Democracy Has Prevailed.

June 29, 2012

"Pittsburgh, PA, will become the next hipster haven"

Look out! According to the Business Insider's "The 15 Hottest American Cities Of The Future," Pittsburgh will become the next hipster haven:
With its affordable housing, thriving student population, emerging arts and hip-hop scene, and fast-growing job market,  Pittsburgh is quickly becoming the newest hipster haven.  
The Steel City is attracting and retaining these young creative types with its cool cultural scene and thriving economy.
Coming to Starbucks the world over: Pierogies!

Rally to Celebrate the Affordable Care Act

It's constitutional, bitchez!
We're liberals -- win, lose -- we rally!

Via One Pittsburgh:
Rally to celebrate the Affordable Care Act and tell Corbett we demand a PA Healthcare Exchange
When: Today! June 29, 2012, Noon
Where: Piatt Place 301 5th Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222 (map)
What: The Affordable Care Act has been upheld by the Supreme Court, guaranteeing that millions of Americans will receive healthcare! As Attorney General, Tom Corbett filed a lawsuit against the ACA. We are going to rally to celebrate the SCOTUS decision and to remind Corbett that WE WON and that we demand he stops dragging his feet to create PA's healthcare exchange.
RSVP at link above or via MoveOn.

(Graphic via Facebook)

June 28, 2012

SCOTUS Tweet of the Day

Supreme Court Chief Justice Snape Strikes a Blow for ObamaCare:


Happy Dance! (Even though Single-Payer would have been far better)

Decision can be read here.

ObamaCare upheld by US Supreme Court

Via SCOTUSblog:
The bottom line: the entire ACA is upheld, with the exception that the federal government's power to terminate states' Medicaid funds is narrowly read.
Tom: Chief Justice Roberts' vote saved the ACA.
Amy Howe:
The money quote from the section on the mandate: Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.  
Amy Howe:
The court reinforces that individuals can simply refuse to pay the tax and not comply with the mandate.  
Amy Howe:
On the Medicaid issue, a majority of the Court holds that the Medicaid expansion is constitutional but that it w/b unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold Medicaid funds for non-compliance with the expansion provisions.
Justice Ginsburg makes clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax. Her opinion, for herself and Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, joins the key section of Roberts opinion on that point. She would go further and uphold the mandate under the Commerce Clause, which Roberts wouldn't. Her opinion on Commerce does not control.

While you're waiting to hear from the Supremes...

James Fallows of The Atlantic has a few choice words on our long-term coup:
Normally I shy away from apocalyptic readings of the American predicament. We're a big, messy country; we've been through a lot -- perhaps even more than we thought, what with Abraham Lincoln and the vampires. We'll probably muddle through this and be very worried about something else ten years from now. But when you look at the sequence from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to what seems to be coming on the health-care front; and you combine it with ongoing efforts in Florida and elsewhere to prevent voting from presumably Democratic blocs; and add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we'd identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else.**
You can read the whole article here.

(h/t to Spork)

Sightings of the Extremely Rare Female PA Pol

Did you know that Pennsylvania ranks 47th in the nation in terms of female representation and participation in politics? Public Source takes a look at three of these rare birds in Southwestern PA: Pittsburgh City Councilor Natalia Rudiak, prominent Republican Elsie Hillman and Braddock Borough Council President Tina Doose. The slideshow is by Martha Rial who I had the pleasure of sharing a panel with on new media at CMU earlier this year. (If you'd like to up the odds, please help out Erin Molchany's campaign here.)

The Sky Is Pink

"The Sky Is Pink" is Josh Fox's short documentary follow-up to his "Gasland" film. Pittsburgh's very own Doug Shields provides the title.

Annotated documents featured in the film can be found here.
Speaking of clean water, the Clean Rivers Campaign is hosting a kickoff event tonight for green solutions to our sewage overflow problems:
Clean Rivers Campaign Kickoff Event
Thursday, June 28th at 7:00 p.m.
Where: International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 95. 300 Saline St., Pittsburgh, PA 15207 (map)
Questions? Contact Rachel Martin,
Event Poster: Here
(More info on that event can be found here.)

UPDATE: Meant to add this link: "House approves bill on drilling at state colleges" (because, what the hell, their kids probably go to private schools).

June 27, 2012

RIP Nora Ephron

Author, screenwriter, director, producer, journalist and blogger Nora Ephron passed away yesterday at the age of 71. In addition to everything else she did, she also correctly guessed the identity of Deep Throat from clues left by her ex husband, Carl Bernstein, and told anyone who asked. New York Times obituary can found here.

Among some of her movie work:

Writer of Silkwood (1983):

Writer and associate producer of When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

Writer, director and producer of Julie & Julia (2009)

June 26, 2012

And, this isn't about voter suppression either

Via Think Progress:

Partisan Republicans Aggressively Seeking To Become Election Officials In Florida

By any means necessary, I guess.

Turzai Admits PA Voter ID Law Passed to Give Win to Romney

Oh lookie here! An honest Republican in the State Assembly. Via PoliticsPA:
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suggested that the House’s end game in passing the Voter ID law was to benefit the GOP politically.  
“We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years,” said Turzai in a speech to committee members Saturday. He mentioned the law among a laundry list of accomplishments made by the GOP-run legislature.  
“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
I guess that means all those Voter ID laws passed around the same time by Republican-controlled states weren't about some mythical massive voter fraud -- they were about voter suppression of folks most likely to vote for a Democrat. Either that, or Turzai is saying the vast majority of voter fraud is done by Democrats -- you know, Republicans only need a fighting chance to win. It couldn't possibly be about their extremist policies or candidates...

John of The Pennsylvania Progressive calls a liar a liar. And, he points out that the lies weren't just about voting, they extend to the real reason behind SB 732:
Isn't lying on the House floor an ethics violation? If not it should be and should be cause for censure or expulsion. When Representatives and Senators willfully lie and fabricate arguments while passing legislation they should be expelled from office. It is a stain on all of us when the likes of Mike Turzai get up to speak in OUR hallowed hall and lie to us about what they're doing.  
He also revealed they lied about Senate Bill 732 the ambulatory surgical center abortion bill. We've said all along this was back door legislation to outlaw abortion. His quote " First pro-life legislation - abortion facility regulations - in 22 years" reveals it for what it was: pro life, anti-abortion legislation. By making onerous regulations impossible or financially impossible to meet they are banning abortions in Pennsylvania for most women. Even if clinics could retrofit the cost would make abortions unaffordable for anyone but the wealthy.
I guess it's a good thing that at least one Republican is finally being honest about their lies.

June 25, 2012

The Land of Mitt-Believe

Steve Benen of The Maddow Blog chronicles 30 lies told by Mitt Romney -- in just the past week.

Michael Cohen of The Guardian:
Romney has figured out a loophole – one can lie over and over, and those lies quickly become part of the political narrative, practically immune to "fact-checking". Ironically, the more Romney lies, the harder it then becomes to correct the record. Even if an enterprising reporter can knock down two or three falsehoods, there are still so many more that slip past.
(h/t to Jonathan Capehart for the phrase "Land of Mitt-Believe")

Will The Trib Retract? NAH!

Remember this from a few days ago?  The editorial board at the Tribune-Review, in discussing the evocation of executive privilege by the Obama Administration in response to a subpoena from Darrell Issa's committee, wrote:
By now declaring executive privilege, the administration is legally stipulating that there was direct White House involvement. And it has placed itself in Catch-22 jeopardy: It was more intimately involved in Fast and Furious than previously stated and it has been involved in nothing less than a cover-up to prevent that public disclosure.
I wonder if they'll retract that now that Issa himself has stipulated that there's no evidence of any White House involvement and no cover up.  From ThinkProgress, here's Issa's interview with Chris Wallace (of Fox "News" no less):
WALLACE: Do you have any evidence that White House officials were involved in these decisions, that they knowingly misled Congress, and are involved in a cover-up?

ISSA: No, we don’t.
WALLACE: I want to be clear, because we’ve got to get out, no evidence that the White House is involved in the cover up?

ISSA: And I hope they don’t get involved.
So how long do you think it'll take Scaife's braintrust to admit that they (at the very least) misspoke.

June 23, 2012

A bad day for pedophiles and their enablers in PA

Via Twitter
While the survivors of their violence will have to deal with what happened to them for years to come, at least one serial predator and one serial enabler has met with some justice in Pennsylvannia:
  • Jerry Sandusky convicted on 45 of 48 counts. It should have come a lot sooner.

  • Monsignor William Lynn convicted of child endangerment -- becomes the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime for how he handled abuse claims.
  • June 22, 2012

    I'll be on PCNC’s "NightTalk: Get to the Point" Tonight!

    Just a reminder. (Except no Heyl, it will be Melissa Haluszczak ( R ), 2010 PA Congressional Candidate

    Merely Thinking It Does Not Make It So...

    Some recent poll data.

    When asked:
    Do you believe that the following statement is true or not true? "Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded in 2003."
    62.9% of Republicans said "true."

    Even though it wasn't.  They must've been uninformed.

    When asked whether this statement is true:
    I have always believed President Obama was born in another country.
    55.6% of Republicans said yes.  And it's actually 63% when you include the Republicans who said:
    I used to think President Obama was born in the United States, but now I think he was born in another country.
    Even though he wasn't.  They must've been uninformed about that, too.

    So...just how uninformed are they?

    The Trib Lies. AGAIN.

    From today's op-ed page where they're discussing "Fast and Furious" and the recent evocation of Executive Privilege by the Obama Administration:
    In the grand scheme of things, a congressional committee’s vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to the failed and fatal Operation Fast and Furious gun-running scandal doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.
    By now declaring executive privilege, the administration is legally stipulating that there was direct White House involvement. And it has placed itself in Catch-22 jeopardy: It was more intimately involved in Fast and Furious than previously stated and it has been involved in nothing less than a cover-up to prevent that public disclosure.

    Either the White House lied or the White House lied.
    By not stating all of the details, it's the Tribune-Review editorial board that's lying.  Let's start with the second paragraph.  Is the White House legally stipulating that there was "direct" involvement?  In what?  Fast and Furious?

    That's what Scaife's braintrust wants you to think.

    However, when you look at what the DOJ asked the White House to assert Executive Privilege over, you'll see a different story.  From the DOJ letter seeking executive privilege:
    The [House Oversight] Committee has made clear that its contempt resolution will be limited to internal Department [of Justice] "documents from after February 4, 2011 related to the Department's response to Congress." Letter for Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, from Darrell E. Issa, Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives at 1-2 (June 13, 2012) ("Chairman's Letter"). I am asking you to assert executive privilege over these documents. They were not generated in the course of the conduct of Fast and Furious. Instead, they were created after the investigative tactics at issue in that operation had terminated and in the course of the Department's deliberative process concerning how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation.
    Hmm.  So the documents Issa's committee subpoenaed are not about Fast and Furious but about the internal administration discussions about it after the program was terminated.

    Now go back and look at how Scaife's braintrust describes things.  Surely they knew the truth and yet by leaving out enough of the truth they're asserting something completely different.

    Who's lying now?

    June 21, 2012

    So Much For Consistency...

    From ThinkProgress, June 20:
    Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a libertarian hero, last year said that allowing Social Security to exist is akin to permitting slavery. But during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, Paul admitted to the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein that he collects Social Security checks anyway
    Representative Paul, in that quoted link, goes so far as to assert that Social Security is unconstitutional. ThinkProgress gives a transcript of an interview with Chris Wallace:
    WALLACE: You talk a lot about the Constitution. You say Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all unconstitutional.

    PAUL: Technically, they are. … There’s no authority [in the Constitution]. Article I, Section 8 doesn’t say I can set up an insurance program for people. What part of the Constitution are you getting it from? The liberals are the ones who use this General Welfare Clause. … That is such an extreme liberal viewpoint that has been mistaught in our schools for so long and that’s what we have to reverse—that very notion that you’re presenting.

    WALLACE: Congressman, it’s not just a liberal view. It was the decision of the Supreme Court in 1937 when they said that Social Security was constitutional under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

    PAUL: And the Constitution and the courts said slavery was legal to, and we had to reverse that.
    Social Security is unconstitutional, says Representative Ron Paul - and yet he takes the money anyway.

    If he feels that strongly about it, he should sue the guv'ment for all that money of his it unconstitutionally stole from him.  If he feels that strongly about it he should refuse to pay into that unconstitutional system.  If he feels that strongly about it he should refuse to accept any of that unconstitutional money.

    June 20, 2012

    I'll be on PCNC’s "NightTalk: Get to the Point" Friday, June 22

    I'll be a panelist on PCNC’s "NightTalk: Get to the Point" Friday, June 22, 2012. The program will be telecast LIVE on Friday, 6/22 from 8:00-9:00PM; in addition there will be encores that Friday late night 2:00AM and on Monday, 6/25 from 5:00 - 6:00PM.

    P.J. Maloney of KQV Newsradio will host the show. Democratic Committee Member Barbara Ernsberger and Eric Heyl of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review are the other invited guests.

    Please watch!

    VoterID Lawsuit

    From yesterday's P-G:
    Divided along party lines, Allegheny County's election board voted this afternoon to file a lawsuit challenging the state's new Voter Identification law.

    Board chairman John DeFazio and county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, both Democrats, voted to sue, while Heather Heidelbaugh, the lone Republican on the three-member board, voted against the measure. Both Mr. DeFazio, of Shaler, and Ms. Heidelbaugh, of Mt. Lebanon, serve on the election board because they are at-large members of county council.

    "We should be making it easier to vote," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "This legislation [the Voter ID law] is trying to deny that right and make it more difficult for people to vote."
    The fact that Councilmember Heidelbaugh would vote against the measure is hardly surprising considering what's found on her election website:
    Heather Heidelbaugh has been an advocate of smaller government, lower taxes and has stood up to those engaged in voter fraud around this Commonwealth.
    As much as I like Attorney Heidelbaugh, she's blurring the lines here.  Her complaint against ACORN was about voter registration not voter fraud.

    And there's scant actual voter fraud in Pennsylvania.

    Back to the P-G:
    County solicitor Andrew Szefi said the lawsuit likely would be brought on behalf of both the election board and the county.

    The heart of the county's argument would be that the state constitution sets just four requirements for voting eligibility: minimum age, U.S. citizenship, residence in Pennsylvania and a specific election district.

    The new requirement that voters show photo identification before they can cast ballots should have been imposed via constitutional amendment, he said.

    Here's Article VII Section 1 of the State Constitution outlining voting qualifications:
    Every citizen 21 years of age, possessing the following qualifications, shall be entitled to vote at all elections subject, however, to such laws requiring and regulating the registration of electors as the General Assembly may enact. 1. He or she shall have been a citizen of the United States at least one month. 2. He or she shall have resided in the State ninety (90) days immediately preceding the election. 3. He or she shall have resided in the election district where he or she shall offer to vote at least sixty (60) days immediately preceding the election, except that if qualified to vote in an election district prior to removal of residence, he or she may, if a resident of Pennsylvania, vote in the election district from which he or she removed his or her residence within sixty (60) days preceding the election.
    That's right. Nothing about showing any photo ID.

    We'll see how it plays out in the courts.  But let's be clear.  This bill is not about "protecting the integrity of the election system" (with only 4 prosecutions of voter fraud out of the millions of votes since 2008?  C'mon.)  It is about making it more difficult for people to vote Democratic.

    Simple as that.

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I know both Heather Heidelbaugh (being a fill-in guest on 4802) and Andrew Szefi (I worked in an office where he was an attorney a long time ago) but I've had no contact with him in a decade.

    June 19, 2012

    Won't Somebody Please Think Of The Children?!

    We can't have nice things unions a prevailing wage because it will hurt kids with cancer! (Pennsylvania Republican House Rep. Brad Roae went there.)

    (h/t to Jennifer England)

    Both sides don't do it

    While you can find any number of examples of protesters, celebrities, etc. being less than respectful of a U.S. President, as well as a lesser number of examples of journalists aggressively questioning a U.S. President at a presser, during an interview, or just yelling questions out as he walks by, here's what you don't see:

    You've never seen a Democratic member of Congress yelling out "You lie!" during a State of the Union address given by a Republican President:

    You've never seen a Democratic Governor out in public wagging their finger inches from a Republican President's face:

    And, you've never seen some lefty reporter screaming at a Republican President in the middle of a major speech (or any prepared remarks):

    Yet, somehow the Teahadists simply can't or won't control themselves around this President -- not enough to display even the most basic, minimum level of respect for the Office of the Presidency. (Much in the same way that they can't help but bring out the Confederate flag at their protests no matter how bad it makes them look.) I guess there's just something different about Obama...

    Vagina (Part II)

    From the AP by way of US News:
    A state lawmaker who says she was barred from speaking in the Michigan House because Republicans objected to her saying "vagina" during debate over anti-abortion legislation performed "The Vagina Monologues" on the Statehouse steps — with a hand from the author.

    Eve Ensler, whose groundbreaking play about women's sexuality still packs theaters 16 years after it debuted, oversaw Monday night's performance by Democratic state Rep. Lisa Brown, 10 other lawmakers and several actresses.

    Capitol facilities director Steve Benkovsky estimated about 2,500 spectators — women and men — watched the play in downtown Lansing from lawn chairs and blankets. Billed on Facebook as the "Vaginas Take Back the Capitol!" event, the combination play and protest included political signs and chants of "Vagina! Vagina!"

    Ensler analyses the issue:
    "If we ever knew deep in our hearts that the issue about abortion ... was not really about fetuses and babies, but really men's terror of women's sexuality and power, I think it's fully evidenced here," Ensler told The Associated Press by phone Monday before arriving in Lansing.

    The backward thinkers in the Michigan GOP, however, backtracked on the ban:
    House Republicans say they didn't object to her saying "vagina." They said Brown compared the legislation to rape, violating House decorum.
    Which is why, as I quoted the Detroit Free Press:
    "What she said was offensive," said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. "It was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company."
    Of course it was the rape metaphor!  That makes complete sense!  And THAT'S what Callton wouldn't say in mixed company!  OF COURSE it was.


    Have a giggle (NSFW):


    June 18, 2012

    The Trib Favors Torture

    From today's Op-Ed page at the Tribune-Review:
    Terrorist-killing drone strikes carry an often overlooked cost: lost opportunities to gather intelligence about terrorist plots. And the Obama administration's renunciation of interrogation techniques that helped foil at least 10 such plots exacerbates that problem.

    So says Jose A. Rodriguez. Some think the former CIA counterterrorism chief and best-selling "Hard Measures" author could be CIA director in a Romney administration.

    He tells The Washington Free Beacon that there's no U.S. system or facilities in place today for questioning captured terrorist leaders: "They are not taking prisoners in Guantanamo, (and) the black sites have been closed." He blames the Obama administration for America's terror intelligence gap.
    Here's the article on Rodriguez in the Free Beacon.

    We can talk about the "black sites" but let's talk about the interrogation techniques torture instead.

    Here's the Trib:
    President Obama's 2009 Cairo speech "unequivocally" prohibiting "torture" outraged and disgusted him and his colleagues. They believed they had proper authorization for harsh interrogations.
    Note the quotation marks.  The first set actually quotes but the second imposes an ironical spin.  It's not torture if it's "torture".  And George W. Bush isn't a war criminal if he's a "war criminal".  See how the ironic quotation marks work?

    And this is from Obama's speech in Cairo and here's the Executive Order that prohibited the torture.

    It's a bit of a redundancy as torture was already illegal.

    From the Conventions Against Torture (signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the US Senate in 1994 - therefore it's US Law):
    For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
    That's Article 1. Article 2 includes this:
    2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

    3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
    No extenuating circumstances.  No "I was just following orders" either.  That's been a part of US Law for almost 2 decades.

    Torture is illegal.  Covering up torture (like destroying the video evidence something Jose Rodriguez ordered) is also illegal.

    What part of "illegal" doesn't the Trib understand?

    June 17, 2012

    Now THIS Is Odd

    Tucked in at the end of the Whispers column at the Tribune-Review:
    PASSING THE STOVEPIPE HAT. The Harrisburg-based Lincoln Institute is going through some trying times.

    First, Albert Paschall, the conservative think tank's co-founder, died last month at age 58. Now, institute CEO Lowman Henry is acknowledging the organization is experiencing financial difficulties.

    "The cost of polling, producing and distributing our radio programs and maintaining our websites are all paid for by voluntary contributions," he wrote in an email to institute supporters. "I've done everything I can to cut expenses. But the plain facts are costs are going up."

    Henry is asking folks to pony up for the Lincoln Institute cause.
    Here's Lowman's full message, in the event you wanted to read it.  In it he blames the economic downturn (the one that started in the Bush Administration and that happened because of precisely the economic policies pushed by think tanks like the Lincoln Institute) for his financial woes.  Poor guy.

    Now why is this odd?

    Because over the past 2 decades or so the Lincoln Institute received more than a half million dollars support by way of the Richard Mellon Scaife-controlled Allegheny Foundation.

    So why are they using the Scaife-owned Tribune-Review to beg for more money?

    Odd, right?

    June 15, 2012

    The Aristocrats

    Digby has a truly obscene version of that old joke here.

    Vagina. (Part II)

    First, above is the video of Michigan State House Rep. Lisa Brown (D) saying on the House floor -- get out the smelling salts and the fainting couch -- "I'm flattered you're all so interested in my vagina. But no means no." which Dayvoe blogged about here. She was speaking about MI's new ridiculously restrictive anti abortion laws which ban all abortions after 20 weeks except for a narrow exception for the life of the woman. In other words, you basically will need to wait until you're literally bleeding to death before a doctor can perform one (if you're carrying a dead fetus -- Sorry, Charlie! [or perhaps that should be Charlene] -- you'll have to keep carrying it).

    At any rate, what I find interesting is that Brown was actually making a religious argument for abortion. Yes, there is one. It just doesn't happen to be, say, the Catholic or Baptist argument. Here's a transcript of what Brown said via Daily Kos:
    Yesterday we heard from the Representative from Holland, speak about religious freedom. I'm Jewish. I keep kosher in my home. I have 2 sets of dishes--one for meat and one for dairy, and another 2 sets of dishes on top of that for Passover. Judaism believes that therapeutic abortions, namely abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother, are not only permissible, but mandatory. The stage of pregnancy does not matter. Wherever there's a question of the life of the mother, or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother. The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother.  
    I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?  
    And finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no!
    Looks like some "religious freedoms" are more equal than others.


    From the Detroit Free-Press:
    The debate over proposed new abortion regulations in the state House this week was heated, loud, even graphic, with words like "vagina," "vasectomy" and "stirrups" being mentioned.

    The words didn't stop passage of the legislation, but they did get two Democratic lawmakers -- state Reps. Lisa Brown of West Bloomfield and Barb Byrum of Onondaga -- silenced Thursday from speaking about any issue before the House on its final day of session before the Legislature's summer break.

    Brown and Byrum were told they wouldn't be recognized to speak because of comments they made Wednesday during the emotional abortion-rights debate.

    The Free-Press goes on:
    Brown, who voted against the abortion regulations, told supporters of the bill: "I'm flattered you're all so interested in my vagina. But no means no," referencing the proposal.

    Byrum was gaveled out of order after she protested when she wasn't allowed to speak on her amendment, which would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man's life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy.

    The Detroit News reported:
    Brown's comment prompted a rebuke Thursday by House Republicans, who wouldn't allow her to voice her opinion on a school employee retirement bill.

    "What she said was offensive," said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. "It was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company."

    So Rep. Callton finds the word vagina so offensive he would not say it in front of women or in front of groups of people that contain women.  I guess that means he only uses the word vagina (or perhaps a synonym of some sort) in groups of men.  Yea, that makes sense.


    From Representative Brown:
    “Both Representative Byrum and I were gaveled down without cause yesterday while voicing our opposition to the Republican’s war on women here in Michigan, “said Rep. Brown. “Regardless of their reasoning, this is a violation of my First Amendment rights and directly impedes my ability to serve the people who elected me into office. I was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that House Bill 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and any other religion. Or it is because I said the word ‘vagina’ which is an anatomically, medically correct term. If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it.”

    She describes some of the effects of HB 5711:
    • Institute an onerous and bureaucratic licensing and regulatory process and enact expensive new fees intended to shut down many clinics.
    • Invade the important and sacred doctor/patient relationship by requiring new screenings to determine if a woman is being coerced.
    • Creates another new windfall for insurance companies by requiring doctors to carry $1 million in medical liability insurance even though liability coverage limits are not mandated in state law for any other medical practices.
    • Could ultimately eliminate most women’s access to reproductive healthcare facilities by forcing the vast majority of clinics to close and discourage doctors from practicing in Michigan.

    You'll have to decide for yourself whether this blog post is NSFW.


    June 14, 2012

    June 14 - A Special Birther Day!

    I realize it's just a coincidence but some coincidences are fun.

    Did you know that today is the birthday of not one but two prominent birthers?
    If only Orly Taitz were born today instead of August 30.  But hey, did you know that Jerome Corsi was born on August 31?  So maybe teh birther crazie is kinda like teh astrology crazie.

    Before we succumb to all that crazie, let's listen to Lang Lang (born today in 1982) play Chopin.

    Happy Thursday!

    June 12, 2012

    Tracking Teh Crazie - WND

    From the head birther at birther-central (World Net Daily) we read this stunning display of religious tolerance.

    It a piece called "Why atheists can't be real Americans."

    Farah begins by taking a step further than Pastor John Hagee (how on Earth can anyone take something a step further than a nut case like Hagee?)  By the way, that's not my characterization.  It's Joey's.

    Take a look:
    Pastor John Hagee, senior pastor of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church, is making People for the America Way very angry with some comments about atheists.

    Here’s what he said in a talk captured on YouTube by the group: “This nation was not built for atheists or by atheists. It was built by Christian people who believed in the Word of God. To the atheists watching this telecast, if our belief in God offends you, move. There are planes leaving every hour on the hour, going every place on planet earth. Get on one, we don’t want you and we won’t miss you, I promise you.”

    That may sound harsh, coming from a Christian minister of a mega-church with 20,000 members.

    But let me take what Hagee said a step further.

    And what's the extra step from the birther-king?
    Atheists can’t be real Americans in the truest sense of the word – and People for the American Way should be renamed People for the un-American Way.
    So from Hagee, we learn that atheists should leave Amurika and from Farah, that we're not "real Americans" anyway.

    Huh.  Upon what does Farah place this puffery?
    America was founded on a creedal statement. It can be found in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;...
    And so on.

    Too bad The Declaration, amazing document that it is, is not the law of the land.

    The Constitution is.  And the Constitution has nothing to say about this being a "Christian Nation."  In fact Article VI, has this in it:
    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. [emphasis added.]
    And do I really need to quote the 1st Amendment at yinz?

    I'll give the final word to the Supreme Court, circa 1943 (when the World was at war):
    If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
    So who's being un-American?  The folks who believe that all citizens are equal citizens or the religious zealots who want everyone that disagrees with them to just leave?

    June 11, 2012

    It's the end of the world as we know it!

    Forget the Zombie Apocalypse, here's the real signs that the End Times are upon us:

    1) The Pittsburgh Pirates are tied for first place! (Yes, the baseball team.)

    2) Lil Mayor Luke suddenly discovers that he's for same-sex marriage! (That would be just in time for PrideFest and just two months after he wasn't. Sniff, sniff. Is that an election I smell?)

    3) Lil Mayor Luke also comes out as pro choice! Just kidding! I guess we all can relax -- the world's really not coming to an end.

    June 10, 2012

    More On The Trib's Op-Ed Dishonesty

    Take a look at this, from today's Tribune-Review:
    The Congressional Budget Office is predicting that the debt of the United States will be twice the size of our economy by 2037. (It's now 73 percent of the GDP). And it more than suggests that tax hikes should be a part of the "solution."
    And then:
    There is no more compelling argument for spending cuts (real cuts, not simply reductions in the rate of spending increases) and real tax cuts (rate reductions that have the private capital-fueled stimulative effect that government spending in no way can mimic).

    The historical record of such actions' success is indisputable. And that success has come in administrations both Republican and Democrat over the last century.
    Buuuuut...when you actually take a look at the CBO Report, you'll see the depths of the mendacity at play here.

    In the report, the CBO is comparing two separate scenarios:
    • The extended baseline scenario, which reflects the assumption that current laws generally remain unchanged; that assumption implies that lawmakers will allow changes that are scheduled under current law to occur, forgoing adjustments routinely made in the past that have boosted deficits.
    • The extended alternative fiscal scenario, which incorporates the assumptions that certain policies that have been in place for a number of years will be continued and that some provisions of law that might be difficult to sustain for a long period will be modified, thus maintaining what some analysts might consider “current policies,” as opposed to current laws.
    Doesn't give us that much detail there, does it?  Luckily, the CBO gives us a few more details about the scenarious.  Here's the first:
    • Under current law, revenues would rise steadily relative to GDP because of the scheduled expiration of cuts in individual income taxes enacted since 2001 and most recently extended in 2010; the growing reach of the alternative minimum tax (AMT); the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act; the way in which the tax system interacts with economic growth; demographic trends; and other factors. Revenues would reach 24 percent of GDP by 2037—much higher than has typically been seen in recent decades—and would grow to larger percentages thereafter.
    • At the same time, under this scenario, government spending on everything other than the major health care programs, Social Security, and interest—activities such as national defense and a wide variety of domestic programs—would decline to the lowest percentage of GDP since before World War II.
    And the conclusion for that scenario?
    That significant increase in revenues and decrease in the relative magnitude of other spending would more than offset the rise in spending on health care programs and Social Security.
    If you look carefully, they're talking about the tax benefits of "Obamacare" and letting the Bush tax cuts expire.  Nothing about the doubling of the debt by 2037.

    That's the other scenario.  By the way, the CBO says, of these scenarios:
    Those scenarios span a wide range of possible policy choices, and neither represents a prediction by CBO of what policies will be in effect during the next several decades.
    So right there, there are TWO bits of dishonesty from Scaife's braintrust. One, that the "doubling of the debt by 2037" is a prediction and two that it's the only "prediction" they make. THe CBO report is more of a "if we do this, then this happens, if we do that, then that happens."

    Now let's take a look at that second scenario.  Guess what happens there?
    • Almost all expiring tax provisions are assumed to be extended through 2022. Specifically, for this scenario, CBO assumed that the cuts in individual income taxes enacted since 2001 and most recently extended in 2010, which are now scheduled to expire at the end of calendar year 2012, would be extended;
    Ah...the Bush tax cuts.  There's other stuff in there, but that's the big one.  This scenario is where the bad stuff occurs:
    Under those policies, federal debt would grow rapidly from its already high level, exceeding 90 percent of GDP in 2022. After that, the growing imbalance between revenues and spending, combined with spiraling interest payments, would swiftly push debt to higher and higher levels. Debt as a share of GDP would exceed its historical peak of 109 percent by 2026, and it would approach 200 percent in 2037.
    Funny how the braintrust didn't say that.

    Let the Bush tax cuts expire, leave the Health Care Reform Act alone and the debt settles down a bit, extend the Bush tax cuts and the debt explodes:

    And yet our friends at the Trib are using the report to push for more tax cuts and more spending cuts.

    See what I mean?  Dishonest.

    Pittsburgh PrideFest 2012 / Pride Awareness March

    PrideFest is a day-long FREE event that takes place on Liberty Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh between 6th Street and 10th Street. 
    More info at Pride Facebook page.

    Pride Awareness March:
    Line up is at 10am on Blvd of the Allies between Smithfield and Grant Streets. The March will proceed down Grant Street, turn left onto Fifth Avenue, then continue to Liberty Avenue and the entrance of PrideFest.

    The Grandstand will be located at the PrideFest entrance at Liberty Avenue & 6th Street.

    More info at Pride Pittsburgh.

    Happy Pride, Pittsburgh!

    June 8, 2012

    "Save Our Public Transit!" March and Rally Today

    (From coverage of a previous rally)

    WHAT: "Save Our Public Transit!" March and Rally
    WHEN: Today! Friday, June 8, 2012, 3:00pm until 5:00pm.
    WHERE: 11 Stanwix Street (the corner of Stanwix St and Fort Pitt Blvd in Downtown Pittsburgh), Downtown Pittsburgh
    More info at Facebook event page here and at Pittsburghers for Public Transit website.

    The Trib and Judicial Watch and ALEC: Nefarious Nexus

    From today's Trib:
    The American Civil Liberties Union did the Obama Justice Department's bidding in challenging Arizona's law cracking down on illegal immigrants. Now, Judicial Watch is fighting to determine whether Justice and the ACLU also are in cahoots on an ACLU lawsuit seeking to keep Pennsylvania's voter ID law from taking effect before November's election.
    Here's what Judicial Watch has on this:
    Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that on June 1, 2012, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records detailing the agency’s communications with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regarding Pennsylvania House Bill 934, commonly referred to as Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. Case 1:12-cv-00884)). The ACLU and allied organizations have filed a lawsuit to prevent the law, signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett on March 14, 2012, from taking effect before the November elections.
    Ah, so we're talking about HB 934.  More on that later.  But let's read further down the page.  A paragraph or so later we find:
    Pennsylvania House Bill 934 requires voters to produce a Pennsylvania driver’s license or another government-issued photo ID, such as a U.S. passport, military ID, or county/municipal employee ID. As reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, on May 1, 2012, so-called “civil rights” groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit to seek to prevent Pennsylvania’ voter ID law from taking effect before the November elections. The trial is scheduled to begin on July 25, 2012.
    How nice of them to link back to Scaife's paper, isn't it? Especially since it's not a Trib article.  If you look, it's actually the AP's work.  But, as I said it's nice for Judicial Watch to give a such a subtle shout-out to Richard Mellon Scaife's newspaper.

    Why do I mention that?

    Glad you asked.  From the Phoenix New Times:
    But [Judicial Watch has] never wanted for cash, in large part because of the deep pockets of crackpot Pennsylvania billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.
    Through his Carthage Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Scaife helps bankroll a number of far-right and nativist groups, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (which was behind writing SB 1070), NumbersUSA, the Center for Immigration Studies, and Judicial Watch (see "FAIR-y Tales," Terry Greene Sterling, December 2).

    According to the progressive Media Matters Action Network, the Scaife family foundations mentioned above have given $8.7 million to Judicial Watch since 1997, making Scaife Judicial Watch's primary benefactor.
    See? So how nice of them to give a shout out to their primary benefactor.  Isn't it funny, though, that that little bit of info never seems to make it onto the pages of the Trib?

    But let's get back to HB 934, shall we?  We've written about it before.  In case you're just joining us, HB 934 is sponsored by our good friend Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler).  It's also an example of a piece of ALEC legislation.

    ALEC?  What's ALEC, Mr. Dayvoe?  Again, for those just joining us, ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council.  We've written about them before, too.

    And guess, just guess, who had a hand in ALEC's founding.  From the Washington Post in 1999:
    Scaife has given ALEC more than $2 million since 1975, keeping the group alive in its early years.
    So the Scaife-funded Judicial Watch is defending some legislation that came from the Scaife-supported ALEC while the Scaife-owned paper is both silent on those connections and yet still accuses the DOJ and the ACLU of being in "cohoots".

    Another lesson on how the right wing noise machine works.

    June 7, 2012

    And Again

    Yesterday we discussed American style faith-based scientific illiteracy.

    Today, it's faith-based religious bigotry.

    From the NYDaily News:
    A vehemently anti-gay radio show host is making headlines with his latest proclamation that Obama is “making kids gay” — and he’s only 14 years old.

    Caiden Cowger of West Virginia hosts the “Caiden Cowger” Internet radio show twice a week, where he gabs about his staunchly conservative political beliefs.
    “They are encouraging kids to think, ‘Well, you know what? They’re talking about being a homosexual and they’re saying there’s nothing wrong with being gay, so you know what, I think I might try that out for a little bit,” Cowger says. “That is what’s going on!”
    At this point I have to add something I am sure many many people have already pointed out: If Caiden thinks the only thing standing in the way  of "making kids gay" is the the silence of public officials, then that tells you lots about what young Cowger thinks about human sexuality.

    Of course Caiden is a pentecostal Christian who equates bullying with proselytizing:
    “When you’re trying to teach them the word of God and they consider that bullying ... I find that a big problem, not being allowed to convert other people to my religion,” he said.
    Then there's this from the Daily Mail:
    'Homosexuality is a belief,' the outspoken West Virginian begins his speech with.

    'It’s not mandatory in that person. The person is not born that way, no matter what Lady Gaga says... it is a decision.'
    And this from a 14 year old West Virginian.  Refreshing, isn't it?

    June 6, 2012

    The Real Reason Scott Walker Won

    Zombie Reagan!
    (Please note: The CDC officially denies any existence of an actual Zombie Apocalypse.)

