Democracy Has Prevailed.

January 31, 2015

Kissinger, McCain, And Code Pink

From The Hill:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called protesters "low-life scum," after they interrupted a hearing by calling for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to be arrested for war crimes.

Protesters from the group Code Pink chanted, "Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes!" and raised signs in the air as Kissinger entered the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing room.

McCain, the chairman of the committee, at first asked, "Could someone find out where the Capitol Police is?"
Alas, the good Senator was not taking Code Pink's advice and calling for the Capitol Police to arrest Kissinger for war crimes.

In a statement released later, McCain wrote:
The incident at today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in which individuals associated with the liberal group Code Pink physically threatened former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger was completely unacceptable, and those responsible must be held fully accountable for their actions. In my 32 years in the House and Senate, I have never witnessed this kind of physical intimidation of a witness at a Congressional hearing.
Code Pink’s typical protest tactics include interrupting Congressional hearings with chanting and sign-holding, which while disruptive and improper, do not represent a threat to witnesses. What happened today was far different. As Dr. Kissinger entered the hearing room to take his seat, a group of Code Pink protesters rushed up to the witness table to confront him, waving handcuffs within inches of his head. Some senators were concerned enough for Dr. Kissinger’s safety that they came down off the dais to support the witnesses. With no U.S. Capitol Police intervening, the episode went on for several minutes.
Which is, of course, not entirely accurate.  Take a look at the video:

The rundown:
0:18 - Protesters can be heard chanting "Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes!"
0:24 - A rather burly man with a yellow tie (Kissinger's assistant? a Senate staffer?) stands between Kissinger and the protesters
0:28 - A uniformed Capitol Police officer is seen intervening
0:31 - Kissinger calmly sits down next to former Secretary of State George Schultz, who's sitting next to Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright
0:35 - A hand can be seen holding up a pair of hand cuffs between Kissinger and Schultz
0:44 - The Capital police officer can be seen talking on his radio
1:17 - The Capital police officer can be seen directing the protestors to the back of the hall
1:29 - The protestors are seen moving away from Kissinger
1:51 - They're all back in their seats
2:19 - McCain says to one man who seems to be yelling at the committee, "You know, you're going to have to shut up or I'll have you arrested.
2:19 - The Capital police officer is seen leading the man away
2:20 - McCain: "If we can't get the Capitol Hill Police in here immediately"
2:23 - The man goes back for his jacket
2:24 - McCain: "Get out of here you low life scum."
2:27 - McCain apologizes to Kissinger on behalf of the committee
3:04 - Says Kissinger "served his country with the greatest distiction."
A few notes -
  • The chanting-bloody-hands-holding-handcuffs protest was done in just over one minute
  • McCain seems not to know that a member of the Capitol Police was present at all times
  • At no time was the rather burly man with the yellow tie not standing between Kissinger and the protesters.
Now go back and look at how McCain described it for those who may not have seen the video.

Not entirely accurate is a bit of an understatement.

But let's take a look at why Code Pink might think Kissinger should be arrested for war crimes (BTW, I do, too!).

On East Timor, Christopher Hitchens wrote in 2002:
The State Department recently declassified the verbatim conversation between Kissinger and General Soeharto on the day of the invasion of East Timor in 1975. The record shows Kissinger giving warm approval to the proposed annexation, and also promising to keep a flow of weapons coming to Indonesia.

This flagrant agreement to break both international law and the law of the US (which supplied weapons on the specific condition that they be used only in self-defence) contradicts every statement so far made by Kissinger on the subject.
And with that the blood of 180,000 East Timorese are on Kissinger's hands.

Then there's Vietnam.  Take a look at this from Hitchens, again.:
In the fall of 1968, Richard Nixon and some of his emissaries and underlings set out to sabotage the Paris peace negotiations on Vietnam. The means they chose were simple: they privately assured the South Vietnamese military rulers that an incoming Republican regime would offer them a better deal than would a Democratic one. In this way, they undercut both the talks themselves and the electoral strategy of Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The tactic "worked," in that the South Vietnamese junta withdrew from the talks on the eve of the election, thereby destroying the peace initiative on which the Democrats had based their campaign. In another way, it did not "work," because four years later the Nixon Administration tried to conclude the war on the same terms that had been on offer in Paris. The reason for the dead silence that still surrounds the question is that in those intervening years some 20,000 Americans and an uncalculated number of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians lost their lives. Lost them, that is to say, even more pointlessly than had those slain up to that point. The impact of those four years on Indochinese society, and on American democracy, is beyond computation. The chief beneficiary of the covert action, and of the subsequent slaughter, was Henry Kissinger.
Note that the peace talk sabotage took place before the 1968 election.  Nixon was still a private citizen (albeit one running for President) who had no legal authority to influence foreign policy.  In fact, it's a crime to do so.

It's pretty clear that the war was extended 4 years in order to aid in the election of Richard Nixon.  All the death and suffering in those extended years is on their hands.

Do I need to point out that Captain John McCain was captured in October 1967 and was released in March of 1973?

How much earlier would McCain have been released had Kissinger not sabotaged the '68 peace talks?  How much torture would he not have endured had the man he so deferentially reveres not, in effect, extended the Vietnam war for a Nixon's political gain?

Who's the low life scum here, anyway?

January 29, 2015

PoliticsPA Didn't Do It's Homework (Toomey's Climate Vote)

Remember this?

It was only from a couple of days ago.  It as a blog post about Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey's recent climate contradictory amendment votes - wherein he voted in favor of the idea that climate change is real but against the idea that human activity significantly contributes to it.

And in doing so he showed us again he's denying the science (but at least he's trying to give himself some political cover).

At the end of the blog I wrote:
And if no one in the media calls him on it, we'll know they didn't do their homework. Or they did and they're giving him a pass on it.
Well it didn't take long.

Take a look at this from PoliticsPA.  In a short piece titled:
PA-Sen: Toomey Balances Right and Center Ahead of 2016
We read how he's trying to "balance" Right and Center:
For example, last week Sen. Toomey was one of only 15 Republicans who voted for an amendment to express that humans contribute to climate change.

The Senator’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Anderson, asserted that Toomey’s views on climate change are nothing new. “Sen. Toomey has always said that human activity contributes to climate change,” she said. “The degree to which we play a role is clearly up for debate.”
Note how the vote against the amendment containing this text:
...human activity significantly contributes to climate change
Was omitted in this coverage of how Senator Toomey is looking to "balance" his conservative credentials with some more supposed centrist ones.

It paints an incomplete picture of the Senator's position on climate change in that he's still denying the science.

And PoliticsPA didn't do it's homework - or it did and it's giving Toomey a pass.

That didn't take long at all.

January 27, 2015

In Response To All The Snow Dumped On The Northeast This Week

(h/t Mediamatters)

However we shouldn't forget what's been happening on the planet's southern hemisphere:
The savage heat waves that struck Australia last year were almost certainly a direct consequence of greenhouse gases released by human activity, researchers said Monday. It is perhaps the most definitive statement climate scientists have made tying a specific weather event to global warming.

Five groups of researchers, using distinct methods, analyzed the heat that baked Australia for much of 2013 and continued into 2014, briefly shutting down the Australian Open tennis tournament in January when the temperature climbed to 111 degrees Fahrenheit.

All five research groups came to the conclusion that last year’s heat waves could not have been as severe without the long-term climatic warming caused by human emissions.
And while it's winter up here, it's summer down there.  And it's getting hotter and hotter in Australia.

How hot?

This hot:
What happens when a changing climate exceeds the operating parameters of the stuff we own? While we in the northern hemisphere make jokes about indestructible snow forts, it is getting hot in Australia. How hot? So hot that Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology had to add new colors to its weather map. Now, those unfortunate parts of Australia that achieve temperatures above 122ºF (50ºC) — temperatures that were, until recently, literally off the scale — will be marked in deep purple and terrifying hot pink. It is an interesting moment in data visualization history when climate scientists find themselves in the position of revising the upper bounds of temperatures they ever expected to depict.
Something to think about as we see it snow in NYC or Boston.

January 24, 2015

Senator Pat Toomey - A Science Denier, Still

Let's start at PennLive:
One of the thorniest issues pestering Republicans these days - climate change - was front and center in the U.S. Senate this week, but if you try to make sense of what happened, you might get a headache.

On the surface, it might seem as if Republicans, after long being reticent about the issue, finally came out on the side of most Americans and voted to affirm that climate change is real and not a hoax. But beyond the surface little has changed.

Sen. Pat Toomey is a good example. Long non-committed on his views about the scientific basis for climate change, the Lehigh Valley Republican this week voted in favor of the so-called "hoax" amendment.
This is absolutely true.  There were three amendments to the Keystone XL Pipeline Act voted on by the US Senate this week - and Toomey's changing vote tells us where he stands regarding science.

First the amendment he voted for.  This would be the amendment submitted by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and it reads like this (from the Congressional Record):
SA 29. Mr. WHITEHOUSE submitted an amendment intended to be proposed to amendment SA 2 proposed by Ms. MURKOWSKI (for herself, Mr. HOEVEN, Mr. BARRASSO, Mr. RISCH, Mr. LEE, Mr. FLAKE, Mr. DAINES, Mr. MANCHIN, Mr. CASSIDY, Mr. GARDNER, Mr. PORTMAN, Mr. ALEXANDER, and Mrs. CAPITO) to the bill S. 1, to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

On page 3, between lines 19 and 20, insert the following:


It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.
So Senator Toomey voted for that.

Then a few minutes the Senate voted on another "Sense of Congress" amendment - this one submitted by Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota.  For the sake of this discussion, the important stuff is this:
(1) ``[W]arming of the climate system is unequivocal and each of the last [3] decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850.'';

(2) ``The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], in addition to other institutions, such as the National Research Council and the United States (U.S.) Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), have concluded that it is extremely likely that global increases in atmospheric [greenhouse gas] concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities.'';
And this:
(1) climate change is real; and

(2) human activity contributes to climate change.
Senator Toomey voted for that one, too.

But then there was another vote.  For this Sense of Congress amendment.  The important stuff is this:
(1) ``[W]arming of the climate system is unequivocal and each of the last [3] decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850.'';

(2) ``The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], in addition to other institutions, such as the National Research Council and the United States (U.S.) Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), have concluded that it is extremely likely that global increases in atmospheric [greenhouse gas] concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities.'';
And this:
(1) climate change is real; and

(2) human activity significantly contributes to climate change.
Senator Pat Toomey voted against that one.

Notice anything different?

The word "significantly."

Let's sum up.  According to his voting record this week, Pennsylvania Senator Toomey agrees with each of these statements:
  • Climate change is real
  • Climate change not a hoax
  • Each of the last 3 decades has been successively warmer
  • The IPCC concluded that it's "extremely likely" that increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities
  • However, human activity does not significantly contribute to climate change.
That last statement is exactly not what scientists have been telling the Senate for almost 30 years:
The earth has been warmer in the first five months of this year than in any comparable period since measurements began 130 years ago, and the higher temperatures can now be attributed to a long-expected global warming trend linked to pollution, a space agency scientist reported today.
Here's the thing.  Senator Toomey is up for reelection in 2016.  He's going to be out on the campaign trail talking about a number of issues for some time.  And presumably someone somewhere is going to ask about his views on climate change.

If he says that he agrees climate change is not a hoax and that human activity contributes to the warming of the planet but fails to mention that he doesn't think that that contribution is significant, we'll know he's lying.  It'll be a straightforward lie by omission.

And if no one in the media calls him on it, we'll know they didn't do their homework.  Or they did and they're giving him a pass on it.

As of right now, he's still a climate science denier, no matter what sort of political cover he thinks those first two votes gave him.

Comments, Senator?

January 22, 2015

Yea...But It's Still Getting Warmer AND We're To Blame

From the Tribune-Review today:
The West Virginia Board of Education has redefined the word “chicken.” It voted 6-2 last week to reverse a decision that would have included views contrary to the current climate change theology in the Mountain State's science curriculum. The board president is the wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. What a travesty that West Virginia students are being denied this necessary exercise in critical thinking. This is political indoctrination at its worst.
Of course the braintrust isn't telling you the entire story.

From the National Journal:
Last month, the state Board of Education voted to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, an academic framework that calls on teachers to teach man-made climate change in public-school classrooms.
So far so good.  So what happened next?
At the request of a board member who does not consider global warming settled science, however, the board altered the standards prior to their final adoption to cast doubt on the existence of global warming and the role of human activity in changing the planet's climate.
They changed this:
Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
To this:
Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise and fall in global temperatures over the past century.
And if you're talking climate change, that's simply not true.

And so one person on the board (one who doesn't believe in the science in the first place) added text to the standards that contradicts the actual science (held by 97% of the actual experts in the field) in order for those teaching standards to more closely conform to his own political views and not the science.  And what happens? The braintrust cries foul that it's "political indoctrination at its worst" when that assault on science is corrected.

Interesting definitions of "political indoctrination" and "science" they got over there at the Tribune-Review.

January 20, 2015

All you need to see from the #SOTU


The Right and The President's Tax Proposal

The This headline has it right:
The GOP Is Not Happy About Obama's Tax Proposal
From the AP:
Republican lawmakers are already signaling they will do what they can to block President Barack Obama's pitch for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.

Obama is making that pitch to a huge television audience in hopes of putting the new Republican Congress in the position of defending top income earners over the middle class.
And that's exactly what our friends on the Trib editorial board did this morning.

Only they're not letting you in on the little fact that they're defending the top 1% to the detriment of everyone else.  Take a look:
Mr. Obama tonight will propose a massive attack on savings and investment in another attempt to redistribute wealth while engaging in more social re-engineering.

Proceeds from yet another hike in the tax on capital gains (which, if passed, represents a near doubling since Obama took office) and inheritances would pay for “middle class tax relief.” Never mind that it would have the perverse effect of further draining the private investment pool necessary for job creation and penalize single-income families with children.the
Now let's take a look at what the White House says.  For instance on the tax on capital gains:
Almost exclusively impact the top 1 percent. 99 percent of the impact of the President’s capital gains reform proposal (including eliminating stepped-up basis and raising the capital gains rate) would be on the top 1 percent, and more than 80 percent on the top 0.1 percent (those with incomes over $2 million). Under the President’s proposal, wealthy people would still get a preferential rate on their income from investments, but they would no longer be able to accumulate extra wealth by paying no capital gains tax whatsoever.
And then on the other side:
To ensure that it would impose neither tax nor compliance burdens on middle-class families, the President’s proposal includes the following protections...Capital gains of up to $200,000 per couple ($100,000 per individual) could still be bequeathed free of tax. Note that, since capital gains generally represent only a fraction of an asset’s value, this exemption would allow couples to bequeath more than $200,000 without owing taxes. The exemption would be automatically portable between spouses.
In addition to the basic exemption, couples would have an additional $500,000 exemption for personal residences ($250,000 per individual). This exemption would also be automatically portable between spouses.
Tangible personal property other than expensive art and similar collectibles (e.g. bequests or gifts of clothing, furniture, and small family heirlooms) would be tax-exempt. In addition to avoiding any tax burden on these transfers, this exclusion would prevent families from having to value and report them. As a result of these provisions, only a tiny minority of small businesses could possibly be affected by the repeal of stepped-up basis.
And finally:
No tax would be due on inherited small, family-owned and operated businesses - unless and until the business was sold.

Any closely-held business would have the option to pay tax on gains over 15 years.
Yet somehow none of this information made it into the braintrust's "analysis" of the president's proposals.

The folks on the braintrust opposes the proposal because they're protecting protecting big money,   plain and simple.

They just won't tell you that.

January 19, 2015

January 19

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

January 18, 2015

Jack Kelly Sunday

This week, Post-Gazette columnist Jack Kelly continued his commentary on the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the world's reaction to it.

As usual, he's laughingly wrong as he spins, distorts and misinforms you, his reading public.

But let's get the big stuff out of the way.  This is about President Obama's non-attendance at this rally:

Something the White House has already addressed:
The White House, facing a storm of criticism for President Obama’s absence from Sunday’s peace march in Paris, said Monday that his team erred in failing to dispatch a high-ranking American official to join the show of solidarity against terrorism. But French officials quickly rejected the idea that Mr. Obama had snubbed the event.
Huh.  Well there's something Jack didn't tell you.  Nor did he tell you this:
President François Hollande of France let it be known on Monday that he was not among those offended.
Huh. But Jack's a partisan ideologue who's not particularly interested in presenting you with enough nuance for you to make your own decisions. He IS interested in getting you just enough nuance for you to simply agree with him. And that's all.

So his omissions, while not at all journalisticly acceptable, are certainly understandable.

So let's move on.

Jack's running commentary is reflected in the title of the column: "Obama is weak against terror."

Can someone please leave a copy of this column by P-G columnist Jack Kelly at Jack's desk on Monday?  It's the one where Jack calls the killing of Osama bin Laden the "greatest success of Barack Obama's presidency."

Osama bin Laden.  9/11.  Yea, that guy.  And they got him on Obama's watch.  So y'know, he's OBVIOUSLY weak on terror.

I do have to reiterate, though, that while Jack does praise (if only inadvertently) Obama for the killing of bin Laden, he of course gets the part about waterboarding and torture wrong.  But hey, what's a good partisan smear if it can't ignore reality every now and then??

Let's fill in some of the omissions of information that Jack Kelly (I suppose) hopes you didn't notice.

Like this one:
He’s “the only Western leader who has refused to call this attack Islamic terrorism,” noted Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen, though, when pressed, the president’s spokesman talked of “violent extremism in which individuals invoke the name of Islam.”
Interesting that Jack would write this when only last week he wrote:
The Obama administration won’t seriously confront Islamist terror. Nor will the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, the prime minister of Britain. One world leader is.

More despicable than their unwillingness to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons was the news media’s virtual blackout of the remarkable speech Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made at al-Azar University in Cairo on New Year’s Eve.
Is it just me or is Jack saying that only Egypt is seriously confronting Islamist terror?  And Egypt is such a bastion of journalistic freedom, isn't it?  I mean since that's what we're discussing here, right?  The freedom of Charlie Hebdo to publish whatever satirical cartoons it wants to, right?  From the Guardian:
The Egyptian regime's lack of justice was illustrated by the jailing of three innocent Al-Jazeera journalists this week.

But there are other cases deserving of attention too, such as that of Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known professionally as Shawkan.

He has been held in an Egyptian prison without charge for more than 10 months after being detained on 14 August 2013. In his most recent court appearance, last Wednesday, his detention was extended for a further 45 days.
Perhaps that's being tough on terror, to Jack.

Anyway, I don't want to skip over Jack's most glaring omission of fact in that paragraph.  The phrase, "Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen."

By that description how many of you would guess that Douglas Schoen is a Fox News contributor?  Or that Fox News includes this in its description of him:
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on Live.
Or that he wrote for the conservative Newsmax until at least last August.

Or that he urged Obama not to seek reelection in 2012.

So he's hardly your run of the mill "Democratic pollster" is he?  But you wouldn't know any of that by Jack's description of him, would you?

If he's willing to hide such easily found information just to make a point ("Hey, even Democrat Pollsters think Obama's weak on terror!") what else is Jack Kelly spinning?

And then there's this from his opening paragraph:
Secretary of State John Kerry was in India (where it’s been unseasonably cold), to give a speech on global warming.
Did you catch the attempt at snarky sarcasm? It's a speech about global warming in a place that's unseasonably cold.  He just couldn't help himself.

Guess what?  Take a look at this:

It's a chart showing how its been getting warmer in India.

Guess where I found that?  It's a report out of the Indian Meteorological Society talking about, you guessed it, climate change in India.  Where it's happening just like it's happening everywhere else.

Even when Jack Kelly tries to be snarky, he gets it wrong.

January 17, 2015

2014 - Warmest On Record Update

A week and a half ago I posted this.

It said that the Japanese Meteorological Agency released some preliminary findings showing that 2014 was the warmest on record.  The AP expected that NASA and NOAA would release their findings within a week.

From NASA two days ago:
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.
The word to pay attention to is "trend."  NASA's Gavin Schmidt reiterates:
“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.
Here's a chart from GISS to illustrate:

The jagged black line connects the black squares that represent individual years.  The curvy red line is the 5 year running average.  Note how the last square is only slightly higher than the black square on the 2010 line.  This will be important when you start to read the climate deniers try to deny the science.

Like this one from the (Scaife funded) Cato institute:
Annual temperatures are calculated by averaging up monthly readings, so the last data point that we have is October. The National Climatic Data Center, a part of the Department of Commerce, estimates that global average temperature was a record high of 58.46°F. The previous record was 58.45°.
See that?  How can it be that much of a deal if the current record "high" is only .01°F higher than the last record "high"?

We are arguing over the significance of hundredths of a degree, they say.

Of course, they're misleading you.  The point is not how much hotter this individual year is over the last individual year (or much hotter the hottest record year is over the last hottest record year) but the overall trend.  And the overall trend, since at least 1910, according to GISS is upward.

No matter what they say, it's still getting warmer.

Can't wait to see how the braintrust that is the Tribune-Review editorial board is going to spin this.

January 16, 2015

Arch Conservative Richard Mellon Scaife Blew Hundreds of Millions on his Tribune-Review in Grudge Match Against Post-Gazette

(We're talking three to four of these.)

Richard Mellon Scaife's children have been battling over a trust fund set up in 1935 for Scaife for his "welfare" by his mother, the remainder of which would have gone to them upon his death. That fund went from nine figures to zero. They are demanding an accounting of the trust fund which they believe should not have been used to prop up their father's conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper because of his "vehement dislike for the owners of the Post-Gazette."

Via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Jennie Scaife’s attorneys wrote that the trustees “distributed over $300 million ... to Richard M. Scaife ... to use in funding Scaife’s newspaper and media operations — the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — which by admission lost no less than $250 million as of 2007 alone and upon belief lost many millions more to date.”
A total of $700 million went to non-charitable and non-family recipients, including the Trib.

But don't cry too many tears for poor Jennie and David Scaife.

According to the article, they receive one million dollars a month each (yes, you read that right) from another trust set up by their grandmother. Apparently, this is not enough for them.

Yes, the rich are different. Cause if I had money like that...well...

January 16 - BIRTHDAYS

Happy Birthday to two women who've had an incredibly influential role in my intellectual and artistic life.

Susan Sontag (born today 1933) who wrote this and this.

And Sade (born 1959) who sang this:

Happy Birthday!

January 15, 2015

Get The Senate On The Record Regarding Climate Science!

From the New York Times:
With Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell promising an open debate on the Keystone XL pipeline bill, Senator Bernie Sanders, the maverick Independent from Vermont, has crafted a beauty of an amendment. He plans to offer a “sense of Congress” resolution in the debate asking each senator if he or she agrees with “the opinion of virtually the entire worldwide scientific community” that climate change is a factually proven problem resulting in “devastating problems in the United States and around the world.”
And here's the resolution:
It is the sense of Congress that Congress is in agreement with the opinion of virtually the entire worldwide scientific community that—
(1) climate change is real;
(2) climate change is caused by human activities;
(3) climate change has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world;
(4) a brief window of opportunity exists before the United States and the entire planet suffer irreparable harm; and
(5) it is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy as rapidly as possible.
Given that, according to Thinkprogress, 38 Republican Senators are climate science deniers the resolution has little chance of passing.  However it'll get all of them on the record - either agreeing with the science or disagreeing with it.

So how would Pennsylvania's two senators do with such a vote?  Of course, until it happens, one can only guess.  But there are some tantalizing clues.

For example this Senate resolution from 2007.  It starts with this:
Expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the need for the United States to address global climate change through the negotiation of fair and effective international commitments.

Whereas there is a scientific consensus, as established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences, that the continued buildup of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threatens the stability of the global climate;
As Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey was a cosponsor of the resolution, it's probably safe to guess that he'd vote in favor of the Sanders resolution.

Then there's Senator Pat Toomey.  Take a look at this from Huffingtonpost:
Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey drew headlines when he said in a local radio interview on Friday, that the degree to which human activity is to blame for global warming is being "very much disputed" and "debated."

It's not the first time he's made the argument.

"There is much debate in the scientific community as to the precise sources of global warming," Toomey claimed in June.
Now I realize this was waaay back in 2010, but even back then there definitely was not "much debate in the scientific community" regarding climate science.

However, if you go to the P-G for the rest of the quotation you'll find this:
The candidates also differ on the core issue of global warming, and whether climate legislation would do anything to alleviate it. Unlike some conservative figures, Mr. Toomey acknowledges that global warming exists but he is an agnostic on the crucial question of whether it is a product of human activity.

"There's no question that the Earth's surface temperature has increased," he said in a statement. "There is much debate in the scientific community as to the precise sources of global warming. There is no doubt that the proposed cap-and-trade 'solution' would do nothing to stop global warming but would be devastating to jobs and the economy in Pennsylvania."
At least he gets it right when he recognizes that the planet is warming up. He's just wrong in not recognizing the causes.

I'm not a scientist and even I can see that.

We'll see how the former president of the pro-business Club For Growth votes on the science.

My guess is that it'll be a no.  But I want it on the record anyway.  For the world to see.  Everyone.  Everywhere.  I want everyone to know whether Pat Toomey recognizes the validity of Climate Science.

January 13, 2015

Charlie Hebdo Update

From the Washington Post:
LAST WEEK, upon celebrating his birthday, the longtime Charlie Hebdo cartoonist “Luz” was running late for an editorial meeting at the French satirical weekly’s Paris offices. By the time he got there, masked gunmen had killed 12 people, including five of his cartooning friends and colleagues. Because Luz was born on Jan. 7, he was a survivor.

This week, Charlie Hebdo is publishing what it is reportedly called “the survivors’ issue.” The cover is illustrated, perhaps fittingly, by Luz.
And here it is:

And explanation from The Guardian:
The cover shows the prophet shedding a tear and holding up a sign reading “Je suis Charlie” in sympathy with the dead journalists. The headline says “All is forgiven”.

Zineb El Rhazoui, a surviving columnist at Charlie Hebdo magazine who worked on the new issue, said the cover was a call to forgive the terrorists who murdered her colleagues last week, saying she did not feel hate towards Chérif and Saïd Kouachi despite their deadly attack on the magazine, and urged Muslims to accept humour.

“We don’t feel any hate to them. We know that the struggle is not with them as people, but the struggle is with an ideology,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
And then:
Rhazoui said Muslims could ignore the magazine if they took offence.

She said: “I would tell them it is a drawing and they are not obliged to buy this addition of Charlie Hebdo if they don’t appreciate our work. We are only doing our job, we don’t violate the law.”

She added: “Our friends died because of small drawings, because of a joke, but what happen to us was not a joke. Muslims must understand that we in Charlie Hebdo just consider Islam as a normal religion just like any other religion in France. Islam must accept to be treated like all the other religions in this country. And they must accept humour also.”
I'd add that it's also about Charlie Hebdo's right to free expression.  You can agree or disagree with any particular cartoon but no faith has the right not to be mocked and/or criticized simply because doing so offends some of the faithful.

And that the statements "Freedom of expression is an absolute" and "Freedom of expression is an absolute, however..." are mutually exclusive.

January 12, 2015

Meanwhile Outside...It's Still Getting Warmer

In late December, the Japan Meteorological Agency published a preliminary finding that says:
The annual anomaly of the global average surface temperature in 2014 (i.e. the average of the near-surface air temperature over land and the SST) was +0.27°C above the 1981-2010 average (+0.63°C above the 20th century average), and was the warmest since 1891. [Emphasis added]
And they had a chart to show what they were talking about:

And the AP adds:
Japan's meteorological agency has already calculated 2014 as the warmest year worldwide. NOAA and NASA will announce global 2014 figures next week, but data through November point toward a new record.
Something to look forward to this week.

So when we read something like this (via Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller), it shouldn't take that long to unweave the denial.  The first paragraph:
There are now 219 months with no significant upward temperature trend, according to an analysis of satellite data, which is more than half the 432-month satellite temperature record.
Let me as a question. How long is 219 months in years?

It's a little more than 18 years.

Now take a look at the chart above.  See that spike just before the vertical line at 2000?  See the right most dot on the chart?  That's the last 18 years (or so) in the data.

That's what they're talking about.

See the big blue like wiggles upward from 1890 to now?
See the straight red line that moves upwards between those same two points?

That's the science.

See the difference?

January 10, 2015

Charlie Hebdo - The What And More Importantly The WHY (NSFW)


By now we all know what happened in Paris:
About 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to the French newspaper Le Monde, gunmen dressed in black and wearing bulletproof vests forced their way into a building two doors down from Charlie Hebdo, asking where to find the magazine.

They then headed to the correct building, where they killed an officer on security detail, officials said. They later encountered a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist who was on her way out of the building and demanded she lead them to the offices. Once there, she was told to enter a security code to open its fortified door, according to the newspaper.

The gunmen barged in during a lunchtime editorial meeting, separating men and women and calling out the names of employees they intended to kill, said Dr. Gerald Kierzek, a physician who treated wounded patients and spoke with survivors.
Then they killed 12 people.

For this:

If Google Translate can be trusted, the headline reads,"Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists" and the word bubble reads,"It's hard to be loved by idiots..."

Huffingtonpost points out that Charlie Hebdo "gained notoriety" for this edition, noting that:
Within its pages, the magazine published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, bringing unprecedented condemnation from the Muslim world. The French Council for the Muslim Faith eventually sued the weekly for the cartoon. The issue has since been considered the one which positioned Charlie Hebdo as a target for terrorist attacks.
As a reminder to what happened in 2007 - from Reuters:
The row over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad will be replayed in a French court next week when two influential Islamic groups sue a Paris satirical weekly for inciting hatred against Muslims by printing the caricatures.

The two Muslim associations aim to show that reprinting the cartoons was a provocation equal to anti-Semitic acts or Holocaust denial that are already banned under French law, Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Grand Mosque, said on Friday.

The cartoons, originally published in 2005 in the Danish daily Jyllens-Posten, provoked violent protests in Asia, Africa and the Middle East that left 50 people dead. Several European publications reprinted them as an affirmation of free speech.

The weekly Charlie Hebdo, which put out a special edition with the cartoons, argued religions are not beyond criticism and letting Muslims censor the media would curtail a basic right.
And then later to illustrate the point:
During the cartoon controversy, offended Muslims demanded an apology and a ban on criticising Islam.
Got that?  No criticizing Islam!  Now let's go back to CNN:
The gunmen said they were avenging the Prophet Mohammed and shouted "Allahu akbar," which translates to "God is great," Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said.
And there's THE WHY.  The shooting was a reaction by a few well-armed and well-trained people who took it upon themselves to avenge the Prophet because of some criticism of Islam - free speech be damned.

January 9, 2015

I appreciate

This being Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, I appreciate Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay for posing with this sign when it was offered to him and for not backing down despite all the ridiculous controversy. I also appreciate Mayor Bill Peduto for standing by him, as well as for hiring him in the first place.

Thank you.

January 8, 2015

Hitchens, as is almost always the case, was right.

"[C]ivil society means that free expression trumps the emotions of anyone to whom free expression might be inconvenient." - Christopher Hitchens.

Randy Bish - The Tribune-Review:

Rob Rogers - The Post-Gazette:

January 7, 2015

Of all the dick moves

Of all the dick moves mankind has come up with, killing someone in the name of God has got to be the worst.

As heinous as things like slavery or rape or, say, killing someone for land, or money or lust are, you're doing it for some tangible benefit for yourself.

I'm pretty sure God--if there is one--is a pretty big boy. 

No one is shoving God into a locker.

He's not crying in a corner with his feelings all hurt.

And if he was, I thought he could just smite someone in the blink of an eye without your assist.

When you kill someone in the name of God or because they've "blasphemed" against God, you're doing it for yourself and no one else and blaming it on your god. You're doing it because your own little fee-fees are hurt or as a means to control others.

Nothing more and nothing less.

Tracking Teh Crazie (World Net Daily's Still Birther Central)

Now that both houses of Congress are firmly controlled by the GOP, it might be a good idea to keep looking at teh crazie GOP fringe that might not be that fringy these days.

And for that, there's no better place than World Net Daily.

Did you know they're still birthers?  Yea I know, what a surprise!

Of course they are.  I found this on their front page, today:
For starters, there’s that unsolved mystery of why there is a piece of phony electronic artwork on the White House website purporting to be an image of a 1961 government document attesting to the details of Barack Obama’s birth. That this is evidence of what is likely the biggest case of identity fraud in history isn’t news to American media investigating more pressing matters (e.g., the presidential golf game).
The 1961 document is this one - stamped signed official document of the State of Hawaii.

For it to be a fake, it would have to be a huge conspiracy to fake it.  A conspiracy so big that the official bureaucracy of a State of the Union would have to be in on it.

Either that or the certificate's real.  Which seems the more rational answer?

Teh crazie - and there's more and more of this in the GOP.

January 5, 2015

Jack Kelly Sunday

With this column, the Post-Gazette's Jack Kelly tries (and fails yet again), to retro-define waterboarding as something completely, conclusively, "you-know-in your-heart-I'm-right" not torture.

It's a strange little column coming as it does only two weeks since his last failed attempt to retro-define the torture.

He starts with some horror stories hoping to get his readers to agree with him about the necessity of the Bush-era war crimes:
Anti-Muslim sentiment flared as chilling images from Australian media showed people, believed to be hostages, with their hands pressed against the glass of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney’s central business district,” CNN reported Dec. 15. “They were holding up a black flag with Arabic writing on it reading, ‘There is no God but God and Mohammad is the prophet of God.’ ”

During a 16-hour siege, Man Haron Monis, 50, an Iranian who’d been granted political asylum in Australia in 1996, murdered two of the 17 hostages he took.
And so on.

But then he stumbles into something requiring some much needed fact-checking:
During the siege in Sydney, Rachael Jacobs, a lecturer in education at Australia Catholic University in Brisbane, described an encounter with a young Muslim woman sitting next to her on a commuter train. The woman had tears in her eyes as she removed her head scarf, evidently out of fear it might make her a target, Ms. Jacobs wrote.

“I ran after her at the train station,” Ms. Jacobs wrote on her Facebook page. “I said, ‘Put it back on, I’ll walk with you.’ She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute, then walked off alone.”

Though no one had accosted the woman, Ms. Jacobs drew praise from liberals around the world for her courageous stand against anti-Islamic bigotry.

Which never happened. She never spoke with the woman, who might not have been a Muslim, Ms. Jacobs admitted in an article she wrote for the Brisbane Times.

Even though she’d made up virtually all of her story, it was important because it launched “a pre-emptive strike against racism and bigotry,” Ms. Jacobs said.
Really, Jack? She admitted in the Brisbane Times the event never happened?  That she never spoke to the woman?

Did you think I wasn't going to check?

Here's what Rachel Jacobs wrote in the Brisbane Times:
Confession time. In my Facebook status, I editorialised. She wasn't sitting next to me. She was a bit away, towards the other end of the carriage. Like most people she had been looking at her phone, then slowly started to unpin her scarf.

Tears sprang to my eyes and I was struck by feelings of anger, sadness and bitterness. It was in this mindset that I punched the first status update into my phone, hoping my friends would take a moment to think about the victims of the siege who were not in the cafe.
Then she admitted wrote:
By sheer fluke, we got off at the same station, and some part of me decided saying something would be a good thing. Rather than quiz her about her choice of clothing, I thought if I simply offered to walk her to her destination, it might help.

It's hard to describe the moment when humans, and complete strangers, have a conversation with no words. I wanted to tell her I was sorry for so many things – for overstepping the mark, for making assumptions about a complete stranger and for belonging to a culture where racism was part of her everyday experience.

But none of those words came out, and our near silent encounter was over in a moment. [Emphases added.]
If it's "near silent" then it wasn't silent.  Words were spoken, Jack.

But Jack, you said Rachel Jacobs admitted in the Brisbane Times to never talking to the woman.  You said Jacobs admitted that the event never happened.  You even implied that she rationalized making up "virtually the entire story" because it launched a (and you quoted her here) "“a pre-emptive strike against racism and bigotry."

But did she?  Here's the actual paragraph she wrote with that phrase:
[M]y role in this movement was minuscule and unworthy of the attention received. The #illridewithyou hashtag, started by Twitter user @sirtessa and embraced by thousands, is the real story of inspiration. The movement has inspired thousands to publicly and loudly stand up for a decent and humane world. It's a pre-emptive strike against racism and bigotry. We know what fear can do to a society, and rather than fall victim, thousands have pledged to be part of the force that fights for tolerance and compassion. [Emphasis added.]
No rationalization, no confession to making up virtually the entire story.  Nothing like that.



But let's move on to the torture.  Jack writes:
Grandstanding journalists have volunteered to be waterboarded to prove it is “torture,” which indicates it isn't.
I am not really sure what this means.  How does that "prove" (or even indicate) that waterboarding isn't torture?

Especially since, with a little googling we find this from the Guardian:
Christopher Hitchens got waterboarded (if that is the verb) for Vanity Fair last year, to see first-hand whether or not it was torture. He concluded that if waterboarding did not constitute torture, there is no such thing as torture. The world didn't erupt with one voice of adulation at his piece, but it was generally accepted that he didn't do it to be macho. His was a serious exploration of the constitutional and moral implications of forcing a wet rag into a prisoner's mouth to persuade him that he is drowning. And that is at the centre of self-imposed waterboarding, for journalistic or other research purposes - it has to be serious, otherwise it is obscene.

There has been a whole spate of voluntary waterboardings lately whose sincerity, acuity and purpose are more debatable. The journalist Kaj Larsen paid some interrogators $800 to torture him in this manner: his conclusions were the same as Hitchens' - it was uniquely unpleasant, and he would have told his torturers anything to get them to stop. [Emphasis added.]
So two of the "grandstanding journalists" who volunteered to be waterboarding say it is torture.

Jack?  Can you explain how it indicates that waterboarding isn't torture?

There is one "grandstanding journalist" (if that's indeed the correct term) who did volunteer for  waterboarding and who's held consistently that it isn't torture - Sean Hannity.

The only problem is that he's never followed through with being waterboarded:
Fox News host Sean Hannity is so adamant that waterboarding is not torture that he once offered to be waterboarded at a charity event and donate the proceeds to soldiers’ families. Four years later, a yet-to-be-waterboarded Hannity did not take kindly to being called out about it on his own radio show.

On April 22, 2009, Charles Grodin appeared on Hannity’s Fox News show and asked Hannity, if he doesn’t believe waterboarding is torture, would he agree to be waterboarded. “Sure,” Hannity said. “I’ll do it for charity. I’ll let you do it. I’ll do it for the troops’ families.” But four years later, Hannity has yet to follow through on his offer.
Which indicates that it is torture - or else he'd man up and get it out of the way, right?

But again, Jack, let's go to the treaty signed by your old boss, Ronald Reagan:
For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
And so no amount of the "But they behead people!" distraction or the "But it worked!" distraction or the "But person-X says it isn't torture!" distraction or any other distraction is going to change the fact that holding a person down and pouring water over his or her face in order to trigger a drowning response in that person's body isn't torture.

It is and it's a crime and for the sake of our continued insistence that we are a nation of laws, we have to prosecute the torture.

If only to make sure it never happens again.

Prosecute the torture.

January 3, 2015

Conflict Of Interest? CONFLICT OF INTEREST??

In yesterday's Tribune-Review readers were presented with this lump of insincere concern:
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has come out of the gate leading a charge for ethics reform in government. But his own glaring conflict of interest leaves a cloud over his high-minded efforts.

Wolf has asked his transition team to sign an ethics pledge in an attempt to prevent conflicts of interest within his administration. He's also publicly expressed his support for a comprehensive gift ban, indicating he would prohibit executive branch officials from accepting gifts from lobbyists — even something as small as a cup of coffee.

But if accepting a small gift creates a conflict of interest, the gov.-elect will soon be facing an enormous ethical dilemma: negotiating new state contracts with government unions who were among his largest campaign donors this past election.

Government unions spent millions more to support Wolf via “Super PACs,” which are partially funded by union dues. It's not unreasonable to think that union leaders will expect a return on their significant investment.
Ok.  It's good that we've established that.  But let's look at where this came from.  Down the bottom of the column there's this:
Nathan Benefield is vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation
Commonwealth Foundation...Commonwealth Foundation...where have I seen that name?

That's right.  Here - from April, 2013 in The Nation:
The Commonwealth Foundation, a right-wing think tank in Harrisburg, is plotting to go after public sector employee unions. In a letter from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) on behalf of the Foundation, the think tank announced “Project Goliath,” a new effort to make Pennsylvania the next Wisconsin or Michigan. The Commonwealth Foundation is one of a fifty-nine-state network of similar think tanks that have vastly expanded since 2009. The letter makes clear that conservatives believe that right-wing political infrastructure—the organizing institutes, the partisan media outlets, the rapid response efforts—has helped turn the tide against labor unions.
And the column in the Trib this weekend is about how the Wolf administration is going to face a conflict of interest for all that Union (especially the guv'ment union) money that flowed into the campaign.  WHAT A COINCIDENCE! let's take a look at the money.  Always the money.

First the Commonwealth Foundation.  According to the Bridge Project over the years:
  • The Foundation received $2.617 million in foundation support from the foundations controlled by the late Trib owner, Richard Mellon Scaife.  That's about 35% of the total amount ($2.617 million out of about $7.654 million)
And now Senator Toomey.  From his letter accompanying the foundation's description of "Project Goliath" we find this:
From my years as a US Congressman from 1999 to 2005 and then as the head of the Club For Growth...
So, onto the Club for Growth.  In 2012 we reported on the $200,000 or so in Scaife Foundation money shuttled to the Club and the $21,000 in personal Scaife money donated to the Toomey campaign.

I mean it's reasonable to believe that donors expect a return on their investment, right?  I mean if we're talking transparency and all.

So Scaife funded the Commonwealth Foundation AND furnished a platform for it (and a number of other Scaife-funded think tanks) to communicate to the public - all while failing to inform that public of the financial connections making it all possible.