Democracy Has Prevailed.

February 26, 2014

Taking A Break

Today is a very sad day for me and I'll be taking a break from the blog for a while.

My mom passed away this morning.  She's gone and I know I'll miss her forever. 

This is her a from few years ago with her best friend, my dad:

My parents were married April, 1961 and my older brother was born the following February.  I was born almost 3 years later, in October 1963.  Dad passed away in November of 2007.  That was a very sad day, too.  Mom never quite got over her loss.  Not even close.  I know what the doctors said about what lead to her death this morning.  I know they're medically right but I also know they are, in fact, quite wrong.  I know she slowly died of a six year old broken heart.

But I don't want to talk about that.  This is what Mom and Dad looked like the day they were married:

He was one handsome SOB, wasn't he?  And she was very pretty, indeed.  This was her a few years before she met my dad:

Now all at once: AWW!!  So cute.

I wish you all could have met my mom.  She was a kind lady who made friends easily and always knew the right thing to say, whatever the situation.  She was a great mom who gave the bestest hugs in the history of the republic.  Being hugged by my mom felt like being gently nestled inside a big, wonderfully warm comforter.  One that rocked back and forth, but gently.

She spoke Italian fluently, knew how to Greek dance, and was a highly experienced tole painter.  Don't know what tole painting is?  This is tole painting:

That's her work, by the way.

In lieu of flowers or sympathy cards or anything like that (if you wanna send 'em, however, feel free) this is what I want you to do:  Take some time out of your day, a few bucks out of your pocket and go find the person you most value in this life (boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, wife, husband, spouse, best friend, sibling, child, parent, whatever) and take them out for some ice cream or a beer or some kick-ass baklava.  Maybe just go for a nice walk in the park.  Whatever it is, let them know how much they mean to you and how much you love them.

Mom would've liked knowing that you did that.

February 25, 2014

State of Disgrace

First up: Pennsylvania. In Southwestern PA, homeowners wake up to find scary, bomb-looking masses of wires and electronics on their front yards. When they contact the police/local officials, they are told by these officials that they cannot comment on the devices (which, as it turns out, were installed by a private Texas company to facilitate seismic mapping in the search for gas). Some of the devises are accompanied with threats of criminal investigations if anyone dare remove them. Meanwhile, the process of seismic mapping is actually damaging the homes in its path.

A forced birther lawmaker in Virginia refers to a pregnant woman as nothing more than a “child’s host” on Facebook. He later disappears the phrase. So if the woman is the "host" doesn't that make the fetus a, well, parasite? Hey! It's his analogy, not mine.

Finally, all eyes turn to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to see if she believes--like the lawmakers in her state--that it's legally OK to deny LGBT folk public accommodation as long as Baby Jesus said so.

February 24, 2014

The Trib Gets The Climate Wrong. Again

From today's Op-Ed page at Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review:
With 15 years of flat temperatures invalidating the “models” climate-clucking “scientists” cherish, blame-mankind politicians resort to shouting down opponents, bogus doomsday scenarios, false claims that scientific “consensus” favors their side and calls for economically ruinous “action” — as Secretary of State John Kerry did in a speech in Indonesia.

He likened skeptics of man-made climate change to the Flat Earth Society, called global warming a weapon of mass destruction and warned against letting “a few loud interest groups” — major oil and coal companies — “hijack the climate conversation.”
Unfortunately for Scaife's braintrust, Kerry's right.

And the braintrust is wrong - wrong from their very first six words, "With 15 years of flat temperatures..."

They tried this back in June, 2013 and they they're still wrong.

Back then we pointed to this page and this graph:

When an 11 year "running mean" is done, it smooths out the various spikes that may occur in the data (sun spots, el Nino and so on) and leaves the underlying trend.

But if you look at the page, it says that it's the underlying trend for surface temperature deviation from the 1951-1980 mean.  Is there anything else going on that would invalidate the braintrust's repeatedly failed attempt to invalidate the science?

Why, yes.  Yes, there is:
To claim global warming stopped in 1998 overlooks one simple physical reality - the land and atmosphere are just a small fraction of the Earth's climate (albeit the part we inhabit). The entire planet is accumulating heat due to an energy imbalance. The atmosphere is warming. Oceans are accumulating energy. Land absorbs energy and ice absorbs heat to melt. To get the full picture on global warming, you need to view the Earth's entire heat content.
So what does this bigger picture actually look like? Like this:

In an interesting bit of projection from a climate science denier, the Trib quotes Fred Singer:
What climate alarmists have left to fall back on is anything but science. [S. Fred} Singer says they “embrace faith and ideology — and are no longer interested in facts.” And that's no fit basis for any policy, let alone the radical, redistributive, anti-growth climate leftism Mr. Kerry espouses.
But when you actually look at the data, at the science, and then at what Scaife's braintrust says about it, you'll know immediately who is embracing faith and ideology (they are) and who's got the science right (NOAA, NASA, National Academy of Science, United States National Research Council, and so on).

February 23, 2014

Jack Kelly Sunday

Sometimes, after digging around a little, you find a small bit of info that invalidates an entire column.

Well for Jack Kelly this Sunday, it's here.

In a piece about how bad things will become, Jack's wrote:
“We expect the bottom to fall out by the second quarter of 2014,” Trends Research Institute founder Gerald Celente predicted last October.
So where did this quotation come from?

Here - The Alex Jones Show.

Alex Jones?  That's a acceptable source for Jack Kelly?  More importantly, that's a acceptable source for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette?

About 28 minutes in, after the warnings about how by Alex Jones (and uncorrected by Jack's source, Gerald, by the way) tells us how "the establishment is running al-Qaeda" we hear Celente near-scream:
Any self-respecting adult that hears McConnel, Reid, Boehner, Ryan, one after another, and buys this baloney… they deserve what they get.

And as for the international scene… the whole thing is collapsing.

That’s our forecast.

We are saying that by the second quarter of 2014, we expect the bottom to fall out… or something to divert our attention as it falls out.
And don't be fooled by the ellipses. They're not masking content, they're merely pauses in Celente's rant.  And what was he ranting about?  The vote in October to raise the debt ceiling.  That's why he's blaming both sides for whatever he thinks is going to happen.

Funny that Jack didn't tell you that part.  Either he didn't know where the quotation came from and its context or he did know and decided not to tell you.  Which is it?  I'd think that for a political columnist, either is equally damning.

Some Gerald Celente highlights:
  • Members of the press are routinely referred to as "presstitutes"
  • BOTH Democrats are Republicans in Congress are referred to as "clowns" 
  • And finally when he sarcastically yells "salute the Commander-in-Chief" he's got his right hand up in a Nazi salute.
That's who Jack Kelly decided was an acceptable source for a quotation for a Post-Gazette column.

Doesn't anyone at the P-G check these things?

February 20, 2014

The Minimum Wage, The Trib, The CBO And The Spin

This was to be expected, I guess.  Given the spin from the rest of the right wing media regarding the CBO's report on raising the minimum wage, I'm not surprised that Scaife's braintrust would join in on the spin to misinform its many readers.

This time, like so many others, they spin by omitting some rather important information.

Here's what they had to say today about the CBO's report:
On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated the obvious: The Obama administration's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage by 40 percent — from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 — would lead to the elimination of 500,000 jobs and leave up to 1 million people unemployed.
Um, that's not exactly what the report said.  You'll note that they put the numbers of unemployed between 500,000 and up to a million.

But take a look at this chart from the CBO's own FAQ regarding the report:

See that lowest row?  The one that says "Likely Range"?  See that  middle column?  The one that says "$10.10 option"?  Where they intersect it says the likely range would be a "Very slight decrease to -1.0 million workers."  See that?  The range isn't between a half million and a million.  By leaving out the lower half of the range (the less unpleasant half, of course) Scaife's braintrust is spinning its readership with the bad news.

And of course, it leaves out any of the good.

Here's the section of the CBO report outlining the effects of the $10.10 option on employment.  And  the only paragraph they want you to know about:
Effects of the $10.10 Option on Employment and Income. Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects. As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers.
  But guess what's in the very next paragraph?  This:
Many more low-wage workers would see an increase in their earnings. Of those workers who will earn up to $10.10 under current law, most—about 16.5 million, according to CBO’s estimates—would have higher earn- ings during an average week in the second half of 2016 if the $10.10 option was implemented. Some of the people earning slightly more than $10.10 would also have higher earnings under that option, for reasons discussed below. Further, a few higher-wage workers would owe their jobs and increased earnings to the heightened demand for goods and services that would result from the minimum- wage increase.
And then there's this stuff the braintrust decided you didn't need to see:
The increased earnings for low-wage workers resulting from the higher minimum wage would total $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate.
And this:
Real income would increase, on net, by $5 billion for families whose income will be below the poverty threshold under current law, boosting their average family income by about 3 percent and moving about 900,000 people, on net, above the poverty threshold (out of the roughly 45 million people who are projected to be below that threshold under current law)
Why point that out?  Check out the last word given to the Employment Policies Institute by the braintrust:
The bottom line, concludes Michael Saltsman, research director of the Employment Policies Institute: The truly impoverished will not enjoy a large share of any higher earnings but they will bear the brunt of increased unemployment.
Yea, exactly right - all except for raising nearly a million over the poverty line and an increase in earnings for low-wage workers by about $31 billion.

And who is this "Employment Policies Institute" anyway?  From the New York Times:
Just four blocks from the White House is the headquarters of the Employment Policies Institute, a widely quoted economic research center whose academic reports have repeatedly warned that increasing the minimum wage could be harmful, increasing poverty and unemployment.

But something fundamental goes unsaid in the institute’s reports: The nonprofit group is run by a public relations firm that also represents the restaurant industry, as part of a tightly coordinated effort to defeat the minimum wage increase that the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for.

“The vast majority of economic research shows there are serious consequences,” Michael Saltsman, the institute’s research director, said in an interview, before he declined to list the restaurant chains that were among its contributors.
So the spin's understandable.

It's called a lie of omission, my friends.  And that's what Scaife's braintrust is doing to you.  Again.

February 18, 2014

"97 Percent of Climate Scientists Surveyed..."

We've seen that phrase a lot over the past few months/years.

What does it mean and how was it established?

Well, let's go to a recent source, this paper at the peer-reviewed Environmental Research Letters.  And this is from the abstract:
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics 'global climate change' or 'global warming'. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.
There's another section of the paper that I'll tackle in a little bit.  So they collect a whole buncha peer-reviewed papers (about 12,000) and THEN separate them into what looks like 4 basic categories:
  • No position
  • Endorsing AGW
  • Rejecting AGW
  • Uncertain
First, I am curious about the 66% of those papers expressing no opinion of AGW.  What does the paper say about those?

In a table labeled "Definitions of each type of research category" the category "No Position" is described as:
Social science, education, research about people's views on climate
So not climate science, but important data about the science nonetheless.  So a great deal of the papers they collected mention AGW but aren't actually climate science papers, per se.  If I am reading this correctly.

And what does "Endorsing" mean?  Here there are three different types:
  • Explicit endorsement with quantification - Explicitly states that humans are the primary cause of recent global warming
  • Explicit endorsement without quantification - Explicitly states humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change as a known fact
  • Implicit endorsement - Implies humans are causing global warming. E.g., research assumes greenhouse gas emissions cause warming without explicitly stating humans are the cause
And there are three separate types of "rejection" as well
  • Implicit rejection - Implies humans have had a minimal impact on global warming without saying so explicitly E.g., proposing a natural mechanism is the main cause of global warming
  • Explicit rejection without quantification - Explicitly minimizes or rejects that humans are causing global warming
  • Explicit rejection with quantification - Explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming
So of all the 12,000 papers they found,  about a third either endorsed or rejected AGW in one way or another.  And of those 97% endorsed.

But it's one thing for the authors of this study to categorize all those papers.  How did the authors themselves categorize them?  This is the second part of the study:
We emailed 8547 authors an invitation to rate their own papers and received 1200 responses (a 14% response rate). After excluding papers that were not peer-reviewed, not climate-related or had no abstract, 2142 papers received self-ratings from 1189 authors. ... Among self-rated papers that stated a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. Among self-rated papers not expressing a position on AGW in the abstract, 53.8% were self-rated as endorsing the consensus. Among respondents who authored a paper expressing a view on AGW, 96.4% endorsed the consensus. [Emphasis added.]
So even the majority of those initially regarded as "no position" were held to be, by the authors of those papers themselves, as endorsing AGW.

And you can even check their work.

February 15, 2014

Brent Bozell, Eric Heyl, and The Tribune-Review

You may have missed this from Jim Romenesko this past week:
The conservative Media Research Center often urges liberal news outlets to TELL THE TRUTH, but the Reston, VA-based press watchdog isn’t telling the truth about its own leader: Brent Bozell doesn’t write the syndicated column that appears under his byline.

It is longtime MRC media analysis director Tim Graham who writes “almost everything published under [Bozell's] name,” a former MRC employee tells me in an email. “That includes his weekly column. Same goes for his books, which at least carry Graham’s name in a secondary billing, but also aren’t written by Bozell (but Bozell keeps 80-90% of the advance and all profits!)”

Two other people with ties to MRC confirmed that Graham is Bozell’s ghostwriter – and that Graham is not happy with the assignment. [Emphasis added.]
The Daily Beast has a follow-up:
Employees at the MRC were never under any illusion that Bozell had been writing his own copy. “It’s an open secret at the office that Graham writes Bozell’s columns, and has done so for years,” said one former employee. In fact, a former MRC employee went so far as to tell The Daily Beast: “I know for a fact that Bozell didn’t even read any of the drafts of his latest book until after it had been sent to the publishers.”

The Graham-Bozell relationship can best displayed in this book talk for the book that the two nominally co-authored in 2008, Whitewash. At an event at the National Press Club, Bozell gives an introductory speech but then has Graham come up to take questions.
It's bad enough that the head of the a conservative media watchdog is being charged with, in effect, lying to his readers - all the while screaming for the rest of the media to "TELL THE TRUTH" but there's more to this.

It's here in Romenesko's story.  A defense of Bozell was given to Romenesko when his third MRC confirmation:
...defended the practice of “people signing off on agreeable words written for them.” He asked me: “How many speeches has Obama written the last ten years? Should he have prefaced the State of the Union with ‘My fellow Americans – I didn’t write this?’
Here's the interesting part.  It's the next two paragraphs:
I asked Pittsburgh Tribune-Review colunnist and National Society of Newspaper Columnists president Eric Heyl about this remark. He said:

“The argument that the columnist should be allowed to use a ghostwriter because the president has speechwriters is as limp as pasta left overnight in boiling water. The comparison is ludicrous. The columnist doesn’t have to spend much of his time dealing with a dysfunctional Congress or fretting over Iran’s nuclear program.”
See that?  Trib columnist Eric Heyl is quoted rejecting that defense of Bozell's ghostwriter.  I wonder if Romenesko knows that Bozell has had some columns published in the very same paper that Eric Heyl writes for?

That would be the Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Revue, (as if you didn't already know where I am taking this) and that's where Brent Bozell had a (ghostwritten, it seems) column published as recently as this past Christmas Eve.

I wonder of Romenesko knows that?  I also wonder if he knows that Richard Mellon Scaife, by way of the foundations he controls, has given $3.7 million to Bozell's Media Research Center or how that's a little more than a fifth of the MRC's total foundation support.

So why is this such a big deal?  For that I'll turn to a former National Society of Newspaper Columnists president, P-G columnist Samantha Bennett.  to be clear, she's no longer an NSNC officer and she's not speaking for the NSNC.  This is her own opinion:
I didn't know about the ghostwriter allegation; I don't read Bozell. Or his ghostwriter. I don't know whether it's true or not. But I do believe it's a serious breach of ethics for any columnist of any stripe to put his name on stuff he didn't write. If you wrote it, own it. If you are a celebrity or "face" of a cause, write your own damn diatribes/marketing/agitprop/whatever or give credit to the person who does. Everybody knows corporate CEOs and presidents have speechwriters, but Mike Royko, Maureen Dowd, Dave Barry, Ernie Pyle, Erma Bombeck, Ellen Goodman and all other professional columnists string their own words and ideas together or suffer terrible consequences. You get drummed out of the corps for violating that code. And rightly so. Readers trust you. You can't lie to them.
It looks like Brent Bozell was lying to his readers on the pages of Scaife's Tribune-Review after his Media Research Center received $300,000 from the Scaife-controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2011.

Any comments, Mr Heyl?

February 14, 2014

Make Room For Kids

Got an email yesterday from my friend Ginny (yes, I know Virginia Montanez! And yes that surprises me too as she's w-a-a-a-a-y cooler than I am).

Anyway, she's got this thing called Make Room For Kids and for those of you who don't know:
Make Room for Kids began as a social media-driven fundraising effort designed to bring gaming to sick children at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and is now an official extension of the Austin’s Playroom Project at the Mario Lemieux Foundation.
They raise money (Ginny says that in the last four years it's over $80,000), they bring gaming consoles to sick kids, they make challenging life situations just a little easier.  It's a mitzvah all the way around.

 Well, this year, they're expanding:
Transplant kids. Cancer kids. “Frequent Fliers.” The pediatric unit at AGH. And the entirety of The Children’s Home.

That’s how many sick children the Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Make Room for Kids program in partnership with regional Microsoft employees, has brought gaming and diversions to over the last four years.

Today we’re launching a new campaign in the hopes of raising the funds needed to bring distractions to three additional units within Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
And Ginny needs your help.  You can head over to this site for the details.

February 13, 2014

March & Vigil Against Domestic Violence (In Honor of Ka'Sandra Wade) This Friday!

WHAT: March & Vigil Against Domestic Violence (In Honor of Ka'Sandra Wade)
WHEN: Friday, February 14, 2014, 10:00 AM
WHERE: City-County Building, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
RSVP: Please RSVP on Facebook (
10:30 AM: Press Conference at the City-County Building (Led by Ka'Sandra's Family Members).  
11:00 AM: After the speeches, we will proceed down Grant to Forbes, cross Forbes, and enter the Courtyard at the Courthouse.  
11:10 AM: We will conduct the visual dramatization of 110 Murdered Women and Children in the Courtyard. 
11:15 AM: From there, we will exit the Courtyard on the Fifth Ave side, and take Fifth Ave Back to Grant. 
11:20 AM: The March will continue down Grant to the DoubleTree, where we will join One Billion Rising 
11:30 AM: Vigil for Victims of Domestic Violence
12:00 PM: One Billion Rising Program will Commence!(
When Ka'Sandra Wade was murdered by her ex one year ago, there was more attention paid by the media than for most victims of domestic violence. Her story stayed in the news because it exposed problems within police policies on responding to 911 calls for "unknown trouble." Her family and advocates for women worked tirelessly to change those policies.

But since Ka'Sandra's death one year ago, 110 more women in Pennsylvania have died from domestic violence! We must all come together to stop the death of the next Ka'Sandra.

We need 110 women to help visualize the 110 women murdered in our state -- please be one of them and help us to bring attention to this issue and to bring an end to the violence!

You can also learn more about this tragedy at the website. Donations for Ka'Sandra's young son can be sent to: The Ka’Sandra Wade for Zaire Brown Trust Fund, c/o PNC Bank, 5932 PENN CIRCLE SOUTH PITTSBURGH, PA 15206

ANEW Rising Women's Collective and New Voices Pittsburgh are co-sponsors of this event.


Please spread the word about this event! Feel free to use any of the following graphics:

The Trib and the ACA - Getting It Wrong. Again

From today's Thursday Wrap at the Tribune-Review:
There's another way to look at the deleterious economic effects of ObamaCare. Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee, using CBO data, say the health care law “will reduce compensation by more than $1 trillion between 2017 and 2024,” reports The Weekly Standard. And the largest decline is expected among lower-wage workers. Another “progressive solution,” eh? [Bold in original.]
It references this "report" in the Weekly Standard that says this:
"The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that Obamacare will “cause a reduction of roughly 1 percent in aggregate labor compensation [wages, salaries, and fringe benefits] over the 2017-2024 period, compared with what would have been otherwise” (see page 117 of appendix C of CBO’s February 2014 Budget and Economic Outlook). CBO also suggests that the largest effect will occur among lower-wage workers who were the target of the law’s subsidized coverage expansion," says a statement from the Republican-side of the Senate Budget Committee, explaining their methodology.
Ah, the stuff they leave out.

Let's take a look at page 117 of the CBO report, shall we?  And yes, it does say what the Standard and Scaife's braintrust says it says:
Specifically, CBO estimates that the ACA will cause a reduction of roughly 1 percent in aggregate labor compensation over the 2017-2024 period, compared with what would have been otherwise.
But what about the impact on lower-wage workers? That comes in the sentences or two before. Note what's being left out of their discussion:
CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor - given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.  because the largest declines in labor supply will probably occur among lower-wages workers the reduction in aggregate compensation (wages, salaries, and fringe benefits) and the impact on the overall economy will be proportionally smaller than teh reduction in hours worked.
A few things there. You'll note, I hope, the part that starts with the phrase "almost entirely workers will choose to supply less labor."  It was only last week that the editorial board at Richard Mellon Scaife's editorial board said that the ACA will:
...force the equivalent of more than 2 million workers out of the labor market.
Now I know I'm not an editorial writer for a billionaire-owned propaganda page, but I am of the humble opinion that "force" and "choose" are antonyms of sorts.  Aren't they?

More importantly, did you see that the total number of hours worked will decline by a greater percentage than the aggregate labor compensation?  If I am reading this correctly, that means that people will be making more per hour, though choosing to work fewer hours.

And getting health care on top of that.

I guess Scaife's braintrust is right.  That IS a "progressive solution"!

Oh, and something else they left out.  In the next paragraph on page 117 of the CBO report, we read:
Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA.
An increase in employment and compensation in a post-ACA world - though a smaller increase than in a non-ACA world.  The cost of that gap?

Affordable Health Care for millions more Americans.

February 12, 2014

Happy Darwin Day!

Yes, yes, I know that today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday.

But did you also know that it's Charles Darwin's birthday?  The exact same day?


A few days ago a Resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives  "Expressing support for designation of February 12, 2014, as ``Darwin Day'' and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity."
Here's the text:Whereas Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection, together with the monumental amount of scientific evidence he compiled to support it, provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth;

Whereas the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is further strongly supported by the modern understanding of the science of genetics;

Whereas it has been the human curiosity and ingenuity exemplified by Darwin that has promoted new scientific discoveries that have helped humanity solve many problems and improve living conditions;

Whereas the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change;

Whereas the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems;

Whereas Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth's peoples; and

Whereas February 12, 2014, is the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809 and would be an appropriate date to designate as ``Darwin Day'': Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives-- (1) supports the designation of ``Darwin Day''; and (2) recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.
Unfortunately, the resolution's been sent to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  A committee chaired by Lamar Smith of Texas a climate science denier.  The chair of the committee's subcommittee on oversight is chaired by another southerner and science denier named Paul Braun who has said this about evolution:
God’s word is true,” Broun said, according to a video posted on the church’s website. “I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
Oh, and he thinks that the planet's about 9,000 years old.

So much for scientific literacy on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

February 11, 2014

Today is The Day We Fight Back

Yea...The Trib's Still Misleading About The ACA

From today's Tribune-Review:
The Toledo, Ohio, Block Bugler derides “conservatives who don't want to subsidize anyone” for criticizing ObamaCare as “a proven job killer.” (The Congressional Budget Office says the law could reduce full-time equivalent employment by 2.5 million jobs by 2024. We report, you deride.) But in the process, The Bugler appears to tacitly endorse gaming the system — in which lower income workers can reduce their hours or not work at all in order to continue receiving subsidized ObamaCare — as just another “choice.” Pity the poor schmucks who choose to work and are forced to pay for ObamaCare's sloths. [Emphasis added.]
Ooo, so close - but still not close enough for their reading audience not to in mistakenly think that "Obamacare's a job-killer!"  Heck they were told only last Wednesday that the ACA would, "force the equivalent of more than 2 million workers out of the labor market by 2017."  Something we now know to be false and an assertion still left uncorrected on the pages of Richard Mellon Scaife's Tribune-Review.

For the record this is what the Post-Gazette actually said - the actual lines from which Scaife's braintrust so surgically quotes:
While it has been reported — or misreported, some now say — in terms of jobs, what the respected, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office actually reported was a decrease in full-time equivalent employment, a figure it put at 2.3 million by 2021 and 2.5 million by 2024.

In short, it’s not that the Affordable Care Act is killing huge numbers of jobs. The jobs may remain. It’s about choices people are likely to make about the jobs in response to the incentives in the law.

Some Americans, mostly in lower-paying jobs, may choose to reduce their hours to part-time or not work at all to keep their income low enough to stay eligible for federal health care subsidies or Medicaid. That may still be objectionable to conservatives who don’t want to subsidize anyone, but that is different from calling Obamacare a proven job killer.
And about that "sloth" part?  Funny thing, the Post-Gazette addresses that in the very next paragraph:
It can be looked at this way: When Social Security was introduced, was that a job killer because older people decided to retire with dignity rather than work until they dropped, as they had formerly done with no retirement benefit? Of course not.
But let's address the real issue here.  What's being discussed is something called "job lock."  The business directory defines it as:
The inability of an employee to voluntarily terminate employment with a particular company because he or she would lose current health care benefits. This becomes an issue for individuals that have pre-existing health conditions that may not be covered under the new employer's health care coverage. This situation is possible because most insurance companies have a pre-existing health care clause that prevents them from being liable for any condition that the employee had before requesting coverage.
And it's a bad thing.  Hey, how about a health care plan that addresses it? Yea!  How about a plan that would:
...accommodate the mobility of a highly advanced economy, increas­ing productivity and particularly enhancing the ability of small businesses to grow and expand. Individuals would have a level playing field- undistorted by the tax code-to choose whether to select a health policy from their workplaces or from other sources.

Today, leaving a job or changing jobs means leav­ing behind the health insurance provided at the place of work. Individuals who wish to take a better job, change careers, or leave the workforce to raise a family or to retire early take substantial risks. They may find themselves going without coverage, pur­chasing non-group insurance with substantial tax penalties, or giving up a well-developed relation­ship with a physician or medical specialist. This health insurance obstacle to labor mobility is some­times called "job lock."
See?  Job-lock.  This plan...
...which links tax breaks directly to individuals instead of to their place of work, individuals would no longer feel obligated to stay with their employers simply because they need to keep their employer-based health insurance. If the worker lost a job, changed jobs, or retired early, he or she could buy an insurance policy and offset its cost with the McCain health care tax credit.
Wait, what?  The MCCAIN HEALTH CARE TAX PLAN?   What the heck is that?

Oh gee sorry, I should've told you.  The text about that health care plan that so easily addresses "job lock"?  That's from the Scaife-funded Heritage Foundation.

No discussion back then about how health care reform gaming the system.  I wonder why.  I guess they were against job lock before they were for it.

February 9, 2014

What Planet Does Daryl Metcalfe Live On?

A letter from today's Tribune-Review written by State Representative Metcalfe:
A Democrat Pennsylvania judge has struck down the state voter-identification law in an activist partisan maneuver. The Corbett administration filed an appeal to the judge's ruling, and I believe the law eventually will be found to be constitutional.

Chairing the State Government Committee, I have heard convincing testimony about Pennsylvania's history of election fraud. As recently as 2008 and 2009, ACORN staffers in Allegheny, York and Chester counties have been prosecuted for election law violations. Voter ID will help restore integrity and confidence in our elections.

Last fall, after an online election, I won the unsolicited honor of being inducted into the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO's “Hall of Shame.” That's because of my support for making Pennsylvania a right-to-work state, authoring the voter ID law and defending marriage as between one man and one woman.

On Jan. 27, union members came to the Capitol to protest a proposed law to ban the use of taxpayer resources to collect public-sector union dues. I co-sponsored this legislation because it's not fair to use public money to benefit private political organizations such as the public-sector unions. Former legislators are sitting in prison for using taxpayer resources for campaign purposes, yet our law allows those resources to collect money for unions.

On Jan. 30, about 20 union protesters picketed outside of my Cranberry office. I am sorry I missed their visit because I had not yet returned from the Capitol. I would have enjoyed discussing the protesters' concerns with them, although I would not have been a sympathetic ear.

I will continue my fight to protect taxpayers.
Let's start at the top.  Here's the Voter ID decision Metcalfe so longingly predicts is unconstitutional.  In the next paragraph, he states that he's "heard convincing testimony" about our state's history of election fraud.

Perhaps he should have informed the attorneys defending Pennsylvania's law before the Commonwealth Court because:
[Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard] McGinley also said the state failed to demonstrate the law was necessary to preserve the integrity of elections, as they “wholly failed to show any evidence of in-person voter fraud” either occurring or being in imminent danger of occurring. 
So what did Representative Metcalfe mean by his claims of voter fraud in Allegheny York and Chester counties?  Perhaps he meant this:
For starters, in May 2009, a six-month FBI investigation led to forgery and election fraud charges against seven Pittsburgh area ACORN employees. In October 2008, Philadelphia's deputy city commissioner submitted approximately 8,000 fraudulent ACORN-collected voter registration forms for investigation.

Also in October 2008, another ACORN canvasser was arrested in York County for, according to new reports, submitting more than 100 fraudulent voter registrations "on at least 19 applications he randomly picked names out of the phone book and registered them."
Daryl wrote this in 2011, by the way.

You'll note that he's also not actually talking about voter fraud (which McGinley's decision calls "in-person voter fraud" but voter registration fraud.  A completely different thing.

He even said so in 2011:
...Philadelphia's...commissioner submitted approximately 8,000 fraudulent...voter registration forms...
...another ACORN canvasser was arrested in York County for...submitting more than 100 fraudulent voter registrations...
And Allegheny County?  You guessed it:
Seven Pittsburgh-area ACORN workers were charged with falsifying voter registration forms, with six accused of doing so to meet the group's alleged quota system before last year's general election.

District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. said he's hoping the workers charged Thursday will help authorities determine whether Allegheny County ACORN officials will be charged with requiring the illegal quotas or otherwise directing that voter registrations be faked. [Emphases added.]
The crime of voter registration fraud is different from in-person voting fraud.  Pennsylvania's Voter ID law was an attempt (an unconstitutional one, as it turns out) to combat in-person voting fraud.  And yet Representative Metcalfe is dishonestly using evidence of registration fraud in an attempt to show that in-person voting fraud exists.

Even though the state stipulated:
  • There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direction personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states
  • The parties are not aware of any incidence of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and no not have direct personal knowledge of in person voter fraud elsewhere
  • Respondents will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania or elsewhere

Given the court's decision that "Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID law does not further this goal" when have to ask that when State Representative Daryl Metcalfe writes:
I will continue my fight to protect taxpayers.
We have to assert that he's got it backwards. It's the voters who have to be protected from him.

February 7, 2014

I Guess The Trib's Randy Bish Didn't Get The Memo

...or maybe he got a different one.

...or maybe he didn't read the news today (oh, boy).

Take a look at today's editorial cartoon:

The message is clear: "Obamacare is a jobs killer."  This is an obvious reference to yesterday's blurb in the Tribune-Review asserting the same thing.

Except we know all know it just isn't true.  Again, from the CBO report:
The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week). [Emphasis added.]
And here's something new that my friends at the Trib may or may not have read.  From the Washington Post:
Under questioning today before the House Budget Committee from Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf confirmed that in reality, his report suggests Obamacare will reduce unemployment...[Italics in original.]
...Van Hollen cited the report’s findings on Obamacare’s impact on labor demand, rather than supply. On page 124, the report estimates that the ACA will “boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years because the people who will benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and from access to the exchange subsidies are predominantly in lower-income households and thus are likely to spend a considerable fraction of their additional resources on goods and services.” This, the report says, “will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years.”

“When you boost demand for labor in this kind of economy, you actually reduce the unemployment rate, because those people who are looking for work can find more work, right?” Van Hollen asked Elmendorf.

“Yes, that’s right,” Elmendorf said.

Elmendorf added that the factor Van Hollen had identified was something CBO thinks “spurs employment and would reduce unemployment over the next few years.”

So there it is: The CBO report found the opposite of what some foes of the law claimed.
Randy Bish included.

February 6, 2014

Um, No...

Scaife's Editorial Board over at the Trib joins the rest of the right wing media today in their CBO/ACA mislead:
ObamaCare is the gift that keeps on taking. The Congressional Budget Office says the health care law will explode the debt and force the equivalent of more than 2 million workers out of the labor market by 2017. It says ObamaCare's incentives are driving businesses and people to choose government-sponsored benefits rather than work. It's yet another sorry example of how “progressive” economics is bankrupting America. [Bolding in original.]
The important phrase here are how the ACA will "force the equivalent of more than 2 million workers out of the labor market" and how the AVA's incentives "are driving businesses and people to choose government-sponsored benefits..."

Now let's go to exactly what the CBO wrote:
The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week). [Emphasis added.]
How they go from the report saying that "workers choose" to reporting that the CBO says that workers will be "forced" out of the labor market is a question for greater minds than mine.  In the meantime, let's just call it "dishonesty."

In fact the guy who wrote the report has more (this is from think progress):
On Wednesday, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Doug Elmendorf refuted the claim that the Affordable Care Act is a job killer — a misleading takeaway from his agency’s new report that is being touted by Obamacare critics.

Testifying before the House Budget Committee on the CBO’s newly released economic projections for the next decade, Elmendorf addressed the report’s finding that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the labor participation rate and the total number of hours worked by an equivalent of 2 million jobs in 2017. According to Elmendorf, that statistic is being taken out of context to suggest that Obamacare will eliminate jobs.

“The reason we don’t use the term ‘lost jobs’ is there is a critical difference between people who like to work and can’t find a job — or have a job that’s lost for reasons beyond their control — and people who choose not to work,” he explained. “If someone comes up to you and says, ‘The boss says I’m being laid off because we don’t have enough business to pay,’ any other person feels bad about that and we sympathize for them having lost their job. If someone says, ‘I decided to retire or stay home and spend more time with my family and spend more time doing my hobby,’ they don’t feel bad about it — they feel good about it. And we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.”
Now go back and look at how Scaife's braintrust described the report.  That cognitive dissonance (sorry, Ed) you're experiencing?  That's a recognition of the braintrust's dishonesty.

February 2, 2014

Jack Kelly Sunday

I guess I have to ask it again:
Doesn't anyone at the P-G fact-check Jack Kelly?
Why am I asking this, yet again?

Because this showed up in today's column:
But his small ball, recycled initiatives — he even plagiarized lines from Mr. Bush’s 2007 SOTU, according to former Bush speechwriter Mark Thiessen...
Except he didn't.  Thiessen was wrong and Jack is wrong for passing it along.

Let me show you why.

According to David Weigel of
This one comes from Fox News, which hosted former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen after he claimed that President Obama's speech had been lifted from the 2007 State of the Union.
The link above leads to this Breitbart page. Here's what it says:
Following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, former George W. Bush speechwriter Mark Thiessen told Fox News Channel’s “The Kelly File” host Megyn Kelly that Obama’s speech plagiarized lines from Bush’s 2007 speech, for which he said he was the lead speechwriter.

“It was eerily familiar,” Thiessen said. “There were lines like, ‘Our job is to help Americans build a future of hope and opportunity. A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy. A future of hope and opportunity requires our citizens have affordable and available health care.’ ‘Extending opportunity and hope depends on a stable supply of energy.’ All of that came from the 2007 State of the Union address by George W. Bush. So, Barack Obama has gone from blaming George W. bush to plagiarizing George W. Bush.”[Emphasis added.]
Ok, so let's go to Obama's State of The Union Address to see if those lines are actually in there.

Guess what?  They're not.

Weigel's done almost all of the heavy lifting here, so I'll just add a few details of my own.

Asserted plagiarism #1 ("Our job is to help Americans build a future of hope and opportunity.")  And to that Weigel writes:
This appears in the Bush speech: "Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and to help them to build a future of hope and opportunity—and this is the business before us tonight." Nothing like it appears in the Obama speech—the closest is "Opportunity is who we are."
In fact, the only time the phrase "our job" shows up in Obama's SOTU is in response to this passage:
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
To which the President follows:
Our job is to reverse these trends. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.[Emphasis added.]
That's it.  That's the overlap - and it's hardly plagiarism.  No mention of "hope" in that section Bush's SOTU, by the way.  How telling.

Asserted plagiarism #2 ("A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy -- and that is what we have.").  And to that Weigel writes:
That's the next line in the Bush speech. Nothing like it appears in the Obama speech. He doesn't even use the phrase "growing economy."
In fact there's only one use of the word "hope" and it's in this sentence:
That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.  [Emphasis added.]
No overlap here at all.

Asserted plagiarism #3 ("Extending opportunity and hope depends on a stable supply of energy.").  And to that, Weigel writes:
Also in the Bush speech. Obama—see the pattern?—does not repeat this. He says instead that "one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy," which is a similar sentiment. In fact there's no usage of the phrase "extending opportunity" or "stable supply of energy."  In fact the word "stable" shows up only once in Obama's speech at all.  Here:
But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.
Again, no overlap, no plagiarism.

Now if you wanna talk about something far closer to actual plagiarism, I bring up something I wrote five and a half years ago.  The P-G's Jack Kelly wrote this about then-Governor Sarah Palin:
When she was leading her underdog Wasilla high school basketball team to the state championship in 1982, her teammates called her "Sarah Barracuda" because of her fierce competitiveness. Two years later, when she won the Miss Wasilla beauty pageant, she was also voted Miss Congeniality by the other contestants.
Compare that to something Fred Barnes wrote a year or so before:
Gov. Palin grew up in Wasilla, where as star of her high school basketball team she got the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" for her fierce competitiveness. She led her underdog team to the state basketball championship. Palin also won the Miss Wasilla beauty contest, in which she was named Miss Congeniality, and went on to compete in the Miss Alaska pageant.
Jack, that's far closer to actual plagiarism than anything Marc Theissen alleged.  And you did that.

I'll ask it again:
Doesn't anyone at the P-G fact-check Jack Kelly?
I guess the answer is, "no, not so much."