What Fresh Hell Is This?

October 18, 2018

I THINK I got Push-Polled By Jeremy Shaffer's Campaign Last Night

Last night at about 8:10 I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize. Usually, I ignore these calls but for some reason last night I answered.

Turned out it was a poll taker asking political questions doing a pushpoll!

Most of the questions revolved around the Jeremy Shaffer/Lindsey Williams race.

And here's my evidence I was pushpolled:
  • The pollster referred to it as "the Democrat party"
  • I was only asked the "If you knew X would you be more willing/less willing to vote for Lindsey Williams" questions. Nothing similar about Jeremy Shaffer
  • The "X" in those was only negative stuff about Williams
To be clearer, the point of the poll was not to gather information about what the voters are thinking but rather to plant negative information about one candidate into the minds of the voters.

So I'm guessing yea, it's a pushpoll.


October 16, 2018

My EIGHTY-THIRD Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

Recently, Donald Trump referred to Democrats as an "angry mob" and "unhinged" and "too dangerous to govern."

Very simple question this week: given that about four million of your constituents are, in fact, members of the Democratic party, do you agree with this assessment? Please note that I am not asking you whether you think it's a good idea for him to say it or whether his rhetoric has gotten out of hand, I am just asking if you agree with him - seeing as he's insulted a very large portion of your constituents.

Oh, and The NYTimes is reporting that the deficit jumped 18% in 2018 due, in large part, to the tax cuts you and your party passed. I thought the GOP took the budget seriously. I suppose now that your guy is in the Oval Office that's no longer the case - your thoughts?.

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

Follow-up:

October 9, 2018

My EIGHTY-SECOND Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

You voted to elevate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I am guessing you're already getting a great deal of critical (and necessary, given the severity of the issue) feedback about the sexual assaults alleged to have occurred in his past, so let me ask you about of his perjury instead. 

In voting for Kavanaugh, can the voters of Pennsylvania assume you're completely OK perjury if it fits the GOP agenda - specifically, with the fact that Kavanaugh lied to Congress regarding the memos Manny Miranda stole from some Democratic Senators back in 2003?

Perjury is a very serious crime, Senator. Sitting presidents have been impeached for perjury, as I am sure you know.

So, all politics aside, where are your principles in supporting a man who lied to the Congress in order to sit on the Supreme Court?

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

Follow-up:

October 6, 2018

The State Republican Party Is Lying About Conor Lamb

Yea, I know - what a surprise!!

A few days ago I received via the Post Office a mailing from the "Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania."  How do I know it's the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania?

It's in the return address:


And what sort of statewide dishonesty has been aimed at Representative Lamb?

This:


The text reads:
Dangerous for Seniors: Lamb supports a dangerous and radical healthcare plan which robbed over $800 billion from our Medicare program.
With a footnote that leads you here to The Beaver County Times. So, let's go see what The Times had to say about Conor Lamb and healthcare, shall we?

[Message to my new friends on the "Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania": Did you think no one would check?]

Here's what was published:
Lamb said he “fully” supports the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, because it provided insurance to millions of Americans who would not otherwise have coverage. He said the individual mandate, which Republicans repealed under President Donald Trump, was “a very important ingredient” in the ACA.

Also, Lamb said the government should do more to market and recruit Americans into ACA plans, yet the Trump administration has done the opposite. Asked specifically about Medicare for all, Lamb said expansion could cost $3 trillion and he has not seen a plan to pay for it.

“I support ideas that we know we can pay for,” he said.
Look closely at the text - look at what it says and, just as importantly, what it doesn't say. If the committee is talking about Lamb's support of Obamacare, why not just say "Obamacare" instead of "a dangerous and radical healthcare plan"? What are they hiding by the ad hoc relabeling?

The simplest theory is that they simply don't want you to think they're talking about Obamacare (which, according to the Kaiser Foundation is still popular as it has, at this point, a 50% to 40% favorable to unfavorable rating) but about some other healthcare plan (a scary one!) - that has already robbed Medicare of $800 billion. So first, we have a lie of omission.

And what about that second part? Has the ACA actually robbed hundreds of billions from Medicare?

No - this is another lie from our Republican friends. Take a look at this from Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post. The Lamb ad echoes another campaign ad from the beginning of August. That ad states that Daniel O'Connor (who's running against Troy Balderson in Ohio):
...supports a Pelosi-backed plan that cuts Medicare spending by $800 billion.”
Sound familiar?

Kessler says that he looked at this issue way back in 2012 when he wrote:
This $700 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years (2013-2022) between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as “the baseline”) and the changes that the law makes to reduce spending. The savings mostly are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries — who, as a result of the health-care law, ended up with new benefits for preventive care and prescription drugs. [Emphasis added.]
And then as a follow-up he writes about the current GOP distort:
A Congressional Leadership Fund official acknowledged that the [O'Connor] ad was referring to the Medicare savings in the ACA, using numbers produced by the Congressional Budget Office in 2015 about the impact of repealing the law.

“The provisions with the largest effects reduced payments to hospitals, to other providers of care, and to private insurance plans delivering Medicare’s benefits, relative to what they would have been under prior law,” the CBO said in a report. “Repealing all of those provisions would increase direct spending in the next decade by $879 billion.” (The report also said repealing the law would increase the budget deficit over 10 years.) [Emphasis added.]
Hence, the "over $800 billion" from the Lamb ad. Since Democrats don't want to repeal the ACA, an repeal which would reverse the reduction of Medicare savings of $800 billion, the GOP is asserting that the Democrats want to "rob" Medicare of that $800 billion. See how the GOP "logic" works?

Kessler goes on:
“There were about $540 billion of Medicare cuts assumed in the House budget that passed committee,” said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president at the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “And the president’s budget has something like $350 billion of net Medicare cuts (actual number is larger in part because they move some programs out of Medicare). Those are all on top of the cuts we passed years ago under the ACA.”
Now go back and look at the charge the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania makes about Conor Lamb. Weigh what they've chosen to tell you vs what they've chosen not to tell you in light of what that figure of $800 billion actually means and where it came from.

I'll reduce it to a moderately short sentence: Conor Lamb wants to protect $800 billion in savings to Medicare and the GOP says that means that he wants to rob Medicare of that amount. Despite the fact that the GOP wants to cut Medicare funding even more.

Do you see the lie now?

October 5, 2018

Rewriting A NON-Political Post

I turned 55 today.  Typical day, I woke up my usual time and again, like every October 5 for the last few years, I am missing a phone call I know I'm not going to get.

You see, my mom (who passed away a few years ago) and I had a sweet and curious birthday tradition.  Every fifth of October she'd call me on the phone to tell me the story of my birth.  I'd listen quietly and politely each year even though I knew all the details from the previous year's call. And the the call year before that. And the one before that. And so on - turtles all the way down.

Our conversation would usually go something like this:

"You were a very easy birth," she'd say.  "You can thank your older brother for that."

"It was early in the morning. We were living in the apartment in Hamden and I woke up and knew it was time," she'd continue.  "I tapped your father to wake him up.  'Al,' I said. 'It's time to go.'"

"OK," she would say he said.  "I'll make us some coffee."

"No, Al. We have to go now!"

"OK, let me put on my suit."

"No, Al.  Now."

And so they went to the hospital for my very easy birth.

I heard that story every year for more than 20 years - until I didn't.

And I miss it every October 5.

October 3, 2018

Donald Trump Is A Tax Cheat

From the New York Times:
The most overt fraud was All County Building Supply & Maintenance, a company formed by the Trump family in 1992. All County’s ostensible purpose was to be the purchasing agent for Fred Trump’s buildings, buying everything from boilers to cleaning supplies. It did no such thing, records and interviews show. Instead All County siphoned millions of dollars from Fred Trump’s empire by simply marking up purchases already made by his employees. Those millions, effectively untaxed gifts, then flowed to All County’s owners — Donald Trump, his siblings and a cousin. Fred Trump then used the padded All County receipts to justify bigger rent increases for thousands of tenants.
Make America Great Again - One Swindle At A Time.

October 2, 2018

My EIGHTY-FIRST Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

There are only two possible answers to this next question; yes or no.

Yes or no, do you believe that Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth?

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

Follow-up:

September 28, 2018

Laughter.



They were laughing with each other.

None of that had any impact, it seems, on all the old white Republican guys running the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Senate Republicans are racing to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, betting that the Supreme Court nominee was persuasive enough in his denial that he sexually assaulted a high school acquaintance to counter the powerful testimony of his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is planning to vote on Friday morning to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then plans a Saturday procedural vote to formally move to the nomination, with a potential confirmation vote as early as Tuesday.
But it's both the sexual assault and Kavanaugh's other lies that the committee are consciously avoiding.

Cue the laughter.

On the other hand:
The American Bar Association called Thursday evening for postponing a vote on Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court until sexual assault allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford and others are investigated by the F.B.I.
That probably won't have any impact either.

Cue the laughter:
hashtag metoo

September 26, 2018

Big Ben (Roethlisberger) In The Trump News. Again

Has any local Pittsburgh sports reporter asked Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger about this yet?

Remember this? Big Ben was hanging out with Donald Trump the weekend of the very short affair with adult film actor Stormy Daniels.

He even walked her back to her hotel room.

Well, Stormy has told her side of the story.

From Stormy Daniels' book:
At the hotel room, Roethlisberger asked if he could enter, Daniels writes.

"At my door, Ben said, 'Oh, can I see your room?'

"'I'm really tired,' I said, awkwardly holding the key card. He looked at the card until I put it in, and I didn't open the door all the way. Just enough for me to slip through. As I got behind it, keeping my face out, I noticed he'd raised his hand to rest it on the door.

"He pushed lightly, I pushed lightly. Did he know he was leaning on the door? Was he just steadying himself?

"'Can I come in?' he said.

"'I'm just so tired,' I said.

"'How about a good night kiss?'

"'Well, no, I am here with your friend,' I said, literally trying to play the Trump card.

"'Come on,' he said."

She writes she suddenly increased the pressure enough to slam the door.

"'He stood outside, not leaving,'" Daniels said of Roethlisberger. "Every now and again he'd knock, rapping his knuckles in a line low along the door. 'Come onnnn,' he repeated in a singsong voice. 'I won't tell.'"

Daniels said she was shaken by the experience.

"I was terrified. I am rarely terrified," she writes.
Has ANY local Pittsburgh sports reporter asked Ben about this? ANYONE?

September 25, 2018

My EIGHTIETH 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."

This one's simple: now that there's been a second allegation of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, don't you think it would be a good idea to call for a delay in the confirmation vote in order for the FBI to investigate whether these allegations have any merit?

If one or both are true, then wouldn't it be a good idea to know that before the Senate votes to confirm his seat on the highest court in the land? Or would his less than honorable past with women (if it's true) have no bearing on your support? If that's the case, then please explain.

And if one or both aren't true, then wouldn't it be a good idea to know that as well? To settle it once and for all?

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

Follow-up:

September 22, 2018

Meanwhile, Outside...

The science, from the scientists at NOAA:
Averaged as a whole, the global land and surface temperature for August 2018 was the fifth highest August temperature since global records began in 1880 at 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F). This was the smallest global land and ocean surface temperature since 2013. Nine of the ten warmest August global land and ocean surface temperatures have occurred since 2009, with the last five years (2014–2018) comprising the five warmest on record. The record warmest August occurred in 2016, with a temperature departure from average of +0.90°C (+1.62°F). August 1998 is the only 20th century August among the ten warmest Augusts on record, ranking as the seventh highest on record at +0.68°C (+1.22°F). August 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive August and the 404th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.
And:
The period of June–August is defined as the Northern Hemisphere's summer and the Southern Hemisphere's winter.

The seasonal global land and ocean surface temperature for June–August 2018 was the fifth highest such period since global records began in 1880 at +0.74°C (+1.33°F). The last five years (2014–2018) comprise the five warmest June–August global temperatures on record, with 2016 the warmest at +0.90°C (+1.62°F).
And:
The first eight months of the year have been extremely warm, giving way to the fourth highest January–August in the 139-year record at +0.76°C (+1.37°F). The value is 0.26°C (0.47°F) less than the record set in 2016. Nine of the ten warmest January–August periods have occurred since 2002, with the last four years (2015–2018) among the four warmest such periods on record. January–August 1998 is the only 20th century January–August among the ten warmest years on record, ranking as the seventh warmest such period on record.
Meanwhile from the combed-over vulgarity currently infesting the oval office we have this:
Warnings about potentially severe consequences of climate change were deleted from a Trump administration plan to weaken curbs on power plant emissions during a White House review.

Drafts had devoted more than 500 words to highlighting the impacts -- more heat waves, intense hurricanes, heavy rainfalls, floods and water pollution -- as part of the proposal to replace Obama-era restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. That language was left out of the Trump administration’s final analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, when it was unveiled Aug. 21.

Among the abandoned assertions: an acknowledgment that “the climate has continued to change, with new records being set” for global average surface temperatures, Arctic sea ice retreat, carbon dioxide concentrations and sea level rise, all markers of the phenomenon.

The administration also scrapped a reference to numerous “major scientific assessments” that “strengthen the case that GHGs endanger public health and welfare both for current and future generations.”
And, since all politics is local, and I live in Western PA:
  • Scott Wagner, GOP candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, on climate change:
    Wagner said he thinks there are too many redundant restrictions on the oil and gas industry that need to be studied and pared down–a popular position among the rural county commissioners

    He also took the stance that climate change is probably happening, though–citing scientifically unsound evidence–he maintained that the US shouldn’t worry too much about emissions.

    “I haven’t been in a science class in a long time, but the earth moves closer to the sun every year–you know the rotation of the earth,” Wagner said. “We’re moving closer to the sun.”

    He added, “We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? Things are changing, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can.”
    The planet's getting warmer because it's moving closer to the sun and/or since there's more people on the planet all that human body warmth is the cause (nope, neither is the case).

  • Lou Barletta, GOP Canidate for Senator of Pennsylvania, on climate change:
    Like most conservatives, he is unconvinced of the existence of global warming, despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

    "You know there's arguments on both sides. I'm not convinced that there's scientific evidence that proves that. I believe there's some that can also argue the opposite," he said. (No, there aren't "arguments on both sides." The science is clear.)
  • Keith Rothfus, GOP candidate for Congress, on climate change:
    I do not believe it's man-made. And I am not convinced that it's a fact. I think the science is still out. I think for the last 15 years we haven't had any warming. I think you go back, we had a Medieval warm period where we were growing crops in Greenland. We could do that, maybe if we kept the warming up. (He's wrong about "the last 15 years" and the warming in Greenland a thousand years ago was not a global warming but a local one - so he's wrong there, too).
 And yet, the planet is still warming up. And we're the cause. The science says so.

September 18, 2018

My SEVENTY-NINTH 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 the Kavanaugh story is still on going (with the new twist of an alleged teenage sexual assault thrown in) I think I'll let that one play out before asking you (again) about it.

I'd like to ask you about Donald Trump's recent twitter comments about Hurricane Maria's victims in Puerto Rico. He tweeted that the numbers were inflated "by the Democrats" to make him look bad - a blatant untruth.

If he knows it's not true and tweets it anyway, he's a simply liar. If he doesn't know it's true (even though it came from a nonpartisan study from researchers at George Washington University) and tweets it anyway, he's simply ignorant - too ignorant to govern.

My question: How many more of these do you have to read for you to stop supporting this president and this administration? The list is getting very long, Senator. The longer you fail to denounce, the more entwined you are in Trump's moral corruption.

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

Follow-up:

September 16, 2018

Senator Toomey "Responds" With A Letter

Sorry for the delay. Life got in the way.

Last week, I said that I received two letters from Senator Pat Toomey. I dealt with the first one.

Here's the second.

It's dated August 13 and begins thusly:
Thank you for contacting me about Russian aggression around the world. I appreciate hearing from you.
From the date of the letter, we can assume it's a response to anything before my seventy-fourth letter, dated August 14.

But which one was about "Russian aggression around the world"?

The Seventy-third letter was about the June 16th Trump Tower meeting with the Russians and the Trump Administration's evolving dishonesty in discussing it - so that's probably a no.

The Seventy-second letter I gave Toomey a choice to answer on any one of these three subjects:
  • Michael Cohen
  • The ICE detentions of children
  • Brett Kavanaugh
So that's probably a no, as well.

The Seventy-first was about the Steele Dossier - so that's a no.

And so on.

Let's give the Senator the benefit of the doubt. Reading the letter (and I'll post the full text below) it reads more like a general defense of Toomey's anti-Russia credentials than any sort of specific answer to any of my questions.

So on that count as my questions to him about Russia are completely intertwined with Donald Trump and this letter is almost completely about Toomey's reactions to Russia, it's a fail.

There's one mention of Trump in the letter. In the second full paragraph:
I find it very troubling that President Trump has not more forcefully condemned Putin's hostile actions against the United States and our allies.
Look familiar? It's the added text to last week's response letter. This part, specifically:
I also find it troubling that President Trump has not condemned more forcefully Vladimir Putin's hostile actions against the United States and our allies, especially in regards to Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. I have said so publicly and continue to support legislative actions that will decisively push back against Russia.
At this point last week I had to ask: When did Trump ever condemn Putin's hostile actions at all?

Don't you have to condemn something first before someone else can criticize you for not doing it forcefully enough??

So I'll ask it again: is Toomey giving Trump some quiet cover here? Imagine being a FoxNews fed constituent of Pat Toomey's and you get a letter that says this. Without knowing that Trump didn't condemn Putin at all, you'd be safe in assuming the opposite when reading that Senator Toomey criticized him for not condemning forcefully enough.

Very subtle lie here, Senator.

Here's the text:
Thank you for contacting me about Russian aggression around the world. I appreciate hearing from you.

I have long said Russia is no friend of the United States. Russian President Vladimir Putin actively seeks to undermine American values institutions and our leadership throughout the world. In addition, American intelligence agencies have confirmed, unequivocally, that Russian actors, almost certainly at the direction of the Russian government and Vladimir Putin, meddled in our 2016 presidential election. I find it very troubling that President Trump has not more forcefully condemned Putin's hostile actions against the United States and our allies. Regardless I am committed to ensuring that our armed forces, intelligence community and homeland security agencies have the resources and tools they need to fulfill their missions, including in pushing back against Russia and protecting the integrity of our elections.

I have also supported strong sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Europe, the Middle East and cyberspace. As a member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, I was pleased to support the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) (Public Law 115-44), which codified and strengthened existing sanctions on Russia for its regression in Ukraine. This legislation also authorized news sanctions on Russia for its role in cyberattacks, and placed mandatory sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea for their activities threatening both the security of the United States and global stability.

I was also pleased that on April 6, 2018, the Treasury Department utilized CATTSA and other authorities to issue sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs, 12 Russian companies, and 17 Russian government officials. This action came shortly after sanctions were imposed against five Russian entities and 19 individuals for U.S. Election meddling and other cyber-related activity, including an ongoing attack on America's critical infrastructure. In addition, on July 24, 2018, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and I sent a letter to the Treasury Department urging that sanctions be imposed immediately on the 12 indicted Russian military intelligence officers for their involvement in cyber operations to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Whether it is aggression in Ukraine, meddling in the U.S. Elections, supporting the Iranian and Syrian regimes, flagrant human rights abuses, or any other in a long list of aggressive actions, it is clear that Vladimir Putin is a bad actor and his government should be treated as an international pariah. In December 2012, for example, I supported legislation (public Law 112-208) known as the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which allowed our government to impose sanctions on Russian human rights abuses, More recently, the Senate approved a resolution that I introduced condemning the violence and persecution of gay men in the Russian state of Chechnya (S.Res. 211) on October 30, 2017. Shortly thereafter, the Treasury Department used the Sergei Magnitsky Act to sanction the head of the Chechen republic on December 20, 2017 for his role in the aforementioned abuses. I am also an original cosponsor of bill pending in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, S. 2455, which supports enhanced cybersecurity cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine. I have also stated unequivocally that Russia should be disqualified from rejoining the G& until its malign behavior ends.

Mr. Putin insists that the Russian government has nothing to do with meddling in our elections. In that case he should not object to the Russian hackers who have been indicted by the Department of Justice from being brought to the United states for prosecution. Since Putin's cooperation is unlikely, the United States should impose tough new sanctions on Russia, Our country must not stand by and allow Putin and his cronies to bully the United States, our allies, and our friends across the globe. Congress must remain vigilant against Russia and its aggressive behavior in the future.

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


Very subtle lie.

September 13, 2018

Mike Pintek

I was sad to read, yesterday, about the passing of Mike Pintek. It was cancer complicated by a stroke.

If you've been a long time reader of this blog, you'll know that he's been written about more than a few times here.

Our politics rarely overlapped and often clashed. I think I may even have called/emailed in to his show a few times. I can't imagine he was a fan of the blog. But still he was a human being who has passed away and everyone who knew him and loved him are grieving right now.

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getröstet werden.

Death is always very sad.


September 11, 2018

My SEVENTY-EIGHTH 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."

It now seems as though Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh repeatedly lied under oath in his confirmation hearings a decade or so ago regarding emails stolen by republican Senate aide Miguel Miranda. As you know, lying under oath is perjury and perjury is a very serious offense (remember, your party impeached a sitting president for it two decades ago).

Quick set of questions this week: Will you be withdrawing your support for Kavanaugh or calling for a formal investigation into his alleged perjury? And if not, why not?

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

Follow-up:

September 8, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter (kinda)

This past week I received (via the US Postal Service) not one but two letters from my Senator, Patrick Toomey.

Both are two pagers and one is dated August 23 and the other August 13.

I'll deal with the former first and the latter letter later - if only to subvert any subtext of a proper chronology and also because I like the conflicting alliterations above.

Ha.

Here's now Senator Toomey opens this letter:
Thank you for contacting me about the Trump Administration. I appreciate hearing from you.
As per usual. And as he says right there in writing that he appreciates hearing from me, I'll continue to exercise my right to communicate with my right-wing conservative elected official.

The opening of his next sentence should ping something in your brain.  Here it is:
Since President Donald Trump's inauguration, I have heard from a number of Pennsylvanians both in support of and opposition to the administration. In a state as large and diverse as ours...
Wait, haven't we seen this before?

Recently?

Why yes, yes we have - two months ago in July. I received that first letter in early July but it's dated June 15. It's doppelganger is dated two months and a week later.

Let's see what, if anything, has changed in those two months shall we?

Both letters are identical until the sixth paragraph of each. I'll bold/italicize/colorize the differences in each paragraph.

June 15:
For example, as someone who recognizes that tariffs are harmful taxes on American consumers, I have been critical of many of the President's trade actions. When some officials in the administration threatened to withdrawal unilaterally our country from NAFTA in order to pressure Congress into approving a protectionist NAFTA 2.0, I spoke up publicly in opposition. Unilateral executive withdrawal would amount to the president creating new law, which the President can no more do than he could repeal Obamacare by himself. I have strongly urged my colleagues to employ all legislative means necessary to blog such an action if it occurred.
August 23:
For example, as someone who recognizes that tariffs are harmful taxes on American consumers, I have been critical of many of the President's trade actions. When some officials in the administration threatened to unilaterally withdraw our country from NAFTA in order to pressure Congress into approving a protectionist NAFTA 2.0, I spoke up publicly in opposition. Unilateral executive withdrawal would amount to the president creating new law, which the President can no more do than he could repeal Obamacare by himself. I have strongly urged my colleagues to employ all legislative means necessary to blog such an action if it occurred.
This is not so much a change as it is a grammar correction. Kudos to the Toomey office for correcting a mistake that should not have been made in the first place.

Yea, kudos.

The concluding two paragraphs are exactly the same.

What is different between these to letters is the insertion of this paragraph between the sixth and the penultimate paragraphs:
I also find it troubling that President Trump has not condemned more forcefully Vladimir Putin's hostile actions against the United States and our allies, especially in regards to Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. I have said so publicly and continue to support legislative actions that will decisively push back against Russia.
On the one hand, kudos to Toomey for speaking out against Trump in any form at all. But I have to ask whether he is, in fact, giving Trump some cover with this "criticism." Take a look at the first sentence:
I also find it troubling that President Trump has not condemned more forcefully Vladimir Putin's hostile actions... [Emphasis added.]
Wait, wait, wait a goshdernminnut.  When has Trump ever condemned Putin's actions? Doesn't a condemnation have to be in place before someone can complain that it isn't forceful enough?

Jeff Glor of CBS in asked Trump in July:
GLOR: "You say you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016."

TRUMP: "Yeah and I've said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that is true, yeah."

GLOR: "But you haven't condemned Putin, specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?"

TRUMP: "Well, I would, because he's in charge of the country. Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So certainly as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible, yes."
That's as close as we get to anything even resembling a condemnation from Trump, Senator. I am disappointed that you tried to call it one.

But, on the other hand, if you want to telegraph to your supporters that Trump has condemned Russia for meddling (even if he really hasn't) and that you want to add a criticism the condemnation wasn't forceful enough, then I guess that's one way to thread that particular needle.

Even if it's based on the flimsiest of flimsies.

But kudos for trying.

September 5, 2018

My SEVENTY-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."

The Kavanaugh hearings started yesterday. The Hill reported that the White House, asserting executive privilege, withheld about 100,000 documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee from Kavanaugh's time in the Bush Administration.

Is this OK with you? I am guessing you're OK with it as you haven't said otherwise. And before you answer, let the question play out with the identities of the political parties switched: If a democratic administration withheld 100,000 documents that the Republicans (on a Judiciary Committee committee controlled by the democrats) wanted to see in order to fully investigate a liberal Supreme Court nominee.

Would that be OK with you? If not, then why is it OK with you now?

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

Follow-up:

September 1, 2018

Donald Trump WAS Present At Today's McCain Memorial

Despite not being invited and not even being mentioned (as far as I could tell), Donald Trump's presence was definitely noted at today's memorial service for the late Senator John McCain.

While the examples below were surely about Senator McCain, how much of a chance do you think these were also about the unnamed Trump (who was golfing and tweeting and couldn't even manage to simply keep quiet if only out of respect for a memorial service taking place).

Henry Kissinger:
Honor, it is an intangible quality, not obligatory. It has no code. It reflects an inward compulsion, free of self-interest. It fulfills a cause, not a personal ambition. It represents what a society lives far beyond the necessities of the moment. Love makes life possible; honor and nobility. For John, it was a way of life.
And:
But John believed also in a compassionate America, guided by core principles for which American foreign policy must always stand. "With liberty and justice for all" is not an empty sentiment he argued, it is the foundation of our national consciousness. To John, American advantages had universal applicability.
George W Bush:
The strength of a democracy is renewed by reaffirming the principles on which it was founded. And America somehow has always found leaders who were up to that task, particularly at the time of greatest need. John was born to meet that kind of challenge, to defend and demonstrate the defining ideals of our nation. If we are ever tempted to forget who we are, to grow weary of our cause, John’s voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder: We are better than this. America is better than this.
Barack Obama:
But for all our differences, for all of the times we sparred, I never tried to hide, and I think John came to understand, the long-standing admiration that I had for him. By his own account, John was a rebellious young man. In his case, that's understandable—what faster way to distinguish yourself when you're the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny. Eventually, though, he concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself. And for John, that meant answering the highest of callings: serving his country in a time of war.
And:
But he did understand that some principles transcend politics, that some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values. John cared about the institutions of self-government, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, rule of law.
And:
John believed in honest argument and hearing other views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work. That's why he was willing to buck his own party at times, occasionally work across the aisle on campaign-finance reform and immigration reform. That's why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate.
And:
John understood, as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood, that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our bloodline, not on what we look like, what our last names are, it's not based on where our parents or grandparents came from, or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed: that all of us are created equal, endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. It has been mentioned today, and we've seen footage this week John pushing back against supporters who challenged my patriotism during the 2008 campaign. I was grateful, but I wasn't surprised. As Joe Lieberman said, that was John's instinct. I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race or religion or gender. And I'm certain that in those moments that have been referred to during the campaign, he saw himself as defending America's character, not just mine. For he considered it the imperative of every citizen who loves this country to treat all people fairly.
And:
But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values, like rule of law and human rights, and an insistence on the God-given dignity of every human being,
And:
So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

Meghan McCain:
We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served. He was a great fire who burned bright.
And:
The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold. She's resourceful, and confident and secure. She meets her responsibilities. She speaks quietly because she is strong. America does not boast, because she has no need to. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.
Still doubt? Here's an experiment: take any statement about McCain and add "unlike the current occupant of the White House" and see what I mean. I'll get you started:
  • But John believed also in a compassionate America, guided by core principles for which American foreign policy must always stand. "With liberty and justice for all" is not an empty sentiment he argued, it is the foundation of our national consciousness. To John, American advantages had universal applicability unlike the current occupant of the White House.
  • For he considered it the imperative of every citizen who loves this country to treat all people fairly unlike the current occupant of the White House.
  • So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that unlike the current occupant of the White House.
Now tell me that they weren't talking about Trump.

We're better than this. America is better than Donald J Trump.

August 30, 2018

Salena Zito - IN THE NEWS!

I woke up this morning to an email from an astute reader who sent me a link to this HuffingtonPost piece.

In it, Ashley Feinberg does some solid reporting on this tweet-thread that you may have caught over the last few days:
You should read it all if you haven't already. It is, as my astute reader pointed out to me, devastating.

Inanimate Carbon Rod, over the series of tweets, points out that some of the people Zito characterizes as Democrats or Independents who just happen to lo-o-o-ve Donald Trump just happen to be, you guessed it, solid Republicans.

Oopsie.

Feinberg got in contact with Zito (who still blocks moi on twitter, BTW) and posts some of her responses to these charges - they don't really help Zito's case, sad to say.

As of this moment, Feinberg's piece is on the front page of HuffingtonPost:


Why am I telling you this?

Because she's been doing this for years. Three years or so ago, Zito found a defender of Senator Pat Toomey and quoted him thusly:
Joe Eastman, 64, a retired Navy lieutenant colonel in Philadelphia, said he respects Sestak's service to the country but finds his allegations that Toomey abandoned veterans in Washington unacceptable.

“His accusations are completely unfounded,” said Eastman, who spends time helping homeless veterans. “Anytime I have a problem or identified a growing concern, Senator Toomey's office has responded immediately.”
As an aside, let me say that it's been pointed out that Zito (and her editors) made a huge error in characterizing Eastman's Naval career as there are no lieutenant colonels in the Navy. That's an Army/Marine Corp/Air Force rank.

It's also besides the point for this argument.

Here's the point: after a little digging I found that:
[Eastman] has served on the boards of the Philadelphia Senior Center, Nationalities Service Center, the Philadelphia Homeless Veterans Coalition which is an advisory body to the Mayor’s Office of Supportive Housing. He presently serves on the board of directors of The Veterans Group, Thank-A-Vet, and is a member of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s Military Academy Advisory Board advising the Senator on appointments to our nation’s service academies and serves as a veterans advisor to several Pennsylvania elected officials. [Emphasis from my original blog post]
It was a rather important detail that Selena Zito decided you didn't need to know when describing a critic of Admiral Joe Sestak.

She's been doing this for years.

And now everyone who reads HuffingtonPost knows it.

August 28, 2018

My SEVENTY-SIXTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail Wednesday (again, sorry for another wait):
Dear Senator Toomey:

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

A few days ago, Donald Trump got some poll data wrong. He tweeted that he had a 52% approval rating when in reality it's closer to a 52 percent disapproval rating. I'd like to ask you about how you feel about how the leader of the free world gets something so simple so spectacularly wrong. But I'm not going to.

But I'd rather ask you about the other part of his tweet - the part where he's correct and he says he enjoys a 90 percent approval rating among republicans.

Here's my question: Are you among the 90 percent? If so, why? Given the ongoing investigations (and the guilty verdicts they've produced), his well-chronicled dishonesty, his diplomatic failures with Russian and North Korea and so on, how can you still support him?

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

Follow-up:

August 27, 2018

Senator John McCain, It's Complicated.



To be sure, my politics and his politics barely overlapped - but for all that, for what he endured in Vietnam, he's still a hero.

Just one whose politics I found little with which to agree.

Lotsa folks are focusing on this - the redshirt woman and McCain's defense of Obama and how it presaged our current Trump-tainted reality.

But that wingnut anti-rationalism was there all along.  Take a look. The only difference is that now, the current occupant of the White House is happily at home with such drivel.

On the other hand, let's not forget that he defended Henry Kissinger against protesters calling Kissinger a war criminal (100,000 dead East Timorese, anyone?) while calling those protesting as "lowlife scum."

So, happy Monday!

August 22, 2018

Unindicted Co-conspirator


A former Watergate prosecutor said that Tuesday’s plea deal by Michael Cohen means President Donald Trump now has something in common with President Richard Nixon
“There’s no question about it,” Nick Akerman said on MSNBC. “This makes the president of the United States an unindicted co-conspirator.”

Meanwhile, Outside...

There'll be time this week, I suppose, to discuss the criminality surrounding Donald Trump. For example:
  • The guilty verdicts for his one-time campaign manager, Paul Manafort
  • The guilty plea agreement for his one time lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen
  • And so on
However, it's still getting warmer out there.

The science says so.

From NOAA:
The July 2018 average temperature across the world's land and ocean surfaces was 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.4°F) and the fourth highest for July since global records began in 1880. Nine of the ten warmest Julys have occurred since 2005, with the last four years (2015–2018) among the four warmest on record. The record warmest July occurred in 2016, with a temperature departure from average of +0.88°C (+1.58°F). The year 1998 is the only year from the 20th century among the ten warmest Julys on record, ranking as the fifth highest on record.
And, no, it's not a Chinese hoax.

August 21, 2018

My SEVENTY-FIFTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail Wednesday (again, sorry for the wait a second week):
Dear Senator Toomey:

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

This weekend, Donald Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani told Chuck Todd that "truth isn't truth."

Do you believe that? In this age of Trump where the Washington Post has counted more than 4200 of his "false or misleading claims" since his inauguration, does "the truth" even matter any more?

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

Follow-up:

August 19, 2018

A Follow-Up (Of Sorts) On That Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Report

In February, 2003 the Post-Gazette published this:
As Bishop Donald Wuerl addressed the congregation inside Holy Angels Church during Mass yesterday, angry parishioners advanced up the center aisle and fired questions at him about the sudden retirement of the Rev. David Crowley.
And a few paragraphs later:
Crowley requested retirement suddenly last month after 34 years at Holy Angels and moved out a week later. This year, he will mark 50 years as a priest and Holy Angels will celebrate its centennial. Crowley, who turns 74 this month, could have stayed on until age 75, when all priests must retire. Priests may request retirement starting at age 70.

Crowley called it a normal retirement.
And:
"Father Crowley, for reasons of his own, asked to retire," Wuerl said.
A month earlier, the P-G published this:
The Rev. David Crowley, a priest known for his ability to bring fallen-away Catholics back to the church and for his care of the community of Hays, has announced his unexpected retirement, effective next week.

Local media have been besieged by calls from outraged parishioners, who believe that Bishop Donald Wuerl has forced a good priest to leave against his will. But Crowley, 73, called it a normal retirement and the diocesan spokesman said that Crowley offered his resignation.

"I'm on very good terms with Bishop Wuerl," Crowley said.

Although it is painful to leave the parish, "it wasn't any jolt or surprise. I'm leaving here at the end of next week -- just simply retiring . . . Everything is hunky-dory, except that it hurts."
That was the story in early 2003. Normal retirement, nothing to see here.

On page 631 of the report, however, there's a little more to the story:
In 1992, a complaint was made by a mother and her twin adult daughters, one of whom was 16 years old at the time of victimization. Crowley was presented with the allegations in June 1992 and a referral for a mental health evaluation at St. Michael's Community was made in September 1992. In the interim, Crowley remained in his assigned parish. Evaluators at St. Michael's opined that Crowley was being truthful in his denials regarding the sexual abuse of the mother and her twin daughters and recommended outpatient therapeutic support to address insecurities, low self-esteem and obsessive -compulsive tendencies. Upon his discharge from St. Michael's following the one week evaluation period, Crowley was returned to his parish.

In late-2001, the mother and twin daughters renewed their complaint with the Diocese. The 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People triggered a report of this allegation on August 30, 2002, to the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office. Additionally, the allegation was presented to the Diocesan Review Board. The Board found the victims' allegations to be credible and rejected Crowley' s testimony. On December 9, 2002, the Board recommended that Crowley be asked to resign his position as pastor and should he refuse, that he be removed according to the norms of Canon Law. They further recommended that Crowley be requested to retire from active ministry, that his faculties be withdrawn and that he be asked to begin intensive counseling. [Italics in original]
And then there's this:
Following the recommendations, Bishop Donald Wuerl gave Crowley an option to voluntarily resign and withdraw from active ministry, or undergo a judicial canonical process. Crowley chose resignation and submitted the same on January 7, 2003. Wuerl permitted him to announce to his parish that he was "voluntarily accepting an earlier retirement since he was only two years away from submitting a mandatory letter of retirement at age 75." This was permitted, according to Wuerl, to "protect his [Crowley's] reputation in the widespread community." Wuerl faced great scrutiny regarding Crowley's departure by members of the parish and the media who loved Crowley and thought there was more to the story (they believed that Wuerl had forced Crowley out). Wuerl maintained that "Father Crowley, for reasons of his own, asked to retire." [Italics in original.]
But Crowley didn't "[ask] to retire" did he? And this was not a "normal retirement" was it? All that's a lie, isn't it?

