Prosecute the torture.

January 24, 2015

Senator Pat Toomey - A Science Denier, Still

Let's start at PennLive:
One of the thorniest issues pestering Republicans these days - climate change - was front and center in the U.S. Senate this week, but if you try to make sense of what happened, you might get a headache.

On the surface, it might seem as if Republicans, after long being reticent about the issue, finally came out on the side of most Americans and voted to affirm that climate change is real and not a hoax. But beyond the surface little has changed.

Sen. Pat Toomey is a good example. Long non-committed on his views about the scientific basis for climate change, the Lehigh Valley Republican this week voted in favor of the so-called "hoax" amendment.
This is absolutely true.  There were three amendments to the Keystone XL Pipeline Act voted on by the US Senate this week - and Toomey's changing vote tells us where he stands regarding science.

First the amendment he voted for.  This would be the amendment submitted by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and it reads like this (from the Congressional Record):
SA 29. Mr. WHITEHOUSE submitted an amendment intended to be proposed to amendment SA 2 proposed by Ms. MURKOWSKI (for herself, Mr. HOEVEN, Mr. BARRASSO, Mr. RISCH, Mr. LEE, Mr. FLAKE, Mr. DAINES, Mr. MANCHIN, Mr. CASSIDY, Mr. GARDNER, Mr. PORTMAN, Mr. ALEXANDER, and Mrs. CAPITO) to the bill S. 1, to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

On page 3, between lines 19 and 20, insert the following:


It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.
So Senator Toomey voted for that.

Then a few minutes the Senate voted on another "Sense of Congress" amendment - this one submitted by Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota.  For the sake of this discussion, the important stuff is this:
(1) ``[W]arming of the climate system is unequivocal and each of the last [3] decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850.'';

(2) ``The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], in addition to other institutions, such as the National Research Council and the United States (U.S.) Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), have concluded that it is extremely likely that global increases in atmospheric [greenhouse gas] concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities.'';
And this:
(1) climate change is real; and

(2) human activity contributes to climate change.
Senator Toomey voted for that one, too.

But then there was another vote.  For this Sense of Congress amendment.  The important stuff is this:
(1) ``[W]arming of the climate system is unequivocal and each of the last [3] decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850.'';

(2) ``The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], in addition to other institutions, such as the National Research Council and the United States (U.S.) Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), have concluded that it is extremely likely that global increases in atmospheric [greenhouse gas] concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities.'';
And this:
(1) climate change is real; and

(2) human activity significantly contributes to climate change.
Senator Pat Toomey voted against that one.

Notice anything different?

The word "significantly."

Let's sum up.  According to his voting record this week, Pennsylvania Senator Toomey agrees with each of these statements:
  • Climate change is real
  • Climate change not a hoax
  • Each of the last 3 decades has been successively warmer
  • The IPCC concluded that it's "extremely likely" that increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities
  • However, human activity does not significantly contribute to climate change.
That last statement is exactly not what scientists have been telling the Senate for almost 30 years:
The earth has been warmer in the first five months of this year than in any comparable period since measurements began 130 years ago, and the higher temperatures can now be attributed to a long-expected global warming trend linked to pollution, a space agency scientist reported today.
Here's the thing.  Senator Toomey is up for reelection in 2016.  He's going to be out on the campaign trail talking about a number of issues for some time.  And presumably someone somewhere is going to ask about his views on climate change.

If he says that he agrees climate change is not a hoax and that human activity contributes to the warming of the planet but fails to mention that he doesn't think that that contribution is significant, we'll know he's lying.  It'll be a straightforward lie by omission.

And if no one in the media calls him on it, we'll know they didn't do their homework.  Or they did and they're giving him a pass on it.

As of right now, he's still a climate science denier, no matter what sort of political cover he thinks those first two votes gave him.

Comments, Senator?

January 22, 2015

Yea...But It's Still Getting Warmer AND We're To Blame

From the Tribune-Review today:
The West Virginia Board of Education has redefined the word “chicken.” It voted 6-2 last week to reverse a decision that would have included views contrary to the current climate change theology in the Mountain State's science curriculum. The board president is the wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. What a travesty that West Virginia students are being denied this necessary exercise in critical thinking. This is political indoctrination at its worst.
Of course the braintrust isn't telling you the entire story.

From the National Journal:
Last month, the state Board of Education voted to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, an academic framework that calls on teachers to teach man-made climate change in public-school classrooms.
So far so good.  So what happened next?
At the request of a board member who does not consider global warming settled science, however, the board altered the standards prior to their final adoption to cast doubt on the existence of global warming and the role of human activity in changing the planet's climate.
They changed this:
Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
To this:
Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise and fall in global temperatures over the past century.
And if you're talking climate change, that's simply not true.

And so one person on the board (one who doesn't believe in the science in the first place) added text to the standards that contradicts the actual science (held by 97% of the actual experts in the field) in order for those teaching standards to more closely conform to his own political views and not the science.  And what happens? The braintrust cries foul that it's "political indoctrination at its worst" when that assault on science is corrected.

Interesting definitions of "political indoctrination" and "science" they got over there at the Tribune-Review.

January 20, 2015

All you need to see from the #SOTU


The Right and The President's Tax Proposal

The This headline has it right:
The GOP Is Not Happy About Obama's Tax Proposal
From the AP:
Republican lawmakers are already signaling they will do what they can to block President Barack Obama's pitch for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.

Obama is making that pitch to a huge television audience in hopes of putting the new Republican Congress in the position of defending top income earners over the middle class.
And that's exactly what our friends on the Trib editorial board did this morning.

Only they're not letting you in on the little fact that they're defending the top 1% to the detriment of everyone else.  Take a look:
Mr. Obama tonight will propose a massive attack on savings and investment in another attempt to redistribute wealth while engaging in more social re-engineering.

Proceeds from yet another hike in the tax on capital gains (which, if passed, represents a near doubling since Obama took office) and inheritances would pay for “middle class tax relief.” Never mind that it would have the perverse effect of further draining the private investment pool necessary for job creation and penalize single-income families with children.the
Now let's take a look at what the White House says.  For instance on the tax on capital gains:
Almost exclusively impact the top 1 percent. 99 percent of the impact of the President’s capital gains reform proposal (including eliminating stepped-up basis and raising the capital gains rate) would be on the top 1 percent, and more than 80 percent on the top 0.1 percent (those with incomes over $2 million). Under the President’s proposal, wealthy people would still get a preferential rate on their income from investments, but they would no longer be able to accumulate extra wealth by paying no capital gains tax whatsoever.
And then on the other side:
To ensure that it would impose neither tax nor compliance burdens on middle-class families, the President’s proposal includes the following protections...Capital gains of up to $200,000 per couple ($100,000 per individual) could still be bequeathed free of tax. Note that, since capital gains generally represent only a fraction of an asset’s value, this exemption would allow couples to bequeath more than $200,000 without owing taxes. The exemption would be automatically portable between spouses.
In addition to the basic exemption, couples would have an additional $500,000 exemption for personal residences ($250,000 per individual). This exemption would also be automatically portable between spouses.
Tangible personal property other than expensive art and similar collectibles (e.g. bequests or gifts of clothing, furniture, and small family heirlooms) would be tax-exempt. In addition to avoiding any tax burden on these transfers, this exclusion would prevent families from having to value and report them. As a result of these provisions, only a tiny minority of small businesses could possibly be affected by the repeal of stepped-up basis.
And finally:
No tax would be due on inherited small, family-owned and operated businesses - unless and until the business was sold.

Any closely-held business would have the option to pay tax on gains over 15 years.
Yet somehow none of this information made it into the braintrust's "analysis" of the president's proposals.

The folks on the braintrust opposes the proposal because they're protecting protecting big money,   plain and simple.

They just won't tell you that.

January 19, 2015

January 18, 2015

Jack Kelly Sunday

This week, Post-Gazette columnist Jack Kelly continued his commentary on the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the world's reaction to it.

As usual, he's laughingly wrong as he spins, distorts and misinforms you, his reading public.

But let's get the big stuff out of the way.  This is about President Obama's non-attendance at this rally:

Something the White House has already addressed:
The White House, facing a storm of criticism for President Obama’s absence from Sunday’s peace march in Paris, said Monday that his team erred in failing to dispatch a high-ranking American official to join the show of solidarity against terrorism. But French officials quickly rejected the idea that Mr. Obama had snubbed the event.
Huh.  Well there's something Jack didn't tell you.  Nor did he tell you this:
President Fran├žois Hollande of France let it be known on Monday that he was not among those offended.
Huh. But Jack's a partisan ideologue who's not particularly interested in presenting you with enough nuance for you to make your own decisions. He IS interested in getting you just enough nuance for you to simply agree with him. And that's all.

So his omissions, while not at all journalisticly acceptable, are certainly understandable.

So let's move on.

Jack's running commentary is reflected in the title of the column: "Obama is weak against terror."

Can someone please leave a copy of this column by P-G columnist Jack Kelly at Jack's desk on Monday?  It's the one where Jack calls the killing of Osama bin Laden the "greatest success of Barack Obama's presidency."

Osama bin Laden.  9/11.  Yea, that guy.  And they got him on Obama's watch.  So y'know, he's OBVIOUSLY weak on terror.

I do have to reiterate, though, that while Jack does praise (if only inadvertently) Obama for the killing of bin Laden, he of course gets the part about waterboarding and torture wrong.  But hey, what's a good partisan smear if it can't ignore reality every now and then??

Let's fill in some of the omissions of information that Jack Kelly (I suppose) hopes you didn't notice.

Like this one:
He’s “the only Western leader who has refused to call this attack Islamic terrorism,” noted Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen, though, when pressed, the president’s spokesman talked of “violent extremism in which individuals invoke the name of Islam.”
Interesting that Jack would write this when only last week he wrote:
The Obama administration won’t seriously confront Islamist terror. Nor will the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, the prime minister of Britain. One world leader is.

More despicable than their unwillingness to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons was the news media’s virtual blackout of the remarkable speech Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made at al-Azar University in Cairo on New Year’s Eve.
Is it just me or is Jack saying that only Egypt is seriously confronting Islamist terror?  And Egypt is such a bastion of journalistic freedom, isn't it?  I mean since that's what we're discussing here, right?  The freedom of Charlie Hebdo to publish whatever satirical cartoons it wants to, right?  From the Guardian:
The Egyptian regime's lack of justice was illustrated by the jailing of three innocent Al-Jazeera journalists this week.

But there are other cases deserving of attention too, such as that of Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known professionally as Shawkan.

He has been held in an Egyptian prison without charge for more than 10 months after being detained on 14 August 2013. In his most recent court appearance, last Wednesday, his detention was extended for a further 45 days.
Perhaps that's being tough on terror, to Jack.

Anyway, I don't want to skip over Jack's most glaring omission of fact in that paragraph.  The phrase, "Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen."

By that description how many of you would guess that Douglas Schoen is a Fox News contributor?  Or that Fox News includes this in its description of him:
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on Live.
Or that he wrote for the conservative Newsmax until at least last August.

Or that he urged Obama not to seek reelection in 2012.

So he's hardly your run of the mill "Democratic pollster" is he?  But you wouldn't know any of that by Jack's description of him, would you?

If he's willing to hide such easily found information just to make a point ("Hey, even Democrat Pollsters think Obama's weak on terror!") what else is Jack Kelly spinning?

And then there's this from his opening paragraph:
Secretary of State John Kerry was in India (where it’s been unseasonably cold), to give a speech on global warming.
Did you catch the attempt at snarky sarcasm? It's a speech about global warming in a place that's unseasonably cold.  He just couldn't help himself.

Guess what?  Take a look at this:

It's a chart showing how its been getting warmer in India.

Guess where I found that?  It's a report out of the Indian Meteorological Society talking about, you guessed it, climate change in India.  Where it's happening just like it's happening everywhere else.

Even when Jack Kelly tries to be snarky, he gets it wrong.

January 17, 2015

2014 - Warmest On Record Update

A week and a half ago I posted this.

It said that the Japanese Meteorological Agency released some preliminary findings showing that 2014 was the warmest on record.  The AP expected that NASA and NOAA would release their findings within a week.

From NASA two days ago:
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.
The word to pay attention to is "trend."  NASA's Gavin Schmidt reiterates:
“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.
Here's a chart from GISS to illustrate:

The jagged black line connects the black squares that represent individual years.  The curvy red line is the 5 year running average.  Note how the last square is only slightly higher than the black square on the 2010 line.  This will be important when you start to read the climate deniers try to deny the science.

Like this one from the (Scaife funded) Cato institute:
Annual temperatures are calculated by averaging up monthly readings, so the last data point that we have is October. The National Climatic Data Center, a part of the Department of Commerce, estimates that global average temperature was a record high of 58.46°F. The previous record was 58.45°.
See that?  How can it be that much of a deal if the current record "high" is only .01°F higher than the last record "high"?

We are arguing over the significance of hundredths of a degree, they say.

Of course, they're misleading you.  The point is not how much hotter this individual year is over the last individual year (or much hotter the hottest record year is over the last hottest record year) but the overall trend.  And the overall trend, since at least 1910, according to GISS is upward.

No matter what they say, it's still getting warmer.

Can't wait to see how the braintrust that is the Tribune-Review editorial board is going to spin this.