Terror Alert Level

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poor Little Rich Boy

Wisconsin Republicans, as we know, are busy putting the shaft to working people. Now, hear one of that state's new, conservative Rebublican congresscritters whine about how hard it is to make ends meet on more than three times the state's median income.

15 Day Atheist Challenge: Day 9

Even though you are an atheist, have you ever experienced a moment that could be called "religious," like an epiphany about the world or complete peace? I really don't like the way this question is worded, as the adjective "religious" has connotations that do not require belief in the supernatural. Definition of RELIGIOUS 1 : relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity 2 : of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances 3 a : scrupulously and conscientiously faithful Couple that with "epiphany." Definition of EPIPHANY 1 capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ 2 : an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being 3 a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b : a revealing scene or moment. If you couple the first definition of "religious," specifically the "ultimate reality," which I define as "truth," and "epiphany," then I can say I HAVE had such an experience. This experience came while I was reading The Ring Of Truth some 20 years ago. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it is the companion piece to the PBS series of the same name, written and hosted by Philip and Phylis Morrison. One of the sections covered quantum mechanics, a topic that I've always had problems with. As I was reading, I had a "eureka" moment. I got it! I finally understood it! It was a "sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning" of an "ultimate reality." That certainly didn't make me a physicist, but for a non-scientest in his mid 20's it was rather mindblowing.


Travelin' Man

visited 36 states (72%) Create your own visited map of The United States Oh, the places I've been!

Oh Mr. Speaker!

I have to wonder if the House majority leader has ever seen this. Perhaps he should! Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Wednesday Republicans would pass legislation decreeing that, absent Senate passage of a budget bill by the April 8 deadline, the measure approved by the House in February would become “the law of the land.” Have any of these so-called strict Constitutionalists ever read, or at the very least, glanced at the Constitution?

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Who Is Regulating Who

Imagine your are a police officer, and have been for many years. You've routinely made traffic stops, issued citations, and made arrests. In all these cases, those that you've charged for infractions great and small have had the option to challenge you in court. Now imagine that one day, a directive comes down that your citations and arrests must be reviewed by the police chief first. Not only that but only certain citations must be reviewed, those issued to residents of the 15238 zip code. No explanation for the change is given. Sound far fetched? Well that's what Governor Corbett's appointees have done to Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection's field inspectors and regional directors when it comes to Marcellus Shale drilling. Jan Jarrett, president and chief executive officer of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, a statewide environmental group active on Marcellus issues, said the new procedures "make a joke out of inspections." "When they see violations, they have a duty to write them up, but now they must first run them up the chain of command to get a political OK," she said. "It completely undercuts the independence and professionalism of the inspectors." Bought and paid for.

Lefty Left Left Leftist!

These people are nuts.

The Republican Party of Dane County recognizes that Judge Sumi is a leftist living in Dane County. Her friends are leftists living in Dane County. Her son is a left wing activist in Dane County. She goes to cocktail parties held by leftists in Dane County. She shops at organic gourmet food shops run by leftists living in Dane County. If she were to enforce the law of Wisconsin and do what was in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin, she'd be exiled from her lifestyle. She'd lose her friends!

Organic gourmet food shops? We've gone way beyond crazy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 8: 15 Day Atheist Challenge

What's your political alignment? Does your atheism influence influence how you vote and how you feel on issues? I'm a Democrat. Big surprise, eh? I've always considered myself to fall in the moderate-to-liberal range, and my general political philosophy hasn't changed much since my first election in 1980, when I cast my first presidential ballot for John Anderson. Since then, the Overton Window shifted so far to the right that I look like a raving Trotskyite. Back when the Republican party contained actual moderates, I voted for a few, such as Pennsylvania senator John Heinz. The Republican party as it is now is far too lunatic to even consider supporting one of their candidates. Maybe they'll surprise me in the future. Atheism is nothing more than the belief that there are no gods. I generally do not decide how I feel about a candidate based on my atheism, and I generally don't care what a particular candidate's faith is. However, when I see a politician who wears his faith on his sleeve, or makes statements about the United States being a "Christian Nation," the alarm bells start ringing. UPDATE: Via gyma at Spork's place, this is what I'm talking about: (alarm bells and such) Huckabee has just been caught on video, at a Christian supremacist conference, stating that Americans should be forcibly indoctrinated at gunpoint. The organization which hosted the “Rediscover God In America” conference, United in Purpose, has edited Huckabee’s comment from footage of his speech, but not before People For The American Way’s Kyle Mantyla captured the unedited footage, in which Mike Huckabee states, “I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced–forced at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it.”


Gay The Gay Away

This is a novel treatment method. A former youth pastor in Council Bluffs, Iowa, says he had sex with teenage boys because it was his pastoral duty “to help (the teen) with homosexual urges by praying while he had sexual contact with him.”... Court documents indicated Girouex told investigators the most sexual contact he had was with one teen over a four-year period, starting when the boy was 14 years old. Calling the contact “mutual,” he said it had occurred between “25 and 50 times” during that period. When investigators spoke to the teen, who’s now an adult, he told them the number was between 50 and 100. Three other young men who were teenagers when the incidents occurred told investigators the sex occurred at Girouex’s home. All said they went to be helped with “sexual purity.” This story is less about the fact that the accused is a pastor, and more about him being in a position of authority taking advantage of people coming to him for help. Of course, if most religions didn't have hangups about sex in the first place, would these teens even have "sexual purity" issues that required counseling?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Then They Came For The Wiccans

We have found a witch! May we fire her?

Here's a situation for all you aspiring managers: If you were the boss at a U.S. government agency and one of your employees complained that she was afraid of a co-worker's religious practices, what would you do? Would it change your decision if the religion were Wicca, and the employee feared her co-worker because she thought she might cast a spell on her? Here's how the Transportation Security Administration handled it: It fired the witch.

The entire story is a lot more complicated, but it does help illustrate the harassment and abuse followers of religions that aren't in the mainstream can face, especially if the belief carries a certain degree of cultural baggage.

UPDATE: In a truly bizarre development, General J.C. Christian, Patriot has been drawn into the unfolding contoversy.


Day 7: 15 Day Atheist Challenge

Except for God, do you believe in anything supernatural or pseudoscientific? (Ghosts, alien abductions, spirits, souls, demons, psychics, magic, Harry Potter, etc.)

When I was younger, I did believe in things like ghosts, the Bermuda Triangle, and other "unexplained" phenomena. In college, there was a spooky, old run down mansion that my department kept various items in. I had heard various ghost stories surrounding this building, and I always got creeped out whenever I had to go in there, especially up to the old ballroom, where our storage area was. One day, I forced myself to stay there for several hours. As my familiarity with the area increased, I found my apprehension lessening. Soon, I was able to dismiss my initial discomfort to an overactive imagination, fueled by the legends. As an aside, the college has since restored and renovated the building, it now houses a variety of functions and offices, and is quite beautiful. (pictured)

I once took a picture at Gettysburg that seemed to show "ghost orbs." After thinking for a bit, I realized it was drizzling when I took the picture and the "orbs" were nothing but the reflection of the flash off raindrops.

