Democracy Has Prevailed.

September 30, 2013

"I can smell the booze wafting from members as they walk off the floor"

While voting to shut down the government Saturday night, apparently some of the House members weren't just drunk on power. From a Politico Congressional reporter:
And from a Buzzfeed reporter on Capitol Hill:
And before they even got drunk, they were already acting like drunken pigs:
[T]hey have added a “conscience clause” to the spending bill which takes away preventative care from women, which includes birth control.  
Friday afternoon, Republican John Culberson from TX got huge applause from his colleagues when he compared the GOP’s effort to destroy Obamacare to the heroes of 9/11. Culberson compared the House Repubs to the passengers on United Flight 93 who overtook the terrorists and got control of the plane on 9/11. Yes, Seriously.
This is your government on drugs Tea.

September 28, 2013

Scaife, The Trib, And The NIPCC

I don't think the editorial board fully understands the unintended irony of the opening of today's op-ed:
A new Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) report shows just how weak the case is for “man-made” global warming. Unlike United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, the NIPCC's 1,200-page report has no governmental sponsorship, freeing it from conclusions predetermined by politics. It comes from a consortium of The Heartland Institute, the Science & Environmental Policy Project and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.
So the funding of a report determines its outcome?  Maybe it's not that harsh.  Perhaps what they're saying is that the source sponsorship of a report can undermine the validity of that report.

The Guardian has some background info on the groups supporting the NIPCC:
The report is the latest in the Heartland Institute's "Climate Change Reconsidered" series and the cornerstone of its campaign against the IPCC's fifth assessment. Heartland is aggressively pushing the report in op-eds, blogs and in articles in conservative newspapers and news stations. Among others, it has received coverage in the Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph, The Washington Times and the UK's Daily Mail, in an article that had to be "significantly" changed due to errors.

Other groups participating in the report include the Science & Environmental Policy Project, a research and advocacy group founded by climate skeptic Fred Singer—who is also the director of Heartland's Science and Environmental Policy Project—and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an Arizona-based climate skeptic group partly funded by ExxonMobil.
Ok, so who sponsored the NIPCC report?  More specifically, who supports The Heartland Institute, The Science & Environmental Policy Project and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change?

You already know the answer but let's take a look anyway.  The NIPCC was set up by Fred Singer and

Let's start with The Heartland Institute.  Over the years it's received (among many others):
  • $555,000 from Exxon
  • $350,000 from the Sarah Scaife and Carthage Foundations
By the way, Fred Singer's also involved with the Science & Environmental Policy Project.
And how about the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change? It's received:
  • $75,000   from Exxon
  • $100,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation 
That's a million dollars right there.  So IF the sponsorship of a report can predetermine it's outcome, then why can't we assume the exact same thing about the NIPCC? Funny but Scaife's braintrust never says.

But let's look at some of the specific things in the op-ed:
Taking into account research ignored by or contrary to the IPCC's blame-mankind assumptions — and its latest report, unveiled on Friday, was no exception — the NIPCC report says “climate sensitivity to CO2 is much lower than (the IPCC's incomplete climate) models assume.”
And an explanation from skepticalscience:
The NIPCC report exclusively examines the literature published by climate "skeptics," whereas the IPCC report examines the work of both "skeptics" and mainstream climate scientists. For example, the 2011 NIPCC report has a section about climate sensitivity - how much the planet will warm in response to increasing CO2 emissions. Climate sensitivity is one of the most important climate science issues, especially for climate "skeptics", whose arguments for climate inaction depend entirely on low climate sensitivity. It tells us how much we can expect the planet to warm, depending on how much CO2 we emit in the future.

However, the 2011 NIPCC report only devoted one sub-section (and one page) to the subject of climate sensitivity, and only referenced four scientific studies on the subject (one of which is the debunked Lindzen and Choi [2009]; a second was specific to high-latitude, not global sensitivity; a third was published in a journal of dubious quality over a decade ago; and the fourth does not support low sensitivity). The IPCC report on the other hand devotes several sections to the subject (i.e. here and here and here) and references dozens of peer-reviewed studies investigating the question of climate sensitivity. It's a clear difference between comprehensive and selective reviews.
And then there's this:
It cites the stability of global temperatures since 1997, “despite an 8 percent increase in atmospheric CO2.”
As we already know, there's been no "stability" since 1998.  It's still getting warmer:
The year 1998 was remarkably warm relative to the underlying trend line, in association with the El Nino" of the century. But the underlying global temperature has continued to rise, despite the fact that solar irradiance for the past few years has been stuck in the deepest solar minimum in the period of satellite data.
And so on.

Peduto Campaign Kicks Off Today

September 27, 2013

Josh Wanders the Road Less Traveled to Election Day

There are many paths that one can travel as a candidate for elective office. Some running for mayor might give years of public service, put out 100 policy papers, knock on doors all over the city, and attend hundreds of community meetings -- others try a road less traveled...

Here's the one taken by Josh Wander, Republican nominee for Mayor of Pittsburgh:

August 2012
Do a creepy "mock interview with myself pre and post an Apocalyptic event...."
December 2012
Appear on a national television show referring to the city that you want to become mayor of as an "urban deathtrap." Also be filmed running around a park with your buds covered in fake blood--guns in hand--playacting your response to some catastrophic event.

January 2013
Publish a YouTube video pushing your government conspiracy theory:
"I see the government playing a sort of PSYOPs game against the 2nd Amendment lovers, against people that care about their rights of bearing arms. What I mean by that is that I think that they're trying to bait us. I think they're trying to get us riled up and they're trying to get one of us that's possibly on the edge to do a crazy act of desperation..."
April 2013
Do a local TV interview where all you do is bitch about how terrible Pittsburgh is and why no one would want to live here.
June 2013
Do a newspaper interview moaning about how no one takes your campaign seriously.
August 2013
Admit you're not in the race to win.

September 2013
Relate in an interview that you've sold your home, moved with your family to a foreign country, and "expects to return in time for the Nov. 5 election against Democrat Bill Peduto but would instruct campaign staff to assume his duties otherwise."

Have your press secretary resign citing law school commitments.
*** Obligatory Disclaimer: As everyone should know by now, I've been working part-time for People For Peduto since 2010

September 26, 2013

Fun With Math - Right Wing Style!

Today, our friends on the Tribune-Review editorial board went with this:
Confirming the disconnect between the empty-promise pretenses on which ObamaCare was sold and its real-world effects in practice is a new report from Medicare actuaries that says health spending in ObamaCare's first 10 years will be about $621 billion higher than it would be without that train wreck of a law. That's $7,450 more in health spending per family of four through 2022, according to Duke University health-policy expert Chris Conover, writing for The Apothecary, a Forbes blog.
$7,450?  that's a lot of money!  But of course, this is right wing math which almost always means it's misleading.  And misleading it is.  Here's how Conover came by that result, as quoted in Wonkette:
So I have taken the latest year-by-year projections [of additional health spending attributable to the Affordable Care Act], divided by the projected U.S. population to determine the added amount per person and multiplied the result by 4.
Makes sense, right?  Except it's extremely silly.  And here's why (from thinkprogress):
One economist interviewed by ThinkProgress, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ Paul Van de Water, described this calculation as one of the stupidest things he’s read in a long time and likened it to arguing that college costs will increase for a “typical” family if the federal government adopts policies that help lower-income Americans afford college education. Yes, the nation will spend more on education if more students enroll in colleges and universities, but the “typical” student already attending college won’t; she or he will continuing paying tuition at more or less the same rate, while the newly-enrolled student will presumably benefit from some sort of subsidized tuition rate.

The same is true here. The so-called “typical” family that Conover describes already receives health care insurance through their employer. The existence of 30 million newly-insured people — many of whom will receive tax credits if they purchase insurance in the law’s exchanges — won’t do much to move their premiums in one way or another. (Health advocates hope that the law will slow the rate of growth in health care spending, but that’s a long-term proposition.)
Thinkprogress has more on Conover's misleading math.  First from an MIT professor:
“This is a typically misleading use of data by opponents of Obamacare,” MIT’s Jonathan Gruber added. “The bottom line is that the government has consistently reported that Obamacare will raise national health spending by about 1 to 2 percent.” “This is a small fraction of the typical 5 to 7 percent annual growth rate in health care – and is a small price to pay for insuring 30 million or more Americans.”
And then in an update from Kenneth Thomas, a Poli-Sci professor from University of Missouri-St. Louis:
Forbes’ most-read story of the day (with over 26,000 Facebook shares and 3400 tweets as I write this) is simply false. Between all the new taxes and the premiums from the newly insured, you can cover the total increase in health care spending. The typical, already insured family isn’t going to see increases due to the rise in overall health care spending. You add 30 million new insured at a far lower cost than what we currently spend per person. And the editors didn’t catch a blatant error on present value.
You can read Thomas' entire debunking here.

All in all typical bad math from the same crowd that bad maths climate science.

September 23, 2013

PodCamp 2013!

I'm giving a PodCamp session this year.

It'll be on October 5 (which also happens to be the birthday of Chester A Arthur, Denis Diderot, Robert Goddard and, well ME) at 2:30 in the pm.

The session description:
In the wake of recent revelations by Eric Snowden and Glenn Greenwald about the world wide electronic surveillance carried out by the National Security Agency, what are the legal limits of our privacy online? What data have they been gathering, how have they been gathering it and what does that all mean?
Now all I gotta do is figure out how to say all that without being sent to Gitmo.

September 22, 2013

I Guess I Gotta Do This Again

How many "less than accurate" assertions can you spot in this latest from the Tribune-Review editorial board?
Not only did Barack Obama's IRS illegally target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status with hellish harassment, it engaged in clandestine surveillance of them even after its illegalities were exposed, investigators say. If it takes an old-fashioned public pillorying followed by tarring and feathering to bring the IRS to justice, then so be it. [Bolding in original.]
 Let's start with the IRS targeting.  We've already posted this from Salon, but it bears another read:
We already know that the IRS targeted progressive groups in addition to Tea Party ones, but new information released today adds further details, showing that the tax agency also targeted “ACORN successors” and left-leaning “Emerge” groups. Emerge Nevada, Emerge Maine and Emerge Massachusetts were the only groups to have their applications actually denied 501(c)4 tax-exempt status. Conservative groups had their applications delayed, in some cases for over a year, but not rejected outright.
The above was from late August of this year.  The link in the first sentence goes back two more months to June, 2013.  So we've known for a while that it wasn't only conservative groups that were targeted but liberal ones as well.  It's just that there were more conservative groups than liberal groups applying for tax-exempt status.

But let's take on some more recent reporting on this issue.  Here's what the AP reported a few days ago:
A May report by the IRS inspector general said the agency gave extra scrutiny to 298 groups when they applied for tax exempt status from the spring of 2010 to the spring of 2012. The vast majority of the groups — 248 — were conservative, while 29 were liberal and 21 were neither, according to an analysis by the Republican staff of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Of the 111 conservative groups that had their applications approved, 38 were flagged for additional monitoring, according to the staff review. Of the 20 liberal groups that had their applications approved, seven were flagged for additional monitoring.
Take another look at that last paragraph.  A little over 34% (38/111 = .342) of the conservative groups approved were flagged for further review while a whopping 35% (7/20=.35) of liberal groups approved were also flagged for further review.

And yet this story is about how the IRS targeted the tea-party.

But did it?  Further down the AP story we read this:
After the hearing, the IRS issued a statement saying that while some groups had been flagged for additional scrutiny in the future, that monitoring never took place because the program was put on hold this summer.

‘‘This means that none of them received special scrutiny,’’ the IRS said. ‘‘This precautionary step was done out of an abundance of caution and to ensure a fresh, independent evaluation to determine if these groups needed review at a future point in time. We are continuing to assess the situation going forward.’’ [Emphasis added.]
Now of course the IRS could be lying.  But still it's a long way from the assertion that they had "engaged in clandestine surveillance" now isn't it?

But what would that monitoring have looked like had it taken place?

Cue the next AP paragraph:
The monitoring, known as a review of operations, would have fallen short of a full audit in most cases. Under the program, agents monitor groups to assess whether they are adhering to the activities described in their applications for tax-exempt status.
So Scaife's braintrust is saying that nothing like this should ever be taking place?  As I've written before, it's not the scrutiny that's offensive, it's the way the scrutiny took place.  Legal monitoring of this is absolutely necessary.

But let's move on to another "less than accurate" assertion from Scaife's braintrust.  We can all read this from the AP:
So far, congressional investigators have shown that IRS supervisors in Washington knew that applications by tea party groups were being delayed for months and even years. However, investigators have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the IRS ordered the targeting or knew it was happening.
That would include, of course, the White House.  But that didn't stop the braintrust from calling it "Barrack Obama's IRS" did it?

And then finally:
The IRS has been under siege since May when agency officials acknowledged that agents working in a Cincinnati office had improperly targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Shortly after the revelation, President Barack Obama forced the acting IRS commissioner to resign and appointed Werfel to run the agency temporarily.

In August, Obama nominated John Koskinen, a retired corporate and government turnaround specialist, to a five-year term as commissioner. Werfel continues to run the agency while Koskinen awaits Senate confirmation.

Three congressional committees and the Justice Department have launched investigations, and much of the leadership at the IRS has been replaced.
The implication from the braintrust, of course, is that Barrack Obama's IRS has not yet been punished - because it's Barrack Obama's IRS.  And yet, in reality...

Did you get them all?

September 20, 2013

Scaife's Braintrust Must Be So Proud


Because they got fact-checked by Media Matters.

It's about this Tribune-Review op-ed from a few days ago and it's amazing how much the braintrust gets wrong.

(Well, maybe not so amazing, considering these are the same folks who've questioned the science of climate change repeatedly.  But I digress.)

Take a look.  This is what Mediamatters opened with:
Tribune-Review Described Common Core Education Standards As "Central Planning." In an editorial arguing that Common Core would dilute educational standards, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review stated that the practice would allow "a bureaucracy far removed from any school district" to control local education. It also claimed that the argument that Common Core sets "a floor of consistency" is "the same central-planning argument made by every education bureaucrat" since President Carter. [Bolding and Italics in original.]
HOWEVER, as Media Matters points out:
  • Common Core Standards Are State-Led Educations Standards 
  • Common Core Standards Are Not Mandatory
Do yerself a favor and read the rest.  It'll be an education in itself.

September 19, 2013

The Trib. Again. This Time It's ObamaCare. Again.

A few notes from today's Thursday Wrap:
Uh-oh, don't look now but the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, says it's time to scrap ObamaCare and start over. “Attack the costs first and then worry about expanding coverage,” he told Money Morning. Bottom line: If President Obama has lost the usually ardent support of Mr. Buffett, ObamaCare is a lost cause. [Bolding in original]
Uh-oh, don't look now but the crack research team at the Trib has done it again - or rather failed to do it.  Adequate research, that is.

Take a look at this from the Scaife supported Newsbusters:
When Warren Buffett proposed higher taxes on millionaires in 2011, the media gushed and fawned giving him and his views airtime as if Elvis Presley returned from the dead.

Will they be as fascinating by the Oracle of Omaha stating that ObamaCare should be scrapped? [Emphasis added.]
Before moving on, let's all note the use of the phrase "Oracle of Obama."  Good clue that this was the braintrust's source for their Thursday Wrap blurb.  Anyway, Newsbusters then quotes the Monday Morning piece:
"Attack the costs first, and then worry about expanding coverage," he said.
And so on.

So what's the problem?

This is the problem for the Trib.   It's what's posted above the story at Newsbusters:
Executive editor's note: Due to an error made by a secondary source, the piece below incorrectly claimed that Warren Buffett had called for the repeal of Obamacare in 2013. The interview which was cited actually took place in 2010. We regret the error.[Emphasis added.]
In fact, the Money Morning piece that Scaife's own Newsbusters page links to no longer contains that "Attack the costs..." quotation.

So let's sum up.  The Scaife's braintrust at the Trib uses a quote to assert that Warren Buffet thinks that "Obamacare should be scrapped" while another Scaife supported "news" source corrects itself and says that it's piece (one that used the same quotation) was incorrect in saying exactly the same thing.

Oh, and that "Attack the costs..." line was actually from 2010.

If you can't even get this stuff right, then what good are you at all?

Then there's this:
The New York Post reports that under ObamaCare, doctors will be required to ask you “Are you sexually active?” and “If so, with one partner, multiple partners or same-sex partners?” To which any true-blue American should respond, “Tell the president it's none of his (expletive deleted) business.”
What they didn't tell you is that it wasn't a report from the Post, it was a column by Betsy McCaughey.

And as Wonkette points out:
If there’s anyone we can trust for her expertise on health care policy, it’s Betsy McCaughey, the genius who decided that if Medicare pays for seniors to meet with a doctor to discuss living wills, that’s a DEATH PANEL.
And then Mediamatters elaborates:
As Wonkette pointed out, McCaughey offered no evidence for her claims that the ACA changes existing practices. In fact, despite her fearmongering, sexual history questions are routine medical practice. The Centers For Disease Control calls such questions "an important part of a regular medical exam or physical history" and recommends that "[a] sexual history needs to be taken during a patient's initial visit, during routine preventive exams, and when you see signs of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)." In fact, the very questions that McCaughey claims doctors will now be pressured to ask are the exact questions the CDC recommends doctors ask their patients.

In a post on The Incidental Economist, Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, accused McCaughey of inventing inaccurate "reasons to dislike Obamacare," pointing out that doctors ask about sexual history "because having multiple sexual partners greatly increases your risk of sexually transmitted infections. They're looking out for my health, and want to advise me best on how to manage it."
It's always amazing to me how Scaife's braintrust can get so much absolutely wrong in such a tiny space.  But once you fully grasp the depth and breadth of their various mendacities, how can you trust anything they have to say?

September 15, 2013

I've Been Waiting For This One...

Today on the op-ed page of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, we find this:
A funny thing has happened on the way to the polar ice caps melting and inundating our coastal cities. The National Snow and Ice Data Center says 1 million more square miles of ocean are covered in ice this year versus last. Which has prompted University of Wisconsin researcher Anastasios Tsonis to note that the Earth is in a cooling phase that could last for at least the next 15 years. And what do we say, class, upon learning of such news? All together now: “Throw another log on the fire, honey. It's getting cold outside.”[Bolding in original.]
The week old story popped up on a few facebook feeds as well.

However, Scaife's braintrust couldn't even get it's numbers right.  Here's the USAToday from three days ago:
Sea ice is frozen ocean water that melts each summer and then refreezes each winter. It typically reaches its smallest "extent" in September and largest in March of each year.

The data center reported Wednesday that the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to 1.98 million square miles on Tuesday. Last year, at its smallest point, the amount of sea ice shrank to 1.32 million square miles.
That's a difference of about 2/3 of a million square miles - the braintrust said it was a "million more."  Messy sloppy mistake, guys.  It's embarrassing to make such a simple mistake, doncha think?

Anyway, even if they got that simplest of facts right (which they didn't), they're still misleading you with a bit of a statistical fallacy.  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).  Here's the lede from the USAToday piece:
Sea ice in the Arctic will reach its annual minimum "any day now," says Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which tracks Arctic ice.

Although not nearly as ice-free as last September's all-time record low, the amount of Arctic sea ice in the summer of 2013 was well below average, and will likely go in the books as the sixth-smallest "extent" of Arctic sea ice on record,he says. [Emphasis added.]
In it's debunking of this story, was even good enough to add a chart from the NSIDC to show what's happening:

I guess the braintrust didn't bother to take a look at this chart from the very same source it uses as the foundation of it's most recent warm and steamy pile of anti-science.

See that light blue line?  That's this year.  The dotted line is last year and the darker grey is the average.  See how last year, while above last year, is still below the average?  Additionally, see how it's consistently below the 1981-2010 average?  See how what the climate deniers at the Trib and on Facebook are completely wrong?

Nor was this "recovery" unexpected.  Take a look at this from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science in the UK (Note: This is from August of last year):
Around 80% of the ~100 scientists at the Bjerknes conference thought that there would be MORE Arctic sea-ice in 2013, compared to 2012.
Again, in an informal poll of actual climate scientists last year, they thought there'd be more ice in the arctic this year than last.  And there was.

And about the research of Professor Tsonis.  Does the braintrust understand that he's already address (in relation to an earlier paper) his work on the supposed "cooling"?

Well, he has.  Here:
The contentious part of our paper is that the climate system appears to have had another “episode” around the turn of the 21st century, coinciding with the much discussed “halt” in global warming. Whether or not such a halt has really occurred is of course controversial (it appears quite marked in the HadCRUT3 data, less so in GISTEMP); only time will tell if it’s real. Regardless, it’s important to note that we are not talking about global cooling, just a pause in warming. [Bolding in original.]
And I think that about does it.

September 12, 2013

Yes, But...

A musicology professor once told a class I was in that every intelligent statement is a "Yes, but..." statement.  So let me start with this op-ed at the Tribune-Review and then proceed from there:
Colorado voters have recalled two heavily funded Democrat state legislators over stricter gun-control laws. Out are Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron. The good news is that you can mess with the Second Amendment only so much. The bad news is that Democrats still control the Centennial State's House and Senate. [Bolding in original.]
This is the story Scaife's braintrust finds so enthralling:
An epic national debate over gun rights in Colorado on Tuesday saw two Democratic state senators ousted for their support for stricter laws, a "ready, aim, fired" message intended to stop other politicians for pushing for firearms restrictions. Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron will be replaced in office with Republican candidates who petitioned onto the recall ballot.
But did you know that the recall effort itself was unpopular?  Take a look at this poll data from KWIN- uh-pe-ack University:
By wide margins, Colorado voters oppose efforts to recall two state legislators and say 2-1 that efforts to remove legislators when people don't agree with their vote should be when they face reelection, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Voters say 54 - 35 percent that State Senate President John Morse should not be removed from office because of his support for stricter gun control, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN- uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Voters also say 52 - 36 percent that State Sen. Angela Giron should not be recalled because of her support for stricter gun control.

Colorado voters say 60 - 31 percent that when people don't agree with a legislator, they should wait for reelection, rather than attempt a recall.

While Republicans support both recall efforts by margins of 2 - 1, only 47 percent support the overall concept of recall, while 42 percent say wait for reelection.

All voters oppose 54 - 40 percent the stricter new gun control laws which led to the recall effort. Democrats support the stricter laws 78 - 16 percent, while opposition is 89 - 7 percent among Republicans and 56 - 39 percent among independent voters. Women are divided on the stricter laws 48 - 45 percent, with men opposed 64 - 33 percent.

"With wide partisan and gender divisions, Colorado voters oppose the state's stricter new gun control laws, but they don't want to recall State Senate President John Morse or Sen. Angela Giron because they supported these laws," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Philosophically, voters don't want a recall election every time they disagree with a legislator. They'd rather deal with it every four years."
Mediamatters has two more things to ponder:
The Recall Turnout Was Extremely Low. A very small number of voters determined the recall election. In fact, voter turnout in Morse and Giron's districts were both substantially lower in the recall election compared to the 2010 state senate elections. Only 21 percent of 84,029 registered voters in Morse's district voted in the recall election. A mere 9,094 people voted in favor of recall; he lost his seat by a margin of 343 votes. Turnout was about 11,000 voters higher in Morse's 2010 senate election. Turnout in Giron's district was only 36 percent; 10,000 more people voted in her 2010 Senate election. Deriving national trends from low-turnout recall elections seems unwise.

Efforts To Recall Other Members Who Supported Stronger Gun Laws Failed. Opponents of stronger gun laws didn't intend to recall just Giron and Morse; they originally targeted two other lawmakers as well. But an effort to recall Sen. Evie Hudak was suspended by organizers three weeks before the deadline. And an effort to recall Rep. Mike McLachlan also failed when the Colorado Secretary of State reported that no signatures were turned in before a deadline. [Bolding in original.]
So yes, the two were recalled but I am not sure it all means what the braintrust wants you to think it means.

Just sayin'

September 8, 2013

An Election In Australia and Jerry Bowyer Makes A Silly

In contrasting the incumbent Kevin Rudd and the winner, Tony Abbot, Jerry Bowyer makes a number of points in this piece at  Among them this one:
Social policy: Abbott, a practicing Roman Catholic (and former seminarian), opposed calls for same sex marriage, while Rudd argued for it, with awkward attempts to link the Bible’s opposition to homosexuality with its alleged support for slavery.
Alleged, Jerry?  We need to take a look at that.

But first let's take a step back.  What Jerry's referring to is this Q and A with Rudd a week or so ago:

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
The pastor in the Brisbane audience asked the Prime Minister how he could support gay marriage "if you call yourself a Christian".

The Prime Minister responded by suggesting that line of thinking would also make slavery an acceptable proposition.

The pastor asked Mr Rudd: "Jesus said a man shall leave his father and mother and be married ... Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don't you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?"

"Well, mate if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition," Mr Rudd responded.

Mr Rudd's response received loud appaluse (sic) from the audience.

"Saint Paul said in the New Testament, 'slaves be obedient to your masters'," the Prime Minister continued.
I guess that's the part where Jerry Bowyer and Australia's ex-Prime Minister differ, hence the former's use of the adverb "allegedly."   But does Saint Paul actually say that?

Why, yes.  Yes, he does.  Ephesians 6:5-9:
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
He says almost exactly the same thing is said in Colossians 3:22-4:
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
But he's also not alone in The Good Book in allowing slavery.  It's also OK'ed in the Old Testament. As in Leviticus 25:44-46:
44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
So, slaves obey your masters as you would obey The Lord, masters don't threaten your slaves as The Lord won't like it.  Israelites can own slaves, just as long as the other Israelites they own (temporarily) are not treated "ruthlessly."

I'm thinking we're way past "allegedly" on this one, aren't we Jerry?

I mean, correct me if I am wrong, please.  How do these texts say anything otherwise?  Show me the "allegedly."

Jack Kelly Sunday

I have assumed that the standard operating procedure for right wing pundits is to simply assert something as true and trust that few readers in the audience would bother to check the facts.

This assumption is not at all challenged by these paragraphs found in today's Jack Kelly column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
We must intervene in the civil war in Syria because "if a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity," it would set a bad example for others, Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday.

Secretary Kerry's moral outrage would have been more moving if Sen. Kerry -- who met with the Syrian dictator six times and urged "engagement" with his regime -- hadn't said so many kind things about Mr. Assad in the recent past.

And Secretary Kerry's assertion that the use of chemical weapons justifies U.S. military intervention would be more persuasive if Sen. Kerry hadn't taken the opposite stance. Many more were killed when Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurdish village of Halabja than in the sarin gas attack in a Damascus suburb Aug. 21, but Sen. Kerry didn't think that justified U.S. intervention in Iraq.
By the way, I am leaning against any sort of intervention into Syria, but I am conflicted.  On the one hand something has to be done to punish a regime that uses chemical weapons, on the other I can't see anything good coming out of it.  By hurting the Assad regime, we'd end up helping the rather nasty folks he's fighting.  Given the "law" of unintended consequences, I'm sure lotsa bad stuff would follow - all with our name on it.  But doing nothing seems wrong as well.

So you see my issue.

But let's get back to Jack.  He's contrasting Secretary of State Kerry's response to Syria's use of gas with the then Senator Kerry's "opposite stance" regarding Saddam Hussein's use of gas in Halabja in 1988.  In doing so, he leaves out a few things:
  • As Senator Kerry cosponsored SR 408 - a condemnation of Iraq's use of chemical weapons.
  • Iraq was an ally of ours at that time during the Iran-Iraq war.
Hmm...military intervention with an ally.  That's what Jack thinks Senator Kerry should have been calling for back in 1988 in order for Secretary Kerry to sound credible now.

But let's take a deeper look at Halabja in 1988.  First some background from Foreign Policy:
In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq's favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration's long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn't disclose.
By 1988, U.S. intelligence was flowing freely to Hussein's military. That March, Iraq launched a nerve gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja in northern Iraq.
According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like [Air Force Col. Rick] Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983.
And yet at the same time:
President Reagan yesterday condemned the use of outlawed chemical weapons in the Persian Gulf war, especially against the Kurdish minority in Iraq, and called for new global ban on such warfare.

