What Fresh Hell Is This?

July 22, 2018

Meanwhile, Outside...

Yep - it's that time of the month.

According to science and the scientists at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
The globally-averaged temperature across land and ocean surfaces was the fifth highest on record for June at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F). The ten warmest Junes on record have occurred since 2005, with 2016 the warmest June at +0.91°C (+1.64°F). June 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive June and the 402nd consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.
And for a Year-to-Date analysis:
Averaged as a whole, the combined land and ocean surface temperature for the globe during January–June 2018 was 0.77°C (1.39°F) above the 20th century average and the fourth highest since global records began in 1880. The global land-only temperature was the fifth highest on record at +1.19°C (+2.14°F). The global ocean-only temperature of 0.60°C (1.08°F) above average was also the fifth highest on record.
It's still getting warmer out there.

July 18, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

As promised.

I got ANOTHER Toomey response the other day!

This one is different as it's only about half a page. It's dated June 29. Let's go see to which letter of mine Toomey (or his office) is responding.

He beings:
Thank you for contacting me about the nomination of Gina Haspel as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). I appreciate hearing from you.
That makes it easy. He's responding to this letter, my 62st. My letter was written after Senator Toomey had already posted his support of Haspel as Director of the CIA. I pointed out that she oversaw a CIA "black site" in which someone was tortured. Torture is illegal, by the way.

I asked:
Now that she's been installed as head of CIA, how could we as a nation possibly criticize any other country for whatever torture programs they might be running when our own Director of Central Intelligence oversaw (and covered up) just such a program?
And here's how Senator Toomey "answered" my question:
On May 18, 2018, the Senate confirmed Gina Haspel as CIA Director on a bipartisan vote of 54-45. I was proud to support her confirmation given her impressive qualifications and deep experience in the CIA. Ms Haspel has served as a career intelligence officer since 1985 and, prior to her confirmation, held the role of Deputy Director of the CIA. She has excelled in several positions of leadership within the National Clandestine Service and is highly decorated member of the intelligence community. Several former Obama Administration intelligence officials have endorsed her nomination, including James Clapper, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, Michael Hayden, and Mike Morell.
But Senator, the question was about the torture. Gina Haspel oversaw a torture program. Torture is a war crime, Senator. How can we protest another country when it tortures when we promoted someone who oversaw a torture program to the top of our own intelligence community?

You didn't answer the question, Senator.

July 17, 2018

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

We have to talk about the Trump=Putin Summit and your reaction to it. I applaud your break with the leader of your own party regarding his siding with Putin while doubting his own intelligence community. You wrote that Trump's:
...blindness to Putin’s hostile acts against the US and our allies—election meddling included—is very troubling.
But I don't think it goes nearly far enough.

Here's the question: Given that Donald Trump must have been briefed on "Putin's hostile acts" from the beginning of his administration, it simply can't be the case of, as you call it, "blindness" in his failure to respond to or even acknowledge them, can it? As a metaphor here, "blindness" is passive - that Trump simply cannot see what's going on. Won't you agree that he had to have made an decision in order to avoid acknowledging Putin's aggression - that Trump as a willful act chose not to see what's going on?

On a related topic: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

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

Follow-up:

July 16, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

As I wrote Saturday, I received not one but two Toomey responses in the mail last week.

In fact I received another in the mail after writing yesterday's blog post - so, there's one more on the way!

The two-page Toomey response is dated June 18 and it begins this way:
Thank you for contacting me about the Iranian government, its destabilizing behavior throughout the Middle East, and its nuclear weapons program. I appreciate hearing from you.
In contrast to the letter I blogged on yesterday this one is easy. He's "responding" to (I can't say answer) this letter, the 61st.

In that letter I ask about Trump's violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (aka "The Iran Deal"). I pointed out to Senator Toomey that he posted on his website that:
In addition to paving the way for Iran to develop nuclear weapons in a few short years, the JCPOA provided immediate sanctions relief and $100 billion to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.
So I asked about that. I asked:
Isn't it true that the $100 million in question is actually money from the sale of Iranian oil that the US Treasury had frozen in banks around the world? (Yes, it is.) And so aren't you (at the very least) misleading the public by using the verb "provided" rather than the more correct "returned"? It is their money, is it not? The verb "provided" seems to imply that the money was coming from someplace other than Iran itself.  [Emphases in my original blog post.]
And here's how he responded in the letter:
First, this deal released over $100 million in sanctioned Iranian oil money to the regime in Tehran almost immediately – money that the regime will use to fund increased terrorism in the region and around the world.
You'll note the very subtle rhetorical shift in his answer. In his original statement he said the $100 billion was "provided" to Iran, misleading the public by not fully explaining that the money was already Iran's - it was just frozen for a couple of decades.  After my question (and I am not implying a post hoc ergo propter hoc here, as much as I'd love to) he writes that the deal:
...released over $100 million in sanctioned money... [emphases added]
Which is true but, again, lacking in the necessary context to fully explain where the money initially came from (Iran).

And then I asked:
And now the agreement itself. You said that the agreement paved the way for Iran to develop nukes in a few short years. But isn't it far more accurate to say that it stopped Iran from developing those weapons that quickly? It reduced Iran's capability of producing weapons grade uranium, reduced the number of advanced centrifuges and so on.

But now with those controls off, now Iran is capable of creating a nuclear weapon much more quickly, isn't that true?
And he answered with this:
Second, Iran would still keep its industrial scale uranium enrichment program, including over 6,000 centrifuges and advanced nuclear research capabilities.
This is misleading as well. How do I know?  Take a look at this from NPR:
The agreement also calls for Iran to give up most of its centrifuges. Under the deal, Iran would go from having 20,000 centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, to having 6,104 for the next 10 years. Under the deal, Iran also agrees to give up its most advanced centrifuges and use only their oldest models.
And this:
The deal allows Iran to continue doing just that at its Natanz facility, but the country would only be allowed to enrich uranium to no more than 3.67 percent, which is enough for civilian purposes such as power plants but is much lower than what's needed for a weapon.

Another big part of the deal is that Iran has agreed to reduce its stockpile of uranium by 98 percent.

As one U.S. administration official, who was briefing reporters on background, put it, Iran currently has 10,000 kg of enriched uranium. The country also has some additional uranium that is enriched at 20 percent.

Under this deal, Iran could keep 300 kg — enriched at no more than 3.67 percent — for the next 15 years. More than likely, Iran will get rid of what it couldn't keep by shipping it to Russia.

The bottom line: If it honors the deal, Iran would not have the kind of fissile material it needs for a nuclear bomb, but at the same time it does receive a nod from the international community that it can indeed keep a non-military nuclear program going.
See how much of the truth Toomey left out? Toomey (or his office) simply fails to point out that the "industrial scale uranium enrichment program" mentioned would not be producing any uranium at an enrichment level necessary for nuclear weapons. And no plutonium at all. But it would still exist, allowing any uninformed reader of Toomey's letter to infer , incorrectly, that Iran would still be able to make the fuel necessary to make nuclear weapons.

And Toomey simply fails to mention that the 6,000 centrifuges constitute a reduction of 14,000 from 20,000. And he also fails to mention that the centrifuges that the deal would have allowed would only be Iran's oldest centrifuges.

Sorry, Senator, but the money, the enrichment levels, the centrifuges - all dishonesty by omission.

No real need to look at the rest of the letter. But here it is, anyway:

July 14, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

Last week while I was away celebrating free speech in front of Trump Tower I received two Toomey response letters.

TWO!

I'll deconstruct the first (dated June 15, 2018) today and the second (dated June 18, 2018) tomorrow.

I am guessing that something's definitely shifted in the Toomey office as BOTH of the letters are 2-pagers. The last response we've received (see this post from May 27) was also a two pager. Safe to say this is now the default setting.

Now we have to determine which of my letters Toomey's office is answering.  As I stated above, the letter's dated June 15, so it's safe to assume it's not commenting on any letter written after that date.  So anything after the sixty-fifth is out.

The letter begins:
Since President Donald Trump's inauguration, I have heard from a number of Pennsylvanians both in support of and opposition to the administration. In a state as large and diverse as ours, I understand there being a wide array of opinions on the administration's policies and actions. I appreciate you taking the time to share yours.
Nothing specific there. With his next paragraph, Toomey congratulates himself on his priorities and bipartisan-ness:
As a member of the United States Senate, my goal is to advance an agenda that benefits Pennsylvanians and the American people to the greatest extend possible. One of my highest priorities since coming to the Senate has been restoring fiscal responsibility to Washington and reining in our nation's unsustainable deficits and spending. My focus has also included finding ways to create jobs, boost wages, cut excessive regulations on small businesses, bolster our national security, and support our law enforcement officials. Since my first campaign for public office, I've made clear I will work with any one - Democrats, Republicans, the President, and private citizens - who share these goals.
And he boasted in the next paragraph that:
I am glad that the 115th Congress worked closely with President Trump and his administration to bring about the most historic reform to our tax code in over three decades. The vast majority of lower and middle-income taxpayers will pay less in federal taxes beginning in 2018 because of lower individual rates, in addition to a doubled standard deduction and child tax credit.
So let's take a closer look at this boast::
One of my highest priorities since coming to the Senate has been restoring fiscal responsibility to Washington and reining in our nation's unsustainable deficits and spending.
On that alone Senator Toomey has been a failure. Take a look at this from The Congressional Budget Office:
In CBO’s baseline projections, which incorporate the assumption that current laws governing taxes and spending generally remain unchanged, the federal budget deficit grows substantially over the next few years. Later on, between 2023 and 2028, it stabilizes in relation to the size of the economy, though at a high level by historical standards.

As a result, federal debt is projected to be on a steadily rising trajectory throughout the coming decade. Debt held by the public, which has doubled in the past 10 years as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), approaches 100 percent of GDP by 2028 in CBO’s projections. That amount is far greater than the debt in any year since just after World War II. Moreover, if lawmakers changed current law to maintain certain current policies—preventing a significant increase in individual income taxes in 2026 and drops in funding for defense and nondefense discretionary programs in 2020, for example—the result would be even larger increases in debt.

Projected deficits over the 2018–2027 period have increased markedly since June 2017, when CBO issued its previous projections. The increase stems primarily from tax and spending legislation enacted since then—especially Public Law 115-97 (originally called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and called the 2017 tax act in this report), the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123), and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141). The legislation has significantly reduced revenues and increased outlays anticipated under current law.
You were saying, Senator?

Toomey then looks to distance himself from Trump on an important issue: Tariffs, not Trump's blunders with North Korea (the subject of the sixty-fifth letter), or Stormy Daniels (the subject of the sixtieth) or even Trump's many many attacks on the Constitutionally protected free press (the subject of the fifty-second). No, he's most concerned about tariffs.

Interesting.

Toomey does try to distance himself from Trump with his penultimate paragraph:
I have also heard from many Pennsylvanians concerned with the nature of some of the President's rhetoric and use of social media. I believe that the use of intentionally demeaning speech to criticize individuals is an inappropriate and ineffective way to engage in political discourse, whether it comes from protesters, journalists, or the President of the United States. As someone who came to Washington to tackle the serious issues facing our nation, I understand your frustration with the use of such language.
Notice, however, that Toomey almost immediately shifts to a "it's bad when the other side (protesters, journalists) do it too!" argument. The only problem with this argument is that "protesters" are not The President. Members of the press are not The President.  Donald Trump (thanks be to Article II of the Constitution and not a majority of voters) is. He has the so-called "bully pulpit." Journalists and protesters do not.

Whenever he speaks (or tweets) Trump is representing the United States. When a journalist calls Trump dishonest or when a protester flips off Trump Tower each are exercising a fundamental American right guaranteed by the First Amendment: The right to criticize those in power.

Putting them on the same moral ground is absurd, Senator. It's also a way to deflect the discussion away from the topic: Donald Trump's behavior.

Isn't THAT your point, Senator?

The letter:

July 13, 2018

This Was Done In OUR NAME



My name is Miriam.

This cruelty was done (and is still being done to other families) in our name. It was done to "Make America Great Again."

This is Trump's America. If you don't denounce it, you're complicit in it.

July 10, 2018

A Note About This Week's Toomey Letter

This week's letter was about yet another stupid tweet from the orange vulgarity currently infesting the White House (Dayvoe, some civility, please!) rather than his nomination of one of the authors of The Starr Report to the Supreme Court.

Indeed, last night, Senator Toomey tweeted:
However, seeing that the question from last week's letter still applies regardless of the nominee:
Given that Trump is the subject of an FBI investigation into any links between the Russian government and his campaign and any matters connected to that (which would, I assume, include any potential obstruction of justice), do you think it wise for him to be able to appoint anyone to the Supreme Court until this investigation has concluded? Any by that I mean, as part of the ongoing investigation legal questions will inevitably arise (Can a sitting president be subpoenaed? indicted? If he can't be for federal crimes, can he be subpoenaed/indicted for state crimes?) that will need to be answered by the Supreme Court. How is it not a conflict of interest for Trump to, in effect, pick one of his own judges? What if the person he picks just happens to be the swing vote in his favor?
Especially since Kavanaugh's on the record saying that a sitting president should not be indicted.

Hmm - is it any wonder Trump picked him?

My SIXTY-NINTH 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 - the constituent who writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

I need to ask you again about a recent tweet from Donald Trump.

Recently he tweeted that he "[j]ust won lawsuit filed by the DNC and a bunch of Democrat crazies trying to claim the Trump Campaign (and others), colluded with Russia."

However, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle wrote in her dismissal that "it bears emphasizing that this Court’s ruling is not based on a finding that there was no collusion between defendants and Russia during the 2016 presidential election."[Italics in original.]

So Trump's tweet is 100% untrue. Either he knew that what he was tweeting is untrue in which case he lied to us or he can't be bothered to make sure his tweets (which is to say his communications with the American people) are 100% true. Either way, he has a dishonest relationship with the facts.

So here's my question: Why do you continue to support this dishonest man's administration? When will it be enough for you to finally rebuke this presidency?

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

Follow-up: