What Fresh Hell Is This?

August 30, 2014

Don't They Filter Out Obvious Untruths?

Diana West writes a column for the Tribune-Review.

She's responsible for all the columns written under her byline.  She wrote them, she owns them.

So in that case, she's a birther.  Though to be fair and as far as I know, that column was NOT published in the Tribune-Review.  But still, they publish the columns of a known birther.

Bad.  Bad Tribune-Review.  Bad dog.

Here's another one.  In her most recent column, published Friday August 29 and titled "Rush to judgment in Ferguson" Diana West writes:
Even the dark suits and American flags fail to obscure the 21st-century lynch mob at work. According to federal and state authorities, Wilson shot the 6-foot-4, 292-pound man multiple times for “racist” reasons. The other story out there is that Wilson fired as Brown charged him after having beaten Wilson to the point of fracturing his orbital socket and rendering the six-year veteran cop nearly unconscious.
The fractured eye-socket story?  She went with the fractured eye-socket story?

Wasn't that debunked more than a week before (on August 21)?

But let's take a look at this fake story, shall we?  Where did it come from?  For that we turn to Salon.com:
Perhaps the first shot in the right-wing news campaign to smear Michael Brown came in the form of a call to a conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch on Aug. 15. A caller who claimed to be a friend of Wilson’s — who would only identify herself as Josie — told Loesch that Brown had “bum rushed” officer Wilson, punched him in the face and tried to go for Wilson’s gun. Brown and his friend then walked away. Wilson pulled his gun and ordered Brown to stop. Brown turned around, taunted Wilson, then again “bum rushed” him. Wilson fired six shots, the last shot to Brown’s forehead. “Josie” claimed that she had gotten this information from a Facebook discussion. She did not claim that Wilson had been seriously injured in the encounter.

Much discussion and rampant speculation followed in the right-wing blogosphere, even though the only source was an anonymous caller to a radio show and a supposed Facebook discussion. Then, on Aug. 19, Jim Hoft, a St. Louis-based blogger, announced on his site Gateway Pundit that Wilson had suffered an “Orbital Blowout Fracture to Eye Socket.”

“The Gateway Pundit can now confirm from two local St. Louis sources that police Officer Darren Wilson suffered facial fractures during his confrontation with deceased 18 year-old Michael Brown. Officer Wilson clearly feared for his life during the incident that led to the shooting death of Brown. This was after Michael Brown and his accomplice Dorian Johnson robbed a local Ferguson convenience store.”

Hoft offered a still from a CT scan as evidence of Wilson’s injury. It did not take long for people to debunk the story. Later that afternoon on the website Little Green Footballs, Charles Johnson, who takes delight in debunking Hoft, shredded the story.
Johnson, for example, foiled the description of how painful a fractured orbital socket is with the video of Officer Wilson casually walking about the corpse of Michael Brown.  No ambulances were called for him, none of the officers gave him first aid and the X-Rays Holt posted at Gateway Pundit were stock images from the University of Iowa.

The story's false and yet Diana West still went with it and just as importantly, the Trib allowed onto its pages.

But let's take a look at West's description of "the other story out there" - that Wilson shot Brown 6 times after Brown beat him so badly he shattered the officer's eye socket and nearly rendered him unconscious.

Wow.  Does Diana West seriously think that makes any sense?  Any sense at all?

Does the Trib?

August 29, 2014

Subtle, Very Subtle

By now you should all have learned that Governor Corbett, behind in the polls by double digits and presumably in desperate need of an election year boost, has announced:
...that the state has secured agreement with the federal government to implement the portion of his Healthy Pennsylvania plan that will improve and bring financial stability to the state’s Medicaid program so that the state can increase access to quality, affordable health care through the private insurance market.
In the words of Kate Giammarise at the P-G:
Pennsylvania’s working poor could start receiving subsidized health insurance as early as Jan. 1 now that the federal government has approved the state’s proposed Medicaid overhaul.

Federal regulators approved much of Gov. Tom Corbett’s “;Healthy PA” plan, the state and federal governments confirmed Thursday, ending months of negotiations between the two parties. Enrollment in what’s being called the “Healthy PA Private Coverage Option” will begin Dec. 1.

Mr. Corbett’s plan, unveiled last year and formally submitted to the federal government for review in February, would not directly expand the state’s Medicaid program, but would instead offer federal subsidies to low-income Pennsylvanians to purchase private insurance. As many as 600,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians could be eligible, according to the state’s latest estimates.
Guv'mint subsidies?  Redistributing the wealth to help the poor?  That's a guv'mint take over of the economy!  Impeach Obama!

Give it time.  Give it time, for surely our friends in the Pennsylvania Tea Party will be screeching that very soon.

Back to reality.  While it's good news that hundreds of thousands of the states poor could be receiving subsidized health insurance soon, not everyone's happy with the deal.

From Pennlive.com:
"Today's agreement begins to dig Pennsylvania out of the hole Governor Corbett and lawmakers created when they rejected funding to expand health care coverage to half-a-million low-income Pennsylvanians. There never should have been a coverage gap in Pennsylvania, and we share the relief of hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians in knowing it's finally on track to close," said Antoinette Kraus, of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, in a news release, referring to the fact that the coverage became available Jan. 1 in states that accepted the Obamacare version.
And from Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress:
"The Obama administration's approval today of 'Healthy Pennsylvania,' Governor Corbett's insurance industry giveaway, will leave thousands of working families without insurance unnecessarily. Because the Corbett administration refused to accept a simple expansion of the medicaid program, thousands in Pennsylvania have gone without insurance they so dearly need, and thousands will still be left out in the cold because the approved deal will create unaffordable premiums.

"There is no reason to give more money to the insurance companies when there was an easy alternative that would have used that money to directly aid the families that need it most -- expanding medicaid as 20+ other states have already done. Instead, the Corbett administration has decided to play politics with the health of thousands of Pennsylvanians in an effort to funnel millions of dollars into the pockets of wealthy insurance companies."
And our friends on the right must surely be unhappy as well. From Alex Nixon and Brad Bumsted of the Trib:
The conservative Commonwealth Foundation commended Corbett for pushing back against Medicaid expansion, but said he should “walk away” from the plan as approved.

“Given the federal government's unwillingness to grant Pennsylvania work search requirements or meaningful cost-sharing, it's in the best interest of Pennsylvanians to walk away and pursue other avenues to truly expand health care access,” the Harrisburg nonprofit said in a statement.
And there's the subtle.  That's the Tribune-Review, remember.  Which, via its editorial page, has denounced Obamacare forever.  Prior to his passing, Richard Mellon Scaife owned the Tribune-Review.  Prior to his passing, Scaife presided over a number of foundations.  Prior to his passing, those foundations gave lots of money to various conservative institutions over the years.

Turns out that about 35% of the foundational support received by the above mentioned Commonwealth Foundation came from those Scaife-controlled foundations - amd there's not a peep out of Nixon and Bumstead about all the money their former boss gave to the conservative institution they were quoting.

Subtle, very subtle.

August 28, 2014

Jon Stewart on The Rightwing Outrage Over Ferguson

From the Washington Post:
Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Andrea Tantaros, and other Fox News personalities all get torched in a 10-minute riff by the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart on race in America. The host starts by noting how O’Reilly was “furious” over the media reaction to the Aug. 9 police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. — though perhaps not too “furious” over the shooting itself.
Here's the clip.


Stewart ends with this:
Race is there. It is a constant. You're tired of hearing about it? Imagine how f**king exhausting it is, living it.

August 27, 2014

PASTAH Conference

Hey, did you know that a whole buncha godless heathens will be conferencing in our lovely city this weekend?

It's called the PASTAH (short for, as I understand it, PA State Atheist/Humanist) Conference and it's taking place at the Doubletree dahn-tahn.

For tickets/schedule and so on, go to the atheistpa website or their facebook page.

From the P-G:
Pittsburgh has the honor of hosting its first Atheist/Humanist conference, the 2014 PASTAH Conference to be held August 29 through August 31, in Downtown Pittsburgh at the DoubleTree! A lineup of fantastic speakers has been recruited, including Jerry Coyne, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Fred Edwords, Jamila Bey, Jerry DeWitt, John Loftus, Monette Richards, Lauri Lebo, as well as local musicians and comedians. The conference is an excellent opportunity for freethinkers to socialize, network, and commune.
Lynn Cullen did a segment on it, about halfway through her show, with local godless heathen, Ann Norman:


I still can't believe they're gonna let the godless heathens have their own goddamned conference.  Next thing you know atheists'll be demanding the same equal rights the Constitution guarantees to all the good faithful normal Americans.

Imagine that!

August 26, 2014

Professor Harris-Perry Has The Floor Again

And shows us all how it's done.  Again.

Crooks and Liars has the set up:
Melissa Harris-Perry did a nice job of taking apart Villager Joe Klein for his "cringe-worthy" op-ed he wrote this week for Time, where he did his best to malign Michael Brown for his own shooting and opined about the need to have an honest discussion about race relations in the United States. That discussion, as Harris-Perry discussed in her commentary above, is something Klein really doesn't seem ready to have yet when you dissect his article.
 And here's Professor Harris-Perry's analysis (cringe-worthy yes, but for Joe Klein):


You can find the transcript at Crooksandliars.


August 24, 2014

Yea, This Is Disappointing

Usually, I love watching John Oliver on HBO.  Usually, he's funny, moving, and completely right.

Last week, however, I watched as he got caught up in the Gender Gap story.

And, he got the story wrong.

We've written about this before but I guess it might be a good idea to revisit the issue, if only to point out Oliver's mistakes.  The biggest mistake happens whenever Oliver uses the phrase "for equal work" except when he says this about 5 minutes in:
Paying people less for the same work is clearly wrong.
I could not agree more.  The problem Oliver has is where and what to other sentences he pastes the "for the same work" phrase.

Let's take a look at his numbers.  His piece gives a number of different pay gaps  Along with the by now well known $.77 he gives us talking points saying the gap is:
  • $.81
  • $.88
  • $.91
  • $.95 to $.93
They're obviously different, but are they conflicting?  Throughout the piece Oliver mocks the presence  of different numbers as evidence that...there's something wrong with all those numbers.  Implicit in the mockery is the "fact" that the reality is "$.77 on the dollar for the same work" and so all the other numbers must be so much dishonest number fudgery.

But that's just simply not true.  You have to look at what the numbers represent to see that each tells a slightly different story.  Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post explained this a little more than 2 years ago:
We were struck by the disparities in the data when we noticed that a news release by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) trumpeted the 77 cent figure, but it included a link to a state-by-state breakdown that gave a different overall figure: 81 cents.

What’s the difference? The 77 cent figure comes from a Census Bureau report, which is based on annual wages. The BLS numbers draw on data that are based on weekly wages. Annual wages is a broader measure — it can include bonuses, retirement pensions, investment income and the like — but it also means that school teachers, who may not work over the summer, would end up with a lower annual wage.

In other words, since women in general work fewer hours than men in a year, the statistics may be less reliable for examining the key focus of the legislation — wage discrimination. Weekly wages is more of an apples-to-apples comparison, but as mentioned, it does not include as many income categories, The gap is even smaller when you look at hourly wages — it is 86 cents vs. 100 (see Table 9) — but then not every wage earner is paid on an hourly basis, so that statistic excludes salaried workers. But, under this metric for people with a college degree, there is virtually no pay gap at all. [Emphases added.]
So what did Oliver's numbers represent?  Let's look one at a time:
  • $.81 - This is a BLS survey released in 2012 that compares weekly earnings.
  • $.88 - Factcheck.org quotes BLS to say that, if I am reading it correctly, Since men tend to work more overtime their weekly earnings edge higher and that when comparing male and female workers who each work only 40 hours, the gap is closer to $.88.  
  • $.91 - Hanna Rosin over at Slate.com cites this paper to say that "The big differences are in occupation and industry. Women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying. If you account for those differences, and then compare a woman and a man doing the same job, the pay gap narrows to 91 percent."
This is where we clash with Oliver's other bit of mockery: that if the gap exists, it's actually women's fault. [OMG, how can anyone in their right mind believe that?]

But as we've seen, the Stanford paper says that women do congregate in lower paying jobs and no less than the Association of American University Women says that the different choices that men and women make in college and in the job market are in fact a part of the gap.  From page 8 of the AAUW report, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap:
In part, these pay gaps do reflect men’s and women’s choices, especially the choice of college major and the type of job pursued after graduation. For example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to be paid less than other college graduates. This portion of the pay gap is considered to be explained, regardless of whether teachers’ wages are considered fair.
It's not the entire explanation for the gap, of course, but it's not non-existent either.

So a large part of the gap is based on the the difference between the choices men and women make in choosing an education and the details of the career that follows.

Once we accept that premise, how can we be possibly be talking about "equal pay for the same job"?  We simply aren't.  Saying that $.77 on the dollar is evidence for unequal pay for the same job was simply incorrect 3 years ago and it was simply incorrect last Sunday.  And yet that's exactly what John Oliver was doing to BS the facts.

When all of the other factors (yearly vs weekly vs hourly wages, educational and career choices and so on) are taken into account, the gap is in the still unacceptable single digit range.  Too large, obviously, but still much smaller than the currently accepted rate of "77 cents on the dollar."

And whatever the gap is (even if it's "only" 5%), it's something, according to The Equal Pay Act of 1963, that's still illegal.

August 21, 2014

Obama Denounces ISIL


Transcript:
Good afternoon, everybody. Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL.

Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother, and a friend. He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away. He was taken hostage nearly two years ago in Syria, and he was courageously reporting at the time on the conflict there.

Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world. He was 40 years old -- one of five siblings, the son of a mom and dad who worked tirelessly for his release. Earlier today, I spoke to the Foleys and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss, and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.

Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers. Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages -- killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims -- both Sunni and Shia -- by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people.

So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.

And people like this ultimately fail. They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.

The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.

The people of Iraq, who with our support are taking the fight to ISIL, must continue coming together to expel these terrorists from their communities. The people of Syria, whose story Jim Foley told, do not deserve to live under the shadow of a tyrant or terrorists. They have our support in their pursuit of a future rooted in dignity.

From governments and peoples across the Middle East there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of these kind of nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.

Friends and allies around the world, we share a common security and a common set of values that are rooted in the opposite of what we saw yesterday. And we will continue to confront this hateful terrorism, and replace it with a sense of hope and civility. And that’s what Jim Foley stood for, a man who lived his work; who courageously told the stories of his fellow human beings; who was liked and loved by friends and family.

Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim. All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us mourn his loss. We keep in our prayers those other Americans who are separated from their families. We will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for.

May God bless and keep Jim’s memory, and may God bless the United States of America.
No place in the 21st Century.

August 20, 2014

Still, No Actual Science Here

And by "here" of course I mean the editorial page of the Tribune-Review.

Take a look at this warning about some upcoming legislation.  I want to jump all the way to the bottom to the "science" that supports the whole argument:
As Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute points out, atmospheric and surface warming began in the late 1970s and ended in the mid-to-late 1990s. In effect, the “Great Carbon Chase” is a nonstarter.
So who's this Benjamin Zycher of AEI?   (Let's not forget that AEI is itself a beneficiary of millions of Scaife money.) Is he a climate scientist?

Um, no. From his AEI bio page:
Ph.D., economics, University of California, Los Angeles
M.P.P., public policy, University of California, Berkeley
A.B., political science, University of California, Los Angeles
And what does this econ Ph.D. actually say about the carbon legislation?  Specifically the "science" about how the warming ended in the late 90s?

Take a look:
With respect to the explicit assumption about the "warming of our planet": The most recent warming period ended 15 or more years ago.
Ah, that argument.  The warming ended in the late 90s.  The "link" above is actually two links.  One leading to an actual scientist (Roy Spencer, Ph.D.) and the other leading to another non-scientist (Christopher Monckton) who is more or less a quack.

So let's look at the scientist.  He actually gets his own page at the Skeptical Science website.  (Actually, it's a page devoted to him, titled "Climate Misinformer: Roy Spencer).  And here's how Skeptical Science debunks Spencer's "no warming in x number of years" argument. I wrote only yesterday about how it's still warming outside (FYI - that's where the science points)

It's the same old selective evidence fallacy that's been used countless times before.

And the Trib is still using it.

August 19, 2014

Meanwhile, Outside

What's going on in Ferguson is the most important story of the day, by far.  Without a doubt.  No one deserves to be gunned down in the street like that.  No one.  No one's corpse deserves to be left there for hours.  No one.  No one's pre-shooting reputation deserves to be smeared like that by the local police - especially since it was the police that did the shooting.  No one.

This is America.  Crap like that isn't supposed to happen.  But it does.  All too often.

That being said, it's still getting warmer out there.  From NOAA:
  • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for July 2014 was the fourth highest on record for July, at 0.64°C (1.15°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.4°F).
  • The global land surface temperature was 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.3°C (57.8°F), marking the 10th warmest July on record. 
  • For the ocean, the July global sea surface temperature was 0.59°C (1.06°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), tying with 2009 as the warmest July on record. 
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–July period (year-to-date) was 0.66°C (1.19°F) above the 20th century average of 13.8°C (56.9°F), tying with 2002 as the third warmest such period on record.
It may have been cool round these parts, but overall it's still getting hotter out there.

August 18, 2014

Stop Believing In Evolution

It's a fact to understand, not "believe in."

For a Monday morning, this is a pretty good read:
It's remarkable how poorly understood evolution is today — how easily "debated" it is — given that its rules have been in place at least since life on Earth began, and that the truth of it is easily demonstrated. In fact, the basic theory has been in a state of continuous reconfirmation since Darwin proposed it in 1859, with geology, biology, anthropology, carbon dating, Pangaea, and every dinosaur bone ever found providing a nonstop barrage of additional proof points.
And Keith Blanchard, of The Week, goes on to give a simplified version of those rules:
  • Genes, stored in every cell, are the body's blueprints; they code for traits like eye color, disease susceptibility, and a bazillion other things that make you you. 
  •  Reproduction involves copying and recombining these blueprints, which is complicated, and errors happen. 
  •  Errors are passed along in the code to future generations, the way a smudge on a photocopy will exist on all subsequent copies. 
  •  This modified code can (but doesn't always) produce new traits in successive generations: an extra finger, sickle-celled blood, increased tolerance for Miley Cyrus shenanigans. 
  •  When these new traits are advantageous (longer legs in gazelles), organisms survive and replicate at a higher rate than average, and when disadvantageous (brittle skulls in woodpeckers), they survive and replicate at a lower rate.
It really is quite simple.  Not something to "believe" in - like, say, how the Sun stopped in the sky during the battle of Jericho (Joshua 10:13).

Blanchard ends:
So if someone asks, "Do you believe in evolution," they are framing it wrong. That's like asking, "Do you believe in blue?"

Evolution is nothing more than a fairly simple way of understanding what is unquestionably happening. You don't believe in it — you either understand it or you don't. But pretending evolution is a matter of faith can be a clever way to hijack the conversation, and pit it in a false duality against religion. And that's how we end up with people decrying evolution, even as they eat their strawberries and pet their dogs, because they've been led to believe faith can only be held in one or the other.

But there's no reason for people of faith to reject the mountains of data and the evidence of their own senses. Reconciling is easy: Believe, if you want to, that God set up the rules of evolution among His wonders, along with the laws of physics, and probability, and everything else we can see and measure for ourselves. But don't deny evolution itself, or gravity, or the roundness of Earth. That's just covering your eyes and ears. And only monkeys would do that.
Have a good Monday morning.

August 17, 2014

RIP Sophie Masloff


I lived in NYC for most of the 80's and 90's so I have no great Sophie stories or insights, but it was really cool to be eating in a restaurant in Manhattan many years ago and look up at the TV and see this woman on the screen identified as the mayor of Pittsburgh. For all its liberalness, NYC has never had a female mayor.

On Ferguson, Missouri

Today, Professor Harris-Perry has the floor:


Here's the transcript.

Good Morning.

August 16, 2014

From THE ONION

Yes, it's a satirical site, but often times the satire points to a greater truth.

From The Onion's "Tips for Being an Unarmed Black Teen" we read (go see the complete list):
  • Shy away from dangerous, heavily policed areas.
And a few (rubber) bullet points away:
  • Don’t let society stereotype you as a petty criminal. Remember that you can be seen as so much more, from an armed robbery suspect, to a rape suspect, to a murder suspect. 
  • Try to see it from a police officer’s point of view: You may be unarmed, but you’re also black. 
  • Avoid wearing clothing associated with the gang lifestyle, such as shirts and pants.
To finally:
  • Be as polite and straightforward as possible when police officers are kicking the shit out of you.
Good morning and good luck.

August 15, 2014

Short Note About The Coverage Of Ferguson

I realize the story's constantly shifting, but I wanted to bring this to your attention:
Laura Ingraham's opinion on the merits of a protest movement seem to vary considerably from month to month. Ingraham recently characterized protestors in Ferguson, Missouri as a "lynch mob" and downplayed the story as a "local, criminal" story, but in April the radio host helped to elevate the standoff between scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy and federal law enforcement agents while suggesting his supporters' violent threats against the government constituted a mere "act of civil disobedience."
How surprising is that?

August 13, 2014

More Scientific Consensus on Global Climate Change (As If We Needed It)

Remember that "97%" number?  Remember how it states that 97% of all climate scientists agree with the science of global warming?

Here's another paper to confirm it.

The study's primary (?) author, has a quick and easy FAQ explaining the science without too much science-y jargon.  Here's what the study found:
Our results are consistent with similar studies, which all find high levels of consensus among scientists, especially among scientists who publish more often in the peer-reviewed climate literature.

Cook et al. (2013) found that 97% of papers that characterized the cause of recent warming indicated that it is due to human activities. (John Cook, the lead author of that analysis, is co-author on this current article.) Similarly, a randomized literature review found zero papers that called human-induced climate change into question (Oreskes, 2004).

Other studies surveyed scientists themselves. For instance, Doran and Kendall-Zimmermann (2009) found lower levels of consensus for a wider group of earth scientists (82% consensus) as compared to actively publishing climatologists (97% consensus) on the question of whether or not human activity is a “significant contributor” to climate change. Our results are also in line with those of e.g. Bray and von Storch (2008) and Lichter (2007).

In our study, among respondents with more than 10 peer-reviewed publications (half of total respondents), 90% agree that greenhouse gases are the largest – or tied for largest – contributor to recent warming. The level of agreement is ~85% for all respondents.
The interesting thing about this survey is that they didn't limit the questions to ONLY peer-reviewed climate scientists.  They asked a broad array of scientists and then correlated each scientist's area and level of expertise with how much they agreed with climate science.  Guess what they found?  Take a look:
[IPCC]AR4 authors are generally domain experts, whereas the survey respondents at large comprise a very broad group of scholars, including for example scientists studying climate impacts or mitigation. Hence we consider this to be an extension of the observation -in this study and in e.g. Anderegg et al. (2010) and Doran and Kendall-Zimmermann (2009) – that the more expert scientists report stronger agreement with the IPCC position. Moreover, on the question of how likely the greenhouse contribution exceeded 50%, many respondents provided a stronger statement than was made in AR4. Using a smaller sample of scientists, Bray (2010) found no difference in level of consensus between IPCC authors and non-authors. [Emphasis added to the link.]
Not only that but they found this interesting bit of info tucked into the corners:
Scientists with dissenting opinions report receiving more media attention than those with mainstream opinions. This results in a skewed picture of the spectrum of scientific opinion. Whether that is problematic is in the eye of the beholder, but it may partly explain why public understanding lags behind scientific discourse (e.g. the “consensus gap”).
So if I am reading this correctly, just short of all peer-reviewed climate scientists agree with climate science.  The farther away you get in expertise you are, the less likely you'll be in agreement with the science and the more likely you'll be hit up for an opinion in the media.

Interesting.

August 12, 2014

Franklin Graham Is Coming To Town!

(You better watch out, you better not cry...)

 No wait, that's someone else. Oopsie.

 According to the Post-Gazette, the Rev Franklin Graham is coming to town and he's bringing with him something else:
But Franklin Graham also brings with him a trail of controversy. The U.S. Army withdrew an invitation to speak at a 2010 prayer gathering amid a backlash over his denunciations of Islam as an “evil” religion. He has dismissed Hinduism’s veneration of multiple divine manifestations, saying “none of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation.” The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP objected to Rev. Graham’s comments focusing on gay marriage and abortion during the 2012 presidential campaign, calling for a moral agenda that challenges “the evils of racism, classism and militarism.”

When “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson drew a backlash last year for denouncing homosexuality in a magazine interview, Rev. Graham defended him against “the intolerant gay community and its vast network of immoral, liberal allies” in a “full-scale assault against Christianity.” And Rev. Graham applauded a new Russian law banning homosexual ”propaganda“ aimed at children, which critics called a pretext for a more general repression of gays.
Oh, but there's so much more to Graham than this.  Let's start with the "evil religion" part. From CNN:
The Army rescinded its invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham for the upcoming National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon over controversial remarks he made about Islam.

"True Islam cannot be practiced in this country," he told CNN's Campbell Brown last December. "You can't beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they've committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries."
So "True Islam" means beating your wife and killing your children if you think they've committed adultery?

Franklin Graham evidently thinks so.  But it's OK, because he says he has Muslim friends.

And as for Graham's applause of Putin's "propaganda" law, it goes farther.  From The Washington Post where he's quoted as saying:
Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own?

In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.

Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful.
This is what happens, my friends, when faith does your reasoning for you.

August 10, 2014

When A Holy Book Says "I'm Right and You're Wrong"

See what happens when faith-based initiatives proceed checked? From Reuters (via Huffingtonpost):
Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi minority, burying some alive and taking hundreds of women as slaves, an Iraqi government minister told Reuters on Sunday.

Human rights minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani accused the Sunni Muslim insurgents - who have ordered the community they regard as "devil worshippers" to convert to Islam or die - of celebrating a "a vicious atrocity" with cheers and weapons waved in the air. No independent confirmation was available.
Time has some information on the faith:
Though a Kurdish sect and religion, the Yazidi faith has borrowed from multiple traditions. It was founded in the 11th century by a sheik from the major Islamic dynasty, the Umayyad.

“They have borrowed from the Persian tradition, Zoroastrianism (a pre-Islamic religion), Christianity—they believe that Jesus was one of the most important prophets—and Islam,” Gerges said. “It is one of the most complex religions in the world.” The Yazidis believe in reincarnation, perform baptisms, circumcisions and animal sacrifices.
And why ISIS considers them to be "devil worshipers":
The Yazidis are monotheistic to an extent, believing that one supreme being known as Yasdan created the earth helped by seven angels. The most important of these is Malak Tawous, the peacock angel or king to whom the Yazidis pray to five times a day. His other name Shaytan means “devil” in Arabic. This, above all else, is what earned them the moniker of devil worshipers.
Thinkprogress has more:
But despite this history of violence, Yazidis have long disputed the claim of devil worship as a misconception. To be sure, Yazidism is an ancient religion, and shares many rituals, practices, and theological beliefs with Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. But these commonalities can be misleading, especially given that the Yazidi tradition is actually older than both Christianity and Islam. Yazidis, for instance, are monotheistic and believe that God created the world, but also that our planet is under the care of seven Angels. Chief among these angels is Melek Taus, or the “Peacock Angel,” a powerful figure in Yazidism who, like the Christian/Muslim Lucifer, refused to bow to the first man — Adam — and was banished to a fiery punishment by God.
It doesn't actually matter, of course, what the Yazidis actually believe and how often they "dispute the claim of devil worship."  If it's the sincerely held religious belief of ISIS that they worship the devil, then facts pointing elsewhere, y'know, won't make much of a difference.  But they rarely do to the truly faithful don't they?

Lest you think this is only an Islamic thing, let me remind you of some motes in some more local eyes.

In Exodus, we find this:
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
It's one of the Commandments, you know.  And  in the Second Book of Chronicles, we find this:
That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
And in Deuteronomy, we find this:
6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;

7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:

9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
So how great of a theological step is ISIS making when it's so cruelly treating a whole religion, merely because it's different from its own?

And while no one is saying that your church choir singing Aunt Mildred is running off anywhere to offer some non-believers a similar choice between starvation and decapitation, that impulse is there when we see this from Right Wing Watch:
...Operation Save America disrupted the services of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans on Sunday while the congregation was honoring a member who had died. The organization framed their action as simply an effort to “present the truth of the Gospel in this synagogue of Satan” as part of their efforts “to defeat the culture of death.”
This is from the link just above:
At the Unitarian Universalist “church” in New Orleans, Deanna Waller, Jay Rogers, Mary Claire, Ken Scott, Russell Hunter, Toby Harman and others presented the truth of the Gospel in this synagogue of Satan. As God would have it, the “church” was filled with students from a “social justice” training school. According to Rev. Flip Benham, OSA National Director, the team presented a “dynamic witness.”

During an open “meditation” time, Deanna shared the Word of the Lord. When the female “pastor” took issue, Deanna reminded her that, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2). In violation of their “sacred tenants” of peace and tolerance, Deanna and others were summarily escorted out of the service.
Note the irony quotation marks in the first phrase.  That's their way of saying that while the Unitarian Universalists call themselves a church, verily they know better.  Note the use of "synagogue of Satan" at the end of that first sentence.  I wonder if Benham's true believers left condemning the "intolerance" of the congregation whose space they just invaded.  Or if they complained to themselves how the synagogue of Satan denied them their 1st Amendment rights to speak.

I mean, hey, if it's their sincerely held belief that the Unitarian Universalists are a "synagogue of Satan" (it can't be the only such synagogue, right?) then it's their right to march right in there and fight Satan in the Jesus' name.  Amen.

Then there's this, also from the RightWingWatch:
Right before chatting with a Republican congressman on his on “Trunews” program yesterday, End Times radio host Rick Wiles said that an outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. might actually be a good thing if it ends up giving an “attitude adjustment” to all the gays and atheists, along with people who use pornography or have had an abortion, who will die if they aren’t “protected by God.”

“Now this Ebola epidemic can become a global pandemic and that’s another name for plague. It may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming,” he said. “Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”

“If Ebola becomes a global plague, you better make sure the blood of Jesus is upon you, you better make sure you have been marked by the angels so that you are protected by God. If not, you may be a candidate to meet the Grim Reaper.”
If you don't have Jesus in your heart, then teh ebola's gonna getcha!  And it'll be your fault!

This sort of crazie is what happens when someone is convinced they're completely right merely because their holy book tells them so.  When they're backed by the guv'ment, look out.

August 7, 2014

A Question For Eric Heyl

Mr Heyl;

I see that, in June, the Tribune-Review published this interview you conducted with Stephen Moore, chief economist for The Heritage Foundation and a former writer for The Wall Street Journal in which you discuss Fed policy.

I don't know if you're aware but Heritage Foundation chief economist Moore was snagged getting some rather serious facts wrong - some requiring some rather serious corrections.

Here's what happened.  Mr Moore wrote this op-ed for the Kansas City Star (it was reprinted here at the Heritage Foundation website, in case you missed it).  But then he was on the losing end of a fact-check by the Star's Yael Abouhalkah:
The tax-cutting efforts of the embattled [Kansas Governor Sam] Brownback were praised in a recent opinion column by Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, a well-known conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

However, my research shows Moore used outdated and inaccurate job growth information at a key point in his article in early July.
And then:
The wrong data undermined one of Moore’s arguments — that low-tax states have shown tremendous job gains and that employment often doesn’t grow as strongly in high-tax states.
So what do Moore say that was incorrect?  In his op-ed, he wrote:
No-income-tax Texas gained 1 million jobs over the last five years; California, with its 13 percent tax rate, managed to lose jobs. Oops. Florida gained hundreds of thousands of jobs while New York lost jobs. Oops.
Turns out most of that was incorrect. From Abouhalkah's fact-check:
No. 1: When Moore wrote about job creation “over the last five years,” he told The Star that he had measured from December 2007 to December 2012, using federal Bureau of Labor Statistics information.

That was an odd and ultimately misleading decision for readers. The bureau’s data is updated monthly, so “the last five years” easily could and should have been from mid-2009 to mid-2014. That would have provided more up-to-date figures, not 18-month-old data.

No. 2: Texas did not gain 1 million jobs in that 2007-2012 period. The correct figure was a gain of 497,400 jobs.

No. 3: Florida did not add hundreds of thousands of jobs in that span. It lost 461,500 jobs.

No. 4: New York, which has one of the highest income tax rates, did not lose jobs during that time. It gained 75,900 jobs. [Bolding and Italics in original]
 Yea, that's some serious factual errors by your Mr Moore, huh?

Here's my question to you, Mr Heyl: While it's true that this set of factual errors had nothing to do with your interview with him, wouldn't it be rather unwise to ever invite Stephen Moore back onto the pages of the Tribune-Review, considering how much he managed to get wrong (and in such a small space, too!) on such an important topic (the link between tax rates and job creation)?

August 6, 2014

A Benghazi Debunking Follow-up

As I posted yesterday, Congressman Ruppersberger posted this on July 31:
The House Intelligence Committee spent nearly two years looking at every aspect of the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during and after the attacks of September 11, 2012...
Snip
This report shows that there was no intelligence failure surrounding the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens...
And so on.

Our friends at MediaMatters are reporting that Fox News is quiet about the report.  For a "news" service quick to pounce on any (ANY!) "smoking gun" report out of Darrell Issa's committee, it's interesting, is it not, that they haven't had much to say about a report debunking their ever evolving Benghazi mythos.

But then that got me to wondering.  How is the House Intelligence Committee report being reported on by our own conservative "news" source, the Tribune-Review?

You'll be surprised to learn, of course, that it's not all together different from what's not being said at Fox.

As of this writing there are three post-Ruppersberger (7/31/14) hits on the word "benghazi" at the Trib search engine.  Three.  And none of them reference the report.

There is this letter, on the other hand:
President Obama is attempting to shift attention from his scandals by attacking former President George W. Bush. I hope the American people don't fall for that trick.

If one considers waterboarding to be torture, then Bush allowed torture of Muslim terrorists.

After Sept. 11, 2001, America was under attack. How many American lives were saved and terrorist attacks foiled because we used waterboarding? Sometimes if you want to win, you must get your hands dirty.

I would like some answers to the scandals of the Obama administration. What happened to Lois Lerner's emails? Who ordered conservative groups audited? Who ordered the bugging of journalists? What really happened during the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, 2012?

I'm sure Obama is trying very hard to bury those answers.
Actually, the Trib's readers would certainly know the answer to the Benghazi question if the paper they rely on for information actually reported on the House Intelligence Committee's report.

Which they haven't yet.

How surprising is that?

August 5, 2014

Yet, ANOTHER Benghazi Debunking

This time from the Ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Congressman Ruppersberger:
“The House Intelligence Committee spent nearly two years looking at every aspect of the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during and after the attacks of September 11, 2012, in Benghazi Libya. The Committee spent thousands of hours in the course of the investigation, which included poring over pages of intelligence assessments, cables, notes and emails. The Committee held twenty briefings and hearings and conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials and eyewitnesses to the attacks, including eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. The result is a bipartisan, factual, definitive report on what the Intelligence Community did and did not do.

This report shows that there was no intelligence failure surrounding the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans. Our investigation found the Intelligence Community warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened, Americans which is consistent with testimony that the attacks appeared to be opportunistic. It also found that a mixed group of individuals including those associated with Al-Qaeda, Qadafi loyalists and other Libyan militias participated in the attack. Additionally, the report shows there was no “stand down order” given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, and no American was left behind.
See that?  No "stand down order" given.

Then there's this:
The report also shows that the process used to develop the talking points was flawed, but that the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis. Finally, the report demonstrates that there was no illegal activity or illegal arms sales occurring at U.S. facilities in Benghazi. And there was absolutely no evidence, in documents or testimony, that the Intelligence Community’s assessments were politically motivated in any way.
This lines up with all the other investigations into the Benghazi "scandal."  From Mediamatters:
The House Intelligence Committee report joins previous Benghazi investigations by the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board (ARB), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Armed Services Committee which have repeatedly debunked right-wing Benghazi myths that have persisted since the attacks, including the falsehood that a "stand down" order was given to troops stationed in Tripoli and the myth that the administration lied about the attacks having been caused by an anti-Islam YouTube video. [Links in Original.]
As with Michael Mann's climate "hockey stick" which always seems to be "debunked" in the conservative media (even though every committee looking into it has verified that it corresponds with reality), facts just don't matter to our friends in the wingnut community of conservative Amurika.

August 3, 2014

Jack Kelly Sunday

A brief fact-check.

This tiny mistake is most embarrassing for the Post-Gazette's main conservative columnist.  Most embarrassing.

This Sunday, he wrote:
Hamas (the Arabic acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement”) was founded in 1987 with initial funding from Saddam Hussein, according to Discover the Networks, a website that tracks the political left. Hamas is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan Muslimin) founded in 1928, which received initial support from Adolf Hitler.
I'm not here to defend Hamas or Israel or the Muslim Brotherhood or Saddam Hussein or Adolph Hitler.  Let's just get that out of the way.  I'm just doing what my good friends at the Post-Gazette should be doing: Fact-checking Jack Kelly.

Let begin.  Jack says that Hamas was founding in 1987 with initial funding from Saddam Hussein and uses as a source this website, Discover the Networks.

Well, let's go see what DtN has to say about Hamas.  At the top of the page there's a set of bullet points - and this, I believe, is where Jack made his embarrassment:
  • Islamic terrorist group founded in 1987
  • Received funding from Saddam Hussein
But once we look just a few inches down the page, we'll see how badly Jack screwed this one up.  While the page does say that Hamas was formed in 1987 and it does say that it received some funding from Saddam Hussein, it does not say that that funding was in any way "initial."

Take a look at the "Saddam" passage:
Some clandestine fundraising takes place in Western Europe and North America as well. When the United Nations Oil-For-Food program was in effect, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein skimmed more than $21 billion from its coffers and sent some of it directly to Hamas.
So according to the website Jack cited as saying the funding was "initial," whatever Saddam money that made its way to Hamas came from the UN's Oil for Food program.  And when you follow DtN's link above, among the first things you read is this:
Established in 1995 by U.N. Security Council Resolution 986
But how can that be "initial funding" if Hamas was founded eight years earlier?  In any event, how much of the Oil for Food billions were sent to Hamas?  As far as I can tell, not much.  Take a look at this from the Council on Foreign Relations:
Iraq has also supported the Islamist Hamas movement and reportedly channeled money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. A secular dictator, however, Saddam tended to support secular terrorist groups rather than Islamist ones such as al-Qaeda, experts say.
In fact, the only reliable corroborating info I can squeeze out of the internets reference those payments to the families of some suicide bombers.  Like this from CBS:
Saddam Hussein has distributed $260,000 to 26 families of Palestinians killed in 29 months of fighting with Israel, including a $10,000 check to the family of a Hamas suicide bomber.
So while Jack mis-cites DtN, and DtN talks billions, the real number may, in fact be in the thousands.  Remember, Saddam was secular and supported secular terror - not faith-based terror.  Initial or otherwise.

Which leads me to the next "initial" reference of Jack's.  The "initial support" Hitler gave the Muslim Brotherhood.  Jack says the Brotherhood was founded in 1928 and "received initial support from Adolph Hitler."

This is surprising since Hitler's Nazi party only held 12 of the 491 seats in the German Parliament after the elections of May 1928.  They only rose to power 5 years later.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the first thing they did was to support the brotherhood, how can that possibly be "initial" support??

It's a small point, but AGAIN, DOESN'T ANYONE FACT-CHECK JACK KELLY?

And now the useful post script.  What is "Discover The Networks" anyway?  From its website we learn:
Welcome to DiscoverTheNetworks, a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This website is a "Guide to the Political Left." It identifies the individuals and organizations that make up the left, and also the institutions that fund and sustain the left; it maps the paths through which the left exerts its influence on the larger body politic; it defines the left's (often hidden) programmatic agendas; and it provides an understanding of the left's history and ideas.
How that overlaps any discussion of Saddam Hussein's interactions with Hamas are anyone's guess.  And who is David Horowitz?  The Southern Poverty Law Center has an idea:
Horowitz, who spent his young years as a Marxist, has in recent years become a furious far-right antagonist of liberals and leftists. He also provides some funding support for other anti-Muslim ventures, including, according to the blog SpencerWatch.com, paying Spencer $132,537 to run the JihadWatch website. Horowitz sees no philosophical gradations; if you're not in total agreement with his view of Islam, you're in favor of Muslim hegemony. He believes the Muslim Brotherhood and "Islamofascists" control most American Muslim organizations, especially Muslim student groups on college campuses.
Do I need to mention that the David Horowitz Freedom Center is a hard right organization?  One that's received about 36% of it's foundational suport from the Scaife Foundations?

So can hardly be a balanced and thoughtful information source, can it?

If all of that is the case, then HOW CAN JACK KELLY USE IT AS A CREDIBLE SOURCE FOR A COLUMN?

Doesn't ANYONE check these things on the Boulevard of the Allies?

August 2, 2014

Yep, We Did. We Tortured Some Folks.

From CBS News:
The United States tortured al Qaeda detainees captured after the Sept. 11,2001 attacks, President Obama acknowledged Friday, in some of his most expansive comments to date about a controversial set of CIA practices that he banned after taking office.
From the White House Transcript:
I have full confidence in John Brennan. I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff. And it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled. Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.

With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that's what that report reflects. And that's the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.
Let's start with Brennan.  What he acknowledged was, in fact, his own dishonesty.  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.  Let's take a step back.

There's an ongoing dispute in DC about the CIA's Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program.  The Senate Intelligence Committee's written a report that's now circulating behind the locked doors of Official Washington and a summary of it is (supposedly) on its way to being declassified and released:
The White House in the next few days is expected to declassify the long-awaited summary of a U.S. Senate committee study of a CIA program that used "enhanced interrogations" and secret prisons to extract information from captured militants, several officials familiar with the matter said.

Over the last two weeks, former directors and deputy directors of the CIA have been invited by the Obama administration to review a still-secret version of the 600-page Senate Intelligence Committee summary at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Officials familiar with its contents say it concludes that the CIA's use of harsh "enhanced interrogation" methods such as waterboarding, or simulated drowning, on a handful of prisoners, and other stress tactics on a larger set of captured militants, did not produce any significant counter-terrorism breakthroughs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Human rights activists and CIA critics, including some U.S. politicians, have described the CIA's techniques as torture.

The officials said the report also alleges that CIA officials misstated or exaggerated the results of the program by claiming such methods had helped to foil terrorist plots.
So according to those who've seen the report, the CIA tortured and then lied about the effectiveness of that torture.  The point here is that while the Senate was investigating the CIA's torturous RDI program, the Senate Intelligence Committee was actually spied on by the CIA.

Here's what Brennan said early on to Andrea Mitchell of NBC News:
As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. That's just beyond the scope of reason.
And that turns out to be completely and unquestionably false.  From CNN:
CIA Director John Brennan apologized to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday and admitted the agency spied on computers used by its staffers who prepared an investigation of the controversial post 9/11 CIA interrogation and detention program.
So that's how the DCIA and the CIA lied to everybody about the RDI program.

Now that we've established that, what's the bigger issue?

Because no matter how the President frames it, torture is still illegal.  From the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Article I:
For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
And now something from Article II:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
See?  No matter how bad 9/11 was, no matter how scared the people were, there's no justification to torture.  It's simply against the law - international law.

Let me add a footnote.  Torture's illegal according to this more recent law as well.  This was introduced by Senator John McCain as an amendment to a larger appropriations bill.  (It was later signed into law by George W. Bush):
No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
And so on.

Of course, this was in the age of the previous (and oh-so Republican) administration, the age of the Unitary Executive, when a President could sign a bill into law and then claim that it didn't always have to apply to him. From the Boston Globe in 2006:
When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief.

After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a ''signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law -- declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.

''The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief," Bush wrote, adding that this approach ''will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President . . . of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."
Meaning:
David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said that the signing statement means that Bush believes he can still authorize harsh interrogation tactics when he sees fit.
It's interesting that there wasn't much of a peep then from today's Impeachment crowd.  Back then a (Republican) President was claiming the authority to side step International laws barring war crimes and there's more or less silence from the right wing.  Now a (Democratic) President issues an Executive Order rearranging some parts of the implementation of a law getting more Americans affordable health care and BAM! suddenly there's a constitutional crisis on the (pro-life) Right.

The sad sad part about all this is that the current (Democratic) President is letting the previous (Republican) President get away with war crimes.

I'm just wondering when Fox News will call for Obama's impeachment for the crime of giving Bush's waterboarding a pass.