What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 20, 2017

Happy Monday!


February 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 17, 2017

On The Press Conference

So there was this press conference yesterday and Donald Trump was, well, Donald Trump.

The NYTimes has a transcript.

Stephen Colbert had some thoughts about it:


There were a few choice moments.

Like this one:
In response to a question Thursday about threats to Jewish centers nationwide, President Donald Trump called a Jewish reporter a liar, told him to sit down and later said anti-Semitism was coming from "the other side."

The exchange kicked off as Trump looked through the room at a White House news conference and asked for a question from a "friendly reporter."
And this one:
Over the course of the lengthy and bizarre news conference that President Trump held Thursday, few moments crystallized the unusual nature of his presidency as effectively as an exchange he had at the end with April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks.

Ryan asked Trump if he would include the CBC in discussions about his agenda for addressing urban policy. The CBC, for those unaware, is the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of African American legislators that is often a leading voice on the Hill for issues dealing with the black community. Trump appeared briefly to be unaware of what the initials stood for, and so Ryan asked more pointedly.

“Am I going to include who?” he asked.

“Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus,” Ryan, who is black, asked, “and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as …?”

“Well, I would,” Trump interrupted. “Tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting.”
And let's all remember his take on the reporting about this White House:
The leaks are real. The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.
I'll just leave it at that.

Great Moments in Black History Month

Toomey "Virtual" Town Hall Recap



Caller: "Hi. This is Linda from Pottstown. First time caller, long time racist."

Sen. Pat Toomey: "Thank you for your support, Linda."


This has been your Toomey "Virtual" Town Hall Recap.

February 16, 2017

H.R. 356 - Protecting Our Democracy Act

A few days ago this came across my Facebook feed. It's from Congressman Mike Doyle (I live in the legislative district he represents in the House):
The American People deserve an independent investigation into President Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s pre-inauguration phone calls with the Russian ambassador. General Flynn had to resign; he clearly had become a potential Russian blackmail target. It’s hard to believe, however, that he would discuss the future of US sanctions without authorization - so Americans still need to know what the President and Vice President knew, and when they knew it. Flynn’s resignation is not a substitute for answers, which is why I’ve cosponsored HR 356, a bill to create a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the extent of the Russian government’s influence on the Trump White House and presidential campaign.
HR 356 was introduced by Representatives Eric Swalwell and Elijah Cummings and has been cosponsored by all the Democratic members of The House (including, of course, Rep. Mike Doyle)

The bill looks to establish a commission that will investigate "the Russian government, persons or entities associated with the Russian government, or persons or entities within Russia to use electronic means to influence, interfere with, or sow distrust in elections for public office held in the United States in 2016" by way of hacking, propaganda and so on.

The bill was introduced on January 6, 2017 - more than a month ago.

Now that Mike Flynn's resignation following reporting that he lied about his contacts with Russia after the election but before the inauguration, it's become all that more important to for there to be a bipartisan Congressional investigation into whatever Russian intelligence was doing before during and after the November elections.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  You may remember them, they plowed through piles of taxpayer money in a Benghazi! investigation.

Let's see if they have a similar level of outrage for Russian interference in an election that gave the little-handed pussy grabber the Oval Office.

February 15, 2017

Some Questions About Today's News

From today's NYTimes:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
What did Trump know and when did he know it?

Huffingtonpost:
When President Donald Trump was asked Friday to weigh in on a Washington Post report that his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. prior to the inauguration, the president claimed he was unaware of the news.

“I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it. What report is that? I haven’t seen that. I’ll look into that,” Trump said on Feb. 10, according to a White House pool report.

But White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that the president knew about Flynn’s communication with Russia for weeks. When Trump said, “I don’t know about that,” he simply meant he didn’t know about the Washington Post report specifically, Spicer claimed.

“We’ve been reviewing and evaluating this issue with respect to General Flynn on a daily basis for a few weeks, trying to ascertain the truth,” Spicer said during a daily press briefing.

What Trump and his team have failed to explain in detail is why it took a “few weeks.”
What did The Donald know and when did he know it?

Politico:
Hours after national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned amid reports that he misled top officials about his pre-inauguration talks with the Russian ambassador, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to encourage everyone to move on. “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” he tweeted out Tuesday morning.

In a sense, Trump is right: The real story is not Flynn. But it isn’t government leaks, either. No, the “real story here” is Trump himself—and the continuing mystery of his ties to Russia.

As official Washington and the press home in on the permanent disarray in the White House, whether the disgraced Flynn broke the law and who will succeed him after his three-week tenure, the key question is getting lost in the shuffle: Who told Flynn to call Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States? Because I’m convinced Flynn didn’t do it of his own accord. Flynn is a bit player in a much larger story regarding the president’s relationship with the Kremlin, and it’s this story the press needs to focus on.
What did the little-handed pussy grabber know and when did the little-handed pussy grabber know it?


February 14, 2017

An Open Letter To My Senator, Pat Toomey

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

I blog at the local Pittsburgh blog, "2 Political Junkies."  As I reside in Pennsylvania, and as you are one of Pennsylvania's two Senators, I am a constituent of yours.

As your constituent, I have a question to ask you.  I've posted the text of this letter on the blog and I'm planning on posting your response there as well.

Recently on "Face The Nation" Senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller had this exchange with host John Dickerson.  When asked whether the administration had "learned anything" from their experience with the immigration executive order, he replied:
Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many case a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is -- is -- is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned. [Emphasis added.]
Senator, do you think he's correct?  Given the fact that our Constitution defines three equal branches of government does the president have unquestionable power when it comes to national defense?

Or do you believe that there is judicial and legislative oversight that serves as a check and balance to the president's authority, whatever it is?

I look forward to hearing back from you

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

February 13, 2017

Again, Genius...



Meanwhile in reality, the Trump Administration is STILL peddling the voter fraud lie:
White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller appeared on ABC’s “The Week” on Sunday, spouting a bunch of false talking points on alleged voter fraud. (He also repeated similar claims on other Sunday talk shows.) To his credit, host George Stephanopoulus repeatedly challenged Miller, noting that he had provided no evidence to support his claims. But Miller charged ahead, using the word “fact” three times in a vain effort to bolster his position.
And the Intelligence Community is withholding material from Trump because they don't trust him.  Furthermore:
What’s going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM,” meaning the White House Situation Room, the 5,500 square-foot conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings. “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in wry frustration.
But, you know...there's all those Hillary e-mails.

February 12, 2017

The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Misleads You About Climate Science. Again.

Take a look.  This was from Friday:
A whistleblower's claim that data were manipulated to show global warming's 1998-2013 “pause” didn't happen — and the reaction to it — demonstrate that climate science is anything but “settled.”

John Bates retired last year as the National Climatic Data Center's principal scientist and had been responsible for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate archive. He accused Thomas Karl, a former NOAA official and lead author of NOAA's 2015 “pausebuster” report, of trying to “discredit” the 1998-2013 warming pause by manipulating data and rushing the report's publication in advance of December 2015's United Nations climate summit in Paris, according to The Washington Times.
Yea, except that once we get to the actual science, we'll see the braintrust's deception.  (Spoiler Alert: It's a deception by omission)

From the Trib editorial, we're lead to this piece at the Washington Times, that describes Bates' piece at Judith Curry's blog which is, itself, a criticism of the work of Thomas Karl, described here.

There's only one problem with Bates' criticism, however.  It's dependent on whether Karl actually did hide and manipulate the data.

What does Karl say, originally?  Take a look:
Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here, we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than those reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.
And finally:
Newly corrected and updated global surface temperature data from NOAA’s NCEI do not support the notion of a global warming “hiatus.” As shown in Fig. 1, there is no discernable (statistical or otherwise) decrease in the rate of warming between the second half of the 20th century and the first 15 years of the 21st century. Our new analysis now shows that the trend over the period 1950–1999, a time widely agreed as having significant anthropogenic global warming, is 0.113°C decade−1, which is virtually indistinguishable from the trend over the period 2000–2014 (0.116°C decade−1). Even starting a trend calculation with 1998, the extremely warm El NiƱo year that is often used as the beginning of the “hiatus,” our global temperature trend (1998–2014) is 0.106°C decade−1—and we know that is an underestimate because of incomplete coverage over the Arctic. Indeed, according to our new analysis, the IPCC’s statement of 2 years ago—that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years”—is no longer valid.
What does make science "valid" is if it's verified independently.  So we can now ask, has Karl actually been verified?  If he has been, then the idea that he's presenting something false goes out the window.

Actually, he has been:
In an article in today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose makes the extraordinary claim that “world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data”, accusing the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of manipulating the data to show more warming in a 2015 study by Tom Karl and coauthors.

What he fails to mention is that the new NOAA results have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and that many other independent groups, including Berkeley Earth and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, get effectively the same results.
But let's get back to the idea that Karl "manipulated" (Remember: the Braintrust used that word specifically) the data  has also been debunked by a very prominent player in this discussion: John Bates.

From an interview at E&E News this week:
The federal climate scientist hailed by conservatives as a whistleblower for allegedly revealing manipulated global warming data said yesterday he was actually calling out a former colleague for not properly following agency standards for research.

In an interview with E&E News yesterday, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration principal scientist John Bates had a significantly more nuanced take on the controversy that has swirled since a top House Republican hailed his blog post as proof that the agency "played fast and loose" with temperature data to disprove the theory of a global warming "pause."

Bates accused former colleagues of rushing their research to publication, in defiance of agency protocol. He specified that he did not believe that they manipulated the data upon which the research relied in any way.

"The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data, but rather really of timing of a release of a paper that had not properly disclosed everything it was," he said. [Emphasis added.]
And as to the timing of the paper (this is from the same E&E News piece):
Whether the research was published to influence the Paris climate talks is a moot point, said Andrew Light, a senior member of the State Department's climate talks negotiating team in 2015. He said the talks had already been underway for about four years when the paper was published and that 188 nations were relying on a tremendous amount of research to support their goal of reducing humans' carbon emissions to slow the warming of the planet. They had also already crafted proposed reductions by the time the research was published, he said.

"I never heard it discussed once, let alone this one NOAA report, discussed in Paris, the run-up to Paris or anything after Paris, so this is really just an incredibly bizarre claim," Light said.
So the science has been verified and it had no effect on the Paris climate talks.  So what was the braintrust saying?  What was it that they were presenting as factual to its readership?  How much of it has been debunked by reality?

It reminds me of what Mary McCarthy once said of Lillian Hellman:
I said once in some interview that every word she writes is a lie, including "and" and "the."
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you more editorial alternative facts from the Tribune-Review.

February 10, 2017

More On Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth)

I haven't written about State Representative Rick Saccone for a while. There's just been too many other things to write about, what with a little-handed pussy grabber inhabiting the office once occupied by Franklin Roosevelt, JFK, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.

But yesterday, the OPJ informed me about this story:
A state representative from Allegheny County has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission signalling a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Robert Casey Jr.

Rep. Rick Saccone, a Republican from Elizabeth, told PennLive Thursday he will formally announce his bid later this month. He becomes the first candidate to take official steps to challenge Casey, who will be up for a third term in 2018.

"I thought our country was going in the wrong direction, and I was going to step up and do something about it," Saccone said. "I want to be there to help our new president secure the agenda that our people voted for."
"Our people" Rick?  Who do you mean by "our people"?

Before we begin to ponder who Rick is referencing there, let's remind everyone of the some of the times Rick showed up on this blog:
  • January 28, 2012 - Rick introduced legislation making 2012 "The Year Of The Bible."
  • October 27, 2013 - Rick proposed a bill requiring Pennsylvania public schools to post "In God We Trust" on every school building.
Neither passes constitutional muster, by the way.  That old First Amendment establishment clause and what not.

As I wrote in 2012, Rick's also a cosponsor of an anti-Sharia law law.  And so this means that:I guess this means that faith written into legislation is acceptable if it's the good faith, unacceptable if it's the bad faith.

He's also a fan of waterboarding (which is a war crime).

Planned Parenthood supporter? There's one place to be and one place to avoid on Saturday!


If you support women's reproductive health and rights, then please don't go to Planned Parenthood tomorrow (unless of course you have an appointment). On Saturday, there are planned protests occurring outside of Planned Parenthood offices nationwide -- including here in Pittsburgh. 

Naturally enough, some are organizing counter protests. 

All good, right? 

NO.

That 'no' is coming from Planned Parenthood itself:
Adrienne Verrilli, Associate Vice President of Communications at Planned Parenthood of New York City told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that too many cooks in the kitchen can be really detrimental to a patient’s experience ― and the patient’s experience is their ultimate priority.  
“Our goal is making sure our patients are comfortable,” she said. “The quieter it is outside, and the less people are engaging with each other, the better it is for our patients.” 
...
 When counter-protestors are present, patients don’t see them as helpful, Verrilli said, “they just see chaos.” 
Planned Parenthood of Western PA is in agreement: They do not want counter protesters.

Unfortunately, there is a counter protest planned. 

A Facebook event was set up for the counter protest by a group of three men and two women, with the International Socialist Organization - Pittsburgh later added as a sponsor.

Their event page garnered hundreds of comments from women and Planned Parenthood asking, imploring, and literally begging them to reconsider. The pleas were met with complete resistance -- primarily by two of the men who set up the page. Via Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents:
This is what what my friend Jodi Hirsh calls ‘the ultimate mansplain.’  I am reposting my own comments from Facebook with regard to the intent of a group of self-identified Socialists to organize a counterprotest in support of abortion rights, but IN SPITE of the wishes and experiences of Planned Parenthood, clinic escorts, patients and pro-choice activists across the region. 
This is not okay. A group of 3 men and 2 white women are organizing an event to defend choice in spite of the vehement opposition of Planned Parenthood, clinic escorts, patients and more. 
This counter-protest threatens our safe access to PP clinics. It shows disregard for the leadership of women and the experiences of women. It flies in the face of logic. 
But mostly it says that these men do not trust Planned Parenthood and do not trust women. They are taking action on our behalf much like all of the Republican men who sign anti-choice legislation do. Their opinions matter more than anything else.
Listen to women, socialists. Listen to women and demonstrate the capacity to model political resistance where men center women’s experiences instead of their own.
I'd link to that event page, but it was deleted by the sponsors and replaced by a new one sponsored solely by the International Socialist Organization and where no commenting is allowed.

And, in one more act of ignoring the reality of the situation, the cover photo on the new event page is actually taken from a rally in support of Muslims which took place in Denver (13th photo in the slideshow here) -- nothing whatsoever to do with women's reproductive rights. But I guess, they figure the 'look' was right. Just like they like the idea of a counter protest and the sound of their own voices -- however counterproductive that is in reality in this case.

If you could see their original counter protest page, you would see that Planned Parenthood tried to work with them. For example, suggesting that they protest at PP's Greensburg office which is closed for the day (so no patients to upset), or protesting outside of "crisis pregnancy centers" (fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion). Planned Parenthood even set up their own event people could attend to demonstrate their support, but to no avail.

So, if you do want to support Planned Parenthood, again, please do not go to the counter protest in Pittsburgh.

Instead, join them at their I Stand With Planned Parenthood Celebration and avoid both the rabid forced birthers and the unhelpful mansplainers. 

The irony of supposed supporters doing the exact opposite of what the group they say they're supporting is beyond rich. And, it's no way to be a real ally.

February 9, 2017

The Criminal Enterprise of Don Trump and Family


What Senator Pat Toomey Voted For (Another Day, Another Senatorial Insult)

A great deal of news yesterday was focused on this story:
The Senate has silenced Elizabeth Warren.

And by doing so, majority Republicans just handed the liberal firebrand a megaphone -- further elevating President Donald Trump's fiercest and most prominent critic in the Senate and turning her into a Democratic hero.

The rebuke of Warren came after the Massachusetts Democrat read a letter written 30 years ago by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship.
She was stopped by Senator Mitch McConnell who cited Senate Rule 19.

Incidentally, when she was stopped by McConnell, she was saying this of Senator Sessions:
IN 2013, SENATOR SESSIONS VOTED AGAINST REAUTHORIZING THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT, A ABOUT I WILL THAT EXPANDED THE PROTECTIONS AND SERVICES PROVIDED TO VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. THERE'S A PIECE FROM THE BEDFORD MINUTEMAN THAT REALLY TELLS THE STORY OF HOW SEXUAL VIOLENCE IMPACTS MASSACHUSETTS. AND THIS IS WHAT IT SAID. "THEY ARE MOTHERS, DAUGHTERS, SISTERS, FATHERS, SONS, AND BROTHERS - "[Capitalization in the C-Span original.  This is at 49:24]
For the record, this is true.  Sessions did vote against reauthorizing.

The letter itself has an interesting history:
In 1986, Coretta Scott King wrote a letter in opposition to Jeff Sessions’ nomination to become a federal judge. It criticized Mr. Sessions’s record on civil rights and said that elevating him to higher office would demean the record of Mrs. King’s husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The letter resurfaced last month, when BuzzFeed News reported that Senator Strom Thurmond, a Republican from South Carolina who was then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had failed to enter it into the Congressional Record. On the same day as BuzzFeed’s report, The Washington Post obtained the letter and published it online.
So I guess that King was herself silenced by another southern Senator a few decades ago.  Huh.  Go figure.  I mean what are the odds??

Anyway, after Senator Warren got herself Southern-mansplained by a proper Kentucky gentlemen, the Senate took a vote on whether she'd be "permitted" to continue.  The vote went party line with our own Senator Pat Toomey voting to stop Senator Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter from Coretta Scott King about Senator Jeff Sessions' past record on civil rights - and this took place during Black History Month.

Let me rephrase: A letter from Coretta Scott King, silenced by buried by Strom Thurmond 30 years ago only to be silenced again (with your help) during Black History Month. 

Let me ask you, Senator Toomey: don't these optics look really really bad for you?


February 8, 2017

What Senator Toomey Voted For

After at least one call for him to recuse himself from the vote to confirm Betsy Devos as Secretary of State Education (even after accepting tens of thousands of dollars from her in campaign contribution money) Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, never the less, voted for her confirmation.[Error corrected.]

Something (some of your) constituents won't forget.

But now owns that vote - forever.

And forever is a long time, Pat. 

Now let's see what his vote got us.  For the science geeks out there, there's at least one troubling aspect of Devos' testimony.

From the York Daily Record:
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, said in the hearing that DeVos and her husband have contributed to the Thomas More Law Center, which represented the Dover Area School District in a 2005 lawsuit over the district's inclusion of intelligent design in biology class. Intelligent design is the idea that life is so complex it must have had an "intelligent designer." Ultimately, a federal judge ruled against the district.

"The 's' in STEM … is science," Whitehouse said, according to C-SPAN video of the hearing. "If school districts around the country try to teach students junk science, will the Department of Education be with the students or with the political entities trying to force junk science into the science program."
When she could have (should have) disavowed any inkling of "junk science" seeping into the nation's science curriculum, she didn't.  Her answer, instead, contained subtle nod to creationists everywhere:
"I think it’s pretty clear the expectation is science is taught in public schools, and I support the teaching of great science," DeVos said to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "Especially science that allows students to exercise critical thinking and really discover and examine in new ways. Science is to be supported at all levels." [Emphasis added.]
This is why.  From the National Memo:
At a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for education secretary, responded to a question about whether she would promote “junk science” by saying she supports science teaching that “allows students to exercise critical thinking.”

This seemingly innocuous statement has raised alarms among science education advocates, and buoyed the hopes of conservative Christian groups that, if confirmed, DeVos may use her bully pulpit atop the U.S. Department of Education to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools.

DeVos and her family have poured millions of dollars into groups that champion intelligent design, the doctrine that the complexity of biological life can best be explained by the existence of a creator rather than by Darwinian evolution. Within this movement, “critical thinking” has become a code phrase to justify teaching of intelligent design.
Intelligent design, in case you didn't already know it, is junk science.

Thanks, Pat.  This is who you voted for.

February 7, 2017

In Case You Missed It...Donald Trump, Christopher Ruddy and Fake News

I'm not sure if you caught this piece from Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush (Boo!) of the New York Times.  It starts with this:
President Trump loves to set the day’s narrative at dawn, but the deeper story of his White House is best told at night.

Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room. Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit. In a darkened, mostly empty West Wing, Mr. Trump’s provocative chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, finishes another 16-hour day planning new lines of attack.
But that's not what I wanted to talk about.  What I wanted to talk about is found about seven paragraphs later.  It's this:
Chris Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and an old friend of the president’s, said: “I think, in his mind, the success of this is going to be the poll numbers. If they continue to be weak or go lower, then somebody’s going to have to bear some responsibility for that.”

“I personally think that they’re missing the big picture here,” Mr. Ruddy said of Mr. Trump’s staff. “Now he’s so caught up, the administration is so caught up in turmoil, perceived chaos, that the Democrats smell blood, the protesters, the media smell blood.”
See that?

Wait, I'll give you another example.  This time from Politico:
"Most of the people around him are new to him. One of the things they don't understand about him is he likes pushback. They are not giving him the pushback he needs when he's giving advice. He's a strong guy. He's intimidating to a lot of people," said Christopher Ruddy, a Trump friend who talks to him often and is the CEO of Newsmax. "If he doesn't have people who can tell him no, this is not going to go very well."
Now you have to see it.

This is about Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax and "old friend" of Donald Trump's.

This is the same Christopher Ruddy who wrote "The Strange Death Of Vince Foster."  A conspiracy theory tell all that implicated Bill and Hillary Clinton in the death of Vince Foster, even though official investigations (including the Starr Investigation) all concluded it was a suicide.  Of Kenneth Starr (remember him?), Christopher Ruddy is quoted as saying that he was "a patsy for the Clintonites."

Christopher Ruddy reported a number of completely untrue things; that the Clintons killed Vince Foster, that the Park Police staged the scene of Foster's death, that the White House covered it up and that Kenneth Starr was a patsy for the Clintonites.

And this guy has Trump's ear.  Can we talk about some fake news now?

February 6, 2017

Genius

In posting about the First Amendment yesterday,The Other Political Junkie included video of SNL's hilarious cold open, but this blog would be remiss if we did not also mention that episode's 'second cold open.' Melissa McCarthy was simply brilliant as Press Secretary Sean Spicer. McCarthy's physical comedy combined with the spot-on take of the absurdity and sore-winner-anger of the Trump propaganda machine is TO DIE FOR! "Your word!"

 

Well, THIS Is Hardly Surprising

From The Washington Post:
From the campaign trail to the White House, the Trump administration has generally shown a lack of concern for human-caused climate change, at best — and, at worst, disbelief in its existence. And it seems that many Trump voters share these views as well.

Just 25 percent of people who voted for Donald Trump believe climate change is occurring now and is caused by human activity, according to a recent survey by researchers from the University of New Hampshire.
But I mean, if they can believe without evidence that between 3-5 million illegal votes were cast for Hillary Clinton last November or that the crowd at Trump's inauguration was the largest ever or that he will get Mexico to pay for his stupid wall, then it's not that out of place for them to believe in the science of climate change.

Happy Monday!

February 5, 2017

In Celebration Of The First Amendment

Quick, before it's erased by an unchallenged-by-his-bullied-GOP Trump Executive Order that would read something like this:
If public security and order are seriously disturbed or endangered within the Homeland, the President may take measures necessary for their restoration, intervening if need be with the assistance of the armed forces. For this purpose he may suspend for a while, in whole or in part, the fundamental rights described by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights...
Let's take a minute to remember the amendment that guarantees our freedom of speech:
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.
And celebrate this bit of protected Trump bashing that's sure to upset the little-handed pussy grabber.

From SNL last night:


Let's see how long we can continue to enjoy this freedom.

February 4, 2017

They want all brown people out



"Ethnic Cleansing" via Atrios (2/3/17):
It's what they're trying to do, and I get livid when people respond with "wahh wah you're minimizing the real episodes of ethnic cleansing in history." No, I'm doing my best to put a stop to yet another incident. They want all the brown people out, especially but not just Muslims, and they'll use whatever authority they can to do it. They didn't just prevent new people from coming in, they tried to prevent legal long term residents (green card holders) from returning. They've revoked who knows how many existing student and H1-B visas. Again, not just new arrivals or even people trying to re-enter, but revoking the legal status of people already here - people who have invested time and money in education and careers. Those people can be declared in violation, and even if they aren't being deported momentarily, they will be unable to return due for years or ever due to visa violation they weren't even aware they had made. Employers will have workers who have no right to work here - again, unknown to them. Families will continue to be ripped apart.

Um, It's Called A SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES

From Trump's twitter feed:
Donald, it's part of a system we like to call (and perhaps that should have been posited in the past tense) a system of checks and balances.  You see there are THREE (not just one!) branches of Government as defined by The Constitution.  You're sitting at the top of JUST ONE of them - the Executive Branch.  Then there's the GOP-controlled Congress (made up of two bodies, the House and the Senate) - that's the Legislative Branch.  They make the laws and you implement them.

Since you seemingly have bullied them into submission, it might LOOK to you like you control everything.  But you don't.  Not everything.

It's THE THIRD branch, The Judiciary, that decides if the actions of the first to are in agreement with The Constitution (remember the Constitution?  I guess you haven't read it since Khizr Khan offered you his copy, Sad!).  If an action is in agreement with the Constitution, then fine.  It continues.  If it doesn't, then it can't continue.  That's how this halt on your immigration ban came to be.

It's a function of the system of checks and balances of the three equal branches.  Did you know that, Donald?  Did you know that there are three equal branches of constitutional authority?  Hasn't anyone ever told you that?  Were you listening when they did or were you thinking of grabbing some pussies and you missed it.

In a constitutional democracy/republic every one has to play by the constitutional rules, Donald.  Even you.

It's frightening to me that you need to be reminded of this.


Two Magazine Covers. One Will Make You Sad, The Other Will Make You Mad

Can you guess which one?





Resist Trump's America. It's Un-American.

February 3, 2017

Sen. Pat Toomey Announces Statewide Listening Tour


Odd Thing For Donald Trump To Say

Recently, at The National Prayer Breakfast, Donald Trump said this:
Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways.
And then listing some religiously based atrocities ("peace-loving Muslims brutalized" by ISIS, the Holocaust, Muslim on Christian violence), he said this:
All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence. All nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously, if we have to. So I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land. America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure.
Which is odd for a man who almost as recently called for a "Muslim ban."

And how do we know it's a "Muslim ban"?  I'm glad you asked.

Rudy Giuliani let it slip that it was:
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) said in an interview on Saturday that President Trump had previously asked him about legally implementing a "Muslim ban."

But Giuliani then disputed the notion that the president's sweeping executive order barring refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim nations amounts to a ban on Muslims.

"I’ll tell you the whole history of it: When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban,'" Giuliani said on Fox News.

"He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’"
This is also the crowd that gives us, regularly, "alternative facts" so even when they're "correcting" themselves, they're obfuscating. Take a look at this from Salon:
It is a fact that President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Friday banning Muslim immigration to the United States — and an “alternative fact” to claim that it isn’t.

Although White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted on Tuesday that Trump “has made it very clear that this is not a Muslim ban,” CNN’s Jake Tapper played a clip of Spicer using the term “ban” during a Sunday interview with ABC.

“It is a 90 day ban to ensure that we have further vetting restrictions so that we know who’s coming to this country,” Spicer had said.

Tapper also pointed out that Spicer referred to Trump’s policy as a “ban” during an event at George Washington University on Monday.

“The ban deals with seven countries that the Obama administration had previously identified as needing further travel restrictions,” Spicer had said. Spicer’s claim that Trump is merely following a policy started by then-President Barack Obama is also a debunked “alternative fact.”
So freedom of religion is a right - except when Donald Trump thinks you're a dangerous Muslim.

And speaking of "alternative facts" did you know that there was a massacre in Bowling Green Kentucky during the Obama Administration that no one reported about?  Seems that these two mewz-lims snuck into the Homeland during President Obama's six month ban on mewz-lims and killed a whole mess'o people and the liberal media didn't report on it.  At all.

That's what KellyAnne Conway said last night.

The only problem is that none of it was true:
During an appearance on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” on Thursday night, Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and now an adviser in his administration, appeared to make up a fictional “massacre” when justifying the President’s ban on refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

“I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” Conway said during an exchange on the program. “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

The media didn’t cover the Bowling Green Massacre because no such event ever happened.
Oh, and there was no 6-month Obama ban.

Facts should matter.  At this point in American politics, they don't.

Resist.

February 2, 2017

Ya gotta dance with the one that brought you!

Putin increases attacks on the Ukraine and Trump loosens U.S. sanctions on Russia. 

Debt paid.

(SUCKAS!)







(Graphic source unknown)

Yes, That's Right. Trump Knows How To Negotiate.

Who the hell knows what's going on?

From the NYTimes:
A phone call between President Trump and the Australian prime minister is threatening to develop into a diplomatic rift between two stalwart allies after the two men exchanged harsh words over refugee policy, and Mr. Trump abruptly ended the call.

The phone call last Saturday between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull turned contentious after the Australian leader pressed the president to honor an agreement to accept 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Late Wednesday night, Mr. Trump reiterated his anger over the agreement on Twitter. He called the agreement a “dumb deal” and blamed the Obama administration for accepting it but then said that he would “study” it. The tweet was posted after The Washington Post reported details of the phone call.
On the other hand, The Guardian says:
On Sunday, a phone call between Turnbull and Trump took place. Turnbull maintains that, during the call, Trump committed to honouring the refugee resettlement deal. That was later confirmed by the US state department and US embassy in Canberra. But a report in the Washington Post cast the Trump-Turnbull conversation in an entirely different light. It was reported that Trump had described the deal as “the worst deal ever” and complained that Australia was trying to send the US the “next Boston bombers”. Trump poured petrol on the fire by later tweeting: “Do you believe it? The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
By the way, "petrol" is "gasoline" in Australian.

The next paragraph begins with:
Trump’s unpredictability makes the way forward difficult to gauge. Turnbull has said that, despite Trump’s tweet, the refugee resettlement deal is still on.
Though it ends by casting doubt - saying the deal is an "unlikely prospect."

And remember, Australia is our ally.  Australia, along with the US, Canada, New Zealand and the UK make up the so called "Five Eyes" global surveillance group that's been snooping in our collective cache files for decades.  Trump's looking to bully them?

All for what?  An unconstitutional, immoral, cruel and xenophobic policy shit out with little or no forethought of its consequences.

Welcome again to Trump's America.

Resist the fascism.

Groundhog Day II


February 1, 2017

The Boss, In Adelaide Australia

Bruce Springsteen tweeted this:
It's from a concert in Australia.  Here's what he said:
Tonight we want to add our voices to the thousands of Americans who are protesting in airports around our country. The Muslim ban, the detention of foreign nationals and refugees — America is a nation of immigrants and we find this antidemocratic and fundamentally un-American.
He then played this song, originally written during the Seeger Sessions, though released a few years later in 2012:


I hope I'm not overstepping by bounds here but I'd add that "antidemocratic and fundamentally un-American" is a good description of Donald Trump, his presidency and all the enablers in the GOP who once denounced him but are now on board with his racism, bigotry and sexism.