What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 28, 2016

Question For The Pittsburgh Symphony: CARMEN For VALENTINE'S DAY??

OK so yestiddy, as I was thumbing through the most recent Pittsburgh City Paper (and while you're there, take a look at this assessment of the Democratic candidates vying for a shot at Pat Toomey - it's HIGHLY informative) I saw an ad for some upcoming concerts by your very own Pittsburgh Symphony.

This concert, in particular, caught my eye.  Here's the copy:
About This Performance

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Pittsburgh Symphony brings a program full of romantic melodies and beautiful love themes. Slovakian conductor Juraj Valčuha returns to the podium with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Shakespeare-inspired musical tale of star crossed lovers with the Romeo and Juliet Overture, Dvořák’s most beloved cello concerto, Wagner’s stunning “Prelude und Liebestod” from his opera Tristan und Isolde and excerpts from Bizet’s impassioned and fiery Carmen suites.
I am sure the band will be great, the conductor will be great etc etc and so forth, but do they even know what happens at the end of Carmen?

Do you?

Here's a halfway decent synopsis:
Set in Seville around the year 1830, the opera deals with the love and jealousy of Don José, who is lured away from his duty as a soldier and his beloved Micaëla by the gypsy factory-girl Carmen, whom he allows to escape from custody. He is later induced to join the smugglers with whom Carmen is associated, but is driven wild by jealousy. This comes to a head when Carmen makes clear her preference for the bull-fighter Escamillo. The last act, outside the bull-ring in Seville, brings Escamillo to the arena, accompanied by Carmen, there stabbed to death by Don José, who has been awaiting her arrival.
This blogpost is not a condemnation of the work itself, don't mistake me, as Carmen is a great work of art and in passing let me say that I never much agreed with those few feminist musicological analyses I remember reading a few decades ago that would condemn it/criticize it for its violent content (see Catherine Clement - Opera; or, the undoing of women and Susan McClary - Feminine Endings).  In any event, it seems to me that Carmen is a tragic warning on how love (or perhaps better yet, lust) can lead to utter devastation - on the one hand, Carmen's murder and on the other Don José's descent from regular guy to, well, blood-stained murderer.  All because, as Carmen herself sings, "Love has never known a law."

And That's not even touching on the tragedies that end Romeo and Juliet (SPOILER: They both die!) and Tristan und Isolde (SPOILER: They ALSO both die!!).

Great music? Yes, yes undoubtedly yes.  Great and necessary, unquestionably.  But music to celebrate Valentine's Day??

You have got to be kidding me.

And with that, I'd like to announce that I'm taking a break from the blog for about a week.  I just need to recharge the batteries a bit.

See you all real soon.

January 27, 2016

I'll be on John McIntire's Show on KDKA Radio Tonight

I'll be on John McIntire's Show on KDKA Radio Tonight in the 8 p.m. hour. We'll be talking about some of Bernie Sanders' more, er, exuberant supporters.

Via Sanders' Rapid Response Director:
Tune into Newsradio 1020 KDKA or listen online @: http://player.radio.com/listen/station/newsradio-1020-kdka/

Happy Birthday, Mozart!

Today in 1756, Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart was born.

I know the Iowa caucuses are just around the corner and the GOP is imploding into a bigoted racist caricature of a caricature of itself and the planet is warming up and Kardasians still get to be on TV for some reason and there isn't going to be any new Doctor Who until 2017 and human beings the world over are doing absolutely atrocious things to each other - right at this moment.

But just listen to this:


And this:


And this:


Whenever faced with the obvious truth that human beings are awful because human beings Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and simply awful, I recall Mozart was also a human being.

Happy Birthday, Mozart.

January 26, 2016

Choice News

I am surprised that people are surprised by this:
A Houston grand jury investigating undercover footage of Planned Parenthood found no wrongdoing Monday by the abortion provider and instead indicted anti-abortion activists involved in making the videos that provoked outrage among Republican leaders nationwide.
I wonder if the otherwise law and order republicans running for prez-dent will comment.

Then there's this:
The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected an appeal from North Dakota to revive its proposed restriction on abortions, which would be the strictest in the nation.

