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Busted by a Broken System

The Indictment of Barry Bonds

by DAVE ZIRIN

Barry Lamar Bonds faces thirty years in prison because the Department of Justice is a corroded husk of political decay. The baseball Home Run King has now been officially indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges and it only took three years and millions of tax dollars to make it happen.

The DOJ’s entire case hinges on the ridiculous question of whether Bonds "knowingly" was on the juice, or lied on the witness stand when he said he took such substances "unknowingly." The actual indictment parses in language that would shame a Clinton. It reads, "During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes."

This is idiocy raised to the level of law. It makes me wonder what they’re teaching at Jesus-land Legal Academy these days. Did Bonds actually test positive for steroids or were pharmaceuticals only found in these mysterious un-indicted "other athletes"? And what is a "performance enhancer"? That’s not even a legal or medical term; it’s sports radio shorthand. The cortisone shot into Curt Schilling ankle in the 2005 playoffs was a performance enhancer. The Viagra coursing through Bob Dole’s veins is a performance enhancer. Whatever keeps that smile glued to Laura Bush’s face is a performance enhancer. It’s a colloquial phrase tells us nothing. It only raises the question whether the indictment was written by Mike or the Mad Dog.

Most of the media has focused on the prison release of Bonds’ trainer and childhood friend Greg Anderson. Anderson has spent the last four months in jail for refusing to testify against his friend. The press is atwitter with speculation that Anderson may have finally turned. But his attorney Mark Geragos says that this is absolutely and unequivocally notthe case.

It’s far more likely that Anderson was released because now that the indictment has been served there is no legal basis for holding him. The media, however, has their eye on the wrong ball. The timing that’s important here is not Greg Anderson’s release but the ascension your brand spanking new Attorney General, Mike Mukasey, and his desire for a cheap hit.

Mukasey believes that the pillars of these United States are Mom, apple pie, and protracted torture. As the New York Times wrote on November 1st, "Mukasey, a well-respected trial judge in New York…has stunned us during the confirmation process by saying he believes the president has the power to negate laws and by not committing himself to enforcing Congressional subpoenas. He also has suggested that he will not uphold standards of decency during wartime recognized by the civilized world for generations."

The fact is that Bonds is under attack from a collection of torture-loving, Habeas Corpus shredding, illegal wire tapping, political operatives. The idea that a Barry Bonds indictment becomes the first act of Mike Mukasey’s Justice Department only exposes Sens. Diane Feinstein and Chuck Schumer, and the other Democratic pols who backed his confirmation. They called him "a man of character" as well as "a strong leader, committed to depoliticizing the agency’s operations." There is no evidence of character and leadership in this indictment; only the tawdry political desire for headlines.

Mukasey and friends may have worked themselves into a lather over the thought of their "Capone" behind bars. But they shouldn’t be picking out his orange jumpsuit just yet. The indictment comes on the heels of the resignation of San Francisco US Attorney Kevin Ryan. Ryan was by all counts a Bush loyalist but he had earned the ire of the DOJ for, among other things, not indicting Bonds. He apparently didn’t relish the thought of prosecuting the local hero in a San Francisco courtroom. Prosecutors will have that same hurdle of convicting Bonds on his home turf with apparantly no fresh evidence.

Because it appears that the DOJ has nothing new to say, the plan will be to scorch the jury pool by raising the temperature on the story. Already in the wake of the indictment, the White House felt the need to weigh in saying, among other insipid platitudes, "[C]learly this is a sad day for baseball." You would never know that there are wars and occupations going on that might require some attention. This is like FDR delivering a fireside chat on the death of Fatty Arbuckle. It’s also yet another sign that the justice system has more holes than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Today I will be demonstrating in front of Mukasey’s Department of Justice along with thousands of my closest friends. We will march because they refuse to indict people for hanging nooses, or see the rape and torture of Megan Williams as a hate crime, or do anything to change the perception that justice means "just-us." But my vocal chords might be a little more raw than usual at days end. The idea that they have no time for Megan Williams, but invest years in the prosecution of Barry Bonds should make any good person of conscience utterly enraged.

Think about it: Barry Bonds joining Marion Jones in prison. Feel any safer yet?

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of "The Muhammad Ali Handbook" (MQ Publications) and "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" . You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing edgeofsports-subscribe@zirin.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com