Prosecute the torture.

August 31, 2011

An Update On Dick Cheney, War Criminal

An astute reader emailed in this link from The Atlantic.

Ta-Nehisi Coates boils everything down into a bite sized paragraph :
It's amazing, though it shouldn't be, to see the former vice-president of the United States arguing that the government still should be torturing people, and that torture is one of the things he's proudest of. I think the worst thing about the Obama administration's "looking forward" doctrine is that it virtually guarantees that torture will happen again--perhaps even under the very next administration.
I could not agree more.

And on a recent edition of Democracy Now! Salon.com writer Glenn Greenwald and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell discuss the real fallout of the Cheney book:
GLENN GREENWALD: One of the most significant aspects of the rollout of Dick Cheney’s book is that he’s basically being treated as though he’s just an elder statesman who has some controversial, partisan political views. And yet, the evidence is overwhelming, including most of what Colonel Wilkerson just said and has been saying for quite some time, and lots of other people, as well, including, for example, General Antonio Taguba, that Dick Cheney is not just a political figure with controversial views, but is an actual criminal, that he was centrally involved in a whole variety not just of war crimes in Iraq, but of domestic crimes, as well, including the authorization of warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens in violation of FISA, which says that you go to jail for five years for each offense, as well as the authorization and implementation of a worldwide torture regime that, according to General Barry McCaffrey, resulted in the murder—his word—of dozens of detainees, far beyond just the three or four cases of waterboarding that media figures typically ask Cheney about.

And yet, what we have is a government, a successor administration, the Obama administration, that announced that there will be no criminal investigations, no, let alone, prosecutions of any Bush officials for any of these multiple crimes. And that has taken these actions outside of the criminal realm and turned them into just garden-variety political disputes. And it’s normalized the behavior. And as a result, Dick Cheney goes around the country profiting off of this, you know, sleazy, sensationalistic, self-serving book, basically profiting from his crimes, and at the same time normalizing the idea that these kind of policies, though maybe in the view of some wrongheaded, are perfectly legitimate political choices to make. And I think that’s the really damaging legacy from all of this.

AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Wilkerson, do you think the Bush administration officials should be held accountable in the way that Glenn Greenwald is talking about?

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I certainly do. And I’d be willing to testify, and I’d be willing to take any punishment I’m due. And I have to say, I agree with almost everything he just said. And I think that explains the aggressiveness, to a large extent, of the Cheney attack and of the words like "exploding heads all over Washington." This is a book written out of fear, fear that one day someone will "Pinochet" Dick Cheney.
There's more from Wilkerson here:
"[Cheney]'s developed an angst and almost a protective cover, and now he fears being tried as a war criminal so he uses such terminology as 'exploding heads all over Washington' because that's the way someone who's decided he's not going to be prosecuted acts: boldly, let's get out in front of everybody, let's act like we are not concerned and so forth when in fact they are covering up their own fear that somebody will Pinochet him," Wilkerson added.

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested for war crimes.
As both Bush and Cheney should be.

Dan Simpson, in today's P-G, has a list of reasons why he won't buy or read Cheney's book:
1) He is a liar. Anyone who would take the United States to war based on two false reasons -- the claim of Iraq having nuclear weapons and of the Saddam Hussein regime having links to al-Qaida -- has no further right to be believed about anything. Mr. Cheney's approach to these deadly lies was to choose and interpret U.S. intelligence to reinforce his goal, as opposed to arriving at a truth upon which to base U.S. policy.

2) He is a killer. His deliberate actions, probably intended to get himself and President George W. Bush reelected in 2004, led to the deaths of more than 4,400 Americans and countless thousands of Iraqis. Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, fine; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, no way.
I would have added stuff about the torture and the non-existent WMDs and the domestic surveillance. But that's just me.

Many thanks to the Obama Administration! By taking any prosecution of the war crimes off the table, it's at least partially legitimized the crimes Cheney is so so proud of.

Here's to hoping that some country somewhere has the courage to "Pinochet" Dick Cheney - war criminal.

August 30, 2011

Why Hasn't Cheney Been Arrested?

From Realclearpolitics:
[NBC's Jamie] Gangel: "A conservative hero the his fans, Darth Vader to his critics, Cheney 's book is an unapologetic defense to his Vice Presidency and the controversial programs he's championed after 9/11. In your view, we should still be using enhanced interrogation?"

Cheney: "Yes."

Gangel: "Should we still be waterboarding terror suspects?

Cheney: "I would strongly support using it again if we had a high-value detainee, that was the only way we could get him to talk."

Gangel: "People call it torture. you think it should still be a tool?"

Cheney: "Yes."
Ok, ok, ok. Let me stop the "unbiased" Gangel right there. People don't call waterboarding torture. The Law calls waterboarding torture. US and International Law:
In fact what Cheney said goes directly against the UN Conventions:
For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. [emphasis added.]
Ah, the joys of an "unbiased" interviewer! By putting it in "People call it..." rather than "The law says..." frame, she gets Cheney is off at least one rhetorical hook. Why couldn't she just say it was illegal (not to mention immoral and counterproductive)?

And that being the case, why isn't Dick Cheney in jail?

For that, I guess, we have our disappointing President to thank.

Doesn't change the fact that waterboarding is torture and torture is a war crime and George Bush and Dick Cheney are war criminals.

August 29, 2011

Huh.

While I disagree with a lot of what he thinks, I always thought that Congressman Ron Paul was at least intelligent.

Now I know otherwise.

When asked about the theory of evolution in 2007, Paul reportedly said:
"Well, first i thought it was a very inappropriate question, you know, for the presidency to be decided on a scientific matter," he said. "I think it's a theory...the theory of evolution and I don't accept it as a theory. But I think the creator that i know, you know created us, every one of us and created the universe and the precise time and manner and all. I just don't think we're at the point where anybody has absolute proof on either side."

A spokesman for the Paul campaign did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
Here's the video.


The GOP: The Anti-Science Party.

You May Have Missed This

Whilst I was away on vacation (A stop to see mom in Connecticut and then a trip up to Bar Harbor, Maine where there was some wicked good laab-stah every night) I missed reading about yet another exoneration about some never happened scientific misdeads:
Michael Mann, the Pennsylvania climate-change researcher caught in the flap surrounding e-mails hacked from a U.K. university server, was cleared of wrongdoing by an agency that promotes science.

Finding no "evidence of research misconduct," the Arlington, Va.-based National Science Foundation closed its inquiry into Mann, according to an Aug. 15 report from its inspector general. In February, Penn State University, where Mann is a professor of meteorology, exonerated him of suppressing or falsifying data, deleting e-mails and misusing privileged information.
And:
The report confirms findings from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's inspector general and a separate panel of seven scientists based at universities in the U.K., United States and Switzerland.
The original reporting can be found here at Bloomberg.com and you can read the NSF report here. The NSF report says this about those hacked East Anglia emails:
We reviewed the emails and concluded that nothing contained in them evidenced research misconduct within the definition in the NSF Research Misconduct Regulation. The University had been provided an extensive volume of emails from the Subject and determined that emails had not been deleted. We found no basis to conclude that the emails were evidence of research misconduct or that they pointed to such evidence
On the charge of data falsification the NSF concluded:
There is no specific evidence that the Subject falsified or fabricated any data and no evidence that his actions amounted to research misconduct.
But back to the Bloomberg reporting. The interesting part about it is where it was posted: The Tribune-Review.

Perhaps this will be more evidence of how the editorial board doesn't bother reading the news published in the Trib, but this is what Scaife's braintrust said of Mann only last summer:
Speaking about his infamous "hockey stick" global-temperature graph, Mann also told the BBC: "I always thought it was somewhat misplaced to make it a central icon of the climate change debate."

Funny, isn't it, how Mann only now objects to Al Gore making his "hockey stick" a household word via "An Inconvenient Truth" -- and to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change making such a big deal of that graph in its reports.

Only now -- after those Climategate e-mails documented improper data manipulation, and after other setbacks for the Church of Climatology's credibility -- does Mann border on 'fessing up. Perhaps his highly questionable "exoneration" by Penn State is loosening his lips.

Better late than never? Of course. But if he'd never warped genuine science to fit his predetermined "conclusions," he'd never have had to even think about, and wouldn't be verging on, full-blown backpedaling.
Given the Trib's news division has actually reported on Mann's exoneration, do you think the editorial braintrust will even bother to do some backpedaling itself?

Yea, me neither.

Good to be home, though.

August 27, 2011

"John McIntire Dangerously Live Comedy Talk Show" Tonight!

We may have had an earthquake this week, but we're not in the path of Hurricane Irene, so come on out tonight!


(Click to enlarge)

WHAT: John McIntire Dangerously Live Comedy Talk Show with Gab Bonesso
"How's Barry Obama doin'? As well as he could? Not nearly good enough? We're all screwed no matter what? Comedy and Yapping! With Featured Comedian Gab Bonesso, 2 Political Junkies Maria Lupinacci, Activist Khari Mosley, former GOP Mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis! Be there and be Theater Square!"

WHEN: Saturday, August 27 at 10:30pm - August 28 at 12:30am

WHERE: Cabaret At Theater Square, 655 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh (map)

COST: CHEAP! Tickets: $5.00 at the door / No Charge for District Patrons

More info here and here.

Song of the Day



As Hurricane Irene slams North Carolina, reality sets in in NYC and last minute panic shopping ensues.

August 25, 2011

Now that we're on the same page...

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?



Via KDKA: "In Pittsburgh, only 19 percent of city
residents approve the mayor’s performance
— with 48 percent disapproving —
and 33 percent have no opinion."

OK, this is certainly not in the spirit of Mr. Rogers, but after years and years of not understanding why folks in this city gave a pass to Pittsburgh's Favorite Grandson Lil Mayor Luke, I finally feel at one with my city.

August 24, 2011

Unnatural Disaster

Earthquake, schmirthquake -- a real natural disaster is coming to PA next week. PoliticsPA is reporting that Lil Ricky Santorum is planning a "three-day fundraising blitz across Pennsylvania."

But all joking aside, there was a serious issue raised by yesterday's East Coast quake. The epicenter of the quake was only about 11 miles from the North Anna nuclear-power station in central Virginia.


Via AmericaBlog: "The red pin is the epicenter of the quake.
Note Lake Anna in the upper right corner. That's the area in
which the Anna nuclear facilities are located."
(Click graphic to enlarge)

According to The Wall Street Journal:
Tuesday's 5.8-magnitude earthquake created a state of emergency at the North Anna nuclear-power station in central Virginia, causing it to lose electricity and automatically shut down, although generators restored power.

[snip]

Twelve additional nuclear plants in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and Michigan declared "unusual events," the lowest of four emergency situations. They included Calvert Cliffs, the closest nuclear plant to Washington, D.C. The plant remained stable at 100% of capacity, said Mark Sullivan, a spokesman with Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC, which owns the plant.

And, here's where it gets stupid. Really, deeply stupid. And, by that, I mean Tea Party/Wingnut stupid. Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel.net notes that the epicenter of the quake occurred in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) district (which also contains the nuclear plants).

Wheeler reminds all that:
"Back in March, after the Japanese earthquake, Eric Cantor defended Republican plans to cut funding from the USGS and warning systems to help in case of a disaster."

Furthermore:
"Apparently, budget cuts in the 1990s [in VA] led to the removal of seismic equipment at the North Anna plant. (h/t Kirk)"

[snip]

"Cantor was in VA’s House of Delegates from 1992 to 2001, so there’s a decent chance he had a part in those budget cuts."

What a patriot!

August 23, 2011

Quake! Twitter Edition


(Click graphic to enlarge)

Song of the Day





5.9


WTF?

Wow! I've never actually felt an earthquake before. Made me jump!

Clean! Safe! Nuclear Energy!

Via The New York Times:
Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.


Murky indeed

We join with Infinonymous and Early Returns in urging you to read this post -- if you haven't already -- by new blogger SteelCityMud at 3MurkyRivers that as Infy puts it details "the thicket of scandal that appears to involve everything (and everyone) associated with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority."

We also offer our condolences to the family and friends of Kimberly, Brenna and Makaela Griffith and Mary Saflin. (WTAE: Victims Of Violent Flash Flood in Highland Park Remembered)
.

Stacking the Deck


  • Bloomberg: "Wall Street Aristocracy Got $1.2 Trillion in Secret Loans at Lowest Rates"

  • New York Times: "Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices, according to people briefed on discussions about the deal."

  • Washington Post: "Corporations pushing for job-creation tax breaks shield U.S.-vs.-abroad hiring data"

  • Think Progress: Republicans, who favor every and all tax cuts have suddenly found one they can't abide: They're against an extension of the payroll tax holiday -- one that benefits middle and working class Americans.



  • August 22, 2011

    "John McIntire Dangerously Live Comedy Talk Show with Gab Bonesso" (and me!)


    (Click to enlarge)

    WHAT: John McIntire Dangerously Live Comedy Talk Show with Gab Bonesso
    "How's Barry Obama doin'? As well as he could? Not nearly good enough? We're all screwed no matter what? Comedy and Yapping! With Featured Comedian Gab Bonesso, 2 Political Junkies Maria Lupinacci, Activist Khari Mosley, former GOP Mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis! Be there and be Theater Square!"

    WHEN: Saturday, August 27 at 10:30pm - August 28 at 12:30am

    WHERE: Cabaret At Theater Square, 655 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh (map)

    COST: CHEAP! Tickets: $5.00 at the door / No Charge for District Patrons

    More info here and here.

    A good time will be had by all!
    .

    Paul Ryan Seeks To Privatize His Congressional Seat


    Not satisfied with just trying to privatize Social Security, Rep. Paul Ryan (That'llCostYou$15-WI) wants to privatize his Congressional seat. According to Politico, "It will cost $15 to ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a question in person during the August congressional recess." To prove he means business (no pun intended), his staffers called the cops on seven unemployed constituents staging a sit-in at his Kenosha office to protest his decision not to hold any free public town halls during the August recess.

    We say the moochers should be grateful. His minimum asking price is normally $350..


    Song of the Day



    (Pittsburgh ranks third in OKCupid's top 10 most promiscuous cities in the U.S. Looks like we're doing better going for the blue than the green...)
    .

    August 21, 2011

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    It's been a while for me - I trust you've been happy with Ed Heath's weekly takedown of Jack Kelly. I have.

    But this week's column by Jack Kelly is something special. So many falsehoods/spins/manipulations that I just had to write something.

    Let's begin. Here's Jack's opening:
    Former Vice President Al Gore went on a profanity-laced tirade at the Aspen Institute Aug. 4 against the rising number of Americans who are skeptical about man-made global warming.

    According to a Harris poll in July, only 44 percent of us now believe carbon dioxide emissions are warming the Earth, down from 51 percent in 2009 and 71 percent in 2007.

    Global temperatures peaked in 1998. People have noticed winters are getting colder.
    You can read about it here. We have to issues here. The reality of the climate and what large chunks of people believe to be the reality of the climate.

    Two different things.

    First, about that poll. All that says is that fewer people believe the science to be true than in the past (and gee, could that have something to do with all the bought and paid for misinformation flying around?). Luckily we do not live in a postmodern world where the perception of reality is the same as reality. In 2002, 74% answered "Believe" when asked the question:
    Do you believe the theory that increased carbon dioxide and other gases released into the atmosphere will, if unchecked lead to global warming and an increase in average temperatures, or not?
    Does that mean the science was 30% more true then? No? Then the point about how that poll validates the science is absurd.

    But then we get to Jack's first true distortion of reality - that global temperatures peaked in 1998.

    According to NOAA (where the real climate scientists do real climate science work):
    Combined global land and ocean annual surface temperatures for 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest such period on record at 1.12 F (0.62 C) above the 20th century average. The range of confidence (to the 95 percent level) associated with the combined surface temperature is +/- 0.13 F (+/- 0.07 C).
    And here's what NASA (another buncha scientists - but what do THEY know??) said about 2005 back in 2006:
    Climatologists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City noted that the highest global annual average surface temperature in more than a century was recorded in their analysis for the 2005 calendar year.
    And then:
    Previously, the warmest year of the century was 1998, when a strong El Nino, a warm water event in the eastern Pacific Ocean, added warmth to global temperatures. However, what's significant, regardless of whether 2005 is first or second warmest, is that global warmth has returned to about the level of 1998 without the help of an El Nino.
    I used to ask this alot: Can't someone over at the P-G FACT-CHECK Jack Kelly? He's still embarrassing himself and by association, the paper.

    Jack continues:
    When evidence emerged in 2009 that scientists affiliated with the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Britain were "hiding the decline" by fudging data, few journalists paid much attention.
    Actually lotsa journalists paid attention. Just like the journalists who paid attention to the evidence that showed that the climate scientists did not "fudge the data". Like at The Hill:
    A Commerce Department inspector general investigation into the “Climategate” controversy finds that government scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did not manipulate climate change data.
    P-G fact-checkers? Hello?

    Jack then rattles off some "inconvenient facts" (or should I call them "facts"?) that are really Non sequiturs :
    In the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 AD), and the Roman Warm Period (250 BC-400 AD), there were no automobiles or factories, but temperatures were warmer than now.
    And:
    In geologic history, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were much higher, but temperatures often were lower. In the Late Ordovician Period, CO2 concentrations were 12 times higher than they are today. The Late Ordovician Period was an ice age.
    Do I need to point out that the Ordovician Period was about 488 million years ago? When the chemistry of the planet was vastly different?

    But what of that "Medieval Warm Period"? Here's Raymond Bradley of the University of Amherst Climate System Research Center:
    It is often stated that climate in Medieval time was warm, or warmer than “today”. Such a statement might seem innocuous – a mere scientific curiosity -- but it has wider significance. For those opposed to action on global warming, the climate in Medieval time has become a cause célèbre. If it was warmer than today in Medieval Time, it could not have been due to fossil fuel consumption, and therefore (the argument goes) this demonstrates that warming in the last century may have been just another natural fluctuation that does not warrant political action on curbing fossil fuel use. Although this is a logically inconsistent argument, it has achieved remarkable traction in political circles, requiring that the issue be carefully re-examined. Actually three issues are involved: the timing of any unusual temperature anomaly, its magnitude relative to “today” and its geographical extent. The latter is especially important because advocates of a warm episode in Medieval time commonly attribute it to solar forcing, arguing that total solar irradiance was as high in Medieval time as in the 20th century, with the implication that 20th century global warming was largely driven by solar forcing, not greenhouse gases.
    And then he concludes:
    Careful analysis, unfettered by pre-conceived ideas, reveals no prima facie case for a globally extensive, synchronous warm period in Medieval time.
    Again, a climate scientist.

    Jack Kelly - not a scientist. Not even a good science writer.

    I could go on but even though it's not the darkest evening of the year, I still have miles to go before I sleep.

    Again P-G, fact check Jack Kelly. He's an embarrassment.

    August 20, 2011

    Ilya Somin Reponds!

    That was fast!

    Today, Professor Ilya Somin responded to my blog post of this morning.

    Hello Volokh readers!

    From his opening:
    The implication is that the media must disclose any connections, however indirect, that an expert has with politically motivated funders of any kind. Being an adjunct scholar at Cato is an unpaid position that doesn’t give Cato any control over my research (or me over theirs) — much less giving any such control to individual Cato donors. If that is going to be the standard, it should be applied consistently across the board.

    For example, most major universities get funding from liberal foundations such as the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, and often also from individual liberal donors such as George Soros. Many of the liberal legal scholars who are quoted in the media in support of the individual mandate are affiliated with the American Constitution Society, which also gets some of its funding from Soros (full disclosure: I’ve spoken at several ACS events myself). Some of them also blog at liberal legal blogs, such as Balkinization.
    All I'd have to say to the first sentence is this: Well yea.

    And did you catch the ending of the second paragraph? When he discloses that he's spoken at ACS events?

    Full (or at least fuller) disclosure is a good thing. Too bad it just doesn't happen on the pages of the Tribune-Review.

    Let's do a little thought experiment. Since George Soros is mentioned in Somin's response, let's start there.

    Suppose George Soros owned the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And then suppose the editorial page of the P-G quoted (or perhaps just interviewed someone who writes for it) Media Matters, a left leaning news fact-checking organization that Soros has given a million dollars to. Now suppose they did that without disclosing those financial connections. What do you think would happen then?

    This is my point.

    Craig Smith Does It Again

    And that "it" means "withholds important information from his audience."

    Take a look at this in today's Tribune-Review:
    Ilya Somin is an associate professor at George Mason University School of Law. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law and the study of popular political participation and its implications for constitutional democracy.
    The name sounded familiar so I looked him up on 2PJ and found this.

    While his description above seems politically neutral (he's just described as "an associate professor at George Mason University School of Law") parts of Somin's bio was conveniently omitted by the Scaife-employed Craig Smith.

    Somin is also an Adjunct Scholar at the Scaife-funded Cato Institute - and from that page we also learn that Somin blogs at the conservative/libertarian Volokh Conspiracy.

    However brilliant Professor Somin may be, politically neutral he isn't. Smith should have pointed out Somin's connections to the political right.

    Also omitted, of course, are the millions of dollars Smith's boss Richard Mellon Scaife has shuffled of to Cato, where Somin's a scholar.

    Another lesson (actually it's the same lesson, only resubmitted) on how the Right Wing Noise Machine works.

    August 19, 2011

    Hershey’s Sour Kisses



    Hershey's is exploiting international students and, as a bonus, denying Pennsylvanians jobs.

    Hundreds of international students signed up for a special U.S. State Department approved visa program designed to promote cultural exchange and international understanding. However, once here, they found themselves working long hours packing chocolates instead of working in a public position. But the exploitation goes further. First they paid $3,000-6,000 for the “opportunity” to work for Hershey. Then they were forced to live in company housing and also were charged for other expenses leaving most of the students with $40 to $140 per week after 40 hours of work. On top of that, when they complained about their working conditions they were threatened with deportation.

    You can click here to send a message to John Bilbrey, Hershey Company CEO, that we won't stand for this.

    You can also go to Market Square today at 12:30 PM where One Pittsburgh, community supporters and guestworkers from the Hershey plant in Palmyra will be performing a short skit to "inform people during their lunch-break of the exploitation the guest workers faced at the hands of Hershey."
    .

    Tom Coburn: "Good thing I can’t pack a gun on the Senate floor"


    Via Politico:
    Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) ripped his colleagues during a tour of northeast Oklahoma, calling them “career elitists,” “cowards” and said, “It’s just a good thing I can’t pack a gun on the Senate floor.”

    Coburn’s gun-on-the-floor comment comes less than a month after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) made a triumphant return to the Capitol and the House floor following an assassination attempt in January outside a Tucson supermarket.
    Gun-happy Coburn is both a doctor and a Southern Baptist deacon and, of course, is rabidly "pro-life." He may be best known for his involvement in the John Ensign scandal at the infamous C Street House where he helped in the cover up of the affair. Coburn claimed there was doctor/patient privilege involved. Coburn is an obstetrician. As far as is known, Ensign does not have a uterus.

    As a congressman, he made news by protesting a televised airing of Schindler's List, saying it was "an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity" and that the airing of the movies was "irresponsible sexual behavior. I cringe when I realize that there were children all across this nation watching this program." (As opposed to the children all across the country hearing a US Senator wanting to shoot his colleagues...)

    Another day, another bit of elminationist rhetoric from a Republican.
    .


    August 18, 2011

    I didn't know we were up for this, but now that I do: Please vote for us!

    "CBS Pittsburgh's
    Most Valuable Blogger Awards 2011
    Everything Else:

    2 Political Junkies"

    Vote here:
    http://pittsburgh.blogger.cbslocal.com/most-valuable-blogger/vote/misc/

    (And, then click on "Local Affairs" and vote for The Pittsburgh Comet.)

    UPDATE: Uh oh! I see That's Church is in the same category. Never mind.

    UPDATE #2: Apparently, there's also an "Editor’s Choice" award in each category (rules here), so vote for us daily until September 9th. Thanks!
    .

    Rally at Toomey's Office at Noon Today


    Sen. Pat Toomey (Tea Party-PA) is a favorite son of both the Club for Growth and the teahadists. Pennsylvania's junior Senator believes in magic -- he believes that tax cuts create revenue. Not only did he sign Grover Norquist's anti tax pledge and voted no on raising the debt ceiling, he believes the best course of action during the 2008 financial meltdown would have been to do nothing and let the chips fall where they may.

    Of course, this meant that he was deemed to be eminently qualified to become a member of the "Super Congress."

    If you believe that what Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the country needs is jobs and not tax cuts. If you believe that the past decade of tax cuts for the "job creators" has only made the rich richer and not produced the promised jobs. If you believe your own lying eyes and not the smoke being blown up your ass, then this rally is for you:

    August 2011 Recess Action
    Station Square - Toomey's Office
    100 West Station Square (Map)
    Pittsburgh, PA 15219
    Thursday, August 18th, 12:00 PM

    This action is being sponsored by many groups including MoveOn, OnePittsburgh, We Are One, Democracy for Pittsburgh, and, undoubtedly many more.

    There's strength in numbers -- join us!

    Many of the groups are meeting at the Stattion Square T station at 11:45 to walk over together.

    Also, if you listened to Lynn Cullen's show yesterday, you know to expect to see her and Pittsburgh City Paper Editor Chris Potter there too.
    .

    Now...About That Bus

    Yet another constructed scandal by the rightwing press. It's even made it into an editorial cartoon at the Tribune-Review:


    Ha. Funny.

    Mediamatters has a whole page of criticisms from the Sean Hannity and other wing nuts - "It's a waste of tax payer money!" they charge. "It's MADE IN CANADA!" the cartoonist asterixes.

    But there are two of them. Did you know that? Probably did.

    But did you also know that:
    The vehicle was commissioned by the Secret Service, which has always hired buses for election campaigns and retrofitted them to provide suitable protection for presidents and rival party nominees.

    But the Service decided to commission its own vehicles, reasoning that the initial total outlay of 2.2 million dollars for two buses would soon pay for itself over a projected 10-year lifespan.
    Because:
    In the past, those tours were a big headache for the service. The process started with a commercial tour bus and a renovation process that put the old TV show Pimp My Ride to shame.

    "It was extremely expensive to lease one of these buses and then put in proper armoring, proper communications equipment," says former Secret Service Director Ralph Basham, who's now with Command Consulting Group. "And then at the end of the contract you had to restore these buses back to their original state."
    Oh! So they're for presidential elections (among other things)! So once the Republican candidate is set, he/she will get one of the buses for the campaign!

    You didn't see that in the cartoon, did you?

    And where did these two buses come from? Canada, right? Not exactly:
    The government bought the two coaches for $2.2 million from retailer Hemphill Brothers Coach, based in Tennessee. It installed custom interior upgrades into the Prevost shell, which accounted for about half the cost.
    And would it surprise you to learn that the Hemphill Brothers (Joel and Trent) are campaign donors - to Republican candidates?
    So if the coaches were constructed in Canada (and it looks as though they were), then we have a company in Red State Tennessee owned by two Republican campaign donating brothers that outsources work to foreign employees.

    And pointing out where the buses were made is a criticism of the Obama Administration?

    Funny what the Trib (and the rest of the right wing media) leave out, huh?

    August 17, 2011

    Dan Savage Redefines "Rick"

    And so in Savage's own words:
    Now "Rick Santorum" isn't just a vile and disgusting politician—he's a vile and disgusting sentence.
    What is it, you ask?

    I'm getting to that. It's in today's Savage Love column.

    A letter writer wrote in to the column with this:
    If you do end up having to redefine the word "rick," which you threatened to do in your recent Funny or Die video, I have a suggestion: rick (v): to remove santorum orally. ("He was so grateful for the lay that he ricked his partner.")
    To which Dan agreed. Hence the above sentence "Rick Santorum."

    Though Savage fiddles the definition a little:
    That said, I don't think someone would rick his or her partner out of gratitude; ricking someone—sucking the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex out of someone's ass—is something a person would do only under duress or under orders from a cruel BDSM top.
    Rick Santorum - ew, yuck.

    More On Rick Santorum's View On Slavery

    What is it about the wingnuts and Slavery?

    First we had Michele Bachmann. According to Rich Lizza's piece in the New Yorker:
    In “Christianity and the Constitution,” the book she worked on with Eidsmoe, her law-school mentor, he argues that John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams “expressed their abhorrence for the institution” and explains that “many Christians opposed slavery even though they owned slaves.” They didn’t free their slaves, he writes, because of their benevolence. “It might be very difficult for a freed slave to make a living in that economy; under such circumstances setting slaves free was both inhumane and irresponsible.”
    I mean The Bible does allow for slavery, doesn't it? - Just not cruel slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46):
    If you want slaves, buy them from other nations or from the foreigners who live in your own country, and make them your property. You can own them, and even leave them to your children when you die, but do not make slaves of your own people or be cruel to them.
    So as long as you don't whip them or anything, slavery's OK, I guess. Responsible thing to do, even, since setting them free in a bad economy would only make things really bad for them.

    That's freedom and slavery for Michele Bachmann, winner of the Iowa straw poll for the Republican Nomination for the President of the United States.

    Then there's Rick Santorum, one of the losers. Thinkprogress has video of our favorite ex-Senator discussing freedom:


    Their transcript:
    Our founders said [our] rights were given to us to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Does anyone here believe that first inalienable right is as whole as it was at the time of our founding? It isn’t. Does anyone believe that our freedom is as whole as it was at the time of our founders? It is not. [bold in original]
    From the top of the field to the bottom: for the GOP, slavery was no big deal. Not even worth mentioning when cheering on the great traditions of America.

    I guess the GOP doesn't count human slavery as the affront to human freedom that it so obviously is.

    August 16, 2011

    New Rick Perry Campaign Ad!



    Remember, this is a guy who even the Bush people think is shallow. Which I assume means he should have a great shot at being nominated (and possibly elected).

    [sigh]




    (h/t to Spork).

    More On Dominionism

    I take Tony Norman's column as a start - this specifically:
    The first time I ever heard of the Christian Reconstruction movement, now known as Dominionism, I thought it was a gag.

    Who in their right mind wanted to live in a world where the Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws would become the template for local and national politics? It was a profoundly dark theology even by the standards of the dour Calvinism I considered reasonable at the time.

    According to the tenets of Christian Reconstruction, it was up to Christians to bring the whole world into submission to Jesus Christ. Once that was accomplished (with God's help, of course), the Old Testament laws that guided ancient Israel would be dusted off and applied to civil societies across the globe, including America.
    He then goes on to outline some of the scarier parts of this scary stuff and ends not with a whimper but with a bang:
    Today, two of the leading Republican presidential candidates, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, reportedly have ties to the Dominionist movement. The press has got to get up to speed on the movement's ideas before either a President Bachmann or a President Perry are in a position to drag Jesus feet first out of heaven, again.
    Allow me to do my part.

    Michelle Goldberg over at The Daily Beast has more on Dominionism:
    Dominionism derives from a small fringe sect called Christian Reconstructionism, founded by a Calvinist theologian named R. J. Rushdoony in the 1960s. Christian Reconstructionism openly advocates replacing American law with the strictures of the Old Testament, replete with the death penalty for homosexuality, abortion, and even apostasy. The appeal of Christian Reconstructionism is, obviously, limited, and mainstream Christian right figures like Ralph Reed have denounced it.
    Rushdoony was a piece of work. As Frank Schaefer points out:
    Rushdoony (whom I met and talked with several times) believed that interracial marriage, which he referred to as "unequal yoking," should be made illegal. He also opposed "enforced integration," referred to Southern slavery as "benevolent," and said that "some people are by nature slaves." Rushdoony was also a Holocaust denier.

    And yet his home school materials are a mainstay of the right-wing evangelical home school movement to this day. In Rushdoony's 1973 book, The Institutes of Biblical Law, he says that fundamentalist Christians must "take control of governments and impose strict biblical law" on America and then the world.
    Back to Goldberg with more on Michele Bachmann:
    For believers in Dominionism, rule by non-Christians is a sort of sacrilege—which explains, in part, the theological fury that has accompanied the election of our last two Democratic presidents. “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness,” wrote George Grant, the former executive director of Coral Ridge Ministries, which has since changed its name to Truth in Action Ministries. “But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice ... It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time ... World conquest.”

    Bachmann is close to Truth in Action Ministries; last year, she appeared in one of its documentaries, Socialism: A Clear and Present Danger. In it, she espoused the idea, common in Reconstructionist circles, that the government has no right to collect taxes in excess of 10 percent, the amount that believers are called to tithe to the church. On her state-senate-campaign website, she recommended a book co-authored by Grant titled Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee, which, as Lizza reported, depicted the civil war as a battle between the devout Christian South and the Godless North, and lauded slavery as a benevolent institution. “The unity and companionship that existed between the races in the South prior to the war was the fruit of a common faith,” the book said.
    We wrote about the Lee biography here.

    Does Goldberg have more on Rick Perry? She certainly does:
    In elaborating Bachmann’s Dominionist history, though, it’s important to point out that she is not unique. Perry tends to be regarded as marginally more reasonable than Bachmann, but he is as closely associated with Dominionism as she is, though his links are to a different strain of the ideology.
    How? She cites this piece in the Texas Observer by Forrest Wilder. Goldberg continues:
    The Christian Reconstructionists tend to be skeptical of Pentecostalism, with its magic, prophesies, speaking in tongues, and wild ecstasies. Certainly, there are overlaps between the traditions—Oral Roberts, where Bachmann studied with Eidsmoe, was a Pentecostal school. But it’s only recently that one group of Pentecostals, the New Apostolic Reformation, has created its own distinct Dominionist movement. And members see Perry as their ticket to power.

    “The New Apostles talk about taking dominion over American society in pastoral terms,” wrote Wilder in the Texas Observer. “They refer to the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society: family, religion, arts and entertainment, media, government, education, and business. These are the nerve centers of society that God (or his people) must control.” He quotes a sermon from Tom Schlueter, New Apostolic pastor close to Perry. “We’re going to infiltrate [the government], not run from it. I know why God’s doing what he’s doing ... He’s just simply saying, ‘Tom I’ve given you authority in a governmental authority, and I need you to infiltrate the governmental mountain.”

    According to Wilder, members of the New Apostolic Reformation see Perry as their vehicle to claim the “mountain” of government. Some have told Perry that Texas is a “prophet state,” destined, with his leadership, to bring America back to God. The movement was deeply involved in The Response, the massive prayer rally that Perry hosted in Houston earlier this month. “Eight members of The Response ‘leadership team’ are affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation movement,” wrote Wilder. “The long list of The Response’s official endorses—posted on the event’s website—reads like a Who’s Who of the apostolic-prophetic crowd, including movement founder C. Peter Wagner.”
    While it's the Republican Party that's otherwise up in arms about Islamic Sharia law taking over the Constitution, isn't it funny (just SOO FUNNY) how they're not so upset about the Christians who want to do the same?

    August 14, 2011

    A New Tack

    We've spent some time here at 2PJ tracking the Scaife support given to think tanks mentioned in specific Tribune-Review editorials - for instance, yesterday.

    But today I thought I'd try another strategy. How do things look if we look at all the editorials/opinion pieces published in one day?

    So let's start.

    This editorial about unemployment compensation, Scaife's braintrust cites the Cato Institute.

    According to mediamatters, that's:
    • $245,000 from the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation.
    • $2,037,500 from the Scaife-controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation.
    This opinion piece which chastises George Soros for, among other things, supporting the "openly leftist Open Society Institute" is by Mattew Vadum of the Capital Research Center.

    According to mediamatters, that's:
    • $225,000 from the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation.
    • $4,675,000 from the Scaife-controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation.
    This opinion piece by Colin McNickle, yet another anti-CFL bulb diatribe, cites the Manhatan Institute.

    According to mediamatters, that's:
    • $693,000 from the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation.
    • $3,815,000 from the Scaife-controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation.
    This piece by John Stossel cites the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    According to mediamatters, that's:
    • $60,000 from the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation.
    • $2,865,000 from the Scaife-controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation.
    This piece is by Arnaud de Borchgrave of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    According to mediamatters, that's:
    • $100,000 from the Scaife-controlled Allegheny Foundation.
    • $50,000 from the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation.
    • $10,148,000 from the Scaife-controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation.
    This piece by Tom Purcell cites Reason Magazine, which is published by the Reason Foundation.

    According to mediamatters, that's:
    • $366,000 from the Scaife-controlled Carthage Foundation.
    • $2,016,000 from the Scaife-controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation.
    Whew.

    If my math is correct, that means that over the years the Scaife-controlled Allegheny, Carthage and Sarah Scaife Foundations have given about $27.3 million to the various think tanks cited on today's op-ed pages alone.

    Had he not given that support, those think tanks would look vastly different. They might not even exist. And yet he did and they do and his op-ed page cites them with no mention of all that money.

    Tell me again how there's no vast right-wing conspiracy.

    Uh-oh.

    Data from our statcounter, a few minutes ago:
    Visitor Analysis & System Spec
    Referring URL: (No referring link)
    Host Name: cbcp3.dhs.gov Browser: IE 8.0
    IP Address: 216.81.81.83 — [Label IP Address] Operating System: WinXP
    Location: Fort Washington, Maryland, United States Resolution: Unknown
    Returning Visits: 0 Javascript: Disabled
    Visit Length: 2 seconds ISP: Department Of Homeland Security
    We got visited by HOMELAND SECURITY????

    Uh-oh.

    August 13, 2011

    Scaife Funded Judicial Watch Spins On Voter "Fraud"

    From today's Tribune-Review:
    Documents obtained by Judicial Watch show the perniciously corrupt, leftist influence of ACORN and its Project Vote affiliate on voter registration in Colorado.

    Alleging violation of a federal law requiring public-assistance offices to offer registration, the groups threatened litigation in 2009. The Democrat then-secretary of state, backed by leftist billionaire George Soros and liberal MoveOn.org, responded by, among other things, sharing registration data with Project Vote and ensuring its approval of changes to registration forms.

    The result? In 2009-10, 8 percent of Colorado registration forms rejected as invalid or duplicate -- thus fraudulent -- came from public-assistance agencies. That was more than four times the national 1.9-percent average.
    I guess they gotta do this once a month or so. Last month (July 17th to be exact) they wheel-barrowed out some horse crap that included James O'Keefe's "research" into ACORN. On that blog post we reported:
    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.
    So while Scaife's braintrust uses phrases like "backed by leftist billionaire George Soros" we should all try to remember that when the braintrust quotes Judicial Watch or The Heritage Foundation or The American Enterprise Institute or the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, each of those think tanks are "backed by rightwing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife."

    But back to the Scaife-funded Judicial Watch spin. Beyond the absurdity of pointing out how Colorado's voting registration system rejecting invalid registration forms is evidence of how far:
    ACORN, Project Vote and their successor organizations would not go to undermine voting's integrity.
    But what of that 8 percentage rejection rate? Surely that's evidence of fraud, right? The editorial even says that invalid and duplicate registration forms are fraudulent. This takes a little digging. The Scaife braintrust's editorial points back to this page at the Scaife funded Judicial Watch. And here is the important paragraph:
    As a result of this collaboration between ACORN, Project Vote and Colorado officials, the number of voter registrations at Colorado public assistance agencies rose from 3,340 in 2007 to almost 44,000 in 2010. (In a February 15, 2011, email to Project Vote, Christi Heppard, Special Projects Coordinator for the Elections Division of the Colorado Department of State, wrote, “…I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the numbers.”) However, the collaboration also led to a large number of invalid and duplicate voter registrations. A total of 8% of rejected registration forms came from public assistance agencies in Colorado in 2009-2010. This is more than four times the national average of 1.9% for that same time period.
    Judicial Watch is usually meticulous with its linkage. But this time, not so much.

    For instance, where do they get the "8 percent" data point anyway? That bit of information can be found via that last link - but it takes some hunting to get to - something the braintrust probably doesn't want you to do.

    The link leads to this report by the US Election Assistance Commission. It's on page 52 where we find that 8 percent of the voter registration forms, 1681 in real numbers, were regarded as "Invalid or Rejected."

    And how does this report define "Invalid or Rejected"? Oh, my friends, this is where the fun is. On the very next page we read:
    Invalid registrations in Colorado include incomplete or pending applications where the elector has omitted a required piece of information.
    No way to tell how much of what's left over is, as Scaife's braintrust so courageously declared, fraudulent.

    See how it works? Scaife supports a think tank that spins and hides some very important details and then his newspaper's editorial board reports that spin as the truth.

    How's that for fraudulent?

    August 12, 2011

    FIXED (Or At Least Explained)

    Remember this?

    It's about the PADems google ad that seems to point no where.

    Late this morning I was contacted by a representative of PADems with an explanation of the google ad. Google, I was told, requires a URL to be listed in its ads but they give next to no space for that URL. The space alotted was waaaay to small for what was needed here.

    The ad itself is address specific and links to an online petition demanding that they do the right thing and that the money reimbursed for those ALEC events be re-reimbursed to the tax payers. The ad never not worked if you were able to click it.

    So if you lived in Mike Turzai's district and you clicked on the ad, you'd be taken to this petition.

    So if you lived in Daryl Metcalfe's district and you clicked on the ad, you'd be taken to this petition.

    I checked both links - they both work. Nice that things worked out.

    Can Someone Fix This PLEASE?

    This isn't helping, guys. You have to know that.

    A few days ago, on August 9, John Micek over at Morning Call reported that the State Democratic Party:
    ... has launched a series on online advertisements attacking House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R- Allegheny, and other GOP lawmakers for billing the taxpayers for their membership in right-leaning legislative think-tank called The American Legislative Exchange Counci
    Good. Glad to hear it. Important story - transparency is all-important when the crafting of legislation is involved.

    So what's the problem?

    The ad itself, which looks like this:
    Now try going to the site mentioned in the ad. As of 7:30 this morning 3 days after Micek's report, it's still showing a "page not found" message at padems.com.

    Surely someone can slap together a press release to post there.

    Hey, how about something like this?
    GOP Used Taxpayer Dollars for Membership Dues, over $30,000 on Chicken Breasts and Lollipops

    Harrisburg, PA - Today, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn called on Republicans in the state legislature to reimburse taxpayers for the money they gave to an extreme right wing organization, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As reported by Salon, many Republican lawmakers, including House Leader Mike Turzai, use taxpayer dollars to pay their membership dues and the Republican caucus spent $50,000 to cater a conference for ALEC in Philadelphia.
    I didn't write that, by the way, I found it at padems.com. Easy enough to link to that page. Why hasn't someone done it yet?

    Will Rogers was right.

    August 11, 2011

    Mitt Romney: "Corporations are people, my friend"



    Making the Founders proud!

    Mike Doyle Talks To Chris Potter

    In this week's City Paper (available everywhere that's anywhere) Chris Potter does what I did a week or so ago - he talks with Congressman Mike Doyle.

    Of course, Chris writes it better - the rat bastard.

    And they discuss our current political climate:
    Most Americans were appalled by the months-long fiasco. And while cuts could have been worse -- programs like Medicare and Social Security are protected, for now -- the debt ceiling has never been used as political leverage before. With the tactic's success proven, future hostage-taking seems likely.

    But if you ask Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh), the problem isn't that democracy doesn't work. It's that only one side is working at it.

    "If I held a town-hall meeting," says Doyle, conservatives "would have no trouble turning out hundreds of people. They'd travel in from outside the district just to say, ‘Hi.'" By contrast, "There isn't a Republican in the area that has received that type of pressure. … If liberals don't like what the tea-party movement is doing to the country, they need to start showing up in droves. And then you'll see people starting to show the courage we wish they would have."
    In droves.

    Go read Potter, it'll do ya good.

    August 10, 2011

    More On Michele Bachmann and Slavery

    GOP front runner and Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann in the news these past coupla days regarding this Newsweek cover:

    From the Washington Post blog:
    As soon as Newsweek tweeted this week’s cover of the magazine, featuring a particuarly bad picture of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, bloggers were up in arms.

    NewsBusters argued that Newsweek intentionally chose a photo that made Bachmann look “crazy.” Slate asked whether the picture showed the magazine was “sexist.”
    And so on. The charges and counter charges (and their defenses) will quarantine not a small amount of the news cycle. Which is a pity because there's another Bachmann story that might not get the air time it should because of it.

    Bachmann's views on antebellum slavery. From Adam Swerver at the American Prospect:
    Ryan Lizza's profile of Bachmann reveals that Bachmann's odd perspective on slavery isn't a series of gaffes, but rather "a world view." Lizza explains that Bachmann is a believer in a kind of Christian conservative reimagining of slavery, where "many Christians opposed slavery" but owned them anyway and didn't free them because "“it might be very difficult for a freed slave to make a living in that economy; under such circumstances setting slaves free was both inhumane and irresponsible.” How charitable of them!
    Wait, there's more:
    She is also a fan of Robert E. Lee biographer J. Steven Williams, (sic) whom Lizza describes as a "leading proponent of the theory that the South was an orthodox Christian nation unjustly attacked by the godless North." Wilkins "approvingly" cites Lee's conviction that abolition was premature because it was necessary for "the sanctifying effects of Christianity” to take their time “to work in the black race and fit its people for freedom.”
    Actually it's J. Steven Wilkins but that's besides the point. What did have to say about antebellum slavery? You have to read it for yourself:
    Slavery, as it operated in the pervasively Christian society which was the old South, was not an adversarial relationship founded upon racial animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt, but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause. The credit for this startling reality must go to the Christian faith
    And they're worrying about the photo making Bachmann look crazie?

    August 9, 2011

    More On ALEC Defenders

    I normally don't comment on letters to the editor (as I figure everyone's entitled to their own opinion) but when the letter writer's a legislator who's a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council and the letter in question is defending ALEC, well I gotta. I just gotta.

    Here's the letter:
    ALEC's mission

    As the national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council, I want to respond to "Analysis Finds State Legislation Copied From D.C. Group" (Aug. 3). ALEC is a transparent, nonpartisan, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to advancing the principles of free markets, limited government and individual liberty.

    ALEC is a resource for state legislators across the country to find sound policy solutions to today's complex issues with a primary focus on fiscal responsibility and economic growth in each policy area. ALEC believes a vibrant private sector is good for the economy and job creation and, when faced with policy decisions that have an enormous effect on our society, legislators should hear from those who are affected. No one would consider writing an education bill without talking to teachers, or health care legislation without talking to doctors. So why would we do it in any other area?

    The simple fact is that no matter what we discuss at a conference, we each have to make a decision whether it is good for the people we represent. If so, whatever may begin as a model bill must go through the legislative process unique to each state. The bills are subject to legal review, committee hearings, amendments and floor debate before legislators vote to reject or adopt it and a governor signs it into law.

    It's an entirely democratic and transparent process and to suggest otherwise misleads the public.

    America is a representative democracy and legislators are elected by the people to represent the people. As state legislators, we try to find the best solutions to growing the economy, creating jobs and utilizing taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently. ALEC helps us fulfill this goal.

    REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON
    National Chairman
    American Legislative Exchange Council
    Washington, D.C.
    I see the word "transparency" twice. First that ALEC is a "transparent" organization and second that it's part of a "transparent" process that's unquestionably democratic.

    Really?

    Then why is the membership private? Then why is the "model legislation" section of ALEC's website kept only for the private membership?

    Who funds ALEC? Who drafts the "model legislation"? And finally who are its members who are are also elected officials from Pennsylvania?

    IF the organization is transparent, THEN we'd have an answer to at least some of these questions. Since we don't we can't agree with the noble legislator from ALEC when he asserts (incorrectly, as it turns out) that ALEC is a transparent organization.

    Think Progress has some evidence for who funded ALEC's recent convention in New Orleans. Given the "pro-business" stance of ALEC, it's hardly surprising that these three corporations would be supporting the convention at the President's Level:
    • BP
    • Reynolds American
    • Takeda Pharmaceutical
    Didn't BP have a little oil spill close to New Orleans some time ago?

    I seem to recall something about that in the news.

    Then there's the Chairman Level:
    • Allergan
    • Altria
    • American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity
    • American Electric Power
    • AT&T
    • Bayer
    • Chevron
    • ExxonMobil
    • EZCorp
    • Lumina Foundation
    • Peabody
    • PhRMA
    • Shell
    • State Farm
    • State Policy Network
    • UnitedHealthcare
    • Visa
    • Walmart
    • Walton Family Foundation
    And so on. Big Oil, Health Insurance, "Clean" Coal - who'da thought that they'd what to influence statewide legislation?

    "Tea Party! America Thanks You!" Video

    August 8, 2011

    Ricky Santorum vows campaign will not fade away


    Desperately seeking attention and a resurrection of his moribund presidential campaign, Lil Ricky Santorum (R-VA) has decided that the one thing "The Day the Music Died" needed was some santorum. Early rockers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, as well as the pilot, Roger Peterson died in a small plane crash in Iowa on their "Winter Dance Party" tour in 1959. Santorum will be holding a "Santorum Summer Dance Party" in Iowa featuring the late Buddy Holly's backup band the Crickets and the Big Bopper Jr. The jokes write themselves on this one, but you can add your own in the comments section.

    Rave on, Lil Ricky!


    (No Ritchie Valens tribute by Santorum in Ames, IA for obvious reasons.)



    More On Tea Party Hijinks

    Before we spend too much more time on Congressman Doyle's use of the Congressional terrorist metaphor (especially since GOP Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell approves of the tactic of taking political hostages - just not shooting them) we should probably cast our eyes and see what sort of rhetoric is flowing out of the GOP's new masters - the Tea Party movement.

    You remember those guys, right? They're the folks who are now cheering at the downgrading of the nation's credit rating:
    Here's what happened: Midway through the Fond du Lac event, Florida talk show host Andrea Shea King took the stage. She told the audience that commentators were describing the downgrade of US debt to AA+ from AAA as the "tea party downgrade," laying the blame squarely on Congress' right-wing faction and its supporters. But rather than boo those who claim the tea party caused the downgrade, the 200 or so Wisconsinites in attendance cheered, sounding almost proud to blamed for the downgrade.
    Well, it is their downgrade - nice of them to take responsibility. From National Journal:
    But it’s hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans. In denouncing the threat of default as a “bargaining chip,” the agency was saying that the GOP strategy had shaken its confidence. Though S&P didn’t mention it, the agency must have been unnerved by the number of Republicans who insisted that it would be fine to blow through the debt ceiling and provoke a default.

    As many other analysts have noted, the deficit-reduction deal wouldn’t stop debt from climbing faster than the nation’s GDP over the next decade. It warned that the government’s publicly-held debt would climb from 74 percent of GDP at the end of this year to 79 percent by the end of 2011.

    But one reason S&P said it had become more gloomy was that it had revised its assumptions about the most likely course of fiscal policy. In previous projections, it said, its “base case scenario” had assumed that Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would expire at the end of 2012, while tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 a year would be extended. That, it said, would have reduced deficits about $950 billion over ten years.

    But the new S&P base case assumes that Congress extends all the Bush tax cuts. “We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act,” S&P said.
    And do I need to remind anyone that the GOP's absolute refusal to compromise on raising revenue comes directly from the Taxed Enough Already party (ie TEA) wing that's now controlling the GOP?

    But back to our even tempered friends at the aforementioned Tea Party. From Politico:
    THIENSVILLE, Wis. -- The founder of Tea Party Nation claimed liberal ideology is responsible for "a billion" deaths over the past century during a raucous rally here Saturday in support of one of the six Republican state senators facing a recall election Tuesday.

    "I will tell you ladies and gentlemen, I detest and despise everything the left stands for. How anybody can endorse and embrace an ideology that has killed a billion people in the last century is beyond me," said Tea Party Nation CEO Judson Phillips.
    This is up in Wisconsin, where there's lotsa protest over the GOP Governor and recall movement afoot for some State Senators - a recall movement that's permissible under that state's constitution, by the way. And what did Phillips have to say about that? Take a look:
    Phillips, who a day prior likened protesters of Gov. Scott Walker to Nazi storm troopers, urged a few hundred tea party supporters to turn out for state Sen. Alberta Darling, who is in a ferocious battle with state Rep. Sandy Pasch to hold onto her suburban Milwaukee seat.
    And then there's the trump card:
    Vince Schmuki, a leader of the Ozaukee Patriot tea party group compared the recall effort to a terrorist attack.

    "This is ground zero," said Schmuki. "You remember what the term ground zero means? We have been attacked."
    Liberals have committed genocide, killing billions. Wisconsin citizens exercising their right to protest and recall are Nazis. And of course, they're terrorists.

    These are the folks (or the folks much like them) who are now dictating the actions of the Grand Old Party.

    Yay for America.

    August 6, 2011

    I have some questions

    Since our credit rating has been downgraded do we all need to apply collectively for a free credit report? If one of us goes to something like freecreditreport.com and forgets to stop the trial version are we all on the hook for the monthly fees thereafter? Can we all call Standard and Poors and get them to at least put a notation beside it saying that we dispute it?
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    August 5, 2011

    Frack me? No, no! Frack you!


    Anyone who has spent any time listening to the pro fracking crowd knows that pretty much the first thing out of their mouths is the assertion that there's never been a proven case of fracking contaminating underground drinking water -- it's been their mantra. I maintain that that is pretty much a red herring as you do not need to pollute groundwater to harm the water supply. The water used in fracking has to go somewhere and very little is being recycled. Aside from illegal dumping and leaching from fracking pools, water treatment facilities simply aren't equipped to handle even the legal disposal of the witches' brew of toxicity found in the "flowback" water.

    That said, guess what? Turns out there is a very well documented case of this very thing and the EPA has known about it for decades. Count me not shocked that they've all been lying to us this whole time.

    In Pittsburgh, the City Council voted 6-3 to allow residents to decide if they want fracking in the city, but even though that's a veto-proof majority, the Mayor could simply sit on the bill making it too late to get on the November ballot as a referendum. Council requested that Lil Mayor Luke return it to them by the 8th at 4:30 PM, but we know how well the Mayor listens to Council -- the majority anyway -- so if you believe the citizens should have a say, contact the Mayor now:
    Email: luke.ravenstahl@city.pittsburg​h.pa.us
    Phone: 412-255-2626
    Lastly, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato has poked his head above ground to weigh in on the referendum. Via the Trib:
    Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said Wednesday he has "serious concerns" about the legality of Pittsburgh City Council's proposed ballot referendum banning natural gas drilling within city limits.

    Council on Monday approved legislation that would ask voters to decide in November whether to add the ban to the city's Home Rule Charter. Council banned Marcellus shale gas drilling within city limits in November.

    Councilman Doug Shields proposed the bill, saying a charter amendment would make the ban harder to overturn. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who said he has concerns about the legality of the ban, is considering a veto.

    In a written statement, Onorato said he directed the county solicitor and Elections Department to review and analyze the referendum.

    [sigh]
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