By declining to take up the case, the justices left lower court rulings standing that found the restriction unconstitutional and blocked the law's enforcement. Passed in 2013, it was intended to make abortions illegal after a fetal heartbeat could be detected — about six weeks into the pregnancy.
But still:
The Supreme Court will decide the fate of another abortion restriction during this current court term. It's a challenge to a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to conform to the same building standards as surgical centers. It also requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Since the law was passed, the number of abortion clinics in Texas has fallen from 42 to 19, and could drop to ten if the law is upheld.
Rhetorical questions: When is it ever morally acceptable to force a woman to give birth? 

January 23, 2016

Yea.

As I am no longer a member of the Democratic Party, I won't be taking sides in the primary.

However, this is a beautiful ad:


How different from all the crap coming out of the GOP.

And I'll wait for the day when they board that old Greyhound to Pittsburgh.

January 22, 2016

And Now...More On Donald Trump (The National Review HATES Candidate Trump)

Take a guess where this came from:
Not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign. Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexican rapists and has gone on to rant about mass deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, shutting down mosques, and building a wall around America. America is an exceptional nation in large part because we’ve aspired to rise above such prejudices and guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone.

Equally troubling is his idea of the presidency—his promise that he’s the guy, the man on a white horse, who can ride into Washington, fire the stupid people, hire the best people, and fix everything. He doesn’t talk about policy or working with Congress. He’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat.
Gotta be some lefty, right?

WRONG - it was David Boaz, executive vice president of the Libertarian Cato Institute and it's from one of TWENTY-TWO anti-Trump short pieces published at the National Review Online.

Yes, the NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE.  Running a set of pieces criticizing the candidate who has double the republican support of his party's second place candidate (as of this writing on Jan 22, this Huffington Post poll tracker has Trump at 37.2% against Cruz at 17.9%).

What are they thinking?

They really don't like Trump over there at William F. Buckley's magazine:
Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.
And:
Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.
Did Sarah Palin get a pat on the head? Just asking.

And look what happened as a result:
The Republican National Committee has disinvited National Review from a presidential debate partnership following the release of an edition devoted to taking down Donald Trump, the conservative magazine reported late Thursday.
 Uh-oh.

I know what you're asking.  I do.  It's this: Since when does Dayvoe read the National Review Online?

The answer is: Every now and then - it's good to get out of the echo chamber and hear what the other side (or some part of it, at least) is saying - even if you disagree with it.  So sue me.

January 21, 2016

Meanwhile Outside...(Despite Pittsburgh's Snow, It's STILL Getting Hotter)

I'm sure you've seen this (or something like it) by now:
Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in the historical record by far, breaking a mark set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.
And then a paragraph later:
Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is releasing an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.
Here's the NOAA report, if you want to see for yourself.  From the Summary:
The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2015 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880. During the final month, the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was the highest on record for any month in the 136-year record.
But wait (I can hear the climate deniers interject) what about that 18 year pause that Senator Cruz talks about?  Take a look:
It will take a few more years to know for certain, but the back-to-back records of 2014 and 2015 may have put the world back onto a trajectory of rapid global warming, after a period of relatively slow warming dating to the last powerful El Niño, in 1998.

Politicians attempting to claim that greenhouse gases are not a problem seized on that slow period to argue that “global warming stopped in 1998,” with these claims and similar statements reappearing recently on the Republican presidential campaign trail.

Statistical analysis suggested all along that the claims were false, and that the slowdown was, at most, a minor blip in an inexorable trend, perhaps caused by a temporary increase in the absorption of heat by the Pacific Ocean.

“Is there any evidence for a pause in the long-term global warming rate?” said Gavin A. Schmidt, head of NASA’s climate-science unit, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in Manhattan. “The answer is no. That was true before last year, but it’s much more obvious now.”
The AP has the story (as is to be expected, of course) but take a look at where that AP story's landed - the Tribune-Review:
Last year wasn't just the Earth's hottest year on record — it left a century of high temperature marks in the dust.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and NASA announced Wednesday that 2015 was by far the hottest year in 136 years of record-keeping. For the most part, scientists at the agencies and elsewhere blamed man-made global warming, with a boost from El Niño.
The interesting part's down bottom.  The last paragraph of the AP story printed in the right wing Tribune-Review:
Non-scientists who reject mainstream climate science often criticize NOAA for adjustments to past temperature records to reconcile the measurement devices with modern techniques, but even without any adjustments, NOAA data shows 2015 as the hottest year on record, [Tom Karl, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information] said.
I wonder if the editorial board, in all it's right wingy deep scientific insights, even reads the news section of it's own paper.