    Women's health issues are "shiny objects"

    Women's reproductive health as seen by the Romney campaign

    Not only are women's jobs a mere distration, but women's health issues are a distraction too as well as being "shiny objects."

    Jobs are important (unless they're held by women)

    Women doing whatever it is they do that we need not concern ourselves with
    The Associated Press (And Republicans): Jobs and the economy are the number one most important issue in this country, unless those jobs are held by women and then they are a mere distraction.

    America, The Scientifically Illiterate.

    H/T to Dimitri for posting this on his facebook page:
    Nearly half of Americans — 46% — believe God created the human race in a single day 10,000 years ago, a newly-released Gallup poll found.

    The poll revealed that Americans’ ideas about the origin of mankind have remained virtually unchanged in the 30 years Gallup has surveyed on the topic.
    Doesn't mean that any of what's believed is true, of course. Just consistently wrong over the last 30 or so years.  It's interesting to see how Gallup addresses that point.  We'll see it in a minute.

    But let's look deeper into that Gallup Poll.  Some background:
    Gallup has asked Americans to choose among these three explanations for the origin and development of human beings 11 times since 1982. Although the percentages choosing each view have varied from survey to survey, the 46% who today choose the creationist explanation is virtually the same as the 45% average over that period -- and very similar to the 44% who chose that explanation in 1982. The 32% who choose the "theistic evolution" view that humans evolved under God's guidance is slightly below the 30-year average of 37%, while the 15% choosing the secular evolution view is slightly higher (12%).
    Who is this God person, anyway?  Anyone?  Oolon?  Oolon?  Oolon Colluphid?

    Back to reality.  Digging deeper into the numbers we can, perhaps, discern some greater insight into our American character:
    Two-thirds of Americans who attend religious services weekly choose the creationist alternative, compared with 25% of those who say they seldom or never attend church
    So, at the very least there's a correlation between regular weekly church attendance and deep scientific ignorance.

    By political party, then:
    Highly religious Americans are more likely to be Republican than those who are less religious, which helps explain the relationship between partisanship and beliefs about human origins. The major distinction is between Republicans and everyone else. While 58% of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, 39% of independents and 41% of Democrats agree.
    And a correlation between political party and that same deep scientific ignorance.

    And here's how Gallup oh-so diplomatically addresses all that ignorance:
    Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature.
    Which is a very nice way of saying that all those nice people (consistently church-going Republicans, for sure) are just simply wrong about the science.

    Sadly, we've done this all before.

    So I'll say it again.  If we are a superpower in decline, this has to be one of its causes: our stubborn faith- based adherence to scientific ignorance.

    June 5, 2012

    I'm sure this will make all the difference in the world

    Via Politico:
    After staying conspicuously absent from the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, President Barack Obama finally engaged tonight...

    June 1, 2012

    Condoms are baaad, Paying Off Pedophiles? Not so much

    From the New York Times:
    Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.

    Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”
    The Times doesn't give any more information on that notorious pedophile cleric.  I will.  Here's what was reported in 2006:
    Milwaukee -- A local advocate group for the survivors of sexual abuse from clergy members is questioning a $10,000 payment to a former clergyman accused of sexually abusing young boys.

    The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) released a videotaped deposition Thursday as part of an $18 million settlement last week between nine abuse victims and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

    The videotape includes a confession by former clergyman Franklyn Becker. Becker said he was transferred from parish to parish in the 1970s and '80s, despite allegations of sexual encounters with teenage boys. He said he was even posted at parishes with others who shared his desires.

    "I was stationed with a classmate of mine who also had a predilection for teenage boys," Becker said on the tape, which was recorded last month.
    And then:
    After the arrival of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Becker was removed from active ministry in 2002. He was completely removed from the priesthood in 2004 by Pope John Paul II.

    Upon his release from the archdiocese, Becker was given $10,000 to cover expenses until his Medicaid supplements began.

    Victims' advocates are questioning the money.

    "I don't think people donating to the archdiocese are going to be very happy to hear that this man was given any money. For what? He is rewarded. Is it a pension? Is he given a severance? Is this a bonus?" abuse victims' advocate Peter Isely said.

    Late Thursday, Dolan released a statement in response, writing, "For anyone to assert that this money was a payoff or occurred in exchange for Becker agreeing to leave the priesthood is completely false, preposterous, and unjust. What this was, instead, was an act of charity, in-line with Catholic Social Teaching, that allowed a person to obtain health insurance coverage he simply could not afford on his own. If people want to criticize me for that charity, so be it."
    No. Not a pay off. Of course not.  An act of charity for a known pedophile.  This act of charity was about 10 years ago.

    Twenty-two years ago Becker apologized to his Archbishop for being involved with a teenage boy.  Luckily for Becker, the boy's mother was "sympathetic" and didn't press charges.

    That Archbishop?  Look what happened to him:
    Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee was one of the Catholic Church's most venerable voices for change until 2002 when he resigned amid revelations that he had used church money to pay a $450,000 settlement to a man with whom he had had a relationship years earlier.
    His successor? Timothy Dolan.

    The same guy who's so much against contraception that he'd allow the poor to starve.

    But there's tens of thousands of dollars for known pedophiles.

    I'll ask it again: Given the atrocious behavior of the Catholic Church regarding it's own misbehaving priests, why should we even consider any statement of sexual morality coming from any spokesperson for that church with any sort of credibility?