What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 17, 2018

There's Trouble (The "P-G" Editorial That Wasn't)

Yes, there's trouble!
Right here in (Three) River City!
Trouble with a capital "T"
And that rhymes with "B" and that stands for...

Brainless? Block? Bigotry?

A few days ago, on Martin Luther King day, the Post-Gazette published this editorial. You know when (and I'm certainly not the first person to say this) someone opens a discussion by saying, "I don't want to sound racist, but..." you know they're going to say something racist.

(By the way you can substitute "sexist" or "homophobic" with above with roughly the same result.)

Well, the editorial opens with:
Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism. The charge is pernicious. The accuser doesn’t need to prove it. It simply hangs over the accused like a great human stain.
This is someone hoping to be able to say unchallenged something they presume will be seen as racist but while at the same time not wanting to defend themselves from being called a racist. Because they know they're not. It's the people who point out racism and intolerance that are the real racist intolerant ones, amirite? MAGA!

Word quickly got around that the Post-Gazette's editorial board did not write that editorial published by the Post-Gazette. It was written in Toledo for the Toledo Blade (who published it a day earlier) at the behest of the two papers' owner, John Block.

This John Block:


I wonder how Block feels about his "interesting" and "memorable" friend (that's how Block referred to Trump in the caption of this tweet) paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the silence some adult film actors.

The backlash was loud and proud.  The CityPaper snagged the story.

The Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowments were not happy:
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.
And some former P-G staffers were even unhappier:
As former Post-Gazette staff members, we are writing to express our anger at the content, tone and timing of Monday’s editorial.

The piece seeks to excuse President Trump’s disparaging remarks about nations of color, while also limiting the term “racist” to the narrowest and most violent forms of the practice, as if it no longer exists.

This is not the Post-Gazette we knew.

As a group, our personal politics and worldviews were often at odds. Newspapers are not a place for a single brand of personality or intellect. But we all shared the core values of journalism: fairness, accuracy, careful thought, and common decency.

An editorial saying, “so what” to a president referring to African countries as “shitholes,” and suggesting that the definition of racism be confined to the likes of racist mass-murderer Dylann Roof or segregationist sheriff Bull Connor, who set police dogs on civil rights demonstrators, basically surrenders the cause of civil rights.

Racism is more than overt violence. It is the systematic degradation of people through practices and institutions that are so pervasive we cease to recognize them in our own lives. It is dismissing a politician’s horrible remarks as “coarse” but meaningless, when words are the very tools of governance. It is suggesting that racist is an invalid term unless someone has met a standard so narrow that it excuses discrimination that is little more than apartheid without the violence.

Notably, racism is also saying these things in print, in a major newspaper, on Martin Luther King Day.
Ya got trouble...




January 16, 2018

My FORTY-FORTH 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. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

Seeing that you've already addressed Donald Trump's racist "shithole countries" comment (though rather tepidly and incompletely, I should add), I'd like to ask you about recent events in Hawaii.

A few days ago, Hawaii was rocked with a false ballistic missile alarm. For early 40 minutes the residents of Hawaii thought they were going to die a nuclear death. Hawaii, by the way, has a population of about 1.4 million. If only 10% were panicked, that's still 140,000 panicked US citizens.

And according to CNN, Donald Trump was on one of his many golf courses, playing golf and having lunch. There was no public comment from him for about 18 hours. In the meantime, however, he tweeted yet another complaint about "fake news."

So here's my question to you, sir: How this is acceptable behavior? That the President of the United States of America could so casually go about his day while so many of his constituents were panicked that they only had a few more minutes to live and yet say nothing about it for nearly a day?

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

Follow-up:

January 15, 2018

Donald J Trump And The Porn Star (AND THE PITTSBURGH CONNECTION)

On Weekend Update this weekend, Colin Jost said of the current Trump/pornstar story:
Let me just say what a thrill it is to be alive a time when ‘Porn star blackmails president’ is, like, the fourth biggest story of the week.
Like it or not, we live in interesting times, don't we?

Anyway, the Wall Street Journal broke the story a few days ago:
A lawyer for President Donald Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult-film star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. (subscription required)
The film star's name is Stephanie Clifford and she's known professionally as Stormy Daniels.

For the record, both Trump and Daniels deny this story.

And as the WSJ is behind a pay wall, we have to look elsewhere for details. From this article in USAToday, we learn:
According to The Journal, Clifford has privately alleged the encounter took place after the two met at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. That's a year after Trump married his third wife, Melania. The Journal previously reported that Clifford had been in talks with Good Morning America in the fall of 2016 about an appearance to discuss Trump, also citing people familiar with the matter.
Donald and Melania were married in January, 2005 and  Donald and Melania Trump's son, Barron, was born in March, 2006. Just to put this into a clearer context.

But can we find a more specific date for this tournament?

Yes, we can - it's the American Century Celebrity Championship tornament and it's held in the second full week of July every year at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Nevada.

Look who else was there:


Yep, that's Ben Roethlisberger, just 5 months after his first Super Bowl win. He came in 47th, by the way, 50 strokes behind the winner, actor Jack Wagner. But that's not a big deal in itself as far as a Pittsburgh connection goes.  Looking at the results we see that both Kordell Stewart (who came in 44th) and Tommy Maddox (who came in 7th) were also there. Lotsa people were.

Donald Trump, by the way, came in 62nd.

Here's the thing: See that sign over there on the right hand side of the picture?  This blog post will explain it:
Today is the final round of the American Century Championship (televised on NBC). Ben Roethlisberger will be paired with Paul O'Neill and Donald Trump, while former Steelers QB Tommy Maddox will be playing with Marshall Faulk and Vince Coleman. As of Sunday morning, Maddox is on the leaderboard and has a legitimate chance of winning the event.
So that was the last of three rounds. Were they paired in any of the other two?

Well, there's this from The Smoking Gun:
During one round, Trump’s threesome included NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and skier Bode Miller.
So that would mean that for two out of the three rounds, Trump and Roethlisberger golfed together, right? But here's the money shot, also from the Smoking Gun:
At the time Clifford met Trump, she was between marriages and living with Michael Mosny, who later became her second husband. In a series of interviews, Mosny recalled that after Clifford met Trump at the Nevada golf tournament--where she had dinner one night with the mogul and Roethlisberger--she maintained contact with the businessman. [Emphasis added.]
Ok, so where are we? All legal denials aside, this story is about a six-figure payoff in exchange for silence regarding an extra-marital affair Donald Trump had with a porn star in 2006. The payoff was made weeks before the 2016 Presidential election. Pittsburgh Steeler Ben Roethlisberger both golfed with Donald Trump (twice, it seems) and had dinner with Trump and Stephanie Clifford during the week of that golf tournament.

Given the seriousness of this story (blackmail? payoffs for silence weeks before a presidential election?),

SHOULDN'T SOMEONE ASK BEN ROETHLISBERGER WHAT HE KNOWS ABOUT THIS?

January 13, 2018

Our Shithole President - And How Pennyslvania's Senators Have Reacted

Yesterday, I said I'd follow up on how Pennsylvania's politicians are either defending Trump's racism or condemning it.

We'll start with The Senate and perhaps follow-up with the House tomorrow.

Senator Bob Casey has tweeted three times on Trump's "shithole countries" remark.  First there was this:
Which, while I completely agree it, seems a bit incomplete.  The next morning, he tweeted:
And continuing:

Good, as it fills out Casey's previous, and rather short, tweet. It also presents the case that this is not an outlier for Trump. He's been this vile for a long long while. Casey is unambiguous in his condemnation of Trump's racist rhetoric.

Senator Pat Toomey, on the other hand treats Trump's words a bit more, shall we say, gingerly.  His tweets:
And then continuing:

Attributed? Suggestion? Let's take a look, again, at what he's quoted as saying. From the Washington Post:
President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.
It's sad to see Pat Toomey avoiding much of the bigotry of Trump's "suggestion" and it's also sad to see him hide behind the word "attributed" rather than the stronger "quoted" regarding the phrase "shithole countries."  It shades towards Pat accepting (or at least floating) the possibility that Trump didn't say it. It let's the shithole president off the hook just a bit.

And while it's true that Trump has denied saying it but can we really believe a guy who's made two thousand false or misleading claims in only the first year of his presidency?

Additionally Pat avoided the other side of Trump's bigotry - while he criticizes Trump's "suggestion" that the US shouldn't want people from certain countries, Pat fails to mention who Trump does want instead: Norwegians (and later, those good-for-the-economy Asians).

People from Africa, Central America and a certain all-black Caribbean nation = They're bad! Keep em out!
People from Northern Europe (who are mostly white) and those useful Asians = They're good! Let 'em in! 

Ya missed half of Trump's racism, Pat.

It's clear which side Case is on. Pat Toomey, not so much.

January 12, 2018

Executive Time


Dear America

Dear America,

Stop acting so shocked that some 70 year-old, white guy from Queens is racist.

(Especially as he's said and done a zillion racist things to date.)

Shithole Countries - Our Racist President

First, the news:
President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt they help the United States economically.
Some reactions.

Locally, the P-G ran with the AP story - which included this opening paragraph:
President Donald Trump questioned Thursday why the U.S. should permit more immigrants from “shithole countries” after senators discussed revamping rules affecting entrants from Africa and Haiti, according to three people briefed on the conversation.
Though they later tweeted:
The Philadelphia Inquirer also ran with the AP story but kept Trump's commentary in the headline:
Trump: Why allow immigrants from 'shithole countries'?
Samson X Horne at the Trib had a reaction piece posted last night. (Note: This is an update. I hadn't found Horne's article until after I posted this morning.)

We'll keep you posted as to which Pennsylvania politicians and news sources defend Trump's racism and who denounces it.

Basically, the question here is: Which side are you (and they) on?



January 11, 2018

We Report - You Decide (Trump, Treason, And Arpaio's Birth Certificate)

Donald Trump, only this morning:
Now read this (many thanks to the OPJ for posting this on her Facebook page).

While popping back and forth into that twitter thread, take a look at Snopes:
The research was actually initiated in 2015 by “a wealthy Republican donor who strongly opposed Mr. Trump,” according to the New York Times, but when that source of funding dried up the San Francisco law firm Perkins Coie brokered a deal to keep it going on behalf of the Democrats.
Then this from CNN:
Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the author of the opposition research dossier on then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia was acting on his own volition when he went to the FBI because he was concerned that a presidential candidate was being blackmailed, according to the 312-page transcript of his testimony.
But you know...Crooked Hillary Emails and all that.

I'm surprised Trump didn't mention his pardoned-pal Arpaio:
Controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Wednesday called former President Barack Obama's birth certificate a "phony document" in an interview on CNN.

"No doubt about it, we have the evidence, I'm not going to go into all the details, yeah, it's a phony document," Arpaio said on "Cuomo Primetime."
That was yesterday.

This is the political reality for our friends in Trump-ville: Trump is great, the Democrat Party and it's espionage branch (the FBI) sought to skew the election, and Obama's birth certificate is a fake.

January 9, 2018

My FORTY-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. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

Senator, I need to ask you about Fire and Fury, the book by Michael Wolff. (If you don't already have a copy, you should soon as CNN reported that Tom Steyer bought one for every member of Congress.)

Here's the thing. Prior to its publication, Donald Trump's attorneys sent a letter to both the author and the publisher of the book demanding that the publisher immediately cease and desist publishing, disseminating or releasing any portion of the book.

Only this week I received a letter from you outlining your support of the First Amendment, an amendment to our Constitution that, among other things, guarantees free speech - especially political speech.

Seeing that he's president and that this book is about the goings on inside the White House, how is it not protected by the First Amendment? Furthermore, how are any of Trump's demands that the book not be published or distributed not Unconstitutional?

All else aside, this is a chilling moment for the defense of the First Amendment, don't you think?  So I'll ask you again, which side are you on?

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

Follow-up: