View from the couch: Reality-based shooters


There has been something weird going on with the reporting of the Governor

Unpronounceable (Blagojevich) trial. First, the one conviction count is

put up against the number of hung counts and has been made to look pitiable,

minimal: See, the government lost on 23 counts! Well, one conviction is

enough, but sports scores rule. Lying to

the FBI was enough to send the taste doyen, Martha Stewart, to the slammer for

five months. Rod Blagojevich, since his indictment and removal from

office, has, in a number of ways, turned himself into Martha Stewart, a TV

personality of sorts, a famous fashion hound wearing expensive tailored suits,

etc. – so much so that it's only fitting both he and Martha share a

conviction of lying to the old pesky FBI.

The coverage of the Blagojevich trial did make it sound as if Blago were some

sort of harmless clown. Indeed, before his entrance onto the national stage

with this trial, he was only comic relief for the people of Illinois and

surrounding areas. Now, both Blagojevich and his wife are laugh-celebs

for the nation. The "reporting" of trials has gotten worse since

the O.J. case.But thanks to some

talkative jurors, we know that on the most damaging count (according to some

public relation's scale), selling the Senate seat, the jury was hung 11 to 1

for conviction.

This does

not make the prosecution look too inept, as most of the right wing outlets have

shouted, saving most of their derision for Patrick Fitzgerald, the Chicago US

attorney. I'm not speaking up for the Feds here, but I do know about hung

juries, since we had one in the Harrisburg 7 case, about which I wrote a book,

another federal case.

In that trial, the jury was hung on the most serious conspiracy counts against

an anti-war group (Philip Berrigan and six other anti-Vietnam war activists),

but went 10-2 for acquittal; two defendants were convicted on lesser counts

– for smuggling "contraband" (letters) in and out of a federal prison.

The Harrisburg case was the first federal trial that made use of professional

jury screening, now a standard practice for notorious cases.

But two

jurors slipped through the screening in Harrisburg: one a Jehovah's Witness who

was "anti-war," but not anti-authority, and a repeat juror who had let someone

off in an earlier case – a perp who went on to commit another


Both jurors

were ready to convict no matter what the evidence. And, from reports, it

seems that one woman juror on the Blagojevich case was unwilling to convict

whatever the evidence. Politics as usual, was her reasoning. She well may

have been correct, but that leads to punishing no one, rather than


Trials are often costly, semi-useless affairs, which is why so many of the

imprisoned are locked up these days via plea bargains. That O.J. walked

made a mockery of the jury system. That he is now locked up only because of his

involvement in that wacky memorabilia case might show some karmic justice, but

only that.

I doubt that karma has anything to do with the mosque/community center blowup

in lower Manhattan. Almost anything these days can be made into a

controversy if it profits some group to do so. And the Fox News combine,

run by the Australian Rupert Murdoch (he became a "naturalized" American

citizen in 1985 – attention 14th amendment repealers) and his

anchor babies certainly knows how to do it. Anyone who has ever lived in

NYC understands how much of a different world two blocks makes in the City.

So, it is not a ground zero mosque and never has been. But, nonetheless,

an issue was born, though Manhattan real estate has always been the most holy


The Obama administration, once again, has handled its response poorly; the

usual characters have staked out their positions and all the latent racism that

got buried by the Obama ascendancy has come back full bore, aimed at anything

and everything. Hypocrisy and double-dealing have been the American way

from the country's beginning, but earlier ages hold no candle to the current

day. The news this week that the TV evangelist, megachurch person, and

defender of Charles Taylor, Pat Robertson, had a very non-religious interest in

African gold and diamond mines is almost mind-boggling. There is no depth

these people will not sink to in the name of the holy dollar. The Senate

minority leader, Mitch McConnell, will take the President's word he is a

Christian, rather than the secret Muslim many Republicans believe him to

be. Lord knows this hasn't been a good decade for religions. But I guess

we haven't hit bottom yet.


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