We are the 99%

April 18, 2014

Born On This Date...

Every now and then I peruse the "who was born on this date" lists that can be found here and there across the internets and sometimes I find some interesting (and completely coincidental) musical pairings.

Today is just such a day - with two very important individuals from the history of music in 20th century America.

First, Leopold Stokowski, born this date in 1882 in London.  Here he is conducting The Petrushka Suite in 1967:

And then, Pigmeat Markham, born this day in 1904. Here he is rapping a decade or so before the Sugarhill Gang:

April 17, 2014

More Voter ID Hysteria From The Trib

Take a look at today's Tribune-Review:
Speaking of grove-variety pecans, “progressives” are in a tizzy-fit over a finding by Kim Strach, North Carolina's director of elections, that suggests nearly 36,000 people with the same names, birth dates and Social Security numbers voted both in the Tar Heel State and other states in 2012. Another 81 North Carolinians voted after they died, reports The Washington Times. But remember, voter fraud is a figment of the conservative imagination. [Bolding in original.]
Still is.

Here's the story:
This week, officials at the North Carolina State Board of Elections announced they had discovered possible evidence of widespread voter fraud in the battleground state.

By cross-checking North Carolina voter rolls with those in 28 other states, leaders of the board told state lawmakers they had found 35,750 records of people who voted in North Carolina and whose first name, last name and date of birth matched people who had voted in other states. More surprisingly, it also revealed 765 North Carolina voters in 2012 whose last four Social Security digits also matched those of people who voted in other states that year.
You might ask, where did they get this information? Did they generate it themselves? Is the source partisan or non-partisan?  And how reliable is it?

All good questions.  Here are some answers:
The cross-check of North Carolina voters was conducted by the office of Kris Kobach, the controversial Secretary of State in Kansas. A long-time Republican political operative, Kobach is known nationally as the architect of legislation cracking down on immigrants in Arizona and elsewhere, as well as severe voting restrictions.

Kobach launched the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program in 2005 as a free service to states — almost exclusively those led by Republican lawmakers — to flag voters who may be casting ballots in multiple states in the same election, which is a felony. In a traveling PowerPoint presentation Kobach’s office uses to pitch the program (for example, this recent presentation [PPT] in Indiana), they say it’s grown from four Midwestern states sharing 9 million voter records in 2005 to more than two dozen states states sharing 110 million files today.

Here’s how it works: A participating state sends its voter file to Kobach’s office, which compares it — free of charge — against the records from the other states. In 2013, the program flagged a staggering 5 million records of people whose names and date of birth appeared to match.
Wow.  Five million?  Is that evidence of five million double (and therefore felonious) votes?

No.  Did you know that the same Kris Kobach did the same sort of "research" for the State of Pennsylvania?  And did you know that they admitted a high number of "false positives"?  I'll let Vic Walczak of the Pennsylvania ACLU explain:
But the same materials, produced by the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, candidly acknowledge that many of those potential duplicates are false positives: “Experience in the crosscheck program indicates that a significant number of apparent double votes are false positives and not double votes. Many are the result of errors voters sign the wrong line in the poll book, election clerks scan the wrong line with a barcode scanner, or there is confusion over the father/son voters (Sr. and Jr.).” The program thus flags a huge number of voters as potential duplicates, but admits a high error rate, elevating the ACLU’s concerns about how precisely Pennsylvania will handle voter-registration cancellations.
But that's not all, my friends.  No no.  There is more.

In hearing of this report Dick Morris wrote about the "widespread voter fraud" in North Carolina based on this research (or better, "research").  And doncha know, Politifact rated it false.

Their ruling?  Take a look:
Morris said that the large number of North Carolina voters matched with records in other states was proof that over 1 million people voted twice in the 2012 election. While Morris admittedly was extrapolating from the North Carolina data, his conclusion is flawed on several fronts.

The head of North Carolina’s board of elections did not claim that even the closest matches on name, birth date and Social Security numbers was conclusive evidence. She said more investigation was needed. The track record of the Interstate Crosscheck project shows that a tiny fraction of all potential matches represents any kind of voting fraud. In Kansas, out of more than 850,000 votes cast, only 14 names were recommended for prosecution and the Kansas Secretary of State reported no convictions.

In other states, database quirks, human error and the statistics of large numbers have been shown to trim the initial reports of widespread fraud down to the barest sliver of actual cases.

We rate the claim False.
False.  Scaife's braintrust really needs to do better than this.  But we all know they can't.

April 16, 2014

Yea...That Nevada Thing.

The Trib dutifully offers up it's confused editorial support.

Why do I say confused?

Oh where do I begin?  Let's start at where Scaife's braintrust ends its argument:
This dispute should be settled administratively, in court, not at gunpoint in the desert. The price of such government bullying, even if it stops short of another Waco-style catastrophe, is too high to risk paying — for those endangered, for liberty and for the rule of law. [Emphasis added.]
I might be getting ahead of myself - perhaps some of my readers don't know what's going on in Nevada.  Mother Jones has a good summary:
On Saturday, a large group of anti-government protesters converged on a Bureau of Land Management base camp in rural Nevada to protest the federal government's seizure of Bundy's cows. Bundy had for years grazed hundreds of cattle on protected lands controlled by the federal government and refused to pay the resulting court-ordered fines. This month, after nearly 20 years of consistently beating Bundy in court, the BLM moved to confiscate his cattle. 
The braintrust is still pushing the idea that this dispute should be settled in court.  But it already has been to court.  And Bundy has consistently lost.  Take a look at this from a recent court order:
This case arises out of Bundy’s unauthorized and unlawful grazing of his livestock on property owned by the United States and administered by the Department of the Interior (“the DOI”) through the Bureau of Land Management (“the BLM”) and the National Park Service (“the NPS”). On November 3, 1998, the Court issued an Order permanently enjoining Bundy from grazing his livestock on the former Bunkerville Allotment (“the Allotment”), and ordering him to remove his livestock from the Allotment by no later than November 30, 1998, and pay damages to the United States in the amount of $200 per day per head for any remaining livestock on the Allotment after November 30, 1998. On September 17, 1999, after Bundy failed to comply with the Court’s first Order, the Court issued a second Order directing Bundy to comply with the 1998 Permanent Injunction and modifying the trespass damages owed to the United States. Notwithstanding the Court’s Orders, Bundy continues to graze his cattle on the Allotment. Thus, the United States seeks a third Order as follows: (1) declaring that Bundy has placed or allowed his livestock to graze on the Allotment in violation of the Court’s Orders; (2) directing Bundy to remove his livestock from the Allotment within 45 days of the Court’s Order; (3) explicitly authorizing the United States to seize and impound Bundy’s livestock if they have not been removed as directed; (4) instructing Bundy that he may not physically interfere with an impoundment operation authorized by the Court’s Order; and (5) authorizing the United States to seize and impound Bundy’s livestock should he continue to violate the Court’s Permanent Injunction in the future.
And so I have to ask my friends on the Braintrust: What part of this don't you understand?  Bundy has been breaking the law for 20 some odd years, taking advantage of public property, and ignoring Federal Court orders.  The BLM was confiscating his cattle to pay the fines he accrued by doing all that illegal stuff.

How is that guv'ment bullying?

April 15, 2014

They're Not Even Trying To Be Scientific

From today's Tribune-Review:
Its “science” increasingly has come under fire. And the court of public opinion more and more is not on its side. So what's the foundering United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to do? Why, go for broke, of course. After all, the world should be very, very, very, VERY afraid.

On Sunday, the panel lamented that while not enough is being done to combat supposed “man-made” climate change ( n é, “global warming”), all is not lost — if only super-duper drastic measures are implemented now, now, NOW!

The “scientists” of global warming religion now insist that, even despite mitigating efforts, global greenhouse gas emissions have accelerated drastically since the turn of the century. And to limit the increase in the “global mean temperature” to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, they say greenhouse emissions would have to be reduced by up to 70 percent by 2050 and by up to 100 percent by the end of the century.
Notice all the irony quotation marks around the words:
  • science
  • man-made
  • scientists
  • global mean temperature
It's a rhetorical device meant to undermine the validity of the word being quoted.  It's the difference between saying that:
  • Scaife's Tribune-Review brings you the news.
  • Scaife's Tribune-Review brings you the "news".

But they've long since offered up any evidence to back up their assertions that climate science is merely "science" (since there isn't any evidence to back up that assertion).  They've now embarrassingly reduced themselves to irony quotation snark.

Meanwhile reality says:
The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend, show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C3 , over the period 1880 to 2012, when multiple independently produced datasets exist. The total increase between the average of the 1850–1900 period and the 2003–2012 period is 0.78 [0.72 to 0.85] °C, based on the single longest dataset available.
And the IPCC has offered up a neat graph:


So unless Scaife's braintrust can come up with some actual science (ANY actual science!) showing that this is all wrong, we'll have to continue to calling bullshit on their bullshit.

April 12, 2014

How About NOW? Can We Prosecute The Torture NOW?

From McClatchy:
A still-secret Senate Intelligence Committee report calls into question the legal foundation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a finding that challenges the key defense on which the agency and the Bush administration relied in arguing that the methods didn't constitute torture.
The investigation determined that the program produced very little intelligence of value and that the CIA misled the Bush White House, the Congress and the public about the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques, committee members have said.

The techniques included waterboarding, which produces a sensation of drowning, stress positions, sleep deprivation for up to 11 days at a time, confinement in a cramped box, slaps and slamming detainees into walls. The CIA held detainees in secret “black site” prisons overseas and abducted others who it turned over to foreign governments for interrogation.
And here's where offensive gets offensiv-ier:
Some current and former U.S. officials and military commanders, numerous experts and foreign governments have condemned the harsh interrogation methods as violations of international and U.S. laws against torture, a charge denied by the CIA and the Bush administration.

They've based their defense on a series of top-secret legal opinions issued by the Justice Department beginning in August 2002. At that time, the agency sought advice on whether using the harsh techniques on Zayn al Abidin Muhammad Husayn, a close aide to Osama bin Laden who went by the nom de guerre Abu Zubaydah, would violate U.S. law against torture.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel found that the methods wouldn't breach the law because those applying them didn't have the specific intent of inflicting severe pain or suffering.

The Senate report, however, concluded that the Justice Department’s legal analyses were based on flawed information provided by the CIA, which prevented a proper evaluation of the program’s legality. [Emphasis added.]
Now remember, those legal "opinions" of August, 2002 and afterwards were later characterized by Jack Goldsmith, one time head of the Office of Legal Counsel, as tendentious, overly broad and legally flawed. and he withdrew them on the day he resigned.  The memos were reissued and then later formally withdrawn by the Obama Administration

So the CIA lies to Justice about the torture, the OLC within Justice issues a set of memos OK-ing the CIA's torture and then the CIA uses the memos as a "golden shield" to protect them against...prosecution.

But if it's all based on a lie, then when can we start prosecuting the torture?

April 10, 2014

Toomey, Casey And Porter - A City Paper Update

Yesterday, I brought you the P-G's coverage.

Today, it's Potter's City Paper.  Potter frames his piece around Debo Adegbile:
Last month, Casey and Toomey led a Senate vote rejecting President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's civil-rights division, Debo Adegbile. Adegbile's sin? While at the NAACP, he wrote a legal brief for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Adegbile's argument — that Abu-Jamal's jury was discriminatory — was ultimately seconded by a judge. Before the Senate's vote, the head of the American Bar Association said Adegbile's brief "should be commended, not condemned." But not, apparently, if you're defending the rights of unpopular people: Casey explained his opposition to Adegible by noting Faulkner's death "and the events that followed ... have left open wounds."

Adegbile "promoted division among the American people, and blocked justice for [Faulkner's] family," said Toomey.
That was then, this is now.
But according to liberal group Keystone Progress, Toomey and Casey have been planning to grant a federal judgeship to a Pittsburgh attorney ... despite criticism that he may be divisive, too.

In late March, Keystone Progress raised flags about a purported "backroom deal" to make David J. Porter a federal district court judge.
And so on and so forth. Potter fades the argument a bit:
Not everyone agrees. "Even if everything they say about [Porter] is true, it's not that significant," says Bruce Ledewitz, a Duquesne University law professor who often comments on law and politics. The real power in the federal judiciary, he said, is on appeals courts: "You don't make law at the district court level" where Porter would serve. "You apply it as written."

If anything, he surmises, "I think [Porter] has come up because of anger over [Adegbile]: ‘Why are we making deals with these people, when they turn on an honorable man this way?'"

Ledewitz himself calls Adegbile's treatment "despicable. ... The idea that a lawyer is tainted by representation in death-penalty cases is disgusting." But as Congressional gridlock has left empty federal courtrooms across the state, Ledewitz says, "I can understand Sen. Casey making this deal."
While I can't disagree with what Ledewitz said about where the power resides in the federal judiciary (indeed Allegheny Counsel member Heather Heidelbaugh said something similar to the P-G), I'd have to point something out: In the future, when it comes time to nominate someone for one of those appeals court judgeships, where would they get the candidates?  Having Porter on the district court gives him a better shot at moving up, doesn't it?

April 9, 2014

The Casey-Toomey Porter Deal Hits The News

A scant 2 full weeks after I blogged on it, the P-G is reporting on the deal:
Pennsylvania progressives are looking to scuttle an apparent backroom deal on judicial nominations that the state's two senators are negotiating.

The arrangement would have Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., sign off on Pittsburgh lawyer David J. Porter's nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. In exchange, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., would defer to Mr. Casey on at least three of Pennsylvania's other eight judicial vacancies, according to opponents of the deal.
By the way, all those petitions?

33,000 people signed them.

Why would they?  Perhaps here's the reason:
In a post on its website, Keystone Progress characterized Mr. Porter as an extreme conservative who opposes abortion rights, gay marriage and restrictions on gun ownership. It notes that Mr. Porter leads the Lawyers Chapter of the Pittsburgh Federalist Society, that he opposed the 2009 nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that he wrote a Post-Gazette opinion piece asserting that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and that he is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
The writer of the P-G piece, Tracie Mauriello, gets another side of the story - the local attorneys who believe Porter's not the ideologue that all those 33,000 petition signers believe him to be.  Take a look:
"He's a brilliant lawyer and he's fair-minded," said attorney Tina O. Miller, who has known Mr. Porter for several years. "I have never found David to be overly political. Whether it's as a lawyer advocating for his client or in bar association and community activities, he has always been willing to listen to everyone's viewpoint and give consideration to everyone's viewpoint and to be fair. "Those are exactly the qualities I would want in a judge."

Mary Austin, a health care attorney in Pittsburgh who considers herself a liberal, said she has never seen ideology influence Mr. Porter's legal work in the decade she has known him.

"I really don't know [his politics]. We've never discussed it," she said. What she does know is, "David is a very good lawyer and has shown very good sense."
That may well be the case.  It may well be the case that he's a brilliant lawyer and that whatever his politics, the people of Pennsylvania should set aside them aside and simply judge him by the quality of his legal work.

Yea, tell that to Debo Adegbile.