Monday, December 13, 2004

Democracy Now!; Matthew Rothschild on Howard Dean; Bumiller; Ms.; AIDS; Spying and even the Mamas & the Papas

Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! today regarding Bernard Kerik's withdrawn nomination and the attempts to pin this down on a Nanny-gate:

But an array of other charges and questions about Kerik's controversial past have dominated news headlines over the weekend.
Newsweek uncovered that an arrest warrant was issued for Kerik as recently as six years ago over a dispute involving unpaid bills. The 1998 warrant was issued as part of a series of lawsuits relating to unpaid bills on his condominium in New Jersey.
The New York Daily News reports that Kerik had illegally accepted thousands of dollars in cash and gifts while a public official. A Daily News probe revealed that for many years, one of Kerik's main benefactors was Lawrence Ray. Ray was later indicted on unrelated federal charges tied to what the Daily News called a "$40 million, mob-run, pump-and-dump stock swindle."
The Washington Post reports that nine employees of the hospital Kerik worked at providing security in Saudi Arabia accused him of using his policing powers to pursue the personal agenda of his immediate boss.
Questions have also been raised about Kerik's misuse of police power while the head of the New York police department. In one example, he was fined for using the services of three police officers to help research his autobiography "The Lost Son." He was also accused of sending homicide police officers to question Fox News journalists after the book's publisher, Judith Regan, lost a mobile phone after an interview at the Fox studios. It turned out to have just been misplaced.
Kerik has also coming under close scrutiny for his windfall profit from stock options in stun-gun manufacturer, Taser International. He netted over $5.5 million on the options, without ever having invested any of his own money.
Questions have also raised about his failure in Iraq to train a new Iraqi police force. Kerik went to Iraq for a six month tour of duty to help rebuild the Iraqi police force but he abruptly left after just three months.

That's from the introduction to her interview with Ellis Hennican of Newsday ( Hennican (who was also on Unfiltered with Lizz Winstead & Rachel Maddow today) has been a strong reporter on this story.

I mention that because, two Sundays ago, the New York Times went with a front page piece on Kerik and it was a puff piece. With several writers credited. [That front page was covered in and again when Lipton covered Kerik on Friday]

The Times, due to their size and their reputation, should have owned that story. Instead, they were late getting out of the gate on it. (I'm referring to reporting -- as usual the editorial board was way ahead of the Times' reporters on this.) How did they miss the story from their own backyard?

I heard speculation repeatedly today that because the Democrat senators from NY were in agreement with the (Republican) administration, there was no conflict and nothing to report.
That doesn't excuse a front page puff piece. Nor does it mean reporters don't have to do their job. Their job is not to go along when everyone's going along, it's to find out the facts. We saw Bumiller turn in a similar "get to know" piece. [Criticism of that can be found at]

Bumiller turned in a superficial report on Samuel W. Bodman. As stated on that day:

The article she's written is superficial. He's got four years under his belt in Bush's first administration and a very public career prior. But Bumiller's not able to examine anything from his past and keeps running to "analysts" who apparently only provide her with superficial information? (In fairness to those analysts who are named -- two, though she repeatedly uses "analysts" in the article -- perhaps they gave her stronger information but, for whatever reasons, Bumiller didn't include it here.) Bumiller turned in a sixteen paragraph article that tells the reader very little.

What does it matter if it's superficial? I doubt Bodman's nomination will be withdrawn. That's not the issue. The issue is she was supposed to write an article addressing Bodman. Who was she writing it for? It wasn't for the readers. We learned very little from her superficial "probing" of Bodman's "record."

Contrast her entire article with one paragraph read on the Headlines section of Democracy Now! (

Bush Picks Ex-Chemical Company Official to Head Energy Dept
President Bush has nominated Samuel Bodman to serve as the country's next Secretary of Energy. He has been working for the Bush administration since 2001, first as deputy commerce secretary then deputy treasury secretary. The Sierra Club criticized his hands-off position on global warming when he oversaw the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency as deputy secretary of Commerce. The Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said, "He was literally in charge of watching the polar ice caps melt." Prior to coming to Washington Bodman headed the chemical company Cabot. The Knight Ridder news agency reports that during Bodman's tenure at Cabot, the government twice fined the company for failing to report hazardous spills and not complying with federal cleanup orders.

