Monday, July 30, 2007



You can't see it too well, but the book is The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by Dav Pilkey.

Updated to add: YIKES! Do NOT click the photo, or you will be able to see a little TOO well...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Jet Boo!

Well, I'm sure all of you are DYING to know what I think about the whole Jet Blue/YearlyKos/Bill O'Reilly craziness, so take a gander at the letter I sent them yesterday:
Dear Jet Blue:

I am writing to express my disappointment in your company for demanding the removal of your logo indicating sponsorship of the 2007 Yearly Kos convention in Chicago. As a Chicagoan and frequent traveller (and someone who had heard great things about Jet Blue), I will now very likely not be flying your airline in the foreseeable future.

I'm particularly distressed because it appears that your decision was based not on facts but on misinformation and fear. As a consumer of both traditional and new media, I have to say that I have not seen anything on (which, by the way, is only tangentially associated with Yearly Kos) that is nearly as offensive as comments I've heard repeatedly on Fox News. As a gay man, progressive, and person of color, I find much on Fox News to be galling. From mocking the movie "Brokeback Mountain" on Fox & Friends to Sean Hannity smearing the pastor of Barack Obama's church as a "black separatist," to their laugh-out-loud slogan "fair and balanced," I find it incredible that you have no problems continuing advertising with this de facto branch of the right wing of the Republican Party, but are afraid to have your corporate name identified with an organization and event as generally positive as Yearly Kos.

I know controversy is anathema to the modern-day corporation. But ultimately, it is a test of corporate values. I'm afraid to say that, in this instance, Jet Blue seems to have failed its test.


Jonathan Kelley
Chicago, IL
Anyway, so hopefully next Friday I will be volunteering my time for the YK07 convention, although it's more money than I can afford to actually *attend* the thing!

Monday, July 09, 2007



I saw Michael Moore's latest masterpiece "SiCKO" tonight. It was, to me, his finest production since Roger and Me. Where I felt let down (or was it slightly embarrassed) by the maudlin focus on one family's loss in Fahrenheit 911, here I felt he did little to nothing wrong. Could he have given screen time to the insurance industry to rebut his arguments? I suppose, but it's not like they give the dead, dying, and at-risk an opportunity to give their say when they get their expensive PR campaigns in full gear. Turnabout being fair play and all, Moore lays it out there, and we're welcome to investigate further on our own. Which means that Moore will win out, because the more you investigate the tragedy of health care in this country, the more you'll see that only obfuscation and apathy have been able to allow this system to limp along as it has for the last 50 years.

I was reading some of the discussion in Digby's comment thread on the movie, and was struck by a couple of things. One, someone pointing out that Cuba ranked below the U.S. on the WHO ranking of nations. While we need to keep in mind that the ranking is pretty arbitrary, I will point out that Cuba far outperforms other poor nations, while the U.S. far underperforms (while spending a higher proportion of our GDP) other wealthy nations. We should be far, far higher than Cuba but instead barely manage to squeak ahead. And the most important part is that the cracks in the system in the U.S. are such that if you have an underlying problem (too fat, too thin, former yeast infection) or if you lose the fight to be recognized as a lucky 9/11 worker, it can actually mean that you get treated unequally in this system. It's catch as catch can here, and that borders on the criminal. And yet we put up with it. Thanks to obfuscation and apathy.

I remember 15 years ago, watching the nightly news on the eve of the 1992 presidential election, and seeing something on one of the networks that made me think: this could actually happen -- the health care crisis in America has actually gotten to the point where the corporate media is ready to bring people on board with a system of universal health care. We're on the precipice of a new day! I was shocked but also so hopeful, particularly after Clinton's election victory. And then, it all went to pot. Thanks to Bob Dole and a cast of many others (primarily Republicans) along with Bill Clinton's inability to truly lead on this issue, here we are 15 years later, and it's only gotten worse. Although there is some progress that's been made in some states, such as Illinois. But this should not be a state-by-state issue in my opinion. People in Massachusetts should not get far better health care than people in Alabama just because of their geographic location.

The second thing in Digby's comment section that struck me was that someone recalled seeing that 50% of bankruptcies were due to medical bills/catastrophic health problems. It's interesting that when the bankruptcy bill was debated a couple of years ago, that statistic was used as a reason to stop passage, but it passed anyway. It's a very frustrating world we live in when we are made aware of such facts and come away with something that makes it harder for people to declare bankruptcy AND does nothing to help with those medical bills. I know a lot of Democrats helped get that passed (paging Joe Biden) but ultimately, it was the Republicans. Which is yet another reason why it's hard for me to feel anything but bitterness when I meet a Republican in this day and age. I like to think of myself as broad-minded, but that bill was really beyond the pale.

A third thing I was struck by were comments regarding how to counter the argument that the capitalism aspect to American healthcare is what has helped to make ours one of the most technologically advanced systems in the world, if not the most. I would like to point out that just as private schools & colleges have not gone away, nor have taxi cabs/cars, nor UPS, nor private security systems, nor many other private enterprises in areas where there are large government programs, it will be the same for healthcare. Just because we'll be providing a larger amount of free service for the majority of us doesn't mean that there won't be a parallel system for the wealthy. They'll be able to pay for their private clinics, their private doctors, even an insurance system to supplement national care. The rich always are able to figure out a way to live that much better than the rest of us. It's their nature. Their extreme wealth should be plenty to spur development. Also, much of the research that has led to our medical advancement has been thanks to places like NIH and the many (often public) research universities out there.

Finally, I am desperately hopeful that Michael Moore will keep it up. To say he's an imperfect messenger is to miss the point - we all are. What he is, though, is the single best messenger I've ever seen for changing the terms of the debate, whether it's about unions & corporations, the war in Iraq, and healthcare. I'll be fascinated to see where he goes next. I hope it's the media or, even better, the secretive, massive PR industry. I got my first hint of the demons associated PR thanks to Tom Tomorrow, who did the cover for the exposé Toxic Sludge Is Good for You. Definitely read it if you ever get a chance.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Bush Is Said to Have Memorized Encyclopedia Brittanica

It's been nearly a half year since I last posted, and quite honestly, nothing has really riled me to the point of having to write it all down and publish my thoughts to the entire world. I've become inured, as so many of us have, to the craziness of the world, of the Bushies, and the rest of it. It looks like impeachment isn't going to happen - although even if it happened on the last day of Bush's administration it would still be the right thing to do because of the message it would send to the rest of the world, and to remind ourselves of the importance of laws and justice and the American Way. So I've just been biding my time, working, playing tennis, and travelling an awful lot.

Saw Barcelona. Will try to get a photo or two posted.

Anyway, you ask, what would rile me SO MUCH that it would actually get me off my ass and back to this blog? It was an article. Specifically, this New York Times article. Please read it, then come back here. It's not that long. Go ahead. Read it.

Actually, you don't have to read it, because the article made me so mad, I'm gonna go ahead and Fisk it right here. So settle in, this may take awhile.

Bush Is Said to Have Held Long Debate on Decision


Okay, this should have been enough to have scared the "Even the Liberal" New York Times from running this article. But the Times long ago lost sight of any sense of what actual journalism might look like, so they just dove right in.

WASHINGTON, July 3 — Before commuting the prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr., President Bush and a small circle of advisers delved deeply into the evidence in the case, debating Mr. Libby’s guilt or innocence and whether he had in fact lied to investigators, people familiar with the deliberations said.
Well, Jesus! "People familiar with the deliberations" WOULD say that, wouldn't they? Since the only people involved in the deliberations are Bush's inner circle (possibly including Rove and/or Cheney - our inside, anonymous sources won't tell us - more on that later). They have a vested interest in saying that. Now, why President Bush and his inner circle would be able to judge his guilt or innocence better than an empaneled jury, our article won't say.

Our article won't say a lot of things, actually. Like the fact that the person whose testimony most clearly led to Libby's conviction was that of the Times' very own Judith Miller, who had lunch with Libby a few days before Novak leaked Valerie Plame's identity, at which lunch she said she was informed for the first time about Plame's being with the CIA. Our article also won't remind us of the fact that by commuting Libby's prison sentence, but maintaining the fine and probation (i.e., not pardoning him), he allowed Libby to take the 5th in any congressional inquiry into the matter. Which, our article also doesn't mention, could spare the president, who himself has been suspected of involvement in the Plame outing, along with Rove and Cheney. Naturally, the article doesn't refer to the president's past lies about this matter, including his pledge to fire the leaker(s), one of whom (Rove) still works for him and has the highest security clearence. Bush and Rove have never told all they know about this matter, the article forgets to inform us, always saying they refuse to comment on an ongoing criminal matter. Which, since Libby still has the fine and probation, he can continue to appeal, and Bush & Rove can continue to refuse to comment on it.

But anyway, onward.
That process, in weeks of closely held White House discussions, led to the decision to spare Mr. Libby from a 30-month sentence rather than grant a pardon. But Mr. Bush, defending the move Tuesday, left the door open to a pardon in the future.

“I weighed this decision carefully,” the president told reporters after visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “I thought that the jury verdict should stand. I felt the punishment was severe, so I made a decision that would commute his sentence but leave in place a serious fine and probation. As to the future, I rule nothing in or nothing out.”
Okay, the truth is that the punishment was actually significantly lower than the average federal conviction for obstruction of justice. And he was convicted of THREE OTHER COUNTS! But the thing that truly makes this quote among the most fatuous of Bush's career is that he removed the ENTIRE jail term. Apparently, even one day behind bars is too much for our Scooter. But of course, our article, in the "Even the Liberal" New York Times, does not feature anyone pointing out this bit of inanity.
The decision brought a storm of criticism, as well as a new investigation on Capitol Hill. Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced Tuesday that he would hold a hearing next week to examine “the use and misuse of presidential clemency power” for executive branch officials.
That's pretty mcuh it for the criticism. John Conyers. But not to worry, we are told by anonymous sources, because Bush Is Said to Have Held Long Debate on Decision. Based, we are told, not on the political ramifications, or any possible quid pro quo, or the fact that Bush, Rove, and Cheney are all scalp-deep in the whole Plame matter. But rather, based purely on the merits of the case.
The White House deliberations in the case of Mr. Libby, a key architect of the war in Iraq who served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, were scattered throughout Mr. Bush’s regular business over the past several weeks, an administration official said.

That description, along with the accounts of two Republican allies of the White House, illuminated a process that was almost clinical, with a detailed focus on the facts of the case, which stemmed from an investigation into the leak of a C.I.A. operative’s identity. Mr. Libby was accused of lying to investigators and was convicted on four felony counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice.
"Almost clinical"!!! Bush the almost clinician. (Note: this is not a quote, or even an indirect quote, which serves to lead the reader to believe it is a statement of fact.)

The description of the process is truly remarkably free of any detail, even as the anonymous source claims it was highly detailed. We are told of no facts that weighed on the president's decision, no suggestion of which parts of the testimony were discussed, or even which precedents the president might have relied on in thinking the punishment was excessive. We don't even know whether the process was described in any detail -- even on background -- to the reporter! We are just told it was done in detail, and expected to take that as a statement which needs no support, no matter how remarkable, unprecedented, or unlikely.

And we are told this came from an anonymous source, plus two people who were not actually involved in these supposed deliberations but had to be told about them by somebody - specifically, at least one of the people who was involved - very possibly the same GOSH DARN SOURCE #1 who so desperately needed to remain anonymous.

The reporters know they are being spun. They've been handed an evidence-free line of spin and have dutifully typed it up. They clearly are fine with being spun. To them, the importance of the story is that the paper of record, the "Even the Liberal" New York Times, is able to publish an unvarnished look into what the Administration wants us to think happened. We know the Administration has lied to the public about many things, and has sent its minions out to misdirect the American public about this case countless times. So rationally, one would think that the actual STORY here is not WHAT the Administration is trying to get us to believe, but WHY it's trying that. Why in God's name, for instance, is it necessary to have the primary spinner be anonymous?
Because the deliberations were so closely held, those who spoke about them agreed to do so only anonymously. But by several different accounts, Mr. Bush spent weeks thinking about the case against Mr. Libby and consulting closely with senior officials, including Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff; Fred F. Fielding, the White House counsel; and Dan Bartlett, Mr. Bush’s departing counselor.

“They were digging deeply into the substance of the charges against him, and the defense for him,” one of the Republicans close to the White House said.

The second Republican said the overarching question was “did he lie?”
Now, reading this article, we simply have no idea how many people the reporters talked to. They say here "several" but they only actually quote three anonymous sources (possibly four including the former administrative official quoted below). Later they also quote Vin Weber (who the day before got similar star treatment in the Washington Post) and Tony Snow. But honestly, the excuses they have for letting people spin anonymously these days is downright embarrassing: "Because the deliberations were so closely held" my ass! The ACTUAL reason is "Because the White House media strategy involves distracting us from the actual and obvious reasons Bush just spared jail time for his crony who is a convicted felon..." It's reading crap like that that makes me nearly certain that the "Even the Liberal" New York Times has a vested interest in deceiving the American public.
Mr. Bush has not publicly offered his conclusion to that question, nor have his aides. In his statements about the commutation, the president has said only that he respects the jury’s verdict and that his interest was in reducing what he regarded as an overly severe sentence.

“I felt like some of the punishments that the judge determined were adequate should stand,” Mr. Bush told reporters Tuesday. “But I felt like the 30-month sentencing was severe, made a judgment, a considered judgment, that I believe is the right decision to make in this case, and I stand by it.”
RIGHT HERE would be the time to point out that it was NOT severe at all, based on other similar convictions. AND/OR to have asked whether, say, a six-month term might have been less "severe." Because right now, we have Bush saying that spending even one day in jail is too much for a person convicted of four felonies. A person who, oh by the way, is one of his closest political allies.
In issuing his commutation order on Monday, Mr. Bush left intact Mr. Libby’s conviction, a $250,000 fine and the two years of postprison supervised release that were ordered by Judge Reggie B. Walton of Federal District Court.

But the details of the president’s order raised procedural questions in court.

Judge Walton said Tuesday that the law did not allow for imposing a period of supervised release on an individual who had not first completed a jail sentence. He asked the lawyers for both sides to submit briefs next week on whether Mr. Libby should have to submit to supervision by the probation office.
That part is interesting, and we can only imagine that Bush will jump on any issues regarding this to get rid of the probation, too.
Mr. Bush has issued 113 pardons and commuted four sentences, including Mr. Libby’s, during his presidency, but no act of clemency has been as controversial as the Libby decision. The C.I.A. leak case raised impassioned questions about the administration’s flawed intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, and whether officials at the highest reaches of the White House, including Mr. Cheney, ordered the leak of the identity of the operative, Valerie Wilson, to discredit her husband, a war critic.

Both critics of the administration and supporters of Mr. Libby viewed him as a fall guy in the case, and Mr. Bush had been under intense pressure from conservatives to issue a pardon, which constitutes an official act of forgiveness.

Pardons are typically reviewed by the Justice Department and sent to the president for a final determination. But a former administration official said that in this case the White House had sent a message of “we’re not going through the usual pardon scrub, we’re going through this one ourselves.”
Do you know what they mean by "scrub" here, because I actually don't. But by using the quote, the reporters conveniently whitewash the remarkable avoidance of the process that had been put in place, whereby trained professionals might be able to actually review the actual evidence and make an actual informed decision, and instead allow for a nakedly self-serving and dangerously unaccountable action. Who does the job of making it look like this move was a matter of doing it the right way (as opposed to the "usual" way)? A "former administration official." Why is this former administrative official -- who presumably was not part of the deliberation process -- kept anonymous? We are not told. We are simply left with the impression that there was a good reason to avoid the process in place (the "usual pardon scrub") -- and it's NOT I REPEAT NOT because the Justice Department never would have made that recommendation.
The process was delicate.
Again, not a quote, not an indirect quote, but an implied statement of fact.
Karl Rove, the chief White House strategist and one of Mr. Bush’s closest and longest-serving aides, had been implicated in the leak investigation, and it was unclear how extensive a role he played in the deliberations.

The special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, ultimately decided not to pursue charges against Mr. Rove. Some Republicans said they believed that Mr. Rove steered clear of the pardon discussions, perhaps because his participation would have been awkward.

“I talk to Karl a lot, and I just never got any sense that he was involved in that at all,” said Vin Weber, a Republican former congressman who said he believed that Mr. Libby should be pardoned.
Ah. Karl Rove. Hello Prince of Darkness, my old friend. It's "unclear" the extent to which he was involved in these deliberations. "Some Republicans" "believed" he wasn't involved, but our anonymous source with actual knowledge stays mum. Vin Weber, meanwhile, a member of the Off the Record Club, "never got any sense" that he was involved. But why couldn't the anonymous source have been at least asked about this incredibly important question, given that Rove was at the center of the investigation and was only spared prosecution because he went back and changed his story before the Grand Jury (which testimony he refuses to release to the public)? Or, assuming he was asked, why couldn't we be told that he refused to answer or was vague on the question. I mean, to be clear, any halfway-decent journalist would have made the possibility that Rove--a central figure in this travesty, a man who by Bush's own words should have been fired for his involvement in leaking Plame's CIA connection but who sits still unharmed--was involved in delibrations into the LEDE of the article. But we don't have a halfway-decent journalist. We just have two people who are so gullible (by which I mean "in on it") that they are willing to suggest Rove wasn't involved in deliberations for fear of them being "awkward."

You start to see now why I was compelled to jot some thoughts down. And why I accuse the Times of collusion.
Mr. Weber also said he was concerned about Mr. Bush’s statement Tuesday, in which the president said he believed that the jury verdict should stand. “It disturbs me,” he said, “because the president has set himself up for more criticism if indeed he does issue a full pardon, which I think he should.”
Oh no, Vin! Not "more criticism!" Heaven forfend! But never you fret. We all know the president does what he does based on what's RIGHT, not on what's POPULAR. Ergo his 27-30% approval rating. (Just in case you're keeping track, this is the point in the story where Bush is crticized from the right, so we know that if both sides have a problem with the decision, it's probably a case of splitting the difference and hell, not such a big deal!!!!!)
Another question that remained open Tuesday is to what extent Mr. Cheney participated.
Well, at least they mentioned him. Oh sweet Isis, this is a painful article.
Aides to the vice president have said he regarded Mr. Libby’s conviction as a tragedy, but people close to Mr. Cheney said they did not know what conversations, if any, the vice president had with the president about the commutation decision.
Yeah, pretty much what I said about Rove applies here. TIMES 100,000,000,000!
The White House was besieged by criticism over the decision Tuesday. Before Mr. Bush spoke at Walter Reed, his press secretary, Tony Snow, fended off an unruly press corps, whose members demanded to know why Mr. Libby had received special treatment. Mr. Snow insisted that he had not, saying the case had been handled in a “routine manner.”
Which absolutely contradicts what the former administration official said just a few paragraphs above, but who's counting? (Hey, look at me not commenting on the use of the word "unruly" instead of the more obvious "doing their job"!)
“The president does not look upon this as granting a favor to anyone,” Mr. Snow said, “and to do that is to misconstrue the nature of the deliberations.”
Blah blah fucking blah, Tony Snow.

Our final clue that the entire article was a big ol' ball of crap is here. If you need 3-5+ people to speak anonymously in order to just confirm what Tony Snow just stood up and said, and in doing so help fend off criticism of the president, you have undermined for the bazillionth time the entire point of granting anonymity to sources. These sources have not told us one thing beyond what Tony Snow JUST SAID!

So there you go. If you got this far, bless you. I had to get it off my chest. Yes I'm mad at Bush for this action, but it's the nature of what a despot will do when he feels he can. I reserve my greatest fury for the coopted media. Should anyone, ever, feel the need to defend the "Even the Liberal" New York Times, alls you have to do is send them here to let them know what side the "paper of record" is really on. Hint: it's not our side.

[FYI: Media Matters has a nice overview of the article, but their style is so damn unaffected and straightforward that, I hate to say it, but it leaves me a little cold.]

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