Prosecute the torture.

December 31, 2010

Pittsburgh Pension Bill Passed...Vetoed...Veto Overridden

Pittsburgh Pension Bill Passed.
Pittsburgh Pension Bill Vetoed.
Pittsburgh Pension Bill Veto Overridden.

Gots to go now...
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No One Ever Accused Them Of Being Geniuses

It's been a while since I wrote about the (Non)Ground Zero (Non)Mosque figuring the story about the religious intolerance of those opposing the Park51 Project had mercifully faded into a well deserved obscurity.

Never underestimate the power of the righteous intolerant however, especially those who don't track down their facts.

Take a look at this from December 14, 2010:
One of the people promoting the movie is Andy Sullivan, a former professional karate fighter who's worked in the construction business for 30 years. He's even helped build two mosques, he said.

"I got plenty of Muslim friends," he said. "My kids grow up half a block from a mosque in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. That's a very, very huge populace of Muslims, in Bay Ridge. As a matter of fact, they call it Bay-root, now," he said, with a laugh.

But he was outraged at the proposed location for Park51 and said many Muslims he knows are also against the project. In recent months he organized a boycott by construction workers, who said they wouldn't work on the site. He also organized a boycott of celebrities who've endorsed the project, including John Cusack, Mayor Bloomberg, Stephen Colbert and Justin Bieber, who Sullivan claims gave the go-ahead to Park 51 in an interview with Tiger Beat magazine. Sullivan sayid regardless of Bieber's not-so-advanced age, his children will no longer attend Bieber's concerts.

"Are my two kids going to derail the Bieber machine?" asked Sullivan. "I don't think so. But it hurts. He said something that clearly hurt my kids, and hurt me. So, if you're gonna say statements that hurt, be prepared. There's gonna be fallout.
JUSTIN BIEBER?? TIGER BEAT?? What did the little Cah-NAYD-jen say about the NGZ NM?

Salon.com has the story from here:
Intrigued by the idea that Bieber would weigh in on one of the most polarizing political issues of the day, I began looking for his interview with Tiger Beat.

The magazine does cover Bieber obsessively ("Justin Bieber Dodges Dating Selena Gomez Question!" and "Did Justin Bieber Grow a Mustache?" are two recent features). But I couldn't find any sign of an interview on Park51.
So nothing from Tiger beat. So where did Bieber offend Andy the builder?

Here. It's a parody site called Celebjihad:
Justin Bieber has weighed on the controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero” Mosque. In an interview with Tiger Beat, the pop sensation stressed that freedom of religion is what makes America great, and went on to say that those who oppose the Mosque are motivated by bigotry.

“Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque anywhere they want,” the singer said. “Coming from Canada, I’m not used to this level of intolerance, eh.”

Bieber went on to say that Muslims are “super cool,” Christians are “lame-o-rama,” and that the mosque will help “start a dialogue” with all religions about which Justin Bieber song is the most awesome.

“I was like seven when September 11th went down, and frankly I’m surprised people are still going on about it. Move on, already!”

Added the singer, “Everyone needs to just chillax and dance!”
It was posted in August. And how do we know it's a joke? As if the "- eh." at the end of one quotation didn't give it away (or the "chillax and dance" for that matter), Salon has the the site's disclaimer:
CelebJihad.com is a satirical website containing published rumors, speculation, assumptions, opinions, fiction as well as factual information
As well as a confirmation from the the proprietor of Celebjihad.

Didn't Andy ("I got plenty of Muslim friends") Sullivan even bother to track down the "source" of his being offended?

A level-headed rational person would have. But then again, no one ever accused the religiously intolerant of being level-headed or rational.

Let's just move on and chillax and dance already!

Happy New Year, everyone.

December 30, 2010

Pittsburgh Pension Problem: Almost There

Those of you listening to 80's pop on the City Channel for a couple of hours today probably were wondering what the holdup was. We understood that Pittsburgh City Council was to hold a Legislative Session at 1:30 today to overturn Mayor Ravenstal's "cooperative" veto to attempt to stave off state control of the city's pension. The meeting actually started around 2:00 and almost immediately was recessed until after 3:00 PM.

Here's why:



(Click to enlarge)


Council did overturn the Mayor's veto today (8 to 1; Rev. Burgess being the only dissenting vote), thus putting the new Council/Controller plan into place which dedicates the asset of future parking taxes to the city pension fund to bring that up to 50% funded.

The hold up -- the reason why Council must meet again tomorrow -- is that upon further reflection by everyone (PERC, ACT 47, ICA) it was decided that the City must dedicate $735,680,000 over 31 years instead of $414.7 million (the difference between a 5% and 8% discount rate).

New legislation is being drawn up to amend the Pittsburgh Code, Title Two - Fiscal, Article XI (I believe).

The Mayor will need to "cooperatively" veto this new legislation quickly so that Council may then override that veto. Council did note that the Mayor and his Administration have been very forthcoming in providing whatever Council has needed these last 24 hours or so. And in an email exchange between Council President Harris and Yarone Zober, Zober indicated that the Mayor will quickly veto this latest round so that Council may overturn the veto in time to meet the Midnight December 31st deadline.

Council will hold a Legislation Session tomorrow at 1:00PM (followed right after with a Standing Committee Meeting) and another 11:00PM Legislative Session -- yes, 11:00 PM on New Year's Eve -- followed by another Standing Committee Meeting.

Um, Happy New Year, City Council?
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December 29, 2010

Good Lord

I am watching a mic aimed at a speaker phone on my teevee for several minutes now.

I also have spent part of my morning listening to our mayor explain his plan to do a "non obstructionist" veto.

My brain hurts.

Good thing I will need to turn away from the City Channel soon.

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Confidential Letter to Pittsburgh City Council

(NOTE: This letter is meant only for the members of Pittsburgh City Council. I would ask everyone else -- this means you, Yarone Zober -- to please read no further and I thank you in advance for your cooperation.)


Dear Pittsburgh City Council,

In times past, I've written some confidential advice to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and it looks like you're now overdue for some of the same.

In watching your hearings this past week, it's become apparent that you have some issues getting the attention of our Mayor. You say he won't take your calls, he won't answer your questions, he won't take your meetings, and he won't sign your legislation.

I see that you have even felt it necessary to compel him to meet with you. I propose that with just a little bit of ingenuity on your part, you can get Mayor Ravenstahl to rush to your side without the need for any extreme legal measures:
  • Have Councilor Rudiak don a long blonde wig and some mismatched clothes -- tell Luke she's the new Sienna Miller.

  • Put Councilor Lavelle in some sweats, shades and bling and tell Luke that TMZ has proclaimed him a hot new rapper who's destined to be "bigger than Snoop."

  • Hold your meetings on a golf course.

  • Hold your meetings at Seven Springs.

  • Two words: Tiger Woods. Compel him to attend a meeting -- Luke is sure to follow.

  • If all else fails, pool your resources (CBG monies?) and hire a private jet stocked with lingerie models. Tell Lukey if he inks your deal, he'll get a night in NYC that he'll never forget so good he won't be able to remember.

  • Sincerely,
    Your Friend at 2pj

    Pittsburgh City Council Compels Mayor Ravenstahl To Show Up Today


    § 11.3-310. Powers of Council.
    Council shall have the following additional powers:
    . . .
    f. to call a meeting at any time between council and the mayor jointly to discuss legislation or the business of the City in general, and to compel the attendance of the mayor at a council hearing;
    Frustrated members of Pittsburgh City Council voted yesterday to compel Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to show up to today's Council meeting at 10:00 AM to try to help avert a state takeover of the the city's pension plan. As surely everyone reading this must know by now, a majority of Council soundly rejected the Mayor's plan to privatize the city's parking assets. That was back in October and the Mayor has basically rejected any alternative plan by City Council.

    You can read about Council's contentious meetings with Finance Director Scott Kunka (in lieu of the Mayor) in the City Paper, two articles and an editorial in the Post-Gazette, and even a piece at Bloomberg.com.

    Perhaps most distressing is the Tribune-Review's article which contains the following quote:
    "It's too late," said James McAneny, executive director of the Pennsylvania Public Employee Retirement Commission. "Even if they got $500 million next year, it wouldn't change the takeover, unless the General Assembly changes the law."

    .

    December 28, 2010

    Last Plan Standing?

    As we blogged last night, a new Pittsburgh City Council/City Controller plan was unveiled today to address our city's pension crisis. It too incorporates the assets of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority.

    The difference between the new plan and the Mayor's plan and the old Council/Controller plan is thus:
  • It does not provide a windfall for Wall Street.

  • It does not create debt -- interest payments -- for the city.
  • Instead, it solves the problem of needing to bring the pension fund (currently 29.3% funded) to the needed 50% funded by dedicating 30 years of Parking Authority revenues to the pension (guaranteed backed by the city's general fund). The pension fund must be 50% funded by December 31 to avoid a takeover by the state. It uses the current value of these assets to cover the $220 million needed.

    The huge question remaining is where Mayor Luke Ravenstahl stands in all this and if any action is needed on the part of his administration. If today's appearance in Council's Chambers by Finance Director Scott Kunka is any indication, he won't be with it...And according to Jon Delano he isn't.

    Council's now back in session, but I'll be off to work soon. Who knows if anything will be resolved by the time I get back...
    .

    Oh. My. God.

    David Horowitz is such a liar.

    First, who's David Horowitz?

    Take a look at this from today's Trib:
    Write a book about leftist billionaire George Soros? Been there, done that for David Horowitz. But he's revisiting the topic in a form whose time he thinks has come again -- a pamphlet.

    The onetime radical who became a conservative firebrand and founded the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Students for Academic Freedom wrote "The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party" (Thomas Nelson) with Richard Poe. A best-seller in 2006, the book drew renewed attention this fall when Glenn Beck featured it on TV.

    Now, Horowitz is at work on the pamphlet "George Soros: Puppet Master of the Obama Regime," soon to be available through FrontPage Magazine's website (frontpagemag.com).
    We'll get to it in a minute, but remember these four words:
    David Horowitz Freedom Center
    And this is what he said in a recent interview with Richard Mellon Scaife's Trib:
    First, there is no George Soros of the right. There just is not. What Soros has done is he's put together a radical coalition of billionaires, communists of the ACORN variety -- ACORN is part of this coalition -- and has inserted it into a brain center of the Democratic Party, the Center for American Progress, and he's understood that politics is not what happens every two years, which is what Republicans think; politics is trench warfare that goes on every day, every week, and then, at the end, when the election cycle comes around, all the people who've been recruited by the left through this trench warfare will then vote for the Democratic Party.
    No George Soros of the right?

    Let's look at who funds the David Horowitz Freedom Center, then. According to Mediamatters:
    • The Allegheny Foundation gave a cool $1 million to the David Horowitz Freedom Center between 2000 and 2009.
    • The Carthage Foundation gave a neat $625,000 to the David Horowitz Freedom Center between 1993 and 2003
    • The Sarah Scaife Foundation gave a hefty $5.55 million to the David Horowitz Freedom Center between 1989 and 2009 (including $25,000 in "start up funds" in '89)
    By my count, that's $7.175 million all from foundations controlled by billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.

    I normally don't include the Scaife Family Foundation in my blog postings about the Trib circle jerk, as Richard Mellon Scaife reportedly hasn't controlled that foundation since 2001. With that caveat, it should be noted that:
    • The Scaife Family Foundation gave a cute $1.15 million to the David Horowitz Freedom Center between 1993 and 2001 (the year Richard Mellon Scaife gave up control of the foundation - there have been no grants since)
    If you include those grants, then we're up to $8.325 million.

    And not one of those eight million plus dollars made it into Horowitz' rant about how there is "no Soros of the right."

    Horowitz said Soros talked about how Soros formed a coalition of billionaires and communists and inserted it into the Center for American Progress. Change a few details and you have Scaife's funding of the "brain center" of the Republican party, the Heritage Foundation.

    Setting aside the rightwing paranoia about George Soros, to declare that there's "No Soros of the right" is simply a lie.

    December 27, 2010

    "Potential Resolution of Pension Funding Possible"


    (Click to enlarge)


    The press conference:
    · tomorrow morning, December 28, 2010

    · 9 a.m.

    · Outside City Council Chambers

    · 5th Floor City-County Building, 414 Grant Street

    Chris Potter Does It Again

    Slag Heap, today.

    Potterman deconstructs BOTH Jack Kelly AND Jerry Bowyer. The topic? The high cost of higher education:
    Let's acknowledge the obvious: Whatever else these guys are, they're conservative ideologues, and they aren't writing in a vacuum. After all, even Phyllis Freakin' Schlafly has begun asking questions about whether a college education is worth it. And when folks like Phyllis Schlafly start expressing concern for the poor and indebted, you know something is up.

    One gets the sneaking suspicion, in fact, that what really bothers Schlafly & Co. is not the cost of education per se, but the fact that Barack Obama has done something about it. Back when giant for-profit enterprises like Sallie Mae were raking in fees, massive student indebtedness was, presumably, just the free market at work. Now that Obama has cut the banks out of student lending, you'll hear conservatives begin to wring their hands about whether those poor first-years are getting their money's worth.

    (I mean after all, when Kelly complains that "it is virtually impossible to discharge student loan debts in bankruptcy," he might have felt obliged to mention the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. That 2005 measure, passed by a Republican-led Congress and signed by a Republican president, made it difficult to discharged loans even when they were issued by Sallie Mae and other for-profit lenders.)

    So I can't blame those who wonder about Kelly's motivation here. Does his concern stem from the fact that college campuses are among the few places where liberal ideas are not roundly dismissed ... where they even predominate? Is it any wonder that Kelly -- a global warming denier in the face of strong scientific consesnsus -- doesn't see the value in book-larnin'?
    So, yet again Potter shows us all how it's done.

    When Palin wrote crib notes on her hand she was only trying to be green!


    Apparently, when Sarah Palin wrote crib notes on her hand in ink for the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville back in February she was only trying to be green.

    From Sunday's episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" (via HuffPo via Politico -- video at link):
    "Conservationists write me these nasty letters because I support an industry like this," the former vice presidential candidate said, after taking a chainsaw to an Evergreen Timber tree. "They write me these nasty letters using their pretty little pencils on their pretty little stationary not realizing. Where do you think your pencil and your piece of paper came from, people? It came from a tree that was harvested."

    Santorum: Repealing DADT is really about "trying to move any people of faith and religion...out of America"

    Thanks to News Hounds (via Crooks And Liars), we have Lil Ricky explaining to us how repealing DADT was not only unnecessary for gays who wanted to serve in the military but, more importantly, how it's just one more step in the process of the left moving people of faith out of America.

    Damn! The jig's up -- he's on to us! (Just as the relocation camps were nearly completed.)


    Text:
    Steyn snidely asked if Obama’s “principled defense of marriage or whatever it was” was “likely to be tossed overboard with so much else?”

    Santorum replied, “Look, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was not about men and women serving in the military. Men and women who are gays and lesbians can serve in the military right now. That’s not the issue. The issue is a bigger issue. The issue is – and it’s not even about gay marriage. This is about a larger issue of the secularization of our society. It’s a larger issue about the left just, you know, trying to, you know, put government in control of this country, and trying to move faith, trying to move any people of faith and religion out of the public square, out of America, trying to transform what America’s all about. And this is just one more step in the process and we have Republicans who may be well meaning… but what they’re doing is a larger harm and this is just one more step in that process.”

    December 26, 2010

    Found Object

    Can someone explain this picture to me? It's from a tea party protest.

    Do they understand the concept of "Medicare"? Of "socialized medicine"?

    Just asking...

    December 25, 2010

    Merry Christmas!

    Merry Christmas!
    to our friends who celebrate today and here's a little song for some who don't:



    .

    December 24, 2010

    It's beginning to look a lot like Metcalfe

    And the angel said unto them, Fear lots: for, behold, I bring you bad tidings of great gloom, which shall be to all people of Pennsylvania.

    Via Chris Potter's Slag Heap, we learn that Daryl "I Don't Speak Mexican" Metcalfe (R-Birther, Tenther, Homophobe, Anti-Muslim, Climate Change Denier, Pro Domestic Violence, Voter Intimidar, All Around Hater) will be chairing the State Government Committee.

    Potter:

    As its name suggests, Metcalfe's committee handles legislation that pertains to state government and its powers. Constitutional amendments, campaign-finance and other election reforms ... all such mess as that.

    [snip]

    [N]ewly-appointed State Government Committee Majority Chairman Metcalfe looks forward to the opportunity of advancing the Pennsylvania Marriage Protection Amendment; election reform legislation requiring all Presidential candidates to officially submit proof of U.S. citizenship documentation; and his Arizona-modeled legislation to provide state and local law enforcement with full authority to apprehend Pennsylvania’s estimated 140,000 illegal alien invaders for deportation

    Emphasis mine -- yeah, he's going there. So Pennsylvania looks well positioned to be the source of some really embarrassing headlines in 2012.
    He's wasting no time too. Sue at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents has the memo that he sent to all PA House members on the 22nd asking them to cosponsor his anti-gay "Definition of Marriage" act.

    [sigh]


    .

    December 23, 2010

    What Must My Friend Scaife Think?

    From thinkprogress:
    The hard-right Heritage Foundation, one of the pillars of the conservative movement, made defeating START one of its top institutional priorities. Yet 13 Republican Senators ended up bucking Heritage and voted to ratify the START treaty. Heritage ended up so far to the right that it was unable to convince any significant number of Republicans to follow its nonsensical substantive attack on START that the treaty would lead to massive nuclear proliferation and eventually to a nuclear war.

    Heritage fellows held event after event, wrote article after article, report after report, blog post after blog post, attacking the treaty.
    And then:
    Yet despite all this effort, a quarter of the Republican caucus bucked Heritage’s advocacy campaign and its lobbying efforts to support the treaty. As the facts came out and it became increasingly clear that none of their anti-treaty arguments held any water, Republicans increasingly relied on process complaints to oppose the treaty, rather than substance. In the end, few Senators, with the exception of Jim DeMint, really embraced the Heritage line. The pressure they exerted on Republican members was in the end outdone by the coalition of progressive groups that pressed to ratify the treaty.
    Let's not forget the closely intertwined political and financial relationship between Heritage and the Tribune-Review's owner, Richard Mellon Scaife.

    So how was START treated in the fine pages of the Trib?

    As you'd expect. December 21:
    Harry Reid sure has a warped sense of Christmas gifts.

    If the Democrat Senate majority leader gets his way today, the upper chamber will vote to end debate on the abomination known as New START -- a successor nuclear arms treaty with Russia -- and then, likely on Thursday, vote to saddle the United States with a hand-tying, national-security-threatening "deal."

    It's this simple, as stated by Reagan administration Defense official Richard Perle and Heritage Foundation defense scholar Kim Holmes: "(A)rms-control treaties should serve our security interests now and in the longer term. New START does neither."
    Yea, that's this Richard Perle:
    Perle contended before the invasion that the US could topple Saddam without a sizable military effort. On PBS, he said, "I would be surprised if we need anything like the 200,000 [troops] figure that is sometimes discussed in the press. A much smaller force, principally special operations forces, but backed up by some regular units, should be sufficient." And in May 2002, he told me, "The Army guys don't know anything" about the number of troops necessary for success in Iraq. Perle said that only 40,000 soldiers would be required. After the war, it was clear that the 200,000 or so troops deployed by the Bush-Cheney administration was not a large enough force for the mission.
    David Corn in the above piece also reminds us that despite what Perle asserted, Iraq was not "on the threshold of acquiring nuclear weapons."

    So he's not much of an expert on nuclear arms (obviously) so tell me again why he's so nobly quoted by the Trib?

    Transit Workers Oppose Stringing-out Funds Over 18 Months


    Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

    A letter by Patrick McMahon, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, was hand-delivered to Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato on Tuesday, opposing Port Authority plans to "string-out" $45,000,000 in supplemental funding (by Gov. Ed Rendell) over the next eighteen months. The letter notes that these funds were intended to give the legislature six months -- not 18 -- to find a way prevent transit cuts next year and that stretching it out for triple that length of time will necessarily involve expedited cuts in services and routes.

    According to the Post-Gazette article today, the union also believes that sunshine laws may have been violated:
    Port Authority officials denied an allegation by a union spokesman that the board decided during a private conference call to cut service by 15 percent in March and close the Harmar bus garage.

    AFL-CIO spokesman Marty Marks said such a call appeared to violate the state's open meetings law. "It's not fair to take the public out of the process," he said.

    Full text of McMahon's letter after the break.

    Now on to DOMA

    Now on to the repeal of DOMA

    word

    From President Barack Obama's remarks yesterday on signing into law the repeal of DADT:
    There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country; their service has been obscured in history. It’s been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes. But at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands.

    There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the Western Front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima. Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials. Their headstones dot the grounds at Arlington.

    And so, as the first generation to serve openly in our Armed Forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after. And I know that you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you’ve been charged.

    The Trib's Orwellian Take On Net Neutrality

    From today's op-ed page:
    There's no doubt that the Federal Communications Commission's adoption of "net neutrality" rules to govern the Internet is another one of those proverbial "solutions" in search of a problem that will only fetter technological advancement and investment therein.

    But there's a far more troubling aspect to this latest foray into what's effectively the government's nationalization of the Internet. It's the intellectual underpinnings of the philosophy that led to this moment. And use of the word "intellectual" is being charitable.

    As The Wall Street Journal's John Fund notes, "net neutrality" is the brainchild of University of Illinois communications professor Robert McChesney, a self-proclaimed socialist who told Mr. Fund he's "hesitant to say I'm not a Marxist."

    Mr. McChesney's overriding goal is to "get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and divest them from any control." How? Through "a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself."
    Funny thing, if you'll notice, is that they never get around to discuss Net Neutrality or why it's such (to them at least) a bad thing.

    Here's the Congressional Research Service:
    As congressional policymakers continue to debate telecommunications reform a major point of contention is the question of whether action is needed to ensure unfettered access to the Internet. The move to place restrictions on the owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet, to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment, is referred to as “net neutrality.” There is no single accepted definition of “net neutrality.” However, most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet should not control how consumers lawfully use that network; and should not be able to discriminate against content provider access to that network.
    So you can see why a conservative pro-business page would think "net neutrality" is bad: its a "move to place restrictions on the owners" or ISPs, making sure everyone has "equal access" to the internet.

    Let's see, restrictions on business protecting equal access to consumers:

    MY GOD THAT'S GODLESS MARXIST SOCIALISM!!!

    Hahahaha! Silly ninnies.

    Note to my fellow progressives: The Guvment takeover of Amurikan society is nearly complete. Now that The Messiah has asserted his rightful control over the auto industry, the health care industry, the banking industry, the Internet and made sure every foxhole and barrack's shower is simply fabulous, all we need do is sit back and wait for the whole corrupt capitalist conspiracy to collapse.

    Note to Soros: I'm still waiting on my check. If you could make it out in Renminbi, that would be great. After the damage you're (well, we're) doing to the dollar, I'd like my payoff in a more reliable currency. THANKS!

    Bad Boys, Bad Boys (Local Edition)



    Just in time to get a lump of coal from Santa:
  • CasablancaPA has the goods on PA Rep. and Majority Leader Mike Turzai's double dipping when it comes to per diems here.

  • Father Duquesne (formerly The Parkway Left) has a post up on Allegheny County Councilman Matt Drozd titled "Portrait of an ignorant bigot."

  • Infinonymous blogs on LeRoy S. Zimmerman (longtime friend and close political ally of PA Gov.-elect Tom Corbett) who oversees the Hershey Trust and who is under investigation by Corbett's office for using $12 million in "funds intended to educate impoverished children" to purchase a money-losing golf course and then spending another $5 million to bling the course out. (Full story in the P-G here.)

  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a story on Michael Jasper. Jasper is a PNC vice president and finance manager who was a Pittsburgh Parking Authority board member. "Was" as in he was the only board member who voted to study a pension bailout plan opposed by Lil Mayor Luke and "was" as in he's no longer a board member because his employer asked him to resign from that body. You figure out who the bad boy is in this case (Hint: it ain't Jasper.)
  • December 22, 2010

    A very unlame duck

    Via Talking Points Memo:
    Senate Passes... Everything

    Today in the Senate, they passed (by unanimous consent) the defense authorization bill that Republicans held up over objections to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell just two short weeks ago; they passed by a voice vote the 9/11 First Responders Health bill that had been the subject of so much drama and debate; and they passed by a 71-26 vote the START nuclear treaty with Russia despite Republican objections to that as well.

    And now, for good measure, they are currently voting to confirm Mary Helen Murguia to be a judge in the Ninth Circuit.

    They Try...

    And still don't get it.

    From today's Tribune-Review Op-ed page:
    A decade ago, writing in The Independent newspaper, opiner Charles Onians lamented that global warming meant "snow is starting to disappear from our lives." Winter has just arrived but the Brits are suffering through one of the snowiest winters on record. You know what's coming next: "Honey, throw another log on the fire -- it's getting cold outside."
    The point being, of course, that since there's a lot of snow outside now in Britain, Onians must've been wrong when he said that it's disappearing. Silly ninny! Doesn't he know that global warming's a hoax?

    Um, except...

    According to NOAA:
    Northern Hemisphere average annual snow cover has declined in recent decades. This pattern is consistent with warmer global temperatures. Some of the largest declines have been observed in the spring and summer months.
    There's even a graph:

    See the general downward trend?

    That means that the northern hemisphere (and that's where England is, by the way) has seen less snow over the past few decades. More or less what Onians was getting at, what what?

    Silly ninnies.

    December 21, 2010

    How did you find us?

    Apparently many are finding us the past couple of weeks by searching for images of "Sarah Palin Rudolph" and getting to this post via this image:


    (Next Up: Sarah Palin's heartwarming Christmas Eve interview
    -- where she hunts down, kills and field-dresses Rudolph.)

    Happy to oblige!
    .

    American Ignorance

    Hard to believe, but it's true. From a recent Gallup poll:
    Four in 10 Americans, slightly fewer today than in years past, believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Thirty-eight percent believe God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms, while 16%, up slightly from years past, believe humans developed over millions of years, without God's involvement.
    Only about one out of six got it completely right? Now that's just sad.

    This was the question that generated the above percentages:
    Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings -- 1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, 2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process, 3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?
    There's a lot about of interesting stuff in the Gallup numbers (the more Republican you are the more likely you'll get the science wrong, the more educated you are the more likely you'll get the science right and so on) but I don't want to spend my time there.

    I wanna talk science and logic and belief.

    If, as 40% of Americans believe, human beings were created in their present form no more than 10,000 years ago, then what are we to make, say, of the Chauvet Cave in southern France?

    Science tells us that human beings lived there some 20,000 to 30,000 years ago but the creationists tell us humans are no older than 10,000 years old. Both can't be right. Both can be wrong, of course, but both can't be right. One way to resolve the impasse is to look at the foundations for each belief. For the science, one main piece of the foundation is radiocarbon dating.

    What is that, exactly? It's a method of dating the age of once living tissue based on the rate of decay for an isotope of carbon (namely carbon-14). Isotopes, by the way, are atoms of the same element (hydrogen, uranium, and so on) that differ in their atomic weights because they have a different number of neutrons in their respective nuclei. Carbon-13 has, for instance, 7 neutrons and 6 protons in its nucleus while carbon-14 has 8 neutrons and 6 protons in its nucleus (7+6=13 and 8+6=14, get it?).

    Science tells us that carbon-14 is very unstable and decays into an isotope of nitrogen at a known rate. It's formed constantly in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays interact with some of the nitrogen up there and filters down into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide where it enters the food chain (from CO2 to photosynthesis to animals). When something is alive the amount of carbon-14 in its system more or less matches the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. But once that thing dies, no more carbon-14 is added and the carbon-14 that remains begins its decay into nitrogen.

    In a nutshell, by knowing the rate at which carbon-14 decays and knowing how much is left in the once living tissue, scientists can pretty accurately estimate when that thing died.

    And science has dated the presence of human beings in the cave at least twice the age that creationists allow.

    So if the creationists are correct, then all of the physics used in radiocarbon dating must be wrong, for instance, carbon-14 mustn't be decaying the way physicists say it does. But if that's wrong, then so much else of physics is also wrong because it's all an interconnected web.

    On the other hand, we have the strength of belief among creationists.

    If they're right about the age of the human beings then a whole lot of science is wrong. How's your TV working these days? The nuclear plants powering the USS Ronald Reagan? Both built on nuclear physics. The science of each connected to carbon dating in one way or another. If carbon dating is wrong, they shouldn't work.

    But yet they do.

    American ignorance - if we are a superpower in decline, this is the reason.

    (H/T to Huffingtonpost)

    December 20, 2010

    House Republicans Vote for the Rape of Little Girls


    House Republicans help walk this child down the aisle

    Via Talking Points Memo:
    On Thursday night, hours before passing the tax cut compromise, House Republicans thwarted a bill that aimed to protect girls around the world from being coerced into child marriage. They opposed it because, they claimed, it might fund abortions.

    [snip]

    The text of the bill does not mention abortion, contraception or family planning. Instead, it directs the president to make preventing child marriage a priority, especially in countries where more than 40 percent of girls under the age of 18 are married. The ways to do that, according to the bill: support educating communities on the dangers and health effects of child marriage, keep young girls in school, support female mentoring programs and make sure girls have access to health care services.
    Apparently, they equate "health care services" with abortion which is why the party of "family values" voted for the rape of little girls. It doesn't matter to them that the countries that are pro child marriage are the same countries where legal abortions are nearly impossible to obtain. The anti abortion lobby must be bowed down to at all costs -- even for imaginary threats of abortion.
    .

    DADT: AFA Wingnut Fischer Responds OMG LOL

    As we all know by now, this weekend the Senate voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (hereafter DADT). And as the moon follows the sun the wingnuts have gone insane.

    ALl you need to do is to take a peek at American Family Associations's Bryan Fischer. We know exactly where he's coming from with his first sentence:
    We are now stuck with sexual deviants serving openly in the U.S. military because of turncoat Republican senators.
    (Don't worry, "deviant" is not "name calling" he says. Since it means "departing from usual standards" it's truth telling. Yea, like "zealot" is truth telling, too.)

    He calls those Republicans who voted for cloture (Scott Brown, Mark Kirk, George Voinovich, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe) as "traitors" and "renegades" to America and more importantly the Republican Platform:
    Esprit and cohesion are necessary for military effectiveness and success on the battlefield. To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America's Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timelessness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service. [emphasis from Fischer]
    His solution? You guessed it:
    The one hope America has left is to elect Republican leaders at all levels, including the presidency, who will be determined to reinstate the ban on homosexuals in the military in 2013. That is now question number one for every Republican wannabe president, every Republican wannabe senator, every Republican wannabe congressman in the next election cycle: will you support a plan to reinstate the ban on homosexual military service? If not, every conservative must say you can forget about my support, my dollars, and my vote.
    I think that's a good idea, by the way. Every Republican (at least at the national level) should be asked repeatedly and until they answer whether they support a plan to reinstate the ban on homosexual military service.

    Every Republican.

    Too his credit, Pat Toomey has already answered the question:
    As I’ve said previously, my highest priority is to have the policy that best enables our armed services to do their job. Our civilian and professional military leadership have now spoken and said we should repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I would support a free-standing measure to do so.
    So I am guessing Pat should expect any help from Bryan Fischer. Anyone else?

    The interesting thing about Fischer is the gay horrors that inhabit his imagination. Take a look at what he thinks will undermine the military:
    What young man wants to voluntarily join an outfit that will force him to shower naked with males who have a sexual interest in him and just might molest him while he sleeps in his bunk?
    Notice the use of the plural "males." If you look closer it's a story of a lone straight male (what, no women in the military?) who's forced to shower with a group of gay men who (of course) soapily lust after him and who might just gang rape him in his sleep. Bryan Fischer has a very active gay male porn imagination, doncha think?

    One last thing: He states that the reason all those other countries allow gay men and women into their militiarys is because they know we don't:
    The armies of other nations have allowed gays to serve openly in the military. The reason they could afford to do this is simple: they could allow homosexuals to serve in their military because we didn’t allow them to serve in ours.

    They knew they could count on the strength, might, power, and cohesion of the U.S. military to intervene whenever and wherever necessary to pull their fannies out of the fire and squash the forces of tyranny wherever they raised their ugly heads around the world.
    In this context, does he really want to talk about all those other fannies?

    December 19, 2010

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    In this week's Post-Gazette column Jack Kelly (a non-lawyer as far as I know) does some non-legal analysis on the recent ruling by Virginia federal district judge Henry Hudson, who found that the "individual mandate" section of the recently passed Health Care Reform as unconstitutional.

    Being a non-lawyer myself, I guess I can do some non-lawyerly analysis on Jack's non-lawyerly analysis without running the risk of practicing law without a license. (Which is a very serious crime, or so I am told.)

    After parroting some poll data from the GOP-leaning Rasmussen, Jack shows his stuff:
    The same day a federal district judge in Virginia ruled the key provision in Obamacare, which requires Americans to buy health insurance or pay a hefty fine (2.5 percent of annual income), is unconstitutional.

    Two other federal district judges, one in Michigan and another in Virginia, have ruled the individual mandate is constitutional.

    The issue is whether the authority granted to Congress by the Constitution "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes" permits Congress to require private citizens to buy a particular product.
    Good for Jack for pointing out the two judges who ruled the individual mandate as constitutional.

    Here's how Jack on the legal basis of Hudson's findings:
    But the Supreme Court tortured the Commerce Clause in the 1940 case of Wickard v. Filburn, in which it held Congress could regulate how much wheat an Ohio farmer could grow on his own land to feed his own livestock. This was interstate commerce, the Court "reasoned," because if Filburn didn't grow his own wheat, he'd have had to buy wheat to feed his livestock, and he might have bought it from out of state.

