What Fresh Hell Is This?

March 21, 2018

Meanwhile Outside....

Gee, I wonder how the science deniers will be reading this State of the Climate report from NOAA:
February 2018 was characterized by near to cooler-than-average conditions across a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere land, while much of the Southern Hemisphere land had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions. The most notable cool temperature departures from average were present across North America, where temperatures were 3.0°C (5.4°F) below average or lower for some locations. The most notable warm temperature departures from average were present across parts of the southeastern contiguous U.S., western Alaska, northeastern Africa, the Middle East, and Russia's Far East, where temperatures were 2.0°C (3.6°F) above average or higher. Much of the world's oceans had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average temperatures, with near- to cooler-than-average conditions across the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, southeastern Pacific Ocean, eastern Indian Ocean, and across parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Record warmth was limited to small areas across the eastern contiguous U.S., southern Argentina, the Middle East, Russia's Far East, New Zealand, and scattered across all oceans. However, no land or ocean areas experienced record cold temperatures during February 2018. Regionally, Oceania and Africa had their fourth and tenth warmest February on record, respectively, while Europe had its coolest February since 2012.

Overall, the combined global land and ocean temperature for February 2018 was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.9°F) and the 11th highest February temperature in the 1880–2018 record. This value was also 0.57°C (1.03°F) cooler than the record high set in 2016 and was the smallest February temperature departure from average since 2014. February 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive February and the 398th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The global land temperature of 1.01°C (1.82°F) above the 20th century average of 3.2°C (37.8°F) was also the smallest February land temperature since 2014 and the 15th highest in the 139-year record. Averaged as a whole, the global oceans had their lowest February temperature since 2013 and the seventh highest February temperature on record.
My guess is that they'll read this part:
February 2018 was characterized by near to cooler-than-average conditions across a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere land...
And simply skip this part:
...while much of the Southern Hemisphere land had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions.
In order to "prove" that the planet is "actually" cooling down.

They'll take this:

Which shows a definite upward trend in red lines and focus instead on this:

In order to "prove" that global temperatures "actually peaked" three years ago.

This is how they'll skew the data - if they bother to write about it at all.

Meanwhile, despite the snow outside my window on the first full day of Spring, it's still getting warmer outside. The science says so.

March 20, 2018

My FIFTY-THIRD 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 - a constituent of yours who writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

I'd like to step away from asking you about any of the many Trump scandals now facing the nation and turn instead to a more local story - Pennsylvania Congressional redistricting.

The Hill reported that you referred to the recent State Supreme Court ruling striking down the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 as a "blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process." You also refused to reject the idea of impeaching members of the State Court for that reaching that decision. The State Supreme Court in striking down the act, however, said that it "clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." It was from that point alone (which is to say, by relying only on state law), they found the Redistricting Act to be unconstitutional.

The United State Supreme Court, only yesterday, refused to overturn the State court's decision.

So here are my questions: Given all of the above, do you still think that the State Supreme Court decision is unconstitutional?  Do you still think it appropriate for state legislators to discuss impeachment for deciding that the then-current redistricting plan unconstitutionally favored one party (yours) over the other?

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


March 17, 2018

In Case You Missed It - A Four Star General Speaks Out Against Trump. Again.

Let's list (some of) the man's accomplishments:
And so on.

To be sure, this is not the first time he's spoken out against the porn star-boffing vulgarity.  Here he is in August of 2016:
My public comments in the media on national security since leaving active service have tried to steer clear of partisan debate. I am not registered with either political party. I have worked with loyalty and genuine respect at very senior levels for both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.

The shameful reaction by presidential candidate Donald Trump to the mother and father of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan prompts me to state publicly that Trump should never serve as our commander in chief. The decorated Capt. Khan, who was killed in action in Iraq at age 27 while bravely defending his soldiers during a suicide attack, is the best America offers. His grieving parents were understandably outraged at the degrading notion that America should have a religious screen, legally denying immigration status to Muslims.

Trump’s cruel cultural jab at Ghazala Kahn as a grieving Gold Star mother is simply the final straw. In my judgment, Trump, if elected, would provoke a political and constitutional crisis within a year. He has called for the illegal torture of enemy detainees. He has called for the deliberate targeting and murder of civilians as retribution. He has questioned whether the U.S. should actually fulfill our defense obligations under the NATO pact. These NATO obligations are a U.S. Senate-ratified treaty that Trump should know is the highest law of the land.
And here he is in March of 2016:
Known for his direct talk and unvarnished opinions, McCaffrey had a blunt description of the current political landscape: "I must admit that 10 years ago, if you tried to describe the situation with an aging socialist, with a possibly indicted competent Democrat, against someone who can be kindly characterized as a braggart and buffoon, it would be hard to believe that this would be the situation." Being personally familiar with numerous public figures and politicians, he stated that "generally speaking I am very empathetic to political leaders. We get better than we deserve for the most part," and he added, "I know Hillary Clinton quite well and she is very competent."
This time we simply cannot say we got "better than we deserve" with Trump. Maybe we got exactly what we deserve OR we deserve better than we got, but we can't say the pussy-grabbing charlatan is "better than we deserve."

March 16, 2018

Torture Is Immoral. Covering It Up, Also Immoral

From the Washington Post:
President Trump on Tuesday chose CIA veteran Gina Haspel to be the spy agency’s next director, picking a woman who spent multiple tours overseas and is respected by the workforce but is deeply tied to the agency’s use of brutal interrogation measures on terrorism suspects.

Back to the WaPost:
Haspel was in charge of one of the CIA’s “black site” prisons where detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harrowing interrogation measures widely condemned as torture.

When those methods were exposed and their legality came under scrutiny, Haspel was among a group of CIA officials involved in the decision to destroy videotapes of interrogation sessions that left some detainees on the brink of physical collapse.
Torture and then covering up the torture.

Before we proceed, there's a necessary correction of the word "detainees" in that first paragraph. Propublica has it:
On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002.

The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.
The New York Times, which also reported last year that Haspel oversaw the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and another detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, published a second story this week making the same point. It quoted an unnamed former senior CIA official who said Haspel did not become base chief until late October of 2002. According to the Times, she was in charge when al-Nashiri was waterboarded three times. [Emphasis added.]
The use of the plural "detainees" is inaccurate as she was only in charge during the waterboarding of one person, not more than one. This, however, does not change the fact that Haspell was in charge when al-Nashiri was waterboarded.

So that's still torture, just less of it.

We've written extensively about how torture is a war crime. Gina Haspel oversaw a prison where one human being was tortured. Even if she was just following orders, the Geneva Convention states:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture. (Part 1, Article 2, Sections 2-3)
She's a war criminal. Everyone in the chain of command above her is a war criminal.

Then there's the cover-up.

From Frontline:
When news of the ["enhanced interrogation"]program was first published in the Washington Post in 2005, Jose Rodriguez, who at the time ran the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, grew concerned that the videotapes might be made public.

“I was told if those videotapes had ever been seen, the reaction around the world would not have been survivable,” Jane Mayer, a New Yorker reporter, told FRONTLINE. “So the CIA is in a panic. They’ve got these red-hot videotapes on their hands.”

As Rodriguez later wrote in his memoir, in 2005, Haspel, then his chief of staff, “drafted a cable” at his direction ordering that the tapes be destroyed. Then, he said, he “took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send.”
Covering up the torture.

I don't think this will make much of a difference to Trump or his true-believers. He thinks he can just bring back torture by executive fiat as well as order the deaths of suspected terrorists' families.

Torture is immoral. Torture is illegal. Prosecute the torture.

March 13, 2018

My FIFTY-SECOND 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 - a constituent who writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

I'd like to ask you about this weekend's rally in Moon Township. During Donald Trump's speech he referred to an old appearance he'd made on NBC's "Meet The Press" by saying, "It's 1999, I'm on Meet the Press, a show now headed by 'sleepy eyes Chuck Todd.' He's a sleeping son of a bitch, I'll tell you." The crowd, as you probably already know, roared in approval.

This is not the first time he's attacked the Constitutionally protected news media. During the same speech he referred to "a certain anchor on CNN" as "fake as hell." He tweeted about the New York Times reporter who broke the story about Trump in discussions with a Clinton impeachment attorney as "a Hillary flunky."

And at this time I'd like to remind you of a letter I sent you almost exactly a year ago. Then, Donald Trump referred to the media with the Stalinist "enemy of the people."

So here's my question: Is any of this appropriate behavior for a sitting President of the United States? Yes or no?

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


March 12, 2018

More On Rick Saccone (The Trump And "P-G" Endorsements)

Tomorrow is the day voters in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional district choose which candidate:
  • Conor Lamb, the Democrat - a retired Marine Corps officer and former federal prosecutor
  • Rick Saccone, The Republican - a torture supporter and religious zealot
will fill out disgraced Republican Tim Murphy's term in the House of Representatives.

In the past few hours, there's been some fallout from the events of this weekend:
  • The endorsement by the Toledo Block Bugler (formerly known as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • The endorsement by pussy-grabber in chief, Donald J Trump
First there's this from the Washington Post about the Bugler's endorsement:
The largest newspaper in southwest Pennsylvania endorsed the Republican candidate ahead of Tuesday’s special congressional election with a rationale unlike any cited in other races: Democratic control of the House would hurt the country by setting the stage for a presidential impeachment.
I didn't write about that angle in my own analysis of the endorsement yesterday but it certainly fits with a publisher who's doing what he can to make nice with the orange vulgarity now sitting in the Oval Office.

The ridiculousness of the Bugler's endorsement is shown by these two snippets from The WaPost:
Neither Rick Saccone nor Conor Lamb, the Republican and Democratic nominees in the 18th Congressional District, has talked about impeachment during the campaign.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who would chair the House Judiciary Committee if his party won a majority, told The Washington Post this year that impeachment would not be pursued unless both parties agreed to it, as removal of the president would require a supermajority vote in the Senate.
And yet the Bugler's endorser says it's a reason to back Saccone.

Driving the point home, the endorsement goes on:
The prospect of a Democratic House may please partisans, but it might be bad for the country. The Democrats in the House have only one agenda item at the moment, and it isn’t health care or jobs. It is impeachment. Regardless of whether one likes this president or his policies, one must ask what the consequence for the country will be if we dive into so great a distraction.
Yes, so if Trump colluded with the Russians for a win and/or if he then covered up whatever happened and/or if he's obstructing the subsequent investigation in any way and/or if he violated FEC laws by paying off the pornstar he schtupped (repeatedly) to keep her quiet, that should all be ignored because it will be a distraction for the country.  Rule of law be damned.

Then there's this from inside the White House itself:
There's a reason Trump said hardly anything about Republican candidate Rick Saccone during a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night that was supposed to promote his candidacy.
And this is it:
Trump thinks Saccone is a terrible, "weak" candidate, according to four sources who've spoken to the president about him.
So if Saccone wins, Trump takes the credit. If Saccone loses, he's already prepared the narrative that it's not Trump's fault.

March 11, 2018

The Post-Gazette Endorses...RICK SACCONE

Think back to when we were a world-class republic (it was only a little more than one year ago) and then remember that there was this raging election going on for the future of the country. One candidate (the Democrat - a woman) had a great deal of governmental experience (with a resume that included Secretary of State) and the other (the Republican - a man) was an admitted harasser of women who lied/misspoke/got things factually wrong more often than he pumped his orange hair solid with hairspray.

Hundreds of newspapers endorsed the former. Six endorsed the latter. One-two-three-four-five-six.

Showing the first signs of being infected with teh crazie, once left-of-center Post-Gazette published an editorial that went a different route. They went all-neutral and refused to endorse either candidate.

To paraphrase Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
If you are neutral in situations of sexual harassment, you have chosen the side of the harasser. If the elephant has admitted to some non-consensual pussy-grabbing and you say that you are neutral, no one should appreciate your neutrality.
Then there was this lil bit o'racism that was so nasty the Pittsburgh Foundation and Heinz Endowments felt compelled to respond with this:
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has done our community and the cause of justice a grave disservice with its lead editorial, “Reason as Racism,” published of all days on Martin Luther King Day, when we as a nation commemorate the ongoing fight to end racism in our country.

Repeated verbatim from an opinion piece printed Saturday in its sister publication the Toledo Blade, the editorial is a silly mix of deflection and distortion that provides cover for racist rhetoric while masquerading as a defense of decency. It is unworthy of a proud paper and an embarrassment to Pittsburgh.
It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. In Pittsburgh, with the passing of one ultra-rich right-wing nutjob (Richard Mellon Scaife) and the shrinkage of his media outlet - the Tribune-Review - from national to regional importance, I suppose that left open room for another ultra rich right-wing nutjob (John Block) to expand his media outlet - the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - into the political vacuum of thus created.

 And so, we can see today's endorsement of Rick Saccone.

Let's see what the Toledo Block Bugler has to say about Tim Murphy, the guy they want Saccone to replace. If you don't get the reference, that's ok google it. The right wing Tribune-Review editorial board used to taunt the P-G by calling it the "Block Bugler" because John Block owned both the Toledo Blade AND the Post-Gazette. Now back to our story:
It was pragmatic, moderate conservatism — not extremism — that sustained Mr. Murphy for almost 15 years in office. The issues he pursued, such as an overhaul of mental health law and saving the national veterans cemetery in Cecil, had practical benefits for his constituents.
Hmm...they think Murphy was a moderate conservative. I wonder how they'd explain these ratings:
  • 100% rating from the National Right To Life Committee (exceptionally ironic considering how and why Murphy was forced to resign) 
  • 60% rating from the John Birch Society (60%! - from The BIRCHERS!)
  • 100% rating from the Family Resource Council (again, ironic considering the affair and the talk of abortion)
  • 93% rating from the NRA
This is a moderate conservative to the Toledo Block Bugler?  Evidence that the frame itself has already silently skewed rightward.

When describing Saccone, they go with:
A former Air Force counterintelligence officer who later worked in North Korea and studied the Middle East in Egypt, Mr. Saccone would bring a valuable resume to Congress. He is also a college professor and a four-term state legislator. Given his time of life, he is 60, and varied background, he is equipped to be a strong and independent voice for the 18th.
Independent voice? Look at what they leave out of Saccone's experience.  A decade ago he wrote:
Our politicians should support coerced interrogations and stop demagoguing the issue. Respectable newspapers should refuse to print stories, such as the one about the three young men and only continue to blur the debate.
And by "coerced interrogations" he meant waterboarding, but only when done by trained professionals and fall "short of those that leave long-lasting or permanent physical harm."

Seven years ago he said:
Basically, torture is an act intentionally intended to inflict severe and long-lasting physical and mental pain, including amputation, scarring, burning, maiming, mutilation. Coercion means a much lower threshold of pain or discomfort such as stress positions, pushing, temperature change, meal manipulation, loud music, exploiting phobias, trickery, yelling, etc. If done skillfully and in the right circumstances, water-boarding or WB is very effective and causes no long-lasting damage. It is used to train our special forces so I don't consider it torture.
Too bad that Rick Saccone doesn't get to define "torture" as it's defined by UN Convention and US Law and it's always a war crime:
For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
Then there's this lil bit o'crazie - legislating 2012 as the year of The Bible while at roughly the same time co-sponsoring Anti-Sharia legislation .  So I guess the "good" religion can be lauded while the "bad" religion can be banned.

How is any of that constitutional?

And this is the guy the Toledo Block Bugler thinks would be a better representative than Conor Lamb.

This is not the Post-Gazette we knew.

This is the new right wing Toledo Block Bugler.