What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 15, 2019

VIDEO Of John Robinson Block's Newsroom Outburst

WTAE's Beau Berman has posted some video:

Meanwhile, Block Communication Incorporated was quoted at the Washington Post last night:
In a statement sent late on Thursday, Block Communications said the union’s depiction of Saturday night’s confrontation was incorrect. “Last Saturday evening, the Publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette expressed his frustration to the newsroom staff about several issues of concern to him. We have conducted a review of all information available, and we disagree with the characterization of Saturday evening’s events as expressed by the Newspaper Guild. No one in the newsroom was physically threatened contrary to published reports ... The Publisher expresses his sincere regrets over his conduct that evening and did not intend his actions to upset anyone.”
You can read the entire statement, along with Jonathan Silver's response:
Via the tweet thread, it's evident that there's more video.

If I can find it, I'll post it.

February 14, 2019

More On John Robinson Block's Newsroom Behavior

There are times when a blogger just has to get out of the frickin' way.

The story has made it to The Washington Post:
At the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, tensions have run hot for years between the newsroom and the daily’s publisher, John Robinson Block. The journalists’ union hasn’t had a contract for nearly two years, and Block has overseen the contentious firing of an anti-Trump cartoonist and the publication of a hotly debated editorial that defended President Trump’s offensive language toward immigrants.

The relationship is so sour that the union recently put up a “Shame on the Blocks!” poster in the newsroom. That message, the paper’s staffers now say, sparked a late-night outburst from Block on Saturday so disturbing that the union has filed a federal labor complaint and some reporters have refused to return to work out of fear.

After Block’s brother, with whom he runs the company, defended his actions as “an unfortunate exchange with employees” driven by financial worries, the union on Wednesday released four witness statements from staffers who witnessed the tirade. They describe the publisher as “intoxicated,” and say he threatened to fire employees, while roughly handling his weeping 12-year-old daughter who was trying to escape the scene.
The four witness statements can be found here.

This happened yesterday:
Publisher John Robinson Block, with Keith Burris as his escort, has just entered the newsroom for the first time since Saturday night. He has not issued an apology for his conduct. He seems oblivious to the fallout of his actions.
Go read the whole thing.

February 13, 2019

John Robinson Block - A Follow-Up

There's been some new news regarding John Robinson Block's behavior this past weekend at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

But first an answer to one of my questions from my previous posting.

I asked:
Um, if Block and the pre-teen were "sent on [their] way" in an Uber, how did they get from the Duquesne Club to the P-G? And why couldn't they just leave the same way?
It's a tiny point, I realize, but if they had dinner at the Duquesne Club, I wondered how they got to the P-G on the north shore? Did they drive? Was his car still there? And so on. A source tells me that they (Block and the pre-teen) arrived via Uber. And they left via an Uber. That mystery solved.

Let's move on.

I am also told that Block was indeed drunk - so it's a good thing, I suppose, that they traveled by Uber - the alcohol-fueled family dysfunction notwithstanding.

Another astute reader emailed me Jonathan Silver's letter to the members of the Newspaper Guild.

Here are some excerpts:
Around 10 p.m. Block brought his daughter to the North Shore after having dinner with her at the Duquesne Club. He apparently wanted to force her to have her picture taken in front of the “Shame on the Blocks!” sign. His stated goal was to have the picture published on our front page. Block ranted about the sign and how its sentiment is now part of the family's legacy. He lamented the several hundred million dollars he said the Blocks have lost on the Post-Gazette over the years and criticized the Guild for trying to take money out of the family's pockets. He also made classist comments that distinguished between wealthy people like him and the working class -- ie. us.
This is the sign:

By the way, according to Wynne Everett, Deputy Editorial Page editor over at the Block Owned Toledo Blade,
From WESA:
The newspaper company agreed to pay health-care premium increases of up to 5 percent per year in the contract that expired in 2017. Federal labor law requires companies to maintain current pay and benefits during contract negotiations, which have been ongoing at the Post-Gazette for the last 21 months.

Health-care costs went up 5 percent in 2018, which the company did not pay, and told unions that it has no plans to pay the additional 5 percent increase in 2019.
Just so you know how a drunken Block defines "take money out of the family's wallet."

Back to the Silver letter:
After a time, Sally and Steve were able to isolate JR in the Crystal Palace, calm him down and comfort his terrorized daughter -- the most unfortunate and innocent victim in all of this. Much credit goes to night web editor Marianne Mizera, who kept her head and, along with Tim, did what she could to intervene on behalf of the terrified girl, who was understandably beyond distressed about her father’s bizarre and menacing behavior. Block wrested the girl's phone away so she could not contact her mother, who was said to be out of town, and tried to manhandle her into posing for a picture in front of the sign as she was crying, protesting and pleading.
The "Crystal Palace" by the way is the in-house name for the boardroom where the editorial meetings take place. It's at this point the Blocks were loaded into an Uber and sent on their way.

And then finally this as a summary:
It was an ugly situation that went far beyond a mere JR flare-up. Numerous people were left on edge, worried for their safety and that of the little girl.
For its part, Block Communications, Inc had a response. They did not dispute the event but said that it was "misconstrued." The response as quoted by The Incline:
The frustration over financial and other challenges in the newspaper industry led to an unfortunate exchange with employees of which I have been made aware.

Block Communications regrets if anyone present may have misconstrued what occurred as anything other than an indication of strong concern and support for the legacy and future of the Post-Gazette.

We want the entire staff to know that we will continue to value all of our employees and their contributions to the PG.
Yea, so making a 12-yr old girl cry in a drunken rage is "an indication of strong concern and support for the legacy and future of the Post-Gazette." Sure.

February 12, 2019

Revisted: The Laziest Son-of-a-bitch on the Planet

Yesterday on MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough not only slammed president* Trump's sheer laziness when more of his schedules were leaked this weekend, he also goaded Trump into tweeting a response.

"He spends the majority of his time watching cable news and tweeting, yelling, staring at TV sets like an old man that is in a retirement home instead of a president of the United States who is supposed to be working 24 hours a day," Scarborough said. Adding, "Historians will record, when this presidency is over, that Donald Trump was the laziest president ever to occupy the Oval Office. And did less work than any other president to ever to occupy the Oval Office, full stop."

You can watch it here.

Of course, it only took a couple of minutes for Trump to respond (proving both that he does spend his mornings watching TV and that he lies when he claims never to watch Morning Joe):
As wonderfully nasty as Joe's rant was, we here at 2 Political Junkies feel compelled to remind all that we called it on Trump's supreme laziness a little over two years ago -- before "Executive Time" became a thing:

The original post can be found here.

Post-Gazette Publisher John Robinson Block Gone Wild!

Last night, Charlie Deitch of the Pittsburgh Current published this:
At 10 p.m. on Feb. 9, [P-G publisher John Robinson] Block entered the paper’s newsroom and, according to the email [sent to Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh members from union rep Jonathan Silver], “went berserk.” Block wasn’t alone on his trip, he also had his pre-teen child with him following a dinner at the Duquesne Club. Block’s goal, according to Silver’s email, was to take the child’s picture next to a newsroom sign that read, “Shame on the Blocks!” Guild members anonymously told the Current that the sign was put on a bulletin board controlled by the Guild in protest of negotiations over healthcare benefits.
“Block was screaming at the top of his lungs, raving like a lunatic and repeatedly and loudly slapping the Guild bulletin board with his hand. Block threatened to fire various managers, get rid of Mike and me and, most significantly, shut down the paper if the “goddamn Guild” did not remove the sign by Monday or Tuesday.”

The child was understandably upset and newsroom managers there at the time did their best to intervene on the upset child’s behalf as Block, according to the email, tried to pose the child in front of the sign and took their phone.
And finally:
“In the end, [human resource head Steve] Spolar and [Managing editor Sally Stapleton] got him out the door — Spolar confronted Block and loudly told him, ‘You need to go’ — and sent him on his way in an Uber with his [child],” Silver wrote. “It was an ugly situation that went far beyond a mere JR flare-up. Numerous people were left on edge, worried for their safety …
Um, if Block and the pre-teen were "sent on [their] way" in an Uber, how did they get from the Duquesne Club to the P-G? And why couldn't they just leave the same way?

The email from Jonathan Silver was intended exclusively for members if the Newspaper Guild, so unless a member of the guild emails it to someone else in the media, OR PERHAPS A BLOGGER LIKE ME, we won't be able to see it.

My contact info can be found on the upper right of this page. Just follow the "Dayvoe" link.

Given the ubiquity of cell phones, I'd hazard a guess that there are more than a few videos of Block's behavior.  I'd love to see one.  Or even just a screen shot.

My contact info can be found on the upper right of this page. Just follow the "Dayvoe" link.

An internal memo sent by the Newspaper Guild to the managing editor as well as the general manager of the P-G, states that guild members who are fearful of their safety will work from home "unless and until" Block's employee badge is deactivated and the building guard is instructed to keep him from entering OR Block consents to a weapons search of his office and person.

They're crazy worried over there.

I'm deactivating the comments for this blog post. Feel free to email in any tips, details etc.

My contact info can be found on the upper right of this page. Just follow the "Dayvoe" link.

February 11, 2019

The P-G's Steve Kelley Gets The Amendments (And The Commandments) Wrong

His most recent offering to our civic discourse:

You'll note references to three recent events:
And in each case, he gets the issue wrong, in one way or another.

Good going, Post-Gazette!

In Pence's case, I'll let the AP sum up what's going on:
Vice President Mike Pence says the criticism of Christian education in America should stop.

Pence is responding to media reports of his wife returning to teach at a school that says it can refuse to employ gay and lesbian teachers or enroll children with gay or lesbian parents.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights advocacy group, criticized the move as an example of the Pences showing their public service “only extends to some.”
So an advocacy group is criticizing an elected official and the news media is reporting it and to the right, that's an attack on the First Amendment.

Um, no, Steve. That's exactly what the First Amendment is for. Everyone has the right to speak freely, believe whatever faith they want to believe (or none at all), associate freely. It also means that as part of those rights everyone has the right to criticize.

Mike Pence's demand that the criticism (i.e the free speech/press) "must stop" is the threat to the First Amendment.

Then there's the MAGA hats. From CBS:
A restaurateur in San Mateo, California, has apologized after announcing a ban on anyone wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, CBS San Francisco reports. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, a chef and partner at Wursthall Restaurant and Bierhaus, tweeted on Sunday that he wouldn't serve anyone who enters his restaurant with one of President Trump's signature caps.

"It hasn't happened yet, but if you come to my restaurant wearing a MAGA cap, you aren't getting served. Same as if you come in wearing a swastika, white hood, or any other symbol of intolerance and hate," Lopez-Alt tweeted.

The "MAGA" hat ban tweet was taken down later, but it had already sparked both support and criticism. The restaurant's Facebook and Yelp pages were quickly overloaded with negative comments, forcing the social media sites to shut down the comment sections, CBS San Francisco reported.
The ban (a bad decision on its own, in my view) was announced and then after a public outcry was made was rescinded.

How is that a threat to the First Amendment?

Then, finally, the Commandment. We've already dealt with how the right has spun the story (and how it's not "infanticide") so we won't waste anyone's time rehashing.

But does Steve Kelley know that not everyone numbers the Commandments the same way?  For example, The Vatican says that the 6th Commandment is this:
6. You shall not commit adultery.
The "murder" Commandment, to the world's Catholics at least, is the 5th Commandment.

So, when will we be seeing Steve Kelley's public shaming of Donald Trump's for his many many violations of this Commandment?

Thought so.

February 9, 2019

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

If you've been following this space religiously (and there's no reason why you shouldn't), you'll know that Senator Toomey's office responds to my letters via an actual letter OR via email. More often than not, it's an actual letter.

So I've fallen into the habit of not checking my email for his responses.

Sometimes the emails are missed - as happened with this one. It was sent on February 1 and I only found it a few days or so ago.

Appy-polly loggies, me droogs. Appy-polly loggies.

Anyway, here's now Senator Toomey opens his response to me:
Thank you for contacting me about the recent partial government shutdown. I appreciate hearing from you.
Ah, Trump's shutdown. Now we have to see which of my letters asked about this shutdown. Turns out it was my 92nd letter, dated 01/08/2019.

Here's what I asked:
[Senator Toomey, y]ou stated that resolving the shutdown shouldn't be difficult considering that in 2013 "every Senate Democrat supported legislation to spend $46 billion on border security and a wall."

Here are my questions.

Senator, this is about S.744, isn't it?

Didn't you vote against S.744? (Yes, you did.) Why? And more importantly, isn't it just a bit dishonest to characterize S.744 has having "border security and a wall" when the legislation itself only calls for $8 billion for the deployment and 700 miles of fencing? And wasn't that simply the 700 miles of fencing described in the Secure Fencing Act of 2006? It wasn't money for a new wall (concrete or metal slat), was it?

So weren't you spinning the truth just a wee bit, then?
Of course, Senator Toomey utterly failed to even get close to my questions.

See if you can find an answer (any answer) to the above questions in Toomey's response:
This impasse was extremely disappointing and frustrating. However, I am glad the government is reopening and 800,000 federal employees are getting paid.

On January 25, 2019, the House and Senate both passed the Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act of 2019 (H.J. Res. 28) by unanimous consent. The partial shutdown officially came to an end when the President signed H.J. Res. 28 into law later that day. H.J. Res. 28 includes a short-term continuing resolution that keeps the federal government fully-funded through February 15, 2019.

Over the next three weeks, the President and Congress will have an opportunity to craft a workable solution to avoid another shutdown. As I have said all along, the obvious, necessary resolution is a compromise that improves border security - including physical barriers where they make sense - and delivers on some Democrat priorities, too. This should not be unreasonable given that Democrats have repeatedly voted to provide funding for increased border security in recent years. I hope Democrats, who promised to negotiate in good faith if the government were open, will now compromise with the President so the country can put this frustrating episode behind us.

While some federal agencies were closed during the recent impasse, the vast majority of the federal government, about 75 percent of the government's discretionary budget, was funded and operational. Although this was a partial government shutdown, very serious concerns arose about its impact on the federal workforce. Prolonged shutdowns are devastating for federal employees and their families who face the adverse effects of not being paid. To provide relief from this detrimental situation, I cosponsored the Shutdown Fairness Act (S. 113) introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI). This legislation would have immediately paid the roughly 420,000 federal employees - including Coast Guard personnel and federal law enforcement officers - who were working without pay during the shutdown. Contractors supporting federal agencies in the category of essential personnel would have been paid as well. Unfortunately, my Democratic colleagues went so far as to block S. 113 and efforts to immediately pay Coast Guard members and other federal employees who worked without pay during the shutdown.

However, earlier in January, the Senate did pass the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act (S. 24) by unanimous consent. S. 24 requires all 800,000 federal employees who went without pay during the appropriations lapse to be given back-pay on the earliest date possible once the shutdown ended. S. 24 subsequently passed the House of Representatives and was signed into law by the President on January 16, 2019.

Moving forward, I want to see a permanent end to government shutdowns. That is why I have once again cosponsored the End Government Shutdowns Act (S. 104) introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). In the event Congress could not agree on an appropriations measure, affected federal agencies would continue to be funded at current levels, but over time, their allocations would be reduced to incentivize Congress to pass a full-year appropriations act.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
Pivoted away and then avoided. We deserve better from our elected officials.

February 8, 2019

Post-Gazette Editorial Page Idiocy Continues

Today's editorial begins with this:
The Democratic Party, in Virginia and nationally, wants Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign over his having appeared in blackface in medical school.
And then:
But does dressing up in blackface years ago prove Mr. Northam is a racist now? It might only prove that he was stupid or tasteless or had a thing for Michael Jackson — then.

Granted, Mr. Northam might not be a whole lot smarter now. But it does not follow that he should resign his office or that an election should be nullified. [Emphasis added.]
It does not follow that he should resign for that blackface thing.

And then there's this that follows:
If he does resign, it will be because his party has adopted a zero tolerance policy toward all youthful indiscretions, all political incorrectness past and future, and all foolishness (ask Al Franken) and because it needs the name-calling cudgel (”racist!” “sexist!”) for 2020.
Blackface, youthful indiscretions, all political correctness, all foolishness.

Indeed, the argument here seems to be that the reason the Democrats are calling for Northam to resign is so that they can use the same standard on Republicans in the coming election cycle. The editorial board doesn't want that to happen so they attempt to undermine the calls for Northam's resignation for the blackface/KKK photo.

But Northam true problem, at least according to the culture warriors now writing this editorial, isn't blackface. It's this:
The real sin is what he said in a live radio broadcast when discussing a Virginia abortion bill. He said that if a baby survives an abortion it should be kept “resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired” and then the doctor and mother would have a “discussion.”

When asked later if he wanted to revise and extend his remarks, he declined.
Of course they got this part very wrong.

Let's turn to factcheck.org for an explanation. In its discussion of one of the many lies/distortions/untruths from Donald ("I have a great relationship with the blacks.") Trump's recent SOTU:
Trump also alluded to statements Gov. Ralph Northam made in a radio interview following the controversial introduction of a similar abortion bill in Virginia. In the interview, Northam, who is a physician, said third-trimester abortion is “done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s nonviable. So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Northam’s words were interpreted by some to mean that he was suggesting infanticide. As multiple news outlets reported, Northam later clarified that he was not talking about infanticide. A spokesperson for Northam said his comments were “focused on the tragic and extremely rare case in which a woman with a nonviable pregnancy or severe fetal abnormalities went into labor.”
Huh. By leaving out the part about "nonviable pregnancy or severe fetal abnormalities" the P-G editorial board changed the entire tone of Northam's discussion, didn't they?

I wonder why they would do that - mislead their audience for a "gotcha" in an editorial decrying "gotcha" politics, I mean.