If Bumiller wants to write her "White House Letter"s, and the Times wants to print them, she can continue being as superficial as she wants to be in those floating op-eds. But when she leaves that area, when she's got real headline and assigned a real story, she needs to do some work and that goes beyond calling two people for quotes. And if Bill Keller thinks Bumiller's writing is up to snuff he needs to read it a little more closely.

The "White House Letter" functions as a club newsletter. Fine. But when she's writing to inform the readers, she needs to be informing the readers. A number of you have e-mailed about her appearence on Washington Week during the controversy over Bush's service (after Michael Moore's remarks when the story finally came alive). You note that she'd stated it wasn't covered in depth prior because "we" (reporters) didn't think it was that big of a story.
A lot of you wrote that this demonstrated that she was a lousy reporter.

That could be. But she's not just writing something up and carrying it to the printers. There's a process and that includes an editor. If she's not good at thinking up topics, her editor can assign them. And when she's completed a draft, her editor can go over it and tell her whether or not it qualifies for the Times. Simplistic writing like she did on Bowden doesn't qualify.

As for her appearence on Washington Week, I will note that she reported on the documents. She wasn't on the panel discussing them. And, if I remember correctly, at one point she was encouraged to speculate and she declined. I think that was a good thing to do (my opinion). She's a reporter and she confined herself to reporting only in that appearence.

I don't take her "White House Letter"s seriously. To me, they're op-ed. And possibly, they harm her career more than they could ever help it because no serious journalist will make their name doing those type of camp bulletins. But she can continue to do that. The Times appears pleased with them. (I have no idea why.) But when she files a report, an actual article, not a "White House Letter," she needs to have her reporting cap on and she needs to do the work required. Troi offered that "Bumiller has no talent as a journalist." That's Tori's opinion and she may be right on that. My own opinion is the Bumiller has talent and has used it before; she's
just not using it now. (That's my opinion and I could be wrong.)

Again, she can do whatever she wants in her "White House Letter." The most this site will do is mock it. But when she turns in an actual article we will "bear down on her like some crazed, road raged idiot in a Hummer" (Frank in Orlando) because it's not up to the standards of the paper or the standards she should be holding for herself. She's capable of much better.

I don't know if Frank in Orlando subscribes or puchases each day, but the Times should consider gifting him with a free subscription since he fires off (to this site) a blistering e-mail everytime a Times' reporter is criticized for not actually reporting.

Frank in Orlando feels that we tear apart everyone at the Times (unfairly, he feels) for the most trivial reasons. He may be correct, he may be wrong. However, Sunday's front page featured the most awkward sentence I've ever seen on the front page. We didn't highlight that on this site. I wondered how it got printed but there was no point in writing about it. My opinion, we're not picking apart "every word" that someone writes here as Frank in Orlando feels. But I think people reading the Times are allowed to pick up the paper with the expectation that a story will inform them.

Frank in Orlando wrote two e-mails on the "attack" on Gina Bellafante. Again, I disagree. Carl wrote in wondering if there was payment "for product placement." Melanie said that the article was "too superficial for Bride magazine even."

I will agree that I don't take Bumiller seriously at this point. When her articles (exempting "White House Letter") appear to demonstrate that she takes her job seriously, I'll be happy to say "well done."

Martha wrote in regarding an obit. I didn't highlight the obit because, honestly, I don't usually read them. Gary Webb ( was someone Martha knew and she found the obituary on him "disgusting" and it upset her.

Here's Robert Parry from today's Democracy Now! on Gary Webb:

It was Gary Webb who revived that investigation in 1996 with his series in the San Jose Mercury News, and again, he was assaulted by these same news elements, the New York Times, the Washington Post, L.A. Times, and what he did was he provoked an internal investigation at justice, at the CIA, and those investigations while they -- the press releases tended to be protective of the agencies, the information contained in the long reports was devastating. Essentially, the CIA admitted that it was involved with the Contras, who were actively participating in cocaine trafficking. The CIA Inspector General said more than 50 Contras and Contra units were implicated in the cocaine trade, that the CIA knew about it in real time, that it hid the evidence, that it obstructed justice. All of these things were admitted by the CIA itself, by 1998, in response to Webb’s series. The great tragedy, I suppose, of the personal tragedy and professional, is that despite these admissions, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the L.A. Times still refused to deal with the facts. It seemed almost like the editors had more of a stake in covering up the truth than the CIA did. So, Gary Webb’s career was allowed to be ruined. The people who were involved in these -- in protecting the CIA from those major papers, their careers blossomed.

