Prosecute the torture.

April 30, 2013

CMU Parade

Andy Sheehan has more about that Anti-Gravity parade at CMU.

His TV coverage included some photos I hadn't seen at that CMU flickr account (by the way, that acount's now gone) - so if anyone knows where he got them, please email me.

Now...About That CMU Parade (UPDATED)

I guess we have to start with Andy Sheehan at KDKA:
Students at Carnegie Mellon say it’s freedom of expression, but the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh calls it inappropriate and disrespectful.

At an annual art school parade, a female student dressed up as the pope, and was naked from the waist down while she passed out condoms.

Even more, witnesses say the woman had shaved her pubic hair in the shape of a cross.
Ok, ok.  Let me jump right in to the first paragraph and say that YES, it's freedom of expression and because it was a public event during the day (more on that in a bit) one could say it's also inappropriate.  But the part about dressing like The Pope and handing out condoms?  Completely disrespectful - though completely deserving.

An astute reader sent in some more info on the event - it was the Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby.  The event's facebook page has a flickr account for last years event - and event they describe with a witty:
last year got a little out of hand... we expect nothing less this time around.
Well, they got their wish - hahahahaha!

Did you know that there's a flickr account for this year's event?

Well now you do - go see quickly.  No idea how long the pics will stay up.

I checked out the pictures and I couldn't find anything closely resembling "a female student dressed up as the pope, and was naked from the waist down while she passed out condoms."  However I did find this:


Not sure if this is a "safe-sex" or an "size (length OR girth) really doesn't matter" message so we'll just move on to the faux-Botticelli found here:


While I appreciate the point of deconstructing a Renaissance image of beauty I have to point out that her hands are all wrong:


But what do I know?

The only image I could find that could come close to what Andy Sheehan wrote about is this one:


While there are no condoms to be seen, the imagery (a woman dressed in papal garments kneels before a man who holds a banana and is dressed as an altar boy) points to something else completely - something completely valid in protesting and or satirizing and or mocking, regardless of what the good Bishop has to say about the matter.

Which brings me to my point.  The CMU students are completely within their rights in mock what they choose to mock.  Freedom of expression, especially on a college campus and especially in art is necessary to the proper functioning of a free society.  Anything short of that limits freedom.

On the other hand to those students doing the mocking: don't be surprised if your otherwise well intentioned mockery is taken as offensive.  This was during the day at a family event, remember.  Not everyone is as hip as you and not everyone will be happy with your decision to ridicule those who deserve to be ridiculed - but doing the ridiculing in front of their children (who might not understand the issue) on a sunny Thursday afternoon.

Other than that, way to go.

UPDATE:  Access to the flickr account has been yanked.

April 29, 2013

Ya THINK??

From the Chicago Tribune:
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor hasn't given much thought to which was the most important case she helped decide during her 25 years on the bench. But she has no doubt which was the most controversial.

It was Bush v. Gore, which ended the Florida recount and decided the 2000 presidential election.

Looking back, O'Connor said, she isn't sure the high court should have taken the case.

"It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue," O'Connor said during a talk Friday with the Tribune editorial board. "Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"

The case, she said, "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation."
A less-than-perfect reputation?  Take a look at this from Vincent Bugliosi:
In the December 12 ruling by the US Supreme Court handing the election to George Bush, the Court committed the unpardonable sin of being a knowing surrogate for the Republican Party instead of being an impartial arbiter of the law. If you doubt this, try to imagine Al Gore's and George Bush's roles being reversed and ask yourself if you can conceive of Justice Antonin Scalia and his four conservative brethren issuing an emergency order on December 9 stopping the counting of ballots (at a time when Gore's lead had shrunk to 154 votes) on the grounds that if it continued, Gore could suffer "irreparable harm," and then subsequently, on December 12, bequeathing the election to Gore on equal protection grounds. If you can, then I suppose you can also imagine seeing a man jumping away from his own shadow, Frenchmen no longer drinking wine.
And a few lines further:
Accordingly, the Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court's order that the undervotes be counted, effectively delivering the presidency to Bush.
So does this mean that had the court said "We're not gonna take it" that Murika between 2001 and 2009 would have turned out differently?

Impossible to say, of course.  But think of all the Bush-era stuff that would have been less-possible during an Al Gore Administration:
  • Torture
  • Wiretapping
  • Rendition
  • Waving hello to Stevie Wonder (who's blind)
Oh, yea:
  • 4500 Dead American servicemen and women
  • 100,000 civilian dead in Iraq
Nice to know that Justice O'Connor's finally coming around - 12+ years too late.

April 28, 2013

Oh, Good Lord!

From today's P-G we find this distressing assessment of our nation's educational system.

After framing the issue with a story of a young Duquesne student who received what she believed was an inadequate secondary school science education, David Templeton writes:
Her experience represents the ill-kept secret about public school biology classrooms nationwide -- that evolution often isn't taught robustly, if at all. Faith-based belief in creationism and intelligent design continues to be discussed and even openly taught in public school classrooms, despite state curriculum standards.
What follows is foul, odious and repulsive:
"Sometimes students honestly look me in the eye and ask what do I think? I tell them that I personally hold the Bible as the source of truth," said Joe Sohmer, who teaches chemistry at the Altoona Area High School. The topic arises, he said, when he teaches radiocarbon dating, with that method often concluding archeological finds to be older than 10,000 years, which he says is the Bible-based age of Earth. "I tell them that I don't think [radiocarbon dating] is as valid as the textbook says it is, noting other scientific problems with the dating method.
We've dealt with radiocarbon dating before.  Here's what I wrote back then:
[Radiocarbon dating is] a method of dating the age of once living tissue based on the rate of decay for an isotope of carbon (namely carbon-14). Isotopes, by the way, are atoms of the same element (hydrogen, uranium, and so on) that differ in their atomic weights because they have a different number of neutrons in their respective nuclei. Carbon-13 has, for instance, 7 neutrons and 6 protons in its nucleus while carbon-14 has 8 neutrons and 6 protons in its nucleus (7+6=13 and 8+6=14, get it?).

Science tells us that carbon-14 is very unstable and decays into an isotope of nitrogen at a known rate. It's formed constantly in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays interact with some of the nitrogen up there and filters down into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide where it enters the food chain (from CO2 to photosynthesis to animals). When something is alive the amount of carbon-14 in its system more or less matches the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. But once that thing dies, no more carbon-14 is added and the carbon-14 that remains begins its decay into nitrogen.

In a nutshell, by knowing the rate at which carbon-14 decays and knowing how much is left in the once living tissue, scientists can pretty accurately estimate when that thing died.
By the way for his work in first developing the science of radiocarbon dating, Willard Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960.

Wow, a Nobel Prize.  That must mean that a lot of very smart people looked over the process for a long time and found it very solid and very important.  So given that, I think it's completely possible that some high school chemistry teacher from Altoona, Pennsylvania has enough sound science to overturn their 53 year old error.

But there's more from Mr Sohmer:
"Kids ask all kinds of personal questions and that's one I don't shy away from," he said. "It doesn't in any way disrupt the educational process. I'm entitled to my beliefs as much as the evolutionist is."
Which does nothing but remind me of something Isaac Asimov wrote in 1980:
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
We should remember that just because ignorance is Bible-based, doesn't mean it isn't ignorance.  In order to reject (as Joe Sohmer does) the science of radiocarbon dating one has to also reject such large tracts of physics (for example the science of radioactive decay) that there's little left of the science.  No matter how much he wants to believe it, the evidence overwhelmingly supports radiocarbon dating.  It's right, he's wrong and he's mistreating his students by leading them to doubt it.  That the Altoona school district is, in Mr. Sohmer's words, "comfortable with his [teaching] methods" is an indictment of their own tolerance of Bible-based anti-intellectualism.

Templeton points out the danger of that:
The U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts have ruled time and again that teaching creationism in public schools violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which often is referred to as separation of church and state: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Those cases include Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in York County, which involved the district's decision to include intelligent design in the curriculum as an alternative theory to evolution. The 2005 federal court ruling said intelligent design -- the argument that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause -- and creationism were one and the same religious principle that couldn't be taught in public schools.

The school district's legal fees topped $1 million.

Regardless of the court decisions, creationism continues to find an audience in public schools, limiting students' education in one of biology's fundamental principles.
If you're curious to read it, please check out Kitmiller v Dover here.  Judge Jones conclusion starts this way:
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.
Templeton's piece is a good read. The only problem I have is found in this sentence:
Similar debate is occurring over the Big Bang theory, climate change and other controversial ideas of science.
And with it, unfortunately, he's giving rhetorical cover to the anti-intellectual anti-science folks everywhere.  The Big Bang and climate change are "controversial" only because those whose think their ignorance is just as good as someone else's knowledge have been shouting it from their pulpits sacred and secular for years.

With any honest assessment of the evidence, such "controversies" evaporate all too quickly.

Teaching anything but science in a public school science class is not only unconstitutional but it's damaging to our childten and the society in general.  I'll give Bill Nye the last word:

April 26, 2013

The Old Coalition Vs. The New Coalition

The Old Coalition

I'm not saying there's no differences between current Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Democratic primary candidate Jack Wagner. Wager served very honorably in Vietnam while Ravenstahl wasn't even born until years after that war ended. But, they do have an awful lot in common.

They share many of the same big donors.

They both share support from many of the same pols.

Neither is exactly against fracking.

They both have come late to the party in terms of LGBT rights (coincidentally right after polls show a change in public attitude).

They both have even more muddy views on women's reproductive rights -- Wagner didn't even show up for Planned Parenthood of Western PA's "Candidate's Forum on Women in Western Pennsylvania" (which was about more than just women's vagina's).

Ravenstahl was unexpectedly propelled into the office and his vision didn't ever seem to get more detailed than to "move forward" (though he never seemed to meet a big developer he didn't like or a city asset he didn't want to sell). Wagner's details on issues and policies can at best be described as light and breezy, especially when compared to someone putting out 100 policy papers. And again, Wagner shares the same supporters as Ravenstahl...

And, while Wagner is now trying to say he is the change we need from the current administration, he chose not to run until the current mayor dropped out of the race (meanwhile, doing back flips trying to paint Bill Peduto as both someone who will butt heads and someone who is part of what needs to be changed).

So there you have it, folks. This race is primarily Wagnerstahl Vs. Peduto.

The Old Coalition Vs. The New Coalition.

It's up to you to choose.


*** Obligatory Disclaimer: As everyone should know by now, I've been working part-time for People For Peduto since 2010.

Follow Up On Yesterday

Yesterday, I saw Bill Peduto's "New Coalition for a New Pittsburgh" and now it's time to see what sort of media response the event triggered.

From WESA, we get the basics:
With less than a month before the primary election, Bill Peduto shored up support Thursday for his bid to become Pittsburgh’s next mayor.

Peduto was joined by representatives from 22 unions and organizations, as well as 15 elected officials on the steps of the Pittsburgh City-County Building.
And the message came from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald:
“The number one thing is we really need a mayor who can work with everybody, and Bill Peduto has shown he can do that,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.
James O'Toole of the P-G adds some to the story:
Hoping to stoke a perception of momentum about his mayoral campaign, city Councilman Bill Peduto appeared with dozens of officeholders and union officials Thursday outside the City-County Building, Downtown.

The rally of figures who had endorsed him earlier was emceed by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who declared that, "We need a mayor who can work with everybody" and pointed to the surrounding array of city, county and state officials as evidence that Mr. Peduto was that person.
Though he gets corrected in the comments:
"The rally of figures who had endorsed him earlier..." that is simply inaccurate. about a dozen new endorsements were announced today including senate democratic leader jay costa, rep dan frankel, county councilman bill robinson, county council president chuck martoni, and school board president sharene shealey. were none of those leaders of state and county government and the school board worth mentioning?
And:
"The rally of figures who had endorsed him earlier..." Somehow the fact that both the minority leader Jay Costa and Caucas chair Dan Frankel endorsing Bill doesn't seem noteworthy? Half of Wagner's campaign is him saying what great friends he has in Harrisburg yet here we see most of the state reps and senators backing Peduto. These are some of the most notable endorsements in the race. I'm not one to start bashing the media but come on P-G it takes three seconds to do this research.
Must've been an oversight. Anyway, O'Toole got the message of the day:
The tableaux of supporters from various layers of government and civic life was designed to support Mr. Peduto's contention that he had forged a new coalition to move the city forward. Speaking afterwards, Mr. Peduto acknowledged the strength of the Wagner challenge.

"I think momentum shifts in any campaign," he said. "We know that -- Jack getting into the race late -- obviously there's going to be an immediate shift to him, but once people start focusing on who represents the future, who is part of the past, who has a coalition that's built around the future of the city of Pittsburgh and who is being supported by those who supported the past administration, I think when people start focusing in on this race, momentum will shift again."
There's that phrase again: "new coalition".

And here's our good friend Jon Delano of KDKA:
It was a strong showing of support for Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Bill Peduto from elected officials, labor unions, and community leaders — what Peduto calls a new coalition for a new Pittsburgh.

“I just want to savor this moment,” said Peduto as he turned to face his supporters, ” because this is a coalition of all of us working together — different battles which each of us had where we have been allies over years and years of supporting each other.”

“And I get to stand to be here today as a new team comes together, a new coalition for a new Pittsburgh,” he added.
There it is!!  Delano heard it too!

April 25, 2013

A New Coalition For A New Pittsburgh

Just got back from the City-County building where City Councilman and Mayoral Candidate had something of an endorsement show of force early this afternoon.  Take a look:


That's County Executive Rich Fitzgerald introducing everyone.  From the press release:
Today on the portico of the City County Building representatives from the nearly 40 unions, organizations, and elected officials, and individuals will gather at 1 p.m. to affirm their endorsement of Bill Peduto for Mayor.
There were representatives from the School Board, City Council, County Council, The General Assembly (both The House and The Senate) as well as members from Pittsburgh's Faith community and Labor Unions.  I even saw a sign from the Gertrude Stein Political Club and a few National Organization for Women signs.

What stood out for me was that each person speaking had basically the same message: that Bill Peduto is the candidate who's worked with broad coalitions (at various local and statewide political or community levels) in the past and he's the one who can form new coalitions in the future.

In addressing the crowd, Peduto spoke of a "new coalition for a new Pittsburgh" and if you're curious what this "new coalition" looks like, here's the current list of endorsements.

First the political:
State Senator Jay Costa, Senate Democratic Leader
State Senator Wayne Fontana, Caucus Administrator
State Representative Dan Frankel, Caucus Chair
State Representative Ed Gainey
State Representative Erin Molchany
State Representative Paul Costa
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald
County Council President Chuck Martoni
County Councilman Bill Robinson
City Councilman Bruce Kraus
City Councilman Patrick Dowd
City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak
School Board President Sharene Shealey
School Board Member Mark Brentley
Former Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds Valerie McDonald Roberts
And then the unions:
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees 84 (AFSCME)
Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics Local 1
International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 3 (IATSE)
International Brother of Teamsters/Graphic Comm. International Union Local 24 (IBT/GCIU)
Ironworkers Local 3
Laborers District Council of Western PA
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Local 400 (PFT)
Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ (SEIU)
Sheet Metal Workers Local 12
Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter (SOAR)
United Food & Commercial Worker Local 23 (UFCW)
United Steelworkers (USW)
And finally:
Ceasefire PA
Clean Water Action
Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania
Equality PA
Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh
PA National Organization of Women (PA NOW)
Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania
Progress Pittsburgh PAC
Sierra Club Allegheny Group
Steel City Stonewall Democrats
Faith leader John C. Welch
If this endorsement list is any indication, that's what Peduto's New Coalition for a New Pittsburgh looks like.

Post Script:  Let me point out that while the OPJ is on Peduto's "Cyber Staff", I am not.  I have no affiliation with either of the candidates and as I am neither a Democrat or a City of Pittsburgh resident, I won't be voting in the primary.

The Commonweath Foundation

Found in The Nation:
The Commonwealth Foundation, a right-wing think tanks in Harrisburg, is plotting to go after public sector employee unions. In a letter from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) on behalf of the Foundation, the think tank announced “Project Goliath,” a new effort to make Pennsylvania the next Wisconsin or Michigan. The Commonwealth Foundation is one of a fifty-nine-state network of similar think tanks that have vastly expanded since 2009. The letter makes clear that conservatives believe that right-wing political infrastructure—the organizing institutes, the partisan media outlets, the rapid response efforts—has helped turn the tide against labor unions.
The piece posts (and quotes) the letter and you can read it for yourself here.

There's something I want to add to the piece (but this isn't a criticism of the writers reporting - he was looking at a particular section of the story and so there's no reason he had to include anything else).  If it's a warning for PA residents about an upcoming effort by the legislature to undermine the state's labor unions, then we can probably expect to see some reporting about it by the Tribune-Review.

And if Toomey's letter lauds the Commonwealth Foundation (a right-wing think tanks in Harrisburg) and if the Trib covers the story in some way, then we want to get out front to point out (yet again) Trib owber Richard Mellon Scaife's financial connections to the Commonwealth Foundation.

Check out this page from the Bridge Project.  It lists all the foundational support given to Commonwealth.  By my math and at this time it adds up to a little over $6.6 million dollars (unadjusted for inflation from 1988 to 2011).  Of that foundations controlled by Scaife make up more than a third ($2.5 million out of $6.6 million).  In fact, in the first five years of foundation support all but $25,000 of it came from foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife ($450K out of $475K).  In the first ten Scaife's foundations constituted about 57% of all the foundational support ($900K out of about $1.6 million).

The fun part is to look at Toomey's letter itself or more specifically the Commonwealth document attached to it.  Included in the letter are some accolades about the Commonweath Foundation from some other conservative think tanks.  There's praise from:
  • Cato Institute ($2.4 million in Scaife money)
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute ($3.6 million in Scaife money)
So whenever the Trib starts reporting on the Commonwealth Foundation's efforts (or the legislature's efforts spawned from it) to pass any sort of "right to work" legislation, we should keep in mind the millions Scaife's already spent on it.

Birthdays - April 25

Some very important people born today.

Edward R. Murrow was born today in 1908:

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.  We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends on evidence and due process of law.  We will not walk in fear, one of another.  We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine.
Al Pacino was born today in 1940:

No mistakes in the tango. Not like life. It's simple. That's what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, just tango on.
There are, of course, some other important people born today:
  • Renee Zellweger (1969)
  • Talia Shire (1946)
  • Wolfgang Pauli (1900)
  • Oliver Cromwell (1599)
And so on.  But however important each of those people are (and they are) the day has to belong to Ella Fitzgerald, born today in 1917. Give a listen:


There are no words to describe how good that is.

April 24, 2013

Bring out the smelling salts & fainting couch: Peduto calls out Wagner on his actual record


Shorter Wagner Campaign response: We won't comment on the content, but this ad gives us a sad and Bill's a big ol' meany!

Longer response here.

Footnotes on the content of the ad here.

April 23, 2013

Adolph Herseth (1921-2013)

From the Chicago Sun Times:
You would have to be over 75 to have vivid memories of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra before Adolph “Bud” Herseth helped create the modern fame of one of the world’s great musical enterprises.

For Bud — and everybody from lifelong colleagues to radio listeners who never saw him in person called him Bud — joined the CSO as principal trumpet in 1948, at 26 years old, and held that seat for an astonishing 53 years, staying on with the orchestra as principal emeritus for three more seasons and not retiring from the orchestra until just before his birthday in 2004.

He remained a regular presence at Orchestra Hall concerts and events until this year, when his health took a turn.

Mr. Herseth, who died Saturday at age 91 at his home in Oak Park, was central to the CSO’s key recording era, the decade under music director Fritz Reiner in the 1950s and early 1960s, and he formed an unshakeable bond with Reiner’s eventual successor, Georg Solti, as Solti began his triumphant series of European and world tours and Carnegie Hall appearances.

Massive player. Massive massive player.

April 20, 2013

Decalogue Update: Connellsville

From today's Tribune-Review:
The battle between Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and a plaintiff named Doe 4 in legal papers against the Connellsville Area School District will reach a deadline on April 25.

In the meantime, the Thou Shall Not Move group in Connellsville will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to honor the Fayette County commissioners and to learn of the latest steps in the plan to place Ten Commandments monuments throughout the community.
I would think that the "plan to place Ten Commandments monuments throughout the community" is a good idea - take a look:
Thou Shall Not Move was formed to raise money for the school district to help with the costs of fighting the lawsuit. Since then, the organization has been selling yard signs with the Ten Commandments on them and started a Ten Commandments monument fund to help local churches place granite Ten Commandment monuments on their properties.

According to Marietta, legal paperwork will be presented and reviewed by legal counsel for those who get a monument.
To my Connellsville friends, I have to say that that is the solution: Move the monument onto private or church property.

Because leaving it at the Junior High in Connellsville is still unconstitutional - regardless of the transparent attempt of the Fayette County Commissioners to skirt the Constitution:
The Rev. Ewing Marietta, a leader for Thou Shall Not Move, said the county commissioners — Al Ambrosini, chairman; Vince Zapotosky, vice chairman; and Angela M. Zimmerlink, secretary — will attend the Wednesday meeting at the Connellsville Eagles on Arch Street.

“We will be honoring them,” Marietta said. “They took a stand and named the Ten Commandments monument (at Connellsville Junior High School) an historic landmark. They've done a bang-up job.”
Which is what they did last December:
The proclamation states, in part, that “the commissioners will stand with those to support the historical designation of this as a historical landmark with all rights and privileges extended to said landmark.

“The Ten Commandments are in the highest court in our land thus it acts as the cornerstone and guide for a country based on the rule of law,” the proclamation continued. “Viewed across time, this granite monument, signifying the rock of American Law and Jurisprudence, has had a profound, positive influence on ‘We the People,' is worthy of preservation for the future generations of this One Nation Under God.””
The only problem with linking the Connellsville public school's monument with what's on the wall of the Supreme Court is this from Steven Breyer.  In his concurring opinion in Van Orden V Perry he contrasted the placement of the Decalogue at barely permissible setting (in Texas, on the Capitol grounds) and he wrote:
This case, moreover, is distinguishable from instances where the Court has found Ten Commandments displays impermissible. The display is not on the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of the young, government must exercise particular care in separating church and state. [Emphasis added.]
I'm not sure the County Commissioners for Fayette County have the authority to redefine what's impermissible.

Move the Ten Commandments monument off of public school grounds.

April 19, 2013

Song of the Day

About Those MRAPs...

There's been a conspiracy theory floating around, don't know if you've seen it yet, that's simply drenched in teh crazie.

Here it is:
The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles were first deployed to the field in 2007 as a way to protect U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from ever-more-powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by insurgents. DHS has acquired over 2,700 MARPs to be used on missions inside United States.
While Snopes has already dealt with this:
A March 2013 claim that the Department of Homeland Security had "purchased 2,700 tanks" for use in the U.S. was based on a year-old (i.e., March 2012) notice posted on the DHS web site announcing that a contractor had been engaged to install new chassis on a number of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles (not "tanks") that were being returned from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although similar vehicles have been used by DHS (and local police forces) for functions such as carrying Rapid Response Teams to disaster sites, the DHS did not "purchase" the MRAP vehicles referenced in that announcement, and the chassis work was contracted for by the Marine Corps Systems Command.
I wanted to take a closer look.  While there WERE 2,717 MRAPs procured..  But they're for The Navy, and  are to be used by The Marines:
Navistar Defense, L.L.C., Warrenville, Ill., is being awarded an $879,923,195 firm-fixed-priced delivery order 0023 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for the procurement of 2,717 units of rolling chassis; 10 engineering change proposals; and 25 contract data requirements lists, for MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. Work will be performed in West Point, Miss., and is expected to be completed by the end of October 2013. Procurement funds in the amount of $879,923,195 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The original contract was competitively procured. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.
In fact, the contract is to upgrade the vehicles for The Marines.  From Navistar:
Lisle-based Navistar Defense LLC landed an $880 million order from the U.S. Marine Corps to upgrade more than 2,700 mine resistant ambush protected vehicles, the company announced Tuesday.
So what of the MRAPs being used by the DHS?

Turns out there are 16.  Nationwide.  From Business Insider:
The Department of Homeland Security is using 16 military-style, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles for use during "high-risk warrants," according to an official spokesman.
And:
The MRAPs were transferred to DHS from the Department of Defense, free of charge. But despite recent reports, they have actually been in service since at least 2008.

"The MRAPs we have are not new," Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for DHS, told Business Insider. "We have been using them for years."
And then finally there's this Update:
An earlier version of this post included a figure of over 2,700 vehicles, as cited from the original RT link. This figure likely comes from a press release from Navistar Defense, mentioning delivery of 2,717 to the U.S. Marine Corps. A DHS Spokesman confirmed with Business Insider that they have only 16 nationwide.
So it's not 2,700 but 16.  And the 2,700 weren't procured for DHS but are being refitted for The Marines.  The whole story's wrong.

By the way, RT? What's RT?

That would be Russia Today.

Right now I am wondering if the super patriots believing the Obama Administration has purchased 2,700 MRAPs for the sole purpose of clamping down on civil unrest realize that the original source of the story (one they got wrong) is a state-owned news source from the former Soviet Union.

On being terrorized

Just a reminder that between the carnage caused by the terrorists in Boston and from the horrible industrial accident in Texas in a substandard plant located right by a school and nursing home this week, it's actually the 'NO' vote from the fucking cowards in the Senate which will have the longest lasting impact and lead by far to the most deaths and grave injuries.



April 17, 2013

Yes, They Tortured - And They're Getting Away With It

From yesterday's NYTimes:
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.
You can download the entire report here.

And from a NYTimes editorial today:
It is the fullest independent effort so far to assess the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. Those who sanctioned the use of brutal methods, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, will continue to defend their use. But the report’s authoritative conclusion that “the United States engaged in the practice of torture” is impossible to dismiss by a public that needs to know what was committed in the nation’s name.
But let's delve into the report itselve.  From it's Preface we learn that the panel that produced the report:
...is made up of former high-ranking officials with distinguished careers in the judiciary, Congress, the diplomatic service, law enforcement, the military, and other parts of the executive branch, as well as recognized experts in law, medicine and ethics. The group includes conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats.
And that the report:
...is the product of more than two years of research, analysis and deliberation by the Task Force members and staff. It is based on a thorough examination of available public records and interviews with more than 100 people, including former detainees, military and intelligence officers, interrogators and policymakers.
And some of the findings. I want you to notice the lack of weasel words, qualifiers and obfuscational tactics. The statements are clear - as are the offenses they describe.

Finding 1:
U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.
In a brief analysis of this that follows, the report states:
The Task Force believes there was no justification for the responsible government and military leaders to have allowed those lines to be crossed. Doing so damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.

Democracy and torture cannot peacefully coexist in the same body politic.
Finding 2:
The nation’s most senior officials, through some of their actions and failures to act in the months and years immediately following the September 11 attacks, bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some U.S. personnel on detainees in several theaters. Responsibility also falls on other government officials and certain military leaders.
This would be, in my mind at least, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and so on.

When news of the torture came out, its apologists routinely declared that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" actually worked.  And so these techniques, while perhaps grotesque and incomprehensible actually saved lives.  The point from the apologists: "Sit down and STFU."  This, of course, leads me to

Finding 3:
There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.
Then there's the clear rebuke of the Obama Administration in these next two findings.

Finding 20:
The Convention Against Torture, in addition to prohibiting all acts of torture, requires that states ensure in their “legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation.” The United States has not complied with this requirement, in large part because of the government’s repeated, successful invocation of the state-secrets privilege in lawsuits brought by torture victims.
Finding 21:
The Convention Against Torture requires each state party to “[c]riminalize all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture, or complicity or participation in torture,” and “proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” The United States cannot be said to have complied with this requirement.
So far, there has been no such investigation into the Bush era crimes - as are required by law.

Conclusion: The Bush Administration tortured and the Obama Administration is letting them get away with it.

April 16, 2013

Change the Conversation: Only Rapists Can Prevent Rape

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience a sexual assault within their lifetime (Rennison, C., U.S. Dept. of Justice, 2000), yet it is one of the most under-reported of all crimes. When I was young, it was also one of the most unspoken of crimes. Even the very word "rape" was considered unfit for publication in most newspapers. It is also a crime where the survivor is most likely to be blamed for their own victimization. With such stigma attached to a word, is it any wonder that the very nature of the crime would become so misunderstood?

For generations, the popular notion of rape was understood to be a stranger spurred by uncontrollable passion jumping out at a woman -- perhaps ambushing her in a dark alley -- to sexually assault her by force while brandishing a weapon (and all the better for a "true" crime if she were a virgin or faithful wife). In reality, 7 in 10 rape and sexual assault victims knew their attacker prior to their assault. Victims can be of any gender (as can the rapist). Victims can be coerced. Victims can be the spouse of their assailant. Victims can be unconscious. The list goes on...

For a while, it seemed that at least the understanding of rape had improved and was starting to meet the reality. But, that changed last year during the election when we started hearing terms like "legitimate rape" and that women couldn't get pregnant from rape.

And then came the coverage of the Steubenville rape verdict just last month. CNN reporters Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow lamented on air that the “promising” lives of the rapists had been ruined. With no word for the victim. That report rightfully enraged many who saw it and I would say was partly the genesis for today's Change the Conversation: A Day of Blogging About Sexual Assault.

The reactions to the Steubenville verdict also led to this column, co-written by Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blogger Sue Kerr who took on the themes of victim blaming and consent and rape culture and how this is also a conversation for the LGBT community. (Sue is the driving force behind today's conversation.)

Wikipedia defines rape culture as:
[A] concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape.  
Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape.
I would add that it specifically puts the onus on the potential victim of rape to prevent rape rather than on the rapist's actions. All those "helpful" tips about what not to wear and where not to go that focuses on the behavior and conduct and the morality of women and girls instead of teaching men and boys not to rape.

I recently viewed a conversation on TV where an ex-military person spoke about the high rates of DUI's among the military and how the the military went on the offensive launching a campaign to teach soldiers not to drink and drive and to let them know of the dire consequences if they did. The campaign was pretty relentless -- nearly daily until the rates dramatically dropped. That person lamented that a similar campaign was not being had to drive down the rate of rapes in the military.

This is the conversation that we need to have. "Don't rape" may seem like a message that is self evident, but so is don't drink and drive. And that conversation (and legislative support) has made a difference.

In the spirit of changing the conversation -- of turning it on its head -- I'm re-posting the following tips for how to prevent rape which I've seen online in various permutations over the last couple of years.

In the meantime, you can help survivors of rape by showing some love to Pittsburgh Action Against Rape by making a donation here.
If a woman is drunk, don't rape her.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don't rape her.
If a women is drugged and unconscious, don't rape her.
If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don't rape her.
If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don't rape her.
If a woman looks like your ex-girlfriend you're still hung up on, don't rape her.
If a woman is asleep in her bed, don't rape her.
If a woman is asleep in your bed, don't rape her.
If a woman is doing her laundry, don't rape her.
If a woman is in a coma, don't rape her.
If a woman changes her mind in the middle of or about a particular activity, don't rape her.
If a woman has repeatedly refused a certain activity, don't rape her.
If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don't rape her.
If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don't rape her.
If your step-daughter is watching TV, don't rape her.
If you break into a house and find a woman there, don't rape her.
If your friend thinks it's okay to rape someone, tell him it's not, and that he's not your friend.
If your "friend" tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there's an unconscious woman upstairs and it's your turn, don't rape her, call the police and tell the guy he's a rapist.
Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it's not okay to rape someone.
Don't tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.
Don't imply that she could have avoided it if she'd only done/not done x.
Don't imply that it's in any way her fault.
Don't let silence imply agreement when someone tells you he "got some" with the drunk girl.
Don't perpetuate a culture that tells you that you have no control over or responsibility for your actions. You can, too, help yourself.

(Author unknown. All genders apply)

April 15, 2013

Boston

Via Patton Oswalt:
Boston. Fucking horrible.
 
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."
 
But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
 
But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.
 
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
 
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

April 14, 2013

Kentucky Gets It Right

While perusing World Net Daily (aka birther-central) this morning, I saw this.  The headline reads:
ATHEISTS WIN TEN COMMANDMENTS BATTLE
WND writer Drew Zahn writes:
A Kentucky school district is yanking down multiple displays of the Ten Commandments after an atheist organization sent the county a letter warning the plaques were unconstitutional.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF, a Wisconsin-based organization of “freethinkers” – explained on the group’s website as atheists, agnostics and skeptics devoted to spreading nontheism – told Kentucky’s Breathitt County School District it had received complaints about the displays.

Earlier this week, the district agreed to take down the displays, which had reportedly hung on area high school, middle school and several elementary schools’ walls for years.
Here's the letter the FFRF sent to the Breathitt County School District.

WND embeds this coverage of the story from WYMT-TV and in that story there's a telling quotation from a local resident who disagrees with the School Board's decision to take down the Commandments.  Mary Lou Campbell says:
Makes me angry. Because my grandchildren, I want them to have the Christian upbringing.
And so she wants the Ten Commandments to remain hanging in the public schools.

To its credit, the Kentucky Board of Education released this statement:
The display of religious materials, such as a painting of a religious figure or a copy of the Ten Commandments, in a public school violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on the establishment or endorsement of religion by a public agency. A school or district that displays copies of the Ten Commandments without the inclusion of other historical documents and not as part of a historical/comparative display is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. See the U.S. Supreme Court's holding on this issue in Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 101 S.Ct. 192 (1980). The Kentucky Department of Education's focus in Breathitt County is on student achievement and college and career readiness and using its resources to support those efforts.
The 2012 Kentucky School Laws says that:
No preference shall ever be given by law to any religious sect, society or denomination; nor to any particular creed, mode of worship or system of ecclesiastical polity; nor shall any person be compelled to attend any place of worship, to contribute to the erection or maintenance of any such place, or to the salary or support of any minister of religion; nor shall any man be compelled to send his child to any school to which he may be conscientiously opposed; and the civil rights, privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in anywise diminished or enlarged, on account of his belief or disbelief of any religious tenet, dogma or teaching. No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.
And in discussing the unconstitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on school property, it reads:
Since the pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature, this section has no secular legislative purpose and is therefore unconstitutional as violative of the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution; it does not matter that the posted copies are financed by voluntary private contributions, for the mere posting of the copies under the auspices of the Legislature provides the official support of the state government that the establishment clause prohibits.
Each is correct.  And as a result the unconstitutional displays have been removed - all within a couple of weeks  It's been about 8 months since the FFRF sent letters to two local school districts about theirequally unconstitutional Ten Commandment monuments.  As of right now, those two monuments have yet to be removed.

