the Commons intelligence and security committee, Kim Howells, cast doubt on Bush's claim that it had helped save British lives. "We are not convinced," said the Labour MP.
The piece ends with this from the former shadow Home Secretary David Davis:
Davis told Today that although security information provided from abroad would have to be used regardless of how it was obtained, torture did not work and should be discouraged.

"People under torture tell you what you want to hear," he said. "You'll get the wrong information and ... apart from being immoral, apart from destroying our standing in the world, and apart from undermining the way of life we're trying to defend, it actually doesn't deliver."
There's more from Davis (who's a member of the Conservative party over there in the UK) by way of the BBC:
He said a large part of the false intelligence on WMD that led to the war in Iraq came from torture and illegal rendition.
Which is interesting when the discussion of Iraq's WMD comes up later on in the BBC piece:
Mr Bush said he still had "a sickening feeling" about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But he defended his decision to invade Iraq, saying Iraqi citizens were better off without the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the US was better off without Saddam pursuing biological or chemical weapons.

Mr Bush admits that he was shocked when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

But asked, in an interview with NBC, if he ever considered apologising to Americans for that failure to find WMD, he said: "Apologising would basically say the decision was a wrong decision.

"And I don't believe it was the wrong decision."
Having trouble getting through Dubya's logic here. He was shocked when no WMD were found - but he still thinks the decision (the one based on his mistake about the WMD) to send so many thousands of Americans into battle was incorrect.

Whatever he might believe, he was still wrong about the WMD and he was still wrong about the torture he ordered. And that's still a war crime.

George W. Bush is a war criminal.

Another Announcement: This Friday

As I wrote here, I'll be there in the audience.

And if last year's show is any indication, this year's show will be great.

And it's for a good cause.

I can't tell you what to do, but you should go.

November 9, 2010

Honors for Women in Media


Photo by @eileenss; event hashtag: #wgf

As I first blogged about here, the Women and Girls Foundation held a celebration on Saturday honoring Women in Media.

From the Post-Gazette:
Each year the foundation recognizes local women in a different sector of society who are making strides as innovators in their fields. The philanthropic group, founded in 2002 and dedicated to achieving gender equity in the region, in the past has honored women in science, sports, law and other areas.

I was very honored to be a member of the host committee.

The P-G article, naturally enough, focuses on honoree Post-Gazette columnist Sally Kalson. At the event, I went up to Ms. Kalson and shared a story with her. Back when the late Fred Honsberger had a TV show on PCNC, I was a frequent caller (as you might imagine, I took the opposing view on nearly everything). During one program, Fred was ranting about liberals and at one point he said, "It's liberals like Lynn and Sally and Maria..." (meaning Lynn Cullen, Sally Kalson and me). Along with feeling proud to be in such good company, I also thought that if Ms. Cullen or Ms. Kalson had heard that, they must be thinking, "Who the hell is Maria?"

The evening was lovely. Girls from the Women and Girls Foundation introduced each honoree by explaining how the person had inspired them (you can see the full list here).

The keynote address was given by Abigail Disney (award winning filmmaker and grandniece of Walt Disney). Disney's film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which documents a peace movement called Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace who became a political force against violence and against their government, was screened that night. Disney will be producing a series about the effects of war on women and children for PBS.

It was also great that the Women and Girls Foundation made a real effort to include new media in both the honorees (Cynthia Closkey, president of Big Big Design, co-founder of PodCamp Pittsburgh and developer of iTwixie.com) and the host committee (I heart PGH, Ms. Mon's Salon, CivicsLab and The Pittsburgh Women's Blogging Society). They also ran a slide show on a loop of the history of women in blogging put together by The Pittsburgh Women's Blogging Society on flat screens and laptops scattered around the party site and in the main screening room.

And, most notably, they awarded a Special Award of Distinction to Virginia Montanez "for her innovative use of social media to raise awareness of the need for local political reform, and her critical role in rallying public support to save the orphans of the BRESMA orphanage earlier this year in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti."

It needs to be said that this event also serves as a fundraiser for the foundation, so if you didn't get a chance to attend, you can still donate to all the good work that they do here.
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November 8, 2010

The Trib Gets It Wrong. Again.

While I am off for a few days taking care of some important (non-blog related) business, I have to take a few minutes to point out how wrong the Trib got another story. Completely wrong.

From the yesterday's Whispers column:
The check's in the mail -- or will be soon.

That's what U.S. Sen. John Kerry's staff essentially is saying regarding his stall tactics on making tax payments on his $7 million yacht, a Friendship sloop featuring a varnished teak interior, wet bar and cold wine storage area.

Kerry, D-Mass., originally ported the tony craft in Rhode Island in an apparent attempt to get out of paying taxes on it in his home state. But when the Boston Herald disclosed the boat's location in July, Kerry agreed to promptly pay the equivalent of all taxes owed had the boat been ported in Massachusetts.

Didn't happen.
But it did - we'll get to that in a second.

This story first bubbled up here at 2PJ in regards to a Jack Kelly column in August. From that blog post we discover that the Boston Herald reported in late July that the Kerry's were under no obligation to pay the Massachusetts sales tax on the boat they owned, as it was ported in Rhode Island.

Would have saved them $500,000. After a very public smear, the Kerrys pointed out that they were always planning on paying the tax they weren't obligated to pay.

Cost them $500,000.

So what's the story now? Had the Trib braintrust actually and honestly referenced the Boston Herald article, they would have told their audience:
A spokesman for the state Department of Revenue confirmed that “a sales tax return was filed” by Kerry last summer to cover state taxes that would have been owed, had he kept the Isabel in his home state’s waters.
So they did pay the state taxes. Now go back and take a look at what the Trib wrote. The piece is written so that you'd think he didn't pay any of the taxes on the boat. That's what's known as a lie of omission, my friends.

So what's the point of the latest Herald Story? Town excise taxes from the town of Nantucket.

That's on a $500 bill the Kerrys haven't received yet.

Once you peek under the Scaife veneer (and the braintrust is always betting you won't bother) you'll usually see all sorts of facts that get in the way of their story.

What are facts when you can smear?

Can I get back to my life now? Please?

Shake a tail feather

While the Right Wing media and its followers went bananas over a ridiculously false story that the President's trip to India was going to cost $200 million per day, there is some real and very cute video of the First Lady and the President dancing with some children in India (here and here).

That said, if Obama were to ever actually drop $200 million a day in India, we'd approve, but only if he dropped a large chunk of that at the Silver Jubilee club:


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Get out your hankies, Right Wing, Keith Olbermann is back on Tuesday


Well, that was quick.

MSNBC suspended Keith Olbermann without pay on Friday and will have him back on the air Tuesday.

As many know, MSNBC said that they suspended Olbermann allegedly due to his contributions to Democratic political candidates which violates NBC's rules for journalists -- despite Olbermann fronting an opinion show. (The rule also does not apply to NBC's owners.)

When it came out that other MSNBC hosts/personalities including Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan had donated to Republican candidates without any apparent retribution, then the story became that Olbermann was suspended for not asking for permission to contribute.

Now Politico has reported that MSNBC really suspended Olbermann because he wouldn't do an on-air mea culpa for his donations.

Of course, as MSNBC host Rachel Maddow pointed out on her own show on Friday, the whole controversy just demonstrates the difference between FOX News and MSNBC where the former not only allows their "news" people to donate freely to political campaigns but does actual on-air fundraising for GOP candidates.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) got 300,000 signatures (including mine) on their online petition to put Olbermann back on the air. You can sign their welcome back card here.


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November 6, 2010

Craig Smith Report

It's amazing how, once you take the time to look for it, Richard Mellon Scaife's money just seems to show up at all the corners of the is with the vast right wing conspiracy.

Take, as yet another example, Craig Smith's interview this week. He usually finds a Scaife money recipient to interview for Scaife's "news" paper and this week is no exception.
Cliff Kincaid is president of America's Survival Inc., a U.N. watchdog group, and editor of Accuracy in Media's "AIM Report."

An investigative journalist who specializes in analyzing communist and terrorist movements, Kincaid went through a national journalism program headed by conservative author and journalist M. Stanton Evans. He was on the staff of Human Events newspaper and was an editorial writer and newsletter editor for former National Security Council staffer Oliver North at his Freedom Alliance educational foundation.
Ok, so we got America's Survival, Accuracy in Media and the Freedom Alliance. All beneficiaries of Scaife money:So when Kincaid shows up on the pages of Richard Mellon Scaife's newspaper, he's representing about $5.37 million dollars of Scaife foundation money. Again no mention of that at all in Scaife's paper.

Regardless of the content of the interview (they could be talking yarn skeins for all I care) the fact that all that money changed hands with no mention of it being made on the page, is cause enough for criticism and ridicule.

Keith Olbermann got suspended for much much less. But then again MSNBC is a news organization and Richard Mellon Scaife's op-ed page - not so much. Obviously.

November 5, 2010

Next Friday

I saw last year's show. I can't say enough good things about the show I saw last year.

I'll be there this year.

It's a good cause, you should too.

P-G Editorial: 'Obama must go: Dems needs a new leader after the debacle'

I think that this version makes as much sense as the Post-Gazette's (little to none):
PelosiObama must go: House Dems need a new leader after the debacle

November 05, 2010
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


In the recent midterm elections, the Republicans had ready labels to demonize many Democratic causes -- and one favorite label was "Pelosi." "Obama." The simple name took on a life of its own and was used as if to pre-empt all debate, the assumption being that the audience understood "Pelosi" "Obama" was an acronym for evil.

In real life, the most powerful woman in American politics and the most vilified was never evil. She remains a dedicated, smart, attractive 7049-year-old grandmotherfather with fivetwo children and eight grandchildren. As the first female speaker of the U.S. House African American President of the United States, she was not without faults, but she cut a historic figure that infuriated heris enemies beyond all reason.

For whatever cause, Nancy PelosiBarack Obama has aroused a visceral dislike in heris critics that goes beyond the fact that heris job has been to push an agenda that affronts conservatives. Perhaps it's because she is a wealthy, pro-choice liberal from San FranciscoChicago, the most liberalDemocratic of cities. Perhaps it's that a powerful progressive womanAfrican American man offers a special affront to some, especially as she offered a sharp and unflattering contrast to heris Republican predecessors, the unimpressive Dennis Hastert and the flaky Newt Gingrich George W. Bush.

Take your pick of reasons -- but you are still left with a hard-to-argue fact. Nancy PelosiBarack Obama has become a brand name, and not a flattering one for the Democratic Party. That's a problem for Democrats as they regroup after a disastrous election and a need to rebrand themselves to better appeal to voters. They can start with Nancy PelosiBarack Obama.

Clearly, heris time has come and gone. In acknowledging that, party members need not subscribe to the unreasonable stereotype of Speaker PelosiPresident Obama so cleverly pedaled by heris enemies. All that has to be done is to recognize reality and to thank herim for heris service. There was a big battle. She helped lead the charge. The charge failed. A new House leader must now take charge if President Barack Obamathe Democratic party is to survive in 2012.

Msr. PelosiObama has not declared heris intentions, saying questions about heris future will be addressed in caucusdown the road. Heris fellow party members should find a graceful way to insist she step down as their leader in the House.

It is true that the Republicans are masters of demonizing their opponents, and whoever takes up the challenge will be the next worst person around. But at least the Democrats should make the GOP spin doctors start over and have to work harder at it -- by picking someone who will play better in the nation's heartland.
Tell Pelosi you've got her back.
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