Prosecute the torture.

February 28, 2013

Message to My Friends At The City-County Building

Can someone over there PLEASE fix this?

My friend Sue writes for a local blog called Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents and focuses on LGBTQ issues.  She writes that access to its content is being blocked at the City-County Building.

It's an important voice for an important segment of the Pittsburgh community and agree with it or disagree with it access to its content should not be blocked - anytime.

UPDATE: I rewrote this for clarity.

UPDATE numéro deux: About 2pm this afternoon (March 1) someone from the City-County Building DID take a look at this specific blog post.  I am hoping that means that someone over there in city government will soon figure a way out of this rather embarrassing situation.

While you're waiting, Pittsburgh

Give a listen here.

Violence Against Women Act Update

A short update:

Pennsylvania Representatives Rothfus, Marino, Kelly, Perry, Pitts, and Murphy all vote a healthy NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

(And that's definitely a no that means "no!")


Song of the Day

Speculation running rampant that Mayor Ravenstahl will drop out of race

It started with this story at Early Returns at 10:30 PM last night which noted that Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl had been missing more meetings than usual in the last few days and quoted a close ally:
"It is with a heavy heart that I tell you here tonight that the mayor couldn't make it. Within the next couple of days he'll be having a press conference to discuss some issues,'' Mr. Quigley said adding that "... there's some personal things going on right now that I'm not at liberty to discuss.''  
"Everyone in this room supported the mayor at one time or another,'' he continued. "Us as Northsiders it's always been an old adage that we stick together. I'm asking everyone on this room to send their prayers out to the Ravenstahl family and to stick together as Northsiders.''  
Later, Mr. Quigley alluded to the federal investigations swirling around the city Police Bureau as he said, "I'm going to tell you that the mayor is implicated in nothing that's going on with the city. He's having some personal issues. And I am here to tell you that in the next couple of days there's going to be some kind of press conference. I would just ask everyone in this room, reserve your thoughts and say a prayer for the mayor and his family.''
That was followed up with a similar story in the Post-Gazette two hours later.

This morning, all hell broke loose:

KDKA: Sources: Mayor’s Mother Facing ‘Serious Health Crisis’
KDKA: Mayor Ravenstahl To Make Major Announcement About Future
WPXI: Sources: Ravenstahl questioning re-election run
Post-Gazette: Announcement expected from mayor, but no press conference set

And, that doesn't even count the tweets and Facebook updates.

Guess we'll all be tuning in to the noon news today...

February 27, 2013

Fact-Checking Keith Rothfus On The "Cell Phone Giveaway"

Today's Tribune-Review published this commentary on the upcoming sequester from the tea-party pen of the newly elected representative from Pennsylvania's 12th district,  Keith Rothfus.

And he gets just a few facts wrong on his list:
Our federal government will spend more than $3.7 trillion this year. Replacing the sequester requires finding $84 billion in smart cuts to that budget. Here are a few things we could eliminate to begin replacing the sequester:
  • $2.2 billion by ending the federal government's cellphone giveaway
What he's describing is something that's popped up recently (quite coincidentally, I am sure) on another of Richard Mellon Scaife's media holdings, Newsmax:
Nearly half of the 6 million people who received free cellphones and communications services through the government-funded Lifeline program last year apparently were ineligible or did not respond to certification requests, a new report shows.

The U.S. government spent about $2.2 billion on the program last year alone, reports The Wall Street Journal, which conducted a review of the program's funding.
The only problem with this is that eliminating the program won't save the gov'ment any money. Here's why (and this is from the WSJ piece referenced above):
The Lifeline program—begun in 1984 to ensure that poor people aren't cut off from jobs, families and emergency services—is funded by charges that appear on the monthly bills of every landline and wireless-phone customer.
Factcheck already has something on this program:
Lifeline is funded by telecom customers who pay a universal service fee as part of their phone bills. The fee technically is not a tax but a cross subsidy, the rules of which are determined by the Federal Communications Commission.
And:
As we explained [in 2009], the FCC requires phone companies to fund “universal service” programs such as Lifeline that improve telecommunications access to all Americans. The companies pass the cost along to consumers in the form of a universal service fee, which is listed on a monthly phone bill.

The fees go into the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, an independent, not-for-profit corporation. USAC manages Lifeline and three other programs that provide telecommunications services to rural areas, schools, libraries and places where it’s more expensive to provide access.
And:
Lifeline does not “give away” “government phones.” The program reimburses phone companies with a monthly subsidy of $9.25 for each low-income customer who uses a landline or a cell phone.
So however leaky the program is, eliminating it would not reduce guv'ment debt in anyway - it would only reduce everyone's cellphone bill by a little bit AND reduce access to the global telecommunications network  by poor people a lot.  But it won't reduce the debt.

That's something Keith Rothfus got wrong.

BREAKING! Not every sweater you get from Goodwill has demons in it!

But it couldn't hurt to rebuke them just in case:

Tips for Mayors




February 24, 2013

Jack Kelly Sunday

Jack Kelly, conservative columnist over at the Post-Gazette, is at it again.  And again there's more proof that his columns are never fully checked by my friends over at the Post-Gazette.

Take a look at the first two paragraphs from today's column:
At the time they met with President Barack Obama on 9/11/2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, knew it was terrorists who were attacking our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Mr. Panetta testified Feb. 7.

Their pre-scheduled meeting in the Oval Office took place about 90 minutes after the attack began. The president "left it up to them" whether to respond, Mr. Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee. The fighting would last for six hours more, but neither he nor Gen. Dempsey heard from the president again that night, Mr. Panetta said.
Most of it is demonstrably false.

But there's no reason for you, my audience, to simply take my word for it that I write is true - that's what Jack does with his audience.  No, let's go to the facts.

Starting with that second paragraph - specifically this sentence:
The president "left it up to them" whether to respond, Mr. Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Note the word "whether" after the quotation. And note the quotation for that matter.  Now you'd think that in a newspaper (even if it is only an "opinion" column found in that newspaper) when a Secretary of Defense is quoted the writer gets the quotation right - or at least it's close enough not to be misleading.

By phrasing it the way he does, Jack leaves his audience with the impression that the President left the decision to respond up to Panetta and Gen. Dempsey.  This is false.

My evidence?  Let's roll the tape:


At about 38 seconds in, Panetta testifies:
We had just picked up the information that something was happening, that there was an apparent attack going on in Benghazi. And I informed the president of that fact, and he at that point directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there. [Emphasis added.]
And then at about 1:09, Panetta reiterated that the President:
...basically said, 'Do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there.'
Panetta also said this in his prepared remarks:
By our best estimate, the incident at the Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi began at 3:42 p.m. eastern daylight time on September 11th. The Embassy in Tripoli was notified of the attacks almost immediately and within 17 minutes of the initial reports – at 3:59 p.m. – AFRICOM directed that an unarmed, unmanned, surveillance aircraft that was nearby to reposition overhead the Benghazi facility.

Soon after the initial reports about the attack on Benghazi, General Dempsey and I met with President Obama and he ordered all available DoD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect U.S. personnel and interests in the region. [Emphasis added.]
And yet despite all this evidence, Jack Kelly tells his readers that the President of the United States left the decision to respond to the Benghazi attacks up to the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - a falsehood.

Then there's the sentence, immediately following:
The fighting would last for six hours more, but neither he nor Gen. Dempsey heard from the president again that night, Mr. Panetta said.
Another falsehood as General Dempsey said on CNN three weeks ago:
CROWLEY: But when did you learn, if this was a seven-hour battle, we don't know when people died, and there when the ambassador died, but if this was a seven-hour battle, a U.S. strike force couldn't have gotten there in time to be of some service?

DEMPSEY: You know, it wasn't a seven-hour battle. It was two 20-minute battles separated by about six hours. The idea that this was one continuous event is just incorrect.
And yet, Jack Kelly informs his readers that "the fighting" would "last" for more than six hours.

And that's just the first two paragraphs - this is how he frames the rest of the column.

I'll ask it again: Doesn't anyone at the Post-Gazette fact-check Jack Kelly?  Completely fact-check, I mean.  Fact-check him enough so that everything he presents as a fact is, in fact, true.

It just doesn't look like it, guys.  Sorry.

Sign of the times

(Via Dan Gilman)
 

February 23, 2013

The Company Scaife Keeps

It should be but given how badly the conservative noise machine mangles reality it's not surprising that the long debunked birther myth remains alive.

And yet birthers yet thrive and indeed are taken seriously across the conservative universe.

Take yesterday, for example.

Yesterday, the Tribune-Review published this column by Diana West.

And Diana West is a birther.  Take a look at this from her own blog from last April:
Almost exactly one year ago – with Donald Trump on top of presidential polls and author Jerome Corsi on top of Amazon’s best-seller list, both for asking where President Barack Obama’s “real” birth certificate was – Judith Corley, the president’s personal attorney, flew to Hawaii. She went there to pick up two certified copies of the president’s long-form birth certificate from the Hawaii Department of Health.

At least, that’s what then-White House Counsel Robert Bauer told us last April 27 at a White House press briefing called to unveil the new, certified document. Multiple copies were passed out to the press, while NBC’s Savannah Guthrie became the one witness I know of to touch the certified document. (She reported she “felt the raised seal.”) A computer image of this Obama long-form birth certificate appeared on the White House website, where now you and I can download it for ourselves as proof of the president’s bona fides.

Or is it?
And (AND) she has an explanation for why big name media conservatives "aren't covering" the story.  In the same blog post, she quotes a conversation she had with a "Famous Conservative" (hereafter: "FC"):
New tack for Famous Conservative: If (the birth certificate story) were true, why hasn't Rush or Hannity taken it on?

Me: They're afraid.

FC: (Scoffs.)

Me: Look, Rush won't talk about a lot of things: Islamization, for one. Sharia. Muslim Brotherood, those kinds of things. He has a comfort zone. [Emphasis added.]
Yea, that's right.  Rush Limbaugh is afraid to raise the Birth Certificate story because it's out of his "comfort zone."  The fact that he's indeed talked about it undermines West's thesis, doesn't it?

It also kind of undermines her overall credibility, doesn't it?  I mean to get something so easy so wrong (about Rush Limbaugh, no less!), one has to wonder why she'd be taken seriously by her Conservative Comrades.

Like Ann Coulter (another columnist who's published by Scaife's Trib).  As she said to Sean Hannity (another one of West's conservatives who are afraid to speak the truth about the birth certificate):
Obama has produced his birth certificate. There were announcements that ran in two contemporaneous Hawaiian newspapers at that time. The head of the Hawaiian medical record has announced I have seen the long-form you all want. I don’t know why the long form is considered more credible than the short form. They are both from the same office. The State Department accepts the short form or as we call it the birth certificate. Hawaii accepts the birth certificate short form. So, I mean, it is a conspiracy theory that won’t die on the Internet, but every responsible, conservative organization to look at it and shot it down...
And yet birther Diana West made her way onto the pages of Scaife's Tribune-Review.

Another embarrassment for Richard Mellon Scaife.

February 22, 2013

Ravenstahl: Knee-deep, waist-deep...

 ...Or up to his eyeballs in it?

Tracking Teh Crazie - Alan Keyes at World Net Daily

You want teh crazie?  I got teh crazie, my friends.

Crazie
plus crazie wouldn't describe how crazie it is.  Nor would crazie times crazie.  No, we gotta go bigger still - a crazieplex, perhaps.

Let me back up a second to explain.  A "googol" is a very big number.  It's 10100 or 10 multiplied by itself 100 times and thus a one followed by 100 zeroes. A "googolplex" is even bigger. It's 10googol or ten multiplied by itself a googol number of times.  Don't even try to contemplate writing it out.  There isn't enough time or space in spacetime to do so.

So when I say that whenever Alan Keyes writes for World Net Daily, we got a crazieplex (teh crazieteh crazie) you'll more or less know exactly what I mean.

Ambassador Keyes (did you know he was an Ambassador during the Reagan Administration?  You did? Well, then did you know he was the one who negotiated the anti-choice language of the Mexico City Policy into the final resolution at that conference?  You didn't?  Well, now you do.) is more than well known for his controversial positions on sex, gender and women's health.

Well, today I found this faith based bit of intolerance at birther central - aka World Net Daily.

Keyes begins:
“California would strip the tax-exempt status from youth organizations like the Boy Scouts if they have policies that bar gay people from participating under a bill introduced at the Capitol Tuesday.” So began the report at sfgate.com. With prominent elitist faction GOP leaders like Mitt Romney pressing the BSA to end its ban on homosexual activity, the campaign to enforce respect for so-called “homosexual rights” is quickly moving toward what I have for a long time warned would be its inevitable result. By allowing the language of fundamental right to be abused in a way that perverts its logic, we have set the stage for the systematic abuse of the coercive power of government in order to force people to abandon their conscientious disapproval of homosexual behavior. Ideas have consequences, especially bad ideas.

Some people try to maintain the position that government has no lawful authority to interfere with human freedom. But according to the premises of American self-government, their view is patently illogical. The American Declaration of Independence (part of the organic law of the United States) states that all just governments are instituted to secure unalienable rights. When wrongdoers ignore and violate those rights (by criminal acts like murder, theft, rape, etc.) government is obliged to curtail their freedom. This is why the criminal law exists.

However, any action provably consistent with God’s natural law (as it applies to human activities) is an exercise of right. That’s why otherwise innocent people who kill to defend their lives against unwarranted attack are not charged with murder (unlawful killing), since their actions accord with the first law of nature. In this respect a provable claim of unalienable right trumps any provisions of human law that contradict it. The obligation to respect God’s authority supersedes the obligation to obey human authority.
I think our good friend Justice Antonin Scalia (he of the United States Supreme Court, doncha know) would disagree with Keyes on that last sentence. We quoted Scalia back in March of 2012:
We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate.
And:
Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself."

Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a "valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes)."
From this logic, let's just simply state that everything that follows from Keyes's assertion that the "obligation to respect God’s authority supersedes the obligation to obey human authority" is in direct opposition to the Constitution he claims to revere.

If you look closely, Keyes wants religious belief to be the law of the land - but only the right sorts of beliefs he already recognizes:
In what we call the Bill of Rights, preventing government coercion with respect to religion is the first order of business. This reflects the fact that the very idea of unalienable right depends on acknowledging that all human beings are obliged to respect “the laws of nature and of nature’s God”; that when they act accordingly they do what is right; and that they therefore have an unalienable right (i.e., a predisposition arising from the provision of God for their existence and well-being) to act as they do. As its origins may imply (from the Latin, religare, to bind fast) the word religion has to do with the views and practices connected with the natural sense that we are beholden to God for our existence, and bound to respect the provisions of God for our good.

Does this mean that every claim of right made in the name of religion authorizes people to break the law? Of course not; such claims must be examined in light of a reasonable appraisal of our knowledge of God’s law for our nature, as it applies to all human beings. Thus government may reasonably curtail the freedom of people who believe that their god requires them to murder innocent people (as was reportedly the case with the cult of devotees of the Hindu Goddess Kali, known as Thuggee; and as is true of some Islamic jihadists today.) In general a claim of religious belief, however sincerely asserted, does not supersede the obligation to respect the God-endowed natural rights of others. [Emphasis added.]
While he says that beliefs that lead to those "inalienable" rights are only those done in accordance with "the laws of nature and of Nature's God" and that only those actions, so defined, are the ones that are right, he then says that other, opposing beliefs, however sincerely held, don't have the same authority - and therefore actions taken in accordance with those religious beliefs can be curtailed.

So who decides which sincere beliefs are the right ones?  Who decides which ones are the foundations of the "inalienable rights" he's discussing?

That's right, Alan Keyes decides.  He decides what's right and wrong.  He decides (indeed, he's already decided) based only on his set of beliefs - a set of beliefs which he believes to coincide with God's.  Anyone else who has a different set of beliefs...well those beliefs, (again, however sincerely held) to the extent they disagree with what Keyes has already decided to be the "laws of nature and of Nature's God" can be ignored.

Alan Keyes must be a very important man - to Alan Keyes.

See? Crazieplex.

February 21, 2013

1776 Follow-up

Last night, the lovely wife and I finally got to see the Pittsburgh Public Theatre's production of 1776.

Good performance - though you gotta rush if you wanna see it.  It closes on the 24th.

A month or so ago I was lucky enough to score a chat with two of the leads; Steve Vinovich, who plays Franklin and George Merrick, who plays Adams.  Last night they were nice enough to give me a few more minutes of their time to discuss what, if any, effect an actor's extended performance of a play has on that actor's understanding of the play or the part.

I got the idea from this series of books on Shakespeare - not just a blogger, you know.  I got some lernin' too!

Anyway, their answers were quite interesting.  It wasn't necessarily the case that an actor would understand the role any deeper - unless I misunderstood, they both said that they tried new things over the course of the production to keep the flow of the narrative fresh.  "Things" being defined, I guess, as subtle shifts of tempo or inflection in how they speak their lines.

In strictly musical terms, I'd say they were always working to find the groove.

Vinovich admitted he tried something new last night.  Towards the end of the play, after debating the necessity of removing the passages on slavery written into the Declaration of Independence, Franklin says:
We're men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed. First things first, John. Independence; America. If we don't secure that, what difference will the rest make?
Vinovich said he shifted the emphasis on that last line a bit and played it down somewhat.

The part that surprised me/impressed me (and this is out of complete ignorance on my part) is that they're working to improve with the performance with only a handful left.

As I said - good performance.  Catch it if you can.

Next up for the PPT: Thurgood.  From the PPT's website:
In 1967, Thurgood Marshall became our first African-American Supreme Court Justice. In this exuberant one-man play we hear Thurgood’s story in his own words – from humble beginnings as a waiter in Baltimore, to behind the scenes with leaders such as General MacArthur, Robert Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, to his triumphant rise to the highest court in the land. A journey of epic proportions, Thurgood is an eye-opening, humorous, and uplifting portrait of a true American hero.

February 17, 2013

Up-To-Date? Um, No...

If you need any further evidence as to how badly the Tribune-Review does it's research or how low an opinion of its audience it holds, you need only look here:
Townhall.com reports that only one precinct in St. Lucie County, Fla., had a voter turnout of less than 113 percent in the November elections. One actually had a turnout of nearly 160 percent. But, according to “progressives,” voter fraud is a conservative myth. Ahem.
You'll note that the link to Townhall doesn't go to anything specific at Townhall, just the front page.  That should be the warning that something's up.  So let's look around.

The thing is, if you google the phrase "lucie county" at "townhall.com" (via google's "advanced" functionality) you can find a comment dated January 25, 2013 that links back to an earlier blog post at Townhall.

Here's that original posting:
On Tuesday only one precinct had less than 113% turnout. “The Unofficial vote count is 175,554 registered voters 247,713 vote cards cast (141.10% ). The National SEAL Museum, a St. Lucie county polling place, had 158.85% voter turn out, the highest in the county.”
And if you were to click on the "113%" link, you'll find this page with this headline:
UPDATE: MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD IN ST. LUCIE COUNTY, FL CALLED INTO QUESTION – 141% TURNOUT
But...but...but...CHECK THE TIMESTAMP OF THAT FIRST BLOG POST.  Here it is:
Nov 10, 2012 01:21 PM EST
So yea, Townhall did report what the braintrust said it reported - three months ago.

But let's look deeper at those numbers.  If you were to go to the Lucie County Elections website, you'll find this pdf where it says quite clearly:
Registered Voters 175554 - Cards Cast 247383 140.92%
Cards cast? What does that mean? Is it the same as Votes cast?  In order for the myth to work, it has to.

Snopes.com had an answer for this - a month and a half ago:
This statement demonstrates a misunderstanding between the difference in "number of votes" cast and "number of cards" cast. The official election results from St. Lucie County, Florida, show, a total of 123,301 votes were cast for the office of President of the United States, but a total of 247,383 cards were cast because St. Lucie County used a two-page ballot (i.e., a ballot consisting of two cards), so every voter who returned both pages of his ballot cast two cards.

As the web site of that county's elections board explains: "Turnout percentages will show over 100% due to a two page ballot. The tabulation system (GEMS) provides voter turnout as equal to the total cards cast in the election divided by the number of registered voters. Also note that some voters chose not to return by mail the second card."
The braintrust can usually be counted on to be dutifully wingnut on most things - but to get something this easily checked and "old" (in news terms) is just embarrassing.

February 15, 2013

Again, They Get It Wrong

We've touched on this before but I guess we have to touch on it again.

Yay.

Today, the Tribune-Review republished an essay previously published by the Christian Science Monitor by a "research fellow with The Independent Institute" named William J Watkins.

The title of the piece (in big bold letters, mind you) is:
Congress can not regulate guns at all
And before you ask, Watkins does not take the position that Congress is incapable of regulating guns in the sense that Congress can regulate guns but just isn't able to do it correctly.  No, he questions whether they're have the authority to do so.  Much in the same way that there's nothing legally prohibiting me from, say, doing calculus, I'm just not able to - or at least not able to do it well enough to be able to say I succeed at it.

No, Watkins posits that Congress lacks the authority to regulate guns.  He writes:
Does Congress even have the right to regulate or ban guns? Where does Congress derive the power to prohibit ownership or manufacture of certain weapons or magazines? The Second Amendment of the Constitution clearly states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” And as James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 45, “The powers delegated ... to the Federal Government are few and defined.” The Supreme Court has consistently upheld the individual's right to bear arms.

Of course, Congress has passed laws that ban guns, and many experts feel the courts have upheld the legality of some regulation and restriction of gun ownership. But the fact that the federal government has taken an action in the past does not itself answer the question about the authority for, or legitimacy of, the action.
The only problem with Watkins' column is how he justifies his skepticism that Congress has the authority to regulate:
In the landmark case District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court recognized an individual right to bear arms, but also opined in dicta that certain “longstanding prohibitions” remained good law. The court specifically mentioned laws prohibiting felons or the mentally ill from carrying weapons.
Too bad for our friendly neighborhood Research Fellow at the Independent Institute but Heller gives an answer as to whether our 2nd Amendment rights are limited or unlimited - whether Congress can or can not regulate guns (even outside of the "longstanding prohibitions" Watkins notes).

Not unlimited:
There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment ’s right of free speech was not, see, e.g., United States v. Williams, 553 U. S. ___ (2008). Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose. [Emphasis added.]
So there are limits - what they are must be defined legislatively, I suppose.  But wait if that's the case, then CONGRESS CAN REGULATE GUNS, Mr Watkins.

Is this the best the Trib can do?

February 14, 2013

Tracking Teh Crazie - The "Unconstitutional" Minimum Wage

Every now and then it's good to take a peek at teh crazie - and we've done it more than a few times here at 2PJ.

Today, I'd like to look at this paragraph found at World Net Daily (actually it's from Mr Crazie himself, Joseph Farah):
My thought is that nobody in Washington – not Obama, not the Congress and not the Supreme Court – has any constitutional authority to insert itself between employers or potential employers and employees. If two consenting adults, as Obama believes, can do whatever they want to each other sexually, surely two consenting adults have the right to agree or not to agree to perform services for whatever wages they deem appropriate – without any interference from the federal government.
This is your more or less classic tenther argument about the minimum wage.  If it's not specifically spelled out on the Constitution, the Congress doesn't have the authority to implement it.

Too bad the Supreme Court already decided (in 1937!) that Congress does have the authority to set a minimum wage.  From West Coast Hotel v. Parrish:
In each case the violation alleged by those attacking minimum wage regulation for women is deprivation of freedom of contract. What is this freedom? The Constitution does not speak of freedom of contract. It speaks of liberty and prohibits the deprivation of liberty without due process of law. In prohibiting that deprivation, the Constitution does not recognize an absolute and uncontrollable liberty. Liberty in each of its phases has its history and connotation. But the liberty safeguarded is liberty in a social organization which requires the protection of law against the evils which menace the health, safety, morals, and welfare of the people. Liberty under the Constitution is thus necessarily subject to the restraints of due process, and regulation which is reasonable in relation to its subject and is adopted in the interests of the community is due process. This essential limitation of liberty in general governs freedom of contract in particular. More than twenty-five years ago we set forth the applicable principle in these words, after referring to the cases where the liberty guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment had been broadly described.

'But it was recognized in the cases cited, as in many others, that freedom of contract is a qualified, and not an absolute, right. There is no absolute freedom to do as one wills or to contract as one chooses. The guaranty of liberty does not withdraw from legislative supervision that wide department of activity which consists of the making of contracts, or deny to government the power to provide restrictive safeguards. Liberty implies the absence of arbitrary restraint, not immunity from reasonable regulations and prohibitions imposed in the interests of the community.

This power under the Constitution to restrict freedom of contract has had many illustrations.  That it may be exercised in the public interest with respect to contracts between employer and employee is undeniable. [Emphases added.]
The United States Supreme Court, 75 years or so ago.

When given the opportunity 4 years later, the US Supreme Court said in US v. Darby:
Since our decision in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, it is no longer open to question that the fixing of a minimum wage is within the legislative power and that the bare fact of its exercise is not a denial of due process under the Fifth more than under the Fourteenth Amendment.
And yet, Joseph Farah and his merry band of truth-telling tenthers missed this decades old decision.

February 12, 2013

Full text of 2013 State of the Union Address


REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C.
 
9:15 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow citizens:
Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress.” (Applause.) “It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union -- to improve it is the task of us all.”
Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. (Applause.) After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20. (Applause.) Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before. (Applause.)
So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger. (Applause.)
But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs -- but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs -- but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.
It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class. (Applause.)
It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.
It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation. (Applause.)
The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. (Applause.) They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together, and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

The State of Rubio is Thirsty (Watergate 2.0)

  


Uh-Oh!

Today, someone attached to a server linked to the US TREASURY DEPARTMENT took a peek at this blog:

Statement from the President on the Senate Passage of the Violence Against Women Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2013
Statement from the President on the Senate Passage of the Violence Against Women Act
Today the Senate passed a strong bipartisan bill to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. This important step shows what we can do when we come together across party lines to take up a just cause. The bill passed by the Senate will help reduce homicides that occur from domestic violence, improve the criminal justice response to rape and sexual assault, address the high rates of dating violence experienced by young women, and provide justice to the most vulnerable among us. I want to thank Senator Leahy and his colleagues from both sides of the aisle for the leadership they have shown on behalf of victims of abuse. It's now time for the House to follow suit and send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.

UPDATE:

Statement by Vice President Biden on the Violence Against Women Act
Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. This law has been incredibly effective and I hope the House will vote without delay to renew the law so that we can continue to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and hold offenders accountable for their crimes.
Delay isn’t an option when three women are still killed by their husbands or boyfriends every day. Delay isn’t an option when countless women still live in fear of abuse, and when one in five have been victims of rape. This issue should be beyond debate – the House should follow the Senate’s lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act right away. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue – it’s an issue of justice and compassion. 

State of the Union Watch Party

Looking for a place to watch tonight's State of the Union Address among like-minded, passionate, Pittsburgh progressives? Here's the party for you:

People for Peduto State of the Union Watch Party
When: Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 6:00 – 8:00 PM for Phone Banking, 8:30 PM for Watch Party
Where: 200 North Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (map)

And, if your so minded, show up early to phone bank for Peduto for Mayor.

Join ONE BILLION RISING on V-Day!

TRIGGER WARNING: violence, abuse.
ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.*

ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY

ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION
Pittburgh's event will also be in memory of Ka'Sandra Wade, the young, Pittsburgh woman who was killed by her ex-partner on New Year's Eve and whose death has raised a call for better procedures by the police.
One Billion Rising Pittsburgh
When: Thursday, February 14, 2013 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST
Where: Market Square, 23 Market Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 (map)
Hosts: New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice and Friends
Pittsburgh Website: Here
Facebook Event Page: Here
Sign up on the National Site for the Pittsburgh Event: Here

 
*2003 UNIFEM report entitled "Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women," or 2008, the UNITE To End Violence Against Women Campaign, initiated by UN Secretary-General's Office

Happy Darwin Day, Everybody!

Today, had he been blessed with Terah's longevity, Charles Darwin would have been 203 years old today.

But alas, he passed in 1882 - though given 3 more years than what's promised in Psalm 90:10.

In his honor, I'd like to turn your attention to a piece of legislation now sitting with the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee in the great state of Missouri.

The bill (HB 291), called the "Missouri Standard Science Act" and it:
...requires the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.
Yea, it's 2013 and we're still talking about this.

From Mother Jones:
Late last month, Rick Brattin, a Republican state representative in Missouri, introduced a bill that would require that intelligent design and "destiny" get the same educational treatment and textbook space in Missouri schools as the theory of evolution. Brattin insists that his bill has nothing to do with religion—it's all in the name of science.
See that?  All in the name of science!

Here's what Republican Representative Rick is proposing.  First he defines evolution:
a theory of the origin of life and its ascent by naturalistic means. The first simple life was developed from basic elements and simple molecules through the mechanisms of random combinations, naturally occurring molecular structures, other naturalistic means, and millions of years. From the first simple life, all subsequent species developed through the mechanisms of random variation, mutation, natural selection, adaptation, segregation, other naturalistic means, and millions of years. The theory is illustrated by the evolutionary phylogenic tree. Theory philosophically demands only naturalistic causes and denies the operation of any intelligence, supernatural event, God or theistic figure in the initial or subsequent development of life
And then intelligent design:
a hypothesis that the complex form and function observed in biological structures are the result of intelligence and, by inference, that the origin of biological life and the diversity of all original species on earth are the result of intelligence. Since the inception of each original species, genetic material has been lost, inherited, exchanged, mutated, and recombined to result in limited variation. Naturalistic mechanisms do not provide a means for making life from simple molecules or making sufficient new genetic material to cause ascent from microscopic organisms to large life forms. The hypothesis does not address the time or sequence of life's appearance on earth, time or formation of the fossil record, and time or method of species extinction. The hypothesis does not require the identity of intelligence responsible for earth's biology but requires any proposed identity of that intelligence to be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation.
He then sets the educational criteria:
Notwithstanding any other law, any introductory science course taught at any public institution of higher education in this state, including material concerning physics, chemistry, biology, health, physiology, genetics, astronomy, cosmology, geology, paleontology, anthropology, ecology, climatology, or other science topics, shall be standard science.
So what's "standard science"? Brattin gives us his definition:
...knowledge disclosed in a truthful and objective manner and the physical universe without any preconceived philosophical demands concerning origin or destiny. Knowledge is based upon verified empirical data obtained through observation and experimentation and serves as the factual basis for formulae, events, processes, principles, and laws and may be a component of theory, hypothesis, conjecture and extrapolation. Knowledge growth as a result of human endeavor serves as the foundation for the continuous reevaluation of theory, hypothesis, conjecture, and extrapolation to determine their correctness based on supporting or conflicting verified empirical data.
He then breaks down "Scientific law", "Scientific Theory" and "Hypothesis."
  • Law: a statement describing specific phenomena about the physical universe which has been verified by observation or experimentation and has no exceptions of verified empirical data. The statement may be described by formula
  • Theory: an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy. The inferred explanation may be proven, mostly proven, partially proven, unproven or false and may be based on data which is supportive, inconsistent, conflicting, incomplete, or inaccurate. The inferred explanation may be described as a scientific theoretical model
  • Hypothesis: a scientific theory reflecting a minority of scientific opinion which may lack acceptance because it is a new idea, contains faulty logic, lacks supporting data, has significant amounts of conflicting data, or is philosophically unpopular. One person may develop and propose a hypothesis
The problem with these criteria is that nothing can be expected to ever have "no exceptions of verified data."  Everything is "incompletely understood" because all empirical data is, by definition, limited.

So everything is a theory and thus:
If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught.
Because, you know, all "theories" are equally incomplete and so equally valid.

Feel free to peruse Kitzmiller v. Dover School District to understand why Intelligent Design is nothing but creationism - and therefore an unconstitutional intrusion of state-mandated religion into science.

Of course Rick Brattin is a Republican.  And of course most Republicans are creationists.

If we're a nation in decline, this has to be one of the reasons: the stubborn, faith-based resistance from reason that's taken hold of too many Americans.

Happy Darwin Day, everybody!

February 11, 2013

Santorum 2013!

 
Santorum for Pope!
It will get him out of the U.S. and his policies only slightly more conservative than that of the current Vatican.

February 10, 2013

The Trib - Not Just Crazie Anymore But Alex Jones Crazie

I never thought I'd see this day.

In all my few years of tracking and deconstructing Teh Crazie on the Tribune-Review's editorial board, I never thought I'd see them go thoroughly conspiracy theory crazie like they have today:
Your federal government keeps buying lots — and lots — of gun ammunition. It previously said the purchases were part of the normal restocking process for government law-enforcement stuff. Now there's word that it's bought another 21.6 million rounds. And as Paul Watson, writing at Infowars.com, ciphers it, and calculating how many rounds have been used in recent U.S. wars, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “has now acquired enough bullets to wage 30 years of war.” And the feds really wonder why God-fearing and liberty-loving Americans have been buying guns in record numbers?
The important point of the braintrust's paragraph is the sourcing of infowars.com.  And actually the name of the website isn't exactly "infowars" is it?  It's actually:


And who's Alex Jones?

