Prosecute the torture.

March 31, 2014

South Carolina Fossils

Christopher Hitchens was right: Religion Poisons Everything.

From The Daily Beast:
When eight-year-old Olivia McConnell was perusing a menu at a restaurant that features all 50 of the official symbols of her home state of South Carolina, she noticed a glaring vacancy. South Carolina has a State American Folk Dance, a State Grass, a State Opera, even a State Lowcountry Handcraft, but—no offense to square dancing, Indian grass, Porgy and Bess, or sweet grass baskets intended—McConnell thought something was missing: a state fossil.
Let me stop right there.  Along with those official state symbols there are some others:
An official Hospitality Beverage?  Ok, let's get back to The Beast:
The third grader at Carolina Academy wrote a letter to her state lawmakers, Rep. Robert Ridgeway and Sen. Kevin Johnson, in a bid to give the woolly mammoth that honor. Olivia has sound reasons behind her nomination: One of the first discoveries of a fossil in North America was that of a woolly mammoth’s teeth, dug up by slaves on a South Carolina plantation in 1725; all but seven states have an official state fossil; and, most adorably, “Fossils tell us about our past.”
Sounds like Ms McConnell is an intelligent, insightful third grader.  Ridgeway and Johnson's bill passed the House 94-3 but it was stopped in the Senate and that ole time religion:
Sen. Kevin Bryant, a pharmacist and self-described born-again Christian who has compared President Obama with Osama bin Laden, voted to sustain a veto by Governor Nikki Haley of funding for a rape crisis center, and called climate change a “hoax,” proposed amending the bill to include three verses from the Book of Genesis detailing God’s creation of the Earth and its living inhabitants—including mammoths.
Of course he's a climate science denier.  Anti-science in one direction inevitably leads to anti-science in many others.  According to the Senate Journal, these are the verses from Genesis:
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
That's Genesis 1:30-31, I believe.

After the bill was ruled out of order by the state's Lt Governor, another Senator objected to it.  Of course he's in not favor of teaching evolution unless you "teach the controversy" along with it From the Post and Courier:
The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee met Monday to review and approve the new set of science standards that the Department of Education will begin implementing by the fall of 2014 for students. Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, argued against teaching natural selection as fact, when he believes there are other theories students deserve to learn.

"Natural selection is a direct reference to Darwinism," Fair said after the meeting. "And the implication of Darwinism. is that it is start to finish."

Fair argued South Carolina's students are learning the philosophy of natural selection but teachers are not calling it such. He said the best way for students to learn is for the schools to teach the controversy.

"To teach that natural selection is the answer to origins is wrong," Fair said. "I don't have a problem with teaching theories. I don't think it should be taught as fact."
Oh, so he's one of those guys.

So instead of celebrating a historical fact (that one of the first fossils found in North America was in deed found in South Carolina) and a scientific one (need I elaborate on this point?), and in doing so encourage an insightful 8 year old, faith poisoned the prospect - all to defend a scientifically indefensible position (that "evolution is 'just a theory'.")

Hitchens was right.

March 30, 2014

The Tribune-Review Gets It Wrong. Again

And the "it" is Climate Science.

Yea, I know.  Go figure.

Here's what we find in Scaife's Tribune-Review:
Breitbart-London reports that a soon-to-be-released study by none other than the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change radically reduces the previously estimated economic costs of “global warming.” Previous studies placed the costs at between 5 percent and 20 percent of world GDP. The new study slashes that cost to between 0.2 percent and 2 percent of world GDP. As Breitbart tells it, “all it would take is an annual growth rate of 2.4 percent for the economic costs of climate change to be wiped out within a month.” So much for the “moral challenge of our time.” [Bolding in original.]
Ok.  So that leads to this piece in Breitbart-London.  Which says:
The economic costs of 'global warming' have been grossly overestimated, a leaked report - shortly to be published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - has admitted.

Previous reports - notably the hugely influential 2006 Stern Review - have put the costs to the global economy caused by 'climate change' at between 5 and 20 percent of world GDP.

But the latest estimates, to be published by Working Group II of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, say that a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of the century will cost the world economy between just 0.2 and 2 percent of its GDP.
However, Reuters reports:
Many governments want sterner warnings of probable economic damage from global warming in a draft U.N. report due on Monday, saying that existing estimates of trillions of dollars in losses are only part of the picture.

A final draft before talks this week among governments and scientists in Japan projected that warming would cut economic output by between 0.2 and 2.0 percent a year by damaging human health, disrupting water supplies and raising sea levels.

But many countries reckon that is an underestimate because it excludes risks of catastrophic changes, such as a runaway melt of Greenland's ice, collapse of coral reefs or a drying of the Amazon rainforest that could cause massive economic losses. [Emphasis added.]
And so:
Trying to address the objections, an updated draft text from the meeting on Friday, obtained by Reuters, adds that impact estimates "do not yet account for catastrophic changes, tipping points, and many other details."
But there's a bit more to the story.  Reuters has this:
The projected 0.2 to 2.0 percent range for economic losses is based on warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, more than a 2.0C (3.6F) ceiling set by almost 200 governments for limiting heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising seas.

The range was drawn from a sub-chapter co-led by Richard Tol, an economist at the University of Sussex in England who is often at odds with scientific colleagues for saying that moderate global warming may have economic benefits.

He said this week he had pulled out from the 70-strong team writing the draft summary, saying he viewed parts as alarmist.
Ah, well then.  An outlier economist who's at odds with mainstream climate science.  Climate Science Watch has more:
With respect to global GDP, the WG2 report offers cost estimates only up to 2.5ºC of warming. These impacts are negative, estimated to cost up to 2% of global income, which is acknowledged to be only a partial estimate. In fact, the costs of 2.5ºC of warming laid out in WG2 are something of a best-case scenario (or at least a reasonably good scenario), showing what will happen IF we take strong action to reduce carbon emissions. If we do not take action on climate mitigation, we could be experiencing around 4ºC of warming by 2100 according to the business as usual (RCP 8.5) scenario (WGI Annex II Table 7.5). That’s uncharted territory and possible even within the lifetimes of some who are alive today.
And The Stern Review so dutifully criticized by Breitbart London said, in 2006, of its GDP warnings:
Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.
So the .02-2% of GDP is if the world takes "strong action" while the 5-20% of GDP is if the world does nothing.  And yet Breitbart says that the former invalidates the latter.  I'd say it invalidates Breitbart London.

Now go back and read what the Trib wrote.  And while you're reading notice all the important stuff they've left out.  Once you've done that, you can decide for yourselves how valuable it is.

March 29, 2014

Fracking in PA Story on the 'Daily Show' Courtesy of Briget Shields

Local Pittsburgh fractivist, Briget Shields, spent three hours pitching a producer of the Daily Show -- time well spent!


(With bonus 'heros' vs. 'subs' and 'soda' vs. 'pop.')

Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare)

I went onto the site yesterday to see about getting me some health insurance.  Had a good experience.

And let me just say that as a proud lefty, I am so proud to be a part of the dismantling of the God-fearing capitalist system now in place in Amur'ka.  Thanks to the socialist take-over of our healthcare system (and therefore our entire economy) by my socialist, Kenyan-born president, B Hussein Obama, I'm now paying $180 per month less for my healthcare (AND I get a lower deductible AND a dental plan to boot!).  All it cost was the God-given freedom all those regular Amur'kans felt entitled to.

So what's next on the progressive agenda?  Luckily, I've received the latest policy directives from the Soros Institute and according to that list, here's what we have to look forward to:

  • The immediate seizure of all financial assets held by citizens 200% above the national median income
  • The immediate seizure of all non-military, non-police issued firearms (items to be replaced by a guitar, flute and the sheet music for "Kumbaya" and/or "The Times, They Are A-Changin'")
  • Immediate prison sentence for anyone speaking out against the above seizures (no trial, just immediate prison)
  • Seized moneys will pay for among other things, the following new guv'ment programs; Mandatory birth control issued to all post-adolescent women, Mandatory guv'ment issued/guv'ment approved pornography mailed to all citizens, Guv'ment issued laptops, iphones, and compact cars  for all urban-dwelling, unemployed citizens, Mandatory loyalty oaths (to be signed and returned) declaring fealty to either the religious skepticism of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, or Neil deGrasse Tyson or the Liberation Theology of Jeremiah Wright
  • Automatic citizenship for anyone walking (or swimming or being smuggled) over the US-Mexican border (along with the standard issue guv'ment phone, laptop, car, porn and birth control)
  • Strict term limits for all Republican/Tea Party legislators
  • Reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine
  • Reagan International Airport to be renamed Cesar and Hugo Chavez International Airport
There it is, folks.  It's all on the Internet, so you know it's all true.

Happy Saturday!

PS If you don't get that this is sarcasm, you're not smart enough to read this blog.

March 28, 2014

Toomey, Casey and Porter

Hey, remember this?

It's about how Keystone Progress uncovered a supposed deal between Pennsylvania's two Senators (one R, one D) on some upcoming judicial nominees.

Well, the story's made it onto the Huffingtonpost:
Progressives in Pennsylvania are scrambling to derail a deal they say the state's U.S. senators are quietly trying to cut with the White House on a package of judicial nominees, which includes a conservative Republican aligned with groups opposed to abortion rights, gay rights and gun control.

Keystone Progress, a statewide progressive advocacy group, launched a campaign on Tuesday urging Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) to abandon any plan to recommend corporate lawyer David J. Porter to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Among other things, the group highlights that Porter heads the Federalist Society's Pittsburgh Lawyers Chapter, helped found a coalition that tried to stop Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation, and is a contributor and trustee at the conservative Center for Vision and Values.
Here's an interesting part:
The Huffington Post reached out to Casey and Toomey on Wednesday for comment on any potential deal involving Porter. Neither denied that a nominations package may be coming soon or that Porter may be part of it.
And then some context:
With more than 85 judicial vacancies still out there and the clock running down on Obama's presidency, it may be the new norm that the president is willing to tuck a socially conservative nominee or two into a broader package of judicial picks in order to move the process forward. The White House can't just push through its preferred Democratic nominees thanks, at least in part, to the "blue slip" rule in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under that practice, which is more of a courtesy than a hard rule, any senator has the ability to unilaterally block a nominee from his or her home state. Some Republicans have been leaning on blue slips to prevent Obama's nominees from advancing, while committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has brushed off calls to do away with the custom.
The real test is when the Democrats no longer hold the Majority in the Senate and/or have a President the Oval Office.  Will they play by the same obstructionist rules that the Republicans are so adept at playing at now?

Somehow I doubt it.  And that's why I am no longer a member of the Democratic Party.

March 26, 2014

Senator Casey, What ARE You Thinking?

Received this from Keystone Progress last night:
Keystone Progress has learned that a backroom deal by Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey may result in President Obama appointing a Tea Party lawyer to serve as judge on the Western Pennsylvania District Court in Pittsburgh.

The nomination of David J. Porter is working its way to the White House as part of a deal between Pennsylvania’s two United States Senators. Senators Casey and Toomey are expected to jointly present Porter to President Obama any day now as part of a deal that will allow Casey to nominate people for 3 other vacancies.
Senator Casey, is this true?  But before we go any farther, who's David J Porter?

Well, he's a shareholder at Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney.  No big deal there, but he's also a trustee of the (let's be honest - right wing) Grove City College and a contributor to college's Center for Vision and Values.

Let's all take a moment to remember what the center is all about (from their own webpage):
Herein lies the difference between our approach to the pursuit of personal, political, economic, and religious freedom and the reigning viewpoint in higher education. We believe that God is sovereign. We believe that man is made in His image. We believe the Bible is indispensable to understanding the truth about our relationship to God, to our world, and to each other. These core beliefs ground human dignity and freedom in God’s revealed truth, a truth that animates our mission as we affirm the eternal relevance of Jesus’ challenge in John’s gospel, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
That's John 8:32, by the way.

Then there's the membership in the Republican National Lawyers Association and the Pittsburgh chapter of the rightwing Federalist Society.

None of which would actually disqualify him to a judgeship but we're not talking about that.  We're talking about the deal supposedly set by the Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, to get this guy on the bench.

By the way, Porter was then-Senator Rick Santorum's attorney when lil Ricky was facing all that trouble with his residency.  From Scaife's Trib:
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum lives with his family at a Virginia house when Congress is in session, but state and federal laws allow him to keep his official voting residence in Pennsylvania, his lawyer wrote in a letter to Allegheny County.
Wasn't Santorum running for office then? And wasn't his opponent a guy named BOB CASEY?

I realize there's a tradition in legal circles not to criticize an attorney for who his/her client is.  Everyone's entitled to a vigorous defense.

But didn't both Senators Casey and Toomey vote against Debo Adegbile precisely because they didn't like his client (the Mumia Abu-Jamal)?

So my questions for Senator Casey:
  • Who are your three candidates for those 3 vacancies?
  • What happens if, when you propose any or all of them, the other republicans in the Senate filibuster them?
  • Why would you make such a deal anyway?
Feel free to email me with anything on this.

If you feel strongly about this, feel free to sign the petition.

March 25, 2014

Uh-Oh. (Ex-) Mayor Luke's Computer.

In case you missed it, here's the a follow up to something the OPJ posted a few days ago:

First from The Tribune-Review:
UPMC wants to know whether former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl removed evidence from his city-issued computer related to the city's legal battle with the hospital giant over its nonprofit status, according to a motion UPMC filed in federal court on Monday.

Ravenstahl took his work computer home before leaving office and kept it for about 10 days, which UPMC said might violate an order Ravenstahl signed in December agreeing to preserve evidence in the city's case against UPMC.
And:
News reports “strongly suggest that Mr. Ravenstahl may have destroyed data from his computer during the week and a half that he took it home. His counsel has failed to provide any reasonable assurance that no such destruction occurred,” UPMC states in its filing with the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh
For some background, we turn to The Post-Gazette:
Monday's court filing from UPMC is part of the health system's lawsuit against the city and Mr. Ravenstahl, filed last April in federal court. The suit claimed the mayor's office and the city violated the health giant's civil rights.

UPMC's suit came in response to the city's own March 2013 lawsuit against UPMC, a legal complaint that questioned the health system's nonprofit status, which gives UPMC significant property tax exemptions.

As part of its own case, UPMC asked for "limited discovery" of Mr. Ravenstahl's data and documents before he left office, a request that was denied by the case's presiding judge, U.S. District Court Judge Joy Flowers Conti.

The court did, however, enter a "preservation order" that "obligated the parties to use their best efforts and take all appropriate steps to preserve evidence that might be relevant to this case."

In Monday's court filing, UPMC attorneys said the health system is concerned that the November preservation order, signed the following month by the mayor, may have been violated when Mr. Ravenstahl took the computer home with him.
Apart from this whole computer mess, I want you to ponder the last sentence of that first paragraph:
The suit claimed the mayor's office and the city violated the health giant's civil rights.
Ok.  Yea.  That part.

But in fairness, in our system of justice everyone's entitled to a vigorous defense and so on.  And as part of Ravenstahl's vigorous defense there's this from the attorneys who are representing him  From the P-G:
"All I can tell you is that this is an overreaction," said Ronald D. Barber of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky, the firm that is representing the mayor and the city in the UPMC civil matter.
And, let's face it. That might actually be true.  But then there's this from the Trib:
Ravenstahl could not be reached. His attorney, Chuck Porter, said nothing was destroyed.

“He didn't trust the city administration, and there's no sinister reasons here,” he said. “Nothing was removed, nothing was deleted, no evidence has been destroyed. And that's the reality.”

He declined to answer questions about why Ravenstahl took the computer.
At this point feel free to go back to Maria's posting.  But again, let's face it.  It's completely possible that nothing was deleted, nothing was removed and so on.  Let's let the process play itself out.

An extremely important part of this story is found here in the Trib:
Peduto's office declined to comment.
And here in the P-G:
Mr. Peduto's office had no comment on the UPMC filing.
Good. Good.  GOOD. They should stay non-commenting and let the process move forward.

March 24, 2014

Equal Time For What?

Have you been watching Cosmos?

It's a reboot of sorts of the Carl Sagan series originally broadcast in 1980.

So far the host, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, has talked about how old the age of the universe is (13 billion years or so) and the truth about the theory evolution (uh-oh).  Both of which have gotten him into trouble with the defiant, faith-based anti-science folks among us.  Tyson actually said, "The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact."

From Mother Jones:
In the first episode of Cosmos, titled "Standing Up in the Milky Way," Tyson dons shades just before witnessing the Big Bang. You know, the start of everything. Some creationists, though, don't like the Big Bang; at Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis, a critique of Cosmos asserts that "the big bang model is unable to explain many scientific observations, but this is of course not mentioned."
At that link, we find a criticism of the now-famous saying of Sagan's, that "The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be."  Uh-oh.  That's a problem.  Why?  Here's why:
It is denial of the supernatural, saying the only thing that exists is the physical world, the natural world. But to say that with any certainty Sagan had to get outside the physical universe and see that the physical universe is all that there is. And he would have had to do that in eternity past and in eternity future in order to say that. If he could really see that, then he would be god. It’s a very bold, metaphysical statement. It’s an assertion. But it’s not science. It’s not a scientific statement.
The only thing scientists have physical evidence for is the physical world.  So unless it's "balanced" with stories of some other world (which by definition would leave no physical evidence for scientists to study) any purely physical assertion of a purely physical universe is biased.

And for that, they're demanding equal time (or at the very least some mention that their non-science is in some what science):
[S]ome creationists believe the show lacks balance because it doesn't offer equal airtime to religious fundamentalists.

"Do they ever give a creationist any time?"

"Creationists aren’t even on the radar screen for them, they wouldn’t even consider us plausible at all." (Via The Janet Mefferd Show)
There's a reason creationists aren't considered plausible on a science program: it isn't science.

Just saying it is, doesn't make it so (this should be a note to all my friends at the Trib who continue to assert - without any plausible evidence - that Climate Science isn't settled.  Just saying it isn't doesn't mean it isn't).

I'll let Tyson explain why creationists won't get be treated with any sort of scientific plausibility in Science and why "equal time" is a bad idea for science: 
"I think the media has to sort of come out of this ethos that I think was in principle a good one, but doesn't really apply in science. The ethos was, whatever story you give, you have to give the opposing view, and then you can be viewed as balanced," Tyson said, adding, "you don't talk about the spherical earth with NASA and then say let's give equal time to the flat-earthers."
Did I ever tell you that he and I share a birthday?

March 21, 2014

I Guess We Gotta Keep Doing This

From today's Tribune-Review:
Laurel: To Jake Haulk. The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy boss pulls no punches in a post about Pittsburgh Public Schools: “(T)he poor academic performance and the high rates of absenteeism” (well over 40 percent, on average, at the high school level) “point to the same thing — a failed public school system.” He takes to task those who continue to think the “solution” is to throw more money at the problem. Anyone ready to listen yet? [Bolding in original.]
We've done this blog post a number of times before.  But Scaife's braintrust still keeps hiding the financial entanglements that connect their boss with the subject of their praise.

So we'll have to do it for them, I guess.

According to the data found at the Bridge Project, The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy has received $6,484,200 in foundation support and $5.801,000 of that comes from three foundations (The Allegheny, Carthage, and Sarah Scaife Foundations) controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife, owner of the Tribune-Review.

For those who don't have calculators handy, that's means that 89.46% of the total financial support the Allegheny Institute receives from foundations, it receives from one guy - the owner of the paper whose op-ed page just praised the Institute's president.

There's more.  According to the Trib, Haulk also sits on the board of the Lincoln Institute for Public Opinion Research.  And according to the data found at the Bridge Project, the Lincoln Institute has received $1,482,500 in foundation support and $980,000 of that comes from the above mentioned Allegheny Foundation.  That's 68.62%, by the way.

I am sure Jake Haulk is a very nice guy.  I am sure he's very smart, accomplished, respected and so on, but considering the above, I have to ask myself, "How prominent of an economic pundit would he have been without Scaife's largess?"

Now go back to today's op-ed praise by Scaife's braintrust and ask yourself that same question.

This is how the right wing noise machine works.

March 19, 2014

Pittsburghers React to Former Mayor Ravenstahl's Excuse for Leaving Office with City-owned PC

Today, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed that former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl took his city-owned desktop computer with him when he left office, held onto it for several days, and then had his lawyer give this excuse for those actions:
Mr. Ravenstahl referred comment to his attorney, Charles Porter, who said the former mayor took the computer because he was concerned the Peduto administration would move in, hide it and then concoct a story about it going missing. 
"He didn't trust the administration, so he thought it prudent" to take the computer with him, Mr. Porter said, "so that people couldn't claim any derogatory things about him."
Typical Pittsburghers reacted to the news with varying degrees of skepticism:













Can't Believe This Is Still An Issue

From Talking Points Memo:
The strange saga of a Louisiana school district and the Buddhist student its officials allegedly drove away in the name of Christianity came to an end last Friday. A federal court's order set new rules about how the school district must conduct itself and provided some financial relief for the student's family.

The tale's outlandish details -- a teacher telling her class that a student's religious beliefs were "stupid," the same teacher instructing her students that scientists advancing the theory of evolution were "stupid," pictures of Jesus hanging from the school walls -- caught national attention in January when the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the student and his family.

But at its end, the district has admitted no culpability and the student is still attending a school 25 miles from his home. The district has pledged, though, to pay $4,000 for the family's past costs of driving their son to his new school -- and to provide bus service from now until he graduates from high school.
As I said, I can't believe this is still an issue in the United States. In the 21st Century.

Here's what the ACLU asserted in its lawsuit:
At Negreet High School (“Negreet” or “NHS”) in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, however, school officials have a longstanding custom, policy, and practice of promoting and inculcating Christian beliefs by sponsoring religious activities, as well as conveying religious messages to students. For example, at Negreet, which serves students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, teachers ask students for professions of faith in class. At lea st one science teacher treats the Bible as scientific fact, telling students that the Big Bang never happened and that evolution is a “stupid” theory that “stupid people made up because they don’t want to believe in God.” Paintings of Jesus Christ, Bible verses, and Christian devotional phrases adorn the walls of many classrooms and hallways, including the main hallway leading out to the bus pick up area. A lighted, electronic marquee placed just outside the building scrolls Bible verses every day. And staff members routinely lead students in Christian prayer.
And:
[L]earning of Negreet’s unlawful practices and treatment of their son, C.C.’s parents, Scott and Sharon Lane, rose to his defense , taking their concerns to Defendant Sara Ebarb, the Sabine Parish Superintendent of Schools. But she took no corrective action. On the contrary, she told the Lanes that “[t]his is the Bible Belt” and that they would simply have to accept that teachers would proselytize students. S he also asked whether C.C. had to be raised as a Buddhist and whether he could “change” his faith, and she suggested that C.C. transfer to another district school – more than 25 miles away where, in her words, “there are more Asians.” The day after meeting with the Lanes, the Superintendent sent a letter to Negreet Principal Gene Wright stating that she approved of Negreet’s official religious practices. Wright read the letter to the entire Negreet student body over the school’s public address system.
Wait, wait.  There was a SCIENCE TEST given by C.C.'s teacher where there was this "fill in the blank" question:
"ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
The correct answer was (of course) "LORD" and C.C. got it wrong.  On the next test as an answer to the exact same question C.C. answered "Lord Buddha" and got that one wrong as well.

WWJD?

Luckily, all this has been resolved - this is from the Consent Decree:
The District and School Board are permanently enjoined from permitting School Officials at any school within the School District to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in class or during or in conjunction with a School Event.
And:
School Officials shall not denigrate any particular faith, or lack thereof, or single out any student for disfavor or criticism because of his or her particular faith or religious belief, or lack thereof.
 All while Neil deGrasse Tyson's still catching heat for telling scientific truth.

I've said it before.  If we are a nation in decline this has to be one of the reasons: this a willful, stubborn, religiously-inspired anti-intellectual denial of science.

Eppur si muove

March 18, 2014

Patrick Moore Gets Fact-Checked! (And The Trib Looks Bad As A Consequence)

And who's Patrick Moore?

Here he is, showing up on my favorite editorial page (Scaife's Tribune-Review):
Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore told Congress last week “there's no scientific proof that human emissions of CO2 are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth's atmosphere over the last 100 years.” What's a climate-clucker to do? [Bolding in original.]
I didn't get a chance to blog on this first time around but luckily Politifact took a look at Mr Moore a few days ago (h/t to Ed Heath for the Politifact link).

Moore was on Hannity and uses the rather old (and quite wrong) anti-science argument:
It has not warmed for the last 17 years. We know that for sure. And that brings into question the whole hypothesis.
We've whiffed this effluvium before.  From (among others):
Thing is, it's still wrong.  But let's quote politifact debunking Moore:
President Barack Obama warned the nation there will be consequences from not doing more to combat climate change in his 2013 State of the Union address, pointing out "the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15."

PolitiFact rated his statement True. (Actually it’s 13 or 14 of the last 15.)

But that doesn’t necessarily rule out Moore’s claim about the earth not getting warmer lately. The statements can co-exist, with some additional context.

Moore’s claim is a popular argument of people who say climate change isn’t real. The problem is it is cherry-picked and leaves out the rest of the story about earth’s dramatic temperature increases over the last century.
And:
Moore cherry-picked a year when temperatures spiked. "What was an extraordinary event in 1998 is now the new normal," said Goddard Institute program analyst Reto Ruedy, program manager at NASA’s Goddard Institute.

Moore would be incorrect if he chose 1999, 1997, 1996 or any year before that.

"If you start with an extremely warm year, the warming trend going forward is going to be mostly flat," said Gordon Hamilton, associate research professor at the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

"You could easily choose 1999 and 1996 and you would find that there’s an upward trend," said Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist in the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "It’s cherry-picking to get the result that he apparently desires."
Apparently.

But what about his "founding" Greenpeace?  Politifact links to this Greenpeace page that says basically, uh...no:
Patrick Moore frequently portrays himself as a founder or co-founder of Greenpeace, and many news outlets have repeated this characterization. Although Mr. Moore played a significant role in Greenpeace Canada for several years, he did not found Greenpeace. Phil Cotes, Irving Stowe, and Jim Bohlen founded Greenpeace in 1970. Patrick Moore applied for a berth on the Phyllis Cormack in March, 1971 after the organization had already been in existence for a year. A copy of his application letter and Greenpeace's response are available here (PDF)
And did you also know that, according to Greenpeace:
Patrick Moore is a Paid Spokesperson for the Nuclear Industry

In April 2006, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the principal lobby for the nuclear industry, launched the Clean And Safe Energy Coalition and installed former Bush Administration EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Mr. Moore as its co-chairs. The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition was part of a public relations project spearheaded by the public relations giant Hill & Knowlton as part of its estimated $8 million contract with the nuclear industry. [Bolding in original.]
So if they wanted to characterize him accurately (yea, I know.  When has Scaife's Braintrust ever portrayed anything about climate change accurately?) they should have written:
Paid Spokesperson for the Nuclear Industry Patrick Moore told Congress...
But this is what passes for science literacy on the editorial page of Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review.

March 16, 2014

Urgent: Bad Gun Bills HB 921 and HB 2011


Via Rob Conroy (Western PA Regional Director at CeaseFirePA):
Friends of CeaseFirePA: This is a BEYOND URGENT request. Please read and ACT between now and Tuesday morning.  
WE DESPERATELY NEED YOUR HELP. There has been a MAJOR development in the legislature that is designed to seriously undermine our safety as Pennsylvanians. IT IS UP TO YOU TO ACT NOW.  
Our state House Judiciary Committee just released a surprise agenda for this coming Tuesday (March 18) and it’s a doozy. The legislators controlled by the gun lobby are trying to railroad five firearms related bills—at least two of which are extremely dangerous for Pennsylvania—through the legislature without giving the public time to weigh in on them. These dangerous Bills are:  
-HB 921, which would eliminate Pennsylvania's background check system —a system that our state police swear by and that contains thousands of records, particularly mental health records, that are not included in the National Instant Check System (NICS);  
-HB 2011, which would—for the first time EVER in Pennsylvania history—allow a special interest group (in this case, the gun lobby and groups like the NRA) and the interest group’s entire membership base special, automatic standing to sue towns and cities because the group does not like the ordinances that these towns have passed to increase the safety of their citizens, even if the ordinance has not been enforced against any member of that group.  
WE NEED YOU TO ACT NOW. If there were ever a time to do something for us, NOW would be the time. 
We need you to call and/or write your legislator to tell him/her that you oppose these bills and that these Bills threaten the safety of every Pennsylvanian. Since I cannot import links to that information in this format, if you want to call and do not know who your state legislator is (or what their phone number might be) please take 3 seconds to message me privately with your e-mail address and I'll get you the information. 
Perhaps even more importantly, we need to let the Judiciary Committee know that they can’t operate like this. Tell them you know what’s going on and it’s wrong—eliminating PICS and passing the “punish towns” Bill would be disastrous for Pennsylvania. 
If Harrisburg is finally going to consider gun-related policies, it’s time to get to work on the measures that will keep us safer—background checks and “lost or stolen” reporting—instead of measures that will erode our safety. 
Tell your legislator to it’s time to protect Pennsylvanians and take a stand against gun violence. 
As always, thanks for your help and support. Only together can we eliminate gun violence.
You can find your legislator here.


March 15, 2014

When We Dig A Little Deeper, We Find A Deeper Truth

Take a look at this from the Tribune-Review's Whisper column:
Call it situational austerity.

As the Obama administration announced proposed draconian cuts to the military on Monday, news broke that the president doesn't pinch pennies when it comes to “first family” vacations.

The Washington Examiner reported that the 23 holiday getaways Barack Obama and his family have taken since the president took office in 2009 have cost taxpayers $18 million.
And so on.  So from where does this information come?  This article at The Washington Examiner, where we can read:
With another Presidents' Day bachelor holiday planned by President Obama, this time golfing in California, and Aspen, Colo., resort reporters on the lookout for the annual first lady ski trip this weekend, the taxpayer's tab for the first family's vacations has topped $2.4 million.

But that's just the start. That total is just from the skimpy documents detailing travel and security expenses obtained by the public watchdog group Judicial Watch from a handful of first family vacations.

When all of the reporting of the first family’s 22 vacations so far to Hawaii, Martha’s Vineyard, Spain, Colorado, Florida, Africa and elsewhere is added up, the estimate reaches over $18 million when hotel and resort rent, security hotel and car rentals, and airfare are included.

Concerned about the trip expenses and the administration's lack of transparency on the trips, Judicial Watch has sought spending documents.[Emphasis added.]
Oh...so this is something from Judicial Watch, is it?

Interesting, yet again, how the Tribune-Review fails to ever mention the financial entanglements that connect it to one of its "sources."

If you're a frequent reader of this blog you'll know what's gonna happen now.

According to the data found at the Bridge Project, Judicial Watch has received a little over $10 million dollars in foundation support.  And according to the same data, more than 94% of it comes from the three foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife, owner and publisher of the Tribune-Review, the newspaper from which I quoted the above "staycation" snark.

Meanwhile, back in reality, we might easily wonder how the current president compares with, oh I dunno, the previous occupier of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Luckily Mark Knoller of CBS news tracks these things and reported back in August:
—14: Number of vacation trips taken by Obama since he took office in January 2009.

—92: Number of days, all or in part, Obama has spent on vacation.

—57: Number of vacation trips taken by Bush at this same point in his presidency.

—50: Number of visits Bush made to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

—323: Number of days, all or in part, Bush spent at the ranch.

—7: Number of trips Bush made to his family's compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

—26: Number of days, all or in part, Bush spent in Maine.
I wonder now if there had been a similar snarky complaint on the pages of Scaife's Tribune-Review about George W Bush's vacations.  Remember we were at war with the evil doers back then when, according to Knoller, Bush spent almost a year away from the White House either at his ranch in Crawford, Texas or his family Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Then there's this from Catherine Poe, Senior Editor at Washington Times Communities:
President Obama in his first four years has taken 131 days, dividing his time between Hawaii, Martha’s Vineyard and, of course, Camp David, the official get away of U.S. presidents. At this rate, he could hit 262 days by the end of his eighth year, about average for modern presidents.

He certainly is not the king of vacation days. That honor falls to President George W. Bush, who racked up 1,020 vacation days in his eight years in office, including one five-week vacation, the most of any president in 36 years. Not to say he wasn’t on the job when he was at his Crawford, Texas ranch, but he was away from the White House.
 A thousand twenty days?  That's about 35% of the eight years Dubya was in office.

Interesting what you find with a little digging.

March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

Today is March 14 (Einstein's birthday, coincidentally) and so today has been designated as "Pi day" by the egg-head, slide-rule crowd.

Why is March 14 (or 3/14) Pi day?  Because Pi (pronounced "pie") is defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.  And in our number system it's written out as:
3. 14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510...
It's an irrational number, meaning that it can't be written out as a simple fraction (i.e. as a "ratio" of two integers a/b where b doesn't equal zero) as well as a transcendental number, meaning that it's not a root of a non-zero polynomial with rational coefficients.

And it goes on forever.

Happy Pi Day!

March 13, 2014

More Anti-Science In The News (And "News")

While Scaife's braintrust does its usual fact-free science denial dance about climate change, they kinda stumble onto a rather apt description (perhaps it's merely psychological projection) of themselves:
Senate Democrats' all-night “talkathon” on so-called climate change embraced the liberal shibboleth that if a distortion is repeated often enough, it becomes truth.
Though the shibboleth isn't liberal, it's theirs.

But while that's taking place, there's more anti-science floating in the porcelain bowl that is the mainstream press.  First, let's take a look at what happened in the Bible-belt state of Oklahoma:
In what appeared to be an editing error, a Fox affiliate in Oklahoma managed to remove the only mention of evolution from Sunday night’s Cosmos science documentary by cutting only 15 seconds from the broadcast.

The much-anticipated reboot of Carl Sagan’s legendary Cosmos premiered on Sunday with an overview of the history of the Universe, from the Big Bang to the advent of humans.

It wasn’t until the last 10 minutes of the show that host Neil deGrasse Tyson hinted at human evolution.
According to Raw Story, this is what Dr. Tyson said:
“We are newcomers to the Cosmos,” he explained. “Our own story only begins on the last night of the cosmic year.”

“Three and a half million years ago, our ancestors — your and mine left these traces,” Tyson said, pointing to footprints. “We stood up and parted ways from them. Once we were standing on two feet, our eyes were no longer fixated on the ground. Now, we were free to look up and wonder.”
And this is what the Fox station in Oklahoma broadcast to its viewers:

)

KOHK, the station doing the ad hoc editing, tweeted:
Sunday, during @COSMOSonTV, a local news promo was aired over a portion of COSMOS content. This was an operator error & we regret the error.
Sure it was an error.  Just as I am sure it was a complete coincidence that the only place in the USA, in Bible-belt Oklahoma btw, the only content that just happened to be edited out was the part about evolution.

March 11, 2014

Governor Corbett Gets Fact-Checked.

A week ago, Factcheck,org took a look at an ad put out by the Corbett's campaign.  What they found ain't so pretty:
A new radio ad from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett boasts that he “created 150,000 new private sector jobs,” a feat called “remarkable” in a Web ad on his campaign website. Not really. Pennsylvania ranks 46th out of 50 states in the rate of private sector job growth during the three years Corbett has been in office. In fact, the growth rate is less than half the national average.
To any discerning listener, the phrase "created X number of new private sector jobs" should be the first clue that there's some form of informational manipulation going on.  It's the addition of the adjective "private" modifying the "sector jobs" part.  Anyone listening should immediately ask, "what about public sector jobs?"  What about the total jobs picture?

And factcheck.org does:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania has added a net 138,300 private sector jobs between January 2011, when Corbett took office, and December 2013, the latest figures available. The December figures are projected, and Corbett’s office said it looked at the numbers from January 2011 to November 2013, which show a net gain of 151,100 private sector jobs.

Corbett’s comments focus on private sector job growth. During his time in office, the number of government jobs has declined by a net 42,000 (most from local government jobs). When looking at all jobs, including government jobs, Pennsylvania has gained 96,300 total jobs under Corbett – a 1.7 percent job growth over three years, ranking the state 46th in total job growth among the states.
46th?  That's not too good, is it?

March 8, 2014

Senator Toomey Defends His (Shameful) Vote

First, his video:


Transcript:
Today was a good day for Pennsylvania and for the United States and for anybody who cares about our criminal justice system and the integrity of that system.

Mumia Abu-Jamal was a cold blooded murderer who shot and killed Danny Faulkner when Danny Faulkner lie helpless, wounded, and unarmed on his back on a street in Philadelphia.

What later happened was sickening. A campaign to turn Mumia Abu-Jamal somehow into a victim, to make him a celebrity and to use him to run a political campaign that would attack America, condemn America as a racist society and indict our criminal justice system.

It made a mockery of what this country stands for and our justice system and the fact that Debo Adegbile would participate in this campaign through his supervision of the LDF attorneys who were actively participating in it, in my view, disqualified him from such an important post as the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Today a majority of my senate colleagues agreed with me, including seven Democrats and all the Republicans. I appreciate the bipartisan support and the support of the FOP, across Pennsylvania especially, the Philadelphia FOP. I appreciate the support of Seth Williams, the District Attorney of Philadelphia.

And I am very pleased with the outcome of this vote.
Now, let's take a look at the facts.  The Washington Post has a good summary:
It's the cop-killing that won't go away.

More than 30 years have passed since the Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. But the case remains an internationally-known political lightning rod. And, this week, lightning is striking in D.C.

The latest incarnation of the Abu-Jamal trial comes as it threatens to derail the nomination of Debo P. Adegbile, President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. He previously worked as legal counsel to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, which helped Abu-Jamal get his death sentenced overturned and has represented him at various points since.
So it wasn't about guilt or innocence of Abu-Jamal, was it?  It was about his death sentence and whether the decision to impose it was reached fairly.  Turns out it wasn't.

But before we go on, let's take a look at the Post's very next paragraph:
While Adegbile's involvement with the Abu-Jamal case was limited -- and came well after the death sentence was tossed -- Faulkner's widow, the Fraternal Order of Police, and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have mounted a crusade to block the nomination. And recent development suggest they might prevail.
And they did, of course.  Despite the fact that Adegbile's involvement was limited and came well after the death sentence was tossed.

Back to the case.  This is from the LDF:
Mr. Abu-Jamal is on death row in Pennsylvania for the 1981 murder of a police officer in Philadelphia. His death sentence was vacated in 2001 after the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found constitutional error in the jury instructions and verdict form used in his 1982 penalty phase. That decision was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 2008 but then sent back to the Third Circuit by the United States Supreme Court in 2010 for further review.
By the way, the Judge who issued that ruling, William Yohn, was appointed by George H. W. Bush (a Republican President of the United States).  The (H. W.) Bush-appointed Yohn was the one who tossed the death sentence and sent it to the Third Circuit for review.

The three judge panel of the Third Circuit that affirmed the Yohn's judgement included Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica (who wrote the opinion) and Judge Robert Cowen, who were both appointed by Ronald Wilson Reagan (another Republican President of the United States).

That same (mostly Reagan-appointed) three judge panel reaffirmed its earlier decision in 2011.  It is about this time is when the Adegbile supervised LDF got involved in this case:
On January 28, 2011, Mumia Abu-Jamal retained the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) to represent him in the ongoing appeal of his capital murder conviction and death sentence. LDF will serve as co-counsel in the case with Judy Ritter, Esq., of Widener Law School in Wilmington, Delaware, who has represented Mr. Abu-Jamal since 2003.
So what was Adegbile's sin according to Senator Toomey?  Defending (or whatever attorneys call it) the 2008 decision by a mostly Republican-appointed panel of judges that this mostly Republican appointed panel then reaffirmed a few months later.  It was about protecting the constitutional rights of someone found guilty of murder.

Even those found guilty of murder have constitutional rights, you know.

But punishing the attorneys who defend that idea is "protecting the integrity of the criminal justice system" to Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.  You're wrong, Senator.  This was not a good day for those who believe in the criminal justice system.  Shame on you.

And we can not forget the other Pennsylvania Senator, Bob Casey (a Democrat), who also voted against his party and against his President in voting against Debo Adegbile's confirmation

Good going, Senator.  When you're on the same side as Pat Toomey, you're almost always on the wrong side of an issue.  Without a doubt.  Shame on you, too.

March 6, 2014

Today's Mistakes At The Tribune-Review

My friends on Richard Mellon Scaife's braintrust (aka the Tribune-Review editorial board) have made a couple of honkers today.

Take a look.

Mistake #1:
If you want an idea of how absolutely screwed up Norway's Nobel Institute is, consider that it has nominated Vladimir Putin for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. No, it has nothing to do with his invasion of Ukraine but, incredibly, for his work to bring “peace” to Syria. See, opportunism really does have its rewards. [Bolding in original}
Now if you go to the Nobel Institute's actual website to look for the nominations, you won't find them.  Why?  Here's why:
The Committee does not itself announce the names of nominees. In so far as certain names crop up in the advance speculations as to who will receive the year's Prize, this is either sheer guesswork or information put out by the person or persons behind the nomination. Information in the Nobel Committee's nominations data base is not made public until after fifty years.
So where did the world get the idea that Vladimir Putin was nominated?  Luckily, some internet research turned up some interesting information (information, obviously, the braintrust failed to look for or, if they found it, failed to inform its many readers).  There's an organization called PRIO that tracks the Nobel Nomination speculations.  And here's what they said:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee basis its decision on valid nominations received by the 1 February deadline (in addition to potential nominations put forth by the Committee members at their first meeting after the deadline). Anyone can be nominated, but only a number of people have the right to nominate, including members of national assemblies and governments, current and former members of the Committee, Peace Prize laureates, professors of certain disciplines, directors of peace research and foreign policy institutes, and members of international courts.
Ok, so the nominations (whatever they are) come from outside the Institute.  This one certainly as is confirmed by The Independent:
Vladimir Putin has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite Russia’s role as the main supplier of weapons to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, an advocacy group has put the president’s name forward because the former KGB agent “actively promotes settlement of all conflicts arising on the planet.”

The International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation of Peoples of the World made no mention of Putin’s ruthless and violent campaign against the separatists in Chechnya or the war he waged on Georgia, but instead points to his efforts to prevent a US air strike on the Syrian regime following a chemical gas attack in August.
If you want to go with a more local news source, here's The New York Times:
He is credited with commanding a war to crush separatism in Chechnya, approving a full-scale attack on Georgia over a minor border dispute and complaining when NATO led an air war in Libya to stop Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from killing thousands of Libyans. And he is still selling weapons to the murderous government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Nevertheless, seizing on his proposal to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and forestall a missile strike that had been threatened by President Obama, a Russian advocacy group said on Tuesday that it had nominated President Vladimir V. Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize.
And:
Although the group announced its plans on Tuesday, it sent a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee formally proposing Mr. Putin as a candidate for the Peace Prize on Sept. 16, two days after Russia and the United States reached an agreement in Geneva on a plan for Syria’s surrender of its chemical arms.
You'll also note when this was happened: October, 2013.  It's been known for months.

But I want to reiterate:  It was a group called The International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation of Peoples of the World that made the nomination, not the Nobel Institute.

So to say that the Nobel Institute nominated Putin is and then to criticize the institute for it is, well, a huge mistake, isn't it?

Mistake #2:
How bad is “global warming”? (“How bad is global warming, Johnny?”) It's so bad that Niagara Falls has frozen over. Throw two more logs on the fire, honey. This climate change thing is getting out of control.  [Bolding in original]
How stupid is this mistake?  Well it's the same mistake most science deniers make: they confuse weather (which is localized) with climate (which isn't).  Yes, the Polar Vortex made everything in the eastern United States very very cold this winter.  But "frozen over"?  Did that really happen this year?  And if so, how rare is that?

For that we turn to the National Geographic:
Niagara Falls looks stunning covered in ice. Onlookers in Ontario and New York are marveling at the site of the frozen falls, spreading pictures widely across the social media landscape.

But while the photographs look beautiful, the ice-laden waterfall is not all that surprising, at least according to one meteorologist.

"The falls aren't frozen over," says John Rozbicki, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. "There might be some ice on it, but the water is going to continue to flow underneath."

According to Rozbicki, Niagara Falls has too much water to completely freeze over. But it has on several occasions formed an ice bridge over the lake, which is located beneath the waterfalls.
Then there's this from weather.com:
It may be hard to believe, but the gushing waters that make up Niagara Falls froze last week. At least partially. It’s actually not that uncommon: The falls freeze every winter, and last week the arctic blast helped them along.
Not completely frozen over. Happens every winter (though this winter was probably worse than most).

But so what?  Did you know that at exactly the same time that the falls were "freezing over" there was a heat wave in Australia?  From accuweather:
A record-setting heat wave impacted much of Australia during the final week of 2013 and the first week of 2014.

The heat wave was a fitting end to 2013, which has been confirmed as the hottest year in Australia on record by the Australia Bureau of Meteorology.
And Australia, my friends, is way bigger than Niagara Falls.

So how big a mistake is Mistake #2?  I'll let you decide.  But here's a hint: It's also huge.

March 4, 2014

More Than A Thousand Rally For Better Wages...

...and The Trib complains about the traffic.

So interesting to see the differing coverage of yesterday's SEIU rally downtown.

Here's the first two paragraphs from the Huffingtonpost's coverage of the protest:
Hundreds of demonstrators poured into downtown Pittsburgh Monday to protest low wages at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, escalating a two-year showdown between labor groups and the area's largest employer.

The Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize service workers at the hospital for at least two years. Joined by steel and mine workers on Monday, pro-union employees of UPMC marched to the hospital's headquarters at the U.S. Steel Tower with some specific demands: a hospital minimum wage of $15, the elimination of employees' health care debts to the hospital and recognition of a union.
First two paragraphs from the Pittsburgh Business Times:
Hundreds of protesters gathered Monday morning in downtown Pittsburgh for a rally in front of UPMC headquarters in their attempts to get better wages and benefits for the health system's employees.

At 8:45 a.m., there were about 1,000 people who gathered in front of the U.S. Steel tower headquarters of UPMC and there were several hundred others across several blocks of Grant Street who were on their way to the site. A block of Grant Street, one direction between 6th and 7th streets, was closed off for the march.
And this is how the news division at Scaife's Tribune-Review framed the rally:
Hundreds of protesters obstructed rush-hour traffic and forced the Port Authority of Allegheny County to juggle Downtown bus schedules for hours on Monday, and union organizers promised more action on Tuesday.

They're waging a vocal campaign against health care giant UPMC, which issued no statements about the disturbance.

Observers and Downtown workers ranged from sympathetic to cynical as they reshuffled workday routines to get around the sometimes-rowdy crowd, which Pittsburgh police estimated at 1,000 to 1,200 near its midday peak outside the U.S. Steel Tower. Organizers vowed to return but didn't specify plans.
The reason for the rally was carefully tucked into the "this rally's causing ba-a-ad traffic" piece's fifth paragraph:
Union activists who want better pay and unionization for UPMC service workers began assembling before 9 a.m., when they led a march from the Boulevard of the Allies to UPMC headquarters at U.S. Steel Tower.
That's it.  That's all they said about why the rally took place.  Of course the very next paragraph goes back to what the Trib wants you to know:
They apparently broke the terms of their city event permit, which allows them to demonstrate through 6 p.m. Tuesday on public sidewalks outside U.S. Steel Tower. Union representatives repeatedly declined to answer questions for publication.
I'll cut back to the Huffingtonpost for a better description of the issues:
SEIU and its allies have cast the UPMC campaign as an effort to improve pay and standards on the bottom rungs of Pittsburgh's booming health care industry. In recent years, health care jobs have largely replaced manufacturing jobs as the core of the region's economy, with one in five private-sector workers now employed in an area hospital, according to the Los Angeles Times. Despite the many good-paying jobs at UPMC facilities, a number of the service workers -- cafeteria employees, for instance -- are earning wages that put them near or below the poverty line, according to SEIU.
And the P-G:
The demonstration was part of an ongoing battle for higher wages for UPMC blue-collar workers, including cooks and custodial staff, unionization, and the elimination of UPMC medical debt for its employees.

In union news releases, UPMC workers say their pay amounts to "poverty wages."

Christoria Hughes, identified by the union as a six-year UPMC employee who relies on subsidized housing and food banks to support her grandchildren, said in a statement that the protest wasn't intended to "disrupt anyone's commute."

"We're out here because we can't put food on our tables even though we work for UPMC," she said.

Joining in the demonstration were teachers, grocery workers, leaders and congregants from the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, members of Pittsburgh City Council and other local politicians, Action United and the University of Pittsburgh's Students in Solidarity with UPMC Workers, who organized a small march of their own in Oakland. Some demonstrators were bused in from across the state and elsewhere.
And yet the Trib's news (not the op-ed page) division wants you, instead, to know about how the protest snarled downtown traffic.

March 3, 2014

Senator Pat Toomey, A Friend? Of Our Veterans

Reuters reports:
U.S. Senate Republicans blocked legislation on Thursday that would have expanded federal healthcare and education programs for veterans, saying the $24 billion bill would bust the budget.
The Washington Post has more on that budget issue:
A broad Department of Veterans Affairs bill that would have expanded benefits for former service members and repealed a military pension cut for future troops was rejected in the Senate on Thursday.

The measure, sponsored by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), did not garner enough Republican votes to waive a VA spending limit established under the budget Congress and President Obama approved in December. Sanders’s office estimated that his legislation, which included more than 140 provisions, would have cost $21 billion over 10 years.
And some on how Veterans' groups are reacting to a "no" vote:
Veterans groups expressed frustration with the bill’s failure, saying it fell victim to Washington’s partisan politics. The measure was four votes shy of a 60-vote threshold required for it to have advanced.

“I don’t know how anyone who voted ‘no’ today can look a veteran in the eye and justify that vote,” said Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion. “Our veterans deserve more than what they got today.”
A "no" vote was needed to waive the budgetary constraints an allow this bill to proceed.  Guess who voted "no" on waiving the constraints on $21 billion over ten years?

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

This week Senator Toomey actually sent out an email touting a picture of him (sincere face included) meeting with some members of the Disabled American Veterans - the sorts of veterans who would've been helped by the bill he voted to kill and the same group that supported the bill

The subject line of the email read "Outrageous" but I am not sure he got the full meaning of that.

March 2, 2014

Look At This

Scaife's braintrust over at the Tribune-Review sticks its collective foot into its collective mouth.  It only took a few minutes of digging to find out how badly they failed to research this:
An Emory University student stood up in a public forum last month to defend President Barack Obama's extraconstitutional behavior by claiming he had invoked the Constitution's “Elastic Clause.” Of course, no such “clause” exists. The student must have picked up the notion in economics class. You know, Mush for Brains 101.[Bolding in original.]
The source of the story is a familiar name, J. Christian Adams.  He's the guy who pushed in 2009 the (as we all know by now false) THERE'S VOTER INTIMIDATION IN PHILLY! story.  I wonder why the braintrust didn't identify him as the source here.  Perhaps to do so would have been, considering his misplaced  (and false) VOTER INTIMIDATION IN PHILLY! story, an auto-discredit they wanted to avoid.

Anyway, J. writes:
If college students listened to Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh, they would receive a better American history education than they are getting from their professors. I recently spoke at Emory University, where one student defended all of President Obama’s unconstitutional actions by invoking the Elastic Clause of the Constitution.

Citing the Elastic Clause could indeed justify a wide range of administration actions, except for one problem – it doesn’t exist.

But you couldn’t tell that to the student at Emory University who came to my speech last week on Obama’s abuses of power. He persisted in defending the actions through the Elastic Clause, as if the be-all, end-all provision was common knowledge.

From the sound of it, the Elastic Clause must be common knowledge in faculty lounges.
While it's true that the phrase "Elastic Clause" is no where to be found in the Constitution, the phrase "Elastic Clause" refers to a clause that certainly is found there.  Which clause? This one:
The Congress shall have power . . . To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
And how do I know that the phrase "Elastic Clause" refers to Article I, section 8, clause 18 of the Constitution? Says so here and here and here and here.

Mr. Adams, but, Mr. Adams, while I cannot write with any style or proper etiquette (I'm but a simple trumpet player from Connecticut), I'd have to say that IF it's explained in such diverse places as the Gallagher Law Library at the University of Washington School of Law, Dictionary.com, uslegal.com AND answers.yahoo.com, it's probably what you'd have to refer to as "common knowledge."

Kinda embarrassed yourself by saying otherwise, don't you think?

Instead of denying the common knowledge that Article 1, section 8 exists, what you should have countered your Emory challengers with, Mr Adams, was this simple point: The clause in question is found in Article I of the Constitution and Article I defines the government's Legislative powers, not the it's Executive powers.  So it's a stretch the size of the Louisiana Purchase to use the Elastic Clause to describe President Obama's Executive powers.

Isn't it?

But what do I know?  I'm not a lawyer.  But it took me all of a half hour to find out.

The fact that so much wrong can be found in such a small space in the Tribune-Review is nothing new.