Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Journalistic saviors?

One day I will get back to the series I have been writing about.  Another news story was published today that was so one sided, so misguided, so filled with half-truths, so filled with misinformation that I have to respond.  Surprisingly, this story was printed on the sports pages—Peoria Journal Star, 10/10/06, page D6.  It is tucked away on the last page of the sports section at the bottom below the fold—perhaps because the editors know how utterly ridiculous the story is.  But then, they published it so they must believe it.

It is obstinately a sports story.  It is labeled as a commentary about steroids.  It is not.  It is an attack on the judicial system and the Bush administration and an attempt to show that reporters should be above the law.  The writer failed in that attempt.  The writer is identified as “Steve Kelley OF THE SEATTLE TIMES.”  Do you know who Steve Kelley is?  I don’t.  Is he a sports reporter?  It is in the sports section.  Is he a legal reporter writing for the sports section?  Does he have any qualifications to demonstrate that he knows what he is talking about in relation to our legal system?  The concepts he gives in the story tend to demonstrate that he doesn’t have a clue although other reporters have stated the same erroneous hogwash.  They must have these lies feed to them in journalism classes.  They all tend to parrot the same nonsense!    

Even though the article is rather long, I’m going to quote the entire article to insure nothing is left out.  The article also has two small pictures of the two reporters talked about in the story.  Of course, my comments will also be included.

Reporters who broke BALCO news aren’t criminals


Once upon a time, the Bush administration seemed serious about finding and punishing the cheaters in baseball.

In a State of the Union address, President Bush even sandwiched his concerns about the abuse of steroids in the game inside all of his optimistic fluff (Notice the choice of words.  Already the writer demonstrates his bias and then mentions the Iraq war which I don’t think has a lot to do with the article but it does demonstrate the prejudiced mindset of the author.  It is a greater indictment of his lack of partiality than the President’s abandonment of his position.—my addition) about the Iraq war.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft was so proud of the 42-count indictment against individuals tied to San Francisco Bay-area laboratory BALCO that he made the announcement of those indictments on television.  (As I’ve said over and over again and yet reporters don’t seem to get it; an indictment is not a conviction.  Convictions are much more difficult to achieve than an indictment.  An indictment does not mean guilt!—my addition)

Yes, this was the administration that was serious about bringing down the heavy hitters and heavy users who were sullying the good name of this great game.  (Give me a break.  At this point of time no one was guilty legally of anything!  Does he not know this or does he just not care.—my addition)

Catching the steroid abusers was a big deal in the Bush administration.  But then again catching Osama bin Laden was important to this administration.  (Note the inference.  The Bush administration wasn’t really concerned about the steroid problem.  The Bush administration isn’t really concerned about finding Osama bin Laden.  What trash.  I wonder.  Is this guy a mind reader?  Bill Clinton claims that he seriously tried to catch Osama bin Laden for eight years and couldn’t.  Does he hold the same opinion about Clinton’s efforts?—my addition)  And just as bin Laden remains at large, Jason Giambi was in uniform Saturday as the New York Yankees’ designated hitter in the American League Division Series against Detroit.  (Obviously this libertine believes in guilt by accusation rather than the American concept of innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  Nothing new.  My questions are: why is he allowed to spout this nonsense and why did the Peoria Journal Star publish it?  The Peoria Journal Star editorial writers, at least, claim to believe in the rule of law.  Obviously not!!!—my addition)

And his teammate Gary Sheffield, who like Giambi was mentioned in the grand-jury testimony against BALCO, played first base for the Yankees.  (There it is!!!  Be mentioned in grand-jury testimony and you are guilty of taking steroids.  Nothing like not needing proof or a trial!!!—my addition)

And San Francisco left fielder Barry Bonds just finished a season where he moved only 21 home runs behind career record-holder Hank Aaron.  (And Barry Bonds has not been convicted of anything.  Accusation does not equal guilty in a court of law.  Being mentioned in grand-jury testimony does not mean being guilty in a court of law!!!  Being thought guilty by this writer does not mean being guilty in a court of law.  Does he care about the legal process?  I am afraid that the answer is no.—my addition)

But there is news to report in the war on steroids.  A judge Bush nominated (Is he implying that Bush now controls this judge while he sits on the bench?  Is he implying that the Bush administration decided this judge should hear the case [the prosecution does not control this] so that no criminal indictments would occur?—my addition) has bagged Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who broke the story on BALCO, then properly refused to name their sources.  (Who besides him thinks it was properly?  The judge obviously did not since they were sentenced to jail based upon their refusal to answer.  Of course, I forgot, the Bush administration controls this judge because Bush nominated him for that position.  Silly me.  I should have remembered the total control and power Bush has to have things happen the way he wants them to happen!  Does this guy write truth too or does he just write fiction?—my addition)

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White has sentenced them to 18 months in jail because they have refused to divulge the name of the person (or persons) who leaked the grand-jury testimony in the BALCO investigation.  (Of course, giving information (leaking it) that occurs during grand-jury testimony is Illegal!!!  It seems that little “technicality” doesn’t matter to the writer.  Reporters can do anything they want to do and not disclose the source who did violate the law.—my addition)

If a Circuit Court of Appeals upholds White’s ruling [Let’s hope that the Appeals Court does!—my addition] (the deadline for filing their appeal is Oct. 25) Williams and Fainaru-Wada will serve up to 18 months in jail, more time than all the drug makers, pushers and users in the BALCO case.  (Maybe they should tell the judge what he wants to know!  They do have that choice!  Isn’t it amazing that we have choices, but people think we should not be held responsible for the choices we make.  They may be going to jail because that is their choice!—my addition)

White is upholding the letter of the law, a law that says it is a crime to reveal grand-jury testimony.  (What a surprise!!!  As a judge, isn’t that what he is supposed to do!!!—my addition)  But historically the federal government hasn’t gone after journalists unless it’s a national-security issue.  (Here is the writer’s argument in a nutshell, the government in the past has not enforced the law; therefore the judge should not enforce the law now.  Remember this, this is the decision of a judge not of the Bush administration.  The Bush administration can not hold anyone in contempt of court.  Only a judge can!!!  Oh, I forgot, the Bush administration controls the judge because he was appointed by Bush.  I forgot that small piece of illogical logic.  Silly me.—my addition)

Instead of catching steroid cheats, this story has morphed into plugging leaks.  (That was the judge’s decision not the Bush administration’s.—my addition)

This case should be about the public’s right to know.  (What nonsense!  Here I thought cases were about justice.  Now I’m informed that cases are about the public’s right to know.  What exactly is the public’s right to know?  Who decides what is the public’s right to know?  Two reporters by themselves?  The law says the public does not have the right to know about grand-jury testimony.  It is suppose to be secret.  And surprise, surprise; there are reasons why the law requires grand-jury testimony to be secret.  Something the two reporters don’t seem to care about!—my addition)  Not about the whistle-blowers.  (Who ever leaked the grand-jury testimony is not a whistleblower.  He/she violated the law.  We are suppose to be a nation of laws.  We are suppose to follow the rule of law—not the rule of the whistle blower!!!  Duh!!!—my addition)  Who cares who the sources were?  (That is a ridiculous question.  Obviously, at least one person does—the judge!!!—my addition)

But while the BALCO ballplayers play on, the messengers face jail time.  (This might just be one reason why grand-jury testimony is to be kept secret.  The ballplayers have not been indicted.  They have not been convicted of anything.  And this writer has already declared them guilty based upon [gasp, gasp, gasp] secret grand-jury testimony that was leaked!!!—my addition)

A non-partisan issue—the obvious abuse of steroids in baseball—has been turned into an attack on the First Amendment.  (Simply not a true statement.  It is an attempt by a judge to protect the rule of law.—my addition)  Instead of jumping on the cheaters who have slimed the game, the administration has jumped on the only people it could get.  (Again, simply not true.  The administration did not rule against the two reporters.  The judge did.  Does this guy not understand the process???—my addition)

Like the old hidden-ball trick (Wow, another actual baseball related phrase.—my addition), the focus of this case has switched from BALCO and the athletes it has illegally aided to another attempt at tightening control of the press and eroding more media freedoms.  (And this is the Bush administration’s fault.  The Bush administration did not leak the grand-jury testimony.  The Bush administration did not sentence the two reporters to jail.  And, who gave reporters the right to help an individual violate the law?  Reporters are required to obey the law just as other mortals are.  There is not now and never has been any Constitutional protection to violate the laws of the land.  These reporters could probably be charged with obstruction of justice.  They are getting off lucky with just a judge’s ruling.  Is it past the time to rein in the violation of law by reporters?  They are not the law, they do not determine the law. But, we do know that they sometimes do lie and fabricate information.—my addition)    

The work done by Williams and Fainaru-Wada was heroic.  (Even if they did aid someone in violating the law.—my addition)  They legally obtained information that exposed the fraud in baseball.  (And they also reported illegally obtained information and are refusing to respond to a judicial request—my addition)  They let us know some of the record breakers also are law breakers.  (Really, when were they convicted of this—innocent until proven guilty in a court of law—my addition)  They exposed the BALCO bad guys.  (And what are they being sent to jail for by a sitting judge???-my addition)

They should be celebrated in every civics class in America.  (This is such an ridiculously irrational statement that I’m not going to even bother making further comment on it except for—see above.—my addition)  This is what an aggressive free press can do.  (Help someone break the law?—my addition)  They did what Bush said he wanted to do.  (No they didn’t.  They can’t convict anyone!—my addition)  They put BALCO’s Victor Conte in jail.  (No they didn’t.  At least, I hope he was tried and convicted by a jury or a judge; not by them because that is not their responsibility.—my addition.)  They put Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson in jail; he was released on a technicality Thursday.  (No they didn’t.  In fact, if I remember correctly, he hasn’t been convicted of anything.  He was sent to jail by the judge for refusing to testify in front of the grand-jury.  In fact, it may have been because of the two reporters’ actions that he refused to testify.  He may have been afraid that his testimony too may be leaked to the public before it was presented in court.—my addition)  

If Williams and Fainaru-Wada go to jail, other reporters will be less inclined to tackle these stories.  They’ll be less likely to promise confidentiality to their sources, and those sources will dry up like dirt around home plate.  (And that’s a bad thing?  What he is saying is that reporters will be less likely to use illegal material.  And I say—good; it is about time!!!  Confidentiality to an individual who has violated a law is asinine!!!—my addition)

Stories will go unreported.  Government secrecy will continue.  Corruption will thrive.  (And the media is the savior of our country?  But wait.  Isn’t he being illogical?  By his earlier statement, reporters have not been held accountable for hiding their sources and yet we have corruption.  We have stories reported incorrectly.  Go back and check the Karl Rove “scandal” fiasco where people were demanding Rove resign for leaking the name of a CIA operative that he, in fact, did not leak!!!  We have reporters who lie.  We have anonymous sources that lie.  As I’ve said before in other blogs, if the individual is not willing to identify himself, how do we know that he is a creditable source and/or knows what he is talking about?  It’s like me calling a police station anonymously and saying you are molesting your daughter.  Anyone can claim anything under the cloak of anonymity.  That is one reason why the Constitution requires an open court system and gives the defendant the right to confront his accuser(s).  The grand-jury system does not provide that protection.  That is one reason why it proceedings are to be secret—to protect the innocent.  We are all innocent until proven guilty in a court of law!!!—my addition)

A bipartisan shield law is before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  It would allow reporters to keep the confidentiality of their sources.  Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia already have such shield laws.

Reporters need this federal protection so Williams and Fainaru-Wada can continue doing their brave work, exposing the riff-raff that is threatening baseball.

And reporters need this shield to protect themselves and their sources from an administration with a very different agenda.  (This statement has no basis based on the information he has presented.  Did he just pull this out of left field?  Oh, look!  I can use a baseball reference too.—my addition)  One that wants to leash the watchdogs.”  (This guy has a higher opinion of reporters than the vast majority of the public has.  Reporters are not the savior of our society.  Nor is the anonymous source.—my addition)

He has gone from point A to point Z instantaneously.  His conclusion—if two reporters who reported leaked grand-jury material are sent to jail for refusing to tell a judge their source, our society is doomed!!!  What nonsense.

Answer this question.  Why is it against the law to leak information presented to the grand-jury?  Could it be to help insure that all of us receive a fair trial?  That we are indeed perceived to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  Is the grand-jury a court of law?  Does the accused have the right to present evidence to the grand-jury?  Does the accused have the right to question the validity of the testimony to a grand-jury?  Can people lie to the grand-jury?  Can people give false information to the grand-jury?  Could leaking information from a grand-jury make it more difficult to get a conviction because that information leaked can taint the evidence that can be presented in an open court?  Is a grand-jury indictment now the same as being found guilty in a court of law?  You had better hope not!!!

These two reporters are NOT HEROES!!!  They helped an individual violate the laws of this nation.  They, not the Bush administration, made it more difficult not less difficult for the work of that grand-jury to lead to convictions.  Guilt by accusation is not a legal principle in this country.  This article is one of the most corrupt pieces of so called journalism that I have ever read.  No wonder it is located in the sports section!!!  




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