Democracy Has Prevailed.

December 31, 2013

Ending 2013 - Pessimistic About Our Future

I really hate to end the year on such a downer but here it is.

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”
One third of Americans reject one of the foundations of modern science.  Why?

Perhaps this is the reason:
These beliefs differ strongly by religious group. White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion.
Two thirds of white evangelical Protestants reject one of the foundations of modern science.

Then there's party affiliation:
There are sizable differences among partisan groups in beliefs about evolution. Republicans are less inclined than either Democrats or political independents to say that humans have evolved over time. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43%).
About half of all Republicans reject one of the foundations of modern science.

I've written this a number of times but it seems I have to reiterate.  If we are a nation in decline, this has to be one of the reasons: a willful faith-based, politically-aligned, anti-intellectual rejection of science.

Happy New Year!

December 29, 2013

Refuting Spakovsky Who's "Refuting" Mediamatters

This'll be kinda circular so bear with me for a while.

In today's Tribune-Review my good friends on the [board who decides these things] decided to give Hans A. Von Spakovsky some space in (as the headline puts it):

Refuting (not rebutting) Media Matters

But with the usual misplacement of some very pertinent information (a practice so prevalent on the Trib editorial page), he does neither.

Hans begins:
Media Matters, the self-styled “media watchdog” of the left, has accused the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review of using “deceptive numbers” to “attack” immigration reform. But the Trib is exactly right when it says that the Obama administration is not committed to border enforcement and cannot be trusted to implement a comprehensive immigration reform plan.

The criticisms voiced by Media Matters are way off base — particularly their claims about so-called “secret numbers” from The Heritage Foundation and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
Of course he leaves out how much money the owner of the paper's given to those two fine organizations. Here, let me help you with that:
  •  The Center for Immigration Studies has recieved a total of $11,476,000 in foundation money over the years with 17% of it ($1,947,5000) coming from two foundations (Sarah Scaife and Carthage) controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife.  Indeed in the first decade of records found at the bridge project (1991,2001), Scaife's foundations gave about 66% of the total foundational support.  I think that's called "seed money" but I could be wrong.
  • We all know about how much Scaife's sent to the Heritage Foundation.  A this point, Heritage has received $109,986,558 in foundation money with about 25% ($27,944,000) coming from three Scaife foundations (Allegheny, Carthage and Sarah Scaife).  In the first decade of Heritage numbers found at the Bridge Project (1985-1995), Scaife's foundations gave almost exactly half of the foundation money given to Heritage ($12,439,000 out of $25,138,677).  Again, seed money.
But that's old stuff.  While its omission invalidates anything that follows, still let's move on.  This is how the Media Matters posting Von Spakovsky found so offensive begins:
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review cited deceptive statistics from the Heritage Foundation to attack the immigration reform effort, falsely claiming that the Obama administration is not enforcing current laws and arguing that it would continue this practice under a comprehensive immigration reform law.

A December 15 editorial by the Tribune-Review cited a post by the Heritage Foundation to claim that "the deportation of illegal aliens, in fact, has sunk to its lowest level in 40 years" and that the Department of Homeland Security has accepted 81 percent of 580,000 applicants for provisional legal status under a program called the Deferred Act of Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Tribune-Review argued that these numbers show that the Obama administration is not committed to border enforcement and therefore should not be trusted to roll out a comprehensive immigration reform plan.

But the Tribune-Review's analysis should be taken with a grain of salt since its Heritage Foundation numbers come from "secret numbers" obtained by the anti-immigrant nativist Center for Immigration Studies, which is known for fabricating information and pushing misleading studies.
Let's start with that "secret numbers" link since Von Spakovsky mentions it specifically.  It leads to this paragraph in this piece at the Washington Times:
Authorities deported fewer illegal immigrants in fiscal 2013 than at any time since President Obama took office, according to secret numbers obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies that suggest Mr. Obama’s nondeportation policies have hindered removals.

Just 364,700 illegal immigrants were removed in fiscal 2013, according to internal numbers from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement that CIS released Wednesday — down 11 percent from the nearly 410,000 who were deported in 2012.
And here's that report from CIS - and I'll ask, where do you think the Washington Times came up with the phrase "secret numbers"?  Here:
The report also presents previously unpublished statistics disclosing the startlingly large number of cases on ICE’s post-final-order docket of aliens who have been ordered removed, but who remain living here in defiance of immigration enforcement.
Now let's go back to how Hans pumped up the charge against Media Matters:
...particularly their claims about so-called “secret numbers” from The Heritage Foundation and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)
He wants you to think that the charge of "secret numbers" came from Media Matters when it was actually from the Washington Times piece dutifully describing the very CIS "research" he's trying to defend.

Didn't he think someone would check?

Then there's Von Spakovsky's next charge:
Media Matters accused CIS of “fabricating information.”
But then he rebuts the charge by citing the very same Washington Times piece we've just been talking about.  The point being, he had to know about how they were the exact source of the "secret numbers" phrase and yet still decided not to tell you.

But let's look back at that "fabricating information" charge.  When and how did Media Matters say it?  What context?  It's in a sentence discrediting CIS in general - it's not about the specific charge Von Spakovsky attempts to rebut with the Washington Times piece.  The link at Media Matters leads to this PDF from the Center for New Community where we can read this description of CIS from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
CIS often manipulates data, relying on shaky statistics or faulty logic to come to the preordained conclusion that immigration is bad for this country.
That sentence is from this page at SPLC.  Here's an example of why the SPLC thinks CIS "fabricates information":
"Hello, I Love You, Won't You Tell Me Your Name: Inside the Green Card Marriage Phenomenon" (November 2008). This report alleges widespread fraud among marriages between American citizens and foreigners, but then goes on to admit that "there is no way of knowing" just how prevalent marriage fraud is because there is no systematic data. CIS even concedes that most marriages "between Americans and foreign nationals are legitimate." Then, based on this non-data, CIS gets to what seems to be the real point of its study — "if small-time con artists and Third-World gold-diggers can obtain green cards with so little resistance, then surely terrorists can." Fraudulent marriage applications, CIS concludes, are "prevalent among international terrorists, including members of Al-Qaeda. [Bolding in original.]
So much unmentioned by Von Spakovsky...kinda makes you wonder who's fabricating what information for which purpose.

December 27, 2013

"Tolerance" Test

Ok, here's a test for you.

Give the Reverend John Hagee a listen:

If you don't want to listen, Rightwingwatch has a synopsis:
On Sunday, John Hagee delivered a sermon to his congregation during which he raged against the supposed "War on Christmas" which he began by declaring that America was founded as, and still remains, a Christian nation. As such, if atheists and humanists don't like being wished a "Merry Christmas" ... well, they can just get out of the country.

Telling atheists to get out of America is one of Hagee's favorite pieces of advice, so it was no surprise to hear him declare it again during his Sunday sermon when he told any atheists listening that "if you pass a manger scene and someone is singing 'Joy To The World,' you can take your Walkman and stuff it into your ears, or you can call your lawyer, or you can just exercise your right to leave the country; planes are leaving every hour on the hour, get on one.
First the obvious.  The Reverend Hagee has every right to be as hateful and as ignorant as he chooses to be.  And all the people in that huge room with him have every right to be there and agree with hism as well.

