Zirin on Bonds and the DOJ

Dave Zirin places the prosecution of Barry Bonds squarely within the policies of the Bush Administration justice department:

The Justice Department wins 95 percent of the cases it brings to trial, and make no mistake: this case was about to become part of the other 5 percent. The only thing the Justice Department had in its favor is what it always has, unlimited time and funds, so it’s rolling the dice in hopes that a three-judge panel rules against Illston. It wants the wiretaps, the illegal search and seizures and the acts of intimidation against Anderson’s family all to stand legally. This is frightening, but prosecutors will likely find themselves very disappointed. The page appears to be turning on the entire Bush era of outlaw justice, and Barry Bonds will likely benefit. The case started when Attorney General John Ashcroft, the great champion of the Patriot Act, held a press conference in 2004 to announce that the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative was officially underway. Having the Attorney General convene a grand jury to look into steroid use was extreme overkill, but as commentators remarked at the time, it was a shot across the bow at Bonds.

Most sports fans were very comfortable with seeing the despoiler of the national pastime get crushed. Bonds has had notoriously difficult relationships with the press, fans, teammates and management throughout his career. He is also black, which makes him an easier target. But the desire to see Bonds punished came at a terrible collective cost. The Bonds case has always been about more than the sports media have chosen to dwell on. It’s not about the scourge of anabolic steroids, or a surly, arrogant athlete getting his comeuppance. It isn’t even about perjury. It’s about how the Justice Department under Bush became untethered from the Bill of Rights. This week, Obama Attorney General Eric Holder has released a series of post-9/11 memos that chill the spine.

I don’t buy Zirin’s frequently-repeated charge that the Bonds prosecution is a racial thing. That’s mostly because I haven’t seen a shred of evidence — or a shred of convincing argument from Zirin or anyone else — that race is, in fact, a factor as opposed to Bonds’ sheer stature and his general unlikeability, neither of which are traits on which any one race has a monopoly.

The larger point, however — that the Justice Department has been up to some scary things over the past eight years — is a good one. No, I don’t consider Barry Bonds’ prosecution to represent anything approaching its worst excesses, but I likewise don’t believe such a prosecution would have spun out of a Justice Department whose priorities were straight to begin with.

(thanks to Pete Toms)


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bigcatasroma
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bigcatasroma

I like the Bonds case as just a friendly reminder how evil (my opinion) the previous administration was when it came to meting out justice.  Flagrant violations of law and precedent, scales worse than the “cheating” that was done in baseball.  This whole thing is a sham.

Now, let’s take a look at those post 9/11 Memoranda.  Where are they???

Matt M
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Matt M

I didn’t take the race comment as being about his prosecution; rather, it’s about how easy it is for fans to paint him as a villain. If you think that his race doesn’t play a role in that arena, well, you’re not living in the real world. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
I think race enters into why many people had a generally unfavorable view of Bonds to begin with, and I think the DOJ finds it easier to prosecute people who it finds to be unpopular, but I don’t think race itself motivated the decision to prosecute, as Zirin has said explicitly in other pieces.  I think as far as that goes, the DOJ takes its unsavory defendants as it finds them.  Roger Clemens may be instructive here:  I don’t think they go after him like they are if he hadn’t done so much to make himself a villian in early… Read more »
APBA Guy
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APBA Guy
Reminiscent of the Islamist PR use of fatwas from violence friendly Mullahs, the Bush Justice Department likewise obtained contorted, friendly legal “opinions” from tyranny friendly lawyers. Their backup for the worst torture abuses came from John Yoo, a professor at, of all places, UC Berkeley who wrote a lovely opinion that harsh interrogation wasn’t torture until it caused death, organ failure, or permanent organ loss, a definition straight from the Inquisition. Also, in time of war, the President is not bound by the Constitution. Thus war did not need to be formally declared by Congress, since the President is not… Read more »
MooseinOhio
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MooseinOhio

Matt:  I find the Implicit Association Test interesting on a multitude of levels and would be interested in an off-line discussion to get your thoughts.

Kevin
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Kevin

Don’t forget that the 4th Amendment does not apply to suspected terrorist even if they are US Citizens if the military was deployed, and the President can suspend the 1st amendment freedom of speech and press in certain situations.  At least, that is what some of those idiotic memos say.

Michael Standish
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Michael Standish
Not buying into “Zirin’s frequently-repeated charge that the Bonds prosecution is a racial thing,” is a decent sentiment and is, I suppose, a judicious way of looking at things. But Zirin might have been more accurate to say that Bonds’ complexion (esp. combined with his wealth) made him a more “attractive,” as opposed to “easier,” target. Perhaps things are better in e.g. Columbus than in Boston, but around here I didn’t catch the same sorts of street comments about McGwire’s #70 as I did about Bonds’ #73. [There are a number of books (some even good) that address any sample… Read more »
fifth of
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fifth of
Where is the evidence that the prosecution is not, as you put it, “a racial thing” – a charge not even advanced in the linked article? How does the two-time election of a white man with an affected “Cowboy” image by a white majority in elections where people of color voted heavily for his democrat opponents not qualify as “a racial thing”? How is the extreme corruption of the DOJ engendered under Bush not, flat out, a “racial thing”? It just seems a complete and utter oxymoron to maintain that the vicious prosecution of a black man under the Bush… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
Michael and Fifth:  I guess what we’re arguing about is whether one must presume that any prosecution of a black man by the justice department is a racial prosecution unless shown to be otherwise or whether we must presume that a prosecution of a black man is NOT a racial thing unless some evidence is shown that it is.  I’m open to all manner of intellectual discussion about that question, but speaking practically, the only way to combat a race-based prosecution is by establishing via some evidence that the prosecution was bogus.  Show me that there is utterly zero evidence… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Note: the previous comment was only directed to Fifth Of, not Michael.  I had meant to make a longer comment addressing both of them, got distracted, and then lost my train of thought.

fifth of
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fifth of
Craig, you have responded to a strawman argument that the prosecution of Bonds is/was “racist” simply because Bonds is black. Sure, if the prosecution based on de jure racist discriminatory intent, there is no evidence of such that has come to light. But who gives a flying expletive? In your post, you specify two key things (and nothing else on this subject): that the DOJ pursued the prosecution because it was in line with the goals of the Bush Admin, and that it was not “a racial thing.” Well, dude, does it just not occur to you that the Bush… Read more »
Matt M
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Matt M
Craig, Thanks for the response/clarification. I think we agree on the race issue here. Part of the reason Barry’s been an easy villain is the color of his skin (obviously, his personality hasn’t helped him either). That’s how I read the article at hand, though after a second reading, I suppose he could be arguing that the prosecution itself was racially motivated. Personally, I don’t believe that Bonds’ prosecution was racially motivated. On the other hand, I can see why some people feel that way. We’ve had two ballplayers charged and both happen to be minorities. Meanwhile, still no charges… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
Fifth—there’s nothing in Zirn’s previous work to refute, because while he has made allusions to Bonds’ prosecution being racially motivated, he has never offered any evidence.  I offered my original comments about that in the post simply so readers will know that, while I endorse most of Zirin’s point, I don’t endorse the claim that there’s a racial element here. As for your other comments, you’re getting way far afield from anything I feel qualified to talk about. Yes, arguments can be made about the very legitimacy of our legal system in light of the past 300 years of history. … Read more »
tadthebad
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tadthebad

Quick question: are we saying that the Bush Administration, indeed every presidential administration in the history of the US, is a racially biased one?  If the answer to that is “yes”, then is the current administration racially biased as well?  Just asking…

Neal
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Neal
Craig, while I agree that you are on firm standing, at least based on the legal standards for race as a factor in prosecution, it dawns on me that those same standards also allowed the following:(remember this is off the top of my head, so forgive me if they aren’t in any sane categorical system) crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine discrimination, not a racial divide, as long as you ignore that almost everyone convicted under the much stronger crack laws was black. Ruling: not racial. The idea that as long police can justify a stop for any legal reason (a… Read more »
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