Democracy Has Prevailed.

March 31, 2018

Trump Proclaims APRIL "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month." No, I'm not kidding.

This Proclamation was issued by the White House on March 30, 2018:
During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we remain steadfast in our efforts to stop crimes of sexual violence, provide care for victims, enforce the law, prosecute offenders, and raise awareness about the many forms of sexual assault. We must continue our work to eliminate sexual assault from our society and promote safe relationships, homes, and communities.

Sexual assault crimes remain tragically common in our society, and offenders too often evade accountability. These heinous crimes are committed indiscriminately: in intimate relationships, in public spaces, and in the workplace.

We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable.
And so:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2018 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Yes, we must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable.

In case you've lived under a rock for a decade or so, this is who we're talking about:

Watch this space this month - we've got 19 stories to tell you.

March 30, 2018

The Post-Gazette Continues To Give Political Cover To Donald J. Trump

The confusing right-ward shift of the P-G editorial board continues - sometimes in subtle ways as seen with a recent editorial.

(By the way, the discussion of the P-G's shift has reached as high as the Columbia Journalism Review.)

Anyway, back to the P-G editorial.  It opens with this:
Days after Vladimir Putin’s massive, engineered victory March 18 in Russia’s elections, he has been hit, first, with a tragedy and, second, with an unusually steadfast reaction by the West to his latest rogue act — the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter by Russian agents.
A few paragraphs later we read:
Russia continues to deny having carried out the attack, and Mr. Putin’s having authorized it. The British maintain stoutly that their investigation validates the charge.

And now, after some delay, the West has responded. The poisoning has resulted in the expulsion of some 100 Russian spies from 26 countries, including 60 from the United States.
Which is followed immediately by:
President Donald Trump deserves credit for joining the United Kingdom, 17 other European Union nations and NATO and other allies in the expulsions and in condemning the Salisbury attack.
Subtle. Trump deserves credit. But what, exactly, did he do? And how much credit should he "deserve"?

The Washington Post reported:
State Department officials said Trump signed off on the recommendation to expel the diplomats but was not heavily engaged in the discussion leading up to Monday’s announcement. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal processes.

The administration last week began considering expulsions of a minimum of 20 diplomats, and State Department and White House officials recommended the higher number, officials said.
Trump wanted fewer diplomats expelled. The State Department recommended more and he signed off on their recommendation. Otherwise he was "not heavily engaged in the discussion" regarding the expulsions.

As former CIA Director Michael Hayden explained on NPR:
Hayden said it wasn't actually Trump's decision, and the idea for a mass expulsion of Russia diplomats originated in the UK and the State Department.
Hayden said he didn't think "this was something that the president demanded be pulled out of the bureaucracy, that he asked for options and said "give me the tough one." I don't think so. I think that actually came from the bureaucracy, actually came from the national security establishment, and actually came from the allies who did want to act in concert."
How much credit should he get for that? For simply not getting in the way of the grown-ups?

For a post-Obama Post-Gazette editorial board that wants little more than to kiss some orange Trump-butt, this is enough.


March 27, 2018

My FIFTY-FOURTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

As I am sure you know by now, Adult film star Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. "Stormy Daniels") was on 60 Minutes recently making some serious allegations against Donald Trump. I asked you two months ago about the pornstar-affair and the attorney-payoff (and possible FEC violation because of it) and I will note, however, that you haven't answered about either. No biggie, I can wait.

I would like to ask you about her allegation threatened physical violence were she to reveal her affair with Donald Trump. She said it happened in 2011 in Las Vegas.

You support this administration and it's agenda, we all know that. So - about the threat of violence to Ms Clifford to keep her quiet about an affair Trump had with her - your thoughts?

If you'd rather not talk about the affair or the cover-up, can I return to another part of the 60 Minutes piece and ask you (again) about the pay-off? Specifically the assertion by a former Chair of the FEC that the $130,000 that went to Ms Clifford constituted an illegal "in-kind" contribution to the campaign by Cohen. Even if the affair/cover-up/threat never happened, the $130,000 payoff certainly did. So - about the assertion of an illegal "in-kind" contribution to the Trump campaign - let me ask, your thoughts?

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


March 26, 2018

Long and Tearful, A Sad, Brave, Brilliant, Sad Silence - The Words of Emma Gonzalez

This is what she said. This is what Emma Gonzalez said:
Six minutes and about twenty seconds.

In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone absolutely everyone in the Douglas Community was forever altered.

Everyone who was there understands, everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands.

For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing.

No one understood the extent of what had happened. No one could believe that there were bodies in that building waiting to be identified for over a day. No one knew that the people who were missing had stopped breathing long before any of us had even known that a code red had been called. No one could comprehend the devastating aftermath, or how far this would reach, or where this would go.

For those who still can't comprehend because they refuse to, I'll tell you where it went - right into the ground, six feet deep.

Six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15 and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice.

Aaron Feis would never call Kyra Miss Sunshine.

Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother, Ryan.

Scott Beigel would never joke around with Cameron at camp.

Helena Ramsay would never hang out after school with Max.

Gina Montalto would never wave to her friend Liam at lunch.

Joaquin Oliver would never play basketball with Sam or Dylan.

Elena Petty would never.

Carole Agron would never.

Chris Hickson would never.

Luke Hoyer would never.

Martin Duque Anguiano would never.

Peter Wang would never.

Alyssa Alhadeff would never.

Jamie Guttenberg would never.

Meadow Pollock would never.

[4 minutes, 35 seconds of silence, followed by an alarm beep]

Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest.

Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.
That is what Emma Gonzalez said.

March 25, 2018

Yesterday's "March For Our Lives" By The Numbers

So how many people marched yesterday?

Finding estimates in numbers was more difficult than I thought.

But these are some of the estimates that I could find:
That's about 1.25 million in just those ten cities alone.

March 24, 2018

Who Wrote This? The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Or The Post-Gazette's?

We'll start here:
If any lesson can be gleaned from Pennsylvania's congressional district map morass, it's that the process in years to come should be as apolitical as possible.
And here:
Pennsylvania Republicans were right to challenge the new congressional map imposed by the state Supreme Court last month. The state’s high court usurped the role of the Legislature in composing boundaries for legislative districts for the U.S House of Representatives. It was a bad move that will have consequences down the line.
For many years now in Pittsburgh there have been two competing daily newspapers; the ostensibly left-of-center Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the decidedly right-wing The Tribune-Review.

Given that framework, can you guess who wrote which opening paragraph above?

I'll give you more clues. The first editorial also includes this:
The argument that the state's highest court hasn't the constitutional authority to issue a map was rendered moot by the three-judge panel, noting that the plaintiffs in this case didn't have standing to represent the General Assembly.
While the second includes this:
The more important point is that the excesses of gerrymandering have been matched by judicial overreach.
If you guessed that the first was from the left of center P-G and the second from the right wing Trib, you'd be (now wait for it):

The first can be found here at the Trib. And the second here at the once-upon-a-time left of center P-G.

The Tribune-Review also publishes this "Laurel" blurb praising Chief Justice Thomas Saylor:
His condemnation of petitions filed by 12 Republican state lawmakers seeking the impeachment of four Democratic state Supreme Court justices, who voted to overturn the 2011 congressional map drawn by a GOP-controlled Legislature, is a statement of principle that carries even more weight because he's a Republican. “Threats of impeachment directed against justices because of their decision in a particular case are an attack upon an independent judiciary, which is an essential component of our constitutional plan of government,” says Mr. Chief Justice Saylor — a statement that those 12 GOP lawmakers, along with the House and Senate GOP majorities' leadership, need to heed.
While the P-G's opinion ended with this:
The more important point is that the excesses of gerrymandering have been matched by judicial overreach. Usurpation of power can cut both ways. The Democrats who are so pleased with the ruling should realize that the state Supreme Court, at some point, will return to a Republican majority. Will they stay silent if that court hands down a politically tainted decision? Rep. Cris Dush, a Republican from Jefferson County, introduced legislation to impeach the four Democratic justices who voted to impose the new map. His bill will probably fade away, but it’s a measure of the resentment that legislating from the bench can breed.
Not an endorsement of impeachment but you'll note it's not exactly a condemnation either. If anything it says that the targets of Dush's impeachment legislation brought it upon themselves by legislating from the bench.

I know what happened! An large and unpredictable "ion storm" entered the Halkan system just as we were negotiating for dilithium mining rights and when we tried to beam back up to the Enterprise we got zapped by the storm. When we emerged from the transporter room we realized that we were suddenly in a universe where what was once a rational federation was replaced by empire. Oh yea - and Spock has a beard.

That's the only plausible explanation for why the Trib and the P-G editorial boards suddenly switched places.

March 23, 2018

More On State Rep Cris Dush's Impeachment Legislation

Yesterday, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued a statement in response:
As Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, I am very concerned by the reported filing of impeachment resolutions against Justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania related to the Court’s decision about congressional redistricting.

Threats of impeachment directed against Justices because of their decision in a particular case are an attack upon an independent judiciary, which is an essential component of our constitutional plan of government.
Do we need to bring yinz up to speed?

Here's a brief description of what's brought us to here (interestingly, it's from Dush's impeachment memo):
On January 22, 2018, the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued a per curiam Order (“Order”) in League of Women Voters of PA, et. al. v. The Commonwealth of PA, et. al., No. 159 MM 2017, holding that the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 (“Act”) “clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” and, on this sole basis, struck it down as unconstitutional. The Court further enjoined the future use of the Act in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States House of Representative commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary election.

The Court in its Order mandates that if the Pennsylvania General Assembly chooses “to submit a congressional districting plan that satisfies the requirements of the Pennsylvania Constitution, it shall submit such plan for consideration by the Governor on or before February 9, 2018.” The Court further held that “[i]f the Governor accepts the General Assembly’s congressional districting plan, it shall be submitted to this Court on or before February 15, 2018.”
This is The Order that so offended Cris Dush.

The Opinion that followed presented the conclusion reached by the PA Supremes. The first paragraph reads:
It is a core principle of our republican form of government “that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.” In this case, Petitioners allege that the Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 (the “2011 Plan”) does the latter, infringing upon that most central of democratic rights – the right to vote. Specifically, they contend that the 2011 Plan is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. While federal courts have, to date, been unable to settle on a workable standard by which to assess such claims under the federal Constitution, we find no such barriers under our great Pennsylvania charter. The people of this Commonwealth should never lose sight of the fact that, in its protection of essential rights, our founding document is the ancestor, not the offspring, of the federal Constitution. We conclude that, in this matter, it provides a constitutional standard, and remedy, even if the federal charter does not. Specifically, we hold that the 2011 Plan violates Article I, Section 5 – the Free and Equal Elections Clause – of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
 Article 1, Section 5 of the PA Constitution reads:
Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.
And the Court builds to its conclusion by taking a deep look at that clause and what it means.  Like this part:
Thus, Article I, Section 5 guarantees our citizens an equal right, on par with every other citizen, to elect their representatives. Stated another way, the actual and plain language of Section 5 mandates that all voters have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation. (page 100)
Then a few pages later we read:
Although our Court has infrequently relied on this provision to strike down acts of the legislature pertaining to the conduct of elections, the qualifications of voters to participate therein, or the creation of electoral districts, our view as to what constraints Article I, Section 5 places on the legislature in these areas has been consistent over the years. Indeed, nearly 150 years ago, in considering a challenge to an act of the legislature establishing eligibility qualifications for electors to vote in all elections held in Philadelphia, and specifying the manner in which those elections are to be conducted, we recognized that, while our Constitution gives to the General Assembly the power to promulgate laws governing elections, those enactments are nonetheless subject to the requirements of the Free and Equal Elections Clause of our Constitution, and, hence, may be invalidated by our Court “in a case of plain, palpable and clear abuse of the power which actually infringes the rights of the electors.” Patterson , 60 Pa. at 75.

In answering the question of how elections must be made equal, we stated: “Clearly by laws which shall arrange all the qualified electors in to suitable districts, and make their votes equally potent in the election; so that some shall not have more votes than others, and that all shall have an equal share in filling the offices of the Commonwealth.” Id. Thus, with this decision, our Court established that any legislative scheme which has the effect of impermissibly diluting the potency of an individual’s vote for candidates for elective office relative to that of other voters will violate the guarantee of “free and equal” elections afforded b y Article I, Section 5. (page 109-110)
And then finally we get to this:
By placing voters preferring one party’s candidates in districts where their votes are wasted on candidates likely to lose (cracking), or by placing such voters in districts where their votes are cast for candidates destined to win (packing), the non-favored party’s votes are diluted. It is axiomatic that a diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation. This is the antithesis of a healthy representative democracy.(page 118)
It's this sentence above that, it seems to me (a non-lawyer, to be sure) to be at the core of the argument:
It is axiomatic that a diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation.
If I am reading this right (and again, I am NOT a lawyer), they're saying that by gerrymandering the districts into heavy Republican and heavily Democratic districts in order to (more or less) guarantee an outcome, the legislature diluted the voting rights of the R-voters in the D-zones and the D-voters in the R-zones. And that collective dilution is what conflicts with the Free and Equal Elections Clause.

But of course, because it gets in the way of the Republican snowflakes' hold on legislative power, any act making sure that everyone has an equal chance to elect their representatives is an unconstitutional power grab.

Your GOP at work, ladies and gentlemen.

March 22, 2018

Join the "March for Our Lives – Pittsburgh" This Saturday!

Please join in with Pittsburgh’s children and youth on March 24th!
You can R.S.V.P. and keep up-to-date on the march at their Facebook event page here and the national website here.
Follow them on Twitter: @M4OL_PGH   Follow them on Instagram: @m4ol_pgh
You can also print out the above flyer or share it on social media.

Smoking rocks? Head full of rocks? Completely stoned?

Even after watching Blue Mountain School District, PA's Superintendent David Helsel on video, I still had to look for a reputable news account to make certain this wasn't some elaborate satire.

Via PublicSource:
In Schuylkill County’s Blue Mountain School District, Superintendent David Helsel told lawmakers that maintenance staff — currently only one employee due to a retirement — are also trained as armed security and have been carrying firearms for five years. 
The district does not plan to arm teachers, but Helsel said he believes each district should be able to make its own determination to have a trained and clearly identified armed staff. He also explained that each classroom has a five-gallon bucket of river stones to be thrown at an armed intruder that breaks through the door. 
“They will face a classroom full of rocks, and they will be stoned,” Helsel said.
No. The children will be shot. Multiple times.

Watch it and weep here:

State Rep Cris Dush Lashes Out Against Statewide Checks And Balances

We have something of a follow up to this week's Toomey Letter.

From The Hill:
A Pennsylvania state representative has introduced resolutions to impeach four of the five state Supreme Court justices who voted to override congressional district maps they said were unfairly gerrymandered on partisan lines.

The resolutions, introduced by state Rep. Cris Dush (R), accuse Justices Kevin Dougherty, Christine Donohue, Debra McClosky Todd and David Wecht of misbehavior in office.

In a memo to fellow House members, Dush said the ruling overriding Pennsylvania’s U.S. House district lines amounted to an overstep of judicial authority under the state Constitution, which lays out the path by which a bill becomes a law — in this case, a bill to delineate the district lines after the decennial Census and reapportionment process.
Here is the memo. After describing the order from the State Supreme Court, it reads:
This Order overrides the express legislative and executive authority, found in Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, concerning the Governor’s veto authority and the General Assembly’s subsequent authority to override such veto. Article IV, Section 15 clearly lays out the path a bill must take to become law.

The five Justices who signed this order that blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution, engaged in misbehavior in office.

Wherefore, each is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office and disqualification to hold any office or trust or profit under this Commonwealth. I would ask you to please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.
By the way, the five justices who so offended snowflake Dush are Democrats - Dush, of course, is a Republican. The

From WHYY we learn that "[Dush] hasn’t introduced a resolution for the court’s fifth Democrat—Justice Max Baer—because while Baer agreed the 2011 map was unconstitutional, he didn’t want to redraw it on an abbreviated timeline."

From the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article IV, Section 15 reads:
Every bill which shall have passed both Houses shall be presented to the Governor; if he approves he shall sign it, but if he shall not approve he shall return it with his objections to the House in which it shall have originated, which House shall enter the objections at large upon their journal, and proceed to re-consider it. If after such re-consideration, two- thirds of all the members elected to that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent with the objections to the other House by which likewise it shall be re-considered, and if approved by two-thirds of all the members elected to that House it shall be a law; but in such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the members voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journals of each House, respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the Governor within ten days after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the General Assembly, by their adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall be a law, unless he shall file the same, with his objections, in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and give notice thereof by public proclamation within 30 days after such adjournment.
On the other hand, there's something called Judicial Review where the judiciary has the authority to overturn what it has deemed as an unconstitutional law. This has been the case for a long long time in Pennsylvania.  Take a look at this page from the "Report of the...Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Bar Association" (1900):
In the earlier history of the states, the courts were rarely called upon to declare acts of the legislature unconstitutional. In our Commonwealth for the half century following the Constitution of 1790 there is not a single instance where a statute was determined to be unconstitutional - but there was a uniform consensus of judicial opinion...that the judiciary must have the power of declaring a statute to be of no force, if enacted in disregard of the higher law of the Constitution.

In the minutes of the Council of Censors in 1784, the committee appointed to point out the defects in the Constitution of 1776, inter alia reported:
Your committee conceives the said Constitution to be in the this respect materially defective, referring to the power of the legislature to remove judges:

Because if the assembly should pass an unconstitutional law and the judges have virtue enough to refuse to obey it, the same assembly could instantly remove them.
This indicates that the men who took part in forming our government had a very definite opinion that an unconstitutional law was no law - and that the test of virtue in a judge would be his refusal to obey it... (p 266)
That was written 117 years ago about stuff that had happened a hundred years or so before that. I would like to emphasize the example that the Council of Censors used - what is described then is exactly what Representative Dush wants to do now. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, je pense.

The State Supreme Court found the Act that protects your party's Congressional districts to be unconstitutional, Representative Dush. It's no longer the law. Get over it. It's not an impeachable offense simply because you don't like it.

It's amazing to me that an elected official proposing legislation to limit a state's judiciary's authority does not know the history of that state or that judiciary.

[Full Disclosure: Twenty years or so ago, I had a temp job (as a runner and copy-guy) in the same law office where Justice David Wecht was then employed as an attorney. We had minimal contact then and other than my bumping into him 4 or 5 years ago downtown (where we shook hands and exchanged a few pleasantries) we've had no contact since.]

March 21, 2018

Meanwhile Outside....

Gee, I wonder how the science deniers will be reading this State of the Climate report from NOAA:
February 2018 was characterized by near to cooler-than-average conditions across a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere land, while much of the Southern Hemisphere land had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions. The most notable cool temperature departures from average were present across North America, where temperatures were 3.0°C (5.4°F) below average or lower for some locations. The most notable warm temperature departures from average were present across parts of the southeastern contiguous U.S., western Alaska, northeastern Africa, the Middle East, and Russia's Far East, where temperatures were 2.0°C (3.6°F) above average or higher. Much of the world's oceans had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average temperatures, with near- to cooler-than-average conditions across the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, southeastern Pacific Ocean, eastern Indian Ocean, and across parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Record warmth was limited to small areas across the eastern contiguous U.S., southern Argentina, the Middle East, Russia's Far East, New Zealand, and scattered across all oceans. However, no land or ocean areas experienced record cold temperatures during February 2018. Regionally, Oceania and Africa had their fourth and tenth warmest February on record, respectively, while Europe had its coolest February since 2012.

Overall, the combined global land and ocean temperature for February 2018 was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 12.1°C (53.9°F) and the 11th highest February temperature in the 1880–2018 record. This value was also 0.57°C (1.03°F) cooler than the record high set in 2016 and was the smallest February temperature departure from average since 2014. February 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive February and the 398th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The global land temperature of 1.01°C (1.82°F) above the 20th century average of 3.2°C (37.8°F) was also the smallest February land temperature since 2014 and the 15th highest in the 139-year record. Averaged as a whole, the global oceans had their lowest February temperature since 2013 and the seventh highest February temperature on record.
My guess is that they'll read this part:
February 2018 was characterized by near to cooler-than-average conditions across a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere land...
And simply skip this part:
...while much of the Southern Hemisphere land had warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions.
In order to "prove" that the planet is "actually" cooling down.

They'll take this:

Which shows a definite upward trend in red lines and focus instead on this:

In order to "prove" that global temperatures "actually peaked" three years ago.

This is how they'll skew the data - if they bother to write about it at all.

Meanwhile, despite the snow outside my window on the first full day of Spring, it's still getting warmer outside. The science says so.

March 20, 2018

My FIFTY-THIRD Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

I'd like to step away from asking you about any of the many Trump scandals now facing the nation and turn instead to a more local story - Pennsylvania Congressional redistricting.

The Hill reported that you referred to the recent State Supreme Court ruling striking down the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 as a "blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process." You also refused to reject the idea of impeaching members of the State Court for that reaching that decision. The State Supreme Court in striking down the act, however, said that it "clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." It was from that point alone (which is to say, by relying only on state law), they found the Redistricting Act to be unconstitutional.

The United State Supreme Court, only yesterday, refused to overturn the State court's decision.

So here are my questions: Given all of the above, do you still think that the State Supreme Court decision is unconstitutional?  Do you still think it appropriate for state legislators to discuss impeachment for deciding that the then-current redistricting plan unconstitutionally favored one party (yours) over the other?

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

UPDATE: This letter has been answered here.


March 17, 2018

In Case You Missed It - A Four Star General Speaks Out Against Trump. Again.

Let's list (some of) the man's accomplishments:
And so on.

To be sure, this is not the first time he's spoken out against the porn star-boffing vulgarity.  Here he is in August of 2016:
My public comments in the media on national security since leaving active service have tried to steer clear of partisan debate. I am not registered with either political party. I have worked with loyalty and genuine respect at very senior levels for both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.

The shameful reaction by presidential candidate Donald Trump to the mother and father of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan prompts me to state publicly that Trump should never serve as our commander in chief. The decorated Capt. Khan, who was killed in action in Iraq at age 27 while bravely defending his soldiers during a suicide attack, is the best America offers. His grieving parents were understandably outraged at the degrading notion that America should have a religious screen, legally denying immigration status to Muslims.

Trump’s cruel cultural jab at Ghazala Kahn as a grieving Gold Star mother is simply the final straw. In my judgment, Trump, if elected, would provoke a political and constitutional crisis within a year. He has called for the illegal torture of enemy detainees. He has called for the deliberate targeting and murder of civilians as retribution. He has questioned whether the U.S. should actually fulfill our defense obligations under the NATO pact. These NATO obligations are a U.S. Senate-ratified treaty that Trump should know is the highest law of the land.
And here he is in March of 2016:
Known for his direct talk and unvarnished opinions, McCaffrey had a blunt description of the current political landscape: "I must admit that 10 years ago, if you tried to describe the situation with an aging socialist, with a possibly indicted competent Democrat, against someone who can be kindly characterized as a braggart and buffoon, it would be hard to believe that this would be the situation." Being personally familiar with numerous public figures and politicians, he stated that "generally speaking I am very empathetic to political leaders. We get better than we deserve for the most part," and he added, "I know Hillary Clinton quite well and she is very competent."
This time we simply cannot say we got "better than we deserve" with Trump. Maybe we got exactly what we deserve OR we deserve better than we got, but we can't say the pussy-grabbing charlatan is "better than we deserve."

March 16, 2018

Torture Is Immoral. Covering It Up, Also Immoral

From the Washington Post:
President Trump on Tuesday chose CIA veteran Gina Haspel to be the spy agency’s next director, picking a woman who spent multiple tours overseas and is respected by the workforce but is deeply tied to the agency’s use of brutal interrogation measures on terrorism suspects.

Back to the WaPost:
Haspel was in charge of one of the CIA’s “black site” prisons where detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harrowing interrogation measures widely condemned as torture.

When those methods were exposed and their legality came under scrutiny, Haspel was among a group of CIA officials involved in the decision to destroy videotapes of interrogation sessions that left some detainees on the brink of physical collapse.
Torture and then covering up the torture.

Before we proceed, there's a necessary correction of the word "detainees" in that first paragraph. Propublica has it:
On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002.

The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.
The New York Times, which also reported last year that Haspel oversaw the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and another detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, published a second story this week making the same point. It quoted an unnamed former senior CIA official who said Haspel did not become base chief until late October of 2002. According to the Times, she was in charge when al-Nashiri was waterboarded three times. [Emphasis added.]
The use of the plural "detainees" is inaccurate as she was only in charge during the waterboarding of one person, not more than one. This, however, does not change the fact that Haspell was in charge when al-Nashiri was waterboarded.

So that's still torture, just less of it.

We've written extensively about how torture is a war crime. Gina Haspel oversaw a prison where one human being was tortured. Even if she was just following orders, the Geneva Convention states:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture. (Part 1, Article 2, Sections 2-3)
She's a war criminal. Everyone in the chain of command above her is a war criminal.

Then there's the cover-up.

From Frontline:
When news of the ["enhanced interrogation"]program was first published in the Washington Post in 2005, Jose Rodriguez, who at the time ran the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, grew concerned that the videotapes might be made public.

“I was told if those videotapes had ever been seen, the reaction around the world would not have been survivable,” Jane Mayer, a New Yorker reporter, told FRONTLINE. “So the CIA is in a panic. They’ve got these red-hot videotapes on their hands.”

As Rodriguez later wrote in his memoir, in 2005, Haspel, then his chief of staff, “drafted a cable” at his direction ordering that the tapes be destroyed. Then, he said, he “took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send.”
Covering up the torture.

I don't think this will make much of a difference to Trump or his true-believers. He thinks he can just bring back torture by executive fiat as well as order the deaths of suspected terrorists' families.

Torture is immoral. Torture is illegal. Prosecute the torture.

March 13, 2018

My FIFTY-SECOND Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

I'd like to ask you about this weekend's rally in Moon Township. During Donald Trump's speech he referred to an old appearance he'd made on NBC's "Meet The Press" by saying, "It's 1999, I'm on Meet the Press, a show now headed by 'sleepy eyes Chuck Todd.' He's a sleeping son of a bitch, I'll tell you." The crowd, as you probably already know, roared in approval.

This is not the first time he's attacked the Constitutionally protected news media. During the same speech he referred to "a certain anchor on CNN" as "fake as hell." He tweeted about the New York Times reporter who broke the story about Trump in discussions with a Clinton impeachment attorney as "a Hillary flunky."

And at this time I'd like to remind you of a letter I sent you almost exactly a year ago. Then, Donald Trump referred to the media with the Stalinist "enemy of the people."

So here's my question: Is any of this appropriate behavior for a sitting President of the United States? Yes or no?

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


March 12, 2018

More On Rick Saccone (The Trump And "P-G" Endorsements)

Tomorrow is the day voters in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional district choose which candidate:
  • Conor Lamb, the Democrat - a retired Marine Corps officer and former federal prosecutor
  • Rick Saccone, The Republican - a torture supporter and religious zealot
will fill out disgraced Republican Tim Murphy's term in the House of Representatives.

In the past few hours, there's been some fallout from the events of this weekend:
  • The endorsement by the Toledo Block Bugler (formerly known as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • The endorsement by pussy-grabber in chief, Donald J Trump
First there's this from the Washington Post about the Bugler's endorsement:
The largest newspaper in southwest Pennsylvania endorsed the Republican candidate ahead of Tuesday’s special congressional election with a rationale unlike any cited in other races: Democratic control of the House would hurt the country by setting the stage for a presidential impeachment.
I didn't write about that angle in my own analysis of the endorsement yesterday but it certainly fits with a publisher who's doing what he can to make nice with the orange vulgarity now sitting in the Oval Office.

The ridiculousness of the Bugler's endorsement is shown by these two snippets from The WaPost:
Neither Rick Saccone nor Conor Lamb, the Republican and Democratic nominees in the 18th Congressional District, has talked about impeachment during the campaign.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who would chair the House Judiciary Committee if his party won a majority, told The Washington Post this year that impeachment would not be pursued unless both parties agreed to it, as removal of the president would require a supermajority vote in the Senate.
And yet the Bugler's endorser says it's a reason to back Saccone.

Driving the point home, the endorsement goes on:
The prospect of a Democratic House may please partisans, but it might be bad for the country. The Democrats in the House have only one agenda item at the moment, and it isn’t health care or jobs. It is impeachment. Regardless of whether one likes this president or his policies, one must ask what the consequence for the country will be if we dive into so great a distraction.
Yes, so if Trump colluded with the Russians for a win and/or if he then covered up whatever happened and/or if he's obstructing the subsequent investigation in any way and/or if he violated FEC laws by paying off the pornstar he schtupped (repeatedly) to keep her quiet, that should all be ignored because it will be a distraction for the country.  Rule of law be damned.

Then there's this from inside the White House itself:
There's a reason Trump said hardly anything about Republican candidate Rick Saccone during a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night that was supposed to promote his candidacy.
And this is it:
Trump thinks Saccone is a terrible, "weak" candidate, according to four sources who've spoken to the president about him.
So if Saccone wins, Trump takes the credit. If Saccone loses, he's already prepared the narrative that it's not Trump's fault.

March 11, 2018

The Post-Gazette Endorses...RICK SACCONE

Think back to when we were a world-class republic (it was only a little more than one year ago) and then remember that there was this raging election going on for the future of the country. One candidate (the Democrat - a woman) had a great deal of governmental experience (with a resume that included Secretary of State) and the other (the Republican - a man) was an admitted harasser of women who lied/misspoke/got things factually wrong more often than he pumped his orange hair solid with hairspray.

Hundreds of newspapers endorsed the former. Six endorsed the latter. One-two-three-four-five-six.

Showing the first signs of being infected with teh crazie, once left-of-center Post-Gazette published an editorial that went a different route. They went all-neutral and refused to endorse either candidate.

To paraphrase Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
If you are neutral in situations of sexual harassment, you have chosen the side of the harasser. If the elephant has admitted to some non-consensual pussy-grabbing and you say that you are neutral, no one should appreciate your neutrality.
Then there was this lil bit o'racism that was so nasty the Pittsburgh Foundation and Heinz Endowments felt compelled to respond with this:
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has done our community and the cause of justice a grave disservice with its lead editorial, “Reason as Racism,” published of all days on Martin Luther King Day, when we as a nation commemorate the ongoing fight to end racism in our country.

Repeated verbatim from an opinion piece printed Saturday in its sister publication the Toledo Blade, the editorial is a silly mix of deflection and distortion that provides cover for racist rhetoric while masquerading as a defense of decency. It is unworthy of a proud paper and an embarrassment to Pittsburgh.
It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. In Pittsburgh, with the passing of one ultra-rich right-wing nutjob (Richard Mellon Scaife) and the shrinkage of his media outlet - the Tribune-Review - from national to regional importance, I suppose that left open room for another ultra rich right-wing nutjob (John Block) to expand his media outlet - the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - into the political vacuum of thus created.

 And so, we can see today's endorsement of Rick Saccone.

Let's see what the Toledo Block Bugler has to say about Tim Murphy, the guy they want Saccone to replace. If you don't get the reference, that's ok google it. The right wing Tribune-Review editorial board used to taunt the P-G by calling it the "Block Bugler" because John Block owned both the Toledo Blade AND the Post-Gazette. Now back to our story:
It was pragmatic, moderate conservatism — not extremism — that sustained Mr. Murphy for almost 15 years in office. The issues he pursued, such as an overhaul of mental health law and saving the national veterans cemetery in Cecil, had practical benefits for his constituents.
Hmm...they think Murphy was a moderate conservative. I wonder how they'd explain these ratings:
  • 100% rating from the National Right To Life Committee (exceptionally ironic considering how and why Murphy was forced to resign) 
  • 60% rating from the John Birch Society (60%! - from The BIRCHERS!)
  • 100% rating from the Family Resource Council (again, ironic considering the affair and the talk of abortion)
  • 93% rating from the NRA
This is a moderate conservative to the Toledo Block Bugler?  Evidence that the frame itself has already silently skewed rightward.

When describing Saccone, they go with:
A former Air Force counterintelligence officer who later worked in North Korea and studied the Middle East in Egypt, Mr. Saccone would bring a valuable resume to Congress. He is also a college professor and a four-term state legislator. Given his time of life, he is 60, and varied background, he is equipped to be a strong and independent voice for the 18th.
Independent voice? Look at what they leave out of Saccone's experience.  A decade ago he wrote:
Our politicians should support coerced interrogations and stop demagoguing the issue. Respectable newspapers should refuse to print stories, such as the one about the three young men and only continue to blur the debate.
And by "coerced interrogations" he meant waterboarding, but only when done by trained professionals and fall "short of those that leave long-lasting or permanent physical harm."

Seven years ago he said:
Basically, torture is an act intentionally intended to inflict severe and long-lasting physical and mental pain, including amputation, scarring, burning, maiming, mutilation. Coercion means a much lower threshold of pain or discomfort such as stress positions, pushing, temperature change, meal manipulation, loud music, exploiting phobias, trickery, yelling, etc. If done skillfully and in the right circumstances, water-boarding or WB is very effective and causes no long-lasting damage. It is used to train our special forces so I don't consider it torture.
Too bad that Rick Saccone doesn't get to define "torture" as it's defined by UN Convention and US Law and it's always a war crime:
For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
Then there's this lil bit o'crazie - legislating 2012 as the year of The Bible while at roughly the same time co-sponsoring Anti-Sharia legislation .  So I guess the "good" religion can be lauded while the "bad" religion can be banned.

How is any of that constitutional?

And this is the guy the Toledo Block Bugler thinks would be a better representative than Conor Lamb.

This is not the Post-Gazette we knew.

This is the new right wing Toledo Block Bugler.

March 10, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter (And Deflects Off The Real Question To BS Me)

Yesterday, I received via the Post Office, another Toomey response letter.

Dated February 21 of this year, it begins thusly:
Thank you for contacting me about the recently-enacted budget agreement, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-123). I appreciate hearing from you.
Still good to know he appreciates hearing from me. I guess I'll have to keep writing to him. And let me take a moment to encourage anyone reading this to contact Senator Toomey - or any/all of their own elected representatives - with any concerns they might have. Snail mail offers the best chance of a response or so I've heard.

Anyway, let's go see if we can find out what letter of mine triggered this response from Toomey and/or his office.  Toomey writes in his fourth paragraph:
Specific to your concerns, the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA18) funded the government through March 23, 2018, while suspending the debt limit until March of next year.
Bipartisan Budget Act? When did I ask about the Bipartisan Budget Act? What is the BBA18 anyway?

Since Toomey's letter is dated the February 21st, we can safely assume it's not a response to any of my letters written after that date, time being a strict progression of cause to effect (on the other hand, some think that time, seen from a non-linear and or a non-subjective viewpoint, is more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey "stuff". We report you decide.) 

There may be a clue here. It's a pamphlet put out by the American Academy of Family Physicians.  This is from the first paragraph:
After a brief government shutdown, on February 9, 2018, the Senate and House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA18, Public Law 115-123), funding the government through March 23, 2018. The spending package was strongly bipartisan, passing in the Senate 71-28 and in the House 245-182. The bill includes many important health provisions, and the AAFP released a statement from Dr. Michael Munger, AAFP President, praising many aspects of the bill prior to its passage. The AAFP also joined five other frontline physician organizations in releasing a joint statement urging the bill’s passage.
Wait, so the BBA18 was passed in response to the brief gov'ment shut down in February. That's what Toomey's talking about? When did any of this come up in any of my letters?

You simply won't believe where. It's here, hidden in Letter 45 - where I open with this:
I was going to ask you about the government shutdown but since it's more or less resolved at this point, I'll move on (but I mean really, the GOP controls the White House AND The Senate AND The House of Representatives. How is it that you couldn't pass a budget on time? YOU OWN THE STORE.)
And that's all I had to say about that. I then quickly moved to the actual reason for writing that particular letter:
No, Senator. I am going to have to ask you about Stephanie Clifford (who, as you know, works in adult film industry under the name "Stormy Daniels").
And then here's the question:
Senator, let me ask you this week's question. Given your solid standing among the nation's social conservatives (100% rating from the Christian Coalition, for example) would you still have voted for Donald Trump in 2016 had you known that 1) he'd had unprotected sex with a woman who wasn't his wife and 2) paid her off in order for the public not to know about it, especially since that pay off might have violated FEC rules regarding an "unreported in-kind contribution" to the Trump Campaign?
As politically cynical as I am, it's completely shocking to me that Senator Pat Toomey and/or his office would deflect from that set of questions with what amounts to a full page ad regarding his disapproval of a bipartisan budget deal (and here's an interesting bit: the no votes were also bipartisan as ten Democrats and one Independent - Bernie Sanders of Vermont - all voted against).

Let me ask you, Senator. Did you really just try to avoid answering a question about your support of Donald Trump - a man who paid for the silence of the adult film actress he slept with - in order to distract a constituent with some BS about your objection to too much gov'ment spending??

Say it ain't so, Senator. Say it ain't so.

If I'm wrong, Senator, drop me a line with what I got wrong. You know the address.

Text of the letter:
Thank you for contacting me about the recently-enacted budget agreement, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-123). I appreciate hearing from you.

Since coming to the U.S. Senate, of of my highest priorities has been reining in our nation's unsustainable deficits and spending. The United States has run persistent budget deficits since 2001 due to rising levels of federal spending, with this year's spending expected to exceed $4 trillion. As a result, our national debt is now more than $20 trillion. The consequences of since fiscal mismanagement will be devastating to future generations who will be saddled with debt and a government they can no longer afford.

The federal treasury does not suffer from a lack of tax revenue. Excessive federal spending that continues to grow at a faster pace than our economy is the primary cause of persistent federal budget deficits. Federal revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has equaled 17.4% over the last fifty years, nearly three points below the average level of federal spending. Both prior to and after passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, spending growth is projected to significantly outpace revenue into the future. It is long past time for the federal government to live within its means by curbing runaway spending.

Specific to your concerns, the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA18) funded the government through March 23, 2018, while suspending the debt limit until March of next year. The bill also removed statutory caps on discretionary spending that were imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 - the fourth time in the past six years that Congress has done so. While this budget agreement propose a badly needed spending increase to strengthen national security, rebuild our neglected military, and honor our commitment to veterans, it unfortunately adds $131 billion in non-security spending, without any real, meaningful offsetting spending reductions.

On February 9, 2018, the House and Senate both agreed to BBA18. Although I voted against this budget deal, the legislation passed by a 71 to 28 vote in the Senate and was signed into law later that day. This budget agreement failed to address our overspending problem - in fact, it makes the problem worse by increasing spending.

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

March 8, 2018

Rick Saccone Was Quoted In The Trib And In ONE SENTENCE Showed His Disrespect

Take a look at this from The Trib:
He (Conor Lamb) has really no life experience at all. He has one political appointee job. He never worked in the private sector. I've had 40 years of life experience in education, diplomacy, the military, government and international business. There is no match for that. If this were any other race than a special election, there would be no contest. [Emphasis added.]
Let's look at Conor Lamb's "life experience" shall we?

Since Saccone's quoted in The Trib, let's start with what the Trib has to say about Lamb's bio, shall we?  Here it is:
Lamb graduated from Central Catholic High School in 2002 and the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. He earned his law degree from Penn in 2009.

Lamb served in the U.S. Marine Corps prior to being appointed as an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh in 2014. He worked in that office for three years.
That's five years in the Marine Corps.

Mt Lebanon Democrats have more:
Prior to his appointment as a federal prosecutor, Lamb was a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. He completed active duty service in 2013 and joined the Marine Corps Reserves.
A Marine Corps Officer - now in the Marine Corps Reserves.

And this is how Rick Saccone described that time: "REALLY NO LIFE EXPERIENCE AT ALL."

March 6, 2018

My FIFTY-FIRST Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

I'd like to ask you, yet again, about something Donald Trump said recently.

Recently to a crowd of Republican donors at his private club in Florida, Trump reportedly praised China's President Xi Jinping for being able to consolidate his power over that communist country, adding that "He's now president for life." Trump then added, to the laughing approval of that crowd, "Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day."

There's some question as to whether he was joking.

Here's this week's set of questions: Do you think he was joking? If so, do you think that's an acceptable thing for a leader, who's term-limited by the same Constitution he swore to uphold, to be joking about? What do you think your response (or indeed, the responses of your fellow members of the GOP) would have been had the previous (Democratic) President joked about exactly the same thing?

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


March 5, 2018

Why Is This NOT Surprising? (EPA Chief Pruitt DOUBTS Science - Evolution, This Time)

Granted, this was 2005 and that was a dozen years ago (more than enough time to become educated) but this is hardly surprising coming from someone already on record doubting Climate Science:
I think the basis of humanism is evolution and there aren’t sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution, and it deals with the origins of man, which is more from a philosophical standpoint than a scientific standpoint so I believe that there is great establishment concerns in that situation.
There's more from Politico:
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt dismissed evolution as an unproven theory, lamented that “minority religions” were pushing Christianity out of “the public square” and advocated amending the Constitution to ban abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage and protect the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ten Commandments, according to a newly unearthed series of Oklahoma talk radio shows from 2005.

Pruitt, who at the time was a state senator, also described the Second Amendment as divinely granted and condemned federal judges as a “judicial monarchy” that is “the most grievous threat that we have today." And he did not object when the program’s host described Islam as “not so much a religion as it is a terrorist organization in many instances.”
Of course the defense of the science denier is obvious and obviously strawman:
Asked whether the administrator’s skepticism about a major foundation of modern science such as evolution could conflict with the agency's mandate to make science-based decisions, spokesman Jahan Wilcox told POLITICO that “if you're insinuating that a Christian should not serve in capacity as EPA administrator, that is offensive and a question that does not warrant any further attention."
Wave the bloody shirt, why doncha.

For the record, it's not about a Christian serving as EPA administrator (as the EPA Administrator during the Obama Administration is a Christian - a Catholic, specifically). It's about someone holding that office who denies the validity of one of the foundations of modern science - evolution.

On the one hand there's Scott Pruitt, climate science denier, who thinks "there aren’t sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution" and on the other hand there's this statement:
We agree that the following evidence-based facts about the origins and evolution of the Earth and of life on this planet have been established by numerous observations and independently derived experimental results from a multitude of scientific disciplines. Even if there are still many open questions about the precise details of evolutionary change, scientific evidence has never contradicted these results:
  1. In a universe that has evolved towards its present configuration for some 11 to 15 billion years, our Earth formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago. 
  2. Since its formation, the Earth – its geology and its environments – has changed under the effect of numerous physical and chemical forces and continues to do so. 
  3. Life appeared on Earth at least 2.5 billion years ago. The evolution, soon after, of photosynthetic organisms enabled, from at least 2 billion years ago, the slow transformation of the atmosphere to one containing substantial quantities of oxygen. In addition to the release of the oxygen that we breathe, the process of photosynthesis is the ultimate source of fixed energy and food upon which human life on the planet depends. 
  4. Since its first appearance on Earth, life has taken many forms, all of which continue to evolve, in ways which palaeontology and the modern biological and biochemical sciences are describing and independently confirming with increasing precision. Commonalities in the structure of the genetic code of all organisms living today, including humans, clearly indicate their common primordial origin.
The "We" in the first sentence refers to all these scientific academies:
Albanian Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, Argentina
Australian Academy of Science
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Bangladesh Academy of Sciences
The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium
Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazilian Academy of Sciences
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada
Academia Chilena de Ciencias
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Academia Sinica, China, Taiwan
Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences
Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences
Cuban Academy of Sciences
Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt
Académie des Sciences, France
Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
The Academy of Athens, Greece
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Indian National Science Academy
Indonesian Academy of Sciences
Academy of Sciences of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Royal Irish Academy
Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Italy
Science Council of Japan
Kenya National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic
Latvian Academy of Sciences
Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias
Mongolian Academy of Sciences
Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco
The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Nigerian Academy of Sciences
Pakistan Academy of Sciences
Palestine Academy for Science and Technology
Academia Nacional de Ciencias del Peru
National Academy of Science and Technology, The Philippines
Polish Academy of Sciences
Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Singapore National Academy of Sciences
Slovak Academy of Sciences
Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Academy of Science of South Africa
Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of Spain
National Academy of Sciences, Sri Lanka
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies
Academy of Sciences, Republic of Tajikistan
The Caribbean Academy of Sciences
Turkish Academy of Sciences
The Uganda National Academy of Sciences
The Royal Society, UK
US National Academy of Sciences
Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences
Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Naturales de Venezuela
Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences
African Academy of Sciences
The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS)
The Executive Board of the International Council for Science (ICSU)
Evolution is a fact. Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator is wrong on the science. Again.

March 2, 2018

NEWSFLASH! The Republicans Are Lying About Conor Lamb

Yea, I know. WHAT. A. SURPRISE.

Let's remember that the GOP is the party of:
  • Benghazi!!
  • Obama's fake Kenyan heritage
  • John Kerry's "fake" war heroism
So it's hardly surprising that the GOP's gone all truther on Marine Corp Reserve Major Conor Lamb.

Case in point - the "drug kingpin" TV ad. I'm sure you've seen it. It's on my TV every 25 seconds or so.

The (Conservative) Free Beacon has the GOP frame:
The campaign arm of House Republicans on Wednesday released an advertisement blasting Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb for negotiating a plea bargain with a drug kingpin while the nationwide opioid epidemic devastated American families
The P-G has the facts:
He was one of nearly 50 people indicted in Fayette and Washington counties following an FBI wiretap investigation and announced at a news conference in January in which U.S. Attorney David Hickton said interconnected drug rings were “menacing neighborhoods” in Fayette County.

Saunders was charged in September with 270 counts of laundering drug money as well as conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. This winter he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and took responsibility for the money-laundering.
And then there's the official press release:
In addition to the sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, Saunders will forfeit the following property to the United States: a 2008 BMW sedan; five luxury watches and a necklace; $325,120.00 in cash; his home in Uniontown; the proceeds of the sale of a property in Uniontown; a 9mm pistol; and a money judgment of $100,000.00.
A drug dealer off the streets for 10 years and the forfeiture of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and stuff - that's the "weaker sentence" the GOP wants you to fret over.

FactCheck called this a "weak case" and WTAE's Bob Mayo interviewed Pitt Law Professor David Harris who says (at 0:57):
He succeeded. He got a severe penalty to the central charge in the case. That is what every prosecutor is after.
And yet the GOP truthers are trying to convince you that something else entirely happened.

Check the facts and remember who's been lying to you.