What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 20, 2019

Meanwhile Outside...

Now that the (first?) Trump shutdown is over, NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) is back to posting monthly updates on how hot the planet is getting.

The Trump shutdown shut down the site for a while.

The latest from the scientists at NOAA:
The first month of 2019 was characterized by warmer-than-average conditions across much of the world's surface. The most notable warm temperature anomalies were present across much of Australia and across parts of northeastern and southwestern Asia, where temperature departures from average were 4.0°C (7.2°F) above average or higher. Record warm January surface temperatures were present across much of Australia and its surrounding Southern Ocean, southern Brazil, the ocean off the south coast of South Africa, and across parts of Africa, Asia, and the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Notable cool temperature departures from average were present across parts of northern North America, Europe, and central Asia, where temperatures were 1.0°C (1.8°F) below average or cooler. According to our analysis, no land or ocean surface had record cold January temperatures.

Averaged as a whole, the January 2019 global land and ocean surface temperature was 0.88°C (1.58°F) above the 20th century average and tied with 2007 as the third highest temperature since global records began in 1880. Only the years 2016 (+1.06°C / +1.91°F) and 2017 (+0.91°C / +1.64°F) were warmer. The ten warmest Januaries have all occurred since 2002, with the last five years (2015–2019) among the six warmest years in the 140-year record. January 1976 was the last time the January global land and ocean temperatures were below average at -0.02°C (-0.04°F).
Meanwhile in the synthetic, bad substitute reality currently encased in the Trump White House:
The White House is working to assemble a panel to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, a conclusion that federal intelligence agencies have affirmed several times since President Trump took office. [Emphasis added.]
But like everything else in Trumpville, the fix is in:
The proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security, which would be established by executive order, is being spearheaded by William Happer, a National Security Council senior director. Happer, an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University, has said that carbon emissions linked to climate change should be viewed as an asset rather than a pollutant.
Happer wrote that last bit in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal (a well known and highly respected scientific journal, doncha know). You can read a rebuttal to Happer's BS here.

The obvious purpose of the Happer Committee is not "to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat" but to string together some science-y words for Donald Trump to read so that he can turn around and declare that the science has been "proven" wrong.

Meanwhile, it's still getting warmer out there. The science says so.

February 19, 2019

Confirming The P-G's Right-Wing Swing

From today's P-G:
John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on Monday named Keith Burris as its executive editor effective immediately.
This is the same Keith Burris who, three days after John Robinson Block's drunken behavior did this:
This is the same day Block Communications gaslighted (or at least tried to) Block's drunken behavior as an "unfortunate exchange" that some may have "misconstrued."

By the way, yesterday, the same day Burris was announced as second in command at the P-G, the Newspaper Guild released yet another eyewitness account of Block's drunken behavior.

This makes five?

There are a few more horrifying details to be learned in the account. For example how physical it was:
When [Block's daughter] declined to join him at the sign, he moved with the swiftness of a martial arts master, really, and closed the gap of two steps between them in one motion while simultaneously thrusting his forearm and elbow at her forehead. He stopped just as quickly about a foot from her eyes and did not strike her, but it looked like might at any moment. With his right forearm parallel to her forehead and clinched fist, he said, in a hushed but forceful tone, “You are a Block! You need to be in the picture!”

I was stunned by the physical attack on this frail child who, at that point, had still managed to maintain her composure, although I was behind him so I could not see her face because his right forearm in his suit sleeve was blocking my view.
And then, after insulting the girl's mother this happened:
He grabbed her by the right arm and dragged her in front of the sign. She pleaded not to be in the picture, saying over and over again: “No, please, I don’t want to be in the picture. No, please, no!”

He was forcefully pulling her and she was trying to resist as she was facing me, leaning as far away from him as she could while begging: “No, please, please, please, no!” Her right hand disappeared into the arm of her coat as she tried to pull away, but he yanked the coat arm in the opposite direction toward the sign. It was a tug of war and her body was the rope.

At that point, I made two exposures.
Oh. My. God. There are pictures - taken by a news photographer.

That's what the Blocks called "an unfortunate exchange" that may have been "misconstrued" into something regrettable.

And those are the people installing Keith Burris, who accompanied the sober(?) John Robinson Block a few days later back to the scene of the drunken assault as second in command at the P-G.

A few minutes after the announcement of Burris' installation yesterday, Burris himself sent a letter to everyone in the newsroom (at least I am assuming it's everyone in the newsroom - the address list is yuge) his own self-introduction. It started with this:
Dear colleagues,

Considering the responsibilities of this job, I went to my notebook at 4AM and wrote a sort of mantra for myself: Five commandments, if you will.

Be calm

Be kind

Remember that we all want the same thing – a great newspaper.

Foster professionalism and good will

DO YOUR JOB
Does anyone else see that last "commandment" (the one in ALL CAPS) as a threat to the workers in that newsroom? Anyone? Or is it just me?

By the way, how many of these "commandments" did John Robinson Block break when he was manhandling his frightened daughter and threatening to burn down the P-G in a drunken rage?

Anyway, Charlie Deitch sums up the reaction to Burris' control of both the news and editorial wings of the P-G:
That’s a shame because as journalists, we are supposed to work as watchdogs. But that’s going to be hard to do now that John Block’s lapdog is in charge.
Word from inside the P-G is that that it won't be Burris' who's in charge. Let's extend the metaphor with a question: If Burris is a lapdog, who holds the other end of the leash?

John Robinson Block - the drunken offender of journalistic integrity who manhandled his own daughter one Saturday night a few weeks ago at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Oh yea and he's a yuge Trump fan. Let's not forget that.

February 18, 2019

Preserve, Protect And Defend The Constitution Of The United States

That was in the Oath of Office Donald Trump took.

Too bad he fails to give a rat's ass about it.

He tweeted this this weekend:
And what does ""Very unfair and should be looked into." actually mean? And "retribution"? What does THAT mean?

Is the sitting President of the United States really calling for a federal/congressional investigation into a broadcast network for airing a parody of him just because he thought was unfair?

How is that respecting the First Amendment in any way shape or form?

For good measure he tweeted this four minutes later:
The is not a man who values any of the foundations of our free society.

And anyone who supports him in any way is complicit.

February 17, 2019

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter

I GOTTA check the "promotions" folder of my email more often.

The response from Senator Toomey's office was received on January 2 of this year and I only noticed it this week. My apologies to the Senator for not seeing it sooner.

Here's how it begins:
Thank you for contacting me about the security of our nation's southern border. I appreciate hearing from you.
Ah, Trump's wall.  Now we have to find the letter that triggered this response.

Seeing that it's is dated January 2 (and again I apologize for my tardiness on this) we can safely assume that this response is for some letter written before the ninety-second, which was dated January 8.

The most recent letter previous letter regarding the southern border - my eighty-eighth - is dated November 27 of 2018 and in it I ask:
In the past week border agents with the United States Customs and Border Protection agency fired tear gas into Mexico in order to push a group of migrants (a group which included women and children) back from the US Border. Donald Trump said it was a "very minor form of tear gas" and that it was "very safe."

Two questions this week: What are your feelings on the US Government tear gassing women and children? And given all of Trump's lies and misstatements can we actually believe him when he says that it's safe for children?

If you disagree with the policy of tear gassing women and children at the border, when will you be speaking up against it?
I am guessing that this is the letter that he's answering as he includes this paragraph in the letter:
Specific to your concerns, on November 25, U.S. Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel a group of migrants attempting to illegally cross the border near the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California. Some migrants threw projectiles at the agents. Obviously, it is disturbing to see tear gas used against people, especially children. I wish what happened at the border had not escalated to that point.
We note with a certain amount of glee that this letter seems to be a bit more "personal" than the Senator's usual more formulaic responses.  Usually, I ask a specific question about a topic, he discusses that topic while avoiding the question itself - if I'm lucky.

This one is different. I hope we can do more of this, Senator. I hope my missing the letter for 5 weeks won't get in the way of that.

Here's the entirety of what he says about the tear-gassing at San Ysidro:
Beginning in October 2018, a caravan of migrants began traveling through Central America towards the U.S.-Mexico border. According to news reports, the caravan included some migrants who are fleeing violence, looking for economic opportunity, or both. Some intended to seek asylum in the United States. I am sympathetic to people seeking to leave countries that are rife with crime and poverty. The U.S. should have a robust immigration system and an expedient asylum process that gives due consideration to asylum seekers. At the same time, those who wish to come to the U.S., including asylum seekers, should do so legally.
The next paragraph is the one that starts, "Specific to your concerns..." and includes the phrase:
...a group of migrants attempting to illegally cross the border...[Emphasis added.]
Is that true? Is the simple act of crossing the border to seek asylum illegal?

As far as I can tell (not being a lawyer), the answer is no.

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Further, US Law states:
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title. [Emphasis added]
So simply showing up and asking for asylum is allowed by US Law - it's not an illegal act.

So Senator Toomey planted a seed of illegality where none actually exists and in doing so he shifted the blame away from the border agents actually firing the tear gas to the families who actually experienced it (Some threw rocks! See what they made us do!!!)

Otherwise he hit the right notes about being disturbed about seeing children hit with tear gas - good for him.


And, of course, he avoided my Trump question: Trump said the tear gas was "very safe."

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.