Democracy Has Prevailed.

February 28, 2019

It's The Beginning Of A Process. Crime, Fraud and 2020.

Representative Cummings had some careful words after yesterday's hearings.

He says, about two minutes twenty seconds in, that "This is not the end of a process but a beginning."

Representative AOC asked some great questions - the initial answers to which only require deeper questions regarding Trump's fraudulent finances:

Watch it all. Everything she said is important.

And finally at the end of the day, a dire warning:

He says, about one minute in, "I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power."


February 27, 2019

What's Michael Cohen Gonna Say?

His prepared testimony has been released.

Donald Trump (his client of many many years) has already called him a liar. But in his third and fourth paragraphs, Cohen is set to say:
I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee’s questions truthfully, and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump.

I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.
And he's set to say this about Trump:
He is a racist.

He is a conman.

He is a cheat.

He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.
We know he's already going to jail (for lying) so he has to know that if he lies again, he's going to be going away for a longer period.

On the other hand, take a look at the second paragraph above. He's got copies of the checks and he's offering up one as an exhibit. He describes it thusly:
A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account –after he became president -to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign.
And then there's this:
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.

In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”
All this, under oath in public and with some corroborating evidence.

February 26, 2019

My NINETY-SEVENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

It's been a few weeks, Senator. This week, I'd like to follow-up on the last response letter of yours I wrote about.

In it you brag that you:
...voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment that acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change.
But Senator, you voted against the resolution that most clearly aligned with the established science - namely, that human activity contributed significantly to climate change.

Can you explain how you are claiming to support climate science while at the same time being on record as disagreeing with it?

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


February 25, 2019

The Fix That Was In Is Even Fixier-Innier!

Remember the "science" committee that Trump was going to set up to validate his unscientific reality?

Looks like there's more info on that "ad hoc" committee. An update from the Washington Post:
The White House plans to create an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to reassess the government’s analysis of climate science and counter conclusions that the continued burning of fossil fuels is harming the planet, according to three senior administration officials.

The National Security Council initiative would include scientists who question the severity of climate impacts and the extent to which humans contribute to the problem, according to these individuals, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations
The purpose of the committee is reportedly to invalidate this report, issued in November. The overview of that report started with this:
Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.
So that an ad hoc committee Trump's will be sure prove that all that science is just a hoax.

February 23, 2019

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter (And Continues Lying About His Climate Science Denial)

This one came via the Post Office.

While I received it this week (Tuesday or Wednesday, I think) it is, in fact, dated February 1 - the same day as this Toomey email response.

Weird, huh? Doesn't the left hand know what the right hand is doing over there?

The letter begins with this:
Thank you for contacting me about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, on January 9, 2019, EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler was officially nominated to serve as the agency's permanent administrator.
Now we gotta figure out which letter he's answering.

It's turning out to be difficult as I have NEVER written about Andrew Wheeler - ever. And the last time I asked Senator Toomey anything about the EPA was way back in September of 2017.

Senator Toomey already, kinda sorta, answered that letter. You can read my analysis here.

Reading that analysis, it should be obvious that this story is not going to end well for Senator Toomey or his office.  You'll see why in a minute.

In Toomey's response to my twenty-seventh letter, he begins with this:
Thank you for contacting me about the protection and conservation of our environment. I appreciate hearing from you.
And in 2017 I asked about that:
Huh? When did I write to Senator Toomey specifically about the environment?
Sound familiar? Let's keep going. I wrote that Toomey offers up a clue in a later paragraph. This paragraph:
As such, I understand your thoughts about the conservation of our environment and climate change. During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment which acknowledged that human activity contributes to climate change.
Uh-oh. This is where Toomey took a tumble. I say that because in the letter I received this week (the one dated February 1) there's this paragraph:
Some who have contacted me about Mr. Wheeler have expressed particular worry over climate change. During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment that acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change.
Same sentence separated by about two years.  It's still a lie of omission, by the way.

Let me explain why (just as I did in 2017 and originally in 2015).

There were three amendments on that day in January, 2015 regarding Climate Change.  The first stated that:
...climate change is real and not a hoax.
Toomey voted for that, good for him.

The second one stated that:
...climate change is real; and human activity contributes to climate change.
Toomey voted for that as well, good for him a second time.

However (and this is where the lie by omission occurs) there was a third vote that day. That one stated:
...climate change is real; and human activity significantly contributes to climate change. [emphasis added.]
Senator Pat Toomey voted against that.

So let's sum up. Senator Toomey wants us to infer that he believes the climate science from his votes in January of 2015. However, using those votes as evidence, it turns out that Toomey believes:
  • Climate change is not a hoax
  • Human activity contributes to climate change
  • Just. Not. Significantly.
Now let's take another look at what Toomey presented in his letter:
During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment that acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change.
You'll note he leaves out the word "significantly" here. He wants us to believe that he agrees with the science - when he actually does not as all of the science points to this fact: that human activity significantly contributes to climate change - precisely what Toomey voted against. Knowing his voting record regarding climate science, you should see his deception clearly.

Shame on him for lying to his constituency this way. For trying to get us to assume he's taken an environmental position that he actually hasn't.

Text of Toomey's letter:
Dear David

Thank you for contacting me about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, on January 9, 2019, EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler was officially nominated to serve as the agency's permanent administrator.

I have heard from a number of Pennsylvanians both in support and opposition to the leadership at the EPA and its environmental agenda. While U support sensible environmental protections, I am concerned about the excessive – and often duplicative – regulations that have come out of the federal bureaucracy in recent years and have needlessly impeded job creation and harmed Pennsylvania farmers. I am encouraged by the administration's commitment to undo regulations that imposed onerous compliance costs and undermined economic growth, and I am hopeful that Mr. Wheeler will pursue a balanced approach that is mindful of both our economy and our environment.

There are several matters currently before the EPA that are of particular importance to our state. Changes to the renewable fuel standard, i.e. the government mandate that motorists' gasoline contain ethanol, could adversely affect air quality and refineries that support good-paying jobs for thousands of Pennsylvanians. I am also monitoring how the EPA approaches regulation of perflourooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perflourooctaone sulfonate (PFOS) given that drinking water sources for several communities in southeastern Pennsylvania may have been contaminated by these chemicals, which were used in firefighting foam at local military bases.

Some who have contacted me about Mr. Wheeler have expressed particular worry over climate change. During Senate consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2015, I voted in support of several amendments about these issues, including an amendment that acknowledged human activity contributes to climate change.

Please be assured that I value your input and will keep your thoughts in mind as the Senate considers the nomination of Mr. Wheeler or future legislation on the environment.

Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.

February 22, 2019

More On John Robinson Block's Bad Behaviour

This one's gotta hurt.

John Block ’77 — the publisher of the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the family namesake of a popular Yale journalism internship — has been accused of storming into the Post-Gazette’s building with his daughter while allegedly intoxicated and berating his employees and daughter, according to a post on the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh’s website.

Block used “threatening posturing” and a “verbally abusive tone,” according to Post-Gazette web editor Marianne Mizera’s account of the Feb. 9 incident released on the Guild’s website. His daughter, who is a minor, was shaken to the point of “sobbing.” At one point, Block allegedly “forcefully grabbed” his daughter’s arm and pulled her while she tried to “pull away from him.”
A couple of things with this piece.

Above the text is a photo of the Post-Gazette Building - the OLD Post-Gazette building on the Boulevard of the Allies. John Robinson Block didn't rant and rave and misbehave there. He was drunk and slapped the wall a mile or so away at the NEW P-G building on North Shore Drive.

I would've rewritten this passage:
His daughter, who is a minor, was shaken to the point of “sobbing.” At one point, Block allegedly “forcefully grabbed” his daughter’s arm and pulled her while she tried to “pull away from him.”
From the text it's unclear whether the daughter was sobbing because Block "forcefully grabbed" her or whether she was crying beforehand - and all because of the use of the verb "shaken." Had they said that she was "upset" rather than "shaken" the ambiguity would have gone away.

But I'm just a blogger who went to UConn (Go Huskies!) disagreeing with a journalist at Yale so...

In any event, the fact that Block's abhorrent behavior made it all the back to his Alma Mater in New Haven has to be a gut punch to his Ivy League ego.

It has to be.

Learning that the drunken rant made it onto the pages of the YDN, an old memory for me popped up out of my brain.  This one:

Heaven's a Yale man!

Boola boola!

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

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.

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 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.

February 6, 2019

Trump Tries To Bully The Congress

A president who respects democracy and the rule of law does not say this to the legislature:
An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way! [Emphasis added.]
Especially when the investigations are not partisan and have netted a half dozen guilty pleas (and one conviction) so far. And especially when all that guilt is pointing in one direction - upwards to Trump, his family and his various organizations.

Fact checking the State of The Union:
Happy Wednesday

February 5, 2019

My NINETY-SIXTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

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

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

As I am sure you already know, Time magazine is reporting that "senior intelligence briefers" are concerned that "the President is endangering American security with what they say is a stubborn disregard for their assessments" and that he displays a "willful ignorance" to the analyses they present him.

They also point out the angry reactions he has when they present him with information that contradicts his already formed beliefs.

Simple question this week, Senator: How much does this bother you and what are you going to about it? It does bother you, right? And you are going to do something about it, right?

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


February 4, 2019

Edging Closer To Being That Hive Of Scum And Villany

You remember this blog post, right?

It's where I posited that the P-G Editorial Board was not yet a wretched hive of scum and villany (in that case due to the rightwing nut case editorial cartoons).

Well, they're edging ever so closer.

Look at this:

I'd comment myself but there's something simply absurd about two non-expert men (in this case me and Steve Kelley) debating a woman's right to choose so I'll quote an actual woman who actually is an expert in the field, Jennifer Gunter, MD:
There have been a lot of lies circulating about abortion since New York State passed a law allowing abortion after 24 weeks if the health of the mother is at risk or if there are lethal fetal anomalies.

This does not mean that ladies who just forgot their 8 week abortion who are now struggling to fit into their pants can get their better-late-than-never abortion. It means doctors can do the right thing medically if the situation arises and women with lethal fetal anomalies at or after 24 weeks will not have to travel to New Jersey or elsewhere for an abortion. It also offers protection if Roe v. Wade falls.
Yea, what she said.

February 1, 2019

A Follow-up To The Follow-up

Yes I am sure that this is true.

From CNN:
President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that his intelligence chiefs, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel, told him that they were misquoted when they publicly contradicted him during public on-camera testimony.

He made the claim a day after he tweeted that "Intelligence should go back to school!"

"They said they were totally misquoted and totally taken out of context," Trump said when asked by CNN if he raised the testimony with Coats and Haspel during his daily briefing on Thursday.

"They said it was fake news," Trump said.

The President did not provide examples of the areas the intelligence chiefs said they were misquoted. Their testimony was televised, and their written assessment of global threats was made public.
Yes, I am sure the DNI and DCI said it was fake news.

You can watch the entire testimony in context here.