We are the 99%

June 30, 2013

More On Daryl Metcalfe (Why Am I Not Surprised?)

From WHYY:
Openly gay Pa. Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, was blocked from talking about the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday on the floor of the Pennsylvania House.

His comments to his colleagues were ended by a procedural maneuver.

In a part of the house session where members can speak on wide-ranging topics, Sims had just begun his remarks when he was shut down.
So an elected official in Pennsylvania, which is one of the United States of America, during a legislative session where members can discuss a wide range of issues of the day rose to speak about US V Windsor and was shut down.

By his own admission, he was going to "going to limit my comments to how important the cases were."

But he wasn't able to.  So what happened?  This:
It takes just one legislator to end the impromptu remarks. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe was one of the House Republicans who objected.

"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law," said Metcalfe, R-Butler.

Two more Democratic legislators got up to speak in support of Sims. Neither was allowed to proceed.
Why is it not surprising that Daryl Metcalfe would deny a gay member of the house an opportunity to speak about the Supreme Court's decision that DOMA was unconstitutional and use "God's law" as a reason to do so?

I mean Daryl is an ALEC legislator who's done some oh so wonderful things limiting freedom in this state.  Things like:
So why should we be surprised that Daryl invokes all-mighty Gawd to protect his ears from the words of the rebellious sodomite?

There's a follow up from WYY:
Sims rose again on the House floor Thursday evening to ask the Legislature to reprimand Metcalfe for his comments. He told colleagues he felt that his character had been questioned.

"It is my understanding of the rules of this body that I could never call another member a bigot, a homophobe or a racist, nor would I, but I do ask that this body recognize that the language used against me as a member does not live up to the standards set by this body," he said.

The House determined that it could not censure Metcalfe for comments made elsewhere.
Oh, well...

On t'other hand:
Rep. Mike Fleck, Pennsylvania's first openly gay lawmaker, said of Rep. Metcalfe's move to silence Rep. Sims: "I, like many of my Republican colleagues, was infuriated. I think we should be able to speak on any issue. If you don't like it, you can get up and leave."

When asked if he thought it was appropriate for Rep. Metcalfe to be censured, Fleck said, "I think Representative Metcalfe would love to be censured. I mean, he would love the national press. I mean, quite frankly, that's how he raises money — by exploiting an issue and saying, 'Oh look they're coming after me. Send me 5 bucks.' So you know, I seriously don't blame Representative Sims for wanting due recourse and all this, but I just don't know what is gained throughout the whole thing."

Fleck, R-Huntingdon, said Metcalfe has "certainly lost a lot of respect by many members," because of the flap over Sims' attempt to speak.
That last part's the most shocking. Even with all the crazie noises mumbling between Metcalfe's ears, he once had the respect of many house members???

What is wrong with those people?

June 29, 2013

ANNOUNCEMENT

Looks like I'll be on KDKA radio Sunday afternoon at 5pm.

John McIntire's sitting in for Chris Moore and (to make a short story somewhat shorter) he's looking for the 2 Political Junkies to be represented on the air tomorrow.

Below is an NSA approved transcript of our conversation.
JonnyMac: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint. 'Ello, Miss?
Dayvoe: What do you mean "miss"?
JonnyMac: (pause) I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
Dayvoe: We're closin' for lunch.
 So see?  Sunday at 5pm on KDKA!

The Trib Gets The Climate Wrong. Again.

Every couple of weeks, it seems, my friends on Scaife's braintrust (they're the folks responsible for the Tribune-Review's editorials) publish yet another bit of climate science denial.

Or rather, it's the same retched bit just heaved back at us.  Every few weeks.

This past Friday, they published this:
Blame-mankind “scientists” can't explain global warming's virtual halt since 1997 while U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide have fallen to 1994 levels.
First, I want you to notice the acknowledgement in the first phrase (how the scientists can't explain the warming's halt).  Think about that for a second.  If there has been a halt to the warming (as they clearly state) then that also means that has been warming (ie one that's been "halted.")

They seem to have abandoned their "climate science is a perversion of genuine science" line some time ago (at least as far back as this) but they're still hard at work undermining the genuine science nonetheless.

So has there actually been a halt to global warming?

Um, no.  Take a look at this actual science from Columbia University:

And:


They're both taken from this page. And this is what that page says about the data they represent:
The figure(s) show 60-month (5-year) and 132-month (11-year to minimize the effect of the solar cycle) running means of the surface temperature deviation from the 1951-1980 mean. This graph makes clear that global warming is continuing — it did not stop in 1998. The year 1998 was remarkably warm relative to the underlying trend line, in association with the El Nino" of the century. But the underlying global temperature has continued to rise, despite the fact that solar irradiance for the past few years has been stuck in the deepest solar minimum in the period of satellite data.[Emphasis added.]
See that? The first graph has the "roughest" line (the "Annual Mean) that gets smoothed out with a 5 year running mean (that's when they average the first five years and then years 2 through 6 and then 3 through 7 and so on - it's used to take sudden, one time anomalies into account).  You see what they did in the second chart?  There's a 5 year mean and then an 11 year mean.  As the scope gets larger the line gets smoother and the point is clearer.

No halt to global warming since 1997.

The Trib gets it wrong.

Again.

And since the rest of the editorial rests on that so-called bit of information, the rest of the editorial inevitably fails as well.

June 26, 2013

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

It happens every now and then - the Scaife's braintrust gets something RIGHT.

Take a look:
The times they have a-changed. Witness two landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings issued Wednesday regarding same-sex marriage.

In one 5-4 ruling, the high court said a provision of 1996's federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) “is unconstitutional as deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment,” which guarantees equal protection of the laws.

“The avowed purpose and practical effect of (DOMA) are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States,” Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, wrote for a majority joined by the court's liberals.

In a second 5-4 ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by an odd union of conservatives and liberals, the court held that the private party that stepped in to defend California's gay marriage ban lacked standing. Thus, gay marriage once again is legal in The Golden State.

We agree with the Supreme Court's rulings. For, and particular to the DOMA case, those married in the 12 states (and District of Columbia) that recognize same-sex marriage no longer can be discriminated against for a host of federal benefits, privileges and rights enjoyed by heterosexual marrieds.
It's about fucking time.

SCOTUS Kills DOMA & Dismisses Prop 8: PA, It's Your Move Now!

 
PennLive takes a look at how today's ruling could make Pennsylvania "less appealing to progressive-minded businesses and their gay employees."
 
Via WTAE: "A spokesman for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett says he supports a state constitutional ban on gay marriage in Pennsylvania."
 
The celebration in Pittsburgh: Post-Gazette, The Trib & City Paper.
 

"Riot or Rejoice" Act Up?/Celebrate? Supreme Court Decision This Morning in Pittsburgh

 
Via Facebook:
TODAY: 9:30am until 11:00am.  
Liberty Avenue between 9th & 10th Streets in Downtown Pittsburgh 15222  
Join us on Wednesday, June 26 at 9:30 AM on Liberty Avenue as we "RIOT or REJOICE" when the Supreme Court announces its decision on Prop 8 and the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).  
This event will happen ON THE STREET live with a large outdoor television, speakers and a time for us to ACT UP or CELEBRATE this historic decision.  
The time is NOW for our Government to STOP discriminating against its LGBT citizens and treat everyone EQUALLY!  
This event is being produced by the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh in conjunction with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Equality Pennsylvania, Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania, New Voices Pittsburgh, One Pittsburgh, Persad Center, SEIU Healthcare PA, SEIU Local 668, SEIU Local 32BJ, Shepherd Wellness Center, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, and Dreams of Hope. If your organization is interested in becoming involved please email info@pittsburghpride.org.  
This event has been issued a permit by the City of Pittsburgh - Special Events Office. Street closures will be handled by City of Pittsburgh - Bureau of Police personnel.
NOTE: Via the P-G: Liberty Avenue to close in Downtown Pittsburgh for Supreme Court same-sex marriage announcements

Texas Literally Turns Back the Clock on Women's Rights. Democracy Aborted. (UPDATE: WIN!)

 
Senator Wendy Davis (D) filibustered in the Texas state legislature for 13 hours yesterday in order to prevent a vote on a bill which would unconstitutionally criminalize all abortions after 20 weeks, close all but five of Texas clinics that provide abortions and defund Planned Parenthood. Aside from not being allowed to eat or go to the bathroom, she wasn't even allowed to lean against the podium. And, unlike filibusters you may have seen before, she had to stay germane to the topic -- no reading from the phone book -- and the decision as to whether or not she 'strayed' from the topic was decided by the men of the GOP.

Right before midnight -- the deadline for voting -- it was declared that she had achieved a third strike because she was talking about forced invasive ultrasounds which somehow wasn't on topic. Hundreds in the audience erupted in chants of "Let her speak!" as a bunch of men debated her right to continue and -- no surprise -- decided that she could not.

Then they took a vote on the bill -- over 100,000 watched a live stream of the vote, which occurred AFTER MIDNIGHT -- meaning too late to pass the bill.

So what did the legislature do? They turned back the clock on the vote just as they turned back the clock on women's reproductive rights.

Here's the original actual recorded time of the vote on the legislature's website which happened at 12:02 AM TODAY:


Here's the forged one which they are claiming took place at 11:57 PM yesterday:


Here's the actual time stamp:


And then they arrested the audience who were protesting the illegal vote.

Democracy. Too bad we don't have one in Texas.

Or as was tweeted by Martha Plimpton:
Yep, Texas finally found a real instance of voter fraud.

UPDATE: WIN!!! 

June 25, 2013

THE IRS SCANDAL!!

Hey, remember when the P-G's Jack Kelly wrote this?
Who in Washington ordered special scrutiny of Tea Party groups, pro-Life groups, pro-Israel groups and donors to Freedom Watch, an organization which supported the Iraq troop surge?

Lois Lerner, director of the Exempt Organizations Division in Washington, was placed on administrative leave (with full pay) after she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination rather than answer questions from the House Oversight Committee. But it's doubtful the buck stops with her. [Emphases added.]
Or this?
The Internal Revenue Service demanded of some conservative groups (but not liberal groups) applying for tax-exempt status the names and addresses of their members and donors, and their contacts with journalists and legislators.

"Please detail the content of the members of your organizations' prayers," the IRS asked a pro-life group in Iowa.

Tax collectors have no right to demand such information from Americans. We must find out who is responsible for targeting critics of the Obama administration, and hold them accountable.[Emphases added.]
And how about our friends on Scaife's braintrust? Remember when they wrote this?
This is government thuggery at among its worst — siccing the tax man on those with political views opposite of those in charge of the executive branch and in the middle of a presidential election year. [Emphasis added.]
Or this?
Not only did the Internal Revenue Service target conservative groups for harassing and illegal scrutiny of their tax-exempt status, it appears to have lied about how far up the food chain knowledge of this thuggish practice went. [Emphasis added.]
And when Ruth Ann Dailey wrote this?
The cacophony has grown louder and wilder in recent days due to a quick succession of executive branch debacles: the cynical cover-up of the Benghazi assault; the IRS oppression of conservative and independent nonprofits...[Emphasis added.]
Or this?
The bolder and more troubling intrusion is the Internal Revenue Service's clearly ideological targeting of conservative and libertarian groups. Bureaucrats grilled nonprofit applicants on matters of conscience up to and including the specific content and wording of their prayers. [Emphasis added.]
Remember all this?  It was only in the last coupla months.

Now take a look at this from the New York Times:
The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.

The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny. Instead, the documents say, officials were trying to use “key word” shortcuts to find overtly political organizations — both liberal and conservative — that were after tax favors by saying they were social welfare organizations.
The Times has an example:
“Common thread is the word ‘progressive,’ ” a lookout list instructs. “Activities appear to lean toward a new political party. Activities are partisan and appear as anti-Republican.”
Now that it looks like Obama Administration (or at least the IRS) was not (repeat: NOT) targeting conservative groups with their offensive and intrusive inquiries - they were targeting groups across the political spectrum - will we see a clarification from Jack Kelly?  The Braintrust?  Ruth Ann Dailey?

And what would these clarifications look like?  And how long will it take?

There are reputations at stake here.

June 23, 2013

Tracking The Crazie - Marriage Equality Edition

Found this at WND:
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day to release opinions on two landmark cases (Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor) that, should the court overstep its authority, threaten great violence to the age-old institution of marriage – society’s fundamental cornerstone.

Also at stake is the high court’s already fragile legitimacy.

Lest there be any doubt as to where the Bible-believing Christian community stands, scores of Christian leaders and clergy – Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant alike – have released a statement in anticipation of these rulings entitled: “We Stand in Solidarity to Defend Marriage and the Family and Society Founded Upon Them.” I was honored to have my name included among the list of signatories that, collectively, represent tens of millions of Christians.
Ah, so there's a statement, now.  We'll touch on it later.  Back to teh crazies at WND:
The central reality behind the statement is this: Marriage is what marriage is, has always been and always will be. Marriage predates civil government. Mankind can no more transmute marriage to something it is not than can we reverse the earth’s rotation or gravitational pull. Despite an evidently contagious delusion to the contrary, not even the United States Supreme Court is capable of overruling the laws of moral and biological physics. Any attempt to do so is illegitimate. It’s moral alchemy. [Emphasis added.]
But by this same argument, slavery predates civil government as well.  And it's encouraged in The Bible - both the Old Testament :
10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. (Deut 20:10-15) [Emphasis added.]
And the New:
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:22-24) [Emphases added.]
So I guess it was also moral alchemy when this nation declared:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Allowed in The Bible and yet banned by the The Constitution.  Huh.

The statement itself bases the definition of marriage on something called "Natural Moral Law" which never, exactly, gets a good definition itself, though it's given high standing:
We affirm that marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society; the first church, first school, first hospital, first economy, first government and first mediatin g institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.

Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman was not an idea manufactured by the Christian Church. It precedes Christianity. Though affirmed, fulfilled , and elevated by Christian teaching, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Moral Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason.

This claim of the existence of such a Natural Moral Law is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built. It is the source of every authentic human and civil rights movement. This Natural Moral Law gives us th e norms we need to build truly human and humane societies and govern ourselves. It should also inform our positive law or we will become lawless and devolve into anarchy.
So this "Natural Moral Law" is the final say.  Funny how the Constitution disagrees:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
So if the Supreme Court is to decide on the Constitutionality of those laws, "Natural Moral Law" (whatever that is) has no authority over and above the Constitution.

So what if the Natural Law crowd looses?

Take a look:


Huh - he talks of a "firestorm of opposition" will cause "a revolution" that could "explode" and "break this nation apart."

Sounds like a threat to me.  From those claiming to abide by "Natural Law."

Huh.

Ed Heath Returns!

After a break of almost exactly 4 months, Ed Heath has returned to posting stuff on his blog!

Go read it - it's about Jack Kelly's latest column and it's lack of facts.

June 22, 2013

114,000. There were 114,000 Of Them.

A long long time ago, at one of my old jobs, I knew an attorney who, in the course of our office chit-chats, told me of the greatest regret of his life - it was one of his old jobs he had while he was serving in the military.  Our chats took place more than a decade ago and what he was discussing what took place a few decades before that.  Old memories of mine of older memories of his.

He told me that he was for a time attached to military intelligence but instead of finding spies he told me his job was "to find the gays."

If I recall correctly, he said that what they did was to stake out what they knew to be the gay bars in the DC area and to take note of the men and women entering them.  If they recognized someone from the military then the process would start to quietly drum them out of the service.

That's what he said was the biggest shame of his life.  He said he was following orders and that at the time the military thought that being gay was a security threat (since it could have been the reason for blackmail) and so on.  But he was still ashamed of his actions.

I was reminded of this when I read this:
Almost two years since the landmark repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” tens of thousands of gay veterans who served this country with honor and dignity possess records that remain blemished with a range of discharges because of their sexuality. To support the Department of Defense’s efforts to rectify this injustice, U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) today proposed legislation, the “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” that would ensure gay and lesbian service members who were discharged for no other reason than their sexual orientation have their records upgraded to reflect their honorable service.

Since World War II to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 2011, approximately 114,000 service members were discharged because of their sexual orientation.
I didn't realize the number was that high, though I am not surprised that it is.

From the press release:
The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” is about more than upgrading a piece of paper. Every form of discharge previously given out prior to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” carries with it consequences that can follow a service member for his or her entire life. While the character of discharge varied, many members received discharges that were classified as other than honorable or dishonorable, particularly prior to the implementation of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in 1993. In many states, a dishonorable discharge is treated as a felony, and service members receiving a general discharge, a lesser offense, can encounter grave difficulties acquiring civilian employment. All were barred from reenlisting in the military. Depending on the discharge received, service members may also be blocked from voting, unemployment benefits, participating in the GI Bill or receiving veteran benefits such as health care, VA disability, and ceremonial burial rights at military cemeteries.

The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” turns the current broad review policy outlined in a memo from the Under Secretary of Defense into clear and settled law. It ensures all services members who were previously discharged because of their sexual orientation receive a timely, consistent and transparent review of their records so that gay veterans who served honorably have their records rightfully upgraded to honorable. It also removes any indication of a service member’s sexual orientation from the record, so they are not automatically “outed” to those accessing their record and protects against future discrimination by decriminalizing consensual relations between same sex couples, bringing military law in line with Supreme Court rulings.
Yea, it's time to fix this shameful chapter of our nation's history as well.

June 19, 2013

Announcement

My work scheduled has shifted a bit and so it doesn't look like I can be a morning blogger for very much longer.  Afternoons and evening blogging for me!

Sorry for any inconvenience this may be causing you, youse, y'all, and y'inz.

Meanwhile, Outside...

From the State of the Climate Global Analysis page for April 2013:
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for April 2013 was the 13th warmest on record, at 0.52°C (0.94°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F).
That's out of 134 years, by the way. We just had the 13th warmest April in 134 years.

Then there's  the YTD:
The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–April period (year-to-date) was 0.56°C (1.01°F) above the 20th century average of 12.6°C (54.8°F), tying with 2009 as the eighth warmest such period on record.
And the 8th warmest January to April.

Yea that's right, the planet isn't warming up.

June 18, 2013

More On Representative Jeff Duncan

Remember this from yesterday?

The braintrust spread yet another wingnut conspiracy theory by way of Representative Jeff Duncan.

Well they should be more careful who they quote as it turns out that Duncan's a birther:
Another Republican is accusing President Obama of secretly being a Kenyan man who forged his birth certificate in order to get elected President of the United States. This time the theorist is Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), chairman of the House Homeland Security Oversight Subcommittee.

Duncan appeared on the radio program TruNews with Rick Wiles on Friday where the host asked the South Carolina congressman whether the House would go after Obama’s “phony identification papers.” Duncan initially demurred, but then agreed with Wiles that Obama could be lying about his birth certificate, calling for Congress to “revisit” the issue of “the president’s validity."
While it's hardly surprising that Duncan (who's seen quickly shifting from the "guv'ment's buyin' up all the ammo!" story to the "guv'ment's arming the IRS with assault rifles!" story in yesterday's Trib) is fertile ground for any number of other crazie conspiracies, nothing invalidates credibility faster than being a birther. 

The Trib really needs to be more careful who they're quoting as they're dancing dangerously close to World Net Daily on this one.

June 17, 2013

The Latest OUTRAGE!

From this Sunday's Sunday Pops:
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., says he wants to know why IRS agents are training with semiautomatic AR-15 rifles. The chairman of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee says he saw the training firsthand at a federal firing range last month. The IRS defends such training. But asks Mr. Duncan, “Are Americans that much of a target that you need that kind of capability?” Look for a new run on AR-15s by their “targets.”[Bolding in original.]
Funny thing: THIS wingnut conspiracy theory grew out of ANOTHER wingnut conspiracy theory.

Take a look:
South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District representative wants to know why he saw IRS agents training with powerful, semi-automatic rifles.

Republican Jeff Duncan said he made the discovery at a Maryland Federal Law Enforcement Training Center on May 23.

The congressman was touring the facility with Homeland Security officials as part of his investigation into the amount of ammunition purchases the agency conducts.

Duncan told News 4’s Sean Muserallo he saw about eight or nine shooters identified to him as IRS agents practicing at an indoor 100-yard range.

“While we were sitting there,” said Duncan, “the gentleman told them to sling their weapons and load a 30-round magazine into the AR-15s they were training with.”

Duncan said he was concerned about what he saw.
Ah, yes.  The guv'ment is stockpiling ammunition wingnut conspiracy.  Representative Duncan poses the question:
Why do IRS law enforcement agents need standoff capability that you would have with a long rifle or with a weapon similar to an AR-15? They’re generally investigating tax evasion, fraud and money laundering. We think of the IRS as an audit agency more than doing the type of law enforcement where they have to use an AR-15.
Yes...who does he think commits tax evasion, fraud and money laundering?

For those investigations the IRS has a Criminal Enforcement Division.  Where they investigate:
So, yea, I'd say they probably need the firepower.  And considering the anti-tax, anti-guv'ment climate in this country, such firepower seems, sadly, necessary:
The federal agency charged with ensuring the safety of IRS employees said it has seen an uptick in the past several years in threats against agency personnel.

In the past four years, there appears to have been a "steady, upward trend" in the number of threats against IRS employees, said an official with the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration. That assessment, offered in response to an inquiry from Dow Jones Newswires, is based on preliminary data, the official cautioned.
Wingnut conspiracies breed more wingnut conspiracies.  Especially in the fact-emptied reality of the Rightwing press.

June 14, 2013

Pittsburgh Pride!


As we still await the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA and Prop 8, just a reminder that there are lots of ways to celebrate Pittsburgh Pride this month including Pride in the Street, Pride March and PrideFest.

You can also help support the Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

There's the Pittsburgh Dyke And Trans March later this month.

And, Sue has been running 'LGBTQ&A' interviews all month at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.

Find your way to support equality for all!

(And, if you've been seeing the above graphic popping up on various Facebook posts, I'm proud to say I created for last year's Pride post and yes, that makes three 'flag' posts on Flag Day.)

One more for Flag Day

(h/t to Chris Sandvig)

For Flag Day, 2013

From one of my favorite movies:


The text:
America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free, then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest." Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.
Celebrate freedom, this Flag Day.

June 13, 2013

And For All This, We Thank The Patriot Act

Let's start here:
Two United States senators on Wednesday accused the Justice Department of making misleading statements about the legal justification of secret domestic surveillance activities that the government is apparently carrying out under the Patriot Act.

The lawmakers — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both of whom are Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee — sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. calling for him to “correct the public record” and to ensure that future department statements about the authority the government believes is conveyed by the surveillance law would not be misleading.
And:
The Justice Department denied being misleading about the Patriot Act, saying it has acknowledged that a secret, sensitive intelligence program is based on the law and that its statements about the matter have been accurate.

Mr. Wyden and Mr. Udall have for months been raising concerns that the government has secretly interpreted a part of the Patriot Act in a way that they portray as twisted, allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct some kind of unspecified domestic surveillance that they say does not dovetail with a plain reading of the statute.

The dispute has focused on Section 215 of the Patriot Act. It allows a secret national security court to issue an order allowing the F.B.I. to obtain “any tangible things” in connection with a national security investigation. It is sometimes referred to as the “business records” section because public discussion around it has centered on using it to obtain customer information like hotel or credit card records.
By the way, this is from 2011.

So what's this Section 215?  For this we turn to slate.com.  They start with Section 103(a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978:
The Chief Justice of the United States shall publicly designate seven district court judges from seven of the United States judicial circuits who shall constitute a court which shall have jurisdiction to hear applications for and grant orders approving electronic surveillance anywhere within the United States under the procedures set forth in this Act, except that no judge designated under this subsection shall hear the same application for electronic surveillance under this Act which has been denied previously by another judge designated under this subsection. [Emphasis from Slate.]
And then they point out that the Patriot Act:
Section 215 modifies the rules on records searches. Post-Patriot Act, third-party holders of your financial, library, travel, video rental, phone, medical, church, synagogue, and mosque records can be searched without your knowledge or consent, providing the government says it's trying to protect against terrorism.
And:
As Section 215 stands today—in the reauthorized version of the Patriot Act passed in 2005—"tangible things" (aka user data) sought in a FISA order "must be 'relevant' to an authorized preliminary or full investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a U.S. person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."
It's about those "tangible things" and how they can get got.  Here's the relevant passage from the Patriot Act:
The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.
Where am I going with all this?

First here, to this DemocracyNow! interview where Amy Goodman is interviewing William Binney on NSA Surveillance:
Well, after some of the laws they passed, like the PATRIOT Act and their secret interpretation of Section 215, which is—my view, of course, is same as Tom Drake’s, is that that gives them license to take all the commercially held data about us, which is exceedingly dangerous, because if you take that and put it into forms of graphing, which is building relationships or social networks for everybody, and then you watch it over time, you can build up knowledge about everyone in the country.
And then finally here where Binney gives up more info:
I began by asking Binney if Business Insider’s speculation was correct. Specifically, I asked Binney if the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was that a foreign company – like Narus, for example – could vacuum up information on Americans, and then the NSA would obtain that data under the excuse of spying on foreign entities … i.e. an Israeli company.

Binney replied no … it was broader than that. [Emphasis in original.]
And then finally:
I followed up to make sure I understood what Binney was saying, asking whether the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was that the government could use any information as long as it came from a private company … foreign or domestic. In other words, the government is using the antiquated, bogus legal argument that it was not using its governmental powers (called “acting under color of law” by judges), but that it was private companies just doing their thing (which the government happened to order all of the private companies to collect and fork over).

Binney confirmed that this was correct. This is what the phone company spying program and the Prism program – the government spying on big Internet companies – is based upon. Since all digital communications go through private company networks, websites or other systems, the government just demands that all of the companies turn them over.
Ain't the Patriot Act grand?  Ain't government secrecy grand?  It's allowing all this to happen!

Gotta go, there's a knock on my

June 12, 2013

Update On The Semi-Naked She-Pope

From Andy Sheehan at KDKA:
Indecent exposure charges have been dropped against a Carnegie Mellon University student after dressed up as the pope, and was naked from the waist down, with a her pubic hair shaved in the shape of a cross.

Katherine O’Connor was in court Monday and rather than contest the charge, she agreed to perform 80 hours of community service.
Charges against the naked astronaut were also dropped:
Robb Godshaw, 22, was also charged with public nudity stemming from the same incident. He too, will receive the same community service deal.
But let's be honest.  Robb of the House Godshaw was never the issue here as his public testicularity was never mentioned as the reason Bishop Zubik got involved in the first place.

From the Trib:
A Carnegie Mellon University student's march across campus, half naked and handing out condoms while dressed in mock papal finery from the waist up, “crossed over the line,” Bishop David Zubik said on Tuesday.

Zubik, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said he contacted university officials last week when someone sent the diocese photographs of the young woman, whose pubic hair was shaved in the shape of a cross.
See?

As I wrote here, the Bishop has the whole concept of "freedom of speech" completely wrong.  He wrote 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.
And that's what's completely wrong.  In Texas v. Johnson, the Supreme Court wrote:
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.
And yet in the coverage of the plea deal:
Bishop David Zubik hopes a Carnegie Mellon University student will learn from the controversy about her half-naked portrayal of the pope and avoid letting it ruin her future, a diocese spokesman said on Monday.

“Bishop Zubik said from the beginning our real concern was the lack of respect for the religious beliefs of others,” Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh spokesman Ronald Lengwin said. “He's hoping the community service can also be a learning experience for her.”
But the plea deal was not about the "lack of respect for the religious beliefs of others."  It was about the public nudity.  Lengwin and the Diocese, by connecting the community service to that "lack of respect" are still getting that bedrock principle wrong.

Truth of the matter Dave, is that she cannot be punished for insulting you or your church (not in a free society, at least) and she cannot be forced into a "learning experience" for insulting you or your church (again, not in a free society).  If that's what you want, then you're the one not respecting the freedom and the First Amendment.

As the man said:
You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.
Wonder if they'll be discussing this on the Fortnight For Freedom.

June 11, 2013

I Am Not Sure The Braintrust Knows How To Read

Take a look at this from today:
Come again?: The Toledo, Ohio, Block Bugler editorializes that since the Framers could not have envisioned DNA testing, swabbing the mouth of those arrested for their DNA is not a Fourth Amendment violation. Neither could the Framers have envisioned high-speed printing presses. Does this mean The Bugler has no First Amendment right to publish? [Bolding in original.]
While I realize there's a vigorous debate surrounding Maryland v King, the braintrust does itself no favors by misrepresenting both what the Supreme Court said and then what the P-G said about it.

First, let's go back to what the braintrust said about the decision:
The Supreme Court's Monday decision affirming the right of police, without probable cause and without a warrant, to take DNA samples from those they arrest (but supposedly only for serious crimes) is chilling.[Emphasis added.]
Now let's take a look at the "Held" section of the decision:
When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. [Emphasis added.]
Notice anything?  I even bolded/italicized the important words for any braintrust visitors that may be visiting.  If there's any nuances of difference between an arrest supported by probably cause and a search done after that arrest though unrelated to it, they should have explained them.  As it is, the braintrust gets it wrong by omitting such details.

Yea, I know - what a surprise!!

The issue here, and it's pointed out in the P-G editorial, is:
There's no argument that a DNA sample taken from someone arrested by the police is a search of sorts, but the key word in the amendment is "unreasonable." On reasonableness grounds, the majority had the best of this argument. The decision to restore the conviction of a man arrested on a different charge but identified and subsequently tried as a rapist because of a DNA test was the right one.[Emphasis added.]
But let's get on to the main point here: go back and read what the braintrust's take on the P-G editorial

Now read what the P-G actually wrote:
DNA, of course, can be a window into family histories and genetic dispositions, which might be alarming if the Maryland law did not specifically limit testing to identification. Only those charged with serious crimes are tested. Fourth Amendment purists might be reassured but Justice Scalia was not, basing his analysis as always on what the tyranny-fearing Founding Fathers might have thought.

The trouble with this is that DNA testing could not be dreamed of in their day -- indeed, fingerprinting was at least a century away from being used. Besides, the purist approach sells the Founding Fathers short. They were not against scientific progress and were resolutely practical men. If they had to choose between a hypothetical threat and a reasonably applied test that beyond doubt can convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent, they might have decided as the Supreme Court did.
Seems to me, that by the braintrust's own argument they'd have to reject the use of fingerprints by police as well.  I mean, since the founders could not have envisioned fingerprinting either....

But that's a question for another day.

June 10, 2013

Tracking Teh Crazie in Virginia

There's a gubernatorial election taking place, these days, in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On the Democratic side, there's former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe and on the Republican side there's Ken Cuccinelli.

But that's not who I wanna talk about now.

I wanna talk about E. W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for Lt Governor in Virginia.

He's got teh crazie.

My evidence (from Buzzfeed):
The Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, E. W. Jackson, wrote in his 2008 book Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life that birth defects were caused because of sin.
They even fine this money shot of a quote his book Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life:
Keep in mind that the whole cosmos has been made imperfect — wounded — by sin. It is the principle of sin, rebellion against God and His truth which has brought about birth defects and other destructive natural occurrences.
I wonder if Sarah Palin would have anything to say about how sin (her sin?  everyone's sin?) caused her son Trig's Down Syndrome.

And I wonder if Rick Santorum would have anything to say about how sin (again - his sin? everyone else's sin?) caused the death of his son Gabriel (born premature at 20 weeks, then died 2 hours later) and the Edwards syndrome now afflicting his daughter Bella.

Would someone have the heart to ask them?  I would think not as such questions (and religious allegations) are simply absurd.

And yet, in Virginia, there's a chance that the disgusting human being who holds those views may well become the next Lt Governor there.

June 9, 2013

Again With The Christmas Tree Tax!

From today's Sunday pops:
The Heritage Foundation reports that a Christmas tree tax has made its way back into the abomination that is the farm bill. A new tax of up to 20 cents per fresh-cut tree will pay for a federal Christmas Tree Promotion Board, whose goal will be “to enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States.” Count us among those shocked to learn that Christmas trees have an image problem.[Bolding in original.]
As always, with our friends on the braintrust, what they leave out tells us almost as much as what they put in.  For example, they don't bother telling you in which chamber (the Democratically controlled Senate or the GOP controlled House) this is taking place.

Here's a hint: The "abomination that is the farm bill" is coming from the Republican-controlled House.  Specifically the House Agriculture Committee.

In fact, it even says so at the Scaife-funded Heritage Foundation:
It’s never too early for Washington, D.C., politicians to dampen the holiday spirit. The House Agriculture Committee approved an amendment to its farm bill that would lift the stay blocking implementation of President Obama’s Christmas tree tax.
In fact, it's the very first sentence of the piece.  That would mean that the Republican-controlled House is hating on the Christians and their trees, right?

Well, why didn't they just say so?

Perhaps they should ask Representative Glenn Thompson.  He's a Pennsylvanian and he's on the Agriculture Committee.

We've written about this before and they still get it wrong.  For instance, it's not a "tax" since the money raised does NOT go to the guv'ment at all, but goes directly to that promotion board.

And about that promotion board: The braintrust gets it wrong when describes it as "a federal...Board."  By the way they write it, they must want you to think it's made up of guv'ment bureaucrats, right?

Wrong.  From the Federal Register:
This rule establishes an industry-funded promotion, research, and information program for fresh cut Christmas trees. The Christmas Tree Promotion, Research, and Information Order (Order) is authorized under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 (1996 Act). The Order will establish a national Christmas Tree Promotion Board (Board) comprised of 11 producers and one importer.
Industry-funded board made up of 12 members of the industry and yet, to these folks it's turned into Obama's Christmas Tree tax.

Sheesh, how silly is this?

Jack Kelly Sunday

A message to my friends at the Post-Gazette:

This is how you fact-check Jack Kelly.

In today's column on the "cost" of ObamaCare, Jack writes:
The Congressional Budget Office estimated a loss of 800,000 jobs over 10 years.
Luckily for you, me, Jack and everyone else, the Washington Post fact-checked this more than two years ago.

Here's how they set up the checking:
A long and rather dry discussion of nation's budget outlook at the House Budget Committee has exploded with a frenzy of politics after a brief exchange, highlighted in the video clip above, between Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Congressional Budget Office director Douglas W. Elmendorf. The CBO last August had estimated that the new health care law over the next decade would reduce the number of overall workers in the United States by one-half of one percent, and Campbell got Elmendorf to utter the words "800,000."
And the facts:
The CBO first discussed this issue, briefly, in a budget analysis last August. Boiled down to plain English, the CBO is essentially saying that some people who are now in the work force because they need health insurance would decide to stop working because the health care law guaranteed they would have access to health care.

Think of someone who is 63, a couple of years before retirement, who is still in a job only because they are waiting to get on Medicare when they turn 65. Or a single mother with children who is only working to make sure her kids have health insurance.
And yet this debunked factoid shows up in a Jack Kelly column about how ObamaCare is going to cost the president's "young supporters."

Huh?

To my friends at the Post-Gazette: THIS IS HOW YOU FACT-CHECK JACK KELLY.

June 8, 2013

Oh, How Times Have Changed...

From yesterday's Tribune-Review (and let me just say HEY to the good folks at the Tribune-Review who've visited this blog - more than a hundred times since May 1st!):
It doesn't take a member of Mensa to figure out that the government of the United States is not limiting its collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' daily telephone records to those served by Verizon. There can be no doubt that the feds are collecting and analyzing what's known as “metadata” from just about everyone's carrier, have been for many years and will continue to do so. And, on its face, it's supposedly perfectly legal, per the Patriot Act (though an author of the act disputes that).
Funny how when this story broke:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
In May of 2006 - a story accompanied by this picture (included so we know who we're talking about here):


Our friends on the Scaife Braintrust had this to say:
There's lots of heat and woefully little light regarding the news that the National Security Agency has been compiling a "massive database of Americans' phone calls," aided by three of the four-largest telecoms.

The NSA is collecting records of -- not listening to -- tens of millions of telephone calls made domestically. Running the calls through a database, the intent is to look for patterns that might signal terrorist planning activities.

But this is not illegal.

Not only does the recently renewed Patriot Act provide for such activity, there is case law that upholds it as constitutional (ironically in a case involving the media). [Italics in original.]
Indeed when Bush signed that reauthorization in 2006, he issued a signing statement that read (in part):
The executive branch shall construe the provisions of H.R. 3199 that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch, such as sections 106A and 119, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.
Yea, the funny thing about section 106A.  The that section of the law reads:
The Inspector General of the Department of Justice shall perform a comprehensive audit of the effectiveness and use, including any improper or illegal use, of the investigative authority provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation under title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978...
And the signing statement just said, "...yea, but only if we think so."

Funny how a change of party in the White House can color (such an interesting pun in this context, huh?) the braintrust's whole outlook on the NSA data-mining.

And for the record, I am not a fan of the NSA data-mining, the Patriot Act or any of the other distasteful (at the very least) anti-terror projects started by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration.

But Obama let Bush get away with war crimes - so what's a little harmless data-mining between friends?

Party Of Reagan? Part II

Bill Maher disagrees with Bob Dole:


From Crooks and Liars (partial) transcript:
This has become a kind of conventional wisdom, that the Republican party has gone so far right, Reagan himself wouldn't fit in. But I'm here tonight to call bullshit on that.

Ronald Reagan was an anti-government, union busting, race baiting, anti-abortion and anti-gay, anti-intellectual, who cut rich people's taxes in half, had an incurable case of the military industrial complex, and said Medicare was socialism, that would destroy our freedom.

Sounds to me like he would fit in just fine.
And then at about 5 minutes in:
Worst of all, Reagan inspired a whole generation of people who hate government to get into government.

Both sides really should stop pretending he was something other than the man most responsible for our decline.
Just can't disagree with that last sentence.

June 6, 2013

The Peduto Primary Win - How He Did It (The Social Media Edition)

By now we all know who won the recent primary in May.  As the P-G wrote:
With a convincing win for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Pittsburgh Tuesday, Bill Peduto...
And so on.

We must remember, of course, that the election hasn't happened yet.  There still is a Republican ticket with a Republican running on it: Josh Wander.  Though as he pointed out to Bob Mayo:
The Squirrel Hill resident admitted city Democrats' registration edge stacks the odds against him.

"My only chance of actually winning is the race is if the Democratic nominee drops dead, but then there's a possibility I'll still lose because there's a demographic of dead voters out there that still may vote him in," Wander joked.
Ha.  Funny.  A voter fraud joke.  Wow.  Cutting edge political humor.  Still not true, of course, but he's a republican so I guess he's constitutionally incapable of not telling it so I guess I'll let it pass.

Not a big deal.  Not like it's the end of civilization or anything.  Ha, I'm just joshing.

Back to the primary election.

Being a "social media" sort of guy, I was curious about how the Peduto campaign used it to connect with its supporters and how important he thought it was for his primary win.  We had an old-school "phone call" to discuss the topic. 

Learned a lit - it was very enlightening.

Hey, did you know that the Maria, the OPJ, was a very important player on Peduto's social media team?  Peduto said she was the campaign's "Social Media Consultant" and she worked the content while John Carman, of Avenue Design, was the tech guy.  If you have the time, you can watch this Podcamp video of "a very 101 session" (his words) on using Social Media.  The web based video was from Chris Ivey.  The whole PR team answered to Sonya Toler.

Necessary disclaimer:  Just as there were discussions on the campaign side about any possible conflicts of interest arising from having a prominent local blogger working for a prominent local politician, there were some similar discussions, if I recall correctly, here at this blog.  Maria's solution was to disclose on her blog posts, whenever and as often as she could, this (or something very close to it):
Disclaimer: Yes, I am a member of Peduto's cyber staff.
And whenever I (who had no connection to the campaign at all) wrote about Peduto or the race, Maria and I would have no communication about it whatsoever.  Full disclosure.

The first thing I learned was that the campaign's social media infrastructure is not something they threw together in a few weeks.  Peduto said his campaign website was set up in 2009 (though Reform Pittsburgh Now was put up just after he pulled out of the 2007 mayoral race) and it was initially updated each week but as the primary drew closer, the updates became more frequent - and this is where Maria did her work.  That's 4 years' momentum for the campaign.  By the time of the primary, the website was updated daily and 17,000 people received emails from the campaign every day as well.  Then there were those 100 policy papers posted one per day.  The email list was compiled over a long period of time (people stopping by the website or recommending friends and so on).

Peduto's tweets were his own, as was his facebook status updates, though a few staffers with "People for Peduto" were able to tweet on the campaign's behalf.

But that's the past.  What would the social media thumbprint look like in a Peduto administration?  He said we can expect more information being transmitted to the city more quickly via twitter and facebook and emails.  Info on street closings, street pavings, storm warnings.  It would be a far cry from what he said was the rather small amount of info being transmitted currently.

With the greater use of social media, we can probably expect a new position in the mayor's office: someone to coordinate all that information to the public.

The amount of up to date information available to the public (as well as the rate at which it was released) was something new (certainly for local politics) and if Peduto wins the election in November, we can expect to see the same sort of connectedness with the public as we saw in his primary campaign.

Coda: I had to ask the Peduto about this video:


Had he seen it?  Did it come from the campaign?  What did he think of it?

The answers (in order) are:
  • Yes 
  • No, it's from Megan Lindsey (she, of the local HOT DOG source Franktuary, and the local band Goodnight, States)
  • He loved it - says they're thinking of posting it as "the ad we never aired."
All in all I have to say that his campaign's use of social media was a lot of work, day in day out, accumulated over a long period of time - and obviously, it paid off.  Bill Peduto won the primary.

June 5, 2013

Happy Birthday John Maynard Keynes

Today is June 5.

On June 5th in 1883, economist John Maynard Keynes was born.

Why is this important?  He's the "Keynes" of "Keynsian economics" and agree with him or not, he's among the most influential economists of the 20th century.

When faced with the problem of stubborn persistent unemployment in Great Britain, Keynes had an idea:
The solution to this conundrum was seemingly simple: Replace the missing private investment with public investment, financed by deliberate deficits. The government would borrow money to spend on such things as public works; and that deficit spending, in turn, would create jobs and increase purchasing power. Striving to balance the government's budget during a slump would make things worse, not better. In order to make his argument, Keynes deployed a range of new tools—standardized national income accounting (which led to the basic concept of gross national product), the concept of aggregate demand, and the multiplier (people receiving government money for public-works jobs will spend money, which will create new jobs). Keynes's analysis laid the basis for the field of macroeconomics, which treats the economy as a whole and focuses on government's use of fiscal policy—spending, deficits, and tax. These tools could be used to manage aggregate demand and thus ensure full employment. As a corollary, the government would cut back its spending during times of recovery and expansion. This last precept, however, was all too often forgotten or overlooked.
And so on.

Of course, he's not without controversy recently:
Historian and author Niall Ferguson has apologised "unreservedly" for "stupid and tactless" remarks in which he implied that John Maynard Keynes did not care about future generations – because he was childless and gay.
Whah? You can read more of what he said here.  Suffice it to say that Ferguson's apology was swift and complete:
“I should not have suggested,” Ferguson writes, “that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid.”

Ferguson noted that people who have no children can and do care about future generations. He also said he forgot that Keynes’s wife had suffered a miscarriage.

“My disagreements with Keynes’s economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation.” Ferguson also says. “It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life. As those who know me and my work are well aware, I detest all prejudice, sexual or otherwise.”
Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped local conservative Jerry Bowyer from sticking to something that Fergsuson has called doubly stupid:
The signals have been sent: the Keynes/homosexuality/theoretical distortion theory is not only wrong, it is blasphemy, punishable by instant anathematization and career immolation, at least as far as academic and corporate life are concerned. Even some conservative commentators have denounced Ferguson and, to the degree that he has found ‘defenders’ on the right such as Mark Steyn, their contributions have been more along the lines of pointing out the thought-police-like response to Ferguson than actually defending the theory itself.

But fear not, Grand and not-so-grand Inquisitors, your wood pile will not go to waste. I intend to defend the notion that Keynes’ sexual outlook is likely to have distorted his views of economics.
Yea, good luck with that Jerry.

June 4, 2013

Again With The UN Arms Treaty Myth!

In today's Tribune-Review, Scaife's braintrust takes another shot at the Arms Trade Treaty.

They've tried and failed to get the story right before and now it just seems like they're hoping (really really hoping!) that by repeating an untruth they can somehow mutate it into a truth.

What they say about the ratification of this treaty:
That must not happen, as the treaty “fails to expressly recognize the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms and the individual right of personal self defense....”

So states a resolution signed by 33 senators.
For what it's worth, the Senate resolution does say what the braintrust say it says (it's the resolution's fifth "Whereas...").

However the resolution itself is completely incorrect.  And by not telling you that part (it's something a true news organization must surely know), the braintrust is complicit in its lie.

How do I know this?  Because this text is found in the treaty's preamble:
Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system,[Emphasis added.]
They got it wrong in March and they're getting it wrong now.

Repeating an untruth over and over again won't make it true.

June 3, 2013

Again With The "Voter Fraud!" Myth

Nothing new here.  Same old right wing myth using the same old right wing media megaphone.

As found in today's Tribune-Review:
Contrary to the “voting fraud is a myth” crowd, a civil rights group alleges glaring voting irregularities in two Mississippi counties. Moreover, it says the Justice Department flatly refuses to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (aka the “Motor Voter Law”), which requires states “to make a reasonable effort” to remove ineligible voters from registration lists.

The American Civil Rights Union's (ACRU) Election Integrity Defense Project has filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court to force election officials in Jefferson Davis and Walthall counties to clean up their voter rolls.
Let's start with the ACRU, shall we?

According to the Bridge Project, the ACRU has received, over the years, $834,000 in foundation support.  Guess, just guess, how much of that came from foundations controlled by Trib owner, Richard Mellon Scaife?

$700,000 (for those of you sans calculators, that's just about 84% of the total)

And yet no mention of Scaife's overwhelming financial support of the "civil rights group" his news paper is referencing.

But let's move on to their argument.  The braintrust states up front that the ACRU is alleging "voting irregularities" in two Mississippi counties.

Actually, they're not.  Take a look at their press release announcing the law suits (you can read them here and here):
On behalf of the American Civil Rights Union, three former U.S. Justice Department attorneys filed lawsuits today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi seeking an injunction to compel election officials in Jefferson Davis County and Walthall County to clean up their voter rolls.
Nothing about irregular voting - just about how there are more registered voters than there are voting age residents - a very very different situation.

But as politifact noted recently:
"Inactive" voters generally are those who have gone more than four years without voting, have moved to another jurisdiction or have died.

Under federal law, voters can't be removed from the rolls until it is confirmed they have moved, until there is confirmation of a death or if they have gone without voting for more than four years, or two federal election cycles.

Problems with inaccurate or invalid records plague voter registration rolls nationwide, according to a report issued last February by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States. No evidence of voter fraud was found -- just record-keeping that is badly managed and in disarray.
As Adam Liptak reported on that Pew Center report:
The nation’s voter registration rolls are in disarray, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Center on the States. The problems have the potential to affect the outcomes of local, state and federal elections.

One in eight active registrations is invalid or inaccurate. At the same time, one in four people who are eligible to vote — at least 51 million potential voters — are not registered.

The report found that there are about 1.8 million dead people listed as active voters. Some 2.8 million people have active registrations in more than one state. And 12 million registrations have errors serious enough to make it unlikely that mailings based on them will reach voters.

“These problems waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections,” said David Becker, director of election initiatives at the center.

Mr. Becker warned that poor record keeping at the registration stage is not evidence of fraud at polling places. “These bad records are not leading to fraud but could lead to the perception of fraud,” he said.[Emphasis added.]
No matter what the de facto post-modernists at the Trib might think, perception of fraud is not fraud.

Certainly not the perception based on the fact that there are more registered voters than there are residents in a given county.  The latter always lags behind the former.

If there was actual voter fraud, doncha think the ACRU would be suing over that?  And not something they could have learned via a Pew Center report?

June 2, 2013

Jack Kelly Sunday

It's been some time since I deconstructed a Jack Kelly column. So let's get started with this week's.

This week, Jack goes after Attorney General Eric Holder.  Some things stick and some things don't - and those that don't undermine Jack's credibility (what's left of it, of course).  We'll start here:
If timely military aid could have been sent to Benghazi, the president was likely in on the decision not to send it. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House 157 times, so it's hard to believe Mr. Obama knew nothing about IRS intimidation of his political enemies.
Ah, Benghazi and the IRS.  Jack's making two serious charges (both of which have been debunked).  Let's start with what Jack's hoping (despite his hiding behind the "If...then..." rhetoric) you'll take from that first sentence: that "timely" military aid could have been sent to Benghazi but that aid was denied by the president.

But look at this from the screamingly lib'rul USNews:
At roughly 6 p.m. local time, the defense attaché at the American Embassy in Tripoli confirmed that the Libyan government would be willing to fly a C-130 cargo plane into Benghazi to evacuate the American wounded and deceased who had rallied at a U.S. annex there.

"We wanted to send external support forces," along with the C-130 and Libyan forces to assist with the efforts, Hicks testified on Wednesday. Hicks, who was in Tripoli, was standing near a "Lt. Col. Gibson," who commanded a four-person Special Forces team. These troops were what remained from a 14-person security team tasked with establishing security at the U.S. diplomatic presence following the 2011 Libyan revolution.

The remaining Special Forces soldiers' mission had changed in August 2011 from providing security to offering training. Command of this team also switched from the embassy, under Ambassador Stevens, to Army Gen. Carter Ham, then-commander of U.S. Africa Command.

Hicks testified these troops had highly trained skills that would have been useful to the personnel in Benghazi, who were "exhausted from a night of fighting against very capable opponents."

"There was every reason to believe our personnel was still in danger," he says, adding he does not know why the Special Forces troops were not allowed to get on the C-130.

He says Lt. Col. Gibson was "furious" that he could not assist the Americans in Benghazi. "That's what he wanted to do."

Pentagon spokesmen had previously stated that no U.S. assets were ever told to "stand down" the night of the attack in Benghazi. Air Force Maj. Rob Firman told USA Today Tuesday that the military's account of this response "hasn't changed."

"There was never any kind of stand down order to anybody," Firman said.

Firman reaffirmed this statement to U.S. News following Hicks' Wednesday testimony.

"Were these guys told not to do anything? No. They were in Tripoli, supporting the U.S. security in Tripoli, and they were told to stay there," Firman says. Special Operations Command Africa leadership told them to remain where they were, and "it was more important for those guys to be in Tripoli."

"I look at that as not so much a stand-down order, as it is a 'stay where you are,'" says Firman. "Those guys met the planes and continued to support."

Firman adds that the C-130 was tasked with picking up the American personnel at the Benghazi airport and leave immediately. These Special Forces troops would not have been on the ground long enough to have contributed significantly to the operation.

"There was a very limited amount of time that they could have done anything," he says.
And yet Jack...well you know how this sentence ends.

But let's look at Jack's next bit of misinformation - where he tries to tie the White House to the IRS scandal by how many times IRS Director Schulman visited to the White House (he says it was 157 them!!!)

Uh, wrong.

The Atlantic has already dispensed with this:
The latest twist in the conservative effort to tie the IRS tax-exempt targeting scandal to the president is to focus on public visitor records released by the White House, in which former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman's name appears 157 times between 2009 and 2012. Unfortunately, few of those pushing this line have bothered to read more than the topline of that public information.
Few, like the P-G's Jack Kelly.

Turns out that the lists upon which Schulman's name appear only show the meetings he was cleared to attend - not those he actually attended:
He was cleared 40 times to meet with Obama's director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts. That's 76 percent of his planned White House visits just there, before you even add in all the meetings with Office of Management and Budget personnel also involved in health reform.

Complicating the picture is the fact that just because a meeting was scheduled and Shulman was cleared to attend it does not mean that he actually went. Routine events like the biweekly health-care deputies meeting would have had a standing list of people cleared to attend, people whose White House appointments would have been logged and forwarded to the check-in gate. But there is no time of arrival information in the records to confirm that Shulman actually signed in and went to these standing meetings.

Indeed, of the 157 events Shulman was cleared to attend, White House records only provide time of arrival information -- confirming that he actually went to them -- for 11 events over the 2009-2012 period, and time of departure information for only six appointments. According to the White House records, Shulman signed in twice in 2009, five times in 2010, twice in 2011, and twice in 2012. That does not mean that he did not go to other meetings, only that the White House records do not show he went to the 157 meetings he was granted Secret Service clearance to attend. [Italics in original.]
Jack, 11 not 157.

Such a huge amount of misinformation in such a small space - doesn't anyone at the Post-Gazette fact-check Jack Kelly?

Unfortunately, we already know the answer to that question.

Though I will leave Jack with two others:
  • Wasn't Douglas Shulman a Bush Appointee? (Hint: Yes, he was.)
  • Isn't it the IRS supposed to screen out organizations who've applied for tax-exempt status but who shouldn't get it? (Hint: Yes, it is - though in this instance, it was the way they screened that's offensive.)
More evidence that no one fact-check's Jack Kelly at the P-G. Or if they do, what he submits must be so hugely fact free that this is the best they can get out of it.

Also, Eric Holder's on his own for the AP story - he'll get no help here.