We are the 99%

July 31, 2011

Some Passing Thoughts...

From Thinkprogress:
The rumored deals flying around Washington today all sound pretty bad. And how could they not be? The White House started with a position that:
1. Failure to raise the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
2. The country should enact substantial deficit reduction in 2011.
3. Any deficit reduction package must include revenue increases.
But (1) and (3) were in significant tension. The White House strategy for getting (3) was to persuade the public that (3) was the correct position. They did that, and all polls showed that public opinion was on their side. But then an underpants gnome problem arose. They didn’t dissolve parliament and call for a snap election. Eric Cantor said “no” and once he said “no,” (1) collided with (3) and the White House dropped (3). Once you’re there, how is the deal not going to be bad?
And in conclusion:
I actually think that whatever the contours of the deal, at this point the biggest damage is to the overall system of government. Obama has successfully transformed massive debt ceiling hostage taking from an act of breathtakingly irresponsible brinksmanship into a proven effective negotiating tactic.
Many thanks to the Compromiser-in-Chief. Many, many thanks.

Reminder

From the New York Times editorial board on how the deficit got this big. It's their explanation of the above chart:
The second graph shows that under Mr. Bush, tax cuts and war spending were the biggest policy drivers of the swing from projected surpluses to deficits from 2002 to 2009. Budget estimates that didn’t foresee the recessions in 2001 and in 2008 and 2009 also contributed to deficits. Mr. Obama’s policies, taken out to 2017, add to deficits, but not by nearly as much.

A few lessons can be drawn from the numbers. First, the Bush tax cuts have had a huge damaging effect. If all of them expired as scheduled at the end of 2012, future deficits would be cut by about half, to sustainable levels. Second, a healthy budget requires a healthy economy; recessions wreak havoc by reducing tax revenue. Government has to spur demand and create jobs in a deep downturn, even though doing so worsens the deficit in the short run. Third, spending cuts alone will not close the gap. The chronic revenue shortfalls from serial tax cuts are simply too deep to fill with spending cuts alone. Taxes have to go up.

In future decades, when rising health costs with an aging population hit the budget in full force, deficits are projected to be far deeper than they are now. Effective health care reform, and a willingness to pay more taxes, will be the biggest factors in controlling those deficits.
But instead, let's cut Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Compensation, and let's make sure all those millionaires and billionaires keep those job creating tax cuts!

Happy Sunday.

July 30, 2011

Daryl Metcalfe Gets Some Press!

In the Philadelphia City Paper.

Go read it. Here's Daniel Denvir's opening:
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a gun-toting 48-year-old who represents Pittsburgh's fast-growing, far-out Butler County exurbs, has spent more than a decade slogging his way toward power. For years, he was a nobody in Harrisburg, and the media paid far more attention to his strong-worded comments about gays, guns and immigrants than his colleagues ever did to his legislation. But in the wake of President Barack Obama's election, things changed: A national movement of angry conservatives took hold and voted out any Republicans or Democrats who smelled of moderation.

Or, as Metcalfe put it to the liberal news website Talking Points Memo, "I was a Tea Partier before it was cool."
Here's that TPM piece on him. In it, there's this about Metcalfe:
Metcalfe says he's a dyed-in-the-wool conservative (he told me "I was a tea partier before it was cool") and promises to fight his own party if necessary to maintain purity on issues like gun rights, tax reduction and "keeping marriage between a man and a woman."

Last October, Metcalfe landed in hot water after he called veterans who support global climate change treaties "traitors to their oaths to uphold the constitution."
But back to the PhilyCP. There's this defining his legislative power:
Metcalfe is now chairman of the powerful State Government Committee, and he's savoring the political moment: He was a key supporter of an expansion of gun owners' rights to fire on an assailant, a bill signed by Gov. Tom Corbett. The House passed Metcalfe's legislation requiring voters to present government identification, which could disproportionately keep the poor, elderly and nonwhite from the polls. This fall, he is expected to move legislation to pass a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage; anti-immigrant measures modeled on Arizona's draconian law; and an anti-union "right-to-work" bill that Corbett pledges to sign.

Crucially, Metcalfe, who did not return repeated requests for comment, will help oversee the decennial process of redrawing congressional districts to reflect population changes from the 2010 census. He wields enormous power to reshape districts and, thus, elections, for years to come.
And this on his gay agenda:
Metcalfe is the House's most prominent critic of gays: He opposed Philly's program to market the city to gay tourists, saying that tax dollars should not be used to "promote immoral behaviors"; he tried to cut state funding to universities such as Temple because they offer domestic-partner benefits; he sued a gay New Hope couple for attempting (and failing) to get a marriage license; and he opposed Domestic Violence Awareness Month, calling it part of "the homosexual agenda" to support a "sinful lifestyle" because it recognized male victims of rape. "The gentleman from Butler has made this problem even worse and more men may be abused, even killed in their homes," decried Rep. Babette Josephs, a Democrat from Philadelphia, on the House floor in 2009.
All that really fun stuff aside, here's where some ongoing threads intertwine once again. It's all about Daryl and ALEC:
Like many right-wing state legislators nationwide, Daryl Metcalfe is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which produces model legislation drafted in part by big business. This year, ALEC has come under criticism for its role in pushing legislation like Wisconsin's anti-union bill. What's surprising is that Pennsylvania taxpayers pick up the tab for Metcalfe's involvement.

Documents obtained by City Paper from the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission show that ALEC reimbursed Metcalfe $832.91 in 2007, a "scholarship" that is funded by major corporations. And state documents obtained by good government group Common Cause and reviewed by City Paper reveal that taxpayers also reimbursed Metcalfe $509.25 in per diems, and for parking and transportation, food and other fees for the 2007 ALEC conference in Philadelphia.

Since 2007, taxpayers have footed $1,164 in ALEC expenses for the self-professed small-government advocate. He isn't the only Republican steering taxpayer dollars to the conservative advocacy group — other legislators also had fees and per diems covered.

That same year, the documents also show that a $50,000 appropriation to cater the ALEC meeting was added into the state budget, a food bill footed by taxpayers that included $30,450 in roasted chicken breast and $3,000 for cheesecake lollipops. The budget outlay was described as "for the payment of expenses related to hosting conferences, meetings or conventions of multistage organizations which protect the member states' interests or which promote governmental financial excellence or accountability."

Metcalfe's agenda more or less mirrors that of ALEC model legislation, including efforts to compel local police to enforce immigration laws and prohibit localities like Philly from enacting their own gun restrictions.
Daryl and ALEC,
sittin' in a tree,
K-i-s-s-i-n-g...

July 29, 2011

Now This Is Interesting...

An astute reader clued me into this curiosity found in the pages of the Tribune-Review:
FBI agents involved in a secret grand jury investigation into the Allegheny County Jail have interviewed a former jail inmate who claims he was handcuffed and brutalized after an escape attempt last year, the man told the Tribune-Review.

Gary Barbour Jr., 29, who now is incarcerated in the state prison in Huntingdon, also asked attorney Ronald Barber to file a federal lawsuit naming the county and unspecified officials and guards as defendants in the April 6, 2010, incident that he says sent him to UPMC Mercy for treatment.
So far, so good. But take a look at this from 2005:
An Allegheny County judge decided Tuesday to unseal some records from the estate of the late Sen. H. John Heinz III after eight months of legal wrangling between the powerful family's lawyers and several newspapers.

Attorneys for both sides said yesterday they are pleased with Common Pleas Judge Frank J. Lucchino's decision, which opens 11 documents for public inspection in 20 days, but holds back on some details the judge called private and sensitive.

"It looks like a significant victory for the press. But we won't know how close we got to the target until we see the records," said Ronald Barber, an attorney for the Tribune-Review.
Since Attorney Barber is also quoted in the P-G's coverage of the same story:
When Gary W. Barbour Jr. tried to escape from the Allegheny County Jail last year, he was caught and beaten by guards before and after he was handcuffed, an attorney representing the inmate said Thursday.

Mr. Barbour's treatment after his escape attempt is one of the subjects of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of the lockup.

Statements Thursday by attorney Ronald D. Barber are the first accounts of the incident to emerge, beyond the initial Allegheny County police report that described Mr. Barbour as "injured and bleeding" to the extent that he required hospitalization.
I think we can assume that the papers called him to get a comment in print and not the other way around.

But still - if he's the Trib's attorney and he's quoted on the pages of the Trib for another story, shouldn't they at least mention that?

Not being completely forthcoming with the facts is the Trib's editorial page practice - one we're well aware of. Leaving important stuff like this out of the news shouldn't be.

President Obama, Moderate Conservative?

You guys know Ed, right?

He blogs over at Cognitive Dissonance and he's doing a stand up job every week (far more than I am at this point, by the way) at countering Jack Kelly's conservative drivel over at the P-G. If you're not reading his blog, you should. It's pretty darn good. The bastard.

Anyhoo, he sent me a link to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman linking to Regan economic advisor Bruce Bartlett who's asserting:
Liberals hoped that Obama would overturn conservative policies and launch a new era of government activism. Although Republicans routinely accuse him of being a socialist, an honest examination of his presidency must conclude that he has in fact been moderately conservative to exactly the same degree that Nixon was moderately liberal.
The rest of Bartlett's piece is evidence of Obama's non-Liberalness for example:
  • His stimulus bill was half the size that his advisers thought necessary;
  • He continued Bush’s war and national security policies without change and even retained Bush’s defense secretary;
  • He put forward a health plan almost identical to those that had been supported by Republicans such as Mitt Romney in the recent past, pointedly rejecting the single-payer option favored by liberals;
  • He caved to conservative demands that the Bush tax cuts be extended without getting any quid pro quo whatsoever;
  • And in the past few weeks he has supported deficit reductions that go far beyond those offered by Republicans.
And so on. Not sure I buy the whole argument but perhaps my political paradigm requires some shifting. If anything this shows that we live in a political universe that's profoundly relativistic.

There's no absolute space, no absolute rest. Everything is moving relative to everything else and what it means to be "liberal" or "conservative" has to be viewed through the relative frame of reference of the person using each term.

July 28, 2011

Batman Celebrity Sighting in Pittsburgh Today!

Two bits of non-political news.

First, I had lunch at Las Velas today and my lunch was muy sabrosa.

Then, as I was walking back to my office, I saw this guy:
That's Gary Oldman. He's playing Jim Gordon in the upcoming Batman movie set to start filming here tomorrow.

I was thrilled to see him as I've been a fan for a long long time. And I really wanted to take his picture but as he was wearing his "no pictures" t-shirt (as seen above) I decided against it. On the one hand, I thought as we were in public I could probably snap a picture or two. On the other, I thought the man's played both Sid Vicious and Ludwig van Beethoven so if he didn't want his picture taken, that's fine with me. A blogger I am, a paparazzi I ain't.

The man's earned some private space - even on a public sidewalk.

More On Christian Censorship

From the Republic Monitor:
At the Monday night Republic School Board meeting, the four school board members in attendance voted 4-0 to remove one book from the school’s library and another from the school’s curriculum.
The books in question:
The original complaint mentioned three books: “Speak,” by Laurie Halsey Anderson, “Slaughterhouse-Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut and “Twenty Boy Summer” by Sarah Ockler. Although “Speak” made the cut with the school board and will be kept in the library, the other two didn’t meet the policy guidelines set by the board in April regarding book content.

“Slaughterhouse-Five,” which was taught in an upper level English class, but not available in the library, will be removed from the curriculum. While “Twenty Boy Summer,” available in the school’s library, was found by board members to be too sexually graphic.
You know what's funny about this story? See if you spot the funny:
The vote came as a result of a complaint regarding the books, sent by a community member. Although the community member doesn’t have children in Republic's school system, the board addressed the complaint.
Or here:
The only voting board member to have read all three of the books—not just the Cliff's Notes, was Melissa Duvall. Duvall considers her vote against the books not so much about the book, but the school’s policy.

“We’re not making a judgment call on if the book is good or bad, we just want to make sure it’s age-appropriate,” Duvall said.
Ok, I'll tell you. The complaint came from someone who doesn't have kids in that school district and only one of the four board members voting even bothered to read all the books.

Let's focus on the guy making the complaint. The News-Leader has some info:
Wesley Scroggins, a Republic resident, challenged the use of the books and lesson plans in Republic schools, arguing they teach principles contrary to the Bible.
Other other day, Maria, the Other Political Junkie, asked, "What country do we live in again?" I have to wonder.

As I wrote in 2007:
Listen: He wrote in Breakfast of Champions that "we are healthy only to the extent our ideas are humane" and when one of the characters that book, Kilgore Trout, was asked about the meaning of life his response was:

To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool.
Wesley Scroggins, fool.

July 27, 2011

All Things Marcellus Shale


  • Pittsburgh City Council will hold a preliminary vote today on Councilor Doug Shields' legislation "that would put a referendum on the November ballot, asking voters whether they want to amend the charter to include the drilling ban that council enacted for the city last fall."

  • Via the P-G: "In an email to reporters, Mr. Shields said Mr. Fitzgerald, the Democratic nominee for county executive; Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development; Barbara McNees, a conference official and one of Pittsburgh's state-appointed financial overseers; and Richard Stanizzo, a union official and another state-appointed overseer, were "putting significant political pressure on council members" to vote down the referendum bill." (Also in the City Paper here and Early Returns.)

    The email was also forwarded from Shields to at least one blog -- this one -- you can view it here.

  • Marcellus Shale Protest (via Facebook) urges city dwellers to email City Council to vote for the referendum/show up at Council today.

  • Via the Trib: "Increased production and higher fuel prices helped natural gas producer Range Resources Corp. drive profit up 466 percent to $51.29 million, or 32 cents a share, for the second quarter compared to $9 million, or 6 cents, a year ago." The increase in profits was credited to "outstanding" drilling results the Marcellus Shale.

  • Via Keystone Politics: "20 Year Old Worker Dies at Fracking Site" in PA.

  • Finally, some levity. From Gab Bonesso: "Frack Yeah!" (the movie).

  • .

    WND and Teh Gay, Today.

    Something must be in the water today at Crazie Central otherwise known as World Net Daily.

    I mean look what counts as breaking news over there!

    The story on "The Pink Swastika" ("Everything you think you know about Nazis and homosexuals is wrong") is quite entertaining in a morbid, dumbfounding, anti-historical way. Its opening:
    It's one of the most controversial books of our time. It has been shunned by libraries. It has been vilified by America's "gay" activist establishment. And no wonder: It makes a disturbing, compelling and persuasive case that homosexuals dominated the German Nazi Party from its birth through its catastrophic demise.
    Really? I guess they missed these guys:

    See those triangles on their uniforms? Those pink triangles tagged them as gay. Homosexuality was banned and thousands died in the camps for being gay.

    And yet, according to WND, they "dominated" the Nazi party from beginning to end.

    Almost makes WND's lead story seem less crazie.

    Judicial Watch is suing Rachel Maddow:
    A lawsuit seeking in excess of $50 million has been prepared against MSNBC and its talk-show entertainer Rachel Maddow over statements she made about a Minnesota-based ministry.
    The issue according to WND:
    He once made a statement on the radio criticizing his fellow Christians for not taking a stronger stand about the "gay" rights lobby promoting homosexuality in the schools. According to the ministry announcement, he made a strong reference to Muslims taking the issue more seriously in the context of Shariah law, but did not condone their practices. It was Bradlee's intent to focus attention on the issue, not to advocate harm to anyone.

    Despite the very clear disclaimer by Dean on his ministries website and elsewhere regarding the false accusation that he was calling for the execution of homosexuals, according to the announcement, "MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and others seized on and accused Dean on her show of supporting the killing of homosexuals, as is the practice in some radical Islamic countries. This seriously has harmed Dean and the ministry, who pride themselves on respect and love for all people."
    However, she actually pointed out Dean's own correction:
    On her show, Maddow played a clip of Dean saying Muslim nations that execute gays are more moral than American Christians.

    "Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America," he said on AM 1280 the Patriot. "This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination."

    Dean says that Maddow ignored a "very clear disclaimer" on his ministry's site that he does not support killing homosexuals.

    But after playing the clip Maddow noted that Dean "later clarified that he didn't really mean to sanction murder of gay people, he said, quote, 'We have never and will never call for the execution of homosexuals."
    And so she's being sued for...what again?

    More world class journalism from World Net Daily!

    Lil Ricky Headed to NY


    Via 2012 Iowa Caucuses @ DesMoinesRegister.com:
    Here’s some of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s comments, in his own words, from his campaign stop at Cafe Diem in Ankeny.

    (Radio Iowa captured the audio.)

    ON GAY MARRIAGE: “I am not, as some in this race have said, OK with New York doing what they’re doing. What New York did was wrong. I will oppose it and I will go to New York, if necessary, and help overturn it.”

    Bank "activity" apparently a requirement for Wisconsin voter ID card

    Not only are they shutting down DMV offices in Democratic and poorer districts in Wisconsin (whose new law requires picture ID), the following video shows that the DMV could refuse to issue an ID card if the voter’s bank account did not show enough "activity."

    Via Raw Story:



    Apparently, only the well off need apply. What country are we in again? It's getting hard to tell.
    .

    July 26, 2011

    Song of the Day

    NSFW!




    Song for the day...for the week...for the year...

    (h/t to Sherry at after the bridge)
    .

    Proof that Santorum sucks


    As if any more proof was needed...

    More at Spork in the Drawer.
    .

    Pittsburgh Meet & Greet for Rep. Eugene DePasquale, candidate for Auditor General of PA -- Tomorrow

    Meet & Greet with State Rep. Eugene DePasquale

    WHAT: Pittsburgh Meet & Greet for Rep. Eugene DePasquale, candidate for Auditor General of PA
    WHEN: Wednesday, July 27, 2011, 5:00 – 7:00 PM
    WHERE: AVA Restaurant, 126 S. Highland Avenue & Baum Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15206

    Suggested Contribution: $25

    RSVP: Via email to liz@eugene4pa.com or on Facebook here

    Checks may be made out to “DePasquale for PA” and brought to the event or mailed to: DePasquale for PA, PO Box 1822 York, PA 17405

    Donations may also be made online via ActBlue: https://secure.actblue.com/entity/fundraisers/24166

    http://eugene4pa.com
    Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D-95, York) is serving his third term in the state House of Representatives, and has established himself as a strong progressive voice and a leading reformer in Harrisburg. Among his many accomplishments, Eugene was the first legislator in Pennsylvania’s history to post his legislative expenses online, and he was a leader in the fight to strengthen our state’s open records law.

    Eugene is running for Auditor General because he believes we need a strong check on Governor Corbett and his administration. As Auditor General, Eugene will fight to protect working families by eliminating wasteful spending and increasing accountability.

    Prior to serving in the legislature, DePasquale served as a Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) where he fought to protect the environment and expand Pennsylvania’s alternative energy production capabilities. While at DEP, Eugene also played a key role in attracting the world’s largest wind energy company, Gamesa, to relocate a significant portion of their operations to Pennsylvania.

    A native Pittsburgher and lifelong Pennsylvanian, DePasquale has a bachelor of arts degree from the College of Wooster (OH) where he played football and baseball. Eugene has a master's degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh and a juris doctorate from Widener University School of Law. He also is a graduate of Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School and played for the first Quad-A state football champions in state history.

    We hope you can join us in supporting a candidate for Auditor General with the experience, proven track record and core progressive values to protect Pennsylvania's taxpayers and keep state government honest, open and transparent.

    On Marcellus Shale:

    July 25, 2011

    Glenn Beck compares Norway camp victims to "Hitler Youth"

    "There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth. I mean, who does a camp for kids that's all about politics? Disturbing," Beck stated in the first minute of his syndicated radio show Monday. [Link]
    Audio here.
    .

    Understanding terrorism


    (From A Moment to Think via Monkey Muck)

    Teh Crazie...WND...Can't Comprehend.

    World Net Daily, aka Crazie Central, is, like other right wing media outlets, trying to spin Anders Behring Breivik into something that isn't "right wing extremist." Today they're going with "Breivik = Darwinian" to explain his particular brand of Noridic crazie.

    In the process they trip over their own illogic.

    Here's the headline of the piece:
    Terrorist proclaimed himself 'Darwinian,' not 'Christian'
    And the first two paragraphs:
    A review of Anders Behring Breivik's 1,500-page manifesto shows the media's quick characterization of the Norwegian terrorist as a "Christian" may be as incorrect as it was to call Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh one.

    Breivik was arrested over the weekend, charged with a pair of brutal attacks in and near Oslo, Norway, including a bombing in the capital city that killed 7 and a shooting spree at a youth political retreat on the island of Utoya that killed more than 80 victims.
    But then:
    Yet, while McVeigh rejected God altogether, Breivik writes in his manifesto that he is not religious, has doubts about God's existence, does not pray, but does assert the primacy of Europe's "Christian culture" as well as his own pagan Nordic culture.
    But then:
    While Breivik says he considers himself "100-percent Christian," he also expresses pride in his genealogical roots.
    Didn't the headline say he'd proclaimed himself not 'Christian'? In trying to spin this as something other than a right wing nut, crazie central goes with this quote extended quote from Breivik:
    As this is a cultural war, our definition of being a Christian does not necessarily constitute that you are required to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus
    And:
    Being a Christian can mean many things; That you believe in and want to protect Europe's Christian cultural heritage. The European cultural heritage, our norms (moral codes and social structures included), our traditions and our modern political systems are based on Christianity – Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and the legacy of the European enlightenment (reason is the primary source and legitimacy for authority). It is not required that you have a personal relationship with God or Jesus in order to fight for our Christian cultural heritage and the European way. In many ways, our modern societies and European secularism is a result of European Christendom and the enlightenment. It is therefore essential to understand the difference between a 'Christian fundamentalist theocracy' (everything we do not want) and a secular European society based on our Christian cultural heritage (what we do want). So no, you don't need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage. It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter)). The PCCTS, Knights Templar is therefore not a religious organisation [sic] but rather a Christian 'culturalist' military order.
    So he says this is a culture war to protect "our Christian cultural heritage."

    Yea, that's soooo not crazie, Christian or right wing.

    UPDATE: Clarified WND's quoting of Breivik.

    July 24, 2011

    RIP Amy Winehouse

    I liked her voice, I liked her look, and I once used the chorus of the following song as the theme music for Twanda Carlisle in a post (the app no longer works at the link):



    And, this song, because duh:



    Too bad to all those who missed the old Tunesmith & Anthony post where they "winehoused" several Pittsburgh pols and local celebs (can't get there from here anymore).
    .

    July 22, 2011

    NIGHT TALK!

    Maria's on my TEEVEE now!

    First segment.

    Maria more than held her own. Some typical tea party talking points about how "we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem."

    Maria pointed out that taxes are at a historical low. One panelist posed the laughable position of lowering the debt ceiling.

    Second segment

    Second segment is on Marcellus fracking. Typical discussion. Right wingers doubting marcellus shale drilling is safe and that there's no need for a tax.

    Third segment

    This segment is on gay history being taught in California. Dale McCoy, the tea party guy, thinks it's "reprehensible." He confuses the contributions of gay Americans with teaching about "homosexuality." He doesn't want "homosexuality" "foisted on him." Maria thinks that everyone should be included in history.

    Dale embarrassed himself in this segment.

    Fourth segment

    Gay marriage.

    Maria has to explain the phrase "tyranny of the majority" to Bob Hillen. He asked where in the Constitution it's found. Dale McCoy doesn't understand why gay couples want to be recognized by the state. Dale doesn't think that two men or two women are the healthiest of situations. Dale doesn't understand why the gays have to be so public. PJ Maloney seems kinda perturbed with him. Dale, while he says he doesn't have a problem with what two people do in the privacy of their own homes, still thinks that homosexuality is abnormal.

    Maria's doing a good job on this segment. Dale, not so much.

    Fifth segment

    Continuation of gay marriage discussion. Dale doesn't like the idea that they're teaching homosexuality as normal. I'm thinking Bob Hillen must be relieved that Dale is there. By comparision, Bob looks less nutty.

    Sixth segment

    DREAM ACT

    Conservatives on the panel just want the immigration laws to be enforced. Dale thinks we should pull out all the troops out of Libya and then they should be posted on the Mexican border. Dale wants the unemployed to harvest crops. Two years of unemployment is too long for Dale.

    Seventh segment

    The Pirates

    More On Texas - Evolution vs Intelligent Design Update

    Yesterday, I wrote that the science vs creationism debate was flaring up yet again in the great state of Texas..

    There's an update from the AP:
    An expected fight over teaching evolution in Texas classrooms fizzled Thursday when the state's Board of Education gave preliminary approval to supplemental science materials for the coming school year and beyond with only minor changes.
    A large part of the debate revolved around some new online instructional materials. This was the place where "intelligent design" was to be found. Only now:
    One that didn't make the recommended list was an electronic textbook that includes lessons on intelligent design, which is the theory that life on Earth is so complex it was guided with the help of an intelligent higher power.

    "There's no bad science going into classrooms" in the approved materials, said Dan Quinn, spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a group that sides with mainstream scientists on teaching evolution.
    And while science is not subject to a vote, it's still good to see this:
    One conservative group, Texans for a Better Science Education, had put out a call to pack Thursday's public hearing with testimony urging board members to adopt materials that question evolution. But they were outnumbered by witnesses urging the board to adopt the materials with few changes.

    "I don't want my children's public school teachers to teach faith and God in a science classroom," said the Rev. Kelly Allen of University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio. "True religion can handle truth in all its forms. Evolution is solid science."
    Amen, Reverend Allen. Amen.

    July 21, 2011

    I'll be on PCNC’s "NightTalk: Get to the Point" tomorrow night

    I'll be a panelist on tomorrow's PCNC TV's NightTalk: Get to the Point (Channel 35 on Comcast.)

    The show will air live on Friday, July 22nd from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM (with repeats at 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM).

    The program commonly features conversation on a wide range of topics local to Pittsburgh, the Southwestern Pennsylvania region and some national items. Expect anything from the Pittsburgh Pirates to Marcellus Shale.

    The host will be P.J. Maloney.

    Also appearing will be Dale McCoy whose Blue Collar Commentary blog can be found on conservative radio host Glen Meaken's website. I heard that McCoy describes himself as a "Tea Party Democrat." (Say what?) Don't know who the third panelist will be.

    Tune in -- it should be interesting!
    .

    Seriously?

    I've gotten on conservative mailing lists before, but holy hell, how did I get on this one?!?



    Oh, God. Not AGAIN

    From the AP:
    The debate over teaching evolution in public schools is resurfacing at the Texas State Board of Education.

    The board is meeting to consider supplemental science materials for the upcoming school year and beyond. The Republican-dominated board drew national attention in 2009 when it adopted science standards encouraging schools to scrutinize “all sides” of scientific theory.

    A public hearing on the new science materials is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

    The board is under the new leadership of Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, a former biology teacher who disputes the theory of evolution. She is considered to be one of the panel’s more conservative members.

    Cargill was appointed earlier this month by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
    The same Rick Perry that asked Texans to pray for the end of the drought.

    But what are these "supplemental science materials" they mention? The AP from yesterday:
    An intense fight over evolution and intelligent design theory in science curriculum put a national spotlight on the 15-member elected board in 2009 when it adopted standards that encourage public schools to scrutinize "all sides" of scientific theory.
    The board is now considering supplemental online instructional materials that fit under those standards and could be used as early as August when classes resume. The new materials are necessary because the state could not afford to buy new textbooks this year, leaving students to use some that are several years old.
    And:
    The supplement materials submitted for consideration include a high school biology e-book that promotes intelligent design despite federal court rulings against teaching the theory that life on Earth is so complex that it must have come from an intelligent higher power.
    So we're talking "intelligent design" as opposed to "young earth" creationism.

    Whew. That's such a relief.

    Still isn't science, of course. And here's why. In his Summa Totius Logicae, medieval philosopher William of Occam wrote:
    Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora
    Which translates into English as:
    It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer.
    Basically it means "don't try to explain mysteries by imposing other mysteries." Philosophically, it's what's known as "lex parsimoniae" but that's not important.

    What is important that once you impose the "intelligent designer" onto the science, you've effectively left the world of science.

    Can't explain what eyebrows do? It's what the designer intended. How about what earthquakes are for? The comparative weight of neutrons to protons to electrons? Why the earth is in exactly the proper orbit for us pesky hu-mans to live? Designer, designer, and...designer. But wait:
    • Who is this designer?
    • Where is this designer?
    • Why did this designer chose one design path over another?
    • When did this designer design?
    • How do we resolve any of these questions?
    See what just happened? Now we've got a whole new set of questions that can't be answered by empirical science because the concept of "the designer" is, by definition, metaphysical (ie it is "beyond" physics).

    As Judge Jones (a sane Republican, by the way)pointed out in his decision Kitzmiller v Dover, the religious nature of Intelligent design is obvious and that:
    We initially note that John Haught, a theologian who testified as an expert witness for Plaintiffs and who has written extensively on the subject of evolution and religion, succinctly explained to the Court that the argument for ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer. (Trial Tr. vol. 9, Haught Test., 7-8, Sept. 30, 2005). Dr. Haught testified that Aquinas was explicit that this intelligent designer “everyone understands to be God.” Id. The syllogism described by Dr. Haught is essentially the same argument for ID as presented by defense expert witnesses Professors Behe and Minnich who employ the phrase “purposeful arrangement of parts.”
    I know Rick Perry's flirted with secession a few months ago but Texas is still a part of the Union, right? The Constitution is still the Law of the Land in Texas, right? They still have to abide by the 1st Amendment, right?

    You wouldn't know it by this ID argument.

    Those who are seeking to impose Intelligent Design in the public school curriculum are attempting nothing more than to inject religion into the curriculum. In doing so they are undermining the education of the very students they're supposed to be supporting.

    I've said it before. If we are a nation in decline, one of the reasons is this willfull stubborn religiously inspired anti-intellectual retreat from science.

    July 20, 2011

    History Schmistory

    Usually when we blog on the history-challenged here at 2pj it's a post on Santorum, or Bachmann, or Bachmann. So, it's only fair to call it out when someone on the left does the same thing (granted, the someone in this case is a flunky at HuffPo and not a presidential candidate).

    Via The Huffington Post:


    Yeah, they got the wrong queen (or king) here by some 300 hundred years.

    This is most definitely not an example of Victorian fashion. The ruff (collar) she's wearing was popular during Elizabethan and Jacobean times. An educated person should not need to be a history, art history or fashion history expert to look at the painting and get that it's way off as an illustration for that headline.

    Not earth shattering, I know, but it did bug the hell out of me.
    .

    July 19, 2011

    Mystery of The Missing Altmire Op-Ed SOLVED

    This is gonna give you a chuckle. I promise.

    This morning I wrote about this complaint found on the Op-Ed page of the Tribune-Review regarding a pair of opinion pieces written (one each) by Congressman Mike Doyle and Congressman Jason Altmire. Scaife's braintrust complained that the two were too similar. I wanted to (as I often do) check their work. Usually, when I check their work I find they've spun a few things - and I can only assume they do that hoping no one will check. But this time, I couldn't.

    Why not?

    As I wrote this morning, I could easily find Doyle's opinion piece (it's here), but I could not find Altmire's.

    So I contacted his office today asked them about it. Where was the Congressman's opinion piece about the CFL lightbulbs? I couldn't find it anywhere, I told them. Is there anyway I could see a copy? I further asked.

    They sent me the piece (see below) and told me that while they submitted it to The Trib and then The Trib rejected it for publication.

    So before we get on with the piece itself, let's mull this over for a second. Altmire's opinion piece is submitted to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for publication. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review rejects said opinion piece and then criticizes it in print sometime later. They're the only ones who have access to it and so they're the only ones who can assess whether it is, in fact, similar to the other opinion piece they claim it resembles. In short they're the only ones who could know whether they're telling the truth.

    Until now, that is.

    Remember, this is the braintrust's complaint about the two pieces:
    The congressmen's offerings are so similar -- nearly word for word in spots -- that it has us highly suspicious that the two men regurgitated Democrat talking points for their op-ed submissions.
    The two opinion pieces do cover similar ground - as well they should. They are talking about the same thing.

    Both point out similar facts:
    • Old style incandescent light bulbs waste 90% of their energy generating heat
    • George Bush signed the original law in 2007
    • New style incandescent light bulbs have been designed that meet the 2007 standard
    • And so there is no "ban" on incandescent light bulbs - just inefficient ones
    • Thomas Edison invented the light bulb
    Altmire's op-ed is posted below, by the way. Do something the Trib doesn't want you to do - read it for yourself. Check my work.

    Can someone show me the "nearly word for word in spots" similarities the braintrust is complaining about? Where are they? Apart from the obvious and banal congruencies ("Thomas Edison", "incandescent light bulb" and so on) I couldn't find any "nearly word for word" matches. Can you?

    Think of it this way, if the two pieces were, in fact, so close that they ended each other's sentences, doncha think The Trib would be pointing them out to you sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase? They didn't. They couldn't. They're spinning this. Badly.

    Anyway, here's Altmire's opinion piece the Trib (the one The Trib rejected then criticized in public):
    When Thomas Edison first successfully tested a carbonized thread light bulb in 1879, it was a technology so revolutionary that the light bulb became the very symbol of innovation. Today, 132 years later, the image of a light bulb is still routinely used as an illustration of American ingenuity and scientific breakthrough. The technology that Edison pioneered, the incandescent light bulb, remains by far the most popular source of light in American households.

    It is therefore not surprising that reports of a ban of the incandescent light bulb have caused a political firestorm and a public outcry. There have even been reports of organized efforts to hoard the remaining supply of the incandescent bulbs before the ban takes effect at the end of this year.

    The topic has become especially popular on the political circuit, with members of Congress and presidential candidates making the “light bulb ban” part of their standard stump speech.

    Adding to the public outrage is the fact that, as a result of the reported ban, consumers would be required to purchase and use expensive compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), some of which contain mercury and emit a lesser quality of light than standard incandescent bulbs.

    The story goes that the government has banned the inexpensive bulbs produced by American companies and enjoyed by consumers for more than a century, and will now force consumers to use much more expensive, less illuminating lights that pose a significant health hazard, the compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). No wonder politicians are climbing all over themselves to defend the incandescent light bulb.

    There is only one problem – none of it is true. The incandescent light bulb is not banned, nor will it be next year or thereafter. Consumers will continue to be free to buy the light bulb of their choice. American companies will continue to manufacture and market incandescent bulbs available to every American.

    So, why the misconception about the so-called “ban”?

    In 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act. One of the provisions of this bipartisan legislation was to establish energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. This was done primarily to reduce the strain and prevent overloads on our nation’s electrical grid, and to make energy more efficient, dependable and cost-effective for consumers.

    Under the 2007 law, some household light bulbs are required to be approximately 28 percent more energy efficient. For the most commonly-used light bulbs, the phase-in occurs over a three-year period beginning in 2012. For example, by next year, a 100 watt incandescent bulb must emit the same amount of light using only 72 watts. The law does not specify what type of technology manufacturers may employ to achieve these standards, nor does it require consumers to purchase any specific type of light bulb.

    Incandescent bulbs produce light by heating filament inside gas. This is nearly identical to the technology that existed in the initial Edison-inspired bulbs first made commercially available in the 19th century. These bulbs remain popular, but they are incredibly inefficient as a source of light. In fact, ninety percent of the energy produced by a standard incandescent bulb goes toward heat – only ten percent produces light. Of course, few consumers buy a household light bulb to use as a source of heat, so it makes sense that we should look for ways to make the bulbs more energy efficient than the bulbs Edison pioneered 132 years ago.

    Some light bulb manufacturers have chosen to supplement their incandescent bulbs with other technologies, such as the CFL or the increasingly popular and potentially revolutionary light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Both technologies continue to evolve and will undoubtedly play a major role in America’s energy future, as will other technologies yet to be discovered. But what about the incandescent bulb?

    As a result of the 2007 law, several large and small American companies, some of which have put down roots in western Pennsylvania, have developed energy efficient incandescent light bulbs that meet the new standards. Some of the new incandescent bulbs are already on the market, and many others will be available in time for the 2012 transition. These new bulbs have the same look and emit the same type of light as traditional incandescent bulbs, but they last much longer, offer substantial energy savings for the consumer and greatly reduce the burden to our nation’s electrical grid. So not only is the incandescent light bulb not banned, it has been improved and is now better than ever. Most important, it will still be made by American workers, for American consumers, for years to come.

    Throughout our history, Americans have always risen to the challenges of the ever-changing global marketplace. Recently, American auto makers innovated and adapted to new fuel efficiency standards by producing fuel efficient cars that appeal to American consumers, resulting in General Motors surpassing Toyota this year as the world’s largest automaker.

    Similarly, the quick transition to meet the new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs is yet another example of American ingenuity and innovation at its best. Without a doubt, others around the world are also researching and producing advanced light bulbs to compete with our American-made products. Just as Thomas Edison put America at the forefront of the development and manufacture of lighting technology in 1879, the American innovators of today continue to lead the way in the research and development of exciting new lighting technologies, like LEDs, as well as improving upon the popular technologies of the past, like the still-available incandescent light bulb.

    Who knew?

    Who knew that James and Rupert Murdoch dressed like Kennywood Twins?*


    * Pittsburghese for couples who dress in matching outfits (so that they might find each other easily if separated at Kennywood Amusement Park).
    .

    Revenue and the Debt Ceiling

    As regards revenue, we don't have it! Via Think Progress:
    As of July 13, 29 public companies had more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury Department, according to the site Zero Hedge based on numbers from Capital IQ. It’s a stark reminder that if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, the government won’t have nearly enough money to continue funding essential services and programs.


    Regarding the debt ceiling:
  • Sabotaging the President By Sabotaging the Economy

  • Club For Growth To Republicans: Trigger A Default, Or Else!

  • [sigh]
    .

    Not Sure What To Make Of This

    From Sunday's Trib:
    PENNED BY POLTERGEISTS? Democrat U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle of Forest Hills and Jason Altmire of McCandless should consider consulting a specialist in paranormal activity.

    Their offices appear to have been invaded by ghost writers.

    Both supposedly penned recent opinion pieces defending the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The controversial law effectively bans Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb as we've known it in favor of supposedly more efficient but also more expensive and hazardous alternatives, namely the compact fluorescent light bulb.

    The congressmen's offerings are so similar -- nearly word for word in spots -- that it has us highly suspicious that the two men regurgitated Democrat talking points for their op-ed submissions. We just thought we'd shed some light on the matter.
    The only problem?

    I can't find Congressman Altmire's op-ed defending Energy Independence and Security Act. I've googled:
    • Atmire "Light bulb"
    • Altmire "Energy Independence and Security Act"
    • Altmire CFL
    And couldn't find anything. Nothing. Nada. The null set. That doesn't mean it's not out there, of course. Just that I couldn't find it. It's a mystery. Usually the trails to the sources the braintrust uses are quite easy to follow; Heritage Foundation, AEI, Washington Times and so on. But none of my usual tricks worked this time. And I can't imagine even the Trib making something like this up.

    If you can find it, please drop me an email with the link. I want to see how similar they are. Or if you can explain what the Tribune-Review is doing here, editorializing on something no one else can see, drop me an email on that, too.

    That being said, we'll talk about CFLs, Thomas Edison, and Mike Doyle's easily found opinion piece for a bit. Here's the trib:
    Both supposedly penned recent opinion pieces defending the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The controversial law effectively bans Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb as we've known it in favor of supposedly more efficient but also more expensive and hazardous alternatives, namely the compact fluorescent light bulb.
    They make three points here:
    • The CFL bulb's efficiency is questioned
    • The CFL bulb is more expensive
    • The CFL bulb is more hazardous
    The Michigan DEQ has a page up describing the savings achieved by switching from an incandescent to a CFL. Over the course of the life of the CFL bulb the savings are substantial. That takes care of bullets one and two. What about the third? How hazardous is the CFL bulb?

    Luckily, there's been work on that, too. From a page called Three CFL Myths Busted:
    Myth: Compact fluorescent bulbs are a major safety hazard because they contain mercury.

    Fact: Yes, it's true that CFLs contain tiny amounts of mercury, and if a bulb breaks you will be exposed to the neurotoxin. But, just how dangerous is a broken bulb? Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory set out to answer that question. They compared how much exposure you'd get from breathing in the amount of mercury released from a broken CFL bulb to how much mercury you'd take in from eating Albacore tuna.

    If you do a common sense job of cleaning up (open the windows, clean up, and remove the debris), then your mercury exposure would be the equivalent of taking a tiny nibble of tuna, according to Francis Rubinstein, a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab. What if you did the worst job possible, say closed all the doors and smashed the bulb with a hammer? It's still no big deal, says Rubinstein, who points out that it would be the equivalent of eating one can of tuna.
    Hmm - at worst it's the mercury equivalent of eating one can of tuna? Only ONE CAN? AND it saves money?

    We already know The Trib's not really interested in facts that conflict with their politics, but I would have thought that the Trib would be in favor of saving money.

    I guess not.

    Again, if you have any info as to the whereabouts of the Altmire editorial please drop me an email. I'd love to see it.

    July 18, 2011

    More On Herman Cain's Religious Tolerance

    GOP hopeful Herman Cain had some interesting things to say about Church State matters this weekend.

    Take a look:


    The part I like best is that he opens with:
    Our Constitution guarantees separation of church and state.
    And then uses that to assert that a community has the right to ban a mosque's construction in that community.

    It's a stunning piece of logic, to be sure.

    As far as I can tell, it's based on the idea as Cain ably states, that Islam is both a set of laws and a religion. Since it's both and since the Constitution (and it's oh-so refreshing to hear a conservative - even a nutty one like Cain - say this) guarantees separation of Church and State, any "religion" that's looking to impose itself onto the law can be banned.

    He's just wrong when he says that non-Islamic religions don't have a set of rules or are otherwise not looking to impose their rules onto the law.

    So when Archbishop Dolan says that New York's Gay Marriage Bill is an "Ominous Threat" he's not looking to impose Catholic Church doctrine onto the people of the Empire State.

    So when the Southern Baptist Convention, in 1984, called for its members to push for legislation that agreed with their position of abortion, it wasn't looking to impose its faith upon the law.

    Freedom of Religion for me but not for thee. That's the GOP.

    Hey, I rhymed. Thrice - or was that twice? Anyway, how nice.

    July 17, 2011

    ACORN: The Zombie Threat!

    Even disbanded, ACORN scares the right wing if only by virtue of one of today's Op-Eds at The Trib.

    But let me get the necessaries out of the way first.

    The jeremiad was penned by Thomas Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch, in turn, is heavily, heavily HEH-VILLE-LEE funded by Trib owner and publisher, Richard Mellon Scaife. According to Media Matters, the Scaife controlled Carthage and Sarah Scaife foundations granted $8.74 million dollars between 1997 and 2009.

    Far more than any other foundation. In fact, if my math and the numbers are correct, Scaife's given about 20 times more than all the other foundations combined.

    And of course there's no mention of this tremendous financial support given to Judicial Watch by Richard Mellon Scaife in the op-ed page that Richard Mellon Scaife owns.

    Now onto the jeremiad itself.

    Fitton's opening:
    ACORN employees have been nailed time and time again for fraudulently registering voters -- including Mickey Mouse and the Dallas Cowboys -- allegedly for the purpose of sweeping Democrats into office.

    They were caught on tape advising undercover reporters on how to evade tax, immigration and child prostitution laws.
    Ah, registration fraud and the James O'Keefe edited tapes.

    Good opening.

    Let's talk about the registration fraud. Some credit (though not much) to Fitton for inserting the word "registration" rather than going with the usual scary "voter fraud". It must be noted, however, that voter fraud is simply implied by the last phrase of that paragraph - "allegedly for the purpose of sweeping Democrats into office."

    The fraud was in the registration - not the voting. Fraudulently registering "Mickey Mouse" in an effort to be seen as doing a good job in no way leads to any more votes for anyone. And that's what happened. According to a CRS report done at the request of the then-chairman of teh House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers:
    Effect of alleged false voter registrations by ACORN workers. You asked CRS to research improper voter registrations that resulted in people being placed on the voting rolls and attempting to vote improperly at the polls. As discussed, a NEXIS search of the ALL NEWS file did not identify any reported instances of individuals who were improperly registered by ACORN attempting to vote at the polls.
    Not that Fitton and the Scaife-funded Judicial watch would bother to tell you that, of course.

    And then there's James O'Keefe and his tapes. From New York Post March 2, 2010:
    The video that unleashed a firestorm of criticism on the activist group ACORN was a "heavily edited" splice job that only made it appear as though the organization's workers were advising a pimp and prostitute on how to get a mortgage, sources said yesterday.

    The findings by the Brooklyn DA, following a 5½-month probe into the video, secretly recorded by conservative provocateurs James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, means that no charges will be filed.

    Many of the seemingly crime-encouraging answers were taken out of context so as to appear more sinister, sources said.
    And from the Office of Attorney General of the State of California.
    Videotapes secretly recorded last summer and severely edited by O'Keefe seemed to show ACORN employees encouraging a "pimp" (O'Keefe) and his "prostitute," actually a Florida college student named Hannah Giles, in conversations involving prostitution by underage girls, human trafficking and cheating on taxes. Those videos created a media sensation.

    Evidence obtained by Brown tells a somewhat different story, however, as reflected in three videotapes made at ACORN locations in California. One ACORN worker in San Diego called the cops. Another ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it, claiming among other things that she had murdered her abusive husband. Her two former husbands are alive and well, the Attorney General's report noted. At the beginning and end of the Internet videos, O'Keefe was dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp, but in his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, he was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp.

    "The evidence illustrates," Brown said, "that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor."

    The original storm of publicity created by O'Keefe's videotapes was instrumental in ACORN's subsequent denunciation in Congress, a sudden tourniquet on its funding, and the organization's eventual collapse.
    Again, not that Fitton would tell you any of this stuff.

    Great opening, Tommy.

    But let's get to what Tommy Fitton calls "controversial and ridiculous". In October, 2009 President Obama signed the "Defund ACORN Act" and it:
    ...effectively prohibited the federal government from funding "ACORN and any ACORN-related affiliate."

    Following a lawsuit filed by ACORN challenging the law -- which passed both branches of Congress by wide margins -- the federal courts in New York upheld the constitutionality of the funding ban on Aug. 13, 2010. And the Supreme Court last month refused to hear ACORN's appeal.
    The problem:
    On March 1, Obama's Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a $79,819 federal grant to ACORN-spinoff ACHOA to "educate the public and housing providers about their rights and obligations under federal, state, and local fair housing laws."
    The advisory opinion by the GAO stating that ACORN isn't ACHOA is what's got Fitton in a snit. That's what he called "controversial and ridiculous."

    Here's the ruling from the GAO by the way. Feel free to do something I don't think Fitton wants you to do - read it yourself.

    Once you did, you'll see what the GAO based its opinion on. You know - the facts. Facts like:
    The record does not show AHCOA to be directly or indirectly under the control of ACORN. AHCOA is not related to ACORN by shareholdings. Because AHCOA is organized as a nonstock corporation, ACORN cannot own shares in AHCOA. AHCOA Amended Articles of Incorporation, at 2. AHCOA also does not own any shares of ACORN.
    And that:
    • Neither ACORN nor any other organization has the authority to control the makeup of the AHCOA Board of Directors.
    • No member of the AHCOA Board is also a member of the ACORN Board.
    • While AHCOA and ACORN previously occupied offices in the same building, the two corporations no longer share the same facility.
    • No employee of AHCOA is also an employee of ACORN.
    There's also good stuff in there about how ACHOA is neither an affiliate or a subsidiary organization.

    And did I mention that ACORN no longer exists? Thomas Fitton never actually gets around to telling you that, either.

    All this over $79,819. This is another non-story the right wing noise machine is hoping to whip into a scandal.

    By the way, last year alone, the Sarah Scaife Foundation gave $175,000 to Judicial Watch. Something to chew on.

    July 15, 2011

    PodCamp 6

    The time and place have been set for PodCamp Pittsburgh this year:
    This year’s PodCamp will be the weekend of September 17 & 18. We will have our kick-off Friday night mixer at Alpha Lab on September 16, with the PodCamp keynote address opening the following morning.

    And, while we’re making that announcement, we would also like to formally announce this year’s venue. We have finalized arrangements with Point Park University to host this year’s event. We are very excited about the opportunity to work with Point Park this year, and look forward to another successful PodCamp event.
    I'll be there. My contribution to the event will be a discussion with Congressman Mike Doyle on the impact social media (blogs, twitter, facebook) has had on how the Congress does its job.

    It should be a informative session.

    Be there!

    July 14, 2011

    Fox - A Trusted Name In News

    Only not so much.

    Yesterday Fox "News" viewers saw this:


    Media Matters has a description:
    Fox News host Eric Bolling pulled a Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday, asserting that there were no terrorist attacks on "American soil" during President Bush's term in office.

    Giuliani famously made a similar assertion in early 2010, saying, "we had no domestic attacks under Bush." Of course, the 9/11 attacks happened under Bush.

    Bolling's misstatement came during a discussion on the network's Glenn Beck replacement show, "The Five." He and a panel—which included former Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino—were arguing about whether Bush had been guilty of "fear-mongering" during his tenure. Panelist Bob Beckel said that the former president had used fear-mongering around the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As he attempted to continue his point, Bolling cut him off and started to move on to the next segment.

    "America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008," he said. "I don't remember any attacks on American soil during that period of time." Nobody on the panel challenged this comment.
    Today, Bolling tried to correct himself:
    Yesterday I misspoke when saying there were no U.S. terror attacks during the Bush years. Obviously, I meant in the aftermath of 9/11. But that's when the radical liberal left pounced on us and me. Media Matters posted my error, saying I forgot about 9/11. No, I haven't forgotten. You see, I happened to be standing there watching in true terror as radical Islamists slammed planes into the towers that morning. I remember the towers collapsing, killing 3,000, including 16 of my close friends. And I really remember trying to comfort the kids of my friends at their memorial services. I'll never forget 9/11. But thank you liberals for reminding me how petty you can be.
    Only he's still wrong. As Mediamatters dutifully points out:
    2001 Anthrax Attacks. A March 2004 State Department report on "Significant Terrorist Incidents, 1961-2003" quotes then-Attorney General John Ashcroft saying of the letters containing anthrax mailed to various targets: "When people send anthrax through the mail to hurt people and invoke terror, it's a terrorist act." Five people were killed as a result of those letters in the autumn of 2001.

    2002 Attack Against El Al Ticket Counter At LAX. In July 2002, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet opened fire at an El Al Airlines ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport killing two people and wounding four others before being shot dead. A 2004 Justice Department report stated that Hadayet's case had been "officially designated as an act of international terrorism."

    2002 DC-Area Sniper. The state of Virginia indicted Washington, D.C.-area sniper John Allen Muhammad -- along with his accomplice, a minor at the time -- on terrorism charges for one of the murders he committed during a three-week shooting spree across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Muhammad was convicted, sentenced to death, and subsequently executed for the crime.

    2006 UNC SUV Attack. In March 2006, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar drove an SUV into an area of campus, striking nine pedestrians. According to reports, Taheri-azar said he acted because he wanted to "avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world." Taheri-azar also reportedly stated in a letter: "I was aiming to follow in the footsteps of one of my role models, Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11/01 hijackers, who obtained a doctorate degree."
    Fox News - a trusted name in news, huh?

    Bachmann: Obama has a lot of "choot-spa"

    Yiddish Fail LOL Alert!

    Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann tries to say that President Obama has a lot of "chutzpah" with predictable results. (Apparently while a friend of Israel, she doesn't have any Jewish friends.)



    (h/t to Think Progress)
    .

    More of ALEC Exposed

    I think we'll be spending some quality time in the near future looking deeper at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

    We've written about ALEC before, but for those who don't know what ALEC is, according to this post at crooksandliars it's:
    ...the high-level overview. ALEC is the acronym for American Legislative Exchange Council, a secret right-wing consortium created to write boilerplate legislation for states to use to advance the right-wing agenda. Some of ALEC's handiwork can be seen in Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Florida, to name a few.
    And it's a good possibility we're seeing it's handy work here in Pennsylvania with Representative Daryl Metcalfe's Voter ID law.

    The bad news is that so little about ALEC has been known. But that's changing. From John Nichols at The Nation:
    The details of ALEC’s model bills have been available only to the group’s 2,000 legislative and 300 corporate members. But thanks to a leak to Aliya Rahman, an Ohio-based activist who helped organize protests at ALEC’s Spring Task Force meeting in Cincinnati, The Nation has obtained more than 800 documents representing decades of model legislation. Teaming up with the Center for Media and Democracy, The Nation asked policy experts to analyze this never-before-seen archive.
    Here's ALECExposed.

    We've already mentioned how Scaife money was involved in the formation of ALEC and how Richard Mellon Scaife continues to shuttle money from the foundations he controls to ALEC.

    So whether it's legislation regarding Worker Rights or Voter Rights or Taxes or any number of other pieces of right wing legislation oozing through Harrisburg, we'll be checking to see if there's an analogous piece of ALEC legislation supporting it.

    Feel free to peruse the archive yourself. I'm guessing that that's the last thing our ALEC legislators want.

    Isn't that right, Daryl?

    July 13, 2011

    As If We Needed More Convincing

    From the Atlantic Wire:
    One of the most vocal human rights groups in the U.S. is calling on foreign governments to prosecute President George W. Bush and his former cabinet for war crimes, given that the Obama administration has avoided the issue. In a report published today, New York-based Human Rights Watch says Bush, former vice president Dick Cheney, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA director George Tenet could be prosecuted under the 1996 War Crimes Act, among other laws. "There is enough strong evidence from the information made public over the past five years to not only suggest these officials authorized and oversaw widespread and serious violations of US and international law, but that they failed to act to stop mistreatment, or punish those responsible after they became aware of serious abuses," read the report. It accused the Bush administration of approving waterboarding, authorizing the CIA's detention program and carrying out illegal abductions involving torture, saying an investigation is necessary "if the US hopes to wipe away the stain of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and reaffirm the primacy of the rule of law." The author of the report, Reed Brody, says he's calling on an investigation now because "[i]t's become abundantly clear that there is no longer any movement on the part of the Obama administration to live up to its responsibilities to investigate these cases." As the BBC notes, President Bush has "defended some of the techniques, saying they prevented attacks and saved lives." [emphasis added]
    I realize that President Obama has a great deal to deal with right now, what with the GOP holding the economy hostage in order to guarantee their millionaire and billionaire base pay as little tax as possible, but war crimes are war crimes.

    And war crimes were committed. Failing to prosecute (or at least investigate) them is covering them up. Obama is letting Bush get away with torture. And that's indefensible.

    Here's the report.

    From the Summary:
    For example, the Bush administration authorized coercive interrogation practices by the CIA and the military that amounted to torture, and instituted an illegal secret CIA detention program in which detainees were held in undisclosed locations without notifying their families, allowing access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, or providing for oversight of their treatment. Detainees were also unlawfully rendered (transferred) to countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, where they were likely to be tortured. Indeed, many were, including Canadian national Maher Arar who described repeated beatings with cables and electrical cords during the 10 months he was held in Syria, where the US sent him in 2002. Evidence suggests that torture in such cases was not a regrettable consequence of rendition; it may have been the purpose.

    At the same time, politically appointed administration lawyers drafted legal memoranda that sought to provide legal cover for administration policies on detention and interrogation.
    The report gives a handy outline of the US laws violated. From the section titled Individual Criminal Responsibility:
    The acts and abuses discussed in this report violate various provisions of US federal law, including the Crimes and Criminal Procedure Statute, Chapter 18 of the US Code (U.S.C.), which prohibits: torture (section 2340A(a)); assault (section 113); sexual abuse (sections 2241-2246); kidnapping (section 1201); homicide (sections 1111-1112 and section 2332); acts against rights (for example, sections 241-242, prohibiting conspiracies to deprive persons of their legal rights); war crimes (section 2441); conspiracy and solicitation of violent crimes (sections 371 and 373); and conspiracy to commit torture (section 2340A(c)).

    The War Crimes Act of 1996 provides criminal punishment for whomever, inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, if either the perpetrator or the victim is a member of the US Armed Forces or a national of the United States. A “war crime” is defined as any “grave breach” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions or acts that violate Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions. “Grave breaches” include “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment” of prisoners of war and of civilians qualified as “protected persons.” Common Article 3 prohibits murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
    In a section titled "Duty to Investigate and Provide Redress" we read:
    Under international law, states are obligated to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and serious violations of human rights committed by their nationals and members of their armed forces, or over which they have jurisdiction, and appropriately prosecute those responsible.

    War crimes are serious violations of international humanitarian law committed willfully—that is, deliberately or recklessly—and give rise to individual criminal responsibility. Individuals may be held criminally responsible for directly committing war crimes or for war crimes committed pursuant to their orders. They may also be held criminally liable for attempting to commit war crimes, as well as planning, instigating, assisting, facilitating, and aiding or abetting them.

    The US also has a duty to investigate serious violations of international human rights law and punish the perpetrators. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the US has an obligation to ensure that any person whose rights are violated “shall have an effective remedy” when the violation has been committed by government officials or agents. Those seeking a remedy shall have this right determined by competent judicial, administrative, or legislative authorities. And when granted, these remedies shall be enforced by competent authorities.
    But if investigations/prosecutions won't be happening here in the land of the brave, home of the free, perhaps they can occur else where.

    From the section on Foreign State Proceedings:
    The US failure to conduct criminal investigations into the role and responsibility of high-ranking civilian and military officials for alleged crimes against detainees has opened the door for national judicial systems in foreign states to pursue investigations and, if warranted, prosecutions under the doctrines of “universal jurisdiction” and “passive personality” jurisdiction.
    Among my many disappointments with the Obama administration, this has to be the disappoint-iest.

    Disappointments based on policy or political realities are one thing, but letting someone get away with a war crime is something completely different.

    Prosecute the war crimes. It's the only right thing to do.

    July 12, 2011

    New GOP Logo

    In light of recent events, we suggest that the Grand Old Party replace their current logo:



    with something far more relevant:


    .

    I Think I Hear ALEC Knocking At My Door

    From In These Times:
    On February 25, 2011, Florida State Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) introduced HB 1021. The bill sought to curtail the political power of unions by prohibiting public employers from deducting any amount from an employee’s pay for use by an employee organization (i.e., union dues) or for any political activity (i.e., the portion of union dues used for lobbying or for supporting candidates for office).
    And:
    Given the similarities between HB 1021 and a rash of like-minded bills in states across the country, including Wisconsin, on March 30 a public records request was sent to Dorworth’s office seeking copies of all documents pertaining to the writing of HB 1021, including copies of any pieces of model legislation the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have provided.
    And finally:
    Dorworth’s office delivered 87 pages of documents, mostly bill drafts and emails, detailing the evolution of what was to become HB 1021. Buried at the bottom of the stack was an 11-page bundle of neatly typed material, labeled “Paycheck Protection,” which consisted of three pieces of model legislation, with the words “Copyright, ALEC” at the end of each.
    The ALEC "Paycheck Protection" documents can be found here.I get ahead of myself.

    When I wrote about ALEC in mid-June, I ended the blog post with a set of questions, the first one being:
    I wonder how much ALEC legislation has oozed into Harrisburg?
    Given all of the above, I have to wonder about State Senator John Eichelberger's Public Workers Paycheck Protection Act.

    Eichelberger's conservative bona fides are set. He's proposed an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman and has already insulted the commonwealth's LGBT community.

    So I gotta wonder how much of Eichelberger's legislation has been enhanced by the Scaife and Koch funded secret society?