What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 23, 2018

My FORTY-FIFTH 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."

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.)

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"). The Wall Street Journal has reported that she had an affair with Donald Trump a year or so after he married Melania Trump, the current first lady, and 4 months or so after the birth of their son Barron.

They've also reported that Trumps attorney, Michael Cohen, formed a shell company to funnel $130,000 to her just before the 2016 election in order to ensure her silence.

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?

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

Follow-up:

January 22, 2018

Meanwhile, Outside (Global Edition)

Each month around this time the climate scientists at NOAA issue a "State of the Climate" report for the previous month.

In January, however, they do an annual "State of the Climate" for the previous year.

Last year it got warmer outside.  From the report:
The monthly global land and ocean temperatures at the start of 2017 were extremely warm, with the first four months each ranking as the second warmest for their respective months, behind the record year 2016. Of particular note, the global land and ocean temperature for the month of March 2017 was 1.03°C (1.9°F) above the 20th century average—this marked the first time the monthly temperature departure from average surpasses 1.0°C (1.8°F) in the absence of an El Niño episode in the tropical Pacific Ocean. After reaching its peak monthly temperature departure from average in March, temperatures began to slowly decrease in magnitude, ranging between +0.73°C to +0.88°C (+1.31°F to +1.58°F). The remainder months ranked among the four warmest on record, giving way to 2017 becoming the third warmest year in NOAA's 138-year record. The 2017 average global temperature across land and ocean surface areas was 0.84°C (1.51°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), behind the record year 2016 (+0.94°C / +1.69°F) and 2015 (+0.90°C / +1.62°F; second warmest year on record) both influenced by a strong El Niño episode. The year 2017 is also the warmest year without an El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean. [Emphasis added.]
With the El Niño, 2017 was only the third warmest on record.

Yay.

The AP is reporting:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Kingdom’s meteorological office on Thursday announced that 2017 was the third hottest year on record. At the same time, NASA and researchers from a nonprofit in Berkeley, California, called it the second.

The agencies slightly differ because of how much they count an overheating Arctic, where there are gaps in the data.
Speaking of NASA, and the climate science they do - and the damage to that science by the Trump Administration - Space.com reported:
Four NASA Earth science missions will get axed if the Trump administration's 2018 federal budget request makes its way into law.

On the chopping block are the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite; the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) experiment; the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder; and the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).

Shortly after the November 2016 election, a Trump advisor said the president intends to eliminate NASA's climate-change research.
Meanwhile it's still getting warmer out there.

January 20, 2018

The Donald Trump/Jennifer Clifford/Ben Roethlisberger Story And How Far It's Gotten (so far)

Let's first look locally.

The P-G:
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is mentioned in a former adult film actress’s account of an alleged affair she had with Donald Trump in 2006, according to an interview transcript published Friday by “In Touch” magazine.

In recalling her affair with Mr. Trump, Stephanie Clifford — who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels — said she remembers meeting Mr. Roethlisberger at a hotel in Lake Tahoe, Nev., the night after she first had sex with Mr. Trump. She said Mr. Roethlisberger was “hanging out with” Mr. Trump, then a real estate businessman in town for a charity golf tournament.
You should probably read the interview. Ms Clifford comes off as a steady and reliable narrator for her time with Trump.  Julian Routh of the P-G quotes this paragraph from the transcript:
We hung out for a little while and he just kept saying, “I’m gonna call you, I’m gonna call you. I have to see you again. You’re amazing. We have to get you on [The Apprentice].” I ended up leaving and the next night I saw him again at a party. It was in the downstairs of the hotel I was in and he was hanging out with Ben Roethlisberger. When I got there, he was already with him. He had Keith, his bodyguard, call me and ask me if I was coming. When I got there, I called Keith and he told me where he was sitting and he brought me over. And he was hanging out with Ben for a long time. A couple other people around, nobody famous. Mostly people trying to hang on to them. Ben had just won the Super Bowl that year. Donald excused himself. He had to leave, I don’t remember why, and he made Ben promise to take care of me. I stayed another 15-20 minutes and Ben Roethlisberger actually walked me up to my room that night because Donald told him to. Yeah, he walked me all the way to my hotel room.
And for the record, that's the extent of Ben Roethlisberger's interaction with the happy temp-couple in that interview.

And the "Keith" in Ms Clifford's narrative? That would probably be Keith Schiller, Trump's then head of security.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, who's printed this story?
And so on.  These were all posted on January 19.

Do I really need to point out that I wrote about this on January 15?

There's one bit of dissonance between my blog post of the 15th and Clifford's interview. Clifford said that the dinner was just the two of them and in Trump's hotel room. I quoted the Smoking Gun with this:
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.
While in the interview says that she met Roethlisberger the next night, after the sex, when he walked her home.

So which is it?

My guess is that her response is closer to the truth than Mosny's - if only because Mosny's only relating what he remembers of what Clifford told him.  There's lotsa room in there for years-old memories to get skewed.

All that aside, NONE of the above news sources caught the fact that Ben played at least one round of golf with Trump at that tournament. Was it before or after the sex? Did they partake in any "locker room talk" on the links? Has Trump at any point then or since said to Roethlisberger, "Hey, you know that blonde porn star I got you to walk home that night? Yea, I banged her. Me, 60 years old and I'm banging a porn star."

Because you can totally see him bragging that.

Can someone please put a camera in Ben Roethlisberger's face and ask him what he knows about this?


January 19, 2018

Please Ask Your Trump-Loving Friends/Acquaintances About This.

This will be a follow-up to the "Donald And The Porn star" narrative.

From USAToday, we learn:
In Touch magazine has published a 7-year-old interview with a former porn star in which she goes into salacious details about an alleged extramarital affair with Donald Trump that only last week she claimed never took place.

Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, told the magazine in 2011 that the alleged sexual trysts with Trump began in July 2006 after she met him at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nev. The meeting and alleged affair came a year after the future president had married Melania Trump, his third wife.

“I actually don’t even remember why I did it but I do remember while we were having sex, I was like, ‘Please don’t try to pay me,’” Daniels said in the 2011 interview that the magazine only recently resurrected. “And then I remember thinking, ‘But I bet if he did, it would be a lot.'”

In the In Touch article, Daniels purportedly told the magazine that she and Trump had several more encounters over the next few years.
A few take-aways:
  • I think we can abandon the idea that the affair didn't happen. To assume Ms Clifford's recent denials are anything other than an effect of the non-disclosure agreement would be silly.
  • We've already discussed that golf tournament and the Pittsburgh connection to this story. Will someone please ask Ben Roethlisberger what he remembers about having dinner with Donald and the Porn Star?
  • This was not a one time thing.
Then there's this from Slate (channeling the Wall Street Journal):
Ever since former porn star Stormy Daniels’ alleged 2006 affair with Donald Trump became public last week, we, the public, have learned a great deal about the president’s sexual proclivities. It’s too much information to know about anyone, let alone the president, let alone when the president is Donald Trump. And to think, we almost made it without ever having to know about any of this at all! We were almost blissfully unaware because Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen went to great lengths not only to pay Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the affair just weeks before the 2016 election, but to cover his own tracks while doing so by setting up a private company in Delaware to funnel the payment through. That comes from the Wall Street Journal, which broke the original story of Trump’s affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. 
And this is what they took from the WSJ:
[Cohen] established Essential Consultants LLC, on Oct. 17, 2016, just before the 2016 presidential election, corporate documents show. Mr. Cohen, who is based in New York, then used a bank account linked to the entity to send the payment to the client-trust account of a lawyer representing the woman, Stephanie Clifford, one of the people said.
Delaware doesn’t require companies to publicly disclose the names of their managers… [O]n its formation documents, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Cohen listed himself as the “authorized person” for the company, rather than hiring a lawyer or an agent to serve in that role, which some company owners do to further obscure their identities. To further mask the identities of the people involved in the agreement, the parties used pseudonyms, with Ms. Clifford identified as “Peggy Peterson,” according to a person familiar with the matter.
Yea, tell me again about how Trump is a good man.

January 18, 2018

More Outrage Over John Block's Editorial

Here's one letter that the P-G published in the wake of Block's MLK/Racism - "So What?" editorial:
Since 1927, our family has been involved with the Post-Gazette, shaped primarily by the nearly six decades of William Block Sr.’s socially conscious leadership. Some of us knew him as “Dad,” some “Grandpa,” and some “Bill,” but we all knew him as a man whose dedication to excellence and generosity infused the newsroom culture at the paper. He was an advocate for civil rights and freedom of the press. He was both a publisher who listened to his editors and a constant — and accessible — presence. The editorial “Reason as Racism,” published on Martin Luther King Day, printed without the Post-Gazette editorial board’s consensus, and attempting to justify blatant racism, is a violation of that legacy.

We are so grateful that Bill never had to read it. It goes against everything he worked for and valued. Our family strives to continue embodying his values of social justice, respect and equality in our communities.

As shareholders and family members of the family that operates this newspaper, we are very mindful that Dr. King himself said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We do not condone the sentiments expressed in the piece. We do not condone the whitewashing of racism, nor the normalization of it. We cannot remain silent and by implication approve of the use of the Post-Gazette to provide cover for racism.
The letter's signed by more than a dozen people - more than a few with the last name of Block.

And now a letter that the P-G has refused to publish:
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union representing 150 reporters, photographers, copy editors, artists and other editorial employees at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is collectively appalled and crestfallen by the repugnant editorial “Reason as Racism.” As a matter of course, the Guild does not weigh in on editorial positions, but this piece is so extraordinary in its mindless, sycophantic embrace of racist values and outright bigotry espoused by this country’s President that we would be morally, journalistically, and humanly remiss not to speak out against it.

This editorial is a blight on the 231 years of service the Post-Gazette has provided its readers. Over its long life, it has railed against racism and supported civil rights and justice for all. Given this history, the shameful and unconscionable editorial that ran on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, of all days, is an abomination that cannot go without condemnation from journalists committed to fairness, accuracy and decency. To be clear, no member of the Newspaper Guild had anything to do with that editorial and we stand together in solidarity against the bigotry, hatred and divisiveness it engenders.

Our hope is that, like us, readers of the Post-Gazette will decry this lapse in promoting common decency, equal opportunity and justice across our great land and the world. This editorial and its sentiments solely represent the opinions of the Block family, owners of the Post-Gazette, and not their loyal employees who use our talents to fight against what this editorial stands for.
That's signed by the executive committee of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

As the editorial was first force-fed into the otherwise unsuspecting eyes of the Toledo-based news reading public, the president of the Newspaper Guild of Toledo has also made his thoughts public:
Let me add my own thought, (if not already obvious): the Block editorial was reprehensible on so many levels it's difficult to keep them straight.

So Donald's porn star romp will have to wait.

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...