What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 31, 2018

7600 LIES From Donald Trump (So Far)

Let's end the year with a Pinocchio-summary from Kessler of the Washington Post:
President Trump’s year of lies, false statements and misleading claims started with some morning tweets.

Over a couple of hours on Jan. 2, Trump made false claims about three of his favorite targets — Iran, the New York Times and Hillary Clinton. He also took credit for the “best and safest year on record” for commercial aviation, even though there had been no commercial plane crashes in the United States since 2009 and, in any case, the president has little to do with ensuring the safety of commercial aviation.

The fusillade of tweets was the start of a year of unprecedented deception during which Trump became increasingly unmoored from the truth. When 2018 began, the president had made 1,989 false and misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database, which tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. By the end of the year, Trump had accumulated more than 7,600 untruths during his presidency — averaging more than 15 erroneous claims a day during 2018, almost triple the rate from the year before.
Kessler uses the phrases "false statements" and "misleading claims" and "false claims" and "untruths" and "erroneous claims" in his description (why can't he use another, shorter term? Like, I dunno, "lies") as well as saying  that "Trump became increasingly unmoored from the truth."

Here's an example:
And here's the reality from Kessler:
In trying to make the case for a high concrete border wall, Trump exaggerates about the Obama house in Washington, D.C. It is an 8,200 square foot Tudor-style home in the Kalorama residential area, but it is not a "compound." The Obamas added security fencing to an enlarged retaining wall in front for the needs of the Secret Service but there is not a ten-foot wall around the house; the front steps are open to the sidewalk. Chain link fencing, but no wall, was added to the back. While Trump says the border wall would be a "slightly larger version" of the alleged Obama wall, he has previously described his proposed wall as 1,000 miles long, made of precast concrete slabs, rising 35 to 40 feet in the air.
This is the state of the presidency this December 31.

December 28, 2018

Meanwhile, Outside

Due to the Trump shutdown this is what you'll see if you want the most recent climate data:


However, if we use The Wayback Machine, we find this:
Averaged as a whole, the November 2018 global land and ocean average surface temperature tied with 2004 and 2016 as the fifth highest November temperature since global records began in 1880 at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average. November 2015 is the warmest November with a global land and ocean temperature at 0.96°C (1.73°F) above the 20th century average. November 2018 also marks 42nd consecutive November and the 407th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.
And this:
Averaged as a whole, the global land and ocean surface temperature for the three month period of September–November 2018 was 0.80°C (1.44°F) above the 20th century average—the second warmest such period in the 139-year record. September–November 2015 was the warmest such period at 0.96°C (1.73°F).
And this:
The January–November 2018 period was the fourth warmest such period in the 139-year record for the world's land and ocean surfaces, with an average temperature that was 0.77°C (1.39°F) above the 20th century average. This value was 0.19°C (0.34°F) lower than the record high set in 2016. With one month remaining, the 2018 global land and ocean temperature will very likely to end as the fourth warmest year in the 139-year record.
But because of the Trump's shutdown (and let's all remember that it's a dispute over congressional funding for a wall Trump promised Mexico would pay for) the United States Government can't now show you this data.

Despite this most recent orange-flavored temper tantrum, it's still getting warmer outside. Science says so.

December 22, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

Though as you'll see, he can't be bothered to actually answer my question.

In the mail this past week, I received a letter from Senator Toomey (or perhaps more precisely his office). It's dated November 29.

And it begins thusly:
Thank you for contacting me regarding First Amendment protections for free speech. I appreciate hearing from you.
As it's dated November 29, we can dispense with any of my letters written after that date.

So when did I mention any aspect of the First Amendment before November 29?

On November 20, I wrote a letter that contained this passage:
This week, Donald Trump launched an attack on a retired Navy Admiral (and former Navy SEAL) who questioned him on his charge that the press is the enemy of the people.
On October 30, I wrote a letter that contained this:
Donald Trump continues to call the press "the enemy of the people." This, even after one of his most fervent supporters, sent a pipe bomb to CNN.

