SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
More DOJ Malicious Mischief Congress prepares for hearings which will look into the White House-directed vendetta that resulted in the prosecution and conviction of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, the Department of Justice is about to announce a decision to move Gov. Siegelman from the Georgia facility where he is now being held to another in Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas frontier. Why? This will make it much more difficult for Siegelman to confer with his family and attorneys as preparations are launched for the Judiciary Committee proceedings. Again, the Justice Department’s conduct is driven by pure malice—and this time a desire to obstruct a Congressional inquiry.
There’s No News in the ‘Birmingham News’ Back in the eighties, I used to train aspiring young Kremlinologists in the art of reading and understanding Soviet newspapers. As they used to say “there’s no truth in Pravda (truth), and there’s no news in Izvestia (news),” but actually you could learn a lot studying their weasely distortions of fact. The most revealing thing was often not what was said, but rather was left unsaid. Today’s Birmingham News offers a piece in the best tradition of Pravda, showing us that the old Communist journalism may have gone to its grave in Moscow, but it’s thriving in the Heart of Dixie. Robin DeMonia of the News editorial board pens an attack on former federal prosecutor, now Congressman Artur Davis for his calls for a hearing on selective prosecution in the Siegelman case.
“He was prosecuted and convicted for receiving a campaign contribution and turning around and appointing someone to a board,” Davis said. “If that was the standard, we’d have 45 of 50 governors under investigation.”
But that’s not the whole story of the case. True, Siegelman was convicted of taking a campaign contribution as a bribe.
Except that the News has a severe problem with the truth. There was no evidence offered or accepted that Siegelman received a campaign contribution as a bribe. The allegation was that a contribution was made to an organization engaged in lobbying for an education lottery. That measure, of course, failed, and the result was that Alabamians put their lottery money (great gobs of it) into funding education in some of their neighboring states, rather than in Alabama. The News doesn’t want to deal fairly with the facts; they prefer simply to sling around falsehoods.
As I have noted elsewhere, the News’s reporting in this area has been an amazing web of half-truths and outright deceptions. It has engaged in aggressive peddling of the message of the state’s GOP establishment and its two joined-at-the-hip sister publications in Mobile and Huntsville have joined right in. Even now, the News suggests to its readers that the only indication of abusive prosecution comes in the affidavit of Dana Jill Simpson. But of course, the evidence is pilled up everywhere in front of us now. How, I wonder, will the News cope tomorrow with the stonewalling by a key White House staffer in her testimony (rather her refusal to testify) today about the White House’s manipulation of U.S. attorneys? Likewise, the News’s failure to look into how this prosecution came about and its stunningly different treatment of the millions of dollars that flowed into the campaign chest of current Alabama Governor Riley through Jack Abramoff’s manipulation of casino gambling tells the story.
It is true that America’s process of campaign financing is a disgrace, opening the door to enormous corruption. On the other hand, the Siegelman case shows us how this system can be further corrupted through selective prosecutions, designed to send a message that donations to one particular party will be scrutinized and criminalized, but donations to the party in power are just fine. That’s not justice. It’s how to convert a democratic process to a tyranny.
Now it appears the News is engaged in damage control. It knows this whole house of cards, which it constructed hand in glove with the prosecutors, is about to come tumbling down. In the end, this affair will have to be viewed as much as a failing of the press in Alabama—which owed Alabamians a duty to serve as good civic watchdogs—as of the corruption of the machinery of justice. The wheels of justice ground slowly, and they ground fine, as Dickens said. But often enough justice is being ground, rather than being done. Against that we must be on our guard.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Amount of U.S. military aid given to the government of El Salvador each minute during the 1980s:
A team of European sexologists reported that 40 percent of Italian couples were not having sex, due in part to Italian men’s declining sex drive and growing predilection for prostitutes and cybersex.
Telecommunications company AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion in a bid to find new ways to reach consumers, and hackers took control of Internet-connected cameras and baby monitors to overwhelm the routing company Dyn with traffic, causing worldwide disruption to outlets such as Netflix and Amazon.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."