"We condemn it," Reagan told the 43rd General Assembly in his final speech to the world body as president. "The use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war - beyond its tragic human toll - jeopardises the moral and legal strictures that have held these weapons in check since World War I."

Reagan indirectly criticized Iraq's use of poison gas against Iraqi Kurds and Iranians. He cited the Kurdish area of Halabja in Iraq and Maidan Shahr on the border as "terrible new names added to the roll call of human horror."
Something that's been known for more than a decade:
A covert American program during the Reagan administration provided Iraq with critical battle planning assistance at a time when American intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles of the Iran-Iraq war, according to senior military officers with direct knowledge of the program.
So yea, Secretary of State Kerry's the one whose credibility should be questioned here.

By the way, Jack Kelly was an deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan Administration - starting in December 1983.  Considering that the Reagan Administration had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks since, well, more or less exactly when Jack started working for it, did he know that the Reagan was lying through its teeth when his administration was both aiding Iraq's use of chemical weapons and yet condemning it all at the same time?

September 6, 2013

Really? Objective NEWS From The Trib?

I saw this commercial a few days ago:

The text (the best of what I could make of it):
"...reporting the truth.  We ask the tough questions and never give up until we've covered the complete story and then report it to you.  Accurately.  Sure we lean to the right on our editorial [...] but when it comes to hard news, right down the middle.  The Trib.  Conservative views, objective views.  Get it right.  Now.
Ok, fine.  So they're promising "objective" news reporting "the complete story" while admitting to "lean[ing] right" on the op-ed page.

So what should we make of this recent news coverage:
The head of a conservative think tank said Wednesday that withholding funding for President Obama's health care overhaul could halt some government services, but it's worth the political risk.

“The reason we're not wincing on that is because the alternative is really, really serious,” former South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, president of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, said during a meeting with Tribune-Review editors and reporters.
If Tom Fontaine (the reporter of this story) was giving us "the complete story" then why didn't he mention that his boss (ie the owner of the paper he works for, Richard Mellon Scaife)  is vice chairman of the Board of Trustees for the very foundation he's covering?

Or that foundations his boss controls have given tens of millions of dollars to the Heritage Foundation?

Or that the idea for the individual mandate actually came from the Heritage Foundation?

That's right.  That part might need some further explaining so here's Avik Roy (Romney advisor and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute) writing at
James Taranto, who writes the Wall Street Journal’s excellent “Best of the Web” column, put forth a lengthy and informative discussion yesterday on the conservative origins of the individual mandate, whose inclusion in Obamacare is today its most controversial feature on the Right.
And those "conservative origins" are described by Taranto at the above link at the Wall Street Journal:
Heritage did put forward the idea of an individual mandate, though it predated HillaryCare by several years. We know this because we were there: In 1988-90, we were employed at Heritage as a public relations associate (a junior writer and editor), and we wrote at least one press release for a publication touting Heritage’s plan for comprehensive legislation to provide universal “quality, affordable health care.”
So why wasn't any of this mentioned in a news report outlining the Heritage Foundation's resistance to Obamacare?  Especially a news report that included:
DeMint thinks it will drive up health care costs and insurance premiums.

He said the national tour is the largest effort of its kind by Heritage. Its political arm, Heritage Action for America, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads targeting several Republican congressmen who have not gotten on board with plans to defund the health care law — including Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who called defunding the plan the “dumbest idea I've ever heard.”

The effort is being tied to a government funding bill that expires Sept. 30. Congress needs to pass legislation, including money for the law, or risk letting parts of the federal government shut down.

“I don't care if the government shuts down. It's no good anyway. Obamacare has to go,” said Michele Zolnier, who drove from Hermitage in Mercer County, to attend the town hall meeting.
Complete story?

Sorry, Tom.  Not today.

September 4, 2013

Tracking Teh Crazie At WND

Teh Crazie's still at it.

Take a look at this opening paragraph from Bob Unruh over at World Net Daily:
Let’s see, under Barack Obama the IRS targeted conservatives and Christians with harassment, dozens of “czars” were appointed, Arizona was sued for trying to enforce federal immigration laws, the government refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and the National Security Agency spied on Americans.
If ever you need to know what teh rightwing crazies are thinking, WND is the place to go to find out.  From his opening, Unruh goes on to more about the IRS "target[ing] conservatives" and the poll data showing growing support for impeachment because of it.

It's only when you take a look at the question asked in the poll do you see the fakery going on.  Here's the question:
Under President Obama, the Internal Revenue Service has targeted conservative nonprofit groups for special scrutiny, including audits, which hampered those groups from organizing to oppose him and other Democrats in the 2012 elections. Do you agree or disagree that President Obama should be impeached for his handling of this situation?
The only problem with this push poll question is its entire premise.

