What Fresh Hell Is This?

March 25, 2019

Donald Trump Is Lying To You

He tweeted:
This is a lie.

How do we know?

This is what AG Barr actually wrote:
The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Donald Trump lied.

Side note: Robert Mueller (as seen above in the partial quotation from Trump's AG) could not exonerate Donald Trump.

March 24, 2019

Heard Yesterday On The Streets Of Pittsburgh

What side are you on, my people?
What side are you on?
Antwon Rose was a freedom fighter
And he taught us how to fight.
We gonna fight all day and night
Until we get it right.
What side are you on, my people?
What side are you on?


March 22, 2019

Happy Birthday, Keegan-Michael Key

Born today in 1971.


Remember this? Remember when we had an honorable president?

One with a sense of humor and no scandals? One who agreed with science?

March 21, 2019

Trump, Speaking In Ohio Recently

From The Washington Post:
“I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve,” Trump said inaccurately, an apparent reference to allowing the use of military transport to carry McCain’s body to Washington. “I don’t care about this, I didn’t get a thank-you, that’s okay. We sent him on the way. But I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”

He added, “I have to be honest, I never liked him much. Hasn’t been for me. I’ve really, probably, never will.”
Let's all say it together: What a little snowflake!

Meanwhile, Outside

From the climate scientists at NOAA:
The February 2019 global land and ocean surface temperature was the fifth highest for February in the 140-year record at 0.79°C (1.42°F) above the 20th century average. While much of the Southern Hemisphere was experiencing unusually warm conditions during February, the Northern Hemisphere was much more variable. The most notable cool temperature departures from average were present across parts of the Northern Hemisphere, specifically across Canada and the contiguous U.S. as well as parts of central Asia, where temperatures were 3.0°C (5.4°F) below average or cooler. Meanwhile, much of Alaska, Europe, central Russia and the Far East had temperatures that were 4.0°C (7.2°F) above average or higher. Across the oceans, the Southern Ocean off the southern coast of South Africa was quite remarkable and record warm for this region, with temperature departures from average at +2.5°C (+4.5°F) or higher. Additional areas with record warm February temperatures include parts of Alaska, Central America, the Barents Sea, the Southern Ocean off Australia's southeastern coast, the Indian Ocean, the East China Sea as well as parts of northeastern Brazil.
And they added (as they usually do) a chart:


That's what the science says.

Of course the orange vulgarity tweeting from some White House toilet says:
Too bad that very little of this is actually true.

For example, Greenpeace itself says that Patrick Moore was not a "co-founder of Greenpeace"

And we all know what the science says.

This is from ten years ago:
A comprehensive review of key climate indicators confirms the world is warming and the past decade was the warmest on record. More than 300 scientists from 48 countries analyzed data on 37 climate indicators, including sea ice, glaciers and air temperatures. A more detailed review of 10 of these indicators, selected because they are clearly and directly related to surface temperatures, all tell the same story: global warming is undeniable. [Emphasis added.]
And this year?  Take a look:
Global surface temperatures were 0.38°–0.48°C above the 1981–2010 average, depending upon the dataset used. This places 2017 as the second or third warmest annual global temperature since records be-gan in the mid- to late 1800s and makes it the warmest non–El Niño year on record, as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions were neutral through much of 2017, with weak La Niña conditions at the start and end. The four warmest years on record have occurred since 2014.
So despite what the ignorant occupant of the alt-right White House says, it's getting warmer outside.

March 19, 2019

My HUNDREDTH 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 the leader of your political party, Donald Trump said that "I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."

Basically, he's threatening violence against his (and your) political opponents.

IS THIS OK WITH YOU? HOW CAN THIS POSSIBLY BE OK WITH YOU?

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

Follow-up:

March 18, 2019

Only One Thing To Say About This Trump Tweet

First the tweet:
And now the thing:

What a snowflake.

March 16, 2019

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Someone Else's Letter

So, I'm not the only one.

An astute reader emailed in some time ago describing with a Toomey response to an online letter.

Here's the complete text of the letter, dated March 8 of this year:
Thank you for contacting me about President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency concerning the southern border of the United States.

America has long benefited from immigration and the contributions of those who have come to this country willing to work hard and seek a better life. Nearly every American has some connection to our immigrant history. My own grandparents emigrated here from Ireland.

At the same time, like many Americans, I believe that our immigration system is fundamentally broken. Our borders are not secure, and large numbers of individuals regularly cross our borders illegally, including some who are violent criminals. That is why I support measures to secure our borders, including physical barriers, patrol agents, and high tech surveillance. I have also repeatedly introduced legislation, the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, which would ensure that local law enforcement officers are able to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

A bipartisan majority of Congress has repeatedly endorsed building physical barriers to secure the southern border. In October 2006, Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed into law, the bipartisan Secure Fence Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-367). This legislation, which was supported by then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to construct a fence, install obstacles such as vehicle barriers, and establish checkpoints along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Most recently, a bipartisan majority of Congress passed a funding bill for DHS 2019 operations that spends $1.375 billion to build 55 miles of security pedestrian fencing, i.e. a wall, at critical points on the southern border. On February 15, 2019, President Trump signed this bill into law.

This bill came short of the full $5.7 billion in funding necessary to build barriers in the places where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says they are necessary. As a result, the President announced on February 15th that he was declaring a national emergency at the southern border in part to reallocate funds from military construction projects in order to build barriers. His declaration states that a national emergency exists because the southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics, as well as illegal immigrants.

It is clear our southern border is in need of additional security measures, including physical barriers in the places identified by CBP. President Trump is right to shine a spotlight on this issue and work to keep Americans safe. Before the President declared a national emergency, however, I made clear that I hoped he would choose to avoid unilateral action and work with Congress on a legislative solution to secure the border. I am concerned by the president's action and the precedent it may set. Accordingly, my staff and I are closely reviewing the president's declaration and its implications.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
Obviously, this was before Senator Toomey voted in favor of the joint resolution to terminate Trump's national emergency declaration.

Trump has since vetoed the resolution.

In an op-ed to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Toomey basically says he agrees with Trump's immigration policy but not with the method Trump used to implement that policy - the national emergency declaration. He said that it's a separation of powers issue.

Interesting to note that, because the astute reader (who's NO Toomey fan by any measure) wrote to me that saying:
Basically, I urged him to support the resolution and questioned how, given his repeated claims of Presidential over reach on the part of the Obama administration, he could now argue that this "emergency declaration" was no problem.
Looks like, on this issue at least, Toomey paid attention to his conservative conscience when it came into conflict with the orange vulgarity who currently leads his party.

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

For the past couple of responses, Senator Toomey (or his office) has use the US Postal Service to get his letter to me.  This time it's email.

It's dated March 8 and it begins thusly:
Thank you for contacting me about the removal of the Russian aluminum company Rusal from the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) sanctions list. I appreciate hearing from you.
Huh. When did I ask about Rusal? Never, actually. However there's a clue a few paragraphs down:
As you may be aware, on April 6, 2018, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Russian oligarch and Putin ally Oleg Deripaska.
Ah, there it is! I have asked about Deripaska - in my 95th letter, dated January 29, 2019.

Here's what I asked:
According to CNN, earlier this month the Senate failed to move on a resolution that would have stopped the lifting of sanctions of three Russian companies tied to Oleg Deripaska, a man with close ties to the Kremlin who the Treasury Department has been investigated for money-laundering, and accused of extortion and racketeering.

The NYTimes reported that lifting those sanctions could wipe out hundreds of millions of dollars of Deripaska's debt.

Given all that we now know regarding the Russia investigation into the Trump Campaign/Administration, and Paul Manafort (who, as I am sure you're aware, got a $10 million loan from Deripaska) why on Earth would you side with Donald Trump on this and vote in favor of lifting those sanctions?
And you'll note that, after looking at Senator Toomey's opening, that I never asked him about Rusal or its removal from the Treasury Department's sanctions list.

I asked about Trump's lifting of sanctions on Oleg Deripaska - something not mentioned in Toomey's letter until his third paragraph:
As you may be aware, on April 6, 2018, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Russian oligarch and Putin ally Oleg Deripaska. Because of Mr. Deripaska’s controlling ownership stake in the international aluminum company Rusal, sanctions were extended to the company as well. These sanctions were placed on Rusal not for any illicit conduct by the company, but solely because of its association with Mr. Deripaska.
In fact the rest of the letter is about Rusal, not Derpiaska - and nothing about the specific charge of wiping out "hundreds of millions of dollars of Deripaska's debt."

Specifically Toomey, during his self-congratulatory letter, specifically avoided that part of the story.

From the NYTimes we learn of the agreement, that was described in a letter to Congress (but not released publically):
It shows that the sanctions relief deal will allow Mr. Deripaska to wipe out potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in debt by transferring some of his shares to VTB, a Russian government-owned bank under limited United States sanctions that had lent him large sums of money.
The restructuring did this:
And VTB, which reportedly already owned nearly 10 percent of EN+, will receive nearly 92 million additional shares, bringing its total stake in the company to about 24 percent.

In return for the additional shares going to VTB, which were worth nearly $800 million at the close of trading Friday on the Moscow stock exchange, Mr. Deripaska would be released from debts he owes the bank, the document shows. Mr. Deripaska had secured the loans with stock in one of his companies before the sanctions were announced. The stock prices of Rusal and EN+ plummeted after the sanctions were announced last year, but rose on the news of the deal to lift them — in effect allowing Mr. Deripaska to pay off more of the loans than he would have been able to do absent a deal with the administration.
That's what I asked Senator Toomey about and that's exactly what he avoided answering.

Try and a miss, Senator.

Full text of his letter:
Thank you for contacting me about the removal of the Russian aluminum company Rusal from the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) sanctions list. I appreciate hearing from you.

I have consistently said Vladimir Putin is a dangerous autocrat who should be treated as an international pariah. He and Russia remain dangerous threats, and Congress must be vigilant against our adversaries’ attempts to expand their influence and undermine trust in our government. Towards that end, I was pleased to support legislation (Public Law 115-44) that codified and strengthened existing sanctions on Russia. In addition, on July 24, 2018, I sent a letter with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to the Treasury Department urging immediate imposition of sanctions on the 12 Russian military intelligence officers who were indicted for their involvement in cyber operations meant to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I will also continue to support actions that increase and expand sanctions when appropriate, strengthen our alliance with NATO countries, improve our missile defense system, modernize our military, and minimize the use of Russian energy on U.S. bases in Europe.

As you may be aware, on April 6, 2018, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Russian oligarch and Putin ally Oleg Deripaska. Because of Mr. Deripaska’s controlling ownership stake in the international aluminum company Rusal, sanctions were extended to the company as well. These sanctions were placed on Rusal not for any illicit conduct by the company, but solely because of its association with Mr. Deripaska.

After months of negotiation, the Treasury Department reached a binding agreement with Rusal that severed Mr. Deripaska’s control of the company and achieved compliance with U.S. sanctions law and objectives. The terms of this deal dramatically diminish Mr. Deripaska’s ownership stake, place any dividends in a frozen account that he cannot access, remove his voting control and managerial influence, and impose unprecedented monitoring requirements on the company. Furthermore, Rusal’s new board of directors will be composed of independent directors with no ties to Deripaska or any other sanctioned individual. A majority of directors will now come from outside the company. Similarly, Rusal’s holding company will be led by a board of 12 directors vetted by the federal Office of Foreign Assets Control, eight (two-thirds of the board) of whom will be U.S. or U.K. citizens. The holding company will use its majority control of Rusal to provide additional monitoring for potential involvement of Mr. Deripaska in the company’s affairs. Treasury retains the ability to sanction Rusal or related entities directly should any activities warrant designation in the future.

Continuing to sanction an entity that agrees to change ownership and management in order to comply with U.S. law would undermine the integrity and effectiveness of our sanctions regime. It would signal to foreign actors that the US will no longer adhere to its own rules and that there is no reason for them to do so either.

In this specific case, keeping sanctions in place also would have risked prolonged damage to the US economy. Rusal is the world’s second largest producer of aluminum, and supplies US businesses with about 14% of their aluminum consumption. Sanctioning Rusal caused the price of aluminum to jump by more than 30%, threatening thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania where aluminum manufacturing has a heavy presence.

Furthermore, failure to resolve the situation would have likely only worsened national security. Rusal could have been nationalized by the Russian government, thus negating the original justification for sanctioning Rusal by formally transferring ownership. Without any of the valuable reforms included in the Treasury agreement, we would have lost insight into the company’s future activities and beneficiaries. Alternatively, Rusal could have been sold to a foreign rival like China, which would then dominate the global aluminum industry.

On January 16, 2019, the Senate rejected a resolution introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) to overturn the Treasury agreement. I voted to uphold the Treasury action because, as outlined above, it is consistent with US law and continues to impose the full force of US sanctions on Mr. Deripaska and other Russian oligarchs like him who support Putin’s malign actions around the globe.

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

March 14, 2019

And Now A Message From Kellyanne Conway's Husband George

From a series of tweets:
Have we ever seen this degree of brazen, pathological mendacity in American public life? One day he makes a harmless slip of the tongue, something any mentally balanced person would laugh off.

But instead he lies about it. He denies what the world can see on videotape. Even his donors and supporters wonder, what is wrong with him? Why would be feel compelled to tell such an absurd lie?

But one lie on any subject is never enough for Donald Trump. So he next tells a different lie. Yes, I omitted a word, but to save time. A ridiculous assertion, of course—he really said “Tim Apple” instead of “Tim Cook of Apple” to save **a third of a second**?

This man who recently gave a incoherent, rambling two-hour-plus speech, this man not known for economy of words? Another absurd, crazy lie. Pathological. And now, another one. The judge says, in open court, that Manafort’s lawyers’ “no collusion” “mantra”was patently ridiculous because it was irrelevant to the charges at hand—not that there was no proof of collusion, just that whether there was or wasn’t was irrelevant to the proceedings at hand. And yet he lies again—a blatant lie—about what the judge said in open court.

Again, pathological. It’s not rational, because it’s a lie that no reasonable person would believe. It undermines his credibility. It’s self-defeating.

But these are just two of ... how many examples? Hundreds? Thousands? Is it possible to count? At any level of government in this country, in any party, have we ever seen anything like this? It’s beyond politics. It’s nuts. It’s a disorder.
That was all in response to this tweet:
And for those who don't already know, Conway is a member of "Checks and Balances" a group that describes itself this way:
We are a group of attorneys who would traditionally be considered conservative or libertarian. We believe in the rule of law, the power of truth, the independence of the criminal justice system, the imperative of individual rights, and the necessity of civil discourse. We believe these principles apply regardless of the party or persons in power. We believe in “a government of laws, not of men.”

We believe in the Constitution. We believe in free speech, a free press, separation of powers, and limited government. We have faith in the resiliency of the American experiment. We seek to provide a voice and a network for like-minded attorneys to discuss these ideas, and we hope that they will join with us to stand up for these principles.
Too bad there aren't more Republicans/conservatives/libertarians willing to disagree with the orange vulgarity.

March 13, 2019

Happy Birthday, Al Jaffee!

For those of you who don't know the name, he's the guy who did all those Mad Magazine "fold-in" back covers.

Like this one:

First thing you do is you ask yourself the question in the upper left hand corner.

Then you follow the directions in the upper right by folding the page.

And then you'll get Jaffee's answer:


Happy Birthday, Al Jaffee!

March 12, 2019

My NINETY-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."

I'd like to ask you about Trump's budget, which he unveiled this week. The Washington Post is reporting that it includes a reduction of $845 billion over ten years.

Didn't candidate Trump promise not to cut medicare? (Yes, he did.)

USAToday is reporting that his budget will add $4.8 trillion to the deficit over 5 years.

Didn't candidate Trump promise to eliminate the deficit? (Yes, he did.)

Senator, the pushback among conservatives who support Trump these days is that aside from all the noise, at least he's fulfilling his campaign promises. But given these two huge campaign promise breaks, why are you still supporting him?

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

Follow-up:

March 11, 2019

No Wailing Or Gnashing Of Republican Teeth Over Yet Another Republican Scandal

Wasn't it only a few years ago that the wingnuts went crazy over a very non-existent sex ring run out of the very non-existent basement of a real life DC pizza parlor that was somehow tied to the Democratic Party?

Yes, they went crazy. I suppose some are still clinging to the story.

Well, take a look at this:
Seated at a round table littered with party favors and the paper-cutout footballs that have become tradition at his annual Super Bowl Watch Party, President Donald Trump cheered the New England Patriots and his longtime friend, team owner Robert Kraft, to victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3.

Sometime during the party at Trump’s West Palm Beach country club, the president turned in his chair to look over his right shoulder, smiling for a photo with two women at a table behind him.

The woman who snapped the blurry Super Bowl selfie with the president was Li Yang, 45, a self-made entrepreneur from China who started a chain of Asian day spas in South Florida. Over the years, these establishments — many of which operate under the name Tokyo Day Spas — have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.

Nineteen days after Trump and Yang posed together while rooting for the Patriots, authorities would charge Kraft with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Jupiter that Yang had founded more than a decade earlier.
Here she is with the pussy-grabber in chief:


And here she is with his sons:


If that weren't enough, there's this from Mother Jones:
The latest Trump political donor to draw controversy is Li Yang, a 45-year-old Florida entrepreneur from China who founded a chain of spas and massage parlors that included the one where New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft was recently busted for soliciting prostitution. She made the news this week when the Miami Herald reported that last month she had attended a Super Bowl viewing party at Donald Trump’s West Palm Beach golf club and had snapped a selfie with the president during the event. Though Yang no longer owns the spa Kraft allegedly visited, the newspaper noted that other massage parlors her family runs have “gained a reputation for offering sexual services.” (She told the newspaper she has never violated the law.) Beyond this sordid tale, there is another angle to the strange story of Yang: She runs an investment business that has offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. And a website for the business—which includes numerous photos of Yang and her purported clients hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach—suggests she had some success in doing so.
If that weren't enough, there's this other thing from Mother Jones:
Li Yang, the Florida massage parlor entrepreneur who created and operated a business that sold Chinese business executives access to President Donald Trump and his family at Mar-a-Lago, has yet another intriguing line of work. She is an officer of two groups with ties to China’s Communist government.
When can we expect to see our friends on the other side of the aisle go all Matthew 8:12 over this Republican scandal?

March 8, 2019

So How Much Time DOES A Trump-Guy Get For Tax Fraud and Bank Fraud?

From The Washington Post:
Paul Manafort, who once served as President Trump’s campaign chairman, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison Thursday for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud — a far lesser sentence than the roughly 20 years he had faced under federal sentencing guidelines.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III called that guidelines calculation “excessive” and sentenced the longtime lobbyist instead to 47 months in prison.
For the arithmetically challenged, that's just under 4 years.

Meanwhile:
Two minutes later Soledad O'Brien clarified:
Yea.

March 7, 2019

Trump, On Trade

From The New York Times:
America’s trade deficit in goods with the rest of the world rose to its highest level in history last year as the United States imported a record number of products, including from China, widening the deficit to $891.3 billion and delivering a setback to President Trump’s goal of narrowing that gap.

The increase was driven by some factors outside Mr. Trump’s control, like a global economic slowdown and the relative strength of the United States dollar, both of which weakened overseas demand for American goods. But the widening gap was also exacerbated by Mr. Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut, which has been largely financed by government borrowing, and the trade war he escalated last year.
You can read about it here:
For 2018, the goods and services deficit was $621.0 billion, up $68.8 billion from $552.3 billion in 2017. Exports were $2,500.0 billion in 2018, up $148.9 billion from 2017. Imports were $3,121.0 billion, up $217.7 billion from 2017.
Didn't candidate Trump promise to reduce the trade deficit?

Why, yes. Yes, he did - and he said so in Pennsylvania:
In a 2016 campaign speech in Pennsylvania, Trump called the trade deficit a "politician-made disaster" and promised swift change. "We can turn it all around - and we can turn it around fast," he said.
So if it's a politician-made disaster, and he's been in charge for a couple of years (along with his political party, until recently) doesn't that mean that he's to blame?

March 5, 2019

My NINETY-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."

I'd like to ask you about Donald Trump's recent Emergency Declaration. In the previous administration, you cited your concerns over "executive overreach" as part of the reason you couldn't support a hearing for Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland.

You recently said, regarding the border declaration that you "never thought it was a good idea."

Simple yes/no question. Given all that, will you be voting against Trump's declaration?

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

Follow-up:

March 1, 2019

February 28, 2019

It's The Beginning Of A Process. Crime, Fraud and 2020.

Representative Cummings had some careful words after yesterday's hearings.


He says, about two minutes twenty seconds in, that "This is not the end of a process but a beginning."

Representative AOC asked some great questions - the initial answers to which only require deeper questions regarding Trump's fraudulent finances:


Watch it all. Everything she said is important.

And finally at the end of the day, a dire warning:


He says, about one minute in, "I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power."

MAGA!

February 27, 2019

What's Michael Cohen Gonna Say?

His prepared testimony has been released.

Donald Trump (his client of many many years) has already called him a liar. But in his third and fourth paragraphs, Cohen is set to say:
I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee’s questions truthfully, and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump.

I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.
And he's set to say this about Trump:
He is a racist.

He is a conman.

He is a cheat.

He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.
We know he's already going to jail (for lying) so he has to know that if he lies again, he's going to be going away for a longer period.

On the other hand, take a look at the second paragraph above. He's got copies of the checks and he's offering up one as an exhibit. He describes it thusly:
A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account –after he became president -to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign.
And then there's this:
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.

In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”
All this, under oath in public and with some corroborating evidence.

February 26, 2019

My NINETY-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."

It's been a few weeks, Senator. This week, I'd like to follow-up on the last response letter of yours I wrote about.

In it you brag that you:
...voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment that acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change.
But Senator, you voted against the resolution that most clearly aligned with the established science - namely, that human activity contributed significantly to climate change.

Can you explain how you are claiming to support climate science while at the same time being on record as disagreeing 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:

February 25, 2019

The Fix That Was In Is Even Fixier-Innier!

Remember the "science" committee that Trump was going to set up to validate his unscientific reality?

Looks like there's more info on that "ad hoc" committee. An update from the Washington Post:
The White House plans to create an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to reassess the government’s analysis of climate science and counter conclusions that the continued burning of fossil fuels is harming the planet, according to three senior administration officials.

The National Security Council initiative would include scientists who question the severity of climate impacts and the extent to which humans contribute to the problem, according to these individuals, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations
The purpose of the committee is reportedly to invalidate this report, issued in November. The overview of that report started with this:
Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.
So that an ad hoc committee Trump's will be sure prove that all that science is just a hoax.

February 23, 2019

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter (And Continues Lying About His Climate Science Denial)

This one came via the Post Office.

While I received it this week (Tuesday or Wednesday, I think) it is, in fact, dated February 1 - the same day as this Toomey email response.

Weird, huh? Doesn't the left hand know what the right hand is doing over there?

The letter begins with this:
Thank you for contacting me about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, on January 9, 2019, EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler was officially nominated to serve as the agency's permanent administrator.
Now we gotta figure out which letter he's answering.

It's turning out to be difficult as I have NEVER written about Andrew Wheeler - ever. And the last time I asked Senator Toomey anything about the EPA was way back in September of 2017.

Senator Toomey already, kinda sorta, answered that letter. You can read my analysis here.

Reading that analysis, it should be obvious that this story is not going to end well for Senator Toomey or his office.  You'll see why in a minute.

In Toomey's response to my twenty-seventh letter, he begins with this:
Thank you for contacting me about the protection and conservation of our environment. I appreciate hearing from you.
And in 2017 I asked about that:
Huh? When did I write to Senator Toomey specifically about the environment?
Sound familiar? Let's keep going. I wrote that Toomey offers up a clue in a later paragraph. This paragraph:
As such, I understand your thoughts about the conservation of our environment and climate change. During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment which acknowledged that human activity contributes to climate change.
Uh-oh. This is where Toomey took a tumble. I say that because in the letter I received this week (the one dated February 1) there's this paragraph:
Some who have contacted me about Mr. Wheeler have expressed particular worry over climate change. During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment that acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change.
Same sentence separated by about two years.  It's still a lie of omission, by the way.

Let me explain why (just as I did in 2017 and originally in 2015).

There were three amendments on that day in January, 2015 regarding Climate Change.  The first stated that:
...climate change is real and not a hoax.
Toomey voted for that, good for him.

The second one stated that:
...climate change is real; and human activity contributes to climate change.
Toomey voted for that as well, good for him a second time.

However (and this is where the lie by omission occurs) there was a third vote that day. That one stated:
...climate change is real; and human activity significantly contributes to climate change. [emphasis added.]
Senator Pat Toomey voted against that.

So let's sum up. Senator Toomey wants us to infer that he believes the climate science from his votes in January of 2015. However, using those votes as evidence, it turns out that Toomey believes:
  • Climate change is not a hoax
  • Human activity contributes to climate change
  • Just. Not. Significantly.
Now let's take another look at what Toomey presented in his letter:
During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment that acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change.
You'll note he leaves out the word "significantly" here. He wants us to believe that he agrees with the science - when he actually does not as all of the science points to this fact: that human activity significantly contributes to climate change - precisely what Toomey voted against. Knowing his voting record regarding climate science, you should see his deception clearly.

Shame on him for lying to his constituency this way. For trying to get us to assume he's taken an environmental position that he actually hasn't.

Text of Toomey's letter:
Dear David

Thank you for contacting me about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, on January 9, 2019, EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler was officially nominated to serve as the agency's permanent administrator.

I have heard from a number of Pennsylvanians both in support and opposition to the leadership at the EPA and its environmental agenda. While U support sensible environmental protections, I am concerned about the excessive – and often duplicative – regulations that have come out of the federal bureaucracy in recent years and have needlessly impeded job creation and harmed Pennsylvania farmers. I am encouraged by the administration's commitment to undo regulations that imposed onerous compliance costs and undermined economic growth, and I am hopeful that Mr. Wheeler will pursue a balanced approach that is mindful of both our economy and our environment.

There are several matters currently before the EPA that are of particular importance to our state. Changes to the renewable fuel standard, i.e. the government mandate that motorists' gasoline contain ethanol, could adversely affect air quality and refineries that support good-paying jobs for thousands of Pennsylvanians. I am also monitoring how the EPA approaches regulation of perflourooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perflourooctaone sulfonate (PFOS) given that drinking water sources for several communities in southeastern Pennsylvania may have been contaminated by these chemicals, which were used in firefighting foam at local military bases.

Some who have contacted me about Mr. Wheeler have expressed particular worry over climate change. During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment that acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change.

Please be assured that I value your input and will keep your thoughts in mind as the Senate considers the nomination of Mr. Wheeler or future legislation on the environment.

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

February 22, 2019

More On John Robinson Block's Bad Behaviour

This one's gotta hurt.

From the YALE DAILY NEWS:
John Block ’77 — the publisher of the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the family namesake of a popular Yale journalism internship — has been accused of storming into the Post-Gazette’s building with his daughter while allegedly intoxicated and berating his employees and daughter, according to a post on the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh’s website.

Block used “threatening posturing” and a “verbally abusive tone,” according to Post-Gazette web editor Marianne Mizera’s account of the Feb. 9 incident released on the Guild’s website. His daughter, who is a minor, was shaken to the point of “sobbing.” At one point, Block allegedly “forcefully grabbed” his daughter’s arm and pulled her while she tried to “pull away from him.”
A couple of things with this piece.

Above the text is a photo of the Post-Gazette Building - the OLD Post-Gazette building on the Boulevard of the Allies. John Robinson Block didn't rant and rave and misbehave there. He was drunk and slapped the wall a mile or so away at the NEW P-G building on North Shore Drive.

I would've rewritten this passage:
His daughter, who is a minor, was shaken to the point of “sobbing.” At one point, Block allegedly “forcefully grabbed” his daughter’s arm and pulled her while she tried to “pull away from him.”
From the text it's unclear whether the daughter was sobbing because Block "forcefully grabbed" her or whether she was crying beforehand - and all because of the use of the verb "shaken." Had they said that she was "upset" rather than "shaken" the ambiguity would have gone away.

But I'm just a blogger who went to UConn (Go Huskies!) disagreeing with a journalist at Yale so...

In any event, the fact that Block's abhorrent behavior made it all the back to his Alma Mater in New Haven has to be a gut punch to his Ivy League ego.

It has to be.

Learning that the drunken rant made it onto the pages of the YDN, an old memory for me popped up out of my brain.  This one:


Heaven's a Yale man!

Boola boola!

February 20, 2019

Meanwhile Outside...

Now that the (first?) Trump shutdown is over, NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) is back to posting monthly updates on how hot the planet is getting.

The Trump shutdown shut down the site for a while.

The latest from the scientists at NOAA:
The first month of 2019 was characterized by warmer-than-average conditions across much of the world's surface. The most notable warm temperature anomalies were present across much of Australia and across parts of northeastern and southwestern Asia, where temperature departures from average were 4.0°C (7.2°F) above average or higher. Record warm January surface temperatures were present across much of Australia and its surrounding Southern Ocean, southern Brazil, the ocean off the south coast of South Africa, and across parts of Africa, Asia, and the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Notable cool temperature departures from average were present across parts of northern North America, Europe, and central Asia, where temperatures were 1.0°C (1.8°F) below average or cooler. According to our analysis, no land or ocean surface had record cold January temperatures.

Averaged as a whole, the January 2019 global land and ocean surface temperature was 0.88°C (1.58°F) above the 20th century average and tied with 2007 as the third highest temperature since global records began in 1880. Only the years 2016 (+1.06°C / +1.91°F) and 2017 (+0.91°C / +1.64°F) were warmer. The ten warmest Januaries have all occurred since 2002, with the last five years (2015–2019) among the six warmest years in the 140-year record. January 1976 was the last time the January global land and ocean temperatures were below average at -0.02°C (-0.04°F).
Meanwhile in the synthetic, bad substitute reality currently encased in the Trump White House:
The White House is working to assemble a panel to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, a conclusion that federal intelligence agencies have affirmed several times since President Trump took office. [Emphasis added.]
But like everything else in Trumpville, the fix is in:
The proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security, which would be established by executive order, is being spearheaded by William Happer, a National Security Council senior director. Happer, an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University, has said that carbon emissions linked to climate change should be viewed as an asset rather than a pollutant.
Happer wrote that last bit in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal (a well known and highly respected scientific journal, doncha know). You can read a rebuttal to Happer's BS here.

The obvious purpose of the Happer Committee is not "to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat" but to string together some science-y words for Donald Trump to read so that he can turn around and declare that the science has been "proven" wrong.

Meanwhile, it's still getting warmer out there. The science says so.

February 19, 2019

Confirming The P-G's Right-Wing Swing

From today's P-G:
John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on Monday named Keith Burris as its executive editor effective immediately.
This is the same Keith Burris who, three days after John Robinson Block's drunken behavior did this:
This is the same day Block Communications gaslighted (or at least tried to) Block's drunken behavior as an "unfortunate exchange" that some may have "misconstrued."

By the way, yesterday, the same day Burris was announced as second in command at the P-G, the Newspaper Guild released yet another eyewitness account of Block's drunken behavior.

This makes five?

There are a few more horrifying details to be learned in the account. For example how physical it was:
When [Block's daughter] declined to join him at the sign, he moved with the swiftness of a martial arts master, really, and closed the gap of two steps between them in one motion while simultaneously thrusting his forearm and elbow at her forehead. He stopped just as quickly about a foot from her eyes and did not strike her, but it looked like might at any moment. With his right forearm parallel to her forehead and clinched fist, he said, in a hushed but forceful tone, “You are a Block! You need to be in the picture!”

I was stunned by the physical attack on this frail child who, at that point, had still managed to maintain her composure, although I was behind him so I could not see her face because his right forearm in his suit sleeve was blocking my view.
And then, after insulting the girl's mother this happened:
He grabbed her by the right arm and dragged her in front of the sign. She pleaded not to be in the picture, saying over and over again: “No, please, I don’t want to be in the picture. No, please, no!”

He was forcefully pulling her and she was trying to resist as she was facing me, leaning as far away from him as she could while begging: “No, please, please, please, no!” Her right hand disappeared into the arm of her coat as she tried to pull away, but he yanked the coat arm in the opposite direction toward the sign. It was a tug of war and her body was the rope.

At that point, I made two exposures.
Oh. My. God. There are pictures - taken by a news photographer.

That's what the Blocks called "an unfortunate exchange" that may have been "misconstrued" into something regrettable.

And those are the people installing Keith Burris, who accompanied the sober(?) John Robinson Block a few days later back to the scene of the drunken assault as second in command at the P-G.

A few minutes after the announcement of Burris' installation yesterday, Burris himself sent a letter to everyone in the newsroom (at least I am assuming it's everyone in the newsroom - the address list is yuge) his own self-introduction. It started with this:
Dear colleagues,

Considering the responsibilities of this job, I went to my notebook at 4AM and wrote a sort of mantra for myself: Five commandments, if you will.

Be calm

Be kind

Remember that we all want the same thing – a great newspaper.

Foster professionalism and good will

DO YOUR JOB
Does anyone else see that last "commandment" (the one in ALL CAPS) as a threat to the workers in that newsroom? Anyone? Or is it just me?

By the way, how many of these "commandments" did John Robinson Block break when he was manhandling his frightened daughter and threatening to burn down the P-G in a drunken rage?

Anyway, Charlie Deitch sums up the reaction to Burris' control of both the news and editorial wings of the P-G:
That’s a shame because as journalists, we are supposed to work as watchdogs. But that’s going to be hard to do now that John Block’s lapdog is in charge.
Word from inside the P-G is that that it won't be Burris' who's in charge. Let's extend the metaphor with a question: If Burris is a lapdog, who holds the other end of the leash?

John Robinson Block - the drunken offender of journalistic integrity who manhandled his own daughter one Saturday night a few weeks ago at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Oh yea and he's a yuge Trump fan. Let's not forget that.

February 18, 2019

Preserve, Protect And Defend The Constitution Of The United States

That was in the Oath of Office Donald Trump took.

Too bad he fails to give a rat's ass about it.

He tweeted this this weekend:
And what does ""Very unfair and should be looked into." actually mean? And "retribution"? What does THAT mean?

Is the sitting President of the United States really calling for a federal/congressional investigation into a broadcast network for airing a parody of him just because he thought was unfair?

How is that respecting the First Amendment in any way shape or form?

For good measure he tweeted this four minutes later:
The is not a man who values any of the foundations of our free society.

And anyone who supports him in any way is complicit.

February 17, 2019

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

I GOTTA check the "promotions" folder of my email more often.

The response from Senator Toomey's office was received on January 2 of this year and I only noticed it this week. My apologies to the Senator for not seeing it sooner.

Here's how it begins:
Thank you for contacting me about the security of our nation's southern border. I appreciate hearing from you.
Ah, Trump's wall.  Now we have to find the letter that triggered this response.

Seeing that it's is dated January 2 (and again I apologize for my tardiness on this) we can safely assume that this response is for some letter written before the ninety-second, which was dated January 8.

The most recent letter previous letter regarding the southern border - my eighty-eighth - is dated November 27 of 2018 and in it I ask:
In the past week border agents with the United States Customs and Border Protection agency fired tear gas into Mexico in order to push a group of migrants (a group which included women and children) back from the US Border. Donald Trump said it was a "very minor form of tear gas" and that it was "very safe."

Two questions this week: What are your feelings on the US Government tear gassing women and children? And given all of Trump's lies and misstatements can we actually believe him when he says that it's safe for children?

If you disagree with the policy of tear gassing women and children at the border, when will you be speaking up against it?
I am guessing that this is the letter that he's answering as he includes this paragraph in the letter:
Specific to your concerns, on November 25, U.S. Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel a group of migrants attempting to illegally cross the border near the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California. Some migrants threw projectiles at the agents. Obviously, it is disturbing to see tear gas used against people, especially children. I wish what happened at the border had not escalated to that point.
We note with a certain amount of glee that this letter seems to be a bit more "personal" than the Senator's usual more formulaic responses.  Usually, I ask a specific question about a topic, he discusses that topic while avoiding the question itself - if I'm lucky.

This one is different. I hope we can do more of this, Senator. I hope my missing the letter for 5 weeks won't get in the way of that.

Here's the entirety of what he says about the tear-gassing at San Ysidro:
Beginning in October 2018, a caravan of migrants began traveling through Central America towards the U.S.-Mexico border. According to news reports, the caravan included some migrants who are fleeing violence, looking for economic opportunity, or both. Some intended to seek asylum in the United States. I am sympathetic to people seeking to leave countries that are rife with crime and poverty. The U.S. should have a robust immigration system and an expedient asylum process that gives due consideration to asylum seekers. At the same time, those who wish to come to the U.S., including asylum seekers, should do so legally.
The next paragraph is the one that starts, "Specific to your concerns..." and includes the phrase:
...a group of migrants attempting to illegally cross the border...[Emphasis added.]
Is that true? Is the simple act of crossing the border to seek asylum illegal?

As far as I can tell (not being a lawyer), the answer is no.

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Further, US Law states:
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title. [Emphasis added]
So simply showing up and asking for asylum is allowed by US Law - it's not an illegal act.

So Senator Toomey planted a seed of illegality where none actually exists and in doing so he shifted the blame away from the border agents actually firing the tear gas to the families who actually experienced it (Some threw rocks! See what they made us do!!!)

Otherwise he hit the right notes about being disturbed about seeing children hit with tear gas - good for him.


And, of course, he avoided my Trump question: Trump said the tear gas was "very safe."

February 15, 2019

VIDEO Of John Robinson Block's Newsroom Outburst

WTAE's Beau Berman has posted some video:


Meanwhile, Block Communication Incorporated was quoted at the Washington Post last night:
In a statement sent late on Thursday, Block Communications said the union’s depiction of Saturday night’s confrontation was incorrect. “Last Saturday evening, the Publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette expressed his frustration to the newsroom staff about several issues of concern to him. We have conducted a review of all information available, and we disagree with the characterization of Saturday evening’s events as expressed by the Newspaper Guild. No one in the newsroom was physically threatened contrary to published reports ... The Publisher expresses his sincere regrets over his conduct that evening and did not intend his actions to upset anyone.”
You can read the entire statement, along with Jonathan Silver's response:
Via the tweet thread, it's evident that there's more video.

If I can find it, I'll post it.