What Fresh Hell Is This?

March 31, 2016

Birthday (The Last) - March 31

It's March 31 - the last day of March.

The last day of Women's History Month.

You didn't think that all those birthdays were random, did you?  Go back and look - they were all, in one way or another, of some very accomplished women.  But the list itself is only one of an infinite set.  Going through March another time (perhaps next year) I am sure I'd generate another, far different list.  A blogger in the next town over would just as assuredly generate yet another one and so on.

My point is that it's certainly not THE list of important women, just A list.

We each have the responsibility to generate our own - which is why I only went with a spare amount of biographical detail which is why I was hoping to trigger in my readers (in the event they needed it) a "curiosity response."

Who's Moms Mabley?  Why is she important? Learning her story will show you a few pages, perhaps, of American history (and American comedy) not usually read aloud.  From Moms you get to the TOBA circuit, to Pigmeat Markham, to Laugh-in, Richard Pryor and then to everyone else.

Who's Janet Flanner?  Go look her up.  Read some of the stuff she wrote in Paris in the 20s.  From there, you get to Hemingway and Fitzgerald and then to everyone else.

Each historical investigation is like that, individual threads that lead to everywhere else.

But we'll leave with a slightly different thread.

Today's the Birthday of JS Bach - certainly the greatest contrapuntist in history.  He was born March 31, 1685.

Here's some Bach for yinz, sung by the incomparable Kathleen Battle (and there's some guy named Wynton on piccolo there, too):


Happy Women's History Month!

March 30, 2016

But Michael Hayden IS A War Criminal

And yet,

From the Post-Gazette:
Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, said he was not surprised when four young protesters interrupted his remarks Tuesday afternoon at Duquesne University. He has had to make some difficult and controversial decisions in the war on terror.
This is what happened:
The four protesters stood up about 45 minutes into the 90-minute forum displaying small signs and chanting, ”Michael Hayden is a war criminal!”

“Assassination is a war crime! Torture is a war crime!” one of the men shouted before being led from the room by university police. “You are a war criminal and you should be in jail. Arrest Michael Hayden! He murdered people!”

“Welcome home,” Gen. Hayden said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Assistant Chief Michael Sippey of the Duquesne University police said two of the protesters, who were taken off campus in handcuffs before being released, were students at the University of Pittsburgh. He said his department will contact the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office before deciding whether to charge them with causing a disturbance.
Interesting that there's a question about whether the protestors will be charged.  Granted this is private property (Duquesne University) and they might have rules about "free speech" on their property.  But take a step back - there may be an issue with four protestors but Duquesne had no problem inviting a war criminal to their lovely and peaceful campus.

So what did Hayden do?

Do you remember a set of video tapes that showed torture that were destroyed?  Take a look at how Michael Hayden covered up their destruction.  This is from Senator Diane Feinstein's speech before the Senate:
It was the first time the interrogation program was explained to the full Committee as details had previously been limited to the chairman and vice chairman.

Then, on December 7, 2007, the New York Times reported that CIA personnel in 2005 had destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of two CIA detainees: the CIA's first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, as well as 'Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

The committee had not been informed of the destruction of the tapes. Days later, on December 11, 2007, the committee held a hearing on the destruction of the videotapes.

Director Hayden, the primary witness, testified that the CIA had concluded that the destruction of videotapes was acceptable, in part, because Congress had not yet requested to see them. (Source: SSCI transcript, Dec. 11, 2007 hearing)

Director Hayden stated that, if the committee had asked for the videotapes, they would have been provided. But, of course, the committee had not known that the videotapes existed. And we now know from CIA emails and records that the videotapes were destroyed shortly after senior CIA attorneys raised concerns that Congress might find out about the tapes.
And then there was the outright lying:
The second set of findings and conclusions is that the CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the program and its effectiveness to the White House, the Department of Justice, Congress, the CIA inspector general, the media, and the American public.

This conclusion is somewhat personal for me. I recall clearly when Director Hayden briefed the Intelligence Committee for the first time on the so-called EITs at that September 2006 committee meeting.

He referred specifically to a 'tummy slap,' among other techniques, and presented the entire set of techniques as minimally harmful and applied in a highly clinical and professional manner. They were not.

The committee's report demonstrates that these techniques were physically very harmful and that the constraints that existed, on paper, in Washington did not match the way techniques were used at CIA sites around the world.

Of particular note was the treatment of Abu Zubaydah over a span of 17 days in August 2002.

This involved non-stop interrogation and abuse, 24/7 from August 4 to August 21, and included multiple forms of deprivation and physical assault. The description of this period, first written up by our staff in early 2009, while Senator Rockefeller was chairman, is what prompted this full review.

But the inaccurate and incomplete descriptions go far beyond that. The CIA provided inaccurate memoranda and explanations to the Department of Justice while its [Office of] Legal Counsel was considering the legality of the coercive techniques.

In those communications to the Department of Justice, the CIA claimed the following: the coercive techniques would not be used with excessive repetition; detainees would always have an opportunity to provide information prior to the use of the techniques; the techniques were to be used in progression, starting with the least aggressive and proceeding only if needed; medical personnel would make sure that interrogations wouldn't cause serious harm, and they could intervene at any time to stop interrogations; interrogators were carefully vetted and highly trained; and each technique was to be used in a specific way, without deviation, and only with specific approval for the interrogator and detainee involved. "None of these assurances, which the Department of Justice relied on to form its legal opinions, were consistently or even routinely carried out.
Michael Hayden's CIA tortured and then they lied about the torture to the Justice Department and to the Congress.  All those things are against the law.  And yet he was invited to speak at Duquesne University.

Looks like the police led the wrong people away in handcuffs.

Birthday - March 30

Something a little more contemporary today - Norah Jones was born today in 1979.

Have a listen:


Oh yea, and Van Gogh was born today as well - but way earlier than Norah Jones, in 1853.

He painted this:


Happy Birthday!

March 29, 2016

More Worries For Pat Toomey (Who's Still Not Doing His Job)

From Tom Fontaine at the Tribune-Review (remember this is the news division, not the embarrassingly wingnut editorial board):
The most recent Franklin & Marshall poll shows that 30 percent of Pennsylvania's registered voters have a favorable opinion of Toomey, 35 percent have an unfavorable one and 34 percent are undecided or don't know. The share of people with unfavorable opinions of Toomey is up from 23 percent a year ago and 13 percent five years ago, shortly after he joined the Senate, the poll shows.
And:
Political experts point to a number of factors for Toomey's rising unfavorability.

“It's mostly the result of criticism he's received on a number of issues over a fairly long period of time. These things build up over time,” [pollster G. Terry Madonna, director of Franklin & Marshall College's Center for Politics and Public Affairs] said.

Toomey's stance on the Supreme Court issue has generated criticism and placed him out of step with 62 percent of Pennsylvania's registered voters, the poll said. About 35 percent agree with Toomey that the Senate should wait to hold hearings on President Obama's nominee, Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C.
You can take a look at the poll data yourself here.

By the way, in that same poll 408 registered Democrats were asked:
If the 2016 Democratic primary election for U.S. SENATOR were being held today and the candidates included (rotated) John Fetterman, Katie McGinty, Joe Sestak, and Joe Vodvarka would you vote for John Fetterman, Katie McGi nty, Joe Sestak, Joe Vodvarka, some other candidate, or aren't you sure how you would vote?
And here's what they found:
  • Sestak - 31%
  • McGinty - 14%
  • Fetterman - 7%
  • Vodvarka - 0%
I am guessing that pleases some of the folks who read this blog and displeases some others.

This bad news for Toomey has made the rounds of some of the state's other news sources:

Rick Dandes of the Daily Item:
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s support has plummeted statewide on the heels of his saying the next president should nominate the Supreme Court Justice, not Barack Obama.

More than 30 percent of Pennsylvania registered voters have a “somewhat” or “strongly” unfavorable opinion of Toomey, a Republican, according to the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll. The same poll shows 29 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the senator, while 12 percent of those questioned are undecided.
"Plummet" might be too strong of a word (same with the verb "wilts" which was used in the headline of the piece) but the point to be made is the same: Toomey's obstruction of the constitutional process to appoint a new Supreme Court justice is beginning to erode his support among Pennsylvania voters.

Bad news for Pat Toomey.

Pat, do your job.


Birthday - March 29

Wanna know who celebrates a birthday today?

Astrud Gilberto (in 1940).

Who's Astrud Gilberto?

This is Astrud Gilberto, singing.  That's Stan Getz on tenor:


And Patty Donahue was born today, as well (in 1956, though she passed away in 1996).

Who's Patty Donahue?

She's singing this song (and while there IS a tenor in this piece, I can assure it's NOT Stan Getz)


Happy Birthday!

March 28, 2016

DoD Directive On Climate Change

I wonder how (or indeed if) my friends on the Tribune-Review editorial board will explain this one.

From the Federation of American Scientists:
The Department of Defense is organizing itself to address the effects of climate change on the U.S. military, some of which are already being felt.

“The DoD must be able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military,” according to a Pentagon directive that was issued last week. See Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, DoD Directive 4715.21, January 14, 2016.
Go take a look at that link.

In this section on "Purpose" we read:
In accordance with the direction in Executive Order 13653, this issuance establishes policy and assigns responsibilities to provide the DoD with the resources necessary to assess and manage risks associated with the impacts of climate change.
You can find that executive order here.

Back to the DoD Directive.  After that intro, there's a lot (a lot!) of stuff about who's in charge of what, who sets up what and so on.  For instance there'll be an "Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness" who will:
[Identify and consider] the risks climate change poses to logistics infrastructure, materiel acquisition and supply (including critical suppliers and critical components), key transportation modes and routes, and storage and stockpile activities.
But if it's a hoax, then isn't this all a waste of time and money?  But if that's true (it's a waste of time/money), then isn't the Pentagon in on The Greatest Hoax?

Apparently they've been hoaxing for some time.

July 2015, DoD report to Congress:
The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat , not strictly a long -term risk. We are already observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, and in the Arctic, Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America.
2104 - Quadrennial Defense Review:
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. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing , more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, an d governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.
And that's from The Pentagon.

So either the conspiracy is so big it's sucked in the largest military on the planet.

Or it's true.

Any thoughts from the Tribune-Review editorial board?  I know you guys read this page.

Birthday - March 28

Born today in 1922, Abstract Expressionist painter Grace Hartigan.

This, I am told, is one of her most famous works, it's called Grand Street Brides:


From The Art Story:
Mannequins from a bridal shop window in her Lower East Side neighborhood, where arranged brides were often brought from Europe, are on display much like the women posing in Francisco de Goya's Charles IV of Spain and his Family (1800). At this time in Europe, aristocratic women were seen as commodities to exchange among powerful families in order to forge financial or political unions between them. Though the geography and time period were different, the brides depicted by Hartigan are also shown as if for sale. Hartigan also appreciated how shop windows frame the scene and "provide a shallow space, and define the back plane." Complexity is achieved through the layering of shapes and rendered objects.
Keep looking at the painting.  Abstract and still commentary on a number of different levels.

And here's her portrait of Marilyn Monroe:


Not a traditional portrait, more an arrangement of elements of her face (a smile, an eye and so on).  It's abstract.  You have to keep looking to see what's there.

Oh, yea.  Raphael and someone named Lady Gaga were also born today.

March 27, 2016

It's Easter

For my christian friends.

While Messiah (especially the Hallelujah chorus) is usually performed at Christmas time, it's actually an EASTER piece.

So.  Here it is:


Signed,
Mr Agnostic

March 26, 2016

More Worries For Senator Pat Toomey

From PoliticsPA:
As a result of Trump’s front-runner status, the prognosticators are moving the Senate races in Pennsylvania and Ohio from “Lean Republican” to “Toss-Up”.
In this case, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Report (sub. req. - I'm getting what little I know about it from the PoliticsPA piece)

And, if I am reading it correctly, Donald Trump's at least partially to blame.  Take a look:
The other major problem is no one knows what ultimate effect a Trump nomination will have on the rest of the ticket since this would be an unprecedented situation.
“Is it possible for Toomey and Portman to outperform the Republican presidential nominee and go on to win?,” Duffy writes. “Yes, but it is very difficult. The closer the presidential race is in these states, the more likely that can happen. Conversely, the wider the margin of victory at the top of the ticket, the less likely a Portman or a Toomey can survive.”
 Given some recent poll data:
Following President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court, a new CNN/ORC poll finds two-thirds of Americans want the Senate to hold confirmation hearings on his candidacy, and a majority of Americans say the Senate should ultimately vote to confirm him. [Emphasis added.]
And:
Turning to process, most Republicans disagree with the position taken by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who says the Senate will not hold hearings on Garland's confirmation. Among Republicans, 55% say the Senate should hold hearings on Obama's choice, as do 67% of Democrats and 68% of independents. The 64% overall who say there should be hearings is about the same as the 66% who said so in February before Obama named his choice to fill the vacancy. [Emphasis added.]
So not only is Pat Toomey out of step with a majority of Americans on the question of Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination, he's out of step with a majority of Republicans on the question Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination as well.

If those national numbers are indicative of the opinions of voters in PA, Toomey could be in trouble (I mean more trouble than being moved from the "lean R" to the "toss up" column in the Cook Report).

Maybe after he looses, Pat Toomey can get his old job back at the Club For Growth.

Birthday - March 26

Who would've guessed today would be a day like this?

A week and a half ago the notorious RBG had a birthday and today it's Sandra Day O'Connor:


And she said this:
The First Amendment expresses our Nation’s fundamental commitment to religious liberty by means of two provisions–one protecting the free exercise of religion, the other barring establishment of religion. They were written by the descendents of people who had come to this land precisely so that they could practice their religion freely. Together with the other First Amendment guarantees–of free speech, a free press, and the rights to assemble and petition–the Religion Clauses were designed to safeguard the freedom of conscience and belief that those immigrants had sought. They embody an idea that was once considered radical: Free people are entitled to free and diverse thoughts, which government ought neither to constrain nor to direct.
In her concurring opinion declaring unconstitutional a public display of the Ten Commandments.

And as a blistering reassessment of the validity of astrology, today is also the birthday of writer Erica Jong:


And from her novel Fear of Flying (look it up, my young padawans, you'll understand the '70s better):
The zipless fuck is absolutely pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no power game . The man is not "taking" and the woman is not "giving." No one is attempting to cuckold a husband or humiliate a wife. No one is trying to prove anything or get anything out of anyone. The zipless fuck is the purest thing there is. And it is rarer than the unicorn.
Free Speech. Yay!

March 25, 2016

No, Senator Toomey. That's NOT Doing Your Job

In a statement dated March 24, vulnerable and embattled Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey released this statement regarding his on-going opposition to the Constitutional process of nominating a new Supreme Court Justice:
President Obama's team has asked if I would meet with Judge Merrick Garland, and I have agreed to do so out of courtesy and respect for both the president and the judge. The vacancy left by Justice Scalia's passing will not be filled until after the American people weigh in and select a new president, and I believe that is the best approach for deciding whether to alter the balance of the Supreme Court. I plan on making that clear to Judge Garland when I meet with him.
Um, Senator?  That's not exactly doing your job.  That's showing up to work to let them know you're taking the day off.

Contrast this with someone who actually did (in this case) his job while in the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden:
Every time — as the ranking member or chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I was responsible for eight justices and nine total nominees to the Supreme Court. More than — I hate to say this — anyone alive. Oh, I can’t be that old. Some I supported; a few I voted against. And in all that time, every nominee was greeted by committee members. Every nominee got a committee hearing. Every nominee got out of the committee even if they didn’t have sufficient votes to pass within the committee. Because I believe the Senate says the Senate must advise and consent. And every nominee, including Justice Kennedy in an election year, got an up and down vote.

Not much of the time. Not most of the time. Every single, solitary time.

There’s only one rule I ever followed on the Judiciary Committee — that was the Constitution’s clear rule of Advice and Consent.

Article II of the Constitution clearly states, whenever there is a vacancy in one of the courts created by the Constitution itself — the Supreme Court of the United States — the President “shall” — not “may” — the President “shall” appoint someone to fill the vacancy, with the “Advice and Consent” of the United States Senate.

And Advice and Consent includes consulting and voting. Nobody is suggesting individual senators have to vote “yes” on any particular presidential nominee. Voting “no” is always an option, and it is their option. But saying nothing, seeing nothing, reading nothing, hearing nothing, and deciding in advance simply to turn your back — before the President even names a nominee — is not an option the Constitution leaves open.
And before anyone can say "Biden rule! BIDEN RULE!!" here's the Vice-President himself on that so-called rule:
Now, back in 1992, in the aftermath of a bruising and polarizing confirmation process involving Clarence Thomas — who had been nominated by President Bush, with no consultation, just four days after the great Thurgood Marshall had retired — I took to the Senate floor to speak about the Supreme Court nominating process. Senate Majority Leader — and my friend — Mitch McConnell, and other Republicans today have been quoting selectively from the remarks that I made in an attempt to justify refusing to give Chief Judge Garland a fair hearing and a vote on the floor of the Senate. They completely ignore the fact that, at the time, I was speaking of the dangers of nominating an extreme candidate without proper Senate consultation. They completely neglected to quote my unequivocal bottom line. So let me set the record straight, as they say.

I made it absolutely clear that I would go forward with the confirmation process, as chairman — even a few months before a presidential election — if the nominee were chosen with the Advice, and not merely the Consent, of the Senate — just as the Constitution requires.
Senator Toomey: chatting with the guy to tell him you're not supporting the constitutional process of a hearing and a vote is not doing your job.

Doing your job (until someone else takes that oath for your seat in Congress) is doing your job.

But I'll reiterate what I and others have said:  Given how vulnerable you are in this coming election, by your own logic, shouldn't you be sitting everything out and waiting for the people of Pennsylvania to decide on what our junior senator should do?

 Shouldn't you wait until after the election before doing anything?

Or, Senator Toomey, you can do your job.

Birthday - March 25

Ok, so NOW we're back to some birthdays!

Born today in 1934, Gloria Steinem.


Founder of MS Magazine magazine, Women's Media Center and so on.  (But you knew that.)

Did you know she was born 8 years to the day before Aretha Franklin?


Yea. Aretha Franklin.

March 24, 2016

Birthday - March 24

Not actually a BIRTHDAY, more of an ANNIVERSARY as today is the day in 1721 that JS Bach dated his dedication to the magnificent Brandenburg Concertos.

There are 6 of them. The most important (to me at least) is the second.  That's the one with THE TRUMPET.  (Note: My friend Joe will be playing the Second Brandenburg with the Edgewood Symphony on May 7.)

Anyway, in the first movement of the Fifth Brandenburg you can experience the masterstrokes of The Baroque: the harpischord cadenza.  Have a listen:


That's Jeannette Sorrell of Apollo's fire.  Amazing.

March 23, 2016

Inside the Mind of Wendy Bell (UPDATE)



Pittsburgh's WTAE News anchor Wendy Bell majorly stepped in it when she decided to profile the yet unknown killers of the March 9 mass shooting in Wilkinsburg by stringing together a bunch of stereotypical racist insults on her Facebook page. She then contrasted them with a virtually tap-dancing Mr. Bojangles, Jr. version of a young man who happened to be busing tables at a restaurant where Miz Wendy was eating with her family. 

The post was so disgusting, that she received a great deal of push-back. Then came the inevitable blocking of people and removal of comments, and, eventually, some editing of the original post*. It's led to a "Demand WTAE Hold Wendy Bell Accountable" Facebook campaign and a Post-Gazette article. But the best analysis comes from Damon Young at verysmartbrothas.com. Here's a taste, but please, read the whole article:
There are so many layers and layers and layers to Bell’s abject obliviousness to how racist this is; all made clear by the fact that she thought it was fine to print it. She’s practically a White privilege lasagna caught in the throat of a White privilege turducken. 
[snip] 
Seriously, read this scribbled-on-some-toilet-paper-at-a-Hallmark-factory-bathroom bullshit again. And think about the state of mind that allows someone to juxtapose that awful tragedy with a night at the Cheesecake Factory. As if there’s any connection between the two besides the race of the server and the race of the victims. And, I don’t know, the fact that they’re both made out of space dust.

* To read her original version of the post, click on the arrow in the upper right corner and hit "View edit history."

UPDATE: In an AP story at ABC News (WTAE is an ABC affiliate), Wendy Bell gave a pro forma apology. The entire Facebook post has been removed.

Donald Trump Is Advocating A War Crime

It's that simple.

Here he is on CNN:
Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that Belgian authorities could have thwarted Tuesday's terrorist attack in Brussels by torturing Salah Abdeslam, the suspected terrorist who was captured days earlier.

Trump argued in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Abdeslam, a suspect in last year's terrorist attacks in Paris who fled to Belgium, knew of the plot that ISIS-linked terrorists carried out Tuesday and would have talked "a lot faster with the torture."

"If he would've talked you might not have had the blow up -- all these people dead and all these people wounded because he probably knew about it," Trump said. "We have to be smart. I mean it's hard to believe. We can't waterboard -- listen, nothing's nice about it, but it's your minimal form of torture."
At least he used the right word.  None of that "enhanced interrogation" euphemism favored by the previous administration (and their enablers in the media and elsewhere).

But here's the thing.  What Trump is advocating is simply against international law.  We've written about this before but let's take a look at the Convention Against Torture again:

Part 1, Article 1, Section 1:
For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
Part 1, Article 2, Section 2:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
Part 1, Article 4, Section 1:
Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
Part 1, Article 15:
Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.
So even if they did torture Salah Abdeslam and gained the information necessary to stop the most recent bombings (which, considering the general ineffectiveness of torture, is unlikely) they wouldn't have been able to use that information as evidence in any criminal proceedings.

And not only does Trump think that the US should break this law, but considering that Salah Abdeslam was arrested by Belgian authorities in Belgian territory and is currently in their custody, he thinks they should be breaking their own laws as well. (Belgium signed the treaty in February, 1985 and ratified it in June, 1999).

This is Donald Trump.  This is the front runner for the GOP nomination for the Office of President of The United States, land of the free, home of the brave.

And this is what another Republican had to say about the ratification of the treaty that Trump wants to shred:
Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately prevalent in the world today.
That was Ronald Reagan.  He's the lib'rul moonbat that signed the treaty in the first place.

Birthday - March 23

Interesting set of birthdays today.

First, there's Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan:


Next, here's another birthday celebrant, Amanda Plummer in one of my favorite movie scenes of all time:

Happy Birthday!

March 22, 2016

Disgusting, Just Disgusting

I normally don't blog on what's going on on other people's blogs because, well, I just don't.  It's too easy for the conversation to devolve into a series of incomplete understandings about complete misunderstandings.

It can turn into a house of mirrors with all the distorting mirrors pointed at each other.

But this is something different entirely.  Here's the gist; She tweeted something anti-Trump and some local numbnuts tweeted back.  With this:

All because, presumably, her last name (her married name, by the way) is Montanez.

What an idiot.  What a huge asshole.  Get it?  His twitter name is Huge Jassle.  Say it quickly and it becomes "Huge asshole".  Such wit!  Get this man a Mark Twain comedy award.  Heck with that, get him a MacArthur fellowship!

Now I'm not here to defend Ginny.  She's more than capable of defending herself (I mean, holy crap! haven't you read her blog post yet?  Good God, what in hell are you waiting for?)

No, this is what happens when a large segment of the population is "educated" via right wing media.  His use of the term "moonbat" here:
makes me wonder how much (and not whether) of a fan this huge asshole was of local wingnut Jim Quinn.

In any event, simply by virtue of her last name, he tagged Ginny as a non-citizen with children born here just to take unfair advantage of the 14th Amendment.  All in a in a tweet defending the man who said this about Mexicans:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
You know what they say about people that assume.

So Hugh likes Donald and dislikes what Ginny wrote.

Welcome to Trump's GOP - or at the very least, welcome to Trumpist Conservatism. 

It's ugly.  It's as ugly as that huge asshole tweeting from Pittsburgh.







March 21, 2016

And Now A Word From Josh Marshall (On Trump And Tyrants)

I have been pondering this same thing:
If you look around over the last week there are a number of highly sophisticated Republican voices arguing that Donald Trump is the sort of demagogue and potential strongman our political system was designed to prevent from gaining power in our country. They are portentous and ominous words and true in many respects. But they would be far more credible if so many Republicans - not necessarily the same writers, but countless formal and informal spokespersons including numerous high-ranking elected officials - hadn't spent the last seven years ranting that the temperamentally cautious and cerebral Barack Obama was a 'dictator' who was trampling the constitution.
Yea, like this piece by Diana West in the Tribune-Review (it's only from August, 2014). She begins:
How will future generations look back on our gravest national emergency of all time? And how will they regard what their forebears didn't do about it?
And then asks a series of "what they will ask about us in the future" sort of questions. Like this one:
“Seriously,” they will say to a granny whose granny told her. “You're telling us that in 2014, the people still had the vote? Still had the Internet? That they still could elect a Congress with the powers of the purse, which could, at the very least, have provided funds to states for the National Guard to stop the invasion of 2014-2024? And they did ... nothing?”

“That's right,” she will croak. “They did nothing.”

“Why? Tell us again why they didn't love liberty enough to defend the former Constitution and impeach the tyrant?”
By the way Diana West has a different opinion about Donald Trump:
Brent Bozell has called on conservatives to rally around Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for the Republican presidential nomination. Ted Cruz is a good man and a fine candidate — my own second choice — but I believe GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is the candidate for American patriots to rally around.
Yea, you can just smell the freedom.

And then there was this from 2011.  It's about a tea-party rally (of course it is):
A second speaker, Kitty Werthmann, who grew up in Austria under the Nazis, warned about the growth of tyranny under the Obama administration. She equated the modern environmental movement to Communism, declaring that "green is the new red."

The master of ceremonies for the event, Southwest Pa. Tea Party organizer Darin Donnelly, said after Werthmann's presentation that "if we don't listen to people like Kitty we are doomed."
And then a few paragraphs later:
Donnelly characterized Obama as "a dictator in the White House."
I wonder how these folks will explain away Trump's promise to reinstate torture when he was quoted as saying:
I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding.
I mean, they do understand that it's against the law, right?  And for a president to "authorize" torture he'd have to be doing it in a dic-ta-tor-ial fashion, right?

The only way for Trump to "authorize" torture is to be a dictator.

What say yee, teapartiers?  Ms West?

Birthday - March 21

Today is Modest Mussorgsky's birthday.

This is Mariss Jansons conducting Mussorgsky's most well-known piece:


Less well known is the fact that Pictures At An Exhibition was originally a piano piece:


Happy Birthday!

March 20, 2016

Seth Meyers on Donald Trump

From this video (at about 6:52):


We can hear Meyers say:
In fact, in a speech days before the New Hampshire primary, Trump even that "A lot of people have laughed at me over the years... Now, they're not laughing so much."

That's his goal - to not be laughed at. Which is why we can't stop.

It is possible to take him seriously and also remember he’s a clown. Yes, he’s a dangerous clown. He’s a clown with a knife, but at the end of the day, he’s still a fucking clown.[Note: the penultimate word was bleeped. I included it for emphasis.]
Here's Seth with some more Trump larffs.  This video is from 2011:


Some examples:
  • Donald Trump has saying that he'll run for president as a republican which is surprising since I just assumed he was running as a joke. (1:49)
  • Donald Trump often appears on Fox which is ironic because a fox often appears on Donald Trump's head. (2:04)
  • Gary Busey said that Donald Trump would make a great president.  Of course he said the same thing about an old rusty birdcage he found. (3:02)
  • Donald Trump said recently he has a great relationship with "The Blacks" though unless "The Blacks" are a family of white people, I bet he's mistaken. (3:28) 
Donald Trump is a clown.  Yes, he's a clown with a knife but at the end of the day, he's still a fucking clown.

Oh, and there was more violence at a Trump rally yesterday:
USA! USA! USA!

Belated Birthday - March 19

Yes, I KNOW it's the 20th.

But I missed a very important birthday yesterday.

Jackie "Moms" Mabley was born on March 19 in 1894.

Here she is:


And this is some of her comedy:


Her importance in the history of American Comedy simply can't be overstated.  A few years ago Whoopi Goldberg offered up an assessment of her importance:


I have no excuses other than my own ignorance. I should have posted this yesterday.

Happy (Belated) Birthday!

March 19, 2016

Birthday - March 19

It's amazing what one will find when one picks as one's research criteria "March Birthdays."

Today, it's Elizabeth Maconchy, born today in 1907.

She was the first woman to chair the Composer's Guild of Great Britain.  CBE in 1977 and DBE in 1987.

Listen.  Just listen:


And now this:


Happy Birthday!

Meanwhile Outside...(Climate Science And Who Agrees With It)

This past week, NOAA released the latest in it's ongoing "State of the Climate" reports.

It's not pretty:
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for February 2016 was the highest for February in the 137-year period of record, at 1.21°C (2.18°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.9°F). This not only was the highest for February in the 1880–2016 record—surpassing the previous record set in 2015 by 0.33°C / 0.59°F—but it surpassed the all-time monthly record set just two months ago in December 2015 by 0.09°C (0.16°F). Overall, the six highest monthly temperature departures in the record have all occurred in the past six months. February 2016 also marks the 10th consecutive month a monthly global temperature record has been broken.
So we all know (or at least we should know) it's happening, it's bad and it's undeniable.

But it's election season, right?  So let's go see what our elected officials and their opponents have said about climate change.

Let's start with the Senate race.  Where does Senator Pat Toomey stand?

We wrote about this sometime ago.  According to his Senate votes, Pat does not believe that climate change is a hoax, does believe that each of the last 3 decades have gotten successively warmer and that increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities.

He just doesn't believe that human beings have made a significant contribution to climate change.

And in 2010 he said this:
My view is, I think the data is pretty clear. I think there has been an increase in the surface temperature of the planet over the course of the last hundred years or so. I think it’s clear that that has happened. The extent to which that has been caused by human activity, I think, is not as clear. I think that is still very much disputed, and it’s been debated.
And that's enough to place him, if only ever so gently, onto that steamy, warm and sweaty pile of climate science deniers.  True, he's not using snowballs on the Senate floor as "evidence" against the science, but he's not agreeing with the science either.

So how about his opponents?

John Fetterman:
Climate change is real, and we need to work on a comprehensive approach. We eliminated sulfur dioxide in the air, and got rid of acid rain. We got rid of lead in gasoline. You can achieve these things when the private and public sectors work together.
Katie McGinty:
Climate change presents a serious global threat to our health, economic well-being and national security. In the Senate, I will lead the way to a healthier and safer environment by working to pass commonsense climate protections with investments in energy efficiency and clean energy.
Joe Sestak:
Admiral Joe Sestak believes there is no greater long-term strategic livable challenge to the quality of future generations’ livelihoods than climate change.
Yea...so the Democrats are on the right side of the science and Pat Toomey is a climate science denier. Got it.

Next, onto the Presidential Race.

First, the Republicans.

Donald Trump:
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
Granted, he said he was joking with this tweet, but he did it with this quotation at the Business Insider:
"I think that climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change," Trump said. "I've received many environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China — obviously I joke — but this done for the benefit of China."
So he's not joking?  In any event, the Business Insider has a whole mess of other Trump Climate errors.  Go see for yinzelves.

Ted Cruz:
Many of the alarmists on global warming, they’ve got a problem because the science doesn’t back them up. In particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming.
Neither is, in fact, true.

Then there's John Kasich:
“I am a believer — my goodness I am a Republican — I happen to believe there is a problem with climate change. I don’t want to overreact to it, I can’t measure it all, but I respect the creation that the Lord has given us and I want to make sure we protect it,” Kasich said at a Columbus, Ohio, energy conference hosted by The Hill.

“But we can’t overreact to it and make things up, but it is something we have to recognize is a problem,” Kasich said.
He's better than Toomey, at least.  But does anyone think that Kasich has any chance at winning the GOP nomination?

And the Democrats?

Hillary Clinton:
Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.
Bernie Sanders:
Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet.
Ok, so all of these Democrats are on board with the science and all but one (maybe) of the Republicans aren't.

Meanwhile, it's still getting warmer outside (regardless of what the GOP believes).

March 18, 2016

Happy Birthday Pittsburgh!



The Other Political Junkie has been doing a lot of birthday posts this month, and while he did remember the most important March birthday, he's neglected to mention another pretty important one:
The Pittsburgh Bicentennial is a yearlong celebration of the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Pittsburgh, giving citizens opportunity for self-governance. Pittsburgh was incorporated as a city on March 18, 1816. Mayor William Peduto formed the Pittsburgh Bicentennial Commission to recognize and celebrate the anniversary with unique and collaborative partnerships. Over 200 organizations, companies, nonprofits and individuals are participating in the yearlong celebration. For more information visit www.pgh200.com, follow @PGHbicentennial on Twitter for follow the hashtag #PGH200

Happy Birthday Pittsburgh!


The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Misleads Its Readers. Again.

This time it's about President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland:
Count us among the many who are enjoying the bitter feast of crow being force-fed to Senate Democrats this week.

After all, those dastardly Republicans who are denying newly minted Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a confirmation hearing merely are following the 1992 admonition of then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Joe Biden on the dangers of pushing for high court nominees in a presidential election year.
And there's the mislead.

This story (of the so-called "Biden Rule") has been stinking up the place for about a month and the interesting thing (and something the Trib braintrust decided you didn't need to hear from them) is that Vice President Biden's issued a statement almost immediately after C-Span posted the video excerpt upon which the nation's heated sweaty conservatives pounced - again, this is about a month ago.

Here's part of what that the Vice President said in response:
Nearly a quarter century ago, in June 1992, I gave a lengthy speech on the Senate floor about a hypothetical vacancy on the Supreme Court. Some critics say that one excerpt of my speech is evidence that I oppose filling a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year. This is not an accurate description of my views on the subject. In the same statement critics are pointing to today, I urged the Senate and White House to work together to overcome partisan differences to ensure the Court functions as the Founding Fathers intended. That remains my position today.
So what did he say in the part of the speech the braintrust doesn't seem to think you need to know?

Take a look:


And in that clip he says this:
I believe that so long as the public continues to split its confidence between the branches, compromise is the responsible course both for the White House and for the Senate. Therefore I stand by my position, Mr. President, if the President consults and cooperates with the Senate or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices Kennedy and Souter. [Emphasis added.]
Ah...something the braintrust decided you didn't need to hear when it selectively quoted the then-Senator from Delaware.

A Special Birthday!

Today is Maria's birthday!


A special HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the Other Political Junkie!

Birthday - March 18

This one's a little less than obvious.

Harriet Smithson was born today in 1800.  Composer Hector Berlioz saw her portray Juliet and Ophelia and he was smitten.  He was in deep smit, as they say.

She looked like this:


And she inspired this:


Happy Birthday!

March 17, 2016

Birthday - March 17

Sorry for yesterday's glitch. I had to delete the posting. I'll try to recreate it and repost.

Anyway, today in Paris in 1665 √Člisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre was born.

She was a very important composer.

Have a listen:


Happy Birthday!

For Senator Toomey, It's NOT About The Candidate - It's ALL ABOUT OBAMA

Yesterday, as you all know, President Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty with a nomination:
In the wild and whirling age of Donald Trump, President Barack Obama went for stable, sober and conventional.

Obama's pick of Judge Merrick Garland for the vacant Supreme Court seat Wednesday was an intriguing multi-layered move in his last great showdown with Republicans that comes at a time of volatile political upheaval.

His selection demonstrates cold-eyed calculation and represents a clear case of Obama calling the Republicans' bluff after its leaders made clear they would refuse to consider his nominee whomever it turned out to be.
And so on, but you guys know all this, right?

So let's see how it's playing out in Pennsylvania Senatorial politics.

First the statement from Senator Pat Toomey:
With the U.S. Supreme Court's balance at stake, and with the presidential election fewer than eight months away, it is wise to give the American people a more direct voice in the selection and confirmation of the next justice. Should Merrick Garland be nominated again by the next president, I would be happy to carefully consider his nomination, as I have done with dozens of judges submitted by President Obama.
That first phrase tells you all you need to know.  It's about protecting the conservative majority on the Court.  Sorry, Senator.  That's not your responsibility.  Presidential elections have consequences and one of them is that the winner (and by my count it's Obama-2, Republicans-0) of the Presidential election gets to shape the court as he or she sees fit.

Now if you'd said, "With a Senatorial election fewer than eight months away, it is wise to give the people of Pennsylvania a more direct voice in the confirmation process and so I'll not participate in the proceedings at all." At least I could respect your logical consistency.

But Barack Obama was elected (twice!) and as such his constitutional duties last all the way until the next president is sworn in.  He's doing his job.

Why won't you?

Toomey's opponents have responded as well.  First Katie McGinty:
It didn’t take long for Pat Toomey to announce he would oppose President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Just as fast, Katie McGinty is taking to the airwaves with a new TV ad hitting the Senator for obstruction.

The thirty-second spot, titled “Do Your Job”, is taken from McGinty’s statement at last month’s Progressive Summit.

“In Pat Toomey’s obstructionism, what we see is a deliberate effort to try to make the Supreme Court an extension of republican partisan politics – to take away a woman’s right to choose, to take away health care, to take away the right to collectively bargain for a living wage, for decent benefits,” McGinty states. “We cannot let Pat Toomey win, and with your help, I will not let him win.”
And Joe Sestak:
With so many pressing issues before the Court like the Voting Rights Act, protecting women’s right to choose, reversing Citizens’ United and affirming the need to regulate polluters, it is time for Pat Toomey to abandon his obstructionist tactics of ‘delay and deny’ and fulfill his duty to the people of Pennsylvania by agreeing to at the very least consider the qualifications of Judge Merrick Garland.
Aye.  But that's exactly the problem, isn't it?  He's obstructing for a reason - or two.

NOTE: I was not able to track down a quote from yesterday (Note to any Fetterman folks watching: You can email it to me if there is one) so here's what he said a few weeks ago:
The self-serving negligence we are seeing from the GOP is the reason everyone hates Congress, and is simply disrespectful to the American people. So which is it, Sen. Toomey: will you do your job, or choose partisanship over patriotism?
Senator Toomey, do your job.

March 16, 2016

Donald Trump On Women


And lest you think this is some lib'rul, Ms. Mag, National Organization of Women, Faludi-inspired backlash on true-blue Murika and it's champion Donald Trump, watch the video until the end (about 58 seconds in) - you'll hear this "Our Principles PAC is responsible..."

So what is "Our Principles PAC"?

From Factcheck.org:
Political Leanings: Republican/Anti-Trump Super PAC

Spending Target: Unknown

Our Principles PAC was formed in January 2016 to thwart Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Their website, Trump Questions, leads with this:
How Much Do You Really Know About Donald Trump?
And it attacks Trump from the right on:
As well as a more general "About" page.

While I applaud any attempt by the once great GOP to rein in the billionaire bigot, I am concerned that it might be too little too late.

As of this date (March 16, 2016) Trump has, according to CNN, 640 of the 1,237 delegates needed to get the nomination.  He's more than half way there.

March 15, 2016

Birthday - March 15

This is a big one.

Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka "The Notorious R.B.G") was born today in 1933.


"Neither federal nor state government acts compatibly with equal protection when a law or official policy denies to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature - equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society based on their individual talents and capacities."

Happy Birthday!


Some More Worries For Senator Pat Toomey

Politico is reporting:
As soon as President Barack Obama announces a Supreme Court nominee from his short list — which is now set — the White House and its allies will unleash a coordinated media and political blitz aimed at weakening GOP resistance to confirming the president's pick.

Administration allies have already started putting a ground game in place. Obama campaign veterans have been contracted in six states — New Hampshire, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where GOP incumbents are most vulnerable, plus Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley's Iowa. [Emphasis added.]
 And why would this be a problem for old Pat?

From the Washington Post, a few days ago:
Democrats are hoping to make Senate elections in a handful of swing and blue states a referendum on Republicans' Supreme Court blockade, and new polling suggests they may have a shot.

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a sizable majority of Americans — including a strong contingent of independents — think the Senate should at least hold hearings on President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court.
And in this instance, a "sizable majority" means 63%.  Nearly 2 out of three of those polled think the Senate should do their jobs and hold hearings on a new Supreme Court nominee.

By now we've all seen the Public Policy Polling numbers from late February:
  • Only 29% of voters approve of the job Toomey is doing to 40% who disapprove...
  • Strong majorities of voters - 57/40 in Pennsylvania- think that the vacant seat on the Supreme Court should be filled this year.  
  • Republicans in Pennsylvania think 67/27...that the Senate should at least give President Obama’s choice a chance before deciding whether or not to confirm them.
And so Pat should be worried as large majorities of Americans and Pennsylvanians disagree with him about his obstructing the constitutional process for naming a new Supreme Court justice.

And in an election year, none of this spells good news our junior Senator.

March 14, 2016

Birthday - March 14

It's March 14th and that means it's Pi day.

This is Pi:
3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510
Pi is the ratio between a circle's circumference and its diameter.  It's very important.

It's also the birthday of photographer Diane Arbus.

From At Get Photography:
In a working life less than a decade Diane Arbus effected a profound reconsideration of photography's intensions. Her work turned away from the central concerns of the preceding generation. She valued psychological above formal precision, private above social realities, the permanent and the prototypical above the ephemeral and the accidental, and courage above subtlety. These intuitions were pursued with acute intelligence and fierce dedication --- the latter almost perfectly concealed by humor, and a precisely calculated measure of self-deprecation.
This is Arbus:


She altered our experience of the face.

March 13, 2016

Birthdays and Such - March 13

One of the war horses of the solo violin repertoire, the E Minor Concerto (Op. 64) by Felix Mendelssohn, was premiered today in Leipzig in 1845.

Have a listen:


And 47 years later, in 1892  (though not implying any causality here - Post hoc ergo propter hoc) Janet Flanner was born in Indianapolis.

Who's Janet Flanner?  From the Library of Congress:
Perennial columnist for The New Yorker magazine, Janet Flanner (1892-1978) produced trenchant commentary on European politics and culture. In her mid twenties, Flanner left the United States for Paris, quickly becoming part of the group of American writers and artists who lived in the city between the world wars. In October 1925 Flanner published her first "Letter from Paris" in the then brand-new magazine, The New Yorker, launching a professional association destined to last for five decades.

Flanner's work during World War II included not only her famous "Letter from Paris" (disrupted for a period) and seminal pieces on Hitler's rise (1936) and the Nuremburg trials (1945), but a series of little-known weekly radio broadcasts for the NBC Blue Network during the months following the liberation of Paris in late 1944.
She was the Paris Correspondent for The New Yorker in the late 20s.  She was there with Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Holy crap, I have to say it again: The Paris Correspondent for the New Yorker in the 20s.

She wrote this of Hitler:
He has been studious with strange results: he says he regards liberalism as a form of tyranny, hatred and attack as part of man’s civic virtues, and equality of men as immoral and against nature. Since he is a concentrated, introspective dogmatist, he is uninformed by exterior criticism. On the other hand, he is a natural and masterly advertiser, a phenomenal propagandist within his limits, the greatest mob orator in German annals, and one of the most inventive organizers in European history. He believes in intolerance as a pragmatic principle. He accepts violence as a detail of state, he says mercy is not his affair with men, yet he is kind to dumb animals…. His moods change often, his opinions never. Since the age of twenty, they have been mainly anti-Semitic, anti-Communist, anti-suffrage, and Pan-German. He has a fine library of six thousand volumes, yet he never reads; books would do him no good—his mind is made up.
Janet Flanner, Paris Correspondent for the New Yorker, born today in 1892.  My admiration knows no bounds.

March 12, 2016

Happy Birthdays And Sad Anniversaries - March 12

We'll start with he sad.

Today is the anniversary of the passing of Bird's passing.  If you don't know anything about him.  Listen to this:


Bird Lives.

And then there's this:
Virginia McLaurin, the centenarian who danced with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House Black History Month celebration last month, has another reason to party.

Saturday marks her 107th birthday.
Wow.  Happy Birthday!

Fact-Checking Milo Yiannopoulos

A few weeks ago, Milo Yiannopoulos gave a talk at Pitt.  It was part of his "Dangerous Faggot" tour.

Before we go any further, let me point out something very important here.  Yiannopoulos uses a few words that some (if not all) of my readers will find distasteful if not downright offensive.  They are words that are in his vocabulary not in mine and by quoting him, I am not condoning their use, I am simply attempting to be as accurate as possible.

Yiannopoulos has every right to be as offensive as he wishes to be.  Just as I have every right to call him on it and to point out what is factually inaccurate/contradictory about what he says (more about this later).

But let's take a step back and start with the coverage in the Pitt News:
With shouts of support for Donald Trump intermixing with middle fingers raised in silent protest, Pitt students both applauded and decried Milo Yiannopoulos’ meditation on free speech Monday night in the William Pitt Union.

College Republicans brought the gay, British sociopolitical activist to the Assembly Room at 9 p.m. Yiannopoulos’ speeches at other universities around the country have garnered protests, fights and rallies because of their highly controversial content: Yiannopoulos argues free speech should have zero limits.

“I’ve taken it upon myself to go through life as offensively as possible,” Yiannopoulos said.

As an example, Yiannopoulos asked the crowd of more than 350 people if any of them believed “that women are paid less to do the same work” as a man. When several audience members shouted, “Yes,” in return, Yiannopoulos had only one word for them:

“Idiots.”

In response, about 10 people got up and stood at the front of the stage, shouting, “Two, four, six, eight — stop the violence, stop the rape.”
The Pitt News has made a teensy mistake.  As you can see from the video (which you can watch, if you so desire, here) Yiannopoulos does NOT respond to their answer with the "one word" idiots.  He simply declares (with out evidence, by the way) that they are "very dumb."  I realize the two are synonyms but to my friends on the Pitt News, if you're going to quote someone, you'd better make sure you're using the exact words they use (especially if there's video of that person saying them).  He did use the word "idiots" when point out the "social justice warriors" in the room.  But that was at a slightly different time.  Different enough that it's not an accurate quote.

Again - a teensy mistake.  You're forgiven.

But it's at that point when, after chanting the "stop the violence, stop the rape" chant, those protesters are escorted away from the front of the room. 

The Pitt News reports that the Police escorted 17 protesters out.  They don't say whether that was the same group that was led away from the front of the room.  If it was, they missed this portion of Yiannopoulos talk (This is my transcription.  It starts about 11 minutes in and it's as complete as I can get it):
Why am I considered dangerous?  Well I don't say very nice things about lesbians.

[Crowd laughter]

By the way, I'd like to say that most of the things I say about lesbians, aside from the sort of pleasure cruises, cat piss and knitting needles (all of which are horrible generalizations which I should be ashamed of), most of the things I saw are in support of women.

I don't want women to get drawn into lesbianism.  That is, of course, how lesbianism works.  For women have a much more malleable sexuality than men do.  They're much more likely to have relationships with women, [than have] relationships with men.  I don't want women to get drawn into lesbianism, for a variety of reasons.  The lesbian obesity epidemic is one of them.  The federal government spent three million dollars last year working out why you're all so fat.

[Crowd noise and laughter]

I mean they spend the money on these things, not me.

There is, of course, the domestic violence epidemic.  Do you know about this?  The lesbian domestic violence epidemic?  I wrote about it very sensitively last year in a column entitled "Attack of the Killer Dykes."

[Crowd laughter]

They beat the shit out of each other.

And of course the last thing.  And this is something we should talk about in the Q&A.  The campus rape culture.  There is only one respect in which there is a serious culture of rape on campuses and I sort of gave you the answer already.  Do you know what it is?

It's lesbians.

When you look at Department of Justice statistics - you see people like me actually look at numbers rather than just say "we're offended" or apply to - appeal to grievance culture or some other sort of bollocks to make ourselves feel better or to make people feel bad - some of us actually look at the data, the numbers.  When you do that the Department of Justice figures suggest, well they say, that the women who identify themselves as victims of sexual assault vastly disproportionate identify as lesbians.

Now there's only two explanations for this.

One is that straight men are specifically going out and seeking lesbians to sexually abuse, which seems unlikely considering how they look, [Crowd noise and some laughter] the other explanation is that lesbians are raping each other at almost unprecedented rates.  Rates similar to the Congo, where rape is used as a weapon of war.

Let me restart the joke from earlier because it was great - it suggests that the only consent that lesbians are familiar with is co-signing at the Subaru dealership.

If there is a campus rape culture it is not a problem of male-on-female crime, rape's been going down for thirty years, the campus is the safest place for a young woman to be, it's a lesbian [problem].
And that's only about 15 minutes in.  Basically, if I am to understand the above, doesn't want women (of "malleable sexuality" or otherwise) to be "drawn into lesbianism" because they'll get fat and then get physically abused by other lesbians.  Beyond his obvious narrow-minded and childish insults, there's a lot to deal with here.

But is any of what he asserts true?

Did the government spend $3 million last year to study obesity among lesbians?

Well, yes and no.  Here's the Washington Post:
The federal government spent millions of dollars in recent years researching why lesbians have a higher obesity rate than heterosexual women and gay men, according to funding records.

The ongoing National Institutes of Health study, now in its fourth year and scheduled to last another two, has cost about $3 million to date, the Washington Free Beacon reported in a recent article. [Emphasis added.]
So he has the funding wrong as it's $3 million (so far) over four (out of six) years and not simply $3 million last year.  A minor error, but an error none the less, especially since in the video, Yiannopoulos prides himself on actually checking "the numbers."  He got the number wrong.  Sorry, Milo.  Kinda erases a little bit of your credibility.

But there's a bigger issue here - why.  Why study that in the first place?

From the Washington Post:
The project summary says that “racial and socioeconomic disparities are receiving increasing attention” and lesbian obesity is “of high public-health significance.”
I'm not sure why that's funny to Yiannopoulos and his supporters in the crowd - the government studying something of "of high public-health significance.”

But let's move on to his big point - the "lesbian domestic violence epidemic."  Is it a real thing?  Are lesbians "beating the shit out of each other" as Yiannopoulos asserts?  And more importantly, is this violence done at a higher rate than among heterosexual couples, as Yiannopoulos asserts?

For where he bases his argument, we must go to his above mentioned article.  Now remember he's warning about the higher rates of violence among lesbian couples when he writes:
Up to 45 per cent of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner and that 30 per cent of lesbians have reported sexual assault or rape by another woman. And those are conservative figures from a small domestic violence support group.
The link leads to this page where, if you search for "45" (in order to find the source of the "up to 45 percent" figure), you'll find this sentence:
It has been estimated that between 17-45% of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner (Burke et al, 1999; Lie et al, 1991).
I have to point out that while "between 17-45%" can mean "up to 45%", it's not exactly the same thing unless you plow through the studies reference for context.  Is it a bell curve with 17 and 45 on the outer edges?  No way to know - but he did omit, for the sake of his article, the 28 point spread between 17 and 45.  Is most of it in the mid-20s?  Mid-30s?  No way to know but that's a lot of room.  He does say, though, that 45 and 30 percent are "conservative" figures, leaving it to the reader to assume that the "real" percentages are higher still.

That being said, the big takeaway from this page (at least regarding Yiannopoulos assertion of greater violence between lesbian partners) is found in the sentence immediately preceding the stuff he wants you to know.  Here it is:
Perhaps surprisingly, statistics have shown that lesbian people experience domestic violence at a very similar rate to that of heterosexual women (Waldner-Haygrud, 1997; AVP, 1992). [Emphasis added.]
I'm sorry, Milo, but doesn't that completely contradict your overall thesis?  You must've read through that sentence when you were looking for the data that came right after it.  Why didn't you mention this in your article?

Then there's this:
The Huffington Post reported in 2014 that 50 per cent of lesbian women experience one of these Sapphic skimishes (sic) at some point in their lives.
And the link leads you to this sentence at Huffingtonpost:
50
The percentage of lesbian women who will experience domestic violence (not necessarily intimate partner violence) in their lifetimes. [Emphasis added/]
I'm sorry, Milo, but doesn't that also contradict your thesis?  You said "Sapphic skirmishes" (I am guessing you meant "skirmish" as a "skimish" doesn't seem to be an actual word) but the link says "not necessarily intimate partner" - two different things.  If you're discussing how lesbians in intimate partnerships are beating the shit out of each other you can't use a statistic that doesn't support your thesis to support your thesis.  Do I really have to explain this to you, Milo?

Now, about the "rape culture" on campus.  Milo, are you aware that the CDC reports (this is found in the Executive Summary) that:
Most bisexual and heterosexual women (98.3% and 99.1%, respectively) who experienced rape in their lifetime reported having only male perpetrators. Estimates for sex of perpetrator of rape for other groups (lesbian women, gay and bisexual men) were based upon numbers too small to calculate a reliable estimate and, therefore, are not reportable. [Emphasis added.]
And:
The majority of lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women (85.2%, 87.5%, and 94.7%, respectively) who experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime reported having only male perpetrators. [Emphasis added.]
Looks like your assertion that "lesbians are beating the shit out of each other" isn't supported by the CDC data.  And since you're the one making the assertion about lesbians abusing each other at "unprecedented" rates, it's up to you to explain the contradictions.  Which one is right and which one is wrong?  And how do you know?  Telling only one side of the story isn't being very accurate is it, Milo?

Or should we just assume, considering all of the above, that you're spinning the few numbers that you do have in order to support your already offensive thesis?

As I said above, Milo, you have every right to assert your case (however offensive it may be) in public but that doesn't shield you from criticism of fudging the data in order to make that case.

And to the protesters who left before Milo got to his lesbian shaming: you missed an opportunity to call him on his bullshit.  Attempting to shut down the discussion by screaming over it only convinces the Milo Yanniopouloses (the Milo Yannipouli?) of the world that you're batshit crazy and that they've been right all along.

March 11, 2016

Birthdays - March 11

Something a little different today.

Today is Astor Piazzolla's Birthday.  So first, A Tango!


 And it's also Alex Kingston's birthday.  Happy Birthday River Song!


Happy March 11!