We are the 99%

January 31, 2011

Bush Again Admits To Torture

(h/t to Crooks and Liars):


Transcript via C&L as well:
CAMERATO: Good morning Mr. President. My name is C.J. Camerato and I’m from Boston Massachusetts and I’m curious, were or are you concerned that legislation that you passed such as the Patriot Act opens the door for potential abuse by future presidencies?

BUSH: Great question. The law that was passed twice by the Congress, once when Republicans controlled the Congress, when we controlled the Congress and once after the ’06 election when we got soundly thumped, guarantee civil liberties and there’s a lot of safeguards in the law. And I don’t think a president can…can, through executive order preempt the safeguards in the Patriot Act. There are plenty of checks and balances in our system and throughout the book and historians will note throughout my presidency that I worked assiduously to make sure that civil liberties were not undermined.

And at the same time, provide the tools necessary for a president, future presidents to be able to protect the homeland and um… look, there’s some very controversial… the Patriot Act was one of the least controversial things I did initially. And then it became a… both parts of the political spectrum became a touchstone of too much government and yet the experts will tell you that the tools inherent in the Patriot Act were necessary to disrupt terrorist’s attacks.

And another interesting point in the book, I learned from history was that a lot of the actions that Harry Truman took made my life easier as president and therefore many of the decisions I made through executive order are the most controversial decisions I made through executive order, such as listening to the phone calls of people who might do us harm, or enhanced interrogation techniques, became the law of the land.

In other words, after the ’04 elections and after the ’06 elections, I went to Congress and said we need to ratify through legislative action that which I had done within the Constitution by executive order. And so the Congress, in spite of the fact that we had been dumped, passed law that now enables a president to have these certain tools.

People say why didn’t you just leave it under executive order? And the reason why is in some cases it might be too hard politically for a president to put out an executive order that for example our authorized enhanced interrogation techniques.

But if that were law of the land as passed by a legislative body it might be easier for that person to use that technique and it was… and so one of the… I think I saw as an accomplishment was to get the Congress to pass much of what I’d done by executive order and in so doing there was embedded in law, concern for civil liberties.
Um, that "listening to the phone calls of people who might do us harm" part? That was illegal.

And the "enhanced interrogation techniques"? We all know that was the waterboarding. It's also illegal.

So don't talk to me about Dubya's concern for civil liberties. He committed war crimes and should be prosecuted. The fact that he wasn't even investigated by the Obama administration will forever stand as one of its great moral failures.

Franz Schubert (b January 31, 1797)

Can't miss his birthday.

Enjoy Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, one of the great voices singing one of the great Schubert songs.


Here's the text if you want to follow along.

January 30, 2011

More On GOP Anti-Intellectualism

From Bill Maher this weekend:


That's a member of the US House of Representatives (and thus a lawmaker) denying one of the foundations of mondern science. Really.

From Talkingpointsmemo:

"I believe I came from God, not from a monkey so the answer is no," he said, laughing, when asked if he subscribes to the theory. Later in the segment he added, "I don't believe that a creature crawled out of the sea and became a human being one day."
As I wrote a month or so ago if we are a superpower in decline this is the reason. Simple and arrogant American scientific ignorance.

January 29, 2011

Another Lesson In Trib Obfuscation

From today's Tribune-Review:
The White House argues that repealing ObamaCare would plunge the country into a bigger mess than the one it's already in. Two hundred notable economists beg to differ.

From the corridors of Capitol Hill to the halls of academia, the economists -- including two former directors of the Congressional Budget Office -- say the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will not stem America's deficit but will add to it -- $500 billion in the first 10 years and nearly $1.5 trillion over the following decade.

"It creates a massive new entitlement at a time when the budget is already buckling under the weight of existing entitlements," their letter to Congress states.

The defense that ObamaCare somehow will cover its bets is "based on omitted costs, budgetary gimmicks, shifted premiums from other entitlements and unsustainable spending cuts and revenue increases," the economists write.

Their final analysis: ObamaCare is "fiscally dangerous" and should be repealed.

Proponents say a repeal won't pass the Senate and certainly not President Obama's veto. But House Republicans hold the purse strings. Ultimately the courts will decide ObamaCare's fate.

Given the facts piling up against the Democrats' signature "accomplishment," let alone its constitutional nose-thumbing, the case for termination couldn't be more clear.
This is an obvious attempt to counter the Congressional Budget Office's numbers regarding the recently signed Health Care legislation and H.R. 2 (which would repeal it). For instance the CBO recently estimated that:
As a result of changes in direct spending and revenues, CBO expects that enacting H.R. 2 would probably increase federal budget deficits over the 2012–2019 period by a total of roughly $145 billion (on the basis of the original estimate), plus or minus the effects of technical and economic changes that CBO and JCT will include in the forthcoming estimate. Adding two more years (through 2021) brings the projected increase in deficits to something in the vicinity of $230 billion, plus or minus the effects of technical and economic changes.
Thems pretty big guns. Thus the need for a conservative counter argument. But take a careful look at what the braintrust published. The first thing you should notice is that while the editorial quotes the letter from 200 economists, it doesn't say where the letter came from. Nor does it name anyone who signed it or was involved with its composition. Big red flag. Big big red flag.

Why did they do that? The reason being, oh wise and gentle reader, that they don't want you to know where it came from. If they did, they would have told you. They want you to think it's a just large neutral group of economists coming together to inform the public about the dangers of "Obamacare".

But it isn't. They're hiding the letter's provenance - and that should tell you everything you need to know about how "neutral" the letter is.

It's posted here at a website for a group called American Action Forum. Indeed, the first signer of the letter is the president of the AAF, Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

So who's the American Action Forum? From its website:
The American Action Forum is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and it is not affiliated with or controlled by any political group. Its focus is to educate the public about the complex policy choices now facing the country, and explain as cogently and forcefully as possible why solutions grounded in the center-right values that have guided the country thus far still represent the best way forward for America's future. It will stay neutral in elections, and by and large will leave its sister organization, the American Action Network, to engage in any appropriate direct legislative advocacy in support of the policy proposals it discusses. Like the Network, the Forum welcomes policy ideas consistent with its center-right values from any source, regardless of party affiliation, and aims to make its educational materials available to members of the public of all political stripes.
And the American Action Network?
The American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) ‘action tank’ that will create, encourage and promote center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national security. The American Action Network’s primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy.
It's a new organization (or pair of sibling organizations, to be more accurate). From the NYTimes:
A group of prominent Republicans is forming an organization to develop and market conservative ideas, copying a successful Democratic model and hoping to capitalize on the fund-raising and electioneering possibilities opened up by a recent Supreme Court ruling.

The organizers, including former Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the senior policy adviser to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, describe their emerging American Action Network as a center-right version of the Center for American Progress, the six-year-old group for progressive policies that was founded by John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and an informal adviser to President Obama.
And:
Like the Center for American Progress, the tax-exempt American Action Network will be divided into separate units. The Action Forum, which will be the policy arm, is a 501(c)3 group, named for the tax code provision for charitable groups; it allows contributions to be tax deductible but restricts political activities.