    Wickard v. Filburn is a vile precedent which should be overturned. But courts respect precedents, even bad ones.
    It leads directly to the next question: What did those other two judges have to say? One, Judge Norman Moon of the Western District of Virginia, addresses whether the Commerce Clause can regulate "inactivity":
    Far from "inactivity," by choosing to forgo insurance, Plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now, through the purchase of insurance. As Congress found, the total incidence of these economic decisions has a substantial impact on the national market for health care by collectively shifting billions of dollars on to other market participants and driving up the prices of insurance policies.
    The other, Judge George Steeh of the Eastern District of Michigan, had a little more:
    There is a rational basis to conclude that, in the aggregate, decisions to forego insurance coverage in preference to attempting to pay for health care out of pocket drive up the cost of insurance. The costs of caring for the uninsured who prove unable to pay are shifted to health care providers, to the insured population in the form of higher premiums, to governments, and to taxpayers. The decision whether to purchase insurance or to attempt to pay for health care out of pocket, is plainly economic. These decisions, viewed in the aggregate, have clear and direct impacts on health care providers, taxpayers, and the insured population who ultimately pay for the care provided to those who go without insurance. These are the economic effects addressed by Congress in enacting the Act and the minimum coverage provision.
    So what's this Wickard v. Filburn case? It's not just about wheat and the rights of an individual farmer. From the decision:
    Commerce among the states in wheat is large and important. Although wheat is raised in every state but one, production in most states is not equal to consumption. Sixteen states on average have had a surplus of wheat above their own requirements for feed, seed, and food. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia, where production has been below consumption, have looked to these surplus-producing states for their supply as well as for wheat for export and carryover.
    And:
    It is well established by decisions of this Court that the power to regulate commerce includes the power to regulate the prices at which commodities in that commerce are dealt in and practices affecting such prices. One of the primary purposes of the Act in question was to increase the market price of wheat and to that end to limit the volume thereof that could affect the market. It can hardly be denied that a factor of such volume and variability as home-consumed wheat would have a substantial influence on price and market conditions. This may arise because being in marketable condition such wheat overhangs the market and if induced by rising prices tends to flow into the market and check price increases. But if we assume that it is never marketed, it supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market. Home-grown wheat in this sense competes with wheat in commerce. The stimulation of commerce is a use of the regulatory function quite as definitely as prohibitions or restrictions thereon. This record leaves us in no doubt that Congress may properly have considered that wheat consumed on the farm where grown if wholly outside the scheme of regulation would have a substantial effect in defeating and obstructing its purpose to stimulate trade therein at increased prices.
    Taken in aggregate, Congress can, under he Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) and the Necessary and Proper Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18) regulate who much a farmer can grow in his/her own farm. Vile or not, that's what the Supreme Court said.

    But is Judge Hudson's reasoning beyond that sound? As I am still not a lawyer so let's check in with some (h/t mediamatters.org). Here's Orin Kerr from the conservative/libertarian Volokh Conspiracy:
    I’ve had a chance to read Judge Hudson’s opinion, and it seems to me it has a fairly obvious and quite significant error. Judge Hudson assumes that the power granted to Congress by the Necessary and Proper Clause — “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers” — does not expand Congress’s power beyond the Commerce Clause itself. The key line is on page 18:
    If a person’s decision not to purchase health insurance at a particular point in time does not constitute the type of economic activity subject to regulation under the Commerce Clause, then logically an attempt to enforce such provision under the Necessary and Proper Clause is equally offensive to the Constitution.
    Judge Hudson does not cite any authority for this conclusion: He seems to believe it is required by logic. But it is incorrect. The point of the Necessary and Proper clause is that it grants Congress the power to use means outside the enumerated list of of Article I powers to achieve the ends listed in Article I. If you say, as a matter of “logic” or otherwise, that the Necessary and Proper Clause only permits Congress to regulate using means that are themselves covered by the Commerce Clause, then the Necessary and Proper Clause is rendered a nullity. But that’s not how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Clause, from Chief Justice Marshall onwards. Indeed, as far as I know, not even the most vociferous critics of the mandate have suggested that the Necessary and Proper Clause can be read this way.

    Given that existing Supreme Court caselaw gives the federal government a fairly straightforward argument in support of the mandate under the Necessary and Proper clause, Judge Hudson’s error leads him to assume away as a matter of “logic” what is the major question in the case. That is unfortunate, I think.
    We can agree, I should think, that Hudson's decision isn't as solid as Jack would like us to think.

    I think he'd have us believe the party's over, let's call it a day. But if Hudson's opinion is all he has so far, the game is far from over.

    December 18, 2010

    It's About Frickin' Time

    The Senate honored itself today:
    By a vote of 65 to 31 this afternoon, the Senate voted to repeal the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Republican Senators Scott Brown, Richard Burr, Susan Collins, John Ensign, Mark Kirk, Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich joined Democrats in the final vote to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Burr and Ensign did not vote with the Democrats earlier in the day when the GOP filibuster was broken, but signed on for the final vote.
    Now let's see who voted to continue the discrimination:
    • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
    • John Barrasso (R-WY)
    • Robert F. Bennett (R-UT)
    • Christopher S. Bond (R-MO)
    • Sam Brownback (R-KS)
    • Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
    • Tom Coburn (R-OK)
    • Thad Cochran (R-MS)
    • Bob Corker (R-TN)
    • John Cornyn (R-TX)
    • Michael D. Crapo (R-ID)
    • Jim DeMint (R-SC)
    • Michael B. Enzi (R-WY)
    • Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
    • Charles E. Grassley (R-IA)
    • Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
    • James M. Inhofe (R-OK)
    • Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
    • Mike Johanns (R-NE)
    • Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
    • George S. LeMieux (R-FL)
    • Richard G. Lugar (R-IN)
    • John McCain (R-AZ)
    • Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
    • Jim Risch (R-ID)
    • Pat Roberts (R-KS)
    • Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
    • Richard C. Shelby (R-AL)
    • John Thune (R-SD)
    • David Vitter (R-LA)
    • Roger Wicker (R-MS)
    Wow. And not a D in the bunch. Who'd'a thought so many in the GOP could be so anti-gay?

    Hahahahaha. I made a funny.

    Politifact's Biggest Lie Of 2010

    We all know what it is, don't we?

    Health Care Reform is a government takeover of the healthcare system.

    From Politifact:
    In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a "government takeover."

    "Takeovers are like coups," Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. "They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom."

    The line stuck. By the time the health care bill was headed toward passage in early 2010, Obama and congressional Democrats had sanded down their program, dropping the "public option" concept that was derided as too much government intrusion. The law passed in March, with new regulations, but no government-run plan.

    But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn't let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

    PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen "government takeover of health care" as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections.
    They point out that they are making no judgement about whether the Health Care Reform bill was a good idea or a bad idea. They're just saying that the statement "HCR is a government takeover" is "simply not true."

    Here's what they said:
    PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

    It's true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.

    Republicans who maintain the Democratic plan is a government takeover say that characterization is justified because the plan increases federal regulation and will require Americans to buy health insurance.

    But while those provisions are real, the majority of Americans will continue to get coverage from private insurers. And it will bring new business for the insurance industry: People who don"t currently have coverage will get it, for the most part, from private insurance companies.

    Consider some analogies about strict government regulation. The Federal Aviation Administration imposes detailed rules on airlines. State laws require drivers to have car insurance. Regulators tell electric utilities what they can charge. Yet that heavy regulation is not described as a government takeover.
    And politifact is not alone in calling this lie a lie. Here's factcheck.org:
    Despite the fact that the federal health insurance plan (a.k.a. the “public option”) is now gone from the bill, Republicans and conservative groups have continued to claim that the bill institutes a system like the one in the United Kingdom, or Canada, or otherwise amounts to a government takeover. It doesn’t. A pure government-run system was never among the leading Democratic proposals, much to the chagrin of single-payer advocates. Instead, the bill builds on our current system of private insurance, and in fact, drums up more business for private companies by mandating that individuals buy coverage and giving many subsidies to do so.
    So when we read:
    Constitutional questions have dogged the health care bill since its introduction. But rather than address these issues head on, supporters of the legislation have shrugged them off. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when asked where the Constitution grants the power to impose an individual mandate to buy insurance, famously replied, "Are you serious?"

    This is the same tactic being used by defenders of the federal takeover of health care in response to the lawsuit against the new law.
    We know that this is a lie - there is no federal takeover of health care.

    By the way, the writer of that above passage, Nathan Benefield is the director of policy research at the Commonwealth Foundation. The same Commonwealth Foundation that's received about $2.2 million over the past 2 decades or so from the foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife (including $50,000 in "start up" funds in 1988).

    No matter who pays for it, it's still a lie.

    December 17, 2010

    Misinformation And The News

    Take a look at how well our news media has done in informing the electorate.

    From World Public Opinion:
    Following the first election since the Supreme Court has struck down limits on election-related advertising, a new poll finds that 9 in 10 voters said that in the 2010 election they encountered information they believed was misleading or false, with 56% saying this occurred frequently. Fifty-four percent said that it had been more frequent than usual, while just three percent said it was less frequent than usual, according to the poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org, based at the University of Maryland, and Knowledge Networks.
    This part is questionable, I have to admit. Not that I doubt the findings but without some context from elections past its difficult to know whether it's a new phenomenon. Post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that. The next paragraph is the important one:
    Equally significant, the poll found strong evidence that voters were substantially misinformed on many of the key issues of the campaign. Such misinformation was correlated with how people voted and their exposure to various news sources.
    Here are the findings. There are lots of questions about the stimulus, TARP, the economy and the like but when you dive into teh crazie you see where rightwing noise machine's succeeded.

    Question 35 - to the question as to whether President Obama was born in the US, not born in the US or it's not clear we see that 44% answered not born in the US (15%) or were unsure that he was born in the US (29%). Even though he was born in Hawaii and has released the necessary official documents to prove it. The internals skew to the Republicans not accepting that reality.

    Question 34 - to the question as to whether most scientists believe that climate change is occurring, is not occurring or that the scientific opinion is evenly divided, we see that 39% answered that they believed that most scientists believed that it was not occurring (10%) or that the scientific opinion was evenly divided (29%). Even though (as I've said many many times before) the scientific community overwhelmingly asserts that climate change is occurring. The internals here, too, skew to the Republicans denying reality.

    Back to World Public Opinion:
    In most cases those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation. There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.

    Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it--though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.
    Huh. Who'da thought that that would be the case?

    December 16, 2010

    Stuff We Already Knew (Part II)

    Remember this?
    Mediamatters published an internal Fox "News" email detailing how a Fox "News" Vice President told his producers how to skew the reporting on Health Care Reform.

    Well, there's another email. This time it's about climate change:
    In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."

    The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."
    The data is solid, by the way. Do I need to list all the science academies who say so?

    Again, this is from the "news" channel with the tagline "We report. You decide."

    Another reason why that's complete bull.

    Meanwhile in our own hometown, The Tribune-Review editorial page again confuses weather with climate (and makes a silly embarrassing mistake in the process - more on that in a minute):
    Predictions of a "mild winter" have been followed by early snowstorms and piercing cold that have blasted the East Coast, Midwest and South. Those forecasts "are the result of poorly understood atmospheric dynamics," The Christian Science Monitor reports. And, "Given our level of ignorance about what's going on, we don't want to compound that with a level of arrogance by saying we know what's going to happen in a month," says Wisconsin atmospheric scientist Jonathan Miller. Yet supposed climate changes 50 years from now are passed off as "settled science" by global-warming-mongers.
    There's a difference, my friends, between short term changes (that's weather) and long term trends (that's climate). But this confusion amongst the scientifically challenged isn't new.

    NYTimes in 2008:
    Many scientists also say that the cool spell in no way undermines the enormous body of evidence pointing to a warming world with disrupted weather patterns, less ice and rising seas should heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and forests continue to accumulate in the air.

    “The current downturn is not very unusual,” said Carl Mears, a scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, a private research group in Santa Rosa, Calif., that has been using satellite data to track global temperature and whose findings have been held out as reliable by a variety of climate experts. He pointed to similar drops in 1988, 1991-92, and 1998, but with a long-term warming trend clear nonetheless.
    You'll note that the weather mentioned by Scaife's braintrust is only weather in the US not weather world wide. The global trend is this (source NASA):

    See the trend? Now I am sure that within those ups and downs there are even more ups and downs. It's cooler in December than it is in June. It's cooler at night than it is during the day. But the overall trend of the climate is this: it's getting generally warmer all over the planet.

    Now onto that embarrassing mistake. Here's the article from the Christian Science Monitor the braintrust is quoting. You might not find the error right off the bat, so let me help you. It's in this stuff, tucked way at the end:
    But the pre-Christmas "snow blitz" in the upper Midwest, added to the near-zero wind chills in the South, continue to confound atmospheric scientists like Mr. Martin, who is not keen to make a call on how the Winter of 2011 will pan out.

    "Given our level of ignorance about what's going on, we don't want to compound that with a level of arrogance by saying we know what's going to happen in a month," he says.
    Martin? Who's Martin? Up the page we find:
    "At this point, this winter looks similar to last winter," says Jonathan Martin, an atmospheric scientist at Wisconsin. "The next question is, why does it look similar, and we're currently not in a position to say definitely what's going on. There are some interrelationships between big pieces of circulation anomaly that feed into one another, including an anomalous pattern over Greenland that's tied into convection in the tropical Pacific Ocean."
    Oh, that's what happened!

    In their zeal to spin the facts to fit their agenda, the braintrust got a simple fact wrong.

    It was Jonathan Martin, not Jonathan Miller.

    Gee, isn't that embarrassing?

    If we can't trust this "news" paper to get such a simple fact straight, then why trust them at all?

    Completely Absurd

    I'm guessing we all remember the Jordan Miles case, right? He's the CAPA honors student who was brutally beaten by three Pittsburgh police officers nearly a year ago. The officers were placed on paid administrative leave and are still on paid administrative leave with overtime.

    The Pittsburgh City Paper estimates, "by year's end the officers will collectively have earned $233,882 while on paid leave."

    Over a quarter of a million dollars...SAY WHAT?

    Read it and weep here.
    .

    Rolling Rally for Permanent Solution to Transit Funding Crisis


    WHEN: TODAY! Thursday, December 16th, 11:00 a.m. (10:00 a.m. assemble)
    WHERE: - Rodef Shalom parking lot 4905 Fifth Avenue (enter off of Devonshire) in Oakland
    - Press conference/Rally at 11:45 Mellon Square, Downtown Pittsburgh
    WHAT: Via press release:
    A Rolling Rally on Thursday will urge State Legislators to come up with a long term solution for Public Transit funding. While the SPC averted drastic transit cuts for the next six months, the system will face the same do or die funding situation come July 1st, leaving businesses and riders who depend on public transit in the lurch. The Rally is being organized by a group of transit riders, businesses, faith leaders and other public transit supporters will rally on Thursday to draw attention to the still critical state of Public Transit in Allegheny County.

    Rev. Thornton, Vice President of Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network explained why PIIN is helping to organize the rally; "public transit is a public good. Like police protection or road maintenance, public transit allows our entire region to function. Without public transit, we cannot thrive. Therefore we urge the state legislature to recognize this and take leadership on making sure this public necessity has stable funding allowing our businesses, workers, and citizens to plan their work and lives without fear of losing this necessary piece of the puzzle."

    [snip]

    The rally is sponsored by the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN), Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), and Allegheny County Transit Council.

    Would Have Been 240 Years Old Today


    Happy Birthday Ludwig!