Do I still believe in the Bermuda Triangle? Only as a physical location. Again, as I grew older and more widely read, I learned that correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation. Any heavily traveled body of water is going to have its share of ships go down "without a trace" due to accident, storms, or bad luck. No supernatural explaination is necessary.

I see no evidence for the existince of demons, or disembodied souls, or spirits. Do aliens exist? In a vast universe, I expect that it is likely, but there is no evidence for their existence. Have we been visited? There is no evidence that we have.

I believe there are people who describe themselves as psychics. I call them by another name though: Frauds.

Magic? Sure I believe in magic! I even know a few tricks! Its great entertainment. Magic as a supernatural phenomena? No.

Harry Potter? I have all the books. Its a great story. I do know that those books and movies exist.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Who Is To Blame?

Who is to blame? A man died after police say he crashed during a high-speed pursuit following a hit-and-run crash. Investigators say 25-year-old Joshua Castia rear-ended another vehicle and then fled Sunday evening in Hermitage, Mercer County. Authorities say an officer pursued the vehicle but was unable to catch it. The crash scene was discovered soon after and Mr. Castia was pronounced dead at the scene. I think the answer to this question is very, very easy.

Day 6: 15 Day Atheist Challenge

How do you feel about so-called "militant atheists" such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris? While I know of Sam Harris, I am unfamiliar with his work. I know that Hitchens is an atheist, but I know him more for his political writing than for his views on religion. I've read two of Dawkins books (The Blind Watchmaker and The Greatest Show On Earth), and liked both of them, I plan on reading others. That said, I don't much like the term "militant atheist." The term seems to be applied to "atheists who speak their minds." Which is then followed by "Why can't you people just be quiet?"


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 5: 15 Day Atheist Challenge

Did you lose any friends because you decided to be an atheist? Did your family flip out?

Not that I know of, and no. Would you really want to be friends with someone who refuses to befriend you because of your religion, or lack of religion?


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 4: 15 Day Atheist Challenge

Do you think religion is obsolete and should be wiped completely off the face of the earth, or does some good come out of it?

Say what? I think religion is unnecessary, but my general take on it is that if it gives you peace, some direction in life, or you are unable to control yourself in public without the threat of hell or promise of heaven, then go ahead and be religious.

Much evil has been done in the name of religion, but I don't think that has anything to do with religious teachings. Evil people have distorted and used many religious beliefs to get people to do their bidding, but that is the fault of those people, and not of religion per se.

Many other people have cited the teachings of their faith to do enormous good, such as building hospitals and schools, and providing relief to those in need. Like any tool, its all in how you choose to use it.


Your Saturday Morning Cartoon

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bath Fleecers?

This is the sort of thing that I have concerns about. Not only as an atheist, but as a person who believes people should be treated fairly.

Believing in the company took extreme forms at Bath Fitter of Pittsburgh, according to a federal civil complaint filed Thursday by a former sales representative of the well-known remodeling firm.
Doctrines that were drilled into employees -- for a fee taken out of their commissions -- were explicitly spiritual, insisting that sales representatives open themselves to "Pure Spirit, Love, Total Acceptance, Oneness, Immortality, Truth, Intelligence and Total Tolerance," while shutting out "Fear, Judgment, Separation/Ego, Death, Belief, Insanity," former rep Jo A. Yochum's complaint quoted from training handbooks.
And if you resisted the program, as 54-year-old Ms. Yochum did, you risked being branded "an atheist" and denied sales leads, the complaint filed in U.S. District Court said.

Here's what Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has to say on the matter:

With respect to religion, Title VII prohibits:
treating applicants or employees differently based on their religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring, assignments, discipline, promotion, and benefits (disparate treatment);
subjecting employees to harassment because of their religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – or because of the religious practices or beliefs of people with whom they associate (e.g., relatives, friends, etc.);
denying a requested reasonable accommodation of an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – if an accommodation will not impose more than a de minimis cost or burden on business operations;
retaliating against an applicant or employee who has engaged in protected activity, including participation (e.g., filing an EEO charge or testifying as a witness in someone else’s EEO matter), or opposition to religious discrimination (e.g., complaining to human resources department about alleged religious discrimination).

Here's a bit more from the same site:

Religious harassment in violation of Title VII occurs when employees are: (1) required or coerced to abandon, alter, or adopt a religious practice as a condition of employment (this type of “quid pro quo” harassment may also give rise to a disparate treatment or denial of accommodation claim in some circumstances); or (2) subjected to unwelcome statements or conduct that is based on religion and is so severe or pervasive that the individual being harassed reasonably finds the work environment to be hostile or abusive, and there is a basis for holding the employer liable.

Further along in the Post-Gazette's story, its noted that Ms. Yochum's federal complaint states she was required to participate in training with a firm called Partners Through People. This training was expensive, costing $90,000. Now I'm no expert, but I'm reasonably sure that the bill for job-required training, once you are an employee, is usually footed by your employer, however Ms. Yochum was required to pay for this training herself according to the complaint.

Now here is something interesting. The Post-Gazette identifies Sam Lucci as one of the owners of the local Bath Fitter franchise via FJW Investments Inc. Guess who is listed as the owner, founder, and CEO of Partners Through People? Sam J. Lucci III. Guess who is the Vice President of FWJ Investments? Sam J. Lucci III.

Now, for even more fun, lets look at the Parters Through People's "Testimonials" page. Here we find a testimonial from Frank Witkowski, President of FWJ Investments and locally, the public face of Bath Fitter.

"You owe it to yourself to experience this program. I ran a business for over 30 years, all the while feeling trapped in a big, ugly job. Partners Through People changed all that. I now know how to work on my business instead of in it. My hiring is better. My staff development is better. I won't allow a new employee to work for me without experiencing the program."

"I wont allow a new employee to work for me without experiencing the program." So, participation in this $90,000 program is a condition of employment at Bath Fitter. But there's more! Back to the complaint!

5. Defendant Z&G Enterprises, Inc. t/d/b/a Partners Through People, is a
Pennsylvania corporation with a registered office address of 535 Center Grange Road, Monaca, Pennsylvania 15061 and a registered principal place of business of 101 Pleasant Drive, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania 15001, with other locations in Allegheny County and surrounding areas. Z&G Enterprises is the registered owner of the Pennsylvania fictitious name Partners Through People, which maintains a registered principal place of business of 216 Pleasant Drive, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania 15001. Z&G Enterprises, Inc.

t/d/b/a Partners Through People purports to provide employee training programs to various employers, including FJW Investment, and their employees, including Yochum. Z&G Enterprises additionally trades and does business as Cabinet World, through which it provides cabinetry goods and services for kitchens, bathrooms and other household applications. Defendants Frank J. Witkowski and Samuel J. Lucci III founded and/or own and operate Z&G Enterprises.

HoHo!! So, Partners Through People is run through Z&G Enterprises which was founded by, and is owned in part by Frank Witkowski!! A third defendant, Maribeth A. Lucci is also listed as an officer with Partners Through People and FJW Investment.

If the allegations in the complaint are true, it looks like the entire operation is designed to funnel a portion of sales commissions back into the pockets of the owners through the mandatory training program.

...pursuant to the “Sales Trainee Agreement,” Yochum was required
to pay $90,000 for the purported sales training, which payment would be withheld as a deduction from her sales commissions otherwise payable to her by Bath Fitter. In the event Yochum’s employment with Bath Fitter should terminate before she achieved $3,000,000 in sales (which would generate withholding totaling $90,000), the “Sales Trainee Agreement” required Yochum to pay a “fee” equal to 3% of the shortfall in sales from the $3,000,000 requirement. (Thus, if Yochum failed to achieve any sales, she would owe the entire $90,000 “fee” as compensation for the purported sales training.)

17. During the course of her employment with Bath Fitter/Partners, Yochum
achieved and exceeded the $3,000,000 sales target, and therefore her required $90,000 “fee” was fully paid by way of deductions from her sales commissions. (Once she achieved the repayment of the training “fee” through her sales, however, the employer significantly reduced the sales leads it directed to her, redirecting such leads to newlyhired employees who still owed payment of the training “fee.”)

Anyone aside me have a problem with this? The complaint contains more disturbing allegations:

23. Even after Yochum had been employed for several years by Bath
Fitter/Partners, and consistently achieved high sales production, Defendants Witkowski, Sam Lucci and Marybeth Lucci all insisted that Yochum continue to endure “Break Out” sessions, that is, one-on-one religious indoctrination and brain-washing. When Yochum asked the reasons for the continuing training sessions, given her high sales figures and closing percentages, she was told that the requirement had nothing to do with her sales figures, but was necessary because she “did not have the right idea about God” and her “lack of trust in Him” would affect her “ability to sell” (notwithstanding her actualsuccessful sales performance).
24. When Yochum continued to object to the forced religious indoctrination,
Defendants told her that she would either need to resume the “Break Out” sessions or leave the company.

25. After Yochum’s employment was terminated, Defendant Sam Lucci stated
to other employees that he and Defendants Witkowski and Maribeth Lucci “could not work with” Yochum because she “was an atheist.”

Sure looks like discrimination to me! And what is wrong with people who cannot work with someone because their views on religion don't conform? Why should an employee be subject to this sort of on the job religious harassment? Shouldn't the only issue and consideration be job performance?

I liberally cut-and pasted from the court complaint, but feel free to read it yourself. I'm looking forward to how this one plays out.

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Day 3: 15 Day Atheist Challenge

Are you a more outspoken or more apathetic atheist? Why?

Depends on the issue. In general, I try to live and let live. I don't care what other people believe, or don't believe, so long as they aren't bothering others. I get far more vocal when it comes to things like the separation between church and state, or when people are being discriminated against for their beliefs. Some Christians, I've found, have some strange ideas about what constitutes discrimination. For an example, demanding that public schools refrain from endorsing religion through prayer times is not discrimination or persecution of Christians. Preventing students from engaging in prayer on their own time is, however.


Taxes Are For Little People

Isn't this interesting.

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.
The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.
Its American tax bill? None.

Full disclosure: I own GE stock. Guess who has to pay taxes on dividends earned?

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Looks Like Another Long Season

Flying Spaghetti Monster!

Pirates right-handed pitcher Kevin Correia will be the starter on Opening Day, April 1 when the club plays the Chicago Cubs, a National League Central rival at Chicago's Wrigley Field.

Left-hander Paul Maholm will start the Pirates' home opener on April 7 at PNC Park against the Colorado Rockies...

This spring, Correia and Maholm have each started five games. Correia has a 1-2 record and 6.38 ERA and has given up 27 hits in 18 1/3 innings; Maholm has pitched 20 innings, giving up 26 hits with an 0-3 record and 4.50 ERA.

Good gravy, even for spring those are horrible numbers! The position players seem to be firming up, but you cannot win without competent pitching! We saw this same scenario a few years ago where the Bucs had arguably the best outfield, defensively and offensively in the majors (Bay, McLouth, Nady) solid up the middle (Wilson, Sanchez), meh at the corners (LaRoche, Bautista), OK behind the dish (Paulino). This was the lineup that SHOULD have made the Pirates competitive, but the pitching staff fell apart that year. You simply cannot compete in the Bigs without competent pitching. Looks like we'r in for a replay of 2007.

Oh. My. Gawd.

What a bunch of a-holes.

A deputy prosector in Johnson County, Indiana, has resigned his job after it was revealed that in February, during the large protests in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union bill, he e-mailed Walker's office and recommended that they conduct a "false flag operation" -- to fake an assault or assassination attempt on Walker in order to discredit the unions and protesters.

This is a full fledged assault on working people. This is what "class warfare" looks like.


Now THIS is a clade I can sink my teeth into!

With Your Flavors Combined

Now Where Did I Put That Key??

This is pretty funny.

"The problem was apparently somebody didn't tell the staff that the president was coming back to work. The doors were locked.

Look under the doormat Mr. President!

Day 2: 15 Day Atheist Challenge

Question 2: (Note that the list had this question listed first, but I thought the post I typed yesterday had a better lead off question)

At what point did you know you were an atheist? Why did you become one, what were the factors leading up to the decision if you weren't always one?

Hmmm, there's a lot there. It was a gradual process, but it started when I was a teenager, and going through the confirmation process of the Catholic church. As part of the preparation for confirmation, I was required to go on a weekend retreat held at a small house on the church grounds. There were about 8 boys and 8 girls total, and we spent Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning engaged in instruction, prayer, and ritual. At night, the boys were locked in one room and the girls another, with the hallway patrolled by nuns so there would be no hanky-panky.
As part of the instruction, one of the nuns told us a story about how the Russians launched all their nuclear missiles at the US in the 1950's, but thanks to a group of nuns known as "The Blue Army" who prayed really hard, God made all the missiles blow up and crash in the ocean. Nope, not making it up, that's what she told us. That's when I thought to myself, "I know that didn't happen, what else are they lying about? And why is this person in a position of authority lying to me? Isn't lying supposed to be a sin?"
From that point on there was a gradual falling away. I stopped going to church except for weddings and funerals. "Nominal Catholic" is the term I believe. I still followed the rituals on the one or two times a year I might be in a house of worship, but I was just going through the motions, muscle memory, if you will.
I continued to read a great deal, and came to the conclusion through my reading that recent religions like Mormonism and Scientology were made up religions, one by a guy who wanted to boink multiple wives, and the other by a guy who wanted to make money off the gullible. From there, it isn't a far stretch to come to the conclusion that its ALL made up make believe. I don't want to come across like I'm picking on Mormons, because just about every Mormon I've ever met has been a delightful person. The less I type about Scientologists though, the better.
With all that, it wasn't until I was in my late 30's that I felt comfortable saying that I see no evidence for the existence of supernatural beings, and no need for such beings to exist.