His message is simple: America is a Christian Nation and so if there are any atheist citizens who don't like it, they should just leave.

How is it that if I were to question him (or anyone of his followers) on that message of intolerance delivered by a righteous man of the cloth, I'd be the one branded as intolerant?

December 26, 2013

Jerry Bowyer Gets Some Feedback

Remember this blog post from a few days ago?

That's the one where local Pittsburgh conservative pundit Jerry Bowyer stumbles (embarrassingly) as he takes on Christopher Hitchens (who's dead and can't defend himself) regarding Christ's virgin birth.

Well, some readers at have given Jerry some feedback.  Not all of it good.

As of the writing of this blog post, there was a smattering of comments supporting Jerry, like this one:
I see the Secular Nazis are coming out of the woodworks to attack Jerry Bowyer. I think Hitchens was an interesting guy who had legitimate complaints against Mother Theresa and others but he was also one of the most arrogant Marxists around. He was far from the “genius” he and other Left-wing Nazis claimed him to be. I wonder which is harder to conceive: The virgin birth or that inanimate matter spontaneously formed living beings, something which scientists have never been able to replicate or prove and never will replicate or prove.
But for the most part the comments ran this one:
What did I just read here??? I mean, and guy who believes in the Unicorn proclaimed himself to be smarter than Hichens??? Ok mate, keep on dreaming..
Or this one:

Seriously Jerry? Don’t try to write anything like this in the future. It makes you look silly.
Given the current state of right wing victimology, I would assume some on the right would see this comment as an attempt to limit Jerry's 1st Amendment rights.

Since he's no longer with us, I'll let Christopher Hitchens (by way of this comment on Jerry's Forbes piece) defend him his position on Mary:
I’ll grant you that it would possible to track the pregnancy of the woman Mary who’s mentioned about three times in the Bible and to show there was no male intervention in her life at all but yet she delivered herself of a healthy baby boy. I can say—I don’t say that’s impossible. Parthenogenesis is not completely unthinkable. It does not prove that his paternity is divine and it wouldn’t prove that any of his moral teachings were thereby correct. Nor, if I was to see him executed one day and see him walking the streets the next, would that show that his father was God or his mother was a virgin or that his teachings were true, especially given the commonplace nature of resurrection at that time and place. After all, Lazarus was raised, never said a word about it. The daughter of Jairus was raised, didn’t say a thing about what she’d been through. And the Gospels tell us that at the time of the crucifixion all the graves in Jerusalem opened and their occupants wandered around the streets to greet people. So it seems resurrection was something of a banality at the time. Not all of those people clearly were divinely conceived. So I’ll give you all the miracles and you’ll still be left exactly where you are now, holding an empty sack.
(In case you missed it, Jerry's just been hitchslapped)

You can read the full debate transcript here.

December 23, 2013

The Trib HEARTS The Constitution of South Africa

Take a look. This is in today's Tribune-Review: :
To “progressives” who insist that any push for voter identification is a subterfuge to disenfranchise the poor, minorities and the elderly, we present a staunch proponent for IDs, whose support should be clear even to them:

Nelson Mandela.

That's right. The late South African president championed voter ID at a rally in 1998 as the African National Congress conducted its re-election. Fists clenched and enthusiastic, Mr. Mandela is shown wearing a T-shirt that proclaims “Get an ID. Register. Vote.” in a picture posted by The Daily Caller.
Here's the Daily Caller piece.  It foils South African voter ID with the federal case challenging the Voter ID law in Wisconsin.  I can't imagine, however, a more apples and oranges debate than Wisconsin now and South Africa a five years, or so, after apartheid.  How many disenfranchised South Africans had any sort of South African ID?  Imagine the paperwork necessary to get things in order in post-Apartheid South Africa.  I would imagine that's what Mandela's t-shirt was trying to accomplish.  And I'd also imagine that that's a bit different from whatever's going on in Wisconsin.

And what IS going on in Wisconsin anyway?  Voter-ID wise?

Take a look:
A professor who studied voter fraud in Wisconsin and around the country testified Thursday that it is "exceedingly rare," and that requiring voters to show a photo ID might have prevented just one of the few dozen cases prosecuted in the state over the last decade.

Lorraine Minnite, author of "The Myth of Voter Fraud," was presented as an expert witness by plaintiffs in a the federal trial challenging Wisconsin's voter ID law. She has written numerous scholarly articles on the topic, and testified before Congress and as an expert in other trials.

Minnite, a political scientist at Rutgers University, said she's been studying the incidence of fraud in contemporary American elections since 2001. She said she noticed that every time reforms were introduced that would make voting easier, claims that the changes would increase fraud also arose. She studied Wisconsin early because it was one of six states with same-day registration and might have more cases of fraud.
And so, how much fraud did she actually find?  Not much:
As part of a report she prepared for the trial, Minnite said, she found a total of 31 voter fraud prosecutions in Wisconsin since 2008. She said that amounts to one case for every 283,000 votes cast in the three federal elections during that time span.

Ten of the case didn't really meet her definition, she said, because they involved improperly collected signatures or filing false voter registrations for others, or lying about a felony record to get a job as a voter registration worker.

Of the 21 remaining cases, 12 were felons who voted, three were double voters, four were people who voted in the wrong place and one was a man who obtained and voted an absentee ballot for his dead wife -- a case Minnite conceded may have been prevented if the dead woman wasn't already registered and would have to show photo ID to get the ballot.

She said she found 95 federal indictments of cases related to voter fraud from 2002 to 2005, which included 14 cases from Milwaukee County related to the 2004 presidential election.Of the total, 40 cases involved voters, as opposed to other actors in the election process. Of those, 26 were convicted. None of the cases involved someone impersonating another at the polls.
See?  Not much.

On the other hand, we have some scholarly research suggesting (to put it mildly) that there's something other than "protecting the integrity of the voting process" at work when states (like, say, PENNSYLVANIA) try to implement strict Voter ID laws.  From the abstract:
Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in state legislation likely to reduce access for some voters, including photo identification and proof of citizenship requirements, registration restrictions, absentee ballot voting restrictions, and reductions in early voting. Political operatives often ascribe malicious motives when their opponents either endorse or oppose such legislation. In an effort to bring empirical clarity and epistemological standards to what has been a deeply-charged, partisan, and frequently anecdotal debate, we use multiple specialized regression approaches to examine factors associated with both the proposal and adoption of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006–2011. Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments. [Emphasis added.]
Gee, who would've guessed that?

But now that we've established the right's admiration of the South African Constitution, maybe they'll actually get on board with some of it's provisions.  Like this one:
The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. (Chapt 2, sec. 9, paragraph 3)
 We'll see.

December 22, 2013

Local Conservative Pundit Jerry Bowyer Makes A Boo-Boo...

...and misreads Christopher Hitchens all at once.

A complete surprise, huh?

Here's Jerry:
It’s a clever line. When Christopher Hitchens used to slam Christianity he did it with style. “If we lost all our hard-won knowledge and all our archives, and all our ethics and all our morals…and had to reconstruct everything essential from scratch, it is difficult to imagine at that point we would need to remind or reassure ourselves that Jesus was born of a virgin.”

The line employs a sharp edged bathos: End of civilization drama counterpoised with a sneer at that most-despised bit of pre-modern Christian dogma – the virgin birth. Religious people gasped, and aggressive atheists snickered, but I just sat there wishing that Christopher Hitchens knew more history.
And I sit here wishing Jerry had done his homework and not set up a straw man argument.

Here's what Hitchens actually wrote (Jerry, it's on page 96 of Hitchens' book, God Is Not Great.  If you don't have a copy, I can lend you mine):
Thus, though I dislike to differ with such a great man, Voltaire was simply ludicrous when he said that if god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. The human invention of god is the problem to begin with. Our evolution has been examined "backward," with life temporarily outpacing extinction, and knowledge now at last capable of reviewing and explaining ignorance. Religion, it is true, still possesses the huge if cumbersome and unwieldy advantage of having come "first." But as Sam Harris states rather pointedly in The End of Faith, if we lost all our hard-won knowledge and all our archives, and all our ethics and morals, in some Marquez-like fit of collective amnesia, and had to reconstruct everything essential from scratch, it is difficult to imagine at what point we would need to remind or reassure ourselves that Jesus was born of a virgin.
A careful writer would have pointed out that the thought experiment is actually from Sam Harris, not Christopher Hitchens (though I am sure the latter agreed with it wholeheartedly).  Here's Harris from page 23 of The End of Faith:
What if all our knowledge about the world were suddenly to disappear? Imagine that six billion of us wake up tomorrow morning in a state of utter ignorance and confusion. Our books and computers are still here, but we can’t make heads or tails of their contents. We have even forgotten how to drive our cars and brush our teeth. What knowledge would we want to reclaim first? Well, there’s that business about growing food and building shelter that we would want to get reacquainted with. We would want to relearn how to use and repair many of our machines. Learning to understand spoken and written language would also be a top priority, given that these skills are necessary for acquiring most others. When in this process of reclaiming our humanity will it be important to know that Jesus was born of a virgin? Or that he was resurrected? And how would we relearn these truths, if they are indeed true? By reading the Bible? Our tour of the shelves will deliver similar pearls from antiquity— like the “fact” that Isis, the goddess of fertility, sports an impressive pair of cow horns. Reading further, we will learn that Thor carries a hammer and that Marduk’s sacred animals are horses, dogs, and a dragon with a forked tongue. Whom shall we give top billing in our resurrected world? Yahweh or Shiva? And when will we want to relearn that premarital sex is a sin? Or that adulteresses should be stoned to death? Or that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception? And what will we think of those curious people who begin proclaiming that one of our books is distinct from all others in that it was actually written by the Creator of the universe?
See? It's all there, Jerry.  Which leads us to the next point.  A careful writer would not have omitted the Marquez reference.  Though in doing so it makes it possible for the rest of Jerry's piece to be about the necessity of hope at "the end of civilization" and not some solid epistemology after a "collective amnesia":
When our civilization did indeed collapse – when the Goths tore the gates of Rome from its hinges and mobs of tattooed warriors raped and pillaged their way across what had formerly been the civilized world...
And so on.  How convenient.

Indeed the rest of Harris paragraph is about knowledge - what knowledge we'd need and how to separate Yahweh from Shiva.  How would we "know" which one is "correct"?  No way for us to tell.  And for the purpose of humanity's survival in that hypothetical, unnecessary.

Which brings me back to Hitchen's use of Harris' hypothetical.  It's in the chapter of God is not Great devoted to the "argument by design" explanation of the existence of God.  Hitchens is making the point that when taking an honest look at science:
...all this will be further clarified if we are modest and patient enough to understand the building blocks of nature and the lowly stamp of our origins. No divine plan, let alone angelic intervention, is required. Everything works without that assumption.[Italics in original.]
And yet Jerry misuses it to muse on about the "truth" of Mary's virgin birth.  Had he done his homework and wanted to challenge Hitchens on the "truth" of Mary's virgin birth Jerry Bowyer could have done after this paragraph in God is Not Great (page 23, for those of you keeping score):
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Yes, and the Greek demigod Perseus was born when the god Jupiter visited the virgin Danaƫ as a shower of gold and got her with child. The god Buddha was born through an opening in his mother's flank. Catlicus the serpent-skirted caught a little ball of feathers from the sky and hid it in her bosom, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli was thus conceived. The virgin Nana took a pomegranate from the tree watered by the blood of the slain Agdestris, and laid it in her bosom, and gave birth to the god Attis. The virgin daughter of a Mongol king awoke one night and found herself bathed in a great light, which caused her to give birth to Genghis Khan. Krishna was born of the virgin Devaka. Horus was born of the virgin Isis. Mercury was born of the virgin Maia. Romulus was born of the virgin Rhea Sylvia. For some reason, many religions force themselves to think of the birth canal as a one-way street, and even the Koran treats the Virgin Mary with reverence. However, this made no difference during the Crusades, when a papal army set out to recapture Bethlehem and Jerusalem from the Muslims, incidentally destroying many Jewish communities and sacking heretical Christian Byzantium along the way, and inflicted a massacre in the narrow streets of Jerusalem, where, according to the hysterical and gleeful chroniclers, the spilled blood reached up to the bridles of the horses.
Compare that to Jerry's argument about the status of women in Western Civlization:
If Jesus was God and Mary bore Jesus, then Mary must be the ‘theotokos’, the God-bearer. Thus began something that changed the view of women in the Western world, elevating them to previously unheard heights. First Mary, and then by extension all virtuous women. A thousand years after Mary bore Jesus into Palestine, she bore Chivalry into Europe.
That would be the same Chivalrous Europe that destroyed many Jewish communities and sacked Christian Byzantium during the Crusades.

December 20, 2013

On "Tolerance"

There's a curious rhetorical argument coming from the right wing defenses of Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty guy.

I wrote about him yesterday.  And there's something I should have added.  Apart from the Bible-based anti-gay remarks, he also said some amazingly ignorant things regarding the history of America's treatment of African-Americans:
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field.... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people'--not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
Ah, yes. All those happy farm workers, singing in the fields!  If only the NAACP didn't ruin everything!

But back to the "tolerance" demanded from the right.

Here's an example from WND:
Of course, this isn’t a violation of Robertson’s First Amendment rights, because the censorial actions emanated not from the government, but from a private company, which is not constitutionally barred from doing what it did.

Constitutional issues aside, we are witnessing a profound display of leftist intolerance, and they need to be called on it. Some in the gay activist community demanded Robertson’s head because of his “hate.”

GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz said, “What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers and networks alike.” Robertson’s removal “has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value.”
The American left – actually, it’s a global phenomenon – is increasingly intolerant of opposing viewpoints, while holding itself out as the exemplar of tolerance.
You'll note the subtle redefinition of "tolerance" here.  The right, by demanding this new definition has shifted the rhetoric into what they hope is an inescapable trap for the left.  And what's the "tolerance" they're demanding?  Here it is: You can never disagree with anything we say, no matter how ignorant or repugnant you think it is - or else you're the bigot.

