Democracy Has Prevailed.

June 30, 2015

John Oliver on Transgender Rights

When he's right, he's right.

A special request to my friends at the Post-Gazette:  Can you please email the link to this blog post to Jennifer Graham?  Perhaps after seeing this, she'll be inclined to do a follow-up/correction/apology column to her piece on Caitlyn Jenner.

And if anyone else wishes to send this along to Ms Graham, please feel free.

June 29, 2015

Revisiting Arnold New Kensington UPDATED

I wanted to give an update of sorts for whatever's going on in Arnold/New Kensington.

When last we spoke, a political blog had been taken down and the post hoc ergo propter hoc implication from this paragraph:
The political blog focusing on the New Kensington-Arnold School District was taken down not long after a school board member filed a lawsuit this week accusing an anonymous poster of making false and potentially damaging statements about him.
I've been told by a source close to the blog that that's not the case.  My source tells me that it was a matter of low traffic which led to a trickle of comments.

In any event, my blog post was a discussion of libel in the comment that triggered the above mentioned lawsuit.  I'm not a lawyer in any way (I believe I said that before - just wanted to reiterate out of an abundance of caution) and I was writing to say that the commenter might be in some legal trouble.

Looks like at least one actual expert disagrees.  From the Trib:
Robert Richards, a Penn State professor and the founder of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment, said that it's unlikely that Petit could actually win the lawsuit, since elected officials are held to the highest standard of proof in a defamation suit.

The burden will be on Petit to prove that the anonymous commenter knowingly made false statements that damaged Petit's reputation, according to Richards.

Richards worries more that the anonymous poster's identity will be revealed.

“It's extremely tough to prove,” Richards said of actual malice. “We have long protected anonymous speech in this country.

“You want people to anonymously be able to blow the whistle, so to speak, and not be afraid to speak their minds.

“That right is threatened to be eroded by suits like this.”
The article goes on to say that Petit's attorney believes he can prove malice.

I don't have access to any other of the facts of the case so I am going to leave the narrative at that.  If there's a court case to proceed, let it proceed without the less than fully informed opinions of a blog two dozen miles away.

In any event, the next version of the blog has gone live and from what I can gather, right now they're discussing the supposed similarities between a deleted facebook message and an email sent into the the first blog.

Whatever the facts, looks like things have gotten nasty in the Arnold New Kensington School District.

As a post script, the man at the center of this controversy, John Pallone, has showed up on the pages of 2 Political Junkies - here.  He was quoted by the Tribune-Review as saying he didn't think the Ten Commandments monument posted outside of Valley High School is unconstitutional.

So whatever else we know or don't know about John Pallone, we know he doesn't know squat about the Constitution.

UPDATE: I made a mistake.  An astute reader emailed in today to inform me that John Pallone is the Superintendent of the New Kensington Arnold School District and that it was his brother Bob Pallone who I quoted regarding the Ten Commandments monument.  I should have taken the extra few minutes to make sure I had my Pallone brothers straight.  I didn't and it resulted in a mistake and for that I apologize.

June 27, 2015

Right Wing Freak-Outs Over Marriage Equality

Let's start a World Net Daily.

First there's editor-in-chief Joseph Farah:
This was not a legal decision. It was a political edict by five men and women in black robes who really believe in their “supremacy.” In short, they believe they are wiser than God who created the institution of marriage and a union of a man and a woman.
To Farah the freedom described in Kennedy's decision will surely lead to polygamy and legalized incest.  Oh yea and then there's this:
Does Kennedy understand liberty apart from God’s moral code brings on horrors like were experienced during the French Revolution?
That's right.  Godless liberty (like getting out of the way of Adam and Steve want to marry) will march us all (or perhaps only the soon-to-be persecuted Christians) to the scaffold.

And Farah knows that God's not happy about this.  Nope.  Not one bit:
As a Christian, I also believe we will be hearing from the author of marriage soon.

I don’t know what form that message will come, but it is certain to be heard sooner rather than later.

America’s elite leadership have taken the side of the enemies of God, and He will take notice.

It could come in the form of an economic crash. It could come in more civil and racial strife along the lines of what has been building in recent years. It could come in the form of an attack on our country from foreign power or terrorist group.

I suspect it will something big. I take no comfort in passing along this warning. It’s just the pattern that God uses to bring His people to repentance for their own good.
There's also this about the president.  It's from something they've taken to call the "Obama Insect Chronicles."  Take a look:
It has happened again. Barack Obama, whose encounters of the buzzing kind have been noted numerous times during his presidency, had another episode Friday as he was praising same-sex “marriage” at the White House.

Obama is talking about how in America people can write their own destiny when the fly lands on his shoulder and makes itself at home.

He continues speaking, and the fly wanders around the shoulder of his suit.

“Today we can say, in no uncertain terms … we’ve made our union a little more perfect,” he says of the Supreme Court ruling that created same-sex “marriage” across America based on the 14th Amendment, which was adopted to make sure blacks were treated equally after the Civil War.

And then the fly flies off.
So what's the significance of the flies?  Oh, Lord take a look.  It's comedy gold:
The flurry of incidents prompted radio and TV host Glenn Beck to say in 2010: “How many times have rodents crossed your path, flies landed on your face, or bees strangely swarmed in your presence? But our president, at one of the most meticulously maintained houses, it seems to be happening all the time. Why? I don’t know, but someone does. … A swarm of [bees] hovered as he was leaving the White House to play basketball. He went inside and they were gone. How does this happen? Oh, I don’t know. But the bees know.”

In January 2013, WND reported prophecy websites were having a field day with the worldwide attention Obama received for sparring with a fly.

Religious and other websites used the headlines to point out that a biblical reference for Satan, the Semitic deity Beelzebub, literally translates from Hebrew into “Lord of the Flies.”
So Obama equals Beelzebub because of all the flies.  This little story made it big locally as well a few years ago.  It was particularly embarrassing for Rose Tennent:
On their June 25 radio program, Pittsburgh hosts Rose Tennent and Jim Quinn read a listener's email that speculated Obama may be "evil," or an "enemy of the USA," citing evidence from Beck's June 23 Fox News show. Tennent then asked: "Isn't there something ... weird about that? Like all the insects and the rodents come out for this man, or something. Like they're attracted to him. You know like those devil movies ... Like they're attracted to the devil or something."
Since we've circled back locally, let's check in with someone I would assume was a huge Quinn and Rose fan.  From Pennlive:
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Butler County Republican and long one of the most outspoken social conservatives in the Legislature, blasted the court's decisions on marriage and health care this week as setting a new high water mark for activist judges.

Taken together, he said, the decisions "really amplify the fact that what we are seeing from the United State Supreme Court now is nothing short of judicial tyranny."

Speaking more specifically about the marriage decision, Metcalfe continued: "It shows what tyrants they are when they think that they can place themselves above God's law, above natural law, and above the will of the American people as we've seen it expressed in state after state after state."

Metcalfe's reference was to the fact that, including today's rulings, same sex marriage has become legal in most U.S. jurisdictions only through court rulings that have overridden laws put in place by elected officials or voter-approved initiatives.
I know facts really aren't Daryl's friends but in a recent poll done before yesterday's ruling for the NBC News/Wall Street Journal, 57% of those polled favored the Supreme Court deciding that " gays have a constitutional right to marry" and another recent poll done for CBS News/New York Times showed that 57% of those polled said that it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry.

So I guess Daryl's wrong about that whole "will of the American people" thing.  In any case let me touch back on a worry that Farah has:
We’ve already seen this same-sex marriage issue used, including by this same court, to portray anyone who dissents from the redefining of marriage as a bigot, a hater, a maladjusted rogue, an enemy of the people.
At least in the case of Joey Farah, the good folks at WND and our good friend Daryl Metcalfe, I'd have to ask: Yea, and your point is?

GIving Credit Where Credit Is Due

I'm normally good for a jab or two at the Tribune-Review (or at least their editorial board for whenever they botch the science) but simple fairness dictates that when they're on the right side of history that achievement should be applauded.

For perhaps if they hear the applause and if they get to like it, they'll spend a little more time amongst the rational and reasonable.

Today, they're on the right side of history.  Admittedly, they do it on their own terms, but still:
No state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

That's the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment on which the U.S. Supreme Court based its Friday decision to settle one of this nation's most contentious contemporary debates.

In a 5-4 ruling, with swing Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the court's four liberal brethren in providing the deciding vote and writing for the majority, the high court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. And thus “the law” has been forced to evolve to mirror contemporary mores and folkways.

Lest there be any confusion, we do not support this decision as any kind of ode to “progressive” living constitutionalism. To the contrary, the ruling represents a welcome advance on the path to the right to be let alone, a decidedly libertarian philosophy. [Italics in original.]
So for them the ruling is a victory for libertarianism.  Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't.  Who cares?  In either case, for them it's settled:
Same-sex couples asked for not only equal treatment under the law but “for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Mr. Justice Kennedy wrote. “The Constitution grants them that right.” Period.
Well done, my friends.  Perhaps we'll spar again tomorrow (yea, we probably will) but for today you're on the right side of history.  And for that my hat is tipped.

Good for you.

June 26, 2015

This Happened Today

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

So did this:

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Love Wins

This Just In

From the Supreme Court:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love.
Details to follow.

The decision.

From the decision:
The challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and they abr idge central precepts of equality.The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right. Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial works a grave and continuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate gays and lesbians. Pp. 18–22.
The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.
And finally:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
Freedom, equality and fairness won.

June 25, 2015

In Case You Missed It - ACA Survives

From the NYTimes:
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Obama’s health care law allows the government to provide nationwide tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance, a sweeping vindication that endorsed the larger purpose of Mr. Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

The 6-to-3 ruling means that it is all but certain that the Affordable Care Act will survive after Mr. Obama leaves office in 2017, and will give it a greater chance of becoming an enduring part of America’s social safety net.
Whatever the majority's details, I am sure this is something that's bound to piss off the braintrust at the Tribune-Review.


June 24, 2015

Daryl Metcalfe And Neo-Succesionist Nullification

Today, I start with this piece at the Huffingtonpost by Charles J. Reid, Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas. He starts by denouncing the so-called "Confederate Flag"and then turns the course of his argument a bit:
But we should go deeper than asking for symbolic change, as important as that is. I'd like in particular to call attention to a troubling development found mostly in deep red, Republican states, and that is the unholy marriage between Confederate ideology and the Second Amendment.

The bond that unites Confederate ideology and the Second Amendment is the idea of "nullification." This is the belief that the states are the ultimate arbiters of what is or is not constitutional and that the states are thus always free to ignore federal law. States and not the courts, on this warped view of the Constitution, judge what is or is not constitutional.
And he frames "nullification" in to a 19th Century historical context:
Nullification, in other words, was a prominent feature of the constitutional theory that justified the Confederacy. It was a doctrine finally repudiated by the Civil War and by the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.

What does this history have to do with the Second Amendment? Simply this: Nullification, a concept that should have died a century and a half ago, has been resurrected from the tomb by gun-rights extremists and is triumphing in legislature after legislature in America's deep-red states.
Not so fast, Bub.  Maybe not even in some deep-red states.  And for all things wingnutty, we can as always turn to State Representative Daryl Metcalfe and the legislation he's sponsoring, HR 357 (as in 357.  Do you get it?  Well, do you, punk?).  From Metcalfe's co-sponsorship memo:
I am currently having legislation drafted that is similar to firearm legislation introduced in Wyoming. My legislation would prohibit the enforcement of any new federal restriction, prohibition or registration requirement for firearms, magazines, and ammunition. My legislation would also require the state to intercede on behalf of Pennsylvania citizens against any federal attempt to register, ban or restrict the purchase or ownership of firearms and firearms accessories which are currently legal products.
And from the bill itself:
General rule.--A Federal law, rule, regulation or order created or taking effect after December 31, 2012, shall be unenforceable within the borders of this Commonwealth if the law, rule, regulation or order attempts to register, restrict or ban the ownership or purchase of a firearm, magazine of a firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition.

Penalty.--An official, agent or employee of the Federal Government, Commonwealth or political subdivision who enforces or attempts to enforce a Federal law under subsection (a) commits a felony of the third degree and, upon conviction, shall be subject to imprisonment for not less than one year or more than seven years, a fine of not more than $15,000, or both.
Nullification, right there.  In the not that deep red State of Pennsylvania.  Too bad the States have no authority to override federal law nor to decide which federal law is constitutional:
In Edgar v. Mite Corp., 457 U.S. 624, 632 (U.S. 1982) it was held that “a state statute is void to the extent that it actually conflicts with a valid federal statute” and that a conflict will be found either where compliance with both federal and state law is impossible or where the state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.
Does Daryl Metcalfe not know this?

I guess it's a moot point since nullification is in itself a denial of Constitutional authority (hey, I thought these Tea Party folks looooved the Constitution??).

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Daryl Metcalfe, Pennsylvania's very own neo-confederate nullificationist!

June 22, 2015

Something To Watch - In New Kensington-Arnold

Usually when I write about something happening in New Kensington (which is rare, I'll admit) I'm usually writing about the litigation revolving around the Ten Commandments monument there.

This is not one of those times.

An astute reader this weekend emailed to me this link from the Tribune-Review.  It opens with this:
“Palloneville” is apparently no more.

The political blog focusing on the New Kensington-Arnold School District was taken down not long after a school board member filed a lawsuit this week accusing an anonymous poster of making false and potentially damaging statements about him.

The Valley News Dispatch reported the lawsuit filed by Patrick Petit in Thursday's edition. The site was found removed that same day; it was not clear exactly when it had been taken down.

Petit has been a supporter of Superintendent John Pallone and his brother, school board President Bob Pallone.
Here's the Valley News Dispatch's original reporting.

What piqued my interest was the fact that the story's about a political blog.  Let me just say that until I was emailed the link, I'd don't remember ever reading Palloneville or even knowing about its existence.  I've also not read the lawsuit so I can't comment on its contents (though if someone wants to email it to me, I'll certainly take a look at it).

And obviously, I'm not a lawyer.

All I can do at this point is to perhaps add a little context to the discussion.  From the Trib:
[Patrick Petit's attorney David] Millstein said a poster using the pseudonym “Valley Proud?” falsely accused Petit of embezzlement. The litigation aims to identify the person behind the April 29 post.
Here's the google cache for the comment mentioned in that April post.   And here's that section of Valley Proud?'s comment that we seem to be talking about:
Pat Petit- Simply put, embezzler of money from the district (busses for ar ken) ar-ken destroyer, throwing under the bus and gettin rid of Frank cambell (remember him) for things he did and ordered, and possibly responsible for the fence around the fence around the fence at the ” sport complex” so only his ” prestigious football tem” can use the MULIT- purpose field. And to top it off.. Head of finance committee for the board.. A crook in charge of money. Talk about a Pallonemoron. [All spelling errors in original]
And now we see the problem.  The Digital Media Law Project has a pretty good general set of criteria for defamation.  Basically, a statement has to be something other than an opinion and it has to be false and it has to damage someone's reputation for it to be defamation.  If, for example, Valley Proud? felt that Pat Petit is an asshole and simply said so, there'd be no cause for the lawsuit.  Same goes if the charge is demonstrably true or if the charge doesn't damage a reputation.

But VP? didn't.  VP? wrote that Petit was an embezzler - twice.  I don't need to remind anyone that embezzling is a very serious crime.  The fact that VP? made the charge without any evidence backing it up is probably where Valley Proud? might get into a little trouble.  If you're going to charge someone with a felony you really need to back that up with something substantial.

The owners of Palloneville are probably protected from whatever legal trouble Valley Proud? might be facing.  From DMLP:
If you have web forums, allow reader comments, host guest bloggers on your site, or if you repost information that you receive from RSS feeds, you generally will be shielded from liability for defamatory statements made by your users and guests under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("Section 230"). This important federal law protects you from certain types of liability, including defamation, associated with the statements and other user-submitted content you publish on your site.

Section 230 grants interactive online services of all types, including blogs, forums, and listservs, broad immunity from liability so long as the information at issue is provided by a third-party.
So the decision to pull down the entire blog points in another direction.

From the Trib:
“The goal is to determine the identity of the people accusing my client of a crime and hold them accountable for it,” [Millstein] said. “There's nothing wrong with any kind of blog as long as the people are responsible in what they say.

“When they cross a line into baseless defamation that's going to harm, they're going to be held accountable for it.”
Unless I am reading this wrong, Millstein is looking for whatever info left on the blog from the commenters in order to track them down and hold them "accountable" for the defamation of his client.  And although it might be a tad too post hoc ergo propter hoc, it looks like Palloneville was pulled down in response (seems to be a bit of an over reaction, but who am I to say?)

But perhaps I am missing some important information regarding this story.

Am I?

Feel free to email in whatever you think I've missed.  If there's an update to be made, I'll make it below.

I've turned off the comments for this post, by the way.  Given the nature of the discussion, I thought it the best course of action.

June 19, 2015

Call it what it is

We already knew Wednesday night shortly after the killings at the historic African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, SC--the oldest AME church in the south--that the act was committed by a young white man against nine African Americans. Only someone who hadn't lived in this country for more than five minutes wouldn't have had it cross their mind that the attack was racially motivated. Later that same evening, it was already being labeled a "hate crime" by authorities. And yet, by the next morning, Fox & Friends was already pushing the idea that the crime was an attack on Christians and Christianity (and the solution was more guns in churches--but more about that later).

Still later that morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on "The View" said, "There are people out there looking for Christians to kill them." Another GOP presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, jumped on the bandwagon, calling it part of a broader assault on "religious liberty" in America. And, Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC) was all over the TV as slippery as a greased pig refusing to say the new R-word (racism)--alternately describing the attack as the Devil's work or trying to get out of explaining why the Confederate flag still flies in front of South Carolina state capitol.

Meanwhile, America had long heard the words uttered by shooting suspect Dylann Roof:
When a man pleaded with him to stop, the shooter replied, "You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go," she said. 
A law enforcement official says witnesses told authorities the gunman stood up and said he was there "to shoot black people."

But it wasn't just politicians pushing this anything-but-race "alternative" theory of the crime. Comment after comment on articles and Facebook posts and other social media had average Joe's and Jane's--well, white ones anyway--earnestly insisting that the murders were due solely to mental illness, or attacks on religion, or incredibly whining "why was it being made about race" or "why am I being called a racist" when nobody had called them that in the first place.

The sheer will it must take to wonder "why this happened," or to subscribe alternate motives, or to gloss over the racial aspect of this when the POS who did it was absolutely clear why he murdered nine black people is astounding.

(The usually smart Amy Poehler's Smart Girls initially being pretty clueless which
they thankfully rethought here by linking to Charles P. Pierce's great article in "Esquire.")

Besides what he said himself, this is the same man who proudly displayed Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa flags on his jacket, a Confederate flag license plate on his car, whose friends admitted he was a racist, and whose racist views were apparently spilled all over his social media postings, and who drove hundreds of miles to go to an historic black church to murder black people.

This was first and foremost about race (so stop "wondering"). It was a deliberate attack on black bodies. And, yes, while it did occur in a church, it was not about religion:

It was also an act of terror. As Crooks & Liars pointed out, "The New York Times" tried to warn us just one day before this attack:
The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police. 
An officer from a large metropolitan area said that “militias, neo-Nazis and sovereign citizens” are the biggest threat we face in regard to extremism. One officer explained that he ranked the right-wing threat higher because “it is an emerging threat that we don’t have as good of a grip on, even with our intelligence unit, as we do with the Al Shabab/Al Qaeda issue, which we have been dealing with for some time.” An officer on the West Coast explained that the “sovereign citizen” anti-government threat has “really taken off,” whereas terrorism by American Muslim is something “we just haven’t experienced yet.”
And, while this was about race, the accessory to these murders--to this act of terrorism--was our twisted gun culture and our refusal to stand up to it. From President Obama's statement:
I've had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. 
We don't have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hand on a gun. 
Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let's be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency.
And, from the "Washington Post":
Dylann Roof, the man accused of a shooting spree that left nine people dead at a historic black church in Charleston on Wednesday night, should not have been able to get a gun. 
Federal law prohibits people with pending felony charges from obtaining firearms. In February, Roof was arrested and later charged with felony possession of Suboxone, a narcotic prescription drug. He was released, and the case is pending. 
Because of his criminal record, Roof would not have been able to buy a gun from a store. Federally licensed gun dealers are required to run background checks on gun purchasers, and Roof’s pending charges should have turned up as a red flag. 
But Roof didn’t need to go to a dealership. According to his uncle, Roof received a .45-caliber pistol from his father in April for his birthday, Reuters reports.

And, lastly, this

In case you can't tell, that sticker on the newspaper is an ad for a gun shop...

June 18, 2015

And Now, A Message From The Pope (And A Question For Pat Toomey)

From his encyclical, "Laudato Si":
The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.

Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity. The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide. Things are made worse by the loss of tropical forests which would otherwise help to mitigate climate change. Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas.

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.

Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. (Chapter One: Paragraphs 23-26)
Members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation issued a joint statement, (organized by Pittsburgh area Congressman Doyle) regarding the encyclical.  It reads in part:
The Pope accepts the overwhelming international scientific consensus that human production of greenhouse gases is causing global climate change – change characterized by more frequent extreme weather conditions and a rising sea level.
This is something I find very interesting given how Pennsylvania's Republican Senator, Pat Toomey, does not accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that human production of greenhouse gasses is causing global climate change.

I mean, he voted for an amendment that said (in part) that:
...climate change is real; and human activity contributes to climate change.
But against an amendment that said (again, in part) that:
...climate change is real; and human activity significantly contributes to climate change.
 The only difference is the word "significantly."

And yet the encyclical reads:
...yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.
All politics is local and given that he's up for re-election, I'd like to know how Senator Toomey reconciles this.  Will he stick with his science denial or accept the science?

June 15, 2015

John Oliver On Torture

From June 14:

It's worth a watch, if only for Dame Helen Mirren's characterization of one of the enhanced uses of hummus.

This is what Oliver is talking about - the Senate Torture Report.
He also mentions this Executive Order.

Here's something I think he gets wrong. At 4:03 Oliver says:
And if you're thinking, "Why are we talking about this now?  Didn't we pass a law banning all those enhanced interrogation techniques?"  Well it turns out, no we didn't.  We checked and the only restrictions put in place were by an Executive Order signed by President Obama in 2009 requiring interrogations to follow the Army Field Manual.  That's it.  And Executive Orders can be instantly overturned as soon as a President leaves office.
That last part is true - that Executive Orders can be instantly overturned by the next President (as we'll see in a second).  The question here is: is it true that the restrictions found in that Executive Order the only restrictions against torture on the books?

I'm not a lawyer by any means but I think the answer has to be no.  Let's take a look at the order itself.

Signed on January 22, 2009 it reads, in part:
By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to improve the effectiveness of human intelligence gathering, to promote the safe, lawful, and humane treatment of individuals in United States custody and of United States personnel who are detained in armed conflicts, to ensure compliance with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Geneva Conventions, and to take care that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed, I hereby order as follows:

Section 1. Revocation. Executive Order 13440 of July 20, 2007, is revoked.
See that? One Executive Order revoked another.

But look at the text.  The order states " ensure compliance with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Geneva Conventions...".

We've already written about our treaty obligations and the fact that torture is already against the law.

In this setting and this is according to the treaty signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988, "torture" is defined as:
...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. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
And what was in Executive Order 13440, the one that Obama revoked?  It states, in part, that George W Bush:
...determined for the United States that members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces are unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war.
By defining al Qaeda, the Taliban etc as being "unlawful enemy combatants" Bush's executive order removed any protection they may have had as prisoners of war.  But he went further:
Pursuant to the authority of the President under the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including the Military Commissions Act of 2006, this order interprets the meaning and application of the text of Common Article 3 with respect to certain detentions and interrogations, and shall be treated as authoritative for all purposes as a matter of United States law, including satisfaction of the international obligations of the United States.
And then the delicate dance begins. Bush then states outright something Oliver said wasn't there:
I hereby determine that a program of detention and interrogation approved by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency fully complies with the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3, provided that:
(i) the conditions of confinement and interrogation practices of the program do not include:
(A)   torture, as defined in section 2340 of title 18, United States Code;
(B)   any of the acts prohibited by section 2441(d) of title 18, United States Code, including murder, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, rape, sexual assault or abuse, taking of hostages, or performing of biological experiments;
(C)   other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation, and cruel or inhuman treatment, as defined in section 2441(d) of title 18, United States Code;
See?  Torture is already illegal by way of section 2340 of title 18.  But then we get to Bush's the illegal loophole:
(2)  the interrogation practices are determined by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, based upon professional advice, to be safe for use with each detainee with whom they are used; and
So if the Director of the CIA determines that the "interrogation practices" are safe, then they're not torture - see that??

The way Bush got away with Torture was to define waterboarding et al as not-Torture.  Even though he didn't have the authority to do so - he only claimed to have that authority.  Hey, remember all the trouble Obama got from conservatives because they were claiming he was dictating new law by way of Executive Order?  Remember hearing a peep out of any of them concerning Bush's redefining waterboarding as not-torture?

Executive Orders aside, torture is still illegal and Bush's gambol over the Constitution is still a war crime.

June 14, 2015

Jack Kelly Sunday

Oh the stuff Jack leaves out.

This week's column is an interesting one, as it's the Post-Gazette's Jack Kelly criticizing other newspapers (The New York Times, and the Washington Post) for, one presumes, slanted and incomplete coverage (for example, this piece on Senator Marco Rubio's finances).  That's an interesting point for Jack to try to make, considering his history of slanted and incomplete coverage.  And if you don't know what I mean by that, I'd like to welcome you to 2 Political Junkies.  It's obvous that this is your first visit.

Jack opens with a fair criticism of the Rubio's history of traffic tickets.  So Jack gets a pass on that one.  He's right.  It's a silly charge from the Times.

It's when Jack starts to write about this piece in The Times and this piece in the Post regarding Rubio's finances, that he omits sizable chunks of reality.

These pieces are all about Rubio's less-than-adequate stewardship of his own personal finances (all while portraying himself, in the words of The Times piece, "as a champion of financial austerity, railing against excessive government spending and runaway debt.").

So let's see what Jack says is in the Times and Post pieces and then compare it to what's actually in the actual piece.  We'll start with this:
Sen. Rubio withdrew $68,000 from his retirement account to replace a busted refrigerator and air conditioning unit and pay private school tuition for his four children, the Post reported May 20. This “desperate financial maneuver” has “drawn fresh attention to a long-running problem during his political career: his struggles with money,” wrote reporter Sean Sullivan.
This is from the Times about the 68 large:
Other moves seemed simply unwise: A few weeks ago, he disclosed that he had liquidated a $68,000 retirement account, a move that is widely discouraged by financial experts and that probably cost him about $24,000 in taxes and penalties.
Something Jack chose not to tell you - that Rubio probably lost tens of thousands of dollars by withdrawing that money from his accounts.

That link leads to this other Times article on Rubio's finances.  It says:
Sen. Marco Rubio cashed out most of his retirement savings while preparing to launch his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, records released Friday show.

Rubio, 43, sold six retirement funds in September 2014 for $68,241.09, according to his personal financial disclosure statement. He made the sale even though he apparently had ample cash in the bank: He reported between $100,000 and $250,000 in a checking account and between $50,000 and $100,000 in a money market account at the end of 2014. And, so far in 2015, he estimates he has earned between $100,000 and $1 million from a new book.
Other stuff Jack chose not to tell you.   As we go deeper into the facts, Jack's looking more and more silly, isn't he?  Before we get to the reason for liquidating those funds, we should be asking why do that and loose $24,000 in taxes and penalties when you supposedly much more in checking and money market accounts?

How is that good financial stewardship?

And isn't that the point of the Times and Post pieces?

But let's continue.  Here's what it says in the Post piece about the $68 Gs:
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Rubio said that he needed “access to cash” for personal expenses and in anticipation of running for president. He said he has at least two other active retirement accounts.

“My refrigerator broke down,” Rubio said. “That was $3,000. I had to replace the air-conditioning unit in our home. My kids all go to school, and they are getting closer to college, and school’s getting more expensive.”
A fridge that costs $3,000?  Unless you're a restaurant, I guess.

Just imagine for a moment Jack's reaction to reading in the news that the former Secretary of State (that would be Hillary Clinton) liquidating $68,000 from her retirement funds to fix or replace a $3,000 refrigerator an air-conditioning unit or pay tuition?

My guess is that he'd be among the first to scream, "Live within your means!!  You can't afford your kids elite private schools?  Send them to public schools!  You can't afford a top of the line fridge that costs $3,000 to replace?  Buy one cheaper."

Jack's next two paragraphs:
Mr. Rubio had student loans, a second mortgage on his home in Miami, lost money on a house he and another lawmaker bought in Tallahassee, the state capital, after he was elected to the legislature, the Times reported Tuesday.

Mr. Rubio paid off his student loans and mortgages with proceeds from a book advance. But he also, frowned the Times, “splurged on an extravagant purchase: $80,000 for a luxury speedboat.”
And from the Times:
For years, Senator Marco Rubio struggled under the weight of student debt, mortgages and an extra loan against the value of his home totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in 2012, financial salvation seemed to have arrived: A publisher paid him $800,000 to write a book about growing up as the son of Cuban immigrants.

In speeches, Mr. Rubio, a Florida Republican, spoke of his prudent plan for using the cash to finally pay off his law school loans, expressing relief that he no longer owed “a lady named Sallie Mae,” as he once called the lender.

But at the same time, he splurged on an extravagant purchase: $80,000 for a luxury speedboat, state records show. At the time, Mr. Rubio confided to a friend that it was a potentially inadvisable outlay that he could not resist. The 24-foot boat, he said, fulfilled a dream.
Do I need to tell you that the publisher, Sentinel Penguin, describes itself this this:
Sentinel was established in 2003 as a dedicated conservative imprint within Penguin Group. It publishes a wide variety of right-of-center books on subjects like politics, history, public policy, culture, religion, and international relations. The name Sentinel symbolizes a tough-minded defense of America’s fundamental values and national interests.
The Times has more on the mortgage front:
In the past week, he sustained a new loss when he sold his second home in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, for $18,000 less than he and a friend paid for it a decade ago. The house had previously faced foreclosure after Mr. Rubio and his friend failed to make mortgage payments for five months.
Wait, wait.  Marco Rubio gets $800,000 in a book advance in 2013 and still has a house facing foreclosure due to non-payment on the mortgage for 5 months?

Something Jack Kelly chose not to tell you.

Had a liberal publishing company bailed out a similarly distressed Democrat, I wouldn't think that Jack Kelly would be anywhere near as forgiving.

Let's settle up:
The subtext of these stories — that this beaner can’t manage money — was made explicit by Harold Evensky, “a longtime financial adviser who reviewed Mr. Rubio’s public financial disclosures at the request of the Times.”

“This was someone that was living financially dangerously,” he said. Mr. Evensky donated to Barack Obama’s campaign, which the Times didn’t mention.
Jack gets to a "something they didn't mention" argument!!  Oh, I am so proud of him.

Or I would have been until I looked at the facts.  Search the Federal Election Commission donor website for "Harold Evensky" as a campaign donor and you get one donation of $500 to Obama for America in 2007.  Search the OpenSecrets website for donations by Harold Evensky and you get the same $500 donation in 2007.

Something else Jack Kelly didn't tell you.  Apparently that's enough to discredit Mr Evensky's credibility for our own Jack Kelly.

Doesn't anyone check these things at the Post-Gazette?  I realize this stuff is on a different rhetorical level than calling Caitlyn Jenner a circus freak but still there should be some standards, right?

June 11, 2015

RIP Ornette Coleman

All County Council District 11 Allegheny County Democratic Committee Members Allowed to Vote For Democratic Nominee

Via ACDC press release:
Allegheny County Democrats Set Date for County Council Special Election
The Allegheny County Democratic Committee has set a date for the special election to select the substitute Democratic nominee and to fill the vacancy in County Council District 11.
The election is scheduled to take place on Sunday, August 2 at the Pittsburgh Fire Fighters IAFF Local No.1 Union Hall from 10 AM to 2 PM.
Eligible voting members include all chairs, vice chairs, secretaries, treasurers, and elected or appointed committee members in County Council District 11.
“After careful consultation with attorneys and members of Allegheny County leadership, I am pleased to announce that we are able to grant voting privileges to all committee members within this district,” said Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills. “We know this is the most democratic– and most fair - way of conducting this election.”
Committee members will be voting on two separate issues. The first vote will be to select the replacement Democratic nominee on the November 3, 2015 ballot for a four-year term on County Council in District 11. The second vote will be to select the nominee to appear on the November 3, 2015 ballot to fill the remainder of the unexpired term in District 11 ending on January 4, 2016. These elections will take place simultaneously.
Candidates wishing to seek the Democratic nomination and/or to fill the remainder of the term in County Council District 11 should write a letter of intent and send it to the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, 429 Forbes Avenue, Suite 1301, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. All letters of intent must be received by 5 PM on July 3, 2015. All committee changes must also be received by this date.

June 10, 2015

Chuck McCullough UPDATE

For those of you who may not have been following the trial of former Allegheny County Council Member Charles P. "Chuck" McCullough, the trial resumed today.

And this is happened, according to the Trib's Adam Brandolph:
An Allegheny County judge acquitted former Councilman Chuck McCullough of three charges related to the theft of money from an elderly widow's estate Wednesday as the prosecution rested its case and the defense prepared to call its first witnesses.

Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus granted a motion from the defense to acquit McCullough of misapplication of entrusted money, theft and conspiracy. Nauhaus acquitted McCullough's sister, Kathleen McCullough, 52, of Collier, of both counts she faced.
I'm not sure, but I think that he was facing about 2 dozen charges.  And take a pair away from that two dozen and Chuck's still looking at 21 (or so) charges.  But as with all things legal, the numbers might be off.  It's possible that some other charges have been dropped in the intervening years. 

I'll wait for verification on exactly what charges are left from one or another of the local news outlets.

Adam did include this in his reporting:
Nauhuas' acquittal of some charges against McCullough was not all that surprising. In April after a week of testimony, Nauhaus told prosecutors that he had not seen evidence that McCullough stole money from Jordan's estate and expressed doubts about whether prosecutors had met their burden of proof.

“So far, all I've seen evidence of is malpractice. That's not fraud,” Nauhaus said. “He very well may be a crummy lawyer, but that doesn't make him a criminal.”
So I guess what he's saying is that Chuck McCullough may not be a criminal but there's lotsa evidence showing he's a crummy lawyer.

At the very least, for something like that to come from a sitting judge, that can't be good.  If only in the general "what about my reputation" sort of way.

The trial continues.


This piece from the AP:
Global warming has not stopped or even slowed in the past 18 years, according to a new federal study that rebuts doubters who've claimed that heating trends have paused.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration readjusted thousands of weather data points to account for different measuring techniques through the decades. Their calculations show that since 1998, the rate of warming is about the same as it has been since 1950: about two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit a decade.

The so-called hiatus has been touted by non-scientists who reject mainstream climate science. Those claims have resonated; two years ago, the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change felt the need to explain why the Earth was not heating up as expected, listing such reasons as volcanic eruptions, reduced solar radiation and the oceans absorbing more heat.

“The reality is that there is no hiatus,” said Tom Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, N.C.. He is the lead author of a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science One key to claims of a hiatus is the start date: 1998. That year there was a big temperature spike; some of the next years were not as hot, though even hotter years followed in 2005, 2010 and 2014, according to NOAA, NASA and temperature records kept in England and Japan. This year is on pace to break last year's global heat record.
Here's the paper, btw.

My guess is that the AP writers are quite aware of the ongoing discussion about the so-called "hiatus" and so found some very interesting scientific support for this peer-reviewed paper.  For example:
Several outside scientists contacted by The Associated Press said the new and previous adjustments are sound. Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said the new work was “good and careful analysis” but only confirms what most scientists already knew, that there was no such hiatus.
And this:
A few years ago, a group out of University of California Berkeley — funded in part by the Charles Koch Foundation, whose founder is a major funder of climate doubter groups and the tea party— took what was initially billed as a skeptical look at the previous NOAA data. But they pronounced the earlier adjustments legitimate. The same scientists now say the new NOAA adjustments are also proper.

“NOAA is confirming what we have been saying for some time that the ‘hiatus' in global warming is spurious,” Berkeley team chief and physicist Richard Muller said in an email. Muller said global warming continues but in “many fits and spurts.”
This last part is going to cause some climate "skeptics" some trouble, for example Judith Curry, who's not exactly a skeptic, but is used as one on Fox. Take a look:
“While I’m sure this latest analysis from NOAA will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration, I don’t regard it as a particularly useful contribution to our scientific understanding of what is going on,” Judith Curry, a climate science professor at Georgia Tech, wrote in a response to the study.
If you follow the link to her response, you'll find this:
My bottom line assessment is this. I think that uncertainties in global surface temperature anomalies is substantially understated. The surface temperature data sets that I have confidence in are the UK group and also Berkeley Earth.
Guess what Berkeley Earth is?

That's the group "funded in part by the Charles Koch Foundation" and founded and directed by Richard Muller - the same guy who just said that the "hiatus" in global warming is "spurious" and whose scientists now say that "the new NOAA adjustments are proper."

I wonder if the editorial board at the Tribune-Review even reads the news found in its own paper.

I'm guessing not but we'll see the next time they discuss the spurious global warming "hiatus."

June 9, 2015

More Fallout From Jennifer Graham's Transphobic Post-Gazette Column

This time it's a national news blog:

In it we learn some very interesting things about the goings on at the P-G.  The first shocker was this:
Four Post-Gazette opinion section staffers read the column before it went to press, according to editorial page editor Tom Waseleski.


Four opinion section staffers OKed that column?  Who are these people?  What were they checking on?  Spelling?  Punctuation?  Whether the publication of this piece would benefit the greater community?  I think I'd like to find out what they were OK-ing.

Then there's this from Tommy Waz, himself:
"No one raised questions about the column to me and I’m not aware of any discussion in which one or more of my colleagues argued against using it,” he says. “Our intern told me as he was leaving for the day that the column was sure to generate a reaction. I agreed that it would, but that’s nothing new at the Post-Gazette. We have a robust opinion section, and we’re used to strong reactions — from all points of the political compass — to various columns, editorials and editorial cartoons."
 But this is belied by the following:
In the newsroom, there was “a shitstorm,” according to one reporter. “The rank and file in the PG newsroom were incensed. There were murmurings of a byline strike by the Newspaper Guild until Graham was fired.”
So let's parse this.  The rank and file were "incensed" enough that there was a "shitstorm" and a threat of a byline strike but no one (except maybe a lowly intern) on Waseleski's staff even made a peep about it?

If, in fact, what Waseleski said was, you know, actually true, (and I guess we should take him at his word.) what does that say about the disconnect between those two groups?

Dennis Roddy (no lib'rul, he) is quoted in Romenesko's piece with an explanation of Graham's sins:
The problem was her language: still a “mister,” “freak show,” even the old trope about bathroom privileges. The rule has always been that it’s OK to draw a little blood from an equally matched opponent; not from the vulnerable. The transgender and gay communities might seem to enjoy dignified treatment on TV and in the movies, but in real life they end up being harassed, bullied, degraded and murdered. This column drew its blood from that population. That was the problem.
By the way, Tom Waseleski hasn't changed his mind about the column being "well written and worth publishing."  Romenesko quotes him as saying:
That is still my position. It is a strongly worded commentary that reflects a view that the columnist shares with others. Those who have contacted us, calling it hate speech, also speak for others and we’ve given them their say by printing responses that criticize the column and the Post-Gazette’s decision to use it.
Which is precisely the problem, I guess.  Given the above dispensation to discuss many sides of important issues of the day, when will we see columns defending:
  • Racial Discrimination?
  • Voter Disenfranchisement?
  • Minstrel Shows?
Note I am not talking about defending someone's right to hold such odious ideas (that's what the 1st Amendment is for), I'm talking about a column defending the use of white only water fountains, poll taxes and blackface make-up.  Given Waseleski's restructuring of the local market place of ideas, when are we going to see the P-G approve the publication of a column that contains this sentence: "There's a lott to say for the fact that if only we'd kept the voting public all straight white males,  we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

I mean if the P-G did let such a column pass through it's digestive tract, the reading public would still have the opportunity to write a letter to the editor disagreeing with it, right?

Vincent Bugliosi Has Passed Away - Here's Some Other Stuff He Should Be Remembered For

From the LA Times (by way of the P-G):
Vincent Bugliosi, a prosecutor who parlayed his handling of the Charles Manson trial into a career as a bestselling author, has died, his son said Monday night. He was 80 years old.

Bugliosi, who had struggled with cancer in recent years, died Saturday night at a hospital in Los Angeles, his son, Vincent Bugliosi Jr., told The Associated Press.

Bugliosi Jr. said his father had “an unflagging dedication to justice” in everything he did.

As an author, Bugliosi Sr. was best known for “Helter Skelter,” which was his account of the Manson Family and the killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others by followers of the cult leader, Charles Manson.
Yes, he wrote (the book) Helter Skelter.

But he also wrote this, in 2001.  It begins with this:
In the December 12 ruling by the US Supreme Court handing the election to George Bush, the Court committed the unpardonable sin of being a knowing surrogate for the Republican Party instead of being an impartial arbiter of the law. If you doubt this, try to imagine Al Gore's and George Bush's roles being reversed and ask yourself if you can conceive of Justice Antonin Scalia and his four conservative brethren issuing an emergency order on December 9 stopping the counting of ballots (at a time when Gore's lead had shrunk to 154 votes) on the grounds that if it continued, Gore could suffer "irreparable harm," and then subsequently, on December 12, bequeathing the election to Gore on equal protection grounds. If you can, then I suppose you can also imagine seeing a man jumping away from his own shadow, Frenchmen no longer drinking wine.
And ends with this:
That an election for an American President can be stolen by the highest court in the land under the deliberate pretext of an inapplicable constitutional provision has got to be one of the most frightening and dangerous events ever to have occurred in this country. Until this act--which is treasonous, though again not technically, in its sweeping implications--is somehow rectified (and I do not know how this can be done), can we be serene about continuing to place the adjective "great" before the name of this country?
Vincent Bugliosi also wrote:
Perhaps the most amazing thing to me about the belief of many that George Bush lied to the American public in starting his war with Iraq is that the liberal columnists who have accused him of doing this merely make this point, and then go on to the next paragraph in their columns. Only very infrequently does a columnist add that because of it Bush should be impeached. If the charges are true, of course Bush should have been impeached, convicted, and removed from office. That's almost too self-evident to state. But he deserves much more than impeachment. I mean, in America, we apparently impeach presidents for having consensual sex outside of marriage and trying to cover it up. If we impeach presidents for that, then if the president takes the country to war on a lie where thousands of American soldiers die horrible, violent deaths and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, even babies are killed, the punishment obviously has to be much, much more severe. That's just common sense. If Bush were impeached, convicted in the Senate, and removed from office, he'd still be a free man, still be able to wake up in the morning with his cup of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice and read the morning paper, still travel widely and lead a life of privilege, still belong to his country club and get standing ovations whenever he chose to speak to the Republican faithful. This, for being responsible for over 100,000 horrible deaths?* For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did.
In the news today we learn that:
As critics over the years have chided Bill Clinton and also his wife for the industriousness with which they have pursued opportunities to get paid a lot of money in this manner, Bush, too, has been doing exactly what he said he would be doing.

Since 2009, POLITICO has found, Bush has given at least 200 paid speeches and probably many more, typically pocketing $100,000 to $175,000 per appearance. The part-time work, which rarely requires more than an hour on stage, has earned him tens of millions of dollars.
America, what a country!  It's a place where a legacy Yalie with a C average can be cheated into the White House, lie the country into a war that causes hundreds of thousands of deaths (while getting away with the torture of a few of the living) and STILL be free, once he gets out, to line his pockets with millions of dollars.

I'll say it again: America, what a country!

June 8, 2015

More On Jennifer Graham, Again.

I wanted to post a follow-up to the disastrous editorial decision the P-G made to allow this onto its pages.

The story's made its way to, albeit in a story about Iggy Azalea and the upcoming Pittsburgh Pride parade.  Kristina Marusic writes:
I’m a proud member of the LGBTQ community. I used to live in New York, then I lived in San Francisco, and now I live in Pittsburgh. In many ways, this city has pleasantly surprised me — I had no idea how beautiful it was before I moved here almost three years ago and I’ve been consistently impressed by the city’s art, food, and political evolution.

So I’m always disappointed when in other ways, Pittsburgh reveals itself to still be painfully stuck in the past. Like this past Thursday, when one of our major newspapers published an op-ed full of transphobic hate speech about Caitlyn Jenner.
For those who haven't followed the Iggy Azalea story, Marusic has some details:
The comparatively small LGBTQ community here doesn’t often make national headlines, but over the last few weeks, we have — in part due to some of the things that make Pittsburgh less-than-awesome, but mostly because of Iggy Azalea. Iggy is scheduled as the headliner at the Pittsburgh Pride celebration on June 13th, and as a result, many LGBT organizations are boycotting the celebrations.

In case you missed it, Iggy has faced a whole lot of backlash from the LGBTQ community over some old homophobic tweets — including one in which she said, “When guys whisper in each others ears I always think its kinda homo,” and another that said, “Wondered why my butt felt like it was about to grow legs, flip me off & walk away. then I remembered i played soccer yestrdy w 5 dyke bitches.”

Iggy has also been called racist because of lyrics like, “When the relay starts, I’m a runaway slave-master,” (for which she has apologized, sort of), and tweets like “Just saw 5 black men get arrested out the front of popeyes. #damn #stereotypes,” and “This Asian lady on the plane tried to act like she didn’t understand me I told her ass bitch u gone know English today cause that’s my seat!”
But the argument seems to be going deeper than just Ms Azalea.  As Thomas Waters explains:
Some of the rhetoric surrounding the recent controversy engulfing Pittsburgh Pride organizer, the Delta Foundation, might suggest that the scuffle is simply identity politics. Delta itself suggested that this effort was merely part of a larger national dialogue about race and privilege. Indeed, race and privilege are, a part of the issue. But, it would be fallacious to say that’s all there is to it.

As I went out to get my lunch today, I ran into an old friend who is recently retired. He fits well into the demographic of “gay white male” that some of the protesters claim Pride caters to. Boy, did I get an earful from him! His outrage at Delta illustrates that many who fall across a wide spectrum of gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, cis, white, black, brown… you name it– are fed up with Delta Foundation, and are demanding change. Opposition to Delta is not limited to TQPOC, to use an acronym that has become popular during this situation. Yes, certainly trans and queer persons of color (TQPOC) are out front, giving voice to their outrage, but with them stand many from all parts of the rainbow coalition that we call the LGBTQIA community.

Last evening over coffee a different friend, asked me why I felt some were so heatedly angry at Delta Foundation. ‘Is what they’ve done, really all that bad,’ he asked. His question is a valid one to consider. What has Delta done that is so bad?

My answer is that Delta has set itself up as the leading LGBT expert organization in Western PA. They have deemed themselves spokesperson for the LGBT community. (Delta doesn’t even recognize the “Q”) By naming themselves the leaders, they have commandeered the agenda and dialogue and by doing that, have silenced all other voices within the LGBTQIA community through their inability to adequately and respectfully represent everyone. This silencing of others has no place within a modern-day Equality-oriented organization.
Lotsa stuff to work out - sorry for the diversion.  Let's get back to Jennifer Graham.  Or more specifically the rightwing nutjob defense her offense has spawned.

For example this from instapundit. In responding to this letter to the P-G, they respond with (among some other insults) with:
The poor little flower apparently cannot handle anyone disagreeing with him/her (he/she signed his/her name “Christopher Kelly,” but who am I to assign a gender–that would be so aggressive of me). Such disagreements are likely not tolerated in the progressive/liberal “safe space” of Ithaca College, where this larval stage human has been brainwashed instructed.
Do I need to mention that they include a "Hitler Youth" reference?  And yet, according to this letter to the P-G this morning, criticizing intolerance makes you "the least tolerant among us."

This is the right wing nut job community that Jennifer Graham now finds herself in.  And all it took was one column to put her there.

It's my understanding that folks at the P-G are not at all happy with this column.  They're "getting pounded" over there because of this "stupendously bad unforced error."

There could have been a thousand other ways for Jennifer Graham to go "ew!" but she tool the path of the most insulting.  And we're watching the result in real time.

Welcome to Pittsburgh, Jenny!

June 5, 2015

The Post-Gazette Responds To Readers Offended By The Offensive Jennifer Graham

Alex Zimmerman, over at the City Paper, has tracked down a response (of sorts) from the Post-Gazette regarding JennyG's bit of transphobia.

First he tried Shribman:
Reached this afternoon, Shribman largely declined comment, saying he does not oversee the paper's editorial pages so he can remain an objective leader of the paper's news content. Of the decision to publish the editorial, Shribman says, “It simply is not my responsibility." He referred me to the P-G's editorial page editor Tom Waseleski, who did not immediately return a call.
The hunt continued:
But Waseleski has been responding to some readers. Several readers forwarded City Paper this response:
Thanks for sharing your opinion on Jennifer Graham's column. I appreciate hearing from readers, even when they disagree with a viewpoint they read in the Post-Gazette.

Obviously, she holds a strong conservative perspective on the matter — and the PG opinion pages are a forum for a broad range of viewpoints. While Jennifer's opinion may not reflect yours, it certainly speaks for others.

As an editor, I found Jennifer's piece well-written and worth publishing. I am not surprised that it would meet with strong reaction; various pieces in the Post-Gazette typically do. As to your point about violating AP style, we allow columnists occasional exceptions when the material warrants. For instance, Maureen Dowd routinely refers to George W. Bush as "W." We allow that, even though it violates the AP code.

Some readers have used this essay to accuse the PG of some sort of anti-gay perspective; they couldn't be more wrong. Just this Wednesday, we published an editorial cartoon by Rob Rogers that was pro-LGBTQIA. The newspaper's editorial position supports marriage for same-sex couples and advocates state and federal legislation to protect LGBTQIA individuals from discrimination. Last June, our news department published a series on people who are transgender — their joys and sorrows. You can look all this up.

I invite you to share your reaction with our readers by sending us a letter to the editor, 250 words or less, to Please include name, address and phone number for confirmation. We'd be glad to consider publishing your opinion, in the hopes of airing all viewpoints on this issue. Thanks again for writing.
I have a few thoughts on this.  First regarding the AP Style book.  According to GLAAD, this is the AP guideline regarding the use of proper pronouns:
Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.
So when Jennifer Graham deliberately and insultingly used the inappropriate "he" ten times, that was exactly the same as Maureen Dowd referring to George W. Bush by the nickname he chose for himself as a young politician.

Yea, exactly the same.

But the bigger problem with Waseleski's is his rationalization that it was OK to publish Graham's anti-Trans piece simply because there's so much other pro-LGBT stuff to be found in the paper.

What sort of reasoning is that?  Can I get away with telling racist jokes just because Tony Norman was best man at my wedding?

More On Jennifer Graham (A Round-Up Of Coverage) - UPDATED

As you probably already know, brand new P-G columnist Jennifer Graham caused something of an upheaval yesterday with the publication of this bit of transgender hostility.

Let's walk through the on-line responses:
  • Lynn Cullen took an look at it yesterday (she starts in on the column at about 53 minutes in)
  • Charlie Deitch over at the City Paper had this to say:
    This piece represents the worst kind of thinking on this subject. Also, it seems to come completely out of left field for the one daily newspaper in town that isn’t the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It’s really sad and disheartening.
  • Charlie points to this piece by Parker Malloy, which is a letter to Graham:
    What value has your hateful screed added to the world? And this isn’t just about Caitlyn Jenner. This is about all the transgender people (particularly transgender women of color) who are murdered, lose their jobs, are denied healthcare, etc. because of who they are (and it’s not a “lifestyle choice.” I assure you that I would be dead had I not come to terms with myself.)

    I really, truly hope you can how unnecessarily hateful and hurtful the words used in your column are. I am open to having a conversation if you truly want to understand the group of people you just labeled “freak shows.”But I’ll leave that up to you. I wish nothing but the best for you, even if you can’t see people like me for who we are.
  • Then there's Trish over at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents:
    Anyway. Fast-forward to today. And the Post-Gazette has squeezed out an awful, horrible, fetid column by associate editor Jennifer Graham, which refers to Caitlyn Jenner as a “he/she” and says transgender people “would have headlined the tragic freak shows in carnivals of old.”
  • Trish also pointed something things out here:
    What a proud, new hire for the Post-Gazette. Is this where I should mention that earlier this year, the Post-Gazette’s Mackenzie Carpenter and Michael Fuoco were nominated for an award by GLAAD, the media-monitoring organization that tries to ensure fair coverage of LGBTQ issues? I think it is!
  • The Delta Foundation put this on its Facebook page:
    While we have come so far, there is still so much more work to do.
And then there were the letters to the editor at the P-G.
  • Like this one:
    So it is inexcusable for newspapers, like the Post-Gazette, to give a voice to a bully to further propagate the hate crimes perpetrated against our community. We did not make an active choice to be LGBTQ+, but Ms. Graham made an active choice to be offensive. As journalists, you must do better.
  • And this one:
    Jennifer Graham and the Post-Gazette should be ashamed of themselves. It’s time to stop policing people’s bodies and supporting difficult and courageous choices.

    I would think the Post-Gazette, the newspaper that recently received an award for LGBTQ coverage, would want smarter, kinder and less judgmental people working for them. This is unacceptable and despicable.
And that's just two of them.

Of course, there's what Maria wrote and then what I wrote.

Needless to say if the now infamous JennyG wanted to make a dramatic entrance to the Pittsburgh market, she could not have caused a bigger ruckus.

Did I miss any local coverage?  PLEASE let me know and I'll update accordingly.


UPDATE: The story's gone national.  The Human Rights Campaign sent a letter to P-G editor-in-chief David Shribman, to complain about Graham and her column.  It begins this way:
On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, and our more than 1.5 million members and supporters, I am writing to you regarding a despicably offensive and inaccurate column by your employee, Jennifer Graham. Simply put, after submitting a piece so utterly lacking truth or decency, she should be relieved of her role as a columnist. Surely there is a writer somewhere in my one-time home of Pittsburgh who can do better than this.
And then there's this a few paragraphs later:
A piece arguing against LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination laws would have been reasonable, though incorrect. The same goes for a piece critiquing the media’s fascination with the Jenner story over a different story that the author argued deserved greater attention. But what Ms. Graham wrote—and your paper published—is hate speech, plain and simple.
Looking forward to seeing his response.