Prosecute the torture.

October 12, 2015

"Just 158 families have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House"

If you haven't already, go right now and read The New York Times article on who is funding the 2016 presidential race. Here's a tease:
 The Chicago hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin, for example, earns about $68.5 million a month after taxes, according to court filings made by his wife in their divorce. He has given a total of $300,000 to groups backing Republican presidential candidates. That is a huge sum on its face, yet is the equivalent of only $21.17 for a typical American household, according to Congressional Budget Office data on after-tax income.
I missed it the first time. That's "$68.5 million a month after taxes." So, yeah, for him, $300,000 is pretty much chump change and will always trump your $10 to Bernie Sanders.

October 11, 2015

Jack Kelly Sunday

Wherein we learn in today's Post-Gazette of Jack Kelly's absolutely nightmarish vision of the future (nightmarish for us, of course).  Here's Jack:
An outsider president could compensate for his or her lack of experience in government by assembling a Cabinet for the ages. My dream Cabinet would consist of...
He then goes on to extol the virtues of a number of Bush-era war criminals (alleged) and other incompetents.  Remember this is his list of people with experience who if a non-experienced president were to:
...take advantage of the enormous pool of talent available, he or she would have a successful administration despite his or her lack of experience in government.
The list starts:
Condoleeza Rice or John Bolton as secretary of state. Ms. Rice was a disappointment the first time around, chiefly because she’s a lousy administrator. But she’s a brilliant woman, a Russian expert and an attractive spokeswoman for America.

Mr. Bolton is brilliant, too, and tough as nails. He has the administrative skills Ms. Rice lacks. My preference would be to have Ms. Rice out front and Mr. Bolton as deputy secretary actually running the place.
Wait, isn't this list about people with good job experience?  Then why does he start the list with someone he admits to being "lousy" at at least part of her job?  En passant, you'll note the quiet sexism of Jack's next sentence.  Condy's wicked smart and as an added bonus, she's easy on the eyes!  A double plus good!

But let's look at how well Rice and Bolton did in their jobs.

Condoleeza Rice.  From the BBC:
As national security adviser, Ms Rice consented to the harsh interrogation
 of al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah, the Senate Intelligence Committee
Waterboarding is a war crime.  Enough said.  She should have been prosecuted for it long ago.  Shame on the current administration for letting the previous administration get away with war crimes.  Shame. On. Them.

John Bolton.  Again with the BBC:
John Bolton, United States Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, today said the US is "confident" Iraq has hidden weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, and production facilities.
And yet those pesky WMD just didn't exist.  Heckuva job, Johnny!

Jack goes on with his list:
Duncan Hunter Sr. as secretary of defense. The former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and former Army Ranger is just the guy to restore order, direction and morale to a bloated Pentagon that has gone badly awry.
So who's Duncan Hunter?  He's the guy who said this:
The inmates of Guantanamo have never been treated better and they've never been more comfortable in their lives. And the idea that somehow we are torturing people in Guantanamo is absolutely not true, unless you consider having to eat chicken three times a week is torture.
When it was absolutely not true. From CNN:
The U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay drew fresh criticism Sunday following a Time magazine report on a logbook tracing the treatment of a detainee who officials believe was intended to take part in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
And a little while later:
During the period covered by the logbook, Time reported, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved 16 additional interrogation techniques for use on certain detainees.

Afterward, interrogators began their sessions with al-Qahtani at midnight and awakened him with dripping water or Christina Aguilera music if he dozed off, the magazine article reported.

The magazine said the techniques approved by Rumsfeld included "standing for prolonged periods, isolation for as long as 30 days, removal of clothing, forced shaving of facial hair" and hanging "pictures of scantily clad women around his neck."
And Time had this:
The first break in al-Qahtani ‘s facade comes with a long-delayed call of nature. When a hunger strike he has launched fizzles, he starts refusing water. That becomes a battle of wills — and teeth. Al-Qahtani quickly becomes so dehydrated that medical corpsmen forcibly administer fluids by IV drip. He tries to fight them off with his hands and is restrained. Another time, al-Qahtani tries to rip the IV needle out; when he is cuffed to his chair, he turns his head and bites the IV line completely in two. He is then strapped down and given an undisclosed amount of fluids. An hour or so later, around 9:40 a.m., al-Qahtani tells his guards that he would be willing to talk if he is allowed to urinate. The log notes he is given 3 1/2 bags of IV fluid. He starts to moan and asks again to be allowed to relieve himself. Yes, but first he must answer questions:

Interrogator: Who do you work for?

Al-Qahtani: Al-Qaeda

Interrogator: Who was your leader?

Al-Qahtani: Osama bin Laden

Interrogator: Why did you go to Orlando?

Al-Qahtani: I wasn’t told the mission

Interrogator: Who was with you on the plane?

Al-Qahtani: I was by myself

That answer frustrates the interrogator — You’re wasting my time, he says — and when al-Qahtani requests his promised bathroom break, he is told to go in his pants. Humiliatingly, he does. The log notes 30 minutes later, “He is beginning to understand the futility of his situation … He is much closer to compliance and cooperation than at the beginning of the operation.”
But they were treated well and not tortured (or humiliated), they were fed chicken! - thus spake Jack's dream choice for Defense Secretary.

Then there's Jack's choice for Homeland Security, Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Who's under indictment in Texas:
A grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts on Friday, charging that he abused his power last year when he tried to pressure the district attorney here, a Democrat, to step down by threatening to cut off state financing to her office.

The indictment left Mr. Perry, a Republican, the first Texas governor in nearly 100 years to face criminal charges and presented a major roadblock to his presidential ambitions at the very time that he had been showing signs of making a comeback.

Grand jurors in Travis County charged Mr. Perry with abusing his official capacity and coercing a public servant, according to Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor assigned to the case.
You'll remember, of course, that in July one of those charges was dismissed.  The "abuse of power" charge still stands.  Does Jack even know this?

I could go on but I want to end with a special reference to another of Jack's dream secretaries:
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, a former Indiana governor and Reagan budget director. We’ve got to clamp a lid on wasteful federal spending. No one could do this better than Mr. Daniels.
Do I need to point out (ARE YOU WATCHING P-G FACT-CHEKERS???) that Mitch Daniels was NOT a "Budget Director" under Ronald Reagan (the head of the Office of Management and Budget is usually the one described as the president's "budget director").  The three OMB directors under Reagan were David Stockman, James Miller and Joseph Wright Jr.  Daniels was, in fact, OBM director under George W Bush (from 2001 to 2003) and during that time...well let me let the Indystar describe the budget back then:
When George W. Bush became president in 2001, Daniels returned to Washington to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Bush gave Daniels the nickname "The Blade," but the administration's tax cuts combined with an economic downturn put Daniels in the awkward position of watching a $236 billion annual surplus turn into a $400 billion deficit during his 29-month tenure. [Emphasis added.]
That's the guy Jack Kelly wants the next inexperienced Republican president to watch over the budget.  And another thing, does Jack know that CNN reported last year that:
As a share of the economy, spending on domestic and defense programs has been on the decline since 2010, and is on track to reach the lowest level in more than 50 years by 2023.

At its height in 2010, "discretionary spending" under Obama reached 9.1% of GDP. That was largely due to the stimulus law intended to dig the country out of a deep recession. But even at that high level, it wasn't that much higher than the 40-year average of 8.4% and was still below the 40-year peak of 10% reached in 1983.

Today, levels are well below the long-term average. And the Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2023 discretionary spending will fall to 5.3% of GDP, the lowest since 1962.
Please, please, Post-Gazette.  Someone needs to reign in Jack Kelly.  With every column like this that's published your reputation as a worthwhile source of news and information is degraded just a little more.

Oh, and you let Jack make another factual error with that "Reagan budget director" thing.  Do I need to start a petition demanding that you guys fact-check Jack Kelly?

I can you know.  You know I can.

October 8, 2015

On the Spot

You may have heard of girls in developing countries skipping school when they had their periods due to a lack of menstrual supplies, but do you know that it happens right here in Pittsburgh?

On the Spot is a campaign to raise funds to help purchase supplies/donate supplies for local schools to hand out to girls who find themselves unsupplied and ‘on the spot.’

You can either attend their fundraiser tonight or donate online here.

Back-To-School Happy Hour
When: Today at 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Where: The Brew Gentlemen Beer Co., 512 Braddock Ave, Braddock, PA 15104
Cost: $10 at the door, or $5 and a box of supplies
Facebook Event Page: Here

Climate Change, Creationism and A Venn Diagram

Let's start here:

Turns out that most of the Republican presidential candidates are both creationists (in one form or another) and climate science deniers (again, in one form or another).

I'm thinking that this will probably turn into an ongoing series.  But first let's look at Ben Carson.

CNS News reported this only a few days ago
Dr. Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine member, and the author of six best-selling books, said he believes in the six-day creation as described in the Bible and that there is abundant geological evidence there was a worldwide flood.
While he's not a "young earth" creationist (whew!  that's a relief!!) he does believe that evolution is wrote because of what he reads in the book of Genesis.

On climate science Bloomberg reports:
"There's always going to be either cooling or warming going on," the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate said in an interview this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa. "As far as I'm concerned, that's irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our environment."

Carson, a retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, often talks about his medical background and science during his speeches. Pressed on the fact that the bulk of the scientific community believes the Earth is indeed warming, Carson pivoted. "You can ask it several different ways, but my answer is going to be the same," he said. "We may be warming. We may be cooling."
But we're not cooling. The science says we're warming.  Anyway, however smart he may be, he doesn't get that he's got this one terribly wrong.  Nor does he recognize the inadvertent truth of this statement:
In a speech he gave Saturday night in Des Moines to evangelical conservatives, Carson pointed out the value of data. "The wonderful thing about medicine, when you show data, it changes people's minds," he said. "That doesn't happen in politics."
How true, Dr. Carson.  How true.

I am thinking that the least we can expect of our elected officials (ALL OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS) is for them to be scientifically literate.  And for someone who's pursuing the highest office in the land, it's simply unacceptable for that person to be so ignorant on such basic science.

October 7, 2015


I'm fighting a really bad cold - one so bad I am hoping the zombie apocalypse arrives at my doorstep and takes away my pain.

I'll be back as soon as I can.


October 4, 2015

Jack Kelly Sunday

This won't be your usual Jack Kelly debunking, just letting you know up front.

Today, in the Post-Gazette, Jack Kelly informed the the public of this:
Every day this week I shaved, brushed my teeth, showered, dressed myself, made my own breakfast. Big steps for a recovering invalid.

I have multiple myeloma, a bone-marrow cancer. Just after I started chemo, I fell down the stairs and tore my left anterior cruciate ligament, complicating treatment for both.

For the last six weeks, I’ve essentially been confined to my bed, with another week or so to go. If you sent me an email, and I haven’t responded, this is why.
I was very sad to learn of Jack's diagnosis.  As you may recall from this blog, I lost my father a few years ago to a very quick and devastating cancer.  It wasn't multiple myeloma but what difference does that make?  It started as a tumor found on his right lung but it wasn't lung cancer.  The surgeons in New Haven successfully removed it but were never able to determine what sort of cancer it was.  For a number of years they monitored his status and he was fine.  Then in the space of about three months it took him.  Quickly.  And with a vengeance.

So it's more or less a completely different story from Jack's but what difference does that make?

It was cancer and cancer can be devastating.  I've watched in quiet awe (via facebook) a woman I barely knew in high school battle (and beat back) her own cancer with Asgardian-sized courage.  Takes a lot to face it.  My hat's off to anyone (INCLUDING YOU, JACK) who's looked into that abyss.

But Jack, that doesn't mean you get a pass when you try to misinform your readers.  You still own what you've written and it's still misleading.

For example, Jack writes:
The president said Obamacare would reduce unsubsidized, employer-based health-insurance premiums by $2,500 a year, and since 2008 the growth in premiums has slowed, but the average family premium still has risen $4,865, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
First, there's this from Politifact:
When it came to health care premiums for the typical family, Obama said he would cut the annual cost by $2,500. Months before Obama took office, a New York Times reporter dubbed it one of the most audacious pledges of the campaign.

We reached out to David Cutler, an economist who advised Obama during the 2008 campaign and helped calculate the $2,500 figure that appeared in Obama's speeches. He said the calculation encompassed total health care costs, not just premiums. These would include out-of-pocket costs, employer-provided insurance costs, and taxes to pay for public insurance programs.

Cutler acknowledged that Obama made "occasional misstatements” that tied the $2,500 reduction to premiums and not total medical spending.
That was written 3 years ago.  So why use the point now?  If only to evade the reality of the situation, I guess.

But let's look at the other side of the sentence - the growth of the premiums.  Here's what Kaiser wrote about three weeks ago:
Single and family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of 4 percent this year, continuing a decade-long period of moderate growth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey released today. Since 2005, premiums have grown an average of 5 percent each year, compared to 11 percent annually between 1999 and 2005.
There's more from the Kaiser survey itself:
Premiums for family coverage increased 27% during the last five years, the same rate they grew between 2005 and 2010 but significantly less than they did between 2000 to 2005 (69%) (Exhibit B).
They even have a chart:

Wait, wait, doesn't this mean that while yes the premiums have gone up, they probably would've been higher without Obamacare?

Yes, it does.

And if you look carefully at Jack's sentence above, he actually affirms that (or at the very least that "the growth in premiums has slowed").  It's hidden in all that anti-Obamacare stuff.  Huh.  Interesting.

And then look at what he writes later:
The first steps to giving more Americans access to quality care are to repeal Obamacare...
Which would of course would hit the deficit hard, according to Politico:
A new cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office underscored the magnitude of the task: The budget scorekeeper last Friday said a full Obamacare repeal would add $353 billion to the deficit over the next decade.
I thought conservatives were against doing stuff that would raise the deficit.  I guess it's OK if the cost of it comes from actually helping people who otherwise couldn't afford health care to get health care.

So Jack I am very sorry to hear about your health issues.  No one should have to face what you're facing.  But you're still spinning Obamacare in a way that does no favors to your readers or the public at large.

October 1, 2015

US: More Mass Shootings Than Days in the Year

"That brings the total of mass shootings this year -- incidents where 4 or more people are killed or injured by gunfire -- to 294. 
There have been only 274 days this year."
Via Wonkblog @ The Washington Post 

Nailed it


Just another mass shooting in the U.S. with over a dozen dead and many more injured. But, hey! What did the Pope say to Kim Davis? And, what's the latest on Trump? And, damn it, keep those dangerous Syrian refugees out of my town!!!

("This is the 45th shooting at a school in 2015 and the 142nd shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut." - ThinkProgress)