Democracy Has Prevailed.

November 30, 2013

What The Port Authority Doesn't Want You To See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

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


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

This piece of music.

Lyrics are here.

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

November 27, 2013


(Via TBogg at Raw Story)

I have a question!

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

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

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

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

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

November 26, 2013

The Thanksgiving Socialism Hoax (UPDATED TWICE)

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

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

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

And it's total bunk, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is the story of Amurika they support?

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

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

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

November 25, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both of you.

November 23, 2013

More On Birther Diana West And The Trib

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

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

Yea.  I know.  That's funny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 20, 2013

On That Gettysburg Snub - With A Local Connection!

Much has been written in the last few days about President Obama and his "snubbing" of the ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  CNN's Ashley Killough even posted this analysis of that decision:
As Pennsylvania gears up to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on Tuesday, one prominent Abraham Lincoln fan won't be in attendance: President Barack Obama.

The National Park Service announced a few weeks ago the President won't be part of the activities commemorating the historic speech, and critics have since assailed Obama for skipping the event.
And who's the first critic assailing Obama?  The Trib's own Selena Zito:
"It would be an occasion for him to honor a crucial time in our past, to create a historical bridge to today," Salena Zito, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer, wrote in a column.

"His dismissal of the request shows a man so detached from the duty of history, from the men who served in the White House before him, that it is unspeakable in its audacity," Zito added. "Ask almost any person in this historic town; even his most ardent supporters here are stunned." [Emphasis added.]
Missing, of course, from Zito's column is any sort of historical context - an omission also found in some of the regular news coverage of the event at the Trib.  Here's Mike Wereschagin:
Several of the new citizens said they'd been told President Obama would attend the ceremony. Instead, a National Park Ranger read a brief speech from the president and a message he recorded for the 16 new citizens was played.

Obama's decision not to appear “made him look bad,” said Mike Wood, 39, of Chesterfield, Mich. He should have come “just to show his respect,” said Wood, a re-enactor with the 7th Michigan Cavalry and author of the nonfiction Civil War book “Tuebor.”
And what was this omission of context?  Take a look:
But Obama's decision not to attend the Gettysburg commemoration ceremony is typical for a sitting president. President Reagan did not attend the 125th commemoration of the Gettysburg Address - in fact, Reagan never visited Gettysburg during his tenure in office. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also never visited the battlefield as president, and President George W. Bush toured the site in 2008, but did not speak or attend a commemoration ceremony. In fact, according to Hanover, Pennsylvania's local paper, The Evening Sun, William Howard Taft was the only sitting president to ever visit the site on the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address
That's right - Ronald Wilson Reagan never visited Gettysburg during his entire tenure in office and didn't attend the 125th commemoration of the speech.

Can we get that Civil War re-enactor declare that it made Reagan "look bad" by not showing?  Or  how it shows Reagan's disrespect?  Can we get Selena Zito to go on record saying that Reagan's unspeakably audacious failure to attend the 125th commemoration shows his detachment from the duty of history, from the men who served in the White House before him?

Yea, I didn't think so either.

November 19, 2013

So Sad. So Unbelievably Sad

News from The Trib:
Two of WPGB-104.7's original hosts no longer work there.

On Monday, Clear Channel Media + Entertainment Pittsburgh spokeswoman Kathryn Ferri said conservative broadcasters Jim Quinn and Rose Somma-Tennent were replaced with David Bloomquist, known on WWVA-1170 in Wheeling as “Bloomdaddy.”

“WPGB tried to reach new terms with Jim Quinn and Rose Tennent, but as that was unsuccessful,” Ferri emailed, “they will be moving on and we support and thank them for the contributions they have made.”

Quinn and Tennent could not be reached for comment.
And and this is strange because they usually won't shut up.

From their website:
As we have new information, we will keep you posted at on the front page. Be sure to check in there periodically for updates.

Our commitment has been, and will always be, to conservative values and to this great country of ours.

Rest assured, we will be back on the air!
So they're out of work.  I wonder if they're going on unemployment (and somehow or other become like the rest of the lazy 47% who mooch off of hard working Amurikuns like me).  As one astute reader said in an email:
Ordinarily, I feel bad about anyone losing his/her job. Hard to care quite so much in this case, though.
Now, why would that be?

Let's look at some of Quinn and Rose's greatest hits.  There was this from 2008 where, in making a point about guv'ment dependency made an analogy to something completely different:
You know, if you were a slave in the old South, what did you get as a slave? You got free room and board, you got free money, and you got rewarded for having children because that was just, you know, tomorrow's slave. So, you got a free house, you got free money, and you got rewarded for having children. Can I ask a question? How's that different from welfare? You get a free house, you get free food, and you get rewarded for having children. Oh, wait a minute, hold on a second. There is a difference: The slave had to work for it.
Yea, he apologized for that one - well, kinda sorta apologized. While he said he still believed his point was valid, it was only the way he made it that was offensive.

Um, ok.

Then there was this from Rose about how President Obama might be, you know, the prince of darkness:
All the insects and the rodents come out for this man, or something. They're attracted to him. I think it's like - you know, like, those devil movies, because, you know, like they're - like they're attracted to the devil or something. I'm just saying.
Then there was this call for violent revolution:
Discussing health care reform, Jim Quinn stated, "You have got to say no to this, and if they push this through, you need to riot in the streets. You need to riot in the streets." He further said, "Our country was built on revolution and it's about time we took it back. These people are dangerous," and, "It's about time to put an end to this leftist control of this country, and if a revolution is what it takes, damn it, then that's what it's going to take, because liberty will not be denied." [The War Room with Quinn and Rose, 9/10/09]
 And then this from this month - their website says it was read on the air November 7, 2013:
James Manning recently interviewed a high school friend of Barack Obama, who claims to have known him back in the 1970s as Barry Soetoro. Mia Marie Pope says that Obama identified himself as a foreigner and a crack-smoking homosexual.
Yea, I am thinking the nation's airwaves have just gotten (on average) slightly less crazie with Quinn and Rose no longer polluting them.

November 17, 2013

Jack Kelly Sunday

Well, it's been 10 days since I posted this.  That was the blog post where I pointed out how the CBS Benghazi "story" that the P-G's Jack Kelly built his entire column on had been retracted by CBS.

When will the column be retracted by Jack Kelly?  I asked but to no avail, it seems.  So far, it's still up - and with no correction or anything to indicate an update to reflect the reality of the situation - that CBS retracted the 60 Minutes Benghazi story.

So what does the Post-Gazette's Jack Kelly do today?

Opens up with another debunked CBS "news" story:
The personal information you give to “is protected by stringent security standards,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Not so.

“Software experts tell CBS News they have identified multiple security issues,” Jan Crawford reported Nov. 5. “We gave one technology expert the real user name of a CBS employee. Within seconds, he identified the specific security question she selected to reset her password.”

“Four days before the launch the government … granted itself a waiver to launch the website,” said CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson. “The final required top-to-bottom security tests never got done.”

The top operations officer for the Obamacare websites told the House Oversight Committee that he was never given a Sept. 3 memo that detailed six security problems which pose “limitless” risk.
This is the CBS report to which the intrepid Jack is referring.  That last paragraph, however, refers a subsequent CBS report by Attkisson - and that's where the whole thing falls apart.

The public debunking happened in public at a Congressional hearing four days ago on November 13:

Here's my transcript of the discussion between Representative Gerald Connolly and Henry Chao (the top operations officer for the Obamacare websites, Kelly's referring to) and starting at about 1:44 in we hear:
CONNOLLY: Mr. Chao, during your interview with committee staff on November 1, you were presented with a document you had not seen before. And it was entitled "Authority to Operate," signed by your boss on September 3, 2013, is that correct?

CHAO: Correct.

CONNOLLY: The Republican staffers told you during that interview that this document indicated there were two open high-risk findings in the federally facilitated marketplace launched October 1. Is that correct?

CHAO: Correct.

CONNOLLY: This surprised you at the time.

CHAO: Can I just qualify that a bit? It was dated September 3 and it was referring to two parts of the system that were already--

CONNOLLY: You are jumping ahead of me. We are going to get there. So when you were asked questions about that document, you told the staffers you needed to check with officials at CMS who oversee security testing to understand the context, is that correct?

CHAO: Correct.

CONNOLLY: The staffers continued to ask you questions, nonetheless, and then they - or somebody - leaked parts of your transcript to CBS Evening News, is that correct?

CHAO: Seems that way.

CONNOLLY: Mmm. Since that interview, have you had a chance to follow up on your suggestion to check with CMS officials on the context?

CHAO: I have had some discussions about, uh, the nature of the high findings that were in the document.

CONNOLLY: Right. And this document it turns out, discusses only the risks associated with two modules, one for dental plans and one for the qualified health plans, is that correct?

CHAO: Yes.

CONNOLLY: And neither of those modules is active right now, is that correct?

CHAO: That's correct.

CONNOLLY: So the September 3 document did in fact, not apply to the entire federally facilitated marketplace despite the assertions of the leak to CBS notwithstanding, is that correct?

CHAO: That's correct.

CONNOLLY: And these modules allow insurance companies to submit their dental and health plan information to the marketplace is that correct?

CHAO: Correct.

CONNOLLY: That means that those modules do not contain or transmit any personally identifiable information on individual consumers, is that correct?

CHAO: Correct.

CONNOLLY: So to be clear, these modules don't transmit any specific user information, is that correct?

CHAO: Correct.

CONNOLLY: So when CBS Evening News ran its report based on a leak, presumably from the majority staff, but we don't know, of a partial transcript, expert- excerpts from a partial transcript, they said the security issues raised in the document, and I quote, "could lead to identity theft among buying insurance," that cannot be true based on what we just established in our back and forth, is that correct?

CHAO: That's correct. I think there was some rearrangement of the words that I used during the testimony in how it was portrayed and-.

CONNOLLY: So to just summarize, correct me if I'm wrong, the document leaked to CBS Evening News didn't in fact not relate to parts of the website that were active on October 1. They did not relate to any part of the system that handles personal consumer information, and there, in fact, was no possibility of identity theft, despite the leak.

CHAO: Correct.

CONNOLLY: Thank you, Mr. Chao. I yield back. [Emphases added.]
Seeing that Jack has yet to correct the record of his flawed CBS sourced Benghazi column, I don't have much faith that he'll be correcting the record of this flawed CBS sourced Affordable Health Care security risk column anytime soon.

November 13, 2013

Hey, Ma! Look At ME!

From the Daily Kos:
New report by Keystone Progress unveils Commonwealth Foundation and Allegheny Institute as part of web of groups pushing national corporate agenda at the expense of Pennsylvania’s middle class

(HARRISBURG, PA)— Keystone Progress and the Center for Media and Democracy released a new report today that exposes how two nominally independent tanks—the Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute—are taking their cues from right wing funders, the Republican Party and the agenda established by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The report, entitled “The Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute: Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?” exposes the relationship of far-right State Policy Network (SPN) to both groups. SPN is a web of conservative state-based think tanks across the United States. In addition to its state think tank affiliates, many other national right-wing organizations are associate members of SPN, including the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Cato Institute, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. [Bolding in original]
You can take a look at the report here.

And on page 17 you can read this:
Scaife has been accused of using his newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, to promote conservative principles through the Allegheny Institute’s comments and research.clvii The Tribune-Review has failed to state its conflict of interests when quoting an Allegheny Institute official or using research from the Institute.clviii In August, 2013, at least five articles cited the Allegheny Institute, including a “puff piece,” promoting Institute president Jake Haulk.clix None of them mentioned the connections between the Tribune-Review and the Institute.clx

In August 2012, the progressive Pennsylvania blog “Two Political Junkies” accused the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review of not reporting a story due to its connections to the Scaife familyclxi. [Links included back to 2PJ and self-serving emphasis added.]
Needless say, the report's a good read.  The report's authors do a great job describing the financial twining between Scaife and both the Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute.

They also point out the connections between the Commonwealth Foundation, Allegheny Institute and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Did you know Scaife had a hand in the foundation of ALEC?

We wrote about it here, citing the Washington Post, from May 2, 1999:
Scaife has given ALEC more than $2 million since 1975, keeping the group alive in its early years. Now his donations ($75,000 last year) are an insignificant part of its budget. [Emphasis added.]
Awkward kung fu moves!

November 12, 2013

More On The Rev. Marietta Ewing And His Decalog

It's been a while since I blogged on this story and there've been a few developments.

First, let's congratulate the South Connellsville Council for doing the right thing (or at least for not doing the wrong thing)  From Marc Hofmann of The Trib:
Almost a year after the ongoing controversy surrounding the Ten Commandments monument started in Connellsville, South Connellsville council made a decision about an offer to place a monument in the borough.

During Monday's regular meeting, Councilman Clyde Martz said he received communication from the Rev. Ewing Marietta, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, about placing a Ten Commandments monument at the South Connellsville Honor Roll.
There's Reverend Marietta again. This can't be good.  A few paragraphs later:
South Connellsville had to vote on placing a monument at the honor roll, a borough-owned property.

“We were advised by our solicitor to definitely not do that,” Martz said, adding the advice came from the fact that the issue has not been resolved with the school district in their ongoing legal battle and it would mostly likely end with a lawsuit against the borough. “That will put the borough in risk that we don't need at this time.”

Council unanimously voted against placing the monument at the honor roll. Council President Mark Ward did not attend Monday's meeting.
Good for them.  What's conveniently (and insultingly) left out of Hofmann's reporting is that while it's true that Connellsville's case has not yet been resolved, the question as to whether the Ten Commandments can be posted at a public school has been.  By the United States Supreme Court.  33 years ago:
This is not a case in which the Ten Commandments are integrated into the school curriculum, where the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like. Posting of religious texts on the wall serves no such educational function. If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.
Hofmann's piece implies that the issue of posting the Commandments in a public school "has not been resolved" which is simply untrue.  Not permissible in 1980.  Not permissible now.  Posting The Commandments on private property is not the question here no matter how much goalpost moving is tried.  Something the good reverend doesn't seem to understand.  In a recent letter to the editor, he writes:
Because one person objected to the 1957 Ten Commandments monument at the Connellsville Junior High, residents have been awakened. We are offended because it is God's word. It also is the free-speech rights of the members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles who placed the Decalog, the students, the citizens of Connellsville, Nomalville, Dunbar, Dunbar Township, Bullskin Township, South Connellsville, White, Juanita and every other town in Connellsville Area School District to keep the commandments there. This county is made up of mostly Christians who will not back down, will not sit down and cower to some bully telling us that we cannot tell our children about the Christian heritage of the United States.
Reverend, it's not because "one person objected" and it's not a free-speech issue for those who want to sidestep the Constitution and impose their particular metaphysics onto everyone else.  It's about our secular government being fair to everyone.  Everyone not just the largest group of bullies who are offended because everyone doesn't agree with them.

Doesn't The Lord dislike liars who sow discord in a community?

November 11, 2013

More On David Horowitz And The Trib

Yea, we all know where this one's going.

Take a look at this from Eric Heyl and The Trib:
Conservative writer David Horowitz is the founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a California think tank, and the editor of FrontPage Magazine. Horowitz spoke to the Trib regarding the publication last week of the first volume of a planned 10-book series, “The Black Book of the American Left.”
As I said, we all know where this one's going.

Completely unmentioned in this interview with Horowitz are the millions upon millions of dollars the three foundations (Allegheny, Carthage and Sarah Scaife Foundations) controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife have poured into the coffers of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

How much, you ask?

According to the Bridgeproject, upwards of $7.7 million.  That's out of about $21.4 million of total foundation money listed.  It's more than a third of all the foundation money Horowitz has gotten over the years.  More than a third from the owner of the paper that's interviewing him for this puff piece.

Regardless of what's actually said in the interview, the omission of such a detail effectively erases any credibility it has.

It's been a while since I've written this, but it still holds: the circle jerk continues.

November 10, 2013

Memo To State Senator Kim Ward

Interesting what tumbles out of the interwebs, ain't it?

First, we start here, at the Trib Whispers column:
GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN. Singer Cyndi Lauper apparently could use a civics lesson.

After learning that state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, was in the audience for her Nov. 3 concert at Greensburg's Palace Theatre, Lauper pointed out that a senator was there and said that if ObamaCare is good enough for the public, it's good enough for legislators, then complained about the federal government shutdown.

Ward said the dig came right after Lauper sang “True Colors.”

Ward wasn't ruffled in the least, but noted that Lauper did not realize Ward is a state , not U.S., senator and had nothing to do with ObamaCare or the shutdown.

“It was cool to be recognized by a famous liberal who can really sing, even if she doesn't know the difference between state and federal government,” said Ward, adding that the concert was great.
I wasn't at that concert so I have no way of knowing whether any of this is true - but neither does the Trib, does it?  Take a look at that second paragraph.  DID Ms Lauper actually say that?  And if they did, then how do they know?

They write it up as if it's common knowledge.  However, it all comes from State Senator Ward's Facebook page:

This would have been a good time for State Senator Ward to correct Cyndi Lauper's Obamacare error - but Ward didn't.   She should know that this is simply untrue.  But she doesn't. When one commenter posits with the curiously convoluted:
Seems Cyndi is a confused little liberal. Exactly who's idea was it to exempt themselves from the abomination of obamacare?
Hempfield's State Senator responds with:
I'm pretty sure that the folks who mandated Obamacare on all of us are the ones who exempted themselves.
The only problem?

Congress is not exempt from the Obamacare:
For many years, Congress chose from a variety of insurance plans offered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which serves more than 8 million federal and retired workers and their dependents.

That stops in January, when lawmakers and some staff will be required instead to pick from plans on the health care law’s new exchanges — now known as marketplaces.

That’s because Congress faces a specific Obamacare provision forcing lawmakers from their current plans into new marketplaces — something that doesn’t apply to other Americans. [Emphases added.]
It is most disappointing (if not downright embarrassing) for a Pennsylvania State Senator to get this one so wrong.

November 8, 2013

Question For The Post-Gazette and Jack Kelly

Now that this:
There was a large crack Sunday night in the wall of silence the “mainstream” media have erected around the events in Benghazi on the night of 9/​11/​2012.

CBS broadcast on its “60 Minutes” program a segment that featured an interview with one of the eyewitnesses to the attack on our consulate the Obama administration has been trying to hide from congressional investigators.

He is “Morgan Jones.”
(For those who might still not know, Morgan Jones is the pseudonym of one Dylan Davies.)

Well, it turns out that what Jack Kelly was talking about turns out not to be completely true:
LARA LOGAN: Good morning Norah, well. You know the most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth and today the truth is that we made a mistake, and that's very disappointing for any journalist. It's very disappointing for me. Nobody likes to admit that they made a mistake, but if you do, you have to stand up and take responsibility and you have to say that you were wrong, and in this case we were wrong. We made a mistake. And how did this happen?

Well, Dylan Davies worked for the State Department in Libya. He was the manager of the local guard force at the Benghazi special mission compound, and he described for us his actions that night, saying that he had entered the compound and he had a confrontation with one of the attackers, and he also said that he had seen the body of Ambassador Chris Stevens in a local hospital. And after our report aired, questions were raised about whether his account was real.

After an incident report surfaced that told a different story about what he'd done that night. And, you know, he denied that report. And he said that he told the FBI the same story that he had told us, but what we now know is that he told the FBI a different story to what he told us. And, you know, that was the moment for us when we realized that we no longer had confidence in our source, and that we were wrong to put him on air, and we apologize to our viewers.
CNN has more:
On Thursday a U.S. official told CNN that there were discrepancies between the contractor's accounts to the FBI and CBS, although the official did not specify them.

A second U.S. official told CNN the same thing Friday.

The New York Times, citing two senior government officials, reported Thursday that the contractor told the FBI he did not go the Benghazi compound on the night of the attack.
And so CBS has apologized said that they were wrong for using Morgan Jones/Dylan Davies as a source.

And so now I am wondering, considering the fact that CBS has effectively retracted the story, when will Jack Kelly?

ENDA In Da House!

First the news:
The Senate voted Thursday to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, landmark civil rights legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT individuals in the workplace.

The final vote was 64-32, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats. The Republican senators backing the legislation were cosponsors Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), along with Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
You'll note that Pennsylvania's very own Pat Toomey voted for the bill.  We'll get back to him in a little bit.

But what is this ENDA bill?  You can read the Congressional Research Service summary here, if you like.  Or, Ed O'Keefe has a more prose-worthy explanation here. O'Keefe writes:
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would ban employers from firing, refusing to hire or discriminating against workers or job applicants based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pointing out that:
Currently 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Seventeen states and the District also bar discrimination based on sexual identity. Maryland passed a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2001; Virginia has no laws regarding sexual orientation or gender identity on the books.
ENDA is Federal legislation that would cover all the states (even Virginia).

So how does our friend Pat Toomey enter into this discussion?

He proposed an amendment whose stated purpose was to:
To strike the appropriate balance between protecting workers and protecting religious freedom.
But in reality it would have expanded the "religious" exemptions so broadly as to effectively weaken the whole legislation.  As Jonathan Tomari at explains:
Under Toomey's plan, exemptions from the ban would cover organizations managed by a church or religious group, those formally affiliated with a particular religion, or those that teach a curriculum directed toward propagating a particular religion.

His amendment specifies that the exemption includes groups that don't primarily engage in religious work - for example, a school that teaches religion only a few hours a week, or a hospital affiliated with a religious group.
Any expansion of the "religious" exemption means, of course, more LGBT employees being shown the door.

The amendment was voted down 43-55.

In spite of that, as we stated above, Toomey voted for ENDA.  Good for you, Pat.

So how does it look in the House?

Not so good.  From Sam Stein at the Huffington Post:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) affirmed on Monday morning that he would oppose a law that would prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian employees in the workplace, citing the possibility that it would put a financial burden on businesses.

"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.
Nearly complete BS, of course. explains why:
House Speaker John Boehner announced his opposition to a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity with a statement from his spokesman saying the bill “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.” But the facts suggest there’s not as much to these claims as Boehner lets on.

Boehner’s office points to a Congressional Budget Office forecast that says the legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), would lead to a 5 percent bump in discrimination cases — which is about 5,000 new cases per year. But it does not say what percentage of them may be deemed “frivolous.”

A report released by the General Accounting Office in July found “relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity” in states that have already enacted laws prohibiting such discrimination. A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA found workplace complaints based on sexual orientation were made at about the same rate as complaints based on race or gender.

As for Boehner’s claim that ENDA would “cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” that may well be the outcome in some isolated cases, but the law specifically applies only to companies with 15 or more employees — which exempts nearly 90 percent of all small businesses (and nearly a third of those employed in businesses with under 500 employees).
But Boehner's got the House's Tea Party Caucus to deal with so "reality" as a concept to the Tea Party crowd is much more malleable than "reality" is in, well,  reality.

And again millions of Americans will have to suffer for it.

November 6, 2013


From the County website, with all precincts counted:
Josh Wander (REP) - 5,012 votes (11.46%)
William Peduto (DEM) - 36,856 votes (84.30%)
Lester F. Ludwig (IND) - 1,514 votes (3.46%)
WRITE-IN - 340 votes ( .78%)
So, yea, when the P-G calls it a landslide, I can't think they're far off.

More from the P-G's James O'Toole and Moriah Balingit:
Tuesday night, the 49-year-old Democrat brushed aside token opposition to become Pittsburgh's chief executive, officially capturing the mayoral post he first sought nearly a decade ago. In January, the veteran councilman will move to the opposite end of the fifth-floor hallway of the City-County Building, to the grand corner office about to be vacated by his longtime rival, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

As expected, Mr. Peduto was able to declare victory against Republican Josh Wander and Les Ludwig, an independent, shortly after the polls closed.

The results also brought victories to city council candidates expected to be reliable allies of the new administration. Dan Gilman, Mr. Peduto's longtime aide, will succeed him in the East End District Mr. Peduto had represented since 2001. Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak won re-election to her South Hills district. In a special election to fill the seat recently vacated by Patrick Dowd, Deb Gross won in a crowded field abetted by a turnout operation quarterbacked by the Peduto campaign team.
 Then there's this from Mike Wereschagin and Bob Bauder of the Trib:
Peduto won 84 percent of the vote on Tuesday with 96.8 percent of precincts reporting, walloping two challengers who barely put up a fight. His 35,000 votes topped the 28,600 Mayor Luke Ravenstahl won in the last mayor's race, in 2009.
“We are the next great American city. It's about building from within, rebuilding the neighborhoods that built this community,” Peduto said after appearing on stage twirling a push broom at the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum in Homewood, the neighborhood where his grandmother settled nearly 100 years ago.

“The heart, the strength, the power of the entire region will come from within the city's borders,” said Peduto, a data-crunching, hockey-playing East End progressive from a traditional Italian-American family.
 Congratulations, Mr. Mayor-elect!

November 5, 2013

Get Out And Vote!

With Lil Mayor Luke so nonexistent he's practically a UPMC employee, our city craves a real leader: One with a clear vision, real ideas, a belief in community engagement, and who is bursting to get to work. This has led to the extraordinary circumstance of the conservative Tribune-Review and the middle-of-the-road Post-Gazette finally catching up to what progressives have long known: Bill Peduto is the best choice for Mayor of Pittsburgh. Now it's time that we get out and give him the mandate he deserves. We also need to make sure he has a City Council who will work together with him to make Pittsburgh the city we know it can be.
This half of 2pj endorses:
Bill Peduto for Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh

Natalia Rudiak for City Council, District 4
Deb Gross for City Council, District 7
Dan Gilman for City Council, District 8

Eleanor Bush for Common Pleas Court

Jack McVay Jr. for Superior Court
Marty B. O’Malley for Mayor of Forest Hills Borough

*** Obligatory Disclaimer: As everyone should know by now, I've been working part-time for People For Peduto since 2010

November 4, 2013

Crickets...All We Hear Is Crickets.

From NBCNews:
Clues on a possible motive for an armed assault at Los Angeles International Airport emerged Saturday, with reports that the suspect was carrying a “manifesto” associated with the antigovernment “patriot” movement and a note saying he intended to murder at least one Transportation Security Administration officer.

The Associated Press, quoting a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation, reported that suspect Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, said in the note found in the duffel bag he carried into the airport on Friday that he wasn’t targeting a specific TSA employee.
Here's what the AP had to say, specifically, about the note:
The letter in his duffel bag refers to how Ciancia believed his constitutional rights were being violated by TSA searches and that he's a "pissed-off patriot" upset at former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

"Black, white, yellow, brown, I don't discriminate," the note read, according to a paraphrase by a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The screed also mentioned "fiat currency" and "NWO," possible references to the New World Order, a conspiracy theory that foresees a totalitarian one-world government.
And some possible context from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
Ciancia’s language and references seemed to put him squarely in the conspiracy-minded world of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. The New World Order refers to a longstanding conspiracy theory that today, in its most popular iteration, claims that global elites are plotting to form a socialistic “one-world government” that would crush American freedoms. Often, the root of the alleged conspiracy is traced to the 1913 creation of the Federal Reserve and the adoption of fiat currency — paper money that is not backed by gold, as it was once was in the U.S.
Now, let's play a game.

What if, say, instead of going by "Paul Ciancia" the shooter's name was "Mohammad ANYTHING."  Now imagine if in his duffel bag there was a Koran and a note protesting any number of US guv'ment actions (Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, drone strikes, you get the picture).

How soon would the rightwing media have pounced on this aspect of the story?  How soon would they be calling for enhanced scrutiny of the nation's Islamic communities?

Instead, because it looks at this point like just another well-armed anti-guv'ment "patriot" acting out on his right-wing conspiracy theories, we get something else entirely.

November 1, 2013

Fact-Checking A Fact-Checker - Colin McNickle Edition

In a rather scathing indictment of a Republican (and conservative, though obviously not conservative enough) member of Congress by a conservative columnist writing for the conservative paper in that Congressional district, the Trib's Colin McNickle writes this about Congressman Tim Murphy:
“We were promised a website where people could easily compare plans and costs,” said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., on Thursday during a contentious hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the many failures of the ObamaCare website.

“Five-hundred million dollars later” (it's actually something like $700 million and counting) “we find that the American people have been dumped with the ultimate Cash for Clunkers, except that they had to pay the cash and still got the clunker,” the Upper St. Clair legislator said.

It's a great line but one laced with hubris, irony, hypocrisy and whistling past the graveyard.

For you see — and many of you might have forgotten and Mr. Murphy obviously is hoping you have — Murphy voted for Cash for Clunkers, that odoriferous multibillion-dollar government intervention that would have been funny if it weren't such a perversion.
What McNickle also left out was Congressman Murphy's support of the strained rollout of Medicare Part D in 2006.  Here's what Murphy said THEN about that glitchy Bush-era guv'ment program:
It is of no value, as a matter of fact, it is a negative value and of questionable ethical value I think sometimes if people only spend their time criticizing the glitches that have been in the program, as with any program that occurs, whether it is a public or private program, criticizing it, standing on the outside and frightening seniors, frightening seniors into thinking that because there was complexities and difficulties, therefore they should not sign up. [Congressional Record, Page H1665]
But that's a minor point - the major fail of McNickle's fact-check is the cost of the Obamacare website.  He says it's something like "$700 million" and reality says otherwise.

From the Washingtonpost's Glenn Kessler.  His initial assessment is admittedly fuzzy:
So here’s where we stand.

A conservative figure would be $70 million. A more modest figure would be $125 million to $150 million. Or one could embrace the entire project, as outlined by GAO, and declare that it is at least $350 million.
But he added a few updates - one with an upper/lower limit:
The floor for spending on the Web site to date appears to be at least $170 million, with an upward potential of nearly $300 million.
Significantly lower than the "factual" numbers so innocently slipped by your eyes by the "fact-checking" Colin McNickle.

According to Mediamatters, there's only one place where such a large number as McNickle's is found (though they go up to a billion).  That would the the Scaife-owned Newsmax.

And, as we all know, Scaife owns the Tribune-Review.  Where Colin McNickle hangs his fact-checking hat.  How interesting.