The Action Network, which will advocate for policies and candidates, is a 501(c)4 organization. Contributions are not tax deductible, and the group can advocate for political causes.
Little wonder the Trib braintrust didn't want you to know these connections.

For whatever its worth, neutral, it ain't.

January 28, 2011

Philly City Council Says No to Marcellus Shale Drilling

Taking a page from Da Burgh, maybe?

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
As expected, the Philadelphia City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to approve a resolution opposing Marcellus Shale natural-gas development in the Delaware River basin until further environmental studies can be conducted.

Though the measure is symbolic, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said it sends a message that the city is officially worried about the environmental effect of gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed, from which the city draws its drinking water.
There's much more in this earlier article.
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Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

Yesterday was Mozart's birthday. Had he survived Salieri's murderous jealousy, he'd still be alive today at 254 year old.

Instead of the usual boring Mozartean tribute, I give you this:


Enjoy.

I wonder if Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham meet for Sachertorte und Kaffee this time every year.

They should.

January 27, 2011

WTF, Sarah Palin?

It's one thing for bloggers to joke that the acronym for Obama's "Win the Future" is "WTF," it's quite another for a presumed presidential candidate to go on and on with the "WTF" references. But that's exactly what Sarah Palin did in an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News:


She didn't stop there. She also claimed in reference to Obama's calling for a "Sputnik moment" that, "He needs to remember that, uh, what happened back then with the communist U.S.S.R. and their victory in that race to space. Yeah, they won but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union."

Um, no.

Sputnik did not break the Soviet's back.

Talking Points Memo points out the following:
While the Soviet Union did eventually collapse, that wasn't until 1991 -- a full 22 years after the U.S. put a man on the moon, and the collapse came amid stagnant economic growth after years of unsustainable Soviet defense spending of which its space program was a relatively small part.
I will point out that a big part of that defense spending was their own war in Afghanistan -- a comparison that Palin would never make (even if she knew it).
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"Sally Wiggin, Sally Wiggin"


Some of you may have seen WTAE News anchor Mike Clark teasing co-anchor Sally Wiggin this week that there should be a remix of Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow" renamed "Sally Wiggin." Kiss 96.1's Morning Freak Show heard that as a challenge and you can hear their mix here.

It of course reminded me of a another song parody also based on Ms. Wiggin created by Ms. Mon and Anthony of the late, great tunesmith-anthony.com. In case you missed that one, here it is:


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Ooo...I've Been Waiting For This One

From Today's Tribune-Review:
Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang played the anti-American propaganda tune "My Motherland" during his performance at the White House state dinner last week for Chinese President Hu Jintao. That's the song in which U.S. soldiers are referred to as "jackals." We would remind Mr. Lang that a similar display of ungracious freedom of expression in his homeland would have led to his execution.
As always, The Trib braintrust spins this completely out of reality. First here's the performance (do yourself a favor and listen to his duet with Herbie Hancock, but if you don't want to waste those precious few minutes, just listen from about six minutes in) :


Where are the words? When does Lang Lang sing about US Soldiers being "jackals"? He doesn't. Not that you'd know that from reading the op-ed.

There are only two possibilities here; 1) The braintrust hasn't seen the video of Lang Lang's performance and is spinning out of ignorance or 2)The braintrust knows Lang Lang's performance had no lyrics and is hoping its audience doesn't bother to check. Either way, dishonesty rules at The Trib editorial board.

Not that they bothered with being fair, but the WSJ (that appeaser of Chinese Communism) published this on the 24th:
In a statement, Lang said “I selected this song because it has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. It was selected for no other reason but for the beauty of its melody.”

He also said “America and China are my two homes. I am most grateful to the United States for providing me with such wonderful opportunities, both in my musical studies and for furthering my career. I couldn’t be who I am today without those two countries.”
That's just sooo un-American! Someone should get Toby Keith to write a song about putting an American boot up this guys butt.

So what are the lyrics? From Psychology Today:
A big river with wide waves

The wind blows rice flowers to spread fragrance cross the banks.

My family lives on the shore,
Got used to the chant of steersmen, and
to seeing white sails on board

This is a beautiful country
Is the place where I grew up.
In this vast land
Beautiful scenery everywhere

Girls are like flowers
Young men have broad mind and shoulders,
In order to break new ground
Wake up the sleepy mountain
Let the rivers change their appearance

This is the heroic country
Is the place where I grew up,
In this ancient land
The strength of youth everywhere

Good mountains, good water, good places
All roads are wide and spacious
if friends come, there is a good wine
If jackal has come, it is greeted with hunting gun

This is a powerful country
Is the place where I grew up,
In this land of warmth,
Bright sunshine everywhere"
So where's the specific reference to the Korean War or American soldiers being referred to as "jackals"? It isn't there. If you read it carefully the "jackal" part is a metaphor. The song's one of remembrance and the metaphor is about self-defense. Armed self-defense. You'd think that fans of the 2nd Amendment would embrace such sentiments.

Now here's the fun part:
Ironically, this song and its melody were banned during the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) in China, and the lyrics were accused as expressing "pornographic" sentiments (e.g., girls are like flowers) and the melody was accused as too "capitalist." A scholar in Vancouver, B.C. recently recalled that one of his friends, a young girl who secretly sang the song was severely reprimanded at that time. Additionally, the composer Liu Zhi was to sent to engage in hard labor in countryside, and he was put on the list of most dangerous people by Jiang Qing, Mao's wife, who controlled the art and literature fields in China during that period.
So perhaps the braintrust overstated things as such an ungracious expression during the cultural revolution only led to internal exile in a forced labor camp, not execution.

This is how the rightwing noise machine works. Take an innocuous event and spin it into anti-American political paranoia. Reality is light years away.

January 25, 2011

Watch the SOTU Address with fellow progressives!


(Click to enlarge)

PA State Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Highland Park) is teaming up with the Pittsburgh Chapters of Veterans for Peace and Code Pink and the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare- H.R. 676, to host "Conversation Cafés" during the 2011 State of the Union Address.

Date and Time:
Tuesday, January 25, 2010
Conversation begins at 8:00 pm, State of the Union Address begins at 9:00 pm

Locations:
- Enrico's Tazza D'Oro, 1125 N. Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (Highland Park)
- Tin Front Café, 216 East 8th Street, Homestead, PA 15120
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More On Bush Administration Criminal Activity

And you thought the criminal activity in the Bush Administration was limited to domestic surveillance, lying to Congress about yellowcake uranium, outing CIA operatives, and (of course) the torture.

USAToday reports:
A federal agency is reporting that officials in President George W. Bush's White House improperly conducted political briefings on government property, and encouraged employees to get involved in campaigns, meaning that taxpayers footed the bill for political activity.

"As the 2006 election drew nearer, OPA (the White House Office of Political Affairs) became a partisan political organization," reported the Office of Special Counsel, an advisory agency that reviews applications of the federal Hatch Act.
From the report:
OSC cannot pinpoint with certainty the period of time during which OPA rose to the level of a "political boiler-room" during the Bush II administration.

However, OPA engaged in a significant amount of political activity during the 2006 midterm election cycle, such as: conducting partisan political briefings for agency personnel; developing and managing lists of targeted Republicans in upcoming elections; coordinating the travel of high-level agency political appointees to events with targeted Republican campaigns; interfacing and strategizing with the RNC, NRCC, and other political groups; suggesting participation in 72-hour deployment efforts; tracking the results of such volunteer efforts; and tracking money raised at fundraisers attended by administration officials.

OPA employees should avoid engaging in political activities to prevent it from transforming from an official government office into a partisan political operation. Foremost, individuals employed by a political party or partisan political group should never be permitted to operate out of government offices.
You can read the report here.

Granted, using government offices for partisan politicking isn't a war crime (like torture) or probably even an impeachable offence (like circumventing the FISA courts or outing a CIA agent) but it's still against the law.

Too bad justice in DC is so quick that:
Hatch Act penalties call for violators, at most, to be removed from their government positions, so the report would appear to have no impact now that the Bush administration has been out of office for two years.
How many times did we hear in the late 90s that "no one is above the law."

Looks like the Bush Administration was. Or at least they acted like it.

January 24, 2011

Of Course Right-Wing Rhetoric Doesn't Trigger Violence!

Except when it does.

From the NYTimes:
Frances Fox Piven, a City University of New York professor, has been a primary character in Mr. Beck’s warnings about a progressive take-down of America. Ms. Piven, Mr. Beck says, is responsible for a plan to “intentionally collapse our economic system.”

Her name has become a kind of shorthand for “enemy” on Mr. Beck’s Fox News Channel program, which is watched by more than 2 million people, and on one of his Web sites, The Blaze. This week, Mr. Beck suggested on television that she was an enemy of the Constitution.

Never mind that Ms. Piven’s radical plan to help poor people was published 45 years ago, when Mr. Beck was a toddler. Anonymous visitors to his Web site have called for her death, and some, she said, have contacted her directly via e-mail.
The Nation has more:
On the afternoon of January 6, Frances Fox Piven, a distinguished professor, legendary activist, writer and longtime contributor to this magazine, received an e-mail from an unknown correspondent. There was no text, just a subject line that read: DIE YOU CUNT. It was not the first piece of hateful e-mail Piven had gotten, nor would it be the last. One writer told her to "go back to Canada you dumb bitch"; another ended with this wish: "may cancer find you soon."

Piven was unnerved but not surprised. These are not pretty e-mails, but they appear positively decorous compared with what has been written about her by commentators on Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, where she's been the target of a relentless campaign to demonize her—and worse. There, under cover of anonymous handles, scores of people have called for Piven's murder, even volunteering to do the job with their own hands. "Somebody tell Frances I have 5000 roundas [sic] ready and I'll give My life to take Our freedom back," wrote superwrench4. "ONE SHOT...ONE KILL!" proclaimed Jst1425. "The only redistribution I am interested in is that of a precious metal.... LEAD," declared Patriot1952. Posts like these are interwoven with ripples of misogyny, outbursts of bizarre anti-Semitism and crude insults about Piven's looks (she's actually a noted beauty) and age (she's 78).
All inspired by Glenn Beck. And before we brush off these threats as no big deal, let's all read some more from The Nation:
It's perhaps not surprising, then, that the pseudo-populist right finds her so threatening. The highly personalized and concerted campaign against Piven, already unsettling, takes on added gravity in the context of the recent shootings of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, federal judge John Roll and eighteen other people in Arizona. But while commentators debate whether the killer in that case—the mentally disturbed Jared Loughner—was inspired by the ravings of right-wing demagogues, the forgotten story of Byron Williams provides a straightforward example of the way hateful rhetoric fuels violence.

In July, Williams, a convicted bank robber, put on a suit of body armor and got in a car with a 9-mm handgun, a shotgun and a .308 caliber rifle equipped with armor-piercing bullets and set off for San Francisco. His destination was the Tides Foundation, which had been mentioned at that point in at least twenty-nine episodes of the Glenn Beck show, sometimes along with Piven. His goal, as he later told police, was to kill "people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU" in order to "start a revolution." Williams's mother said that he had been watching TV news and was upset at "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing-agenda items." Or, as Williams himself put it, "I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind." California Highway Patrol officers pulled Williams over for driving erratically and, after a firefight, subdued and arrested him before he could blow anyone else's mind away.
For what it's worth, Beck has denounced violence. Take a look:
I denounce violence, regardless of ideological motivation.
I denounce anyone, from the Left, the Right or middle, who believes physical violence is the answer to whatever they feel is wrong with our country.
I denounce those who wish to tear down our system and rebuild it in their own image, whatever that image may be.
I denounce those from the Left, the Right or middle, who call for riots and violence as an opportunity to bring down and reconstruct our system.
I denounce violent threats and calls for the destruction of our system – regardless of their underlying ideology – whether they come from the Hutaree Militia or Frances Fox Piven.
Now that's interesting, isn't it? A group of domestic terrorists looking to trigger the apocalypse by killing some police officers somehow equals one 78 year old professor from CUNY.

lenn Beck's got teh crazie. But we already knew that.

January 22, 2011

One Thought On Potter's Update

Potter's Slag Heap's been doing a great job following the FOP Press Release for sometime now.

Today he had a most interesting update:
Also, just for those of you who are fans of this hoax -- and I know you're out there ... a sharp-eyed reader has pointed out that the faked press release also contains another secret message, in addition to the one we've previously noted.

If you look at the very first letter of each line of the release, it spells out the following message:

"Fuck da pigs in pgh."
The previously noted secret message is found in the logo at the top of the hoaxed press release. Instead of the Latin "Jus Fidus Libertatum" (translation: Law is the safeguard of liberty), the logo in the hoaxed press release reads "Justicia Volutabrum".

"Volutabrum", Potter dutifully tells us, is Latin for "pigsty".

Back to the second secret message. If you look at the hoaxed release, you'll see that what Potter wrote is not the only plaintext hidden in the first letters of each line. The complete plaintext is:
"fuckda pigs inp gh tdj"
(The spaces above align with the paragraph breaks in the hoaxed release.) I do have to wonder why there's a space between the "p" and the "gh" though. Given the amount of time it must've taken to compose the message, surely a little more consistency might have been achieved.

It's my guess is that too much work was put in composing the whole thing for "TDJ" to just fill out the last (and unconnected) paragraph. It's necessary otherwise so it must be a part of the message.