I've asked you this before, Senator, but let me ask you again.

Is the press (and let's all remember that the press is constitutionally protected) really "the enemy of the people" like he says?
Wait, I asked this before???

Why yes, I have. Take a look at this.

Last January 6, I wrote a blog post about a letter I received from Toomey's office. That letter began with:
Thank you for contacting me regarding First Amendment protections for free speech. I appreciate hearing from you.
Looks familiar, doesn't it?  As far as I can tell, he was answering this letter from November 28, 2017 (a little more than a year ago).

In the November 2017 blog post I asked the senator if he agreed with Donald Trump's attack on the free press and he responded with some bland defense of First Amendment free speech protections.

Looks like it's one year later and Senator Toomey did it again - this time responding to multiple letters.

He failed to answer my question.

And in doing so complicit in Trump's attacks on the press.

December 21, 2018

Chuck McCullough Update

Hey, remember Chuck McCullough?

Remember when he was found guilty of "illegally cutting checks on behalf of an elderly widow to local Republican candidates and a charity his wife ran"?

That was 1239 days ago. And Chuck McCullough still hasn't gone to prison for the crimes for which he was found guilty.

In contrast, it was 1239 + 1 days between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the death of Adolph Hitler.

Guess what's happened?

This:
Former Allegheny County Councilman Charles McCullough, who was found guilty of taking money from an elderly widow for whom he served as power of attorney, has scored at least a partial procedural victory in his appeal to the state Superior Court.

In a 2-1 opinion, the panel has ordered that Mr. McCullough's motion to have the trial judge recused from his case because of alleged inappropriate, one-sided conversations he had regarding the defendant, be heard again -- this time with the requirement that the judge and defense attorney be permitted to testify.

Ultimately, Mr. McCullough, who has not yet begun serving his sentence, could receive a new trial, but any such development would be months away.
As I remember it, his appeal is on hold pending this issue.

There's also a separate issue:
Mr. McCullough still faces perjury charges that were filed against him shortly after the hearing on the recusal issue. They stem from his statements to Judge Nauhaus, prior to trial, that he was voluntarily waiving his right to a jury trial, and that the decision to have a bench trial was made on his own free will and free from threat.
Why is this an issue? What's the deal on the perjury?

This is what I wrote on February 19, 2017:
Basically, after the non-jury trial was done, he said he took a judge-only trial because he feared repercussions from judge Nauhaus if he didn't. On the other hand, he said under oath that no one threatened or coerced him into taking the judge-only trial. [Bolding in original.]
By the way, Chuck was arrested more than 9 years ago.

December 18, 2018

My NINETY-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."

Recently Donald Trump tweeted that the FBI's raid "broke into" Michael Cohen's office.

That is a lie, Senator, as the FBI had a search warrant as part of its investigation. Trump is smearing law enforcement to protect himself. There is no doubt about that.

In a response, former FBI head James Comey defended the bureau in a tweet that read, in part, "Shame on Republicans who don’t speak up at this moment — for the FBI, the rule of law, and the truth."

So here are this week's questions: When will you speaking up for the FBI, Senator? When will you be speaking up for the rule of law and the truth?

It would be a shame if you didn't.

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

Follow-up:

December 11, 2018

My NINTIETH 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 week the Department of Justice has implicated Donald J Trump in a felony. Namely that he directed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to pay off two women - each of whom claims to have had an affair with man who has since become the leader of your political party.

You said recently that you oppose Trump "when he's doing something wrong."

Well, how about now? Committing a felony is wrong, isn't it? When can we expect you to denounce Donald Trump? Or should we infer from your silence that you're OK with it?

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

Follow-up:

December 8, 2018

And (OLD) Response From Senator Toomey

I've been out of the habit of checking my "spam" folder for Toomey response letters (the gmail gods have repeatedly consigned his responses there despite my frequent corrections - oh well).

Recently I discovered a reply from Toomey's office dated October 23. My apologies for getting to this so late.

He begins 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.
Ah - this should be good.  As the letter is dated the 23rd, we can ignore any of my letters written after that date. As such there is a Kavanaugh letter written before: this one, dated October 9.

In that letter, I avoided discussion of the sexual harassment and instead asked about something else:
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?
And here is how Senator Toomey responded:
On July 9, 2018, President Trump nominated then-D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. On September 6, 2018 I joined a bipartisan majority of my colleagues to confirm Justice Kavanaugh. His sterling academic credentials and outstanding legal record, which includes twelve years of exemplary service as a judge on the second highest court in the nation, make him exceptionally well qualified to serve as the Supreme Court's newest Associate Justice.

Justice Kavanaugh's long career of public service displays a remarkable fidelity to the Constitution and understanding of the proper role of a judge. He is an impartial jurist who treats everyone fairly and decides cases neutrally on the basis of the law and not a preferred policy or outcome. Further, Justice Kavanaugh understands that changes to the law must be made by the American people, acting through the democratic process, and not by unelected judges. His record gives me great confidence that he will discharge his duties on the Supreme Court intelligently and faithfully.
I'm not sure Senator Toomey understands what the Supreme Court does. He wrote "changes to the law must be made by the American people, acting through the democratic process, and not by unelected judges." I don't think that the Supreme Court changes any laws - it decides whether a law is constitutional. But let's move on. Toomey pats himself on the back with his next paragraph:
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 (D-PA) 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 because she clearly had the character, intellect, and experience to merit confirmation.
That's nice. Still nothing about my question.

Then he gets to what I expressly didn't ask him about:
Unfortunately, during Judge Kavanaugh's nomination process, some abandoned this sensible standard. Today, the worst possible claims about a nominee are considered disqualifying by some, despite the absence of any corroborating evidence, because they disagree with the nominee's judicial philosophy. Sexual assault is undoubtedly a terrible crime that is sadly far too prevalent in our society. We need to take seriously allegations of sexual assault, while at the same time providing due process to those who are accused of misconduct.
So Pat Toomey doesn't believe Professor Ford (he mentioned "the absence of any corroborating evidence"). Something for all of us to remember. Forever.

He does end with this:
As this confirmation process concludes, my sincere hope is that all of my colleagues will seek to do the important work of restoring trust and civility in politics. The advice and consent role of the Senate for nominees would be a good place to start.
I have two words for Pat Toomey here: "Merrick Garland." Opps, let me correct that to five words: "Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland."

Then, on civility, I have a few more for Pat Toomey to ponder when thinking about the head of his own political party: we can go with "grab them by the pussy" or perhaps "shithole countries" or perhaps this tweet from only two days ago:
And still nothing about Brett Kavanaugh's perjury - another failed response from Senator Pat Toomey.

But there's another angle to this story. Back on August 18, Toomey responded (rather quickly, I might add) to a letter I had written earlier that month, on August 2. This paragraph is from this letter of October 23:
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 (D-PA) 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 because she clearly had the character, intellect, and experience to merit confirmation.
And this paragraph is from his letter of August 18:
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.
Notice anything?

Not only did Pat Toomey neglect to answer the question I asked (the perjury) but he reused a paragraph from another letter.

His constituents deserve better, doncha think?

December 7, 2018

A Tale Of Two Tweets

First there was this:
Then about forty-five minutes later, this:
I'll let you decide for yourselves whether the two are connected.

December 5, 2018

My Eighty-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."

This past week at the G20 Summit, Donald Trump refused to sign a joint agreement supporting the Paris Climate Accords despite the fact that his own administration (involving 13 federal agencies and more than 300 leading climate scientists) recently released (albeit rather quietly) the Fourth National Climate Assessment - a report outlining ways in which climate change will bring about more extreme weather conditions, damage infrastructure and so on.

I am sure you know his response - he simply said, "I don't believe it."

Given the importance of this issue, when can we expect to hear you speaking out against the danger of letting such scientific ignorance steer public policy? Or do you agree with Trump on the matter?

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

Follow-up: