Democracy Has Prevailed.

June 30, 2011

Jasiri X's "Jordan Miles" Premieres Today

There will be a premiere of Jasiri X's "Jordan Miles" today:

WHAT: One Hood Media presents: "Jordan Miles" World Video Premiere and Forum on Police Brutality
WHEN: 7:00pm, Thursday June 30th
WHERE: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Homewood Branch, 7101 Hamilton Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15208 (map)

Here's a snippet of the new video:

Pittsburgh rapper Jasiri X is probably best know for "What if the Tea Party was Black?"

A Note On Richard Poplawski

Yes, they found him guilty. Yes, he killed those three police officers. And yes, he deserves to be punished for it.

All these things are true.

Know what else is true?

He was a right wing extremist, a right wing terrorist. A right wing domestic terrorist.

From the Trib in 2009:
A secret U.S. Department of Homeland Security report on "right-wing extremism" mentions by name only one potential domestic terrorist: accused cop killer Richard A. Poplawski.

The report was finished by Homeland Security's Extremism and Radicalization Branch and the FBI on April 7 — three days after the Stanton Heights gunfight during which Poplawski allegedly killed three police officers, Eric G. Kelly, 41; Stephen J. Mayhle, 29; and Paul J. Sciullo II, 36.

The report was intended only for law enforcement leaders, but the Tribune-Review was able to obtain a copy. It paints a disturbing picture of the rise of American hate-based groups that reject governmental authority in an era of foreclosures, unemployment and dwindling credit.

The report cites Poplawski, 22, as an example of "white supremacist lone wolves" or "small terrorist cells" inflamed by the possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the recent election of America's first black president.
From that DHS report:
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that a number of economic and political factors are driving a resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization activity. Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s, the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years. In addition, the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization.

— (U) A recent example of the potential violence associated with a rise in rightwing extremism may be found in the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 4 April 2009. The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled “one world government.”
Don't ever let them tell you there's no such thing as a right wing domestic terrorist.

June 29, 2011

On The Defense of Male Genital Mutilation

In Wednesday's P-G, I read a stunning, faith-based defense of male genital mutilation.

And let me say right now that I reserve the right to use that phrase instead of its gentler euphemistic cousin "circumcision" because, simply put, when one surgically removes the foreskin from the the penis a mutilation of the genitals has occurred. It is all more horrific when one understands that it's done involuntarily to babies as young as a few days old.

Back to the defense. Professor Steven L Jones of Grove City College begins:
The citizens of San Francisco will decide in November whether to ban circumcision, a practice that dates from antiquity and is embraced by at least three of the world's major religions.
Gotta stop him there. It's not exactly a ban. It's not a ban in the same sense that all heroin use is banned or all cigarette smoking in public places is banned. The law only applies to the genital mutilation of male minors. And there is an exception for the health of the minor as well.

Let's take a look at the proposed measure:
Section 1: The San Francisco Police Code is hereby amended by adding Article 50 to read as follows:


Except as provided in SEC. 5002, it is unlawful to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years.

(a) A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if the operation is necessary to the physical health of the person on whom it is performed because of a clear, compelling, and immediate medical need with no less-destructive alternative treatment available, and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner.

(b) In applying subsection (a), no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that or any other person that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.

Any person who violates any provisions of this Article shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction such person shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
It's a fine distinction I realize, but according my reading of Section 5001, if a lad of 18 years decides for himself to mutilate his genitals this measure can not stop him. He's perfectly free to do so.

Back to Professor Jones' next paragraphs:
Now, the fact that something stretches far back into human history is by no means a guarantee that it has social value. Slavery, human sacrifice and arranged marriages for adolescents also have long histories, but, thankfully, are no longer accepted by Western societies. The question is whether circumcision belongs on this list.

It doesn't.
It does. But I'll let Professor Jones continue:
The Centers for Disease Control reports that circumcision has numerous health benefits. Circumcised infants have fewer urinary tract infections, a blessing to any young family already stretched by numerous doctor visits.
I am sure the prospect of protecting a baby boy from a Urinary Tract Infection is a good thing, but let's look closer at UTIs in infants. How often does it occur?

From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statements on Circumcision and Urinary Tract Infection:
It is estimated that 10 of 1000 (1%) uncircumcised male infants will develop a UTI during the first year of life compared with 1 of 1000 (0.1%) circumcised male infants.
So while it's true that a genitally mutilated boy will have fewer urinary tract infections, most boys (mutilated or not) will not have one in the first place.

Back to Professor Jones:
International studies from Africa, Asia and the United States also have found that circumcision lowers the likelihood of HIV infection and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases. And the CDC report makes clear that this is not just attributable to behavioral or lifestyle issues that may be correlated with circumcision. The procedure itself results in lower rates of STD infection and may lower the risk for certain types of cancer, too.
While Professor Jones paints a rosy picture of the benefits of male genital mutilation, the American Academy of Pediatrics is far less supportive. From the Abstract of the AAP's Policy Statement itself:
Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision. [Emphasis added.]
But what about the hygiene benefits?
Circumcision has been suggested as an effective method of maintaining penile hygiene since the time of the Egyptian dynasties, but there is little evidence to affirm the association between circumcision status and optimal penile hygiene. [Emphasis added.]
Penile cancer?
An annual penile cancer rate of 0.9 to 1.0 per 100 000 translates to 9 to 10 cases of penile cancer per year per 1 million men. Although the risk of developing penile cancer in an uncircumcised man compared with a circumcised man is increased more than threefold, it is difficult to estimate accurately the magnitude of this risk based on existing studies. Nevertheless, in a developed country such as the United States, penile cancer is a rare disease and the risk of penile cancer developing in an uncircumcised man, although increased compared with a circumcised man, is low. [Emphasis added.]
AIDS? Here's where it directly contradicts Jones:
Evidence regarding the relationship of circumcision to STD in general is complex and conflicting. Studies suggest that circumcised males may be less at risk for syphilis than are uncircumcised males. In addition, there is a substantial body of evidence that links noncircumcision in men with risk for HIV infection. Genital ulcers related to STD may increase susceptibility to HIV in both circumcised and uncircumcised men, but uncircumcised status is independently associated with the risk for HIV infection in several studies. There does appear to be a plausible biologic explanation for this association in that the mucous surface of the uncircumcised penis allows for viral attachment to lymphoid cells at or near the surface of the mucous membrane, as well as an increased likelihood of minor abrasions resulting in increased HIV access to target tissues. However, behavioral factors appear to be far more important risk factors in the acquisition of HIV infection than circumcision status. [Emphasis added.]
So if there's little, if any, medical benefit from male genital mutilation, then what's the issue here?

To Professor Jones, it's an issue of religious freedom and banning the mutilation will lead to worse things:
In the minds of the faithful, circumcision is not just an act performed on a given day; it is an initiation into a community and a way of life. And it is not the only such practice. Faith-based schooling, for example, is designed to instill and nurture faithful observance by religious adherents and is often chosen not by the child but by the parents.
Ban the mutilation today and Faith-based schooling is next.

