Democracy Has Prevailed.

December 26, 2015

The Anti-Science GOP - Dave Majernik, Allegheny County Republican Committee, Edition

Recently, President Obama had this to say about the GOP:
Keep in mind that, right now, the American Republican Party is the only major party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate change.
We can see this at the national level in The Senate, when Senator Inhofe (R-OK) tried to use a newly packed DC snowball as evidence against Climate Change - all during what was then the beginning of the warmest year on record.

Over in the Republican-led House of Representatives the Chair of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is a well known science denier (who incidentally has received more than half a million dollars from the fossil industry over the course of his congressional career, I wonder why.)

And our own Republican representatives in Congress are science deniers - for instance Pat Toomey, who voted against a Senate resolution that said that:
...human activity significantly contributes to climate change. [Emphasis added.]
A statement at odd with the science.  Interestingly, Toomey voted in favor of a resolution that said:
...human activity contributes to climate change.
It's the word "significantly" that evidently tipped Toomey's balance.

Again, as it's at odd with the science, Toomey's a science-denier.  Simple.

But it gets even more local-ier than this.  Gaze upon this letter to the editor penned by Dave Majernik, Vice Chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County.

His first paragraph:
Richard Ankney's letter asserting that “The basic science of climate change is settled” clearly attempts to shut down honest debate ( “Climate crossroads,” Nov. 24 and Many scientists do not believe in man-made climate change.
But 97% of those scientists who are actually experts in the field do.  In fact, according to that study the more expert you are, the more you agree with the science.

Majernik's next paragraph needs to be addressed sentence by sentence, so chock full o'nutty ignorance it is:
Climate change theory is based on computer models without real evidence.
Simply not true.  There's readings from satellites, bouys, land based weather stations and so on.  It looks like Dave is questioning the validity of the computer models themselves.  Again, he's wrong.  The models are tested, in a way, backwards - by something called hindcasting.  A model is constructed and then tested on the known data up to, say, 1980.  If the model accurately "predicts" the 90s and 00s (and scientists can compare the "prediction" with the actual data) then the model is said to be accurate.

And the models used have passed the hindcasting test and are valid.

His next two sentences:
Michael Mann's “hockey stick” graph is held up as “proof” world temperatures are sharply rising. This graph, showing a sudden upswing of temperatures during the Industrial Age, has been discredited even by those who believe in man-made global warming.
Wow, the anti-science crowd is still going after the hockey stick?  Did you know Mann's paper dates back to 1998?  Interesting that Majernick didn't go with the "no warming since 1998" lie.  I wonder why.  Anyway, back to the science:
The "hockey stick" describes a reconstruction of past temperature over the past 1000 to 2000 years using tree-rings, ice cores, coral and other records that act as proxies for temperature (Mann 1999). The reconstruction found that global temperature gradually cooled over the last 1000 years with a sharp upturn in the 20th Century. The principal result from the hockey stick is that global temperatures over the last few decades are the warmest in the last 1000 years.
Has it been recreated?  That is to say have other climate scientsts supported it?  Why, yes:
An independent assessment of Mann's hockey stick was conducted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (Wahl 2007). They reconstructed temperatures employing a variety of statistical techniques (with and without principal components analysis). Their results found slightly different temperatures in the early 15th Century. However, they confirmed the principal results of the original hockey stick - that the warming trend and temperatures over the last few decades are unprecedented over at least the last 600 years.
But there's also this from the National Research Council.  It's from the North Report, a report requested by Congress.  This is from the Summary:
The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years.
So Majernik is wrong about the science. Again.

So wrong that we can giggle when Majernik writes:
Climate change is a diabolical scheme concocted by socialists to end capitalism through deceitful moral intimidation because socialism cannot win fairly in the arena of ideas.
Dave Majernik, Vice Chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, climate science denier and someone perfectly at home in today's anti-science GOP.

December 25, 2015

December 25!

On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world.

Happy Birthday, Isaac Newton! Born December 25, 1642.

December 23, 2015

Dimitri Vassilaros Interview!

A few days ago, local libertarian Dimitri Vassilaros interviewed me for 1Dimitriradio.

Well, he posted it today - go have a listen.

It was a very nice conversation, though at the end he's still a libertarian and I'm still a liberal so no one, I guess, "won" in the conversion game.

But he DOES call this blog (the one you're reading RIGHT NOW) "legendary" so that's gotta count for something, right?

Ah, Fame!

Baby, remember my name.

December 21, 2015

NON POLITICAL POSTING: My Star Wars: The Force Awakens REVIEW!

The lovely wife and I saw THE FORCE AWAKENS last night and now I have my SPOILER FREE REVIEW:

Ok. Here goes.
At a little more than 2 hours, The Force Awakens gives up some hearty action and deep story though [SPOILER REDACTED] and then [SPOILER REDACTED] and [SPOILER REDACTED] (when they bother to show) overpower the overall Macedonian-themed [SPOILER REDACTED] zeitgeist.

And I have to say the political intrigue of the second act (Act II) felt a bit predatory and yet still oddly derivative, though only the profoundest francophobes in the audience probably got the Piaf-ian puns. However obvious that is (and let's be honest, IT IS) it still doesn't over shadow the most flickeringly painful flaw of the work: that [SPOILER REDACTED] and then [SPOILER REDACTED] while headed to [SPOILER REDACTED] in their brand new [SPOILER REDACTED] fail to spot the [SPOILER REDACTED] and then, when push comes to shove and the rubber meets the road, most disappointingly [SPOILER REDACTED].

There.  That's it.

December 20, 2015

Hey It's A Jennifer Graham Update!

Remember Jennifer Graham?  She's the one who wrote this only six months ago at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Bruce Jenner, hunky Olympian turned femme fatale, is the elephant in the room for conservatives, and that’s not speaking figuratively.

Bruce, now Caitlyn, identifies as both a woman and a Republican, flummoxing would-be critics in the GOP who will need every vote in 2016. Since the Vanity Fair cover emerged with Mr. Jenner’s new, womanly visage, they have been mostly quiet, save for Fox News host Neil Cavuto, who growled on air, “Rome. Final days. But that’s fine.”

Actually, it’s not fine for many Americans, who view gender dysphoria as a psychiatric disorder, not a laudable lifestyle choice. To them, the Annie Leibovitz depiction of a beguiling Caitlyn in a corset, legs coyly crossed, arms tucked behind her as if bound, is a Photoshopped finger in the face. Worse, they — unlike Mr. Jenner — are forbidden authenticity of response. Faced with the omnipresent image of a person who is female from the waist up, male from the belly button down, they are ridiculed as bigots if they suggest, in the quietest of voices, that such a person would have headlined the tragic freak shows in carnivals of old.
Caused a bit of an uproar, remember?

There was the OPJ:
Murderers have received better treatment in the pages of the P-G than we see given to Caitlyn Jenner. And for what? Clickbait? Some calculated attempt to not be labeled too liberal a paper?

Really, why was this column seen as fit to be published? Especially when so many transgender people are either bullied into committing suicide or outright murdered by people with the same attitudes expressed in this piece.
And a whole mess of other folks seriously pissed off.  Enough that I wrote up a round up of the media coverage and posted it here.  Coverage about JennyG's story even went national.  For whatever it's worth, I said of the column, "holy crap, that's one piece of mean."

So why am I telling you this?

Seems that JennyG has moved on to some less-Yinzerish pastures.  From her website:
I’m a writer, editor, runner, mom x4, addicted to strong coffee, sunshine and pecans. My day job is at The Deseret News, where I cover health and wellness.
Google "Jennifer Graham" and "Post-Gazette" and among the hits will be her LinkedIn page where you can read this:
Jennifer Graham is a health and wellness writer for The Deseret News. A former associate editor and columnist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and op-ed columnist for The Boston Globe, she also reviews books for The Hippo in Manchester, N.H.
So I guess that confirms it: Jennifer Graham is no longer a Post-Gazette Columnist.

And what's this "Deseret News"?  From their website:
The Deseret News ( is the first news organization and the longest continuously-operating business in the state of Utah. Owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Deseret News offers news, information, commentary, and analysis from an award-winning and experienced team of reporters, editors, columnists, and bloggers. Its mission is to be a leading news brand for faith and family oriented audiences in Utah and around the world.
Ok, then.

Best of luck, Jenny, with that new "health and wellness" column in Utah.  But to me you'll always be the new P-G columnist who announced her presence at the party by walking in, saying hello and then promptly shitting on the carpet. 

May your Caitlyn Jenner piece cling to you forever.

December 17, 2015

Chuck McCullough Update (He Was Sentenced Today!)

From Santoni of the Trib:
Judge David A. Cashman sentenced McCullough to 2 1⁄2 to five years in prison Thursday followed by three years of probation for stealing $50,000 from the $14 million estate of his former client, Shirley Jordan. The money went to support Republican political campaigns and a charity his wife directed but was returned when the donations were investigated.

“Your actions were fueled by ego and self-interest. ... You've brought shame upon yourself and upon our profession, solely for your own political purposes,” said Common Pleas Judge David Cashman before sentencing McCullough to six to 12 months for each of his five felony theft convictions. Under a program for first-time offenders, he could be eligible for release after about two years.
We've written here numerous times about how frickin long it took the frickin trial to frickin start and while I am sure Chuck was not responding specifically to anything written here (let me just say that I would be completely surprised if he, in fact, has ever visited here) he did address the gap in time.

See if you can spot the apology that isn't all that it's supposed to be:
“I personally apologize to you and the Court of Common Pleas for any undue delay that may be attributable to me and my vigorous defense,” McCullough said. “I certainly meant no harm to Mrs. Jordan.”
It's the word "vigorous" that's the thing - do you see it?  By calling his defense that, he's saying that while the delay may have been "undue" it was still necessary.  Or I could be wrong.

Whether I am right is meaningless as Chuck's still going away for at least 2 years.

Beethoven Day!

According to the registry of the Parish of St Regius in Bonn, Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on this day in 1770.

In the great man's honor I present to you some music:

If you have a few minutes, do yourself a favor and listen. 

We can get back to politics tomorrow.  But today my droogs, a bit of the old Ludwig van.

December 16, 2015

Senator Pat Toomey Gets Some Ad Space In The Trib

Perhaps, just perhaps, it's to deflect from this story - you know, the one about how Donald Trump spoke at a fundraiser that will, in one way or another benefit Pat Toomey's Senate campaign.  Yea, that story.

Perhaps it's to change the subject from Toomey's Trump Troubles.

Who knows?  I'm just innocently asking the question with no agenda to plop the idea into my reading audience what so ever.  In any way, shape or form.  Nope.  No agenda here.

Anyway, Pat Toomey got some free ad space in today's Tribune-Review.

It's not about his campaign, not about the election not at all.  But make no mistake, it is.   Why else would it be in the paper?

Scaife's paper?  The paper once owned by billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife who also, completely coincidentally of course, donated thousands to Scaife's past senatorial campaigns as well as the Club for Growth, where Toomey was once president?

How interesting that that's where Toomey, perhaps, is trying to distance himself from the Trump fundraiser.

Anyway, the de facto ad is about Toomey's "passing the trash" legislation designed to protect our nation's school children.

Interesting part of all this is that Pat Toomey wasn't above sabotaging other "child protection" legislation to get his way.  From The Morning Call:
His colleagues haven't responded to his urgent requests, and now U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has taken a legislative hostage.

The Pennsylvania Republican is using a procedural maneuver to hold up a child care bill, arguing that if his legislation requiring school employees to undergo background checks isn't getting a vote, neither should another bill intended to protect children.
 Great guy, that Pat Toomey.

He's still got Trump Troubles, though.  Unless he publicly denounces (in a speech - in public) Trump's recent racist comments while declaring he'll take no money from that fundraiser, he's still got Trump Troubles.

December 15, 2015

December 15 Christopher Hitchens/Bill of Rights Day!

I'm not sure anyone noticed this but December 15 is BOTH the anniversary Christopher Hitchens' ascent into Heaven AS WELL AS the anniversary of the day the Bill of Rights was ratified.

I wonder if he, looking down on us from on high, chuckles, like I do, at the synchronicity of it all.

So in celebration of our fundamental right to speak our minds, I give you Christopher Hitchens:

Good Morning.

December 14, 2015

Climage Change and Terrorism

I'm sure you've seen, floating around the right side of the internet, the smug derision pointed at Senator Sanders (and others) for linking Climate Change and Terrorism, right?

So the next time when your crazie right wing cousin or otherwise friendly conservative/libertarian friend, tries to ridicule the idea of a connection between the rising temperatures and terrorism, just point them here.

And then here (the New York Times, October 2014)
The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.
And then here (the Pentagon report itself):
The responsibility of the Department of Defense is the security of our country. That requires thinking ahead and planning for a wide range of contingencies.

Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.

In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.
Climate change is a "threat multiplier" so sayeth the Pentagon.

But wait, there's more:
Maintaining stability within and among other nations is an important means of avoiding full -­scale military conflicts. The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large number s of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability. These developments could undermine already fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources. These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism. [Emphasis added.]
ISIS, anyone?

If y'inz got a problem with that, take it up with The Pentagon.

December 12, 2015

Chuck MccUllough Update (Hint: He's At It Again)

From the Post-Gazette, a few days ago:
Citing “serious, inexplicable errors” designed to protect an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge from having to answer allegations of wrongdoing, former county councilman Chuck McCullough has asked the state Supreme Court to take control of his criminal case.

The lengthy petition seeks the unusual remedy of King’s Bench review and asks Pennsylvania’s highest court to determine whether Judge Lester G. Nauhaus should be permitted to impose punishment on Mr. McCullough on 10 criminal counts at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 17.

“The process used by the Allegheny County Courts in this matter is plainly a matter of public concern because it violates all established judicial protocols with respect to the handling of a motion for recusal,” wrote defense attorney Adam Cogan of Ligonier. “The need for this court’s immediate intervention in this matter is clear.”
Wait, is that another defense attorney for Chuck?

Last time we took a peek the McCullough non finisce mai romanzo legale we learned this from the Trib:
Attorney Megan Will of Somerset, McCullough's fifth defense attorney in a case that has dragged since 2009...
Does this mean Attorney Cogan has replaced Attorney Will or is simply co-counsel? The Post-Gazette, yesterday, gave us the answer:
On Tuesday, Mr. McCullough and a new attorney, Adam Cogan, filed an application for King’s Bench review which, if granted, would allow the state Supreme Court to take control of the case. The petition alleged a series of serious errors at the evidentiary hearing and asked that a new, out-of-county judge be assigned to sentence Mr. McCullough, or in the alternative to assign the case to the state Superior Court for further proceedings.
So that would make Cogan, by my count, Chuck's sixth defense attorney.

Back to questa storia continua.  From The Trib:
[Deputy District Attorney Michael] Streily wrote [in response to McCullough's request that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court exercise its “King's Bench” power] that if McCullough had testified about the alleged conversations between Pushinsky and Nauhaus, where he said the judge had a mutual friend tell Pushinsky to “go nonjury,” he could have avoided the attorney-client privilege Pushinsky cited in refusing to testify at the hearing. The District Attorney's Office later charged McCullough with perjury and obstructing justice because he had sworn his decision to waive a jury was made without threats or promises, making either that waiver or his petition for recusal false.

McCullough's attorney seemed stymied when another witness at the hearing refused to identify who told him that Nauhaus had talked to his secretary about convicting McCullough. But she could have simply called the secretary to testify, since she was at the hearing, Streily wrote.
The Trib adds:
The proceedings are the latest in a case that has dragged on for six years. McCullough remains free on bond.
As of Friday the State Supreme Court had yet to decide whether to take up the case, though this Trib piece puts some interesting framing on the idea:
Use of a King's Bench Review is relatively uncommon in Pennsylvania, one of the few states that retains that power drawn from English Common Law. Out of 2,949 cases brought to the Supreme Court in 2014, only 2 percent — or 65 cases — were King's Bench reviews. Of those, only one was granted, said Art Heinz, spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
So they're rare.  Chuck McCullough is out on bond and as of today, it's been 2,487 days since Chuck was arrested.  We already know that the trial itself, at 2,353 days, lasted longer than:
  • WWII in the Pacific - December 7, 1941 (Attack on Pearl Harbor) to August 15, 1945 (VJ Day): 1,347 days
  • WWII in Europe - September 1, 1939 (Germany invades Poland) to May 7, 1945 (Germany Surrenders) 2,075 days
  • Nixon Presidency - January 20, 1969 (Nixon's First Inauguration) to August 9, 1974 (Nixon's resignation): 2,027 days
  • Civil War - April 12, 1861 (Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumpter) to April 9, 1865 (Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox): 1,458 days
But here's one I bet none of the citizens of Steeler Nation has pondered.  You remember, in the late seventies, when The US was bludgeoned by economic malaise, bad disco even worse TV?  And yet even with all that crap there was some miraculously good football being played at Three Rivers Stadium.  Good enough for Dem Stillerz to win 4 Super Bowls in 6 years (IX, X, XIII and XIV).  Remember that span of time?

It was 1,834 days or 519 days shorter than the 2,353 days it took to bring Chuck McCullough to trial.

This story just. Won't. End.

December 11, 2015

So How MUCH Will Pat Toomey Benefit From Today's PA Trump Fundraiser?

Tony Norman, from today's P-G:
If you want to know just how unprincipled the Pennsylvania Republican Party is, look no further than its Commonwealth Club fundraiser lunch today in New York City. Now get a gander at the headliner.

Yes, that fuzzy ball of orange hair and rabid demagoguery scheduled to address Pennsylvania Republicans is none other than Donald J. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
And then:
Pay no attention to the hypocritical breast-beating by state Republicans who have denounced The Donald’s Mussolini-like exhibitionism of late. They say they’re against Mr. Trump’s anti-Muslim scapegoating, but they can’t wait to stick their faces into his coin-filled troth to slurp up the loot he will help generate for them this weekend.

While Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said that he won’t be attending today’s shameful escapade, some of the dollars Mr. Trump will help raise could surely make their way to assist the senator’s campaign, too. It’s hard to have deniability when the party you represent is in bed with the most charismatic but un-American politician in several generations.
For the record, Toomey's disagreeing with Trump on that whole "No New Mooslim's in Amurika" thing.

With a tweet:
Trump is wrong. We should not have a religious test for admission to U.S. We should have a security test, and it should be bullet proof.
Yea, a tweet.  A speech would be nice.  A speech to a crowd of loyal republicans there to cheer Pat Toomey on as he denounces Trump's fascism.  That would the right thing to do, right?  Should be easy, right?  To gather up enough loyal republicans to cheer Pat Toomey on as he denounces Trump.  Toomey should definitely do that but hey, to each his own, I guess.

PoliticsPA points us to this piece in the Washington Post, pointing out Toomey's Trump Troubles.  (See what I did there?  It's called an alliteration - though in my case it's more of an amateur alliteration.  Ooops, I did it again.  Got lost in the game, I guess.):
"A candidate who is too conservative or too controversial can hurt GOP Senate candidates in swing states." That's wisdom from people who have such things — the political analysts at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

And what do you know? GOP front-runner Donald Trump's most recent idea — to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. — seems like about the most controversial thing a presidential candidate could say at this moment in time. (We say this fully aware that Trump has and probably will continue to up the ante.)

In other words: Trump is Senate Republicans' worst nightmare right now. His ban-Muslim-immigrants comment is undoubtedly going to make it harder for vulnerable Senate Republicans — who are trying to hang onto the Senate by defending 24 of the 34 seats up for reelection in 2016 — to argue that their party hasn't gone off the deep end ideologically. [Italics and links in original.]
And wouldn't you know it, Pat Toomey's on Cook's list of vulnerable Senate Republicans.  Because, as Tony writes:
In Pennsylvania, this will mean a Tea Party darling like Mr. Toomey will have a very large target on his back because he belongs to the party of Trump right now.
From Laura Olsen in yesterday's morning call:
But even though Toomey is distancing himself physically and rhetorically from the event, he still stands to benefit as he faces re-election in 2016. And that's something at least one of the Democrats hoping to unseat him wants voters to know.

"Sen. Toomey will directly benefit from the Trump fundraiser, because the Pennsylvania Republican Party will use those funds to help with Toomey's re-election," Democratic Senate candidate Katie McGinty said, reiterating a call for him to urge his fellow Republicans to cancel the event.
Whether it's financial help that's limited to a few thousand or something more, Toomey's still gonna get some help from Trump.  And that's dirty.

And Toomey's anti-Trump tweet?  Joe Sestak had something to say about it in a tweet back:
Then why 2 weeks ago did you say we don't need that bullet proof test "if we know with certainty that the person is a Christian?
Yea, Toomey's in Trouble.  Trump Trouble.

December 10, 2015

The Many Science Errors Of Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz

From NPR, yesterday:
Well, I believe that public policy should follow the science and follow the data. I am the son of two mathematicians and computer programmers and scientists. In the debate over global warming, far too often politicians in Washington - and for that matter, a number of scientists receiving large government grants - disregard the science and data and instead push political ideology. You and I are both old enough to remember 30, 40 years ago, when, at the time, we were being told by liberal politicians and some scientists that the problem was global cooling...
Yea, but that was definitely a minority position among the climate scientists back then:
A survey of peer reviewed scientific papers from 1965 to 1979 show that few papers predicted global cooling (7 in total). Significantly more papers (42 in total) predicted global warming (Peterson 2008). The large majority of climate research in the 1970s predicted the Earth would warm as a consequence of CO2. Rather than 1970s scientists predicting cooling, the opposite is the case.
Ted goes on:
But then, as you noted, the data didn't back that up. So then, many of those same liberal politicians and a number of those same scientists switched their theory to global warming.
Yea, that would be the data showing the planet was warming up.

I don't understand how Cruz' use of the "70s Ice Age!" story undermines his skepticism of the current scientific consensus.  A minority of papers supported it back then and when more evidence was found it was abandoned for a theory explaining that evidence: the planet's warming up and we're to blame.

Then he goes with the tried and (basically un)true:
The scientific evidence doesn't support global warming. For the last 18 years, the satellite data - we have satellites that monitor the atmosphere. The satellites that actually measure the temperature showed no significant warming whatsoever.
This is also simply not true.

Then he dodges on evolution:
INSKEEP: Do you question the science on other widely accepted issues - for example, evolution?

CRUZ: There is a fundamental difference, which is in the name of global warming, you have politicians trying to impose trillions of dollars of cost on the world. In the I-95 Corridor, among the Washington elite, global warming is very popular because it makes you feel good about caring for the world. But I'll tell you, you know who I'm concerned about? I'm concerned about the single mom waiting tables right now, who for seven years of the Obama economy has been trapped in stagnation. Her wages have been stagnating. It's harder and harder to make ends meet. And what the Washington elites are trying to do is double her energy bill.

INSKEEP: Do you question other science, like evolution?

CRUZ: Any good scientist questions all science. If you show me a scientist that stops questioning science, I'll show you someone who isn't a scientist. And I'll tell you, Steve. And I'll tell you why this has shifted. Look in the world of global warming. What is the language they use? They call anyone who questions the science - who even points to the satellite data - they call you a, quote, "denier." Denier is not the language of science. Denier is the language of religion. It is heretic. You are a blasphemer. It's treated as a theology. But it's about power and money. At the end of the day, it's not complicated. This is liberal politicians who want government power.
Notice he doesn't actually answer the very simple question.  For the record, there are no credible scientists who "question" (ie "doubt") evolution.  They may "question" the details but "doubting" the idea as a whole?  Nah, not a chance.

The science is there.  It's true whether you or Ted Cruz believes it to be true.

December 9, 2015

Ladies And Gentlemen, Meet Senator Senator Beuregard Claghorn

Today, the editorial board of the Tribune-Review, a paper once owned by a batshit crazie right-wing billionaire, denounced another batshit crazie right-wing billionaire, Donald J Trump.

All by drawing comparisions between Trump and two (mostly forgotten) comedy caricatures from the mid-20th century:
Foghorn Leghorn is at it again. What's that? Some of you aren't familiar with Mr. Leghorn? Allow us this brief primer:

Foghorn J. Leghorn was the Warner Bros. Pictures cartoon character of the 1940s. The bombastic white adult Leghorn rooster was unabashedly Southern. He was a knockoff of Beauregard Claghorn, the fictional U.S. senator of Charleston, S.C., popularized on Fred Allen's radio show that same decade.

Indeed, there was a comedic nature to each. But their essences were pure blowhard. And astute minds easily could decipher their prejudices between the script lines.

Which brings us to Donald J. Trump. On Monday in Mount Pleasant, S.C., 20 minutes away from Sen. Claghorn's hometown, Mr. Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

He was playing to the fears (if not the bigotry) of a Southern audience (if not a nation), stung and suspicious in the aftermath of last week's terrorist attack in California by a radicalized Muslim couple.

Yes, Muslim extremism is a growing threat. And America must quell the conflagration. But, where a fire extinguisher is needed, Foghorn J. Trump's broad brush only fans the flames
Good for them for calling Trump and blowhard.

But let's take a closer look at the fictional Senator, if only to see how far the crazie hasn't changed in Amurika.

Take a look:

Some highlights:
  •  Claghorn comes across an apple salesman who's selling "Northern Spy" apples and says, "Why do we have to import apples from foreign lands?"
  • When told that the apples grow up north, Claghorn says, "Well something's gotta be done about it." and his solution is to move the Mason-Dixon line up to the Great Lakes so that everything is the south.  "Let Canada be the north!"  Then, he continues, "anyone who couldn't talk with a southern drawl would have to get a pass port."
  • When he's told that "We all got the same American blood in us, whether we come from the north or the south" he answers with a stark "That's libel, son."
Compare the fictional stupidity of Claghorn with the real stupidity of Donald Trump and you'll see things have not shifted that much in 70 some odd years.

 At least at the end of his rants, the Senator would say, "That's a joke, son!"

The only problem with Trump and his many many followers in the GOP is that Trump's not joking.

Good for the braintrust for calling him out.

December 7, 2015

It's That Time Of Year!

Some of you kids may have to go to the internets and googol some of those names (Dinah Shore? Arthur Fonzarelli?).  Feel free.

Put on your yarmulke!

December 6, 2015

The Tribune-Review Gets Climate Science Wrong. Again.

Let's start at the top of today's propaganda pile:
Federal researchers insist in a “bombshell” report that global warming hasn't paused since 1998. Despite contradictory scientific evidence, you'll just have to trust them.
Or you can read the paper yourself.

It's right here.  That's the paper that's upset the anti-science crowd who've wrongly claimed for years the existence of the post-'98 el NiƱo hiatus.  Since the science disagrees with their pre-paid notions of "no warming!", the science must be wrong, right?

Here's the abstract:
Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here, we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than those reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.
And this is why they did what they did:
Given recent improvements in the observed record and additional years of global data (including a record-warm 2014), we reexamine the observational evidence related to a “hiatus” in recent global surface warming.
They authors said that the method of collected data was always changing and gave three examples:
Changes of particular importance include (i) an increasing amount of ocean data from buoys, which are slightly different than data from ships; (ii) an increasing amount of ship data from engine intake thermometers, which are slightly different than data from bucket seawater temperatures; and (iii) a large increase in land-station data, which enables better analysis of key regions that may be warming faster or slower than the global average.
And so on.  It's all there in the paper. No pause.  No hiatus.  The data supports the idea that whatever was thought of as "the pause" was caused by "residual data biases" that needed to be corrected.  Once they were understood (that bouy data was slightly different from ship data, and so on) and corrected, BAM! the hiatus disappeared, like the shadow thrown by a passing cloud.

And that scared the Dickens out of the anti-science crowd, leading to this (via MSNBC):
Climate deniers, including those on the House Science Committee, were fond of the “pause” idea and were outraged that a public-sector scientist was involved in debunking it. So, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith went after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, demanding an explanation of how Karl’s journal piece came together.
This is what the braintrust is talking about.  The funny thing is what happened next in the above MSNBC piece.  They go to this piece at Vox:
[Ranking member Bernice Johnson explained] that Smith made three written requests for information about Karl’s study, all of which NOAA responded to in writing and in personal briefings. “Moreover,” she writes, “NOAA attempted to explain certain aspects of the methodology about which the Majority was apparently confused.” (Imagine how that meeting went.)

Among Smith’s repeated demands: access to the data and methods behind NOAA’s work on climate. Except, as NOAA and Democratic members of the committee kept trying to explain, those data and methods are posted on the internet. Anyone can access them. Yet Republicans kept demanding them.
What was the braintrust saying, again, about transparency?

Do they even have the slightest clue how silly they look right now?

Yea, probably not.

Do the rest of the staff (ie the real news reporters, editors and so on) realize how silly THEY look for having to work in the same building as the anti-science know nothings on their paper's editorial board?

Yea, probably.

December 5, 2015

The Lord's Prayer In Monroeville

Late this past week, Adam Shuck e-blasted a story about the Lord's Prayer in Monroeville. (If you're not a recipient of Eat That, Read This, you really should look into becoming one.  It makes good lunchtime reading.)

Anyway, Adam linked to this Trib article from mid-November:
Monroeville officials are considering whether to say the Lord's Prayer before council meetings after a resident raised concerns about the practice with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, a council member said Tuesday.
A little while later in the piece:
Duquesne University law student Joshua Allenberg, 34, said he wants officials to allow members of any faith to lead prayers before council meetings, instead of saying the same Christian prayer at the mayor's direction, which Allenberg said “smacks of an unfair advantage.”

“I simply would like to have prayer before meetings be offered by chaplains or laypersons, and for the municipality to allow requests from the community to deliver such an invocation,” he said.
So it's not about banning all prayers but about allowing all prayers in.  Let's be clear about that.  In my humble non-legal opinion (as I am not an attorney), at the very least, you have to let all citizens have a chance to offer up their own prayers.  If you won't do that, then no one should open the meeting with prayer - least of all the guv'ment.

Of all the local TV coverage on the 3rd, KDKA had the best, summing up Allenberg's complaint in 3 paragraphs:
“Every meeting, they’ve recited the Lord’s Prayer, which from my understanding, is a strictly Christian prayer. I’m Jewish. I wasn’t very familiar with it,” said Josh Allenberg, who opposes government led prayer. “To me, shows favoring one religion over another.”

Allenberg is a first-year law student at Duquesne University. He’s interested in Monroeville politics. He even serves on an advisory board for the borough.

“Elected officials cannot be leading prayers,” he says. “On top of that, governmental boards can’t be shown favoring one religion over another.”
For those few unacquainted with the Pater Noster, here it is (or at least the version recited by the Monroeville City Council):
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever.
While there are slightly different versions strewn across Christendom ("debts" instead of "trespasses", "your" instead of "thy" and so on) the text is taken from Matthew 6:9-13.

More on that a little later.

Most of the news coverage references a particular Supreme Court case, Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway et al and so perhaps a perusal through the decision might lead us to see whether our friends in Monroeville have trespassed over the 1st Amendment.

In the decision, the Court allowed prayer and overturned an lower court's decision allowing only nonsectarian prayers at town meetings, saying:
To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian would force the legislatures sponsoring prayers and the courts deciding these cases to act as supervisor s and censors of religious speech, thus involving government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town’s current practice of neither editing nor approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their content after the fact.
However the Court does say a few paragraphs later:
Absent a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, proselytize, or betray an impermissible government purpose, a challenge based solely on the content of a particular prayer will not likely establish a constitutional violation. Finally, so long as the town maintains a policy of nondiscrimination, the Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing.
And later, still:
Our Government is prohibited from prescribing prayers to be recited in our public institutions in order to promote a preferred system of belief or code of moral behavior.
Unfortunately, Monroeville Mayor Greg Erosenko seems to have missed that one when he was quoted by TAE as saying:
"It's very sad that we have come to this, taking what happened in California," Erosenko said. "Not just Monroeville, but I think our whole country needs a lot of prayer."
If he's speaking as a private citizen that's one thing, but if that's the official position of the Mayor of Monroeville, then we got a problem.  If the point of opening the meetings with prayer is to spread religion, then they've crossed a constitutional line.

And if they decide to continue the practice then they should be taken to court.

But taking a step back, my larger question is this: WHY WERE THEY DOING THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?  What possible purpose is served by opening a public meeting with such an obvious religious prayer?  Doesn't matter how long they've been doing it.  It has no place in a secular society.  And we live in a secular society, make no mistake.  Wanna see what life is like in a theocracy?  There's any number of places across the globe to use as an example.  I'd imagine life's pretty sweet if you agree with the prevailing theology.  Now imagine if you didn't.

That's why the 1st Amendment bans the government from imposing any religion on any citizen.  In theory that should trickle down to the city council level as well.  They have no right to compel anyone stand and recite a set of words declaring a religious belief ("Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name...") in order to simply participate in a public meeting discussing public issues.

The irony of such public pronouncements, of course, is found just a few verses before Matthew 6:9-13 (And you thought I forgot about returning to Scripture, huh?).  Take a look at Matthew 6:5-6:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Don't be like the hypocrites who pray in public just so that they can be seen praying in public.  Wanna pray?  Do it in private.  Jesus said that, you know.

Will they listen in Monroeville?

December 4, 2015

A War Criminal Gets Honored At The US Capitol

Here's the story.

Doesn't matter.

As Glenn Greenwald writes:
As vice president, Dick Cheney was a prime architect of the worldwide torture regime implemented by the U.S. government (which extended far beyond waterboarding), as well as the invasion and destruction of Iraq, which caused the deaths of at least 500,000 people and more likely over a million. As such, he is one of the planet’s most notorious war criminals.
Prosecute the torture.

Prosecute the torturers.

Prosecute Dick Cheney.

December 2, 2015


Human Rights Watch, the nonprofit nongovernmental human rights organization formed in 1978 has issued a report telling us that:
It is now well established that following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operated a global, state-sanctioned program in which it abducted scores of people throughout the world, held them in secret detention—sometimes for years—or “rendered” them to various countries, and tortured or otherwise ill-treated them. While the program officially ended in 2009, the cover-up of these crimes appears to be ongoing.

Many detainees were held by the CIA in pitch-dark windowless cells, chained to walls, naked or diapered, for weeks or months at a time. The CIA forced them into painful stress positions that made it impossible for them to lie down or sleep for days, to the point where many hallucinated or begged to be killed to end their misery. It used “waterboarding” and similar techniques to cause near suffocation or drowning, crammed detainees naked into tiny boxes, and prevented them from bathing, using toilets, or cutting their hair or nails for months. “We looked like monsters,” one detainee said of his appearance while in CIA custody.
In other words: WE TORTURED.  Or at the very least, THE CIA TORTURED IN OUR NAME.

Prosecute the torture.

HRC goes on:
US officials who created, authorized, and implemented the CIA program should be among those investigated for conspiracy to torture as well as other crimes. They include: Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, Assistant Attorney General for Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Jay Bybee, OLC Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, an individual identified as “CTC Legal” in the Senate Summary, CIA Director George Tenet, National Security Legal Advisor John Bellinger, Attorney General John Ashcroft, White House Counsel Legal Advisor Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the Vice President David Addington, Deputy White House Counsel Timothy Flanigan, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes II, Vice President Dick Cheney, and President George W. Bush. In addition, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, CIA psychologist contractors who devised the program, proposed it to the CIA, and helped carry it out, should also be investigated for their role in the initial conspiracy.
Torturers all.

Prosecute the torture.

Why is this important?  Look:
The failure to credibly investigate and prosecute torture committed in any territory under US jurisdiction violates US obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other treaties to which the US is a party. Other countries and entities should open their own investigations into CIA torture and should exercise universal jurisdiction, where applicable, over US nationals and others implicated in torture or other abuses. Additionally, countries that were complicit or otherwise unlawfully assisted the CIA program should also conduct investigations into the alleged illegal conduct of their own nationals.

Besides violating international law, the US government’s inaction in the face of clear evidence of torture sends a message to future US policymakers and officials that they too can commit torture and other ill-treatment and not fear being held accountable. Several presidential candidates for the 2016 elections have already indicated they would consider using so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” if they were to be elected.
Because Trump and Jeb! have both indicated a willingness to bring it back.

Prosecute the torture, Mr President.  So it can't happen again.

December 1, 2015

The Tribune-Review STILL Misleading The Public On Climate Change.

Take a look:
Not only has there been significant pause in Earth's warming, there's credible scientific research — based on solar activity — suggesting a significant cooling decade beginning in 2030. But you won't hear anything about that in Paris. That's what happens when political and social re-engineering agendas replace science.
Ah, "the pause" - we've dealt with this myth before, haven't we?

But what about that other thing?  The cooling beginning in 2030?

The story begins here:
A new model of the Sun’s solar cycle is producing unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun’s 11-year heartbeat. The model draws on dynamo effects in two layers of the Sun, one close to the surface and one deep within its convection zone. Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645. Results will be presented today by Prof Valentina Zharkova at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno.
Professor Zharkova isn't actually a climate scientist, however distinguished a mathematician that she is.

So what do actual climate scientists think of this?  From the Washington Post: 
It’s a dramatic idea, but it isn’t being embraced by many climate scientists, who argue that anthropogenic global warming — brought on by a human outpouring of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere — will far outweigh any climate effects that might be caused by the sun. As far as the solar variations go, “The effect is a drop in the bucket, a barely detectable blip, on the overall warming trajectory we can expect over the next several decades from greenhouse warming,” said Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, in an e-mail to The Washington Post.
However, this belief is in direct contrast with much literature on the topic. Georg Feulner, deputy chair of the Earth system analysis research domain at the Potsdam Institute on Climate Change Research, co-authored a paper in 2011 specifically examining the effect a solar minimum might have on Earth’s climate. His paper, and subsequent related research has concluded that any solar-related temperature drops would be far outweighed by human-caused global warming. In the case of a solar minimum, such as the one predicted by Zharkova and colleagues, “The expected decrease in global temperature would be 0.1°C at most, compared to about 1.3°C warming since pre-industrial times by the year 2030,” Feulner wrote in an e-mail to the Post.

Complicating the matter further is the idea that the 17th century’s “little ice age” wasn’t even really the result of the solar minimum going on at the time. Feulner also authored another 2011 paper that concluded that volcanic activity was the major cause of a cooler climate during this time, rather than solar variations. The takeaway is that changes in solar radiation are unlikely to hold a candle to the climatic effects being brought about by human-related greenhouse gas emissions.
So all we have, truth be told, is the braintrust yelling and pointing: LOOK OVER THERE!

Anywhere but at the science and the rising temperatures.

November 29, 2015

What Josh Marshall Said

From Talkingpointsmemo:
Caution in the light of factual uncertainty is almost always a laudable stance for journalists and public officials. But from the beginning of yesterday's attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs there's been an odd reluctance to state what appears to be obvious: that the attacker, now identified as 57 year old Robert Lewis Dear, was motivated by extremist anti-abortion politics. The Denver Post headline states "Planned Parenthood shootings increasingly seem politically motivated" - and this after numerous accounts state that Dear was ranting about "no more baby parts" after his arrest, almost certainly a reference to the incitement earlier this fall over a doctored anti-Planned Parenthood sting video. Let's remember, false claims and incitement about selling "body parts" were a staple of Fox News segments and tirades from Republican presidential candidates all through the Fall.
And remember they were false claims about selling "baby parts" and anyone who spread them carries a little responsibility for any violence that occurred because of them.

November 26, 2015


While it looks like our friends at the Tribune-Review are continuing their Thanksgiving Tradition of misquoting Harry S Truman, so we'll continue our tradition of spreading the word about the Alice's Restaurant Massa-CREE.

From 2013:
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.
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 23, 2015

Message To Donald Trump (And His GOP Disciples)

Waterboarding is illegal.

It's a war crime.

And yet, that pesky notion doesn't seem to get in the way of Donald Trump's precautionary foreign policy.  From Talkingpointsmemo:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he'd bring back waterboarding on Sunday and called the practice "peanuts" compared to "what they’d do to us."

Trump appeared on ABC's "This Week" program where he said the country has to be "strong" against enemies.

"We have -- I would bring it back, yes. I would bring it back," Trump said. "I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they’d do to us, what they’re doing to us, what they did to James Foley when they chopped off his head. That’s a whole different level and I would absolutely bring back interrogation and strong interrogation."
Well, the country has to follow its own laws.  And torture is illegal.  Has been since at least the mid-90s when the Senate ratified the treaty against torture that Ronald Reagan signed in '88.

And yet, according to the most recent ABC/Washington Post Poll, Trump is on top of the GOP field by at least 10 points.

How many times have we heard the Tea Party wing of the GOP scream about Obamaic Tyranny?  About his illegal powergrabs?

And yet, one of their own is vowing to "bring back" torture.  Which is illegal.  Which is a war crime.  Which is the ultimate powergrab.

What does this say about our friends in the GOP?

November 21, 2015

Life Comes At You Slow, David

If you get a chance, read Brian O'Neill's column on getting old.

It starts like this:
You know you’re getting old when . . .
So you know I'm not mis-representing.

Anyway, he starts by admitting he defrauded a movie theatre for twenty-five cents while also admitting he went alone to see an Anne Hathaway movie (The Intern, co-starring someone named Robert DeNiro).

I kid.  I kid because I care, Brian.

Then he gets to Ed Asner:
That was a month ago, if memory serves, and can it really at your age? More recently, you pick up your Sunday paper (because you still prefer the feel of the printed page, coot that you are). You see among the listed birthdays, “Actor Ed Asner, 86.’’ Your brain synapses fire up and return you to the day you met him, nearly 27 years ago.

You’ve been in Pittsburgh barely a month when Mr. Asner arrives for a pre-Broadway production of “Born Yesterday.’’
That would be late November, 1988.  Back to Brian:
You ask him to channel Mr. Grant and tell you to how to cover this story on Mr. Asner. “The story isn’t Asner,’’ he growls over his vodka, neat.“It’s the people at the Rainbow Kitchen.’’

You follow his advice and write your column more or less that way. You think, man, what a great old guy. Twenty-seven years later, you do the math in your head and realize you’re older than he was then.
Did someone say math?  And for our British readers, that last question should have read "Did someone say maths?" (And I just don't have the berlins necessary to write the whole bloody thing in British).

If my arithmetic is correct, Ed Asner was a few weeks past his 59th birthday at that point.  But seeing as this is a blog and as a blogger, I am always writing about me, let's see how Asner Time works in my life.

As of this date, I am 19,040 days old.  So adding 19,040 days to Ed Asner's birthday we get (again if my maths are correct) January 1, 1982.

Lou Grant (everyone remembers Lou Grant, right?  It was a dramatic spin-off of the Mary Tyler More Show?) was in its last season when Ed Asner was the age I am now.

Its last season.

This was the first episode of Lou Grant broadcast:

That was September 20, 1977, when Ed Asner was was 17,476 days old


1,564 days younger than I am today.  4 years 104 days younger, to put it in other terms.

By this point in their lives:
  • Beethoven was working his last symphony
  • Brahms was working his last symphony
  • Mozart was already dead 16 years, 3 months and 10 days.
Life comes at you slow, for sure.

November 20, 2015

Chuck McCullough Update (Hint: Things Just Got Worse)

From my last blog post, we learned that former Allegheny County Councilman Charles P. "Chuck" McCullough was attempting to have Judge Lester G. Nauhaus removed from the sentencing part of the trial.  Chuck alleged that:
...that Judge Nauhaus had improper communications with Mr. McCullough’s previous defense lawyer, Jon Pushinsky, in which the judge relayed through a mutual friend that Mr. Pushinsky should “go nonjury” for the trial.

Mr. McCullough claimed in his petition that he wanted a jury trial but feared repercussions by Judge Nauhaus.
That part didn't go so well for our Chuck:
President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning denied McCullough's petition to recuse Judge Lester G. Nauhaus from his sentencing when one witness after another cited rules of evidence, attorney-client privilege or protected sources to avoid testifying at an evidentiary hearing.

“There's absolutely nothing on the record at all to indicate Judge Nauhaus was in any way not impartial ... aside from what was in your petition,” Manning said. “Without evidence, those claims are now scurrilous.”
But that's not really the bad part.

This is:
The day after former Allegheny County Councilman Chuck McCullough lost his bid to have the judge on his case removed, he is to face new criminal charges of perjury and obstruction.

Mr. McCullough is to turn himself in today at Pittsburgh Municipal Court. He received notice of the new charges Thursday; they apparently stem from his waiver earlier this year of his right to a jury trial both in writing and during an oral colloquy before Common Pleas Senior Judge Lester G. Nauhaus.

In those statements, Mr. McCullough said he waived his right to a jury trial voluntarily and free from any threat, but that waiver contradicts his recent claim that he made the nonjury decision under duress.
I would have thought someone with a JD would have known that was coming.

But I'm not a lawyer so what the heck do I know??

November 19, 2015

ANOTHER Embarrassment For The Tribune-Review Editorial Board

Take a look:
The U.S. Senate voted 53-46 to reject a United Nations resolution that “called for member states to support weapons collection and disarmament of all U.N. countries.” The vote precludes the United States from becoming a part of Turtle Bay's Arms Trade Treaty. Indeed it is comforting to know that a majority of the Senate considers sacred our national sovereignty and the Second Amendment; it is just as frightening to think that 46 senators — 44 Democrats and two independents — do not. [Bolding in original]
Ah, the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

The one John Kerry signed in late September, 2013.

The one that says in its Preamble:
Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system [Italics in original.]
The one where the Senate voted against it with a vote of 53-46 on March 23, 2013.

That was 971 days ago.

How much more embarrassing can this get for you, my friends?

November 17, 2015

I Guess They Don't Know How To Read, Either.

I mean this is confusing.  They must know who to write, seeing as they string together words that follow certain grammatical rules and in doing so convey a particular idea.

I just don't think the folks over at The Federalist actually know how to read.  Take a look at this from The Federalist:
During a press conference detailing his administration’s strategy to destroy ISIS following several devastating terrorist attacks in Paris, President Barack Obama said he’s not interested in “pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning[.]”
Of course the right wing crazies (perhaps even some of your friends and family) went nuts over this.

But what the the president mean?

Let's take a look at what he actually said:
I guess my point is this, Jim: My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act -- whether it’s with respect to bin Laden or with respect to sending additional troops in Afghanistan, or keeping them there -- if it is determined that it’s actually going to work.

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We'll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it's entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I'm not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I'm too busy for that.
Pay extra special attention to that middle paragraph.  He is talking about real leadership, just not the political sloganeering of it that's designed to make the speaker look tough.

Why?  Because there's always some 25 year old kid with his legs blown off for some "I got a bigger dick than you, you evil doer." slogan.

That's what he's talking about.

And it's amazing to me the otherwise intelligent folks who simply can't read deeply enough to see it.

November 15, 2015

On Offensive Halloween Costumes, en at.

Let me frame, humbly and respectfully, my argument by quoting a writer far far more talented than I'll ever be - Stephen Fry.  In a debate in England about 10 years ago on the then-newly introduced Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill, Fry said this:
It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I'm offended by that." Well, so fucking what?
And with that, let's go to Yale.

Full disclosure: I grew up just outside of New Haven but I never went to Yale.  In my youth, my brother, father and I saw a number of football games at the Bowl and sometime before I graduated High School I decided I wanted, really really wanted, to go to Yale, if only to be a member of the Yale Precision Marching Band (Boola, Boola).  Alas, lack of tuition money and great (not just simply good) grades got in my way and I landed 58 minutes up two interstates at UConn.  A few years later in the late 80s, I had a Yale non-student library card (I remember it was $12 per month, discounted to $144 for an entire year) and I met a few Yale music professors - Claude Palisca and Leon Plantinga among them.  I was also able to sit in on a few Yale musicology lectures where, if memory serves, I saw a visiting and still relatively unknown musicologist named Susan McClary deliver a lecture on Gender Construction in the music of Claudio Monteverdi.  I seem to recall the room being cordial though less than impressed with her work, though my memory may be faulty about the latter.

This month a loud discussion erupted at this University I never attended.  From the NYTimes:
The debate over Halloween costumes began late last month when the university’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent an email to the student body asking students to avoid wearing “culturally unaware and insensitive” costumes that could offend minority students. It specifically advised them to steer clear of outfits that included elements like feathered headdresses, turbans or blackface.

In response, Erika Christakis, a faculty member and an administrator at a student residence, wrote an email to students living in her residence hall on behalf of those she described as “frustrated” by the official advice on Halloween costumes. Students should be able to wear whatever they want, she wrote, even if they end up offending people.
From the IAC letter (the first one) we read:
Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.

The culturally unaware or insensitive choices made by some members of our community in the past, have not just been directed toward a cultural group, but have impacted religious beliefs, Native American/Indigenous people, Socio-economic strata, Asians, Hispanic/Latino, Women, Muslims, etc. In many cases the student wearing the costume has not intended to offend, but their actions or lack of forethought have sent a far greater message than any apology could after the fact…
And from the response we get:
I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.
Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense – and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes – I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people's capacity – in your capacity - to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values (“liberal” in the American, not European sense of the word).
 And yet this is how Amy Goodman described the situation:
I want to go to Thursday, Lex [Barlowe, president of the Yale Black Student Alliance] when hundreds of students confronted Nicholas Christakis, the master of one of the college’s residential dorms, over the email that his wife sent in which she condoned offensive Halloween costumes. [Emphasis added.]
As much as I am usually on board with Amy Goodman, she's more or less completely wrong in her characterization here.  At no point in Christakis' letter does she condone offensive costumes.  Especially when she writes:
I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others. I can’t defend them anymore than you could defend yours.
She's agreeing, in general, with the idea of avoiding hurt and offense (she "lauded" those goals, in fact - as do I) but she was concerned with the notion of an institution imposing, or even suggesting, restrictions "from above."

And when she gets to this sentence near the end of her email:
Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.
We know what she's defending and condoning.

I realize there's a lot more going on at Yale and New Haven than this.  Yale is a major academic institution nestled into a small-ish American city (by population it's a little under half the size of Pittsburgh) and so to deny that there's any reason for its various communities of color to be aggrieved  would be far going beyond simple naivete.  It would be an act of self-imposed ignorance.  There are obviously many valid reasons for many valid grievances (for example the story of a "white girls only" party on campus) but Christakis' email just shouldn't be one of them.  As she's defending free speech.  The fact that the price of free speech is offensive free speech doesn't change anything.

Note the dissonance between the open letter her email triggered:
In your email, you ask students to “look away” if costumes are offensive, as if the degradation of our cultures and people, and the violence that grows out of it is something that we can ignore. We were told to meet the offensive parties head on, without suggesting any modes or means to facilitate these discussions to promote understanding. Giving “room” for students to be “obnoxious” or “offensive”, as you suggest, is only inviting ridicule and violence onto ourselves and our communities, and ultimately comes at the expense of room in which marginalized students can feel safe.

These discussions are not new, and have been happening nationally. To ask marginalized students to throw away their enjoyment of a holiday, in order to expend emotional, mental, and physical energy to explain why something is offensive, is — offensive.
With what's found on the Yale website regarding freedom of expression:
Yale’s commitment to freedom of expression means that when you agree to matriculate, you join a community where “the provocative, the disturbing, and the unorthodox” must be tolerated. When you encounter people who think differently than you do, you will be expected to honor their free expression, even when what they have to say seems wrong or offensive to you.
So screaming at someone defending free speech for not restricting it enough fits where, exactly, into the free flow of ideas necessary for intellectual growth on a college campus?

Free speech for everyone means that anyone has the right to say or believe what they want.  No where in that nugget of freedom, however, is the notion that anyone should be free from any criticism for what they say or believe.  Don't like the Halloween costume?  Speak up about it.  In a free society, shutting down someone else's right to be offensive isn't the answer, no matter how well-intentioned.

But let me ask another, more localized, question.

Anyone remember this woman?

This was a couple years ago at the CMU Anti-Gravity rally.  The P-G reported:
Photos of the female student showed her dressed in half of what appears to be a garment that resembles that worn by the pope and a large pointed hat with a cross on the front. The lower part of her body was naked and she had a cross shaved into her pubic area.

"It is offensive to me and the church that I represent. It crosses a line," Bishop David Zubik said.
Certainly offensive.  Just as it's certainly protected free speech.

If the she-Pope has the right to offend, so does everyone at Yale who wants to be stupid and insult his or her neighbors with an infantile costume.

In a free society everyone has the right to express themselves freely but since everyone else also has that right, no one should expect to be immune from criticism. Even while wearing a Halloween costume.

And this is not just about Halloween costumes.  You did know that, right?

November 14, 2015

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November 13, 2015

Next Time You Hear That The ACA Is A Failure

At a recent Republican "debate" fired HP exec Carly Fiorina said this:
I understand that you cannot have someone who's battled cancer just become known as a pre-existing condition. I understand that you cannot allow families to go bankrupt if they truly need help. But, I also understand that Obamacare isn't helping anyone.
And that got our friends at Politifact researching.  They concluded that:
Even taking the low end of estimates, tens of millions of Americans have benefited from the ACA, in big ways (such as securing insurance for the first time) or smaller ways (paying less for drugs under Medicare Part D). One does not have to buy into every aspect of the law or feel comfortable with its overall price tag to acknowledge that lots of people have benefited from it. We rate Fiorina’s statement Pants on Fire.
 Then there's the whole "employment" issue.  From MSNBC:
At this week’s debate for the Republican presidential candidates, Carly Fiorina, who’s dabbled at times with demonstrably false talking points, proudly declared, “Obamacare isn’t helping anyone.” Even for her, it was unsettling to hear Fiorina deny the existence of tens of millions of Americans who’ve benefited from the Affordable Care Act.

But aside from the garden-variety nonsense, the debate’s audience also heard a more specific claim from Marco Rubio: “[W]e have a crazy health care law that discourages companies from hiring people.” To which the reality-based community responded, “We do?”

The oddity of the criticism is how easy it is to recognize how wrong it is. We know, for example, that in 2014 – the first full year of ACA implementation – the job market in the United States had its best year since the late 1990s. Indeed, hiring in 2014 was so strong, it surpassed literally any single year in either Bush presidency, and even many of the years in the Clinton era.
They even have a chart:

And then some context for the chart:
And why is March 2010 of particular significance? Because private-sector employment bottomed out in February 2010, and then started to recover in March 2010. It hasn’t looked back since.

March 2010 is the month President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. In other words, America’s private sector started hiring again, not around the same time as “Obamacare,” but quite literally the exact month the president put pen to paper and made the ACA the law of the land.
For the next time your crazy, right-wing, Fox-watching uncle (or cousin) starts spewing chunks about the ACA.