Democracy Has Prevailed.

January 31, 2013

They're coming to get you, Barbara!

I don't know where some of these gun zealots live, but I suspect that they didn't get the memo from the CDC that we aren't actually facing a zombie apocalypse.

The way this women talks about needing to defend screaming babies at home from "three, four, five violent attackers," you'd think she was living in Zombie Central. And, not in the world of the shambling slow pokes of "Night of the Living Dead" either, but the manic speed demons of a "28 Days Later" for that matter.

Sadly, the fact is that if a woman is going to be killed in her home, it's most likely going to be by her intimate partner who, no doubt, knows where the gun is and is turning it against her. No outsiders -- zombie or otherwise -- needed!


FAIR Reponds

A couple of days ago I was listening to Mike Pintek interview Bob Dane, Communications Director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) - they were talking, of course, about immigration.

As I've written a few times before, FAIR has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group."  Helpful as always, I emailed this info into the studio by way of the KDKA's "instant access" email and then blogged about this rather minor event here.

Well Bob Dane, Communications Director for FAIR, responded.  To me.  Via my email address.  I'm guessing he saw the blog post.

Good to know that such a local blog could pique the interest of such a large national non-profit organization - but I digress.

Dane sent me a copy of this document urging me to read it and, in an effort to undermine the SPLC's credibility, he told me that:
  • the SPLC has no definition of "hate group"
  • they use the term to describe any organization they don't like, and finally
  • it's just a way for them to bolster their own fundraising.
After I corrected Dane's name (I misspelled it in my first blog post), Dane wrote me back and said:
If you closely and honestly examine FAIR’s agenda, you will see that many of our policies are designed to protect the “99%” from abuses by corporate America which desires to relentlessly flood the jobs market with unnecessary foreign labor. Immigration must serve our broad national interests – not political parties and not corporate welfare which occurs by way of availability to cheap and illegal workers that displace U.S. workers, corrode wages, increases income inequality and reduces the middle class overall.
He also asked me to correct my earlier "smear."  I wrote him back saying that there's nothing for me to correct.  Unless the SPLC didn't call FAIR a "hate group" or they've since rescinded the charge (neither of which is true) what I posted is accurate.

But it leads to a deeper question: Is the charge valid?  Does the SPLC have a valid point in calling FAIR a "hate group"?

Let me get the big stuff out of the way.  From the FAIR document:
FAIR condemns any individual or group that engages in hateful or violent behavior, and has done so publicly on many occasions. While FAIR has been consistently critical of many aspects of U.S. immigration policy and long-term failures to adequately enforce immigration laws. We have a longstanding abiding policy of never advocating discriminatory immigration policies. If the record proves anything at all, it is that FAIR draws a clear distinction between immigration policy and immigrants. Immigration is an important public policy that can and must be debated openly; immigrants are human beings who must always be treated with respect and dignity. (page 4-5)
The document then looks to discredit the SPLC on roughly the same points that Dane wrote to me about - adding a few pages on how they think the SPLC manipulates data.

I have to admit, though, that while it looks quite solid, little of it actually addresses the charge that the SPLC makes.  For example, let's assume that everything FAIR says about the SPLC's fundraising is accurate.  How would that invalidate the charge that they make about FAIR?  That it's a "hate group"?  It doesn't.  Same goes with any question on how FAIR deals with data.

So why does the SPLC call FAIR a "hate group"?  There's this reason (this is from 2007):
At the center of the Tanton web is the nonprofit Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the most important organization fueling the backlash against immigration. Founded by Tanton in 1979, FAIR has long been marked by anti-Latino and anti-Catholic attitudes. It has mixed this bigotry with a fondness for eugenics, the idea of breeding better humans discredited by its Nazi associations. It has accepted $1.2 million from an infamous, racist eugenics foundation. It has employed officials in key positions who are also members of white supremacist groups. Recently, it has promoted racist conspiracy theories about Mexico's secret designs on the American Southwest and an alternative theory alleging secret plans to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada. Just last February, a senior FAIR official sought "advice" from the leaders of a racist Belgian political party.
None of which is actually addressed in the document FAIR sent me.

There are certainly some valid issues that need to be discussed over our nation's immigration policy and in doing so, good people in good conscience are going to disagree (doesn't mean that any of them are members of a hate group, however).  But there's enough here that I'd have to say that the SPLC's charge has enough validity to be taken seriously.

And as far as validity of the data, the FBI links to the SPLC on its "Hate Crimes" page (look for the link under "resources").  If it's good enough for the FBI...

January 29, 2013

Mike Pintek and FAIR

Mike Pintek's on KDKA right now, interviewing Bob Danes - a guy from Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

I wonder if Mike will be asking Danes about how the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FAIR as a Hate Group.

UPDATE:  Apologies to Bob DANE, Communications Director for FAIR.  I got his name wrong above.  It's DANE and not DANES.

A Lesson In Selective Evidence

This sentence, by the highly esteemed and very serious George Will was published by both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review this week:
[President Obama] says "the threat of climate change" is apparent in "raging fires," "crippling drought" and "more powerful storms." Are fires raging now more than ever? (There were a third fewer U.S. wildfires in 2012 than in 2006.)
Tamino debunk's Will pretty well:
Here’s a clue for those who want to know the truth of the matter rather than George Will’s “spin.” When you hear a phrase like “a third fewer U.S. wildfires in 2012 than in 2006,” you know you’re being played for a sucker.
And then there's an explanation:
...comparing this year to a single year from the past — and a cherry-picked one at that — is either dishonest, amazingly stupid, or both. You make the call.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), there were 96,385 wildland fires in 2006 but only 67,315 in 2012 (through Dec. 20th). The 2012 count is less by 30.1%, which is close enough to a third, I’ve got no complaint about that.
But them Tamino raises the issue of number of wildfires vs number of acres burned in those wildfires and concludes that it's the number of acres that's important.

Then we're given a chart:
See that dot that's the highest on the chart?  That's 2006.  The last dot on the right is 2012 and the red line is the upward trend of the data.

Notice something?  That last dot looks to be the third highest of all of them.

Are wildfires getting worse or not?  Once you've answered that, go back and look at how Will framed the issue.

January 25, 2013

Religious Freedom Update

According to this poll, done by the Barna Group, there's something very interesting going on in one segment of American society.

Huffington Post has the summary:
Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and many say activist groups -- particularly gays and lesbians -- are trying to remove "traditional Christian values" from the public square.
No that's not it.
The findings of a poll published Wednesday (Jan. 23), reveal a "double standard" among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.
Getting closer, but that's not it, either.
While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, "they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture," said Kinnamon.

