Democracy Has Prevailed.

September 13, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday

It's Sunday. Jack Kelly's got a column in the P-G. Said column that shows, yet again, that NO ONE AT THE P-G FACT-CHECKS JACK KELLY.

Good lord, this is getting redundant.

This week's column is about the resignation of Van Jones, scary black man.

Jack's opening:

Around midnight on the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, the White House announced Van Jones had resigned as President Obama's "green jobs czar."

"On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," Mr. Jones said in his resignation letter. "They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide."

The "lies and distortions" consisted of reporting Mr. Jones' arrest during a riot, and quoting, accurately, from statements Mr. Jones had made and from petitions he had signed.

So what can we expect now? More of the same spin and, let's put it diplomatically, "factual interpretations" from Jack Kelly. The interpretations begin in the next sentence (hold onto your hats, Kelly fans, this one's a do-who-WHOzey):
Mr. Jones was arrested during the rioting in Los Angeles in 1992 that followed the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. Mr. Jones spoke of that experience in a 2005 interview with a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay area:

"I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28, and then the verdicts came down on April 29," he told the East Bay Express. "By August, I was a communist."
Let's go see that article in the East Bay Express. You'd think that Jack would have read it more carefully. AND you'd think that the folks whose job it should be to check his column would, you know, check his sources to see if they say what he says they say. Needless to say he didn't and/or they didn't.

Here's the set up in the Express for Jones' arrest:
Jones first moved to the Bay Area in the spring of 1992, when the San Francisco-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights hired a batch of law students to act as legal observers during the trial of Rodney King's assailants.
Then a few paragraphs later:
When the verdicts came down -- not guilty for three of the officers involved, and deadlocked on the fourth -- (Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Executive Director Eva) Paterson's office, like the city, reacted with disbelief. Paterson said she felt like picking up her office chair and hurling it out the window. The staff hit the streets to monitor the demonstrations that erupted in San Francisco. One week later, while Jones was observing the first large rally since the lifting of the city's state of emergency, he got swept up in mass arrests.[emphasis added.]
So Jones was NOT arrested at the Rodney King riots in LA but in San Francisco a week later.

But let's look further into this arrest. Here's Van Jones at Huffingtonpost 2 years ago:
In the wake of the (Rodney King) verdicts, Los Angeles exploded in blood and flames.

Also that week, there were disturbances and rebellions in 100 other U.S. cities. One of them was San Francisco (where I was then working as a law student intern).

Recently, I discovered an essay that I wrote at the time. It captures the pain, frustration and aspirations of a much younger person. But I think it speaks well to the thought process of many young activists at that time.

Ironically, days after I wrote this essay, San Francisco police officers illegally arrested me and hundreds of other participants in a peaceful protest march.

The District Attorney later dropped the charges against me, and those of us who were unlawfully arrested won a small legal settlement.

And the there's Eva Patterson also at Huffingtonpost:

This is what really happened. On May 8, 1992, the week AFTER the Rodney King disturbances, I sent a staff attorney and Van out to be legal monitors at a peaceful march in San Francisco. The local police, perhaps understandably nervous, stopped the march and arrested hundreds of people -- including all the legal monitors.

The matter was quickly sorted out; Van and my staff attorney were released within a few hours. All charges against them were dropped. Van was part of a successful class action lawsuit later; the City of San Francisco ultimately compensated him financially for his unjust arrest (a rare outcome). [emphasis added.]

So he was a legal monitor at the demonstrations? In San Francisco? And released a few hours later? And then was part of a successful lawsuit against San Francisco because of the arrests? That none of that readily available information is found in Jack's column points to something any undergraduate talking Ethics 101 would easily spot as a "lie of omission." Jack is knowingly leaving his readers with a false picture of reality. It's as much a lie as if he tried to assert that Bill Ayers ghost wrote one of Barack Obama's books (which Jack did, by the way).

That the same East Bay Express article Jack quotes puts (in the very next paragraph, no less) Van Jones in San Francisco is a fact so simple that getting it so wrong is just embarrassing - embarrassing for Jack and more importantly embarrassing for his employer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a news outlet that should be catching and stopping these "interpretations of facts" of his.

I just realized something: Jack didn't exactly say that Jones was arrested in LA during the LA riots, just during them (though I am not sure that a week later can be classified as "during" but that's another point.). If that's the case think of the rhetorical gymnastics being used here. At first blush he writes it in such a way that had you not known better you'd of course assume Jones was in LA during the riots and was arrested there. More or less classic lie of omission here.

But let's move on. Yes, there's more:
Mr. Jones was arrested again in 1999 during the anti-free trade riots in Seattle.
Eva Patterson has something to say about this, too. After pointing out that Fox "News" talking head Glenn Beck implied that Jones went to jail for the 92 arrest, she writes:
Beck also bizarrely claims that Van was arrested in the Seattle WTO protests. That is just a flat-out falsehood.

You don't have to take my word for it. Arrests and convictions are all a matter of public record.
That's true - if there's an arrest record it should be easily found. Where is Jack's evidence that Jones was arrested in Seattle? Apart from Glenn Beck's assertion, that is. Maybe Orly Taitz can buy one on ebay. Of course it'll be forged from an arrest for some Viennese bank fraud committed in 1989, but the wingnuts'll go crazy for it anyway.

Here's Jack's next section:
But what did Mr. Jones in was the revelation that in 2004 he had signed a petition calling on then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to investigate whether the Bush administration had been behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Mr. Jones acknowledged he'd signed the petition but claimed he hadn't read it carefully and that it did not represent his views. The veracity of this claim was called into question when it was reported that Mr. Jones had been one of the organizers of a "truther" rally in San Francisco in January 2002.

Let me first say that I am not a supporter of the "truther" movement. To the extent that it differs from the more or less standard narrative of what happened on 9/11, it's just goofy. The further out ("No plane struck the Pentagon.") it gets the goofier it gets - no doubt. But look at the petition in question. Does it actually call for "then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to investigate whether the Bush administration had been behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon"?

For the record Jack makes another error-of-fact. The petition is dated October of 2004. Spitzer didn't become Governor of New York until 2007. He was the "then-New York Attorney General." Small point I realize, but if Jack can't be trusted to get the simple facts right, why should we trust him on the big ones?


I have to admit the petition does get awfully close to dancing goofy truther dance but nothing as blatant as Jack's assertion. It asks a some leading questions that's about it. Did you know San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome signed the petition as well?

But Jack's ending is profoundly laughable:
Jeffrey Lord, who was a speechwriter in the Reagan administration, noted that in administrations past, the Secret Service would not have permitted someone with Mr. Jones' background to enter the White House with a visitor's pass. Yet Mr. Jones was made a high-level appointee with considerable influence.

For Mr. Jones to get a White House job, even more senior aides to President Obama either had to be unaware of his background, or indifferent to it. The former suggests an appalling degree of incompetence.

And a paragraph later:
Did the Secret Service object to Van Jones? If so, who overrode them? What did the president know and when did he know it?
Jeff Gannon anyone?


Ellipses said...

This is a great post... Good job.

EdHeath said...

The Wikipedia entry for Van Jones is interesting. His sister talks about him living inside his head as a kid ("stereotypical geek"), and Jones calls himself "bookish and bizarre." as a kid. The reason I mention this is because it strikes me as weird that anyone would declare themselves a communist in 1992, when the Soviet Union was gone and China was distancing itself from Communism. But Van Jones didn’t seem to be interested in organizing workers to seize the means of production; he seemed to be interested in investigating police brutality, helping people with housing issues and getting books for convicts.

You gotta know, though, that Kelly is focused solely on that word “Communist”. I’ll bet he won’t even eat a reuben because of the russian dressing.

Van Jones has run the whole range of experiences in trying to help poor people of color. But having that Yale law degree and all, he finally figured that working within the system helping them get good paying jobs was the most effective way of helping them. Unless you count violently other-throwing the government and having the workers seize the means of production (which currently are some servers actually located in India, and some assorted netbooks).