What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 29, 2016

John Oliver - Last Night (Wherein He Deconstructs Donald Trump)


From about 20 minutes in (after pointing out that "Drumpf" is actually the Trump family name) Oliver :
If you are thinking of voting for Donald Trump, the charismatic guy promising to make America great again, stop and take a moment to imagine how you would feel if you just met a guy named Donald Drumpf - a litigious serial liar with a string of broken business ventures and the support of a former Klan leader who he can't decide whether or not to condemn.
Happy Monday!

PS I didn't watch the Oscars.

February 27, 2016

Two Videos, One Reality - Dancing With The Obamas, Hope And Terror On Black-ish

Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman recently wrote about this video:


He wrote:
When 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin went to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Sunday, it was not the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to meet the first black president. Such a president wasn’t a dream any reasonable black person born in the first half of the 20th century entertained.

Ms. McLaurin was born in segregated South Carolina, the heart of the Old Confederacy, in 1909.
I can't begin to imagine what's she's seen of America in these past 100 or so years.  I can say, though, she was already about 6 years old when Jelly Roll Morton first started publishing some of that new music called Jazz and she was 30 when Billie Holiday first performed Strange Fruit and 82 when Miles Davis passed away.

She was 46 when Emmett Till was murdered in a shed in Glendora, Mississippi, 54 when Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama and 59 the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr was murdered on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.

She was also 45 when Brown vs the Board of Education was decided, 55 when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed in to law and 56 when the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.

In between there must've been countless moments of great joy and also great sadness.  If she's 106 now and 55 when the Civil Rights Act was finally signed that means she's spent fewer years in a desegregated American than in a segregated one.  Think about that: how many restaurants couldn't she eat in, how many water fountains or restrooms couldn't she use in this land of the free, the home of the brave?

And this week she said this when she met President Obama:
I thought I would never live to get in the White House. And I tell you, I am so happy. A black president! A black wife! And I'm here to celebrate black history. Yeah, that's what I'm here for.
Another, different, video bubbled up onto my laptop this week.  It's from the ABC comedy Black-ish (Wednesday Nights on ABC - check your local listings) and before we take a look at the video, let me post some context of the episode from which it's taken.  The Johnson family is gathered around the TV to watch the news to see if a group of police officers will be indicted for shooting an unarmed black man.  Rainbow ('Bow") Johnson (played by Tracee Ellis Ross) wants, in one way or another, to protect her two youngest children from the real horrors of the world.  She wants her children to be safe when dealing with the police and to be safe they have to do whatever the police tell them to.  Her husband Andre ("Dre" - played by Anthony Anderson), on the other hand, feels something different and they have this conversation:


The text:
DRE: Let's say they listen to the cops and get in the car.  Look what happened to Freddie Gray.

POPS (Dre's father played by Laurence Fishburne): Yea and what if they make it all the way to the station?  You remember Sandra Bland?

DRE: And let's say they do make it to trial.  You see where that gets us.  Don't you get it 'Bow?  The system is rigged against us.

'BOW:  Maybe it is, Dre.  But I don't want to feel like my kids are living in a world that is so flawed that they can't have any hope.

DRE: Oh, so you wanna talk about hope, ‘Bow? Obama ran on hope. Remember when he got elected? And we felt like maybe, just maybe, we got out of that bad place and made it to a good place. That the whole country was really ready to turn the corner. You remember that amazing feeling we had during the inauguration? I was sitting right next to you. We were so proud. And we saw him, get out of that limo, and walk alongside of it, and wave to that crowd. Tell me you weren’t terrified when you saw that. Tell me you weren’t worried that someone was gonna snatch that hope away from us like they always do. That is the real world, ‘Bow. And our children need to know that that’s the world they live in.
What hit me the hardest, I think, about that nearly two minutes of great drama tucked into an equally great half hour of sitcom was the realization about what I didn't feel when I saw the Obamas leaving that limo in 2009.  I cried back then, proud at how much the nation had achieved even since I'd been born in 1963.  But for all that proud and happy, I don't remember experiencing one sliver of the terror Dre and Bow Johnson obviously felt seeing the first black president so exposed.  (Yes I realize the Andersons are fictional but as Picasso said, Art is the lie that makes us see the truth.)  I do recall thinking that the Secret Service would have to be extra careful then now on but I had no worries, as they're the best at what they do.  I was confident.  The Andersons, obviously, were not.

This is not to say, of course, that I think that those who agree with Dre Anderson are somehow wrong.  Or that Virginia McLaurin's dancing should some how appease the Anderson's fears.  The two videos don't cancel each other out.  If anything, they point out the complications and the contradictions of our not-quite post-racial society.  They're all facets of the same reality we're all experiencing every day.

The same reality where, let's be honest, most of us didn't even think and furthermore didn't have any reason to think that hope could've been snatched away. 

And sadly, those who do think that way have ample reason to believe it.







February 26, 2016

Senator Al Franken On The Senate Floor (Sen. Toomey: DO YOUR JOB)

From a few days ago in the US Senate:


Just so you don't have to watch the full 13 or so minutes, Politicususa has some excerpts.  Here are some excerpts of their excerpts:
Less than an hour after news of Justice Scalia’s death became public, the Majority Leader announced that the Senate would not take up the business of considering a replacement until after the presidential election. Quote, “[t]he American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” he said.

The only problem with the Majority Leader’s reasoning, MR. PRESIDENT, is that the American people have spoken. Twice. President Barack Obama was elected and reelected by a solid majority of the American people who correctly understood that elections have consequences, not the least of which is that when a vacancy occurs, the President of United States has the constitutional responsibility to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court. The Constitution does not set a time limit on the President’s ability to fulfill this duty. Nor, by my reading, does the Constitution set a date after which the President is no longer able to fulfill his duties as Commander in Chief, or to exercise his authority to, say, grant pardons or make treaties. It merely states that the President shall hold office for a term of four years. And by my count, there are in the neighborhood of 11 months left.
Then he went further:
If we were to truly subscribe to the Majority Leader’s logic and extend it to the legislative branch, it would yield an absurd result. Senators would become ineffective in the last year of their term. The 28 senators who are now in the midst of their reelection campaigns and the 6 senators who are stepping down should be precluded from casting votes in committee or on the Senate floor. Ten committee chairs and 19 subcommittee chairs should pass the gavel to a colleague who is not currently running for reelection or preparing for retirement. Bill introduction, and indeed the cosponsorship of bills, should be limited to those senators who are not yet serving in the sixth year of their terms. If the Majority Leader sincerely believes that the only way to ensure that the voice of the American people is heard is to lop off the last year of an elected official’s term, I trust he will make these changes.
This is interesting to me as one of Pennsylvania's Senators, Pat Toomey, has said "no" to any nominee until after the next inauguration:
The current vacancy on the Supreme Court, following the tragic death of Justice Antonin Scalia, however, presents an unusual context. In the final year of a presidency, it is common for vacancies that arise on the Supreme Court to await the outcome of the next election. Given that we are already well into the presidential election process and that the Supreme Court appointment is for a lifetime, it makes sense to give the American people a more direct say in this critical decision.
Do I need to point out that Pat Toomey is one of the 28 Al Franken mentioned as running for reelection?

By Senator McConnell's own logic, Senator Toomey should immediately relinquish his committee seats and immediately cease any of his constitutionally mandated responsibilities in the United States Senate.

But that's not Toomey's only problem.  He's been quoted as saying:
In the final year of a presidency, it is common for vacancies that arise on the Supreme Court to await the outcome of the next election.
A point that Franken addressed on the Senate floor:
But MR. PRESIDENT, suggesting that the Senate should refuse to consider a nominee during an election year stands as a cynical affront to our constitutional system—and it misrepresents our history. The Senate has a long tradition of working to confirm Supreme Court justices in election years. One need look no further than sitting Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Supreme Court nominee appointed by a Republican President and confirmed by a Democratic Senate in 1988, President Reagan’s last year in office. So when I hear one of my colleagues say that, quote “it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year,” I know that’s not true.
Senator Toomey, what you said is simply not true (and yet you said it to your constituents).

But Pat, boychik, you can clean up these problems you made for yourself easily:   

Just do your job.

February 25, 2016

The Trump Coalition (Poll Data As Reported By The NYTimes)

It's sadly not surprising.

From The NYTimes:
A new set of public opinion survey results asking atypical but timely questions has shed some light on the Trump coalition. The results suggest how Mr. Trump has upended the contemporary divide in the party and built a significant part of his coalition of voters on people who are responsive to religious, social and racial intolerance.
Some data:
Nationally, the YouGov data show a similar trend: Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump's voters disagreed with Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern States during the Civil War.
Then there are the 38 percent of Trump's voters in South Carolina who wish the South had won that war.

I'm thinking they have some pretty clear ideas as to how to "Make America Great, Again."  Am I right?

William F. Buckley would've been appalled.  And to any rational Republicans left in this country, you should be, too.  This is your mess to clean up.


February 24, 2016

He's going to get someone killed


Donald Trump speaking about a protester at one of his rallies via Raw Story:
“You know what I hate? There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches — we’re not allowed to punch back anymore,” Trump said. “In the old days, you know what they used to do with guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.” 
“There’s a guy throwing punches, nasty as hell, screaming and everything else when we’re talking, and we’re talking out — we’re not allowed, the guards are very gentle with him, he’s walking, like, big high fives, smiling, laughing — I’d like to punch him in the face,” Trump added, as the crowd roared in approval. 
Security guards at the event later said the protester had not thrown any punches.

February 23, 2016

Poll Numbers For Pat Toomey To Worry About (Do Your Job, Senator)

I realize poll numbers are a snap shot of the opinion of the electorate.  They can and do shift all the time and the only question is how much and how quickly and in which direction.

That being said, here's something that Senator Pat Toomey might want to worry about.  From JD Prose at the Beaver County Times:
As Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s approval rating hovers under 30 percent, his refusal to vote on a Supreme Court nominee could hurt him even more in the general election, according to a new poll released Monday.

Only 29 percent of those surveyed by the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, approved of the job Toomey is doing, compared to 40 percent who disapproved and 31 percent who were not sure.
Here's Public Policy Polling's press release and the full results.  They polled Pennsylvania and Ohio, by the way.

Some of the findings from the data:
  • Only 29% of voters approve of the job Toomey is doing to 40% who disapprove, and just 30% approve of the job Portman is doing to 39% who disapprove. They’re both very much in the danger zone for reelection based on those low approval numbers. One thing complicating their path to reelection is how bad the overall brand of Senate Republicans is. Mitch McConnell has a 13/56 approval rating in Pennsylvania, and a 14/57 one in Ohio. His extreme unpopularity is going to be a weight on his party’s incumbents running across the country.

  • Strong majorities of voters- 58/35 in Ohio and 57/40 in Pennsylvania- think that the vacant seat on the Supreme Court should be filled this year. What’s particularly noteworthy about those numbers- and concerning for Portman and Toomey- is how emphatic the support for approving a replacement is among independent voters. In Ohio they think a new Justice should be named this year 70/24 and in Pennsylvania it’s 60/37. Those independent voters are going to make the difference in these tight Senate races, and they have no tolerance for obstructionism on the vacancy.
That requires some further data.  From Q4 of the poll results, we see that to the question:
Do you think the Senate should wait to see who is nominated to the Supreme Court before deciding whether to confirm that person, or should it refuse to confirm a nominee to fill the seat no matter who it is
A full 76 percent of those polled answered:
The Senate should wait to see who is nominated to the Supreme Court before deciding whether to confirm that person.
76 percent is beyond a majority, Senator.  It means that somewhere around three quarters of your constituents fully disagree with you when you said:
Given that we are already well into the presidential election process and that the Supreme Court appointment is for a lifetime, it makes sense to give the American people a more direct say in this critical decision.
Kinda hard to skew 76 percent - no matter who made the poll.  And PPP is one of the good ones.

So yea, Senator Toomey.  You should be worried.  Your unconstitutional (and dare is say it unpopular) stance on the upcoming Supreme Court nominee is going to damage your re-election chances.

February 22, 2016

The Tribune-Review's Eric Heyl Fails To Disclose Scaife Connections. What A Surprise!

Even after his passing, the Trib is failing to disclose the financial connections between what they report on and their former owner, Richard Mellon Scaife.

Case in point, this interview from this past weekend.  Eric Heyl begins:
Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Virginia think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity.
And so on.

What's this "Center for Equal Opportunity" then?

From to their mission statement:
We work to promote a colorblind society, one within which race and skin color are no longer an issue and so accordingly we oppose admission, hiring, and contracting policies that discriminate, sort, or prefer on the basis of race or ethnicity. We oppose racial gerrymandering. We oppose bilingual education, because it segregates students by national origin, encourages identity politics, and fails to teach children English –the single most important skill they can learn and the most important social glue holding our country together. And, whatever one believes to be an acceptable level of immigration, all should agree that those coming to America must become Americans, and this means that assimilation is not a dirty word, but a national necessity.
Let me know how many conservative dog whistles you heard in there.

In any event, wanna know how much the various Scaife foundations (in this case, Sarah Scaife and Allegheny) have given to the organization whose president and general counsel is being interviewed by the Trib's Eric Heyl?

A little over a million dollars, according to the Bridge Project.
  • $995,000 from Sarah Scaife Foundation
  • $75,000 from Allegheny Foundation
Heck the Center for Media and Democracy has this to say about the Center for Equal Opportunity:
Founded by commentator and former Reagan Administration Civil Rights Director Linda Chavez in 1995, the Center's small staff of five employees includes two of Chavez's adult children. Initially and primarily funded with a founding grant from the Olin Foundation, the Center exists largely on grants from the Bradley Foundation, and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.
If you think this isn't a big deal, simply ask yourself, "Would the Center even exist without all that Scaife largess?  And if so, what would it look like?"  Once you plow through those questions, you'll see that Scaife's money was part of the story all along.

And yet Eric Heyl utterly fails to mention this connection in his interview.

Speaking of connections, in this media market there always seems to be a "Pittsburgh connection" to every story in the news.  Take a look at something else Roger Clegg wrote.  This was in the National Review Online:
The National Football League is considering the expansion of the “Rooney Rule” to the hiring of general managers. The rule, now limited to head coaches, requires at least one minority to be interviewed by a team filling a vacancy.

But this is clearly illegal. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in private employment, and that’s what this is. The statute covers hiring, of course, and also makes it illegal for an employer to “classify his . . . applicants for employment” in a way that denies equal treatment on the basis of race.

It might be objected that there’s no harm here, since it’s only requiring an additional interview. But suppose the shoe were on the other foot, and the requirement was that at least one white candidate always be interviewed. Would that fly?

And there will be harm. Suppose that a team normally narrows the field to four candidates and then interviews them. If it keeps this rule, then if you’re white candidate number four, you’re out of luck, because now you have to make way for the minority interviewee. Suppose the team decides to interview a fifth candidate instead. Well, the minority coach who was the tenth choice now leapfrogs over white candidates six, seven, eight, and nine — all out of luck because they are the wrong color. And, of course, if the minority candidate is hired, then one of the white finalists — the one who would have gotten the job otherwise — is out of luck, too.
You know what the "Rooney rule" is, don't you?  And where it came from?  ESPN has a good summary:
As the NFL celebrates its ascendant African-American head coaches, somewhere Johnnie Cochran Jr. is smiling.

With the passing of the millennium, O.J. Simpson's defense attorney wondered why there weren't more minority coaches in the league. He and labor law attorney Cyrus Mehri commissioned a comprehensive report that was published in 2002 and detailed a "dismal record of minority hiring."

Although 70 percent of the NFL's players were black, only 28 percent of the assistant coaches and 6 percent of the head coaches were African-Americans.

In 2003, Steelers owner Dan Rooney chaired a committee to study the issue. The result was "The Rooney Rule." Teams were required to interview at least one minority candidate when filling a head coaching position -- or be fined.

"There were some people who said, 'I want to hire whoever I want to hire. You can't be telling us who to hire.' That is your decision," Rooney said. "But we say you must give an opportunity to an African-American or a minority. [Emphasis added.]
I wonder if Eric Heyl asked about that.  And if so, what did that champion of equal opportunity that protector of racial diversity, Roger Clegg, have to say about it?  And if Eric Heyl didn't ask about the Pittsburgh Steeler connection to his interviewee, why the heck not?

On the other hand, considering the Trib and Heyl's interviewee, I can think of about a million reasons why not.

February 20, 2016

Senator Pat Toomey Gets It Wrong RE: Scalia Replacement. Again.

From the AP:
Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania held firm to his view that the next president should fill the U.S. Supreme Court's vacancy, and he said Thursday that it's very unlikely that he or a Senate majority would support President Barack Obama's nominee.

He also said it might be better to not hold election-year confirmation hearings because senators would be weighing more than just a nominee's qualifications. He and other Republicans would also consider how a nominee from the Democratic president would change the court's balance in his favor before a new president takes office, Toomey said.

"It's very unlikely that any nominee, however well qualified, could reach the level that would be necessary to satisfy both sets of criteria," Toomey told The Associated Press. "And for that reason, it might be just as well not to have a hearing that would, sort of, might mislead the American people into thinking that this is just about the qualifications of the candidate, because it's bigger than that."[Emphases added.]
Um so he's saying that the Senate confirmation process is about something other than qualifications?

This is surprising, given what the now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in 2001:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I first began to deal with the Senate's advise and consent role as a staffer here in 1969 and 1970 to a member of this Committee during the Haynesworth and Carswell nominations, and subsequently wrote the only law journal article I wrote as a young man on that subject after those contentious nominations were concluded. I believed then and believe now that the appropriate role of the Senate is largely as Senator Kyl suggested, which is to judge the competence and the integrity and the fitness of a judge to be on the bench.

I dutifully returned, gagging occasionally, every single one of the blue slips I received during the Clinton years positively. My view then and my view now is that the President won the election, no matter what the margin, and is entitled for the most part to tilt the judiciary in the direction that he feels appropriate. [Emphases added.]
We've already seen McConnell's hypocrisy on this subject.  But his point that was clear in 2001 (even with the contested "election" of 2000), is just as clear now, that President Obama won the election of 2012 and thus is entitled to tilt the judiciary in the direction he feels appropriate.

Senator Toomey, however, finds this "unreasonable" in that he doesn't want "the court's balance" to tilt in favor the guy from the other party who won (yes, actually won) the last two presidential elections.

Toomey needs to do his job.  And his job is to take part on the "advise and consent" process as outlined in the Constitution - not to reject it out of hand for partisan purposes.

Toomey's opponents (listed alphabetically by last name)
  • John Fetterman - who said recently "The self-serving negligence we are seeing from the GOP is the reason why everyone hates Congress, and is simply disrespectful to the American people. So which is it, Sen. Toomey: will you do your job, or choose partisanship over patriotism?"
  • Katie McGinty - who said recently that "In Pat Toomey’s obstructionism, what we see is a deliberate effort to try to make the Supreme Court of the United States an extension of Republican partisan politics."
  • Joe Sestak - who said recently "It is time for Pat Toomey to fulfill his duty to the people of Pennsylvania and vow to quickly consider a new Supreme Court Justice rather than marching lockstep with partisan obstructionists in Washington, D.C."
Feel free, o gentle and insightful readers, to peruse the websites of each candidate and to volunteer, donate or otherwise support whichever one of the three you want.

The important thing is to get have the strongest candidate on the other side of the primary and then to vote Senator Toomey out of office in November.

February 18, 2016

Brave

The Other Political Junkie has posted a couple of great political ads over the last month or so, here's another:

Meanwhile, Outside It's Getting Warmer and The GOP Is Still Denying The Science.

From The Weather Channel:
January 2016 was not only Earth's warmest January on record, but also featured the largest warm departure from average for any month, according to two separate analyses released this week.

The first month of 2016 started with a global temperature departure of 1.13 degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 average, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

That may not sound impressive, but ingesting temperature data over the entire surface of the Earth, NASA's analysis found this was the largest monthly warm temperature anomaly in their database dating to 1880, topping a record set the previous month.

A separate analysis from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting also found January 2016 set a new record-warm anomaly for the globe, 0.72 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average. That reanalysis, however, dates only to 1979.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency's calculations also found January 2016 was the globe's warmest on record, but the departure from average was the fourth highest on record for any month behind December (+0.66C), November (+0.54C) and October (+0.53C) all in 2015.
We know the Democratic candidates for president are on the right side of the science but what about the Republicans?  At least the frontrunners?

From The New Republic, here's Donald Trump:
Trump’s views on climate change broadly mirror those of his fellow Republican candidates. “I believe there’s weather,” Trump told Hugh Hewitt in September. “I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.”

“I don’t believe in climate change,” Trump said flatly, in an interview with CNN in September. And the next month, as a cold front swept through the Northeast, he tweeted that “we could use a big fat dose of global warming!”
And Ted Cruz:
Cruz has gotten creative in rejecting climate science as partisan agenda. “Climate change is not science, it’s religion,” he told Glenn Beck in October, disputing the climate change “denier” label. The proper term, Cruz argued, would be “skeptic,” since good scientists are skeptical—ignoring the fact that, on climate change, scientists overwhelmingly agree that it is a real and pressing problem. In addition, Cruz’s American Energy Renaissance Act would open federal lands to oil and gas exploration and allow exports while leaving fracking regulation to states. The act would also prevent the EPA from regulating emissions.
And Marco Rubio:
He fully aligned himself with the skeptics in the build-up to his presidential bid, declaring on ABC’s This Week in 2014, “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” Last April, he downplayed the human role again, saying, “Humans are not responsible for climate change in the way some of these people out there are trying to make us believe.” Not surprisingly, he voted against a Senate amendment in January that said climate change is real and “significantly” caused by human activity.
And yet, it's still getting warmer out there.  (On a side note to our readers in Pennsylvania, Senator Pat Toomey also voted against that "significantly" amendment.)

Only in America:
Of all the major conservative parties in the democratic world, the Republican Party stands alone in its denial of the legitimacy of climate science. Indeed, the Republican Party stands alone in its conviction that no national or international response to climate change is needed. To the extent that the party is divided on the issue, the gap separates candidates who openly dismiss climate science as a hoax, and those who, shying away from the political risks of blatant ignorance, instead couch their stance in the alleged impossibility of international action.
Warmer and warmer.  Denying it won't make it go away.

February 17, 2016

Let's try this again: I'll be on KDKA Radio tonight with John McIntire around 8:15 PM

Last week, John's guests got preempted (including me). But, I'm once again scheduled to be on John McIntire's Show on KDKA Radio tonight around 8:15 p.m. We'll be talking about my being still undecided in the Democratic presidential primary.

Tune into Newsradio 1020 KDKA or listen online @ http://player.radio.com/listen/station/newsradio-1020-kdka/

Teh Conspiracy Crazies Come Out After Scalia's Death

And there ain't none crazier than Michael Savage:
With confirmation that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead Saturday morning with a pillow over his head and his clothes unwrinkled, nationally syndicated talk-radio host Michael Savage called for an investigation on the level of the presidentially appointed probe into President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

“Was [Scalia] murdered?” Savage asked his listeners.

“We need a Warren Commission-like federal investigation,” he said. “This is serious business.”
And then a little sanity from the Washington Post:
It then took hours for authorities in remote West Texas to find a justice of the peace, officials said Sunday. When they did, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body — which is permissible under Texas law — and without ordering an autopsy.

As official Washington tried to process what his demise means for politics and the law, some details of Scalia’s final hours remained opaque. As late as Sunday afternoon, for example, there were conflicting reports about whether an autopsy should have been performed. A manager at the El Paso funeral home where Scalia’s body was taken said that his family made it clear they did not want one. [Emphases added.]
And:
Meanwhile, Guevara acknowledged that she pronounced Scalia dead by phone, without seeing his body. Instead, she spoke to law enforcement officials at the scene — who assured her “there were no signs of foul play” — and Scalia’s physician in Washington, who said that the 79-year-old justice suffered from a host of chronic conditions.
And so on.

But let's get back to teh crazies.  Think of what they're wanting you to ponder.  That an 79 year old man with chronic health conditions (high blood pressure among them) was murdered and that the local law enforcement authorities as well as his family (who didn't want an autopsy) covered it up.  All this to further a liberal agenda or to derail a conservative one.

And it all took place in Texas.

That's what they want you to believe - that in reddest of red state Texas, there's a conspiracy to cover up the murder of a conservative Supreme Court Justice.

Teh Crazies are crazy.

February 16, 2016

Senator Toomey Abandons His Constitutional Responsibilities For Partisan Politics

Remember this from yesterday?

It was about Senator Mitch McConnell's hypocrisy regarding Supreme Court nominees.  In 2005, with a Republican White House he said that:
Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration. But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote.
Now that "a year left in the term of a Democratic president" (as Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out) he's calling for a delay.

At the end of the blog post, I posed a question to our Republican Senator, Pat Toomey:
Senator Toomey, does president Obama have the constitutional authority to nominate someone to the Supreme Court NOW or should he defer to Senator McConnell and let the question be settled LATER by the next president?
Well my friends, it seems we have an answer:
The current vacancy on the Supreme Court, following the tragic death of Justice Antonin Scalia, however, presents an unusual context. In the final year of a presidency, it is common for vacancies that arise on the Supreme Court to await the outcome of the next election. Given that we are already well into the presidential election process and that the Supreme Court appointment is for a lifetime, it makes sense to give the American people a more direct say in this critical decision. The next Court appointment should be made by the newly-elected president.
Actually it's not that common. And Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed during an election year in 1988.

As to whether the President has the constitutional authority to nominate someone, Toomey is clear (but look at what follows):
President Obama insists that he will nominate someone for the Court. He certainly has the authority to do so. But let's be clear - his nominee will be rejected by the Senate.[Emphasis added.]
Sight unseen, he'll reject the nominee.  Remember what McConnell, Toomey's republican boss in the Senate said in 1988?   That any nominee should receive careful consideration and then an up or down vote.  Now with his statement, Senator Toomey is saying that President Obama's nominee won't even get that.

And we have reactions from Toomey's Democratic rivals.

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman:
John Fetterman, mayor of Braddock and also a candidate for the Democratic nomination to challenge Toomey this year, issued a short statement regarding Toomey's decision.

"While not surprising, it is nevertheless disappointing that Sen. Toomey chose partisanship over patriotism."

He also took shots at Toomey on Twitter, saying the American people did have a say in the process when they reelected President Barack Obama in 2012.
Former Wolf Chief of Staff Katie McGinty:
Protecting abortion rights was something Katie McGinty, former chief of staff for Governor Tom Wolf, stressed in her response to Toomey.

“Toomey’s partisan decision makes it clear he wants a Supreme Court that would take away a woman’s right to choose, continue an assault on women’s health care, attack and destroy health care reform and continue to allow dark money in politics," she said in a statement.

She also lashed out at Toomey's comments about politicizing the nomination process, saying that's exactly what he's doing.
And retired Navy Admiral Joe Sestak:
“William Penn said that ‘To delay Justice is Injustice,’" Former congressman and U.S. Navy Admiral Joe Sestak said in a statement. "It is time for Pat Toomey to fulfill his duty to the people of Pennsylvania and vow to quickly consider a new Supreme Court Justice rather than marching lockstep with partisan obstructionists in Washington, D.C.
 Feel free to contact the Democratic candidate of your choice and donate or volunteer or whatever.

The anti-science torture apologist who's sitting in the US Senate representing Pennsylvania must be voted out of office.

February 15, 2016

Senator Mitch McConnell - Hypocrite On SCOTUS Nominations (With a Related Question For Senator Pat Toomey)

By now we've all read about the passing of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Now comes the task of nominating someone else to the Court.

And of course, what would have been a difficult task for any earlier administration is looking to be impossible for this one.

Or that's how it's looking if we take Senator Mitch McConnell at his word:
The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.
Ok, two problems with this.

The first, dealt with by Massachusetts Senator ElizabethWarren:
“Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes,” Warren wrote on her Twitter page.

In another Tweet, she cited language in the US Constitution — which spells out the right for a president to nominate a Supreme Court Justice.

“Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the president of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can’t find a clause that says ‘...except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic president,’” she wrote.
And then the second, what McConnell himself said in 2005:
Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration. But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote.
And yet for some reason, now the Senator from Kentucky has decided to obstruct President Obama's constitutional duties.

Let's not forget what McConnell said (with a smirk) in 2010:


McConnell failed then (with a smirk I add an "obviously").  Let's just hope he fails now.

But let's ask Senator Toomey, who's up for reelection:
Senator Toomey, does president Obama have the constitutional authority to nominate someone to the Supreme Court NOW or should he defer to Senator McConnell and let the question be settled LATER by the next president?
I'd love to hear your answer, Senator.  I am sure John Fetterman, Katie McGinty, and Joe Sestak would love to hear it too.

February 13, 2016

The P-G's Ruth Ann Dailey Tells An Old Abortion Lie

Take a look.

In an otherwise OK (for her, at least) essay into the place of faith in our current political Sturm und Drang, Dailey goes for the full zombie:
It has long been noted that the religious polarization of modern American politics began with the Supreme Court’s regrettably sweeping Roe v. Wade decision. It swept many religious people right into the GOP, where an anti-abortion plank is always part of the platform.

Democrats, by contrast, would not allow the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey to speak at the 1992 convention because of his pro-life views.
It's that last sentence that's a lie and it's been around for years. Both the OPJ and I wrote about it wa-a-ay back in 2009.

I guess we have to restate the truth that this was debunked in 1996 - in a piece by Michael Crowley in The New Republic.  In 2005, Digby typed out a copy of it here.  Take a look:
According to those who actually doled out the 1992 convention speaking slots, Casey was denied a turn for one simple reason: his refusal to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket. "It's just not factual!" stammers James Carville, apoplectic over Casey's claims. "You'd have to be idiotic to give a speaking role to a person who hadn't even endorsed you." "Why are you doing this to me?" moans Paul Begala, who, with Carville, managed two Casey campaigns before joining Clinton's team in 1992. "I love Bob Casey, but my understanding was that the dispute was not about his right-to-life views, it was about the Clinton-Gore ticket."

The man best able to explain the decision was the late Ron Brown. He addressed the topic during a roundtable discussion of Clinton campaign veterans (published as Campaign for President: The Managers Look at '92). He explained:
We decided the convention would be totally geared towards the general election campaign, towards promoting our nominee and that everybody who had the microphone would have endorsed our nominee. That was a rule, everybody understood it, from Jesse Jackson to Jerry Brown.... The press reported incorrectly that Casey was denied access to the microphone because he was not pro-choice. He was denied access to the microphone because he had not endorsed Bill Clinton. I believe that Governor Casey knew that. I had made it clear to everybody. And yet it still got played as if it had to do with some ideological split. It had nothing to do with that.[Emphases added.]
Furthermore as Mediamatters wrote in 2008:
Here's all you need to know in order to know with absolute certainty that Casey's views on abortion were not the reason he was not given a speaking role: that very same Democratic convention featured speeches by at least eight people who shared Casey's anti-choice position, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley Jr., Sens. John Breaux and Howell Heflin, and five governors.

This is really, really simple: if there were eight speakers at the 1992 convention who were "pro-life," then it cannot logically be the case that Casey was excluded solely because of his position on abortion. [Emphasis added.]
Amazing that the zombie lie is still around.  Ruth Ann, you really need to do your homework before writing and P-G, you really need to fact check your stuff ju-u-st a little better.


February 12, 2016

Last Night's Debate - Kissinger? REALLY??

As I was driving home from a brass quintet rehearsal, I heard some of last night's Sanders/Clinton debate.  And I was able to piece together from what I heard that Henry Kissinger came up.

You can read about it here.

I just wanted to take a moment to remind all you good folks out there exactly who Henry Kissinger is and what he did - and then you can make your own decision about his place in last night's debate.

I wrote about him here.

A war criminal, drenched in blood, should be seen for who he is.

February 11, 2016

I'll be on KDKA Radio Tonight with John McIntire at 8:15 PM ... Oops! No, I won't.

UPDATE: Strike all that. John just found out that he will be holding some kind of fundraiser on the air tonight. Maybe next week.


I'll be on John McIntire's Show on KDKA Radio Tonight in the 8 p.m. hour. We'll be talking about my being still undecided in the Democratic presidential primary.

First up will be Dana Milbank of The Washington Post ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bernie-sanders-is-no-revolutionary/2016/02/08/19a15618-cea3-11e5-88cd-753e80cd29ad_story.html ). Then, me around 8:15 PM.


Tune into Newsradio 1020 KDKA or listen online @: http://player.radio.com/listen/station/newsradio-1020-kdka/

ANOTHER Great Video From The Sanders Campaign

Again, this is NOT an endorsement.

But this video IS great:



February 10, 2016

A Follow-Up On Yesterday's Torture Blog Post (John McCain on Torture)

From The Huffingtonpost:

It doesn't work.  It's dishonorable.  It's illegal.  How difficult is it to follow the logic?

I may have some yuuge disagreements with the Arizona senator's politics, but here he's abso-frickin-lutely right (and I suspect in your heart you know that, too).

Here's his statement, as posted on his website:
Given the loose talk on the campaign trail about reviving waterboarding and other inhumane interrogation techniques, it is important to remember the facts: that these forms of torture not only failed their purpose to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies, but compromised our values, stained our national honor, and did little practical good. It is also important to remember that our nation has tried, convicted, and executed foreign combatants who employed methods of torture, including waterboarding, against American prisoners of war. As I have said before, our nation should never have employed such practices in the past, and we should never permit them in the future.

There is broad, bipartisan agreement on this fundamental question. Last year, the United States Senate passed in an overwhelming vote of 91-3 the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, legislation that took a historic step forward to ban torture once and for all by limiting U.S. Government interrogation techniques to those in the Army Field Manual. The Manual embodies the values Americans have embraced for generations – preserving the ability of our interrogators to extract critical intelligence from our adversaries while recognizing that torture and cruel treatment are ineffective interrogation methods. Some of the nation’s most respected leaders from the U.S. military, CIA, FBI, as well as faith communities and human rights organizations, have expressed their support for this legislation.

As Americans of conscience we must remember that in the war on terrorism, we are fighting not only to defend our security, but for an idea that all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily, as we learned in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib. Our nation needs a Commander-in-Chief who will make clear to those that fight on our behalf that they are defending this sacred ideal, and that sacrificing our respect for human dignity will make it harder, not easier, to prevail in this war.
It's been banned for a whole lot longer than last year, by the way.

For so many of the GOP candidates to be in favor (or, at the very least not quite disapproving) of torture is a frightening state of affairs for that large chunk of the American electorate.

February 9, 2016

The Once Grand Old Party On Torture

This really happened last night:


Politico has the story:
At a rally on Monday night in Manchester, New Hampshire, Donald Trump repeated a woman’s shouted remark that Ted Cruz was a “pussy” for his comments about waterboarding during Saturday’s Republican debate.

The moment came when Trump, recounting that exchange, heard a shout from a woman in the audience, pointed to her and said, “She just said a terrible thing.”

“You know what she said? Shout it out because I don’t want to say it,” Trump continued, smirking. “OK, you’re not allowed to say and I never expect to hear that from you again. I never expect to hear that from you again. She said he’s a pussy.”
Yea, and the crowd of GOP faithful loved it.  LUUUUVDIT!

So what did the Toronto-borne Senator say about whether waterboarding is torture?  This:
Well, under the definition of torture, no, it’s not. Under the law, torture is excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing organs and systems, so under the definition of torture, it is not. It is enhanced interrogation, it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture.
And, of course, he's wrong.

According to the recently popped "LawNewz" website:
During Saturday night’s ABC debate, Ted Cruz told the audience that waterboarding is not considered torture under any legal definition. His claim appears to be derived from a controversial 2002 Bush Administration Memo, which has been widely disputed and discounted. However, according to most other legal interpretations, waterboarding does meet the definition of torture.
See?

We've written about waterboarding/torture many times before and in this case, why it should have been prosecuted by the Obama Administration - if only to make sure it never happens again.

Now front runner Trump is saying he's going to "authorize" stuff "beyond waterboarding" and runner-up Ted Cruz redefining the torture out of the waterboarding.  This is why Obama needed to prosecute the Bush era war crimes.

As a reminder, this is what the "generally recognized definition of torture" really is:
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.
Frequent readers of this blog will remember that that was signed by Ronald Wilson Reagan.  It's the "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" and it was ratified in 1994.

And that makes it US Law.

I have a question: Since teh crazies have spent so much time saying Obama is ignoring the law and ruling by Executive Order, why are the silent at Trump and his supporters for cheering exactly what that same thing?  How could Trump "authorize" something so at odds with US Law?

And how could they cheer for it?

Waterboarding is torture.

Torture is against the law.

Bush authorized the torture.

Prosecute the torture, Mr. President.

February 8, 2016

Another Chuck McCullough Count, I guess

I've been away for a few days.  Now I'm back.

A few readers of this blog may have noticed that I tend to focus on a number of issues; climate science, church state separation, fact-checking the Tribune-Review braintrust and so on.  But one of my pet topics is the absurdly long time it had taken Allegheny County to finally get former Allegheny Council member into a court room for a trial.

He was found guilty at the end of July and sentenced to 2 and a 1/2 to 5 years in mid-December.

And while I was away, this happened:
A Common Pleas judge Friday granted a former Allegheny County councilman’s request to remain free pending his appeal to state Superior Court.
So I guess we need to start a new day-count.

It's been 192 days since Chuck McCullough was found guilty.

Hey, fans of mid-90s TV: Do you remember "My So-Called Life"?  How surprised would you be to find out that the entire run of that show was shorter than 192 days?  That's right first episode aired August 25, 1994 and the last on January 26, 1995 - 153 days.

But let's not dwell in teenage angst.  Let's look at another couple of high profile corruption cases:
  • Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty on March 12, 2009 to the charges connected to a massive Ponzi scheme and was in prison by July 14, 2009 - 124 days between the guilty plea and the beginning of his prison sentence
  • Scooter Libby was found guilty on charges related to perjury on March 6, 2007 and had his sentence commuted by the war criminal George W Bush on July 7, 2007 - 123 days.
Surely those cases are not more complicated than Chuck McCullough's.

And yet...

That's all I'm saying.

February 1, 2016

Privilege


Can we say that part (though certainly not all) of why people think Bernie is "authentic" is because he doesn't appear or sound polished, BUT:
  • If a white woman yelled a lot, wore ill-fitting clothes and had unkempt hair, people would call her "crazy"
  • If a black woman did that, people would call her "angry" 
  • And if a black man did that, people would call him "dangerous"
Only a white man can get away with that.

Hell, it can even become a positive meme for him:



While waiting for the results to come in...


Wondering which will be worse: 

Sanders wins IA and twice as many FeelTheBurn hashtags pop up on Facebook, 
or 
Sanders loses IA and will have to suffer through dozens and dozens of conspiracy posts...