Democracy Has Prevailed.

March 31, 2009

More on Joe "The Plumber"

Word has it that my good friend Fred will be talking about Joe Wurzelbacher (erroneously known as "Joe The Plumber") today on KDKA.

Seems that Monsieur Le plombier was in the area yesterday.

Here's KDKA's coverage.

A couple of things to emphasize about Jon Delano's reporting. First off, some local unionized plumbers don't like the fact that Mr Wurzelbacher isn't licensed to be a plumber. Good enough for me. If the licensed practitioners reject the label due to a lack of a license on Joe's part, then he's not a plumber. Hey I helped my father-in-law replace the faucet in the kitchen this weekend. Does that make me a plumber? Of course not. It belittles all the training necessary to get a plumbing license.

So simply put Joe the plumber isn't.

But this is somewhat beside the point. As Jon reports (2:00 in):
The big issue is whether the Employee Free Choice Act takes away the workers' secret ballot in unionizing.
Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity is quoted as saying:
It takes the right of the secret ballot away from American workers when they're deciding whether or not to join a union. It's almost unamerican in many ways.
Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council says otherwise:
It's a lie. They're lying.
Unfortunately, Delano doesn't delve into which one is telling the truth (though in fairness, he does state early in the piece that the bill "would make it easier to unionize companies").

You can thank me next time you see me, Jon. Here's the facts:

The text of HR 1409 is here. The bill would amend National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. 159(c)) with the following:
Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, whenever a petition shall have been filed by an employee or group of employees or any individual or labor organization acting in their behalf alleging that a majority of employees in a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining wish to be represented by an individual or labor organization for such purposes, the Board shall investigate the petition. If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative described in subsection (a).
Here's the National Labor Relations Act. You can hunt down 29 U.S.C. 159(c) on your own, if you like.

But what does all that mean above? Christopher Beam of Slate writes:
Here's how it works currently: Say you work at a factory and you want to form a union. First, you approach your favorite union and request a bunch of blank cards. (Here's what they look like.) Then you go around to your colleagues and ask them whether they want to sign up. If they do, they sign their name to the cards. Once you get 30 percent of the total work force to sign cards, you're eligible to hold an election on whether to form a union. (Workers usually wait till they get at least 50 percent or 60 percent, just to make sure they will win the election.) You then present the cards to the National Labor Relations Board and the employer. The employer can then either recognize the union right away or request a secret-ballot election, which must happen within 60 days. If more than 50 percent of employees vote for a union, they've got a union. If not, they don't.
And what would things look like if the EFCA passes? Beam:

The essential change of the EFCA would be to allow the employees—rather than the employer—to decide whether to hold a secret-ballot election. If at least half of the work force signed cards saying it wanted a union, there would be a union—without the rigmarole of a full-blown election.

Workers still have the option of holding a secret ballot election, of course. But, again, as a practical matter, it's hard to imagine why a group of workers, having just won a union, would then also decide to hold an election. Sure, a smaller group of workers—it'd have to be at least 30 percent—could still petition for a secret ballot. But the legislation clearly states that "[i]f the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations … the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative." [emphasis in original]

It's simple: the choice of a "secret ballot" would be up to the employees not the employers. Something you don't hear too much from the media, huh?

Now go back and look at what Phillips said. And now look at what Shea said. Who's right? Since the workers would now have the option for a secret ballot (after collecting the necessary signed cards), it's hard to see how that "right" is taken away from them by the EFCA.

It is taken away from the employers. And maybe that's what got the Americans for Prosperity all in a tizzy.

Debtors' Prisons Make A Comeback

There's a woman in jail in Escanaba, Michigan, United States of America.

She's in jail because she's poor -- too poor to pay her creditor.

Who is her creditor?

Her creditor is the court who says that she is liable for $104 for the monthly cost of incarcerating her 16 year-old son who is in a juvenile detention facility.

The woman is Ms. Nowlin. She was laid off from work, lost her home and is destitute. She survives by living with friends (along with her 14 year-old son) and picking up work when she can get it. She is $17,000 in debt and what money she can earn is garnished.

When Ms. Nowlin could not pay the $104 she was sentenced to 30 days in jail. She was denied a court appointed attorney.

She was given a day of work release three days after she was incarcerated so that she could pick up a paycheck for $178.53. She intended to pay the $104 with that paycheck.

However, the jail officials where she was imprisoned forced her to sign the check over to them to to pay for her "room and board."

When the 30 days of her current sentence are up she will be right back where she started -- unable to pay for the next 30 day stay for her son and able to be sentenced again.

This is one sad, sick world we live in.

The only thing that would make this story more Dickensian is if they had jailed her 14 year-old son along with her and if her 16 year-old son had been sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread.

The one bright spot is that the ACLU is now fighting on her behalf.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan web site.

The brief that they filed on behalf of Ms. Nowlin
here (.pdf).

Daily Kos diary on this case

Tales From Bushville - Mendota, California Edition

From McClatchy:
With a 41 percent jobless rate, [Mendota's] social fabric is tearing at the seams. Alcoholism and crime are on the rise. To save money, some mothers wash and re-use disposable diapers. Unemployed men with nothing to do wander the streets and sit on benches.

The irony is obvious: In a large swath of the nation's most productive farming region, many struggle to fill their own cupboards.

Some details:
[Alicia] Reyes, who runs the dilapidated thrift store with her daughter, spent a recent morning watching customers trickle in and out. A sign hanging above an American flag behind her read: "Lord, help me hang in there." So far that day, she had sold only a pair of glass jars — for $5.

Normally, Reyes can keep her business afloat by bargain-shopping for clothes and other items at yard sales in Fresno and re-selling them in Mendota. But with times as tough as they are now, even her thrift store may have to close.

"It's been terrible, terrible, terrible," said Reyes, 60, shaking her head. "The people have no money, no jobs."

Mendota, California

March 30, 2009

Dowd: Ravenstahl Wasted $20,198,500

In a press release issued today Democratic mayoral candidate Patrick Dowd put a price tag of $20,198,500 "on the Ravenstahl administration's waste and mismanagement. 'Sadly, millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted by this administration,' said Dowd, 'Pittsburgh can do better. We certainly can’t afford another four years of this kind of mismanagement.'"

Dowd broke the dollar amount out as follows:

He also presented a number of alternative uses for the $20,198,500 "siphoned away from taxpayers by the Administration’s reckless spending habits" including:
  • Creation of a dedicated fund to support start-up companies and create jobs.
  • Make major technological investments to put Pittsburgh on the cutting edge of the economy.
  • [1] Pittsburgh will pay around $17,000 per vehicle for the Nederman ventilation system to be installed by Clean Air Systems, Inc. of Ohio. The Upper Yoder Volunteer fire department plans to spend $8,000 per vehicle for the same system. Based on the figures above, a bidding process could potentially have saved the city 53% of the cost or approximately $518,000. “Firetruck ventilation process sparks city debate,” Pittsburgh, Post-Gazette, March 14, 2009, Rich Lord. Online citation: .

    [2] “[T]he URA is forgoing $91,188 in rent over the terms of the three-year leases, compared to what it could have gotten by sticking with the highest bids.” Source: “URA ignored its own rules in parking lot contracts”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 08, 2008, Rich Lord. Online citation: .

