What Fresh Hell Is This?

April 30, 2015

The Trib's Editorial Board's On The Defensive, I Guess

From today's Tribune-Review op-ed page:
In a Facebook post, state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, accuses those associated with the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market Harrisburg think tank, of being “racist, homophobic, sexist, classist, ableist, anti-American bigots whose single driving motivation is to secure the wealth of (its) multimillionaire donors at the expense of every single working person and family in the commonwealth.” Sims' words once again prove that ignorance and intemperance are the main ingredients of a “progressive” smear.[Bolding in Original]
If you're looking for an explanation, John Micek over at Pennlive, has one:
It's no secret that Harrisburg's Commonwealth Foundation tilts to the right. The think-tank on State Street has helped lead the charge on such conservative cornerstone issues as Paycheck Protection and the amusingly misnamed "Right to Work," movement.

It's also been in the vanguard of opposition to Gov. Tom Wolf's budget and the tax hike plans embedded within it. And if there's some liberal cause making the rounds, it can be reliably counted upon to oppose it.

All of which apparently didn't sit well with state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, who took to the Facebooks earlier this month to go all Old Testament prophet in the wildnerness on the Koch Bros.-linked think-tank. [Link and Bolding in Original.]
As much as I like Micek, I think he missed the context of the story.  Let's start with the facebook message that the braintrust found so offensive:
Oh Commonwealth Foundation we've talked about this!

See, I already know that you are all racist, homophobic, sexist, classist, ableist, anti-American, bigots whose single driving motivation is to secure the wealth of your multimillionaire donors at the expense of every single working person and family in the Commonwealth. See, I told you I already get it so you don't need to waste money sending me proof...actually go ahead and waste that money!

We're better than you bigots!
And move on to the context.  Here's a follow-up from Sims:
The bigots at the Commonwealth Foundation have just now come across my post about their useless mailing earlier this month and rather than address any of my facts (err accusations) about the work they do, each person who like worked on the flier is posting about how I individually called them names [smile emoticon]

I'm guessing that's about as close to a legitimate defense as they can come up with so its all good on my end!

"Stop hating on our hatred. Stop discrimination against our discrimination. Hold still so we can hurt you and hate you more."

I think you've done enough to hurt working class, military, middle class, and poor families today, Commonwealth Foundation. How about you rest up and attack Americans and liberty tomorrow on a full night sleep.
So the right-tilting Commonwealth Foundation mailed something to state Rep Brian Sims that Sims thought wasteful enough to mock them about it with some rather harsh words.  (I'll leave it to you to agree or disagree)

But who's Brian Sims?  For those who need a reminder, Brian Sims is this guy:
An openly gay lawmaker was silenced by colleagues on the Pennsylvania House floor Thursday when he attempted to speak about the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) took to the House floor on Thursday to discuss the high court's landmark ruling, which found the federal law barring the government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by states to be unconstitutional. However, as WHYY News and Philly.com report, Sims' remarks were blocked by several state lawmakers using a procedural maneuver.

One of those lawmakers, conservative state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), told WHYY that he believed Sims' comments would be a violation of "God's law."

"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law," Metcalfe said.
Yea, that Brian Sims.  Anyone who can trigger Daryl Metcalfe into such righteous indignation must be doing something right.

But let's head back to the rather gentle argument skewing the braintrust makes.  First off, Sims wasn't accusing "those  associated" with the Commonwealth Foundation of being bigots, etc. (which could mean anyone who donates to the foundation or simply agrees with its "research", for example).  He was accusing the Foundation itself of being those things.

By widening the Venn diagram and expanding Sims' less-than-gentle mockery, the braintrust unfairly smears Sims.

But that's all a diversion from the bigger problem with what the braintrust wrote.   I'll give you a hint.  It's found among the nouns of this phrase:
...motivation is to secure the wealth of (its) multimillionaire donors at the expense...[Emphasis added.]
Hmm.  Rich donors of the Commonwealth Foundation.  Hmm.

According to the bridgeproject, the Commonwealth Foundation received $7,654,207 in foundational support over the years.  Just under 35% of that (about $2.667 million) came from the Sarah Scaife, Allegheny and Carthage Foundations - all controlled (before his passing) by Trib owner Richard Mellon Scaife.

Sims indirectly called out the Trib's former owner (although he was a billionaire and not merely a millionaire) and the braintrust, in pushing back, just never seemed to get around to saying, "Hey, that's our former boss you're insulting!"

Given all the money he shuttled off to the Commonwealth Foundation, shouldn't they have pointed that out?

April 29, 2015

Stewart On Baltimore

Yea, what Jon said:


Until the underlying problem's fixed, we're going to see more looting, more flames, and more destruction in more places in the coming years.

April 24, 2015

Pew - The Trib Editorial Board Needs To Read Deeper

In case you missed it, the braintrust published this yesterday:
A new Pew Research Center poll suggests that 52 percent of Americans say protecting gun rights trumps the need for gun control. Replace the word “gun” in both references with the words “speech” or “press” or “religion” and gun-grabbers who can't fathom the poll results might better understand why so many Americans feel as they do about the right to bear arms. [Bolding in Original.]
Let's set aside the specious First Amendment argument and ponder (as always) what the braintrust decided not to tell you, its loyal readers.

For that we need to go to Pew Research Center - and let's be clear, they get the 52% right:
For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.

Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year, and marks a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings, which occurred two years ago this Sunday.
Pew released this data December 10, 2014.  I'm wondering how, in this 24-hr news cycle, 4 month old survey data is considered new, but that's beside the point I guess.

What is new at Pew is this follow up from a few days ago:
Why has public opinion shifted about gun control? As my colleagues at Pew Research Center have documented elsewhere, some of this is related to politics, as Republicans have become far more supportive of gun rights during the Obama years. The rise in support for gun rights has also spanned many other regional and demographic groups.
Which leads the writer of the piece, Andrew Kohut - founding director of Pew Research Center, off in a direction I am a not sure the Trib's braintrust would like:
But there may be another factor behind this shift: Americans’ changing perceptions about crime. Over the past 25 years or so, there has been a divergence between American perceptions about crime and actual crime rates. And those who worried about crime had favored stricter gun control; now, they tend to desire keeping the laws as they are or loosening gun control. In short, we are at a moment when most Americans believe crime rates are rising and when most believe gun ownership – not gun control – makes people safer. [Italics in Original.]
And then he does what the braintrust almost never does.  He supports his opinion with some facts:
In the 1990s, the rate of violent crimes plummeted by more than half nationwide. Public perceptions tracked right along, with the share saying there was more crime in the U.S. over the past year falling from 87% in 1993 to just 41% by 2001.

In the new century, however, there’s been a disconnect. A majority of Americans (63%) said in a Gallup survey last year that crime was on the rise, despite crime statistics holding near 20-year lows. [Emphasis added.]
And then he offers an explanation:
Why public views on crime have grown more dire is unclear, though many blame it on the nature of news coverage, reality TV and political rhetoric. Whatever the cause, this trend is not without consequence. Today, those who say that crime is rising are the most opposed to gun control: Just 45% want to see gun laws made more strict, compared with 53% of those who see crime rates as unchanged or dropping.
Hmmm...can you see why the Trib braintrust wouldn't want to discuss that part?  They'd rather use Pew research to make a cheap First Amendment joke than to write about any of the connection between the public's incorrect perception about crime rates and the public's perceived need for MORE GUNS FOR OUR PROTECTION!

And in case you missed it, I'll ask the rhetorical question alluded to in the Pew piece: where would the public have gotten the incorrect notion that crime rates are rising?  The news media perhaps?

And then here are my follow up rhetorical questions: Isn't the Tribune-Review part of the news media?  Isn't it, then, part of the problem?

Shouldn't that have been the point of the editorial?

April 23, 2015

Happy Openly Secular Day!

This is David, I'm openly secular, and today is Openly Secular Day:


So what does that mean?  Openly Secular?

From the website:
The mission of Openly Secular is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting secular people - including atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and nonreligious people - to be open about their beliefs.
Of the above list I would count myself among the agnostics, though that's more a definition question than anything else.  That is to say, it's how one defines each of those terms that delineates who's in which set.

For example if I were to start with these two defnintions:
Atheist - One who holds the denial of the statement "God exists." to be true.

Agnostic - One who holds that the statement "God exists." to be unknowable on account of there being no possible evidence to support or deny it.  A.J. Ayer would say such a statement, since it's devoid of factual information, is actually nonsense.
You'll note that neither the atheist or agnostic believes the statement "God exists" to be true. But only one believes it false, the other believes it to be nonsense.

On the other hand, if you define "atheist" to be anyone who does not hold that the statement "God exists." to be true, then both atheists and agnostics are atheists, for whatever their reasons.

See?

So why am I an agnostic (or atheist, if that's your definition)?  Because I can't see any evidence for the existence of a supreme being - and from that gap, I have to ask, "Why believe in anything for which there's no evidence to support it?"

The Universe is complicated and interesting enough without having to believe any set of ideas unsupported by facts.  The Human Mind is intelligent enough to contemplate good and evil, right and wrong and the nature of reality itself without having to depend on anything written down millennia ago.

We're much better than that.

My name is David and I am openly secular.

April 22, 2015

Lynn Cullen Leaves 4802 - And The P-G Leaves Out Some Important Stuff

From today's P-G:
Longtime Pittsburgh talk show host Lynn Cullen confirmed Tuesday she is quitting as a panelist on WQED-TV’s “4802.”

Ms. Cullen echoed her sentiments from a day earlier, when she said on her Pittsburgh City Paper podcast, “I am not again ever going to do that show.” A tense verbal exchange with panelist Heather Heidelbaugh, attorney and Allegheny County councilwoman, was the last straw.
You can watch the last-straw exchange here.

And here's how the P-G characterized it:
The program kicked off with a discussion on recent protests to raise the U.S. minimum wage. Ms. Heidelbaugh, a Republican, said she didn’t believe raising the wage was realistic. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Cullen prefaced remarks saying, “I feel so passionately on this issue that I’m going to try to keep myself in check as I address it.”

Some of the others chuckled, as Ms. Cullen is not known for being soft-spoken. She decried large companies’ failure to pay a higher living wage and said that capitalism is an economic but not “moral” or “ethical” system.
This starts about 4:25 in.  What the P-G gets wrong (or, to be more correct, doesn't address at all) is that Cullen's assertion that capitalism was not "a moral system" was misheard (or perhaps deliberately misinterpreted) by Heidelbaugh  as "capitalism is an immoral system."

Big difference.  It wasn't a simple disagreement.  Heather Heidelbaugh spent most of the time arguing stuff that Lynn Cullen didn't say and Chris Moore seemed to dump blame on both parties equally.

Here's my transcript:
Cullen: I feel so passionately on this issue that I’m going to try to keep myself in check as I address it.

Moore: That would be a first.

Cullen: Ok, everybody wish me luck.  Here we go.

Moore: Good luck.

Cullen: Bruce alluded to it.  We have a business model going here now that benefits the wealthiest corporations in the world.  And that business model is: You hire people do not pay them a wage that allows tehm to keep a roof over their head, to clothe their children, feed their children and generally just survive.  It's not a living wage.  And we, the other little guys all over the country, the tax payers, will subsidize.  We will give them foodstamps.  If you are Walmart, if you are McDonalds and you are employing millions of people who can not make it and the rest is picked up by you, you -

Kraus: Us.

Cullen: - you, me, you, everybody else.  This is, if that's not the essence of corporate welfare, what the heck is?

Moore: Ok.  Katie, Katie, what do you say about this?

Cullen: There's also a moral issue.  I want to, I want to bring up a moral issue.  I really do.

Moore: Alright.

Cullen: I really do.  Capitalism is the triumphant economic system globally.  It is.  But it is an economic system.  It is not an ethical system.  It is not a moral system.

[Gasp off-camera]

Cullen: It -

Heidelbaugh: That's despicable, but go ahead.

Cullen: No -

Heidelbaugh: Capitalism is not an ethical system?

Cullen: You just said that what I just said was despicable?

Heidelbaugh: Yes.

Cullen: Tell me why.

Heidelbaugh: Because Capitalism, more than any other form of government on the globe-

Cullen: It's an economic system.

Heidelbaugh:  - has raised more people out of poverty.

Cullen: It's a - Heather, is it a moral system or an economic system?

Heidelbaugh: Why don't you go down to Cuba and live in Cuba where there's socialism and everybody lives in poverty?

Moore: Heather, Heather, Heather.  Why is it that when someone complains about our system in America -

Heidelbaugh: No, she said capitalism was a dirty word!

Moore: I understand what she said-

Cullen: I did not!

Moore: Excuse, excuse me, excuse me--

Heidelbaugh: You did.

Moore: Excuse me, excuse me, why is it when someone says oh, some criticism about the American system, someone else says, "Why don't you leave?  Get out the country."  Why is that the only answer?

Heidelbaugh: No, what she, no, that's not what I said -

Cullen: Heather, I sto-

Moore: Yes, you did.  You said, "Go to Cuba."

Cullen: - because what I said was -

Heidelbaugh: If she really like socialistic system, she ought to look at Cuba!

Cullen: Did I say socialism?  What did I say? I said it was the triumphant -

Heidelbaugh: You said capitalism was horrible.

Kraus:  It's an economic system.

Cullen:  Excuse me, Heather, Heather.  Stop.  I did not say capitalism was horrible.  Did I?  Did I?  No.  I said Capitalism was an economic system.  That is all I said.  I said it is not in any way an ethical or moral construct or system.

Jones Goldman: Is there an economic system that's moral?

Cullen: That's what I said.  I am saying is that if we agree to throw our lot in with an economic system, of capitalism -

Heidelbaugh: Go head.

Cullen: - then it behooves us to make sure that people are not being run roughshod over those in its employ.

Moore: Alright, let's allow her a chance to respond.

[Cross talk]

Moore: Hold hold hold it, Lynn.

Cullen: And I can not believe that you're looking at me like that.

Moore: Lynn, Lynn, Lynn.

Heidelbaugh: I think what you're saying is so irresponsible.  And if we want to talk about morality I think it is morally incomprehensible because capitalism has, in fact, granted people in this country the opportunity to pull themselves up out of poverty.  You look at every socialistic construct, as you call it, and it is morally bankrupt.  The people are poor because you know what socialism is?  Socialism doesn't understa -

Cullen: You been to Europe lately?

Heidelbaugh: I have been to Europe.

Cullen: The people are poor?

Heidelbaugh: I have been to Europe

Cullen: The people are poor?

Heidelbaugh: They have capitalism there, what are you talking about?

Cullen: What are you talking about?

Moore: Excuse me.  There are some European countries, Sweden and others, that have higher tax rates -

Heidelbaugh: But they're capitalistic.

Moore:  - that have social programs, they have a lot of socialistic programs that support the community and people enjoy that even with higher taxes.

Jones Goldman: And many are imploding.  The National Institute of Health in Great Britain is imploding.
And at that point they more or less changed the subject - but the room continued to be tense for the rest of the half hour.

As you can see, Heather spun Lynn's assertion that capitalism is an economic and not a moral system into "She said capitalism was horrible."  Something Lynn did not say.  Later she accuses Lynn of saying that capitalism is morally bankrupt.  Something else Lynn did not say.

It was painful to watch.  Painful to transcribe as well.

Another interesting event happens about 12:20 minutes in:
Heidelbaugh: When you talk about "our side" I find it offensive, ok?
This is a response this at 11:12:
Cullen: Your side doesn't understand the value of labor.
So Heather finds it offensive for someone to lump all conservatives together with a collective criticism.  She must've forgotten that in the discussion of unions (at about 9:50), this happened:
Heidelbaugh: You [gesturing to both Cullen and Kraus] never want to talk about union and how they feather their own beds.
Looked to me she was saying "your side never wants to talk about..."

That was only about 2 minutes and 30 seconds earlier.

Wanna know what the sad part of the story is?

Lynn's gone from 4802 but (as far as I know) after all this, Heather Heidelbaugh is still there.

April 19, 2015

A Chuck McCullough Update - What's Known So Far

For those happy few not following the trial of former County Council member Charles P. "Chuck" McCullough, let me bring yinz up-to-date, en at.

While I have spent a few hours watching the trial from the back row of the court (and most of it is absolutely fascinating), I fear I lack the necessary journalistic/legal background to adequately and fairly comment on everything I've seen.  Lucky we have some competing newspaper reporters (Paula Reed Ward of the P-G and Bobby Kerlick of the Trib) covering the event as well as a smattering of TV coverage.

So let's see what the local press has had to say.

Day One (Monday, April 13)

The Trib:
After six years, two attorneys, several postponements and thousands of pages of documents, former Allegheny County Councilman Chuck McCullough took a seat at the defense table Monday, ready to fight charges that he stole thousands of dollars from an elderly widow.

Prosecutors charged McCullough, 60, of Upper St. Clair in 2009 with abusing his power of attorney to steal nearly $200,000 from the $14.7 million estate of Shirley Jordan, who died in 2010 at age 93. McCullough, a Republican who served as county solicitor for a year before he was a county councilman from 2007 to 2011, is charged with two dozen counts, including nine counts of felony theft.
The P-G:
When Charles McCullough was serving as co-trustee and power of attorney for an Upper St. Clair widow, he made several requests to PNC Bank on how to spend the woman’s money.

He requested that his sister be hired as Shirley Jordan’s companion at a rate of $60 per hour.

He wanted the bank to release money for Ms. Jordan to buy property from another of his clients.

He asked Ms. Jordan to donate $10,000 to Catholic Charities, which at the time was run by his wife.

And he requested his young son be paid to mow the woman’s yard.

Those instances were just a few laid out by the prosecution Monday during the first day of Mr. McCullough’s nonjury trial before Senior Judge Lester G. Nauhaus in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
And:
Mr. McCullough began his work with Ms. Jordan in early 2006 and worked with Thomas Gray, a relationship manager with PNC Bank, to establish a trust for the then-90-year-old woman, whose financial worth was about $14 million. At the time, bank officials had discovered that Ms. Jordan was accumulating several large checks that were not being deposited into her bank account. They then learned that many of her bills, including utilities and taxes, were going unpaid, Mr. Gray testified.

“She thought she was fairly poor,” Mr. Gray said. “She just didn’t think she had a lot of money to live on.”

Mr. McCullough became a trustee for Ms. Jordan, and at one point requested that some of her money be used to buy land from another client of his and to use $500,000 to buy a certificate of deposit, Mr. Gray said.

Neither of those requests were approved.
You can read the original criminal complaint here, by the way.  Since six years passed between the filing of that complaint and the trial I can't be sure exactly the same charges were presented in court.  Here's the list of charges found on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas website.

Day Two  

The Trib:
Prosecutors contend McCullough improperly steered the donation to Catholic Charities because his wife, now a Commonwealth Court judge, was running the charity and in the midst of fundraising.

The gift to Catholic Charities was not the lone gift prosecutors say McCullough doled out with Jordan's money. Lisa Carey, district manager for Northwest Savings Bank, testified that McCullough asked that $10,000 checks be sent to the campaign funds of Republican political candidates Sue Caldwell, Jan Rea, Vince Gastgeb and Cheryl Allen, now a Superior Court judge. All of the then-candidates later returned the money.

Witnesses testified that McCullough shifted Jordan's money from PNC Bank to Northwest Bank in 2007.
The P-G:
John Goetz, the former president of the [board of directors for the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh], testified Tuesday against Charles P. McCullough, a former Allegheny County councilman accused of stealing from Shirley H. Jordan when he served as her power of attorney and co-trustee of her trust fund.
And:
Witnesses on Tuesday included employees at PNC Bank, which initially administered the Jordan trust fund in 2006, as well as an employee at Northwest Savings Bank, where the trust was moved in early 2007 at Mr. McCullough’s request.

It was Northwest that approved and issued four $10,000 checks to political candidates that brought Mr. McCullough’s actions out in the public.

Mr. Goetz testified that his concerns began after reading a newspaper story on April 13, 2007.
That would be this story, by the P-G's Dennis Roddy.  We'll get to Roddy a bit later, just you wait.

Back to the P-G:
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report revealed that Ms. Jordan was upset by a number of political contributions that had been made in her name to Republican candidates — county council members Vince Gastgeb, Jan Rea and Susan Caldwell, and Cheryl Allen, then a candidate for Superior Court. In the story, she said the donations were orchestrated by Mr. McCullough.

“The donor was saying it was against her will to give such a donation,” Mr. Goetz testified.
The Trib :
Chuck McCullough's political adversaries, including the man who's now Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff, became suspicious in 2007 when he arranged for an elderly widow unknown in political circles to donate $40,000 to Republican politicians.

Kevin Acklin, Peduto's top aide, took the witness stand Wednesday on the third day of the criminal trial of McCullough, 60, of Upper St. Clair on charges he abused his power of attorney to steal nearly $200,000 from the $14.7 million estate of Shirley Jordan, who died in 2010 at age 93. Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus is hearing the non-jury trial.

McCullough and Acklin, a Republican-turned-Democrat, were competing for an at-large county council seat in 2007. Acklin testified that some of his supporters, including then-Councilman Vince Gastgeb, withdrew their support once McCullough handed out the checks.

While in Upper St. Clair gathering signatures, Acklin visited Jordan's house, he said.

“The condition of her house looked like no one lived there. There was a window without drapes, a gutter was dislodged, there were water-logged phone books covered in snow outside and mail,” Acklin testified. “I called Vince Gastgeb and said, ‘Who is Shirley Jordan?' Gastgeb said Jordan was a client of McCullough's and he had served as her estate (lawyer).”

Acklin said that raised a red flag.
The P-G:
The condition of the house raised Mr. Acklin’s suspicions, and he began an investigation to see who Ms. Jordan was. He learned that she was represented by Mr. McCullough, and that she was living in a nursing facility. Mr. Acklin also went to the county’s department of court records to check her files.

A day or two later, Mr. Acklin, now chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto, received a call from Mr. McCullough.

“ ‘What were you doing snooping around court records, the Recorder of Deeds?’ ” Mr. Acklin said the former county councilman asked him.

“I said, ‘You know exactly what I was doing,’ ” Mr. Acklin recounted during the non-jury trial. “He seemed agitated.” Then, Mr. Acklin testified, Mr. McCullough said, “ ‘You might want to ask around town who you’re [messing] with.’ ”
Uh-oh.

Day Three and Four

The Trib:
Elderly widow Shirley Jordan “gasped” and seemed startled when told that her attorney had doled out a $10,000 political donation from her trust fund, a former reporter testified Thursday.

Former Post-Gazette reporter Dennis Roddy testified Thursday about his 2007 interview with Jordan during the fourth day of the trial of former Allegheny County Councilman Chuck McCullough. Prosecutors accused McCullough, 60, of Upper St. Clair, in 2009 of bilking $200,000 from the $14.7 million trust of Jordan, who died in 2010 at the age of 93.
And then:
Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus halted the trial Thursday in the middle of Roddy's testimony, after defense attorney Jon Pushinsky objected on hearsay grounds. Pushinsky contends the testimony should not be considered because it's hearsay and he can't cross-examine Jordan.

Nauhaus ordered Pushinsky and Assistant District Attorney John Fitzgerald to write legal briefs on the matter.
The Trib:
Nauhaus overruled defense objections about Roddy's testimony and said he would consider parts of it, including that Jordan told Roddy that McCullough was a “cheap politician.”

Roddy continued his testimony from Thursday and said he specifically asked Jordan if perhaps she forgot about the donations, including a $10,000 donation to then-Superior Court candidate Cheryl Allen.

“She said, ‘I would never give $10,000 to politics,' ” Roddy testified.
Then there was this:
A few days after Roddy interviewed Jordan, McCullough called Upper St. Clair police to complain about a reporter, who he said did not identify himself and was harassing and badgering his client.

Roddy said he signed into the facility and identified himself as a reporter to Jordan. No charges were filed.
That last part's one of the charges filed against McCullough, by the way.  In the original complaint we read:
The actor knowingly gave false information, namely on April 18, 2007 DEFENDANT KNOWINGLY AND FALSELY REPORTED TO UPPER ST. CLAIR POLICE DEPARTMENT THAT DENNIS RODD HARASSED SHIRLEY H. JORDAN WHEN NO SUCH INCIDENT OF HARASSMENT BY DENNIS RODDY HAD OCCURRED to a law enforcement office with intent to implicate another, in violation of 18Pa C.S. 4906(a) [Capitalization in original]
  Then finally, there's this from the P-G:
Two days after an article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2007 outlining an elderly widow’s denunciation of tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions made in her name, the man who is accused of facilitating the donations tried to convince her otherwise.
The Trib:
“He said there was some information in the newspaper that was not true and that he was going to read it to her,” testified Alice Greenway, a care worker who took care of Jordan at an assisted living home. “He asked her to sign something to say, ‘This is what's true and the newspaper account was not.' She refused.”

McCullough was telling Jordan as they went through the newspaper story, “I didn't do that. I wouldn't do that,” Greenway testified.

McCullough then wrote up a second document for Greenway to sign, saying she saw Jordan agree with McCullough.

“I wouldn't do it,” Greenway testified.
That's what's been reported in the local newspapers, so far.

Reminder: The trial still going on and Charles P. McCullough still has the presumption of innocence as guaranteed by law.  He's still innocent until proven guilty and it's still the prosecution's responsibility to prove its case.

April 14, 2015

More On Joey Farah And His Birthers' Hypocrisy (Marco Rubio Edition)

Hey, remember this?

That's the blogpost where I assert that if the birthers' invalid criteria for Barack Obama's presidential ineligibility were valid, then they'd also have to question the presidential eligibility of the Republican (and Canadian-born) Senator Cruz as well.

For the record I was not questioning Cruz eligibility, just pointing out the birthers' hypocrisy for not protesting the Republican as much as the Democrat.

Well, now that Senator Marco Rubio has announced his presidential campaign, he has exactly the same problem with the birthers as neither of his parents were US citizens when he was born.  And the birthers will show exactly the same hypocrisy if they don't protest the Miami-born Senator's eligibility as loudly as they've protested the Hawaii-born Obama for half a decade.

But let's go to birther central for a ruling:
Moments after Mitt Romney’s landslide victory in the Florida Republican Primary, WND Editor Joseph Farah declared on national television that Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would not be a good selection for vice president because he’s not a natural-born citizen of the U.S., and therefore is not legally qualified to hold the office.

“Rubio’s not eligible … because he’s not a natural-born citizen,” Farah told Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel.
For the record, since Rubio was born in Miami he's eligible to be president.

But we're not talking about facts here, we're talking what the birthers have said.  And according to them since Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is constitutionally no eligibile:
A consensus on the correct definition of “natural-born citizen” has eluded lawyers and scholars for more than 200 years. The Constitution’s silence, the absence of definitive Supreme Court rulings and a wide array of opinions through the centuries have only further confused the question of what “natural born” actually means.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Charles Kerchner who has filed a legal challenge against Obama’s eligibility, is among those critical of Jindal’s legal qualification.

“Governor Jindal is a ‘citizen of the United States’ since he was born in the USA, but he is not a ‘natural-born citizen of the United States’ since his parents were not citizens of the United States when Governor Jindal was born,” said Kerchner, who runs the ProtectOurLiberty website.

“As a citizen of the United States, he is, of course, eligible to a governor, senator, or U.S. representative, but he is not constitutionally eligible to be the president and commander in chief of our military (per Article II, Section 1) nor is he eligible to be the vice president (per the 12th Amendment) since he is not a “natural-born citizen of the United States.” [Links and emphasis in original]
 They have to feel the same way about Rubio.

Where are the Cruz and/or Rubio birther protests?  Will Fox "News" be covering them, too?

April 13, 2015

Yes, It's Happenning!! (More On Chuck McCullough's Trial)

The trial of Charles P. "Chuck" McCullough, that is.  Needless to say, it's only taken 2,245 days since he was arrested.

This morning, I made sure I was there to witness it - if only to make reassure myself in the days, weeks, months and years ahead it really happened.

If you're looking for details on the case, both major newspapers already have stuff posted:

Paula Reed Ward of the P-G:
Six years after criminal charges were filed against former Allegheny County councilman Charles P. McCullough, his trial began this morning in Common Pleas Court.

Mr. McCullough, an attorney from Upper St. Clair, faces nearly two dozen counts, including theft, misapplication of funds, making false statements and conspiracy in a nonjury trial before Senior Judge Lester G. Nauhaus.
Yea, and it took Judge Nauhaus nearly 20 minutes to read them all to McCullough during the arraignment.

Bobby Kerlik of the Trib:
The long-awaited trial of former Allegheny County Councilman Chuck McCullough started Monday, nearly six years after prosecutors filed charges against him.

Prosecutors accused McCullough, 60, of Upper St. Clair, of abusing his power of attorney to steal nearly $200,000 from the $14.7 million estate of Shirley Jordan, an elderly woman who died in 2010 at age 93. McCullough, a Republican who served as county solicitor for a year before he was a county councilman from 2007 to 2011, is charged with two dozen counts, including nine counts of felony theft.
Look for TV coverage by Alan Jennings of WPXI and Harold Hayes of KDKA as well.  They were sitting about 6 feet away from me this morning.

 At last, I can finally stop the "how many days HAS it been since Chuck was arrested?" blog posts!


April 12, 2015

And so it begins...

First, with an email to close supporters:


Then, with a video on her Facebook page:



And, new logo and revamped web site:













And, finally, with the tweet everyone was waiting for:

Jack Kelly Sunday

In today's Post-Gazette,  it takes Jack Kelly all of his 22 paragraphs to play the Nazi card.

In denouncing the so-called "intolerance of the left" he ends his column by referring to those on the "secular left" who want members of the LGBT community to be free of faith-based intolerance as "dime store Nazis."

Yes, he did. 

But let's start with his theology as he spends much of his time with his spectacled nose in the Bible - justifying his own cultural myopia.

Jack writes:
I don’t think a person’s sexual preference has anything to do with character — or is any of my business.

I applaud gays in long-term, monogamous relationships. They ought to have the same legal protections as if they were married. But I’m against gay marriage, because God said marriage is between a man and a woman, and I take Him at His word.
While I am not sure exactly where in the Bible Jack finds God's definition of marriage, I am guessing it wouldn't that far from this:
4 And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,

5 and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?

6 So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:4-6)
The "he" in those passages would be Jesus, of course.  And while it's a definition of joining just one man to just one woman into just one flesh it's also, in a way, an anti-divorce pronouncement (let no man put asunder what god has joined and all that), isn't it ?

Let me say that I applaud Jack for the first three of his sentences above - it's a good thing he's not among teh crazie intolerants of the right.  Like this guy in California:
A California lawyer has devised an initiative titled “The Sodomite Suppression Act.” Yes, this isn’t something from The Onion or National Report, this is a very real ballot initiative designed by someone who is both nutty and probably thinks more about making sexy time more than members of the gay community do.
The telling part is found in the text of the initiative:
SODOMITE SUPPRESSION ACT

Penal Code section 39

a) The abominable crime against nature known as buggery, called also sodomy, is a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us to suppress on pain of our utter destruction even as he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrha.

b) Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God's just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating wickedness in our midst, the people of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.
I'm just not so sure about Jack's last sentence.  I mean that California lawyer presumably takes God at His word, too, right?  And Leviticus does say this, right?
And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
So now I'm confused.  Jack says he takes God at His word and Jack's God says that men who have sex with men should be put to death.  But Jack says he applauds "gays in long-term monogamous relationships."  So when does Jack applaud?  Is that before or after they're put to death?  Does Jack Kelly take God at His word or not?

While we're talking about it, here's a question for you, Jack.  What are some of the other acts in the Bible that are punishable by death?

Exodus 31:15
Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to Jehovah: whosoever doeth any work on the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
Leviticus 24:16
And he that blasphemeth the name of Jehovah, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the sojourner, as the home-born, when he blasphemeth the name of Jehovah, shall be put to death.
I'm writing this on a Sunday and while I'm not getting paid for it it's certainly work.  Oh, and I admit it, I'm also mocking The Word of God.

Shouldn't I be put to death as well?  I mean, if you take God at His word, you kinda hafta answer with a hearty (and self-righteous) "Hell, yea!" don't you?

We can go on like this for hours but it does raise a bigger question: what does any of  this have to do with public policy or the law?  Should centuries-old ignorance have any place in how a just society orders itself?

If we take The Word - all of it, not just the nice parts - as a serious plan for how we treat each other, then misery must surely follow (Death to the adulterers! Death to those who blaspheme!)

Each of us is certainly free to believe what we want to believe, but in a free society all citizens are to be treated fairly and equally and any restrictions on that fairness and equality (even if they're faith-based) simply have no place in a just society.

April 11, 2015

Obama, Climate Science, and CNSNews

I found this today at CNSNews:
Speaking at Howard University in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that climate change is a “primary” national security threat to the United States.

“The Pentagon has already said that climate change is a primary national security threat that we’re going to face, and we are working with the Department of Defense to start preparing for that and mitigating for that,” Obama said. “And a lot of our international policy and national security policy is centered around the very real concerns that that’s going to raise.”
And so on.  Of course this being CNSNews (aka "Cybercast News Service" aka "Conservative News Service") the comments are caustic and scorching.  Like this one:
Can we sue someone for criminal fraud? Or something? This should embarrASS the Soviet/fascist trolls, the evidence is overwhelming that, at the very least, the debate ain't over. Provable Falsified data, flat out statements of lies. At least we want to debate the issue, mostly to show the chicanery of the left, (cause we got real evidence). We got a criminal case against every alarmists who knew & accepted funds to defraud the US taxpayer. Confidence schemes are a felony.
So it's defrauding the US Taxpayers if you're not denying the science?

What was it that the president said?  Oh yea, that's right:
The Pentagon has already said that climate change is a primary national security threat that we’re going to face...
Where do they say that?  Where is the Pentagon pushing "Provable Falsified data, flat out statements of lies" in it's "Confidence schemes" that are defrauding us taxpayers?

Here - the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review.

On page 8, after a paragraph on the threat posed by terrorist organizations post-9/11 and how
The possibility that rapidly- developing threats, including violent protests and terrorist attacks, could escalate quickly and directly threaten U.S. interests at home and abroad is a significant challenge for the United States.
We read this:
Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. 
I wonder when the anti-science crowd will be pursuing its criminal case against the Pentagon for defrauding the US Taxpayer by pushing this flat out statement of lies?

Getting back to reality (I know that by definition be difficult for the anti-science crowd) the president also said:
And that’s why, today, we’re making more than 150 data sets on climate change in public health from agencies like the CDC open to the public.
Here's a Fact Sheet released by the White House outlining the release of the data and a place to find the data sets themselves.

Or you can deny the science while the planet continues to heat up.

April 9, 2015

Chuck McCullough Update...?

Can it really be happening?

From the Trib last November 30:
When an Allegheny County grand jury recommended charges against former county Councilman and Solicitor Charles McCullough for allegedly taking money from an elderly woman's estate, the Steelers were Super Bowl champions, Barack Obama had recently become the first black president, and the iPhone 3 was relatively new.

In the five years since, the Steelers have not won a Super Bowl, Obama won a second term and the iPhone 6 is Apple's latest device. Meanwhile, the case against the Upper St. Clair Republican has been mired in continuances and appeals. Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen, who was presiding over the case, retired.

The case has muddled through two defense attorneys, two judges, six continuances, three status hearings, at least 15 motions and two appeals.

For the first time since McCullough's arrest Feb. 19, 2009, his lawyer believes the case is finally on track. Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman, administrative judge for the court's criminal division, assigned the case to Judge Lester G. Nauhaus in November and scheduled a trial for April 13. [Emphasis added.]
And according to the docket, it's true, it's true!

And it will only have taken 2,245 days since Chuck's arrest.

2,245 is a lotta days!   Here's a short list of some things that have taken fewer than 2,245 days:
  • WWII in the Pacific - December 7, 1941 (Attack on Pearl Harbor) to August 15, 1945 (VJ Day): 1,347 days
  • Civil War - April 12, 1861 (Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumpter) to April 9, 1865 (Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox): 1,458 days
  • Richard Nixon - His entire time as president: 2,027 days
  • WWII in Europe - September 1, 1939 (Germany invades Poland) to May 7, 1945 (Germany Surrenders): 2,075 days
All those things took less time from start to finish than it will have taken the Chuck McCullough trial to start.

If indeed it starts on Monday.

We'll see.

April 7, 2015

Rolling Stone, UVA and What Went Wrong

This week, Rolling Stone magazine published a report detailing the many many ways they erred in reporting on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.

They explain:
Last November, we published a story, 'A Rape on Campus' [RS 1223], that centered around a University of Virginia student's horrifying account of her alleged gang rape at a campus fraternity house. Within days, commentators started to question the veracity of our narrative. Then, when The Washington Post uncovered details suggesting that the assault could not have taken place the way we described it, the truth of the story became a subject of national controversy.

As we asked ourselves how we could have gotten the story wrong, we decided the only responsible and credible thing to do was to ask someone from outside the magazine to investigate any lapses in reporting, editing and fact-checking behind the story. We reached out to Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter himself, who accepted our offer. We agreed that we would cooperate fully, that he and his team could take as much time as they needed and write whatever they wanted. They would receive no payment, and we promised to publish their report in full.
The CSJ report doesn't add much to what was already discovered in the days and weeks after Rolling Stone first published "A Rape on Campus" in November, 2014.  We blogged on it here.

The reactions to the report have been harsh, to say the least.  From Howard Kurtz at Fox News (via The Daily Caller):
Fox News’ Howard Kurtz called the false Rolling Stone story on rape at the University of Virginia “one of the worst journalistic catastrophes of the last half-century.”

Kurtz, who made the comments on “The Kelly File” to host Megyn Kelly Monday night, said it’s “unimaginable” that the story made it to print.
While I would say it certainly was a journalistic catastrophe, I would not go so far as to say it was one of the worst such catastrophes in the last half century.  For that I'd have to point to the clusterfuck that was the mainstream media's failure to fact check the Bush Administration in the run up to the Iraq war.  But then again that's just me and we should remember that Kurtz was talking to Megyn Kelly on Fox "News."

To PoliticsUSA:
Coll’s findings are blistering condemnation of multiple mistakes and errors in judgement on the part of everyone from the writer to multiple editors, a fact-check and possibly a lawyer. Moreover, he makes it abundantly clear that none of this was “Jackie’s” fault.

This was despite Rolling Stone’s attempt to excuse its journalistic shortcomings because they were “too accommodating” of the alleged victim, “Jackie.” Even in their retraction, Rolling Stone tried to shift responsibility to Jackie. Rolling Stone didn’t get it when they ran the story and they don’t get it now. Instead of advancing the very real issue that rape does happen on campus, Rolling Stone reinforced the fears that every rape victim has. First, that she won’t be believed and second that she will be blamed.
As much as I am in agreement with Adalia Woodbury (who wrote that piece at PoliticsUSA) I think she may be veering off topic somewhat.

Before I get to that, I have to say that Rolling Stone is completely wrong when they defend themselves with this:
Yet Rolling Stone's senior editors are unanimous in the belief that the story's failure does not require them to change their editorial systems. "It's not like I think we need to overhaul our process, and I don't think we need to necessarily institute a lot of new ways of doing things," Dana said. "We just have to do what we've always done and just make sure we don't make this mistake again." Coco McPherson, the fact-checking chief, said, "I one hundred percent do not think that the policies that we have in place failed. I think decisions were made around those because of the subject matter."
Their story: the editorial policies didn't fail, they just weren't followed because it was a rape story.

But isn't the necessity to follow a policy kinda sorta part of that policy?  Or at the very least, wouldn't not following a particular editorial policy somehow break another editorial policy?

And for a blunder this damaging, to admit to the blunders with no one being punished for making them is just plain wrong.  In the end it'll only invalidate whatever credibility Rolling Stone has left.

But it's not like it's impossible to get fired from Rolling Stone.  From Slate:
Too bad, though, that Rolling Stone didn’t seem to have that same loyalty toward other staff members who had been forced out of the magazine for offenses that seem downright minor—if offenses at all—in comparison with the UVA rape story debacle. In 1996, Wenner fired senior music editor Jim DeRogatis after he wrote a negative review of Hootie and the Blowfish, which was replaced by a positive review. When the New York Observer asked DeRogatis whether Wenner was a fan of the band he answered: “No, I think he’s just a fan of bands which sell eight and a half million copies."
(Full disclosure: While I never bought a "Hootie" CD or saw them in concert, I kinda like the band.)

But let's return to something that Woodbury said above, namely that:
Rolling Stone’s attempt to excuse its journalistic shortcomings because they were “too accommodating” of the alleged victim, “Jackie.”
It's something Jessica Valenti discusses more broadly at The Guardian:
But these mistakes were not made because writers and editors were protecting a young woman they believed to be traumatized. Coll found that, despite the editors’ insistence that mistakes made were out of a heightened sensitivity to rape victims, “Erdely’s reporting records and interviews with participants make clear that the magazine did not pursue important reporting paths even when Jackie had made no request that they refrain.”

“The editors made judgments about attribution, fact-checking and verification that greatly increased their risks of error but had little or nothing to do with protecting Jackie’s position,” he wrote.
Though she misses this part of the report:
Yet the editors and Erdely have concluded that their main fault was to be too accommodating of Jackie because she described herself as the survivor of a terrible sexual assault. Social scientists, psychologists and trauma specialists who support rape survivors have impressed upon journalists the need to respect the autonomy of victims, to avoid re-traumatizing them and to understand that rape survivors are as reliable in their testimony as other crime victims. These insights clearly influenced Erdely, Woods and Dana. "Ultimately, we were too deferential to our rape victim; we honored too many of her requests in our reporting," Woods said. "We should have been much tougher, and in not doing that, we maybe did her a disservice."[Emphasis added.]
First thing I have to say here is - maybe?  They maybe did Jackie a disservice? 

But I think it points to what seems to me to be a major indictment of the report - that in balancing need to respect the autonomy of the victims with getting all the facts, there's a danger in scaling back the necessary skepticism of those victims' allegations.  Whether Rolling Stone was out to protect Jackie personally, it seems obvious to me that they simply weren't skeptical enough of her story out of fear of losing her cooperation.  They shaded too much away from a more robust fact-check for that reason.  For example there's this:
Jackie proved to be a challenging source. At times, she did not respond to Erdely's calls, texts and emails. At two points, the reporter feared Jackie might withdraw her cooperation. Also, Jackie refused to provide Erdely the name of the lifeguard who had organized the attack on her. She said she was still afraid of him. That led to tense exchanges between Erdely and Jackie, but the confrontation ended when Rolling Stone's editors decided to go ahead without knowing the lifeguard's name or verifying his existence. After that concession, Jackie cooperated fully until publication.
Why else would they not pursue the lifeguard unless they were respecting Jackie's fear of him?

No, in the most general sense it was precisely because of that avoidance to re-traumatize someone making a rape allegation that led to the mistakes of Erdley and Rolling Stone.

As I wrote last November:
The bad reporting by Erdley and Rolling Stone did no one any favors, not Jackie, not UVA, and certainly not the next woman to be sexually assaulted on some college campus somewhere.
While I have no idea when that'll happen, I do know two things:  It'll be soon and it'll be that much harder for her to be taken seriously because Rolling Stone botched Jackie's story by not doing a better job of reporting on it and the subject of campus rape.

April 4, 2015

The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Is Misleading You. Again. This Time It's About The Iranian Framework Agreement.

This time it's about the agreement between Iran, the European Union and the P5+1 powers regarding the future of Iran's nuclear program.

Here's how the braintrust described it:
Barry Blechman says the “framework agreement” announced Thursday by the United States, Iran and five other nations not only will stop Iran from building nuclear weapons for at least a decade, if not forever, “safeguards and inspections” built into the deal will give the U.S. ample warning to act militarily, if need be.

We're not sure on what planet Mr. Blechman resides but it most assuredly is not this one.

The agreement to a “framework” that is to serve as an outline for an actual “deal” to be reached this summer is so full of naive assumptions and gross capitulations that the more accurate assessment is “We got played.” That's how former Reagan administration Defense Department official KT McFarland characterizes the agreement. “We've just given away the bank,” she adds.

And the touted inspection regimen? Swiss cheese.

Iran, of course, sees this framework as “historic.” And with good reason. Uranium enrichment will continue unimpeded, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed only hours after President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry came close to a peace-in-our-time, Neville Chamberlain moment. And the supposed phasing out of sanctions will be immediate, Mr. Zarif added.
You'll note a couple of things.  While they do offer up some positive analysis of the framework agreement, they only do so in order to shoot it down.

And then, far more important for this discussion, there's no mention of any details of the agreement itself.

Did you catch that?

So when they say that Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif claims that uranium enrichment will continue unimpeded, they never seem to say how "enrichment" is described in the framework.  You're just supposed to assume it'll be "unimpeded."

Here's what the braintrust decided you didn't need to know about what the framework says about enrichment:
  • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first - generation centrifuge.
  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
  • Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.
  • All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.
  • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.
  • Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.
So yes, enrichment would proceed "unimpeded" but only for LEU grade material.  And the amount of LEU kept on hand (300kg) wouldn't be enough to make a bomb.  And with the centrifuges the framework would leave the Iranians with, it would take about a year for them to enrich enough to make one.  More than enough time for the inspectors to find out about it.

And what about this "swiss cheese" inspections?

Here's what the braintrust chose not to tell you about the framework's inspection regimen:
  • The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to- date, modern monitoring technologies.
  • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
  • Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake , for 25 years.
  • Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.
  • All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA. 
  • A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.
  • Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.
  • Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
  • Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construct ion of new facilities.
  • Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program. 
And if Iran refuses any of the inspectors?
  • U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear - related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.
Granted this is all still a framework.  The final deal's details have yet to be, well, finalized.

But isn't it funny how the Tribune-Review's editorial board decides for its readers what those readers should and should not know about some very important world events?

April 1, 2015

true

(h/t to Gyma @ A Spork in the Drawer)

RFRA: 19 States AND The Federal Gov't The Same As Indiana's?

I heard Robert Mangino on KDKA a few days ago make the case that the Indiana's recently signed RFRA law is about freedom! and what's the big deal, since 19 states AND the Federal Government have all signed similar legislation.

Perhaps he should have done his homework before getting on KDKA's 50,000 brawny watts of radio influence.

For a number of reasons the Federal RFRA has some distinct limitations that Indiana's anti-gay legislation does not have.  For example from the ACLU of Indiana:
Isn't Indiana's new RFRA just like the federal law from 1993?
Unfortunately, the Indiana law is written more broadly than the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. For instance, a critical difference is that SB 101 would allow for-profit businesses, employees and individuals—basically anyone—to assert a legal claim or defense of free exercise of religion in a legal proceeding, regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding. This is virtually without precedent.
Then there's this from Matt Anderson, a trial lawyer in South Bend Indiana:
Let’s start with Section 5, which reads: “As used in this chapter, ‘exercise of religion’ includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.”

First, note the lack of any restrictive language in this paragraph. The word “includes” is deliberately used in place of “means.” The latter would at least limit “any exercise of religion” to the predicate definition. “Includes” just means that this is but one example of exercising religion. (Here the law goes beyond its most similar counterparts in Texas and New Mexico which use “means”.) While this language indeed mirrors the federal legislation, proponents of the IRFRA have submitted that Indiana’s constitution protects religious freedom to greater extent than federal law. Second, religion is not defined. So, “any exercise of religion” is subject to a fairly broad interpretation. Third, any action which may fall under the “exercise of religion” may or not be “compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” In other words, even if the belief is at the fringe of what a religion may or may not hold true, it falls under this definition of exercising one’s religion. [Emphasis in original.]
He then adds this part from section 7:
(B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.
And this from section 9:
A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding. If the relevant governmental entity is not a party to the proceeding, the governmental entity has an unconditional right to intervene in order to respond to the person’s invocation of this chapter.
And he summarizes it this way:
In other words, you can defend yourself in a criminal or civil action on the very broad basis of “any exercise of religion.” Where this may apply the most would be a Court’s ability or inability to apply a human rights ordinance against someone with a religious objection. (That we can even have an exercise in religion running directly against a human rights ordinance is cause alone for concern.) Such ordinances typically prohibit the discrimination employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
In fact, whether it's similar to Pennsylvania's RFRA there's this from The Atlantic:
There’s a factual dispute about the new Indiana law. It is called a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” like the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993.* Thus a number of its defenders have claimed it is really the same law. Here, for example, is the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack: “Is there any difference between Indiana's law and the federal law? Nothing significant.” I am not sure what McCormack was thinking; but even my old employer, The Washington Post, seems to believe that if a law has a similar title as another law, they must be identical. “Indiana is actually soon to be just one of 20 states with a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA,” the Post’s Hunter Schwarz wrote, linking to this map created by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The problem with this statement is that, well, it’s false. That becomes clear when you read and compare those tedious state statutes. If you do that, you will find that the Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA—and most state RFRAs—do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs.
Mangino, you should have done your homework better.

As far as RFRA is concerned, I'll have to agree completely with Indiana native David Letterman on this:
It may be legal but it ain't right.