What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 27, 2015

You Can Believe The Science Or You Can Believe The Senator With The Snowball

This happened on February 26 on the floor of the United States Senate.  The speaker is Senator James Inhofe (R-OK):


He's looking to disprove global warming by saying it's very cold outside in Washington DC.

Meanwhile in Anchorage Alaska, Monday saw record high temperatures (the average temp for that day is 30 °F and on Monday it was 43 °F.

Does this mean that global warming is occurring in Sarah Palin's abandoned state but not in our nation's capitol?

Luckily, another Senator produced some actual facts:


(Crooks and Liars has the transcript)

In his statement, Senator Whitehouse lists a number of groups/individuals who accept the science.  Here are his sources:
  • NASA Earth Now website.
  • Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear
    America’s top military officer in charge of monitoring hostile actions by North Korea, escalating tensions between China and Japan, and a spike in computer attacks traced to China provides an unexpected answer when asked what is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region: climate change.

    Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, in an interview at a Cambridge hotel Friday after he met with scholars at Harvard and Tufts universities, said significant upheaval related to the warming planet “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’
  • US Conference of Catholic Bishops:
    The best evidence indicates that power plants are the largest stationary source of carbon emissions in the United States, and a major contributor to climate change.
  • Coke and Pepsi:
    The Coca-Cola Company, for instance, has created a comprehensive “field-to-market” environmental program using climate-related data to quantify water use, fertilizer use, energy use, and greenhouse emissions. By the end of 2015, half of the company’s global corn supply will be part of this environmental program built around the reality of climate data.

    PepsiCo just announced the installation of a solar photovoltaic system that will supply massive amounts of renewable energy for the company’s Gatorade manufacturing operations in Tolleson, Arizona. Pepsi officials publicly describe the effort as a way of preventing the release of 50,000 tons of carbon and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Pepsi has said it will use data from this solar project to help inform future solar installations and projects so that it can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions globally.
  • Ford Motor Company:
    Ford is committed to doing our share to prevent or reduce the potential for environmental, economic and social harm due to climate change.
  • General Motors:
    GM asserts addressing climate change is not only good for the environment, it delivers tangible business value.
  • Caterpillar:
    Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and CEO Jim Owens joined a diverse group of businesses and environmental organizations to call on U.S. policymakers to establish a mandatory emissions reduction program to address climate change.
  • Wal-Mart:
    Wal-Mart, the planet’s largest retailer, has announced a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and substantially procure large amounts of renewable energy globally.
  • Target:
    The Corporate Sustainability team and the Energy and Sustainability team coordinate Target's climate change strategy, identify key initiative areas, assess risks and opportunities, and coordinate the company’s response to climate change.(pg 5)
  • VF:
    VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC) is a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, with more than 30 brands that reach consumers in nearly all channels of distribution and markets. At VF, we seek to conduct our business with the highest levels of honesty, integrity and respect. These values are embedded in our approach to sustainability, which reflects our commitment to operating our business so future generations can live with cleaner water and air, healthier forests and oceans, and a stable climate.
  • Nike:
    Nike, which has more than 700 factories in 49 countries, many in Southeast Asia, is also speaking out because of extreme weather that is disrupting its supply chain. In 2008, floods temporarily shut down four Nike factories in Thailand, and the company remains concerned about rising droughts in regions that produce cotton, which the company uses in its athletic clothes.

    “That puts less cotton on the market, the price goes up, and you have market volatility,” said Hannah Jones, the company’s vice president for sustainability and innovation. Nike has already reported the impact of climate change on water supplies on its financial risk disclosure forms to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Mars:
    The consequences of climate change, such as changing temperatures and rainfall patterns, floods, droughts, and the spread of pests and diseases, are putting whole habitats and communities at risk.
  • Nestlé:
    Increasing levels of anthropogenic green house gases (GHG) in the atmosphere are causing changes to the climate and thereby the ecosystems and processes upon which human prosperity is based. Of particular concern are changes to the weather patterns, water availability, and agricultural productivity, as well as the loss of biodiversity upon which much of the resilience of natural systems is built.
The Senator from Rhode Island added:
Every major American scientific society has put itself on record -- many of them a decade ago -- that climate change is deadly real. They measure it, they see it, they know why it happens, the predictions correlate with what we see as they increasingly come true.
And you can see a list of them here.

To paraphrase Senator Whitehouse:
So, you can believe NASA, The US Navy, The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Coke, Pepsi, Ford, GM, Caterpillar, Wal-Mart, Target, VF, Nike, Mars, Nestlé and every major American scientific society, or you can believe the Senator With The Snowball.
Well?  Do you believe the science or the senator and his snowball?

February 26, 2015

The Party of Stupid, Revisited

A few years ago Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told the RNC at their winter meeting that the GOP:
  • Must stop being the stupid party.
  • Must stop insulting the intelligence of voters.
And yet, it doesn't seem that the GOP took his advice.  According to this nationwide survey of Republicans by Public Policy Polling:
  • 66% said they did not believe in global warming
  • 49% said they did not believe in evolution
  • 57% supported establishing Christianity as the national religion
The last one is surprising given the Constitution Fetishism of the GOP.  Take a look at this from the party's platform of 2012:
We are the party of the Constitution, the solemn compact which confirms our God-given individual rights and assures that all Americans stand equal before the law. Perhaps the greatest political document ever written, it defines the purposes and limits of government and is the blueprint for ordered liberty that makes the U.S. the world's freest, most stable, and most prosperous nation. Its Constitutional ideals have been emulated around the world, and with them has come unprecedented prosperity for billions of people.

In the spirit of the Constitution, we consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral.
And yet they don't seem to realize that this is found in that very same Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [Emphasis added.]
Or that Madison's (he's one of those "founding fathers" they're always talking about) original text read:
The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.
But I guess that's meaningless to 57% of the GOP.

But that's not necessarily stupid, just hypocritical.

Given the huge amount of scientific data supporting each, the majority and near majority opinion of the GOP regarding global warming and evolution, respectively, now that's stupid.

Stupid like this is stupid:
Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R), believes that cancer is a fungus, which can be flushed out from the body by means of an “inexpensive, cost-effective” and non-FDA approved treatment.
GOP - the party of teh stoopid.

February 24, 2015

RIP Mayor Marty B. O'Malley, Warrior for Social Justice and Peace


Chances are, if you ever attended a peace rally in Pittsburgh protesting the war in Iraq, you met Marty O'Malley as he participated in over 100 of them. But, you also could have met him at a protest against BP's oil spill, or at a rally for single payer health insurance, or at a protest against the billionaire bailout, or, well you get the idea. Marty was a true warrior for social justice and peace and he was hard to miss with his ubiquitous "Vietnam Veteran" cap and political/issue buttons.

Marty knew about war. He voluntarily served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966, but by 1971 joined Vietnam Veterans for Peace. However, it wasn't until Bush's Iraq War that he became a real activist. I'd be hard pressed to imagine a member of the progressive community who hadn't met Marty who was always more than ready to come up and shake your hand. Later, that could be expanded to anyone who attended Democratic political events.

I'm not sure where I first met Marty, but I got to know him through the Howard Dean campaign. One of the great things Dean did was to make a call to arms of sorts for progressives to run for office--any and all. Marty took up the call and ran for Forest Hills Borough Council member in 2005 and won. In 2010 he became mayor of Forest Hills Borough and ran and won for mayor again in 2013. One of his goals was to encourage young people to become involved in local politics. (Of course, he also banned fracking in his borough.)

If you're on social media in the Pittsburgh area, you are going to hear a lot of people claim to have been friends with Marty. Believe them. Believe them all. Marty always had a smile on his face and room in his heart for one more. He was also a hell of a guy to have a beer, or two, or three with.

Damn, I'm going to miss him!

Marty O'Malley died at home of natural causes. He was 73.

Sincerest condolences to his family and all his many, many friends.

February 21, 2015

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Climate Change

NOTE: I'm blogging from an undisclosed location.


Another NOTE: Professor Tyson was born on my birthday.  That automatically makes me smarter by association (or osmosis - I always get those two confused.)

February 18, 2015

Happy Anniversary to Chuck McCullough! (When Does The Trial Start?)

Tomorrow, it will be 6 years to the day since this happened:
Allegheny County Councilman Charles McCullough was arrested and arraigned today on nearly two dozen counts following an investigation last year of his handling of an elderly widow's trust funds.
That's 6 complete years or:
  • 2,191 days or
  • 52,584 hours or
  • 3,155,040 minutes or
  • 189,302,400 seconds.
And still, there's been no trial. 

We've already had a little fun with stuff that's happened quicker than "Chucktime" (the time between his arrest and the present).  For example we already know that at 2,191 days, Chucktime is already longer than:
  • WWII in the Pacific (1,347 days)
  • The entire time Richard Nixon was President (2,027 days)
But did you also know that 2,191 more than:
  • the number of days between the date Michelangelo signed the contract to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (May 10, 1508) and the date the ceiling was first shown to the public (November 1, 1512) - 1,636 days?
  • the number of days between the adoption of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) and the British surrender at Yorktown (October 19, 1781) - 1,933 days?
  • the number of days between the  date Attorney General Janet Reno named Robert Fiske as Special Counsel to investigate Whitewater (January 20, 1994) and Clinton's acquittal at the end of his Impeachment trial (February 12, 1999) - 1,849 days?
Look again at that last one.  The entire Whitewater investigation has taken a shorter amount of time than it's taking Allegheny County (or whomever is supposed to be handling this case) to take Chuck McCullough to trial.

Why can't they put the guy on trial?  It's been longer than WWII, Nixon's presidency, Beatlemania, and the Whitewater investigation!

    February 17, 2015

    Warm, Warmer Warmest - More Climate Misinformation From The Tribune-Review

    With this Op-Ed, the editorial board over at the Tribune-Review continues it's never ending (yet also never succeeding) project to deny climate science.

    It's their usual practice of folding together an incomplete set facts in such a way to that it looks thorough and coherent.

    But it isn't.

    Let's take a look why:
    Contrary to some contorted conclusions twisted further by Big Media, 2014 was not the hottest year on record, based on satellite temperature data. It wasn't even close.

    But the dubious declaration by the Japan Meteorological Agency was enough to launch a fusillade of folderol. The Japanese climatologists measured surface temperatures, with readings from weather stations, ships and even buoys around the world. Supposedly 2014 was 0.05 degrees Celsius warmer than 1998, the next hottest year on record.

    NASA as well reported last month that 2014 was the warmest on record. What it neglected to mention, however, was that its own, more accurate satellite temperature data showed that last year was only the sixth warmest since NASA Remote Sensing Systems satellites went up about 40 years ago, according to The New American.
    Let's look at their first statement - by the satellite data, 2014 "wasn't even close" to being the warmest on record.  It comes, as per the braintrust's own telling, from this piece at The New American.

    But does the satellite data actually measure the same stuff as the surface stations?  What the braintrust neglected to mention is that the satellite data does not measure the same section of the climate as the surface or the oceans - it's only one part of the data.  How do I know?

    NOAA's Summary of the data:
    • The 2014 temperature for the lower troposphere (roughly the lowest five miles of the atmosphere) was third highest in the 1979-2014 record, at 0.50°F (0.28°C) above the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), and sixth highest on record, at 0.29°F (0.16°C) above the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS).  
    • The 2014 temperature for the mid-troposphere (roughly two miles to six miles above the surface) was third highest in the 1979–2014 record, at 0.32°F (0.18°C) above the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by UAH, and sixth highest on record, at 0.25°F (0.14°C) above the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by RSS. 
    • The temperature for the lower stratosphere (roughly 10 miles to 13 miles above the surface) was 13th lowest in the 1979–2014 record, at 0.56°F (0.31°C) below the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by UAH, and also 13th lowest on record, at 0.41°F (0.23°C) below the 1981–2010 average, as analyzed by RSS. The stratospheric temperature is decreasing on average while the lower and middle troposphere temperatures are increasing on average, consistent with expectations in a greenhouse-warmed world. 
    The satellite data is for the troposphere and the stratosphere not the surface - so setting them in opposition (as the climate deniers are looking to do) is simply unfounded.

    I'm just surprised the braintrust didn't pounce on this sentence from the New American:
    In fairness, after being pressed by increasingly skeptical journalists on its data, NASA scientists claimed to be only 38 percent sure that last year was actually the warmest on record.
    Lucky for me, the Washington Post has already debunked this debunking:
    The figure comes from slide 5 of the PowerPoint presentation mentioned above, where NASA scientists noted that there was a 38 percent chance that 2014 was the hottest year, but only a 23 percent chance that the honor goes to the next contender, 2010, and a 17 percent chance that it goes to 2005.

    The same slide shows that NOAA’s scientists were even more confident in the 2014 record, ranking it as having a 48 percent probability, compared with only an 18 percent chance for 2010 and a 13 percent chance for 2005.
    And in reality, that bit of data was not released "after being pressed by" the science deniers.
    According to a NASA spokesman, the PowerPoint containing this slide went online at the same time that the 2014 temperature record itself was announced. So it may not have been as prominent as the press releases from the agencies, but it was available.

    The slide was also discussed in the press briefing when the news of the new record was released.
    Something else the deniers neglected to either mention or find out for themselves.

    Anyway, here's the chart:


    Note that the number does not show that NASA is "only 38 percent sure" (or 48 percent in the case of NOAA) that the statement "2014 was the warmest year on record" is true.  What it does show is that that's how confident 2014 was warmer than all the other years before it.  It's a mistake, for example, to assume that there's a 62 percent chance that some other year was warmer.  From the NOAA press briefing:
    Certainly there are uncertainties in putting all this together, all these datasets. But after considering the uncertainties, we have calculated the probability that 2014, versus other years that were relatively warm, were actually the warmest year on record. And the way you can interpret these data tables is, for the NOAA data, 2014 is two and a half times more likely than the second warmest year on record, 2010, to actually be the warmest on record, after consideration of all the data uncertainties that we take into account. And for the NASA data, that number is on the order of about one and a half times more likely than the second warmest year on their records, which again, is 2010. So clearly, 2014 in both our records were the warmest, and there’s a fair bit of confidence that that is indeed the case, even considering data uncertainties.
    That's how the science goes.

    And it's still getting warmer:


    No matter what the science deniers say.

    February 12, 2015

    A Message to Alabama

    (But it applies equally well to, say, some pharmacist anywhere who refuses to dispense birth control, etc.)

     

    February 10, 2015

    Susquehanna Polling, Selena Zito And The Tribune-Review

    There are a few things to keep in mind about Selena Zito's piece Monday about some recent poll data.

    First thing to note is how long it takes (and what she writes in the mean time) for her to get to the bad news about the Republican-controlled Congress:
    No matter how you frame it, Americans are dissatisfied with Congress and President Obama, divisional politics and the direction the country is going.

    “I have got a lot of uncertainty towards both sides with how they govern once they get to Washington,” said Mike Delauder of Garrett, Ind. “I am sure it is a difficult job, and I don't doubt that they try hard, but when they get stuck on party-line politics, it is incredibly frustrating because nothing gets done.”

    Sixty percent of those surveyed nationwide for the Tribune-Review by Harrisburg-based Susquehanna Polling and Research think the country is heading in the wrong direction. Sixty-one percent believe the country is more divided than ever and that the division will worsen.

    Fifty-four percent are unhappy with Obama's job performance, and a whopping 73 percent disapprove of Congress's performance. [Emphasis added.]
    And that's the only mention of how much more, according to this poll, Americans are dissatisfied with the (Republican) Congress than with the (Democratic) President.

    Isn't that interesting?

    Also we should note the polling company itself: Susquehanna Polling and Research.  Zito offers no description other than "Harrisburg-based."  How do they describe themselves?

    This way:
    Pennsylvania-based Susquehanna Polling and Research (SP&R) is a leading survey research and political polling firm for both candidates for public office (GOP only)...
    Oh, so it's a Republican polling firm!

    Funny how conservative columnist Selena Zito writing for the conservative Tribune-Review fails to mention that.

    But even if they are a Republican polling firm, they could still be accurate right?  There's no reason to think that one automatically discounts the other, right?

    So how did they do in, say, the last Presidential Election?

    Take a look:
    President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney entered the final days of the presidential race tied in a state that the campaigns only recently began contesting, a Tribune-Review poll shows.

    The poll showed the race for Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes locked up at 47 percent in its final week. Romney was scheduled to campaign in the Philadelphia area on Sunday, and former President Bill Clinton planned to stump for Obama on Monday. The campaigns have begun to saturate the airwaves with millions of dollars in presidential advertising.

    “They're both in here because of exactly what you're seeing” in this poll, said Jim Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling & Research, which surveyed 800 likely voters Oct. 29-31. Most of the interviews occurred after Hurricane Sandy inundated Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. The poll's error margin is 3.46 percentage points.
    In reality, Obama won by a little more than 5 percentage points.

    And that's not the only miscalculation on the part of Susquehanna in the 2012 election.  Take a look:
    The National Republican Senatorial Committee consistently had a more upbeat assessment of races in North Dakota and Montana, among others, than their Democratic counterparts. One GOP poll even showed Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock holding even with his opponent, even as public polls showed the embattled Republican hemorrhaging support. A Republican poll taken by Susquehanna Polling and Research showed Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith leading Democratic Sen. Bob Casey by 2 points a few weeks before the election; Casey won by 9 points. [Emphasis added.]
    So, are the numbers from Susquehanna Polling and Research really as trustworthy as Zito would like us to believe?  Give the source of the article, the source of the numbers and some recent history, I'd vote no.

    But that's just me.

    FINALLY!


    4:03 - Finally someone is being held to account for misleading America about the Iraq war.  Finally!  But it might not necessarily be the first person you'd want held accountable on that list.  But never again will Brian Williams mislead this great nation about being shot at in a war we probably wouldn't have ended up in if the media had applied this level of scrutiny to the actual fucking war.

    February 8, 2015

    The Prayer Breakfast, Brian Williams, And The Trib Braintrust Calling Out Liars

    Deferential (as always) to whatever self-fueled righteous indignation heaved out by the rest of the right wing media, the editorial board at The Tribune-Review presented us this morning with a fetid musky puddle of their usual "opinion-as-fact."

    Part the first, the prayer breakfast:
    President Obama was caught corrupting history in an ignorant exercise in moral equivalency. Indeed, he denounced ISIS for terrorizing in the name of religion during Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast. But then, and as he misrepresented the Crusades and the Inquisition, he mocked those on their “high horse” who apparently forget that Christians transgressed in supposedly analogous fashion centuries ago.
    Corrupting history?  Moral equivalency?  Really?  How?

    Let's do something the Trib braintrust doesn't want you to do - check their work by looking at the president's actual words spoken at the prayer breakfast.  Here's what President Obama said about the so-called Islamic State:
    But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge -- or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism -- terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
    You'll note that he wasn't talking just about ISIS/ISIL.  The massacre in Paris was done in the name of Al-Qaeda in Yemen and the even larger massacre in Pakistan committed by militants from the Pakistani Taliban.

    Nor did he limit his denunciation of the crimes committed in the name of religion to ISIS or Al-Qaeda or the Taliban:
    We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.
    Extending the frame of reference, he went further:
    Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.
    How is that a misrepresentation of either the Crusades or the Inquisition?

    Let's take a look at the Crusades.  From the Washington Post's analysis of Obama's speach:
    The Crusades lasted almost 200 years, from 1095 to 1291. The initial spark came from Pope Urban II, who urged Christians to recapture the Holy Land (and especially the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) from Muslim rule. Like the promise of eternal life given to Muslim martyrs, Crusaders were promised absolution from sin and eternal glory.
    Actually according to Thomas Asbridge, scholar of medieval history at the University of London, Pope Urban was a little more detailed in his reasons when he "urged Christians to recapture the Holy Land...from Muslim rule."  Asbridge begins the first chapter of his book, The First Crusade: A New History with a translation of Urban's speech to the faithful in 1095 (it's actually a new translation from the account of the speech chronicled by Robert the Monk - you can read a different translation of the entire speech here):
    A race absolutely alien to God has invaded the land of the Christians, has reduced the people with sword, rapine and flame.  These men have destroyed the altars polluted by their foul practices, They have circumcised the Christians either spreading the blood from the circumcisions on the altars  or pouring it into the baptismal fonts.
    And so on.  More importantly, Asbridge later calls this imagery "pure propaganda."  It was a way to fire up the populace to go fight and die and in doing so receive absolution of all sins and a promised place in Heaven.  Hmmm...I wonder if they were promised 72 virgins.

    But what did they do on the way to the Holy Land where they were promised absolution for their sins?

    They slaughtered some Jews in Germany.  From the Washington Post, again:
    Along the way, the Crusaders massacred. To take but one example, the Rhineland Massacres of 1096 are remembered to this day as some of the most horrific examples of anti-Semitic violence prior to the Holocaust. (Why go to the Holy Land to fight nonbelievers, many wondered, when they live right among us?) The Jewish communities of Cologne, Speyer, Worms, and Mainz were decimated. There were more than 5,000 victims.
    And then when they got to Jerusalem:
    Early on the sixth day of the week we again attacked the city on all sides, but as the assault was unsuccessful, we were all astounded and fearful. However, when the hour approached on which our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to suffer on the Cross for us, our knights began to fight bravely in one of the towers - namely, the party with Duke Godfrey and his brother, Count Eustace. One of our knights, named Lethold, clambered up the wall of the city, and no sooner had he ascended than the defenders fled from the walls and through the city. Our men followed, killing and slaying even to the Temple of Solomon, where the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles....
    How much more do I need to do?  Remember all this was done in the name of Christianity.

    How did Obama misrepresent the Crusades when he said that people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.

    They did.  To say otherwise is to misrepresent history.  And which side of this argument can we find the braintrust?

    Now let's look at Brian Williams. From the braintrust:
    Mr. Williams, the anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” was caught in an embarrassing lie. For more than a decade, he claimed to have been in a helicopter forced down under fire during the second Iraq war. Veterans questioned the claim anew last month.

    Smoked out, Mr. Williams apologized during his Wednesday broadcast for having “misremembered” and “conflated” reality. But he lied again in his mea culpa, saying he had witnessed the attack from a helicopter behind the one that took fire. Witnesses say he was at least 30 minutes “behind.”
    I will not defend Williams. Whereas it's completely possible for a human being, in an incredibly stressful situation, to mix two unconnected memories (or even construct a memory whole to reconcile others), it is not acceptable for a reporter to present as fact something that hasn't been confirmed.

    He should have known better than to rely on a human memory - even if it was his own.  He should have been the first to question its validity and worked to confirm it.  If he didn't, that's bad.  If he did and ignored the actual facts that's even worse.

    So it's a good thing that the braintrust is calling out Williams for getting something wrong.

    Now I wonder what they'll do with this:
    Once in office, Reagan’s deception in the Iran-Contra scandal briefly threatened his presidency. First, Reagan flatly denied wrongdoing, publicly declaring, “We did not — repeat, did not — trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we.” Months later, when subsequent revelations rendered that assertion untenable, Reagan delivered an Oval Office address in which he tried to reconcile his public claims with the factual record. “A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages,” Reagan said. “My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”

    But Reagan’s fabrications also included whoppers about conflict zones reminiscent of those put forth by Williams and Clinton. During Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s November 1983 visit to the U.S., Reagan told Shamir that during his service in the U.S. Army film corps, he and fellow members of his unit personally shot footage of the Nazis’ concentration camps as they were liberated. Reagan would tell this story again to others, including Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal. But Reagan was never present at the camps’ liberation. Instead, he spent the war in Culver City, California, where he processed footage from the liberation of the camps.
    The braintrust ends with this:
    Moral equivalency. Revisionist history. Inventive euphemisms for lying. Sigh. We live in the Age of Mush. And we deserve better.
    Yes we do. Unfortunately we're not getting it from the Op-Ed page of the Tribune-Review.

    February 6, 2015

    Un-frickin-believable - Even For The Tribune-Review! How Many Mistakes DOES Katie Pavlich Make?

    I guess we can't expect even the slightest fidelity to things stubborn things called "facts" over there at the Tribune-Review.

    Take a look at this column from Townhall editor Katie Pavlich.  From the first paragraph we can see the whirling flurry of her conservative spin:
    As if saddling America's largest generation with trillions in crushing debt wasn't enough, President Obama's latest insult to millennials is just another reason they should regret voting for him.
    Interesting to note here that Politifact checked out this statement from President Obama:
    We cut our deficits by more than half.
    And found it to be true.

    As a percentage of GDP:


    And in 2009 Dollars:


    Funny how a conservative writer writing for a conservative paper never ever got around to mentioning this little fact.

    It's understandable, of course, why such facts would be absent but let's delve further into Pavlich's whirl.  Look here:
    YouTube star GloZell Green was recently handpicked to interview President Obama at the White House following his State of the Union address. On the front end, I will give Green credit for asking tougher questions than many in the White House press corps have for years. One of the goals of this choice was to “reach out” to millennials, America's largest generation.
    The interesting thing here is that if you were to actually do the work and read the transcript of these youtube interviews, you'll see that no where is the word "millennial" ever used.  And then there's this criticism of Ms Green:
    The problem? Although Green uses new forms of media to reach younger audiences, she isn't a millennial at all. She's a 52-year-old woman who seemingly never grew past the maturity level of 13. In fact, she could be considered a baby boomer, the generation often criticized for robbing millennials of their wealth and future.
    Does Ms Green ever claim to be a millennial?  Well if you were to do the work and check her bio at her web page, the answer would be a firm no.

    Does The White House ever claim that Glozell Green is a millennial?  Well if you were to do the work and check out the White House announcement about these interviews, the answer would still be a firm no.

    So when Pavlich writes:
    Choosing people outside the announced targeted demographic and then falsely parading them as fitting the qualification is typical for the White House.
    She's all sorts of wrong, isn't she?  No one presented the youtube interviews as "reaching out to millennials" and no one presented Glozell Green as a millennial, either.  Exactly how much of a projection is this?  How far from reality have we gone?

    Her next sentence says it all:
    Remember “23-year-old” law student Sandra Fluke? She was 30 when she asked taxpayers to foot the bill for birth control.
    Did Sandra Fluke ever claim to be 23? If you were to do the work and look at her testimony before Congress, you'd see how Fluke describes herself - part of it actually matches what Pavlich wrote:
    My name is Sandra Fluke, and I'm a third year student at Georgetown Law, a Jesuit school.
    So the "law student" part's actually right.  How about the "23-year old" part?

    Nope - she never presented herself as 23.  That seems to be a mistake made on NBC on May 1, 2012  But on March 3, 2013 (2 days later) the Washington Post published this:
    “I understood that I’m stepping into the public eye,” said Fluke, 30, a third-year student studying public interest law. “But this reaction is so out of the bounds of acceptable discourse . . . These types of words shouldn’t be applied to anyone.” [Emphasis added.]
    Funny how THAT didn't make it into Pavlich's column, either.

    With all these simply checked (if one were to actually do the work) facts misrepresented in one column can we trust anything else Katie Pavlich wrote in it?

    I don't think we can.

    But then again it IS from the Op-Ed pages of the Tribune-Review so we simply can't expect any fidelity to the facts.

    February 3, 2015

    Stuff The P-G's Ruth Ann Dailey Left Out

    In a recent column, the P-G's Ruth Ann Dailey gets some stuff right (let's be honest) and yet leaves some very important stuff out.

    Enough stuff that you have to think she knows she's only telling you a partial story (let's hope that's the case).

    Let's start with what she gets (mostly) right.  It's about a wife and mother who changed her mind:
    “One of my good friends said, ‘I’m really uncomfortable letting my children play with your children because of your decision not to vaccinate,’ ” Ms. Elliott recalled while toddlers tumbled around her.

    What changed her mind was her little girl’s bout last year with whooping cough, which a vaccine might have prevented.

    “I let my pride keep me from vaccinating my children,” she confessed.

    She said these words slowly and simply, sitting in a cozy living room of jam-packed bookshelves, piano, wicker and rose-printed chintz.

    It used to be that failure to get one’s children all the recommended vaccines was mostly connected to poverty and lack of access to regular health care. These days, the parents skipping vaccines are more likely to be well-educated, plugged into social networks and alternative medicines.
    Pop quiz: when Dailey describes these parents as "well-educated, plugged into social networks and alternative medicines" what sort of person flashes in your head?  Better yet, what sort of person do you think Dailey thinks she was describing?

    Whereas I do not doubt a significant portion of the so called "anti-vaxx" crowd being college-educated, facebook-friendly, new-agey types, I am also not surprised that a faith-defender like Dailey would omit the religious exemption from compulsory school-age vaccination.

    That's right.  If you have a sincere religious objection to vaccinating your child, you ignore all the science regarding their safety, and in doing so possibly be part of a serious public health issue.  Yay, religious freedom!

    Did you know that there's an exemption in Pennsylvania?  Take a look:
    Children need not be immunized if the parent, guardian or emancipated child objects in writing to the immunization on religious grounds or on the basis of a strong moral or ethical conviction similar to a religious belief.
    It would have been nice to have seen that rather small point injected into an otherwise OK portion of Dailey's column.  I don't mean to be a prick about it, needling Ruth Ann Daily like this, so let's plunge on.

    This is really about, once again, John McCain and his defense of Henry Kissinger.  Dailey wrote:
    After more than a minute of their chanting “Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes” as initially bemused onlookers grew visibly irritated, the U.S. Capitol Police arrived to intervene.
    This is nearly incorrect - but we should expect more (at least "close to correct") from such an established columnist as Ruth Ann Dailey.  As we know from this blog post, the protest was barely longer (by a second or two) than a minute and there was no need for the Capitol Police to arrive as they were already there (the proof of the policing is in video).

    But her real sin occurs in these paragraphs:
    I respect my pacifist friends. I think they are wrong, yet principled, their stance unrealistic in this dangerous world. They tend to a quiet opposition.

    But if you’re going to loudly denounce those who (usually reluctantly) accept the merits of war, then at least be intellectually consistent.

    If war is wrong, then engaging in it through any means is a “crime,” whether it’s Kissinger’s realpolitik, the nation-building of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, or the puzzling disarray of the Obama administration (which Mr. Kissinger is now advising).

    Why target only the man whose era was haunted by the slaughter of totalitarian regimes and the long “socialist republic” nightmare? Hmmm.
    Perhaps they're haunted by the slaughter instigated by the man they were protesting.

    For Dailey to belittle his actions by hiding them under one word ("realpolitik") and then equating that word with whatever she means by Clinton's "nation-building" is simply astonishing.  We can, perhaps, equate Kissinger's 180,000 dead Timorese with Dubya's 100,000+ dead Iraqis in terms of war crimes, but I don't think that's where Dailey was headed.

    Let's look a little deeper into Kissinger's slaughter "realpolitik" in East Timor  From Hitchens:
    Kissinger, who does not find room to mention East Timor even in the index of his three-volume memoir, has more than once stated that the invasion came to him as a surprise, and that he barely knew of the existence of the Timorese question. He was obviously lying. But the breathtaking extent of his mendacity has only just become fully apparent, with the declassification of a secret State Department telegram. The document, which has been made public by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, contains a verbatim record of the conversation among Suharto, Ford and Kissinger. "We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action," Suharto opened bluntly. "We will understand and will not press you on the issue," Ford responded. "We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have." Kissinger was even more emphatic, but had an awareness of the possible "spin" problems back home. "It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly," he instructed the despot. "We would be able to influence the reaction if whatever happens, happens after we return.... If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns home." Micromanaging things for Suharto, he added: "The President will be back on Monday at 2 pm Jakarta time. We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned." As ever, deniability supersedes accountability.

    There came then the awkward question of weaponry. Indonesia's armed forces, which had never yet lost a battle against civilians, were equipped with US-supplied matériel. But the Foreign Assistance Act forbade the use of such armaments except in self-defense. "It depends on how we construe it; whether it is in self-defense or is a foreign operation," Kissinger mused. (At a later meeting back at the State Department on December 18, the minutes of which have also been declassified, he was blunt about knowingly violating the statute. For a transcript of the minutes, see Mark Hertsgaard, "The Secret Life of Henry Kissinger," October 29, 1990.)
    You can read the Ford-Kissinger-Suharto conversation here and you can read Hertsgaard's piece here.

    Back to Hitchens:
    Adam Malik, Indonesia's foreign minister at the time, later conceded in public that between 50,000 and 80,000 Timorese civilians were killed in the first eighteen months of the occupation. These civilians were killed with American weapons, which Kissinger contrived to supply over Congressional protests, and their murders were covered up by American diplomacy, and the rapid rate of their murder was something that had been urged in so many words by an American Secretary of State.
    That's what Ruth Ann Dailey hides with her simple use of the term "realpolitik."

    Or is that precisely what "realpolitik" means?  At a time when totalitarian regimes were slaughtering thousands, it's OK to allow our allies to slaughter thousands in response?  Then lie about it to the American people and to Congress?

    And for the person who did all that to be defended by that same Congress a few decades later when some citizens decide to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest his presence?

    Is that what realpolitik means, Ruth Ann?