If there's no real medical need for the mutilation and the only support for it is to "instill and nurture faithful observance" in a larger community, does that give parents have the right to mutilate their children?

But let's run a little mental experiment. If Jones is correct and there are health and well-being benefits to be had all for the cost of a foreskin, how many uncircumcised 18 year old men do you think would volunteer to have their genitals mutilated for those benefits?

Yea, I thought so.

The Michele Bachmann History Channel

Governor Tim Pawlenty - Science Denier

From The Hill:
Climate change exists, but is due mostly to natural — not man-made — causes, GOP presidential contender Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday.

Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who's rejected his past support for cap and trade, said he believes the extent to which humans contribute to climate change is disputable.

"So there is climate change, but the reality is the science of it indicates that most of it, if not all of it, is caused by natural causes," he said on Fox News. "And as to the potential human contribution to that, there's a great scientific dispute about that very issue."
Actually, there isn't.

According to a survey done in 2008 by the University of Illinois at Chicago:
A group of 3,146 earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.
And the results?
Two questions were key: have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.

About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second.
But here's the real fun part. When they took a look at what sort of scientist answers which question, they found that:
In analyzing responses by sub-groups, Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role. Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 and 64 percent respectively believing in human involvement. Doran compared their responses to a recent poll showing only 58 percent of the public thinks human activity contributes to global warming.
Petroleum scientists are among the biggest doubters. Hmmm...petroleum. I wonder why they'd be doubters. But experts in the field are 33 to 1 in favor of the science.

And yet Pawlenty calls that a "great scientific dispute."

He's joined teh climate crazie deniers like Rick "There's no such thing as global warming" Santorum.

Good for him.

Song of the Day

Tom Petty to Michele Bachmann: Quit Playing 'American Girl'

UPDATE: A Thought: As she's got the spirit of a serial killer in her, maybe she can pick another song from "Silence of the Lambs" instead:


Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates to make a video for the "It Gets Better Project"

Via Sue from Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents:
Are you familiar with the "It Gets Better Project"

Recently, a series of Major League Baseball teams have contributed videos to the project. The first team was the San Francisco Giants followed by the Cubs, Red Sox and the Mariners. According to the project, other teams are considering signing on.

So I contacted the Pirates Diversity Manager whom I've met and began a dialogue about the project. I recruited some other folks to advocate for our community and teamed up with Equality PA (they are also working with the Phillies).

The time has come for fans to weigh in so we set up a petition, much like folks did in the home cities of the teams listed above. Please take a moment to follow the link and sign on. Include a message in the comments section if you like. But please remember, we are in encouragement mode.

The Pirates hosted their first "Pride Night at PNC Park" in 2004 so there is precedent for them to work with our community. And I would hope they would appreciate that taking a stance against bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not exactly a controversial LGBTQ rights stance. It is tremendously important issue and the more allies the project gains, the more we can hope to improve the lives of youth in our community.

Here's the link. Please pass it around.

June 28, 2011

Poplawski gets death penalty and you get fries with that

No matter how you feel about the death penalty in general or the sentence in this case in particular, can we all agree that this sign on the door of a South Side bar is fucked up?

See If YOU Can Figure Michele Bachmann Out

Give a listen about half way through at 1:20:

Chris Wallace is also confused. A transcript:
CW: Here's what you said in the New Hampshire Debate, let's put it up.

MB [at the debate]:I do support a Constitutional Amendment on...between a man and a woman but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law.

CW: That's why I'm confused. If you support state rights, why do you also support a constitutional amendment that would prevent any state from recognizing same sex marriage?

MB: That's entirely consistent. The States have, under the 10th Amendment, the right to pass any law they like. Also federal officials, at the federal level, have the right to also put forth a constitutional amendment.
She then says that the issue will end up in the courts but she doesn't want judges who'll legislate from the bench.

Wallace tries again at about 2:30 and finally gets somewhere (I think):
CW: Do you want, say, it's a state issue and the states should be able to decide or would you like to see a constitutional amendment so that it's banned everywhere?
And she answers:
MB: It is, it is...both. It's important for your viewers to know that Federal law will trump state law.
And then after a lot of nothing from Bachmann, Wallace almost nails the jello to the wall at about 3:44:
CW: So briefly, you would support a constitutional amendment that would overturn the New York state law.

MB: Yes, I would. I would. That is not inconsistent because the states have the right under the 10th Amendment to do what they'd like to do but the federal government also has the right to pass a federal constitutional amendment.
As Jonathan Capehart points out:
So, Bachmann is fine with what New York did. That’s what states do, thanks to the 10th Amendment. They’re allowed to determine their own laws without interference from Washington. But in the next breath, Bachmann is also in favor of the federal government trumping a state law legalizing same-sex marriage by defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman through a constitutional amendment.

That didn’t make sense when Bachmann first made this argument at the New Hampshire debate two weeks ago. And it made no sense yesterday. You can be for a state’s right to determine the definition of marriage. You can be for an amendment banning same-sex marriage by etching discrimination into this nation’s founding document. But you can’t be both.
And you thought her John Wayne Gacy stuff was funny.

Supreme Court Doubles Down on Pay to Play


(Here in the good ol' US of A, they're out in broad daylight)

Last year, the Supremes decided 5-4 in the Citizens United case that money = free speech (even though money is, of course, not free) and opened the floodgates for the unrestricted flow of corporate money into political ads (yes, less well-financed union money too).

Yesterday, the Supremes decided -- again 5-4 -- in McComish v. Bennett that if a candidate opts out of public-financing, other candidates cannot receive matching funds to level the playing field.

As Lawyers, Guns and Money puts it:
This case strikes down a law that doesn’t prevent people from spending as much money as they want if they choose and represents a net increase in political speech.
Or, in other words, money is speech for thee, but not me. Not only do those with the most bucks get to spend those bucks, unfettered, to support a candidate, but the candidate with the most bucks gets to prevent other candidates from getting more bucks. From Justice Kagan's dissent:
This suit, in fact, may merit less attention than any challenge to a speech subsidy ever seen in this Court. In the usual First Amendment subsidy case, a person complains that the government declined to finance his speech, while bankrolling someone else’s; we must then decide whether the government differentiated between these speakers on a prohibited basis—because it preferred one speaker’s ideas to another’s. But the candidates bringing this challenge do not make that claim—because they were never denied a subsidy. Arizona, remember, offers to support any person running for state office. Petitioners here refused that assistance. So they are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financial assistance. Some people might call that chutzpah.

Indeed, what petitioners demand is essentially a right to quash others’ speech through the prohibition of a (universally available) subsidy program. Petitioners are able to convey their ideas without public financing—and they would prefer the field to themselves, so that they can speak free from response. To attain that goal, they ask this Court to prevent Arizona from funding electoral speech—even though that assistance is offered to every state candidate, on the same (entirely unobjectionable) basis. And this Court gladly obliges.
Add this to the recent Wal-Mart ruling -- which some in the media erroneously labeled unanimous -- but the heart of the matter was yet another 5-4 decision which questioned the whole idea of class action suits and set up a too-big-to-fail standard where if you screw over enough people, you win and you get the following:

1. The public can set no limits on how much the richest companies can spend to buy an election for a candidate.

2. There can be no attempt by the public to level the playing field among candidates so that the richest candidate cannot attempt to buy an election.

3. If a company is big enough and rich enough and screws over enough people, the public cannot band together to try to achieve justice against wrongdoing.

We, the public, are well and truly fucked.

Long Live the United States of Plutocracy!


June 27, 2011

Michele Bachmann: John Wayne...John Wayne Gacy...Whatever

She sure does seem to have a problem with facts. Via Talking Points Memo:
In an interview with Fox News, Bachmann boasted: "But what I want them to know, just like John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa, that's the kind of spirit that I have, too."
As it turns out, John Wayne was from Winterset, Iowa. It was serial killer clown John Wayne Gacy who actually spent some time living in Waterloo, Iowa.

As for John Wayne's "spirit" that was decidedly racist. Via Wikipedia:
In an interview with Playboy magazine published on May 1, 1971, Wayne made several controversial remarks about race and class in the United States. The interview became a hot topic and many stores had trouble keeping the issue in stock.


"There were great numbers of people who needed new land the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves"


"I believe in white supremacy until blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people."

I'm going to spot her on this one and assume that this is just one more thing she doesn't know.

Anti-Science News (Climate Change Edition)

This week, our favorite Ex-Senator, Rick Santorum, came out and said it:
There is no such thing as global warming.
Watch it:

Rick must've missed the NOAA report that it was undeniable.

They got the charts, they got the graphs, they got the science.

Rick's got nothing.

Then there's this at the Trib:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled correctly that the Environmental Protection Agency -- not judges -- should lead "greenhouse gas" regulation under the Clean Air Act. But EPA's fallacious classification of carbon dioxide as a pollutant was left unaddressed.

The 8-0 decision rejected a lawsuit that sought to use public-nuisance laws to force utilities to cut CO2 emissions.
And then:
Not at issue was EPA regulating CO2 as a pollutant -- an absurd label for a substance intrinsic to nature and living creatures that stretches the Clean Air Act too far.

The anti-CO2 efforts of the Obama administration's ideologically driven, anti-growth EPA are an end run around congressional rejection of "global warming" legislation premised on junk science.

A case involving that issue can't reach the Supreme Court soon enough.
See that last sentence? Scaife's braintrust has to know that that issue already has reached the Supreme Court. In 2007 and they found that CO2 can be regulated by the EPA.

From Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, the Court held that:
Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Act’s capacious definition of “air pollutant,” EPA has statutory authority to regulate emission of such gases from new motor vehicles. That definition—which includes “any air pollution agent..., including any physical, chemical,...substance...emitted into...the ambient air...,”—embraces all airborne compounds of whatever stripe. Moreover, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are undoubtedly “physical [and] chemical...substance[s].”
Justice Stevens even began his decision with this:
A well-documented rise in global temperatures has coincided with a significant increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Respected scientists believe the two trends are related. For when carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, it acts like the ceiling of a greenhouse, trapping solar energy and retarding the escape of reflected heat. It is therefore a species—the most important species—of a “greenhouse gas.”
Yet another example of Scaife's braintrust misleading his audience.

Then there's the scientist. Again from today's Trib:
A professor emeritus at Colorado State University who's a credentialed longtime member of the American Meteorological Society blasts the AMS for allowing a small band of administrators to "hijack" the group's mission in support of "climate change."

Bill Gray, on the website Climate Realists (, writes of his "disappointment" with the AMS' "downward path" over the last decade in advocating anthropogenic global warming. This, he says, when many AMS members do not support that conclusion.

"We believe that humans are having little or no significant influence on the global climate and that the many Global Circulation Climate Model (GCM) results and the four (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports do not realistically give accurate future projections," Mr. Gray says.
The link leads ultimately to this piece at Go read it. Then go back to NOAA's assertion that climate change is undeniable.

Then ask yourself the question "Does Gray's complaint about the AMS uproot all of that science?" If it does, then he's made his case. If it doesn't, then the science stands.

Simple and undeniable as that.

June 25, 2011

A Facebook Mystery Solved But Another Emerges...

On June 13, New York magazine posted this about our favorite ex-Senator's "Google problem" and one loyal Santorum follower's attempt to fix it. The piece is titled:
Determined Supporter Is
Trying to Fix Rick
Santorum’s Google Problem
And here's the text:
The only thing stopping former senator Rick Santorum from clinching the GOP presidential nomination, besides the utter indifference of the entire electorate? His well-documented Google Problem. Search for "Rick Santorum" and, thanks to Dan Savage, the top results identify him as a "frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." Earlier this year, Santorum had seemingly come to terms with his fate, but one supporter isn't giving up so easily. He/she recently created a Facebook group for mobilizing the dozens of Santorum loyalists out there in an effort to undo this evil, gay curse.
The piece even quotes the facebook page:
Rick Santorum is a God-fearing man who wants to save unborn children and protect traditional marriage. Because of this, radical left-wing activists launched a Google-bombing campaign so that people searching for his name will find pages full of vile, disgusting filth instead.
However, if you actually go to the facebook page linked in the New York piece, you'll find this:
Rick Santorum is a vile man who wants to be in everyone's bedroom but his own. His attempts to legislate his own special brand of morality have led him so far as to compare loving, committed relationships to bestiality and incest. Rick Santorum should be ashamed of himself. Instead, he is running for President.
And this image that looks like a bumper sticker:

What is going on?

Turns out that sometime on the morning of June 15th (2 days after the New York article), the admin of the original Pro-Rick Santorum Facebook page abandoned it and the current admin (who's obviously not a fan of Rick's) took over.


That means that anyone who's a fan of Rick and who searches for the facebook page that's trying to fix Rick's google problem will find, among other things, the bumper sticker image above.

That's a problem for Rick.

One mystery solved but that leaves another - Why abandon the facebook page in the first place? Why not just shut it down or close it off to the public?

March for Justice for Jordan Miles: Today at 1:00pm

Time: Saturday, June 25 · 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Location: Freedom Corner (Center and Crawford) Across from old Civic Arena
March for Justice for Jordan Miles
June 25 at 1:00pm
Gather at Freedom Corner (Crawford and Centre)

*Please forward widely*

Join the Alliance for Police Accountability to demand:

Prosecute Richard Ewing, David Sisak, and Michael Saldutte!
Release the Office of Municipal Investigations report to the public!
Fire the three officers!

On January 12, 2010, Jordan Miles was attacked by three undercover police officers while he was walking to his grandmother’s house in Homewood. The officers punched and kicked Jordan, and even ripped the dreadlocks off of his head. Jordan was not committing any crime; he was targeted simply for being a young Black man in Homewood.

The Department of Justice announced on May 4th that it would not press federal charges against the officers guilty of this racist act of brutality: Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael Saldutte. The same day, Police Chief Nate Harper announced that they would be reinstated and put back on the streets. However, the struggle for justice for Jordan Miles is by no means over.

Regardless of the Department of Justice’s decision, District Attorney Stephen Zappala still has the power to prosecute Ewing, Sisak and Saldutte, and has not yet announced what he intends to do. Hugely successful demonstrations were held every week in May, but the people of Pittsburgh need to continue to mobilize and keep up the pressure on city officials. The DA could make a decision at any time, so this is an especially critical moment in the struggle for justice. Join the Alliance for Police Accountability and its allies for a march from Freedom Corner to the Allegheny County Courthouse.

For more information: or 412-628-5849

In addition to marching, call DA Zappala at 412-350-4400 and demand that he file criminal charges against the police who brutalized Jordan Miles
Facebook RSVP: Here

June 24, 2011

Same-Sex Marriage Passes In New York State

The New York State Senate passed a marriage equality bill 33-29 tonight. The New York Assembly passed the bill today by a vote of 82-47. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already promised to sign the bill into law. It's worth noting that the Senate is Republican controlled. One of the best quotes during the weeks leading up to the vote came from Republican Senator Roy McDonald:
You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.
Thanks to everyone who did the right thing!

Darryl Metcalfe and Voter "Fraud"

In my email box today I received this mailing from my state representative, Dan Frankel. It begins with:
Movement is afoot in the General Assembly to pass a bill that will make it harder for many people to vote, while at the same time wasting millions of dollars. House Bill 934 is a Republican-sponsored bill I oppose that would require every voter to provide unexpired, valid government photo identification issued by Pennsylvania or the federal government to participate in each election.
Frankel's mailing points out the whole purpose of the bill is to make it more difficult for some citizens to vote - all while fixing a problem that doesn't exist.

And who'll find it more difficult to vote? E. J. Dionne writing in the Washington Post about the efforts underway in many states to impose "Voter ID" laws asserted:
These statutes are not neutral. Their greatest impact will be to reduce turnout among African Americans, Latinos and the young. It is no accident that these groups were key to Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 — or that the laws in question are being enacted in states where Republicans control state governments.

Again, think of what this would look like to a dispassionate observer. A party wins an election, as the GOP did in 2010. Then it changes the election laws in ways that benefit itself. In a democracy, the electorate is supposed to pick the politicians. With these laws, politicians are shaping their electorates.
But let's get back to the PA legislation. Go click on the link - guess who the prime sponsor is of this odiousness?

Our good friend Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and in a true Orwellian turn, defends the law as a necessary protection:
“Countless American patriots have and continue to put their lives on the line around the world to preserve our freedoms, including the freedom to privately and confidentially cast a vote at the ballot box," Metcalfe said. “Final passage of the Pennsylvania Voter Identification Protection Act will further uphold one of the most fundamental rights of American citizenship.”
By making it more difficult for people who'll tend to vote for his party's rivals, of course.

But does Metcalfe have reason to believe that Pennsylvania voting rights need to be protected? He thinks he does:
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), the sponsor, said the measure was necessary to cut down on "significant voter fraud plaguing Pennsylvania's elections."
Except he doesn't. From Frankel's mailing:
In the 2008 presidential election, 5,995,137 Pennsylvanians cast ballots, but from that year until now, just FOUR people have been prosecuted for voter fraud.
From a report by the Brennan Center for Law and Justice at NYU:
Allegations of widespread voter fraud, however, often prove greatly exaggerated. It is easy to grab headlines with a lurid claim ("Tens of thousands may be voting illegally!"); the follow-up - when any exists - is not usually deemed newsworthy. Yet on closer examination, many of the claims of voter fraud amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire. The allegations simply do not pan out.
On his webpage, Metcalfe states that his legislation is "[m]odeled after Indiana’s photo identification law..."

Do we need to trace that law? I guess we do.

From the NYTimes, in an editorial about the latest round of Voter ID laws:
Many of these bills were inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business-backed conservative group, which has circulated voter ID proposals in scores of state legislatures.

So when I asked here about any ALEC legislation in Harrisburg I guess we have an answer.

This Voter ID bill that is an attempt to fix a problem that doesn't exist by making it more difficult for voters who may lean Democratic to vote.

Yes, that's what Metcalfe's patriots are protecting!

June 23, 2011

Coloring outside the lines

It may not come as a great shock to those who read this blog that as a child I did not always color within the lines. In fact, I often very deliberately drew and colored outside the lines -- changing the fashions, hairstyles, gender and race in the Dick and Jane-style illustrations in my coloring books at will.

So, imagine how much fun I would have had with this propaganda piece coloring book:

In it, "Talisman Terry" the "friendly Fracosaurus" explains the wonders of natural gas and fracking with a big, happy face. No mean, old, inconvenient fracking concerns are allowed as the book is published by Talisman Energy. You can view the entire book here and the Post-Gazette article about it here.

I've already started coloring my copy:

I think all parents should download a copy and educate their children as to what's missing from the book so that they can add fracking ponds, exploding rigs, fireballs in sinks, ripped-up roads, etc. to the pretty, pretty pictures and mail them back to Talisman Energy.

Keep coloring outside the lines!

(h/t to Doug Shields)

June 22, 2011

2 Political Junkies shares "Best Political Blog in the Pittsburgh Region" - PoliticsPA

PoliticsPA recently set about determining what are the best political blogs in Pennsylvania. Deservedly won were:

Best Overall Political Blog: Capitol Ideas, Allentown Morning Call
Best Print-Backed Blog: Early Returns, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
(Though, personally, I would have reversed those.)

And, then there was this:

(Click to enlarge)

Hey, we're happy to share the distiction with Early Returns.

A big THANK YOU to PoliticsPA and everyone who participated!

Is Our Children Learning History?

Rick Santorum certainly isn't.

From thinkprogress:
According to a national test released last week, “just 13 percent of high schools seniors” demonstrated proficiency in U.S. history. Speaking to the Story County GOP Central Committee in Ames, Iowa, presidential candidate Rick Santorum attributed the poor scores to a leftist plot to keep students in the dark about U.S. history so they don’t learn American values
And they quote Lil Ricky:
We don’t even know our own history. There was a report that just came out last week that the worst subject of children in American schools is — not math and science — its history. It’s the worst subject. How can we be a free people. How can we be a people that fight for America if we don’t know who America is or what we’re all about. This is, in my opinion, a conscious effort on the part of the left who has a huge influence on our curriculum, to desensitize America to what American values are so they are more pliable to the new values that they would like to impose on America. [Bolding in original.]
For Rick, everything's a lib'rul plot to take over Murika. Simply everything.

Here's the NAEP's summary of the assessment if you wanted to take a look. And how do they see things? A few bullet points:
  • At all grades, the average U.S. history scores in 2010 were higher than the scores in 1994, and the score for eighth-graders was also higher than in 2006.
  • Twenty percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders, and 12 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level on the 2010 U.S. history assessment.
  • At grades 4 and 8, the percentages of students at or above Proficient in 2010 were higher than the percentages in the first assessment in 1994, but over the same time period the percentage of twelfth-graders at or above Proficient was not significantly different.
While it's not a good picture, at least it's an improving picture - except for 12 graders.

Anyone have any idea on why? From the AP:
"The history scores released today show that student performance is still too low," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. "These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education."

Education experts say a heavy focus on reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind law in the last decade has led to lagging performance in other subjects such as history and science.

"We need to make sure other subjects like history, science and the arts are not forgotten in our pursuit of the basic skills," said Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University and former U.S. assistant education secretary. [Emphasis added.]
Assistant Education Secretary under George H. W. Bush, by the way.

Then there's this, also from thinkprogress:
The Texas Board of Education has been meeting this week to revise its social studies curriculum. During the past three days, “the board’s far-right faction wielded their power to shape lessons on the civil rights movement, the U.S. free enterprise system and hundreds of other topics”
Yes, the lib'rul Texas Board of Education did this:
  • The Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, “replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.”
  • The Board refused to require that “students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others.”
And then there's more on Rick's own understanding of US History.

Yes, our nation's collective ignorance is all a lib'rul plot.

June 21, 2011

The Truth About Fox "News"

From Jon Stewart.

For a long time, I've wondered about where Fox "News" comes down on the ideological spectrum - or at least how they see themselves. Do they see themselves as unbiased or do they see themselves as a counterweight to what they perceive as a liberal bias in the media.

Are they in the middle of the seesaw or are they on the other side?

Well now we have our answer:

A partial transcript from Huffingtonpost. After Fox host Chris Wallace says that Fox "tells the other side of the story, Stewart's analysis is in full mock mode:
We don't tell both sides of the story, we tell one side...the other side, the one we perceive is never told. Because as you know, news only comes in two sides. And if the conservative side isn't being told what's being told must be liberal. Fox News isn't fair and balanced. It's balancing the system, man. Don't you get it? The system's unfair and unbalanced. To balance the system, Fox has to be the purest form of right wing resin. Because of how heavy left wing America is. Hollywood, comedians, every single news organization, the Internet, facts, history, science, it's all just left wing bullshit, man....
He summarizes the mock:
Is Fox unbalanced? Yeah. Seriously, their ears are nearly touching the floor. But it's only because the system is unbalanced.
They're not at the center of the seesaw, they're miles to the right.

June 20, 2011

The Noise Machine At Work (Again)

Another lesson in how the right-wing noise machine works. Pay attention, please.

In today's Tribune-Review, there's an editorial that begins like this:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency soft-pedals rigorous analysis showing its policies kill growth and jobs while trumpeting as truth junk analysis portraying burdensome regulations as economically beneficial.

A new National Taxpayers Union ( study makes the mendacity clear: The EPA publicly proclaims bogus findings from its second report on the Clean Air Act's costs and benefits that fit its anti-growth agenda -- but is mum about that report's contradictory findings of economic harm.
We've done this before and so I don't want to spend too much time on it.

According to the Mediamatters transparency project, the largest chunks of foundation money, by far, come from foundations controlled by the publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Richard Mellon Scaife. About $1.5 million over the years (unadjusted for inflation, by the way).

So this is how the right wing noise machine works, Richard Mellon Scaife lays out gobs and gobs of money to support a conservative think tank (in this case the National Tax Payers Union). That think tank produces a report that is trumpeted on the pages of the Tribune-Review, the newspaper Richard Mellon Scaife owns.

And none of this is ever mentioned to the Trib's readership.

The circle jerk continues.

June 19, 2011

Jack Kelly Sunday

Oh, the stuff Jack leaves out...

In his column in the Post-Gazette this week, Jack Kelly defends, yet again, his favorite ex (because you know she quit) Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Specifically he's writing about the pile of emails of hers recently released by the State of Alaska. And he starts with three examples of praise from the media. Take a look:
Emails from Sarah Palin's time as Alaska governor "show a double-fisted Blackberry user fully comfortable with handling nearly every aspect of state government," wrote the McClatchy Newspapers.

The emails paint "a picture of her as an idealistic, conscientious, humorous and humane woman slightly bemused by the world of politics," said Toby Harnden of the London Telegraph.

"She comes across as practical and not doctrinaire," wrote Molly Ball in Politico. "She was hands-on and adverse to partisan politics."

This was not what some journalists expected to write. "If critics were hoping to see Palin revealed as a hypocrite, they're out of luck," said Ms. Ball. "Her private statements are in line with her public ones."
The point he's trying to make, of course, is that the emails showed Palin to be anything other than what the lame stream media portrays her to be and now once they've been made public even that same lame stream media is forced to be honest and to show her in a good light.

Oh the stuff Jack leaves out. Take a look at what in the very next two paragraphs in that McClatchy piece:
But long before she became a national figure, the documents also hint at the obsession Palin had with managing her image - and the frustration the prolific e-mailer had with the news coverage of her governorship.

She came into office with a January 2007 reminder to members of her staff that they should feel free to "share your opinions, speak freely to the press, public, legislators, one another, etc." But that changed as time went on. A little more than a year later, she ghostwrote a proposed letter to the editor of the Anchorage Daily News - quoting herself - in reply to a complaint that she had failed to appear at the 2008 Miss Alaska pageant.
Or this from Harden of the Telegraph:
To an extent, the emails remind Americans of the person they saw take the stage at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota nearly three years ago – refreshing, plain-speaking, open and uncomplicated.

Since then, her image has hardened into one of a brittle, even paranoid, politician who seethes with resentment, feels aggrieved and entitled and is intent on pursuing celebrity even at the expense of her family.
Or this from Molly Ball at Politico:
Once, there was a different Sarah Palin.

She was hands-on and averse to partisan politics. She championed openness in government and had normal relations with the media. She was a little starstruck by her interactions with national politicians but unafraid to do battle with the chief executives of the world’s largest oil companies.

The emails from her governorship, released Friday, brought back the memory of a long-lost Palin: the popular, charismatic, competent woman of the people.

This was the vice presidential candidate John McCain’s team thought they were getting, before her darker tendencies — defensiveness, thin skin, grudge-keeping — hardened into tics. Together with the newly released, pro-Palin documentary “The Undefeated,” which focuses on her rise to the spotlight, the emails are reminders of a sympathetic figure who was not yet the brittle, divisive caricature Palin has become.
Such praise.

His larger point is that any positive coverage of Palin (like his) is a reliable picture of reality and any negative coverage is just so much more of the Palin Derangement Syndrome. Coverage that doesn't need to be taken seriously.

Jack is certainly reliable in his support of the failed Governor of Alaska but how realistic is he?

When has have to selectively quote his positive coverage in order to make it, in fact, postive, what does that say about the subject matter?

June 17, 2011

ALEC - The American Legislative Exchange Council

Yesterday I happened across this posting at Crooksandliars. It's about something called the American Legislative Exchange Council:
If you're not familiar with ALEC, here's the high-level overview. ALEC is the acronym for American Legislative Exchange Council, a secret right-wing consortium created to write boilerplate legislation for states to use to advance the right-wing agenda. Some of ALEC's handiwork can be seen in Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Florida, to name a few.

