What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 24, 2017

Where's Senator Toomey?

From my inbox:
This evening, the Sierra Club projected a large missing person flier onto the wall of the Law and Finance Building downtown calling on Senator Toomey to stop avoiding his constituents and start listening to Pennsylvanians who are concerned about climate change and vital public health protections such as the Clean Air Act.

The display followed Senator Toomey’s recent vote to confirm Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ignoring thousands of letters and calls from Pennsylvanians objecting to Pruitt’s history of suing the EPA and his deep financial ties to corporate polluters. Pruitt has taken nearly $350,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry and raised at least $3.5 million more from the industry while serving in the leadership of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

In advance of the event, missing person fliers of Senator Toomey were distributed to the surrounding area.
And the photographic the proof:

Photo Credit: Rachel Martin Golman

In case you can't read the writing on the wall, it goes like this:
MISSING If found Pennsylvanians would like to talk to him about Scott Pruitt, climate change, and clean air protections.

CALL Senator Toomey at (412 803-5301 and ask him where he's hiding!  #Wherestoomey
In response, Randy Francisco (Sierra Club Pittsburgh Organizing Representative) said:
Senator Toomey needs to stop hiding from his constituents and start taking action to protect public health from pollution and climate change. President Trump has made it clear he plans to undermine the EPA and gut the Clean Air Act. Americans rely on the Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard our air, water and land. But as President Trump and his rigged Cabinet begin taking steps to gut such safeguards and advance a dirty energy agenda, Senator Toomey is nowhere to be found. Without Senator Toomey willing to speak out, the health of our families and communities is at stake.
Senator Toomey, your constituents are exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble peaceably and to petition their government (and in this case that means YOU) for a redress of grievances.

Where are you, Senator?

When's the Pittsburgh Toomey Townhall?

February 23, 2017

New Kensington Commandment Follow-up (Todd Starnes, A Fox News Snowflake, Is OFFENDED!)

I'd like to do a short follow-up to yesterday's blog post.

First let me congratulate Marie Schaub for standing up for the Constitution.  That's the most important part of this story.

Let me also congratulate her for offending a Fox News snowflake named Todd Starnes.  He wrote:
A Pennsylvania school district capitulated to the demands of a militant atheist who filed a federal lawsuit demanding the district remove a Ten Commandments monument erected on a public high school campus.

New Kensington-Arnold School District agreed to remove the massive monument within 30 days – ending a lawsuit filed in 2012 by self-avowed atheist Marie Schaub.

Schaub claimed the 6-foot stone monument erected outside Valley High School was a religious symbol and therefore was a violating of the U.S. Constitution.
Wow.  She gets called an "atheist" twice before she's even identified by name.  Nice and subtle on the religious bigotry, Todd.

But look at that third sentence.  Does Todd Starnes think the 10 Commandments isn't a religious symbol?  How can it not be?  And since it simply isn't, the Supreme Court already said thirty seven years ago that:
the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private contributions, on the wall of each public school classroom in the State has no secular legislative purpose, and therefore is unconstitutional as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Todd's also not pleased with the school district for not fighting harder (after fighting for five years and losing $160,000).

But this is the most interesting part of Todd's tiny tantrum: he obviously hasn't done his homework on this.

Take a look at this attack on Schaub:
Schaub also claimed the monument was offensive to her and her daughter. I can only imagine which commandment she found to be most offensive. Maybe it was the one about graven images. [Emphasis added.]
Now take a look at the letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that triggered this whole thing:
It is our information and understanding that a large granite monument of the Ten Commandments is prominently displayed at Valley High School. It is our further understanding that this monument sits between two footpath bridges that lead from the parking lot over a small stream to the main entrance of the school. Because of the numbering and missing commandment against "graven images," the monument contains a historically Roman Catholic version of the Ten Commandments. [Emphasis added.]
Aw snowflake, had you just gone with "keeping the sabbath holy" or "bearing false witness" no one (and I mean no one) would have known that you didn't do much research before writing this little screed of yours.

How embarrassing this must be for you.  Tripped up by your own lack of proper research.

February 22, 2017

Some Good News For A Change - The New Kensington Decalogue Is Coming Down.

Every now and then (and I fear that they'll be coming scarcer as Donald Trump's orange butt gets more acclimated to the chair behind the Resolute Desk) something good and just happens.

Something to prove that the Constitution still has some force - even if it's something local.

Like this in New Kensington:
The Ten Commandments monument will be removed from Valley Junior-Senior High School, after district officials reached a settlement in a lawsuit claiming the district violated the constitutionally required separation of church and state.
They agreed that the unconstitutional monument within 30 days of February 15th - so by the Ides of March it'll be gone.

We've been talking about this for about five yearsThis is the letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) that started the lawsuit.  Had the New Kensington School District followed the advice of the FFRF five years ago they would've saved themselves a whole mess of money:
Under the agreement to remove the monument, the school district's insurance company will pay $163,500 in legal fees, including more than $40,000 to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Along with being, of course, the right thing to do.

As we wrote five years ago that the Supreme Court decision Stone v Graham states outright:
The pre-eminent purpose of posting the Ten Commandments, which do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, is plainly religious in nature, and the posting serves no constitutional educational function.
We also pointed out five years ago in another blog post that quoted Stone v. Graham:
A Kentucky statute requiring the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private contributions, on the wall of each public school classroom in the State has no secular legislative purpose, and therefore is unconstitutional as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
It's simply unconstitutional to post it at a public school and it should have come down five years ago.

Heck, it should never have been propped up in the first place.

February 21, 2017

My SECOND Open Letter To My 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."

This past week at a campaign rally in Florida, Donald Trump said this:
We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden.
We all know by now that nothing happened in Sweden - nothing.  Donald Trump said, publicly something that was demonstrably untrue. (When pushed, he tweeted that he was reacting to a story he'd seen on Fox news about immigration in that country.  Even if that's the case, he still got it wrong as there was no event the previous evening in Sweden).

At his recent news conference, he claimed the largest electoral college victory since Ronald Reagan. Again something demonstrably untrue. And this was not a one-time thing. In mid-December, he falsely claimed a "massive" electoral" victory in the electoral college.  Again, it's untrue.

He's said that the murder rate is the highest its been in 47 years - untrue, according to polifact.

He's claimed that there were between 3 and 5 million illegal votes cast in November, again demonstrably untrue.

Here's my question: 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?

I look forward to hearing back from you.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

February 20, 2017

Happy Monday!

February 19, 2017

It's An Anniversary, Of Sorts, For Chuck McCullough

In case you missed it (and with current the Trump-shitstorm dissolving the republic, it would be easier-than-easy to do so) today is the 8th anniversary of this event:
Allegheny County Councilman Charles McCullough was arrested and arraigned today on nearly two dozen counts following an investigation last year of his handling of an elderly widow's trust funds.

A county grand jury today handed up a 52-page presentment that alleges Mr. McCullough, an attorney, and his sister, Kathleen A. McCullough, bilked money from the $14.5 million trust fund of an Upper St. Clair widow, Shirley H. Jordan, 90.

The investigation began after an article appeared in the Post-Gazette in April 2007 in which Mrs. Jordan denied that she donated $10,000 to each of four political candidates the year before, according to an affidavit that accompanied the arrests of Mr. McCullough and his sister.
Here's the P-G article (written by Dennis Roddy) from  April 12 2007, and the original complaint, in case you're interested in reading them.

That means that It's been exactly 8 years to the day, since he was arrested.  It's now officially longer than any non-FDR presidency.  I'll put it another way, the time between Chuck McCullough's arrest and the time he starts the jail sentence for which he was found guilty will be longer than the time Barack Obama (or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan) were President of the United States.  Something to ponder.

In the intervening 2,922 days these events have occurred:
  • His trial began on April 13, 2015.  That's only 2,245 days since he was arrested.  By the way the trial began 8 years and one day since Roddy's piece in the P-G.
  • He was found guilty on July 31, 2015.  That's only 2,353 days since he was arrested and only 570 days ago.
  • He was sentenced to 2 1⁄2 to five years on December 17, 2015.  That's only 2,493 days since he was arrested and only 431 days ago.
And he's still out on bond.  What happened was this:
Between his conviction and his sentencing, McCullough sought to have the theft case's presiding judge, Lester Nauhaus, recuse himself because McCullough said the judge improperly passed a message to McCullough's attorney urging him to waive his right to a jury trial.

Prosecutors said that and other statements McCullough made in his motion for recusal contradicted his statement under oath that no one threatened or coerced him to waive a jury in favor of a bench trial.
Basically, after the non-jury trial was done, he said he took a judge-only trial because he feared repercussions from judge Nauhaus if he didn't. On the other hand, he said under oath that no one threatened or coerced him into taking the judge-only trial.  And so (still from The Trib):
The District Attorney's Office charged McCullough in November with two counts each of perjury, false swearing and obstruction of justice, along with one count of unsworn falsification.
So now there's a perjury case while McCullough appeals his conviction that came after his arrest 8 years ago.  The perjury case is set to start 5 days after the end of his Superior Court appeal.

The only problem is found in the Trib's last sentence:
The Superior Court has not set a date for arguments in McCullough's appeal.
That was May 19, 2016 (that's only 276 days ago) and nothing's been reported since - nor has Chuck started his 2 1⁄2 to five year sentence.

So what do you say to someone for their 8 year anniversary of an an arrest that lead to a conviction and sentencing for a prison term that's still hasn't begun?

Considering what Chuck was found guilty of, I'd go with this: Happy Anniversary Chuck, may you get an attorney just like you to be your Power-Of-Attorney when you get old.

February 18, 2017

Senator (And Decorated War Hero) John McCain Talks About Donald Trump

From his remarks at the Munich Security Conference:
What would von Kleist’s generation say if they saw our world today? I fear that much about it would be all-too-familiar to them, and they would be alarmed by it.

They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism.

They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.

They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.

They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.
The "von Kleinst" in the first sentence would be Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin (1922-2013). BTW, he was the last surviving survivor of the 1944 plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.  He first convened the what was to become the Munich Security Conference way back in 1963.  From the MSC website:
Over the past five decades, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) has become the major global forum for the discussion of security policy. Each February, it brings together more than 450 senior decision-makers from around the world, including heads-of-state, ministers, leading personalities of international and non-governmental organizations, as well as high ranking representatives of industry, media, academia, and civil society, to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.
That's the setting for McCain's defense of the west and not-so-subtle criticism of the unnamed Trump.

As for the inability and unwillingness to separate truth from falsehood, we heard more than a few examples at Trump's press conference.  I'll leave it to the professionals to fact-check The Little-Handed Pussy-Grabber:
  •  NYTimes -
    It was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.

    Mr. Trump won 306 Electoral College votes (and ended up with 304 officially), well above the threshold needed to secure the presidency but well behind several of his most recent predecessors. President Barack Obama won 332 Electoral College votes in 2012 and 365 four years earlier. President Bill Clinton received 370 Electoral College votes in 1992 and 379 in 1996. And President George Bush won 426 Electoral College votes in 1988.

    When a reporter pressed Mr. Trump on the claim, he laid the blame elsewhere. “I was given that information,” he said.
  • Politifact  -
    Mostly False: Hillary Clinton gave Russia 20 percent of the United States’ uranium

    Trump said he will be in a better position to work with Russia than Hillary Clinton would have been, based on her record as secretary of state.

    "We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset," he said. "We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right?"

    Trump made this claim during the election, and we rated it Mostly False.

    This is a reference to the fact that Russia’s nuclear power agency bought a controlling interest in a Toronto-based company. That company has mines, mills and tracts of land in Wyoming, Utah and other U.S. states that amount to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity (not produced uranium). Clinton was secretary of state at the time, but she didn’t have the power to approve or reject the deal.
  • Washington Post -
    “Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported during the campaign that before Trump gave a foreign-policy speech in April, he met with the Russian ambassador: “A few minutes before he made those remarks [calling for improved relations with Russia], Mr. Trump met at a VIP reception with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak. Mr. Trump warmly greeted Mr. Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors who came to the reception.”
And so on.