What Fresh Hell Is This?

April 21, 2018

Meanwhile, Outside...

Let's take our monthly peek at the state of the global climate, shall we?

From the climate scientists at NOAA:
Overall, the combined global land and ocean temperature for March 2018 was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F) and the fifth highest March temperature departure from average in the 139-year record. This value was also 0.40°C (0.72°F) cooler than the record high set in 2016 and was the smallest temperature departure from average in the last four years. The years 2015–17 are the three warmest Marches on record. March 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive March and the 399th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average. March 2018 also had the highest monthly temperature departure from average since July 2017. The March global land and ocean surface temperature has increased 0.08°C (0.14°F) per decade since 1880. That rate is more than double since 1980.
Meanwhile over at another guv'ment cabal of science propagandists - NASA:
March 2018 was +0.89 °C warmer than the average March of the 1951-1980 period. This value is lower than the two hottest years of the record — March 2016 (+1.30 °C) and March 2017 (+1.12 °C) — and is comparable with the years 2002, 2010, and 2015, which cluster tightly around +0.9 °C. The corresponding number for all other years in our 138 years of modern record-keeping is at or below +0.77 °C.
Which should come as a surprise to the newly installed head of NASA.

Newly installed? What on Earth do you mean, Dayvoe?

Take a look:
The following are statements from Rep. Jim Bridenstine and acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on Thursday’s U.S. Senate confirmation of Bridenstine as the 13th Administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration:

"It is an honor to be confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as NASA Administrator,” said Bridenstine. “I am humbled by this opportunity, and I once again thank President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their confidence. I look forward to working with the outstanding team at NASA to achieve the President’s vision for American leadership in space.”

“I’m very pleased to welcome Jim Bridenstine to NASA,” said Lightfoot. "He joins our great agency at a time when we are poised to accomplish historic milestones across the full spectrum of our work. Jim now takes the reins of this agency and its talented and dedicated workforce. I'm looking forward to him building on our great momentum and sharing our many strengths to help us make the next giants leaps on behalf of humanity. I also want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the NASA team for all they accomplished during my time leading the agency."
You can read Bridenstine's bio here.

You'll note a complete lack of any sort of scientific degree. He has undergraduate degrees in Economics, Psychology, Business and an MBA from Cornell.

Imagine that. The head of a scientific organization having no actual science degrees in his education.

But wait, there's more.

On June 11, 2013 the then-Representative from Oklahoma and now current head of NASA said this:
Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles.

During the Medieval Warm Period from 800 to 1300 A.D.—long before cars, power plants, or the Industrial Revolution—temperatures were warmer than today. During the Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1900 A.D., temperatures were cooler. Neither of these periods were caused by any human activity.
 None of which is actually scientifically true.  Let's take them one at a time.

He's speaking in 2013 - so if "global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago" that would mean they peaked about 2003. Usually the climate deniers are counting back to 1998 (a strong el Nino year) perhaps Bridenstine made (another) mistake by only canting back to 2003.

In any event, what he said about how "global temperatures stopped rising" is simply not true. Even according to NASA at the time:
Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) say 2012 was the ninth warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The ten warmest years in the 132-year record have all occurred since 1998. The last year that was cooler than average was 1976.
They even have a chart:

And and explanation:
The line plot above shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2011 as recorded by NASA GISS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, and the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom. All four institutions tally temperature data from stations around the world and make independent judgments about whether the year was warm or cool compared to other years. Though there are minor variations from year to year, all four records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the last decade as the warmest.
Then there's the part about how the "Medieval Warm Period" was warmer today. Also not true.

From the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience in 2013:
Past global climate changes had strong regional expression. To elucidate their spatio-temporal pattern, we reconstructed past temperatures for seven continental-scale regions during the past one to two millennia. The most coherent feature in nearly all of the regional temperature reconstructions is a long-term cooling trend, which ended late in the nineteenth century. At multi-decadal to centennial scales, temperature variability shows distinctly different regional patterns, with more similarity within each hemisphere than between them. There were no globally synchronous multi-decadal warm or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age, but all reconstructions show generally cold conditions between ad 1580 and 1880, punctuated in some regions by warm decades during the eighteenth century. The transition to these colder conditions occurred earlier in the Arctic, Europe and Asia than in North America or the Southern Hemisphere regions. Recent warming reversed the long-term cooling; during the period ad 1971–2000, the area-weighted average reconstructed temperature was higher than any other time in nearly 1,400 years. [Emphases added.]
But yes, the period between 1300 and 1900 was colder than it is today. But that's because the planet's warming up due to human intervention. So Bridenstine's last sentence is also not true.

This is the guy who'll be heading NASA.

Meanwhile it's still getting warmer outside. The science says so.

April 18, 2018

April Is STILL "National Sexual Assault Awareness And Prevention Month"

Yep, that's what Donald J. Trump proclaimed.

One of the responses, recently was this:


From The Hill:
A social network company projected “There is a rapist in the White House” on the side of President Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel on Monday night.

Care2, a company that describes itself as "the world's largest social network for good," went after the sexual misconduct allegations made against Trump in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Here's another:


From the statement issued by Care2:
Tonight during the third week of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Care2 is honoring the survivors of Trump's predatory behavior by reminding everyone with this projection that there is a morally unfit rapist in the White House. And it's time to evict him once and for all.
Morally unfit. Accused rapist. Donald J. Trump.

April 17, 2018

My FIFTY-SEVENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

I am sorry to ask you about this subject again but considering the times in which we both live, I think it's important to do so. Your colleague, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) recently introduced S.2644, The Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act in order to "ensure independent investigations and judicial review of the removal of a special counsel" - in this case Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The bill states that a special counsel "may be removed only for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of policies of the Department of Justice" and then it provides for an appeal process should that counsel believe that the removal violated the act.

So here's my question: Do you support this legislation? If not, then why not?

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

Follow-up:

April 13, 2018

More On Daryl Metcalfe - A Follow-up To Yesterday

Yesterday, when State Rep Daryl Metcalfe was showing exactly the level of legislative transparency he's willing to offer when defending his right to gerrymander, his legislation was protested (an act, I am told, is still protected by the First Amendment).

Well, Brother Daryl had a reaction to one of those protests:
This is the flag that so offended him:


Despite the fact that the above is obviously First Amendment protected political speech, it's just as obvious that Metcalfe is taking 36 U.S.C.§176 very seriously:
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
So I take it he'll be denouncing this soon (if he hasn't already):


Or this:


That last image pivots to another section of 36 U.S.C.§176:
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
So I suppose Rep Metcalfe will be denouncing this disrespect for the flag:


Look at the shawl! It's an American Flag and SHE CUT TWO HOLES THROUGH IT. Furthermore, the above mentioned flag code clearly states:
(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as...water....
Wouldn't her shoulders count? Her hair? And what if she beings to sweat? Isn't sweat mostly water? She slashed an American flag (twice!) and has put it in a position to soak up her armpit sweat.

How can that possibly be acceptable to a proud defender of the flag like State Rep Daryl Metcalfe? When can we expect him to denounce these violations of the flag code?

April 12, 2018

More On Daryl Metcalfe - He's Fighting For The Freedom To Gerrymander!

From The Tribune-Review:
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, led an effort Wednesday to gut a bill that would have created an independent commission of citizens to draw electoral maps instead of leaving the process to legislators.

Metcalfe, chairman of the House State Government Committee, called a surprise morning meeting and introduced an amendment to the proposal that completely changed what the legislation would do.
But wait, there's more. From the Lehigh Valley Live, a letter:
Talk about a blatant power grab by the Republicans in the Pennsylvania State House. At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, without prior notice of what was going to be voted upon by House State Government Committee, state Rep. Daryl Metcalf, the committee chairman, handed out an amendment to House Bill 722. There were no discussion, no hearings and no testimony by the sponsors of HB 722. It was passed on a strict party-line vote.
Wanna talk legislative transparency? We'll start here.

So what does this Metcalfian-fiasco do?

From The Morning Call - current law:
Under current law, the state’s mapmaking commission consists of five members. The Legislature picks four and the Supreme Court one. The governor has veto authority over the congressional map, not the state legislative map. Either map could be appealed to the state courts.
But then the State Supreme Court ruled the current set of Congressional districts unconstitutional because it unfairly favored the GOP.

HB 722 proposed a new 11 member commission. Again from the Morning Call:
Four of the members would come from the state’s largest political party, which current voter registration records show is Democratic. Another four would come from the party with the second highest number of registered voters, Republicans. The remaining three members would come from minor parties.
Adding that no one on the commission "could not be related to any statewide or congressional official or lobbyist."

Of those who qualify, a random sampling of 40 names is made. The legislature's top caucus officials could veto up to 6 names each.

Sounds like a good idea. No one is beholden to the current unbalanced process. The legislative districts would be fair(er).

So what did Daryl Metcalfe propose in its place? This:


You'll note that instead of 11 people unconnected to "any statewide or congressional official or lobbyist" the commission will be made up of already elected Senators and House Representatives chosen in such a way as to unerringly favor a party that controls both houses (and in this case by a complete and utter coincidence, of course, that just happens to be Metcalfe's GOP).

And if the committee can't agree on a map then the whole Assembly votes on the draft. And who controls both houses at this time?

What a coincidence: Again, it's Metcalfe's GOP!

With no discussion, hearings or input from the authors of the original legislation, it passed by on a party-line vote (meaning Metcalfe's GOP).

And this is considered "neutral" to Daryl Metcalfe - and something not at all a tyrannical subversion of the process to favor some "partisan agenda."

From The Trib:
“The amended House Bill 722 would ensure that neutral, locally focused criteria would remain the only standard by which a map could be judged, preventing any activist Supreme court from tyrannically subverting these criteria to its own preferred partisan agenda,” Metcalfe said in a statement.
See?

April 11, 2018

Trump's Sexual Assault Awareness And Prevention Month. Day Seven - Trump The Peeping Creep

Late last month, Donald Trump proclaimed April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month."

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts about Donald Trump's past as a sexual harasser/assaulter.

Here's Trump in his own words (from CNN):
"Well, I'll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I'll go backstage and everyone's getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I'm allowed to go in because I'm the owner of the pageant and therefore I'm inspecting it," Trump said. "You know, I'm inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good."

"You know, the dresses. 'Is everyone okay?' You know, they're standing there with no clothes. 'Is everybody okay?' And you see these incredible looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that. But no, I've been very good," he added.
This was 2005 when Trump would have been...59 years old.

What sort of mature man brags about peeking in "incredible looking women" who are "standing there with no clothes" (and who probably can't leave)? For the Miss Universe pageant, the youngest woman would have been 18 - or about 40 years younger than the creepy peeping Trump.

For the Miss Teen USA, the minimum age is 15.

What, you say? Why bring this up??

Because Buzzfeed had this a couple of years ago:
Four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing.

“I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here,’” said Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA.

Trump, she recalled, said something like, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”

Three other women, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of getting engulfed in a media firestorm, also remembered Trump entering the dressing room while girls were changing. Two of them said the girls rushed to cover their bodies, with one calling it “shocking” and “creepy.” The third said she was clothed and introduced herself to Trump.
By the way, the Miss Teen USA pageant took place on August 20, 1997. When the creepy peeping Donald would have been about 51 years old - or 36 years older than our hypothetical 15 year old or 33 years older than the above quoted Mariah Billado, who was 18 at the time.

And also by the way, Ivanka Trump provided "color commentary" for the broadcast that year. She was also 15.

Donald Trump, creepy peeper of teen age women everywhere (or at least at the pageants he owned).

April 10, 2018

My FIFTY-SIXTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

I was going to ask you about recent news coverage describing how the Congressional Budget Office now says that the tax cuts you championed this past December will expand the deficit to $800 billion in fiscal 2018 (up from $655 billion in fiscal 2017). 

However, considering the events of the past day or so (the FBI raiding Donald Trump's attorney's offices) I'm afraid we have to change the subject. Trump characterized the raid as a break in and as "an attack on our country in a true sense." Given that the FBI went in with a search warrant (one that had to be approved by the highest levels of the Department of Justice as well as a Federal Judge) Trump is completely wrong to call it a break-in as well as "an attack on our country" and "what we all stand for."

So here are my questions, Senator: How concerned are you over these events (both the raid and Trump's response to it)? What will you do if Trump decides to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller given that you're on the record saying that you have "every confidence" that Mueller will do the job with "integrity and professionalism"? Or do you now agree with Trump that the raid is "a disgrace" and that Mueller's investigation is "a witch hunt"?

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


Follow-up:

April 9, 2018

Trump's Sexual Assault Awareness And Prevention Month. Day Six - Jessica Leeds

Late last month, Donald Trump proclaimed April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month."

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts about Donald Trump's past as a sexual harasser/assaulter.

From NPR:
As she initially recounted to the New York Times in a story published Wednesday, she says Trump groped and kissed her as the two sat next to each other in first class.

"Whether it was 15 minutes or not, it seemed like forever," she said.

The encounter had begun as a "cordial" conversation over an in-flight dinner. Leeds said she had been escorted by a flight attendant from coach to first class, where she found herself seated next to Trump.

"They served a dinner. After the dinner was cleared he began encroaching on my side of the seat," Leeds told NPR's Audie Cornish. "Mr. Trump started coming over to me and groping me and trying to embrace me. And then his hands started going up my skirt."

Leeds said the assault continued for several minutes, though, as she recalls, neither she nor Trump ever said anything.

"I don't recall saying no, I don't recall saying stop," she said. "I don't recall saying anything. It was like a silent pantomime. I remember at one point looking over at the guy in the seat across the aisle, and his eyes were like bugging out of his head."

Leeds said she eventually stood up and walked back to her initial seat in coach, where she remained for the rest of the flight.

"It really rattled me," she said, to the point where after the flight landed, she remained in her seat until everyone else had exited the airplane, so that she wouldn't have to confront Trump a second time.
Trump's defense is familiar. According to NPR, Trump at a campaign stop in North Carolina just after the Leeds assault story broke. he said this in his defense:
"Oh, I was with Donald Trump in 1980," Trump said, mimicking Leeds' accusation. "I was sitting with him on an airplane, and he went after me on the plane."

"Yeah, I'm going to go after you," Trump said dismissively, waving his arms. "Believe me – she would not be my first choice. That I can tell you."
Not that he would never have groped a woman on a plane but that he would have never groped her - but only because she's not good looking enough. Classy guy, that Donald. Very classy.

As he said in his proclamation, "We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable."

Donald Trump, assaulter of Jessica Leeds.

April 8, 2018

A Changed Headline Illuminates

This morning, the Post-Gazette published this piece by Christine Emba of the Washington Post.

It's about the need for biblical literacy. The column's headline at the P-G reads:


Which was kinda weird because the column really doesn't say much about atheists specifically. After reading and re-reading the column a few times, the only possibly reference to "atheists" I could find was the last sentence of this paragraph:
According to a survey last year by LifeWay Research, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible. Theologian Albert Mohler has noted, aghast, that more than 10 percent of Americans think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. In 2010, the Pew Research Center revealed that only half of self-identified Christians could identify the four Gospels. (In case you’re wondering, they’re Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.) And as the number of religious “nones” in the United States continues to rise, the amount of even cursory religious knowledge we share seems sure to fall.
And we should note that "Nones" is not necessarily a synomyn for "atheist" as seen in this discussion by the Pew Research Center In a piece titled "'Nones' on the Rise" they say:
The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.
"Nones" means "unaffiliated" and Pew further explains:
However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day.
I do also want to take a moment to point out something else from the headline: "atheist" is not a synonym for "non-Christian" as any discussion with any rabbi or imam would surely reveal. 

And in any event, Emba says nothing about the biblical literacy of the "nones." So why the poke at atheists?

When I went looking for the original piece this is what I found this morning. The headline now showing at the Washington Post (where the column first appeared on two Fridays ago on March 30) reads:


So when was the change from "Even atheists" to "You" made? Was it a P-G decision?

Apparently not as the URL of the Washington Post piece still includes this bit fragment:

.../even-atheists-should-read-the-bible/2018/03/30/...

The next day, Hemant Metha of Patheos did a good job at analyzing Emba's piece for some of it's rhetorical inconsistencies. Perhaps that's what triggered the headline writers at the Post to change it's title to something a little more correct.

But that's no excuse for the P-G to revert to the original headline.

Especially since the Pew Research Center (remember them?) has published data saying:
Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.
So if there's a "splintered public consciousness" due, at least in part, to a widespread biblical illiteracy in the population, that illiteracy is to be found less in the non-believers than in, say, mainstream Protestants and Catholics. So the proposed solution for atheists to improve their biblical literacy (as the Post originally said and the P-G more recently echoed) is insultingly absurd.

Shouldn't the P-G have checked this before using the column's original (and obviously incorrect) headline?

April 6, 2018

Trump's Sexual Assault Awareness And Prevention Month. Day Five - Summer Zervos

Late last month, Donald Trump proclaimed April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month."

It seems that I'm not the only one thinking Trump's trumpeting of his "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month" is anything but absurd.

From The Hill:
Former CIA Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash said on Thursday that President Trump should not try to raise awareness of sexual assault after Trump said women crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are facing rape.

"Just on this issue about rape or whatever point he was trying to make, maybe he was trying to raise awareness about sexual assault. He is about the last person on earth who is positioned morally to raise awareness about sexual assault," Bash told MSNBC.
Maybe not the last but he's certainly close.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts detailing the sexual assault/harassment allegations against Donald J Trump.

From Rolling Stone:
Summer Zervos, a contestant on the fifth season of The Apprentice, came forward on Friday afternoon to accuse Republican nominee Donald Trump of kissing, groping and thrusting his genitals on her during a business meeting. She is the sixth accuser to come forward alleging sexual misconduct by Trump this week alone. At least four other women, including two former beauty pageant queens, one business associate and his ex-wife Ivana, have made accusations in the past.

Zervos, the first contestant fired from her season Trump's reality TV show, said she approached the businessman about a job at his company in 2007, after she appeared on the show. They met first in Trump Tower to discuss the opportunity, where she says he kissed her twice on the mouth and asked for her phone number. Weeks later, she says he arranged to meet with her at a hotel in Los Angeles, where Zervos says he kissed, groped and thrust his genitals on her.
This was October 14, 2016. By that evening, Trump was calling Zervos a liar. For example that night he said:
It’s not hard to find a small handful of people willing to make false smears for personal fame.
So Zervos sued him for defamation. From the complaint:
Ms. Zervos was ambushed by Mr. Trump on more than one occasion. Mr. Trump suddenly, and without her consent, kissed her on her mouth repeatedly; he touched her breast; and he pressed his genitals up against her. Ms. Zervos never consented to any of this disgusting touching. Instead, she repeatedly expressed that he should stop his inappropriate sexual behavior, including by shoving him away from her forcefully, and telling him to “get real.” Mr. Trump did not care, he kept touching her anyway.
As he said in his proclamation, "We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable."

Donald Trump, assaulter of Summer Zervos.

April 5, 2018

Trump's Sexual Assault Awareness And Prevention Month. Day Four - Temple Taggart McDowell

Late last month, Donald Trump proclaimed April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month."

I thought I'd take the month and look at many women who've accused him of Sexual Assault/Harassment.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts detailing the sexual assault/harassment allegations against Donald J Trump.

From NBC News:
Temple Taggart McDowell, who represented Utah as a 21-year-old in the 1997 Miss USA pageant in Shreveport, La., said Wednesday night that she was introduced to Trump during a rehearsal by her father, who was a fan of Trump's.

"It was at that time that he turned to me and embraced me and gave me a kiss on the lips," McDowell said.

Temple Taggart, now Temple Taggart McDowell, with Donald Trump in an undated photo. Temple Taggart McDowell

Later, McDowell said, Trump offered to help her get contracts with elite modeling agencies, and during a visit to Trump Tower in Manhattan at Trump's invitation, he again embraced and kissed her on the lips, this time in front of two pageant chaperones and a receptionist.

The New York encounter made one of the chaperones so "uncomfortable" that she advised McDowell not to go into any rooms with Trump alone, McDowell said. The other chaperone accompanied her into Trump's office, she said.

Trump, who was married to Marla Maples at the time of the alleged encounters, strongly disputed McDowell's claim Wednesday night, telling NBC News that he couldn't remember her.
What was it that he said to Billy Bush on the "grab them by the pussy" tape? Oh, yea. this:
Yeah that's her in the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful... I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait.
Which of Donald's stories rings truer? The "my-dick-is-bigger-because" boast or the "Nope. Nope. I didn't do it" denial uttered only after being caught?

As he said in his proclamation, "We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable."

Donald Trump, creepy forcible-kisser of Temple Taggart McDowell.

April 4, 2018

Trump's Sexual Assault Awareness And Prevention Month. Day Three - Jessica Drake

Late last month, Donald Trump proclaimed April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month." I kid you not.

I thought I'd take the month and look at many women who've accused him of Sexual Assault/Harassment.

This is the third in a series of blog posts detailing the sexual assault/harassment allegations against Donald Trump.

From CBS News:
Add Jessica Drake, an adult film star, to the growing list of women who have come out alleging that she has been a victim of unwanted sexual advances by Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

Drake, speaking to reporters in Los Angeles and accompanied by feminist attorney Gloria Allred, detailed the encounter with Trump 10 years ago, when she met him at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe? Really? Hmm.

Then:
“He flirted with me and invited me to walk along the golf course with him,” Drake said. After he asked for her number, Trump invited her to his room later that night.

“Two other women came with me,” Drake said, because she was uncomfortable going alone to Trump’s penthouse suite. When they arrived at his room, she said, “he grabbed each of us tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission.” A security guard was present.
Trump was reportedly dressed in pajamas. After 45 minutes of what Drake characterized as "an interview" they left.

And then finally:
After she returned to her own accommodations, Drake said that she received a call from a man. “Donald wanted me to come back upstairs to Donald’s suite,” Drake said.

“I indicated that I did not wish to return,” she said. “Then Donald called. He asked me to return to his suite and have dinner with him. He also invited me to a party. I declined. Donald then asked me, ‘What do you want? How much?’”
There was one last call offering her $10,000 and the use of his private jet. Classy, classy guy.

Trump, of course, has denied the allegations - but in the classy classy way we've come to expect. From CNN:
Donald Trump on Monday addressed the latest accusations of inappropriate sexual contact made against him, saying of the accuser, an adult film performer, "Oh, I'm sure she's never been grabbed before."
But let's get back to Lake Tahoe, shall we? When have we read about Trump and Lake Tahoe?

That's where he met Stephanie Clifford.

But take a look at this from Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker:
In July, 2006, McDougal joined Trump at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, at the Edgewood Resort, on Lake Tahoe.
There it is!  And by the way, Trump had been having an affair with Playboy playmate Karen McDougal for sometime at that point. You know where we're going with this, right?  Right here:
During the Lake Tahoe tournament, McDougal and Trump had sex, she wrote. He also allegedly began a sexual relationship with Clifford at the event. (A representative for Clifford did not respond to requests for comment.) In the 2011 interview with In Touch Weekly, Clifford said that Trump didn’t use a condom and didn’t mention sleeping with anyone else. Another adult-film actress, whose screen name is Alana Evans, claimed that Trump invited her to join them in his hotel room that weekend. A third adult-film performer, known as Jessica Drake, alleged that Trump asked her to his hotel room, met her and two women she brought with her in pajamas, and then “grabbed each of us tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking for permission.” He then offered Drake ten thousand dollars in exchange for her company.
At one golf tournament, he has sex with (or otherwise hits on) four different women (or is it six? As Drake had two friends with her) - none of whom is his newlywed wife. As I said, what a classy classy guy!

Where is the outrage from the family values crowd?

As he said in his proclamation, "We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable."

Donald Trump, creepy forcible-kisser of Jessica Drake.

April 3, 2018

My FIFTY-FIFTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

I'd like to ask you about HR 1 (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), specifically its impact on the economy. At your website, you that "This bill will spur significant new investment, business expansion, and new business startups, leading to more jobs, higher wages, a better standard of living for more Pennsylvanians."

A few months back a survey done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found something very different. Three researchers, writing at the Atlanta Fed blog, Macroblog, in January found that even after HR 1, "The typical firm isn't planning on a whole lot of additional capital spending or hiring" and that "roughly two-thirds of respondents indicated that the tax reform hasn't enticed them into changing their investment plans for 2018." They added that as for new hiring, roughly the same goes: a typical firm has not changed its hiring plans due to HR 1.

They produced a follow-up three months later. In that survey of the results they found that, "if anything, these firms have revised down their expectations for this year."

Senator, given your rather enthusiastic support of the legislation, can you explain to your constituents its rather disappointing results so far?

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


Follow-up:

April 2, 2018

Trump's Sexual Assault Awareness And Prevention Month. Day Two - Natasha Stoynoff

Late last month, Donald Trump proclaimed April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month."

This is the second in a series of blog posts detailing the sexual assault/harassment allegations against Donald Trump.

From writer Natasha Stoynoff:
In the early 2000s, I was assigned the Trump beat for PEOPLE magazine. For years I reported on all things Donald.

I tracked his hit show The Apprentice, attended his wedding to Melania Knauss and roamed the halls of his lavish Trump Tower abode. Melania was kind and sweet during our many chats, and Donald was as bombastic and entertaining as you would expect. We had a very friendly, professional relationship.

Then, in December 2005, around the time Trump had his now infamous conversation with Billy Bush, I traveled to Mar-a-Lago to interview the couple for a first-wedding-anniversary feature story.

Our photo team shot the Trumps on the lush grounds of their Florida estate, and I interviewed them about how happy their first year of marriage had been. When we took a break for the then-very-pregnant Melania to go upstairs and change wardrobe for more photos, Donald wanted to show me around the mansion. There was one “tremendous” room in particular, he said, that I just had to see.
...
We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.
Trump denied the assault. The reason? Take a look at this from the Daily Caller:
“Think of it,” he said. “She’s doing a story on Melania, who’s pregnant at the time, and Donald Trump — our one year anniversary. And she said I made inappropriate advances, and by the way, the area was a public area — people all over the place.”

“Take a look, you take a look, look at her — look at her words — you tell me what you think. I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”
So his explanation was NOT that he'd never force himself on anyone but that's simply unacceptable behavior but that he didn't do anything with her simply because she wasn't attractive enough for him to bother with.

What did he say about attractive women to Billy Bush? This:
You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait.
As he said in his proclamation, "We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable."

Donald Trump, assaulter of Natasha Stoynoff.

April 1, 2018

Trump's Sexual Assault Awareness And Prevention Month. Day One - His First Wife, Ivana.

Late last month, Donald Trump proclaimed April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month."

No, this is not an April Fools Joke. It's the truth.

Now I'm curious. What's Trump's own history when it comes to issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment?

Let's spend the month of April investigating. There are certainly enough women making allegations.

So let's go take a look

First up - his first wife, Ivana.  Harry Hurt III in his book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump describes a rather violent encounter she had with Donald a few decades ago. He'd had a scalp reduction surgery that didn't go well:
Suddenly, according to Ivana, The Donald storms into the room. He is looking very angry, and he is cursing out loud.

“Your fucking doctor has ruined me!” he screams.

The Donald flings Ivana down onto the bed. Then he pins back her arms and grabs her by the hair. The part of her head he is grabbing corresponds to the spot on his head where the scalp reduction operation has been done. The Donald starts ripping out Ivana’s hair by the handful, as if he is trying to make her feel the same kind of pain that he is feeling.

Ivana starts crying and screaming. The entire bed is being covered with strands of her golden locks. But The Donald is not finished. He rips off her clothes and unzips his pants. Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months.

Ivana is terrified. This is not lovemaking. This is not romantic sex. It is a violent assault. She later describes what The Donald is doing to her in no uncertain terms. According to the versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, “He raped me.”

When The Donald finally pulls out, Ivana jumps up from the bed. Then she runs upstairs to her mother’s room. She locks the door and stays there crying for the rest of the night.

The next morning Ivana musters up the courage to return to the master bedroom. The Donald is there waiting for her. He leaves no doubt that he knows exactly what he did to her the night before. As she looks in horror at the ripped-out hair scattered all over the bed, he glares at her and asks with menacing casualness: “Does it hurt?
Prior to the publication of the book, the author received this statement from Ivana Trump regarding the incident:
During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me.

I wish to say that on one occasion during 1989, Mr Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage.

As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness which he normally exhibited toward me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.

Any contrary conclusion would be an incorrect and most unfortunate interpretation of my statement which I do not want to be interpreted in a speculative fashion and I do not want the press or media to misconstrue any of the facts set forth above.

All I wish is for this matter to be put to rest.
You'll note that she does not deny the incident took place nor does she deny feeling "violated" afterward. She just does not wish to call it rape "in a literal or criminal sense."

He violated her and ripped out handfuls of her hair.

As he said in his proclamation, "We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable."

Donald Trump, violator of Ivana Trump.

March 31, 2018

Trump Proclaims APRIL "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month." No, I'm not kidding.

This Proclamation was issued by the White House on March 30, 2018:
During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we remain steadfast in our efforts to stop crimes of sexual violence, provide care for victims, enforce the law, prosecute offenders, and raise awareness about the many forms of sexual assault. We must continue our work to eliminate sexual assault from our society and promote safe relationships, homes, and communities.

Sexual assault crimes remain tragically common in our society, and offenders too often evade accountability. These heinous crimes are committed indiscriminately: in intimate relationships, in public spaces, and in the workplace.

We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable.
And so:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2018 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Yes, we must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable.

In case you've lived under a rock for a decade or so, this is who we're talking about:


Watch this space this month - we've got 19 stories to tell you.

March 30, 2018

The Post-Gazette Continues To Give Political Cover To Donald J. Trump

The confusing right-ward shift of the P-G editorial board continues - sometimes in subtle ways as seen with a recent editorial.

(By the way, the discussion of the P-G's shift has reached as high as the Columbia Journalism Review.)

Anyway, back to the P-G editorial.  It opens with this:
Days after Vladimir Putin’s massive, engineered victory March 18 in Russia’s elections, he has been hit, first, with a tragedy and, second, with an unusually steadfast reaction by the West to his latest rogue act — the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter by Russian agents.
A few paragraphs later we read:
Russia continues to deny having carried out the attack, and Mr. Putin’s having authorized it. The British maintain stoutly that their investigation validates the charge.

And now, after some delay, the West has responded. The poisoning has resulted in the expulsion of some 100 Russian spies from 26 countries, including 60 from the United States.
Which is followed immediately by:
President Donald Trump deserves credit for joining the United Kingdom, 17 other European Union nations and NATO and other allies in the expulsions and in condemning the Salisbury attack.
Subtle. Trump deserves credit. But what, exactly, did he do? And how much credit should he "deserve"?

The Washington Post reported:
State Department officials said Trump signed off on the recommendation to expel the diplomats but was not heavily engaged in the discussion leading up to Monday’s announcement. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal processes.

The administration last week began considering expulsions of a minimum of 20 diplomats, and State Department and White House officials recommended the higher number, officials said.
Trump wanted fewer diplomats expelled. The State Department recommended more and he signed off on their recommendation. Otherwise he was "not heavily engaged in the discussion" regarding the expulsions.

As former CIA Director Michael Hayden explained on NPR:
Hayden said it wasn't actually Trump's decision, and the idea for a mass expulsion of Russia diplomats originated in the UK and the State Department.
Specifically:
Hayden said he didn't think "this was something that the president demanded be pulled out of the bureaucracy, that he asked for options and said "give me the tough one." I don't think so. I think that actually came from the bureaucracy, actually came from the national security establishment, and actually came from the allies who did want to act in concert."
How much credit should he get for that? For simply not getting in the way of the grown-ups?

For a post-Obama Post-Gazette editorial board that wants little more than to kiss some orange Trump-butt, this is enough.

MAGA!

March 27, 2018

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

As I am sure you know by now, Adult film star Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. "Stormy Daniels") was on 60 Minutes recently making some serious allegations against Donald Trump. I asked you two months ago about the pornstar-affair and the attorney-payoff (and possible FEC violation because of it) and I will note, however, that you haven't answered about either. No biggie, I can wait.

I would like to ask you about her allegation threatened physical violence were she to reveal her affair with Donald Trump. She said it happened in 2011 in Las Vegas.

You support this administration and it's agenda, we all know that. So - about the threat of violence to Ms Clifford to keep her quiet about an affair Trump had with her - your thoughts?

If you'd rather not talk about the affair or the cover-up, can I return to another part of the 60 Minutes piece and ask you (again) about the pay-off? Specifically the assertion by a former Chair of the FEC that the $130,000 that went to Ms Clifford constituted an illegal "in-kind" contribution to the campaign by Cohen. Even if the affair/cover-up/threat never happened, the $130,000 payoff certainly did. So - about the assertion of an illegal "in-kind" contribution to the Trump campaign - let me ask, your thoughts?

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


Follow-up:

March 26, 2018

Long and Tearful, A Sad, Brave, Brilliant, Sad Silence - The Words of Emma Gonzalez



This is what she said. This is what Emma Gonzalez said:
Six minutes and about twenty seconds.

In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone absolutely everyone in the Douglas Community was forever altered.

Everyone who was there understands, everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands.

For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing.

No one understood the extent of what had happened. No one could believe that there were bodies in that building waiting to be identified for over a day. No one knew that the people who were missing had stopped breathing long before any of us had even known that a code red had been called. No one could comprehend the devastating aftermath, or how far this would reach, or where this would go.

For those who still can't comprehend because they refuse to, I'll tell you where it went - right into the ground, six feet deep.

Six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15 and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice.

Aaron Feis would never call Kyra Miss Sunshine.

Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother, Ryan.

Scott Beigel would never joke around with Cameron at camp.

Helena Ramsay would never hang out after school with Max.

Gina Montalto would never wave to her friend Liam at lunch.

Joaquin Oliver would never play basketball with Sam or Dylan.

Elena Petty would never.

Carole Agron would never.

Chris Hickson would never.

Luke Hoyer would never.

Martin Duque Anguiano would never.

Peter Wang would never.

Alyssa Alhadeff would never.

Jamie Guttenberg would never.

Meadow Pollock would never.

[4 minutes, 35 seconds of silence, followed by an alarm beep]

Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest.

Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.
That is what Emma Gonzalez said.

March 25, 2018

Yesterday's "March For Our Lives" By The Numbers

So how many people marched yesterday?

Finding estimates in numbers was more difficult than I thought.

But these are some of the estimates that I could find:
That's about 1.25 million in just those ten cities alone.

March 24, 2018

Who Wrote This? The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Or The Post-Gazette's?

We'll start here:
If any lesson can be gleaned from Pennsylvania's congressional district map morass, it's that the process in years to come should be as apolitical as possible.
And here:
Pennsylvania Republicans were right to challenge the new congressional map imposed by the state Supreme Court last month. The state’s high court usurped the role of the Legislature in composing boundaries for legislative districts for the U.S House of Representatives. It was a bad move that will have consequences down the line.
For many years now in Pittsburgh there have been two competing daily newspapers; the ostensibly left-of-center Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the decidedly right-wing The Tribune-Review.

Given that framework, can you guess who wrote which opening paragraph above?

I'll give you more clues. The first editorial also includes this:
The argument that the state's highest court hasn't the constitutional authority to issue a map was rendered moot by the three-judge panel, noting that the plaintiffs in this case didn't have standing to represent the General Assembly.
While the second includes this:
The more important point is that the excesses of gerrymandering have been matched by judicial overreach.
If you guessed that the first was from the left of center P-G and the second from the right wing Trib, you'd be (now wait for it):


The first can be found here at the Trib. And the second here at the once-upon-a-time left of center P-G.

The Tribune-Review also publishes this "Laurel" blurb praising Chief Justice Thomas Saylor:
His condemnation of petitions filed by 12 Republican state lawmakers seeking the impeachment of four Democratic state Supreme Court justices, who voted to overturn the 2011 congressional map drawn by a GOP-controlled Legislature, is a statement of principle that carries even more weight because he's a Republican. “Threats of impeachment directed against justices because of their decision in a particular case are an attack upon an independent judiciary, which is an essential component of our constitutional plan of government,” says Mr. Chief Justice Saylor — a statement that those 12 GOP lawmakers, along with the House and Senate GOP majorities' leadership, need to heed.
While the P-G's opinion ended with this:
The more important point is that the excesses of gerrymandering have been matched by judicial overreach. Usurpation of power can cut both ways. The Democrats who are so pleased with the ruling should realize that the state Supreme Court, at some point, will return to a Republican majority. Will they stay silent if that court hands down a politically tainted decision? Rep. Cris Dush, a Republican from Jefferson County, introduced legislation to impeach the four Democratic justices who voted to impose the new map. His bill will probably fade away, but it’s a measure of the resentment that legislating from the bench can breed.
Not an endorsement of impeachment but you'll note it's not exactly a condemnation either. If anything it says that the targets of Dush's impeachment legislation brought it upon themselves by legislating from the bench.

I know what happened! An large and unpredictable "ion storm" entered the Halkan system just as we were negotiating for dilithium mining rights and when we tried to beam back up to the Enterprise we got zapped by the storm. When we emerged from the transporter room we realized that we were suddenly in a universe where what was once a rational federation was replaced by empire. Oh yea - and Spock has a beard.

That's the only plausible explanation for why the Trib and the P-G editorial boards suddenly switched places.

March 23, 2018

More On State Rep Cris Dush's Impeachment Legislation

Yesterday, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued a statement in response:
As Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, I am very concerned by the reported filing of impeachment resolutions against Justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania related to the Court’s decision about congressional redistricting.

Threats of impeachment directed against Justices because of their decision in a particular case are an attack upon an independent judiciary, which is an essential component of our constitutional plan of government.
Do we need to bring yinz up to speed?

Here's a brief description of what's brought us to here (interestingly, it's from Dush's impeachment memo):
On January 22, 2018, the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued a per curiam Order (“Order”) in League of Women Voters of PA, et. al. v. The Commonwealth of PA, et. al., No. 159 MM 2017, holding that the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 (“Act”) “clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” and, on this sole basis, struck it down as unconstitutional. The Court further enjoined the future use of the Act in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States House of Representative commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary election.

The Court in its Order mandates that if the Pennsylvania General Assembly chooses “to submit a congressional districting plan that satisfies the requirements of the Pennsylvania Constitution, it shall submit such plan for consideration by the Governor on or before February 9, 2018.” The Court further held that “[i]f the Governor accepts the General Assembly’s congressional districting plan, it shall be submitted to this Court on or before February 15, 2018.”
This is The Order that so offended Cris Dush.

The Opinion that followed presented the conclusion reached by the PA Supremes. The first paragraph reads:
It is a core principle of our republican form of government “that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.” In this case, Petitioners allege that the Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 (the “2011 Plan”) does the latter, infringing upon that most central of democratic rights – the right to vote. Specifically, they contend that the 2011 Plan is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. While federal courts have, to date, been unable to settle on a workable standard by which to assess such claims under the federal Constitution, we find no such barriers under our great Pennsylvania charter. The people of this Commonwealth should never lose sight of the fact that, in its protection of essential rights, our founding document is the ancestor, not the offspring, of the federal Constitution. We conclude that, in this matter, it provides a constitutional standard, and remedy, even if the federal charter does not. Specifically, we hold that the 2011 Plan violates Article I, Section 5 – the Free and Equal Elections Clause – of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
 Article 1, Section 5 of the PA Constitution reads:
Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.
And the Court builds to its conclusion by taking a deep look at that clause and what it means.  Like this part:
Thus, Article I, Section 5 guarantees our citizens an equal right, on par with every other citizen, to elect their representatives. Stated another way, the actual and plain language of Section 5 mandates that all voters have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation. (page 100)
Then a few pages later we read:
Although our Court has infrequently relied on this provision to strike down acts of the legislature pertaining to the conduct of elections, the qualifications of voters to participate therein, or the creation of electoral districts, our view as to what constraints Article I, Section 5 places on the legislature in these areas has been consistent over the years. Indeed, nearly 150 years ago, in considering a challenge to an act of the legislature establishing eligibility qualifications for electors to vote in all elections held in Philadelphia, and specifying the manner in which those elections are to be conducted, we recognized that, while our Constitution gives to the General Assembly the power to promulgate laws governing elections, those enactments are nonetheless subject to the requirements of the Free and Equal Elections Clause of our Constitution, and, hence, may be invalidated by our Court “in a case of plain, palpable and clear abuse of the power which actually infringes the rights of the electors.” Patterson , 60 Pa. at 75.

In answering the question of how elections must be made equal, we stated: “Clearly by laws which shall arrange all the qualified electors in to suitable districts, and make their votes equally potent in the election; so that some shall not have more votes than others, and that all shall have an equal share in filling the offices of the Commonwealth.” Id. Thus, with this decision, our Court established that any legislative scheme which has the effect of impermissibly diluting the potency of an individual’s vote for candidates for elective office relative to that of other voters will violate the guarantee of “free and equal” elections afforded b y Article I, Section 5. (page 109-110)
And then finally we get to this:
By placing voters preferring one party’s candidates in districts where their votes are wasted on candidates likely to lose (cracking), or by placing such voters in districts where their votes are cast for candidates destined to win (packing), the non-favored party’s votes are diluted. It is axiomatic that a diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation. This is the antithesis of a healthy representative democracy.(page 118)
It's this sentence above that, it seems to me (a non-lawyer, to be sure) to be at the core of the argument:
It is axiomatic that a diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation.
If I am reading this right (and again, I am NOT a lawyer), they're saying that by gerrymandering the districts into heavy Republican and heavily Democratic districts in order to (more or less) guarantee an outcome, the legislature diluted the voting rights of the R-voters in the D-zones and the D-voters in the R-zones. And that collective dilution is what conflicts with the Free and Equal Elections Clause.

But of course, because it gets in the way of the Republican snowflakes' hold on legislative power, any act making sure that everyone has an equal chance to elect their representatives is an unconstitutional power grab.

Your GOP at work, ladies and gentlemen.

March 22, 2018

Join the "March for Our Lives – Pittsburgh" This Saturday!


Please join in with Pittsburgh’s children and youth on March 24th!
You can R.S.V.P. and keep up-to-date on the march at their Facebook event page here and the national website here.
Follow them on Twitter: @M4OL_PGH   Follow them on Instagram: @m4ol_pgh
You can also print out the above flyer or share it on social media.

Smoking rocks? Head full of rocks? Completely stoned?

Even after watching Blue Mountain School District, PA's Superintendent David Helsel on video, I still had to look for a reputable news account to make certain this wasn't some elaborate satire.

Via PublicSource:
In Schuylkill County’s Blue Mountain School District, Superintendent David Helsel told lawmakers that maintenance staff — currently only one employee due to a retirement — are also trained as armed security and have been carrying firearms for five years. 
The district does not plan to arm teachers, but Helsel said he believes each district should be able to make its own determination to have a trained and clearly identified armed staff. He also explained that each classroom has a five-gallon bucket of river stones to be thrown at an armed intruder that breaks through the door. 
“They will face a classroom full of rocks, and they will be stoned,” Helsel said.
No. The children will be shot. Multiple times.

Watch it and weep here:

State Rep Cris Dush Lashes Out Against Statewide Checks And Balances

We have something of a follow up to this week's Toomey Letter.

From The Hill:
A Pennsylvania state representative has introduced resolutions to impeach four of the five state Supreme Court justices who voted to override congressional district maps they said were unfairly gerrymandered on partisan lines.

The resolutions, introduced by state Rep. Cris Dush (R), accuse Justices Kevin Dougherty, Christine Donohue, Debra McClosky Todd and David Wecht of misbehavior in office.

In a memo to fellow House members, Dush said the ruling overriding Pennsylvania’s U.S. House district lines amounted to an overstep of judicial authority under the state Constitution, which lays out the path by which a bill becomes a law — in this case, a bill to delineate the district lines after the decennial Census and reapportionment process.
Here is the memo. After describing the order from the State Supreme Court, it reads:
This Order overrides the express legislative and executive authority, found in Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, concerning the Governor’s veto authority and the General Assembly’s subsequent authority to override such veto. Article IV, Section 15 clearly lays out the path a bill must take to become law.

The five Justices who signed this order that blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution, engaged in misbehavior in office.

Wherefore, each is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office and disqualification to hold any office or trust or profit under this Commonwealth. I would ask you to please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.
By the way, the five justices who so offended snowflake Dush are Democrats - Dush, of course, is a Republican. The

From WHYY we learn that "[Dush] hasn’t introduced a resolution for the court’s fifth Democrat—Justice Max Baer—because while Baer agreed the 2011 map was unconstitutional, he didn’t want to redraw it on an abbreviated timeline."

From the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article IV, Section 15 reads:
Every bill which shall have passed both Houses shall be presented to the Governor; if he approves he shall sign it, but if he shall not approve he shall return it with his objections to the House in which it shall have originated, which House shall enter the objections at large upon their journal, and proceed to re-consider it. If after such re-consideration, two- thirds of all the members elected to that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent with the objections to the other House by which likewise it shall be re-considered, and if approved by two-thirds of all the members elected to that House it shall be a law; but in such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the members voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journals of each House, respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the Governor within ten days after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the General Assembly, by their adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall be a law, unless he shall file the same, with his objections, in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and give notice thereof by public proclamation within 30 days after such adjournment.
On the other hand, there's something called Judicial Review where the judiciary has the authority to overturn what it has deemed as an unconstitutional law. This has been the case for a long long time in Pennsylvania.  Take a look at this page from the "Report of the...Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Bar Association" (1900):
In the earlier history of the states, the courts were rarely called upon to declare acts of the legislature unconstitutional. In our Commonwealth for the half century following the Constitution of 1790 there is not a single instance where a statute was determined to be unconstitutional - but there was a uniform consensus of judicial opinion...that the judiciary must have the power of declaring a statute to be of no force, if enacted in disregard of the higher law of the Constitution.

In the minutes of the Council of Censors in 1784, the committee appointed to point out the defects in the Constitution of 1776, inter alia reported:
Your committee conceives the said Constitution to be in the this respect materially defective, referring to the power of the legislature to remove judges:

Because if the assembly should pass an unconstitutional law and the judges have virtue enough to refuse to obey it, the same assembly could instantly remove them.
This indicates that the men who took part in forming our government had a very definite opinion that an unconstitutional law was no law - and that the test of virtue in a judge would be his refusal to obey it... (p 266)
That was written 117 years ago about stuff that had happened a hundred years or so before that. I would like to emphasize the example that the Council of Censors used - what is described then is exactly what Representative Dush wants to do now. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, je pense.

The State Supreme Court found the Act that protects your party's Congressional districts to be unconstitutional, Representative Dush. It's no longer the law. Get over it. It's not an impeachable offense simply because you don't like it.

It's amazing to me that an elected official proposing legislation to limit a state's judiciary's authority does not know the history of that state or that judiciary.

[Full Disclosure: Twenty years or so ago, I had a temp job (as a runner and copy-guy) in the same law office where Justice David Wecht was then employed as an attorney. We had minimal contact then and other than my bumping into him 4 or 5 years ago downtown (where we shook hands and exchanged a few pleasantries) we've had no contact since.]

March 21, 2018

Meanwhile Outside....

Gee, I wonder how the science deniers will be reading this State of the Climate report from NOAA:
February 2018 was characterized by near to cooler-than-average conditions across a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere land, while much of the Southern Hemisphere land had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions. The most notable cool temperature departures from average were present across North America, where temperatures were 3.0°C (5.4°F) below average or lower for some locations. The most notable warm temperature departures from average were present across parts of the southeastern contiguous U.S., western Alaska, northeastern Africa, the Middle East, and Russia's Far East, where temperatures were 2.0°C (3.6°F) above average or higher. Much of the world's oceans had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average temperatures, with near- to cooler-than-average conditions across the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, southeastern Pacific Ocean, eastern Indian Ocean, and across parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Record warmth was limited to small areas across the eastern contiguous U.S., southern Argentina, the Middle East, Russia's Far East, New Zealand, and scattered across all oceans. However, no land or ocean areas experienced record cold temperatures during February 2018. Regionally, Oceania and Africa had their fourth and tenth warmest February on record, respectively, while Europe had its coolest February since 2012.

Overall, the combined global land and ocean temperature for February 2018 was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.9°F) and the 11th highest February temperature in the 1880–2018 record. This value was also 0.57°C (1.03°F) cooler than the record high set in 2016 and was the smallest February temperature departure from average since 2014. February 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive February and the 398th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The global land temperature of 1.01°C (1.82°F) above the 20th century average of 3.2°C (37.8°F) was also the smallest February land temperature since 2014 and the 15th highest in the 139-year record. Averaged as a whole, the global oceans had their lowest February temperature since 2013 and the seventh highest February temperature on record.
My guess is that they'll read this part:
February 2018 was characterized by near to cooler-than-average conditions across a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere land...
And simply skip this part:
...while much of the Southern Hemisphere land had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions.
In order to "prove" that the planet is "actually" cooling down.

They'll take this:


Which shows a definite upward trend in red lines and focus instead on this:


In order to "prove" that global temperatures "actually peaked" three years ago.

This is how they'll skew the data - if they bother to write about it at all.

Meanwhile, despite the snow outside my window on the first full day of Spring, it's still getting warmer outside. The science says so.