    December 15, 2010

    Bill Of Rights Day

    I am told by my good friends on the Tribune-Review Editorial Board that today is "Bill of Rights Day."

    Normally I take anything coming from the collective desk of Scaife's braintrust with a grain of salt, but this time, they're actually right.

    Though they can't help themselves on the spin. Here's the editorial:
    Today is Bill of Rights Day -- an ideal time to refocus concepts of rights and responsibilities in keeping with the Founders'.

    "We poorly understand the elementary concept of rights," writes economist, adjunct faculty member and contributing scholar Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson for Grove City College's Center for Vision & Values. "Many Americans ... further cloud the issue by asserting that responsibilities frequently eclipse rights."

    Protecting God-given and inalienable rights was "government's sole legitimate purpose" to the Founders, but with time and "progressive" social engineering, "clear understanding of fundamental rights has eroded." Dr. Hendrickson cites President Franklin Roosevelt's "Economic Bill of Rights" as an egregious example -- because if one citizen has a right to, say, a home, others must be compelled to provide it.

    He points out that helping others is a moral -- not legal -- responsibility: "It makes no sense to say that those who work hard, are productive and have savings have a responsibility to provide for those who shirked that very same responsibility to provide for themselves."

    Thanks to Hendrickson for reminding all of the Founders' perspective so all can better uphold our precious Bill of Rights.
    So, what did they leave out? What did they spin?

    They left out that it was Franklin Roosevelt (the boogie man of the braintrust's editorial) who proclaimed "Bill of Rights Day." He did it in response to a request by Congress.

    And his defense is much cooler than the Trib's:
    Now, Therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate December 15, 1941, as Bill of Rights Day. And I call upon the officials of the Government, and upon the people of the United States, to observe the day by displaying the flag of the United States on public buildings and by meeting together for such prayers and such ceremonies as may seem to them appropriate.

    The first ten amendments, the great American charter of personal liberty and human dignity, became a part of the Constitution of the United States on the fifteenth day of December, 1791.

    It is fitting that the anniversary of its adoption should be remembered by the Nation which, for one hundred and fifty years, has enjoyed the immeasurable privileges which that charter guaranteed: the privileges of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the free right to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

    It is especially fitting that this anniversary should be remembered and observed by those institutions of a democratic people which owe their very existence to the guarantees of the Bill of Rights: the free schools, the free churches, the labor unions, the religious and educational and civic organizations of all kinds which, without the guarantee of the Bill of Rights, could never have existed; which sicken and disappear whenever, in any country, these rights are curtailed or withdrawn.
    As a reminder:Happy Bill of Rights Day!

    Tomorrow's Beethoven's birthday, by the way.

    December 14, 2010

    The Trib Braintrust Just Can't Stop

    With STILL no mention of how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has concluded that global warming is "undeniable" the scientifically challenged Scaife Braintrust trusts the rantings of another of the scientifically challenged, Christopher Booker.

    We've met Booker before.

    Here's the braintrust this morning:
    "Experts" trotted out disputed "science" to buttress predictions of climate cataclysms. Notes British columnist Christopher Booker in The Telegraph, the same United Kingdom National Weather Service computer that predicted a four-degree rise in global temperatures over the next 50 years also "has consistently got every one of its winter and summer forecasts hopelessly wrong" over the past three years.
    Here's Booker's article and in it he claims for example:
    Far from the oceans acidifying, their pH currently ranges between 7.9 and 8.3, putting them very firmly on the alkaline side of the threshold, at 7.0.
    And yet when a real scientist looks at the pH of the ocean the story is different:
    The increasing acidity of the world's oceans -- and that acidity's growing threat to marine species -- are definitive proof that the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is causing climate change is also negatively affecting the marine environment, says Antarctic marine biologist Jim McClintock, Ph.D., professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Biology.
    Now here's the interesting part:
    A substance's level of acidity is measured by its pH value; the lower the pH value, the more acidic is the substance. McClintock says data collected since the pre-industrial age indicates the mean surface pH of the oceans has declined from 8.2 to 8.1 units with another 0.4 unit decline possible by century's end. A single whole pH unit drop would make ocean waters 10 times more acidic, which could rob many marine organisms of their ability to produce protective shells -- and tip the balance of marine food chains.
    Now look at what Booker wrote. See the weasel words? The science points to an increasing acidity of the world's oceans (meaning they are getting more acid and less alkaline). This is dismissed by Booker because the pH is "still on the alkaline side of the "threshold."

    In any event, let's see what some some real scientists have to say:
    Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration say the 2010 meteorological year, which ran from December 2009 to November 2010, was the warmest in 131 years of of record keeping.

    The world’s average temperature in 2010 was 14.65 degrees Celsius, or 58.57 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2005, the former front-runner for warmest meteorological year, the temperature was 14.62 degrees Celsius, or 58.32 degrees Fahrenheit.
    NOAA says it's undeniable.

    That "asbestos is the same as talcum powder" guy says otherwise.

    Who would you believe?

    And who does Scaife's braintrust?

    December 13, 2010

    Espionage Act of 1917

    Naomi Wolf via the HuffingtonPost:
    This week, Senators Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein engaged in acts of serious aggression against their own constituents, and the American people in general. They both invoked the 1917 Espionage Act and urged its use in going after Julian Assange. For good measure, Lieberman extended his invocation of the Espionage Act to include a call to use it to investigate the New York Times, which published WikiLeaks' diplomatic cables. Reports yesterday suggest that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder may seek to invoke the Espionage Act against Assange.

    These two Senators, and the rest of the Congressional and White House leadership who are coming forward in support of this appalling development, are cynically counting on Americans' ignorance of their own history -- an ignorance that is stoked and manipulated by those who wish to strip rights and freedoms from the American people. They are manipulatively counting on Americans to have no knowledge or memory of the dark history of the Espionage Act -- a history that should alert us all at once to the fact that this Act has only ever been used -- was designed deliberately to be used -- specifically and viciously to silence people like you and me.
    She points out that Julian Assange isn't the leaker of all that stuff. He's the publisher. He's the New York Times to Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers.

    Here's the Espionage Act, by the way. And the part of the Act that's got Wolf nervous? That probably Section 793(e):
    Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it...[s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
    Or maybe Section 798(a):
    Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information...[s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
    As Benjamin Wittes points out:
    By its terms, it criminalizes not merely the disclosure of national defense information by organizations such as Wikileaks, but also the reporting on that information by countless news organizations. It also criminalizes all casual discussions of such disclosures by persons not authorized to receive them to other persons not authorized to receive them–in other words, all tweets sending around those countless news stories, all blogging on them, and all dinner party conversations about their contents. Taken at its word, the Espionage Act makes felons of us all.
    He goes on to say that any Assange prosecution would be complicated:
    ...precisely because there will be no way in principle to distinguish between the prosecution of Assange and the prosecution of just about anyone else–from the New York Times to the guy on the street who reads the newspaper and talks about it. That will make Espionage Act prosecutions seem like far more of a menace to legitimate speech than would a prosecution under a better-drawn law.
    So if Assange can be prosecuted, than any of us can be prosecuted, too. Either that, or it's a selective prosecution.

    Neither is acceptable in a truly free society.