I touched on this a few times last year (here and here) but it's good to see some numbers supporting the same idea.  So what are the numbers?  From Barna:
Though most Americans agree religious freedoms should be granted to people of all faiths, there are still a significant number of people (23%) who believe traditional Judeo-Christian values should be given preference in the public square. The majority, though, would disagree: two-thirds of Americans (66%) say there’s no one set of values that should dominate the country and another 11% of adults declined or gave another response. Practicing Catholics (24%) are about on par with the national average, while practicing Protestants (35%) and evangelicals (54%) are above average in selecting traditional Judeo-Christian values.
But take a closer look at that first sentence.  First, let me quote some well known conservative rhetoric and point out that freedoms aren't granted they're to be protected or limited.  But that aside, shouldn't the religious freedoms of everyone (not just "people of all faiths") be protected?  I realize this could be just some sloppy writing so let's assume that I am seeing something that's not there.  But what does that leave us?

Between a fifth and a quarter of the American population believes in "religious freedom" while still paradoxically believing that "traditional Judeo-Christian values" should dominate the culture.

People like these people in Connellsville:
Thou Shalt Not Move, a grassroots group, urged the Connellsville area to continue to support efforts to keep the Ten Commandments Monument at the Connellsville Junior High School.
More specifically:
“We are under attack on a national level and this issue, as small as it seems to some, is as big as the right to bear arms and Obamacare where they’re taking the right to health care away from you,” [Meeting organizer Gary] Colatch said. “They’re trying to strip away our rights. We’re facing that tyranny today. We’re facing that tyranny in Connellsville.” [Emphasis added.]
Again, it's a Ten Commandments monument at a public school.  It's unconstitutional.  Mr Colatch is looking to protect a religious right that he doesn't actually have: the "right" to use the public school system to impose his faith onto others.

Meanwhile, there's been some movement at that other unconstitutional monument (the one in New Kensington):
A federal district judge on Tuesday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin-based group against a school district in Westmoreland County regarding its display of a Ten Commandments monument.
The arguments to dismiss the cases filed on behalf of the school districts were similar, specifically referring to the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Van Orden v. Perry.
We've looked at Van Orden before.

Here's the judge's denial of the motion to dismiss.

On hearing news of the denial, Rev. Ewing Marietta had this to say:
A federal district judge on Tuesday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin-based group against a school district in Westmoreland County regarding its display of a Ten Commandments monument.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued both the New Kensington-Arnold School District and the Connellsville Area School District over displays of the Ten Commandments posted outside schools in each district. The New Kensington-Arnold suit was filed first, and there is a decision pending on a motion to dismiss the Connellsville suit.

This may not be the best news for us,” Marietta said. [Emphasis added.]
Sorry to hear that you're disappointed, Reverend.

On the other hand, it's always a good news when everyone's religious freedom is being protected.

January 24, 2013

1776 - The Musical

That this is a political blog should be of confusion to no one.  Heck just look at the title of the blog and you'll get it.

While I'll occasionally post something about a musician or writer, I'm not one who can say that he's at all near to the theater and as such I'll usually just stick to what I mangle best: Politics.

But every now and then I think it's important to branch out to other things and so imagine my surprise when I learned only last week that one of my favorite musicals, 1776, will be performed here in Pittsburgh.  Great show - if you don't know the story, here's the blurb from the Pittsburgh Public Theater's website:
The founding of our nation comes to star-spangled life in this grand Tony Award-winning Best Musical. In 1776 you'll see the heroes of the American revolution like you've never seen them before -- in rousing songs and dances, comic encounters, and impassioned politics. The stakes have never been higher as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin wrangle to get everyone on the same page -- namely the Declaration of Independence. Directed by Ted Pappas, theatrical fireworks will fill the O'Reilly Theater in this thrilling story of how we went from 13 colonies to the United States of America.
SPOILER ALERT: The Declaration gets signed.

While the show definitely patriotic and political, it's not at all partisan.  And by that I mean that it's safe to say that no one will leave a performance of 1776 thinking they'll have to make sure they vote Liberal or Conservative next election.  Happy and proud that you got a chance to vote, perhaps, but that's about it.

Tuesday, I was lucky enough to catch a few minutes with a couple of the show's leads (George Merrick, who plays John Adams and Steve Vinovich, who plays Ben Franklin) while they were on a short break during rehearsal.

I arrived a few minutes before 3 and got a chance to look at the set.  It's a beautiful piece of work - all wood with the desks and chairs made entirely in-house at the PPT.  It had to be explained to me that the set representing Independence Hall was on a huge turntable sunk into the stage.  I had to ask because when I walked in, I wondered why all the chairs on stage were pointed away from the audience.  Oh, it's big turntable, thanks.  The set rotates.  Way cool!

When I arrived, the music director was noodling about on an upright (I was told that for the show, the musicians will be seated Bayreuth-like beneath the stage) and a scattering of stage technicians were taking care of some rehearsal details.  Within a few minutes director Ted Pappas was working over some details with a couple of the actors.  Lots of things happening.  Lots of stuff to get accomplished.  Play's opening in a few days.  It's sheer ignorance on my part, of course, but I had no idea the level of detail that could be choreographed into a scene.  The constantly moving Pappas hammered out the details between Adams and Livingston on the timing and placement Livingston's arms when singing the phrase "pop the cork."

A few minutes later, in a dressing room cluttered with the daily stuff of thuh thea-tuh (cotton balls for makeup on the counter to my left and a rack full of costumes for the actors to my right and so on) I got to meet George Merrick and we sat down and chatted about about the politics of the play.  He was wearing a Mets t-shirt but I figured as they had an even worse year (.457) than the Pirates (.488) I wouldn't make too too much of it.  Given that 1776 was premiered in the late 60s (March 16, 1969, to be exact), barely 11 months after the assassination of Martin Luther King and a year to the day after My Lai, I was curious if he had any insight into why or how the play was constructed the way it was in that age and then what, if any resonance the play had now.

He said that the play definitely reflects some of the turbulence of that decade but it also shows how the system, with all its flaws eventually works.  He pointed out something I'd never really thought of before: there are no villains in the play - only people with sincerely held opposing viewpoints.  Dickinson may have been one of the obstacles for Adams and Franklin on the question of Independence, but he wasn't necessarily a bad guy.   Merrick added that the "dramatic engine" of the play involves the efforts needed to get all of these completing viewpoints close enough so that the Declaration can be signed.  It's about the necessity of compromise, too.  That same "dramatic engine" required some, uh, fudging of the historical accuracy.  Martha Jefferson never visited her husband in the summer of 1776, for example.

By this point a Steve Vinovich had joined us - no baseball t-shirt but I did notice he wasn't wearing shoes.  Nice socks, though - but hey, my inner Trekker was just happy to be the same in a room with a guy who'd been on Deep Space Nine.  Anyway, he plays Franklin and he had no end of praise about how good the musicals' book was.  It could stand alone as a play and so well written that you're not sure the Adams will actually be able to pull it off - you're wondering if the Declaration will ever get signed.

