Prosecute the torture.

January 31, 2012

State v. Church (Trib-Style)

From today's Tribune-Review:
It's shaping up as the most important church-state battle of our time. And should the state prevail, the Constitution will be pushed further down the slippery slope of becoming a dead letter.

The issue is birth control and whether the federal government can force religious organizations (that, as a matter of doctrine, oppose artificial birth control) to include, with limited exemptions, free contraception and related services in the private health-insurance plans they offer their employees.
For the record, the Tribune-Review is in favor of both birth control and Planned Parenthood. The problem they say is:
The issue is whether the government, in pursuit of a state-determined "greater good," can truncate, if not traduce, constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. Simply put, it cannot. But if the government prevails, where does it end?
After setting up a strawman argument, they dance with The Supremes:
Unless the Obama administration rescinds this clearly illegal rule, it should be prepared to be spanked by a Supreme Court that's already affirmed (in its recent "ministerial exemption" ruling) that the church-state line is neither gray nor sloped.
Let's start at that last part first.  The Supreme Court's decision, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, was about
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday for the first time that federal discrimination laws do not protect church employees who perform religious duties, a major church-state decision that recognizes religious groups’ constitutionally protected right to select their own leaders.

The justices ruled unanimously that the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion means that even neutral laws intent on banning workplace discrimination may not be applied to a religious institution choosing “those who will guide it on its way.”
And while Scaife's braintrust says that this HHS decision will be invalidated by the "ministerial exemption" of this Supreme Court decision, the decision itself includes this sentence:
We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct.
So...maybe not.

Anyway, from the HHS statement, we learn that:
Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, it is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women. This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost sharing.

This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services. The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good. And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health care providers.
So the braintrust's use of ironical quotation marks ("greater good" instead of greater good) is actually wrong.  One the one hand there's "significant health benefits for women" and on the other there's an organization that's sheltered pedophiles looking to make it harder for women to access those benefits.

Yea, this is a First Amendment issue.

Senator Toomey Responds

Remember this blogpost from this weekend?

It was the one where Grover Norquist threatened that if the Bush tax cuts aren't extended and if the Ryan Plan for restructuring Medicare wasn't implemented, the GOP would Impeach President Obama.  At the end of it, I asked Senator Toomey (since he'd signed one of Norquist's tax-pledges) whether he'd be in favor of impeachment if those criteria weren't met.

Here's his response (or at least his office's response) via email:
Dear David,

Thank you for contacting me about taxes. I appreciate hearing from you.

Last year, the people of Pennsylvania sent Congress a clear message that the time has come for government to live within its means. Total federal spending has doubled since 2000, while the debt has already doubled in just four years and is expected to triple in eleven years. America cannot sustain its current fiscal path without devastating our economy and crippling future generations with a crushing debt burden.

It is for this reason that I have introduced a ten-year budget plan (S. Con. Res. 21) that would balance the federal budget by making crucial reductions in spending while also simplifying the tax code. As we can both agree, our current tax code is unnecessarily complicated, which is why my budget plan would consolidate the current six income tax brackets to three. By also eliminating special-interest tax benefits and deductions, we can lower America's corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, encourage growth, and incentivize job creation in the private sector. On May 25, 2011, my budget plan was unfortunately defeated by a vote margin of 42-55 in the Senate.

In addition, you may be interested to know that I have supported efforts to eliminate wasteful tax benefits. For instance, in June, I voted in favor of amendments offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would eliminate certain tax breaks for ethanol.

That said, I understand your views on taxes and value the input. Please be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind as I remain committed to advancing common-sense fiscal reform in Washington.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
I'll leave it up to you as to whether he (or at least his office) answered the question about impeachment.

January 29, 2012

More On Republicans' Respect For The Constitution

From yesterday's National Journal.  Grover Norquist, good shepherd of our Congress' anti-tax Republicans was asked about two separate scenarios for Congress post-2012.  The first - the GOP controls everything:
I think when we get through this election cycle, we’ll have a Republican majority, [though] not necessarily a strong majority in the Senate, and a majority in the House. The majority in the House will continue to be a Reagan majority, a conservative majority. Boehner never has to talk his delegation going further to the right.

If the Republicans have the House, Senate, and the presidency, I’m told that they could do an early budget vote—a reconciliation vote where you extend the Bush tax cuts out for a decade or five years. You take all of those issues off the table, and then say, “What do you want to do for tax reform?”

Then, the question is: “OK, what do we do about repatriation and all of the interesting stuff?” And, if you have a Republican president to go with a Republican House and Senate, then they pass the [Paul] Ryan plan [on Medicare].
The Ryan Medicare Plan is the one that would, according to the CBO:
Among other changes, the proposal would convert the current Medicare program to a system under which beneficiaries received premium support payments—payments that would be used to help pay the premiums for a private health insurance policy and would grow over time with overall consumer prices.
And:
Federal payments for Medicaid under the proposal would be substantially smaller than currently projected amounts. States would have additional flexibility to design and manage their Medicaid programs, and they might achieve greater efficiencies in the delivery of care than under current law. Even with additional flexibility, however, the large projected reduction in payments would probably require states to decrease payments to Medicaid providers, reduce eligibility for Medicaid, provide less extensive coverage to beneficiaries, or pay more themselves than would be the case under current law.
And finally:
Under the proposal, most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system. For a typical 65-year-old with average health spending enrolled in a plan with benefits similar to those currently provided by Medicare, CBO estimated the beneficiary’s spending on premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures as a share of a benchmark: what total health care spending would be if a private insurer covered the beneficiary. By 2030, the beneficiary’s spending would be 68 percent of that benchmark under the proposal, 25 percent under the extended-baseline scenario, and 30 percent under the alternative fiscal scenario.
So of course Norquist's anti-tax team is just chomping at the bit to vote for it.

But I fear we're getting somewhat off topic.  What was that OTHER scenario Norquist was asked about - the one where the Democrats "still have control"?

Ah...let's take a look:
Obama can sit there and let all the tax [cuts] lapse, and then the Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate in 2014 to impeach.
There's Norquist's choice; extend the Bush tax cuts and shred Medicare OR Impeach Barack Obama.

Article 2 Section 4 of the Constitution says:
The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
So what's the charge?  Is it treason for allowing a tax cut to expire?  For not favoring a wholesale dismantling of Medicare?  Or are those merely "high Crimes and Misdemeanors"?

Can someone explain it to me?

Senator Toomey?  You're one of my two Senators here in Pennsylvania and  you signed a Norquist anti-tax pledge.  Would YOU be in favor of impeaching President Obama if the Bush tax cuts expire?  Or if Representative Ryan's plan isn't implemented?

January 28, 2012

More On Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth

An astute reader drew my attention this morning to some recently introduced business of super-duper-uber imporance to the Commonwealth, a Resolution declaring 2012 as the "Year of the Bible" in Pennsylvania.

This hypocritical and unconstitutional resolution is from the legislative desk of State Representative Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth).  Who's a very interesting fellow, indeed.

January 27, 2012

More On Rick Santorum's Birther Flirtations

In case you missed it, here's Lil Ricky at a recent event in Florida:



The woman's voice in the clip says a number of things, among them:
I never refer to Obama as President Obama, because, legally, he is not.
And:
And my question is: why isn’t something being done to get him out of our government? He has no legal right to be calling himself President.
Two obvious birther references.  Neither of which Rick refutes.

January 26, 2012

Obama Admin: Immunity for Torturers, Prosecution for Torture Whistleblowers

As I've written elsewhere, my profoundest disappointment with the Obama Administration revolves around its refusal to prosecute the war crimes of the Bush Administration.

Two days after his inauguration, the President signed Executive Order 13491 - ordering the US back into compliance with US and International Law regarding the use of torture - and that's a good thing, of course.

Torture is bad.  Torture is illegal.  The torture should be prosecuted.

But the Obama administration isn't prosecuting the torturers.

Instead:
The Justice Department on Monday charged a former Central Intelligence Agency officer with disclosing classified information to journalists about the capture and brutal interrogation of a suspected member of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah — adding another chapter to the Obama administration’s crackdown on leaks.

In a criminal complaint filed on Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation accused John Kiriakou, the former C.I.A. officer, of disclosing the identity of a C.I.A. analyst who worked on a 2002 operation that located and interrogated Abu Zubaydah. The journalists included a New York Times reporter, it alleged.

“Safeguarding classified information, including the identities of C.I.A. officers involved in sensitive operations, is critical to keeping our intelligence officers safe and protecting our national security,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a statement.
Now, don't get me wrong. Leaking the name of a CIA operative is a very serious charge - one that should be investigated and, if necessary prosecuted.

Although I doubt my Bush Administration admiring friends would agree completely with that last bit (cough Valerie Plame cough).

But letting the CIA (current or retired) torturers go unpunished while prosecuting a retired CIA officer for bringing the story to the public?

How does that mesh with claiming the "moral high ground" for reiterating that torture is illegal?

It simply doesn't.

January 25, 2012

The Trib, ACORN and Reality

Yawn.  The Trib's up in arms about ACORN.  Again.  And they're spinning reality so madly that one fears for their sanity.  Again.

Specifically I want you to look at the end of the second paragraph:
Corrupt ACORN affiliate Project Vote -- former employer of President Obama -- is pulling Justice Department and White House strings to register more voters on public assistance, documents newly obtained by Judicial Watch show.

It's happening despite voter-registration fraud convictions of at least 70 ACORN/Project Vote employees in 12 states since 2006. And even though more than a third of the 1.3 million registrations ACORN/Project Vote submitted during the 2008 election cycle proved invalid, according to a 2009 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report.
Are you sitting down? The spin involved in that last sentence will simply amaze.

Fairness 4 WTAE: Real Life & Virtual Rallies on Thursday

Perhaps you've heard -- there's something ugly going on at Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV. Way back in July of 2010 the on-air staff at WTAE voted to be represented by the AFTRA union. But all this time later, they are still without a contract. In the meantime, according to the Fairness 4 WTAE Facebook page, staff have had long-scheduled, pre-approved vacations denied at the last minute; have had to work two weeks straight without a day off; have been threatened with losing company pensions and retirement benefits for supporting the union -- basically, everything out of the union-busting playbook.

What can you do to help?
1) Add your name to the petition to tell Hearst to "play fair in Pittsburgh." (Hearst already bargins fairly in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Boston, New Orleans, and Omaha -- why not Pittsburgh?)

2) Like their Facebook page here.

3) Attend the Community Labor Support Rally this Thursday:
WHEN: Thursday January 26, 11 a.m.
WHERE: St James Church (marching to WTAE), 718 Franklin Ave, Wilkinsburg, PA
WHAT: Rally to present deliver nearly 2,000 postcards and petition signatures from viewers. Delivered by a delegation including Allegheny County Labor Council President Jack Shea; State Senator Jim Ferlo; State Rep, Joe Preston; Joyce Rothermel, from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (retired): Fr. Jack O’Malley; Marty O’Malley, Mayor of Forest Hills; Fred Redmond, VP of United Steelworkers; and Rev. John Welch from PA Interfaith Impact Network.
or

4) Attend the Virtual Rally for Fairness for WTAE
WHEN: Thursday, from 11am to 1pm.
WHAT: -Call the Station: 412-242-4300. Tell the receptionist you wish to speak with General Manager Mike Hayes. If not available, ask for voice mail. Give your name and phone number and tell him you support Fairness for WTAE On-air Staff.
And/or
-Email the Station: Go to Station Website, www.wtae.com, at the bottom of the home page, under “Station”, choose “Contact Us”. Under “Contact Us”, choose “News Feedback”, then fill out your name and email and write the message: I support Fairness for WTAE On-air Staff.”
Do it for Bob! Do it for Wendy! Do it for Kelly! Do it for Jim! Do it for Demetrius!

Do it for Fairness!


January 24, 2012

Full Text of President Obama's State of the Union Address

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
State of the Union Address
“An America Built to Last”
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
Washington, DC


As Prepared for Delivery –

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought – and several thousand gave their lives.

We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.

These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.

Why?!?

"Paterno honored with Pa. flags at half-staff"

Rick Santorum and Rape (Again)

When I was younger (so much younger than today), living in Southern Connecticut in the early days of cable TV there, we were able to watch the local evening news from New York City along with the local evening news from New Haven or Hartford.

I got to Roger Grimsby and Bill Buetel do the "Eyewitness" news on Channel 7.  For a while, their weather guy was a man named "Tex" Antoine.  I don't recall much about Antoine nor do I recall seeing his last broadcast but I take it he was a bit of a character and that his last broadcast went something like this:
The colorful Antoine was with WABC for a decade. A diabetic and creature of habit, Antoine would go to the same German restaurant every night.

Primo says his weatherman would have a glass of wine during the dinner break prior to the 11 p.m. newscast. Occasionally, someone would buy him an additional glass.

The diabetes caused his sugar levels to rise, which led Antoine to slur his words on the air “every once in a while.”

Finally, Primo scared him straight, bringing Antoine into his office and making him watch one of those slurred weather reports.

An issue of larger magnitude happened in November 1976, when his weather segment followed a horrific rape story of a young girl.

Antoine infamously said, “With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: ‘If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.’”

“[It] was just too much,” Primo admits. “Between those couple of instances and that, we had to let him go.”
Ha.  Funny.  A 5 year old girl should recognize the inevitability of her rape and just "lie back and enjoy it."

Make the best of a horrible situation, in other words.  Which brings me to Rick Santorum.  Recently on CNN he was asked about rape and abortion:
MORGAN: But do you really -- do you really -- let me ask you this. Do you really believe, in every case, it should be totally wrong, in the sense that -- I know that you believe, even in cases of rape and incest -- and you've got two daughters. You know, if you have a daughter that came to you who had been raped.

SANTORUM: Yes.

MORGAN: And was pregnant and was begging you to let her have an abortion, would you really be able to look her in the eye and say, no, as her father?

SANTORUM: I would do what every father must do, is to try to counsel your daughter to do the right thing.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: It's an almost impossibly hypothetical thing to ask you, but there will be people in that position, and they will share your religious values.

SANTORUM: It's not a matter of religious values.

MORGAN: And they are looking at their daughter ,saying, how can I deal with this, because if I make her have this baby, isn't it going to just ruin her life?

SANTORUM: Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn't have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice. I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or doesn't, it will always be her child. And she will always know that. And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I've always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created -- in the sense of rape -- but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.

As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life. We have horrible things happen. I can't think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.
Let me just say that on top of everything else, Rick's wrong in saying that it's not a matter of religious values. Once he asserts that a rape victim "accept what God has given" to her, he's making it about religion.  What if she's not religious?  What if she is, but she's not a theist?  What if she is but she's not a theist within the so-called "Judeo-Christian" tradition?  Why should she be forced to make a decision according to Rick Santorum's faith and not her own?

See?  It is about religious values.

But let's put all that aside and think about what Rick's saying - that his God would allow such a horrible situation to occur in the first place in order for one more baby to be born.  Given all His omnipotence, you'd think He'd have come up with a better way of procreation than allowing all that damage to all those women.

But what do I know?  I'm an agnostic.  I don't believe any of that.

Rape:  Just sit back and enjoy it.
Rape:  Just make the best out of a difficult situation.

Yea, right.

January 23, 2012

Voter Fraud! Or Maybe Not

Loyal wingnuts that they are, the Tribune-Review's editorial board warns us, yet again, about the rampant voter fraud:
Among the Obama administration's re-election cheerleaders, none is more duplicitous than Attorney General Eric Holder, whose sis-boom-ba on "voter rights" is sorely out of sync with factual accounts of fraud.

Last month the Justice Department blocked a South Carolina photo-identification law, insisting it makes voting more difficult for minorities. At a rally in Columbia, S.C., last week, Mr. Holder said defending that cause is "a moral imperative," The Washington Post reported.

But Holder's presumptuous intervention in South Carolina backfired. In response, that state's attorney general, Alan Wilson, did some digging and found that at least 900 dead people voted in South Carolina's 2010 election, writes Peter Hannaford for The American Spectator. Mr. Wilson is going to court to restore the law.
Here's Hannaford's piece - and it's interesting to note the unquestioned frames: It's voter fraud and if it's voter fraud, then it's voter fraud in favor of the Democrats.

Too bad the data isn't so clear cut.

January 22, 2012

Salena Zito and The Dixiecrats

Let's start, without comment, with something the Salena Zito of the Tribune-Review wrote.  Give her the first word, as it were, and then fill in the blanks:
Grantham, 47, reflects the once-proud Southern white Democrats that the party began bleeding in 1948 during a convention battle between civil-righters and Dixiecrat states'-righters. The Republican Party really didn't capitalize on that until 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower won some Southern states.

Richard Nixon developed the strategy of competing in the Deep South -- then, typically barren land for Republicans. While his results were mixed, his brilliant move marked the start of the South turning on Democrats.
Now, let's take a look at the Dixiecrat's party platform in 1948 - if only to see just what flavor of "states'-rights" it was.  There certainly won't be much controversy with how the platform begins:
- 1 -

We believe that the Constitution of the United States is the greatest charter of human liberty ever conceived by the mind of man.

- 2 -

We oppose all efforts to invade or destroy the rights guaranteed by it to every citizen of this republic.

- 3 -

We stand for social and economic justice, which, we believe can be guaranteed to all citizens only by a strict adherence to our Constitution and the avoidance of any invasion or destruction of the constitutional rights of the states and individuals. We oppose the totallitaran, centralized bureaucratic government and the police nation called for by the platforms adopted by the Democratic and Republican Conventions.
Ok, maybe that last paragraph has a bit more of an edge to it than we're used to seeing, but on the other hand, who would have been in favor of a "totalitarian, centralized bureaucratic government" then? Or now, for that matter?  I think that's what you'd call a "straw man" argument.

It's in the next three sections where the Dixiecrat reality becomes strikingly obvious:
- 4 -

We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one's associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to learn one's living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.

- 5 -

We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal fiatt, regulations of private employment practices, voting, and local law enforcement.

- 6 -

We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive of the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national orgin in appreciable numbers.
This is what Salena Zito boiled down into the simple and yet oh so misleading phrase "states'-righters."  Take a look again at what those Dixiecrats were against:
  • Desegregation
  • Interracial marriage
  • Race-neutral employment and voting opportunities
In short, basic civil rights for African-Americans.  That's the tradition of "the once-proud Southern white Democrats that the party began bleeding in 1948" to the Republican Party.  And this isn't me saying it, it's an expert Zito herself quotes:
"As a new generation developed, the people who were conservative Democrats and Dixiecrats mostly became Republicans," explained Bert Rockman, Purdue University political science professor.
It wasn't until after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that the South turned solidly against the Democratic Party - at a moment, as we're told:
When Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he told aide Bill Moyers that Democrats would face a backlash from the white Southerners who had been part of the Democratic coalition Franklin Roosevelt forged. "We have lost the South for a generation," he warned.
Now go back to what Zito wrote, think about all that you read above.  Who left the Democratic Party?  And where did they go?  Now imagine what Zito wanted you to think.

Now ask yourself: How different are those two ideas?

January 19, 2012

Mitt Romney: Man of the People!


Mitt Romeny is a true "Man of the People." He has not only feared getting a pink slip, he's actually unemployed! Mitt knows that people are people and corporations are people too and that when people get you miffed it's A-OK to enjoy firing them. He's had to admit publicly that his earnings are not very much". In fact, the man is so in need, he only had to pay a 15% tax rate. And, like most hard working Americans, when faced with economic challenges he did the only thing a true American could do: he parked his earnings in the Cayman Islands.

Admit it, folks -- Mitt's just like you and me!


UPDATE: Mitt doubles down! He know that "America's right and you're wrong" and he's the only candidate who's lived on the "real streets of America."

More Anti-Science At The Tribune-Review

From today's Thursday Takes:
The National Center for Science Education says it has begun an effort to defend the teaching of man-made climate change in America's schools. Should any school district allow such blatant propaganda to be introduced into its curriculum -- without balancing it with the ample credible scientific evidence to the contrary -- those responsible should be fired.
On the one hand, Scaife's braintrust is absolutely right. Anyone caught teaching blatant propaganda as science should be fired.

The main problem here is that the Trib, yet again, is on the wrong side of the science.

January 18, 2012

SOPA and PIPA

If you try to search Wikipedia today, you'll get this:

The text reads:
Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge

For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia. Learn more.
And that "learn more" link leads to a FAQ of sorts that offers Wikipedia's explanation of the legislation:
SOPA and PIPA represent two bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the "Stop Online Piracy Act," and PIPA is an acronym for the "Protect IP Act." ("IP" stands for "intellectual property.") In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. Detailed information about these bills can be found in the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act articles on Wikipedia, which are available during the blackout. GovTrack lets you follow both bills through the legislative process: SOPA on this page, and PIPA on this one. The EFF has summarized why these bills are simply unacceptable in a world that values an open, secure, and free Internet.
You can also, if you're so inclined, track the legislation via the Library of Congress: As a general principle, I'd say that censorship is a bad thing.  Censorship to protect profit, even worse.

January 17, 2012

Another Reason Torture's Immoral

I start today with the P-G's Tony Norman:
Last week, video footage of four U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three dead Taliban fighters went viral. With the exception of a handful of morally dead ideologues on the right, the reaction to the video was one of revulsion at home and fury abroad.

As Americans, we were reminded that just because we choose not to pay attention to the war in Afghanistan, we share moral complicity for wars fought in our name. The callousness of the four Marines wasn't unprecedented. Relative to the toll on civilian lives in three countries because of American drone attacks, public urination on enemy corpses pales in comparison as a war crime.

In a widely read essay in The Washington Post, war correspondent Sebastian Junger astutely pointed out that a "19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it's OK to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not OK to urinate on a dead one."
While Tony spends more time pointing out this nation's faith-based hypocrisy:
It is a sign of how decadent much of American Christianity has become: A candidate who enthusiastically condones assassination is the same man who 150 "Christian" leaders have decided best exemplifies the Christian values they want to see at work in the White House. Where does Jesus Christ fit in this scenario?
Sebastian Junger, in that essay Tony referenced, touches more on the sociological impacts of two administrations accommodation of torture:
When the war on terror started, the Marines in that video were probably 9 or 10 years old. As children they heard adults — and political leaders — talk about our enemies in the most inhuman terms. The Internet and the news media are filled with self-important men and women referring to our enemies as animals that deserve little legal or moral consideration. We have sent enemy fighters to countries like Syria and Libya to be tortured by the very regimes that we have recently condemned for engaging in war crimes and torture. They have been tortured into confessing their crimes and then locked up indefinitely without trial because their confessions — achieved through torture — will not stand up in court.

For the past 10 years, American children have absorbed these moral contradictions, and now they are fighting our wars. The video doesn’t surprise me, but it makes me incredibly sad — not just for them, but also for us. We may prosecute these men for desecrating the dead while maintaining that it is okay to torture the living.
From The Geneva Conventions, Chapter 2 Article 15 on the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field:
At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.
I'd say pissing on some dead enemy combatants certainly qualifies as "despoiled."

Legality aside (as if that's possible here) I want to emphasize another downside of allowing the Bush-endorsed waterboarding to go unpunished or even unprosecuted (as the Obama Administration is doing): it desensitizes us to all other "paler" war crimes.  War crimes done in our name.  Some with our grudging acquiescence.

To feel like we're protecting our safety, we despoil ourselves.

No longer the city on the hill.  No longer on the high moral ground.  Look at us.  Look at what they make you give.

January 14, 2012

Of Course The Trib's Politics NEVER Skews It's Reporting!

Never?  Well, hardly ever.

Take a look at this short blurb from today's Tribune-Review:
Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania are receiving a $3.5 million federal grant to collaborate on transportation research for the U.S. Department of Transportation, school officials said.

The grant will establish CMU and Penn as a University Transportation Center, with its research focusing on identifying ways that technology can improve transportation safety and efficiency. Most of the work will be done on CMU's Oakland campus, school officials said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said CMU, as one of the nation's leading computer science and engineering schools, was "an obvious choice for research on ways to use computers linked to sensors to improve transportation safety, identify infrastructure that needs repairs and reduce congestion."
Looks rather mundane, doesn't it?  No loose ends to the story, right?  Until you Google Doyle's remarks.  Once you do that, you'll see what the news division of the Tribune-Review did.

They left out (omitted, expurgated, skipped over, voided) Congressman Jason Altmire.

January 13, 2012

January 12, 2012

On The Dignity Of The Family

From the NY Daily News:
Pope Benedict XVI denounced gay marriage in his annual “State of the World” address Monday, going so far as to say the same-sex nuptials threaten the future of humanity.

In the speech, the pope, 84, unleashed what some consider being his strongest tirade against gay marriage, saying it is among conventions that “undermine the family” and “threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” Reuters reported.

“Pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and woman,” the pontiff said.

“This is not a simple convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society,” he continued. “Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”
You can read the entire document here.

It's curious to me how he can, on the one hand, defend the "pride of place" for "the family" and condemn "policies which undermine the family" while at the same time undermine the criminal investigations into the rape and torture of children.

For background on that, I turn to Christopher Hitchens:
In 2002, I happened to be on Hardball With Chris Matthews, discussing what the then attorney general of Massachusetts, Thomas Reilly, had termed a massive cover-up by the church of crimes against children by more than a thousand priests. I asked, why is the man who is prima facie responsible, Cardinal Bernard Law, not being questioned by the forces of law and order? Why is the church allowed to be judge in its own case and enabled in effect to run private courts where gross and evil offenders end up being "forgiven"? This point must have hung in the air a bit, and perhaps lodged in Cardinal Law's own mind, because in December of that year he left Boston just hours before state troopers arrived with a subpoena seeking his grand-jury testimony. Where did he go? To Rome, where he later voted in the election of Pope Benedict XVI and now presides over the beautiful church of Santa Maria Maggiore, as well as several Vatican subcommittees.

In my submission, the current scandal passed the point of no return when the Vatican officially became a hideout for a man who was little better than a fugitive from justice. By sheltering such a salient offender at its very heart, the Vatican had invited the metastasis of the horror into its bosom and thence to its very head. It is obvious that Cardinal Law could not have made his escape or been given asylum without the approval of the then pontiff and of his most trusted deputy in the matter of child-rape damage control, then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Developments since that time have appalled even the most diehard papal apologists by their rapidity and scale. Not only do we have the letter that Cardinal Ratzinger sent to all Catholic bishops, enjoining them sternly to refer rape and molestation cases exclusively to his office. That would be bad enough in itself, since any person having knowledge of such a crime is legally obliged to report it to the police.
I will say it again.  Given the atrocious behavior over the past few decades of the Vatican regarding its own sexually abusive priests, why should anyone treat any statement of sexual morality coming out of the Vatican with any credibility whatsoever?

I would think not raping the young boys and not sheltering those who looked the other way should be a bigger concern for the self appointed guardians of the family.

January 11, 2012

Well, we knew he couldn't impersonate 'The Thinker'


Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Tebowstahl pays off a bet.

How Different The GOP Is!

I wanted to follow-up on this post from a few days ago.

As you will no doubt recall, Ronald Reagan was on record as saying:
We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.
Owing to the date of that speech (October 24, 1984)  and to the fact that he takes a political swipe or two:
And there's something else. The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, for anti-Semitism, or for bigotry of any kind—none. In Dallas, we acted on this conviction. We passed a resolution concerning anti-Semitism and disassociating the Republic[an] Party from all people and groups who practice bigotry in any form. But in San Francisco this year, the Democratic Party couldn't find the moral courage or leadership to pass a similar resolution. And, forgive me, but I think they owe you an explanation. [Applause] Thank you.

What has happened to them? Why, after the issue became so prominent during the primaries, did the Democratic leadership walk away from their convention without a resolution condemning this insidious cancer? Why didn't they turn their backs on special interests and stand shoulder to shoulder with us in support of tolerance and in unequivocal opposition to prejudice and bigotry?

We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism, and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America—none, whatsoever.
We can assume this is speech is more of a campaign speech than a policy speech.  It was only a few weeks before the '84 elections.  For example, what did he mean by "In Dallas"?

That would be the GOP party platform from the Party Convention in Dallas:
The Republican Party reaffirms its support of the pluralism and freedom that have been part and parcel of this great country. In so doing, it repudiates and completely disassociates itself from people, organizations, publications, and entities which promulgate the practice of any form of bigotry, racism, anti-semitism, or religious intolerance.
It's interesting to ponder that, faced with an upcoming election, Reagan decided to campaign on the idea that the church and state are separate and that in matters of faith the government must remain neutral.

How does that stand up to the current GOP in the current election season?

January 10, 2012

Go read Tony

Tony Norman on Rick Santorum and "Blah" people:
Strip away the guile and the populist facade, and it won't be long until the pink chewy nougat of intolerance at his center erupts in your face.
LOL!

Go read the whole thing here.

Occupy Pittsburgh Calls for a Day of Solidarity Today


(click to enlarge)

Occupy Pittsburgh has called for a Day of Solidarity, today, January 10, 2012 against BNY Mellon for their attempts to evict them from the People’s Park (Mellon Green). Occupy Pittsburgh will go to court today to defend themselves against a lawsuit from BNY Mellon.

Via Occupy Pittsburgh:
The preliminary injunction hearing will begin at 9:00 am on Tuesday, January 10th in room 800 of the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh. At 3:30 pm, Occupy Pittsburgh will begin demonstrating outside of the City-County Building. When Court lets out, there will be a brief Press Conference including an opportunity for Q & A with a member of the Occupy Pittsburgh legal team. Occupiers will then march from the City County Building to BNY Mellon for a demonstration followed by a rally at People’s Park and a musical performance by Jasiri X.
In addition to asking the public to attend the rally and march, Occupy Pittsburgh is asking the public to do the following to show their support:
• Hold non-violent demonstrations against BNY Mellon around the world (the bank’s corporate headquarters is One Wall Street, New York City). As a multinational banking institution BNY Mellon has offices around the globe including offices in; Boston, London, Moscow, Sydney, Cairo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and many other population centers around the world

• Wear bandannas, Guy Fawkes masks, or similar coverings to express solidarity with the anonymous and amorphous “99%” in general and the 50 Jane Does and 50 John Does named in the lawsuit in particular. This, of course, is merely a suggestion subject to the comfort level of those involved;

• Engage in autonomous direct actions ***;

• Send mail supporting Occupy Pittsburgh to BNY Mellon’s Pittsburgh office (500 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15258) with the return address of #1 People’s Park, Pittsburgh PA 15219; and

• Temporarily change your addresses on Facebook and other web sites to #1 People’s Park, Pittsburgh PA 15219

***Occupy Pittsburgh and our allies will not endorse, plan, or coordinate any unlawful or violent actions.
According to Occupy Pittsburgh, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Cleveland, Occupy Philadelphia and other Occupy groups across the U.S. will take action in support of Occupy Pittsburgh today. This includes a demonstration by Occupy Wall Street in front of One Wall Street, the New York headquarters of BNY Mellon.

UPDATE: Potter provides "A sneak preview of today's Occupy Pittsburgh hearing"

January 9, 2012

Huh. Go Figure.

An interesting stream of words came to me this weekend via a facebook status update.  The text read:
We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.
It's that last part that fumes our friends, the social/religious conservatives.  It's not in the Constitution, they say.  It's not what the founders or the framers intended, they say.  Our greatness as a culture depends on our reliance on our shared Judeo/Christian heritage, they say.  Erasing it will only undermine that greatness, they say.

Only a traitorous lib'rul could say what I read on facebook.  The thing is my loyal facebook friend asserted that it was Ronald Reagan who spewed forth such malicious ideas.

January 7, 2012

Sue Gets Some National Recognition!

Congratulations to Sue Kerr (she of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents) for getting some big time recognition!

By Michelangelo Signorile at Huffingtonpost.  Signorile is writing about our favorite ex-Senator Rick Santorum and his former spokesman, Robert Traynhan:
At the same time that Rick Santorum's 19-year-old daughter Elizabeth emerged on the campaign trail talking about "gay friends" who support her father, Santorum's former Senate communications director, a gay man named Robert Traynham, popped up on "Hardball" defending Santorum. All this while Santorum continues to get booed and jeered at campaign appearances all over New Hampshire for his stance on marriage equality.