The link for that segment of Democracy Now! (includes the option of listening to the segment, viewing it or reading the transcript -- also includes a piece of an interview Amy Goodman did with Webb in 1998 -- can be found at

From this report and Martha's two e-mails on this subject, I would agree that the Times' obit was distasteful. I'll leave it for others to speculate why the paper ran the obit (which was via Reuters) and if you want to weigh in on that the e-mail address is

Marcia says we should refer to Bush from now on as "Fat Boy." "Clinton was Big Dog," she notes. "Bush should be Fat Boy."

Fourteen e-mails expressed that Bush (Fat Boy) has enjoyed making fun of other people's weight for years. I'm honestly surprised that it took a physical exam for the press to comment on it. (And stories were sent in from other papers that used "Fat" in the headling, unlike Bumiller's report for the Times which didn't use the term in the headling; though it did use "excellent.") Again, from photos during the campaign (especially after the convention) it was obvious that he had put on weight. My friend who teaches ESL was helping her students with a project on the election. Looking at the photos they said a term that translates as "beer gut." Why "journalists" who felt the need to comment on Kerry's legs, et al, never thought to note that is beyond me.

Rob writes in that Bush had sworn off "sweets until our troops were back home." I remember that vaugely but that was in March of 2003 (if I'm remembering correctly) and maybe "Mission Accomplished (May, 2003) ended that promise?

Regardless, when he (Bush/Fat Boy) elected to postpone his physical, that would have been the time for reporters to discuss his health and note the very obvious observation: he has put on weight. Why they didn't, I don't know. (Possibly "good taste.")

Dallas (as one e-mailer wanted to be called) sent in a lyrics (to be sung to the tune of the Mamas & the Papas "Creeque Alley"):

Collie & Rummy were getting kind of chummy just to get this war on the road
Condi & Cheney lyin', fibbin', speakin' in that "mushroom cloud" code
In the oval office Bush boy sat, pranking on Frist by meowing like a kitty cat
While Ashcroft and Gonzales really thought torture was all that
And no one's getting fat except Bully Boy Bush.

Rummy said, "Collie, you know there aren't many can sell the war the way you do; let's hit Iraq"
Collie said, "Golly, Rummy, trashing my reputation ain't funny but you know I got your back."
Collie, Rummy and Condi all laughed while Cheney's friends were pushing for graft
Ashcroft and Gonzales still thought torture was all that
And no one's getting fat except Bully Boy Bush.

When Bush was a governor, said he was humbler, but he changed his mind one day
Eyeing the oil wells, telling the big tails, hit Iraq with or without the UN
Cheney was proddin', "Let's forget bin Laden" flashing that evil grin
"Can't let this moment pass, well you know it would be such a sin."
And no one's getting fat except Bully Boy Bush.

Falluja, Baghdad, Basrah, Kirkuk: We're going to own it all.
Tear up, break down, love to see that statue fall.
Cheney said "cake walk"; Collie said "freedom"; Condi said "Berlin wall!"
No one's hurtin', no one's dying, if you believe Fox News' crawl
And everybody's getting fat except Bully Boy Bush.

Troops hurtin', Haliburton; David Kay says there's no weapons!
Bush offered a fake turkey, his plans were murky, Wolfie wants to go to Iran.
No one's seen bin Laden and something new's startin', Collie says North Korea's getting out of hand.
Greenspan's delusions and Snow's confusions can't go on indefinitely
And quagmire, quagmire is becoming a reality.

Moving to news on spying (from Democracy Now!):

U.S. Found Spying on Head Of UN Atomic Watchdog
The Bush administration has begun spying on the head of the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency in an attempt to uncover information that could lead to his ouster. This according to the Washington Post. The US reportedly has tapped Mohammad ElBaradei's phones and intercepted dozens of calls. The Bush administration has been at odds with ElBaradei since he rightly stated there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This is the third report over the past two years of the Bush administration or its allies spying on officials at the United Nations. In March 2003, the Observer newspaper revealed that the National Security Agency had ordered increased eavesdropping on UN diplomats ahead of the Security Council vote on Iraq. Earlier this year former British cabinet minister Clare Short revealed British spies had eavesdropped on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

I also want to recommend an interview from Friday's Democracy Now!, "Navy
Sailor Charged As 'Deserter and Fugitive' After Refusing Iraq Deployment"

PABLO PAREDES: Right. And I understand that the country has a military and has a job to do and I realize now I never wanted to be part of that and I don't know why I joined, like I said, it was a rash decision. But you know when you consider September 11, I would in no way want to be part of the reaction -- which is all you can call it -- to September 11. But I would understand as a voter and an individual and a civilian that the country would go to some kind of war, that there could be some kind of reaction that there would be some kind of retribution. So on that playing field, Afghanistan made some sense. But after that, Iraq, so-called weapons of mass destruction, “Saddam Hussein is the devil” rhetoric, you know, I mean, I didn't follow any of it. I didn't understand it. And I'm a kid that if you sit me down and explain something to I do understand, it is real hard for me not to grasp something if you explain it to me carefully, and I heard just about everybody that believes in it explain it to me carefully, and I still don't understand it. I don't understand why we are in Iraq.

I want to recommend Robyn E. Blumner's op-ed "Fact-Free Teaching on Sex" (;

But unlike Bush's energetic concern over educational accountability and standards reflected in No Child Left Behind, the curricula for abstinence-only sex education programs are not vetted for accuracy. (There was an attempt by Democratic lawmakers in 2002 to require medical accuracy as a condition of receiving money for these programs, but that effort was voted down by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.)
So rather than getting the tools they need to make sensible choices about their health and bodies, young people are being told outrageous lies, such as how 5 to 10 percent of women who have abortions will become sterile (when there's no correlation between elective abortions and sterility) or how condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission 31 percent of the time (when a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that consistent condom use resulted in a zero transmission rate.)

I think we need to think about that (and the rest of Blumner's column) while noting (as Linda De Iberri does in the Letters section of the winter issue of Ms.) that AIDS is on the increase among young people:

Scientists believe that cases of HIV infection diagnosed among 13- to 24-year-olds are indicative of overall trends in HIV incidence (the number of new infections in a given time period, usually a year) because this age group has more recently initiated high-risk behaviors. Females made up nearly half (47%) of HIV cases in this age group reported from the 34 areas with confidential HIV reporting for adults and adolescents in 2000—and in young people between the ages of 13 and 19, a much greater proportion of HIV infections was reported among females (61%) than among males (39%). Cumulatively, young African Americans are most heavily affected, accounting for 56% of all HIV cases ever reported among 13- to 24-year-olds in these 34 areas.

Marcia wrote in to ask if Ms. was "even worth reading?" I think it is. And when even the Letters section is worth quoting, I'd argue that indicates the value of the magazine.

The Winter 2004/2005 issue isn't up online yet ( but I'll keep checking and hopefully be able to provide a link to a story or two when it is up. In the meantime, the issue is in the stores. It's the Women of the Year issue which, again, features the Jersey Girls on the cover: Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Mindy Kleinberg & Lorie Van Auken.

Lastly, Brad e-mailed Matthew Rothchild's "This Just In" from Friday. I'd missed it but it's worth reading. Here's the opening (click the link to read the rest):

This weekend the Democrats are gathering in Orlando not to visit Disneyworld but to pick a new head for the Democratic National Committee.
The battle lines are drawn between those who think the party should move to the right and those who want the party to stand for principle.
It's a battle between the DLC on the one side and Howard Dean on the other, with several candidates in between.
The big money guys in the party have their knives out for Dr. Dean. They don't like his liberalism, and they don't like his outspokenness.
They want an obsequious leader who can suck up to big donors and blur the distinctions between the two parties.


[Note: this post has been edited. Karl, Ben, Shirley, Tamara and Brad all pointed out that some lines were in such small type they couldn't be read. This happened once before and I wasn't sure how that happened then and I'm not sure how it happened now. Hopefully, it's been fixed this go round. If not, please let me know.]