Take a look at this from Salon from August 20:
We already know that the IRS targeted progressive groups in addition to Tea Party ones, but new information released today adds further details, showing that the tax agency also targeted “ACORN successors” and left-leaning “Emerge” groups. Emerge Nevada, Emerge Maine and Emerge Massachusetts were the only groups to have their applications actually denied 501(c)4 tax-exempt status. Conservative groups had their applications delayed, in some cases for over a year, but not rejected outright.
Think of what that means for the poll question.  If the initial premise is incorrect (as it is here) then all of the data that follows is also incorrect.

And for this teh crazies want to impeach.

September 3, 2013

How The GOP Lies

Subtly, very subtly.

Take a look at this from Talkingpointsmemo:
Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is touting his support for the Violence Against Women Act — even though the Republican Senate minority leader has a consistent record of voting against the anti-domestic violence legislation.
Um, what?  How can they possibly do that honestly?

Here's how:
A press packet that McConnell’s spokeswoman distributed to reporters at a Friday event titled “Women For Team Mitch” features testimonials from Kentucky women. One of them caught the eye of Joe Sonka, a reporter for the Louisville-based LEO Weekly, who posted it on Twitter.

The quote, attributed to a woman named Angela Leet in Jefferson County, read, “Mitch was the co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act- and continues to advocate for stronger policies to protect women. I am proud to call him my senator.”
You'll note the word "original" in the tweet.  That's how they get to say that the guy who's consistently voted against VAWA gets to look like he supports it.

A few more things to note about McConnell's support of the bill.  According to this page from Thomas, the principal sponsor of the bill was a certain Senator from Delaware: Joe Biden.

Yes, the same Joe Biden who's now President Obama's Vice-President.

Gee, that being the case, I wonder why didn't the McConnell campaign say he "co-sponsored Vice-President Joe Biden's original Violence Against Women Act"?

By the time the bill was reintroduced - in 1993 with a Democrat in the White House, (a coincidence, no doubt), McConnell voted against it.

This is how they get to lie.

September 1, 2013

The Brainstrust Dazzles Us With Its Command Of The Facts. Again.

We'll start with what they published today:
Speaking of guns, a new Harvard study concludes that more gun control does not necessarily lead to lower death rates (homicide and suicide) or violent crime. “(T)hose correlations are not observed when a large number of nations are compared around the world,” the study says. Translation: That dog won't hunt. [Bolding in original.]
Do you see the fifth word in that? It's the word "new" and its meaning should be obvious to everyone even remotely conversant in English.

Now let's go to the "study" they call "new"  Here it is.  It's volume 30 of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and according to the HJLPP's website, this article was published in the Spring of 2007.

How, exactly, is that "new"?

And is this really a Harvard study (new or otherwise)?  Depends on how you define "Harvard study" I guess.  As stated above, it's from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy ( - but what is that, exactly?

First, you'll note that the URL ends with a ".com" rather than a ".edu" like say where the Harvard School of Public Health publishes its Firearms data ( See the .edu?  That means it's from Harvard University.

On the other hand, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy describes itself as:
[A]n organization of Harvard Law School students. The Journal is one of the most widely circulated student-edited law reviews and the nation’s leading forum for conservative and libertarian legal scholarship.
So we're not exactly talking peer-reviewed social science here, are we?  From there you can decide for yourself whether that constitutes or subverts the notion of this paper being a study from Harvard.

And so are there any actual studies published in the peer-reviewed Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy that look at whatever connection that may exist between the number of firearms and homicide?

I am so glad you asked.  Take a look at what's available on this page:
Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

Hepburn, Lisa; Hemenway, David. Firearm availability and homicide: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal. 2004; 9:417-40. [Bolding and italics in original.]
But let's look at some of the facts presented by the paper being touted by Scaife's braintrust.

On page 652, there's a table titled:
Table 1: European Gun Ownership and Murder Rates
And this table tells us that the tiny country of Luxembourg had, in 2002, a murder rate of about 9 per 100,000 people. That means that given a population of about 500,000 there were would have been about 45 homicides in 2002, right?  It's such a prominent "fact" that it's presented prominently in the text:
These countries, however, have murder rates as low or lower than many developed nations in which gun ownership is much rarer. For example, Luxembourg, where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002.
This must've come as a surprise to the researchers who compiled the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  Their Eighth Survey covered the years 2001-2002 and their data shows that Luxembourg had a total number of 4 homicides in 2002 or a rate of .9 per 100,000 inhabitants.

4 not 45.  0.9 not 9.01.  (It's on page 185 of this document if you want to check my work.)

Shabby work.  Old(ish) shabby work, too!

Now go back and look at what Scaife's braintrust wrote.  How valid do YOU think it is?