What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 22, 2018

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

I'd like to as you about our new Director of Central Intelligence, Gina Haspel. You wrote on your Facebook page that you support her nomination. I'm curious about that support, considering how she oversaw a program that tortured someone. Reportedly, she was also involved in the destruction of video tapes showing other detainees at other CIA "black sites" being tortured. There was torture and then covering up torture - all overseen in one way or another by Gina Haspel.

The UN Convention Against Torture was signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the US Senate in 1994. It is US Law. It says that torture is illegal - no mitigating circumstances allowed. No one can claim to have been "simply following orders" No one can claim it was necessary in the face of an emergency. Torture is simply illegal and Gina Haspel oversaw a torture program.

So here's my question: Now that she's been installed as head of CIA, how could we as a nation possibly criticize any other country for whatever torture programs they might be running when our own Director of Central Intelligence oversaw (and covered up) just such a program?

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


May 20, 2018

Meanwhile Outside...

From the climate scientists at NOAA:
The global land and ocean temperature departure from average for April 2018 was the third highest for April in the NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date (January-April) global temperature was the fifth warmest such period in the 139-year record.
The April temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.49°F above the 20th century average of 56.7°F and the third highest for April in the 1880-2018 record. Only April 2016 (+1.94°F) and 2017 (+1.60°F) were warmer. Nine of the 10 warmest Aprils have occurred since 2005. April 2018 also marks the 42nd consecutive April and the 400th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.
Meanwhile from the Washington Post:
The news came on a Friday evening in late April last year: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had removed an informational website about climate change, taking down a page that had been up, in some form, for nearly two decades and under three presidents.

Before its removal, the page had plainly stated a position on climate change: It is caused by humans, and there’s no significant doubt about that. But that position contradicted statements by the new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who had expressed doubts about human activity being the dominant driver of climate change.

EPA said at the time that the site had been taken down for review and that it had been archived and was still available as part of a “snapshot” of the state of the site on Jan. 19, 2017, just as the new administration took command.
This is some of the information you can find from that archived site:
In general, climate changes prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s can be explained by natural causes, such as changes in solar energy, volcanic eruptions, and natural changes in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations.

Recent climate changes, however, cannot be explained by natural causes alone. Research indicates that natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.
And this:

On the other hand, on the Trump-era EPA page we see this:

The text immediately below it reads:
Thank you for your interest in this topic. We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt. If you're looking for an archived version of this page, you can find it on the January 19 snapshot.
And that leads you to the year old data.

It's still getting warmer out there regardless of the efforts of the science deniers in power who are actively blocking that information from you.

May 19, 2018

Toomey Time Round-Up! (Part The Fifth)

So far, I've written 61 letters to Pennsylvania's junior senator, Pat Toomey.  The first round up of letters can be found here. The second, here. The third, here. The fourth, here.

Today, it's time for a fifth.

Of letters 48 through 61, Senator Toomey (or his office) have so far answered only two:
And now, for your edification and amusement, here are the letters Senator Toomey has decided not to answer:
  • Forty-eighth - where I asked about the overall lack of security clearances among his advisors (including Jared Kushner) and wonder what his reaction would be if the same situation were to take place during a democratic administration.
  • Forty-ninth - where I asked about Trump's refusal to faithfully execute the law passed by Congress to sanction Russia for its election meddling.
  • Fifty-first - where I asked about a recent "joke" of Trump's. He "joked" about extending his term beyond the constitutionally limited two. I wondered to Senator Toomey what his reaction would be had a Democratic president made the same "joke."
  • Fifty-second - where I asked about another Trump attack on a free press.
  • Fifty-fourth - where I asked Toomey to comment on whether the $130,000 payoff to adult film star Stormy Daniels constituted an "in-kind" (and illegal) contribution to the Trump Campaign.
  • Fifty-fifth - where I asked Toomey to comment on the reaction of the business community to his tax-cut legislation. He said it would create new jobs and a report from the Atlanta Fed said it didn't.
  • Fifty-sixth - where I asked Toomey if he agreed with Trump regarding the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's offices - were they a disgrace, and a witch hunt as Trump said, or does he still have faith that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will do his job with "integrity and professionalism."
  • Fifty-seventh - where I asked Toomey if he supported Senator Lindsay Graham's legislation protecting Special Prosecutor Mueller if Trump sought to fire him.
  • Fifty-eighth - where I asked Toomey if he agreed with his Senate colleague Bob Corker when he, Corker, said, "any Republican senator who hasn't been conflicted over this presidency is either comatose or is pretty useless in their blindness."
  • Fifty-ninth -  where I asked Toomey about his reaction to his Senate colleague Marco Rubio's assertion that after the tax cut to big business, "there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.” 
  • Sixtieth -  where I asked about Trump's lies regarding the payoff to Stormy Daniels and whether the Senator was OK with the lies.
  • Sixty-first - where I asked about Trump's violation of "the Iran Deal" and how, in Toomey's eyes, it's made the world safer.
These are the questions that my senator has, so far, refused to answer.

May 15, 2018

My SIXTY-FIRST Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

I need to ask you about Donald Trump's decision to violate the JCPOA (a.k.a "The Iran Deal"). You posted on your website that you support the decision to withdraw (ie to violate) the agreement adding that the agreement "pav[ed] the way for Iran to develop nuclear weapons in a few short years" and "provided immediate sanctions relief and $100 billion" to Iran.

Let me start about the money. Isn't it true that the $100 billion in question is actually money from the sale of Iranian oil that the US Treasury had frozen in banks around the world? (Yes, it is.) And so aren't you (at the very least) misleading the public by using the verb "provided" rather than the more correct "returned"? It is their money, is it not? The verb "provided" seems to imply that the money was coming from someplace other than Iran itself.

And now the agreement itself. You said that the agreement paved the way for Iran to develop nukes in a few short years. But isn't it far more accurate to say that it stopped Iran from developing those weapons that quickly? It reduced Iran's capability of producing weapons grade uranium, reduced the number of advanced centrifuges and so on.

But now with those controls off, now Iran is capable of creating a nuclear weapon much more quickly, isn't that true?

So here's my question: How have you made the world safer? No, wait. I'll answer that one for you: You haven't.

But if you can comment on why you're misleading your voters about The Iran Deal, that'll be great. THANKS.

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


May 11, 2018

The New GOP - Even More Disgusting Than The Last

As far back as I can remember, I had always perceived a rather nasty narrative emanating from the conservative right in this country.

This goes at least as far back as Ronald Reagan's "Welfare Queen" homey anecdotes, I suppose. While she  was certainly a real person who committed real crimes, as Mark Levin wrote in Slate:
Linda Taylor, the haughty thief who drove her Cadillac to the public aid office, was the embodiment of a pernicious stereotype. With her story, Reagan marked millions of America’s poorest people as potential scoundrels and fostered the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be stamped out. This image of grand and rampant welfare fraud allowed Reagan to sell voters on his cuts to public assistance spending. The “welfare queen” became a convenient villain, a woman everyone could hate. She was a lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn.
By magnifying the reality, the GOP was able to redefine everyone on welfare as possibly or even probably a "lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn." With that they were able to assert that the welfare state, for the sake of those honest Americans, needs to be dismantled.

Never mind the real suffering such a dismantling based on a dishonest magnification of one person's crimes caused.

However disgusting that was, it's rather different from the current disgusting.

From The Hill:
A White House official mocked Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis at an internal meeting on Thursday, a day after the Arizona Republican announced his opposition to President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel.

Special assistant Kelly Sadler made the derisive comments during a closed-door White House meeting of about two-dozen communications staffers on Thursday morning.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, according to a source familiar with the remarks at the meeting.
And on Fox this happened:
Former Fox News military analyst Thomas McInerney on Thursday condemned Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) rebuke of President Trump's CIA director nominee Gina Haspel, saying that torture "worked on" McCain, whom he referred to as "Songbird John."
You can agree with Senator McCain's politics or not (and I definitely do not) but such open attitudes abound in Trump's GOP.

 And we all know where this comes from, right? Here:
Appearing on Saturday at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, the real estate mogul took his running feud with Arizona Sen. John McCain to a new level.

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
But even that wasn't exactly new to the disgusting GOP. Take a look at what I found back in 2008. The "Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain" called him a "songbird" ten years ago and the story had enough traction that Politifact had to address it - ten years ago.

Can we not take a lesson from Reagan's "Welfare Queen" anecdote and now safely assume that every Republican, unless they publicly denounce this current GOP disgusting narrative of Senator McCain, actually agrees with it? Can we not ask, every Republican to answer for it?

Yea, I think we can. And we should.

May 8, 2018

My SIXTIETH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

I'm sorry Senator but we have to hold our collective noses and wade back into the ever-steaming swamp of Donald Trump scandals.

A few days ago the NYTimes reported that Donald Trump knew about the $130K payoff to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford "months before he denied any knowledge of it to reporters aboard Air Force One in April." If true, that would mean he out and out lied in public when he said he didn't know about the payment.

In a tweet on May 3, Donald Trump acknowledged that the payments were done as "a monthly retainer" and that money was a reimbursement for those payments. If true that would mean Trump out and out lied in public about the source of the payments only a few seconds after lying about knowing about the payment to Ms Clifford.

So this week's question: Is ANY of this acceptable with you? If so, how much are you ok with? And if it's not acceptable with you when will you be denouncing the man you voted for in November 2016? And if it IS acceptable to you, for Heaven's sake, what WOULD it take for you to find Trump's behavior unacceptable?

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


May 6, 2018

Donald J Trump Lies. And Then Lies About Lying

This is May 4 - a few days ago - and this is the official transcript found at Whitehouse.gov:
Q    Mr. President, why did you change your story on Stormy Daniels?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m (We're) not changing any stories.  All I’m telling you is that this country is right now running so smooth.  And to be bringing up that kind of crap, and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time — that’s all you want to talk about.  You’re going to see —

Q    But you said —

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me —

Q    — on Air Force One that you did not know (anything about the payments).

THE PRESIDENT:  No, but you have to — excuse me.  You take a look at what I said.  You go back and take a look.  You’ll see what I said.

Q    You said, “No,” when I asked you, “Did you know about the payment?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me, you go take a look at what we said.  But this is a witch hunt like nobody has ever seen before.  And what they should do is look at the other side, where terribly bad things have happened, where terribly bad things have been done. (My minor corrections are in blue)
You can watch it for yourself:

And this is the conversation that reporter referenced.
Q    Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  No.  What else?

Q    Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.  Michael is my attorney.  And you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.

Q    Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I don’t know.  No.
In between there was this:
President Donald Trump said Thursday reimbursement to his personal lawyer for hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels was done through a monthly retainer and “had nothing to do with the campaign.”
And here's what Trump said in a series of tweets:
Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are...very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,...despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.
So the money was repaid by Trump via a retainer - so he did know.

So he lied and then lied about lying.