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Bernard Weiner's Blog -- 2007

November 20, 2007

Barry Bonds, Bridge Dissent & Dem Street-Smarts

Barry Bonds got tripped up by forgetting the buzzword advice his lawyers no doubt gave him when he went into the grand jury room all by his lonesome. You never answer a problematic question categorically; you say "I believe" or "I think" or "to the best of my recollection." You can't be charged with perjury if you're talking about your "beliefs" or what you might have "thought," or because of a "faulty recollection."

In the published excerpts of his grand jury testimony, Bonds tries to stick to that sort of script, but then he commits the ultimate mistaken assumption: that nobody will be able to determine whether he's telling the truth. (Apparently, the grand jury was shown his positive steroid test results.)

For example, Bonds is asked whether his trainer ever gave him steroids. He replies: "I don't think Greg would do anything like that to me and jeopardize our friendship. I just don't think he would do that." The interrogator doesn't buy the obfuscation and asks Bonds directly what actually happened; Bonds denies everything.

You may remember when the CEOs of the major cigarette makers testified before Congress some years back. They were asked whether cigarettes were addictive. They all followed their lawyers' advice and answered: "I do not believe cigarettes are addictive." Given the voluminous evidence of addictive additives in cigarettes, they thus could not to charged with committing perjury, since all they admitted to was that they didn't "believe" cigarettes were addictive.

A current example: Howard "Cookie" Krongard, the State Department's Inspector General, was being questioned last week by a House panel about a possible conflict of interest in investigating (or, in this case, not investigating) Blackwater's scandalous behavior in Iraq; turns out his brother Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard was a member of Blackwater's Advisory Board. So Cookie hauled out the requisite "believe" distancer:

"It couldn't possibly have affected anything I've done, because I don't believe it. And when these ugly rumors started recently, I specifically asked him. I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board, as you stated, and that is something I think I need to say."

Buzzy has since resigned from Blackwater's advisory board, and contradicted his brother's testimony about when he learned of the advisory board membership, so a perjury charge may be in the offing for Cooky.

The point is that we're apt to see much more of this type of deviousness when CheneyBush and their co-conspirators are brought before impeachment panels or criminal or civil courts after they leave office. In short, we need to pay attention to how people phrase their denials under oath.


Democratic leaders in Congress are slowly getting more street-smart about how to procedurally conduct themselves when dealing with their Republican opponents. For example, Majority Leader Harry Reid is making sure Bush can't carry out "recess appointments" of "loyal-Bushie" lackeys during the Thanksgiving break by keeping the Senate in "pro forma" session during the entire period.

However, even though the Dems are a bit more savvy about how to fight, they continue to demonstrate their lack of courage and spines by backing away on the major struggles that need to be waged.

For example, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her House Democrats received much praise last week for passing a $50-million "bridge" bill for combat operations in Iraq that tied the funding to major troop withdrawals by December 2008. However, a closer reading of the bill reveals that December 2008 is ##merely a "goal."   In other words, CheneyBush would remain free to ignore that date, which of course they would. Wake me when the Dems require withdrawal as a key element in their anti-war strategy.


It's about time. The word "impeachment" has made its way into the mainstream TV media! At last week's Democratic debate, presented and moderated by CNN, Senator Joe Biden firmly asserted that if CheneyBush were to attack Iran without Congressional approval, they should be impeached. And Congressman Dennis Kucinich, despite moderator Wolf Blitzer's attempts to cut him off, told the viewers that he'd offered an impeachment bill in the House because impeachment was necessary NOW to stop any more unconstitutional behavior.

If the three front-runners for the Democratic nomination (Edwards, Obama, Clinton) were also to mention the "i"-word, it's possible enough clamor from the public might convince Chairman John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put impeachment back on the table.

Can we hope?


The acts of repression and violence against dissenters don't seem to go away. Kids get suspended from school for wearing anti-war T-shirts, the Dixie Chicks are boycotted for questioning Bush's wisdom, those attempting to enter Congressional hearings on the war are arrested and roughly handled, a student gets tased for asking a long question at a talk by Sen. John Kerry, a doctor is prosecuted for giving medical aid to a protestor who went unconscious after his brutalization by police, and now this:

Recently, American bridge players in a world-championship tournament in Shanghai held up a tiny sign during the award ceremonies saying "We did not vote for George Bush." One of the women explained their actions: "What we were trying to say, not to Americans but to our friends in other countries, was that we understand that they are questioning and critical of what our country is doing these days, and we want you to know that we too are critical."

By the over-reaction of American bridge authorities, you would have thought that the women had passed state secrets to an enemy or had committed some other "treasonous" act.

The U.S. Bridge Federation proposed a one-year suspension from all bridge activities, a one-year probation after that sentence is completed, 200 hours of community service "that furthers the interests of organized bridge," and an apology drafted by the bridge federation and signed by the women.

Additionally, according to Jon Carroll, "the women would be forced to rat on one another, identifying their ringleader and saying who thought of the wording of the sign...Apparently, the pressure is coming from top bridge officials who donate a lot of money to the American Contract Bridge League. Robert S. Wolff, a muckety-muck and pooh-bah, threatened to withdraw his support if the miscreants are not punished. 'While I believe in the right of free speech,' he was quoted in the New York Times as saying, 'to me that doesn't give anyone the right to criticize one's leader at a foreign venue in a totally nonpolitical event'.

""Except, of course, that it was demonstrably political, because a small sign vaguely criticizing the president raised a big stink, while the frenzied waving of American flags did not. What Wolff objects to is dissent. He objects to rifts in the dominant narrative. And he wants those rifts to be punished right now and for a long while."


All the above crackdowns on relatively minor forms of dissent could be seen as anomalies except that the underlying attitude comes from the top: You're "either with us or with the terrorists," in the famous words of George W. Bush. To many, if you're criticizing Bush policies, you're obviously giving aid and comfort to "the enemy." In other words, dissent = treason.

But it's not just private citizens coming down hard on those who disagree with official policy. Actual laws are passed to penalize legitimate dissent -- many aspects of the so-called "Patriot Act" and the Military Commissions Act, for example, and the recently proposed, abominable Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act could become law as well.

One understands why the more authoritarian party is comfortable with such legislation, but why do the Democrats join in these attacks on civil liberties? (The "Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" was introduced by California Democrat Jane Harman.) To cover their political asses so they can't be accused of being "soft on terrorism"? Disgraceful. Even some libertarian rightwingers are appalled by the dangers to American citizens' civil liberties. This bill needs to be given a quick burial in the Senate.

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