Prosecute the torture.

October 31, 2011

I Really Hate To Do This, I Really Do

Look at today's Tribune-Review editorial cartoon:

It doesn't say so explicitly, but it's yet another attempt by the Tribune-Review to undermine the credibility of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Look at the signs the non-Jeffersonians are holding ("Tax the Rich" and "Who will pay for my student loan?") and now look at the sign the Jeffersonian is holding ("The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.").

By setting the two sets of quotations in opposition and by tagging one of them as by Thomas Jefferson, the non-Jeffersonians are, well, non-Jeffersonians.

But what about that quotation?

For that we go to Monticello.org, the official website for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.  On a page titled "Spurious Quotations" we find:
This exact quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It bears a very vague resemblance to Jefferson's comment in a prospectus for his translation of Destutt de Tracy's Treatise on Political Economy: "To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, - the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, &  the fruits acquired by it.'" [emphasis added.]
Yes, very vague.  There's no mention, for example, about how the cessation of  democracy is brought about by giving "to those who would not" work.

You gotta do your homework better there, Bish.  Either that or you run the risk of having some balding blogger point out your mistakes for the whole world to see.  It's gotta be especially embarrassing today since today you used a spurious Jefferson quotation in an attempt to undermine a group's political credibility.

October 30, 2011

On The Politics Of Division


Yea, that's about right.

Oh The Stuff They Leave Out...

It's [insert name of the day of the week here] so you know the editorial board at the Tribune-Review is spinning some carefully selected "facts" into something not altogether resembling "our reality".

Take a look:
The Obama Energy Department's $529 million loan guarantee to the maker of the Fisker Karma electric sports car, which is creating 500 "green" jobs -- in Finland -- is crony capitalism at its worst.

Company founder Henrik Fisker told ABC News the 2009 loan went toward U.S. engineering and design work. But 500 assembly jobs are being outsourced to Finland -- because no U.S. contractor "could actually produce our vehicle."
Keep in mind what your impression of the Fisker loan when you read the facts behind this story.

First let's look at that loan.  The Department of Energy says:
Fisker Automotive closed a $529 million loan arrangement under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program for the development and production of two lines of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The project is expected to create about 2,000 jobs in Wilmington, Delaware.
When we start to dig, we learn some interesting stuff.  For instance, the money comes from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (a program, by the way, that was funded in the Fall of 2008) and if you were to search for the details Scaife's braintrust casually filtered out for you, you'll see that there were legal limits as to where the money could be used.  From the DOE:
Congress set forth the criteria for projects and costs eligible to receive direct loans. The key criteria for qualified advanced technology vehicles or qualified components require:
- Manufacturing facilities be located in the U.S.;
- Engineering integration be performed in the U.S.;
- Costs be reasonably related to the reequipping, expanding, or establishing a manufacturing facility in the U.S.; and
- Costs of engineering integration be performed in the U.S.
See that?  Did you see that the loan was for two lines of hybrids?  Does the DOE have any details about this other line or how this money will be used?  I am so glad you asked because yes, it does:
In the first stage of the program, Fisker Automotive will use a $169.3 million ATVM loan for engineering integration costs as it works with primarily U.S. suppliers to complete the company's first vehicle, the Fisker Karma. Engineers will also design tools and equipment and develop manufacturing processes. This work will be conducted at Fisker's Pontiac, Michigan office with support from its headquarters in Irvine, California. While the final assembly of the Karma will be done overseas, more than 65 percent (based on cost) of the parts required for Karma will come from U.S. suppliers. The four-door Karma is scheduled to appear in showrooms in summer 2010.

The second stage includes a $359.36 million ATVM loan for Fisker's Project Nina, involving the manufacture of a plug-in hybrid in the U.S. Fisker estimates that up to 75,000-100,000 of these highly efficient vehicles will roll off assembly lines in the U.S. every year beginning in late 2012. The combined projects are anticipated to create thousands of jobs in the U.S. and provide substantial support for domestic parts suppliers saving or creating approximately 5,000 jobs.
So only $169.3 million will be going to the Karma project and none of that for the manufacturing plant in Finland.  And as for the reason why Fisker found now US manufacturer for the Karma?  The Detroit Free Press reported:
Fisker spokesman Will Powell said the company was unable to find an automaker in the U.S. willing to contract to produce the small run of cars -- 8,000 a year -- of the $96,000 plug-in hybrid Karma.
Isn't it interesting to see what the braintrust filters out for you?

Something else they filtered out for you:
A Fisker-backing venture capital firm's partners include former Vice President Al Gore and major Democrat donor John Doerr, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research.
Yes....the National Center for Public Policy Research.  You do know that they're the beneficiary of about $1 million of Scaife foundation money, right?  Interesting thing to leave out when you're doing a "follow the money" argument.

Now go back and reread what the braintrust wrote.  Is it an accurate assessment of reality considering all the details they filtered out for you?

This is how the Scaife braintrust works.

October 29, 2011

In The Trib Today

This could have been a by now familiar "See how much Scaife Foundation money has gone to this think tank that the Scaife-owned Trib cites" sort of blog but it really isn't.

Let me get the business stuff out of the way. In today's Tribune-Review Craig Smith interviews Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

According to Mediamatters, the DHFC has been the recipient of $7.175 million of Scaife money between 1989 and 2009.  As always, no mention of all that Scaife support for the resource Scaife's paper cites.

That should be enough for a blog post.  But wait there's more!

Take a look at WHAT the interview's about:
Robert Spencer is director of Jihad Watch at the Los Angeles-based David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of 10 books, including The New York Times best-seller, "The Truth About Muhammad," and "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)."

We spoke by phone Tuesday after National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said post-Gadhafi Libya would be run under Islamic Shariah law.

Q: What is Shariah law and why should the United States be concerned that it will play a major role in the new Libya?

A: Shariah law is the very comprehensive law that covers pretty much every aspect of life. Muslims consider (it) to be the law of God that is unalterable, perfect and unchangeable.

It discriminates against women. It discriminates against non-Muslims. It denies the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience. It's not going to create a free society by any stretch of the imagination. And the United States is now in the position of having aided in the creation of yet another repressive regime that denies human rights.
Hmm.  An unalterable religious law dictating every aspect of life - that's bad.  Very very bad.

I find this curious considering I found this at the David Horowitz Freedom Center website:
There is only one solution to the world’s problems, only one prescription for producing a near-heaven on earth.

It is 3,000 years old.

And it is known as the Ten Commandments.
The piece is actually by Dennis Prager and can also be found complete at TownHall.com.

The message from the David Horowitz Freedom Center is clear, that civilization depends on faith to exist.  But which faith?  The answer is just as clear: OUR faith, good.  THEIR faith, bad.

And how do we know?  We just do.  And if you don't agree, you don't love freedom.

October 28, 2011

David Conrad On Occupy Pittsburgh

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to interview David Conrad for a blog post I wrote for the PSO.  He was performing a Pittsburghese re-write (courtesy of the P-G's Peter Leo) of Peter and the Wolf by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.

Check Conrad's page at the IMDB to see what he's done.  Did you know he's been in TV productions with:
Lucky sombich.  Lucky lucky lucky sombich.

During the chat about the PSO, Prokofiev and the wonders of 19th Russian literature I learned that Conrad's a bit of a political nerd.  So yesterday I wondered as I wandered through Mellon Green dahn-tahn, what if anything David Conrad thought about Occupy Pittsburgh.

