We are the 99%

May 31, 2013

I Wonder If Our Friends In Connellsville Know About This

For years a banner hung in the auditorium of a public High School in Cranston, Rhode Island.  It was the official school prayer until the Supreme Court banned state sponsored prayer in 1962.  Since then the banner remained affixed to the wall.  Here is the text:
Our Heavenly Father.

Grant us each day the desire to do our best. To grow mentally and morally as well as physically. To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers. To be honest with ourselves as well as with others. Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. Teach us the value of true friendship. Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.

Amen.
You can see the banner here.  While the general ideas laid out in the "prayer" aren't that offensive (it is, let's remember simply a prayer "to do our best" and to "help us be good sports" and so on), what is offensive is that it's an official prayer to God hung in a public school.

After the ACLU and a local high schooler named Jessica Ahlquist filed a lawsuit objecting,  the judge in this case ordered it removed, writing:
The Supreme Court has traditionally drawn a clear line between government conduct which might be acceptable in some settings and the conduct which is prohibited in public schools. In Van Orden, where the Supreme Court held that a monument displaying the Ten Commandments was acceptable on the 44-acre grounds of the Texas State Capitol, the Court underscored this distinction:
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.
And what happened to Jessica?

The good Christians of Cranston, Rhode Island objected:
She is 16, the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, a self-proclaimed nerd who loves Harry Potter and Facebook. But Jessica Ahlquist is also an outspoken atheist who has incensed this heavily Roman Catholic city with a successful lawsuit to get a prayer removed from the wall of her high school auditorium, where it has hung for 49 years.

A federal judge ruled this month that the prayer’s presence at Cranston High School West was unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the principle of government neutrality in religion. In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion.

State Representative Peter G. Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, called Jessica “an evil little thing” on a popular talk radio show. Three separate florists refused to deliver her roses sent from a national atheist group. The group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.
Not exactly a WWJD moment for them, I'm afraid.

More recently, however, Jessica's received another award:
Since her successful challenge last year of a prayer banner at Cranston High School West, Jessica Ahlquist has been traveling the country speaking about First Amendment rights.

But not until now has she been invited to speak at the Playboy Mansion.

Ahlquist, 17, is scheduled to speak at the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, CA on May 22nd where she will receive a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. The award in the Education category -- $5,000 cash and a commemorative plaque -- is for Ahlquist's "courageous and successful lawsuit" in the Cranston prayer banner case, a publicist for the foundation said in a statement.
She won. This "evil little thing" won for religious freedom. For everyone.

I wonder if our friends in Connellsville and New Kensington know about this.

May 30, 2013

News Foils

First, let's look at a typical climate science denial from the Braintrust at the Tribune-Review:
During an unusually chilly Memorial Day weekend, which felt more like a brisk Labor Day weekend, a New York ski resort near the Vermont border reported up to 3 feet of snow. Writes Roger L. Simon of PJ Media, “Somewhere Al Gore is gnashing his teeth, while concocting another speech to tell us that cooling actually means warming or some such palaver.”
Now let's look at what they're actually saying up in Vermont - this was from early February:
The three Vermont legislative committees picked the right day last week to hold a joint hearing on the effects of climate change on businesses.  Some people were late after having to pick their way through the remnants of overnight freezing rain. As the hearing progressed, temperatures outdoors rose toward record heights. Weather forecasters talked of flood and wind alerts, and warned of plunging temperatures the next day.  The consensus among the 40 or so people who testified at Wednesday’s hearing was not so much that we must adapt to climate change in the future, but that we’re being forced to adapt already, and we must continue.  The most challenging part of the adaptation is not the warmer, wetter climate we’re increasingly experiencing. What is particularly vexing are the wild, odd swings in temperature and precipitation — the kind that were going on outside the Vermont Statehouse as lawmakers and witnesses spoke — that make planning, producing and stability more difficult.  [Emphasis added]
Wild, odd swings in temperature and precipitation like 3 feet of snow on Memorial Day?

I guess we have to talk again about the differences between CLIMATE and WEATHER.  From NASA:
Weather is basically the way the atmosphere is behaving, mainly with respect to its effects upon life and human activities. The difference between weather and climate is that weather consists of the short-term (minutes to months) changes in the atmosphere. Most people think of weather in terms of temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, brightness, visibility, wind, and atmospheric pressure, as in high and low pressure.

In most places, weather can change from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Climate, however, is the average of weather over time and space. An easy way to remember the difference is that climate is what you expect, like a very hot summer, and weather is what you get, like a hot day with pop-up thunderstorms.
Speaking of which, did you know that the Weather Channel is forecasting 81 degrees for Whiteface Mountain today?


 That's the place that had the 3 feet of snow earlier this week.

Odd swings in temperature and precipitation due to climate change.  Yep, it's all there.

May 29, 2013

No, Not THAT!!!

UPDATE: This post and this post PROVE BEYOND ALL DOUBT that Maria and I spend absolutely no time coordinating our blogging efforts!  Go to her post first.

On May 27, Politico posted this:
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann may be the congresswoman with nine lives. But 2014 could be the gravest threat to her political career yet.

The bomb-throwing conservative and onetime Republican presidential candidate is girding for what promises to be a ferocious reelection contest. Awaiting Bachmann is a serious Democratic opponent who has the full backing of his national party and a suburban Twin Cities electorate that six months ago nearly tossed her out of office.

The most glaring problem for Bachmann, though, may be a swirl of investigations into her campaign finances. The Federal Election Commission and the Office of Congressional Ethics are investigating whether her campaign concealed payments to an Iowa state senator who did work for her 2012 presidential bid. (A state ethics law bars senators from doing paid campaign work.)

And late last week, Minnpost.com reported that the FBI would be joining the investigation and interviewing a former Bachmann chief of staff.
And here's what Minnpost.com reported:
The FBI is investigating complaints of alleged campaign finance violations in Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign.

The FBI joins the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Federal Elections Commission and an Iowa state Senate ethics committee in probing whether Bachmann's presidential campaign paid an Iowa state senator from her MichelePAC, a fund that should not have been used for campaign expenses, and whether the state senator stole the email list of an Iowa home-school group from another Bachmann staffer, Barbara Hekki, prior to the Iowa caucuses in January, 2012.
They also reported (a few paragraphs later):
The entry of the FBI into the investigation raises the possibility that there were potential criminal violations. In addition to the alleged theft of the home-school list, the FBI is said to be looking into the campaign's demand that certain former employees, whose pay was withheld at the end of the campaign, sign non-disclosure agreements before receiving their compensation.
The very next day, this video was posted on youtube:


And this came from the AP early this morning:
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, a conservative firebrand and a favorite of tea party Republicans, said Wednesday she will not run for another term in the U.S. House.
While in situations like this it's always good to remember the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.  We should not not automatically assume that the ethics probes or the FBI investigation or the near loss last time of her seat had anything whatsoever to do with her decision not to run this time.

She even says so in her video.

So we simply know it's true simply because she said it.  I mean when has Michelle Bachmann ever said anything untrue before?

Break Out the Champagne: Michele Bachmann Won't Seek Re-election Next Year!

Michele Bachmann pulls a Ravenstahl and announces she will not seek re-election next year. And, just like Lil Mayor Luke, she says it's in no way due to any pending investigations or because she can't win another term. Uh-uh, nope, not at all.

 
You can take a trip down memory lane of 2pj posts about Ms. Bachmann here.

May 28, 2013

The Party Of Reagan?

Senator Bob Dole doesn't think so.

Here he is being interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News this past Sunday:


Thanks to Think Progress for a transcript:
WALLACE: You describe the GOP of your generation as Eisenhower Republicans, moderate Republicans. Could people like you, even Ronald Reagan — could you make it in today’s Republican Party.

DOLE: I doubt it. Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn’t have made it, 'cause he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it.
Understandably, while this story's made its way onto much of the left leaning news sources (talkingpointsmemo, americablog, and so on), I was wondering if there was any (ANY) echo on any conservative blogs.

Well, my friends, take a look at this from the American Conservative.  After quoting Dole's interview with Wallace about how Reagan "couldn't have made it" in the contemporary GOP, W. James Antell III writes:
This has become a common refrain among a certain kind of Republican. Jeb Bush said much the same thing, throwing his father into the mix of party elders who would be out of step with today’s GOP.

Dole’s legislative accomplishments ranged from being part of the bipartisan majorities that passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to playing a key role in the passage of the Reagan economic program. The Republicans of his era were more temperamentally conservative, even if less ideologically so. They believed in balanced budgets and would have been horrified to hear a party leader say “deficits don’t matter.”

Newt Gingrich, who became Dole’s partner in crime during the GOP Congress of 1995-96, is a good example of the party’s evolved brand. He led Republicans to their first House majority in 40 years, displaying a creativity that past Republican leaders conspicuously lacked. But he was undone by his excesses, cultivating an image of partisanship, over-the-top statements, and a penchant for unpopular crusades.

Today’s GOP is as much Gingrich’s party as Reagan’s or Nixon’s. Chest-beating often replaces prudence, the party frequently makes use of both libertarian and traditionalist themes without taking either of them very seriously.
Um thanks, Newt?

But at least that's rational - check this out from breitbart.com.  Guess what?  Instead of countering Dole's argument (and positing some evidence that Reagan WOULD be welcome in the contemporary GOP, they just BASH DOLE INSTEAD:
Dole complained that he would not make it in today's Republican Party. However, Dole could not make it in 1976 on the bottom of the GOP presidential ticket against when the Party ran against Jimmy Carter or the top of the ticket 20 years later when he ran against Bill Clinton.
And that's hardly surprising considering the state of the contemporary GOP.

May 26, 2013

Springboro Ohio, Creationism and the Tea Party Dogwhistles

We'll start here, at Fox News:
A proposal by an Ohio school district to add creationism to a list of controversial topics deemed appropriate for classroom discussion has ignited a debate over the separation of church and state among parents and a civil rights group.

The Springboro Board of Education took comments on the proposal at a meeting Thursday night attended by parents, students and teachers. Some parents urged the board to abandon the plan, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to the board, saying the policy would violate the separation of church and state.

"Basically they would be teaching creationism to counteract the teaching of evolution," ACLU spokesman Nick Worner said Friday. "Anytime that you promote or teach the beliefs of one religion over all other religions or beliefs in a public school classroom, that's a problem."
And Fox later gives us some details:
According to the school district website, "evolution/creation," ''pro-life/abortion," contraception/abstinence, legalization of drugs, gun rights, and global warming would be among the topics added to a list of "controversial issues."

Many "areas of study involve issues on which differing positions are held by individuals or groups," and all sides of an issue should be explored "fully and fairly," the proposal says.
Remember the list of topics in that first paragraph. It'll become more important later.  The ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to the Springboro Board of Education outlining the constitutional issues surrounding the proposals - actually there are two policy changes.  One for policy 8800 and the other for policy 2240.  It is the second, Policy 2240, that dabbles in creationism.

My first question was the context of where these "controversial issues" would be discussed.  If it was in a "social studies" or "contemporary issues" class, then what's the problem?  As long as the facts are presented as facts (evolution=science, creationism=religion) then what's the problem?

It's how the board fails to limit the discussion in that way, is the problem.  From the ACLU letter:
This policy appears to explicitly permit the teaching of creationism because "evolution" is on the "controversial issues" list and equal facts for the opposing viewpoint means classroom time spent on the religious theory of intelligent design (or creation science). It has been firmly established that this practice is unconstitutional, in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The Supreme Court of the United States has unequivocally held that so-called "balanced treatment" laws and policies which gave equal class time to evolution and creationism were unconstitutional because they served no secular purpose and instead had a primary purpose of advancing a particular religious viewpoint.
Now here's the text from Policy 2240:
The role of the teacher in the presentation o f assigned issues is vitally important. All sides of the issue should be given to the students in a dispassionate manner. The goal is for the students to be taught to think clearly on all matters of importance, and to make decisions in the light of all the material that has been presented or can be researched on the issues.
Giving sympathetic "science" teachers the room to do the "both sides" of the "teaching the controversy" thing.

But there's another point that Fox left out.  Here's the complete text of the "controversial issues" from the policy:
For purposes of this policy, controversial issues include: religion when not used in a historical or factual context , sex education, legalization of drugs, evolution/creation, pro-life/abortion, contraception/abstinence, conservatism/liberalism, politics, gun rights, global warming and climate change, UN Agenda 21 and sustainable development, and any other topic on which opposing points of view have been promulgated by responsible opinion and/or likely to arouse both support and opposition in the community.[Emphasis in original.]
There's a dogwhistle in there, signaling to Springboro's Tea Party element. Did you see it?

It's the UN Agenda 21.  And to the folks at crazie central (aka World Net Daily) it's:
...a 40-chapter U.N. program to introduce fascism worldwide in the guise of environmental regulation.
Confusing, until you take a look at the last time this happened in Springboro:
Kelly Kohls, who was elected in Springboro on a platform of fiscal responsibility two years ago, requested last week the district’s curriculum director look into ways of providing “supplemental” instruction dealing with creationism. Fellow member, Scott Anderson, who was elected with Kohls when the district was struggling financially, supports his colleague’s idea.
And:
Kohls is the head of the Warren County Tea Party. Although she said her desire to teach creationism is not directly related to the emerging political movement, it’s not inconsistent with Tea Party ideals.

“My input on creationism has everything with me being a parent and not a member of the Tea Party,” she said. “We are motivated people who want to change the course of this country. Eliminating God from our public lives I think is a mistake and is why we have gone in the direction of spending beyond our means.”
Of course Kelly Kohls is still on the Board.

May 24, 2013

Happy Birthday, Bob!

Bob Dylan is 72 years old today.

In his honor, let's listen:


And:


And:


And then finally:


Considering the election of this week, that last one may or may not be poignant.

May 23, 2013

Elections Have Consequences

Sometimes good ones.

The Ellwood City Ledger's Eric Poole describes what's going on in Ellwood City regarding that Nativity Scene that keeps popping up (Note: there's lotsa names floating in Poole's paragraphs so I've bolded them all for clarity):
During a forum last month for Ellwood City Council candidates, David DeCaria appeared – at least in my estimation – to have talked himself out of a job.

In response to what might have been the biggest controversy of 2012, DeCaria said the borough was right to move the borough’s Nativity scene off the municipal building’s front lawn.

And let’s be clear about it, he didn’t dance around the matter the way council members Anthony “Lefty” DeCarbo and Judith Dici did by saying they would have liked to keep the display where it was, but a threatened lawsuit by the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation forced the move.

DeCaria said the Nativity shouldn’t have been on public property in the first place because it violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause. He’s right about that, by the way. But saying it seemed like a sure way to lose a Republican primary in Ellwood City, not that he cared.
And:
Conversely, had I been publicly handicapping Tuesday’s borough council primary vote, I would have thought Michael “Mundo” Parisi, probably the town’s loudest proponent for returning the Nativity to borough property, would have benefited from a stand that seemed wildly popular.

The night before Tuesday’s election, I told Jim Arkett, who advocated fighting those meddling atheists from Wisconsin, that I thought his support for the tradition would help him win a Democratic nomination.
And finally:
Arkett finished outside the crucial top four Tuesday and failed to get a Democratic nomination. Rocco “Rocky” Ierino, who lent his support for keeping the Nativity display on borough property, finished flat last among the Democratic candidates.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Parisi finished in next-to-last place, well behind DeCaria, who earned one of the four GOP nominations. DeCarbo and Dici won Democratic nominations.
Basically, lotsa folks who in one way or another want the unconstitutional nativity display on public grounds won't be on the ballot in the fall.  As Poole concludes:
Regardless of what happens in November, it’s a virtual certainty that the issue won’t be revisited next year when a new council takes office. And that new council might not be all that new. All four incumbents won nominations Tuesday.
Let's hear it for the Constitution and the Separation of Church and State in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania!

May 22, 2013

Well This Is Embarrassing...

Hey anyone remember when the Tribune-Review was using Alex Jones' Infowars as a credible information source?

Then, the braintrust published a bit o' paranoia about how the guv'ment is buying up all the ammo.

Now Alex Jones is exposing the guv'ment's secret weather controlling technology:



From Mediamatters:
On the May 21 edition of The Alex Jones Show, a caller asked Jones whether he was planning to cover how government technology may be behind a recent spate of sinkholes. After laying out how insurance companies use weather modification to avoid having to pay ski resorts for lack of snow, Jones said that "of course there's weather weapon stuff going on -- we had floods in Texas like fifteen years ago, killed thirty-something people in one night. Turned out it was the Air Force."

Following a long tangent, Jones returned to the caller's subject. While he explained that "natural tornadoes" do exist and that he's not sure if a government "weather weapon" was involved in the Oklahoma disaster, Jones warned nonetheless that the government "can create and steer groups of tornadoes."
Yea, the braintrust knows where to get the good info - Alex Jones' Infowars!

To show you how good Alex is at digging through the guv'ment code, he mentions how in "Title 50 Chapter 32 Subsection 1528 Paragraph b":
...allows chemical biological radiological or any other testing, even lethal on citizens unsuspecting. The government claims it's allowed to kill us.  In the main title it says it's illegal but in the subtitle it says unless for law enforcement or research purposes.
The thing is...(and you know where this is going, right?) there is no subsection 1528 of Title 50 Chapter 32.

Either Jones misquoted some other place in the code or he's making it up.

Yea, the braintrust really knows where to get the good info - Alex Jones' Infowars!

May 21, 2013

Peduto Wins.

From KDKA:
Longtime City Councilman Bill Peduto has won the Democratic nomination for mayor, defeating former state auditor general Jack Wagner and state Rep. Jake Wheatley.
A repost:

You still have an hour...


VOTE!

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

It's important.

More Credibility Problems For Stephen Hayes

And, of course, his friends on the Tribune-Review Editorial Board.

Remember this?  It's my blogpost deconstructing this Trib editorial where the braintrust presents us with this:
The Weekly Standard's Stephen F. Hayes writes that emails sent during that process make it “clear that senior administration officials engaged in a wholesale rewriting of intelligence assessments about Benghazi in order to mislead the public.”
The world has since learned (with the White House release of the entire email chain) that Hayes got it wrong.

Wrong.  Stephen Hayes was wrong on Benghazi.

From Mediamatters:
The idea that [State Department spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland's overriding concern was political -- and that her concern was shared by the White House -- is key to the notion of a "cover-up" by the administration. Hayes' articles came to that assumption based on incomplete information and misrepresentation of emails between agencies.
But, just saying it isn't nearly enough - how do they support their assertion?  This is how:
In a follow-up article for the May 20 edition of The Weekly Standard, Hayes kept pushing the idea that Nuland's concern was solely political, and misrepresented an email to UN ambassador Susan Rice to make the argument that the talking points were edited to reflect that concern. The National Security Council Deputies Committee met on September 15 to work out the various agencies' issues with the Benghazi talking points, and a summary of that meeting was emailed to Rice.
And then MediaMatters show its work.  They start with how Hayes described that email:
The proceedings were summarized in an email to U.N. ambassador Rice shortly after the meeting ended. The subject line read: "SVTS on Movie/Protests/violence." The name of the sender is redacted, but whoever it was had an email address suggesting a job working for the United States at the United Nations.

According to the email, several officials in the meeting shared the concern of Nuland, who was not part of the deliberations, that the CIA's talking points might lead to criticism that the State Department had ignored the CIA's warning about an attack. Mike Morell, deputy director of the CIA, agreed to work with Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to edit the talking points. At the time, Sullivan was deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department's director of policy planning; he is now the top national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Denis McDonough, then a top national security adviser to Obama and now his chief of staff, deferred on Rhodes's behalf to Sullivan. [Bolding in Mediamatters original]
And then they show what the email actually said:
HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] request: Late this week, CIA Director Petraeus gave the HPSCI a "hots [sic] spots" briefing and was asked for unclassified talking points that its members could use about the incident in Benghazi. (Apparently NCTC Director Matt Olson received a similar committee [sic] from a congressional committee.) The first draft apparently seemed unsuitable (based on conversations on the SVTS and afterwards) because they seemed to encourage the reader to infer incorrectly that the CIA had warned about a specific attack on our embassy. On SVTS, Morell noted that these points were not good and he had taken a heavy editing hand to them. He noted that he would be happy to work with Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to develop appropriate talking points. McDonough, on Rhodes's behalf, deferred to Sullivan. It was agreed that Jake would work closely with the intelligence community (within a small group) to finalize points on Saturday that could be shared with HPSCI. I spoke to Jake immediately after the SVTS and noted that you were doing the Sunday morning shows and would need to be aware of the final posture that these points took. He committed to ensure that we were updated in advance of the Sunday shows. I specifically mentioned [REDACTED] as the one coordinating your preparations for the shows and also strongly encouraged him to loop in [REDACTED] during the process. [Bolding in Mediamatters original]
And they point out what should be obvious:
It makes no mention of perceived criticism of the State Department.
And thus, Hayes got it wrong.  The "defend Clinton's State Department" part of Hayes' (and the rest of the right wing media's) "cover-up" argument dissolves completely.

And if Hayes got it wrong, then the braintrust got it wrong.

Will we be seeing a correction/clarification any time soon?

May 20, 2013

Some Follow-Up On Those Susquehanna Poll Numbers

There's a little more to say about the Susquehanna poll out a few days ago.  Mostly about the remaining undecideds.  From Keystone Politics:
The final poll of the Pittsburgh Mayor race, from Susquehanna, shows Bill Peduto leading Jack Wagner by 9 points, 42-33.

But wait aren’t there a lot of undecided voters? Sure, there still are about 16% undecided, but when the pollsters pushed them to say which way they’re leaning, Wagner only gets 20% of them. With the soft supporters included, Peduto still has a 7-point lead – safely above the poll’s +/-4.88% margin of error.
I have to add a slight "Yes, but..." here.  In an election of this size (a municipal election where the margin of victory might be a few thousand if not a few hundred votes) nothing is "safely above" or assured.  The worst thing would be for a voter to assume that because these numbers point in one direction that his or her the race is over.  (And this is true for either camp, Wagner or Peduto.)

Moving on:
Wagner would need to win 80% of the undecided voters to overtake Peduto’s lead. Could that happen? It’s unlikely in the extreme.
But it's still possible.  There's only one solution for this situation:  VOTE!

At this point it's all about GOTV - the candidate with the better Get Out The Vote organization will probably win.

It's really very simple.

Let's Redd Up City Hall: Vote for Bill Peduto Tomorrow!


Help Bill make a clean sweep!

In less then 24 hours, you can change Pittsburgh. You can make this the city we know it can be!

The Peduto Phenomenon

I have no idea who these people are but since they're in tune when they break into harmony, I will assume one or more of them have some musical training.


I am also assuming they're proscuito, voluto, menudo, potato Peduto supporters.

I haven't been able to find any similarly kewl Wagner videos.

May 19, 2013

Not So Fast, My Friends

It should not be surprising to readers of this blog that the editorial board of the Tribune-Review routinely misleads its audience by only presenting part of the story when it tries to make some point.

What's only surprising about this example is how much they mislead over such a short amount of text:
Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, forced to resign in the conservative-targeting scandal, was set to leave that post anyway, as early as June. Ooooh, talk about “forceful” action, eh? [Bolding in original.}
Let's take a trip to an actual news source to see how much they left out.  While still spinning the "ain't so much 'fired' meme" ABC does fill out some telling details:
It appeared that President Obama had taken decisive action late Wednesday when he announced that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had demanded the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller amid the growing scandal over targeting conservative groups. But it turns out that Miller was subject to a term limit that would have forced him out of the job in three weeks.

Miller, a 25-year career IRS employee, was appointed acting commissioner on November 9, 2012. According to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, his 210-day term would have set his last day in that post as June 8.

This does not mean that Miller is not paying a price. His intention had been to go back to his job as Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, a position that put him in charge of the tax exempt unit at the center of a scandal over targeting conservative groups.

This statute makes it clear Miller could not remain acting IRS commissioner unless he was proactively reappointed as acting commissioner for another 210 days, or Obama nominated a permanent commissioner allowing Miller to remain in the job until that person was confirmed.
So Obama could have tried to appoint him to another 210 days (and let's be honest, that would have been a foolish thing to do considering) or Miller could have remained acting commissioner while his replacement was confirmed.  In any event he planned on remaining in the IRS to a position that would have overseen the unit at the center of the scandal.

Instead, he resigned completely from the agency (and let's be honest, that was the right thing to do considering).

Now go back to read what the braintrust presented to you.  They left out the part about how Miller was planning on staying with the IRS after his 210 days was up, didn't they?

How much does that change the meaning of their all too short blurb?

Alot, doesn't it?

Hardly surprising, coming from Scaife's braintrust.

More Momentum For Peduto

From the Tribune-Review:
City Councilman Bill Peduto grabbed the front-runner status he once claimed to have in the Pittsburgh mayoral race, seizing on growing disapproval of chief opponent Jack Wagner in the campaign's bitter, final weeks, a Tribune-Review poll shows.

Peduto surged ahead of Wagner to stake a 42 percent to 33 percent lead among 400 likely voters a week before the decisive Democratic primary on Tuesday, according to the poll by Susquehanna Polling and Research. The poll shows a 9-point gain for Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze and a 7-point drop for Wagner, 65, of Beechview since an April 1-2 survey by the Harrisburg firm.
The Trib even has some art work to illustrate the swing if you wanna go see it.

The context of the earlier poll is important.  If we sort by the change in percentage points between the two polls, we might be able to see where support was lost and where it was gained.
  • Peduto - 9 point gain (up to 42 from 33 percent)
  • Wheatley - 2 point gain (up to 6 from 4 percent)
  • Undecided - 4 point loss (down to 16 from 20 percent)
  • Wagner - 7 point loss (down to 33 from 40 percent)
  • Richardson - No change
  • Other - No change
The big looser, then, according to this poll has to be Jack Wagner.  Of the overall shift of 11 points (what Peduto and Wheatley "gained" and what Wagner and the Undecideds "lost") more than half came from Wagner.

The Trib presents a few ideas why:
“It looks to me like whatever the Wagner folks have done might have backfired,” said Jim Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling and Research. “All the movement has clearly gone to Peduto.”
And:
Mudslinging that punctuated advertising during the past three weeks, including an anti-Peduto ad from a Republican consultant hired by a Ravenstahl political committee, impacted Wagner's popularity.

“The credibility of the mayor at this point is rapidly decreasing, and that has hurt Jack Wagner,” said Gerald Shuster, a political analyst with the University of Pittsburgh. He said Wagner has not distanced himself from Ravenstahl as a federal investigation of city spending moves closer to the mayor's office.
The Trib quoted a Wagner spokesman saying that they'd "disavowed" the Ravenstahl ads.  You remember, those, right? The swiftboat ads?  It looks like Luke's swiftboat ads damaged Wagner's credibility.

Another really smart move from the soon-to-be former boy-mayor.

But of course, none of this means anything if Pittsburgh's Democrats don't vote.  So:
Both campaigns said they would focus on Sunday and Monday on “get out the vote” efforts, noting that voter turnout could make the difference. Peduto will “be out on the street,” Toler said, and Wagner scheduled 20 events between Friday and Tuesday to allow him and about 400 volunteers to meet people, Abbott said.
GO VOTE ON TUESDAY!

Hey Pittsburgh! Do you believe?

 
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world."

May 17, 2013

RIP Michael Lupinacci. You will be missed by so many...


My brother Michael passed away last night after a year and a half battle with cancer. You often hear people say after a person dies that they have touched many lives. That could not be more true for my brother. He served the public for nearly his entire life. Volunteer rescue. Volunteer firefighter. Assistant Communications Manager for Allegheny County's emergency operations center. Police Officer. And, for the last two years, Police Chief of Lincoln Borough.

He often saw society at its worst, but also at its most vulnerable. And, he'd run into that burning building, or be the first to come to your aid in a dire medical emergency, or go out on a call for help not knowing if he'd make it back...

He even played a long-distance part in the rescue of two fellow officers that became the subject of the movie "World Trade Center" which I wrote about here seven years ago.

And of course, his family and friends could rely on him for anything.

Last December over 500 of them and his fellow first responders came out to an event to help raise money so he could go to Sloan-Kettering. Thank you for that!

Now upon hearing of his passing, so many are remembering all that he did. But they also are recounting his wicked and mischievous sense of humor and how he loved to laugh at the absurdities of life.

He's survived by his wife Carolyn, his son Michael and his daughter Melissa (who by the way, also runs into burning buildings) and his five siblings.

We love you Michael and we miss you already.

You were one of the good ones.
 

UPDATE: News story in the Trib today on my baby bro.

You want real response? Call P-E-D-U-T-O!


The Braintrust's Getting Desparate

Over this news:
For the first time in human history, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 400 parts per million (ppm). The arrival at this threshold represents a powerful symbol of the growing human influence on the Earth’s climate.

Manmade emissions of carbon dioxide have increased the atmospheric concentration of CO2 from around 270 to 280 ppm in the late 1700s to today’s record high level – a 43 percent increase. Measurements of CO2 trapped in air bubbles from ice cores in Antarctica indicate today’s levels are unsurpassed in at least 800,000 years.
Keep note of those years when you read how Marc Morano (the Tribune-Reviews editorial board's non-scientist, swiftboater go-to "expert" on all matters pseudo-scientific) tries to reassure us all that it's not that big of a deal.  For example they quote him with this:
From geology's long-view perspective, current CO2 levels are remarkably low.
Considering that "geologic time" tracks things in the millions, tens of millions and hundreds of millions of years, and remembering that the Earth (sorry young Earth creationists, but you're still wrong on this, no matter what your Bible tells you) is 4.5 billion years old, a mere 800,000 years really is a very short time - so it's not surprising that at some point in the Earth's past CO2 levels were higher at some point for some reason during that time.

Still doesn't disprove that we've been polluting the air and now the planet's warming up because of it.

800,000 years is a long time in human standards, though.  How long a time?

Take a look:
The last time there was this much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth's atmosphere, modern humans didn't exist. Megatoothed sharks prowled the oceans, the world's seas were up to 100 feet higher than they are today, and the global average surface temperature was up to 11°F warmer than it is now.
Now go look at the bullet points the Braintrust wants to reassure you with.

As they're bereft of actual chronological context, they're more or less beside the point.  And that's hardly reassuring.

May 16, 2013

Um, Yea...

From Talkingpointmemo:
Generally, once partisan, tendentious sources leak information that turns out to be wrong, nothing’s ever done about it. That’s for many reasons, some good or somewhat understandable, mostly bad. But on CBS Evening News tonight, Major Garrett did something I don’t feel like I’ve seen in a really long time or maybe ever on a network news cast. He basically said straight out: Republicans told us these were the quotes, that wasn’t true.
And then Josh Marshall has a rough transcript of what Major Garrett said:
Republicans have claimed that the State Department under Hillary Clinton was trying to protect itself from criticism. The White House released the real e-mails late yesterday and here’s what we found when we compared them to the quotes that had been provided by Republicans. One e-mail was written by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from Rhodes. “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.” But it turns out, in the actual e-mail Rhodes did not mention the State Department. It read “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.” Republicans also provided what they said was a quote from an e-mail written by State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland. The Republican version notes Nuland discussing: “The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.” The actual e-mail from Nuland says: the “…penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings…” The C.I.A. agreed with the concerns raised by the State Department and revised the talking points to make them less specific than the C.I.A.’s original version, eliminating references to al-Qaeda and affiliates and earlier security warnings. There is no evidence, Scott, the White House orchestrated these changes.
If you're counting, that's two huge misrepresentations by the Republicans - but the final sentence is the important one: There is no evidence that the White House orchestrated the changes.


Selective IRS Outrage

Unsurprisingly, from my good friends on the Tribune-Review editorial board:
The New York Times played the first-day story of the IRS harassing conservative groups at the bottom of page 10. Had the IRS done the same to liberal groups, The Times would have put out an extra edition.
Actually, this (IRS targeting/harrassing) has happened before - on the other side of the political aisle, of course.

And with nary a peep from the Scaife's Braintrust, of course.

But first some context from Salon.com:
While few are defending the Internal Revenue Service for targeting some 300 conservative groups, there are two critical pieces of context missing from the conventional wisdom on the “scandal.” First, at least from what we know so far, the groups were not targeted in a political vendetta — but rather were executing a makeshift enforcement test (an ugly one, mind you) for IRS employees tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations. Employees are given almost zero official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political. Keep in mind, the commissioner of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee.
And that link leads us to this:
In reality, campaign finance experts say, the IRS’ impropriety in targeting Tea Party groups is proof positive of the need for new regulations, as the whole problem started because employees charged with weeding out camouflaged political groups from actual social welfare organizations had no official definition to work off of. After Citizens United and attendant decisions eliminated the restrictions on how much money these groups could spend, their numbers doubled, mainly on the right as conservatives saw an opportunity to push unlimited secret money into elections. Some of these groups were blatantly political, even though they told the IRS they’d stay out of politics.

As Ezra Klein explains, with no formal test on what makes a political group, IRS employees went where the action was and focused on Tea Party groups. That approach was wrong and discriminatory, but the only way to fix it will be with better regulations and clearer demarcations of what makes a group political.
So the current situation was triggered by Citizen's United (and gee, what a great decision that's turned out to be, huh??) but the question arises: Has the IRS ever targeted any left leaning organization for similar harassment?  The Braintrust seems to think that it hasn't and that even if it had, the NYTimes would have "put out a new edition" to let everyone know.

 From Salon:
The well-known church, All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, became a bit of a cause célèbre on the left after the IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status over an anti-Iraq War sermon the Sunday before the 2004 election. “Jesus [would say], ‘Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine,’” rector George Regas said from the dais.

The church, which said progressive activism was in its “DNA,” hired a powerful Washington lawyer and enlisted the help of Schiff, who met with the commissioner of the IRS twice and called for a Government Accountability Office investigation, saying the IRS audit violated the First Amendment and was unduly targeting a political opponent of the Bush administration. “My client is very concerned that the close coordination undertaken by the IRS allowed partisan political concerns to direct the course of the All Saints examination,” church attorney Marcus Owens, who is widely considered one of the country’s leading experts on this area of the law, said at the time. In 2007, the IRS closed the case, decreeing that the church violated rules preventing political intervention, but it did not revoke its nonprofit status.

And while All Saints came under the gun, conservative churches across the country were helping to mobilize voters for Bush with little oversight. In 2006, citing the precedent of All Saints, “a group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code,” the New York Times reported at the time. The churches essentially campaigned for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, they alleged, and even flew him on one of their planes.
Where was the outrage from Scaife's Braintrust then?

Go to triblive.com and search for "All Saints Episcopal Church Pasadena" and you'll find two (2) articles. One from the AP discussing the National Cathedral performing "same sex weddings" and the other a straight forward news piece by David Brown that starts with this:
As nonprofit groups have increased their political activity, the Internal Revenue Service has stepped up efforts cautioning tax-exempt organizations on how to avoid trouble.
Which, shred of it's nasty political overtones, is exactly how the IRS got into trouble with those Tea Party groups in the first place.

All with no braintrust editorials decrying the scandal of it all.

Surprising, isn't it?

May 15, 2013

David Conrad Disagrees With The P-G's Wagner Endorsement

While we usually don't have "guest bloggers" here at 2PJ, when a friend of the blog emails in (unsolicited, by the way) such a powerful commentary, the idea of just leaving it sit in my in-box unread by anyone else just doesn't seem right.

Ladies and Gentlemen, David Conrad:
The Post Gazette endorsed Jack Wagner for two reasons that I want to refute:
  1. Bill Peduto's too compromised by his position on City Council. In the paper's eyes, Council is irredeemable and Bill's got too many enemies, fatwas, and blood feuds running there to work with them if he becomes Mayor.
  2. Bill is, on the other hand, too cosy with our county executive Rich Fitzgerald. The PG doesn't want that kind of concentrated power running Allegheny county. Otherwise the PG calls Peduto hardworking, progressive, inspired, uncorrupted, and an all around decent guy who's partnered with them - the PG itself - to promote particular projects in Pittsburgh.
Reminds me of the joke about the producer and the scriptwriter, "We love this, we're behind you, we believe in you and we want to be a part of this. So we're gonna pass."

This schizophrenia in Pittsburgh's paper of note comes from the cold war between its owners, the Block family, and its managing editors. In other words between the money and the people on the ground. But more on that later.

POINT 1

Bill's been swimming with Council's sharks for more than a decade and there hasn't been a single corruption charge against him. If anything his time on Council has made him MORE progressive. He's turned away from the mad infighting to national and international sources of urban growth, studied them and tried to bring pieces of their programs to Pgh. He's not fighting for kickback dollars on building projects, or trying to settle Ward scores. He's not looking ahead to a seat on the board of Duquesne Light.

More importantly, Murphy's and Ravenstahl's administrations each in their own way demonstrated that a Mayor doesn't need to be beholden to or lovey dovey with Council to get stuff done. In fact he can ignore them half the time. If he's a driven powerhouse of a man like Murphy or the late Dick Caligiuri he can do amazing things, if he's a morally compromised teenager like Luke R he can ....well blacken the name of an entire political organization and hopefully go to jail.

What I'm saying is that there's no absolute power to corrupt anyone absolutely in any part of Pgh city government. The measure of the man determines how he'll use it. I think Bill's shown himself to be finely drawn. You can't buy him. He's a political creature. That's what he wants, the power, the work, not the payoff which could follow.

Jack Wagner's a machine politician. He has connections in Harrisburg that could smooth certain processes between our city and the capital but...how smooth do we want things between Corbett's Harrisburg and City Hall? Do you want drilling concessions at the city border which, if you've forgotten is, going roughly clockwise - Swissvale, just East of Banksville and North of Washington's landing?

Where Jack's been doing his work is probably more unsavory and just as dirty as Bill's backyard. Which is our backyard. I'd rather have someone who knows it and the bullies within that need a lesson.

Plain and simple, Luke's campaign money went to Jack. He accepted it. More importantly, the Dem powers that be - and if you think they don't exist I'm not a conspiracy theorist and you're a dreamer - they said, Yes Luke you can move that money to back Jack. Ipso facto Jack's their new man. Luke was their old one. Jack will have to owe them. Anyone humming a Who tune?

POINT 2

The plain fact of the matter is Pittsburgh will never be a great city...let me rephrase that...it will never have the political intelligence and might commensurate to its greatness until the day comes when the city IS the county. You've all read the numbers down the decades how we've gone from 600,000 to what is it now 307, 488? (Although I think we've just started to add a few, if only in Lawrenceville.)  Point is, Pittsburgh isn't a city. It's a city-state. It's a heartland of sorts to the Steeler nation and it stretches spiritually almost to the Ohio and West Virginia borders, up 79 to the fields of Meadville and as far East on the turnpike till DVE dies.

Okay maybe I'm exaggerating.

But Pittsburgh as a force and as a physical entity should shed its political borders. Philadelphia did, Buffalo did, Indianapolis has, Portland will...melt the city into the county, save all that municipal waste the suburbs complain about - while they live off the shoulder of the city like pilot fish - and at the same become a regional power to rival Philly in size.

What makes Pittsburgh truly "small", what is making it smaller is its small ambitions and its petty crimes. We have a political culture that fights over what it perceives are limited resources. We horde power and money in line offices that shouldn't exist, we hold fast to doctrines both laborite and managerial which sound respectively proud and real politic but eventually lead to paralysis, we sell out for payoffs that wouldn't pay off the balance of a car.

Redefine the pie. Get out of the engine room, as my dad used to say, and realize there's a ship to sail. Insert your own metaphor.

On a practical level, I hope the Mayor and the County Exec DO work hand in hand. I hope they get along like David Lawrence and (an elected) Richard Mellon, or Dick Caliguiri and Henry Hillman (or Elsie). We NEED to move as a body that's at least county wide and these guys are our chance to do it. They're not, neither of them and even their enemies couldn't pin it on them, they're not crooks. They're decent men who've arrived at just the right time.

Because in 5 years Pittsburgh's going to blow up on the national scene. We're going to have even more powerful health care, university and resource based industries, we're going to alter the map on urban farming and urban redevelopment. We're going to be a culinary, printmaking, bookmaking, beer making, and town making model for the entire country. You're gonna be flying to Portland Oregon to drink boutique coffee a decade late or Austin Texas to see SouthXSouthwest and you're gonna take out the airline magazine of your choice and there's gonna be an article about Pittsburgh, the phoenix from the industrial flameout, the emerald city risen from the brownfields, the gem of the Appalachians  that held fast against fracking (okay Brian, maybe The Paris..), and you're going to laugh. And hopefully turn around. Or have your head turned around when you get back and arrive where we first started and know the place for the first time.

And if we don't have the political vision to run alongside that urban assault, to assist and guide it, to check and delay it, we're going to be a war zone. Libertarians in the Cranberrys of their minds vs the radicals of Greater Homestead. We'll fracture even more and fight over smaller and smaller pieces of Pittsburgh's pie while the foundations despair and the drilling, banking and insurance companies chuckle.

Don't let it happen. You vote for Jack Wagner you vote for the past. Which needs to stop happening in Pittsburgh over and over again.

Listen to the PG's editors writing BETWEEN the lines of the editorial their owner demanded. Listen to the backlash.

Pick a good man not a party.

Latest Jack Wagner Ad

There's a new Jack Wagner ad out (you can see it here) that tries to undercut Bill Peduto's support among the younger electorate.

The ad is narrated by Wagner's daughter Sara and begins like this:
I’m Sara Wagner. My dad’s Jack Wagner and he’s running for Mayor. He knows what’s important to young people like me. He’s evolved a lot on social issues and I’m really proud of him.
However, the ad itself never says anything about how he's "evolved" on social issues.  I am guessing the campaign is hoping the electorate (READ: the young-uns already leaning towards Peduto) will just fill in the blanks.

So what does that "evolution" look like?

Chris Potter points out that:
As we've noted here previously, on LGBT issues especially, Wagner has come a long way since his city council days. And at debates, he routinely makes a point of emphasizing the importance of sensitivity to the "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community." (I don't think I've ever heard him use the acronym, now that I think of it.)

It's a cute spot, ending with a self-consciously dorky father-daughter fist-bump. But I can't help but feel it speaks to a certain unease about younger voters within Wagnerland: Polls consistently show Wagner lagging with that portion of the electorate.
That link on "previously" takes you to this piece by Lauren Daley where she writes:
Wagner's position on LGBT equality has evolved over the course of his political career. As a city councilor, he opposed a 1990 ordinance to include gays and lesbians in the city's anti-discrimination law. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that while Wagner acknowledged "incidents" of discrimination, "I don't believe that [Pittsburghers] discriminate in any systematic manner against homosexuals."

But during a 10-year stint in the state Senate, Wagner championed numerous pro-LGBT bills, including measures to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and to punish attacks on gays and lesbians as hate crimes. In this year's mayoral race, he told the Steel City Stonewall Democrats that he backed "full equality under the law for members of the LGBT community," including "the right to marry."
Which of course is a good thing - it should be noted, however, that that same Daley piece points out that even though Wagner backed marriage equality, the Stonewall Democrats endorsed Bill Peduto anyway.

Then there's this is an odd bit of social issues dissonance.  While Daley writes:
During his failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign, some anti-choice groups touted Wagner as an ally, but while Wagner described himself as a "pro-life Democrat," he also said he "support[ed] the current state law" — which permits abortion. In any case, Wagner's campaign told City Paper that he pledged to "enforce [clinic-access] laws appropriately."
LifePAC (which touts itself as "oldest pro-life PAC in southwestern Pennsylvania") writes that:
There can be no legitimate diversity of opinion with regard to abortion and euthanasia. The truth is that human rights begin when human lives begin.

As a member of the Catholic Church we cannot support candidates or legislation that sustains keeping abortion legal. We cannot serve two masters. We must eliminate from consideration candidates who endorse policies that cannot be reconciled with moral norms that are held by all Christians.
And LifePAC has endorsed Jack Wagner

On the one hand Wagner couldn't possibly have any control over who endorses him but on the other, as Molly Ivins once wrote, "You got to dance with them that brung you."

So while Wagner's evolved on some LGBT issues (though not enough to warrant an endorsement by the Stonewall Democrats) he's still anti-abortion (or pro-life or anti-choice - you pick the label).

We report, you decide.

May 14, 2013

More Peduto Swiftboating From Luke Ravenstahl

As disappointing and yet unsurprising as this is, Jack Wagner's de facto political ally, Luke Ravenstahl is at it again with another Swiftboat ad targeting Bill Peduto.

You remember the last one, right?  Bought and paid for by Ravenstahl's "Committee for a Better Pittsburgh" and produced by every Republican's favorite Swiftboating firm, SRCP Media.

From McNulty at the P-G, we learn that the ad:
...containing a hodge-podge of opposition material on the Democratic contender in the May 21 primary. FCC records show he'll be on air through primary day next week.
The FCC link confirms that this ad is also produced by SRCP Media.

I wonder how many of the City's democrats know that at least part of the cash they shoveled into Luke's campaign coffers has since been reshoveled into the PR firm that smeared John Kerry in 2004?

But I digress.  Back to the Luke's swiftboating.

The last charge of the ad has this text:
And Peduto supported raising seniors property taxes but using others people's money, including tax dollars to take exotic trips.
Ominously intoned over photos of concerned seniors while the showing us these dates as "evidence" to support that assertion:
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/18/03
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6/5/08
But this being a swiftboat ad, what can we expect about the "facts" underlying the smear?   You won't be disappointed to learn the unsurprising relationship between what the ad says the P-G said and what the P-G actually said.

I want to take a look at that "exotic trip" Peduto took, here's what Rich Lord actually wrote in the piece SRCP is using to swiftboat Peduto:
Mr. Peduto's travels start with a trip Monday to Harvard University for a national conference on the use of pension funds to revitalize neighborhoods. He said the city will pay about $600 for airfare and one night in a hotel -- the only part of his travel plans he expects taxpayers to cover.

Shortly after that, he'll take an 11-day trip to Turkey, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Dialogue Foundation, which fosters communication between cultures. That trip, which will take him from urban Istanbul to the cave warrens of Cappadocia, is about "tolerance and understanding," he said. "We'll be studying the cultural interaction between Christians, Muslims and Jews in five cities." [Emphasis added.]
A paragraph later Lord writes:
Mr. Peduto got a letter from the city's Ethics Hearing Board approving the trip, noting that the foundation has no business dealings with the city.
So that's it?  $600 for a trip to Hah-Vahd, a trip OK-ed by the Ethics Hearing Board?

See how that works?  This is the swiftboating that Ravenstahl's paying for.

Don't fall for it.

May 13, 2013

Peduto Momentum!

It happens every now and then - the OPJ and I find ourselves writing on the same topic.  Today it's Peduto's 7 point lead in the polls.

I'd like to add, however, that this is a change in some recent polling data.

Some chronology:
And now that leads us to the current 7 point lead for Peduto.

As they say, context is everything.  Imagine a race where one candidate is consistently ahead by double digits only to stumble a week or so before the election down to a 7 point lead.  You could say that the other candidate might be surging - that the momentum is moving in that candidate's direction.

But in this case we have something of the opposite - only 6 weeks or so ago Wagner was up by 7 and now it's Peduto's 7 point lead.

If there's momentum to be discussed, it's in Peduto's direction.

*** Obligatory Disclaimer: As everyone should know by now, Maria's been working part-time for People For Peduto since 2010. I, however, am unattached to any campaign.***

New Poll Shows Bill Peduto Up By 7 Points!

Via Keystone Analytics:
Lemoyne, PA (May 13, 2013) – In the race for Pittsburgh’s Mayor, Bill Peduto has increased his lead over former Auditor General Jack Wagner from two points on April 22nd to seven points late last week, according to a poll released by Keystone Analytics®. 
Peduto leads with 39 percent of likely voters saying they’ll vote for him while 32 percent say they’ll vote for Wagner. This lead, which is outside the margin of error of +/-4.9, indicates a surging Peduto but with the primary next week, 18 percent of voters are still unsure who they will vote for.
Want to make sure Bill stays on top and sweeps up this city? Hit the Get Out The Vote/Donate Button at www.billpeduto.com.

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

Fact-Checking Ruth Ann...And Her Tweets

In what I suppose is supposed to be a humorous satire on our twitter-infested political conversation, my friend and P-G columnist Ruth Ann Dailey makes a few, shall we say, mistakes of a factual nature.

Take a look:
The Benghazi story broke out of its Fox News ghetto last week as mainstream media biggies decided, months after it was fairly obvious, that the Obama administration had lied -- lied! -- about the tragic event.

Newly released emails show that White House and State Department officials extensively edited the "talking points" (TPs) provided to Congress and to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, insisting on removing from the CIA's original memo any reference to al-Qaida, its affiliates and previous attacks on "foreign interests" in Benghazi. Apparently, renewed terrorist attacks might not have gone over very well during the presidential campaign.

But, as Tommy Vietor, a former National Security Council spokesman, tweeted Friday: "The #Benghazi TPs were written at request of the House intel committee Rs so they could go on TV. Cong forced admin to do them now attack."

You follow? "By requesting information on the murders of four Americans, Republicans ("Rs") forced us to invent things to cover our political backsides! Then these snakes object to our lies!"
Let's start at Ruth Ann's first paragraph.  In this column, as you can see, she's talking about those talking points and how the White House "lied" with them.

But we can look back as far as late November, 2012 to see that this is simply untrue:
CBS News has learned that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) cut specific references to "al Qaeda" and "terrorism" from the unclassified talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice on the Benghazi consulate attack - with the agreement of the CIA and FBI. The White House or State Department did not make those changes. [Emphasis added.]

There has been considerable discussion about who made the changes to the talking points that Rice stuck to in her television appearances on Sept. 16 (video), five days after the attack that killed American Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and three other U.S. nationals.

Republicans have accused her of making misleading statements by referring to the assault as a "spontaneous" demonstration by extremists. Some have suggested she used the terminology she did for political reasons.
And about those changes - specifically about the removal of any reference to any specific terror organizations - we can turn to the reporting of a few days earlier:
David H. Petreus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Friday that classified intelligence reports revealed that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration refrained from saying it suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers to avoid tipping off the groups.

Mr. Petraeus, who resigned last week after admitting to an extramarital affair, said the names of groups suspected in the attack — including Al Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa and a local Libyan group, Ansar al-Shariah — were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, lawmakers said.
A few paragraphs later:
The talking points initially drafted by the C.I.A. attributed the attack to fighters with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the organization’s North Africa franchise, and Ansar al-Shariah, a Libyan group, some of whose members have Al Qaeda ties.

Mr. Petraeus and other top C.I.A. officials signed off on the draft and then circulated it to other intelligence agencies, as well as the State Department and National Security Council.

At some point in the process — Mr. Petraeus told lawmakers he was not sure where — objections were raised to naming the groups, and the less specific word “extremists” was substituted.
But why?
Some intelligence analysts worried, for instance, that identifying the groups could reveal that American spy services were eavesdropping on the militants — a fact most insurgents are already aware of. Justice Department lawyers expressed concern about jeopardizing the F.B.I.’s criminal inquiry in the attacks. Other officials voiced concern that making the names public, at least right away, would create a circular reporting loop and hamper efforts to trail the militants.
Again this is all from last November.  So Ruth Ann, tell me again about the lies?

Especially in light of this 2008 report from CNN:
President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups.

"In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003," reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

According to the study, Bush and seven top officials -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years.
For instance, the Center for Public Integrity wrote:
In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, President Bush said: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

But as early as March 2002, there was uncertainty within the intelligence community regarding the sale of uranium to Iraq. That month, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research published an intelligence assessment titled, "Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq Is Unlikely." In July 2002, the Energy Department concluded that there was "no information indicating that any of the uranium shipments arrived in Iraq" and suggested that the "amount of uranium specified far exceeds what Iraq would need even for a robust nuclear weapons program." In August 2002, the Central Intelligence Agency made no mention of the Iraq-Niger connection in a paper on Iraq's WMD capabilities.

Just two weeks before the president's speech, an analyst with the Bureau of Intelligence and Research had sent an e-mail to several other analysts describing why he believed "the uranium purchase agreement probably is a hoax." And in 2006 the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded: "Postwar findings do not support the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessment that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake' from Africa. Postwar findings support the assessment in the NIE of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) that claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are 'highly dubious.'"
I include this lie because back then, Ruth Ann wrote about how in "political theatre" "the truth rarely matters." Specifically about the unveiling of Valerie Plame:
It didn't matter that her husband Joe Wilson's investigation and subsequent New York Times editorial had actually bolstered the claim of British and Italian intelligence that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium in Niger.
But we already know that that claim was "highly dubious" and that Joe Wilson's investigation did not "bolster" that claim anyway:
In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70's and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90's. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq -- and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
You were saying, Ruth Ann?

May 12, 2013

Um...Irony? I'm Not Sure

Take a look at this Sunday Pop found on the pages of the Richard Mellon Scaife-owned Tribune-Review:
The speaker of the California Assembly says he's “deeply concerned about media outlets being purchased to further a political agenda.” John Perez is referring to speculation that billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, economic conservatives and social libertarians, are considering buying the Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers. Never mind that the L.A. Times has been furthering the far-left political agenda for decades. [Bolding in original]
Never mentioned: The Tribune-Review is also owned by another billionaire who's also an economic conservative/social libertarian who's also using his ownership of some other media outlets to further a political agenda.

Huh.  You think someone would notice a pattern.

May 11, 2013

What A Difference 82 Years, 11 Months and 6 Days (or so) Makes

How differently public nudity is described these days!

In today's P-G the She-Pope is described as:
...wearing a pope costume, but had no clothing below her waist, and on her pubic area was the shape of a cross.
On May 6, 1930, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported:
County detectives raided the barge Manitou at the foot of Wood Street last night, which for months has been the scene of shows in which the costuming of the chorus hasn't been any problem to the promoters because there aren't any costumes.
And more specifically:
The entertainment had scarcely gotten under way when it was abruptly terminated by the arrival of the county sleuths and deputy sheriffs.  Three girls had enthralled the customers with a dance and one reel of motion pictures had been shown when the detectives arrived in the middle of the second film.  In the matter of costume the girls found no difficulty at all unless one would say that shoes and stockings constituted an adequate wardrobe.
And those "motion pictures"?  The P-G goes this far to call them:
Reels of films which usually are distributed by underground channels...
Nude dancing and porn?  On a barge on the Mon??

Duh Burgh must've been a wild place 82 years, 11 months and 6 (or so) days ago.

The Catholic Sharia of Pittsburgh

As reported yesterday:
Carnegie Mellon University police on Friday filed charges of indecent exposure against two art students accused of public nudity during a campus parade sponsored by the College of Fine Arts.
One of the two would be the she-pope. The other was some guy who dressed as an astronaut and then disrobed (down to his shoes and nothing more) while standing on top of a float.

You'll note that Bishop Zubik had no problem with the non-female, non-papal public nakedness.

That being said, take a look at this piece from Michael McGough of the LA Times:
In the post-9/11 culture wars over Islamic fundamentalism, American conservatives — properly — have condemned attempts in Muslim countries to punish blasphemy or insults to the prophet Muhammad. It will be interesting to see if they are similarly outraged over what has happened to an art student at Carnegie Mellon University who insulted the pope.
Granted there were no death threats, no threats of violence from the Bishop to defend his faith - but as McGough points out:
But it’s hard to believe that the university would have pursued the matter if there hadn’t been a complaint by Bishop David A. Zubik, who said that the display was “offensive to me and the church that I represent.”
Considering the Bishop was silent about the naked astronaut, it was all about the religious insult.

And in a free society, that's just not good enough to warrant punishment.  Sorry, Dave.

McGough quotes Texas v Johnson and I can't think of a better message to send Bishop David Zubik and the church he's looking to defend:
If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.
Especially since he thinks that:
...freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone's race, the sacredness of anyone's religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone's nationality.
Wrong again, Dave.

May 10, 2013

And Now...The Bishop Responds. And Gets It Wrong.

This is a follow-up to this post.

KDKA's Andy Sheehan (who broke this most important story in late April) has an update on CMU President Cohon's email from earlier today.

By the way, he's got a link to the email at CMU.

He also has a reaction from Bishop Zubik:
The Catholic Church of Pittsburgh acknowledges the fact that Carnegie Mellon University has taken the time to treat this unfortunate incident in a serious manner.

Once again, and as I have said over these last few weeks, this is an opportunity for all of us to be reminded that freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone’s race, the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone’s nationality.

Dialogue, disagreements and even demonstrations must be conducted in an atmosphere of decency, self-respect, and esteem for the community in which we live and those who live in it. I hope that all of us – including the students involved – can learn and grow from this very important lesson in living.
I am not sure which update the good bishop is reading but when he writes that:
...this is an opportunity for all of us to be reminded that freedom of speech and freedom of expression do not constitute a freedom to dismiss or disrespect the beauty of anyone’s race, the sacredness of anyone’s religious belief or the uniqueness of anyone’s nationality.
He's got it exactly wrong.  Note his weaselly addition of "race" and "nationality" into the discussion.  Nowhere was there any mention of either at the derby, so let's ignore them as the deflections that they are and concentrate on the what the Bishop really wants to talk about.

He's got it exactly wrong because that's exactly what "freedom of speech and freedom of expression" can constitute: freedom to dismiss or disrespect "the sacredness" of anyone's belief.  However offensive that expression may be to the believers.