We'll see.

January 20, 2016

Snow v. Wade


Given the likelihood of heavy snow and coastal flooding, Capital Weather Gang reader Brian French proclaimed: “I hereby name this system Snow v. Wade.”
The snow event coincides with the "Right to Life" March on Washington.

(h/t to my sister Betty who works in D.C.)

January 19, 2016

Religious Freedom WINS In Monroeville (UPDATED)

I've been away for a few days - I'm back now.

To follow up on the obviously unconstitutional practice of opening city council meetings with a collective recitation from the Gospel According To Matthew.

A few days ago, the P-G reported:
Monroeville council meetings no longer will begin with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, a practice the municipality had engaged in for nearly 50 years.

On Monday, council unanimously voted in favor of starting its meetings with a moment of silence and voted down an invocation ordinance that would have called on various community religious leaders to lead council in prayer prior to meetings.

Council’s discussion and vote on the matter stemmed from a complaint that resident Josh Allenberg filed last fall with the American Civil Liberties Union, asking elected officials to refrain from reciting a specific prayer.
That specific prayer started with these words:
Our Father, who art in heaven...
Surely a text that officially establishes the Monroeville City Council's position on a number of religious topics (on the existence of a Supreme Being, on an afterlife, on the relationship between humanity and that Supreme Being and so on) for the Monroeville as a whole.  In doing so, in making the recitation of the prayer an official act that opened each meeting the City Council, it seems to me, violated the 1st Amendment.  Clearly, it did.

Good for them for stopping such an unconstitutional practice.  When things like this happen, we all win.

Of course there were opponents of the change.  From the P-G:
“I don’t know how council can make decisions without prayer,” the Rev. Bruce Shafer, pastor of Grace Life Church in Monroeville, said at Monday’s meeting prior to the vote. “I don’t know how you can do your job without prayer.”
This one is easy: You use your brain and think for yourself.

The P-G reported this in the next paragraph:
He proceeded to recite the Lord’s Prayer during his public comment.
An act that, incidentally, the 1st Amendment protects.  As a citizen, he's free to say what he believes, just as any Monroeville resident who's a muslim is free to open his (or her) comments with "Allāhu Akbar" or any skeptic is free to follow those comments with "No, God is NOT great."

See how that works?  Everyone is free to express their own beliefs - what's not allowed is the government (at any level) to say, "See that one?  That belief?  That one's the right one."

Of course our friends on the Tribune-Review braintrust miss the point entirely:
Lance: To Monroeville. Threatened with an ACLU lawsuit over the mayor's practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer before council meetings, it then considered having various local religious leaders open meetings with an invocation. But it reversed course this week and opted instead, at the suggestion of the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium, for a moment of silence. Some will call this a “compromise.” Thinking people will call it a “capitulation” and an affront to all faiths.[Bolding in Original.]
And then there are those of us who will call this a much needed bit of constitutional protection - for everybody. 

January 14, 2016

Jessica Wolfe Challenging Jake Wheatley in PA State House District 19 -- Campaign Kickoff Party Today


Social worker Jessica Wolfe is holding a kickoff party at her campaign headquarters in Allentown this evening. She announced yesterday that she is challenging State Rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr. who is running for an eighth term in District 19 (Hill District, North Side, South Side, Allentown, Hazelwood, Downtown,  Knoxville, Beltzhoover, Manchester, Arlington, Arlington Heights and, North, South and West Oakland).

Wolfe is not the only challenger Wheatley faces. Via Eat That, Read This:
Another of Wheatley's challengers, as the PG's Chris Potter reports, is his former staffer Aerion Abney, currently a program officer at the POISE Foundation. And a third is Mark Brentley, Sr., the former school board member who was once the sole member to vote against providing sex education to middle school students and is known for his "lengthy verbal tirades" and "anger."
Wolfe's resume includes spending the year after high school in the then newly-launched program AmeriCorps working in the warehouse of a community food bank side-by-side with volunteers which motivated her to take up social work in college. Wolfe first came to Pittsburgh to work for the 2008 Obama campaign. In addition to being a home care social worker with Allegheny Health Network, she serves on the board of the Allentown Community Development Corporation and is a two-term member of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. Her husband, Kenneth Wolfe, previously served as a legislative aid for Wheatley.

According to the P-G, "All three challengers say Mr. Wheatley has focused on the Hill, long the district’s political center of gravity, at the expense of other areas."

Also not in Wheatley's favor is his truly awful record of missed votes in the House. He currently holds the record for the most missed votes--340 in the last five years--far above any other representative.

Wolfe's office opening is happening today from 6 PM - 9 PM at 827 East Warrington Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa 15210. You can also go to www.jessicazwolfe.com to volunteer or donate.

I've known Ken and Jessica for a number of years now, so yes, I'm biased. But my bias is because knowing the kind of person Jessica is, I know she'd be a real asset to the House and a tireless and caring worker for her constituents.

January 14 - Happy Birthday, Former PSO Conductor Mariss Jansons!

Here he is conducting one of the masterworks of the orchestral repertoire, the Symphonie Fantastic by Hector Berlioz:


The plot of the piece is given to the audience before hand:
A young musician of extraordinary sensibility and abundant imagination, in the depths of despair because of hopeless love, has poisoned himself with opium. The drug is too feeble to kill him but plunges him into a heavy sleep accompanied by weird visions. His sensations, emotions, and memories, as they pass through his affected mind, are transformed into musical images and ideas. The beloved one herself becomes to him a melody, a recurrent theme which haunts him continually.

I. Reveries. Passions

First he remembers that weariness of the soul, that indefinable longing, that sombre melancholia and those objectless joys which he experienced before meeting his beloved. Then the volcanic love with which she at once inspired him, his delirious suffering, his return to tenderness, his religious consolations.

II. A Ball

At a ball, in the midst of a noisy, brilliant fête, he finds his beloved again.

III. In the Country

On a summer evening in the country, he hears two herders calling each other with their shepherd melodies. The pastoral duet in such surroundings, the gentle rustle of the trees softly swayed by the wind, some reason for hope which had come to his knowledge recently – all unite fill his heart with a rare tranquility and lend brighter colours to his fancies. But his beloved appears anew, spasms contract his heart, and he is filled with dark premonition. What if she proved faithless? Only one of the shepherds resumes his rustic tune. The sun sets. Far away there is rumbling thunder – solitude – silence.

IV. March to the Scaffold

He dreams he has killed his loved one, that he is condemned to death and led to his execution. A march, now gloomy and ferocious, now solemn and brilliant accompanies the procession. Noisy outbursts are followed without pause by the heavy sound of measured footsteps. Finally, like the last thought of love, the idée fixe appears for a moment, to be cut off by the fall of the axe.

V. Dream of a Witches Sabbath

He sees himself at a Witches Sabbath surrounded by a fearful crowd of spectres, sorcerers, and monsters of every kind, united for his burial. Unearthly sounds, groans, shrieks of laughter, distant cries, to which other seem to respond! The melody of his beloved is heard, but it has lost its character of nobility and reserve. Instead, it is now an ignoble dance tune. Trivial and grotesque. It is she who comes to the Sabbath! A shout of joy greets her arrival. She joins the diabolical orgy. The funeral knell, burlesque of the Dies Irae. Dance of the Witches. The dance and the Dies Irae combined.
I add the programme here, I suppose, as a sort of TRIGGER WARNING.  It's all there - drug abuse, suicide, violence against women, the occult.  Given all those red flags, were it not for the compositional skill of Berlioz (who, let's he honest, was something of a stalker himself) or perhaps its long held placement in "the canon" of great musical works, one would have to wonder how it ever gets studied (without trigger warnings) in music history classes on college campuses today.

Yes, one would have to wonder that, wouldn't one?

January 13, 2016

The Tribune-Review Editorial Board VS Reality. Guess Who Wins?

From today's Trib, there were a number of criticisms of last night's State of the Union Address. Among them:
A fealty to the theology that is “climate change” has become one of myriad refuges for a president seeking a political legacy at the expense of reality — social, economic and scientific.
 And here's what the president said last night:
Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it. [Links added.]
A question for my friends on the braintrust: Given all that (and let's be honest, I could have linked to any number of other sources for information on each) why are you insisting on ignoring/denying the reality of the science?

Especially given what Obama said next:
Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.
What were you saying, again?  About a "fealty to a theology" that's held as true at the expense of reality?

Another embarrassment for the Tribune-Review - for the Braintrust for writing this and for the entire staff to collect a paycheck because of it. 

January 12, 2016

UVA Follow-Up

The Washington Post has been following up on the now-retracted Rolling Stone article that described a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.

Here's what they published recently:
Ryan Duffin was a freshman at the University of Virginia when he met a student named Jackie.

Both teenagers were new to campus in September 2012, and the pair quickly became friends through a shared appreciation of alternative rock bands such as Coheed and Cambria and Silversun Pickups. Early on, Duffin sensed that Jackie was interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him. Duffin valued her friendship but politely rebuffed Jackie’s advances for more.

Just days after he met her, Duffin said, he was goaded into a text message conversation with a U-Va. junior named “Haven Monahan,” whom Jackie said she knew from a chemistry class.What followed was what lawyers for Nicole Eramo, an associate dean at U-Va., described in new court documents as an elaborate scheme to win Duffin over by creating a fake suitor, Monahan, to spark romantic interest — a practice known as “catfishing” — that morphed into a sensational claim of gang rape at a U-Va. fraternity that Jackie said was instigated by the fictitious upperclassman, and finally a Rolling Stone story that rocked the U-Va. campus and shocked the nation.

A Charlottesville Police investigation later determined that no one named Haven Monahan had ever attended U-Va., and extensive efforts to find the person were not successful. Photographs that were texted to Duffin that were purported to be of Monahan were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie’s high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a student at a university in another state, confirmed to The Post that the photographs were of him.

Police ultimately determined that no gang rape occurred, and Rolling Stone retracted its story.
What I wrote, when the story first broke of Rolling Stone's errant reporting:
The thing about the Rolling Stone story is that it's not just about Jackie's assault. The rape as described in the piece is used as indicative of the rape-culture at UVA and UVA is used as an proxy for the country's colleges and universities. Lots of bad bad stuff going on out there.

But at the heart of the story is Jackie's gang rape. Had it been another woman's gang rape, the overall story would have been the same. But it isn't. Jackie's gang rape is the center of the story.

The problem is that the reporting of Jackie's story isn't what it should be. Its errors erode the confidence the audience should have about the rest of the piece and by extension the greater issue being discussed - campus rape. And that's the big problem.
And:
The only way to get around this is to be as factual as possible - ideologically driven pieces (of any issue) that, as Bradley warned, "play into existing biases" will get us, as a culture, absolutely nowhere. 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.
Is still true.  As uncomfortable as it has to be to think about, any accusation of a crime has to be thoroughly investigated and fact-checked.  Had Rolling Stone fact-checked Jackie (and, for example, found what the police found - that no gang rape had occurred), their story would have been vastly different.  They should have written about someone other than Jackie and I am sure they wouldn't have had to look to far to find a woman raped on a college campus.  By not doing their due diligence (out of respect to Jackie or, perhaps, out of an instinct to "believe the accuser") they damaged the very important cause of reducing campus rape.  And that's the real sin here - not Jackie's "cat-fishing" or whatever kids these days call it.  By pushing a story that was unsupported by facts they made it far more difficult for the next raped woman to be taken seriously.

Remember, we live in a society where the accusation of a crime is not evidence of that crime.

January 11, 2016

David Bowie Died Today

I have to admit I was never much of a fan as he hit it big when I was still in my youthfully mistaken Partridge Family phase.

But he was huge none the less.

How big?  He was covered by The Cure:


And by Stone Temple Pilots (with some good friends):


And, of course, Shatner:


That's big.

Death is always very sad and in the end it finds us all, even David Bowie.

January 8, 2016

Good Lord, Are They STILL Pushing Matthew 6:9-13 In Monroeville?

From today's P-G:
A discussion on prayer dominated the Jan. 4 Monroeville Council citizen’s night meeting.

About a dozen residents spoke out on the subject during the public comment portion that evening.

The discussion stems from a complaint filed by resident Josh Allenberg last fall with the American Civil Liberties Union asking elected officials to refrain from reciting a specific prayer. Monroeville council has, for nearly five decades, opened its meetings with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
We took a look at this a few weeks ago and I'm still amazed that there's still a discussion about this in Monroeville.

For that point, I agree with this point:
Resident Marilyn Devlin said she was in favor of the municipality beginning the meetings with a moment of silence.

“This is a government building and this is a government meeting,” she said. “I question why, in a government building, we are talking about prayer,” and added that a moment of silence would not exclude anyone. [Emphasis added.]
And I more or less disagree with this point:
Pastor Bruce Shafer of Grace Life Church in Monroeville, said the goal of prayer at meetings should be “to pray for our community and the leaders of our community.” He added that residents should be free to pray openly at meetings.
Yes, but we're not talking about residents are we?  If a resident wants to chant the daimoku as an intro do a question about zoning rights or tax rates, then that resident is perfectly free to do so, thanks to our First Amendment.

But we're talking about the council as an official act starting a meeting with:
Our Father, who art in heaven...
Wait, whose father?  Certainly can't be the case for all residents of Monroeville, can it?

Then there's this a few lines of scripture later:
Thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven...
Wait, shouldn't the council be looking to enact the will of the people?  And how do they know what God will's anyway?

If you want to pray do it in private as Jesus commanded:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)
A city council meeting really ain't the place for it.

Thank you and Nam Myo-ho Renge Kyo.

January 6, 2016

The President, Yesterday

The video:


You can read the text of President Obama's speech here.

This part is getting a lot of attention:


And when he said this:
...and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day. (Applause.)

So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.
He was crying.

So of course, this is what our friends in teh crazie crowd did - they mocked him, a father, for crying while talking about the slaughter of first graders at the hands of a nut with a gun.

If that's what you do, if that's who you mock and why, then you're just an awful person.

We need a Congress brave enough to stand up to the NRA.

January 4, 2016

More On Chuck McCullough (With A Few Updates)

A New Year, a new set of filings from our good friend Chuck:
Former Allegheny County councilman Chuck McCullough, sentenced to 2-1/​2 to five years in prison, said in motions filed Monday that his punishment is “manifestly excessive” and “vindictive.”

In a 30-page post-sentence motion, defense attorney Adam Cogan raised several issues, including that the evidence against his client was insufficient; that McCullough had no conscious intention to steal from his victim, as required to prove theft; that he was denied due process; and that there was an abuse of the justice system in how his request to remove the judge on the case was handled.

In addition, Mr. Cogan asks that his client be permitted to remain free on bond pending the outcome of his appeal. Right now, McCullough is slated to appear in court Jan. 22 and presumably will be taken into custody that day. Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman, who sentenced McCullough on Dec. 17, permitted him to remain free until then.
Ok, so that's from the P-G late last year but it's still being played out this year.

From The Trib:
McCullough's post-trial motions seek to vacate the sentence and obtain a new trial based on his attorneys' earlier allegations against trial judge Lester Nauhaus, including that he had improper communications with McCullough's former lawyer to urge him to waive a jury trial. Cogan said the court mishandled an evidentiary hearing over those allegations, in part by not making Nauhaus testify.

Nauhaus refused to recuse himself from the sentencing, but, saying he was ill, he had the Dec. 17 sentencing hearing transferred to Judge David Cashman. Since Nauhaus was still in the courthouse — even in Cashman's chambers — that morning, he was free to influence the sentence, and its transfer to Cashman couldn't wipe away the questions McCullough had been trying to raise about Nauhaus' recusal, Cogan wrote.

The court will have until Jan. 22 to consider the post-conviction motions and any response prosecutors file. McCullough remains free on bond until then; if none of his motions or appeals are granted, he will have to report to prison.
But here's the interesting part of this story, also from The Trib:
Sentenced to prison for stealing money from an elderly client's estate, Chuck McCullough still holds his law license.

The Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board will decide how and when the state Supreme Court should punish the former Allegheny County councilman, whose penalties could range from censure to disbarment.

And it could be a rough road to return to practicing law if McCullough, of Upper St. Clair, loses his license and wants it reinstated upon completion of his 2 1⁄2- to 5-year prison term, experts said.
I realize that attorneys are, by nature, obsessed with precedent and procedure and so I expect that there has to be a meeting of a disciplinary board somewhere with oaths to be taken and paper work to be filled out and objections to be made but this seems to be a done deal.  If an attorney is convicted of stealing from a client, shouldn't it be, I dunno, automatic that that attorney looses his or her law license as punishment?

If only to maintain the integrity of the system.

But what do I know?  I only know it took longer to get Chuck into a courtroom than it took Nixon to go from election-winner in '68 to resignation-loser in '74.

Happy Monday

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oops, I forgot today was the day. KDKA is reporting that there was a preliminary hearing this morning on some more charges Chuck faces.  On top of everything else, Chuck will now stand trial for perjury.

AND YET ANOTHER ONE:  The P-G has a summary of all Chuck's new charges and how they came about.

January 2, 2016

To Pittgirl, With The Greatest Respect, I Offer A Correction

A week or so ago, my friend Ginny (aka "Virginia Montanez", aka "Pittgirl") published this piece in Pittsburgh Magazine, titled "10 Ways Pittsburgh Ruled 2015."

As the title describes, Ginny proffers 10 bullet points as to why Pittsburgh was a great place to be in 2015 - points like:
  • Our food is better than yours (about how Zagat named Pittsburgh "Top Food City of 2015"
  • Hold the door (about how Mayor Peduto pledged to take in 500 Syrian refugees)
And so on.  I can't argue much of anything Ginny wrote - except her last bullet.  This one:
  • That’ll be $10, sir. That’ll be $7.60, ma’am (about the pop-up shop opened in Garfield to illustrate the gender pay gap)
Yea, sorry to say I guess we have to revisit this but I don't want to edit what Ginny writes.  Here it is in full:
The fact that women in Pittsburgh earn 76 cents for every dollar men work for the same job is insanely frustrating. Go to the same school, pay the same tuition, earn the same degree, work your way up to the same job title, take home 24% less pay. ‘scuse me while I flip this table. One local graphic designer, Elana Schlenker, put Pittsburgh on the pay-gap map this year by opening a pop-up store in Garfield called 76 < 100 in which she charged female customers 24% less than male customers in an effort to draw attention to the pay gap issue. It worked. Soon national news outlets picked up on the story and she was hearing from women all over the world interested in learning more about how they could start similar ventures in their hometowns. As a result of the coverage, Schlenker opened 66 < 100 in New Orleans and now has other American cities in the pipeline. I’m looking forward to the day she can open 100 = 100 in Pittsburgh.
There's only one thing wrong with that paragraph - it's its opening premise.  Actually, had Ginny simply omitted the phrase "for the same job" there'd be nothing there with which to disagree.  Had she simply written:
The fact that women in Pittsburgh earn 76 cents for every dollar men earn is insanely frustrating.
I wouldn't be writing this blog post.  It's the "for the same job" part that unravels her entire idea.

Let me explain (again).

As the American Association of University Women reported recently the median income for women in Pennsylvania is $39,905 and the median income for men in Pennsylvania is $50,412.  Pop up the calculator App on your phone, divide the former by the latter, and you'll get about 79%.

So the pay gap exists.

But does it exist for the same work?

No.

The AAUW explains:
Critics charge that pay differences between men and women are simply a matter of personal choices. AAUW addressed this argument in our 2012 report, Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation. Our analysis found that just one year after college graduation, women were paid 82 percent of what their similarly educated and experienced male counterparts were paid.  An earlier report, Behind the Pay Gap (AAUW, 2007), found that 10 years after graduation, the pay gap widened, and women were paid only 69 percent of what men were paid.  In part, these pay gaps do reflect men’s and women’s choices, especially the choice of college major and the type of job pursued after graduation. For example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to be paid less than other college graduates.  Economists often consider this portion of the pay gap to be explained, regardless of whether teachers’ wages are considered fair. [Italics in Original.]
But take a closer look at the text. They're talking less about "equal pay for equal work" than they are discussing whether it's fair that professions usually populated by more women than men are less valued than professions usually populated more men than women.  But that's a separate discussion, isn't it?

As I wrote some time ago, the AAUW used these headings as a way to clarify the issue in the above mentioned report Behind the Pay Gap:
  • Women and men choose different majors. 
  • Choice of major plays a significant role in future wages. 
  • Women and men work in different occupations. 
  • 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.
So it's not about the same work.  Once they're all take into account, the pay gap closes considerably.  Of course any gap is immoral and unacceptable.  But the only way to solve a problem is to face it as clearly as possible and, simply put, the sentence "women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work" does little to clarify a very complicated issue.

Let's take another look at Ginny's first sentence:
The fact that women in Pittsburgh earn 76 cents for every dollar men work for the same job is insanely frustrating. [Emphasis added.]
It's also not true.  Sorry, Ginny.

January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Bonne année!

Felice anno nuovo!

Frohes neues Jahr!

Srećna Nova godina!

新年快樂!

明けましておめでとうございます!

Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!

Srečno novo leto!

מזל ניו יאר!