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
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
"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."
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.
NO RECESS FREEBIES FOR BUSH
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
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.
THE "I" WORD IS NOW IN THE MAINSTREAM
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,
Biden firmly asserted that if CheneyBush were to attack Iran without
Congressional approval, they should be impeached. And
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
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
Can we hope?
DANGEROUS BRIDGE PLAYERS
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."
CRACKDOWN FROM THE TOP
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
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,
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
rightwingers are appalled by the dangers to American citizens' civil
liberties. This bill needs to be given a quick burial in the Senate.
More Bernard Weiner's Blogs