A few minutes later, I got to see more of the cast (and only a little under half of them are from out of town) rehearsing - they were tweaking the details of the transition from the last scene to the curtain call to the bows.

Afterwards Pappas spoke to the cast about the import of the ending of the play.  "It's the most important event in the nation's history," he said.  The fact that it was originally produced during Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement is interwoven into the fabric of the play.  Vietnam is the reason the courier is in the play.  He reports back the very real events of the battlefield to the Congress that sent them there.  Slavery is address and set aside in order to establish Independence of the colonies - and even that part's still playing itself out. "Can you imagine what [South Carolina delegate and slave owner] Edward Rutledge would say about the Obama inauguration?" he asked.

The musical opens today and runs until February 24.

January 22, 2013

Some Important Parts

From President Obama's Second Inaugural Address:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: “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; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.  The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal –is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
I was curious about the alliteration in that third paragraph ("Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall") and what each had to do with  the national creed that "all of us are created equal."

Seneca Falls

In July of 1848, a two-day convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY hosted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.  At that convention a document called the "Declaration of Sentiments" was discussed and voted upon (in the end, 100 out of the 300 attendees signed it).  The document, patterned after the Declaration of Independence, demanded among other things the right of women to (gasp!) vote.

The 19th Amendment guaranteeing a woman's right to vote would not be ratified for 72 years.


In March of 1965, a series of marches took place to protest, among other things, the killing at the hands of the police of Jimmie Lee Jackson, an unarmed 26 yr old recently ordained deacon at a night time protest the previous month.  As the Anniston Star puts it about  what happened on the evening of February 18:
A few minutes into the confusion, perhaps 10 Troopers chased a group of protesters into a place called Mack’s Café just off Marion’s city square and directly behind Zion. From that point, nearly all historical accounts and press reports at the time agree the following happened:

As the Troopers entered the café they immediately started overturning tables and hitting customers and marchers alike. In the melee, they clubbed 82-year-old Cager Lee to the floor and his daughter Viola Jackson when she rushed to his aid. When her son, Jimmie Lee Jackson, tried to help his mother he was shot in the stomach by a state Trooper.
He died a few days later in the hospital.  Of course he was served with an arrest warrant in his hospital bed.

The first protest march took place March 7.  The marchers were attacked by police with billy clubs and tear gas and the reaction was national.  President Johnson introduced legislation 8 days later that became the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and on March 21 of that year, the National Guard was called out to protect them thousands of people marched from Selma to Montgomery to protest.

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law the following August.


According to these National Historic Landmark Nomination documents:
Stonewall is regarded by many as the single most important event that led to the modern gay and lesbian liberation movement and to the struggle for civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans. The Stonewall uprising was, as historian Lillian Faderman has written, "the shot heard round the world...crucial because it sounded the rally for the movement."
The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar located at 51-53 Christopher Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. As part of a pattern of raids and harassment of gay establishments, the bar was raided by the New York City police at about 1:30 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, June 28, 1969. The reaction of the bar's patrons and of the crowd that assembled in the street (which included a diverse segment of the gay community and other Greenwich Village residents and visitors) was not typical of such events. Instead of dispersing, the crowd became increasingly angry as the Stonewall's employees and patrons were arrested. Soon participants began chanting, throwing pennies, beer cans and other objects, and the police were forced back into the bar. Reinforcements were called in, and for several hours the police tried to clear the streets while the crowd fought back. Over the next few evenings the uprising continued. Two quiet nights followed before the final episode of street fighting occurred, late Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning, July 2nd and 3rd. The street events occurred outside the Stonewall Inn, in Christopher Park (across the street from the bar), along Christopher Street between Seventh Avenue South and Greenwich Avenue, and along adjacent streets, notably Waverly Place, Gay Street, Greenwich Avenue, Sixth Avenue and West 10th Street. At its peak, the crowd included several thousand people.

The struggle for gay rights did not begin that night, as groups had previously been organizing in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities to plead for the recognition of gay and lesbian people and for an end to discrimination. However, Stonewall marked a major change, as gay men and lesbians began to demand their rights vocally and assertively
The struggle continues and there's still a lot to do.  I'll give the president the final word:
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity -- until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

We won't go back! (On the Occasion of the 40th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade)

As Medieval As They Wanna Be

Rick Santorum was once called “one of the finest minds of the thirteenth century” in the pages of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is somewhat less retro, preferring the 16th century (but probably having some beefs with the Renaissance):

Separated at birth?

That's the hat he wore to President Obama's second inauguration yesterday. According to WalshLaw:
The hat is a custom-made replica of the hat depicted in Holbein’s famous portrait of St. Thomas More. It was a gift from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia. We presented it to him in November 2010 as a memento of his participation in our 27th annual Red Mass and dinner.
I'm sure Scalia likes to see himself as a defender of the faith too (even when acting less than saintly) and, no doubt sees no conflict in that. I'm also guessing that More would have had no problem with Scalia's views on women (or little else).

Polling! Data! For the Mayoral Race!

I promise -- this photo is relevant and not just the shameless use of a popular meme!

Having just finished up a presidential campaign, one gets used to obsessing over polling data. However, for as long as I've been back in Pittsburgh, there never seems to be much polling done on local elections. There was, of course, that 2011 poll which showed that the current mayor had a mere 19% approval rating, but slim pickings beyond that.

Now, CivicScience aims to change all that. They looked at a hypothetical two-way race between Ravenstahl and Peduto (this was done prior to Lamb's announcement) and found a race "within single-digit percentage points" when they polled 1,651 registered Democratic voters.

And, they didn't stop there -- they dug deep -- I mean really deep. They looked at a ton of demographics, lifestyle, shopping, media consumption and other attributes to "identify the characteristics that distinguished a likely Ravenstahl voter from a likely Peduto one."

The results are here. Some are predictable, but some are surprising.

For example, having two cats myself, I would have sworn that Peduto had the cat vote sewn up, but according to CivicScience:
When asked about their favorite pets, the contrast was striking. Cat people are 20% more likely to support Ravenstahl. Dog people are 20% more likely to support Peduto.

OK, I like Bruce Kraus too, so maybe they have a point -- at least when it comes to the leanings of actual cats.

They promise lots more polling in the future, so stay tuned!

January 21, 2013

President Obama's Inaugural Address (Full Text)

Photo by Pabo 76
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Inaugural Address
Monday, January 21, 2013
Washington, DC

As Prepared for Delivery –

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“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, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

Rick Santorum at Birther Central

Back in December, the OPJ posted the news that our favorite Man-on-Dog ponderer, Rick Santorum, takes up column space at World Net Daily - aka Birther Central.