    [3] “$1,010 trash cans littered with mayor's moniker,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2009, Jeremy Boren. Online citation: .

    [4] Cost of administrative leave paid to Dennis Regan in connection with investigation into improprieties as Mayor Ravenstahl’s Operations Director. “City clears Regan, who quits.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 2, 2006, Rich Lord. Online Citation: .

    [5] Cost of settlement with Commander McNeilly in connection with her blowing the whistle on improper interference in police operations by the Mayor’s staff. “Pittsburgh police commander's lawsuit costs city more,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 22, 2007, Jeremy Boren. Online citation: .

    [6] Cost of payment to maintain Mr. Ford’s silence with a “confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement.” “URA will pay Ford through June,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 12, 2008, Rich Lord. Online citation: .

    [7] “Municipal Market Regulator Regrets Enabling Losses,”, March 25, 2009, Darrell Preston. Online citation: .

    No Apologies from Bill Kristol

    A few days ago Bill Kristol, former NYTimes Columnist, current big-league neoconservative and one of the main cheerleaders for Bush's War in Iraq, was asked a simple yes-or-no question on C-SPAN:
    CALLER: Question for you, Mr. Kristol and I'd like for you to answer it with a simple yes or no. Due to the fact that we was led into the Iraq War with the fact that there were weapons of mass destruction, there were nuclear weapons there, there was all kind of weapons there, it's proved to be false - absolutely false. And your magazine, Fox network and and AEI, all of y’all hyped that to a degree that was just unimaginable. Even President Bush admitted there were no weapons of mass destruction there. In lieu of that fact — being the fact that there's 4,500 American lives lost there — will you personally apologize to those folks right now? Simple yes or no. Thank you.

    KRISTOL: No.

    I think the war was right, and I think we’ve succeeded in the war.
    And I think those lives — we should honor those soldiers who gave their lives and who fought so hard, and also were wounded for what they did.

    And also in Afghanistan, incidentally, it’s President Obama who’s announcing the increase in troops today. It’s not something he was forced into by the Weekly Standard or anyone else.
    You'll note, of course, that after his one word answer, Kristol immediately changes the subject away from his support for the now-debunked idea that there were WMD in Iraq to what he sees as the outcome of the war and the troops.

    But Bill Kristol has never had that close of a relationship with the facts. David Corn has a run-down on some of his more famous bad predictions. Here's a few:
    On September 11, 2002, as the Bush administration began its sales campaign for the coming war, Kristol suggested that Saddam Hussein could do more harm to the United States than al Qaeda had: "we cannot afford to let Saddam Hussein inflict a worse 9/11 on us in the future."
    On February 20, 2003, he summed up the argument for war against Saddam: "He's got weapons of mass destruction. At some point he will use them or give them to a terrorist group to use...Look, if we free the people of Iraq we will be respected in the Arab world....France and Germany don't have the courage to face up to the situation. That's too bad. Most of Europe is with us. And I think we will be respected around the world for helping the people of Iraq to be liberated."
    On March 5, 2003, Kristol said, "I think we'll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction and when we liberate the people of Iraq."
    Corn sums it up:
    Such vindication never came. Kristol was mistaken about the justification for the war, the costs of the war, the planning for the war, and the consequences of the war. That's a lot for a pundit to miss. In his columns and statements about Iraq, Kristol displayed little judgment or expertise. He was not informing the public; he was whipping it. He turned his wishes into pronouncements and helped move the country to a mismanaged and misguided war that has claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. That's not journalism.
    And Kristol said "No." when asked to apologize.

    March 29, 2009

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    Sorry, my friends but there doesn't seem to be a Jack Kelly column this week.

    Go about your business.

    March 28, 2009

    Turn Off Your Lights for Earth Hour Tonight!

    This year, the world's first global election is taking place, an election between earth and global warming. It's not about what country you are from, but what planet you are from. Your light switch is your vote. We need one billion votes for earth, because our planet is worth saving. Vote Earth by simply switching off your lights for one hour and join the world for Earth Hour.

    TODAY! March 28th, 8:30-9:30 PM

    More at

    And, locally from Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto:
    Pittsburgh Shuts Off the Lights

    Pittsburgh Joins International Effort to Combat Global Warming

    PITTSBURGH – Under the leadership of Pittsburgh City Councilman William Peduto, the City of Pittsburgh will join millions of people around the world tonight in an international effort to combat global warming, “Earth Hour.”

    In 2007, the first Earth Hour occurred in Sydney with 2.2 million people turning off their lights in a show of support for efforts to fight global warming. Last year, 50 million people joined the effort and lights were shut off at the Golden Gate Bridge, the Colosseum in Rome, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square.

    This year, Councilman Peduto worked with leaders across the community to have Pittsburgh play a key role in this important show of support. A coalition of education, business, labor and community groups have joined together to show Pittsburgh’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. The following organizations have agreed to participate by turning off lights in their buildings, turning off signs atop downtown skyscrapers, and sending letters home to employees, board members, and students.

    Chatham University
    Carlow University
    University of Pittsburgh
    Carnegie Mellon University
    University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
    Mercy Hospital
    PNC Bank
    BNY Mellon
    Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council
    United Steelworkers of America
    The Falk School
    The Environmental Charter School
    ePittsburgh Parks Conservancy
    Group Against Smog and Pollution
    Carnegie Science Center
    The City of Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh’s participation in Earth Hour has been a community wide effort,” said Councilman Peduto. “I am proud of the many individuals who have taken a leadership role at the local level in promoting this global initiative.”

    What: Earth Hour
    When: Saturday, March 28, 2009 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM

    "Give Earth a break, Turn off your lights for an hour this Saturday and let's start saving our planet" (Post-Gazette)

    "Many turning off their lights tomorrow" (Post-Gazette)

    The President, Today

    The text can be found here.

    Michele Bachmann prepares to make her next pronouncement

    Michele Bachmann prepares to make her next pronouncement


    March 27, 2009

    More Torture Confirmation

    This time from another lawyer on the inside:
    A former State Department lawyer tells The Associated Press that the Bush administration panicked after 9/11 and tortured prisoners.

    Former President George W. Bush denied anyone was tortured. But Vijay Padmanabhan is at least the second insider to publicly describe as torture the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the U.S.

    Padmanabhan was the department's chief counsel on Guantanamo litigation. He says it was "foolish" for the Bush administration to declare that detainees were beyond the reach of U.S. and international laws and the Geneva Conventions.

    He told the AP Friday that "Guantanamo was one of the worst overreactions of the Bush administration."
    When will the prosecutions begin?

    Teh CRAZIE: Michele Bachmann (Late) Edition

    But wait, there's more Crazie from Bachman.

    Earlier this week, right-wing fanatic Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) started peddling false conspiracy theories that the world was moving toward a unified global currency — and that the U.S. might join in as early as next week’s G-20 conference. The myth was started when China’s central bank governor suggested replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Though the suggestion has nothing to do with a unified global currency, Fox News’ Major Garrett decided to ask President Obama whether he supported the fictional prospect of such a move. (Obama, for the record, does not.)
    Not that that's going to stop teh Crazie. I mean, they're STILL getting into a lather over the Fairness Doctrine. Obama's rejection hasn't stopped them - so why should Obama's rejection of the "One World Currency" stop them now?

    Teh Crazie continues:
    Today on Glenn Beck’s radio show, Bachmann declared that the U.S. will soon be moving to “give up the dollar as our currency and we would just go with a One World currency.” Such action, she warned, would mean the U.S. as a country would be “no more.”
    This was followed by a lie:
    Bachmann claimed that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he was “open” to the One World currency. (In reality, he only said he was open to changes in the IMF special drawing rights, and reaffirmed his commitment to the dollar.)
    More intelligent discourse from God's Own Party.

    Teh CRAZIE: Michele Bachmann Edition

    The reality-challenged Representative from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann said some amazingly odd things on Sean Hannity's radio show a few days ago. She was warning, like so many wingnuts on the right, about the "economic Marxism" that's sure to come.

    Via Talkingpointsmemo:
    At this point the American people - it's like Thomas Jefferson said, a revolution every now and then is a good thing. We are at the point, Sean, of revolution. And by that, what I mean, an orderly revolution -- where the people of this country wake up get up and make a decision that this is not going to happen on their watch. It won't be our children and grandchildren that are in debt. It is we who are in debt, we who will be bankrupting this country, inside of ten years, if we don't get a grip. And we can't let the Democrats achieve their ends any longer.
    Right now I'm a member of Congress. And I believe that my job here is to be a foreign correspondent, reporting from enemy lines. And people need to understand, this isn't a game. this isn't just a political talk show that's happening right now. This is our very freedom, and we have 230 years, a continuous link of freedom that every generation has ceded to the next generation. This may be the time when that link breaks. And I'm going to do everything I can, I know you are, to make sure that we keep that link secure. We cannot allow that link to break, because as Reagan said, America is the last great hope of mankind.
    And then of course Sean Hannity added: are not overstating this case, Congresswoman, and you don't need to apologize for it. And as a matter of fact, it's refreshing. And I can tell you, all around this country, on 535 of the best radio stations in this country, people are saying "Amen," "Hallelujah", "where have you been?"
    Wingnut heaven.


    Getting it wrong on Palin

    After hearing over and over yesterday on various MSNB shows that Alaska Governor and former Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin was bitching that she couldn't find anyone from the McCain campaign to pray with on the evening of her VP debate, I finally heard the actual quote:
    "So I'm looking around for somebody to pray with, I just need maybe a little help, maybe a little extra. And the McCain campaign, love 'em, you know, they're a lot of people around me, but nobody I could find that I wanted to hold hands with and pray." [Emphasis added]
    Which means rather than being the poor cheerleader with no pep club, she was the mean cheerleader who looked down on her pep club.

    March 26, 2009

    A Word From Some Republican Grownups

    Thomas R. Pickering was co-chairman of the International Crisis Group and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the administration of George H. W. Bush. William S. Sessions became FBI director during the second Reagan administration and held that post until the end of the Bush administration that followed.

    Hardly lefties.

    This is what they wrote in the Washington Post this week:

    The president understands that no democracy can lead if it engages in activities that damage its defenses and undermine its system of government. And that is what torture does.

    Investigations by Congress and other bodies have shown that, since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, government officials have encouraged and acquiesced in prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel, and detainees have been transferred to countries that are known to torture. In many cases, the perpetrators of abuse and torture were given the support and encouragement (tacit or explicit) of their superiors, possibly as high up the chain of command as the president himself.

    Detainee mistreatment flies in the face of American ideals -- and it strengthens the case of those who fight against us. These methods yield suspect information, and they put our troops, and indeed all Americans, at greater risk of torture and abuse if they are captured by our enemies. When we lower our standards of detainee treatment, others may follow suit; we also provide our enemies with a far better recruiting tool than they could ever produce on their own. And where efforts are made to find legal loopholes and bypass congressional controls, they strain the foundation of our republic by undermining the rule of law.
    Again this was Reagan's FBI director and Bush (41)'s UN Ambassador.

    (At the very least) investigate the war crimes. Prosecute those guilty of war crimes. It's the law.

    Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Campaign Finance Reform

    Georgia Blotzer, Democratic candidate for Pittsburgh City Council District 2, released the following statement on campaign finance reform yesterday:

    "My opponent in this election, Councilwoman Kail-Smith, is a cog in the special interest machine that has put so much of Pittsburgh up for sale. From her rabid support for the unremarkable policy initiatives that have done so little for the West End to her fixation on the type of politics that arranged her special election victory, Theresa Smith represents more of the same. Her recent obstruction of commonplace campaign finance reform and her acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars in large contributions now proves that."

    "Gathering signatures and meeting voters during my listening tour has taught me many things about Pittsburgh, and what the residents of District 2 want in a councilmember. I am pleased to accept the suggestion of a West End neighbor in announcing my new campaign slogan:

    "Georgia Blotzer: Some things aren't for sale."
    City Councilor Bill Peduto has also been pushing for reform for YEARS:

    Councilman William Peduto first sponsored campaign finance reform legislation in City Council in 2004 and re-introduced and passed legislation in 2008, prior to a mayoral veto. Councilman Peduto now plans to amend the Mayor and County Executive’s proposal to include three key provisions. First, an elimination of all no-bid contracts. Second, donation limits that are significantly lower than currently proposed and comparable to similarly sized cities. Finally, public access to political contributors and contracts.

    “Comprehensive campaign finance reform is an essential first step in the effort to reform City government,” said Councilman William Peduto. “I will not vote for any legislation that does not include these three key provisions.”

    He held a post agenda meeting on campaign finance reform on Tuesday.

    Mayoral candidate Patrick Dowd in response to yesterday’s post agenda on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s campaign finance bill, called the Ravenstahl bill “a hollow gesture that falls short of real reform.”

    From his press release:

    Last year, Ravenstahl vetoed a bill supported by a majority of council that imposed federal contribution limits, $2,300 per person per cycle, on municipal elections. Since his June veto, Ravenstahl has raised approximately $500,000 according to public filings.

    “Luke’s attention to reform is a year late and $500,000 short,” Dowd said. “When the council passed sweeping reform in June, he blocked it, only so city contractors could keep funneling cash into his campaign."

    Ravenstahl’s current proposal is a watered down version of the legislation he vetoed last year. It allows for double the limit for individual contributions, and fails to provide for transparency in electronic reporting.

    More importantly, Ravenstahl's legislation places no restrictions on the awarding of no-bid contracts to contributors. In light of recent press coverage, this means the legislation fails to address the rampant pay-to-play politics currently going on in Pittsburgh.

    In response to what he termed a “complete failure of leadership” on campaign finance and eliminating the appearance of impropriety in contracting, Dowd outlined his campaign finance reform agenda:

    In a Dowd Administration

    1) I will introduce comprehensive, common sense campaign finance legislation that is tied to federal contribution limits within the first 100 days;

    2) I will end the practice of awarding no-bid contracts to campaign contributors;

    3) I will ensure that every contract over $25,000 will be competitively bid;

    4) As an incumbent Mayor, I will not solicit campaign contributions from any firm that does business with the City of Pittsburgh or its Authorities;

    5) I will make all finance reports electronically available to the public on the state and county filing dates;

    6) I will ensure the creation of and integrate searchable electronic databases of all city contracts and all campaign contributions of all city elected officials;

    7) I will publish my public schedule on the city's website so that any Pittsburgher can see who I am meeting with.

    Bob Mayo has a chart offered by Peduto during City Council's meeting on the topic which compares the Onorato-Ravenstahl proposal to limit political contributions to campaign finance reform in other cities. It demonstrates how seriously out of whack the O-R plan is.

    The Post-Gazette reports that "Facing a potential train wreck of competing campaign reform concepts, city and county council members may create a joint committee to hash out legislation that would cap political donations to candidates, possibly even in borough and township races."

    I wish I could be hopeful...

    Obligatory Disclaimer: As mentioned before, I've been paid by the Georgia for Council campaign to create and maintain her web site:


    Voter Photo ID Bill (SB 514) Tabled!

    THANKS to eveyone who called or emailed!

    Many thanks and congratulations to all the advocates and voters across the state who made hundreds, if not thousands, of calls and emails to their state senators, in opposition to SB 514 (the photo ID bill)!

    For those that did not hear yet, we have good news: the Senate State Government Committee listened to your messages and tabled consideration of the bill! While they were planning to push it through committee as quickly as possible, instead, as a result of all the voter contacts, they are now saying that they did not realize all
    the concerns about the ID requirements, and want to reconsider the provisions of this bill.

    It may not be the end of the fight, but we certainly won the first battle, and it's all due to you! We may need to duplicate these efforts, should a new version of the bill, or an amendment to another bill, take its place, so stay tuned....

    Thanks again for all your work!

    Kathryn Boockvar
    Senior Attorney
    Advancement Project
    Pennsylvania office:
    73 Old Dublin Pike, Suite 10 #134
    Doylestown, PA 18901
    (215) 345-1267
    (928) 395-1267 fax


    Celeste Taylor
    PA Voice, Director of Election Administration & Protection
    Pittsburgh Hopes Civil Rights Team Member
    801 N. Negley Ave., Union Project #6
    Pittsburgh, PA 15206

    March 25, 2009

    Specter's Toomey Problem

    Word is out that on his radio show today KDKA's Fred Honsberger will be discussing Senator Arlen Specter's bad news:

    A new poll shows Senator Arlen Specter trailing a former congressman who almost beat him in the 2004 Republican primary.

    The statewide poll by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University showed Pat Toomey would win by 14 percentage points in a one-on-one match against Specter if next year's primary were held today.

    The poll also found three out of four Republicans don't know enough about Toomey to form an opinion about him.

    As I am always looking to help out my friend Fred Honsberger, here's some more info on that poll. Things do indeed look bad for Specter when compared to Toomey:
    Apparently paying a political price for his support of President Barack Obama's Stimulus Plan, longtime Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter trails former Congressman Pat Toomey 41 - 27 percent in a Republican primary for the 2010 Senate race, with 28 percent undecided, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
    However, when looking at the larger picture (and keeping in mind it's still very early) things get complicated. Specter's got a 45/31 favorable/unfavorable rating. He's eking out a 6 point lead among independents (41/35 favorable/unfavorable) and a whopping 46 point lead (60/16 favorable/unfavorable) among Democrats. Then there's this:
    Voters approve 52 - 33 percent of the job Specter is doing, with a 71 - 16 percent positive score from Democrats and a 41 - 37 percent boost from independent voters, off-setting a 52 - 36 percent disapproval from Republicans.
    And this:
    If the 2010 election for U.S. Senate were held today, 31 percent of voters say they would vote for Specter while 33 percent say they would vote for an unnamed Democratic challenger, with 35 percent undecided.
    What does all this mean?
    "Pennsylvania Republicans are so unhappy with Sen. Specter's vote for President Barack Obama's Stimulus Package and so-called pork barrel spending that they are voting for a former Congressman they hardly know," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
    It also means that the state Republican Party (a party far smaller than it was only a few years ago, by the way) are upset enough with the popular Republican in the race who has a good shot at re-election that they're gazing fondly at a hardline conservative candidate who has none.

    Santorum was rejected by this state by a margin of 18 points. What makes the state GOP think that another hardline conservative will do any better?

    March 24, 2009

    And Now Some Animation

    Wanna see more Smigly? Go see my friend Al.

    Voter photo ID bill back -- call or e-mail to oppose!

    From an email I received:

    Why is Senate Bill 514 bad?

    1. It's quite common for older, handicapped, poorer, and minority people not to have photo ID. The cost and bother of getting photo ID is significant for them.

    2. there were no allegations of fraud of this sort in the past election--this is a "fix" to a phantom problem.

    3. we already have a requirement for new voters to show ID, and draconian penalties for voter fraud.

    Read here (pdf) for details.

    What should you do?

    Use to find your state senator and complain, and/or write directly to the chair and minority chair of the PA Senate State Government Committee. That's Senator McIlhinney, e-mail= cmcilhinney "at" and Senator Williams, e-mail = williams "at"

    Also consider a letter to the editor, especially if your senator is unlikely to be "on the fence" on this issue. Even if it comes down to a Rendell veto, having an informed public really matters.

    To track the progress of the bill, go here.



    I met mayoral candidate and Pittsburgh City Councilor Patrick Dowd a year or two ago at a some Democratic campaign rally. I don't remember him being particularly short. So did he shrink?

    Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

    This photograph from the Post-Gazette makes him look about three feet tall (not that there's anything wrong with that, but voters tend to go with the taller candidate).

    Strange that they would use such an odd angle...

    Blogging for The Man?

    UPDATE: Matt is working for District 4 City Council candidate Anthony Coghill. He did not blog about this race yesterday.

    Whilst trying to catch up on my local blog reading, I came across this exchange from last week in the comments section over at Agent Ska's place:
    Matt H said...
    I will be on the staff of a local campaign as of this Monday.

    12:11 AM

    Agent Ska said...
    Aww, a candidate for president of the tools of the system wants your help.

    how cute.

    How about you take a step back from your mental power trip and realize that you're just someone other campaigns use for their own purposes and don't care about you?

    11:42 AM

    Matt H said...
    Wow. Your really angry for some reason.

    Mental power trip? Where is that from?

    I think your just mad because your candidates just never win on a local level. A lot of you other bloggers hate it that I support people who win.

    If I am someone that is just used then why did I get hired? How is that getting used?

    You so far out of touch with what's reality in local politics.

    I take it your supporting Dowd for Mayor?

    4:21 PM
    Matt H is of course Matt Hogue whose blog is Pittsburgh Hoagie.

    I'm going to take a wild guess here that Matt was hired by Lil Mayor Luke Ravenstahl -- not just because Matt is Lukey's biggest fan ever and BFF wannabe -- but because most local campaigns don't have much in the way of paid staff and because we know that Lil Mayor Luke has been hiring and advertising for staffers from as far away as DC (in keeping with his practice of hiring non locals) and because Matt brought up the mayoral race in the above exchange.

    So Matt, I got to ask:

    Are you working for Ravenstahl's campaign?

    If not his campaign, then which campaign hired you?
    I ask this because yesterday -- the same day that you were supposed to start your new job -- you blogged about three local races: Mayor of Pittsburgh, City Council District 2 and City Council District 6.

    Even by blogger standards it would have been unethical for you to blog about any of those races if you were a hired staffer of any of the candidates and you did not disclose any paid professional associations in your post.

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    March 23, 2009

    Couldn't Happen To A Nicer War Criminal

    From The Hill:

    Congressional Republicans are telling Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location and leave them alone to rebuild the Republican Party without his input.

    Displeased with the former vice-president's recent media appearances, Republican lawmakers say he's hurting GOP efforts to reinvent itself after back-to-back electoral drubbings.
    Awwww, poor guy.

    Song for JPMorgan & AIG

    From ABC News:
    Embattled bank JPMorgan Chase, the recipient of $25 billion in TARP funds, is going ahead with a $138 million plan to buy two new luxury corporate jets and build "the premiere corporate aircraft hangar on the eastern seaboard" to house them, ABC News has learned.
    From Reuters:
    Documents turned over to the Connecticut attorney general show that American International Group Inc paid out over $218 million in bonuses, more than the previously disclosed $165 million, published reports said on Saturday.


    The documents show that bonuses of at least $1 million were paid to 73 people, and five received more than $4 million


    Hey Paul Krugman

    (h/t to AmericaBlog)

    The Trib. Again.

    Every Monday, The Scaife-controlled editorial board of the Scaife-owned Tribune Review quotes from the Scaife-funded Media Research Center in order to show us all some more evidence of vast liberal conspircy in the media.


    Selective favorability: "Over the past few weeks, the White House has been casting right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the head of the Republican Party, and based on a new CBS News poll, it appears they may be onto something: According to the poll, Limbaugh's favorable rating stands at just 19 percent, a full 43 points lower than President Obama's."

    --'s Brian Montopoli. He didn't mention that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's favorable rating was 18 percent.

    Uh, I would think that this only works as a criticism if Speaker Pelosi was the de facto leader of the Democratic Party. They're skipping over the fact that the sitting president is the leader of the party - not the speaker of the house.

    More stuff from that same poll that they skipped over:
    • Congressional Job Approval/Disapproval - 30% (4 points up from February)/56% (7 points down from February)
    • Fully half of the country (50%) has a favorable view of Congressional Democrats, 11 points higher than the the Congressional Repulicans.
    • 40% have an unfavorable view of the Congressional Democrats a gobsmacking 21 points lower than the 61% unfavorable view of the Congressional Republicans.
    Also cleverly omitted by the voices on the right was that the nation now favors the Democrats as being better able to deal with taxes and health care and terrorism.

    Selective Favorability - Riiiiight.

    Patrick Dowd Gives A Wake-up Call To Pittsburghers This Morning

    Mayoral Candidate Patrick Dowd is issuing a “Wake-Up Call” to downtown commuters right about now at the corner of Grant Street and Forbes Avenue.

    He's handing out coffee and trying to wake-up voters to connect the dots on contracting, permitting, and campaign contributions (they'll be a press conference at 9:00 AM).

    Playing off of a great Post-Gazette story on Pay to Play published yesterday, Dowd released a press release today which stated:
    "Especially in this economy, people want their tax dollars watched closely, not given away in sweetheart deals in exchange for campaign contributions." said Dowd. “Every time the Mayor awards a no-bid contract, the taxpayers lose.”

    Yesterday’s Post-Gazette story, was only the latest installment in a string of stories about how Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's contributors have frequently been awarded lucrative contracts at taxpayer expense.

    Ravenstahl boasts close to one million dollars ($966,923) in his campaign account, according to filings with the city controller’s office in January. Many of these contributions have been directly tied to donors that do business with the City.


    "People are sick and tired of their tax dollars being wasted. They want reform - that's why I'm running."
    You can read the full release here and the P-G articles here and here.

    March 22, 2009

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    Just a small point on this week's column. Jack Kelly tries, tries, and then tries again to clarify the AIG news in this week's column. It's not a pretty picture - as readers of this blog must surely know.

    His initial target? Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT).

    Jack writes:
    Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, wants the government to take back the bonuses. This is a change of heart for Mr. Dodd, because it was he who inserted in the "stimulus" bill an amendment which specifically protected from restrictions on executive compensation "contractually obligated bonuses agreed on or before Feb. 11, 2009." The amendment applied principally to AIG.
    A couple paragraphs later Jack writes:
    Mr. Dodd says the language in the stimulus bill was the treasury department's idea. Treasury is saying Secretary Tim Geithner didn't learn of the bonuses until March 10 and didn't tell President Obama about them until March 12.
    Bit of a rhetorical sleight of hand, there. It IS possible that the idea was from Treasury AND that Geithner didn't know about it. So what's the story?

    Let's get some background info from The Hartford Courant:
    A furor erupted this week when Dodd, after first denying a role, acknowledged that he agreed to an amendment to the stimulus bill that had the effect of authorizing the much-criticized bonuses. But he said he agreed to the change only after being persuaded by the Treasury Department that they were necessary to speed a national recovery and prevent lawsuits. And he said he was not informed that the amendment would affect AIG specifically. AIG has received $170 billion in government bailout money.

    After some finger-pointing between Dodd and Treasury officials, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner confirmed Dodd's account Thursday afternoon. In an interview with CNN, Geithner said the original legislation could have generated a flood of lawsuits because of its restrictions on executive compensation at financial institutions. Treasury officials could not be reached for comment Friday. [emphasis added]
    We may be taking our collective eyes off the metaphorical ball a bit. Note the phrase Jack uses (very carefully, as it turns out) in describing Dodd's amendment. Here's how Jack put it:
    ...specifically protected from restrictions on executive compensation...[emphasis added]
    So, regardless of what the Republicans want you to believe, the bonuses were NOT Dodd's idea. Nor did his amendment make them possible. Jack's very careful: Dodd's amendment had something to do with protecting the preexisting bonuses from being restricted by Congress.

    So the bonuses came first. From where? Take a look at this this article from the Washington Post:

    The payment plan had been no secret.

    Beginning in the first quarter of 2008, AIG disclosed the plan to offer retention awards at Financial Products. The unit had already begun to hemorrhage money, a problem that would later grow exponentially. The unit's executives, fearing they might lose valuable employees in the tumultuous months to come, successfully negotiated more than $400 million for their workers, to be paid this month and again next year.

    At the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which has directly overseen AIG since its federal takeover in September, officials have studied the possibility of rescinding or delaying the bonuses. They even brought in outside lawyers for advice. The conclusion: If the bonuses weren't paid, the AIG staffers would be able to sue the company and probably would win, not just what they were owed but also punitive damages that would make the ultimate cost perhaps two to three times as high as the bonuses themselves.[emphasis added]

    Which is basically what Dodd said and what Geithner said. The two could have been clearer and should have explained themselves much much earlier - but that's a separate issue, one different from what Jack wants you to believe.

    He wants you to believe that the bonuses were all either Senator Dodd's or the this Treasury Department's fault, or both. While neither is clear of sin, I want everyone to note the date mentioned in the Washington Post article - the first quarter of 2008. As we are now in the first quarter of 2009, it follows that the first quarter of 2008 was a year ago.

    Who was running the show then?

    Dodd may have his own set of other issues but this ain't one of them.

    March 21, 2009

    Doesn't ANYONE Check Their Facts??

    The Trib Editorial Board comes up short. Again.

    From today's Trib:

    New studies suggest that "global warming" -- no matter if its origins are proffered as man-made or part of a natural cycle -- might soon require a new name. Can you say "global stasis" or "global cooling"?

    Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee applied a math formula to climate data for the past 100 years. They found Earth's air and ocean systems now are showing signs of synchronizing with each other.

    That might explain why the researchers found the warming trend of the past 30 years has stopped and that the planet's temperatures have leveled off since 2001.
    That's the first half (or so) of one of today's editorials. Doncha think they should have checked around to see if what they're saying about this study actually says what they say it says?

    The study by three mathematicians at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee applies some heavy duty chaos theory to the weather data. As far as I can tell, it's more or less completely beyond me.

    But here's where the Trib dropped the ball. Take a look at this article from the ultra-left leaning CNSNews. Scroll down a bit and you can read this:
    Tsonis, the co-author of the study -- which received national attention on Tuesday due to two large global warming rallies at the U.S. Capitol building -- told that his work indicated that temperatures had flattened and slightly decreased since 2001 and that, due to natural cycles, temperature would continue to decrease for several decades.

    “The temperature has flattened and is actually going down,” Tsonis told “We are seeing a new shift towards cooler temperatures that will last for probably about three decades.”

    But Tsonis also said that neither he nor Swanson think their study undermines arguments for global warming caused by human activity.

    “We are not saying there is not warming due to human activity,” Tsonis told ‘We are saying that there are natural shifts on top of that. But, for now, it looks like it is going to cool.” [emphasis added]
    Ponder that for a moment before chewing on the next two paragraphs:
    Tsonis said that currently the natural cycles, which occur in part because of the way oceans interact, are stronger than the influence human activity has on the environment. But when the earth begins to warm again in several decades, he said, the globe could be in trouble because natural warming and man-made warming will occur simultaneously

    “At this point it [natural variation] at least balances, or may be stronger, than the human influence,” said Tsonis. “But if temperatures shift again as we believe they will, then warming will be dramatic. It will be natural warming on top of human warming.” [emphasis added]
    Looks to me that what they're saying is that the planet has temperature cycles of ups and downs and that we're in one of those natural "downs". This "down" is strong enough to level off the "up" of man-made warming and that once the natural cycle shifts again to "up" things will get much much worse.

    This was one of the studies used by The Trib to debunk Global Climate Change.

    QUICK UPDATE: I think I found the source of the above editorial. The Tizona Group. Take a look at what they posted 4 days ago on March 17:
    The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has just released a new study into global warming/climate change noting that temperatures have cooled off since 2001 and that the last 100 years of climate change has been natural.

    This is on top of PhD student, Ryan N. Maue, of the Department of Meteorology at Florida State University, confirming that hurricane activity is at its lowest in 30 years.

    I guess it could be a coincidence - the same info found in the same order a few days prior to publication - so let's just give the folks at DickieCougarMellonScaife's editorial board the benefit of the doubt. It would be nice to know, though, whether they actually research the topics they write about (beyond checking in on sympathetic blogs, of course)

    March 20, 2009

    Happy Anniversary, I Guess.

    It should not go unnoticed that yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the beginning of theWar in Iraq.

    Let's take a look and see what's happened because of Bush's decision to invade. As of today (March 20, 2009):
    (h/t to Buzzflash)

    Then there's the financial cost. As of today Bush's war has cost:
    Then there's the loss of American prestige overseas and so on.

    Is it any wonder that the few remaining Bush-ites are STILL trying to spin his legacy? From thinkprogress:
    On PBS’s Charlie Rose yesterday — six years after the eve of the Iraq invasion — former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice discussed the decision to invade Iraq. Rice said she has had no “second thoughts” about striking the country, and when pressed by Rose on whether Saddam Hussein had connections to 9/11, Rice blankly said that “no one” believed in such a link
    However, there's this from
    On March 18th, George W. Bush wrote to the Speaker of the House (Hastert) and the President of the Senate (Cheney) invoking the powers granted him by Public Law 107-243. Initiating the invasion of Iraq, he wrote:

    ...I determine that:... [Declaring war on Iraq and] acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

    Thus the invasion of Iraq and seizure of its oil fields, was, according to George W. Bush, legally justified by 9/11.
    Happy Anniversary, everyone.

    March 19, 2009

    More On Bush's Torture

    From Lawrence Wilkerson at The Washington Note. Wilkerson lists some things that we, the American public, might not be aware of, regarding the "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay.

    He first points out that the troops collecting said combatants were not as well trained as they should have been. But then he gets to a big nugget:

    The second dimension that is largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.

    But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released. I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces. [emphasis added]

    I was curious about the reason why so many innocents were held for so long. Wilkerson explains:
    The fourth unknown is the ad hoc intelligence philosophy that was developed to justify keeping many of these people, called the mosaic philosophy. Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance (this general philosophy, in an even cruder form, prevailed in Iraq as well, helping to produce the nightmare at Abu Ghraib). All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals--in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.

    Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees' innocence was inconsequential. After all, they were ignorant peasants for the most part and mostly Muslim to boot. [emphasis added]

    After pointing out that at least 770 people were held at Guantanamo Bay and that Wilkerson said that at most two dozen of those "might well be hardened criminals", David Schuster summed it all up like this last night:
    Twenty-four men. American principles sacrificed. America's image stained to hold twenty-four men. Meaning the United States kidnapped, detained and denied due process to at least seven hundred fifty six innocent people.
    Prosecute the war crimes. It's the law.

    March 18, 2009

    Yes, It Was Torture. And Yes There Needs To Be Action

    On Olbermann last night:
    The “New York Review of Books” has obtained a confidential report from 2007 by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which not only had access to Guantanamo Bay, but was allowed to interview 14 high-level detainees there. American officials, with green lights from Washington, five times in one week, wrapped a towel around Abu Zubaydah‘s neck and used it to swing him around, smashing his body against a wall. Then they put him into a box and cut off the air supply. Then they waterboarded him until he vomited.

    Then there was Walid bin Attash, left hanging by his wrists for hours, standing on his one leg, in between his beatings. All of this and more credible enough for the Red Cross to call it literally torture. The Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is a signatory, establishes how it shall be determined whether, quote, torture has been committed. The ultimate deciding body, as agreed to by our country, is the Red Cross.

    According to the authority recognized by the United States of America, the United States of America committed war crimes, violated the Geneva Conventions, committed torture. So the debate is over. Let the prosecutions begin. [emphasis added]

    Watch it. It's about a minute in:

    Here, by the way, is the article in the New York Review of Books.

    About the ICRC report:

    As the ICRC interviewers informed the detainees, their report was not intended to be released to the public but, "to the extent that each detainee agreed for it to be transmitted to the authorities," to be given in strictest secrecy to officials of the government agency that had been in charge of holding them—in this case the Central Intelligence Agency, to whose acting general counsel, John Rizzo, the report was sent on February 14, 2007. Indeed, though almost all of the information in the report has names attached, and though annexes contain extended narratives drawn from interviews with three of the detainees, whose names are used, we do find a number of times in the document variations of this formula: "One of the detainees who did not wish his name to be transmitted to the authorities alleged..."—suggesting that at least one and perhaps more than one of the fourteen, who are, after all, still "held in a high-security facility at Guantánamo," worried about repercussions that might come from what he had said.

    In virtually all such cases, the allegations made are echoed by other, named detainees; indeed, since the detainees were kept "in continuous solitary confinement and incommunicado detention" throughout their time in "the black sites," and were kept strictly separated as well when they reached Guantánamo, the striking similarity in their stories, even down to small details, would seem to make fabrication extremely unlikely, if not impossible. "The ICRC wishes to underscore," as the writers tell us in the introduction, "that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the fourteen adds particular weight to the information provided below."

    And here's the most important part of all - the conclusion:
    The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. [emphasis added]
    The debate is over. It was torture. The ICRC says so.

    Prosecute the war crimes. It's the law.

    A Special Message To The OPJ

    Happy Birthday, Maria!

    March 17, 2009

    Bush In Canada

    A group called Lawyers Against The War (or LAW) has sent a letter to the RCMP (or Royal Canadian Mounted Police) requesting an investigation of George W. Bush for war crimes.

    The letter they sent can be found here.

    They charge that:
    - George W. Bush, former President of the United States and Commander is Chief of the Armed Forces, is inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), section 35(1)(a) because of overwhelming evidence that he has ‘committed, outside Canada, torture and other offences referred to in sections 4 to 7 of the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act (CAHWC); and,

    - the George W. Bush Administration has engaged in “systematic or gross human rights violations, or a war crime or a crime against humanity within the meaning of subsections 6(3) to (5) of the CAHWC.
    Here's that section of the IRPA. And this is how the CAHWC subsections 6(3) to (5) defines crimes against humanity:
    ...means murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution or any other inhumane act or omission that is committed against any civilian population or any identifiable group and that, at the time and in the place of its commission, constitutes a crime against humanity according to customary international law or conventional international law or by virtue of its being criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations, whether or not it constitutes a contravention of the law in force at the time and in the place of its commission.
    And they ask that the RCMP:
    - begin an investigation of George W. Bush for aiding, abetting and counseling torture between November 13, 2001 and November 2008 at Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Bagram prison in Afghanistan and other places; and,

    - advise the Prime Minister, Attorney General of Canada and Ministers of Immigration and Public Safety that the George W. Bush administration is a “ government that has engaged in torture and other war crimes and crimes against humanity and therefore G.W. Bush, as former President, is also inadmissible under section 35(1)(b) of the IRPA.

    Here's the letter they sent to Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper in late February.

    The only thing standing in the way of Canadian Justice?

    The Canadian government:
    Canadian government officials have chosen to ignore a request to bar George W. Bush from entering Canada, but the issue is not going to go away, according to the lawyers’ group that first raised it.

    Lawyers Against the War’s (LAW) Gail Davidson said Sunday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Attorney General Rob Nicholson have been formally notified of their legal obligations under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

    She told them in a March 11 letter there is “overwhelming evidence that (Bush) has committed, outside Canada, torture and other offences” referred to in Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, and said LAW can provide the evidence.

    Harper and other government officials were also told that the act states “if there are reasonable grounds to believe a person has been complicit in any of these crimes, entry to Canada must be denied.”

    However, neither Harper nor any other Ministers responded to last month’s request from the group.
    It's not like they haven't banned other folks from entering Canada. If you're arrested in the US for protesting the war that's killed 4,000 American troops and countless Iraqis, you're banned from Canada.

    But if you start that war (and commit war crimes, too boot) you're in.

    March 15, 2009

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    Jack Kelly certainly earned his wingnut pay with this week's wingnut column. It's an amazing piece of wingnut work (as you'll see) so let's get wingnut started.

    Jack begins:

    Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer owe much of their 15 minutes of fame to Saul Alinsky, a Chicago Marxist who died in 1972.

    Mr. Alinsky is considered to be the father of "community organizing" as the path to social revolution. A year before his death he published a book, "Rules for Radicals," which distilled what he had learned from his experiences, his reading of Marx and Lenin, and from his associations with crime boss Al Capone and labor leader John Lewis.

    Wait does this mean we won't be hearing any more from Messers Wurzelbacher, Santelli, and Cramer? Please God, if indeed there IS a God, let Jack Kelly be RIGHT about that!

    While I am not sure Alinsky was a marxist, good for Jack for pointing out how long ago Alinsky died. In fact, Saul Alinsky died only five days before the Watergate break-in. 37 years is a long stretch to make, but Jack tries anyway.

    First off some context on Jack's "Capone" reference. According to an interview Alinsky gave to Playboy magazine in 1972, he:
    ...was awarded the graduate Social Science Fellowship in criminology, the top one in that field, which took care of my tuition and room and board -- I still don't know why they gave it to me -- maybe because I hadn't taken a criminology course in my life and didn't know one goddamn thing about the subject -- But this was the Depression and I felt like someone had tossed me a life preserver -- Hell, if it had been in shirt cleaning, I would have taken it. Anyway, I found out that criminology was just as removed from actual crime and criminals as sociology was from society, so I decided to make my doctoral dissertation a study of the Al Capone mob -- an inside study. [emphasis added]
    So THAT'S the "association" Jack was talking about! He hung out with The Outfit and met Frank Nitti, for his dissertation. Though I clarify something for Jack: Capone was a prisoner at Alcatraz at when Alinsky started studying the gang and so the two probably didn't actually meet.

    Nothing like not letting the facts to get in the way of a good smear.

    Alinsky also said that he was a "a nonparticipating observer in their professional activities." Activities which he didn't like and couldn't stop anyway. Nor was he any sort of threat. Even if he chose to turn the Capone gang in, who would he tell? Alinsky:
    Capone was the establishment. When one of his boys got knocked off, there wasn't any city court in session, because most of the judges were at the funeral and some of them were pallbearers. So they sure as hell weren't afraid of some college kid they'd adopted as a mascot causing them any trouble. They never bothered to hide anything from me; I was their one-man student body and they were anxious to teach me. It probably appealed to their egos.
    But that's not the point that Jack wants to make, is it?. He's looking to get YOU to think "Alinsky's association with Capone means Alinsky's criminal activity" and then once Alinsky's tainted, all the connections that follow (Alinsky to Obama, and Obama to the "Democrat party") are similarly tainted.

    He then looks to trace Alinsky's influence (via one of his "Rules for Radicals") on the "character assassinations" of Joe the Plumber, Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer:
    Rule 11 is: "Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don't try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame."

    In other words, engage in character assassination. Your opponent is not someone with whom you disagree. He or she is an enemy who must be destroyed.
    Listening to a conservative whine about "character assassination" is truly a surreal experience. Especially since Jack Kelly is the guy who wrote this column presenting, for all the world to see, the now debunked charges from the now debunked Swiftboat Veterans for Truth.


    Then there's this:
    White House adviser David Axelrod acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that he'd authorized the attacks on Mr. Limbaugh. The ostensible reason was Mr. Limbaugh's expressed desire that President Obama "fail." Listeners to his program know Mr. Limbaugh meant he hopes the president's efforts to take over large segments of the economy fail, but Mr. Axelrod's minions spun it as if Mr. Limbaugh were hoping America would fail.

    This was the pot calling the kettle black. In a 2006 Fox News poll, 51 percent of Democrats surveyed said they didn't want President Bush to succeed. Democratic strategist and CNN "news analyst" James Carville has been among the loudest critics of Mr. Limbaugh's remark. But in a television interview on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 (before the attacks on the World Trade Center), Mr. Carville said of President Bush: "I certainly hope he doesn't succeed."

    Let's take a look at the Carville part. Here's how the article at Fox "News" begins:
    On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just minutes before learning of the terrorist attacks on America, Democratic strategist James Carville was hoping for President Bush to fail, telling a group of Washington reporters: "I certainly hope he doesn't succeed."
    But a few paragraphs later, there's this:
    Minutes later, as news of the terrorist attacks reached the hotel conference room where the Democrats were having breakfast with the reporters, Carville announced: "Disregard everything we just said! This changes everything!" [emphasis added.]
    Changes things, huh? Interesting that Jack left that part out, huh?

    Wonder why. Again, nothing like not letting the facts get in the way of a good smear.

    Jack should know better than to quote Camille Paglia. Here's what he writes:
    Mr. Limbaugh's already impressive audience has ballooned since the attacks on him began. But, said Obama supporter Camille Paglia, the attacks on Rush have "made the White House look like an oafish bunch of drunken frat boys."
    But given this article in the Washington Post, that says:

    According to what Limbaugh delights in calling "the drive-by media," the number varies wildly. Is it 30 million (Pat Buchanan on MSNBC), 20 million (Time magazine, ABC News), 19 million (Fox News), 14 million (CNN), or "14.2 million to about 25 million" (The Washington Post)?

    Answer: Maybe.

    Limbaugh is widely acknowledged to be the most popular talk-radio host, as evidenced by the record $400 million, eight-year contract he signed with his syndicator last July. But estimates of Limbaugh's nationwide (and overseas) audience are exercises in guesswork, slippery methodology and suspect data. Limbaugh himself has muddied the water with the claim that he reaches 20 million people a week, although there's no independent support for that figure.[emphasis added]

    How can Jack seriously write (while still remaining attached to the world of empirical data) that Limbaugh's audience has "ballooned" recently?

    Anyway, here's Paglia in that column:

    Case in point: The orchestrated attack on radio host Rush Limbaugh, which has made the White House look like an oafish bunch of drunken frat boys. I returned from carnival in Brazil (more on that shortly) to find the Limbaugh affair in full flower. Has the administration gone mad? This entire fracas was set off by the president himself, who lowered his office by targeting a private citizen by name. Limbaugh had every right to counterattack, which he did with gusto. Why have so many Democrats abandoned the hallowed principle of free speech? Limbaugh, like our own liberal culture hero Lenny Bruce, is a professional commentator who can be as rude and crude as he wants.

    Yes, I cringe when Rush plays his "Barack the Magic Negro" satire or when he gratuitously racializes the debate over Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is a constant subject of withering scrutiny for quite different reasons on sports shows here in Philadelphia. On the other hand, I totally agree with Rush about "feminazis," whose amoral tactics and myopic worldview I as a dissident feminist had to battle for decades. As a student of radio and a longtime listener of Rush's show, I have gotten a wealth of pleasure and insight from him over the years. To attack Rush Limbaugh is to attack his audience -- and to intensify the loyalty of his fan base. [emphasis added]

    Huh? But wasn't Jack presenting the good Dr Paglia as a more or less typical "Obama supporter"? Can you tell me how many typical Obama supporters TOTALLY AGREE with Limbaugh about "feminazis"? How many have "gotten a wealth of pleasure and insight from him over the years?"

    I can't imagine very many. But if all that's the case, then how typical can she be?

    How the right wing pundits whine and wail, white knuckled and frustrated, when they're on the losing end.

    It's silly and ridiculous on its face: SAUL ALINSKY! He's associated with AL CAPONE! He taught people who taught OBAMA! See? OBAMA's connected to AL CAPONE! They're committing character assassinations! We're the victims!

    No wonder the GOP's falling apart. With this sort of reasoning to guide it...

    March 14, 2009

    The President, Today

    The text can be found here.


    Today is pi day.

    It's also Albert Einstein's birthday. I'd write about him and the theories of relativity (both general and special) but that's too much math in one day - trust me.

    Here is pi (to the first thousand decimal places) in all it's circular glory:

    Today's the day. Go have some ROUND pizza. Or some ROUND cookies. Or some ROUND donuts (or some ROUND donut holes - but only the whole holes. Stay away from half-holes. They're nowhere, man.)

    Drink a toast to Archimedes and his 96-sided polygons.

    Cosine, secant, tangent, sine!

    UPDATE: I didn't want this post to be political but alas there's a political angle to it. DemocraticLuntz at the dailykos has the story:
    On Thursday, 10 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted against an official (but non-binding) resolution declaring today, March 14, 2009 (3/14/09) as Pi day.

    The House periodically passes meaningless non-binding resolutions that frankly have no point, but they usually pass unanimously, the like one the previous day about NASA.
    Here's the summary of the bill from
    Supports the designation of a Pi Day and its celebration around the world.

    Recognizes the continuing importance of National Science Foundation math and science education programs.

    Encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.

    The ten who voted NO were:
    Chaffetz of Utah
    Flake of Arizona
    Heller of Nevada
    Johnson of Illinois
    Miller of Florida
    Neugebauer of Texas
    Paul of Texas
    Pence of Indiana
    Poe of Texas
    Shuster of Pennsylvania
    There is no indication as to WHY these ten voted against the resolution.

    March 13, 2009

    KARL ROVE on Fred Honsberger's Show - MONDAY

    My friend Fred Honsberger just announced on his Facebook page that KARL ROVE will be on his radio show this Monday March 16th. His show is from noon to three. I have no idea when Rove will be on during those three hours.

    Wherever you are on the planet, if you have web access you can listen to the show at:
    Just follow the listen live icon.

    I think everyone should listen to Fred's show and call in some questions for Karl "Contempt of Congress" Rove.

    I have a few. For instance, I'd love for Rove to answer questions about:
    • being held in Contempt of Congress for refusing to testify after being subpoenaed.
    • his part in outing Valerie Plame.
    • his part in the political firing of all those US Attorneys.
    • his part in the prosecution of Governor Siegelman.
    • how the GOP crashed and burned in 2008 despite the fact that he said in 2006 that it would reemerge as the majority in 2008.
    • how he was using non-White House e-mail servers to circumvent the Presidential Records Act.
    For starters...

    March 12, 2009

    Good-bye, Mom

    Elizabeth "Betty" Lupinacci
    January 3, 1938 - March 12, 2009

    I love you

    O Canada!

    From See Magazine:

    As George W. Bush’s St. Patrick’s Day visit to Alberta draws near, the federal government is facing pressure from activists and human rights lawyers to bar the former U.S. president from the country or prosecute him for war crimes and crimes against humanity once he steps on Canadian soil.

    Bush is scheduled to speak in Calgary March 17, but Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson says that because Bush has been “credibly accused” of supporting torture in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Canada has a legal obligation to deny him entry under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The law says foreign nationals who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, including torture, are “inadmissible” to Canada. ”The test isn’t whether the person’s been convicted, but whether there’s reasonable grounds to think that they have been involved,” says Davidson, who’s with Lawyers Against the War (LAW). “…It’s now a matter of public record that Bush was in charge of setting up a regime of torture that spanned several parts of the globe and resulted in horrendous injuries and even death. Canada has a duty.”

    Maybe it'll be up to our friends from the north to prosecute the war crimes.