What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 29, 2018

My SIXTY-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."

I need to follow up on the last letter you sent me. Specifically, it's about your shift in support for the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Last summer you wrote to me, about the Special Counsel, saying:
I have every confidence that Robert Mueller will execute these responsibilities with integrity and professionalism.
This past week, however, you wrote:
Mr. Mueller ought to conduct a thorough and complete investigation to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice. It is also important that Mr. Mueller's work be conducted in an apolitical manner so that his findings are credible and nonpartisan.
So here's my set of questions: Do you believe that Robert Mueller is not conducting a "thorough and complete investigation" into the Russian meddling?  Do you believe he's not conducting this investigation in an "apolitical manner"? And upon what are you basing this change of position? Your constituents have a right to know your thinking on this.

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

Follow-up:

May 28, 2018

Fact-Checking Donald J. Trump's Commencement Speech At The US Naval Academy

As of this writing, the speech itself has not yet been posted at Whitehouse.gov. You can, however, read it here or here or here.

And this being the perpetual liar/misinformer Donald Trump, the fact-checkers are doing their patriotic fact-checking duty:
  • Politifact - Trump said:
    "We just got you a big pay raise, first time in 10 years. We got you a big pay increase, first time in over 10 years. I fought for you. That was the hardest one to get."
  • Politico responded:
    That’s flat wrong, which is why we rated a similar statement Pants on Fire. In fact, the last time that service members didn’t receive an annual pay increase was in 1983 (and that was only because of a one-time technical quirk).

    The increase of 2.4 percent in 2018 represented the biggest bump since 2010. But there have been increases every year since then, ranging from 1 percent to 2.1 percent. For 2019, the White House is proposing a 2.6 percent increase; the bill to enact that pay raise is working its way through Congress.

    Other than 1983, you have to go back to 1961 to find a calendar year without a military pay increase, which suggests that the increase wasn't so hard to get.
  • New York Times - Trump said:
    And very soon, we are going to get to 355 beautiful ships. That is almost a couple of hundred more ships
  • NYTimes Responded:
    False.

    In 2016, the United States Navy had 275 active ships in its fleet. Mr. Trump’s plans to increase that number to 355 would amount to just 80 more.
I'd like to add my own fact-check, if I may. In the speech Trump said:
Seventy-five years ago this summer, [LTCD Bruce Voorhis] was in the South Pacific commanding Bombing Squadron 102 during the battle of the Solomon Islands. That was a rough battle. His only brother had been killed and the Bataan Death March. On July 6, Bruce volunteered for a mission to destroy a crucial enemy base. It was a rough time. It was a rough, tough situation. He knew full-well that he would likely never return. He knew he was going to die. But he also knew his daring action could prevent a surprise attack on large-scale American forces.

So, his plane took off alone on a 700-mile flight. Bruce flew through the darkness to his target, a tiny speck on the vast open sea. He braved unrelenting anti-aircraft fire, like nobody had ever seen at that time, and a trail of enemy planes to single-handedly destroy this large enemy base, including multiple fortifications, and a critical communications link. And in this final act of valor, Bruce was caught in the blast of one of his own bombs and perished in a remote lagoon very far from here. His life was lost, but his legacy will live forever.
For his bravery, he was posthumously promoted to Commander and given the Medal of Honor.

So what did the liar-in-chief get wrong?  Reread the paragraphs above again and note the terms "alone" and "single-handedly."  It would be safe to infer that he was flying alone, right? That he "single-handedly" did all that stuff.

That would have been difficult for one man to do all that stuff piloting, as he was, a B-24 (specifically a PB4Y-1 Patrol Bomber). Did you know that there were ten other men on that plane? For their bravery and valor, the co-pilot was awarded the Navy Flying Cross and the rest of the crew the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Doesn't their bravery deserve a mention?

May 27, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter (Toomey has Shifted His Stance On The Mueller Investigation)

It's been about three and a half weeks since Senator Toomey (or his office) has responded to a letter of mine. Last night I received in the postal mail a letter from his office.

This one is different in a number of ways and not so different after all. First off it's two pages (well, one sheet of paper but text on both sides) and that's never happened before.  Second, the punctuation isn't up to Toomey's usual polished standards.

I realize it's perhaps a wee bit nitpicky but when you see a sentence like this one:
President Trump fired Mr. Comey, and nominated Christopher Wray as the next FBI director.
Or this one:
On October 30, 2017, Mr. Mueller announced charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and campaign advisors Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos.
where the use of some completely redundant commas coming from the office of a United States Senator you have to wonder who's checking this stuff? And don't they care about proper punctuation?

It's a tiny point but still.

So which letter is Toomey answering?  Let's go see.

He opens with:
Thank you for contacting me about the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. I appreciate hearing from you.
Well that certainly narrows it down!  Too bad I've been keeping copies of Toomey's responses as this letter is looking all too familiar.  With some alterations, Senator Toomey's office has sent me this same letter three times.

The first two, I write about them here, are from the summer of 2017.

Here's how the June '17 opened:
Former FBI Director James Comey recently testified before Congress that an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government is still ongoing. While the former director did not say whether any coordination has been found, he confirmed there is no evidence of vote tampering. President Trump recently fired Mr. Comey, and has nominated Christopher Wray as the next FBI director. It is now up to the Senate to vet and confirm this nomination.
And August '17:
Former FBI Director James Comey recently testified before Congress that an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government is still ongoing. While the former director did not say whether any coordination has been found, he confirmed there is no evidence of vote tampering. President Trump fired Mr. Comey, and nominated Christopher Wray as the next FBI director. On August 1, 2017, the Senate voted 92 - 5 with my support to confirm Wray's nomination.
And this week's:
On March 20, 2017, former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress that an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government was still ongoing. While the former director did not say whether any coordination had been found, he confirmed there was no evidence of vote tampering. President Trump fired Mr. Comey, and nominated Christopher Wray as the next FBI director. On August 1, 2017, the Senate voted 92-5 with my support to confirm Mr. Wray's nomination.
Same letter, updated by a year. Can't we expect a real response from an elected official - especially on such an important matter?  So what's changed?

Paragraph two from June '17/August '17:
(In the interim/Meanwhile), Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to continue the investigation into any links between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and any matters that arose from such investigation - an assignment that encompasses the recent allegations surrounding Michael Flynn and Mr. Comey. I have every confidence that Robert Mueller will execute these responsibilities with integrity and professionalism.
And this week's:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate any links between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and any matters that arose from such investigation. On October 30, 2017, Mr. Mueller announced charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and campaign advisors Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos. The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges, among other things, that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates failed to register as foreign agents while working on behalf of the Ukrainian government, and conspired to launder money. Mr. Gates has since pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel. Further, DOJ has secured a guilty plea from Mr. Papadopoulos for making false statements to the FBI regarding conversations he had with the Russian ambassador. Under terms of his plea agreement, Mr. Flynn will cooperate with the special counsel's investigation going forward. [New Material Highlighted.]
The interesting thing about this, what looks to be a messy rush job on Toomey's part, is found in the last sentence. See that? That's the first mention of "Mr. Flynn" in the letter. Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos each get two mentions, the first with their entire names and a second with a "Mr." All poor Michael Flynn gets is a "Mr." 

Messy editing job, Senator. Your office is looking amateurish.

I'm also wondering why Toomey chose the milder, rather informal "alleges" instead of the harsher, more formal "has charged" or "indicted" in the second sentence.  Manafort was arrested, eventually freed on bail and now there's a scheduled court date. Why camouflage the charges behind a bland "alleges"?

But here's the bug news. Toomey's changed his tune about the Mueller investigation. In last year's letters, he ends with:
While I am not a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, please be assured I understand your concerns and will keep your thoughts in mind moving forward. Thank you again for your correspondence. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
This week's letter inserts this sentence before that ending:
Mr. Mueller ought to conduct a thorough and complete investigation to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice. It is also important that Mr. Mueller's work be conducted in an apolitical manner so that his findings are credible and nonpartisan.
Last year's letters included the sentence:
I have every confidence that Robert Mueller will execute these responsibilities with integrity and professionalism.
This week Toomey says that Mueller "ought to conduct" a fair, impartial and apolitical investigation (not that he is already doing so). So no longer does Pat Toomey have "every confidence" that Mueller will conduct himself with integrity and professionalism.

This is a big change. And Pat Toomey owes it to his constituents to explain this change.

Full Text of the letter:
Thank you for contacting me about the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. I appreciate hearing from you.

On March 20, 2017, former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress that an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government was still ongoing. While the former director did not say whether any coordination had been found, he confirmed there was no evidence of vote tampering. President Trump fired Mr. Comey, and nominated Christopher Wray as the next FBI director. On August 1, 2017, the Senate voted 92-5 with my support to confirm Mr. Wray's nomination.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate any links between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and any matters that arose from such investigation. On October 30, 2017, Mr. Mueller announced charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and campaign advisors Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos. The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges, among other things, that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates failed to register as foreign agents while working on behalf of the Ukrainian government, and conspired to launder money. Mr. Gates has since pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel. Further, DOJ has secured a guilty plea from Mr. Papadopoulos for making false statements to the FBI regarding conversations he had with the Russian ambassador. Under terms of his plea agreement, Mr. Flynn will cooperate with the special counsel's investigation going forward.

On February 16, 2018, DOJ charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes, beginning as early as 2014. In a press conference that same day, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein emphasized that there were no allegations in the indictment that any Americans were aware of the Russian election interference scheme or that the scheme has any effect on the outcome of the 2016 election.

I look forward to reviewing the findings of Mr. Mueller, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, and other congressional committees investigating Russian actions during the election. To the extent that the Russian government, or its agents, meddled in our election, they should face serious consequences. Towards that end, I was pleased to support legislation (Public Law 115-44) that codified and strengthened existing sanctions on Russia. If the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government in an attempt to influence the election, then that should be disclosed and acted upon, too. Russia remains a dangerous threat, and Congress must remain vigilant against our adversaries' attempts to expand their influence and undermine trust in our government.
Mr. Mueller ought to conduct a thorough and complete investigation to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice. It is also important that Mr. Mueller's work be conducted in an apolitical manner so that his findings are credible and nonpartisan. While I am not a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, please be assured I understand your concerns and will keep your thoughts in mind moving forward. Thank you again for your correspondence. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
[Line Spacing In Original]

May 22, 2018

My SIXTY-SECOND Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey (UPDATED)

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 as you about our new Director of Central Intelligence, Gina Haspel. You wrote on your Facebook page that you support her nomination. I'm curious about that support, considering how she oversaw a program that tortured someone. Reportedly, she was also involved in the destruction of video tapes showing other detainees at other CIA "black sites" being tortured. There was torture and then covering up torture - all overseen in one way or another by Gina Haspel.

The UN Convention Against Torture was signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the US Senate in 1994. It is US Law. It says that torture is illegal - no mitigating circumstances allowed. No one can claim to have been "simply following orders" No one can claim it was necessary in the face of an emergency. Torture is simply illegal and Gina Haspel oversaw a torture program.

So here's my question: Now that she's been installed as head of CIA, how could we as a nation possibly criticize any other country for whatever torture programs they might be running when our own Director of Central Intelligence oversaw (and covered up) just such a program?

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

UPDATE: The Senator has responded to this letter

Follow-up:

May 20, 2018

Meanwhile Outside...

From the climate scientists at NOAA:
The global land and ocean temperature departure from average for April 2018 was the third highest for April in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date (January-April) global temperature was the fifth warmest such period in the 139-year record.
And:
The April temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.49°F above the 20th century average of 56.7°F and the third highest for April in the 1880-2018 record. Only April 2016 (+1.94°F) and 2017 (+1.60°F) were warmer. Nine of the 10 warmest Aprils have occurred since 2005. April 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive April and the 400th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.
Meanwhile from the Washington Post:
The news came on a Friday evening in late April last year: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had removed an informational website about climate change, taking down a page that had been up, in some form, for nearly two decades and under three presidents.

Before its removal, the page had plainly stated a position on climate change: It is caused by humans, and there’s no significant doubt about that. But that position contradicted statements by the new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who had expressed doubts about human activity being the dominant driver of climate change.

EPA said at the time that the site had been taken down for review and that it had been archived and was still available as part of a “snapshot” of the state of the site on Jan. 19, 2017, just as the new administration took command.
This is some of the information you can find from that archived site:
In general, climate changes prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s can be explained by natural causes, such as changes in solar energy, volcanic eruptions, and natural changes in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations.

Recent climate changes, however, cannot be explained by natural causes alone. Research indicates that natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.
And this:


On the other hand, on the Trump-era EPA page we see this:


The text immediately below it reads:
Thank you for your interest in this topic. We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt. If you're looking for an archived version of this page, you can find it on the January 19 snapshot.
And that leads you to the year old data.

It's still getting warmer out there regardless of the efforts of the science deniers in power who are actively blocking that information from you.

May 19, 2018

Toomey Time Round-Up! (Part The Fifth)

So far, I've written 61 letters to Pennsylvania's junior senator, Pat Toomey.  The first round up of letters can be found here. The second, here. The third, here. The fourth, here.

Today, it's time for a fifth.

Of letters 48 through 61, Senator Toomey (or his office) have so far answered only two:
And now, for your edification and amusement, here are the letters Senator Toomey has decided not to answer:
  • Forty-eighth - where I asked about the overall lack of security clearances among his advisors (including Jared Kushner) and wonder what his reaction would be if the same situation were to take place during a democratic administration.
  • Forty-ninth - where I asked about Trump's refusal to faithfully execute the law passed by Congress to sanction Russia for its election meddling.
  • Fifty-first - where I asked about a recent "joke" of Trump's. He "joked" about extending his term beyond the constitutionally limited two. I wondered to Senator Toomey what his reaction would be had a Democratic president made the same "joke."
  • Fifty-second - where I asked about another Trump attack on a free press.
  • Fifty-fourth - where I asked Toomey to comment on whether the $130,000 payoff to adult film star Stormy Daniels constituted an "in-kind" (and illegal) contribution to the Trump Campaign.
  • Fifty-fifth - where I asked Toomey to comment on the reaction of the business community to his tax-cut legislation. He said it would create new jobs and a report from the Atlanta Fed said it didn't.
  • Fifty-sixth - where I asked Toomey if he agreed with Trump regarding the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's offices - were they a disgrace, and a witch hunt as Trump said, or does he still have faith that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will do his job with "integrity and professionalism."
  • Fifty-seventh - where I asked Toomey if he supported Senator Lindsay Graham's legislation protecting Special Prosecutor Mueller if Trump sought to fire him.
  • Fifty-eighth - where I asked Toomey if he agreed with his Senate colleague Bob Corker when he, Corker, said, "any Republican senator who hasn't been conflicted over this presidency is either comatose or is pretty useless in their blindness."
  • Fifty-ninth -  where I asked Toomey about his reaction to his Senate colleague Marco Rubio's assertion that after the tax cut to big business, "there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.” 
  • Sixtieth -  where I asked about Trump's lies regarding the payoff to Stormy Daniels and whether the Senator was OK with the lies.
  • Sixty-first - where I asked about Trump's violation of "the Iran Deal" and how, in Toomey's eyes, it's made the world safer.
These are the questions that my senator has, so far, refused to answer.

May 15, 2018

My SIXTY-FIRST Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey (UPDATED)

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 need to ask you about Donald Trump's decision to violate the JCPOA (a.k.a "The Iran Deal"). You posted on your website that you support the decision to withdraw (ie to violate) the agreement adding that the agreement "pav[ed] the way for Iran to develop nuclear weapons in a few short years" and "provided immediate sanctions relief and $100 billion" to Iran.

Let me start about the money. Isn't it true that the $100 billion in question is actually money from the sale of Iranian oil that the US Treasury had frozen in banks around the world? (Yes, it is.) And so aren't you (at the very least) misleading the public by using the verb "provided" rather than the more correct "returned"? It is their money, is it not? The verb "provided" seems to imply that the money was coming from someplace other than Iran itself.

And now the agreement itself. You said that the agreement paved the way for Iran to develop nukes in a few short years. But isn't it far more accurate to say that it stopped Iran from developing those weapons that quickly? It reduced Iran's capability of producing weapons grade uranium, reduced the number of advanced centrifuges and so on.

But now with those controls off, now Iran is capable of creating a nuclear weapon much more quickly, isn't that true?

So here's my question: How have you made the world safer? No, wait. I'll answer that one for you: You haven't.

But if you can comment on why you're misleading your voters about The Iran Deal, that'll be great. THANKS.

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

UPDATE: The Senator has responded to this letter.

Follow-up:

May 11, 2018

The New GOP - Even More Disgusting Than The Last

As far back as I can remember, I had always perceived a rather nasty narrative emanating from the conservative right in this country.

This goes at least as far back as Ronald Reagan's "Welfare Queen" homey anecdotes, I suppose. While she  was certainly a real person who committed real crimes, as Mark Levin wrote in Slate:
Linda Taylor, the haughty thief who drove her Cadillac to the public aid office, was the embodiment of a pernicious stereotype. With her story, Reagan marked millions of America’s poorest people as potential scoundrels and fostered the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be stamped out. This image of grand and rampant welfare fraud allowed Reagan to sell voters on his cuts to public assistance spending. The “welfare queen” became a convenient villain, a woman everyone could hate. She was a lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn.
By magnifying the reality, the GOP was able to redefine everyone on welfare as possibly or even probably a "lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn." With that they were able to assert that the welfare state, for the sake of those honest Americans, needs to be dismantled.

Never mind the real suffering such a dismantling based on a dishonest magnification of one person's crimes caused.

However disgusting that was, it's rather different from the current disgusting.

From The Hill:
A White House official mocked Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis at an internal meeting on Thursday, a day after the Arizona Republican announced his opposition to President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel.

Special assistant Kelly Sadler made the derisive comments during a closed-door White House meeting of about two-dozen communications staffers on Thursday morning.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, according to a source familiar with the remarks at the meeting.
And on Fox this happened:
Former Fox News military analyst Thomas McInerney on Thursday condemned Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) rebuke of President Trump's CIA director nominee Gina Haspel, saying that torture "worked on" McCain, whom he referred to as "Songbird John."
You can agree with Senator McCain's politics or not (and I definitely do not) but such open attitudes abound in Trump's GOP.

 And we all know where this comes from, right? Here:
Appearing on Saturday at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, the real estate mogul took his running feud with Arizona Sen. John McCain to a new level.

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
But even that wasn't exactly new to the disgusting GOP. Take a look at what I found back in 2008. The "Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain" called him a "songbird" ten years ago and the story had enough traction that Politifact had to address it - ten years ago.

Can we not take a lesson from Reagan's "Welfare Queen" anecdote and now safely assume that every Republican, unless they publicly denounce this current GOP disgusting narrative of Senator McCain, actually agrees with it? Can we not ask, every Republican to answer for it?

Yea, I think we can. And we should.

May 8, 2018

My SIXTIETH 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'm sorry Senator but we have to hold our collective noses and wade back into the ever-steaming swamp of Donald Trump scandals.

A few days ago the NYTimes reported that Donald Trump knew about the $130K payoff to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford "months before he denied any knowledge of it to reporters aboard Air Force One in April." If true, that would mean he out and out lied in public when he said he didn't know about the payment.

In a tweet on May 3, Donald Trump acknowledged that the payments were done as "a monthly retainer" and that money was a reimbursement for those payments. If true that would mean Trump out and out lied in public about the source of the payments only a few seconds after lying about knowing about the payment to Ms Clifford.

So this week's question: Is ANY of this acceptable with you? If so, how much are you ok with? And if it's not acceptable with you when will you be denouncing the man you voted for in November 2016? And if it IS acceptable to you, for Heaven's sake, what WOULD it take for you to find Trump's behavior unacceptable?

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

Follow-up:

May 6, 2018

Donald J Trump Lies. And Then Lies About Lying

This is May 4 - a few days ago - and this is the official transcript found at Whitehouse.gov:
Q    Mr. President, why did you change your story on Stormy Daniels?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m (We're) not changing any stories.  All I’m telling you is that this country is right now running so smooth.  And to be bringing up that kind of crap, and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time — that’s all you want to talk about.  You’re going to see —

Q    But you said —

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me —

Q    — on Air Force One that you did not know (anything about the payments).

THE PRESIDENT:  No, but you have to — excuse me.  You take a look at what I said.  You go back and take a look.  You’ll see what I said.

Q    You said, “No,” when I asked you, “Did you know about the payment?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me, you go take a look at what we said.  But this is a witch hunt like nobody has ever seen before.  And what they should do is look at the other side, where terribly bad things have happened, where terribly bad things have been done. (My minor corrections are in blue)
You can watch it for yourself:


And this is the conversation that reporter referenced.
Q    Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  No.  What else?

Q    Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.  Michael is my attorney.  And you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.

Q    Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I don’t know.  No.
In between there was this:
President Donald Trump said Thursday reimbursement to his personal lawyer for hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels was done through a monthly retainer and “had nothing to do with the campaign.”
And here's what Trump said in a series of tweets:
Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are...very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,...despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.
So the money was repaid by Trump via a retainer - so he did know.

So he lied and then lied about lying.

May 3, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter (This Time Regarding Pennsylvania Gerrymandering)

Nothing to worry about. It looks like I am back in the good graces of Pennsylvania's junior United States Senator, Pat Toomey.

As it had been more than a month since Toomey had responded to one of my letters I was at the point where I was beginning to think that perhaps his responding to my letters had reached an end. But then I got an email response from Toomey's office and world was set right again and there was much rejoicing.

Yesterday, I got some snail mail (full text at the bottom of this blog post). So that's two responses from Toomey in less than a week.

This new letter begins thusly:
Thank you for contacting me about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's recent ruling regarding Pennsylvania's congressional map. I appreciate hearing from you.
He still appreciates hearing from me. See? No reason to worry.

So which letter was Toomey answering? This one, from March 20. It was about Senator Toomey's response to the State Supreme Court's striking down as unconstitutional the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011. Here's what I wrote:
The Hill reported that you referred to the recent State Supreme Court ruling striking down the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 as a "blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process." You also refused to reject the idea of impeaching members of the State Court for that reaching that decision. The State Supreme Court in striking down the act, however, said that it "clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." It was from that point alone (which is to say, by relying only on state law), they found the Redistricting Act to be unconstitutional.
The US Supreme Court refused to overturn that ruling only one day before so I asked two related but separate questions:
[D]o you still think that the State Supreme Court decision is unconstitutional? Do you still think it appropriate for state legislators to discuss impeachment for deciding that the then-current redistricting plan unconstitutionally favored one party (yours) over the other?
 In his response to me, Senator Toomey reiterated his charge that the State Supreme Court is guilty of a "power grab of breathtaking audacity and overreach" while completely avoiding the question about impeachment.

So guess it's more of a half response than a full response. Oh, well.

But let's take a look at what Toomey says anyway. He writes:
In his dissent to the court's initial ruling, Chief Justice Thomas Taylor stated that "the crafting of congressional district boundaries is quintessentially a political endeavor assigned to state legislatures by the United States Constitution." Pennsylvania's current congressional map was written an approved by majorities in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, and signed by Pennsylvania's governor. Democrats in the Pennsylvania House voted for the map and it would not have been approved without their support, The proper role of judges is to enforce the law, not to legislate their political beliefs from the bench, which is clearly what happened in this case. As such I strongly disagree with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling and its redrawing of the Pennsylvania congressional map.
Wow, a clear answer from Senator Toomey. That doesn't happen often. Too bad it's built on a strawman. Look at the penultimate sentence:
The proper role of judges is to enforce the law, not to legislate their political beliefs from the bench...
Now look at the opening paragraph of the majority decision invalidating The Act:
This adjudication was based upon the uncontradicted evidentiary record developed in the Commonwealth Court, wherein the Petitioners established that the 2011 Plan was a partisan gerrymander and that this gerrymander was extreme and durable. It was designed to dilute the votes of those who in prior elections voted for the party not in power in order to give the party in power a lasting electoral advantage. In stark contrast, Article I, Section 5 of our Constitution provides: “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.” Pa. Const. art. I, § 5. On this record, it is clear that the 2011 Plan violates Article I, Section 5, since a diluted vote is not an equal vote.
You'll note that the decision doesn't take a partisan political position. It states that as the act was designed to dilute the voting power of all of those who voted for the losing side in previous elections (regardless of which side won/lost in that election) it's unconstitutional for that point alone.

The decision was to protect the voting rights of everyone.  That's what Toomey characterized as a "blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process" - the idea that everyone's vote should have equal weight.

But this part is the most curious:
A lawsuit seeking an injunction against the map drawn by the Democrat majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been filed in federal court.
On the one hand, I would have thought that the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to get involved in a strictly state matter would be enough to weaken any further lawsuits. However, as Bruce Ledewitz, professor of Law at Duquesne University told me in an email:
Supreme Court rejection of a lawsuit does not preclude a federal lawsuit in a lower federal court.
And while the case seems to be settled, according to The Brennan Center, there's still some judicial life left in the gerrymander-defenders. Some further appeals to the Supreme Court (the same court that rejected earlier appeals) and so on.

I do have to say, however, that since the PA Supreme Court decided this state issue based on the Pennsylvania Constitution, it's oh so interesting to see how the "states' rights!!" crowd is looking for an intervention from the big bad fed'rul guv'ment.

And we all know what side Senator Toomey is on this: States Rights! (just as long as it doesn't interfere with the GOP's hold on power). Good going, Pat.

FULL TEXT OF SENATOR TOOMEY'S LETTER:
Dear David, Thank you for contacting me about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's recent ruling regarding Pennsylvania's congressional map. I appreciate hearing from you.

On January 22, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the Pennsylvania General Assembly to redraw the Commonwealth's congressional map by February 9, 2018 even though the map had been in place for six years and was enacted into law with bipartisan support by the General Assembly. In a power grab of breathtaking audacity and overreach, the court simultaneously arrogated to itself the authority to redraw Pennsylvania's congressional districts if Governor Tom Wolf failed to approve a new map, drawn by the Pennsylvania state legislature, by February 15, 2018. After Governor Wolf rejected the legislature's proposed map, on February 19, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a completely new congressional map that it drew.

In his dissent to the court's initial ruling, Chief Justice Thomas Taylor stated that "the crafting of congressional district boundaries is quintessentially a political endeavor assigned to state legislatures by the United States Constitution." Pennsylvania's current congressional map was written an approved by majorities in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, and signed by Pennsylvania's governor. Democrats in the Pennsylvania House voted for the map and it would not have been approved without their support, The proper role of judges is to enforce the law, not to legislate their political beliefs from the bench, which is clearly what happened in this case. As such I strongly disagree with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling and its redrawing of the Pennsylvania congressional map.

A lawsuit seeking an injunction against the map drawn by the Democrat majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been filed in federal court.

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

May 1, 2018

You can't handle the truth!


I demand to know the truth! Is Trump an "idiot" like Kelly said or is he a "fucking moron" like Tillerson said?

My FIFTY-NINTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

Senator, I'd still like to steer clear of the many many scandals tainting this administration, our nation, and your political party and ask you about your most recently enacted tax reform. You said of that reform (before it was enacted) that it "will promote domestic economic growth, create jobs, and raise wages."

However, your Republican colleague, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, is on record saying that “There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers. In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

So here's this week's question: Assuming both statements are correct (yours made before and his made after the legislation), what went wrong with your legislation? If it was so important to enact the tax reform in order to create jobs and raise wages and this is not happening, what will you be doing differently in the future to make sure the same mistakes don't recur and (more importantly) to fix the mistakes that Senator Rubio points out?

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

Follow-up: