Prosecute the torture.

July 31, 2015

Guilty! Chuck McCullough Was Found GUILTY

Guilty and it's about time.

From the P-G:
Charles P. McCullough this morning was found guilty of illegally cutting checks on behalf of an elderly widow to local Republican candidates and a charity his wife ran.

The former Allegheny County councilman was also found not guilty of the remaining 14 of 24 charges in a theft trial that began in April and stemmed from Mr. McCullough, 60, of Upper St. Clair being charged in 2009.
And from the Trib:
Allegheny County Common Pleas Senior Judge Lester G. Nauhaus found McCullough, 60, of Upper St. Clair guilty of 10 counts — five third-degree felonies and five second-degree misdemeanors — for abusing his power of attorney to take money from the $14.7 million estate of Shirley Jordan, an elderly dementia patient who died in 2010 at the age of 93.
Charles P. "Chuck" McCullough will be sentenced on November 9.

In case you need to be reminded, it's been 2353 days since Chuck was arrested.

That's many many days.  How many?  Let's put it into some perspective.

Ronald Reagan was inaugurated January 21, 1981.  2353 days later was July 1, 1987.

July 1, 1987 is 119 days after the date Reagan said this to the nation:
A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages. This runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and to the original strategy we had in mind. There are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake. I undertook the original Iran initiative in order to develop relations with those who might assume leadership in a post-Khomeini government.
Yep, Iran-Contra.  Think about that - the time spanning the first day of the first Reagan Administration to the day Reagan admitted selling arms for hostages was, in fact, shorter than the time it took to arrest, try, and find Chuck McCullough guilty.

Updates as necessary.

July 29, 2015

You Have To Be Frickin Kiddin Me - New Kensington Ten Commandments Suit DISMISSED

Sorry for not posting this earlier.  I've been working up a PodCamp presentation.

An astute reader emailed me a link to this Trib piece the other day:
A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments monument in front of Valley Junior-Senior High School in New Kensington.

The ruling could bring an end to a three-year legal battle.

However, it does not address the underlying question of whether the monument is a prohibited government endorsement of religion or a permissible historical landmark.
That's because the opinion focused on whether the plaintiffs had any standing to bring the suit in the first place.  From the Trib:
U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry accepted New Kensington-Arnold School District's argument that resident Marie Schaub, her daughter, and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation have not proven they have been sufficiently harmed by the monument to have standing in the case.
The harm, in my humble opinion, is to the Constitution and it's too bad the G.W. Bush appointed judge doesn't see that.

It's too bad this very "no harm no foul" decision got in the way of McVerry following Supreme Court precedent in that at a public school:
The pre-eminent purpose of posting the Ten Commandments, which do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, is plainly religious in nature, and the posting serves no constitutional educational function. That the posted copies are financed by voluntary private contributions is immaterial, for the mere posting under the auspices of the legislature provides the official support of the state government that the Establishment Clause prohibits. Nor is it significant that the Ten Commandments are merely posted rather than read aloud, for it is no defense to urge that the religious practices may be relatively minor encroachments on the First Amendment.
It's too bad he didn't use the opportunity to point out the Supreme Court precedent that such Decalogue postings are clearly impermissible according to the Constitution.

And they have been for some time now.

From the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
Judge McVerry has not yet ruled on a companion case filed against the Connellsville Area School District over a similar monument.

"It is troubling that judges are closing the courthouse door on plaintiffs who simply want government actors to abide by the Constitution," said Barker.
 Let's hope McVerry doesn't find a way to bury that lawsuit, too.

July 26, 2015

An Important Message From The Nightly Show.

Larry Wilmore has the floor:


Because it's important.

Transcript:
Look, there's a lot of speculation in the media and online right now about what exactly happened to Sandra Bland.  Sometimes the most rational thing say is, "I don't know."  I don't know what happened to Sandra.  And to engage in a guessing game as to how she passed, this or that, it can be reckless.  But I do know that the racial climate is super-charged right now.  We joked about it earlier but the black community is on edge.  And it doesn't surprise me to see a black woman get irritated with a police officer.  Just as it doesn't surprise me to see a police officer neglect to de-escalate a tense situation.  I mean, to me...it almost feels like they were two players in a Greek tragedy marching towards an inevitable conclusion.  Sandra Bland is one victim but her story speaks to a larger issue.  An issue we should be trying to solve before it becomes a problem again.
He said earlier:
The fact that we live in a world where black people have to strategize so they're not brutalized by the police is insane.

July 24, 2015

A 2 Political Junkies Proclamation


WHEREAS, on July 21st, the Huffington Post declared that "The Song Of Summer Is Dead," as it being more than halfway through July and yet, no Song of Summer has emerged as a contender for that title; and, 

WHEREAS, people need a Song of Summer to get us through these cruel months; and,

WHEREAS, recent promotional videos for the City of Pittsburgh--ranging from Time Magazine's business-oriented tribute, to The New York Time's trendy view, to the AMPD Group's barftastic cheesefest--have been very, very, very white/and very, very, very male/for the male gaze; and,

WHEREAS, Adam Shuck's EAT THAT, READ THIS (subscribe already!) has come across a piece--Pittsburgh! Then & Now by DJ Icey White--that comments on the lacking-in-diversity promos of the City of Pittsburgh in a musical manner.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the 2 Political Junkies blog does hereby recognize Pittsburgh! Then & Now and DJ Icey White for promoting and preserving the very, very, very whiteness/malesness of the City of Pittsburgh in a satirical, musical form worthy of the title of Song of Summer.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the 2 Political Junkies blog does hereby declare July 25th, 2015 to be “Pittsburgh! Then & Now and DJ Icey White Day” in the City of Pittsburgh and further declares Pittsburgh! Then & Now to be the "Song of Summer" in the City of Pittsburgh.

Sponsored by Maria of 2 Political Junkies 

In Blogger, July 24th, 2015

July 22, 2015

A Follow-Up On The P-G's Jennifer Graham

Last week, the Post-Gazette's newest columnist/editorial board member, Jennifer Graham, published this fawning column in One Of America's Great Newspapers.

Just to give you an idea as to Graham's frame of reference, let me give you her opening paragraph:
If email had existed in the 1940s, Ayn Rand and Taylor Caldwell might have been friends. Both born at the turn of the century in different countries — Ms. Rand in Russia, Ms. Caldwell in England — they became celebrated American novelists who told stories to advance conservative ideals and extol the primacy of the individual.
And then there's this a paragraph later:
While Ms. Rand published just 10 books in her lifetime, her legacy endures and expands. Ms. Caldwell wrote more than 30 novels (many set in Pennsylvania), but her influence dwindles. The Taylor Caldwell Appreciation Society, a cached Web page says, is defunct. The domain name taylorcaldwell.com is offered for sale by a domain squatter. Ms. Caldwell’s books, which just four decades ago topped The New York Times bestseller list before publication, populate the shelves of thrift stores and sell for pennies on Amazon — proof that a thing’s cost has nothing to do with its worth.
Safe to assume she's both a fan of Caldwell and disappointed at the depreciation of her literary worth.

There are, of course, a few issues with the column.  Take, for example, this:
In her memoir, “On Growing Up Tough,” Ms. Caldwell details a childhood bereft of both love and leisure, a life in which she became a conservative by observing the hypocrisies of the liberal. At 16, she owned two dresses and one pair of shoes and worked 12 hours a day in a factory. At lunchtime, she had to decide whether to spend her allotted 15 cents on either a sandwich or car fare home. (If she ate, it was an 8-mile walk home.)
See, this is one part that confuses me.  Caldwell was born in 1900 in the UK and by the age of 7 she was living near Buffalo, NY.  And so wouldn't at least some of the harsh working conditions she endured in the United States in 1916 have been mitigated by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938?

Of that act we learn from Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez that:
The minimum wage is now 75 years old. It became the law of the land with President Franklin Roosevelt's signing of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. The night before he signed the bill, this is what FDR said about it in one of his storied fireside chats:

"Except perhaps for the Social Security Act, it is the most far-reaching, far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted here or in any other country. Without question it starts us toward a better standard of living and increases purchasing power to buy the products of farm and factory."
And yet, Graham praises Caldwell in her very next paragraph with this:
She decried “The Dolt” who thinks the world owes him a living and whose favorite expression is “I gotta rightta …” and “Big Mama,” worse than Big Brother because she carries the “stupefying and poisoned syrup” of tender, loving care. Big Mama, Ms. Caldwell said, “is infinitely more dangerous to the national character, infinitely more demoralizing.”
Someone will have to someone to me how this points to "the hypocrisies of the liberal."

Unless, of course, Caldwell wasn't complaining about her tough life.  Or perhaps she was complaining that other people had it somewhat easier than she did (because, you know, of Big Mama guv'ment) and that's just so unfair!

But deeper than that, what sort of person was Jennifer Graham's literary heroine, Taylor Graham?

Graham writes:
Thirty-three of Ms. Caldwell’s sold enough to be considered best-sellers. In those, and a rollicking memoir, she defended a worldview so conservative that she was embraced by the John Birch Society, the group William F. Buckley Jr. denounced as overly radical.
This requires some clarification. Taylor Caldwell's ideas weren't just "embraced by" the Birchers.  She wrote for the Birchers.  And how do I know this?  From the John Birch Society website:
One of Caldwell’s most fascinating works, however, was not a novel but an autobiographical collection of condensed articles originally appearing in American Opinion (the journal established by JBS Founder Robert Welch) entitled On Growing Up Tough. [Italics in original.]
I wonder why Jennifer Graham didn't say that.

But hey, did you know that Taylor Caldwell had an FBI file??

Did you know that in February, 1942 (just 3 months or so after the Pearl Harbor Attacks) Taylor Caldwell wrote a letter to local NY Congressman James W. Wadsworth?  He forwarded the letter to the FBI and the FBI put it in her file.

She wrote:
There has been a great deal of discussion about the removal of Japanese and American-Japanese away from strategic areas along the west coast, a discussion sprinkled with revillings such as "dirty Japs," "filthy little yellow men." Much suspicion has been directed against Japanese-Americans, and their loyalty doubted. However, if, after due investigation, it seems best to remove these people from strategic areas, it must be done.
And then a paragraph later:
If Japanese are to be removed, what about German and Italians also? I live in the suburb of Buffalo, N.Y., which is the third largest Italian population. The German-Americans of Buffalo and vicinity and especially in this German suburb are vicious Nazis.
And then on the second page of this letter we can read:
From personal experience, only recently, I discovered it is dangerous to denounce the Axis in Buffalo. One of the rumors going around, and believed seriously, is that the planes that attacked Pearl Harbor were British planes piloted by Jews!
To their credit the Hoover FBI (THE HOOVER FBI!) knew enough to add a few warnings in the file.  For example this one dated 7/10/62:
This office is aware of the fact that Miss CALDWELL is a world renowned novelist who has produced twenty outstanding books. However it is apparent from her rather involved letters that she is possessed of a vivid imagination which tends to exaggeration.
And this from 1968:
...although previous experience with Miss CALDWELL demonstrates she has a penchant for intermingling fact and fiction indiscriminately, and has, in the past, published an article bearing on the internal security of the United States representing it to be factual whereas it was completely fictional.
Right about now, I am wondering if Jennifer Graham is rethinking her devotion to this Bircher-published, rightwing-paranoid, not-taken-seriously-even-by-Hoover's-FBI, literary giant.

And if she's not, then why the heck not?

July 21, 2015

Meanwhile, Outside...(With A Question Or Two For Senator Toomey)

From NOAA:
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for June 2015 was the highest for June in the 136-year period of record, at 0.88°C (1.58°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F), surpassing the previous record set just one year ago by 0.12°C (0.22°F). This was also the fourth highest monthly departure from average for any month on record. The two highest monthly departures from average occurred earlier this year in February and March, both at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average for their respective months, while January 2007 had the third highest, at 0.89°C (1.60°F) above its monthly average.

June 2015 also marks the fourth month this year that has broken its monthly temperature record, along with February, March, and May. The other months of 2015 were not far behind: January was second warmest for its respective month and April was third warmest. These six warm months combined with the previous six months (four of which were also record warm) to make the period July 2014–June 2015 the warmest 12-month period in the 136-year period of record, surpassing the previous record set just last month (June 2014–May 2015).
It's still getting warmer out there and human activity is a significant contributor to that warming (no matter what Senator Toomey says).

This being a political blog and this being a political season with a significant Senate race just starting, let's take a closer look at Senator Toomey's recent interaction with climate science legislation.

From the Sestak campaign, we learn that:
Having already asserted that climate change science is “still very much disputed, and it’s been debated,” it’s no surprise that Toomey voted yesterday against bipartisan legislation that would have created a grant program for school districts to develop climate science curriculum and materials.
This was sent out July 16, 2015.

And the legislation was this Amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.

So Senator, why did you vote against this legislation that would have created this grant program to instruct students about climate change?  Could it be that you disagree with some or more of the Amendment's findings?  The Amendment starts with Congress finds that:
(1) carbon pollution is accumulating in the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise at a rate that poses a significant threat to the economy and security of the United States, to public health and welfare, and to the global environment;
(2) climate change is already impacting the United States with sea level rise, ocean acidification, and more frequent or intense extreme weather events such as heat waves, heavy rainfalls, droughts, floods, and wildfires;
(3) the scientific evidence for human-induced climate change is overwhelming and undeniable as demonstrated by statements from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Climate Assessment, and numerous other science professional organizations in the United States;
(4) the United States has a responsibility to children and future generations of the United States to address the harmful effects of climate change;
(5) providing clear information about climate change, in a variety of forms, can encourage individuals and communities to take action;
(6) the actions of a single nation cannot solve the climate crisis, so solutions that address both mitigation and adaptation must involve developed and developing nations around the world;
(7) investing in the development of innovative clean energy and energy efficiency technologies will-- (A) enhance the global leadership and competitiveness of the United States; and (B) create and sustain short and long term job growth;
(8) implementation of measures that promote energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy will greatly reduce human impact on the environment; and
(9) education about climate change is important to ensure the future generation of leaders is well-informed about the challenges facing our planet in order to make decisions based on science and fact.
Senator, I am a voter and a constituent of yours and I am asking: With what part of that do disagree?  Why vote against the grant program legislation?

Do you still think that there's a significant debate about the validity of the science?

July 18, 2015

Question

Question: Are the other GOP presidential candidates more happy or sad today? Happy because Trump's comments slamming McCain for being "captured" in Vietnam make them all look less extreme? Or, sad because his racist comments about Mexicans are going to lose the few Latino voters the Republicans had?