What Fresh Hell Is This?

July 28, 2017

A "Skinny" Trumpcare Fails In The Senate. Pat Toomey "Disappointed"

In case you missed it, this happened over night:
Senate Republicans suffered a dramatic failure early Friday in their bid to advance a scaled-back plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, throwing into question whether they can actually repeal the 2010 health law.

Their latest effort to redraw the ACA failed after Sen. John McCain’s decision to side with two other Republicans against President Trump and GOP leaders. The Arizona Republican, diagnosed with brain cancer last week, returned to Washington on Tuesday and delivered a stirring address calling for a bipartisan approach to overhauling the ACA, while criticizing the process that produced the current legislation.

It was a speech that laid the groundwork for Friday’s dramatic vote.

The vote was 49 to 51 — all 48 members of the Democratic caucus joined with McCain and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to block the legislation.
This was the GOP's third attempt to repeal Obamacare.  There was the
And yet Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (along with most of the GOP in the Senate) voted in favor of each of them.

Toomey's disappointed in last night's vote and did so with some bigly spin of his own:
I am disappointed with this setback on efforts to fix our broken health care system. For the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians suffering from the higher costs and fewer choices caused by Obamacare’s collapse, Congress must not give up on repealing and replacing the failed health care law.
Not collapsing, Senator. Not failed, Senator. Sabotaged:
Unable — at least so far — to kill the Affordable Care Act outright, the Trump administration has conducted a sustained war of attrition designed to inflict fatal damage on Obamacare.

This war, often operating below the radar, entails the use of a quintessentially conservative strategy, and the cooperation of Congressional Republicans. In a way, it’s pretty simple: You cut the budget, impose debilitating regulations, track the subsequent missteps and then attack the program as a failure.
Sound familiar, Pat?

July 27, 2017

Donald J Trump - On Transgender Rights.

From Christine Vendel at Pennlive:
Donald Trump said last year he would be the "real friend" of the gay and transgender community.

But transgender advocates say his presidency has been anything but friendly toward their cause. The latest blow for them came Wednesday when Trump announced on Twitter that he had decided to ban transgender people from serving in the military.
Vendel collected some local reactions.  First Senator Casey:
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, criticized Trump's decision and said it was inconsistent with recommendations of previous military leadership.

"Americans willing to serve our nation in the military should be judged on their ability to do the job, not their gender identity," Casey said in a statement provided by his spokeswoman. "Prohibiting qualified, capable people from serving in our nation's military because of who they are makes our nation less safe."
And Senator Toomey:
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey's office released a statement that said Toomey, a Republican, believes every person should be judged based on his or her merits.

"That is why, during his entire public career, he has supported measures to protect individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity," the statement said. "Department of Defense personnel decisions should be based entirely on maximizing the Armed Forces' ability to protect and defend the American people."

Toomey's office, however, did not offer additional clarification about whether Toomey supported or opposed Trump's ban.
I'll also note that in 2015, Toomey voted against "an amendment aimed at ending discrimination against same-sex marriage benefits for veterans." Here's the roll.

That kinda shifts the whole "during his entire public career, he has supported measures to protect individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation" phrase into something resembling dishonesty, doesn't it?

[Note: I ran out of time this morning and couldn't find this. My apologies for not including it.]

Then there's my local member of Congress, Mike Doyle:
Even more locally, Adam Smeltz of the Post-Gazette has this on Mayor Bill Peduto:
Transgender people who enlist in the U.S. military “should be honored for” wearing the uniform, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Wednesday, rebutting President Donald Trump’s announcement that they can no longer serve.

“They are people who have put their lives at risk in order to defend this country, and discrimination shouldn’t be a case we look at to determine whether or not they’re qualified,” said Mr. Peduto, who has criticized Mr. Trump before. “When they wear that uniform, they wear it for all Americans, and they should be honored for that.”
Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve.

Full stop.

July 26, 2017

Meanwhile, Outside...

While the republicans in the United States Senate decide on how many people will lose their health insurance and thus how many American citizens will die because of it (hey, I guess there IS a death panel after all!), we still have to contend with the planet's rising temperatures.

And so from the scientists at NOAA:
Overall, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2017 was 0.82°C (1.48°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F) and the third highest June temperature in the 138-year record, behind 2016 (+0.92°C / +1.66°F) and 2015 (+0.89°C / +1.60). June 2017 marks the 41st consecutive June and the 390th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average.
The first six months of 2017 have each ranked among the top three warmest months on record, giving way to the second highest January–June period in the 138-year record at 0.91°C (1.64°F) above the 20th century average of 13.5°C (56.3°F), behind the record year of 2016 by 0.16°C (0.29°F), but ahead of 2015 by 0.05°C (0.09°F).
That's what the science says.

The current occupant of the Oval Office, however, is on record calling it all a hoax and our junior senator from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey, voted against a resolution that said that "human activity significantly contributes to climate change."

And then there this:
President Donald Trump plans to nominate his longtime campaign aide Sam Clovis to head science at the US Department of Agriculture, despite the fact that Clovis lacks a background in science and a congressional rule maintains that the role must be filled "from among distinguished scientists."

Clovis, who has been serving as senior White House adviser to the USDA since Trump took office, has a background as an economics professor and a former talk radio host, but he has no formal background in the hard sciences. The White House announced Trump's plans to nominate Clovis Wednesday night.
And yet, it's still getting warmer out there.

That's what the science says.

July 25, 2017

My TWENTY-FIRST 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."

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Donald Trump and his advisors have been privately discussing replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions - possibly as a part of a plan to stop Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia and any possible links it had to Trump's presidential campaign.

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?

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


July 24, 2017

ANOTHER RESPONSE from Senator Pat Toomey

In a break some recent responses, this one is by letter. An actual letter mailed through the US Postal service.

So what's this letter about? As usual, Senator Toomey let's us know up front what he's discussing:
Thank you for contacting me about the Paris Agreement. I appreciate hearing from you.
Good. So when did I mention the Paris Agreement?

Just once, in my sixteenth letter. (I did previously ask the Senator asking if he agrees with the 97% of climate scientists who've concluded that the earth is warming up and that human beings have significantly contributed to that warming but so far he hasn't chosen to answer that question.)

But back to the sixteenth. I wrote:
In light of Donald Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Paris Accord this past week, I'd like to ask you about your position on Climate Science.
And then I presented Senator Toomey with a statement, signed and agreed to by a a dozen and a half leading scientific organizations that said that
Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.
I then asked Senator Toomey if he agreed with that. I asked for a "simple yes or no" answer.

And he simply refused answer that question  - or at best he simply chose not to. His long-ish letter describes, instead, why he supports Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement.

And even then, he gets a few things wrong. For instance he says that:
Further the Paris Agreement would have a negligible impact on preventing climate change and reducing world temperatures.
Whereas some actual scientists at MIT have gone on record responding to Trump's assertion that the Paris Agreement:
...also accomplishes LITTLE for the climate.
With this:
[T]he 0.2 degree-figure used in the talking point reflects the incremental impact of the Paris Agreement compared with the earlier Copenhagen agreement. If you instead compare the impact of the Paris Agreement to no climate policy, then the temperature reduction is much larger, on the order of 1 degree Celsius — 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit — by 2100. This would be a significant reduction in the global temperature rise, though much more is needed if the world is to achieve its goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less.
And so on. Regardless of any amount of truth in Toomey's letter, it simply doesn't change the fact that he chose not to answer my question about whether he agrees with the science, instead he filled up a page with other stuff hoping I didn't notice.

Well Senator, I noticed..

And this is how the Senator answered (a scan to follow - my scanner's broken)
Thank you for contacting me about the Paris Agreement. I appreciate hearing from you,

Like many Pennsylvanians, I believe it is essential to protect our state's natural beauty and the quality of our environment. I am supportive of reasonable pollution controls that are designed to protect public health and hour natural resources, and I believe individual state agencies have the best knowledge and experience to safeguard these important assets. It is for these reasons that I have supported commonsense efforts in Congress to protect the environment and conserve lands for the enjoyment of future generations.

On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an international promise to reduce global carbon emissions over the net few decades. Signed by then-President Obama in September 2016, this agreement establishes voluntary carbon reduction plans and financial contributions for climate change mitigation programs in developing countries. The Obama Administration supported this program by unilaterally pledging billions of American taxpayer dollars to the United Nation's climate fund, which I believe has little accountability and insignificant U.S. oversight.

I support the withdraw from the Paris Agreement as it would have neither protected the environment nor Pennsylvania's industrial and energy sectors. The benchmarks established for the United States under the agreement would have threatened millions of industrial jobs across the country, and Pennsylvania's 36,000 coal and coal-dependent jobs. Further the Paris Agreement would have a negligible impact on preventing climate change and reducing world temperatures.

While the United States would have been expected to make significant carbon reductions under the Paris Agreement, China and Russia would have been given a free pass to increase emissions for the next decade. The Paris Agreement also does not include a viable enforcement mechanism to unsure that countries actually meet their commitment. This inconsistently-applied standard favors countries like China and Russia wile American tax payers are left to foot the bill.

Thank you again for your correspondence. When considering any environmental regulations, it is important that American policymakers and negotiators strike an appropriate balance between conservation, energy production, job creation, and job growth. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.

July 22, 2017

I Guess It All Depends On How You Define "Town Hall" (Sen Toomey's So-Called "Town Hall" in Harrisburg)

Let's start here:
Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania explained why Republicans are having such trouble with health care. Speaking at a town hall during the July 4 recess, Toomey said, ‘I didn't expect Donald Trump to win. I think most of my colleagues didn't. So we didn't expect to be in this situation.' [Emphasis added.]
Actually if you read the entire piece, it's not only about health care. In fact very little of it is.  It's about how even the GOP got Trump wrong and now the party establishment has a problem on its hands.

From the piece:
No kidding. I too can report that, from June 16, 2015, to November 8, 2016, the feeling among the elected officials, party functionaries, consultants, strategists, and journalists in our nation's capital was that Donald J. Trump stood no chance of becoming president of the United States. And because the political elite held this view with such self-assurance, with all the egotism and snobbery and moral puffery and snarkiness that distinguishes itself as a class, it did not spend more than a second, if that, thinking through the possible consequences of a Trump victory.

Among those consequences: The expectation that Republicans might actually try to keep the promises they've made to voters over the last eight years.
Among these promises: Obamacare.

But I want to get back to my start. Was it a "town hall"? I guess it all depends on how you define "town hall."

If you read Time (and there's hardly a less mainstream news source than Time), it was certainly called that:
Speaking at a town hall Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Senator said that Republicans were having difficulty crafting a law to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act because they hadn't planned for it to happen this year.
 But what were the parameters of this so-called "town hall"?

From Pennlive:
Sen. Pat Toomey next week will appear in a televised town hall hosted by ABC27 News.

The event, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the news outlet's Harrisburg station, will be broadcast by other ABC affiliate stations in Altoona, Wilkes-Barre and Erie.

Viewers will be connected with the Republican senator during the live event via social media. ABC27 will take questions for Toomey on its Facebook page.

Because of capacity limitations at the station, admittance to the town hall is by invitation only.
There it is: "by invitation only" with questions streaming in over the TV station's Facebook page .

What sort of town hall is that? 

It's a pretty safe guess that the protesters outside this so-called "town hall" were not among the invited:
[The protesters] then jeered Toomey as his vehicle arrived at the station on the other side of a barricade and row of police officers.
It was "by invitation only" AND protected by a "row of police officers" AND a barricade?

What sort of town hall is that? And I have a question: who chose which questions the Senator would hear? Was it Toomey's office or the TV station, if it's the latter, were there any parameters set up beforehand as to what Toomey would hear?

I only ask because in a real town hall meeting, citizens can walk up to any microphone and be heard by their elected official.

That's obviously not what happened in Harrisburgh over the July 4th weekend. We should stop calling it a "town hall."

July 21, 2017

It's Trump War - It's Just That Almost No One Sees It.

From Talkingpointsmemo:
The Times and the Post tonight both have stories out reporting the Trump legal team’s expanding war against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and – hyperbolic as it may sound to say – the law itself. While there are a number of individual dimensions to the stories, the larger story, especially from the Post, is that the President refuses to allow the law to apply to himself or his family. [Italics and links in original]
War against the law itself and then there's Trump's war on the media: