What Fresh Hell Is This?

October 31, 2016

Two Things


In all the Sturm und Drang around Hillary Clinton's email, can we please keep in mind two things:

1) Once it became known that Clinton's emails were to be made public, a virtual classification blizzard occurred as not only State, but other departments, retroactively started classifying emails. This is somewhat understandable as no one wants things originally said in private to be made public (whether a government, a company, or a private citizen). This is also a main complaint that people and organizations have when they make a FOIA request: Suddenly, everything gets marked as Classified.

2) None of the real Classified stuff was ever supposed to be sent over unclassified State Department e-mail addresses in the first place by anyone! There is a whole other system in place for top secret information or, really, any information “classified at birth.” The State Dept. -- like the Pentagon, the White House, and other agencies -- has two systems for email, one for classified messages and one for more routine business. The emails to and from Clinton we're all discussing are ones from the regular, unclassified system (and her system). No one is sending nuclear codes over this system in the first place. And, yeah, out of tens of thousands of emails, 3 "(C)"s buried in the body of emails/documents could be easily missed as *anything* marked that way isn't supposed to be in this system to begin with. It's also why she stated confidently that nothing she received or that she sent was marked Classified. It would have stuck out like a red thumb if it had been because it would have been on the wrong damn system.

Happy Halloween!



And Now A Word From Salman Rushdie And Joss Whedon

First Salman Rushdie, from his Facebook page via HuffingtonPost:
So, to recap. Trump will go on trial in November accused of racketeering, and again in December accused of child rape. He is a sexual predator, hasn't released his tax returns, and has used his foundation's money to pay his legal fees. He has abused the family of a war hero and... oh, but let's talk about some emails Hillary didn't send from someone else's computer, that weren't a crime anyway, because that's how to choose a president. Come on, America. Focus.
And now Joss Whedon from his Save The DayPAC:


You need to watch it to the end.

October 30, 2016

Jack Kelly Sunday

Have you ever heard of the phrase "zombie lie" in any of your travels through the internet?

The Urban Dictionary defines it as:
Lies that just won't die, no matter what the facts are.
This week in his column at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jack Kelly takes us, yet again, on a trip to the Republican zombie-lie reality, where Democrats commit rampant voter fraud - even though the evidence says otherwise.

Republicans and their zombie lies (voter fraud, climate change, Reagan was a great president) - 'twas ever thus.

This week, Jack starts, of course, with Nixon:
Richard Nixon believed vote fraud in Illinois and Texas determined the outcome of the 1960 election. But he refused to contest the results, because he didn’t want to undermine public confidence in the system.
But is that true?  Take a look at this easily found and more than a decade old piece from Slate:
Nixon always insisted that others, including President Eisenhower, encouraged him to dispute the outcome but that he refused. A challenge, he told others, would cause a "constitutional crisis," hurt America in the eyes of the world, and "tear the country apart." Besides, he added, pursuing the claims would mean "charges of 'sore loser' would follow me through history and remove any possibility of a further political career."

Classic Nixon: "Others" urge him to follow a less admirable course, but he spurns their advice for the high road. (William Safire once noted that he always used to tell Nixon to take the easy path so that Nixon could say in his speeches, "Others will say we should take the easy course, but …") Apart from the suspect neatness of this account, however, there are reasons to doubt its veracity.

First, Eisenhower quickly withdrew his support for a challenge, making it hard for Nixon to go forward. According to Nixon's friend Ralph De Toledano, a conservative journalist, Nixon knew Ike's position yet claimed anyway that he, not the president, was the one advocating restraint. "This was the first time I ever caught Nixon in a lie," Toledano recalled.

More to the point, while Nixon publicly pooh-poohed a challenge, his allies did dispute the results—aggressively. The New York Herald Tribune's Earl Mazo, a friend and biographer of Nixon's, recounted a dozen-odd fishy incidents alleged by Republicans in Illinois and Texas. Largely due to Mazo's reporting, the charges gained wide acceptance.[Italics in Original.]
And:
Three days after the election, party Chairman Sen. Thruston Morton launched bids for recounts and investigations in 11 states—an action that Democratic Sen. Henry Jackson attacked as a "fishing expedition." Eight days later, close Nixon aides, including Bob Finch and Len Hall, sent agents to conduct "field checks" in eight of those states. Peter Flanigan, another aide, encouraged the creation of a Nixon Recount Committee in Chicago. All the while, everyone claimed that Nixon knew nothing of these efforts—an implausible assertion that could only have been designed to help Nixon dodge the dreaded "sore loser" label.
Nixon knew what was going on, even as he was distancing himself from it.  But the fact is, he was contesting - he was just doing it in a way to protect his future political credibility.

Interesting way to establish your bona fides on voter fraud - with a questionable story about Richard Milhous Nixon.  Way to go, Jack!

But let's get on to Jack's "facts" that "prove" Democratic voter fraud.  Let's start here:
Richard Allen Claybrook Sr., who died in 2014, was among 19 deceased people whose names were submitted for voter registration by a canvasser in Harrisonburg, Va., last month. Sara Sosa died in El Paso County, Colo., in 2009, and cast votes in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Ten Colorado counties have more registered voters than residents who are old enough to vote. Across the U.S., 141 counties in 21 states have more registered voters than living residents, according to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an Indiana organization focused on election integrity.
On Richard Claybrook, the Washington Post states the obvious:
House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said the case was not proof of voter fraud because no one had actually managed to cast a vote in the names of the dead.

“First of all, there was no voter fraud — they caught him,” Toscano said. “Nobody cast a vote. . . . " [Emphasis added.]
Let's skip Sara Sosa for a moment and move on to Jack's last two facts (which are really one fact, if you look closely).  That there are more registered voters in a county is not (I repeat NOT) evidence for voter fraud, as much as the PILF wants us to believe.  Take a look at this from the Omaha World-Herald:
Seven counties in Nebraska and one in Iowa are being threatened with lawsuits over having more registered voters than voting-age residents.

Two national groups say the numbers are evidence that county officials are not cleaning up voter registration rolls, as federal law requires.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation, based in Plainfield, Indiana, and True the Vote, based in Houston, have both sent letters alerting county officials to the alleged violations.

The letters said that poorly maintained voter rolls threaten the integrity of elections.
And the response:
But state and county officials said data quirks and requirements of federal election laws, not mismanagement or incompetence, account for the apparent discrepancies. They also say that they are complying with requirements concerning removing voters who have moved or died.
And since Jack brought up the story of postmortem suffrage:
Kimball County Deputy County Clerk Josi Morgan said she may know that a voter has died or moved, but that person cannot be purged from voter lists without official confirmation.

Officials look to obituaries in the local newspaper or information provided by the state vital statistics office to confirm deaths. Moves must be confirmed by the voters themselves. Officials send out confirmation mailings when they are alerted to a move, such as through a change-of-address notice from the U.S. Postal Service.

If the person returns the mailing, his or her name can be taken off the voter registration list immediately. But up to 50 percent of voters don’t respond. In those cases, federal law requires that they remain on the list for four years.
See Jack?  Just because there are more people on a county's voter rolls than actual people in that county, it does not mean that there's the rampant voter fraud that you want to see there.

Facts are stubborn things.

It does look like Sara Sosa's case is real.  But does anyone know for whom "she" voted for after she died?  Without that specific knowledge, how can we be certain that this is Democratic voter fraud (as Jack presumably wishes us to think)?

Given that there will always be some people cheating (like this - hey wouldn't you know it - Trump supporter), are the levels of illegality high enough to sway an election?

No.  And you'll find out at the bottom of this blog post.

Back to Jack.  He also tries to slip this one past us:
Nationwide, about 6.4 percent of non-citizens (620,000) voted illegally in 2008, estimated professors at Old Dominion and George Mason universities in a 2014 study.
We dealt with that when Jack first sited it. But let's not take my word on it. There's a peer-reviewed article (one that Jack Kelly either doesn't know about or does know about and chose not to tell you about) out there that says that there's less to the Old Dominion/George Mason study than meets the eye.  Here's the abstract:
The advent of large sample surveys, such as the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), has opened the possibility of measuring very low frequency events, characteristics, and behaviors in the population. This paper documents how low-level measurement error for survey questions generally agreed to be highly reliable can lead to large prediction errors in large sample surveys, such as the CCES. The example for this analysis is Richman et al. (2014), which presents a biased estimate of the rate at which non-citizens voted in recent elections. The results, we show, are completely accounted for by very low frequency measurement error; further, the likely percent of non-citizen voters in recent US elections is 0.
Do we need to wonder why Jack didn't bother to tell you, his loyal readers, about that?

Jack keeps on with the zombification of his misleads.  Heck he even sites Project Veritas as evidence.   Given all the times O'Keefe et al have been found manipulating their videos,   why would anyone trust anything they say about anything at all?

I'll leave this discussion with some actual facts.  Justin Levitt is a professor of Law at Loyola University and he's been spending his time in a very interesting way, these past few years.  From the Washington Post:
I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up.

To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix.

So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents below.

To put this in perspective, the 31 incidents below come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period.
31 out of a BILLION.  31 is a number.  And it's the number of allegations of illegal voter fraud.  So it certainly exists.  But does it exist in large enough numbers to invalidate elections?

No, Jack.  No.

All ask it again: Doesn't anyone at the Post-Gazette fact-check Jack Kelly?  Or at least try to point him in the direction of a more fact-based reality?

October 28, 2016

More On Pat (Oops - That's SENATOR Toomey, If You're Nasty)

I've been writing about Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey's reluctance to state outright whether he's going to vote for or against the Donald J Trump, (aka "Die Muschi Grabber mit den kleinen Händen") for some time.

Which is it, Pat?  Are you voting for or against the racist, bigotted, sexist bully who now leads your party?

Simple yes or no question my friend.

Today, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tony Norman goes a tad further:
Swept into office with the Tea Party wave of 2010, Mr. Toomey, who was a “true believer” back when it was politically expedient to sound as crazy as possible, now wants to appear more moderate than the standard-bearer of his party. If he can do so without antagonizing the pitchfork and torches crowd that brung him to the dance in the first place, that would be his preference.

Mr. Toomey understands that his reticence to go on the record about whether he supports Mr. Trump is the kind of political cowardice that doesn’t even pretend to be subtle. It’s unconscionable that less than two weeks before Pennsylvanians go to the polls, our junior senator continues to maintain the fiction that he’s still weighing the pros and cons of Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
And then:
He figures there’s nothing to be gained by leveling with his constituents and alienating his base. He’s the rare Republican who sees the value of Bill Clinton-style triangulating, even if he risks looking like a gutless opportunist during one of the most contested senatorial campaigns in the country.

For example, Mr. Toomey runs commercials in central and western parts of the state touting his perfect score with the NRA when it comes to gun rights. Meanwhile, Republican women in the suburbs of Philadelphia are bombarded with ads underscoring Mr. Toomey’s efforts to get a bipartisan-sponsored gun control bill to President Obama’s desk after the Sandy Hook massacre.
And finally:
Trump supporters aren’t idiots. They know that Sen. Pat Toomey either lacks the courage of his convictions when it comes to supporting their guy or he’s way too indecisive to send back to Washington. Either way, Mr. Toomey is about to learn a lesson about the cost of trying to stay on everyone’s good side when there’s a Trump-sized threat looming at the gates.
Tony, did you actually use these words and phrases to describe Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey?
  • political cowardice
  • unconscionable
  • a gutless opportunist
  • lacks the courage of his convictions...or he's way too indecisive
Damn, Tony.  Damn.

Nice to have you on board, my friend.  (Not that there was ever any doubt you would've been anyway.)

October 26, 2016

ANNOUNCEMENT: Torture Debate TODAY At RMU

Longtime readers of this blog will know that one of the topics I return to regularly is the torture known as waterboarding.  It's bubbled up again in this election season what with Donald Trump promising to bring it back if he's elected.

Too bad he doesn't have the authority (no one does, actually) but whatever.

A week or so ago, I had the good fortune to spend some time with Professor Annette Förster, a Rooney International Visiting Scholar at RMU and international scholar on torture.  Over eggs and homefries, we talked mostly about torture and at one point, why the coffee globes in restaurants are different colors.

But that's completely besides the point.

This is the point.

Professor Förster will be giving a lecture at 2:30 today at RMU titled "Debating Torture in Democracies" in the RISE Center Theater in Scaife Hall.

From The Minuteman:
Terrorist attacks in diverse Western democracies raised scientific discussions on the legitimacy of torture with a focus on “ticking bomb” scenarios. The lecture systematizes the normative discussion on torture in democracies with a focus on the question of its legitimacy and legality. Can torture ever be a legitimate means of state policy? And if so, should it be legal? Or do those scenarios belong to a state of emergency framework that transcends the normal limits of state power drawn by constitutional democracies?
She's an intensely interesting scholar.  For example, as part of our discussion, she went into why the Bush era concept of "unlawful combatant" was such a dangerous one.  If my memory serves, she said that the treatment of enemy combatants (soldiers in uniform, and so on) is clearly spelled out in international treaties, as is the treatment of non-combatants (non-combat civilians and so on).  However with a new definition of a new type of combatant, the so-called unlawful combatant, various regimes could impose a new set of rules over these combatants that aren't covered under either set of treaties.

Hence the Bush era torture memos.

If you can get over to RMU today, catch the discussion, you'll be thinking about it for a long time afterwards.

October 25, 2016

A Few Things To Remember Upon Reading Colin McNickle's PSO Fingerwag

This blogpost appeared on the "Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony" facebook page a day or so ago.

It's a point by point analysis of this column by my BFF Colin McNickle over at the Trib (Hey, Colin.  How ya doin'?  Nice to see you're still writing, what with your newspaper collapsing around you like a  papier-mâché globe left out in the rain. Good for you.)

I wouldn't want to change anything about the post from the Mask of the Flower Prince, that's not the point of this post.

I'd want to add something my PSO friends might want to see regarding Colin's column.

The clue is found in this passage:
“Over the last five fiscal years, 2011 through 2015, the underlying problem of operating revenue falling well short of covering operating expenses has seen little or no improvement,” say Jake Haulk, the Allegheny Institute's president, and Frank Gamrat, the institute's senior research associate.
Longtime readers of this blog will know where I'm going with this. Newer readers might not.

I'll go back seven years to this blogpost of mine. After noticing that Mediamatters said that the Allegheny Institute was "closely related" to Richard Mellon Scaife, I wrote:
I read that and I thought, "How closely?" So I looked at Mediamatters' funding page for the Institute.

The page shows $ 4,596,700 in just 7 donors from 1995. Three of those donors are foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife (Sarah Scaife, Carthage and Allegheny Foundations). Those three foundations have given $3,996,000 to the Allegheny Institute since 1995.

If all these numbers are correct, then that means that about 87% of the money granted to the Allegheny Institute came directly from foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife.
And in case you didn't already know it, my new PSO friends, Richard Mellon Scaife owned the Tribune-Review, the very same newspaper where Colin McNickle published that column on your strike.

It's simply a conflict of interest anytime the paper republishes anything from Jake Haulk and/or the Allegheny Institute, without also disclosing the financial interest the (now former) owner of the paper had with the local conservative think tank.

It's incestuous enough to discredit whatever's being said.


October 24, 2016

A Room Full Of Brass (A Concert And A Strike)

Sunday night, the lovely wife and I were lucky enough to attend a brass concert at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

As a result of their ongoing strike, the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony have instituted an ongoing series of concerts as part of a plan to reach out to a number of communities in the city.  Sunday night, the PSO's brass section was joined by friends from the Boston, National and Philadelphia orchestras.

BIG.  LOUD.  BRASS.

Here's the view from the band:


Not the world's biggest selfie (that would be found here) but the church was absolutely filled.  There were people watching from the choir loft.

The lovely wife and I are in that picture, by the way.  We're on the left about a quarter of the way up.  Can you see us?  No?  It's probably because there were so many people there.

That last sentence was a not-so-subtle message to the PSO management, by the way.  In case they didn't catch it, here's more of it for them: The yuge audience gave the brass players a standing ovation before the music even started.  That's how much support the musicians have. Thinking about the pre-performance standing O, I have to ask the symphony management  a question: has any music-loving community given you a standing ovation for your decisions to cut the musicians' pay and pensions and so on?  No?  Well, maybe that's something for you to think about.

Back to the concert.  It was amazing.  In the second half (just before the three serious kick-ass Gabrielli two-choir pieces) I realized just how rare it is for anyone on the planet to be in the same room with so many first-rate brass players.

And I say that because usually at a symphony concert there might be, depending on the piece, about a dozen or so brass players (3-4 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, and one tuba) on stage.  The number depends, of course, on the piece.  Mozart will have less, Mahler will have more.  And so on.

Last night, however, on the big pieces there was easily twice that number.  With or without a strike, how often does that happen?

After each piece, from the Copland fanfare (you know the one) that opened it to the Strauss fanfare that closed it, I found myself saying, "Holy crap, that was good."  Imagine this for a second: two dozen brass players, sitting at the narrow end of a 200 foot long long, 70 foot high, rock hard room.  Then they each take a deep brass-player breath begin to play, sometimes very very loudly.  The miracle of the evening is that none of the details of any of the pieces were lost to the room.  None of it sounded blatty or out of tune.  The soft parts were completely audible and the loud parts (and there were many) blended beautifully.  Amazing thing to hear.

These men and women knew what they were doing.  They knew how to play (and play well) in that room.  As I said, all issues of the strike aside, it was an amazing musical event on its own.

But there is a strike going on.  For their part the musicians are looking to protect the reputation of the orchestra as a world-class ensemble as opposed to what they fear it would end up being were they to accept management's hiring freeze and pay cut offer - a good regional orchestra.

From a great world-class orchestra to a good regional orchestra.  That's what's at stake.  And if management succeeds in modulating the PSO down surely other managements of other orchestras will try the same.

The classical musical world is watching.

October 23, 2016

Kneel With Woodland Hills



Via Facebook:
Woodland Hills will be playing their first game in the playoffs at home this Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 6:30pm. We ask that you come and support these young men at their game and kneel with them in solidarity and support of their stand against police brutality. 
During their last game against Bethel Park, the Woodland Hills 12U (12 years old and under) team had the resolve to kneel in protest against police brutality during the national anthem as modeled by the San Francisco 49ers Quaterback, Colin Kaepernick. Their action was met with racial slurs from audience memeber and the Bethel Park team, the consession stand attendants refusing to serve the Woodland Hills guests, and the referees making several bad calls on the field against Woodland Hills. In the face of such pressing adversity, WH still managed a 20-6 win against Bethel Park, however the affects of what happened that day are lasting. 
We stand in support of these young men and their coach, Marcus Burkley Sr., for their integrity. We also seek justice and action from the Municipality of Bethel Park as well as the Parkway Youth Football League to reprimand the actors in this event as well as adopting policy that ensures that racially charged violence such as that displayed at Bethel Park will not go without reprecussion that matches the damage that it causes. 
We hope that you will stand with us and these young men this Sunday and #KneelWithWoodlandHills 
News:  
http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/real-time/Racial-slurs-heard-when-youth-football-team-takes-a-knee.html 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/10/13/crowd-shouts-racial-slurs-at-all-black-youth-football-team-when-some-players-kneel-during-anthem-coach-says/ 
http://www.wpxi.com/news/tensions-escalate-at-youth-football-game-after-some-players-kneel-during-national-anthem/456133237
Kneel With Woodland Hills
Where: Sunday, October 23, 2016, 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
When: The Wolvarena High School, Lynn Avenue, Turtle Creek, PA 15145

October 21, 2016

A Pat Toomey Update (And NON-Update) Regarding Donald Trump

We have something of an update from yesterday.

Yesterday, Donald Trump, the GOP candidate for president of these United States said this:
I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win
Of course he yammered a lil' bit about following the rules and such, but the message was clear as it always was.  To Donald Trump and his deplorable supporters, if he loses, it's because the election is rigged.

No one serious believes that.

Not even our Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey:
Pat Toomey may not be ready to say whether he plans to vote for Donald Trump, but he was unequivocal on one talking point that has dominated the Republican presidential nominee's recent speeches.

"People have to believe the election reflected the wishes of the American people," Pennsylvania's incumbent U.S. senator said Wednesday. "I am confident it will and we should not be propagating any notion that it won't."
Ah...but you'll note the first sentence.

Even with all of that, even with the grand assault on the democracy that Trump's threat represents, Pat Toomey is still not ready to say he won't vote for the small-handed pussy-grabber.

Still.

Pat's position hasn't changed:


His reasoning?  Hillary Clinton is even worse.

He gives reasons (all of which turn out to be false):
  • Clinton's supposed dishonesty (even though Politifact rates Clinton as massively more truthful than Trump)
  • The supposed corruption of the Clinton Foundation (even though Charity Watch and Charity Navigator each give the foundation glowing reviews .  The Trump foundation looks like a slush fund.)
  • The supposed illegality of the emails (even though as we all know that while the the director of the FBI said the handling of the email was careless, there wasn't enough there to warrant charges)
So Pat, are you still of the opinion that Hillary Clinton is more unacceptable than your fellow republican who's actually challenging one of the foundations of our republic?

STILL?

October 20, 2016

Is Senator Pat Toomey STILL "Unpersuaded"?

I have a question for my senator, Senator Pat Toomey:

After last night's debate, are you still "unpersuaded" as to whether it's the right thing to do to finally say that you definitely won't vote for Trump?

Until you say that, sir, he's still your guy and you're still on his team.

What happened last night?

From the New York Times::
In a remarkable statement that seemed to cast doubt on American democracy, Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he might not accept the results of next month’s election if he felt it was rigged against him — a stand that Hillary Clinton blasted as “horrifying” at their final and caustic debate on Wednesday.
And then, a few paragraphs later:
Every losing presidential candidate in modern times has accepted the will of the voters, even in extraordinarily close races, such as when John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Richard M. Nixon in 1960 and George W. Bush beat Al Gore in Florida to win the presidency in 2000.

Mr. Trump insisted, without offering evidence, that the general election has been rigged against him, and he twice refused to say that he would accept its result.

“I will look at it at the time,” Mr. Trump said. “I will keep you in suspense.”
Talkingpoints Memo even points out, Senator, that even your friends at Fox News "can't paper over" this one:
The criticisms of Donald Trump refusal to say that he would accept the results of the election were broad and impassioned, with even pundits on Fox News calling his answer at Wednesday's night's debate "political suicide," " a totally wrong answer" and "not the way we play politics."
This is some serious shit, Pat (can I call you "Pat"?).  You have to know it is.

Your guy is crapping all over a couple of decades of democratic tradition - the tradition that whatever the political differences between the two presidential candidates, they'd each have enough respect for the process to accept it's outcome when the votes are counted.

Until now.

Basically, Pat, your guy just said, "Well if I like the outcome, then I'll accept it.  If not, all bets are off."


Imagine what his (and by default, in Pennsylvania, some of your) voters must be thinking right now.  Imagine what November 9th will look like if Trump loses and if he doesn't accept the will of the people.

So, Pat, are you STILL on the fence about voting for Donald Trump?

What else do you need to know to get off of that damned fence and do the right thing?

Dear Mr. Trump



Dear Mr. Trump,


Sincerely,
The Women of America

P.S. You're fired!

October 19, 2016

Some Questions For Senator Pat Toomey (On The Climate And On Donald Trump)

Senator Toomey, I have some questions for you but let's set up our scientific framework first, OK?

This week, from NASA:
September 2016 was the warmest September in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

September 2016's temperature was a razor-thin 0.004 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous warmest September in 2014. The margin is so narrow those two months are in a statistical tie. Last month was 0.91 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean September temperature from 1951-1980.
And also from NASA:
In its Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.
In January 2015, you voted for a number of resolutions in the Senate - some that accepted the reality the science of climate change (that it actually happening and that human activity contributes to it).  What you voted against is a resolution that states (and you'll note that this is in actual conflict with the science) that human activity is a significant cause of global warming.

It's like you're trying to have it both ways.  You agree with some of the science but not all of it.  Sorry Senator, but that doesn't absolve you of being a science denier.

So here's a question: Given what NASA (and the rest of the scientific community) has repeatedly said then and now, do you regret your vote?

And now, given how much more of a science denier your party's candidate for president, Donald Trump, is than you are (He says that it's a hoax - something you definitely voted against), I'm wondering if that's enough for you to finally say you won't/can't vote for him.

If his science denial and his "grab them by the pussy" video and his statements about Judge Curiel and his birther past and all his other offensive statements (do I really need to list them for you, Senator?  I can, you know.) aren't enough for you to finally say, "No, I'm definitely not voting for Donald Trump." then what the heck is going to do it for you?

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW??

Really, I'm asking.

October 18, 2016

I'm Taking A Day Off - It's My ANNIVERSARY!


Go hug your sweetie.

Then go buy them some ice cream.

Then kiss their whole face.


An Anniversary haiku from me to y'inz.

PS The Tribune-Review is still wrong about climate change and it's shocking to me that Senator Pat Toomey STILL hasn't said he won't vote for the small-handed pussy grabber, despite Trump's recent attempt to undermine our democracy by claiming the election will be rigged.

October 17, 2016

Jack Kelly Sunday

Ok - let's get right into this.

In his latest column, the Post-Gazette's Jack Kelly makes a yuge enough factual error to undermine the entire (incidentally false) premise - that Hillary Clinton, due to that whole email thing, is more corrupt than Donald Trump.

Let's go to the core of is argument - the mishandling of the confidential information on some of those emails:
Ms. Clinton and her aides “were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Mr. Comey said in July. But he didn’t recommend indictments because the former secretary of state didn’t intend to expose U.S. secrets.

Section 793(f) of the Espionage Act punishes “gross negligence” in handling of national defense secrets. Offenders not named Clinton can be sent to prison for up to 10 years. Intent is irrelevant. (If Hillary did intend to disclose our secrets, that would be treason, which is covered by another statute.)
This, it turns out, is incorrect.

Here's Section 793(f) of the Espionage Act:
Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Looks pretty damning, doesn't it.  However in the late 30s, there was a National Security case that bubbled up to the Supreme Court that impacts Comey's decision not to recommend charges against Clinton.

As John Ford wrote at War On The Rocks (he also writes for The National Interest, by the way):
In Gorin v. United States (1941), the Supreme Court heard a challenge to a conviction of a Navy intelligence official who sold classified material to the Soviet Union on Japanese intelligence operations in the United States. In that case, the defendant was charged with selling information “relating to the national defense” to a foreign power. The defendant argued on appeal that the phrase “relating to the national defense” was unconstitutionally vague, so much so that the defendant was deprived of the ability to predetermine whether his actions were a crime.

Justice Stanley Reed wrote the majority opinion and disagreed that the law was unconstitutionally vague, but only on the very narrow grounds that the law required “intent or reason to believe that the information to be obtained is to be used to the injury of the United States.” Only because the court read the law to require scienter, or bad faith, before a conviction could be sustained was the law constitutional. Otherwise, it would be too difficult for a defendant to know when exactly material related to the national defense. The court made clear that if the law criminalized the simple mishandling of classified information, it would not survive constitutional scrutiny, writing:
The sections are not simple prohibitions against obtaining or delivering to foreign powers information… relating to national defense. If this were the language, it would need to be tested by the inquiry as to whether it had double meaning or forced anyone, at his peril, to speculate as to whether certain actions violated the statute.
In other words, the defendant had to intend for his conduct to benefit a foreign power for his actions to violate 793(f).
Which is what Comey said, isn't it?

Took me about 20 minutes to find this.  Perhaps Jack Kelly should have done his homework before simply copying what the rest of the right wing media was writing - if only for the sake of intellectual honesty.

Or, Jack Kelly could have just watched John Oliver from a few weeks ago.

Oliver's take on the email server?

At about 8:40 in, he goes so far as to describe it as "...not good but it's not as bad as it looks."

Then he goes after Donald Trump:
  • Trump's "pathetic" excuse not to release his tax returns.
  • Trump's seeming lack of understanding of what a "blind trust" is.
  • The Trump Foundation's financial misdeeds.
  • Trump University
  • How he's "ethically compromised to an almost unprecedented degree"
And so on.

But the email server looks bad, so....

Oliver's summation:
The point is, this campaign has been dominated by scandals. But it is dangerous to think there is an equal number on both sides. And you can be irritated by some of Hillary's. That is understandable. But you should then be f[beep]ing outraged by Trump's.
Another week, opportunity to do the research that Jack Kelly (or his fact-checkers at the P-G) didn't (or didn't want to) do.

October 15, 2016

Yeppers, The Tribune-Review News Division Dresses Right. (With Some Questions For The Trib's Tom Fontaine)

We already know that the editorial page is tainted with teh crazie but it's always beyond disappointing when the taint taints the actual news at the Tribune-Review.

Case in point: Yesterday. Chelsea Clinton was in Pittsburgh to campaign for her mother on October 14.  There were two events, one at the Rivers Club dahn-tahn and the other at Pitt in Oh-glund

Couple hundred people total at the events, a political speech, Erin McClelland (who's running against Trump partial supporter Keith Rothfus) introduced, blah-blah-blah.  Typical late season campaign stuff.

Here's the P-G's Kate Giammarise on the story. It's good solid reporting about the two events and what was said at those events. And except for an early mention of some Clinton/Trump poll numbers (good for Clinton/bad for Trump), it's not until the last paragraph that we hear anything about or from the Trump campaign:
A statement from the Trump campaign, said in part, “Hillary Clinton's last-ditch attempt to make inroads with millennials by parachuting Chelsea into Pennsylvania is falling flat just like her prior visits to the Keystone State. Millennials are not at all Ready for Hillary — we're tired of the same old Washington corruption and pay-to-play deals from career politicians like her and we will vote for change in November.”
Compare and contrast that with how Tom Fontaine of the Tribune-Review covers the same two events.

Here's his opening paragraph:
Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton headlined a women's rally in Pittsburgh as accusations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump mounted, but members of a women's group affiliated with the Trump campaign remain committed to the Republican nominee.
Now remember, this is a piece about the two Chelsea Clinton events held in Pittsburgh yesterday.  Heck , the headline even says so:
In Pittsburgh, Chelsea Clinton tackles issues she says are important to women
And yet Tom Fontaine of the right-swinging Tribune-Review instead immediately starts talking about the local Trump opposition to the Clinton campaign.

Next we get four (out of only ten total, btw) paragraphs  of Trump-speak:
“I'm looking at the bigger picture. I'm looking at what is best for this country,” said Joyce Haas of Centre County, co-chair of the Women for Trump Leadership Team that includes representatives statewide.

Haas believes Trump's policies are better for America's future, including women and families.

State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Monongahela, also a member of the Trump women's group, said she was offended by Trump's comments in the recently surfaced video that showed him bragging about groping women. Trump later denied any misconduct. Several women came forward this week with allegations against Trump.

“As a Christian, I have to take him at his word. I just want to stick to the issues,” Bartolotta said, before adding, “I am more appalled at Hillary Clinton's arrogance and entitlement and elitism when it comes to her thinking that she's above the law and rules don't apply to her.”
And this is before there's any mention whatsoever of anything that Chelsea Clinton actually said at the two events this article purports to be about. 

Hmm...

And Tom, there's no specific mention so I'll have to ask for the sake of clarity: were these two women actually at the two Chelsea Clinton events?  If the piece is about the two events then the assumption is that they may have well been, but you don't say specifically so, so I suspect not.  And if they weren't at either event how did you get these quotations?  Did you call them?  Did they call you?  Email?  Or did they simply wander into your (increasingly de-populating) office to complain about all those cackling Clinton supporters in town?

And why give 40% of a piece about two Clinton events to Trump supporters, anyway?  I mean, is this a new thing?  Because you certainly didn't do that with this piece about Donald Trump Jr's visit to the Trib offices last month.

Hmm...

Finally: Is this the sort of news reporting we can now expect in the Tribundämmerung?

October 14, 2016

Two Speeches. Two Americas. One Is Sane And The Other Is Trump's

(I fixed the Uber embarrassing typo in the title)

From Cillizza of The Washington Post:
It's been six days since a hot-mic tape in which Donald Trump makes a series of lewd and sexually suggestive comments about women went public. But until first lady Michelle Obama stepped on the podium at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton on Thursday in New Hampshire, no public figure has so effectively encapsulated how this moment has made many American women feel.

An at-times emotional Obama admitted that she “couldn't stop thinking about” the comments made by Trump and had to address them in her speech." It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted,” she added. Her speech reflected just how much Trump's remarks affected her.

“This is not normal,” Obama said at one point. “This is not politics as usual.” At another she insisted that “strong men don't need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.”
Then there's Cillizza's take on Teh Trump Crazie:
Donald Trump has never been one to shy away from embracing conspiracy theories. This is the man who suggested that Ted Cruz's father might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Who insisted a malfunctioning microphone was the work of a media determined to keep him from winning. Who spent five years “investigating” whether President Obama is a U.S. citizen. (Turns out he is!) Who suggested that the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia might have been the result of foul play. And who speculated about the circumstances surrounding the suicide of longtime Clinton confidant Vince Foster.

On Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., Trump — with his campaign reeling from revelations regarding lewd comments he made about women in 2005 and a series of allegations of groping — delivered the latest iteration of his stump speech. It was an address that can be summed up in a single word: “Conspiracy.”
Sadly, teh crazie is still with us.

Take a look at this from Infowars:
Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta used a term known to reference assassination in an email sent to a lobbyist days before Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s mysterious death.
And then:
Justice Scalia was later found dead in a hotel room in Texas on the night of February 12 – three days after the email exchange took place.
Post hoc ergo propter hoc, to be sure.  But also there's this bit of reality: Scalia was an overweight 79 yr old with diabetes, COPD and high blood pressure. Sadly to teh crazies, the logical assumption is that he was bumped off by the Clintons. IN TEXAS.  John Podesta all but said so!!

If you don't believe it, you're either in on the conspiracy or one of the sheeple too blind to see it.

Sad so sad.

October 12, 2016

Question For Senator Toomey (Who's "Unpersuaded" As To Whether Trump Deserves To Be President)

First, watch this:


John Oliver points out (starting at about 2:10) that Donald Trump
  • Called Mexicans "rapists" in his first campaign speech
  • Proposed a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants
  • Advocated for killing terrorists' families (a war crime, by the way)
  • Argued for waterboarding (another war crime)
  • Stood by his claims that the Central Park Five were guilty despite the DNA evidence exonerating them.
And all this was before his "grab them by the pussy" boast.

Before.

So it's somewhat shocking to read this from Politico:
GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is an undecided voter.

The first-term Republican made the declaration Tuesday morning at a "Women for Toomey" event in suburban Philadelphia, where he was pressed to say whether or not he would vote for Donald Trump in November. The latest Trump-related conflagration to hit the 2016 election — backlash over the 2005 tape of Trump describing unwanted advances toward and sexual assault of women — could hardly come at a worse time for Toomey, who is trying to keep enough voters in his corner to win reelection even as many reject Trump in his state.

If there was ever a moment for Toomey to declare, once and for all, he wouldn’t vote for Trump, Tuesday morning was it. Toomey has nodded toward Trump in the past, once criticizing Democratic opponent Katie McGinty as someone who would be "a complete obstacle to a President Trump, should he win." But on this day, he was in Delaware County, home to many of the suburban college-educated women Trump has driven away from the Republican Party in droves this year, according to numerous polls. Toomey stood next to Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who has said she won’t vote for Trump, days after Trump dismissed his taped comments as “locker room talk.”

But while Toomey, who is facing a stiff challenge from McGinty, was willing to condemn both Trump and Hillary Clinton, he only ruled out voting for the Democrat, declining to definitively say whether or not he would vote for Trump in November.

“I am not endorsing him and I remain unpersuaded,” Toomey told reporters, reiterating the position he’s held since May.
Unpersuaded, Senator?  There's not enough

After all that Oliver pointed out (and the "pussy grabbing" tape) how much more would it take to persuade you?   

What else would you need to hear about Donald Trump to convince you not to vote for him?

I think we all know the answer to those questions, however.

There's a clue to Toomey's trouble found at Philly.com:
Not wanting to anger Trump supporters or alienate moderates, Toomey equivocates. While high-profile Republicans sprint away from their imploding presidential candidate, Toomey dodges.
You see, there's a whole mess of Trump supporters throughout the state that Toomey can't afford to piss off if he wants to keep his job.

So he remains "unpersuaded" and he dodges.

You could do the right thing, Senator.  You could call the racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic Donald Trump a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobe who would never get your vote simply due to his racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia.  You might lose your Senate seat but at least you will have done so by standing up for what's right and good.

Or you can continue to dodge the question.  You might still lose your Senate seat.  But at least you will have done the right thing.

Your choice, Senator Toomey.

October 11, 2016

Questions For Representative Keith Rotfus (Did You Know He Was At That Trump Rally In Ambridge?)

We'll start with his picture:


(You might need to click on the picture to see the caption clearly.)

That's Representative Keith Rothfus of the Pennsylvania 12th Congressional district speaking at a Trump rally yesterday in Ambridge.  And that's a few days after the release of the now-infamous "grab them by the pussy" video.

After.

This was two days after Rothfus tweeted this:
Representative Rothfus, you do know that Trump was boasting about getting away with sexual assault, right?  That he was describing a crime, right? 

If, in fact, you were "sickened" by his "offensive comments" then what were you doing in Ambridge with the little-handed pussy-grabber?

The fact that there were 8,000 Trump supporters there - 8,000 voters who you need for your reelection - can't possibly be the reason, could it?

I mean, if you want to do well in November you really can't piss off all those 8,000 Trump supporters, can you?

But what does that say to any woman in your district who might think of voting for you?  That you'd support (in one way or another) a guy who at one time felt he could grab any pussy he wanted simply because he felt like it?

What must you think of the women in your district?

October 9, 2016

Donald Trump, Schadenfreude, And A Bigger Picture

Given my own giggly reaction to the video that (I would assume) most anyone reading this blog has already seen, I am guessing that there's more than a little Schadenfreude floating around the left these days.  Perhaps it's the Aristotelian epichairekakia rather than German Schadenfreude, who knows?

Most of it deserved, of course.

What lefty wouldn't squirm with glee contemplating the coming election upon learning that, after the news of Trump's sexual assault boast ("And when you're a star they let you do it.  You can do anything.  Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."), this happened:
The Republican National Committee (RNC) will redirect funds intended to help Donald Trump's presidential campaign to prioritize down-ballot candidates, The Wall Street Journal reported late Saturday.
(For the record, The Hill also reports that an RNC strategist calls the story untrue.)

What lefty wouldn't squirm with glee contemplating the coming election and the presumed collateral humiliation of the self-proclaimed Christianly righteous among us who, even after hearing Trump admit to a failed seduction of a married woman (hey, isn't that against one of those Commandments they keep telling us to live by?) continue to stand by their man:
Leaders of religious conservative groups largely stood behind Donald Trump on Saturday, the day after vulgar sexual comments he made about women surfaced online, but some expressed concern that the U.S. Republican presidential nominee's remarks could depress evangelical turnout on Election Day.

Most evangelical leaders did not condemn Trump, and instead pointed to an urgent need to prevent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency, reshaping the Supreme Court and implementing liberal policies.
But isn't that be an example of placing politics above faith?  Sticking by a thrice married adulterer (and now admitted sexual assaulter) just so that Democrat lady doesn't get into office and RUIN EVERYTHING REGULAR AMERICANS HOLD DEAR??.  I'm not a cultural conservative so I don't know the nuances of the ideology, but it sure looks like that to me.

But let's take a step back.

Many many years ago, I happened to be listening to a local radio program and the host used a metaphor (though he intended it as a business metaphor and I'm stealing it for political use) that's stuck with me ever since.  He said that every business needs a "brake-pedal person" and a "gas-pedal person" and they need to be in balance.  In general, if the business pushes the gas too much, it might become over extended and suffer accordingly.  If the business pushes the brake too much, it might not grow as quickly as it needs to and then suffer accordingly.

The metaphor works just as strongly in politics.

On any issue, there are those pushing for change.  They have to be balanced by those who question the need for that change.  The result of that discussion, presumably is that the right path is taken and the society flourishes. If too many of the wrong decisions are made and the society suffers, the voters get the chance to change the balance of the gas and brake pedalists. Note here that "those pushing for change" doesn't automatically mean "progressives."  For example, a conservative think-tank pushing for a reduction in what they see as unnecessary regulation (i.e. they want a "change") has to be balanced by those looking to protect those regulations for whatever benefits they bring to the society.

And so on.  It's a necessary and on-going discussion.

With what looks like the Trump/Tea-party led destruction of the GOP (and let's remember, it's a political party with which I have very little in common) we're seeing a grand dissolution of one of the parts of an old two party system - the damage of which will be felt politically for some time.

Back in March, the not-born in Kenya, non-Muslim-but-Christian, President Obama said:
I don’t take pleasure in seeing what’s going on in the other side. We need a healthy two-party system. We’ve got to have serious debate. And Democrats need to have somebody who is questioning and challenging some of our own dogmas and our own blind spots.
To be sure, the rise of Donald Trump was not the beginning of this dissolution, just its latest effect.  Depending on your outlook, you could say that the GOP brought this on themselves when they embraced the Tea Party a few years ago (with big sweaty wads of money, to be sure) as a weapon against the Democratic Party.  Or with the rise of Rush Limbaugh.  Or even with the use of Nixon's southern strategy.  In any case, the GOP brought this on itself.  I don't feel sorry for them.  I feel sorry for us.

