What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 24, 2017

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter!

It's been just under a month since I posted my last Toomey response and so it filled my heart with glee (the mundane human emotion kind not the TV High School Glee club singing impossibly well kind) when I received another letter from Pennsylvania's junior Senator yesterday - via the Post Office.

It begins thusly:
Thank you for contacting me about President Trump. I appreciate hearing from you.
Standard opening but look: He's answering a Trump letter!!

Which one?  That's the problem.  Since the letter is dated September 12 we can dispense with any of my letters sent after that date (to be honest though, there were only two and not about Trump - my point here is moo.)

So which letter is it?
  • Letter 2 - where I ask about Trump's difficulty in being truthful:
    Doesn't it at all concern you that the leader of the free world (and head of your political party, by the way) has, on numerous occasions, made public statements that are demonstrably untrue? We're not talking about differences of opinion here, there was no immigrant/terrorist incident that night in Sweden, he did not have the highest number of electoral votes since Ronald Reagan, the murder rate is not the highest its been in 47 years and there were not between 3 and 5 million illegal votes cast.

    There are only two possibilities. He knows they're not true but he says them anyway (in which case he's lying on a massive scale) or he believes them to be true (in which case he must have a problem comprehending reality).

    Doesn't that concern you? And if not, why not?
  • Letter 3 -  where I ask about Trump's tweet regarding the press:
    Do you agree with Donald Trump (your chosen candidate this past November) that the news media (including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and the New York Times) constitutes an "enemy of the people" of the United States?
  • Letter 6 -  where I ask about Trump's continued claim that the Obama administration had wiretapped him, despite being debunked by the Justice Department:
    The facts are clear and yet Donald Trump continues to push this untruth. So here's my question: How much does this erode your confidence in his ability as a leader?
  • Letter 10 - where I ask about Trump's refusal (so far) to release his tax returns:
    The reason the American people are entitled to see any sitting president's tax returns is simple: we have a right to know if decisions are being made for the good of the American people or simply for the good of that president's finances. One of the best ways to know that is to know see that president's financial details.

    If it was good enough for Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, it should be good enough for Donald J. Trump, don't you agree?
  • Letter 13 - where I ask about Trump's meeting in the Oval Office with Russian officials:
    Given the events of the last few days (the Comey firing and the disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians) do you a still have confidence in Donald J Trump's ability to be president and commander in chief? If not, what are your plans to deal with him? If you still do have confidence in his leadership abilities, considering the events of the past few days, what would it take for you to lose that confidence?
  • Letter 14 - where I ask again about Trump's meeting in the Oval Office with Russian officials, when he called the recently fired FBI Director James Comey "a real nut job":
    Are you OK with the president of the United States in effect bragging to the Russian Ambassador that he'd just fired the guy in charge of the investigation into whatever connections there may have existed between his presidential campaign and Russian intelligence?
  • Letter 21 - where I ask about the news reports that Trump was looking at replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Note: as of this writing Sessions has not been replaced) possibly in order to stop the Mueller investigation:
    Given that you've already publicly declared that you have "every confidence" in Mueller's "integrity and professionalism", is this OK with you?

    Is it OK with you that Donald J. Trump, as elected leader of the country and (more importantly, it seems) leader of your party, has chosen a route so disrespectful of the rule of law? If he gets away with it would the phrase "rule of law" have any meaning anymore?
  • Letter 22 - where I ask about Trump's dictation of his son Donald Jr's first statement regarding his meeting with the Russians:
    That statement said the meeting was primarily about Russian adoption and it has since been shown to be misleading, at best. Dishonest, at worst. By any reckoning, it was a personally dictated presidential deception about Russian meddling with our election.

    So, here's my question: How comfortable are you with the President of the United States misleading the American people on such an important matter?

    You voted for him, you have to have an opinion about this. I'd like to know what it is.
  • Letter 23 - where I ask about Trump's speech to the Boy Scouts:
    Not only did Donald J Trump lie about the Boy Scouts but that speech, as you probably know by now, triggered an apology from the Scouts to anyone offended by the "political rhetoric injected into the jamboree."

    Senator Toomey, you were a Boy Scout (an Eagle Scout, in fact). So here's this week's question: How and why do you continue to support such a man who would blatantly politicize the Boy Scouts and then lie about it later?
  • Letter 24 - where I ask about Trump's response to the white supremacists' rally in Charlottesville:
    Given your statement of the 14th, when you asserted your unambiguous disgust with white supremacists (et al) and Trump's departure from his statement and re-embrace of "blame both sides", has your support for Donald Trump, the leader of your political party and the man you voted for for president, wavered in any way?
  • Letter 25 - where I ask about Trump's pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio:
    Is this OK with you? That a man convicted of "flagrantly disregarding" a federal judge's direct order not to violate anyone's constitutional rights gets a pardon for it?

    Do you agree with your Senate colleague, John McCain, when he said that "The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”?
  • Letter 26 - where I ask about Trump's tweet regarding his claim that President Obama wiretapped his phone:
    Either Trump was lying in that he knew that what he was tweeting wasn't true but tweeted it anyway or he was negligent in that he fail (sic) to pick up the phone to confirm the story with the DOJ before tweeting. He's the leader of your party. You voted for him for in November. You're legislating his agenda in the Senate. How can you continue to support Donald J Trump?
As you can see I've been asking Senator Toomey about Donald Trump for almost as long as I've been writing to Senator Toomey. The first letter on the above list, in fact, was posted March 7. You'll note that the letters seem to be in this format:
  1. I say that Trump has done something "iffy"
  2. I ask Senator Toomey, "Are you OK with that?"
And this is Toomey's response, verbatim:
On January 20, 2017 Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Since the inauguration, I have heard from a number of Pennsylvanians both in support and opposition to the President. In a state as large and diverse as ours, I can certainly understand there being a wide array of opinions regarding the President, and I appreciate you taking the time to share yours.

When talking about the President during her concession speech, Hillary Clinton said that "we owe him an open mind and the chance to lead" and that she hopes "he will be a successful president for all Americans." I agree with her sentiments and look to work with the President and his administration to help improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians - but also stand up against the President when he does not carry out his duties appropriately.

Clearly, there is much to be done to turn Washington around, and we need to work together on ways to to help grow the economy, strengthen our national security, and bring back some common sense to federal regulations.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
As you can guess, I have no idea which of my eleven letters Senator Toomey is addressing as he doesn't actually refer to any one specifically. But let's take a closer look at what he does say. If the letter is to be believed, he's still approaching Trump with "an open mind" and giving him "a chance to lead" still hoping he'll be "successful" even after all of the Trump-stuff I asked about about.

And so that's our answer, my friends:
Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is OK with Donald J Trump's many assaults on American democracy, decency, and the rule of law.
One last thing, Senator.  You've taken Clinton out of context just a tad. Here's the full paragraph from her concession speech immediately following her "we owe him" sentence:
Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don't just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things; the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too and we must defend them.
How much of that runs in direct opposition to what we know now about Trump?  It's oh so interesting that Pat Toomey isn't using that text to tell us that we owe Trump and open mind and the chance to lead.

September 22, 2017

Announcement: PODCAMP PITTSBURGH 2017

On Saturday the 30th, I'll be giving a talk at this year's PodCamp.

It's titled "Fact-Checking In The Time Of Trump." The description:
It’s been shown time and time again that the current administration has been, shall we say, less than honest when speaking about, shall we say, anything. For the electorate, for the average citizen this can be a challenge. How do you separate the news from the fake news? I’d like to offer a few suggestions.
One O'Clock. I'll be in the big room.

That is all.

September 21, 2017

Hey, Who Said That?? Maybe Someone Should Ask Senator Toomey.

Take a look at this:
Although we support providing states with greater flexibility in shaping health care options for their residents, we share the significant concerns of many health care organizations about the proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions. The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans. Legislation must also ensure adequate funding for Medicaid to protect the most vulnerable.
Who said that???

That would be Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

How about this:
Throughout the debates this year we have consistently recommended that any proposals to replace portions of current law should ensure that individuals currently covered do not become uninsured. Proposals should maintain key insurance market reforms, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue, and parental coverage for young adults; stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market; ensure that low- and moderate-income patients are able to secure affordable and meaningful coverage; and guarantee that Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other safety-net programs are adequately funded.

Unfortunately, the Graham-Cassidy Amendment fails to match this vision and violates the precept of “first do no harm.” Similar to proposals that were considered in the Senate in July, we believe the Graham-Cassidy Amendment would result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance coverage, destabilize health insurance markets, and decrease access to affordable coverage and care. We are particularly concerned with provisions that repeal the ACA’s premium tax credits, cost-sharing reductions, small business tax credit, and Medicaid expansion, and that provide inadequate and temporary block grant funds (only through 2026) in lieu of the ACA’s spending on marketplace subsidies and the Medicaid expansion.
That would be the American Medical Association.

Or this:
The Graham-Cassidy bill, as proposed on September 13, 2017, threatens to make health care unaffordable and inaccessible for millions of older Americans. The bill eliminates two sources of financial assistance – premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions – critical to ensuring that low-to moderate-income older adults are able to afford the coverage they need. For a 60-year old earning $25,000 a year, premiums and out-of-pocket costs could increase by as much as $ 16,174 a year if they wanted to keep their current coverage. The bill may also allow states to charge older adults age 50 - 64 significantly higher premiums than under current law on the basis of their age by waiving federal protections that limit the practice known as age rating.
That would be the AARP.

Are you paying attention, Senator Toomey?

September 19, 2017

My Twenty-Eighth Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

News hit over the last few days that Senate Republicans are trying again to repeal and replace Obamacare. The latest attempt, the Graham-Cassidy bill, would reportedly waive key provisions of Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions. In other words insurers can raise premiums based on someone's medical history, probably pricing more than a few out of coverage. The bill also replaces several ACA provisions with block grants to the states - which then are phased out by 2026. Millions of people (including many of your constituents) will loose their healthcare coverage. Some of those people will die because they can't afford to see a doctor.

The Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that they won't have time to fully analyze the bill before the end of the month, coincidentally exactly when Senate Republicans will no longer be able to pass this with only 50 votes. So you don't have any idea as to what this bill will do to the deficit or how it will impact the American People.

Here's my question: Is any of this OK with you? And if it is, you'll have to explain to me how you can be comfortable with hurting so many of your fellow Pennsylvanians, your constituents.

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up:

September 18, 2017

September 15, 2017

What Do People Think Of Donald Trump?

From Axios:
A Trump adviser says that after a tumultuous seven months in office, it had finally dawned on the president: "People really f@&@ing hate me." For someone who has spent his life lapping up adulation, however fake, it was a harsh realization. This is a man with an especially acute need for affirmation.
Yes, that's true.  People fucking hate you, Donald Trump.  Lots of them.

We're just hoping to get out this alive.

September 14, 2017

All Politics Is Local (Some Senatorial Hypocrisy)

From The Washington Post:
The top Republican in the Senate is ready to formally dispense with a long-running practice that gives senators an early chance to block federal judicial nominees who would have jurisdiction over their states — at least at the appeals court level.

In an interview with the New York Times this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wants to get rid of individual senators’ power to block nominees to the appeals courts — the dozen powerful circuits just one notch below the Supreme Court — from being considered.

“My personal view is that the blue slip, with regard to circuit court appointments, ought to simply be a notification of how you’re going to vote, not the opportunity to blackball,” Mr. McConnell said on the Times’ “The New Washington” podcast, referring to the custom senators from affected states need to sign off on a physical blue slip before a nominee can formally start the congressional vetting process.
And from that NYTimes piece:
Now, with some Democrats refusing to consent as the Trump administration moves to fill scores of judicial vacancies, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, is for the first time publicly advocating that the blue slip be made strictly advisory when it comes to appeals court nominees — the most powerful judges after those on the Supreme Court.
Guess what?

From the Post-Gazette a few years ago:
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday grilled four nominees for federal judgeships, but one Pennsylvania jurist isn’t on the confirmation agenda even though he appears to have wide support.

Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District, was nominated six months ago to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, but his confirmation hearing is being held up, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. is at the center of the delay.

Mr. Toomey said he strongly supports Judge Restrepo, but he hasn’t formally endorsed by officially signing off on the nomination. On judicial confirmations, the Senate traditionally defers to home-state senators whose signatures on blue slips of paper allow confirmation hearings to move forward.
He finally did turn in the blue slip - 6 months after Restrepo's nomination.

The point here is that if McConnell's proposed rule was in place then, there would not have been any delay at all. Toomey's support would have presumably been reflected in his "notification of how...to vote" and it would have been over much sooner.

On the other hand, Toomey wouldn't have been able to make a passive aggressive protest against Obama's immigration policy. Now that the legislative shoe is on the other foot...

Yea I know. Surprising, huh?