Democracy Has Prevailed.

November 29, 2015

What Josh Marshall Said

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

November 26, 2015


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

From 2013:
When I was a boy in New England (where you can find the best pizza on the planet) every year on Thanksgiving day it was a tradition for at least one New York radio station to play one particular 18 minute piece of music - some time around noon.

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

November 23, 2015

Message To Donald Trump (And His GOP Disciples)

Waterboarding is illegal.

It's a war crime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this say about our friends in the GOP?

November 21, 2015

Life Comes At You Slow, David

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

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

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

I kid.  I kid because I care, Brian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Its last season.

This was the first episode of Lou Grant broadcast:

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


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

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

November 20, 2015

Chuck McCullough Update (Hint: Things Just Got Worse)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 19, 2015

ANOTHER Embarrassment For The Tribune-Review Editorial Board

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

The one John Kerry signed in late September, 2013.

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

That was 971 days ago.

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

November 17, 2015

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

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

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

But what the the president mean?

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

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

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

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

That's what he's talking about.

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

November 15, 2015

On Offensive Halloween Costumes, en at.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But let me ask another, more localized, question.

Anyone remember this woman?

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

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

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

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

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

November 14, 2015

turn off

November 13, 2015

Next Time You Hear That The ACA Is A Failure

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

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

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

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

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

November 11, 2015

November 11, Veterans Day, Armistice Day, Kurt Vonnegut's Birthday

From a post from a few years ago.

Happy Birthday, Stanley Tucci, Lee Haney, Demi Moore, and Calista Flockhart.

And of course, a Happy Birthday to Kurt Vonnegut who wrote this:
I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things.

What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

And all music is.
All music is sacred.

So it goes.

PS Today's also the anniversary of Jerome Kern's passing.  Having said that, I can think of nothing more sacred than this:

November 10, 2015

Chuck McCullough Sentencing UPDATE

Guess what?

In a case that took longer than Nixon's presidency to get to trial, where former Allegheny County Councilman Charles P. "Chuck" McCullough was ultimately found guilty of five third-degree felonies, this happened yesterday:
The new attorney for former Allegheny County councilman Chuck McCullough, who was found guilty of 10 criminal counts over the summer, accused the judge in the case of making improper statements and has asked him to remove himself.

Megan Will’s motion, filed Friday, delayed Mr. McCullough’s sentencing scheduled for today. It is now slated for Dec. 17.
That's right, delayed. Again.

Wait.  Chuck's got a new attorney?  How many does that make?

From the Trib:
Attorney Megan Will of Somerset, McCullough's fifth defense attorney in a case that has dragged since 2009...
And how long has she been on the case? Again, from the Trib:
Will joined the case Nov. 3.
That's a week ago!  ONE WEEK!  What has Chuck been doing in the 270 days since he was found guilty?

The issue is some ex parte communication.  From the P-G:
An ex parte conversation, which is prohibited, is one in which one party to the case is not present.

Ms. Will included one claim that the judge called Mr. McCullough's trial attorney, Jon Pushinsky, on Dec. 29 and scolded him for filing a court petition; and another claim that the judge told a mutual friend of the defense attorney, "tell Pushinsky to go non-jury," in Mr. McCullough's case.
And so on.  This story, it seems, doesn't want to end.

November 9, 2015

The Trib's Colin McNickle misnderstand the terms "Orwellian" and "Climate Change" as he "informs" his readership

Take a look:
The debate over “climate change” has taken yet another Orwellian turn. And it should send chills up and down the spines of thinking people everywhere.
And a few paragraphs later we get this:
The attorney general of New York is reported to be investigating Exxon Mobil, the world's largest oil company, and Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal producer. At the core of the probes is whether the companies “misled” the public and/or their investors about the “risks” of climate change.
Nice touch, Colin.  With the "irony quotation" marks, I mean.  As we'll see they DID mislead and there ARE rists.  Before we continue with any more of Colin's "brilliant insights" let's frame his disinformation in, well, reality.  What is he talking about?

This - from the NYTimes:
The New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.

According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.

The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.

The people said the inquiry would include a period of at least a decade during which Exxon Mobil funded outside groups that sought to undermine climate science, even as its in-house scientists were outlining the potential consequences - and uncertainties - to company executives.
I'm not sure Colin's "research" was thorough enough into the this issue.  While he recites (a hideous, grinding speech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil) the party line on the settled science, the Times had this to say:
More recently, Inside Climate News and The Los Angeles Times have reported that Exxon Mobil was well aware of the risks of climate change from its own scientific research, and used that research in its long-term planning for activities like drilling in the Arctic, even as it funded groups from the 1990s to the mid-2000s that denied serious climate risks.

Mr. Cohen, of Exxon, said on Thursday that the company had made common cause with such groups largely because it agreed with them on a policy goal of keeping the United States out of a global climate treaty called the Kyoto Protocol.

“We stopped funding them in the middle part of the past decade because a handful of them were making the uncertainty of the science their focal point,” Mr. Cohen said. “Frankly, we made the call that we needed to back away from supporting the groups that were undercutting the actual risk” of climate change.
See that, Colin?  Exxon even says there's "actual risk."  And I am using those quotation marks as actual quotation marks.

Let's go on.

Indeed the ICN reporting gives us information Colin would surely wish down the memory hole:
At a meeting in Exxon Corporation's headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world's use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

"In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon's Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon's leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis. [Emphasis added.]
And for awhile Exxon was at the forefront of Climate research.  However:
"Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate," declared the headline of a June 1988 New York Times article describing the Congressional testimony of NASA's James Hansen, a leading climate expert. Hansen's statements compelled Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.) to declare during the hearing that "Congress must begin to consider how we are going to slow or halt that warming trend."

With alarm bells suddenly ringing, Exxon started financing efforts to amplify doubt about the state of climate science.

Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world's largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions. Exxon used the American Petroleum Institute, right-wing think tanks, campaign contributions and its own lobbying to push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions.
See THAT, Colin?  They knew in 1977 and yet funded the right wing "think tanks" (see? I can do it too!) to spread uncertainty about what they already knew to be true.

Now, about your use of the term "Orwellian."  You do know you're using it wrong to describe the case against Exxon, right?  The above use of facts to counter your misinformation should prove it to you.  If not Ignorance is Strength, I guess.

However, you're actually pretty close to being "Orwellian" yourself.  Did you know that?  If we start from Orwell's (well, Winston Smith's) assertion that:
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.
The arithmetic represents objective truth. By making the residents of Airstrip One to believe (beyond all evidence) that 2+2=5, the party is being "Orwellian."

Much like your insistence (and your paper's insistence) that there's somehow still "uncertainty" in the science of climate change - despite all the objective evidence, despite the 97% of climate scientists who believe it to be true, despite the 97% of climate papers published in peer-reviewed science journals supporting it.

You're the one, Colin, who's being Orwellian because 2+2 does not equal 5 and the planet is warming up due to the greenhouse gasses humans have been pouring into the atmosphere for decades.

You can believe what you want, just don't go into Room 101.

And if you don't know what's in Room 101, you shouldn't be using the term "Orwellian."

November 5, 2015

Join me at "The Art of Blogging: Nov Unblurred exhibit"

Please join me tomorrow at "The Art of Blogging" (Nov Unblurred exhibit) at the Most Wanted Fine Art gallery. I'll be one of the blogger artists exhibiting--basically showing a retrospective of the political cartoons/illustrations I've done on this blog for the past 11 years.

From their Facebook event page:
Friday, November 6th, at 6:00 pm
Most Wanted Fine Art, 5015 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15224 
The Art of Blogging 
A group exhibit exploring blogging as an art form and the other art that bloggers do in their “off time”. November is National Blogging Month and Pittsburgh is home to more than 400 blogs. This exhibit offers bloggers a chance to showcase their artistic side, from painting to a brass quintet, as they explore their own sources of inspiration. Artists include: Vanessa German, Joe Wos, Marcel Lamont Walker, Wayne Wise, Thomas Waters, Amanda Narcisi, Maria Lupinacci, Sally Deskins, John Chamberlin, Diana Loll, Raylene Hoover, Melissa Firman, & MWFA Resident Artists: Sue Kerr and Genevieve Barbee. 
MWFA Basement
Enter our live blogging experience which is dedicated to “The Best of The Burghosphere”, an awards ceremony to honor the creative bloggers in the region. The official Awards presentations will be on Friday, November 20, 2015 at 7pm 21+. Celebrate the 2015 'Best of the Burghosphere' bloggers with Rockbottom beer, refreshments and more. Suggested donation is $5 at the door with proceeds benefitting the MWFA Resident Artists project. Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 1pm we host a family friendly celebration. Learn more about The Best of the Burghosphere during Unblurred. 
Most Wanted Fine Art
5015 Penn Ave, PGH PA 15224
6pm-10pm FREE

It should be fun!

Teh Crazie - Ben Carson Edition

Although I've written before that as an either/or assessment it's rather harsh, I have to say that Abul'-Ala' al-Ma'arri was exactly right when describing some of the more fervently religious among us.  As a reminder, al-Ma'arri wrote:
There are two types of people on Earth:
Those who have reason without religion,
And those who have religion but lack reason.
Born and died about a thousand years ago in what is now Syria, he also wrote that religion is "a fable invented by the ancients" and:
Do not suppose the statements of the prophets to be true; they are all fabrications. Men lived comfortably till they came and spoiled life. The sacred books are only such a set of idle tales as any age could have and indeed did actually produce.
His offenses against religion a thousand years ago were so great that in 2013 the Al Nusra Front beheaded a statue of him.

Faith is one thing.  As George Carlin says, it's like a lift in your shoes.  If it makes you walk straight and feel better, fine.  But beyond that, I have to add that once it gets in the way of reason, of rational thought, that's when al-Ma'arri begins to make sense.

With that in mind, let's start with the most recent (kind of) anti-intellectual thing that prominent neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate had to say:
Dr. Ben Carson on Wednesday night confirmed his belief that the pyramids in Egypt were built for grain storage by Joseph, the Biblical figure who helped the Egyptians survive famine, even though archaeologists have concluded that the pyramids were built as tombs for the pharaohs.

"My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain," Carson said in a 1998 speech surfaced by Buzzfeed News on Wednesday. "Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain."
CBS has more on Carson's narrative source:
What Carson has in mind here is the seven years of plenty in Egypt, referred to in Genesis, when "Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure." In the Bible, Joseph fed Egypt and the rest of the world during the seven years of drought that followed.
This is described in Genesis 41: 41-57.  If you look carefully at the text, it's a span of about 14 years - 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine.  7 + 7 = 14.  Simple.

Now let's look at the facts.  Archeologists have found about 118 Egyptian pyramids ranging from the Pyramid of Djoser from the 27th Century BCE to the Pyramid of Ahmose, the last known royal pyramid in Egypt, dating from about 1550 BCE.

However you count that, that's wa-a-a-a-a-ay more than 14 years.  Were all those 100+ pyramids used for grain storage?  Were they built before or during the 7 years of plenty described by Scripture?  How?  And then after the famine, how did all the stuff that the archeologists actually find in those pyramids get in there?

Carson never says.  And yet he's sure that he's right.  So which is it?   Which one is right?  Carson's beliefs or the conclusions of the world's Egyptologists?  One side has science to back it up and the other has a very very old book.

I'll let you figure out which one I think is right.

Let's move on to something else from Genesis.  In late October of 2015, Ben Carson tweeted this:
It is important to remember that amateurs built the Ark and it was the professionals that built the Titanic.
Let's step over the obvious criticism (that one has to take it as a matter of faith the existence of Noah's arc while it's a simple historical fact that Titanic actually existed) and look at what the good Dr is trying to say.  It's this: The experts failed while the amateurs succeeded.  That's the important part of the story to Ben Carson and it's nothing more than a statement of anti-intellectualism.

Not only that, but it's a statement that requires the assumption as true something for which there is no evidence - that Noah and his arc actually existed.  His whole argument rests on a bubble of nothing but faith and when faith replaces reason, that's always a bad sign.

Finally we have this:
The retired right-wing neurosurgeon, known for his off-the-wall ideas about a great number of issues, called the science surrounding the big bang “ridiculous,” and added in reference to evolution, “I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary.”

In context, “the adversary” appears to refer to Satan.
Evolution is a concept that came from Satan as a way to get people to not believe in God.  That's basically the idea Dr Carson is propounding.  Nothing about whether it's true, nothing about whether its evidence is solid, whether its reasoning is valid.  No.  Just that it was designed to get between the faithful and the faith.

I'll leave it to Richard Dawkins to respond:
“You’ve just told me that all the Republican candidates except one say they don’t believe in evolution. I mean that’s a disgrace,” Dawkins said. “But for a senior, a very eminent distinguished doctor, as he is, to say that — it’s even worse, because, of course, evolution is the bedrock of biology. And biology is the bedrock of medicine.”

The atheist leader when on to say that it is especially problematic that a doctor as prominent as Carson doesn’t understand the “fundamental theorem of his own subject.”

“That is a terrible indictment,” Dawkins said.
Yes, it is.  When faith replaces reason as a mechanism of decision making, there's nothing but trouble ahead.

The fact that Dr Ben Carson is so popular among GOP voters is frightening for that party and, sadly, the nation as a whole.

Whenever Ben Carson speaks...

...It should be mandatory for the media to followup by playing this clip:

November 4, 2015

The Results

From Chris Potter of the P-G:
Democrats swept the three seats up for grabs on the state Supreme Court, likely ensuring the party’s control of the state’s highest court for years to come.

According to unofficial results, Democratic Superior Court Judges David Wecht and Christine Donohue, both of Allegheny County, joined with Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty to lead the seven-person field.
If the results hold, Democrats will hold five seats on the seven-member court. While the candidates themselves took pains to downplay partisan considerations during the race, the results should give the Democrats a political advantage in redrawing boundaries for the state Legislature after the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court usually picks a decisive fifth member to a redistricting commission otherwise evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
And from Pamela Reed Ward, also of the P-G:
The three Democrats who were winners in the primary will assume the bench after prevailing in Tuesday’s election.

Jennifer Staley McCrady, Dan Regan and Hugh McGough will take office in January.
Unfortunately, there's one last story from the P-G:
Iraq veteran Guy Reschenthaler defeated women’s advocate Heather Arnet for the state Senate’s open 37th District seat after a high-spending race that was as much about political labels as local issues.

Mr. Reschenthaler, 32, the GOP nominee from Jefferson Hills, will fill the seat that Matt Smith, a Democrat, resigned in June. The Democrats have a registration edge in the district — taking in three dozen northern, southern and western suburbs — but the GOP long held the seat before Mr. Smith’s election in 2012.
Election Day in Allegheny County, November 2015.

November 2, 2015

What's at stake tomorrow

Forget about Trump. Forget about Hillary. Forget about Bernie...At least until Wednesday. It's all about tomorrow's election in Pennsylvania. 

What's at stake? Via the Pittsburgh City Paper:
And speaking of the legislature, if Democrats ever have a shot of gaining control in Harrisburg, the first step is Nov. 3. This state has some of the most ridiculously gerrymandered districts in the nation. The boundaries are drawn in such a way to give Republicans the edge. Do you really think Jim Ferlo would have retired if his senate district had remained untouched? Instead, his urban district, with a large number of African-American voters, was butchered and joined with a predominantly white district in the North Hills. The same holds true for Pittsburgh’s Congressional district. Need proof? Check out the 12th District that stretches from the Ohio border to Johnstown. 
As other media have pointed out, the state Supreme Court appoints the tie-breaking member to the state’s redistricting committee. Anyone want to guess which party got that power under the Republican-controlled Supreme Court? 
We can’t afford to sit on the sidelines for this judicial election. If you still can’t grasp what’s at stake on Nov. 3, think of a vote for the Supreme Court as a vote on gun control, a vote in favor of gender equality, a vote on women’s health issues, or even an early vote for your state and congressional representatives in 2021 and beyond. Because voting in this race now may be the last vote you control for an awfully long time.
Here's a sample of the kind of gerrymandering that having Democrats controlling the courts can put a stop to:

So tomorrow, you need to get your ass out and vote for these people:

You also need to vote for Heather Arnet and keep her Tea Party opponent out of the PA Senate! 

For other races, the Gertrude Stein Political Club generally makes excellent endorsements (they aren't bought). You can find them here. They include:
Allegheny County Controller
Chelsa Wagner 
Allegheny County Council, District 10
DeWitt Walton 
Pittsburgh City Controller
Michael Lamb 
Pittsburgh City Council, District 3
Bruce Kraus 
Pittsburgh City Council, District 7
Deb Gross 
Pittsburgh Public Schools School Board Director, District 4
Lynda Wrenn 
Pittsburgh Public Schools School Board Director, District 6
Moira Kaleida 
Magisterial Court, District 05-03-12
Lucille Prater Holliday

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Tuesday is voting day so

Go Vote!