ALEC has a new game called Publicopoly. Some of the "properties" include government operations, health, environment, telecommunications, infrastructure, education and public safety. But of course, it's not such a new game after all. The object of the game is to privatize everything. To that end, they have aggregated the reports of think tanks like the Mackinac Center, the Reason Foundation, the Platte Institute, and the Heartland Institute. [Emphasis added.]
The "secret" isn't the website but who's writing this legislation for the right wing legislators to use. Here's what ALEC has to say about it's legislation:
One of the most important resources ALEC provides to its members is model legislation. Through the combined effort and unique partnership of public and private sector members, model legislation is drafted, deliberated and approved by one of ALEC's nine Task Forces. These bills provide a valuable framework for developing effective policy ideas aimed at protecting and expanding our free society.

While ALEC provides the resources, our members, long known for their legislative activism, introduced hundreds of bills based on ALEC model legislation. During the latest legislative cycle, dozens of ALEC model bills were enacted into law.
And guess, JUST GUESS who's got all this started? According to the mediamatters transparency project, the Richard Mellon Scaife controlled Allegheny Foundation has given $1.7 to ALEC over the years.

That's even more than the $1.25 million Exxon gave to ALEC.

Of all the foundation donations, Allegheny Foundation is the biggest.

And these numbers may be low. In 1999 the Washington Post published:
Another form of proselytizing is conducted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich. ALEC's members are predominantly conservative state legislators. The organization provides training, information and draft legislation to make them more effective. Of the country's 6,500 state legislators, 3,000 belong to ALEC, including dozens of leaders of state legislatures and senates. Twelve sitting governors are ALEC graduates, as are 77 members of Congress. The group's first president was a then-member of the Illinois House named Henry Hyde.

ALEC makes a mark with its model legislation. The last time it counted (1995-96), 132 ALEC bills were enacted in various states, from charter school legislation to pro-business bills on environmental and regulatory topics. Many states used its version of welfare reform legislation.

ALEC is unabashedly pro-business. Its expert task forces, which write the model legislation, are composed of legislators and business representatives. About two-thirds of ALEC's $6 million budget comes from corporate contributions.

Scaife has given ALEC more than $2 million since 1975, keeping the group alive in its early years. Now his donations ($75,000 last year) are an insignificant part of its budget.
The "insignificant" support of between $15K and $75K per year has continued since then.

I wonder how much ALEC legislation has oozed into Harrisburg? I wonder how much commentary Scaife's braintrust has written about it? I wonder if ANYONE knew that without Scaife's millions, ALEC probably wouldn't be the organization it is today.

June 16, 2011

Robert Reich explains the US economy in less than 2 minutes and 15 seconds

Anthony Weiner to Resign

Not much more to say.

New Willie Horton-style Web Ad -- Now with Misogyny!

Not Safe For Work:

Talking Points Memo is spot on when they called this ad against Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) -- running in a special election to replace the retired Democratic Rep. Jane Harman (CA-36) -- "Willie Horton on steroids." But its all that and more. Let's go down the check list:
  • False accusations about her actions regarding gang members: ☑

  • False inference that the gang members in question are African-American -- Obama! -- when they were primarily Latinos: ☑

  • Depicting the opponent as demonic: ☑

  • Calling the opponent a "ho" and a "bitch": ☑

  • Depictions of various gangsters (Al Capone), gang members, Che Guevara and Charlie Manson (?!): ☑

  • Depicting the opponent as a pole dancing stripper with (bonus!) a smelly crotch: ☑

  • Depicting Hahn as about to be sexually violated with an automatic weapon...WHAT?...WTF? This has got to be the sickest, most vile ad ever.
  • And, we get to thank Citizens United for this one. The ad is not being run by her opponent, tea party Republican Craig Huey. It's being run by the brand-new Turn Right USA PAC. Via TPM:
    Turn Right USA, the sponsor, is a brand new political action committee which only filed its paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. The paperwork indicates that Turn Right USA intends to operate as a so-called "super PAC," capable of raising funds in unlimited amount, but will not use those funds to directly support federal candidates or committees.

    Just a Reminder

    This is just a reminder that when Lil Ricky Santorum said at the GOP presidential candidate debate on Monday:
    "Not only have I been consistently pro-life, I have not just taken the pledge, but I've taken the bullets to go out there and fight for this and lead on those issues."
    That there are actual people who have taken real bullets over providing women with legal abortions:
    Dr. Gunn was murdered in 1993.
    In 1993, Dr. Tiller was shot but not killed.
    In 1994, Dr. John Bayard Britton and his escort, James H. Barrett, were assassinated.
    In 1994, Dr. Garson Romalis was shot but not killed.
    In 1995, Dr. Hugh Short was shot and killed.
    In 1997, Dr. Jack Fainman was shot but not killed, the shooter was a suspect in an unnamed NY physician's murder
    In 1998, Dr. Barnett Slepian is shot and killed. His murderer, James Koop, was the suspect in 1997's shooting of Dr. Fainman and the other unnamed doctor.
    In 2009, Dr. Tiller was shot, again, and killed.

    In 1994, Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols were shot and killed at clinics in MA.
    In 1998, Officer Robert Sanderson was killed during a clinic bombing and nurse Emily Lyon was severely injured.
    What a douchebag.

    Councilwoman Rudiak to Meet President Obama at the White House

    Speaking of Rudiak, via press release:
    Pittsburgh – City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak will travel to Washington, D.C. Friday to meet with members of the Obama administration and attend an intimate reception with the President to discuss important issues facing states and cities across the country.

    “The President has been a steadfast ally of cities in America, but our main streets need help and Republicans in Congress have done nothing but force cut after cut to cities like Pittsburgh,” said Rudiak.

    “We’ve seen cuts to programs that help Pittsburgh with our police protection, street paving, building demolition, youth job programs, economic development, the capital budget, and much more, and I’m looking forward to speaking with the President about how we can restore these programs.”

    The Councilwoman will speak with the President about Pittsburgh’s support for public safety grant programs, the Community Development Block Grant program, renewing the Build America Bonds program, and speeding up federal reimbursements to the City. All of these issues have a significant impact on the City’s operations.
    Rudiak is meeting with Obama as a member of People for the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.

    Bloggers On Parade!

    That would be Bram Reichbaum of The Pittsburgh Comet appearing before Pittsburgh City Council in his capacity working for Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith and her anti adult entertainment legislation.

    That would be once upon a time blogger and current staffer for Councilman Bruce Kraus, Matt "H" Hogue; Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak; and Ken Wolfe, Legislative Aide to State Rep. Jake Wheatley, celebrating Matt's birthday.

    Indecision 2012 - The Awakening

    For my money, the best bit is two minutes in-- the look on Lil Ricky's face is priceless.

    From Our Friends Down Under

    A website from Australia called "The Conversation" is undertaking a two-week long series on the science of climate change - with an eye towards the "skeptics" who are looking to "cloud the debate."

    From the introduction:
    The overwhelming scientific evidence tells us that human greenhouse gas emissions are resulting in climate changes that cannot be explained by natural causes.

    Climate change is real, we are causing it, and it is happening right now.
    Not that this'll change Rick Santorum's mind, of course. But let's continue. The Conversation describes the issue:
    A vast number of scientists, engineers, and visionary businesspeople are boldly designing a future that is based on low-impact energy pathways and living within safe planetary boundaries; a future in which substantial health gains can be achieved by eliminating fossil-fuel pollution; and a future in which we strive to hand over a liveable planet to posterity.

    At the other extreme, understandable economic insecurity and fear of radical change have been exploited by ideologues and vested interests to whip up ill-informed, populist rage, and climate scientists have become the punching bag of shock jocks and tabloid scribes.

    Aided by a pervasive media culture that often considers peer-reviewed scientific evidence to be in need of “balance” by internet bloggers, this has enabled so-called “sceptics” to find a captive audience while largely escaping scrutiny.

    Australians have been exposed to a phony public debate which is not remotely reflected in the scientific literature and community of experts.

    Beginning today, The Conversation will bring much-needed and long-overdue accountability to the climate “sceptics.”
    Americans, too.

    The first post is on the Greenhouse Effect:
    It would be easy to form the opinion that everything we know about climate change is based upon the observed rise in global temperatures and observed increase in carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution.

    In other words, one could have the mistaken impression that the entirety of climate science is based upon a single correlation study.

    In reality, the correlation between global mean temperature and carbon dioxide over the 20th century forms an important, but very small part of the evidence for a human role in climate change.

    Our assessment of the future risk from the continued build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is even less informed by 20th century changes in global mean temperature.

    For example, our understanding of the greenhouse effect – the link between greenhouse gas concentrations and global surface air temperature – is based primarily on our fundamental understanding of mathematics, physics, astronomy and chemistry.

    Much of this science is textbook material that is at least a century old and does not rely on the recent climate record.
    For good measure, they point out some evidence anyway. They point out that Venus is extremely hot, in large part due to greenhouse gases. They point out that temperature change is "uniquely" associated with greenhouse gases, such as:
    • greater warming in polar regions than tropical regions
    • greater warming over the continents than the oceans
    • greater warming of night time temperatures than daytime temperatures
    • greater warming in winter compared with summer
    • a pattern of cooling in the high atmosphere (stratosphere) with simultaneous warming in the lower atmosphere (troposphere).
    And so on.

    Of course none of this is true because some stolen emails in England were talking about "fixing" the tree ring data.

    June 15, 2011

    Another Urban Myth At The Trib

    From today's Midweek Briefing:
    The folks at Human Events, a conservative newspaper, have been running a series of "365 ways to drive a liberal crazy." They're culled from James Delingpole's book of the same name. No. 164: "Quote liberal hero Karl Marx: 'There is only one way to kill capitalism -- by taxes, taxes, and more taxes.'" Sadly, liberals still won't get it.
    To begin with, I can't see how Karl Marx is much of a liberal hero. Socialist hero, sure. Communist hero, definitely. But liberal hero? Only if you equate those three very different terms. But I guess in the collective hive-mind that is the Scaife braintrust (and remember they also believe climate change to be a hoax) anything to the right of Scaife himself is a radical Marxist. So this one's iffy at best.

    But what of that quotation of Marx?

    According to the Irregular Times, MARX NEVER SAID IT:
    Anybody who’s actually read Karl Marx knows that Karl Marx would never have written those words. Marx saw taxes as connected to state power, and he held a dubious opinion of state power throughout history, up to and including the modern form of the democratic republic. Marx favored the smashing of the bourgeois state, not its engorgement through taxation.
    But why believe the Irregular Times? I've never seen the site before. It could be the rantings of a paranoid schizophrenic for all I know.

    They do include a link to the Marx & Engels archive - pretty sharp for a schizophrenic, if you ask me.

    There's a search engine attached to the archive so you can look to see if Marx actually said what Scaife's braintrust said it said. And so, when I search for the exact phrase "kill capitalism" I get nothing, bupkis, nada, the null set. In short, it ain't in there.

    But what does Marx say about taxes? The Irregular Times furnishes us with something Marx did say:
    It is high treason to pay taxes. Refusal to pay taxes is the primary duty of the citizen!
    So next time you meet a Tea Partier (or Sovereign Citizen, or Grover Norquist acolyte or any other right wing anti-tax zealot) just tell them that when they demand lower taxes in order to starve the guv'ment they're actually quoting Karl Marx.

    That'll drive them crazy.

    June 14, 2011

    Race to the bottom

    Pretty much says it all:

    (Click to enlarge)

    Via Talking Points Memo.

    The Trib Calls The Kettle Biased

    From the editorial page of today's Tribune-Review:
    Federal Communications Commission documents confirm that the supposedly independent agency is anything but neutral on so-called "net neutrality."

    The damning paper trail -- obtained by Judicial Watch via the Freedom of Information Act -- begins after March 2009, when President Obama's "Democrat appointees solidified their 3-2 control of the agency," The Washington Times reports.

    It shows coordination with the far-left group Free Press, which opposes faster Internet service for those willing to pay for it.

    Free Press, partially funded by far-left billionaire George Soros, was founded by a Marxist journal's editor and a contributor to the leftist "flagship" The Nation, and advocates expanding government control.
    Can you guess where this is going? Can you?

    Scaife's braintrust is looking to undermine the credibility of Free Press by pointing out that it's "partially funded by far-left billionaire George Soros," but, of course, they conveniently fail to mention the money (more than $8 million, as it turns out) poured into Judicial Watch by far-right billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, owner of the Tribune-Review and boss of bosses at the editorial page there.
    You can stop giggling now.

    And they get "net neutrality" wrong as well. Here's how PC Magazine defines it:
    A level playing field for Internet transport. It refers to the absence of restrictions or priorities placed on the type of content carried over the Internet by the carriers and ISPs that run the major backbones. It states that all traffic be treated equally; that packets are delivered on a first-come, first-served basis regardless from where they originated or to where they are destined.
    Only in the echo chamber of the right wing media could this be called "government regulating online content" as the braintrust dutifully does later in the editorial.

    And what of this "damning paper trail"? You can see the Scaife-funded Judicial Watch page here. Media matters describes what the Scaife-funded Judicial Watch found:
    The evidence Judicial Watch uses to justify their allegation comes from emails between FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and media reform organization Free Press. The e-mails detail communications between Copps and Free Press regarding the placement of an op-ed in favor of net neutrality regulations (which would guarantee that internet service providers can't favor their own content over others) , as well as arrangements for a meeting between Copps and a representative of Free Press.
    And they go on to say that:
    None of this is unusual. Government officials regularly meet and speak before outside groups, like the conservative Heritage Foundation and the progressive Center For American Progress.
    We can talk about the tens of millions Scaife's given to the Heritage Foundation (which also opposes neutrality on the net, by the way) but I think we all know that story.

    Only in the wingnut press could "neutrality" become a guv'ment intrusion on our liberties. And by "our" they mean "big business."

    Of course.

    June 13, 2011

    What The Frack? Catholic Cemeteries ♥ Gas Drilling!

    Via The Trib:
    A Monroeville drilling company could tap natural gas beneath 15 cemeteries in Allegheny and Washington counties under a lease signed by the Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the association's director said Tuesday.

    The association leased nearly 1,060 acres of cemetery land in 2008 to Huntley & Huntley Inc., including the 200-acre Calvary Cemetery in Hazelwood, which City Councilman Doug Shields called "ground zero" in the debate over whether natural gas drilling should be permitted in Pittsburgh.

    "You don't put oil and gas fields in urban areas," Shields said during a news conference about legislation he will propose next month to ban drilling in city limits. "There's too much that can go wrong."
    According to the article, Bishop David Zubik could not be reached for comment. Which I guess means no one could ask exactly how deep the consecration of cemetery ground extends...six feet?...20 feet?...I guess less than a mile...Or mention anything about, oh, I don't know, Jesus and the money changers in the temple...

    I will add that this story brings to mind any number of horror movie plots starting with this one. And, of course, doesn't Pittsburgh have enough zombie problems already without stirring up more trouble?

    Seriously, the article even quotes "high-priced consultant to the gas industry, former Gov. Tom Ridge" having a problem with this. Unfortunately, the real problem with fracking is more for the living than the dead.

    Sick, sick, sick.

    UPDATE: I saw this on my Facebook New Feed the other day and didn't realize that the article was from last year until it was pointed out to me by Paz in the comments section here. That said, it still blows my mind.

    In case you missed it

    I've been out of town for a couple of days, so I'm playing catchup. In case you missed all the news stories on the flash mob that kicked of Pride Weekend, here it is:

    Lil Ricky And The Personhood Dog Whistle

    Via Thinkprogress, we learn of former Senator Rick Santorum's extreme position on a woman's right to choose. He was being interviewed by David Gregory when this exchange occurred:
    QUESTION: Do you believe that there should be any legal exceptions for rape or incest when it comes to abortion?

    SANTORUM: I believe that life begins at conception, and that that life should be guaranteed under the Constitution. That is a person. [Emphasis added.]

    QUESTION: So even in the case of rape or incest, that would be taking a life?

    SANTORUM: That would be taking a life, and I believe that any doctor that performs an abortion, I would advocate that any doctor that performs an abortion, should be criminally charged for doing so.
    And in doing so, in using the word "person," Rick's blowing a dog whistle to the anti-choice crowd he's hoping would support him in his presidential race.

    Not that his anti-choice position was much of a secret. He recently debated Rev Al Sharpton on this topic in the philosophically friendly confines of the Sean Hannity show. In doing so, he brought up a hitherto unknown (at least to me) racial position on choice/personhood:
    Former Sen. Rick Santorum, perennially a potential Presidential candidate, is not going on the defensive for his recent comment that President Barack Obama’s stance on abortion was particularly shocking based on his race. In fact, he is so sure of his position that he was willing to defend it in the face of one of America’s loudest race crusaders, Rev. Al Sharpton. Sean Hannity gave the a couple of segment on his show tonight, popped the proverbial popcorn, and let the games begin.
    But this is a good opportunity to take a look at the "personhood" legislation oozing through some state legislatures. NARAL has a definition:
    Members of the anti-choice “personhood” movement are launching a comprehensive assault on reproductive rights at the state level through legislation and ballot initiatives. These measures attempt to redefine "personhood" either by creating a legal definition for when life begins or by conferring legal rights upon a fertilized egg. In addition to outlawing abortion, these efforts could lead to bans on many common forms of birth control, and on stem-cell research and invitro fertilization.

    By doing so, these proposals are designed to challenge Roe and eliminate the constitutional rights recognized therein. According to the anti-choice group Personhood USA, which claims operations in at least 30 states, “the common thread among all of these efforts is the goal to fill what is becoming known as the ‘Blackmun Hole’ in Roe v. Wade. This is where Justice Blackmun implied in the Roe v. Wade decision that if the case were established that the pre-born was a person, the argument for abortion collapses.”
    On the "What is Personhood?" page of the PersonhoodUSA webpage, we see something familiar. After giving their definition of "personhood" (which more or less matches NARAL's) they explain:
    A person, simply put, is a human being. This fact should be enough. The intrinsic humanity of unborn children, by definition, makes them persons and should, therefore, guarantee their protection under the law. For more than thirty years, however, this has not been the case. The situation we are left with is this. In America today, there is a huge and singular group of living human beings who have no protection under the law and are being killed en masse every day. Is that not astounding?! It is astounding, but not wholly unprecedented.

    There have been at least two other instances in American history in which specific groups of human beings were stripped of their rights of personhood as a means of justifying their horrible mistreatment. African-Americans and Native-Americans both felt the brunt of a system which denied their humanity, stripped their personhood and subjected them to horrors beyond measure. While the legal framework that made such injustice possible has now been removed, it remains firmly in place for unborn Americans.
    Unfortunately, Thinkprogress points out:
    Moreover, Santorum’s position that the Constitution compels laws protecting fetuses places him at odds with the Supreme Court’s most conservative members. In DeShanney v. Winnebago County, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution’s guarantee that no person shall be denied “life . . . without due process of law” does not actually require the government to criminalize anything — a decision that runs directly counter to Santorum’s position on abortion. Justice Antonin Scalia, who has gone so far as to say that the Constitution does not prevent gender discrimination, was in the majority in DeShanney.
    Personhood Legislation could also, NARAL asserts, ban contraception. It would ban abortions for rape and incest and if Rick Santorum who supports "Personhod" had his way, criminalize the doctors performing them.

    Tell me again what his chances are for actually winning?

    June 10, 2011

    March for Corporate Accountability Today

    Wednesday we saw a rally to tell Target to keep the corporate cash out of politics. Today there's a rally and march to "to demand that multi-billion dollar oil and gas company ExxonMobil pay its fair share of taxes to help build a better future for Pittsburgh."

    As the Post-Gazette reported yesterday:
    ExxonMobil Corp. has bolstered its position in the Marcellus Shale play with a billion-dollar acquisition, paying $1.69 billion for Warrendale-based Philips Resources and TWP Inc.
    Slag Heap notes about the sale:
    For environmentalists, it's yet another sign that the heavies are taking an increasing interest in the state's gas desposits. And that means that when citizens seek to protect water supplies, for example ... these companies are poised to blow them out of the water.

    You might have thought that Marcellus drillers had plenty of influence already, given the seven-digit sums the industry contributed to Gov. Tom Corbett and other pols last year. But that's chump change compared to what a big hitter like Exxon can do when it decides to put its mind to it.
    From the rally press release:
    By taking advantage of tax breaks and loopholes to the tune of $4.1 billion over the last three years, ExxonMobil is depriving Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania of much-needed revenue, which is forcing cuts to education, public transit, healthcare and other critical public services needed to strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy. Exxon’s daily profits alone – $213 million – are double the proposed state budget cuts to all 43 school districts in Allegheny County and are ten times the $20 million cuts forced to Pittsburgh bus routes earlier this year.
    March for Corporate Accountability
    March and rally to hold ExxonMobil accountable to Pittsburgh communities
    WHO: Hundreds of community members from across Pittsburgh
    WHEN: Friday, June 10
    3:30 Rally and Speakers at Market Square
    4:15 March across Smithfield Bridge
    4:30 Rally at Exxon Station (73 E. Carson St.)
    WHERE: Starting at Market Square and ending at Exxon Station (73. E. Carson St.)