What Fresh Hell Is This?

March 31, 2015

Darlene Harris: Keeper of Public Plaques


Reporter Bob Mayor to Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris, upon learning she was securing an unauthorized $2,000 plaque labeled "Ravenstahl" after the last mayor in her office, "You're not the Keeper of Public Plaques, right?"

What is it with Lil Former Mayor Lukey's administration? Taking home his city-owned desktop computer before leaving office because he was afraid the Peduto administration would move in and hide it?! Hiding plaques named after him because there was fear that it would be taken away and destroyed?!

It's like they were preparing for an invasion by a herd of thundering barbarians instead of a normal change in administration. The paranoia runs deep with this one. Or perhaps just projection...

Anyone want to guess what the next bizarre revelation regarding Lukey's departure will be?


Rand Paul doesn't believe in rights "based on your behavior."

Obviously, Paul thinks infants are born with a cross in one hand and a gun in the other.

Via the MaddowBlog:
Sen. Rand Paul said he doesn’t buy into the concept of gay rights because they are defined by a gay person’s lifestyle.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters in a videotaped interview that has received little attention since it was recorded in 2013.

March 30, 2015

Follow-Up On Joe Sestak's Walk Across The State

This weekend, I wrote about one of Joe Sestak's last stops on his walk across Pennsylvania.

In it there was this passage:
Yesterday's discussion was with a dozen or so potential supporters. Though I have to add that Sestak, with a sincere grin, also welcomed to the room a guy named Ollie, who he said was the tracker assigned to cover the event by the Toomey campaign. Nice guy - after the event, he and I joked about how it was snowing outside.
Unfortunately, this is a detail left incompletely contextualized.

The point being that once you find out who Ollie is, you find out a whole lot more what's going on.

Take a look at this from Philly.com:
Around 10:20, on the side of Route 30, Sestak spots a lanky young man pointing a video camera. It's Oliver Kline, a tracker hired by the conservative group America Rising.
Yep, that would be Ollie.

A paragraph or two later there's this:
A few weeks back in Bucks County, the candidate and his paid political stalker worked together to push a pickup truck out of the snow. Sestak's team posted the video on YouTube. It ends with the Democrat slapping a high-five with the Republican hired to record damaging video.
Here's the video if you wanna see it:


As Sestak said of Ollie:
To Sestak, it's an honor that the GOP is after him.

"He's a good kid," Sestak says. "He's just got a job to do."
All true.  But the job is working for America Rising.

So, what's America Rising?

Luckily, our good friend Selena Zito has a piece in today's Tribune-Review all about it:
The PAC, 2 years old this month, is in the business of marking everything Democratic candidates do as the 2016 presidential election approaches, so Republicans don't get outflanked by outside opposition research groups, as they did in 2012.

“The Democrats were a lot more nimble at using outside groups,” Matt Rhoades, one of America Rising's founders, told the Tribune-Review in the organization's offices near a subway stop outside Washington.

Rhoades 40, who managed Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign in 2012, pointed to American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition research group that caught GOP candidates in awkward moments and matched rhetoric from their speeches against their voting records.
As for funding, Zito reports:
With partners Joe Pounder and Tim Miller, he established America Rising in March 2013. Its money comes from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, American Crossroads, the American Action Network and other clients.
But she leaves out something rather important, given all the Romney connections to Matt Rhoades.

OpenSecrets reports that, for the 2014 election cycle Amerca Rising received $400,000 from an organization called "Restore Our Future."

"Restore our Future," in turn, was a SuperPAC formed to support Romney's 2012 presidential campaign - the campaign that Matt Rhoades ran.

And that would be the same Romney campaign that Selena Zito let get away with a lie in 2012.  And now all that Romney "Super PAC" money's supporting the Opposition Research firm for whom Selena Zito just wrote some very nice words.

Good to know who's who and what's what this go-round.

March 28, 2015

Joe Sestak Walks Across Pennsylvania (UPDATED)

In case you missed it, Joe Sestak has been walking more than 400 miles across Pennsylvania for (as his website puts it) "accountable leadership in the US Senate."

Yesterday, he was in Coraopolis:


He started the walk on March 4:
Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak formally launched his long-expected challenge to Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey Wednesday, setting up a possible rematch in one of Democrats’ best pick-up opportunities.

During an announcement outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Sestak said he is running to “restore the trust deficit,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. After showing up in a pair of old sneakers, Sestak vowed to walk across the state in a pair of Army boots — to walk symbolically in the shoes of Pennsylvanians.
Apart from anything else, kinda shows a deep level of commitment if a Navy guy can walk start a 400+ mile walk [See update below] wearing a pair of Army boots.  (As I have zero military experience perhaps I am making too much of this military detail.)

The walking trip was punctuated by 2 dozen stops along the way, each with a different topic of discussion.  For example, yesterday his talk in Coraopolis centered around the environment and green energy.  On March 16, he was in Cumberland County discussing education.  On the 9th it was Chester County discussing women's issues.  And so on.

Yesterday's discussion was with a dozen or so potential supporters.  Though I have to add that Sestak, with a sincere grin, also welcomed to the room a guy named Ollie, who he said was the tracker assigned to cover the event by the Toomey campaign.  Nice guy - after the event, he and I joked about how it was snowing outside.  If yesterday's discussion is any indication, Sestak is looking to contrast his record with Senator Toomey's.

And the phrase "Hold me accountable." was repeated a number of times.

For example, Sestak spent a large chunk of his time contrasting Toomey's assertion that "we all want clear air and clean water." with, for example Toomey's cosponsoring of legislation which, according to Sestak's campaign material, "prohibits the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change."

This would be Senator Inhofe's Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011.

In order to dispel any ambiguity, here's the first sentence of the bill:
To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change, and for other purposes.
And it defines "greenhouse gas" as any of the following:
  1. Water vapor. 
  2. Carbon dioxide. 
  3. Methane. 
  4. Nitrous oxide. 
  5. Sulfur hexafluoride. 
  6. Hydrofluorocarbons. 
  7. Perfluorocarbons. 
  8. Any other substance subject to, or proposed to be subject to, regulation, action, or consideration under this Act to address climate change. 
Which is pretty much everything.  That's the legislation Senator Toomey cosponsored.

Sestak also pointed out something we've already blogged on - Toomey's contrasting votes on climate science:
  • Toomey voted for an amendment that said that Climate Science was not a hoax
  • Toomey voted for an amendment that said that "human activity contributes to climate change."
  • Toomey voted against an amendment that said that "human activity significantly contributes to climate change."
Note: For whatever political cover Toomey has gotten from these votes, he's still a climate science denier.

Given some recent poll data from Franklin and Marshall:
Senator Toomey currently leads Democrat Joe Sestak by a five point margin, 34% to 29%, although most voters (37%) are still undecided about this race. Joe Sestak’s name recognition is relatively low, with nearly two in three (63%) of the state’s registered voters saying they do not know enough about Sestak to have an opinion of him.
And some recent reporting:
Anxious about a candidate considered to be an unreliable maverick and a political liability, Democratic Party leaders have undertaken a quiet, intensive search in recent months to recruit a serious primary challenger to former Rep. Joe Sestak, the party's Senate nominee in 2010 who is again running for Pennsylvania's Senate seat.

The effort has involved former congressmen, state senators, county leaders and, recently, even a prominent district attorney. Their anxieties are being driven by party officials, who are concerned that Sestak could cost Democrats a must-win state in 2016.
It seems to me that by walking across the state, Sestak is looking to establish two things; solid grassroot support for his campaign (for both the primary and Senatorial) and to show how utterly different Senator Sestak's record would be from Senator Toomey's.

I'll leave you with a question: who walks 400+ miles in a month in Army boots but someone who's really really serious?

UPDATE: After a phone conversation with the campaign, I have a clarification regarding the boots.  Sestak only started the walk with the Army boots.  Along the way he's worn sneakers, hiking boots, snow boots and so on.  I was going by what I read at RollCall.  My apologies but mostly because it kinda kills my joke.  I did get some more info on the walk itself.  Sestak walked the complete 422 miles over the 25 days.  If he had to stop for some reason (for example to travel to a radio station for an interview) a marker would be put down in order for him to return to the same spot on the route that he left.  Army boots or no, that's still impressive.

March 26, 2015

More On Ted Cruz And How He Gets Galileo Wrong

If anything it proves two things; Ted Cruz knows nothing about science and Ted Cruz knows nothing about the history of science.

First let's look at what Cruz said (from Talking Points Memo):
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) likened himself to Galileo as he defended his position as a climate change denier in an interview Tuesday in New York City with the Texas Tribune.

Cruz, the first Republican to announce his 2016 presidential candidacy, spoke about climate change and defended his stance in the interview with Tribune political reporter Jay Root.

"I'm a big believer that we should follow the science and follow the evidence," Cruz said. "If you look at global warming alarmists, they don't like to look at the actual facts and the data. The satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years."
Ah, yes. The cherry picked data.

If one (for example the Junior Senator from Texas) were to actually follow the science and follow the evidence, that person would understand that it's a myth to say that there's been no warming for 17 years.  From Politifact:
Cruz said, "Satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there's been zero warming."

Cruz does have a point: There’s been little global temperature change since 1998, and the temperatures measured are lower than what many computer models had predicted.

However, focusing on that period essentially means cherry-picking a timeframe that starts at an extremely warm year and ignores that the first decade of the 21st century -- even as it’s been stable -- has been the warmest on record. While scientists don’t deny that there’s been a recent "pause" in warming, they expect it to be a temporary trend. Not only is one anomalous period not enough to undercut longer-term projections, but other types of measurements do show evidence of continued global warming over the past two decades, including rising ocean temperatures and shrinking sea ice.

Cruz’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.
Someone who actually followed the evidence would know this.

But let's get to his Galileo metaphor.

Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) was an Italian mathematician, physicist, and astronomer who got into a little bit of trouble with the Roman Catholic Church for daring to assert that the Earth was not at the center of creation.

So here's where Cruz is definitely NOT like Galileo; Cruz is using cherry picked evidence to argue against a well grounded scientific theory based on mounds and mounds of scientific evidence and Galileo was using actual scientific evidence against a religious bureaucracy that had no evidence at all to support its unscientific dogma.

So what was Galileo's dispute with the Church?

He said that according to his evidence, the Earth moved around the sun.

The Church said that was impossible because The Bible says (for instance):
[T]he world is established; it shall never be moved (1 Chronicles 16:30).
And that at the Battle of Jericho, God did this:
The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day (Joshua 10:13).
See the problem for Galileo?  The Bible clearly says (multiple times, in fact) that the earth does not move.  The Bible did not say that God commanded the earth to stop spinning in order for the sun to remain in the same place in the sky but for the sun to stop moving across the sky.

The earth does not move, according to The Bible, the sun does.  And if you take your Bible literally and believe that it's literally true, you have to as well.

As for Senator Ted Cruz, he misunderstands the story he's using to support his own scientific illiteracy.

March 25, 2015

More On Right-Wing Eligibility Hypocrisy

The Houston Chronicle reported:
Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president of the United States, according to his senior advisers, accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington.

Cruz, scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, will not form an exploratory committee but rather launch a presidential bid outright, said advisers with direct knowledge of his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made yet. They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate.
And this is going to be a big problem for our friends in the birther crowd.  Even Joseph Farah at World Net Daily offered up an opinion on the issue in a few years ago (kinda).  While clinging, as only he can, to the lie that Obama's not eligible to be president he starts with another falsehood:
I know many members of Congress personally. Almost all of them know the truth. But they fear talking about it because of what the media will do to them. They know the facts about Obama will never get a fair hearing in the establishment press. Even some of the media are cowed into silence. It’s just a subject they know you can’t talk about without being pilloried and ridiculed with the vilest name-calling by Obama’s Palace Guard and the defenders of Obama who dominate the press.

Then Ted Cruz comes along.

And what happens?

Every media outlet in the country is questioning his constitutional eligibility.
He wrote that August 22, 2013 and by that point this was published (a week earlier) at CNN:
The question about eligibility has always been with regard to children of U.S. citizens born overseas, like Ted Cruz, and Republican presidential candidates John McCain and George Romney before him. The Supreme Court has held that foreign-born children are U.S. citizens only to the extent that a law passed by Congress makes them so. As the child of a U.S. citizen mother, Ted Cruz was born a citizen by virtue of the Immigration and Nationality Act. But did that make him a natural born citizen?

The United States has citizens, not subjects; we are a nation of free people, not ruled by a hereditary sovereign. Therefore, the English concept does not translate directly to the American context. Instead, the question is who is a natural member of the political community.

Most immigration and citizenship scholars, including me, believe that the answer is that any person who is a U.S. citizen at birth is naturally a part of the political community and hence eligible to be president. [Emphasis added.]
So Farah started with a lie.  In any event Farah, only four months later (January, 2014), showed the birther community the way out of their own hypocrisy
So if anyone has the right and the duty to weigh in on Ted Cruz’s eligibility, it’s me – even though no one is asking.

My answer is, “I don’t care.”
And in defending his newly found apathy, he reasserts all the birther lies that have maggot squirmed out of WND for years:
I don’t care because the Constitution was not written and ratified to be applied to some and not others. If no one cared about Obama’s questionable eligibility, despite his shocking lack of transparency and thin paper trail, then they have no business questioning Ted Cruz...
While I'm not here to assert that Cruz is ineligible, I am here to say that if we were to accept the birthers' criteria for eligibility (the ones they incorrectly say invalidates the Obama presidency), he'd definitely not be.

In 2008, this showed up at World Net Daily:
The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to help the nation avoid a constitutional crisis by halting Tuesday’s election until Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama documents his eligibility to run for the top office in the nation.

Democratic attorney Philip Berg had filed a lawsuit alleging Obama is ineligible to be president because of possible birth in Kenya, but as WND reported, a federal judge dismissed the complaint claiming Berg lacks standing to bring the action.
Well we all know that Obama was born in Hawaii - but if the criteria for eligibility include WHERE on the planet a presidential candidate was born (even if one parent is an American citizen), then that would have to mean that Ted Cruz is ineligible because (again as we all know) he was born in Canada (regardless of his mother's citizenship status).

For the record, I'm not saying anything about Cruz' eligibility.  What I am saying is this: If we follow the criteria for establishing eligibility that the birthers look to impose, then by their own standards, Cruz is ineligible.

Let's see them scream as loudly now against the conservative Republican Senator from Texas has they screamed against the NON-conservative NON-Republican former Senator from Illinois.

Either that, or they're just a bunch of spineless hypocrites.

March 21, 2015

I Noticed Something Silly At The Tribune-Review

A few days ago Steven Benen at MSNBC wrote:
As last week progressed, and the scope of the fiasco surrounding the Senate Republicans’ letter to Iran became more obvious, many GOP officials on Capitol Hill furiously tried to think of excuses. The scramble was understandable: Republicans had tried to sabotage American foreign policy, and the stunt hadn’t gone well.

Over the course of three days, congressional Republicans came up with at least four different excuses, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blaming a D.C.-area snowstorm the week before. None of the arguments was particularly persuasive.

But National Review’s Deroy Murdock yesterday presented the most amazing excuse yet: the 47 Senate Republicans shouldn’t be criticized for sending a letter to Iran since they didn’t literally, physically “send” anything.
Guess where this silly ended up?

Here at The Trib:
Contrary to popular hysteria, he did not “send” it to Iran; it was an open letter posted on his Senate website.
And how do we KNOW it's silly?

Take a look at this tweet from Senator Tom Cotton:
See? Silly. Silly. Silly.

Meanwhile, Outside...

From Live Science:
This winter may have brought a deep freeze to much of the northeastern United States — including record-breaking snowfall in Boston — but it was the planet's warmest winter on record, climate scientists announced yesterday (March 18).

The average global temperature from December to February was 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit (0.79 degrees Celsius) higher than the 20th-century average of 53.8 degrees F (12.1 degrees C), according to a newly released report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center.
And here's the important part of that NOAA report:
Together, the record warm December, second warmest January, and second warmest February made the combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for the December–February period (austral summer / boreal winter) the highest on record for this period, at 0.79°C (1.42°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.8°F), surpassing the previous record warmth of December–February 2006/07 by 0.04°C (0.07°F). The Northern Hemisphere had its warmest winter on record and the Southern Hemisphere had its fourth warmest summer.
But how can that be?  Science expert Senator Inhofe actually found enough snow in Washington DC in February to make a snowball.

So when NOAA writes this:
In February 2015, cooler to much-cooler-than average conditions overtook the entire eastern half of the United States and the eastern third of Canada, with some record cold pockets seen around the Great Lakes region and part of northeastern Canada near Hudson Bay. The majority of the world's land surfaces, however, were warmer than average, with much-warmer-than average temperatures widespread across Central America, northern and central South America, Australia, most of Africa, and much of Eurasia, including a broad swath that covered most of Russia. In stark contrast to the eastern United States, the western United States was encompassed by record warmth.
They're completely wrong, right?

I mean Inhofe's winter snowball and a reference or two to Genesis 8:22 are so much more scientifically valid than say, science, right?

March 19, 2015

Tracking Teh Crazie (Joey Farah and The Clinton Wars)

All this week at Birther Central, Joseph Farah has been doing his best "guilt by (near) association" argument to rewrite some recent and not-so recent history.

As part of his argument he tries to dissuade us of the notion of the "vast right wing conspiracy" of the Clinton years, not knowing that in telling his story he's merely inviting us to look again at all the obvious evidence of that conspiracy.

And I'm not sure he realizes his errors.  Oh well.  Not my problem.

His problems starts at the beginning of his first column which starts with this:
Four years ago, I wrote a column called “Obama’s enemies list” predicting Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service would subject his domestic political adversaries to politically motivated audits.

How did I know it was coming?
The only problem with the beginning of his series is that it starts with something that just isn't true.  From Reuters:
The FBI is not planning to file criminal charges involving the Internal Revenue Service's extra scrutiny of the Tea Party and other conservative groups, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing law enforcement officials.

The newspaper quoted officials as saying that investigators probing the IRS actions, which unleashed a political furor in Washington, did not uncover the type of political bias or "enemy hunting" that would constitute a criminal violation. The evidence showed a mismanaged agency enforcing rules it did not understand on applications for tax exemptions, the Journal reported.
And yet Farah is using it to connect Obama's IRS to Clinton's.

In his second part, writes:
At some point in 1995, Bill and Hillary Clinton had what I describe as “a prophetic nightmare.”

If you were conscious in the 1990s, you probably remember Hillary talking about this bad dream in a television interview in which she explained that her husband’s problems were all manufactured by “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” Around the same time, she invented a phrase even more paranoid in its delusions – “a right-wing media conspiracy.”

That’s where I came into the picture.

In 1995, I had been in the news business for 20 years. It’s the only business I ever worked in as an adult. I began my career as a reporter in the New York area, where I grew up and went to college. In 1979, I moved to Los Angeles where I worked for what was one of the largest papers in America at the time, the L.A. Herald Examiner. By 1981 I was directing the news operation of the paper, a job I held for the next six years. In 1987, I became editor in chief of an L.A. suburban daily and a chain of weekly and twice-weekly papers. During this period, I served as a journalism adjunct instructor at UCLA. In 1990, I became editor in chief of the Sacramento Union, where I also started a tax-exempt nonprofit 501(c)3 foundation called the Western Journalism Center to foster independent investigative reporting and train young journalists in the mission and best practices of American journalism.
It was the Western Journalism Center's tax exempt status that obviously triggered investigation.  Let's see if we can imagine why.

According to the US Code, a 501(c)3 are those:
Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office. [Emphasis added.]
Hmm...they can't carry out propaganda or participate in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for office.

Now let's take a look at what Farah and the Western Journalism Center was doing in the 90s.

They were part of the so called "media food chain" that spread the (oh, please can I say it?  Can I?  CAN I??) propaganda that Vince Foster did not commit suicide.  From January 1995 - The Telegraph in the UK:
THE SCOPE of the inquiry into the mysterious death of the top White House aide Vincent Foster has suddenly been broadened, casting doubt on the original verdict of suicide.
And:
The seemingly minor issue of where the body was found could turn out to be of critical importance. A journalist for the *Pittsburgh Tribune-Review*, Chris Ruddy, has been fighting a lone crusade for several months seeking to establish that the Park Police misreported the location of the body.

Ruddy is convinced that it is the key to exposing a cover-up that allegedly involves the police, the White House, and even elements of the FBI.

If Ruddy is right, it suggests a political scandal of colossal proportions.
Interesting that every where you look at the right wing conspiracy, you see my dearly departed friend, Richard Mellon Scaife and his "news" paper, the Tribune-Review.  But let's get back to 1995:
The Ruddy article was republished as a full-page advertisement in the *Washington Times* on Friday, paid for by a conservative media watchdog in California called the Western Journalism Center.
And there it is - more or less exactly how the Commerce Department described it in the mid-90s:
The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce refers to the mode of communication employed by the right wing to convey their fringe stories into legitimate subjects of coverage by the mainstream media. This is how the stream works. Well funded right wing think tanks and individuals underwrite conservative newsletters and newspapers such as the Western Journalism Center, the American Spectator and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Next, the stories are re-printed on the internet where they are bounced all over the world. From the internet, the stories are bounced into the mainstream media through one of two ways: 1) The story will be picked up by the British tabloids and covered as a major story, from which the American right-of-center mainstream media (i.e. the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and New York Post) will then pick the story up; or 2) The story will be bounced directly from the internet to the right-of-center mainstream American media. After the mainstream right-of-center media covers the story, Congressional committees will look into the story. After Congress looks into the story, the story now has the legitimacy to be covered by the remainder of the American mainstream press as a "real" story.
And specifically:
The controversy surrounding the death of Vince Foster has been, in large part, the product of a well-financed right-wing conspiracy industry operation. The "Wizard of Oz" figure orchestrating the machinations of the conspiracy industry is a little-known recluse, Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife uses his $800 million dollar inherited Mellon fortune to underwrite the Foster conspiracy industry. Scaife promotes the industry through his ownership of a small Pittsburgh newspaper, the Tribune-Review. Scaife's paper, under the direction of reporter Chris Ruddy, continually publishes stories regarding Foster's death. The stories are then reprinted in major newspapers all over the country in the form of paid advertisements. The Western Journalism Center (WJC), a non-profit conservative think tank, places the ads in these newspapers. The WJC receives much of its financial backing from Scaife.
So it's hardly surprising that someone would want to make sure that Farah's Scaife-funded propaganda unit was clean, right?

It's actually kinda funny that Farah playing down the "right wing conspiracy" part (which is true) while playing up the "IRS was illegally spying on the tea party" part (which isn't). 

But that's the right wing conspiracy for ya - some very well funded people with a frighteningly tenuous connection to reality.

March 18, 2015

Happy Birthday!

I discovered a very interesting coincidence today.

As some of you may know, I was born on October 5.  It's a birthday I share with (among others)
  • Larry Fine (of the Three Stooges) - 1902
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson (host of Cosmos) - 1958
  • Chester A. Arthur (President of the United States of America) - 1829
It's that last guy that leads to the coincidence.  Chester A. Arthur was the 21st President, serving from September 19, 1881 (upon the death of James Garfield - who was shot the previous July) to March 4, 1885 when Grover Cleveland, was inaugurated to be the nation's 22nd President.

Grover Cleveland was born March 18, 1837.

You know who ELSE was born on March 18?

Maria, the OPJ.

Guess what, Maria.  You share a birthday with:
  • George Plimpton (founder of the Paris Review) - 1927
  • Reince Priebus (Chairman of the Republican National Committee) - 1972
I still got one of the Three Stooges.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARIA! 

March 15, 2015

Um, So WHO'S Lying? (HInt: It's The Trib Editorial Board)

From today's Tribune-Review Op-Ed page:
On Capitol Hill, minority Democrats — who gave liberalism such a bad name that they now are forced to operate under the conscripted banner of “progressivism” — are pushing majority Republicans for higher taxes and more spending.

Never mind that the national debt of $18 trillion (yes, that's trillion with a “t”) continues to act as the world's largest Jake brake, the party of “Gimme!” wants to add the world's largest parachute to the economy — not to “save” it and make for a soft landing but to further retard it and to make ever larger its regressive footprint.

And ever Orwellian, diving deeper into taxpayer pockets and exponentially increasing spending is called an “investment.” But numbers from the Congressional Budget Office expose that “investment” as the tar pit that it is. Another decade of this kind of “progressive” spending will turn that $18 trillion debt into a $24 trillion debt, the CBO says.
Let's ignore the editorial board's partisan blather and start with the numbers.  Where did they get them?  The Braintrust says the Congressional Budget Office.

Presumably, it's this report (and a question to my braintrust friends: did you think no one was going to check or were you just hoping no one would?) and there's a summary here.

Once you read it, you'll see that the real liars are on the editorial board.

From the report:
This report by the Congressional Budget Office presents an analysis of the proposals in the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2016. The analysis is based on CBO’s economic projections and estimating models (rather than on the Administration’s), and it incorporates estimates of the effects of the President’s tax proposals that were prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).
And this is what they do in the analysis:
In conjunction with analyzing the President’s budget, CBO has updated its baseline budget projections, which were previously issued in January 2015. Those projections largely reflect the assumption that current tax and spending laws will remain unchanged; they thereby provide a benchmark against which the President’s proposals and other potential legislation can be measured.
So they're comparing two things: what probably will happen if the budget is implemented and what probably will happen if nothing changes.

And they find out that:
According to CBO’s current baseline projections, under current law, the federal deficit will be $486 billion in 2015 and the cumulative deficit over the 2016–2025 period will total $7.2 trillion. The deficit is projected to be 2.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015, to decline to 2.4 percent of GDP in 2016 and remain at about that level for the next two years, and then to increase relative to the size of the economy, reaching 3.8 percent of GDP in 2025. [Emphasis added.]
That's if nothing changes.  If the president's budget is enacted (now pay attention, guys), this is what the CBO wrote:
For 2015, the deficit would total $486 billion, equal to the deficit projected under current law. Under the President’s policies, the deficit would fall to $380 billion in 2016 and then increase (in nominal dollars) in each subsequent year of the 10-year period, growing to $801 billion in 2025.
And:
Measured relative to the size of the economy, the deficit would equal 2.7 percent of GDP in 2015. It would then dip to around 2.0 percent of GDP for the next few years before increasing in the last half of the decade to 2.9 percent; it has averaged 2.7 percent of GDP over the past 50 years.
And finally:
Deficits would be smaller than those in CBO’s baseline each year from 2016 through 2025. In all, deficits would total $6.0 trillion over that period, $1.2 trillion less than the cumulative deficit in CBO’s baseline. By 2025, the deficit relative to GDP under the President’s budget would be nearly 1 percentage point lower than the deficit in CBO’s baseline. [Emphasis added.]
So you can see where the braintrust gets it's "$24 trillion" number (start with $18 trillion add $6 trillion and you get...$24 trillion!) and you can also see the depth of their deception.

So compared to doing nothing, the president's budget would actually be reducing the debt by more than a trillion dollars, reducing the yearly deficits by billions of dollars (See the chart below) and reducing the size of the debt as a percentage of the GDP.


Somethings the braintrust decided its readers did not need to read.  And by doing so they're leaving their audience with an incomplete picture of reality.

So, who's lying, again?

March 9, 2015

In case you're interested, full ACDC Endorsement List is here

First, a few notes on the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement vote which was held yesterday.

Certainly the ACDC stamp of approval no longer holds the sway it once did. Candidates can win their elections without it and some no longer even seek the endorsement (see Mayor Bill Peduto).

The biggest headline to come out of the vote was the nod to Mark Patrick Flaherty over sitting incumbent Chelsa Wagner for Allegheny County Controller. Flaherty was Wagner's predecessor, and, because this is Allegheny County/Pittsburgh, Flaherty is the son of a former county commissioner and nephew of a former Pittsburgh mayor, while Wagner is the daughter of a former longtime chairman of the 19th Ward and niece of a former state auditor general. Meh.

And, while I'm no big fan of Wagner's, did the vote against her have to come on International Women's Day? Which just points to the fact that out of the 34 people ACDC endorsed, only eight were women.

This also leads to the following note from Kris Rust posted on Facebook by his husband, Pittsburgh Magisterial District Judge Hugh McGough, who did not win endorsement for Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas:
This weekend, the Allegheny County Labor Council and the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed a slate of three straight, white men from the Pittsburgh suburbs as judicial candidates for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, passing over distinguished women and minority candidates, including Hugh (yes, LGBT people comprise a minority group). 
The integrity and legitimacy of our government and our courts depends upon them reflecting the diversity of our citizenry. Yet, two-thirds of the judges on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas are straight, white men. While we are grateful to all of the folks who have supported Hugh throughout this endorsement process, I am disappointed that the majority of Labor Council and Democratic Committee members fail to recognize the value and importance of superlative credentials and diversity on the bench. Now I am ready to “rage against the machine!”
(If you'd like to help Hugh McGough's campaign--and I hope you do--his website is here.)

Another person who I would have liked to have been endorsed is Natalia Rudiak (though I have to admit that I don't know if she sought the endorsement). Rudiak is running for Pittsburgh City Controller and the only negative thing I can say about her is I would miss her on City Council. Her campaign website is here and her kickoff party is tomorrow.

Lastly, I hope that no one reading this takes the slate cards mailed out too much to heart. It's a real shame, but I'm guessing that too many people do rely on them, especially when voting for judges.

(Endorsement list is after the fold.)

March 8, 2015

From Selma - A Half Century Apart

50 years ago:


And yesterday:


That's Representative John Lewis in both pictures.  In the first, he's being beaten by a member of the Alabama State Police for failing to disperse.  In the second, well, the point is obvious, isn't it?

By the way, this is what happened in Selma in 1965:


And yesterday:


You can read The President's remarks here.

Some highlights:
What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?
That's what happened yesterday.

March 7, 2015

Google, The Knowledge Vault, And (Inevitable) The Denier-Outcry

I saw this at birther central World Net Daily this morning:
According to an article in New Scientist, the Internet search giant is considering a new algorithm for ranking its search results: one based not on how commonly a site is linked – which is central to its current system – but on how “trustworthy” Google determines the source website to be.

In other words, those sites Google says print truth would come up first in user searches, while those sites Google thinks stray too often from the truth would be buried on a later page.

New Scientist author Hal Hodson explains: “The Internet is stuffed with garbage. Anti-vaccination websites make the front page of Google, and fact-free ‘news’ stories spread like wildfire. Google has devised a fix – rank websites according to their truthfulness.”
There's more from that New Scientist article:
Google's search engine currently uses the number of incoming links to a web page as a proxy for quality, determining where it appears in search results. So pages that many other sites link to are ranked higher. This system has brought us the search engine as we know it today, but the downside is that websites full of misinformation can rise up the rankings, if enough people link to them.

A Google research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its reputation across the web. Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. "A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy," says the team (arxiv.org/abs/1502.03519v1). The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score.
Facts vs misinformation and a way to tell (and rank) the difference.

And so the science deniers are up in arms (back to WND):
Hodson’s implication that anti-vaccination sites are inherently untrustworthy, however, only serves to highlight the questions his article doesn’t answer: What if Google’s version of the “truth” is mistaken? Or biased? 
See that? We've entered into same right-wing post-modernism that's causing so many policy problems.  We're no longer talking "facts" but someone's "version of the 'truth'".  See the subtle shift?  And the ontological danger of that shift? 

Facts are stubborn things while someone's "version of the truth" is simply an opinion.  Science (whether it's Climate Science, Evolution or Women's Health, doesn't constitute "fact" as much as it's just "someone's version of the truth."

Fox "News" has some (muted) outrage about Google separating facts from non-facts:
In a step that critics worry will inject political bias into search results, a Google research team released a report this month on ranking search results based on how factual websites are. They propose eventually using that to change Google rankings, which are currently based on website popularity.

The Google researchers give, as an example, websites that say President Obama was born in Kenya; such sites would be penalized in Google rankings, whereas sites that correctly say he was born in the U.S. would get a boost in rankings.

That fact is not controversial, but critics worry that this is a first step towards Google playing God and effectively censoring content it does not like. They fear that skeptics of things like climate change or more immigration (both subjects that Google founders have expressed strong feelings about) might find their websites buried if this ranking system were adopted.
Wile it's interesting where Fox "News" and WND part company: Obama's birthplace, you should also notice the verb Fox uses in the first sentence of that last paragraph - censoring.  Who said anything about censoring?

The more truthful websites rise up on the list of search results - but that's not what the science deniers want.  You start judging websites by how accurate they are and it'll be that much more difficult to find the useless filling found within them.

And that's what the science deniers fear the most.

Stay tuned, I am sure we'll be hearing more about Google's fact-based "censorship" in the coming weeks and months.

March 3, 2015

Yes, Let's Follow The (Science Denier) Money

This past Sunday, the editorial board of the Tribune-Review published this:
Writing in National Review Online, Henry Payne reminds that “the overwhelming majority of climate research funding comes from the federal government and left-wing foundations.” And, he adds, that money goes “only toward research that advances the warming regulatory agenda.” So much for fair and balanced scientific inquiry. [Bolding in original.]
This is the paragraph from the Henry Payne piece at the National Review that the braintrust quotes:
In truth, the overwhelming majority of climate-research funding comes from the federal government and left-wing foundations. And while the energy industry funds both sides of the climate debate, the government/foundation monies go only toward research that advances the warming regulatory agenda. With a clear public-policy outcome in mind, the government/foundation gravy train is a much greater threat to scientific integrity.
Notice something?  It's in that second sentence - the one that says the energy industry funds both sides of the debate while the government only funds the research advancing the warming regulatory agenda.

Then there's this sometime later:
Despite claims that they are watchdogs of the establishment, media outlets such as the Times have ignored the government’s oversized role in directing research. And they have ignored millions in contributions from left-wing foundations — contributions that, like government grants, seek to tip the scales to one side of the debate.
They're still clinging to the idea that there's still a debate going on about climate science.  The purpose of Payne's argument is to show that guv'ment funding is looking to sway scientific "opinion."

So let's take a look at the funding of the sources he cites.  I mean if he's looking to uncover a link between "who funds" and "the opinions of those funded", then those links should tell us about his side of this "debate."

Right?

Payne's piece started with this:
Citing documents uncovered by the radical environmental group Greenpeace, a group of media outlets — including the New York Times and the Boston Globe — have attacked global-warming skeptic Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon for allegedly hiding $1.2 million in contributions from “fossil fuel companies.” The articles were the latest in an ongoing campaign by greens and their media allies to discredit opponents of the warming agenda.
The Times wrote of Dr. Soon:
He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.
 And then started defending Soon with "experts" of his own:
“It is a despicable, reprehensible attack on a man of great personal integrity,” says Myron Ebell, the director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who questioned why media organizations were singling out Soon over research funding.
 Hmm..According to the Bridge Project, the Competitive Enterprise Institute has recieved $21,931,523 in funding over the years, including:
  • $3.925 million (17.9% of the total) from Foundations controlled by Tribune-Review owner Richard Mellon Scaife
  • $1.775 million (8.09% of the total) from The Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil and PhRMA
  • $2.732 million (12.46 of the total) from Donors Trust or Donors Capital Fund
Why include the Donors Trust?  Here's why (from the Times):
Dr. Soon also received at least $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. (Mr. Koch’s fortune derives partly from oil refining.) However, other companies and industry groups that once supported Dr. Soon, including Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute, appear to have eliminated their grants to him in recent years.

As the oil-industry contributions fell, Dr. Soon started receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars through DonorsTrust, an organization based in Alexandria, Va., that accepts money from donors who wish to remain anonymous, then funnels it to various conservative causes.
So about those three groups of sources (Scaife, oil, and the shadowy "Donors Trust") amount to about 38% of the funding received by Ebell and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Does any of that funding sway their opinions?

Next experts Payne mentions:
Indeed, experts in the research community say that it is much more difficult for some of the top climate scientists — Soon, Roger Pielke Jr., the CATO Institute’s Patrick Michaels, MIT’s now-retired Richard Lindzen — to get funding for their work because they do not embrace the global-warming fearmongering favored by the government-funded climate establishment.
Pielke's inclusion in that short list is confusing as he accepts the findings (with some caveats) of the IPCC.  From his Congressional testimony:
Nothing in this testimony should be interpreted as contradicting the assessment of climate change science provided by Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC has concluded that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity are an important driver of changes in climate. And on this basis alone I am personally convinced that it makes sense to take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
So, I guess that in one way or another, he's embracing"the global-warming fearmongering" Payne's saying he doesn't.  How embarrassing for Payne.

Perhaps Payne's discussing Pielke's father, Roger Pielke - who has a PhD in Meterology (his son's PhD is in Political Science) and is still attached to the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Boulder, Colorado.

Did you know that CIRES is one of the 16 such institutes working with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration?

And that NOAA is a big part of the guv'ment funded climate establishment?

So tell me again why either Pielke is on Payne's list?

As for the last two names on Payne's list, Michaels and Lindzen, turns out BOTH are CATO guys, the former the Director for the Center for the Study of Science and the latter a Distinguished Senior Fellow.

As it's a right wing/libertarian organization, why wouldn't Payne's "funding link" criticisms also invalidate their participation in this "debate"

As if there is a "debate" on whether "greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity are an important driver of changes in climate" (to quote one of Payne's experts).

And we already know there isn't any "debate" on it.

March 1, 2015

There's More To The Wage Gap

I saw this at the P-G this morning:
Patricia Arquette’s Academy Award acceptance speech last Sunday, calling for ecological sanitation in the third world and equal pay for women, came off sounding a bit like a woman who has a few too many bumper stickers on her Prius.

But her closing comments on pay inequality achieved her apparent goal of starting a conversation — setting off criticism from commentators on the the right who said equal pay for equal work has been the law since 1963 and from those on the left who said equal pay is mainly an issue for wealthy white women.
There's another important discussion that warrants a mention. When Arquette said this backstage:
And it's time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we've all fought for to fight for us now.
A completely separate discussion on the intersectionality between connected "feminisms" was started.

For example this one at RHRealitycheck.  Or this one at Slate where Amanda Marcotte points out:
Arquette's comments...erased the major contributions made by women of color and lesbians to the feminist movement, as if they haven't been fighting all this time.
For those unfamiliar with the term, "intersectionality" by the way was coined by legal scholar Kimberely Crenshaw.  In an interview in 2004, she gave a summary of the concept:
It grew out of trying to conceptualize the way the law responded to issues where both race and gender discrimination were involved. What happened was like an accident, a collision. Intersectionality simply came from the idea that if you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you are likely to get hit by both. These women are injured, but when the race ambulance and the gender ambulance arrive at the scene, they see these women of color lying in the intersection and they say, “Well, we can’t figure out if this was just race or just sex discrimination. And unless they can show us which one it was, we can’t help them.”
 But that's not what we're here for.

While Ann Belser doesn't say anything factually incorrect, she has left out a few very important things in her article on the Wage Gap.  She begins with this:
While the Equal Pay Act was indeed passed a half-century ago, studies show that women are still paid less than men in the U.S. in nearly every occupation.

“During 2013, median wage earnings for female full-time workers were $706, compared with $860 per week for men — a gender wage ratio of 82.1 percent,” according to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group.
And while the Institute for Women's Policy Research does say that, they've also issued this report looking to explain (at least in part) the gap.  The report begins with this:
The 1963 report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women states: “The difference in occupational distribution of men and women is largely responsible for the fact that in 1961, the earnings of women working full time averaged only about 60 percent of those of men working full time.”
And then tracks the changes in what it calls "Occupational Segregation" since 1961.  The report continues with some of the changes:
Colleges and universities are no longer permitted to artificially restrict women’s entry to educational programs, Black women are as entitled to access to education and jobs as White women, and the days when employers were able to openly advertise a job just for women, or just for men, are a distant memory. Women are astronauts, Supreme Court justices, wind turbine engineers, four-star generals, university presidents, and a female economist is Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System, the first central bank in an OECD country to be headed by a woman. Almost every second worker is a woman. Yet even though women have undoubtedly advanced toward economic equality during the last fifty years, women’s median annual earnings for full-time work are still only 76.5 percent of men’s, and marked differences in the occupational distribution of men and women continue to characterize the labor market. [Emphasis added.]
Indeed a few pages later we read:
Research suggests that occupational segregation is a major contributor to the gender wage gap (see for example Blau and Kahn 2007; England, Hermsen, and Cotter 2000; Jacobs and Steinberg 1990; Treimann and Hartmann 1981). Concomitantly, the decline in occupational segregation was a major contributing factor to women’s increased real earnings during the last decades. [Emphasis added.]
So between occupations, gender segregation is a major contributor to the gap.  But to the extent we're talking occupational segregation, the issue of "equal pay for equal work" is proportionally diminished.

How much?  The Institute doesn't say.

How about within occupations?  Is there any explanation for, say, this statistic from Belser's article:
A survey by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that 94.7 percent of secretaries and administrative assistants are women, yet women in those jobs make just 87.1 percent of the wages paid to men.
The numbers can be found in this document, by the way.  The clear implication is that it's sexism.  Of course, if it is, it's already illegal and it's a moral imperative to stop those employers from committing this crime.

But the Institute doesn't offer any thing else.

When I wrote about this in 2011, I pointed out how another organization, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) did offer up some explanations as to why, perhaps, there'd be a pay gap within occupations.  Among the explanations were these (and these were the AAUW's own headings in that report):
  • Men report working more hours than women report working. 
  • Women are more likely than men to take time off to care for children. 
  • Men report working more hours than women report working. 
  • Women are more likely to use family leave, work part time, or leave the labor force for some period.
How much this explains the remainder of the gap (that part left over from the Institute's "Occupational Segregation") is left open for discussion.

On the other hand, we've moved far far away from any discussion of "equal pay for equal work."