Democracy Has Prevailed.

May 31, 2016

The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Is Lying To You About Voter ID Fraud

In an editorial defending Voter ID laws, our good friends on the Tribune-Review editorial board have built an argument based in full on these two sentences:
Voter fraud is a fact. Disenfranchisement via voter IDs is not.
Both of which are demonstrably false.  Or at the very least, whatever fraud that the first sentence describes doesn't amount to enough fraud to swing any election.

From the Washington Post:
Almost no one shows up at the polls pretending to be someone else in an effort to throw an election. Almost no one acts as a poll worker on Election Day to try to cast illegal votes for a candidate. And almost no general election race in recent history has been close enough to have been thrown by the largest example of in-person voter fraud on record.

That said, there have been examples of fraud, including fraud perpetrated through the use of absentee ballots severe enough to force new elections at the state level. But the slew of new laws passed over the past few years meant to address voter fraud have overwhelmingly focused on the virtually non-existent/unproven type of voter fraud, and not the still-not-common-but-not-non-existent abuse of absentee voting.

In August, Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola University Law School, detailed for Wonkblog 31 instances of documented, in-person voter fraud that would have been prevented by stricter rules around identification at the polling place. The most severe instance Levitt outlined involved as many as 24 voters in Brooklyn who tried to vote under assumed names.

There are almost no elections in which 24 votes makes a significant difference, particularly at the federal level. [Emphasis and link in original.]
Did my friends in Scaife's braintrust forget about this?  The piece links to a description of some paperwork filed with the Pennsylvania court.  The description goes like this:
The state signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”

And now for that second sentence, this is what happens when a Federal judge takes a look at a state Voter ID law:
In a decision that could have implications nationally and in Wisconsin's November elections, a federal judge on Tuesday struck down the state's voter ID law, saying it violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

The law known as Act 23 had already been blocked by a state judge. For the law to be put back in place, supporters would have to overturn both the state and federal decisions — a possibility thatcould prove difficult between now and the Nov. 4 election for governor.

"There is no way to determine exactly how many people Act 23 will prevent or deter from voting without considering the individual circumstances of each of the 300,000 plus citizens who lack an ID," U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote in his 70-page ruling. "But no matter how imprecise my estimate may be, it is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes."
To sum up: what little (if any) Voter ID Fraud that occurs, it's not enough to do much (if any) damage.  The laws enacted to "fight" Voter ID Fraud are designed to "prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent ones."

And, of course, those prevented though legitimate votes would probably have gone to the Democratic Party.

The Tribune-Review editorial board is lying to you about Voter ID Fraud.


May 30, 2016

A Trump/Gingrich Ticket? REALLY?

I found this at CNN today:
Bob Dole encouraged fellow Republicans Saturday to back Donald Trump and suggested the presumptive GOP nominee select Newt Gingrich as his running mate.
And Mollie Hemingway, editor of the Conservative/Libertarian Federalist said much the same thing:
Like so many Republican candidates before him, Trump would need to pick someone who would convince conservatives to support him. Naming Gingrich as his vice president and saying he’d function more as a chief of staff, could help him a great deal.
As does the Scaife-funded, Vince Foster conspiracy theorist, Christopher Ruddy of Newsmax:
Newsmax’s White House correspondent John Gizzi was the first to break the story that Newt was at the very top of Trump’s VP list.

Gizzi outlined Trump’s reasons: He likes Newt; Newt has been a supporter and can be trusted; Newt is a great communicator and will win debates; Newt has been “vetted” by previous races and intense media scrutiny; Newt knows how government works, especially Congress; Newt is both an insider and well-liked by grass-roots conservatives.

Trump also realizes, in this phase, he needs to move to the center, and even take some liberal positions.

But his right flank remains soft and very vulnerable. Newt Gingrich helps here as he gets high marks from all the core GOP constituencies: He is pro-life and pro-gun; he is a fiscal and defense hawk; and on foreign policy he is about as pro-Israel as Moses.
I have no idea if this made it past the gathering of hair adoring The Donald's pate, but let's consider one teeny tiny number when contemplating a Trump/Gingrich administration:


That, my friends, would be the total number of marriages in which both men have been holy matrimonially enjoined.

  • Ivana Zelníčková - Married in 1977 and divorced in 1991 some time after Trump's affair with the woman who would become his second wife,
  • Marla Maples - Married in 1993 (just two months after the birth of their child) and divorced in 1999 some time after he began a relationship with the woman who would become his third wife, 
  • Melania Knauss - Married in 2005.
  • Jacqueline Battley -Married in 1962 and divorced in1981 some time after Gingrich started an affair with the woman who was to be his second wife,
  • Marianne Ginther - Married in1981 (just 6 months after his first divorce is finalized) and divorced in 2000 some time after Gingrich started an affair with the woman who was to become his third wife, 
  • Callista Bisek - Married in 2000 (just 4 months after his second divorce is finalized).
6 marriages, 4 divorces after just as many affairs.

And this is what the 2012 Republican Platform says about the institution of marriage:
The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic well-being of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects. We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.
How much of this platform can survive the realities of Trump/Gingrich?

How often were we told during last, oh I don't know, 3 decades that the GOP was the party of "family values?"

How is a Trump/Gingrich ticket not laughably hypocritical?

May 29, 2016

Jack Kelly's Back!

Imagine my blogger delight when I saw this from the Post-Gazette's Jack Kelly on my laptop this morning:
I’m delighted to be back at the Post-Gazette, but my heart is heavy. The danger is greater now than it was in July of 1863 that government “of the people, by the people, for the people” may perish from the Earth.

I’ve survived a long battle with cancer...
Ok, let's stop right there, if only for a second.  All politics aside, Jack, I am delighted you're a cancer survivor.

Ok, so now let's finish Jack's sentence: find my country afflicted by twin deadly cancers.
Twin deadly cancers?

Yep, here's Jack's next sentence:
The election of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump spells doom for the constitutional republic for which — during my service in the Marine Corps and Army Special Forces — I was prepared to lay down my life.
And he's very clear on why he's not a Trump-guy:
Even if he weren’t a liberal Democrat, a con man, a boor and an ignoramus on public policy, I’d never vote for Trump because he’s the opposite of everything my parents taught me a good man should be.

Trump lies constantly. A good man’s word is his bond, my parents said.

Trump is a shameless braggart. A good man lets his deeds speak for him.

Trump demeans and degrades women. A good man protects women and kids, my parents said.

Trump is a cry-bully who dishes it out constantly, but can’t take it. His idea of “debate” is hurling an insult or making a threat. He blames others for his failings. A good man owns up to his mistakes, learns from them, my parents said.

A good man serves in uniform when his country is at war, my Dad said. (Mom wasn’t too keen on this maxim.) Trump dodged the draft, compared his sleeping around to fighting in Vietnam.
Wait, Trump's a liberal Democrat?  All that other stuff is more or less true, but Trump's a "liberal democrat"?

The guy who thinks that climate change is a hoax?

The guy who thinks that doctors performing abortions should be punished?

The guy who told CBN that he's committed to overturning Roe V Wade?

The guy who thought that this picture of him eating a taco bowl made in Trump Tower proves his love for Hispanics?

The guy who's been a registered Republican since April of 2012?

That guy's a "liberal democrat"?

But wait, it gets better, once he trains his eyes on the other cancer afflicting Jack's country:
Hillary Clinton is even worse. If they weren’t the presumptive nominees of their parties, neither Hillary nor The Donald could get a security clearance. There is little difference in their political views, none whatsoever in their (lack of) ethics.
Huh - "little difference in their political views"?  Perhaps it would behoove Jack to take a look at the Trump list above.

Or maybe this'll help:  Hillary Clinton has an F rating from the NRA.  The NRA has endorsed Donald Trump.

Other than that, Jack gives us very little actual evidence as to why Clinton is worse than Trump despite there being little difference in their political views (huh??).  The link Jack uses will bring you to a New York Observer column by John Schindler, a conservative security expert who had to resign from the Naval War College due to some unwelcome dick pics (yes, DICK PICS) that made their way onto twitter.

Dick pics, Jack?  You couldn't find a better anti-Hillary ranter?

Anyway, this is what someone who never had to resign over some errant dick pics had to say about Clinton's emails (and this is published in Newsweek):
The recent report released by the inspector general of the State Department shows that, on the topics it analyzes, there is no Clinton email scandal. (The report doesn’t deal with classification issues.) And all the heavy breathing in news reports that there is something important here is bunk. Yes, the report shows that Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used personal email accounts for daily work communications. (Rice didn’t use emails at all.) And yes, it shows plenty of people in Democratic and Republican administrations made some mistakes in following protocol for emails. But once you start digging deeper, what’s clear is that the State Department’s management of the email systems and procedures was a long-standing Keystone Kops operation, which is why so many intelligent people on both sides of the political aisle screwed up—but screwed up in ways that largely do not matter.
Here’s what this new inspector general’s report shows: When senior State Department officials swam in the deep pool of email rules, there were basically no lifeguards on duty. The office for ensuring compliance with the federal rules on communications—staffed by the people who were supposed to be reading all the Federal Register procedures and policy statements—has been a horrifically underfunded, understaffed and ineffective group for many years, starting long before Clinton arrived at the State Department. As the report says, “Longstanding systemic weaknesses related to electronic messages and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State.… The Department generally and the Office of the Secretary in particular have been slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications.’’
And finally:
And that’s why the Clinton email scandal isn’t a scandal. Underfunded, understaffed offices responsible for compliance didn’t do a great job, leading to potential mistakes by many senior State officials who were in office long before Clinton; poorly written rules allowed for the use of personal email accounts; the experts were fully aware of the arrangements but raised no concerns to her or her staff; documents were preserved but not in the precise way dictated by the rules. Can this rationally be called an issue in this presidential campaign? No. But in our hyperpoliticized world, reason doesn’t matter.
Or we can read the dick pic guy.

Nice to have you back, Jack.  This was fun.  We should do it again?

Maybe next week?


Interesting that the two men still running to become president and preside over the American economy are both, essentially,  broke.

"Billionaire" Donald Trump has apparently informed the RNC that his campaign has no money to run ads until after the GOP's convention when he can access their cash. Bernie Sanders, who raised -- and spent -- more money than any of the other candidates, "bernt" through it all and had to fire hundreds of low paid staffers and now has insufficient cash to fully fund the TV ads he needs to run in California.

Lucky for Hillary that she somehow managed not to blow all her money on shoes (which must have been really hard being a woman and all).


May 26, 2016

More For Senator Toomey To Worry About

We all know how Senator Pat Toomey isn't doing his job regarding President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

And how it's hurting his poll numbers.

A few hours ago Buzzfeed posted something that knowing that Pennsylvania voters now know about it must be causing some worry (in Italian: agita, in yiddish: tsuris) for our beleaguered junior senator.

Here it is:
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who faces what is expected to be a close race for reelection against Democrat Katie McGinty, has missed over 80% of Senate Budget Committee hearings since 2013, a BuzzFeed News review of hearing transcripts and videos has found.

Toomey, who was appointed to the Senate Committee on the Budget after his election to the Senate in 2010, has touted his spot on the committee as having helped in his efforts to control federal spending. “Pat has used his platform on the Senate Budget Committee to offer several proposals that would balance the federal government’s budget,” his campaign website reads.
So there's another sliver of his job that he hasn't been doing. And this one for some time.

May 24, 2016

My Chat With Representative Mike Doyle

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to score a few minutes of phone time with my congressional representative, Mike Doyle (PA-14).

Like every other House member, he's up for re-election but I didn't want to talk to him about his race.  I wanted to talk about Donald Trump, Clinton vs Sanders, and the general state of the coming election season.

As a bit of framing, let me finally disclose my place along the Clinton/Sanders continuum.  Politically, I remain in closer agreement with Sanders than with Clinton, though Clinton would be an infinitely greater president than Donald Trump or any of the dozen and a half GOP candidates that he vanquished.

On the other hand owing to infrastructure, money, and general party politics, I was never anything but other than completely convinced that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee.

 And so I didn't get involved in the very noisy fighting for a few of reasons:
  1. I didn't want to argue with my friends especially since,
  2. I felt that I couldn't commit to the candidate (Sanders) who I knew was going to fail. And finally,
Doyle, on the other hand, is a Clinton supporter.  He's a super-delegate, in fact, though he was quick to add that in the recent primary Clinton won his congressional district so voting for her not only reflects his support but his constituents' wishes as well.

When I asked him about the presidential campaign on the democratic side, he said that this point offers Senator Sanders a tremendous opportunity to help the Democratic party - OR - he could become Ralph Nader (for the millennial young'uns out there who may not recognize the name, the google machine may help).

However, were Clinton to prevail in New Jersey and/or California, she'll have an even greater delegate advantage than Sanders than she has now even if all the Clinton super-delegates in the states that he won were to switch sides and vote for him.

In the end, Doyle said, he thinks Sanders will do the right thing and make moves to unify the party behind Clinton.

As for Trump, the key word seemed to be "unpredictable" followed closely by "unstable."  Doyle used each a number of times.  For example, what was once a straight out statement about banning Muslims has now been relegated to a mere "suggestion."  Doyle said that Trump has changed his position so many times that it's difficult to see who, in fact, he really is.  And his promises about what he'll do as president only show that he doesn't exactly understand what the office is.

This is apart from Trump's promises to bring back the steel mills and raise Joe Paterno from the dead.

The Clinton/Trump race promises to have some repercussions on the statewide Senate race as well, with Clinton voters and McGinty voters being more or less the same group.  Toomey on the other hand faces the same Trump problem all other Republican candidates have - though Doyle said Toomey's straddling the fence when it comes to Trump.

In a state leaning Blueward (my term, not Doyle's - though he's free to use it if he wishes), where Clinton has a good chance to win, Toomey is at a disadvantage.

The problems facing Trump, the shifting demographics away from the white male population he does well with (he's got some serious problems with women, Hispanics and African-American voters) combined with being a "loose cannon" (Doyle's term, though it fits) mean that he's got a hard path to 270 electoral votes.  A path, it seems, that comes right through Pennsylvania.  If Trump can make advances in Pennsylvania/Ohio/Michigan he might just reach the White House.

It's the 270 that's important and on that note, we had a brief chat about some recent national polls out.

This far out, Doyle says, they're pointless.  Not only that, we don't have one national election but 51 local elections (one in each state and one in the District of Columbia).  It's how the polling data reflects who's winning in each state and then how that impacts on the distribution of each state's electoral votes that's all important.  And at this point, it's waaay to early to even make a guess.

And for that, it'll be a tough race.  Just think of all the 16 Republican opponents who Trump beat.  They got nowhere underestimating him (though Doyle giggled abit at the karma - how the billionaires looking to buy the election towards the end were faced with a choice between the two guys - Trump and Cruz - they definitely did not want).

It's going to be a tough race. 

They'll all be tough races. 

Nothing to be complacent about.

May 23, 2016

A Non-Political Departure (SNL vs Dead Poets Society)

It's Monday morning and in case you missed it, this was on Saturday Night Live this weekend:

For those few who don't get the joke, it'll be much more obvious once you've seen this:

Oh my God, the attention to detail!
  • The box of Champion Lamps in the closet
  • The map of England, the globe and the movie screen in the corner
  • The picture of Walt Whitman above the chalkboard (though it's a different picture)
  • The chalkboard at the back of the room
  • The colors of and the logo on the school jackets
  • The design of the classroom door
  • The NUMBER on the classroom door (it's a 10)
  • The background music when the boys stand on their desks
This took a long time to do - a very long time.

O, Captain! My Captain! I sing my song for all to hear.

May 20, 2016

You've GOT To Be Frickin' Kiddin' Me! (More On Chuck McCullough)

You remember Chuck McCullough, right?

He was arrested February 19, 2009, went on trial 2,245 days later, was found guilty late last July and finally sentenced last December.

Let me remind you how long 2,245 days is.  It's longer than:
  • WWII in the Pacific - December 7, 1941 (Attack on Pearl Harbor) to August 15, 1945 (VJ Day): 1,347 days
  •  WWII in Europe - September 1, 1939 (Germany invades Poland) to May 7, 1945 (Germany Surrenders) 2,075 days
  • Nixon Presidency - January 20, 1969 (Nixon's First Inauguration) to August 9, 1974 (Nixon's resignation): 2,027 days
That's right.  The time between Chuck's arrest and the beginning of his trial was longer than the US involvement in the Second World War, longer than the time between the Third Reich's invasion of Poland and its surrender, longer even than the entire time Richard Nixon was president.

Chuck was found guilty of five felonies.  He then complicated his life by filing papers with the court saying that he agreed to a judge-only trial because he felt coerced nto it.  This was in direct contradiction to his own statements under oath.  And so now he's been charged with perjury.

It's now May 5, 2016, 294 days since he was found guilty of that first set of charges, and so what happened yesterday?

An Allegheny County judge on Thursday agreed to put a hold on former county Councilman Chuck McCullough's perjury trial while he appeals his theft conviction to state Superior Court.

McCullough sought a stay of the June jury trial while appealing his July 2015 conviction on five counts each of felony theft and misdemeanor misapplication of entrusted funds. The latter stem from 2009 charges that he donated money from his elderly client's estate to political campaigns and his wife's charity.

Common Pleas Judge David Cashman granted the stay but said the second trial would be scheduled to begin five days after the Pennsylvania Superior Court's decision in the theft case if it does not rule in McCullough's favor.
So he's not begun serving any jail time, awaiting the outcome of an appeal and his second trial will start after that.

But here's the kicker.  It's the last sentence of the Trib's piece:
The Superior Court has not set a date for arguments in McCullough's appeal.
You've got to be frickin' kiddin' me.

May 19, 2016

The Tribune-Review And David Brock

It always amazes me how little research The Tribune-Review's editorial board thinks its readers should do.

Today is a purr-fect example - in which they actually get a fact wrong (gasp!) in a smear.

Take a look:
You can almost imagine Dawn Le foaming at the mouth and shouting at the top of her lungs as she wrote her latest press release for American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal advocacy group. In a Tuesday email, she writes that the Koch brothers “sow chaos in states to protect their puppet senators.” One of them, supposedly, is Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who's being challenged by uber-left Democrat Katie McGinty. Of course, there's no mention in Ms. Le's rant that American Bridge was the brainchild of liberal pecan David Brock and who's first large donor was “progressive” moneyman George Soros. Cue the laugh track.
You can see Dawn Le's piece here.  Notice first, how little of it involves Pat Toomey.  It's almost as if he's added as an after thought.

Anyway, I want to focus on what the braintrust had to say about David Brock - that his "first large donor" was George Soros.


Take a look at this piece from David Brock himself:
ther than shaking his hand at various conservative galas around Washington, I sat down for an audience with Richard Mellon-Scaife, a big financial supporter of my anti-Clinton work at The American Spectator, where I was the lead investigative reporter, just once. One morning in 1994, I was summoned to the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown to meet my benefactor for lunch.
For the record, 1994 is twenty-two years ago. I'd say this is some pretty good evidence that David Brock's first "first large donor" was none other than the former owner of the Tribune-Review, the late Richard Mellon Scaife.

No mention of that in the braintrust's foaming rant about David Brock and Dawn Le, of course.

But take a look at what they're accusing Soros of and now read what Brock had to say about Scaife:
Despite his legendary low profile, quiet demeanor and apparent hands-off style, Scaife, who died last week at the age of 82, certainly had vast sway in shaping the modern conservative movement. Long before the era of SuperPACs enabled big money to shape our political system, he did this, first, by using his banking fortune to move politics far to the right by heavily funding activist think tanks like the Heritage Foundation (where I also once worked) and, later, to upend the presidency in the Clinton era, by bankrolling several scandal-mongering publications, including the Spectator, the Western Journalism Center, NewsMax and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. They were part of a then-nascent right-wing media echo chamber—the forerunners to the Drudge Report and the Fox News Channel.

Whatever else one can say about him, Scaife was generous with his largesse. I have vivid recollections of the “Dear Mr. Scaife” letters that Spectator staffers would send off to Pittsburgh requesting six-figure sums for anti-Clinton research. The checks typically arrived promptly, no questions asked.
Scaife was doing that two decades ago.  Can we cue the laugh track now?

May 18, 2016

Meanwhile, Outside...It's Still Getting Warmer.

From the scientists at NOAA:
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for April 2016 was 1.10°C (1.98°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F)—the highest temperature departure for April since global records began in 1880. This value surpassed the previous record set in 2010 by 0.28°C (0.50°F). This was also the fourth highest monthly temperature departure among all 1,636 months on record, behind March 2016 (1.23°C/2.21°F), February 2016 (1.19°C/2.14°F), and December 2015 (1.12°C/2.02°F). Overall, 13 out of the 15 highest monthly temperature departures in the record have all occurred since February 2015, with February 1998 and January 2007 among the 15 highest monthly temperature departures. April 2016 also marks the fifth consecutive month (since December 2015) that the global monthly temperature departure from average has surpassed 1.0°C (1.8°F) and it is the 12th consecutive month a monthly global temperature record has been broken, the longest such streak in NOAA's 137 years of record keeping. [Emphasis added.]
But we know all of this a lie because one Senator from Oklahoma was able to find enough snow in DC in February to make a snowball.

A reminder: Both Donald Trump and Pat Toomey are, in one way or another, climate science deniers.

And both are, of course, in the GOP.

ANOTHER Question For My Readers Who are BOTH Women and Republican

Do you really think that "No one respects women more than Donald Trump"?


May 16, 2016

Meanwhile, Outside...(How Can Global Warming Be True When There Was Snow In Pennsylvania This Weekend? IN MID-MAY??)

From The Weather Channel:
April 2016 was the warmest April on record for the globe, according to data released on Saturday by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. This also marks the seventh consecutive month in a row in NASA's dataset that the earth has recorded its warmest respective month on record.

The global temperature departure in April was 1.11 degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 average. This crushed the previous April record set in 2010 by 0.24 degrees Celsius.
Every month from October 2015-April 2016 has now had a departure of 1 degree Celsius or greater above the 1951-1980 average used by NASA. The departure from average in a single month had never exceeded 1 degree Celsius prior to October dating back to 1880.
Of course, because this happened yesterday:
Following a blast of unseasonably cold air that brought snow to at least one part of Pennsylvania on Sunday, temperatures are set to rebound, beginning with a sunny and warmer start to the work week.

This after near record low temperatures descended on much of the region over the weekend, even bringing a trace amount of snow to Williamsport, the National Weather Service reports.

It was reportedly the first snow ever recorded on May 15 in Williamsport, where record-keeping began in 1895.
We know our friends in the science denying crowd are all set to declare victory over the hoax and go home.

It'll be the same illogic as this:
Happy Monday!

It's still getting warmer outside.

May 14, 2016

Trump Announces Running Mate

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced his longtime spokesperson, John Barron, as his running mate for the 2016 election at an early morning press conference. Barron said about Trump, “He’s a good guy, and he’s not going to hurt anybody." Barron further remarked that Trump was “doing well financially and he’s doing well in every other way.”

(Yes, I totally stole the premise of this joke from Bill Maher. So bite me.)

May 12, 2016

Senator Pat Toomey Has More And More To Worry About

This, from The Tribune-Review, bares the headline:
Poll: U.S. Senate race tied in Pa.; Toomey's court stance hurting him
And it opens with:
Pennsylvania's high-stakes U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Pat Toomey and Democratic nominee Katie McGinty is very tight, a poll released Wednesday shows.

Toomey's position on filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court could be a major reason why.

“Pennsylvanians say there's no time like the present for the Senate to consider (President Obama's nominee) Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. (Toomey) says wait until after the election, and the numbers clearly show that could hurt him,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Ah...if only Pat Toomey did his job.

But he didn't and now he's committed to obstructing any sort of Senate action on the nomination of Judge Merrick so now he's stuck with it.


It was only a month or so ago that Quinnipiac found Toomey leading McGinty by 11 points.  But here's a bigger take-away: In that same poll, they found this:
Voters approve 48 - 30 percent of the president's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court and say 57 - 37 percent the U.S. Senate should consider Garland's nomination now, rather than wait until there is a new president. [Emphasis added.]
So Toomey's stuck himself with a position that puts him at odds with a majority of his constituents and this month, the number's not changed.

Again, boo-frickin'-hoo.

And now to the biggest take-away, the biggest example of Toomey's political hypocrisy.  From The Huffingtonpost:
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), one of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election this year, appealed to GOP leaders Wednesday to confirm two of his judicial nominees by skipping over those of other senators who have been waiting longer.

Nobody really liked that.

Toomey, who’s been getting clobbered by Democrats for his role in blocking a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold votes for Pennsylvania federal district court nominees Marilyn Horan and Susan Baxter. They are two of 11 judicial nominees ready to be confirmed, but the Senate is barely moving because of McConnell, who is loath to allow votes on any more Obama nominees.
But what's the problem?
The problem with his request is that eight other district court nominees are in line ahead of his, and traditionally, the Senate confirms them in the order that they arrive from the Judiciary Committee. That means Toomey was asking to make all of those nominees — including those from GOP states like Tennessee and Nebraska, and those that would fill judicial emergencies — wait longer because, well, he’s running for re-election and could use some good press back home.
So I guess that Senator Toomey does not think that, given the closeness of the election (polls show they're effectively tied), the voters of Pennsylvania should have a voice in deciding on the future of these two judicial nominees - he doesn't think that the decision for them to go forward should wait until after the election.

How's that for hypocrisy?

Yea, Pat's got a lot to worry about.


May 10, 2016

The Tribune-Review: STILL Not Fully Informing The Public!

And this time, as so many other times, it's about ALEC:
He's baaack: Former state Sen. Allen Kukovich, D-Westmoreland, returned to the public stage in wild-eyed fashion Friday last on the pages of the Toledo, Ohio, Block Bugler. He and Common Cause Pennsylvania boss Barry Kauffman ranted about the supposed manifest dangers of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, as it's known, held its business meeting that day in Pittsburgh. The pair claim the group, which helps craft model legislation on various issues, is a threat to “democracy.” Frankly, Mr. Kukovich's liberal policy prescriptions were more of a threat to our republic than the libertarian ones of ALEC ever could be. [Bolding in original.]
And this is the piece in the P-G to which our friends on the Trib Editorial Board point.

Interesting.  They've obviously read the thing, right?  How would they even have an inkling as to what Kukovich and Kauffman are saying?  So imagine our utter surprise when the braintrust omits any mention of the pieces second paragraph:
This national organization has roots in our area. In the early 1970s, local billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife provided a half-million dollars to help start ALEC; the funds constituted most of the organization’s budget at the time.
For those two or three of my readers who don't already know this, the late Richard Mellon Scaife owned the Tribune-Review - the very paper our transparency-challenged editorialists work for right now.

Why no mention of that?

May 9, 2016

The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Is Wrong. AGAIN

From this Sunday:
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act came into being in 1970. Better known simply as the RICO Act, it was established to provide “new remedies to deal with the unlawful activities of those engaged in organized crime.”

Surely there's some clever legal eagle out there who can figure out a way to apply it to 17 state attorneys general who have chosen to molest the legal system and to collude with the federal government to advance the latter's evisceration of the First Amendment in pursuit of its climate agenda.

The kingpin of this pack of Constitution-busters is Claude E. Walker, the AG for the Virgin Islands. He has issued subpoenas for communications between ExxonMobil and more than 100 American academics, scientists, think tanks and universities. He's seeking “proof” that the energy giant misled the public — and thus engaged in fraud — by having the audacity to question the theology of government-funded, climate-change “research.” [Emphasis added.]
Let's take a look at the subpoena in question, shall we?
ExxonMobil is suspected to have engaged in, or be engaging in, conduct constituting a civil violation of the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 14 V.I.C. §605, by having engaged or engaging in conduct misrepresenting its knowledge of the likelihood that its products and activities have contributed and are continuing to contribute to Climate Change in order to defraud the Government of the United States Virgin Islands (''the Government") and consumers in the Virgin Islands, in violation of 14 V.I.C. § 834 (prohibiting obtaining money by false pretenses) and 14 V.I.C. § 551 (prohibiting conspiracy to obtain money by false pretenses ).
And that was the subpoena's first paragraph.

So, again, we're not talking about a First Amendment issue here.  We're talking about fraud.  Specifically, did ExxonMobil misrepresent what it knew about climate science when it was pouring money onto the Competitive Enterprise Institute?  And was the CEI a part of that fraud?

Is there any evidence to back that up?

Look at Scientific American:
Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.

Experts, however, aren’t terribly surprised. “It’s never been remotely plausible that they did not understand the science,” says Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University. But as it turns out, Exxon didn’t just understand the science, the company actively engaged with it. In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research.

In their eight-month-long investigation, reporters at InsideClimate News interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists and federal officials and analyzed hundreds of pages of internal documents. They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today.
Now go back and look at how the Trib braintrust characterizes the subpoena.  Worlds different.  The allegation is that ExxonMobil knew it was funding a lie (and that's fraud).  And they knew it was a lie because they'd actually done the research

It's not about free speech, it's about fraud.

Needless to say the braintrust never ever gets around to talking about all the money the paper's former owner, the late Richard Mellon Scaife, gave to the CEI.

Doesn't that make him - and by extension his science denying editorial board - a part of this story?

Shouldn't they be more forthcoming about whatever connections they have with this story?  The newsreading public (even those who read the Trib for its "news") deserve to know.

May 6, 2016


The American Legislative Exchange Council is in town today

From Potter at the P-G:
Depending on whom you ask, the American Legislative Exchange Council is either a Model United Nations or “a kind of dating service for corporations to hook up with legislators.”

It won’t be easy to tell who’s right. ALEC’s “Spring Task Force Summit,” to be held Friday at the Omni William Penn Hotel, will be closed to press and public. And although the organization touts steps toward increased transparency, as an educational nonprofit group, it does not disclose its roughly 300 corporate members or the names of most state legislators who belong.

ALEC bills itself as a forum where “job creators and state legislators alike … offer important policy perspectives.” Participants help shape model legislation for state governments on issues including reforming public pensions, scrapping union-backed “prevailing wage” laws and barring local ordinances that require restaurants to post nutrition information.

“Think of ALEC as a Model United Nations,” suggested Molly Drenkard, a spokeswoman for the four-decade-old Washington, D.C., organization.

But Erin Kramer, who heads the activist group One Pittsburgh and is the person who characterized the group as a “dating service” for legislators and businesses, said ALEC is nothing more than a conduit for corporations to get their messages to lawmakers.
And there'll be a protest today, as well.

From ONEPITTSBURGH's Press Release:
On Friday at noon, labor, low wage workers, faith groups, racial justice, and local student communities will join One Pittsburgh to hold a large demonstration protesting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a powerful pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and get tax breaks for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers. The group is holding its Spring Task Force Summit at the Omni William Penn in Pittsburgh on Friday, May 6.

The ALEC conference brings together hundreds of corporate lobbyists and wealthy funders from around the country to wine and dine conservative lawmakers promising them hefty contributions in exchange for supporting state legislation that weakens worker and environmental protections, eviscerates public education, lowers wages, and hollows out communities of color for corporate profit.
We've written about ALEC before - especially its financial connections to the former owner of a certain local newspaper, the late Richard Mellon Scaife.

Something to think about when you read about ALEC in the Trib:
Hundreds of U.S. lawmakers will descend on downtown Pittsburgh Friday to swap policy and review “model” laws drafted by one of the most influential and controversial legislative advocacy machines in America.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based libertarian organization, expects about 400 state lawmakers to attend its one-day spring task force summit in the Omni William Penn Hotel.

“We don't go into the states and lobby. We develop model policy,” said ALEC CEO Lisa B. Nelson, who took the helm about a year and a half ago, after working in public and governmental affairs for Visa, AOL Time Warner and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Especially this part:
During its 43-year history, ALEC has become known for its effectiveness in shaping policy as much as its reputation among critics on the left as an allegedly dark-money-fueled, secretive policymaking arm pushing boiler-plate laws underwritten by special interests and industry representatives.

“We're providing a resource to legislators so that they can seek policy that has been vetted, but they're not going to take policies just because they're there,” ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling said. “They're going to take the right policies that are consistent with their communities and use them or not, or use parts of them or not.”

In regards to funding, Ellis pointed to groups such as the liberal-leaning National Conference of State Legislatures and moderate Council of State Governments — “They're all supported by corporations,” he said.
Funny how Lindstrom of the Trib missed the millions the former owner of her paper slipped to ALEC over the years.

Take a look at this from the Washington Post:
Scaife has given ALEC more than $2 million since 1975, keeping the group alive in its early years. Now his donations ($75,000 last year) are an insignificant part of its budget.
And that was 17 years ago.

I have to wonder why that little bit of information (that the former owner of the paper had a large hand in creating the entity that its reporter was assigned to cover) somehow never made it into "the news."

This is how they do it.  This is how the 1% operates.

Protest ALEC today.  Mellon Square.  Noon.  I'll be there.

May 4, 2016

I'll be on KDKA Radio tonight with John McIntire around 8:15 PM

I'll be on John's show again tonight talking, what else, politics. Among other things, there's that despicable #DropOutHillary hashtag that's trending today that we can talk about and lots more. I mean, it's real now, right? Trump is the nominee?!?

Please tune into Newsradio 1020 KDKA or listen online @

So It's TRUMP!

Now that Ted Cruz is out of the race, it's pretty much set that the new leader of the GOP is Donald J. Trump.

So this has got to be heartbreaking for our friends in the Party of Stupid.

Just heartbreaking.

And if it weren't so troubling to the rest of us, I'd be giggling hysterically.

But let's not dawdle on what some random libr'ul has to say about Donald J. Trump, let's go to the Conservatives.

David Boaz of the CATO institute:
Not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign. Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexican rapists and has gone on to rant about mass deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, shutting down mosques, and building a wall around America. America is an exceptional nation in large part because we’ve aspired to rise above such prejudices and guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone.

Equally troubling is his idea of the presidency — his promise that he’s the guy, the man on a white horse, who can ride into Washington, fire the stupid people, hire the best people, and fix everything. He doesn’t talk about policy or working with Congress. He’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat. It’s a vision to make the last 16 years of executive abuse of power seem modest.
L. Brent Bozell III of the Accuracy in Media:
The GOP base is clearly disgusted and looking for new leadership. Enter Donald Trump, not just with policy prescriptions that challenge the cynical GOP leadership but with an attitude of disdain for that leadership — precisely in line with the sentiment of the base. Many conservatives are relishing this, but ah, the rub. Trump might be the greatest charlatan of them all.
Michael Mukasky, Former Attorney General of the United States:
For a hint of why a Donald Trump presidency would imperil our national security, consider just a couple of Trump’s suggestions for protecting us against Islamist terrorists.

He would start with a “temporary” ban on the entry of alien Muslims into the United States until “our leaders can figure out what the hell is going on.” This prescription overlooks that many people already have figured out precisely “what the hell is going on” — that we face a supremacist movement based in Islam that is intent on destroying Western civilization — and have intelligent suggestions for dealing with it. Moreover, Trump’s proposal would assure the enmity of all Muslims, including those whose support we need if we are to prevail.
Trump says he would order the military to kill the families of terrorists. That would be a direct violation of the most basic laws of armed conflict, which require that deadly force be used only when required by military necessity, under circumstances that allow distinction between military and civilian targets, and when incidental damage to non-military targets is proportional to the military advantage gained. A military that adhered to the laws of armed conflict would necessarily disobey such an order; if it followed the order, both the person who gave it and those who followed it would be subject to prosecution for war crimes.
You can read all that and more here - at the National Review Online.

Politifact has found that only 9% of the Trump statements they've reviewed are either "True" or "Mostly True."  76% are either "Mostly False", "False" or "Pants on Fire."  Only 15% are in the middle with "Half True" (which I guess is also "Half False).

Remember this when our friends on the right are calling for "party unity."

And they have no one but themselves to blame.

May 3, 2016

Rafael "Ted" Cruz Argues Against Trump Supporter With...Facts?!?!?!

Take a look at this:

The weird thing is, of the two of them (Rafael and the Trump supporter), Cruz comes off as the rational one.

How frickin' scary is that??

Anyway about 4:30 in, they get into a conversation about the Trump induced violence at some Trump campaign rallies.  The supporter says that Cruz is lying again so Canadian Ted asks the skeptical Trump guy to google "Donald punch in the face supporters" to prove it.

So I did.  As of this writing the top story googled was this one.

Where Trump does say "I'd like to punch that [protester] in the face."

So...close enough, Rafael.  Close enough.  But does this mean you now trust facts?

How about this one?
Few of the remaining Republican presidential candidates seem very gung-ho about fighting climate change. But as we’ve written before, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has probably made the most detailed, scientific argument for why we shouldn’t worry about it. He has repeatedly argued that climate warming is, basically, on pause — and that futhermore, this relative lack of recent warming undermines scientists’ dire predictions about where we’re heading.

Based on records from satellites, there has been “no significant warming whatsoever for the last 18 years,” Cruz asserted in New Hampshire in January. That’s just one of many times he has made this claim or something close to it, which turns on looking at a particular record of the Earth’s climate — satellite readings of the atmosphere’s temperature — rather than others (such as the surface thermometer measurements that NASA and NOAA just used to declare 2015 the hottest year ever recorded).

But lately, it looks like the satellites may be getting less friendly to Cruz and his argument. Two prominent satellite datasets — one from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the other from Remote Sensing Systems in Santa Rosa, Calif. — both show that February of 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded in the lower troposphere, a layer of the atmosphere stretching from the surface to about 6 miles in the air.
I mean, if we're now dealing in facts.

May 1, 2016

Last Night At The Washington Correspondents' Dinner - President Obama and Larry Wilmore

The Washington Post has a transcript.

If you missed the first joke (because of the sound quality/editing etc) let me explain it to you.

This is the music that was playing when the president walked up to the podium and he's reacting to these lyrics:
When I’m gone
When I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me by my hair
You’re gonna miss me everywhere, oh
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
That's why Obama says, "You can’t say it, but you know it is true."

Anyway he opens with a couple of Hillary Clinton jokes:
I do apologize. I know I was a little late tonight. I was running on CPT, which stands for jokes that white people should not make. That’s a tip for you, Jeff.

Anyway, here we are, my eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans. That’s right. That’s right.
Here's the context for the CPT joke.  Yea, she shouldn't have been a part of that joke.

And now onto Goldman Sachs joke.  The Washington Post has an explanation.  Yea, that's some serious Tubmans.

But then he balanced the Clinton jokes with this:
Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot and it’s anyone guess who she will be.
Which is probably right, despite Obama's burns.

On the other hand, Obama's Bernie Sanders jokes were a lot less harsh.  Take a look:
What an election season. For example, we’ve got the bright new face of the Democratic party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or, to put in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each.

A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me. I get it. Just recently a young person came up to me and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. As if we were actually going to let Malia go to Burning Man this year. Was not going to happen. Bernie might have let her go. Not us.

I am hurt though, Bernie, that you have been distancing yourself little from me. I mean that’s just not something that you do to your comrade.
On a meta-level, Obama's jokes vis a vis the two Democratic candidate sum up my feelings pretty well.

The president was followed by The Daily Show's Larry Wilmore.

I thought he took more chances than Obama and so he cut more deeply but on the other hand, some of his jokes simply failed.  The Washington Post has a transcript.

Wilmore made a Hillary Clinton joke:
But 2016 has been a beast though, man. We lost David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Prince — or as Hillary Clinton likes calls him, “my favorite singer, my favorite singer, my favorite singer.”
I'm not sure the crowd got it - it's a joke about political pandering.  But he did follow it, a few jokes later, with some Bernie Sanders material:
Senator Bernie Sanders is here tonight. Senator! Which I’m surprised, you never come to these things. He usually goes to the White House correspondents’ early-bird dinner. It’s nice of you to come to this one this time, Senator, I appreciate it.

Senator recently had a hernia operation. His doctors say it’s his own fault for trying to lift the hopes of the disenfranchised. You gotta stretch before you do that, Senator.

I am confused with Bernie’s stance on guns. He seems to be anti-gun everywhere except Vermont. Bernie doesn’t care who gets a gun in Vermont. (*whispers*) There are no black people in Vermont.

I have to give you credit though, Bernie, you are trying hard to get the black vote. I think it’s great. Bernie’s been hanging around with rapper Killer Mike. Or as Hillary Clinton calls him, Super Predator Mike.

Bernie Sanders gets knocked for his age, man, which is kind of unfair. It is, isn’t it? Although I will say that Bernie’s so old his first campaign slogan was “fire.” Remember that? Remember that? That was cool. Free stuff, right. Yeah.

Bernie’s so old when God said, “Let there be light,” Bernie said, “Conserve energy, let’s sit in the dark. It’s okay.”
And so on.  If you haven't already, watch both.  Especially how each ends his respective speech.

Wilmore ends with a note of deep appreciation:
When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team — and now, to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.
And here's Obama's ending:

Yea, I'll say it.  I'll miss him when he's gone.  Yes, there were drone strikes killing people who shouldn't have been killed and yes, the NSA is still spying people who shouldn't be spied on and YES, he let the torturers from the previous administration go free.

Despite all that, I'll still miss this administration.