What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 23, 2017

Thanks, Senator Toomey! This Is YOUR Draft Legislation.

As much as I love to write about how Trump lied (or is still lying) about the "Comey tapes" I think a more important issue is how the GOP in the Senate plans to "fix" Obamacare.

From ConsumerReports, there's an analysis.  Under the headline there's this one sentence summary:
The Better Care Act would roll out more slowly than the House proposal, but funding cuts could be even more severe
And then they begin:
Republicans moved closer to their goal of replacing the Affordable Care Act Thursday, with Senate Republicans issuing a plan that significantly restricts access to Medicaid and eliminates billions of dollars in taxes for companies and higher-income people.

The plan was hatched in a matter of weeks by a small group of senators meeting in secret. In many key ways, it's similar to the American Health Care Act, passed by the House in May after several failed attempts.

Thursday’s legislation, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, gives the public—as well as senators who weren’t in on the discussions—the first detailed look at how the Senate proposes to amend the AHCA.
One of that "small group of senators" was Pennsylvania's own Pat Toomey. And yes, that's a pun, of sorts. He owns this. This is his work.  Back to what Toomey's work:
Medicaid expansion is phased out more slowly. Under the ACA, the Medicaid expansion brought health insurance to 14 million Americans who didn't previously qualify. The Senate pledges to continue to fund the expansion through 2021 and phase it out over three years. The House bill would have phased out and then stopped funding in 2020.

But funding for Medicaid is cut more drastically. Beyond the expansion, both the House and Senate legislation make fundamental changes to how the federal government pays for Medicaid, changes that have nothing to do with ACA provisions. But the Senate proposal would make even deeper cuts than the House plan. It would shrink the annual growth rate in federal funding to state Medicaid programs to align with consumer inflation—not medical inflation, which grows faster. [Bolding in original.]
And then there's this from President Obama:
The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions.
Cutting Medicaid. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Lotsa people will suffer while a few will have more money for a second luxury car.

It's mean and it's cruel and it came from the pen of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

Thanks, Pat!  We'll remember this day.

June 22, 2017

The Latest On Trump's (Alleged) Obstruction Of Justice

From Politico:
In an interview with POLITICO Wednesday in his Capitol office, [Republican senator Chuck] Grassley was the most definitive yet that his committee’s probe will examine issues of obstruction of justice.

“I don’t want to say for sure. But I don’t know how you can avoid it,” Grassley said regarding questions of obstruction of justice in his investigation. “Because the FBI was investigating it before there was a special counsel.”

The Iowa senator, who took charge of the Judiciary panel two years ago, has been hammering out the parameters of an investigation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on probing Comey’s dismissal, as well as potential political interference at the Justice Department under the Obama administration.

Grassley and Feinstein, along with two other key senators in the Russia probe, met with special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday.
Amber Phillips over at the Washington Post has a "cheat sheet" for the current Trump investigations:
  • A special counsel on Russia 
  • The FBI Investigation
  • Various congressional committees
Of that last point, she writes:
The House and Senate intelligence committees, which deal with some of the nation’s most well-kept secrets, are investigating Russia’s attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election and Trump associates’ connections to Russia.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees the federal government, is asking the FBI for Comey’s memos. So is the Senate Judiciary Committee.
How many days has the little-handed pussy-grabber been in office, anyway?

June 21, 2017

Meanwhile Outside...

From NOAA (the Climate Scientists left working for the science denier Trump):
Averaged as a whole, the global land and ocean temperature for May 2017 was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F) and the third highest May in the 138-year global records, behind 2016 (+0.89°C / +1.60°F) and 2015 (+0.86°C / +1.55°F). This was also the coolest monthly temperature departure from average since December 2016 (0.80°C / 1.44°F) and tied with April 2010, November 2013, and December 2014 as the 26th highest monthly global land and ocean temperature departure from average in the 1,649-monthly records. May 2017 also marks the 389th consecutive month with globally-average temperature nominally above the 20th century average. December 1984 was the last time a monthly temperature was below the 20th century average at -0.09°C (-0.16°F).
Globally, the average land and ocean surface temperature for March–May 2017 was the second highest such period since global temperature records began in 1880 at 0.92°C (1.66°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F) and behind 2016 by 0.15°C (0.27°F).
Meanwhile, from the White House, according to NYMag:
“For some reason or another,” says Vice-President Mike Pence, “this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world.” Might that reason be … a global scientific consensus that greenhouse-gas emissions pose a dire risk to humanity? Pence does not pause to consider it, instead moving on to the “burden” of Paris and how “refreshing” it is to finally have a president who stands up for American interests.

The Trump administration has been conspicuously silent on the question of climate science. When George Stephanopoulos asked Kellyanne Conway about Trump’s stance on climate change, she replied, “He believes in clean air, clean water, a clean environment.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer, asked whether the president still dismisses climate science as a Chinese hoax, said, “Honestly, I haven’t asked him.” EPA Director Scott Pruitt, himself a confirmed skeptic, refused to answer whether Trump believes in climate change. A White House official deflected the question by insisting, “I have not talked to the president about his personal views,” and then shut down follow-up questions as “off topic.”
Nevertheless, let me persist in saying that it's still getting warmer out there and that human activity significantly contributes to that warming - something, by the way, Senator Pat Toomey voted against..

June 20, 2017

My EIGHTEENTH 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 need to ask you again about the GOP's plans to appeal and replace Obamacare. Last week, I asked you why we, your constituents (and members of the American public), couldn't see the draft of the replacement you're working on. It seems that you and your party are planning on sliding it in for a vote with little or no public discussion.

This week, however, I'd like to draw your attention to some recent poll data by Kaiser Health. When they asked in May 2017, "As you may know, a health reform bill was signed into law in 2010. Given what you know about the health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it?" 49% of those polled (if I am reading it correctly) said they approved of the ACA with 42% opposed. Those numbers are more or less in line with the current (June 2017) data at Real Clear Politics.

Given that the public approves of Obamacare more than it opposes it, I'll ask it again, why are you drafting its replacement in secret?

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


June 19, 2017


By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

June 15, 2017

And So It Begins...Mueller Is Investigating Trump For Obstruction Of Justice

From The Washington Post:
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.
Officials said one of the exchanges of potential interest to Mueller took place on March 22, less than a week after Coats was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the nation’s top intelligence official.

Coats was attending a briefing at the White House with officials from several other government agencies. When the briefing ended, as The Washington Post previously reported, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Coats told associates that Trump had asked him whether Coats could intervene with Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials. Coats later told lawmakers that he never felt pressured to intervene.

A day or two after the March 22 meeting, Trump telephoned Coats and Rogers to separately ask them to issue public statements denying the existence of any evidence of coordination between his campaign and the Russian government.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the president’s requests, officials said.
If this wasn't serious before, it's certainly serious now.  From Paul Rosenzweig over at Lawfare:
What's the worst thing that happened to Donald Trump this week? It was NOT Director Comey's testimony. Rather, it must be the late Friday news that Robert Mueller has hired Michael Dreeben, on a part-time basis, to help with his investigation. Dreeben, a deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General, has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court. His specialty has, for the last 20 years, been criminal matters and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law. I once saw him argue a Supreme Court matter without a single note. In short, he is quite possibly the best criminal appellate lawyer in America (at least on the government's side). That Mueller has sought his assistance attests both to the seriousness of his effort and the depth of the intellectual bench he is building.
Rosenzweig is a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation so you know he's a lyin' lib'rul.

Also on Mueller's team, as reported by The Washington Post:
Mueller’s team includes Jeannie Rhee, a former deputy assistant attorney general and a partner in the investigations practice at WilmerHale, and Andrew Weissmann, the chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section who oversaw corruption investigations including the probe into cheating by Volkswagen on diesel emissions tests.

Mueller, who is working with a team of FBI agents, has also brought on Aaron Zebley, who was Mueller’s chief of staff when Mueller was FBI director, and James Quarles, who worked as an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and was also an attorney at WilmerHale.
And then Wired has this:
Also, while the Special Counsel’s office has yet to make any formal announcements about Mueller’s team, it appears he has recruited an experienced Justice Department trial attorney, Lisa Page, a little-known figure outside the halls of Main Justice but one whose résumé boasts intriguing hints about where Mueller’s Russia investigation might lead. Page has deep experience with money laundering and organized crime cases, including investigations where she’s partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest, Hungary, that focuses on eastern European organized crime. That Budapest task force helped put together the still-unfolding money laundering case against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, a one-time business partner of [Paul] Manafort.
And just think, it was only yesterday that we read that Senator Pat Toomey said of Donald Trump:
That's because nobody has found any evidence that suggests that he should be the subject of an investigation. So, yeah, this is just wildly overblown and fortunately most of us are not paying any attention.
My advice to you Senator, is that you probably can' say things like this anymore.

June 14, 2017

Senator Pat Toomey In The News - He's Covering For Donald Trump And It's REALLY Disappointing.

From CNN:
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said Tuesday called the investigation into possible collusion between members of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia "overblown" and said he isn't paying much attention to it.

"I have seen that (Sen.) Dianne Feinstein has stated to her credit -- liberal Democrat who has been on the intelligence committee for I don't know, for decades I think -- she has acknowledged that there is absolutely no evidence of any collusion anywhere," Toomey said on the Chris Stigall Show on WPHT radio. "(Sen.) Mark Warner has said, the Democrat from Virginia, has said the exact same thing. (Former FBI Director) James Comey told us at the hearing that the President himself is not the subject of investigation.

"That's because nobody has found any evidence that suggests that he should be the subject of an investigation. So, yeah, this is just wildly overblown and fortunately most of us are not paying any attention."
This is not exactly what one could call "accurate" is it?  Let's take the Senator Feinstein part first.

Senator Toomey says that she "acknowledged that there is absolutely no evidence of any collusion anywhere" but that's not exactly what she said.  She said on CNN that she hasn't seen any evidence that would establish collusion.  Not that there "absolutely isn't any." She's also depending on the Mueller investigation to find whatever is there.

In logical terms, Senator, that's a far cry from acknowledging that there "is absolutely no evidence...anywhere" doncha think?

So that's a lie, isn't it?

But is the Comey similarly innacurate?

Why yes, yes it is.  Take a look at this from Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:
It is true that Comey told Trump that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation was not targeting him personally at the time. But many portions of Comey’s testimony also indicated just how precarious that assurance was. Comey explained that his leadership team did not agree on whether they could even give Trump this assurance at all.
And Chait quotes this from Comey's testimony:
Wasn’t unanimous. One of the members of the leadership team had a view you that although it was technically true we did not have a counter-intelligence file case open on then President-elect Trump. His concern was because we’re looking at the potential, again, that’s the subject of the investigation, coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was President Trump, President-elect Trump’s campaign, this person’s view was inevitably his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work. And so he was reluctant to make the statement. I disagreed. I thought it was fair to say what was literally true.
And then Comey's expansion of the above:
And the leader had that view that didn’t change. His view was still that it was probably although literally true, his concern was it could be misleading, because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch, obviously it would touch, the campaign, and the person that headed the campaign would be the candidate, and so that was his view throughout.
Chait explains:
Comey used the word “technically” once, and “literally” twice, to describe the non-investigation of Trump. And he explained the reason for these caveats: The FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. Since Trump ran the Trump campaign, it seemed highly plausible that the investigation could and would eventually lead to Trump himself. [Italics in original.]
The "we're not investigating you" part was about the Steele dossier. Back to Comey's testimony:
I was briefing him about salacious and unverified material. It was in a context of that that he had a strong and defensive reaction about that not being true. My reading of it was it was important for me to assure him we were not person investigating him. So the context then was actually narrower, focused on what I just talked to him about. It was very important because it was, first, true, and second, I was worried very much about being in kind of a J. Edgar Hoover-type situation. I didn’t want him thinking I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way.
Look at all that's gone missing from Senator Pat Toomey's deceptive "Comey told us at the hearing that the President himself is not the subject of investigation."

The biggest part of Toomey's Trump cover?

It's this.  When Senator Cotton asked one very simple question:
Cotton: Do you think Donald Trump colluded with Russia?

Comey: That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an opening setting. As I said, when I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that will be answered by the investigation, I think.
Hey, isn't that basically was Senator Feinstein said? 

In any event, if the answer was a simple "no" why didn't he just say "no"? If the answer was "there's absolutely evidence of any collusion anywhere" why didn't he just say that instead of "I don’t think I should answer in an opening setting."?

Senator Pat Toomey is giving political cover to the little-handed pussy-grabber.

How disappointing, Senator.

June 13, 2017

My SEVENTEENTH 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."

In May, the New York Times reported that you were one of the dozen or so Senators making up Senator Mitch McConnell's health care working group - a group dedicated to writing the Senate's bill to replace Obamacare.

This week, Axios reported that the Senate, without making the bill public, will be sending it to the CBO for scoring and that no one knows when it will be made public. It was also reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will want it voted on before the July 4 recess. Given that it would take about two weeks for the CBO to analyze it and given that that leaves only about a week for the Senate (and the rest of us?) to look at it, I'd like to ask you: Why can't we, your constituents, see the bill you helped draft?

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


June 11, 2017

More Voter ID Shenanigans From The Tribune-Review

Let's take a break from the impending impeachment of the little-handed pussy-grabber and take a look at some more regular conservative disinformation, shall we?

Like this piece on today's Tribune-Review op-ed page:
The liberal narrative that voter fraud is a figment of conservatives' imagination took an illuminating turn in Virginia, where a voter-integrity group has documented 5,500 noncitizen registrants between 2011 and 2017. At least 1,852 of them cast ballots during that time.

One noncitizen said she voted in 14 different elections and wasn't removed from the voter rolls until she, herself, reported being a noncitizen, according to a new report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Based on the group's findings, the largest number of ineligible votes cast in a Virginia election were 1,065 in 2008, a presidential election year.
If you are fact-checking at home (and that's something I'd encourage EVERY citizen of EVERY political persuasion to do - especially now in the Age of Trump) the first thing to check is this "voter-integrity" group named the "Public Interest Legal Foundation."

Who are they? Who runs the shop? Do they do good work? And finally, is the Trib completely honest in calling them a "voter-integrity group"?

It's that last question where the Trib first trips up. This is how The Daily Signal describes the PILF in a piece on this exact report:
Virginia election officials removed thousands of voters from voter rolls between 2011 and May 2017, according to a conservative legal organization.

In a report released Tuesday, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group, found 5,556 voters were removed because they were noncitizens and that one-third of those removed voted illegally.[Emphasis added.]
And before you wonder whether The Daily Caller Signal is some biased left-wing "news" website, take a look at this from their "About" page:
More and more people are grabbing bites of news from mobile devices on the go—and they need a place where they can find digestible, trusted news on the most important policy debate of the day.

That’s why the Heritage Foundation team created a digital-first, multimedia news platform called The Daily Signal. [Emphasis added.]
So when The Daily Caller Signal says the PILF is a "conservative legal group", it's The Heritage Foundation talking.

So the first question you have to ask yourself right now is: Why doesn't the Tribune-Review editorial board want you to know that the PILF is conservative?  It's certainly ok for the (Scaife-funded) Heritage Foundation to say so, so why not the Trib?

Do they think that it'll negatively frame your opinion of the report?  Why would that be, exactly?

Now, let's look at whether the report can be trusted. At 24 pages, it's probably ill-advised to go page-by-page (I'd probably lose your interest at page 5 or so) so let's just look at one "astonishing" example.

This one, on page 17:
In one astonishing example, a non-citizen was invited to remain on the voter rolls even after he had informed election officials he was an alien.When William Leslie Gray registered to vote in 2007, he checked “yes” in response to the application’s citizenship question. In 2010, Mr. Gray renewed his driver’s license and on his application, he checked “no” to the citizenship question.

The inconsistencies in Mr. Gray’s answers alerted election officials that he might not be eligible to vote. His registration, however, was not cancelled. Instead, Mr. Gray was mailed an “Affirmation of Citizenship,” which asked Mr. Gray to affirm, subject to penalty of law, that he was a U.S. citizen. Mr. Gray signed the form and returned it. In May 2015, Mr. Gray’s voter registration was cancelled after election officials determined that he was, in fact, not a U.S. citizen. [Emphasis added. You'll see why in a few paragraphs.]
There's an end note that leads to Exhibit 13.  Take a look at the chronology here:
  • 02/12/2007 - Gray's driver's license application, where he checks the "yes" box
  • 02/18/2010 - Gray's renewal application, where he initials in the "no" box
  • 05/10/2010 - Gray's "Affirmation of Citizenship" form, where he declares he IS a citizen.
Now take a look at the internal notes and the chronology found there:

And what do we see?
  • 04/10/2010 - "Declared non-citizen cancelled" (this is AFTER Gray's license renewal form)
  • 05/17/2010 - "Returned Affirmation of Citizenship"
  • 05/18/2010 - "Reinstated"
  • 02/12/2015 - "Deceased"
Take a closer look at that chronology. So what happened in 2015? It clearly says that in 2015 William Gray is deceased (and that's what, presumably, gets him off the voter rolls - not any question of his citizenship). It also clearly states that he was reinstated Gray after they received his affirmation of citizenship.  The day after, in fact.

Now go back and look at how the report describes this paperwork.

This is the "astonishing example" they're using to prove non-citizens are voting in droves in Virginia. If such a big part of the report is so obviously wrong what does that say about the rest of it?

These are lies, plain and simple - it's hardly surprising they show up on the Trib's Op-Ed page.

UPDATE: I mislabeled The Daily Signal.  Sorry.

June 9, 2017

Dishonest Donald - Comey Testimony

Via the Washington Post:
“Although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me — and, more importantly, the FBI — by saying the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple.”
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey said. “It led me to believe that I gotta write it down, and I gotta write it down in a detailed way."
That last sentence came as a response to this question from Senator Warner:
I want to go through a number of the meetings that you referenced in your testimony, and let's start with the January 6th meeting in Trump Tower, where you went up with a series of officials to brief the President-elect on the Russia investigation. My understanding is you remained afterwards to brief him, on again, "Some personally sensitive aspects of the information you relayed." Now you said after that briefing you felt compelled to document that conversation that you actually started documenting it as soon as you got into the car.
January 6 was two weeks before Trump's inauguration.  Comey didn't trust Trump not to lie two weeks before Donald raised his tiny hand and took the Oath of Office.

How did Donald tweet respond this morning?

With this: 

He's evidently talking about Comey memo. It came up in his testimony when he was questioned by Senator Collins of Maine:
COLLINS: Okay. You mentioned that from your very first meeting with the president, you decided to write a memo memorializing the conversation. What was it about that very first meeting that made you write a memo when you have not done that with two previous presidents?

COMEY: As I said, a combination of things. A gut feeling is an important overlay, but the circumstances, that I was alone, the subject matter and the nature of the person I was interacting with and my read of that person. Yeah, and really just gut feel, laying on top of all of that, that this is going to be important to protect this organization, that I make records of this.

COLLINS: Finally, did you show copies of your memos to anyone outside of the department of justice?


COLLINS: And to whom did you show copies?

COMEY: I asked — the president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there's not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn't dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.
And Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri:
BLUNT: One, I thought the March 30th, very interesting, you said, well, even though you don't want — you may not want — that was 27th, where he said, why don't you look into that more? You said, you may not want that because we couldn't say with — we couldn't answer the question about you being a target of the investigation. You didn't seem to be answering that question anyhow. Senator Rubio pointed out the one unanswered, unleaked question seems to have been that. In this whole period of time. You said something earlier and I don't want to fail to follow up on, you said after dismissed, you gave information to a friend so that friend could get that information into the public media.

COMEY: Correct.

BLUNT: What kind of information was that? What kind of information did you give to a friend?

COMEY: That the — the Flynn conversation. The president had asked me to let the Flynn — forgetting my exact own words. But the conversation in the Oval Office.

BLUNT: So you didn't consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document. You considered it to be, somehow, your own personal document that you could share to the media as you wanted through a friend?

COMEY: Correct. I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I thought it important to get it out.

BLUNT: Were all your memos that you recorded on classified or other memos that might be yours as a private citizen?

COMEY: I'm not following the question.

BLUNT: You said you used classified —

COMEY: Not the classified documents. Unclassified. I don't have any of them anymore. I gave them to the special counsel. My view was that the content of those unclassified, memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.

BLUNT: So why didn't you give those to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party?

COMEY: Because I was weary the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach. If it was I who gave it to the media. I asked my friend, make sure this gets out.
Trump, again dishonestly, is accusing Comey of being a leaker. But look closer at the timeline.  This was after Comey was fired, after he evidently turned over all of the classified government files that he had in his possession ("I don't have any of them anymore.")

Who to believe?  Someone who has lied repeatedly to the American people or, basically, anyone else on the planet?

June 8, 2017

Comey Statement - Obstruction of Justice or Not?

First, read the statement.

It was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.

So who's saying it's enough for an Obstruction charge and who isn't?

Jeffrey Toobin, of CNN:
Jonathan Turley, at USAToday:
The release of former FBI director James Comey's testimony on Wednesday was received with the same breathless reactions that have long characterized coverage of the Russian investigation. CNN ran comments that the Comey testimony was nothing short of the Watergate tapes. The desire for some indictable or impeachable offense by President Trump has distorted the legal analysis to an alarming degree. Analysts seem far too thrilled by the possibility of a crime by Trump. The legal fact is that Comey's testimony does not establish a prima facie — or even a strong — case for obstruction.
Lawfare has a good legaleze-filled analysis.  It all depends, as I read it, on the definition of "proceeding" and whether there is one:
There’s been a lot of talk of obstruction of justice of late, and we’ve been part of it. In the three weeks since President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and two weeks since the New York Times bombshell report that Trump had asked Comey to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, many commentators have examined whether evidence of President Trump’s behavior currently in the public record amounts to a prima facie case of obstruction of justice. In several prior pieces on Lawfare, writers looked at the question of how big a problem President Trump has under the obstruction statute.

The U.S. Attorneys’ Manual breaks down the three elements of an obstruction charge: “(1) there was a proceeding pending before a department or agency of the United States; (2) the defendant knew of or had a reasonably founded belief that the proceeding was pending; and (3) the defendant corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which the proceeding was pending.”

Our previous analysis focused on the third, and seemingly most complex, element: whether Trump’s conduct qualified as an effort to influence, obstruct, or impede justice and whether there is evidence that he possessed the requisite mental state to do so “corruptly.” Indeed, we took the first two elements as a given: “Here, the first two elements are abundantly clear. Assuming the Times account is correct, there was clearly an investigation, and Trump clearly knew about it.”

Not so fast, as it turns out. That statement missed an important and complex question—and one that may actually shield President Trump from exposure under the obstruction statute (though not under the impeachment clauses): whether an FBI investigation even counts as a “pending proceeding” for purposes of the agency obstruction of justice statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1505.
On the other hand, it ends with this:
In other words, it’s perfectly possible that Trump’s conduct is not cognizable as a violation of § 1505 but that Congress regards it nonetheless as a gross abuse of power for purposes of the impeachment clauses. In its impeachment function, Congress may not care how courts have narrowly defined “proceeding” or how precisely the conduct at issue maps onto to any specific criminal statute. Notably, Richard Nixon’s articles of impeachment charged “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States [and] the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The articles cite no criminal statute at all.
So there's that.

June 7, 2017

This Is Not Surprising (Eric Trump Funnelled Charity Money To Dad)

This from some ultra-lib'rul snot-rag called Forbes.com:
LIKE AUTUMN LEAVES, sponsored Cadillacs, Ferraris and Maseratis descend on the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, in September for the Eric Trump Foundation golf invitational. Year after year, the formula is consistent: 18 holes of perfectly trimmed fairways with a dose of Trumpian tackiness, including Hooters waitresses and cigar spreads, followed by a clubhouse dinner, dates encouraged. The crowd leans toward real estate insiders, family friends and C-list celebrities, such as former baseball slugger Darryl Strawberry and reality housewife (and bankruptcy-fraud felon) Teresa Giudice.

The real star of the day is Eric Trump, the president's second son and now the co-head of the Trump Organization, who has hosted this event for ten years on behalf of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. He's done a ton of good: To date, he's directed more than $11 million there, the vast majority of it via this annual golf event. He has also helped raise another $5 million through events with other organizations.

The best part about all this, according to Eric Trump, is the charity's efficiency: Because he can get his family's golf course for free and have most of the other costs donated, virtually all the money contributed will go toward helping kids with cancer. "We get to use our assets 100% free of charge," Trump tells Forbes.
The next sentence says it all in it's Trumpian-glory:
That's not the case.
Early on, it was so. But by 2011 (if I am reading the piece right) the board of the Eric Trump foundation was overweighed by people whose finances were intertwined with Donald Trump's. At that point, the son's charity was paying for the privilege of playing at the father's golf course.

But look at what happened during the transition:
At first the extra bills did not cost the Eric Trump Foundation anything. Shortly before the spike in costs, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation--a gift explicitly made, according to Gillule, to offset the increased budget. Thus, the Eric Trump donors were still seeing their money go to work for kids along the same lines as previous years.

The Eric Trump Foundation declined to comment on that donation. In effect, though, this maneuver would appear to have more in common with a drug cartel's money-laundering operation than a charity's best-practices textbook. That $100,000 in outside donations to the Donald J. Trump Foundation (remember: Trump himself didn't give to his own foundation at this time) passed through the Eric Trump Foundation--and wound up in the coffers of Donald Trump's private businesses.
So let's follow the money.  At some point, someone donated some cash to the Donald J. Trump foundation thinking that it would go to some good use.  The Donald foundation then turned around and donated 100 large to the Eric Trump Foundation to cover the latter's cost of using Donald's golf course.  The golf course would then then get reimbursed that amount for the use of said golf course and the money would go into (now wait for it) Donald J Trump's deep and dirty pockets.

But that was just the beginning.

THE COSTS FOR ERIC'S golf tournament quickly escalated. After returning, in 2012, to a more modest $59,000--while the event brought in a record $2 million--the listed costs exploded to $230,000 in 2013, $242,000 in 2014 and finally $322,000 in 2015 (the most recent on record, held just as Trump was ratcheting up his presidential campaign), according to IRS filings. This even though the amount raised at these events, in fact, never reached that 2012 high.
Trump the father was charging Trump the son for lots and lots of stuff related (and perhaps not related) to this charity event. Charity money funneled to the Trump Organization.

It's not personal, Sonny.  It's strictly business.

June 6, 2017

My SIXTEENTH 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."

In light of Donald Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Paris Accord this past week, I'd like to ask you about your position on Climate Science. Specifically whether you agree or disagree with this statement:
Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.
That was from a letter sent to all United States Senators in October, 2009 but since you weren't elected Senator until 2010 you may not have seen it and it was signed by representatives of eighteen leading science organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Meteorological Society.

I just want to know if you agree with it.  A simple yes or no is all that's necessary.

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


June 4, 2017

Senator Pat Toomey's "Gov't Austerity" Meeting At A Luxury Resort.

In case you missed it, Lesley Clark of McClatchy reported:
The day President Donald Trump proposed dramatic cuts to government programs, 10 of Congress’ most passionate, relentless budget-cutters were gathering to talk about ways to promote government austerity. At The Breakers, the ultra-plush Palm Beach, Florida, resort.

The Republican congressmen stayed in hotel rooms marked down to $495 from the customary $810 nightly rate. Several brought along their spouses. They participated in panel discussions for several hours, but many stayed through the weekend at the oceanfront resort that promises “unapologetic luxury, seaside glamour and world-class service.”

Picking up the tab for the congressmen’s travel, lodging and food was the conservative Club for Growth, which has been unsparing in pushing for a leaner government. The day the club’s three-day annual winter economic conference began in March, club president David McIntosh praised the White House’s budget proposal for beginning “the much-needed work of making major cuts in agencies like the EPA, and ending the waste of taxpayer dollars that are being poured into things like federally-funded TV and radio.
Eight House members and two senators – all Republican – filed travel disclosure forms with the House and Senate for the trip, registering the cost between $1,995 and $3,256. They included Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, along with House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Rod Blum of Iowa, Justin Amash of Michigan, John Ratcliffe of Texas, and Andy Biggs and David Schweikert of Arizona.
So Senator Pat Toomey attended a three day long event held at an "ultra-plush" Palm Beach Florida resort - with Pat's former organization, the Club for Growth picking up the tab for his travel, lodging and food expenses.

The Breakers, by the way, is one fancy schmancy place.

But back to that meeting, when did this happen and for how much?

According to this form from Legistorm (sub. req), it was March 17-19 and the expenses (for Pat and his wife) totaled about $2,627.

I have to point out, though, something that Clark includes in her reporting:
The trips were legal, involved no taxpayer dollars and were cleared, in the case of the House, by its Ethics Committee. Still, such retreats have long drawn the ire of government watchdog groups, which point to them as examples of well-connected groups that look to sway politicians with perks.[Emphasis added.]
It's all about access - and in the case of the Club and our Senator, we're talking a lot of access. From McClatchy:
Most of the attendees agreed with the Club for Growth’s take on government spending. Toomey, who received $400,000 in campaign contributions from the group in 2016, lauded Trump for looking to boost military spending and said that “after years of overspending” he was encouraged that Trump was proposing cuts to non-defense spending. [Emphasis added.]
There is an interesting detail to be dug out of the disclosure form:

Take a look in the "Meal Expenses" column. Since it's a good faith estimate from Toomey we'll give him the benefit of the doubt about the amount - $320 each for two evening meals.

But doesn't that mean that (if we average out the amounts) each had a $160 meal on each night that weekend?  All paid for by the Club for Growth? Who eats a dinner that cost $160?

So let me ask my friends in the "Tuesdays with Toomey" (and everyone else) a question or two: What were YOU doing that weekend?  What were you YOU doing the weekend Pat Toomey, your Senator, was giving this 45 minute speech?

And then had an otherwise "Club for Growth" weekend, at a resort in Palm Beach Florida - with his travel, food and lodging all paid for by Club for Growth? While YOU were calling his office looking to talk to him about the issues that most concern you about Pennsylvania , Pat Toomey was eating $160 meals that someone else paid for at a resort in Palm Beach Florida.

One final question for every Pennsylvanian reading this: Who does Pat Toomey really represent in the US Senate?

June 3, 2017

Saturday, June 3

From Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's personal webpage:
“March for Truth: Pittsburgh Says Yes to Paris”
When: Saturday, June 3, 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM (the Mayor will speak around 11:30 AM @ Market Square)
Where: Starts at City-County Building Portico, 414 Grant St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, with a march to Market Square (intersection of Forbes Ave & Market St) for main speeches
Sponsors: Indivisible Pittsburgh and the Women’s March of Pittsburgh
Facebook Event Page: Here
After Donald Trump, in his speech explaining his Paris withdrawal, said “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” (As if the Paris Accord was just about the climate in and around Paris - Trump never fails to show that he's stupider than we already think he is), Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto issued this statement:
President Trump’s decision is disastrous for our planet, for cities such as Pittsburgh, to the commitments the United States made to the rest of the world, and to our responsibility to save the globe for future generations.

The President has made America weaker, and the world less safe.

I’m appalled that the President used my city to justify his unacceptable decision, as most other Pittsburghers are. I was one of the nation’s mayors who went to Paris to fight for the accords, and my city, which has finally bounced back from decades of industrial carnage, will do all it can to promote its own environmental standards.

I know cities around the nation and the world will do the same. This is not over.

In Pittsburgh, we’ve rebuilt our economy on the future and our people, not on the past.

We are improving the efficiency of buildings; using smart infrastructure to reduce emissions; supporting new mobility solutions like bike share, bus rapid transit, and shared rides to reduce our reliance on personal automobiles; and has world class innovation happening by the likes of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and many industry partners.

Pittsburgh is the example of why the Paris agreement is good for economic development: such work is good for business too. Thirteen thousand Pittsburghers are employed in the renewable energy industry, and sixty-six thousand across Pennsylvania, and renewable jobs are the largest employer in the energy industry.

Further, Pittsburgh and other cities know that fighting climate change will not only save our planet, but save lives. Pittsburgh has been engaged in resilience planning since 2015 and climate change and extreme weather were identified as the number one shock facing us.

Fighting for the Paris accords is my duty, and that of mayors across the United States, who are standing together in defiance of President Trump’s reckless decision. If you are a mayor and not addressing shifts in changing weather patterns or preparing for the impacts of climate change you aren’t doing your job. What is our job is preparing our cities for the future, and building opportunities and productive and safe lives for those we serve.
Truth matters.

Science matters.

The Planet is warming up and human beings are to blame.

The truth matters.

June 2, 2017

Trump's Climate Withdrawal: What The Fact-Checkers Say

So 97% of climate scientists say the planet is warming up and humans are to blame and yet Donald Trump clings to the sliver of scientists (and "scientists") who say otherwise.

Now nearly 200 of the planet's countries have signed on to the Paris Accords and yet Donald Trump pulls out of the agreement joining the only other two non-signers: Syria and Nicaragua.

Since Syria's in the midst of a horrendous civil war and Nicaragua said the Paris Agreement didn't go far enough, we can only assume it's Trumps utter stupidity that drove his decision.

But what do the factcheckers say?
  • Politifact:
    Trump "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. I promised I would exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve America's interests."

    Invoking the city of Pittsburgh, Pa., has a certain irony, because the city voted overwhelmingly for Trump's rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    Clinton won almost 60 percent of the vote in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. The percentage was even higher in many precincts within the city of Pittsburgh itself. (Allegheny County includes a range of suburbs in addition to the city.)
  • Factcheck:
    In announcing that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a global accord aimed at addressing climate change, President Donald Trump made more than a few false and misleading claims.

    For example:
    In listing his reasons why the U.S. should pull out of the Paris climate agreement, Trump claimed that the U.S. would be exposed to “massive legal liability if we stay in.” But international environmental law experts say that that is not true.

    Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, told us Trump is wrong. He said the U.S. actually may be more exposed to lawsuits if it withdraws from the agreement.

    “Withdrawal may actually create a greater likelihood of success in lawsuits challenging government inaction,” Burger told us. “So not only is he wrong, he actually has it backwards.”
  • The AP:
    An AP Fact Check finds holes in President Donald Trump's reasoning for pulling the U.S. out of a landmark international agreement on fighting climate change.

    The White House says the Paris accord would "effectively decapitate" the American coal industry. Yet the industry has been in decline for many years, and the primary cause is competition from natural gas.

    Trump also cited a study as evidence the agreement would cost millions of American jobs. He didn't say the study was paid for by two groups that are opposed to environmental regulations. And they receive backing from those who profit from the continued use of fossil fuels.

    The White House portrays the impact of the accord on the Earth's climate as negligible. But an expert says that's based on an outdated report.
  • More AP:
    WHITE HOUSE: “According to a study by NERA Consulting, meeting the Obama administration’s requirements in the Paris Accord would cost the U.S. economy nearly $3 trillion over the next several decades. By 2040, our economy would lose 6.5 million industrial sector jobs — including 3.1 million manufacturing sector jobs.”

    THE FACTS: This study was paid for by two groups that have long opposed environmental regulation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation. Both get financial backing from those who profit from the continued burning of fossil fuels. The latter group has received money from foundations controlled by the Koch brothers, whose company owns refineries and more than 4,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines.

    The study makes worst-case assumptions that may inflate the cost of meeting U.S. targets under the Paris accord while largely ignoring the economic benefits to U.S. businesses from building and operating renewable energy projects.

    Academic studies have found that increased environmental regulation doesn’t actually have much impact on employment. Jobs lost at polluting companies tend to be offset by new jobs in green technology.

    WHITE HOUSE, citing a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “If all member nations met their obligations, the impact on the climate would be negligible,” curbing temperature rise by “less than .2 degrees Celsius in 2100.”

    THE FACTS: The MIT programmer who wrote the report says the administration is citing an outdated version, taken out of context. Jake Jacoby said the actual global impact of meeting targets under the Paris accord would be to curb rising temperatures by 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

    “They found a number that made the point they want to make,” Jacoby said. “It’s kind of a debate trick.”

    One degree may not sound like much, but Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute in Germany, says: “Every tenth of a degree increases the number of unprecedented extreme weather events considerably.”
But this is the alternative-facts administration, where no actual facts have much meaning.


June 1, 2017

Kathy Griffin Did Something Very Stupid.

I won't bother with the video. But we've all seen it by now. So there's really no point.

In case you wanted to see it, TMZ had the story first and they have a photo.

It was a stupid attempt at a joke.  And considering it's a visual image of an act of violence against someone under Secret Service protection (and that would be Donald Trump, doncha know), it will be triggering (if it hasn't already) a formal investigation by the Secret Service.

Threatening the life of the President of the United States is a felony.

Griffin has since apologized, saying "I went too far."

CNN has cut ties with her so we won't get to see her faux-flirt with Anderson Cooper on New Year's Eve (a moot point for me as I am usually asleep by then).

It'll probably take a long time for her to resuscitate her career (if ever). But look, she did a stupid and now she's paying the price. Whether it was illegal depends on whether she intended to cause harm to Trump, I suppose.

The outrage on the right does nothing, however, except to illustrate their obvious hypocrisy.

Take a look at this. Trump's son, Donald Jr asked, rhetorically, "Imagine a conservative did this to Obama as POTUS?"

Well, we don't have to imagine.  Take a look at this from The Atlantic:
Ted Nugent -- the proud gun-owner, poorly coiffed Michigander, and washed-up rocker -- has said some silly and offensive things in the past, and not just while performing "Cat Scratch Fever." In 2007, he said the following during a concert: "Obama, he's a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary [Clinton], you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch." So that's his level of political discourse. Of course, he seems to be speaking figuratively if distastefully. But he made another rather appalling statement over the weekend at the NRA convention in St. Louis:
If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either be dead or in jail by this time next year.
He also recommends decapitating Democrats: "We need to ride onto that battlefield and chop their heads off in November." (The folks brandishing rifles in the background of the video above add another element of surrealism to the proceeding.)
When did The Nuge apologize? Did I miss it? Did he get fired from ANY gig for threatening Obama and Clinton and EVERY CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRAT?

Nah, Ten Nugent got to have dinner with Trump at The White House.

May 31, 2017

Arrest Jared Kushner. Now.

Some endnotes:
  • US Code 794
  • Washington Post report on Kushner "back channel" 
  • NYTimes report on Kushner Syria cover story
  • AP report on Kushner/Flynn "back channel" cover story
  • NY Times report on Kushner's incomplete SF86 forms
  • Reuters report on Kushner's undisclosed contacts with Russian banks 
  • NBC report on Kushner's meeting with "Putin crony"
And that's just from the first half the video.

Arrest Jared Kushner now.

May 30, 2017

My FIFTEENTH 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."

This week's line of questioning will have to be about Jared Kushner, presidential son-in-law and presidential senior advisor.

As I am sure you probably already know, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement back in October, 2016 saying that "The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations."

And last month, the New York Times reported that Jared Kushner failed to disclose meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in his request for a top-secret security clearance, even though he was required to do so.

And then this past week, the Washington Post reported that Kushner and Kislyak discussed the possibility of setting up a secret line of communication between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin - a move that would have put those communications out of reach of the same US Intelligence services that reported that the Russian Government directed the hacking of those emails in the first place.

In fact the only reason to do that would be to hide that line of communication from the US Intelligence and law enforcement communities.

This threat to our nation's security concerns me a great deal.

So my question: Does it concern you that a Senior Advisor to the President Of The United States both failed to disclose his meetings with the Russian Ambassador and sought a secret back channel to the Kremlin? If so, what are you doing about it, and if not, why the heck not?

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


May 29, 2017

Horray For Science!

Since the anti-science crowd in the GOP and elsewhere have been doing their best to undermine science and reason (see Climate Change and Evolution for a start) let's look back at an event that actually verified science - for example today in 1919.

What happened today

A solar eclipse - and it was yuge.

But why is this important?  Why is an eclipse that took place almost exactly a century ago have any relevance today?

Because it was the first verification of Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Part of the General Theory predicts how much matter bends space.   This eclipse was designed to see if Einstein was correct about how much gravity bent space or if Newton was correct.

From Wired:
Sir Frank Watson Dyson, Astronomer Royal of Britain, conceived in 1917 the perfect experiment to resolve the issue. A total solar eclipse on May 29, 1919, would occur just as the sun was crossing the bright Hyades star cluster. Dyson realized that the light from the stars would have to pass through the sun’s gravitational field on its way to Earth, yet would be visible due to the darkness of the eclipse. This would allow accurate measurements of the stars’ gravity-shifted positions in the sky.

Eddington, who led the experiment, first measured the “true” positions of the stars during January and February 1919. Then in May he went to the remote island of Príncipe (in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa) to measure the stars’ positions during the eclipse, as viewed through the sun’s gravitational lens.

Eddington also sent a group of astronomers to take measurements from Sobral, Brazil, in case the eclipse was blocked by clouds over Príncipe. Outfitting and transporting the dual expeditions were no small feats in the days before transoceanic airplanes and instantaneous global communication.
From Headstuff:
Dyson presented the main results at a special meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Society of London on 6th November, 1919. Crommelin’s results from Sobral, with measurements from seven stars in good visibility, gave the deflection as 1.98(+/-) 0.16 arc seconds. Eddington’s results from Principe were less convincing. Measurements were taken from only five stars and due to the bad weather conditions the error was much larger. Nevertheless, they still had a result of 1.61 (+/-) 0.40 arc seconds. Both results were within two standard errors of Einstein’s predicted value of 1.74 and both were also more than two standard errors away from either zero or the Newtonian value of 0.87 arc seconds.
These results have been confirmed a number of times since:
After this monumental expedition many more went on to cement Einstein’s theory. In 1922 another eclipse, viewed from Australia, produced scores of measured angles of deflection and had much more convincing statistical data. The standard error however was still of a similar size, around 0.20 arc seconds. Measuring the deflected light rays in this manner, using optical telescopes, continued into the 1950s but never increased much in accuracy. This is due to the difficulties in observing stars through our atmosphere.
Ever since, Einstein's theory (and remember it's "just a theory") has been confirmed by experimental data. 

It's true - horray for science!

May 26, 2017

Meanwhile Outside...

Enjoy the science while you can, my friends.  Science (the magazine) is reporting that Donald Trump's proposed budget would do some damage to NOAA:
The request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would drastically cut into the agency's climate research, shuttering a host of labs and programs. The agency released a detailed guide to these proposed cuts today—and described the programs on the chopping block in glowing terms that seemed to emphasize their value even as it proposed their elimination.

NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), one of the agency's primary research arms, would see its budget drop by 22%, from $514 million to $400 million, under the proposal. Despite these cuts, the proposal reads, the office would continue to "provide robust science that is instrumental to preventing the loss of human life, managing natural resources, and maintaining a strong economy."
Of course not researching the climate will ultimately change the climate - or at least make us see it more clearly, right?  I mean it just makes alternative-factual sense, right? 

Anyway, here's what the science says about April:
The combined global average temperature over the land and ocean surfaces for April 2017 was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F)—the second highest April temperature since global records began in 1880, trailing 2016 by 0.17°C (0.31°F) and ahead of 2010 by 0.0.7°C (0.13°F). April 2017 also marks the 388th consecutive month that the globally-averaged temperature across the world's land and ocean surfaces was nominally above the 20th century average. December 1984 was the last time a monthly temperature was below average at -0.09°C (-0.16°F). Overall, April 2017 tied with March 2015, August 2016, and January 2017 as the 12th highest monthly global land and ocean temperature departure from average on record (1,648 monthly records).
And then the year-to-date:
The global land and ocean surface temperature during January–April 2017 was 0.95°C (1.71°F) above the 20th century average of 12.6°C (54.8°F). This was the second highest such period since records began in 1880, behind 2016 by 0.19°C (0.34°F) and ahead of 2015 by 0.10°C (0.18°F).
This has happened and will keep happening regardless of how many non-scientists Trump installs at the EPA or how much his proposed budgets ignore the truth.

But in Trump's post-modern world, if the science isn't telling us what we want to hear, we call it a hoax, defund it, and then in or collective ignorance declare victory because no one will have any actual data to refute our alternative facts.

May 25, 2017

HR 1628 - The CBO Report Is Out

The Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) has issued its report on HR1628, (a.k.a. the "American Health Care Act of 2017").

And this is what the CBO said:
CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under H.R. 1628 than under current law. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. In 2026, an estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law. Under the legislation, a few million of those people would use tax credits to purchase policies that would not cover major medical risks.
23 million Americans without health care coverage.  But, Slate adds:
On the bright side, some people would get cheaper coverage with fewer benefits—which is great for young, healthy men in particular—and gutting Medicaid and reducing spending on insurance subsidies would cut the deficit by about $119 billion. So there's that.
But details, details. How would this work?  CNN reports:
The legislation that ultimately passed would allow states to waive two key Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Insurers in these states would be allowed to charge higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions if they let their coverage lapse. Carriers would also be allowed to offer skimpier plans that would have lower premiums, but not cover as many benefits. But lawmakers also allocated additional money to a stability fund to help states cover high-cost enrollees.
That last sentence is the measly $8 billion in the Upton Amendment.  About that $8 billion, Slate says:
It makes short work of the Upton Amendment, writing that though it pushes down costs as intended, the effect “would be small because the funding would not be sufficient to substantially reduce the large increases in premiums for high-cost enrollees.” In other words, it's barely worth talking about.
 And on the MacArthur Amendment, Slate says:
The number-crunchers spend much more time on the MacArthur Amendment, since it could fundamentally reshape how insurance is sold in some states. The report estimates that half of the country would live in places where lawmakers would choose to keep all of Obamacare's rules. There, premiums would be a mere 4 percent lower by 2024, largely because the AHCA's basic structure would tend to price older Americans out of the insurance market and draw in younger customers, who pay less for their coverage. Another third live in states that would nix many of the essential health benefits Obamacare now guarantees, such as maternity and mental health care. Those places would see a 20 percent drop in premiums by 2026 compared to current law, “primarily because, on average, insurance policies would provide fewer benefits.” However, not everyone would benefit equally. “The reductions for younger people would be substantially larger and those for older people substantially smaller,” the CBO nots. People who needed more extensive medical care would also have to pay more out of pocket.

Finally, the CBO thinks that about one in six Americans live in states that would drop both the essential health benefit and community rating rules. This would create significantly cheaper insurance for people with few health care needs, while leaving the sick to pay “extremely high premiums” that would “rapidly rise” over time. Technically, insurers would still be required to sell to people with pre-existing conditions, and could only raise prices for those who have gaps in their insurance market. But for reasons previously spelled out well by analysts at Brookings, the CBO still thinks the markets in those states would bifurcate—one with cheap insurance for the healthy, and another with wildly expensive coverage for the ill.
So for those who don't need insurance, it's cheaper and easier.  For those who do, it's more expensive (perhaps too expensive) to keep - and you're on your own.

And this is what all these Pennsylvania Republicans voted for:
I wonder how many of their constituents they're screwing over in order for their wealthier, healthier voters to save a few bucks?