Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mush and Milk in Alabama

"Mush-and-milk journalism gives me the fan-tods."

Of late, the Pensacola News Journal has been excitedly pawing through emails from county commissioner Mike Whitehead and even headlining on the front page (!!) juvenile message board postings by school board member Godzilla... no, Gary Bergosh... no,, it is Gary Bergosh after all.

Meanwhile honest investigative journalism in nearby Mobile and Birmingham, Alabama, seems to have completely collapsed. The monopoly known as Advance Publications, which dominates Alabama's newspaper market, has stretched out, closed its eyes, and is taking a long snooze. Worse, there are those who say "There's No News in the Birmingham News" because it's become the house "Organ of the Executive Committee of the Alabama G.O.P.” "Absurd, unprofessional, propagandistic" are just a few of the adjectives used to describe coverage by the Birmingham News.

So it's understandable that it has taken Time Magazine out of New York to weigh in on the growing Siegelman trial scandal. The Time article is moderately long, but the entire scandal is quite a bit more complicated than even Time has room for. The Hill out of Washington D.C. has a usefully abbreviated news story about "the prosecution and conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on corruption charges."

Bottom line: Evidence is surfacing that Karl Rove made the U.S. Attorney's office do it. From The Hill:
According to the transcript, [GOP lawyer Dana Jill] Simpson described a 2005 conversation with Rob Riley, who told her that Rove had contacted the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice to press for further prosecution of Siegelman. She said Rob Riley also recounted how the case would be assigned to a federal judge who “hated” Siegelman and would “hang Don Siegelman.”
Equally disturbing, although you wouldn't know this if you relied on Alabama's leading newspapers, there is ample evidence that at the same time the Justice Department was covering up far more egregious illegal conduct by Alabama Republican office holders, including incumbent U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions. "Selective prosecution" is how Crooks and Liars summarizes it:
At the heart of the Siegelman scandal in Alabama is the question of selective justice. In 2002, a lobbyist/landfill developer told the U.S. Attorney’s office that he used illegal campaign contributions to bribe some of the biggest names in Alabama Republican politics, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a Bush-appointed federal judge William Pryor Jr. He also identified Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D).

The U.S. Attorney’s office proceeded to ignore every piece of evidence against Sessions and Pryor, and prosecute Siegelman with everything prosecutors could come up with. One person involved in the prosecution said they left the Republicans alone on purpose because they had Rs after their name: “Sessions and Pryor were on the home team.”

It's precisely this kind of politicization of the Justice Department under George Bush and "Bushie" loyalists like Alberto Gonzalez that has been worrying thinking lawyers and judges of every partisan persuasion across America for the past two years. If a president and his henchmen can selectively prosecute anyone whose political views they despise -- and shield others who are crooked but faithful allies -- then no one is safe and justice itself becomes a mockery.

For those who want the details -- and there are tons of details -- New York lawyer and erudite columnist for Harper's Magazine, Scott Horton, has been covering the story for months. Check out his latest: Karl Rove Linked To Siegelman Prosecution:
For months, the Alabama Republican machine has attempted to brush off claims about Rove’s involvement as some sort of fantastic speculation. Those efforts have just been exploded. We are one step closer to understanding why Karl Rove left the White House, and perhaps also why Alberto Gonzales stepped down as attorney general. The Siegelman case is emerging, as we predicted, as the most damning exhibit yet in the story of the Bush Administration’s use of the Justice Department as a partisan political tool.
Here are just a few more of Scott Horton's detailed posts about the Siegelman affair over the last five months:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a citizen of Alabama, I cannot tell you how upset I am at the way the major newspapers have covered this story. The Alabama GOP has a lock on the media in the major cities here.
I personally went to the trial of Don Siegelman, and I was convinced he was innocent. The papers printed only what the prosecution's accusations were and never the defense's side. They acted like tabloids.
The judge was OBVIOUSLY biased against Siegelman. In a 6 week trial I could count on one hand how many times he ruled with the defense. He simply took his clues from the prosecution. THIS SITUATION IS AN OUTRAGE!!!