So the incomplete story presented to the very angry parishioners at Holy Angels Church in 2003 was simply a cover to protect the reputation of a popular priest who faced allegations of sexual abuse - allegations that the Church itself (by way of the local Diocesan Review Board) found credible.

I'm just putting that out there. Isn't it interesting how this one story can be seen as representative of the whole?

August 18, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

Another response from Senator Toomey (or his office) - another opportunity to see if he actually answers a question of mine.

It doesn't look good.

This morning I realized that I should probably have been keeping tract of the postmark on any envelopes received (it's a SIGINT thing) rather than just the contents of the letter.  I mail ALL of my letters to the Senator's Pittsburgh office (first when it was in Station Square and then when it moved to Grant Street). And so far I've received one-page and two-page letters through the US Postal service as well as a few responses via email. Now I am wondering if all of these letters come from the same place. Is there anyway to tell where each type of letter comes from - was it the Pittsburgh office? The DC office? Is there any difference between sort of letter that arrives in my yahoo inbox vs my gmail inbox?

I have no idea.  I should probably keep track from now on.

I also realized that it's been a while since I received an email response from Toomey (or his office). I wonder why.

Anyway, onto the letter. It's a one pager, dated August 2 and it starts thusly:
Thank you for contacting me about the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. I appreciate hearing from you.
Nice to know he still appreciates hearing from me. As long as that's the case, I'll keep up my weekly question-letters to him. However, his response opens up some interesting questions as to which letter he's "answering."

There is only one letter to Senator Toomey where I mention Judge Brett Kavanaugh. This one, my seventy-second. It's dated only three days before the Senator's response.

That's an unusually quick turnaround. It means that I dropped the letter in the mail on Tuesday, the 31st of July, then USPS delivered it on August 1 and then it was answered on August 2. Either that or Toomey's office read the blog post sometime before the 2nd and answered it that day.

Either way, that's incredibly fast. His last response before this one was dated June 20 and was in response to a letter of mine dated June 12 - 8 days or so. His previous response was dated June 29 and was written in response to a letter of mine dated May 22 - 37 days or so.

So three days is certainly an outlier.

But that's not the biggest "huh?" of this whole thing. Let's go take a look at my seventy-second letter to Senator Toomey. It was a short(ish) letter wherein I gave him a choice of three questions to answer:
I can ask about how Michael Cohen is now claiming that Donald Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in which Russians were expected to deliver on some dirt on Hillary Clinton (and if that's the case that means that Trump has been lying to us about it for his entire presidency) or I can ask about how there are still hundreds of children separated from their parents by Trump's ICE (what sort of civilized society does this to children?) or I can ask about how Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was involved in the infamous "torture memos" used a decade and a half ago to justify torture (and torture is a war crime, Senator).
That's the only reference to Brett Kavanaugh in any of my letters to Pat Toomey.

And this is how he answered:
I have long held that when considering judicial nominees, objective qualifications are more important than partisan politics, and senators should work across the aisle to fill the federal bench with highly qualified jurists. I worked on a bipartisan basis with Senator Bob Casey and the Obama White House to fill 16 vacancies on the federal bench in Pennsylvania. And, although I knew I would disagree with many of her decisions, I supported President Obama's nomination of then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. The test is not whether we agree with every decision a judicial nominee has rendered, but whether that nominee understands the proper role of a judge and has the character, intellect, and experience to merit confirmation.

I am applying this same test to the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh-whom I met on July 26 to discuss his nomination. Based on my review of his record and our conversation, it is clear to me that Judge Kavanaugh has the character, intellect, experience, and judicial philosophy to be an outstanding Supreme Court Justice. He understands that the proper role of a judge is to apply neutrally the law, including the U.S. Constitution, as written, and not to decide cases based on personal or partisan policy preferences.

I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will give Judge Kavanaugh fair consideration so that Republicans and Democrats can work together to confirm this highly qualified jurist. I look forward to following Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing and I intend to support his nomination when it comes to the Senate floor.
I asked about Judge Kavanaugh's involvement with those "torture memos" (reminding the senator that torture is a war crime) and he answers that Brett Kavanaugh "has the character, intellect, experience, and judicial philosophy to be an outstanding Supreme Court Justice."

It's so nice to see that Toomey now hopes that his colleagues will give Kavanaugh "fair consideration" considering the fact that Toomey himself was part of the GOP voting block that successfully denied Judge Merrick Garland exactly that same consideration.

He's also on record saying that "proper role of a judge is to apply neutrally the law, including the U.S. Constitution, as written, and not to decide cases based on personal or partisan policy preferences" and yet when faced with a nominee from a President who was a democrat (Obama), we have something very different. Toomey outright rejected any notion of "fair consideration" for a nominee to replace the very conservative Antonin Scalia as that nominee was not that conservative. Reason being that it would "affect the balance on the court for perhaps a generation."

That would be the court's conservative/liberal balance. Replacing the conservative Scalia with someone not conservative would adversely affect the court's political balance and therefore had to be rejected. So much for neutrally applying the law over deciding cases based on personal or partisan policy preferences, eh Senator Toomey?

And then there was an outright avoidance of any mention of torture.

All to force Kavanaugh's nomination through before the 2018 midterms, perhaps?