Don't get me wrong, at this point I think left has the better ideas, the better plans to help society flourish but I don't want to win the chess game just because the other guy's brain's been fried by some syphilis left untreated.

And while part of me can giggle and squirm with epichairekakian glee over the GOP's downfall due to Trump's idiotic behavior, the rest of me can't help but think that, in the long run, America is losing something far more important than a billionaire bigot and the political credibility of the party that chose him to be president.

October 8, 2016

Confessions of a Serial Predator

"I just start kissing [beautiful women]. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait," a hot mic recorded Donald Trump saying in 2005, in a recording obtained by The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold. "And when you're a star they let you do it," Trump says. "You can do anything. … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything." - U.S. News & World Report
There, of course, have been Donald Trump surrogates and even media headlines that have tried to spin this as Trump just using offensive or lewd or crude words, when in actuality, this is Trump bragging that he sexually assaults women and gets away with it. I say "of course" because far too many people -- and Republicans in particular -- have always had a problem with the concept of consent. What we have here is a nasty, creepy predator confessing his behavior, and most women have been on the receiving end of this sort of unwanted groping at some point in their lives.

For those who think that Trump may just be using hyperbole, he has been accused of groping before. And worse:
A federal lawsuit filed in New York, accusing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump of repeatedly raping a 13-year-old girl over 20 years ago at several Upper East Side parties hosted by convicted sex offender and notorious billionaire investor Jeffrey Epstein, was refiled on 30 September 2016, two weeks after the complainant voluntarily dismissed a suit based on the same claims.
After first issuing a non-apology "apology", Trump released a video where he claimed that "this is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues..." No. No. No. No. Sexual assault is important. It is not a distraction. There's always arguments over the statistics on sexual assault and rape, but women know it is not some mere "distraction" and that it happens with outrageous frequency. It's happened to me, to my friends and to my relatives. If you have any doubt of its frequency, just ask any of the women or girls in your life.

A reminder that this is a man who is also on tape telling a woman on his TV show that, "Must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees." Imagine any man saying that to a coworker. Then imagine how fast he'd be hauled in front of HR, or sued for creating a hostile work environment -- just as he should have been for his behavior to the women on his pageant shows where he did kiss and touch them whenever he felt like it.

Donald Trump is a serial predator.

No woman -- or man who cares about them -- has any excuse for voting him into the highest office in the land.

"I'm not in every interaction my father has. But he's not a groper." - Ivanka Trump




October 7, 2016

Statement From The Mayor's Office Regarding The PSO Strike

Mayor Peduto's Office issued the following statement this morning regarding the strike by the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra:
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is a crucial part of Pittsburgh's cultural fabric, and it is made so by its musicians. The Mayor is encouraging both sides to return to the negotiating table to make sure our world-class musicians are supported and the institution continues to enrich Pittsburgh for generations to come.

Yo-Yo Ma, Born Today In Paris (The Pittsburgh-On-The-Seine)

In his honor and in solidarity with the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony (who are currently on strike), here's both:


The piece is a setting (by the composer, in 1888) of the second movement of the Tchaikovsky first String Quartet.

It's a great orchestra and management should recognize that and treat it as such.

To keep up with the news of the strike you can go here or here.

October 6, 2016

Pittsburgh Symphony Responds

Apologies, as I should have noticed this before last night's post.

Symphony management is already "clarifying" the threat they sent to all the PSO musicians on October 4.

Let me remind you of what they sent. In part, it read:
You must realize that the PSI has an obligation to keep Heinz Hall open and operating to serve our patrons and others as they expect and as may be required. In order to do so, it may require us to hire replacement workers, either on a temporary or permanent basis, as will be determined by the business necessity that we face.
Yesterday afternoon, the P-G's Elizabeth Bloom wrote:
But COO Christian Schornich, who sent the letter to the orchestra players on strike, said that statement is simply a legal formality in the case of a strike and that the organization has “no intention” of hiring replacement musicians to play orchestra concerts.
Legal formality?  Sure it was.  Look again at the text of the letter.  In order to "serve our patrons as they expect" (presumably with concerts and the like) management "has an obligation to keep Heinz Hall open" and doing so might require hiring replacement workers.

Just who were they thinking of replacing?  The very nice folks who hand out the programs and show you to your seats?  The very nice folks who sell you your tickets at the ticket counter?

No.  They were referring to the 90 or so people actually making the music on the stage.

Which makes the afternoon's walk-back so insultingly obvious.

Bloom quoted:
“I don’t want to even go there,” Mr. Schornich said, referring to the possibility of hiring an orchestra of non-PSO musicians. “There’s no intention behind this.”
And...blink.

But I gotta ask this one thing, I just gotta.  If there's no intention for hiring replacements, then why did you include it in the letter in the first place?

Note to the management: This was not a good day for you.  You blinked.

October 5, 2016

PSO Strike Update: Replacement Workers?

An astute reader informs me that last night (October 4) at about 7:30 all the members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra received an email from management.

It's been posted here at Slippedisc.

After pointing out the usual stuff (for example, how the musicians' health care coverage stopped 4 days before the email was sent out, how nice) after that, there's this:
As stated above, it is intended only to serve as an information letter concerning your compensation and benefits as of this date. You must realize that the PSI has an obligation to keep Heinz Hall open and operating to serve our patrons and others as they expect and as may be required. In order to do so, it may require us to hire replacement workers, either on a temporary or permanent basis, as will be determined by the business necessity that we face. If we take that course of action, the PSI will assure you that it will provide to you all rights that are required by law.
You'll note how the musicians are described - it's with the word "workers." And you'll also note that if there's a "business necessity" the striking musicians might find their seats on Heinz Hall stage filled by some "replacement workers."  It's not personal.  It's strictly business.

But replacements for the striking workers?

In a union town like Pittsburgh there's a word for such replacements: scabs.

Unless I am misreading the email, that's what management is threatening.

[Message to Symphony Management: feel free to contact me if you explain to me how I got the above wrong.  Until then, you're not doing your reputation any favors by threatening to hire scabs to replace the musicians of our city's world class symphony.]

Happy Birthday to the Other Political Junkie!


A Foxy Chapellian Update

Remember last Thursday when I posted this?

It was about the "advisory" sent out to the Fox Chapel residents advising them of the "tall thin light skinned African American male" who was evidently only distributing political materials door-to-door.

Well, it's only taken him five days, but my buddy Tony Norman (of the P-G) finally got around to telling the story.

In doing so, he has some important things to say about the Fox Chapel police - things that deserve to be posted here at 2PJ, if only out of fairness to everyone involved.

Tony contacted the Fox Chapel police for an explanation:
Chief Laux then shared the backstory for the advisory that sounded plausible to me. Nine days earlier, a man roughly matching the description of the guy in the advisory was arrested for burglary in Fox Chapel. The woman who called in the tip about the black guy walking down Tree Farm Road happens to be “best friends” with the burglary victim. She assumed the burglar had somehow returned to the neighborhood. (As it happens, he is in custody at Allegheny County Jail.)

Chief Laux copped to crafting an inelegant advisory, blaming character limitations of the format and desiring “not to write a novel” explaining the whole back story. He sounded genuinely sheepish about it, adding: “I can see how someone might misconstrue what happened.”

His intention was to convey to the public that the guy distributing political fliers wasn’t anything to be concerned about. Unfortunately, the advisory had the opposite effect because of the line about contacting the police about suspicious persons tacked on the end. People read it as a comment about the canvasser and not routine advice. Chief Laux regrets the confusion.
Ok, so it's a misunderstanding based on an advisory inelegantly written.  I can buy that (but I still like my imagined 911 call) but Tony's right:
Fortunately, no one died as a result of a bad call this time around.

October 4, 2016

Pittsburgh Symphony Strike

For those of you who don't already know, let me fill you in.

The musicians of the world-class Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are on strike:
On September 18, [Pittsburgh Symphony] Management presented what it deemed a “last, best, and final” contract offer. In that proposal, Management demands the following:
  • An immediate wage cut of 15% (from $107,239 to $91,153), with only minor increases (2% and 3%) for each of the following two years.
  • A “hard freeze” of the Musicians’ pension plan, in which all participants with less than 30 years of service would no longer accrue pension benefits and would instead be switched to a 401k plan.
  • A reduction in the Orchestra complement (presently 99 plus 2 librarians, though 3 positions are currently vacant) to some lower number that would be unilaterally determined by [Pittsburgh Symphony] Management, which would have sole discretion to decline to replace Musicians who retire or leave the Orchestra.The consequences of those cuts would be severe and immediate. Pittsburgh boasts an orchestra internationally recognized as one of the world’s best. If [Pittsburgh Symphony] Management’s proposed cuts were realized, many of the PSO’s finest Musicians will leave. The Orchestra will be unable to attract replacements of the same caliber. The reputation and stature of the Pittsburgh Symphony would forever be diminished.After receiving Management’s so-called final offer on September 18, the Musicians suggested the parties work with mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (“FMCS”). [Pittsburgh Symphony] Management agreed to do so; however, despite a mediation process that lasted more than ten days, and despite continued good-faith efforts by the Musicians to compromise, Management’s demands did not change at all.
Management's side, on the necessity of the strike can be found here. From the press release:
“It is extremely important to underscore that management and the Board of Trustees of the Pittsburgh Symphony are unwavering in our collective commitment to our orchestra’s artistic mission and to its excellence-past, present, and future. At the same time, we must squarely confront the very real financial crisis that we are facing. Throughout the negotiation process-beginning in February and ongoing-we have been doing everything possible to work toward a solution which will place the organization on the best possible path to ensure the orchestra’s future,” said Melia Tourangeau, President & CEO, who was appointed to her position in July 2015. “Our strategic plan is a five-year growth model to sustainability. The hard work and success of implementing it this year make us confident that, in that time frame, we can achieve our plan. Our most immediate challenge is that the runway is extremely short to address key financial circumstances, which is why we need the musicians of the PSO to participate in the solution.”
Not being an expert in labor negotiations, I'll leave their argument there.

On the other hand, being a musician (a politically left-leaning musician at that!), I have to go with the musicians and their union.  The PSO is a world class organization.  Cutting corners is not an option if you want to keep it that way.  Management has to find a way to keep it that way.  Balancing the budget on the backs of the musicians is not the way to do it.

In the mean time:
The musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are on strike, and the symphony has canceled all its performances through Oct. 27. But the musicians' own planned series of informal Day of Music concerts will go on as scheduled [today, October 4].
 Here's the schedule:


(Click the image to see it in full, OR you might need to go here.)

I'm gonna try real hard to get to the brass at the court house.

See you at noon!

October 3, 2016

Vile Anti Hillary "Trump Truck" Display Near State College, PA



Josh Rager -- a friend of my sister, Gina -- took the above photos this weekend. The display is located on Curtin Hollow Road by Route 150/North Eagle Valley Rd in Howard, PA. This would be between State College and Bald Eagle State Park in the center of the state.

If you look at the closeup of the photo below, that would be Hillary in a cage in prison stripes on the back of the truck and Trump on top with a machine gun. What is most disturbing, however, is the depiction of Hillary inside the truck. It's not that clear in the photograph, but it looks like Hillary with a plastic bag over her head and a noose around her neck. 


WTH? 

Someone thought it funny enough to give it its own Facebook page (though it looks like that page was made before the cage was added).

Googling "CHBP" found a plausible explanation for that acronym as "Curtin Hollow Border Patrol" which makes perfect sense in the paranoid, hate-filled world of far too many Trump supporters.

Even if Trump loses in November (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE), the mentality that is behind this display will still survive...

Even While Its Shutting Down, The Tribune-Review Is STILL Misleading Its Readers On The UN Arms Trade Treaty

This is what the editorial board had to say:
Hope springs eternal among gun-grabbing interests that the Obama administration somehow will get the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty through the Senate.

At the Second Conference of State Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty in August, the U.S. representative said America still wants to ratify the accord, signed by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013, The Daily Signal reports. But the treaty, which critics say could provide the rationalization for a national gun registry, has met stiff opposition. After Mr. Kerry signed it, 50 senators penned a letter to President Obama opposing the pact as being “vague and easily politicized.”
Not so vague as it turns out. But as evidenced by the braintrust's (gee, I'm gonna miss you guys!) editorial, it is easily politicized.

Not the term used in the first paragraph: gun-grabbing.  Now what do you think that means?

They're trying to get their readership to think that this UN treaty will give the UN the authority to GRAB ALL THE GUNZ, those dirty rotten gun-grabbers.

However as we've said before - 3 years ago - the Preamble of the Treaty contains these two clauses:
Recognizing the legitimate political, security, economic and commercial interests of States in the international trade in conventional arms,

Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system,
They leave that part out when they're trying to con their readers into thinking that the UN is going to get in the way of a trip to the gun show at the Monroeville Mall.

Additionally, the source the braintrust uses (this article at the Scaife-funded Heritage Foundation-owned Daily Signal) also gets the treaty wrong.  Take a look:
Second Amendment advocates are concerned the treaty could provide an international law rationalization for a national gun registry in the United States, and is overly vague.

“The language is so vague is could almost mean anything. A lot could be done to rationalize gun control. The treaty has no prohibitions, no thou-shalt-nots,” Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, told The Daily Signal.
No prohibitions? I guess they didn't bother to read Article 6, which is titled,  "Prohibitions."

The Tribune-Review braintrust was wrong 3 years ago and it's wrong now.  The treaty reaffirms the sovereign right of any nation to regulate arms "pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system" (in our case, the 2nd Amendment).

Why do they keep missing that part?  I guess they're not counting on someone checking their work.