How much you wanna bet the police really want to speak to someone with the initials TDJ? Or three people whose initials are T, D, and J?

Of course, I could be completely wrong. It's just a guess on a frickin' cold Saturday afternoon.

January 20, 2011

Ugh!


I guess that this is not exactly unexpected, but still, yeesh!
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On the announcement that Corey O’Connor will seek his Dad's old seat


Infinonymous has it about right.
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Health Care Reform Vote: A Tale Of Three Representatives

The P-G today writes about how our three local members of the House of Representatives voted on the Repealing Giving Our Jobs a Lethal Injection of Socialism That Is Poisoning Our Economy And Our Freedom Health Care Law Act.

The results are not suprising. Republican Tim Murphy voted for, Democrats Doyle and Altmire against. The P-G's opening:
The vote itself is a legislative dead end, but U.S. House Republicans on Wednesday began what they hope is a road to reshaping the new health care overhaul law with a vote to repeal it.

By a 245-189 margin, the new GOP-controlled House kept a central promise of the fall campaign, though the Democratic-controlled Senate has said it will not consider repeal and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it.

The symbolism was nonetheless important to Republicans in setting the tone as their pledged health care work gets under way.

"Putting up the vote this way we're going to, in other words, take a roll call of members of Congress and say: 'Do you agree that there's more wrong with this bill than right?' " said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair. "Then we're going to lay that out as our marker on the field and start from there."
A large chunk of the article was devoted to Altmire. Here's why:
Mr. Altmire presented a curious case as one of several Democrats who voted against the health care overhaul law last year, then refused to back an outright repeal. Mr. Altmire, who has a background in health care as a former lobbyist for UPMC, said he still sees serious problems with the law -- but a political exercise like this isn't the way to solve them.

Conservative groups such as American Crossroads -- which spent tens of millions backing Republicans in the November elections -- have attacked Mr. Altmire and other Democratic "no" votes on the initial bill for the apparent inconsistency in not backing a repeal.
If you head over to his congressional website, Altmire explains:
I voted against the 2010 health care reform bill because I believe it is a flawed, partisan proposal that will, on the whole, do more harm than good. The law has numerous provisions that will result in higher costs for families and businesses, and it does little to correct the inefficiencies and control the costs in our current health care system. It also lacks serious quality improvement provisions that would make our health care system work better for everyone.
A paragraph later:
However, I will not waste the time and resources of the American taxpayers by engaging in a purely partisan exercise that has no chance of becoming law. Additionally, I will not diminish the health care coverage of millions of Americans by voting to repeal the positive provisions of this law that have already taken effect, including closing the Medicare prescription drug donut hole; guaranteeing health insurance coverage for children with pre-existing conditions; banning lifetime insurance caps and rescissions; and offering free preventative care for seniors. Make no mistake, a vote for complete repeal is a vote to raise out-of-pocket costs for every Medicare beneficiary and take away private health care coverage for Americans with chronic health conditions.
So in general, Altmire agrees with Murphy, that the bill does more harm than good, though he won't vote to diminish coverage, reopen the donut hole, etc.

Here's some of the type of heat Altmire is getting. From the National Review Online:
Alex Cortes, chairman of DefundIt.org, has been leading an effort by conservative groups urging these Democrats to support repeal. He released the following statement today, praising Boren and Ross:
If only their colleagues had their same intellectual consistency and recognize the common-sense reality that if you are truly against something, then you will take the actions necessary to get rid of it. Thankfully there are still several hours left before the vote and I suggest some persuasive tea time may be in order.
Cortes told National Review Online that any Democrat who opposed the original bill and didn’t vote to repeal it would be engaging in “the heart of dishonesty” and warned that every politician who opposed repeal did so at their own peril because “the American people are on our side.”
Not surprisingly, the NRO's last line is not entirely accurate. A CNN/Opinion Research Poll from late December found that while 50% of those polled opposed the Health Care Reform bill, they were not all opposed for the same reason. Oddly enough, of those opposed 13% said it was "not liberal enough." 43% were in favor of the bill.

With a bit of arithmetic, we can conclude that only 37% oppose the bill because it goes to far, while 56% (a nice majority, by the way) think it's OK or it doesn't go far enough.

Something for Congressman Altmire to think about.

January 19, 2011

I do declare!

It must be that time of year as my inbox has been full of candidates declaring a run for office this past week. As the Post-Gazette pointed out, Dan Onorato's decision to not seek a third term for Allegheny County Executive has started a game of musical chairs. Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb and County Council President Rich Fitzgerald may run for his seat; County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty has already declared. Flaherty's decision to run for County Executive leaves the door open for county Real Estate Manager Valerie McDonald Roberts and State Rep. Chelsa Wagner to declare their candidacies for his current position with State Rep. Matt Smith also considering a run.

Then, there's half of Pittsburgh City Council up for re-election this year and State Auditor Jack Wagner hinting at a challenge to Lil Mayor Luke in 2013...

Here are the candidates who have sent us press releases so far:

....Valerie McDonald Roberts
Currently Manager of the Allegheny County Department of Real Estate, Valerie McDonald Roberts has announced her intention to run for Allegheny County Controller. She has a long record of public service including: Pittsburgh School Board Director, Pittsburgh City Council Member, and Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds. I was a poll watcher for her race for Lt. Governor (she was endorsed by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). I miss her extremely rational and intelligent commentary on the now defunct offQ show.

From her press release (full version here):
Ms. Roberts states, “I have been blessed to have had many years of corporate, legislative and administrative experiences to make me uniquely qualified to be the best candidate for County Controller in addressing Allegheny County’s challenges. The breadth of my career experiences prepares me to handle the essence of the County Controller’s job – independent fiscal responsibility for Allegheny County. ‘Good government’ and ‘reform’ are great concepts, but I have actually implemented them, and will always strive for nothing less than excellence in government.”

....Bruce A. Kraus
Bruce Kraus is seeking a second term on Pittsburgh City Council for District 3. This is my district and I'm a longtime supporter of Kraus (poll watcher, heck, I've stuffed envelopes at his house) and I couldn't be happier with my choice. He's a solid member of the progressive alliance on Council. I can't count the number of times I've seen him walking my district. I also greatly appreciate his efforts to get a handle on the vandalism and violence that have unfortunately become features of the South Side's nightlife.

From his press release (full version here):
In a letter to constituents, Councilman Kraus cited—among other accomplishments—a few examples of the many successes that he has had in his first term:
  • Protecting libraries in our district—we will soon see a renovation of our South Side branch library. In addition, efforts are underway to bring a new state-of-the-art library building serving Knoxville, Carrick, and our other Hilltop communities

  • Responding to our neighbors’ needs more efficiently with the opening of our Hilltop District Office on Arlington Avenue

  • Working to reduce gun violence through responsible gun ownership legislation that requires reporting lost and stolen guns

  • ....Patrick Dowd
    Patrick Dowd is also seeking a second term on Pittsburgh City Council for District 7. He was formerly a high school history and economics teacher and a member of the Pittsburgh Board of Education. I've had my ups and downs with Dowd (supported his mayoral bid; had some issues with his actions on Council), but I thought he acted admirably during the parking-pension crisis.

    From his press release (full version here):
    As a councilman, Dowd has also worked hard to address the city’ legacy issues. With his colleagues, he was able to find a solution for the city’ pension crisis that maintained important public assets, and worked to address debt and infrastructure problems that have been kicked down the road for too long. On a regional level, Dowd was instrumental in the creation of the Council of Neighboring Communities, also known as CONNECT. CONNECT is the first serious effort to bring together the City and its 35 adjacent municipalities to solve problems in an organized and collaborative way.

    ....Lucille Prater-Holliday
    Lucille Prater-Holliday is challenging Rev. Ricky Burgess for Pittsburgh City Council for District 9. I'm not familiar with Ms. Prater-Holliday so I'm especially glad that she sent me a press release.

    From that release (full version here):
    “I’m looking forward to running a campaign focused on addressing the needs of low- and moderate-income families,” Prater-Holliday said. “We deserve a representative who will focus on increasing community and economic development opportunities and actively work to empower communities by giving ordinary people a voice in our political decisions.”

    WWJD?

    I'm not sure, of course, but I would guess that He wouldn't cover up the rape and torture of children.

    Just a guess.

    From RTE in Ireland:
    Just when the Irish bishops were beginning to come to grips with how to deal with the clerical sexual abuse problem, Rome intervened and tried to enforce Vatican policy which put the interests of the priest, not the victim, first.

    In a strictly confidential letter seen by WYB, the Vatican threatens the Irish bishops that if they follow their new child protection guidelines it would support the accused priest if he were to appeal to its authority.

    The letter tells the Irish bishops that the Vatican has moral reservations about their policy of mandatory reporting and that their guidelines are contrary to canon law.

    In 1999 the Irish bishops were called to a meeting at the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome and told by the Cardinal Prefect, Castrillon Hoyos, to be "fathers to your priests, not policemen!"
    The AP has more:
    A 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police — a disclosure that victims' groups described as "the smoking gun" needed to show that the church enforced a worldwide culture of covering up crimes by pedophile priests.

    The newly revealed letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican's rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland's first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

    The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church's right to handle all child-abuse allegations and determine punishments in house rather than give that power to civil authorities.
    And:
    The 1997 letter, signed by the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, Pope John Paul II's diplomat to Ireland, instructs Irish bishops that their new policy of making the reporting of suspected crimes mandatory "gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature."

    Storero wrote that canon law, which required abuse allegations and punishments to be handled within the church, "must be meticulously followed." Any bishops who tried to impose punishments outside the confines of canon law would face the "highly embarrassing" position of having their actions overturned on appeal in Rome, he wrote.
    In a response:
    The Vatican says a letter warning Irish bishops against reporting sexual abuse of children to police has been misunderstood.

    The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that with its 1997 letter, the Vatican wanted to ensure that Irish bishops follow church law precisely so that pedophile priests would not have any technical grounds to escape church punishment.
    Sure, ok. That explains it.

    Tell me again why The Church is given any credibility when it comes to matters of sexual morality. Given its atrocious history in dealing with the rape and torture of those in its care (like this story), why should any (ANY) pronouncement about sex about coming out of The Vatican (or any Catholic church, for that matter) be given any weight whatsoever?

    Jesus would never allow a priest to continue to rape boys. Would He?

    January 18, 2011

    Sleepless in Pittsburgh


    Is it against the law to take a nap in your car in a Giant Eagle parking lot? Apparently it is -- or it will at least get you hassled by a Pittsburgh Police officer.

    My sister Sue took me shopping at the South Side Giant Eagle on Sunday morning. She waited in her car while I was shopping. Being a working mom with two kindergarten-and-under-age kids, she put the seat back and took a nap while waiting (so, no, not slumped over the steering wheel in possible distress).

    She woke up to a Pittsburgh Policeman knocking on her window asking if anything was wrong. She told the office that she was just napping and the officer told her that she couldn't sleep there. She did explain that she was waiting for a patron in the store and he repeated that she couldn't sleep there.

    Anyone know if there's actually a law against this? Was the officer merely enforcing some Giant Eagle policy or was this some vagrancy thing?

    What would that law/policy look like? Could someone take a nap in a car while someone else was in the car awake? Are there age restrictions? I mean, would they, say, wake a sleeping toddler?

    I could see how the store might not want people taking up spaces meant for patrons to take a snooze, but I really don't see that being a problem in this lot. And, her car was basically empty so it didn't look like she was living out of it.

    I just thought the whole thing was weird and my sister was sufficiently shook up to get out of the car and go into the store to buy things that she didn't need.

    Weird.
    .

    Pennsylvania Progressive Summit is this weekend

    Just a reminder that the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit is this weekend in Pittsburgh (January 22-23, Sheraton Station Square, 300 Station Square, Pittsburgh PA).

    The keynote speaker is Rev. Jesse Jackson. Other featured speakers include: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D, AZ), Jim Dean, Joe Sestak, Wendell Potter, Darcy Burner, Eileen Connelly, Patrick Murphy, Leo Gerard, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Michael Morrill, and State Sen. Daylin Leach.

    Musical guests include Jasiri X and Boca Chica.

    There are numerous workshops, sessions and roundtables including this one:
    Blogging as a Tool for Communicating Progressive Ideas
    Sunday, 2:30PM-3:40PM, Elwood 2

    PANELISTS: John Morgan, The Pennsylvania Progressive blog; Thomas Waters, thomascwaters.com blog; Maria Lupinacci, 2 Political Junkies blog; Barbara White Stack, blog editor for the USW blog
    You still have three days left to register here.

    Ruth Ann Dailey Spins - Badly

    In an attempt to find some sort of right-left equivalence regarding the tone of our current political climate, the P-G's Ruth Ann Dailey proves, yet again, that while she certainly knows how to write, her ability see to the truth from the fog of her politics is always in question.

    Her opening:
    Given their scurrilous, insupportable yet sustained accusations against Sarah Palin, tea party activists and other non-Democrats after the Arizona mass shooting, it would seem that Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann, Clarence Dupnik and other left-wingers have created a "climate of hate" and are thus responsible for Eric Fuller's violent threats and arrest on Saturday.
    She then points out:
    After all, within hours of the Jan. 8 shooting, Messrs. Krugman, Olbermann and Dupnik et al. had publicly pinned the mass murders on the right wing, the tea party and conservative media figures. And throughout the week, despite growing evidence to the contrary, these irresponsible provocateurs and their supporters refused to retract their slander.

    So when Mr. Fuller, a member of their ideological throng, threatened one of those supposed culprits with death, it was cause and effect, right?
    Let's take a look at what Krugman, Olbermann and Dupnik had to say. From Krugman's "Climate of Hate" column:
    It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.
    And then he illustrates something Dailey probably wants us to miss:
    It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.
    And then:
    Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

    And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.
    No equivalence. But perhaps that's part of Dailey's issue - that the left is hypocritically accusing the right of violent political rhetoric. And that's the root of the left's immorality here.

    But then there's Olbermann's comment, where he ends the piece with this:
    Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence. Because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans.
    Something Dailey left out.

    To be true, Olbermann does point out some of the violence/threats of violence coming from the right. For example:
    If Sharron Angle, who spoke of "Second Amendment solutions," does not repudiate that remark and urge her supporters to think anew of the terrible reality of what her words implied, she must be repudiated by her supporters in Nevada.

    If the Tea Party leaders who took out of context a Jefferson quote about blood and tyranny and the tree of liberty do not understand - do not understand tonight, now what that really means, and these leaders do not tell their followers to abhor violence and all threat of violence, then those Tea Party leaders must be repudiated by the Republican Party.
    Or the Tigris and Euphrates of the Fox "News" political rhetoric:
    If Glenn Beck, who obsesses nearly as strangely as Mr. Loughner did about gold and debt and who wistfully joked about killing Michael Moore, and Bill O'Reilly, who blithely repeated "Tiller the Killer" until the phrase was burned into the minds of his viewers, do not begin their next broadcasts with solemn apologies for ever turning to the death-fantasies and the dreams of bloodlust, for ever having provided just the oxygen to those deep in madness to whom violence is an acceptable solution, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by their viewers, and by all politicians, and by sponsors, and by the networks that employ them.
    As far as I know, none of those things have happened yet.

    The violent rhetoric is there - by far more so on the right. This is the politics of "if ballots don't work, bullets will." And it's a tea party thing. Something else Dailey doesn't want you to think.

    Anyway, the big point that she missed, is that Fuller (the nexus of this column) was only threatening violence. He didn't pick up a Glock with 30 bullets in it and spray a tea party crowd with death. It was a threat - a stupid threat, to be sure, but a serious threat nonetheless.

    And he was arrested for it.

    Will we see an arrest for the next tea partier that gushes on about the tree of liberty being sprinkled with the blood if tyrants?

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    Jack Kelly had a column in Sunday's P-G.

    And in it he spins.

    How surprising is that?

    First Jack's somewhat surprising opening:
    I rarely have had nice things to say about President Barack Obama. But I was proud of him Wednesday night. His speech at the memorial service for the victims of the Tucson massacre ranked up there with the speech President Ronald Reagan gave after the Challenger disaster, and the speech President George W. Bush gave after 9/11.
    It's interesting to see the list that Jack uses. No where is there the discussion of President Clinton's speech after the Oklahoma City bombing. We'll see why in a minute.

    Next Jack's spin:
    The president's remarks rescued what could have been an awkward situation. The venue, the behavior of much of the audience and the remarks of warm-up speakers were more suited to a political pep rally, unseemly for a somber occasion. It reminded me of how the memorial service in 2002 for Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn, was abused for political purposes.
    There it is. That's what this column is about - how the Democrats are spinning the violence in Tucson. Just like how the Wellstone memorial was "abused for political purposes."

    Except it wasn't. Safe to say that Jack wasn't there in 2002. Minnesota Senator Al Franken was, however. And this is what Senator Franken had to say:
    To this day, there are still a lot of people, including Democrats, who've bought the right wing line on the Wellstone Memorial. Specifically, that it was a cynical, premeditated political event that included endless booing of Republican politicians who came to pay their respects to their fallen colleague. I wrote a pretty detailed account of the Wellstone Memorial in my book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and nothing could be further from the truth. I did write that "reasonable people of good will were genuinely offended." The memorial was raucous and a couple of speakers said some things that were inappropriate - basically, let's win this (upcoming Senate) election for Paul.

    There were also honest Republicans of good will, including Jim Ramstad - the Congressman from the Minneapolis suburban district I grew up in - who acted like human beings and cut the speakers who offended (Rick Kahn and, to a lesser degree, Mark Wellstone) a little slack because they understood that Rick had lost six very close friends and Mark had lost his father, mother, and sister.
    And then he sums up things nicely:
    The chapter was mainly about how cynically Republicans used the memorial politically as they complained that the Democrats had used it politically.
    And then we see why Jack omits Clinton's Oklahoma speech:
    Mr. Obama's tone doubtless was disappointing to some in his party, who were hoping he would turn the tragedy to partisan political advantage. An unnamed Democratic political operative told Politico Monday that the White House needed to "deftly pin this on the tea partiers. Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people."

    Another Democratic strategist said the similarity between the Tucson massacre and Oklahoma City is that both "take place in a climate of bitter and virulent rhetoric against the government and Democrats."
    Which is actually true.

    So here we are. Jack's charge is that Democrats using the shooting for political purposes when it's actually Republicans spinning the Democrat's reactions for their own political purposes.

    Tricky, huh?

    January 14, 2011

    State Of The Climate (2010)

    Since you won't see this in The Trib, here's some of NOAA's Global Highlights from 2010:
    The year 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year since records began in 1880. The annual global combined land and ocean surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average. The range associated with this value is plus or minus 0.07°C (0.13°F). The 2010 combined land and ocean surface temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was also the warmest on record, while the combined land and ocean surface temperature in the Southern Hemisphere was the sixth warmest such period on record. The annual globally averaged land temperature was 0.96°C (1.73°F) above average, which tied with 2005 as the second warmest year record. The range associated with this value is plus or minus 0.11°C (0.20°F). The warmest year was 2007, at 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average. The decadal global land and ocean average temperature anomaly for 2001–2010 was the warmest decade on record for the globe, with a surface global temperature of 0.56°C (1.01°F) above the 20th century average. This surpassed the previous decadal record (1991–2000) value of 0.36°C (0.65°F).
    Huh. Warmest decade on record. Imagine that. Wait - you don't have to. It really happened.

    January 13, 2011

    Political Rancor - Arizona Tea Party Style

    These Arizona Tea Party Types are surely a nice bunch. They're even tempered and they play nice with others.

    Only not so much when they don't:
    A nasty battle between factions of Legislative District 20 Republicans and fears that it could turn violent in the wake of what happened in Tucson on Saturday prompted District Chairman Anthony Miller and several others to resign.

    Miller, a 43-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident and former campaign worker for U.S. Sen. John McCain, was re-elected to a second one-year term last month. He said constant verbal attacks after that election and Internet blog posts by some local members with Tea Party ties made him worry about his family's safety.
    And then:
    Miller said when he was a member of McCain's campaign staff last year has been criticized by the more conservative party members who supported Republican opponent J.D. Hayworth. The first and only African-American to hold the party's precinct chairmanship, Miller said he has been called "McCain's boy," and during the campaign saw a critic form his hand in the shape of a gun and point it at him.

    "I wasn't going to resign but decided to quit after what happened Saturday," Miller said. "I love the Republican Party but I don't want to take a bullet for anyone."
    Hmm...now why would an African-American man possibly object to being called someone's "boy"? I mean we all know there's no racism in the Tea Party, right? So this must be one big misunderstanding, right? What we have here is a failure to communicate.

    And the hand in the shape of a gun? That's simply a reflection of that Tea Partier's enduring respect for those "Second Amendment" solutions spoken about so glowingly by that other Tea Party favorite, Sharon Angle. Reminds us of something, Joyce Kaufman a Florida Tea partier and talk radio host is quoted as saying:
    If ballots don’t work, bullets will.
    Of course there's no overheated rhetoric on the far-right. Of course not.

    Very respectful of disagreement, these tea partiers. Very respectful.

    Compare and Contrast

    I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

    That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

    I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.


    - President Barack Obama, 1/12/11
    Compare and contrast.
    .

    January 12, 2011

    Sarah Palin: America's Enduring Victim

    In a seven minute and 43 second video today, Sarah Palin addressed the massacre in Arizona last Saturday. Well, actually, she spent only the first minute and a half addressing the people who were killed and injured. She spent the rest of the time explaining how the violent language and images that she used against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (and all the violent rhetoric used by Republicans this past year) not only had nothing whatsoever to do with Giffords being shot in the head, but was the height of patriotism:
    Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.
    "Blood libel"?!?

    Does she even know what that phrase means?? (Even uber conservative Jonah Goldberg has a problem with it.)

    And, then there's her idea that when she and other Republicans use violent rhetoric ("crosshairs," "reload," "Second Amendment remedies," "armed and dangerous," "Our nation was founded on violence," "a bloody war," "the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots," "Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it," "And if ballots don’t work, bullets will") that is merely engaging in "spirited public debates," but when anyone dares to criticize the violent rhetoric that is inciting hatred and violence.

    Yes, Sarah, you are the true victim in all this and people who object to violent language are the true perpetrators of violence. It all makes so much perfect fucking sense that I need to rush right out and buy your books. You have slain me with your logic. Please, please run for President so that I may vote for you.

    In case you missed it, here's poor, little Sarah huddled by the hearth in her hovel in the shetl trying to get her words out before the Cossacks come:


    .

    What IF He Was A Muslim?

    Tony Lee, at Human Events Online, asks that question.

    And he sees a vast disconnect between how "the media" is treating the recent attempted assassination/mass shooting in Arizona and how it treated the not-so-recent mass shooting at Ft Hood. Needless to say he finds the usual suspects:
    Shamefully and sadly, the media would have covered his horrific assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz) and slaying and maiming of innocent Arizonans in a more responsible manner. They would have called for restraint and not violated the journalistic tenet of not assuming anything, a tenet they purportedly (and often facetiously sanctimoniously) claim to hold dear.
    And then:
    The New York Times led the brigade in setting the agenda for the other liberal lemmings in the mainstream media to follow.

    Immediately after this senseless tragedy, The New York Times opined that “it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.”
    There they go again. The lib'rul media blaming conservatives. But hey, wanna see the sentence immediately preceding Lee's mildly seething quotation? Here it is:
    It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members.
    Whah? So the Times isn't blaming the shooting on the tea party? The editorial is more about the violent imagery soaking the right side of our political "discussion" (anyone else remember when Glenn Beck symbolically doused a guy with gasoline as a political stunt? or the signs at the Tea Party rallies that said "We're unarmed - this time"?).

    So how did Human Events Online describe the Ft Hood shooting? Guess:
    Hasan’s Islam is rooted in traditional understandings of the faith as taught by the authoritative schools of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence. It also is the same Islam that is taught by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

    In arguing that the Koran mandates defensive jihad against unbelievers, Hasan invokes the same Koranic verse that Osama bin Laden used as an epigraph on his “Letter to the American People” of October 2002: “Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged; and surely, Allah is able to give them victory.”
    And finally:
    No one in government or law enforcement has ever made any attempt to determine how prevalent such understandings of Islam are among Muslims in the United States. Yet it is of cardinal importance for those sworn to protect us to begin making such an attempt now. As we saw at Fort Hood, the lives of innocent people depend on it.
    See! It's Islam's fault and the guv'ment needs to do something about all those violent Muslims!

    That's how it works in the right wing noise machine - when a deranged shooter's a Muslim, it's Islam's fault. When a deranged shooter's an anti-guv'ment loon, he's a lone gunman who's solely responsible.

    January 11, 2011

    A Fringe Character?

    There's something I have to clear up.

    In some of the early reporting of the Arizona shooting I read that the shooter was described as:
    The gunman was young, mid-to-late 20s, white, clean-shaven with short hair and wearing dark clothing and said nothing during the shooting or while being held down, although he struggled at first. He was "not particularly well-dressed"; he didn't look like a businessman, but more of a "fringe character," [eyewitness Steven] Rayle said. The sheriff's department arrived, arrested the gunman and cordoned off the parking lot.
    And initially I thought that meant "political fringe". Not that I have any working definition of what someone on the "political fringe" looks like - all I mean is that Rayle thought it matched Rayle's definition of someone on the "political fringe"

    Then I saw the mug shot of the shooter:

    Not the most stable looking of characters, let's be honest. He just shot almost two dozen people (killing 6) and he's smiling at the camera?

    I know Tom Delay smiled in his mugshot camera but that was only for money laundering. And Delay's not a killer, just corrupt republican going to jail for 3 years.

    But what about this "fringe character" thing. Well, coincidentally the lovely wife and I are watching season two of the Fox show Fringe. (We're watching them in order and we haven't seen any of the current season - so NO SPOILERS PLEASE.) Anyway one of the more mysterious characters on the show are called "the observers" and they look like this:

    Loughner looked like "a fringe character" meaning "a character on the TV show Fringe."

    Not that that means anything. 6 people are still dead. Others still wounded. Wingnuts on the right are trying to show that Sarah Palin's bullseyes are actually (giggle giggle giggle) surveyor marks. And the noise machine on the right is doing everything it can to get us all to focus on the fact that he was a lone gunman - but we all know if the guy's name was Mohammad their tune would be very different indeed.

    January 10, 2011

    Funny How Things Connect

    You may have missed it, what with all the coverage of the domestic terrorism in Arizona, but former Texas Representative Tom Delay was sentenced to 3 years in prison today.

    3 years.

    The first series of Star Trek was only on TV (first run) for 3 years.

    Attached to the coverage of the Arizona-based domestic terrorism is the discussion about turning down the heated political rhetoric as it may, you know, damage the body politic or something.

    Guess what?

    Tom Delay was a practitioner of heated political rhetoric.

    From my favorite rag, the Tribune-Review from 2007:
    Democratic leaders are acting like traitors by opposing the Iraq war, and President Bush must answer with a toughened stance, former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Monday.

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "are getting very, very close to treason," DeLay said in a meeting with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    "We have people dying," he said. "Not just our soldiers, but innocent citizens dying in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of these evil people, and you have your elected leaders making these kinds of statements that embolden the enemy. It's unbelievable."
    Yep he said that. He said that failure to support Bush's war was "very very close to treason." And that Senator Reid and then-Speaker Pelosi were traitors.

    And he's going to jail. The Hammer's going to jail.

    January 9, 2011

    STFU with the eliminationist rhetoric

    "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!"
    - VP Candidate & Gov. Sarah Palin, Republican

    "I hope that's not where we're going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."
    - Senate Candidate Sharron Angle, Republican

    “We have become, or are becoming, enslaved by the government ... I dare ‘em to try to come throw me in jail. I dare ‘em to. [I’ll] pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They’re not going on my property.”
    - CNN Commentator Erick Erickson, Republican

    "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back."
    - US Rep. Michele Bachmann, Republican

    "Our nation was founded on violence. I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms."
    - Texas Candidate for U.S. Rep. Stephen Broden, Republican

    "We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware. We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.”
    - Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Debra Medina, Republican

    "Does sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?...I think you and I should go and beat him up."
    - Fox News Host Bill O'Reilly, Republican

    "Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it."
    - U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, Republican

    "Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson."
    - Conservative Radio Show Host Glenn Beck, Republican

    (More here)

    While most Republicans seem to take their cue from their patron saint Ronald Reagan that government is the problem, a current segment of that party takes it one step further by not just constantly disparaging government, but calling for its violent overthrow -- or at the very least using eliminationist rhetoric against Democrats.

    And, I'm calling BULLSHIT right now on anyone who tries to paint some false equivalency. There simply isn't this level of violent language by politicians, political candidates and cable hosts coming from the Democratic side.

    I'm also calling BULLSHIT on anyone who would try to say that when Jared Lee Loughner killed six people and wounded 13 others yesterday including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at her own event that this was just some "crazy person" acting out and that it was not a political act. Loughner could have just as easily gone to a mall or a McDonald's or a school. But he didn't. He targeted a politician -- and a Democratic politician. He clearly had problems with the government as seen by his now deleted MySpace page:


    He was anti-government, anti-federalist, pro gold standard, and he compared a young woman to a “terrorist for killing the baby” so he sure as hell wasn't a liberal.

    What he seems to be is a mentally disturbed individual living in a time of historic vitriolic rhetoric and in a place where threats and violence had already been directed towards Giffords as noted by Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik:


    What had been aimed already at Giffords? Sarah Palin had her in her crosshairs:


    We have this from her Tea Party opponent:


    And, we have the Congresswoman's own words on the issue:


    We also have six dead and 13 wounded, including:

    A Congresswoman fighting for her life:

    Gabrielle Giffords

    A slain chief judge for the United States District Court:

    John M. Roll

    And, a little girl cut down in her ninth year of life:

    Christina Taylor Greene

    Christina was born on 9/11. She was a member of her student council who was brought to the event to meet a role model.

    Shortly after the massacre, Sarah Palin deleted the "crosshairs" from the web. Would that she and her ilk delete any more violent garbage from coming out of their mouths.
    .

    I'll Say It, Too. And Freely:

    Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence. Because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans.

    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    You can find the transcript here.

    January 8, 2011

    A Sad Dispute Between Two Friends

    Towards the beginning of a chapter in her book "Who Stole Feminism?", Christina Hoff Sommers wrote:
    Battery and rape are crimes that shatter lives; those who suffer must be cared for, and those who cause their suffering must be rendered incapable of doing further harm. But in all we do to help, the most loyal ally is truth. Truth brought to public light recruits the best of us to work for change. On the other hand, even the best-intentioned "noble lie" ultimately discredits the finest of causes.
    The chapter then proceeds to debunk the claim that "more women are victims of domestic abuse on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year." While it's true that Professor Sommers is now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, she's still right about truth and the "noble lie".

    Writing as someone who routinely works to undermine wingnut advocacy by unearthing the misinformation being used to support its positions, it was sad to see a local dispute erupt between a pair of bloggers both of whom I admire and respect.

    For those who don't know, Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania CEO Heather Arnet recently had a letter in the P-G in which she applauded Pitt's decision to fire Michael Haywood, Pitt's newly hired football coach, after his arrest in Indiana on domestic abuse charges. In the letter (it's the beginning of the second paragraph, by the way) she wrote:
    Domestic abuse is the number two killer of women in this country.
    Setting aside the worthwhile discussion of the wisdom of Haywood's firing - on the one hand Haywood's only been accused, not convicted, of any crime but on the other had Pitt not fired him, the PR nightmares would have continued at least until he was either convicted or fired - it's Arnet's claim above that triggered the local blogger dispute.

    First, my friend Chad Hermann responded with a fact-check and found that Arnet's claim was simply wrong.

    Turns out that according to the FBI, there are about 1,200 deaths of women per year due to domestic violence and (extrapolating from the CDC's numbers) there's 264,000 or so deaths of women per year from Cancer (their #2 cause). With about 314,000 Heart Disease was the CDC's #1 cause of deaths of women per year. Chad recapped:
    Cancer – 264,000
    Domestic Violence – 1,200

    The numbers are so close, you can see how Ms. Arnet might have gotten them confused. I mean, what’s a little factor of 220 among friends and advocates and peddlers of inveterate poppycock?
    In response to one friend's fact-check, another friend, Ms Mon at Ms Mon's Salon, responded. While admitting that Arnet's facts are "soft" and that many of Chad's points are "valid" she, quickly and unfortunately, departs from the argument at hand:
    But his determined discrediting of the statistics are so palpable, they seem more like his own desperate attempts to prove that women are full of hokum, instead of, say, offering illumination as to why women are a tad sensitive about the subject. I guess when you have to make up for so many thousands of years of privileged, white, male subjugation, you can't be bothered with those kinds of details.
    Looking at his blog post, I am not sure I see the same things Ms. Mon sees (that he's attempting to prove that women are full of hokum) - but that's OK. There's no reason in the world why my reading of his blog post should take precedence over anyone else's.

    However, she effectively changed the subject from the one Chad was making, which was that Arnet's assertion that domestic violence was the number two cause of death among women in this country was simply wrong.

    And he was right. One can argue with the tone of his blog post but one can't argue with the facts he's presented there. She was simply wrong about the cause of death among women and I'd have to agree with Chad that the error was so wrong that it undermines the credibility of the letter as a whole and, unfortunately, the letter writer.

    Domestic violence is very very bad. It is a serious problem that always requires serious attention. Its victims need to be cared for and treated respectfully and its perpetrators need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. A truly civilized society should demand no less.

    However...

    No matter how well intentioned, in the end a noble lie only discredits the cause it's being used to support.