This is Alex Jones:


And Alex Jones' Infowars is where the the braintrust gets its story about the DHS buying up all those bullets. This piece, specifically:
The Department of Homeland Security is set to purchase a further 21.6 million rounds of ammunition to add to the 1.6 billion bullets it has already obtained over the course of the last 10 months alone, figures which have stoked concerns that the federal agency is preparing for civil unrest.
Teh paranoid crazie further feeds teh paranoid crazie.  Arm yourselves, patriotic citizens!  The DHS is preparing for civil unrest!  And you know who that means!  From infowars:
The federal agency’s primary concern is now centered around thwarting “homegrown terrorism,” but information produced and used by the DHS to train its personnel routinely equates conservative political ideology with domestic extremism.
And infowars can't even get the facts straight on this point.  Take their first example of how the DHS "equates conservative political ideology with domestic extremism":
A study funded by the Department of Homeland Security that was leaked last year characterizes Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority,” and “reverent of individual liberty” as “extreme right-wing” terrorists.
When you push through the link and actually make it to the study, you'll find this on the very first page:
Current articles and postings on the Internet have mischaracterized the conclusions of the START report “Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970 to 2008,” which was released in January. To be clear, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) does not classify individuals as terrorists or extremists based on ideological perspectives. START and the Global Terrorism Database, on which the Report is based, defines terrorism and terrorist attacks as "the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.” [Emphasis in original.]
And then:
First, at no point has any START study defined persons "suspicious of centralized federal authority" and "reverent of individual liberty" as terrorists. Instead, we assigned ideological classifications only to groups that have already carried out completed or attempted terrorist attacks. [Emphasis in original.]
So the report first defines terrorist as someone who uses or threatens to use violence for political gain then classifies all those terrorists according to their political ideologies - not the other way around.  Infowars got it completely wrong.

And this is where the braintrust got its info for today's page.

But what about those bullets?

This isn't the first time this "bullets for an upcoming Civil unrest" story has appeared on the outskirts of reality that Infowars inhabits.  Take this from CNN last September:
Praise the Internet and pass the ammunition: the blogosphere is roiling with conspiracy theories over a Social Security Administration shopping list for 174,000 hollow-point bullets. Depending on whom you believe, police who protect Social Security Administration officers are either preparing for impending financial doom by purchasing lethal ammo to put down rioting citizens, or they're just making a standard purchase of ammunition for a federal police agency.

It all began last month when the agency, which is primarily responsible for distributing benefits to the disabled and retired people, posted an announcement seeking bids for 174,000 hollow-point bullets.

Why? cried some bloggers.

Infowars, a website operated by right-wing talk show host Alex Jones, wanted to know if the agency was preparing for "civil unrest."

"Social Security welfare is estimated to keep around 40 per cent of senior citizens out of poverty. Should the tap run dry in the aftermath of an economic collapse which the Federal Reserve has already told top banks to prepare for, domestic disorder could ensue if people are refused their benefits," it said in a post.
A post also written by Paul Watson, by the way.  And according to CNN, even that one wasn't new:
Conspiracy theorists had previously speculated that a purchase of hollow-point bullets by the Department of Homeland Security was similarly meant to quell impending riots. A few years ago, theorists similarly questioned why the Federal Emergency Management Agency was stockpiling body bags and other supplies, suggesting the agency was preparing for civil collapse.
But there is an explanation:
In the face of the furor, the Social Security Administration's public affairs shop -- which spends most of its time issuing releases about speeding disability decisions or looking up benefits information -- issued a statement explaining that its 295 agents need the bullets for target practice and to protect the agency's 66 offices across the nation.

"These investigators have full law enforcement authority, including executing search warrants and making arrests," the agency said in an August post. "Our investigators are similar to your state or local police officers. They use traditional investigative techniques, and they are armed when on official duty."
And:
Investigators "use this ammunition during their mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions, to ensure agent and public safety," the administration added.
Let's run the numbers.

174,000 bullets divided by 295 agents makes an average of about 590 bullets per agent.  If they train for quarterly qualifications, that's about 150 bullets per agent per quarterly qualification.

Hardly out of the question for training, doncha think?

But to the infowars and the conspiracy theorists, it could only have meant one thing: THEY'RE PREPARING FOR CIVIL UNREST!!!

And this is the information source Scaife's braintrust trusted enough to quote this morning.

They got teh crazie far deeper than I thought.

February 8, 2013

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!


Recent Corbett headlines:
  • Gov. Tom Corbett approval numbers worst in F&M poll history
  • Sandusky Scandal Might Take Down Governor Too

  • Announcement

    WEATHER PERMITTING

    I've been invited to be on "NightTalk: Get to the Point" tonight on PCNC.

    Chris Potter will be hosting and I'll be on a panel with Ruth Ann Dailey of the P-G and Ulish Carter of The New Pittsburgh Courier.

    Again, weather permitting.

    Now I gotta go study.

    February 7, 2013

    Yea - What Jon Stewart Said.

    The Trib: Leaving Out Important Info. Again.

    From today's Tribune-Review:
    A funny thing happened on the way to the “demise” of the polar bear. For years, climate cluckers have been sounding the death knell for the bears and won “endangered species” status for them. But writer Zac Unger concludes that more polar bears are alive today than 40 years ago. And this from a guy who previously was convinced that “man-made global warming” was leading to polar bear extinction. Throw another log on the fire, honey; it's cold outside. [Bolding in original.]
    It's all part of the plan by Scaife's braintrust to undermine the credibility of climate science.  But since this is the braintrust we're talking about here, we can be more or less assured that what they leave out is just as important as what they put in.  Perhaps more so.

    Take a look at this from NPR.  This is what Zac Unger said about his book on the polar bears:
    "My humble plan was to become a hero of the environmental movement. I was going to go up to the Canadian Arctic, I was going to write this mournful elegy for the polar bears, at which point I'd be hailed as the next coming of John Muir and borne aloft on the shoulders of my environmental compatriots ...

    "So when I got up there, I started realizing polar bears were not in as bad a shape as the conventional wisdom had led me to believe, which was actually very heartening, but didn't fit well with the book I'd been planning to write.

    "... There are far more polar bears alive today than there were 40 years ago. ... In 1973, there was a global hunting ban. So once hunting was dramatically reduced, the population exploded. This is not to say that global warming is not real or is not a problem for the polar bears. But polar bear populations are large, and the truth is that we can't look at it as a monolithic population that is all going one way or another." [Emphasis added.]
    Ah, so by omitting any mention of The International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears, the braintrust effectively skews the true picture of the bears' population.  If they didn't know about the agreement, they're guilty of not researching their position fully enough before writing about on the subject and if they did know about the agreement they're guilty of misleading their reading public.

    So which is it, folks - incompetence or dishonesty?

    But is what Unger said true?  I haven't read his book so we'll just have to rely on what the science has to say.  The area where Unger visited (Churchill Manitoba), is in the "Western Hudson Bay" region and according to this report from the "Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group of the Arctic Council":
    For the Western Hudson Bay subpopulation, the decline is linked to the impacts of climate warming and loss of sea-ice habitat on body condition and demographic rates of polar bears.
    And as Mediamatters points out:
    And while Gallagher suggested that the prevalence of polar bears in the town of Churchill indicates that the population is "exploding," it may actually be a result of climate change. Polar bears in the region return to shore each year to await the freezing of the Hudson Bay in early autumn. But experts say that Arctic warming has already shortened amount of time that the bears can hunt for food in the bay, increasing the risk that bears will wander into town in search of food.
    So it's entirely possible that Unger saw more bears - but incorrectly assumed that that meant that more bears exist.  Could be that more bears are showing up in town because climate change has affected their environment negatively.

    Now go back and read what Scaife's braintrust said about the bears.

    Which do you think it is?  Incompetence or dishonesty?

    February 5, 2013

    Recess Appointments - Trib Style

    A few days ago the editorial board of Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review published an editorial.  They wrote:
    A federal appellate court ruling that President Obama's January 2012 “recess” appointments of three National Labor Relations Board members were an unconstitutional end run around Congress is a victory for the Constitution.

    The Framers intended recess appointments to fill vacancies only after Congress — then able to meet just a few months a year because traveling to Washington took so long — had finished a year's work and couldn't confirm nominees.

    But particularly in the past 60 years or so, presidents have stretched that power to evade Senate unwillingness to confirm certain nominees, and lawmakers have gaveled in and out of brief “pro forma” sessions to evade adjourning for the year — as they were when those NLRB appointments were made.
    They go on to call for Obama's impeachment if he knew he was making the appointments knowing it was an abuse of power.  This is how they put it:
    And if supposed constitutional scholar Obama didn't know better than to misuse recess appointments, he's no constitutional scholar. If he did know better, he committed an abuse of power that rises to the level of an impeachable offense.
    Interesting that the braintrust points out how "presidents have stretched that power" over the last 60 years or so.  I mean considering this report from the Congressional Research Service.

    The CRS did some work and found out how many "recess appointments" would not have been allowed had the appellate court ruling been in place since, say, late January of 1981.

    I'll give them an exposition:
    On January 25, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit) issued its opinion in Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board (hereafter Noel Canning).  In its ruling, the court determined that the President can make recess appointments only during intersession recesses, and that such appointments can be made only to vacancies that have occurred during the recess in which the appointment is made. The court also appeared to support the position that the recess appointment power may not be used to fill newly established positions, although that question was not before the court. [Italics in original]
    In a footnote, they define "intersession" and "intrasession" this way:
    Intersession recess appointments are those made between annual sessions of the Senate. The court indicated in Noel Canning that intersession recesses are only entered into when Congress adjourns sine die to end the session of Congress. Intrasession recess appointments are those made during recesses within annual sessions of the Senate. {Italics in original.]
    Guess what they found?

    Of the total number of 652 intra- and intersession appointments made between 1/20/1981 to the present nearly 36% of them (72 intra-and 160 intersession appointments) came from one man: Ronald Wilson Reagan.

    Another 26% (141 intra- and 30 intersession) came from George W. Bush.

    Looks to me, that's more than half of the appointments.

    According to this report, had Canning been in place Jeanne Kirkpatrick could not have been appointed by Ronald Reagan as "Representative, U.N. General Assembly Session" on September 8, 1981, and William Bennett could not have been appointed as "Chair, National Endowment for the Humanities" by Ronald Reagan. Alan Greenspan could not have been appointed "Chair, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System" by George H. W. Bush on August 10, 1991.

    A question to my friends on Scaife's braintrust: tell me again how it rises to the level of impeachment?

    February 3, 2013

    Paul Kengor Needs To Do His Homework Better.

    We've met this Grove City Political Science professor before:
    Paul Kengor, advisee to the Scaife-funded Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, has a book published by the Scaife-funded Intercollegiate Studies Institute and now he's getting some free publicity for the book on the pages of the Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
    And he's at it again.

    In yesterday's Tribune-Review, Kengor had an op-ed criticizing President Obama's agenda.  And let's be clear here - he's certainly entitled to that.  A robust democracy requires a robust discussion of the issues.  That's a good thing.

    It's how he misquotes the President that's the problem.

    Before I continue, let me wonder aloud , though, whether the Trib (or more importantly their readers) know that what's in this weekend's paper isn't exactly original as this piece from February 2 is more or less a word for word rewrite of this piece by Paul Kengor from the National Review Online, January 21.

    It's certainly NOT plagiarism (as he wrote both pieces) but if the Trib think's he's produced something new, they're wrong.  It's like re-writing a history paper from last year and turning it in to your Poli Sci professor for a grade this year.

    As Kengor's done this before, I am assuming it's OK with the Trib but I wonder if his readers would mind if they knew.  Perhaps and perhaps not.

    Anyway, in yesterday's piece Kengor had this to say:
    Consider this line from Obama: “Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured through government alone.”

    Really? That's Barack Obama speaking? He's always been skeptical of central authority?

    The Obama line actually is closer to what Ronald Reagan stated in his 1981 inaugural address — “government is not the solution … government is the problem” — and it's a far cry from this statement from Obama in February 2009, after his first inauguration: “The federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money which leads to even more layoffs.”

    Note those earlier words from Obama — “only government.” 
    His entire argument rests on you, the reading public, accepting what Kengor wants you to accept: that Obama's agenda is closer to guv'ment control of the economy than it is any sort of "skepticism of central authority."  That Obama is misleading you now because he said something completely different 4 years ago.

    But let's go see what Obama really said in February, 2009.

    The sentence Kengor misquotes is from his opening statement to this press conference on February 9 of that year.  Obama said (I'll highlight the parts that Kengor decided you didn't need to see):
    It is absolutely true that we can't depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money which leads to even more layoffs.
    Changes things, huh?  And what was happening in February, 2009?

    From Obama's statement:
    Last month our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine. And if there's anyone out there who still doesn't believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down because they don't know where their next paycheck is coming from.
    Put in context (something Kengor doesn't want you to do) it's obvious that Obama was not talking about any sort of general rules of economic conduct.  He even says "at this particular moment".

    And yet Paul Kengor, Ph.D. wants you to think that his doctored quotation means something that it doesn't.  I wonder if his students at Grove City College could get away with such sloppy work.

    But let's spend a little more time on Kengor's homework.  He takes particular issue at 2 separate quotations from Obama's second inaugural:
    • “(F)idelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; ... preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”
    • “Being true to our founding documents does not ... mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way. ... Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.”
    And he doesn't like how the Obama Administration is looking to "define liberty in ways completely different from many of us."

    The first is from this passage.  It happens immediate AFTER the sentence Kengor quoted (Again, I'll highlight the parts Kengor chose to omit for you):
    Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

    But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.
    Once you put it in context, it changes the meaning, doesn't it? Obama's not talking about redefining liberty but collective action to protect liberty.

    Then there's the second passage.  It's from farther down the Inaugural Address (again, emphasizing what Kengor omitted for you):
    It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law --  for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity -- until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

    That is our generation’s task -- to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.
    These are some of the the "redefinitions" of liberty to which Kengor objects:
    • Equal pay for equal work
    • Equal rights for gay men and women
    • Equal access to the vote
    And so on.

    In short Kengor doesn't like how Obama wants "the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" should be made "real for every American." 

    Nice guy, that Paul Kengor, Ph.D.

    February 1, 2013

    A Coincidence, I Assure You

    I'd love to think that this has something to do with my recent blog posts on the SPLC, but I can't imagine that this blog is that influential.  It must be a coincidence.

    From the editorial page of today's Tribune-Review:
    The Obama Justice Department's pattern of partnering with leftist groups that share its perverted agenda reached reprehensible new depths last summer with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which cynically brands political opponents as “hate groups.”

    Among conservative groups thus smeared by the SPLC is the Family Research Council, whose Washington headquarters were the site of an August 2012 shooting. Its president said the SPLC's outrageous “hate group” designation provided the perpetrator with “a license to shoot.”

    That incident and comment prompted Judicial Watch to investigate the influence of such SPLC rhetoric on government agencies. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton says “fawning emails” obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show Justice treating SPLC co-founder Morris Dees as if “a head of state was visiting” as it arranged his speech at a July 31 “Diversity Training Event.”

    In the emails, Justice staffers wonder if Mr. Dees is OK with his speech being shown on all Justice computers, the car that will pick him up from the airport and lunch and dinner plans.

    We're not surprised. Justice cozied up to the NAACP to dismiss a New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case. And it cozied up to ACORN affiliate Project Vote to boost registration of welfare recipients.

    It all begs this question about the Obama administration: Has the SPLC become an arm of government or has government become an arm of the SPLC?
    Here's the press release from Judicial Watch regarding these emails.

    There are a number of different ways of approaching this - but we first have to point out (yet again) the financial connections between Richard Mellon Scaife and Judicial Watch, the prompter of the FOIA request.  Full and fair disclosure would dictate that the braintrust mention the fact that their boss has funneled millions of dollars in support to the same organization they're currently defending.

    They never do mention that, of course.

    According to the BridgeProject (formerly the Media Matters Media Transparency site), the foundations Scaife controls (Sarah Scaife, Carthage and Allegheny) granted Judicial Watch slightly more than $9 million over the past 15 years.  Considering how closely they're connected, I gotta snarkily wonder if Judicial Watch is an arm of the Scaife media empire.

    But I digress.

    Let's look at why the SPLC designated the Family Research Council as a hate group.  It's not simply a matter, as the braintrust writes, that the two organizations are mere "political opponents."  The SPLC has a page devoted to the FRC where they write:
    The Family Research Council (FRC) bills itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,” but its real specialty is defaming gays and lesbians. The FRC often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science. The intention is to denigrate LGBT people in its battles against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
    I realize that it's one thing to assert - what's their evidence?

    Luckily, the SPLC has a few choice quotes for your perusal:
    • "One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the 'prophets' of a new sexual order." —1999 FRC publication, "Homosexual Behavior and Pedophilia," Robert Knight and Frank York
    • “Gaining access to children has been a long-term goal of the homosexual movement.” — Robert Knight, FRC director of cultural studies, and Frank York, 1999
    • "Since homosexual conduct is associated with higher rates of sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence, it too qualifies as a behavior that is harmful to the people who engage in it and to society at large." — Tony Perkins, “Christian compassion requires the truth about the harms of homosexuality,” Washington Post, 10/25/2010
    • “The videos are titled 'It Gets Better.' They are aimed at persuading kids that although they'll face struggles and perhaps bullying for 'coming out' as homosexual (or transgendered or some other perversion), life will get better. …It's disgusting. And it's part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle." — Tony Perkins, FRC fundraising letter, August 2011
    And some followup:
    Part of the FRC’s recent strategy is to pound home the false claim that gays and lesbians are more likely to sexually abuse children. This is false. The American Psychological Association, among others, has concluded that “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.” That doesn’t matter to the FRC, though. Perkins defended the “gay men as pedophiles” claim yet again in a debate on the Nov. 30, 2010, edition of MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok. As the show ended, Perkins stated, “If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children. So Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research.”

    In fact, the SPLC did. The college, despite its professional-sounding name, is a tiny, explicitly religious-right breakaway group from the similarly named American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the 60,000-member association of the profession. The American College of Pediatrics (ACP) splintered from the AAP because of the AAP’s support of gay and lesbian parents. Publications of the ACP, which has some 200 members, have been roundly attacked by leading scientific authorities who say they are baseless and who also accuse the college of distorting and misrepresenting their work. (Chris Matthews offered a clarification on a follow-up show to describe what the American College of Pediatricians is and separate it from the AAP.)
    And about that shooting, the SPLC had this to say:
    But this afternoon, FRC President Tony Perkins attacked the SPLC, saying it had encouraged and enabled the attack by labeling the FRC a “hate group.” The attacker, Floyd Corkins, “was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Perkins said. “I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology.”

    Perkins’ accusation is outrageous. The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people — not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage. The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence.

    As the SPLC made clear at the time and in hundreds of subsequent statements and press interviews, we criticize the FRC for claiming, in Perkins’ words, that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem” — an utter falsehood, as every relevant scientific authority has stated. An FRC official has said he wanted to “export homosexuals from the United States.” The same official advocated the criminalizing of homosexuality.
    So you can see why the SPLC designated the FRC as a hate group.

    Now about that "Diversity Training Event" at the DOJ where Dees spoke.  It was late July 2012.  From the context of the piece, you can easily imagine that the braintrust has a rather low opinion of the co-founder of the SPLC.

    Perhaps they should tell that to another radical un-American organization, the American Bar Association.

    8 days after Dees spoke on Diversity at the DOJ, this is what happened:
    Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, received the ABA Medal at the House of Delegates meeting during the association’s 2012 Annual Meeting in Chicago. Dees received the ABA’s highest honor for his efforts to ensure access to justice for society’s most vulnerable members.
    Yea, the braintrust's on the wrong side of this story - as is the FRC and Judicial Watch and RMC himself.