More interesting is how Traynham, now a political analyst with a show on the Comcast Network in DC, seems to have previously purged his former boss from his past, perhaps seeing him as radioactive to a career in media. Pittsburgh blogger Sue Kerr had written a blog post just a week ago (before Traynham surfaced in the media) titled, "What Ever Happened to the Gay Guy Who Worked for Santorum?" in which she noted that Traynham has gone on to an illustrious career but doesn't mention anywhere in his bio on his website that he worked for Santorum
Sue, I love you to pieces but I am so envious right now I will be grumpily sulking over this for months - MONTHS I TELL YOU!!

Just kidding.  Congratulations, Sue!!

Because This Is All They Got...

The Tribune-Review's editorial board is back, yet again, on the "Climategate" story.  If nothing else, it shows how weak a position Scaife's braintrust is in.  They have nothing about the science, of course, as they're back to talking East Anglia emails.

From today's editorial page:
It's not just the far-reaching claims from the world's leading climate cluckers about "man-made global warming" that demand further inquiry -- it's what they continually attempt to hide.

Phil Jones, the former (and still controversial) lead climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, refused to share U.S.-funded climate data with skeptical scientists. As reported by Forbes, among e-mails made public recently is this explanation from Professor Jones in 2009:

"I've been told that the (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is above national FOI (Freedom of Information) Acts." Additionally, "Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get -- and has to be well hidden. I've discussed this with the main funder (the U.S. Department of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data."
Fire up the Keurig, this'll take some time.

January 6, 2012

One Wonders...

It's undeniable that the Tribune-Review's not a fan of Occupy Pittsburgh.  For example, there was this hit piece from a few months ago - something Chris Potter described as:
...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.
And then there was this editorial cartoon today:


You'd think that Scaife's braintrust would actually, you know, learn something about what they're writing about.  But take a look at this from today's Laurels and Lances:
On the "Watch List": BNY Mellon. The commonwealth of Pennsylvania is reviewing whether Bank of New York Mellon overcharged the state and its pension funds on foreign currency transactions over the last 14 years. Three other states already have filed lawsuits to that effect. BNY Mellon denies any wrongdoing. But the allegations are a black mark that the banking giant will find difficult to erase.
Sound familiar?

It should. Occupy Pittsburgh has been protesting BNY Mellon for precisely that reason since the occupation began.

From the AP October 19, 2011:
About 75 members of the Occupy Pittsburgh group protested against corporations and the financial system in front of the BNY Mellon regional office in downtown Pittsburgh.

The protesters gathered at noon Wednesday for less than an hour to demand that Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly investigate whether the banking giant overcharged pension funds in the state.

BNY Mellon says the allegations are baseless. The Occupy Pittsburgh group was formed about two weeks ago, in response to the Occupy Wall Street protests.
And from Occupy Pittsburgh itself:
As we pointed out on October 19, BNY Mellon is being sued by the attorneys general of three states for ripping off $2 billion from public pension funds by overcharging them for foreign currency trades. It is also being sued for $1 billion by the Retirement System of the City of Detroit for keeping the pension funds’ money in Lehman Brothers even after it became apparent that that bank was in trouble.
Doesn't Scaife's braintrust already know this?  If they do, then why did they fail to inform its readership of it?  And if they don't, then why do they call themselves a newspaper?

Happy Friday, Pittsburgh.

January 3, 2012

Pittsburgh City Council: The Worm Turns

Via the P-G:
Darlene Harris was reelected Pittsburgh City Council president this morning in a vote that pit her against her one-time political teammates

Voting for Mrs. Harris were herself, Ricky Burgess, Patrick Dowd, Theresa Kail-Smith, R. Daniel Lavelle and newcomer Corey O'Connor.

Voting against her were Bruce Kraus, Bill Peduto and Natalia Rudiak, her teammates the past two years.
Here's all the new positions:
Council President: Darlene Harris (nominated by Dowd)

President Pro Tempore: Theresa Kail-Smith (nominated by Burgess)

Finance Chair: Rev. Ricky Burgess

Public Safety Chair: Theresa Kail-Smith

Public Works Chair: Bruce Kraus

Human Resources Chair: Bill Peduto

Land Use & Economic Development Chair: R. Daniel Lavelle

Urban Recreation Chair: Corey O'Connor

Performance and Assessment Management Chair: Natalia Rudiak

Intergovernmental Affairs Chair: Patrick Dowd

Hearings Chair: Darlene Harris
Also see Infy here.

UPDATE: And, Early Returns here. (Yes, O'Connor chose the occasion to announce his engagement...)

Make your own joke


Santorum Salad: Iowa Pizza Ranch Names Signature Dish After Rick Santorum

Good People of Iowa...

Good People of Iowa,

If you are even considering caucusing for Rick Santorum, just keep this one word in mind:


Sincerely,
Your Friends in Pennsylvania

Follow The Money...Again (A Short Note)

On the editorial pages of today's Tribune-Review we find two (2) columns, each Scaife Foundation connected, each Foundation connection unmentioned.

Imagine that.