What he had to say was certainly interesting.  As for an overall frame:
I think you only make trains stop, sometimes, by laying in front of them. The financial might of this country is such that only drastic measures - or at least so we might see them as such now- will change its employment.
And some history:
What strikes me most is that the popular press bandies about words like "radical" and "socialist" for behavior that 40 years ago would have been labeled tame. The Freedom marchers of the 60's, the Labor activists of the 30's and the Suffragists of the teens would be amazed to see what restrictions have been placed upon general human rights- citizens rights- in our era. We've fallen a long way since the Reagan Era pushed us off the cliff. We've allowed a culture of fear to permit a habit of oppression and now what is at the very heart of American behavior; disagreement, protest and general assembly is often challenged and almost constantly disabused.

Members of the three movements I mentioned above risked their lives, literally, for beliefs and rights we now all hold to be self-evident and they did so for a small proportion of the population. They were, African Americans, Union members and voting age women, a minority. I don't in any way mean to belittle their efforts or the fact that what they achieved indirectly improved all of our lives. What I mean to point out is that the misuse of financial power in the current global economy hurts EVERYONE except for a very small minority. We are ALL suffering because a system exists outside of the rule of law.
And he ends with:
And I imagine the more the "occupiers" are beaten down the harder they'll fight back. I hope so.
So I guess he approves.

Henry Kissinger (A War Criminal) Was In Town Again

Hey, did you know that Henry Kissinger was in town on Wednesday?

He spoke at the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute and according to the press coverage, there were protests.

Mike Wereschagin of the Trib:
Fifteen protesters, most of them carrying signs accusing Kissinger of war crimes for, among other things, his role in advising Nixon during the Vietnam War, lined the sidewalk outside the museum. Kissinger called Vietnam "a painful subject" and said "nobody could have had a greater incentive to end the war" than Nixon's incoming administration. Nixon decided the United States could not abandon a government that a previous administration had committed to.

"Serious people on both sides were arguing a question that really depended on an assessment of the role of America in the world," Kissinger said. "That was the underlying issue, and it is often the underlying issue now."

One protester interrupted Kissinger, yelling down from the balcony that he was a murderer and saying he "doesn't deserve a voice."

Once security escorted the protester out, Kissinger said, "I certainly don't leave them indifferent."
Taryn Luna of the P-G:
Local activists protested Henry Kissinger's keynote lecture of the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute's Fourth Annual Conference at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on Wednesday night.

The protesters, about 20 members of Pittsburghers for World Peace and the Thomas Merton Center Anti-War Committee, say the 88-year-old former secretary of state and 1973 Nobel Peace Prize recipient is responsible for "heinous war crimes," including but not limited to the extension of the Vietnam War, the 1969 bombings of Laos and Cambodia and arming Indonesian dictator Suharto when he invaded East Timor in 1975.
About those protestors,
Simin Curtis, founder and president of the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute, said the fact that Mr. Kissinger drew a packed crowd to the 2,000 capacity Carnegie Music Hall proves that the protesters and their beliefs are not strongly represented in Pittsburgh.

"I think that Americans know very little about their history, and I think it's important for them to hear of great men from history whether they agree with them or not," said Ms. Curtis, 51, of Shadyside. "We learn about history from different points of view. So get out of your comfort zone."

Ms. Curtis -- whose institute was formed four years ago with the aim to foster educational, business and cultural ties between the Middle East and the United States -- said Mr. Kissinger was selected to speak on Wednesday night because he is "a brilliant man and an icon of foreign policy of the last century."
Ms Curtis, this is not about a simple disagreement, it's about war crimes.  However brilliant Kissinger is, he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings.  It's not a matter of a "comfort zone" or whether the protesters agree with him or disagree.  There's blood on his hands.  Lots of it.

And you (or at least the institute for which you speak) invited him to Pittsburgh.

What are the crimes Dr Kissinger's been accused of?

Glad you asked.  I wrote about it here.  It was almost exactly 2 years ago and Mike Wereschagin covered the visit for the Trib, then too!  Small world.  In that blog post, I linked to this 2002 piece by Christopher Hitchens.  In it he writes:
Here are some snapshots from the recent career of Henry Kissinger. In May last year, during a stay at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, he is visited by the criminal brigade of the French police, and served with a summons. This requests that he attend the Palais de Justice the following day to answer questions from Judge Roger Le Loire.

The judge is investigating the death and disappearance of five French citizens during the rule of General Pinochet in Chile. Kissinger declines the invitation and leaves Paris at once.

In the same week, Judge Rodolfo Corrall of Argentina invites Kissinger's testimony in the matter of "Operation Condor" - codename for a state-run death squad, operated by the secret police of six countries - Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador - during the 1970s and '80s.

Its central co-ordination was run through a US base in Panama when Kissinger was the national security adviser and secretary of state (and chairman of the committee overseeing all US covert operations). Again, Kissinger declines to answer written requests for information.

Later in the year, Judge Guzman in Santiago, Chile, sends a written summons to the State Department requesting Kissinger's testimony about the death and disappearance of an American citizen, Charles Horman, in the early days of the Pinochet dictatorship..
And that's just this brilliant and foreign policy icon's involvement with the Pinochet regime.  Then there's the massacre of East Timor.  In 1975, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in December of 1975. Hitchens, writing in The Nation in 2002:
Kissinger, who does not find room to mention East Timor even in the index of his three-volume memoir, has more than once stated that the invasion came to him as a surprise, and that he barely knew of the existence of the Timorese question. He was obviously lying. But the breathtaking extent of his mendacity has only just become fully apparent, with the declassification of a secret State Department telegram. The document, which has been made public by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, contains a verbatim record of the conversation among Suharto, Ford and Kissinger. "We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action," Suharto opened bluntly. "We will understand and will not press you on the issue," Ford responded. "We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have." Kissinger was even more emphatic, but had an awareness of the possible "spin" problems back home. "It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly," he instructed the despot. "We would be able to influence the reaction if whatever happens, happens after we return.... If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns home." Micromanaging things for Suharto, he added: "The President will be back on Monday at 2 pm Jakarta time. We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned." As ever, deniability supersedes accountability.
Long Hitchens short, Kissinger gave Indonesia the OK to invade East Timor.

And then what happened?:
An even more sinister note was struck later in the conversation, when Kissinger asked Suharto if he expected "a long guerrilla war." The dictator replied that there "will probably be a small guerrilla war," while making no promise about its duration. Bear in mind that Kissinger has already urged speed and dispatch upon Suharto. Adam Malik, Indonesia's foreign minister at the time, later conceded in public that between 50,000 and 80,000 Timorese civilians were killed in the first eighteen months of the occupation. These civilians were killed with American weapons, which Kissinger contrived to supply over Congressional protests, and their murders were covered up by American diplomacy, and the rapid rate of their murder was something that had been urged in so many words by an American Secretary of State.
Do you understand now, Ms Curtis?

October 27, 2011

The Trib Tries (And Fails) Again.

I guess Scaife's braintrust is trying to bolster their case from a few days ago for not to:
...forget all the mounting evidence that disputes man-made climate change and its unrealized predictions.
Too bad it doesn't go so well.

Take a look at this from today's Thursday Wrap:
The bad news for Al Gore is that the U.S. Geological Survey reports no evidence that climate change has led to more severe flooding in the United States over the last century. The good news is that there's still time for Mr. Gore to join the Rapture movement.
The report, called "Has the magnitude of floods across the USA changed with global CO2 levels?" can be found here.

This is what they're using to dispute climate change?  The first paragraph of the introduction reads:
One of the anticipated hydrological impacts of increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is an increase in the magnitude of floods (Trenberth 1999, IPCC 2007, Gutowski et al. 2008). Greenhouse gases change the energy balance of the atmosphere and lead to atmospheric warming, which increases the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere, which in turn, potentially changes the amounts of precipitable water. The resultant warming also changes the form of precipitation (more rain and less snow), changes the timing of snowmelt (Dettinger and Cayan 1995, Milly et al. 2002, Hodgkins and Dudley 2006), is projected to change storm tracks, and may change the frequency and intensity of large-scale ocean/climate conditions such as El NiƱo/Southern Oscillation; therefore, the idea that river flood characteristics have changed, or will change, as a result of increased greenhouse gas concentrations is reasonable.
Sift all you want through the techno speak and you'll find no trace of climate skepticism in it.  None.  In fact, as Andrew Restuccia of The Hill points out:
USGS scientists warn that the study does not indicate there is no relationship between flooding and climate change. Instead, they say, it underscores the complexity of the issue. The study comes after the United States faced major flooding this year.
But this leads to a bigger issue facing The Trib.  As Restuccia writes:
The study comes just days after a comprehensive study by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature found "reliable evidence" of climate change, supporting the conclusions of the majority of the world's scientists.
So in its ongoing (though ultimately futile) attempt to undermine the science of climate change, Scaife's braintrust goes with a study about a lack of evidence connecting climate change and flooding across the US (even though the study itself doesn't doubt climate change at all) and it ignores the Koch-funded study that finds that climate change is actually happening.

Tells you everything you need to know about the level if scientific literacy on the Trib editorial board and now far their politics skew their reality.

October 26, 2011

Mitt, Meet The 99%

An astute reader who's a member of Occupy Pittsburgh emailed in earlier today with the news that Occupy Pittsburgh will be protesting Mitt Romney's visit tomorrow.

McNulty has the scoop:
With presidential candidate Mitt Romney coming to town to hold two fundraisers at the Consol Energy Center tomorrow, the protestors from Occupy Pittsburgh are promising to make the quick trip from Mellon Green to the hockey rink to counter the appearance.
And they released a full statement:
Members of Occupy Pittsburgh will rally outside of the Console Energy Center Thursday October 27th at 10:30 AM while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney hosts the Republican Committee of Allegheny County's (RCAC) fundraiser there until noon.

After the fundraiser benefitting RCAC, which costs just $60, Romney will host a luncheon fundraiser for his Presidential campaign. Lunch with the candidate will cost $1000. Lunch and a photograph with him will cost $2,500.

With a personal fortune around $200 Million, Romney is referred to as the “banksters’ choice” for the 2012 Presidential election with $2.3 Million from donors linked to the finance industry in his campaign coffers. In fact, a list of his top 20 donors is composed almost entirely of world’s largest banks including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. As a member of the 1 percent controlling much of American’s wealth, Romney made millions at the helm of a venture capital/management consulting company which at times used leveraged buyouts to make huge fees which helped send a company into bankruptcy.

In his quest for the Presidency, Romney has done about-faces on numerous social and financial issues to come into line with the national Republican party platform. His own party members have challenged him on his “flip-flops,” as 2008 Republican Presidential nominee John McCain termed Romney’s changing views.

Romney has called the non-violent Occupy Movement, “dangerous class warfare.” Knowing who his supporters are is the key to knowing exactly what sort of danger the Occupy movement poses to Romney.
My astute reader ads:
There bullhorn is be in people's hands. We hope to construct a little soapbox / milk crate platform for speakers to stand upon with it, as the people gather around and amplify speakers comments using the People's Mic.
They still have the 1st Amendment right to protest, right?  Just checking.

And if the Communications Team wants to send me any press releases directly, they can.

More On Rick Santorum's Sex Crazie Positions

I realize his poll numbers are, at this point, in the low single digits (h/t to McNulty on this) and as such his chances of eventually sitting in the Oval Office are barely better than, say, mine, but sometimes you just have to clear away the scrub to see how the dung beetles are doing.

Our friend and former Senator Rick Santorum's been busy trying to gain the attention of social conservatives everywhere, and considering how badly his poll numbers are, he's even failing at that.

Let's start with teh gay.  Recently Lil Ricky was interviewed by Bradlee Dean in Minnesota.  From the Minnesota Independent:
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum appeared on controversial preacher Bradlee Dean’s radio show Saturday, stating his support for so-called “sodomy laws” and criticizing supporters of same-sex marriage rights.

“This is not about gay marriage, it is about changing what is right and wrong and fundamentally changing what people of faith can say and do in society,” Santorum said on Dean’s radio show. “The ultimate objective here is to drive faith out of the public square, to drive morality out of the laws of this country, to secularize our society with a different set of values.”
And:
Santorum said opponents of same-sex marriage rights are often characterized as “bigots.”
Well...if you're opposed to some of your fellow citizens being as free as you are and you're using your faith to bolster that opposition, I'd say that's bigotry.  It's not "not-bigotry" just because it's a faith-based value.

And now contraception.  From Thinkprogress:
Rick Santorum pledged to repeal all federal funding for contraception, during a recent interview with CaffeinatedThoughts.com editor Shane Vander Hart, arguing that birth control devalues the act of procreation. “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country,” the former Pennsylvania senator explained. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be”
For a guy who's looking to make the guv'ment smaller, he's certainly doing his best to give it the authority to exert more control.

I'll paraphrase Hitchens and say that all this only proves one thing, you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you'll just claim faith as your support.

And now what may be a Hitchens paraphrase:
The late Lillian Hellman was a ghastly piece of goods in numberless ways, but she did still have a percentage of courage and wit. At a campus event quite late in her life, when asked in a whiny way by a member of the audience "why have you not endorsed gay lib?" she paused briefly. Her thick and darkened spectacles were opaque. "The forms of fucking," she finally declared, "do not require my endorsement."

This is what democracy looks like...

In Oakland, California:



(Tear) Gas the unemployed!

(h/t to Bill Peduto)

The Fracktivist Vote


While it certainly feels like the all the election talk is about 2012, you do have the opportunity to elect some folks next month. And while the focus for November in these parts has been squarely centered on Fitzgerald vs. Raja (ugh and triple ugh), there are other races. If you want a reason to go to the polls -- and to feel good about your vote -- how about showing some love to the candidates who have taken a stand against fracking?

Who are these pols? There's a Facebook group for that: Marcellus at the Polls 2011

You'll want to click on the "Docs" link to find the list for PA.

Those of particular interest to Burghers include:
EUGENE DEPASQUALE (D) for Auditor General - running in 2012
Statewide Race
Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/DePasqualePA
Campaign website:
http://eugene4pa.com/
Twitter:
http://twitter.com/RepDePasquale
Platform (specific to mentioning his stance on drilling):
http://eugene4pa.com/issues/pure-water/

DAVID WECHT (D) for Superior Court
Statewide Race
Campaign Ad (31 seconds):
www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=291932100833883
Campaign website:
http://www.wecht2011.com/
Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/pages/Judge-David-N-Wecht/149288135132481?sk=wall
About the Superior Court:
www.superior.court.state.pa.us/about.htm

KATHRYN BOOCKVAR for Commonwealth Court
Statewide Race
**SIERRA CLUB ENDORSED** (rare!)
Campaign website:
www.boockvar.com/about-kathryn.html
One page resume:
here
Platform on Marcellus within body:
www.boockvar.com/index.html

COREY O'CONNOR (D) for Pittsburgh City Council District 5
(formerly held by fracktivist Doug Shields)
Campaign website:
http://coreyoconnorforcouncil.com/
(Statement about fracking at the Facebook link above)
You can meet DePasquale this Sunday:
Join Eugene at a Steelers/Patriots Watch Party in Pittsburgh
Young Brother's Bar (1441 Woods Run Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA)
Between 3:00 and 8:00 this Sunday, October 30th
Complimentary admission for all.
Please RSVP or send questions to Liz Wagenseller at liz@eugene4pa.com
Also, while I'm not thrilled about Wecht's cutesy, Fitzgerald-syle, family TV ad currently running (really, I don't care what your kids think of any of you pols unless you're, say, beating them), he actually has an ad about fracking which you can view here.

October 25, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh Update

From their website:
Breaking news:
An anonymous source through the Pittsburgh police department has informed us that the camp may be searched tonight or tomorrow.
UPDATE: From occupypgh twitter account at about 8:58pm:
general assembly approves statement re presumed police search tonight or tomorrow - details coming soon
A tweet from Mellon Green:

Another:


From the website, the approved statement:
Action Alert: Call for Solidarity;

Occupy Pittsburgh has received word that police may be planning an action at the Occupy Pittsburgh camp at BNY Mellon Green in the next two days.

This could be our first test in protecting our occupation from corporate and police interference. Please take a minute to read this alert, and take action to spread the word far and wide.

Occupy Pittsburgh must send a message that our occupation is strong, growing and self-sufficient. Police presence is unnecessary and unwarranted.

The police action could occur at any time during the next two days so we must be alert and ready to provide support in the form of solidarity and people's media.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1) Call 311 and tell Mayor Ravenstahl to support our right to assemble and to not interfere with Occupy Pittsburgh.

2) Check www.occupypittsburgh.org, follow @OccupyPgh on Twitter or "like" us at facebook.com/OccupyPGH to find out if or when a raid occurs. Or get in touch with someone you may know at the camp so that you may be contacted.

3) Spend time at the camp or be ready to come and assist when the call is put out that police are present.

4) Bring a camera or smart phone to record police-occupier interactions.

5) If you are arrested or you see someone being arrested, please call the ACLU at 412-681-7736. [Note: this number will soon be updated with an Occupy Pittsburgh legal support number.]

More Anti-Science At The Trib

In this editorial.

And it was only yesterday when we posted this story about how one climate science skeptic has concluded that   "Global warming is real."

But what does Scaife's braintrust have to say today?

First, I think I found a mistake - no really.  A simple sourcing mistake rather than an anti-science mistake.  Take a look at this:
Since the meltdown two years ago in Copenhagen on carbon curbs that would clobber developed nations, the Church of Global Warming has been unable to draft a credible creed. Chief EU climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger says he doubts one will materialize at the U.N. climate conference scheduled Nov. 28 in Durban.

But Mr. Runge-Metzger tells the International Business Times that conference delegates should "formulate a road map that points to a global legal framework" because the Kyoto Protocol -- a case study in climate extremism -- runs out next year.
Except I wasn't able to find any mention of it at International Business Times.  If you load "Runge-Metzger" into IBT's search engine, you get this recent article.  It tells roughly the same story, but you'll note the quotation above ("formulate a road map...") isn't found within it.

What I think they meant was this article in the Bloomberg Business Week:
A failure by climate envoys worldwide to extend emissions-reduction goals under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 may lead to a “complete meltdown” of global talks, Europe’s negotiator said.

More than 190 nations will discuss climate-protection rules for when the current greenhouse-gas targets for developed nations expire in 2012 when they meet at a summit in Durban, South Africa, starting Nov. 28. The European Union is open to the so-called second commitment period under Kyoto under certain conditions, said Artur Runge-Metzger, the bloc’s envoy to the talks.

“If there’s no continuation of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period I think it’s a deal breaker,” Runge- Metzger said in an interview in Brussels today. “Then we would see a collapse of the negotiations in Durban,” he said. “You start from scratch then probably.”
The quote is even here - in the 7th paragraph:
“What we need to have is a roadmap for negotiations, a work plan for the coming years on when do we want to decide about a new legal framework, what could be the elements in there,” Runge-Metzger said. “In the meantime, you’ll need to have the implementation of the Cancun agreements plus probably the second commitment period of Kyoto, which is then kind of transitional arrangement.”
Yea, I think that's right. It's a minor point, to be sure. But if you're going to be sitting at the big-boy table and you want your braintrust to be taken seriously, the least you can do is to make sure all the simple facts (like where you're taking your info from) are verified.

Makes you look less silly when a blogger looks to deconstruct your editorial, you know?

Now onto the big stuff.  Here's what the braintrust says:
In other words, forget all the mounting evidence that disputes man-made climate change and its unrealized predictions.
What "mounting evidence"? They don't say.

Aside from yesterday's Berkeley study, hows this for mounting evidence?
A new method of crunching climate data could make it possible to put a figure on climate change’s contribution to freak weather events, something that’s been difficult to do with empirical precision.

The debut subject: the Russian heat wave of July 2010, which killed 700 people and was unprecedented since record keeping began in the 19th century. According to the analysis, there’s an 80 percent chance that climate change was responsible.
Here's what they did:
The new method, described by Rahmstorf and Potsdam geophysicist Dim Coumou in an Oct. 25 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, relies on a computational approach called Monte Carlo modeling. Named for that city’s famous casinos, it’s a tool for investigating tricky, probabilistic processes involving both defined and random influences: Make a model, run it enough times, and trends emerge.

“If you roll dice only once, it doesn’t tell you anything about probabilities,” said Rahmstorf. “Roll them 100,000 times, and afterwards I can say, on average, how many times I’ll roll a six.”

Rahmstorf and Comou’s “dice” were a simulation made from a century of average July temperatures in Moscow. These provided a baseline temperature trend. Parameters for random variability came from the extent to which each individual July was warmer or cooler than usual.

'After running the simulation 100,000 times, “we could see how many times we got an extreme temperature like the one in 2010,” said Rahmstorf. After that, the researchers ran a simulation that didn’t include the warming trend, then compared the results.

“For every five new records observed in the last few years, one would happen without climate change. An additional four happen with climate change,” said Rahmstorf. “There’s an 80 percent probability” that climate change produced the Russian heat wave.
There's still the problem of NOAA.  From the 2010 State of the Climate report:
The year 2010 was among the two warmest years globally since the start of the surface instrumental record in the late 19th century, although the range makes it impossible to call the ranking definitively. It was also the second warmest year in tropospheric records since the mid-20th century. Glaciers very likely experienced the 20th consecutive year of negative mass balance.
NOAA's on record as saying that climate change is "undeniable."  This was more than a year ago.

To date, as far as I can tell, the Trib has yet to even mention the report.  Not even a peep.

Tell me again about this "mounting evidence"?

Scaife's braintrust continues to embarrass itself and all the hard working rational people who get a paid for working at the Tribune-Review.

October 24, 2011

More Bad News For The Anti-Science Crowd

(Well, Bad News For Everyone, Too!)

From Talking Points Memo:
Climate change deniers thought they had an ally in Richard Muller, a popular physics professor at UC Berkeley.

Muller didn’t reject climate science per se, but he was a skeptic, and a convenient one for big polluters and conservative anti-environmentalists — until Muller put their money where his mouth was, and launched the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, in part with a grant from the Charles G. Koch foundation.

After extensive study, he’s concluded that the existing science was right all along — that the earth’s surface is warming, at an accelerating rate.
The website for the Berkeley study is here.  And from the FAQ found at that website, BEST describes itself as:
Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature aims to contribute to a clearer understanding of global warming based on a more extensive and rigorous analysis of available historical data. The study has reviewed data from over 39,000 temperature measurement stations across the globe. This is more than five times the 7,280 stations found in the Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly data set (GHCN-M) that has served as the focus of many climate studies to date.
And what did it find?

From the summary:
Global warming is real, according to a major study released today. Despite issues raised by climate change skeptics, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study finds reliable evidence of a rise in the average world land temperature of approximately 1° C since the mid-1950s.
According to the FAQ, they hope to do a similar study on ocean temperature.

Happy Monday!

October 23, 2011

Governor Rick Perry's A Birther

Via Talkingpointsmemo, we get to this interview in Parade and the conversation there turns to birth certificates:
Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

And?
That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.
While he does say "It doesn't matter" he's still doubtful that the long form birth certificate's been released (it has).  Unless I am mistaken, this device is what's known in the rhetoric trade as apophasis.  It's an assertion by denying the importance of the thing being asserted.

The subtle is there.  All rhetoric aside, he doubts the long form birth certificate is legitimate.

Rick Perry's a birther.

Um...P-G?

I'm usually a fan of the P-G's Tim McNulty but I think he got this one a just teensy bit wrong (or maybe the snark's too subtle for me to see this Sunday morning).

He's writing about Potter's Slag Heap post that is itself about this hit piece in the Tribune-Review.

And as I said, unless I am missing the snark McNulty writes that while the entire essay is worth reading, the protesters are to blame for the bad press:
Surely they knew they were signing up for this kind of public flagellation when they targeted -- among all the corporate properties spread around Pittsburgh -- one owned by Mellon.
That last link (to "Mellon") gets you to an old Brooks Jackson CNN piece from 1998.  (The formating is kinda quirky so you might find that you can read it clearer here.)  The entwining of Scaife money with right wing causes are well known to anyone reading this blog.  But that's beside the point.  I should point out that BNY Mellon owns the land upon which Occupy Pittsburgh's continuing its protest and I am not sure Richard Mellon Scaife has any direct connection to BNY Mellon.  In a piece from 2007 describing the banking concerns of the various branches of the Mellon family, we learn:
Another well-known member of the Richard Beatty branch is Richard Mellon Scaife, who publishes the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and is the chairman of several foundations, including the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Allegheny Foundation. His mother was Sarah Cordelia Mellon, the daughter of Richard Beatty Mellon. There was a time when Mr. Scaife had a direct connection to the family institution; he was a member of Mellon Financial's board back when it was Mellon Bank from 1958 to 1979. [emphasis added.]
Past tense.  Perhaps things have changed. Perhaps not.  Perhaps he still owns Mellon stock, perhaps not.  No way to know for sure, is there?  Unless I can see a direct connection, I can't assert that there's a direct connection.  But again, that's beside the point.

The point is, take a disinterested step back and take a look at what McNulty is saying. He's saying that the protesters are to blame because they should have known that a backlash like this was going to take place - that the conservative paper in town would counter attack either at the behest of its connection to a wealthy multinational corporation or as a favor to it or in philosophical sympathy with it.

But isn't that (too much corporate influence if not outright control of the news media) among the issues the OWS movement is protesting?

Doesn't Vidonic's hit piece prove that they're right?

Or maybe I missed McNulty's snark.  Maybe he's saying that all along and I just missed it.

UPDATE: An astute reader whose opinion I value big time emailed in to let me know that I, indeed, missed McNulty's snark. Apologies all around.

October 21, 2011

Hardly Surprising, Isn't It?

From Talkingpointsmemo, yesterday:
One reason you can expect unanimous Republican opposition to Senate Democrats' latest jobs bill Friday is because it includes a tax -- a 0.5 percent surtax on income above $1 million starting in January 2013.

That would raise enough money over the next 10 years to cover the $35 billion cost of hiring and retaining about 400,000 teachers and emergency responders next year -- but for Republicans, it's not worth it.
But what does this "0.5 percent surtax on income above $1 million" mean, exactly?

The Vice President explains it so that even Pat Toomey can understand:
You have a one-half of one-percent surtax on the 1,000,0001th dollar -- in other words it doesn't affect anybody who makes $999,000, it doesn't affect anybody making $999,999 -- and if you want to find the guy who make $1,000,0001, it only affects that $1. That's the only thing the rate goes up on.
And:
If you make $1.1 million, and god-willing this passes, you would pay next year, $500 more in taxes.
So of course, it was blocked:
Senate Republicans, joined by three conservative members of the Democratic caucus, blocked a floor debate on a key portion of President Obama's jobs bill, which would have provided states $35 billion to hire or retain teachers and emergency responders.

The final tally on the late Thursday vote was 50-50, with Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) voting with the entire Republican caucus to support the filibuster.
Here's the roll call.

Here's the text of the legislation.

Perhaps the next time Senator Toomey's Pittsburgh office is filled with constituents seeking information on his voting plans, they'll ask him (paraphrasing the Vice President):
Why didn't you vote to put 400,000 school teachers back in classrooms; 18,000 cops back on the street, and 7,000 firefighters back into firehouses? Why did you, instead vote to save people with average income over $1 million a one-half of one-percent increase in tax on every dollar they make over a million?
But we already know the answer to that.

The Trib: A Bully Pulpit

From Potter's Slag Heap.

After describing Nathaniel Glosser's departure from Occupy Pittsburgh and the obvious right wing smear so easily found in the Trib's reporting, Potter writes:
But that just raises the question: Why is a daily newspaper devoting its front page to right-wing talking points? The front page ought to be devoted to the important stuff -- like wars, the economy, and the strange death of Vince Foster. What's happened to news judgment in the House of Scaife?

Well, I think it's pretty clear: We're seeing a daily newspaper using its resources to bully people around, embarrassing them with personal information the paper can't even claim any public interest in -- simply for availing themselves of their First Amendment freedoms. Not the noblest use of a printing press I've ever seen.
The Tribune-Review: The city's bully newspaper.

October 20, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh Update

Must read Potter in the City Paper:
Say this for the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstrators currently living on Mellon Green: This is one group of dispossessed Americans that a big bank isn't rushing to evict.

That alone should tell you how powerful this grassroots movement has become -- all in the four weeks since demonstrators began occupying Wall Street's Zuccotti Park.
And:
But the Occupiers' message isn't hard to understand: Just look at the cardboard signs lining Mellon Green. Where Tea Partiers oppose government intervention in the marketplace, Occupiers object to corporate meddling in our government. They object to a system in which CEOs ensure subsidies and bailouts for themselves, while shredding the safety net for everyone else.

That's why, in the end, the Mellon Green gathering itself is the statement. Occupy Pittsburgh has stood up to one of the country's largest banks, literally on its own turf. For once, the people have foreclosed on the bank's property. In clawing back a bit of real estate, they've reclaimed a sliver of the discourse. They can't afford to buy airtime, or politicians, yet they have claimed our attention -- just by showing up.
He ends saying it's democracy in its purest form.

Meanwhile, Daley and Young (also of the CP) have the latest on this week's demonstration at Mellon.

Vidonic of the Trib covered it, too.  The demonstrators demanded an investigation into Mellon's handling of  public pension funds.  The CP quoted a statement from BNY Mellon:
On behalf of our nearly 7,800 employees in Pittsburgh, we recognize the right to protest and express opinions. However, the concerns regarding our foreign exchange services are misguided. The suits against us are not supported by the facts or the law. The foreign exchange market is highly competitive and we are proud of the valuable services we provide our clients. We will defend ourselves vigorously on behalf of our shareholders and employees.
While Vidonic writes:
Protesters have said that the Justice Department and the state and city of New York already have filed a lawsuit claiming BNY Mellon made billions of dollars by over charging foreign currency clients around the country.

The bank says the lawsuit is "flat-out wrong."
Meanwhile, Sabatini of the P-G was covering the lawsuit side of the story and threw an extra bit of info into the mix:
Last week, a BNY Mellon currency trader in Pittsburgh was identified by the Wall Street Journal as having worked as a mole for the last two years for law enforcement officials investigating the matter. The man, who left BNY Mellon this year, provided information and documents, the Journal said, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Ruh-Roh!

The WSJ explains the allegations:
The moves by prosecutors come amid an explosion in trading in the $4 trillion-a-day foreign-exchange market. They heighten a controversy that has swirled in recent months over whether "custody" banks like BNY Mellon, which handle securities and back-office tasks for institutional investors, routinely overcharge clients for trading. The suits allege the bank deceived clients by using a least-favorable high or low range of the day to price the currency trades.

The lawsuits allege BNY Mellon deceived clients by telling them the bank would provide competitive foreign-exchange rates. Instead, the lawsuits allege, the bank gave clients at or near the least-favorable end of the daily trading range. The New York attorney general alleged that the bank benefited by taking the other side of the conversion and pocketing the difference between the least-favorable client rate and the bank's better price.
And:
The issue arises because Americans investing globally must convert U.S. dollars into the currencies of the countries where they invest—or vice versa. If a pension fund, for instance, buys stock in a European company, the fund's dollars must be converted to euros, and the opposite exchange made if the fund sells the stock. Custody banks facilitate such foreign exchange.

Some BNY Mellon clients have criticized the bank in recent months for high currency-conversion costs. The Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, for example, stopped using BNY Mellon for certain transactions. The bank says its charges are fair and that clients can opt out if they don't like the prices.
And of course:
The state and federal actions also underscore a growing tension between the U.S. government and financial industry at a critical time. Amid a weak economy, the banking industry has lobbied for less-stringent oversight to allow financial institutions to recover. [emphasis added.]
Looks like the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstrators were abso-frickin'-lutely right.

October 19, 2011

More Spin From The Trib Editorial Page

It's really not that big of a deal, but it serves as a good starting point to show how an overwhelming political bias can skew an otherwise harmless story.  It's an editorial cartoon found on the pages of Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review.  Of course it is.

 Let's start with the art:


Now if you look at that with an undoubting eye, you'll see it as yet another example of guv'ment waste.

Look!  The guv'ment  is wasting $5.7 million of your money studying a problem that Ed's $.98 Walmart fly swatter has already solved.  See?  Waste!

I have a question:  Ever squish a stink bug?  Why do you think they're called "Stink bugs"?

Stinky parts aside, it's when you look at the details of the story you'll find out why it's the cartoon that's silly and why it was included on the Trib's op-ed page.  A more subtle tale would be difficult to find.

The source of this story is this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  When you read it, you'll find out that:
For several years, particularly in early fall, the homely, slow-motion creature that resembles a medieval shield with legs has been pestering homeowners throughout the region as it looks for overwintering destinations. To the stinkbug, your house is Florida.

But a species that once was a mere local curiosity has metamorphosed into a nationwide economic threat, damaging crops and plant life from New Jersey to California.
Really? Damaging crops, huh? Which crops? A nationwide economic threat, huh?  How much money are we talking here?
In 2010, the Asian invaders were blamed for spoiling $37 million worth of apples in the Mid-Atlantic region, and assessments are under way to see what kind of damage they have caused this year. They have attacked soybeans, corn, tomatoes, raspberries, and grapes. And there are few natural predators to stop them. [emphasis added.]
Hmm...$5.7 million to study something that ruined tens of millions of dollars (and counting) worth of food doesn't seem to be that bad of an idea now, does it?

Now the kicker - and this'll tell you why the Trib even bothered making fun of the stink bug study:
Now there is evidence aplenty. So last Monday, Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was putting up $5.7 million to create a scientific SWAT team to learn about a bug that has been keeping secrets under its protective shield.
Ah! So this is really a jab at the state's Democratic Senator - Bob Casey.

This is what happens when political ideology skews the news.  A Senator announces a study that might actually help the farmers in his state (and farmers elsewhere, too!) and the Trib twists it into a tale of the guv'ment wasting your money.

Another lesson in spin from our good friends at the Tribune-Review.

And tell me, exactly how could farmer Ed have saved all his apples with a fly swatter?

October 18, 2011

Hey!

Happy ANNIVERSARY to my lovely wife. We were married three years ago today!


Occupy Pittsburgh, One Pittsburgh and Senator Toomey

Lauren Daley of the C-P's Slag Heap wrote:
Participants in the Occupy Pittsburgh movement ventured out from their Mellon Green encampment and to protest outside Sen. Pat Toomey's office today, demanding he "[s]top working for Wall Street and start working for us."

The Occupy campers joined One Pittsburgh and its offshoot action, the People's Lobby, in front of Toomey's Station Square office building at noon today. There, they denounced the Republican Senator's vote against the American Jobs Act. The action was among those that Occupy participants consented to supporting this week. They also plan to picket BNY Mellon -- which owns the Mellon Green site they are camping on -- this Wednesday.
As part of the coverage, Daley quotes Toomey's statement on the act:
President Obama's latest stimulus bill contains hundreds of billions of dollars in increased spending and more tax hikes, which won't create jobs any more than his last stimulus bill did. With the unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, we do not have time to waste on political games and big tax increases that will only make our economy weaker for all Americans.

Instead, I support a real jobs plan, which will reduce burdensome regulations that are preventing businesses from hiring; ratify three pending free trade agreements that will increase Pennsylvania's exports; simplify and reduce business and individual tax rates to encourage job-creating business expansions; and get our federal deficits under control, among other pro-growth measures. This plan will actually create jobs.
Ahhhh, now we get to check his statement.

Here's the text of the bill if you (and Senator Toomey) wish to read it.  Here's the White House summary and the CRS summary.

On the first part "...hundreds of billions of dollars in spending and more tax hikes..." we see from the White House Summary:
The President’s plan will cut in half the taxes paid by businesses on their first $5 million in payroll, targeting the benefit to the 98 percent of firms that have payroll below this threshold.
And:
The President’s plan will completely eliminate payroll taxes for firms that increase their payroll by adding new workers or increasing the wages of their current worker (the benefit is capped at the first $50 million in payroll increases).
Not sure how that equates to Senator Toomey's assessment. This analysis, from the New York Times, may give us a clue:
The centerpiece of the bill, known as the American Jobs Act, is an extension and expansion of the cut in payroll taxes, worth $240 billion, under which the tax paid by employees would be cut in half through 2012. Smaller businesses would also get a cut in their payroll taxes, as well as a tax holiday for hiring new employees. The plan also provides $140 billion for modernizing schools and repairing roads and bridges — spending that Mr. Obama portrayed as critical to maintaining America’s competitiveness.

The bulk of the plan –- some $400 billion over ten years — would be paid for by tax changes that would limit itemized deductions, such as those for charitable contributions and other expenditures, that may be taken by individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making over $250,000 a year. In Mr. Obama's proposal, the rest would come from provisions affecting oil and gas companies, hedge funds, and the owners of corporate jets. [emphasis added.]
Ah...it's clearer now.

Then there's the part about job creation.  From Fact-check.org, in a page titled:
Did the Stimulus Create Jobs?

Yes, the stimulus legislation increased employment, despite false Republican claims to the contrary.
And here's their analysis:
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as the stimulus bill, has been featured in more than 130 TV ads this year, according to a database maintained by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. In many of those ads, Republicans claim the bill has "failed" (a matter of opinion) or state (correctly) that unemployment has gone up since President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Feb. 17, 2009. The national unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in February 2009, and it now stands at 9.6 percent, having peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009.

But it’s just false to say that the stimulus created "no jobs" or "failed to save and create jobs" or "has done nothing to reduce unemployment" – or similar claims that the stimulus did not produce any jobs.

As we have written before, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report in August that said the stimulus bill has "[l]owered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points" and "[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million."

Simply put, more people would be unemployed if not for the stimulus bill. The exact number of jobs created and saved is difficult to estimate, but nonpartisan economists say there’s no doubt that the number is positive.
Not exactly what the Senator said. Though to be honest he did say the Act "won't create jobs any more than his last stimulus bill did" not that the last stimulus bill created no jobs.  All he actually said was that it won't create any more than the 3.3 million jobs (or maybe only 1.4 million) than the last stimulus created.

But why didn't he say that more clearly?

Why do you think?

Pat Toomey, helping his friends, the 1%, ignoring rest of us, the 99%.

Occupy Pittsburgh.

October 17, 2011

Mellon Green

I took a swing through Mellon Green today at lunch time.  It was very cool.  The place seems to be populated with some very dedicated people.  There's a media tent, a medical tent and a food tent.

The indispensable CP has the scoop on the food.  Lookslike they're needing some other stuff there, too.

Jon Delano was there doing a story:

I was there as he was filming. See?


Message to the cool folks I met in the media tent: When Delano's doing a story on you, you've arrived.

Kudos. Kudos to you all.

Place was so cool, I may stop by again tomorrow - if only in a feeble attempt to get some of the cool to rub off on me.

Occupy Pittsburgh.

A Tale Of Two Explanations...

I am not sure you've been following this story.

Scientists in Switzerland have some evidence that, if verified, would complicate a great deal of what is accepted  as fundamentally true in the understanding of the universe.  From the press release:
The OPERA result is based on the observation of over 15000 neutrino events measured at Gran Sasso, and appears to indicate that the neutrinos travel at a velocity 20 parts per million above the speed of light, nature’s cosmic speed limit.
"OPERA" here means "Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus" and it's an apparatus for detecting subatomic particles known as a neutrinos.  Why is this such a big deal?

Because, according to Einstein, nothing should be able to travel faster than light.  It's an outcome of his Special Theory of Relativity - that as a particle moves faster, it's mass increases thus making it necessary to increase the  force needed to make it go faster.  In order to push that particle to the speed of light, an infinite amount of energy is needed to push it there.  Ergo nothing can travel at the speed of light, much less faster than the speed of light.

I think I have that right.

So if the Opera data is correct, scientists have found something that moves faster than light.

Here's the tale of two explanations.  First, this little bit of possible cosmic paradigm shifting is used to debunk the science of climate change.

That's right.  In the Wall Street Journal op-ed page:
The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere.
The piece is from Robert Bryce, described as a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.  Can I point out how the Manhattan Institute's been on the receiving end of $4.5 million in Scaife money over the years?

The problem with Bryce's assessment is how it gets science wrong.  Not the CERN data, but just how science works.  If CERN scientists are correct, it doesn't mean that Einstein was wrong - just that his explanations were incomplete.  It complicates the theory, not negates it.  Bryce is using the neutrino anomaly to bolster the idea that any skepticism (even corporate funded, anti-scientific skepticism) is valid since even Einstein can be wrong.

Bryce is just embarrassing himself by using that argument.

And now the other explanation.  It could turn out that the neutrino anomaly is far more mundane.  From Wired:
Among the most recent [explanations] is a paper invoking Einstein’s supposedly challenged theory of relativity. The OPERA team used GPS satellites to accurately measure the 730-km distance between their detector and the CERN beam where the neutrinos were produced. Yet, according to special relativity, calculations will be slightly different when two observers are moving relative to one another.

Since the satellites were zipping around the Earth, the positions of the neutrino source and the detector changed. According to the paper, the movement would account for a 64 nanoseconds discrepancy, nearly exactly what the OPERA team observes.
It'll take a lot of science to explain this anomaly. But if Occam's Razor has any edge to it, the explanation that makes the fewest new assumptions is probably right.  A GPS tweak or new found faster than light neutrinos?  Hmm...

And since none of this really has anything to do with climate science, Robert Bryce is almost certainly wrong.

October 16, 2011

I Wonder What They're Talking About

Scaife's braintrust, I mean.

In one of today's editorials, they contrast the conviction of hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam (11 years, $64 million in fines) with "another class of cheats" namely:
We're speaking of economic cheats, those who think they can defy the fundamental rules of economics in pursuit of "social justice." Democrat members of Congress come to mind, specifically those whose legislation was directly responsible for sowing the seeds of The Great Recession.

Think of the bubble-creating/bubble-bursting federal mandates that forced lenders to flood the housing market with easy money for those who had quite little or actually no financial wherewithal.

The "Occupy Wall Street" types can blame "greedy bankers" for subprime mortgages all they want. But unless they recognize government's role in the mess -- and direct their protests accordingly -- their entreaties for an economic "re-set" will devolve into just more "progressive" chants for more free lunches.
Of course, they're talking about the immensely powerful Barney Frank (D-MA).

From Paul Krugman:
In the real world, recent events were a devastating refutation of the free-market orthodoxy that has ruled American politics these past three decades. Above all, the long crusade against financial regulation, the successful effort to unravel the prudential rules established after the Great Depression on the grounds that they were unnecessary, ended up demonstrating — at immense cost to the nation — that those rules were necessary, after all.

But down the rabbit hole, none of that happened. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because of runaway private lenders like Countrywide Financial. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because Wall Street pretended that slicing, dicing and rearranging bad loans could somehow create AAA assets — and private rating agencies played along. We didn’t find ourselves in a crisis because “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers exploited gaps in financial regulation to create bank-type threats to the financial system without being subject to bank-type limits on risk-taking.

No, in the universe of the Republican Party we found ourselves in a crisis because Representative Barney Frank forced helpless bankers to lend money to the undeserving poor.
And after admitting that that last sentence was a little bit of an exaggeration, Krugman goes on to say:
Mr. Frank’s name did come up repeatedly as a villain in the crisis, and not just in the context of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which Republicans want to repeal. You have to marvel at his alleged influence given the fact that he’s a Democrat and the vast bulk of the bad loans now afflicting our economy were made while George W. Bush was president and Republicans controlled the House with an iron grip. But he’s their preferred villain all the same.
Indeed Frank said as much while defending himself against Newt Gingrich, who wants to throw him in jail (see how this connects to the Trib's editorial?) for triggering the current bad economy. From Talkingpointsmemo:
Frank said Gingrich’s anger over his and Dodd’s role in the financial meltdown was absurd given that Republicans were in charge of the House and — excerpt for a brief period — Senate, from 1995 to 2007.He noted that he worked on reform legislation on mortgage in his first year as chair in 2007.

“It’s interesting, the charge is failure to stop Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay from deregulating,” he said. “This notion we caused the problem that started while they were in charge even by Gingrich’s standards is very odd.”
So most of the subprime loans were made when the GOP was in charge of the White House and the House of Representatives (and for most of that tine, the Senate) and yet, it's the "Democrat members of Congress" who are to blame and who should be feeling the wrath of the Occupy Wall Street folks.

This from the gang who still hasn't corrected itself for their $16 muffin mistake or the "Obama sought to apologize for Hiroshima but was turned down by Japan" mistake.

Yea, still waiting on those.

October 15, 2011

Photos from Occupy Pittsburgh - Market Square

A few more from Market Square:








Photos from Occupy Pittsburgh

Photos from the march/rally happening now in Pittsburgh (courtesy of Joy Sabl):








Occupy Pittsburgh Twitter Feeds (Will Update if Necessary)

OccupyPgh

Trib

P-G

City Paper

Occupy Pittsburgh Update

From Vidonic of the Trib:
BNY Mellon said Friday it won't block Occupy Pittsburgh from accessing the banking company's Mellon Green park during today's protests.

"We support the right of the marchers to be heard," company spokeswoman Lane Cigna said, adding, "We trust they will be peaceful and respectful."
And they've done some work, too:
BNY Mellon employees yesterday erected fences around the park's fountain and between grassy areas and sidewalks, though they didn't install fencing along Grant Street.

"We have introduced a modest safety buffer to facilitate employee access to our buildings and public access to the subway," Cigna said.
Though Vidonic adds that it's unclear what would happen if the occupation is long term.

Potter of the CP offers up some thoughts on Mellon:
True, when it comes to fucking up the entire global economy, Mellon is not in the same league as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup or Bank of America. Still, the bank has made numerous appearances in the headlines recently ... because it's been accused of exactly the kind of behavior that spawned the occupy movement in the first place.
It's sins? Potter outlines some outrageous CEO compensation that occurred a few weeks after Mellon reduced its workforce by 3% and it's $670 million tax refund in 2010.  In light of all that, the Slag Heap supervisor wonders whether making nice with the Occupy Pittsburgh might be a good PR move.

Of course, Potter's right.

Occupy Pittsburgh.


October 14, 2011

Congressman Mike Doyle on Occupy Wall Street

Congressman Doyle sent out a mass email today:
Dear Friend,

I've been saying for some time that progressives need to get off the sidelines and get back into the game. For the last year or so, conservatives have set the national agenda - pushing deficit-reduction at the expense of job-creation and economic recovery. Now it looks like Americans are starting to take action to reclaim our country from the Wall Street bankers who caused the current crisis - and who continue to prosper, in marked contrast to the vast majority of Americans. I have been impressed by the enthusiasm and engagement of citizens all across America, and I support their widespread opposition to government by the top one percent for the top one percent.

For too long, the vast majority of Americans - the other 99 percent of us - have suffered the most from the subprime mortgage mess, the collapse of the housing market, the financial crisis, and the economy-wide recession caused by Wall Street and the big banks.

Millions of Americans are out of work. Millions have lost their homes, are in foreclosure, or have mortgages that are underwater. Millions of hard-working Americans have lost much of their retirement savings and will have to keep working well into their 60s or 70s. Poverty, unemployment, and income-inequality are the highest they've been in decades.

Programs that help the poor, the unemployed, and the middle class are being cut at all levels of government - and Republicans in Congress are talking about balancing the budget by "reforming" essential entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

At the same time, the Wall Street banks that caused our economic difficulties got bailed out with taxpayer money - and they're making billion-dollar profits again. Taxes on corporations and the wealthy are at near-record lows.

It seems pretty clear to me that all of the suffering and sacrifice of the last 5 years has fallen on the middle class and the poor - and I'm angry that wealthy Americans aren't taking on their fair share of the cost of dealing with this crisis and getting our economy back on track.

I strongly believe that all Americans should share in the sacrifice needed to create new jobs and put our economy on the path to recovery - including the top 1 percent, who have been hurt the least in the current economic crisis and who are the most able to bear the burden of additional sacrifice.

I believe it's time for Americans to step up and take a stand against unfair policies that enrich the top 1 percent while crushing the bottom 99 percent. I believe action is needed to preserve opportunity and ensure that the American Dream remains within everyone's reach.

I don't support violent or destructive protests, but I want all the patriotic Americans who exercise their rights to freely assemble, Occupy Wall Street, and peacefully protest injustice to know that I support you wholeheartedly.

I will be working in Congress to ensure that Congress starts addressing the needs of the "99 percent" and asking the wealthiest "1 percent" to do their share. It continues to be a pleasure to serve you. Please feel free to e-mail me to share your thoughts, or to request assistance in dealing with the federal government, by going to my web site, www.house.gov/doyle.
Maybe someone can pass this along to Occupy Pittsburgh folks.

 Thanks

Anita Perry climbs up on the cross


"We are fighting for the soul of our country."

According to Anita Perry, Governor Goodhair is 'being "brutalized" by fellow conservatives for his Christian faith and his slide in the polls is not because of his extreme vacuousness during the debates, his N-word problem, his supporters demonizing Romney's own faith, or just being the latest Tea Party flavor-of-the-month candidate to fall out of favor (or "number three guy at al-Qaeda" as Joe Scarborough put it this morning).

Via CNN:
(CNN) – Anita Perry stuck up for her husband Thursday, saying Texas Gov. Rick Perry was being "brutalized" by fellow conservatives for his Christian faith.

"It's been a rough month," Perry said in an emotional speech to voters in South Carolina Thursday. The speech was recorded by NBC News. "We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today."

[snip]

"We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party," Perry said. "So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith. He is the only true conservative – well, there are some conservatives. And they're there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose."

[snip]

She said Perry relied on prayer when deciding whether or not to enter the GOP race.

"He felt like he needed to see that burning bush," Perry said. "I said he may not see that burning bush but other people are seeing it for you."
And, Gov. Perry agrees with her. Via Talking Points Memo:
“We still feel called to do this,” Anita Perry said. “We didn’t have to do this. We are doing this because we want to do this. Because we want to save our children…we are fighting for the soul of our country.”

Speaking on Friday to ABC News, Perry said, “I stand by my wife.”

“My understanding is that she said I’m the most conservative candidate in the race and ‘he’s a Christian.’ So I haven’t got anything I can add to that and she’s hit me on my mark both times there,” the candidate told Good Morning America.
Positively delusional.

Here's the video of her full remarks: