What Fresh Hell Is This?

October 31, 2017

My THIRTY-FOURTH 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."

As you already know, yesterday former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates surrendered to the FBI and both were charged with a number felony counts, among them money laundering and "Conspiracy against the United States of America."

The White House was quick to point out that none of it had anything to do with Donald Trump or his presidential campaign.

A few hours later, however, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller announced the guilty plea of Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos on the charge of  lying to the FBI regarding "the timing, extent, and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials." Papadopoulos understood those officials to have "dirt" on Hilary Clinton. I don't know, but this looks like collusion to me.

In July you said that the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians was "overblown" adding that "most of us are not paying any attention."

Given the charges against Manafort and more importantly the guilty plea of Papadopoulos (who's reportedly cooperating with that "overblown" investigation), are you paying attention now? How does this effect your confidence in the Trump Administration? If it does, how much? If it doesn't, why not?

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

Follow-up:

October 30, 2017

Possible Indictments TODAY (But The GOP Wants You To Look Elsewhere)

From CNN:
A mood of fateful anticipation is cloaking Washington, with possible arrests imminent after the federal grand jury in the Russia investigation approved its first charges.

By taking one or more people into custody, a prospect first reported by CNN Friday, Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller would create a new, perilous reality for the White House, reflecting the gravity of the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and alleged collusion by President Donald Trump's associates.
From The Atlantic:
Washington is waking up on Monday waiting to see who will be arrested. Multiple news outlets reported Friday night that Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained a sealed indictment from a federal grand jury in the nation’s capital—the first one of the Russia investigation. But like so many other aspects of Mueller’s probe, the who, when, and why are still a mystery.
Of course, our friends on the right want nothing more than to talk about their latest Benghazi "scandal" - Uranium One.

Luckily, yesterday Joy Reid did something so few TV journalists do. She actively challenged a republican talking head (in this case Jen Kerns of the Washington Examiner) on with actual stubborn facts. Take a look:


Crooks and Liars has a transcript:
REID: I want to ask you a couple fact-based questions. Who got the money when the Canadian company was sold to the Russian company? The Uranium One? Who received the money?

KERNS: I presume the company.

REID: Yes. Okay, second question. Who approved the sale? Because when any sort of uranium or any company sells that type product, and by the way the uranium that's mined is mined right, is for nuclear power. It's not for nuclear bombs. Right? But when that happens there is an organization called CFIUS that approves it. Do you know what CFIUS that stands for?

KERNS: Yes. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

REID: How many people sit on the committee?

KERNS: Nine members.

REID: How many have to approve a deal like this?

KERNS: All nine of them.

REID: All nine.

KERNS: Absolutely.

REID: How many approved this deal?

KERNS: All nine of them.

REID: Did Hillary Clinton sit personally on that deal?

KERNS: No, but she pushed for it.

REID: Hold on. Who is the person who donated to Hillary Clinton who is related to and had an investment in uranium one? What is that person's name? Do you remember their name?

KERNS: They are board members of Uranium One donated up to I think it's a $143 million... to the Clinton Foundation.

REID: Did he own any assets in Uranium One at the time Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State?

KERNS: You know, I don't know that, but here's what I would...

REID: He did not. Sold them. (crosstalk)

KERNS: Here's what i would like to know.

REID: He sold them years before. So what you're talking about is a deal that nine members approved unanimously. None of them was Hillary Clinton. You have a donor who separately gave Hillary Clinton donations at a time when she was not Secretary of State. The two things cross in the night.

They have no relation to each other. The members of CFIUS have been very clear Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with that approving that deal. She would have had to strong arm eight people in order to get them to unanimously approve the deal and also the President of the United States would intervene if they saw any problems.

The CFIUS people say now that if that deal came before them today they would still approve it unanimously. There's actually nothing about the deal that's controversial. The only reason we're talking about it is because per your admission, which I think is very honest, the RNC would like us to be talking about this now.
On the other hand, some Trump-connected folks might be arrested today.

October 28, 2017

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

A few days ago, I mentioned that I'd received a few responses from Senator Toomey. I am in a unique position now that I have, in effect, a backlog of Toomey responses to analyze.

We'll start, for no other reason other than it's the easiest, with the letter dated October 3, 2017.

It starts with:
Thank you for contacting me about President Trump's pardon of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. I appreciate hearing from you.
Whew, that's a relief. There's absolutely no question that Senator Toomey is answering my 25th letter, dated August 29, 2017.

In it I asked whether he was OK with Trump's pardoning of Joe Arpaio. I wrote:
As you may know, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for willfully violating a judge's order to stop "detaining persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed."

He was violating their constitutional rights. He was told to stop by a federal judge. He disregarded that order and then bragged about it.
And after using a very large paragraph explaining the issue back to me (and was that really necessary, Senator?), Pat Toomey wrote:
I recognize that the President has the legal authority to pardon Mr. Arpaio. However, I believe that the President should have allowed the legal proceedings against Mr. Arpaio to continue after his conviction.
I am taking this to mean that Senator Pat Toomey believes that Donald Trump should not have pardoned Joe Arpaio - at least at this point, which may be a loop hole. However, looking closely at the words Toomey chose, it seems to me that he left open the possibility of still supporting a pardon, if only a hypothetical one that could have been issued in the future.

Let me explain. In the last sentence of the paragraph immediately preceding the one I just quoted, Toomey writes that Arpaio was entitled to appeal his conviction (which is, of course, true) and then writes that Trump "should have allowed the legal proceedings against Mr. Arpaio to continue after his conviction" adding nothing further about the question at all. Nothing, for example, about whether pardoning Arpaio was a good idea or a bad idea - only that the legal proceedings should have continued. So he never fully answered my question as to whether he was OK with the pardon as he only seems to have an issue with it getting in the way of the process.

Did you catch that omission? I missed it early on, too.

So let me ask the hypothetical: had Trump stood aside until all of Arpaio's legal options were exhausted, would Toomey have then been for or against a pardon for the now-disgraced former sheriff?

But while it is, as I said, a hypothetical, you'll notice that Senator Toomey left that particular hypothetical option open. He never said he disagreed with the pardon.

Did you catch that? Did you?

The complete text:

Thank you for contacting me about President Trump's pardon of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. I appreciate hearing from you.

The U.S. Constitution grants the President unilateral and broad authority to issue pardons for federal crimes. Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 states, "The President shall...have power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

As you know, on August 25 2017, President Trump issued a pardon to Mr. Arpaio. On July 31, 2017, after a trial before a federal judge, Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for violating a federal court order. The judge found that Mr. Arpaio, while serving as sheriff, willfully violated a court order directing him and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to stop detaining individuals based solely on the suspicion that they were illegal immigrants. Mr. Arpaio was scheduled to be sentenced by the judge in October 2017. He was facing a maximum of six months imprisonment. Mr Arpaio was entitled to appeal his conviction.

I recognize that the President has the legal authority to pardon Mr. Arpaio. However, I believe that the President should have allowed the legal proceedings against Mr. Arpaio to continue after his conviction.

I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this matter. Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.

October 27, 2017

ANOTHER Toomey Response.

In the last week, I've received FOUR Toomey responses (there was another via email yesterday).

Obviously, I have a backlog of Toomey analysis to do.

I'll try to get through them all by the beginning of next week.

But my meta-question is: what's going on in Toomey's office? Why the change?

October 26, 2017

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

Yesterday, I said I'd received two Toomey responses - one email and one snail mail.

Today, my friends, I received a third Toomey response.

That's three letters in two days!

We'll start with the last one.

It begins thusly:
Thank you fro contacting me about the protection and conservation of our environment. I appreciate hearing from you.
Huh? When did I write to Senator Toomey specifically about the environment? His second paragraph offers no clues (you can read it below). The clue comes in the first two sentences of his third paragraph:
As such, I understand your thoughts about the conservation of our environment and climate change. During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment which acknowledged that human activity contributes to climate change.
Great - climate change!  Now we're getting somewhere.  He's either answering my Eleventh or Twenty-seventh letter. As they both acknowledge Toomey's Keystone XL votes and I am feeling rather magnanimous today, I'll give him credit for both.

Not that it's going to help him because he's lying by omission.

Here's the story. I wrote about this in January, 2015 (weren't you paying attention?) and there were three amendments that Senator Toomey voted on that day.  The first one contained this language:
It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.
Senator Toomey voted in favor of that one (and good for him for doing so - it puts him at odds with the current occupant of the White House as well as the head of the EPA). The second amendment contained this language:
[C]limate change is real; and human activity contributes to climate change.
Toomey voted for that one, as well. So far so good. But the third amendment contained this language:
[C]limate change is real; and human activity significantly contributes to climate change.
Toomey voted against that amendment. Notice the difference? It's the word "significantly" that changes things for the Senator. Climate change is real, not a hoax, and human activity contributes to it but not significantly.

Seeing as that's in direct conflict with what the science says and seeing that Senator Toomey chose to omit mention of that third vote while taking credit for the previous two (hoping, I suppose, that no one would know about the third), I'm voting this a lie by omission.

Sorry Senator, but you're lying about your climate record.

The complete text:
Thank you fro contacting me about the protection and conservation of our environment. I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe it is essential to protect Pennsylvania's natural beauty and the quality of our environment. I am supportive of reasonable pollution controls that are designed to protect public health and our 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.

As such, I understand your thoughts about the conservation of our environment and climate change. During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment which acknowledged that human activity contributes to climate change.  Please be assured that I value your input and will keep your thoughts in mind when Congress considers future legislation concerning the environment.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.


October 25, 2017

Stephen Colbert, Jeff Flake and Some Late-Arriving Senatorial Testicles.

An amazing thing happened yesterday.

I received two Toomey responses. Two! One via the Post Office and one via email. One about the Republican response to the ACA and one about Trump's pardoning of the disgraceful Joe Arpaio.

It'll take some time to work through each.

In the mean time, let's talk about Senator Jeff Flake.

His speech yesterday:


You can read the text here.

While it's uber-refreshing to hear those words on the Senate floor (and completely understandable that they'd have to come out of a GOP gob to have any real possibility of impact), Stephen Colbert has a different take:


He ends with:
FIRST McCAIN, THEN CORKER, NOW FLAKE. WHY IS IT THAT REPUBLICANS ONLY SPEAK UP AGAINST DONALD TRUMP WHEN THEY KNOW THEY'RE NOT RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION? THEY FINALLY GROW A SET, AND THEN THEY SAY, "I'M TAKING MY BALLS AND GOING HOME!"
Better late than never? Perhaps. And then again perhaps not.

October 24, 2017

My THIRTY-THIRD Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

I'd like to ask you about your recent "Yes" vote on H.Con.Res 71. You and every other Republican in the Senate (save for Senator Paul of Kentucky) voted in favor of this budget. Every Democrat voted against.

The LA Times reported that "Senate Republicans overcame internal divisions late Thursday to approve a 2018 budget that will increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years to allow for President Trump’s proposed tax cuts. They also reported that the budget "slashes domestic spending, including steep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid."

The New York Times is reporting that Trump's take plain is potentially a huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans with no benefits for the bottom 1/3 and only modest benefits for the middle class. You voted for legislation that does all that and slashes Medicare and Medicaid while increasing the deficit.

Can you explain why?

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

Follow-up:

October 23, 2017

Meanwhile, Outside...

And now we're back on schedule.

From the climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
Averaged as a whole, the global land and ocean temperature for September 2017 was 0.78°C (1.40°F) higher than the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F). This was the fourth highest September temperature on record for the globe since records began in 1880, behind 2015 (+0.93°C / +1.67°F), 2016 (+0.88°C / +1.58°F), and 2014 (+0.79°C / +1.42°F). The 10 warmest Septembers have occurred during the 21st century, specifically since 2003. September 2017 also marks the 41st consecutive September and the 393rd consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average.
And then there's the year-to-date:
The first nine months of the year have each ranked among the top four warmest months on record, giving way to the second highest January–September period in the 138-year record at 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.5°F), trailing behind the record year of 2016 by 0.13°C (0.23°F), but ahead of 2015 by 0.01°C (0.02°F). Nine of the 10 warmest January-September global land and ocean temperatures occurred during the 21st century (since 2005), with only one year from the 20th century (1998) among the top 10.
Meanwhile in the climate-denying White House, the assault on science continues:
Before becoming President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Scott Pruitt spent years fighting environmental regulation. Since taking over the EPA, Pruitt has denied the scientific community’s consensus opinion on global warming and removed most mentions of climate change from the EPA website, leaving agency employees worried that they will be prevented from keeping the public informed about climate change. Those concerns appear to have been borne out over the weekend, when the EPA barred three of its scientists from giving presentations on climate change at a conference in Rhode Island.

As the New York Times first reported, EPA scientists Autumn Oczkowski, Rose Martin, and Emily Shumchenia were scheduled to speak at Monday’s State of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed, an event that will coincide with the release of a report on the health of Narragansett Bay. Oczkowski, Martin, Shumchenia all contributed to the report, which, according to organizers, features “significant” discussion of how climate change has affected the bay. Tom Borden, whose Narragansett Bay Estuary Program is hosting the conference, told the Times that an EPA official called him on Friday to cancel the scientists’ appearances. “I was not really provided with a clear explanation,” Borden said. “He advised me that it was the decision of the E.P.A. Office of Public Affairs.”
It's hardly surprising that the Trump White House would attempt to stop the science, given that the report's Executive Summary actually begins with this:
Today’s environmental status of Narragansett Bay (Bay) and the entire Narragansett Bay Watershed (Watershed) is the result of hundreds of years of human activities and environmental variability. Numerous organizations have worked together for decades to reverse trends of declining environmental conditions and to understand new threats such as those associated with climate change.
And then a few paragraphs later:
Stressors associated with climate change are increasing rapidly. Air and water temperatures are warming, the intensity and seasonality of precipitation are changing, and sea level is rising. These stressors are already causing ecological responses such as altering the estuarine fish community, with warm-water species increasing and cold-water species declining. Impacts of climate change on the cities, towns, and ecosystem of Narragansett Bay are projected to intensify, such as increased flooding and erosion of coastal properties, loss of salt marshes, and potentially more beach closures due to pathogens. Adaptation will require well-informed action by local communities.
Meanwhile it's still getting warmer out there, no matter what the little-handed pussy-grabber says.

October 22, 2017

Toomey Time Round-Up! (Part The Third)

So far, I've written 32 letters to Pennsylvania's junior senator, Pat Toomey.  The first round up of letters can be found here. The second, here.
Today, it's time for a third.

Of letters 19 through 32, Senator Toomey has responded to only one - Letter 24.

So here are the questions that, so far, Senator Toomey has yet to answer:
  • Nineteenth letter - On this one, Toomey probably gets a pass. It's about his failed "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017" and I asked him if he was OK with (according to the CBO) at least 22 million Americans not having health care because of legislation he wrote. Presumably he is OK with it (since he wrote the legislation) but as the legislation failed to make it past the Senate, the point is moo (yes, I know I'm reusing a joke - but it's such a good one!)
  • Twentieth letter - I asked Toomey to comment in the following: Bishop David Zubik is quoted as saying that "health care is a basic human right" and that Toomey's legislation (the failed one, see the previous letter) was "morally unacceptable." Even though the point is moo (again, see the previous letter), Toomey does not get a pass on this one. Is health care a basic human right or not?
  • Twenty-first letter - I asked Toomey about the then-recent rumors that the Trump administration was planning on firing Attorney General sessions in order to make it easier for Trump to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Specifically I asked if Toomey is OK with Trump's seeming disrespect for the rule of law.
  • Twenty-second letter - The Washington Post reported that Trump personally dictated the first, and misleading, statement describing his son's meeting with some Russians in Trump Tower. I asked Toomey if he was OK with Trump misleading the American people like that.
  • Twenty-third letter - The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump lied about a speech he gave to the Boy Scouts. I asked Toomey (who was, himself, a Boy Scout as a yute) if he was OK with that.
  • Twenty-fifth letter - This one is about disgraced former sheriff Joe Arpaio. I asked Toomey if he was OK with Trump's pardoning of Arpaio, especially after the latter had shown such blatant disregard for the rule of law.
  • Twenty-sixth letter - The Department of Justice filed papers in Federal Court reiterating that they had no records of any wiretaps as mentioned in Trump's tweets of early March of this year. I asked this question:
    Either Trump was lying in that he knew that what he was tweeting wasn't true but tweeted it anyway or he was negligent in that he fail to pick up the phone to confirm the story with the DOJ before tweeting. He's the leader of your party. You voted for him for in November. You're legislating his agenda in the Senate. How can you continue to support Donald J Trump?
    I really really really want an answer to this one. 
  • Twenty-seventh letter -  A few days after the devastating hurricanes that hit the American South and Carribean, th science-denying head of Trump's EPA said it was not the right time to talk about climate change. I asked Toomey, given the fact that actual climate scientists have been saying that climate change makes hurricanes worse, when is a good time to talk about climate change?
  • Twenty-eighth letter - This is another "Appeal and Replace Obamacare" question letter. There was yet another piece of legislation in the Senate, one that would set aside many of the ACA provisions dealing with preexisting conditions. I pointed out that many of the Senator's constituents would loose their health care if the legislation passes. I asked him to explain how he'd be in favor of hurting so many of the people who voted for him.
  • Twenty-ninth letter - This was a follow-up of sorts for the previous letter.
  • Thirtieth letter - It was reported that the Senate had failed to reauthorize CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program). A committee the Senator is on had announced a deal to extend the coverage for 5 years. I asked Toomey what he was doing to make sure it happened and if it didn't, how he was going explain it to his constituents, many of whom rely on that coverage.
  • Thirty-first letter - Senator Corker of Tennessee (who's retiring at the end of this term) had some rather harsh characterizations of Donald Trump, he's a liar and everyone know it, he's leading the world into another world war, and so on. In response Representative Mark Meadows said that "it's easy to be bold" when you're not facing reelection. I asked Toomey if that's true - if it's simply a matter of political courage for a member of Congress to speak out against Trump.
  • Thirty-second letter - Trump recently issued an executive order that would raise Pennsylvania premiums by about 30% and add about $194 billion to the federal deficit. Given that the main reason presented by the GOP for appealing and replacing Obamacare was to lower premiums and save money, how could Toomey, as a fiscal conservative, be comfortable with Trump's EO?
These are the as yet unanswered questions.

October 20, 2017

Just Yesterday...

The previous "worst president ever" said this yesterday of our current state of affairs:
Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.
And this:
We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization.
And this:
We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.
And finally, this:
In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.
And when the guy who lied the country into a war that killed 4500 servicemen and women, authorized illegal domestic surveillance and waterboarding calls out the current occupant of the White House on his bigotry, nativism, and casual cruelty, you know Trump's a bad bad hombre.
Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. - A. Lincoln



October 19, 2017

There is Something Seriously Wrong With Donald Trump



Just as there's something just as seriously wrong with his enablers in Congress:
Republicans are waiting to pass their tax-reform bill before they move to impeach Donald Trump, a former Republican member of Congress reportedly told a former US labour secretary.

In a Facebook post, Robert Reich said the former senator, an old friend of his, told him Republicans are "just praying Trump doesn't do something really, really stupid before the tax bill."
Shame on them. And shame on everyone who supports them.

October 18, 2017

Donald Trump Is Completely Unworthy

Not of being president - for we all knew that already.

No he's completely unworthy of being called a human being.

This news hit last night - after the debacle of Trump lying to us about how President Obama never called any Gold Star families.

No, that's just the set up.

Here's the story:
President Donald Trump told U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson's widow Tuesday that "he knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens, it hurts anyway," when he died serving in northwestern Africa, according to U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida.

"Yeah, he said that," Wilson said. "So insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn't have said it."

The president called about 4:45 p.m. and spoke to Johnson's pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, for about five minutes. She is a mother to Johnson's surviving 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. The conversation happened before Johnson's remains arrived at Miami International Airport on a commercial Delta Airlines flight. [Emphasis added.]
The Washington Post has confirmed that Rep. Wilson heard the conversation via speakerphone.

Donald Trump is a soulless coward.

October 17, 2017

My THIRTY-SECOND Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

Senator, I have to ask you about Donald Trump's recent Executive Order - the one ending the CSR payments (the subsidies that help low-income consumers afford health care insurance).

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that "Pennsylvania insurers offering Obamacare plans will need to raise premiums an average 30.6 percent in 2018, nearly four times the increase that had been anticipated."

Last August, the CBO estimated that ending the CSR payments would raise the federal deficit by $194 billion over the next decade or so.

So here's my question: Does any of this sit well with you? If one of the main reasons the GOP wanted (and presumably still wants) to repeal and replace the ACA was to lower premiums, then what are you going to do now that Trump's actions will raise them for so many Pennsylvanians? As a fiscal conservative, how can you support a plan that would both harm your constituents and add to the deficit?

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

Follow-up:

October 16, 2017

Trump vs Bill of Rights

Round One.

A Supreme Court Decision, 75 years ago:
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
Donald J. Trump, a few weeks ago:
President Donald Trump criticized some in the National Football League Friday night at a rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, saying team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem.

Trump added that if fans would "leave the stadium" when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, "I guarantee, things will stop."

Trump said NFL owners should respond to the players by saying, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he's fired. He's fired!"

Round Two.

The First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Donald J. Trump, a few days ago:
He has little understanding of (or respect for) what protects our freedom.

October 15, 2017

Meanwhile, Outside

Sorry folks, I missed this one. It should have been posted a few weeks ago. This is the "State of the Climate" report from September about August.

From NOAA:
The August 2017 global land and ocean temperature was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F) and the third highest August global temperature in the 138-year record, behind 2016 (+0.90°C / +1.62°F) and 2015 (+0.88°C / +1.58°F). Nine of the ten highest August global temperature departures from average have occurred since 2005, with only one year from the 20th century (1998) among the top 10 warmest Augusts on record. August 2017 also marks the 41st consecutive August and the 392nd consecutive month with a global temperature at least nominally above the 20th century average.
And:
The seasonal global land and ocean temperature for June–August 2017 was third highest such period since global records began in 1880 at 0.81°C (1.46°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F). This value falls behind the record year 2016 by 0.08°C (0.14°F) and 2015 by 0.05°C (0.09°F).
It's still getting warmer out there. It's happening and it's undeniable, in fact.

Meanwhile in our climate denying White House, this is happening:
President Trump has nominated a skeptic of climate change science to lead the White House’s environmental policy board.

The White House late Thursday announced that Trump picked Kathleen Hartnett White to serve as a member, and eventually chairwoman, of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
From the Washington Post:
From her post at the [Texas Public Policy Foundation], Hartnett-White often has challenged the conclusions of international experts on climate change science, as well as criticized the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are pollutants that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

“I take issue with that,” she told The Post last fall. “Carbon dioxide has none of the characteristics of a pollutant that could harm human health.”

She has displayed similar contempt for international climate efforts, calling scientific conclusions from United Nations panels “not validated and politically corrupt.” Hartnett-White has also questioned the idea that carbon dioxide is a pollutant at all, calling it “an odorless, invisible, beneficial, and natural gas.”
Yes, but the science actually says that with more CO2 in it, the atmosphere absorbs more infrared radiation, thus warming the planet.

It's getting warmer out there and the current administration (and their many many enablers in the House and Senate) are denying the science.

October 12, 2017

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter!

Yesterday, I received another response from Senator Pat Toomey.

It starts like this:
Thank you for contacting me about the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. I appreciate hearing from you.
Standard opening and it's about Charlottesville. Good as that narrows things considerably.

To this letter - my 24th to Senator Toomey.

In it, I ask this question:
Given your statement of the 14th, when you asserted your unambiguous disgust with white supremacists (et al) and Trump's departure from his statement and re-embrace of "blame both sides", has your support for Donald Trump, the leader of your political party and the man you voted for for president, wavered in any way?

And if not, why not?
Senator Toomey's "statement of the 14th" was this:
I am disgusted by white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis and believe the racism and hate spewed by these groups have no place in our society.
Just so you know where we are in the chronology.

In his response to me, Toomey addresses the events in Charlottesville AND Trump's comments:
Like you , I am deeply troubled by the racist march in Charlottesville and terribly saddened by the tragic loss of life that occurred there. The racism, hate, and violence seen in Charlottesville are vile and unacceptable. I am disgusted by the white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, and believe that the racism and hate spewed by these groups have no place in our society.

As to President Trump's statements about the events in Charlottesville, I believe and have publicly stated that there is no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, bigots, and white supremacists, and those who oppose them. Our country has no room for corrupt ideology or violent acts.
As commendable as all that is (and it is, Senator) I have to ask my audience: Did you notice anything missing? Anything? Anything at all?

How about this: He utterly failed to even get close to my question. Which was, let's remember, this:
Given [his responses to the events in Charlottesville] has your support for Donald Trump, the leader of your political party and the man you voted for for president, wavered in any way? And if not, why not?
Why didn't Pat Toomey answer the question? Either his Trump support has wavered or it has not because of Trump's wavering racism. Given all teh udder crazie wafting through the White House these days, don't we have a right to know?

I guess not.

There's an interesting footnote to this story. Whenever I get a Toomey response, I google the first sentence to see if he's already sent it to me (he doubled up once before, doncha know). What did I find this time?

This blogpost - it is word for word the same letter I received.

Welcome to my world, J.S. Brooks (I wonder if you knew that "Bach" means "Brook" in German.)

Toomey's letter in full:
Thank you for contacting me about the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. I appreciate hearing from you.

Like you, I am deeply troubled by the racist march in Charlottesville and terribly saddened by the tragic loss of life that occurred there. The racism, hate, and violence seen in Charlottesville are vile and unacceptable. I am disgusted by the white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, and believe that the racism and hate spewed by these groups have no place in our society.

As to President Trump's statements about the events in Charlottesville, I believe and have publicly stated that there is no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, bigots, and white supremacists, and those who oppose them. Our country has no room for corrupt ideology or violent acts.

I hope that what occurred in Charlottesville will be an isolated incident. Moving forward, I pray that members of Congress will put politics aside, unequivocally condemn hate and bigotry, and find ways to work together to protect our shared American values of equality and justice for all.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please be assured I understand and appreciate hearing your concerns, and will continue monitoring the fallout from the recent events in Charlottesville. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Pat Toomey

U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania

October 10, 2017

My THIRTY-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."

Recently in the New York Times your colleague, Senator Corker of Tennessee, had some rather harsh characterizations of the man you voted for. Corker said:
  • I don't know why the President tweets out things that are not true. You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.
  • Trump may be setting the US on the path to World War III.
  • He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.
The Times also reported that "Mr. Corker said that his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican."

So here's my question, Senator. Are you one of those Senate Republicans? If you are, when will you be speaking out and if you're not then why not?

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), said of Corker, "It's easy to be bold when you're not coming back."

Is that true? Is it simply a matter of political courage to speak out against Trump?

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

Follow-up:

October 9, 2017

A Very Expensive Stunt!

This weekend:
Vice President Mike Pence left a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday after some players knelt during the National Anthem, saying he did not want to "dignify" the demonstration.

"I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," Pence wrote on Twitter.
This is, of course, bullshit because the protest isn't about anything near what Pence said it was about.

This is what Colin Kaepnernick actually said about his refusal to stand during the National Anthem:
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
And then there's this part from an different interview:
I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they have fought for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.
And in a response his team at the time, the 49ers, issued this statement:
The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.
Bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody.

None of which is untrue.

So the Colts are playing the 49ers - Kaepernicks old team doncha know - and before hand the little handed pussy grabber instructed Pence to leave "if" some players kneeled.

IF?

This was a stunt from the beginning:
Yes, all that money for a racist strawman argument.

This is the America we live in now.

October 5, 2017

One Last Tim Murphy Follow-Up (Until The Next One)

Murphy Resigns:
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), the embattled anti-abortion lawmaker who allegedly encouraged his lover to terminate a pregnancy, on Thursday announced his plan to resign from office later this month — just a day after announcing his plan to retire following the 2018 election.

The Pennsylvania Republican’s about-face came after House GOP leaders and senior Republicans upped the pressure on Murphy to step down. Republican sources familiar with Murphy’s thinking said the married father of one child initially believed he could weather a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story revealing he had sent a series of text messages to his girlfriend — a psychologist half his age — encouraging her to have an abortion. Murphy had been a strongly anti-abortion lawmaker during his 15 years in Congress.
Poor guy.

And to think - if only he'd been faithful to the family values that the rest of his party seems so eager to push onto the rest of country, he would never have put himself into this mess.

Poor guy.

Tim Murphy Follow-up (In Case You Missed It)

A follow-up on yesterday's blog post.

From the Post-Gazette:
Congressman Tim Murphy announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election.
You'll note that the hypocrite is not resigning - he's just not seeking re-election. You'll also note that the present term only started 9 months ago.  He's still on the job for another 15.

October 4, 2017

In Case You MIssed It, Here's Hypocrite Rep Tim Murphy (PA-18)

Before we start, let's get some factual data out of the way
  • Tim Murphy is a Republican.
  • Tim Murphy is pro-life.
  • Tim Murphy is 64.
  • Tim Murphy is married.
And now the woman on the other side of this story:
  • Shannon Edwards is 32.
  • Shannon Edwards is also married.
And now, onto the Post-Gazette:
A text message sent in January to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy by a woman with whom he had an extra-marital relationship took him to task for an anti-abortion statement posted on Facebook from his office's public account.

"And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options," Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist in Pittsburgh with whom the congressman admitted last month to having a relationship, wrote to Mr. Murphy on Jan. 25, in the midst of an unfounded pregnancy scare.
And now it's hit the big time (in the USA):
Yea, so now everyone knows.

What a hypocrite Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania's 18th District is.

October 3, 2017

My THIRTIETH 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."

While everyone in the world (myself included) is trying to come to terms with America's latest mass shooting, I'd like to ask you about something else completely.

ABC news has reported that the House and Senate have both missed the deadline to reauthorize the finding for CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program - a program that covers about 9 million low and middle income children.

The Kaiser Foundation reported that our own state of Pennsylvania will probably exhaust its CHIP money sometime in the last quarter of this year, meaning that unless the Congress does something, lots of low and middle income children will have to do without adequate health care next year.

Politico reported that The Senate Finance Committee (which I believe you're on) announced a deal to a 5-year extension of CHIP funding in the middle of September. And yet the Senate failed to vote on it.

So here's my question: What will you be doing to make sure the Senate reauthorize CHIP and if the Senate does not reauthorize, how are you going to explain it to the many Pennsylvania parents who rely on that funding?

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

Follow-up:

October 2, 2017

(Artist unknown)

ANOTHER Mass Shooting

From The Washington Post:
A gunman in a high-rise hotel opened fire on concertgoers at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip late Sunday, killing at least 50 people and injuring more than 200 in one of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, was later killed during a standoff with police, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters. NBC and others reported that Paddock was 64.
Stephen Paddock, a 64 year old white guy from Nevada.

So let's build that wall to keep out the Muslims!!

THAT'LL keep us safe!

MAGA!!