Proud Bigots

There are days when I really don't know what happened to my country. Here's Bryan Fischer of the conservative American Family Association:

"Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam," Fischer wrote today.
"The First Amendment was written by the Founders to protect the free exercise of Christianity. They were making no effort to give special protections to Islam.

I certainly don't expect everyone to know all the ins and outs of the background of the First Amendment, but this guy is the group's Director of Issues Analysis, you'd expect he's know something about it. Even if he doesn't (and from his statements is clear that he doesn't) is he incapable of doing the Google?

Campaigning for religious freedom in Virginia, Jefferson followed Locke, his idol, in demanding recognition of the religious rights of the "Mahamdan," the Jew and the "pagan." Supporting Jefferson was his old ally, Richard Henry Lee, who had made a motion in Congress on June 7, 1776, that the American colonies declare independence. "True freedom," Lee asserted, "embraces the Mahomitan and the Gentoo (Hindu) as well as the Christian religion."
In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted with satisfaction that in the struggle to pass his landmark Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the Virginia legislature "rejected by a great majority" an effort to limit the bill's scope "in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan."

For those of you not familiar with Virginia's Statute of Religious Freedoms, the 1st Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion is based upon it.

Here's what some of Jefferson's contemporaries had to say (from the same article):

"Let Jews, Mehometans and Christians of every denomination enjoy religious liberty…thrust them not out now by establishing the Christian religion lest thereby we become our own enemys and weaken this infant state. It is mens labour in our Manufactories, their services by sea and land that aggrandize our Country and not their creeds. Chain your citizens to the state by their Interest. Let Jews, Mehometans, and Christians of every denomination find their advantage in living under your laws."

These so-called conservatives who claim that the Founders intended this to be a Christian nation, and that the 1st Amendment's guarantees do not apply to Islam are profoundly ignorant of history at best, and at worst, religious bigots.

As an aside, the AFA is one of the sponsers of the Values Voters Summit. Click the link to see which politicians have no shame with appearing at this forum.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Nice job kids!

Day 1: 15 Day Atheist Challenge

Question 1:

What religion did you grow up with? Did you have positive or negative experiences with religion?

OK, that's technically TWO questions, but why quibble?

I was raised as a Roman Catholic. I was never really "in" to it, I went through the various ceremonies and "life markers" such as confession, first communion and confirmation not because I really wanted to, but because I was expected to, and as a child, you do what you're told. I certainly didn't have any say in baptism!

Other than boredom, I can't say I had any overt negative experiences with Catholicisim. No priest molested me, and no nun rapped my hand with a ruler. So much for the stereotypes. At the time I regularly went to church (the 60's and 70's), the priests were actively pushing the social justice angle, at least at the various parishes we attended. I cannot recall the heavy anti-abortion focus that the church these days seems to emphasize, and even as a young teen, I had issues with the anti-female, patrician style of the Church.

Most of my negative experiences related to religion came from non-Catholic Christians, who would tell me, without a hint of awareness of how rude their comment was, that Catholics weren't "real" Christians, what ever the hell that was supposed to mean! I also had quite few Jewish friends growing up, and I recall some of the snide comments directed at them over the years, the "Christ-killer" insinuation being the most common. It seemed to me at the time, that the more overtly religious the person was, the more likely was the chance of some religiously inspired, bigoted comment being issued, with a total lack of self-awareness on the part of the speaker. That said, I also knew (and know) many deeply religious Christians who embodied everything their religion teaches them.

The parish I attended for most of the time was fairly progressive, and I recall one Sunday school class where the nuns brough in a Protestant minister (can't recall the denomination) and a conservative Rabbi to speak, sort of an interfaith comparitive religion class. I was around 11 or 12 years old at the time, and one of the kids asked the Rabbi why "Jews were all so rich?" My jaw hit the floor. The nun was agast, and the minister's eyes bulged a bit. The Rabbi, however, took it in stride, and spoke for a good 10 minutes about how most Jews value education, and a good education is the key for financial success. Well played!

Kids can be very cruel.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three Days

South Dakota enacts a 72 hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.

“I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives,” the Republican governor said the statement. “I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.”

For one thing, what makes the governor think that these women haven't already considered other alternatives? And I guess we all can infer what he means by "good choices," its the choice the governor wants you to make, not the choice that might be best for your health. Given that, do you really have a choice anymore?

All this law does is throw another obstacle in the path of someone seeking a legal medical procedure. There is only one clinic in the state that provides abortion services, so women in South Dakota are now subject to additional expenses (time missed from work, lodging, meals) in order to terminate a pregnancy.

This is actual interference by the government in a person's health care, something that the right wing was up in arms about when it came to health care reform. Apparently, its OK for the state to intervene in some medical decisions.

This law, which will probably cost the state a bundle in legal fees as a lawsuit is inevitable, was passed at the same time South Dakota is slashing funding for education, more evidence that the right cares more about fetuses than it does for children.

Remember, its TYRANNY if the government wants you to wait 24 hours before buying a firearm, but it is prudent consideration to make someone wait 72 hours for medical care.


Hell Freezes Over

I agree with Pat Toomey on something.

The freshman Republican said it was not clear to him what U.S. interest was being served by the attacks and said that while he was not a defender of the Libyan strongman, he was "not the only despicable character" on the international scene.

I suspect Toomey's questioning of policy has more to do with the President being a Democrat than any principled opposition to the use of force to enact regime change, for the simple reason that I can't recall Pat getting worked up over the Iraq invasion.

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15 Day Atheist Challenge

I found this series of questions online, and I think it will make for some interesting blog fodder. I am going to rearrange the questions slightly, as I think #2 is a better start point than #1. I'll probably start with the series tomorrow, and hopefully it will make for some interesting reading!

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Fallen Heroes Memorial

Happy. Birthday. Bill!

Today is William Shatner's Birthday! It is also the unofficial "Talk Like William Shatner Day!"

An All Too Common Occurence 'Round These Parts

Monday, March 21, 2011

Alaska Update

New charges filed against militia members who plotted to kill state troopers and judges.

The charges also allege the Vernons plotted to kill an IRS agent, also likely related to the court case over $165,000 in taxes, interest and penalties that the government says they owe.

The second indictment alleges that Schaeffer Cox, the leader of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, Lonnie Vernon and Coleman Barney conspired to possess illegal weapons. Cox is also accused of illegally possessing a Sten sub-machine gun and a silencer.

Of course, these people cannot by any stretch be considered terrorists, because they aren't mooslims, right Mr. King?


Gotta make sure we're spending tax dollars on the stuff that matters.

U.S. fires 110 tomahawk missiles, each costs $569,000. That’s more than 5 years of NPR federal funding in less than an hour.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Just Another Isolated Incident

A Useful Chart

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Your Saturday Morning Cartoon!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Night Python!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The slobs from Waste Management usually manage to spill crap (unless its the week they miss our street, which happens all to often) but this week, they outdid themselves! Rest assured, complaints have been filed.

Is This Really A Good Idea?

While few things would make me happier than to see Gaddafi go the way of Mubarek, is it really a good idea to get involved in yet another war?


Buyers' Remorse

Too bad we can't return the defective item.

Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to slash education funding and his continued opposition to taxing natural gas extraction aren't going over well with voters, according to a new poll.
A survey by Franklin and Marshall College showed 78 percent of respondents oppose reducing state funding for local school districts, and 67 percent rejected the governor's proposal to cut support to public universities in half.
Another 70 percent said they do not support proposed cuts to state funding for "Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income residents.

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Everyone Must Sacrifice

Except the wealthy.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee wants to cut the top U.S. tax rate to 25% for individuals and corporations, and cut or eliminate many popular deductions.

Remember, teachers and other public employees making 30k to 60k a year are lazy, greedy unionized socialists living on the gravy train and sucking the public teat, while the poor, oppressed and overly burdened "job creators" who are paying historically low taxes, require even more assistance from the government.


Newt Gingrich Is Moral...

P.Z. Myers is not.

Gingrich was cheating on his wife, but it's OK — because he also tells us that it was wrong and inexcusable, and then he wraps it all up in God and country to make excuses for it. Hypocrisy is acceptable as long as the right words are said to reinforce the public face of propriety.

Now look at those dirty rotten hippies, like me. We say the ties between a couple should be made with respect and affection, not the strictures of law and precedent; letting gays marry, for instance, strengthens the public approval of our kinds of bond, while weakening the authoritarian bonds. Our ideal is a community of equals, while theirs is a hierarchy of power, a relic of Old Testament values in which marrying a woman was like buying a camel, a certification of ownership, and nothing must compromise the Big Man's possession of properties.


Thought Crime

A woman in Iowa was arrested and jailed because she once thought of having an abortion.

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Gaelic Storm -- Kiss Me I'm Irish

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wolfe Tones - Wearing OF The Green

We'll Fight for Uncle Sam

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Geezer Rock

Looks like the Pirates post-game concert schedule is dominated by the Has-Beens Of Rock Tour.

I Have Nothing...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Just Another Isolated Incident


Glad to know these are all unrelated to each other.

Some additional background here, if you think these people are harmless, all-talk-no-action cranks, you are seriously mistaken. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it gets worse.

A Second Front

Republicans in Michigan are looking to outdo Wisconsin.

And the upper classes' strategy of total war on the middle and lower classes continues.

There's much, much more here at Crooks&Liars, including numerous graphics and charts illustrating that the so-called "right to work" states trail the nation in income levels, educational opportunity, and overall health.

Goo Goo G' Joob!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Keep It In Perspective

With the unfolding disasters in Japan, the anti-nuclear power voices are a-rising. I think it is important to keep in mind a couple of things. First, from Scientific American: Fly ash from coal powered plants can be radioactive.

Over the past few decades, however, a series of studies has called these stereotypes into question. Among the surprising conclusions: the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy...

...estimated radiation doses ingested by people living near the coal plants were equal to or higher than doses for people living around the nuclear facilities. At one extreme, the scientists estimated fly ash radiation in individuals' bones at around 18 millirems (thousandths of a rem, a unit for measuring doses of ionizing radiation) a year. Doses for the two nuclear plants, by contrast, ranged from between three and six millirems for the same period. And when all food was grown in the area, radiation doses were 50 to 200 percent higher around the coal plants.

Keep in mind the chance of harmful radioactive contamination from either source, fly ash or nuclear fuel, is remarkably low. From further in:

The chances of experiencing adverse health effects from radiation are slim for both nuclear and coal-fired power plants—they're just somewhat higher for the coal ones. "You're talking about one chance in a billion for nuclear power plants," Christensen says. "And it's one in 10 million to one in a hundred million for coal plants."

And then there's this:

Energy Source Death Rate (deaths per TWh)

Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China 278
Coal – USA 15
Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass 12
Peat 12
Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

Bottom line, what we are really learning from Japan is that building nuclear power plants in active seismic zones probably isn't a very good idea, unless they're build really, really, really well. I'll add that I'm less worried about the effects of radiation contained in fly ash, than I am with the widespread and well-known adverse health effects from stack emissions and the more likely case of ash impoundment failure versus the more remote chance of radiation "leakage" from deep waste storage of spent nuclear fuel. Never mind the enviromental impact of acid mine runoff, mountaintop removal, and the inherent danger to miners in extracting coal.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

70 Years

There are some amazingly sick people in this country.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Can we call them Nazis now?

In light of this huge wave of cuts, Sharon Omand, a community health care center manager and resident of Stafford, New Hampshire, called her state senator Martin Harty (R) recently to request more funding for community mental health programs and for the homeless. Omand was shocked by Harty’s response. The state senator told her “the world is too populated” and that there are too many “defective people.” When Omand asked what should be done with these “defective people” that are mentally ill, Harty suggested sending them to Siberia, something that he said Hitler was “right” to do.

What did the Republican Speaker in that state do? Did he condemn Harty's remarks? Nope, he defended the bigot.

Republican State House Speaker William O’Brien said that “at Harty’s age [90 years old], he has earned the right to say what he thinks, but ‘he needs to appreciate that as a representative, he will be held to a higher standard.’

It would appear that old age is carte blanc to be outrageous in New Hampshire.

Your Saturday Morning Cartoon!

Seems appropriate, as Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day parade is today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

ABC News Asks A Stupid Question

Did 'Supermoon' Cause 8.9 Earthquake in Japan?

The answer is "no." That a major broadcast news organization would devote airtime and two pages on the intertubes to such a ridiculous idea shows how absurd the "news" has become.

Myth v. Facts

Crystal Ball

This piece was written in 2007, and its amazing how presentient it is! Give it a read if you want to understand a bit of what's going on, and how its all a part of the plan.

Earthquake, Tsunami

Its amazing how powerful these things are. Dozens are dead in Japan. Head for the hills, Hawaii!

UPDATE: Hundreds dead in Japan, many, many more are missing. The quake lasted five minutes, which is an incredible amount of shaking. Scores of powerful aftershocks. The images and video from Japan are stupifying.

Donate here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Holy Crap!!

The Post-Gazette has me on their staff blogs blogroll?????

I'm stunned. And honored.

I'm not a particularly good writer, this blog mainly exists to give me a platform to rant and blow off steam, because:

A: I can't rant at work for a number of reasons.

B: My wife is sick of hearing about it.

Nice to know that someone other than Lsqrd and Lefty noticed!


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

George Carlin ~ The American Dream

In light of tonight's travesty in Wisconsin, and Governor Corbett's public education killing budget, the words of the late, great, George Carlin seem appropriate.

It Was Never ABout The Money

Republicans in Wisconsin stripped all the fiscal elements out of Scott Walker's union-busting bill, making a quorum unecessary. So what did they pass? A bill stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights, which was what this was always about, and had nothing at all to do with fiscal responsibility. To reiterate, the bill passed does nothing, nothing at all to address the state's fiscal situation. It means that workers cannot band together to speak with a unified voice.


Alleged White Supremacist Arrested in MLK Day Plot

Told ya so.

A man the Southern Poverty Law Center reports has ties to the neo-Nazi group National Alliance was arrested in an FBI raid on his home in Addy, Wash., Wednesday morning in connection with the attempted bombing of the Unity Parade on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

Kevin William Harpham, 36, of Addy, was taken into custody Wednesday morning at his Addy home. He was scheduled to make a first appearance in federal court in Spokane at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday...

The FBI has not commented on the raid, but the criminal complaint against Harpham, filed Tuesday in U.S. DIstrict Court in Eastern Washington, alleged that on or about Jan. 17, Harpham "did knowingly attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction" in that he placed an improvised explosive device along the Unity March parade route on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Just another one of those isolated incidents. Wonder if Representative Pete King will hold hearings on the terrorism dangers posed by bitter white guys?

Summing Up

I'll leave that to John Morgan at The Pennsylvania Progressive.

Contracts for Wall Street bankers are sacrosanct while contracts for union workers are socialism. Annual salaries in the billions for hedge fund managers are an honest day's wages while $50,000 for teachers are awful. Tax cuts for those billionaires are off the table while pay cuts for workers are required.

The Plan


Hey, get a load of what an elected official in Tennessee allowed on his website!

But don't you DARE call them racist!

(via Jesus' General)

Class Warfare

This is how its done, Georgia style.

Like many states, Georgia is facing a budget shortfall. To address the problem, the legislature is considering a bill that would expand the tax base by doing things like reinstating a sales tax on food and raising the tax on gasoline...

But while Girl Scouts and anyone who buys groceries and gasoline is forced to sacrifice, domestic and foreign corporations in Geogia are being lavished with a tax break. The same bill that raises taxes on Girl Scouts Cookies lowers tax rates on corporate income, from 6 percent this year to just 4 percent in 2014.

That is how you transfer wealth from the lower and middle classes to the upper crust, via highly regressive taxation.

(via gyma at Spork)

Eating The Seed Corn

At least we now know where the governor's priorities are, and it isn't with education.

The governor's proposed budget also would affect school districts across the state. Pittsburgh Public Schools estimated its loss at $34.1 million. Mr. Corbett also called for a public school employee wage freeze and sought greater freedom to furlough teachers.

A news advisory from Penn State University called the cuts "catastrophic."

The 50 percent loss in state funding applies to the 14 state-owned universities -- including California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock -- as well as four state-related schools: the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities.

If enacted, they likely would amount to the largest single-year cut ever in American public higher education, according to the Washington D.C.-based American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

"There have been some very large proposed cuts from governors this year, but this is so far off the charts it doesn't even seem plausible," said Daniel Hurley, the association's director of state relations and policy analysis...

At Pitt, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg called the proposed cuts "stunningly deep." He said the subsidy that the governor wants to chop in half has enabled his school to keep base undergraduate tuition nearly $10,000 lower for Pennsylvanians.

"It would be virtually impossible for us to maintain the size of differential that exists today," he said. "There would have to be a very significant increase in the in-state tuition

Mr. Nordenberg said Pitt also stands to lose $9 million in biomedical research support from the tobacco settlement fund on top of more than $7.5 million in federal stimulus funding that expires this year.

Noting that Pitt attracts $800 million annually in research that supports 28,000 jobs directly or indirectly, he said the proposed budget was a "puzzling retreat" from the governor's own agenda of job creation.

In agricultural terms, the cuts in higher education funding are akin to eating the seed corn. We're not going to be able to sustain a high technology workforce without well educated young people.
Will Bunch in the Daily News (from "back east") has more, including Corbett's rather cozy and lucrative ties to the gas drilling industry.
To middle-class state employees, to upwardly mobile college students at Pennsylvania-funded universities, to the working poor who've looked to Harrisburg for affordable health insurance, the newly inaugurated governor sent out more sacrifice signals yesterday than a third-base coach on a built-for-speed baseball team. He even urged that teachers take a one-year pay freeze — an issue not under his direct control.
"If government is here to share the taxpayer's wealth then everyone needs to share in the sacrifice," said the new governor, whose relaxed posture and shock of white hair threw off an aura of imperial calm, even as he metaphorically jabbed a budget dagger so sharp that would have made Caligula proud. "Educators, Pennsylvanians await your decision."
But there's another group that's tapping into big-time wealth - a buried treasure right here in Pennsylvania -- that isn't facing those kinds of tough decision that causes a pay-frozen schoolteacher's family to cut back on groceries or cancel a weekend down the shore.
That would be the economically booming, mostly out-of-state natural gas companies and their multi-millionaire CEOs, who continue to rapidly expand their aggressive form of drilling known as hydrofracking, or simply "fracking," across large swaths of upstate Pennsylvania. The companies take in hundreds of millions of dollars without paying any dedicated Pennsylvania tax -- even as such levies are imposed in the other 14 of the top 15 gas-producing states, even in red-state bastions of free-market libertarianism like Dick Cheney's native Wyoming and George W. Bush's Texas.
In a remarkable coincidence, 2010 gubernatorial candidate Corbett received a whopping $835,720 from oil-and-natural gas interests, including his largest single contributor - Marcellus Shale driller Terry Pegula and his wife Kim, who gave $305,000 to the Republican's campaign at the same time Pegula was selling his exploration firm to Royal Dutch Shell and pocketing a $3 billion check. Indeed, Corbett's career in elective Pennsylvania politics was launched in 2004 when an Oklahoma gas driller - Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy - funneled most of the dollars for an eye-popping $480,000 donation that went to Corbett's attorney general campaign from an obscure GOP fund.
Funny how that works out, eh? Drillers get to take the gas for free, while we will face at best, higher property taxes in order to keep our local education standards up to snuff, and markedly higher tuition if we want to send our kids to what were at one time affordable and excellent state schools. At the worst, Corbett's efforts to prevent school districts from making up lost revenue from the state through local levies will destroy public education. But that's what they want, isn't it?
Tom Corbett. Bought and paid for by the gas industry.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Corbett Guts Education

And a bunch of other stuff.

Because we just can't have an extraction tax on natural gas. Everyone must suffer, except the well off.

Pennsylvania's flat income tax: 3.07%
West Virginia: Ranges from 3% to 6.5%
Ohio: Ranges from .587% to 5.295%
New York: Ranges from 4% to 6.85%
Maryland: Ranges between 2% and 6.25%
New Jersey: Ranges from 1.4% to 8.97%
Delaware: Ranges between 2.2% and 5.95%

(tax data obtained here)

Note that every state surrounding Pennsylvania has a progressive income tax system (although NY, while it has a progressive tax structure, effectively has a flat tax). Only PA has a flat tax. If you look at the brackets for the median income range, you'll find that Delaware taxes income at 5.55%, NJ at 5.525%, NY at 6.85% (NY taxes all income above 20k at this rate, which is why it is effectively a flat tax), Ohio 4.695%, and WV at 6%, all substantially higher than PA's flat 3.07%. Compared to our neighbors, Pennsylvanians do not pay a heavy income tax burden to Harrisburg.

Just look at some of the stuff that will get no funding at all.

Some programs would get no funding at all, if Mr. Corbett has his way. Those include the Science is Elementary Program introduced by former Gov. Ed Rendell, teachers' professional development for the arts, flood control projects, regional cancer institutes, poison control centers and programs for people with diabetes, lupus and epilepsy.

The cuts to higher eductation have the potential to put a college education out of reach for middle class families:

Penn State President Graham Spanier scheduled a news conference tomorrow to discuss what the university described as "the Commonwealth's apparent push toward privatization of public higher education, which will force a significant tax on all tuition-paying families of in-state students" attending Pennsylvania's public universities.
"A funding gap this large is going to fundamentally change the way we operate, from the number of students we can educate, to the tuition we must charge, to the programs we offer and the services we can provide, to the number of employees and the research we undertake," Mr. Spanier said.

Our Galtian overlords have no use for or need of public colleges and universities, so no great loss there, eh?


Monday, March 07, 2011

Ink Spots

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that ink was chemically tagged to pinpoint its manufacture date. Turns out that could be a key factor in Jane Orie's public corruption trial.

...a similar analysis could be used to authenticate or debunk several handwritten directives that Orie said she gave Pavlot to prohibit campaign work on state time. In general, Orie testified to writing the directives on dated faxes, letters or printouts of e-mails.

Lyter said U.S. ink companies stopped tagging in 2005, although experts can sometimes determine when an ink was made because manufacturers track the dates when they change ink formulas. But before 2005, about half the ink in pens used by most Americans was made by a handful of companies that still used chemical tags. That means if investigators chose to examine documents Orie testified she wrote before then, there's about a 50 percent chance the ink would contain a chemical tag, Lyter said.

If tests show, for example, that ink Orie used to write an order to Pavlot on a 2002 e-mail wasn't manufactured until a later year, Burkoff said, the senator would have essentially implicated herself by her prior testimony.

"If that happens, it's game over," Burkoff said.

Of course, there's a equal chance that the ink isn't tagged.



Fox News cannot broadcast in Canada because it would violate a provision of Canadian law that prevents lying on broadcast news.

Pension Posing

Another nontroversy.

A close look at state and local pension plans across the nation, and a comparison of them to those in the private sector, reveals a more complicated story. However, the short answer is that there's simply no evidence that state pensions are the current burden to public finances that their critics claim.

Pension contributions from state and local employers aren't blowing up budgets. They amount to just 2.9 percent of state spending, on average, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the figure a bit higher at 3.8 percent.

Though there's no direct comparison, state and local pension contributions approximate the burden shouldered by private companies. The nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that retirement funding for private employers amounts to about 3.5 percent of employee compensation.

Nor are state and local government pension funds broke. They're underfunded, in large measure because — like the investments held in 401(k) plans by American private-sector employees — they sunk along with the entire stock market during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. And like 401(k) plans, the investments made by public-sector pension plans are increasingly on firmer footing as the rising tide on Wall Street lifts all boats.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.


Seed Starting

Its that time of year again!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Phil Collins Retires, Apologizes.


Citing health problems, the famed Genesis drummer and vocalist is calling it quits from the music biz. He tells FHM that years of hunching behind his drum kit has left him with an array of medical problems, from hearing loss to a dislocated vertebra, and nerve damage in his stick-clutching hands make playing painful.

"I'm sorry that it was all so successful. I honestly didn't mean it to happen like that.

I don't think he needs to apologize for his success. He only needs to apologize for "Sussudio." And "Duke."

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Your Saturday Morning Cartoon!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Quotation Of The Day

Who said this?

"These are the values inspiring those brave workers... They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost."

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

Friday Night Python!


I thought we settled this question in 1865?

After being shot down earlier this week, the Arizona State Senate revived and successfully passed a bill that would create a mechanism for the state to nullify federal laws.

I thought these people were the "strict Constitutionalists?" Gotta wonder what part of Article VI these clowns do not understand.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

They are certainly free to challenge the Constitutionality of any Federal law, but nullification is illegal, and any elected official that engages in it is in violation of the oath of office.

Voter Fraud!

And once again, its a Republican that's charged.

Secretary of State Charlie White, the top election official in Indianapolis, is facing seven felony counts, including voter fraud, perjury and theft, all connected to what a prosecutor said was an attempt to hold on to his seat on the town council even though he was living outside of his designated district.
White was indicted by a grand jury in Hamilton County on three counts of voter fraud for allegedly lying about his address when he voted in last year's Republican primary, the Courier-Journal
reports. In addition he's facing charges of perjury, fraud on a financial institution (for lying about his address) and theft for keeping the salary he received as a member of his town council after he moved out of his designated district.

Nary an ACORN to be found.

Its The Coverup That Gets You

The P-G and the Trib have extensive writeups today on yesterday's bombshell mistrial of the Orie sisters, where it was revealed that defense documents were obviously altered. As I mentioned yestrday, things ain't looking too good for the senator, as tampering with evidence and forgery are far more serious crimes than using your staff to do campaign work on the taxpayer's dime.
From the P-G:
Declaring that fraud had been committed, "on the court, the jury and our justice system," Judge Jeffrey A. Manning declared a mistrial Thursday in the corruption case against state Sen. Jane Orie after finding that her defense had submitted forged evidence.
Judge Manning repeatedly excoriated the defense after prosecutors presented evidence that the signature of Jamie Pavlot, Ms. Orie's former chief of staff and a key prosecution witness, had been forged on two documents...
Many, like the Sept. 25 letter, included the senator's handwritten instructions to Ms. Pavlot. Those messages were helpful to the defense in that they reinforced their portrayal of Ms. Pavlot as the day-to-day supervisor of the office, and of Ms. Orie as a boss who repeatedly urged her to ensure that political and legislative work were scrupulously separated.
Unlike most of the evidence, which was exchanged by the two sides in pretrial discovery, that collection of papers was not presented until late in the trial and the papers were not available to the prosecution until a few days ago. They represented a significant part of the senator's defense. Mr. Costopoulos had shown them one by one in his cross-examination of Ms. Pavlot. Then, as well as in his final arguments, he mocked the fact that the former chief of staff said she didn't recognize them.
Now we know why she didn't recognize them. They're forgeries.

Here's the Trib:

"It's deceitful, dishonest, despicable, and it's a crime," Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said about signatures on defense documents that he said appeared to be doctored or cut and pasted.
Orie, 49, and her sister, Janine Orie, 56, will likely face a retrial on accusations that they ordered the senator's staff to do campaign work, after prosecutors investigate the signatures, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus told the judge.
"I think you ought to look in your own house for the culprit," Manning told defense attorney William Costopoulos...
"I've never seen anything like this. I think it's incredible, and it's shocking," said John Burkoff, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who has been following the trial. "To try to find anything like this, you can't look to past trials, you have to look to movies.

Stranger than fiction indeed. I found this nugget in the Trib interesting:

If it turns out Manning erred in ordering the mistrial, the Ories could not be tried again on the same charges because the rules of double jeopardy would apply, he said. Defense attorneys objected to Manning's mistrial ruling.

I think that is very unlikely, but it is possible.

Depending on how the documents were altered, she may skate. If she did the cut and paste job herself, it will probably be impossible to prove, since she'd just deny it. If, however, it was done by a third party at her direction, and that third party can be identified by the prosecution, she's toast. In any case, what were defense exhibits have now become evidence for the prosecution, as they can be used to imply that Orie knew she was improperly mixing campaign work with official business, and tried to deflect the blame from herself and onto her chief of staff.
And what does it all mean for Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin? A grand jury continues to investigate.
The next few weeks are going to be very, very interesting.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

We're Broke! But Why?

The New York Times knows why.

A country with a deficit is not necessarily any more “broke” than a family with a mortgage or a college loan. And states have to balance their budgets. Though it may disappoint many conservatives, there will be no federal or state bankruptcies.
The federal deficit is too large for comfort, and most states are struggling to balance their books. Some of that is because of excessive spending, and much is because the recession has driven down tax revenues. But a substantial part was caused by deliberate decisions by state and federal lawmakers to drain government of resources by handing out huge tax cuts, mostly to the rich. As governments begin to stagger from the self-induced hemorrhaging, Republican politicians like Mr. Boehner and Mr. Walker cry poverty and use it as an excuse to break unions and kill programs they never liked in flush years....

Before the union uprising, Wisconsin voters might not have noticed when Mr. Walker approved business tax cuts earlier this year that made his budget gap worse. But now, with his cries of being “broke,” they should listen more closely. On Tuesday, he unveiled a budget that would cut aid to school districts and local governments by nearly $1 billion over two years, while preventing those jurisdictions from raising property taxes at all to make up for the loss.

Its all part of the plan. These people are fundamentally opposed to government working to help anybody except the very wealthiest, who can afford to live in gated communities, hire private security, and send their children to private schools. What use are public services to our Galtian overlords?

Hate Comes to Orange County

This is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen.

Lone Wolf

I suspect we'll be seeing more and more of these undirected attacks inspired by violent religious extremism, as these plots are, in my opinion, far harder to detect and thwart than a large scale terrorist attack.

An Interesting Development

What could this be about?

Jury deliberations in state Sen. Jane Orie's corruption case were halted this morning when the judge presiding in the case said he suspects that two defense documents were altered.

I haven't had anything to say about the defense portion of this case, but in a nutshell, Orie is blaming her chief of staff, Jamie Pavlot.

UPDATE: Mistrial declared. And it looks like more bad news for the Orie sisters.

The order this afternoon by Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning followed his earlier order to suspend deliberations after the prosecution accused the defense of having submitted altered documents among its exhibits.

Prosecutor Lawrence Claus displayed three documents that he said showed evidence that the signature of Jamie Pavlot was cut and pasted from one document to another. Ms. Pavlot was Ms. Orie's top aide in the North Hills office and a major witness for the prosecution.

Defense attorney William Costopoulos said "these were not doctored."

A clearly irate Judge Jeffrey Manning rejected the protest.

"Ray Charles could see that signature was doctored," he said, pointing to an image of one document projected on the wall. The three documents are 101A, 101B and 110. They are part of a package of 50 documents introduced into evidence.

Judge Manning ordered deliberations halted and the documents retrieved from the jury room. He ordered that a forensic document analyst be brought in to examine the papers.

You can view the documents here.

I would not be at all surprised to see additional charges brought.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Legislative Priorities

Republicans in Wisconsin are introducing legislation to ban prank phone calls.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-Waukesha, and Rep. Mark Honadel, R-Milwaukee, authored a bill that would prohibit tricking the call’s recipient into believing the caller is someone they are not for malicious purposes.

“While use of spoofing is said to have some legitimate uses, it can also be used to frighten, harass and potentially defraud,” Lazich and Honadel said in an e-mail to legislators.

The bill language forbids a caller from intentionally providing a false phone number and convincing the person receiving the call that it comes from someone other than the actual caller.

You think this has anything to do with Governor Walker sounding like an ass when he thought he was sucking Koch?


Next up, legislators to consider criminalizing the whoopie cushion.

Things I Did Not Know

Wisconsin has palm trees.
Thank you Fox News!
Via Digby.

Happy Birthday Lou!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

They Never Seem To Get It Right

Via Friendly Atheist, we learn of a school district in Virginia that simply doesn't understand the law, and this time, its Christians who are getting the slimy end of the stick.

...members of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Floyd County High School say administrators tore down taped copies of the Ten Commandments from more than 50 lockers on Wednesday.
"We really wanted to set it up as an example," said FCA member
Andrew Harris.
Harris plays golf for Floyd County High School and is one of the students who posted the Commandments to his locker.
"Birthday wishes, things like that seem to go up without an approval stamp," said
School officials would not confirm to WSLS what happened, but did reveal their policy on posting to lockers. Principal
Barry Hollandsworth said while approval is needed for flyers and announcements, he said notes such as happy birthday and well wishes for sports games do not need approval.
David Corry, the senior litigation counselor for the Liberty Counsel, thinks that if students can post things like birthday wishes and any other sort of well wishes, that all religious speech should be allowed.

Guess who else agrees? The ACLU!

The ACLU of Virginia has come to the defense of a group of Christian athletes in Floyd County.
In an e-mail sent Friday afternoon, the civil liberties group said it had e-mailed the principal of
Floyd Co. High School (FHS), and urged him to allow students to post their personal views, including copies of the Ten Commandments, on the lockers.

Its really quite simple, and I don't understand why so many school administrators do not get it. The School, as an arm of the government, cannot compel, coerce, or encourage one religion or another over any other belief system, or lack of religious belief. They also cannot prevent the students from exercising their religious rights, so long as those expressions of religious belief aren't disruptive. If the school allows personal messages on a student's locker, then the student is free to put up a religious affirmation on the locker as well. Its the same with the facilities. If the school starts the day with a prayer, or a moment of silence, its a violation. If a group of students wishes to gather before school, or during free time, or after school to engage in prayer, or bible study, or whatever, they're allowed to.

You'd think that people with college degrees could grasp this rather simple legal concept.

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