Look around, you'll notice some form of this argument/threat popping up all over the place when the conservative right criticizes the progressive left.

December 19, 2013

Just Because The Bigotry's Faith-based

Don't mean it ain't bigotry.

From GQ interview with that "Duck Dynasty" guy:
Out here in these woods, without any cameras around, Phil is free to say what he wants. Maybe a little too free. He’s got lots of thoughts on modern immorality, and there’s no stopping them from rushing out. Like this one:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
And then when asked "What his sinful?" he dutifully answers:
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
That's 1 Corinthians 6:9, if you wanna check.

So of course when the guy comes in for some criticism, the rightwing plays the victim card:
It was only a matter of time before intolerant, anti-Christian haters targeted 'Duck Dynasty
And of course there's Sean Hannity defending.

To be fair, there has been an apology:
“I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”
But your non-vagina's still not gonna git into Heaven, ya perv.  But ah still luv ya.

Just because the bigotry's faith-based doesn't mean it isn't bigotry.

December 16, 2013

Jack Kelly Sunday (One Day Late)

This week's column is proof, yet again, that the Post-Gazette's Jack Kelly needs to do his homework better (or at least his fact checkers need to do theirs!).  Take a look at this set of statistics:
Rising income inequality poses “a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life and what we stand for around the globe,” President Barack Obama said Dec. 4. He pledged to make reducing it the focus of the rest of his presidency.

During his first term, the incomes of the top 1 percent grew by 31.4 percent, the incomes of everyone else by just 0.4 percent. On Mr. Obama’s watch, 95 percent of income gains have gone to the top 1 percent. When George W. Bush was president, only 61.8 percent did.
But where DID Jack get those numbers? Looks like it this paper by Berkeley economics professor (and MacArthur grant winner) Emanuel Saez.

(Note to Jack: What are you doing quoting a French econominst who won a genius award for studying later economic impact of public school kindergarten teachers?  One that says it's worth $320,000 over the long haul?  Where's your commitment to small government?  To stifling the income of public school employees?)

Anyway, here's what Saez says in the paper Jack dutifully quotes:
From 2009 to 2012, average real income per family grew modestly by 6.0%. Most of the gains happened in the last year when average incomes grew by 4.6% from 2011 to 2012.

However, the gains were very uneven. Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009 to 2012. Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery. From 2009 to 2010, top 1% grew fast and then stagnated from 2010 to 2011. Bottom 99% stagnated both from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, top 1% incomes increased sharply by 19.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 1.0%. In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover.
Pretty good match.  However, he traces the unevenness of things back a bit further than what I'd think Jack would want his audience to see:
Overall, the se results suggest that the Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1 970s. Indeed, the top decile income share in 2012 is equal to 50.4%, the highest ever since 1917 when the series start.

Looking further ahead, based on the US historical record, falls in income concentration due to economic downturns are temporary unless drastic regulation and tax policy changes are implemented and prevent income concentration from bouncing back. Such policy changes took place after the Great Depression during the New Deal and permanently reduced income concentration until the 1970s. In contrast, recent downturns, such as the 2001 recession, lead to only very temporary drops in income concentration.
Take a look.  What Jack was using as a criticism of the Obama administration is actually a criticism of the expanded and expanding income inequality that's taken place since the 70s (Reagan Administration anyone?).

Note: Edited to clarify a reading error on my part.

Yea, Jack needs to do his homework better.

December 15, 2013

Huh? Whah?...Huh?

There's crazie and then there's World Net Daily Cuh-RAY-zee!

Check it out:
The Kansas Supreme Court has come up with a response for when its own justices are accused of being biased toward the abortion industry and against a former state attorney general who investigated alleged criminal activity there.


That’s the result of a petition to the court that was filed on behalf of former Attorney General Phill Kline.

Kline probed alleged illegal activity by abortion provider Planned Parenthood and the late abortionist George Tiller, eventually filing charges against them after getting the counts approved by several trial judges in the state.

However, the pro-abortion political atmosphere in the state spelled defeat for Kline in the next election, and his foes launched criminal investigations into his probe of Planned Parenthood and Tiller. [emphasis added]
That's right.  You read that right.  Kansas where the:
  • Governor
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Secretary of State
  • Attorney General
  • Both US Senators
  • All four members of the US House of Representatives
  • 31 out of the 40 State Senators
  • 92 out of the 125 State House members
are all Republicans. 

Kansas, where Mitt Romney won the state in the 2012 election by about 22% of the vote.

Kansas, where according to the Guttmacher Institute:
  • A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided.
  • A woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion; the provider must offer her the option to view the image.
Yea, that Kansas.  How crazie must Bob Uruh (and World Net Daily for publishing this) be to think that the political atmosphere in Kansas can, in any way, be "pro-abortion"??

December 14, 2013


Remember this blog post?

That was the one where the OPJ ridiculed Fox News talking head Megyn Kelly for her "reassurance" to all the presumably nervous pre-teens watching Fox News that BOTH Jesus and Santa are, in fact, white.

Well, Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Jessica Williams have responded (to Megyn, not Maria) with even more well-deserved ridicule:


December 13, 2013

Dig A Little, Find A Nugget

Take a look at this from today's Tribune-Review:
Contrary to President Obama's statements, ObamaCare hardly is “settled” and “here to stay,” as it faces numerous legal challenges in federal courts — including one that questions the constitutionality of its passage.

Sissel v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is now before the D.C. Court of Appeals, “a traditional stepping-stone to the U.S. Supreme Court,” The Washington Free Beacon reports.
We've seen this before, haven't we?  You do know where I'm going with this, don't you?

That's right, the Sissel case.  Where did it come from?

In early 2010, the federal government enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Act), which forces every American to purchase government - approved health insurance coverage, or pay a fine. This legal requirement to buy health insurance is known as the “individual mandate,” and it is the target of a federal lawsuit filed by Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) on behalf of Iowa entrepreneur Matt Sissel. [Emphasis added.]
The Pacific Legal Foundation describes itself as:
Established in1973, Pacific Legal Foundation is the oldest and most successful public interest legal organization that fights for limited government, property rights, individual rights and a balanced approach to environmental protection.
Pacific Legal Foundation is devoted to a vision of individual freedom, responsible government, and color-blind justice.
And so on.

Now let's talk money.  According to the Bridgeproject,The Pacific Legal Foundation has received $12,089,270 in foundation money since 1985.  Of that 12 million, more than a third ($4.355 million or 36%) came from foundations controlled by the editor and publisher of the Tribune-Review, Richard Mellon Scaife.  Interestingly enough, for the first decade after 1985, Scaife was responsible for an even larger percentage of PLF funding.  In that decade, the PLF received $2.112 million in foundation money and a solid 70% ($1.48 million) came from Carthage and Sarah Scaife foundations.

Such solid financial connections between the Scaife foundations and the legal foundation his newspaper is discussing.  And yet no discussion of any of those connections.

 This is how the right wing noise machine works.

December 12, 2013

Megyn Kelly is Dreaming of a White Christmas -- a really, really white Christmas

Fox News host Megyn Kelly on the shiny, clean, unassailable whiteness of Santa and Jesus (via Raw Story):
“For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,” Kelly said. “But this person is just arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. But Santa is what he is.”  
“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change, you know?” she added. “I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure, that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa — I just want the kids watching to know that.”

Shaking Hands With The Unsavory

Dutifully following the rest of the right wing press, my friends on the Tribune-Review editorial board self-embarrass:
At the memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela, President Obama openly greeted and shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, whose continuing insults against the U.S. include the four-year imprisonment of Alan Gross, 64. He's the American sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for providing a computer and cellphone to the isle's isolated Jewish community. Never mind that the Castro regime “sponsors terrorism abroad and against their own people,” says Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. At least Mr. Obama didn't offer his customary bow.
Republican Senator (and one time Presidential candidate) John McCain went a tad further:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized President Obama for shaking the hand of Cuban leader Raul Castro at the memorial ceremony for former South African president Nelson Mandela, comparing the gesture to Neville Chamberlain's handshake with Adolf Hitler at the start of World War II.
Do we need to point out McCain's meeting with Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi.

But we're talking presidents shaking hands with dictators here, right?

How about George W Bush shaking hands with Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan?  Bush's own State Department said this of Uzbekistan in 2003:
Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights. The Constitution provides for a presidential system with separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; however, in practice President Islam Karimov and the centralized executive branch that serves him dominate political life and exercise nearly complete control over the other branches.
Kinda the definition of a dictator, isn't it?

Heck, even the Trib's Eric Heyl has called Karimov "autocratic" and lumped him in with other unsavories as Kim Jong-un, Robert Mugabe and yes Raul Castro.

Huh.  Go figure.

December 9, 2013

Well, This Was Not Unexpected, I Suppose

Considering how most of the right wing press has been critical of Nelson Mandela for some time, it's hardly surprising to read this in the Tribune-Review:
Mr. Mandela, 95, died on Thursday. And the tributes quickly poured in for the man who did so much to end blanket racial segregation and who helped to set the standard for free and just democratic black rule on an African continent so dominated by henchmen and thugs.

But few care to recall — and virtually no editorials mentioned — that for most of his life, Mandela was not only a Marxist who revered Lenin and Stalin but also was a terrorist. He abandoned efforts for peaceful change in favor of guerrilla tactics and sabotage. And that's what led to his trial, conviction and life prison sentence in the 1960s.
Not to mention a little help from the CIA:
The Central Intelligence Agency played an important role in the arrest in 1962 of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress leader who was jailed for nearly 28 years before his release four months ago, a news report says.

The intelligence service, using an agent inside the African National Congress, provided South African security officials with precise information about Mr. Mandela's activities that enabled the police to arrest him, said the account by the Cox News Service.

The report, scheduled for publication on Sunday, quoted an unidentified retired official who said that a senior C.I.A. officer told him shortly after Mr. Mandela's arrest: ''We have turned Mandela over to the South African Security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be.'"
And what was this "terrorist" fighting?  What was going on in South Africa in the early 60s that might possibly, you know, annoy anyone interested in freedom and liberty?

How's this?  The Sharpville Massacre where hundreds of black South Africans were massacred by the South African police.

The outcry after the massacre led to legislation banning the ANC and legislation protecting the government from any liability to arise from the massacre.

Among countless other offenses, that's the regime Mandela was fighting in the early 60s.  And that's the regime the American right was protecting.  Now go back and read the Trib's take on the "terrorist" Mandela.  What do you think now?

December 6, 2013

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela

Fact Checking A Randy Bish Embarrassment

It's been a while since I fact-checked Trib Editorial Cartoonist, Randy Bish but I knew I had to when I saw this cartoon today at the Trib:

I realize it's just an editorial, blah-blah-blah, but that shouldn't mean he can get away with the dishonesty.

The conservative story line can be traced back to this editorial in the Washington Times:
Another day and another of President Obama’s campaign boasts bites the dust. While out on the hustings last year, Mr. Obama pummeled Mitt Romney for writing a 2008 op-ed column in The New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

The Republican nominee sensibly argued that bankruptcy would force the city to go through a drastic — and necessary — restructuring of its finances. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, boasted, “We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt. We bet on American workers … and that bet is paying off.” Until Tuesday.
The Washington Times doesn't link to Romney's op-ed (why not? you'll see in a second) so I will.  Here it is.  And here's Mitt's opening:
IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself.
See that? Mitt Romney wasn't talking about the city of Detroit, he was using a rhetorical device called metonymy  to discuss the automobile industry.

If there's any doubt about what President Obama was talking about take a look at what he actually said (and you should have done this, Randy.  You'd've saved yourself some embarrassment):
Every year around this time, American car companies start rolling out their newest, shiniest models, hoping to entice you into buying one. It’s Detroit’s chance to show you what they’ve been working on – the latest and greatest. And this year is no exception. They’ve got some pretty good-looking cars coming out.

But something is different this time around – and it starts with the auto companies themselves.

Just a few years ago, the auto industry wasn’t just struggling – it was flatlining. GM and Chrysler were on the verge of collapse. Suppliers and distributors were at risk of going under. More than a million jobs across the country were on the line – and not just auto jobs, but the jobs of teachers, small business owners, and everyone in communities that depend on this great American industry.

But we refused to throw in the towel and do nothing. We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt.
See that?  Detroit, the auto industry not Detroit, the city.

The Washington Times lied to its audience by conflating the two and Randy Bish is extending the lie by quoting it.

You're better than this, Randy.  You really are.

December 5, 2013

The Trib's Now Reusing Old Pseudo-Science

Take a look at this from today:
It was in 2007 that the BBC was warning how the Arctic would be ice free by this past summer, Thomas Lifson reminds in the American Thinker. But a funny thing happened on the way to the end of the world as we know it: The Daily Mail in England reports Arctic ice has increased by 29 percent in the last year. As Mr. Lifson reminds, “Global warming is the most expensive and widespread con job in the history of the world.” Or, put another way, the greatest social re-engineering con ever perpetrated. [Emphasis added.]
When I read that, it looked familiar to me.  Something about the Arctic ice increasing (when all the real science is pointing in the exact opposite direction) raised a tickle of a memory.

Then I googled the Daily Mail article.  It's this one from September and it was touched on in this Trib op-ed at that time.

When I blogged on it the first time (really guys?  You're gonna make me do this twice?) I pointed out:
What they're doing is called "regression toward the mean." Basically what that means is that since the previous summer (of 2012) was so bad, anything not so bad can be seen as "recovering" while in reality it's really just moving back to the average (which is already bad and getting worse).
In this case, the ice in September is 29% bigger than last September - but that was a very bad year.  The overall trend is still (still!) moving towards less and less ice due to warmer and warmer temperatures.

Here's the chart I used in September to illustrate:

The blue line is this year, the dotted line is last year and the average is the grey line above the blue.

Old story.  And the Trib editorial board is still misleading you, the reading public.

December 4, 2013

A Question To My Friends At KDKA Radio

I listen to KDKA radio at work and I've heard numerous times throughout the day a KDKA promo that continues to list a number of problems experienced at the rollout of - including this soundbite from Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan:
They're trying to change a tire on a car going 70 miles an hour down the expressway.
Ok, so here's my question.

Given this:
After advising consumers to steer clear of in October, Consumer Reports health care expert Nancy Metcalf told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd Tuesday morning that the federal health care exchange website was improved enough following the Obama administration’s frantic month of repairs that users could confidently use it.

Consumer Reports had earlier told its readers not to even bother with the website through the first month, a provisional verdict it later said had been misrepresented.

Now we’re saying, ‘it’s time,’” Metcalf said, in particular praising the new window-shopping function, in which users can peruse health plans without registering with the site. The requirement to make an account before viewing options was considered one of the main causes for the site’s initial traffic bottleneck. “It’s terrific, I’ve tried it, it was working yesterday through the busiest times,” Metcalf said. [Emphases added.]
Will you be rewriting the spot or will you continue to mislead your audience now that Consumer Reports is praising the website?

December 2, 2013

Coalition of Reason Complaint Update.

The story's hit the P-G oped page:
The Port Authority has declined comment on the case, but the plaintiff said the transit system’s attorney indicated the agency doesn’t allow “non-commercial” advertising. The United Coalition, however, said the Port Authority runs assorted noncommercial ads, some from religious groups.

With this decision, the transit system appears to be siding with church-goers and against nontheists, whereas its stance should be neutral, as long as the message is not distasteful.

The Port Authority is not only rejecting legitimate ad revenue but also risking losses in court, as it did when it had to pay more than $345,000 following the rejection of a 2006 political ad from the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters. In heaven’s name, the agency needs a more realistic ad policy.
We already talked about the League of Young Voters case here.

An astute reader sent in a copy of the complaint and from it we can see that it looks like they're arguing not about religious freedom but something else:
The Plaintiff seeks injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against Defendant for refusing to contract with Plaintiff to lease advertising space to Plaintiff on the Authority’s buses due to the viewpoint expressed in the proposed advertisements in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In an email rejecting the ads, the Port Authority cited it's Advertising Policy.  A copy of it is included as part of the complaint.  It reads:
It shall be the policy of Port Authority of Allegheny County to accept commercial advertising for posting in and on Port Authority vehicles and other property owned or controlled by Port Authority , of its sole choosing , with the objective of maximizing revenue while maintaining standards of decency and good taste without infringing on First Amendment rights of Prospective Advertisers. Accordingly , Port Authority will not accept advertisements that are obscene , unlawful, misleading , libelous, or fraudulent. Further, Port Authority will not accept advertisements that are non-commercial; that appeal to prurient interests, that are or may be offensive to riders; that glamorize or otherwise promote violence , sexual conduct, alcohol, or tobacco use; that a re political in nature or contain political messages; or that are reasonably deter mined not to be in good taste. This policy is intended to be an objective and enforceable standard for advertising that is consistently applied. I t is also Port Authority ’s declared intent not to allow any of its Transit Vehicles or Property to become a public for um for dissemination, debate or discussion of public issues.
It should be noted that this is the advertising policy in place at the time of the negotiations to get the ads on the buses.  Of course, they've since been changed.  In 2012 "in light of recent litigation and other considerations" this policy was amended so that ads that:
...promote the existence or non-existence of a supreme deity, deities, being or beings; that address or promote a specific religion, religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs; that directly quote or cite to scriptures, religious texts or texts involving religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs; or are otherwise religious in nature.
are not acceptable.

It should be noted that this policy was adopted after the CoR's ads were rejected but before the CoR's complaint was filed.

Ladies and gentlemen in my humble non-attorney opinion (as I am not in anyway an attorney - thank Jebus) this is what's known as moving the goal posts.

And now it's up to a judge to decide whether it's appropriate.

December 1, 2013

Jack Kelly Sunday

In his column this week in the Post-Gazette, our good friend Jack Kelly makes this charge:
Ms. Sebelius is fortunate she works in government, where there is no accountability.
Criticism of Secretary Sebelius aside, this is a remarkable thing to say coming as it does from a columnist who has, repeatedly and over a long number of years, distorted, mangled and otherwise deformed the truth for the P-G's readers.

For example only almost exactly a month ago Jack published this column on Lara Logan's now discredited 60 Minutes story on Benghazi.

By the 8th of November, CBS retracted the story with an apology from Lara Logan.

On the 26th of November the Washington Post reported that Ms Logan and her producer will be taking a leave of absence: the wake of an internal review that found numerous flaws in their reporting of a story about the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
And yet there's no comment from Jack Kelly on this at all.  Does he still agree with his column now that it's main source has been debunked?  And if so, why?  And if he does not agree with his column, then were is his apology?  Or at least his explanation as to how he got it wrong?

Then there was Kelly's distortions regarding Hurricane Katrina, so easily debunked by Mediamatters - while he did issue a correction of sorts, as I wrote later, "even his corrections could have used some corrections."

Then there was the column on Van Jones.

Which was yanked a few days later from the P-G website.
That was the column (and you can still see it here at the Toledo Blade) where Jack makes some rather stunningly simple mistakes about the recently resigned Van Jones.

Jack said Jones was arrested during the LA riots when he wasn't. He was arrested a week later in San Francisco (he was released a few hours later with all charges dropped). Jack said Jones was arrested in Seattle in 1999 during a WTO protest. No record of that happening anywhere outside of Glenn Beck's fevered imagination.

Well Kelly fans, as if this moment, the column's GONE.
It's still gone.. Yanked because it was riddled with errors and falsehoods.

Where is Jack Kelly's accountability?

November 30, 2013

What The Port Authority Doesn't Want You To See

In case you haven't been following it, here's the story from the AP:
A group that seeks to encourage people who don’t believe in God has sued Pittsburgh’s mass transit agency for refusing to run its ads on the side of buses.

A spokesman for the Port Authority of Allegheny County declined to comment on the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Washington, D.C.-based United Coalition of Reason.

According to the lawsuit, the transit agency refused to post ads that read, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone” and included a website address of a local group the coalition supports.

The group said the transit agency’s refusal cited a broad policy banning “noncommercial” ads even though the authority has run other ads sponsored by religious and advocacy groups.

The transit agency lost a similar lawsuit after it refused a 2006 political ad by the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the group and after losing in U.S. District Court and in the 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals, the port authority eventually paid nearly $1,900 in damages plus more than $344,000 for the voting group’s legal fees.

The United Coalition of Reason contends its rights to free expression are similarly being violated. The lawsuit seeks to force the port authority to accept the ads and pay the group’s legal fees.
Here's the ACLU page of info for that League of Young Voters if you want to do some research.

From the decision of the appeal:
Unlike many of its sister states, Pennsylvania allows felons to vote immediately upon release from prison. In an effort to correct widespread belief to the contrary, a coalition of public-interest organizations set out to run an advertisement informing ex-prisoners that they have the right to vote and encouraging them to exercise it. The coalition asked the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania to place the ad in its buses. The Port Authority denied the request, pointing to its written advertising policy, which prohibits noncommercial ads. The coalition sued, alleging a violation of the First Amendment. The case proceeded to a bench trial, where the coalition proved that despite its written advertising policy, the Port Authority had accepted many noncommercial ads in recent years, several of which bore a striking resemblance to the coalition's ad. Based mainly on this "comparator" evidence, the District Court found that the rejection of the coalition's ad amounted to viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. We will affirm.
From the UnitedCoR's press release we can read:
The Complaint seeks injunctive relief but at this point no motions have been filed. In the Complaint, UnitedCoR alleges that the Port Authority violated UnitedCoR's free speech rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. UnitedCoR asserts that the First Amendment prohibits the Port Authority, as a governmental entity, from using its disfavor of the nontheistic message of UnitedCoR's ads as a reason for refusing to run them on its buses. Such acts, the Complaint states, amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination against UnitedCoR's speech.
At this point, I haven't been able to get hold of a copy of The Complaint (if anyone has access to one, please feel free to email it in).

The ads would have directed bus riders to this page:
The Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason is a coalition of groups in greater Pittsburgh based on the principles of secularism, freethought, skepticism, and humanism. Our mission is:
  1. to build a supportive community for non-believers;
  2. to create positive change in the world by providing secular resources and opportunities for people to live out their Humanist values; and
  3. to raise public awareness that there are people everywhere who are good without God or religion.
At our gatherings you’ll find people who embrace and promote objectivity, reason, education, and critical thinking. Though many of us do not endorse supernatural beliefs, we absolutely do uphold the compassionate human values that people from all walks of life embrace. We are thoughtful and moral people who care deeply about our families, our communities, our country, and the world.
So basically, if you're already a non-believer in the Pittsburgh area, you're not alone.  And here are some groups that you might want to look at.  (Full disclosure: Last year, I gave a talk before the Center for Inquiry-Pittsburgh.  I didn't get paid or anything but I did get a nice dinner out of it.)

I can't really see how dangerous that message is, frankly.  But I'm not an attorney and I haven't seen the complaint yet so I'll just reiterate the message the Port Authority rejected:

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I hope everyone reading this has much to be thankful for! I am thankful for my family, my friends, for having a roof over my head and a turkey in the oven. I'm thankful that our city government is about to be transformed. But, unfortunately for too many in America, this is the reality:
In the U.S. 49.7 Million Are Now Poor, and 80% of the Total Population Is Near Poverty
Evidence mounting that poverty causes lasting physical and mental health problems for children  
More Than 600,000 Americans Are Homeless On Any Given Night  
Food Banks Plead for Piece of a Diminishing Federal Funding Pie
Walmart asks its workers to donate their fellow workers
McDonald's advises its workers to break up their food into smaller pieces to try to satisfy their hunger and to sell their Christmas gifts on eBay for much-needed cash 
A Galveston medical student describes life and death in the so-called safety net 
The Nation details how "Inequality Is (Literally) Killing America" 
And,  Linda Tirado explains "...Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense"
May you be one of the lucky ones!


When I was a boy in New England (where you can find the best pizza on the planet) every year on Thanksgiving day it was a tradition for at least one New York radio station to play one particular 18 minute piece of music - some time around noon.

This piece of music.

Lyrics are here.

You can buy a copy here.
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2013


(Via TBogg at Raw Story)

I have a question!

I was half watching Chris Hayes on MSNBC tonight and he was arguing with some anti choice guy about the Affordable Care Act provision which requires employers of a certain size to offer insurance coverage for contraceptives and other reproductive health services without a co-pay. I suppose this came up because the Supreme Court decided to take on Hobby Lobby's (and other for profit companies') objections to this provision.

Locally, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Diocese of Erie and several affiliated nonprofit groups have recently won an injunction against having to follow that same provision. Please note that the diocese themselves didn't need to follow that part of the act--only their nonprofit groups like Catholic Charities--you know, the ones that take taxpayer funding (and lots of it).

But Hayes, and no one else I see on my TV set asks the one question of the opponents of the provision that I want to hear. It goes something like this:
Sir/Madame: The Affordable Care Act requires larger companies and nonprofits to provide health insurance to people who work for them who, in turn, may or may not end up using it to cover contraception. The law requires companies and nonprofits to provide a paycheck to people who work for them who, in turn, may or may not end up using it to cover contraception. What is the fucking difference in terms of "morality"?
OK. For the sake of television they can leave out the "fucking" part of my question. But, seriously, what is the fucking difference? How are they not paying for contraceptives either way? In neither case are they actually being forced to purchase the contraceptives themselves and put it in the hands of their employees. In both cases they would be made to follow laws that everyone else must follow in terms of compensation to their employees. In both cases their employees end up getting birth control, and in neither case do they get to stone their employees to death (for the moment anyway) for being "immoral"--or for as Bishop Zubik and Cardinal Timothy Dolan have called it, "evil" and "facilitating scandal."

They are simply making it more expensive for their employees to get the birth control. If they really, really cared about the "morality" of their employees or being "pro life," shouldn't they fire their immoral workers? Of course they can't do that because they'd run out of employees as 62% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method.

And not having a ready pool of low paid women to exploit and impose your own religious beliefs on employ, my friends, would be bad for business.

November 26, 2013

The Thanksgiving Socialism Hoax (UPDATED TWICE)

And you all know what that means.  Besides the traditional traditions like Turkey, the newer traditions like Turducken, and the localized traditions like Alice's Restaurant, we're now seeing a new political narrative explaining how "first Thanksgiving was a celebration of abundance after a period of socialism and starvation."

Capitalist abundance (of course) after a period of (of course) failed socialism.  We're told by the very smart conservatives in our midst that it's one of the many truths we're not being taught about our Christian nation's capitalist beginnings by the godless liberal elite running (and ruining) our education system.

It goes at least as far back as this piece from 1999.

And it's total bunk, of course.

But let's start from that piece in 1999.  The writer, Richard J Maybury, contrasts the "official story":
...the pilgrims boarding the Mayflower, coming to America and establishing the Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21. This first winter is hard, and half the colonists die. But the survivors are hard working and tenacious, and they learn new farming techniques from the Indians. The harvest of 1621 is bountiful. The Pilgrims hold a celebration, and give thanks to God. They are grateful for the wonderful new abundant land He has given them.

The official story then has the Pilgrims living more or less happily ever after
With "what really happened":
The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.

In his 'History of Plymouth Plantation,' the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with "corruption," and with "confusion and discontent." The crops were small because "much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable."

In the harvest feasts of 1621 and 1622, "all had their hungry bellies filled," but only briefly. The prevailing condition during those years was not the abundance the official story claims, it was famine and death. The first "Thanksgiving" was not so much a celebration as it was the last meal of condemned men.

But in subsequent years something changes. The harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, "instead of famine now God gave them plenty," Bradford wrote, "and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God." Thereafter, he wrote, "any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day." In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.
Now let's look at some real historians.  First about how the property was communally held.  From the NYTimes:
Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.

“It was directed ultimately to private profit,” said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America and the deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, a museum devoted to keeping the Pilgrims’ story alive.

The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving. “The celebration would never have happened if the harvest was going to be less than enough to get them by,” Mr. Pickering said. “They would have saved it and rationed it to get by.”[Emphasis added.]
And about that laziness?  The real historians have the context:
But Mr. Pickering said this grumbling had more to do with the fact that the Plymouth colony was bringing together settlers from all over England, at a time when most people never moved more than 10 miles from home. They spoke different dialects and had different methods of farming, and looked upon each other with great wariness.

“One man’s laziness is another man’s industry, based on the agricultural methods they’ve learned as young people,” he said.

Bradford did get rid of the common course — but it was in 1623, after the first Thanksgiving, and not because the system wasn’t working. The Pilgrims just didn’t like it.[Emphasis added.]
In any event, let's look at it another way.  There's this from the Teaparty:
The original colony at Plymouth Bay had been founded by Puritans who hoped to emulate the early Christians by keeping all their worldly goods in common.
So they lived a communal life to live in accordance with their faith.  The governor saw that it was a failure (or so their story goes) and then intervenes and imposes a more secular system on them.

And this is the story of Amurika they support?

Happy Thanksgiving.  You can go with the experts and their context or the political partisans looking to reinvent the past in order to see themselves.

UPDATE: Joseph Farah, founder, editor and CEO of Birther Central (aka World Net Daily), does the honors.

SECOND UPDATE: Local conservative writer Jerry Bowyer refloats this myth every year in one form or another.  Seems like one of those floaters was translated into Italian.  Congratulazioni, Jerry! Ora sei sbagliato in due lingue e due continenti!

November 25, 2013

Ah...Yoots. So Much To Learn, So Much Homework To Do.

Can we get a remedial civics class for university opinion writers?

I got two yoots (what's a yoot?, excuse me your honor...two YOUTHS) who could use some learnin' in just what "freedom of religion" really means

Case one Matt Barnes at Pitt News.  Aside from unknowingly contradicting himself. He writes:
In 1989, the Supreme Court decided in County of Allegheny v. ACLU that a nativity scene in the Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh was unconstitutional.
And yet a few paragraphs earlier when discussing the nativity scene in Ellwood City, he writes:
The Establishment Clause states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This has often been interpreted as prohibiting government from establishing a recognized religious preference. In the case of Ellwood City’s nativity scene, it is undeniable that the display on municipal grounds gave preference and recognition to Christianity. This raises a valid question: Should a government that touts itself as by the people and for the people explicitly deny the will of the people?
And then:
Rather, Ellwood City is a microcosm, one that reveals an unfortunate trend spreading across America — that is, the trend favoring the unreasonable will of the few against the justified and peaceful will of the many.
And then:
The residents of Ellwood City and of other small towns across America are hardworking people without time for petty maneuvering of constitutional clauses to justify the ridiculous claims that an innocent nativity scene infringes upon nonbelievers’ civil rights.
So which is it?  Is it undeniable that that the display gave preference and was therefore unconstitutional or that it's a ridiculous claim that that's favoring the unreasonable will of the view against the will of the people?

Mr Barnes should do his homework on the concept of individual rights.  The "will of the people" stops at the point where an individual's rights are violated.

And then there's Brian Bresnehan at The Globe at Point Park:
Last year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued a Connellsville Area School District for sporting a Ten Commandments monument, which has been there since its donation from a chapter of a local Christian group in 1957, claiming it violates the First Amendment and its Establishment Clause.

Chalk this up as yet another round in the heavyweight fight between people who want to proudly define and showcase their faith and those who argue it should stay out of the public eye under the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of religion. Once again, people from both sides get unbelievably mad, angrier than they ever should be over something like this.
See, right there we have a problem. This, my young jedi, is what's known as a strawman argument.

Who's saying that the Ten Commandments monument should "stay out of the public's eye" in Connellsville?  The Constitutional issue at hand is not about the monument in "the public's eye" but on school grounds.

Then Bresnehan goes out on a limb and writes: 
Saying that showcasing the Ten Commandments is a violation of the First Amendment is wrong. Erecting them has nothing to do with “an establishment of religion.”
Actually, it does.  If it's on school grounds.  Which is the issue here.  And if you'd done your homework you'd know this.

Both of you.

November 23, 2013

More On Birther Diana West And The Trib

On November 22, The Tribune Review published this piece by Diana West.

We've written about her before.  In that blog post we let you know that she thinks that Rush Limbaugh is reluctant to discuss President Obama's "eligibility" because Rush "has a comfort zone" and (obviously) the birth certificate is outside of it.

Yea.  I know.  That's funny.

The current piece is about how FDR, by "normalizing" relations with the USSR in 1933 opened the door to:
[T]his Soviet war on America, spearheaded by traitors directed by Moscow, would intensify. A veritable army of Stalin's secret agents, agents of influence, fellow travelers and dupes entered the U.S. government and related institutions. They would fight an unceasing stealth war against this country, even — I should say, especially — during World War II.
Blah, blah, blah.  To quote the title of neoconservative historian Ronald Radosh's review of West's book: American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character, this is "McCarthy on Steroids." And that's from which is published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.  The David Horowitz Freedom Center has received $7.75 million in Scaife foundation money (about 36% of the total foundation money received by DHFC).

So she's not liked by at least one conservative at at least one Scaife-funded media outlet.

And this is where it gets interesting.  If we go onto her website, we find this:
On Wednesday, November 20, I received the Mightier Pen Award from Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy at the Union League Club in Manhattan. It was a truly spectacular event. As I noted in my remarks, in early September when Frank announced the award, which is dedicated to the doctrine of peace through strength, it came not only as a great honor, but also as a welcome missile shield against continuing attacks on me and American Betrayal. I can't thank Frank and CSP enough for their unwavering support and friendship throughout, and now, for this unforgettable celebration.
Hmm...Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy.  We've seen them before, haven't we?

And you do know that the Center for Security Policy has received about $5.9 million in Scaife foundation money over the years, right?  Or that that's about 58% of the CSP's total?

Then there's this from Heritage:
In American Betrayal, Diana West argues that – current policies today notwithstanding – America began to abandon its core ideals and march toward Socialism nearly 75 years ago. Starting in the late 1930s, at the time of FDR, the Soviets were already in a position to take advantage of the many communist sympathizers in the U.S. Not only FDR, but also Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and those in their inner circles played roles in enabling the U.S.S.R. as well as concealing the massive Moscow-directed penetration of American society. West shows that the system of spies designed to denigrate the American way of life was deep and extensive.
And as we all know, the Heritage Foundation's received tens of millions from the various Scaife controlled foundations ($27.944 at last count, or about 25% of the total).

It's astounding (time is fleeting) how much Scaife money is swirling around both sides of this story.

But it's still McCarthy on steroids.  And West's still a birther - that alone should invalidate anything (ANYTHING) she's written since.