If Kentucky can get it so right so quickly, why can't New Kensington or Connellsville?

April 12, 2013

Announcement!

I'll be on PCNC's Night Talk: Get To The Point! program TONIGHT.

I'll be the guy who kinda, sorta, almost looks like an older pudgier less intelligent Chris Potter.

Peduto for Mayor TV Spot "Life's Work" Debuts Today

 
Mayoral candidate Bill Peduto's first TV ad starts airing today. It's an introductory ad that lays out his Pittsburgh roots as a means of showing where our city has been and how it needs to change for our future: To make Pittsburgh the city we all know it can be!

I know I'm already sold on Bill, but this ad is genuine and engaging and shows a real love for this city -- a wonderful introduction for those who aren't familiar with the candidate!
TEXT  
Peduto voiceover: "It's 4,000 miles from Italy to Pittsburgh...To this quarry where my great grandfather worked...Our family's produce store in Homewood...This is where my grandfather died at J&L Steel."  
"That Pittsburgh is gone now. " 
"I'm Bill Peduto and my life's work is building a new Pittsburgh....With a 21st century infrastructure plan, job training and a partnership with our universities, and strengthening neighborhood businesses. " 
"We need a mayor who never forgets what we can be."

Sometimes History Has Some Delicious Coincidences...

Tucked neatly into this coverage of the "mixed response from the British public"over the death of Margaret Thatcher:


We find this at about 1:17 in:
 So today a rush of UK downloads of the Wizard of Oz song, Judy Garland's "Ding Dong The Witch is Dead."
And this is from the AP:
The BBC is in a bind after opponents of Margaret Thatcher pushed the song "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" to the top of the British charts in a posthumous protest over her divisive policies.

The online campaign to drive the "Wizard of Oz" song to the No. 1 spot on the U.K. singles chart was launched by Thatcher critics shortly after the former prime minister died Monday of a stroke at age 87.

As of Friday, the song was No. 1 on British iTunes.
You can hear a snippet of what our British cousins are downloading here.  And here are the lyrics.  It's the part of the Munchkin "Operetta" that begins:
Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below.
And ends with the Coroner saying:
As Coroner I must aver, I thoroughly examined her.
And she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead.
That's what they're downloading over there in the UK to celebrate the death of the staunchly conservative, staunchly anti-communist Margaret Thatcher. (I guess the Iron Lady wasn't completely well-liked over there.)

But do you know who wrote those words?  It was a famous lyricist named E. Y. Harburg - and here's the delicious part:
In Hollywood, Yip Harburg wrote lyrics for numerous film musicals during the 1930's and 1940's. His most famous work was The Wizard of Oz (1939, with Arlen). In this classic, Yip conceived the integration of song and script, wrote the recitative for the Munchkin "operetta," and wrote the lyrics to all the songs, including the Academy Award-winning "Over the Rainbow." He was also the final script editor and made significant contributions to the dialogue. In 1962 he and Arlen scored the animated feature Gay Purr-ee (now a video classic featuring the voice of Judy Garland). From 1951 to 1961 during the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations and the McCarthy hearings Yip was “blacklisted” for his political views from film, television and radio. [Emphasis added.]
He also wrote the lyrics to this Depression-era anthem.  A fitting commentary, perhaps, on some of the economic damage inflicted by the union busting Thatcher:


Yip Harburg died in 1981.  And thirty years later, I guess he gets the last word on Lady Thatcher's demise.

April 11, 2013

Tweet of the Day


(h/t to Spork)

LESBIAN UPDATE

I have an update on this story.

Well, Sue has the update, I'm just passing it along:
Some good news to share – as of about 2:30 PM, OpenDNS changed the labels for my site. They “rejected” pornography and nudity and “approved” blog. Last night, I was able to reach the CEO of the company thanks to a petition supporter and he was responsive. I’m grateful for that and appreciate that a major hurdle has been overcome.
We're still left with a few questions, however.

  1. How is it that a one person, apparently living in Indonesia and tapping away on his computer in 2008, can effectively curtail access for Pittsburgh city employees to an important Pittsburgh blog?
  2. How do we know that her blog STILL isn't blocked?
  3. How can the City of Pittsburgh ensure that access to Pittsburgh's political (and I am using this term rather broadly) blogs is open to all of its employees permanently?
While it's all well and good this one issue's been resolved but what good is it if next week or next month or next year it all happens again to someone else's blog?  For some other equally absurd reason?

This whole thing happened because someone somewhere was offended by the use of the word LESBIAN and they somehow assumed that if the word LESBIAN was found on a blog, that that blog must be PORN.

Out of solidarity to Sue's blog, I'd like to conduct a test.

First, let me point out that this blog, 2 Political Junkies, is not a porn site.  There are, of course, many many porn sites on the internets.  Heck, I suppose that some of them are even LESBIAN porn sites but you'll have to go find them yourselves, sorry.  I suppose that while some people might find some LESBIAN porn sites to be offensive (I'd further suppose that some of the offended might in fact be LESBIANS), the word itself should not offend.

Second:
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN LESBIAN
How offensive is that?  And will it get me bureaucratically bounced from the City-County Building?  How would I know if I am?  If I'm not?

Aye, and that's what's offensive.

April 10, 2013

Jack Kelly: Science Denier

Today was supposed to be a nice restful day.  The weather's getting better, the Pirates have won 2 in a row, and our taxes are all efiled.

Then I read this.

It's Jack Kelly's latest attempt to debunk the climate science.  He fails, by the way as he has failed before.

But let's get started in his latest failure.  He begins:
March was cold in Pittsburgh. Britain had its coldest March since 1962. In Germany, this was the coldest March in 130 years.

"Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth's surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar," The Economist magazine noted March 30.
Ok, there are already two fallacies already.  Did you spot them?  One in each paragraph.

In the first, he's (apparently on purpose) confusing weather and climate.  Weather is the localized stuff you see when you look out the window.  Climate is the overall system.  Just as it was cooler in Pittsburgh earlier this morning (say, at 2am) than it was yesterday during the day (say, at 2pm), the globe is still warmer now than it was 100 years ago.  See how that works?

There's more.  According to Anthony Watt's (who's also something of a skeptic when it comes to climate science) global temperatures for March, 2013 are:
+0.18 C (about 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for March.
So, even if "March was cold in Pittsburgh" and even if "Britain had it coldest March since 1962" it doesn't matter over the larger frame of global temperatures.  March 2013 is still about a quarter of a degree Fahrenheit above average.

Then there's the second fallacy - the quotation from The Economist - that the warming "stopped" about 15 years ago (that would be 1997 or so).

You'll note that the point of Jack's column is to declare that global warming doesn't exist.  He writes:
In fact, "global warming" has existed essentially only in computer models.
The reason the science deniers go all the way back to 1998-1997 is that they're "cherry-picking" the data.  From Grist.org:
At the time, 1998 was a record high year in both the CRU and the NASA GISS analyses. In fact, it blew away the previous record by .2 degrees C. (That previous record went all the way back to 1997, by the way!)

According to NASA, it was elevated far above the trend line because 1998 was the year of the strongest El Nino of the century. Choosing that year as a starting point is a classic cherry pick and demonstrates why it is necessary to remove chaotic year-to year-variability (aka: weather) by smoothing out the data.

Clearly 1998 is an anomaly and the trend has not reversed.
There's even a chart showing the anomaly.


See that long tall red line over on the right?  That's the El Nino year of 1998.  See how the line trends upward for 50 or so years before '98?

Jack even ties both fallacies together:
March temperatures were just 0.18 degrees Celsius (.32 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average for the last 33 years, about 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than when warming peaked in 1997 -- well within the range of natural fluctuations.
Take a look again at that chart. And now notice that Jack fails (utterly) to give you, his reading audience, any justification for how or why those numbers are "well within the range of natural fluctuations."

That should tell you something - he doesn't have any.

There's something else to notice.  He's saying that global warming never existed (it's only found in flawed computer models, he said) and that it stopped in 1997.  Um, Jack?  You can't have it both ways, my friend.  You can't say it never existed AND say it stopped 15 years ago.

But I also want you all to notice something else: Jack Kelly for all his discussion of the computer models "full of fudge factors" he fails (again, utterly) to address the evidence of the globe's past warming.  Let's assume that the models are incorrect AND the warming's leveled off (perhaps for good) for a decade and a half.

That still leaves all the evidence that the planet's warmed up over the last century.

Yea, Jack doesn't talk much about that, does he?

April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher

My friends on the Tribune-Review editorial board wrote this:
The death Monday at age 87 of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has spawned countless words of praise. But none of them can match her own words, which are the most fitting tribute to the “Iron Lady”:
To which they appended some interesting quotations from Lady Thatcher.

Of course they left some stuff out.

Like her acceptance of Climate Change (which the braintrust has been trying - and failing - to undermine for years) and the credibility of the United Nations (which the braintrust called a "dictator-loving, human rights-ignoring world body" only a few weeks ago).  Here is what then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said in 1990:
May I begin by thanking Heads of Agencies and Organisations for sponsoring this Second World Climate Conference, and indeed all those connected with it. It is a most important event for all our countries and I wish you success in your endeavours.

Mr. Chairman, since the last World War, our world has faced many challenges, none more vital than that of defending our liberty and keeping the peace. Gradually and painstakingly we have built up the habit of international cooperation, above all through the United Nations. The extent of our success can be seen in the Gulf, where the nations of the world have shown unprecedented unity in condemning Iraq's invasion and taking the measures necessary to reverse it.

But the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible. The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.[Emphases added]
Then there's her views on socialized medicine - of the veddy British variety, the NHS:
I believed that the NHS was a service of which we could genuinely be proud. It delivered a high quality of care - especially when it came to acute illnesses - and at a reasonably modest unit cost, at least compared with some insurance-based systems. [Emphasis added.]
Whah? Who is this socialist that's proud of the liberty-sucking guv'ment run hospital that'll surely pull the plug on your granny??

7th Annual Equal Pay Day Rally TODAY!

 
Via Facebook:
 
7th Annual Equal Pay Day Rally 2013
TODAY! Tuesday, April 9, 2013, Noon
210 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
 
Equal Pay Day 2013  
The time has come, Equal Pay Day!!! The Women & Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (WGF) will hold a rally in Market Square on Tuesday April, 9 2013 at 12noon. Equal Pay Day is the annual day when groups organize nationally to raise awareness of the gender wage gap throughout the country. Tuesday April 9, 2013 symbolizes how long it takes for women to catch up to men’s wages from the previous year. While men earn their wages in 365 days, on average it takes women 483 days. Nationally, women make an average of 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. In Southwest Pennsylvania women make an average of 75 cents on the dollar The goal of this day is to raise awareness around wage discrimination against women and people of color, to bring together a community of like-minded individuals, and to inform the community of upcoming events.  
Join us at lunch time in Market Square for our Resource Fair, Inspirational Speakers and much more……
Ps. Don’t Forget to Wear RED on Equal Pay Day to symbolize how far women and minorities are "in the red" with their pay!

April 8, 2013

The Braintrust Misquotes A Democratic Senator!

Yea, I know.  Surprising, right??

Here's what we found in an op-ed at the Tribune-Review today:
By advocating tripling the federal minimum wage at a committee hearing, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., removed all doubt about her ignorance of basic economics — which a new study confirms.

She thinks productivity gains mean the $7.25-an-hour minimum wage should be about $22 an hour.
If we (and they) wanted to present this issue fairly (and we do), we'd (and they'd) actually quote what Senator Warren said.  So this is what we'll do -  something Braintrust didn't - we'll get you her actual words.  This is from the Huffingtonpost:
"If we started in 1960 and we said that as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more, then the minimum wage is going to go up the same. And if that were the case then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour," she said, speaking to Dr. Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor who has studied the economic impacts of minimum wage. "So my question is Mr. Dube, with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn't go to the worker."
Read that again.  She's not "advocating tripling the minimum wage" as much as she's asking a somewhat rhetorical question about the growth of productivity over the last 5 or so decades.  And she's making the point that despite the stagnating level of the minimum wage over the last few decades, workers have produced more - which is to say more money for their employers.

That is what she was saying.  By squeezing what she said into how she's "advocating" raising the minimum wage, the Braintrust is using a so-called "straw man" argument, though appy-polly loggies to my droogs for the gendered metaphor.

This is the study by the way that Warren is referencing:
By all of these benchmarks, the value of the minimum wage peaked in 1968. If the minimum wage in that year had been indexed to the official Consumer Price Index (CPI-U), the minimum wage in 2012 (using the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates for inflation in 2012) would be at $10.52. Even if we applied the current methodology (CPI-U-RS) for calculating inflation – which generally shows a lower rate of inflation than the older measure – to the whole period since 1968, the 2012 value of the minimum wage would be $9.22.

Using wages as a benchmark, in 1968 the federal minimum stood at 53 percent of the average production worker earnings. During much of the 1960s, the minimum wage was close to 50 percent of the same wage benchmark. If the minimum wage were at 50 percent of the production worker wage in 2012 (again, using CBO projections to produce a full-year 2012 estimate), the federal minimum would be $10.01 per hour.

A final benchmark for the minimum wage is productivity growth. Figure 2 below compares growth in average labor productivity with the real value of the minimum wage between the late 1940s and the end of the last decade. Between the end of World War II and 1968, the minimum wage tracked average productivity growth fairly closely. Since 1968, however, productivity growth has far outpaced the minimum wage. If the minimum wage had continued to move with average productivity after 1968, it would have reached $21.72 per hour in 2012 – a rate well above the average production worker wage. If minimum-wage workers received only half of the productivity gains over the period, the federal minimum would be $15.34. Even if the minimum wage only grew at one-fourth the rate of productivity, in 2012 it would be set at $12.25.
And yet the wage is still $7.25 an hour.

April 7, 2013

Another Reason Not To Trust The Braintrust

Scaife's Tribune-Review today published an op-ed explaining
Why states should say “No” to ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.
As part of their argument, they use some research from a well-known think tank:
An analysis by Grace-Marie Turner of the nonprofit Galen Institute (funded in part by the pharmaceutical and medical industries) provides some insights.
Ha.  You see where this is going, don't you?

According to The Bridge ProjectPhRMA (the trade group representing the above mentioned "pharmaceutical and medical industries") has given $101,125 (adjusted for inflation, $107,913.74) to the Galen Institute from 2008 to 2010.

Don't get me wrong, it's good to point out that Galen's received some financial support from the industry it is, in turn, supporting with it's own research.  But do I need to point out that over a longer period of time (1998 to 2011) the Galen Institute's received even more money, $480,000 (adjusted for inflation, $569,978) from the Sarah Scaife Foundation?

The same foundation controlled by the owner of the paper publishing the op-ed?

Why qualify the story by pointing out that PhRMA money supports, in part, the Galen Institute while ignoring the much larger pile of money (by the way, that's about 4.78 times as large unadjusted or about 5.28 times as large adjusted for inflation) channeled to Galen by a Scaife Foundation?

Or maybe the answer is obvious.

April 6, 2013

You Mean They STILL Haven't Fixed This?

A little more than a month ago, I wrote this blog-note to my many many friends in the City County Building.

I was writing to ask them to un-block access to my friend Sue's blog as it had been blocked in some offices but not others on Grant Street.

That her blog was blocked in the first place was simply unconscionable.  That it's still being blocked is unconscionable, but now the unconscionable is wrapped in reprehensible, basted in detestable and lovingly garnished with lark vomit.

As Sue writes this week, her blog is being blocked because it was the subject of two complaints made in 2008 to OpenDNS.  (That's about a half decade ago, for those of you obsessed with such things.)

She quotes the advice she's been given by Jim Sheppard, Special Assistant to the Mayor:
If you appeal the label with OpenDNS and it is approved it will life the block on city computers and anyone else that uses OpenDNS for filtering purposes.
Since when does a citizen have to do any of this in order to be heard in the corridors of power?

You can like the blog or not like the blog but as I wrote in February:
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.
Especially since:
“The Rainbow flag has flown in front of the City-County Building on several occasions before, including the past two years during pride week in June,” special assistant to the mayor Jim Sheppard said.

Sheppard referred to the flag as “a non-political, non-offensive, symbolic gesture in solidarity with the LGBT citizens of the City of Pittsburgh.”
And that would be the same Jim Sheppard who told Sue to appeal to DNS to get her five year-old undeserved porn label tossed.  But as Sue herself asks:
Third, is it really my responsibility to challenge homophobia by a City contractor? How is it that the Citizens Police Review Board and the office of Councilman Bill Peduto have been able to “open” their office to my site without taking this step?
Perhaps the City should make a symbolic gesture in solidarity with the LGBT citizens of Pittsburgh and un-block my friend's website.

What do you think, Mr Sheppard?

April 5, 2013

About That Endnote...

Remember this?

It was a blog post about how I'd discovered I'd been endnoted in a real book (made of paper and ink and and having an ISDN number and everything!).

While it's simply a gas seeing my name (or at least my nom de blog) in print, I gotta ask one simple question: why?  And you'll understand what I mean shortly.

I finally got hold of the book, A Fundamental Freedom by David Lampo,  yesterday and immediately tracked down the text that was endnoted, assuming I'd see something about, well, either me or my blog post.

This is what I found in Lampo's book:
Even some conservative newspapers applauded Judge Walker's decision. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said, "U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker found no legitimate state interest in treating gay and lesbian couples any differently from heterosexual couples....And he's spot on." [Italics in original.]
And that's it.  That's what's endnoted.  And that's what leads to the endnote that starts "See Dayvoe..."

So you see my confusion, right?  While I greatly appreciate that someone noticed my little blogpost and thought enough of it to link to it in print, I gotta ask why Lampos didn't simply link to the editorial he was referencing?

Life is funny.

April 4, 2013

HEC And The OCE (LBJ took the IRT...)

Recently, I spotted this at talkingpointsmemo:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) could face a House Ethics Committee investigation into alleged campaign finance violations during her bid for the Republican presidential nomination last year, the Daily Beast reported Monday. The allegations are currently being investigated by the non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics, which has about three months to decide whether to recommend cases for further investigation to the Ethics Committee.
And it got me to thinking.

Not about Representative Bachmann - no, I want to let the process finish before commenting on it.  I got to thinking about the process itself.  How does an ethics allegation work its way through the House of Representatives these days?  What's the process?

Representative Mike Doyle, who we've interviewed  before when he was on the House Ethics Committee in 2007, was kind enough to fill us in on some of the details of the process.

First, what's this Office of Congressional Ethics?  What is its relationship to the House Ethics Committee?

The OCE was created on March 11, 2008 by way of H. Res 895. Before that, Doyle said, only members could trigger any sort of investigation by the House Ethics Committee.  And for this, some watchdog groups in DC took issue with the process as it was.  So the OCE was created to make an initial investigation into any ethics violation allegations and, if there's enough evidence to warrant one, then recommend to the House Ethics Committee that it investigate.

The OCE is designed to be non-partisan.  Here's how it's described in HR 895:
The Office shall be governed by a board consisting of six individuals of whom three shall be nominated by the Speaker subject to the concurrence of the minority leader and three shall be nominated by the minority leader subject to the concurrence of the Speaker.
And:
The Speaker and the minority leader each shall appoint individuals of exceptional public standing who are specifically qualified to serve on the board by virtue of their education, training, or experience in one or more of the following fields: legislative, judicial, regulatory, professional ethics, business, legal, and academic.
And:
Selection and appointment of members of the board shall be without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of fitness to perform their duties.
And finally:
No individual shall be eligible for appointment to, or service on, the board who:

(I) is a lobbyist registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995;
(II) has been so registered at any time during the year before the date of appointment;
(III) engages in, or is otherwise employed in, lobbying of the Congress;
(IV) is an agent of a foreign principal registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act;
(V) is a Member; or
(VI) is an officer or employee of the Federal Government.
The point of this last part is to show that no member of the OCE board is employed by the government or are members of Congress or is a lobbyist, etc.

So while an allegation is submitted to the OCE, Doyle said, they look into it and still not recommend any HEC action. (This is why I am not commenting on whatever's facing Michelle Bachman.  It could very easily turn out that the OCE makes NO recommendation to the HEC.)  Fair's fair.  Even for her.

If the OCE does recommend that the HEC open an investigation, the HEC has a limited amount of time to investigate.  And if the HEC decides not to investigate, they'd have to issue a report explaining why.

And the OCE could release its report on why it recommended an investigation in the first place.

On the one hand it seems a bit busy to me, but on the other it looks like a way to make sure important allegations of ethics violations aren't conveniently forgotten or ignored.