If that in itself isn't enough evidence to show how meaningless his political career has become, his most recent column certainly is.

While complaining about President Obama's "constitutional violations" he simply shows his own ignorance of that document.  But first Rick's frame:
President Obama’s announcement last week on his plans to make sweeping changes to our nation’s gun laws by presidential executive order is yet another example of his continual disregard for the United States Constitution and the separation of powers it set forth to protect the American people from government by fiat.
Rick might want to check with the radical leftist who was George W Bush's last Attorney General on the constitutionality of the president's gun control program:
Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey appeared on the Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” Wednesday night with a message that left the host looking rather disappointed.

Rebutting the Republican talk show host, Mukasey said that President Barack Obama’s executive orders so far have been legal, as much as he finds them distasteful.
Uh-oh.  But let's take a look at some of the examples that Rick uses show Obama's "continual disregard" of the Constitution.  This is first on the list:
Two days after he took office, President Obama rescinded by executive order the “Mexico City policy,” which prevents foreign aid going to organizations that perform or promote abortions. No legislation passed, no debate, just an executive order.
Um, Rick?  Do you know why only an executive order was necessary for the rescindment of the "Mexico City Policy"?

Because the enactment of that policy was implemented by an executive order - namely George W Bush's:
The Mexico City Policy announced by President Reagan in 1984 required nongovernmental organizations to agree as a condition of their receipt of Federal funds that such organizations would neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations. This policy was in effect until it was rescinded on January 22, 1993.

It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad. It is therefore my belief that the Mexico City Policy should be restored. Accordingly, I hereby rescind the "Memorandum for the Acting Administrator of the Agency for International Development, Subject: AID Family Planning Grants/Mexico City Policy," dated January 22, 1993, and I direct the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to reinstate in full all of the requirements of the Mexico City Policy in effect on January 19, 1993.
As you can plainly see, the history of the policy goes all the way back past Bill Clinton to Ronald Reagan. Each restoration/rescindment an executive branch decision, none requiring any sort of legislation.

It's simply embarrassing for a law school graduate to get this so amaurotically wrong.

Another thing Rick got wrong - his next example:
In early 2011, the Obama administration stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a law duly passed by Congress and signed into law. Here President Obama has directed his Department of Justice to ignore the Constitution and separation of powers and not enforce a law.
For this, Politifact has done the research:
In February 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner saying that the Obama administration would no longer defend the law -- in court.

Holder argued that the law, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. While the letter stated that the Obama administration would not defend the law in two cases, it also stated that it will continue to be "enforced" by the executive branch until Congress repeals it, or the courts definitively strike it down.
And so on.

How many more things does Rick need to get wrong at WND before he's laughed off the stage?

January 20, 2013

Late This Morning

Birthers, Tea Partiers and Fox News viewers everywhere are stunned in disbelief:

Here, Read This - Quickly

From today's Tribune-Review:
The latest example of your federal government in action — a $222,000 renovation of the private bathroom of the U.S. secretary of the Interior. As reminds Atlanta‘s WSB-TV, which first reported the story, “that‘s more expensive than many homes.” The feds blame water leaks for the high cost of the project, done in 2007. Guess that‘s why the renovated loo also includes a $3,500 Sub-Zero fridge? Heck, we know plenty of contractors who would have done the job for, say, $150,000. [Bolding in original]
Given that this is the Trib editorial board and that they're no fans of the current administration and that they frame it by saying that this is "the latest example" - quick, when do you think the renovation occurred?

At my first reading, I thought the $222 grand was to correct (partially, of course) some bad plumbing done in 2007 and I suspect that's the Trib's intentional rhetorical smog at play.  They could have been clearer and pointed out what Atlanta's WSB-TV actually posted:
The upgrades to the bathroom happened in 2007. Internal auditors issued memos in 2009 about the renovations.

It took a Freedom of Information Act request and four more years for the details to come light.

[Channel 2's Scott] MacFarlane found the renovations were both approved and contracted by the government's official landlord, the General Services Administration.

A General Services Administration representative said the work happened before the current administration took over and said "greater oversight" is in place now to protect against waste in the future.
Yea - I wonder why Scaife's braintrust wasn't clearer about this story.

Perhaps, had they done their homework, they would have seen that this is not exactly a new story nor is it even close to what they said it was.  Take a look at this from the Washington Post in  9 January, 2009:
Does outgoing Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne need a $236,000 bathroom? Or is some of that money going down the drain?

That's what Interior Department investigators are determined to find out. Today, Inspector General Earl Devaney said his office has launched a probe into the bathroom project and "still have plenty of facts to flush out." (Pun intended.)

Kempthorne spent $236,000 in taxpayer funds renovating his office bathroom last fall, installing a new shower, a refrigerator and freezer and wainscot wood panelling, department officials say. Questions from The Post sparked the interest of the inspector general.

Shane Wolfe, a spokesman for Kempthorne's office, said the new 100-square-foot bathroom will replace an older washroom being removed to make way for an emergency stairwell. Aside from asbestos abatement and electrical and plumbing upgrades, the bathroom was constructed, in part, to preserve the office's "storied history," Wolfe said. At Interior, he said, "Preserving historic structures is part of what we do."
And this from McClatchy from a month and a half later:
The 100-square-foot bathroom, which has a shower, commode and refrigerator, is in the secretary's executive suite on the seventh floor of the building. Last month, the project raised eyebrows when the Washington Post reported it cost $236,000 to build and came with a refrigerator and monogrammed towels.

It turns out the fancy towels don't exist -- "that's absolutely false," said Donald Swain, chief of staff of the Interior Department's National Business Center. But the inspector general's office at the Interior Department continues to investigate the $236,000 project.

The department built the bathroom last year as part of an exhaustive 13-year renovation of the Interior Department's historic headquarters. The bathroom project came in $10,000 under budget, Swain said. Removing lead pipes and asbestos abatement drove up the cost, Swain said, as did careful stewardship of the historic building, built in 1935, and replete with hand-painted murals and custom wood paneling and tiles.
As Gertrude Stein once wrote, there is no there there.  But hey, I guess that's still not enough to stop Scaife's braintrust from using it as a subtle dig against Obama-era guv'ment waste.

January 19, 2013

The Trib Tries To Discredit The Science And Fails. Again.

From today's Tribune-Review:
The National Climatic Data Center wrongly declared July 2012 as America‘s hottest July ever — and hasn‘t corrected itself.

Frontier Center for Public Policy advisers Tom Harris, the executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, and Tim Ball, a former University of Winnipeg climatology professor, give ample reasons to doubt that NCDC claim and its ranking of 2012 as the warmest year on record and one of the top two years for extreme U.S. weather.
First, let's go find the Braintrust's source material.  It's here.

Unfortunately, it only takes three paragraphs for these two "experts" invalidate their own case (and thereby the Braintrust's case):
Last summer’s headlines blared, “Hottest July in the history of the United States.” The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said so, so it must be true.

This week, the NCDC is reporting the same, with the added alarm that 2012 was the warmest year on record and one of the top two years for extreme weather in America.

Climate activists are linking this to man-made global warming, ignoring the fact that the area covered in the NCDC reports, the contiguous United States (excluding Alaska), comprises only 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. Trends that may manifest in the United States in no way indicate global phenomena. In fact, the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office has said that there has been no global warming for 16 years and this week announced that temperatures are expected to stay relatively stable for another five years. [Emphasis added.]
Let's star there.  Did the Met Office really say all that?

To understand this manipulation of the data, we have to start back in October, 2012 at the Daily Mail:
The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week.

The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.

This means that the ‘plateau’ or ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. Before that, temperatures had been stable or declining for about 40 years.
The headline of the article states that the "Met Office" released the data.  But the Met Office itself published a quick rebuttal with this email exchange - which should explain away the Daily Mail's deception:
Q.1 [From David Rose, writer of the Mail's article] “First, please confirm that they do indeed reveal no warming trend since 1997.”

The linear trend from August 1997 (in the middle of an exceptionally strong El Nino) to August 2012 (coming at the tail end of a double-dip La Nina) is about 0.03°C/decade, amounting to a temperature increase of 0.05°C over that period, but equally we could calculate the linear trend from 1999, during the subsequent La Nina, and show a more substantial warming.

As we’ve stressed before, choosing a starting or end point on short-term scales can be very misleading. Climate change can only be detected from multi-decadal timescales due to the inherent variability in the climate system. If you use a longer period from HadCRUT4 the trend looks very different. For example, 1979 to 2011 shows 0.16°C/decade (or 0.15°C/decade in the NCDC dataset, 0.16°C/decade in GISS). Looking at successive decades over this period, each decade was warmer than the previous – so the 1990s were warmer than the 1980s, and the 2000s were warmer than both. Eight of the top ten warmest years have occurred in the last decade.

Over the last 140 years global surface temperatures have risen by about 0.8ºC. However, within this record there have been several periods lasting a decade or more during which temperatures have risen very slowly or cooled. The current period of reduced warming is not unprecedented and 15 year long periods are not unusual.
It's from there that Rose grew his "no global warming in the last 16 years" story - even though the Met Office reiterates its limitations as an observation.

In fact, Rose is still at it (and I am curious as to why Scaife's Braintrust didn't just go with Rose in the first place).  Take a look at this from a few days ago:
Last year The Mail on Sunday reported a stunning fact: that global warming had ‘paused’ for 16 years. The Met Office’s own monthly figures showed there had been no statistically significant increase in the world’s temperature since 1997.

We were vilified. One Green website in the US said our report was ‘utter bilge’ that had to be ‘exposed and attacked’.

The Met Office issued a press release claiming it was misleading, before quietly admitting a few days later that it was true that the world had not got significantly warmer since 1997 after all. A Guardian columnist wondered how we could be ‘punished’.

But then last week, the rest of the media caught up with our report. On Tuesday, news finally broke of a revised Met Office ‘decadal forecast’, which not only acknowledges the pause, but predicts it will continue at least until 2017. It says world temperatures are likely to stay around 0.43 degrees above the long-term average – as by then they will have done for 20 years.
And yet again the Met Office explained away Rose's mislead:
The latest decadal prediction suggests that global temperatures over the next five years are likely to be a little lower than predicted from the previous prediction issued in December 2011.

However, both versions are consistent in predicting that we will continue to see near-record levels of global temperatures in the next few years.

This means temperatures will remain well above the long-term average and we will continue to see temperatures like those which resulted in 2000-2009 being the warmest decade in the instrumental record dating back to 1850.

Decadal predictions are specifically designed to predict fluctuations in the climate system through knowledge of the current climate state and multi-year variability of the oceans.

Small year to year fluctuations such as those that we are seeing in the shorter term five year predictions are expected due to natural variability in the climate system, and have no sustained impact on the long term warming. [Emphasis added.]
Long story short, the "global warming ended 16 years ago" (and therefore it never existed) story's a sham.  It's based on a air of arbitrarily chosen starting and ending points.

It's enough of a sham to overshadow the rest of the "evidence" Harris and Ball put forth.  But let me point out one thing.  In their article they complain that:
It turns out that the NCDC does not wait for all the data to be received before computing and very publicly announcing the U.S. average temperature and its rank compared to other months and years. While some stations, such as those at airports, send the data quickly via radio links and the Internet, other stations use old paper forms that arrive by mail considerably later.

When the printed data finally arrive, the NCDC updates its temperature database, typically “cooling” the country when all the data are used.

Neither the NCDC nor NOAA tells the public and the press that the temperature announcements in previous SOTCs are no longer correct when the complete data set is analyzed.
They seem to think that the NCDC presents each monthly report as a final report and that when new data arrives they don't let anyone know that things have changed.

I guess they missed this caveat on the July 2012 report itself.  It's tucked in at the bottom, so if you don't read the whole thing, you'd probably miss it too:
PLEASE NOTE: All of the temperature and precipitation ranks and values are based on preliminary data. The ranks will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages. Graphics based on final data are provided on the Temperature and Precipitation Maps page and the Climate at a Glance page as they become available.
If you want a good explanation as to why the "no warming in 16 years" story's wrong, check this out:

Happy Saturday!

January 18, 2013

Another Threat To Our Democracy

While the GOP has been warning us for years about the (illusory) "significant voter fraud" and its (supposed) threat to our democracy, the real threat is coming from them.

 From Talkingpoints Memo:
Call it a gaffe: a slip-up that accidentally reveals the truth.

A recent memo by the Republican State Leadership Committee emphasizes the party’s 2010 victories in state legislatures as central to the House GOP retaining its majority in the 2012 elections.

The reason? Redistricting — or more precisely, gerrymandering.
From the memo:
The rationale was straightforward: Controlling the redistricting process in these states would have the greatest impact on determining how both state legislative and congressional district boundaries would be drawn. Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.
President Obama won reelection in 2012 by nearly 3 points nationally, and banked 126 more electoral votes than Governor Mitt Romney. Democratic candidates for the U.S. House won 1.1 million more votes than their Republican opponents. But the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is a Republican and presides over a 33-seat House Republican majority during the 113th Congress. How? One needs to look no farther than four states that voted Democratic on a statewide level in 2012, yet elected a strong Republican delegation to represent them in Congress: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
And this is what the Republican Gerrymandering accomplished:
A REDMAP target state, the RSLC spent nearly $1 million in Pennsylvania House races in 2010 – an expenditure that helped provide the GOP with majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Combined with former Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett’s victory in the gubernatorial race, Republicans took control of the state legislative and congressional redistricting process. The impact of this investment at the state level in 2010 is evident when examining the results of the 2012 election: Pennsylvanians reelected a Democratic U.S. Senator by nearly nine points and reelected President Obama by more than five points, but at the same time they added to the Republican ranks in the State House and returned a 13-5 Republican majority to the U.S. House.
According to, had these new laws been in place before the 2012 election, Obama's overwhelming win would have been (with exactly the same votes) much much closer.

And now what are the Republican legislators in Harrisburg looking to do with these manipulated-for-the-benefit-of-the-GOP congressional districts?

State Senator Domini Pileggi has an idea: "Proportionality."  Take a look:
Under the proportional system, two of Pennsylvania’s 20 electors are chosen on a statewide, at-large basis (representing the two senatorial electors). The remaining 18 electors are chosen based on the percentage of the statewide vote earned by each candidate (rounded to the thousandths). For example, President Obama won 52.088% of the vote in November. Under this system, he would have received 12 of Pennsylvania’s 20 electors (the two statewide electors plus 10 of the 18 remaining electors, which would be distributed proportionately).

This advantage of this system is clear: It much more accurately reflects the will of the voters in our state.
Yea, but since the electoral votes would be distributed by gerrymandered congressional district (districts that benefit the GOP), we all know that that last part's plainly incorrect.

Message from this state's Republicans in the state legislature: When you can't win fairly, simply legislate a change of the rules (i.e. cheat legally).

PodCamp 2012 Announcement!

W-a-a-a-y back in October, KDKA's Jon Delano and I hosted a talk at PodCamp called "Old Media and New Media."

We spent a little under an hour discussing the similarities and differences between what he does (old media) and what I do (new media).  And we did it before a room that was SRO (and that was nice to see - though I suspect more were there to see Delano than DeAngelo).

Well, the video's been posted - check it aht:

If you make it through to the end, you'll see Delano and I dance - but just a little.

January 17, 2013

Question for Mike Pintek

I got to hear a large chunk of today's program and Mike, TO YOUR CREDIT, you shouted down a caller who tried to bring up the by now long debunked "issue" of President Obama's birthcertificate.

You treated the birther with all the credibility his position required (which is none).

Bravo, sir.  Good for you.

Here's my question:  Considering your own past-birtherism (for instance 4 years or so ago, you danced the birther dance like the best of them), when did you change your mind?

You can email me if you'd like - I'd love to find out how you did it, what made you re-enter reality.

I'll post your answer at the blog.

Finally, some much needed oversight!

Finally, we have some much needed oversight from some newly minted elected officials here in Pennsyltucky:
  • New PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane to launch an investigation into the Attorney General’s office’s (Tom Corbett's) handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case.
  • New PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to order a performance audit of the Department of Environmental Protection’s policing of the natural gas industry “to make sure our constitutional right to pure water is not being compromised.”
  • New PA State Rep. Erin Molchany speaks out against Governor Corbett's deal to hand over control of the billion-dollar-a-year Pennsylvania Lottery to a foreign firm with no say by anyone other than Corbett:

  • John Lott on Mike Pintek's KDKA Airspace

    Discredited firearms "researcher" is now being interviewed in Mike Pintek's show on KDKA.

    He just said that there's been a lot of research that "confirmed" his "more guns = less crime" thesis.

    Too bad this is wrong.

    The National Academy of Science published in 2004 a bood called "Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review" and Chapter 6 is devoted to Lott's thesis.  And what did they find?  From the Executive Summary we learn that: credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime.
    And then there's this from Johns Hopkins this year:
    A large body of research has been conducted to investigate the effect of RTC laws on violence. Most notably, research led by John Lott, Jr. suggests that RTC laws have led to significant reductions in violent crime.  But the research showing crime-reducing effects of RTC laws, including Lott’s, has been carefully reviewed by a National Council of Research panel of experts, and others, and has been found to have serious flaws.
    And yet he got on Pintek's air today.

    Tells you alot about Pintek, doesn't it?

    Some Thoughts On Guns

    Read this.  I'll tell you who wrote it later:
    There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment ’s right of free speech was not, see, e.g., United States v. Williams, 553 U. S. ___ (2008). Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose. [Emphases in original.]
    Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment , nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
    We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”
    The text above says a few things: 2nd Amendment Rights are not unlimited, you have no constitutional right, for example, to posses just any weapon for just any purpose, no constitutional right to walk into a guv'ment building armed with an M1911, and no 2nd Amendment right to carry "dangerous and unusual weapons."  And so on.  To put it another way, The Constitution allows limitations on your 2nd Amendment rights.

    So who wrote this crap?  What sort of lily-livered, soft-on-crime, blame-America-First lib'rul wrote this threat to our freedom?

    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, that's who - DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER.

    January 16, 2013

    Colin McNickle Left Something Out

    Hardly surprising, considering that he writes for the Tribune-Review.

    Take a look at this:
    Lots of people were making lots of U-turns here Saturday on southbound Route 19 just past Ace Sporting Goods. And lots more northbounders were parking on the wide berm just waiting to get into the parking lot of the popular gun shop.

    It was another afternoon of what‘s become the new norm at Ace, known for its wide selection of handguns and rifles...
    Know what else this Ace Sporting Goods store is known (or should be known) for?

    Take a look at this from September 7, 2001:
    First of all, we know Mr. Baumhammers traveled to Ace Sporting Goods in Washington, Pa., April 30, 1999 and for $528 purchased a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum Revolver, the murder weapon.

    Nine days later, just nine days after buying a handgun, Richard Scott Baumhammers was voluntarily mentally committed to St. Clair Hospital, agreeing he was mentally disabled and in need of treatment.
    And then almost exactly a year after that (on April 28, 2000) he took that Smith and Wesson and went on an "unhurried, methodical" shooting spree - killing five and maiming one.

    So I am wondering how many in the crowd McNickle described knew that they were frequenting the very same establishment where Baumhammers plunked down his five twenty-eight for his three fifty seven.

    And if they knew, would it make any difference?

    Because the price of this "freedom" to stockpile firearms (out of a "paranoid fear of a possible dystopic future") will be that eventually some nutcase will shoot up yet another school yard or shopping mall - and someone else's kids or siblings or loved ones or parents will die horribly because of it.

    It's as simple as that.  Yay, 2nd Amendment.  Yay, NRA.

    January 15, 2013

    Video of the Day

    It's a Burgh Thing

    NRA makes ad out of your cousin's Facebook post

    Yeah, this is what it's come to -- the NRA is making the same goofy argument that your cousin/old high school classmate made on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. You know, the ridiculous one that goes, "Obama's kids get armed protection! Why can't mine?"

    You can see the ad here (but Lawrence O'Donnell announced on his show tonight that it's already been disappeared from the NRA website).

    And, then there's this...

    January 13, 2013

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to reintroduce you to Jack Kelly, swiftboater.

    Embedded in this week's column in the Post-Gazette, we find this curious paragraph:
    Mr. Kerry exaggerated his heroism to get medals, according to some naval officers who served with the senator in Vietnam. He promised to authorize release of his military records, but didn't release all of them until after he ran for president in 2004.
    Jack just can't resist the swiftboating, it seems and this isn't the first time.  Who can forget this column from August, 2008 (the one that declared, a mere two months before the 2008 election that "Democrats know their man is faltering")?

    I realize the swiftboat lies are more than 12 years old, but a lie's still a lie.  So let's look at them one by one.

    Jack says that Kerry exaggerated his heroism to get medals - so let's start there.  Which medals did he get?  According to his Senate website, he was awarded "a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts."

    A "Silver Star" is, according to the Manual of Military Decorations and Awards, "the third highest military valor decoration that can be awarded to a person serving in any capacity with the U.S. Armed Forces." And is awarded to any individual who "distinguishes himself or herself by gallantry in action."  "Gallantry" in that same document is defined as "Nobility of behavior or spirit.  Heroic courage."

    Senator Kerry was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on 28 February, 1969.

    A "Bronze Star" is, according to the same manual, is awarded to "any person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Armed Forces, distinguishes himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service..."

    Senator Kerry was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions on 13 March, 1969.

    His three Purple Hearts were awarded for events that occurred 2 December 1968, 20 February 1969 and 13 March 1969.

    We can trace our way through the documents (like they have here) OR we can look to what the Navy's own Inspector General concluded 8 years ago:
    WASHINGTON (AP) - The Navy's chief investigator concluded Friday that procedures were followed properly in the approval of Sen. John Kerry's Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, according to an internal Navy memo.

    Vice Adm. R.A. Route, the Navy inspector general, conducted the review of Kerry's Vietnam-ear military service awards at the request of Judicial Watch, a public interest group. The group has also asked for the release of additional records documenting the Democratic presidential candidate's military service.

    Judicial Watch had requested in August that the Navy open an investigation of the matter, but Route said in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press that he saw no reason for a full-scale probe.

    "Our examination found that existing documentation regarding the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed," Route wrote in the memo sent Friday to Navy Secretary Gordon England.
    So when Jack weaselwords his way through the swiftboat smear with a cowardly "according to some naval officers who served with the senator" while omitting the part about how the official position of the United States Navy (by way of its Inspector General) is exactly the opposite, we can question both Jack Kelly's honesty and the ability of his fact checkers at the Post-Gazette to actually "check" his "facts."

    Jack Kelly, Swiftboater - the Post-Gazette must be so proud.

    January 12, 2013

    Vigils for Ka’Sandra Wade

    Today, there will be vigils for Ka’Sandra (Sandy) Wade:
    ACTION United Vigil for Ka'Sandra Wade
    Saturday , Januray 12 2013, 4:00 PM
    Where: 5907 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
    What: Vigil Announcement: ACTION United and Pgh Women will hold a Vigil in Memory of Ka'Sandra Wade on Saturday, January 12, 2013. We will meet at 5907 Penn Avenue on the 3rd floor, at 4:00 PM, and hold a Solemn Procession to Eastminster Presbyterian Church. There will be a Potluck Repast, so please bring something to share if you can. A collection will be taken up for the trust fund we are setting up for her son. Womens Organizations should bring their banners or signs...There will be an opportunity to sign up for our Campaign for Ka'Sandra's Law Please RSVP and SHARE!
    RSVP: Facebook (or just show up)
    And a Cyber Vigil:

    January 11, 2013

    One more thing

    When writing this post about Ka'Sandra Wade, I specifically did not want to get too political, but it is impossible for me not to think about her murder and the friends I know who knew her without remembering that her death occurred during at time when Congress has let the Violence Against Women Act expire and when the NRA's answer to gun violence is MORE GUNS.

    I'm eternally grateful that when women that I have known have suffered from domestic abuse, there wasn't also a gun in the house...

    Connellsville Ten Commandments Update

    Lawyers for the Freedom From Religion Foundation have filed a "Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion To Dismiss" a few days ago.

    You can read it here.

    Let's take a few steps back and look at the motion they're opposing.  Liz Zemba of The Trib writes this:
    In seeking to dismiss the case, attorneys for the school district argued, among other reasons, that the monument should stay because it is more secular than religious. Courts in other cases found that similar monuments on government-owned property do not violate the establishment clause, they argued, including one at the Texas State Capitol that survived a Supreme Court challenge.
    This requires some explanation.  Whereas I (a non-attorney if ever there was one) tend to think that the issue's been settled by Stone V Graham, there's another Supreme Court case upon which the school district's attorney's are relying - Van Orden V Perry.  Here's what happened: in 2004 two very similar cases were decided before the Supreme Court, Van Orden v Perry and McCreary County, Kentucky v. ACLU of Kentucky and the Supremes held that the former display constitutional and the latter unconstitutional.

    Justice Breyer was the "swing" vote in the sense that his was the only vote that changed between the two cases.

    From the District's earlier brief:
    In the plurality opinion finding no Establishment Clause violation, Chief Justice Rehnquist, (joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas), provided that the Court’s Establishment Clause analysis would be “driven both by the nature of the monument and by our Nation’s history.” Acknowledging the history and significance of the Ten Commandments, the Court distinguished the “passive use” of the Eagles’ Ten Commandments monument by the State of Texas from the impermissible use of the text by the State of Kentucky, which had mandated by statute that the text be posted inside every public classroom. Id. at 691 (distinguishing Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980)). After a detailed discussion of our Nation’s history regarding the use of the Ten Commandments and other religious symbols, Chief Justice Rehnquist, with a fifth vote from Justice Breyer concurring in the judgment, concluded that the State did not violate the Establishment Clause by its display of the Eagles’ Ten Commandments monument on Capitol grounds. (“We cannot say that Texas’ display of this monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment”) (Emphasis added).

    Justice Breyer, concurring in the judgment, agreed that the text of the Ten Commandments conveys a religious message, but cautioned, as did Chief Justice Rehnquist, that focusing on the religious nature of the message alone cannot resolve an Establishment Clause. Instead, the context in which the text is used must also be considered. According to Justice Breyer, the State of Texas displayed the monument on its Capitol to communicate both a secular and a religious message. Id. He concluded, however, that the “circumstances surrounding the display’s placement on the Capitol grounds and its physical setting suggest that the State” intended the secular aspects of the monument’s message to predominate, despite the monument’s religious content. (Breyer, J., concurring in judgment).
    (Let me state that the "Emphasis added" above is in the brief. It's not my note.)

    From Breyer's concurring opinion in Van Orden we read:
    The case before us is a borderline case. It concerns a large granite monument bearing the text of the Ten Commandments located on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. On the one hand, the Commandments' text undeniably has a religious message, invoking, indeed emphasizing, the Deity. On the other hand, focusing on the text of the Commandments alone cannot conclusively resolve this case. Rather, to determine the message that the text here conveys, we must examine how the text is used. And that inquiry requires us to consider the context of the display.
    So it's the context of the placement of the monument that defines it's constitutionality.  And from this, it's my guess that Connellsville is looking to establish the context of the monuments as secular.  If they can establish that, then Van Orden is the Case to use in their argument.

    The only problem is what Breyer wrote elsewhere in this opinion:
    This case, moreover, is distinguishable from instances where the Court has found Ten Commandments displays impermissible. The display is not on the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of the young, government must exercise particular care in separating church and state.
    All this was in my talk a few weeks ago before the Center for Inquiry (a talk which most of you missed, by the way).  Imagine my relief when what I said at that talk isn't much in conflict with this week's Brief in Opposition.


    From the brief:
    Justice Breyer’s concurring opinion also highlights the distinction between public school grounds and other government property. At the outset, Justice Breyer focused on the particular context of the Texas Capitol monument and called Van Orden “a borderline case.” Id. at 700. Justice Breyer distinguished the Texas Capitol display from the public school context: “This case, moreover, is distinguishable from instances where the Court has found Ten Commandments displays impermissible. The display is not on the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of the young, government must exercise particular care in separating church and state.” Id. at 703. (citing Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 592; Stone, 449 U.S. at 39). In its Brief, the Defendant purports to explain away this statement by Justice Breyer by conjuring up hidden meaning. Def. Brief, p. 14- 15. According to the Defendant’s memorandum, “For it was not merely the school setting that Justice Breyer was arguably recognizing as distinguishable, but the manipulative, coercive, and restraining conduct by the State evidenced in Lee.” Id. There is no support for this bald assertion. Justice Breyer’s statement specifically distinguished Van Orden from a display “on the grounds of a public school” with no mention of further conduct by the government.
    Whew, as I said.

    This religious monument currently stands on the grounds of a public school and there is simply no way to describe it with any other word than this one: UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

    Remembering Ka'Sandra Wade

    A Pittsburgh woman was buried this week leaving behind an 11-year-old son. She was a victim of domestic abuse. She had finally, seemingly broken free of the terror of her ex-boyfriend. She had moved out and was about to start a new job in the new year at the place were she had been an intern for nine months. Before that could happen, she was murdered by her former partner. She was 33 years old.

    Her name was Ka'Sandra Wade.

    People often ask why woman stay with someone who abuses them. Well, Ka'Sandra's story illustrates one reason why: Leaving can be dangerous. According to a United States Department of Justice National Crime Victim Survey, the most dangerous time for a woman who is being abused is when she tries to leave.

    Ka'Sandra had people trying to help her, including at her job. Tragically, when she reached out to police one last time, the system failed her.

    She called 911 in the waning hours of last year. She requested that police come to her home, but then the 911 operator heard a commotion and the call went dead.

    Two officers responded. They were denied entrance by a man (her ex) who spoke out of a window saying no police were needed. They spoke for some ten minutes to the man and then left the scene. They left without ever speaking to the woman who placed the call even though, "The officers ... knew the caller was female. They knew the woman was calm at first. They were told that there was some sort of commotion. And they knew the line had been disconnected."

    When Ka'Sandra's mother called police the next day, concerned that she hadn't heard from her daughter, police went back to her home. They found her shot dead.

    What followed next was a standoff at the ex-partner's apartment. Her murderer eventually killed himself -- but not before telling the police that they could have saved her the day previous. It is unknown whether or not she was killed before the police arrived the day before or shortly thereafter as it's impossible to pinpoint a time of death quite so precisely.

    What is known is that the Pittsburgh Police 'do not have a specific policy on how officers should handle “unknown trouble” calls such as the one at the center of a murder-suicide investigation.'

    Can we all agree that they should have policies in place? Can we all agree that there was a breakdown in the system that was supposed to protect her and all of us?

    To make matters worse, when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had emailed questions (the required format) to the police to break this story, they were not only met with resistance, something quite extraordinary happened:
    Diane Richard, the department’s public information officer, tipped other news organizations off to the P-G’s investigation when she sent the release to about 200 journalists.  
    Post-Gazette executive editor David Shribman tells Romenesko readers:  
    “This is probably unprecedented and certainly unprofessional. It is a horrifying, disrespectful departure from every interchange I have had, or been witness to, with public-relations professionals in four decades in journalism.”  
    The Board of Ethics and Professional Standards at the Public Relations Society of America is looking into the matter, PRSA’s Arthur Yann tells me.
    Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh City Paper adds:
    I've been in this business for more than 15 years, and have never seen anything quite like this. And if the idea was to somehow dissuade the P-G from working the story, well ... clearly it didn't work.
    Clearly, we have not heard the last of this -- nor should we.

    In the meantime, there are ways that you can help.

    There will be a vigil for Ka'Sandra Wade tomorrow:
    ACTION United Vigil for Ka'Sandra Wade
    When: Saturday , Januray 12 2013, 4:00 PM
    Where: 5907 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
    What: Vigil Announcement: ACTION United and Pgh Women will hold a Vigil in Memory of Ka'Sandra Wade on Saturday, January 12, 2013. We will meet at 5907 Penn Avenue on the 3rd floor, at 4:00 PM, and hold a Solemn Procession to Eastminster Presbyterian Church. There will be a Potluck Repast, so please bring something to share if you can. A collection will be taken up for the trust fund we are setting up for her son. Womens Organizations should bring their banners or signs...There will be an opportunity to sign up for our Campaign for Ka'Sandra's Law Please RSVP and SHARE!
    RSVP: Facebook (or just show up)
    There will also be an online vigil tomorrow. Please click here for more information and to get a button for your blog/Facebook page/etc., like the one on the sidebar of our blog.

    You can also find information and resources on domestic abuse from the Women's Center & Shelter of Pittsburgh and The Center for Victims.

    Also from Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents (who initiated the cyber vigil):
    Finally, we ask that you mention that a fund has been set up for Zaire, Ka’Sandra’s son – donations can be sent to made payable to Sharon Jordan to this address: Sharon Jordan, c/o ACTION United, 5907 Penn Ave, Suite 300, Pittsburgh, PA 15206. Sharon is Ka’Sandra’s mother and she is now raising Zaire. The family may have other needs – please contact ACTION United if you would like to help. The number is 412-567-7275.