We are the 99%

November 27, 2014

Turkey Time Videos

Happy Thanksgiving to EVERYONE!

I'm thankful for whoever created this!

The Trib's Thanksgiving Custom

For Thanksgiving, at the Tribune-Review:
Editor's note: As has become our custom, a reprint of a special editorial on this special day.
They then go on to write about Thanksgiving, Harry Truman, and the Separation of Church and State.

We deconstructed this piece of feel good Turkey a couple of years ago.

But since they published again, we'll deconstruct again.

While they selectively quote presumably their favorite Democratic president of the last 100 years, they failed to quote (again presumably) their favorite Republican president of the same time span, Ronald Reagan, when he spoke about Church/State relations in 1984:
We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief. [Emphasis added.]
Yes, that was Ronald Reagan.

While our friends on the braintrust avoid the gipper they cut and paste Truman.  First from the Trib:
“In Thanksgiving,” President Truman said, “we have a purely American holiday — fashioned out of our own history and testifying to the religious background of our national life. That day expresses what we mean when we say that our form of government rests on a spiritual foundation.

“It is from a strong and vital church — from the strength and vitality of all our churches — that government must draw its vision,” he continued. “In the teachings of our Savior, there is no room for bigotry, for discrimination, for the embittered struggle of class against class, or for the hostilities of nation against nation.
And what I wrote 2 years ago:
Before I go further, let me point out that there's a bit of a cheat here. Because if you look at the original speech of Truman's to the Westminster Presbyterian Church in 1952, there's a whole lot of stuff between the quoted first and second paragraphs - stuff Scaife's braintrust opted you didn't need to see - with no indication that there's been an omission.

What did they decide that you didn't need to see? Apart from the expected "only faith is what will save us from godless communism" we find passages extolling the need to wage a "ceaseless war against injustice in our society" and that "we are all our brothers' keepers" and finally touting the need for something called the "Point 4" program - which turns out to be a government plan to spread American scientific know-how to impoverished countries around the world. Gee, I wonder why the arch-conservatives at the Trib decided you didn't need to read any of that.

But all that's beside the point. Instead of Reagan's assertion that State and Church must remain separate and that "we command no worship", we get from the braintrust Truman quoting Paul's Letter to the Colossians asserting cultural and religious unity - but only through Christ.
Strange that they'd abandon Reagan for a Democrat president pushing a gov'ment program.

November 24, 2014

Statement From Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Regarding Ferguson, Missouri Grand Jury Decision

Via an email, the following statement was released by the office of Mayor of Pittsburgh a few minutes ago:
Ferguson may be hundreds of miles away, but the reverberations from August’s shooting are still felt, understandably, in Pittsburgh and other cities nationwide. I know it this is hard right now, but it is my fervent hope that in coming days we can use this decision as an opportunity to come together -- in peace and in prayer -- to do the necessary work of strengthening ties between residents and police, and finding new paths to mutual trust and understanding.

#Ferguson #WhatILearnedFromThePressConference

If I understand the prosecutor correctly, Micheal Brown is dead because of social media.

A Torture Update (Of Sorts)

I usually don't like Sunday evenings.  That's time of the week when I have to begin to push back at the weekend momentum in order to get return to a more boring weekday schedule.

Monday mornings are worse.

Last night (which was, if you aren't reading this on Monday, a Sunday) I caught a very interesting episode of "Madam Secretary" 

Spoiler Alert in the event you haven't seen the episode.

Tea Leoni plays Bess McCord, the new Secretary of State.  She's an apolitical appointment made after the previous Secretary of State died in a plane crash.  She's also former CIA.

Turns out that as a CIA field agent, she was involved in some shady interrogations in Iraq a decade or so ago.  Some of those interrogations involved torture (though she was never present during).  The episode last night dealt with some of the the "collateral damage" caused by the decision to allow such actions and the effects it's had on some of the characters in the drama.  Very interesting stuff for a mellow Sunday evening.

Which triggered my interest in following up on this:
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are still at odds with the CIA and the White House over the so-called "CIA torture report," even after a meeting on Capitol Hill between Democratic senators and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.

According to a source with knowledge of the Thursday meeting, the CIA report came up after Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California, read a statement that lasted for about five minutes. About five other Democratic senators spoke in support of Feinstein, who is ready to publicly release the report. There is one main sticking point remaining: The Obama administration and the CIA want to black out all CIA pseudonym references in the report, citing concerns that revealing the pseudonyms could endanger lives. This meeting did not resolve that issue.
I wrote about the report last August.

Last August we were "days" away from the White House declassifying the report.  Who would have guessed that would be 118 days and counting?

All for some CIA pseudonyms?

Meanwhile The Intercept had this a month or so ago:
Months after President Obama frankly admitted that the United States had “tortured some folks” as part of the War on Terror, a new report submitted to the United Nations Committee Against Torture has been released that excoriates his administration for shielding the officials responsible from prosecution.

The report describes the post-9/11 torture program as “breathtaking in scope”, and indicts both the Bush and Obama administrations for complicity in it – the former through design and implementation, and the latter through its ongoing attempts to obstruct justice. Noting that the program caused grievous harm to countless individuals and in many cases went as far as murder, the report calls for the United States to “promptly and impartially prosecute senior military and civilian officials responsible for authorizing, acquiescing, or consenting in any way to acts of torture.”

In specifically naming former President George W. Bush, Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo and former CIA contractor James Mitchell, among many others, as individuals who sanctioned torture at the highest levels, the report highlights a gaping hole in President Obama’s promise to reassert America’s moral standing during his administration. Not only have the cited individuals not been charged with any crime for their role in the torture program, Obama has repeatedly reiterated his mantra of “looking forward, not backwards” to protect them from accountability.
Remember, this is still relevant (heck it's showing up as a plot device on Network TV!) as the crimes were committed in our name.

Prosecute the torture, Mr President.  The prosecution (or lack there of) will also be part of your legacy.

My disappointment continues.

November 22, 2014

Finally, The Truth! About Benghazi!

Yesterday was a Friday - keep that in mind for a bit.

In politics when you need to release something to the public that you don't necessarily want the public to see, what do you do?  When do you release it?  You release it late in the day, when all the reporters are past deadline and/or are headed home.  Better yet, you release it late in the day and late in the week (say on a Friday) so that anyone who's job it is to notice is already out the door and won't be back to work for 2 days.  Release it late in the week just before a holiday is even better.

Guess what was released yesterday, a Friday - the Friday before Thanksgiving week, by the Republican-controlled Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence?

The Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012.

And what, oh what, did they find?

From the summary:
In summary, the Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi and, without a requirement to do so, ably and bravely assisted the State Department on the night of the attacks. Their actions saved lives. Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support. The Committee, however, received evidence that the State Department security personnel, resources, and equipment were unable to counter the terrorist threat that day and required CIA assistance. [Emphasis added.]
This information even made it onto the pages of the Tribune-Review (by way of the AP):
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then-ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people. [Emphases added.]
Let's see if the Trib's editorial page actually reads the Trib's news pages.

November 21, 2014

Stephen Colbert Explains The Difference Between WEATHER And CLIMATE

I am sure you've seen this by now:
Global warming isn't real because I was cold today! Also great news: World hunger is over because I just ate.
Four feet of snow (as of yesterday) in Buffalo must mean that the so called "global warming" must be wrong, right?

I mean if the world is warming up then how can there be so much cold snow out there?

I wonder if they're saying the same thing in Sydney, Australia:
Sydney is in for another burst of summer-like heat, as a series of troughs draw in some of the hot air massing over central Australia.

The mercury in the city will climb to 38 degrees on Friday, according to updated forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology, after reaching about 27 degrees on Thursday.

Many western suburbs sweltered in temperatures well above 30 degrees on Thursday, with 35 degrees reached in Bankstown and 37 in Penrith.
Those numbers are in Celsius by the way.  Here's a Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion for all those numbers:
  • 38C = 100.4F
  • 27C = 80.6F
  • 30C = 86F
  • 35C = 95F
  • 37C = 98.6F
Due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis, they're moving into Summer in Australia while we move into Winter.  So just imagine if it's 6 months from now, say May 21, and Jeff Verszyla were to tell you that it's gonna be 100.4 out. That's what's happening in Sydney while Bills fans are getting 4+ feet of snow in Buffalo.

Meanwhile globally:
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for October, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F).
The difference between "weather" and "climate."

November 19, 2014

Another Non-Political Announcement

My brass quintet has a gig this FRIDAY NIGHT .

And when I write "my brass quintet" I don't mean that it's "mine" or that I run it or anything - it's just a figure of speech denoting the brass quintet that I play in.  To be more specific, it's more or less an autonomous collective, though sometimes I think we're an anarcho-syndicalist commune out to expose the violence inherent in the system.

Anyway, we'll be playing for tips at Biddle Escape in Regent Square at 7pm.

Now you may ask yourself, what sort of music will the quintet be playing?  And that's a very good question.  I could say that we'll be playing BOTH types of music: country AND western!  But that would be a mistake.  We will be playing lotsa good stuff.  A great deal of it, if my memory serves me correctly, arranged in one way or another by someone in the group.

Come to Biddle's Escape on Friday night.  Have a coffee, have a tea, have a listen to the group and me.