We are the 99%

May 31, 2011

The Trib Should Check Their Science

From the generally scientifically illiterate pages of the Tribune-Review, today we find yet another attack on compact fluorescent light bulbs. This time Scaife's braintrust is using material quoted from that respected and science journal political online magazine The American Thinker:
Pricey compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are even more dangerous -- and make even less economic sense -- than previously thought. They're fire hazards and mercury's just the tip of their toxic iceberg.

Edmund Contoski reports for the American Thinker that Telstar- and Electra-brand CFLs were recalled on May 12 as overheating fire hazards. And he notes that cleaning up after CFLs flame out usually breaks environmental regulations.
And so on.

I was curious what a real science magazine had to say about CFLs. In 2007 Popular Mechanics did a side by side comparison between CFLs and the incandescent bulb. Know what they found? That's right:
The results surprised us. Even though the incandescent bulb measured slightly brighter than the equivalent CFLs, our subjects didn't see any dramatic difference in brightness. And here was the real shocker: When it came to the overall quality of the light, all the CFLs scored higher than our incandescent control bulb. In other words, the new fluorescent bulbs aren't just better for both your wallet and the environment, they produce better light.
Then they alsopublished this "reality check" regarding the newer better lightbulbs. Some highlights. On the safety of the mercury:
How much mercury is contained in a CFL?
Each bulb contains an average of 5 milligrams of mercury, “which is just enough to cover a ballpoint pen tip,” says Leslie, associate director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer. “Though it’s nothing to laugh at, unless you wipe up mercury [without gloves] and then lick your hand, you’re probably going to be okay.”
On the energy savings by using a CFL:
How much of a difference can CFLs really make?
According to EnergyStar—a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency—if each U.S. home replaced just one of its incandescent bulbs with a CFL, the electricity saved each year could light 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of 800,000 cars.
But the big concern about CFLs revolves around the mercury used in them. And to that issue Popular Mechanics points out:
How much mercury do power plants emit to light a CFL?
About 50 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. is generated by coal-fired power plants. When coal burns to produce electricity, mercury naturally contained in the coal releases into the air. In 2006, coal-fired power plants produced 1,971 billion kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity, emitting 50.7 tons of mercury into the air—the equivalent amount of mercury contained in more than 9 billion CFLs (the bulbs emit zero mercury when in use or being handled).

Approximately 0.0234 mg of mercury—plus carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide—releases into the air per 1 kwh of electricity that a coal-fired power plant generates. Over the 7500-hour average range of one CFL, then, a plant will emit 13.16 mg of mercury to sustain a 75-watt incandescent bulb but only 3.51 mg of mercury to sustain a 20-watt CFL (the lightning equivalent of a 75-watt traditional bulb). Even if the mercury contained in a CFL was directly released into the atmosphere, an incandescent would still contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime.
So let's see. A real science journal vs a political opinion magazine. Where would you get your science?

To hear the chicken littles at the Trib describe it, a CFL packs enough plutonium to kill each and everyone of us twelve times over. Here's the Guv'ment's cleanup guidelines for CFLs.

May 30, 2011

On The End That Wasn't - An Agnostic Ponders

During the course of one weekend in late March fourteen years ago, thirty-nine people (in three groups over the course of three days, by the way) living in a rented house in a suburb of San Diego ingested large amounts of phenobarbital washed down with vodka. Lying in their bunks and dressed in identical clothing (right down to the brand new Nike sneakers) plastic bags were secured over their heads to induce asphyxiation. The first group of fifteen succumbed that Saturday, the next fifteen the next day and the last nine the next.

The bodies, decomposing and shrouded in liturgical purple, were discovered by the police on Wednesday. The stench must've been overwhelming.

This was the Heaven's Gate cult and they did this voluntarily because they firmly believed that an extra-terrestrial space ship travelling behind the Hale-Bopp comet would take them to the "next level above human" if only they would shed the "vehicles" that were their human bodies.

It was an extreme act of faith to say the least.

Now here is a most dangerous questions to ponder:
  • Did they make it? That is to say, did they make it to the next level above human?
Everything hinges on that question. If they made it to the next level then we really can't say they committed suicide, can we? Certainly not in the same sense that we say that Kurt Cobain or Vincent van Gogh or Vince Foster committed suicide.

If they made it then those 39 didn't ingest all that phenobarbital with a vodka chaser to end their lives but to continue their lives.

So again I have to ask, did they make it? And if you answer no then how do you know that they didn't?

You could point out that there was no ship following the Hale-Bopp comet, that with the world's telescopes focussed on the comet, no one saw (or said they saw) a spaceship following it. Ergo with no ship, no journey to the next level etc.

Ah, but this is where the discussion gets dangerous, doesn't it? If you are going to use logic and scientific evidence (or lack thereof) to undercut an act of faith or other metaphysical assertion then you have to allow scientific evidence to be used to verify any other act of faith or metaphysical assertion.

For example just as there was no scientific evidence that there was a UFO following the Hale-Bopp comet, there's also no scientific evidence for the existence of Heaven. Or of The Resurrection. Or of God. Believing in each is, in itself, an act of faith.

You could point to other afterlife belief systems from other religions and say that because what the Heaven's Gate group believed wasn't among them, it was therefore incorrect. But that gets you into trouble as well. Does one ascend into Heaven via one's good deeds and faith or via faith alone? Depending on who you ask it's one or the other that's wrong. One faith, analysed through the the tenets of another, will always come up short.

So saying Heaven's Gate theology was wrong because it wasn't more like other, more mainstream, theologies isn't saying much at all. All you've really said is that it was different.

So all that being said, we now turn to Harold Camping's end-that-wasn't. How do we know it didn't happen? Well, for one thing, most everyone that was here on May 21 is still here now.

Even Harold Camping.

And he's moved the goal posts. From the AP:
A California preacher who foretold of the world's end only to see the appointed day pass with no extraordinarily cataclysmic event has revised his apocalyptic prophecy, saying he was off by five months and the Earth actually will be obliterated on Oct. 21.

Harold Camping, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before catastrophe struck the planet, apologized Monday evening for not having the dates "worked out as accurately as I could have."
Precisely. There's more:
Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a "spiritual" Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ's judgment, he said.

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God's judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there's no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.
The New York Times points out that Camping's prophecies have been "widely derided" by mainstream Christianity. It has been for a while. How do they know it's untrue?

The P-G's own Ruth Ann Dailey explains:
Jesus himself said, in a long passage (Mark 13) about the end of time, "[The] day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
More specifically, it's Mark 13:32. So if Jesus tells us no one will know the answer then how can Harold Camping? That was Ruth Ann's apt rhetorical question.

But was Jesus himself a reliable source of information on the End? Perhaps not. In the scripture verses that immediately precede Mark 13:32 we read in Mark 13:30-31:
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
The "these things" are the signs of His immanent return: the sun and the moon darkening and the stars falling out of the sky. All those things were supposed to happen within the lifetimes of the people who lived during Christ's life.

Jesus said so. It's in the Gospels.

And yet that didn't happen either. He must've gotten it wrong.

I'll end with my own rhetorical question (I believe this is from Bertrand Russell, though I can't find the original): Why should we believe any proposition for which there is no evidence? That's where human beings get into trouble.

These aren't small meaningless questions either. Just think about the millions of human beings slaughtered over the course of human history for believing in the wrong faith or the wrong God.

May 29, 2011

The Stupidest Thing I Ever Read In The Trib

From today's Sunday Pops section of the op-ed page:
And, of course, this was inevitable: a sideshow of unfounded speculation that killer tornadoes are the result of supposed climate change. NBC weatherman Al Roker was one of the first cluckers out of the box to mention climate change, according to The Daily Caller. Perhaps Mr. Roker and other climate crusaders could lend some of their credibility to doomsdayologist Harold Camping. After all, he, too, dabbles in very much the same "science."
If this is the Daily Caller article to which Scaife's braintrust is referring, they didn't even get it right. No where in there does it say that Roker was one of the first to mention climate change. But this is what The Daily Caller says Roker says:
On Monday’s “Martin Bashir Show” program on MSNBC, “Today” weatherman Al Roker had a theory on what’s behind the weather. Broadcasting live from the site of St. John’s Hospital in Joplin that took a hard hit from Sunday’s weather, Roker assessed the tornado that hit Joplin to be on the top-end of the Fujita Scale.

“Well you know the National Weather Service is probably on the ground now and they will assess the damage,” Roker said. “Some people are saying an EF3. I would put this probably between an EF4 and EF5, which is the top of the Fujita Scale.”

Roker also offered a theory on why tornadoes are seemingly touching down in more urban areas as of late. His answer: Climate change.
Unfortunately for Scaife's braintrust, the speculation isn't unfounded. Take a look at this from 2007:
Previous climate model studies have shown that heavy rainstorms will be more common in a warmer climate, but few global models have attempted to simulate the strength of updrafts in these storms. The model developed at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies by researchers Tony Del Genio, Mao-Sung Yao, and Jeff Jonas is the first to successfully simulate the observed difference in strength between land and ocean storms and is the first to estimate how the strength will change in a warming climate, including "severe thunderstorms" that also occur with significant wind shear and produce damaging winds at the ground.

This information can be derived from the temperatures and humidities predicted by a climate computer model, according to the new study published on August 17 in the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters. It predicts that in a warmer climate, stronger and more severe storms can be expected, but with fewer storms overall.
On the other hand, it'll take decades of data to conclude whether the current season of bad weather is an anomaly or a trend. But as Bryan Walsh at Time.com writes:
But guess what? It doesn't matter. We already know more than enough about climate change to fear it. We know enough to embark on the long-term changes to our energy economy needed to reduce carbon emissions and blunt the impact of what no less than the Department of Defense has called a major threat to national security.
Did you know that? Did you know that the Department of Defense has called climate change a threat to national security? I do.

The braintrust obviously doesn't. For the scientifically ignorant braintrust, it's on as solid ground as Harold Camping's conclusion that the world was going to end on May 21.

We can, perhaps, forgive the good Reverend for allowing his faith to shred his rational thinking. When I think of Reverend Camping I wonder whether Abul'-Ala' al-Ma'arri was on to something. We are, after all, a nation where a quarter of us don't believe in the science of evolution, so how small a jump is it for a fringe to count the begats to "establish" the beginning of the world and that to "establish" the date of The Flood and then from that to "establish" the end of the world?

Not much. Obviously.

But for a "news" source (even one as tenuously connected to the news as Scaife's op-ed braintrust) to equate such real science as climate change with such drivel as Camping's end-that-wasn't is just beyond stupid.

Even for them.

May 28, 2011

Jordan Miles Rally Today


(Click to enlarge)

Today, the third in a series of rallies will be held to seek justice in the Jordan Miles case. The first was at Police Headquarters and called for the three police officers to be fired. The second was at the Office of Municipal Investigations and asked for the release of OMI's internal report on the beating to be released to the public. Today's rally calls for the prosecution of officers Richard Ewing, David Sisak, and Michael Saldutte.

Justice for Jordan Miles
Today, Sat, May 28, 1pm
Allegheny County Courthouse
436 Grant Street, Pittsburgh PA

There's more at justiceforjordanmiles.com

In case you missed it, Pittsburgh City Paper interviewed Miles in a cover story last week and Miles also spoke out in public for the first time at last week's rally:


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

From the New York Times (h/t to my friend Phil):
Musician Gil Scott-Heron, who helped lay the groundwork for rap by fusing minimalistic percussion, political expression and spoken-word poetry on songs such as "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," died Friday at age 62.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

May 27, 2011

Lil' Ricky's Gonna Announce!

The AP (and everyone else) has the story:
Former Sen. Rick Santorum plans to formally enter the GOP presidential race next month, starting his bid in the western Pennsylvania coal fields where his immigrant grandfather once worked, advisers said Thursday.
But not all the news is good for Camp Santorum. First (and a HUGE hat tip to Tim McNulty at the Daily Santorum) there's this from The Atlantic:

His High School Yearbook Picture

Then there's Miley. From PoliticsPA:
Even Miley Cyrus is getting in on the 2012 action. In a reaction to a recent controversy over retailer Urban Outfitters allegedly copying jewelry designs, Cryus last night aired her criticism of UO President Richard Hayne’s campaign contributions to former Senator Rick Santorum.
Here's the tweet:
IF WE ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE NEXT THING U KNOW PEOPLE WILL BE MARRYING GOLD FISH’ – Rick Santorum UO contributed $13,000 to this mans campaign
Needless to say, Cyrus is not among those who are fans of Rick's anti-gay bigotry.

PoliticsPA notes that:
Cyrus has over a million followers on the social networking site, and this particular remark was re-tweeted by hundreds if not thousands of people.
So that can't be good for Rick. I am not sure how many of those million followers are old enough to vote or how many would have voted for the man with politics so vile Dan Savage named the frothy mixture after him but still it can't be good.

Ok, I am feeling a little guilty about posting that picture.

May 26, 2011

And It's A NO For Chuck Running For DA

From Jim O'Toole at Early Returns:
Former county Councilman Chuck McCullough will not be running for district attorney.
And then:
Mark Wolosik, the county elections chief, said that the unofficial count of write-ins found that Mr. McCullough gains 103 votes for district attorney, leaving him well short of the minimum of 500 that would have been needed to secure a post on the ballot. Mr. Zapata, unopposed for the Democratic nomination for district attorney, came in first among the GOP write-ins as well, with 296, a total that was still well short of the threshold he would have needed to gain that nomination as well. [emphasis added.]
I think that should be Zappala not Zapata. But that, as my old music theory teacher would say, is neither here nor there.

Nevertheless, this is done. I'd think that O'Toole quoting the county elections chief is a pretty reliable source, however unofficial (and therefore informal) this still might be.

Looks like someone's reputation preceded them

Via New York Magazine:


Dominique Strauss-Kahn, President Obama
and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009.

The caption says this meeting took place during the 2009 G-20, so, yes, Pittsburgh. Maybe those riot troops should have been keeping tabs on DSK instead of the students...
.

Senator Toomey Votes To Phase Out Medicare

From Talking Points Memo:
The GOP continued its bloody walk into the Medicare buzzsaw Wednesday, when 40 out of 47 Senate Republicans voted in support of the House GOP budget, and its plan to phase out and privatize the popular entitlement program.

The test vote failed by a vote of 57-40. But the roll call illustrates that Medicare privatization -- along with deep cuts to Medicaid and other social services -- remains the consensus position of the GOP despite the growing political backlash against them.
Here's the roll in case you don't believe me.

Ezra Klein described how the phase out would occur:
To move us to surpluses, Ryan's budget proposes reforms that are nothing short of violent. Medicare is privatized. Seniors get a voucher to buy private insurance, and the voucher's growth is far slower than the expected growth of health-care costs.
With no guarantee, of course, that any insurance company will actually sell the senior with the voucher the insurance he or she was given the voucher to buy. Medicare is guaranteed. Hence the phase out.

And the backlash? We read this from the AP:
They're not buying it. Most Americans say they don't believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that arguments for overhauling the massive benefit programs to pare government debt have failed to sway the public. The debate is unlikely to be resolved before next year's elections for president and Congress.

Americans worry about the future of the retirement safety net, the poll found, and 3 out of 5 say the two programs are vital to their basic financial security as they age. That helps explain why the Republican Medicare privatization plan flopped, and why President Barack Obama's Medicare cuts to finance his health care law contributed to Democrats losing control of the House in last year's elections.
TPM added:
To shelter GOP dissidents from the vote to privatize Medicare, but also to shore up their bona fides on the right, the Senate also held a test vote on a similarly austere alternative budget authored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).
But the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out:
At first blush, the Toomey plan may seem more moderate than the Ryan budget, which the Senate also will likely consider this week. That’s because the Toomey plan does not include Chairman Ryan’s controversial proposal to replace guaranteed Medicare benefits with vouchers that would cover part of the cost of purchasing private health insurance — a provision that would raise total health care spending attributable to Medicare beneficiaries and more than double out-of-pocket costs for a typical 65-year-old beneficiary in 2022. (Neither plan proposes savings in Social Security.)

But, in several ways, the Toomey budget is more radical than the Ryan plan. While it essentially mirrors the Ryan plan in proposing deep cuts in nondefense discretionary programs, it proposes much deeper cuts in entitlement programs other than Medicare — and relies on a rosy economic scenario and fanciful assumptions about tax collections — to claim it produces modest surpluses in 2020 and 2021 instead of the approximately $400 billion deficits in each of those years under the Ryan plan.
Meanwhile, the CBPP has something interesting to say about the deficit:
Some lawmakers, pundits, and others continue to say that President George W. Bush’s policies did not drive the projected federal deficits of the coming decade — that, instead, it was the policies of President Obama and Congress in 2009 and 2010. But, the fact remains: the economic downturn, President Bush’s tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years (see Figure 1).
Here's Figure 1:

They add:
The events and policies that pushed deficits to these high levels in the near term were, for the most part, not of President Obama’s making. If not for the Bush tax cuts, the deficit-financed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression (including the cost of policymakers’ actions to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term. By themselves, in fact, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $20 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019. The stimulus law and financial rescues will account for less than 10 percent of the debt at that time.
So dealing with the deficit by phasing out Medicare (or cutting other entitlements) makes perfect sense to Pat Toomey and those other 39 Republican Senators. Let's make sure those millionaires and billionaires keep their Bush Era tax cuts! That'll solve this budget problem (the one that Bush caused) for sure!

May 25, 2011

Kansas GOP Rep.: Getting pregnant by rape is like getting a flat tire

The point, according to Kansas state Rep. Pete DeGraaf, is that women need to plan ahead.

For getting raped.

And getting pregnant from that rape.

Uh, huh.

This was the discussion during a debate on a bill on a ban on insurance companies offering abortion coverage as part of their general health plans. It passed the Kansas House with an exception only for the life of the woman (not for rape and incest). Via The Pitch:
Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican who supports the bill, told her: "We do need to plan ahead, don't we, in life?"

Bollier asked him, "And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with pregnancy?"

DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, "I have a spare tire on my car."

"I also have life insurance," he added. "I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for."
DeGraaf is an ordained minister.

..If you'd like to contact him (also via the link above): "DeGraaf's Web site lists his office number as 785-296-7693, his home phone as 316-777-0715 - that's at 1545 E. 119th St. Mulvane, KS - and his e-mail as pete.degraaf@house.ks.gov ."

You can also send him a spare tire (model) via Kansas NOW.

(h/t to Daily Kos and Mother Jones.)
.

The Zombie Lies That NEVER Die (World Net Daily and the Obama Birth Certificate)

When times get boring, just head on over to World Net Daily to see what teh crazies' up to.

Did you know they're still flogging the Birth Certificate? They're still putting it in irony quotation marks so it shows up like this: Obama's "birth certificate".

As of this date and time (7:14 am on May 25) we see these articles in this order:

Above the date there's this non-Birth Certificate story:

U.K. celebrates Obamas, but Michael Savage is another story

The rest is red meat for the birthers:

A QUESTION OF ELIGIBILITY
WND Exclusive
Trump pumps Corsi
for latest on Obama
Requests information from author
of 'Where's the Birth Certificate?'

WND POLL
Combing over the facts
What is Donald Trump up to now with his questioning of Jerome Corsi?
A Poll asking WND readers what they think of the previous story.
WorldNetDaily Exclusive
Store clerk: Best-selling book probing Obama 'withdrawn'
Borders representative bases answer on fake Esquire article
A story on Corsi's book being out of stock in one Borders in California.
WND Exclusive
Obama camp pushes to sell birth-certificate images
'Don't miss out on this chance to get yours'
A story on how the "push" to sell "birth-certificate images" has actually driven up the sales of Corsi's book.
WND Exclusive
'Criminal' Obama secret gets no media attention
'Hawaiian' president has mysterious Connecticut Social Security Number
A story on the back-up birther story: Obama's Connecticut Social Security number
WND POLL
Coverage you can't count on
Why are news media paying no attention to Obama's Connecticut Social Security Number?
A reader poll on the previous story.
WND Exclusive
Now popular Republicans 'not natural-born citizens'
Rising stars of GOP in doubt because parents from overseas
A tangental birther story. How Governors Rubio and Jindal might not be natural born citizens (even though they were born in the US) because, like Obama, both men's parents were not American citizens.
WND
Corsi interview on Clear Channel Radio
Listen now to what Obama and crew are trying to hide
An interview with Jerome Corsi on Obama's birth certificate.
WND.COMMENTARY
What it'll take to resolve natural-born-citizen issue
Exclusive: Monte Kuligowski offers process for assuring justice in 2012 election
As of this writing, this is a broken link. But by the title we see it's still about Obama's "natural-born-citizen issue."B
ETWEEN THE LINES
Obama's 'Made in the USA' campaign
Exclusive: Joseph Farah applies apt definitions to word re-election effort is touting
From Farah himself. A story on how the phrase "Made in the USA" and how it actually hints at Obama not being a real American
WND Exclusive
'The Obama code': Hidden messages in birth document?
Computer experts find anomalies embedded in White House release
Story on some computer manipulation of the Long Form Birth Certificate that proves it's a forgery - or something like that
WND Exclusive
It's out! The book that proves Obama's ineligible
Today's the day Corsi is unleashed to tell all about that 'birth certificate'
Ad for Jerome Corsi's book on the Obama's Birth Certificate
WND Exclusive
From A to Z: What's wrong with Obama's birth certificate?
Examine for yourself mounting evidence that president's document isn't genuine
A primer on the birth certificate story.
THE FULL STORY
WND Exclusive
Is Obama constitutionally eligible to serve?
WND's complete archive of news reports on the issue
Birth Certificate again - WND's complete "reporting"
WND Exclusive
Obama's day of reckoning could end his presidency
Free, landmark summary explains eligibility issue clearly, suggests what you should do
Another primer on the Birth Certificate
DEALS OF THE DAY
Corsi No. 1 bestseller 'Obama Nation' $4.95 today only!
Fantastic $23 discount on other book most hated by Team Obama
Another ad for Jerome Corsi's book on Obama's birth certificate.
Most politically incorrect film of the decade
Documentary explores forbidden issue of president's legal qualifications
Ad for an anti-Obama documentary.
And so on
WND - Birther Central

Still.

May 24, 2011

Scarf down cookies and beer for a great cause!


Scarf down cookies and beer to help local girls!

Via On the Spot:
On the Spot Round 3!

Looking to gorge yourself on cookies and other baked treats while donating menstrual supplies to girls in need around the Pittsburgh region? You’re in luck, On the Spot will be hosting another party to gather donations to supply girls with the menstrual supplies they need.

When: Tuesday May 24th, 6pm – 9pm

Where: Hough’s in Greenfield (563 Greenfield Avenue)

Costs: $10 or $5 and a package of pads or tampons (pads preferred)

All the stuff you love will be back: raffle prizes, a 50/50, a DJ, and of course: multiple cookie tables!


Facebook page here.

May 22, 2011

God News From Minnesota

Perhaps missed in all the rapturous news of the end-that-wasn't, was this story of some more Heartland religious crazie:
A controversial anti-gay preacher questioned President Obama's Christianity Friday morning, when he delivered the morning prayer on the Minnesota House floor.

"I know this is a non-denominational prayer in this chamber and it's not about the Baptists and it's not about the Catholics alone or the Lutherans or the Wesleyans," Bradlee Dean said, sporting a track suit and long ponytail, "or the Presbyterians, the evangelicals or any other denomination, but rather the head of the denomination and his name is Jesus. As every President up until 2008 has acknowledged. And we pray it. In Jesus' name."
The Minnesota Independent reports:
Minnesota House Republicans invited anti-gay preacher Bradlee Dean of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide to give the morning prayer. The prayer was so offensive to many legislators that House leadership brought in the chaplain to redo the prayer.
Here's the prayer:


If you listen, the good Reverend wasn't questioning President Obama's Christianity as much as he was using the date of Obama's election to reassert the wingnut meme that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation. An equally crazie idea, of course.

But what makes Dean so controversial? Let's take a look.

Dean runs an organization called You Can Run But You Can't Hide that describes itself as:
To reshape America by re-directing the current and future generations both morally and spiritually through education, media, and the Judeo-Christian values found in our U.S. Constitution.
And he spins the reaction to his prayer on his blog:
Apparently someone was angry about my prayer because I invoked the name of Jesus. Before I knew it, instead of the media reporting on it as me standing up for our future generations, all of the sudden I became an anti-gay divisive pastor, when all I did was simply say a prayer encouraging all of us to honor our veterans, uphold the Constitution, and not forget the principles of our forefathers, upon which this nation is established.
Go listen to the prayer, that's not exactly what he did. He made the odd point that EVERY President up to Obama has declared America to be a Christian Nation. Really? Even Bill Clinton?

An interesting point of his blog post, however, comes when he dutifully trots out the opening prayer to the First Continental Congress in 1774 dutifully pointing out how religious it was:
O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee...
Blah-blah-blah, yadda-yadda-yadda and so on. I wonder if the good Reverend would be surprised to learn that the invoker of that first prayer, one Reverend Jacob Duché, a few years later advocated to General Washington that he surrender to the British. After that he abandoned America and fled to Britain. In Pennsylvania, he was tried and convicted of Treason and his property was confiscated. Yea, he left that part out.

But let's get back to Reverend Dean. This is from the Minnesota Independent:
“Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America,” Dean said on YCR’s May 15 radio show on AM 1280 the Patriot. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

“If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that,” Dean continued. “That is what you are seeing in America.”

“The bottom line is this… they [homosexuals] play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator,” Dean said, before going on to make a claim that has no basis in fact: “On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out. How many kids have been destroyed, how many adults have been destroyed because of crimes against nature?”
Proves, yet again, that Hitchens was right when he said that you can get away with saying anything as long as you have the word "Reverend" shoved in front of your name.

How was the Rapture for you?

May 22

And we're still here.

May 20, 2011

Tomorrow Creeps In This Petty Pace

It seems that some feel that the last syllable of recorded time is fast approaching.

And that the fun begins tomorrow.

But why tomorrow? Why May 21? Harold Camping, the man who "established" this line of "reasoning", explains it here.

A synopsis:

He writes that he knows the year of the great flood:
By careful study of the Bible we learn that in the year 4990 B.C. (Before Christ) God brought a flood of water and destroyed the entire earth except for eight people and the animals that were with them.
And the date of the flood:
Seven days before the beginning of the Flood that completely covered the entire earth, God commanded Noah to warn the peoples of the world that they had seven days to get into the safety of the ark. The Holy Bible tells us that on the 17th day of the 2nd month of that year God shut the door of the ark. Then, the Flood began to completely cover the entire earth.
Then from 2 Peter 2:3 he says that to God, a day equals a thousand years. He then adds 7,000 years to the date of the flood and comes up with...

Tomorrow:
Thus Holy God is showing us by the words of 2 Peter 3:8 that He wants us to know that exactly 7,000 years after He destroyed the world with water in Noah’s day, He plans to destroy the entire world forever. Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment. [Italics in original]
In a nutshell, that's it. Of course, I am not saying any of this is actually true.

But in this age of rejected official Birth Certificates, rejected climate science, rejected evolutionary science and other irrationally held incorrect beliefs, we can add how numbers were attached to the words of a very old book in order to "prove" the end of the entire universe.

We will all still be here on May 22, of course.

May 19, 2011

ACORN'S BACK! KATIE BAR THE DOOR!

Remember two days ago when I had a few nice things to say about the Editorial Board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review?

Yea, good times (ain't we lucky we got 'em!).

Today they go after the frantic right's boogey man, ACORN, again. And again Scaife's braintrust fails to disclose his financial connection to the source they are using AY-und they spin the story with "facts" that have already been debunked. Take a look:
Voters beware: Under new names' guise, the extreme-left Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now is gearing up to help re-elect President Barack Obama in 2012.

Congress defunded national ACORN last year over its solicitous attitude toward purported prostitution operations, forcing it and state- and local-level affiliates into bankruptcy. Now, former staffers dedicated to ACORN's ultra-liberal causes run renamed groups, often from the same offices.

Writing for The American Spectator's blog, Matthew Vadum -- Capital Research Center senior editor and author of the new book "Subversion, Inc.: How Obama's ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers" -- confirms that ACORN's dead in name only.
Hmm. Capital Research Center going after ACORN. Haven't we seen this before?

Yes, way back in late 2009.

Turns out that foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife make up the largest chunk of donor money to CRS (at this point about $4.8 million).

But braintrust circle jerking is old news by now. The fact that the braintrust would use the ACORN "prostitution" tapes as support is simply laughable. Did you know that the Congressional Budget Office found that ACORN did not break the law? From Politico:
A Congressional Research Service report commissioned by the House Judiciary Committee says ACORN hasn’t violated any federal regulations the past five years.

The report, released by Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers’s (D-Mich.) staff Tuesday evening, also reports that the undercover filmmakers that allegedly caught employees of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now breaking the law may have violated state law in their filming operation.
The CRS report is here, if you wanted to read it. Says no federal regulations broken in five years. We could talk about how Attorneys-General in a number of states found the same thing.

But the writer from the Scaife-funded opposition research "think tank" says otherwise and so the editorial board at the Scaife-owned news paper says otherwise. Facts be damned.

See how the noise machine works?

May 18, 2011

"BRUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!"

That was the cry heard repeatedly last night at Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus' victory party.


Crappy photo, but fantastic Councilor and great party!

Kraus joined Darlene Harris and Patrick Dowd in beating back Lil Mayor Luke's BFFs to win their primary races. (We sure hope that Corey O'Connor is serious about being independent and we keep a progressive majority on Council.)

I have to say how much it still burns me that ACDC endorsed Jeff Koch this year for City Council District 3. Koch won 3 in a special election in 2006. He had two years to prove himself. But the voters of my district rejected him in 2006 for Bruce Kraus. Why did ACDC think that they knew better than the voters this year? Thank goodness that the citizens ignored both ACDC as well as the lies from the Koch camp and went with the candidate who has proven his worth. The citizens prevailed and Kraus won handily.

Congratulations to Bruce and congratulations to Harris and Dowd. And, while I would have rather seen Chris Zurawsky win, I also offer my congratulations to Corey O'Connor. Their race was notably free from shenanigans and negative campaigning.

(And, if you're waiting for me to congratulate Rev. Ricky, you've obviously never read this blog before.)
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Chuck McCullough Update

This will be in two parts. First the "it's restored my faith in the rationality of those with whom I disagree politically" part:
Squirrel Hill business owner and former County Council President Rich Fitzgerald legged out a victory over County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty in the Democratic primary for Allegheny County executive on Tuesday night.

Fitzgerald will face Mt. Lebanon entrepreneur D. Raja, who handily beat former County Councilman Chuck McCullough in the Republican primary 71 percent to 28 percent, riding a wave of endorsements, cash and concerns about criminal charges filed against McCullough. [emphasis added.]
And now the part that could completely up end that first part.

It started with this Tim McNulty Early Returns post from early yesterday evening:
Here's our first juicy election rumor of the day:

An effort is underway today to write-in a certain big Republican name for county District Attorney, to take on Stephen A. Zappala in the fall. It's an attorney who has held elected office. He's been praised in the Post-Gazette recently for his legal acumen -- he's also been mentioned in the P-G many many for his own issues with the law.

Chuck McCullough.
All he would need is 500 write-in votes and he's on the ballot.

A few hours later McNulty posted:
Chuck McCullough never did call us back to confirm the write-in bid for District Attorney, but a last look at the numbers below is all you need. Republicans inked 1,418 write-ins (with 500 necessary) for the DA spot and only 357 in the next-highest tally for county exec.
This might turn out to be something completely different, as McNulty always points out. It won't be known for about a week exactly whose name is on those write-ins.

But still, it looks pretty suspicious.

Have you seen the most recent Docket with Chuck's name on it? As of this writing (7:26am on 5/18/11) he's still facing 24 charges - from violating 18 § 4906 §§ A (Filing a False Report) to violating 18 § 3921 §§ A (Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition). We can go charge by charge, you know.

Is this the guy that 1400 Allegheny County Residents want as the DA?

Geez, I hope not. I hope the rumor is completely untrue and it turns out to be something completely different.

May 17, 2011

VOTE!

Been poll-watching since 6:45 AM, just taking a ten minute break now to post my usual election day post. Here it is:



VOTE!

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The Trib on HB 574

Maria's already written about the bill here.

While I have no problem pummeling Scaife's braintrust when they deserve it, my inner sense of fairness compels me to point out (every now and then) when they get it right.

Today is one of those days. Take a look at what they have to say about HR 574:
Abortion is legal. And facilities performing abortions should be held to basic standards that apply to physicians' offices and outpatient settings.

But a bill that has passed the Pennsylvania House is nothing more than a back-door attempt to limit abortions by limiting the number of facilities performing them and increasing the costs of those facilities that might be able to overcome government's overreach.

House Bill 574, adopted last week, would require the commonwealth's 20 free-standing abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, facilities which provide more complicated and risky procedures. It's in response to the West Philadelphia "House of Horrors" abortion case in January.

Among the proposed new law's measures, however, are those that strike us as "slap measures," quite expensive and specifically designed not to enhance care but to eliminate abortion providers. Among them are requirements for medical-grade elevators, much larger procedure rooms and a full-time registered nurse being on staff even when abortions are not being performed.

A sound litmus test for the legislation is this: Had it been in place, would the rogue actions of the Philadelphia facility been prevented? No. Punishing safe abortion clinics because of one horrific bad apple exposes the real agenda of the 148 state House members who voted for H.B. 574.
When they're right, they're right. Doesn't mean they're right on anything else they're wrong about (for instance, global warming) but it's good to see they're not entirely without rational thought.

By the way, did you know that Mayor Luke's brother (a Democrat) voted FOR this rather odious legislation?

Go take a look.

May 16, 2011

Pittsburgh City Council Races -- It's getting really ugly out there!

First, if you haven't already, you should read this article by Joe Smydo in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In it, incumbents Darlene Harris and Bruce Kraus allege that there's been mayoral interference and "improper use of city resources" in this year's primary races. Harris notes that street paving and pothole filling has been delayed and that PWSA workers have been seen removing her campaign signs. Kraus brings up "Ravenstahl's decision to hold up a $100,000 study of problems in the South Side entertainment district" and that "the administration allowed city police Chief Nate Harper last week to address a meeting organized by one of the councilman's opponents, Jeff Koch, a city public works supervisor who's backed by the mayor." There's also the matter of a stop sign on Pius St. that was disallowed before the race, but suddenly appeared when Koch contacted his public works colleagues.

So what's the latest?

First, from the Lucille Prater-Holliday campaign:

11th Hour Trickery Clouds Race in District 9

With two days until the Election Day, and the campaign of Lucille Prater-Holliday gaining momentum, illegal campaign tactics are apparently being used to cloud the campaign.

A series of outgoing calls have apparently been made with the return number masked so that it appeared as if the calls were made from the Prater-Holliday campaign office.

Multiple calls are going out to the same individuals. Anyone who received a call that may have contained inaccurate or offensive information is asked to contact the campaign office at 412-259-3866.

A police report has been filed.

We are asking the campaigns of Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell and Ricky Burgess to repudiate any illegal or deceptive campaign tactics that are being used to harm the campaign of Ms. Prater-Holliday, and to let the campaign know if they have any information about the calls.
Then there's this -- Darlene Harris' campaign headquarters were vandalized:





(Click to enlarge)

Hmmm, what does this remind me of? The accompanying press release also says that items have been thrown at Harris' personal vehicle while she was driving at night.

Lastly, the previously mentioned P-G article notes that Lil Mayor Luke's buddies Koch, Tony Ceoffe (running against Patrick Dowd), Vince Pallus (running against Harris), and Ricky Burgess (running against the world) have all made allegations of improper campaign financing. Now, these charges have been looked into repeatedly by Chris Potter at the Pittsburgh City Paper (here, here, and here) and found wanting. You can also read Bill Peduto's detailed explanation of the city's campaign finance reform law here*. It's worth noting that the biggest critic of how others follow this law -- the Rev. Ricky Burgess -- wants to scrap it altogether.

Not surprisingly, Jeff Koch has come out with a new flyer that mostly slams Bruce Kraus on the false allegations of failing to follow the campaign finance law:





(Click to enlarge)

We already addressed the raise increase and redecoration "issues" here. And, Kraus is not "fighting bars." He's trying to get businesses and residents to exist in harmony for which, as noted above, Koch's buddy, the Mayor, is holding up money to do.

*Note: I posted that piece at Reform Pittsburgh Now.
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Not really a glowing endorsement (or any other kind)

By the stack on my desk, there's been at least three Chelsa Wagner for County Controller flyers put out by the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. The first two tout her experience and family connections -- fine and dandy -- but the latest one is problematic. Here's a scan of the relevant portion (provided by a reader of this blog -- thanks!):


(Click to enlarge)

While it certainly doesn't say that Wagner was endorsed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one could be forgiven for thinking that she was endorsed by the P-G. I showed it to a couple of people on Sunday and both said they thought the flyer was saying that Wagner was endorsed by the P-G.

In fact, the Post-Gazette endorsed Valerie McDonald Roberts for County Controller. Moreover, the third quote on the flyer pulled from the P-G endorsement for McDonald Roberts was proceeded by a "but" and given as a reason why the P-G was not endorsing Wagner:
She is very well informed on local issues, but her view of what the controller can accomplish, as articulated during a meeting with Post-Gazette editors, seemed broader than the tasks that are the statutory responsibility of the officeholder.

It is the third candidate in this race who has the most grounded notion of what it means to be county controller.
By "third candidate" the P-G was referring to McDonald Roberts.

Not cool, Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee.
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May 15, 2011

The Coverage Should Chuck Win

It's Primary elections time. Both The Trib and The P-G have published their respective endorsements.

But that's just the frame. The real story here is what coverage of the race for County Executive will look like should Chuck McCullough win. From our friends at The Trib:
Lance: To delay, delay, delay. "Scheduling conflicts" are said to have pushed the theft and fraud trial of Chuck McCullough to Sept. 1. The former Allegheny County solicitor, county councilman and, now, Republican candidate for chief executive is accused of ripping off an elderly woman's trust money. The upshot is this downside -- if Mr. McCullough wins next week's primary, the GOP nominee then will face trial on serious charges. And that's embarrassing.

Lance: To the PA Republican Leadership Council. Never mind that Chuck McCullough faces the aforementioned felony charges, it has endorsed him for the Republican ACE nomination. It cites "the beliefs and principles" of the group, one of which is fealty to the concept of constitutions. But Mr. McCullough, in addition to his legal problems, has been leading the charge to subvert the Pennsylvania Constitution by engaging in machinations to thwart the repeatedly court-ordered property reassessment. The RLC is misguided. [emphases added.]
In eight sentences (this is including the sentence fragments that begin each paragraph) there were five references to McCullough's "legal problems."

Should Chuck win the GOP nomination this Tuesday, this is what the coverage will look like. And though I am not a member of the GOP, I do have to agree with the braintrust here.

This is embarrassing.

May 14, 2011

More Follow-up On Shields/McGough

First off, I still haven't heard from the Shields Campaign regarding this.

Second, the story's bubbled up onto the letters page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Letter one:
Untrue mailer

On Monday, I received Doug Shields' negative (and false) campaign mailer regarding Hugh McGough, the front-runner for the district judge race in the East End. The mailer's claim that Mr. Shields is the only candidate who intends to serve full time if elected is not merely a disgusting campaign tactic, it is wrong.

Hugh McGough is running for district judge and will serve admirably in that position full time when elected. Mr. Shields has no basis for his claim, and it is disappointing, to say the least, to see him resort to such measures.

Unlike Mr. Shields, Hugh McGough is clearly qualified for the position, having nearly 20 years' experience in the courtroom as a lawyer and judicial clerk. Furthermore, Hugh McGough is the endorsed Democratic candidate for the position of magisterial district judge for District 05-2-35 in the East End and has earned my vote.

DOUGLAS RABUZZI
Point Breeze

The writer is a member of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, 14th Ward.
Letter two:
Negative Shields

I am so disheartened by Doug Shields' move to go negative in his race against Hugh McGough for judge of the magisterial district court of the 14th Ward. What Mr. Shields is claiming is flat out not true. He says Mr. McGough is planning to work part time while taking a full-time salary. This is just wrong. What can Mr. Shields be thinking?

Here's an example of Mr. McGough's character. I was asking him what he thought I should say to my neighbor to persuade her to vote for him. "Should I tell her that Shields is not an attorney?" I asked, and he said, "No, let's focus on the positive qualities I have, not the negatives of Mr. Shields." This was before he saw Mr. Shields' mailing.

BECKY BURGWIN
Squirrel Hill
So right now I am thinking it probably wasn't a good idea to send out that mailer.

May 12, 2011

Progressive Voter Guides

For the progressives in the house!

Keystone Progress has gathered most of the endorsements by progressive groups and put them into one handy-dandy voter guide. You can view it here.

I noticed that a couple of groups didn't seem to make it into the guide, so here are the endorsements by Planned Parenthood PA PAC and by Progress Pittsburgh PAC.

UPDATE: James in the comments section reminds me that The Pittsburgh 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club was not incuded either.
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May 11, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday, Rick!

Via the Daily Santorum, we learn that yesterday (05/10/11) was 53rd birthday for Pennsylvania's own fabulously anti-gay ex-Senator Rick Santorum.

Did anyone else know this? The birthday part, we've known for a while Rick's position on gay sex.

What a wonderful coincidence, then, that the Blog for Equality Day occurred this year on the exact same day. What a wonderful birthday present for the Senator! Kudos to Sue!

That being said, I wanted to turn everyone's attention to this clip I found at the Huffingtonpost.

Rick was asked about Governor Mitch Daniel's calling for a "truce" on moral issues among GOP candidates in this election cycle. Here's what Rick said:


James Peron characterized it this way:
Apparently, he believes that respecting the rights of others to make their own choices is anti-American. He said that the idea of a truce on attempts to control people's private lives means one "doesn't understand what America is all about." It now appears that what America "is all about" is denying people freedom and equality of rights before the law.

Santorum launched into rhetoric about the right to liberty and how people need "to be free" to "pursue their own dreams," but he seemed to be saying that the dreams they had to follow was "to serve their God, and to serve their family and community." This is not individual rights, only the right to be servant to others. This was followed by some comments about "strong families" and that "if we abandon that, we have given up on America."

He didn't directly answer the question and he certainly blew a lot of hot air, but the essence of his answer was that if the Republican party doesn't hammer away at people it dislikes, on private moral issues, then the Republican party is giving up on America. The only way to protect freedom is to stop people from being free, in the name of the family.
But then again, Peron characterized Rick this way:
When it comes to big government moralism, few Republicans can match Rick Santorum. He has always been one of the more extreme theocrats within the GOP and nothing has changed since Pennsylvania voters wisely threw him out of the U.S. Senate in 2006. Santorum is an advocate of the junk science called "intelligent design" and is a leader in the anti-gay movement.

He said that polygamy, adultery and sodomy are all "antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family." An ultra-orthodox Latin-Mass Catholic, Santorum went so far as to blame the epidemic of Catholic priests molesting children on "political and cultural liberalism," based on the assumption that Boston "lies at the center of the storm." Apparently, the senator was unaware that the problem was worldwide and just as prevalent in conservative areas as liberal ones. Nor can one ignore the fact that priests are part of a very conservative Catholic culture.
Happy Birthday, Rick!

McDonald Roberts Plan: Lean, Green and Clean

Valerie McDonald Roberts, who is running for Allegheny County Controller, announced her plan for bringing more transparency and accountability to that office at a press conference on Monday.

It includes:
  • Mandate the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA) to regularly conduct an external quality control review on the Audit Divisions

  • Provide accurate, timely recommendations for any lack of financial compliance in county contracts

  • Instill a process of "look-backs" on outcomes of reviews and audits which would evaluate them six months later

  • Launch a "green" (paperless where possible) initiative within the Controller's office to explore ways where the technology we already have can be used to save taxpayer dollars

  • Increase collaboration with the City Controller, County Council, and County Executive offices to promote the sharing of resources and information to result in greater efficiencies
  • You can see more on her plan here.

    McDonald Roberts is currently manager of the Real Estate Department of Allegheny County and has received the endorsements of Pennsylvania NOW PAC, Gertrude Stein Political Club, Georgia Berner, Dan Onorato, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which called her "an experienced manager with a broad background that has prepared her to be county controller" and "who has the most grounded notion of what it means to be county controller."

    May 10, 2011

    Signs of Spring in PA


    Blog for Equality Pgh Central

    Aaah! The signs of spring in Pennsylvania are upon us: Daffodils and tulips bloom, winter coats are put away, and some douchebag in the PA State House offers up a "Marriage Protection" amendment to our Constitution.

    This time around it's Daryl Metcalfe. (Serously, it's apparently a real Rite of Spring with these guys --see here and here.)

    Don't let them succeed in their sad little dance. Sign the petition here to stop House Bill 1434.
    .

    Peduto's response to Burgess’ legislation to rescind the City’s campaign finance reform laws

    I receivied the following statement from Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto today regarding Councilman Ricky Burgess’ legislation to rescind the City’s campaign finance reform laws:

    “In 2009, City Council passed campaign finance reform legislation - a reform that was long overdue for the City of Pittsburgh. It is disappointing to learn that Councilman Burgess would bow to the pressure of big money interests and reverse the reforms that Pittsburgh fought so hard to enact. Councilman Burgess’ attacks against the law are hollow and wrong. He is simply giving in to special interests and working to hide who is funding his campaign. The voters deserve to know who is pay-rolling this effort before they vote – and state law requires he tell them.

    The City’s laws on acceptance and disclosure of contributions follow the federal rules and this was clearly discussed during Council’s debate in 2009. These efforts to rewrite history and create turmoil for political gain right before an election are being done at the expense of good government and transparency.

    I look forward to the debate on this issue. It is further regrettable that Councilman Burgess would try to waive the rules of Council to vote on this bill tomorrow even further taking away the public’s ability to voice their position on this matter. I am dismayed that Council Members Lavelle, Dowd and Smith would support the waiver of rules to bring this up for a vote before the public has an opportunity to comment.

    The people of Pittsburgh should be vigilant. Those who favor a "pay to play" government have given their orders and Councilman Burgess is working to deliver a gift for them – at the public’s expense.”

    Blog For Equality Day


    It's Blog For Equality Day!

    Again.

    I've done this a couple of times. I've done:
    • The Snark (and go read this one - it's so funny I must've stolen it from a far far better writer)
    • Follow up on The Snark with some analysis (this one isn't as funny but it's informative)
    It seems the mean and ugly that failed in 2008 and 2010 has returned again in 2011. But meaner and uglier this time.

    Whereas last year the ugly proposed was this addition to Pennsylvania Constitution:
    Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid and recognized as a marriage in this Commonwealth.
    This year the ugly goes further. This is what Daryl Metcalf wants to add this time:
    Marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.
    As the Tribune-Review's editorial board (yes, Scaife's Braintrust) recently pointed out:
    [State Representative Daryl Metcalfe] wants to codify discrimination by amending the Pennsylvania Constitution to deny legal "marriage" to same-sex couples. And the proposed wording of his amendment goes a step further, appearing to not even recognize any other "legal union." But constitutions are not for denying rights; they're for enumerating them. This is poor form, the antithesis of liberty, and the effort should be rejected. (h/t to Bram on this)
    If they get it, then it should be obvious to everyone - left, right, and center. Gay men and gay women, simply by virtue of the fact that they are citizens of a free democracy, are entitled to the same marriage rights as everyone else. To recontext Lincoln, whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.

    It's only fair.

    May 9, 2011

    Jeff Koch's Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire Flyers

    Here's a flyer that went out this weekend in the South Side of Pittsburgh's 3rd City Council District:


    (Click to enlarge)


    (Click to enlarge)

    There's so much misinformation, misdirection and outright lies in the above flyer, that I'm going to need to go line-by-line and graphic-by-graphic. Let's start with the back.
    BRUCE is taking money out of your pocket to pay for:

    - Increasing his own salary - THREE times in FOUR Years!
    This is true, however, what the flyer doesn't tell you is that those were COLA increases which went to all city employees -- including JEFF KOCH -- is Jeff going to give the money back?
    - Lavishly redecorating his office in City Hall.
    Via Bruce Kraus' campaign manager, Justin Wassler, when Councilor Kraus took office, "He replaced some furniture -- standard with incoming elected officials." The carpet was also replaced "as part of an asbestos abatement issue on the fifth floor." Any other repairs/replacements came out of Kraus' own pockets.
    - A $100,000 study aimed at funding new ways to TAX residents.
    Yes, Kraus was able to secure funding for The Responsible Hospitality Initiative. This has nothing to do with taxes. What it does is find best practices for dealing with hospitality districts like the South Side -- to create harmony between visitors to the businesses in this area and those who live here. It's actually a comprehensive plan to deal with the ills of the neighborhood. In fact, it's one of the reasons why the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed him ("he obtained funding and commissioned a report on how to keep Carson Street nightlife strong while respecting the rights of neighbors and enforcing the law").
    Now he has the nerve to propose his new "N.I.D." TAX which will TAX residents twice for basic city services and TAX our family business.

    Call Bruce's office and ask:
    1. Why does BRUCE want to TAX residents twice for services like street clean-up that BRUCE already fails to deliver?
    First, NID stands for Neighborhood Improvement District. There is no such thing as a '"N.I.D." TAX.' Let's let the South Side Chamber of Commerce weigh in on what an NID is: "A Neighborhood Improvement District is a model of community development that puts the power into your hands. Property owners in a NID agree to self-impose an annual fee. That fee is pooled and the property owners in the district decide which services they want in the district. Your money stays in your community and you decide how to spend it. NIDs are not a tax and cannot be formed without your support. NIDs are governed by, you, the property owner and not by elected officials."

    So, that would be:

    A. Not a tax
    B. Self-imposed
    C. Supported by an actual business group on the South Side!
    2. Why does BRUCE want to TAX businesses while many - like Schwartz's Market - are already closing?
    Again, there is no new tax proposed. Additionally, much was written about the closing of Schwartz's Market (see here, here and here). The closing had nothing to do with taxes, and everything to do with markets of this kind being "Last Of Dying Breed." Maybe Jeff Koch would like to read what Schwartz's Market has to say about Bruce Kraus.

    You'll notice that above the photo of Schwartz's there's a photo of The South Side Market House. It has a big, red "CLOSED" stamped on it as if this has something to do with Kraus and taxes as well rather than the fact that it was ordered closed "due to safety issues. Unforeseen but urgent emergency repairs are needed...the sub base of the floor of the multi-purpose recreation center has deteriorated significantly over the past 100 years and is deemed unsafe for further usage." Boy, that Bruce has been one busy guy to have been destroying the sub base of the flooring over 100 years time!

    Now, I've mentioned Jeff Koch in relation to this flyer several times. You can be excused for not knowing why I bring in Koch's name into the discussion of this flyer as the legal, obligatory who-paid-for-this-lit notice is in such tiny type that you may have missed it. It's about a third of the way down the backside of the flyer on the left. The capitol letters are about 1/16 inch high and the lower case letters are 1/32 inch high. In case you don't have a magnifying glass handy, it says: "Paid for by the Committee to Elect Jeff Koch."

    I've left the front of the flyer for last. Again, there's a false reference to Kraus wanting to raise taxes -- as if he could (the same way the flyer closes on the back). There's also a photo of a woman pointing at the headline and looking disgruntled. It's not a stock photo, nor is it a random South Sider. The woman is Mary Lou Collinger. She's the Allegheny County Democratic Committee Female Member for PITTSBURGH WARD 16 DIST 2 -- my precinct. That polling place has been notably pro Koch. When Kraus and Koch first faced off in a special election for this Council seat in 2006, I was a poll-watcher for Bruce*. They tried to throw me and the Green Party poll-watcher out of the polling place after the polls had closed. We both were credentialed. They didn't succeed. Ms. Collinger's credentials were not challenged. Of course, Collinger has every right to campaign for Koch -- as he's endorsed by ACDC, it's really part of her job description. That said, when Kraus wins the primary vote, it will also be her job to help him win -- I wonder how hard she'll work at that?

    * Note: I ran and lost against Collinger a couple of months later.

    **************************************************

    As I was about to post this, it's come to my attention that another version of the above flyer was sent to non South Side voters in District 3. I'm sorry that I have no scan of it. The front features a milk carton with Bruce Kraus' face on it and a large headline which reads "MISSING." The flip side includes the raise and office decoration issues and:

    - Accuses Kraus of spending $200,000 on a "dog park that only services the South Side." The amount was actually $68,000 and the park is for all in the South of Pittsburgh to use as there's none on this side of the river.

    - Asks why Kraus fails to provide road paving. Umm, isn't that Koch's current job job?

    - Accuses Kraus of only investing in the South Side. Wait,"invest"? Doesn't that contradict the other flyer which claims Kraus wastes money in the South Side? Invest...waste...I guess it doesn't matter when you're trying to divide and conquer.

    **************************************************

    Lastly, here's the response to these flyers by the Kraus campaign:
    Statement by Bruce Kraus: Enough is Enough

    “It’s unfortunate, but not unexpected, that with just days left until Election Day Jeff Koch has turned to a strategy of lying to voters with deceptive attacks. He's done it before and he's doing it again. These attacks are false. They are distortions meant to confuse voters about the real issues of this election.

    This election is about the direction of our neighborhoods. It is about a record of accomplishment and a vision for the future. Jeff Koch has demonstrated he has neither the record nor the vision.

    Elections are not charades or circuses. Jeff Koch's side-show is meant to distract and deceive.

    So, while my opponent hides behind the fine print in the shadows of misleading attack, I will continue to knock on the doors in my district talking to voters face to face.

    The people of my district know me, they trust me, and have a history with me. They know what's going on."

    .

    Things that make you go "Hmmm"

    Via the Pittsburgh City Paper's Slag Heap blog:
    City council district 5

    Corey O'Connor raised just under $33,000 this year -- not an earth-shattering total, but thanks largely to the political inheritance of his father, he came into the year with more than $127,500 -- and still has more than $100,000 left. His biggest contributors are union PACs -- Steamfitters #449 gave him $2,000, for example. O'Connor's boss, Congressman Mike Doyle, helped his protege out with a $1,000 PAC contribution.

    But progressives take note: O'Connor has also received $500 from Family PAC. That PAC, operated by the Donahue family (of Federated Investors fame), typically backs pro-life candidates. Family PAC also supported Republicans Tim Murphy and Heather Heidelbaugh so far this year. And it contributed $1,000 to the Susan B. Anthony List, which seeks to elect pro-life women around the country. [Emphasis added]
    Past recipients of Family PAC funds include McCain-Palin, Rick Santorum, Melissa Hart, Tom Corbett, Pat Toomey, Jane Orie, Phil Ignelzi and Sarah PAC.

    Family PAC certainly overwhelmingly favors Republicans, but Corey O'Connor is certainly not a Republican, so it doesn't necessarily follow that because they back anti choice candidates that O'Connor is anti choice (nor does it necessarily follow that because they support him that he supports them). But, it sure would be nice to know both what O'Connor's position is on choice and why Family PAC felt compelled to back him.

    And, at this point I feel compelled to note that Chris Zurawsky -- also running in District 5 -- received the most endorsements by progressive groups (Gertrude Stein Political Club, Democracy for Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club); and that Zurawsky is pro choice; and that abortion-related issues do come up in City Council Chambers (also, compelled to repeat that I've been paid by the Friends of Chris Zurawsky campaign to create and maintain his website).

    UPDATE: Via the Pittsburgh City Paper:
    So where's O'Connor on this issue? Our very own Chris Young asked him that question awhile back. It seems safe to say that O'Connor was not as enthusiastic about the issue as Zurawsky is. But O'Connor did respond that if elected to council, "I would support the bubble-zone" -- a reference to a protester-free area that is maintained around the entrance to family-planning cliincs. O'Connor later added that he didn't think local elected officials "should make a decision on someone's personal life and how they want to choose."

    .

    Oh, Come ON!

    On the one hand, the blogger in me is ecstatic that this has occurred:

    Chuck McCullough's county exec chances -- should he win the primary next week -- got a boost by Judge Donald Machen today. From Vivian Nereim:

    The criminal trial of Republican county executive candidate Charles P. McCullough has been postponed until Nov. 14, one week after the general election.

    Mr. McCullough's trial had previously been scheduled to start the week before the May 17 primary, but his lawyers asked for a delay. The former county council member is accused of diverting the funds of a 90-year-old widow to make political and charitable contributions without her knowledge.

    Mr. McCullough, 56, of Upper St. Clair, has denied any wrongdoing.
    For a blogger, the thought of having a guy who's been arrested running for such an important job is a promise for just endless blogger fun.

    But as a resident of Allegheny County, I can't imagine a worse situation.

    A Follow-up On The Shields/McGough Story

    It's a follow-up on this.

    This weekend voters in the east end of Pittsburgh received a mailer reportedly sent out by the Shields campaign claiming that Hugh McGough:
    wants the full time $82,303 salary of a District Judge but only wants to work part time.
    A charge McGough has denied. As I wrote in my initial blogpost, I sent the Shields campaign a request for a comment via their "contact" page. So far, I've had no response.

    In response to the mailing, McGough has written a letter to Councilman Shields:
    Dear Councilman Shields,

    I write to advise you that the "Pledge" you advance in recent mailings appears at odds with the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges, which apply equally to candidates for the office. I refer you to Rule 15(D)(3), which states as follows:

    "Magisterial district judges or candidates for such office shall ... not make pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office."

    Consistent with the Rules, I have long pledged, if elected to the bench, to perform the duties of the job with faithfulness and impartiality. I hereby do so again.

    In light of your recent mailing, I also assure you that, if elected, I will be a full time District Judge. Indeed, I never conceived of the position of Magisterial District Judge as anything but a full time position. I was curious where your campaign was headed with the professional "push-polling" it conducted by phone on this issue in recent months. Now we know it was headed into fabrication and falsehood.

    In this regard, I direct your attention again to the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges. The same section quoted above prohibits a judicial candidate from misrepresenting his "qualifications, present position, or other fact." Your demonstrated inability as a candidate to comply with these Rules reflects poorly on your prospects for adherence should you be elected to the position.

    Sincerely,

    Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough
    I'll let you know if anything else happens with this.